Sunday, June 29, 2014

Retro Review: Oniisama E (Dear Brother) episode 11

Whoo! I turned 24 yesterday. Today was the Seattle Pride Parade, also. A pretty great weekend, if I do say so. Anyway, onto the recap!

We start out with Nanako and Tomoko practicing English on the way to school, and find out Mariko is coming back to Seiran in time for midterms. Nanako suggests her, Tomoko, and Mariko all having lunch together, and Tomoko's face speaks volumes.
Right now Nanako wants to forget about all the weirdness in her life and focus on midterms, but lol.

Fukiko has her driver pull her car over when she spots Rei, revealing that she can't even lend Rei a book- in this case, a first edition of Proust's quasi-autobiographical Jean-Santeuil novel- without being a dick about it.

As the camera pans over the school, I realize how much it looks like Strawberry Panic's Astraea Hill from above- or I guess the opposite.
The Sorority members have a meeting in which the oneesama remind the first-years that they have to rank in the top 50 in exams to keep their membership, and Mariko is reminded that being a Sorority member who gets sick without recovering quickly is like becoming a lame racehorse that needs to be shot.
Fukiko finds Rei in the clock tower and asks her to meet her under the school's elm tree at 5:00, when she will take her to her house. We get more of the flapping-birds-representing-suppressed-freedom-or-something imagery that this series frequently uses. (My alternative interpretation is that this show's director just really likes birds.)
We learn that enough Sorority oneesama have private cars (and presumably drivers) to transport their kouhai to Fukiko's house, and Nanako notices the suitably portentous rainclouds.
Back at Fukiko's house, Fukiko and the other oneesama tutor the kouhai, with Fukiko especially paying attention to helping Nanako learn about the poems in the Manyoshu. As Nanako recites a situationally relevant poem, we see Rei waiting in the rain under the elm tree.
I should note that I am pretentious and like the literary references in this show, as well as in other shows that use them effectively, like Psycho-Pass. (Just about the only similarity you can draw between the two shows.)

Nanako realizes she left her French notebook at school and runs back to get it. Fukiko lends her an umbrella, causing some of the other kouhai to wonder about Fukiko doting on her. (Because I guess letting her get soaked would have been normal.) Fukiko has them break for tea, and plays a ditty on the piano that Mariko recognizes as the piece Rei often plays. 

Having found her French book, Nanako is so tired and comfortable resting her head on her arms and listening to the rain (man I know that feeling) that she falls asleep for an hour.
Panicking on her way back to the study group, she sees Rei still waiting under the tree
before Rei passes out. The song playing when Nanako catches Rei is the exact same theme that played when Rei pulled Nanako off the bus- their first time interacting- in episode 1.
Nanako rides with Rei in a taxi to take her home, but when Rei fully wakes up, this happens
because Rei wants to get back to the elm tree as soon as possible. When she passes out on Nanako again after a surprisingly speedy bout of walking through traffic and over a bridge, Nanako notes she has a fever. Nanako follows her to a flower shop, where Rei tries to make her stop caring in a way that is sad and weirdly kind of touching in execution. (Also, shipshipship.)
After Rei runs off, Nanako catches up on a bridge over some train tracks, finds out why Rei wants to go back, and tells her Fukiko went home. Rei doesn't believe her, and tries to jump off the bridge to get back because she has a classic rain-induced anime fever and a death wish on some level. 

And wow the foreshadowing in this scene.

Nanako gets Rei to her apartment and finds that she seems to have no family. She also has the worst decor.
But yeah, what we learn about Rei here sure explains a lot.

Nanako sees The Doll with its accompanying music box jingle, 
and Rei, thinking Nanako is the doll while saying "my precious doll" in French, hugs her, as in the screencap at the top of this post.

The next episode will bring Kaoru in as a major player again, and bring more of Rei's secrets to light.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Final Thoughts on the Inugami-san to Nekoyama-san Anime

When I first wrote about this series here, I said that I expected it to remain pretty much the same, and it did. This show added a couple characters to its roster of high schoolers who are walking animal puns- Sarutobi Sora ("saru" = "monkey"), who likes bananas, but otherwise isn't monkey-like and wants to keep it that way, thank you very much; and Torikai Hibari ("tori" = "bird"), who... umm, is sickly and acts like she's a ghost? I think this show's author started getting sick of his own premise when he introduced these two.

Anyway, this show, totaling twelve three and a half minute long episodes, remains pretty much the same high school slice-of-life as before, with an ending that actually progresses Inugami and Nekoyama's relationship more than I expected. I also like that even though the thing that is supposed to make Ushiwaka cow-like is her big boobs, which is bleh, the show doesn't do anything with that gag beyond its initially being mentioned, and doesn't service her up. I also like that the characters don't look younger than their ages, which is unfortunately noteworthy for their genre. (It's more apparent in the series than in the promo art.)

Anyway, I can't say I really care about any of these characters- although I like Inugami's heart-on-her sleeve enthusiasm- but at its short run time, this series was a decent light watch. I like it more than Yuru Yuri, and understand that it's yuri-er than the manga it adapts, which is a trend I highly approve of. I only read a couple chapters of the manga myself. The manga was alright, but I'm pickier with my yuri manga than my yuri anime because I have a lot more to choose from there, although I'm not above enjoying stuff that isn't exactly high art in that format.

Anyway, this series is still just alright, but if you want an energetic light gag show delivered in bite-sized dozes with a lot of dad jokes and a decent amount of yuri, this is an entertaining hour's worth of anime.

Inugami-san to Nekoyama-san is streaming on Crunchyroll, available worldwide everywhere except Japan.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Retro Review: Oniisama E (Dear Brother) episode 10

Back to Mariko not eating because she hates her life- like seriously, she really doesn't want to eat-
this episode picks up right where the last one left off. Then we switch to school, where Nanako continues not to talk to Mariko because she's still understandably uncomfortable around her.

Nanako and Tomoko bond over eating- someone sure went all out animating Tomoko eating- and Nanako worries out loud about Mariko.

No one cares, but I'm always like "Huh" at Mariko's name being spelled in a mix of katakana and kanji. Rei's given name is all in hiragana, but otherwise the character names are all kanji. I don't think Mariko and Rei's name spellings have any special meaning beyond Ikeda Riyoko being like, "I'm writing this character, why not?" though.

Mariko lies on her bed at home and her mom tries to enthuse her for the prospect of steak, but when her pleading reaches "you're my only treasure, please don't make me sad" with the subtext being that her marriage is 100% down the tubes, Mariko snaps.
And obviously immediately regrets it.

Anyway, Mariko's mom leaves, and we cut to Nanako's family life- her dad bringing her an English dictionary and ruffling her hair and her mom bringing her tea and some pie while she studies for midterms, and them all just being a warm, functional family.
Nanako reflects on how she loves her parents so much that she doesn't care how they got together, which is good from the perspective of not letting the bullying about it get to her and awkward because she's narrating it to Takehiko.

She dials Mariko's number, but hangs up, so Mariko doesn't pick up in time.
At school, Nanako and Mariko's Sorority sempai "Princess Mona Lisa" (I love the nicknames at this school) asks them if they could go buy flowers for the first weekly Sorority tea party of the year. (Hey, my dorm had weekly tea parties too! We were just like the Sorority! Aside from the loud burping and people sitting on the floor and "come whenever you feel like it" attendance.)

Mariko is just about ready to pee herself in excitement over buying flowers for the tea party, because it's the Sorority equivalent of a Congressional Summit.
Mariko tries to bring up the elephant in the room while reaching for Nanako's arm, but that doesn't go quite as hoped.
Nanako is depressed while lunching with Tomoko, and Tomoko is sharp enough to be like, "Yup, something did happen at that party" but knows better than to push for details.

At lunch, Kaoru tries to tempt Mariko with sandwiches, but Mariko gets mad and unwittingly strikes a nerve.
Kaoru almost completely loses her shit, but regains her composure and leaves with a nice zinger.
Because Kaoru outwardly has everything together, she comforts Mariko after Mariko is like "YOU DON'T UNDERSTAND ME" and runs crying down some stairs. Mariko unwittingly hurts her again by telling her how much shinier her life is. 

The Kaoru fangirls at this school fail at reading the situation,
so Mariko runs back to her classroom.

Then a scene in which Rei is recklessly cocky ("Imma make it look like I'm jumping from this balcony to play volleyball with y'all.") turns into another Rei-Fukiko scene that attests to the health and functionality of whatever you would call their relationship.

Then Mariko faints and Kaoru princess carries her, but she sadly isn't conscious to enjoy it. An ambulance takes Mariko to the hospital, accompanied by Kaoru, and Nanako rushes to Mariko's house to let her mom know what happened.

We cut to Mariko's mom out shopping, hence the school not being able to reach her, and see why her marriage to her generic-looking husband is dead.

BTW, Mariko's mom's arc is ultimately pretty great. 

She goes from sad housewife to happier single and supporting herself and Mariko.

Kaoru stays by Mariko's bedside and ponders the irony of fighting a terminal illness while surrounded by healthy people who practically have death wishes.

Mariko's mom's day continues to get better as she learns her daughter is in the hospital, and Nanako learns from her that Mariko won't eat as long as she doesn't forgive her. Which is (figuratively) really unhealthy, but not really manipulative on Mariko's part, IMO, because she didn't do anything to let Nanako know about it. Nanako REALLY, REALLY shouldn't feel guilty or responsible for it, though, although I do uncomfortably understand as someone who has had misplaced guilt for holes other people have dug themselves into.

Back at the hospital, Kaoru manages to have a good bedside manner while calling Mariko out on her shit.

Mariko's mom comes in, then Nanako, and Mariko is tsundere.

And we finally see Mariko's dad's face.
Uh, never mind.

And Nanako and Mariko make up. 
In a lesser series, the resolution of this arc would be it for Mariko's development, and as far as we'd see, it'd be wrapped up with a neat bow. She still has a lot to improve and confront, and we'll continue to see that throughout this series. It may be hard to believe at this point, but she does become likable. 

The next episode promises more fainting, suitably melodramatic rain, and a lot of Rei.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Anime Review: The Madoka Magica Rebellion movie

It is good to be back from a weekend vacation! My girlfriend Amy and I went on a lovely cabin trip with some friends, so it was like the first Marimite OVA, only with some gay guys and some straight people.

Anyway, I first saw this movie in theaters this past December, but held off on reviewing it until a rewatch. I wasn't entirely sure what I thought of it, although I liked it much more than a lot of people. I guess surprisingly, considering that Homura is my favorite. I do understand why some people strongly dislike it, though.

This movie starts with the core cast living in their ideal world as a magical girl team with Kyuubey and the small, cute version of the witch Charlotte as their familiars. (The girls even each get a cheeky/artsy henshin, which you can see here.) Mami is thrilled that she has friends to fight alongside, Sayaka and Kyouko live together with Kyouko attending Sayaka’s school (true fact: I didn’t ship them based on the TV series, but this movie made me hugely ship them and canonically pairs them), Homura transfers into Madoka’s class as she was when they first met, and Madoka herself lives a happy, peaceful life. 

The cost of maintaining their ideal world and whether it is justified, including questions about free will, seem to be the point of this movie, all being themes Madoka’s writer Urobuchi Gen seems to like going back to.  Befitting the constructed reality aspect, this movie has the same theatrical stylistic touches the TV series has, but amped up. 

Anyway, Homura being Homura, she gets suspicious of the veracity of this ideal world and goes all detective- with Kyouko, interestingly- causing the story to rush towards its climax. 

After this movie ended the first time I saw it, the guy sitting behind me only said "Jesus Christ." and Jen, one of the friends seated with Amy and I, was like "That's what happens when you fuck too much with a teenaged girl who has magical powers."

Anyway, among the not-horribly-plot-spoiling things I liked: 

Sayaka’s development here given where we left her in the TV show. Amy has a reading I like of the process of turning from a magical girl to a despair-ridden witch to what Sayaka became after that- that it’s basically growing up, dealing with whatever problems you have as a result- like things not going how you dreamed when it comes to love or something else you wanted- and coming out of it as a stronger, more adult person. You still have bullshit popping up in your life, but are much more capable of dealing with it, like Sayaka is now. In addition to being a cool what-she-is-now, she recognizes that Kyousuke’s kind of a thick-headed dunce and his dating Hitomi isn’t a big deal like she once thought it was, and Kyouko’s way better anyway.

Have I mentioned Kyouko's still awesome?

Mami was never a favorite of mine, but for me, it added a little more poignancy to her character to see how happy she was in an ideal world I knew was going to end.

Cool fights. 

Can't elaborate more without being too spoilery, so...

Anywho, I actually liked this movie, but again, a lot of people didn’t because of its third and final act. It's the straight tequila shot to the TV series'/first two movies'/first two acts of this movie's tequila sunrises. Keep that in mind if you decide to check it out. But maybe I watched a different movie, because while this movie managed to be darker and trippier than the TV series, I didn’t think it was male gazier, which some people seemed to? It passed my “would I feel awkward watching this with my dad” test. Also, if you're thinking of getting the limited edition Blu Ray version of this movie whose price will make you cry on the inside, the extras are pretty sweet, especially the interesting interviews with the staff who worked on the movie. Anyway, I will discuss big plot spoilers under this cut, so don’t read further if you don’t want to know anything beyond what I described.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Retro Review: Oniisama E (Dear Brother) episode 9

While episode 8 was the first episode to delve more in-depth into Mariko's life, this time it's Kaoru's turn.

We get a brief recap of the previous episode before seeing Nanako sitting by the ocean, where Tomoko comes up and is like "So, how did the birthday party go?" Nanako tells Tomoko that it was just her, Mariko, and Mariko's mom, but not about what happened at Mariko's house.

Then they see Kaoru running, being her usual princely self. They exchange pleasantries before Kaoru continues along. Tomoko's admiringly like
and Nanako's like "Yes, she's always shining." as we see Kaoru literally sparkle. (Which is my top-of-the-post watercolor this time.) We well know Kaoru is in worse condition than she tries to seem in front of her schoolmates, so there's a little bittersweet dramatic irony by now to all the "Prince Kaoru! Her life seems so shiny and fabulous" admiration from them.

Nanako dreads seeing Mariko at school the next day, and things will indeed be awkward.

But first a look at Mariko. She scares the hell out of her mom by lying motionless face down in her bathtub, only getting air when she hears her mom panicking.
I'm not sure how far she wants to take her self-harm in this scene, and I'm not sure she is either. Which works because that's often true for people in real life.

In class the next day, she reaches for Nanako's hand and says she's sorry, but Nanako understandably doesn't respond. They're both miserable and being seatmates doesn't help.
We get a cute moment in which Nanako and Tomoko are dorks together at lunch.
...With Mariko watching with a lunch she wanted to share with Nanako, but still.

And Rei rehearsing for a school play, quoting lines that seem to parallel her early relationship with Nanako- but also Fukiko to some extent.
And I'm afraid I'm not sure what the literary allusion for this scene is. =(

Elsewhere, Kaoru collapses holding her chest when Nanako is nearby, and she asks Nanako to get her some painkillers.
What happened to Seiran's nurse's station? Did Rei the walking pharmacy put them out of business?
Also known as not-the-nurse's-station.

For one of the most-fangirled-over students at Seiran, Rei is hard to pin down, but Nanako eventually learns she and her admirers are in the theater getting their Takarazuka on.
Nanako tries to get to Rei, but some girl gripes about her getting into the Sorority again and someone else pushes her off the stage, causing everyone to be like "Shit, that went too far." Rei herself, much as I like her, is dickish in this scene, just quoting lines and giggling as Nanako is like "HEY, YOUR FRIEND'S SICK AND NEEDS YOUR PAINKILLERS." (Granted, I'm not sure it's Rei herself so much as her being hopped up on pills.) Thankfully, Nanako gets shit done.
We also see The Doll inside Rei's head, with its accompanying music box tune and French. Viewers of this entire series will be well acquainted with The Doll.
Rei semi-regains her senses, and notes after Nanako leaves that it must be really bad if Kaoru is asking for painkillers.

Nanako watches Kaoru for as long as she will allow it, and their conversation turns to how Kaoru's poor health made her idolize sports. (Which reminds me of one of the Hotaru-focused episodes of Sailor Moon.)
It makes Kaoru and Rei even more obvious foils, what with Kaoru fighting for her life and Rei constantly risking it with her pill addiction, and adds an extra sad layer to why Kaoru gets so pissed at Rei when she sees her pill-popping.

Nanako rushes to check Kaoru again after school as promised, but she's gone. Mariko chooses that as the worst possible time to try to apologize again and gets rushed by, and Nanako fails to reach Kaoru via something called a landline.

We last see Nanako wandering along the beach again, pondering what Kaoru told her awhile ago about not being able to help worrying for people when you can't really understand their pain or do anything for them. Speaking of which, a more lucid-seeming Rei redeems herself for her earlier behavior by going to the hospital to check on Kaoru. She missed Kaoru, but still gets confirmation that she's fine now.
But while Kaoru said she'd return to school for evening basketball practice, we see that she's just using an empty classroom to cry and vent in private.
And say one of the most heartbreaking things someone can say, since you know she talking about herself.

Nanako concludes her ruminations on a bleak note, and we see that Mariko is still doing badly at home. That will segue into the next episode, which focuses on her again.