Friday, February 13, 2015

Retro Review: Oniisama E (Dear Brother) episode 23

This episode opens with a flashback to the lake incident before showing Mariko, back to school from the holiday, reciting Matthew Arnold's "Requiescat" in English class. I should clarify here that the summer holiday they took wasn't full-time summer vacation, just an extra-long weekend because of their school's founding anniversary.

Mariko and Kaoru both look towards Nanako's empty seat. Nanako is faking a fever to avoid going to school.

Fukiko approaches Tomoko and Mariko to ask about Nanako's absence, and gets the sick excuse from them. The contrast between the facade she's presenting to Nanako's friends and what she's capable of makes her blacked out face of doom creepier than normal here.
As Fukiko walks away, we see what at first looks like her remembering what happened at the lake, shot from a third person perspective as we saw it before. It turns out to be Nanako having a nightmare about it. She isn't physically ill, but she's clearly feeling what happened.

Tomoko brings her some cake after school, and they go down to the beach on Nanako's request. Tomoko is like "Oho, I figured you were faking it", and Nanako gives her an omamori she brought back from the trip as a souvenir.

Tomoko asks if something happened on the trip because of Fukiko asking after Nanako today. Nanako plays it off as a perfectly delightful trip, but Tomoko can tell something is amiss.
She doesn't press her about it, though, and they race each other along the beach.

When Nanako gets home, her mom lets her know she's got a call from Fukiko, since Fukiko is nothing if not persistent. Nanako has the least surprising look ever
and her mom is like "What's wrong?", but she's like "Nothing, I'll take it in my room." (If you're wondering why Nanako isn't busted here, it's because she told her mom her fever was lowering earlier in the day.)

Back in her room, she stares at her phone like it's a hissing cockroach before taking it. Fukiko asks her about how she's feeling. After Nanako lies that her fever's gone down, Fukiko is like
She then asks if Nanako stayed home because of what happened on the trip, and after Nanako says no, issues a very Fukiko "apology", complete with her recent penchant for rose destruction.
Fukiko also lets her know that at today's Sorority meeting, it was decided that the first-year Sorority members would basically serve as staff at her birthday party. In case you couldn't tell almost being drowned was traumatic for Nanako, this scene hammers it home pretty clearly.
As you can see, there's some train imagery here- the warning sound and lights used at train crossings, which cast a glow on both Nanako and Fukiko as they talk, presumably to symbolize the fact that Fukiko's a dangerous bitch. The slanted camera angles used here also underline the uneasiness in this scene.

Here I take a break to eat a kouign-amann from Crumble & Flake. It's so fucking good. (My girlfriend Amy: "It's like bread candy.")

To answer your question, gentle reader, about why Nanako doesn't just tell off Fukiko for being a horrible bitch: Fukiko frightens her, as evidenced by her physical reaction to interacting with her. Most crucially, I think, Fukiko also gaslit her in this scene and right after the near-drowning, making it seem like, contrary to how Nanako might have interpreted it, the near-drowning wasn't a violent assault, just a prank- or at least, that Fukiko has a story that can contradict anything Nanako says otherwise. "Why doesn't Nanako switch schools?" Easier said than done at this point in the school year and it would still unfairly punish her in a way. I'm not saying Nanako should stay at Seiran with all this bullshit, just why I can see why she reacts like she does.

Amy also adds "Oniisama E is like sad Glee with no music", what with the heightened-ness and the utter ineffectiveness of its adult authority figures. Oniisama E's writing is too consistent to be too similar to Glee, though.

The next day at a café, Mariko and Nanako are having tea and Mariko's like "So, what are you getting Our Lady and Savior Fukiko for her birthday?" Apparently getting Fukiko a great birthday present is to Sorority members what the Hunger Games are to the citizens of Panem.

Since Fukiko loves red roses, Mariko plans on buying her enough red roses to sink a ship.

Later, Nanako and Tomoko window-shop a fancy jewelry store. For once a brand is referenced in anime without its name being changed.
It is missing the "& Co.", but normally it would have its spelling changed to "Sniffany" or something like that. Tomoko is like "You're not thinking of buying Fukiko something from here, are you?" and Nanako's like "lol like I can afford it." Nanako pulls Tomoko behind a corner because the Sorority's Lady... I shit you not, Lady Medusa, is exiting the shop, clearly a regular patron who just bought Fukiko something there.

Nanako keeps looking for jewelry she can afford, and Tomoko suggests that instead of focusing on cost, she give a gift that only she could give, like her fabulous cookies. Nanako doesn't want to repeat what she gave Mariko, but hey, if it's good enough for her friend, it's good enough for the asshole who almost drowned her.

The next morning, Rei bring flowers to her mother's grave for the anniversary of her death.
Fukiko shows up with flowers and prays in front of the grave also,
and Rei gives us confirmation that after her mom died, the Ichinomiyas gave her her apartment and an allowance. She thanks Fukiko and Fukiko is like "No worries, it's nothing, we do share a father." It's an unusually pleasant, functional moment between them, and Fukiko invites Rei to come to her birthday party, for once with no ulterior motives.

Oniisama E being what it is, you know this party won't go off without a hitch, though. The scene transition music knows it, also.

At the party, Fukiko sits as guests present her with gifts one-by-one. There's even some kneeling, in case the queen-receiving-tribute aspect wasn't clear.
She gets a diamond necklace from Medusa and her favorite French perfume from someone else among her gifts, before Mariko demonstrates how serious she is about her gift idea, giving her eighteen hundred roses because she's turning eighteen.

Nanako is embarrassed by her homemade cookies and their lack of exorbitance. Nonetheless, Fukiko seems happy with them. I assume Maria-sama ga Miteru's Oyuki Konno had this scene in mind when she wrote the birthday gift scene in Maria-sama ga Miteru: Vacation of the Lambs--where Yumi had to give Sachiko's grandma a birthday gift in front of a party of rich assholes and pleased her with a simple gift, a song she sang.

Apparently this was just the Sorority-only portion of the party. More people are arriving in thirty minutes, and first-years are to prepare the reception room by then. After guests arrive, the first-years take up their positions hostessing and serving food and drinks.
I guess one could argue that my college dorm's traditions of A) each first-year serving a Senior at the Senior Banquet at the end of each school year, and B) rolling in the tea service for Friday tea once in the school year are similar to this, but I do think this is annoying in a way my dorm traditions weren't (owning that, yeah, I'm biased) because 1) my dorm traditions dictated that it was no biggie if a first-year declined to participate, and 2) it's a bit different to ask your kouhai in a school organization to help you with a school tradition vs a personal event. This event isn't some horrible trauma for the first-years, but how full of yourself do you have to be to be like "Yo freshmen, come to my house so you can staff my birthday party."

Takehiko and Takashi arrive, and Nanako, apparently not heeding Fukiko's desire for her to have no communication with Takehiko, walks right up to greet and thank them for hosting her and her friends at the university festival. When someone knocks into Nanako, causing her to spill a drink on Takehiko's suit, she starts trying to clean it with a handkerchief, causing Fukiko to glare and walk over to send her away for more drinks. It's kind of like Cinderella, if Cinderella's stepmother wanted the Prince and Cinderella was more interested in a chick. Apparently Takehiko showing up is a surprise, and he unwittingly gives Fukiko the most lesbian of flowers.
It would be sweet how moved she is by this gift if she weren't generally such a raging dick about her crush.

Nanako gets some more drinks and comes across Rei.
They exchange pleasantries, and Rei teases her a little (a good sign that, despite the failed confession, she still genuinely likes Nanako, since she otherwise only acts that way with Kaoru) before being swarmed by fangirls. They ask her to play a song for Fukiko and yell like Rei just promised each of them a car when she agrees.
Rei starts playing the piece Nanako remembers Fukiko playing at the villa, to the delight of everyone,
until Fukiko slashes the strings of Rei's violin with a knife before running upstairs to her room. A very alarmed and confused Rei follows, being like "Fukiko-sama!" Rei stands outside Fukiko's room asking why she acted like that, and Fukiko tells her she hates that piece, despite her regularly playing it.

Like I said, Rei can't win. Fukiko tells Rei she never really wanted her to come, and Rei starts crying.

Despite Takashi's game attempt at making the party still work, the guests leave, since there's no recovering from a party's hostess acting like a homicidal five year-old. Takashi offers Mariko a ride home and Takehiko starts to walk Nanako home, but Mariko has Nanako walk home with her. Rei walks alone, un-umbrella-ed in the rain, Nanako and Mariko find the events of the evening too shocking and weird to talk about,
and the lesson from Oniisama E, dear reader, is that birthdays always end horribly.

Fukiko also burns Nanako's cookies and Takehiko's flowers in a furnace, so I guess she's starting to get pissed at him as well for his culpability in... uh, pleasantly interacting with Nanako.

Next episode, Rei asks Takashi if there's a story behind Fukiko's actions, and we get the whole enchilada.

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