This week… well, really last week, so all these episodes are a bit outdated but it’s still relevant to the anime: the ideal male lead in Natsuyuki Rendezvous, lesbians in Rinne no Lagrange, stupidity in Sword Art Online, and something about school that I actually like in Hyouka.
Hyouka (Episode 14) – If you know me, then you probably already know my disdain for school settings or school-themed practices in anime. If you don’t, well then what I’m about to say is uncharacteristic given my stance on the various roles and uses of schools in anime: I actually am enjoying the school festival in Hyouka. As I mentioned in the previous post for Hyouka, the festival has allowed each character to act on their own which has done wonders to our understanding of them in addition to developing them without needing to rely on mysteries or other characters. But beyond that, the festival itself actually looks fun. If I had to choose which anime’s school festival I’d go to, this would be it; it’s probably my favorite school festival ever. What I find so enjoyable about it, as compared to other anime school festivals, is it feels realistic and that the characters are a ‘part’ of it, meaning that everyone is participating in the festival one way or another (even Houtarou). It hasn’t been a haphazard mess of clichés, like maid cafes, haunted houses, or music concerts nor has it been a bunch of friends (or a guy and his harem) walking around and just visiting various booths. There’s also a shift in attention around the other students in the school, too, and we’ve seen numerous interests and oddities along the way. This is what I look for in a school festival and what I hope all school anime aspire to be. Everything prior is boring or mundane. This? No, this is what I hope for every time I watch a school anime but it never gets delivered. It is things like these that make a great anime an incredible anime.
Natsuyuki Rendezvous (Episode 3) – It’s a pleasant change of pace to see a lead male character with the tenacity to act on his feelings and say things that might be considered harsh or unforgiving. Male leads in romance anime are usually defined by two simple and unappealing groups: the majority tend to be the reserved, wimpy, but intelligent guys who always say the right things and try their best if it weren’t for their social anxieties, and the perverts who possess some of those qualities but are usually jumping headfirst into situations without considering the consequences. Both are exhausted stereotype who are usually observers and not actors (meaning they hardly advance the romance on their own), so it’s refreshing to see Ryuusuke have some personality and a novel one at that. Furthermore, Ryuusuke’s persona and actions help reiterate the fact that this was authored by someone who knows romance. Instead of plugging in another spineless male lead for another unoriginal and dreadful romance anime, Haruka Kawachi developed a protagonist with thoughts, feelings, and actions that cause the audience to feel genuine emotion, especially when his actions are somewhat questionable. That and there’s a conflict with his character preventing him from having Rokka, which can be used to rationalize his actions. It’s so wonderful that there’s a unique conflict here, completely different from those clichéd romances where it’s only a matter of time and not a matter of conflict before acceptance. It makes a world of difference. Ryuusuke is the type of male lead that are essential for a romance anime to be enjoyable or satisfying. Anything less and you’re dealing with something whose ceiling is mediocrity.
Rinne no Lagrange (Episode 15) – One of the highlights of this episode was Astelia sexually harassing Madoka before an audience of strangers, accompanied by some of the worst illustrated analogies for sex that we have yet to see in an anime. But while that was mainly used for comedy and “haha, sex is always funny”, one significant detail emerged from the conversation that might hint toward Madoka’s true feelings. In the excitement of the event, a flustered Madoka admitted that she is a virgin and has only kissed Lan and Muginami before. But hold one here, in the previous episode in which the kissing took place, Madoka never kissed Muginami. When Lan tried to force the two together, she ended up banging their foreheads together meaning they never ended up kissing at that time. What does that mean? You know exactly what that means. Madoka and Muginami have been kissing off-screen! For how long, we can only guess, but I assume they’ve just recently begun smooching on a regular basis, just not when the cameras are on or when Lan is around (or Lan could be around, too, who knows). Either way, this is evidence that Madoka might indeed be a lesbian, adding to a growing list of yuri-themed activities she’s performed with Lan and Muginami. Whether this is true or not has yet to be determined, but the evidence is mounting.
Sengoku Collection (Episode 16) – Though I have a favorable and positive impression of the art in Sengoku Collection, the style is rather simplistic without an abundance of technical detail or unusually high skill. I’ve even noticed a few animation mistakes throughout the series include a frame from a storyboard that made it into episode 14. Nevertheless, I’ve enjoyed the use of color and visual motifs that switch with every episode. But with episode 16, there were a few instances of impressive skill in terms of the animation which caught my attention. The various faces after tasting the incredibly spicy food proved to be a highpoint of the episode, both in terms of art quality and comedy. Even without these faces, the episode would’ve been another delightful addition to the series, but the faces really impacted the episode by heightening the comedy and drama. And it was not only once or twice but every face with that detailed reaction really boosted the enjoyment of the episode until the final victim felt the sting of insufferable spices.
Sword Art Online (Episode 3) – Stupidity runs rampant among the players of Sword Art Online. Not only did we have that asshole last episode berate Kirito for playing the beta and having an upperhand, but this episode we witnessed a rather idiotic guild get wrecked while exploring a dungeon. Still, the worst offender from this episode was Kirito, but we’ll get to that at the end. First, with the guild decided it would be a fantastic idea to go raiding a dungeon while their leader, most likely their highest level (besides Kirito) with the best understanding of his team and how to manage battles effectively, was out buying a new home for everyone. Great, if you couldn’t see the flag being raised there, what about the very next scene? The guild encounters a secret room with a treasure chest sitting positioned nicely in the middle. If that wasn’t enough, you might want to go back and play some more RPGs because that had trap written all over it. It’s rather surprising no one thought to check their surroundings before opening the chest but, well, who cares, they couldn’t read the signs and paid the price. Serves them right for going on an adventure without everyone and not knowing how video games are designed. But still, I’d put them in whatever tier of intelligence is above Kirito since he had probably performed the stupidest action in the entire series. Though we can’t confirm for certain, given the structure of the episode, we can assume that Kirito was after the revival item for Sachi. Don’t mind the fact that she died in the real world months ago, getting that item will somehow reverse the effects of that brain microwaving and bring someone who’s probably already been buried back to life. Seriously, who was he kidding when he went after that item? Did he actually think it’d bring her back? And if that’s not enough, why would he want to bring her back to the game where she hated her life? I suppose the whole situation was used to increase the sadness of the event and to portray Kirito as a true friend who would risk his life to save someone else, but really, given the real circumstances of the situation, all I see is that Kirito is an idiot and that everyone else in the game with him is one form or another of stupid.
Tari Tari (Episode 4) – Was it just me or did Sawa seem a bit abnormal in this episode? Throughout the first three episodes, Sawa was always supportive of Konatsu’s actions regarding choir and forming the club with her. Regardless of whatever obstacles and ambitions Konatsu had, Sawa was there to help guide her and do so with a smile. But in this episode, when Konatsu wanted to watch a favorite band from her childhood perform live, Sawa unleashed her bottled emotions on the unsuspecting Konatsu and capped off her torrent of unpleasant emotion with some name-calling for good measure. She always seemed like the dependable friend who was always ready to support you in whatever you wanted, so it felt strange that she’d yell at her best friend for doing something that she wanted to do. I realize there it had built-up over the first half of the episode with her ditching practice to socialize with the band and later, inviting them to her property, but why snap now when it’s virtually the same stuff that Konatsu was wanting earlier with the choir club? It certainly was well timed character development and provided some conflict to her character to increase her complexity but it obviously forced and felt awkward given how she acted in every episode before this. Fortunately, nothing came of this and the two resumed their friendship not long after this spat. It helps prove that Sawa is more than just a friend who blindly supports everyone around her with a smile not a single thought otherwise.