Kotoura-san – 03

[HorribleSubs] Kotoura-san - 03 [720p].mkv_snapshot_08.47_[2013.01.25_10.23.36] [HorribleSubs] Kotoura-san - 03 [720p].mkv_snapshot_11.37_[2013.01.25_10.27.56] [HorribleSubs] Kotoura-san - 03 [720p].mkv_snapshot_17.57_[2013.01.25_10.34.27]

After three episodes it’s safe to conclude that Kotoura-san is a series that isn’t going to pull many punches.

This is going to be another mostly glowing review, so let me get my one quibble out of the way first to clear the decks for happier things.  I have a pet peeve about how cute girls can do the most vile and reprehensible things in anime, and at the slightest sign of remorse, all is forgiven.  The most egregious example in recent memory happened in Binbougami-ga (if you saw it you’ll remember it), it happened in the last episode here when Mifune put Kotoura in a terrible situation here for selfish reasons, and it repeated itself this week when Moritani put a hit out on Manabe.  No, it doesn’t work that way – cuteness shouldn’t be a get-out-of-jail free card.  Karma is a bitch, and so is Moritani for what she did to Manabe, and a few crocodile tears don’t change that fact.  When Kotoura actually apologized (in her mind) to Moritani, I just about threw up – though in truth, it’s an indication of just what a gloriously kind person she truly is.

If there’s anything in the first three eps of Kotoura-san I’d call worrying, it’s that we’ve seen this pattern repeat itself two weeks in a row – the character arcs for Mifune and Moritani moved way too fast.  Maybe that’s a concession to a one-cour format, and I can’t imagine AIC had any thought that there’d ever be any Kotoura-san beyond that – but here’s the surprising and happy news: Kotoura-san has all the earmarks of being a hit.  The series is afire on 2ch, stalker points are rivaling the likes of Vivid Red Panties and Tamako Market, and the manga is out of stock all over Japan, the suppliers and publisher stunned by the spike in demand.  Surely it’s not going to rival those other series that are a marketer’s dream when the actual sales figures come out, but that it looks sure to be a profit-maker is surprising enough, and seems to indicate that there could be more Kotoura-san down the line. 

It seems almost impossible that this could be a 4-koma manga, given the emotional depth it carries.  I honestly don’t know just how good the source material is, but I suspect part of this at least is the magic of Ohta-sensei – who similarly took delightful but lightweight gag manga in Minami-ke and Mitsudomoe and turned them into anime masterpieces. Kotoura-san isn’t as funny as those series, but it isn’t trying to be – and it’s embracing the darkness in a way not even Mitsudomoe did.  This show means business – it’s hear to tell a serious story about serious characters, and do so without sparing them – or us – the pain that goes along with it.  Surely Kotoura’s comments about how this was the happiest and time of her life and how her friends weren’t “slipping through her fingers” this time were the ultimate angst flag, and it was obvious at that point that this would be a sort of converse of episode 1, which started out grim and ended rather happily.  It was equally obvious that Moritani would be the source of the problem, though not just how exactly it would play out.

If the first step in making drama work is to make us care about the characters, Kotoura-san has succeeded with the two leads – while there were moments that gave me hope that Mifune and Muroto have potential it’s Kotoura and Manabe who make this series special.  Kanemoto Hisako and Fukushima Jun are superb here, and the characters are expressively drawn and written with intelligence and subtlety.  I love the small moments such as when Kotoura unwittingly grabs the hem of Manabe’s jacket so he can’t leave – they tell us so much about her and the bond that already exists between them.  If ever a boy was made for a girl, it’s Manabe for Kotoura.  She’s a girl for whom everyone else is a pane of glass, but Manabe is transparent by nature – he hides nothing of himself and everyone can see exactly who he is.  The way this series deals with eroticism is as refreshing and open as any anime in ages – as is the case with Manabe himself.  It’s expressed, it’s acknowledged, it’s a part of the fabric of life – but it’s not all there is to it.  The reality of course is that having erotic thoughts doesn’t make you a pervert or shallow – it makes you human.  And being transparent doesn’t mean a person is shallow either.  Still waters run deep, they say – and if Manabe were a body of water, he’d be Crater Lake, Oregon.

Yes, Kotoura-san is a comedy – and it’s a very funny one.  The karaoke sequence, for example, is hilarious – especially given that Kanemoto Hisako is a wonderful singer and has performed many OP and EDs herself, including her contributions to the OP here (which just happened to be the song Kotoura-chan chose to perform, the perfect touch).  That scene probably represents the apex for the series to date as far as being light-hearted and hopeful, but this show is able to dance back and forth between light comedy and tense, gut-wrenching pain as well as any in recent memory.  To be honest, my expectations was that Moritani has told her goons to do something to Kotoura (I didn’t care to speculate on what) and I was on pins and needles as she was walking home.  That she would direct her hate into revenge against the guy she’s in love with was a surprise, but certainly a safer move as far as the narrative is concerned. 

It says a lot about Manabe that he said he was “glad” when the four dojo hit-men started to pummel him – because he immediately sensed that Kotoura-san was involved, and it was he that was being targeted.  His goofball persona isn’t a false front, but there’s more to the guy that that – he’s incredibly perceptive and compassionate (and apparently a badass, too, judging by the way the assault ended up).  For Kotoura, this is just more proof that anyone who connects with her pays a price for it – her forgiveness for Moritani is just a tragic reminder that she’s eternally unwilling to forgive herself, despite having done nothing wrong.  It’s only natural for a girl who knows everyone she meets intimately – and knows that they resent it – to want to keep the world at a safe distance.  But Manabe isn’t going to let that happen, and that seems to me to be the central pillar around which the series is going to be built.  It’s a very novel and different take on a love story, and features two characters who’ve established themselves as few anime characters do.  The possibilities for Kotoura-san as a series seem almost boundless – both in the short and long-term – and that’s something to be excited about.

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[HorribleSubs] Kotoura-san - 03 [720p].mkv_snapshot_19.32_[2013.01.25_10.36.03] [HorribleSubs] Kotoura-san - 03 [720p].mkv_snapshot_20.03_[2013.01.25_10.36.33] [HorribleSubs] Kotoura-san - 03 [720p].mkv_snapshot_21.41_[2013.01.25_10.38.11]


  1. A

    "I have a pet peeve about how cute girls can do the most vile and reprehensible things in anime, and at the slightest sign of remorse, all is forgiven"

    ..and agreed. But why do they keep doing this season after season? Perhaps enough people buy into this premise that they feel almost obligated to keep doing it. Logic be damned, so to speak. And most people just got conditioned to ignore it and don't say anything about it.

    Another weird strange trend is Japanese humor on physical violence. Believe me, I've seen enough Gaki no Tsukai batsu games to know many folks there find physical violence except for serious kinds really, really funny. Perhaps this is why anime also continue to employ the physical violence humor (most done by female characters on male characters). Well I'm not going to pretend all physical violence is not funny since some are indeed funny, but this cheap laugh trick is vastly overused. I don't want this to sound like I'm rebuking Japanese culture, so I'll stop there. Just pointing out two observations.

  2. A

    …cuz the alternative is to NOT forgive someone who feels remorse, effectively ending their role as protagonist. The people who take the moral high ground are the shows stars, while the ones who continue to hate are likely to be called "catty".

    I don't agree that this trait is exclusive to cute girls in anime, because I think it also applies to male shounen characters too, because they are "too cool" to be continually hated.

    …and you are rebuking Japanese culture. What's ironic is that what you consider cheap laughs was once also a large part of American comedy in Charlie Chaplin and the 3 Stooges. Comedy has always been circular; what's funny now may not be funny in 2 years time, and similarly what's not funny now may gain a resurgence in the future.

  3. A

    "..cuz the alternative is to NOT forgive someone who feels remorse, effectively ending their role as protagonist".

    No. Not even close. That's right, a way to argue a point by going extreme on the other side; nobody will take you seriously with this sort of stuff, man. You're being incredibly stupid if you're even half serious here. In fact, your whole post is a joke. I get it, ha ha ha. It must be since your argument is so ridiculous. If you can't see that, that's your problem, not mine.

  4. A

    lol someone here really is catty.
    but really, who wants to see a show where the protaganist refuses to forgive anyone? And how is this the other extreme? You either forgive someone or you don't.
    Your reaction is what's really stupid, like you can't ever take a criticism

  5. A

    "Vivid Red Panties"? What' that? Is it anime? Sounds like an ecchi show, though.

  6. P

    A diss on Vivid Red Opearation – effectively Strike Witches v2.0 :p

  7. A

    I wouldn't quite call it Strike Witches 2.0 because Vividred Operation seems more like a primer for ecchi shows such that some aspects are clearly aimed at a younger demographic. The premise looks like a typical mecha/magical girl with the monster-of-the-week formula that children shows commonly employ. Doesn't change the fact that it's remarkably crude, but there are worse offenders out there among children shows like Fairy Tail.

  8. A

    oh dang! Anon, please post this on RC's upcoming Vividred Operation ep 3 blog (in a few days) and let it slowly burns there, LOL! Sad thing is, the fans all pretend that it's not the ecchi they're watching, but some other things (whatever that may be). It's so dishonest: it's like saying, "what this, 'Hairy Pot, Her and the Deathly Swallows'? No, I watch it since it's about magic somethin… hot damn. Look at them going…. eh, where was I again".

  9. A

    "I have a pet peeve about how cute girls can do the most vile and reprehensible things in anime, and at the slightest sign of remorse, all is forgiven"

    technically mifune has not been forgiven by the narrative just yet as she still states that she plans to use kotoura; but as we see in this episode, mifune doest have the balls for such vile actions. Kotoura has touched her heart in a way that to some degree, she understands that she is uncomfortable with the idea of being a villain even though she wants to seem like she is. she is aware that her ambitions mean a great deal to her but the idea of putting kotoura in harms way (emotionally) does not sit too well with her, something that muroto clearly states and sheds light upon when he and mifune are walking home together; at the end of the day, i believe that the viewer is suppose to see that mifune is not vile, only misguided by her ambition to "avenge" her mother's death, and as much as she wants to make herself seem to be, there's that part of her that truly is a wonderful person. So no, she has not been necessarily forgiven; her actions in the second episode were hostile to the eyes of the viewer because we knew of her alterior motives. Kotoura did not, so she never viewed mifune as someone trying to antagonize her they way she viewed moritani because mifune never directly attack kotoura or give her vibes that she did not care for her, which means so far kotoura has not had a reason to express or not express forgiveness to mifune (unlike with moritani).

  10. j

    Fun fact: In the manga, manabe was stabbed T.T
    The manga is a lot brutal and dramatic than the anime. Funny, considering that this is a 4-koma manga…

  11. A

    "The manga is a lot brutal and dramatic than the anime"

    Wow! I didn't even think that was possible!

  12. K

    Why so many people that are anonymous? People afraid to post a name so we can figure out who is who in the comments?

  13. K

    I'm anonymous and now I'm Karmafan. A name so easily changed bears no weight or reputation in the first place.

  14. A

    well for one thing, I believe in anonymity. Not necessarily some sort of device to hide behind and say only mean things, but just liking the idea.

  15. A

    I do anonymous, because I don't know what to put in the URL in the Name/URL section.

  16. T

    I agree with the sentiment above…

  17. L

    The URL is not necessary, just a name will suffice.

  18. H

    I thought her singing was amusing, and also was wondering if she could concentrate on others thoughts while singing, or if it wasn't clear until they were just so affected by it that it finally came through to Haruka. I thought the choice to sing the OP was also cute, but interesting also because Nakajima Megumi sings the OP song (Kanemoto Hisako sings the ED). So she wasn't going to sound exactly the same even if she sang it well.

    Other than that, the show's just not going to let the audience get comfortable. At the end of the episode, I wasn't even really sad at Haruka disappearing, because it was such a shock out of the blue. I mean, she's outside Manabe's hospital room and you're waiting for her to go in and fawn over him, and instead she decides to just vanish, right then and there, without even going back to school? Whaaaa? No, don't do that to us!

  19. B

    Pretty much agreed on the characters being forgiven so easily bullshit. I could stomach it with Mifune in episode 2 because, while she admittedly is using Kotoura for her own ends, it did seem like what happened to Kotoura was genuinely not what Mifune intended. I still think the characters got over it too easily but I can definitely see a path to remaining friends here since Mifune wasn't being intentionally malevolent. The OP makes it obvious however that Moritani is on the same redemption path and that is far less tolerable. I can understand coming to forgive someone that behaves the way she has, but just because you've forgiven someone doesn't mean you have to forget what they did and become BFF's with them, which it's pretty clear from the OP is what is going to happen here.

    Kotoura herself is not without fault in the matter though. I don't know if this is a Japanese culture thing or an "otaku find this moe so put it in the show" thing, but another gripe of mine with this series and many just like it is how willing the protagonists are to completely blame themselves for everything. Kotoura sees what happened to Manabe as somehow her fault for daring to get close to him? No, bullshit, what happened to Manabe happened because Moritani is a bitch and no other reason. She is 100% to blame. I dunno, you live in Japan now Enzo so maybe you can answer it, is it a cultural norm there to blame yourself for everything bad that happens? I'm not sure where this annoying character trait comes from and why it's so goddamn prevalant.

    Lastly: Manabe = The Magnificent Steiner? Outnumbered 4 to 1 with the 4 being trained martial arts experts and it looks like he gave as good as he got. Good for him.

  20. A

    I'm not Enzo and I don't know much about Japanese society, but I'm quite certain Kotoura's self-blame has much more to do with her being traumatized and emotionally damaged than any sort of cultural reasons.

  21. I am Enzo and I don't know much about Japanese society, and I completely agree with that.

  22. H

    I also think it's something to remember that even if a reaction isn't what we think we'd do, most of these reactions we see in anime are not things *some humans* wouldn't do. There are plenty of people who stay with abusive spouses, blaming themselves for when they get abused. It's not Japanese, or Asian, or anything but human.

    On top of that, isn't the ability to sincerely forgive those who have done wrong to you and repented considered virtuous? It's certainly not something most people would do, but it's still held as an aspiration. Additionally, wouldn't Haruka be in as good a position as anyone to know someone's true feelings? But on top of that, she's a person who has come to believe that she is not necessarily to blame for things happening, but that she is a person that causes bad things to happen to people around here due to her presence. Her presence causes other people to be unhappy. Because she's a caring and observant person, she's going to take the actions she thinks will help that situation. And since she associates other people being hurt with her presence, she can remove her presence.

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