Happy Boys’ Day, the close of Japan’s Golden Week and (hopefully) of my gastrointestinally-induced posting delays (no promises). We jump in here with two of the last bubble series of the season, firstly Kyoukai no Rinne.
This one fell into the “probably blogging” category, and if it were a decision based on simple enjoyment, Rinne would definitely be in. My only concern here, really, is that this does strike me as one of those “simple pleasure” shows that’s likely to be a bit tricky to blog. The formula here is a very straightforward one, and this far at least the series has stuck with what’s working – a basic ghost story, likeable characters, offbeat humor with impeccable timing and Rinne inevitably left impoverished.
This week’s tale focused on one of Japan’s eponymous “seven school mysteries”, Hanako the Toilet Girl (Hidaka Rina). Normally a fairly docile and harmless spirit, this one has been acting up rather badly – and’s the return of Tsubasa-kun (who exorcised her back in elementary school) that’s set her off. Hanako has enlisted the help of a kind of loan-shark spirit named Toichi (Hirota Minoru) to lend her power to get even with Tsubasa – a loan which will be repaid with her eternal soul (it’s in the fine print). Tsuabasa again sees the ghost as a simple target for exorcism, but Rinne as usual takes the humane approach – and he’s already involved, as Toichi carries a ¥100,000 reward on his ectoplasmic head.
The story is solid, but as usual here the best moments are the old-school timing-based comic bits: <pause> “What are you doing in the girl’s bathroom?”, or Tsubasa’s solemn vow that his “whack the spirit on the head with a heavy book” attack exhausts him so much he can only do it once a week (and the fact that he chooses a Christian bible really sells the gag even more). I’m getting a bit tired of the “Don’t call me Grandma!” bit, and of poor Rinne getting screwed financially with every ending – I think he’s more bimbogami than shinigami – but on balance, the comedy and overall vibe here is definitely working for me.
Hibike! Euphonium – 05
“There’s lots of heavy lifting, so at times like this the male band members can be useful.” I wonder – can Kyoto Animation possibly insert a line like that with a straight face, or is it strictly tongue-in-cheek? And even if it’s the latter, does it really make a difference?
This was probably the closest thing to a true tossup show for me going into this week, which I was pretty determined was going to be the make-or-break one across the board. And I won’t say it’s a sure thing I’m going to blog next week’s episode by any means. I’d hoped that after the last two pretty interesting eps Sound! Euphonium might close the deal, but this edition left me pretty indifferent.
I’m still finding this series to be a pretty hollow experience – it’s just not making any emotional connection at all. And the odd thing is, it doesn’t seem at all interested in trying to. There was a lot of hair-tossing and mugging for the camera in the first part of the ep, even by KyoAni standards (again leaving me wondering if there was some winking at the audience going on – and if it matters). And the second half pretty much blitzkrieged through the SunFes that the entire first 4 episodes built up to. Again – can a character in this show utter a line like “That was an anti-climax” under these circumstances and it not have been intended at least a little ironically?
As usual, the execution of events itself was fine. The portrayal of the students’ dismay at being sandwiched between two band powerhouses and general nervousness at performing was nicely portrayed, and there was some interesting subtext at the beginning regarding the roles of the club president and veep. But it’s as if Hibike! Euphonium is determined to deny the audience any payoff in any form, and that’s a bit vexing.
Some are wont to compare this series to Hyouka, and it’s easy to see why – I’d certainly love to get Hibike mentioned in the same breath as Hyouka if I was boosting it. But there was an emotional depth to Hyouka that I can find no trace of here, even when Hyouka was stumbling a bit out of the gate in narrative terms. Emotional reserve is fine, but an emotional void is not – and that’s what I’m getting here, at least so far. Interesting in a clinical, abstract way – but that can only carry you so far. For me, five weeks is about how far – now I need more.