Keppeki Danshi Aoyama-kun – 03
Well, I’d more or less decided to put this show on blogging hold – not because I don’t like it, but because it’s the sort of comedy that doesn’t really lend itself too well to blogging. But this episode was probably the best of the three overall – certainly the “meatiest” in terms of grist for the analytical mill (plus, I just love the ED). So we’ll give it… another week, at least? We’ll see.
There were a couple of things I really enjoyed here, one of which is that as the series develops, so does Aoyama-kun. Despite the fact that his character is obviously built around a gimmick, he’s not quite as simple as you might think. Also, in this episode there were a couple of times where the series showed it actually has an edge – some genuinely uncomfortable moments. For an absurdist comedy like this one, that’s a very useful quality to have.
Basically, this ep was two scenes – first, the showdown in the family restaurant with Takechi. It was a pretty funny montage on the whole (Aoyama coping with a restaurant speaks for itself) but Takechi really pushed the envelope into full-on obnoxious territory here. Then, the preliminary game against Takada High School. This gets pretty dark, too, as the captain has his girlfriend trap Aoyama-kun in the locker room (he seems to be a bit claustrophobic on top of everything else) and threaten to scream “Rape!” if he calls for help. Meanwhile his team is physical to the point of chippy, especially when Aoyama finally does make it onto the field for the final fifteen minutes.
We’d heard tell of Aoyama’s “last five minutes” effect before, and while his internal rules still aren’t fully clear, it seems as if it’s mostly driven by Aoyama’s intense hatred of losing – that, and the fact that he hates “dirty cheaters” even more than dirt generally. That makes him a considerably more interesting character rather than just a comic device, which is a pretty good place to build from.
Youkai Apartment no Yuuga na Nichijou – 03
There’s a tendency in series like this one – let’s call them Shinto slice of life for lack of a better term – for a shift to occur somewhere around the third or fourth episode. Things start out very wistfully and full of warmth, and you’re almost convinced there’s nothing more to the show than that comforting, slightly sleepy pleasantness. But then the emotional stakes are raised, things get darker all of a sudden, and an element of regret and even tragedy is introduced and all of a sudden, you have something quite a bit weightier than it initially appeared.
One could argue that started to happen even earlier than usual with Youkai Apartment no Yuuga na Nichijou, as we started to see hints of it in the B-part last week. But this episode was the official shift, I think, and it took a very dark turn indeed. The hints that Kuri and Shiro (someone in anime has to name a Hokkaido something else sooner or later) had a dark past were there, but it turned out to be a whopper – his mother had Kuri young, was abandoned by her scumbag lover, grew to hate the child and killed him, only to be killed himself by the stray dog who’d befriended him (who was in turn killed by the local mob). Talk about a downer.
This all ties in with Yuushi, of course, because he’s lost his parents tragically and far too young, and the idea of motherhood is very much at the forefront of his thoughts. So when an Inugami named Akane arrives on the scene and the other residents tell Yuushi that means Kuri’s mother is coming for a visit, he refuses to be sheltered in Akine’s room with Kuri. What follows is patently bleak and despairing, and there’s not much to be said about it beyond that. But the idea of the residents throwing a party to “welcome” the dead mother’s spirit is oddly effective dramatically. This whole sequence packs quite a lot of impact.
I think it’s likely Youkai Apato is going to remain mostly a series that focuses on the positives of the human-youkai intersection, and how the apartment and its occupants serve as a kind of surrogate family to him. But it’s nice to now that this is a series with multiple facets that isn’t afraid to stare down the grim side of Shintoism from time to time.
Koi to Uso – 03
OK, I can honestly say I didn’t see that coming. Not until about a minute before it happened and the light switch clicked on, and I said to myself “Hmmm – what the hell are you supposed to do under this system if you happen to be gay? And you ought to be ashamed for not wondering about that until just now…”
Koi to Uso is an odd show. There’s a fair bit of tropiness here to be sure – Yukari, Ririna and Misaki pretty much embody character archetypes. But it genuinely does go places traditional anime romances don’t, and the central conceit underpinning the premise is undeniably an interesting one. Truthfully, I can’t quite figure this series out. For example – is it obsessed with physical appearance, or is it commenting on society’s obsession with physical appearance? Does it have me still guessing about that because it’s bad at expressing its point of view, or because it’s good at obfuscating it on purpose?
As we’ve uncovered secrets already (mostly about Nisaka-kun) I’m kind of assuming that there’s stuff about Takasaki and Sanada we don’t yet know, too. Frankly I think Sanada’s obsession with making Nejima and Takasaki kiss is kind of creepy, and I think her treatment of him is generally disrespectful and unkind in a cliche anime manner. But there’s something about Takasaki that unsettles me too – the sense that she’s hiding something in a way Sanada isn’t.
The of course, we have Nisaka, who single-handedly raised the intrigue level of Koi to Uso several notches this week. He’s someone who should be important in a story with this theme, for starters. And hopefully his part of it will be handled with some discretion and restraint. Maybe we’ve reached the point where gay males in anime don’t have to be limited to comic caricatures or BL shows, and outgrown the stage where even a series that wants to deal with the subject sensitively (like R-15) has to covertly do so while hiding it under a veneer of comedy. We’ll see – but if nothing else, this strange little series has certainly taken an unexpected and interesting turn.