Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Retro Review: Dear Brother (Oniisama E) episode 17

This is the romanciest episode of this show so far. It's about how Mariko's feelings for Kaoru make Nanako come to terms with her feelings for Rei, with a bitter dash of Fukiko manipulating Rei's feelings for her on the side.

We open the morning after Kaoru checked into the hospital, Nanako and Mariko waiting with flowers in the lobby. Mariko presents them to Kaoru. Mariko says she couldn't sleep out of worry, and coming from anyone else, I would think that was hyperbole.

After Kaoru is like "Thank you, Mariko-san" for the flowers, Mariko gloms onto her and is like

While most of the onlookers mirror my reaction,
Nanako is kind of hilariously like

Back at the beach, Nanako and Tomoko discuss Kaoru's release from the hospital and how surprised they are by Mariko's thing for her. When they talk, Tomoko uses "suki", which could easily refer to non-romantic love, but when Nanako internally comments on it, she uses "koi", which is always a word for romantic love, not platonic. Although regardless of Nanako's interpretation, that scene was pretty gay. Tomoko is like "Dang, Mariko beat me to her" and Nanako takes her seriously, but Tomoko passes it off as a joke. Pretty sure this whole portion of the episode just between Nanako and Tomoko illustrates the difference between the girls at Seiran who engage in queer behavior over the Magnificent Three without actually being queer (or at least not in a remotely self-aware way) because "lol this is a girls' school, akogare amirite" and someone like Nanako.

Writing to Takehiko, Nanako reflects on how she is jealous of Mariko's ability to be honest about her feelings (which I attribute as much to Nanako's feelings having more depth to them as Mariko having less of a filter) and how she's grown to like Mariko quite a bit. Here my girlfriend's like "My opinion of Mariko is still kind of meh" and I agree. Why do I think Nanako's feelings have at least somewhat more depth than Mariko's even though she kind of has your typical "I don't know better yet" thing for an angsty chick is...(my girlfriend: "Because she's the protagonist?") I guess, hmm, actually, I think it's the opposite and I'm projecting Nanako being more private about her feelings as evidence of there being more depth to them, especially given that she's in an environment that's very friendly to the idea of akogare, but not to actual "I might want to settle down with another lady someday" queerness.

Nanako takes an, uh, old cigarette of Rei's out of her desk and gets ready to light it,
but is cockblocked by her mom being like "You're dad wants to talk to you!"

Fukiko surprises Rei in the morning by picking her up so they can talk about Rei playing in the basketball game. Oh, shit.

When Rei says she had fun playing in the game despite Fukiko squeezing her hand, Fukiko is like "Oh really?" and squeezes harder. (As you might infer, these aren't affectionate squeezes.) Fukiko asks again if she had fun, and Rei is like
Their relationship is pretty well encapsulated by Rei telling Fukiko to let go of her hand and Fukiko pulling it towards her and being like "Never forget that I know what's best for you." Ugh.

Because popping pills has been Rei's way of numbing herself to the general pain she feels about her life, she almost does so after she gets to school- contrast this with how happy she seemed to go out on her way to school earlier. Kaoru conveniently shows up yet again, and stops her. Rei acts like she wasn't being serious, which I don't believe, but Kaoru did lighten her mood and cause her to toss away the pills, so like Kaoru, I am glad when she walks off as harps play and doves fly through the golden sunshine around her. No one ever said this was a subtle show.

Sadface for Mariko because Kaoru can't join her for lunch because of basketball stuff. We see this episode's Chekhov's gun, which is Nanako's latest letter to Takehiko that she brought to school.

Nanako and Mariko see Rei playing a flute surrounded by fangirls, and Nanako-
Well, then.

As a nice way of showing how much of an impression seeing Rei there made on Nanako, we continue to hear Rei's flute music for a bit after the cut to Nanako, Mariko, and Tomoko having lunch elsewhere.

Tomoko (who autocorrect named Tomato) gives Mariko (a.k.a. Mark) tips on how to bake a cake obviously meant for Kaoru, and Nanako, too distracted to participate, leaves to buy a stamp for her letter.

Nanako passes by a flower shop, and the flowers remind her of the corsage she saw on Rei when she was playing the flute.

Later in her school's gym, Nanako remembers Rei playing basketball. Rei shows up, and speaking like she's in a play monologue for the gajillionth time, says she can tell Nanako's there because of love ("koi"). Sadly for Nanako, Rei thinks her feelings are for Kaoru.
Nanako yells that she's wrong, but Rei just laughs while dribbling a basketball and runs off. I feel bad for Nanako, but Rei's behavior is kind of amusingly "wtf" here. 

Nanako tosses rocks into a pond while being like "It isn't Kaoru, damn it." And of course her letter falls out of her pocket when she runs back to class. She notices but can't skip to search for it. And from Nanako's perspective, we see that Mariko's feelings for Kaoru have made her even prettier.

When they have a class break, Nanako retraces her steps, Mariko being like "Watchu doing?" behind her, but has no success.

Mariko is like "Is this letter to a man? *gasp shock*" and like twenty students hear and are like "Whut, a man?", so before Nanako can respond at all, Mariko takes Nanako aside and is like "YOU CAN'T GO OUT WITH A MAN, THEY'LL HURT YOU" before crying into Nanako's arms. That sure escalated quickly.

To calm Mariko down, Nanako says she'll stop looking for the letter, figuring it's a pretty harmless letter, so whatever. But dun-dun-dun, the Sorority's Mona Lisa-sama and Borgia-sama are here to tell her Fukiko wants her to come to her mansion after school.
Have I mentioned that I kind of love this school's nicknames?

We once again see Fukiko's face completely blacked out as her cronies tell Nanako she pissed her off and Mariko is like "Uh-oh, did you make her mad?"

Cut to Fukiko continuing the fine tradition of prominent piano playing by ojousama in yuri, as Nanako waits anxiously. Fukiko's face is almost entirely blacked out as she turns from a window toward Nanako before making it clear she has the letter and knows it's for Takehiko. Fukiko unfairly tells Nanako off for being a potential target for gossip among the gossipy assholes at their school, and for ignoring her order to stop writing Takehiko. Unlike Rei, Nanako obviously doesn't personally give a shit about Fukiko, so she protests that it's just a letter.

Fukiko is like "Can you promise me that this letter-writing couldn't possibly ever lead to something romantic?" and Nanako doesn't answer. Why? Going by the overall show she likes guys too, but I'm not sure that's it in this immediate situation since she could have said yes to get Fukiko to leave her be. Maybe it's because the stress of the situation made her freeze, maybe it was another way to defy Fukiko, since she is one of the few students willing to do that. I think it is open to interpretation.

Fukiko is like "Tear up this letter"
but Nanako still doesn't do anything and starts crying, so she's like "lol it's just a joke" to play the classic asshole card of making it seem like the person you're being a dick to is just oversensitive.

Despite the pain in this episode, it ends on a triumphant note because Nanako decides to mail the letter as quickly as possible, noting that it's all the more valuable because of all the trouble she went through to be able to do so. She happily notes that her heart still goes doki-doki whenever she's around Rei, also.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Psycho-Pass 2: This Show So Far, episodes 1-4

As anyone who followed me on Twitter when Psycho-Pass season 1 aired knows, I loved its first season. I thought it was a thoughtful example of its genre, with a wonderfully-developed female lead ("You really like Akane, don't you?" said my girlfriend as I put the Akane magnet I got at GeekGirlCon on my fridge) and a refreshingly grown-up (for anime) lesbian couple I shipped hard.

This season, we get a new creepy bishounen who wants to overthrow the Sibyl System, Kamui. Kamui has his own following of latent criminals like season 1's Makishima did. Unlike Makishima, Kamui cries, sees himself as helpful to the people he manipulates (while Makishima, evil though he was, made no such pretensions) and has the ability to manipulate other people's crime coefficients so they can be unpunishable by the Sibyl System while committing actual horrible crimes. Makishima's people were just stealthy about what they did. (I just joked to my girlfriend that Kamui is like a more lesbian Makishima because he wants to talk about feelings.)

The current Division 1 team dynamic is that Akane is still a seasoned badass Inspector, Gino, now an Enforcer, is more mellow and at peace with himself for sad reasons, the woman who joined the group at the end of season 1, Mika, is now a rather dickish Inspector with 1.5 years of field experience under her belt and a thing for Yayoi, and a couple new folks, Tougane and Hinakawa, have joined Yayoi and Gino as Enforcers.

Re the two new members of the team, I don't care much about them (I don't think anyone does), but I have some thoughts:

  • Tougane's behavior is similar to Kougami's around Akane and he sure is evil-looking in the OP, but I think the obvious signs of him being ~evil~ are a red herring. Unless the writers are counting on us thinking he's a red herring and not really making him one. Unless they're counting on us thinking that they're trying to make us think he's a red herring... I'll stop. 
  • Hinakawa is voiced by Makishima's seiyuu, which either A) indicates he's ~evil~ or B) is just a way whoever made that casting choice decided to fuck with viewers. For now, I think it's the latter. I am ready to be totally wrong about either of these characters, of course.

So far, this season has dealt with a sequence of people Kamui set up to cause horrible shit for the sake of a plan that is becoming clearer.

The most recent Kamui-follower-of-the-week's case ended in a really horrific way. It is the darkest this season has been, but flows logically from what happened in episode 1 of season 1. (What would have happened if a key person hadn't been there?) The ineffectiveness of everyone who wasn't a law enforcement person in the face of immediate danger in this season's most recent episode is frustrating, but follows from what we saw in season 1 of the system fucking with most people's ability to deal with threats that the system hasn't deemed a threat. (i.e. The beating-in-public scene and Akane's inability to attack Makishima halfway through season 1 without relying on a Dominator despite what he was threatening.)

Given how much of the show has been set-up so far, I'm not ready to judge it yet. Imho, what'll make or break this season is how everyone reacts to what happened at the end of episode 4. Mika has been a dick since episode 1, but her attitude didn't result in any really awful consequences until now. Her cowardice failed to prevent the horrible thing in episode 4, and Akane, Yayoi, and Gino are pretty obviously pissed that it happened.

So yeah, Mika sure is a dick. Given how her introduction as an Inspector paralleled Akane's, I expected her to be sort of an Akane II like everyone else who watched season 1. But nope, she really hates latent criminals, including the Enforcers, and doesn't think Akane knows what she's doing.

I don't like Mika, but given her backstory, her behavior makes more sense than a lot of people think. You might recall that when we last saw her during the girls' school arc, she was mourning her murdered friend who she was in love with. And for all she knew, the killer got away. (Of course we know she didn't.) It doesn't make Mika's loathing of all latent criminals any more justifiable than Gino being shitty towards them in season 1 because of his family issues, but it does follow from her backstory. It also helps explain why she doesn't think her co-workers know wtf they're doing. Her still hating them as a group even though one of them, Yayoi, comforted her when she cried over her dead friend and saved her life after she became an Inspector, isn't unfathomable for me either because Yayoi could just be the exception that proves the rule. In real life, there are people who broadly hate certain groups while being fond of individual members of those groups, so yeah, it's shitty of her, but I can see it. Hopefully what happened in episode 4 will will jolt her into realizing she's doing it wrong.

As for her thing for Yayoi, the moment Mika's crush became obvious was funny, but I will not be a happy camper if she gets paired with Yayoi since Yayoi already has someone loads better/Shion. Given that Mika and Yayoi's most recent interaction involves Mika being cowardly despite Yayoi being like "Yo, we need to help these people" and Yayoi being pissed by having her hands tied from being unable to do anything, I don't see that happening, but let's not jinx it, eh?

Anyway, I actually think this season is interesting, but it's still mostly set-up. Hopefully the story will hold together as a whole.

Also, some Yayoi x Shion goodness, please. So far they've been separately competently doing their own thing on their jobs, but I'd like to see them lez it up together more.

Anyway, have some (partially NSFW) Yayoi x Shion fan art.