There are going to be enormous spoilers for Phantom ~Requiem for the Phantom~ (particularly the very end) within this post. Read at your own risk.
Archive for September, 2009
Man, I was all set for more Tsubasa, and instead Bakemonogatari throws a curveball with a fantastic episode revolving around Senjougahara and Araragi’s relationship. Welcome back to the show, Senjougahara! *waves*
The first half is a hell of a lot of fun. It is mainly Senjougahara doing her thing and making Araragi into an uncomfortable ball of fluff in her presence, but it also has the added wrinkle of the silent presence of Senjougahara’s father, who drives Senjougahara and Araragi to the spot of their first date. Within every high school relationship, there is a terrifying family moment waiting to happen. Araragi’s reactions to the stoniness of Senjougahara’s father as Senjougahara discusses whether Araragi loves her, how well Araragi did on his exams, how perverted Kanbaru is (and how perverted Senjougahara could be if she put her mind to it), and so on. She even playfully mocks Araragi for calling her “Senjougahara” in the presence of her father, and she also makes Araragi feel pretty great by the time they get to the forest, although he tries his best to suppress the feeling!
A good, sweet ending to one of the better romance series I have seen lately.
What I think this final episode reinforces most is how much stronger Fumi gets every day. Sure, she has a relapse of feelings for Sugimoto (a perfectly understandable, human moment), but she does not wallow in despair about it like she might have done at the beginning of the series. Instead, Fumi talks it out with Acchan and moves forward a bit. And when Fumi sees Acchan and Kou in the store together, although she completely misunderstands the situation at first (without knowing why), she does not make a big stink about it or get overly emotional and awkward (aside from a bit of jealousy on her part). Instead, she lets things play out, has fun with Acchan and her friends and then everything is cleared up later when Ikumi texts Acchan. Fumi is even able to have a good laugh at how ridiculous she acted! Speaking of, she even smiles and talks openly with her friends in the opening montage! Fumi may still be a bit stilted at times, but she has grown so much comfortable with everything around her.
So, damn. A very good ending to what is Spice and Wolf‘s best arc so far.
The big story, of course, is Lawrence putting aside his dream for now and declaring his love for Horo. I’m glad he stuck to his guns and made a strong effort to at least ride out the rest of his journey with Horo, and he explains his desire to her in a way that really resonates with Horo, I think. Lawrence wants to profit as much as Abe . . . up to a point. But once he realizes how far her plan reaches — which is around when he notices the salt statues, I suppose — Lawrence, like a true merchant, begins to balance the risk of the plan versus the profit. There is an enormous risk to Abe’s plot, and an enormous monetary profit to be had if it goes through. But at what price? And is it the type of profit Lawrence really wants?
These three episodes drift away from Miyazawa and Arima’s relationship for a moment to present some musings on a couple of themes — the value of friendship, and the pain and pettiness of jealousy.
Ep9 features Miyazawa confronting the consequences of abandoning her carefully cultivated “perfect student” persona and acting more like her true self. Although the girls in the class generally like Miyazawa and appreciate her advice on homework and things like that, they get a bit suspicious about her being so chummy with Arima and Hideaki, two of the most popular boys in the school. A girl in Miyazawa’s class, Maho Izawa, fans the flames of these suspicions. “What makes you think Miyazawa is such a great person?” Maho asks. “Maybe she’s tricking you.” Later we find out that Maho leads the attack on Miyazawa based on her intense jealousy of Miyazawa’s abilities, combined with the sudden realization of the limits of her own abilities, but for now I’ll just address the general sense of jealousy in this episode.
Damn. Best episode of the series so far. That screenshot says it all — Sugimoto got told by Fumi.
But saying that, I must also add that I really appreciate how understated everything is in this episode. There are no overblown dramatics at Kazusa’s wedding. Sugimoto’s flashback about how she fell for the drama teacher is actually quite reserved. And Fumi putting Sugimoto in her place is a strong, quiet moment. Fumi does not flip her shit telling Sugimoto off; instead, she lays it out for her straight and true. Sugimoto is selfish, and she needs to grow up before someone like Fumi can accept her.
Something that really stands out to me in this episode is the theme of burial — mainly of feelings and problems.
This is presumably how the Meddlesome Cat becomes attracted to Hanekawa as a host. Hanekawa has tons of problems: Her parents have remarried so much, and she has been passed off so many times, that she has no blood relation to her current parents. These parents are not overly fond of Hanekawa. (Makes me wonder why they took her on in the first place, but I suppose the need to “keep up appearances” led them to adopt her in order to look more like a normal family.) Hanekawa’s father abuses her — she has a fresh bandage on her face from the most recently smack — but she waves this off by reasoning that people would feel angry if some kid they didn’t know tried to get close to them.
Another Cross Game double play! This pair of episodes highlights an awesome all-girls baseball game that is definitely the best game yet in the series.
The first episode does a nice job of emphasizing the frustration Aoba has to deal with on a daily basis. Midori hits the nail on the head when she says Aoba probably never considered playing women’s baseball — which is exactly the same mindset Midori once had. It makes sense, too. Many societies have such a male-dominant view, particularly where athletics are concerned, that everyone just takes it for granted that men are going to be the best in any sport, and therefore offer the best competition. But that does not mean the women are going to be pushovers by any means, as Midori found out and Aoba discovers in this pair of episodes.