[Side A] Winter 2017 – Thoughts on Week 5


Strange realization when I saw this scene in Demi-chan wa Kataritai — I was scheduled to donate blood last Saturday, but I forgot to show up.


Well yeah, go figure. The blood donation center is a good 2 miles from my house, and I can’t half-ass myself to take the bus going there at a chilling 5 degrees celsius at midday. UK weather is just incredible — if it isn’t freezing, it’s friggin’ raining!

Oh well, more reason for me to shut myself indoors during the weekend and enjoy a well-deserved break from a manic week. So enough chit chat, and let’s run down how Side A is doing so far!

Shôwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjû: Sukeroku Futatabi Hen

There’s a brilliance to the execution of this week’s episode of Shôwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjû that left me speechless. Much of the first half basically revisited Yotaro’s search for his own sense of Rakugo, and how his own realization of character sums up his style as a genuine desire to allow people to love the art as much as he does. He admits that he cannot insert himself into the roles as ardently as his master does, but what he CAN do is honestly enjoy himself despite who he was then (as a member of the Yakuza before) and who he is now.

But it’s the second half that really homes in on Yakumo’s style of delivering Rakugo as a fully immersive experience. Although he feigns passion towards the art, he is undoubtedly the incarnation of the craft itself, seemingly animating himself in the innumerable characters that he plays. Only this time, the story Hangon-kou draws a bit too close to his own lived experience, that his own self-immersion draws out a deeply hidden desire for his departed Miyokichi. And this is framed beautifully with references to her as the Shamisen, and he as the “somber” wooden block. In his words, the wooden block is not something anyone would hum a love song to, but when played with the Shamisen, becomes a whole (i.e. yin and yang) that creates a harmony of sounds. Yakumo did not realize it, but he framed his entire life experience in the story of Hangon-kou, and so it comes with no surprise that the past he tried so hard to lock up deep within his calloused soul finally bursts out without warning.

I think I’ll have to make a Lost in Translation episode to kinda explain the story of Hangon-kou a bit more, because it really, really drives home the strong resonance that hits Yakumo’s character deep at his core — the folly of his career as a Rakugo artist, and the similar folly of his attempts to dam up his emotions in an attempt to subdue his own wretched past. Man… I’m speechless. Just, wow.

Tales of Zestiria the X

To be honest, I’m actually enjoying the depth of character that is being presented in Rose as this season progresses. I might have had some reservations as to how the focus was being shifted away from what the last season was pre-occupied with, but I’m legitimately engaged with Rose’s story to the point that the whole revenge motif seems reasonably justified. But that’s not to say that I sympathize with whatever reasons Rose had for doing what she did; rather, I appreciate how the show utilized her revenge motive as a means to lay out the greater destructive potential of malevolence in their world, and how this dark force aided somewhat in causing the dark past that pushed her to become an assassin.

And conversely, this malevolence makes her own revenge motive seem petty, thus elevating the scale of the conflict to give her more reason to fight. Because the problem with revenge as a motive is that it sublimates once the object of one’s anger has been extinguished. But Rose’s complexity is shown when she feels no contentment in her act, possibly stemming from the feeling of judgement from a character like Sorey. But Sorey’s inherent optimism and refusal to mark her off as an evil person perplexes her, making her feel like Sorey is taking pity on her. But when they make their way through the tainted forest, she begins to realize the kind of world that Sorey lives in — a world where there is a greater evil that cannot be seen by simple humans like her. And the fear hits her — the insignificance of her petty deed in a greater scheme of good versus evil. It’s a reversal of the philosophy she believed in — that justice at hand is more practical than lofty ideals.

I’m very curious to see how this leads in to Rose‘s epiphany, and how this inevitably ties her together with Sorey as a fellow warrior in the quest to rid the world of Malevolence. Because when you think about it, epic stories featuring a hero out to save the world is something everyone’s seen before. But the journey of a lowly assassin girl turned hero of justice? Now that is something I’m looking forward to seeing unfold.

March comes in like a Lion

It was another one of those manic episodes this week for March comes in like a Lion, complete with weird jokes and exaggerated emotional clashes between characters. Regardless, there was a pretty solid message that the show tried to play out, namely to rely on others as you would like them to rely on you. It’s a long time coming for Rei to have to finally come to grips with his own situation as a young boy learning the ropes of adulthood. For most of the series, he’s been dramatizing his own lived existence to the point of self-created importance, as if each decision or task at hand held with it some dire consequence. But the reality is that he’s just a student, and his homeroom teacher makes that pretty clear to him when he finally sees Rei smile amidst kids his age (sans the stupid mustache on one of those characters, I mean seriously what does that achieve?).

And so Rei finally admits his own limitations and requests Shimada to include him in his workshop classes. This opens up a new “side” of Rei that brings with it some new expressions and interactions with people like Harunobu. Although we get hints of it in previous episodes, Rei seems more open to Harunobu, even going to the extent of ignoring their argument to figure out what happened to a bird that disappeared underwater. It was a light-hearted yet fun bouncing off between the two that made me realize that, yes, Rei is beginning to learn.

It’s one thing to lecture the viewer on the ways Rei achieves enlightenment — he can narrate his own thoughts as much as he likes and we can understand him from there. But it’s another thing entirely for him to actually live out the realizations he claims to have reached. This episode may have been a little distracted with its comedic banter, but it was still full wonderful lessons: both for Rei and for us, as well.

Demi-chan wa Kataritai

I was a little worried that the show’s format would make for some monotonous plot flows, but it’s a good thing this week’s episode of Demi-chan wa Kataritai decided to spice things up a little by doing some super sleuthing regarding the reason why Yuki ended up forming ice in her hot bath. Her predicament is something we’ve seen in shows like X-Men, where fear of harming others are what fuel isolation and misunderstanding. So like the meddler that Tetsuo is, the two of them look into the lore and even do a little experiment to get to the bottom of the issue.

It’s nice that they used an interesting “art book” style of animation to depict the old legends of the Snow Maiden, which added a nice artistic flourish to the otherwise stagnant visuals. The conclusion was also quite nice, given how they make it clear that the path to understanding more about ourselves may be uncomfortable, but its in taking these risks that we can truly grow, and perhaps overcome our own insecurities.

Now if only they didn’t throw in a stupid Dragon Quest X pun into the mix. Ugh. I leave you guys to figure out where that was. Otherwise, the show is doing reasonably well, but not so much that it’s able to make as big of an impact as the other shows in this block — which puts it in a pretty odd position. It’s fun to watch, yes, and it may have a nice message or two — but I’m wondering how it can continue to keep this up given all of the female characters have already been introduced. I dunno, let’s see…


And there you have it! Seems a little weird that one show is missing from this list, but oh well. Other updates — I’m watching Koe no Katachi next week, woohoo! So yeah, I already hinted that I’m going to put up a Lost in Translation post about the latest episode of Rakugo, so do look forward to that as well. Until next time, ciao!

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