Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Shigofumi 2

Last we left our show, Asuna had just murdered Shouta. Murdered him with a knife, and now Asuna is stalking toward the shigofumi-delivering-girl. I can’t remember her name right now. Her staff is crying that they should leave because Asuna is bitch ass crazy, but Fumika (that’s her name) says no, she’s not. She’s just like everyone else. Fumika asks Asuna if Shouta was really her lover, or if she even had a lover.

Asuna smirks and says that she has many men. Fumika says that she understands. Asuna runs at them with her knife, but Fumika gives a command, the staff whirls and a clock thing appears, and Fumika disappears just as Asuna is about to slash her throat. We get some pretty good insane running action, but then Asuna just grits her teeth and looks around at the empty air. She turns back toward Shouta. Still dead.

Fumika rematerializes back in Shouta’s rooftop shed. The staff asks Fumika if she’s mad at her, but Fumika just says that someone made her (the staff that is) leave the shigofumi for Shouta to find. The staff goes on, expressing astonishment that a shigofumi could say such a thing, but Fumika isn’t surprised by that, either. She’s quite stoic about everything.

The scene shifts to the empty bedroom we saw in the previous episode. Something about that room… Fumika gives another command and the staff turns into a pair of white wings on Fumika’s back and she flies up into the air (which is what you do with wings). The staff’s pendant turns into a necklace, and she and Fumika talk a bit more about men and lovers and what could have made Asuna murder her father. Fumika thinks a little bit, and we see the naked white female body covered with letters (again from the last episode), and then a pistol going off, and Fumika seems to suggest that maybe Asuna didn’t kill her father after all. Which I suppose would make the girl a little bit better. At least, the Romans punished patricide more severely than plain old murder.

But didn’t Fumika say in the last episode that the writer of a shigofumi always tells the truth? Is there some kind of metaphysical truth that we have to contemplate as well?

We cut back to the river. Asuna is on her hands and knees trying to dig a hole to bury Shouta’s body. She’s using her little knife, so I bet it’s going to take a while. She looks angry and determined; she’s having flashbacks, first of fighting with her father and then stabbing poor Shouta. Her expression becomes more pained than angry. It’s going to take a really long time to dig a hole with a knife.

The next day (I assume), and we’re at a happy home for children. Asuna and Miku are playing with a ball in a yard. Inside the social worker lady from the last episode is talking to the kindly older woman in charge (again, I assume, but my assumptions are usually right). The older woman says that Miku is a little shy, but as we watch Asuna finds a way to get her involved in the ballgame and everyone smiles with joy. The social worker says that Asuna is a good sister, and the older woman says that’s because their father was a pretty shitty guy. Jeez, everyone knew that.

Flashback time. Asuna and Miku stand on a street corner and talk to some man we don’t know. Asuna walks into school. She’s sad. She makes her way to the classroom and finds that people have written across her desk: “SEX MODEL! THRIVING BUSINESS! Part time jobs are against the rules!” Thank you, translators. Also, kids are jerks. Next scene, we’re in that bedroom again. Asuna is standing in a robe next to her father. The robe comes off, she’s naked, and a bunch of guys start taking pictures of her. She’s dead-eyed. Her father talks to some guy. The cameras. We see a line of cameras, with lenses extending, suggestive naturally. Next the room is dark and Asuna is alone and covered up again.

Asuna talks to her father in an alley. She wants a day off. Her father accuses her of having a boyfriend. She hasn’t time for one. She needs to keep working to pay for his medical bills. He’s going to get Miku involved. Someone requested her. The little girl owes him too, after all. Raising two girls is expensive! Asuna stabs him. Mission accomplished: making Asuna not so crazy, just angry and exploited. So why did she kill Shouta?

In the room at the shelter, Asuna is looking at her knife. Miku comes and asks if she can sleep with her. They get in bed. Asuna says that everything will be okay, and Miku says that she loves her sister. Asuna thinks that she’s protected her sister. Next day she’s walking along the river when she hears a commotion. She goes over to see that Shouta’s body has been discovered, and she runs off.

Two cops, looking for Asuna, visit the group home. They’re asking about Shouta. Asuna watches them from around a corner and flees like the criminal she is. She’s confused about how they’ve related Shouta with her. She never talked about him to anyone. She steals some clothes, cuts her hair short, and hops on a train to make her escape. She can’t call Miku anymore. Fumika appears. She has a delivery.

Commercial break, and we’re back on the super-efficient Japanese train. Fumika’s staff is making chatter. Fumika says that she has a shigofumi, from Shouta. Asuna has the responsibility to accept it. Asuna is incredulous. Fumika doesn’t care; everyone dies. How a person dies-if there’s meaning behind it-is more important. Asuna pulls out her knife and runs at Fumika: to kill her! But Fumika swings her staff, knocks Asuna off her feet, and sits on the girl and points a huge gun at her face. Fumika says that if she shoots, everything about Asuna will disappear, but the girl must still have attachments and regrets left. Asuna thinks of poor, dead Shouta.

Next we see Asuna sitting by herself in the aisle in the train. Fumika stands in the little compartment between cars. She flips the gun around her finger and throws it back into her bag. She says something about it’s just another shigofumi to deliver, but we all know better. She’s becoming emotionally involved in all these crazy peoples’ lives.

Asuna sits back down. People board the train. She opens the letter. She runs off the train before it can leave and down some steps. Fumika stands, ghostly, on the stairs, but Asuna runs past her and the shigofumi girl disappears as Asuna flies by.

The two cops that were at the group home are walking down the street. The older one tells the younger one (“the rookie”) to be careful of Asuna. She’s pure-hearted, so more dangerous than a criminal after money or possessions. You have to watch out for pure-hearted criminals.

Asuna runs and runs. We see what Shouta wrote to her. He’s sorry that he never noticed what kind of girl she was (troubled), and he thanks her for believing in him and his rocket. Asuna berates him. How could he be so stupid? She killed him! But, she’s really berating herself. She killed the person who believed in her. She’s the fool here.

Meanwhile, the cops are asking around, showing people pictures of Shouta and Asuna. People are pointing, and I presume they’re on her trail now.

Asuna runs. Her inner monologue kicks in. She hated Shouta. She always lied to him. She was never class president. She never played the piano. She never, I don’t know, promised him a rose garden or something. They were always in the same building. She, to be exploited, and all she could see was the dark roof of the bedroom. He, to build his rocket, and he could see the sky above. Asuna, here and now, bursts into the rooftop shed. She takes the tarp off Shouta’s rocket. She keeps thinking. She never believed in the rocket. What she wanted to believe in was their futures. If the rocket could launch, everyone would be better. Asuna breaks down when she sees that Shouta named the rocket “Asuna & Miku.”

The older cop arrives at the foot of the building.

Asuna writes something else on the rocket and pulls away the support struts. She runs to the launch controls (Shouta had finished all of the preparations).

The cop walks by the bedroom. His younger partner runs to catch up.

Asuna pressed a button, and a one-minute countdown starts. She stands up to see the older cop step out onto the roof. He’s been looking for her, and chats her up a bit, tries to be the good cop. The place used to be an old amusement center. As he’s talking, a strong wind comes and blows the tarp back onto the rocket. The launch will be ruined! Asuna yells and runs, pulls out her knife and dives at the rope holding the tarp to the rooftop.

She cuts the rope, the tarp flies off. We see that she’s added Shouta’s name to the rocket along with hers and Miku’s. She, smiling, falls to the earth. Then she gets shot. The younger cop did it. His partner had told him to be careful of her, after all.

The rocket goes off. Asuna mutters something, that Shouta needs to give it his all. The rocket lifts into the air, high into the air, and Miku, away in her playground, watches the trail of smoke racing into the sky. Asuna can see it, too. She’s sure that Shouta is in heaven, because he was kind and decent. She’s going to hell, because…well, you know. Fade out.

Evening. Miku is standing on the walk and holding a teddy bear. Fumika has come with a letter for her. It’s an unusual letter, but it has the most beautiful sentiments in the world.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Hakaba Kitaro (Gegege no Kitaro) 1

"No matter how often you scrutinize the past, it cannot be changed." A man is sleeping in his out-of-the-way house one night, when there's a knock at the door. As he goes to answer, the voice on the other side says, "We recently moved into the old temple next door." Without further prompting, the man opens the door, and finds no one there. He closes the door and finds a gift on the table behind him. He opens it, shrieks, and drops the contents on the ground. Two eyeballs look up at him. Welcome to the show!

The man, Mizuki, is led down a hallway by an older gentleman, in a funk about the whole eyeballs-in-a-box thing. "Do you believe in ghosts?" the older man asks. Before Mizuki can sigh and walk away in disgust, he's led into a hospital room where a polite green skeleton is staying. Mizuki is horrified of the ghost, who really looks more like a zombie, even as the zombie-ghost pours a cup of tea and offers it to him. He really seems like a decent guy.

Mizuki rides a train and somehow sees a flashback to a scene he wasn't a part of. One unnamed doctor tells another that 'these patients' have no pulse, heartbeat, or body heat. It's like they're dead, but, like, not. "If the public discovers that patients at a civic hospital are becoming ghosts, we'll have a big problem on our hands," someone says. Mizuki is a part of a private investigation into how these ghosts came to be, and has been given the address of 'a few potential suspects.' What Mizuki's actual job is, who hired him, how they know about these suspects - or anything else, really - is not explained. What is explained, is that the address Mizuki was given, is the same as his. I guess the disembodied boss man missed that part.

Later, at home with his mom, Mizuki looks out the window to see two 'hitodamas' (human souls taking the form of fireballs - Wikipedia!) fly into the air. He runs after them and sees them duck behind that old temple that voice from last night mentioned. Without hesitating nearly long enough, he enters the temple to investigate, finding a room with a lit candle perched atop a skull. As he stares at the flame, a scary looking woman who might as well be out of a Tod Browning movie comes out behind him. Again, Mizuki is horrified, even though the freaky woman is really nice. She even offers him a spoonful of frog eyes. He freaks out and tries to run away, only to get caught by a mummy. The mummy picks Mizuki up and tells him to calm the fuck down. The mummy's a decent fellow, too.

The three sit down and the mummy explains that those of the Ghost Tribe hate to fight. "Ghost Tribe?" Mizuki asks. "The Ghost Tribe lived a peaceful existence on Earth long before the dawn of man. But then the humans appeared..." And we fucked everything up. Again! Humans, being the bastards we are, chased the Ghost Tribe underground, where they had to hide during the day. At night, desperate for food, they'd come to the human world and hunt "frogs and crickets." Frogs and crickets? These are the worst hellish man-beasts ever. The only members left of the Ghost Tribe happen to be Mrs. Freak and Mr. Mummy. And just to make things worse for these overly nice monsters, Mr. Mummy contracted some sort of ghost-sickness. The two have come to the human world seeking a cure. They even went to a hospital, where Mrs. Freak gave some of her 'power' to two dying patients so they wouldn't suffer. Hence the ghost-zombie. Upon hearing this, Mizuki informs them that he's going to have to report them for... turning people into ghosts. Mr. Mummy begs Mizuki to forget he ever saw them, saying that if people find out about them, they'll be killed. He even cries a little. Pussy monster-things. Mrs. Freak tells Mizuki that she's pregnant, and asks that he at least wait until she gives birth to have them killed for being different fron everyone else. Mr. Mummy continues to beg Mizuki to keep quiet, but then his elbow turns into a purple mist and his arm falls off. Because of the sickness? I'unno. But Mizuki runs the hell away.

Mizuki debates whether or not to report the Ghost Tribe people. It turns out to be a moot point, however, as the ghosts in the hospital faded away to a green ash. So, I guess no one cares now. As Mizuki walks home he asks himself, "Even ghosts die?" Then, in a panic, he wonders what happened to the Ghost Tribe couple. He runs to the temple to find the two dead on the floor. "The Ghost Tribe is finished!" he says to the corpses. They've probably figured that out already.

Leaving the dried out husk of Mr. Mummy, Mizuki takes Mrs. Freak to a graveyard and buries her. As he walks away, the wind picks up and he hears a baby cry. From the mound of dirt where he buried the woman, a baby digs himself out. You know... anime is kind of fucked up.

The baby crawls to Mizuki, who falls over, gasping for air. He considers killing the 'monster' wondering what horror he'll bring to the world. The baby crawls on top of Mizuki and touches his nose, in a cute-ish, baby sort of way. Mizuki, as he's wont to do, runs away in fear. As he does, we see bits of the baby rolling on the ground after Mizuki presumably threw the kid off. The baby cries next to the corner of a bloody tombstone, bleeding from where his left eye used to be. Hearing his son's cries, the left eye of Mr. Mummy falls out, grows a tiny body, and runs to comfort the baby. Mr. Mummy-Daddy-Eye names the child Kitaro, ties a leash around him, and drags him out of the rain, explaining that he's the last survivor of the Ghost Tribe.

Mizuki returns to the graveyard and looks at the bloody tombstone. He feels... something. Probably.

Elsewhere, Daddy-Eye sits Kitaro down and runs off to find his son some clothes. Kitaro immediately crawls off and wanders in Mizuki's house, where Mizuki is sitting, wondering what he should have done. Probably not toss a baby eye-first into a sharp surface. Next thing we see is Kitaro licking Mizuki's hand with a smile and one big-ass eye. You know... anime is kind of REALLY fucked up. Mizuki decides that he'll take in the baby, because he's just a baby and he poked his eye out and stuff. Daddy-Eye approves from outside.

Years later, Kitaro is a freak who scares the locals and walks real slow in big sandals. A woman spies Kitaro in an alleyway, apparently talking to himself. She can't see the tiny, bebodied eye talking to him. Daddy-Eye is telling his son he has to live with the humans, since he's the last of the Tribe and all. Kitaro isn't so keen on the idea. And neither is Mizuki's mother. Back home, she tells Mizuki that she wishes they could just send him somewhere.

That night, Kitaro sneaks out and Mizuki follows him. He hears Kitaro talking to his father, but Mizuki doesn't see anyone with the kid. Mizuki follows Kitaro to a wooded area, where he sinks into the ground. Mizuki digs into the earth trying to find the boy, but comes up emptyhanded. He waits back at his house for Kitaro to come home, and watches Kitaro slip a piece of paper in a crack in the wall. He gets fatherly with the child and asks where he was all night. Kitaro gives a smug smile and asks for his ticket back, saying it's a place humans can't go. Mizuki says he's keeping the ticket, and Kitaro stands in the hallway stunned.

Mizuki runs out to the spot he saw Kitaro sink into the ground, ticket in hand. As he gets to the spot, he too sinks into the dirt. Kitaro looks on from behind a tree, his big eye being all big and surprised. Mizuki falls through the ground into a cavern. A barrel moves and a zombie-ghost pokes his head out and asks for the ticket. Unfazed, for some reason, Mizuki complies. The zombie-ghost is surprised the ticket is real; "You'd usually have to wait until you died," to get one. The zombie-ghost steps out of the barrel and tells Mizuki that it doesn't really matter if he's alive or dead, it's his job to give ticket-holders the tour. Mizuki says that there's really no need, since he'll be going back now. However, the ticket is one-way. "Welcome to Hell."

Mizuki's mother, distraught over her son's disappearance, is visiting an old woman who looks a lot like someone who should be a member of the Ghost Tribe. She tells Unnamed Mother Lady that her son is no longer a part of this world, and that a Mononoke (spirit, ghost, what have you) is responsible. Mother Lady knows instantly that Kitaro is the one responsible, and asks what she must do.

Kitaro is talking to his father in the graveyard when Mother Lady runs up to him and demands he take her to where her son is, even after Kitaro tells her she won't be coming back. Daddy-Eye comes out of hiding to present Mother Lady with another ticket, since, "Any mother would want to see her son..." The Eye and Son lead Mother Lady to weird, skull-cliff and tell her to take a ladder down to find her son. Breathing heavily, Mother Lady flashbacks so we can hear the weird woman say, "The only way to escape from a Mononoke is to push them down into Hell." With a shove, Kitaro falls down off the cliff, as weak, deformed children in 300 would. He screams and fades away into the mist far below. Believing her son avenged, Mother Lady laughs maniacally as her hair turns white. A policeman runs up behind her and asks her what's going on. She points and tells him she pushed a spirit off the cliff, but it's revealed that she's standing in the graveyard and probably crazy.

Kitaro, alive and well... or whatever, walks through a forest with Daddy-Eye on his shoulder. "Father, I guess humans are a little bit interesting, after all."

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Shigofumi 1

So some of you are complaining that we aren’t really fulfilling our duties to keep you all up to date on the newest, hippest anime, so here, to shut you up, we present Shigofumi. This is pretty brand-spankin’ new. Episode one premiered just last month, with eleven more planned. We hear that some plot points were altered because of “recent circumstances in society at large.” Maybe that has something to do with poisoned dumplings from China. I love dumplings.

Two girls are standing by a wall of windows, talking about the letters from the dead that death gods deliver. One girl, naturally, doesn’t believe. The other insists that it’s true: “A girl brings it!” Because girls always bring bad news.

We fly out into the dark, cloudy city and drift down toward a crime scene. A bloody crime scene, complete with a chalk outline of a body. A detective bosses around some lowly cops. We drift back up into the sky just in time to see a girl floating down. She has little white wings, a short black pleated skirt, double-breasted jacket with a high collar, and a big hat, sort of like a train conductor’s cap. Neat. She lands on a roof and the wings disappear in a flash and turn into a big staff. The staff starts talking (you can tell that it’s talking because a crystal in the head shimmers). It’s annoyed: “Why can’t people just say it?” Why do they have to wait until they’re dead? The girls says that some things can only be said when you’re dead.

Back from the intro music, and we’re settled on another roof. A little shack on top. Posters of rockets and space shuttles. A girl is making fun of a boy because of his terrible handwriting. She falls off the couch and he’s more worried about his notebook that she’s reading and her. That annoys her terribly, because girls like to be the center of attention. He calls her Ms. Class President (because she’s a class president). She looks around the room and leans back to stare at the star chart taped to the ceiling. The boy watches her, until she starts rubbing her thighs together (they’re exposed by a short schoolgirls’ skirt, natürlich) and he becomes terribly embarrassed and whips about to face the desk.

“Ayase!” he tells her. He’s about to tell her something, while still facing the other direction. He still hasn’t learned to look at someone when you’re about to confess. Luckily, his faux pas isn’t too devastating as her phone rings at that precise moment. She picks up, says a few noncommittal affirmatives. Her first name is Asuna. She hangs up.

They found her father.

The boy sits in the waiting room at a police station. Asuna, escorted by two detectives, comes out of the elevator. They’re going to take her home. She looks sheepishly at the boy and apologizes. The next day in class the boy is fidgeting with his cell phone, apparently about to email Asuna with it (I wish I had a cool cell phone like him). The student in front of him is watching news about Ms. Ayase’s death on his own phone (freakin’ awesome). The boy heads back to his rooftop abode. We still don’t know his name yet, but he looks pretty sad, thinking about Asuna and all.

He reaches the roof and finds smoke billowing out of his shack. He runs in to find the formerly-winged girl and her staff. The staff sucks up all the smoke and the girl and the boy face each other. She’s Fumika. He wants to know who the other voice belonged to, as well, but Fumika doesn’t answer. Instead, she reaches deep into her satchel (letting go of her staff, which handily floats) and pulls out a letter. The screen turns into a “MAIL!!!” icon, and Fumika stands close to the boy with an envelope. It’s for Ayase Asuna’s lover.

The boy blushes, waves his hands in the air. Fumika is confused. He explains that he and Asuna go to different schools but met on the roof during one of his test rocket launches. Well, it was a failed launch, actually, and he went out to fiddle with the l’il rocket when it did go off, enveloping most of the roof in smoke. He found her, stunned by his ineptitude. And she’d been coming back to watch him ever since.

The staff gushes over this chance encounter. The boy explains that Asuna liked coming to look at his rockets, but she’d never been able to understand how they worked. Cute, and stupid. Fumika concludes that it’s a one-sided love, with him being the only side. A one-sided line. They do exist. She gets up to leave, for he’s obviously not Asuna’s lover. I’m surprised that her short skirt hasn’t flustered the boy yet.

The boy stops her. What if he were, in fact, Asuna’s lover? Fumika says then that the letter is from Mr. Ayase. The boy is flabbergasted. It’s a shigofumi, Fumika explains (hence the title): a letter from the afterlife. If I knew Japanese I would probably say something like, “Well, yes, it means ‘death letter’ or ‘after death letter’.” Something like that. So let’s just assume that I’m saying that.). The shigofumi is the last message from the dead. There’s a lot of zooming in on Fumika’s golden eyes. The boy doesn’t say anything, and finally starts laughing. Who could believe that? Surely not I.

The dead don’t have bodies, the boy says. How could they write letters? Now the staff pipes up. Some dead people do have bodies! There are apparently phases to death, and up to level four you still have a body. You can write letters and eat. So being dead is just like being alive, except not. There’s some more talking. Some yapping. The staff is named Kanaka. That’s what’s important. Fumika wants Kanaka to shut up. The thing is just merchandise, anyway.

The staff wants to leave. Asuna has no lover. Fumika looks sideways at the boy. She starts to leave really slowly. The boy thinks feverishly for a bit, and he yells for her to stop. He’ll accept the letter. Kanaka says that he’s not Asuna’s lover, and the boy counters that it’s not right for the letter to not be delivered. He’ll become Asuna’s lover. The staff cheers him on. Go love!

Next we see Asuna and her little sister packing things up in their home. Looks like they’re orphans now. Japanese orphans. Like in Grave of the Fireflies. Asuna cuts a string with a knife, and she stares sadly at the blade. Things aren’t that bad, Asuna! Don’t give up! Her sister distracts her, and then her phone rings. It’s the boy calling, checking up on things. Agh, he looks terrified. You know that feeling, when you’re about to call someone you really like and the phone is ringing and you’re terrified that they’ll actually answer and you’ll have to talk to them? That’s how he looks. Well, she does answer. They chat for a while. Asuna’s been busy at town hall (with the death, of course). She says that’s she feels fine. She must be really strong. Or suicidal! Her sister keeps talking to her. She’s going to hang up.

Fumika and her magical staff are watching the boy. He keeps Asuna on the line. He wants to confess his love, but all he can manage is telling her that his rocket is almost ready to launch. He wants her to watch. She smiles and says that she’ll come when he’s ready. She calls him Shouta. Shouta, a good, solid name for a good, solid rocket scientist.

Shouta hangs up and the staff berates him for being so cowardly on the phone. He explains that girls—living girls—want confessions to be delivered face to face. Fumika says that he’s wrong. Any confession will do? Kanaka wonder what will happen if the rocket blows up during launch. Will that ruin Shouta’s chance at love? Probably. Who wants a man whose rocket doesn’t fire? Shouta and the staff argue a bit. Doesn’t he know that you can’t win against merchandise? Fumika watches them and thinks that this might take a while.

We have a few scenes with Shouta soldering circuit boards, mixing up some solid rocket fuel, testing his rocket. We juxtapose this last bit with Asuna in an office signing something. Shouta calls her. Fumika eats the pizza that he’s ordered. We don’t hear what he tells her, but they’re both smiling. It must be good. Fumika eats the entire pizza while they’re talking. Score! Long conversations are always good.

Night comes, and Shouta struggles to name his rocket. “Asuna” is too predictable. Maybe he’ll name it “Miku” after her little sister. Fumika comes upon him from behind. She wants to know why Shouta believes in the shigofumi, when most people scoff. He explains that it’s because Asuna always believed that he could launch his rocket. You’ve just got to have faith, woman. Fumika says that’s a simple explanation, but simple is good.

The next day, I assume, Asuna and her sister are talking to a woman at their house. Looks like they’re going to be moving. Shouta admires his rocket (under a drape). He yawns because he was up all night thinking of a name for it. He wanders back into his shack. Fumika is gone, but the shigofumi is on the floor. Should he read it? Dare he read it?

Fumika and Kanaka are on one of the lower levels of the building. They’re arguing. The staff accuses the girl of disliking when shigofumi are returned. Fumika says that’s because she has respect for the job. They come across an open door and look inside. There’s a big bed with purple sheets, a ladder, some boxes, stage lights. What’s going on here?! I might have an idea, but I don’t want to say. Fumika looks at the bed in horror. The screen flashes and up comes the image of a naked girl flying through the air. Her skin is covered with letters. Can’t read. Japanese. Back to Fumika. It’s time to go. As she’s walking away the staff says that maybe Shouta needs some more time alone. Fumika suddenly looks in her satchel and discovers that the shigofumi is gone. She looks back at Kanaka, who admits to leaving it behind. The instructions said…

Fumika runs back up to the roof. Shouta is standing in his shed with the note crumpled in his hand. He demands to know what’s going on. How could Asuna have killed her father? The note says, “The one who killed me was my daughter.” Shouta doesn’t believe it. Fumika says that death brings out the honesty in people, but he tosses the note to the ground.

Next scene. Shouta runs down the street, thinking that it’s all a lie. Asuna and her sister say farewell to the woman from before. The woman drives off in a really tiny car. Really tiny, like a car that a really tiny person would drive. Shouta finds them. He’s panting. Next thing we know Asuna and Shouta are sitting on an outside bench in the dark. He says that he’s never seen her sister before, and Asuna replies that now it’s just the two of them. Shouta perks up, like it’s the two of them, the boy and the girl, but she continues that it’s just her and her sister now. He’s crestfallen, but hides it well. The girls don’t have a mother. Asuna will be going to a “facility,” and she’ll drop out of school and work. She’ll give up her own dreams of college so that her sister will be able to afford going some day.

Shouta thinks that Asuna can’t be a killer. He shouts that the rocket is finished. If it flies, will Asuna go out with him? She thanks him politely, but declines. No! She starts saying something about being a class president and something else, but Shouta looks to the side and sees Fumika and the staff. He jumps up and tells them that Asuna didn’t do it. Fumika says that shigofumi don’t lie. Behind him, Asuna stands up.

Shouta turns around and tells Asuna that they should leave. And then she stabs him! Shouta falls to the ground and bleeds all over. He looks dead. Poor Shouta. I kind of liked him. Asuna looks crazily at Fumika and staggers toward her. Fumika says that living people are liars, weak and ugly. Asuna swings the knife up and down at them.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Lovely Idol 5

My previous reviews have mainly focused on a few characters: Tomohiro the manager, Ruri his sister, and Mizuki the girl who sings for vengeance, but there are actually a few more girls. We start off this episode with Miu, the tall brown-haired girl, still trying to make a dog noise. Remember that last episode in the studio, instead of barking, she meowed. Turns out she still doesn’t know what a dog sounds like, as she keeps meowing. She’s even animated with a cute cat face and all that. The other girls are astounded, either by her obstinacy or stupidity I’m not sure.

Tomohiro suddenly bursts into the room, without even knocking. The girls have been asked to appear in a commercial with Sayuki one of the members of the original group of girls. There’s going to be dancing and bikinis on a beach and some kind of suntan lotion. It’s all very provocative, but I hear that’s par for the course in Japan. Harrison Ford once appeared in a bikini in a Japanese commercial. The girls assume that Sayuki demanded that they star in the commercial with her. They have no basis for making that assumption, but I think it’s sound.

Miu meows in pleasure and starts to practice the dance moves. Mizuki looks over the storyboard of the commercial with some anxiety. Tomohiro assures her that she, too, will be dancing in a bikini on a beach, and she becomes even more anxious. Tomohiro looks puzzled, because he’s a guy, and guys simply aren’t capable of telling what a woman is thinking. Besides, what girl doesn't want to appear in a commercial in a bikini? Miu grabs everyone and they start practicing their routine. They’re terrible, uncoordinated, and but there are plenty of shots of them in their tight outfits. Mizuki looks especially bad, and you can actually see the terror on her face as she’s moving around. I was actually pretty surprised, just this once, as most anime characters can either just scowl or smile. This show has real emotion depth, let me assure you.

They all arrive at the beach for the filming. Miu keeps meowing. Mizuki stares at the ground and sighs a lot. Off to the side Sayuki and Aneeki (the other manager) are sitting at a table covered with a big umbrella. We find out, finally, that Aneeki is Tomohiro’s sister. And also, I suppose, Ruri’s sister. Maybe there were clues about that earlier. Excuse me for not knowing Japanese. I mean, Ruri and Aneeki even had a scene together in the last episode, and Ruri didn't call her onee-sama or anything. Maybe Ruri hates me, just like I hate everyone. Anyway, it turns out that Aneeki is the one who demanded the new girls appear in the commercial, not Sayuki. I don’t know why. Now do I know what this is important. I probably could have just edited this part out. Tomohiro walks over and Sayuki gets all tongue tied. Aneeki puts him into a devastating choke hold of some type. Sayuki says that she hopes that he enjoys her work today. I think there’s something more going on here.

The new girls, meanwhile, have changed into their bikinis. They’re all different, and we get good, long, lingering shots of how they bend and pose. We zoom in on Mizuki’s ass and she looks a little horrified. One of the younger girls, Mai I think, complains about her childish one-piece. Suddenly, all the male crew members start cheering and running over, but they pass all the other girls and head straight for Ruri, who, while also wearing a one-piece, is built like a brick house. The other girls are in awe of her. Oh, and while all this is happening, Mizuki is nowhere to be seen. She’s probably off crying somewhere.

The girls watch Sayuki practice her routine a few times. They’re amazed by her professionalism. The director calls them all over to get ready. Tomohiro goes to Sayuki and tells her that she was wonderful. She looks disappointed and says, “That’s all?” Being a guy, he’s confused, but then he smiles and adds his thanks, for helping out his new girls. Now Sayuki looks like she’s about to cry.

The girls line up to show off their routine before everyone. Mizuki notices all the guys staring at her and clamps her eyes shut, but they don’t go away. They're real, Mizuki, looking at you with their eyes. Aneeki tells Tomohiro that if they don’t dance well there’s going to be big trouble.

The music starts and the girls begin to dance. The following scene is so ridiculous that I have to stop and watch it a few times. I think I cackled a bit. They’re not in sync, they look terrified. Miu is making up moves that aren’t in the routine. Mizuki is flailing about like a beached whale. She falls down. The director stops everything and berates everyone for wasting her time. She’ll just use Sayuki. Tomohiro runs over and bows and begs for another chance. The director looks like she’s about to agree, but Sayuki suddenly comes over and stabs Tomohiro in the back: the girls aren’t good enough. A woman scorned, eh?

The girls retreat to a dark shack where they sit, wallowing in their terrible shame. Mizuki stands apart because this is all her fault. Tomohiro comes and reassures them that even in failure there is a lesson to be learned. They go to watch Sayuki and the actual filming of the commercial. Soulful background music plays while Sayuki dances and talks about suntan lotion. The director says good job and they all start to pack it up, but Sayuki suddenly starts to feel guilty about what she did. Sure, Tomohiro is a clueless boob, but do the girls need to suffer because of him? I say yes, but Sayuki disagrees. She says that she wants to film using all of them. The director says sure (because she must not be on a budget). She gives the girls one hour to practice.

They run off to improve their coordination. As usual, Mizuki is the worst. Miu goes to check her out. There’s this weird scene where Miu is trying to watch her and Mizuki is sort of dancing and squeaking at the same time, turning away so Miu can’t see her. They finally stop and Mizuki admits that she can’t dance if someone is watching her; she’s embarrassed. The other girls note that she’s never embarrassed when she sings, but Mizuki says that it’s different. Then, the other girls, pretty much one-by-one, also admit that they’re embarrassed. Ruri admits that she’s a terrible dancer. Mai imagines that everyone is a pumpkin. Another girls (Tomoho? Tahoe?) pretends to write “person” on her palm and then swallows the word. Mizuki agrees to try. Then they all turn on Miu for being so crazy and exuberant. She agrees to be a part of the team. They start to get all weepy and reflective, but Mai screams that they need to practice.

Back in the shack, Tomohiro thanks Sayuki for giving the girls another chance. She says, “Don’t you have something else to say to me?” He looks confused again.

Everyone lines up on the beach. Mizuki concentrates and begins to see everyone with a big green pumpkin head. I didn’t know they come in green. Looks weird. The music starts, they dance, and at the end we see the director, scowling. She suddenly smiles. Excellent!

Everyone really does pack up now, and the girls bow to everyone in thanks. Sayuki keeps asking Tomohiro if he has anything else to say to her. Aneeki comes and beats him up, and she takes Sayuki away. Sayuki looks back over her shoulder and thinks that she wanted Tomohiro to tell her that she looked cute. I’m actually kind of disappointed that they added that last part. One of the “strengths” of the show is that it relies a great deal on things that are unsaid. I hear that women communicate nonverbally a lot, maybe one of them writes this. Except for that last scene. Some guy animator probably kept being really obnoxious about not knowing what Sayuki really wanted Tomohiro to say, and I bet the woman writer just added that last part to shut him up.

Final scene, the girls get a dvd of the commercial. They gather around to watch. All they see is Sayuki. They’ve been reduced to tiny background dancers during the final shot of the spinning, shining suntan lotion bottle. How disappointing. Oh, these girls. Will they ever get their big break?