A mostly positive weekend edition I have here – in fairness Made in Abyss’ presence alone makes things better –, I’m pleased with essentially every show on the list, even though Centaur no Nayami still makes little sense to me and Kakegurui has integrated some bothersome elements in its latest episode. Still, even these episodes I managed to squeeze fun out of. Anyway, let me explain all of this in more detail!
Ballroom e Youkoso
Two episodes in one weekend, woohoo! But there’s unfortunately no Ballroom e Youkoso next week. I say “unfortunately” because these last two episodes have certainly lived up to expectations.
The first one focused on Hyoudou’s “revenge” on Fujita; he performs a brilliantly dramatic tango with Hanaoka, but eventually breaks his leg and has to be transported to a hospital (that’s on top of Fujita’s illegal appearance getting he and Hanaoka a six-month ban from competition). There is a good confrontation of feelings here. On the one hand, Fujita feels responsible; Sengoku put him out there believing he’d lose and spare Hyoudou a potentially terrible tango, but the protagonist’s waltz with Hanaoka saw the duo qualify, forcing Hyoudou to dance that fateful tango. Fujita doesn’t feel responsible for dancing – Sengoku forced him to – but rather for wanting to dance, for enjoying himself on that floor. Hyoudou, who was offended by Fujita’s performance, can recognize the heart of someone who genuinely loves dancing, and instead of creating a rivalry (though it may become that way later on), Hyoudo “entrusts” Hanaoka to Fujita. Competitiveness is definitely a theme here, but this episode showed how it can help create bonds beyond simple rivalries. Someone with a heart for competition and dancing as intense as Hyoudou isn’t just a rival to him; he can see that person’s earnestness and understand they can be trusted.
The reason for Hyoudou’s words becomes clear in the next episode which focuses on a new pair: the siblings Mako and Gaju. The latter is an arrogant boy who comes to make Hanaoka his partner, leaving his little sister Mako behind. He hardly comes off as likable, and Hyoudou may have “given” Hanaoka to Fujita in order to protect her from people like Gaju. But the shy Fujita (who somehow looked leaner and taller while dancing with Hanaoka) can hardly do anything about the excessively bold Gaju’s behavior, and has to see him get his partnership with Hanaoka. However, it doesn’t mean that Fujita can’t develop: in fact, this is the episode where he reveals his talent. It’s not just because he’s obsessed with Hanaoka that he could pair up with her. He has a talent for “understanding” his partners, and he shows that skill by dancing with Mako, forming a coupling with her as a result. Surely he’s not yet on a level where he can be competitive; but if Hyoudou encouraged him to stand on the floor again, and if he was able to connect with Mako so instantly, then he should be on his way already.
These two episodes have been exciting in different: while episode five didn’t impress us with its competitive dancing like episode four, it helped develop Fujita by showing him he could do it. I’m definitely expecting to see what the show has in store next.
Centaur no Nayami
This show is as strange as ever. The first part explores romance, and how having a complex can keep one from getting involved with others; however, the subject is thoroughly trivialized as it turns out the guy who gave Hime the love letter simply liked her breasts. In frankness, the show did well to build emotional tension before the abrupt conclusion, which was quite amusing; but still, one has to wonder what these short stories serve. Hime’s complex is legitimate and serves to build her character; but it’s resolved very quickly, in a mostly comical way, and in the end doesn’t even come into play since she turns the guy down.
The second part focuses on Nozomi being a bad student; the whole affair is typical as any slice of life has a study session between friends. The interesting aspect here is the world building, as we learn about the snake-like creatures that inhabit the south pole. The next episode seems to be entirely focused on them, which will bring a new level of consistency to the “story”, and this is welcome. Kyouko describes them as a mystery; although Nozomi saw a UFO that may just be the product of South Pole technology, and Kyouko described their religion briefly, their mode of life is generally unknown and the coming of a South Pole student to Hime’s school is clearly a huge event. Not only that, but she is suddenly faced with an individual whose appearance she’s not used to; surely it will be a way for the show to explore cultural and racial differences, and hopefully overcome them. It’s understandable that for Hime and friends, this will be a discovery. While this show tends to remain overly fluffy with a lot of scenes whose purpose is questionable at best, it manages to sustain a form of curiosity and hopefulness that it can deliver nice moments.
Hitorijime My Hero
This episode starts by continuing from the joyfulness of the last episode’s conclusion; Hasekura and Kensuke’s relationship seems to be going very well, and their interactions were cute (especially as Hasekura was surprisingly gentle!). Hasekura’s possessive tendencies are amusing (especially for those of us who can relate), and Kensuke’s light reactions show how well they’re doing.
And then it all breaks down when Kousuke reveals Setagawa’s feelings to the oblivious student himself. As predicted, we’re back to the main plot. This episode is mostly concerned with Setagawa’s mindset as he desperately tries to escape his own feelings. In fairness, the poor boy wasn’t helped by Kousuke becoming a walking contradiction: he openly rejects him, only to kiss him, before advising Setagawa to quickly get a girlfriend. The teacher is obviously attracted to his student, and if his job is to guide his students then he’s not very good at it here!
This new episode was also the first to bring up the matter of Setagawa’s family since the show’s debut. It’s used interestingly: the sight of an irresponsible and absent mother puts Setagawa in further emotional trouble. There’s no escape: if he goes to the Ooshiba house, he’ll have to face Kousuke. If he goes home, he has to be reminded of his unpleasant family situation. So his answer is getting a part-time job. But this is temporary escape; in the end he has to come back home and face his own feelings again. Now Setagawa’s emotional state has been well explored, and Kousuke’s kiss perhaps put him in a situation where he can’t hide from his feelings anymore, it seems the show will explore his past. This is another nice episode; my feeling that the main story would follow the standards set by the Hasekura-Kensuke subplot seems vindicated so far.
One episode isn’t enough to stop a show from being shallow. Definitely not. And it’s not like this episode doesn’t revel in the typical Kakegurui antics: ridiculous faces and orgasms from betting, cheating and lying, and a ridiculous finish where Suzui earnestly hands a big check to Saotome. And even then, this ending may be subtly revealing.
More so than previous episodes, this latest entry explores the treatment given to “slaves” via Tsubomi’s character. It is interesting, as it feels that for once Kakegurui is serious about illustrating the devastation that the school’s system can bring. Tsubomi is clearly broken and too dispirited to resist her crazed bully. And it’s understandable: he cut away her one pride in front of his friends, all with a pervert smile on his face.
However, I can’t be perfectly positive on this aspect, either; and it may say a lot about a show’s nature that it stumbles as soon as it tries to become somewhat serious. Yumeko spoke to Tsubomi about freeing herself from her enslaved condition, explaining that not grasping such a chance at freedom made her comparable to a pig. The problem is that I’m not sure how that speech is supposed to have a positive effect on Tsubomi, who’s shown to be traumatized. If anything, Yumeko’s speech should have the reverse effect; Tsubomi’s subsequent actions show a desire to be free. It’s not as if she wanted to accept her condition as a slave; she’s simply too broken to resist. A provocative, nearly insulting speech like Yumeko’s shouldn’t have such a positive effect. The way Tsubomi walks away all satisfied despite having herself been tricked (and without having recovered any of her freedom) is a disturbing sight at best.
As for the good stuff, in frankness seeing the guy getting humiliated was fun and deserved. Furthermore, it seems the show is trying to bring some kind of message with Tsubomi’s character and when it explicitly defines Yumeko as an exception to the rule that people are driven by the desire for money; and in fact, she does help Saotome recover her freedom, even playing with her as perfectly innocent girl. In this sense, her friendship with Upright Citizen Suzui makes sense; maybe he’s the kind of person she wants, someone far from all the boringly extravagant obsessions of the average students here.
But we know Yumeko is also a monster when she wants, and this duality casts doubts on all her behaviors. Is she some kind of angel who’s come to free the students from their chains, or is she just another demon who wants to revel in the base pleasures of gambling? She’s mostly the latter, but sometimes the former. It’s confusing, honestly. And while I still enjoy the craziness, I’m still not sure what to think about the show as a whole; if anything, this episode made things tilt toward the slightly negative (that’s considering I still don’t expect to enjoy the crazy gambling for a full season).
Made in Abyss
Who else thinks this would made a great game? The environment is fascinating and I would love to get lost in it. There’s something ethereal about the Abyss; it’s a giant hole where nature is ripe, and despite being so deep underground, heaven seems to be right above. The clouds which slowly dissipate to reveal the next stage of Riko and Regu’s adventure also help this sense of fantasy: the show clearly invites us to slowly take in the scenery unfolding before our eyes. The soundtrack plays a big part in this, too; some of the tracks we’ve already heard evoke a sense of mystery, of something attractive ahead, with the lurking sense that this thing may be very dangerous. The monster also get an interesting treatment, as they are drawn in a way that contrasts from the show’s usual style, making the world of the Abyss even more surreal. It makes them stand out from your usual beasts, too; design aside, they look as if they had come from another world entirely, as if they didn’t even belong to the very environment they lived in. The story, meanwhile, is progressing steadily; it seems our duo will soon run into the person who helped Riko’s mother while she was at the bottom of the Abyss. It’ll be an important meeting for our young heroine, and perhaps a difficult one as Habolg seems to imply; and it may also be of importance to Regu, who mysteriously heard his own voice in this episode… it seems we may be getting beginnings of answers starting with the next episode. Four episodes in, and the experience provided by Made in Abyss remains thoroughly fulfilling.
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