Houkago Saikoro Club Episode 7: Volcano pressure

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Maki finds Miki alone

I think we might have sacrificed some gameplay time this week to give Miki some alone time with Maki. I’m okay with this trade. We’re back to introducing new characters, with this week giving a formal appearance for the student council president. The series sure is taking its time introducing the transfer student, huh?

Maki proposes a game

We start with a pretty fun sequence. Maki whisks Miki away for some fun, and the two get to know each other. It’s cool that their names are similar, and they’re being introduced as polar opposites, which is even reflected in the games they play. Maki overwhelms Miki with insults, and Miki gets her revenge with compliments. Maki’s got a cute side, I suppose.

Maki talks about her past

I think it makes sense for Maki to have a past like this, but I think the presentation could have been better. I think it’s probably a side effect of the multiple stories in this episode. I got the sense that her harsh childhood story comes out of nowhere and ends just as quickly. Maki also seems like the kind of character who deserves the time to tell her story well. Maybe I’ve just been spoiled by Fruits Basket.

Midori explains a new game

In a similar vein, I think the explanation for the game in this episode gets a bit gimped because of the time constraint. I didn’t feel like I got a good grasp of the game’s movement rules, so it was confusing when the characters took their meeples off of boats.

The game ends

I think my favorite part of the episode was watching the camaraderie between Aya and the student council president. Aya seems to have finally gotten her own brother in arms, which is hilarious.

Houkago Saikoro Club Episode 6: The joys of game design

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Casually playing board games in a bar

Surprisingly enough, this week’s episode doesn’t introduce the character that was hinted at last week. Instead, we get a refreshing shift to Midori rather than another episode about Miki. I have no way of knowing about board game culture in Japan, but I’m not the biggest fan of how hopeless the episode makes it look. Still, I think the episode is a strong moment for Midori, as she learns to rely on her friends some more.

Midori is criticized

Honestly, Midori’s situation in this episode resonated a lot with me. I’m no board game designer, but many of these principles can be applied to anything creative. Midori’s personality reminds me of myself when it comes to blogging. I’ve historically had a fear of showing an incomplete product when it comes to posts. It’s often better just to foster the discussion, rather than putting together some perfect piece on your first try.

Midori explains her game

I do like how Midori’s game is portrayed in the episode. When she brings out the playing cards, you can start to see where the game is becoming more complicated. The game elements start feeling like additional layers stacked on top of the main concept.

Miki and Aya give suggestions

Personally, I would have liked to see a little bit more from this scene. I certainly know how Midori feels here, since it’s often crazy how obvious the suggestions of others might seem. However, I’ve been in this situation as part of my job, and I think it’s often too easy to say these things when you’re not the one who has to implement them. I think there’s a balance to be found when giving even solicited advice.

George gives some advice

This is a nice line to have in the episode. As I mentioned before, these concepts can be applied to many different things, and this tends to be my view on blogging. It’s easy to get defensive about something you spent time crafting, but reacting to criticism is often the easiest way to grow.

Houkago Saikoro Club Episode 5: Exploring new places

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Aya wants to see the sea

I feel like there was a surprising amount going on for this obligatory beach episode. Miki’s past seems to once again be the central focus, but I thought it was a fun interlude. I guess we didn’t technically get a new character introduction in this episode, since Takashi seems like a one-off.

Miki's aunt notices her behavior

I do think that the series does a good job of capturing slow progression with Miki. It’s natural for her family members to point out how much she’s changed with her new friends, but it doesn’t seem particularly drastic or anything.

Midori talks about Goita

Surprisingly enough, we finally get a Japanese board game in this episode. Goita seems fairly similar to Western paired trick-taking games, but I think the reuse of shogi pieces is cool. I was also worried in the beginning when the first game was quickly glossed over. I thought Goita might end up being a prelude to a completely different game, but we got a decent explanation of the game after all.

Midori explains the game's rules

I think the rules of Goita as they were initially explained were a bit more confusing for me. When I saw how it was played, it made much more sense, but the “attack” and “match” explanations threw me off. I also think that there’s an element of the game that could have been called out. The explanations make it clear that the strategy heavily relies on being able to guess your opponent’s hands, which is why the face-down pieces have a certain significance.

Midori tries to teach Takashi

I also think it was great to see Miki attempting to play off of Takashi to give him a better sense of the game. I know I’ve been in situations in the past where someone initially tells me that a game is simple if you play a certain way. Then, you just get bombarded with exceptions as the game goes on.

The girls enjoy the beach

Oh hey, I guess the girls have to hit the beach at some point, right?

Fall 2019 Grab Bag Week 4: Kono Oto Tomare, Special 7

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Deciding on a season lineup is hard.

Hiro disciplines herself

Kono Oto Tomare Episode 17

As cheesy as it might be sometimes, I’ve missed this show. Personally, I’d love to see the romances in the show take off, since it seems like they’ve been pushed so far already. But yeah, we’re back with more koto playing. In the aftermath of the previous season, this half of the show puts its focus straight on nationals. The focus seems to be on the upperclassmen, since it’s revealed that they only have one chance left to go to nationals.

Suzuka chooses a song

Another change with this season is that Suzuka is taking a more supportive role. I think he adds to the show well with his musical background. I also quite like the development of his choosing Satowa’s song for the club to play at nationals. I was skeptical at first, but I like what the show did with that development. Satowa first realizes that she failed to convey the feelings she wanted, and now she has the chance to make it better.

Satowa returns home for a favor

I’m curious to see how Satowa’s relationship with her mother develops as well. I would have expected her to bring someone along (like Chika) when she went to borrow the koto, but she sticks more to her previous personality by doing it alone.

Hiro hugs Satowa

This was a cute scene to get as a reward, though.

Kujaku has a secret meeting

Special 7 – Special Crime Investigation Unit Episode 4

Well, I guess it’s been a while since I last talked about this show. In my previous post, I mentioned the lack of fantasy elements, which has largely been going away with the shifted focus on Nine. I don’t have a problem with the overall concept of this series, but the execution still feels lacking to me. I think this week’s episode is a good example, since its core mystery doesn’t end up feeling satisfying.

The situation is explained

This week’s episode focuses on the case of a wounded child and his overly suspicious father. The episode spends a lot of time presenting Eguchi, the father, as a sympathetic character, and it effectively rolls with that. However, the evidence itself doesn’t seem to do a great job of exculpating him. Even if you fear for your child’s life, I feel like the reasonable course of action is to hire some kind of protection. What does buying insurance gain you?

Seiji seems suspicious

And in the end, the episode emphasizes Goto’s involvement in the car explosion, but it never links him to the murders of the other two children. Was I just supposed to accept that Eguchi didn’t kill one and therefore wouldn’t kill the other two? More importantly, what was Goto’s motive? The episode does a good job of explaining his attempts at the hospital, but I don’t remember hearing an explanation for the original explosion.

Kujaku confronts the culprit

I think the main point of interest in the episode for me was the focus on Kujaku Nijou, Seiji’s partner for the day. I don’t know how to fully interpret the final scene, but it seems like Kujaku might be playing both sides. It looks like he has some kind of informant in Nine, and he’s actively working to investigate Shiori. However, the information he gets at the end seems to be for the benefit of the agency. So, he seems like a good person overall.

Houkago Saikoro Club Episode 4: Recruitment tactics

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Midori isn't able to help

It’s nice that the series is shifting focus away from Miki towards its other characters. While following its trend of introducing a new character per episode, it shines the light on Midori and her past for a change. To be fair, her motivations are interesting, but her story is fairly straightforward so far. I’m hoping there’s more to it for the future.

Ren is bored with the ideas

The main driving force for the episode is Ren Shibusawa, the vice chair of the student council. She has a particular attitude that I dislike, but I like how Midori responds to her. Ren’s got a pushy attitude as she tries to impose her way. Even though her intentions seem positive, the episode kind of portrays them as a facsimile of the student council chair.

Ren can't believe Midori's dream

That being said, I can appreciate that Ren’s trying to improve herself, even though she often stumbles, so I don’t think she’s a bad person. Based on her description, Midori actually seems like a decent counterpart for Ren, since she’s generally more obstinate.

Midori explains the game

The game for this week is 6 nimmt, which certainly seemed like a fun and quick number game. As usual, it would have been nice to see more of the game. It definitely seemed simple, but I wonder how much the randomness of the cards factors into strategy.

Ren wins one

This was probably my favorite scene in the episode. It’s just another screenshot in the game montage, but it’s funny that Ren celebrates pulling one over on Aya, a character who has already shown the audience her terrible luck in these games.

Ren admits defeat

Well, I guess I have to hand it to Ren for not being a sore loser.

Houkago Saikoro Club First Impressions (1): Bust out the German board games

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Miki tries to get her teddy bear back

Well, it’s basically another cute girls doing cute things show, but I can get behind this. I hope this isn’t a sad commentary of myself that I’m so willing to spend time watching other people play board games. My excuse is that I’m always looking for new games to play, so it works out. For that reason, I’ve been enjoying this show, since it’s showing me games I’ve never heard of (despite recognizing some of the games in the store from the first episode).

Miki is the cat master

The series itself follows Miki Takekasa, a shy high school student who runs into the cheerful Aya Takayashiki. Having just arrived in the city, Aya forces Miki to show her around town, and they both notice the class rep, Midori Oono, on her way to her part-time job in a board game shop. Intrigued, the girls bond over a game and start to try out more games together.

Trying to get a game together

I really like how the episodes so far have generally featured a new character being pulled in by some kind of casual interest. I feel that way all of the time when I see people playing board games. Hopefully, that doesn’t make me sound too weird.

Kyouko introduces herself

The series so far has tended to focus mostly on Miki’s timid personality. Most of the non-game moments involve her thinking about how she acts around others. Personally, I find her somewhat relatable, so I wonder if there are people who find her character annoying or something.

Midori explains the rules

As fair warning, the episodes so far have spent about a quarter of the run time on Midori as she explains the rules of the game the girls are about to play. I’m not entirely sure how I feel about this yet, since it often seems like a shorter period of time is devoted to the game itself (which is what I’m more interested in). However, I recognize that I wouldn’t want these scenes gone, since the context is necessary.

Kyouko guesses Miki's past

Switching more to the specific, I wanted to say that I liked how this week’s episode was framed. Miki ties the game into her own personal struggle throughout the episode near the end. As she delves deeper into her frightening memories from middle school, she’s able to find a treasure in the end. The twist that Kyouko wasn’t actually Miki’s bully is a nice touch, since it makes the journey feel like it had a true reward, like the game.

Miki takes a risk

Overall, I’d say I like what this show has been doing so far. My main comment is that I would like to see the other girls do well. It seems like Miki tends to do unnaturally well on games that rely on a substantial amount of randomness.

Spring 2019 Grab Bag Week 10: Kono Oto Tomare

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Hiro begs for help

Kono Oto Tomare Episode 10

To be fair, a lot of the interesting character development happens in the previous episode, but this week’s episode went well too. This is not the kind of show I would expect to have a training camp, but here we are. Honestly, I’m enjoying the character focus in the series so far. Many of the developments tend to be small, and we get a larger change like Takezou’s every now and then.

Takezou asks Takinami

It’s a small nod to the previous episode, but I liked seeing Takezou stand up to Takinami in this episode. It’s nice to see Takinami’s “cool guy” act cracked by Takezou’s new resolve. It’s about time he was taken down a peg, and this episode seems to start him on a journey to becoming a more sympathetic character.

Chika learns from Satowa

I’m a little bothered by the fact that Chika seems to be a natural talent in this series. I know it creates a gap with his delinquent tendencies, but I’d be more on board if he wasn’t so quick to learn. I don’t have a problem with him being good at copying Satowa, but he should still struggle, rather than getting it right on the first try. Maybe I’m being too harsh.

Hiro worries about her teaching

While it’s severely subversive, I do like how Kouta’s troubles are handled in this episode. It’s not overly dramatic, and everyone seems to react in a reasonable way. Hiro’s own reservations show that she continues to feel worried about her place in the group. She doesn’t know Kouta as well, so she makes a logical conclusion when he disappears.

Kouta is found

Meanwhile, Kouta’s friends correctly figure out that Kouta isn’t one to wallow in his insecurities. Instead, he shows some surprising strength by going off to work on his own. I guess I admire that the series doesn’t force him into that using the other characters. He’s more self-motivated.

Takinami tries to teach

I’m kind of hoping Takinami has a general music background, rather than experience with the koto. I know it’s not going to be case, but I get the feeling that too many people are koto veterans in this show. I know it’s Japan, but the instrument seems too niche for that.

Spring 2019 Grab Bag Week 8: Kono Oto Tomare

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Chika can play the koto freely at home

Kono Oto Tomare Episode 8

This series has some rough competition in this season, but I’ve still been finding it fun. One thing I’ve been finding interesting in the series is how it seems to intersperse its character stories. The beginning of the series was largely focused on Chika, but that’s largely shifted after the club’s first performance together. Takezou and Satowa are thrown into the mix, and each character seems to get touched on in the episode.

Chika rejects Satowa's offer to eat lunch together

I’m really enjoying watching Chika and Satowa’s relationship. The two are becoming a great pair, with Satowa inspiring Chika and Chika conversely supporting Satowa from the shadows. This scene where Chika refuses to eat lunch with Satowa is a nice one, as he subtly pushes her towards making new friends outside of the koto club. I’m looking forward to seeing where this couple goes.

Hiro makes amends

I was a bit skeptical when Hiro (Kurusu) showed up, but her story came around well. I also like that she contributed to Satowa’s growing comfort in the club in addition to her own story, despite trying to do the opposite. While I’d still probably have trouble forgiving her despite seeing her past, I’m glad that there was more to her. She doesn’t get much of a scene in this episode, but I liked that she commits to making amends despite the personal cost.

Chika finds out about his grandfather's song

Honestly, I think Chika’s insecurities surrounding his grandfather’s koto have been a bit overplayed. It’s not that I don’t understand his worries, but I feel like the series doesn’t have to dwell on it so much. Just let him play his special koto already, right?

The girls arrive for a challenge

With the arrival of Kazusa, I guess we’re finally diving deeper into the koto part of this series. It was only a matter of time. I’m curious to see how that will affect the koto club. The preview for next week’s episode implies that they will be motivated to change their goal of just aiming for nationals.

Takezou fails his exam

Takezou’s story pops up at the strangest moments. That aside, I think he’s interesting so far. His personal trepidation makes sense given his failure to get into his preferred school, so I’m looking forward to seeing how he’ll grow from it. We’ve already seen him acting as a solid leader for the club, despite his own rejection of that idea.

Spring 2019 Grab Bag Week 5: Kono Oto Tomare

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Chika is afraid of a nice Satowa

Kono Oto Tomare Episode 5

There are other people still watching this series, right? For me, this series has generally not taken much priority for watching, but I still think it’s doing a good job with hitting its high notes. Immediately after the opening, the series kind of dips into a bit of spiral where it understandably needs to introduce its cast. However, I think it’s been coming together a lot better with the recent couple of episodes, and it reaches a satisfying resolution of sorts in this episode.

Satowa regrets her behavior around Chika

Satowa as a character has been somewhat of a strange one. I’ve found it hard to empathize with her, and it’s not really just her attitude. It’s nice to see her come around to appreciate Chika’s true nature, but it also feels a bit forced to me. It might just be a pacing thing, but her change of heart comes too quickly for my liking. I thought the series was doing a good job building to it, though, having her realize that his true play style was gentle despite his appearance.

The granny gives some advice

I also like the granny as a side character. Presumably, she acts as a stand-in for Chika’s grandfather in many respects, but I like how she’s been guiding the characters. Her line here about how music can be used to communicate things for people who have trouble communicating was a nice one. It somewhat reminds me of my own past with music. But nowadays, I’m great at communicating in writing, right?

The school hears about the deal

This scene kind of bugs me. I guess it gets to its point, but there’s something about a teacher declaring his plan to destroy the koto club that’s hard to believe. I get that students are typically indifferent, but this one doesn’t seem too hard to pick up on.

The club members play together

I enjoyed the visuals throughout the song a lot. I don’t know much about koto, but it was a cool performance. I also liked how the performance interlaced scenes of Chika’s past to give his character some more focus. He ends the episode on a pretty solid sense of resolution, which is surprising for this point in the story.

Spring 2019 Grab Bag Week 1: Senryuu Shoujo, Kono Oto Tomare

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As I struggle to figure out which shows to post about in this season, I can at least give a sense of how I feel about the shows I’m watching.

Nanako blows bubbles

Senryuu Shoujo First Impressions (1)

As I say that, I might be immediately undercutting myself, since I’m starting with a show I knew about before the season started. As I mentioned in my preview, I read the manga for this series and really enjoyed it as a fluff series. It’s a half-length anime that follows Nanako Yukishiro, a girl who feels most comfortable communicating in senryuu, a type of poetry with the same syllable structure as a haiku.

Nanako is encouraging

Joining Nanako are Eiji Busujima and Amane Katagiri, fellow members of the school’s Literature Club. The series is based off of a 4-koma manga, so it has the typical comedy and slice of life feel. In particular, it tends to focus on the relationship between Eiji, a kind student with the appearance of a delinquent, and the shy Nanako, who sees him for what he is.

Eiji gets embarrassed

So if you’re into that kind of thing, look forward to a lot of embarrassed faces and lighthearted misunderstandings (it’s my jam). I do like the overall concept behind the series, this idea that poetry can express things in ways typical communication can’t.

Nanako gets embarrassed

I’ve never been one for poetry, but this series made it fun. And as a former subtitle proofreader, I look forward to seeing the hoops that the translator jump through to get the English version to follow the 5-7-5 syllable structure. That statement might have been a bit too honest.

The principal tries to support Takezou

Kono Oto Tomare First Impressions (1)

I have an oddly specific tendency to enjoy dramas with a slight tinge of tragedy in the premise, and this series is helping to fill that need for this season (I miss 3-gatsu no Lion). Focusing on a traditional instrument called a koto, which effectively looks like a giant dulcimer, the series follows Takezou Kurata as he tries to keep the koto club at his school alive.

Chika wants to join the club

Takezou is surprised when he meets Chika Kudou, a new student who immediately requests to join the koto club. I liked how the episode introduced Chika alongside the bullies who were harassing Takezou, to give Takezou a legitimate reason not to trust Chika. It informs his behavior and makes him a lot more believable as a character.

Chika's grandfather was a koto maker

Chika’s past is also an interesting portrayal in this episode. Part of me wants to be critical of how the police are portrayed in the flashback. They’re cruel to the point where it’s almost hard to believe. But I wonder if you can explain that away a bit by saying that Chika could have focused in on the negative parts of the memory.

Chika's grandfather tries to comfort him

It’s a small gripe, but I feel like this scene actually fails to provide the emotional lift that it’s attempting to add. In my mind, it messes up the timetable of the incident. I find it hard to believe that Chika’s grandfather had the time to have this conversation, but couldn’t exonerate Chika. Maybe you could argue that he thought he’d have time, but it feels a bit weak.

Silence

I think I’m willing to give the series the benefit of the doubt, though. It seems like it could be fun, so I’m looking forward to seeing more.