December 2009


       This episode begins on “Holy Night” with Lag asking what “Holy Night” is. So, it gets explained to Lag that the holiday was set up for the people to honor the Empress and pray for a happier life, and the Bees will be delivering packages to the needy children in the northern areas.

 

      Well, we soon see that the Bees have to wear Santa outfits while making their deliveries, and Lag gets partnered with Zazie for the night. This night is also new experience for Niche since the Dingos have to stay behind, and it takes some convincing on Aria’s part to explain it to her.

      As Zazie and Lag make their way up the snow covered path to the delivery address they both fall a couple of times, and Zazie’s in a pretty foul mood. When they get to the front door they’re greeted by a little girl (Sonja) who is very happy seeing the Holy Night messengers for the first time. Lag and Zazie present Sonja with her gift which happens to be a picture book. Then Lag asks Sonja for her wish, the messengers are supposed to grant one wish to the recipient of the gift, and Sonja chooses to have them stay for dinner.

       Sonja tells them to wait inside while she gets everything ready, and Lag notices that Sonja seems to be all alone. Zazie says it’s none of their business but Lag goes outside and helps Sonja chop wood and shovel snow. Then Sonja remembers that she has to shop for ingredients, so Lag asks Zazie to go with her while he finishes with the snow. Zazie declines Lag’s offer and says he’ll finish the shoveling and Lag can go shopping with her, but Zazie is forced to go with her since she wants to talk with the other messenger.

 

      Well, Zazie isn’t very friendly with Sonja while they’re walking to the village, she asks him many questions and he gives the shortest answers possible. Once they reach town and begin shopping, Zazie notices that the villagers aren’t very friendly towards Sonja and even seem to shun her.  When Zazie waiting outside a shop for Sonja a village resident walks up to Zazie and warns him to stay away from that girl.

 

      Later, we see that Sonja has cooked a tremendous Holy Night meal for the three of them, turkey with all the fixings. Lag digs in with gusto while Zazie remembers the warning and is a little more reserved. After they finish dinner it’s snowing so hard that it’s impossible for them to leave so Sonja offers them shelter in exchange for one of them to read the book to her. Well, guess what, Lag does the reading and he and Sonja are soon reduced to a pile of tears. Zazie makes the comment that they’re both crybabies. Lag asks Zazie didn’t he cry when he first read the book, and he says he did but he was a kid when it happened.

 

      Sonja then tells them that her dream is to be able to draw good enough where she’ll be able to make a picture book everyone will want to read. The storm continues to rage outside so Lag and Zazie play cards with, draw pictures with, pray with, and finally call it a night and sleep with Sonja. While Sonja and Lag are crashed Zazie is still awake because he remembers the warning the villager gave him.

 

       Just as Zazie is about to crash Sonja thanks him for making her dream come true, and Zazie finally asks her why she’s alone. Sonja asks him if he heard the villagers. Yes. She tells Zazie that she’s alone because both her parents were killed by a Gaichuu and now they shun her because they believe that children whose parents are killed by a Gaichuu will draw other Gaichuu to them. Zazie gets angry and says that’s not true, but Sonja says try telling them that. Sonja goes on to say that’s the reason she doesn’t go to the village, plus this house contains all the memories of her parents.

 

       After Sonja says goodnight to Zazie he lays awake thinking back to when his own parents were killed by a Gaichuu, and he wonders why he became a Letter Bee. Then next morning when Lag and Zazie are leaving, Sonja thanks them for the gift and for all the help with the chores. Just as Zazie is about to say something to Sonja a panicked villager runs up to them saying a Gaichuu has attacked the village.

 

      As soon as the group reaches the village, people start to blame Sonja’s visit to the village for attracting the Gaichuu there but Zazie goes off on them telling them it’s not her fault.

       Zazie tells Lag to distract the Gaichuu and he’ll attack its weak spot from above. Lag gets the Gaichuu’s attention and Zazie attacks from above destroying the Gaichuu. When Zazie is charging his gun we see that he charges it with hatred and malice while Lag uses his precious feelings. After the battle is over he tells the villagers that a Gaichuu isn’t attracted by a little girl, but they’re draw by heart, so all the holiday gift giving probably attracted the Gaichuu. Zazie goes on to tell the villagers if another Gaichuu appears just call him and he’ll destroy it.

       While, Lag and Zazie are returning by wagon, Zazie thinks back to the parting gift of ribbons that Sonja gave them, he seems quite happy with his experiences with Sonja. When Zazie returns home he places the ribbon that Sonja gave him around the neck of a stray cat that he took pity on at the beginning of the episode. Well, that’s all for this episode.

 

       I found this episode to be quite interesting and fulfilling despite it being a filler episode. Getting a little back story on Zazie was very nice, and I found it quite interesting that Zazie powers his gun with hatred and malice VS Lag’s use of precious feelings. This leads to an interesting question, if a Bee like Gauche used up too much of his heart and bad things happened what happens if Zazie uses up all his hatred and malice. Does he become unable to function and just lay around and cry every couple of hours like Lag does.

        Also, this episode raises a major question about the Gaichuu, if the Gaichuu are so numerous that a lot of orphans are being created what the hell is Amberground’s government doing about it, and why are they just letting it happen, isn’t the first responsibility of a government the safety of its citizens. I’m starting to get this weird feeling that the Amberground government has something to do with the Gaichuu problem, and could they just be a tool used to keep its citizens in fear and under control. I really feel that there has to be some linkage between the Gaichuu, the Empress, the artificial sun, and the day of flicker.

Damn, another sad girl in the snow

She’s cute, she chops wood, she cleans, she shovels snow, and she cooks. Hell, I’ll adopt her, and buy her a Snuggie.

      This episode picks up right after Kurumi thanks Sawako for being able to help her with Kazehaya, but Sawako grabs her arm and tells her she can’t help her with Kazehaya. Well, Kurumi goes on about her liking Kazehaya, but Sawako says since she can’t support her with all her heart, so she can’t help her. Kurumi asks Sawako why she’s not feeling inferior and backing down, why she wants to go out with him, why is he special to her, is it just because he was nice to you. Kurumi even goes as far as asking Sawako if someone else was nice to her would it be the same way. Kurumi goes on to tell Sawako that it’s not fair that everyone is afraid of her, and she doesn’t have to do anything to get his attention while popular and cute girls have to work hard (I almost fell out of my chair).

 

       Later that night, Sawako thinks about what Kurumi said to her; would she feel the same about someone else.  At school, the class is getting ready for today’s sports competition, Ayane does Sawako’s hair and Sawako gets much love as a good luck charm. During the girls’ soccer match the boys talk about how well Sawako is fitting in, and Sawako displays incredible speed on the soccer field, saving a goal, and assisting Chizu on a goal. In the process of assisting Chizu with the game winning goal Sawako loses her shoe and it happens to land on Kurumi’s head (LOL).

      At that moment, Kurumi sees Sawako celebrating with her classmates and Kazehaya, and she’s not happy. After everything breaks up, the guys head off to their softball match, Chizu invites Sawako to watch their volleyball practice but Ayane tells her Sawako will being watching the boy’s match. As Chizu and Ayane are walking away, Ayane tells Sawako not to lose. Cheering?

 

       While looking for her shoe, Sawako runs into Kurumi who is about to go off on her until she sees other people watching, so she stays in “good” Kurumi mode. As Kurumi is walking off, Sawako calls to her and Kurumi says not to call her Kurumi. So, Sawako calls her Ume-chan. Well this sets her off, and she says don’t call her Ume; she hates that name even though Sawako thinks it’s cute.  As Kurumi is getting all emotional Sawako invites her to watch Kazehaya’s softball match with her, Kurumi reluctantly agrees.

       Kurumi lets Sawako see her true colors while waving to some of her male fans, she tells Sawako that she lets her true colors show when she gets irritated with her. As the boys are getting ready to play they start talking about Sadako and Kazehaya goes into blush mode as the boys praise her. Ryuu buts in telling the boys that her name isn’t Sadako, Chizu made him remember it properly, her name is Sawako. The mention of her real first name sends Kazehaya into overload and he breaks up the conversation by telling them to start practicing.

 

       While the boys start to practice, Sawako tell Kurumi that she looked up the word “special” in the dictionary and she says that she’s always felt that way about him, and she can’t compare him to others. Kurumi tells Sawako that’s because she hasn’t come in contact with other guys, if she talks to other guys like the ones who sit near her. Like Kazehaya? No, others. Like, Ryuu.

       While all this girl talk is going on, a ball gets past Kazehaya and heads right towards Sawako’s face only to be caught in the nick of time by Ryuu. Here it is, the shipping moment; Kurumi tells Sawako that Ryuu saved her. Oh, that’s right, he saved me and I haven’t even thanked him. Yes, you should thank him and talk more with him……you two, together. That’s all for episode 11.

 

      Well, the next episode begins with Kurumi continuing her suggestion that Sawako talk with Ryuu alone, of course. Since Ryuu saved her and doesn’t avoid her doesn’t that put him on the same level as Kazehaya? Sawako tells Kurumi that the game is about to start and she asks Sawako if she was even listening to her, but Sawako points out that Kurumi wanted to watch Kazehaya play baseball and she does too. Sawako wants to see a side of Kazehaya she never knew, and Kurumi tells her to not put their feelings for him on the same level since she’s been stalking watching him since middle school. She’s always been stalking watching him and snatch blocking making sure he didn’t get a girlfriend. Well, due to Sawako’s lack of common sense that comment slips right by her, and Kurumi thinks that was a close call. Well, the girls continue to talk about feelings, and Sawako wonders if there’s an even greater feeling orgasm than the one she experiences thinking about Kazehaya, so she’ll try and talk to Ryuu. Kurumi thinks to herself that Sawako has accepted her challenge, and she tells Sawako that she going to play this her way from now on. Sawako comes to the conclusion that Kurumi has romantic feelings for Kazehaya and she thinks she understands what “from the bottom of your heart mean”.  After the boys win their first match, Sawako’s friends invite her to watch the girls volleyball match with them.  As Sawako is walking away she thinks how important everyone is to her and how it was all possible because of Kazehaya’s help.  Well, Sawako thinks that she doesn’t understand her feels toward Kazehaya but she wants to learn about them so if she talks to Ryuu that might help. Later, Kazehaya sees Sawako looking at Ryuu and asks him if he has romantic feelings towards her. No, I like her as a friend, and Kazehaya asks him to not use her first name, and he also wishes that he was the one to save her.

       Later, Kurumi goes into the teacher’s office and gets the sports committee schedule from Pin so she can track down where Kazehaya be later in the day. While Ayane is getting some drinks she sees Kurumi off by herself doing something near the lockers and she stops by to say hello. The girls have a little talk and Ayane lets Kurumi know in a very subtle way that she thinks that she started those rumors about her and Chizu to get them away from Sawako. Ayane says she wonders what Kazehaya would think of a girl who did something like that, and she also tells her that Sawako is pretty tough before she walks off.

       Once the boys return to the building we see what Kurumi was up to (Ayane also noticed), she planted a fake note in Ryuu’s locker that says that Sawako wants to meet him by the equipment shed (damn, all the best things in life happen in or near those sheds). After the girls’ match, Ayane and Chizu invite Sawako to lunch but she tells them she has to thank Ryuu for saving her and confirm her feelings, and she asks them to hear her out later. Ayane tells her to not be fooled and follow what your heart tells you. Also, Ayane tells Chizu that they got something to take care of later. Kurumi directs Sawako to Ryuu who she heard will be by the equipment shed.

 

       Sawako finds Ryuu napping near the equipment shed and he tells her she’s finally here. Ryuu uses the note to remember her name and Sawako is amazed that her thoughts appeared on paper (no one could be that dense). Well, Sawako thanks him for saving her life and gives Ryuu a drink in appreciation for his help. After a while Ryuu asks her if that’s all, and Sawako asks him about romantic feelings. Ryuu tells her that he does, and he loves Chizu, keep that to yourself. Sawako says she thinks they’d make a great couple. Just then, Kurumi ambushes Kazehaya while he’s on his way to the equipment shed and offers to help him. Well, Kurumi asks him if he really rejected Sawako, and he tells her no. But, he goes on to say that she hasn’t confessed anything like that, and besides, she doesn’t like me that way.

 

        Kurumi blasts Kazehaya by saying that Sawako told her that she didn’t want to date him, and that she only had eyes for Ryuu since he saved her, so let’s encourage them for Sawako’s sake. Meanwhile, Sawako is talking with Ryuu about when he knew he loved Chizu. He tells her that it didn’t happen at once but he just knew she was special and he can’t compare her to others.  At that very moment Kazehaya and Kurumi walk up on Sawako and Ryuu, Kurumi tells Kazehaya that’s its true and they should do their best to support Sawako and Ryuu, Kazehaya looks absolutely destroyed. That’s all for this episode.

 

Kurumi’s shipping war.

        So, here we are, all of Kurumi’s schemes and machinations are laid bare, and her master plan is finally reveled. In an earlier review I had speculated that Kurumi would probably be Sawako’s greatest enemy or threat when it came to her relationship with Kazehaya, and this prediction looks about right. Kurumi is trying to use Sawako’s emotional immaturity when it comes to boys to try and shift Sawako away from Kazehaya and direct it towards Ryuu.

        Also, Ayane seems to have come to the conclusion that Kurumi was the source of the rumors concerning Sawako, Chizu and her. It seems that when Chizu told her about how Kurumi used her to sow dissention amongst the junior high school Kazehaya fan girls she put two and two together and came to the conclusion that Kurumi was the source. Using this logic, Kurumi’s rumor attack made perfect sense; separate Sawako from her only two friends making her easier to destroy or at least ruin her chances with Kazehaya. I’m really interested to see what form Ayane’s and Chizu’s counterstrike against Kurumi will take because I can’t see them letting that vicious attack on them go unpunished.

        So, since the “rumor” attacked failed it seems that Kurumi is going to play the “bitch in cute girl clothing” attack on Sawako; she’ll pretend to be her friend while doing everything possible to undermine and destroy her relationship with Kazehaya. What Kurumi fails to realize is that Kazehaya actually has a choice in the matter, just because he can’t get what he wants doesn’t mean that he’ll fall in to her “loving” arms.

Sawako naivety stretches the bounds of believability.

       OK, I get it, Sawako is emotionally immature, but her reactions to Kurumi’s attempts at friendship and Sawako’s own lack of understanding about her own feelings really have me pulling clumps of hair out of my scalp right now. Sawako may be emotionally immature, but she’s not retarded, I can’t believe that any girl Sawako’s age (around 16), no matter how emotionally immature, can’t tell the difference between just being able to speak with a guy, and having those heart palpating moments of desire/longing/sexual attraction. Sawako has to have read some romantic novels or manga, seen some romantic TV shows or movies, and have had some moments of romantic self-fulfillment while lying in bed at night. When I was a young lad of sixteen, I was no Jon Juan or Casanova, but when I had my first moment of real desire for a girl, I knew it because it hit me like a nuclear bomb, so I can’t buy the thought that Sawako can’t tell the difference between her feelings for other guys and Kazehaya. 

Kurumi, you fail at life.

        While my frustrations with Sawako’s behavior are large, my feelings of distain and disgust for Kurumi dwarf any problems I have with Sawako. I’ve seen some commenter’s on other blogs and message boards make an attempt to defend Kurumi behavior by giving the excuse that she’s just a young girl in love, and all I have to say is that both you and Kurumi fail at life. Kurumi’s behavior is as bad as those real life freaks who insist that Nagi from the Kannagi manga has to be a virgin; if I can’t F that 2d girl then she doesn’t deserve a 2d boyfriend. Kurumi is as bad as those real life freaks over in Japan who search through the photo data of their favorite idols to make sure they really stayed home alone on Christmas Eve, get a life.

       What I’m trying to get at here is that Kurumi is as bad as any pitiful drooling stalker, I really don’t have a problem with the idea that she’s longed from Kazehaya since junior high school and goes to sleep every night seeing his face. But, I do have a major problem with the fact that she goes about her life ruining other peoples’ lives, including Kazehaya’s love life, because she’s a coward who lacks the courage to tell him she likes him and take her chances on being rejected. In effect, Kurumi even more emotionally immature than Sawako is; while Kurumi may be beautiful on the outside, on the inside she’s a pool of self-loathing and meanness.

For my 12th and final post in my “12 moments in anime 2009” series I’m choosing Clannad’s (both seasons) triumph of storytelling. Much of the following text has been excerpted from my loved filled reviews of both series, so I you like what I have to say go back and read my old reviews.

“Tell Them Stories”

      I have chosen to title this article/post “Tell Them Stories“, using a quote from Philip Pullman’s book The Amber Spyglass, the third book from the His Dark Materials book series. It comes at a point in the book where Mary Malone (one of the main characters) needs to impart important knowledge on to the adolescents, Will and Lyra. Mary needs to impart this knowledge upon Will and Lyra to facilitate an important awakening within them. Mary struggles with how to do this, does she preach to them like a Sunday school teacher, or does try to teach them like a public school teacher? No, while walking around, Mary sees uncountable ghosts exiting the land of the dead and they implore her to “Tell Them Stories, Tell Them True Stories“. Upon hearing this, her course of action is set, she’ll use what humankind has used for most of it’s short history to impart shared cultural values, “Storytelling”.

      Since the beginning of human history, from our earliest days when we were gathered around a fire inside a cave, we told stories, and the record of those stories were recorded for future generations on the charcoal drawings still found on the walls of those caves. The tradition of storytelling has always been used throughout human history to pass down shared cultural values, ask us important moral questions, teach and enlighten us, make us laugh or make us cry, strengthen us or occasionally frighten us, entertain us or sometimes bore us, but most importantly, storytelling bonds us together in shared emotions and experiences.

I think that the following discussion of storytelling by Philip Pullman has it exactly right, I only wished I was brilliant enough to pen these words.

      “The sharing of stories takes time, but it is worth the wait, worth the meandering, worth the stuttering and stumbling and the struggle to find the right words. Thou shalt not is soon forgotten, but once upon a time lasts forever.”

       Many of the greatest tales or stories begin with “once upon a time”, or ”a long ago”, or “once there was”, or “mukashi mukashi”, but no matter how they begin they take us on a journey to another place and time where we can lose ourselves, if only for a moment, in the trials and tribulations of the characters. We laugh, we cry, we feel exaltation as we follow the characters down their long paths, and in the end, maybe we learn something about ourselves along the way.

      To me Clannd’s story began with the simple question of ”do you like this school?”  and we follow Nagisa’s and Tomoya’s journey as they begin their long climb up the hill to school and to an adult life until they reach “the place where wishes come true”. Since I’ve always considered Clannad a fairytale it’s fitting the the story wraps up with Tomoya telling his daughter a story under a shade tree, once upon a time. The tale of Clannad is a tale of human magic where acts of kindness, mercy, and love have redemptive and transformative powers. But, to me, Clannad’s greatest gift has been the emotional escapism almost every episode provided me, I laughed, I cryed, I felt the sadness and pain as Tomoya and Nagisa walked their long hard path to the future, and felt utterly contented when “they lived happily ever after”.

 Below are a few portions of some of my previous reviews written about certain aspects of Clannad such as, storytelling and human magic, the power of love and kindness, and emotional escapism.

From my review of Clannad episode 1 (storytelling and human magic).

        Now to the storytelling aspects of Clannad, Key’s  greatest asset has always been it’s ability to weave together a great plot that knows how to pull at the viewer’s heartstrings, and I feel that Clannad  is going down the right path. Like past Key projects Clannad  deals with the impressions of how time should flow, and how it must flow forward. In AIR and Kanon  time does not flow properly, the characters are suffocated and stifled by the past, caught and held in a limbo like muted world until they are able to deal with the past and move forward. In the anime Voices of a distant Star,  and The Promised Place of our Earlier Days  the main characters are haunted by the desire to recapture the feelings and the motivations of youth, reaching back for what is past and can never really be recaptured. The Key stories are about wanting to move forward and living life like it should be lived, we must grow, progress, mature, love, and change (hopefully for the better).

      I also like how Key  includes elements of dreams and magic in to their stories, most of the time it’s small magic, not magic on the grand scale of shows like Scrapped Princess and so forth. Key’s  magic is small scale but powerful, a human magic brought forth by human actions and acts of kindness, compassion, friendship, caring and love.

From my review of Clannad episode 10 (emotional escapism).

       The world of Clannad is the perfect male fantasy world, a world where all the girls are cute with almost all of these girls being kind and gentle, a world where even the most hard edged and gruff girls really harbor a heart of gold. This is a world where all the sweetest and cutest girls don’t have boyfriends and are just waiting for a normal guy to come along and touch their souls, this is emotional escapism at the purest level, a world where gentle and lonely souls flutter around each other like moths around a flame until they finally meet creating the perfect emotional connection. Clannad is also a world where even a girl laying in a coma longings for connection, human contact, and love is so great it can cross the boundaries of human consciousness to touch the lives of others. This is emotional escapism of the highest level, and I’m buying into it.

From my review of Clannad episode 14 (the power of love and friendship).

      In the Clannad universe, love, compassion and friendship are the greatest powers in the world, these powers can transcend the boundaries of space, time, and reality to effect all those coming in contact with it. Also in this world the power of love also increases with each person it touches, as it touches one person it gathers strength and  intensity before moving on to touch the next person. But one thing I’ve always liked about the other Key titles including this series is that they always stress that’s it’s always better to move on, to move forward, to move towards the future, staying in the past leads to stagnation and nothingness.

From my review of episode 21 (A child’s understanding and adult decisions)

      Nagisa is a pure girl, trusting, caring, and loving, she has shown many times in the series that she places more value in the happiness of others than in herself, but Nagisa has also shown that in some respects that she can be a little slow in some aspects, so when she read her parents’ diaries she only really picked up on the parts that confirmed her darkest fears, that her parents had to give up their dreams because of her, she chose to ignore parts where her mother wrote that she would have never traded these times with her child for anything. In this respect Nagisa shows that she still has a child’s understanding of the situation, and this is made worse by her parents evasiveness.

      In a great deal of anime one of the most popular reoccurring themes in their plots are the famous “go for your dreams or bust plot line”, I find a lot of these stories to be very exciting and uplifting because it brings back memories of youth, when all things were possible, I could be President, a rock star, a billionaire, the sky was the limit, but there comes a point where a child’s dreams and a child’s understanding of life collides with adult decisions. Nagisa’s parents made an adult decision after they nearly lost their daughter over a lapse in judgement brought on by a selfish moment, after the near loss of their daughter they decided to place her care above their personal wishes and goals, they reached a point in their lives when they realized where their greater responsibility lay, their daughter.

     Nagisa still being a child thinks that it was a either or choice, her parents dreams or caring for her, she feels that they chose her over their personal happiness and that they might/probably are unhappy now. What Nagisa doesn’t realize, and it was her parents responsibility to teach her, is that a decision like this is a false choice it’s not a zero sum game. They made an adult choice and failed to properly communicate their feelings about this to their daughter, her father could have told her something like, I love you more than anything in this world and I wouldn’t trade this life I have now for all the money or fame in the world. They should have/could have told her that as adults we have sometimes acquire greater responsibilities than following a dream, and one of those responsibilities is caring for the most important thing in our lives, our children. And as Nagisa’s father has probably realized, and the Rolling Stones put voice to in their song “You Can’t always Get What You Want

You can’t always get what you want,
But if you try sometime, yeah,
You just might find you get what you need

     Neither Nagisa’s father or mother seems to be unhappy with their current lives, while she might not be a teacher, and he might no longer be an actor, they both have a loving spouse and a loving daughter, after all sometimes the dreams of youth give way to the satisfaction of a fulfilled adult life.

From my review of Clannad ~After Story~ episode 21 (the helplessness of a mortal man and tomoya’s moment of magical thinking)

       For me what really stood out about this episode was Tomoya’s strength of character. After receiving the “fatal” news about Ushio’s illness Tomoya showed only one moment of weakness, and Akio quickly set him straight. A man has to be strong until the very end for the ones they love, and a man has to protect the ones they love to the best of their abilities.

      Any father would give anything, even their own life to protect their loved ones, but Tomoya faced the worse possible situation. Tomoya faced a enemy he had no chance of defeating, if you saw a car getting ready to run over your child you could push her put of the way sacrificing yourself, or you can step in front of a bullet for your child, but Tomoya’s enemy was far worse. Call it a curse, call it fate, or call it destiny, but in the end, it was a no win situation.

       I feel that Tomoya quickly realized that Ushio was going to die, and if he tried to fight, it would be like he was battling God. So, Tomoya decided to submit to fate and wrap Ushio in the a protective layer of love and kindness. While Tomoya’s heart was being ripped out his chest he only showed Ushio a gentle smile and a calming voice. In the end, Tomoya was able to grant one of Ushio’s wishes, he gave her the trip with daddy that she wanted, and he did the best that a mortal man could do. Well done Tomoya, I’m sure Nagisa and Akio would be proud.

       But there’s a limit to how much suffering and pain any one person can take before it overwhelms them, and with Ushio’s death I think Tomoya’s reached his limit. At the end of the episode Tomoya again asks himself if it would have been better if he and Nagisa had never met? Tomoya slipped into what I call “magical thinking”, this best described in Joan Didion’s book “The Year of Magical Thinking” (great book, if your haven’t read it, do so). In the book, the author experiences such overwhelming grief and loss over the death of her husband that she begins to obsess about if I did this, or if I did that, could I have changed to outcome? The question that Tomoya has answer for himself  is did his love for Nagisa and Ushio mean more to him than their loss? If he’s chooses the path of stagnation will that bring him anymore joy in the long run? If Tomoya chooses the path of love and loss will there any salvation or mercy for him and his family? I don’t know, but I feel that the old saying  ”it’s better to have loved and lost then never to have loved at all” will hold true, or I pray it will.

From my review of Clannad ~After Story~ episode 22 (the place where wishes come true)

The moment of possibilities, and the place where dreams come true.

       It seems that after Ushio’s death, the world held it’s breath, and Tomoya temporarily existed in both the real and the dream world, he had sort of reached his Omega point. We discover that the girl from the dream world is his daughter Ushio, and she probably came into existence the moment Tomoya and Nagisa first spoke. When Ushio admits that she’s also a orb of light (an expression of happiness) it all fell into place for me, Ushio was Nagisa’s orb of light, her happiness, her expression of life, and her fondest desire.

     When Tomoya first met Nagisa she stood rooted at the bottom of the school hill, she loved the town and school but she wished for change, she wanted to move forward, make friends, progress, but she was filled with the fear that nothing would change. So, when Tomoya spoke to her it was her fondest desire, time began to flow, nothing can stay the same forever, Nagisa began her path to happiness creating the dream of Ushio in the process.

       I feel that Nagisa’s and Ushio’s relationship with the city was very different from Tomoya’s and the other city dwellers, when Akio begged for Nagisa’s salvation the land and the city granted his wish, but at a great price. Nagisa, and her daughter were linked to the rhythms and emotions of the city, while this might not seem like a big deal, it was, Nagisa and Ushio are after all only made of mortal flesh. Everything requires balance, when Nagisa was saved without Akio using a orb of light, something had to be payed back in order to balance the equation, did Nagisa and Tomoya create enough happiness (orbs of lights) to pay the city back, or as the Beatles put it,  “And in the end, the love you take, is equal to the love you make” 

     When Tomoya shouted that he didn’t want this to happened, and for Nagisa to save Ushio, he actually held an orb of light in his arms (a dying orb) and Ushio reacted to Tomoya’s cry. When Tomoya fully enters the dream world he reached the point where all things are possible (the Omega Point) with the right choices. Because Ushio died in the real world and Tomoya is thinking about not speaking to Nagisa at the bottom of the hill Ushio’s ability to maintain her existence and the existence of the dream world was fading, and the only thing she could do to help Tomoya was to confirm that his and Nagisa’s love did mean something and was worth cherishing.

      So, if Tomoya chooses to let Nagisa walk back home alone there would have been no Ushio, no dream world, no multiple orbs of light, Nagisa would have still died in the future, and Tomoya would have continued to live in his mono-colored world of misery. But, because Tomoya confirms his unconditional for Nagisa and finally throws away his doubts, the world let out it’s breath. In Omega Point theory the universe is considered to be a computer and all it’s living creatures are information inside the system, and when you reach the maximum informational and computational  capacity, all things are possible, life and death, reality and fantasy become meaningless. So, once Tomoya reaffirmed his love for Nagisa he ensured the creation of Nagisa’s orb (Ushio) and all the other orbs and he was able to hit the cosmic reset button, Nagisa lives and she and Ushio’s illness are wiped out.

       If you think that this is too far fetched, just consider the possibility that all of Tomoya’s pain and suffering from the moment of Nagisa’s death only occurred in his mind, in a dream, he just lived through all that possible pain in an instant. His wish might have been granted the very instant when he held Nagisa hand and thought she was dead, Nagisa lives and Tomoya’s vision of a horrible future fades like when you awaken from a terrible nightmare to find yourself safe under your covers.

       In the end, I feel those who judge Clannad harshly because of its ending are looking at the series with the wrong set of eyes. We have two ways at looking at things, the first way to view something is through the eyes of logic and science, and the second way of looking at something is to look at it through the eyes of our hearts. Clannad is a show that must be viewed through the lens of our hearts, after all, is it anymore illogical to have Clannad end the way it did than it is to accept that you can find a giant robot buried in the ground, or that people can possess other strange powers?

Well, Christmas is upon us once again. So, I would like to wish all the readers of this blog a Merry Christmas, and me and the Sky Girls would like to give you a gift of Asian idols dressed for the season.

Ryoko Tanaka

Sayaka Mizushima

Nagisa Matsayama

Choi Ji Hyang

Lin Ketong

Natsumi Kamata, while not in Xmas glory she’s just too hot in her schoolgirl uniform to leave out

For my 11th post in the “12 moments of anime 2009” series I’m choosing the Toradora! anime series.

      I have to admit that when this series first came out last October, I thought to myself  “not another high school romantic  comedy”, so I filed away the episodes on my hard drive. Then in February I had some extra time on my hands and started watching Toradora!, and after five or six episodes I realised what a mistake I had made.

      So, I power watched those back episodes and fell in love with the series. While Toradora! has its faults and has many of the tropes common for an anime of the genre those deficiencies are more than outweighed by its endearing characters, and well written story. I laughed, I cried, and I rooted for Ryuuji and Taiga to find happiness and felt quite contented with how the series ended. In short, Toradora! was one of the best high school romantic comedies I’ve watched in the past few years, two thumbs up.

For my 10th entry in my “12 moments in anime 2009” I’m choosing the philandering ways of Touya from the White Album series.

 

       In the harem themed anime of the past such as Ranma ½ and Tenchi Muyo the guy at the center of the harem had many redeeming qualities that would lead the girls surrounding him to want his DNA. The harem leads from the past weren’t pathic punching bags for all the tsundere chicks in his harem like Keitaro was from Love Hina, and I could no more picture either Tenchi or Ranma getting slapped around by all the women in their lives as I could ever picture myself putting up with any of my former girlfriends/lovers slapping me around to show me that they love me.

 

      So, what the hell happened to the harem genre and their males leads over the intervening years? Well, my personal theory is that in the past, anime in general was targeted and viewed by a larger general audience, and those shows made back their production costs, and then some, by being popular enough to actually make money off of commercial advertising. So, as television audiences and anime audience’s numbers began to slip the production companies had to reley on sales of VHS tapes and later DVD sales to make a profit. 

      This situation led to these types of anime being targeted towards the hardcore buyers of DVDs and away from trying to attract a large diverse audience. So, where we once had male leads of harem type anime where female viewers liked them and male viewers looked up to and aspired to be like them we’re now left with male leads who are avatars for lonely/sexually impotent male viewers who spend more money on anime then getting laid.

 

        Even in a harem anime such as Bakemonogatari where the male lead, Koyomi, is a pretty tough hard core guy and surrounded by attractive females who are available, he’s sexually impotent. Koyomi gropes Mayoi and both enjoys himself and loathes himself for the act but can go no further, he leers at Nadeko who’s attracted to him and available but does nothing, and even when he finally gets Hitagi as a girlfriend he practically had to get dragged kicking and screaming to their first date, she did all the work. Then we have other harem type anime such as Kiss X Sis, Kanokon, and Kiss on my Deity where the male leads practically have pussy shoved in their faces everyday and they’re so pitiful and impotent it’s no wonder why Japan has a negative/zero population growth problem judging by how these males react to women.

Loser #1

Loser #2

Loser #3

 

       So, all this ranting brings be to Touya from White Album, the hero of this post. While Touya may be many negative things such as; a very bad boyfriend to Yuki, a man-whore, a liar, an unreliable person, and a piece of shit, he’s certainly not impotent. When Touya gets that loving feeling he’s not contented with a little panty shot, he wants what’s underneath that thin piece of cotton, and he knows where his sausage belongs. Out of the six main girls in Touya’s harem he’s filled the love canal of three of the six girls (Yayoi, Misaki, and Haruka), and made out with two of the remaining three (Rina and Yuki).

Hit Yayoi many times.

Hit Misaki and left it.

Hit Haruka and left it.

Kissed Rina and wanted to hit it.

Yuki, the girlfriend, kissed her and been trying to hit it the whole series.

       So, in the spirit of the awards season Touya wins the erect penis award for knowing how a man should react to readily available lonely women. Yes, Touya’s shining example should be a guiding light to all males involved in harem situations: Yes, Keitaro you should have slammed every chick before settling on Nauru; Yes, Keita you should bang both Riko and Ako before picking one; Yes, Kouta you should have deflower both Chizuru and Nozomu; Yes, Yuuri you should really taste Mashiro and all the other girls around you; and Yes, Koyomi you should have acted first by picking a girl and doing something; you’re all losers compared to Touya.

All male harem leads please read the following advice.

       Episode 11 begins with Ichigo asking the princes about how they met, and how they must have gotten along from the start. Not quite, it seems that Hanabusa and Kashino hated each other when they first met. Well, when Andou and Kashino first arrived at the school Kashino says everyone is his rival and he’s going to be the best, he even mocks the notion of sweets spirits and tells the statue he’s going to be the best.

 

       Enter Hanabusa, who appears from behind the statue telling Kashino that it’s not going to be that easy. Then Hanabusa starts passing out flowers to the girls and Kashino says he doesn’t need friends, especially someone like him. When Kashino gets to his room he finds out that Hanabusa is his roommate, the sparks begin to fly, and it gets so bad that they have to mark a line down the middle of the room.

 

       Well, when class first starts, the instructor places the three best students in group A who happens to be Andou, Kashino, and Hanabusa. The girls go gaga over the boys and the name “the princes of sweets” is born. But, Kashino and Hanabusa soon start fighting getting the whole group in trouble and they are banned from the practice kitchen for three days.

 

       Later, Kashino and Hanabusa continue to argue and Kashino decides to go to the practice kitchen anyways. Inside the practice kitchen they continue to argue and soon Café appears before Hanabusa, Caramel before Andou, and Chocolate before Kashino. Everyone except Kashino accepts their sweet spirit; he says he doesn’t need a partner. Soon, the boys are caught in the kitchen and banned from dinner, confined to their rooms, and banned from class for three days.

 

       Back in their rooms, Caramel gets frightened by a gift from Andou’s brother and flees into the forest surrounding the school. Andou gives chase to caramel, and Kashino is about to follow when Hanabusa says if he gets caught he’ll be expelled, if you go you’re a fool. Kashino says I guess I’m a fool and heads off after Andou and Caramel.

 

       Andou saves Caramel from a spider in the nick of time, but he falls down a steep slope and injures his ankle. Kashino and Chocolate have an argument about him not accepting her as a partner but gives in when she won’t leave him. Darkness falls before Kashino and Chocolate find Andou and Caramel when Andou uses a childhood signal he and Kashino used to share.

 

       Kashino ties a vine to a tree and has Andou hop on his back while he pulls Andou up the steep slope, and as they’re almost to the top the vine snaps. Before Kashino and Andou falls back down the drop Hanabusa grabs Kashino’s arm and pulls them to safety. Kashino asks Hanabusa why he came, and Hanabusa tells him that a fool who’s willing to get expelled to save a friend and a person who’s willing to rescue a sweet spirit are beautiful.

 

      Well, as they make their way back to the dorm they get caught by the Chairman but he doesn’t really care, and he suggests that the practice kitchen is open. Inside the kitchen the boys start to get along better and make Madeleines together. As soon as the boys share each other’s Madeleines they opened their hearts up and became friends. After the story is finished, Ichigo shares her strawberry flavored Madeleines with the boys.

 

       Episode 12 begins with Henri reading a letter from Ichigo telling him about her experience of making Christmas cakes for charity. Flashback to Christmas Eve and we see that the sweets spirits have departed to the sweets kingdom for their own Christmas party leaving group A to create wonderful treats on their own. Ichigo has created a Croquembouche and she tells the boys about the time her grandmother made one for her and explained what a Christmas cake is and what a Croquembouche is. Just as Ichigo is about to show it to the teacher she slips on a banana peel that the jealous girls put in her path, the giant cake is ruined.

       Well, there’s no time for Ichigo to recreate her masterpiece so the princes help her made a basic Christmas cake. When the kids unveil their cakes to the public every student but Ichigo manages to sell their cakes, Ichigo didn’t have enough time to remake a nice one. Eventually, a man buys Ichigo’s cake and tells her to also donate the change to charity; Kashino says he thinks he’s seen that man before.

 

       After the students donate their earnings to the charity they have some time to kill before the school’s Christmas party and while walking around they see the guy who bought Ichigo’s cake looking sad. When Ichigo asks him if something was wrong with the cake he tells them he didn’t have to courage to give the cake. Kashino goes into shock when he realizes that the guy is Yousuke from the Miles Jarrett Quintet from New York City.

 

       Well, Ichigo asks him about his courage problem, and he tells them that there was a woman he lived with and seven years ago he tossed her to the side and left for New York. He got invited to play on stage with the Miles group and they were so impressed with his talent they invited him to join the band and come to New York with them. So, he ditched Mariko and left for New York with the band, but during the last seven years he never forgot Mariko, and now the group has returned to Japan after seven years.

 

       Kashino tells him that no matter what’s happened he should go see her, and that he’s sure that he can handle this. Ichigo also tells him he should find her and apologize to her; Ichigo grabs his arm and says lets go. But, they have no idea where she’s at other than knowing the name of the restaurant where she used to work so Ichigo goes rushing off. Bad news, Ichigo discovers that the restaurant went out of business. They ask the Yousuke if he knows where Mariko lives, and he tells them he sent Mariko a concert ticket but she moved and it came back returned.

 

       Kashino doesn’t want to give up yet, so the group splits up and goes looking for clues, and when they get back together they discover the restaurant only closed last year and someone matching Mariko’s description was working there. As the group is getting down about the bad news, Yousuke sees a little kid complaining to his mother about their failure to find a Christmas cake, so he gives the mother Ichigo’s cake. Later, the group says they’re sorry they couldn’t help him then Yousuke offers to play them a song of their efforts. As he’s blasting out a trumpet tune for the group a woman drops a watering can and runs up to him calling his name. Mariko asks Yousuke why he didn’t come for her, and he tells her that not a day went by that he didn’t think about her, and she feels that same way. When Yousuke explains to Mariko who the kids are Ichigo suggests that they make another Christmas cake for them.

 

       After Mariko gives them her address the kids return to the school and make a smaller version of Ichigo cake for the lost lovers. After they drop off the cake at Mariko’s house she suggests they eat the cake together but Kashino says that they have a school Christmas party to attend, Ichigo is bummed, and the reunited lover are left to themselves.

 

      Outside, the boys tell Ichigo they would have never thought of making that kind of cake as a Christmas cake. Well, the kids get rewarded for their hard efforts by getting a white Christmas, and then we see snow falling over the academy as fireworks go off in the background. Well, that’s all for these two episodes.

 

        Overall, both of these episodes continued with themes of friendship and kindness that’s become a trademark of the series. In episode 11 we got the back story of Andou’s, Hanabusa’s, and Kashino’s meeting and eventual friendship along with how they each got their sweets spirits. Also, that episode showcased how Hanabusa’s and Kashino’s differing personalities really clashed when they first met, but both of them soon discovered that they each had qualities they admired.

         Episode 12, the Christmas episode, continues to show how Ichigo’s free spirited personality opens the boy’s minds to think outside of the box when it comes to sweets. While the three princes have technical skills that Ichigo can’t match, she has creative skills that I feel makes the group more inventive. Andou, Hanabusa, and Kashino are the muscle of the group, but Ichigo is the heart and soul. The one thing that’s starting to bother me about the show is how the other girls are being real bitches towards Ichigo and how their pranks are getting ever more mean spirited, a good bitch slap is in order. Also, I would like Ichigo to start showing more common sense when it comes to the bitches, how many times is Ichigo going to keep falling for their stupid plots because I don’t find it cute seeing Ichigo get raped over and over again.

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