Friday, February 1, 2013

Kotoura-san - 04

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Kotoura-san is still the best non-sequel of the season, but it’s pretty clear that the issues that keep it from reaching greatness aren’t going away anytime soon.


[HorribleSubs]_Kotoura-san_-_04_[720p].mkv_snapshot_00.14_[2013.02.01_09.55.14]It’s a shame the folks at AIC don’t have some paranormal abilities themselves, because if they’d known how well this series would be received they probably would have handled the show a bit differently.  I suspect there was an expectation that this would be a fringy series, with minimal sales and not a lot of attention, and the plan was to cram as much into 12 episodes as possible and boost the manga sales.  As it stands, this series may well be an outright hit, but seems certain to have BD/DVD sales strong enough to be profitable at the very least.  It’s a shame, because as good as the first third of Kotoura-san has been I’d like to have seen how good it could have been with proper exposition (as was apparently present in the manga).

[HorribleSubs]_Kotoura-san_-_04_[720p].mkv_snapshot_03.04_[2013.02.01_09.57.17]The net result of the frantic pacing is that I buy neither Moritani or Mifune’s redemption, and Kotoura’s flight to her family estate and eventual return to the bosom of her friends seem quite rushed and lose some of their emotional impact.  Quite frankly I still don’t like either Moritani or Mifune, and I don’t think either of them has done nearly enough to redeem themselves for their actions (especially Moritani, and they were apparently toned-down drastically for the anime).  This is a bigger problem in this episode than in the previous three, because it’s not as dependent on the drama of events themselves as in the way the characters respond to them.  Moritani’s supposed “apology” is the key to the ep’s conclusion, yet feels hollow and self-serving.  And Mifune pretty much plays as a bully who’s mainly interesting in manipulating others to get what she wants.  I think the anime staff is doing the best they can with the time they’ve been given, but they’re not miracle-workers – not even Ohta-sensei, as superb a director as he is – and those imposed limitations are the gap that exists between good and great for the first arc of Kotoura-san.

[HorribleSubs]_Kotoura-san_-_04_[720p].mkv_snapshot_03.30_[2013.02.01_09.57.42]In spite of those not insignificant flaws this is still an exceptionally interesting series whose virtues far outweigh them.  There’s great appeal in the relationship of Manabe and Kotoura, which is rooted in emotional bedrock in a way the series isn’t when it extends to the supporting cast.  It’s a very humanistic and compassionate show, yet pretty fearless in its willingness to show the dark side of human nature, and no interest whatsoever in political correctness.  Witness the behavior of Kotoura’s grandfather Zenzou-san (Nishimura Tomomichi), who can’t stop talking about how much he loves his granddaughter’s butt and thighs, and about “the breasts she might or might not have”.  It’s interesting to note that the two males in Kotoura’s life who love her most unconditionally are also far from immune to ecchi thoughts, and while they’re obviously an order of magnitude less inappropriate coming from Manabe, there’s still a larger statement being made here about how we tend to waste too much time obsessing over perfectly natural human impulses and can’t see the forest for the trees when it comes to what’s really dangerous.

[HorribleSubs]_Kotoura-san_-_04_[720p].mkv_snapshot_05.09_[2013.02.01_09.59.22]We already had some indication that Kotoura was from a wealthy family, but the sheer magnitude of wealth only became obvious when se saw that the village she fled to was served by “Kotoura Station”.  After Muroto hacks into JR’s security cameras to track down Kotoura’s escape route the ESP Club follows her, ending up staying overnight at the temple where Kotoura’s mother took her to see if the Head Priest, Oshou (Nakano Yutaka) could exorcise her demons.  Oshou is a compassionate fellow himself, and became interested in ESP after seeing what this strange little girl could do.  This gives him a connection with the kids, who quickly realize that Kotoura has been there before, and he agrees to introduce them to Zenzou-san at his gargantuan estate. 

[HorribleSubs]_Kotoura-san_-_04_[720p].mkv_snapshot_05.47_[2013.02.01_10.00.00]The reunion is fairly predictable, and again, loses some of its punch because of how rushed Kotoura’s emotional arc has been.  But the best scene of the episode is the one where Kotoura – after fleeing upon seeing her friends – eavesdrops on Manabe’s thoughts as he apologizes for his inability to protect her, then slips into a fantasy about spanking her “I’ll rub your swollen behind after I’m done”).  This sequence is the two sides of Kotoura-san and the two sides of Manabe-kun in all their glory – sentimental and warm yet also wholly realistic about the human animal.  Love has many facets, and Manabe definitely loves Kotoura.  The strength of the series is the depiction of the pain she carries inside her as a result of her parents’ rejection, and the transparent honesty of Manabe as he tries to break through it.  As long as the series stays close to that wellspring, I suspect it won’t run dry.

[HorribleSubs]_Kotoura-san_-_04_[720p].mkv_snapshot_06.00_[2013.02.01_10.00.26]It seems tempting to believe that we’ve reached the end of the “serious” part of the story, and may get into something more like a traditional school comedy now that Kotoura-chan has returned to the school and Moritani (sigh) has been completely absolved for her crimes.  But I don’t think so – it seems that Kotoura-san is actually a fairly serious show altogether, and that’s actually a plus in my book.  I confess I’m very worried about the return of Kotoura’s mother (who’s ominous presence in the OP can’t be ignored), given the way the anime has dealt with Moritani and Mifune.  If we get the same kind of express redemption for a woman who abandoned her daughter and told her “I wish you’d never been born”, that will be a pretty serious strike against the series in my book.  I don’t want to assume the worst and I won’t condemn the series for something it hasn’t done yet, and as good as the show is most of the time there’s reason to hope it will steer clear of that impending disaster.  But I won’t deny I’d be more optimistic if I didn’t know that character was coming back.  It may be a ways off, I don’t know, but how Kotoura-san deals with that return may ultimately be what determines just how close to greatness it can ultimately reach.

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14 comments:

  1. Is Mifune really a bully? She was manipulative in her introduction, but ever since then she's seemed fine to me. :o Forgive her, Enzo! She is nice. Much nicer than Moritani. ;p

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  2. Am I the only one felt slightly sick at the scene where they showed the grandpa's crotch and had Kotoura sit on it, basically right on his junk? Not in front at the seat, no. Right on the junk. I don't know if I should be judging this sort of stuff, but man. It is a really disturbing stuff.

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  3. I read (in the comments section last week) that Manabe actually got stabbed by Moritani's lackeys in the manga. That's pretty intense, especially for a 4-koma. Makes it rather unbelievable that she could be forgiven just like that. Too bad the manga doesn't seem to be scanlated. Guess I'll go search for raws.

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    1. Yes, that's my understanding as well. She also told the dojo goons that Manabe raped her, apparently.

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  4. God damn. Thanks a lot spam bots! Now anonymous function will be turned off because of you fuckers! It's always a few douches ruining for the rest in human societies, any place, any time.

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  5. Jesus Christ... Kotoura-san deserves better than to be hit by a spambot blitzkrieg. ._.

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  6. One of my biggest pet peeves with anime is how villians are flipped and forgiven so easily for the evil they have done. If 3-4 guys beat the living shit out of me I would hate them for the rest of my life as well as the person that sent them after me. I might over a long period of time some day forgive them but not as fast as it happens in anime.

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    1. My problem with this analysis is that words like 'villains' and 'evil' are, in my opinion, far too strong for characters and actions like we see in Mifune or even Moritani. And things happen that get out of hand: In the anime at least (and I think it doesn't matter what happened in the manga, because we're watching the anime), Moritani had no intention of hospitalizing Manabe, and realized after it happened how far awry the actions went from her intentions, intentions which she realized were contemptible to begin with, after reflection.

      And as for how I'd like to see humans react to things, I'd rather see people abandon grudges and hard feelings sooner than later, and I'd rather see people willing to sincerely regret and mend their ways sooner than later, without defending their wrong actions. It may not be how people *are*, but I think the world would be better if it became that way.

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    2. I don't understand the readiness to forgive someone who intentionally got someone beaten up based on petty jealousy and a lie, simply because she "didn't mean for it to go so far". I'm sure most drunk drivers don't intend to kill people, either. When you send a bunch of martial-arts trained adults to beat up a teenaged boy, that's a pretty weak defense if you ask me. People may "intend" a lot of things, but when men start beating on other men (or kids) things happen - ribs get broken. Noses get broken. Kidneys get ruptured. "Oops - I didn't mean that, sorry!"

      I'm not saying Moritani should go to prison for life, but in narrative terms I found her light-speed redemption offensive and preposterous. The only part of it that made any sense was when Manabe said "How the hell did I get to be the bad guy here? Aren't I the victim?" It's classic anime pretty-girl immunity, but at least the stupidity of it was acknowledged inside the fourth wall this time.

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    3. But it's not up to *us* to forgive her. You can hold all the grudges you want against an anime character. The people that matter in this are Kotoura and Manabe. It's up to *them* to decide whether to forgive Moritani or not. I don't really know if Manabe has completely forgiven Moritani. And Kotoura is someone who is fairly desperate for good things to happen to her, for people to accept her and not shun her for being a monster, a word that seems to particularly hurt her. So when Moritani sincerely apologizes, she's going to accept it.

      All that matters about whether we "forgive" her is whether we like her character or not.

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    4. Saying it doesn't matter how fictional characters act is rather silly, if you ask me. If that were true no work of fiction would be any more realistic or entertaining than any other. How fictional characters behave determines how we react to the story in which they're behaving. The way the Moritani situation was handled in the anime undercuts its efforts to tell a serious story because, in my view, it's preposterous. Others may feel differently.

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  7. I'm willing to give Moritani a bit more of a pass, because the circumstances of her jealousy are not that far removed from Kotoura's. A girl who was somewhat unpopular, who has a very un-girlish future ahead of her that she doesn't particularly seem to care for (likely due to the inevitability of it), and she's fallen for Manabe for the exact same reasons that Haruka did: Because Manabe is an open, honest, forthright guy who appreciates people for who they are. That Manabe didn't fall for her the same way he fell for Haruka isn't her fault, it's just the vagaries of love. But seeing someone you thought you had a chance with taken away can bring out the worst in people, even if it's not their true nature.

    As for the 'redemption' of Mifune, I don't think we've gotten there yet. Haruka hasn't seen what Mifune's actual intentions for her are, and Mifune still intends to use Haruka, despite Muroto's cautions that she doesn't have the constitution to do it. So we'll see how that plays out. But as far as Mifune's *actions* toward Haruka so far, it's easy to believe that Haruka would forgive those minor transgressions.

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  8. I've had bullies change from foe to friend pretty much overnight, so I have no problem accepting that Moritani and Kotoura become friends just like that, either.

    Keep in mind that besides Kotoura, Moritani herself also was the victim of her own 'prank', give that she too had a crush on Manabe and thus must have felt the exact same pain Kotoura felt. Because of this, I think Kotoura believed Moritani got what she deserved and figured it wouldn't do any good dwelling on it more than she probably should. Now that Moritani showed that she's indeed willing to change, I think any grudge Kotoura might still have against her will subside soon enough.

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