Thursday, February 6, 2014

Inari, Konkon, Koi Iroha - 04

Inari Konkon - 04 -15 Inari Konkon - 04 -22 Inari Konkon - 04 -32

What is it about these Shinto series and 4th episodes?

I'm not trying to make Inari, Konkon, Koi Iroha into something it isn't.  I recognize that this show isn't - for example - Gingitsune, or even Natsume Yuujinchou.  This is a conventionally plot-driven romance-oriented series with broad comedy that happens to have strong Shinto themes, not a slice-of-life or a philosophical musing.  And I'm good with that - many shows that meet that description (with or without the Shinto themes) are on my list of favorite series.

That said, I really think this series is better when it steps off the gas a little and lets things play out at a pace where we can appreciate the subtler pleasures it offers.  That's a problem when a show only has ten episodes in which to tell its story, but for me it's the main reason why this episode was so much better than last week's rather breathless affair.  In fact I'd go so far as to say this was the best episode of Inari, Konkon so far, and by a not inconsiderable margin.  The fourth episode was when Gingitsune really closed the deal with me, stamping itself as something more than a pleasing distraction, rather a truly excellent series with its own story to tell and style to tell it in.  And that may just have happened with Inari, Konkon this week.

The thing about this show is that it has so much natural charm and it's so naturally cute that it's more effective when it doesn't try so hard to be cute and charming.  Everything clicked this week, including seemingly minor scenes between the Fushimi siblings and their parents.  I loved their reaction when Touka informed them of his suspicions about his sister ("Ha, ha - graduation can't come soon enough!") and the sequence where Inari's mother strapped her tightly into her yukata.  This was charming in an effortless sense - very natural and unforced, unlike some of the frantic efforts of last week.

Some will dismiss scenes like these as "slice-of-life" moments, but there's nothing wrong with slice-of-life - and it happens to be a mode this series does quite well with.  Very much in the same vein is Inari's meetup with Sumizome, and their bonding over shoujo manga, and then Sumizone falling for Sanjou (while seeing her as a boy character from one of Inari's manga) after she rescues Sumizome and Inari from Uka's creeper brother Toshi.  Likewise the way Marutamachi later becomes jealous when she picks up on this vibe - none of this is spelled out with dialogue, but it's obvious to see.  Again - very natural and unforced, and that much more convincing for it.

The meat of the episode is Inari's interaction with Kouji at the Fushimi Inari (the Jinja, not the girl) Obon Matsuri.  There's nothing like a summer matsuri both for general atmosphere and romantic development, and this one delivers on both fronts.  I've been to Fushimi Inari (the Jinja, not the... never mind) many times but never at night, and this episode really makes me long to see it like this (even if there was a lot of CGI of middling quality).  Of equal importance is the fact that Inari and Kouji are a terrific on-screen couple, and while their relationship does flirt with being overly cute it's never yet crossed the line.  Yes, we've seen Inari's flustered reaction when Kouji shows up at the festival many times in anime, but it was nicely handled (I quite liked it when she fretted about everything, got to "My face!" and sighed "There's nothing I can do about that...").

Likewise their time together is a joy to watch and again (there's that word) natural.  What I especially liked here is that there were no gimmicks or tricks or freak coincidences that set back the development - the two of them genuinely bonded and the spark of romance grew, and it was allowed to do so in a straightforward way.  These were just baby steps - they're middle-schoolers after all - but we don't have to labor through endless foreshadowing and delaying tactics, wondering if their relationship will ever get off the ground.  That was one of the better first dates in anime for a while, and refreshingly straightforward too.

The other element that's clearly developing is the link between Uka and Touka.  I couldn't help but notice that just as Uka admitted she was a bit jealous of Inari and Kouji, Touka showed up.  Uka even calls him a "friend" later, but it's clear she feels more than simple friendship towards him.  Here we see that constant theme of almost all Shinto fantasy - the painful gulf between the lifespan of spirits and that of humans - raised by Toshi.  It's a valid point used for nefarious purposes - his aims are clear, but he's not wrong that it's a huge barrier.  I see some equating Touka and Toshi but beyond the obvious fact that both are strong-willed older brothers, as presented at least I see them quite differently.  Toshi's motivations are plain - he's driven by self-interest and wants to possess his sister in every way.  Touka, by contrast, has given us no strong reason to believe he's anything except overly protective of his sister.  And I think Uka's clear regard for him supports the notion that his motives are honorable, even if his manner is sometimes off-putting.  This is, in many ways, potentially an even more interesting relationship than that of the main pair - which for all its charm is basically an innocent first love.  This is complicated, difficult and loaded with fascinating possibilities - and I hope we get to see some of them explored over the next six (damn it all) episodes.

Inari Konkon - 04 -8 Inari Konkon - 04 -9 Inari Konkon - 04 -10
Inari Konkon - 04 -11 Inari Konkon - 04 -12 Inari Konkon - 04 -13
Inari Konkon - 04 -14 Inari Konkon - 04 -16 Inari Konkon - 04 -17
Inari Konkon - 04 -18 Inari Konkon - 04 -19 Inari Konkon - 04 -20
Inari Konkon - 04 -21 Inari Konkon - 04 -23 Inari Konkon - 04 -24
Inari Konkon - 04 -25 Inari Konkon - 04 -26 Inari Konkon - 04 -27
Inari Konkon - 04 -28 Inari Konkon - 04 -29 Inari Konkon - 04 -30
Inari Konkon - 04 -31 Inari Konkon - 04 -33 Inari Konkon - 04 -34


14 comments:

  1. This is one of my favorites of this season. Its not as good as the other 2 Shinto series you mentioned but still very much worth my time and I look forward to it each week. I really like how Uka is "more human" like then gods are supposed to be. Its not often you see a god that likes to play video games and dating sims.

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  2. Definitely a better paced episode. While last week skipped three-and-a-half chapters, this week was basically just the two parts of chapter 11 (it was actually released in two parts). The only exception is the beginning of the Sumizome x Sanjou crush, which should have started in one of the missing chapters in the middle of last week's episode. Hopefully things will work out well there... they've skipped a huge amount of the time the manga spent getting to know Sumizome, and thus a lot of her character development is missing. I'm not sure how effective upcoming events will be without some of the missing material...

    But that's a concern for the future. I'm sorry, I get sidetracked by that too easily. As you said, this episode paced things wonderfully in and of itself, and does a magnificent job of converying the natural charm and emotion of its scenes.

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  3. Glad to hear you liked it, but for me it’s the opposite direction. Even though the show has a charming atmosphere and natural character interactions, I’m starting to have the same problems as with Gingitsune: It’s utterly pointless and forgettable fluff devoid of noteworthy or interesting elements. I think it’s time to drop it. Love the OP/ED and OST, though.

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    1. One viewer's fluff is another's gold, and I found Gingitsune to be one of the most perceptive and emotionally subtle shows of 2013. It remains to be seen if Inari Konkon can even approach that, but in terms of charm this episode was a huge step forward.

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    2. I liked Gingitsune a lot, but this show is starting to annoy me. It feels like the more I watch it the worse it gets. I don't know if the middle of episode 2 was my time limit on over the top in your face forced cuteness, or what, but it's getting hard to watch. And what's with the ridiculous cliché "Oh no my sandals were hurting me and I fell. Oh you're gonna carry me on ur back like a child? I'm so in love" scene? And when he says basically "You're just a girl you can't walk when sandals rub against ur feet a little" like bc she's a girl walking in sandals is too much to handle and she needs a ride bc shes walked far enough....that's definitely not a misogynistic notion at all.... I'll admit the introspective monologue Inari had about them being together was well written, and her interactions with Uka are pretty solid as well. But I could def do without the brocon (brocons really) and the overly in your face are I so cute and the world is filled with nothing but rainbows and smiles nonsense that this show keeps throwing out there. People are not as nice as that. And its random, but why the other cliché of random pervy dude attacks girl but the savior pops out of nowhere (the dude is so pervy in fact that he must walk like Frankenstein), but with a lesbian twist.
      Why do I get the feeling that if this was any other show you'd be slamming it for being so clichéd and trite, but bc it takes place in a shrine you let it slide. Not that that isn't as good a reason as any to like a show, at least no different than liking a certain genre more than others, but I feel you're opinion is a bit biased on this one and you aren't noticing the ridiculousness that has been going on.

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    3. I can't say why you get that feeling - only you can. All I can say is that it's not correct.

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    4. I didn't mean that to be offensive or anything. I don't mean biased like you'd like anything taking place in a similar setting, just that b/c you enjoy shows in that setting it seems that you'd be more inclined to overlook certain things than in a setting or a genre that isn't your personal fav. Just like anyone would do. I can handle a lot more cliché stuff in shows with good action b/c I enjoy the genre more than other genres. I was saying this show has a lot of clichés, and it seems to not bother you as much as I've seen you bothered by standard anime clichés in other shows. Maybe its the setting, maybe the positive parts hit home more with you and you don't mind the bad stuff bc of that. Not that its wrong to not care, just saying that I've seen you knock shows for doing similar things but not this one.

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    5. Or I don't see this things present as strongly as you do. And it's not as if I've given this series a free pass, either - I think I've been fairly tough on it. In fact I've had comments ripping me for being too tough - which pretty much satisfies my philosophy that if I'm being criticized by both sides in a disagreement over a show, I'm probably in decent shape.

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    6. Haha yeah that would probably put you in the middle. I guess it just has a few of the things that I tend to dislike the most. If it spent more time on Inari and Uka and less on the creepy brothers, and the forced cuteness I'd like it more.

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    7. And for the record I didn't mean to say you're biased to mean your opinion is dumb, that you can't judge fairly, or that your article can't be taken seriously by people looking for suggestions. Just biased in a sense of that's the kind of stuff you like so you don't mind other stuff you might be bothered by in a genre or setting you don't much care for. Obviously I wouldn't read your blog all the time if I didn't like your writing and respect your opinion as a longtime fan of anime, even if it differs from mine at times.

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    8. Everyone is biased in favor of what they like at the expense of what they don't like...

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  4. I loved this from the manga, and Uka's and Sumizome's romantic arcs are so good. It's rare to see non-yuri manga treat lesbian characters with the seriousness they deserve, but Inari does. I'm not sure how far we'll get because of the tight episode count, but do read the manga if you can after the series is over.

    By the way, the kindle editions were for sale at 168 yen each the other day. I almost cried for not being able to buy them (damn region lock!!).

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  5. charming indeed. this what this episode was.
    the shinto atmosphere and performance did the job. but the characters are compelling enough. THO, I definitely feel the omissions of last time. for example, the whole thing about lovey-dovey related to shojo manga was because Inari really like those kind of manga and gave Sumizome to read it too (because the latter was kinda clueless in terms of love and stuff. kinda like Mikage from silver spoon).

    that way or another, it was better than last time. it's going well and according to plan.
    I still think it would have been better if they weren't to omit stuff, but they are handling the right things.
    I still can't say Inari Konkon anime is 100% great. it's good, even very good most of the time. and it's definitely doing the job and deliver the goods. I hope they can maintain the right pace and feeling and even ignite the fire a bit more.

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  6. That was... wow, I think I love this.

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