By Noel Kirkpatrick
Episodes 16 and 17: “Comeback” and “Post Scriptum”
Original airdate: Nov. 10 and Nov. 17, 1991
Well, will you look at that? Mariko’s all in love with Kaoru. And apparently a public flute concert is all Rei (tired of typing her nickname out) needed to get Nanako flustered. Like last week’s pair, these are two fairly laid back episodes, so far as things go on this show, and like last week, there’s little hints of what’s to come at the end of things.
If there’s one thing that stands out in “Comeback,” aside from the legitimate state of Mariko’s affection for Karou (and we’ll get to that), it’s the animation. I imagine that most will just see the basketball game as incredibly cheap. There’s lots of repeated cuts as people make shots and blocks, and the fullest animation we ever really get in the sequence is the ball bouncing and going into baskets. Let me stress that I do find this cheap. Is it a cost-saving measure? Yes, absolutely. And, yes, this limited animation has come to be associated with anime as a medium, but when executed as well as it is here, it provides a stylistic flourish that full animation doesn’t often achieve. The basketball game is exciting because of its use of limited animation, not in spite of it. Limited animation can look horrible, but not here, not done this well, with this degree of understanding of how to use it effectively.
The series has, thus far, shown this understanding of character development as well. It’s been 16 and 17 episodes, and characters have changed in small bits as a result of previous events. I like that Mariko has grown, kind of, since her birthday party and fasting days. Sure, she’s still a little bit stalkery toward Karou, but it feels like it’s coming from a place of affection (even if still a tad immature). As a result of that, it was without dread that I smiled at Mariko’s joy at Karou addressing her by her first name (though still with the customary honorific –san).
But more to the show’s credit, Nanako’s growing infatuation with Rei is best summed up in a wonderfully rare moment of annoyance and borderline anger as Rei gently teases her about having a crush on Karou. It’s the kind of moment that would be lost in another, lesser series—or, even worse, overplayed. Nanako is so annoyed with Rei’s obliviousness to her affection that she drops the much-cherished letter to Henmi without even realizing it (skirts need better pockets). It’s here that, really, I think the show’s treatment of its characters shine.
Nanako’s reaction feels real and earned after all that time spent caring for Rei, and serves as a pleasant parallel to Mariko’s blossoming infatuation with Kaoru. Both of the younger girls’ emotions are on shaky ground—attention from Karou and helping Rei recover, respectively—but it feels genuine and appropriate for each of them. I’m given, naturally, to trusting Nanako’s emotions more than Mariko’s, but this is unfair. We’ve seen Mariko at her absolute worse, but we’ve yet to see Nanako in the emotional turmoil that can be love, so I’m eager to see how this continues to play out over the next few episodes.
Provided Miya-sama doesn’t ruin everything. This young woman continues to scare me. Her hand-squeezing of Rei (“Indeed? Indeed?! INDEED?!”) and her abuse of Nanako at her home… she’s playing a long game that only Kaoru seems able to keep up with (the refusal of the flowers was excellent, wasn’t it?). I just wish I knew what that game was. Clearly Miya-sama is angling to take control of Nanako. The passive-aggressiveness of “Tear this up!… Oh, no, I was only teasing! Can you imagine if we hadn’t found it first?” is so wonderfully manipulative that I have to wonder if she’s aiming to destroy Nanako in an effort to further destroy Rei.
- Three points are apparently a big deal in women’s basketball. I had no idea.
- Seiran’s basketball coach bears a striking resemblance to Coach from Gunbusters. (Who, of course, was modeled a little bit after Jin Munakata from Aim for the Ace! (though you can only tell because of the sideburns).)
- I didn’t even talk about Kaoru’s hospitalization! What is her mystery aliment? I’m guessing cancer? Hemophilia? (Really, really serious hemophilia?)
- “Something is beginning to stir, for sure.”
- “Her face is way more refreshing than a bottle of soda pop.” I know the line I’m going to use the next time I see a cute girl!
- “You have no clue how uncouth, unpleasant, self-centered, disgusting, savage, and shameless creatures men are.” Will be keeping an eye on this particular thread of the series, this nervousness of men. While I think it may be pathological in Mariko’s case (given her absent father), it seems to be a prevalent attitude within the school. Curious to see how it develops.