Sakura Trick: Episode 12

The captain always goes down with the ship!

1396035479345

The end of an era.  It’s been a great ride, but all good things…

The girls are finishing the party preparations.  Mitsuki is leading Rina to it, of course we know she overheard them planning it, but she plays along anyway, because Mitsuki is a sweetheart that way.

There’s a bucket of green tea pudding.  This excites Mitsuki, but Rina has eaten so much studying for finals she’s rather sick of it.

We get to the presents, and Sumisumi has provided them with mustaches! …Do you girls need a ride? Yeah, you know where this is headed.

Kotone gives Mitsuki a chandelier.  Hey. HEEEYYYYY! What the hell, Kotone? We agreed on a thousand yen limit!

Yuzu and Kaede do an impersonation skit of the two, with Kaede as Mitsuki and Yuzu as Rina.  Ever the greek chorus, the impersonation just kind of has Rina in the back smiling the whole time.  While the joke’s a little flat for me, they hit you in the feels when Kaede hides behind Yuzu, not wanting anyone to know she’s letting slip a tear.

Rina asks Haruka if there’s anything to eat with garlic, and Haruka obliges to whip something up.  Mitsuki instantly is jealous someone else will get to eat Haruka’s home cooking, and it rather makes her short with the rest.  Also, seems they’ve run out of utensils (not sure how, you knew exactly how many people would be here…) and Yuu just hands the job off, but Mitsuki won’t have guests in their home fetching silverware, so she sends Yuu to the kitchen.

And almost instantly regrets sending Yuu to the same room alone with Haruka, chasing after them, completely expecting them to be kissing.  But, as we’ve established, Sakura Trick isn’t ALL about stealing kisses, and they’re honestly going about their business.

Yuu finally hits Mitsuki where it hurts, “What business is it of yours?”  Well…Mitsuki can’t even get her head around admitting she likes Haruka.  It quickly devolves into a sibling fight, as is prone to happen.  Haruka suddenly finds herself in a lesbian tug of war.  Good. Good.

Yuu asserts her property rights over Haruka by kissing her woman right in front of Mitsuki.

Look…my casual adoption of the Haruka/Mitsuki ship is well documented. But this episode is doing Yuu no favors. “Haruka is mine. Mine mine mine. See?” is so…it’s so frat boy it makes me want to punch her in her smug face.  A reflex that Yuu had trouble enough suppressing in me earlier in the season.  I would have less of a problem with it if Haruka wasn’t objecting THE ENTIRE TIME, while last episode when Haruka tried to do something similar Yuu fended Haruka off with a breast grab instantly, knowing it made Haruka uncomfortable. Oh, because it’s Haruka, obviously she wants it? Yuu…you’re just a bitch. Continue reading

Advertisements

Sakura Trick: Episode 11

I can keep going, coach!

1395336918658

Your finger-sliced mistress can keep pressing on, so let’s get them typin’ fingers workin’ on the good stuff.

New character! I will be referring to her as “Sumisumi”, as everyone has taken to referring to her as Sumisumi-kaichou.

…I am now forced to let out a sigh. Ready? Siiiiiigh.

We couldn’t go forever. Yuu was a bit abrasive with her childish stubborness, but now we outright have us a lolita expy.  Sure she’s about to become a senior in high school, but she has the height, the body type, the voice. She’s our lolita.

It’s part of why she speaks so formally. Because that’s just humorous to the Japanese, children acting like adults and vice-versa.  The technicality does not save you from my scorn, Sakura Trick.  We can see it for what it is.  You are like an alchoholic who has picked up their first drink in twelve years. For shame.

Anyway, Sumisumi is lamenting that there is no budget to send off the graduating class.  Kaede offers to introduce her to Haruka, who is still planning her party for Mitsuki.

We get a little introduction to Sumisumi here, her hatred of Kaede’s nickname and how she uses her grandfather’s speech pattern to mask her youthful image.  It’s cute enough, but those lingering thoughts persist…

Don’t get me wrong. I am cool with loli characters. I AM that creepy lesbian. But I also felt, until now, Sakura Trick was above needing to pander like that.

At the same time if you are adding new characters, picking out unused features from the character bin instead of making them carbon copies of existing characters with a new hair color is preferable.  And at the very least we cannot accuse Sumisumi of having an underdeveloped personality despite her only appearing in two episodes. Rather stellar in that regard.

She requests collaborating on the party, and adding the outgoing vice-president, Rina to the festivities.  Sumisumi is motivated to do so due to her gratitude towards the pair for helping her out. It’s a plan!

It also seems Rina may harbor some feelings for Mitsuki, and Head Haruka is out in force.   Continue reading

Sakura Trick: Episode 9

All of my warm fuzzies.

Sakura Trick - 09

I originally hit the “play” button on Sakura Trick this week mostly out of obligation, but leave it to this show to fix my bad mood.  Well, lifting my spirits for a time, I can’t say it cures all of my cynicism. But then again no weapon could ever do that.

This show messes with the established format this week, in more ways than one. The first is it is divided into three, rather than two parts.  Not exactly groundbreaking but it did catch me off guard.

The second is that none of these little stories is exactly what we’ve come to regard as normal. The first part more so than the rest and it really shows.

It’s New Year’s Eve and Haruka calls Yuu on her cell to chat with her.  Just to hear her voice, she says.  Though her subversive goal becomes clear that she wants to be the very first person Yuu wishes a “Happy New Year” to.  This is one of those Japanese holiday customs that is slightly off-base, but whereas this might normally be a source of confusion, since it is not the focus it isn’t distracting at all and there is plenty to latch onto to understand why this is important to Haruka without needing the exact details of the past 100 years of Japanese cultural identity to get the point.

And the surprise: That’s all this episode is.  It is the pair on the phone with each other one night before a big holiday, just a day in the life.  While that sounds boring on paper, the camera cutting between the two, and Mitsuki’s interruptions, with POV shifting at just the right times, makes two high school girls on the phone really damn engaging, when usually having to listen to such might make you want to reconsider your opinion on whether or not we should classify murder as a misdemeanor.

I even recommend this if your experience with the series is light because it is a great microcosm of the Yuu-Haruka relationship, which has to be the thing that carries this part of the show, the chemistry between these two (and later, Mitsuki’s dynamic thrown in).

There is a concept in metaphysics about the division of your actions.  The two sides (much like Yin and Yang) are the Sei and the Do.  Sei is your rational brain. Sei can see the red hot burner on your stove, and knows what that means. It is a trained process you have.  Military color guards are exhibiting immense Sei energy, they are calculating exactly their movements and pin-point precision to pull them off because it is the object of their undivided attention.  Do, on the other hand, is when your hand brushes over the burner and the sensation of the heat causes you to recoil instinctively.  It is reflex, your gut.  A person who, despite having no training, can pick up a tennis racket and beat his instructor in his very first practice match is exhibiting Do energy.

And that is very much the relationship our main couple has found themselves in.  This has always been apparent, but this week it is almost an exhibition in this dynamic, rather than being an underlying theme.  Yuu asks why Haruka called, thinking there is a process. Haruka answers she wanted to hear Yuu’s voice, an impulse.

Now, the whole “conflict” this episode is, Yuu is being summoned by her parents to spend the last half hour of the year (before midnight and Jan 1) with her family and share their traditional yearly meal (Haruka responds her family just finishes the leftovers from Christmas.  While a cute line, it says a lot about where Haruka got her “go with the flow” attitude, and also reinforces the point of structure vs. impulse).  Haruka wants to be the first person Yuu says “Happy New Year” to and refuses (mostly) to acknowledge that Yuu’s family unit isn’t primarily…well…her.

Which is perfect in casting Haruka as the Do personality.  More than just impulse, it demonstrates Haruka’s baser nature.  Yuu has, despite her ditzy personality and rather thick skull, been the level headed one here.  If Haruka had been the safety manager in this relationship, they’d have been discovered months ago (and judging by the timing here, it has been nine months since they got together.)  But even more than that, Haruka is exhibiting a nature as base instinct.  She is very much, and I mean no disrespect or insult here, like an animal with her impulses. My needs, my desires, my status.  She barely even acknowledges Yuu’s family exists, let alone that they might have some “claim” to her over some girl who, as far Yuu’s family is concerned, is just a kid she goes to school with. Continue reading

Sakura Trick: Episode 5

I’ll taste your apple…

wpid-sakura_trick_05_02

Oh, bit of a reverse structure this week. My brain! It is imploded!

By that I mean our first story this week is a fluffier outing, with the more character-driven stuff coming in part 2.

It’s also…sigh…honestly the part I’ve dreaded most. Cultural festival shenanigans. Every slice of life series needs them.  Unfortunately, having gone to school in the United States, this is never something that it’s easy to glean a frame of reference for. We did it in elementary school, not high school. High school was for “real learning”, not silly little community exercises that teach you how to work in a group like para-professionals.  Group projects are designed to be single-person projects that you shamelessly assign parties to each individual function anyone with a normal functioning brain could do on their own, everybody knows that.

Bashing educational systems aside, we begin with Yuu waking up in school.  Shizuku is watching over her, and tells us Haruka has gone to the cafe.  Yuu seems crushed and begins crying (though more along the lines of her manipulative style crying), when Kotone enters.  She does more drunken monkey gags, teasing Shizuku that she made Yuu cry.  However despite complaining she is exhausted, on seeing Yuu depressed, Kotone suggests they all go meet up with Haruka and the gang at the cafe.

One of my favorite little gags is when they’re walking down the street and Shizuku sharing she feels like a family.  Blink and you’ll miss it, but there’s an important little bit of commentary here.  Kotone and Shizuku both think to themselves “and if we were a family, I’d be the wife!”

Let us offer the gay perspective.

Both in the West and Japan, there has been a habit of translating homosexual relationships as hetero-normative.  It has been quite a few years since this was prevalent in America, I only vaguely recall it from my schooling days, myself.  Over the past ten years it has become bad taste to ask, but this question used to pop up all the time when you were introducing a gay couple.

“Which one of you is the woman?” (The appropriate answer being, “Neither…that’s kind of the point”)

It’s a bit harder to appreciate that in Japan this is only just leaving community consciousness.  They are, in a sense, behind the curve in this regard.  Homosexual relationships, and you can even see this in anime and manga, particularly yaoi stuff, is strictly defined on which one’s the aggressive, dominant partner and which one is the submissive little flower.  Yuri couples are expected to have similar dimensions, and these things are in the process of being phased out, which is good, but it is still what informs many people’s perceptions.

My point being, I really like this line.  Yes, it plays off those stereotypes, that’s what makes the joke.  But more important is what it says about the characters involved: Both Shizuku and Kotone see themselves as “the woman”, and they’re cool with that. That’s how it’s supposed to be. And if I may be so bold, plays into that point I keep bringing up about Sakura Trick. It is comedy, it is played for laughs, but there is an effort to present realistic dynamics between characters.  Even if unintentional, it’s still a good thing that no one said “But which one is…?”

Okay, rant over! Continue reading

Sakura Trick: Episode 4

With this banner lay waste to those het-girls who would pollute our perfect world!

1391271251451

Pope Haruka began her second crusade this week! And this time it is against Mitsuki, Yuu’s older sister, who is apparently having lots of romantic thoughts about our redheaded protagonist.

See what great continuity we have been creating in my head canon?

This episode just destroyed the fourth wall.  Shattered, is appropriate. Broke it? Tore it open…I’ll stop.

…It’s a hymen joke.

Mitsuki drafts Kaede and Yuzu to be her spies.  Interesting angle. When I said “Mitsuki can play their foil” I didn’t exactly picture it so…blunt.  But whatever, it provides a great backdrop for the banter between Kaede and Yuzu.

And these two are adorable. We haven’t really had much exposure to them yet, and this counts sort of as their introductory episode of sorts.  Unlike Kotone and Shizuku they don’t pair up, but that’s actually part of the fun.

There is a theory, which I am completely willing to endorse, from people much more fluent in the print version of this series that Kaede and Yuzu represent “traditional Yuri girls”.  That is, they are close, and they might be in a show entitled girl-on-girl romance, but they will never kiss.  But I don’t mind it.  It strains credibility anyway if every girl is a lesbian. At least…if they are before Pope Haruka and Archbishop Kotone get to them.

No, this pair is to play our straightmen. …Women…Not so Straight Women…

Let me try that again.

These two are our Statler and Waldorf and I adore them both. Not as cruel, not as cynical, but there is definitely the edge there in both of them, especially Kaede.  Kaede is also much more zen about this crazy universe. She kind of goes with the flow and reaps what enjoyment she can from it.  Yuzu is, through and through, the straight man, deadpan humor and complete lack of understanding about the craziness around her.

And this whole first act is a series of fourth wall gags at the Yuri genre as a whole, poking fun at not only its tropes, but in a genius move of saying it without saying it, pointing out how awful these stereotypes are.  These are not exactly head-Haruka thoughts. There’s a distinct difference between the two, allow me to explain.

Head Haruka is the fantasy of a hormone charged teenager.  She WANTS everything to lead to sex (or, in TV form, kissing, but as established, on TV that’s practically third base).  Her brain consistently loves to see romance, both for herself and others (so long as it’s not with her precious Yuu), and Head Haruka represents how the show might behave as a porno.  But these are legitimate character desires we see.

Kaede and Yuzu’s head canon represents the Yuri genre. Particularly the habit of “you have to look for it”.  Because Yuri is notorious for never SHOWING anything.  My favorite Yuri series? Well, it’s a series with Yuri elements? Ga Rei Zero. There is exactly one kiss but the rest is implied.  As Kaede and Yuzu are forced to do here.  Because Yuu and Haruka aren’t going to just make out on top of the desk between periods. So they have to look for that thing we call “subtext”, which almost every Yuri series has forced its viewers to do for years.

And is quite frankly one of the reasons I hate the genre.

And by doing this, Sakura Trick is making a statement.  “We don’t have to stoop to those levels. We are honest with our characters and our story. We are grounded and that is the farce.”

Continue reading

Sakura Trick: Episode 3

Is it bad form to declare the world inside Haruka’s head my waifu?

1390540058352

I have to admit I’m finding myself loving the “story” halves of Sakura Trick far more than the slice of life halves. But really, that’s to be expected from my style.  I’ve noticed a pattern in the community too: People who loved the first couple episodes humor didn’t really have as much love for this week, and the reverse is also true.  So, no surprise, I found this week to be light on laughs.  But it wasn’t devoid of them, so it didn’t detract from my engagement with the universe being built here.

And how, this week.  I think that’s to be expected.  There was a lot of subtlety in the first “episode” that showed us some interesting insights about the characters, as well as curious pieces of intel.

Now, friend blog Shirogane no Suiren may be nice, and inclined to give Human nature the benefit of the doubt.

But, you’ll have observed by now, I am no such person, and no such inhibitions against being an asshole. So I will simply say seriously here what I jovially said there.

People who STILL want to say “there is no relationship”, “the characters are like dolls being banged together for male enjoyment”, or any variation on such that Sakura Trick fails to have serious romance in it…you might be embodying a certain otaku stereotype regarding your lack of experience seeing an actual relationship unfold.  There may still be gentleman callers who think if you kiss on the second date it’s doomed to go nowhere…and I am happy if your life is fulfilling that way. I really am.  But in no experience of mine has a romantic relationship gone so long without a little bit of physicality. And yes, lots of them do put the kiss before the horse…date.  So no, I’m not going to let anyone get away with this Victorian garbage.  This is how people fall in love in the real world and failure to see that simply means you haven’t seen them unfold. It doesn’t mean it is fantasy.

Maybe myself and my friends fulfill too many lesbian stereotypes, after all, that stereotype exists for a reason.  But…this is Sakura Trick. Seriously. It’s going mighty slow from the looks of things.

And yet relationship stuff is aplenty, and our first dose is at Yuu’s home.  Yuu is waking her older sister, Mitsuki, who happens to be student body president.  Over breakfast we learn that while Yuu still hasn’t told anyone, she still seems to talk about Haruka incessantly.  This was actually a really good moment for us, the viewers.  Until now Yuu’s feelings for Haruka have been…questionable.  Now, I know the whole -premise- of the series is that they share a kiss to prove the other is special, but, we can see the pretense that serves, even for someone who likes the show like me, you can’t try to tell me that was the ONLY way it could have gone.  But this is actual development along those lines.  Yuu’s just a little colder with her public attitudes.  But at home, Haruka is all she seems to talk about.

Mitsuki also seems to harbor an unnatural curiosity about Haruka.  Mostly just that she’s never seen her. It’s a little stretch that in their two years of friendship the pair have never met, but considering how divided public and private lives are in Japan, I’m willing to let it slide for comedic plot purposes.

At school Yuu’s hopes are blasted when she finds the sports festival has been cut down due to budget reasons, since the school is closing in a few years.  Yuu being the sports type was looking forward to it.  It’s nice that the school’s imminent end is playing a bigger role than kickstarting our first kiss.

Ah, enter Kotone.  This episode really said a lot about her. She suggests that Haruka join the committee meeting on the trimmed down “ball game tourney”.  There she can lobby for Yuu, who cannot attend due to her remedial classes. Specifically, Yuu wanted a cheer squad.  Haruka gets nervous at the prospect of meeting Mitsuki, but Kotone is there for her with a hand on her shoulder.

…Just to shake her and watch Haruka’s endowed chest wiggle.  But don’t worry! She hasn’t abandoned Haruka!  When she freezes thinking Mitsuki is glaring at her (she is just compensating for the glasses Yuu broke that morning), Kotone is THERE for her very dear friend that she put up to this task.  She coaches her through her proposal. “President Mitsuki, please give me your sister!”

I am of the opinion that Kotone is thus far playing a drunken monkey act to hide her intellect.  It’s also very clear that while Yuu and Haruka may not exactly be public with their relationship, Kotone isn’t fooled.  She knows what’s going on, and she is enjoying every moment of it. Continue reading