Thursday, January 22, 2015

Retro Review: Oniisama E (Dear Brother) episode 22

Welcome to Oniisama E, Natsuyasumi-hen. We've seen some of the skeletons in Fukiko's closet, but primarily from Rei's perspective. These next few episodes will take us down the rabbit hole of what Fukiko's perspective is like.

We open with Mariko and Nanako in the Sorority house, being praised for their mad flower-arranging skills by Fukiko. Fukiko asks if they have summer holiday plans, and Mariko is like "No, Mistress, tell us what you want." Fukiko wants to bring them to her summer villa in the countryside to help her prepare something for her birthday party, and Mariko is like
The episode then switches back and forth for a bit between Nanako being irritated at Mariko while they take the train to Fukiko's villa, since they planned to travel somewhere with Tomoko, and the aftermath of Mariko's promise to Fukiko before they leave. Nanako protested that she's traveling with Tomoko anyway, but she still winds up on that train, since doubtless a trip with Tomoko would provide less drama fuel. Even though Nanako profusely apologizes for the change of plans, Tomoko is understandably upset, but tells her she might be forgiven for the right souvenir. Despite her irritation, Nanako is charmed by the surroundings where she and Mariko are going.
(My girlfriend Amy: "God, so many -ko names." Those sure were extra-popular then.) A driver brings Fukiko and her two righthand women Borgia and Mona Lisa. Fun fact: Borgia, the one with her hair up, is voiced by Shinohara Emi, who played Makoto in the original Sailor Moon anime. And Fukiko played a Sailor Moon villain. lol Esmeraude from Sailor Moon R.
Fukiko gets a key from a maid named Mineko, asks for privacy, and walks upstairs to whatever she needs it for as Mineko watches her with concern. (Amy: "There's a Mineko now?")
Fukiko enters a room upstairs, and
Yup, totes normal room, nothing weird going on here.

It looks like a childhood room.
Everything is as it should be.
But... oh?

What... what is this. What the hell is this, Mineko. How could you not leave EVERY item in this room exactly as it was when you last cleaned it. How could you break the illusion that no time has passed at all. DO YOU KNOW HOW HARD MY LIFE IS,  MINEKO, DO YOU.

Nanako and Mariko then arrive, and a butler shows them to where Borgia and Mona Lisa are having tea. Borgia promptly congratulates them for the experience of being invited to Fukiko's villa.
Since Fukiko is on a walk, Borgia and Mona Lisa orient Nanako and Mariko with what they're supposed to do, which is write and address the 300 invitations Fukiko needs to have mailed for her birthday party in the next couple days. In other words, they're basically Fukiko's unpaid interns.
Isn't it a bit late to send invitations? Amy suggests that Fukiko can afford to have mail carriers for each individual letter who will ensure it is delivered the day it's sent out.

Nanako takes a break by taking a walk through the beautiful grounds (Mariko's too tired to do it), and comes across Fukiko playing the violin under a tree near a small waterfall. She is surprised to see Fukiko in such a romantic/Romantic scene. Nanako feels like there's a tragic desire for someone hidden in her song... somehow.
Let's go with Nanako's empath powers. Or it's the setting combined with her natural affinity for romantic interpretations of things. A bit like Northanger Abbey's Catherine when she visits Northanger Abbey, or Anne of Green Gables' Anne... pretty much everywhere she goes. The difference is that Nanako has the right interpretation of what's happening. lol She describes this while looking sad behind a tree, which she's been doing a lot lately.

That night, Nanako can't sleep. At about 1:00, she hears splashing in the pool outside and sees Fukiko swimming from her window. 

We get Fukiko's interior monologue, thinking about "that summer day" ("ano natsu no hi") from back when she was younger and more old timey-looking.

The darkened silhouette makes it very mysterious. Going all pretentious and literary, since we know who Fukiko is talking about and the show knows we know, I interpret the shadowy silhouette version of Takehiko as highlighting the fact that Fukiko is in love with the idea of him- her ideal- without actually knowing him. Even more than usual, since heavily idealizing someone you dig before getting to know them better isn't exactly uncommon. Anyway, yup, Fukiko sure does love her idea of Takehiko, frozen in time.

When Nanako makes it down to the pool, Fukiko is gone, but she has left a wet trail that Nanako follows. Nanako hears Fukiko inside "that summer's day"'s room, reciting Shakespeare's Sonnet 18 and crying.
This scene seems to use the dolls in Fukiko's room as a motif similar to the doll Rei keeps in her apartment, I assume as representative of a past she needs to outgrow.
Nanako slips down some stairs while backing up, and Fukiko hears it, rushing out to catch whoever she heard. 

Fukiko walks out of the piano room where Nanako hides and things seem to be in the clear. But when Nanako returns to a worried Mariko and lies that she went to the restroom:

Next is the best scene transition this series has done, with a knife blade coming down while making a shing noise like it's being whipped out against a black background, only for the rest of the picture to fade in, turning out to be an egg yolk Fukiko is slicing at breakfast.

Nanako has a hard time reconciling the Fukiko she usually knows with the Fukiko from the night before. 
Fukiko, Borgia, and Mona Lisa drink and play badminton while Nanako and Mariko try to finish the last of their invitations. Mineko brings Nanako and Mariko drinks, and Nanako follows Mineko inside to ask whose room The Room is. Mineko explains that The Room was Fukiko's until she was twelve but has remained (effectively) untouched since then. When Nanako asks why, Fukiko chastises Mineko... then immediately fires her. Like, she has to leave right now. Mineko wasn't as professional as she should have been there, but what the fuck. And nothing says "That room isn't worth learning about" like firing someone to prevent them from discussing it. Nanako tries to get pardon for Mineko by telling Fukiko it's her fault, but that unsurprisingly doesn't work. Nanako catches up to Mineko driving away from the house. Nanako apologizes, but Mineko reassures her that she wasn't invested in being a maid, she just likes to try out different types of jobs. The story of the room would be quite the future job interview story. She also lives with her parents, as young adults in Japan are more likely to do than here, so she doesn't have to worry about housing until she finds another job. 
I would make a comment about Fukiko being an unusually shitty employer of household staff, but sadly, since her worst crime as an employer was getting mad at her staff for not giving The Room its due reverence, she isn't remotely the worst.

Anyway, now that she has nothing to lose, Mineko can tell Nanako the story of The Room without any self-censorship.

Mineko knows what we've seen so far about The Room, but not why Fukiko holds it sacred. After Mineko drives off, Nanako sees Fukiko riding in a boat in the lake nearby.
And, welp.
Nanako climbs over the water on a log to yell for Fukiko, and looks down to this.
winds up here.
Fukiko pulls her to the surface right in time not to kill her.
Why would Takehiko ever pass on this.

As far as Nanako's apologizing, it's obviously the opposite of what Fukiko deserved to have said to her, but it's true to how a lot of people would react in that kind of situation. You're weak from what just happened, and you sure don't want to piss off the perpetrator when they can easily do it again right there.

When Nanako and Mariko take the train back home, we learn Fukiko lied that Nanako fell into the pool and swallowed a lot of water. When Mariko is like "Are you really okay?" Nanako pretends she's totally fine. Silver lining is that she stands up for herself for the first time this episode by refusing to help Mariko with the invitations she still has to finish. Nanako has put up with enough shit for this trip. She also narrates that today was something.

Next episode, Fukiko gets pissed when Rei plays a song she thinks Fukiko loves to please her on her birthday. Rei just can't win.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Retro Review: Oniisama E (Dear Brother) episode 21

We're finally at the festival, where this week's pop culture reference is RoboCop.

Tomoko comments that Mariko seems tense, and Mariko acknowledges that with great power comes great responsibility.

Nanako, Mariko, and Tomoko meet up with Takehiko and Takashi and make introductions. Mariko lays all her cards on the table right away.

I assume that if you like this show enough to be reading an episode 21 recap of it, you know better than to think that a woman with Mariko's views, even if you disagree with them (which I do), is equivalent of a man who hates women, societal context and all. Even though Mariko's constant snarking about them is understandably awkward for them, Takehiko and Takashi do the mature thing as hosts and show the girls a magic show and a historical art exhibit.

Mariko finally makes things the awkwardest for everyone by insisting the girls go through the festival's haunted house in a separate group from the guys, screaming and running away from a "grim reaper" before running into Takashi and screaming when she realizes what she ran into. When they all sit down at a table outside, Tomoko tells Mariko to knock it off, and Mariko and Takashi get into an argument about her views. Even though I don't agree with Mariko and would respond like Tomoko by then, I think Takashi should read about the #notallmen hashtag. I'm also reminded that I like Takehiko's laid-backedness when he just laughs at seeing Takashi fail to win the argument while Nanako and Tomoko gape.

Mariko and Takashi have a conversation that is filled with more subtle symbolism.

Nanako, Tomoko, and Takehiko find themselves separated from Mariko and Takashi, but Tomoko is okay with it because she's kind of sick of Mariko's behavior.

Back where Mariko and Takashi are, Mariko is trying to find the PA room so they can make an announcement to find her friends, but Takeshi points out they won't do that for the festival day. He insists on following her because he feels responsible, which I don't mind, but the bit where he says she needs him to be her bodyguard, or maybe her practice date if she'd prefer, while tongue-in-cheek, is something I would be annoyed at too if I were her. Thankfully he doesn't push it.

Nanako and Co. enjoy an indoor concert while Mariko and Takashi walk through the grounds outside.   A bunch of women working the booths greet Takashi since they know him from classes and clubs, so Mariko thinks he's a player and that strikes a nerve because of her dad's infidelity. He explains that he likes to have a lot of friends but only wants one significant other. Noticing her defensive, pensive reactions during this scene, he seems to be starting to understand where she's coming from.

Nanako's group is seated for tea outside, still enjoying their day. Tomoko asks Takehiko if he likes anyone, and it strikes Nanako that for all she's told Takehiko about her life, she hasn't found out much about his. Tomoko keeps questioning him, and Nanako feels guilty and realizes that it's kind of weird she chose someone she didn't really know to be her confidante. In a way it makes sense, though, since it can be easier to tell things that are weighing on your chest to people you sense are good people but don't have too much involvement in your life. I did some similar secret-dumping in high school, albeit not in a regularly-writing-letters way.
Takehiko notices she's preoccupied and asks about it, and she lets him know she worries her making him her brother is a nuisance to him, especially since he's busy with school.
He reassures her that he's never thought of her as a nuisance, and likes her letters because they remind him of how he was in high school, complete with worrying about things that aren't a big deal when you're an adult. It's a nice moment of understanding.

Mariko and Takashi wind up at a later concert performance by the same band and aren't super-optimistic about finding their group again. They then walk through the fortune-telling area, and Mariko gets her palm read by someone who unnerves her by saying she has family issues. She runs away distraught, but Takashi is held up from following her by needing to pay the fortune-teller. lol
When Mariko stops, a couple sleazy pick-up artists try to do their thing, even following her after she rebuffs them. When one of them grabs her wrist, she pulls away, and if you too have dealt with creeps, you will probably find seeing Mariko tear into them as satisfying as I did... until she starts crying, which is distressing to watch. Creepy stranger harassment is a not-uncommon thing, and while I haven't cried from it, I've felt like it. Takashi finds her like that and apologizes for not having been there to do something to help. He stays next to her until she collects herself and announces she's leaving like it wasn't a big deal for her. He seems to like her not seeming to give a shit about what the onlookers gawking think of her.

They catch up with Nanako's group at the main gate a little later. Mariko nixes the idea that they all go out for tea since the sun's setting,
but Takashi isn't bothered by her reason anymore, presumably because of the incident earlier.

On the train, Tomoko and Nanako discuss how much fun they had and the elephant in the room that is Mariko's fear of men and the role her family plays in it.

Back at home, Nanako tells her mom about the good time she had at the festival, and the episode has a rare totally happy ending in which Nanako is glad she had such a nice day. Twenty-one episodes in, she deserves a breather.

Next time, Nanako and Mariko visit Fukiko's summer villa to help Fukiko prepare for her birthday party, and Nanako starts learning about more of the skeletons in Fukiko's closet.