Thursday, March 09, 2006

Da Capo (First Season) 14-26

I just finished (re-)watching the first season of Da Capo--I loved the ending, giving each of the characters their due and resolving the triangle between Nemu, Sakura, and Junichi in a realistic and not entirely pain-free way. Especially when I compare the first season of Da Capo to other game-turned-anime series, it really stacks up well. In your typical game-to-anime series, there's an introduction, then one-girl-per-episode to introduce the whole cast, then some kind of dramatic ending with the main couple (or it's just completely open ended). With 26 episodes to work with, Da Capo was able to go beyond that, and the ending, and the death of the sakura tree that granted people's wishes, ends up affecting the whole cast. Kotori, Yoriko, and Miharu are all given their time to shine at the end, and Miharu and Yoriko's exits were particularly well done. Sakura's struggle as the tree makes her darker wishes turn into reality was an interesting story as well. While Sakura just annoyed me throughout most of the series, seeing what she was going through in the last few episodes it's hard not to sympathize with her. The mystery of the sakura tree and the effects that it has on the town were all well explained in the end, a nice contrast to some other series that just leave things open. And the side stories, while you could say they were a little out there, were entertaining too and I commend the staff for taking the chance on them.

Although the character I was rooting for (Kotori) didn't "win", in the end I'm glad Da Capo had the guts to have the male lead fall for one of the girls and stay with her, unlike some other game-to-anime conversions where to avoid pissing off any one girl's fans they leave things muddled and open-ended. And while Nemu has her faults, I have to admit her and Junichi make a good couple.

After watching D.C.S.S I was expecting that rewatching the first season I'd find at least SOME reference to Nemu wanting to become a nurse to justify what happened between the first season and the start of D.C.S.S. (when Nemu has been absent from Hatsunejima for two years since she went to nursing school) but...nope. Nada. Nothing. No Nemu glancing at a nurse walking down the street and suddenly looking thoughtful, no "nii-san, wouldn't it be great to help sick people someday?", no cosplay involving nurse's uniforms when Nemu and Junichi get busy--nothing. I guess when they did the first season they had no idea there'd be a second, but it makes for a weird gap in continuity. Nemu and Junichi are so rabu rabu at the end of the first season that it's just hard to imagine that Nemu would take off for nursing school for two years away from her beloved nii-san. Well, I guess that's what they call a plot device--and that's more a fault with D.C.S.S. than the first season anyway.

Without further ado, here are the episode summaries for the second half of season one of Da Capo:

Episode 14: A Miharu episode, as Nemu takes off early after school and Miharu drags Junichi around town shopping in lieu of Nemu. Plus we learn way too much about Nemu's choice of pajamas. Nemu wearing the ring Junichi got her on her left ring should show Junichi (if he had any doubts) that Nemu is obsessed with him. Maybe not quite Kaede-from-Shuffle obsessed, but if Junichi ever DID hook up with Kotori, Mako, or Miharu I bet Nemu'd be in School Days mode faster than a paramedic can say "ouch, looks like she cut it clean off."
SIDE STORY: Moe goes to the beach, wearing (by Moe standards) a conservative bikini. She wades in the water and nearly gets stung by something poisonous--after a man explains the dangers of various fish and clams, Mako goes out in a raft instead and floats around (not that with Moe's built in life preservers she NEEDS a raft). It kind of surprised me Moe was able to successfully inflate a raft by herself but maybe she's not QUITE as dumb as she acts.

Episode 15: Recap. Since I hate recaps, I skipped it.

Episode 16: Junichi remembers Grandma Yoshino, and her showing him magic, being able to create candy out of thin air (looks like mochi). It's pretty sad that's the only magic Junichi ever learns, wonder if he could have been Negi Springfield-caliber if he applied himself, or if he really doesn't have any talent... Nemu buys tickets for her and Junichi to go see a new movie, but right before she can ask him Sakura comes by and asks him to stay over the day the movie comes out. Junichi asks Nemu if it's OK, and Nemu says he doesn't need her permission (note to Junichi: that means "no", if you know what's good for you). He ends up going over to Sakura's house and that's where the main part of the episode ends.
SIDE STORY: Mako and Nemu go into an old abandoned house when they get caught in a sudden downpour--Mako was leading the way and Nemu was apprehensive, which is weird given we've established Mako hates horror movies, so this seems a little out of character for her. In the end, strange things start happening, and Mako and Nemu run like hell.

Episode 17: The final smackdown, Nemu vs Sakura, gets started as Nemu and Miharu go to the movies, while Junichi is at Sakura's place. Sakura takes the opportunity to put the moves on Junichi--she asks Junichi to kiss her, and Junichi almost complies, but then he thinks of Nemu and backs away, telling Sakura he's sorry. Junichi finally gets around to asking what I would have asked in episode 1--why is Sakura still the same as she was six years ago? Sakura explains that her grandmother planted the biggest sakura tree on the island, and that tree is the reason the sakura bloom year round on Hatsunejima. Grandma Yoshino planted it for Sakura, and it has the power to grant people's wishes. Kotori reading minds, Yoriko being able to take human form, and the other mysterious things on Hatsunejima are all a result of that sakura tree granting people's wishes. Meanwhile, Nemu is at the movies with mecha-Miharu, when Miharu starts smoking (out her ears), and Nemu finds out her secret. Miharu apologizes for not telling her she wasn't the real Miharu before, but Nemu says she'd originally bought the movie tickets to go with Junichi and not Miharu, so she lied too and they're even. Miharu tells Nemu she should be able to tell the one she loves that she loves him, and Nemu decides to confess to Junichi. But right as Nemu gets back home, Junichi is leaving Sakura's place as Sakura is giving him a hug.
SIDE STORY: Yoriko wanders around town at night in her nightgown, and seems to be having fun and pretty much over her fear of the outside. Or maybe she's nocturnal so at night it's less scary for her. Yoriko sitting on top of the gothic-looking building with the full moon shining brightly behind her reminded me of Tsukuyomi for a second. She ends up playing with a bunch of cats, then dancing on the roof of a building with a guy who appeared out of nowhere, and then falls asleep.

Episode 18: Nemu and Junichi go inside but aren't speaking to each other, both of them thinking about their relationship. Junichi remembers when they were little Nemu ran away from home, but Junichi found her under the big sakura tree. Junichi asked her why she ran away and Nemu says it's because she didn't want to be a burden for everyone, but she'd prayed to the sakura tree that he would find her. Under the tree with Nemu, Junichi had promised to protect her, and he still remembers the promise today. After a while both of them go downstairs since they get hungry, and Nemu finally tells Junichi she likes him, and that if she doesn't do something Sakura will take him away from her. This scene was really well done--you can argue it's selfish of Nemu, and if she really loved Junichi she'd be more concerned about him being happy than happy with her specifically, but it comes across as a very real reaction: Nemu crying "anyone but Sakura-chan!" Junichi says he's known Nemu liked him all along, but was afraid to ruin their relationship as siblings--but he seems to accept where things are now, and they kiss. The next day they're going to a movie together, on a real date--so you'd think now Junichi and Nemu are a couple, so the story's over...but it's not over by a long shot...
SIDE STORY: Nemu, Mako, and Moe are eating lollipops when a bunch of kids walk by in yukata and they get lost in the woods. Moe eats a mushroom and imagines herself growing 100 feet tall, but it turns out to have been a hallucination. I can only imagine the kind of mushrooms the writers for the side stories have been taking.

Episode 19: Junichi and Nemu go to school and think they're acting normally, but the whole school realizes they're going out and rumors start flying. I found this part particularly funny, since my wife and I met at work, thought we were keeping everything on the down low, but sure enough everyone and their mother knew we were dating--in fact, they thought we started dating two months before we actually did. But back to the story, Miharu runs up to Nemu and Junichi after school and tells them love conquers everything, so they shouldn't worry about the fact the whole school is talking about them. Suginami, on the other hand, tells Junichi he should wake up from the dream he's in, that even though they aren't related he and Nemu are still brother and sister. Sakura goes into bratty mode at school, and later after dragging Junichi on a 'date', delivers an echo of Nemu's line from the last episode, only Sakura says "anyone but Nemu!" However, the phone rings and it's Miharu saying Nemu collapsed, and Junichi runs to be at her side, leaving Sakura behind. Later that night as Junichi carries Nemu home, Nemu asks if it's OK, them being together, and Junichi says yes. Finally, a male lead who doesn't waffle. Later that night, the two are in Nemu's room and they end up doing the horizontal mambo (off-camera), making it pretty clear Nemu "wins".
SIDE STORY: Catman appears again, and finds himself transported into someone else's body, who's talking with someone who looks and sounds like Sakura, only she doesn't have her trademark blue ribbons on, and actually she's more kawaii than Sakura. She talks about how someone just bought the first color TV on the island, making me think this is the past and it's actually Sakura's mother. Right as Sakura-mom runs into Shirakawa-san (Kotori's mother?) Catman finds himself back in his own body again. Definitely one of the weirder side stories, but still well animated and somehow relaxing to watch.

Episode 20: Sakura calls Junichi up to the roof while he's waiting for Nemu after school and is generally obnoxious, saying she's sorry she implied Nemu and Junichi were lovers, because since they're siblings that can't be true. Junichi is about to tell her he likes Nemu, but Sakura doesn't want to hear it--she reminds him of the three promises she made with Junichi when she left for America, the third one being that they would be lovers when they met again. Junichi basically says nice try, Sakura, I remember the promise but I'm with Nemu, not you--Sakura says if it was anyone else she'd be fine with it, but not Nemu-chan (although I've got to wonder if this is really true). Right when she says anyone but Nemu-chan, Nemu shows up on the roof and they start arguing. Sakura finally seems to get the picture when Junichi steps between her and Nemu--I credit Junichi with not waffling here like your typical harem lead (*cough* Masaki Tenchi *cough*) would. Junichi knows he likes Nemu and realizes that's going to hurt Sakura, but he's not going to string Sakura along either since that would be more cruel. After he tells Sakura he loves Nemu and reaffirms that to Nemu herself later that night, Nemu collapses and a sakura petal falls from her mouth--that's right, the cherry tree Grandma Yoshino planted is going to the Dark Side...
SIDE STORY: Catman is sitting in an old movie theater with a hole in the roof watching clips from the side stories so far on the screen. A scene comes up on the screen that we haven't seen yet, of Catman and a young Sakura's mom from the last side story, saying they got into the same high school. Silent movie style the Catman replies in text that he has to move away due to his father's work, and Sakura's mom cries, as Catman cries in the audience. Very weird. Still, I'll shed a tear with Catman when the side stories end, they were different but still entertaining.

Episode 21: This time we get the side story first.
SIDE STORY: The last of the side stories--all the girls except Yoriko are at a restaurant talking about who they call "Mysterious-san", aka who I've been calling Catman. Sakura, Moe, and Kotori have seen him, while Nemu, Miharu, and Mako haven't yet. They decide to split up into pairs and search for him, and they do, heading all over the island, until finally Sakura and Miharu spot him at the dock, and call everyone else. The girls all reach the dock in time to wave goodbye, as Catman heads out to sea on a ferry. I'd say Catman represents man's search for truth in an uncertain world or something, but I have absolutely no idea who the hell he really is. Having said that the side stories were fun anyway.
REGULAR EPISODE: Sakura is depressed over being rejected, but she vows she's going to continue on with her life and not run away from the truth. Since almost everyone has been rejected at least once in their lives, this is an easy scene to relate to. At school, Junichi and Nemu are both absent, and in the cafeteria at lunch Mako explains to Suginami and Miharu that Junichi said Nemu was unconscious and coughing up sakura petals. Sakura overhears this and drops her lunch tray, running out of the cafeteria--she remembers a time when she was little and a kid who picked on her was hit by a car and taken away on an ambulance, the other kids thinking it was a curse she put on him. Sakura goes to see Nemu and Junichi, and tells Junichi what's happening to Nemu is her fault--the tree is granting her desires and although she's trying to accept the situation deep down there must be part of her that wants Nemu gone. Junichi says it isn't her fault, but Sakura knows that's not true. Yoriko tells Sakura she overheard the conversation and suggests killing the magic sakura tree, which would return Yoriko to being a normal cat. Sakura balks, saying that would affect the wishes of everyone in town that are granted by the tree, but Yoriko says sometimes magic spells have to be broken, and thanks Sakura that she has been able to live as a human, even if it's just for a short while. In the end, Sakura goes to the magic sakura tree and it glows as she tries to kill it--and back in bed, Nemu regains consciousness.

Episode 22: Yoriko makes Junichi breakfast just like normal, making about a metric ton worth of curry and guaranteeing he'll have leftovers for days. Yoriko says she has a favor to ask him--she wants him to take her on a date, and insists that it has to be tonight. Later at school, Sakura tells Junichi to be extra nice to Yoriko, because tonight's very special. I'm thinking Sakura bugged the Asakura house. Junichi asks Yoriko where she wants to go, and she surprises him by saying she wants to go to school, where him and everyone else study and have fun every day. Junichi takes her there even though at night it's deserted, and Yoriko has very un-cat-like problems getting over the wall since the front gate's locked. After they get inside they go to his class, explore the school, and Yoriko almost ends up pressing the fire alarm, her curiosity getting the best of her. At the end of the night, on the roof together, Junichi tells Yoriko she should come to school every day, as a transfer student, now that she can go outside of the house freely. Yoriko says she'd love to but she can't--she tells Junichi that Sakura is killing the magic sakura tree to save Nemu, but with its magic fading, Yoriko has to return to her old form too. Yoriko thanks Junichi for everything he's done, kisses him goodbye, and vanishes, leaving Junichi holding the dress she wore. Definitely a well done scene at the end, hell, it made me cry just like Junichi did. In the end Yoriko the cat returns to her owner, and her owner seems to realize what Yoriko was able to do, making her dream come true. Yoriko's hard not to like, with her earnestness and her self-sacrifice suggesting to Sakura to kill the sakura tree to save Nemu, knowing full well that would bring her own dream to an end. Although I can't imagine after eating normal human food to have to go back to eating cat food every day.

Episode 23: To paraphrase FDR, this is An Episode That Will Live in Infamy. Junichi is seeing someone else's dream again--this time it's Kotori as a little girl, crying because she doesn't understand what her new family is thinking and wishing she had the power to read people's minds. Junichi's DreamVision breaks up with static like last time, as his power to see dreams is weakening along with the falling sakura. Nemu's still slowly recovering, so Junichi's been going to school alone, and Kotori finds that while suddenly she can't read anyone else's thoughts, she can still read Junichi's. Kotori had felt like her mind-reading ability had been a bother sometimes, but now that it's gone she's a little afraid and feels safer around Junichi since she can still tell what he's thinking. After a while, Kotori realizes it's not just that, but she really likes Junichi--her friends urge her to confess, and Kotori decides to do it. On the rooftop she finally loses the ability to even read Junichi's mind, and Junichi tells her although it can be difficult not being to perfectly understand everyone and get in fights and misunderstandings, in a way that can be fun too. Kotori seems to realize that's just part of life and accepts it, and she confesses to Junichi--and in a move that makes Kotori fans the world over shake their heads in disbelief he turns her down. Although given that Junichi and Nemu are a solid couple at this point, the story couldn't really go any other way unless Junichi was a total man-whore. In any case, Kotori seems to take it OK, smiling and waving back at everyone in school as she decides to cut class afterwards. Good for you, Kotori.

Episode 24: Mecha-Miharu collapses, and Junichi hurries to the Amakase Research Lab, where the real Miharu is sleeping, still in a coma but slowly recovering. Mecha-Miharu seems to be her usual self, and assures Junichi she's fine--but Koyomi-sensei tells him that mecha-Miharu at best has a week or a month to live, and at worst could die as soon as today. Junichi can't believe it, but Koyomi-sensei tells him she wasn't designed to live long and it's a miracle she's kept operating this far. She also tells him mecha-Miharu is shortening her own lifespan by trying to find the real Miharu's memories, which mecha-Miharu doesn't have. Junichi asks Miharu (robot) to stop looking for those memories, but she replies she knows it's silly to look but she had a dream of a young Miharu and Junichi burying a time capsule under the sakura tree, so she has to try to see if she can recover more memories. Junichi gets upset and leaves, but later that night Miharu is digging for the capsule and Junichi joins her to help. They find the time capsule they buried when they were little, which contained a wish each of them made back then--Junichi's was "world peace", which makes Miharu laugh. Junichi grabs the paper with Miharu's wish, saying it was only fair he should see it since she saw his wish--and Miharu's says that she wants to be with Junichi forever. Miharu asks Junichi to stay with her until the end, and she passes away in his arms under the sakura tree, saying if she knew this was going to happen she would've eaten more bananas. Not to get too heavy, but as comic as the line sounds, Miharu is right--everyone dies someday, and it's good advice to spend as much time as possible while you're here doing the things you enjoy, so you don't have any regrets. And in Miharu's case what she really enjoys is...well, eating lots of bananas.

Episode 25: Nemu is coughing up sakura petals again as the tree regains strength--she hides them so Junichi won't worry and pretends she's back to normal, but she's really getting worse. Sakura apologizes to Nemu while Junichi is out, saying it's her fault Nemu is sick because although she tried to give up on Junichi deep down she can't, and that's why the sakura tree is doing this. Nemu hugs Sakura and says she understands Sakura's feelings, about each of them not wanting to lose Junichi to the other, and that they're really both a lot alike. Sakura decides to leave the island, hoping that will end Nemu's sickness, but when Suginami and Mako come over to visit Nemu, Nemu can't remember who they are. When they see Sakura about to leave the island and tell her what's happened to Nemu, Sakura drops her bag and runs off towards the tree. Damn, I thought I traveled light but Sakura only has ONE carry-on bag? It's not even all that big--must be a TARDIS bag.

Episode 26: Nemu wakes up in her bedroom and Junichi isn't there, so she goes looking for her onii-chan. Junichi's in the kitchen, but Nemu, somewhat groggy, doesn't notice and walks straight out the front door. Junichi realizes this too late and runs after her, but they've missed each other. Junichi goes to school but Nemu's not there--so next he tries the sakura tree, where he finds a disheveled Sakura, who finally snaps, screaming and begging the tree to just die, but it ends up growing even larger instead. Sakura tells Junichi it's all her fault because she can't bring herself to give up on him, so the tree is erasing all Nemu's memories, which deep down must be what Sakura wants. Junichi hugs her and tells her no matter what he doesn't hate Sakura, and that she doesn't have to try so hard anymore. He'll be at Nemu's side regardless and even if Nemu forgets him completely, Junichi himself will still remember. Nemu arrives and Junichi goes to her side--and Junichi's words have made Sakura accept things, and all at once, the sakura tree sheds all its petals. Later Sakura leaves the island, telling Junichi she'll return grown up (as we see in D.C.S.S. not true...) and Junichi runs to school past the rest of the cast--and there's Nemu, in her new high school uniform, waiting for him at the gate with a smile.

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