Recap: Yuriko disbands the ESP club with a new goal in mind. Later on, Haruka finds an unexpected visitor waiting at her apartment. EVEN LATER ON, she wonders why Manabe has never directly told her how he feels about her.
Jel’s Thoughts: CLEAR! *thump*…… *cough* *cough* *cough*…… alright now that my heart has recovered from possibly the most ADORABLE FINAL EPISODE OF ALL TIME, I can say how impressed I was with how Kotoura-san managed to accomplish so much this week in so little time. Maybe I’m just used to so many series not pacing themselves properly and leaving everything to the last minute. All that was really happening here were affirmations of things we already knew, whether it was Haruka being on to Yuriko’s schemes, the pain her mother was feeling, or most obviously, Manabe’s feelings for her. It’s kind of like they’ve been setting up a long string of dominoes the entire series and this week was just the little nudge to push them all down. It’s surprising how few anime manage to pull that off properly.
I kind of expected the bits with Yuriko and Manabe, so I was most impressed with how they handled Haruka confronting her mother. Much like Moritani, I thought she was entirely irreconcilable at this point and bristled at her few previous appearances. I was really worried there would be some cop out tearful reunion after seeing the preview last week, and thankfully that wasn’t the case at all. Their meeting had the perfect balance of intensity and affection, making their highly unlikely make-up somehow believable.
I may be risking another heart attack but I have to talk about the final scene, which really was the ultimate pay off in all of this. Haruka and Manabe saying “I Love You” was such a simple thing, but it’s easy to take that for granted with so many other romantic comedies copping out in the end. Between that and so many other shows trying so hard to be “dark” and “mature”, it was a lovely, no frills happy ending to a show that was able to be both of those things and more.
Jel: With its ugly promo art and incredibly boring initial descriptions, I don’t think anyone was looking forward to Kotoura-san at the start of this season. But for those brave souls that did give it a look, it became clear within minutes this was not the show we thought it was. Rather than the mind-numbing ecchi gag series it seemed to be billed as, Kotoura-san is actually an honest, bittersweet story told with an equal mix of drama, comedy and romance.
The hook that makes Kotoura-san unique of course is Haruka’s mind reading powers. While there is certainly no shortage of super powered high school kids when it comes to anime, I can’t think of anything else quite like it. Rather than getting into fighting super villains or solving mysteries (well maybe a little of that), Kotoura-san focuses on how having that power would effect someone on a personal level, and in that regard it pulls no punches. Right from the start we see the pain and mental stress poor Haruka suffers through, as the people around her struggle to adapt to her power nearly as much as she does. Perhaps there are other stories that touch on those kinds of issues, but I can’t think of any examples that center the entire premise around it.
Kotoura-san is not all angst and bitterness though, in fact for the most part it’s really fun and sweet. Rather than telling a dour tale of suffering, it’s actually a story about healing. As Haruka meets Manabe and the ESP club, the painful drama is salved with plenty of silly moments and what I’ve dubbed weapons-grade-adorable romance… and I’m talking actual romance, none of this half baked will-they-won’t-they pandering that plagues every other anime that claims the title. The romance is another example of how Haruka’s power affects her life, except this time for the better. Can’t keep any secrets when the girl you like can read your mind, right?
Where Kotoura-san treads a dangerous line is how quickly it can change between deadly serious drama to silly comedy. A lot of people were throwing around the term “emotional whiplash” after watching the first couple of episodes, and I don’t think that’s an unfair description. But rather than having those two very different tones clashing together, Kotoura-san uses them to complement each other. When Haruka does get to have fun with the ESP club or share a sweet moment with Manabe, it feels like a victory after seeing what she’s been through. Compared to other “Feel Good” shows that might build some conflict-free utopia for the audience to just kick back and relax in (I’m looking at you Tamako Market, if you want a recent example), Kotoura-san earns those moments and ultimately feels much more satisfying.
When you think about it there’s really not much to Kotoura-san on paper: the art is basic, the premise is simple and the setting has been done to death. It’s really a credit to the people who made this series that they were able to take those basic parts and put together such a sweet and fulfilling story that will probably go down as one of my favorites of the year. In the bigger picture it’s a reminder that as much as I’d like to see more series outside of high school, with a little ingenuity and good writing there are still stories to be told. If we can get more shows as rewarding as Kotoura-san, I’m all for it.
Marlin: I’ll never forget how easily we all dismissed Kotoura in the beginning. I decided to watch it through my usual pledge to watch every full length show no matter what. I don’t think I could have ever anticipated it being as impressive as it was, let alone go on to be my favorite show of the season.
I think what gave Kotoura its greatest strength is that it has some of the most realistic depictions of human emotion in a long time. People know Kotoura can actually read their minds, but who would want to admit to her being right? Instead, it’s easy to just call her a liar, and this is the way people deal with a lot of their problems, by denying them. It also showed the all too real cruelty of those scorned. Sure, not everyone has access to a personal dojo, but in the real world jilted people react violently to their rejection all the time.
It also has one of the most interesting relationship dynamics I’ve ever seen. This really was a show about two people who love each other and never really needed to say it. Sure, it made for a super adorable finale when they did, but its like nothing was ever in doubt. I also did like that while Manabe was often the butt of jokes for being a pervert, it was never really a strike to his character. Since almost all the perversion was going on in his head, it’s honestly pretty easy to feel sorry for the guy just doing what guys do every once in a while, thinking about inappropriate stuff. He was by far the best character. He’s a total space-case but he has a good heart that always wanted to help the person he loved. One of the most poignant scenes in my memory was when Kotoura ran away after Manabe was hurt, and the last lines were Manabe’s, realizing that he failed to protect her.
While the detective arc was largely unnecessary in my eyes, every other part of the story was simply superb. It was able to mix seriousness and levity in a manner that few other shows could even dream to replicate, let alone do. Looking towards next season I’m really going to be sad that I won’t have this little slice of powerful emotions and goofy comedy to look forward to.
Lifesong: This charming anime was a one of a kind look at life as a psychic. This simple but powerful storytelling is something I wish were more common in anime. Sometimes all you need is a simple “what if” to tell an amazing story and Kotoura-san was exactly that. What if a young girl had her life torn apart because of psychic powers? How would she make friends when reading minds is as easy as breathing? How would the people around her react to her abilities and what kind of pressure would that put on her? This is what slice of life should look like.
Timmy: It certainly wasn’t long ago that I logged into the Glorio chat to find everybody going ballistic over some show I had up till that time barely knew existed or really cared for that matter. Such overwhelming enthusiasm was usually reserved for amazing things, like the third episode of Madoka for instance, so I sat down like the impressionable person that I am and I gave it a watch. If you have been reading you should already be aware of the wondrous things I had the pleasure of experiencing.
It was quite interesting seeing the chat light up every week, doubting Kotoura-san would be able to maintain the high bar it had set for itself, wondering where the show was going and how it was going to get there, wishing it had half the budget Vividred Operation or Tamako Market had. Of consistency was the amount of enjoyment everyone seemed to have and now with Kotoura-san leaving us I have to wonder what obscure overlooked show will next surprise and amaze us. This show really showed us that a flashy budget and stellar animation is far from mandatory for a show to be great and I can’t help but to be hopeful that its a lesson I’ll have the pleasure of experiencing again.