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Disclaimer: I'm not taking this series seriously, so don't expect any deep discussion or amazing revelations. These are my opinions only and should in no way be taken as fact.

Crossposted to [ profile] 6nin

Drama review index post can be found here.

Nobuta wo Produce - Episode 2

Plot: It was a dark and stormy night, just ripe for telling tales of horror - which, in Japan, means a creepy woman with long dark hair. The Kiritani brothers are spending the evening at home, the fountain-haired Shuuji carefully sewing while Koji lays the table and tells his older brother all about Mayonaka-sama, a creepy woman with long dark hair who holds a doll of herself while standing before a shrine. She's terrifying, and Koji should know because his friend from school saw her.

Shuuji is underwhelmed, which is more or less how I feel about his pastel pink trousers, but then he hasn't seen the disturbing doll helpfully provided by Koji's overactive imagination.

Meanwhile, Akira and his guardian are also discussing hair while watching the same doll on TV. By any chance, are we going to be seeing this doll later? They're a little light on the subtlety.

First thing next morning, Shuuji emerges from his building to find Akira loitering with intent, since they need to have a meeting about producing Nobuta. Shuuji's more interested in making sure his hair looks perfect, and just to prove to Akira that they are not, as Akira insists, best friends, he rides off without him. Clearly, Shuuji has mastered the art of playing hard to get.

Being friends with Akira doesn't benefit Shuuji at all, given that his goal is to be popular in school and advertising that he's hanging out with the resident fruitcake is not exactly going to help him with his cause. But sometimes it does pay to be aware of the weirder things in life, because when Shuuji's classmates start talking about Mayonaka-sama, he's already clued in. Too bad for him that they think the mystery woman happens to be Nobuta, which doesn't bode well for his vow to make her the most popular girl in school.

Nobuta and Akira are not the only weirdness in Shuuji's life right now, as his father, much to the dismay of both Shuuji and Koji, insists on going to work - and to their parent-teacher conferences - in a pinstripe suit. Why this is a big deal, I don't know - does it imply he's a yakuza or something? Or maybe he just offends their fashion sense.

Poor Shuuji hasn't even finished brushing his teeth before Akira's outside his window, blowing him "kon-kon" kisses and almost giving him a heart attack. I've never seen someone so desperate for an early morning meeting before. Akira does finally get his meeting - on the school roof, of course - so they can discuss a solution to the Mayonaka-sama rumour.

Shuuji's got some ideas, and he's also got some rules for Nobuta to follow, one of which involves absolute obedience. Don't dramas usually save that for people who are being blackmailed? Anyway, Shuuji's first idea is for Nobuta to cut her hair, which appals Akira because "a girl's hair is her life". Good thing a boy's hair isn't his life, or there would be an awful lot of dead JE guys out there right now. The dreaded perm alone would've taken out a chunk of them.

Nobuta's not keen on her current hairstyle but says she can't change it because there's a curse on her hair. (Just how badly did that one incident from her childhood traumatise her, anyway?) Akira's more worried about her split ends, which he touched - and feels the need to share with Shuuji by grabbing his face. I'm surprising that Shuuji hasn't taken out a restraining order against Akira yet.

Lunchtime! I swear, Shuuji must be the only guy in the entire class who has a girlfriend - possibly the only one who's ever had a girlfriend - the way they react when Mariko comes to collect him for lunch. Nobuta slinks off to eat lunch by herself, while Akira leans drunkenly against the window, looking like he's spent the last couple of days drinking rum on the beach. He's not too out of it to notice Nobuta has a creepy little doll with her, though, and that means he's solved the mystery of Nobuta's "curse".

Of course he has to go drag Shuuji away from his lunch date to tell him, which is probably a good thing as Shuuji, being rather clueless in the ways of women, brought up the subject of haircutting to Mariko. She'll cut it if he wants her to, but he just wants to know if it's a big deal for girls. He'd better not talk to her about bungee jumping.

I'm guessing nobody else in the school ever mounts the stairs, because whenever Shuuji and Akira go in search of Nobuta, there are never any other people around. There is, however, the creepy doll - Nobuta's only friend, with whom she must maintain an exact resemblance. You could argue that Nobuta's school uniform already makes this impossible, but whatever...

Not for nothing is Shuuji a producer. If doll and girl must remain identical, then the doll, too, must get a haircut. (The haircut, I must add, does not make the doll look any less creepy. In her position, I'd take the damned thing to shrines too.) Unfortunately, Nobuta fails to live up to her end of the bargain as she simply does not want to get a haircut - it doesn't suit her preferences any more than the pretty green top she points out to Shuuji suit his. Since Nobuta's now broken a rule, that puts an end to the production and Shuuji rides off alone.

It's a mark of how much he doesn't want to have a girlfriend outside school that when he sees Mariko and her friends approaching, he panics and carries his bicycle into a nearby tea shop to hide from them. He said he'd cry if Mariko cut her hair; her friends think she should cut it just to make him cry. Girls confuse Shuuji.

Back to his slightly-less-confusing home life, where his dad is sitting around in his underwear, moping about how no one at work liked his outfit, and how that now he's grown up, he can't wear what he wants. Bless Shuuji, even though he didn't like the suit either, he tells his dad to wear it to the parent-teacher conference. The guy does have a heart, it's just that when he leaves the confines of his home, it gets overruled by his mind all the time.

Next day, Nobuta gets more Bando-bullying during the most boring PE lesson ever, and returns to her locker to find her blazer has been defaced with the word "Busu" ("Ugly") in yellow paint, causing her to skip class to sneak off and wash it. Shuuji and Akira exchange significant looks when she doesn't appear, though not the same sort of looks Hayato and Ryuu exchange because those inevitably involve some sort of violence which may or may not lead to sex depending on how the fight goes.

Alas, the yellow paint is too stubborn to wash out. The "normal" students are appalled by the deed, but so are Bando's crew - well, they're appalled that everyone thinks it's them. Really, girls, if you're going to behave like that all the time, is it any wonder people think you did it?

On the way home, Shuuji and Akira spot Nobuta moping in a park, still in her tracksuit. She never did make it back to class. They don't stop, not just then. Akira has to be the finance end of the partnership once more as Shuuji asks for a loan - to buy the green top and bright orange trousers Nobuta had challenged him to wear earlier. (In a show of solidarity, Akira buys the outfit next to it, a pink leopard-print number which Nobuta feels up with fascination, possibly checking to see how Pi's moobs are developing. The tops actually look okay but combined with Shuuji's trousers, it's like watching the circus scene in Dream Boys.) It has the desired effect - Nobuta will cut her hair. What's more, she's actually smiling. Akira's never seen it before, so Shuuji has to identify the expression for him.

The team reconvene at Akira's place to see what can be done about Nobuta's uniform. Once again, Shuuji has the answer. Students can wear their own clothes if for some reason it is impossible to wear their uniforms, and they've obtained permission. (Does no one ever have any spares? What happens if you don't manage to get your laundry done over the weekend?) If Nobuta wears something cute to school, Akira's sure it'll make people see she's not so scary. But come on, he's cute, and it doesn't stop people seeing him as weird...

Obtaining permission's not so easy as the principal has already left for the day, but Catherine insists on taking responsibility and signs the permission slip, giving Nobuta orders to wear her most stylish outfit tomorrow. From what we've seen of her wardrobe so far, perhaps it's just best if she burns it all and starts again. Don't ask me why Akira's hiding in the staffroom but it's so cute, the way Nobuta scuttles over to him, and he gives a little "Yes!" when he receives the permission slip.

Meanwhile, Shuuji and his authority on all things girly - Mariko - are in the bookstore, looking at fashion, and inadvertently discover the owner writes incredibly expensive books under the pseudonym 'Delphine Sakurada'. Presumably he doesn't plan to sell any of his works, as the one Shuuji's holding, 'Green Willow', costs an absolute fortune. There's that darned willow again. Symbolism, much?

Shuuji must've gotten another loan from Akira because he returns to Akira's place with a wide variety of fashion magazines, the idea being to choose the sort of look Nobuta wants to project. For example, the good student, or the cheeky minx, that sort of thing. Shuuji's good at calculating the appeal of just about anything, but I'm getting distracted because he and Akira are in decent civilian clothing for once - jeans and T-shirts - and looking a hell of a lot better than they do in their school uniforms. Also, Shuuji's giving us an example of the different ways guys go shaven-headed, and I'm trying to figure out which category Koki would fall into.

Of course, Nobuta's never given any thought to wanting to project a positive image to others, much less dressing like she wants to be liked. But Shuuji's got a plan for that as well. Here's a high school student with so many schemes, he should've been in Death Note. I bet Kame enjoyed the next part - they go shopping! Shuuji's got some definite ideas about what Nobuta shouldn't wear, but I don't think he's in any position to talk because the plaid shirt and red-and-white baseball cap he's wearing don't go together at all.

It's so cute! Akira's like a little kid, practically skipping along as Shuuji steers the party through the shops. They stop off for fast food, then hit the hairdresser. I love watching the three of them do things together. They have a weird dynamic but it works. I do believe I even saw Nobuta smile while trying on a pair of hideous green glasses. (It might've been a figment of my imagination, though. Only someone extremely twisted could smile while wearing those. Then again...)

Next morning it's time for Nobuta to make her debut in her cute new clothes, with a flattering hairstyle and lovely brown boots. I think she looks adorable, if only she could keep herself from looking down at the ground all the time. Bravely, she greets everyone she passes, including Bando, who returns the greeting as though it's a word she's never heard before. Shuuji and Akira's words of encouragement keep her walking tall through the school corridors, carrying herself with new confidence. For once, she wants people to see her, to know she's there.

And boy, do her class know she's there. Conversation dies the moment she enters the classroom. Luckily, the guys can be counted on to yell out how cute she looks, while the girls want to know how much her clothes cost. Shuuji's attempt at a cool, catchy greeting is almost completely lost in the furore over Nobuta, but he pretends to be just as surprised and excited as everyone else over it. Of course he's happy, but for a rather different reason!

In fact, it's such big news that Destiny declare it a miracle, with the help of some juggling blocks.

That night, Shuuji and Akira celebrate at Akira's place with a couple of, some mugs of milk. Wrong series.

Mariko is a smart, observant girl, which makes me wonder why she's wasting her time with Shuuji. She notices that her recommended outfit and advice appears to have made its way to Nobuta - something of a mystery, because she only mentioned it to Shuuji. Hmm... Shuuji's solution: suggest they go eat together, a sure sign of how rattled he is because voluntarily spending time with his girlfriend outside of school ranks very low on his list of pleasurable activities.

Home alone, Nobuta angsts over her doll, completely ignoring the gorgeous purple sunset taking place outside her window. I find this tragic.

The next day, other girls get in on the civilian clothing action and start sabotaging their own uniforms so that they can dress up. It takes Catherine all of about two seconds to figure this out, and when the school starts denying the girls permission to wear their own clothes, the parents get involved. Unfortunately, the backlash from the class has them turning against Nobuta again, as she's the only one who's been granted permission and after all, there's no proof she didn't ruin her own clothes. (Never mind that she got an insult written on hers, and the other girls drew cute pictures - hardly bullying!)

In a wholly unexpected move, Nobuta volunteers to wear her ruined uniform the next day, which definitely won't win her any fans with the girls who ruined their own uniforms because now no one will have permission to wear their own clothes.

Up on the roof, Team Nobuta discuss strategy. Nobuta pulls out a picture she was looking at last night, of a small boy wearing her clothes from elementary school. Even then, she'd carried the creepy doll around and been picked on, and her clothes had been defaced. Kids can be so cruel. (The 'Ko' in 'Kotani' had been crossed out and dakuten added to the 'ta' to make it read 'da' -> "dani" = tick/mite.) She'd thrown out the ruined shirt, which had somehow made it to Africa and was now being worn by a smiling kid, who had coincidentally appeared in the magazine she was reading. From this, Nobuta learns that you can smile no matter what you wear. (Even those terrible green glasses?)

I'm starting to think Shuuji and Akira just have a thing for high places. Like Statler and Waldorf, they look down on the student body from up above, wondering about the person who ruined Nobuta's uniform before ducking down together to make plans for salvaging the situation.

The uniform she's now wearing again, but that's not stopping her from saying good morning, with a cool, polite dignity that moves her teachers. But will it be good enough for the class? In a show of solidarity, Shuuji and Akira paint "kiza" ("Show-off/conceited") and "baka" ("idiot") respectively across the seat of their trousers and go racing through the corridors. It gets them a laugh from the student body. It even gets them a Nobuta!smile. With Shuuji announcing his determination to make it a fad - and look! Akira has already copied him! - it's sure to be a hit. Nobuta greets every group in the class, even though she looks like every word earns her a papercut - she's already found a little more strength than she had before.

Shuuji might've been kidding about making it a trend, but it really does take off, though as with most teenage fads, the novelty wears off quickly. Temporary tattoos would've been less damaging.

It's finally time for the parent-teacher conference, and Shuuji's dad, as promised, wears his pinstripes - his Mafia outfit. It gets him some interesting reactions from the teachers.

Nobuta practises her smile in the mirrors at school - a bad idea, because Bando's crowd seems to hang out in the ladies' room a lot, and they never pass up an opportunity to needle her. From outside, a pair of female lips curves into a satisfied smile. Nobuta's real enemy stalks off down the corridor - her work here is done.

Obligatory Pikame commentary: Even if Shuuji's still outraged by the idea that Akira considers him his best friend, he's gotten pretty comfortable being around him - though more so if Nobuta is there to make up the trio, because then it's definitely business and not social. But it's clear that they can have fun together (outside school, anyway). It helps that Akira will do almost anything Shuuji asks him to, no matter how much it costs. Shuuji's got a willing partner, someone he doesn't have to perform for, and even when Akira only echoes Shuuji's own words back to him, he has a way of giving them his own slant, of taking things in a new direction.

Best Scene: There are so many cute moments in this one, I can't choose between them. Overall, I'd have to say the whole Team Nobuta shopping expedition, dinner date and all. I like watching them doing something normal together, albeit it with unusual motives. They look so happy once they get into trying on clothes, and eating onion rings, and just being teenagers. For individual moments, I have to say that Shuuji and Akira standing guard outside the fitting room with their arms crossed strikes me as one of the more adorable bits. Sometimes they're remarkably in sync, especially at the hairdresser a little later when they have identical looks of shock upon seeing Nobuta. (I like that Shuuji's hand is on Akira's shoulder too. ;-) )

Conclusion: Shuuji's natural habitat is a clothes shop, Akira's radar for Shuuji is better than Jin's for foreign girls, and if you want to make teachers believe you're being bullied you should think twice before drawing 'Hello Kitty' on your blazer.
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