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I posted this to [livejournal.com profile] 6nin last night and completely forgot to post it here as well, which would've done interesting things to my index post!

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.

Drama review index post can be found here.


Nobuta wo Produce - Episode 3

Plot: Shuuji's smart, no doubt about it, but younger brother Koji's no slouch, either, and he knows full well Shuuji's personalities at home and at school are completely different. In true older sibling style, Shuuji learns this by reading a school assignment over his sleeping brother's shoulder. Will Shuuji become a good adult like this? Who knows, but putting Koji to bed is a good start.

Someone who's not likely to become a good adult is Bando, who is in charge of 2B's contribution to the school festival. I can only imagine the rest of the class voted her into the role in her absence because there's no way she'd have volunteered - not that anyone else in the class is enthusiastic about the festival either, save Destiny, who will be entertaining in their usual fashion.

Some bright spark suggests getting a celebrity for the occasion; one of the girls says she'd like to invite Fukuyama Masaharu. Fabulous idea. Makes me think of the time Masha went out with Kame and Yamapi and was impressed by a) their politeness and b) how much they could drink. Could this have been the moment that produced that legendary karaoke session? Who knows, but the photoshoot he did with Kame was gorgeous.

Given the power to make all the decisions herself, Bando promptly decides to make everything Nobuta's responsibility. Akira makes the mistake of protesting and lands up with all remaining duties. While it can't be said that the class applauds the decision (well, one girl does) they don't protest it either, making them the most apathetic bunch of voters I've seen since the last General Election in the UK. 2B will do a haunted house - if Nobuta can pull it off.

Late night strategy session at Akira's place - including Nobuta, this time. Team Nobuta, go! She wants it to be fun, though her concept of fun may not be the same as that of the visitors, but Shuuji sees it more of a personal challenge, brooding in the dark till Akira interrupts, lips first. No, really. They don't get any closer than Shuuji's ear, at which point Shuuji gives us a marvellous "deer in the headlights" expression and prays Akira will stop making kissy lips at him.

To create the perfect haunted house, inspiration is required, which means Team Nobuta sit around Akira's place watching scary movies - much to the dismay of Akira's guardian, who clings to the doorframe and screams every so often, just for colour. Nobuta sits right in front of the screen where she can see the horror up close, Shuuji sits in the back and watches with a calculating eye, and Akira...wears sunglasses. While reading a book indoors at night. I've given up trying to understand what makes him tick. Kame probably wants to know what brand the sunglasses are.

I'm convinced Shuuji is secretly Yukino from Kare Kano. He slouches around at home in casual clothes, fringe-fountain in place, back against the cushions and one leg up on the table, and refuses to let his brother come to the festival. (I wonder if the Kiritani family plays Uno?)

Meanwhile, Nobuta, inspired by Akira's guardian's tales of scary salarymen, sketches horrific creatures in business suits. Her stepfather comes home from work, smartly dressed. Hey there, gratuitous symbolism!

Despite 2B's earlier apathy they - or at least the guys - seem quite enthusiastic working on bits for the haunted house. This only lasts as long as it takes for the beetle guy to run in with a cellphone picture of girls from 2A in kimonos. Since Mariko could potentially be one of them, the guys immediately pick Shuuji up and carry him off to see his girlfriend.

Mariko's not in a kimono, but she could be if Shuuji will spend a little time with her at the festival. He tries to make his excuses but has to pretend the thought of her in a kimono actually does something for him. Big fake smile...we know he's lying. All the background noise drops out and the shadows fall and I can't decide whether Shuuji looks more like he's about to order her execution or run away screaming, Evidently neither can he because he immediately has to check himself out in the mirror.

It doesn't pay to stand still for too long in this school - not if your name is Kiritani Shuuji, because then the president of the drama club will find you and beg you to sew the costumes because he knows how skilled you are with a needle. Shuuji looks like he'd love to insert that needle somewhere else but agrees to take on the task. Then of course there are the girls who talk him into being their photographer. It's hard being popular. People just won't leave you alone to stalk through the corridors in self-imposed darkness.

He can't even find solitude on the roof, as a couple of the teachers are up there practising guitar. They know Shuuji's good at singing and rope him into that as well. By the time Shuuji returns to his own classroom he's got a guitar over one shoulder and a bag of sewing over the other, and only Nobuta and Akira are still there working on the haunted house.

They end up doing basically all the work. Shuuji sews through class and somehow no one cares. Then he sings up on the roof with the teachers. Maybe he studies when he sleeps?

While Shuuji makes himself available to everyone but the people who need him most, Akira and Nobuta sit in a field and discuss fun as if it were an unfamiliar concept. She rides on the back of his bike, aww, and the branches look like wings as they go.

The haunted house actually looks pretty impressive for a high school effort. Scary salaryman is effective; Nobuta thinks of it as her stepfather - the man who destroyed her life forever by saying he wasn't her father. Nobody has normal reactions in this show. If you don't overdo it, you're not doing it right.

One thing I've never understood about j-dramas is how the students manage to go running around the school buildings in the middle of the night. At least they have reason to be there. Delphine, the eccentric bookstore owner, returned to his old high school to correct a typo. Well, in a manner of speaking.

Shuuji's art skills are clearly no better than Kame's because Akira thinks the bat he's making is actually a mole, and takes this as an opportunity to fantasise about moles getting it on underground. The point he's trying to make, in a roundabout way, is that it's amazing when people who isolate themselves somehow find someone to be with. The bat kinda reminds me of an aardvark with wings, but this doesn't stop Team Nobuta from posing for a keitai photo with it. Nobuta looks like she's haunting the picture; Shuuji looks like he's trying to sell you this fine, homemade bat.

But the true horror has not yet begun, for once our heroes have left the classroom, the real monster comes out to play.

Next morning while Destiny open the cultural festival, vampire!Akira races through the school to find his victim...er, Shuuji, and drag him back to 2B's classroom to find the wreckage of the haunted house. The rest of the class jump ship, sensing this one is pretty much sunk, so Shuuji runs off to find help - by recruiting guests from other schools?

It's a bad idea to let Shuuji out on his own, though. Everyone wants a piece of him, even the teachers. The new recruits are productive, though, and just as quirky as Akira.

Nobuta's stepdad shows up, offers to go to lunch with her, and promptly takes a work call once she refuses. (I've never understood why people bow on the phone.) He has to return to work, but he leaves them a present, though he has to give it to Akira as Nobuta won't take it. Why, Nobuta's stepdad isn't a monster after all! He's actually just as human as the next guy. (Or perhaps not in this show, where the next guy is usually a complete nutcase.) Nobuta broods over this, crushing the onigiri as she goes, while Shuuji dons a dorky hat to join his teachers for a quick musical number. The less said about the outfits, the better.

Nobuta runs after her stepdad's taxi, clutching the onigiri for dear life, and catches him in time to give it to him. They get to share lunch after all, albeit in different places. Nobuta takes hers with Akira, who has surprisingly coherent thoughts on the matter. He ruins the moment by crossing himself - while still in full vampire regalia.

Meanwhile, Shuuji's extremely busy cultural festival gets even more hectic. Having done his musical duty, he races off to the next one only to get sidetracked by Mariko in a kimono. Fortunately, he manages to escape and return to the haunted house, where alas, no customers have come to visit. In a fit of brilliance, he suggests making it limited to couples only. Sure, if it's something that not everyone can do, more people will want to do it. He does add that both guy pairs and girl pairs are welcome, which gives Akira a good laugh.

After dragging a few couples towards the haunted house Shuuji races back to Mariko. I appreciate that there were other reasons Kame was so thin at the time but I have to say that having Shuuji spend half his time running around couldn't have helped! Poor Mariko. Her "date" doesn't last long - the second Shuuji spots his younger brother a chase ensues. What will it do to Shuuji's precious reputation if someone spots him trying to strangle Koji in front of the school?

Koji is saved by the drama club, who kidnap Shuuji to be a peasant in their play. Shuuji gets picked up a lot this episode, though not by Akira, who is busy shepherding people into the haunted house and telling them he's a vampire, just in case they hadn't realised.

Shuuji's a lousy actor, I have to say. His peasant runs across the stage, has exactly one line, and delivers it in such a wooden fashion he could be the lovechild of Keanu Reeves and David Duchovny. Fortunately for him, Mariko doesn't like him for his acting ability, and she wants to go through the haunted house. Too bad the girls to whom Shuuji promised photographs find him, and since he doesn't have a camera right now, he has to borrow one - while in peasant guise, so he doesn't have any money on him. Poor guy trips up while racing off to take the pictures and I just want to call someone to bring out a stretcher because he's got to be shattered by now. It's all very well trying to be all things to all people to maintain your nice guy reputation but running yourself ragged just isn't healthy.

Comedy interlude as Akira's guardian shows up at the haunted house with a ton of udon to use as slimy food dripping down on the faces of customers. (Yes, I know. Noodles. Absolutely terrifying, right?) And a bit of free promotion never hurt. Akira takes him through the haunted house, which doesn't need udon to be scary. (All it needs is a couple of borrowed students from another school, a dog, and Nobuta with a torch. Well, there's more to it than that, but you get the picture.)

It's also surprisingly moving, so the customers say, though no one who hasn't been through can imagine why. And since the festival has come to a close, no one else will get to find out. Shuuji makes it back to 2B's classroom to find the lights on and his helpers sitting around in costume. Time for a photo to commemorate, as Shuuji still has the camera. Six of them: Team Nobuta plus the three Shuuji recruited earlier.

But when Shuuji and co. look at the picture, only three people are in it and the discarded costumes lie in a heap on the floor. A haunted house with real ghosts - old students from twenty years ago who visit the cultural festival every year, from the looks of things. Don't ask me why Catherine can see them but any woman who collects monkey paws ought to be able to see that sort of thing. Except they're not dead ghosts. All three are alive and well and leading normal lives, but their spirits attend the festivals because their own were so much fun. Strange, a little sad, but beautiful. Reminds me of Due South, actually.

The haunted house has one last scare left in it but it's only Koji who emerges. He didn't get to go through while it was open, since it was limited to couples, so Shuuji offers to take him in. The Kiritani brothers scare easily, I have to say, but it's cute watching them stumble through the seemingly enormous classroom, hand in hand, jumping at shadows until they reach a mirror with writing on it. And here's where the touching part comes in. The stuff Shuuji and Akira were saying earlier about how miraculous it was when two people came together? That's what they've written on the mirror, about how you should never let go of the hand you're holding right now, not even when you go into the light. (As in, out of the haunted house, not the next world!) Shuuji too, is moved, and Koji seems to like Akira and Nobuta. Time to go through the haunted house again!

Cut to Mariko's classroom, where other girls are jealous of her having a date with Shuuji because they, too, would like to be in love. Mariko doesn't look so sure about this love business. Hmm...

It's a wonder Team Nobuta don't all go down with colds, lying around outside at night, but I suppose that's fitting since Nobuta muses on how she, like that mole from earlier, was digging for a long time by herself until Shuuji and Akira came along. (But Shuuji's mole was actually a bat, so what does that do to this analogy? Cross-species friendship?)

On the way home, Shuuji warns Koji against turning out like him. He doesn't want his brother to be someone who only cares about the appearance he presents to the world, and can't create anything through his own hard work. Shuuji's shocked that Akira and Nobuta could create something so amazing because he thought it was beyond them both - well, he doesn't hold other human beings in very high regard. Despite this and Shuuji's other flaws, Koji thinks he's actually a good guy.

While this is true, it doesn't stop Shuuji from angsting on the roof when he gets home. He knows the next day things will return to normal in the classroom, with Nobuta being picked on, Akira being weird, and himself being popular. He can be reasonably certain that's not about to change any time in the near future, but he's still uneasy, worried about himself. Because if he loses his popularity, he's got nothing. Everything he has at that school is based around the image he's built for himself - everything except his involvement with Akira and Nobuta. You don't have to be psychic to hear the voice of impending doom, here, but that's for another episode.


Obligatory Pikame commentary: Akira's got good reason to be mad at Shuuji, who skipped out on practically all the work of the haunted house and promised his time to everyone except the two people who could've used his help most, but it never happens. Either Akira's so wrapped up in working on the project with Nobuta and getting to bond a little more with her that he doesn't care, or he trusts that Shuuji will be around when it really matters. Shuuji's great at getting people to do things for him but not so great at doing them himself - not unless someone else asks, and he can't say no to anyone for whom it's important that he maintains his image. To Nobuta and Akira, it doesn't matter.

But while Shuuji's actual contributions to the haunted house are minimal (especially since he doesn't do much after they have to rebuild), there are two key things that prove it's his project too. The bat, which makes a final appearance when the whole thing is over, and the words on the mirror from the conversation he had with Akira (which was originally prompted by the bat). It's those words which make the haunted house so memorable, and gave everyone who visited such a wonderful feeling, and those words wouldn't have existed without Shuuji, Akira and Nobuta. (Okay, so this is more of a Team Nobuta commentary than a Pikame commentary, but most of my flail about Akira this episode went, "Aww, what a cute little vampire!")


Best Scene: Nobuta and Akira bike ride! It's unusual because Nobuta's out in a gorgeous sunset and both she and Akira are acting relatively normally. To me it's just very cute. Second place goes to the photo of six that turned out to be a photo of three, with the spirits of the not-actually-dead-but-not-really-there students. I've never experienced a school cultural festival for myself so I've only seen it in dramas, but I love that the feelings the students had were so strong that they could come back to enjoy the festival year after year.


Conclusion: You know you've got the best haunted house ever when real ghosts agree to work in it, Shuuji's inability to say no is so overwhelming that he might as well be Ado Annie ("I Cain't Say No" - Oklahoma!), and goofy-looking bats are actually the most important objects in the universe.
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Mec

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