Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Hitohira 03

At the end of this episode, I found tears in my eyes. Not from sadness, but from sympathy with the characters. For me, the show continues to do everything I want.

The characters make sense, even if Mugi's voiceless shy moments are a bit dramatized. The character design communicates gentle shades of meaning. The same hands that created PetoPeto-san seem evident in the sympathetic way the characters are treated. As well as in the fact that it is an insecure young girl who is the protagonist. And the relationships are building: Nono's sempai warmth toward Mugi, and interesting little hints of development between Chitose and Katsuragi. And Risaki becomes a more and more sympathetic person.

Episode summary below:

Mugi is on the roof, worried about the coming performance. Meanwhile, Katsuragi is outlining the schedule for the day to the older members of the Drama Study Group. Where are the two new members? asks Nono. Kai comes in and says Mugi was so worked up all day she seemed about to cry. His sister Risaki sends him off to find her. He hears Kayo in the girls' washroom trying to convince Mugi to come out of the cubicle where she has shut herself up. Mugi feels she can't possibly get on stage. The older members of the group see Kai outside the door and the two girls go in. Nono conjures up a dramatic scene of Mugi leaving the cubicle at night and coming out into the dark, empty hall, where she hears a sound of knocking.... She is so dramatic that she scares Mugi into coming out.

The group is having little success handing out posters for their show. Risaki gets Kai to do gymnastics that attract attention. Katsuragi does verbal tricks that don't interest anyone... except Chitose, who is already infatuated with him. The Drama Club president comes around and is offensive about Mugi. Nono says that Mugi's talent is the real thing. Mugi doesn't believe it.

Chitose is in the Drama Club room making a doll of Katsuragi. She imagines giving it to Katsuragi for good luck, and him expressing feelings for her. She hides the doll when Drama Cub members come into the room. The president asks her why she was hanging around the Drama Study Group's rehearsals. Chitose says she thought they were trying hard. The president leaves and tells them all to go home. The other members tell Chitose she's too honest. They talk about how harsh the pres is and how it's because of Nono. One tells the other a rumor. And then she tells Chitose. The president is outside the door, listening in.

At the dress rehearsal, Mugi is learning so much that's new to her that she can't process it: where to stand, what to call her right hand in actors' lingo, the special term for a first time on stage. She can't get out even her few words of script. Nono puts her hands on Mugi's shoulders to calm her.

Chitose bursts in and asks Nono, in a loud voice, if it's true that she has paralysis of the vocal cords. Risaki gets angry and says Chitose must be part of a Drama Club plot to ruin their performance. Chitose goes on: But if your voice is ruined, how will you be able to act? Katsuragi puts his hands on Chitose's shoulders and says: That's enough. But Nono says: Everything you say is true, but don't make a fuss. My voice is okay now. The drama club pres comes in and says to Chitose: Didn't I tell you to go home? Nono asks Mugi if she'd like her help. Mugi notices that Nono's hand on her shoulder is trembling.

At the performance, Chitose sneaks in and sits beside Kayo. She thinks the club pres won't be there, but she arrives. The performance begins with a strong speech by Nono. Offstage, she tells Mugi not to worry. She goes on to say that her voice just disappeared the previous fall. The doctors cured it then, but couldn't assure her it would be all right in the future. An "important friend" -- the former club president -- gave her the support to carry on, by telling her not to feel sorry for herself, that she could act with her facial expressions, too, and that she would just be a problem for the group if she didn't snap out of it. And she taught Nono a lot about acting. Nono went from being half-hearted about the stage to learning to love acting. It made her very happy.

All of a sudden it's time for Mugi's entrance. She had forgotten about it. She gets really nervous, but Nono says she has a method that helps calm nervousness: clasping each other's hands and closing their eyes. It seems to work. Nono mentions the incident when she first heard Mugi's voice shouting out her joy at having been accepted to the school. She says it gave her a thrill, that Mugi has a voice no-one can match. She should summon up her self-confidence, because Nono is with her.

Mugi goes on stage and, after painful seconds of fear, and with her friends' encouragement and some quick-witted prompting from Risaki, booms out her first lines in that big voice. Then she descends into a quiet but just about audible voice for the rest.

Mugi's friends cheer her. Chitose worries that the Drama Club president heard her cheer, but sees she is gone. Outside the theatre, the pres says: Enjoy the moment Nono, it may be your last time on stage.

They celebrate after the show. Nono tells Mugi that she worked very hard and did a great job. Mugi is blushingly pleased. She tries to thank everyone...and falls as if fainting, but doesn't faint this time. She spills a drink on her skirt and gets all nervous again, but Chitose and then Risaki start to tickle her, which sweeps the nervousness away. At the end, Mugi's voiceover says that it went well this time, but what will happen from now on?