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NHK ni Youkoso 8

Episode starts off with the cutest shots of Misaki ever. In a tiny dress. A pink tiny dress. She has nice legs, that girl. And is just awfully cute. But still a potential psychotic.

Tatsuhiro's mother arrives at the airport. Unable to find her son, she decides to go to his house herself. Tatsuhiro is doing what all good children do when their parents suddenly decide to descend on them: he's cleaning his apartment. In fact, the amount of garbage seems endless. Tatsuhiro gets the idea he should just borrow Yamazaki's room instead, until he remembers that Yamazaki's room is so full of cute girl figurines and sleazy doujinshi, he might as well have dumped his mother in a proper house of sin.

Luckily, Misaki arrives early, and decides to help him clean up. Tatsuhiro gets suspicious because they are just acting like they're a couple and she doesn't have to help this way. There's a gorgeous shot of Tatsuhiro diving across the room to rip up one of his seedy magazines (Bishoujo Land) out of her hands. He claims it's for research purposes, but his moment of stuntmanship knocks over a pile of similar magazines, filled with (pretty) naked (nicely shaped) girls in interesting poses.

Unfortunately, the doorbell starts ringing, so Tatsuhiro has to resort to desperation moves, like throwing all his garbage into his loft. As he's about to cover the lot with a blanket, Misaki spots the fax his mother sent him with her flight details. She reaches up to grab it, resulting in the entire garbage tip falling on their heads, and Tatsuhiro falling on top of her. Yamazaki, the person on the other side of the door, hears the noise and runs in. Of course, seeing a scene he wasn't meant to see, he runs out just as quickly, leaving Tatsuhiro's redesigned business cards by the door. Oops.

Tatsuhiro also has a moment of not seeing what he should've, since, well, that's what cute girls in tiny dresses who fall on their bum tend to get into. He manages to snap out of it in time to collect his pornographic magazines to "hide in the dumpster" and tell Misaki to clear up a space enough for three people. At the top of the stairs, he meets his mother. The tip of his magazine pile falls at her feet.

In the apartment, Misaki finds the Misao figurine, sans skirt. Tatsuhiro runs in and tells her to clean up as much as she can as quickly as possible, while he tries to buy them some time outside. Misaki does try to ask if he still wants the Misao figurine, but Tatsuhiro doesn't notice. Misao talks to the figurine before she throws it away, showing for the first time that she's as nervous about the meeting as he is.

Outside, Tatsuhiro tells his mother he's been rearranging, so it might still be a bit messy. His mother states bluntly she has no intention of visiting a bachelor's apartment she might get the urge to clean herself. Tatsuhiro wonders if it even mattered how much effort he put into it. She tells him to change, since they're going out to eat. As he opens the door, she also whispers that she knows his girlfriend's in there. (Ah, okay, that's a sweet mum.)

When Tatsuhiro returns, with Misaki, the girl bowls his mother over right off the bat. In fact, his mother thinks she's almost too good for him (being sweet, shy and really respectful.) They head to Chinatown, Misaki amusing the mother and Tatsuhiro sulking along, looking actually quite dashing again (this is a sign animation in this episode is good -- hah, no, really.) Oh, we also get some really nice shots of dim sum, which is always nice. His mother, of course, has to bring up the subject of their impending marriage during lunch (because the girl is that good a catch). When his mother gets suspicious about her son's intentions, Tatsuhiro blurts out one of his stupid desperation lines about being able to get married tomorrow if he wanted to. *foreheadslap*

As the erroneous comedy continues, Tatsuhiro's mother asks Misaki if she knows the details of her son's back (she's growing less sweet by the second, just like a real mother) and what she likes about him. Misaki starts calling Tatsuhiro "kakkoii" and a hard worker, among other things good with computers. She runs out of stuff pretty quickly though. Tatsuhiro ducks into the men's room, thinking he might have to force the conversation into his work just to steer everything back to safety.

Tatsuhiro's mother is picking up that this is all a sham though. She tells Misaki as much. Tatsuhiro overhears part of this conversation as he returns. His mother tells her that she knows he's lying because he's always been a very honest person, and his irritation at having to lie shows. Tatsuhiro heads back towards the bathroom just as Misaki responds, dropping us the first good info we have about her, telling his mother he's lucky to have her, suggesting her own mother was awful. It seems she has a heart-to-heart with his mother about this subject.

Tatsuhiro remembers an incident when he was young, where he happened to break a vase in someone's house. His mother asked if he was involved, and he lied to her. Even though she knew it was a lie, she insisted that her son was innocent. After the person left, he admitted everything, and they both went to apologize to the person together. Knowing that his mother trusted him that much, Tatsuhiro swore never to lie to her again. And having remembered all this, Tatsuhiro crumples the business card Yamazaki gave him.

As they're about to farewell his mother, Tatsuhiro begins to explain himself. His mother realizes what's about to happen, and cuts him off, asking Misaki to look after her son, however he really is. She also tells them that since the day's just begun, they should go on a proper date, and urges her son to keep trying. She's the one who says goodbye.

Tatsuhiro tells Misaki the act is over. They're going home. Misaki thinks they might as well do as his mother said, however, as walking around the waterfront might help clear their heads. (Nice shot of her tugging his sleeve. Not so much for the value of this, but because it tells us a little something about Tatsuhiro's arms, which reveal that he is quite athletic. Along with the shadow boxing from previous eps, it seems to suggest that Tatsuhiro isn't entirely as lacking in personal care as probably even he believes. Misaki wasn't actually wrong when she said he was good looking.) As they stroll, Misaki compliments Tatsuhiro on his luck, having such a great mother. Tatsuhiro thinks his mother's okay. Misaki points out that if his mother is merely okay, then she must be horrible. (Is she fishing for a compliment?)

A breeze picks up. Misaki winds up in Tatsuhiro's arms (dear god, the dating-gameness!). Tatsuhiro has another one of his pervy moments, taking the opportunity to look down her top. He suddenly realizes she's too close, telling her it's immodest. She tells him it's normal for people to do that here, cueing him to realize they're in a popular date spot. Misaki takes his arm. This goes on until after dark, when Tatsuhiro begins to wonder if they're not heading in the wrong way (well, it's not like the girl isn't just trying to offer herself to him here). "Here" is another part of the couples' areas in the park, where everyone seems to be snogging behind trees. Misaki asks him to kiss her.

When he finally makes up his mind to do so, his phone rings. Yamazaki is livid because he's had to wait the whole day in case Tatsuhiro's mother phones up their "company".

Back at Mita House, Tatsuhiro is trying to appease his friend with doggy-bagged char siew buns. While Yamazaki gets into his scolding mode, Tatsuhiro is distracted by thoughts of Misaki's lips. (Eeew.) In her room, she's thinking of exactly the same.

This was an interesting episode for the appearance of Tatsuhiro's mother. She seems to be the typified quiet, understanding mother, perceptive about her son, and willing to see that even if he is a disappointment in certain ways, he's still headed in the right direction. Tatsuhiro does get this at a gut level, and that willingness in his character to see the best in other people -- that instinctive ability to pick up other people around him, appears to have come from her. What makes this worth a second look is that it seems her essential niceness appears to have helped contribute to his condition, sort of leaving him as he was for the years before the story began. For all intents and purposes, Tatsuhiro actually seemed to have been a reasonably normal kid. We still haven't really had a good look at where everything went wrong, or why. I do wonder if the show will eventually get into that.

The other point of note is the Misaki-Tatsuhiro relationship, which is disturbing on some levels because of how it just seems like something poked out of a dating sim. I still have my suspicions about Misaki. I wonder what she stands to gain by manipulating Tatsuhiro. It's becoming clear enough she's not the nice girl who just wants to help. I am curious to know, at this point, how far she falls. I don't entirely believe she's a good influence on Tatsuhiro, however much she has achieved by getting him out of the house. If anything, I think her influence seems to be eating at him in entirely wrong ways, making him more neurotic.

Having said all that, this episode was actually pretty standard romantic fluff. It just felt that much like a chapter from a dating sim. It was well-written and well-executed, but not impressive. In a show that depends that much on the story and characterization, this really did come off too much as built by rote. I should mention, however, that the art has picked up for this episode. It's definitely great this isn't a title where Gonzo can do much of its extreme shiny boob attacks, leaving a mostly hand-drawn, nothing fancy feel that works to bring out the story. The characters have facial expressions and tiny gestures that emote so much. We can feel Tatsuhiro or Misaki's nerves when faced with telling the truth. Backgrounds are still great to my eyes. Though hardly a CG landscape horror, they are good showings of the mundanity, often the beauty in the mundanity, of the N.H.K. world.

More than that, Gonzo hasn't shown any signs of dramatically awful plot mutations as yet, which is always good. I don't think I'm the only one out there worrying they might still mess this up, and yes, they could still mess this up. It's waiting and seeing.

By the way, did I mention that Misaki looks adorable in her tiny pink dress? (Almost made me want to squeal, "Moe!")

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