Kurogo interacts with Jin, complimenting him on his performance. Jin is initially friendly until Kurogo brings up the idea of a kabuki club. Jin insults and laughs at the idea, saying that amateurs can never hope to perform kabuki, and only those who inherit the skills from a kabuki family (such as himself) have any hope of success in the field.
On the way home from school, Kurogo and Tonbo encounter Kaoru, who accidentally gets involved in a fight when a girl breaks up with her boyfriend to pursue Kaoru. The ex-boyfriend attempts to punch Kaoru, but Tonbo steps in and takes the hit. The three of them bond over the experience, and Kaoru begins to open up to the boys as they treat her like a person rather than an unapproachable idol. Kurogo tells Kaoru about the history of kabuki. Although today only men are allowed to perform, the art was actually created by a woman named Izumo no Okuni. Inspired by the story of Okuni, Kaoru agrees to accompany Kurogo to see a kabuki play.
Energized by his success, Kurogo visits Niwa’s house. Niwa says that he has quit traditional dance to learn how to fight, in order to be stronger. Kurogo tells Niwa that strength is not the only important thing and compliments his beauty and grace. Finally, Niwa confesses that he prefers performing women’s dances, but feels that he cannot due to becoming more masculine in appearance. He too decides to accompany Kurogo to see kabuki.
Back at his home, Jin talks to his grandfather about his confrontation with Kurogo. Jin’s grandfather is supportive of the kabuki club idea, and encourages Jin to do more youthful things and enjoy his school life rather than always practicing. Jin refuses, and we learn that Jin wishes to make up for his father, who left the world of kabuki for unknown reasons.
I was discussing with Moeronpan exactly why I like this show, when “school club” is pretty much one of my least favorite genres, and I think they hit the nail on the head: the nature of the club itself. It’s not just that I’m a fan of kabuki and other Japanese performing arts. Most shows of this type unfortunately fall into the trap of focusing so much on character interaction that the club itself just serves as a vessel to get the characters in the same place, and we never get to see said club actually doing anything. Most “clubs” in anime are little more than a group of eccentric characters sitting around in a room (with a few major exceptions Ouran High School Host Club being the most notable to come to mind.)
However, Kurogo is shown from the start to have plans and goals from the start of what to do with his kabuki club. Specifically, he wants to make the world of kabuki more approachable by performing it with a group of amateur students. This goal informs his interactions with the other characters, and allows for two lovely conversations that serve as twin high points of the episode. First, he sparks Kaoru’s interest by talking about kabuki’s female founder and its early performers’ status as rebels and breakers of the status quo. (Given that this was a major point in my university thesis, this made for a happy Junko.) Later, he convinces Niwa to give kabuki a try by pointing out that it is an art where men are allowed to be graceful, beautiful and feminine, and do not need to be constrained by traditional ideas of masculinity. Seriously, I was shocked and stunned – but in a good way – to see these kind of conversations in a high school club anime. Yes, I know I’m repeating myself, but damn!
This episode had great development for Kaoru, Niwa and Jin. All three are compelling characters, even Jin – he may be a stereotypical “rival” type, but he’s far from one dimensional, and he serves as a neat foil to Kurogo by being more tradition-bound and less willing to embrace the idea of amateur kabuki. Kaoru still remains my favorite, however – the “female prince” type character is often seen in anime (think Haruka / Uranus from Sailor Moon) but rarely do we get focus on how exhausting, difficult and even dangerous it is for them to be constantly surrounded by fans. Can I also say how much I love the small detail of the towel-offering? Kaoru is frequently offered towels to wipe her face with by her fans, a reference to a real-life practice performed by fans of Takarazuka actresses. In contrast, her willingness to open up and become friends with Kurogo and Tonbo is symbolized by her offering her own towel to the latter.
True, it’s only the second episode. There’s still plenty of time for Kabukibu! to develop any of the many problems with school club anime that I mentioned in this review. But for now, it’s incredibly promising, and I absolutely cannot wait for next week!
Out of 5 Dios: