Things are really not going well for anybody in SHARK Season 2. True, Behind the Scenes managed to win the battle of the bands (with an unquestionably superior performance), but I doubt Kota (Yasui Kentaro) is at all satisfied with this victory over his former band, and Asahi (Iwahashi Genki) looks as morose as ever. Incidentally, BtS as a group looks surly and dismissive at everyone – they sure don’t give the impression that they enjoy doing what they do.

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The situation is worse for Cloud5, though, as they now have doubts about their own ability to compete and whether they’ve made the right choices. Masayuki (Toyohara Kosuke) mercilessly stokes their insecurities, which makes me wonder what the heck Cloud5 ever did to him – he sure seems bent on some kind of revenge at this point. I don’t buy the ‘drama’ excuse for a second.

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And just to make sure everyone feels sufficiently miserable, we finally discover who Asahi is – he’s the little brother of Kazuki (Fujii Ryusei), the former leader of SHARK, and he calls Kai (Hamada Takahiro) a traitor. Which Kai totally is, by the way.

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Always prone to self doubt, Saku (Shigeoka Daiki) laments over a Cloud5 banner that was cast aside by a fan and trodden on.

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And, of course, the phenomenally unpleasant Kota stops by to rub it in. It’s vaguely possible that Kota could eventually be right about something, but his horrid attitude pretty much ensures that I’m not going to give him credit for it.

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Life lesson: if you really want someone else to agree with you, try not to be a total asshole.

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Kota’s behavior is not that of a person who wants others to agree with him, so what’s his purpose? I think that “HATE” necklace gives a good tip – if I had created this character, there would be a very good reason in his background for the way he vents at other people and takes out his anger and frustration on others. Will we get such a backstory for Kota? I doubt it – there’s not much time left, and it’d take something really impressive to rehabilitate his image.

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Full Moon. Do you suppose he’s a werewolf?

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Makoto (Kaede) overheard the exchange and tries to reassure Saku that he’s not making excuses (funny, I thought the bit about him selling his soul was the worse part of Kota’s remarks), but somehow she doesn’t even manage to get that very simple sentiment out convincingly.

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Saku’s mood only sours once he realizes Makoto overheard the talk between him and Kota.

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Matsuyuki continues to do his thing. I still say he’s a completely useless character, by the way. All the conflicts and plot turns could have happened without his intervention, and would have been more interesting if they were explained organically instead of as the machinations of an evil mastermind.

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Saku gets down to writing a new song, and apparently in SHARK that consists of writing down a chord or two every measure. I really don’t understand the songwriting workflow here – seems to be missing something.

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Aruto (Abe Aran) doesn’t show up – he’s busy having doubts about his ability to compete with Asahi, and we know how those kinds of doubts can really cripple the charismatic center of the group from the first season. In fact, the structure of this rivalry parallels the first season way too closely.

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As bad as the situation with all the group members is, hearing Haruya (Hagiya Keigo) being nervous about facing BtS again was most striking.

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Great acting from Abe Aran-kun in this next scene. It’s a bit hard to explain, but the complexity of his character really shows through in the thirty seconds.

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Finally, finally, Jinguji-kun gets to deliver his first line of dialogue. It wasn’t much, but it’s nice to know the other members of BtS aren’t mute (though we still haven’t heard from the other two).

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Kota is an asshole to the members of BtS, too, and guitarist Azuma (Jinguji Yuta) doesn’t want Kota in the group. In fact, since the group already has a guitarist, it’s difficult to see what Kota brings to the group except – you guessed it – drama.

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I wonder how Matsuyuki talked Asahi into bringing Kota into the group, considering Matsuyuki doesn’t have any involvement on BtS songs.

Cloud5 is in disarray as the group doesn’t even get down to practice.

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Haruya is now unsure whether kicking Kota out of the group was the right thing to do. Has he met the guy? Come to think of it, have we seen Haruya and Kota having a private conversation?

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You know, seeing Cloud5 in despair like this would be a lot more poignant if we had ever seen them as a functional group. Right now, it looks a lot like the status quo.

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Oh, come on – you can’t have two Makoto scenes in the same episode!

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She announces that passed an audition and will be backdancing for an artist on a music show, but doesn’t say which artist. However, there’s no point to this sudden announcement at all unless the artist she’s going to be backdancing for is BtS.

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Aruto shows up the next day, but isn’t in the mood to practice. There’s no avoiding the fact that Saku is going to have to start acting like a leader somehow.

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Kai is trying to avoid Asahi . . .

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. . . but he has to explain the situation to Saku.

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Ichika (Yamashita Rio) tries to explain to Asahi why Kai ended up with Cloud5, but Asahi recognizes her name and the fact that she rejected Kazuki’s debut song, and considers her a traitor as well. That’s not fair, of course, because we know she pushed very hard on Kazuki’s behalf and ultimately got an alternate song from Kazuki approved, but she really doesn’t try to Asahi.

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We get some flashbacks here, quickly filling out Asahi’s backstory with his brother and Kai. The writers have to do this in a hurry.

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As I expected, the fact that his character is so critical and has to be developed in a hurry means that the role of Asahi was particularly challenging. This is the first time we spend much time on Asahi, and it’s like a flood of information and a range of different emotions.

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Asahi believes that people only change if they were fake to begin with, and that at least sounds like the sort of opinion I’d expect from a young man (unlike the behavior I’ve seen from Saku, Kota, Kai, and even the SHARK members in the previous episode). It’s very Holden Caulfield.

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Actually, Asahi is very much like J.D. Salinger’s classic teen rebel and his disdain for phony people. And many of the characters really have been phony – even Aruto, with the way he interacted with those girls earlier in the episode, and Haruya, who so rarely feels free to speak his mind.

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Can Ichika reach the younger brother of Kazuki, who she had so much respect for?

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Asahi is right about people being fake, but wrong about change. There’s no easy answer to this form of cynicism, though, and if the writers even dare to try to do it in the hour or so of program time they have left, I’ll skewer them. Holden Caulfield is an iconic character precisely because you can’t just have a tearful moment of reconciliation to get over the issues with society that he struggles with.

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But even if Asahi is the only redeemable character, he’s also clearly in pain, so I doubt the writers will be able to avoid trying to give him some form of resolution. Which is exactly why they should have started unfolding his backstory many episodes ago.

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Suddenly, Saku is pretending to be a competent leader. Will he be able to put Cloud5 back together and get them in shape to compete with BtS?

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Even if he does, why should we root for them?

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Quite apart from everything else, the performance from BtS in the previous episode made them seem like the cooler group.

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Except that I really, really don’t want to root for anything that Kota is in.

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Ah, this is so difficult! I totally agree with Azuma – BtS should just get rid of Kota so I can root for them. I still don’t see what he brings to the group. It’s not like they’re even short on attitude – they seem to have that in abundance already.

I’m dreading how the writers will try to wrap this up. I’m dreading the Makoto subplot, any Saku-Kota reconciliation, or any attempt to rewrite Asahi’s personality. A lot can go wrong with this situation, and the writers have not shown much consistency, nor any ability to handle these characters realistically.

The one plus in all of this is the motivation of Asahi, and Genki-kun’s excellent work portraying the character. Right now, that’s the only aspect of this series worth watching episodes ten and eleven for.