Chihayafuru 2 19 takes the tension it’s famous for creating and stretches it farther than I could have imagined, and it didn’t break.
To do this, it cuts back. Last week they showed us every single thing that was going on in that room, with every player and every viewer. No time for that this week. The three games still going on are too important. The episode limits itself to Chihaya, Taichi, and Nishida, and their opponents, with only minor reaction shots from others. And the episode made some interesting choices. Chihaya wins almost as an aside. Oh, we go in her mind, but all she’s doing is trying to focus. Her injured finger isn’t mentioned, like it never happened. It builds to a nice final moment, lightning fast shots of faces in the room and from her past, and then it’s over (wait, did Rion double-fault? I didn’t quite get that), and after that, well, it’s Chihaya: Zzzzzzzzzz …
The focus switches to Taichi and Nishida. The former is playing through bad luck, the latter has something to prove. I was surprised that we got less of Nishida. He seemed to be due for a big moment, or some revelation or insight that gives him an advantage, but instead he catches up through experience and guile. As he says, he’s been playing longer than anyone else still in the tournament. Not very dramatic, comparatively (I mean, if this show WANTED to it could make Nishida scratching his ear the most dramatic thing you’ve ever seen), but it gets him even with his opponent. Instead, we get a lot of Taichi and his bad luck and weak self-esteem, and finally his decision, as Desk-kun says, to change. Also, and I wondered when the show would come back to it, the two boys work together to synchronize their remaining card, making it a 50/50 chance at the end (Retro-kun can’t believe it). Later, Chihaya tells Arata that he’s wrong about team Karuta, but this moment alone demonstrates how wrong he is. When the match is over it’s as if the show was too exhausted to make anything more out of it. It’s almost perfunctory. Or maybe the creators used up their allotted tension or are saving it up for the individual tournament next week. You don’t think we’re actually going to get a breather, do you?
Toaru Kagaku no Railgun S 6 worked out as I thought it would. A scene full of menace followed by reiterations of the series’ main themes.
There was no chance that Misaka would be able to put a dent in Accelerator, even if you hadn’t seen the arc in Index it wouldn’t have been hard to figure out. The question was whether Misaka was going to take a beating or not. There was no mention of it before, but we don’t know exactly how it played out. And it wasn’t until that Army of Sisters showed up to interrupt the battle that we had an answer. In the end we got what we expected. Misaka throws everything she has at Accelerator and he laughs it off. She’s no match for him. What comes afterwards, though there is no violence whatsoever, is just as interesting.
Misaka herself seems to have trouble treating the Sisters as actual people; they consider themselves guinea pigs (Shinobou also uses this image, though she says she’s changed her mind and now actively opposes the experiment) and seem to have no free will, making the theft of Misaka’s ice cream a contradiction, but it looks like she’s momentarily forgotten the details. I always thought it strange that she never befriended any. Well, this is more or less an aside. Misaka is a decent human being; besides, it’s her fault, she thinks, as she looks at a hundred of her selves. … Er, Misaka, couldn’t you just have followed them home? It would have saved you some snooping.
But Railgun is grounded in other things than clones and monstrous experiments. Her friends are worrying about her, and this means lots of phone calls from Kuroko to and from Uiharu and Saten, and a meet-up where she lies about where she was and no one believes her for a second. They make the point made often in season one: they’re her friends and they’re there for her. And at the end Misaka brings up another old theme: the senselessness of going off to fight battles alone. Looks like she hasn’t learned anything from season one.
Attack on Titan 6 starts with some misdirection, featuring Armin trying to get himself together (and mostly failing) after watching Eren get eaten. We follow him as he thinks about how cruel the world is, the strong preying on the weak, etc, but then we get a complete change and follow Mikasa as she goes flashbacking to the terrible event that made her the efficient cold-blooded killing machine (and the most fun character to watch) she is today. It’s more strong-preying-upon-the-weak, and not terribly interesting, apart from the fact that she’s part “oriental” as they put it. One good contrast, if an unrealistic one: they show the helpless Mikasa watch as Eren as a child (showing as much maturity as he does as an adult) kill two of her captors and urge her to fight back against the third. Earlier we saw Armin being kicked around by bullies only to be saved by Mikasa and Eren. Armin never figured out how to fight back, Mikasa did. Though with her it’s as if super killing powers got zapped into her by some exterior force. But everything about Mikasa suggests otherworldly abilities, anyway.
If Red Data Girl has any more episodes like #6, well, I dunno. There were two interesting scenes in it, one where a drunken Izumiko out-of-bodies herself to chat with Masumi’s ghost, and he suggests hitting on her, odd behavior for a ghost. Izumiko is drunk enough not to freak out, but simply ponder the implications. The other scene was a verbal confrontation between Mayura and Akinokawa over power at the school, and the only thing that makes it interesting was that it was a confrontation, because we have almost no clue what they’re talking about. Afterwards the show deigns to tell us what the judges, executive committee stuff and the SMF actually mean, but through a series of conversations so lifeless that I don’t really care. Since this show is made by PA Works, for whom slice-of-life is a speciality, maybe I should expect most of the supernatural stuff to come out in the form of discussion, but their previous shows did a much better job of it.
Episode 7 is a little better, but like the previous one, businesslike and often dull, tossing out scenes of this and that like a bored dealer, and giving us little clarification. First Mayura decides to test Miyuki’s abilities, leading to utter failure by Miyuki and more soul-searching by Izumiko about how his plight is all her fault, after all. Though, if this was a different show, the victors would be smirking and mocking the boy. Here they (the ones not brainwashed into attacking) just nod and say “Okay, now we know,” while Miyuki goes “I TOLD you!” One thing about PA Works shows is that their characters know when to go against type.
I mostly understood that part, but things got confusing again when Manatsu runs off to tend to Tabi the horse, leaving Masumi to cover. There’s potential for annoying humor here, but the show ignores it for the most part, the biggest problem being when Masumi is temporarily driven away by a ritual dance the executive committee does. Then, when Izumiko and Miyuka decide to check up on Manatsu, they find the horse has died and Manatsu is talking about not remaining with Mayura, only to have her overhear. She says she rushed to the brother who was the saddest. He says he no longer has Tabi to protect him (huh?), meanwhile a horse materializes out of nowhere and he rides off on it. A true WTF moment. Izumiko, Miyuki, and Mayura are shocked; I am completely befuddled. And only now do I realize that this was the siblings’ story arc. I only wish I understood it better.
No matter how hard I try I fall behind in SOMEthing. This time it’s Suisei no Gargantia.
Episode 4 take the fish out of water story and gets a little annoying with it. We have the kid Bevel saying wise things the doctor couldn’t answer and thus marks himself for possible death later in the series, or at least to get endangered. Anyway, he asks questions that Ledo never thought of, and I’ll be generous here and assume it’s from conditioning rather than a basic lack of intelligence on Ledo’s part. When not talking with the philosophical savant, Ledo just sits around and lets Chamber earn his keep for him. I’m relieved that the community is savvy enough to charge him for Chamber storage, etc, but a little annoyed that they’re not more curious about them both. Considering the game-changing abilities these two bring, you figure someone in that place would want to take greater advantage of them than simply having Chamber move containers around. Still, a pleasant episode, and the only thing remotely involving plot was Bevel playing that tooth-flute and triggering a flashback that makes you wonder just how smart or conditioned Ledo is not to recognize it.
And it’s followed the even more pleasant and uneventful episode 5. This time around Ledo drops the philosophical musings and gets around to the practical matter of figuring out what he’s actually useful for on that ship. Chamber keeps telling him: nothing much. If he can’t fight he doesn’t have any skills at all. But the boy does indeed try to be of some use, just when the ocean calms and everyone decides to take a break. The point is made that Ledo has been accepted into the community, even if they’re not sure what to do with him yet. And we get the girls in swimsuits, something you pretty much expected would happen. And the flute metaphor is played again, so to speak. The question is, when will Ledo or Amy or whoever manage to get sound out of that thing, and in what circumstance, and what will it mean when they do?
But two episodes of peaceful times and Ledo trying to fit into a patient and helpful society is a bit much. All they can really show us in this state is more fish-out-of-water stories, or in this case, Ledo-in-water-and-sinking. Oh, they nudge the Ledo/Amy romance a bit, and her dance (the second one–the first one was just a tits and ass show) while Ledo watches was a lovely moment. Just the sort of moment that, in some other show, would get interrupted by some big danger, like Hideaze. Not here. They just go to visit Bevel and the doctor. No, when the threat does arrive, it comes, ironically, while Ledo’s doing something useful, and there’s only one of them. What’s more, we don’t know where it came from (the ship they’re salvaging?) or what it means. In other words, the danger, if it is a danger, doesn’t inspire any fear or alarm in anyone but Ledo, but instead raises questions.
The Sisters arc in Toaru kagaku no Railgun S continues to be undercut by the fact that we know the story already. Episode 5′s intentions are obvious: spend the first half having Misaka meet and bond humorously with one of her clones in a manner befitting the series, and spend the second half seeing that Sister slowly and brutally murdered by Accelerator. It’s supposed to punch our emotional buttons but it doesn’t work. Try as the show might, it can’t hide the fact that there are thousands more of these monotone girls walking around waiting their turn. It gets hard to care when there are so many of them, like death statistics you might hear about but cannot comprehend. Also, we saw a few of these deaths before, not only the room of corpses last week but a few years ago in Index. Though there was a moment at the very end, when the Sister drags herself to the badge Misaka gave her, that cuts through the indifference. And let’s not forget Misaka. Even if we can’t feel much emotion for the Sisters, she certainly can. They’re clones of her, after all, and she met one, and it ate her ice cream! Now we have a fully-motivated and outraged Misaka, setting up an interesting battle next week; even though we know the end of the arc, we don’t know all the details.
Chihayafuru 2 doesn’t finish the championship match this week. Did you really expect it to? There’s too much for the show to fit in. We not only have to go into the heads of each of our guys to see how they’re coping with their individual issues, but we visit the minds of the ones not playing, the opponents Rion and that other guy, the reader, Chinobu, Arata (who isn’t even in the damn room), the coaches, the third place match, AND one or two watchers who talk about how intense it all is and how no one’s giving up. Of course, this show does this all the time, but now they’ve amassed such an pile of stories and emotions that it takes a while for the episode to get to them all. Chihaya’s battling her injured finger, and since she’s the main character she gets the most screen time, but her little story is put on hold for the week with plenty of time left. Hence a lot of the episode’s energy is diffused and it doesn’t feel quite as intense as other battle episodes, especially when it becomes clear that they won’t finish this week. Not to say the episode isn’t intense. I’m betting on a heavy Porky episode next week. He’s the one character we didn’t see much of this week, and he’s due for his big moment.
All I can say about Attack on Titan 5 is that I can’t believe it. I didn’t expect another episode where many of the people I’ve been introduced to in the past couple episodes get eaten. And it unfolds so well that you don’t see it coming, and then all of a sudden Eren’s lost a leg and is lying there on a rooftop while Arlelt is slipping down a giant’s gullet. What happens next is ludicrous (even with that odd flashback about a book), and it looks like the show has just killed off its main character. A hell of a thing if that’s the case, but I don’t think even this show would spend so much time following Eren around only to kill him off. Either that or we’ll have to find another main character.
As for the giants, we learn a lot about them but not the basic things, and it might well stay that way. Why they do this, where they come from, and other fundamental questions would lesson the shock and awe, and the show, so far, has smartly refused to do that.
While Attack on Titan is throwing every bit of crazy action and mindfuck at us every other minute, Toaru Kagaku no Railgun S 4 sets new standards in dawdling. We get a scene of the girls out and about, shopping, and wondering why the hell Misaka’s so cheerful today, and as you expect they dutifully drop little plot-hints at us in a “that reminds me…” and “… probably just a rumor” manner that they over-used last week. We sometimes jump to scenes of two scientist raising a sparkly new Misaka clone and thereby giving us some basic information on them in case we didn’t see the arc in Index yet. We’re all just waiting for Misaka to run into herself, and it does happen, but only after a thoroughly pointless sequence with some kids. It just goes on and on. Only in the final minute do we get the moment we’re waiting for, and then they switch away to another lab scene and a reminder that this show is capable of blood and gore, too.
Chihayafuru 2 17, the beginning of the final team match, follows along the same lines as every other battle in this series. The other team is really good, Chihaya is shocked at her opponent’s (Rion) skills, we get glimpses into the other team’s goals and desires (and chinks in their armor) while they quickly move in front, etc etc etc. And, as usual, it’s magnificent. … I try to concentrate on that now, not that it’s all a rehash of other battles … The big complication this week is the injury Chihaya suffers stealing a card she shouldn’t have been able to get. It looks bad, but interestingly it’s making her focus on the game. Much is made of Yamashiro, the reader, and that she’s related to Rion, and that her reading gives off colors that Rion can understand, but, in one of the series’ better flights of fancy, Chihaya begins to pick up too. And that’s pretty much it. Next week I assume we’ll start paying attention to the boys, since at the very end, their pride kicks in. I’m especially interested in Nishida making a comeback.
At the end of Aku no Hana 5, the caption reads “Do you remember your puberty?” Well, thanks to the episode I can certainly recall some of the painful, embarrassing bits that I’d love to forget.
Let’s leave out the deviancy for a moment and look at the date itself. It’s painful to watch. Even if Kasuga wasn’t wearing the gym clothes next to his skin he’d still be a nervous wreck. The only time he gets some genuine life in himself is when he babbles on about literature when they visit the bookstore, and Saeki is clearly bored and confused. But polite. Then there’s the moment in what must be a park, where he makes his confession (for a platonic relationship), where we can finally glance away from Kagusa and watch Saeki’s rotoscoped reaction. What is it? It looks like disgust at first, but she does say “yes.” Or maybe its disappointment that he didn’t do what Nakamura’s been pushing Kasuga to do for the entire date: kiss her. Whatever her thoughts, it appears that the two are, for the first time in the date, happy and connected.
Of course, we have to forgive Kasuga’s behavior to an extent. He’s not only an excited adolescent on a first date with the girl of his dreams, he’s doing it while wearing her stolen gym clothes. This adds a “Will she find out” factor that makes an already nervous, awkward date excruciating. What’s more, Nakamura is hovering around the sidelines watching his every move. Two things about Nakamura in this episode: up to the point where she spills water on the whole thing, she is used almost entirely as comic relief. She zips from one hiding place to another while making weird noises, popping up from behind trees. It’s hard not to laugh, and this show needs the laughter. It reminds me of countless other anime episodes where a couple go on a date and friends or whoever stalk them. Also, is it my imagination or are they drawing her a little cuter these days?
When Nakamura does get proactive and bring out the bucket (in a bizarrely looped sequence that followed a fantasy hallucination of Kasuga’s platonic feelings, the combination of which left me a little dazed), I thought (after my daze) “What did she do that for?” and then it sunk in. The date was over. We won’t get the implications of Nakamura’s interference until next week. Meanwhile, I’d like to say that I am thoroughly sick and tired of the gym clothes business. Burn them, Kasuga, and let’s get on to some other type of deviancy. This brand’s been around long enough that it’s beginning to seem normal.
Since I watched Red Data Girl #1-3 in preview format, it’s been a while since I’ve seen it. Episode 4, though fairly low key (apart from the homunculus and the computer blowing up), sucked me back in without much effort. Now things shift from the rustic and pastoral to a rich kids’ school. I expected a lot of class snobbery, but there isn’t much. Instead, all the petty hatreds of high school seem to be shifted to the otherworldly. The super rich and smart and snobby Takayanagi is set up as the enemy when Ricardo, Brazilian exchange student and homunculus (not much class snobbery, but the show here relies on “other people” as threats, even while taking pains to deny it by showing a couple others who are perfectly normal), is spotted as such by Izumiko. Still, it’s an effective threatening sequence overall. The end is marred by people stepping out of shadows (or through windows) to reveal themselves as more than they seem, but I’ll let that slide.
Then I watched episode four, where not only do more people step out of shadows but they have a lot of confusing things to talk about. We start with the confrontation between Manatsu and Takayanagi … some confrontation. Manatsu whips out a third version of himself (his sister Mayuma is the second) and we get an explanation which confused the hell out of me, especially the guy wearing the dress, while he wipes out Ricardo the homunculus and some flying glowing things to boot. I had to resort to Wikipedia to figure out what had just happened. It’s nice that the show is trying so hard to keep us informed, but it kind of makes the events lag …
We get something to latch onto after that, as the other Sagara joins the school as a lecturer and tells Miyuki to basically piss off. Miyuki goes into a snit, joins the student council (why?) and tells Izumiko to stay away, until he learns that Izumiko is meeting some other characters who have secret powers and their own stories to tell, whereupon he forgets his snit, and goes off to save the day, only to have Izumiko go into himegami mode and not need the help. It gets confusing here again; I think the new guys thought Izumiko was some sort of performance god, but Izumiko/Himegami tells them emphatically NO, even if she has her own light show.
Miyuki’s in a tough position. No one there (well, the list is getting longer) knows about Izumiko’s potential and Miyuki is partly saddled with helping her keep the secret (while Izumiko doesn’t feel like she should keep secrets from her friends, and that list is growing, too), but as the older Sagara’s arrival suggests, he’s not really powerful enough to do much on his own. On the other hand, the himegami wants him to keep Izumiko from taking on this role, which goes against everything he’s been trying to do and turns the plot on its head as well. I think so, anyway. A lot of this episode just made me scratch my head.