I’m falling behind. Sorry …
Sometimes when I watch Space Dandy I think I’m missing out on the joke. I felt that way through much of episode 6 as I wondered why they had a laugh track going–was this a commentary on modern media, or a reference to another ironic use of that most hated of sitcom devices from my childhood and adolescence? And, for chrissake, when would it stop?! I didn’t find the story itself any clearer. I appreciated the idea of a cloud computing metaphor going on (If that’s what it was. I have no idea), and it was nice to see Scarlet and Honey doing things apart from working. But it bounced from one plot bit to the next with nothing much holding it together. Well, it wasn’t the worst SD episode; I enjoyed watching and trying to figure out what would happen next, and be wrong. I just didn’t understand the point of it all. Maybe I AM too old for this.
Sword Art Online 2 7 is an in-between episode where both Kirito and Sinon gear up for the big battle that evening. Kirito has the most to get through, and it’s not the idea that Death Gun is maybe the guy who’s been killing people. His failure to notify the people who put him up to this is surprising; has he forgotten his mission? He’s more worried now about the guilt he feels for remembering or not remembering the names of the people (I forget which) that he killed. Maybe it hasn’t occurred to him that taking care of Death Gun might be a good way to atone, at least in part. Meanwhile Sinon gears up for the match by acting tsundere over Kirito, only to have Spiegel confess to her when she’s getting her game face on, showing a clueless lack of timing on his part, proof that he understands less about her than he thinks, or maybe he realizes that there’s more to life than therapy through games.
Hanayamata 7 clears the way for Yaya to join the yosakoi club full-time. To do this smoothly they had to invent some drama that mostly fell flat. I can understand Yaya’s intense disappointment over her band breaking up and ruining her ambitions, and how she might jealously lash out at the yosakoi club and thus hurt her friends. But it was too routine and led to too many tears–I expected some, but I thought Hana, giving the tearful speeches she gave, felt like an interloper. Naru was the one who should have given all of them. Well, Naru does get her main point across: Yaya’s been there for her for most of her life, it’s time to give some of that love back. And I liked how they lured Yaya to the roof in the first place–by shouting insults at her. Elsewhere, as I said, it was predictable, though I enjoyed the teacher trying to turn them into cosplayers.
Glasslip 7 has the same nonchalant tone as the others have had, but they throw in some extra weirdness right at the start.
Something like this makes the viewer stand up and take notice, but we’re not told the reason why there’s extra Kakerus around. The other two of him are unwelcome, but not threatening. He tells them he doesn’t hate them, and he’s perfectly relaxed while the others are there. All I can figure here is that this is a manifestation to his being “broken,” though I think it’s rather late to throw this sort of visual metaphor in the series. Anyway, they show up twice and vanish just as quickly. Elsewhere on the weird front, Kouto has another couple of visions, one of them of Kakeru falling (with that Escher print of birds turning to fish in the background), and she becomes freaked out for his sake. “Don’t go anywhere high!” But, seriously, he could be falling into the ocean from a pier. They WERE planning a beach gathering later … The second one involves Yanagi and a big flock of crows, and it’s the most surreal of the lot, suggesting these visions aren’t actually reality. Hmm, bird prints, crows, chickens, that nest, the odd hawk in the sky. Maybe we ought to keep an eye on the birds in this series.
The other big running whatever-it-is this week is Yukinari’s attractiveness. A bunch of middle-school girls thinks he hot, Hina certainly thinks so, and urges him to “stay attractive” in might be the weirdest scene of the episode. And Yanagi, just before crows show up, tells Kakeru that he’s the reason Yukinari’s no longer attractive. Kind of like the three Kakerus, this metaphor is new to the series and isn’t developed further than the repeated use of the word. On to the happy couple. Sachi disappoints Hiro (and us) by scheming to crash Touko and Kakeru’s beach date. This is so surprisingly underhanded of her that we can only gape like Hiro does. On the other hand, it leads to an affirmation of Touko’s earlier vision, as Sachi sits there sadly, in her pajamas, on a hospital bed. On the other hand, at least she’s not getting sicker. Touko ought to learn that these visions are easily misconstrued, or maybe that’s another theme the show’s working on.
Zankyou no Terror 6 is supposed to make me go wow at the irony of the two boy terrorists racing to Haneda Airport in order to stop a bomb, but the whole thing just irritates me. The reasoning for Twelve and Nine to stop a bomb going off in their name doesn’t hold up. They don’t think anyone would believe them, and I say they ought to make another video refusing responsibility and let the two factions above them duke it out. Unless it’s Nine deciding he has to interfere because it’s Five, and there it fails again because they haven’t told us enough. I’m more curious about the white-hair blowing up, or whatever the hell she did, the event itself, than I am about Nine’s conflicted guilt. Maybe if we knew more we could care.
I’m also irritated by the ridiculous chess game Five is having them play. First, the last remaining piece will tell them where the bomb is? That’s not how the game works unless one side is playing not to win and the other knows it. On the other hand, I am very interested in how Shibazaki and his rogue buddies are going to interfere, if they can, and what the ramifications will be if they do. Right now the police have been shoved aside by FBI (and isn’t their restriction limited? What about saying Homeland Security, or NSA?), forces that don’t give a shit about civilian lives, and their struggle to save those lives and their own dignity have a greater impact on me than anything those kids can come up with.
I thought Tokyo ESP 6 was going to take its turn and have the good guys beat up the bad guys, but instead the good guys, well, Rinka and Murasaki anyway, have to get some special training and a lot of speeches about motivation. So after a dark beginning where Rinka has to choose between rescuing Azuma and saving lives, she goes around saying she has no motivation, when she already has plenty, and getting training from a perverted martial arts master in a panda costume, once again mixing the serious and the silly, though not very well. I guess it’s a laugh after all bad stuff. She also gets a speech from Kuroi and is introduced to a new sparring partner who looks so much like Murasaki that I thought they were the same person. So I figure next week the first scene will be the new guy kicking Rinka’s butt for a while.
In Free! Eternal Summer 6 we have the prelims, and while they do have a few races in it, it doesn’t feel all that compelling. The main drama is Makoto deciding to swim against Haruka in the 200m free in order to have a serious race with him. Makoto loses, and he doesn’t mind. That’s really it. Well, it’s nice to see everyone else qualifying for the finals, even Rei, who’s so choked up at barely passing that you’d think he had actually won something. There’s supposed to be some drama with Haruka and Rin going against each other in the 100m free, but they’re buds now, and besides, this rivalry is a work in progress. The more interesting drama is Sousuke disapproving of Rin’s coming second, but we don’t really know what climbed up Sousuke’s butt to begin with, so it’s hard to care. Maybe the relay next week will be more interesting.
Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun 6 is a solid episode. Hard to say which part is better. In the first story we meet a boy named Wakamatsu who is traumatized daily by Seo in basketball practice, adding to his insomnia, but is instantly put to blissful sleep by Seo’s singing, but he doesn’t know it’s her. He tries to settle the former issue by confronting her on the roof, but miscommunication (Seo is pretty dense after all) leads to one of the show’s better scenes so far. Why do so many characters in the show take inspiration and advice from Nozaki’s shoujo manga? Oh well, what’s hinted at and quickly dropped is that Seo might have a crush on Wakamitsu. I hope they follow up on that.
I didn’t think the second story could top that, especially since this show can be uneven, but it’s still very good. Nozaki is sick and his three assistants (well, the redhead isn’t there) try to finish his work by the deadline for him. Competence jokes aside (hence the scene’s slow and predictable start), the subsequent fumbling around for background patterns or whatever they’re called, based on their own opinions of the manga’s characters (and people they know) lead to some good moments. It’s especially amusing because it shows Chiyo is as good at playing the fool as she is the straight man. So it’s two good scenes this week. One has Seo but no Chiyo. The other has Chiyo but no Seo. Take your pick.
Hanayamata 6 packs in more of the usual scenes you’d expect in a struggling performing club scene: conditions from the advisor, do well in exams (Hana doesn’t), meaning we get studying scenes, etc etc, until the bit when the advisor relents because Hana is at least trying. Japanese is her worst subject, strange to say, but it seems it’s the literature that’s dragging her down. It’s cute and dull, but livened up by two scenes, one where the girls show off the dancing they’ve learned so far to their fellow students, and Tami’s music turns out to be the show’s OP theme. Since the opening is lovely, its use here carries additional weight. But why are the other girls suddenly so interested? It’s like the first three episodes never happened. And the first bit, where Naru’s father tries to figure out what has brought this change in her daughter, was kind of sweet. But why hasn’t Naru told him yet?
The trouble with using Wikipedia to remember names and check spelling is that your eyes tend to wander, so I pretty much knew what would happen in Akame ga Kill 6. I just didn’t know the gory details.
If I hadn’t known about Sheele’s imminent death, I wonder if it would have come as a shock. I think it would have. With hindsight, Sheele’s sweet relationship with Tatsumi, with her joy of being useful and finally finding someone to hug, had some foreboding to it, but this episode was well set up. They get gory early on when Tatsumi slices a guy in half, to get us in the mood, and when we get to Sheele and Mine it’s presented as the other half of a night’s operation, and since the first half was poisoned with more ridiculous speeches and pronouncements (this show and Tokyo ESP are in a tie for the worst dramatic speeches of the year award). It’s when Seryu shows up and the mood darkens that we knew something bad would happen.
It was a decent battle, apart from the dog. We hadn’t seen him in action, and he’s effective when he is, but damn, I can’t take an enemy that looks like that seriously. Well, the show has always mixed the bloody and grotesque with the cartoonish … Other than that it was back and forth. Sheele and Mine regroup and attack effectively. Seryu proves herself to be not naive but utterly insane, and to prove it she has weapons hidden away in strange places. Her arms, sure, but a gun in her mouth? Nothing about this girl is normal. Anyway, when Sheele gets shot and bitten in half we get a goodbye sequence that’s maybe too long but I rather enjoyed. It’s nice to see the show giving a side character a few moments of life and dignity in the end.
Not much to say about Barakamon 5. I think I enjoyed the early, quickly forgotten bit about konomon the most. I had the same experience with corn fritters once. I must try konomon some day. The beach part was all right. It had a lot of jokes at Handa’s expense as usual, but also showed how much he’s bonded with the people in the village to the point where they give him respect and he doesn’t mind their hanging around. The last bit, where they’re all sleeping in Handa’s room, was sweet. And no on tried to give any words of wisdom this week.
Glasslip 6 … Just what’s going on in this series? I’m getting used to the idea that Kouto and Kakeru are pursuing their weird ability for personal ends; that’s been clear for a while. Kakeru says he looks at them as fragments of things he will need if he’s to become whole again. If he’s incomplete or broken I don’t know how seeing things he will see again actually helps him, but it might explain his self-centered attitude, seen in this episode twice when he provokes not only Yukinari but Yanagi, probably so that he would get the green light to go after Touko, who I don’t think is strong enough to resist. (Touko sees the flashforwards as ways to experience good things twice and to be warned about bad things–rather superficial, I think) Why she didn’t slap Kakeru as well I don’t know. He tries manipulating Touko, saying that she’s in all his visions, and she says the same, but, er, what about Sachi?
Speaking of Sachi, she is having a pleasant time being wooed by Hiro. It’s nice to see them together, concerned with each other and nothing else, imminent tests aside. I’m trying to figure out the deal with the eyes here. Kakeru says he can maybe “see it,” we switch to Sachi, wearing 3D glasses or something, then we see Kakeru’s eyes watering, then a close-up of Sachi’s lenses and the sparklers reflecting off them. What’s the connection?
Looks like Tokyo ESP is falling into a routine. In one episode the bad guys beat up the good guys. In the next, the good guys beat up the bad. Episode 5 falls into the former category, where we’re introduced to another dull villain with a good super power. He calls himself “The Professor,” and his speeches are as bad as the name he gave himself. When waiting for the good guys to arrive he does things like play pianos in the jungle–both illusions, but they show his crappy sense of style. What he wants is for everyone to kneel before him, of course, but right now he wants an esper zone for the city. To that effect he has a tanker floating just off of Tokyo Tower and when the good guys arrive to figure out what’s going on, they’re more or less taken care of. However, I don’t think the villains expected Azuma to rip his hand free from the sword in an effort to escape, proving that the good guys are better at taking pain than the bad guys. We’re also supposed to ponder the Minami/Azuma relationship and their convoluted background, but she could just dive off that tanker for all I care. They’re not handling that part of the story very well.
Sword Art Online 2 5 has the inevitable and unwanted “You’re a guy?!?!” scene early on. I suppose it’s good to get it out of the way, just so there’s no further misunderstanding between Kirito and Sinon. I wish, however, that they didn’t have to put it in a dressing room, with an overly long bit where Sinon stands there, shocked, in her underwear. I suppose the show couldn’t resist, but they stretch it too far. I wished for a moment that it was another series, like Love Hina, and Sinon would kick his ass the way Naru regularly did to Keitaro. But afterwards the episode gets much better, when Kirito gets his first round opponent, and the first actual battle he’s had in GGO.
It’s better because we see what Kirito does best: fight and strategize. We see him at an apparent disadvantage, trying to figure out what to do and using his experience to decide, and his skills to carry out his plan. It moves the plot forward too, as Death Gun (god I hate that name, I hate even typing it) takes notice and confronts Kirito after the match. Kirito realizes then what he’s dealing with, and he goes into a serious funk. This sequence also goes on too long. We didn’t need to see ALL of those people from the SAO game in a flashback. And you would have thought by now that Kirito had come to terms with the killing (in self defense) he did back then.
But in episode 6, Sinon, his new enemy, settles him down, somewhat. Kirito’s behavior in the next round is nearly suicidal, like he doesn’t realize he’s playing in a game, and then he just snaps. It’s a powerful moment, though I can’t place my finger on why. Was he blowing off steam, or had he come to a conclusion? But we’ve had a lot of Kirito’s problems so far and it’s a relief to kick back and watch Sinon in a match, winning easily, and listening to her thoughts for a change. But I didn’t know what to make of it when the two meet up in the finals. Kirito doesn’t try to dodge a thing, which is fine because Sinon is so flustered that she can’t shoot straight, but still, did he not dodge because he didn’t care, or because he knew she couldn’t hit him? At the end, after the duel within the battle, we get a good scene where Kirito realizes he’s acted rather badly to Sinon in a number of ways, and Sinon realizes that she’s not the only one around here who’s actually killed. So they bond while remaining enemies. So what happens next? Will Kirito go back to the real world and report that he’s got a lead on death gun? Well, probably. After all, he’s not really driven by revenge, or a need to prove himself. Maybe Sinon should kill Death Gun. That would be an interesting twist.
I’m getting amused by the alien weapons in Aldnoah.Zero. First, they’re weird-looking. Take a gander at that mecha the woman is piloting, especially the fist-missiles. I kept wanting to say “Robot Punch!” They look absolutely ridiculous. Since I’m assuming the Aldnoah tech they’re using doesn’t have to be in that shape to work, and no two we’ve seen have had the same weapons, the fact that her mecha looks like a fat, golden octopus on legs with fists at the end is her personal style choice. Which means it’s impossible to take her seriously as a fighter or a human, or even a martian. Also, once you get over the shock, and their destructiveness, they’re actually kind of easy to get around. Inaho doesn’t have to think very hard about what to do about them: force them off their course by firing explosives at them.
Which brings up a point that Marito makes: these glorious warrior-nobles are just as inexperienced in actual warfare as the humans are. If the humans can continue to think through the problems they can still hold their own. Marito clearly had this idea when he got in that one mecha before the flashbacks got too much for him again; Inaho isn’t the only bright mind around. Meanwhile the Martians are too busy puffing out their chests and acting contemptuous to notice. This is a lot of fun to watch; ragtag underdogs beating back a smug, cocky enemy is appealing. Good thing, too, because I’m still not crazy about most of the characters. I wonder if the show cares. Just so we hate the bad guys.
With episode four Zankyou no Terror was stagnating a little, but episode five lets in some fresh air.
We got this woman whom Nine calls Five, and suddenly the work on both sides of this conflict are thrown into disarray. An order from highers-up tells Shibazaki and the rest of the force not to search the trains for the bomb, meanwhile, Nine gets hacked, everyone loses their cell phone connection, and there’s no way to remotely defuse the bomb, meaning the kids have to find the train and do it themselves. (A strange thought in my head: What would the kids in Rail Wars have done?) And within a few minutes the show got more interesting. The police have more bureaucratic headaches and the kids, well, Nine at least, have been flushed out. Also, maybe someone actually died.
It also shows the kid-terrorists in a new light. In spite of their posturing and malicious intent, they don’t want to kill anybody. I suspected this, but it’s nice to see the show confirm it. Though I wonder then what they wanted that plutonium for. It also makes you wonder what they hell they’re doing any of this for. Why bombs? Why not some other, safer means of rebellion? Yeah, their motives are as big a mystery as before, and they’ve shown they can be distracted, Twelve by Lisa (who doesn’t do much in these two episodes except faint and play the bad-cooking newlywed), and Nine by Shibazaki, whom he either considers a worthy opponent or some kind of father-figure he never had.
Good, because as I said the show was stagnating. Episode four had another riddle, and it became even more tiresome because Shibazaki was pulling the answers out of thin air. How did he think to connect the dots and get “running red snake” anyway? It’s as if episode four was playing for time until Five’s plane arrived. But now the story has taken a step forward. Don’t know if I like the looks of Five, though. I mean, I’m not suppose to, but something about her, maybe that smug smile, or the thing with her nails, gets on my nerves.
Catching up with Space Dandy, um, I thought episode 4 would be a chore, considering I didn’t watch any of those films and TV shows they celebrate, but their influence on pop culture means I got the jist. The first song and dance was a bore, as was most of the entirely predictable and dull storyline, but the big finale was rousing enough that I had fun with it; I’m a sucker for a big production number. When, midway through, I saw the sprout on that girl’s head, I thought it would end badly for her, but happily the show decided to leave her alone. And finally, I thought Meow had the best dance moves.
And episode 5 is the best of Space Dandy’s second season. Nothing new to the story, in which Dandy goes off to catch a big fish, meets a little girl, Erssine, and her grumpy grandfather. He hears the fish is a myth but keeps looking anyway, and guess who’s right? Really, most of the episode is nothing but Dandy fishing while little Erssine looks on, with occasional abuse from gramps. But the art team this week is imaginative and it’s never dull to look at. I was reminded of the plant planet episode from the first season, which I think was maybe its best. And even though the big sea monster bit at the end with the villagers all holding on to the rope was expected from the start, it was so trippy (excellent music choices too) that I had a good time watching. Space Dandy will never be the best series in the world, but its best episodes rank right up there.
Akame ga Kill 5 introduces a new character, a strange piece of work named Seryu, empire soldier, young and eager, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, who Tatsumi runs into when he gets lost in the capital. The contrast between her and the nasty people she works with is jarring, especially when she goes on about fighting evil, and her Imperial Arms robot dog is supposed to detect it. She doesn’t set off the dog, neither does Tatsumi, and I’m wondering who would if none of the Imperial Army has done it so far. Then you get the flip side, her remark to the dog that she’ll feed him death row inmates as a reward, just like we’d offer a scooby snack. So maybe she’s just nuts. Elsewhere, Sheele takes on Tatsumi’s training, leading to alternating sweet, gentle, klutzy scenes with murder and mayhem as flashbacks show what’s she’s good at.
While Aldnoah.Zero continues to be an exciting, interesting show, it’s begun to show some cracks recently.
First, it’s turning into a Kataphrakt of the week story. We had Killram a couple of episodes ago, Vlad got beat up last week, and this week he came back for more only to have Inaho kill him. Also, the Kataphrakt are proving surprisingly vulnerable. After Vlad sliced through some good guys Inaho uses some fundamental flaw (which only he knows and doesn’t bother to tell anyone else) to plunge him into the ocean, where steam from the glowing sword blew him up. I suppose Martians aren’t used to fighting in bodies of water, but still, you’d think they’d consider this sort of thing. Or maybe they’re just arrogant bastards.
We see some more of the Vers Empire this week, most importantly, the Emperor ordering a cease-fire mainly because no one was telling him anything. Then Slaine sneaks him to tell him that his granddaughter is alive and he doesn’t react much, then Saazbaum tells him that the kid was lying, and he starts up the war again. I’m not sure what’s going on in that man’s head, but it’s interesting that the nobles can start a war without his consent, disobey orders when they want (Vlad), and be generally sneaky to each other as well. I’m looking forward to see how this empire without a head is going to manage.
Glasslip 5 continues the story of two people who can see glimpses of the future, and their almost complete lack of interest in this supernatural phenomenon. Instead, our romantic candidates go about, doing the things such people do. Hiro is embarrassed to be seen reading Camus at Sacchi’s place. Yanagi goes with Yukinari to a track meet, but Yukinari’s not 100% yet and doesn’t do well. Later, she confesses to him and walks off. Meanwhile our two visionaries hear all this secondhand or lend their ears to whatever the more active lovebirds are doing, while their ability is mentioned only a couple times. It’s almost like a gag between them now. There’s only one vision this week, where we see Kakeru smile, and it’s quickly forgotten. Though we get an affirmation about Sachi and the hospital, but it’s only for tests and she’s not even there yet. While I liked the look of this episode, like I do the series as a whole, I wish the characters would maybe get up and do something dramatic besides confess to someone you know’s going to shoot you down. Or WILL he?
Hanayamata 5 loses its way early on and doesn’t really recover. At the start, after a scene where we see Tami and Yaya have joined the club (the latter in name only, a running gag for the episode), we get a voice-over where Yaya introduces herself, and we figure the episode’s going to be about her. Which would be fine, however she had an episode before, so there’s no point. Apparently the show thought the same thing because it soon shifts to the girls and their new advisor Sally going to a local yosakoi festival, and that’s it for the plot this week. Oh, we have Tami and Yaya bond a little, with a very interesting, understated reaction by Yaya when Tami said Naru’s the reason she’s there, a throwback to the second episode and her jealousy, but otherwise the episode becomes inspiring speeches by one character or another, usually Naru and Hana. We don’t even get to see much yosakoi, just glimpses of this group and that. That was a letdown.