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LagrangeII 3 (15), Yuru Yuri 4, Horizon II 3, Driland 3

July 27, 2012 Leave a comment

Rinne no Lagrange II 3 (or 15) doesn’t tell us anything that we haven’t already guessed, but it tells it in the show’s usual, entertaining way.

C’mon girls, cheer up! It can’t be all bad! Well, it CAN, but, well, nevermind.

Olympics are starting soon, and I’ve been hearing endless reports about corporate greed, police-state mentality, missiles on houses, etc.; meanwhile little Kamogawa is hosting an intergalactic conference for chrissakes, and the rest of the world doesn’t seem to care. There are no superpower reps throwing their weight around, nothing I can see is cut off from the average townsperson or tourist. Everyone’s having a good time apart from Lan and Muginami, worried about their brothers and warring galactic empires, as I suppose they should. Asteria is worried too after seeing the data Lan gave her involving the experiments they ran on her. But she thinks if she can prove the Vox’s power can be used for peaceful purposes then it won’t be used for war. Absurd, especially after hearing Lan’s brother talk about “no mercy,” but for us it means we get to see Madoka undergo the same psychic stress test Lan underwent! Yay!

I’m not sure I understand exactly what happened during the test but it was fun to watch Asteria get suggestive with Madoka to raise her, er, stress levels. After that I just enjoyed the light show. Yurikano’s ghost or something appears but this time she’s really pissed off, and nasty-looking glowing red mecha appear, there’s something like a tumor in the sky … not the most cheerful cosmic light show I’ve ever seen, but fun to watch nonetheless. Too bad it all goes away before we get any answers apart from “opening the Rinne is BAD!” Well, that’s one opinion. Next week looks to be lots of dark talk between the princes and a lot of sister-angst.

Yuru Yuri II 4 … I don’t know why but one of the things in the show I find the most funny is the Nishigaki/Rise combination. The former goes off on a happy story about explosions and the latter responds with something we can’t hear. Maybe it’s because the explosion stuff is usually funny and topping with a girl who makes no noise at all is just absurd enough to get me going. Or something. The other thing that made me laugh was how Kyouko managed to eat the rum raisin ice cream she had given Ayano, who had been treasuring it ever since. There’s some moral there, maybe about eating gifts when they come to you. Or something about unrequited love. Well, who cares? I suppose the gas mask bit went on too long, but I liked the noises the voice actress made when their characters wore them. Three funny bits. That’s a pretty good episode.

A more straightforward episode of Kyoukai Senjou no Horizon II than usual. The biggest scene had to do with Bertoni negotiating the sale of meat to the Brits before the Spanish Armada invades, which we learned earlier will be upon the execution of Double Bloody Mary (Marys Tudor and Stewart combined–can’t wait to meet her). The negotiation for time are complicated further by a school festival and the fact that the meat will go bad in two weeks. At one point, after some spectacular bowing, the two parties actually switch sides. Eleven days, meaning the meat must be consumed in four. This is the sort of exciting content I watch anime for. Earlier, Tenzo and cloak-guy meet again and go to tidy up a graveyard by ordering little rodents to clean up the swords stuck in the ground as markers. And they talk about Double Bloody Mary, the execution, the fact that she couldn’t pull out Excalibur Caliburn, you know, Brit talk. Oh, cloak guy trips and is revealed as a busty blonde. Elsewhere, Suzu(?) hears a loud bell in London and is later appointed to be ambassador, or something. What else? … Oh, in Spain we learn that Munshige’s severing of Tachibana’s limbs has allowed her to lead a normal life. Back on Musashi, Toori is at least wearing a loincloth now. As I said, pretty straightforward for this show.

I’m going to give Tanken Driland one more episode. The lesson this week was about valuing your comrades, something which Wallens doesn’t agree with, so guess who gets stranded in a spider web? Well, Pollons does too, but he’d do it no matter what the lesson is. What few moments of fun there were to be had were fizzled away by bits like Pollons taking forever to pull the trigger, or stupidly going off after something that everyone (excluding Mikoto and Wallens, who really ought to know better by now. They just stand around.) knows is a trap set by something nasty. We get a new character next week, so I’ll hang around just in case.

Quick ones: Natsuyuki 3, Horizon II 2, Driland 2

July 20, 2012 Leave a comment

So what we’re going to get with Natsuyuki Rendezvous is a slow, internal process, where the living wife and/or the dead husband slowly let go of whatever is keeping him around, allowing Rokka to move on to another love if she wants. Or maybe it’s Ryuusuke who’s going to undergo something, or most likely all three. The point is that it’s going to be a quiet process, almost unnoticed if we didn’t have internal monologues to listen to. And it’s going to be slow. And everyone’s going to go around in circles for episode after episode. Precisely what happens in episode 3. Rokka is nursed back to health and shows some affection for Ryuusuke, while at the same time thinking how much she misses her husband. Ryuusuke is making moves where he thinks it’s appropriate, but who knows how long this will take. Shimao is reduced to being a crying, wheedling child. This could all take awhile. On the other hand, Shimao is begging Ryuusuke to let him borrow his body, just for a time. So we’re going to get some scene where Ryuusuke nods off in the flower shop, probably in the near future. In other developments, Shimao has somehow acquired some telekinetic powers. That’ll liven things up. Otherwise this show is in danger of becoming unbearable.

Kyoukai Senjou no Horizon II 2 … er, let me look at my notes … We got glasses guy losing a fight with Shakespeare, briefly interrupted by the question “How do you get all that power?” which prompts a lecture on literary criticism. And does glasses guy remember the 13th Mutsugorei Academy? He does, but apart from Shakespeare’s sad memories of the place we learn little. As a last resort glasses guy sends a signal and the Musashi starts making big wide turns until an invisible ship fires on it. A “cargo ship” where all the fighting was going on nose-dives into the ground, nearly killing some kids. I have no idea what monk kid and hat-man were doing there. So the Brits hold a meeting … so we turn to Espana where they’re handing out treats to children and elves. Everything settles down. The brits aren’t allowing anyone near the crashed cargo ship, which is reduced to catching fish to survive, I think. People talk a lot. Glasses guy and one of the countless winged girls talk about their recent defeat in a conversation rife with theatrical metaphors. Oh, apparently GG has to kill Aoi to lift his new curse, you know, that Macbeth stuff. And finally a bit with a nice guy who gets letters from orphans, when he can extract the from between the sleeping Lady Juana’s boobs. A touching moment, actually. Not the boobs part.

I still think Tanken Driland is a charming show, I’m worried that I might get bored by the straightforward children’s formula. It’s time for the show to assemble its team, and so we get Pollon, a brave hero/hunter who screws up everything, but his heart’s in the right place. The three set out to rescue a fairy village from giganto birds, which are actually kind of cute, and after all, they need to eat, too. But if you hit one it vanishes in a puff of smoke, so obviously they’re evil or something. It goes the way you’d expect: Pollon, low on self-esteem at the moment, manages to save Mikoto from the boss bird by screwing up. Happy ending and a new team member. But I found him kind of annoying. I don’t mind the character designs for this show (though I won’t argue with anyone who does), but Pollon’s bugs me, especially when he puts on his embarrassed, aw-shucks face. Not enough for me to drop it though. Not yet.

The season’s weird shows: Jinrui 2, Horizon II 1

July 11, 2012 Leave a comment

We may be more accustomed to Jinrui wa Suitai shimashita by episode 2, but there’s still plenty to make our heads spin. During Watashi’s visit to the mysterious fairy factory she gets separated from her grandfather and then Assistant and is left to her own devices, meaning we get more bureaucratic speech by the UNESCO director, now a factory manager, a man who can’t be happy, it seems, unless he’s assigned to posts and given the chance to connive his way up, not that he’s met any higher-up in the factory. This leads to what seems to be a main theme to either this story arc or the series as a whole, a critique of mass-produced food in general, I think, but since the factory is now run by what looks to be processed chickens, maybe the social commentary took a left turn somewhere. So we get a skinned, headless chicken with a kazoo voice talking about taking over the world, while Watashi adds her usual sarcastic commentary. Or it’s all an allegory on how bureaucracy breeds corruption, since Assistant throws the chickens into a panic by filming them, exposing them, so to speak, while Ave Maria plays in the background. Which brings up a religious angle, since the Poor Girl (as I’ll call her) lives in a cathedral (impoverishment of faith, whatever that means?) and is blessed by the chickens falling through the stained glass. Let’s not even mention Assistant’s Goreyesque alphabet, or Watashi’s hair. Er, this post degenerated into trying to give the show superficial meanings. Sorry about that.

Let’s see what’s going on in Kyoukai Senjou no Horizon II. Has it lost any of its nonsensical edge in the months since the first season?

Nothing’s changed much.

I forget exactly what was going on. Horizon was rescued and now they were all going to fight a war, maybe. We start with a big battle involving baseball players led by the Vice Chancellor (don’t ask me of what) who has a lot of bunt metaphors going for him. Someone else brings testament arma to the edge of the territory (don’t ask what territory) some power is negated, but Naomasa comes in with a big mecha, only to be countered by Fusae Era, and her own mecha, Byakko. Someone tries to stop the battle by doing an impression, but she bombs and it’s back to fighting. There’s an interlude where someone learns what sex is and later uses the word improperly in front of a young woman and a girl who’s a ghost. Then I lost track, partly because I had no idea whose side I should be rooting for. Later, Tres Espana Alcala de Henare’s third officer, Gin Tachibana (so I wrote) battles Masazumi, so Horizon whips out her deadly sin armament the Lamentations of Sloth, so Juana whips out Idle Disgust and sets it into overdrive. Everyone starts glowing in the parts of their bodies which disgusts them, until Toori (naked) distracts Juana but is blasted by the roof, but is caught by that bandanna guy who’s stealing secrets. … And the ship escapes, which, I now recall, was the point of the whole thing. But next thing you know they’re in British airspace and getting threats by Ben Johnson (dark skinned and with tits) and some creepy guy, and now we got ANOTHER inane battle, only with British overtones, like the “Great Backhand of Justice,” and we close with the boy with glasses about to have a verbal battle with Shakespeare. And that’s only what I bothered to write down.

Horizon finale. The last post of the year is also probably the silliest

December 31, 2011 Leave a comment

Looks like I’m wrapping up the fall season and the old year in one post. It feels wrong to finish it with this show when there were so many great ones this year. 2011 is the best anime year I’ve ever experienced. I mean, just off the top of my head: Madoka, Steins;Gate, Hanasaku Iroha, Tiger and Bunny, Wandering Son, Usagi Drop, Mawaru Penguindrum, more Natsume and Working!!, Chihayafuru, and a whole bunch of other shows just off the top level but still fun to watch, really too many to mention here. For me, Madoka was the show of the year, with Penguindrum and Steins;Gate right behind it. So for this post … well, while if we remember the quality shows, let’s tip our hats to the silly and incomprehensible ones as well, like Kyoukai Senjou no Horizon, shows which often made me smile even while I wondered why I was wasting my time.

The last line of the series sums up my thoughts nicely.

Let’s see … The invisible wall is lifted and Toori and Horizon get to hug, and Horizon pushes a button and becomes a member of Musashi Ariadust Academy, meaning she’s under Musashi’s protection. But as the pope points out, not until she can get there. So there’s a bit of a chase, Toori/Horizon get off the ground thanks to that talking red bouncing ball thing, which up till now in the series hadn’t done a damn thing. That leaves Curry Guy and Flying Grinning Winged Naked Man as the two most useless characters. But their ship is still being tailed and they’re about to get zapped by another big weapon, so it’s time to get some of of Horizon’s soul back into her, namely “Lype Katarripsi,” a big gun and even that isn’t enough until she starts to sing a song about letting her pass. Letting them escape would be a better lyric, but it works anyway. Getting some emotion back means she gets to cry cute, so we get some lovey-dovey talk from Toori. After that it looks like it’s going to be all about tying up plot points and partying (Curry Man, at least, helps with the food). But there’s still plenty of time left, so they toss in a warship attack by Muneshige’s WIFE, to show she can beat the good guys, and since she can, her husband, who is stronger, must not have been 100% on that day he lost. Which is a pretty lousy excuse, but at least it proves she loves her man. She’s got some ODA warriors with her, the 6 Tenma Army, or 5 Great Peaks … whatever they’re called, they attack using sports implements, and as everyone races to battle stations: end of episode, end of series. EXCEPT! We’re getting another season … thankfully, not until next summer. Just enough time for me to forget about this one, not that I was paying much attention anyway. And with THAT, I think I’m finally done with the fall season. Happy New Year!

Episode dump: Chihayafuru, Tomodachi, Working’!!, Tamayura, Horizon

December 22, 2011 Leave a comment

Kana gets a little carried away if there's poetry involved.

Since Chihayafuru 12 became available to me the moment I had finished with #11, I might as well take care of it now. The prelims are done, the nationals are head, Mizusawa is going to represent all of Tokyo … and nobody else cares. That’s the nice irony that this show gives us, the fact that you can become so devoted to something which really is not that important, at least in the practical modern world. It’s shown here by the Empress (grumpy old advisor lady) not understanding what the fuss is about, and Chihaya’s family not seemingly knowing or caring that she even went to a tournament that weekend at all, because her model-sister is on TV. Chihaya’s reaction to this is rather sad. She’s so used to it that she just shrugs it off and joins the family to watch the tape, which makes the payoff later in the episode more emotional. The rest of the time is spent practicing under tougher competition at various clubs, with Chihaya feeling the pressure, reassuring bonks on the head by Taichi, and checking up on the morale of Desktomu, who’s grades are slipping, and who, strangely, does not care too much. But the best moment comes at the end. Kana reminds us that these cards they’re batting around have poems on them. They represent a culture and history that must be remembered, even if they seemingly have no practical use (she doesn’t actually say that, but it’s clear that the creators want that point made), which leads to Chihaya later saying she sees “her” card as bright red. Especially notable in this series where all the colors are washed out. And what does Omi Jingu, the Nationals venue look like? Yup. Lovely moment. Sometimes I think this show’s at its best when it’s not filled with frantic tournament action, when it moves more slowly and allows the metaphors and imagery to drift in.

Boku wa Tomodachi ga Sukunai 11 doesn’t do much of anything until the very end. That’s okay. For me, half of the show’s fun is watching the characters screw around with each other. This week it’s the local summer festival. We get the scene where someone wants to go but doesn’t want to admit it, and soon everyone winds up going (the excuse is to eat takoyaki), we get rather too much of Yozora and Sena competing in games normally beneath them, Kobato and Maria going at each other, etc, the only difference being just about everyone is wearing a yukata, except Yozora, who’s character is always in danger of veering away from healthy misanthropy to stick-in-the-mudness. Apart from the end, the highlight was Kodaka trying to define Rika’s stock anime character and the Comiket flashback including the Ore no Imouto characters. As for the end, well, I’m glad they got to the revelation, and I’m glad Kodaka realized it himself, but there was nothing leading up to it at all. Yozora cut her hair, Kodaka made the connection–that’s it. Kind of a letdown. But it should give the final episode some extra spice.

Working’!! 12 is mostly about Inami and her androphobia, but that’s okay. The season has done well in not overemphasizing it, rather, using it as part of their now-extensive comic arsenal. What’s more, Inami’s gotten better and has in fact set a record for days in a row not punching a guy. Not only am I happy that the show’s not weighed down with her, but enough time has passed that I’m happy for her character; she’s about the only one there capable of growing, well, apart from Takanashi’s little sister. And it’s a good episode all around. Also, so many little bits are worked around the Inami story that it feels balanced. We get bits with Yamada and her bear (the other crisis of the story), with Kozue, and Yamada’s brother and Inami-stalker, and almost all of them are funny. The dialogue and visuals mesh together in inventive ways to tell the jokes, my favorite bit this week being Satou’s slow and unnoticable backing up when Yamada and Poplar take Inami on the “Wagnaria man tour.”

Farewell to Tamayura – Hitotose. It’s an eventful little episode, as these things go. The “Ourselves Festival” goes by without a hitch. When Maon sat down to do her reading I inwardly cringed, but it was a better story this time, and it had special effects (and later, we learn that she killed off the main character!). Little Komachi’s photographic additions to the exhibit (all of Norie being angry) was a nice touch. Best of all, it was all over halfway through the episode. After that it’s New Year’s Eve stuff (I rather like watching depictions of New Years in anime), a call from Chihiro, and Sayomi drags the girls off to see the New Year sunrise … only to have the car balancing on the edge of a steep incline, another thing I didn’t expect from this show. But they get to see the sunrise from a new angle, people stop and brings them warm food and heaters until the tow truck can arrive, and it turns into a party on the roadside, a good way to end this sweet and innocuous series. It sometimes got too sentimental, especially at first when Fuu was still getting over the loss of her father, but at its best it drifted along with few words, and invited us to enjoy the everyday moments of life along with the characters, with some gags tossed in at just the right moment. Not bad.

The most profound battle of wits since the Marx Brothers' 'Swordfish' routine.

I hoped that Kyoukai Senjou no Horizon 12 was its final episode, but apparently they want to squeeze as much confusion out of this premise as they can. As you recall, Muneshige is about to fire Lype Katarripsi at Mushashi, but Futayo decides she’s not done yet, gets off the ground, and beats him. Something to do with her father’s legacy, since he had beaten Muneshige before. Muneshige is fine with this and falls unconscious. Then we get to the real action. Toori’s at the wall of sins, or whatever, talking to Horizon, or rather, the automation that carries her soul. It’s love declaration time! She says the world is more important than his wishes, so he announces he’ll become king of the world and lists just about every single weird thing we’ve seen in twelve episodes and balls them up into “Us.” It’s a long, eloquent list, an impressive speech overall, so naturally she rejects it. So he says he loves her. She says, being an automation, love is a foreign concept. So he talks about her boobs, she (and everyone watching) calls him disgusting, and announces that their personalities are “parallel,” so it can never work. Perfect! Toori plays that game where you reverse every sentence so that their contradictions wind up agreeing with you. This works just fine until he brings up her boobs again. After the Pope tries to interfere he accidentally touches the deadly wall (actually her boob, which is on the other side of it) and now he has to deny his greatest sin, which really isn’t much, since it wasn’t entirely his fault. They survive the trial, Horizon is rescued, hooray! Parallel lines meet above the horizon! Hooray! Let’s end the series right here! … Unfortunately, there are too many other characters standing about, and a few armies. It looks like they have to fight a war first. Maybe next episode.

Penguindrum 23, Working’!! 11, Horizon 11

December 17, 2011 Leave a comment

I’m not sure why, but Mawarau Penguindrum 23 seemed to have absolutely no sound to it. Okay, voices talking (Sanetoshi’s low voice especially), the alarm noise used to introduce flashbacks, and clocks ticking, and a song during the closing credits, but everything else around them felt completely silent, like unimportant things had been stripped away. The episode was tense and sorrowful, although, again, no one is actually dead yet.

The first scene flat-out tells us what is going on. Sanetoshi was going to kill a lot of people sixteen years ago, but Momoka stopped him, at some expense to herself, and thus were born two penguinhats and two dark bunnies. As an aside, why one black hat and one white one, while you get two black bunnies? Anyway, this itself feels like the sort of fairy tale they were banding about many episodes ago. Maybe because it’s far in the past that the story’s rough edges have smoothed down to something more universal. If that’s the case we have to assume the fairy tale hasn’t ended, since the hats and bunnies aren’t done yet.

Interesting comment ...

We learn a few things and see a few that seem to break the show’s rules. Masako dies but is brought back by Sanetoshi, simply to prove a point. But she seems aware of what happened and refuses to accept it, only that Kanba stop listening to Sanetoshi. Kanba, apparently, is now the lost one of the family that he now denies having, well, apart from Himari. Meanwhile, Shouma, in vigil over Himari’s anticipated deathbed, has a dream where Himari articulates this. It’s as if Shouma has replaced Kanba as Himari’s rescuer. While in my mind I’m thinking “Wrong person to ask. Shouma hasn’t done anything all series.” Indeed, Kanba shows up and dispatches (but does not kill) Kanba rather easily, making me wonder what’s going to happen next week, when it’s down to him.

Tick ... tick ... tick ...

Indeed, Kanba/Sanetoshi seem in full command of their battles. Ringo is stopped. Both halves of the diary are burned (unless Yuri pulled another fast one, but I doubt it. I think her role in this series is done). Maybe it’s the ease with which Kanba/Sanetoshi achieve their aims that give the episode its serious, silent feel. There was little visually to surprise or delight us. They have showed us all the symbols already. There was only the completely unexpected (and, frankly, wrong-feeling) moment where the penguinhat actually talks to Shouma. There is no one left to speak for it; I guess it had to talk on its own. That’s the only reason I can think of. Next week is the finale. I have no idea what is going to happen, but I’m hoping to find out what the hell a penguindrum is, and for more life and energy. And more sound.

This serious-looking moment is actually silly as all getout.

Working’!! 11 spends some time with Satou, oh, and with Yamada looking for her stuffed bear. It’s a typical Working’!! instance of misunderstanding. He tells Mitsuki to leave Yachiyo alone, which Yachiyo overhears and assumes means Satou’s confessing to Mitsuki, I think. So both Satou and Yachiyo go around in a funk for a while, long enough that we pay a visit to see how Takanashi’s sisters are all doing (fine). And another conversation where both parties discuss something the other doesn’t know anything about, Working’!!’s specialty, and it’s resolved in that everything is the same as it was before. One thing to remember about this show is that nothing much really changes, unless they introduce a new character. I am relieved, however that the episode is not only not Inami-centric, but that we barely see her at all. Come to think of it, whatever happened to the normal girl, the one with glasses? The best moments, sadly, have nothing to do with the main story, and involve the sisters, and the bit where everyone just walks away from Yamada.

The Pope!

Kyoukai Senjou no Horizon 11 has a few battles of more or less equal inanity. The first one has Mushashi’s God of War (two girls) attack the bad guys’ massed army by flinging something at it. It seems to work. Bodies fly everywhere. Everyone else on that side just stand around watching as Neito Argent Loup Mito Tsudaira (cal her Mito. Her title is even longer) finally lands. They continue to stand there as Mito, the enemy, walks right past them and up to Toori, sho gives her noogies of appreciation. She goes back to fighting the army, who JUST STAND THERE, until Pope President Innocentius of KPA Italia tells them they weren’t the good soldiers anyway. Here’s his real army. And top prove it, he casts a spell using his mortal armament, the “armament of mortal sin for lust, stateis Porneia,” that seems to tak away all the enemies’ strength. I bet that other army wished they had that kind of support. So Toori signs a quick contract that endows him with 1/4 of the ether in Musashi, provided his offering of happiness remains. He can’t be unhappy. Since I’ve never seen him without a smile on his face, this should not be a problem. He plugs into the good guys, literally, and they start pushing the enemy back. Meanwhile Masazumi, (botched sex change, remember?) challenges the Pope to a one-on-one, and some other guy takes on Galileo, who has armed himself with “Ptolemaic theory” defense, but is undone by punching by the months of the year. I didn’t quite get that. Oh, and Futayo takes on Tachibana Muneshige again, but loses this time. So now there’s a big gun pointed at Mushashi; there’s a lot of talk about what this means, but a big gun pointed at something is always serious business. That’s all we need to know. Or want to know.

Chihayafuru 10, Working’!! 10, iDOLM@STER 23, Horizon 10

December 12, 2011 Leave a comment

In Chihayafuru 10, I find it improbable that Chihaya’s team would go to their first tournament and actually win the thing. It doesn’t feel right for a series that has done so many other things well, so far. On the other hand, they have a crisis and overcome it, and everyone uses their strengths to overcome the team’s weaknesses, so it’s all right.

Not really a team, yet ...

It starts lightly. They’re wearing traditional clothes and feel a little embarrassed, Chihaya recognizes some old enemies and treats them as friends. Poor Retro-Kun doesn’t seem to know what hit him. The matches start, and Kana actually gets a win! Yay! But the crisis is upon them, actually, two or three of them.

First is Desktomu, he of great brains and some arrogance, but almost no playing experience. He gets wiped out in his matches and lets his immaturity come out. Feeling he’s bringing the team down he announces he’s leaving. They don’t need him there, anyway. Basically a poorly-timed sulk. Taichi may have some issues of his own, but he shows a moment of good leadership here. He tells him that he can sit out the semifinal match but to be ready for the final. In other words he smacks down a subordinate junior and at the same time reassures him that he’s needed. It works. But Desktomu’s sulk has bad effect on Chihaya.

Just breathe ...

Part of Desktomu’s rant was that he believes Chihaya wants to get to the nationals in order to meet Arata again (well, that’s his excuse, anyway), and that he’s just a pawn in her plans, a fifth member because they need five members. This knocks Chihaya sideways and she finds herself losing in her semifinal match against a mutually supportive, upbeat, not to mention loud and distracting team. A real team. Chihaya’s side hasn’t meshed that well yet. Here’s when Taichi shows his second good moment of leadership. He scatters cards all over the place and while picking them up goes to each member and gives them reassurance. Breathe, Chihaya. And you get your come from behind victory with the sound of hands slapping mats amplified and the swelling music, etc. I would like to point out just how effective the show is with the hand slapping. It’s a percussive motif that punctuates every important moment of the match. Well, as I said, I don’t buy how they made it to the final match (and I guess we’ll learn a lot more about the smirking villain on the other side next week), but as usual the show was executed well enough to cover for it.

My biggest problem with season one of Working’!! was that Inami and her androphobia overwhelmed the rest of the show. I know they were playing the romance angle, but there were plenty of other good things in the show that we didn’t see enough of because of it. Season two has largely kept the punches and romance in a better balance, but now the series is in danger again. We recently had an episode featuring the two, and now we have another. Well, it was enjoyable enough. Everyone played to their strengths. My favorite bit came early on with Satou and Inami on break at the same time. Inami frantically tries to make conversation and not hit him, while admiring Satou’s calm exterior, while Satou’s real thoughts deliver the punchline. Poplar throws in some good moments, and Souma even manages to add some well-timed comments while not for once being despicable. Actually, it’s unfair to single him out for that. Everyone working on the show has refined the comic timing that even a Inami-weighted episode is still fun to watch.

iDOLM@ASTER 23 brings us the bad vibes that were temporarily held away from their most recent triumph and the holiday episode. It really is a good thing, you know, that everyone’s so busy. Haruka knows it, and when she reads an article about some of her coworkers in a magazine while the taxi rides past billboards and TV screens showing other idols also making good, we feel the pleasure she’s feeling. But when the bad vibes start happening you’re not sure exactly what she’s feeling bad about. Is it because everyone’s so busy they can’t get everyone to the New Years show rehearsals? Are we going to see them on stage, unrehearsed and failing? Is it because she’s not seeing any one of them? She’s seeing quite a few. Her beloved Producer isn’t exactly ignoring her. Because they won’t be doing that daytime show any more? Is it because they’re going their separate ways? Because that was inevitable. Is it because Miki told her that she definitely wants the role they’re both going for, so that “working together” wouldn’t be accurate (I know exactly what Miki means, and she’s nice about it, but she really could have phrased that more gently)? Or is it because the stage crew didn’t close the FUCKING TRAP IN THE FLOOR??? WHERE WERE THOSE ASSHOLES TRAINED, ANYWAY?? … I vote for all of them.

Your lesbian techno-witch image for the week.

Kyoukai Senjou no Horizon 10 manages to bring us what is meant to be a thrilling battle AND its usual endless backstory and techno-cult-babble. Which is not so amazing considering one side of the battle seems to freeze when the other half gets going. Let’s see … Horizon is still captive, behind a disintegration wall. In this world, disintegration means you will see your greatest sin replayed before your eyes before you’re devoured for it. You can avoid that by denying your sin, but who can deny their sin? While the theologians among you sort that out, we see the enemy’s Tercio formation (which exists, BTW), and that is discussed until Toori decides to just run ahead and start the battle. We see the danger of the Tercio immediately, when it opens up to reveal a HUGE gun in the middle. But Adele rebuffs the shot with her heavy armor retainer (big mecha), which causes her some pain and a little annoyance. Everyone on both sides stops to marvel at her old-fashioned suit for a few minutes, then the good guys line up directly behind her and push her in front of them. So the Tres Espana and other bad guy airships launch missiles, but they are rebuffed by maids wielding bows and that one whose name I forget. Who am I kidding? I’ve forgotten almost all the names in this show. So the now-burning Tres Espana unleashes a God of War (flying mecha) and the lesbian witches go to fend it off after a magical girl-style transformation, using Techno Magic. The sleepy blonde witch is knocked unconscious but is revived by a pep-talk from an old guy. The blond sets up her big attack by saying “White magic creates plus power. Black magic creates minus power. Guess what you get when you combine the two?” I’m thinking that this is the least inspiring description of a weapon I’ve ever heard, but it works. Then the ground forces, who have all paused to admire the battle going on in the sky, get back to work. The good guys are split in two! But they launch a god of war of their own. End of episode. So much for THIS show until next week.

Penguindrum 21, UN-GO 7, two iDOLM@STERS and Horizon … oh, who cares?

December 5, 2011 Leave a comment

Mawaru Penguindrum 21 is comparatively light on new metaphors, but they make up for it with plot developments which are just as weird. By the end, the Takakura “sibling’s” “family” is shown to be as flimsy as the gaily-colored house they live in.

There’s a reporter snooping around who’s discovered that Kanba is getting Himari’s treatment money from the remnants of the Kiga group, the ones responsible for the deaths. Much of the episode revolves around this situation. He talks to Himari, Shouma, and Ringo, and while his information isn’t news to us, it’s of great significance to them. Most of all, Himari. She’s the one causing all the trouble, anyway. By living. This is straightforward, almost soap-operish stuff, and I didn’t know whether to be relieved by the relative normality or disappointed by the lack of mind-fucks. Turns out they were saving the latter for later. Though we get a taste of it when Himari follows Kanba and discovers the bright, warm diner he uses to meet his father. Only it’s not.

And we learn more about Sanetoshi, in one of his weird talks, this time with Himari’s first doctor. He was the father Takakura’s “talented assistant,” and should be dead, too. And he’s trying to try what they couldn’t do again, by passing “my will to their children.” He suggests that he is a ghost, or a curse. I’m going for the latter, here. He is a curse, and the children are his victims. So is he keeping Himari alive in order to extract more revenge out of them? I’ve had this thought before. Then things begin to come to a head. Shouma confronts Kanba about the money and Kanba beats him up and tells him they are no longer family. Then he rather effortlessly makes the reporter die. And Himari visits Masako and learns that Masako and Kanba are blood siblings, apparently, the only ones in the entire series. Who’d have thunk?

So now the family has been destroyed. This is odd. Their core was Himari, and she’s still there, wanting Kanba and Shouma there. That seems to be impossible now. But there are no tears. Himari and Shouma seem to think that it was inevitable, that they were doomed to fall apart. But there’s someone they can save, and it’s not Himari (apparently she’s going to die soon, no matter what), it’s Kanba, who thinks that only he can save Himari. That’s why he beat up Shouma, and why he’s accepting money from people who tried to kill a lot of people, why he just killed someone himself. He’s become the sort of monster that his father was without knowing it, the type of person who accepts no other opinions except his own. The belief that anyone else is capable of doing anything doesn’t cross his mind. He doesn’t even tell anyone where the money’s coming from. But we see now that Kanba is only interested in saving Himari, even if that means ripping apart the family she loves and needs so much. “Gosh, I must stop him soon,” has never been a more apt phrase. Why he sees his father as alive and healthy when he’s actually rotting in that diner may just be an allusion to the deluded futility of his desires, but he’s got plenty of clout to follow them. But one more question. What is Shouma in all this? Since he’s the only person who’s remained the same since the beginning, you KNOW he’s going to do something in the final episodes. But what can he do? What will he accomplish if he tries? What’s left for him, now that even Himari has said goodbye to him?

I probably shouldn’t have watched UN-GO 7, or any of it’s episodes, after Penguindrum, but I didn’t know this one would be especially strange. After the talk with the “novelist” in his cell, where we learn that Shinjuru is the man’s protagonist, his great detective, Shinjuru passes out and winds up as a cameraman helping with a movie where no one yet knows the ending. No! That last thing I want after Penguindrum is Pirandello! But on it goes. We have three actresses who, in the movie at least, are running around escaping something while wearing little clothing. Off the set they talk about the movie, including a long conversation about the asshole director saying they’re prisoners of the war they’re depicting, for in this world there is no war so they have to make movies of them. Shinjuru manages a few WTF moments during all this, but otherwise settles into this other world, maybe happy there hasn’t been a war here. Then the director gets rather nastily murdered, and Shinjuru becomes both suspect and detective. It’s interesting enough for now, but every now and then it feels like the creators (I mean the animators, not the movie people–OR DO I??) are trying to squeeze their source material into a format and genre not fit for it. Right. On to something that won’t tax my poor brane. Oh, I know …

No, but it would make me happier.

I thought the whole Chihaya thing was cleared up last week, but iDOLM@STER 21 decides to make more of it. This is okay. It’s a problem with series in general when a character breaks through an emotional issue to assume the problem is gone forever. More often it’s a series of two steps forward, one step back. So when the girls’ accompaniment CD gets screwed up (thanks to you-know-who) and they have to work without music, the show spends a lot of time with her announcing that she wants to try singing anyway. Rather too much time, really, because there’s the suggestion she makes to whats-er-name, and that talk, and then asking the rest of the girls who are all, naturally, there for her. However, it does pay off in another nice onstage moment, when the sound guy says fuck it and brings in the music he’s claimed to have lost. Was he bribed, or what? Meanwhile, Jupiter quits, and everyone except them go off to a nightclub to watch Kotori sing. This is maybe the best moment. We get a view of someone who loves to sing but didn’t want to do all that idol business, who’s found an outlet for her desires and is happy. Oh, and a weird moment where we learn that Kuroe, apparently isn’t all that bad a guy after all, at least that’s what someone says. Could have fooled me.

And after all the nasty events of the past few weeks the show takes some plot time off to give us a slightly early Christmas episode. In a way it’s a letdown. Everyone wants to celebrate together, but they’re so busy these days it looks like they won’t be able to. You know they’ll find a way, or rather, the producer (who gets so much praise heaped on him this episode it’s disgusting) will find the way for them. So we get the early “I don’t think I can make it” bits, which are nothing more than that, while we at home aren’t fooled at all and wait for the party to begin. They could have done more with it. On the other hand, they make a nice point about how their success means being so busy they never see each other anymore, and they sow a few seeds for the next plot thing. Also, while it’s all predictable, there’s a lot of unabashed, silly, jingle-jingle fun in the episode anyway. Really, the iDOLM@STER is just the place for us to wallow in it for our once-a-year fix. I’d have felt let down if the series HADN’T given us at least one Christmas song, complete with sleighbells.

Your average lance vs. boobs battle.

From sophisticated and complex, to silly and fun and seasonal, right down to completely inane, I watched Kyoukai Senjou no Horizon, where Futayo (I think) is about to duke it out with Galileo (no, not THAT one) when King Maron of Musashi, the one who looks like a playing card, steps in, pointing out that Futayo is one of his royal guards and therefore one of the students should fight her instead. After a discussion, and a flashback by Maron about how he was forced to become king (usually you’re forced to stop being king), Kimi, Toori’s big sister, announces she’ll fight Futayo. She has no combat powers but has a sexy dance and is pretty fast. Toori is so impressed that he starts flirting with a bucket, and Kimi’s just getting started. Soon she and Futayo are on a dance floor and she’s doing a song which, we are told, is the the Song of Passage reimagined as a dance number. Then there’s a flashback to the only time Kimi ever cried, a touching scene where she makes a despondent little Toori face his life again, but all I can think is “Damn, she looked like Taiga. I wonder if Taiga will ever get boobs that large?” Of course not. No one can have boobs that large, but I digress … Futaya is further flummoxed in the battle by being asked the question in the picture above, which is not only an interesting line but “the Q&A for the dance’s intermission.” Futaya loses, I guess, gets a blood lipstick makeover and sees the error of her ways. There follows more political banter than I couldn’t write down or even endure, but according the the Peace of Wesphalia which ended the Thirty Years War, they’re now all going to rescue Horizon. … I thought that was decided a month ago …

Chihayafuru 7, Bakuman II 7-8, iDOLM@STER 20, Guilty Crown 6, Horizon 8

November 23, 2011 Leave a comment

Chihayafuru 7 brings us a new player, Tsutomu, or “Desktomu” as they say, because he never leaves his.

You know the type.

One of those diligent people, “shaped like a jelly bean,” who harbours resentment toward everyone because they’re stupider than he is, but prettier. Sort of like Kohta, but without the zombies to take out his rage on. We’re supposed to feel sorry for him; even before we learn about him we’ve seen his type, or have been his type in one social group or another. But there are some bad vibes around this guy, in spite of his cat-smile. It looks like without some kind of acceptance he’s going to grow up nasty. Good thing that there are other strange, blindingly bright people around him, and they’re interested.

Skills of persuasion.

Well, Chihaya is, anyway. Tsukomu is the second-smartest person in their grade. Definitely a plus. But Tsutomu has been so burned by so-called friends in the past that he doesn’t react at all to fact that now the best-looking girl in the school is interested in his brain. Trouble is, he thinks he’s a little too smart. Bah! A game! How will this help his studies. It’s stupid. But, points out Chihaya, it requires memorization. If they’re really so smart, play the game with the cards face down, says Tsutomu, whom I’m disliking more and more in spite of myself. And so they do. The result is not what I expected.

It makes me wonder if there is a popular variation of this game. It seems so obvious. Hardcore Karuta! Beyond that, we learn more about Chihaya and Taichi’s abilities. Chihaya, invincible before, too much so, in fact, works from instinct and blinding speed. She hasn’t had to learn to memorize. Taichi, the best student in their grade, pounces upon this chance to turns the tables on her, and wins. It’s a good study of both their characters. And it all nearly backfires on them. Tsutomu is already resentful of Taichi, smarter than him, better-looking, popular. To see him win drives Tsutomu away, and it takes a lame speech to bring him back. You know, the past two episodes have been nothing but side-character recruitment stories, but the show adds so many little touches to it that they feel like more.

Bakuman II 7-8 continues the ludicrious story where Saiko, working himself into a sickness so bad he needs part of his liver removed, insists on drawing anyway. The chief editor, quite rightly, says the manga will be on hiatus until he’s discharged from the hospital. BUT, it will continue that way until the boys graduate. Look at it from his perspective. It was a controversial decision to even let high school kids undertake the pressures of weekly serialization to begin with. Now that one of their three artists that age has gotten sick, it’s quite right to re-think the policy. I certainly think he has a point. But the show decides to make him the bad guy here, with all the other artists we follow boycotting until Saiko and Takagi’s manga is reinstated.

This decision comes out of the blue. I know they’re all loyal to each other, but to risk your own careers on what is, really, a reasonable decision done out of concern for a fellow artist, is doesn’t make sense. It does bring up some interesting questions, however. How will these artists pay the rent? Will this behavior lead to future ill feelings, and a possible blacklist among the manga industry? Is their fanbase big enough that they can survive being kicked out of the biggest magazine in the industry? And what about Jack? Can it survive losing some of its most popular talent? How soon before the readers simply go elsewhere? We’ll never get an answer, as Miura manages to turn the tide by showing that Saiko can draw even while nearly dying … I said it last time. This series drives me crazy sometimes.

Putting Chihaya's younger self on stage with her was a nice touch. *sniff*

I keep missing episodes of iDOLM@STER, and apparently 961′s been at it again, and now Chihaya can’t sing. Little brother tragedy and broken home, all that stuff, comes out in the tabloids. Even Jupiter’s pissed off now. Naturally the episode is mostly Chihaya saying she’ll quit and moping about, while Haruka can’t convince her to come outside her apartment. Until she does, thanks to an old sketchbook and a hastily-written song. It sounds trite, and it is. This is a trite show. But in spite of the dull angst everyone undergoes for most of the episode the final scene, where she gets help in regaining her voice, was done well enough that even I got into it, and I didn’t even see episode 19.

Guilty Crown 6′s maddeningly stupid moments: they were able to get into the satellite controller base with hardly any troubles, just your average gun battle where the good guys are never hit and the bad guys always are. This Daryl guy, a sadistic madman killer type who is unleashed to defeat the good guys once and for all, is, for the second time, defeated rather easily. Really, those mecha don’t have armor in the back and rear of the cockpit, so you can just climb up and shoot them in the head? The whole Gai-is-just-human thing was overplayed. Though it was nice to see him reveal some remorse and self-doubt. On to the good things: the climax of the battle, shooting down the wayward satellite, was well-done and had me going, though I wondered why Gai chose himself to be the sacrificial lamb when he didn’t have to be. … Yeah, that’s about it. More bad than good.

Notes won't help you, Toori. Take it from me.

Finally, on Kyoukai Senjou no Horizon 8, the show with more exposition than plot, Seijun starts to argue with Toori about what to do about Horizon. Save her and they get a country, don’t save her, and well, I guess they don’t. Then it’s on to the casualties of peace and just cause, until a black blob in a water bucket gives her a pep talk. There’s talk of absorbing Mikawa into Musashi to save it, but I’m not sure, because people keep talking over the exposition. Then the pope shows up to intellectually outwit her using arcane arguments from the Catholic Church’s long history until the other side says “enough, already!” (That’s how it was explained in the episode, but again, people were talking around it, so I’m not sure). When that doesn’t work, he tells everyone that Horizon OS includes “Encompassed Yearning,” which is part of the Envy Sin Armament, or maybe it was the other way around, and why should Mushashi/Mikawa have WMDs anyway, especially with Seijun being untrustworthy because of her incomplete sex change operation. Toori springs into action–and pulls down her pants. This fills Seiju with resolve, not to mention embarrassment, and she declares that Horizon has a right to her own emotions, even if they ARE WMDs, and so the country will fight according to school rules. So Galileo attacks them. End of episode. To quote Anna Russell, “I’m not making this up, you know.”

Horizon, Tomodachi, and more Tamayura, even though I did one yesterday

November 17, 2011 Leave a comment

Maon was cute when she was five years old and not whistling.

Tamayura – Hitotose 6 is harmless enough. We go back in time and discover how Maon made friends with Fuu and Norie. Interesting that they chose Maon; they featured her in an episode not long ago. And I don’t mind too much as long as she doesn’t overdo the whistling. Alas, in the first half, where she meets Fuu, she hears someone whistling (badly) and is transfixed by it. Later she tries to whistle to make two crying girls (unbeknownist to her, Kaoru and Norie) stop crying. She masters the art in maybe a second, and the world was doomed after that. In the second half she meets Norie again. I’m not usually a fan of the loud types, but they do a good job keeping Norie from getting too annoying, plus, if she’s shouting about stupid would-be boyfriends Maon won’t be whistling, so it’s all good. And again, when the show gets really ludricrous and has Norie understand what Maon’s whistling about, they turn it upside-down after the EF by demonstrating that Fuu and Kaoru can’t. This show has a good sugar-overdose detector.

Kyoukai Senjou no Horizon 6 has no big battle scenes, so it isn’t as fun to watch as the last couple. Instead the characters settle down and try to figure out what their status is now, and what their next move will be. While we at home try to remember who’s on whose side and why we’re even bothering. They repeat enough things that I assume they’re important. Horizon, that living doll who’s got a mortal sinarmament weapon mixed with her soul (robots have souls, apparently, or maybe she borrowed one or they stuck one inside her. The original Horizon’s soul? Who cares, anyway?), is, I think a captive, but they’re being very nice to her. Meanwhile everyone in other scenes are hoping she won’t commit suicide. Then we get one of old guys, Sakai, himself in a very pleasant house arrest, chatting up another hot robot maid, meets up with other old weirdos Galileo and Innocentis, and apparently they have a grudge. Oh, the blond guy who lost the fight last week is healed and tortured a little by, er, someone. His sister, I think. Then a LONG classroom scene involving more exposition–if Horizon commits suicide,the Matsudaire clan will disappear, so the Mito Matsudaira clan will become the Far East Representative, meaning the student council rep is skipping class, attending a surrender ceremony where she tries to punch someone but fails. Then a tearful confession by the shy, nearly-blind Suzu, which is about the only part of the episode I understood. Then she has Toori grab her tits–okay, I understood that, too. In episode 7 the students face off against reps from … somebody, about whether to make war or not. We get one actual battle between a mecha (made of god of war parts) and a capitalist, a non-battle between Suzu and drill-haired Neito. Something about the honor of knights. Suzu tries to grab her boobs and falls instead. Everyone’s happy. Then Toori says let’s just give up. End of episode. I can’t wait to be confused next week as well.

Some of Rika's unique vocal stylings.

Boku wa Tomodachi ga Sukunai 6 was a letdown after two good episodes. Up until they actually visit the karaoke place all the scenes went predictably. Sena thinks it’s beneath her, but winds begging to go, etc. It gets a little better when they get to the place. Yozora thinks paying for one room for six people is a ripoff (she never had to pay for her air friend, right?), so tries to rent six rooms, one for each of them. Maybe that’s it. She and Sena wind up sulking in their own rooms, sulking, while Kodaka and the other three do what karaoke is meant for–have fun (except Kodaka’s fun is dampened by worrying about them). It’s actually a little sad. It doesn’t help that we have more flashbacks with Kodaka and Yozora as kids, or that Sena hints at a hidden connection between them that Yozora can only guess at (Yozora, who’s been rotten to Sena all episode, had it coming, but still). So in this show full of people with no friends, the happiest ones are those who join together anyway. Oh, bonus points for not feeling obligated to show every character singing.

Kobato's cute when she's planning to sing karaoke.

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