Maria the Virgin Witch finishes nicely, with me scratching my head.
The witches face off against Michael, in spite of Maria’s protests, and are easily beaten. Then Michael gets to the important matter, what to do with Maria, who, by the way, hasn’t backed down an inch. Neither has Joseph or Ezekiel. Michael is confused by this loyalty, so he shows up on the ground and interviews everyone around who knows her. Funny that the regular folk treat it like a normal thing while the monks freak out, Bernard so much so that he tries to strangle Michael … bad idea. And it’s a shame, because he had become a crazy scholar, and the world needs more of them. So, after Michael does what he should have done earlier, i.e., check out the scene on the ground, he decides to forgive Maria, even calling her part of the natural law on earth. Off he goes, and everyone’s happy.
I don’t know about the interviews. Surely Michael ought to know how everyone feels already. If not, it’s proof that the heavens are too distant from the world and have no business ruling it. Of course, others, especially Viv, have said just that to him and it didn’t make a difference. But there are other things that I can’t figure out, too. If Maria is considered part of the natural law on earth, that means she wasn’t before. Wouldn’t the heavens really hate having her and the other witches around? Why didn’t they wipe then out a long time ago? Maybe they can’t? They’re not omnipotent? Or maybe the main God is as distant from the angels as the angels are to us on earth.
Frankly, I kind of wish the show had explored Bernard’s theories a bit farther; while I’m not a theological scholar or even close to one, I think I recognize Bernard’s line of thinking somewhere. Too bad Micheal showing up kind of blew his theories out of the water. No wonder he tried to strangle him. And along more practical lines, is Maria going to marry Joseph, lose her virginity, and thus her powers? I can’t imagine such a headstrong, flamboyant character settling down to being just a farmwife. Well, I could go on forever with questions and speculations. In that sense, the show was very successful. I can’t speak for veracity, but it was interesting to take a Japanese take on western history, especially such a confusing time. But the series also felt too busy, juggling too many theme and plot-balls in the air. It was directed and paced well, but sometimes it felt like too much. Still, not the usual anime series we see on TV, and I’m grateful for that.
Yuri Kuma Arashi‘s finale is so weird that I’m not going to bother with most of it.
Basically, the reason Kureha was on trial by Judgemens was that she had wanted Ginko turned into a girl, so they couldn’t exclude her. A sin of pride. And by the end of the show she had seen the error of her ways, and instead wished to become a bear instead. This takes some time to get to, as we have the current situation to sort of work out. Ginko is facing a firing squad, saying she never loved Kureha, she just wanted to eat her, gao-gao, and Kureha seeing through her lies, while the girls with guns watch, aghast. Not sure why, but her appeal breaks her handcuffs, and Kumalia herself floats down from the heavens.
My brain broke a little there, but earlier Kureha had mentioned that Sumika had brought love back to her life. Maybe that was the trigger. Speaking of triggers, after the bears are reunited, the exclusion girls fire, and it’s a bit of a mystery after that. Kureha and Ginko are presumably in some yuri-bear-la-la land, we see Lulu and that little prince alive, happily reading the storybook, and one of the exclusion girls walks out and befriends that bear whose name I forget.
I suppose it’s a happy ending, but it feels like an ending that the afflicted tell each other to feel better about their situation. “They’re together in heaven” and all that. But the situation between humans and bears, or girls and girls, hasn’t changed one bit in that world. Well, if the series was meant to be a statement about society’s attitudes to those “who stand out,” it carried other things with it, such as love, of course, and friendship and forgiveness. Kunihiko Ikuhara likes to pack in as many images and themes as he can in his works, so to distill it to one theme feels wrong. On the whole, this series felt like “Penguindrum-lite,” inevitable since it was only twelve episodes. It feels slighter, fewer important characters and plotlines to follow, but with all the weird imagery you’d expect. But, like Penguindrum, it tired me out by the end. Twelve episodes is enough.
After the theological riddles of Maria and the weird images of Yuri Kuma, it’s a relief to finish the season with its lightest yet most fattening show. Koufuku Graffiti‘s finale is one of the livelier ones. Ryou and Kirin right off the bat get accepted into the school they want, and that keeps things interesting for a few minutes. Ryou’s memories of her grandma and the school she’s graduating from drag it down a bit, but Kirin shows up out of the blue and gets things moving again. The main point to the story is that Kirin will be moving into Ryou’s home to go to high school, but nobody told Ryou. It’s not a serious crisis; once she gets over the shock of it she’s happy with the idea. As for the food, it’s yellowtail simmered in daikon radish, grandma’s specialty (granny’s picture keeps changing this episode), also more cutlet sandwiches (with shrimp), and when everyone comes to help Kirin move, we get Kirin’s mom’s famous veggie stir-fry, the only thing she can cook, and it’s as delicious as everything else, because they’re eating it together. Lovely final moment.
Nice series overall; it made me happy, which was the series’ only intent. My only disappointment is that these two art-school girls aren’t moving to an apartment building across the street from the school, where they meet, well, you know. Now that Hiro’s graduated, the other girls will need someone to cook for them.
Shirobako ended in triumph, Saekano ended with little fanfare. Let’s see what Aldnoah Zero has in store for us.
Asseylum’s pronouncement doesn’t do much at all–everyone’s still out warring and having fun. The only one who seemed to notice was Slaine, and his decision is to abandon the moonbase and blow up everything up, including himself. I’m not sure why, especially after Lemrina said it was her home. Also, it’s a boring way to end things, just stop the battle and everything. There’s still two-thirds of the episode left!
Harklight decides that a suicide battle sounds like fun, and Slaine is reminded that Inaho’s still out there. Of course! Gotta have one last space duel with your arch-foe, right? Harklight and the others can keep the Earth Forces side characters occupied! Perfect! Okay, the battles were a lot of fun, but often too fast to figure out what’s going on. The worst of it is they’d switch from one to the other and our only clue was a flash of orange, or Harklight’s red. As for Harklight, someone who had always admired Slaine’s moments of goodness and clarity, it’s a stupid way to go. How’s Vers going to change if no one like him is around. Oh, yeah, there’s the princess …
And a little more weirdness at the end. Slaine is declared dead but isn’t (why?), Earth and Vers are at peace, with Assylum attending earth ceremonies with no one trying to kill her, meanwhile Inaho and Slaine play chess in some dungeon, and I think all the good guys lived. Something of a miracle there. But this was never the most realistic of shows and never pretended to be. It wanted to be an epic war series with complex characters, and sometimes it succeeded. Sometimes (most of the time) I would mutter “What the hell is Slaine thinking NOW?” but it made him fun to watch. Inaho, when not saving the day all the time, was a crashing bore. The other side characters on Earth just weren’t that interesting, and while the smirking villains of Vers were fun at times, they were mostly cannon fodder. But what the hell, the battles were fun to watch, and the creators managed to keep the situation tense and unsettled until the end. Fun. Forgettable.
As for Durararax2, it sort of ends. They decided to put season-long breaks between each story arc, it seems. So this time there’s a lot of wrapping up and some setting up for next time. Most surprising was Mikado’s stabbing of Aoba, not that he didn’t deserve it, and Mikado saying it was because Aoba got Anri involved is a good enough reason for the boy, but Mikado has never done anything as nasty and violent as this before. And to slip suddenly back to his old “I have a bandaid!” self was even more disconcerting. But since we haven’t seen this before, even after so many episodes, it feels as though the creators thought Mikado was too dull (they’re right) so gave him a psychotic side out of the blue to liven things up.
Yeah, this cours finale felt a little darker overall. It’s still weird to see Simon participating in gang activity rather than as a general peacemaker and sushi prostelizer. Izaya’s sudden stabbing at the end suggests that there are even more disruptive forces at work, and we’ll meet them next time, and Varona and her sidekick got taken out a little too easily, like everyone was just playing around with them until they got annoying. The exception was Shizuo, who is obviously concentrating on his temper. Trouble is, he feels a little tame now; it was a relief to have him get pissed off when Varona was stupid enough to attack him. Well, most of the characters and relationships have changed since the season start, which is a good sign, and this series loves to keep us guessing, so this was a good way to end it for now.
Did you really think they would fail?
While the big emotional punch came last week, there was still plenty to cheer and get weepy about in the Shirobako finale. And there was plenty of time to create tension over finishing Third Aerial Girls Squad in time. We’ve seen the characters scrambling and working their butts off before, so they didn’t spend too much time with that. We even got another mini-lecture about the process, which, like most of the others, went woosh over my head. The biggest crisis in production was a typo in the script, but it was effortlessly fixed in the dubbing, after a moment of panic for everyone involved.
The biggest problem overall was getting the tapes to the various studios in time, and the show had great fun with it, as various staff took cars (chased by cops), shinkansen, motorcycles, taxis, and even a ferryboat. Aoi had the toughest time as snow delays her train, traffic jams slow her taxi, so she ends up running. I knew those shoes she wore would come in handy one day. After that, it’s a bit of introspection, the wrap party, and a lot of joy, beer, and donuts.
Which is how I felt the last couple of weeks. For two seasons it had slowly built up, keeping most of the attention on the practical, business end, while allowing time for Aoi and her friends to find their way in their work and for luck to get them to their goal, to work together on a series. When it was time to bring that goal back to the story, the creators did it beautifully. PA Works has always struck me as an honest, hardworking company that did its best no matter what the material, but recently the material (Glasslip, Red Data Girl, Nagi-Asu) hasn’t lived up to the care they brought to it. Shirobako is similar to these and other PA Works shows in that it’s (fantasy segments aside) a slice-of-life series involving ordinary people going through their lives, but this time they gave us a workplace that anime fans would like, a built-in goal (getting the shows done), and a batch of eccentric characters to follow each week. That they hit a home run with it is no surprise; PA Works cares about its projects even more than Musashino does. I’m delighted to see them back on track.
I didn’t realize
I was two episodes behind with that there were two episodes this week of Saekano until I loaded episode 12 and wondered what they were doing at a club. Anyway, episode 11 was basically clearing up misunderstandings (When I typed that I realized a lot of the episodes were about clearing up misunderstandings, but anyway …) about Michiru to the other girls. Also there’s the misunderstanding concerning if the harem girls, er, creative partners were really into making this game, though the fact that they all spent all nighters while Tomoya was having these doubts gives us the answer. I enjoyed the Megumi/Tomoya diner scene for the way she demonstrated why the girls were all freaking out a little not only for the cleverness of it but because it shows us a more playful side of Megumi.
Then it was time for episode 12 … Oh, I guess this show is finishing too, and while Shirobako did everything it set out to do, Saekano finishes halfway through, begging for a second season. And while I’d love to watch another season of Shirobako, I’m not so sure about Saekano. This episode just brings Michiru deeper into the fold, as she discovers her band likes anime covers and she never knew it, thus, she’s an otaku, or something. There’s more jealousy from the other girls, save Megumi, who keeps those things hidden. Seriously, the emotion she showed all season was a cute pout, and yet she was my favorite character. To the end she could trip up whoever’s speaking with a quiet, seemingly-innocuous reply, a talent the supposedly more formidable Utaha and Eriri simply didn’t have. Plus, she wasn’t a type. In a show like this that’s an advantage. I should add that despite being types, Utaha and Eriri were fun to watch too, when they bickered and especially when they were torturing poor Tomoya. Well, if they choose to do another season I’ll probably watch it, and Megumi will be the main reason.
Kantai Collection ends pretty much the way we expected.
Akagi is about to get sunk by some aerial monsters but Fubuki shows up just in time. She and her team kick some butt briefly, until another bad guy shows up, so more good guys show up, and more bad guys show up, and while we’re trying not to think about the incredible coinkidink it all is, all these girls showing up at just the right moment, spouting trademark lines, not to mention torpedoes and cannon shells, we actually get an answer. The whole thing was a sneaky trick, a ruse to fool either the bad guys or fate. Not sure which. And so it ends happily and it’s peacetime, and the girls get scuttled (not really).
I wish they had gone on with this fate business in a little more detail. I don’t like the idea of fate determining outcomes in fiction, but I like very much when characters fight against it, especially when they win. What makes it more compelling is the WWII aspects which suffuse more of the series, especially the sea battles, because that gives the whole affair tragic, doomed overtones. But instead, the finale’s mind set was first “We must fight fate … We can’t fight our fate … Yay! We beat fate!” I suppose I shouldn’t have expected much more from a generally light show with cute girls, even if they are battleships and destroyers too.
Other than that the episode, and the series, was predictable but fun to watch. Friendships made, silly filler episodes between arcs, an early death to set people on edge, the growth of the protagonist, nothing really special there, but the battle scenes always looked great (though I wish they had done less chatting while the enemy is trying to kill them), shells exploding in the water, girls skating around and them, firing their own weapons, surrounded by planes and a purple-grey sky and sea … I enjoyed that very much. So when the second season comes along I’ll probably watch it.
In Yuri Kuma Arashi 11 I thought we’d get an explanation as to why Kureha was facing trial at Judgemens, but they don’t get to that until the very end, and there’s still no explanation for it. Instead we get more flashbacks to when Kureha and Ginko were friends, adding more details about how they were separated and what Ginko did back in Bear-world. About the only forward action is Kureha’s being held captive to lure Ginko in, and Ginko’s internal battle with Mitsuko, her “desire.” Rather a disappointment, I thought. Oh, I liked the dramatic music and the overall heroic tone of Ginko’s rejection of desire and her refusal to back down on love (the anime phrase of the year, so far, unless you prefer “gao gao”), but all Mitsuko really got to do was whisper in Ginko’s ear. They could have taken that farther. Oh, and Lulu sneaks back and takes a bullet intended for Ginko, finally never getting anything for all the love she put out, but death. Now THAT’S not backing down on love.
Two episodes of Koufuku Graffiti and I can barely think of enough for one entry. Let’s see, in #10 “Chewy, Melty,” we meet the shy and withdrawn Yuki, who lives downstairs door. Through a series of misunderstandings they wind up eating pizza together, and naturally we learn that Yuki is another ero-faced food lover. You know, Ryou and Kirin have incredible luck with that, or maybe it’s that eating with them actually turns others into ero-faced food lovers. Interesting theory. Or maybe seeing them eat so erotically makes you feel erotic too.
Episode 11 (Chop-chop, Slurp, and Crunchy, Shining) are all about basic study foods, which turn out to be ramen and cutlet sandwiches. Kudos to the show to demonstrate that mundane foods, even prepackaged ones, can make satisfying meals. It doesn’t hurt that Kirin, who seems to be getting better at cooking, adds her own touches to the ramen. I’m not crazy about cutlet sandwiches, so that part didn’t interest me that much, though the scene where they discover Shiina has already been accepted was more fun to watch than most of the other bits they put in to kill time before the eating begins.
I suppose with one episode left of Aldnoah Zero, it’s good that I don’t know what’s going to happen. Klancain manages to escape with Asseylum and Eddeltrittuo, and escorts them to Mazuurek’s castle, where she meets her grandfather, well, his avatar, and finds out he’s, er, unfit to lead. Personally, I would have given the emperor some completely nonsensical lines, like “Stop praying to the weasels,” but no one making this series has much of a sense of humor. Meanwhile, the earth forces launch an assault on the moonbase, and Slaine launches an all-out attack on the earth forces. Plenty of fireworks for next week, right?
Now that Asseylum has taken power ordered everyone fighting for Vers to stop, a lot of things could happen. They could ignore her, they could split into pro and anti factions and fight each other, they could attack Slaine. None of these seem completely right, and none of them take earth’s forces into account. I still have some hope that the good guys have some influence in all this, though I can’t see what that might be at the moment. Well, apparently Inaho’s orange craft is packing some serious firepower this time, but otherwise it looks like there will be war if Vers wants it, peace if it doesn’t. And there’s little the heroes can do about it. Not sure I like that ending. Well, let’s see what Inaho has up his sleeve …
Durarara!! x2 11 is as crazy as ever. We got Mikado trying to interfere with that girl’s kidnapping and getting beaten up for it by people who don’t know he’s the Dollars founder, and probably wouldn’t care if they did, until Anri shows up and beats on them instead. Kyohei and that other guy beat each other to a pulp behind the school, then they bond a little. Akane gets kidnapped again, Varona goes after Anri, other gangs show up, you know, the usual. As a plus, this seems to be old thugs week. There are losers from first season’s episode 3 and 6, and probably more if I looked closer, and that guy in the bunny suit shows up again, holding another girl this time. Apart from the rabbit suit guy, none of them fare any better in their second television appearance.
With that confession, the soaring music and triumphant return of her powers, and her big “I love you all!” speech, I briefly thought Maria the Virgin Witch 11 was the finale. But no, they have some loose ends to clear up, like Michel taking away her powers, meaning goodbyes for her familiars. I’m hoping for Maria to toss some good verbal abuse at that asshole angel before he does. The episode had a nice ending, but it took forever to get there. Galfa beat up on Joseph for too long; we were just waiting for the rescue. And waiting. The other witches showed up to help us kill the time. But the argument after Galfa is beaten was good fun, Maria basically proposing without even thinking about what she was saying, which prompted Joseph to make the next move.
You know, after Shirobako 22 aired last week, it occurred to me that if they’re going to redo the last episode of Third Aerial Girls Squad, that means re-recording, and that might mean Shizuka might be called in. The girls’ dream was to all work together on a professional production, right?
I am so glad to be right.
That was the crowning moment of maybe the best episode of Shirobako, the season’s best series. We still have an episode to go, but I expect that will be mad scrambling and success, or at least not complete failure. This is too optimistic a show to have them fail now. In fact, the episode draws a lot of parallels between Musashino and the show they’re animating. They’re told that the original artist, Nogame, has rejected the happy ending, that the Aria character will not fly again. Such a downer ending bothers Seiichi partly because of the hassle of redoing everything, but mostly because it goes against his instincts as a director. But what can he do? Nogame, god, has spoken. Or his asshole editor did.
Seiichi long ago became one of my favorite characters in the series, and in this episode he reminds me why. His entrance into the publisher building is ridiculously dramatic. And it gets better when he actually meets Nogame. Now it’s two creative wills, both with solid points on their side (Seiichi, working with a team, sees the story in that view, while Nogame’s interpretation is more personal) until Seiichi suggests something that takes Nogame aback, and then it’s two creative minds working together, feeding ideas to each other, coming to an agreement that makes both sides happy. As for that editor, well, all I can say is about time. Funny story.
So now all of the crises and themes are settled except one: they have to actually get that final episode finished, which I’m sure will take up all of the final episode except for the necessary scene of the girls celebrating. I don’t think it will have the punch that this episode does, but I can’t wait for it anyway.
Kantai Collection 11 begins the mission to destroy the enemy’s main fleet (I think), and since it isn’t a one-episode battle, things look bleak at the end with a bomb heading straight for the defenseless Akagi. The show has added some extra undertones to the ones the WWII setting already provides by having Akagi have a series of nightmares about the mission going very badly. And there’s the question of fate. Has she already experienced this tragic situation before, in another life? If so, can she alter her fate? Since I hate in fiction the concept of history repeating itself, its characters doomed no matter what, I’m on Akagi’s side. Either way, it’s a darker thing to think about than I was expecting from this episode. Even the lighthearted scenes had a weight on them.
Saekano 10 finally introduces the project’s composer, Michiru, whom we haven’t seen since episode one. Turns out she’s Tomoya’s cousin, born the same day and in the same hospital, a bit of dating sim coincidence that naturally throws the other girls into a tizzy, well, except Megumi of course. Utaha’s author-imagination coupled with Eriri’s reactions made for an enjoyable scene, well, it was even before they learned about Michiru, with Utaha snarking at Eriri through the speakers after Eriri locked her in the sound booth. To increase the tizziness, she’s quite uninhibited and loves to tease. Naturally, the show takes full advantage of this and we get a lot of body ogling scenes. In fact, Utaha and Eriri seem to ogled more than usual, too. And so does Tomoya, believe it or not, after he hears Michiru play a song that’d be perfect for the game. Only Megumi is spared, and is fortunate enough to have to do nothing but toss out more funny asides.
Well, if Your Lie in April chose to go that route, I don’t think they could have done a better job.
But it still bothers me. Basically, Kaori’s function in the show was to inspire Kousei, then die. It’s a cheap way to produce emotions no matter how well it’s done. And it reduces Kaori to secondary status within the cast and demeans all of her charm and vitality, replacing it with “tragic heroine.” The show got some mileage out of the uncertainty of her death; we didn’t really know until the grave scene with her parents, though Kousei’s tearful “goodbye” at the end of his performance should have tipped me off.
And that scene was beautifully done. Kaori had wanted the operation so she could perform with Kousei one more time. And in a way, she did. The imagery when Kaori appears with her violin is clear and bright. The creators knew better than to interfere with a lot of words, so Kousei played much of the piece with no interior monologue, just letting the music play until nearly the end, when she fades away. After that, the episode manages to keep an appropriate mood as it tied up loose ends. We learn what the “lie” actually was (loved Kousei’s reaction), we see Tsubaki refusing to back down on love, i.e., the important things. Other bits, like who won the competition, did Kousei get into that school, the show doesn’t bother to tell us. Not important.
As I said before, I never warmed up to the doomed heroine story in this show. It smacks too much of eighteenth-century romantic-era morbid obsessions, but considering the repertoire everybody in the show performs, maybe it was inevitable. I also don’t like the concept that Kousei is forever drawn to doomed girls for the same reasons. But happily, this show was more than that. I appreciated the mostly positive, not depressing views of Kaori in the last episode, with the occasional joke and slapstick thrown in. In fact, the show used humor to lighten the darker scenes extremely well. No, this show played with morbid thoughts, but, like Kaori, and thanks to her, Kousei, it refused to give in to them. Nice job, everyone.
The bulk of Yuri Kuma Arashi 10, apart from flashbacks, has Lulu taken into Kureha’s home, where gets a bath and some tea, and tells her the details of what had happened, all of which we had pretty much figured out or they had told us already: Ginko didn’t interfere to save Sumika because she was jealous of her. And Lulu had jealousy fueling her own betrayal of Ginko. Throughout this, Kureha appears pretty calm, as if she was ready to let the past go and accept what had happened, and forgive everyone involved, apart from Yuriika, maybe. Poor Lulu, no longer friends with Ginko, never friends with Kureha, and she even gets her yuri approval terminated by saying too much. Well, she’s probably safe on the other side of the wall.
So I was a little surprised when Kureha tells Lulu that if she saw her again she would shoot her. Perhaps it was because Kureha had just risked her life in order to deliver her to that door to Bear-land. I suppose it was just courtesy to someone who had helped her. Still, it surprised me. But the big surprise comes at the very end, when Kureha is apprehended by her classmates for being a bear-accomplice, and then we see her … standing trial at Judgemens! That was maybe the first “Hah?!” I’ve blurted out since episode one or two. Does Judgemens even have jurisdiction over Kureha? Or is the truth that Kureha is actually a bear? … Nah. Anyway, it looks like she’s going to stand trial on both sides, but the perhaps corrupted Ginko is still waiting her chance in the bushes, so who knows? Does anyone ever know with this series?