Kumamiko 4 has moments that struck me as being very funny and other bits that have me scratching my head. For the former, we started with a scene that went on forever, a procession to bless the rice crop, I guess, where the geezers pulling the cart argued over which of Machi’s shrine outfits was the cutest. That business was tiresome, but I giggled when the discussion naturally went to “whoa” when it began to rain. Little bits like that in an aimless show keeps me watching. On the other hand, I scratched my head over Yoshio’s unexplained decision after trying talk Machi to do more public events. The second half had the overly scary Hibiki, relative of Yoshi’s, bully poor Machi. Not sure why she was so mean to an obviously frightened girl, but things improved when they visited a Shimamura and I learned more than I wanted to know about their clothing and business model, but again I had to ask myself how Machi knows all this stuff? Rural Japan is full of unexplained mysteries!
The big thing I can’t figure out in episode 5 is the same as what Machi thinks: who could possibly have a crush on Yoshino? As for that scene, it left me a little cold. Not only for the fact above, but the whole reading between the lines concept. Natsu says it’s a Japanese thing, and indeed it is a strong concept here. But in this case reading between the lines means little more than noticing that Hibiki is a tsundere. I suppose there’s no conflict, but it’s an odd coupling of traditional and modern. On the other hand, the “scare the naughty kid” scene was excellent, and I’m glad to see that Machi and Hibiki have hit it off.
Bakuon!! 4 has the girls off on a trip to Hokkaido. Along the way, they miss a ferry (well, Raimu doesn’t), drive all night to catch another doing a cannonball run, Hane discovers that motorbikes are in the bible and then receives the Holy Grail. The show works pretty well now that it’s paying less attention to the story and works as many weird gags in as it can. They’ve even turned the near-tragic event of Rin’s dad getting into accidents and turned it into a running gag. And it has the line of the week so far: “Rin-chan, I’m sure that somewhere out there there’s a man with a Suzuki logo on his butt.”
Episode 5 concludes the trip. What I find most bothersome is that recently they’ve been amping up the fanservice. The hot spring scene last episode was okay maybe because a lot of shows have onsen scenes. The drunken sensei scene this episode was pushing it, but the bike washing scene at the end went too far. A shame, because when they didn’t get the girls to show as much skin as possible it was entertaining. I’m not sure what the Suzuki cup, the holy grail from last episode, had to do with Rin’s fox incident, but I’m glad it wasn’t broken. And, though it pushed it, the drunken-sensei scene started well, with good commentary about men and the size of their bikes.
Most seasons I watch everything I can in the first week, then start culling shows when the second week comes by saying “Do I REALLY want to see another episode of that?” Now, three episodes into almost everything, I can’t find an answer to that question when it comes to Sansha Sanyou. In episode 2 we got more demonstrations of Hayama’s black heart, but it’s completely ruined when she asks her jealous rival Nishiyama to adopt a cat. The fact that Nishiyama actually did a 180 on the unpleasant scenes between them before. Should have figured that they would make Hayama a nasty person only to the people who are nasty to her …. Hayama’s sister, Kou, is then introduced, white to Hayama’s black, but she has her own strange issues.
Which brings us to another oddball character, Shino, Yoko-sama’s former maid, who becomes her employer, has a weird voice and way of moving sometimes, and when we first see her is floating in a typhoon with her umbrella, Poppins-style. So now we have an ensemble of five weirdos, not counting Yamaji because I don’t like him, who do their own little things, like Futaba going to a restaurant and earning 50 bucks a crack in their eating challenge, and if this slice-of-life show is going to succeed it needs to start mixing them up in interesting ways. That’s why I can’t decide on this show yet. It hasn’t shown us its cards yet.
… Meanwhile, episodes 3 and sometimes 4 have crept up on me. Back to Gakusen Toshi Asterisk season 2 episode 4 or 16, whatever, where Ayato and Julis are getting their butts kicked by the Chinese girls, but Ayato’s had a breakthrough. Hard to say if it’s because of the technique he remembered from the flashback or what, so he begs some time from Julis, she shows a few offensive moves and then proceeds to get her butt kicked some more, in between the speeches and trashtalk (another show where even the nastiest villains pause and let the good guys chat during a battle). So now he can ingest the prana rather than it leaking out, or something, and HE proceeds to kick butt, ending with a Touma-style punch to the face. Fun enough battle, I suppose.
I expected a little downtime before Saya and Kirin get their time in the ring, which includes some perhaps foreshadowing from an opponent I don’t remember about Kirin’s weaponry being unstable, or the organic part is made unstable. Whatever it was, we actually see part of their battle against the girl and robot, and the girls are holding their own by the episode end, and we get a curveball, Flora the maid being somehow abducted. So which will they start with next, or this week? The girls or the abduction?
As it turns out, a little of both. We get just enough of a view of Flora to see she’s not in any immediate danger, then turn to the match, where our girls seem to be getting the upper hand, meaning of course that the battle will turn against them eventually. I don’t really mind. I expected it, they put up a good fight, and while Ayato and Julis’s opponents were cruel, trash-talking slime, I can’t make myself dislike this odd combo of robots who bicker while they fight. Then it’s on to Flora. The terms for her release is for Ayato to seal his Ars Vesta or whatever, which would make him useless in the next battle and for the rest of his life, so it’s rescue time … next week. We also have to get to know Flora’s abductor, seen only in shadows and glimpses.
Macross Delta 4 quickly and amusingly runs through some routine scenes, a welcome party for Frayja and Hayate, first show jitters for the former (Mikumo’s teasing “Screw up and you’re fired” comments seemed a bit extreme), breathless anticipation for the latter. But the show knows where it’s at, and before long we get to the concert, Freyja’s cute rookie fuckups, everyone’s happy, so you know the bad guys are going to show up. Some good aerial fighting with the supporting forces going Vars and turning on the good guys. Freyja and Mikumo on the ground, and Hayate and Arad in the air manage to save the day. Too bad it’s a feint. The big question once again is whether Freyja can do her singing without Hayate around, or is it the other way around with Hayate’s stunts?
Episode 5: so it’s war! But no fighting. We spend some time with the Windermere guys, who haven’t been turned to good yet, as they try get some crystals resonating right, keep the princess, er, prince in good health, and hope everything gets done before their ruler dies. Also, they look at Freyja and try to figure out if she’s a traitor. Meanwhile, on Ragna, everyone thinks she’s a spy. Freyja can’t buy a break. Time for us to learn that Mirage’s grandparents were that cute couple from SDF Macross. The show’s doing a nice job at giving the new series resonance by reminding us of previous series. However, most of the episode is a waste, because, no matter what Freyja’s conflicted feelings are, we know she’s not leaving Valkure, and do you really think Hayate would leave, even if he has to put up with Hermann? So we patiently waited for them to say the inevitable and look forward to a battle next week. Hopefully.
I didn’t include Kuromukuro in my series opening posts for various reasons, and thought about not watching it entirely. On the other hand, it takes place around Kurobe Dam. I’ve never been there, but I live close enough that it would make a pleasant day trip for me. Not many shows take place in this area of Japan. Plus, it’s PA Works, a studio I always take seriously, though I am frequently disappointed.
After a strange blizzard battle set WAY in the past, we meet Yukina, learns that she sucks at everything but knows a hell of a lot about the dam. A shame that it’s where her mom is a big boss. And there are mecha and mysterious thingies dredged out of the water. It’s all very pleasant until evil mecha come out of the sky and start blowing things up. Yukina pushes a Red Button and a naked guy comes out, calls her princess, and starts attacking the mecha, yes, it gets kind of weird. But it’s mostly fun to watch. The early scenes set things up nicely, the mother-daughter relationship, Yukina’s basic, contradictory mindset, but some holes appear. How can Yuki know so much about the dam yet still believe there are canals on Mars. And midway through the episode finally surrenders a poorly-done infodump about the things in the water. But overall, good episode. Now let’s see how ep2 stacks up …
Episode 2 has Kennosuke (formerly the naked guy) grabbing Yukina, whom he no longer thinks is the princess but grabs her anyway, and hopping into that cube, retrieving his mecha, the black giant, and battling the invading mecha and its minions. It’s fairly routine, and normally I would just enjoy the pretty good battle and ponder whether watching this show is worth my time, except that the battle takes place in Toyama, my town!
They did some nice research in getting the buildings right. Fortunately the battle missed both where I live and work, and my favorite bar, but I often take the bus down that one street. Was pissed off when they smashed up one of Toyama’s funky light rail cars and used it as a weapon. And I wonder if there was some joke about the battle happening so close to the local NHK headquarters. In other words, I was too busy saying “Hey! I sometimes take Japanese classes in that building!” to give the show the critical attention I should.
A little more ogling of local scenes in episode 3 (Toyama castle isn’t much, really, no one comes to town to see it, but I’m glad they gave showed it. Not surprised they put a tank in front of the statue of the topless girl inexplicably placed on the corner). Then it’s back to the dam where Kennosuke meets Osho, a monk and Yukina’s uncle, and settles down a bit. But he overreacts when Yukina’s little sister Koharu (Yukina’s family seem to have the run of the top-secret UN facility) is grabbed by security, and they run off until a smaller mecha, a “cactus,” abducts Koharu, and soon it’s samurai vs mecha in the stream. In the meantime, it begins to dawn on everyone that maybe Kennosuke isn’t really a threat, and now it looks like we’ll have an episode of fish-out-of-water comedy after this. As for me, even without the local references, I’m actually enjoying this series right now and will keep watching it.
I guess I’ll keep watching Anne Happy though I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s because there seems to be a goal to the series. Maybe the girls will find ways to be happy in spite of their misfortune, probably through their friendship. Or maybe there’s more to the story; the principal are taking quite an interest in these girls, both on the core team and the two outsiders, Hibiki and Ren, whom we finally meet in episode three (wonder what Ren’s misfortune is–being of interest to cuddly animals really isn’t a curse). It’s like they’re being scouted for something. And the school is shown to have sophisticated methods for measuring and evaluating all sorts of things. Makes you suspicious. Meanwhile, all the girls spend these two episodes running around, being both unfortunate and cute, getting nowhere, sort of like the show as a whole right now.
Netoge no Yome wa Onnanoko ja Nai to Omotta? spends most of episode 2 setting up the series’ main story: getting Ako to know the difference between the gaming world and the real one, if you can call a normal high school life “real.” Kyou’s plan (without seeing ep3 yet) looks to be a sensible one: have them all do their gaming in the same room, where both realities can progress at once. However, I understand that Akane and Kyou want to hide their gaming life from their HS friends, but Hideki doesn’t have to. He could explain what’s going on to his friends and they’d probably be jealous of him. Stuff like that, and the lack of interest I have in just about every character, is putting me close to dropping this series.
And after episode 3 I’m still pretty close. I managed figure out that Hideki had developed real-world feelings for Ako, though the conversation he had with Akane and Kyou was so twisted around that I didn’t know what everyone was getting at … maybe because, even if he hadn’t developed feelings for Ako, he still ought to be concerned that she had gone off on a RL meeting with another guy, and the girls were idiots for not immediately coming along with him. But, though I should have seen it coming, the identity of the guy, and of the cat girl, took me by surprise, and gave us the tasty concept that Hideki had learned to treat game girls as girls, only to discover that not only was the girl actually a girl, but his teacher. If that had happened to me I would probably ignore the teacher/advisor’s rule and never come to school again.
Sousei no Onmyouji 2 keeps up the mix of pretty-looking battles with silly middle school kids doing silly things.
After Rokuro polishes off the kegare, Benio is pissed off both because he appears to be better than her, and because he hates the whole exorcism scene. Double the annoyance for her because it means he won’t fight her. I’m on Rokuro’s side, here. All he’s trying to do is exercise a little free will, choose his own destiny. But this being an anime show, you know he won’t win. Some comic scenes follow as Benio inevitably winds up in the same dorm as him, Rokuro spotting her wearing only a towel, the usual.
Then an asshole named Arima shows up. He’s amusing at first, the leader of the exorcist with some more worldly tastes, but after he calls a meeting of magic folks and announces that the Miko will show up, who will defeat the kegare once and for all, and tries to get Rokuro and Benio to fight, he turns into a jerk. I know, he said those things about Rokuro’s deceased family in order to goad him, but I was still rooting for Rokuro to beat him up. Instead, he has to fight Benio, because she still wants to beat HIM up. More tragic pasts amid the battling–call it a draw. Now they have to get married; turns out the Miko will be their kid. Once again, I’m all for characters refusing their “destiny” if they want to, and here’s hoping Rokuro AND Benio will do just that.
Episode 3 is routine for the first part. Benio transfers into Rokuro’s class, of course. And the show does a little work on a love triangle, though the only love any of the three recognizes is Mayura’s for Rokuro, though he considers her just a friend. Mayura will be the sad girl out, I’m afraid. The second half is better. Benio skips out to help with a nasty kegare while Rokuro refuses, only to find the two worlds collide when a gap opens and endangers two kids on a roller coaster. So Benio plays the hero in the mystical world while at the same time Rokuro plays one in ours. Interesting contrast I wonder if the show will play with the angle further.
Bungou Stray Dogs 2 brings up a question I had when I watched episode 1: What the hell is Atsushi going to do for the Armed Detective Agency? Okay, he can turn into a tiger, but he can’t control it. It just happens. I have to assume that the agency is confident he can gain some control over it, either that or he will be the office coffee delivery boy. Scratch that, there are a several office ladies in the office too. The episode revolves around a crisis situation and finishes in a ridiculous way. I’m not sure I would hire such a suicidal maniac for a detective agency. Even if the president doesn’t mind those types, they already have Dazai. Anyway, at the end, he’s working for the agency and we have no idea why except for that tiger thing.
After the slow unveiling of the main characters, episode 3 shows us just how dark the show is willing to get. After the tail-end bit in ep2 and all the going-on about him early on this ep, we figure we’re going to meet Akutagawa very soon. What I didn’t expect was that he would (possibly) kill two characters we expected to be regulars. Well, Junichirou is somehow alive near the end, but I don’t see how he or Naomi could take that many machine gun bullets. On the other hand, they sort of resurrected Atsushi’s leg by a contrivance, but by that point, with bodies lying around and Atkutagawa’s demonstrated cruelty, the scene was still effective and a little frightening; I had no idea how far the episode would go.
I have some quibbles with the scene, with Junichiro and Atsushi somehow combining their abilities to hold off Akutagawa, especially with Junichiro near death. Though the tiger’s appearance was well-done. And there are two more thoughts about Atsushi. He seems to bring misfortune to everyone around him–that’s how it seems to him, anyway. Also, he’s apparently very valuable, and you get the idea that having him join the agency was a ruse in order to have him where they can keep an eye on him, though nothing else in the show has hinted at this.
Kumamiko 2 … can’t get a handle on this show yet. It’s slow paced, deliberately lazy with its take on rural life, with lots of pauses, but there’s also a story to be told that often relies on slapstick and quick gags. In this one Machi, still hankering to live in the big city, is given a new challenge: to to Uniqlo and buy a Heat-Tech item. Much time is used on Machi trying to figure out what heat-tech is, how to get there, and then there are her adventures getting there, which is far more treacherous than most city-goers trips to Uniqlo, though my annual pilgrimage there for heat-tech takes about as long by bus. Still, early in the run, it all feels a little off. Two many pauses, unwanted comic music used when they don’t need it. Liked the chair in the woods though.
Episode 2 wasn’t bad. Episode 3 is better. Lazy Machi is suddenly inspired to do a traditional dance for the mountain gods, only to make it into a dansersize session. I liked the trance version, however, not to mention the actual trance dance Machi did when asleep. Meanwhile, I’m still figuring out what makes this series tick. But one thing I don’t like is the fanservice, and Yoshiro’s assault (which is what it was). I know from episode one that this show gets bawdy on occasion, but having Yoshiro atop an underaged, screaming Machi, who is wearing only underwear, was too much. For the record, I thought costume 1 was the best, though none felt really appropriate.
Bakuon!! 2 is as playful and weird as the first. And educational. And nearly tragic. A flashback to Rin’s father getting into an accident on his, well, it was a Suzuki, a scene oddly dark and sad for this series, even if it turned out all right with Rin writing that essay that got her dad his Katana 1135R. Back to now, it leads us to more Suzuki vs. the world fighting which introduces our new girl, Hijiri, who suggests a game of chicken. Hijiri, a rich girl who rides in a sidecar, dreams of being a deliquent, you see. If this wasn’t enough, we finish with an inspirational scene where Hane earns her license, though I’ll miss Baito. It’s all good fun again, though it takes longer to watch because I feel obliged to look up all the bikes they talk about on the show.
The education continues in episode 3. We learn that Su-four riders never go for other bikes, but if they’re pink it’s okay. It’s sweet how Onsa worked overnight to fix up Hane’s “new” bike, even if it’s out of guilt because her dad’s shop is so dodgy. And what’s wrong with making a bike out of parts of other bikes? In fact, it’s cool to build bikes out of other bikes. Meanwhile, Rin’s discovery out of her own bike felt funny especially since things seemed so dire for her father last week. They’ve taken a possibly tragic situation and turned it into a running gag. Then they created another nearly tragic situation as we finally get some background on Raina. Which leads us to the last important thing I learned this week: If you don’t replace all the screws tightly your motorcycle may explode.