New Shows: Space Bros, Hiiro no Kakera, Zetman, some Folktales … oh, and Symphogear ended

Space Brothers looks very promising … but worrisome at the same time.

Promising because it’s a rare show where the main characters are all adults, doing adult things. The first episode, where we meet brothers Mutta and Hibito as they see a UFO and decide to become astronauts, but only one is going for it, is put together so that there’s something interesting going on every moment, whether it be a fadeout to something unexpected or a quick cut to show the passage of time. The main character, older brother Mutta, thinks he’s made a mess of his life, that his younger brother has gone past him. This is a belief I believe everyone old enough for contemplation shares from time to time. Mutta is played by Horoaki “Wild Tiger” Hirata, and he brings the same fumbling world-weariness to this role. But, as I said, there are things to worry about. Some parts of the setup don’t make much sense. Mutta is an award-winning car designer who got fired for head-butting his supervisor, like Zidane in the World Cup (indeed, the brothers’ destiny seems foretold by soccer events, one of the amusing tricks the show plays). But surely it can’t be THAT hard for such a talent to find another car design job. Also, though we sympathize with Mutta, I don’t know if he is the kind they’d allow into space. Also, the art isn’t that great and I don’t like the character designs very much, though stylistic cleverness overcame much of that in this first episode. Overall, this is a very promising show; I only hope they don’t oversimplify the challenges of getting into space. I hope they’re as ambitious as the boys were.

What was this scene for, anyway?

Hiiro no Kakera hardly left an impression on me at all, but that might have to do with its quiet atmosphere and the straightforward nature of the the opening. A girl named Tamaki is sent to live with her grandmother in the country (she’s perfectly fine with this). On the way there she’s waylaid by a cute bug thing and three not-so-cute big one-eyed things that had me calling out for Nyanko-sensei. She’s rescued by Takuma, a jerk, who takes her to her grandmother’s, where we get an infodump on how she’s got the Tamayori blood in her so she must seal the Onikirimaru to keep whatever that is from trying to destroy the world. Apparently the seal is weakening because grandma, the Tamayori Princess, is getting on in years. And Takuma the jerk has three brothers whose job it is to protect her. They’re all annoying, too, but less so when they start quibbling among themselves. Takagi’s question, besides the understandable “WTF?” (in fact, she seems to get used to all this awfully quick) is why are these cute boys stuck being servants to the Tamayori family? Besides the excuse to put a reverse harem on TV, I mean? I like the girl for even asking this. Apart from that the show has some problems. It doesn’t flow very well. The leisurely pace they’re going for is marred by little moments taking too long, or winding up nowhere (the hot-pot scene), and when they do a sudden jump it left me blinking and going “huh?” But that’s the sort of thing I forgive in first episodes. I’ll keep watching for now.

Lesson learned from episode 1: don't piss off Jin.

Zetman looks good. It seems that some nasty monster creatures bred or adapted from humans for fighting games got loose (in nice, bloody fashion, setting the tone for the show nicely) after gaining sentience and ten years later we got a ten year-old boy named Jin running around, raised by an old homeless man in a shantytown. Fighting for truth and justice rather too efficiently for a boy his age, he rescues a prostitute with a heart of gold named Akemi, goes home and finds the shantytown’s residents all gruesomely murdered by some nasty thing. Then, er, a lot of things happen and we learn a lot. The storytelling’s a lot better than in Hiiro no Kakera. We learn a lot about how this world works and what its people are like just by watching them interact. And this is a much bigger world. We meet (but know little about) a police detective, a smarmy guy who seems to be on the side of the escaped “Players,” two rich kids who are fond of Jin, all of who will play roles sooner or later. What worries me is Jin himself. A homeless kid living on the streets, he is remarkably naive about things like death and crying, or maybe that’s part of his legacy. The action scenes are fluid and fun to watch. I’m glad Akemi survived the late fight, but I don’t see her in the ED. I hope that doesn’t mean she’s done with the series already.

Folktales generally are.

Next is something I doubt I’ll watch every week, but Folktales From Japan looked like it might be a good, quiet show to increase my Japanese cultural knowledge. I don’t know how accurate the tellings here are, especially when the show is intended for children–no Grimm-level violence here, but folktales morph anyhow. We get three stories told with a narrator and simplistic animation. Sometimes the morals are pretty obvious, such as with the old couple who adopt a magical doggy, and sometimes we get a bit of a surprise, such as the third story, which is good because that one displays the problem with many folktales, dull repetition of events. One thing stands out. In two of the stories the people who we might consider wicked (or just greedy) have an altruistic side that the tales’ events allow to flourish. In the second tale the man who gets a gardening job so he can get at a pot of gold seems to enjoy his job so much that you begin to wonder if he really needs the money. It’s pleasant stuff, but again, not something I’ll be likely to write about again.

The wave of new shows is upon us, but one old show, Senki Zesshou Symphogear, had not yet finished and lay there like a piece of dirt that the broom missed. So let’s get it over with … The finale was pretty much as I predicted. Finé brings out a whole lot of noise and the united and all-living girls beat them, so Finé goes to plan B and becomes the sword Durandal. I could spot the design flaw the moment someone blasted a hole in it and it began to close up–get inside before it does! Sure enough the sword is breached and the actual sword is soon spinning into Hibiki’s arms. Now we get a closure to her beserk monster problems with the encouragement of everyone around her, Finé is defeated … and Hibiki tries to befriend her! So Finé pulls down that part of the moon that got blasted off and the girls sing a swan-song trio to end the threat, which answers the mystery was set up in episode 1: how and when would Hibiki die? It’s supposed to be very moving but the show never did a good job of making us care too much about anyone. Besides, there was always the chance the show might cop out and give us a happy ending. Guess what? … Typical. Overall it wasn’t a bad show. The characters didn’t inspire me too much, but the action scenes were often good, even if they did hide their budgets by overusing quick cuts instead of showing motion. Yuuki Aoi as Hibiki was often amusing to listen to, especially when she got her grunts and screams going. Frankly she, and some of the battles were the best part of the series. And now, FINALLY, we have put the old shows to rest.

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