Three good episode twos, and Polar Bear 15, which wasn’t bad either.

Sword Art Online 2 is as straightforward as the first, and as entertaining.

Leadership.

The episode works on two basic things, the obvious leveling up and just as important, what the hell do you do in a situation like this? I assume basic necessities such as food are pretty much taken care of (though enhanced if you know some easter eggs), so what we have is a group of people with no government or leader trying to get things accomplished and pretty much failing. But then we meet Diabel, a man with leadership qualities who’s come across the boss’s location and arranges a group to fight it. Why do the others, including Kirito, join him? It’s a matter of trust. On the other hand we get a guy named Kibaou who is sowing mistrust, claiming that the Beta testers had an unfair advantage and haven’t shared their knowledge with the newbies. Well, it’s honest mistrust, and it obviously hits Kirito close to home. Also, Kirito is pretty much a loner. He meets another one, Asuna, obvious future partner, and it becomes clear through watching her and being with the boss assault team that being a loner in this world won’t get you very far.

Of course there’s the main story arc. I was a little surprised that Kirito agreed to an assisting role; maybe it’s the loner problem thing, or maybe he, like everyone else, trusts Diabel. The battle is good stuff and brings a few surprises, like how the guide book can’t be trusted all the time, a quick meditation on the duties of advanced Beta testers, and there’s plenty of good slashing action. The result has Kirito accepting a role, and a responsibility, he would have refused when the episode began. Though he’s still a loner. Again, it’s all told straightforwardly with no missteps or extra baggage.

Kokoro Connect 2 is more convoluted, but it’s just as entertaining.

Remember, they’ve switched bodies.

There were a lot of good moments this episode, the matter-of-fact way they got the boob sizes business out of the way (they had to bring it up sometime–these are anime adolescent boys, after all), and they didn’t dig too deeply into the peeing issue. Inaba as Taichi’s declaration at the end (to save Lori’s virtue) was a terrific way to go out. Her brave, maybe reckless standing up to Fujishima, in Taichi’s body, seemed more “mannish” than any one of the boys in the show. While Taichi, in Inaba, went chibi-faced, a more universal anime trait with no gender differences.

Godlike, slacker alien.

But the highlight was Heartseed, the alien, inhabiting teacher Goto’s body and explaining what’s going on. On one hand, it’s frightening that they’ve been subjected to this, and that it will continue. It’s infuriating as well that they have no control. I would be up in a rage and causing as much trouble as I can. On the other hand, I couldn’t help seeing Heartseed as a particularly lazy manga artist who’s had an idea for a series like this but is too lazy to consider all the ramifications. I’m not saying that the original creator Sadanatsu Anda is really like this; Lori as Aoki gives a speech about identity that Heartseed wouldn’t have thought of. But I wonder if he has had some experience with this in his career. It comes across as satire. Anyway, I had to laugh in spite of myself. Okay, two good episode twos in a row. Let’s go for three …

Never mind, just keep talking.

And we get it. Joshiraku 2 is the funniest thing I’ve seen in a while, and that’s with a lot of the jokes going whoosh over my head. But often it’s not the quality of the jokes but the sheer momentum these conversations gather as they careen from topic to topic before landing … somewhere. Let’s see (checks notes) they start with what they would do if the won the lottery, which somehow turns to the belief that ONE of them did, leading to accusations, how a rich person acts, and rich girl impersonations (you know, that laugh, and the back of the hand to the mouth). Then it’s on to Tokyo Tower which somehow gets to how they used to eat beans with the back of a fork. Then it’s time to talk about the new influenza, and is it really new, and by the end Kukuru has given imaginary birth, naturally. And we get the reminders again that the conversations are kept bland so as not to distract from how cute the girls are. I usually feel I’m not doing my job if all I do is describe what happened, but for this show … Oh, and I learned that foreigners don’t have white rice.

Polar Bear’s Cafe 15 is pretty good, too. I thought the first story was good enough, what with Penguin trying to weed the cafe’s back yard and Sasako finding alien clay figures everywhere (Grizzly’s brief appearance was an ideal topper), but in part two we get the unthinkable:

I won’t describe what happens next except that it’s sort of fitting, considering how penguins look. I feel a little sorry for Mr. Penguin, though.

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