Kamisama Hajimemashita was late in getting subbed so I tried watching it raw. The introductory notes on various websites was really all I needed to get the gist. I understood just about everything up until the little assistants dumped that big pile of notebooks at Namami’s feet, which is where I stopped. Also, I was getting a little bored. Homeless high school girl Namami helps a stranger who kisses her on the forehead and makes her the new earth deity at a run-down temple. There’s a fox servant-deity named Tomoe who’s been running the place, but he won’t have anything to do with Namami. The rest of the episode has her trying to get him back, though he’s aloof, smug, and annoying, because she doesn’t have much in the way of real power except her forehead glows from time to time.
Namami is fun to watch. She’s got a temper and stands up to Tomoe’s arrogant remarks, even to the point where she’ll get eaten if she doesn’t beg forgiveness. The problem is Tomoe. Though he’s supposed to be the male romantic interest I see little that’s appealing about him. You can understand some of his disdain; he’s been running the temple on his own for twenty years and then this powerless girl shows up and takes claim of it. But that’s it. It’s clear that his devotion was because of Mikage, the previous deity, nothing more. Also, he’s supposed to look “like a model,” but I’m not seeing that at all. Well, they’re not in love yet. Then we have the two other, smaller servants, Onikiri and Koutetsu, there apparently to feed exposition and further annoy us. Otherwise, the art and animation look primitive but work well enough within its constraints. The humor was well-done, mostly. It’s not going to be a great series, but it might be Worth a half hour a week.
BTOOM! is another show where a guy finds himself in the world of his favorite game. But this one is grittier than Accel World or SAO, and the world our “hero” Youta finds himself in is the real world, just off on a tropical island. It’s also more unpleasant. In his normal world he’s a NEET who wants to work for the company who makes the game (who doesn’t want him, or DO they?) and nowhere else, so he turns down all the jobs his mother tries to line up for him, to the point of throwing a console at her (and partly through the wall). You almost want him to get blown up (no guns, only bombs in this game). The first episode is largely Youta trying to figure out what’s going on while some other guy tries to kill him, and it works pretty well. We’re sucked in with him, trying to figure out his options, though his opponent is prone to overconfidence and giving evil speeches before he acts; you wonder how he survived so long. You wonder how many players there are. You wonder how they get shunted back and forth and what happens when the bombs run out. You wonder a lot of things, but it’s episode one. I’m not sure this show is to my taste, but it’s only fair to give it a trial.
Zetsuen no Tempest 1 aims for the sweeping and dramatic. Great crashing grey waves on a cliff where a long grave marker stands, along with people quoting Shakespeare and pointing guns while a full orchestral score plays. Oh, and lots of butterflies fluttering about the snowflakes …
We jump from character to character. We got Hakaze, marooned on a desert island. She’s a powerful sorceress but is powerless there. After we watch her getting out of her barrel and making pissed-off speeches we briefly meet Samon, who put her there. But most of the time is spent with Yoshino, high school male, who’s best friend, Fuwa, has gone missing, not that he cares too much. And Aika, Fuwa’s beloved sister who apparently had a crush on Fuwa (but who behaved exactly the opposite) was killed a while back. Yoshino’s visiting her grave (the one on the cliffs) when things get weird.
Fraulein Yamamoto points a gun and starts asking questions about Fuwa, then long-lost Fuwa, glowing, shows up and knocks her unconscious. Butterflies appear. Fuwa’s got a wooden doll that’s a direct line to Hakaze on that island. We get exposition as everyone in town starts to turn to iron and a big glowing ball in chains rises out of the ocean. Oh, and there’s the question of Yoshino’s unnamed girlfriend in the next town over, who Fuwa possibly rescued in a previous hushed-up “black iron syndrome” attack, and who looks exactly like Aika did. What are we to make of all this? Well, it’s a complicated story but the first episode tells it coherently. Fuwa is unpleasant and selfish but driven to do good things because it’s useful to him. Yoshino is along for the ride right now. He doesn’t seem very surprised by any of this in spite of all his lines about the world going mad. It all feels very grand with that orchestra playing nearly throughout and characters quoting Hamlet (not, as you would guess, The Tempest), but is it in fact hiding a mundane story? We’ll see.
K might be hiding a mundane story, too, but like Tempest episode 1 is so full of style that it doesn’t matter much.
After the show has shown off some amazing visuals we look at some people walking together. Then we see them breaking into someone’s hi-rise office and threatening him with guns and telekinesis stuff until a goth-loli appears, looks at the victim through a marble and announces he doesn’t know anything. Then another group, Sceptor 4, in nice uniforms, shows up and there’s a big fight with pink flames and stuff. Then the credits, where we see both sides of this fight, so I guess we’re stuck with them. At the moment I’m not sure if I’m supposed to be rooting for either side, but the thuggish ones have a goth loli, so I’m going with them.
We cut to the richest high school I’ve ever seen where some innocent-looking effeminate boy named Yashiro is asked to pick up some fireworks for the school festival. He’s asked this by a girl who earlier spent valuable show time looking for him in vain, where we also saw a naked girl, who I think is the kitten who accompanies Yashiro on his subsequent misadventures. But by then we’ve gotten used to such things. The show is obviously trying to dazzle and confuse us and it does a pretty good job with striking moments like the low-angle shot of the skateboard kid (right out of Paranoia Agent, meanwhile there’s a bartender gang member who looks like Shizuro), or the detailed crowd at the intersection. We’re admiring the visuals and waiting for something to happen. So far it’s been a lot of scenes that have little to do with anything or end before they should.
But when it does come together it does so quickly. The first gang spot Shiro on the street and start to chase him around. We don’t know why, but it’s some sustained, comprehensible action for the first time. Plus, Shiro is just as confused as we are and that makes us more interested. Then a completely new guy, Kurou, or Black Dog, rescues him, but now maybe HE’s going to kill him. Apparently hapless Shiro looks exactly like (or maybe is) some killer King of something. And before the credits we see the first gang’s leader in a Sceptor 4 jail cell. Apparently the show has a lot of things to tell us, and if the first episode is any indication it’s going to do so in it’s own time and style. Well, it’s great to look at, even better than Tempest. I’m not sure I’m going to warm up to the story or not, but they threw so much money at episode one it would be unfair to stop watching so soon.