SAO 14, Space Bros 27, Onii-Chan-long-name 1, Bakuman 3 1

A rather unexpected conclusion in Sword Art Online latest arc, to say the least. “Fuck it! Let’s just go to the ending!” Except it isn’t.

An unexpected boss battle.

We’re all ready to watch our heroes continue their struggle against the giant centipede thing, and it winds up taking maybe two minutes. It’s dead. That was the first surprise. Okay, what is this episode going to do with the rest of its time? How about expose Heathcliff as the game’s creator? Yeah, that’ll stretch the plot. How’s about making him the final boss? Okay, though they’re still 24 floors from the top … maybe the creators thought of something better to do, or they got bored and decided to end it all here? Nah, couldn’t be, but wait … Heathcliff/Akihiko challenges Kirito to what would essentially be the boss battle. No one can interfere because they’re paralyzed. At the time this seemed wrong, a bad deal given to Asuna, but just wait. Anyway, Heathcliff is winning, about to deliver the death blow …

No way I expected this to happen … OR DID IT???

In terms of plot and world-building here it starts to get a little silly, and later, very silly. Akihiko mutters something like “She’s not supposed to be able to do that.” But I didn’t think about that much at the time. The big thing is that Asuna dies in Kirito’s arms, turns into sparkles that he vainly tries to grab out of the air. The plot has become absurd, but the characters in it are behaving as naturally as they always have. The absurdity increases when Heathcliff kills Kirito. We see the red bar go to nothing … and then he’s back, to Heathcliff’s surprise, and they kill each other. The end. Um, no.

So they both die, right? Right?

You could argue that Kirito lasted long enough that he survived the game, but then what’s Asuna doing with him in those golden clouds? And Akihiko? The latter’s talk about finding a player better than the game is a pretty weak explanation for all the miracles we saw in this episode. But again, we see Kirito and Asuna together again and we’re happy. And when Kirito wakes up in the real world, and that suggests that Asuna’s not dead either, we get even happier, even though little of it made sense. By the way, if all the surviving characters have been logged out, surely news would have spread in the real world. Kirito would have his family waiting breathlessly for him to open his eyes, or at least a startled nurse. Some return. But that would have robbed us of the poignant image of the emaciated Kirito walking down that hospital corridor as the credits rolled. Maybe that the reason why they piled so many ridiculous revivals on top of another, to enhance the drama and to show our two heroes doing what they do best, doing things together and missing the other when they’re not there. The strength of these two outweigh the show’s bad plotting, though in this episode not by much.

Man’s best friend.

Meanwhile Space Brothers keeps ambling along, seemingly unconcerned about anime seasons or endings. The only acknowledgment this episode gives to that is the new OP (better than the last one, but not as good as the first), and ED (Not bad. Makes me want to look up all those satellites). Otherwise we get down to the meeting between Mutta and Azuna, which, frankly, I wasn’t worried about. In another of Mutta’s human touches, he answers the question “Are you prepared to die?” with the PR-friendly “Yes,” and then decides he can’t lie about such things. We spend so much time in Mutta’s head, but sometimes he does something spontaneous like this and doesn’t explain why. After that, and some flashback scenes to soften Azuna’s character a little, it’s all prep for Hibito’s launch mixed with flashbacks to the UFO the brothers saw as kids. Not much plot in it but the show likes to occasionally step back from the drama and go “Wow! Space!” And the parents and Apo are there, so it has its share of comedy too. The episode ended before I was ready.

This is a punchline.

Onii-chan Dakedo Ai Sae Areba Kankei Nai yo ne (phew!) has a first half where Akiko, reunited with her brother Akito after six years, comes on to him over and over. It gets dull very quickly. Akiko will suggest something naughty, Akito will turn it down, Akito will then suggest an even dirtier alternative. Over and over. Not only that, but Akiko takes so long getting to the naughty part that’s supposed to be the punchline that I wanted to fast-forward. The only change is the that Akito early on reacts with bewilderment, then catches on and tries to interrupt the game midway by pointing out the strategy or just leaving the room. That almost but not quite salvaged a couple moments. My hopes rose when new girls are introduced (it’s a girls dorm or something, which doesn’t explain what he’s doing there), but they mostly feel like cheap knockoffs of stereotypes. Oh, they’re all interested in Akito, too, which is where the plot is going, I guess. I’m going to give the show the benefit of the doubt and assume the series is off to a shaky start, but every time I say that I end up dropping the show anyway …

Bakuman, that hardworking show about hardworking manga artists, is back for a third season, and they get right to it. No reintroductions or flashbacks. There’s work to do!

Mashiro! Takagi! Good to see you … er, sorry to interrupt …

Miho passed an audition and is a candidate for Isawe and Eiji’s anime production of Natural+. This should be great news for her, but if Mashiro’s manga PCP becomes an anime she probably wouldn’t be considered for the lead, and wasn’t that their dream, Miho starring in Mashiro’s anime? Part of me was thinking this shouldn’t be a problem. VAs do multiple roles all the time, but this would be two JACK shows, and apparently that’s bad. Iwase can’t let that chip fall off her shoulder and once she learns of the relationship she’s determined to get Miho that job. Ironic. By helping Miho’s career she’s undermining her dreams …

It’s an odd crisis to be sure. Again I’m thinking she should take the role. But deep down Mashiro doesn’t want her to, but he’s too stubborn (this week’s magic word) to admit it. Same with Miho. We get scenes of Takagi and Kaya with both of them, but it’s mainly to pass the time until both lovebirds come to the proper conclusion, and we get a scene at the recording studio that presents some of the show’s great strengths. When Iwase, incensed at the decision, starts threatening to ruin their careers (when did she become so flat-out evil?), Eiji, her artist, oddball genius, and our heroes’ biggest rival, uses HIS influence. Not that it would have changed their decisions, but it negates any damage Iwase could cause. Mashiro and Miho keep their dream alive (and hold hands!) and rivals prove to be comrades again. I would say the season three is off to a great start, but it feels like the show never left, like they took a quick breather and then got back to work on the next installment.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s