Winter 2013 pt5: I should have started with these first two shows

Well, the season now doesn’t look as bleak as it did before. I should have gone to the good stuff to begin with … Oh, wait, I tried that with KyoAni a couple days ago. Never mind. Leave it to SHAFT and Akiyuki Shinbou to deliver … something.

A common response to a SHAFT program.
A common response to a SHAFT program.

The art in Sasami-San@Ganbaranai is light with lots of pastels, not something I’d seen before in a Shinbou show, but after a few moments of blinking it’s clearly his work. Those quick cuts followed by scenes of someone doing something pointless, often from a distance. And nothing much happens for a while, then a great deal happens quickly. We look at Sasami, a girl who can’t or won’t go to high school, as she goes about her daily shut-in life. Her brother, a teacher named Kamiomi, who constantly hides his face with his briefcase, takes rather too good care of her (when he brushed her teeth I got worried) before he goes off to teach at the same high school she refuses to attend. There he interacts with three sisters, two of them weirdos and the third relatively normal … until stuff starts happening. Sasami watches it through spy cameras.

sasami1-2

My ears pricked up when the chocolate theme began to repeat; moments later it dominated the scenes, and then, with an amazing visual moment, everything is chocolate. The art changes, the music changes, the girls transform and for the first time in months I’m watching an anime series with a stupid grin on my face. Yes! I’d been waiting for something like this in the new season; I finally got it. What’s it all mean? Who caused it? Who cares! I know some shows like to dazzle in their first episode, but there’s been nothing else remotely like this yet.

I expected to like Sasami-san@, I’m a sucker for Shinbou’s work, but everything afterwards would be a letdown. Luckily I had saved two shows I knew I’d like if the season was turning out badly. First I’m delighted to welcome back Chihayafuru.

Our lovely heroine returns.
Our lovely heroine returns.

It hasn’t missed a step. The second season starts appropriately with the new school year and an effort to recruit new members (they need at least five, or double their current number–seems rather extreme). Kanade’s opening ceremonies plan of putting Chihaya and Taichi in kimonos and doing the introduction seems to work–until Chihaya gets the microphone. That’s our girl! Still, a number of girls sign up to drool over Taichi, including Sumire, a superficial girl who’s just been dumped and wants a rebound boyfriend quick. But she and the other girls learn that Kurata is a nerdy game and that Chihaya isn’t the only weirdo on the team.

Sumire and the other newbies try to figure out Kurata, or Chihaya.
Sumire and the other newbies try to figure out Kurata, or Chihaya.

We can expect Sumire to be a new member and thus a regular character. She’s still got her eye on Taichi and there was one Karuta poem that inspired her–albeit to leave practice. I don’t know what she’s going to get out of it. She won’t get Taichi and she has no inclination to learn the 100 poems like taskmaster Akane wants the newbies to do. Meanwhile, the other club members are at odds over their goals. Win the tournaments? Advance Taichi to level A? Who’ll train the newbies? There are tradeoffs and personalities to deal with and the show does its usual good job juggling it all. The direction and acting haven’t lost a step; the show flows as smoothly as its previous season. And Chihaya gets to show off everything that makes her a great character: beautiful, nerdy, passionate, clueless yet thoughtful. Excellent.

Our heroes make themselves at home in their new world.
Our heroes make themselves at home in their new world.

And then there was (takes a deep breath) Mondai-Ji-tachi ga Isekai Kara Kuru sou Desu yo?. … I dunno. We get three “problem children” who are whisked off our world to take part in games on another world. There are some things to like. For instance, the three kids (and one cat) are nobody’s fools, and they start trying to game the system the moment they get there. And though they are naturally suspicious, they quickly realize the other two can be fun, meaning they might make an interesting, dysfunctional team. And they like messing around with Black Rabbit, a ditzy servant to the gods, or whatever she is. And there’s an extensive backstory to the whole gaming thing for those who like to be immersed. On the other hand, large infodumps like the one Black Rabbit gives is a bad sign, especially when you’re trying to explain how the world works in episode one. Balancing it out I might watch another episode or two, but we’re not talking greatness here. So for this post that’s two very good episodes and one weak one. Better than what I was batting before.

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