As we expected from the previews, Toaru kagaku no Railgun S 8 features Misaka against a formidable enemy. A pity that this enemy is a smirking loli.
We’re introduced to ITEM, a quartet (at least) of supergirls-for-hire, as they’re given the job of covering the two research facilities that Misaka hasn’t destroyed yet. And while it’s nice of the show to give us an early glimpse, before the fighting, it didn’t do much to humanize them and thus make the story more interesting. The only other reason to introduce them so early would be because they’re recurring characters. We’ll see about that. Anyway, Frenda, the loli, asks to defend one of the places herself and so we get a, er, man-to-man battle that isn’t as exciting as it should be.
It looks good on paper. Misaka we know about. Frenda is apparently powerless, but skilled in espionage and mayhem, while Misaka isn’t. So we get bombs and fiery trails befuddling Misaka at first, until she figures a few things out. It helps that, not for the first time, Misaka’s opponent underestimates her. And so the battle goes back and forth for awhile until Frenda cons Misaka into not using her electricity and gains the upper hand. Seriously, at this point Misaka ought to be dead. Fortunately for her, Frenda’s a smirking loli who likes to say gloating things in between attacks, giving Misaka a chance to avoid further damage. Unfortunately for us, it also means any momentum the battle manages to build up gets frittered away whenever she opens her mouth. To be fair, the same happens when Misaka has a voiced thought, and some of Frenda’s antics WERE funny. But I’d much rather have had Misaka up against one of those other girls. They look like they can keep their mouth shut and fight. Happily, it looks like that’s what we’ll get next week.
While Railgun had its moments, it didn’t really live up to expectations. Meanwhile, Chihayafuru S2 21 was a great episode.
We had the usual side points but most of the time was spent watching two matches. First, Chihaya, trying to figure out how to play Karuta at a high competition level with her left hand–during the match, against a player bent on revenge for her team. Okay, her winning was a tad improbable, but Chihaya’s finding a way to win was the series at its best. There are setbacks (at the beginning she can’t even figure out how to sit right) and then discoveries, like how her opponent, like most people, isn’t used to playing against lefties, and a moment that I found terribly funny but perhaps the show didn’t, that she hadn’t thought to reverse her card layout. There’s a reason to love Chihaya: beautiful, determined, brilliant at karuta, but stupid at practical things. So she survives this match and wins the next, though it’s an afterthought, as in round two we switch to Nishida’s match against Arata, or “The Agony of Porky.”
Arata scored more than a perfect game in the first round and isn’t about to lose here (because, you know, the plot …), and Nishida’s confidence and high spirits come crashing down as the guy who beat him again and again growing up beats him yet another time. In spite of Nishida’s constant practice and determination, he’s simply not as talented as Arata and never will be. All he can do is keep fighting, which he does, and which only gives him a moment or two of respect in Arata’s inner monologue between executing dazzling moves that leave Nishida dumbfounded. Not only that, Nishida’s failures in the team matches the previous day leave him convinced that he’s let the team down–never mind the victories in the finals–and that he is the worst-motivated player among them. Utter bullshit, but losing a little can do that to you. It will be interesting to see if the series gets back to that. They won’t have time this season, in fact, since next week will certainly be Chihaya/Shinobou, I don’t know how much we’ll see of Nishida or the other teammates after this.
Meanwhile, Red Data Girl prepares its big story arc and leaves me hopelessly confused. It’s not the fact that I don’t know shit about Japanese gods, spirits or legends, but it’s all explained so poorly in this show that I don’t know what’s going on. In the story the school cultural festival is gearing up, and everyone in the know talks about it either as a school doing a warring states theme about defending an old castle, or about some contest between rival spiritual forces, since just about everyone in the school is infested by one or has one as a buddy. Much is made about Izumoko unbraiding her hair for costumes, which might unleash the himegami, unless it doesn’t. When the himegami DOES show up she does so with no glowing (boo!), just Izumiko in her school uniform, braided hair, only some overdone, tacky makeup to let us know, that and her haughty tone of voice. The Hime talks about humanity ending, or her ending, her powers, and other things to poor hapless Miyuki, and at the end comes on to him. Hmph, some goddess. But it makes you think that maybe being endangered is a good thing, if they’re going to act like that.