M3: Sono Kuroki Hagane started late, but episode one deserves as much consideration as the other shows.
So far so good. We have some invading force that lives in the expanding Lightless Realm, which keeps overtaking parts of the world, I guess. They aren’t clear on that. So mankind is in a constant state of emergency, and our hero Akashi discovers why when he comes home a little too late and encounters one of the monsters, called “admonitions,” or “red poop,” if you prefer side character Kasumi’s favorite choice of words, which I do. Anyway, back at their school Akashi and some others are called in to become pilots for a new program to enter the lightless realm. It’s not explained why they’re using this pack of kids and not trained adults, but I’m sure they will eventually. Then two of the kids, while on their first training mission, encounter one of the beasties and some unexpected weirdness ensues.
The idea that the admonitions might be more human than we think is not a new idea, and since this is written by Mari Okada, we’ll assume that future episodes will harp on the human side more than other monster invader shows. It depends on how light or heavy her touch is whether this is a good or bad thing. It’ll be interesting to see what she does with this setting, rather different from her usual ones. The characters are not terribly interesting yet, apart from the feisty Kasumi and the weirdo Mahmu. But the overall mood feels appropriate for the moment, just the right touches of darkness and warmth. Worth keeping an eye on.
Mekaku City Actors 2 surprised me by completely ignoring the guy from last week in favor of a girl, Momo, who I assume will be joining this gang of whatever-they-are’s eventually. Momo’s deal is an innate quality to draw attention to herself. Somehow this hasn’t turned her into a spoiled brat, but instead a goofy high schooler/idol who loves her mother and wants help her by earning money. The episode, sort of a rough day-in-the-life, feels like two parts. In the first half she rushes to school and keeps running into people who say hello. Then she gets nicely chewed out by her teacher and gets a shitload of make-up work, and it’s all goofy. Then it turns sour as we see depressing flashbacks, and she gets chased around by adoring throngs with a boy, whom she had been trying to help, in tow, with an insert song. All with the usual wild Shaft-style imagery.
It’s a good episode, though just as much of a setup as the previous episode. It reminds me of Monogatari more than, say, Nisekoi, which has the same eye-catching visuals, but there the structure is played for laughs. This one has the long conversations, Momo/teacher, Shintarou/Ene, and thus the often pointless, rambling quality, though it hasn’t yet done much with monologues. This is a good thing, because the show’s unseen story doesn’t strike me as being very interesting, but kids with hoodies don’t fill me with hope. On the other hand, I don’t want episode after episode of introductions. I hope they get around to whatever story they have soon, as much as I like Shaft goofing around.
Falling behind, I’m late with Mahouka 3, and it’s just as well.
We start, post duel, with an infodump by just about everyone in the room which told us little but that Tatsuya kicks ass and has some interesting gear. The latter part we didn’t know, and having the SC’s adorable secretary gush cutely about hardly mitigates the fact that the whole scene is too long. After that, Mari takes her to the thug committee, or whatever he joined, where he meets a couple of reasonable fellow-thugs. Then things get a little weird.
I suppose later episodes will explain why Miyuki suddenly wants to re-calibrate something, why that requires taking off her robe, and when it’s over, why she comes on to her brother because she’s jealous of his hanging out with other cute girls at school, wny she zaps him, and why he doesn’t seem to mind what parts he can remember. Let’s move on to the club recruitment bit, where a kendo president gets abuse from a magic-kendo guy, who then loses the battle and decides to fight dirty. An excuse like “things get heated when the clubs are recruiting” doesn’t explain this guy’s behavior. It’s not like he loses his temper (well, maybe a little), but he treats the whole thing as an everyday event around this school. It’s ridiculous and unbelievable. On the other hand, it gives Tatsuya another chance to intervene and kick more butt.
Gokukoku no Brynhildr 3 sets up a tense, impossible, life-or-death goal for our heroes and then screws up the pacing so much I barely cared. Okay, the end bit, where Kuro gets sliced up again, is good stuff, but even there everything stops while this nasty witch patiently waits to deliver the death blow so that Ryouta can get a glimpse of Kuro’s moles, which were on her boob. Earlier scenes were like that, too. Ryouta gets into the factory, then dallies there at the door as if her friends weren’t all dying from lack of that drug they have to take every day. They took a hell of a lot of time to get this mission started too, though I’ll cut them slack because they’re taking a train to a factory they have to break into and find drugs, wherever the hell they keep them. Hardly a one-day mission. And the consequences of failure gave it added emotional power, but come on, people!