Let’s start with the noitaminA shows … Ping Pong 3 … For Smile, two steps forward, one step back, I suppose.
We’re mostly at the regional tournament, all the players we’ve met so far, and they’re all trash-talking and analyzing each other to death. Tsukimoto is there too, acting as nonchalant and diffident as ever, but this time he’s muttering things about how he’s going to win. You don’t know whether to believe him or not. Was that game last week against Koizumi that important to him? You just can’t read Tsukimoto, and the closest we get is to watch him play and what the camera shows him reacting to. Even then …
The tournament is presented beautifully. It’s not just the matches–we don’t see a lot of that anyway–it’s the relaxed but intense atmosphere that impressed me. The show goes places you don’t expect, like a scene between a girl and a boy, the latter about to lose to Wenge, or inside the head of Tsukimoto’s first round opponent (which leads to a late punchline that’s both funny and poignant). It’s almost a surprise when the show settles in and follows the Tsukimoto/Wenge match, which is everything it should be. Wenge is about to blow Tsukimoto out, Smile applies the android imagery again and starts his creepy humming, and gets close to upsetting Wenge. Then, I guess, the import of what he’s about to do changes his mind. If Wenge loses this match, his career is likely over. And as everyone points out to him this episode, Tsukimoto’s too nice to his opponents. And why not? Why should anyone care so much about a silly game that losing ruins them? And we’re back to square one.
As for Nanana’s Buried Treasure, it feels like they presented us with a puzzle that was only half-successful, and added some plot stuff that was only half-successful too. The treasure part, while okay, explained the rules to us in a way that didn’t get us terribly involved in figuring it out. We Juugo run around and nearly die a lot while Tensai scribbled notes before giving us an infodump. All it basically did is show how smart Tensai is, which we already knew. Maybe if we had a better idea where those pink tunnels went, or saw the pattern, it would have mattered more. As for the plot stuff, we see that Isshin is treacherous, but to what end we don’t know. I’m more interested in why that cop flung her cap at Juugo and pull knife on him, well, “interested” might be exaggerating. I suppose it’s supposed to be another unfolding mystery for us. I’m finding it harder to care.
Kanojo Flag 4 is a strange mish-mosh of events that attempt to combine for a moving finish and, apart the story itself, fails miserably. They start the athletic festival, a week-long event, and it all feels like it could have been accomplished in a single day. Well, they do it in half an episode, so it feels about right. But it feels like a wasted opportunity. We see glimpses of absurd events, like cat-gathering, but glimpses are all we get. I was expecting something longer and crazier. Then they almost drop the whole thing mid-way when we learn (or he’s reminded) that Souta will die soon, and like a true harem male, isn’t bothered by that as much as that it will make his harem sad. We’ve seen the flag over his head before, the show hasn’t really cared to fill us in.
Then it gets surreal when Ruri the robot informs Souta about a way out, breaking through to the other side, I guess, along with harem girls acting like fantasy characters. After we’re disjointed by that, they go back to the festival where they sort of win, but since we don’t understand the need for Souta’s little speeches to everyone, I mean, they’re all trying hard anyway, I didn’t get any sense of thrill from it. Instead, all I got was confusion. Maybe with the immediate crisis taken care of the characters will take a breather and act silly, which is what they’re best at.