I kept waiting for something interesting in Macross Delta 12, but nothing much happened until the very end. We learn that Ernest once tried to train King Gramia. We learn that Mirage doesn’t feel she has Hayate’s talent (this time it’s her turn to be caught listening in to a conversation, BTW). There’s NUNS announcing they’re going to blow up the ruins at Ragna, which would cause massive damage to the planet, but then they decide to wait, and we’re back to listening to all the talk. Walkure talk their usual nonsense, Mirage is promoted, hey, congrats. On the Windemere side there’s the usual: Roid saying they shouldn’t strain Heinz any more and Keith scoffing. And lots of talk of wind on both sides. And lots of oohs and ahs as the good guys’ big ship takes flight … Well, next week we’re going to have a big battle, but I wish they could have gotten started sooner.
I was disappointed to see the cynical ending to Kumamiko. The way I see it, poor Machi became so traumatized by the idol contest that she never fully recovered, insisting that people at Sendai jeered and threw rocks at her, and now has no desire to ever leave the village again, spouting inanities about the internet to the complicit Natsu. She’ll never allow herself to see the rest of the world on her own terms, and everyone in the village is fine with it. It’s not the ending I expected, after she overheard Hibiki and Yoshiro debating whether she should compete in the contest. Yoshiro even suggests that she’s a sacrifice, like in the old legends, the slimeball. His only good point is that the village is rooting for her. And her performance was a lovely moment; a shame that she mistook the cheers for hostility.
It could be a cute show, but moments like the end left a bad taste in my mouth. No one tried to guide Machi gently into the strange places, she was forcibly yanked in before she was ready, and sometimes blamed when she naturally panicked. Yoshiro was the worst offender, of course, a disgusting piece of trash who didn’t care for one moment about Machi’s own feelings or development, but used her as a promotional tool whenever he could get away with it. Natsu, Machi’s best friend, sometimes did this too, maybe not understanding what was so bad about it. He is, after all, a bear. And he, at least, tried to help her when he could, though he stood aside too often when Yoshiro was up to something. It’s a shame. I would have loved to see Machi grow more, at her own pace. I’m disappointed that no one else in the show thought the same.
No cynicism for Bakuon!!, well, maybe a little. The show didn’t really have much to do this episode except bring Baito back in an even more neutered form. Sorry they had to go out with a “what if there were no bikes?” dream that was a little depressing. On the other hand, it made a good point: we’d probably get along just as well without motorcycles; we’d be safer and happier, but the world would also be less fun. It was this acknowlegement that a lot of things about bikes (and bikers) are actually kind of silly (well, I suppose most hobbies are) that made the show so much fun to watch, especially for someone like me who never paid attention to motorcycles before. So while the show was, like today, inconsistent, it had some of the funniest scenes of the season. It was also the most educational; I learned more about motorcycles than I ever thought I would. Now, I still don’t want one, but I’m thinking a scooter to get around might be nice …
Macross Delta 11 gives us the aftermath of the Windermere attack for both sides. For the bad guys, they’ve unlocked 60% of whatever power they’ve going to use, so they start preparing for a bigger invasion to take over the last couple of ruins. I’m not sure if that’s what Johnson is telling Arad when he shows how Windermere can blanket the galaxy with their network should those last ruins fall, but it amounts to the same thing: Windermere wants the ruins and our guys must defend it. More pressing is the idea that Heinz and Mikumo/Freyja made contact in that scary space last week, and both sides think the other did it on purpose, a nice wild card, as is that old geezer rising from his deathbed to command that big ship for the invasion.
Meanwhile, the good guys have no choice at the moment but to say goodbye to Messer, both by staring out into the sea a lot, and by doing a jellyfish wake where they speculate on the type of man Messer was, and what they each should have done to prevent his death. And they agree to strive to do more. I don’t think they have much of a choice in that, since the bad guys are beginning their offensive. It’s a nice scene, with an acapella song thrown in. Frankly, the way the war is going I wonder if it’s the last relatively happy scene we’ll have for a while.
We get two extremes in Kumamiko 11. On one hand we have Yoshiro, who only treats Machi as a tool to get what he wants, even if it means putting her in an idol competition the poor girl can’t handle because of her self-esteem issues. On the other we have Natsu confessing to a holy rock that he wants Machi to stay as she is and stay in the village forever. No one has considered what Machi wants, even if she doesn’t know what she wants. Why hasn’t anyone taken her to a big city before? Okay, she couldn’t even go into a Village Vanguard earlier, but she seemed fine with what little she saw of Sendai before getting to the audition venue and letting her nerves overwhelm her. Let her take little steps; don’t just fling her into the deep end of the pool. And of the two extremes, they are both wrong, except at least Natsu’s feelings come from love, while Yoshiro is a manipulative little prick, which made the screenshot above so satisfying.
Bakuon!! seems to be out of plot, apart from what bike Chisame should get, and that takes only one-third of the episode, if that. What’s more, such as the haphazard way this show is put together (and I mean that as a compliment), they put it last, with Chisame quoting a racing legend that motorcycles aren’t meant for the road,” but scooters are. So that’s that. Glad she’s happy. The first part deals with cyclists and their obsession with how much their bicycles cost, led by an asshole who cuts off Onsa to prove that bicycles are the kings of the road, and gets some justice for his reckless riding. The middle part is the silliest and best. Onsa accidentally eats some of Rin’s drool and catches “Suzukiphilia,” and it’s one of the funniest bits the show has brought us yet. But actually the entire episode is full of little funny bits. Switching the names on a generic bike, sumo wrestling to decide what bike Chisame will get …
Bakuon!! 10 continues the introduction of Chisame, still working out her frustration at being a champion minibike racer but who’s too short to ride your average street bike. The girls invite her to sit on their bikes and give her opinion while she begs off because it would reveal her TERRIBLE SECRET of shortness. Further complicating her problems is that she considers modding bikes for her height to be sacrilege.
It’s a strange mindset for Chisame, considering all the fun bikers have screwing around with their bikes. Surely she ought to have known this. It’s less odd that she doesn’t know how a street bike works, and continuously screws up during riding classes–I can see it happening. What makes it funny is that the instructors know who she is and rubber-stamps her progress (surely she knows how to ride and this is a formality) while she makes absolutely none. By the way, good job Hijiri for getting better!
In Sousei no Onmyouji 10 we meet Subaru, yet another of the twelve whatever-they-are, and when Rokuro and Benio ask her to train them, guess what she tries to train then for. You guessed it. This enforced “date” happens too early in the episode for it to end that way, so I waited for the expected embarrassing moments and wondered then the Kegare were going to show up. Here it gets interesting: Rokuro’s magic arm tries to take him over, and when Benio puts a sealing charm on it she is weakened to the point where she can’t fight. Subaru’s point, when she shows up, is that the two must learn to work together somehow, which I suppose was the reason for the date setup. However, it does them no good here; Subaru does what the other Big Twelve did and dispatch the monsters without a second thought while Rokuro and Benio gape. I guess the working together stuff will happen later …
We get the two fights we expected in Bungou Stray Dogs 10, though one wasn’t much of one.
No jumping from one to the other, instead we get Dazai vs. his old partner, Chuuya. For much of the time we’re wondering if Dazai’s in over his head. He’s not much of a physical fighter, certainly compared to the Port Mafia’s top martial-arts guy, but, once again, Dazai proves that his tongue might be his greatest weapon. It isn’t long before Dazai, about to be killed, has Chuuya making those cartoony-furious faces that Kunikida is so fond of doing. Well, it helps that he set up an ultimate defense already, making it clear that Chuuya would be dead meat in the PM if Dazai were to die. I wonder why the good guys haven’t used this strategy already. Oh, yeah, they don’t know Dazai’s past. Whatever the reason, all Chuuya can do is stomp off, humiliated.
If you want a physical battle you have to turn to the one on the ship. Kyouka helps by blowing up a few things so they have a time limit. They set it up so that Atsushi can escape, but we all know he’s not going to leave without Kyouka. It’s expected, but WHY he stays (Kyouka deserves a chance because the agency gave Atsushi one) makes the scene worthwhile. The subsequent battle with Akutagawa is the bloody mess we expected, made more interesting because of the themes of self-worth they toss in. One reason Atsushi wants to win is because Akutagawa treated Kyouka as a tool, worthless unless she’s killing. We flash back, rather confusingly, to a PM training session where Dazai basically tells Akutagawa that he’s worthless, and then there’s that line “My new subordinate is much better,” a line that infuriates him. And Atsushi wins the current battle, partly perhaps because, thanks to others, he has found some self-worth. Fitting that Kyouka, the girl who feels worthless, drags him off the sinking boat with her, safely onto Kunikida’s boat.
For a while it looked like KumaMiko 9 would be another exercise at humiliating poor Machi, with Yoshiro deciding to make a TV commercial to promote the village and having it star you-know-who … no, not the bear, and THEN putting her in a swimsuit. Machi does get her share of embarrassment this week, but it’s really not so bad because she shares the commercial with a bunch of enthusiastic villagers, and in the end seems to actually be enjoying herself. The commercial itself, at least before the editing, didn’t turn out so badly, and the post-edit version was different enough that the episode didn’t fall into the trap of using too much footage that we’d already seen. Also, Machi looks really cute in glasses.
Bakuon!! 9 is the usual messy affair. It’s graduation time and so it’s time for Reina to go, except, of course, she doesn’t, being a student there only to keep an eye on the kids. Often it’s a disadvantage for a character to not speak, but it also means she can hold up a single note and end the conversation. We then move to the important part, the introduction of Chisame, who can race motorcycles with the best of them, but is too short for street bicycles, meaning she both loves motorcycles and resents them and people who ride them (“First place is lonely. I am lonely. Therefore I am in first place”). For this reason she obviously doesn’t want to join the bike club, but is lured into it through a ridiculous school orientation scene. Her complex relationship with bikes is welcome; apart from Rin, the girls’ attitudes toward theirs are simplistic.
Let’s see, in Sousei no Onmyouji 9 we start with Rokuro’s admission that he killed everyone in that dorm two years ago, and that would include Benio’s beloved oniisan. She’s upset, of course, and challenges him to a fight. We all knew there had to be extenuating circumstances, but I for one didn’t expect these circumstances to just walk up–the dead oniisan, Yuto. What’s more, he’s the once responsible, he’s evil, and he’s always been evil. There follows a grim flashback to what really happened (nice use of music in that scene), and then more explanations and a lot of talk about how EVIL Yuto is. Rokuro retaliates by playing pong against Yuto, using himself as the ball, until Benio stops him and they miserably stop. Now we see the path to the final episode. I didn’t expect to get this dark past business taken care of so quickly, but if this is a one-season show they don’t have much time left. But let’s give them a little normality first; I’m tired of clenched faces and choking noises from both our heroes.
A pleasant two or three-parter in Bakuon!! 8. The first part is all about getting Hijiri her license, when she’s never even been on a bicycle before. So she falls down a lot and gets enraged. However, I’d say this episode was more of an homage to her practice ride, the Honda Super Cub, which I learned is the workhorse of much of Asia, and the best-selling motorbike in the world. Thus, Bakuon!! is the most educational show of the season. After that there’s a cute christmas episode where Hane does something nice for Rin, and New Years, which isn’t much but has a nice sunset and bad luck for Hane. Not as bad as the Super Cub’s after Hijiri was done with it. Tough little guy.
Sousei no Onmyouji 8 gives us Rokuro’s Shocking Secret! Actually, there are a number of revelations given this week thanks to a visit by a new asshole, Seigen. The big revelation is that two years ago Rokuro sort of self-kegared and did the killing at that dorm. The other big reveal was that Benio’s twin brother was one of the victims. We can expect a lot of repercussions from that, of course. On the other hand, that can’t be the entire story; there’s more to it than the show is revealing, so it’s hard for me to be all that concerned about it. This followed a much more innocent story where Mayura, who has some secrets of her own, not least that she’s Seigen’s daughter, is nearly killed by a kegare and Rokuro has to go rescue her. Should have gotten suspicious when Rokuro was duking it out with the monster and there was still half the episode to go.
Bungou Stray Dogs gets busy this week. There’s a mad bomber working for the Port Mafia who’s put bombs on both ends of a speeding subway car, a convenient way to introduce two new characters in one episode.
I’ll start with Yosano, a regular face at the office, who goes up to the front car and confronts the mad bomber, who goes on and on about ultimate science, life, and death in a typical smug madman type of way, while Yosano gets injured by bombs a lot. Man, smirking villain speeches are the worst, especially when they seem to be winning the fight, and Yosano indeed seems to be near death. Heh. It only occurred to me late in the episode that of all the characters, she’s about the only one left whose power hasn’t been typed onto the screen, meaning we haven’t seen it yet. And while I hate smug villain speeches, it’s especially gratifying when the hero shuts them up, the more violently the better.
Meanwhile, in the back, Atsushi comes close to dying too, thanks to Kyouka, a quiet little thing in traditional dress, receiving orders by cell phone and conjuring up her power, something about snow but actually a supernatural fighting thing, who slices Atsushi up a few times, leading him back to his personal crisis of causing trouble for everyone who’s around him. Not sure about his personal rally, something about saving lives so he deserves to live, and then his tiger comes out. The difference between his situation and Yosano’s is that he has already pegged Kyouka as a fellow victim, not a smug villain, and when she tries to kill herself and he stops her it’s not just the defeat of a villain but an affirmation of his better side. Yosano’s a lot of fun as a character, but Kyouka is more interesting, and it looks like she’ll have plenty to do in future episodes.
Tanaka-kun wa Itsumo Kedaruge 8, where Ohta is hurt and can’t perform the duties he normally does for Tanaka, is a bit weaker than the others, at least for me. I think part of it has to do with the show’s one annoying point: Tanaka is unable to take care of himself and depends on others, i.e., Ohta. When Tanaka is listlessly expounding on his own listlessness, often in a self-mocking fashion, inspiring admiration or at least disbelief from others, it works much better, and we can put up with his being carried around all the time. But to learn that he can’t even make it out of the building in time during a fire drill inspires little but annoyance from me. Also, not enough Miyano, though Echizen gets some good quality time.
No matter what I do something comes up in RL and I fall behind with my posts. Sorry about that
Coming into Gakusen Toshi Asterisk 7 things looked interesting, Flora still gone and Ayato, searching for her, on the run from goons. But instead, all of a sudden,we get this new girl Sylvia, who takes an interest in Ayato’s business because, maybe since she knows who he is, trusts him far beyond the bounds of common sense. Also turns out she’s an expert at Phoenix Festa historical rankings in general, a supremely gifted fighter in her own right, and has another super power or two so that she can tell him exactly what building Flora’s stashed in, flirts with him a little and then hops off the top of the building as super-people often do. Deus ex Genestella or something. So the story cops out and now Saya and Kirin just have to blunder in and rescue her and leave our heroes to the match, which actually starts next week. It will probably take two episodes, swinging between itself and the rescue.
Macross Delta 7 has them infiltrating a planet taken over by the bad guys, meaning they have to dress as cats. We get the nyan comments for a while, until they find out the secret of the vars infection. Windemere apples and, whatever planet they’re on’s water. Mix them together and you don’t just get apple juice, apparently. Wonder what a Windemere hard cider would do for you … Anyway, while they’re being sneaky we get a lot of scenes of Makina and Reina working cutely together, learn that that big “scar” on Windemere was actually Windemere’s doing when they tried to wipe out the NUNS, which is different from NUGS … But this week’s medal goes to Mikumo, who stops Freyja from revealing their presence and singing to prove to a kid that songs don’t suck, the typical stupid but sincere behavior that we see too much in these situations.
KumaMiko 7 … I’m still confused as to why the place didn’t go up in flames when the rice cooker short-circuited. Also not sure why Machi and then Natsu were so unconcerned about it, well, Natsu was at first. I was also impressed by Machi’s chopping wood. Didn’t know she was capable of stuff like that. Still, I enjoyed the second part more. It’s like an anxiety dream where you have to get up in front of people but have no idea what to say. Fortuately, Natsu isn’t stupid and uses the situation to his advantage. At least the old folks seemed to enjoy it. Some times it’s good to have a ritual just to get everyone together.
And in Bakuon!! 7 there’s a pretty fun motorcycle race. It’s not the most gloriously-animated one, but they do just enough visually, with multiple heads and quick shots to make it exciting. Also, the show’s done a nice job establishing the pride the girls each have in their bikes, so I wound up rooting for all of them, though I had Raimu picked as the winner (her surpreme skills vs the handicap). Thus I was shocked when she crashed in the first moment, but, you know, it was just to set up the dramatic finish. As for who won, I won’t tell you here, but kudos to the show for the unexpected victor, defeating the typical rules these silly competitions have. Never saw it coming.
Macross Delta 6 begins with Messer belittling Hayate and Mirage’s flying skills, while Mikuno has started to go all catty on poor Freyja. It’s not much fun to watch these sort of scenes, and I wish the show would get over it and settle our couple in. On the other hand, I was surprised to see Mirage on the receiving end of criticism, too, considering how they puffed her up to be so great. It also helped them bond a little, for the triangle that will become important when the couple has time for it.
The main point of the episode comes after another spectacular if confusing battle (everything happens so fast and the ships are in the darkness anyway) was hinted at from the start. Hayate and Mirage only go for the enemy’s wings, i.e., they try not to kill. At the end of the battle, Hayate kills his first man (saving Mirage’s life in the process) and goes into a blue funk because of it. It sort of falls flat, at least for me, partly because I wasn’t sure what was going on at the end of the battle. Just that Hayate was moping on the dock afterwards. “Oh, he must have killed that guy.” Still, nice speech by Mirage, and it was better than what Freyja’s going through, basically more “What are you singing for?” accusations.
Hearing that Kumamiko 6 would feature Village Vanguard, I began to think that this series was going to be about retail chains as much as about girls and talking bears. Instead the show veered from my expectations when Machi panicked in the mall, her self-esteem issues and shame over it giving her some significant trauma, and the second half of the episode was Natsu trying to get her to feel better and dealing with his guilt over sending her on this absurd mission (would Village Vanguard have a DVD on pythagorean devices?). I’m now worried about Machi being able to function in any urban setting, and if she has to do so maybe they ought to send Hibiki with her next time.
Bakuon!! 6 is a scatter-shot series of small bits revolving around the bike race the girls will have at the school festival. There’s the normal, obsessive and opinionated biker behavior (the Yamaha TZR2503MA get attention this week), including different ways to mod your bike (tuning, customizing … and occult). Then there’s the weirdness of the characters, such as Raimu’s betting to buy ALL the colors the Kawasaki GPZ250R came in. The best moment for me came with Hane’s dimwitted modding concept, the “double happy meter,” but most of it was amusing, partly because, apart from the festival, which we won’t see until next week, there was no real structure to any of it.
Sousei no Onmyoji, like Macross, is working on a triangle. Since there’s nothing much new on the Kegare front, apart from a discovery at the end which we don’t need because it just means more nastiness is coming, which we already knew, the show decided to get Benio and soon to be third wheel Mayura to bond a little, meaning Mayura won’t leave poor Benio alone (she thinks Benio’s a delinquent on the side). I thought for sure Mayura would be sucked into evil-land, but the show decided to leave the outsiders out of it. But turns out Mayura knows all about exorcists, which will save some explaining down the road, but didn’t know that Benio and Rokuro were living sort of together, leading to some adorable pummeling at the end. Now that she’s aware of the whole situation, we can get to the triangle story, if the show wants to and I hope it doesn’t.
Bungou Stray Dogs 6 looks at first like a character study of Kunikida, but it really doesn’t feel like it because Atsushi and Dazai are around him almost the entire time. The way character episodes are supposed to work we’re supposed to long internal monologues and flashbacks, and, well, we do get those, but for the most part they’re so brief and matter-of-fact that we don’t have time to get bored by them. You see, I find most character episodes to be boring. The flashbacks we do get actually have meaning for their current case, tracking down the Azure Messenger who’s most likely another azure bad guy earlier. The internal monologues, usually about his book of ideals, are too brief; we spend more time watching Dazai making fun of it. Oh, and Akutagawa shows up again, but he’s driven away before he can mess up the balance of things.