Finales: Boku Dake ga Inai Machi, Gate

The finale of Boku Dake ga Inai Machi was excellent and emotionally satisfying, and I don’t mind that they cheated a bit.

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I had wondered how Satoru was going to get out of his situation, being trapped in a wheelchair with his would-be murderer, with that gate swinging open. It starts well, with the two playing mind games (“I filled the hole in your heart!”), but we soon get flashbacks to talks with Kenya, Hiromi, and Sachiko, where, reminded that he’s not alone in all this, he tells all. Obviously they have a plan in store. On one hand this made me feel better because I really wanted Satoru, who had grown so much and acted so selflessly, to live. On the other hand, since we didn’t know he had told everyone, it was, as I said, a bit of a cheat. Not to mention that they had the perfect plan, put a bag on the ground exactly where Satoru would land, upon which he landed perfectly, on his back, able to wink at Yashiro up above. How did they know this would be the way Yashiro tried it?

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No matter. That scene, with Satoru splayed on bag and quick close-ups of Kenya, Sachiko (best mom in anime), and other everyday defenders of justice, is the highlight of the season for me, the payoff for twelve episodes of anxiety. But I grew anxious again. There was still plenty of time in the episode for things to go wrong. I had been told that the manga was still going (but I was told this in February). I thought Yashiro would escape, get out on a loophole, do something that would make him a threat, but no, they simply extended the happy ending so we could see Jun (married!), Airi, and other outside characters again, and have Satoru read his old story about not having courage, and thus, friends … until he got some of both.

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All the loose ends were tied up nicely, apart one–where the hell did Satoru get his time-traveling ability in the first place? I know, a plot device, but one so blatant as this needs an explanation and we never got one. I kept asking: does someone want him to go back and change history? Or for him to become an adult? Why him? Are there others? Why not other victims of powerful people? This is the thing in the series that leaves me the most unsatisfied, especially when it did just about everything else so well. Terrific characters, constant dread, and the strongest thing of all: its anger over how children are often broken by adults because they’re powerless, and how brave it is for both children and adults to fight back. Well done!

One more of Sachiko.
One more of Sachiko.

Gate had a finale too, and while I wasn’t as thrilled by it, I didn’t expect anything more.

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After an intro reminding us that Youji is an otaku that values hobbies more than work, women, etc. Then we watch him do the opposite–create an independent plan to infiltrate the capital and get Pina out, and act surprised when his fellow soldiers volunteer because they respect him as a soldier and a human being. So off they go, as usual, getting into the palace without any resistance, and bursting in on Zorzal while he’s acting triumphant, and naturally Pina is there, not in her cell, so they don’t waste any time.

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I wish I was an evil overlord to I could say things like “Release the giant ogre!” Nowhere in the show has an ogre been mentioned before. The only reason for it that I can see is to kill a couple of minutes and to let Rory and Lelei show off. I always like Lelei’s light shows, and poor Rory has had very little to do recently, so she deserves a minute or two of mayhem-making in the finale, before sitting on Youji’s lap. After the usual escape where the JSDF is on top of every threat, they have both Pina and the old emperor. Everyone’s all deferential and he’s very nice to everyone, in spite of the fact that he was a conniving SOB in the original series. After that, Pina, in short pants, becomes the crown princess, the warrior girls all hook up with soldiers, and everyone’s happy except Youji, and his pain is for laughs. That’s what you get for ditching Pina’s coronation for Comiket.

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There’s obviously room for another season. They have to deal with Rory’s fiancee issues for one thing, and I’d like to see that. But while it’s reassuring to show the good guys obviously capable of obliterating incompetent enemies, it gets a little dull. Even in a land of sexy fetish symbols we never see the soldiers misbehaving. We never see any successful intrigue from the opponents–all of their plans are thwarted and cut off. The only humans misbehaving are government ministers, with their attempts to “find resources,” i.e. exploit this new land and the people there. Well, maybe another season will work that in. If there is, I’ll watch it. This was a dumb show, but fun to watch. I liked Youji’s mix of military smarts and bumbling otaku-ness, and watching the harem mess with him, especially Rory. And while it bothered others, I really didn’t mind watching the JSDF in a too-heroic light.

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Boku Dake 11, KonoSuba finale

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Boku Dake ga Inai Machi 11 was slightly more than I expected. I knew he would wake up back in the future, and that he would meet his old friends but without the memory of his killer, and they did that. They start with Yashiro narrating stuff about killing hamsters and that Spider’s Web story, thoughts about threads seen on survivors, and my heart sank because I didn’t want an entire episode of Yashiro justifying his murderous insanity, but they get to Satoru soon enough. In a smart twist, this time his inner monologue has his boy’s voice. It isn’t until later, meeting old friends, now adults, that he manages to get his thoughts and memories straightened out (with another smart twist in the fact that he can read words a young boy shouldn’t know), in fact, right at the end.

I've waited much of the season for a moment like this.
I’ve waited much of the season for a moment like this.

I was wondering how they would treat this body that hadn’t been used in fifteen years, but they did a good job. His mom, in the running for the best in anime, did therapy for fifteen years, and apparently an old heroic anthem finally woke him up. The expected scenes that followed were often lovely: the reunion with Kayo was the topper, but you knew they’d have to bring Yashiro back, and the final scene was bewildering. I assume Yashiro intends to kill him somehow up there, maybe throwing him off the roof, and I’m not sure why Satoru would announce to him that he had his memories back. All the more reason to kill him. On the other hand, maybe Satoru has something up his sleeve. He had better; he can still barely walk twenty feet. I assume that next week is the finale. I have no idea what’s going to happen, and thankfully, Wikipedia isn’t telling me.

Some big moments ...
Some big moments …

Kono Subarashii Sekai ni Shukufuku Wo! finishes after only ten episodes, but there’s a second season. The big finale, where our heroes manage to save the town from a machine called Destroyer, was pretty much as I expected. There were some heroic moments, but they didn’t build to a big climax the way a more serious show might have done it. That’s because the show was more interested parody, silly gags, and fanservice, and most of the dramatic moments were there to be undercut by something silly. The ones that weren’t undercut just couldn’t add up. Still, everyone on the team contributed and had a moment. Aqua broke the barrier, Megumin and Wiz did their heavy exploding, Lalatina, sorry, Darkness, inspired the townspeople, and Kazuma did a lot of reactions and wisecracking. Oh, he got his mana sucked out for a good cause, and pep-talked people at the right time.

... but most of the scenes were like this.
… but most of the scenes were like this.

And that’s just fine. This was a good comedy with a heroic fantasy setting and nothing more, and it was a rather clumsy one at times–Kazuma recovered from his mana loss awfully quickly. It worked because Kazuma, the hero, was more cunning then brave, though he could rise to the occasion when he had to, like this episode. The girls had enough individual personality to work off of him, and it helped that this show had great voice performances, particularly Jun Fukushima, who managed to add character to the simplest “Hehhh” and had plenty of snarky lines to play with as well. After ten episodes there is plenty more heroic fantasy cliches to mock, so I don’t see why the second season can’t be as good as the first. Looking forward to it.

One more of Megumin.  I always giggled when I saw this bit in the ED.
One more of Megumin. I always giggled when I saw this bit in the ED.

Boku Dake 10, Gate 22

I should have known better, over a month ago, to use Wikipedia to get names of characters in Boku Dake ga Inai Machi. I learned the murderer’s identity then, and every episode since then has been a wait for him to expose himself, which he finally does in episode 10.

But you're not.
But you’re not.

Still, I’m a little surprised that it happened so quickly. When Hotaru got in the car with Yashiro I thought we might just get some foreshadowing, that is, after the seat belt thing I would have figured it out, and had the sense of dread I should have had. Especially since everything up to then had been so smooth and easy. Aya was suspicious of the gang, but did a 180 and instantly trusted them, so much for HER heart-hole. Her befriending Kazu was a nice touch, since he and that other kid were wild cards in the situation.

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As for Yashiro, just another boring killer. He even uses the hole in the heart metaphor to justify his actions, saying it’s no different from finding fulfillment through kindness and bravery, a variant of that ridiculous “You’re the same as me” crap villains often say. But of course we sort of knew that about him. What mattered was the menace he presented to innocent children, and later, adults. So the scene in the car, in spite of what I knew, still had great effect. He’s very good at killing, and Hotaru is, at this moment, a small boy who’s completely trapped. Naturally, the show leaves us with Hotaru drowning in the lake, with no help from his friends (nice touch, that, showing the other kids living their happy lives), so we’ll have to wait to find out … what happens. Fortunately, Wikipedia doesn’t go into details.

Assassination attempt #2 is about to go awry.
Assassination attempt #2 is about to go awry.

Gate 22 left me a bit frustrated, but it turned out all right. First, I couldn’t believe that Youji and the gang would happily walk off after the second attempt at Lelei’s life, (that attempt was rather fun, with the crowd joining in. The first time Rondel’s been effective at anything), especially after the wizard geezer’s attempt (#1), and sure enough, Shandy HAD been tricked and the second attempt appeared to be effective … Cut to another story, and I gritted my teeth. Especially since the new one was just more Pina abuse with no movement in the story. Happily we go back to find out Youji’s backup measure had been effective. The next part, apart from some more Pina abuse, was a little nuts, I mean, Shandy is. Even when she learned she had been deceived, she STILL wants to cut Lelei’s head off? That aside, the show is moving toward the climax I figure is coming in two episodes, with everyone on the move except idiot Pina, and some paratrooper porn next week.

Boku Dake 9, Komugi-chan R 8, Dagashi 7, Teekyuu 78

Bye Kayo!
Bye Kayo!

Boku Dake ga Inai Machi 9 sees the end of the Kayo story arc, if that’s the right thing to call it. The confrontation between Akemi, Kayo’s mom, and Sachiko … AND the children’s welfare people, goes along expected lines. Kayo is taken away (by nice people) and we may never see her again. This leaves Satoru with a bit of a dilemma. He needs now to save Hiromi and Aya, two people at once, and he can’t call on his friends to help because there’s no obvious reason to. Fortunately, the friends are saintly types, and one of them is Aya, so they agree to help even if they think he’s a little nuts. Not sure how he’s going to explain Aya, though. None of them know her. It’s here that the story might start getting implausible, but we’ll see. For now, let’s relax in the thought that Kayo is finally safe, probably. This show’s double-crossed us before.

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Nurse Witch Komugi-chan R 8 plays with what passes as the two stories going, and gets nowhere with either of them. You could call the monster-fighting a story, I suppose, but in most episodes that’s used as a plot device. The first story is the girls keeping their magical sides secret from each other. You wonder how long they’ll bother with it. Their mascots are the only ones that care, and we’ve seen that Komugi and Kokona aren’t against teaming up. But neither Kokona or Tsukasa and bring themselves to believe that ditzy Komugi is one of THEM, not that they know about each other, anyway. The other story is Tsukasa/Yuto as a pair, and it’s hampered by the typical romcom stuff: Tsukasa thinks Yuto’s in love with Komugi, while Yoto thinks Tsukasa’s in love with Kokona. Annoying to get through all that. Nice moon at the onsen, though.

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Dagashi Kashi 7 (yes, I’m behind) eases up on the education and gives us a pleasant trip to the local festival. We do learn that dagashi is sometimes used in monjayaki, and there’s a brief foray into festival treats, but it’s more of an aside. Instead, we get You’s festival stall rivalry with a okonomiyaki girl, Hotaru’s splendid die-cutting work (you know, she IS cuter when she’s not talking, and having her bangs pulled away on one side doesn’t hurt, either), and the highlight, a nice walk-around with Kokonotsu and Saya, both of them happy as clams to spend time together, especially Saya, though there’s no movement on their romance. Did you expect any? Meanwhile, I’m still trying to figure out what makes Saya such an appealing character …

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After a few slow episodes, Teekyuu! 78 roars back with a SPG of 2.72. Excellent work. In this episode they go bowling and everyone likes to talk telepathically to Yuri, including, apparently, her bowling ball.

Boku Dake, Phantom World, Shoujo-Tachi 8, Komugi-chan 7

Creepier than Kenya thinks ...
Creepier than Kenya thinks …

Boku Dake ga Inai Machi 8 starts with a bit of terror, and a conundrum. The killer enters the bus. Kayo is too terrified to escape, but all the killer does is kick a box, dumps a backpack full of incriminating things … and leaves without opening the curtain. The only thing I can think of is that he intended for the items to be found, a lure for Satoru, perhaps. It’s almost as if the killer knows about Satoru’s ability and past and is messing with him somehow. After that, the kids wisely decide to move Kayo elsewhere, and we’re reminded that only Satoru knows about the murders-to-be. The others simply think they’re helping out a classmate in trouble.

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So no terror this week, though the happiness that comes later feels like we’re being set up for it. Satoru decides on plan B, basically take Kayo to his mom. He knows she knows pretty much everything–even if he’s 29 he’s something of a guileless one, and now he’s in a 10 year-old body and it’s his mom we’re talking about. Anyway, he guesses right, and we get a sweet sequence of events where Kayo, maybe for the first time in her life, is, er, mothered. A hand is raised, Kayo expects a hit, and instead gets a pat on the head. A bath with tickling, a night light, a delicious breakfast. It was hard not to get emotional when it got too much for her. As for the terror, maybe next week, but first we have a confrontation to deal with.

The characters react in horror to another weak story.
The characters react in horror to another weak story.

Musaigen no Phantom World 8 … do I really have to? Not only do we get ridiculous fanservice, we get unexplained moments like why the hell Haruchiko was the one painting Mai’s butt, or what happened to the other students in what started as a school-wide event of taking down the monkey, and why sneaking up to it in a horse costume was ever considered to be a good idea. Even Cthulu was lame. And explaining it away as using Abramelin’s finger, as described in scene one is technically dramatically okay but a cheap way out. Well, the little monkeys were cute.

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Shoujo-Tachi wa Kouya wo Mezasu 8 has Bunta in a dull writers-lockdown episode. The usual: he complains, tries to escape a couple times, buckles down and makes the deadline. Nothing in it works terribly well, and I’m trying to figure out why. Maybe it’s that we don’t know enough about the script, the problems with it, or even the deadline. It’s all vague. And if he does rush and finish it won’t the others have to proofread and complain about it and lock him down again? If we knew the exact starting and finishing times were, or how much he had to go, I would have felt more excited, and “You have to write 66 bytes a second” doesn’t help, it just makes things seem hopeless. Well, it’s done. Next week I guess it will be pressure on Yuuka for a change.

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Nurse WItch Komugi-chan R 7 brings us very little. Kokona thinks she needs a gimmick to advance to advance as an idol and so tries a lot of stupid ones, only to be told by Tsukasa and Kokona (early in the episode) that the best trait for her would come from her natural strengths, and those are her dedication and work ethic, pretty dull traits for an idol, I would say. She should have stuck with the belly button. Or she could use her magical-girl sadism; that would work too. The show throws us just enough goofiness (see screenshot above) to keep it from being a total loss.

3’s, 4’s, and 5’s: Kono subarashii, Phantom World, Boku Dake, and Teekyuu 74

Continuing my desperate catch-up …

... which I will laugh at.
… which I will laugh at.

Kono Subarashii Sekai ni Shukufuku Wo! Is turning into a nice, silly comedy. Episode two introduced Megumin, a arch mage or something like that, with one very formidable power that takes FOREVER to conjure up (I think the show’s already cutting it shorter by ep3, though I’d like to see them work it more as a gag, like the endless stories in OPM) and only be used once a day. Ep3 introduces Darkness, a crusader who can’t hit anything but isn’t afraid to take punishment, in fact, she loves it. Your usual bunch of weirdos in an anime comedy series. Fortunately, so far this show is an example of simple craft overcoming shortcomings, that is, the gags are mostly funny and well-timed (I especially like Jun Fukushima as Kazuma with his side comments and exclamations of alarm), and it looks just good enough moves just well enough to carry the story. Sure, we got a panty skit in ep3, but they didn’t stretch it out, so to speak.

Guess whose explosions have been annoying the demon general ...
Guess whose explosions have been annoying the demon general …

Oh, episode 4 came as I writing that. Well, more of the same. Good gags and reactions from everyone, especially Kazuma. For a while I didn’t know if this would be a two-parter or not; they were getting close to the end and Kazuma and Megumin were still talking about going to lift the curse placed on Darkness (who seemed happy about it, of course) by Celty’s relation. It could end with a gag, or the big quest and I could hope they could steal that guy’s head, though I didn’t think the show would do it. So when the end came I was a little let down. But again I’m having too much fun watching everyone screw up.

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Back around to Musaigen no Phantom World. Not sure what to think about episode four. On one hand I thought it was worked extremely well. The story (Reina’s unhappy home life makes her a victim of a phantom that provides her with a happier, bunny-eared one) is certainly not new, but when she had to say goodbye to the fake family at the end it was a strong emotional moment, more than for other stories of this type. And the fantasy world looked fantastic, out of a painting. So no complaints there. On the other hand the episode takes the easy way out in some ways. Haruhiko and Mai getting sucked into the world was well-done, but just announcing that bathrooms are often portals and using that as an escape route was sort of cheap. And at the end Reina told her parents about the club and they’re okay with it, in spite of what we heard before, and it was treated as an afterthought. Wasted opportunity there. They could use her parents as an obstacle in a later story.

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#5 feels the same way. It’s a “follow the rude, distant team member into a situation where she has to rely on her teammates so she has to apologize and blush adorably” episode. Again, it seems to make mistakes. We’re told at the end that this monster wasn’t the same as THAT monster (the one who killed the bunny and forced little Minase to manifest her powers), and it’s treated like a major mistake. But even if everyone had known this from the start, why wouldn’t Minase have jumped at the chance to take the phantom down? Even if wasn’t the same one, it was the same species, and it was threatening the same things. Still, it looked as good as before, and it was nice to see the little girl in action finally.

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Things were too good in Boku Dake ga Inai Machi 4. Little by little, things were getting better for Kayo’s prospects. Sachiko, being a cool mom, interfered with Kayo’s abuse, at least for a while. While Satoru, determined to keep Kayo safe, practically never leaves her side for a couple days, in spite of the reaction of his classmates (though his friends are more supportive), and because of this, Kayo was beginning to open up. It led to a happy birthday party with everyone, and Satoru believing he had saved her life. Meanwhile, I’m waiting for the bad news.

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In this case, it’s that Satoru did indeed keep Kayo alive on that day, so she got killed two days later. There’s a sick, twisted hint of the inevitability of Kayo’s death no matter what that pisses me off, but what I find most interesting is that we know who her killer is this time, and it wasn’t the same one we all thought. In all this thinking about stopping serial killers I had become blind to the thought that there could be more than one threat to her life. And so the show becomes more than just a time-traveling “stop the murderer” story and reemphasizes its concern for children and anger at the people who would hurt them. As for the story now, well, it’s getting a little ridiculous. How much reach does that killer have to set fire to Airi’s home? And why would he even want to do it? Well, we have a pretty good guess as to just who did it now. Just have to nail him. Sadly, the adults in the modern world seem to be about as powerless as the kids in the past.

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I’m far behind with Teekyuu!, but in order to spread out the joy I’ll just do one episode now. #74 feels like it drags, or I’m tired, but it had an excellent SPG of 2.815. Only Yuri and Kanae this week, picking delicious fruit like durian and what you see in the pic above.

Shoujo Tachi 2-3, Boku Dake 3

Don't we all.
Don’t we all.

Shoujo-tachi wa kyouya wo Mezasu 2 gathers the other talents to create Kuroda’s game. Didn’t take the long. Bunta is told to go out and recruit, and after some failures (characters we won’t see again) he enlists his friends Yuuka (Who’s interested in voice acting) and Kai, who has no special talents so will be a gopher. Best moment of the episode. After going all puppy-dog and pathetic about his desire to help, Kai remembers a painful love-loss and goes nearly psycho. Surely Yuuka, who’s always with him, knew about this side of him, right? Apparently not. After that they gang up and frighten off a talented artist, but they get her back. Yuuki, the programmer, seems to have an unpleasant past with Kuroda, but they’re saving that story for later. Busy episode. I figured it’d be one new talent at a time …

I learned a new word.
I learned a new word.

In episode 3 they all go on a training camp of sorts, to do some of the typical bishoujo game (and anime) stuff, and we tag along until the show gets tired of that premise and creates a more interesting falling-out with Andou, who says what needs to be said: why the hell can’t this be fun to do? Kuroda’s answer, that too many cooks, etc, is a sensible one, but she’s been so pathetically single-minded about this project that I would have a hard time following her. She’s also the dullest character of the lot. Interesting that Buntarou seemed to be taking on more of the leadership role this week, maybe for that reason. But do you expect us to believe that Buntarou would leave the camp, take the train back to Akihabara, and fetch Andou back? How much time did they spend at the camp, anyway?

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What stand out for me in Boku Dake ga Inai Machi 3, apart from the thought that Yashiro might be in on this, is the thought that in a way, he already is. That mysterious chat he’s having with Kenya at the end could mean a lot of things (if this is a weaker show than I suspect, they both might be part of the conspiracy). If he’s just a concerned homeroom teacher, than the fact that he hasn’t been more proactive in helping Kayo makes him as bad as the rest. The show is unclear about Satoru’s thoughts about Yashiro during their conversation, the grown-up him takes it as routine; we’ll never know what Satoru the boy thinks. Then there’s the scene where he sees the battered Kayo in the shed, and her mother shows up. Satoru can only watch Kayo being led away (after lying, another touch-point in that theme). In both situations Satoru is powerless, still a boy, unable to find an adult that can actually help. He shows some rage there, but not with Yashiro … However, Kayo’s rescue in the lunch money scandal and the scene with the foxes were both nice. He says he was alone when the foxes appeared the first time, suggesting that while he’s powerless to change things abruptly, he can maybe do little things to alter this horrible timeline.