I had no idea this episode of Bungou Stray Dogs was the finale until it ended with no preview and I checked sources.
Well, it was a good episode to end with. We have the appearance of the Guild, basically rich, gifted assholes from America with enormous power and influence in their hands. We already knew that they were the ones behind Atsushi’s kidnapping, but I didn’t expect them to make an ouvert appearance so soon, trying to buy the Agency out went the way we expected (No), and then making Kenji vanish just like that, hinted at abilities the good guys may not be able to counter. Soon others vanish too, at the Shibuya crosswalk, and Atsushi, Tanizaki, and a mystery guy find themselves in the playpen of a crazy girl named Lucy.
But all season the show has shown the enemy to be supremely powerful only to reveal cracks in their facades that allow the good guys to defeat and/or befriend them. Turns out Lucy has pretty much the same story as Atsushi and Kyouka: abandoned, feared for their powers. While this doesn’t actually affect the fight this week, it shows us that the Guild has broken people working for it, and that they will be abandoned again if they fail, much like the Port Mafia. This gives the Agency a card to play in the next episode. As for this one, Anne’s sob story goes on a bit long since we’ve heard it before, and Atsushi’s panic and self-esteem attack wasn’t much new, either. More interesting is the situation itself, and Atsushi’s solution (Tanizaki helped, too–nice misdirection there), not to mention the mystery guy. When it ended I thought for sure we’d get back to Lucy’s plight, but no time, show over. Season over. Don’t know if there will be another one, but if there is I’ll watch it.
Sousei no Onmyouji isn’t ending anytime soon, but frankly the show has been getting less interesting recently. At the moment it’s just training, Rokuro and Benio having domestic squabbles (this week it’s who’s the better cook), having a new supremely powerful asshole show up (Kamui), and finally, we discover another dark secret that torments one of the characters (Kamui killed Benio’s parents). Kamui is not a smug, smiling bishie, which is a relief, but his schtick (“I’ll give you ten seconds”) is already old. What works better is not only how it hooks into Benio’s psyche, but how the cooking theme is brought into it, with Rokuro offering her the kind of domestic routine she lost along with her dead parents, because of you-know-who.
Kuromukuro isn’t ending either, what’s more, my viewing of ep11 was delayed until today. #11 felt like a halfway point, finishing with the villains temporarily defeated and Yumiko and Kennosuke’s idylic onigiri picnic in the mountains. But there are questions to answer. During Ken’s fight with what’s-his-name, it’s hinted that he had his memories messed with, and maybe he’s not the Samurai he says he is. This makes the UN people suspicious of him (in spite of the other guy actually killing several men and taking Yukina hostage in order to hijack the Black Relic. Well, the UN are meant to be among the show’s fools), and of course it’s the truth. However, we know that Kennosuke is acting decently out of what he thinks is the truth, so in terms of the story it’s nothing to worry about unless more memories pop up and he becomes unsure.
Then there’s the question of Yukina’s dad. She somehow figured out, with the help of Kennosuke and GPS, where his old lair was, but why it was dug out of the ground like that is anyone’s guess. The dad probably did it. I mean, who else? I’m worried about this area of the story, because while it’s part of Yukina’s story and must be dealt with, I’m afraid of a Mari Okada style story where all the mecha and the backstory become metaphors for people exploring their own feelings. Well, too soon to tell, and right now I’m genuinely curious as to what that guy’s been doing all these years.
Tanaka-kun wa Itsumo Kedaruge wraps up, rather listlessly. Other closing series often add some profound, usually not terribly funny summation which breaks the mood of the overall story in favor of unneeded sentiment. Tanaka-kun tries this as well, as our tired hero realizes that he enjoys being listless more when his friends are around, espcially Ohta. But upon realizing this he is too lazy to actually act upon it–that’s the spirit! As for the ending itself. Seating arrangements in part one and a “Tanaka has a girlfriend” rumor in part two, and both feature Shiraishi more than I expected. Since Shiraishi has no chance of getting this boy, it gives the episode a sense of frustrating sadness, though she decides not to give up.
This show is one of my favorites for the season, and must have been one of the hardest to make. The show had to work to make Tanaka more than just a layabout who needs help with everything, but they gave him some moments of insight (and sudden action, like his rush to change seats with Miyano) which helped somewhat. They weren’t able to perfectly solve the dilemma of having a protagonist who doesn’t act, but the side characters filled the gap nicely, especially Miyano, who energized every scene she was in just by speaking, and Ohta, the best bro of the season who I think could have a series of his own if he was a little weirder. They didn’t always get the balance right–inaction and slow, deadpan humor vs nutty high school life, but it worked often enough that I’ll genuinely miss the series.
Gakusen Toshi Asterisk season 2 has a predictable finish. They have to set up a new season, after all. First we get an adorable bedside flashback with Ayato and all the girls, well, not Claudia. It’s a good thing the scene is cute because otherwise, apart from a few more details concerning Ophelia’s power and destructiveness, we had pretty much figured it out. Maybe to make it up to us, the show then concocts a dragon attack on the city, where, in a nice bit of misdirection, Ayato faces a hydra alone. Nice looking battle, primarily the reason to watch this show, and after that it’s just setting up the plot for the Gryps tournament next season.
Assuming I’ll watch. I probably will, but frankly I’m getting tired of the various festas, especially since we’re going to be meeting many of the same villains again. Ayato meeting his comatose and self-bound sister at last is more interesting, but won’t be really compelling until she stops lying there in a vat of fluid. Julis and the orphanage, not to mention her entire country, I could care less about. Claudia will be more active, which is a good thing, and we’ll have Saya, whom I find absolutely adorable, on the team. Ophelia might be interesting, same with Hilda. How much more can they squeeze out of their magical/scientific weapons and lackluster plot? Maybe I’ll find out.
Two stories for Bungou Stray Dogs 11. The first is the only one with any consequence, with the blonde Port Mafia girl, Higuchi, going through one of what seems to be many crises of confidence. Not officially blamed for not capturing Atsushi, it’s clear that someone might try to kill her soon anyway. Her subordinates don’t seem to respect her, her partner, Akutagawa, miraculously still alive, says he doesn’t need her. Why does she stay in the Port Mafia–that’s the question that comes up maybe too much. When she goes alone to rescue Akutagawa, she finds out that little of what I wrote about above is true. Rather an odd turnaround, I must say. The second half is lighter, but without so much pathos, as Atsushi goes on a case with country bumpkin Kenji, a return to the “show the partner to be an idiot and then turn around and show that he’s really awesome” stories we had before.
Sousei no Onmyouji is another episode of “training” with Subaru, and since she leaves at the end, it’s hopefully the last. Basically Rokuro and Benio have to work together to find Subaru in a game of hide-and-seek. Blind chasing at first, followed by trying to anticipate where she’ll go next, to talk about anticipating each other’s actions, leading to a Kegare fight where they are forced to do just that. It’s a good lesson in teamwork but getting there with the ridiculous chasing around got boring quick.
A weak episode of Takana-kun wa Itsumo Kedaruge this week. It started well, with Tanaka’s efforts to make himself invisible so he could sleep through the class haunted house activities, only to have his non-presence backfire on him. They have some good fun with Ohta’s height, and Miyano gets to have some fun trying to be scary. And we saw more of those two sidekick boys than we have before. But they ran out of jokes to make with Tanaka being a ghost, Ohta’s own fear of ghosts didn’t work terribly well with me (apart from giving Miyano her chance to be cute, I mean scary) because it made the big laugh moment all the more predictable. Next week will be the last, so they have a chance to end on a high note.
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.
Bungou Stray Dogs 9 looked at first to be following the story: Kyouko, the assassin-girl, and Atsushi, the boy who feels sorry for her, not to mention what is happening with Dazai, but now it looks like the two incidents are two different stories with two different motives, with only Kyouko linking them. One is straightforward; Atsushi doesn’t want to turn the girl in to authorities, then the bad guys abduct him (and Kyouko), and now he’s or maybe they are being shipped into international waters. And next week, judging from the previews, there will be a big fight. The other one, Dazai vs whoever is in front of him, is more interesting, because we don’t know why Dazai let himself be abducted, or why the Port Mafia even tried in the first place. He’s got a big fight coming up, too, but since we don’t know why they’re fighting, I’m more interested in it than the Atsushi/Akutagawa bout, though I do wonder what they’ll do about the girl.
Kuromukuro 9 has the big story, fighting off the enemy mecha, but in order to do that they have to take care of other stories. Yukina awakens in a cave filled with her dad’s paraphernalia, but is immediately drugged or something by the robot that’s what’s left of her dad, and left at that old bus stop for that love-struck kid and streaming-boy sidekick, not to mention Kennosuke and the UN. They’re working the “it must have been a dream” angle at the moment, probably for the best because otherwise it would distract her from the more immediate threat, and the show has to concentrate on getting Yukina willingly back into the black relic, though it looks more red to me.
Scenes like this annoy me. Not that Yukina doesn’t deserve someone asking her nicely to return to battle (a thought that had occurred to no one until she said it), and Kennosuke’s “death wish” needs further examination, but because evil robots are coming and they’re just dithering around. That German scientist’s battle-suit description was even more annoying because there was no reason for it. Once they get battling it’s okay, and the strategy to wrap Kennosuke up and send him up via tractor beam was a good one. Firing missiles at the beam seemed a bit easy, but I do like how the alien technology isn’t invulnerable, unlike other shows. Not the most exciting mecha battle I’ve seen, but it wasn’t bad, and the dam was a good choice of locale. Now we have to figure out why this particular villain is surrendering and not blowing everything up. Maybe the aliens didn’t want to damage the dam…
Tanaka-kun wa Itsumo Kedaruge 9 mostly takes place in the WacDonalds, the first half featuring the core pair, and a worker who has too vivid an imagination, and it doesn’t work terribly well. Tanaka tries to suck the straw too often and the worker’s imagination is so vivid that I got a little annoyed at her. Things pick up with their second trip there because we meet another new character, Saya, Ohta’s kid sister and, as it turns out, Rino’s best friend. She’s painfully shy, but after some early jitters she seems to become interested in Tanaka. How he’s assembling this harem without trying is amazing. Anyway, it gives us more chances to see Rino’s jealousy at work (her best friend is the sister of her biggest rival!), we get to see Ohta be nice and supportive to a different person for a change, and it ends in a nice, sweet way with the siblings in their homes being domestic, Rino being, maybe, actually happy. Hard to tell with her.
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.
Bungou Stray Dogs 7, while not appearing to be, is actually about Kunikida and his ideals, though, like the first part of the story last week, you hardly notice it, at least until the end, when after an entertaining enough battle where the bomb guy, a smirking bishie and thus my least favorite anime character type, gets what’s coming to him by some clever teamwork between Dazai and Kunikida (who earlier was wondering how the hell these two became partners). The connection between the two men, after the surprises and tragedies of the final scene, became more compelling. Kunikida clearly believing in his strong-minded ideals and so frustrating and raging “why!” while the usually foolish Dazai talks about justice being a tool, and the danger of ideals destroying people’s souls. It DOES make you wonder why these two are a team, apart from the fighting baddies, I mean.
Kumamiko 8 continues the emotional abuse on poor Machi. This time Yoshiro cons her into working as one of those poor souls who have to prepare and hand out samples of food at supermarkets, claiming it’s sort of a path to stardom and the city. Naturally he ditches her there and we spend several painful minutes with her being ignored by customers and threatened by the boss. And turns out it’s only because the regular part-timer was off that day. I suppose you could argue that it was good experience of the real world for Machi, but I’d like to punch Yoshiro in the face for continually humiliating her to further his own interests. Though the cold rice dishes Machi and Natsu prepared at the start looked pretty good.
Kuromukuro 7 has no battles, but after the fireworks in ep6 I didn’t expect one. This one’s all about people working out what they should be doing, what they have to do, and DO they have to do it. The character’s stances on these things come out in a sequence of little scenes. Now that she’s seen the face of the enemy, who was NOT a demon, Yukina is adamant about not getting back in the Black Relic. You can’t blame her. She also has painful memories about her father’s absence reawaken, maybe because he had called them demons, but what he meant by that term isn’t clear. There’s also some resentment about being considered a tool by just about everyone, and maybe a tad of jealousy about that princess who stole the artifact in the first place. And then there’s her mom, come home to work things out and failing. Perhaps not surprisingly, Yukina runs off.
Meanwhile Kennosuke is working over his side of the issue. The not-really-clueless Yukina asks him some pointed questions about the nature of his revenge and what he intends to do even if he gets it (telling her he would then die wasn’t the best answer, Kennosuke!). He’s also against forcing Yukina to get back in that mecha, and is socially awkward enough that he doesn’t have the words to convince her. Yukina seems to be turning her back on destiny, or at least her duty to mankind, but how to bring her around? That’s the big question right now, as the bad guys (a bunch of riduculous-looking people wearing armor, who call the Black Relic “Glongur”–sounds like one of Stan Lee’s Amazing Stories monsters–who are so cliched and awful that the nearly sink the episode just by appearing) are trying the trick of appealing to Earth for the relic’s return, a political tactic that complicates things further. Good episode, even if nothing got blown up.
Tanaka-kun wa Itsumo Kedaruge brings us a valentine chocolate episode with no annoying bits, because the chocolates in question were already delivered and the girl is a mystery. It allows Tanaka and Ohta to wander around (miraculously overhearing each of their suspects deny the chocolates to friends), speculate, and eat the sweets, homemade for Tanaka, bittersweet store-bought for Ohta, the presentation of which furthers the mystery. Of course, when we (finally) meet Rino, Tanaka’s sister, we pretty much guess. These later scenes were a little awkward because I couldn’t figure out what Rina’s all about, and she’s not obvious like Miyano is. But as usual, it’s all funny, if a little odd at times: WHY did Rino put the towels on Tanaka’s head?
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.