Kill 17, Asukara 18, Chuunibyou Ren 5

My reaction to Kill la Kill 17, for the record, was “… the FUCK??!?” Then I tried to figure out when we could have gotten a clue for this.

Maybe here?
Maybe here?

And little comes to mind. Last week, Ragyo told Satsuki all about the life-fibers plans to take over the world, but because of her blasé reaction I wasn’t sure whether Satsuki had heard it before or not. Obviously, given that she built that high school as a place of defense against the life-fibers, we now know the answer. But considering all the cruelties Satsuki had inflicted on the poor students there, you wonder if the defense against the fibers is any more humane than them taking over the earth. Hmm, fascist police state or assimilation into an alien life form. Interesting decision.

I completely misread this moment.  Heh.
I completely misread this moment. Heh.

Naturally, this betrayal means the dynamics and relationships in the show are almost unknown now. Is Satsuki going to fight alongside Ryuuko? I had that on my list of future possibilities. What is Ragyo going to do next week? She seemed almost amused to get stabbed by her daughter, and I’m a little surprised that (a) she didn’t see it coming, and (b) her own outfit didn’t repel the blow. The student council are all behind Satsuki, of course, but for how long? What about Nonon? Where does Nui fit into all this? Of all the characters in the show, she’s the only one whose motives are a complete mystery. I’m looking forward to seeing where the characters all land. And to think that up to the end, this looked like a slow episode, with more infodumps and quiet scenes.

Mako's family is serious when it matters, and food always matters.
Mako’s family is serious when it matters, and food always matters.

I’m only disappointed in a couple of things. I thought when little Mataro announced he had sold his outfit that he would have a part to play in the craziness, but it looks like he’ll be another comic bystander after all. Also, since this was meant to be a culture and sports festival, I was looking forward to Trigger having fun with those old anime tropes. Also, though the show did its best to keep us entertained, the episode WAS mostly infodumps and quiet scenes. Well, I’ll forgive it for the ending.

asukara18-1

Nagi no Asukara 18 has the three kids managing to find their way to Shioshishio. Certainly a more subdued episode than Kill la Kill’s, and this week, downright creepy. The whole thing was unsettling, the kids walking around and finding people they know hibernating, but looking dead, disturbed each kid in different ways. Finding those sacrificial dolls in that mass grave (which the boys have never seen before), with that hand in the middle holding up Manaka might have been the creepiest moment for some, but for me it was Hikari’s visit to his home. His dad is laying there, hibernating, dusted with salt flakes, and right past his head is the shrine to his deceased wife. Hikari sits and tells him all the news from above, just like you would report the news to your ancestors in Japan. We know the old man isn’t dead, but it suggests that he’s dead to Hikari, or rather, no longer in the same world. I suppose he isn’t. I’m not sure what point the show is making here.

asukara18-2

As for the doll graveyard, Manaka waking up and losing her ena, I suppose you have to go back to Tomoru’s comment (Miuna meets him–amazingly, he doesn’t try to feel her up, but the way he’s jumping about you get the idea he’s not REALLY there, so to speak) about gain something, lose something, for what resembles an answer, lazy and half-assed as it is. So, did Miuna’s gaining of the sea ability the reason Manaka lost hers? Maybe, but it doesn’t feel right. Never mind that, what was the deal with that hand? Best I can think of is that it belongs to the sea god. One other thing: Miuna’s visit to the school and seeing all the students had an otherworldly edge, but I suspect Tomoru was responsible for that. All in all, it was an effective episode, maybe because they played with the mysteries more than they did the relationships for a change. Because there was more of a balance, both aspects were done well. This week.

chuunibyouren5-1

With Chuunibyou Ren, I now wish that the show had gone with the multi-episode love triangle between Yuuta, Rikka, and Satone, because now the series is stuck with stand-alones which would be dreadful if not for the work of the animators. So this week Kumin gets something to do besides nap, and that is to teach the others to nap. They’re in training, you see, for a napping tournament with another school, because they have to present a reason for their club to exist, and Rikka can’t even read a prepared speech about magic research in their defense. Rikka gets worse every week. Being unconscious is perhaps the most undramatic thing one can do but the show manages to make it work. Fortunately napping leads to dreams, which means we get a decent fantasy sequence in competition. But it’s clear that the series is spinning its wheels now. What are they going to do next week? An episode featuring Isshiki? He’s the most annoying person in the series, so much so that all the other characters have pretty much come to ignore whatever he does now. How about Yumeha? I bet an episode featuring her would be cute. What about the cat?

Chuuibyou Ren and Zvezda 4, Dandy and Fool 5

"Have I ever told you about the Great Pumpkin?"
“Have I ever told you about the Great Pumpkin?”

In Chuuibyou Ren 4, Shinka runs for the student council. In terms of high school election episodes it’s not bad, no evil rivals undermining her campaign, no heartwarming scenes of everyone working together, because none of the other characters really care. But it was more painful than some because you sort of knew she was in for an embarrassing hit before it was over, especially when she gets Sanae to help her win over the first years. But it was more of a study of both these girls than a big-story episode. What’s most interesting to me is what happened when Sanae finally realizes that Shinka is the real Mori Summer. It got so that I was almost begging her to fall out of that belief, or at least settle down; that faithful puppy dog routine got on my nerves fast. One other thing: I hadn’t thought about it much, but I was surprised to discover the Mori Summer mythos was so new-age-sparkly-rainbowlike. I thought Sanae was more on the Dark Raison Tyrant’s Eye Dark Flamey side of delusional fantasies.

zvezda4-1

Sekai Seifuku – Bouryaku no Zvezda (How I hate typing that last word!), we turn to Natasha while she, Jimon and Kate travel underground to the ancient civilization of Udo, where the mother plant resides, in order to save it. Apparently all their energy and ability to transform comes from it. The journey down isn’t terribly dangerous as far as underground tunnels and caverns go in fiction, but it gives us time to hear about her sad and bewildering past. A robotics nut from an early age, ostracized because of it, taken underground by her parents to see fairies … it’s vague after that, and it says little about her, though earlier and later events suggest she has a fear of abandonment and a basic need for companionship (hence crawling into Jimon’s futon early in the episode). Once more, the sheer oddness of the situation helps the backstory and the rather basic story go down smoothly. Too much weirdness can get tiring, but this show is doing a good job of feeding us small and steady doses and keeping the characters somewhat realistic, apart from Kate.

spacedandy5-1

Space Dandy 5 has doesn’t save anime either, but it’s probably the best episode of the series so far. This in spite of it again being completely predictable. The alien he’s hunting turns out to be a homeless alien girl, and they go on a odyssey in order to find her home, except, this being a 24-minute show, the cut the odyssey down to flashes of activity. They bicker and they bond, bad guys are tailing them, etc etc. But, apart from the penguin and the train business near the end, it’s done well enough that I got a tug on the heartstrings when it wrapped up. But I’m not sure the episode saved anything. When is it going to save something like everyone said?

Jeanne poses dramatically on the battlefield.
Jeanne poses dramatically on the battlefield.

Nobunaga the Fool 5 sped through a lot of stuff, well, after more of the between crisis plot-piece pushing and moments of consultation and internal monologues. Jeanneis still pissed about the nuptials (Never mind that, Jeanne, take a card), Himiko pissed because her husband is too busy being who he is, I figured there’d be a play on Nobunaga’s life eventually, but I didn’t suspect anything so soon, oh, and well-played, Mitsuhide! We also knew that Caesar would make a play for conquest (and, we learn, for Ichihime), and we may have figured that Nobukatsu would have an unfortunate time on the battlefield, but I hadn’t expected these things to happen all at once. Hell, I hadn’t expected such a momentous battle in the first place. The show does a good enough job with it that when certain characters show up in the nick of time I had quite forgotten about them. In a show wallowing in history, such as it is, and intrigue, it doesn’t keep still for long, and that’s fine with me.

Nobunaga the Fool 2-3, Chuunibyou Ren 2-3

... As Jeanne quietly rethinks her mission ...
… As Jeanne quietly rethinks her mission …

Nobunaga the Fool 2 is mostly talk as the reps from both stars settle down and talk seriously, or with grand gestures like Da Vinci and Oda both do, or not much because people ignore her because she’s a girl, in Jeanne’s case. Then again, the sexual harassment Hideyoshi tried to inflict on her (don’t try to fondle a girl with armored gloves, Hideyoshi) might have turned her off the show’s characters, oh, that’s right, except for Oda because she was destined to meet him. Well, she has, so maybe she ought to rethink this whole visit. Meanwhile DaVinci swears loyalty to Oda for no real reason except he can pilot the giant mecha, now known as “the fool,” and back on the east star, Julius Caesar leaves Camelot to get it back. And Oda makes that coming-of-age ceremony anyway. What a guy!

nobunagafool3-1

I reread the above just now and maybe I should say that I actually liked the episode. I liked episode 3 even more. It’s the same weird mix of cultures, history and big speeches, but with a big fight thrown in as well. This is the invading Takeda clan again. Their leader Shingen gets news of the new Oda superweapon (while they sit in the coolest palace I’ve ever seen, with that giant animal skull) and decides to test it against their own superweapon, powered by a regalia (one of the many weird things they haven’t fully explained yet). Nobunaga single-handedly beats up on the enemy’s lesser mecha while his men stand around and marvel and Jeanne has weird visions, until the others arrive with the Fool, and Takeda with is big red thing. More fighting, an odd intervention by that small girl Himiko, who tricks Nobunaga into marrying her (none of these clever people saw it coming, while we at home were giggling at him), and, most importantly, more speechifying! Silly series are usually the most fun if they’re done right, and so far that’s just what they’re doing.

I worry about this sometimes, too.
I worry about this sometimes, too.

Chuunibyou Ren 2 is all setup for the disruption, because first we have to get some things straight between Yuuta and Rikka before that happens, namely, the nature of their relationship. After a lightweight first half the two go on a date on the second; I was surprised how much I enjoyed watching it. Chalk it up to the breezy feel the production makes of it and to the fact that apart from a hand-holding bit there’s almost no pressure on either of them, in fact, that becomes the point. They’ll take their romance at the pace they’re comfortable with. That’s good, though Rikka seems determined to not progress in any side of her life. Her helpless behavior at the supermarket made me wonder if she didn’t need some sort of psychological help.

chuu2koiren3-1

Episode 3 promised a lot but in the end there was nothing to it that we didn’t know coming in. Satone, a middle-school friend of Yuuta’s and the origin of his delusions, comes to his school, has a cosmic battle with Rikka (which goes on too long, the first time I’ve said that about the fantasy sequences in this series), slips past Rikka’s defenses into their apartment, all expected of her. But then … she backs off, or seems to. She’s actually happy that Yuuta and Rikka have their “contract.” That pulls the rug out of the multiple-episode story arc I was expecting. Hell, I thought much of the season was going to be about this love triangle. Now, she could be lying, making a strategic withdrawal from a scene she could not win, but I’m not getting an insidious vibe from her. The characters in this show are all way too obvious to be devious. Well, I’m going to assume that the show is not done with Satone yet, and that there’s some more play in the triangle, especially after that final scene outside the apartment, but I think they’re going to look elsewhere for their big plot devices.

Winter 2014 #4

Continuing …

dfrag1-1

D-Frag! is crazy and energetic enough, but episode one left a bad taste in my mouth. There’s a Game Creation Club which is in danger of folding because they don’t actually create games, so they’re off to recruit. They somehow latch on to an up-and-coming delinquent named Kazana and make his life miserable for most of the episode. Kaz and his two buddies seemingly have no defense against these bizarre women who take on different “types” in their attack, showing that they are worthless deliquents or that’s just the nature of the show. I kept wanting to say to Kaz “Just walk out the door,” but as usual, anime characters never listen to me. Well, there’s a hint of romance between Kaz and the diminutive blond president Roka, but even so. I’m not sure about this one.

hamatora1-1

Hamatora … maybe. It’s hard to tell after one episode, especially one that insists on introducing a lot of characters in it. Especially especially when they want to go to some lengths to show us how quirky they all are. We got two guys with super powers who run a detective agency of sorts, along with a lot of hangers-on and support. Nice is the name of the one we follow the most, and so he’s naturally the more altruistic (and starving) of the two. Episode one, besides having the characters posing a lot and doing not-so-witty banter, consists of two assignments they get which are actually one. They hop from one to another (while still posing and bantering) to the point of confusion, but it all makes sense in the end. Too much coincidence in it but otherwise a decently-told story. The whole thing is trying to look like Durarara! but I worry it will become another … you know, that very forgettable show where everything was tinted blue. Hopefully the detective format will help to keep it in line.

Welcome back everyone!
Welcome back everyone!

Chuu2Koi 2 is exactly what I would thought it would be. Reintroduce the characters and their basic weirdnesses, a good fight between Shinka and Sanae, a cosmic battle for interdimensional supremacy with Tooka, and Kumin and the cat hang around doing little. They even delayed Tooka’s flight to Italy so she could have the battle, well, and t0 take care of the episode’s plot: don’t tell anyone that Yuuta and Rikka are shacking up! Everyone looks to be in good form. I guess this season’s big story will begin next week when the new girl shows up.

This pretty much tells you what the show's about.
This pretty much tells you what the show’s about.

After that I watched a shortie, Onee-chan ga Kita, about a boy who’s new older sister is obsessed with him. Well, it’s only two minutes.

shinkoukei1-1

And I’ll end here with Hikakunin de Shinkoukei, where our nice, normal heroine Kobeni wakes up on her sixteenth birthday to discover she’s engaged to a guy named Hakuya, and he and his elementary school sister Mashiro are moving in that very day. To add some spin to what could be a dismal setup, Hakuya is taciturn the point of scariness, and tends to vanish when there’s no need for him in the situation, which is useful because the girls are much more interesting. Kobeni’s older sister Benio dotes on her, but she’s more than happy to have a sister in law to dote on too. Little Mashiro is bossy and a little irritating until Benio starts working on her; now that she has something to fear she’s more fun to watch. And there are the school friends; they don’t get much screen time this week but the show wasted no time getting their basic motivations and opinions working on what is already a complicated set of relationships. With that in mind, I’m thinking this show could be brilliant or a little dull. I don’t think it’s going to be bad.

Chu2koi 9, Panzer 7

Chuunibyou Demo Koi ga Shitai! 9 lightens the mood a little, easy to do when it’s Rikka in love.

Rikka deals with her attraction to Yuuta in her own way.

Or rather, Rikka in denial of love. Since that time together last episode Rikka has been avoiding Yuuta and moping more than usual. It gets so that Touka visits Yuuta’s room to ask him what he knows, which is nothing. Rikka’s weird, that’s all. So is Touka, considering she was waiting for him under his bed! Why? To play with his head a bit? No wonder Rikka’s terrified of her. Anyway, when we get a scene where Rikka’s describing how Yuuta’s presence affects her, she interprets it as something wrong with Yuuta, some anomaly, no doubt planted in his mind by the overseer, er, Touka. At least, that’s what I think she said. It’s more running away from reality, but this sort of running away is more common in a girl her age, and leads to better comedy.

Nothing good can come of this.

We get several good scenes as everyone works things out (around a subplot about the cultural festival–all I’ll say about the occult/nap circle doing anything for that is “Bad idea!”). The shrine scene laid it out clearly. Then there’s the cat leaping through a heart made of butterflies scene, surreal even for this show, not least for Rikka’s deciding to trust Shinka. Shinka’s motivation is easier to understand. She likes to meddle. And it’s all within the standard high school romance canon. It helps that Yuuta manages to spend a couple of minutes saying just the right things to Rikka, basically letting know that he understands why she acts the way she does. Which, really, is all she needed to hear, before the scary moment that sealed, well, something between them.

There was something I can’t describe in how it worked out. A genuinely dangerous moment defused by a routine they do every time Rikka climbs down to visit Yuuta. Gently guide the feet to the rail … Lovely bit. How it’s going to affect the romance I don’t know. Yuuta hasn’t shown much romantic interest, and she hardly knows what’s going on, but for now we’ll leave them at that sweet little moment.

Girls und Panzer 7 lives up to the show’s standards of amusing oddity, even though there’s no battle this week. Well, there IS, but after the buildup and the scary look at the Anzio team I was expecting more than seeing the enemy defeated and our girls hi-fiving. It’s like we’re not watching this for the battles or something.

Advice of the heart by Saori.

What we get is Mako’s sick grandma who turns out to be just fine, abusive and funny in turns. After that we finally get the story of Miho’s painful memories, and, since I was expecting that she nearly drowned in a tank, the truth (she saved others from drowning and because of it lost the match and her family was pissed) isn’t as bad as I thought, and tells us that her reluctance to join up was a moral rather than an emotional position. After that we get some splitting up of duties and the discovery of two more tanks1 The first one is given as much an introduction as any of the girls has gotten. We also learn why everyone’s on an enormous (enough that one team gets lost in it and has to be rescued) ship, I’ve already forgotten the answer, so boring is it. Basic ass-covering doublespeak; clearly someone fucked up somewhere and they had a big ship with nothing to do but put a girls’ school on it, I suppose. But that’s part of the reason this show is entertaining if you don’t look at it too closely.

Chu2Koi 8, Bakuman3 7, Polar Bear 34

Thinking ahead to Chuunibyou Demo Koi ga Shitai! 8 I was hoping for something really big. Rikka’s been leading this little fantasy life of hers ever since her father died and now, having to accept reality, she prepares for an epic battle against the overlord, her older sister. It won’t be the same after this. Even though we knew how the battle would turn out.

The battle itself turned out to be the usual, except that in fantasy-mode there was nothing around them at all except the house, which burns away after Tooka slaps her. Finally Yuuta intervenes, but all he can really do is point out that unlike the others in the family Rikka had no time to prepare for her father’s death. Tooka doesn’t even need to bring up that it’s been a while now, but Yuuta’s further point about platitudes about reality don’t do a damn thing, true though they may be, softens her a little. Next thing you know Rikka runs off and the episode moves on. 

Could we get back to Yuuta and Rikka please? Or even the girls? Anyone but you.

Rikka is surprised to find Yuuta thought she might be on the train home, while the other half of the story is so trivial it feels like an irritation when they switch to it. Kumin goes out at night to look at the moon, and Isshiki joins her, leading his frantic phone calls about what to do with a girl and proving again that he is probably, in terms of action, the most pathetic harem lead sidekick in anime history. The girls aren’t terribly interesting since all they do is reprise the jokes (sunburn, friendly dog) they were given last week. These scenes only show some life when they speculate on what Yuuta and Rikka are doing alone, hem hem.

No, nothing naughty happened.

And what DO they do? Superficially, not much. Rikka has to stay the night alone with Yuuta, so we get a few moments of terrified realization from Yuuta coupled with the usual keeping up with whatever antics she’s up to. Rikka’s behavior is more interesting. Beneath the speeches she’s also nervous about being alone with a member of the opposite sex, but she’s also more intrigued by it. Something begins to stir in the void beneath the pure darkness of (oh, stop it). He even catches her watching a romantic movie in the middle of the night! But there’s more to it than the hormones. Yuuta had told her that he had drifted toward the dark flame business while he was with friends and yet felt totally alone. Perhaps Rikka took on her affectations for similar reasons… but now there’s this boy she likes, who puts up with her outlandish talk and posing, who came with her when she needed to escape and knows where to find her … They haven’t done anything romantic yet, but the second half of this episode it sure feels like they did.

Naturally, everyone else shows up as well.

I really couldn’t care less about Bakuman‘s Hiramaru/Aoki’s side story, but they do a nice job in pulling it off. And it’s nice to see the pressure on someone other than our boys. And it unfolds cleverly. On Hiramaru’s side, he wants to confess to a girl, but his evil editor doesn’t want him to because it will mess with his manga drawing. And he’s exactly right. So they set up a situation where Hiramaru ditches the others and takes Aoki off alone. As Fukuda (because all the others, naturally, are roped into the chase–more fun that way) says, he’s more worried that Hiramaru will screw up the date than anything else.

To add to the ridiculousness, Yoshida hints to Mashiro that there might be a double suicide involved. Anyway, it pans out beautifully. Aoki’s been put through a lot of male crap in this series, but here’s a guy who sincerely likes her, runs away with her as if it were a shoujo romance, and spouts all the right things about how he feels in his passionate verbal duel with Yoshida. Naturally, Fukuda, the boys and Kaya are arrived to cheer him on. What’s not to like about him? The irony is that if they had been left alone in the first place the date probably would have ended badly. Well, like all the artists, it’s back to work next week, with a new super-talented rival to worry about. Oh, congrats Fukuda, on Road Racer Giri getting an anime.

Polar Bear, disguised as a panda, visits Brown Bear’s Cafe.

Polar Bear’s Cafe 34 doesn’t live up the the standards set by previous episodes. Neither half really stood out. Also, it doesn’t help the mystery of why Penguin-san is spending more time at another cafe recently when the story title is “Penguin-san’s New Love.” As for the first half, Wolf casting about for a new goal in life, it plays out like any tv drama. I hope he’s happy at his new job. I liked the sparse decor of Brown Bear’s cafe, though. Not fancy, but full of books to read. A good place to settle down with a book and some coffee for an hour or two. And brown Bear is a bespectacled, bookish-looking type.

Chu2koi 6, Panzer 5.5(?), and a couple screenshots of those short shows.

I suppose they felt to explain the reason for Rikka’s delusions in Chuunibyou Demo Koi ga Shitai!, but part of me wished they hadn’t.

Rikka’s too calm.

The show could have gotten along just fine without giving Rikka a Tragic Event to hide from. Yuuta didn’t have one, Sanae, as far as I know, didn’t have one either. You could argue that Rikka should be outgrowing hers, but people mature at different times. They could have kept this as a silly, fun series all the way through. As it is, it’s still fun, and they’re doing their best to present the sad backstory in keeping with the general silliness, but we’re in danger in lapses into bathos and that worries the fun. Well, the other members of the gang (who ALL have time during their precious summer vacation time to take the trip, not that I’m upset about that) manage to keep things going. I find gags about trainsickness, well, sickening, but that’s my taste and there were some good bits in it. But at the same time we had Rikka being quiet and moody, throwing a shadow it all.

And once we get to the grandparents house the mood just gets worse. The grandparents disapprove of Rikka’s behavior, Rikka mopes in her room fiddling with a shortwave (which we don’t get into. Maybe next week), and even the beach scene is cut short by Rikka wanting to take Yuuta somewhere. It doesn’t help that the continuity gets confusing here. Tooka says to follow her and the next thing you know Yuuta and Tooka but not Rikka are at the father’s grave. Did I miss something? Later, Rikka gets Yuuta’s help to escape to the “ethereal horizon,” where she claimed she saw her father after he died, and Tooka tries to stop them. Rikka is delighted with Yuuta; Tooka obviously isn’t. Why did she invite him? Whose side did she expect him to take? And at the end, with Rikka and Tooka squaring off for another battle, itself an excellent way to work out the situation, I had to wonder just why they had kept the news of the old house a secret from her. She could see the grace, but not the house, or lack of one? If she’s been running from reality all this time it seems they’re helping prolong her delusions by not letting her see this reality herself, not even forcing her, but allowing her to go. It would have been hard for her but it would probably speed up the healing. Yuuta is really the hero here for helping her escape; judging from the other family members’ attitudes she had been waiting for someone to take her side … Well, it was a good episode anyway. As I said before, it mixed the silly charm with the deeper issue well and I expect that to continue next week. But I still wish there wasn’t a deeper issue to work with.

Girls und Panzer, er, 5.5 is a recap episode too early in the season. Production issues? Well, it’s a good way to get up-to-date with each team and learn how to tell their tanks apart. Since there’s no plot to advance I decided to use a screenshot of my favorite team. Honestly, why the other teams don’t dress up I don’t understand. Volleyball uniforms don’t count.

The characters in Teekyuu and Lychee Light Club both want to go swimming, but it’s raining.

But their hawaiian shirts looked pretty nice.
Mistaking a rooftop for a waterslide.