The ending of Zankyou no Terror seems a bit low-key, with no real surprises in it, but it did everything it needed to do.
First off, I was pleased to see Shibazaki realize that the kids didn’t intend to kill anyone with their bomb, then it was just a minute to talk with genius wife about what they DID want to do. Here I got a little disappointed. Nine wanted to create an EMP pulse, or whatever it’s called, which would fry Japan’s electronic infrastructure. Considering this is Japan we’re talking about, this seems like a sacrilige … Anyway, after that they find some drama in getting the planes out of the sky (Had Nine thought of that, or did he trust that they could be grounded in time? Well, they were, so it’s a moot point), except for some American fighters. And they point out that about the only people on the entire country who have EMP-proof devices are the Americans. Why?!?
The Americans show up later to help cover their own ass, and to provide us with the unnecessary climax at the end, when Shibazaki was about to arrest the boys. I suppose by the logic of fiction or something they had to be killed, and Twelve didn’t get shot, but collapsed from the same thing that Five died of, presumably, but, really, why Twelve? Let him carry on the mission of revealing the monstrous secrets to the world. Or maybe I’m pissed because those two old monsters lived on, in intense public scrutiny, but alive. In the end all the kids got was a minute or two of goofing off together at their alma mater. Nice to watch, I suppose, and they didn’t kill off Lisa. Small favors.
The most underwhelming thing about the finale was the boys’ ultimate motive: to bring attention to the project and the bomb. Doing a big blowup in order to shock the world isn’t terribly new. On the other hand, they were kids, and maybe a bit naive about how things work. On the other hand, it DID work, so who am I to say? Well, all in all, it was a very good series. It leaned toward SF but was set in a real world where girls run away from home (and where did Lisa go after all this?) and detectives pound the pavement looking for evidence. The bigger metaphors usually fell flat for me; I really don’t see Shibazaki as Oedipus, and that Vor business at the end felt tacked on, considering they used it so rarely. But they told the story extremely well. Scenes that could have been dismal, like the airport bomb chase, weren’t, because they were directed so well. And I’ve already praised Kanno’s music enough. Not the best series of the year, but right up there.
Glasslip decides to keep us bewildered right to the end.
This ending, where Touko has a vision on her way to school after summer break, turning around at the sound of Kakeru(?)’s voice, was deliberately misleading. All through the finale, with everyone more or less in happy couple land except for the main couple, the show refused to answer the big question: is Kakeru staying or going? His tent is gone from the backyard, his mom is apparently gone, but they didn’t say whether or not he went with her. Plus, their marble-tossing scene felt like a moment of closure for both of them. Instead of answering the question directly they have to just have his voice and Touko’s surprised face. It sort of summed up the series for me: why do anything directly when you can just make hints, suggestions, or have Touko have another misleading vision?
Speaking of visions and bewilderment, we had that odd conversation in the forest. Touko’s mother had just told her that she used to have visions too, but that they didn’t show the future. Huge clue! It’s hereditary! But that’s swept aside as Touko weighs the possibilities: the visions are the future, or they’re of things that are sure to happen, but what’s the difference? I don’t know either, but Kakeru helpfully confuses us more by asking her what answer she wants. Meanwhile, the three other Kakerus don’t show up at all, and he’s getting nothing from the music anymore, so perhaps his own problems have settled down. Not that we’ll ever know.
As I said, the other two couples continue to progress, but only through little things, which is fine with them. They’re happy enough. Really, this has been a happy show. All the strangeness happens in the course of ordinary lives and while they they sometimes seem to lose their way, it’s not for long, and there’s someone there who can help them out. What it was all about I can’t tell you. Friendship, adolescence, certainly. Loneliness, finding a place for oneself. Also visions, glass, music and everyday life. Told rather indirectly at times, but pleasant to watch.
Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun finishes up with the usual stories. In the first one, Sakura tries to give Nozaki the Valentines Day chocolates she couldn’t bear to give him before (it’s midsummer). It’s a chance for Sakura to show off both her determination and cuteness, and it works well enough. The story is notable in that we have all three of the main girls having a conversation together, something the series rarely gave us. Odd that Seo winds up being Yuu’s straight man, but I could see that switching if the scene needed it. In the second, it’s off to the festival, one more chance for everyone to interact, and to offer a hint of resolution to poor Sakura’s love woes … which doesn’t happen, but it’s a sweet little scene anyway, and I’m not convinced that Nozaki didn’t understand what Sakura meant.
And that wraps up one of the better light comedy series I’ve watched recently. Not every bit worked, but the ones that did worked very well. We had a pack of fun characters who worked off each other nicely, and its two main characters were almost always fun to watch. While we figured out where the jokes were coming from with Nozaki pretty quickly (even Sakura talked this episode about “figuring him out”), his lunkhead appearance and deep, deadpan voice gave his punchlines a boost. Sakura was a terrific character. She managed to keep her crush on Nozaki fresh throughout, had solid straight-man skills, took everything thrown at her in stride, and could give us a big array of shocked and bemused facial expressions, plus, she was cute. Excellent voice work by Ari Ozawa one of her first roles. Hope to hear more of her. Hope to see more of the series, too.
Aldnoah Zero 12 is one of those episodes where it’s tense all the time, everyone’s battling, but there’s nothing really to say. All the familiar things happened. the bad guys have pushed the good guys to the brink, the good guys have one more attack ready, Inaho comes up with a cunning plan which frankly seems really stupid to me, but it works … Rayet redeems herself by escorting Asseylum through danger (what an amazing coinkidink that mecha crashing into her prison cell yet still being functional). Oh, we finally see something besides Vers royalty and nobility, some infantry grunts invading the stronghold, and I couldn’t tell them apart from the Earth forces. Maybe that’s a statement of sorts.
Akame ga Kill 11 has a lot of fighting too, but this show has the edge of happily killing off characters whenever it wants to. You figured that guy with Sheele’s imperial arms was going to go down, so Mine would get a mourning scene with the scissors, but Leone going down early seriously worried me. The rest of it was underwhelming. Every time a bad guy displayed a new power it was quickly negated by good guys intervening. Then the boss brought in two ringers to make it all meaningless, even Stylish’s leveling-up. Favorite bit for me was Tatsumi and Mine’s reaction when Leone rejoins the fight, seriously pissed off.
I expected more mayhem when I watched Sword Art Online 2 11, but the damn thing was nothing but talk. Basically, Kirito comforts Sinon some more, and pull some improbable deductions out of their asses to conclude that there’s a murderer in Sinon’s room right at that moment. So the whole killing people in a video game thing is more a setup between the online killer and a real-life one. I’m not sure what to make of this. It’s a mundane way of killing people, and removes the mystical-technological bullshit from the equation, but I don’t see a way the two killers could time things so perfectly. Also, since the original SAO game shows that the series is fully capable of mystical-technological answers, I don’t see why they’re trying to make it more “realistic.”
Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun 11’s first half was maybe the better one, since at one point I actually burst out laughing (Sakura sitting on Nozaki, then the romantic flower, followed by the fake hand). And it’s still kind of sweet to see Sakura acting all giggly over this dense lunk. The second half wasn’t bad but there was no Sakura or Seo or even Kashima. Just the boys. Nothing wrong with the boys, and I always like it when the show flips genders and consider the boys’ behavior as if they were girls. But what on earth was that at the end with the valentine chocolate in the fridge? Why doesn’t Sakura recognize it?
Sword Art Online 10 starts well but falls into a hole, or cave, halfway through. It’s not that they shouldn’t have put that cave scene in the story; it was necessary to clear the air between them, and to allow Sinon to tell her story and make a decision or two about herself. In fact, it’s a good decision. Rather than revert to that terrified girl who shot a bad guy, she decides to toughen up, even though she doesn’t want to. It’s a hard thing to decide. And though she had to go through several emotional stages to get there, they all felt necessary. But then Kirito had to tell HIS backstory for the umpteenth time, with the flashbacks we’ve all seen before. While Sinon needed to hear it, they could have handled it better. Besides, I thought she already knew … And at the end of the episode they were STILL in that cave, talking. I was looking forward to Death Gun showing up, even it it meant more scenes of a shocked Sinon being unable to pull the trigger, which they overdid anyway.
Space Dandy 9 is one of the better ones. Our heroes visit satellite Grease to win dance contest only to learn that the thing hasn’t been held in 500 years, so they help to revive it. And as luck would have it, a certain native plant or something is ready to reproduce, and there’s a sort of cosmic danceathon ending where everything is reborn, or dies and is reborn, or something. I didn’t quite follow. The show tries to peak on a big funky beat and when it does the episode stops making sense, so to speak. Well, it was great to look at, they had some funky music playing, so who really cares?
And episode 10 is more straightforward, where two characters who dislike each other pretend to date only to kind of fall for each other. At least there’s no locket involved this time. We pretty much know where the episode is headed, we just wait to see if they’ll throw us any curveball. Not really, though I didn’t expect the bittersweet ending. I always liked the idea of a Dandy/Scarlet matchup, and since the show can bend time and space and toss other dimensions at us I thought the least they could do was let the pair hook up and explain it away with physics jargon so they won’t have to be a couple next week. Next week it looks like we’re getting a lover from another dimension, so it’s not that the creators didn’t have that idea at their disposal. Kind of cruel.
Also catching up with Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun. Odd that I let it lapse because it’s about the only light comedy series I’m following now, unless you count Free!, and I do look forward to it. Anyway, episode 9 had plenty of Sakura in both halves, so it’s a good episode all around. In the first half they explore the umbrella-sharing romantic bits and poke a few holes into the concept, but it’s pretty straightforward. Better is a visit to Miyako to see how she’s holding up with that terrible editor she has, the type who, when Miyako calls to complain about something, makes her apologize for something completely different. And then there’s all the tanukis. Again, predictable but the actor deliveries and reactions make up for it.
Better than episode 10, where, first, Yuzuki and Hirotaka go to a movie and enjoy completely different things. Well, it’s more that Hirotaka enjoys the normal things and Yuzuki enjoys the bad guys and the violence. It’s pretty much what we expected until the end, where Hirotaka agrees to go to an amusement park with Yuzuki in order to spare other potential victims, which make me think that this might be a real, though twisted, relationship budding. Naturally the date was partly Nozaki’s doing, to aid in his research, though the characters he’s based on the non-lovebirds have their genders swapped. At least there are no tanukis. The next part is better. Yuu’s attempts at singing bring out a new art style in the show, one suggesting depression and pain. The finding a warm body to play a role in the school play wasn’t bad because we could see Hori interact with various characters via stage combat. The series is always better when it lets the characters bounce off each other, and when there’s plenty of Sakura.
Not sure what was going on at the end of Aldnoah Zero 8. Mainly, why did Saazbaum capture Slaine rather than kill him? Does he believe Slaine knows where the Princess is? How could he assume that? Another thing that confused me: how did Cruhteo fall into the hands of Cruhteo? If they spotted him among the wreckage they ought to know that the humans had their hands on a battleship … well, maybe not. It was the cheap-ass human-made mecha and Slaine’s ship that polished off Femieanne last episode, not the battleship. Still, it all doesn’t hang together. Also, why can’t they tell that the Deucalion has been revived? It all adds up to an enemy that has its head up its ass, something Rayet sums up nicely in the best speech of the episode. And we get to see Slaine tortured–a lot. Could have handled that better, unless there’s a torture-oriented fanservice I haven’t seen before. What else? Inaho states his indifference to the princess and makes another contrast between her altruistic motives and the real world. Oh, Cruhteo does his face turn, but a little too late …
Catching up with Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun is a pleasure, though the show is beginning to show signs of fatigue. In the first story of episode 7, Nozaki has some rare free time so Sakura takes him to a shopping mall. Basically, it boils down to this: every time Sakura (or onlookers) think Nozaki’s about to do something romantic, it turns out to be work-oriented, and then Sakura reacts. They look at woman’s clothing and he just wants to study them. Same with the movie they watch, and the figurines they look at. It gets a little better when Nozaki innocently takes things too far and tries on the schoolgirl uniform himself, and spotting Mikoto looking at the figurines was good for a laugh. The second half isn’t great. Mikoto agrees to model for the art club and stresses out before, during, and after. Though the art club pose requests were amusing.
As for episode 8, I think I’m losing track of the various character intentions, or they’re expressing them in such weird ways that I lose track. Kashima decides that Hori wants to be a princess and does her best to make his wish come true, which he considers more harassment. But when she carries him to the nurse’s office something changes, for a second. Now I have no idea what he’s thinking, and I’ve never been able to figure out Kashima. I don’t mean that in a bad way. It’s always entertaining to see where their non-relationship will go next. Also, that whole sequence flowed nicely from the first half, when he’s spotted with one of Nozaki’s shoujo manga, and where we learn that Hori is about the only one on the staff who can draw backgrounds. I like the little hints they give us about putting together a manga, though it makes me wonder: does Nozaki actually pay these talented people?
Akame ga Kill 8, while sad for me because I liked Bulat, went over in an over-predictable fashion. Bulat and Liver kept pulling out bigger final moves (well, Liver did. Bulat just withstood it all) until they were both half-dead. And then Liver sort of cheated by using poison. Really, this was up to then an honorable battle between two adversaries who had been friends, etc etc, so I was sort of let down. And I was amused by how Tatsumi and his opponent would stop their own battle to gape at what the other two were doing. At one point I thought they were going to place bets. And I wondered what everyone else on the boat were thinking about the craziness going on on deck. Apart from flashbacks we only see these four people this episode. And while I was dubious about Tatsumi handling Bulat’s imperial arms, they made a good case for him doing so. Sadly, we lose this pack of villains only to introduce another crazed killer next time. I’m getting a little tired of that.
In Free! Eternal Summer 6 we have the prelims, and while they do have a few races in it, it doesn’t feel all that compelling. The main drama is Makoto deciding to swim against Haruka in the 200m free in order to have a serious race with him. Makoto loses, and he doesn’t mind. That’s really it. Well, it’s nice to see everyone else qualifying for the finals, even Rei, who’s so choked up at barely passing that you’d think he had actually won something. There’s supposed to be some drama with Haruka and Rin going against each other in the 100m free, but they’re buds now, and besides, this rivalry is a work in progress. The more interesting drama is Sousuke disapproving of Rin’s coming second, but we don’t really know what climbed up Sousuke’s butt to begin with, so it’s hard to care. Maybe the relay next week will be more interesting.
Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun 6 is a solid episode. Hard to say which part is better. In the first story we meet a boy named Wakamatsu who is traumatized daily by Seo in basketball practice, adding to his insomnia, but is instantly put to blissful sleep by Seo’s singing, but he doesn’t know it’s her. He tries to settle the former issue by confronting her on the roof, but miscommunication (Seo is pretty dense after all) leads to one of the show’s better scenes so far. Why do so many characters in the show take inspiration and advice from Nozaki’s shoujo manga? Oh well, what’s hinted at and quickly dropped is that Seo might have a crush on Wakamitsu. I hope they follow up on that.
I didn’t think the second story could top that, especially since this show can be uneven, but it’s still very good. Nozaki is sick and his three assistants (well, the redhead isn’t there) try to finish his work by the deadline for him. Competence jokes aside (hence the scene’s slow and predictable start), the subsequent fumbling around for background patterns or whatever they’re called, based on their own opinions of the manga’s characters (and people they know) lead to some good moments. It’s especially amusing because it shows Chiyo is as good at playing the fool as she is the straight man. So it’s two good scenes this week. One has Seo but no Chiyo. The other has Chiyo but no Seo. Take your pick.
Hanayamata 6 packs in more of the usual scenes you’d expect in a struggling performing club scene: conditions from the advisor, do well in exams (Hana doesn’t), meaning we get studying scenes, etc etc, until the bit when the advisor relents because Hana is at least trying. Japanese is her worst subject, strange to say, but it seems it’s the literature that’s dragging her down. It’s cute and dull, but livened up by two scenes, one where the girls show off the dancing they’ve learned so far to their fellow students, and Tami’s music turns out to be the show’s OP theme. Since the opening is lovely, its use here carries additional weight. But why are the other girls suddenly so interested? It’s like the first three episodes never happened. And the first bit, where Naru’s father tries to figure out what has brought this change in her daughter, was kind of sweet. But why hasn’t Naru told him yet?
Tokyo ESP 4 winds up its first arc in solid fashion.
First they have to rescue Murasaki, and it’s pretty easy, considering. In spite of her injuries Rinka beats up several men twice her size and only uses her power to avoid bullets. It’s ridiculous, but she looked so formidable swinging that sword around that I didn’t care much. The rest of it was just as improbable and my capacity to care didn’t go up; I was having too much fun watching Peggy the penguin get pissed off and remove that gang leader’s power, Azuma teleporting several bodies so they wind up landing on the scene’s current bad guy, or Rindou showing up just in time to rescue Kuroi. And we meet the show’s chief antagonist, and wonder why Azuna freaks out, leading to some godlike thing who borrowed Monogatari’s snake motif … Well done.
They have to settle a few things after that. In the episode’s weakest moment Azuna goes missing and we watch him walking in the rain without an umbrella, and worried Rinka doing the same, without the umbrella, at which point I got tired of watching unhappy people get wet–the same thing happened in the latest Hanayamata as well. Then they find him, making me wonder why they bothered with the whole thing, unless it was to demonstrate one of the bonds the characters are building which Rinka refers to in a voice-over at the end. As for Murasake, she has her own crisis, solved when the gang take her in and her dad shows he’s not such a bad guy after all. These quiet scenes mostly feel like a letdown after the first half’s action, but there were enough good moments in them that, yes, I didn’t care too much.
Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun 4 stops introducing introducing new characters (but next week we’ll get back to it) and concentrated on Mikoto, the weakest of the lot. Which is not to say he’s incapable of being entertaining, just that he has strong competition. The first story, where he entices Nozaki to play a dating sim, has its moments but its due to Nozaki being himself and imagining himself as the females, thus getting all the answers wrong, but in the end, being right in reality. The biggest problem is that Chiyo isn’t around. I begin to realize just how much the show depends on her, even when she’s just a straight man. But she shows up for the second half, where Mikoto asks Nozaki for help in practicing for a mixer, and her displays of adoration for Nozaki along with her usual glares of annoyance and solid straight-man work help the scenes immensely, as does Nozaki, his height, and his lunk-headedness. Yeah, Mikoto isn’t bad, but he can’t carry a scene without help.
Episode 5 came moments after I started writing about episode 4, so even though there’s plenty of other shows to write about, I thought “what the hell.” We DO meet a new character, Ken-san, Kozaki’s editor, and learn about Maeno, the former one. What’s interesting about Ken is that he’s shown as a laconic, all-business type, which leads Chiyo to believe he doesn’t like Nozaki. But in the second half we see Ken as a straight man, putting up with Nozaki’s odd experiments to get inside a woman’s head and heart, or at least that of the manga’s heroine. And so we learn that Nozaki isn’t as great a manga-ka as we had been led to believe. So why is he so popular? Part of the fun of Nozaki is he is a big lunkhead who nevertheless perfectly understands young girls, but since then the show has been doing its best to show just the opposite. Unless they’re trying to show that such effortless grace on paper comes from endless hard work and countless mistakes.
I’m getting to like Glasslip, even while it defies my expectations with every episode.
We have Touko and Kakeru, two high school kids who can see little glimpses and fragments of the future under the right circumstances, and while they’re drawn together by this mystery, the show seems to have no desire to explain it or even play around with the concept. All we get are little moments where they hear a voice or an image which doesn’t tell them much of anything. And what they see or hear can be misconstrued, such as Touko’s image of Sachan in the hospital; she assumes frail Sachan overdid it at their day-camping excursion, but no, Sachan’s fine, it’s Yanagi who went to hospital, and it was a minor sprain. This DOES lead us to the expectation that Sachan will wind up there herself in the near future, but since in the image she was sitting on her bed, not, you know, dying, it’s hard to get much foreboding out of it.
Both Touko and Kakeru are interested in the phenomenon, like anyone would be, but Touko for one is more concerned with the lives of her friends. There’s a lot of drama going on here, but again, the show has decided to make the drama any bigger than it is. So far there have been on confrontations or tears, just awkward moments, like when Touko says “no” to Yukinara, and he gets pissed for a while, but shakes it off. Meanwhile Yanagi, interested in Yukinari, still refuses to show any bitterness toward them and quickly clears things up with Touko. Even late in episode 3 where Touko sees Kakeru and Yanagi in a misleading situation, she’s shocked but not too much. She hadn’t thought much about Kakeru romantically and has no claims to him, after all. I bet next episode it all will be explained to her, and the show will have missed another chance at creating overwrought, false drama.
Everyone in this show is too reasonable and know each other too well for false drama. That’s one of the things I like about it. No matter how many snatches of conversation are misheard or half-heard through forced coincidences, the characters won’t take it seriously. It’s like the show is offering the characters a chance to really mess around with their lives, through the crushes or the mystical aspects, and they just don’t want to. And so the show moves on to the next possibly upsetting moment to give them another shot. The only romance that seems to be moving, or even exist, is Hiro’s earnest, clumsy wooing of Sachan, and everyone in the show is rooting for them. The show thus has an easygoing feel about it that appeals to me. Now, if they’d just lose those still frames they stick in at odd moments, I’d like it even more.
I decided to drop the number of shows to write about this season, and Akame ga Kill is right on the edge. It’s not bad, but it’s not holding up. I don’t mind the blood and violence shoved into what could be a shounen story, and in fact I like the questionable morality that the heroes have. After Mine’s typical background speech (amusingly set up by her and Tatsumi) about poverty and discrimination she talks happily about her goal of making money out of the revolution and living in luxury, about as honest a reason as you’re going to get in any revolution. And Tatsumi, though appalled by the Minister’s behavior, seems to have revenge for his friends as his primary motivation. But then they screw up something fundamental, like when that koujenji master attacks Mine and Tatsumi, and suddenly she’s unable to react, and I’m thrown out of my interest.
I was also often thrown out of my zone in Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-Kun 3. They introduce two more side characters: Kashima, the “prince” of the school, who’s actually a girl, and sort of a dense one at that, and Hori, the drama club president who has to drag Kashima to rehearsal every day, usually by the scruff of her neck after abusing her a little. It’s confusing because after the show gives us some basic traits about the new guys, they immediately start bouncing off the traits of the old guys, and I’m still getting them sorted, too. Meanwhile, Chiyo and Nozaki continue to treat Mikoto as a shoujo heroine, adding to my confusion. Which doesn’t mean there aren’t the usual good, funny moments. Kashima’s sheer obliviousness (different from Seo’s) gets some laughs, while Hori’s frustrated straight-man act works well, especially combined with Chiyo’s (remember her?) own glaring reactions.