FranXX and Hakumei/Mikochi 10, Yuru Camp 11

franxx10-1Darling in the FranXX 10, as expected, turns from one couple to the next, Zorome and Miku, though it’s mainly Zorome’s episode with Miku just doing enough of the Miku things that it gets Zorome going. However, the examination of Zorome is handled only superficially–what the episode’s really about is a closer look at civilian society, how it lives, and what it thinks of the kids defending it. The higher-ups consider them to be simply living weapons who can be kept in line with a medal and a brief tour of the city, though they’re worried about the squad’s lack of uniformity. Though some of them, like the lady that Zorome meets when he gets lost in there, and one of his escorts returning him, suggest a level of pity. The lady seems so foreign, though kind, that Zorome can’t figure her or her lifestyle out–not his fault, neither can I, but she seemed decayed to me, unable to really function without the machinery, apart from her kindness, nearly not human. The city is, as 02 repeats, “lifeless.” Bright new lights notwithstanding, who would want to live there? When they switch back to the kids’ place, that cozy living room, where everyone is gathered and not in pleasure boxes, it’s a relief. The show will continue to explore this inhuman angle, I’m sure. In the meantime, 02 is worried about something …

hakumeimikochi10-1Hakumei to Mikochi 10 didn’t do very much except charm the hell out of me again. The first half has the girls pining for an onsen, only to find the local one is clogged with cat hair–I’d like to get the story behind that; cats of course tend not to like water and besides, the show hasn’t had a cat in it yet. Anyway, Hakumei makes a bathtub on her own. With all the other things going on it’s easy to over the DIY attitude Hakumei has. So now they have a tub. The second half introduces us to Ayune, Mikochi’s unwelcome sister, unwelcome only in that she drives Mikochi crazy. So we get a sense of what shaped Mikochi’s childhood, the best line perhaps being from Ayune, that Hakumei reminds her of their father.

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Red Fuji

Speaking of shows where nothing much happens but I don’t care, Yuru Camp 11 brings us the drama-filled Christmas camp trip! All of the girls together, for the first and last time, since the show probably finishes next week. We have moments of intense action as Nadeshiko is chased around by a little dog, and soon some kids join in, the rest of the girls, and a frisbee. We have psychological character study as the teen girls learn their sensei is a stinking drunk–actually, that IS kind of disturbing, but the others are perfectly capable of managing by themselves, until the final great crisis arrives: they run out of fuel for the gas stove! Well, Rin is off to get more. What else? Oh, Nadeshiko discovers s’mores, and a lot of good beef is devoured as well. … After an annoying day at work it’s great to come to a show like this, even if it all seems so damn cold.

Nines: Evergarden, Tiny Life, FranXX

evergarden9-1The story in Violet Evergarden 9 is as predictable as they come. We start with the end of the flashback, with Gilbert dying and the suddenly armless Violet determined to pull him out of there with her teeth if need be. Pretty much everything we expected. After that we get scenes of Violet dealing with both grief and guilt in ways that, again, could be predicted, and the beginning of the slow climb out of it … the concept that there are people who are happy she’s alive dawns on her. They bring up the concept of writing and delivering letters, helping people come closer, as an antidote for sins committed in the past, for the second time. In a nice touch, Iris and Erica write their own letter to her, and Violet realizes just how valued the act is, fine and dandy, she’s healing.

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A letter!

I’m not sure I like the idea of mail delivery to counter sins of the past, but I do understand how just the act of doing a good dead, or even working, can aid the healing process. But what happens now? Violet isn’t yet where she wants to be, but she’s turned the corner. NOW what is the show going to do? Many more scenes of Violet getting through it all is going to get repetitive, but there are at least three more episodes to go. Are they going to crank up the war again? They’ve been hinting at it for a while, this week being some “Anti-peace” activists causing trouble, but is there time to introduce a whole new war, or maybe Violet and her friends will get caught in a smaller struggle, and she will have to make choices in order to save her friends, which would be interesting since she will not be following orders this time, but also kind of predictable. So it will probably happen.

hakumeimikochi9-1The first half of Hakomei to Mikochi 9 has one of the oddest situations I’ve ever seen in fiction, let alone anime. The girls, along with Sen and Konju, explore life underwater in an airtight sphere, powered by the skeleton of a fish named Simon, which gets its rhythm through a wire connected to a tambourine Konju plays. As they descend deeper and deeper, all we can hear is a tambourine beat and some underwater noises. The concept is so individual and odd that no creative committee could have thought it up, and the anime creators knew to keep it simple and basic, and let the situation speak for itself. Well, I suppose that for all the bright colors and details in the series, you could also call it subdued. Alas, we don’t see many wonders down there but fish. The story focuses more on Sen and Konju squabbling about this and that, and another moment of life and death. The second half, where Mikochi designs Sen a new outfit, feels more like a “how-to” show, what with all the talk of dyes, but remember these are three-inch tall girls doing the design work, using only basic tools and things found in the forest.

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Gorou gets it.

Darling in the FranXX now turns from Hiro and 02, mostly, and begins to pay attention to the troubled side couples. First up is perhaps the dullest, Gorou and Ichigo. “Dullest” because there’s nothing much anyone can do about the situation. Ichigo loves Hiro, who is taken. She is trying to accept it, but hasn’t gotten there yet. Meanwhile, Gorou loves Ichigo, repeat the above … All they can really all do is keep working to accept what they can and can’t have, and find something of value there. Which they do, thanks to Gorou and his Franxx being eaten by a Klaxosaur but still alive after Ichigo gets ejected.

franxx9-2I suppose there’s your weekly metaphor right there, Ichigo getting pushed aside so that Gorou can do the heroic thing at the cost of his life. Ichigo and Gorou know each other well enough that she knows he’ll try something heroic and get himself killed, even though the others have a plan to rescue him, also he’s totally forgetting their line, overused in this episode, that he’s too weak to do anything alone, but with her they can win. And so together they manage to save the day (well, the others help too) and reach an understanding of just how important the other is. Gorou even confesses and gets Ichigo cutely flustered. Probably things will get better for them now. Meanwhile, I still wonder if the show is going to sacrifice any of these couples, or pieces of them. Not this week. Not that I’m rooting for such a thing–I don’t really like it when regular characters die in a series, but right now it all seems a little tame. Well, maybe one of the other couples will spice it up. Or they’ll start questioning their roles as saviors with no choice …

Hakumei/Mikochi 7-8, FranXX 8, Yuru Camp 9, Dagashi2 8

hakumeimikochi7-1I suppose it’s time to catch up with Hakumei to Mikochi, though I hardly suspect there will be any great story arc unfolding. We almost have a death in episode 7, however, when Koharu the beetle nearly starved. I keep wondering how I’ll react if someone indeed dies in this show. Also, the girls spend a lot of time in tree branches this week, and it gets windy, and they’re only three inches tall or so … But this time it’s all about all the suspicious neighbors who have moved into the girls’ tree and perhaps ruining the quiet neighborhood. But of course it makes perfect sense. Why can’t other creatures live in that tree? It doesn’t belong to anybody. The girls, meanwhile, act like old residents, scratching their heads over all these strange newcomers. And who cut the ladder? The second story, with the rabbit and the pictures, well, I almost forgot to mention it here.

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The bad guys.

Episode 8 has a story to it, but I couldn’t figure it out. In a lawless section of the city a gang of sorts trashes someone else’s belongings, and Mikochi has to recreate a mint julip recipe in order to calm everyone down. Oh, and Konju is kidnapped but overall seems to enjoy the experience. The fighting is mostly throwing mushrooms at each other, and in the end the gang leader Tsumujimaru seems to have known the recipe all along, I think. We also have Hakumei doing stealth missions on a paper airplane, and the guy whose house got trashed doesn’t get any revenge, though it’s an “anything goes” building. I don’t really get it. I think the show is so used to being leisurely that it didn’t exactly know how to tell an exciting story.

franxx8-1Darling in the FranXX has a ridiculous setup, but episode 8 is even sillier than most of them. A klaxosaur fires goo at them, and suddenly all the girls’ clothing begins to dissolve, putting the boys in various stages of embarrassment and/or lust. The girls are offended, and we have a tape-in-middle-of-the-house situation, which plays out in various, mostly uninteresting ways. Meanwhile the higher-ups comment that puberty has struck all the team at once, and I scratch my head. Until the reality of their mortality (from a visit to a former member’s room before she got killed) forces them to band together, there is only one scene worth watching, where 02 gets in on the fun and has Hiro, in nothing but a towel, chasing her around, and realizing he’s enjoying it. As for the final, more sober scenes, it seems fear of death will strike the libido right out of you (even though the guys all agree that they should apologize and support the girls at the end), but this strikes me as being an unhealthy attitude. Didn’t Hiro get all cured by realizing all he wanted out of life was to be with 02?

yurucamp9-1Yuru Camp is at a place where everything the show attempts to do works. Apart from Rin’s dog souvenir battle of temptation (because we knew she would buy the damn thing) episode 9 is a delight from beginning to end, as Rin more or less “wings it” on her latest solo adventure while Nadeshiko in her sickbed and Chiaki text her inane travel advice, though gathering mushrooms seems like a fun thing to do on a camping trip. Rin does visit a dog shrine (wan), meets a couple mountain climbers and gets tea from them, finds her route is closed and has to double back, finds an onsen that’s actually open, waves at some kids, does not meet any bears, and has a dilemma as she oversleeps after lunch. Will she make it to the park in time?!? Oh, and Chiaki makes Houtou. And it’s almost all pleasurable. In fact, I’m rather glad the girls aren’t all camping together yet because it gives us more locals for the girls to have fun in.

dagashi28-1Finally, Dagashi Kashi continues its work on getting Hajime fitted into the routine. In the first half it’s Saya, who finds about a dozen ways to seethe about this new hot girl living with her would-be boyfriend, but it never occurs to her to ask him. Which is fine, because Saya doing a slow burn, or a quick one for that matter, or frankly, just showing up makes the episode worthwhile for me. Tou’s scene with Hajime, based on misunderstanding and getting a little lewd, was less successful. Alas, the show still misses Hotaru. None of the other characters has the in-depth knowledge of sweets that she has, apart from Kokonotsu, and he doesn’t do much this episode. Hajime and Saya don’t even know how to eat the roll-candy.

Evergarden, FranXX, and Hakumei/Mikochi up to 6

Hey, look! She’s kind of smiling!

Well I THOUGHT Violet Evergarden was going to expand the story now, have some unpleasant wartime experiences rise and and bite her, but episode 6 gives us just another stand-alone featuring an emotionally messed-up young man that is shown the way forward from an AI. It’s not all that good a story, either. We’re told why Leon is like this, but I for one had no emotional connection with him at all. At least Violet got to figure out what loneliness is. And so Leon the boy moves on, while Violet, emotionally, cannot. I was more interested in the comet, and the legends they were transcribing of all the doom and horror might be some kind of foreshadowing, but I’ve said that before in this series and nothing seems to change …

Darling in the FranXX 6, on the other hand, gives us what could potentially have been a disastrous mission for our Squad 13, and for Squad 26 as well, since everyone in the show has an issue of some kind or another. And stuff indeed goes wrong, but it only does so because there were more Klaxosaurs than expected, including a gigantic “Gutenberg-class” variety that can morph into all sorts of shapes and do it on a huge scale. Well, also our heroes are still new at this. That everyone succeeds, mostly, might have come partly because Squad 13 now has a chip in their shoulders about being considered dead weight, and they can also see the other squad’s excellent teamwork and don’t want to be left behind. The only personal issues that interfere comes from Ichigo, who not only thinks Hiro is dead and also that she failed somehow. Really, she has to get her act together if she’s going to continue to lead this team.

Before the realization

But the good guys win with no casualties, but that’s not even close to the main story. It hits me with hindsight that Hiro’s reasons for fighting, at least the ones he spouts this episode, have to do with defending his people, and how he’s raised to do nothing else. It’s only when he supposedly dies that he says the right lines, the ones he’d been repeating before now: he wants to ride Strelizia with 02, and nothing else matters. This realization comes after an amazing, intense series of events where it looks like he and 02 ought to be crushed by now, followed by a dream sequence where he’s preparing to say goodbye to the world, until he wakes up, sees 02 still desperately fighting, … and the turnaround when they reconnect is huge fun to watch.

After the realization.

But why did he get to this point in the first place? Why did he keep himself from the truth like he did? It’s interesting that when he got inspired again, his physical ailments faded away and he became completely healthy again, as if lying about his true motives was the thing making him sick. It makes you wonder about the other pilots, the ones whom 02 supposedly “killed.” Is fighting out of duty or obligation what actually killed them? I guess we’ll get more answers soon, maybe even next week. Anyway, a supposedly disastrous situation is managed triumphantly for everybody.

Hakumei with her new haircut, Iwashi with his cool jacket, and Mikochi just smiling.

Finally, Hakumei to Mikochi, where for two episodes there are no brushes with death. Instead we watch the eager assistant Hakumei do anything she can to help his weasel (in a good, furry way) boss Iwashi and his trade organization rebuild a stone wall … and she helps. With other shows this would be turned into a major point of a person’s life, but here they just build the wall and drink. Next episode Hakumei (Mikochi is pretty much a bystander these days) gets her hair cut and they take Iwashi out for a day in town … and that’s about it. You know, I like shows where nothing much happens but everything’s good anyway, but I can’t help but feel the show is in a rut. Maybe the wonder of their world is wearing a bit thin. I’m not asking for crises or those brushes with death … maybe we’ve been spending too much time with Hakumei on her job.

Threes and fours: Slow Start, Yuru Camp, HakxMik

Quick thoughts while I continue my scramble to catch up …

Eiko is not to be crossed.

Slow Start is becoming quite a nice “cute girls doing cute things” (CGDCT) series. It’s taken care of the early hurdles of introducing characters and the situations they’re all in. Episode 4 bought us Hiroe, possibly the last regular character, another girl unlucky with exams who is behind and is so mortified that she’s in danger of becoming a shut-in, prompting Hana to relate her own story, the first time she’s ever done so. It sounds serious but the show’s light touch and little absurdities keep it light.

I’m not sure why Tama said this.

Now that the main characters are more or less introduced, the show moves on in episode 5 to getting a little weird. I think I’ve said before that I believe a good CGDCT show should be weird in one way or another, whether through the characters or the production. Again, the episode’s main thrust is to expand on Kamu’s affection for Eiko, which is sweetly done, but it’s how they get there which matters. First, Kamu forgets to wear a skirt, and everyone riffs in their own way about that. There’s some stealth-peeking from that teacher. Later there’s talk of Eiko having a double which leads to a ridiculous conversation about doppelgangers, body doubles, and the like, and the even stranger appearance of the double, who apparently answers to “Eiko.” Oh, I guess we do meet a new character this week, Eiko’s sister Miki, who is not only a little weird herself, but has a running gag with her name going. She fits right in.

Yuru Camp is a demonstration of how useless categories like CGDCT can be. You could easily argue that Nadeshiko, Rin, and their buddies, are doing things cutely, and the show likes put in little extra cute bits, like that dog in the car, or Rin’s scooter saying “I’m tired!” but the thing they’re doing, camping, isn’t cute, so it fails in the cute things part. It makes me think that when I consider CGDCT shows, I expect them to be somewhat girly, cake shops and the like. On the other hand, the girls are cute and react to things like building fires in a cute way.

Who said there can be no overlap? We can argue (well, I argue with myself) about Yuru Camp’s CGDCT level, but there’s no denying the level of Stop And Smell The Roses (SASTR) the show has. It passes all the tests: beautiful scenery, quiet peaceful music, and most important, lack of dramatic action and the absence of true threat. In episodes 4 and 5, the club girls go off to Fuefuki Park or thereabouts, while Rin goes to (checks notes) Yatsugatake-Chushin Quasi National Park in Nagano. We watch the club girls prepare for their trip (cutely) while Rin just rides her scooter. It looked like it would be a moral lesson of sorts when the club girls continue to have fun while Rin, the slightly antisocial one, gets too cold and meets some setbacks, but at the end she and Nadeshiko are sending each other night view pictures and everyone has a good time doing non-cute things.

Actually this is artistic license, because the girls are over 100 kilometers apart.

And then, how to we categorize Hakumei to Mikochi? They’re cute little things, but I wouldn’t call them girls–did you get a look at their feet? They’re basically stumps–well, they’re female, but they’re clearly not for the CGDCT team. So, SASTR? Except that episode 3 begins with their home blowing up, and episode 4 has Mikochi badly hurt in a fall. And there are predators about, even if the huge scary owl wasn’t as bad as it first appeared. In addition, the show likes to lull us with peaceful moments and quiet music playing, only to break the mood with a cheap laugh, like that ponkan crashing through their tent. Yet both episodes had as much charm as any show in either category I’ve arbitrarily brought up here.

In episode 4 we see Mikochi, closer to nature than any Yuru Camp girl, nonetheless apprehensive about camping. Then we learn what Hakumei does for a living and there’s a brush with death, no, not the house blowing up. They weren’t inside when it happened. Episode 5 explains what MIKOCHI does for a living, and then the scary story with the owl. I pretty much know that nothing seriously bad will happen to either character, but the fall was told well enough that I was seriously worried about her. So what category should we put Hakumei to Mikochi? We could invent a new one, but I don’t know how to describe it nor establish any rules for it. In fact, I probably should not have even brought up SATSR and CGDCT at all. Sorry.

Winter 2018 #5

Takunomi opens with Tokyo Station, which is a place for transferring, so many people don’t know it looks like this outside.

Sharing the half hour with Dagashi Kashi is Takunomi, where a young woman named Michiru comes to Tokyo for the first time, runs into trouble, gets freaked out, falls asleep on the train, freaks out some more, but is finally taken to her new home by Kae, the motherly one of the all-woman hostel. The then meets Nao, drunk already, and we learn how to pour Yebisu beer, and a secret about its label. Also, good food is prepared, but they didn’t have brand names. Looked delicious, though. And that’s about it.

I suppose as Dagashi Kashi is for snack food, Takunomi is supposed to be for drinks. Not sure we need it, but why not?  Did we need Dagashi?  Only with hindsight do we say “hell, yes!”  It’s too early to tell how good this show will get yet, but I noticed that I really didn’t get interested until drunken Kae talked about how she got her lost hopes and dreams back thanks to a special Yebisu beer label, and all I can figure is that her life wasn’t turning out the way she wanted so she turned to drink, but presented in a more surreal way.  So maybe it’s a show about adult failures, and why not?  At least the other women at the hostel think Kae drinks too much, though they can all put it away. Not sure about this one.

Fairy-tale opening placard for Hakume to Mikochi.  Yes, they are tiny.

Hakumei to Mikochi is about the titular, diminutive women, as they live and work in a forest somewhere. It’s a good life. Mikochi cooks minestrone, they both ride beetles when they get tired, and they make friends with enormous (for them) birds who you think would just eat them. In the second half they visit a busy market and Mikochi (the sensible one) loses her wallet, but since she’s good friends with all the shop people it just means she and Hakumei get lots of freebies. They find the wallet, anyway, and they eat and drink a lot.

Mikochi and Hakume, in the enormous grass.

Hadn’t seen this one coming. A quite nice episode where nothing really bad happens to anyone, and I don’t think anything will in the future. So it’s a stop and smell the roses show, perhaps, with bright and colorful artwork that looks like it comes out of a children’s picture book. The main characters have the same dynamic we’ve seen elsewhere, Mikochi is sensible, Hakumei less so, but practical and caring. You wonder just how the two met up and how they became so close. You’ll also wonder about the world they’re in, but I think the show will be more than happy to show us more in future episodes.

Think I’ll skip Hakyuu Houshin Engi because I seriously doubt I’ll watch more than one episode even if I like it, and I’m behind again …

I’m so sorry, apparently I didn’t take screenshots of Hakata Tonkotsu Ramens!  Anyway, takes place in Hakata, Fukuoka, where we are told that maybe up to three percent of the population are professional hitmen. With all the dead bodies we see in episode one, the place lives up to its reputation, We follow a few of the killers around, a crossdresser who keeps getting sent off to kill more people and is really tired of it, also some shady people hanging around the mayor, his son, I believe, who just kills for the fun of it, and some other guy who’s never killed anyone before and really isn’t up to the job. We got detectives, too, namely Banba, who is looking into the death of another detective until the crossdresser shows up to kill him, or not.

It’s all very confusing; it’s one of those shows where the creators just toss you right in without telling you much of anything. When the show loops back to the opening scene of the crossdresser watching TV in Banba’s office I gave a sigh of relief–something I recognized. I suspect it will stay hard to follow because they introduce a lot of characters and give us very little information about them, and the intrigue will probably get more convoluted by the minute. These aren’t bad things, and I don’t mean to suggest that the show is handing the material badly, but viewers will probably have to do a little guessing and remembering to figure things out, at least early on.

Beatless starts with words slowly forming about loving souless beings.

Beatless takes place in a future world where there are a lot of servant androids about, known as hIEs, and it stars a high school boy named Arato who knows they’re not real and are trying to mimic human emotions for usually business reasons. Also, there’s been some sort of event at a nearby facility and several highly-modded hIEs are going about causing destruction and smirking as they do it. Who taught them that? It’s boring.  Anyway Arato meets a nice hIE he knows in a parking lot but she goes crazy and tries to kill him, until he’s rescued by another hIE, of the, er, Lacia class. They do a formal contract thing, mostly because of the crazy cars that are now trying to kill him, and now he owns her, and must accept all responsibility for whatever mayhem he tells her to do. I think that last bit is going to be very important later on.

Having a super android girl who can stop insane cars is useful.

No reason to like it especially, it boils down to sexy android girl who obey whatever command you give her, but I did anyway. I wonder why the hell Lacia showed up to save him all of a sudden, and if she was one of the renegade hIEs, and if so why Arato? Except there was this brief flashback where Arato as a boy watches a surgery/tuneup of another android explode. We also don’t know what the evil grinning hIEs want, except the one who produces nanobots like flower petals from her dress suggests that Arato is implicated somehow. He’s a nice chap, overly kind, perhaps, but he has a goofy sister and some nice friends to ground him. Right now, just the right balance between domesticity and weird violence.

Killing Bites, ha ha, no … Gin no Guardian, another season 2 of an unwatched season 1 …

Not sure if those are petals or bits of bird feathers …

So the last show I’m going to watch this season is Darling in the FranXX, with its hero actually named Hiro, except he’s actually called 016 because he’s a subject in a facility that raises pistils (pilots) to command giant mecha in female form (at least the one we see this week) and fight monsters of various kinds. The twist of this very generic setup is that you need a male and female pilot to bond, become the two wings of the franXX. Hiro has bombed out of the program, unfortunately taking a nice girl named Naomi down with him, and while he has special permission to stay (for unknown reasons, heh) he elects to leave the facility, but before he does he catches sight of a naked, strange, feral pistil named, er, 002, who takes a liking to him as she catches a fish in her mouth and he stares at her body. The inevitable happens: monsters attack the facility, 002’s darling (partner) is killed, and Hiro’s powers are awakened as he takes his place, well, that and a sexy kiss.

Now gimmie a kiss.

So we got a mish-mosh of many different mecha shows, going back a decade or two, and I’m not a big mecha fan anyway … Yet I’m going to keep watching this for a while. I don’t know why. I watched it this morning then went to work, and from time to time I tried to figure out what about it appealed to me. Maybe it’s the unspoken situation of the students there, that if they fail there’s no going back home, though no one knows where they go. I figure in a place like that there is a strict limit on resources, and if they can’t pull their weight, so government/society issues … Or maybe it was 002 and 016’s self-perceived status as lonely people who can’t get along who find someone that just might accept them for what they are. That’s hardly new either, but it seems to resonate here, and again, I don’t know why it does. Maybe it’s Trigger’s contribution to the animation, making everything seem more like a drawing exploding out of reality at times. … I don’t know what it is, but the episode appealed to me and I will watch the next episode at least.

Speaking of which, now’s the time I have to decide which shows to keep and which to drop. But THIS season I’ll hang around and write about a few!  Thank you for reading.  Agreements, disagreements, let me know!