Finales: Tokyo ESP, Free2, Hanayamata

Tokyo ESP ends in about as ridiculous fashion as you would expect.

Just when I thought things couldn't get goofier ...
Just when I thought things couldn’t get goofier …

Episode 11 brings us right around to episode 1, with the parliament in the air, literally, and people rushing to get there and find a way to stop these unstoppable bad guys, who, as it turns out, could be stopped quite easily when you get the right ESPer for the situation. You could say that it’s a way for the show to save animation costs, but it’s always fun to watch good guys beat up bad guys, and what’s more, Rinka did all that beating up without any ESP powers at all. Meanwhile Kyoutaru gets some unexpected help from, er … I told you it would be ridiculous.

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And then we get the expected Rinka/Minami rematch, which was actually some crossing of blades in between speeches about Kyoutarou, good and evil, the show’s usual stuff. The physical fight is pretty much a draw, while Rinka wins the debate by simply not being on the side of a smug, superpowered meglomaniac who plays the piano badly and has the worst lines I’ve heard from a villain in some time. Meanwhile, in the side battle, two kids make short work of Hokusai’s nastiest henchman, including the one holding up the building (which they knew), and there’s some uninteresting effort to stop lots of people from getting crushed. Then another debate, between Koutarou and his new best buddy albatross, and Minami, and then some even weirder people show up, and well, does it matter?

and catch that goldfish!
and catch that goldfish!

The “Professor’s” mad scheme to make a lot more espers doesn’t sound too bad to me. The only people who might argue are those who insist on “us” and “them.” If it becomes “we,” then no problem. Unfortunately, the show doesn’t take that route, and neither do the new espers, all of them apparently lawless. But realism and logic have never meant much to this show. This absence of normality was also one of its charms. It was, in spite of the violence, a cheerful, goofy show, with flying penguins and talking albatrosses and ninja masters in panda suits. And the good guys goofily believed in good and executed violence for its cause. The bad guys fought for evil, or whatever, and had terrible lines. I can’t make myself dislike this show too much.

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Free! Eternal Summer has the expected climax, the big race in the nationals. It’s about as joyous and fun to watch as the season one finale was, each boy finding what they want while they have their final race together, and, just like Ping Pong, it really didn’t matter how they did, and the show finally tells us via a framed picture on the wall, again like Ping Pong. While that bit, and the aftermath where everyone goes their separate ways and keeps working, was immensely satisfying, the stuff that came before wasn’t.

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There was no real no urgency to it. Season one’s arch rival, Rin, was now their closest ally. Haru had pretty much solved his problems in episode twelve. That left us a dull scene where he had to explain what his problems were and everyone had to verify their friendship, especially Makoto. Then there was an even worse scene the night before finals where they basically recapped both seasons in a “Hey, remember when so-and-so …” style that had me consider fast-forwarding, something I almost never do. Well, they pulled out the nice ending, and I’ll say that, like K-ON!! and unlike Chuu2koi, they found reasons to make a season 2 necessary. Graduation is a nice built-in plot device, isn’t it? But I’m glad the series is over, time to give it a rest. Looking forward to Kyoani’s new show.

You're late, Hana!
You’re late, Hana!

Hanayamata 12, like Free!, sticks the landing. It felt a little odd. The girls were prepared to do the festival show without Hana, and there was a nice bit where Naru gives Machi a pep talk, and everyone else is surprised that it’s Naru giving the pep talk, how much she’s grown, etc, and it occurred to me that it might be appropriate for Hana NOT to be there. As they say, Hana might have started the yosakoi club, but it kept going and acquired new members mainly because of Naru. But I suppose that would be unfair to Hana, and the girls want to perform all together, and this is a show with happy, sappy overtones. So here comes Hana!

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I could have done without the “will she make it?” business and the rushing about, but it did give a momentum to things when the music plays and Hana leaps onstage just when the music hits the chorus, well-timed! After that it was dancing, fireworks, and happy-happy, and I was sucked back into the series, for the first time in a while. Never mind all those invented dramas that came before it, or that Hana wasn’t the fairy she seemed to be … I wrote in my introduction to this series that it had cast spell on me that began when the OP hits the chorus and the girls start dancing. It turns out that it was the OP casting the spell. The story that came afterwards could get pretty dismal. But at least they put together a lovely final performance that lives up to that song. But I wonder if the series is casting about for another season. I hope not. It would be about as unnecessary as some other season twos I mentioned in this post. Let’s leave it as it is.

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Hanayamata 11, Free2 12

Work is going to delay my posts for a couple days, so I thought I’d put these two up now.

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Hanayamata 11 was sweet and infuriating at the same time. It was sweet because, for once, all the tears Hana and the others shed felt right on target. Not too many, not too few. They also used the OP music effectively to heighten the emotions without overwhelming us with bathos. It was infuriating because Hana was stupid enough to not only tell the others that she was leaving a week before the performance, but she didn’t even mention to her loving, doting mom that she wanted to stay one more fucking week and do something very important to her. Surely, if this was that important, her mom would have done something to make it work. It’s also inexplicable behavior for her. She’s always been upfront about what she wants. Why didn’t she say anything to anybody until it was too late to change plans? Argh, Yaya was right. Baka! The saving grace of the episode was Naru’s growth, giving comfort to a friend who dearly needed it.

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Free! Eternal Summer 11, in spite of its usual quality production values, was an underwhelming episode. Rin takes Haru to Australia, meets Rin’s homestay folks, stares at the beach, hears Rin’s story about his time here, and finally visits the Sydney aquatic center and discovers his dream, which is … what? Okay, to keep swimming, but where? I suppose it’s unfair to ask Haru while the new dream is still staring him in the face, but I couldn’t help wondering if he’d go to Australia, since Rin has pretty much admitted he can’t swim unless Haru is near, or back home? Also, the visit was surprisingly mundane. I was happy that there hadn’t been some huge crisis we’d have to watch via flashback, but as it turned out I yawned through most of it. The saving grace was the views of Sydney and the people there, which put me in ind of K-ON’s London visit.

Hanayamata and Akame ga Kill 10, Free2 11

The team is finally assembled, nearly at the end of the series.
The team is finally assembled, nearly at the end of the series.

You can tell a lot about Machi’s personality in Hanayamata 10 by how she joins the club. She just announces that she’s joining, and that’s that … with a little hesitation on the “please take care of me” line. And from there she starts working them to death as if she was the president. True, they should be practicing, but maybe they don’t need the newest member telling them that. On the other hand Azunyan kept doing the same thing in K-ON, but no one ever listened to her. And the club does need some leadership–the big plot crisis in the episode comes when they learn they had missed the deadline for registering for the festival. Happily, despite her snarking, no one is terribly offended by Machi’s behavior, except maybe Yaya, who keeps her mouth shut. And it works out in the end since it was clear from the start that she wanted the practicing mostly for herself. For next week’s invented crisis, Hana’s mom shows up.

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Akame ga Kill 10 is one of the funnier ones. First, we have the ridiculous scene between Tatsumi and Esdeath in her boudoir, in other words, two people possibly getting into a romantic situation who are on complete opposite sides of the conflict. Part of me feared for Tatsumi’s life and the other side said “enjoy it.” Instead, Tatsumi decides to try and convert Esdeath to the rebels’ side, a doomed enterprise but you have to admire him for trying, even if his speeches are still on a simplistic good vs. evil plane. And I thought he did a good job of trying without giving away his identity, that is to say, she didn’t kill him. And I suppose we have to give Esdeath a choice of good or evil, so she can reject it and we can move on.

Tatsumi the spy gets some key intel.
Tatsumi the spy gets some key intel.

Though I wonder if Esdeath and the Jaegers have the brains to recognize Tatsumi anyway, well, apart from Stylish. In the second ridiculous scene, Tatsumi manages to get away from Wave, transforming into his armor, only to have Wave, in his own armor, confront him, and neither side knows who the other is or thinks it through. Well, we have to figure Wave doesn’t have a lot on the ball. They’ve set him up as the empires’ equivelent of Tatsumi: young, a bit guileless, and wanting to do the right thing. He’s even had the type of meeting-the-weird-teammates scenes that Tatsumi had. But he IS the enemy, and I’m interested to see what the show is going to do with him.

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Free! Eternal Summer 11 brushes aside most of the old story arc stuff, save for one: Haru’s funk. Since the boy doesn’t show a lot on his face, his teammates and coach notice it when he swims. What’s more, their relay times are rising, they aren’t getting any better, so Haru’s funk is affecting everyone else, though they all seem to be trying. Every now and then throughout the episode, someone comes up and tries to get through to him with no success. Makoto a couple times, the other team members, even Sousuke has a few choice words for him. At least Sousuke gets a reaction other than “Shut up!” The problem here might be that time is passing. People are graduating and making plans, but Haru doesn’t seem to want to accept that they can’t swim together forever, and competitive swimming alone isn’t part of his dream. Well, maybe a surprise visit to Australia (Rin’s weird move at the end of the episode) will shake him up. Something had better; there are only two episodes left and they have to do the national competitions too.

Hanayamata 8-9, Akame ga Kill 9, Zankyou 8, Free 2 10

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Hanayamata 8 sort of ruined all the fun for itself by foreshadowing a disastrous accident onstage. It looked to be a real memory or an anxiety dream, and I can’t tell which because Naru and Yaya have never mentioned it before. Either way, you knew the dream meant a bad thing happening, namely Naru falling down, so I had a hard time enjoying the other parts of the episode. Now, in the dream, little Naru fell down and just cried, and here she still has her wits about her, more or less, so there’s a chance she can recover and the girls can chalk it up to a learning experience. I suppose the next episode (which I haven’t watched yet) will let us know, if they’re not too busy with their new subplot–Sally and Machi’s not-so-great relationship, which I can frankly do without.

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… And episode 9 handled the disaster just right. Before Naru can get too overcome, Yaya, then Hana and Tami are crouched around her, offering their hands. Alas, they extend it too long by doing a scene at school soon after, where it turns out everyone already knows about her fear of audiences, but I guess the show needs a bit of closure like that. Then it’s on to the Sally/Sachi nastiness and way too many scenes of Machi saying spiteful things about Sally, laden with hints of an earlier betrayal she can’t get over, followed by walking off in a huff. Meanwhile, Sally might be quitting anyway, though they don’t really follow up on that. And finally a typically heartfelt scene where we learn the whole background and Tami reveals the truth they could have told us sooner, and right then Sachi is almost turned 180 degrees. Well, I expected nothing more from this show. Well, the good bits were very good.

Introducing the new bad guys, apart from Wave, who's getting his ass kicked.
Introducing the new bad guys, apart from Wave, who’s getting his ass kicked.

Apart from an early training scene where Tatsumi once again swears he will get stronger in honor of another dead comrade (to his credit, he already has), Akame ga Kill 9 switches us back to the silly side, where Esdeath has a new crack team put together. Let’s hope it does better than the last crack team, all killed by two people. They’re introduced as a bunch of doofuses, and we see it through the eyes of Wave, one of the new members and a person who seems a lot like Tatsumi at first; young, naive, optimistic, and dull, so I wonder if he’ll turn out psychotic like Seryu (who’s also a member). Elsewhere, we get an amusing new setup where Tatsumi wins a fighting contest and thus finds himself a reward for Esdeath, who has taken a liking to him. She drags him off while I wonder how much they’ll let us watch of the following scenes. Afterwards, will Tatsumi give another “I must grow stronger!” speech? Really, I can’t remember a show that can get both so bleak and so silly as this one.

A fugitive shouldn't accept parcels with her name on them.
A fugitive shouldn’t accept parcels with her name on them.

Zankyou no Terror is a good series, make no mistake, but then they keep doing stupid things that bring it down. In episode 8 it’s the whole Lisa thing. Mind you, if I was a noble terrorist who’s had to drag an innocent girl along, I’m not sure what I’d do with her either. One thing I would have done, however, is make sure that absolutely no one sees her. Surely they must have known that the authorities have her ID and hence all the information they need. Maybe they could have told her not to even open the door and accept packages in her name, for chrissakes. Admittedly, Lisa shares some of the blame for that; at times she seems to have no common sense at all. If you need further proof of this, look at her fleeing the boys–right into Five’s arms. And meanwhile Shibazaki is suspended but continues hitting the pavement looking for clues, the necessary dull but necessary work of sleuthing and backstory-building that will become important in the next three episodes.

Hey, that's the other team's line!
Hey, that’s the other team’s line!

Free! Eternal Summer 10 pretty much forgets about Haru’s angst and switches to Sousuke’s shoulder, and his reasons for swimming without the dream of it being on an international stage. He went to see Rin screw up last year and redeem himself by swimming with the good guys, and realizes, after years, that he wanted to swim with people, not alone, against everyone. Well, it wasn’t a flash of insight but something he probably came to realize bit by bit, just as his shoulder problems didn’t come instantly. We learn all this during an emotional argument with Rin, two bros nearly beating the crap out of each other because that’s how they do things, another of those too-long weepy-shouty scenes where the other teammates arrive just at the right time to give emotional support, and, naturally, Haru overhears. Well, it’s settled. Both schools have unified teams, and when the relay comes, it’s genuinely exciting not only because the animation is terrific as usual, but because we have no idea who will win or who to root for.

Space Dandy 6, SAO and Hanayamata 7

I’m falling behind. Sorry …

I was hoping someone would mention that ...
I was hoping someone would mention that …

Sometimes when I watch Space Dandy I think I’m missing out on the joke. I felt that way through much of episode 6 as I wondered why they had a laugh track going–was this a commentary on modern media, or a reference to another ironic use of that most hated of sitcom devices from my childhood and adolescence? And, for chrissake, when would it stop?! I didn’t find the story itself any clearer. I appreciated the idea of a cloud computing metaphor going on (If that’s what it was. I have no idea), and it was nice to see Scarlet and Honey doing things apart from working. But it bounced from one plot bit to the next with nothing much holding it together. Well, it wasn’t the worst SD episode; I enjoyed watching and trying to figure out what would happen next, and be wrong. I just didn’t understand the point of it all. Maybe I AM too old for this.

In spite of this confrontation, no battle this week.
In spite of this confrontation, no battle this week.

Sword Art Online 2 7 is an in-between episode where both Kirito and Sinon gear up for the big battle that evening. Kirito has the most to get through, and it’s not the idea that Death Gun is maybe the guy who’s been killing people. His failure to notify the people who put him up to this is surprising; has he forgotten his mission? He’s more worried now about the guilt he feels for remembering or not remembering the names of the people (I forget which) that he killed. Maybe it hasn’t occurred to him that taking care of Death Gun might be a good way to atone, at least in part. Meanwhile Sinon gears up for the match by acting tsundere over Kirito, only to have Spiegel confess to her when she’s getting her game face on, showing a clueless lack of timing on his part, proof that he understands less about her than he thinks, or maybe he realizes that there’s more to life than therapy through games.

The girls being sorry and bawling their eyes out moment.
The girls being sorry and bawling their eyes out moment.

Hanayamata 7 clears the way for Yaya to join the yosakoi club full-time. To do this smoothly they had to invent some drama that mostly fell flat. I can understand Yaya’s intense disappointment over her band breaking up and ruining her ambitions, and how she might jealously lash out at the yosakoi club and thus hurt her friends. But it was too routine and led to too many tears–I expected some, but I thought Hana, giving the tearful speeches she gave, felt like an interloper. Naru was the one who should have given all of them. Well, Naru does get her main point across: Yaya’s been there for her for most of her life, it’s time to give some of that love back. And I liked how they lured Yaya to the roof in the first place–by shouting insults at her. Elsewhere, as I said, it was predictable, though I enjoyed the teacher trying to turn them into cosplayers.

Sixes: Free!, Nozaki-kun, Hanayamata

The episode wasn't as dramatic as this shot suggests.
The episode wasn’t as dramatic as this shot suggests.

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.

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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.

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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.

This scene isn't really that dramatic, either.
This scene isn’t really that dramatic, either.

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?

Fives: Agame ga Kill, Aldnoah.Zero, Glasslip, Hanayamata

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Akame ga Kill 5 introduces a new character, a strange piece of work named Seryu, empire soldier, young and eager, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, who Tatsumi runs into when he gets lost in the capital. The contrast between her and the nasty people she works with is jarring, especially when she goes on about fighting evil, and her Imperial Arms robot dog is supposed to detect it. She doesn’t set off the dog, neither does Tatsumi, and I’m wondering who would if none of the Imperial Army has done it so far. Then you get the flip side, her remark to the dog that she’ll feed him death row inmates as a reward, just like we’d offer a scooby snack. So maybe she’s just nuts. Elsewhere, Sheele takes on Tatsumi’s training, leading to alternating sweet, gentle, klutzy scenes with murder and mayhem as flashbacks show what’s she’s good at.

While Aldnoah.Zero continues to be an exciting, interesting show, it’s begun to show some cracks recently.

Allee-oop!
Allee-oop!

First, it’s turning into a Kataphrakt of the week story. We had Killram a couple of episodes ago, Vlad got beat up last week, and this week he came back for more only to have Inaho kill him. Also, the Kataphrakt are proving surprisingly vulnerable. After Vlad sliced through some good guys Inaho uses some fundamental flaw (which only he knows and doesn’t bother to tell anyone else) to plunge him into the ocean, where steam from the glowing sword blew him up. I suppose Martians aren’t used to fighting in bodies of water, but still, you’d think they’d consider this sort of thing. Or maybe they’re just arrogant bastards.

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We see some more of the Vers Empire this week, most importantly, the Emperor ordering a cease-fire mainly because no one was telling him anything. Then Slaine sneaks him to tell him that his granddaughter is alive and he doesn’t react much, then Saazbaum tells him that the kid was lying, and he starts up the war again. I’m not sure what’s going on in that man’s head, but it’s interesting that the nobles can start a war without his consent, disobey orders when they want (Vlad), and be generally sneaky to each other as well. I’m looking forward to see how this empire without a head is going to manage.

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Glasslip 5 continues the story of two people who can see glimpses of the future, and their almost complete lack of interest in this supernatural phenomenon. Instead, our romantic candidates go about, doing the things such people do. Hiro is embarrassed to be seen reading Camus at Sacchi’s place. Yanagi goes with Yukinari to a track meet, but Yukinari’s not 100% yet and doesn’t do well. Later, she confesses to him and walks off. Meanwhile our two visionaries hear all this secondhand or lend their ears to whatever the more active lovebirds are doing, while their ability is mentioned only a couple times. It’s almost like a gag between them now. There’s only one vision this week, where we see Kakeru smile, and it’s quickly forgotten. Though we get an affirmation about Sachi and the hospital, but it’s only for tests and she’s not even there yet. While I liked the look of this episode, like I do the series as a whole, I wish the characters would maybe get up and do something dramatic besides confess to someone you know’s going to shoot you down. Or WILL he?

The reaction to Naru's tenth heartfelt speech of the episode.
The reaction to Naru’s tenth heartfelt speech of the episode.

Hanayamata 5 loses its way early on and doesn’t really recover. At the start, after a scene where we see Tami and Yaya have joined the club (the latter in name only, a running gag for the episode), we get a voice-over where Yaya introduces herself, and we figure the episode’s going to be about her. Which would be fine, however she had an episode before, so there’s no point. Apparently the show thought the same thing because it soon shifts to the girls and their new advisor Sally going to a local yosakoi festival, and that’s it for the plot this week. Oh, we have Tami and Yaya bond a little, with a very interesting, understated reaction by Yaya when Tami said Naru’s the reason she’s there, a throwback to the second episode and her jealousy, but otherwise the episode becomes inspiring speeches by one character or another, usually Naru and Hana. We don’t even get to see much yosakoi, just glimpses of this group and that. That was a letdown.