The last installment had me considering a lot of shows and saying “no” a lot. This time we’ll begin with …
Natsume Yuujinchou Go … YES! YES! YES! Instant approval! I will watch this series no matter what! After some usual re-intro scenes and a bit of mystery, Natsume meets a girl in a pot who starts demanding her treasure back. Reika, naturally, stole it. Turns out to be a doll. Natsume finds it, discarded and dirty, and the pot-girl rejects it and gets threatening. But thanks to flashbacks brought to him by another youkai who met Reika long ago, he discovers that pot-girl actually stole it first. Nonetheless, she gets it back, and everyone is happy. This brief synopsis does not do the episode justice.
Just like Random Curiosity, I was a little worried that this fifth series of the franchise might not have anything more to say, but episode one is great. It works in Reika’s loneliness and need for love subtly with her leaving the now-unwanted doll for someone who can take care of it (unlike her, though the story doesn’t say it out loud), and mentions a man she had a child out of wedlock with. This season might give Reika, and Natsume’s curiosity about her, more time, and it’s a good angle to take. Though Reika is an important character, and actually appears from time to time, we know very little about her. As for the rest of the episode, it has the same look and feel, even some of the same music as before, and Nyanko-Sensei is in fine form. Happy that the show is back!
Then I doubled back and found Stella no Mahou, because it looks light and silly enough to get me through a season. And that’s how it turned out. Tamaki is out of the country and joining a high school in town, one that is big on clubs. She doesn’t really know what she wants to do, though. She’s tempted by the tea ceremony club, her friend Yumi joins the illustration club … Meanwhile girls at a doujin game club have set up a booth and are warming up their expected cute-odd traits for the new girls. Tama and Yumi check out their game, leave, and Tama returns to join, meeting the other members. All pretty much as expected.
It’s more subdued than I expected, more nice. Not so crazy. In fact, a little dull. The only character that seems to display any interesting emotions at all this episode is Shiina, the programmer, and even that’s in a monotone. I’m a little intrigued with the setup. They want to make a new game this year but the girl who inspired, organized, and led them last year has graduated, and they’re rudderless. Also, I like shows where they make things, so there’s that. And I wonder how Tama’s completely different art style will fit into a club where they make games called “Tearmint Tearstars.” Probably not enough to keep watching, however.
Another earlier show, Nobunaga no Shinobi, where a girl named Chidora swears she will become a servant of you-know-who, because she saved her once. She says goodbye to her family, whom she may have to kill later depending on her orders, and is accompanied by her would-be boyfriend, Sukezo, and they join the Nobunaga team.
Five minute show, or thereabouts, and a long OP. The gags are okay–I like the kill you while you poop bit. Chidora is cute. I learned a bit about shinobi. In my “Nothing too deep” mindset for this season this might work.
Moving on, Nanbaka‘s promo-image hurts my head to look at, so no … Soushin Shoujo Matoi, started it. Didn’t look so great, so stopped it.
Hibike! Euphonium has a new season, and it looks heavy duty. We start with the triumphant victory at the regionals and things go downhill from there; I suppose they couldn’t go up. Everyone buckles down for the next competition and we’re sort of introduced to Mizore, an oboe player who’s friends with Reina, though you’d think the show would have mentioned that last season, or I forgot. Since Mizore’s even more laconic than Reina I don’t know what we’re going to get out of her, well, in the second half, we do, as we see her getting sick over the sound of a flute player, Nozomi, one of last year’s quitters who desperately wants back in. Everyone involved in that spat is against it, but she seems okay to Kumiko, and so the adolescent dramas begin …
Wow, a double-length episode of this stuff was nearly too much for me. KyoAni’s attention to detail means subtle moments go by that you’ll miss if you blink. Also, we have remember who all these people are again, and I was getting some of them mixed up. And I’ve forgotten some of the situations from last year. All this makes me wonder if the new season, in my different situation, would get the justice it deserves if I try to write about it, and to make it clear, this show deserves consideration. The episode was excellent, more of the same, tight editing and story with the usual drop-dead gorgeous KyoAni art and animation. I suppose I don’t need to tell you that.
Moving on, Bungou Stray Dogs new season, which I would normally watch, but not this season, sorry, no. Brave Witches–I didn’t even watch Strike Witches, so no … Yuri!!! on ICE, er, no …
Why not Flip Flappers, you say? Okay … What we got is a orange haired girl named Papika, with super powers, or at least a flying surfboard, running off for reasons unknown, and then we switch to normal middle schooler named Kokona, having trouble deciding where to go to high school. For reasons unknown (there are lot of reasons unknown in this episode) she walks into a part of a forest where people don’t go, where Papika spots her and drags her off to the land of “Pure Illusion,” with sweet tasting snow and giant white heaps that nearly crush them before they roll into the sea, taking Kokona’s glasses, and Papika, along with them, until it’s transformation time for Kokona! Later they go back to reality only to be captured by robots.
The early scenes, with Kokona going about her routine while Papika spies on her, are charming and funny. It’s uses a lot of color and turns it off for extra effect. But when they go through the rabbit hole and reach Pure Illusion it loses part of its fun. You begin to worry about poor Kokona, not so much about Papika, who perhaps is too stupid to get worried. And the wonders of Pure Illusion get boring after a while; you want them to get to the point. But through it all it’s great to look at, graceful and fluid. A good start, could have been a great one, but good enough that I’ll keep it in mind for the future.
… Keijo!!!!!!!!, about girls wrestling with their boobs and butts, no … All out!!, I tend not to watch sports anime, so no … Watashi ga Motete Dou Sunda, male harem show, no … TO BE CONTINUED …
Hibike! Euphonium 13 is a solid finale, where everything is focused on the contest, and the little dramas percolate underneath.
And it was often excruciating. The first half was Kumiko getting up and ready, meeting at the school, loading the instruments, taking the bus to the theatre, every mundane thing the band has to do before they get to perform. During this, little affirmations are made between friends and rivals, but there is no crisis, no bad vibes; everyone’s on the same page. And when they’re there, and finished tuning, there’s the waiting, oh, the waiting. We’ve all been in a situation like this, where you have to do something important and not fuck up, but you can’t do it yet because it’s not your turn, and there’s nothing else you can do but cook in your own nervous juices. I can’t remember being as nervous for an upcoming scene in an anime show.
And then they perform. Apart from a couple voice-overs from Kumiko, and a couple breathless comments from girls backstage, all we hear is the music. We get little shots of this character and that as something that features them is played. I thought Reina’s solo was a little sharp, actually, but no one reacted. As for the dreaded euph part, I didn’t even notice it, even though it was set up by Natsuki backstage, and there was a quick glance between Kumiko and Asuka. And then it’s over.
And they wait for results, and then celebrate. What I liked here is that by now it didn’t really matter where they finished. They might have just missed moving on to nationals, that would have been fine with me. Like the best competition anime, the important thing is that they’ve grown, both as individuals and as an ensemble. Which might make it odd for me to say that I’m surprised the series is ending here, with both goals accomplished, but it’s not because I want to know how they’ll place in nationals, but because many of the characters are so well-drawn that I want to see more of them. I’m guessing there will be a sequel, anyway. Well, chalk up another great, if more subdued show by KyoAni.
Hibike Euphonium 12 … It’s going to take a while to get that little tune out of my head.
It starts with Taki asking the Euphs to help play one particularly nasty passage. Kumiko can’t handle it, but spends most of her time practicing, and gets better. Taki is still not impressed, but she promises she will play it well by the competition. And still it’s not good enough. Taki asks Asuka to play it alone. There could be a little life lesson here, saying “No matter how hard you work you still might not be good enough,” which is true, but the situation puts Kumiko in a funk.
But it demonstrates a change. Earlier, Katou had mentioned that Kumiko seemed less detached and more passionate now. After she loses the part, she runs around screaming how she wants to get better (and so does Shuichi, but who cares about him?).Obviously, Reina is an inspiration. Reina seems to like this new passion, and offers encouragement, as well she would, because Kumiko HAS gotten better. It comes down to a chance meeting with Taki, where he talks about doing things he wants to do (not to mention encouraging her to keep practicing that part, because she had promised she’d get better).
“I love the euphonium!” she cries out more than once near the end, which, frankly, makes her a little weird in my book, but weirdness is good. She wants to keep working at it. All of this is countered by reality and studying, her sister who dropped music to cram, and Aoi, who’s doing the same thing, making practical decisions they say they don’t regret, and I believe them. I believe there’s only one episode left, which is a shame partly because we won’t get to see Kumiko and the others deal with life after the competition. Meanwhile, I’ve still got that little tune in my head.
Nisekoi 12 seems to have abandoned any pretense of the plot moving forward. I mean, when was the last time anyone brought up the locket? Instead in episode 11 it’s two stories about Onodera. The first one was predictable. She’s afraid she’s gaining weight and starts starving herself, er, dieting. I think we all knew the second time she got on the scale that it was broken. The second story is much nicer. We go back to middle school and see how she decides to get into the same high school that Raku is going to. It sounds like a silly reason to choose a school, because your unrequited crush is going there, but she adds that it’s the first time in her life she feels determined to do anything, a nice though unintended reference to Euphonium …
Show by Rock! was a dumb show from start to finish, so I guess I shouldn’t have expected a great, slam-bang finale, but I was still surprised that it was such a clumsy, ham-fisted affair. It felt like the creators said “Okay, you guys do the rescue Rosia bit, you guys do the Angelica and Maple sneaking in bit, yo guys work on those kids coming to Midi City. Don’t worry about flow–we’ll just splice it all together.” That is to say, one scene would go on, then another, and back to the first scene, full of clumsy starts and finishes, each of them full of potential that they wasted. You had all those bands together, you could have had a big battle, but instead all they did was gape, except for that blonde guy and Darudayu. Dagger turned into an impressive monster and Cyan wiped him out with one shot. Grateful King’s ultimate song was never used. And I never did figure out what the deal was between Rom and the blonde guy.
Okay, one or two good points, like Grateful King sending Cyan back to her own world but she fought to come back and finish the battle. They spared us the tearful goodbye scenes (they had enough tearful scenes already) at the end and just had Cyan getting the nerve to enter that clubroom–end of show … That’s all I can think of. Okay, I shouldn’t have expected more, except that this show had given us moments of loopy fun and a couple of moving scenes before. And they had handled the story pretty well–until the finale. Sigh.
Mikagura Gakuen Kumikyoku‘s finale was pretty silly, but it was funny-silly and had moments of joy in it.
Though they never really explained what was going on with the reality breakdown. Eruna has a flashback dream to … her ancestors maybe, and Seisa is there too, and, sadly, Shigure, then she’s falling in the air, caught and finds herself in what must be the real world, the ruins of the school. The rest of the student body is there too, but they don’t seem shocked at all. Do they even notice? Meanwhile, the fighting pavilion is still in one piece and there are still midterm matches to attend to. Through the rest of it, sometimes we see the complete school, sometimes the ruins. Later, it all comes back, but isn’t that an illusion? Should they all be happy to be there?
In terms of the story now, there are no villains to defeat. They just want to get Seisa out of her mansion. Eruna asks her to join her club if she wins, and Seisa doesn’t say yes or no, but in the final, which is supposed to be Eruna and Kyouma, he is suddenly “abducted” by the drama club. Up to that point the episode had dragged a bit; the confusion over what was going on mixed with heartfelt speeches about intentions was responsible, but the sheer inanity of the abduction (to clear the way for Seisa) brought back the happy, goofy side of the series, and led to the moment of joy I mentioned before.
Eruna has always been fun to watch because, as I’ve said countless times before, she’s a blithering idiot, but also because she manages to have fun no matter what the situation, and when she hits a setback she bounces right up to try again. Finally, this rubs off on Seisa, and they have a great battle, crashing out of the pavilion, over rooftops, into the forest, then flying in the air (while Bimi exclaims that they’re breaking the laws of physics). Eruna is smiling throughout … and so is Seisa. And while there’s a little wrap-up time after that, it isn’t really necessary. You knew Seisa would join Eruna’s club, nothing else really mattered. I don’t need to say more about it, or about the show. Eruna’s positive idiocy redeemed Seisa, and most of the time, it redeemed the show as well. Well, the Drama Club helped.
Finally, Teekyuu! THE WORLD’S GREATEST ANIME SERIES EVER, UNLESS IT’S NASUNO DESU, finishes with a dismal SPG of 4.5. It felt almost leisurely. And only two of the girls were in it (doesn’t Nasuno have enough screentime with her own series? Is two minutes a week not enough for her?) But don’t worry! Season 5 is coming up!
Nisekoi 10 is a more sober affair than most episodes. Shuu has a crush on Kyoko, the homeroom teacher, but she announces she’s quitting to get married next month. So the question for Shuu, and Raku, is should he confess before she leaves, knowing it might complicate things, or carry the secret to his grave. As if he can’t fall in love again. Strangely, Raku asks Tsugumi her opinion and no one else. I kept waiting for complications to appear, conversations overheard or meanings misconstrued, but the show was determined to play this out straight. Shuu is such an annoying character that I didn’t really care too much, and seeing him sad and contemplative didn’t change my opinion. I much rather liked the Raku/Tsugumi conversations because of her reaction to these personal though theoretical questions.
Show by Rock 11 gets us to the big showdown, part one. Most of the episode was spent getting everyone fired up, wondering where Mr. Berry was, Grateful King’s new but as yet unheard song, and meeting all the acts we’ve met before. Necessary, but I sort of hoped that they would polish off the series this week and spent less time with it. As for the big attack, there was still mystery about how it would be done. Sending one monster out so that Darudayu could fight it was a tad predictable, but having that girl from Critacrista inside the monster, scared as hell, was an unexpected thing. Of course it meant that next week we’ll have a lot of scenes where the good guys can’t figure out how to fight it and get their butts kicked for a while …
All I get out of Hibike! Euphonium 11 is “what a rotten way to run an audition.” Okay, not true. It’s just that we have both Kaori and Reina performing in front of each other, in front of the entire band. In this situation, the question is no longer “who plays the part better?” but “which girl do you prefer?” What’s more, the judges are just as exposed as the contestants are. A couple of them, Yuko and Kumiko, aren’t afraid to be in that position, applauding for their friend, but the rest of them are too afraid to clap for anybody. What a miserable situation to be in, for everyone except Taki, who doesn’t seem to care.
But it led to a nice outcome, unexpected until a moment later. Kaori gets a few golf claps more than Reina and is asked to do the solos, but she refuses, saying Reina should do it. It was the closure Kaori needed. She had the solos but could choose whether to accept it or not. Because Kaori is a decent, reasonable person who wants the best for the band, she hands the parts to Reina. No one has any right to complain now.
Elsewhere, we get an odd comparison between Kaori/Yuko and Reina/Kumiko, girls and the girls who worship them. I don’t know if Yuko’s really figured her feelings out for Kaori, and I’m not sure about Kumiko, but it appears she might actually have feelings for Reina, who has feelings for Taki, in spite of that charged scene between them, the best scene of the episode in spite of all the audition drama. In fact, I wonder just how much Reina has feelings for Taki or for Kumiko or if she just doesn’t know or care.
In Show by Rock! 10, we learn that Chuchu has high ambitions, that she planned to use Plasmagica as a stepping stone on the way to being a star.
As we saw last week, Cyan has innocently begun to steal her limelight, and now she’s thinking of quitting. Dagger knows what’s up and immediately invites her to his offices, where he brainwashes her into thinking that she planned to use Plasmagica as a stepping stone, etc. Her eyes glowing red in that brainwashed way she goes back and tells the girls that she’s quitting, she had planned to use Plasmagica as a stepping stone, etc, but is snapped out of it when Cyan starts playing a song Chuchu wrote. Free of the brainwashing, Chuchu says she planned to use Plasmagica, etc etc, but will stay with them anyway. Oh, we also learn that the Grateful King is that shadowy kid, he’s trapped by Dagger, and he’s also the voice of Mr. Berry.
Sounds dumb, and some people might be disappointed that they didn’t carry Chuchu’s betrayal out farther, extend it to a couple of episodes, but I don’t think this show wants to get that heavy on us. Besides, Chuchu’s de-brainwashing is a lovely little moment. At one point, when the other girls play one of her songs, it turns to a major key while Mao and Retoree chant “Chuchu!” At that moment the show briefly changed into a musical from just another show that has music in it. A second or two, Chuchu is playing with them, frantically strumming, eyes closed, like she’s trying to drive something out of her (and the key is back to minor). Yes, very silly, but it reminds me that the silly anime shows can have great moments if you’re patient with them.
Also, it allowed Retoree to say the following:
We all know how disappointed Kaori was by the result, but she had accepted it and was continuing to practice hard. The dissent comes from Yuko, the long-haired girl we’ve often seen but not heard much of. In spite of Kaori’s entreaties, she accuses Taki of favoritism. He and Reina were acquainted before, you see. This puts everyone in a blue funk and many of the students start to mutter, until Taki decides to hold a second audition for whoever’s interested.
Not sure I would have handled it that way, but I suppose something needed to be done. But these kids ought to learn that there’s always going to be ridiculous rumors floating about in any place where people gather, be it a high school concert band or any modern company, and that 9/10ths of them are bullshit. Also, putting the solo trumpets in competition where the winner is by a show of hands is begging for another type of favoritism. Kaori is popular, Reina is not. It’ll make for interesting viewing, but I think it’s less fair than the audition they already had.
Takamiya Nasuno Desu! 9 is still in a slump (or is that Teekyuu?) with a SPG of 3.6. In the episode Nasuno gets kidnapped a lot and really ought to be dead each time, but you know Nasuno, or you don’t. The kidnappers have the best lines. Episode 10, with its school festival and lots of dorayaki, is hardly better with a 3.46 SPG, but at least she wasn’t getting kidnapped all the time.
Show by Rock! 9 finally brings us the battle of the bands, but not before another attempt at changing their image a little until Rom and the rest of Shingan Crimsonz, the most superficial band in the series, tells them they’re being superficial. Still, he’s right. They should let the music speak for itself, oh, and have fun. Meanwhile, Dagger and that guy in the booth have a meaningless chat, and Angelica goes off to get that trad band leader to let her speak to Grateful King, whoever that is. So it’s all sinister and dark beneath the girls’ smiles. Meanwhile Critacrista’s Rosia gets overly worried about losing this rematch, with, as it turns out, good reason (but why was she the only one to know what would happen?). And so the big final story arc begins in earnest. I just wonder what other little plot bombs they’ve tossed around are going to explode. Chuchu’s bad vibes for sure; that’s probably next week. We still have the missing Mr. Berry and that kid in the booth to work out as well, or will they downplay some of it in the end like Aion’s non-story last week? Who knows with this show?
In Hibike! Euphonium 9 we get to the auditions, and while I can’t say the show stretched out the waiting and practicing the past few episodes (it had other bits of drama to play with), it’s about time. The audition scenes themselves were mercifully brief, with just enough scenes of students breathlessly stressing out, and Kumiko’s audition was nicely handled. She plays that bit we’ve heard all the euphs play, is asked to play another bit, briefly panics, but then the camera pulls out and peers through the window while we get her voice-over talking about not really knowing how long it all took. Moments like that can be so intense for the person that they really don’t remember much.
While not prepping for auditions they work a bit with Katou’s rejection in a perfectly normal, sane fashion. Most of the real story happens at the end, where the 55 members are announced. I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised that Katou didn’t make it (two rejections in two episodes!)–she is a beginner, but somehow, I was. I’m sadder about Natsuki, because it looked like she finally had something to play for. Reina getting first chair was no surprise, but it has a big effect on Kaori. And so, a brief scene at the end of the episode gives us plenty of emotional story-fodder for the next couple weeks.
Teekyuu 45 turned into the Nasuno Desu! for a week, as it was only Nasuno and Yota, and a soccer match including a baseball umpire and a zebra. SPG of 3.33, a nice rebound after last week’s dismal showing.
DanMachi 8 feels like a story arc ending, but we weren’t really in one, were we? But then I realized that all that getting beaten up by Aiz and moaning about how he isn’t getting stronger was a personal arc for bell, preparing him for his big success against that minotaur. It works fairly well I hadn’t expected that level-upped minotaur to appear for another episode or two, and during the fight we got to see Bell going through stages. First, run away, second let Lili escape, third, survive … When Aiz’s gang showed up the same thought went through my head as Bell;s: Oh, shit, is he going to get rescued again? Bete became sort of a barometer: when he put Bell down you knew the story or maybe the battle wasn’t over, but when he shut his trap you knew Bell was going to win. As for Bell, the stages kept coming, from survival mode to a sort of black rage, almost frightening to watch. Well, it shut up Bete. But I have a question: was his victory because of his great desire to get stronger, or because he rather unfairly levels up higher than most people do?
Last week’s Show by Rock! gave us Shingan Crimsonz acquitting themselves well against a dark monster, and possibly the opinions of those who’d rather the show focus more on Plasmagica. Well, this week they spent even more time with SC and it went nowhere. It was hinted that the dark monsters grow in the darkness in performers’ hearts, and that Aion (the one with the hand in his face all the time) was a potential victim. He quits the band and the others go and look for him. Meanwhile, we’re all waiting for him to transform into something completely evil, you know, what the story was promising, but instead he gets a few punches from Rom and an apology from Crow and rejoins the band … and that’s it. No dark monster, no nothing. As for Plasmagica, they challenged Critacrista simply to do a live concert so they can get into a bigger contest, but didn’t that first band battle count? Anyway, now we’re waiting for whatever Rosia’s evil about to move the story, unless the series craps out again.
Hibike! Euphonium 8 is a sweet, dreamlike episode about a love triangle, and it looks straightforward until we get to the later part.
Let’s see, Katou digs Shuuichi, who may or may not like Kumiko, who doesn’t appear to be interested in anybody, so it’s not really a triangle, more like a string. The opening scenes are full of Sapphire trying to get Katou to admit her crush and then act on it, while Kumiko tries to stay out of the way, even after Suuichi asks HER out (all to the Agata festival, BTW), so she snags Reina’s hand and says she’s going with her. At the festival, Katou confesses (Bravo!), gets gently shot down, and so declares that she’ll help him get Kumiko from the sidelines. Not sure he’s up for that or not. They haven’t given us any of Kumiko and Suuichi’s history, but we can guess it isn’t entirely pleasant.
Typical high school love stuff, nicely handled, but what takes farther is Reina dragging Kumiko (and her euph) up a mountain to play a duet. This is almost a romantic scene, I expect shippers will like it. During the climb and at the top Reina talks about Kumiko’s “terrible personality,” and how she likes it, how she wants to be special and to do things that other people wouldn’t (like climbing a mountain to play a duet). Kumiko mainly listens and adds commonsense lines. And in the end they play a duet, maybe reaffirming their friendship from before, as the credits roll. Like I said: sweet and almost romantic. So maybe Kumiko’s place in the love string is toward Reina, who seems to accept it in some way.
Teekyuu! 44 features only Kanae as she visits her grandmother. Maybe because she didn’t have the other girls’ speedy mouths to support her, the episode has a wretched SPG of 5.29. Very disappointing, especially when Nasuno has no trouble keeping the gags in her spinoff show racing along. Tsk.