Houkago no Pleiades ends sweetly, and as expected, it’s confusing .
The girls, reunited, make a last jump to catch the last bit of engine only to find it’s in a black hole! Well, they’ve done every other cool astronomical thing out there, I guess this is the way to top it. But they don’t go in. First Suburu has to convince Minato (who’s already charging in, totally fine with whatever happens) to drop his self-destructive tendencies and help them out, by kissing him, then they use the almost-repaired ship to make a singularity of their own, six of them, actually, to suck the black hole’s contents out.
Then we get some revelations: the Alien Overlord is actually that kid who helped Minato, only he’s lost his memories or something. Also, he intends to use the black hole to help find potential for all those little rocks. It’s bye-bye after that and the girls find themselves on Earth at the beginning of potentiality. They can choose their own potentials, and naturally choose to stay the same. Then they’re all back in our time, but they’ve lost all their memories of what happened and have to meet again. Why? The show doesn’t explain. Doesn’t matter, they meet up soon enough …
Seems rather cruel to Minato, something he even mentions. He’s back in IC and Suburu’s forgotten all about him. Maybe they’re angling for a second season. I could also point at a number of ridiculous things about the, er, physics of the whole thing (like that tree of potentiality), but they make the point that when physics can’t explain it, it’s magic, a convenient way to pretend to be scientifically accurate until the plot needs pushing or they want to play Claire de Lune again. Never mind, the goofy tour of the galaxy and beyond was part of the show’s fun and help balance out the more mundane tale of friendship and change they were trying to tell. Though the idea of taking up and using lost rocks of potential worked well as a plot device and a metaphor. All in all, a cute show about friendship and change with cosmic overtones. Let’s see if they do another season and get Minato’s story straightened out …
The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan 13 is not a finale, but it would have been fine if it had been. In it, the interim Yuki continues to see fragments of the real Yuki’s past, and there’s that love thing to deal with. She realizes that, whether she wants to or not, she’s slipping away, and the next time she falls asleep, she’ll be gone and the real Yuki will return. There’s a sad, fatalistic feeling to the entire episode which intensifies when she decides, before she can slip away completely, to tell Kyon how she feels about him. It’s a beautiful death scene except Yuki lives, so it spares us the inconvenience of weeping. Sad to say, nothing against the regular (for this series) Yuki but I rather prefer the interim, laconic, book-reading Yuki. Maybe it’s because of the source material. I’ll also miss the quiet mood the past three episodes have had and rather dread seeing Haruhi barge in shouting again.
Finally, Takamiya Nasuno Desu! finishes up with a revolving sushi episode and a SPG of 3.1, much better than Teekyuu’s. But there’s no indication that the show is returning! Flow my tears …
Houkago no Pleiades 11 is a pleasantly confusing as the episodes leading up to it.
The main confusion this time around is the concept of change. Suburu, now powerless and unable to see the alien overlord thanks to her adventure with Minato, is told by her parents that she’s changed, though she denies it. I’ll take this to mean she’s grown up a little. But she’s not very happy about it, since her friends are off chasing the final machine fragment (using “dark energy!”) and she can’t help them. Meanwhile, getting that last fragment might be impossible because the universe, tilted in their favor because of their magic, keeps pushing the fragment farther away, which is to say they actually don’t want to stop being magical girls and chase fragments. That is, until the girls realize this but decide (for Earth’s sake) to keep chasing it, no matter what. At which point the fragment becomes visible.
That all makes sense. But then earthbound Suburu starts noticing little things that suggest the missing Minato is still around. A flower in the weeds, the vending machine offering strawberry milk again. A classmate vaguely remembers him. This leads to her eventually opening the right door and poof! (well, actually a whoosh), she’s in Minato’s IC room. There’s some business with two stars, and then both of them are in space, with the hospital bed, though Minato is doing much better, with new, “different” magic powers and a black outfit. Then the other girls comically show up, vanish, then come back. So if she’s changed and has abandoned some potential, unused, what’s she doing now? Or Minato, for that matter? By the way, his goals haven’t changed; he’s still after the fragment. Next week’s finale is going to be interesting.
Mikagura Gakuen Kumikyoku 11 gives us a lot of backstory and the rising threat. The midterm battles we see are mere asides.
The first part, the love triangle, is pretty straightforward. Seisa feels, not betrayed, but jealous of Eruna and Otone. The betrayal came two years earlier, when her BFF, a girl from the photography club, turned on her, and so we get to see those unpleasant scenes that opened the series over again. I thought before that this show would involve Seisa learning to love and trust again, and while that still might be true, we now know it’s more complicated than that. She’s in the photography girl’s position now, with a younger girl who loves and admires her. But she doesn’t have the malice that her upperclassman did, or the desire to fight. She does, however, have the painful memories, and there’s the fact that she used her magic to seal off the photography clubroom, suggesting that she can’t face the past but is unwilling to let it go either. … But the magic is waning now.
So is everything at the school that Eruna lives in an alternate universe? Are the people here just not from the same world that Seisa came from? That doesn’t sound right. Either way, we now learn what those strange gaps Usamaru saw last week are–gaps into Seisa’s original world. Eruna wanders into one, leaving Otone behind, and is stuck in the old photography room with Bimi, who tells her the whole story. Why he didn’t tell her before I don’t know. Meanwhile, Shigure and Kyouma have a midterm battle though they both know something’s wrong. It’s an odd distraction and it didn’t make sense given the characters, especially Shigure. Looking forward to seeing what will happen now that reality’s crashing into this world.
The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan 11: the Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan part 3, casts such a lovely, quiet spell that I wish this current Yuki-chan didn’t have to go away eventually.
It’s not just the quiet library scenes with the piano music (Debussy?), though it certainly helps. I never cared for the fact that this Yuki normally enjoys games and not books. The original Yuki’s, dare I say, passion for reading was one of her most charming traits, and it felt wrong for her to go around with a portable Playstation in her hand. And it gave us another reference to the original series, when she entered the library and floated down the aisles … and finds “Hyperion.” Not to mention the library card, which Kyon got for her before. All that was missing was that adorable moment when he led her out of the library.
Those are good reasons for liking the episode, but what put it over the top was the searching Yuki was doing inside herself. The current her is afraid of going away when the other Yuki awakens. If it happens like that (and her “I don’t have enough data” was something the original Yuki would have said). Since she is Yuki’s consciousness at the moment it’s a genuinely frightening thought. It leads to a couple of dreams where she’s watching scenes of her and Kyon together from earlier, but standing apart from them, and there’s also an older-looking Yuki from the future, or maybe I’m mistaken. The tone throughout all this is still quiet, but the dreams, especially when the memories come of reaching up (to the stars, and for a book), seem to trigger a fundamental shift in her consciousness. It’s no doubt her subconsciousness doing basic repair work, like the doctor suggested, but it’s beautifully shown in this episode. … By the way, what was that “Alyosha … that feeling” text refer to? Is it a reference I missed?
Mikagura Gakuen Kumikyoku 10 brings the Otone/Seisa rivalry to a head, and at the same we start seeing glowing things. About the latter, it looked like the ghost tracking story was just a flimsy plot thing to goof around with while Otone and Seisa squared off, but apparently there is something going on because we see it, Usamaru sees it, and later Bimi, and we haven’t seen the latter since. I’m betting it’s all to do with Bimi’s transformation equipment acting up. As for the Otone/Seisa fight, I think I understand Otone’s reasoning. She can’t get into Eruna’s heart because Seisa is already there; what’s more, Seisa doesn’t seem to care. How fighting Seisa is going to change any of this I don’t know, unless Otone just can’t control her frustration. As for Seisa, why the hell isn’t she at least defending herself? Maybe she can’t? Anyway, I bet that in next week’s first scene Otone will get very angry, give a big speech, and run off in tears.
As for Houkago no Pleiades, it’s hard to get emotionally moved when I can’t figure out what the hell is going on.
Those fragments either restore Minato’s memories or remove the good ones, either way, he rushes off with them to await the twelth star, and our girls can’t all go and chase him because their powers have been weakened, so they jury-rig their brooms and Suburu goes off alone. Meanwhile, we’re treated to Minato’s lengthy flashback to the hospital, where ANOTHER alien shows up, befriends him, and they’re soon off collecting fragments of unused potential, or something like that. That’s around the time Suburu wanders into Minato’s hospital room. But then he learns he’s actually in intensive care, and he decides to get fragments (the new kid’s or the alien overlord’s? Or is it the same?) to leave this world, world being a relative term here, along with the unused potential, since he feels akin to them. Correct me if I’m wrong … no, don’t.
The weird thing, well, one of many, is that Suburu had met him before, she remembers it, so she’s not a fantasy or a hallucination, and neither was the hospital room scene, even though the illusion of a healthy Minato started when he met the alien, before that. And the show doesn’t explain why we have two Minatos, or what happened to IC Minato. Dead? Did he become the gardening Minato? Anyway, Suburu forces the issue by telling him she remembers last week’s traipse around the galaxy, which should make him happy but doesn’t, and then starts un-magicking herself for no reason I can figure out except to force him to rescue her, just to get skewered by the spiked final fragment. I think it’s supposed to be a moment of great symbolism or at last great emotional power, but, as I said, everything leading up to it was so bewildering it just made me go Hah? Oh, and what about that alien we met this week? Whatever happened to him? Does the show care?
The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan brings us the new Yuki from her own, differing POV. As usual there are Melancholy overtones here. I half-believed that we had the original Yuki, in a crisis of her own, somehow stumbling her way into an alternate dimension and inhabiting, er, herself. Except she has no memories of anything else. Or maybe it’s because this different Yuki-consciousness talks about being an outsider in Yuki’s body, the way the original Yuki might have felt, being an organic interface.
And very little happens, except that Yuki freely explains her inner confusion to Asakura, and the doctor thinks there’s nothing life-threatening going on. Still, it’s a calm and restful episode, and very sweet. The new Yuki wants to be treated as Yuki (who’s to say she’s not?), and Asakura, her best friend, accedes to her wishes. Naturally, so does Kyon, especially after he discovers that she can explain math a lot better now. They refuse to be put off by the new Yuki, and because of that she loses some of her fear of the situation. Watching two of them dote on and worry about Yuki was maybe the best thing in the episode, besides the usual and aforementioned overtones.
So the situation currently in Mikagura Gakuen Kumikyoku is that Eruna needs one more member to form a club, but just can’t get one. Midway through, we find out that the only other member, Otone, being something of a celebrity, has attracted interested people, but she has driven them away. When Eruna sees this and asks why, Otone says she doesn’t want others getting in the way of their friendship, because Eruna is the only fried she has. Eruna, who is a blithering idiot but perceptive at important moments, doesn’t state the obvious, that more members means more potential friends for Otone. Instead, she simply announces she won’t recruit more members … but that means she can’t have a club. Not that she seems to realize this. There’s a meaningless fight with a newspaper club girl over a potential clubroom which is there primarily to show how close Otone and Eruna have become, and then the matter is sneakily solved by Bimi, but I don’t know why Eruna doesn’t simply invite Seisa (who’s jealous and lonely) to join. Or just join the drama club. Every time she does stuff with them she has a blast. Well, I do find Eruna’s indifference to reality and her kindness rather appealing, not to mention her dirty mind.
It looked at first like Houkago no Pleiades 9 was going to ignore the cosmic mind-messing for once. It’s festival time and the girls decide that since they’re technically a cosplay club, maybe they ought to make some costumes, while Suburu decides to make a planetarium for her one-person club, with Minato helping as a favor. The thought of Suburu and Minato together in a dark room sets the other girls into a tizzy. Nope, no interplanetary trips today … So I thought.
Turns out Minato is a magician of sorts, and he decides to take stargazing Suburu out on a trip even farther than last week. They start at Betelgeuse. They’re just floating there. Minato acts as an intergalactic (yes, intergalactic) tour guide and gives us and Suburu a talk about what she’s seeing, just like Suburu did before, when she was practicing for her planetarium demo. How did they get there? Well, Minato’s a magician, and at the moment they’re not in their old time and space, or the new one, either, and, by the way, they won’t be able to remember any of this because of the speed of light or something, didn’t catch that bit. This brings up a “Is it worth seeing something if you won’t remember it?” question, But before they can discuss that potentially interesting or boring topic, Suburu recalls a childhood memory about meeting a boy in the hospital … guess who? They’re at the Pleiades now, by the way, the perfect time to steal a kiss, but the scene fades out and they’re back in the astronomy club room, Suburu crying, and she doesn’t know why. It was a sweet and lovely scene, not to mention Pleiades-worthy nutty, and so I’m saddened by the bit after that, when the fragments act up and Minato does a heel turn. Well, it was going to happen sooner or later.
The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan 10 is a, dare I say, melancholy affair.
It deals with the aftermath of the car accident, which turns out to be not even serious enough to take Yuki to the hospital, in spite of Asakura’s pleadings. Instead, Yuki’s personality is transformed into the “original,” laconic, monotone Yuki we knew long ago. For us looking for references to the original show it’s almost a breakthrough, but for this current universe the characters live in it’s a problem. It’s also a problem for us because a monotone Yuki isn’t as much fun when she doesn’t have the power to change reality, change game programs on the fly, instantly learn the guitar, etc.
So we get an episode where Asakura repeatedly checks on Yuki, asking if she’s all right, and getting the same “I’m fine,” in return. Then Yuki is handed over to Kyon, and the situation is repeated, all while pleasant but vaguely unsettling background music plays. This “new” Yuki doesn’t play games, but instead reads, but she doesn’t read Dan Simmons but old French mysteries. I’ trying to figure out if that’s random or supposed to mean something. But we finally get a break at the end when Asakura decides, daijoubus aside, something is not right with Yuki. By the way, next week the episode title is in fact the series title, if you were wondering what the disappearance in this story referred to. Maybe it should be called the “reappearance.” … Nah.
I wonder if Mikagura Gakuen Kumikyoku is going to have a major story arc after all. True, in episode 8 they start setting up a rivalry between Seisa and Otone, and there’s some darkness lurking elsewhere as well, but it all seems rather minor and disposable, like the rookie challenge battle arc which was over before we expected. Not that the show really needs something big, or dark. This time around is rather a sweet story where Eruna and Otone bond a little when they’re paired up for the rookie treasure hunt. It’s better than some because it’s as silly as the rest of the series so far. Otone is rough on the outside but it’s such an obvious act that everyone just wants to give her a hug, while Eruna is her normal, weird self. Once again, most of the jokes work because of the latter, and they add some WTF near the end, with that robot cat transforming. Where did THAT come from?
Houkago no Pleiades 8 gives us a look at Nanako, the one with the cute hat who interprets for the alien overlord. Her tale isn’t terribly tragic. Her mom and younger brother went off to travel the world several times for reasons that I suppose don’t matter, and they haven’t been back for years, a broken promise that makes her believe that people can’t be trusted and that it’s best to be alone. Rather like Otone, except that Nanako seems to bear the sadness better. Witch hat and robe aside, she’s maybe the most sensible character of the bunch. Plus, her missing mom and brother send her a lot of mail and little souvenirs, and her father clearly loves her, so she’s not in a vacuum.
So it’s all mundane, except this is Houkago no Pleiades, so they balance her sadness with its trademark loopiness. She sets off alone to recover a fragment on the edges of the solar system. She travels at 99.999% of the speed of light! Half a day for her, three months for her friends on Earth, but she will call them over when the time comes. She spends the time thinking how it’s best when she’s alone, then starts to think about her friends, gets a little bitter, until she gets there and finds an unknown gas giant! What’s more, the fragment’s passing near it forces its gravity to collapse, or something, and now we’re going to have a second star in the solar system! Oh, and she calls her friends, Horned Cape shows up, they catch the fragment, they return home instantly (because someone really wanted to, we’re told), and it’s Nanako’s birthday, too! AND they invent a new word (po-warm) for no good reason. For piling random points onto the plot and its already-cosmic weirdness, this show has no equal, at least this season.
Mikagura Gakuen Kumikyoku 7 introduces Otone, the girl who ruthlessly defeats Asuhi in the rookie finals. A monotone girl who seems cruelly indifferent to everything and everyone, turns out she’s a flake, and a bigger one than Eruna. Eruna has the attention span of a gnat, but the motivations behind these swings are easily grasped, usually lust, concern for friends, food, and lust. But with Otone, we don’t know how her mind works, and she doesn’t either. In her conversation with Eruna she laments her shyness, accuses Eruna of being a demon, and praises herself for growing up into a girl whom demons would go for, then thanks her late mother for it. Even Eruna thinks she’s weird. But does the show need another really weird character with a short attention span?
Because this show is often as weird as the characters, once it introduces Otone it forgets about her while the gang prepare a “cheer up Arushi” party, which thanks to misplaced notes, Eruna believes is a challenge to fight, even though she thought up the party herself. And so we almost get a fight this week (loved Minatogawa’s “uh, okay, whatever” reaction), but the right people intervene by showing up, and we get a totally predictable party scene, the only spice being Otone’s odd comment to Seisa at the end.
Nagato Yuki-chan 8 continues the mostly uneventful, almost lazy expedition to the hot spring. About the only notable thing is Koizumi coming on to Kyon in the bath, giving us the “you’re too close” line. In other references, Koizumi wants to play that game, Mikuru sings one of her character songs in karaoke, and there’s that chauffeur. Like the last episode, the events move slowly and are playful and a little dull: the hot spring, ping pong, the dinner, all the traditional traditional inn scenes. Oh, the bath has a little “matchmaking” so that girls can peek at the boys, which leads to some moments of embarrassment even though no one uses it much. The episode pays as much attention to Kyon as to Yuki (who’s too blissed out by the inn’s offerings to do anything dramatic except try that little door once), which is a good thing.
More weirdness from Houkado no Pleiades 7. First, Suburu takes up gardening, maybe because of the greenhouse that only she can visit and doesn’t seem tobe around anymore. However, there is a new student, instantly recognizable as Minato, also tending the plants, though he doesn’t appear to recognize her. In the meantime, Aoi tries to find out what’s been up with Suburu recently and suddenly runs off, cursing herself for not changing. I don’t really understand, but apparently the two girls have had another falling out. And flashbacks to the girls in elementary school trying to find a Ursa Minor keychain that Suburu lost, and which contradict each other … But never mind, there’s another fragment to catch. This one is in a comet! Heading into the SUN!!
The alien overlord tries to conjecture how the fragment got in a comet, and all we really get is that it became one when it got coated with ice. Not in any astronomy textbook I know, but never mind. Soon the girls are trying to reel the thing in while avoiding solar flares and Horned Cape, and settle their latest, highly confusing dispute. They both agree that they didn’t hold each other back, or leave each other behind, and later we see that there are two keychains, one from each reality, I suppose, though why did Suburu give Aoi the keychain in one reality and not the other? Finally, Minato recognizes Suburu after she tells him that he is him. You see, “Suburu is Suburu and Aoi is Aoi no matter what” was the main thrust of the girls reconciliation, so it makes sense. When something makes sense in this show, you have to take note of it.
Finally, in Takamiya Nasuno Desu! 7, Nasuno, Yota, and whats-her-name go to a pretty crappy amusement park. It had a couple of slow, no-gag moments, but rallied for a SPG of 3.33, better than Teekyuu’s this week!
Houkago no Pleiades 6 felt at times like a season finale. For a while I thought maybe this was actually a six-episode mini-series, but no, there’s still more engine fragments to collect, but elsewhere much has changed. Basically, Horned Cape or whatever he’s called (we learn this week it’s not Minato) sends off one of his fragments for the girls to collect, thus finding out where they operate so he can steal the ones they have. Meanwhile, the spaceship is reforming, or something. Basically it’s a big gold arc in the sky, while the part of the engine the boss has rebuilt looks like a cube made of glowing tinker toys. And before you know it …
It’s hard to explain because I don’t understand it. The school is sealed off by HC with Suburu inside, and then it’s floating in space and HC is trying to bust in, and the spaceship is reforming … Well, the big surprise this week is that, as I said, Minato is NOT Horned Cape. HC stumbles into the observatory and he’s just as surprised as Suburu was. And later, after this week’s cosmic light show, Minato and HC have a little talk about it being time to leave, we don’t see them on the screen together, so they probably are fragments of the ship, or maybe just split in two, or something. Getting them together will probably be a focus for the rest of the series, as well as obtaining those remaining engine parts. Oh, and the observatory is no longer a greenhouse, well it is, but it’s night there now and the trees are dead. Before, everything bloomed, even though Minato said they couldn’t, which harkens back to the alien’s speech about stopping time. My head hurts.
Meanwhile, in The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan … very little happens at all. The gang go on a trip to an inn, well, they’re not there yet. They’re too busy hanging sightseeing in Nagano for the time being. And that’s pretty much the episode. They catch the train. They go here, they go there, they buy soba, buns, ice cream, and shaved ice, they buy wooden swords with massage rollers attached (well, Mikaru does). Stuff about power spots in shrines. Oh, there’s the business of trying to get Yuki and Kyon together, but the show doesn’t try too hard to play that up, and only Asakura is really concerned about it. The episode is, overall, pleasant apart from the slow pacing. Once again the show takes too much time with reaction bits, or simply ending a scene. That meeting scene at the train station was far longer than it needed to be, though I admit I enjoyed the idea that Kyon’s imouto was in that bag.
DanMachi 7 is little more than filler and some prep work for the next arc, which apparently has to with an adventurer who goes and finds a monster–and trains it to be even nastier. We cut to several of these scenes, which are all pretty much the same, until the final bit when the monster starts going after other, more hapless adventurers. In the meantime, Liliruca is introduced to the Hestia Familia, which is to say, Hestia, who is necessarily dubious about this new threat. Meanwhile, Bell gets repeatedly beaten, er, trained in fighting, by Aiz. I wonder if this is actually part of his fantasy, to have the girl of his dreams kick his ass every night. Well, at least he’s getting over his fear of her.
Nisekoi 2 6 is the inevitable Valentines Day episode (Didn’t they do one already? I can’t remember), and while it had some good moments I kept thinking the gods of comedy must have been taking a week off. There was so much potential for misunderstandings and running around, especially when Shu lied to Tsugumi about what the chocolates implied, but they didn’t follow through and make things as crazy as they could have. Well, it had some sweet moments. Raku actually gets chocolates from all the girls in the end. Chitoge and Onodera work together to make theirs (wait, didn’t Chitoge already make some?) and pledge to support each other in their quest for the people they like, not knowing it’s the same person. Marika’s gift was good for a laugh, and Tsumugi got to whip out her guns. I’ve seen worse Valentines Day episodes.
Teekyuu! 42 continues the exciting beach adventure, where the girls get lost at sea and the gags come at an average of 3.21SPG. And that’s counting a slow couple of seconds where they’re attacked by natives. Very impressive, girls!