Shingeki no Kyojin ends with a hodgepodge of meanings dragging behind it. More than once we’re told that people who live safely behind walls don’t deserve freedom, which I guess was the point of the final battle between Big Eren and Big Annie, ripping each other’s body parts loose and crashing around the safest place of the city, killing off hundreds of people who I guess don’t deserve freedom, including that bloody, crying little girl, who probably doesn’t even know what’s going on. As Armin says at one point, it’s complicated. You have Erwin, who in the end doesn’t seem to care about the lives lost, feeling it’s necessary for mankind’s survival, but not saying why. Levi, who’s seen many friends and comrades die, might be the voice of conscience, but most of the time he just says “I hope you’re right,” and nothing else. The show makes pains to show how inept those who hide behind that inner wall are, but gives us no reason for why their lives are thus less valuable than any others.
So let’s move on to the fight. It was better than I had feared. At first it looked like Annie, with her superior fighting ability, would win again, but Armin lets his blinding rage take control and becomes a mad flaming beast. It’s crazed, bloody action (especially with all the civilians getting squished) and it comes to a fitting conclusion when Mikasa stops Annie from climbing the wall and Levi stops Eren from eating Annie. The little guys on wires manage to get something done. After that it’s a letdown, all speeches about mankind, becoming monstrous to destroy monsters, and the philosophizing noted above. And in the end mankind doesn’t seem any better off than they were before. No matter. That’s not why the series has become a hit. It’s because it’s full of action, and it’s monstrous. The former was very well done and made up for the occasional artistic lapse, and the latter caught the audience’s imagination. Of course there will be a second series. The only question is when.
The Toaru Kagaku no Railgun S finale had to do two things. It had to top, or at least match, the terrific first season finale, and it had to somehow make this final story arc compelling. One out of two …
The battle was just as exciting and nutty as I had hoped. It was also messy. There were tides turning throughout but most of them were forgotten in a minute. The bad guys jam the good guys’ signals? Is that so bad? Their enemies are right in front of them. And when friends arrive with reinforcements, well, that’s good, but it doesn’t seem to matter much. Just keep smashing things. With continuity issues, for me at least, the Index franchise can get away with almost anything. And, of course, everyone shows up at just the right time, says a line or two, and proceeds to kick ass while the techno score thumps on. I frankly hadn’t expected Mugino and her pals to appear, and when they did, I was delighted to see that they had their own agenda for being there. About the only ones that don’t show up are Accelerator and Touma.
There are too many great moments and lines delivered during the battle, so I won’t list them. It was great fun, and topped by Misaka doing the railgun thing–IN SPACE! And everyone ends up smiling. Let’s turn to the things you realize after all the craziness didn’t work, or at least left you scratching your head. The worst thing is this entire story arc. This bad guy organization was the dullest on record, a bunch of smirking bespectacled esper wannabees that I couldn’t care less about. Febri was just a cute little girl in danger, and we never really meet Janie, though we see her near the end, out of her pod, happily chatting with Febri. Those filaments were never really explained. And that entire missile business was confusing; I never understood what what going on (but nice touch using the sisters to help solve the problem, since they didn’t participate in the battle and I was just beginning to wonder where they were). And don’t get me started on Misaka’s speech to Aritomi, or that fact that it seemed to have an effect on him. Saten summed it up better when her robot was beating up a bad robot after the pilot had cursed all the espers: “Just so you know, I’m level zero!”
But who the hell really cares? The show promised us a big battle and it delivered, it used all the characters well and gave them moments to shine. And if a lot of it was confusing, or just over-the-top crazy, well, that’s one of the reasons we like it. Railgun (and Index) knows how absurd it is, doesn’t care, and occasionally, thanks to the Sisters’ pithy lines, winks at you about it all before going back to the bizarre, endearing characters and wild action. I miss it already.
Toaru Kagaku no Railgun S 23 is an episode of long talks that I suppose were necessary before we get to the big battle next week.
The first, inevitably, comes from Aritomi, one of those smirking speeches bad guys give that give away just about everything, along with some twisted logic involving espers and normal people. While we need to hear his motivations, it comes as no surprise that his are rather predictable, and not new to this show. Normal people are ignored in favor of espers, etc. In the four seasons this franchise has had, we’ve explored this no doubt legitimate problem from every angle, so it’s become tiresome. Anyway, he’s going to start a revolution at the conference tomorrow. Misaka and Shinobou listen to it and then have a talk of their own, where the other old Railgun chestnut “I have to fix this on my own,” is held up and destroyed by Misaka, who knows better.
Then we get the next talk, back at Judgement headquarters, and thankfully there are no more themes evoked apart from the “every smiling” image (However, we do switch to STUDY doing more gloating and using the “darkness” theme somewhere in there). Instead it’s one of those strategy talks where everyone is depressed for a while. They don’t know where Janie is, can’t get Anti-Skills to do anything because they’re compromised, and so on. So everyone makes a few phone calls, the smiling image is evoked, everyone cheers up, and we end with everyone set up and prepared for the human/robot showdown. Saten with her bat was a nice touch. So I can forgive all the talk we had this week, it all had to be said (even the stupid parts), and next week we get what we really want from the show, unless you’re in it entirely to watch Kuroko grope Misaka.
Watamote 11 is as close as this series gets to a happy episode. So happy that they stuck balloons on the closing credits. This comes after a girl in a dog suit gives Tomoko a balloon, and a hug. Now, I could add that before this the dog had been giving balloons and hugs to children, and so we come back to the thought that Tomoko is no more than an overgrown elementary-schooler, but sometimes everyone needs a hug. The girl in the suit was the school festival chairman, who had been running into Tomoko throughout the episode and seen her either moping or injured, and so borrowed the suit to give Tomoko a special gift. And so, for one of the few times in the series, a stranger does something nice to Tomoko because she needs it.
Normally, strangers, not to mention classmates and teachers, treat her with benign indifference. The same is true for the earlier parts of this episode. Her class is busy with their cosplay cafe plans but somehow doesn’t manage to include Tomoko in them. This is fine with Tomoko, it seems. School festival–bah! But we know her too well. She wants to be put to work, be part of a team, if only they’d remember she existed. On the other hand, they’re probably not sure how good a job she’d do, and their fears are confirmed when she injures herself with the box cutter. Otherwise she mopes a lot, gets sick, the usual. Until Yuu visits the festival and she realizes that she’s actually … having fun, and it’s because she’s doing things with a friend. Her problems are still there, but the goal has rarely been so obvious. Alas, she still has no way of fixing them, so it’s nice when a stranger in a dog suit gives her a balloon and a hug.
The big reveal in Shingeki no Kyojin 23 should come as no surprise, except to those of us who had forgotten who giantess is. The show’s had problems establishing characters from the start. Even after the opening scenes where we see her sympathizing with an overly zealous outer of corruption named Marlo while telling him that he’s a complete idiot, we’re still not sure why she does the things she does, just that she doesn’t like the corruption in the system. But after that, at least story-wise, the episode wasn’t bad. Armin’s plea to Annie suggested a different and just as logical turn of plot than what we got, which meant the buildup at the stairs was well-done because we weren’t sure what was going on. That said, we got questions, like how did Armin get permission to use Eren and Mikasa for this trap, what were those townspeople doing helping out, and again, why is she doing this?
Toaru Kagaku no Railgun 22 is again mostly talk, with a pointless action scene in the middle, and it raises more questions than answers. Judgement and Anti-Skills manage to find information on the head bad guy, Aritomi, when Kongou happens to spot his face on a database Uiharu had opened up, which is the way these two agencies tend to work. Mugino and her pals get a job to look into something and there’s nothing there, but they blow stuff up anyway, hence our action scene. Misaka mulls a lot over her conversation with Therestina, partly about clues but more often about that darkness image. And guinea pigs; that’s the new one. The questions involve those capsules with the hair in it, who hired ITEM to attack that old factory, why Shinobou, knowing that the information in that factory was bogus, went in there anyway. Well, that last question is more a question of plotting, not a story factor we’re supposed to consider. In the end, Shinobou and Misaka prove to be even stupider than Aritomi, actually believing he’ll give them the poison neutralization, especially Misaka letting herself get paralyzed, unless she has some trick up her sleeve. Yep, a lot of questions, some of them not the ones the show wants us to ask.
(Note to self: when writing about these two shows, stop mixing up the names Mikasa and Misaka.)
Two things stand out in Toaru Kagaku no Railgun S 21. One has to do with the show’s essential message, the other is just an annoying term.
It was an action-free episode where the girls get up and start working on the Febri situation. Misaka gets clues from a lot of different sources, things that Dr. Frog said, and Kongou, and even a Sister (who manages to guilt-trip Misaka as well), yet Misaka’s reaction to all this is to rescue Febri without involving the others, AGAIN. But this time, mainly thanks to Kongou of all people, the message about entrusting some of the work (and danger) to others finally gets through her thick skull, and when she does tell the girls they snap into action–and find nothing. I expected nothing less from them. On the other hand, it’s much more fun when everyone gets involved. Anti-Skills and Dr. Frog, however, help out as best they can.
The “annoying term” I referred to is “the darkness,” or alternately, “the underworld.” Twice Dr. Frog asks Misaka if she’s ready to get involved with such people. But I’m trying to remember a time when she WASN’T dealing with them. It seems like there’s more underworld in Academy City than world, as much fighting in dark buildings as there is walking in the sunshine. Those girls she fought earlier in the season, the people they worked for, who had also made a deal with Accelerator, and let’s not forget the entire first season. Don’t forget all those thugs the show coughs up whenever they need an easily-dispatched threat. So when Dr. Frog (who should know all this already) arranges a meeting with one of these mysterious underworld people I figured it had to be someone Misaka had already met. Delighted to say that I was right.
I expect the rest of the season to be just as insane as Therestina is.
Watamote 9 is a low-key affair, where we watch Tomoko mope through the rest of her summer vacation. Nothing hugely embarrassing happens to her this week, and she even gets a happy moment watching a meteor shower with a cat. She had wished to watch it with a boy, and she gets a boy cat, but she seems to appreciate the irony. Elsewhere, I have to admire her steely resolve when having to sort through old toys and stuff to see what to throw away, she recognizes most of it as junk and doesn’t give in to sentiment. I also respect how, when told to clean the bathroom, she buckles down and cleans it, which is more than I do …
Meanwhile, Teekyuu 21 continues the slump, with only one gag every six seconds! A couple of weeks ago they were down to three. Snap out of it, girls!
Monogatari Second Season 7 … I didn’t really think about it until now, but Araragi really IS a pervert.
The first thing he does when seeing Hanekawa as a child is chase her around. When he sees Mayoi, he flips her skirt, then chases HER around. The fact that she gets chased into the path of a speeding truck would have been a cruel irony to the story–Araragi, trying to save Mayoi, instead kills her himself–and it would have felt cheap as well. I was relieved when he winds up pushing her away, relieved when he safely escorts her to her mom’s place, yet worried because you then knew that the whammy would come after they returned to the present day (so they don’t even bother to make Shinobou’s ability to do that an issue). Worse, it looks like they’re taking the “City on the Edge of Forever” route, i.e., Araragi has to go back and make sure she dies.
I don’t really want to see that. Since they’re inventing (or borrowing) the rules of time for this arc, maybe they can bend them a little. And maybe they can make a decision about the pacing, as well. When this show is all talk I don’t mind because it’s part of the fun. But when there’s worrisome plot to be dealt with then and there (saving Mayoi, getting back), the talky bits become irritating. By the time they were talking about which way they should enter the time portal I was muttering “Get on with it!” Well, never mind. Most of the talk was to the point, though I wonder just how Araragi could so easily walk away from his young self, we had nice little visual moments like the street light metaphor, and the white cat that strolls by when Araragi talks about Hanekawa. The side bits (fondling or wishing to fondle small girls) mostly felt natural, because we already know that Araragi’s a pervert. And so is Shinobou, a little.
Meanwhile, on Toaru Kagaku no Railgun S 20, I continue to wonder just what the villains up to. Are they insane, or just incompetent?
We have that one guy in the field, attracting Kongou’s attention, blabbing sinister things into his cellphone loud enough for her and her friend to hear. We got the people in the dark, evil-looking meeting room saying inane things while Shinobou (today is Shinobou day!) sits and listens, possibly wondering how the hell she got roped in with these idiots. Meanwhile, their experiments continue. They’ve decided to target Misaka with a nasty construction thingy that Misaka probably would have wiped out in five seconds if she hadn’t been so surprised. The fact that neither device should even have power has attracted attention, and what’s-her-name from Anti-Skills has already found something suspicious. Meanwhile this group of smirking villains, constantly adjusting their glasses, giggle about cutting out the cameras and cell phones in the area, even as their latest “experiment” freezes up at the end. I’m betting on Shinobou causing that. She’s shown too much humanity before, and she’s too smart for these losers.
When they’re not distracted by Misaka being around, they’re apparently trying to kill Febri. We get a inkling of why from Dr. Frog at the very end. Otherwise, we spend most of the episode watching every character who gets within five feet of her become her personal servant, even Kongou. Speaking of whom, the arc is giving her more attention than usual. Nothing wrong with that, she’s earned the screentime. This time, Febri goes to an onsen, refuses to give up her pink frog finger-puppet to the point where Misaka just gives up, and faints with a fever after the second attempt on her life that day. Oh, and Misaka apparently has yet another sister.
I expected Shingeki no Kyojin 20 to push Eren into a corner, where he’d have no option but to transform, with a confrontation at the end of the episode (and a giant slugfest next week), but the show makes its own decisions. Eren is pretty much a bystander this week, someone to bounce philosophy and military ethics off of. Elsewhere, at the edge of the forest, Armin does the same (while Misaka says hardly anything and Sasha made me laugh again). Last week they made a big point of trusting your fellow soldiers and superior officers. This week they play with that point a little. Even Levi, loyal to the end, is beginning to wonder if Erwin’s big casualties are worth it. Armin actually has a big speech about how you don’t gain anything unless you’re willing to risk everything. Inspiring stuff, to be sure, but I note that Erwin is always standing in those trees watching other people get slaughtered.
After they’ve finished beating that concept into the ground, they get to have some fun with the giantess, whom I once again find myself rooting for. Even while restrained by hundreds of wires, she shows off a couple neat tricks, like calcifying her hands covering her nape so the soldiers can’t hack through them. Then, in an odd moment, Levi lands atop her head and talks about nasty things they’ll do to the person inside. The giantess responds by giving a series of dreadful screams, and the regular giants, milling outside the forest, charge in and eat her. So much for the Survey Corps’ plan. And we’re also back to the idea of abandoning everything, because the giantess just did. Were all the bodies worth it? Now we have a traitor in the ranks, as if the Survey Corps didn’t have enough trouble. You have to wonder when the cost of life will prove to be too much …
Genshiken Nidaime 8 features another lengthy scene between Hato and Madarame in the latter’s flat, except that this time Hato is dressed as a girl. I could compare and contrast the differences in the conversation between this and the first one, but to some it up, Madarame comes off as more or less the same: a friendly mentor type. It’s been a surprise and sort of a pleasure to watch the man grow up a little, still passionate about the same things, but with more experience under his belt. Early on we had some “He’s a guy! He’s a guy!” inner hysterics while the scene began to play out like an eroge game, but reality came back in after that. Madarame’s not stupid, and neither is the show. It simply likes to play with the contrast between fantasy vs. reality.
The conversation veers from innocent chat to wild fantasies to chat again, mainly because, even if Madarame seems more sure of himself these days, Hato, a college freshman, certainly doesn’t. At times it looked like he wanted to jump Madarame’s bones. At others, he’s trying to invent an elaborate BL scenario with Madarame, Kousaka, and maybe Saki. While this is mostly internal on Hato’s part, Madarame obviously knew what the lad was thinking, and it’s a sign of his maturity that he doesn’t overreact. As for Hato, Kousaka/Madarame fantasies notwithstanding, I think he’s falling in love with Madarame a little. It would explain why everything his senior does Hato believes to be reflection of his own sorry actions, such as his reaction to Madarame thinking of looking for another job. It might spice up later episodes.
Taoru Kagaku no Railgun S 19 is essentially a lost child episode, and I’ve seen better ones. They spend the entire show trying to figure out where Febri comes from, and each girl gets to bond with the little tot, including Kongou, who’s not part of the core team. The joke being, of course, that Misaka is the only one that Febri doesn’t seem to like. It takes a garbage robot drone attack, and Misaka’s rescue, to get Febri to change her mind. All terribly predictable. The only nice bit was Uiharu, still a bit lonely without Haruue around, getting to take her home. Nice of the show to give her the opportunity, unless the worst happens and Febri turns out to be some sort of living organic bomb, or worse. Meanwhile, the villains who are monitoring her don’t seem terribly threatening at the moment. That one guy didn’t even recognize Misaka until she wiped out the robots. All those sinister faces in that darkened room, and even Judgement seems to have more on the ball than them. Not a good sign for the bad guys.
Uchouten Kazoku 6 is an episode which is almost entirely talk, yet it wasn’t dull in the slightest. Good shows do that.
All we really learn from it is that Hotei is one of the people who ate Yasaburou’s father, and that’s not entirely a surprise. What is a surprise, a continuous surprise in this series, is Yasaburou’s calm reaction to the news, and the fact that he still sits and chats with Hotei, and later admits to his brother that he can’t find it in himself to dislike the man at all. Yajirou isn’t too shocked, either, but maybe that’s because of that zen-frog state he’s attaining for himself. One wonders what Yaichirou would do. Again, I’m speculating that it’s also a “reflection of their idiot blood,” which I’m coming to think means an acceptance that they aren’t the dominant species in the world.
Or maybe Yasaburou can understand Hotei’s joy of eating, the idea that eating delicious things is to enjoy life to the fullest, though Yasaburou does point out that this is a emotion only those at the top of the food chain can enjoy. Or that they share a love for Benten, despite the fact that she is probably a danger to both of them. Benten, meanwhile, takes them on a slow rooftop chase, then gets melancholy and vanishes among the trees (the prettiest sequence of the episode), later showing up at Yajirou’s well to cry at whatever. We get more speculation about why she’s so sad, loneliness, regret that she’s not really human, tengu, or tanuki? No answers of course. And so the episode goes, until it’s over and I didn’t realize so much time had passed. Like I said, good shows do that.
Toaru Kagaku no Railgun S 18 mixes more girly-bonding in with the the opening strokes of the new arc. The bonding (Banri finally gets released from the hospital and everyone celebrates) tries to make a small issue of her living with Haruue, who is moving out of Uiharu”s room, but none of the characters are having it. Uiharu’s just a little sad, is all. And they add a nice touch: Banri looks up to Uiharu for all the help she’s provided and wants to be more like her. It’s usually Uiharu looking up to Misaka or Kuroko. While it’s nice to see Uiharu appreciated, it’s a shame there are no levels unlocked, no skills boost.
The new arc is coming at us from two different angles. We got sinister people who mostly look alike (except for Shinobou, if that is indeed her, and the show is hinting that it is), that is, skinny, weedy, and smirking. They’re analyzing the performance of espers so they can beat them up or something. One of them interrupts Kongou after she stops a thug (possibly planted by the bad guys) to scold her on endangering the bystanders, don’t think you can just use your powers indiscriminately, young lady, etc. This reminds me a bit of the upper-level business last season, except less fun. The other part of the arc has to do with the loli named Febli, but she’s tucked in right at the end, so nothing to say about it yet. Oh, and there’s a academic conference going on, so that will be our arc’s setting. Time to get started, girls!