Finales: Mekaku, Kanojo Flag, also maybe the end of Mahouka for me

Mekaku City Actors ends (to my surprise–I thought it was a two-cours show) happily, though I still don’t know what the hell happened.

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So Marry, with the help of her friends, decides not to wish on a dream future, but instead face the real one alongside her friends, whom she was trying to save by making the wish. So if they’re all alive now, including Ayano, there’s no point of a wish in the first place, so why was she even considering it? If this is a dream world they all live in, doesn’t that mean, unless she changes it, the world will end? But there they all are, safe and sound, even Takane and Ayano. Takane seems to have taken Ene and her IT powers within her, to use when she wants, nice for her, incomprehensible to me, since I don’t know how she went about it. As for Ayano, god knows. And what about Tateyama? The real him claims that he’s been reunited with his wife, who is dead, so is he dead now too? That would be all right by me; I always liked the character, but if he’s happy, that’s great.

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Skimming through Wikipedia I see that there are countless side stories and alternate paths to this whole thing. Maybe they combined some of them, maybe this was a straight-ahead story in the franchise. Either way, it was often confusing as hell. Shaft likes confusing the audience, but in the end shows like the Monogatari series wind up making some kind of sense to me. With this one I said “huh?” a lot while enjoying the visuals. On the plus side, the show had those visual, the entire Shaft aesthetic, going for it. Also, the emotional situation made its way through. Forget the bizarre story. The kids were confused and vulnerable, trying to make their way through a situation they had no experience with. That part came through and gave the series a humanity that appealed to me. So, a mixed bag. I wonder if the show is selling enough for a sequel?

Actually a good visual moment.
Actually a good visual moment.

Kanojo ga Flag wo Oreratara is almost as confusing as Mekaku, but it’s much duller and not nearly as good to look at. We learn in the big flashback that Souta was going to die on that ship, along with all those girls and a few men in suits who were trying to help him, and Sacrament shows up and offers to save them if he takes on all their deaths and make his life miserable for the rest of his life. Of course he says yes, though, frankly, exchanging seven or so deaths with only one must break some law somewhere. Then, in the present day, he needs strength to defeat the Angelus Gemini boss (a cruise ship with tentacles, a halo and a glowing hood ornament), the girls all rush to his aid. So, okay, they forgot him but met him again in their future. But then when the day is saved, Souta learns from Number Zero, who’s actually another Bladefield, that they’ve been forced to forget him again … only they don’t. Nanami brings him flowers, and later Akane. Huh?

Too many girls to fit in the frame.
Too many girls to fit in the frame.

Well, nothing much in this show is worth examining for long. Bad harem shows have scenes where each girl has to say “Yes,” or something, in their own way, one by one (good harem shows manage to avoid this), and this episode, hell, this series had too much of that. The girls were mostly deadly dull except for Nanami, who at least had a temper, though I also liked the android. The dark side of the show could have made a good contrast to the silly side, but when the contrast wasn’t jarring it was laughable. And the silly side never really topped the first episode, when Akane started sprouting flags in her head, the moment I thought the show might not be so bad after all. Sadly …

If I DO drop this series, it's not because of Shizuku.
If I DO drop this series, it’s not because of Shizuku.

I haven’t decided whether to keep Mahouka when the new season begins and I have 10,000 new shows to peruse. I almost dropped it tonight after episode 13, except they finally got around to developing a few things, such as some bookmakers deciding to interfere, another jealous bloom, and the Third high school boys introducing themselves to Tatsuya and Miyuki. The plot might actually get going next week, that is, after watching Shizuku scoring 100 in the skeet shooting match that, I am told, doesn’t even require aiming, whats-her-name winning battle board by using magic to make the others fall into the water, which is apparently legal (you have to wonder why the other schools aren’t doing tricks like this), and Miyuki and Shizuku both winning icebreaker matches without breaking a sweat. And Tatsuya is, as usual, getting all the credit. There’s a point which I just get fed up, and the promise of an actual story next week may not be enough to keep me interested.

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Sidonia 11, Mahouka 12, Mekaku 11, Kanojo Flag 12

Knights of Sidonia 11 is almost nothing but battle, and since they’re not done yet, the episode feels inconclusive.

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We’ve seen just about everything before. I don’t mean that in a bad way. We’re used to the symbols they put up on the battle screens, the ships taking off, the launching of another giant pill, the pilot status screen which go red when a pilot buys it, and the course changes and catastrophic damage it causes (not so bad this time; I think everyone is more prepared). But this episode it’s all done on a much larger scale. The gauna they’re attacking is eight times the size of Sidonia, and it’s more of a massive hive than one particular beastie. So instead of one gauna firing organic higgs cannons, we have hundreds. Instead of one-on-one combat, the pilots work more like bombers in waves. And instead of a few deaths, we get over half of the fleet, and we’re not done yet. It’s really too much to show.

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Not that the series doesn’t try, and often succeed. The space battle scenes, and there are a lot of them this week, are the best yet, one brilliant, dazzling image after another, while that alien soundtrack (which I now officially love) working harder than ever. The story is well-told and clear. Platoon 2 is carpet-bombing the gauna propulsion area when, maybe one minute later, they’ve all been wiped out. Yuhata has to come up with counter-plans and balance the safety of the pilots with Sidonia, and she’s still quite young to be carrying this level of responsibility. Meanwhile the pilots weave and zoom and grunt and gasp within their own frames. The show is good at this, balancing the fighting with the strategizing, and it leads to, I hope, more of the same for the finale.

Yep.  Still happy you gave Yuhata your old job?
Yep. Still happy you gave Yuhata your old job?

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Mahouka 12 gets no better. It promises to when someone sabotages Mari’s surfing race, causing an opponent to lose control and then Mari when she tries to help, knocking both out of the competition. An interesting mystery that Tatsuya (after diagnosing Mari’s injuries and telling the paramedics what to do) solves, without the help of the people running the competition, except for how they did they did it in the first place, and who they are. Still, a promising start, and we all waited to see where the next trouble would appear, only it doesn’t. Tatsuya goes back to being engineer guy, designing a weapon for Shizuku’s skeet-shooting competition that, long-winded explanation apart, basically destroys everything in the field. She doesn’t even have to aim. And Miyuki has been tagged as Mari’s replacement in Battle-board. And that’s it, apart from more shots of people talking about Tatsuya.

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Mekaku City Actors 11 moves stories and times around so much that I don’t really know what is happening now. First we get some more background on the whole snake business, with some talk with Ayano and Kano and then Ayano, the snake, and Kano who comes in after it’s too late. Happily, the snake, inhabiting the dad’s body, is more than happy to tell things straight. He’s trying to get all the other snakes back, meaning the kids’ powers, in order to save their mother, even though that would be the end of the kids. What the snake’s motive is for this is not explained, nor is the question of how Ayano’s jumping off the ledge and dying going to keep a snake from showing up, since she didn’t have one.

Wait, isn't that Takane?  AND the new guys?
Wait, isn’t that Takane? AND the new guys?

That’s all flashback, and so are subsequent scenes where Kido reluctantly becomes the leader at the gang, with Seto’s blessing, but then suddenly we’re back to a future where Momo, Kido, and Hibiya the kid are dragged away by strange people (actually this happened earlier) and imprisoned. Probably at the snake/dad’s direction, since around that time (in the show–god only knows what the chronological take is) he and Kano are looking at two of the others, I think, in a vat. But Momo and Hibiya are there, right? So when Momo does an idol number to attract rescue, Takane is one of the rescuers … At which point my brain blew up. Oh, and Shintarou remembers something and meets Ayano in some dream-classroom, but in this series that feels pretty normal.

At least the show has a sense of humor about itself.
At least the show has a sense of humor about itself.

In Kanojo ga Flag wo Oraretara 12 we start with Souta, wearing a cape and visor, squaring off against the bad guys who are invading all the virtual worlds, including the one with Souta’s harem. A dark, threatening battle commences, and then the credits with those bright flags and the boop-boop-be-doop song starts, as far removed from the situation as one can get. This contrast, later returning when we switch from battles to the girls doing girly things, back and forth, was actually sort of effective, about the only thing in the show that is. We get a massive infodump right in the middle when Nanami regains her memories. How the other girls do isn’t really explained. I’m also not sure why Number Zero didn’t send all of them off to fight in the first place. The girls were willing if Souta was. Number zero is on the good side, right? Oh, well, who knows, or cares? Well, there was a nice emotional rush when the girls came to the battlefield, and only one episode left …

Oh, I’m dropping Captain Earth. I have no desire to watch another season of this, since the thought of viewing and writing about it now comes as an afterthought after the other weekend shows.

Captain Earth and Kanoko Flag 11, M3 9

A universal side character lament.
A universal side character lament.

Good news: Captain Earth 11 almost breaks out of the “wake up a new villain every week” rut they’d dug for themselves. The bad news is that they didn’t. We met the new one last week, Setsuna, and two of the Midsummer force strike up a conversation with her while lounging about the pool. She’s happy and well-adjusted in spite of her homeschool situation, and she has her own squirrel-thing, which I’m sure will become important later as a connection to Hana. Not only that, but they don’t get to her. Oh, we get the usual confrontation and gun battle, but she’d already run away by then. Turns out Mao was raising her for her own selfish reasons, which is itself interesting, because she seemed to actually love and care for the kid. For this reason, and for making Setsuna a plot wild-card later, this is a better than average episode. Though next week it looks like we’re going right back to the old routine, only with pro wrestlers. Oh, god …

Nanami doing what she does best.
Nanami at her best.

Kanojo ga Flag wo Oraretara 11 was an enjoyable episode up to the very end, when Number Zero came in to put a damper on things again. She let Souta (and us) know that they were all living in a virtual world, at least partially ripped off from The Matrix, judging from those number pillars, that Souta has come to his full powers that he got from that mysterious girl named Sacrament, natch, and that some man or machine named Angelus Gemini has gone nuts and is trying to take it over or destroy it, so naturally Souta can’t stay where he is any longer, right? So off he goes, sans girls, even though I thought they’re supposed to be his quest support staff. Instead, only Nanami remembers him. The earlier scenes were much more fun. Some of it was actually funny, and Nanami again proves why she’s the only girl in the series that matters, fanboying to an idol one moment and tossing grouchy asides at Souta the next.

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M3 9 gives us the true, abhorrent truth behind the Reaper, that Aoshi, Akashi’s dead brother, is not dead and is physically inside it, right behind Akashi when he sits in it. True, he’s in sort of a monstrous state now, but not dead. The truth isn’t really that surprising to us watching, and we’ve all seen equally monstrous things in mecha anime, so I don’t think it had the effect the show intended. Also, I was distracted by the fact that Aoshi has nicely-cropped hair. I mean, wouldn’t it have grown out, or do they take him/it out for a trim every month? Maybe it’s more sinister that they’re using this fact to get Akashi back in the Reaper to retrieve Heito and, well, who do you think’s also in Sable, besides Heito? Why does Akashi agree? Because the world is at stake? Because he’ll be close to his brother? Based on what he used think about Aoshi, Akashi’s reasons are unclear.

Mekaku 9, M3 7-8, Kanojo Flag 10

Mekaku City Actors 9 gives us some background on Ayano, the girl who gathered the red-eyes together. This means, sadly, some infodumps, but as usual for Shaft, they’re so dazzling to look at that I didn’t care.

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Ayano finds one of her dead mother’s notebooks and finds that she was obsessed with the mysteries of these children she and her father had adopted, and in her research discovers that her husband, Ayano’s father, has the ability himself. This would be dull in spite of the information we’re getting were it not for the pen and ink drawings used to tell the tale of the monster, who finally makes her appearance in the main story, sort of. They were so good to look at I had to go back and watch part of it because they were distracting me from the subtitles. To add intensity, there’s a moment where Ayano meets her father in the hallway, while the lightning flashes outside, a bit that made me jump. Later, Kano takes up the story as he explains it to Ene, in his cellphone, rescued again by Shaft’s beautiful background art.

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But it’s not entirely an infodump episode. Much of the time is spent with Ayano and the three kids, the original members of the gang. She is told to be a big sister to them, and she does. The kids are scared and a little suspicious, but she wins them over and thus shows us why they still mull over her death. This series can be confusing, or blinding with its style, but it’s done a good job at showing us why the kids feel so alone and why they cling to each other so much. We can feel the sympathy that the creators have for them. What we see this episode emphasizes that, but revelations at the end suggest that being together might be the last thing they should do. I hope not.

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If I have it figured out right, M3 7 has a new nasty robot named Sable, and it somehow has Emiru in it, and Heito is going to pilot it. That’s okay, but then is there such a thing for Akashi’s robot? The girl he’s going for, Sasame, is alive and well, and being hit on rather obviously by whatshisname, and Akashi doesn’t like it. You can’t blame him; they learned this episode that they’re sharing dreams! The whole thing is marred by Heito and his by-the-book insanity. Everything from his happy memories of torturing Emiru to his utterly predictable crazy laughter, feels like dozens of previously attempts by fiction to depict psychopathic people. Worse, he has a “You’re the same as me!” speech to throw at Akashi. Worst of all is that Akashi buys it. They always do. The best bit was that Sable/Emiru keeps Heito from killing Akashi in rather satisfying ways. Elsewhere, the scientist guy has a temper tantrum, which was a lot more fun to watch than Heito ever is, and there’s probably a connection to the rejection he felt at the time to what the kids are going through, but I can’t spot it.

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Episode 8 gets a little better. Interesting, question-raising things happen, like that beacon that comes back to life in the dead zone, prompting our heroes to go retrieve it. With hindsight it appears that the whole thing might have been bait for Akashi and Heito, and they take it, or rather, the asshole with the lollipops makes them. And what do they find? It’s clear on the personal level but vague once you look at the whole picture. Heito finds a teddy bear he lost years ago, and now finds himself absolutely alone, and he loves it. Odd that the Emiru spirit took this moment to play hard-to-get and not respond, unless she’s in on the wish-fulfillment, too. As for Akashi, he gets the memories of his brother, but he’s not nearly so happy about it. And the admonition that appears before both their craft, is that further fulfillment of their inner wishes and denials, or just the trap springing shut? Okay, not a bad episode.

I'd be annoyed, too.
I’d be annoyed, too.

Kanojo ga Flag wo Oraretara 10 has Souta occasionally worrying about his lack of a future, but it’s mainly to remind us that that bit of story is still around. The rest of the episode involves the school festival (you KNEW this show had to have one, didn’t you?), and the beauty contest, which only the girls from Souta’s dorm enter, in spite of the school’s massive population. The way they go on about loving Souta during the intros I wondered why the school body’s male population didn’t rise up and murder him then and there. The swimsuit competition bit was possibly a new low for the series. The whole thing was nearly rescued by Nanami’s speech near the end, where she basically says what’s on her mind, and reminds him that he doesn’t have to shoulder his burdens alone, and it’s only fair that the show’s best Tsundere and best girl should win the competition. But now I just want to get the ending stuff over with.

Kanojo Flag and Mahouka 9, Mekaku 8

Souta's harem continues to grow.
Souta’s harem continues to grow.

Kanojo ga Flag wo Oraretara 9 continues mixing the inane harem group with harem-leader Souta’s premonition and fears of death and now adds more palace intrigue. Souta and the princesses (Hakua now an accepted member of the harem) arrive safely in Bladefield where they meet the crown prince, soon to be king, Elia, who actually ordered, or at least didn’t disapprove, of the assassination attempt, even though, as he reveals to the press, that those sisters of his are actually his daughters and therefore the actual heirs to the throne, after him. That’s going to piss off princesses 1-12. Oh, and the king’s dead. And the masked woman who actually carried out the attempt, Number Zero, is Souta’s sister, which doesn’t mean she can’t join the harem, but she’s waiting for him to make the decision to sacrifice his life like in the legends about the boy becoming a flag. It’s all nutty, but it leads to some bad moments for Souta, who can’t shake off that death flag but doesn’t want to die, even though a lot of people want him to, otherwise he’s a coward. This bit worked rather well, actually, but it was a little too dark for such a silly series, too much of a jolt.

So does Tatsuya's.
So does Tatsuya’s.

In Mahouka 9, Tatsuya and Miyuka go to the magic lab where everyone immediately tells Tatsuya how great he is. After showing off some practical flying magic, they think he’s even more wonderful. They think he’s great at the school, too, well, some of them, where he’s appointed an engineer for the upcoming tournament, which, we still haven’t gotten to. Then there’s a scene between Tatsuya and some classmates which gets closer to the truth of Mizuki’s seeing ability, also some dull talk about some magic the other guy was using, and by the way, Tatsuya is great, isn’t he? Oh, there was an earlier scene where Tatsuya sees his dad, and the butler, who is about the only character who doesn’t think he’s wonderful. That was refreshing. Onto the bus we go, where Tatsuya is told he’s wonderful because he waited for someone to show up. In the bus they talk about how wonderful he is, but part of that was to keep Miyuki from turning into popsicles. And at the end a burning car is about to hit their bus, so next week Tatsuya will have a chance to save everyone and they’ll tell him how wonderful he is.

Everyone's death should be portrayed so beautifully.
Everyone’s death should be portrayed so beautifully.

With Mekaku City Actors 8 we learn more about how these messed-up kids got that way. Evidently they were all about to die, or maybe just died, when they got swallowed by that snake, or something, and came out of it again, alive, confused, and unhappy. Also, they were all with people who may or may not have died; the show is vague on that. We know Kido’s sister did because we get an imaginative retelling of that fire to start the episode. And through her explanation we learn about Seto and Kano. As for Shintarou, I’m assuming that Ayano was his death-buddy. But with Hibiya we got both that kidnapping business and the thing with Hiyori, the cat, and the truck. The big problem is that none of the characters really know what’s going on, and much of what they say is based on speculation. Thinking about it, that adds poignancy to their stories, and a bond between them that’s becoming clearer every episode. Meanwhile, the fairy tale monster at the end is temporarily happy living in her invented universe. It won’t last, but it draws some tenuous connections to the world the kids are in. So, more intriguing stuff here, but the episode was mostly dull talk.

Sidonia and Mekaku 6, Kanojo Flag 6-7, Nisekoi 19

One last happy moment.
One last happy moment.

Knights of Sidonia 6 does what I hoped the series would do sooner or later, have Nagate apparently fuck up and cost Sidonia a life, Shizuka no less. While it’s nice to see the hero triumph, it gets dull if that’s all he does, misadventures adjusting to his new life on Sidonia aside. Mind you, we don’t see what happened, only that he’s getting blamed for it. It’s likely that Kunato is changing the story a little or a lot to make himself out to be the hero and Nagate the goat. And while we get battle scenes for next week’s preview we don’t know if it’s a flashback or not, well, I couldn’t, because I still have a hard time telling characters apart, especially when they’re wearing helmets. You have to feel sorry for Nagate; not only does he (apparently) fuck up, but the details are streamed and discussed for the entire colony to see, with status reports scrolling underneath like it was a post-game show.

Every harem has its own dynamic.
Every harem has its own dynamic.

I also think that if I was one of those soldiers, I’d start considering trips to the bathysphere as bad luck. We’ve been there twice before battles and both times it’s ended badly. It also marked the end of Nagate’s victory tour where he adds not only Yuhata to his harem but all of the sexy Honoka sisters. Of course, he lost the main harem girl in Shizuka, but it’s still a plus for him overall. The getting-into-the-bathysphere scene could have come out of any dozen harem shows. I should have figured that it would go downhill from there. And with Kobyashi receiving warnings from the dead guys that Nagate is a pawn, and that the fighting so far has helped to quell unrest in the colony, you wonder if the darkness and secret plotting in Sidonia is going to catch up to the frightening gauna outside it.

Takane, and a fish.
Takane, and a fish.

Mekaku City Actors 6 is, I guess, a flashback episode, but this is sneaked in when we learn that the grouchy, shy girl named Takane’s game name is Ene, or some variant of that, and a younger Shintarou defeats her at a game she was practically unbeatable at. Why she wound up as an avatar in Shintarou’s devices isn’t explained. Instead, we get an intro scene where she runs through a city that’s falling apart around her (with insert song, rather a good one. I liked both the songs this episode. The others so far I could take or leave), then grumbles as her teacher makes her and Haruka, her only friend, do a special event for the school festival. Various stuff happens, most of it normal apart from Kiba and Kano’s cameo, the growing realization of who Takane actually is, and the general weirdness you get with Shaft, like that fish. It’s a delight, a sort-of character study of Takane, who resents the things the world throws at her, or is afraid of them, but obviously liking her friend Haruka and cheering up adorably when he praises her. It makes me sad because I’d much rather watch Takane than the Ene she’s going to become.

Those plot flags are certainly convenient.
Those plot flags are certainly convenient.

Kanojo ga Flag o Oraretara 6 brings us yet another harem member, possibly not the last, in Kurumiko, a poor middle-schooler who pops up to give Souta ice cream and watered-down drinks when he’s just tried going into the water again. She’s got story flags and death flags popping out of her head every other minute, and Souta has to deal with one or the other as they come, which is fine because there’s nothing else for him to do but sit on the beach. I’m a little curious as to why she didn’t get a “little sister” flag, but not enough to worry. Oh, there’s a weirdo evil council meeting at the beginning, and then we see a girl who will be next week’s new haremette. She’s got the same flag-seeing abilities that Souta has, so naturally the show introduces her and then forgets all about her until the final seconds. I still can’t figure out if this is because the show is clever or inept, or just unsure what kind of show it wants to be, which, I suppose, makes it the latter.

A tsundere is introduced to the rest of Souta's harem.
A tsundere is introduced to the rest of Souta’s harem.

But we get back to Mei in episode 7. Apparently all she’s really good for is shifting some plot levers. First she arranges for Kurumiko to move to the dorm (Mimori and Tsumugi as well, and Mei), then she takes Souta on a little ride through dimensions, then saves his life temporarily by messing with his death flag. For her trouble, Sakura shows up and wipes her memory. Not very nice of her. What we learn from Souta’s head-trip makes the story almost incomprehensible. I can understand witnessing the deaths of people he had saved scenes, but the person he saves on that ship turns out to be a teacher from another dimension who’s going to be the hero of HER story, in which she’ll be doing the same things Souta’s doing in HIS story. This was about the time I flung up my hands and decided to just count harem girls instead. I count ten so far, but I’m not sure if Tsumugi really counts. Grandmas aren’t normally considered harem girls.

Rehearsal.
Rehearsal.

Finally, Nisekoi 19 gives us another example of just how bad Onodera’s luck is. Last week or so she got assertive and came on to Raku, only to find he had fallen asleep. This week she was going to play Juliet to his Romeo for the school play, and she sprains her ankle. The gods of comedy in this series are certainly blatant, though I figured it would work out like this. This is annoying to me because the Raku/Chitoge relationship can go hang as far as I’m concerned. I am 100% on Onodera’s side and was thoroughly enjoying this episode when the two main characters were furious with each other. So it now looks like we’ll get a series finale with a hopefully entertaining production of Romeo and Juliet with a Juliet who really “hates” Romeo and doesn’t know her lines. While that sounds promising, we’ll also get poor Onodera watching from backstage, hopefully not crying her eyes out. Bah.