Kantai Collection ends pretty much the way we expected.
Akagi is about to get sunk by some aerial monsters but Fubuki shows up just in time. She and her team kick some butt briefly, until another bad guy shows up, so more good guys show up, and more bad guys show up, and while we’re trying not to think about the incredible coinkidink it all is, all these girls showing up at just the right moment, spouting trademark lines, not to mention torpedoes and cannon shells, we actually get an answer. The whole thing was a sneaky trick, a ruse to fool either the bad guys or fate. Not sure which. And so it ends happily and it’s peacetime, and the girls get scuttled (not really).
I wish they had gone on with this fate business in a little more detail. I don’t like the idea of fate determining outcomes in fiction, but I like very much when characters fight against it, especially when they win. What makes it more compelling is the WWII aspects which suffuse more of the series, especially the sea battles, because that gives the whole affair tragic, doomed overtones. But instead, the finale’s mind set was first “We must fight fate … We can’t fight our fate … Yay! We beat fate!” I suppose I shouldn’t have expected much more from a generally light show with cute girls, even if they are battleships and destroyers too.
Other than that the episode, and the series, was predictable but fun to watch. Friendships made, silly filler episodes between arcs, an early death to set people on edge, the growth of the protagonist, nothing really special there, but the battle scenes always looked great (though I wish they had done less chatting while the enemy is trying to kill them), shells exploding in the water, girls skating around and them, firing their own weapons, surrounded by planes and a purple-grey sky and sea … I enjoyed that very much. So when the second season comes along I’ll probably watch it.
In Yuri Kuma Arashi 11 I thought we’d get an explanation as to why Kureha was facing trial at Judgemens, but they don’t get to that until the very end, and there’s still no explanation for it. Instead we get more flashbacks to when Kureha and Ginko were friends, adding more details about how they were separated and what Ginko did back in Bear-world. About the only forward action is Kureha’s being held captive to lure Ginko in, and Ginko’s internal battle with Mitsuko, her “desire.” Rather a disappointment, I thought. Oh, I liked the dramatic music and the overall heroic tone of Ginko’s rejection of desire and her refusal to back down on love (the anime phrase of the year, so far, unless you prefer “gao gao”), but all Mitsuko really got to do was whisper in Ginko’s ear. They could have taken that farther. Oh, and Lulu sneaks back and takes a bullet intended for Ginko, finally never getting anything for all the love she put out, but death. Now THAT’S not backing down on love.
Two episodes of Koufuku Graffiti and I can barely think of enough for one entry. Let’s see, in #10 “Chewy, Melty,” we meet the shy and withdrawn Yuki, who lives downstairs door. Through a series of misunderstandings they wind up eating pizza together, and naturally we learn that Yuki is another ero-faced food lover. You know, Ryou and Kirin have incredible luck with that, or maybe it’s that eating with them actually turns others into ero-faced food lovers. Interesting theory. Or maybe seeing them eat so erotically makes you feel erotic too.
Episode 11 (Chop-chop, Slurp, and Crunchy, Shining) are all about basic study foods, which turn out to be ramen and cutlet sandwiches. Kudos to the show to demonstrate that mundane foods, even prepackaged ones, can make satisfying meals. It doesn’t hurt that Kirin, who seems to be getting better at cooking, adds her own touches to the ramen. I’m not crazy about cutlet sandwiches, so that part didn’t interest me that much, though the scene where they discover Shiina has already been accepted was more fun to watch than most of the other bits they put in to kill time before the eating begins.
You know, after Shirobako 22 aired last week, it occurred to me that if they’re going to redo the last episode of Third Aerial Girls Squad, that means re-recording, and that might mean Shizuka might be called in. The girls’ dream was to all work together on a professional production, right?
I am so glad to be right.
That was the crowning moment of maybe the best episode of Shirobako, the season’s best series. We still have an episode to go, but I expect that will be mad scrambling and success, or at least not complete failure. This is too optimistic a show to have them fail now. In fact, the episode draws a lot of parallels between Musashino and the show they’re animating. They’re told that the original artist, Nogame, has rejected the happy ending, that the Aria character will not fly again. Such a downer ending bothers Seiichi partly because of the hassle of redoing everything, but mostly because it goes against his instincts as a director. But what can he do? Nogame, god, has spoken. Or his asshole editor did.
Seiichi long ago became one of my favorite characters in the series, and in this episode he reminds me why. His entrance into the publisher building is ridiculously dramatic. And it gets better when he actually meets Nogame. Now it’s two creative wills, both with solid points on their side (Seiichi, working with a team, sees the story in that view, while Nogame’s interpretation is more personal) until Seiichi suggests something that takes Nogame aback, and then it’s two creative minds working together, feeding ideas to each other, coming to an agreement that makes both sides happy. As for that editor, well, all I can say is about time. Funny story.
So now all of the crises and themes are settled except one: they have to actually get that final episode finished, which I’m sure will take up all of the final episode except for the necessary scene of the girls celebrating. I don’t think it will have the punch that this episode does, but I can’t wait for it anyway.
Kantai Collection 11 begins the mission to destroy the enemy’s main fleet (I think), and since it isn’t a one-episode battle, things look bleak at the end with a bomb heading straight for the defenseless Akagi. The show has added some extra undertones to the ones the WWII setting already provides by having Akagi have a series of nightmares about the mission going very badly. And there’s the question of fate. Has she already experienced this tragic situation before, in another life? If so, can she alter her fate? Since I hate in fiction the concept of history repeating itself, its characters doomed no matter what, I’m on Akagi’s side. Either way, it’s a darker thing to think about than I was expecting from this episode. Even the lighthearted scenes had a weight on them.
Saekano 10 finally introduces the project’s composer, Michiru, whom we haven’t seen since episode one. Turns out she’s Tomoya’s cousin, born the same day and in the same hospital, a bit of dating sim coincidence that naturally throws the other girls into a tizzy, well, except Megumi of course. Utaha’s author-imagination coupled with Eriri’s reactions made for an enjoyable scene, well, it was even before they learned about Michiru, with Utaha snarking at Eriri through the speakers after Eriri locked her in the sound booth. To increase the tizziness, she’s quite uninhibited and loves to tease. Naturally, the show takes full advantage of this and we get a lot of body ogling scenes. In fact, Utaha and Eriri seem to ogled more than usual, too. And so does Tomoya, believe it or not, after he hears Michiru play a song that’d be perfect for the game. Only Megumi is spared, and is fortunate enough to have to do nothing but toss out more funny asides.
Your Lie in April 21, after the events at the end of #20, feels partly like a cheap shot. Yes, Kaori had an attack and was in intensive care for a while, and it was hit or miss. But she recovers enough that he and Kousei can spend a little time on the hospital roof eating canales, while its snowing. And she tells him about the surgery. In terms of the story, the only reason for the attack was to send Kousei into another blue funk and stop practicing for the big contest. We are shown images of Takeshi and Emi practicing, in order to get the point across. So it’s another pep-talk of sorts from Kaori, who’s facing something worse than any of Kousei’s blue funks. She even plays an invisible violin which Kousei somehow manages to hear, before predicatably collapsing.
Then, as usual for these situations, the contest is the same day as the surgery. Cheap plot device aside (and ignoring the fact that both Kousei’s performance and Kaori’s surgery are left unfinished, meaning we could tune in next time and watch one or the other go disasterously wrong … argh), it’s actually one of the better scenes. Kousei’s performance is less fiery but maybe more informed and mature than the others, and this time he not only thinks of Kaori, but realizes that there are a lot of people in the hall who are rooting for him, who are a part of his life and musical recovery. Whether that will make a difference in the scoring … who cares. Don’t know if Kousei does. He’s now got more important things to play for.
Kantai Collection 10 had me confused for most of the episode. First, Fubuki was sent back to the main base to get remodeled. But then when she gets there it’s all about training hard so they’ll remodel her. Weren’t they going to do that anyway? So she’s running countless laps and nearly getting killed in a recon mission to gain more strength, and I’m scratching my head. Then the question of why Fubuki was so important to the still-missing commander comes up, and everyone, I mean everyone, doesn’t know. She tries hard, but … And then Akagi and the other carrier nearly kill her in training to see if she’s up for escorting her, and she finally gets it right after a dozen tries. I’m not sure I’d want her as my escort vessel, myself. But at least we get an answer to the remodeling question: you have to glow first.
Kantai Collection 9 starts about one thing, turns to another thing, then throws a third thing at us before returning to the second thing, which, after the third thing, we had pretty much forgotten about. Yuudachi (poi) starts glowing, so she’s brought in for a remodel and comes out taller and sexier than before, though she’s still sort of an idiot. I figured this remodeling business is like molting and I was trying to avoid overthinking the adolescent sexual overtones the whole thing had, when Fubuki starts to wonder why she, a flagship, isn’t also getting remodeled. Even though she wasn’t glowing.
Even worse for her self-esteem is the fact that Poi is being transferred to the main fleet and Fubuki is being sent back from their outpost (this is the second thing). So we have several scenes of blue funk and hugs and reassurances from the other girls, and it IS curious. And it’s no fun for Fubuki especially because no one knows why. But then the third thing happens, an attack on the naval base and the Admiraal’s disappearance. All they have are his last commands written down, which sends us back to the first thing, or maybe the second. Though I’m more concerned about the bad guys taking the offensive (especially that one we got a close up of this week) than Fubuki and her remodel. Though I wonder if they’re going to boost her legs and bust, like Yuudachi. I bet you they won’t.
For its appearance as a “food of the week show,” Koufuku Graffiti 8 actually follows up on the thought last week that Ryou needs to learn to depend on other people for things, that is to say, there is actual character development going on. This week it’s the school athletic festival, where, in anime, almost everyone is either very good at it (Sakaki) or bad (Chiyo-chan). Not surprisingly, Ryou falls into the latter category and enlists Kirin for training, and can’t refuse when Kirin insists on making her a bento as well. Character development aside, the show’s main theme expands slightly this week; it’s not only meals you cook and share with others that are delicious, but also foods cooked for you by someone you love, even if she’s not around when you eat it. I love the point, though it’s stressed a little too hard, that Kirin’s bento is okay, but nothing special, maybe even a little dull, yet Ryou thinks it’s the most delicious bento in the world.
Kantai Collection 8 … (Quick lookup of the actual battleship. Hmm, now I know why they named that island “Truk.”) The story had Fubuki and the others gather at Truk, their farthest base, where they meet Yamato, an elegant lady with great power, who is prevented from going to sea because she consumes so much. I hadn’t made that connection between Akagi’s status and her appetite before. Naturally, Fubuki feels bad for her and tries to entice her to go into the water. The episode begged for connections to actual history. You can’t just say the name Yamato and not get overtones, after all. I wonder if we’ll get to see her in action again. Otherwise, it was a slight episode. I’m waiting for the big final arc they’re preparing for.
I’m finally caught up with Maria the Virgin Witch, and while a lot of story happened, I don’t have much to say about it. I will say that Ezekiel is now fully corrupted, deliberately missing Maria, or at least changing the angle of the piercing so that Maria was only injured. Why? Either she felt Maria’s stance was right (doubtful), or she showed compassion for a human being. Either way, Michel is pissed at her, but considering the stance of the angels is on some different (I won’t say higher) plane (I mean, take a look at Michel. There is no humanity in his appearance at all, and his eyes appear blind), and inhuman to us, I’m for once on Ezekiel’s side.
The ambush of the English forces suffered for being confusing–I couldn’t figure out who was doing what on the French side, and from the low budget. It doesn’t take too many shots of soldiers jerkily waving spears around before I get tired of it. It was made interesting because Maria wasn’t interfering at first and it looked like one side would actually win. And even when she did show up, the soldiers fucked it up and a lot of soldiers died anyway, and more to come. And once more we hear the lie that without war the soldiers would go and do something else violent, so you might as well not stop them. Isn’t anyone tired of that shtick yet?
Koufuku Graffiti 7 features saury. The story this week is that Shiina has too much of it and so invites Ryou and Kirin over for a cookout, and they don’t want Ryou to do any work, because she always cooks for them. So, while she accepts and appreciates the kindness, Ryou feels a little left out. There is talk about how Ryou should learn to lean on her friends more, and how Kirin freeloads off her. So they cook a dish together later. But as usual all this nice stuff about friendship and kindnesses is secondary to the cooking and eating. This week is the closest the show has gotten towards being a cooking show. We see how to salt and cut the saury. Alas, we get more details apart from the grilling technique after that. Seems easy enough though. Make some X’s on it, sprinkle salt, and toss it on a grill …
Shirobako 19 starts by being sort of the Erika Show. She learns the situation, sends Aoi home, makes some calls, drags Hiraoka to Titanic where she she kicks some butt, tracks down a “bearded hermit” and gets him to cover episode five, and generally shows why Musashino is lucky to have her. For a moment I thought the episode would spiral into Aoi’s despondent thoughts about being not up for the job, but the show makes a turn away from that. Besides, Aoi’s too busy.
Instead, we get a conversation between Erika and Hiraoka about Aoi, a world-weary talk between two anime veterans about harsh reality and why some people in the field don’t stop dreaming, between two people way too young to have this conversation. It’s made clear that these two people stopped dreaming, at least Hiraoka has, and now he bounces from job to job for reasons the show doesn’t explain. Aoi hasn’t been broken yet, and he hates that, though Erika loves it.
Contrast that to a later flashback to President Masato’s longhair days at Musashino Pictures, and see a bunch of people working hard on an old show, not broken at all, and we see that some of them, years later, still aren’t. (Followed by a downright weird fantasy sequence where cartoon animals talk about keeping Musashi Pictures alive–a fantasy within a flashback). Meanwhile, two of the misfit independent artists talk about the long strange trip it’s been. A meditation on keeping your artistic sanity in a frantic, commercial, competitive field? That’s what the episode feels like, down to the ED with the old-school characters.
Story-wise, Kantai Collection 7 is predictable. Kaga and Zuikaku, the two carriers, still don’t get along, Fubuki doubts her leadership abilities (as well she should: why didn’t she order the two carriers back instead of letting them bicker?), until a crisis brings them all a little closer together. Well, Kaga wasn’t in the battle; she had taken a torpedo that would have sunk Zuikaku and so was in the hot tub, but there was plenty of self-recrimination and guilt to go around anyway. On the other hand, the battle scenes more than make up for the story. Like the others, they’re clear, fluid, and exciting, even if you sort of know what’s going to happen, and you really don’t. Since they sunk that one girl earlier you know that they could do it to anyone. So we watch those great-looking battle scenes with a touch of worry. Most of the time it’s worth going through the Fubuki self-doubt and the other, petty, land-based bits for it.
Kantai Collection 6, a silly filler episode about a curry contest, didn’t bug me too much. Since there’s a, er, fleet of characters to deal with it’s nice to see how they react to each other. The trouble is, apart from people Kongou, who is not only taller but dresses differently than the others in their schoolgirl/military uniforms, I can’t tell most of them apart yet, much less remember who is in which squad, and then there was the reorganization last week. This week we get more different group as we follow the 6th Destroyer Group in their brave quest to make the best curry on the base. I’m embarrassed to tell you how long it took before I realized I wasn’t watching Mobile Unit Three or whatever they’re called these days. As for the curry contest, the usual for this sort of show, though it did make me hungry for curry. Too bad about this diet … My favorite bit was Hibiki wearing that repaired pot on her head; it reminded me of Chino and Tippy. And one of the others makes cute noises sometimes.
Not much to say about Shirobako 18, but one thing I’m beginning to appreciate is how they not only give us the details of making a professional anime, but they show the human side as well. Sounds obvious, but it means we get scenes like the first dubbing session, the ritual of introducing everyone and giving little speeches, and, for added fun, working with the nervous newbie who’s playing the lead but is too wound up to get her lines out the way she did in audition (though you’d figure she’d be even more nervous for that). And we get to share in Aoi’s pleasure when the newbie gets it right.
Elsewhere we have crises, of course, people not following through with their jobs, convincing an old drunk guy to do a job, and a trio of problems which hit Aoi all at once. I hate it when I get blindsided with new problems when I’m trying to deal with one already, so I admire Aoi’s reaction–brief panic, getting a hold of herself, dealing with the small problems quickly so she can concentrate on the big one. Which leads me to a final thing I like: they make a good story out of what is essentially a business project. Some people screw up, others step in, completely routine, and they make good drama out of it. Which explains why, when Erika appeared, I went “Yesss!” What other show could do that simply by having a character return from personal leave?
The big statement in Your Lie in April 17 seems to be that there’s scary stuff out there and while you might not want to deal with it, eventually you’ll have to. First we got Kaori FINALLY telling Kousei that she might be dying, and that naturally puts him in such a funk that he once again can’t visit the hospital. Well, I can understand his problem. What DO you say after a revelation like that? Ryouta finally drags him to the hospital. We also have Tsubaki, who’s at least honest with herself now to admit she’s in love, but can’t come to grips with the fact that he’s leaving, to the point of following him after graduation. Nao’s trying to talk her through that.
Finally, Nagi has a big scary festival performance coming up, and this time it’s Kousei and Hiroko doing the pep-talk. What Nagi REALLY ought to be scared of is what’s going to happen when her brother sees her coming on stage with Kousei. Well, good thing all these troubled people have friends. And let’s not forget about Kaori. The episode sort of did, even though Kousei’s helping Nagi for Kaori’s listening pleasure. It’s almost as if the show can’t face the impending tragedy, either.
Saekano 5’s best moments come in the first half when all the main characters are together. Eriri is trying to get a rise out of Megumi for her character designs while , in the back of the room, Utaha seems constipated over the story, and the snarky lines fly. Even Tomoya gets in a good one now and then. Then we get a nice encapsulation of the game’s bizarre story, draft one. It’s not exactly downhill after that, but the endless script-fiddling scenes don’t have as much going for them, though I’m glad to see Tomoya isn’t coasting on this project. The “date” scene isn’t livened up by Tomoya’s realization that the mall opening is like Comiket, because it’s too different from the first half, and we’re waiting for him to have the inevitable revelation of how to fix the script. Though the glasses scene was indeed very sweet.