Maria the Virgin Witch finishes nicely, with me scratching my head.
The witches face off against Michael, in spite of Maria’s protests, and are easily beaten. Then Michael gets to the important matter, what to do with Maria, who, by the way, hasn’t backed down an inch. Neither has Joseph or Ezekiel. Michael is confused by this loyalty, so he shows up on the ground and interviews everyone around who knows her. Funny that the regular folk treat it like a normal thing while the monks freak out, Bernard so much so that he tries to strangle Michael … bad idea. And it’s a shame, because he had become a crazy scholar, and the world needs more of them. So, after Michael does what he should have done earlier, i.e., check out the scene on the ground, he decides to forgive Maria, even calling her part of the natural law on earth. Off he goes, and everyone’s happy.
I don’t know about the interviews. Surely Michael ought to know how everyone feels already. If not, it’s proof that the heavens are too distant from the world and have no business ruling it. Of course, others, especially Viv, have said just that to him and it didn’t make a difference. But there are other things that I can’t figure out, too. If Maria is considered part of the natural law on earth, that means she wasn’t before. Wouldn’t the heavens really hate having her and the other witches around? Why didn’t they wipe then out a long time ago? Maybe they can’t? They’re not omnipotent? Or maybe the main God is as distant from the angels as the angels are to us on earth.
Frankly, I kind of wish the show had explored Bernard’s theories a bit farther; while I’m not a theological scholar or even close to one, I think I recognize Bernard’s line of thinking somewhere. Too bad Micheal showing up kind of blew his theories out of the water. No wonder he tried to strangle him. And along more practical lines, is Maria going to marry Joseph, lose her virginity, and thus her powers? I can’t imagine such a headstrong, flamboyant character settling down to being just a farmwife. Well, I could go on forever with questions and speculations. In that sense, the show was very successful. I can’t speak for veracity, but it was interesting to take a Japanese take on western history, especially such a confusing time. But the series also felt too busy, juggling too many theme and plot-balls in the air. It was directed and paced well, but sometimes it felt like too much. Still, not the usual anime series we see on TV, and I’m grateful for that.
Yuri Kuma Arashi‘s finale is so weird that I’m not going to bother with most of it.
Basically, the reason Kureha was on trial by Judgemens was that she had wanted Ginko turned into a girl, so they couldn’t exclude her. A sin of pride. And by the end of the show she had seen the error of her ways, and instead wished to become a bear instead. This takes some time to get to, as we have the current situation to sort of work out. Ginko is facing a firing squad, saying she never loved Kureha, she just wanted to eat her, gao-gao, and Kureha seeing through her lies, while the girls with guns watch, aghast. Not sure why, but her appeal breaks her handcuffs, and Kumalia herself floats down from the heavens.
My brain broke a little there, but earlier Kureha had mentioned that Sumika had brought love back to her life. Maybe that was the trigger. Speaking of triggers, after the bears are reunited, the exclusion girls fire, and it’s a bit of a mystery after that. Kureha and Ginko are presumably in some yuri-bear-la-la land, we see Lulu and that little prince alive, happily reading the storybook, and one of the exclusion girls walks out and befriends that bear whose name I forget.
I suppose it’s a happy ending, but it feels like an ending that the afflicted tell each other to feel better about their situation. “They’re together in heaven” and all that. But the situation between humans and bears, or girls and girls, hasn’t changed one bit in that world. Well, if the series was meant to be a statement about society’s attitudes to those “who stand out,” it carried other things with it, such as love, of course, and friendship and forgiveness. Kunihiko Ikuhara likes to pack in as many images and themes as he can in his works, so to distill it to one theme feels wrong. On the whole, this series felt like “Penguindrum-lite,” inevitable since it was only twelve episodes. It feels slighter, fewer important characters and plotlines to follow, but with all the weird imagery you’d expect. But, like Penguindrum, it tired me out by the end. Twelve episodes is enough.
After the theological riddles of Maria and the weird images of Yuri Kuma, it’s a relief to finish the season with its lightest yet most fattening show. Koufuku Graffiti‘s finale is one of the livelier ones. Ryou and Kirin right off the bat get accepted into the school they want, and that keeps things interesting for a few minutes. Ryou’s memories of her grandma and the school she’s graduating from drag it down a bit, but Kirin shows up out of the blue and gets things moving again. The main point to the story is that Kirin will be moving into Ryou’s home to go to high school, but nobody told Ryou. It’s not a serious crisis; once she gets over the shock of it she’s happy with the idea. As for the food, it’s yellowtail simmered in daikon radish, grandma’s specialty (granny’s picture keeps changing this episode), also more cutlet sandwiches (with shrimp), and when everyone comes to help Kirin move, we get Kirin’s mom’s famous veggie stir-fry, the only thing she can cook, and it’s as delicious as everything else, because they’re eating it together. Lovely final moment.
Nice series overall; it made me happy, which was the series’ only intent. My only disappointment is that these two art-school girls aren’t moving to an apartment building across the street from the school, where they meet, well, you know. Now that Hiro’s graduated, the other girls will need someone to cook for them.
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.
Maria the Virgin Witch 9 works on the expected path, and then gets absolutely batty.
Good thing too. The first half of the episode was full of the bad stuff that I was hoping the show would avoid. Galfa drugs Maria with that smoke, then apparently rapes her, though the show is awfully vague on that for a while. If that wasn’t bad enough, her nice little cottage is burned down and she’s dragged off to be charged as a heretic. But during most of this the show raises little flags to suggest things aren’t quite that simple. Artemus and Priapus don’t vanish, as Joseph points out (and the two familiars really should have figured out already). I don’t know what the Catholic stance on rape or purity is, and Galfa confuses the issue further by claiming that he did not rape Maria, just stopped her from using her magic, but, in that case, how?
Meanwhile, the good guys try to regroup. Maria shows she still has some cunning (and humanity) by letting the reluctant old lady hit her with a rock. That was a good sign, one that she was not only thinking, but attempting to spare the village from more church hassle. Artemus gets Viv, who starts duking it out with Michel. It’s suggested it’s not going well for her, but we see her in the previews so it can’t be that bad. Priapus sneaks into the dungeon, and Ezekiel does something or other. But the real action is taking place in Maria’s cell, where Bernard asks why she signaled the old lady to stone her.
A brief verbal sparring, Maria saying that a god that is only words is as good as nothing … and Bernard has a breakdown. Spouting christian philosophers, most of whom I’ve never heard of, something goes loose in his brain and he babbles on and on about God’s existence, our existence, and he does it for quite some time. It’s like badly-written code caught in a loop, or someone trying to discuss theology after too many bong hits. Bernard, trying to find a solution through what the church has taught him, winds up kissing Maria’s feet. I never expected such mindfuckery out of Bernard, and I appreciate it, but it sets Bernard in a whole new light. He’s no longer a cunning church official trying to seize power from the locals, he’s a christianity geek on a tear. I think the show would have done better than to keep the old Bernard, but let’s see what this new, slightly crazy one can do.
Yuri Kuma Arashi 9 leaves me wondering what there is left to be done.
After Kureha shoots Ginko (so that DID happen), Ginko falls into the Abyss, which is a place in the lily garden behind the secret door, where she meets, of all people, Mitsuko. What kind of place the Abyss is and why Mitsuko is there and not any of the other girls who’ve been offed since the show started, is a mystery to me. It’s not a hell of any sort, though the battlefield covered in snow makes it appear unpleasant. Maybe you have to be a bear and actually guilty of something. As it turns out, both Mitsuko and Ginko share blame for Sumika’s death, so maybe there’s something to that. Anyway, Mitsuko is absorbed into Ginko (in a highly erotic scene–this episode is full of girls making out) and becomes desire, a step down from love, perhaps, but that’s what you get as an accomplice to bear-crimes.
Meanwhile, Kureha has rightly deduced that Ginko’s involvement in Sumika’s death is more complicated than she knows, begins to worry, and is tricked into a rendezvous with Yurika (kuma-shock!). There’s something ironic in how she is rescued, and it leads to a romantic scene between Yurika and Kureha or Reia, didn’t quite catch that, and the statement that fate now belongs to Kureha, and Ginko, I suppose. And we learn where the rest of the picture book is. So again, what’s there left to do? Reconcile Ginko and Kureha? Not sure that’ll happen (the picture book suggests ill tidings but it’s the episode’s cliffhanger, so we’ll have to wait). Is Ginko worthy of Kureha’s love? And what about Sumika? And do I really care? With the show’s main antagonist gone I don’t know if we’ll get a traditional crisis/climax.
A couple of complaints about Koufuku Graffiti 9. For the most part it’s the same happy-happy as usual, with Ryou and Kirin sharing a meal together, which is a good thing. On the other hand, I’m getting a little tired of it. Not the characters, but their eating together, exulting about the meal, and saying that food is more delicious when you share it, which actually stated outright this episode, Ryou to Karin. Yeah, we get that. They need to bring the side characters in more often. Shiina gets a cameo this week but goes off to celebrate New Years with her family, with overtones of weirdness and danger surrounding them. Akira shows up but only near the end, when it’s too late, and she doesn’t actually eat with them. If they don’t include these or other characters more often the show will get stale. My other complaint is that they’re doing a New Years episode in March. I don’t demand seasonal anime episodes to follow the season, but the happy winter scenes in the episode can’t make up for the snowy hangover of March that much of the world is having. Here, we’re having a snowstorm. Bad timing.
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 …
Durarara!! x2 6 has its usual lot of scenes, as usual, but very few plot points get covered, and nothing has reached a head yet. The episode mainly sets up the fact that everyone’s looking for that little girl, Akane, for various reasons. But we don’t know the important thing–why she got attached to Shizuo in the first place. We also learn that the blonde who attacked Celty is a hitgirl, part of a duo looking for Akane. Now, I can enjoy the irony of Celty hunting for a girl who’s actually at her place, but I really want to see the confrontation between her and the blonde, who has idea what Celty is, so I hope she doesn’t change her mind and go home quite yet. Meanwhile, that other gang has not yet acted on the Dollars, and all we know is that some people claiming to be Dollars have been messing with that other gang in Saitama. But that’s all last episode’s news. Meanwhile, One other thing I want to see if what’s going to happen between Anri and whoever’s just busted into her place. But again, nothing really happens. The whole episode is like this. And too many chatroom scenes.
Meanwhile, in Aldnoah Zero 18, a couple of things do happen, and it’s not just another meaningless battle between the Earth Forces and another smug Vers Count, a scene that’s meaningless except to show Marito performing well in battle. We also get the duel between Slaine and Marylcian. No surprise that Slaine wins, but he had to use some guile to do it, and I’m happy not least because Marylcian’s idea of dueling is to fire off a bunch of little robots to do the fighting for him, but because now Slaine continues his rise by getting all of deceased Marylcian’s property. But after that the fake Asseylum announces she’s going to marry Slaine, so his slow rise to the top is now a quick one.
The biggest thing, however, happens after that. It’s an excellent little scene. At first I thought for sure Lemrina was going to kill Asseylum and was trying to figure out what that would mean to the plot and after all the new episodes do we REALLY need her anymore but wait wouldn’t that throw most of the first season’s work on her character out into space like where Marylcian wound up oboy this is intense is she really going to push that button ..? And then she doesn’t. … And then … Once again Aldnoah Zero shows us how to keep a plot churning.
Yuri Kuma Arashi is taking its sweet time moving the story forward, but maybe we’ve taken an important step in episode 7 in getting Kureha ro realize that Ginko was that childhood friend. Made especially hard because Kureha had forgotten she even had one. So it takes a series of clues, like her mother’s well-tempered love song, the book, the ginger honey milk Lulu prepares to signal one thought and then the next. I’m more curious about why she forgot in the first place. And there’s still the unanswered question about her mother’s death. One of these days Kureha will look at what Ginko sometimes wears around her neck and make a connection. But Kureha isn’t the quickest of humans, we’re learning.
Elsewhere, Kaoru has rather a shock awaiting her in her lover’s bed (shock–get it?). There’s still apparently a bear on the loose that we haven’t accounted for. I suspect it’s the one who actually killed Kureha’s mother, because I can’t imagine Ginko doing it. Also, there’s that threatening note to Ginko, saying they know what she did. But Ginko is a criminal bear, remember, so there are a lot of things she probably has to account for. But maybe she DID kill Kureha’s mother. Finally, there are the flashbacks, the most memorable being the church that the young unloved ginko is dragged to, where they are told to defend the borders from those evil humans in the name of lady Kumalia, who, er, is human. And Kureha is the human form that Ginko … worships, which could be considered another type of love. So are Kureha and Ginko’s loves different? Elsewhere in the flashback we learn that bears can exclude, too, and we get a trippy battle scene.
Koufuku Graffiti 5 gave us the traditional pleasures of summer, and episode 6 brings us the other side–the oppressive heat. And Ryou’s AC is broken. It’s a lot of scenes showing us the girls deal with the heat in various ways, mainly food of course. So we get eel over rice, ice cream, and azuki soup, since Ryou and Kirin are kind of perverse. It all works its usual happy magic, save for a bit with Ryou and the freezer which went on too long.
Maria the Virgin Witch 4-5 continues to stir morality around, not to mention the plot, though it looks like Maria hasn’t changed her mind one bit. Okay, not quite true, she now accepts that reasonable people might think she’s wrong. However, I still think she’s in the right. Everyone has tried to come up with counter-arguments for her stopping the fighting, each more inane than the next. Most often, they argue “What next? If you stop the war, the soldiers will just plunder innocent people.” Viv, the British witch, pops in to argue much the same before she gets on that “Let’s find Maria a hot guy!” bandwagon. That pagan god pops in again and says it more obscurely, but it’s the same message. Often it’s the familiars and Ezekiel who do the arguing on both sides. Maria, to her credit, gives a serious listen to each of these arguments before she rejects them. Meanwhile, Bernard and others make plans for more wars.
Not that Maria’s a saint. Why didn’t she intervene when that village had the plague? The show hints that she was getting revenge for the way the church treated her. Or maybe she tried but was roughly pushed out? It’s unclear whether she was trying to save the village or her old friend. And she admits that she has plenty of doubts. She almost intervenes in the duel between Garfa and that knight, a petty, sordid business made deadly because of lust, jealous rage, and perverse views of honor. … Maybe there are some fights that aren’t worth interfering with. Everyone involved shared some of the blame. Story-wise, we see that Garfa is on his way up, and Joseph with him. Garfa should not be in charge of anything, and Joseph is a good man who is Maria’s friend and possible future magic-remover, if you know what I mean. Yeah, the show’s coming along nicely, but it feels a little busy with all these philosophical debates mixed in with the story.
In Yuri Kuma Arashi 6, Kaoru and her classmates spring their trap on poor Kureha, and Ginko does something heroic … and that’s it for plot, really, in terms of people doing something. Everything else is backstory.
As for that backstory, it has more invisible storming, more not backing down on love, more talk of promise kisses (has anyone actually delivered one in this series yet?) more saying her love is true, and a shabba-da-do–the usual. The big surprise is Sumika conspiring with Kaoru to break up with Kureha, though she’s doing it for love. If they break up Kaoru can protect Kureha from the invisible storm. You might ask why Kaoru can’t just protect her without Kureha and Sumika breaking up, and it must be that their love is forbidden, or rather, Kureha won’t forget love, so she hasn’t become invisible, and therefore she must be declared Evil by the rest of the class. Yeah, I suppose, but that sounds too simple for Kunihiko Ikuhara, a man who seems to take pleasure in confounding his audience.
Besides, we have those red and black desk drawers to contend with, oh, AND that dark lily that opened just before the betrayal and got burned up. And many other bits of symbolism I’m sure I’ve forgotten, so let’s move on to the plot. Kureha is finally allied with Ginko and Lulu. Took them long enough. They’ve withstood the invisible storm together, and all that needs to happen now is to give the star pendant back to Kureha. Then what? Well, there’s the whole bear problem, with Kaoru and that mystery lover of hers (remember girls: keep it invisible!) to defeat. And, um, oh, Kureha’s refusal to accept other friends, something they’ll have to deal with right now, unless they just forget about it. None of that will take long. So, where is this show going?
The last couple of days here have been cold and snowing, so I appreciate Koufuku Graffiti’s summery episode 5. I also appreciate how the show has such a simple, sentimental theme but Shaft manages to make it fresh every week. Kirin managed to do everything on her summer wish list, but it happens so matter-of-factly that I wasn’t even paying attention to that; I was too busy just watching the girls be happy in their own way. Things are livened up considerably by Shiina’s doting mom. I don’t know if the production asked Miyu Matsuki to toss in a little Yoshinoya in her portrayal or not, but it’s effective. Tsuyuko the maid is equally effective even though part of her shtick is silence because of her super-maid abilities. Another good, simple, happy episode.