Abbreviated new shows Fall 2016 2

The last installment had me considering a lot of shows and saying “no” a lot. This time we’ll begin with …

Natsume Yuujinchou looks good as usual.
Natsume Yuujinchou looks good as usual.

Natsume Yuujinchou Go … YES! YES! YES! Instant approval! I will watch this series no matter what! After some usual re-intro scenes and a bit of mystery, Natsume meets a girl in a pot who starts demanding her treasure back. Reika, naturally, stole it. Turns out to be a doll. Natsume finds it, discarded and dirty, and the pot-girl rejects it and gets threatening. But thanks to flashbacks brought to him by another youkai who met Reika long ago, he discovers that pot-girl actually stole it first. Nonetheless, she gets it back, and everyone is happy. This brief synopsis does not do the episode justice.

Natsume!  Nyanko-Sensei!  Welcome back!  Great to see you!
Natsume! Nyanko-Sensei! Welcome back! Great to see you!

Just like Random Curiosity, I was a little worried that this fifth series of the franchise might not have anything more to say, but episode one is great. It works in Reika’s loneliness and need for love subtly with her leaving the now-unwanted doll for someone who can take care of it (unlike her, though the story doesn’t say it out loud), and mentions a man she had a child out of wedlock with. This season might give Reika, and Natsume’s curiosity about her, more time, and it’s a good angle to take. Though Reika is an important character, and actually appears from time to time, we know very little about her. As for the rest of the episode, it has the same look and feel, even some of the same music as before, and Nyanko-Sensei is in fine form. Happy that the show is back!

Stella no Mahou has a pretty opening image, too.
Stella no Mahou has a pretty opening image, too.

Then I doubled back and found Stella no Mahou, because it looks light and silly enough to get me through a season. And that’s how it turned out. Tamaki is out of the country and joining a high school in town, one that is big on clubs. She doesn’t really know what she wants to do, though. She’s tempted by the tea ceremony club, her friend Yumi joins the illustration club … Meanwhile girls at a doujin game club have set up a booth and are warming up their expected cute-odd traits for the new girls. Tama and Yumi check out their game, leave, and Tama returns to join, meeting the other members. All pretty much as expected.

Perhaps not the best way to lure in new club members.
Perhaps not the best way to lure in new club members.

It’s more subdued than I expected, more nice. Not so crazy. In fact, a little dull. The only character that seems to display any interesting emotions at all this episode is Shiina, the programmer, and even that’s in a monotone. I’m a little intrigued with the setup. They want to make a new game this year but the girl who inspired, organized, and led them last year has graduated, and they’re rudderless. Also, I like shows where they make things, so there’s that. And I wonder how Tama’s completely different art style will fit into a club where they make games called “Tearmint Tearstars.” Probably not enough to keep watching, however.

Chidora's hair whipping through a blood-red moon.  The actual show isn't nearly as dramatic.
Chidora’s hair whipping through a blood-red moon. The actual show isn’t nearly as dramatic.

Another earlier show, Nobunaga no Shinobi, where a girl named Chidora swears she will become a servant of you-know-who, because she saved her once. She says goodbye to her family, whom she may have to kill later depending on her orders, and is accompanied by her would-be boyfriend, Sukezo, and they join the Nobunaga team.

Chidori re-introduces her to Oda Nobunaga.
Chidori re-introduces her to Oda Nobunaga.

Five minute show, or thereabouts, and a long OP. The gags are okay–I like the kill you while you poop bit. Chidora is cute. I learned a bit about shinobi. In my “Nothing too deep” mindset for this season this might work.

Moving on, Nanbaka‘s promo-image hurts my head to look at, so no … Soushin Shoujo Matoi, started it. Didn’t look so great, so stopped it.

You don't need to tell us what we're going to watch, you know.
You don’t need to tell us what we’re going to watch, you know.

Hibike! Euphonium has a new season, and it looks heavy duty. We start with the triumphant victory at the regionals and things go downhill from there; I suppose they couldn’t go up. Everyone buckles down for the next competition and we’re sort of introduced to Mizore, an oboe player who’s friends with Reina, though you’d think the show would have mentioned that last season, or I forgot. Since Mizore’s even more laconic than Reina I don’t know what we’re going to get out of her, well, in the second half, we do, as we see her getting sick over the sound of a flute player, Nozomi, one of last year’s quitters who desperately wants back in. Everyone involved in that spat is against it, but she seems okay to Kumiko, and so the adolescent dramas begin …

One episode in and our heroines already look worried.
One episode in and our heroines already look worried.

Wow, a double-length episode of this stuff was nearly too much for me. KyoAni’s attention to detail means subtle moments go by that you’ll miss if you blink. Also, we have remember who all these people are again, and I was getting some of them mixed up. And I’ve forgotten some of the situations from last year. All this makes me wonder if the new season, in my different situation, would get the justice it deserves if I try to write about it, and to make it clear, this show deserves consideration. The episode was excellent, more of the same, tight editing and story with the usual drop-dead gorgeous KyoAni art and animation. I suppose I don’t need to tell you that.

Moving on, Bungou Stray Dogs new season, which I would normally watch, but not this season, sorry, no. Brave Witches–I didn’t even watch Strike Witches, so no … Yuri!!! on ICE, er, no …

Shh!  Kokona's taking a test.
Shh! Kokona’s taking a test.

Why not Flip Flappers, you say? Okay … What we got is a orange haired girl named Papika, with super powers, or at least a flying surfboard, running off for reasons unknown, and then we switch to normal middle schooler named Kokona, having trouble deciding where to go to high school. For reasons unknown (there are lot of reasons unknown in this episode) she walks into a part of a forest where people don’t go, where Papika spots her and drags her off to the land of “Pure Illusion,” with sweet tasting snow and giant white heaps that nearly crush them before they roll into the sea, taking Kokona’s glasses, and Papika, along with them, until it’s transformation time for Kokona! Later they go back to reality only to be captured by robots.

This is all too much for Kokona, but Papika doesn't seem to mind it.
This is all too much for Kokona, but Papika doesn’t seem to mind it.

The early scenes, with Kokona going about her routine while Papika spies on her, are charming and funny. It’s uses a lot of color and turns it off for extra effect. But when they go through the rabbit hole and reach Pure Illusion it loses part of its fun. You begin to worry about poor Kokona, not so much about Papika, who perhaps is too stupid to get worried. And the wonders of Pure Illusion get boring after a while; you want them to get to the point. But through it all it’s great to look at, graceful and fluid. A good start, could have been a great one, but good enough that I’ll keep it in mind for the future.

Keijo!!!!!!!!, about girls wrestling with their boobs and butts, no … All out!!, I tend not to watch sports anime, so no … Watashi ga Motete Dou Sunda, male harem show, no … TO BE CONTINUED …

Natsume Shi Finale, Moretsu and Symphogear 12

Natsume Yuujinchou finishes up its fourth season in a typically warm, forgiving, but a little underwhelming finale.

I’ve said before that the show doesn’t work as well with great drama. It’s the quiet, bittersweet stories work the best, but this two-parter could have used some drama considering what they gave us last week. After introducing Miyoko, a character who suffered in her own way from Natsume’s problems, they don’t do anything more with her. The moments with Miyoko that should have happened this episode happened last episode, including the little attempt at peace he made toward her. It’s a shame. We’ve never seen a character from Natsume’s past quite like this one; her story, or at least a better conclusion, deserved more screen time.

Natsume drives out the threat, Nyanko-Sensei eats it.

Instead we get a very long flashback of his life in this town and that household, and apart from the shrine he discovers in hides in, it’s one unhappy moment after another. He’s teased by classmates, little Miyoko can’t understand his problems (who can?) and is jealous of the attention it gets. We’re seeing all of this because the youkai who entered him last week is showing him the memories, I guess, though it’s never explained. It gets to the point where we’ve had enough of Natsume’s childhood woes (though the final bit, running down the road crying for his dead father to come back, was a good moment). And we saw the key moment, when the youkai offers to eat his memories with Natsume refusing and driving him out of his body, in BRS a few days ago. After that what can you do but find the house, get a little sad, and go to your real home? We all know where Natsume belonged, so does he. So that fact that he returns where he has good friends (they find the soda spring!) and kind guardians, comes as no surprise. Or maybe we’ve just seen too much of Natsume recently. We had two seasons in one year, four in total. While I love this series and would gladly watch another season, I think it’s time to let the lad and his cat have a little rest.

Often I wish the art budget was higher on this show.

Moretsu Pirates 12 brings us another situation where everything looks guns-a-blazin’ but in reality no one gets hurt. Part of me is a little let down by this, but I have to admit that what actually happens is strategically sound. Why shoot at people and possibly die when you can think past the confrontation and achieve your aims without risk? I’m not sure this is proper pirate behavior, but apart from a few downloads I’ve never been a pirate. It was also a splendid surprise. We had a well-done scene where Gruier and Hilde confront each other with their band of troops; we get the jist of their conflict (the ghost ship treasure is its clone-making machine, which Gruier wants to disable and Hilde wants to preserve–the larger jist being: does Serenity still need its monarchy?), meanwhile Marika’s eyes dart about, sizing up the situation, and the other side are making little gestures. It looks like a battle about to start, and then … Elsewhere, the art in this show isn’t bad, but it doesn’t do justice to the ghost ship. Much of the episode has the Bentenmaru crew float through this thing that looks like Clarke’s Rama. The show can barely do the wonder of this thing justice; meanwhile Gruier talks to Marika about what a civilization would most want to preserve. She was talking about the clone-thing, but in reality it’s that gigantic ship they’re passing through.

Senki Zesshou Symphogear 12 has one of those great final moments where the apparently defeated heroine finds, with some help, their reserve of strength. Yuuki Aoi gives one of her better cries of rage, the dead characters wake up, and the frantic OP music kicks in. Cut. Good stuff. So let’s ignore the rest of it, shall we? The black-rage Hibiki, Tsubasa’s sacrifice, the prattling about songs, the endless villain mutterings, the post-rage Hibiki’s angst, the girls in the basement going on about anime characters, all a terrible bore. Forget for now that we have another episode of it. Just remember how much fun the final minute or so is.

Some near-finales for you: Natsu, Ano Natsu, Last Exile Fam

We’re getting a lot of pre-finale cliffhangers this week, a lot of characters in crises of various kinds, some of more interesting than others. We start with Natsume Yuujinchou Shi, where our boy heads to his first home, but before he gets there he’s assailed by youkai and memories of the past.

Nyanko-Sensei comes too.

The two work together. He needs to pick up a key to the old place from a place he used to stay with a nice couple and their daughter who could not understand him at the time, well, none of them did, but little Miyoko was the only one unable to hide it. This would be a perfect place for Natsume to sit down, have some nice tea, and prove to everyone how happy he is now, but he forgot about the house’s other inhabitant.

This can get hard to watch. Natsume, in fighting off this nasty youkai, displays all the behavior that he used to, and again it’s Miyoko, willing to try again with this now grown up and kind of cute boy who’s paying his respects, who can’t handle it. After Natsume barely escapes the house in spite of the parents’ hospitality and concern she chases after him full of accusations, and we learn a little more about why he upsets her. He was an intruder into her household, and one that seemed to need extra attention, meaning she felt left out. The older, wiser Natume tells her “Don’t worry, I won’t take your family” (a line which perhaps also refers to the youkai), and we leave her thinking maybe about things SHE had forgotten about.

The plot twist at the end suggests that the youkai represents the old memories, at least the painful ones. It works with Miyoko, too; the monster is much bigger now after living under the same roof as her. Or maybe not. When it enters Natsume he can only think of getting home. But which home is he referring to? The original home, or the one he’s saying goodbye to? Next week I believe is the finale, and we’ll get our answer there, though it isn’t hard to figure out. I just hope we’re not done with Miyoko. It’s not good that in going to say goodbye and make amends he reopens old wounds.

The buildup in Ano Natsu de Matteru isn’t as quiet and mysterious as Natsume‘s nor as slam-bang as Last Exile Fam‘s, but it nearly the most compelling I’ve seen this season, and I don’t know how they’re doing it. Well, I have some ideas.

You know, like crashing on a No Contact planet and dating an alien ...

First, we have the love-string. Ichika-Kaito-Kanna-Setsuro-Mio, with Remon stirring the pot (or plot) out of what I thought was just boredom and spite, well, until this episode. We start with Emika, Ichika’s sister, come to rescue her and appalled that she actually wants to stay. After the shock of seeing Ichika dating that little guy, she Emika softens a little, but not so much that she can allow Ichika to stay. Ichika broke the Prime Directive, don’t you know. Our couple seperate, depressed. Ichika gets another reverse pep talk from Kanna, which I thought unfair. Ichika was still trying to sort things out; she didn’t need this sort of pressure. Meanwhile, Kaito works on Emika with little result except for that vague reference of trying to find something on this planet, the first time all episode needed its silly SF side to appear. And, finally, Remon makes herself useful.

And it's about time.

I didn’t think about this show very hard, but it had occurred to me that Remon always seemed to know too much. She befriended Ichika right away. She’s always around, even when you don’t expect her. And we still don’t know what she’s about, but she instigates our beleagered team’s counter-strategy: find the place on the maps that isn’t in the alien database. A first contact might have happened there, meaning the planet will be promoted and fraternization would no longer be taboo. Okay, she got Emika to help by supplying her with gadgets, but don’t tell me Remon’s normal after all the wild stuff she whips out during the chase with the spacecraft. It leads to a great few minutes. Suddenly, they’re all running, the music has picked up, it’s fun as hell to watch. Each character “sacrifices” themselves for our heroes in ways only they can as the tricked-out van rushes to The Place, until the last couple seconds … Well, we’ll have to see what the show makes of that next week.

Sara has every reason to look worried.

Last Exile Fam‘s pre-finale events are the most disappointing. Maybe because nothing really happened that you didn’t expect. No surprises. Luscinia kidnaps Sara and gets her to that cold lace where he unleashes an exile, or something, which blows up a lot of stuff, but it’s unclear exactly what’s going on. Meanwhile everyone back at the fortress is either sad about Lilliana dying or pissed off about the Federation, both, as it turns out, right things to concern oneself with. We Luscinia’s arrogant and single-minded concept of uniting everyone–under the Federation, of course, but we heard that all last week. And there’s no response from the good guys. Bleak bleak pre-finale blues. My guess is that Millia, who’s now got the power, is going to unleash some exile-mojo of her own.

Natsume 11, Last Exile Fam 20 (I think), Moretsu 10

Natsume Yuujinchou Shi 11 is the beginning of a two-parter that doesn’t feel like one. Natsume learns that the house he first lived in is going to be sold. It has happy memories for him, about the only ones he had until he moved to where he is now, so he has struggled to forget them because they hurt too much. Odd behavior, indeed. Also, we have a Macguffin: a photo of his late parents, another painful memory. He insists to everyone that he’s okay about the house being sold, and, he can look at the picture now, so he’s fine, right? We even get moments where he talks to himself like he’s giving one of his show-ending soliloquies, but Tanuma sees right through it, and even Nyanko can tell that it’s bothering him. This is reflected in the outing, the boys get lost in the forest while trying to find a soda spring one of them once knew of. A silly adventure to regain something one had when they were young. When a youkai ambushes Natsume and he loses the photo, the boys abandon their goal and help him look for it. They were playing a game; Natsume is trying to regain something he once feared but now desperately needs. Next week he visits the house, but this week felt so complete that it’s hardly a continuing story at all. Still, I wonder what memories the visit will conjure up.

Smile while you can, Sara.

I’m catching up with Last Exile Fam, so I’ll just give some brief thoughts. First, were the people who secretly met with Millia the stupidest conspirators ever? Not only were they so easily caught, but they demanded that Millia make her decision right then and there. And after they’re caught, they blame her for no reason. Good riddance. The Glacies treachery at the end was far more effective because they kept their mouths shut. Also, Fam has a terrible sense of timing, to tread on Sadri’s foot the moment he’s about to give her some important information about her life? But what bugs me the most is the concept that Luscinia, Lilliana, and now Millia have been given a clear vision of How Things Work that makes them invade other countries and slaughter countless soldiers and civilians. The only excuse I’m getting is overpopulation, but there are surely peaceful ways to take care of that. I find this sort of high-handed certainty in leaders that give them an excuse to make their subjects suffer absolutely disgusting. Okay, my thoughts weren’t all THAT brief …

All great miniskirted pirate captains know to put a leg up when making swashbuckling speeches.

It must be tough to be the captain in Moretsu Pirates 10. Not only do they have to fight their way through nasty turbulance and slip past and eventually skirmish with two ships, but Captain Marika is doing it partly blind. It’s clear from earlier episodes and in this one that there is more than one side to Gruier’s empire, and they’re more than willing to fire at each other. Since Gruier is on the Bentenmaru, this puts her on one side. Which means any ship out there might or might not fire on her if they find out. Gruier’s presence is, in Marika’s words, a valuable card that should be held in reserve. But what IS Griuier? We learn that she’s made genetic material that Serenity space buoys older than she is recognizes, suggesting that she’s a clone. A clone princess doesn’t sound right. We don’t get any answers, and neither does Marika. Either that or she’s already figured it out, since she’s got some formidable genes of her own. It’s fun to watch Marika assess the situation and make a quick decision, with a flourish, but like the other episodes it’s all rather routine and straightforward, a straight-ahead plot with little in the way of side notes.

Another 9, Natsume Shi 10, Symphogear 9

Whoa, a real bloodbath in Another 9. And it took me only a moment to realize that the show was using some cruel logic on me.

But the fun, if you can call it that, happens mostly at the end, as usual. Before that the show does some tidying up. Nakao probably died because of a head injury he received in Yomiyama. He could have keeled over and died at any time after that. Which can’t come as any consolation to the kids outside of town. The fact remains that he died outside of city lines, and if he had gotten himself checked in town who knows what would have happened? But let’s put that aside. The main thrust of the episode, apart from the flatbed truck carrying construction equipment inserting itself into a house… but I’m getting ahead of myself. The thrust is that Matsunga had said he had left something in the classroom, so Kouichi, Teshigawa and Mochizuki decide to go look for it. No one else. They don’t want anyone else to know, or they might be put in danger. So naturally, Kouichi tells two girls about it as they’re going to the meeting.Aha, I thought. One of them is doomed.

Misaki is also around (a fact that looks more suspicious every time I think about it), and the four of them explore the old school’s classroom 3, full of rotting wood and teetering dusty things piled up, so I knew nothing bad would happen there. They even find room for little bits of comedy. And they find what they’re after and it’s off to the AV room where they listen to Matsunga describe his class’s misadventures at the old shrine. Recently, I was joking about a character getting struck by lightning. Well, guess what. But I didn’t expect a second death moments after. Of course, this is just the flashback. The show cuts from that to shots of the two girls walking home, one getting in a car, maybe moving away, and a guy parking his flatbed truck. Ah! Which one of them will die?

Naturally, the tape cuts out the moment Matsunga gets to stopping the curse. Before I was able to do a facepalm over plot devices, they up the ante by getting interrupted, and Teshigawara breaks the tape. Misaki said “Idiot.” I added “Moron, dumbass,” and other things. I thought cassettes were still in use in Japan. Doesn’t he know not to pull a cassette out while it’s playing? But this bit of pathetic comedy gets brushed aside as the show again jumps to one girl, then the other. I should have seen it coming. Two people died on that mountain moments apart, so why couldn’t two people get killed the same way now? And it was a gloriously frightening series of scenes. We see the truck hit the house and think that’s it, and relax a little as the other girl’s car glides along mountain roads in the rain. Surely the show is just teasing us now, right? … Neither the character nor we viewers get any warning. Well done indeed.

So where does the show go from here? If Mochizuki can repair the tape and not die in the process, I guess that’s the next step. However, Misaki remains a mystery, and I’m still suspicious about the librarian.

Natsume Yuujinchou Shi 10 is mostly plot. While there’s the usual Natsume-musing speech at the end concerning his growing respect and understanding for Natori, it feels like an afterthought, like since they always have Natsume musing about something he’s learned or accepted at the end, they pretty much made it up on the spot. That’s okay. It can’t be easy to have something profound to say every episode. And the story’s conclusion was a good one. For a long time it was unclear how it was going to turn out. Was Houdzuki actually sealed? Did he actually leave the mountain and desert his followers? What if his rival Fudzuki wins their contest? The answers turned out a bit convoluted but with Natsume and Natori working together (and Hiiragi and Nyanko assisting) we get another lovely conclusion. They didn’t have to exorcise anybody, the rival gods made their peace (I don’t think they were really enemies to begin with), everyone floated away while the humans admired the light show. The usual. But it didn’t have the same weight that the great Natsume episodes have.

A new psychological rehabilitation technique: Enka singing.

The main thrust in Senki Zesshou Symphogear 9 is Tsubasa’s healing process. Physically, she’s pronounced fit, not that we needed to know that, really, considering she was in a battle recently, but it’s good to get an official pronouncement. But there’s still the internal stuff going on which leads to a conflict in her character which doesn’t make much sense. She’s said over and over again that singing is a form of combat, that she’s always thought that, but there she was five or so years ago singing happily with Kanade. So she must be lying to herself. This is taken care of when Hibiki and Miku (trusted enough that she’s allowed into the secret base underneath the school–who the hell built a school over a base, or vice-versa? This is almost as stupid as Heroman‘s alien research lab hidden underneath the White House) take her on a “date,” i.e., the usual: Shopping, soppy movie, karaoke, and Hibiki shows her the city that’s been around her all the time. The climax is when Tsubasa does a live concert and rediscovers her love of singing. Well, I’m glad she’s finally cured. Now they can work on Chris, who still mistrusts everyone yet aids Hibiki in destroying some noise, then goes into a bout of self-loathing for it.

Chihayafuru 21, Natsume Shi 9, Bakuman II 21, Kill Me Baby something

A solid episode of Chihayafuru. A little of everything: foreshadowing, old rivals, new rivals and friends, and a good karuta match.

We start with the most revealing scene involving Taichi for a while. After we figure out what everyone’s reacting to (did they plan that shot where it looks like everyone’s looking at his crotch?) we realize, thanks partly to Nishida, what his biggest playing flaw is. He can memorize and recite all the cards randomly, but can he get a feel for the cards in play? It’s an interesting question, but not one we’ll see answered soon, or at least this episode, since we don’t get to watch him play. After we’ve taken care of Taichi for the time being there’s some business to attend to in passing exams (success!) and then we can get to the meat of the episode, the Eastern Qualifier. Sudo shows up so we can get some snarking, exposition about scholarships, and to make a stupid bet. Anyone could have done that exposition, in fact, I’m surprised Taichi or their advisor hadn’t already brought it up, but no one but Sudo would have bet hair. To hell with aspirations and meeting Arata in the finals! Chihaya’s beautiful locks are at stake! And then the tournament begins and we get to the meat of the meat of the episode, Chihaya’s first opponent.

This is what Chihayafuru and much good anime does. Set up a formidable opponent and gradually show their own hopes and fears, i.e., make them human beings. Chihaya must win this first round, if only for the sake of her hair, but to beat her might mean breaking the heart of a 12 year-old girl. And while Ririka is fast, Chihaya uses some experience and training to keep close to her, the girl starts making mistakes, and Chihaya is told to use her speed. In the meantime we get flashbacks about this tot gaining confidence with karuta and the support of her mother, who’s watching breathlessly through the windows outside. It’s a shame if either one of them lose.

But Chihaya instinctively knows this, and while she manages to win the match, her empathy toward the girl makes them friends at the end, to the point where she manages to break up some gossip as they leave the room. Poor Ririka! She gains confidence by playing well only to feel the weight of expectation because of it, much as, come to think of it, Taichi did. And after that, some Arata business which, frankly, carefully-worded phone messages apart, really doesn’t seem to matter much right now.

Even Natori can't believe what Natsume's gotten himself into now.

I haven’t been keeping track, but I don’t recall a Natsume Yuujinchou episode deal with sealing away a god before. That’s rather a step up from some troublesome Youkai. In this episode Natori might have to do just that to a moon god Fudzuki if he can’t unseal Fudzuki’s opponent, Houdzuki, so he can participate in a once-in-ten-years competition. And there are suspicious overtones. Natori is given only one day to find Houdzuki and unseal him, not enough, so it looks like he’ll have to seal Fudzuki instead (to prevent a drought). It sounds complicated, but the underlying themes are the same. Natsume tries to help out the Houdzuki faction (ridiculously), while Natori is not pleased with the thought of sealing away a god, even if it is to protect humans, his goal as an exorcist. Hiiragi wonders if Natori will ever soften up, while Natsume thinks is has already. In other words, the race to unseal the real Houdzuki, or catch the beast, are this week’s plot trappings laid over what’s really important. One good thing about Natori episodes is that it means Hiiragi will be there. She’s one of my favorite characters. Calm, sensible, devoted to Natori, yet she and Natsume share an intimacy formed by shared adventures. They can talk frankly to one another, they try to protect each other. It’s sweet to watch, in a human/youkai way.

In Bakuman II 21 the boys finish up with the gag manga they struggled with and are casting about for new ideas, and they only have three submission meetings to get one. I always liked starting a new project. So many things to try, so many ideas to put on paper! But the boys seem at a loss, as I, with my limited attention span, do whenever I’m free to write anything. Okay, they have some constraints; they’re writing for a boys manga, but even then there are too many possibilities. Often you need an additional constraint, a framework to attach your ideas on. So Miura suggests embellishing an early series of theirs, and later tells them to do a straight fantasy series. I find something satisfying about watching them initially reject the ideas, then try them out, only to find they maybe can do such-and-such a genre after all. It can lead to you discovering things about yourself you hadn’t realized before. So when both ideas are rejected in committee it feels like a low blow. Also sort of ironic. It’s a good episode. I was not expecting both submissions to fail, and you can feel the sense of impending doom hanging over them. Now they’re in a corner but now they have Miura AND Hattori working with them. I guess the latter is trying to get away from the smitten Akina for awhile.

Oh yeah, I also watched Kill Me Baby. Guess how long it takes for Yasuna to get that thing off her head.

Natsume Shi 7, Inu x Boku 6, Amagami 6 and Kill Me Baby something.

Natsume Yuujinchou Shi 7 concludes the help-me-I’m-stuck-in-a-jar story arc with a great episode.

Tanuma's got more guts than I expected.

The plot involves rescue and escape, but the emotional story in a Natsume episode is always closer to the heart. In this case, Tanuma. He’s tried to find the Natsume-jar and stumbled into youkai land where there’s a big banquet to celebrate the return of Omibashira, a very powerful spirit. Bring gifts! Tanuma has only a sliver of the perception that Natsume does. He can often feel a youkai’s presence, or see a vague shadow, but nothing more. He must at times want a better look at what he can’t see. Now he’s in a place where they’re all visible to him! Plus, he’s desperate to rescue Natsume. No way is he going to hold back now, in spite of what that weird youkai who spots him says. But to impersonate a youkai and try to con the assembled banqueteers is a bold move! Even cynical Nyanko is impressed. Natsume isn’t; he’s alarmed. Involving a friend in a dangerous situation is his worst-case-scenario.

Took me a minute to figure out what Reiko was doing there.

The consequences of Tanuma’s action are twofold. First, he does succeed in freeing Natsume, second, he later is injured while everyone tries to find a way out of the mansion, which is actually a trap not only for humans but for Youkai. Natsume, naturally, is beside himself. But there are advantages to having friends around as well. Natori is there, which means Urihime and (hooray!) Hiiragi is there. And then there’s that odd schoolgirl who rescues them from some searchers. It took me a moment to figure it out who this Reiko-impersonator was, but then I recognized the music. Here’s another thing the series can do well, especially now that the characters are so well established: it can be flat out funny. Reiko was an intense character all by herself; having her do the Nyanko phraseology on top of that nearly put me on the floor.

And another thing that the series does well: danger. It’s often so pastoral and serene that you can forget that lives are at stake, here. It takes work by everyone to seal Omibashira away and save the remaining youkai. Meanwhile Tanuma, in spite of his bravery and desire to help, is really out of his element here, and that brings us back to the theme. Natsume doesn’t want to involve his friends in his youkai adventures, or at least he wants to involve them as little as possible. But can you keep good friends out of something that so dominates your life, and still have them as friends? Remember, in season one Natsume only told Tanuma about the youkai in order to reassure him that he wasn’t seeing things. He had no intention of drawing him closer to that dangerous world. Natori tells Natsume that he was right to choose this path, because he’s strong enough to handle it. I’m not sure I understand, but I assume Natori was talking about living with friends both youkai and human. So, a little bit of everything this week. Excellent episode.

Carpets are masochists. Did you know that?

Six episodes in and I still don’t know what’s up with Inu x Boku SS. It still has overtones of supernatural thriller and romance, with something potentially nasty threatening our little stocking’d tsundere every episode, but each time the threat turns out silly. This time it’s Ririchiyo’s getting stalky text messages which are distracting her from the much more important job of figuring out how to reciprocate Souchi’s kindness (and thus maybe deal with her heart spasms), and choosing the right stationary. This danger, which actually looks dangerous, turns out to be this weirdo (aren’t they all in this show) called Kagerou, once Souchi’s master and currently Ririchiyo’s fianceĆ©. She might have mentioned that before. However, whatever shock his appearance might have had is quickly dissolved into silliness as he runs around the place dividing the other tenants, agents and inanimate objects into Sadist or Masochist. Then he runs off. So, again, what kind of show is this?

Yawn. Seen it.

Amagami SS+, the conclusion of the Ai arc, is the dullest episode yet. It makes you wonder why they bothered to revive the series at all. At least the first two arcs had something going for them. The Tsukasa arc had a new, evil rival. The Rihoko arc was unfinished, so they had somewhere to go with it. The Ai arc had nothing. Junichi is stuck in cram school. Ai is lonely and wondering what will happen when Junichi goes off to university. Junichi sneaks out of cram school for their Christmas date and reassures her. That’s it. The tossed-in comedy bits worked for as long as they lasted, but in the end all you get are two people in love having a good time together. Promises to the future aside, nothing whatsoever changes from before.

Oh, I also watched Kill me Baby.

I don't know what's going on here.