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Finales: Zvezda, Nobunagun, Dandy

April 1, 2014 Leave a comment

The final episode of Sekai Seifuku: Bouryaku no Zvezda made absolutely no sense, and I couldn’t care less.

And don't forget weirdness!

And don’t forget weirdness!

The good guys who weren’t there while Kate was beginning her obviously suicidal confrontation with Kyoshiro showed up one by one, and just in the nick of time to rescue someone. And while they did we had a giant robot, flying vending machines which are eaten by stuffed dolls, the dead come to life (twice), thrilling motorcycle driving by Kate, oh, and a high bar routine, deadly cigar smoke, and tons of other stuff that was all completely ridiculous and fun as hell to watch. Also, enemies are reunited and betrayers forgiven, though I’d be a lot slower to forgive Yasu then they did. To get to this nutty battle the series had to go through a couple of dark episodes, but they more than made up for it.

Just a stuffed animal devouring a vending machine.

Just a stuffed animal devouring a vending machine.

One thing they didn’t do that well, and I suspect that it’s because they didn’t care, is add any depth to the Jimon family relationship. They didn’t even try to reconcile father and son, or even get them talking beyond the level of insults. That’s because the father was an evil alien jerk. No wonder Asuta ran away. The whole Goro screwup situation takes an odd turn, but is otherwise done with quickly. More interesting was the talk between Kyoshiro and Kate, with an interesting take on the latter’s plans for world conquest. She will meet everyone in the world before she conquers them, because how can you conquer them otherwise? In other words (I think), trying to inflict change on a society from a place where you can’t even see the people betrays any idealistic beliefs you have. I think. Who knows with this show?

Kate's that little dot on the far left.

Kate’s that little dot on the far left.

If you went into the episode looking for more background on just what the hell Kate is, you’ll be disappointed. All I know is that she had more stars around her head than before. I didn’t mind. I like it when a show doesn’t try to explain all the mysteries, and it gives little girl Kate an aura of authority and hidden power, the contrast which remained funny until the end. In fact, I found every one of these misfits funny. I thought the show was funny. It was also nuts, and beneath it all, kind and humane. The sequel they hint at, where they’d battle American stereotypes, doesn’t look as good, but maybe they’ll conquer America quickly and move on to other people. If there’s a sequel. That’s it: Zvezda’s next conquest should be season two!

Season one --  Conquered!

Season one — Conquered!

I doubt that there will be a second season of Nobunagun, and I’m a little disappointed. Whenever those critters begin their next invasion, it will be a letdown. And the show wasn’t that great to begin with. On the other hand, it was fun, silly, and they blew things up.

Jack and Florence.

Jack and Florence.

The final weird thing was the revelation that Florence Nightingale and Jack the Ripper were actually the same person, and that she had gone around slicing those prostitutes up in order to remove highly contagious organs before they caused a pandemic. What kind of strange mind thinks these concepts up, anyway?

An appropriate facial expression when you're about to blow up the bad boss.

An appropriate facial expression when you’re about to blow up the bad boss.

Like many anime shows before it, Nobunagun took a bizarre concept and ladled just enough humanity on top to make it palatable, like the BFF to protect, possible romance, and the main character discovering her potential. Oh, and fanservice. Nothing wrong with that. What set it above many such series, for me anyway, was that I found Sio appealing from the start. She was a military nerd, thus an outsider at school, but she was fine with that, or at least resigned. Then her E-gene kicked in, she got that grin on her face, and I liked her even more. In fact, I liked how every character in the show enjoyed the damage they could do, whether it be shooting, slicing, stomping, barrier-making … well, some of the talents got a little strange. The fun they had made the weaker parts of the show more palatable. So I hope there is a second season, even if Sio’s channeling of Oda becomes too familiar and not the surprise and delight it was at first. I had too much fun watching Sio grin and shoot to worry about that.

One more of Nobunaga.

One more of Nobunaga.

If the structure of Space Dandy was to give creative talent a template of characters in a situation for them to create standalone works showcasing their abilities and eccentricities, then it’s only fitting that the final episode of season 1 was just that, another episode, without even a hit of finality. That’s fine. The episode falls in the middle of the pack for me. I think QT is put-upon and kind of cute (with that voice), so I liked how the episode gave him an opportunity to fall in love, even if everyone watching knew it would have a tragic or bittersweet end. There was nothing new in the story.

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The ideas weren’t exactly fresh, either. Robots that gain sentience is about as old as SF, though they did a nice job combining that with the love story. Having the abandoned ones rebel as they did struck me as too easy. They’re machines. Surely they would have other ways to rebel. On the other hand, I loved the giant mecha they made, completely unexpected, and it looked great. So, a mixed bag, like most of the episodes. That’s what you’re going to get when you have a series full of standalones. They had three episodes in a row that were terrific, most of the rest weren’t bad but not great, and a couple were forgettable. Still, their batting average was high enough that I don’t mind they’re doing another season.

One more of Meow.

One more of Meow.

Kill 23, Nobunagun, Yakuindomo, and Chuunibyou Ren 11

March 21, 2014 Leave a comment

Kill la Kill 23 is a big epside with lots of dramatic moments, fighting, and shouting, all to get us ready for the big finale next week. Good thing, too.

I'm beginning to feel that way too.

I’m beginning to feel that way too.

Frankly, it’s beginning to wear thin. When you have a show as over-the-top and intense as this one, you run the danger of bludgeoning the viewer into indifference. Happily for us, the show knows it too. It has leavened the intensity with just enough quiet moments and comedy to extend and heighten the big dramatic scenes. Oh, and the surprise twists. Mustn’t forget those. But that’s all right. They timed it almost perfectly. And while we have more bonding moments, still more level-ups for the costumes (didn’t we do this last week?), it’s all in anticipation of a final battle next week, with everyone wearing their final battle outfits, in the final episode. Unless Trigger fools us and makes a post-finale battle, outfit, or even episode. I could see them doing that.

smackdown #46702 for the series.

smackdown #46702 for the series.

As for the events, well, nothing much we haven’t seen before. Well, we hadn’t seen Ryuuko cut in half, but that was a ruse in order to distract Ragyo (I think the show’s writers were giggling furiously while writing that scene). We’ve seen the four devas in new suits before. Mako does her best to hold the fort until they show up. It was nice to see that tableau of everyone on the ship, not only the main characters, but all the little people as well (which reminds me that I felt the same way watching the freed suit-wearers on that hamster wheel). Two questions, apart from how they’ll win, remain. Didn’t they win already by killing the main life fiber? And, is Satsuki going to do any sort of penance for the years of abusing people she did?

Sio, doing what she does best.  Shootin' and grinnin'.

Sio, doing what she does best. Shootin’ and grinnin’.

I’ve said before that Nobunagun is always better when Sio is grinning, and she grins a lot in episode 11. And why not? As the episode goes on all we see is her plan succeeding. Newton messes with the gravity, Gandhi and whatshername cut off the rear, and some others, notably Jack, meet them head on in a Gaudi-created dome of death! Hell, apart from Capa and Newton, everyone’s smiling this episode. Meanwhile, Sio is blazing away from the ship at that thing they insist on calling a battleship. Yeah, she’s grinning every step of the way, except when she’s fanboying over tanks and their drivers. Then she uses some hovering thing so she can blast at the thing from close range. It’s only here that things go slightly wrong, like another battleship or something, with tentacles that threatened to turn this into a porn movie for a minute. Judging from the previews, however, it’s a minor setback.

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In Seitokai Yakuindomo 11, Shino and Takatoshi walk by a lake, then after this week’s proclamation, we learn that it’s Autumn and getting colder. The SC decides to remind the student body of certain rules by using the newspaper, then turn to other things, but someone is leaking their information, so Suzu suggests they use a code. You can imagine the jokes, can’t you? It doesn’t work anyway, more info is leaked, though it’s wrong and embarrassing. After that Takatoshi learns the pond has a turtle, then Uomi invites them to her school’s festival, where they attend a cooking class and watch some acts. Time passes, and it’s snowing! They have to shovel the school entranceway. I didn’t know you could make so many dirty jokes about snow. After that comes winter break and a surprise stew party, where the mystery ingredients are, happily, not obscene, except for the sausage. Then Shino plays secret santa. Weird to have a xmas bit when it’s really March. Oh, and Suzu is short the entire time.

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With Chuunibyou Ren 11, the closest thing I can figure is that the “Dark Flame Dragon” was Satone’s battle with the image of Yuuta as a boyfriend, a false image that must be destroyed so that she can face the reality of the situation, that Yuuta’s got a girlfriend and she’s got to let go. That would help to explain Yuuta’s line about the dragon not existing, so we can’t see it, etc. To that end, Satone gets to see Yuuta constantly worrying about and chasing after Rikka to ensure she doesn’t get into trouble, for two episodes now, every time she turns to him, really. It feels unrealistic. Feelings don’t just go away over a summer break. Kumin’s “give her time” line was the most sensible advice. Meanwhile, through finding all those tokens, Rikka gets the confirmation of Yuuta’s affections that she needed, given in terms her dark fantasy-addled mind can understand. And in the meantime this sequel series still doesn’t have much to show for itself. But we’ve been saying that for a while now.

Those Nobunaga shows, and Kill la Kill 22

March 14, 2014 Leave a comment
Trying to think of a joke for this.

Trying to think of a joke for this.

Unfortunately, in Nobunaga the Fool 9, Caesar isn’t dead. I guess I shouldn’t have expected him to be, but smirking bishie villains drive me up the wall. Now he’s teamed up with Uesugi Kenshin, another clan overload, and a bishie himself, but doesn’t smirk and actually seems to be a decent sort; he’s got this power to open up the earth and make mecha fall into it, and with that power you’d think he’d have gone for conquest already, but he hasn’t. But after this new threat is explained to us and news gets out nothing much happens. Nobunaga’s aides were reluctantly accepting Nobunaga as their new boss, but now they have a new reason to doubt him. People are doubting a lot of things in this episode, or searching for answers, from Jeanne to Mitsuhide to even Ichihime, who now obviously has Mitsuhide as her goal. More guilt for the guy. Nobunaga goes about rallying support through speeches through loudspeakers. At least one character in this series isn’t doubting anything. He’s got too big an ego for that.

People had doubts about using Nobunaga from the start.

People had doubts about using Nobunaga from the start.

A split story in Nobunagun 10. The first half is Granny’s story about how she got to be the leader of Dogoo in the first place, which requires grabbing a gene here and then through time and going back into hibernation, until she gets sick of that (I couldn’t make out the reason), only to return when she’s an old lady. Fine and dandy, but if Dogoo is such a sophisticated, advanced and timeless organization, why didn’t they go out and destroy the damn meteor before it ever landed on Earth? They had hundreds of years to do just that. The second half of the story involves that damn “battleship” thing guarding the tunnel, and Sio’s gene-inspired insight that tells her (and Dogoo) what the aliens are really plotting. I think it’s more interesting for the way Jack treats her nowadays. He’s as unpleasant as ever, however, he’s realized that Sio’s a visionary warrior and is the first one of that dysfunctional organization to call for her advice. And when she manages to get her opinion heard, he’s grinning. Must be their egenes, both bloodthirsty types.

Kill la Kill 22 rescues this post by giving us twenty-four minutes full of … what was the word again?

Oh, incomprehensible.  That's right.  Thanks.

Oh, incomprehensible. That’s right. Thanks.

Okay, it wasn’t really incomprehensible. It was a mostly straightforward episode where the two opposing sides bond a little, take care of some minor things, and plan their strategy for the final two episodes. And there’s a complication right at the end, but Mako’s on the job! No worries there. In terms of incomprehensible bits, the only one that made me scratch my head was Mako’s dramatic reappearance from the sky, in that white box. Was she gone? When? What’s that box supposed to be? But it’s swept away by her appearance in what I think is her cutest outfit. Kill la Kill has a tendency to make your qualms about this or that plot point vanish by showing you something amazing.

Some things take longer than others.

Some things take longer than others.

Besides, who cares? I can barely remember what the Life Fibers’ ultimate plan entails, something about covering the Earth. All I know is that the four devas, Nudist Beach, and Mako have to destroy a transmitter and there’s a huge men’s suit blocking them, meanwhile Ryuuko and Satsuki are off to stop Ragyo. Both will involve a lot of fighting and shouting and will be great to watch. The fact that Ragyo’s their mom, and that they’re sisters, well, they do get a mention, but only in superficial, comic terms, and to allow us to see Ryuuko get all tsundere with Satsuki. Of the other personal things the most important was getting Ryuuko and Satsuki on the same page, involving a slugging contest that wasn’t, and the consideration of the disorderly “incomprehensible fools” who not only keep Ryuuko going, but Satsuki. But after the satisfying and rather gross defeat of Nui early in the episode, we didn’t have a lot of fighting. I believe the next two episodes will more than make up for that.

Fool 8, Nobunagun and Yakuindomo2 9

March 6, 2014 Leave a comment
The winner, i think.

The winner, i think.

Nobunaga the Fool 8 again removes any hope of serious intrigue by rushing through the story. We have Caesar, with the loyalty of Takeda behind him and lusting after Ichihime, settling in, all ready for some intrigue (at least he’s plotting things), but Nobunaga decides to go ahead and attack and ruin his fun. There’s a fake castle they “build” using a DaVinci projector to distract the rest of the army, and we have another big robot fight as the centerpiece. Jeanne intervenes and screws up a prphecy, and Caesar gets … well, hard to say, since he sort of fades to white after Nobunaga comes up with another Regalia power (wind). If he’s dead I have no idea where the story goes from here, and it would be a story arc far too short for the stature of both him and Nobunaga, so I’ll assume for now he’s alive. Either way, Nobunaga rises in power and stature again. Who’s going to stop him, unless they’re actually going to resume with the intrigue and have some aides plotting his death, or something? I’d enjoy that.

Looks like Sio doesn't believe it either.

Even is as bewildered about this ridiculous new power as we are.

And Nobunagun gets even sillier than it was before. First, we get no conclusion to that bit with Sio drowning. She just wakes up in a hospital in Japan, with no explanation as to why she was transported halfway across the world when all she had was a head abrasion and a sprained ankle, except so she can meet Asao, I guess. Naturally, more beasties attack and no one’s around to fight them. Sio would, except they took her AU ball away for … safekeeping (seriously, what’s up with this organization?), and she’s got a bum ankle that conveniently gives her a dose of pain whenever she moves to do something helpful. Asao bravely tries to lure one monster away from the others, but it’s basically a suicide mission and everyone knows it. It’s actually a nicely set-up dire moment if you ignore the idea that it shouldn’t be happening in the first place, and I wondered how they’d get out of it. Here’s how: with no gun to conjure, Sio fires a deadly ray WITH HER FINGER! … And so, a silly show becomes even sillier. I should have known.

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Seitokai Yakuindomo 9 … Takatoshi’s not eating a good breakfast, and has a bag for one onigiri. The weekly pronouncement. The SC helps Ranko get out the latest issue of the school newspaper, where they discover and reveal Daimon and Michishita’s engagement (remember the field trip? Of course not). Congrats! The strange young woman in the clubroom turns out to be former SC president Furuya-senpai. There’s much catching up and everyone discovers she’s very old-fashioned about some things, but not all. Everyone goes to her college festival and has a good time. Then we learn that Uomi’s uncle and Takatoshi’s aunt are getting married (lot of marriage talk this week), so now he and Kotoba have to call her onee-chan. Shino and Suzu are clearly jealous. And we finish with Aria’s “What’s This?” corner, where Takatoshi and Suzu are driven to scream their lines. And there you go.

Nobunagun 8, Fool 7, Yakuindomo* 8

February 27, 2014 2 comments
Wait, Nobunaga DID show up this episode.

Wait, Nobunaga DID show up this episode.

Nobunagun 8 has Sio and her guys joining up with another bunch of guys to fight what they’re calling a battleship, though it looks like a giant octopus to me. No wait, only two tentacles, so would that be a bipus? Whatever it is, the first platoon has to take out one tentacle, our guys the other one. Good thing too, since the two platoons don’t get along at all, as they make clear early in the episode, the middle of the episode, and up to the end. But they’re (almost) united by their mutual, growing hate for Vidocq, who orders sweet little Galileo to take in key information until it nearly kills her from the feedback, then says he’s too busy to visit her in sickbay. The poor thing’s got a crush on him, too. I frankly don’t care too much about that; the show’s at its strongest when Sio channels Oda and gets that evil grin on her face, and while that doesn’t quite happen, she has a moment of battle insight that saves just about everyone, including that old lady who runs things and came out to take direct command for no reason I can see except she needed to be put in danger for the plot. As for Sio, her heroic moment now has her sinking, unconscious, in the water, and nobody seems to have noticed. I’m beginning to have my doubts about this organization.

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I would talk about the great intrigue found in our other Nobunaga show this season, Nobunaga the Fool, but it’s pretty straightforward and naive. We have Mitsu doing nefarious things like killing Nobunaga’s brother while still devoutly obeying the fool himself, in fact, the murder was out of loyalty. On the other side we have Caesar supposedly working with the Takeda clan while actually planning his own conquest of the land, or maybe just Ichihime. Both of them are fooling a lot of people, but it’s just a single level of deception. There are no wheels within wheels going on here. As for the actual story this week, we get a lot of mourning for Nobukatsu, though it looks like Ichihime will pull through. I liked her better anyway. I was surprised that the big fight (okay, the second) between Nobunaga and Shingen had such a decisive ending. Still, it was fun. They even had some time during locked-sword time to talk (“Sorry about your dad.” “Shit happens.”). I enjoyed Shingen’s honest bloodlust and sense of honor, so it’s a drag to see him go and die and have that smirking Caesar take over.

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Seitokai Yakuindomo Huh 8 starts with all the events of summer you’ll ever find in anime apart from the ghost stories. The SC is off scouting beach locations for the school trip, but it seems like more of an excuse to have a beach episode to me. Shocking. Anyway, Takatoshi takes a group photo, we have our weekly rule announcement, more beach activities, then night falls, so there’s test of courage (scouting) and the inevitable local festival with fireworks. When they get back home they do their summer homework together, except for the bored Suzu, and Kotomi, who ran away. Shino tells the dozing Takatoshi that she’ll be giving him morning calls from now on, and believe it or not, the punchline is not dirty. Then the latest of the riveting drama corner “Takatoshi and Dried Squid: Max Power!” And finally, it’s too hot to sleep so Shino calls her friends. Oh, and Takatoshi has a photoshopped photo of Takatoshi that’s making the rounds. It felt tamer than the usual episode, or I’m not getting the jokes.

Zvezda 6, Dandy, Nobunagun and Yakuindomo 7

February 19, 2014 Leave a comment
I suppose it had to happen.

I suppose it had to happen.

Sekai Seifuku: Bouryaku no Zvezda 6 has Kate, Roboko, Natasha, and Itsuka entering Jimon’s school as transfer students. This is relatively late in the series for them to do this. Normally the weirdos transfer in during episode 1 or 2. But they might not stay long; they’re only there to look for the “Udo Bride,” an artifact the learned about from a school flier made by the Treasure Club, a mysterious and frightening unofficial organization which is itself a front for something else. This episode is mostly a highly amusing setup for the hunt/trap our evil heroes will encounter next week. They keep the transfer school clichés to a minimum and devote most of the time to investigating the Treasure Club, the highlight being the initiation film talking directly back to the audience, not to mention Jimon’s subsequent humiliating performance. Well done, Jimon. It’s another example of this series’ ability to juxtapose serious matters like world conquest (well, that’s a little silly, too), with things a small girl might find interesting, or high schoolkids, and winding up somewhere you didn’t expect.

But by this point I was past caring.

But by this point I was past caring.

Almost nothing to say about Space Dandy 7. Dandy decides to enter a race because he’s pissed off at this guy named Prince because the girls like him. We get a bunch of Wacky Races in Spaaace bits, except none of the competitors are entertaining in any way, and then Dandy goes so fast he reaches Nirvana or something. End of episode. At this point I wonder if the show is trying to make a point about the ham-fisted, cliché-ridden stories it’s been giving us, taking them apart and putting them back together wrong, maybe, in order to make fun of the clichés themselves. But they take too much episode time with the stories themselves for me to believe that (not with good results–I mean, what the hell was that little Micky Mouse character doing, threatening to sue, then sabotaging ships? It was like they had an idea but ran out of time to work it out), then so what are they actually doing with 25 minutes of our time a week, apart from throwing a lot of good production money (the show looks great) toward nothing more than a pose?

Like she was going to stop.

Like she was going to stop.

Nobunagun 7 is a straightforward standalone where the nasty EIOs resurrect the WWII ship Musashi and head toward the Panama Canal to destroy it. Why? Actually, there IS a reason, which Sio learns when she encounters the memories of the dead sailors, which she does when the EIO core-thing has wrapped her up in tentacles. It all feels like a bit of a misstep. Sio is naturally very moved by the fact that the Musashi is back on the surface, but rather than delving into that (or the dead memories) further, she does her job and helps to blow things up. It’s fun when things blow up, and it’s fun watching Sio have fun doing it. And I rather liked her thought process. This grand piece of history is afloat and being used against humanity–Sio wants to be the one to sink it again. I guess that’s a gesture of respect when you’ve got a healthy blood-lust.

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Seitokai Yakuindomo phew 7 is all about the hot weather. Let’s see … First, they sell a bike, then Suzu walks her dog and meets a few interesting people, we get the weekly Student Council Pronouncement, then they doodle with roman characters. Suzu does some shopping with a friend. The Student Council get some morning glories, and fresh veggies. Suzu wears an old gown, and they talk about clubs. Shino joins a couple of them, just to see what they’re like. After that they dig out a telescope and talk about constellations. Then it’s testing the school pool before opening it, and acting as lifeguards after it opens. Finally, Yokoshima teaches us some English. I learned something about constellations in this episode, by the way, but I don’t think education is what this series is going for–not THAT sort of education.

Nisekoi 4, Nobunagun and Yakuindomo 5

February 7, 2014 Leave a comment

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I can’t say a lot about Nisekoi 4 except what I’ve written before, which is that this is a perfectly good but inconsequential and routine highschool romcom that’s getting the Shaft treatment. Once again this episode they stick to the style they’re known for but don’t forget that the show’s a comedy. And they must have worked very hard to give this story about a study session at Raku’s place, with extra side characters to introduce, followed by the old “lock them in the shed” bit, any sense of new life. They really can’t do much to spice up the shed bit, no room for wide camera angles after all, so we have to hope the conversation Raku and Kirisaki have, you know, the actual story, is interesting enough. Mmm … not really, though I was a little surprise when it just then dawns on Raku that this blond gorilla is hot. The study scene works out better because there are more characters to mess with, though there I was getting annoyed at Raku’s sheer panic at Onodera being there. As for the new characters, Shuu has already proven himself to be annoying, but Ruri, Onodera’s best friend, has some potential as a meddler.

Sio meets Galileo.

Sio meets Galileo.

Nobunagun 5 has a mission in it where nothing really goes wrong, so it’s mainly devoted to introducing Sio and us to the other platoon members. They’re all a cheerful, slightly dysfunctional bunch, both devoted to their jobs and a bit smug about their abilities to do it, though Jack is the only prima donna of the group. There’s talk about how the e-genes affect personalities, but when you have guy with Gandhi genes putting moves on poor Sio you have to wonder if that’s true. Also, Newton keeps french-kissing everyone. Amusing character details aside, we watch Sio get teased by everyone there, but not in an unfriendly way, and we get some idea of the pecking order. It’s all routine, Sio has little to do but react until the mission comes. The late discovery feels far-fetched (the speed that it happens, not the concept), but it doesn’t bode well for the heroes, or for HUMANITY ITSELF! Sio didn’t get her evil grin on, so it’s a weaker episode.

Yeah, right.

Yeah, right.

In Seikotai Yakuindomo Huh this week: Kotomi sends the wrong picture to Shino. There’s bits about keeping hydrated, the joy of curry, help with a speech, then Hata investigates a rumor she actually started. They speed through some jokes from the manga that they had skipped, and I can’t tell the difference. Hata cons them into modeling the new school swimsuits. Then they can’t go home until dark because it’s raining. Tsuda can’t decide what to have for lunch. Then some time with the judo club, which trains hard, until a cat steals one of their towels. We’re distracted by cat business until nearly the end, when they have a have a big send off for the judo club’s competition. Then they hawk some gymware. Typical episode. As usual, the reactions are as funny as any of the jokes, when I can understand them.