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Twelves: Charlotte, Jitsu wa, Seiyuu, and Biyori: Repeat finale

September 23, 2015 Leave a comment

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After all that happened last week it was a probably necessary for Charlotte 12 to be a sort of healing episode.  We watch Yuu slowly rehabilitate while at least one other ability user blames him for letting Kumagami die, the idiot.  But it does place a sense of responsibility on Yuu and leads to his big plan to fix things, a ridiculous plan, but even so …  Along the way we get to see some loose ends tied up.  Misa says goodbye to her parents and to Yusa, and leaves (the two best scenes in the episode).  And Yuu confesses to Nao.

Nao's overjoyed reaction.

Nao’s overjoyed reaction.

And off he goes to take away everyone’s ability.  No idea how he’s going to do that, and no one around him seems to know, either.  But he considers it’s the only thing he can do, and wants to make sure the abilities can no longer take people away from each other.  You could argue that people find other ways to hurt people all the time, but that’s not part of the show, I guess.  My question: is this mission going to destroy him, even after they set up a romance with Nao if he succeeds?  Is he going to sacrifice himself?  While he seems of sound mind, he might have some residual guilt that drives him to it.  Anyway, I’m interested to see how it will turn out, which is a good result for a penultimate episode.
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Jitsu wa Watashi wa 12 bumbles toward a big finish next week using the one or two plot things available to it: Youko’s father and secret, and Aizawa’s third point of the love triangle.  They set it up nicely enough.  I was taken by surprise by the sight of big bat (father) flying Youko away even though we had gotten the foreshadowing before.  In the time before that I was ready to strangle Aizawa for interfering, but at the same time I could understand her pain and confusion.  And as it turns out it was more entertaining than the alternative: Asahi reaching the roof to find she had already given up and left.  At least this way we get a giant bat, and Aizawa has a direct way to make amends.

Sore ga Seiyuu! 12 is not the finale, in spite of its big finish, closing credits over the concert, and lack of a preview.  At least that’s what online sources say.
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It moves predictably.  Ichigo tries but can’t hide her ankle sprain from the other girls, but insists it will get better.  After this week’s big celeb cameo speech (Yui Horie again, looking even frumpier than before.  She must have a great sense of humor to allow the show to tease her like this).

Yui Horie eats melon bread.

Yui Horie eats melon bread.

Futaba puts her own, uninjured foot down and insists Ichigo tell the staff.  Naturally, everyone pitches in with solutions for her to perform without straining the ankle, and all goes well.  The concert almost sells out, too.
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In a way I think it was a blessing, at least for Futaba, for Ichigo to injure herself.  Instead of falling into her usual pre-show jitters, she instead has to concentrate on new choreography and getting Ichigo through the concert.  Nothing like a minor crisis to take you mind off unimportant stuff.  And so I managed to relax while they performed.  The worst thing that would happen would be for Ichigo to hurt her foot again, and I suspect the audience of fanboys and girls would forgive her if they knew the truth anyway.  But what about next week?  Probably something lighter and sillier, more in line with the original comic, which is more of a series of anecdotes rather than a serious story anyway.
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The final moments of Non Non Biyori: Repeat say something about what the show is about, and my expectations while watching it.  After the closing credits they return to a shot of the characters sitting under the blossoming cherry tree, a shot they had given us just before.  We wait for something to happen, someone to stand up or say something, but all we get are floating blossoms and the sound of the wind.  Then the show switches to the clouds above, and we wait, and nothing happens.  The scene fades away.  And nothing could make me happier.
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In fact, the whole episode felt slow, calm, and deliberate, moving at the pace of the countryside, maybe more than any other episode.  Renge and Hotaru drop by the school, then everyone goes digging for bamboo shoots, which they prepare and eat.  Then they kill time before the whole gang goes out to do hanami, cue the slow fade.  The time-killing scene was a perfect example of a moment that would be deadly in some other show but feels, necessary (and amusing) in this one.  First, it’s all the girls, then Komari and Hotaru decide to make tea.  Renge runs after a butterfly and Natsumi follows.  Now, no one’s in the picture.  Suguru wanders in, looks around, wanders off.  Finally, Komari and Hotaru return with drinks.  Throughout, the camera hasn’t budged, as if was showing a moment of human life in the country the way a documentary would film a nest with birds.
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The show was always at its best when it turned away from gag scenes and showed the characters interacting with the rural world around them.  Not that the gag scenes were always weak, but they were inconsistent and things you could find in a lot of shows.  I think in its second season, Non Non Biyori focused more on its strengths, and, curiously, I think I enjoyed the characters more.  Renge didn’t need the help: she’s as great as she was in the first season, but this time I got to enjoy the others more, even Natsumi, who stopped being such a brat and became more of a wild tomboy with obvious affection for Renge.  It makes me a little sad to see the series go, but I also wonder if any good would come from a third one?  Well, why not?  There’s still plenty of things in the country that they haven’t shown us.

One more of Renge.

One more of Renge.

Laplace finale, CC 12, Seiyuu and Biyori Repeat 11, Teekyuu 59

September 19, 2015 1 comment

Rampo Kitan: Game of Laplace is the first show of the season to finish, and it does so in no better or worse fashion than the ridiculous final story arc permits.

Nice visuals, however.

Nice visuals, however.

Namikoshi’s nefarious plan to create an explosion of twenty faces for society to deal with is near fruition with his own death.  Meanwhile Kobayashi is there too, ready to jump off the tower with him.  This was my first disappointment.  Kobayashi is a smart, resourceful kid, and I was hoping he would plan some countermove, even if it meant simple debate.  Instead, he agrees with everything Namikoshi says and, in that cheerful fashion of his, prepares to kill himself too.  Meanwhile the social network of god that Namikoshi made is turning everyone who could hinder Akechi and Hashiba from getting to the site, but nice interference by bag-head guy.

No thanks.

No thanks.

Meanwhile, Namikoshi prattles on with how the victims will rise up and strike back against their aggressors, as if this was a good vs. bad situation (well, the show indeed has always made it out to be–another disappointment), and I began to get bored, in spite of the dazzling visuals.  I was also trying to figure out why the hell Namikoshi wanted Akechi to shoulder blame for rescuing either him and not Kobayashi or vice versa.  So Akechi shows up, there’s more of the usual talk, and Akechi makes his decision.  Namikoshi and Kobayashi are both happy with it–untl Hashiba ruins everything by being heroic.  The wonderful, godlike, social virus program has been outdone by a completely expected act by a side character.
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Too many things like that prevent this series from fulfilling its potential.  I loved the look of it, the evocative imagery, especially the mannequins they would use to suggest outsiders that introverts like Akechi and Kobayashi can’t afford to recognize unless they get in their face.  Could have done without the death-butterflies, though they looked pretty.  But the show had problems with equating revenge and justice, and the fact that hate makes more hate no matter who’s side is right.  Oh, the show tried to show it was wrong, but in saying at the end that the program’s aftereffects have led to a calmer city, the show tells us what side it’s on.  Also, I would have liked to know more about Kobayashi, or at least watch him talk about horrific things with that happy voice of his, or maybe I want to figure out if he’s actually a boy.  I couldn’t read him as one.  Sadly, that is what I’ll take from this show.

Classroom Crisis 12 does a nice job of aligning all the pieces for the big finale next week.

Good!  Now do an evil laugh.

Good! Now do an evil laugh.

Nagisa’s crisis is not finished, but extended; the stab in the back was just a prelude to more unpleasantness, and it looks to be great fun because Yuuji hasn’t just had a breakdown, he’s transitioned into full Crazy Mad Scientist mode.  Not only does he gloat and drool and spout revenge things, but he’s going to stick Nagisa in an improvised rocket/suv and shoot him INTO SPACE!  And the rocket will land on top of A-TEC’s last ditch demo!  Excellent mad scientist work.  And still, Nagisa infuriates him further every time he opens his mouth.  I think Nagisa might be enjoying this a little, stab wound, kicks to the side and punches to the head notwithstanding.
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Meanwhile the good guys work for a while on locating him until Kaito tells them to go back to their rocket, because of something Nagisa was working on.  Seems odd to me, too.  That leaves Angelina to track him down.  A visit to Coldwood construction firm, where she allies herself with Ibra, their boss, and there’s a nice fight scene after, nice because we get to see Hattori, er, Angelina fighting in a rage for what’s been done to Nagisa.  The character has developed a nice combination of kindness, bitchiness, and badassery through the episodes.  Too bad they can’t stop the rocket in time.  Well, not too bad, because now next week A-TEC will launch their rocket and rescue Nagisa, hopefully with Iris on board.  All she got to do this week is fail flight simulations (stupid rocks) and mope a lot.

Ryoko Shiraishi, ladies and gentlemen.

Ryoko Shiraishi, ladies and gentlemen.

Being mostly a silly comedy, Sore ga Seiyuu 11’s big crisis is Ichigo’s twisted ankle, and that comes at the very end.  The theme this week, so they say, is Taking Care of Yourself, and it’s mainly over halfway through, thanks to celeb cameo Ryoko Shiraishi and her cough drops.  A more fitting theme would be Going at your Own Pace, which is what Futaba is trying to do and tries to remember when she sees Ichigo and Rin racing ahead of her.  Shiraishi helps there thanks to a unpleasant vocal cord anecdote (the manga had another vocal cord story going, but I don’t know if the the show wants to go there).  It also shows while Earphones try to sell tickets to their first concert.  I wonder if the theme will continue next wee, with Ichigo’s bum ankle and all …

Save the email!

Save the email!

No crises in Non Non Biyori: Repeat 11 at all, which is how it should be.  Instead, we get a mixed bag of little sketches.  Komari wants to send a cell phone message and makes me wonder exactly when this story is supposed to take place.  She barely understands what dot.com means …  Then we watch Renge making New Year cards while Kazuho tries to peek, and then we get a closer look at Hotaru’s maturity.  As usual, Renge steals the episode, but I sort of liked Hotaru at home, too, acting like the fifth grader she actually is.
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Finally, Teekyuu! 59, while feeling a little off–I think it was because Marimo’s mother was in it–but had a ration of just under 3.00, which is excellent.

Jitsu wa, Seiyuu, Biyori: Repeat 10, Teekyuu 58

September 9, 2015 Leave a comment
I can't remember why Mikan is posing like that, but I like it.

I can’t remember why Mikan is posing like that, but I like it.

In Jitsu wa Watashi wa 10 I caught the phrase.  Mikan’s possessed glasses says it as she’s about to confess Mikan’s love for Asahi.  Trouble is, Aizawa was wearing them.  So now everyone thinks Aizawa is in love with Asahi, which she is, but she doesn’t want to say it.  The glasses thought they were on Mikan’s head.  Why did the glasses want to reveal Mikan’s feelings?  To bring her back to her un-heathen ways.  Why were they on Aizawa?  Because, because, er, she took them so that the glasses wouldn’t confess.  The glasses apparently don’t know whose head they’re on.  Earlier the glasses were stolen by Akane for no good reason except to move the sketch forward, people do a lot of silly things to hide their secrets, more evil cream puffs are made and devoured, and we learn that the 1000 year-old demon is something of an idiot, but we knew that.  Yes, it’s a complete mess of an episode.

Run, Rin!  Run!

Run, Rin! Run!

Sore ga Seiyuu! 10 features Rin, the nice middle-schooler member of Earphones, and because she’s so nice and quiet it’s sort of a dull episode.  Basically her advisor suggests she go to a high school where her work won’t interfere so much.  But that would mean leaving her BFF Sayo, the number one fan who has hearts in her eyes whenever she looks at Rin.  So Rin wonders if she should keep up with voice acting anyway, since, she claims, it wasn’t her choice (a lie–she might have been coaxed into acting, but she followed up on it herself).  She also gets the usual veteran actor cameo character advice, this time from Hiroshi Kamiya.  At least this livened things up.  I kept thinking of Araragi and what he would do with a cute middle-schooler, one who’s playing his imouto, and toothbrushes …  Sometimes I should be ashamed of myself.
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In Non Non Biyori: Repeat 10, Renge learns to ride her bike.  She catches a cold, and we discover that she might be a math prodigy.  Those are the events.  Then there’s the important stuff, like how Candy Store, in spite of herself and her denials, worries about her.  Also, fall has arrived, so we get some nice foliage and everyone’s wearing jackets.  Oh, and Konomi plays with Renge’s mind with hilarious results.

Renge's mind being blown.

Renge’s mind being blown.

That’s about it, except to say it got rather painful watching Renge fall off her bike so often, even though they spare us the worst moments.
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Finally, in Teekyuu! 58, it’s really cold.  But even lower than the temperature is the SPG ratio of 2.73, probably the record.  Good work, Snow Day Club girls!

BiyoriRepeat, Laplace, and Seiyuu 9, Teekyuu 57

September 4, 2015 Leave a comment
One of Natsumi's finest moments.

One of Natsumi’s finest moments.

Non Non Biyori 9 is mainly about Natsumi, so there’s a lot of lying and stupid behavior in play.  This show is weakest when it shows antics like this, Natsumi trying to cover up the fact that she and Hikage ate all the moon-viewing dumplings, or in another episode, Hotarou trying to hide all of her Komari dolls.  But even though you knew Natsumi would break her mom’s watch from the moment they brought it up, it didn’t really turn out so badly.  At one point she even tries to apologize, and when that fails, she is put to work, which she earnestly does.  The fishing scene had her dive into the pond for a fish, and it’s followed by the other girls trying to make this tomgirl look cute.  I guess we saw a lot of sides of Natsumi this week, except the bright and kind sides we saw a few episodes back.  However, all these skits meant the moon-viewing scene didn’t last as long as I wanted it.

Rampo Kitan, Game of Laplace 9 shows us most of the show’s strengths and one of its flaws.
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We have Akechi, with Kobayashi’s help, trying to refine Namikoshi’s social behavior program to put an end to Twenty Faces.  It’s mainly talk about what the program should be able to do, interspersed with Hashiba’s worries about Kobayashi getting too involved and neglecting his studies, and well he might, since we get a moment where K sees H as a silhouette figure for a moment, one of the people he just doesn’t see because they’re not relevant to his current passion.  Kobayashi’s rebuttal, that trying to help people and put an end to a social disease is more worthwhile than passing his makeup exams, is a good one, sort of examining the priorities between the two kids.  Also interesting that Kobayashi finds the program’s flaw: Akechi failed to include himself and his actions in the formulas.  There’s talk about how this is a natural mistake for Akechi to make, that he doesn’t consider his presence to be a factor, though Twenty Faces fans have been tweeting about him for a while.

Domino effect.

Domino effect.

Then the show decides to get a little crazy on us.  They perfect the program, predict the identity of the next vigilante and the victim.  And there’s a showdown between Akechi, the cops, and … well, I won’t spoil it, apart from saying it’s not only completely unexpected, but kind of nutty as well.  But turns out that’s a red herring, and there’s another Twenty Faces … again, I won’t give it away.  It’s supposed to be a shocking moment, but again the show’s sense of style, distancing itself from the action and the character’s emotions, means it doesn’t have the effect it should.  Oh, it’s a great plot twist, but I can’t really find myself caring too much.  Sure, a little, but not in an emotional way.  Anyway, I predict that Kobayashi, the outside thinker, who is probably NOT in Twenty Faces’ mind, will play an important role from here on out.  Too bad he’ll probably miss his exams, though.
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Sore ga Seiyuu! 9 features the young and serious manager Konno as she does what Futaba and the others have been doing–working hard, making mistakes, getting scolded, and improving.  The events are mostly flashbacks, particularly Futaba losing a role to Rin, but seen from her side.  She’s inexperienced enough to not know how to handle Futaba’s setback and later tries to make up for it by getting her hopes up about a bad audition.  In the end, all she can do is give the girls the opportunity to work and get better, and, this being a mainly happy show, succeeding in the end.  And while the girls sometimes have it rough in the studio this episode, Konno’s POV means we don’t have to see much of it, thank goodness.  The guest cameo, btw is longtime vet Noriko Hidaka, most notable (to me) for singing the Baka Song.

Yuri should know better than make declarations like that in THIS show.

Yuri should know better than make declarations like that in THIS show.

Finally, in Teekyuu! 57, the girls try to bake potatoes, multiple times.  I think the SPG ration was 3.33, but I suspect some of the jokes were obscure Japanese potato-roasting references not known to the average foreigner like me.

Seiyuu and Biyori:R 8, Teekyuu 56

August 27, 2015 Leave a comment

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After an episode where the girls all do pretty well, it’s back to anxiety and screwing up in Sore ga Seiyuu! 8.  And she gets to screw up in two different venues, too!  In the first half we see the girls prepare and perform their first live show at a not-so-packed free event at some store in Akihabara.  I guess it’s not really screwing up.  Futaba’s just wooden and awkward on stage, though she does the singing and choreography just fine.  Then there’s the no fun of finding out that Ichigo and Rin have a bigger following than she does.  But as usual for this show, they offer the poor seiyuu newbies a little bright moment in the middle of the depression, as Futaba meets a fan who travelled a long way just to see her.

Er, Futaba ...

Er, Futaba …

In part two Futaba gets to screw up some TV narration.  Again a situation where the seiyuu’s never done it and gets nervous, screws up, gets some reassurance from the celebrity cameo (Yuuji Machi), and get a little better.  Nothing we haven’t seen before.  But Gonzo has some fun by showing their headquarters to be enormous and shiny.
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Non Non Biyori: Repeat 8 has three little stories in it, one about woodworking in class.  Hotaru and Komari’s project is cute and practical, Suguru’s shows some hidden talent, and Natsumi and Renge demonstrate, in wood form, both the practicality and weirdness that makes Renge great.  Then there’s a flashback Renge visiting the school as a toddler and causing all kinds of mayhem, which would have been annoying except that it’s Renge we’re talking about.  If you haven’t noticed, I’m quite the Renge fan.  The third part has no Renge but it’s a sweet and somewhat pointless trip down memory lane for Komari via an old plushie, but being in middle school I don’t think she should be doing the memory lane thing yet.
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Teekyuu 56 has a SPG hovering around 3.00, still pretty good, but it could have been better if they hadn’t told us a couple of their lengthier jokes.  Story-wise, they scout a rival school’s tennis team and discover them to be only slightly less weird than they are.  But a crisis at the end when they’re trapped in crowd-scene mode.

Jitsu wa, Bioyri Repeat, and Seiyuu 7

August 20, 2015 Leave a comment

I guess Jitsu wa Watashi wa figured we didn’t have enough weirdos in the school.
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Not that I mind.  The new one, the demon Akane, thousands of years old but looking like a young girl and acting like a brat, can be fun to watch.  And we learn just why all the weirdos are at the same school in the first place: she admitted them, and Koutomo-sensei, the fierce homeroom teacher, did the paperwork, meaning she’s in on all of it.  Since Koutomo is relatively normal and so is Asahi, it gives them a chance to bond in a “look what we have to deal with” way.  As for the episode, it’s okay.  I like Youko messing with Akane, and them accusing the other of being immature, though it leads to a sexiness contest that had little in the way of laughs and went on far too long.  And they throw in Nagisa for no reason only to have her leave again.  Now I hope they’ll start bouncing the weirdos off each other.  They have enough of them.

Non Non Biyori: Repeat 7 … Is is my imagination or is this season way better than the first?
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The plot points for this episode, if anyone cares, is Hikage’s return to the countryside for summer break, and Hotarou’s fear of jumping into the river from the bridge.  With the former, she seems to have given up on trying to impress people with her worldly Tokyo ways, and while she tends to consider her home boring, she slowly and happily slips back into its routines.  As for the latter, of course Hotarou gets the nerve.  She also has a bit of Tokyo envy this episode, but it passes.  There’s one gag sketch where Renge gets Hikage to play dolls with her, Renge style, but after that the show clearly has had enough of what other shows do and takes the rest of the episode off.

... to chase dragonflies and other things.

… to chase dragonflies and other important things.

And so we get one of its best sequences yet.  Well, there’s a plot going on when Hotarou forgets her bag on the bus and she, Renge, and Hikage walk to the depot to get it, but the bag is just an excuse to get the girls walking and experiencing things: fresh water from a pipe, pomegranates, a big dragonfly they try to catch.  One little thing after another with the show’s usual beautiful rural scenery.  This is the only show going where being aimless and pointless are its strengths.
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Sore ga Seiyuu! 7 is a happy one.  All three girls are working in the same studios, but for different projects.  Futaba’s dubbing a movie, Ichigo’s doing an audiobook, and Rin a game.  Naturally all three get anxious beforehand.  Futaba has to work with that asshole (named Yamori) from episode one, AND one of her heroes, Koyama Rikiya (who’s done a lot, for me all I remember is Maid-Guy), so she tries not to screw up in front of either one.  Ichigo tends to get into her text as if she’s reading it and not reciting it, and Rin, all alone in her studio, struggles to do lines without knowing the context, and to make getting punched noises.
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But, finally, for all their anxieties, they all do just fine.  Futaba plays her zombie part and some bit roles and is only stopped once, and that was because her pitch was too close to the other bit character’s, not her fault and easily fixed.  Nice scream at the end, too.  Likewise, Ichigo and Rin perform, adjust, and perform again.  So at the end of the day they walk out of the same studio they walked out of in episode 1, but no longer in despair.  And they have their umbrellas.  Good for them.  So nice to have an episode that doesn’t have anyone screw up …

Charlotte, Seiyuu, Jitsu wa and Biyori 6, Teekyuu 54

August 14, 2015 Leave a comment
Hey, guess what?  You have super powers!

Hey, guess what? You have super powers!

Oh, jeez, I hope Charlotte isn’t going to turn into one big tragedy after another.  We don’t know what happened to Ayumi at the end, all we see is some blood on the ruins and the longhair standing over it.  Maybe it’s not Ayumi’s blood, or it is but she’s not dead.  But the ED’s black background suggests otherwise.  If she IS dead it’s a cheap shot.  They spent most of the episode showing her being cute and having Yuu and the others dote on her, all to set her up for a pointless death.  If she’s alive, well, good for her and well trolled, show.  … And don’t get me started on that girl with the box cutter …

Kugimiya Rie, ladies and gentlemen.

Kugimiya Rie, ladies and gentlemen.

So I figured Sore ga Seiyuu! would cheer me up a little, and it does for a while.  Rie Kugimiya is the guest cameo, and like the other stars the show depicts her as kind and helpful to the newbie.  I wonder if the show is ever going to have an unpleasant voice actor on.  It’d be cool if it did, and the seiyuu might enjoy playing a villain.  Futaba meets Rie in a flashback to a drama CD recording the show conveniently never told us about.  But the episode decides to go downer on us when Rin gets Futaba’s CD role for the anime version, putting both girls in a funk for different reasons.  At least in this show Futaba gets some good advice and support and manages to get over it.  Now on with the delayed debut single … or not.  Next week it’s all about dubbing.
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I guess to get a show that doesn’t really have a downside I have to turn to Jitsu wa Watashi wa, where I was a little worried that the threatening werewolf guy would tilt the balance toward a darker atmosphere.  I needn’t have worried.  The fearsome wolf man enters a fantasy romcom and, after a minute of being threatening, chases a stick.  After that it becomes, like most everything else in the series, pointless and silly.  He threatens to drag Youko back if she’s revealed her secret, but he does more blabbing about the secret than anyone else in the conversation.  The shouting match between Shirou and Asahi was enjoyable, even if I didn’t know what they were talking about … and it went on too long.  Maybe to make it up to us, the werewolf returns to human form–a lecherous young woman who comes on to Asahi and pissed off Youko.  Neither side of the character is terribly entertaining, though, at least for me.

Renge has just said something odd again.

Renge has just said something odd again.

I wonder if Non Non Biyori: Repeat is more consistent than the first season or I’m just getting used to it.  In the first part Natsumi tries to make conversation with Hotarou.  Normally these scenes tend to bore me, and Natsumi gets on my nerves anyway.  But this time, tall, mature Hotarou gets to act like the fifth-grader she actually is and fangirl over the “Pretty Cute” anime series.  Then the gecko shows up and for a while Natsumi gets to show that she’s knowledgeable about certain things.  We had a hint of that two episodes ago when she restored Flatty-san.  Good to see them follow up.  The last bit is the episode’s official “gaze in wonder at rural beauty” scene, where playing with fireworks gets canceled so they look at fireflies instead.  It’s lovely, but too dark to see anything.]
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Finally, in Teekyuu! 54, that newspaper girl interviews Tomarin the alien and abuses her a lot.  Then more aliens come.  The regular girls have the week off.  A solid 3.1 SPG performance after a couple of disappointing episodes.