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Monogatari SS 24, Coppelion 11, NouCome Finale

December 17, 2013 Leave a comment

The worst thing about watching this Kaiki arc of Monogatari SS is that dour cello music that plays throughout. While not the worst piece of music to listen, especially in the holiday season, it sticks in my head long after the episode.

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The other thing that bothers me is that there are only two episodes left in the season, and the action seems to be slowing down even more than usual. We start with Kaiki discovering a note telling him to back off, and long speculation as to whether Gaen sent it, which is unlikely, but if not her, who? So he calls Senjougahara for our first real conversation which boils down to her telling him she doesn’t know who could have written it. On the way the two seem to be almost flirting again, and we get to see Senjougahara projected on the side of a building, Blade Runner style. At one point she even takes a pill! I’m going to write that off as Shinbo being playful rather than try to analyze it. I’m tired enough.

Everybody!  One.... Two ...

Everybody! One…. Two …

The other big conversation was with Hanekawa, looking adorable in her two-toned hair, and the two agree to exchange information. WHAT information they have to exchange I have no idea, and the show managed to put it off until next episode. Instead we hear what she’s been up to, and, not knowing the full context (maybe next week) it makes little sense. She’s trying to fool people into thinking she’s still out of town. Did she come back specifically to talk to Kaiki about Nadeko? What could she add? So we have what she’s going to say, plus the mystery of the note, and meanwhile the actual business at hand (Nadeko) is nowhere near completed. How they’re going to wrap this up in two more episodes is beyond me.

Some really nice moments in the first half.

Some really nice moments in the first half.

Do I really have to write about Coppelion 11? I can’t even figure out what’s going on anymore. The highlight of the episode was not Haruto’s brave death, because who cares, but the fight against the giant robot spider with the evil sisters thrown in. It was fun and nutty, and some of it was filmed so that we appeared to be there with the characters. In fact, the first time Ibara shoots at the underbelly and it loses control was a terrific moment, all violence and noise as the monstrosity passed by and we wondered exactly what happened. It works similarly to later scenes where the guys in hazmat suits and shouting, discussing, and bickering offscreen while we watch something else. The show can do a good job delivering to us the mood of crisis situations where too much is happening at once. Alas, too much IS happening. We got that spider fight, then we hop to the train, then to this part of the tracks and that, and where did the crazy girls go? Hell, where did Ibara go? Oh, don’t get me started on Aoi’s newly-discovered SUPER-POWERS! Or the spider crashing into the building where the 1st Division guy was kept … Geez.

The final erabe!

The final erabe!

NouCome finishes after only ten episodes. A shame. It’s the show I’ve laughed at the most this season, and joins Love Lab as a 2013 example of silly concepts rescued by execution. Love Lab might be a better show, it’s certainly more tasteful, but NouCome deserves some credit for its excellent voice actor work and the sense of timing the script and direction had. A shame, too, that the finale wasn’t up to par. They had to get Ouka to cry to clear up a challenge, and took half the episode. They built up some nice tension with the final “ERABE!” partly because it threatened to destroy the harem, partly because it allowed Kanade to make an ethical choice, but after that they had nothing to do but go crazy and have snow falling at the water park and lots of chasing around involving all the characters, including ones you had forgotten about. The end leaves us the possibility for a second season, and I will certainly give it a try, but chances are it would have further explain what’s going on, including all those gods, and that would take the fun out of it. Still, it deserves a chance to prove me wrong.

NouCome 8-9, Monogatari SS 22-23, Teekyuu 33-34

December 10, 2013 Leave a comment

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Catching up with NouCome. Let’s see. Episode 8 had Chocolat get hugged by Kanade (Choose!) and transform into a different Chocolat. In this new form she is rational, not a glutton, and pretty damn boring. But she at least is able to give Kanade some important information about his curse (there’s ANOTHER damn god doing it!) before something lands on her head and she returns to “normal.” The stupid Chocolat is useless, but she’s more entertaining to watch. I expect whenever the show needs to give us some important background information she’ll get whacked on the head again, rather a painful plot device, I must say. Meanwhile, Seira is screwing around with Kanade for reasons we don’t know, and the nutty girls are still nutty. Typical episode.

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As for episode 9, we get the expected swimsuit episode, one where Kanade somehow has to make the always cheerful and crazy Ouka cry, and it’s not resolved yet, because of the rule of “no cheating.” He’s about to squirt onion extract into her face when it backfires on him. Seira is aware of this, meaning she’s not only in on Kanade’s curse, but, unlike Utage, seems to be an actual insider. Maybe the mysterious god behind all this? Will we get our answer next week? We’d better, it’s the final episode. As for THIS episode, it lurches from one typical pool scene episode cliché to another, while again, inexplicably, making me laugh along the way. Probably my favorite bit was Chocolat’s speech while judging a Sexy Man contest that turns into a yaoi fantasy, and no one minds.

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Monogatari SS‘s last two episodes are little more than slow, deliberate construction of Kaiki’s deception of Nadeko. Though what strikes me about them is not so much the Nadeko situation, though that IS interesting, but the odd relationship Kaiki has developed with Senjougahara. Kaiki robbed her family blind and caused its breakup, then messed around with some middle-school girls, all reasons why she should absolutely hate him, and she probably still does. So when she turns to him to help save Araragi’s life (and hers, though Kaiko notes that this isn’t as important to her), Kaiko can’t help but take note of the fact. Is that why he’s behaving almost kindly to her? Out of pity? I can’t see it from him, though his purported reason for helping in the first place still feels like a stretch. It’s an odd place that these people are at, and episode 23 plays with that in the opening credits.

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As for the story at hand we get a view of Nadeko now. As Kaiki said, she’s an airhead, probably insane, but apart from this killing Araragi, et al., she might be a fun god to worship. Kaiki’s opinion of her is pretty much what we already knew, that she was spoiled, forced to be cute, and had something going on that no one knew about, though with the opening of the closet at the end of ep23 I suspect we’ll find out more about that. But if you make her a god and do the proper worship things she’s probably your BFF. Gaen seems to think so, so Ononoki gets sent to tell Kaiki to drop the fool-Nadeko project. However, Gaen seems to know less than she thinks (or is saying less than we hear), since her plan of making Shinobu the local god couldn’t possibly work (and she should know why, since she’s aware of the black thing that nearly took Mayoi). And here Kaiki makes a decision that will probably cause a lot of grief: take the money but not drop the operation. The consequences of which (along with the closet) will become apparent in the next episode or two, maybe.

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In seconds per gag terms, Teekyuu is in a slump. Both episode 33 and 34 average a gag every 6.4 seconds. But the frantic pace hasn’t slowed down, they’re just taking more time to develop their deep, thought-provoking situations.

Asukara 8, Monogatari SS 18?, Noucome 7

November 26, 2013 Leave a comment

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Nagi no Asukara 8 is a sweet and pointless episode, where Miuna believes that no one makes Akari feel welcome, so she goes off to buy a gift for her. The gang all join in. There’s some false tension raised because the kids are on the surface, far from the sea, so their “ena” might dry up. In fact, early on, Chisaki was rubbing her skin like it was dry, so I thought “Aha! There’s our crisis this week,” but false. As it turns out, Miuna had the ena situation taken care of. What a nice girl! Nice enough, in fact, that she succeeds in what she wanted: making Akari happy, and I’m happy for her, too. Some other things happen on the side as characters feel each other out about that boy or that girl, and Hikari almost gets confessed to, but either Chisaki’s too shy or she realizes she won’t be able to get through Hikari’s thick skull, but no real progress is made on the love front. The only big plot thing is the mysterious salt snow–on the surface.

Monogatari SS 18, after the surprise of no recap episode, brings back Kaiki, and does its best to change him from foul scum of the earth to a sort-of loveable rogue.

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They do this in a couple of ways. First, he shows some respect to Senjougahara, even flying to Okinawa to meet her, after learning that she went to Okinawa because he was supposedly there. And there was the flinging coffee in her face when she suggested raising money by selling her body, so quick that it had to be a instinctive movement. His bathroom soliloquy, where he brought up reason after reason to do the job Senjougahara wants him to do, shooting each one until hitting on the idea of Kanbara, who’s as uninvolved as you can get, was him simply trying to talk his unscrupulous side into taking a job that will gain him nothing. Finally, there’s the fact that he decides to change into a Hawaiian shirt, just like Oshino (who Senjougahara can’t reach) used to wear. Taking his place, so to speak.

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Senjougahara, meanwhile, is asking her arch enemy for help, a fact that shows you how desperate she is. Worse, Kaiki is a master manipulator, and who knows what he might do to her. Maybe that’s why she wears that ridiculous mask throughout their scene, a line of defense. But though she’s practically begging him, she does allow herself some barbs and threats, in her usual calm, quick voice. In fact, her usual delivery works at a contrast to what she’s asking. Asking Kaiki to deceive Nadeko? How and why? It’s ridiculous, but even so, she’s perhaps naive (her sophistication and naiveté run parallel) enough to think it might work. Maybe that’s another reason she chose that mask, because she didn’t realize how silly she looked.

Yuragi gets a little more interesting this week.

Yuragi gets a little more interesting this week.

Noucome 7 reminds me just how much this series is a routine slightly ecchi high school romantic comedy, with all the things you’d expect and have seen before. I mean, I KNOW that, but the execution has been so good I didn’t care. This week the show’s superb comic timing is taxed to limit to get laughs out of the battles between the five most popular students (who really aren’t that bad) and our heroes, the losers. Happily, execution beats clichés this week by the same score that the losers beat the populars: 3-2. Kudos to the crowd watching the battle, because their odd reactions put the show over. Yuragi’s yandere little sister act also helped.

Monogatari SS 17, NouCome 6, Biyori 7

November 21, 2013 Leave a comment

I guess that they had all those wild, funny moments in last week’s Monogatari SS because they knew episode 17 would be incredibly sad.

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I had the essential point of the episode spoiled for me, so maybe I didn’t get the full effect of it, but I still found the episode moving, even though it’s all talk, no action whatsoever. I mean, this show always has a lot of talk in it, it’s one of the reasons why it’s unique, but there were very few word games twists of meanings anywhere. The closest we came to that was Gaen’s issuing of terms for her help, and that was straightforward by this show’s standards. But the important part of the episode was the second half, where Araragi has to come to terms with Mayoi’s final passing, and it was simple.

not so simple for Ararararagi-kun, however

Simple for us, anway

She’s been cheating about being an oddity and she knows it. She knows she has to go away, actually die for good, or go to heaven, or whatever. It’s Araragi who has the problem with it, as well he should. Mayoi’s been fun to have around. It’s unfair of the universe that she has to go. So we get lots of denial from him, followed by assertions by Mayoi, until Yotsugi points out that she can’t figure out which one is the child here. But you have to do these things when someone you love leaves. Meanwhile, I was sitting here more or less doing the same thing in my head, and when the final moment arrived, mixed with a good laugh when we see Mayoi on Yotsugi’s shoulders, I still wasn’t ready to say goodbye to Mayoi. I’m still not. This is the first significant loss in the franchise, and it happened to such a fun character. On the other hand, Araragi never said goodbye to her. With this kind of show, that will become significant later, but probably for no good.

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Well, goodbye, Mayoi, it was fun as hell.

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Coming down to earth I finally watched NouCome 6, a rather more routine affair than usual, though, as usual, the gags worked. Just one quibble. I think Kanade should have chosen that other option and asked Furano to help him out of his suit. It might have been a shock, but he could smooth it over eventually, and she might take a step forward about her shyness. Otherwise it’s success after success for Kanade this episode, apart from the beatings. It’s rather inspiring to watch him do the decent thing over and over in spite of his reputation, not to mention his basic adolescent heterosexual male desires, and even if he does do something underhanded, like con Konagi, he feels bad about it.

We can see how excited she is.

We can see how excited she is.

Non Non Biyori 7 is one of the better ones, a relaxed, slow-moving episode in a series which is at its best it doesn’t try to force gags. Also, it has plenty or Renge. And while I don’t think rabbits are that evil in real life, I did enjoy the smirk it gave before it locked Renge and Hotaru in the cage. There were plenty of nice moments, but overall I liked the interaction between Renge and Candy Store (a hell of a lot better name than her real name) the most. The two are familiar enough that Renge can watch her TV show in CS’s living room while the store is ignored, and no one cares. Such is life in the country, I suppose. Renge making a cat’s cradle “outer space” was a close second. There’s something cosmic going on in that girl’s mind.

Kanata 6, NouCome 5, Asukara 6

November 10, 2013 Leave a comment

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I think it’s all agreed that the fewer episodes like Kyoukai no Kanata 6, the better. I don’t mind a decent filler episode, nor do I object to funny ones to break the tension, but did they have to come up with one where all the characters wind up idol singing? With Ai as the loli star? And if the spirit had a thing for cute girls, what the hell were Akihito and Hiroomi doing in the act? And why is Akihito even on the goddamned ROOF if he’s not a spirit hunter AND not a girl? Not only that, but I saw the final anticlimax coming a mile away, so THERE, KyoAni! And that pink stuff that Mitsuki got sprayed with, I thought they said it wouldn’t go away until the monster was dead, so why doesn’t she at least keep trying? I tend to like pointless filler episodes, but I like for them to make at least a little sense.

For the life of me I don't know what Kanade's complaining about.

For the life of me I don’t know what Kanade’s complaining about.

NouCome doesn’t make a lot of sense, either, but it’s a silly show to begin with. Basically, in episode 5, Kanade works on his goal of getting each girl on either side of this competition they’re putting on to say they like him. At the end, he’s still trying. Oh, and we meet the members of the other team that we hadn’t met already. Oh, and Yuragi, the recently returned childhood friend who is everyone’s little sister, especially Kanade’s. We see her do her onii-chan! thing a little too often, but it’s mitigated by the various reactions she gets. So we get to meet a number of people who each bounce off the others in one way or another. In fact, the organizational meeting with both teams devolves into each weirdo type matching up with their arch-nemesis or best friend. Since this show moves so fast none of these displays of character types have the time to wear out their welcome. But by the end I think they begin to stretch the arc too much. Time to get on to the competition.

Because I had to put a picture of SOMETHING ...

Because I had to put a picture of SOMETHING …

After watching Nagi no Asukara 6 my question is exactly what happened in this episode that really matters. Manaka and Chisaki have a falling out over Hikari, but they make it up over an optical illusion and a childhood memory, which was nice and pretty, but, er, so what? The two love triangles are still in place. Earlier we get a pleasant scene involving the wooden maiden, where we see all the protagonists and antagonists are all on the same side, including the two jerky land guys and the two bratty land girls. Nice to see, and perhaps the only real development in the entire episode (Not to mention that the high school relations between the two factions are a lot friendlier now). The only interesting thing we learn is that the sea people don’t do well in competitive swimming because they aren’t used to going on the surface of the water. I actually found that very interesting. I figured already they wouldn’t like the chlorine. Oh, and Hikari can’t make a turn. One other thing: a land girl seems to like Isaki, but the show just puts that in there for later use. They do that a lot in this show. Meanwhile we get episodes of not much real story like this one.

NouCome 4, Kill and kanata 5

November 1, 2013 Leave a comment
The new story arc kicks in.

The new story arc kicks in.

NouCome (or NouKome, whatever) 4 starts up a new challenge, er, story arc, for Kanade, and takes a few moments to give us more insights into why all this is going on, but it’s overwhelmed by the usual silliness and only comes up at the end. As for the rest of it, you could see the whole harem question consequence a mile away with a minute’s thought, but Kanade proved last week that he can’t think that fast, or doesn’t think things through. While I’m not sure I like Furano and Ouka, I do admire their almost random reactions to whatever weird thing is going on at the moment, or their ability to take a concept (x-ray glasses) and twist it (so powerful you can see inside the body, which is what interests her, I guess, though, for pure non-sequitor fun you have to go with Furano’s “glee club” suggestion). The new girl, Seira, seems to know more than she’s letting on. As for that one popular guy, the show brings him on, Furano and Ouka have fun with him, and Seira has to come in and do his exposition, I guess. What was it with that scene? Not that I mind. I like how the show will take a predictable scene and simply wander off into kookooland with it.

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Kill la Kill 5, for all the usual craziness, is more about setting up what I assume is the main story arc. It’s brought to us by Kinagase, tough guy on a motorcycle, who comes to town in order to take Ryuko’s godrobe. Not for himself, in fact, he sets himself up early as a mutual enemy of the school, but because these super-suits are apparently capable of betraying their wearers. Either that, or he doesn’t trust clothing in general. He and Aikuro belong to a group called “Nudist Beach,” and while he doesn’t have a proclivity toward stripping (though the show is kind enough to briefly show him naked in his tent), it might explain why Aikuro always seems to be on the verge of it. It takes another touching speech by Mako (Alleluia!) and hearing Senketsu threaten him (after he’s won the battle) before he backs off. Meanwhile, more future plot is afoot as the Student Council have been monitoring the battles for reference. I’m guessing that if any godrobe goes rogue it’s going to be Satsuki’s. I also think that Kinagase is right, and that everyone should get naked, but that’s just me.

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Since Kyoukai no Kanata is shifting to a new arc there’s not much to episode 5 apart from the steady theme of being alone. This time it’s Mitsuki’s turn to feel it, when an annual festival comes up and she, like every year, refuses to go. It doesn’t help that her older sister Izumi has been gently drilling the “we’re always alone” crap into her head for years. Mirai, cursed as she is, used to believe that but is not fighting against it, and persuades her to go. And Akihito has gone into a lonely funk since that time he nearly lost control and destroyed everything, but he is also dragged to the festival, by Hiroomi, so they can be alone together, I suppose. But the actual highlight for many people will be Mirai forced into posing in a maid outfit for Ayaka, and the fact that Ayaka will pay good money if she posed nude, and the photos are for her personal collection. Even if Ai proudly shows Mirai her own nude pics taken by Ayaka, you have to wonder. The whole thing dragged a bit. It’ll be better when they get back to a story.

NouCome (yes, NouCome) 2-3, Kill la Kill and Kanata 4

October 26, 2013 Leave a comment

With my backlog growing bigger and bigger I turned to the shows I hadn’t watched since episode one to see if I wanted to keep them. That submarine girl series? Nah. Tokyo Ravens? Maybe. Gingitsune? Haven’t gotten back to it and maybe never will. I had almost forgotten about NouCome, and so watched episode 2 confident that I had another show to drop and so more time to watch others. But episode 2 was funny. So was episode 3.

I'm serious.  Really!

I’m serious. Really!

Sure, we get a lot of panty shots and other things like it, but after that clumsy episode one the story and pacing picked up, so have the good gags. They’re set up cleverly, like the entire banana business. Chocolat, that useless girl from the sky gives him a banana as an afterthought early in the episode. While searching for the tickling book Kanade discovers it and tosses it aside. I should have known from the “CHOOSE!” option (classic gags vs surreality) what would happen next, but I didn’t, nor did I expect it to mean Kanade’s first “challenge” was successful. We’ve had two of these challenges so far and I did not see either conclusion coming. It’s not profound writing, but it’s smart gag writing that you usually don’t see in shows like this.

As I said, the gags aren't profound.

Not that the gags are intellectual, either.

Throughout the little stories there are little bits tossed in, unexpected lines that almost sound like ad-libs (the voice actors sound like they’re having a lot of fun with the material, especially Toyonaga Toshiyuki, who plays Kanade), and you get the dreaded “CHOOSE!” option, now used to ramp up the absurdity of an already absurd and hopeless situation. So far, all the little bits come together, and somehow, it works. I’ve laughed more at this show than anything else running … Watch as in episode four it will fall apart and become a horrible series.

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Kill la Kill has already hit episode four, and it is not horrible. But this one, a mad race to make it to homeroom in time in spite of endless traps the student council sets up, feels a little different, more routine than the previous three. Before, we were still exploring the world and the characters, and considering the implications of good and evil characters considerations of stripping naked to put on scanty fighting suits. Purity? Blood? Here, apart from the concept of doing most of challenges without her godrobe, thus demonstrating her abilities without aid, and dragging along a treacherous third character (and note that the godrobe doesn’t cooperate when Maiko puts it on, or maybe it’s too much starch), we have here a simple race against time with obstacles, violence, and laughs, and nothing much to analyze. Good thing, too. Some of the blog posts I’ve been reading about this show are exhausting.

Kyoukai no Kanata 4’s big climax might have been predictable–boy with deadly powers he’s lost control of is fixed up by a hug from his would-be girlfriend–but it was the crisis heaped upon crisis that made it all so much fun to watch.

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They start where they were before, in WTF land, with Sakura, the sister of Yui, who Mirai killed years ago, literally gunning for them. So they run from explosions in the dream school and find themselves on endless escalators (the first time I’ve seen the “stairs flattening out making the people slip down” trick twice in one day), snarking like a dysfunctional cop team the entire time, onto a dream subway with the tracks and cars and dead Yui just out of reach. It’s dazzling, and gets even better when we hit what we think is the crisis: Mirai having to accept that this giant Yui who’s about to crush her like a grape isn’t real, whereupon it reverts to Hollow shadow and she stabs it. Wow! So the rest of the episode will be aftermath and filler, right? Heh.

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It just means they’re back in the forest and out of Hollow Shadow’s world. And HS decides to invade Akihito’s body, so Mirai now has to stab him, and depending on what you think is in Mirai’s mind, we get the show’s only real misstep. Akihito’s begging for her to stab him, he won’t die, etc, and at first she can’t do it. Why not? She’s stabbed him many times before. It was a running gag. Okay, maybe now she feels more attached to him and, and thus reluctant, but either way it means another long bit where we all have to wait for her to get up the gumption. So now we’re done, right? Wrong! Now it’s Akihito’s accursed demon side to come out and we have our third big crisis of the episode, with even more great visual effects, until Mirai can run up and hug him, and only then is the plot point taken care of: Mirai and Akihito are average people with freaky sides who learn that fact about each other and thus bond a little. But a wild ride to get there.