La Storia della Arcana Famiglia brings us to the island of Regalo and the “family” who runs the place. We start with one of those nameless villains whose villainy brings out all the characters to defeat him and introduce themselves to the viewer. Thus introduced to a boatload of young men and one feisty girl we move on to the next scene, where their “Papa,” Mondo is going to retire. So everyone’s gonna fight and the winner becomes the new boss AND marries the feisty girl! The FG (Felicita) is not amused. Neither are some of the guys. Nor am I. What kind of asshole marries off a girl in his employ? Is it any wonder that so few woman are part of his group? While they debate this and get into little skirmishes with each other AND with Mondo, who’s the strongest (another reason to despise this organization that picks the best fighter as the leader) we learn that they all have Arcana Powers based on a tarot card, so we have little asides where some characters get a background description for our benefit, or annoyance. None of this bodes well. I can overlook this autocratic mafia-based government story, maybe, but the moldy opening episode introduction and exposition scenes suggest the entire series will be as clumsy as this. I’m not dropping it yet, but …
While I could predict the scenes in Arcana a mile away, I have no idea what Jinrui wa Suitai Shimashita was going on about, and I didn’t care much. Once you think you have a handle on things the world makes a left turn and becomes even weirder. Just what I like.
It looks like we have a future where the human race is dying out, albeit in a colorful, pastoral way. We meet, er, Wikipedia calls her Watashi, a young girl who is a mediator with the United Nations conciliation Commission, which makes her something of a VIP to the local peasants, who seem to think she’s an expert on everything, including, in the opening scenes, killing cute chickens for their meat. When that ends in failure (the menfolk don’t help because they’re off hunting, returning empty-handed), she goes home and we learn what she mediates: cute little Keebler Elves the humans call fairies. They’re adorable and like sweets. They also ask interesting questions.
I figured that the elves, sorry, fairies, are just imitating words they hear. This world is full of bureaucratic speech people seem to use because they haven’t come up with any new words. But later we see humans reacting to mass-produced fairy goods in cans, marginally edible, too. Is this more imitation, or the fairy way to help the humans survive? Possibly the latter. They are disappointed when Watashi comes home without sweets for them. Interesting questions, and I was thinking I had a grip on this thing when the show proceeded to lob weirdness bombs. First the headless, skinned, living chicken with the fairy logo branded on it living in the wild, and then the discovery of a fairy factory, with a human receptionist and a robot slice of bread that … well, I won’t give it away.
Through it all there’s a pull between absurdity and the remnants of mass-production society and the bureaucracy that comes with it, all coming together in Watashi. She can be nervous about her mysterious hair, threatening girls with governmental speak the next (in order to cover her butt), muttering ironies, making a note on the pointlessness of meetings, whatever. She’s stuck in an uncomfortable role and uses the verbal tools she’s learned to cope, all delivered in a matter-of-fact way that adds to the humor. In short, she’s a delight, this world is a delight, episode one is a delight. What happens next? Will we get a story arc? I rather hope not. If they can keep up the strangeness, and there’s no guarantee they can or it might wear thin, I’ll have fun just watching whatever they choose to throw at me.
Space Brothers 14 is more character development in that pod. I’m getting tired of it. I suppose it had advantages. The applicants have nothing outside to mess with them and the show can take its time looking at everyone’s soul. But there are limits. Well, this week we take a look at Fukuda, a man older than I am! There’s hope for me yet! … And he breaks his glasses his scores plummet. Since everyone in the show has to have a sad part of their past (well, that’s true for anyone) we get lowlights of him neglecting his daughter to design and build rockets. His designs are passed over and his wife wants nothing to do with him, and now he’s trying to live a children’s dream again. The other side of this is Furuya, the team’s annoying member, too proud to apologize over the glasses but feeling more and more guilt because of it. A lot of other little things happen, Mutta tries to size up the team members, Reiji acts superior, and Serika eats. One week in the pod gone, one more to go. Oh, boy.
Acchi Kocchi appropriately sets up its “will they or won’t they?” finale with another Valentine’s Day episode. Along with the usual riffing, and making sure Mayoi didn’t put a frog in her chocolates again (Sakaki retaliates this year with White Day pigs’ feet in marshmallow) the show takes extra time for the Tsukimi/Io angle. It’s actually sweet and romantic, with no punchline. So is the White Day section, though it doesn’t give us any confessions, just Io stroking Tsukimi’s head, so there’s room for a sequel. And why not? This show effectively gave us cuteness with occasional violence for twelve episodes. There’s plenty of room for more.
Shining Hearts – Shiawase no Pan ends the way you’d expect it. Big battle between the huge battleship and the small pirate boat, with cosmic help from those folks from the palace, except the prince, who’s too busy playing his lyre. Meanwhile Rick cuts a hole in the ship and finds Kaguya, not to mention the boss lizard, so they have a fight. Rick is saved by the glowing pendant which then rises to join Kaguya (trussed up crucifixion-style like Queen was earlier), which sends a signal to Queen to unleash her big red beam, which opens up a hole made by Hank’s big gun earlier. The ship blows up. Rick and Kaguya get blown or floated or whisked to a safe part of the island to talk about how tired they are, and the crisis is over. So much for the unimportant stuff. The big news is that everyone eats bread. Rick apparently has to retrain himself as a baker, but that’s done quickly enough, and so there’s even more bread to go around. The bread of happiness, they call it. Why did I watch this all the way through? Anything interesting, besides the bread was eventually unexplained except for stuff like colliding dimensions. Why was Kaguya and the amulet so important, and why together? Oh well, there was the bread. Which reminds me, it’s dinnertime.
Tasogare Otome x Amnesia‘s finale made me want to bang my head against the wall, scratch that, the creators’ heads against the wall.
It starts out as a breath of fresh air after the drawn-out events before. Yuuko’s one person again. She’s playful again. And while she now is capable of getting angry, that means she’s a full human being for the first time in the series. She’s delighted. Teiichi is delighted. Kirie is not so delighted and Momoe is almost oblivious. In other words, it’s a return to the happy equilibrium the show had around the beginning. And since it happens at this episode’s beginning, you know it’s not going to last.
I really should have expected it. Yuuko’s hanging around as a ghost because she can’t move on, as previously seen in such ancient manuscripts as Angel Beats. But she’s complete and whole now. Nothing is keeping her, and it looks like she’s going no matter what. As is everyone who faces this situation, they’re resigned to it. Yuuko’s only concern is letting poor Teiichi down gently. That proves impossible. Thus we get a scene where she tries to leave gracefully, but Teiichi won’t allow it. He tries to think of a way out, but he doesn’t have one. Finally, he decides he wants to be there until the very end. This is a resaonable thing to ask and it makes me wonder why Yuuko would be so reluctant to do it.
Then there’s the goodbye sequence. This show has always had a great look to it, full of beautiful images and striking angles, and they use them here to their best effect as the two spend their last moments together. Soon Teiichi can’t hear Yuuko, so they use the notebook. She’s seen as growing less and less visable. Then the pen drops mid-sentence, but before Teiichi can despair she’s fully back for a few seconds, ready for their first and last kiss. It’s a beautiful, moving scene. And then she’s gone.
Now, you’d think they would leave it at that, end the series in the best, bittersweet way. Teiichi is alone but Yuuko is finally at peace. But no. We see later days and Teiichi coming back to life … and, well, you can guess what they do. I know this based on a manga series which might still be going. I also know that though they talked about the schools “seven mysteries,” they didn’t really get back to it. Also, the reason for Yuuko’s return is cheap, but plausable. But it completely ruined a wonderful finale. … And in spite of that, if they announce another season I’ll certainly watch it. The first season had some flaws. The entire Shadow Yuuko story arc went on too long and felt mishandled. But the show gave us good looks at the nature of legends, fear and mob behavior. It was, as I’ve said many times, beautiful to look at. Yuuko, whether whole or not, was a great character. So was Kirie. I wish we could have seen more of her. If not for the ending… geez. Wasted a few good tears on that.
Kimi to Boku II finishes, and the only acknowledgement we see to it being a finale, apart from the lack of a preview, is an upcoming mock exam and Shun worried that he still doesn’t know what college he wants to attend, or what he should choose as a career. It’s perfectly understandable. There’s no reason why you should know what you’re going to do for the rest of your life when you’re 17. The others are also concerned but we get no decisions from anyone. Oddly enough, the show doesn’t bother to look closely at Kaname’s choices; they just show him studying for the mock exam. The centerpiece of the episode is a visit to the tea club where naturally Chizuru makes an ass of himself and the “path of tea” is examined as a career choice. A lovely moment near the end when Yuuta serves Shun some tea (quite properly, too, as if he was already on that path). Yuuta is allowed to show some of the sensitivity and concern for a friend that he and his brother rarely show otherwise. A good way to end this season. I remember moments like this in Kimi to Boku more than I do all the stupid behavior.
Nothing much to Acchi Kocchi 11 until the very end. It’s as disgustingly cute as always. I don’t know why, but I enjoy watching New Years Eve scenes in anime. The trouble is they always have some tradition or other that I don’t know and makes it hard to get the joke. All the stuff about pounding mochi kind of threw me off. The other half is nothing at all except for the last minute, when it looks like the Io/Tsukimi romance might have taken a step forward. You can tell they’re serious about it because they don’t undercut the scene with a gag.
I’m beginning to think that what we see in Hyouka is what we get. If they were going to dive any deeper into the characters or work on a more “important” mystery they would have done so by now. They literature club mystery is the as ambitious as they’re going to get. Houtarou would probably be happy to hear this.
So it’s little mystery of the week, or two weeks, as this episode doesn’t try to include it all. The film club made a mystery movie, but it’s incomplete and the writer fell ill. They have to resume filming in two days with no idea what happens next. Based on the footage the formidable Irisu shows them, who is the killer? They haven’t told the lit club, and therefore us, why they’re watching the footage but it’s obvious to us. But even so, the movie does too good a job at being a bad amateur production to the point where it was difficult to watch. Also, I was distracted by the fact that here’s another high school club in a KyoAni series who’ve made a bad movie. When it started I expected to hear “Mikuru BEAMU!” Alas, that doesn’t happen. The only break in the dullness is a shot of the lit club members, watching, making a comment or a STFU face.
But I think there’s more to this than simply figuring out who the incapacitated Hongou meant to be the killer. We spend a lot of time seeing Irisu, the Princess, looking archly at them. We also meet Eba, Hongou’s best friend, and have too long a conversation with her to suggest that she’s a throwaway character. Irisu has a way of making the people around her pawns, we hear, and Hongou’s description makes her seem like Chitanda. Ebu wasn’t involved in the production because she wasn’t interested. Irisu would have voted it down if she had been in charge then. Lots of questions. Why is Hongou sick? Why is Irisu now in charge of this movie? Why does Eba show disdain for it? Why was the footage so bad that I did better with a student film I did in middle school? Right now I haven’t the foggiest idea, and it will only get more complicated next week when they start to interview the crew members.
Shining Hearts – Shiawase no Pan 9 has four scenes, the interesting ones bookending the dull ones. First we get Xiao-Mei and Hank sneaking back into the palace to steal more stuff–and that shining doohicky in the box that was taken by Hank. Not much to it except for Hank’s little car that he carries on his back, and smashing their way out of a maze. What fun is that? We get a maze and then they don’t even use it. After their escape we join Rick and the girls, including the recovered Kaguya as they go on a picnic where nothing is accomplished except to show how recovered Kaguya is, and show the girls in swimsuits, for they drop by the sea (or is it a lake?). Rick drops them off but doesn’t stay to see them in their swimsuits, basic lust being one of the things he must have forgotten about. After that there’s a scene with Rick and Amil where he says yet again that he’s a baker for the foreseeable future, which we knew already but Amil apparently didn’t. Not much point to that scene, either. Finally we get some more fun as Hank wakes up his hanging doll just as soldiers arrive. But we’re out of time. Really, they didn’t need to take all that much time at the picnic, swimsuits notwithstanding.
There’s something just plain wrong with having a Christmas episode in the middle of June, so I’m going to ignore the second half of Acchi Kocchi 10 and concentrate on the first half, which has Mayoi in a bear costume trying to scare everyone for no good reason. Io and Tsumiki aren’t scared at all, but she has success with Hime not because she’s a bear but because she runs like a man. She adds a sled prop to get Sakaki and as you would expect both nearly die in the attack. But my favorite cute moment actually comes in the Christmas half when Mayoi and Tsumiki hide in a locker when they learn Io’s got plans for that day.
Earlier in Space Brothers I wished I could have seen more of the testing process. Well, I didn’t need to see all of the physical exams, but I wanted to see what sort of physical and mental testing astronauts have to go through. With episode 10 we finally get a better look. The whole procedure, getting on the strange bus, noting the cameras (or in Mutta’s case, a guy’s toupee), the switching of seats and the ten minutes of talking for each person. I start to wonder how I would do in such a test, especially when they were asked to evaluate the people they just talked to. They had to remember all the names? I terrible with names! We also get a look at the other candidates, an interesting assortment of oddballs, and it was fun getting into their heads, hearing their speculations, and wondering if they were right or wrong. In truth, no one on that bus really knows what this test is all about, and neither do we. That adds to the fun–if you’re not a candidate, that is. I was happy, by the way, to see that one of the candidates is actually older than I am. There’s still hope!
Moretsu Pirates 22 starts up an interesting story arc. We see a pirate ship taken down by some powerful, unknown, really big ship, and then learn that there is something out there hunting pirates. Everything that happens afterwards is tinted with this threat, even Marika’s yacht club duties. And frankly, it’s hard to imagine an episode without seeing the yacht club girls, even if they just giggle. Marika’s plan is to escort another pirate ship, the Big Catch, though it’s unclear they’re even going to get attacked. While they do their duties there’s speculation on the nature of pirating, whether they should or can band together, and whether the empire or whatever it is would stand for it. Interesting stuff, and it makes you wonder further what the pirate hunter is after, because no one at this point has any idea. When the attack comes it’s by a ship with abilities no one has ever seen before. It zig-zags, for chrissake! I have to say whenever a captain who’s not a regular character orders an attack right off the bat you know they’re going to get creamed. On the other hand, this mindset probably saved the Bentenmaru’s hide, as they got busy collecting data and not attracting fire … yet. Then ANOTHER big-ass ship appears; alas, its commander looks like the villain in Ozma, which kind of ruined the moment for me. Still, it looks like the Bentenmaru is in deep trouble. On the other hand, the previews show a bit with Marika happily clinking glasses, so it can’t be all that bad.
AKB0048 6 brings us the life-lesson: haters gotta hate (and I hate that phrase). But in this show’s relentless efforts to take the most negative and ugly aspects of idol life and turn it into a learning lesson, haters can also show us what we need to improve on. At least that’s what the boy hater who has a fix on Orine does. The fact that he promised to bomb the upcoming handshake event suggests he may need some help of his own, but the show doesn’t worry about that. So we have scenes with Orine freaked out and running out of the dance rehearsal in tears (the second so far) and the inevitable pep talk from a real member, and the nervous handshake event itself. It was a satisfactory moment when Orine’s first greet was to a star-struck little girl, but the real fun begins when the DES attacks and the girls get backup by what would normally be another sinister side of idol fandom, the rabid otaku, here played as sort of citizen militia who helps them out. And so once again AKB0048 gives me a moment of slack-jawed disbelief. That’s why I’m still watching.
Acchi Kocchi 9 won’t rank up there with the great school festival episodes, but it succeeds in its goal to milk all the cuteness it can out of the situation. Dressing up Tsumiki, a cute little thing with cat tendencies, in a cat costume, almost felt like overkill. Other good bits include Sakaki’s nearly fatal head wound (nearly fatal because the others just stand around talking about it while he bleeds. For a show dedicated to cuteness this series can certainly get violent), Io’s feeding of the girls, and, er, Tsumiki’s cat costume.
Hyouka goes back to a small, mundane, everyday mystery for episode 5. I suppose you can’t get to the core of a 40 year-old event that ruined one man’s school life and made a little Chitanda cry every week.
But again, the mystery is twofold. Angry shouting in the classroom next door, Houtarou hears Chitanda’s voice, and really doesn’t care. We learn later what the fight was all about. The math teacher, Omichi, had gotten angry at the class for not knowing something they had not yet gone over in class. As usual, the event is described and visualized for us (with a crash test dummy metaphor that later turns into scary masks). They ask questions, they speculate. I thought Houtarou had nailed it when he suggested the teacher was using teaching notes from an old textbook, in fact, I was waiting for it, but Satoshi, that font of “useless information” (which is always useful) shoots it down. In the end it’s a question of how a math teacher would write English letters in notes, not something I would have thought of, and so the mystery solved turned out to be a little unsatisfying. That it’s also mundane is a given in this series.
But the episode is livened up by its fascination with Chitanda. And it leads to the second part of the mystery. Why did Chitanda, who rarely gets angry and hates doing do, get angry at the teacher? This is the second episode where the mystery involved, in part, what the hell Chitanda’s head is all about. In fact, they may have spent more time analyzing Chitanda then they did solving the other mystery. She is examined for the seven deadly sins. She actually defends them. They suggest reasons for her anger, she rejects them one by one. For Satoshi and Ibara it’s just idle fun speculating about a friend. We don’t know why Houtarou is interested apart from his unacknowledged crush. The odd thing is that there isn’t much to speculate about. Chitanda is quite normal, though overly curious about things, so why are we concerned about her, well, apart from that she’s absolutely adorable, especially when something’s on her mind and she wants help with it? She’s as normal and boring in real life as the mysteries Houtarou solves. Still, as I said, she drives the series, and the dynamic between her and Houtarou, with his odd little hallucinations (I’m more interested in his head than in Chitanda’s–check out the cute little Chitanda angels crawling all over him), is always fun to watch.
You could also call Nazo no Kanojo X a mystery that is in fact mundane. In episode 8 Tsubaki is granted permission to his dream the night before, he gets to touch Urabe’s boobs. This is after an awkward meeting on the street and an invitation to her apartment and several minutes of an adolescent boy fighting off his fantasies. I hate scenes like this. I wasn’t surprised that he confessed his dream to her–that little ritual between them means there are very few secrets they can tell. I wasn’t surprised that she granted him permission either, because nothing much that comes out of her mouth surprises me anymore (perhaps I should rephrase that). But for Tsubaki to lose control and go for more than a boob did surprise me, as did Urabe’s apparent giving in, once she realized her scissors were out of reach. But what makes it mundane is Urabe’s reaction the next day. In spite of her mysterious nature she’s on one level nothing more than an adolescent girl meeting her own hormones for the first time. I’m rather hoping they will work to make her a little more mysterious again. This is a show that doesn’t work as well without the mystery.
Acchi Kocchi 8 is not only mundane, it is disgustingly cute, as usual. Tsumiki hugging the stuffed animal and crawling into Io’s futon out of embarrassment were my two favorite cute moments. The second part is better, since there aren’t as many laughs to be gotten out of studying, and a festival scene allows them opportunities to try different things. Sakaki’s goldfish abandoning him for Io’s cup was the funniest moment. Oh, the entire shooting section was pretty good. By the way, I’ve watched countless summer festival anime episodes but this is the first one I can think of where the boys actually wear yukatas too.
The nasty black thing in Tasogare Otome x Amunesia is revealed. Episode 7’s telling is messy, the idea not original, but it’s effective nonetheless.
In order to lull us, the show ignores Kirie’s encounter with the nasty thing last week and devotes several moments to Yuuko’s delightful side, a mock exorcism, messing with Teiichi during PE, sitting on his lap during class–I think having a beautiful girl sitting on my lap during class would be a delightful experience. Instead Teichii is worried, especially when Yuuko gets jealous because Momoe comes on to him. From our perspective, and our knowledge of Yuuko, these are understandable emotions from a lonely ghost who is desperate for attention and can’t get all she needs. Teiichi’s not to blame. He’s got to be do human things, like interact with Momoe and go home at night. But Kirie thinks there’s more to it.
And she’s right. What we have here is a supernatural variation of the “Evil Twin” story, except the twin isn’t going around impersonating the other one. It’s all the ugly emotions that Yuuko doesn’t want to feel rolled into one nasty toothy ball of ugly. Alas, this leads to a number of scenes with lines like “I Am You,” “No! No!” And I’m not sure I buy the premise to begin with. Yuuko’s shown a lot of negative human emotions in her positive form. She’s never been all sweetness and light. On the other hand, the fact that she died (I don’t think Teiichi’s new theory is completely true, but whatever actually happened must be equally dire) and her corpse rotted in a basement means the girl has got to have some issues. Kirie tries to explain this to Teiichi, who might be in a bit of denial himself about the issue.
This leads to the surprising conclusion. My guess is that Yuuko pushed away all thoughts of the terrible thing she did to Teiichi, the way she handles her other bad thoughts, and that means the memory of Teiichi himself. But we already knew what she has to do: open herself up, accept the bad thoughts, and thus become a full human being, er, ghost again.
Hey, look! Shining Hearts – Shiawase no Pan 6 has an action scene! Never mind that it’s incompetently handled. Rick swings his big sword and slashes through the skin-tight hood Black Tail was wearing, though no deeper, and if she was so adamant on hiding her identity, why did she turn her head in the sunlight so that Rick (and us) could get a good look at her face and cat ears? Why was Rick appointed to help catch this palace thief when all he does is wind up running around like the rest of the soldiers? Why didn’t Rouna, surprisingly skilled in combat, assist the investigation in the first place? She tracked the thief down pretty easily. Well, we do learn a few things, like Prince Lagunas knowing more about Rick’s past than Rick does. And the fact that Rick does not turn in Xiao Mei to the authorities suggests a tension between the rulers and the commoners that the Imperials’ confiscating two weeks ago hinted at. The rest of the episode is the usual. Dialogue that needed trimming, bread that needed baking.
Acchi Kocchi 7 wipes a few summer activities off its checklist. A trip to the mountains, fishing, barbecue and fireworks. It’s one of the better episodes because the expected jokes are done well. I especially liked Sakaki getting blown up by fireworks a lot. Tsumiki, I think, broke her own cuteness record, but I’m not sure why she would bite Io on the head after Mayoi suggest she sit on his lap.
Sakamichi no Apollon 6 brings us something new: the threat of change. Its most blatant manifestation comes in the form of Beatles-fan Seiji, Sentarou’s new classmate (the fact that he and Kaoru are now in separate classes is the first sign that things will now be officially different than before). He’s recruiting a drummer for his school festival band. It’s still unclear why Sentarou agrees. The episode took pains to make the effeminate Seiji sympathetic to Sentarou, showing him as poor with a lot of siblings. But the Beatles? However, it’s a sign that perhaps Sentarou is changing a little, broadening his vision. Naturally this doesn’t sit well with Kaoru, both for the Beatles thing (I assume) and that Sentarou will be spending time away from him. This is rough on a boy with desertion issues. In fact, just about everyone this episode is lonely about something, usually love. Everyone is pining for someone they can’t get, and nothing this episode changes that. So maybe this intrusion, plus a late appearance, will shake things up and make everyone even MORE miserable.
I think a fundamental problem with Nazo no Kanojo X has appeared. Part of the charm is that Urabe is mysterious. There’s that magic drool, there’s that scissors thing she does, each of them begging further questions. What’s the deal with that drool? Why does it only effect certain people? Why Tsubaki and Oka? But if the show goes about explaining these things Urabe can no longer be called mysterious. These mysteries are some of the things that attracts Tsubaki, that and the drool. The show would be less fun. Also, Urabe controls almost every facet of this relationship. Tsubaki’s like a loyal dog, always trotting behind. Even when she gives Tsubaki cry-drool to show him how she’d have felt if he had gone off with that other girl, it was all on her terms. Or maybe this way of communicating how she feels for him is too foreign for me to understand. The only character who’s been able to shake her up is Ako, because she can also do the drool, she has a thing for Urabe, and she likes messing with people. I’m not asking for everything to be explained, but I think Urabe does need to be shaken up more.
In Tsuritama 6 we get … story! And not just the usual “Yuki tries something difficult, fails, then succeeds and learns something” story, though that happens too. Actually, the two are entwined. Grandma is getting out of the hospital at the end of the week, and Yuki decides to challenge himself by catching a tuna for her, his hardest goal yet. But this time he’s got Natsuki on his side and willing to help. The main story kicks in because the only place they’re able to find tuna that day is around an artificial reef called Akemi, which is also small-scale Bermuda Triangle, as they learn the hard way. In other words, we get some actual excitement. But it feels like an anticlimax, because nothing much happens after the wild stuff. And we don’t learn much about what’s really going on, either, except that there’s something out there that Haru, Koko and Akira are all interested in.
Acchi Kocchi 6 is disgustingly cute as usual. Nothing much stood out. The funniest bit was probably the pool cleaning scene, where the girls name a scrubber after Sakaki and knock it around. The cutest was probably Tsumiki and Io’s shirt.