Moretsu 18, and Accel, Natsuiro, Acchi 5

Chiaki finally lets loose.

That’s how you do it! Moretsu Pirates 18 is one of the best yet. We get a chase, lots of light shows, strategy meetings (though I noticed the ship stopped rocking about during that scene, what was up with that?), sneaky strategy, a bizarre twist, calm characters letting loose, and who cares if the ending didn’t really make sense? The father seemed totally unconcerned about his would-be son in-law was up to, well at least the fact that it was exposed. And what forced him to give up? The scandal? That would have happened anyway, even if they had dragged Jenny back by force. And I got the impression that *I* could have hacked Dolittle’s secret records if I learned a few more BASH commands. It was still great fun. Most fun of all was Chiaki, and the timing. They give us a completely unexpected situation, an anti-government rally in a luxury cruiser, and while we try to process that Chiaki releases some serious pent-up rage. And completely steal the scene. Good episode.

Takamu, distracted in battle.

Accel World 5 is mostly Haru and Takumu’s battle, they manage to do a few things along the way, because this is one of those battles where the fighters chat about what’s pissing them off between bashing each other up. Takumu is given so much baggage it’s hard to figure out where to start. He’s jealous of Haru over Chiyuri, especially that cabled dalliance they had on her bed. He’s pissed that Haru wins every online game they play. Just go away Haru! He’s also trying to get back on his accelerated group’s good side after screwing them over (that part isn’t clear). In other words he’s full of anxiety and remorse. So while he’s saying all the appropriate villain lines during the fight, you can see that his heart isn’t really in it. Things get a little ridiculous after that. Badly battered Haru has one of his self-pep talks and sprouts wings so the fight resumes, this time making good use of the phrases “looking at the sky” and “don’t look down on me!” Again, it’s too ridiculous for my taste, but it was nice at the end to see Kurohyukihime’s “true form.” What was she thinking? It’s not hideous at all.

After a couple of episodes where Natsuiro Kiseki rose above dreadful premises, episode 5 shows that they don’t even need that rock to deliver a decent episode. Rin, the quiet one, catches a cold. Yuka, the fool of the group, forgoes traveling to the music store to get a beloved poster in order to watch over her. You think she’ll cause trouble, but she doesn’t. Then Yuka catches a cold and the others worry about her. The show has become Tamayura Hitosei. I said that they don’t use the rock, but the thought comes up twice. The first time Rin shoots it down because her cold was frivolous, and so it was. But when Yuka’s cold hits its fourth day they realize that their days together are numbered, since Saki’s going to move away. In other words, sharing limited time together becomes a worthy use of the rock. That doesn’t happen for another reason. It was a nice episode already, but it’s topped by the strange fact that whenever Rin gets sick she sees a whale floating in the sky. The whale’s appearance added a nice, odd touch to the episode.

Acchi Kocchi 5’s first story stumbles along with half-effective gags. The second one works a little better because of the show’s tendency to stop whatever the characters are doing in order to wallow in cute. They go on a picnic, boring picnic things are done, until Io attracts a lot of cats, because he’s that way. The rest of the show is devoted to Io, cats, and girls all doing cute things. To hell with the picnic. Whether or not you think this is a good thing is up to you.

Hyouka 2, Space Bros 5, Kimi to Boku 5, Acchi 4

If Hyouka stays the same as it was in episode 2 I see viewers getting bored with it quickly. I can’t blame them, but I’m not one of them.

This was one of the laziest episodes of anything I’ve seen in a while. Not lazy like slice-of-life shows Kimi to Boku or Acchi Kocchi, where part of the goal is to slow down and smell whatever’s around. This is a show where they solve mysteries. Mysteries take work. They must be presented, clues given and discovered, insights made, and finally, the detective solves the case. Yes, all that happens in this episode. But it was a tiny little mystery with no danger or maliciousness behind it. I couldn’t possibly have solved it because I didn’t know enough about how the school runs, a serious problem if they’re trying to present a mystery to the viewer, but not if the mystery is secondary to something else they want to do.

And it didn’t take long to solve. They spend a lot more time being lazy. Houtarou is naturally lazy, and since he’s the main character we get a lot of moments where he doesn’t want to do something and is made to do it. The portions of the episode not spent on solving the mystery or watching Houtarou sit there is taken up by bickering. We get a new character, Mayaka, who hates Houtarou and is constantly peeved at whats-his-name. And whats-his-name and Houtarou usually find some time to argue. Put that all together and you get an episode filled with … nothing much. Oh, Chitanda has something mysterious to say at the end, but that’s for next week. Maybe it will be a story arc.

Houtarou is again defeated by Chitanda's indefatigable cuteness.

Yet this episode wasn’t bad in the slightest. It is deliberately lazy. KyoAni wants you to watch the characters in various stages of inaction, whether it be in the clubroom (and I can’t be the only one who gets a serious SOS-Brigade vibe from that room–wait, wasn’t Haruhi’s clubroom the former literature club?), standing around the librarian’s desk or wherever. And that’s fine, because our two main characters are interesting. Houtarou, in spite of his complacency, has something wrong with him. It could be a natural aversion to too much activity or something more. We see two odd and disturbing fantasies or hallucinations he has. And Chitanda has such a dogged persistence about whatever’s on her mind that she’s absolutely adorable. Last week it was that arm-pump when she had something exciting to say. This week it as the near pounce she made on Houtarou with the book. Both moments were cute and extremely funny. Well, I thought so. So if the show wants to take things slowly and feed us little things for awhile I don’t mind in the least.

About time the dog showed up.

I’m going to write off Mutta’s behavior in Space Brothers 5 as jet lag. Or something that cause him to go from astronaut candidate to lazy, self-doubting doofus the moment he arrives in Houston, or maybe it was the chase that Apo the pug (finally!) gave him. The episode basically sees him think through all the things we’ve seen him think through since the beginning. His younger brother has left him behind, etc. The difference this time is that Hibito is actually there to frown at him. Actually, the entire reunion feels awkward, as both brothers perhaps size the other up for the first time in months. And they see disappointment and regret. No excitement at being at NASA or anything! C’mon, Mutta! This isn’t the way you acted before. Where the hell did your confidence go? It takes some not very interesting conversations and self-reflection before Mutta returns to something close to normal … and then they try to throw in a whammy which doesn’t really work, because we were sort of expecting it, at the last second.

Tired of annoying Kanade or each other, the boys of Kimi to Boku II 5 go out of their way to annoy a total stranger, when they discover his lost bike key and accidentally toss it into the shrine’s offering box, leading you to wonder why the hell they couldn’t just talk to someone at the shrine. But that would prevent an episode where he makes them drag his bike around, pissing him off further and further (actually it’s mainly Chizuru. The twins usually don’t go after people they don’t know and Kanade wisely makes himself scarce early on). The reason for his anger is third-year stress, so the episode has us believe. But if this crap happened to me my reaction would make this guy seem like Shun. In the end he’s a little happier, but not because of anything the boys did. I wonder who they’ll piss off next week?

Hide-and-seek.

Acchi Kocchi 4 … not bad. I preferred the hide-and-seek part. Most of the jokes in the school radio bit didn’t work for me, though it helped that Sakaki has a bit of a psychotic streak.

Threes: Fujiko, Accel, Amnesia, Acchi Kocchi

Fujiko 3 … I don’t know much about steam trains, but I figure if the drivers are killed then no one is feeding coal to the engines, and the train would have stopped not long after leaving the station. And cutting off the freight car wouldn’t do anything to decrease its acceleration. Putting that aside this episode feels a little different from the others. Maybe because Fujiko doesn’t reveal herself (or expose herself) until the final scene. Maybe it’s the kids. Seeing them around doesn’t feel right in a series of this nature. About the only Lupin-y thing in the episode is Goemon, going through his motions, cutting flying bullets and clothes, muttering things about the job. He’s hired to assassinate the head of a tiny country, but this head is a nice man who dotes on his grandkids, so you know things won’t work out as planned. Well, I kind of figured that out anyway. Maybe, since it’s bringing Goemon into the series, it had to be.

The best innuendo of the scene.

Three conversations in Accel World 3. The first is a clumsy infodump. Haruyuki and Kuroyukihime link up for whatever reason and we learn that Kuro is actually a top-level player who wants to move on to Level 10, though the others at 9 want to leave things as they are. Her reasons make sense, but her actions (killing a Level 9) leave something to be desired. Wait, wouldn’t killing a Level 9 make her a Level 10? She’s been a pariah ever since. But there’s another network and someone keeps challenging her there. She says it’s Chiyuri. In conversation 2 Haru and Takumu re-bond. It’s a brief conversation, so I’m guessing he’s really the guilty one. The third conversation is the most interesting in that Haru and Chiyuri have that heart-to-heart they should have had long ago, but since her cable is so short they become physically intimate, a nice bit of imagery. So for an information episode it’s not too bad. However, Haru’s physical appearance is beginning to bug me. Why is the only one who looks like that?

Tasogare Otome x Amnesia 3 takes a darker turn, one which actually had me thinking that Yuuko may actually not be the benign spirit she appears to be, but it turns out we learned the reason for this last week.

On the other hand, we met Kirie in the first episode, and she was not particularly scared of Yuuko then, simply annoyed. But this episode is a first meeting of sorts, as she tries to warn Teiichi that the pretty spirit he’s hanging around with is actually a nasty thing that will drag him to her grave, or wherever people get dragged to by spirits. And considering the way ghost stories usually go, it’s no surprise that Teiichi is taken aback by this. What if Yuuko is actually setting him up? Watching this, I laugh it off, but then we see Yuuko the way Kirie sees her. And so does Teiichi.

That’s the key phrase: “as others see her.” It explains the Momoe-vision of last episode and Yuuko’s frightening appearance here. But we get a sort of reprise of an earlier scene which I thought pointless at the time, when Yuuko asks Teiichi how she appears to him. He described her beautiful form. Now he does it again, because in spite of the evidence shown him, and the rumors, he can’t bring himself to draw away from her. As for Kirie, she’s shown enough in the forbidden basement that her mind is changed–partly. So now they have to figure out what what shrine down there is all about. One more question, though. When Kirie first saw Yuuko she saw the pretty girl from the photograph, the same figure as Teiichi sees. So is that as true a form as the scary one?

Not much to say about Acchi Kocchi 3. I’ve begun to notice how they use The Cute to punctuate moments, like a cat-ear twitch here, a cute “uh” there. Still, there were moments that dragged, where a beat moment went too long, not good for a show that uses beats a lot and usually well. In the first half they have fun in the snow. Tsumiki twice shows she has superhuman strength. In the home-ec section we meet a couple new students, two girls and a boy named Kyouya, whom they abuse for reasons beyond me. He doesn’t seem a bad sort. Tsumiki shows she has nearly-superhuman egg cracking abilities, and it will come as no surprise that Io’s a good cook. Oh, and the whole thing is cute.

Nazo no Kanojo X 2, Ozma 5, Space Bros 3, Acchi Kocchi 2

In Nazo no Kanojo X 2, Tsubaki and Urabe are dating, which leads to conflicts as to what that actually means. It leads to some disappointment moments from Tsubaki. Here he’s got a girlfriend whose drool he is addicted to and who has told him that they will eventually have sex. But this isn’t good enough for him. He wants a girlfriend he can do the usual romantic things with, even if he isn’t sure what those are and has to repeatedly ask his friend Ueno. This is a step backward. I kept muttering “Tsubaki! don’t screw this up! You’ve got the coolest, weirdest girlfriend in town! Normal high school romantic techniques won’t work! Make up your own rules!” Yet he tries, and gets rebuffed. What was that hug all about, anyway? However, we do learn that Urabe can put those scissors in her panties to good use, i.e., she can defend herself, the drum solo being a nice touch. But you get the idea that Urabe herself is putting out feelers, testing Tsubaki, and that culminates in another–ick–drool scene a little more intimate than the usual, and another one after the dream, well, I’m surprised the two can still stand each other.

Nice shot Bainas!

Ozma manages to make a pretty entertaining episode out of its old-school cliches. We still get little moments of stupidity, like a shot of the cook, the least important character at the moment, going “What? What?” over and over, but mostly the characters reacting in character to a major crisis, like discovering an underground paradise under all that sand–okay, I didn’t say it made any sense. The battles and rescues were ridiculous–good catch, Mimei!–but in the spirit of the show. And they threw in a plot-whammy I didn’t expect when Gido is revealed to be the long lost Dick. As for the yet-unexposed Gido and his monomaniacal speech, it was really no different from Luscinia’s in Last Exile Fam. The main difference is that this show is only six episodes. So, yes, revelations that work (and I didn’t even mention Maya’s), a fresh environment, interesting questions, it looks like this dumb show might actually have a satisfying conclusion.

In Space Brothers the second round exams are from from over, and most of the time is spent watching Mutta go through the humiliating physical exams and mutter about how he’ll never make it. Plus, there is the added pressure he has because Hibito is already an astronaut, so he not only has to live up to his younger brother’s achievements but fight the rumor that his brother is somehow helping him. He fights it by not responding, happily, and then overachieving in the lung capacity test, something Hibito couldn’t help him with, and proving he still has some physical abilities superior to people ten years younger. Then we turn to Itou, the girl, who seems to excel in everything, and, I wonder, romantic interest. Hard to say about that. When she catches him in an embarrassing moment (really, not all that embarrassing. He could have just explained it), she’s reminded of her father. So probably not. Meanwhile I’m wondering how long they’re going to take with the examination portion of the series. I’m happy they’re not glossing over anything, but there is a limit to the number of scenes I can take of Mutta worrying about screwing up.

And I still can’t figure out why I don’t hate Acchi Kocchi. I have some ideas. I actually think it’s cute. In spite of its leisurely feel it actually moves along quickly, never lingering (much) on the cuteness on the screen because they have more to fit in. The episode was over before I was full. Mayoi cutting into the chocolate filled cat-cake was actually funny. Oh, I don’t know. For the record, in episode 2 they stop by Sakaki’s sister Miiko’s cafe to dry off and taste-test cakes. Then it’s valentine’s day and everyone eats more cake. And candies with frog in them. Yet I’m still looking forward to next week’s episode.

Too many new shows to list in this title bar

Work kept me away from viewing for two days just when the new season is coming down like an avalanche. Here’s a whole bunch of new show thoughts for you, in the order that I viewed them. First, Sengoku Collection is the closest I’ve come this season to dropping a show after one episode. (As I learned, there would be more)

Ladies and Gentlemen, Oba Nobunaga!

We got Oba Nobunaga, one of those warring states guys, transported to the here and now, only she’s actually a pink-haired girl. She lands on top of a convenience store schmoe who becomes her retainer against his well\. It leads to lots of fish out of water scenes and Oba Nobunaga taking her clothes off. I hate fish out of water scenes, couldn’t care less about naked anime girls, and I don’t know enough history to get all the inevitable historical references they’re going to throw at us, for next week it’s going to be another historical figure, transformed into a blonde. If that wasn’t enough the episode was dull, with bad pacing, uninspired dialogue, and it’s drawn badly, too. I generally don’t drop a show so soon unless I find it offensive or mind-blowingly stupid, and this one isn’t quite bad enough. One more episode.

Yurumates 3D zips by so fast it was over before I was ready. A girl goes to live in Tokyo and moves into an apartment building full of fellow cram-school people who immediately invite themselves in and drink themselves into a stupor. We don’t even get to meet any of them before the show ends. What was the main character’s name again? Okay, not a lot you can do in three minutes. We’ll see how it pans out …

Uh, girls, the rock is glowing ...

Natsuiro Kiskeki 1 had me scratching my head until I figured out, I think, what the story is going to be about. Four girls once made a wish on a big rock and it came true in a small way. Now, older and wiser (middle school) one of the girls (Saki the blonde) gets all grumpy and quarrels with Natsumi (brown/orange hair) and quits the tennis club. Lots of “you’re no longer my friend” bits while the other two (Yuka the green-haired Saten clone and Run the purple monotone girl) watch with some worry. Turns out Saki’s family is moving away, thus putting her in this distancing funk. Naturally it’s big rock time again, though they can’t agree on what to wish for, until Run blurts out an idea … and they’re flying? I had thought I knew where all this was heading until that moment. When they return to earth I figured it out. It’s not that the rock grants wishes, though it does; it’s that the rock is a potential wish-granter and now they must decide on what to wish for. Since they all must agree on the wishes the four often willful girls must find common ground. Interesting premise, though I’m not sold on the girls yet.

Find all the cute things going on in this screenshot.

I think someone had the idea to take all the current cute trends in anime and distill them into what they’re calling Acchi Nochi. In episode one we meet five cute high school students who go through their normal school day (with their cute teacher), doing cute things, and then going to an arcade where they continue to act cute. The cutest character is Tsumiki, sort of a cross between Konata (physically, apart from the sprouting cat ears … cute) and Tooru (without the violent undertones … no, scratch that), who is adorably, cutely in love with Io, who handles the cute guy with glasses responsibilities. We also get a handsome boy and two other girls who are in charge of further cute fetishes. Nothing much happens at all, and the things that do happen are cute. Even the teacher slipping on a banana peel. In short, it would be very easy to hate this show. But I didn’t. Though the show is leisurely, each little scene is milked for cuteness potential and then quickly abandoned. Few wasted moments. That is to say, I wasn’t bored by it. It all just happens, with no pressure or forced action at all. If they can keep that up (and find more high school situations–they went through several in this episode) I think I might actually enjoy watching this every week.

Happy to see Mio found work after the K-ON! movie.

Accel World has a routine and somewhat clumsy opening episode. Short, blobby high school boy Haru, bullied at school, living only for immersive games, is given some software by the school’s beauty, Princess Snow Black (who looks like Mio with butterfly wings), I think, which accelerates his responses, so giving him the opportunity to turn the tables on his bulliers. Interesting that PSB’s advice is to take the blow and let the security cameras film it rather than fighting back, and since she takes some hurt herself this is more than an observer shouting advice to the one about actually getting hurt. What I also liked was Haru’s attitude to his school situation. He’s not only bullied, but he’s pitied by his friends, and that gives him a rage he instinctively knows is counterproductive but can’t help feeling anyway, which in turn causes him to act badly toward people trying to be kind to him, out of pity or not. But I don’t like the accel gimmick very much. Possibly how Haru chooses to use it will make it worthwhile. And I especially didn’t like the end, where Haru innocently forgets not to link in (you KNEW he would forget sooner or later, it was a question of when. Not a good set-up by the creators) and winds up in a post-apocalyptic fighting world. I hope the whole thing isn’t just an excuse to give us battles. The show has potential for more than that.

A visit to the infirmary.

Upotte!! is about girls who are actually weapons, and a new, handsome teacher who doesn’t know this at first. What it means is that we get some actually interesting lessons about types of assault rifles, and we get a lot of metaphors mixing guns and adolescent sexuality together. The main girl, Funko, meets the teacher and can’t stop fantasizing about his hands making her go off, until he makes a remark about the thong she’s wearing (she can’t help it if she has a skeleton stock, dammit!), a gun appears in her hand (wait, I thought she WAS the gun) and he winds up in the hospital. Twice. I don’t think I have to say anything further, apart from I’m not going to watch it again.

A character whose name I didn't get watches a character I had forgotten about.

When the original Saki aired I nearly dropped it a few times because I couldn’t understand the game, or the characters. Watching Saki -Episodes of Side-A I learned that this was only part of a larger adolescent-girls-playing-mahjong universe, and that what we have here is a spinoff with it’s own set of characters that have some relationship to the originals, especially Nodoka. In other words, more babbling girls playing a highly-confusing game. We start with a flashback where some middle-school girls head to a mahjong beginners club, then the advisor leaves, girls drift off to different schools, time passes, and three of them decide to re-form the club. Seeing Nodoka, not to mention StOS characters in the credits, might resonate for some viewers, but I was too busy thinking “who was that again?” The only one I remember vividly was the taco-eating girl, and I don’t remember her name. This episode exhausted me trying to kee up. I’ll leave it for others to review.

Finally, I watched Nazo no Kanojo X, where I am presented with a fundamental problem.

Urabe made quite an impression on her first day.

Our hero, Akira, yet another high school boy, meets Urabe, a weird transfer student. Akira, due to some childhood thing, has a up-to-now unacknowledged kink, which makes him taste some of Urabe’s drool she left on her desk. It’s sweet. After some vivid dreams he comes down with a fever. Urabe visits, offers him more of her spit, and he recovers. Thus a beautiful friendship is born. By the end Akira is confessing to Urabe and she accepts. But it’s not just the spit that makes this more than a high school romance.

Akira has some interesting dreams.

Urabe is the oddest girlfriend since Senjougahara. When not bursting out laughing at nothing on her first day (and I won’t tell you what the reason is) and sleeping at her desk the rest of the time, to the scissors she keeps under her skirt (Unlike Senjougahara, she apparently only has the one. Strangely, it’s the only moment of fanservice in a show bordering on eroticism), to her usually hidden eyes, even her calm, nearly-whispering voice (by Ayako Yoshitani, an actress who is apparently new to voice acting work) is different from most other girls in anime. She’s not the only thing about this show that’s different. While Akira is a relatively normal anime boy, apart from his kink, his dreams employ a completely different art style from the relatively cartoonish look of everyday life. It’s like we’re plunked into a completely different series. It’s all very interesting, apart from the fundamental problem.

Eew! Ugh! Blech! (retch)

I find the whole drool thing disgusting. Every time Urabe pulls her finger out of her mouth I go “eew” and want to turn away. The show explained well how Akira doesn’t mind it, and I don’t think there’s a “normal” reaction to other people’s spit, but I’m going to have a hard time watching this series if I have trouble watching the characters sharing one of their special moments. For now I’m going to suck it up and keep watching; this show has way too much going on for me to drop it because it grosses me out sometimes.

All right. I think I’m sort of caught up now.