Arakawa BxB 9, Yumeiro Pro 10

Two typical vignettes in Arakawa Under the Bridge x Bridge 9.

In the first, Shimazaki has fallen either for Whitey, or his line-making discipline. Much to Ric’s shock. As usual. Oh, they throw in an imagined (by Ric) domestic drama angle to make it more interesting.

In the second, Last Samurai, disgusted by the girls’ overly sugary tea party, invites the boys to a traditional Japanese tea ceremony. I may have enjoyed this more if I understood more (that is to say, anything) about such things. That’s all I can think of to say about this episode. It’s one where nothing happens except people act silly and Ric reacts.

Yumeiro Patissiere Professional 10 is also pretty much like many other episodes. There’s no demon to slay, apart from poor sales. Mostly it’s spent on Tennouji’s resurrection, and it’s pretty obvious from the start where it will go.

The shop is doing better but not well enough. Satsuki suggests a new concept, but how can could Tennouji think of such a thing? Everyone learns that Tennouji hasn’t taken a day off in, like, forever, so they practically order her to take one. Consider it a working holiday. She realizes that New York City is a huge group of cultures living together (while she’s touring the Cloisters, of all places). And she should be a part of it. She quickly gets her chance.

As so often happens in New York, there’s a wedding cake injury. Fortunately for the bride’s family, Tennouji is a professional. She whisks the damaged cake to the shop and it’s … augmented. This gets her invited to the wedding reception. She also goes to see the show Linda’s dancing in, and we get another concept, that of being part of an ensemble that works together to make the stars shine, and those stars are … New Yorkers! So now the shop has a new concept. You may wonder how a bunch of Japanese are going to overnight create a shop catering to NYC, but this show has rarely shown anyone having trouble with cultural barriers. Only Ichigo, and Johnny and Maize, and those moments are played for laughs.

Yumeiro Patissiere's artwork is never fancy, but they can on occasion come up with a nice image.

Everyone helps with the makeover, especially the fairies, who do some flower-growing magic. Now, Linda and a couple of her friends are there, too, but they don’t seem to notice the magic going on around them. Though one customer marvels that they get so many flowers to grow in Winter. I also wonder what will happen when the others leave and it’s just Honey and, er, whatever fairy follows Rick around. Will they create new flower art all the time? Is there a limit to their powers? I still think too hard about this show. The point is that Tennouji has found a new home, and is no longer thinking only about Henri. About time.

Three Eights: God Only Knows, Arakawa, Arterial

The World God Only Knows 8 is a silly filler episode in 3-4 parts which intertwine, but it doesn’t work very well.

In part one Elsie has quite rightly realized she’s pretty useless and decides to counterattack by making Teima a delicious strawberry cake, using her own ingredients. I don’t bake much, but I can understand how frustrating it is when one of the eggs you were going to use hatches to reveal a fearsome mandragon which proceeds to wreak havoc.

We then follow Teima through the same timeline, wondering where Elsie went, playing his games and being harassed by his teacher. There’s nothing much to this. He spends a lot of time reacting to the residue of Elsie’s cooking adventures and wondering why the world keeps dumping on him. And we move on to his mother, who spots the mandragon and later hears a burglar and brains Keima with a vase. The mandragon chases away the annoying teacher, the mandragon gets eaten by Elsie’s bento, and that’s it. The series’ previous filler episode was much better.

Arakawa Under the Bridge x Bridge 8 reintroduces us to the tall, strong, yet girly Amazoness. At first Rec is overjoyed because no one believed he ever saw her. Then things take a troubling turn when her assistants hypnotize him into falling in love with her.

P-ko and Hoshi are appalled, though naturally Hoshi sees this as a way to break Rec and Nino up. Nino doesn’t get it. It takes the Amazoness’s next step to push things to crisis mode, as, under the hypnotism, he learns that she has been arrested, and that could only mean a cry for help, right? So he runs off to Amazon jail, rescues, and marries her. Here’s where it gets interesting. Nino rightfully punches him, then squares off against her giant rival. We wonder what sort of battle they’ll have. Naturally, it’s a weird one.

Nino then adds height to size and Rec’s lecture on volume in a container (which she attended) now makes sense. Her love is HUGE. Plus, she is too confident and big-hearted to hate the Amazoness, and proves it by giving her a hand when the Amazoness collapses. The Amazoness tells her that if she is sickly, Rec would protect her. Nino replies that she protects Rec. So we see another sweet angle of the Rec/Nino relationship.

Last week Fortune Arterial finally started working on the plot, and by the end of episode 8 it has tangled up much of what we’ve seen before into a bizarre knot. We start with Erika having unpleasant vampire dreams, and a girl spots a vampire jumping around campus. Soon the student body is frightened. Okay, so Erika is doing vampire-y stuff in her sleep, right? Even Erika seems to think this possible. But it’s not that simple. We learn who the vampire is.

Nice curveball.

Someone I did not suspect: Kiriha Kuze. Okay, she’s had some time in the spotlight, but mostly she’s been on the outside of events. A cold person, but decent. It didn’t occur to me to suspect her. What’s more, she isn’t just jumping around getting vampire exercise, she seems to be seeking a master, or something. We don’t get explanation, but since the next episode is named “Servant” I don’t think we’ll have to wait long. But the story’s just getting started. Haruna hears a noise, sees Erika chasing Kiriha, and, in typical horror-victim fashion, goes out to investigate, only to run into Erika in her glowing-eyed vampire mode. Erika is exposed as a vampire! Another complication! The series is making up for lost time.

And they’re STILL not done! As good a friend as Haruna is, the vampires know they can’t take the risk of being discovered. It’s one of the few times I’ve seen Lori so serious about anything. So it’s time for the memory-loss trick. Erika, if you please? And we get a new whammy. This isn’t the first time Erika has taken her memories away. In fact, it’s the reason Haruna cannot remember Kohei’s first visit to the island. Geez, the episode is dumping EVERYTHING on us! And then we have the moral dilemma. Erika doesn’t want to do it, but she must. Kohei pleads with her. How can she do that to a trusted friend? This leads to an absolutely lovely moment I won’t spoil here. I’ll just say that Fortune Arterial, to my surprise, can indeed deliver big plot points and make them work. I don’t know if it makes up for the wasted episodes but it’ll keep me watching next week.

Arakawa x 2 and God Only Knows 7

Once again, in Arakawa Under the Bridge x Bridge, the show works better when Ric cooperates with the other bridge folk, rather than just reacting to them. On the other hand, this episode wasn’t much anyway.

Shiro and the Mayor have an argument over who will live longest, and so Ric’s company brings in some diagnostic equipment. Everyone has a moment of predictable weirdness. It picks up a little when, in another battle to win Nino’s sympathy, Ric and Hoshi begin to fake illnesses. And this is turned upside down because, if they’re sick, they’ll be unable to go into space with her. So a typical medical exam turns into an astronaut preparedness session. The boys and girls will each spend seven days underground.

So I’m expecting the girls will get along great down there, and the guys will not, so predictably it will actually work the other way around. I was right. Jacqueline can’t handle being without Billy (so she sneaks into the guys’ group dressed as the Mayor), Maria snaps with no one to tease, Stella needs a body to test her new finishing move on, etc. The guys get through it either through mental discipline or going stark raving mad in a girly way. The show’s unpredictability has become predictable, with some small variations.

Really, the three-episode arc that concludes with The World God Only Knows 7 was more like 2.5 episodes.

Kanon's past self could be a little more reassuring.

And it was predictable to boot. We are told that Kanon has two problems. She doesn’t think she can entertain ten thousand fans at a concert, and if she doesn’t the world will turn its back on her and she will disappear again. The first problem seems to be simple stage fright. The second one is more of a danger to her happiness. To make it worse for Keima, she reacts to this double-whammy by disappearing anyway. We get a lot of scenes of people looking for her, Keima included, and then it turns out Elsie can track her down by sensing the lost soul inside her. Nice work, Elsie! I wish you could have thought of this before we had all those searching scenes (then it would have been a 2.25 episode story arc).

The subsequent scene between Keima and Kanon (surprise, she was just down the road!) is only partly satisfying. Keima tells her what her problem is, she moves in to kiss him, but he refuses it. He knows she’s still in danger of vanishing if she doesn’t see she doesn’t need other people to validate her. Another lecture. That part worked pretty well. What didn’t is that Kanon is instantly cured! Her lost soul flies out to get captured by Elsie and she happily returns just in time for her concert to begin. Well, maybe it was the lost soul causing the problem, but it seems to me to be more of a pathological need that you cant cure in one therapy session. But whatever.

The reason the story ended so soon is so they could bring us the concert, including two entire songs. There’s not much visually or musically to these scenes, but they’re enhanced by the fact that she’s happily holding her own in a solo concert for a huge audience. Not only that, but she’s overjoyed that her two former group-mates each sent her good luck flowers, a nice touch. The same when, after everyone’s gone, she goes onstage and sings a bit of a song her old group recorded. When you combine music and story together it usually has an effect on me, even in silly shows like this one.

Arakawa 5, Hyakka 5

Arakawa Under the Bridge x Bridge 5 brings us the return of the sci-fi nut who thought Nino was a genuine Venusian, er, not that she isn’t.

He wants to live under the bridge with the rest of them, and bribes them with manga that he drew himself. Ric (everyone’s stopped calling him Recruit, or even Rec, so I’ll go along) is the only one against it, but that’s because of the way he treats Nino, not to mention that the manga drawn for him is the least complimentary. We get a little lesson on what types actually deserve to live down there. At first glance this guy, whom the mayor dubs “Master,” seems like a perfect fit, what with his weird SF fantasies and his drawings. For me, the viewer, why not let him in? He’s as entertaining as the rest. But I guess when you are pretty much the same person under the bridge that you were in real life, it won’t work. I think. Then again, what about Ric? Okay, I don’t get it. But I liked the manga he drew after he left …

The second story concerns Jacqueline and her anniversary of some kind with Billy. Nino and P-Ko go off to spy on them, and Ric and Hoshi follow. It’s odd seeing them work together for a change. The scene devolves into a classic gangster routine, but it has a happy ending. I don’t have anything more to say about it. The coda, concerning Ric imitations, is more amusing.

In spite of the occasionally good jokes and sight gags I am SO close to dropping Hyakka Ryouran Samurai Girls. Especially after episode 5.

On the right is Naoe, the world's worst undercover spy.

Sen’s brother orders a girl named Naoe to infiltrate Sen’s place in Japan and find out if she’s actually sheltering Sanada. Why? Naoe is an old friend of Sanada’s. Now, if Sanada’s presence is indeed a secret, sending someone she knows right to where she’s hiding seems like a stupid plan. It doesn’t help that Naoe actually hates Sanada (because of an incident regarding an earthworm, among other things) and breaks down the door the moment she gets there to pick a fight. This pretty much blows her cover. After she retreats (after being defeated by Sanada’s wind power—loved the bit where the others tie themselves down) she sneaks back at night and overhears suspicious conversation, and can’s resist talking out loud about it. Really, Naoe is the worst spy I’ve seen in some time.

The others watch as Munekira goes to get beaten up.

It gets worse. Muneakira is told not to kiss any more girls. He misunderstands a speech about boob sizes and is told he is the worst kind of man, and because of this, when Naoe comes back to challenge HIM (outraged that he’s kissing anyone–she’s completely forgotten her mission) he lets her beat the crap out of him. Then Sen kisses him. Sanada, who before was jealous, approves. Sorry, this show is a mess. A shame because it actually does, from time to time, make me laugh. I guess when the next episode comes along I will decide if I have the strength to keep watching.

Amagami 17, Arakawa BxB 4

The new story arc in Amagami SS 17 isn’t off to a good start. I don’t remember Rihoko being such a ditz before.

A couple of different things in this arc: First, we learn even before the credits that Rihoko’s been in love with Junichi for years. So I suppose they’ll spend four episodes convincing Junichi to return her affections. Second, we spend most of the time with Rihoko instead of Yunichi, but that means spending time with a airhead who gets stuck in fences and declares herself on a diet with a crème choux in her mouth. Her voice gets on my nerves, too. But that’s what we got. In terms of the romance, it seems that losing weight is going to be a key theme.

Junichi is rightfully dubious about her new dieting plans; she’s done it so many times before. And because they’re old friends he can flat out state his thoughts on it. In fact so far he shows no romantic inclination at all. She’s just a friend. The closest we get is when he mentions a model he likes—turns out he doesn’t mind the chubby types. What I think will happen is Junichi will become actively involved with her diet, not unlike the personality lessons he gave Sae. Maybe she’ll become more determined that way and lose some of her ditziness. Most of the episode’s humor came from that, and mostly it wasn’t good. The funniest moment was between Junici and Umehara, off to look at dirty mags and talking like manly-men. Yes, a mistake to turn the camera away from Junichi, but we’ll see.

Arakawa Under the Bridge x Bridge returns to the two-story format. Both of them are pretty good. A shame I have little to say about either one.

Nino forgets her line.

Pico gets Recruit to direct a romantic film where she is the lead and the Mayor (who she loves) is her romantic interest, and others as supporting cast. The casting is interesting, to say the least.

Pico is consoled by her girlfriends.

You can imagine what happens, especially when some of them don’t bother to read the script. In the end it’s hijacked and turned into a historical drama, and then there’s some careful editing …

Though I liked the second one less, it’s still good. To honor this time of year the denizens put on a haunted house. It’s an annual event, but since they all participate there’s no one to come in and get scared. Good thing Rec’s around! You pretty much know how the characters are going to behave, or you think you do. Much of the humor comes from Rec’s reaction.

You know, that IS kinda scary ...

Some of what he sees isn’t meant to be scary but scares him anyway, and vice versa. And of course the character riff on themselves or act just the opposite, maybe to startle him. In the end the thing that frightens him most of all comes with the help of a mirror.

World God Only Knows 3, Arakawa 3, Shinryaku 3

The world God Only Knows 3 polishes off the Mio story. It starts well enough, but takes a dull turn. Frankly, I think every story arc will.

Keima and Elsee learn Mio’s secret, but she learns that they were eavesdropping. Normally this would be trouble but Keima is resourceful enough to use it to his advantage. Since her chauffeur pooped out on her (and why was he even bothering to drive her around in the first place?) Keima offers his services using a rickshaw, which gets more elaborate (and heavier) every morning. This sight gag works for just long enough for the romance to take shape.

The turning point comes when Keima escorts Mio to a fancy party that her late father used to take her to. Now, the point is made that Mio must forget about being rich, though she is afraid that if she does she will forget her father. Taking her to such a party won’t help. It’s only when a couple of party-goers mock her that she begins to turn. Sadly, it gets maudlin here. I said that every story arc will; there will be a moment where the girl’s inner troubles will come out and she will turn to Keima while violins play. Though I like the irony that the next episode he will start from scratch and woo a different girl. For Keima there’s a Sisyphus aspect to it.

Arakawa Under the Bridge x Bridge 3 also has a sentimental ending, but in this case I don’t mind. First, it’s not a girl of the week, but Nino. Second, Arakawa rarely does this sort of thing, and when they do they do it well. Basically, Recruit finds some tapes belonging to Nino and plays one of them. She’s upset about it.

We’ve never seen Nino this angry before. Their reconciliation takes up the entire episode. It’s not often the show devotes so much time to one thing. Half of the time is taken with coaxing Nino down, the other with Recruit continually crashing the girls’ slumber and commiseration party. Normally, Recruit is scrambling around acting stupid because he doesn’t understand the oddballs around him; here, he’s simply trying to make amends to the girl he loves. This gives the whole thing a weight the show normally doesn’t have.

When they finally come back together, after a touching speech by Nino, we see again that these two aren’t just weirdos living under a bridge, but individuals who genuinely love each other. All the other eccentric characters can do is stand to the side and watch.

Shinryaku! Ika Musume 3 isn’t bad.

I sometimes ask that while watching this show.

First Eiko decides Ika needs to be scared so arranges a test of courage. Ika’s obliviousness holds up well here. She sees no reason to be scared of ghosts, and when she encounters some she thinks they’re just nice humans. Said obliviousness holds up less well in the second part when she mistakes floating toys for killer whales. They do the annoying thing by having Ika act a certain way while the others misunderstand what she’s up to, leading to more complications. It’s a comedic technique that gets on my nerves quickly.

In the third story we meet Nagisa, a new employee, and the only one in this show so far who reacts to Ika with anything resembling terror. You know, she has a point. Ika can be dangerous, and she’s a squid girl who wants to take over the world. She vomits squid ink! Hardly anyone in the show thinks this is weird at all, only Eiko, because she’s usually relegated to straight-girl status. As for Ika, FINALLY someone up here reacts like they should. The story goes on with this a bit too much, but overall I found it refreshing.

Aww, look at the cute widdle object of terror!

Shiki 12, Arakawa 2, Fortune Arterial 2

Shiki returns after a couple of weeks, and things get even bleaker.

We don’t see Toshio and Seishin this episode. Instead attention is paid to Natsuno and his friends and family, including the risen ones. Natsuno, though bitten, is still healthy enough to tell the kids to leave the village and, in an interesting scene, tries to work things out with Tohru, arguing that in order for the Risen to survive they don’t need to kill, they just need blood. It looks for a moment like it might work. Tohru still has his conscience. But it turns out it’s not that simple. Even the Kirishiki family would like the no-kill option, but, as Sunako says, it leads to an “empty hunger.” Not only that, Natsuno has a conscience as well and when the moment comes can’t bring himself to hurt Tohru.

So the struggle now is to keep Natsuno alive. His father still refuses to admit anything is going on, partly do to a key conversation with the father Kirishiki. Kaori and her brother try to intervene to no avail. They’re just superstitious rural kids to him. Nothing stands in the way of Tohru getting another snack off his best friend. Yet there’s still a hint at dissent amongst the vampires. Megumi hates living in the sticks whether she’s undead or not. Tohru hasn’t done the final bite. Still, I’d like the show to give us some good news for a change.

Arakawa Under the Bridge x Bridge 2 is one of the better ones. Recruit meets some more fascinating people, an Amazonian and the captain of the Earth Defense Force.

The Amazon queen and her secret treasure.

Of course, both are incomprehensible and give Recruit plenty of room for reaction shots. Most of the time this sort of thing gets on my nerves, but here I was actually interested in these new characters, especially when the Amazonian switched to schoolgirl mode for no reason. The punchlines come from undercutting the perceived threat, or rather, going off on a tangent from Mars.

Recruit reveals his true identity to the Earth Defense Force.

Or, in the second half, Venus. Recruit rescues a man wearing odd clothes who claims he’s defending Earth from the Venusians. In other words, he’d fit right in (so would the Amazon, but she lives upstream). I’m not sure why Recruit is so against this. What’s another oddball or two going to matter? In any case he comes up with a story to scare him off. This works in two ways. First, we see the stranger’s vivid imagination, which means we get to see Nino in some absurd SF situations. Second, the Chief, Hoshi and the Sister are around, so naturally the talk gets even weirder. And then Nino the Venusian shows up … Good episode.

If Fortune Arterial is a vampire show they have a funny way of showing it. Once again whatever sinister, under-the-scenes moments we get come at the very end of the episode. The rest of it is simply high school silliness.

It's rarely good when the audience spotlight turns to you.

Tohei has completely written off the fact that he saw a vampire biting a girl the day before and is more worried about standing up Erika at their prearranged meeting. Erika’s putting a spotlight on him during the opening ceremonies and telling the entire school he went into the girls’ bath shows you how mad she can get. In fact, much of the episode is Tohei trying to apologize to her but getting distracted by other adventures instead, like catching that stupid rabbit, or running into quiet, vaguely sinister Kiriha. We do get some vampire stuff at the end, but Tohei isn’t directly involved (Lori obtains a blood sample and pronounces Tohei “different”).

This is a vampire show.

In spite of this I hardly get a vampire vibe at all. Even at the end, where Tohei and Erika make up, they shake hands, but there’s none of that freakout business she had before. Not that I mind how this show is presenting itself but the silly high school stuff is nothing special and gets a little dull. Bring on some vampires!