Highschool 6, Asobi 5

Doesn’t seem fair. In Highschool of the Dead 6 the world continues to go to hell. Meanwhile our heroes experience great suffering and privation.

Highschool of the Dead has something for everyone.

Of course the contrast is deliberate. The girls undress while a voice-over reporter tells us that two million are dead already. At least Takashi and Kohta are taking stock of their new weapons and discussing what will happen next. The girls, including serious Saeko, are too busy splashing around in the tub, grabbing each others’ boobs, and behaving, as one of them says, like they’re in an eroge anime series. On one hand I can’t blame them for having a bit of fun for a change. On the other hand, all hell’s breaking loose on the bridge nearby (which distracts the zombies away from them). This is where the episode’s moral dilemmas appear.

The news media has pretty much abandoned the place except for one crew. Then there are the zombies, of course, followed by terrified unbitten people, a mob who is blaming the pandemic on biological weapons, and the poor police in the middle, who have been abandoned by their superiors and told to do whatever they can. We get a scene where a child zombifies and bites his mother, who is zombified, and the cops shoot them. You can understand why Tokyo’s Finest feel a bit stressed out. Their chief orders a bulldozer to plow down everyone, undead or alive, then shoots himself.

Meanwhile, back in paradise ...

So for the gang it’s a chance to rest, cavort and reload. The outside world can go to hell without them for one night. Takashi and Rei have another Hishashi argument which nearly turns erotic. Saeko prepares food while wearing nothing but an apron. It’s getting clear that Takashi could have a harem if he wanted. It’s the first episode where they don’t have to smash anyone’s head in. It could be the last for a while.

Asobi ni Iko Yo has been known to pander, too.

In this episode we conclude, I think, the kidnapping story arc involving the Kitty Paw cult. The Doggy force also gets involved, and we get a lot of Manami and Aoi in tiny swimsuits. Again, at least they’re wearing something. It’s not terribly interesting. I think it’s because the cuteness doesn’t mix in well with the action.

The cuteness they do have is mixed in with forced pathos. While Eris and Kio relax on the yacht (while the others are busy planning violent rescues, or simply violence—rather like the situation in Highschool this week) Kio notices that the cult’s leader Antnia doesn’t have any friends of her own, just a lot of money and servants. I immediately worried that there will be a lecture about this from someone, and I was right. Though it cheered me up a little that after Kio finishes the lecture Antnia doesn’t break down and sob but simply says “Oh, your right. Sorry about the trouble.”

The action stuff isn’t bad. It’s complicated by the fact that the armed speedboat Aoi needs is in the hands of a flaming movie director, but that’s only to add to the cheese factor and to get the girls into something more revealing. A more entertaining diversion is the attack by the Doggy people, which undermines the cult’s attempts at taking down Aoi and Minami. There’s a bewildering battle in the ship’s bowels, still scratching my head over that. Kio puts on Eris’s powersuit, adding cross-dressing to the fanservice list. The assistroids do their assisting all over the place. I rather like them. So in other words, it’s people all over the place having all sorts of battles. Again, not bad. But this time the cuteness doesn’t do its job of dropping bits of absurdity in serious situations.

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Asobi 4, K-ON!! 17

Asobi ni Iku Yo 4 continues to do what the show specializes in: toss out so much weird stuff that you stop objecting and let it wash over you.

Starting with yet another questionable organization, well, we’ve had glimpses of them before: the Kitten’s Paw cult, people who want to be like cats so they put on fake ears and tails. Now that Eris has arrived they have a god to worship! They seem harmless enough so the show abandons them and we kill some time with Eris, acting goofy (goofier than usual) because she’s close to breeding season and the slightest intoxicant sets her off. And then they’re on their way to Tokyo for a special mission—buy otaku stuff. I like the way Cathians operate.

The shopping spree is entertaining enough. Kio looks at game units while the girls ogle guns and Eris is bewildered by the cat-girl figurines she sees everywhere. Zero Louise and Blacksmith’s Lisa have a cameo. Meanwhile nothing is happening, and though we’ve see two different secret organizations mobilizing it takes a long time before one of them takes action, kidnapping Eris and Kio. I guess the show must maintain a strict ratio of happy-cute and guns-a-blazing, and they hadn’t reached the former’s quota yet.

The guns-a-blazing part.

Even with a straight action scene with subway cars, motorcycles and gunfire the show keeps its edge of absurdity. First, there’s Aoi somehow knowing where Manami and the others are, and the fact that the girls shooting at them all wear maid outfits (At least this time Manami and Aoi are wearing clothes). By now I had guessed that these people were goons for the Kitten’s Paw cult. Not satisfied with just worshipping Eris, they want to inprison her as well. It didn’t occur to them that there is a whole planet of Cathians to worship who would happily interact with them if they wanted. Or maybe it’s the power-mad vision of Antia, the leader and daughter of a rich mogul, in the line of Miya or Chise, except she doesn’t do the laugh. Next week look for some fun on a yacht, and more oddness.

K-ON!! 17 starts with one story, which evolves into a second, and then they toss in a third. Overall, it’s a pretty good episode.

The girls can’t use their music room for ten days because of water damage, and so most of the first half shows them trying other parts of the school, where they cause distractions or get distracted themselves. It’s not bad because as usual the girls’ interaction make up for any predictability and dead spots. But it’s odd that they’re suddenly so keen on rehearsing. The festival is a month away; they still have plenty of time. But I don’t mind. It’s when the characters dither when there’s work to be done that I get irritated. In this episode that comes later, when they rent out studio space and never actually get around to rehearsing in it. When they actually get a rehearsal space they fall back into their old habits. Sigh.

However, the dithering leads to the next story, my favorite for this episode. Since they can’t rehearse, they try to come up with new songs. Each girl contributes. The thing is, I’m sure there’s some indie band or another in the past twenty years who have come up with song titles similar to “Throbbing Protractor,” (okay, that’s more of a band name) or “My bag’s stupid,” or lines like “Take me away, Mr. Mandrill,” or “The perfect collaboration between carbohydrates and carbohydrates.” On second thought, HTT just ought to team up with TMBG.

The third story, while overly sentimental, ties everything together nicely. Ui gets sick. Yui mulls over things she’s taken for granted, like her sister and the music room … and writes a song. And they’re back in the music room. And they want to rehearse! After their tea. Again, I think I like this episode more than others because the girls actually have goals and work to achieve them. I mean, some tea every now and then is fine, but …

Occult 3, Asobi 3

I’m still trying to get a grip on Occult Academy. Episode three feels so far removed from the splendid first episode that I wonder if they didn’t fire the first batch of writers and hire new ones.

There are rumors of some supernatural beast called a tengu lurking around, and some people have gone missing. Maya, she who would never give in to rumors, immediately gives in to this one and has Uchida investigate. And he doesn’t. The show decides to spend much of the episode showing him dithering around. It sort of makes sense. He’s away from his own time, he’s homesick. He even tries calling his youthful self. But he’s so unlike the cocky person who bravely went back in time that I can’t make the connection. It’s also not very interesting to watch. Bring on the tengu!

To waste more time, Uchida meets a nice girl named Mikaze. They hit if off immediately so we get plenty of scenes where he visits the restaurant she works on. We at home are thinking she’s somehow connected to the tengu, but if she is nothing in this episode lets on. She’s sweet, a little eccentric, and has a fancy car which she drives recklessly; that’s all we know. Soon she offers to give Uchida a tour of the town’s landmarks. Aha! This is where the tengu comes in, or so we think. Especially when one of the tourist stops is Zouzan Bunker, built during WII. People died building it, and she’s sad about it. Aha!

We do get our tengu, or two, and they are in the bunker, but Uchida and Mikaze are long gone by the time they show up and threaten Maya. I’m just not sure where this is all headed, which I suppose is a good sign. Again, this show feels different from its start. Not necessarily worse, though they spent way too much time on Uchida dithering around and acting like a schoolboy on his first date. Waldstein Sonata and Maya throwing things notwithstanding, it just doesn’t have the same feel as it did before.

Asobi ni Iku yo! slows down, too, but in this case it’s to let the characters settle in and start working on the next story arcs.

Diplomatic negotiations.

The Cathians waste no time trying to establish formal relations with Japan. While negotiations aren’t complete, they do managed to get permission to stay, and they make Kio’s house their embassy. This is very convenient, because Aoi and Manami are now pretty much cut off from the secret organizations they belong to and are afraid of being treated as traitors. In Kio’s house, they’re under Cathian protection. I must say Eris and her friends have a nice mix of innocence and diplomatic smarts. They calmly negotiate wearing school bathing suits because they read one of Kio’s magazines. As for Kio, congrats, boy! In three episodes you have accumulated a harem of seven girls, two of which are in love with you and a third who thinks nothing of hugging you while naked.

But there are other forces out there. One is this lady above, who apparently represents the Doggy Race, furious that the Cathians are moving in before they can finalize their own negotiations. In this scene we get a brief breakdown of all the characters who have appeared so far, and their affiliations, which is very helpful but two episodes too late. Besides, now they’re throwing us even more mysterious people. Anyway, we have a scene where one of the assist-aroids is kidnapped, and Aoi and Manami (naked, because they were in the tub when the alarm went off) run off to stop them.

Manami, embarrassed because she's naked, fires at the boy she likes.

The two girls have a couple of nice talks, partly about themselves but mainly about Kio. Manami says that Kio thinks of her as a guy, so Aoi ought to make a play for him. Kio is uncertain that he’ll accept her past (oh, she has telportation powers too, just for fun). Also, she sees that Manami still likes the boy and isn’t sure she should interfere. Manami is turning into a decent tsundere character and she knows how to use firearms, heh. Too early to tell what Aoi’s angle is.

In other words this show throws a lot of cliches and fanservice at you but it has an eccentric charm to it that I like. They add amusing bits like the assist-aroids trying to cheer up Kio or the Star Trek riffing at the beginning. And all the characters are interesting in one way or another, well, Kio is a bit bland, but he’s the male lead in a harem series … that’s also SF and a political thriller … and a comedy.

Asobi 2, Campanella 3

Whoa, Asobi ni Iku Yo is a mess! For the second episode in a row I watched in a daze, barely able to comprehend what they were throwing at me.

We start with some cute, as Eris offers Kio her body in return for his hospitality and harvests some cute little “assist-aroids” to help her with her research at the local library. Okinawans must be the coolest people on Earth. Either they’re part of a secret paramilitary organization or they’re so laid-back they have no problem with a cat girl and her little robots running around the place. There is no in-between. As Eris and her assist-aroids walk openly about, making no effort to hide themselves, enjoying the native food, the secret organizations plan their move.

We still don’t know what some of these groups do and why, and I have a hard time keeping track of which girl works for which outfit, especially Futaba. Anyway, the fun of it is all three groups decide to abduct Eris at once. First, Beautiful Contact whip out their guns, then Futaba shows up, and finally “Jack,” who works for the CIA, which is cooperating with the DIA (I thought this was a joke, but they exist). They all want to kill Eris, or examine her, then kill her. To make things even more ludicrous, Kio’s laid-back uncle Yuichi comes out of nowhere with his own weapons and rescues Kio and all the assist-aroids … but not Eris.

Yay for the dimensional particle shuffling hammer!

I’m not going to pretend that I understood all that happens next. The three girls and Yuichi team up (huh?) and they raid the DIA base. Kio displays some stealth skills of his own. Meanwhile, captive Eris has had quite enough of this and busts free … couldn’t she do this before? Things blow up, Eris takes the offensive, and it’s over.

What happens after that? Everything goes back to normal! Another day of summer vacation! Like the military groups just decided to let it go. Like I said: this show is a mess.

But it’s a fun mess. They add little touches, like one group fuming that the first alien to visit looks like a cat girl and not … an alien, damn it! Or the fact that the DIA base’s security drops when Star Trek is airing. I hope future episodes can be as messy and fun as the first two.

It’s what I feared. Now that Shukufuku no Campanella has finally run out of characters to introduce us to, the show becomes dull. At least when they were dropping new people on us we were experiencing them for the first time, and that kept my interest a little. Here we get a lame plot, wooden writing, and unfunny jokes.

The Oasis Clan decides to go on a quest to pick the black rainbow flowers, because they suck up light and crystal monsters like them, or something. The concept of a flower that sucks up light to create a little rainbow is a nice little invention, but it’s about the only decent thing in the episode. There’s a boring train scene that seems to go on forever, then the party gets split up, which is supposed to be funny, but isn’t. When they get to the flowers there’s a not-so threatening monster there that is easily dispatched. Carina takes a fall, and it’s fanservice time. Apart from Leicester and Carina, the others might as well not have bothered taking the trip.

A magic staff unfamiliar with the concept of tact.

Alas, there’s still plenty of time in the episode, so Leicester decides to add some Ale to Monteccha, Carina’s magic staff, so it can speak. Time after time he fails; so much time, in fact, that they were able to insert a song. By now the only question I had was what would the staff speak like? … Like a boring android. Now we get to listen to that for the rest of the series. And by now I had predicted that the newly-vocalized staff would ask embarrassing questions about Leicester and Carina’s relationship. Guess what happens? I’m going to give the show one more episode.

Highschool 2, Asobi ni Iku Yo 1

In Highschool of the Dead 2 the surprise has worn off, and our heroes shake off their shock (for the most part) and become pragmatic survivors.

The attention switches between three couples: Takashi and Rei, still stuck on the roof, trying to get through on a cell phone, Saeko and Shizuka in the nurse’s office, and for my money the most entertaining of the lot, spoiled genius Saya and gun-nerd Kohta. And we have to ask why those two are together in the first place, at least at first. Saya seemingly has no use for this fatass, and Kohta seems utterly useless, until, in a satisfying moment, he gets an evil grin and MacGyvers a weapon out of a nailgun. Now we see why Saya might have wanted him along. For her part, she manages to analyze the zombies, seeing that they react to sound, not sight or touch. A resourceful, if dysfunctional combo.

Shizuka and Saeko are less interesting. The former is the school nurse, and seemingly a complete ditz (meaning she’ll probably be a excellent person to have around when someone gets hurt, but we don’t see that yet), whose only assets so far are comically bouncing boobs. Saeko is a kendo champion and so we know what she can bring. The trouble is, that’s all we get of her for now. Of course this trio of couples must get together eventually, and they do, rescuing Saya while she’s busy drilling a zombie’s head. Now the team is formed, they can make a plan.

Not only that, but they must also come to terms with what the hell’s going on. These moments of introspection and worry are scattered throughout. The most effective comes from Saya. After drilling the zombie she lashes out at everyone for no reason, fusses about her bloody clothes, then breaks down and sobs in Saeko’s arms. It’s a good moment because although she isn’t the most likable character, we can perfectly understand her state of mind and can sympathize with her. I suppose every character will go through this as we move on.

Asobi ni Iku Yo 1 is the oddest opening I have seen in a while. Throughout I kept wondering what kind of show this is supposed to be.

This?
Or this?

We start with a raid on a boat with tense battle music. A girl attacks the boat, but the captain blows it up. I was thinking “Wait, wasn’t this supposed to be a cute cat-girl show?” Well, we get the cute cat girl, and a lot more. Our young hero, Kio, meets Eris, the cat girl, while at a service of some kind. She freely admits to being an alien, and the Okinawans around her don’t seem to mind her tail and ears at all. Kio accidently drinks some alcohol, passes out, and when he wakes up finds Eris in his bed. Neighbor Manami comes by but rather than a “Hide, Eris, hide!” scene she knows everything already. Then Itokazo, a teacher shows up. It was refreshing that Kio doesn’t have to hide anything. The gun battle were fading from my memory.

Then the show throws us more curveballs. Manami works for some clandestine organization and is monitoring Kio and Eris. And Itokazu belongs to some weird cult who is also investigating Eris. They seem to have expected her to arrive, but why I don’t know. Then we meet a nice but dull girl named Futaba, who loves movies. After what I thought was a pointless scene about buying DVDs she gets into a car.

Kio has the most interesting friends.

Is there ANYONE in Okinawa who isn’t working for some covert operation? Interest in an alien girl, sure, I can understand that, especially since she beamed the message “Let’s go play!” all around the globe before her arival, and the recovery of her craft makes the news. But these folks were in their groups for much longer. Beyond that it’s a nice contrast. Eris comes in peace and doesn’t seem to know about the intrigue around her, or she doesn’t care. I suspect she will soon. An interesting start to say the least, but they can’t keep whipping out these surprises forever. I can’t make a decision about it until the plot really gets going, but there’s no way I’m going to miss episode 2.