Ookami 11, Baka to Test 11, Hanamaru 10

Ookami Kakushi‘s story ended with episode 11, but there’s still one to go. Probably some silly filler thing. So, after all this time, I never figured out the situation. Gods and fallen gods, wolf princesses wearing white, it all became a dull blur in my mind. But at least this time they were able to concentrate on an immediate crisis, stopping Sakaki from opening the dam.

Sakaki’s evil plan to destroy the town has to be one of the stupidest ever. Not the opening the dam part, because that would certainly work, but instead causing a ruckus at the funeral, telling people he’s going to open the dam, then stopping even before he’s finished doing it, simply staggering off. First, why didn’t he just go and shoot the dam guy and open it before? Because he wanted to warn the humans? But how was he going to do that without warning everyone? So in the end Nemeru and her cohorts managed to get to the control room and seal the dam up before the damage grew too great. And why hide the bullets in the forest?

On the other hand, we get to see Hiroshi finally take matters into his own hands. Standing in front of wounded Isuzu, giving brave speeches, even leaping at the gun as Sakaki is about to shoot Nemeru (and weren’t these godlike figures awfully weak and defenseless this episode? All they do is offer Sakaki the chance to shoot them), and getting the gun pointed at his head a few times. He feels responsible for the entire situation and tries to act. Very good, Hiroshi! Unfortunately, for all the bravery he shows this episode, he’s still a scrawny boy, and he spends a lot of time getting flung around by Sakaki before Kaori and her gang show up. Well, at least he tried.

Darker than Black 2's ending was more confusing. But that was a better show.

As for Kaori’s appearance and subsequent sacrifice of her life, I’ll just say it adds to the confusion. Was Kaori actually Sakaki’s deceased fiancee, transformed into a wolf princess or whatever she’s now called? Sakaki acts like she both is and isn’t. He’s horrified when she gets in the way of the shot, and he goes over the cliff with her like it’s a romantic double-suicide. And after that, it’s like nothing happened at all. Time passes, everyone behaves like normal (well, like humans) and no one talks about it. We just get some ruminations from Hiroshi on why can’t we all just get along, and that’s about it. Talk about a letdown …

As I said, there’s one more episode, but from the preview it looks a little silly.

Speaking of silly, we next turn to Baka to Test 11, where we have two epic battles in one episode! Unlike other episodes which run this way and that, this one is nothing but strategies and battles, little of it making sense, but that’s the way this show rolls.

Apparently doing battle here requires strategy. You have to find good matchups against the other side, and then find a teacher to open the summoning field. This all means we get a confusing array of diagrams and damage reports along with the actual battling. Many jokes fly by which are understood by people other than me.

So I just sit back and enjoy the battles. Never mind that I don’t know who the hooded guys with scythes are, or why Yoshi could just use his avatar and slam a hole in the wall—is that allowed? Or what the deal was with the 46 year-old virgin math teacher, or countless other things. It’s loud and has a lot of energy. But once again the show wears me out before it’s over.

Hanamaru Kindergarten brings us sports day, and Koude worrying that she’ll come in last place. Kusano trains her. She’s ahead in her race but falls. It takes her older brother at the finish line to make her continue. It’s sweet, but not much more.

No, it’s the second story that matters. I’ve said that the show is better when the kids are involved, but here the best scenes feature only adults. The teachers go out for some drinking, and the pressure is on Tsuchida to confess to Yanamoto. It’s a fun scene. Kusano and Kawashiro conspiring, Tsuchida drinking more to get his courage, and Yanamoto sitting there, utterly clueless. The subsequent little bunny hop sequence the characters do is inspired.

Thanks to the alcohol Tsuchida can’t remember what her answer was, and the kids find out about the confession, thanks to Kusano.

I must say I’m warming to Kusano. She likes to mess with Tsuchida’s head as much as Sakura does, and she has more opportunities to do it. Add this to the straightforward encouragement she gives Koude while they train and you’ve got a fun character. I wish Tsuchida was this much fun. He’s only fun when people are messing with his head.

And ANOTHER outstanding closing sequence. I think they might be the best thing in this show, apart from Hiiragi, Sakura and Kusano. You can tell that Gainax is having a great time with these. I’d put in a screenshot but then I’d have to put in dozens.

Fairy Tail 20, Cross Game 47, Baka to Test 10

After a story arc that took forever, Fairy Tail 20 brings us filler, and that’s all right. It’s mostly a flashback on the birth of Happy, with a side dish of Natsu’s emotional growth, what little of it there is.

It’s routine. Young Natsu, who at that time wanted to do nothing but beat up Erza and Gray (which is pretty much like he does now) finds an egg and decides to hatch it. A girl we haven’t met yet named Lisanna volunteers to help, and on the way, gives Natsu a new role to play: father, with her as the mother. Now, you may ask who the hell is this girl and where did she go? We see her as an adult, but not in the present day, and she seems to be a painful memory for Natsu, which means naturally we’ll get a story arc on it eventually.

So Natsu gets a little family and calms down slightly. We see the guild members when they were smaller, and see what little rivalries they had at the time. Enough for a filler. Hopefully the next story arc begins next week. Let’s hope it’s a little more compact.

Cross Game 47, instead of making Akane’s surgery concurrent, with the team having to play wondering how it would turn out, eases up on the pressure-meter, slightly. The surgery is over before the game begins, and Aoba, who was at the hospital, texts Momiji to tell her to give Kou the V sign, which surely means the operation went well. But what if she’s lying?

There is a lot of lying in this episode, all to spare people worry or pain. Kou is the only one who knows that the surgery is even happening, until he tells Aoba, in a quiet scene at Wakaba’s grave. They mustn’t tell Akaishi, or he might fall into another slump. Other people aren’t to know because they’re lousy liars. But that does nothing to relieve the pressure on Kou and Aoba. It doesn’t matter for the latter, of course, because she’s not playing, but calm, easygoing Kou is obviously feeling it. Whether it’s about Akane or the big game is anyone’s guess.

It doesn’t help that there’s still the love stories that have to get worked out. Azuma tells Aoba again that he’s interested in her. And Aoba actually asks Kou how she compares to Akane. “Can I lie?” is his response, and it’s a good one. Besides, with all the pressure around, asking Kou a question like that the morning of the game isn’t the most sensible thing to do. What’s Aoba thinking?

In fact, the pressure was getting to me, too. I worried about Akane and I worried about the game. The scene would shift to the hospital where Akane’s parents and Aoba waited for the surgery to end, and I worried about Kou’s state of mind. Then it would shift to the stadium and I worried about Akane. There’s little worse than worrying about things you can’t control. It’s unlikely that anything will happen to Akane, especially since they prayed to Wakaba to protect her. Wakaba’s always come through. On the other hand, Wakaba died, didn’t she? Being a pessimist, I can’t rule out a bad ending.

But then Cross Game pulls out another lovely moment. Momiji, in the stands, gives Kou the V sign (before Aoba texts her), the music picks up, and Kou seems to get a burst of energy. As Kou once said, worrying doesn’t solve anything. The game is about to begin! Let’s put the surgery aside and play some baseball!

UPDATE: Rewatching the episode, maybe I misread the situation between Kou and Momiji. It seems like Momiji’s V sign might be a secret signal between Aoba and Kou that the operation was a success, which would explain why Kou was so desperate to find where Momiji was in the stands. On the other hand, Momiji obviously didn’t know about the code or Akane’s surgery when she flashed it, or she wouldn’t have. Which would be wonderful, in a way. Momiji, part of this long story where many things are unexpressed but understood, reassures Kou without knowing the reason.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Kaname, going into surgery, flashes the V sign.

Can I say once again that I love Cross Game?

Baka to Test 10 sort of meanders around for the first third before deciding on a plotline: the kids want to rescue some lost items from the school vault. But first we have a scene with Akira and Akihisa Yoshi (breakfast, lunch and dinner in a can). And Yuko, Hideyoshi’s sister, stop by to insult him for no reason.

Things pick up when Kyouji, who must have been responsible for the chaos last episode, offering to help them break in. He’s there to steal the mock exam questions. Class F, the dumbest class, is dead-set against it—they’re dumb, but they’re honest–but it’s too late now.

It must be in the school handbook that everyone must insult Class-F at least once.

Still, they manage to turn the tables on him in the end in a satisfying fashion. Not much more to say about this episode except, after the first ten minutes, it got a little more coherent than some.

Ookami 9, Railgun 22, Baka to Test 9

Ookami Kakushi 9 reveals more of the towns secrets to Hiroshi and us, mainly through exposition, and I’m still not sure how wolves fit into this whole thing.

About time.

I’m also not sure about gods, and the fallen, as Nemeru says he’s one or the other. The important thing is that gods, or fallen, give off a scent irresistible to people like Nemeru, and Hiroshi freakishly gives off a scent 100,000 times stronger than your average person. Which is why she’s tied up, so she can’t give in to temptation, so to speak. This is when Hiroshi uses his knife to cut her free. I don’t get this at all. I understand why he’s freeing her, because it’s a sign of trust, but why on earth didn’t he free her before he knew the situation? They’d been in there for hours; she’s tied up, he has a knife, yet it never occurred to him to release her? Hiroshi isn’t setting any standards for logical thinking.

Kaname overhears an important conversation.

Meanwhile the intrigues between the old organization and the hospital continue, with poisoned coffee. And again I am unclear as to what the forces are supposed to represent, except it gives the impetus for the old cult to look for the kids. What’s more admirable is that Kaname has put two and two together all on her own and gets Hiroshi’s father into the search party. Kaname is the smart, resourceful character that Hiroshi should have been. She actively investigates the mystery, unlike Hiroshi who just sort of dithers around wondering what’s going on.

Still, there are some nice scenes here and here. The fathers of Hiroshi and Nemeru meet and you can immediately sense the bond of concerned fathers. Nemeru’s struggles not to ravish Hiroshi (always the victim) are well-done, too.

Speaking of exposition, Railgun 22 sets a record. We have Haruue’s talk in the beginning, then more talk with Telestina, then Judgement has some, and finally Kiyama and that doctor and Telestina. Oh, and we have Misaka musing in the tub, and Kuroko barges in on her. The thing is, somehow, it works.

Partly because the scenes vary. Haruue’s opening bit is a touching story about a girl trying to find her missing friend. The Judgement scenes work with discovery and research, and the ones where information is just being spouted work because the information is actually interesting, and so is the overall story. We’ve known about the missing, comatose kids for a long time now. Since they could set off a huge Poltergeist it’s a concern to the characters, and two of the characters have personal reasons for finding them.

A bit of silliness mixed in with the talk.

One thing that didn’t work so well is Telestina’s claiming of the children, well, that was all right, it was Kiyama’s reaction. She wants to wake up the kids more than anyone, and Telestina has access to data she would need to do just that, so why is Kiyama so upset about it? I can’t imagine that she would refuse such help. Perhaps she doesn’t trust Telestina (I still don’t, either). Or is she so possessive of these kids that the thought of outsiders interfering is anathema to her? Or maybe she will now be out of the loop? Possible, but I wonder that Telestina’s group would refuse the aid of someone who was there during the original experiments.

Baka to Test 9 brings us Akira, Yoshi’s weird sister, who disrobed on the train because she was hot (Kiyama’s soulmate). She alternately deducts points for his living conditions and comes on to him.

One of her rules, if he is to continue living alone, is to do well on the test, and no fraternization with girls, though he can come on to boys all he wants. Naturally this leads to a lot of scurrying around, trying to cover up past indiscretions, and studying like hell, so naturally the gang wants to have a study group at his place. The typical embarrassments and misunderstandings ensue.

Because Yoshi couldn't possibly have any female friends.

And, because he put the correct answers in the wrong spots on the test (wouldn’t the grader notice and not deduct anything?) it seems he’s stuck with Akira for a while. That would be all right, I guess. The show can always use another strange person. But I can’t say the episode interested me very much.

Nodame 6, Baka to Test 8

Nodame Cantabile 6 is one of the sweeter and more focused ones, but it starts as a near-disaster for our couple. Chiaki hadn’t told Nodame that he’d be performing her beloved Ravel concerto with Rui. And though he keeps meaning to tell her, she finds out from someone else first.

The rest of the episode mostly deals with Nodame’s practice and progression, but that only happens because Chiaki has grown up a little. He’s begun to realize what her fears are, that she’s still not allowed to participate in contests and feels like a drag on him, so he does a noble thing: he cancels a trip to Italy (to work with Vieira!) and stays to help her practice.

It’s done very well, and gives us heavy doses of music history via Beethoven and Chopin to boot. She practices, they talk about the pieces, she practices, Chiaki admires her focus, and she practices some more. I’ve never seen Chiaki so full of admiration for Nodame.

Even Auclair is impressed, though he has a few things to criticize. And we wonder what his aim is. Why is he overloading her with pieces to study? Does he think her time is running out? Maybe we’ll find out. In the meantime we get a little of other characters. Tanya and Yasunori make up and he asks her to accompany him for the next concours. Tanya gets an odd little moment where she wonders why everyone else seems so obsessed. But this all happens on the sidelines. It’s Nodame working hard, with Chiaki’s help, that is the centerpiece, to the point where she concludes she must do the rest by herself.

Baka to Test to Shokanju 8 is an enjoyable enough little adventure. The ESB field has gone beserk and the control room is sealed off.

Naturally the Principal makes the idiot squad fix it, or rather, Yoshi. This is after some gags where everyone’s summoned beings appear in adult form, to the embarrassment of all. And the consequent and inevitable boob jokes. Yoshi guides his summoned being through air vents, where there are swamps, and other beings who attack him, and the show decides to riff on Evangelion for awhile.

I wonder how many shows have ripped off the Gendo pose ...

It’s mostly amusing, and there’s a sweet moment where Himeji deliberately lowers her own scores so Yoshi’s being can defeat hers (and they join each other in supplentary classes). That weird girl shows up again and messes things up. But what I really want to know is who the hell that guy is who caused the problem in the first place, by trying to break into the control room? I wonder if they’ll ever get back to it? With this show, it’s anyone’s guess. And did it ever occur to the staff that maybe they should REWARD our heroes for once? Nah.

Yumeiro 18, Letter Bee 18, Baka to Test 7

Yumeiro Patissiere 18 is one of the odder episodes I’ve seen in this series. It isn’t that the show gets even more surreal than having sweets fairies flying around; it’s the whole circumstance of Kashino’s family, especially his older sister.

Ichigo falls down the stairs and gets taken to the hospital for some routine tests. We learn that the entire hospital is staffed with Kashinos (I’ll use his first name so as to avoid confusion), and they all look down on Makoto for not becoming a doctor like them. A large hospital, staffed by members of a single family, all doctors and nurses. Who chooses to be a nurse in that family? How big IS that family, anyway? There’s something … just not right about it. No wonder Makoto wants out, and no wonder he’s so screwed up. To make it weirder, his sister sees him and kidnaps him. She intends to torture him until he agrees to quit patisserie school.

The rest of the episode has Ichigo and the gang go and rescue him, by making a cake that the evil sister cannot resist, blah blah. I just can’t get over the weirdness of the Kashino family. They could just force him to quit school by cutting his funding. The sister’s decision to kidnap him was apparently a whim of hers. And in the end she doesn’t really seem too serious about it all. She could have easily said she hated the cake (and why opera?) and forced him to quit. As I said, no wonder Makoto’s so messed up.

How they do things in the Kashino family.

Letter Bee 18 brings us a rival mail organization called the Letter Pigeons, who challenge Lag, Zazie and Connor to a delivery race. It’s an interesting idea. Why should the Bees be the only ones who deliver letters?

And their hearts are in the right place. There are places that Bees rarely travel to who need a service, as Lag learns through the inevitable using-the-amber-to-reveal-the-truth cliché. But when the Pigeons start using dirty tricks during the race our sympathy for them goes down. Besides, we know what’s going to happen. The Pigeons will encounter a Gaichuu (actually, two or three) and the Bees will have to bail them out.

Not much more to the episode, but I wonder if we’ll see more of the Pigeons. With Lag’s support they start to make more deliveries on their own. If they can compete with cheaper rates, well, that’s free enterprise and the sign of a strong economy. But that’s about the only thing that stands out for me about this episode. There was hardly any Niche, even.

Letter Bee with no Niche is no fun.

Baka to Test 7 has Shouko forcing Yuuji out on a date, and guess what? It’s a premium pass that includes a mock wedding! Yuuji is all against it, but one cannot say no to Shouko.

This is nothing new in this series. Shouko’s been in love with Yuuji, and forcing him to do her will, ever since elementary school. What’s different is that the other Class-F characters are in on this, and are trying to guide them together. They’d always been indifferent about this. After all, it was just one of the show’s running gags. When did they take Shouko’s side? Well, it adds to the laughs, as they try to guide the not-so-loving couple into romantic situations (like a haunted house). For the most part, it’s well done. Then the show takes an odd, sentimental turn.

Actually, they do make a nice couple.

It may be just a running gag, but we see Shouko is dead serious about Yuuji, and because of this she becomes, for the first time, vulnerable. When someone heckles her about her commitment, she can’t stand it and vanishes, and later Yuuji has to console her. It’s actually the first time in the series we’ve seen Yuuji stronger than Shouko, and his reassurances to her (even if he says she’s chose the wrong guy) come off as genuinely touching. I didn’t think this show could handle these sentiments. I don’t want it all the time, or even every episode, but it was a refreshing break from the usual fast-paced mayhem we usually get.

Sora no Woto 6, Baka to Test 6

I am flabbergasted by Sora no Woto 6. I simply cannot believe that these silly women in an outpost where they can’t make any trouble are running a bootleg hooch business on the side! This is so out of character for them that the idea makes me break into a wide grin. Bravo!

Scary henchmen.

When I say it’s out of character for them, well, they did it, so it’s now in their character if you can assimulate it into the wider world of the story, and that I can do. Obviously each one of them have suffered something in the war and have had to learn to scrounge and improvise to survive. Even now in peacetime supplies and payments come late or not at all. It makes perfect sense to do what you have to in order to get by, even if getting caught means a court-martial. What makes it more fun is the elaborate scheme they invent in order to chase off some gangsters who want to move in. Seeing the girls in mobster clothes and fedoras “shooting” gangsters, managing to stay in character, well, as I said, a wide grin.

Don't mess with the Filicia gang.

And there’s the added bonus of the rockslide that crushes the gangsters’ car, a touch that no one actually thought up. We learn about that in the second half, where Kanata (the only one unaware of the girls’ side business. Why are they keeping it from her? Is she too much the innocent?) goes off to the flea market on her day off and runs into Mishio, an orphan staying at the church who has run off. This story is rather sweet in juxtaposition with the first half. In the end Mishio, with Kanata’s help, finds her beloved box and happily returns to the worried nun Yumino, but not without a scare.

Kanata is still clueless at the end, but the others must be chuckling at the serendipity. I certainly was. Good episode!

I’m beginning to realize there’s not going to be an overall story arc in Baka to Test. I had thought the show would be about Class-F’s slow rise to glory, but instead it’s more interested in Class-F’s monumental stupidity. Nothing wrong with that, if the pointless scenes are actually good, and they usually are. In ep6 it’s all about the swimming pool and the bathhouse, and the characters each do a good job in exploiting the various cliches such themes provide. There’s boob sizes (Minami is undone, Hideyoshi is conflicted), trying to sneak peeks at the girls (Voyeur is undone), swimming contests (The winner doesn’t have to eat Mizuki’s waffles), near-drowning (Shoko does it to Yuuji in order to give him mouth-to-mouth), undone bikini tops (just about everyone, including Hideyoshi), and of course, the inevitable …

... nosebleed.

All performed with great energy and shifting art styles. There’s absolutely no point to it, but who cares? When they shift to the bathhouse it gets to be a little much. Oh, it was fun when they repeated a scene line by line (concerning Hideyoshi’s androgyny), but when Yoshi summons his avatar to peek over the wall, well, we’ve seen it before.

Though the summoning bits are usually good.

I think 25 minutes might actually be too long for a show as rapid fire as this.

Yumeiro 16, Sora no Woto 5, Baka to Test 5

Yumeiro Patissiere starts where it left off, with Ichigo diving into the pond to rescue Satsuki’s bottle of rose water. Kashino, of all people, dives in to rescue her. Still, as they’re drying off, Satsuki says he’s going to drop the effort to make rose cake.

Smack!

We know Ichigo has a quick temper, but it’s not often she uses it in such a righteous manner.

Now, Yumeiro Patissiere has a tendancy for the heroes to be at a loss, only to have a coincidence provide them with inspiration, which was what happens here. Because Ichigo and Kashino dove into the water and now smell like peat moss, Satsuki comes up with a new recipe! And so we get to the big battle. The opponent’s cakes look lovely and taste great. Team Ichigo, meanwhile, have come with new recipes … What are they planning?

The opponents have a taste of the rose cake.

It’s win-win-win. Team Ichigo wins. Satsuki wins by making a successful rose pound cake. And Ichigo wins twice, once for refusing to let Satsuki give up on his father’s memory, and again because the recipe changes and subsequent presentation which wowed the judges were her idea. And her teammates’ respect for her grows higher, so I guess she wins thrice.

Smack!

As for the episode, we knew when Satsuki fixed his recipe that they would win, but Ichigo’s suggestions came as an added surprise, but it was wasted because we weren’t even told until after the victory. Like anyone cares.

I’m still waiting for the mysteries in Sora no Woto 5 to reveal themselves, but instead they give us a mission to check up on the, er, (reading notes) Noctor-type devices scattered around the countryside. Though Filicia prefers to call it a “field trip.”

... with full pack.

Filicia and Rio have other things on their mind as well. They’re testing the girls to see how well they can do, and have some field-trip fun along the way. Rio tails them and at one point raids their packs while they aren’t noticing, so they have no compass.

Nevertheless the girls do pretty well, reaching the last Noctor device just at sunset, where, of course, Filicia is waiting for them.

No man's land.

It’s an odd little scene. The walls of the device have inscribed on them the names of all the previous squad girls who have made it there, so in one sense this has been a fun little adventure. On the other hand, just beyond the mountain is No Man’s Land, the edge of the current civilization, another reminder of the war’s devastation. Filicia wanted them to see that, too, not to mention the nearby hot spring. So the show continues to balance innocent adventures with darker themes. Heaven help these girls if they found themselves in a real war.

Baka to Test to Shokanju continues on it’s merry, pointless way. It’s a schoolwide scavenger hunt where you have to answer questions to get the coordinates. The perfect opportunity to have many jokes at the characters’ expense.

For example ...

It all flies past so quickly, with so many quick digressions, that I had trouble taking it all in and have nothing to say about it. But it doesn’t matter. I like a show that can keep me off-balance like this. And Yoshi’s earnest stupidity has become endearing.