A quick note to celebrate the ending of Bakuman after god-knows-how-many episodes. The finale was what I expected, about half of it covers the Reversi premiere (looks like a show I’d drop quick, to be honest) and the other half gives us Mashiro trying to get the words out of his mouth. Well, there’s a delightful twist at the very end. And it all mostly covers what I liked about the show. Our boys’ greatest rivals, who have been trying to surpass them since the beginning, all sit down to watch the premiere with smiles on their faces. Their rivals are also friends and admirers, and vice versa. Later, Mashiro and Takagi show Hattori their newest work, because the work goes on. That’s the overriding feeling of this series; there’s hardly an episode where we don’t see everyone working their butts off for their dreams. Sometimes the show felt a little routine because of that, but for most of us hard work is our daily routine. This is a show that celebrates that routine that all of us undergo to achieve our dreams.
And now on to the new season, apart from RDG, which I already covered. First up is Dansai Bunri no Crime Edge, an odd combination of teen love, thriller and an odd fetish. Episode one isn’t bad.
We got Kiri, a boy obsessed with cutting hair, who hears about a ghost in a white house with long hair. Naturally he goes to check her out, approaching through the back way, scissors in hand, seeing the girl through a window … and I’m thinking that the way he’s stalking her this feels like more than an innocent hair fetish and more like a murder taking place–and then Kiri thinks to himself exactly the same thing. It’s nice that Kiri knows exactly how creepy he comes off as; in fact, his interest in hair at school has given him a mild notoriety which he has no problem with. It’s one of the little things the episode does well. Kiri apparently isn’t ashamed of his obsession.
Meanwhile, Iwai, the hair girl, has no problems with him, either. They hit it off immediately and he’s quickly invited into the house (well, I think the hair opened the door rather than Iwai), where we learn that her long locks are uncuttable. The two guardians of a sort enter and toss them out, like I would have done if I came home and found a boy alone with my charge. Turns out they’re murderers, or the descendants of murders, and they have “killing tools.” It is made clear that Kiri is risking his life by messing with this hair goddess. But Kiri is obsessed, and returns with his own killing tool to cut Iwai’s hair.
Interesting stuff here. The word “Killing” is used in odd contexts, as is death. Iwai longs for it. They talk about killing her hair. Kiri’s killing tool is a pair of hair scissors originally used to slice up bodies, but he wants to use them for their original purpose. In contrast, we get simpler, cartoonish character designs that look too cute for a show like this. Iwai is especially adorable. And the scenes where they’re together are oddly, straightforwardly romantic. But there’s some worrisome stuff, too. The incredible coinkidink that Kiri just happens to have killing tools of his own, and why didn’t he try to use them the first time he visited? And judging from what I’ve read about it, this might turn into a straight slasher story. Still, this show is off to a good start.
As Bakuman3 winds up its all-encompassing story arc, they come up with a terrific episode.
Now that the boys have their anime there’s not much more the series can throw at us, apart from the new chief editor wanting Reversi to be a flagship series for the magazine while the boys think it will finish quickly, and what they do this time. A voice actor friend of Natsumi’s lets it slip that Muto Ashirogi is a team (okay), that one of them is married (still okay), and the other is dating a voice actress whom she admires (not good at all). The fans and press waste no time in figuring out who this voice actress is, and now the Big Dream they’ve had since episode one of season one is in jeopardy.
After that AKB48 head-shaving fiasco last month this situation has more emotional power. Even though seiyuu aren’t usually portrayed as utter virgins like some idols apparently are, news that an otaku fantasy girl has a boyfriend is going to upset a lot of people, to the point where Miho’s agent orders her to deny the rumors even while Mashiro is bravely telling the anime staff the truth, and insisting they give her consideration for the lead role. You wonder if that’s a smart decision, but it’s probably better to let the anime people know exactly what’s going on. Easy for me to say.
The audition is next episode, but at least this week the lovers defuse the situation as well as they could, and it makes for a nice, if predictable romantic moment. Miho defies her agent and tells the entire truth on her radio show, and while she gets some assholes phoning in, she gets some sympathetic callers too, and guess who else calls? No, not Eiji, though that would have been kind of cool. It’s one of those grand gestures the show likes to pull off while leaping over plot hurdles, and it sets up next week’s audition well. Because you know there’s still going to be people who hold Miho’s love-life against her.
Chiharafuru2 9 adds a couple twists to our story. The minor one concerns Shinobou. She appeared last episode but it turns out she’s not there to watch the team event, since she says “those players don’t love Karuta.” But she’ll be back next week since her beloved air show event is rained out … But before she does, and while that cryptic line is repeated over and over throughout the episode, we get the big twist to the story.
Poor Arata. He just wanted to watch his friends play. He didn’t expect to meet old karuta-mates who rope into playing as an illegal replacement because their other members can’t make it. He’s just trying to do the right thing. Turns out it’s the wrong thing. To avoid being spotted (what’s that line? His main personality trait?) he removes his glasses. Trouble is he can’t see the cards now, and his opponent is getting pissed off because it doesn’t look like he’s trying. Cue endless flashbacks on the last time he played blind, not to mention a few monologues on how this all sucks. And as it turns out it might suck even more for him down the road. The trouble is, we’ve seen so little of the guy through two seasons that it’s hard for me to feel concerned for him. Well, no. I want him, Chihaya, and Shinobou in the same tournament, in some sort of round-robin event where they all have to play each other. Or maybe they could play some three-way Karuta. Yeah, that’s it. In the meantime we see absolutely nothing of Chihaya’s team.
Robotics;Notes 19 is good stuff, everything the premise could be, but it’s so late in the series that I wonder if the series can be salvaged. Also, it’s damn confusing.
Okay, so the solar flare isn’t real, but using faked reports and footage makes it feel like it’s actually happening. That’s interesting. The question is why they’re doing it. I was unclear on the purpose of using solar flares to decimate mankind in the first place, seems kind of counterproductive, so now that that we know that the impossible to implement story was a ruse, we’re still no closer to getting at why the 300 are doing it in the first place. Controlling the human populace by their minds? That’s almost as ridiculous as the solar flare business. And naturally, in spite of all the stuff going on in this episode, we still aren’t getting the full picture.
And it leads to scene after scene of great moments that just hang there with no explanation. Misaki bounds off and hops into the spider-robot, which starts attacking everything. Yeah! And you knew it would be crazy because they start playing that song just beforehand. But turns out she wasn’t real, or something, because the real Misaki is in another robot suit piloting another spider-robot on some beach. So was the white spider remote-controlled? Then why bother to show her jumping into it? Meanwhile this giant obelisk shows up out of nowhere, and Airi (the real one) is having an encounter with that music, too. The next time we see her she’s pulling a gun on the heroes. As for Frau Koujiro, she’s held at gunpoint until rescued by, of all people, Nae, demonstrating that the good guys haven’t thrown in the towel yet (though at one point Akiho needs a pep-talk). At its best the scenes in this episode seem to head in one direction but suddenly take off in weirder directions. The trouble is, the closer they come to a big climax, the more confused I get.
I’m also a bit confused by the problems our kids are having in Sakurasou no Pet no Kanojo these days. Let’s see, both the upperclassmen are graduating, Aoyama is going to leave whether she passes the audition or not. That leaves, er, Mashiro and Sorata. Well, and Ryuunosuke, but he’s hardly present anyhow. The latter adds snidely (the only way he is capable of talking) that their friendship is pretty fragile if they need that old building to sustain it. So why are they fighting so hard? Okay, there’s the school’s underhanded method of getting Mashiro into a regular dorm. That’s bad, not only because she’ll be miserable there, but because the school’s decision isn’t only wrong, they’re hiding the motivation. That would piss me off so much that if I would her I’d up and leave the school, much less the dorm she loves. And if that blackmail angle doesn’t work, all you need to do is show an art collector what’s on Sorata’s walls …
As for the episode itself, it’s like the series. The show has taken on a leaden, melancholic feel and not even Misaki’s genki behavior can quite drive it away. And that’s without Aoyama not passing her audition. Every one of the characters has a forced smile on at the end, celebrating pyrrhic victories like the arrival of a few more signatures which won’t be of much use even if they do get a hearing. And I’m not seeing much opportunity for a change. As I said, half the residents are leaving soon, anyway.
Bakuman3 21 begins the story arc that will make an anime out of our boys’ work and give Miho her voice acting gig, and, I assume finally finish this series. I wonder if it will end with a typical, all-business, workmanlike episode or if they’ll do something special for it. Events happen so fast in this series that it feels strange for them to slow down and really celebrate something. On the other hand, we had an opening scene with Mashiro, Takagi and Kaya off on a little New Year’s vacation and it even allowed them a minute of introspection. It almost felt like a summing-up of the entire series. It also allowed Kaya the most fun and screentime she’s had in months. I was happy to see it. She’s a fun character and it bugged me that all she ever got to do these days is play the foil and the wife. Well, they’ve got a busy mess of a plot to clear up, so Hattori will be making those breathless visits to the boys’ studio for a while, at least.
Bakuman 2 has just wrapped up one of the more interesting story arcs I’ve seen. As you remember, our boys, not to mention the rest of the Shonen Jack artists lose in their challenge to dethrone Eiji from the top spot. The “conflict,” if it can be called that, is typical Bakuman stuff, each character relishing the challenge in their own way, and with no actual animosity from anyone, the rivals are friends concept this show does so well. It’s odd to see a story like this end with the “good guys” losing, even if I’m personally glad because it means the artist is permitted to end the series as he wants to. And now the story turns a page and we get a new arc with both major rivals coming out with new works! Who will prevail?
It starts with an episode so loaded with story that I could barely keep up. Eiji submits a one-shot, Zombie Gun, that sets a record for one-shots. Mashiro and Takagi’s one-shot, Reversi, comes out the following week and breaks the new record by two votes. It’s on! But there’s not room in the magazine for two series each from two artists, and so the show begins what feels like an expansion, as Reversi is chosen to shore up the new monthly, Hisshou Jack. The repercussions from this smart decision by new chief editor Heishi (a sub-story the show managed to fit into the craziness) affects everyone.
Hattori is despondent because he wanted to edit Reversi, Eiji is disappointed because his new work won’t compete with their new work. I was wondering why they chose a “standard battle manga” to go into a new monthly magazine that has a wider target audience. Well, at least Mashiro won’t have to overwork again. Well, it gets cleared up, with the new team leader Yujiro making the right decision in the end. Now, with Miho landing a big acting role (ANOTHER thing they managed to squeeze into this episode!), I’m sure the series will tilt back into romance.
Chihayafuru 2 5 has the rematch with Hokuo, so you knew from the start that the episode will go badly for the good guys. That the Hokuo team feels the pressure of their former ace Sudo reading the cards and argued about the player order guaranteed it. It’s hard to enjoy the first half’s comedy when you pretty much know that things will take a turn for the worse. Indeed, it does get bad for our heroes, and like always when Chihaya or Taichi lose a few cards early it means they fall into self-doubt and endless internal monologues which, in this case, made me shout at the computer “get on with it already!” It’s especially galling because Chihaya falls behind to some kid whom I want to strangle (to be fair, I want to strangle Chihaya much of the time, too), apart from a significant card at the end, so maybe that’s the turnaround she was looking for. At least Porky’s loss, significant though it is, leads to some comedy. And Kanade’s big-titted revenge (so far) gives me some satisfaction, so she’ll probably lose, too. Probably our guys will lose since they’re going to the nationals anyway, and they’ll get their revenge up there.
There’s a lot to chew on in Bakuman3 8. We’re introduced to an exciting newcomer named Tooru Nanamine who has contributed an excellent, if overly dark manga for the JACK contest. Turns out he’s manipulating the editorial process in order to get a leg up on the competition. Rather sneaky. He puts his entry online before JACK is ready, rendering it worthless but creating a huge buzz for himself. In other words, his plan is working. I’m not sure he needs such a Jekyll and Hyde personality, however, as his technique for creating the manga is simply different. He submits his work to a few dozen people online whom he respects, who makes suggestions to him. In that respect it’s a collectively created manga, edited before it even reaches the real editor (Kosugi, a new guy who looks like a victim already). I wonder what JACK would have thought if he had said that outright. The question for Tooru is how he intends to treat these contributers. Right now he’s just exploiting them for his own ends. Will that continue? Or will the contributors act like idiotic fanboys happy to help with a JACK manga? I’m guessing, since he’s the show’s new bad guy, that that will be his undoing, but it will be interesting to see how his manga turns out along the way.
Tonari no Kaibutsu-kun 10 gives us the first Christmas episode of the season, rather early, too. Like most of the episodes it sort of stumbles around a current story and the various sub-plots with no apparent goal in mind, but it’s fun to watch anyway.
They hold a rather dysfunctional Christmas party at the game place (without warning Misawa) and the various characters interact in their usual ways. Yamaken’s two hangers-on act like idiots, especially when poor Oshina (a girl!) shows up. Yamaken himself is fun to watch, since he now denies being in love with Shizuku (after Haru blurted out the fact) yet is drawn to her in spite of himself. So I don’t know what prompted the usge to needle Haru on the stairs like he did.
All of the girls are fun in their own way. Asano, who planned this misadventure, tries to keep an eye on things, keeps away from Misawa for reasons he doesn’t get, and has to apply emotional damage control when someone else says the wrong thing, which happens a lot in this episode. Oshina has apparently never encountered a get-together like this before, but wonders if that makes her the weird one of the group. Shizuku stays out of the battles, but she has two perfectly-expressed speeches at the end. The first is when she tells Haru she loves him, so don’t worry about Yamaken, exactly what the boy wanted to hear. The other comes in the scene right after, when Haru complains about she and Yamaken going to cram school together, and is summed up nicely below.
Thus Shizuku’s feelings for Haru are summed up in two scenes.
Thinking ahead to Chuunibyou Demo Koi ga Shitai! 8 I was hoping for something really big. Rikka’s been leading this little fantasy life of hers ever since her father died and now, having to accept reality, she prepares for an epic battle against the overlord, her older sister. It won’t be the same after this. Even though we knew how the battle would turn out.
The battle itself turned out to be the usual, except that in fantasy-mode there was nothing around them at all except the house, which burns away after Tooka slaps her. Finally Yuuta intervenes, but all he can really do is point out that unlike the others in the family Rikka had no time to prepare for her father’s death. Tooka doesn’t even need to bring up that it’s been a while now, but Yuuta’s further point about platitudes about reality don’t do a damn thing, true though they may be, softens her a little. Next thing you know Rikka runs off and the episode moves on.
Rikka is surprised to find Yuuta thought she might be on the train home, while the other half of the story is so trivial it feels like an irritation when they switch to it. Kumin goes out at night to look at the moon, and Isshiki joins her, leading his frantic phone calls about what to do with a girl and proving again that he is probably, in terms of action, the most pathetic harem lead sidekick in anime history. The girls aren’t terribly interesting since all they do is reprise the jokes (sunburn, friendly dog) they were given last week. These scenes only show some life when they speculate on what Yuuta and Rikka are doing alone, hem hem.
And what DO they do? Superficially, not much. Rikka has to stay the night alone with Yuuta, so we get a few moments of terrified realization from Yuuta coupled with the usual keeping up with whatever antics she’s up to. Rikka’s behavior is more interesting. Beneath the speeches she’s also nervous about being alone with a member of the opposite sex, but she’s also more intrigued by it. Something begins to stir in the void beneath the pure darkness of (oh, stop it). He even catches her watching a romantic movie in the middle of the night! But there’s more to it than the hormones. Yuuta had told her that he had drifted toward the dark flame business while he was with friends and yet felt totally alone. Perhaps Rikka took on her affectations for similar reasons… but now there’s this boy she likes, who puts up with her outlandish talk and posing, who came with her when she needed to escape and knows where to find her … They haven’t done anything romantic yet, but the second half of this episode it sure feels like they did.
I really couldn’t care less about Bakuman‘s Hiramaru/Aoki’s side story, but they do a nice job in pulling it off. And it’s nice to see the pressure on someone other than our boys. And it unfolds cleverly. On Hiramaru’s side, he wants to confess to a girl, but his evil editor doesn’t want him to because it will mess with his manga drawing. And he’s exactly right. So they set up a situation where Hiramaru ditches the others and takes Aoki off alone. As Fukuda (because all the others, naturally, are roped into the chase–more fun that way) says, he’s more worried that Hiramaru will screw up the date than anything else.
To add to the ridiculousness, Yoshida hints to Mashiro that there might be a double suicide involved. Anyway, it pans out beautifully. Aoki’s been put through a lot of male crap in this series, but here’s a guy who sincerely likes her, runs away with her as if it were a shoujo romance, and spouts all the right things about how he feels in his passionate verbal duel with Yoshida. Naturally, Fukuda, the boys and Kaya are arrived to cheer him on. What’s not to like about him? The irony is that if they had been left alone in the first place the date probably would have ended badly. Well, like all the artists, it’s back to work next week, with a new super-talented rival to worry about. Oh, congrats Fukuda, on Road Racer Giri getting an anime.
Polar Bear’s Cafe 34 doesn’t live up the the standards set by previous episodes. Neither half really stood out. Also, it doesn’t help the mystery of why Penguin-san is spending more time at another cafe recently when the story title is “Penguin-san’s New Love.” As for the first half, Wolf casting about for a new goal in life, it plays out like any tv drama. I hope he’s happy at his new job. I liked the sparse decor of Brown Bear’s cafe, though. Not fancy, but full of books to read. A good place to settle down with a book and some coffee for an hour or two. And brown Bear is a bespectacled, bookish-looking type.
Tonari no Kaibutsu-kun doesn’t seem to care if it makes any progress toward a happy couple ending or not. We start with Haru’s dead aunt Kyoko, whose practical life aphorisms have gone whoosh over his head until recently. It’s a testament either to the show or to Haru’s strange way of thinking that she only appears in his mind now and that he seems to have no real emotions either way about her passing. After that we get the first of a couple nice chats between him and Oshima, who’s happier these days, while Haru doesn’t seem sad as much as bewildered by Shizuku’s recent dumping. So he tells her he loves her and they start to fight. Much is made about how odd Haru’s behaving but I’m not seeing any difference. Meanwhile, Shizuku’s grades have recovered but Haru’s still ahead. That blond guy shows up again (same cram school as Shizuku), Haru hits an upperclassman when he shoves Shizuku … Things you could find in any episode so far, almost randomly tossed together. The main points are that Shizuku at the end finds her heart getting thumpity over Haru when he breaches her two-meter space, there’s a cultural festival episode coming up, and Haru has a dead aunt. Not to say it was a bad episode, in fact, most of the scenes were entertaining in their own right, but at the end of it they’re still separate and Haru’s still acting up.
On the other hand, Bakuman 3 6 cluttered with events. At the beginning our boys and girl have entered the Super Leaders Fest, where the top five talents for JACK are contributing, but since Takagi is helping out with Shiratori’s new work Mashiro asks to do it alone. The path that follows becomes almost impossible to follow. Mashiro wants to do a love story, so does Aoki, so does Eiji(!), and it becomes a Super Leaders Love Fest instead. So Mashiro struggles with his love story and Tagaki struggles with the dog story, both start think that something’s wrong. Takagi is spending so much time with Shiratori and that dog that Mashiro begins to wonders if he cares about PCB and even Kaya is worried. Er, other stuff happens involving stuff and the next thing you know the boys are slugging each other in the park (in that bonding, manly way all men do but freaks out Kaya), and the next NEXT thing you know the whole Love Fest business is history. It’s feeling like the series is trying to do too much, maybe trying to squeeze in the entire story into this final series. Because it’s being rushed I’m enjoying it less. Slow down, guys! Work slowly toward your goal, like your heroes and Miho are doing.
Meanwhile, Sakurasou no Pet na Kanojo 6 does pretty much what we expect it to, and like the last arc it got a little confusing along the way. Aoyama is on Mashiro duty, working her jobs, going to school and doing some unspecified voice actress thing, meaning that in every other scene she’s in she nearly collapses, and naturally, om the big day, she collapses for real. The confusion comes when Mashiro begs the others to let her go to the event anyway, in spite of her fever and being unable to walk. She’s worked so hard for it! So, after some complications added by Chihiro she escapes to the event … and fucks up, to the point where her fellow voice actors are shouting “Why didn’t you stay in bed?” The point is made that Aoyama would have kept pushing herself until exactly this happened, or someone acknowledged how hard she was working. I’m not so sure about the latter choice since people have been telling her that for two episodes now. I think working herself nearly to death is the better indicator. Elsewhere we get progress (if you can call it that) on the Misaki/Jin non-romance front, with Jin planning to move away for college and not to tell Misaki, and Misaki asking Sorata how to get Jin to notice her. Nothing but heartbreak in that scenario. What fun.