Last Exile 20 (22?), BRS 8, Amagami+ 12, Inu x Boku 11

Last Exile 20 (or 22) overcomes the problems the show has developed by giving us terrific action. We’ve pretty much had our moral issues discussed. It’s time for the fighting!

But first, the philosophical talky stuff.

Okay, though this show has been something of a letdown with its clumsy storytelling (and that happens in this episode as well), it’s handled the issues fairly well. We’re not talking about simply good vs. bad here. Sadri, the one general still actively supporting Luscinia, knows something about Fam, and even if he didn’t you can tell the man is simply doing his duty. Meanwhile we have turncoat generals reuniting (Sorush’s return was one of the bits of clumsy storytelling I was talking about, as is the Anatory guy), and most of all Dian, who murdered Millia’s sister, and is now asked by Millia to lead the vanships against the Grand Exile. This is not a question of forgiveness, but of necessity, yet it’s the kind of reaching out to enemies that defines Sara’s view of peace as opposed to Luscinia’s concept of peace through conquest. Millia puts it into practice, though the reality is that it must be killing her.

In spite of the blizzard it still looks pretty good.

But enough about moral complexity and peace. Time for the fighting. We start with everyone who can still fly going to what’s left of Glacies, where Luscinia has taken Sara, to revive the Exile there. Millia changes into commander duds and leads the assault as if she had been doing this all her life. A little ridiculous; maybe it’s part of that power she inherited from Lilliana. Lots of shots of her and other commanders giving sweeping instructions mixed in with the actual combat, most of it hard to discern through the blizzard. Pretty lousy conditions to place a final battle, surely Gonzo could have worked it so it happened in a place with more visibility. You never see this problem in Rinne no Lagrange. Never mind. The battle is big and grand, and we can see enough to know when one of the Exiles snake things takes out a warship. Luscinia prepares an Exile attack on distant Turan, just to shit on them, I guess, in case you didn’t already think he was a total bastard, but Millia, with Dio’s help, starts to glow and soon its Exile vs. Exile. Stalemate. There’s a chess term they haven’t used!

Visibility gets better when the vanships get through a hole in the Exile (which seems pretty fragile when attacked, really. Maybe that’s Sara’s doing) and we get some of the show’s best visual effects yet, as Fam and Dian pilot their vanships through huge open spaces and tiny conduits, encountering star-shaped enemy ships we saw in the previous series, the first time I remember seeing them this series. Maybe not, but anyway, they brought to me a rush of recognition and dread. It’s one good moment after another until they reach Luscinia and Sara … and of course the episode ends. But it was a good one. Fam, our hero, is brought back into the action, and the action is good throughout. I hope the series can conclude with such a positive effort.

Black Rock Shooter ends with the feeling I’ve had for awhile that there was less here than meets the eye. In the conclusion we catch up with Strength beating the crap out of BRS, until Yuu (okay, actually strength) decides enough is enough and decides to off herself by jumping into a big hole, meaning Yuu (the real Yuu, posing as Strength) would return to the real world, which she doesn’t want to do, because it’s scary up there. Much better to be a nearly invincible weapon of death down here. I can’t blame her for that. And, in some fashion I can’t now remember, Mato finds herself in BRS form facing BRS, who proceeds to beat the crap out of HER, because Mato won’t fight back, because she doesn’t want to inflict pain and doesn’t want anyone to take her pain for her. Well and good, but then the show veers into overly simple homilies about how you can’t feel pain without hurting others. And here’s where the show has never worked. You could argue that these are young girls and so the words are on their level, but that makes them imprecise and often wrong. In the end they salvage it with the thought that you can’t truly live without experiencing the bad as well as the good–something Strength apparently picked up in the Real World, but it’s hardly a profound statement. Well, no one watched this show for the philosophy. You might have watched it to see how the girls all ended up, and that ending is satisfactory. Or more likely you watched it because you wanted to watch cool figures fighting epic duels, and there the show succeeds. Too bad they couldn’t find a story worthy of the fighting.

Thinking about Amagami SS Plus 12, I wonder if all the Morishima girls used the same cheap trick to get their guys to propose to them, letting on that they’re going away after graduation in order to hasten the boy’s marriage proposal. Be fair, this was Jessica Sexy Morishima’s sneaky trick, not Haruka’s, though I wonder if Haruka wouldn’t actually approve. No matter. It spiced up the episode nicely. Up to about halfway it was simple domestic games and Junichi’s little fantasies … and annoying “She’s in the bath, what should I do?” moments that went on too long. Junichi learning about Haruka’s leaving would have been just as bad, but they gave us little comic bits to help out. But I knew things would liven up at the graduation scene. I knew Junichi would do something completely foolish and probably triumph with it. I didn’t expect Haruka’s amazing leap to the podium, but who did? And with that leap, the Haruka arc reclaimed its position at the top of the Amagami sequel. Next week’s girls-only onsen episode will appeal to some fans, I’m sure, but I wonder how much I’ll like it without Junichi anchoring the show. On the other hand, we’ll get a lot of Miya.

As for Inu x Boku SS 11, I can’t say I was surprised by the supposed secret Soushi’s been keeping from Ririchiyo all these years, especially since it was there on Wikipedia when I’d go to get a character name right. In fact all through episode 11, the long story of Soushi’s emotional rescue at her hands, I kept wondering why Ririchihiyo could ever think Kagerou could write such letters anyway. On the other hand that doesn’t mean she knew Soushi wrote them. The long flashback, NOT a confession as I first thought, went on and on, but the more I watched the more I decided it was the proper length to show Ririchiyo’s constricted upbringing, the scheming, soulless young man he became because of it, and his gradual transformation while impersonating Kagerou in his letters. I’m hoping the actual fallout from the confession next episode will be as elegant. And I rather like Kagerou this episode (for once). You get the idea that he forced the truth out both because it would be fun, and because he wants Soushi to succeed, a bit of decency amidst the narcissism.


BRS 7, Papa’s getting boring, High School Boys, and Inu x Boku 10,

The seams are beginning to show in Black Rock Shooter. I was afraid this would happen. What started as a bizarre and entertaining metaphor where young girls’ pain is shouldered by fighters in another dimension is beginning to lose its power because they feel an obligation to explain everything. I shouldn’t have expected anything else, especially when the franchise began with the fighting world, hell, one image of that world, with the “real” events tacked on later to make a story out of static battle. This week we learn that Yuu, unable to face the pain in her world, switched places with her alter-ego strength. It does provide one point of interest. Yuu seems quite content to battle in that world, and freaks BRS/Mato out when she starts to talk to her. Nobody talks in that world. You could also call it a nice commentary on how Yuu really is, so messed up that she actually considers beating BRS to a pulp as a revenge on Mato. But in the end it feels like a gimmick. Desperate for an idea at a late-night story meeting, someone said “Hey! Let’s have someone switch roles!” and they thought up stuff from there. Now they have one more episode to clean this mess up. What’s more, they’re bringing Yomi back into the fight. It’s going to be messy.

Raika tries to stare some life into the episode.

Papa no Iu Koto o Kikinasai! 10 seems to have done all the things it can do with the basic story. The family is set, poor but surviving, and now all that can really happen is everyone will grow older. Though there’s still room for problems near-poverty can bring. This time the show concentrates on Sora, the eldest, and the one who thinks she has to be the most responsible. She’s working far too hard, just like everyone else, and is a little frustrated because she can’t do everything as well as she can. There’s a touching bit where she quits the choir even though she loves it because she considers it something she “likes,” therefore, I guess, it’s a frill that can be cut out so she can improve on things which really matter. It’s a sad thing to watch but completely realistic. Everyone has had to sacrifice something they love in order to survive. Alas, the show tries to make a happy ending out of it. After some pep talks by Raika (full of entertaining non-sequiturs) and Yuuta (dull, just like him) she rejoins the choir, at least on paper, and her cooking skills magically improve. Also, the Seiiyu next door, also about to give up, comes back. Well, I expected no better from this show.

Daily Lives of High School Boys 10, er, let’s see. The ice bit demonstrates that timing is as important as unpredictability in comedy. I also like Literature Girl chasing down Hidenori (or was that Matsuo? I can’t tell them apart). But I think the best bit was the very end of Mitsuo’s bad luck section. Or was that Hidenori?

I'm beginning to think the entire show is.

Maybe I’m tired, but I couldn’t get any enthusiasm up for the great secrets revealed stuff in Inu x Boku SS 10. We’ve known for a while that Soushi has a secret he’s hiding from Ririchiyo. It was only a matter of time before it came out, and since the show won’t run much longer (I believe), the sooner the better. Naturally, we have to wait next week, just like the coffee date that waited for this week, and still didn’t happen. It partly bugs me because Kagerou is involved. He’s a one-joke character who wore out his welcome five minutes into his appearance this episode, but since he’s the other one with the secret they’ve got to keep him around. All the other characters who are adept at livening up a scene are given one or two lines and pushed out of the way, and so the show tilts toward annoying static self-doubt scenes from Ririchiyo or that secret they’re keeping, scenes stretched to breaking point, like my patience.

BRS 6, Lagrange 9, Amagami+ 10, Papa is not really in this episode 9

Black Rock Shooter 6 gives us some background, but not enough, rather, just enough to be confusing. Mato is now in the fighting world and not enjoying it at all. Every time Black Rock Shooter takes a hit, Mato feels the pain, so you can imagine her state of mind when the fighter’s arm is ripped off (It grows back). While she’s floating there, screaming, her real-world self is in a coma. Yuu drags her to Saya’s place, which sounds like a bad idea, except now we get to learn some of the counselor’s experiences, and here it gets confusing. The flashback of Saya in high school has her befriending the deeply troubled …. Yuu. Same girl, same light build, only with a look that suggests she’s seen too much. She’s the one who knows about the connection between the worlds, and in the end, Saya’s guilt over a hurtful assumption (hurtful but perfectly logical–I would have done the same) gives her the pain-credits to become “Black Gold Saw.” So, what is Yuu? When did she live? Does she live in this world, really? Meanwhile, in the fighting world, Black Rock Shooter is fighting Saya’s entity with Mato and Saya’s voices both interfering. Or something. There’s the moral question of whether they should allow the fighters to shoulder all that pain, but Saya admits she put mental stress on Yomi (who is cured enough to delete Mato’s phone messages) in order to waken Yomi’s fighter. Also, something about “true powers” that I don’t want to think of right now. The motives and desires of all involved confuse me right now, and that’s all right. The more the fighting world is explained, the less power it has for the viewer. Best to use ambiguity to keep it potent.

It's hard to take the villains seriously in this show.

Rinne no Lagrange 9 drops the Madoka and her Vox business for an episode, well, apart from a couple of brief conversations that tell us nothing, and instead gives us a silly episode to prepare for more important stuff later. The villains, such as they are, are pretty much left to their own devices. Izo watches a samurai movie and gets inspired to duel Madoka, leaving the other two to find him, or Madoka, misinterpreting local customs along the way. As I said, silly. The one in the maid getup (which, another points out, he hasn’t taken off yet) winds up working at that cafe to foot his bill. That was predictable. Better was Izo’s going to Madoka’s school, and the third guy actually meets Madoka (who is being heroic, as usual), but doesn’t know it. And they all learn nice things about her along the way, setting up their face turn. Not that they were effective heels to begin with. It’s a more cheerful than usual episode of a generally cheerful series.

Thank god for this narrator.

Sae’s finish in Amagami SS Plus isn’t an improvement. She has a rough time with the Founders Festival preparations, which we all expected. Junichi casts about for something to do with her too busy for him and finds one. They had toyed with the idea that Sae would mature enough that she no longer needed to lean on Junichi and how that would affect his superficial need for such dependence, but don’t follow through apart from Ayatsuji’s advice that he help her in any way she needed. I kept waiting for something interesting to happen, but nothing does. Even Sae’s being in the infirmary turns out to be a red herring. The only distractions are from Miya with her goofy scene “Best Couple” scene with Sae that was the episode’s best moment in that it showed Sae being outgoing, spontaneous and mischievous for the first time, and the amused narrator who’s more than willing to have a joke at Junichi’s expense. Okay, they have their happy ending (one kid and counting). Time for the girl who could turn this sequel around!

With the housing crisis over with Papa no Ikukoto wo Kikinasai! 9 takes an episode to focus on Miu, the middle one. That’s fair. She doesn’t get the shoulder-responsibilities scenes like Sora, or the innocent, sometimes unbearable cute bits like Hina. And while we don’t learn too much about her, only that she likes dressing well, we get to see the effect her new circumstances are having on her. It’s hard to hide her situation from her classmates, who pity her, which she doesn’t like. On a half-day, she decides to go off on her own and just happens to meet Nimura, our playboy with a heart of gold. He treats her to some innocent fun, gets her dirty shoe repaired, in other words, treats her nicely. It’s basically what she needs: a nice day out. It’s not a very interesting episode but it’s time Miu got some attention.

BRS 5, Nisemonogatari 9, InuxBoku 8, High School Boys 8

Black Rock Shooter 5 almost makes sense.

The fighting world is more of the same. This time it’s Yomi and Mato’s girls squaring off. The former now has all those skulls working for her while the latter, as usual, doesn’t rely on anything else besides her blade(s) and that big gun of hers. Not that she’s seriously outmatched. This must have been triggered by Yomi’s descent into outright madness, which we first get from her frantic mother but makes itself manifest when she tries to cut off her hair to use in an art class collage. And there’s that painting she’s been working on. That’s enough for Mato to be freaked out about right there.

Remember, you can trust your friendly school counselor.

To add to Mato’s fun, Saya has pretty much stopped going through the motions of being a responsible counselor and is telling the girls all sorts of interesting things, like how wounds heal quickest when you’re young (which is, I suppose, her justification for opening them in the first place), that said to Yuu, and when Mato pays a visit Saya tries to strangle her. I’m not even going to guess why she’s gone from coffee to tea … So there’s more for Mato to fume about. Oh, don’t forget the bird book, which now has a depressing ending about taking all the colors and then dying from it.

And let’s not forget Yuu. She basically ceases to exist. So in other words, Mato’s little world has begun to completely unravel, and you have to wonder if she is actually the crazy one, or the craziest one, or one of the crazies. But Mato does manage to see Yuu again and what follows is the closest thing to a clear explanation we’re likely to get. Why Yuu’s figured it out and no one else I don’t know. Maybe because she doesn’t exist anymore. Apparently to be rid of the pain you’re shouldering on this world your alter-ego has to die. Then you’re happily cured. I’m not liking this cure much. The basketball girl is given as an example and she’s apparently happy now, but Kagura is another one to “die” and she’s become a twisted person I’d frankly avoid if I was going to that school. Yuu, unconcerned that no one knows her and her damn HOUSE doesn’t exist any more, sends Mato to the other world, where she’s just killed Yomi’s other self, apparently what you’re supposed to do, except Yuu doesn’t believe it. I’m with Yuu. Having your social and psychological issues resolved by other-dimensional combat doesn’t sound right.

On the other hand, the battles this week were entertaining. It seems like a waste if they were to just talk things out.

Nisemonogatari 9 has more odd conversations and abuse at Araragi-kun’s expense. And something suggesting the next story arc finally shows up. But first, more intelligent and heartfelt talk between Araragi and Karen.

Karen, er, what are you ... Karen? KAREN?!?!

As I expected, nothing whatsoever is made of the events that closed last episode, and we’re left to speculate or imagine, if that’s what interests you. Instead, we get a brief phone conversation (#1) setting up Araragi’s introduction of his sister to Kanbaru, then it’s on to conversation #2 as Araragi and Karen (I know, Araragi is his last name, Karen’s also an Araragi, but I’m so used to calling him that that I’m not changing. Besides, Senjougahara’s constant referral to him as “Araragi-kun” marks that permanently as his name) head over to Kanbaru’s house. Rock/Paper/Scissors, riding on shoulders, and one shocking event–Karen cuts off her ponytail … just like that. In a show so full of weirdness as this one why does that one seem especially shocking? Maybe it shows a self-destructive trait in her? Because she’s cutting off her old life and beliefs before she visits Kanbaru? Because she looked good in it? We’ll have to check up on her after her visit.

A new girl to mess with Araragi's head!

And then we get first hint at the new story arc. This woman named Yodzuru appears and calls Araragi “devil boy” and Karen “hornet girl.” Araragi doesn’t think enough on why she knows these secrets, or why she used “hornet” and not “bee.” It suggests that she is very powerful in whatever she does (Karen also thinks this) but may not be as expert as she thinks. Maybe. Or the translators screwed up. Anyway, she exhibits both confidence and menace, though not maliciousness. Oh, and skill for effortlessly leaping on things and away. She looks like fun. When she showed up I felt a bit of relief; we were getting a new character! Maybe the old ones were getting stale for me while I wasn’t looking. BTW that was #3 and #4, if you count a brief call to Hanekawa, which was more of the same.

Another one!

Before she bounded off, Yodzuru warned Araragi that there might be another girl asking the same question she did (and WHY the interest in a cram school which is no longer there which was also the place that Oshino used to hang out, to “set up a home base?”), and we meet her soon enough. Goofy rather than elegant, Yodsugi asks the same question and makes the same too-knowing comments that Yodzuru did, though this time she’s talking to Araragi and Hachikoji (conversation #5), who had been indulging in their usual perverted topics. Hachikoji is “snail girl” to Yodsugi, especially interesting because almost no one can see Hachikoji except Araragi. And after Yodsugi walks (not bounds) off, Hachikoji, like Karen before her, is the one to size this new girl’s abilities up. So we get parallel actions concerning two new girls who seem completely unlike each other. What does it all mean? It’s too soon to tell. It’s ALWAYS too soon to tell in this series. All I know is that this story arc is supposed to be about Tsuhiki, and she doesn’t appear at all, unless there was a split-second flash to her somewhere.

In Inu x Boku SS 8 it’s Ririchihaya who wants to do the talking out. Once again she wants to reciprocate Souchi’s kindness, for reasons she’s probably not even sure about beyond common courtesy. And when she manages to say a few of the right things, about how it’s unfair that he knows everything about her but not the other way around, she’s quite eloquent. Unfortunately it takes her the whole damn episode to get to that point. Apart from scenes of the other master/servant relationships, showing how easily they get along, and some cute but inconsequential school bits, everything leading up to it are scenes of her trying to ask him to have coffee with her, or trying to actually say the words and get interrupted or just fail. Well, the ending was almost good enough to make up for it, but not quite enough.

Daily Lives of High School Boys 8 didn’t do much for me. I wonder if the show’s style is wearing thin. The balcony bit was okay. The centipede stuff just made me freak about what critters might be in my house, and it isn’t even summer yet. The bag stuck in the tree was funny only when I try to imagine why the bag was up there in the first place. The convenience store scene was excruciating. I can’t even pick a best scene this time. The show’s in a slump. Maybe that’s why the girls’ segment at the end is getting longer. The boys are running down.

BRS 4, Last Exile Fam 17, Moretsu Pirates 8

Yomi in both worlds.

As I see it, the fighting world in Black Rock Shooter is a reflection of what’s going on, a muddled reflection, sure, but nothing happens in that world that isn’t started in the real world. In the real world we got a lot of teen angst which is interesting only in that the girls are mostly trying their best to get along in their lives. In a slice of life show this would be okay, but no one’s watching BRS as a slice-of-life. It’s where the real world and the fighting world interact that things get really interesting. And that would mean Saya. She’s feeding the girls’ angst, perhaps spiking their coffee and playing little mind games (what counselor would tell a troubled girl “the world doesn’t need you”?), but for what? Is she doing a Kyubey thing, taking some untapped emotions and using them to feed the actions of the fighting world? That’s my best answer right now. So we get Yomi, suddenly feeling bereft of friends (not true) and isolating herself. Kagura has come to school and made her own friends, and Mato’s too busy to give Yomi her full attention. Again, sad, but not terribly interesting. When Kagura talks to her near the end, obviously messed in the head in some way, and we then see Yomi’s fighting character emerge from a prison of chains, it gets interesting. How are they related? Can it be stopped? Meanwhile, what’s with Arata forgetting the boy who dissed her, I mean, literally forgetting him? Is he a fighting world candidate too? He’s a boy! That would ruin everything!

Er, you couldn't have done all this before?

Last Exile – Fam 17 is a real mess. They rush and underexplain so much of the conflict that at times I had no idea what was going on. Why did the Third Fleet (now on Turan, well, Sara’s side fire on the Glacies, or is that actually what happened? All I knew Dian was muttering about betrayal and turning on them. Then we got the return of the Silvius just in the nick of time to kick some whoop-ass on the bad guys. But then we see that Sidri, or someone, had planted mortars to take down Boreas bridges and making the place accessible. When did he do that? Who did it? Why didn’t they try that before. So Sara, feeling bad that everyone she rules is fighting each other signs a decree to make them stop. In a ridiculously hurried and confusing scene Fam (finally doing something useful again) delivers it. So the fighting stops. Just like that. Yay! Why didn’t they do THAT a little earlier? Maybe because Sidri’s a reasonable man? Must be. So, just like that, wham-bam, we got peace. I’m not complaining, but it was an awful episode to get to it.

A sparkly new character!

Speaking of royal people appalled that her subjects are fighting one another, we are introduced to Princess Gruier Serenity (call her Gruier), the seventh princess of the Serenity royal family, who, in Moretsu Pirates 8, has stowed away on the Bentenmaru and sparkles a lot. We’re only given hints at the bigger story, but I can’t help but wonder why Marika and the rest of the crew didn’t bother to ask why she bothered to stow away if all she wanted was to find a ghost ship. While we wait for answers we get more high school stuff–Marika decides to enroll the princess at her school in order to hide her in plain sight, and give us the usual transfer student scenes. The dullness continues while they get a new mission and up to when they head out. Honestly, did we need any of that car scene? Things get a little better when they go off to pick up the ghost ship information while hinting that there might be a battle, and indeed there is. Now we get some idea as to why Gruier did this secretly. Alas, we don’t get Marika’s decision “Captain, your orders?” this week. A shame. I wanted to see how much Marika has learned.

High School Boys 6, BRS 3, Ano Natsu 6, Bakuman 19

The student council is tired of doing good deeds.
Daily Lives of High School Boys seems to work best for me when I get the full context. When one of the boys talks about the loneliness of playing NES games I don’t really get what he’s talking about because I don’t play those games. The soccer sketch was a little better. It’s when the stories are more generalized, like the ongoing battle between the sexes, you know, universal truths, that the show gets really funny. It doesn’t hurt when a strange character comes in (like the girl in the picture–who was she again?) and acts weird. Why the hell is she reacting like that? Why did she go off into hysterical laughter? And why is it that so many girls visit the student council of an all-boys school, anyway? I don’t really want to know the answer to any of those questions. Just keep the laughs up.

Yomi's cheerfulness extends to her paintings.

With Black Rock Shooter 3 the Kagari arc is over with for now, time to introduce some new real-life conflicts that will be sort-of mirrored in what’s going on in the fighting world. And we see the barrier between the worlds begin to blur a little. The stuff in reality introduces Yomi’s sad jealousy of Mato’s best friend Yuu, and what happens to the basketball team leader when the boy she confesses to turns out to be a douchebag. Saya, we see, is marking down people who just happen to have counterparts in the fighting world, meanwhile, in THAT world, the new character tries to raise a flock of harmless little things that bear sort of a resemblance to the counselor Saya, though I might be completely off on that, only to have BRS come and kill them all rather nastily. Why? I don’t know. As for the colors, Mato’s dreams of the other world (which Yuu suggest show people helping her bear her pain, though Mato’s in no particular pain and her character is no less violent than the others) we get a blue tears metaphor, which makes sense, since just about everyone cries this episode, even Saya, who, judging from her actions this episode, might be insane, or maybe too connected to the other world … Ah, I give up. The episode was interesting to watch, but I guess it’s too soon for it to start making sense.

Another contrived moment of misunderstanding.

I’m beginning to lose patience with Ano Natsu de Matteru. Episode 6 takes them to Okinawa (I wish tickets like that would fall into my hands that easily. I need a drunken older sister, I guess), where they will film their little movie. And wear swimsuits. Then two more girls show up, Kaori, a childhood friend of Kaito, natch, and a horny thing who just leaps onto Tetsuro. The two boys spend much of the episode fighting off girl attacks while Ichika, Kanna and Mio fume and Remon schemes. Remon gets on my nerves, but I have to feel sorry for a girl who’s got so little going on her own that she has to manipulate everyone around her to have any fun. There’s nothing else in the episode.

The energetic new assistant.

All I could think of during Bakuman 19 was “How the hell is Takashi going to make time to settle in with Kaya with all those deadlines?” Well, other thoughts crossed my mind too, I’m sure, but after watching the boys work so hard and continue to work hard, even if it’s 11th place for a gag manga they don’t really like doing, how can Takahashi find time to do stuff like move in, etc, and especially, how to keep his lovely bride happy? Well, she’s used to the routine by now. This is all the serious plot we get this episode. The rest of it was the usual: friedly rivals all aiming for the top spot in Shonen Jack, until next week, that is. Akina and Seiji’s new manga is a hit. The others react. A nasty confrontation between Akina and the loving couple turns funny at the end. The show’s pretty good at throwing in an odd revelation when things threaten to get too sour.

Moretsu Pirates 5-6, BRS 2, Symphogear 5

In Moretsu Pirates 5 and 6 Marika confronts challenges, but since one is finishing and arc and the other starting one, the challenges are quite different, and in the latter, a little silly. In episode 5 Marika is still on board the Odette II, the yacht club’s practice vessel, with some odd thing lurking behind a run, waiting for them to swing their orbit around. Meanwhile, Kane and Misa surreptitiously while pretending to be asleep. They could probably step in at any time and rescue Marika and the rest of them if they wanted to, and it’s a credit to them that they don’t even when the enemy starts firing beam cannons. They want to see how Marika and Chiaki, not to mention the rest of the novice girls, handle it. But it begs the question that comes up again in the next episode, when are we going to get some real danger?

By now we’ve seen enough to know that in spite of its title, this isn’t going to be a kitschy show where girl pirates wearing little get in swordfights and blow things up every episode. Not EVERY episode. More often we’re going to watch people planning their next move, or prepare traps and defenses for the enemy. This is more like Starship Operators, which wasn’t a bad show but suffered from all the talk and strategizing. Another thing they have in common is the characters calling the shots are beginners in this space battling stuff and we’re rooting for them to learn fast. That’s certainly the case with Marika, who doesn’t feel like a fully-defined character yet, but they’re working on it. Plus, there’s more on the line in this first episode, as the threat is certainly real and the ships and its occupants seem to be in actual danger, or so we think. The Bentenmaru shows up awfully quickly when it’s over, like they, too, were keeping watch.

Still, there was some danger and Marika had to act instinctively to put the enemy out of commission. She passed. Episode 6 brings her aboard the Bentenmaru (… maru, making me think of the cat, and that makes me think of cats in space, which reminds me of … well, you know) and real training. Here the show could do a couple of things. They could staff the Bentenmaru with real nasties who resent this ditzy high school girl waltzing in and taking control and so make her life a living hell, or they could put her through hell in a good-natured, affirmative way. They choose the latter, so while we get the plenty of scenes of Marika screwing up simulations and struggling in general, there’s no real pressure in it, at least for us. She fails a lot but works hard. Marika knows she knows very little; she has the right attitude (another choice the show makes–she could have come in headstrong and fallen on her face). Kane (I assume) brings in Chiaki to train with her, which cheers her up and gives us more opportunities to watch Chiaki go hmph.

The raid is silly and faked, but Marika shows some style.

Things get a little more weird here. We’ve learned through a exposition scene (classroom lecture style) that the two warring sides were absorbed by a bigger galactic federation, and they pretty much leave the two warring sides alone, even allow the privateering to continue. While Marika ponders if they’re real pirates or not, I wonder if all this is no more than some little game. The questions don’t go away when the Bentenmaru “raids” a luxury yacht and Marika makes her first appearance as a pirate captain. Apart from the fact that there’s real thievery going on (that’s what insurance companies are for), the passengers treat the raid as a show for their amusement. Marika comes off as cute and a little clumsy (and we remember Chiaki’s comments about Marika’s inappropriate ditz act). It’s fun as hell to watch. Marika wears the hat! She makes a grand entrance! But again it makes you wonder when or if real danger is going to appear anytime soon. Especially since the previews for next episode show her back in High School.

When I think I’m figuring out what’s going on in Black Rock Shooter it throws a curveball at me.

The fight was beginning to make sense, then this girl shows up.

In the real world we get Mato being stood up at the festival by Yomi, and then we switch to Yomi at home, manipulated by Kagari in that sweet adorable way of hers, which this time involves standing up from her wheelchair and throwing herself down the stairs, then saying in the hospital that now she can’t use her arm, either, so Yomi will have to do everything for her. My feelings about this girl I can’t print here. It makes you wonder how they let her get away with faking her disability all this time. She has no disability, Yomi! Where is your guilt coming from?

The scene in the real world.

The same, in the fighting world.

Meanwhile, Mato, hurt as she is, continues to reach out. After admonishing Yomi for not showing up, saying she’s “not a little bird” (more hurtful than it might seem) she goes back to the shrink, who had talked about bearing pain for others, which must be why while she was being stood up they showed both Yomi and Kagari’s battlers beating up on BRS, with barbed chains and macaroons. Who’s bearing whose pain? The shrink explains why that heart scar appears in both reality and in Mato’s dream, though she had never seen it before, which makes her the best shrink in the world. The hospital confrontion has a satisfying end, I think. We can’t tell if kagari’s accepted that she must change or she’s gone catatonic. And in BRS world, after dozens of blindingly fast images and glimpses of images we recognize among the speed and violence (such as the heart), it looks like, as I said, the battle ending would make sense, BRS defeating the macaroon tank and the fighting Kagari, and then THAT character shows up. Well, it would be dull if the battle world reflected the real world too closely …

BRS should leave something to the imagination. I hope it does. I hope it doesn’t try to explain what is going on, the origin and details of that other world, because it works better as a work of art if you don’t over-explain. I wish other shows would learn this lesson, like Senki Sesshou Symphogear. Episode 5 heaped on so much exposition about world affairs that I almost lost interest. They’d hinted that other countries wanted the symphogear technology and they’d made some precautions as to the safety, the sword-thing called Durandal, which they got from the EU after it went bankrupt, and which currently is in the deepest hole in Special Disaster Task Force 2nd Division’s HQ, known as “abyss,” but they want to move it, I know not where, unless that’s the “Remains of memory” I keep hearing about. This show is striving for Index-level cult-jargon. There’s some terrorist stuff involving secret documents and soon the Noise is back trying to take it while Kurisu, the failure girl from last week (and who was well-punished for her failure, I guarantee you) watches. But Hibiki steals the show, not only by bonding with Durandal, turning all black and evil and blowing up a chemical plant, but by fighting and singing a song just as you would when you don’t have any breath because you’re fighting at the same time. Yuuki Aoi gets all the fun roles, or maybe I should say she makes every role she gets fun.