Boku wa Tomodachi ga Sukunai‘s 2011 season was a mixed bag. The show didn’t seem to go anywhere, many thought Yozora was too abrasive, and there was a bit too much fanservice involving middle-schooler Kobato. On the other hand, Haganai (as some call it), unlike most other comedies, even good ones, had the ability to make me double-over laughing with a one line, a visual bit, or even just a noise. And while I thought Yozora was too mean to poor Sena, I admired her misanthropic tendencies in general. In fact, I liked the entire cast apart from Yukimura, who just stands around being androgynous. So I’m happy to see the show return.
It’s pretty much the same. First they con Sena into getting a “heap” hairstyle. Kodaka, as usual, can do nothing. This and the teaser make use of the show’s strength: the clubroom scenes, where everyone can interact and mess with each other, often leading to chaos or at least a really silly hairstyle. One question, however: when did Rika get so mean spirited? Before, she was a rather guileless, perverted mad scientist, but here she helps Yozora reel Sena in (with appropriate background noise–one of the show’s more playful moments) to be a hair design guinea pig. I didn’t know she had it in her. The second half reintroduces us to Sena’s disturbing father Pagasus, and Stella, the deadpan maid, an excellent but underused character. Good stuff. Not everyone’s favorite show, but I’m glad it’s back.
And the final show on my list is something something Unlimited, and I nearly turned it off when I realized that the hero is a smug, overly powerful, smirking bishie. Some people hate moe, I hate smug, smirking bishies. Alas, the rest of the episode wasn’t all that bad. It’s not spectacular; our smirking hero, Kyosuke goes to prison and takes a liking to another esper there, Hinomiya. The two team up and rescue a loli while lots of things, including a monster, get blowed up real good. Some good action and soundtrack. But it’s an offshoot to a franchise I’ve never watched, a point against me watching it. I don’t like the idea of playing catch-up with a anime series unless there’s a really good reason, and smug bishies ain’t it. I might watch another episode or two to see how the current story pans out, but that means more of the bishie. I’ll decide later.
And that’s about all for the series I wanted to try this season. Overall, it doesn’t look like a great season, or even a good one. I can only think of a handful of shows I want to watch again. Just as well. I don’t have the time.
After watching Last Exile Fam 10 (or as the subber has it, 9.5) to catch up on the action (all the battles in one episode! Whee!) it’s time to settle in for some new material in episode 10 (or 11). The show wastes no time. In fact, it’s one of those episodes where so much happens you can’t quite figure out how they jammed it all in. We start with the ceremonies commemorating the treaty between Anatory and Turan, lots guns going off and drinking of non-alcoholic (so they say) beverages. Then, the show gives us its big whammy.
First, we’ve learned via a new character, Alvis(?), that Liliana is still alive! Hooray! Then she shows up–in a Ades warship. Oh, shit. She’s declaring peace, put down your weapons, everyone! The looks of shock and dismay on the main characters’ faces says it all. It’s one of those maneuvers that even if you’re on the other side, you still say “well played.” The Federation, by turning Liliana to their side, however they did it, has just royally screwed Turan. The troops will follow Liliana. Tatiana, Alzey, Millia, Fam etc., don’t know what hit them, but they have to make a move fast. If they can figure out what to do at all. Actually, it gets kind of depressing. No matter what the good guys do, Luscinia has already anticipated it. Soon there are Guild creeps all over the ship, and while Dio manages to engage one of them, the rest of them run amok, and soon the Silvius has lost all power and is crashing into the ocean.
Which is seen by Fam, Millia and Gisey, who have managed to escape, though their vanship is damaged and they’re tailed by three Ades ships. Cliffhanger ending, as it should be. Sounds pretty bleak, but there’s plenty of foreshadowing in this episode as well. Shy little Alvis can control the Anatory Exile, and apparently the oldest of Turan’s bloodline can as well, which right now means Liliana. Also, Fam and co. are headed toward Glacies territory, and we had a bit of dialogue about them earlier, and guess which Glacies pilot spots them? Last Exile likes to use Chess metaphors with its chapters, but this time I’m more reminded of playing an online dungeon crawler where you step into a new area and it all lights up for you. Time to bring Glacies into the game.
Goodbye to Boku wa Tomodachi ga Sukunai. Kodaka has just learned that Yozora was his childhood friend (and supposed boy) Sora. What will be the earth-shattering consequences?? Er, not much really. We get a series of flashbacks showing Yozora’s side of the story, but the only revelations we get from it was that she knew even earlier than she let on, and that she formed the club not to meet friends but as a place for she and Kodaka to be friends. All those other strange people getting in was a major inconvenience to her, but we sort of knew that already. There’s a half-hearted attempt at playing a blame-game for not showing up on that one day, but both sides really know that that’s not fair. The biggest question is whether Kodaka should start calling her Sora again, i.e., are they still the friends they were in grade school. The answer is a smart one. Just like in that first or second episode, the two main characters demonstrate that they are more intelligent and perceptive than the nature of the show let on, one of the things that first attracted me to it. That being settled, they proceed to the other thing that attracted me, a scene where all these weird people act weird together. For me, the Boku wa Tomodachi clubroom scenes were a highlight of my viewing week, and I’m going to miss them, and this show. It gave me my biggest laughs of the season, and there was a sadness lurking behind the quirks of each character that sometimes overbalanced the show, but not all the time. How about a sequel?
Little to say about Kimi to Boku 13. The lads return to their old kindergarten as part of a work experience project, and nothing happens that you don’t expect. Yuuta (or Yuuki) is a hit with the girls. There’s one problem kid who they help out (the surprise is which of the gang is going to do the helping). The big thing is, of course, that Kaori, Kaname’s kindergarten love, still works there. I was curious about how she’d look now, and the creators did the right thing, making her an average-looking adult woman. Still, it all makes Kaname clench his fist a lot. Elsewhere, it was nice to see Yuuta play house with a smitten girl and play it straight. He knows who he should mess with and who to leave alone.
Since Chihayafuru 12 became available to me the moment I had finished with #11, I might as well take care of it now. The prelims are done, the nationals are head, Mizusawa is going to represent all of Tokyo … and nobody else cares. That’s the nice irony that this show gives us, the fact that you can become so devoted to something which really is not that important, at least in the practical modern world. It’s shown here by the Empress (grumpy old advisor lady) not understanding what the fuss is about, and Chihaya’s family not seemingly knowing or caring that she even went to a tournament that weekend at all, because her model-sister is on TV. Chihaya’s reaction to this is rather sad. She’s so used to it that she just shrugs it off and joins the family to watch the tape, which makes the payoff later in the episode more emotional. The rest of the time is spent practicing under tougher competition at various clubs, with Chihaya feeling the pressure, reassuring bonks on the head by Taichi, and checking up on the morale of Desktomu, who’s grades are slipping, and who, strangely, does not care too much. But the best moment comes at the end. Kana reminds us that these cards they’re batting around have poems on them. They represent a culture and history that must be remembered, even if they seemingly have no practical use (she doesn’t actually say that, but it’s clear that the creators want that point made), which leads to Chihaya later saying she sees “her” card as bright red. Especially notable in this series where all the colors are washed out. And what does Omi Jingu, the Nationals venue look like? Yup. Lovely moment. Sometimes I think this show’s at its best when it’s not filled with frantic tournament action, when it moves more slowly and allows the metaphors and imagery to drift in.
Boku wa Tomodachi ga Sukunai 11 doesn’t do much of anything until the very end. That’s okay. For me, half of the show’s fun is watching the characters screw around with each other. This week it’s the local summer festival. We get the scene where someone wants to go but doesn’t want to admit it, and soon everyone winds up going (the excuse is to eat takoyaki), we get rather too much of Yozora and Sena competing in games normally beneath them, Kobato and Maria going at each other, etc, the only difference being just about everyone is wearing a yukata, except Yozora, who’s character is always in danger of veering away from healthy misanthropy to stick-in-the-mudness. Apart from the end, the highlight was Kodaka trying to define Rika’s stock anime character and the Comiket flashback including the Ore no Imouto characters. As for the end, well, I’m glad they got to the revelation, and I’m glad Kodaka realized it himself, but there was nothing leading up to it at all. Yozora cut her hair, Kodaka made the connection–that’s it. Kind of a letdown. But it should give the final episode some extra spice.
Working’!! 12 is mostly about Inami and her androphobia, but that’s okay. The season has done well in not overemphasizing it, rather, using it as part of their now-extensive comic arsenal. What’s more, Inami’s gotten better and has in fact set a record for days in a row not punching a guy. Not only am I happy that the show’s not weighed down with her, but enough time has passed that I’m happy for her character; she’s about the only one there capable of growing, well, apart from Takanashi’s little sister. And it’s a good episode all around. Also, so many little bits are worked around the Inami story that it feels balanced. We get bits with Yamada and her bear (the other crisis of the story), with Kozue, and Yamada’s brother and Inami-stalker, and almost all of them are funny. The dialogue and visuals mesh together in inventive ways to tell the jokes, my favorite bit this week being Satou’s slow and unnoticable backing up when Yamada and Poplar take Inami on the “Wagnaria man tour.”
Farewell to Tamayura – Hitotose. It’s an eventful little episode, as these things go. The “Ourselves Festival” goes by without a hitch. When Maon sat down to do her reading I inwardly cringed, but it was a better story this time, and it had special effects (and later, we learn that she killed off the main character!). Little Komachi’s photographic additions to the exhibit (all of Norie being angry) was a nice touch. Best of all, it was all over halfway through the episode. After that it’s New Year’s Eve stuff (I rather like watching depictions of New Years in anime), a call from Chihiro, and Sayomi drags the girls off to see the New Year sunrise … only to have the car balancing on the edge of a steep incline, another thing I didn’t expect from this show. But they get to see the sunrise from a new angle, people stop and brings them warm food and heaters until the tow truck can arrive, and it turns into a party on the roadside, a good way to end this sweet and innocuous series. It sometimes got too sentimental, especially at first when Fuu was still getting over the loss of her father, but at its best it drifted along with few words, and invited us to enjoy the everyday moments of life along with the characters, with some gags tossed in at just the right moment. Not bad.
I hoped that Kyoukai Senjou no Horizon 12 was its final episode, but apparently they want to squeeze as much confusion out of this premise as they can. As you recall, Muneshige is about to fire Lype Katarripsi at Mushashi, but Futayo decides she’s not done yet, gets off the ground, and beats him. Something to do with her father’s legacy, since he had beaten Muneshige before. Muneshige is fine with this and falls unconscious. Then we get to the real action. Toori’s at the wall of sins, or whatever, talking to Horizon, or rather, the automation that carries her soul. It’s love declaration time! She says the world is more important than his wishes, so he announces he’ll become king of the world and lists just about every single weird thing we’ve seen in twelve episodes and balls them up into “Us.” It’s a long, eloquent list, an impressive speech overall, so naturally she rejects it. So he says he loves her. She says, being an automation, love is a foreign concept. So he talks about her boobs, she (and everyone watching) calls him disgusting, and announces that their personalities are “parallel,” so it can never work. Perfect! Toori plays that game where you reverse every sentence so that their contradictions wind up agreeing with you. This works just fine until he brings up her boobs again. After the Pope tries to interfere he accidentally touches the deadly wall (actually her boob, which is on the other side of it) and now he has to deny his greatest sin, which really isn’t much, since it wasn’t entirely his fault. They survive the trial, Horizon is rescued, hooray! Parallel lines meet above the horizon! Hooray! Let’s end the series right here! … Unfortunately, there are too many other characters standing about, and a few armies. It looks like they have to fight a war first. Maybe next episode.
Last Exile – Fam had two terrific battle episodes in a row. So you can’t blame them for easing up on the blam-blam-blams for #9.
So it’s time to crank up the political intrigue and bring Sara and the conspirators back into the fun. Surprisingly, apart from a cryptic opening scene and the arrival of Vincent Alzey, the head of some nation or province or rebel group or another at the very end, we don’t get much politics. Oh, Tatiana mutters a few things about Gracies, and a couple of them show up while Fam goes to pick up a ship he’s caught, but most of the episode concerns Gisey and her decision to leave the Silvius–for the wrong reasons. This being Last Exile, there was a very good chance she would make good on this decision and come back later in the series. On the other hand, she’s a main character, and she hasn’t gotten to do anything yet. Everything has revolved around Fam and Millia. The only question is, how will they handle her decision? Turns out, pretty well. Early on she says some frustrated things about not being needed to Fam, all that is needed to set them both to thinking. Gisele would never hurt Fam, and Fam had not realized that her sister in all but blood was upset.
So we wait for the inevitable, and it’s done well. Fam has no sudden revelations, she knows right away what she’s done. A talk with Dio via tube helps clarify. And Gisele, for her part, tries to think of ways to make Fam happy again. She doesn’t tell us, hell, no one does, that that she’s going to stay. We are … informed by certain actions, especially her talk with Tatiana (A scene that seems to fail the Bechtel test even though the man’s a woman. Through so many scenes I have to remind myself that Fam’s a girl). Even Tatiana’s line to Fam, “She’s left the ship,” doesn’t mislead us. Then all it takes is an impromptu deck hockey game to reunite the three. What could have been a long-standing feud between Tatiana and Millia just strengthens everyone’s friendship. So NOW we can go back to the political intrigue next week. We’re a bit overdue for that.
I can’t think of a series that had a swimsuit episode where the trip gets canceled midway, like Boku wa Tomodachi ga Sukunai did. Maybe to make up for it, they devote episode 10 to beachy things. Everyone does the expected. Yozora is mean to Sena, who exposes herself, causing Kodaka to have to lie to her again. Rika finds the oddest things sexually suggestive, and during a longer scene more funny than it should be, tries to climb into Kodaka’s bed. Bonus points for the ghost story scene: all the stories save one don’t scare anyone, but they don’t bother to show us the failures. Come to think of it, no points given there. This is the kind of show where I would have liked to hear any stories these weirdos have. Bonus point, however, to Yozora, who wears the striped full-body swimsuit to the beach. Half point off for not wearing the horse head.
Happy to say that I understood much of if not all of what’s going on in C3 11. Alice wants to take Fear with her to be in her Family, though I don’t know why that meant killing those people. Even if (as it turns out) they were already Family members and came to Kuroe’s hair salon in order to be killed. I also don’t get what this Family is all about. If you are non-human and you join, you can do anything you want, apparently, including killing your owners, who won’t mind at all. Something about taking more pain and curses to achieve greater salvation. I can’t say I’ve ever understood this line of crazy christian thinking. But anyway, Alice rather easily kidnaps Haruaki, Kuroe and Kirika, and there’s a long discussion about this, with pantyshots, until a member of the Laboratory rescues Kirika, who will have nothing of leaving her friends … And by the end we have a showdown. Not much in the way of wild EF-like imagery this time around, though we do get the normally doll-faced Kuroe making this face as she imagines Haruaki and Kirika together.
Ben-To 9 is a random episode where we see various characters doing the things they tend to do. It’s not bad, though again little attention is paid to Sen. We got Ume and the twins confronting each other about people at their respective schools, allowing us not only a staredown but a freakout by Kyou. Asebi causes a lot of damage by accident, and, in maybe the best scene, creates for Satou a “Taste Deconstruction Bento,” where everything tastes unlike the food it actually is, if it tastes like anything at all. Such a concept, probably common for molecular gastronimists, is the intellectual high point of the episode. Ume also serves a bento, to poor Oshiroi of course, providing us with the weekly requirement of Ben-To fanservice. She also slaps Satou around, as usual. As you can see, Satou doesn’t have a lot of fun this episode. And Sen, sadly observing Satou’s modern cooking ordeal, is not seen at all after that. Good points. Bad points.
Boku wa Tomodachi ga Sukunai 9 can be broken down into two sections, and you can argue about which was more entertaining. For me, it’s a toss-up. Do you go for Yozora wearing a horse’s head and freaking everyone out? Fine with me. Or do you prefer Kodaka and Kobato’s visit with Sena’s father and subsequent eventful sleepover? That’s fine, too. Both show off what I consider the show’s strengths. One reason these people don’t have friends is that they’re downright weird, well, except for Kodaka, our straight man. But often they’re weird in imaginative ways. A horse’s head and full body suit? I want to be friends with someone like that. But you wonder if she’s doing it to hide her skin or because she knows she’ll freak people out (and Maria provided the best freakout in the scene, beating Kobato by a nose, to use a horse reference. Whatever her motivations are, it was inspired. The other section was more low-key and had “meeting important grownups” overtones to it. Until you learn that Sena’s father “Pegasus” Kashiwazaki (another horse reference!) is pretty weird himself. And the calm, understanding steward Stella has sudden moments of strangeness as well. And while this part didn’t have the same outright lunacy as the first section, Sena’s running naked into Kodaka’s view and the realizing it was another comic high point. AND, for once, everyone in the show is happy at the end.
I was expecting more of the boys making Kaname’s life miserable in Kimi to Boku 10, but apart from laughing at his ghost outfit (everyone does) they pretty much lay off him and enjoy the cultural festival. And so the episode turns out better than I expected. The emotional highlight part (you can tell because that guitar does that bit) was Chizuru trying to cheer up Masaki after she flubs a line in her play, and apparently begins to develop a little crush on her. Since she rightfully despises him most of the time, I assume it won’t turn out well. On the other hand, it was nice to see him TRY to cheer her up, even when he manages to say the wrong thing over and over. The twins, having no set victim to set their wit on, turn it on things around them. Yuuta’s comments on being dressed as Snow White were some of his best. Overall, a happier episode than I was expecting.
I sort of follow the action in C3, but as I’ve said before, I don’t try too hard (Unlike Horizon, where I don’t try at all). I’m in it for the images. As for the plot in episode 10, the polite bass lady is killing people and it turns out they were all customers at Kuroe’s hair salon. And Ume collapses and then, for the bondage fans, tortures herself to cheer up.
Ben-To 8 overall isn’t much, just a long-winded way of introducing the twins Kyou and, er, the other one. I’ll call her Nee-San. They are infatuated with Sen after seeing her in battle, and are, apparently, formidable wolves themselves. But the episode works more as a bunch of quick gag scenes, or rather, normal scenes that degenerate into oddness, such as Satou’s jumping out a window to rescue his beloved Saturn console, freezing in midair to recite a lovely poem about caged birds, or even Asebi’s plunge down several flights of stairs. And you have vocal gags, like Satou’s screaming or the porn music played whenever Kyou or Nee-San enter his hospital room. As for WHY the twins have mistaken Satou, wrapped up as a mummy, for Sen, god only knows. You accept things like that to get to the silly parts. Well, the whole thing is silly, but you know what I mean. No battle this week, but every character holds their end up.
Boku wa Tomodachi ga Sukunai 8 is a strange episode. It looks like it’s going to be a pool episode, but there’s first a scene where Kobato finds a gothy reason to wear summer clothes to beat the heat which would have been funnier if not for the fanservice. Still, it’s Kobato at her ku-ku-ku best. Can’t complain. Then another good scene at the clubroom where everyone manages to mess with everyone else and the humor piles up. Sounds good, but then I notice that the episode is half over already. Will we have time to hear Yozora rattle off cynical comments about the popular scum? We do get the inevitable Yukimura in the dressing room scene, which told us nothing. But all of a sudden, Yozora and Rika are sick from the crowded bus and go home before even getting in the pool. This ruins it for the others, even Sena, and THEY go home. I guess there’s a point to be made about how it was no fun not to do it together and what that means as friends, but apart from a brief bit of introspection from Kodaka, and my personal speculation that Yozora is depressed and actually wanted to run away (though, what about Rika?) they don’t go any deeper. They just … go home. Leaving me scratching my head. This show is great fun when working as a comedy, but it needs work incorporating the more serious issues.
Kimi to Boku isn’t much, either. It’s school festival time, and everyone’s doing the usual school festival stuff. Kaname is in charge of it, and naturally it’s driving him crazy. Getting the mostly apathetic or clueless students to do things is bad enough, but it almost seems like the twins are deliberately trying to make his life more miserable. More miserablBoe than usual, anyway. Never mind Chizuru. At least Shun stays out of trouble. Worst of all is that Kaname is the type who doesn’t delegate authority, or maybe there’s no one competent enough to delegate it too. Most of the bits don’t work, and we’re supposed to be touched at the end because Yuuki or Yuuta manages to copy some things on his own? And this was only the preliminaries. I’m not looking forward to the festival itself.
I’m tired for reasons I don’t get, too tired to write, but here are some extra-quick thoughts about some shows.
Working’!! 7-8 exhibits some of the show’s strengths and weaknesses. There’s a molester who hangs out on the way Inami goes to work. This alarming news reaches the Wagnaria staff, and is diffused in a number of silly ways until you almost forget there’s something to be worried about. Because working is a day-to-day routine, and big things don’t usually happen. This is a good thing about the show. It can take some event and have each character play with it from their angle until it’s run its course, and by then the characters are paying attention to something else, if anything. That’s a strength. The show’s weakness is when they get on too long with something. The molester is an odd person who is probably Yamada’s older brother. The show has some fun as he tries to examine each female staff member (and we learn some very interesting information about Takanashi which I’m not sure I like, in terms of character, though it leads to a very sweet moment with Inami), but the Soma decides not to let them meet, and far too much time is spent with that. Well, now that they’ve introduced the molester maybe they’ll move on. The only other important news is that Nazuma is now as tall as Takanashi, meaning Popura gets petted on the head a lot.
Tamayura – Hitotose 7 whips out its usual feel-good, as the girls prepare for yearly festival, one that Fuu never got to see with her father. Of course it threatens to rain, of course it lets up in time. It’s a nice touch that Kaori is as keen on Fuu having a good time at the festival this year as Fuu has. And again we get a lesson on subtle background music. It never seems to start or start, it just always seems to be there, or not there. Perfect for a show such as this. And I particularly liked the tune for when the rain comes.
Boku wa Tomodachi ga Sukunai brings up a dilemma that I’ve seen before. Intelligent people who have no need for new technology can come across as blithering idiots when forced to learn to use them. It can be sad, as I learned at my old job when the economy went sour and many laid-off people came into the library to make new resumes, but could barely use a mouse. Here it’s not so sad. Our friendless bunch learn to use cell phones. There’s an amusing but completely unbelievable scene where Yozora and Kodaka learn catch up on what the cool kids (a year younger) are doing with their newfangled infrared gizmos. Then, this being the type of show that it is, once they’ve learned few things about their phones, it’s time to abuse them. A typical, usually funny and mean-spirited episode.
C3 8 has the gang removing Sovereignty’s curse and thus saving her and Shiraho. Not that it matters. I watch it for the visuals. Here’s another good one.