One last finale and the start of the new show deluge

Let’s start with the finale: Dantalian no Shoka. It tries to wrap things up as best they can, while obviously appealing for a second season.

Dalian meets one of her kind.

The Professor and Raziel turn out to be bad guys, trying to disrupt postwar peace conferences by turning Londoners into zombies, which is both laughably silly and a lapse in imagination by the creators. Zombies? C’mon! Huey and Dalian try to interfere and Huey’s wounded. There follows scenes with the lady in that other world, finally coaxed to exit, though she fails, another phantom book, and an intervention by whats-his-name and his sluttish flunky who we met a long time ago. What I liked the most (apart from the usual, occasional, striking visual moments) was the Professor’s desire to release the dangers of phantom books in new formats, like newspapers, in order to reach more people. Rather slow thinking, since newspapers had been around for a long time before, not to mention other mass-produced printed matter. Why didn’t he free himself from books before?

So we’ve finally learned the dynamics and rivalries of the various biblioprincesses and their keyholders–at the end of the series. I do hope they get another one. There was plenty of things to laugh at, like many of the stories, but the visuals and soundtrack set an excellent mood. It could go from dark and somber, or warm, to blazing with light and energy. It was always a treat to look at.

Right, I think I’m ready for the new season.

Fate/Zero, as you probably know, is the most eagerly anticipated show of the season. It’s predecessor, Fate/Stay Night, was one of the first anime series I watched, so this prequel has some resonance for me as well. Nevertheless, I wasn’t a huge fan of the earlier series and have never followed the entire story, which either makes me the wrong person to review this series or the perfect one. What’s more, I’ve forgotten much of what I saw, only got annoyed when I’d see figurines of cute chibi Sabers for sale. “Damn it, that’s not Saber! She should be scowling and swinging her sword! THAT’s Saber!” There are some things in Fate/Stay Night that you don’t forget.

One of many conversations.

Appropriately, the opening episode is a long one, and much of it is spent with dour men making dour pronouncements about their goals or trying to figure out what everyone else is in the Grail War for. It’s talk-talk-talk, Emiya with Iri, Kariya with his father or a young Rin (Hi Rin!), and that annoying kid. Clans plot and nab artifacts while the soundtrack plays an unending dirge. And what the hell, it mostly works. That is, if you’re watching this show seriously and not a casual viewer who just turned on the TV or downloaded the file out of curiousity. If you’re not a fan, I don’t know how you’d take it. But if you are, everything you need to know is patiently talked out, to the point that we don’t get any Servant appearances until the very end, and, of course, Saber has the last line, the one that gave me a chill even with how much I’d forgotten:

People have been waiting five years for this.

We’ll have to see how the show works out when it gets to the battles, but episode 1 tells us at the very least that the creators are taking this seriously.

The inevitable best-friend-discovers-scantily-clad-alien-at-his-house scene

Then there’s C3, or CCC, or “A show I will probably drop early on.” Our hero, Haruaki, gets a metal cube in the mail. He sticks it in the basement. That night he discovers, as male teen anime boys so often do, a naked alien girl eating his rice crackers in the kitchen. The next morning his best friend Konoha drops by, sees the alien girl wearing Haruaki’s shirt (but where did she get the panties?), and hilarity ensues or is supposed to. You see where this is going already. It’s only a little refreshing that Haruaki isn’t terribly surprised by any of this, and neither is Haruaki. Haruaki, apparently lives in a place with lots of spiritual power, so that’s why his father sent him the cube/Fiya. And Fiya’s got a curse to work off by making people glad she’s there, or something like that. This is explained to us through dull monologues. If this isn’t bad enough, the rest of the episode is all about Fiya trying to fit in and be helpful but making a mess of things, and flashing her panties (and WHERE did she get those?) a lot. Sigh, let’s move on.

Hunter X Hunter
looks harmless. A kid’s show where 12 year-old Gon goes off to take the hunter exam, and to find out why his father liked hunting so much. “Being a hunter is so great that he was willing to abandon his own kid!” We meet future members of his gang, who don’t like each other, but they team up to save a drowning sailor, etc etc. We get the tearful goodbye scene, the cynical rivals bit, components of your average first episode. And that’s what this show looks like: average. It’s also a little slow-paced, but I cut slack for first episodes. More worrisome is that Gon is dull, and Kurapiko speaks his/her lines so slowly that I lose interest. There’s some hope for Leorio. Yeah, nothing really bad about it, but nothing that makes me take notice, either. I’ll probably drop it soon.

Shonen Jump Quartet ... actually it's only Saeko speaking. The rest are gaping.

Bakuman II starts right where Bakuman ended (well, apart from the fake opening, good enough to have me checking the file’s name), with Hattori at the door, introducing Miura to the boys as their new editor. Apart from introducing new characters (their assistants) and reintroducing old ones (Hi, Niizuma! Your new buddy Hiramaru looks like fun!) the episode throws a lot of new things at the boys. Salaries and budgets, they actually have assistants, the annual New Years party, all things that working mangaka deal with, well, maybe not always the party. They take it in stride and occasionally utter lines about how determined they are. In other words, their surroundings and expectations are different, but their aspirations haven’t changed.

The commander (left) is in danger!

Maji de Watashi ni Koi Shinashai! has two high school classes battling old-school, using non-lethal weapons, like Baka to Test meets Dog Days. The fight is one of those where one character will turn the tide and introduce herself, followed by someone else retaliating, then introducing HERself, and on and on. I stopped scribbling names midway through when I realized they weren’t going to stop. They also had four really good warriors, a guy who confesses to a girl three or four times, imcompetent commanders, armies switching sides … I suppose this episode was to give us a taste of what is to come, but I found it hard to care when I didn’t know anyone. I can guess that Yamata (the confessing boy) is the main character. I just don’t know about this. I’ll wait for it to settle down.


Episode dump with a couple of finales

The Ikoku Meiro no Croisée finale has another Yune/Claude conflict, Yune trying to track down a nonexistent cat (though the bell sound, ever explained, was a nice touch), a crisis, and we finally learn enough about Claude’s grump of a father to learn why Claude’s a grump himself. Not for the first time, Yune becomes the catalyst which triggers memories and actions from others. To make this less dull, she gets to have little adventures of her own, though the finale’s was especially dangerous. And there’s the bell on the cat metaphor with Yune put in the cat’s position. But in this case Claude thinks the cat, or Yune, actually hates the bell and wants to run away. Mice don’t enter into it except as a toss-off line at the end.

What was Ikoku Meiro no Croisée all about in the end? A comparison of cultures and beliefs. A study of class differences and a romance it kills. A story where a grumpy man becomes less grumpy because of cuteness. A story of a little girl learning to live and make herself useful in a foreign land. These are all simplistic answers, but this was a simple show that tried not to do much but tickle serious issues, show a cute little thing living in a big city, and show off some nice artwork from time to time. And not pander, no matter adorable Yune got.

It’s pretty clear what’s going on in Dantalian no Shoka 10. Violinist Christabel is a robot. She’s going to play a phantom score. When the man who built and cared for her is murdered, she’s going to play a nastier phantom score, out of revenge, maybe, or because she has a soul. All predictable. So I kicked back and hoped the performance would produce some cool animation from Gainax, but apart from a brief appearance of a demon nothing much happens, well, the theatre collapses, but that’s all. All that leaves to ponder is the concept of a phantom score. Since written music is meant to be performed, it makes sense that musicians that played the score all died, but was that from trying to perform it, or reading and studying it? Do they have to be skilled musicians? If I sat at a piano and plunked out the notes (I can’t play or read music) would I suffer a terrible end, too? And what about listeners who are tone-deaf? Unfortunately, that’s a lot to ask a half-hour anime show to tell us.

Let’s see, in Kamisama no Memochou we learn that the school greenhouse was used to grow the flowers needed for Angel Fix, but of course we knew that already, because we’re not stupid. It makes you think that the characters are stupid for not realizing it, but then again, they’re in the show, while we were handed a piece of fiction with obvious clues (the drug’s made from flowers, there’s a greenhouse … d’oh!). Maybe it was the show’s intention to make it obvious to us, since they have other themes in mind, if only I could figure them out. Or maybe they just want to concentrate on the character drama, which means Naruma stands around looking defiant, The Fourth tells him yet again to butt out, etc. I’m sorry, I just can’t relate to this show.

Meanwhile, I skipped one episode of The iDOLM@STER ages ago and it seems to have come back to bite me. Miki’s upset about not getting into that other group that I know nothing about. Otherwise it’s a bland episode where the girls work hard for a live performance, except Haruka and Yayoi are struggling, which leads to some despondency, “fight!” speeches, and yet more bonding. The best scenes come when Haruka stays at Chihaya’s empty apartment for the night. Haruka obviously has a hard time believing Chihaya can live like that, while Chihaya, listening to Haruka talk about her family, begins to think the same way. It works because none of it is spoken out loud. It’s all subtext from glances and reactions. I wish more of the show was like that.

Nekogami Yaoyorozu 11 finishes one story and starts another, the first one bland and the second one bewildering (Marriage? Really?), but there’s one charming scene. The seemingly useless and selfish Mayu tells Amane that in order to do the god-things they’re to do, they need allies. Allies? Where? “Don’t sweat it,” says Mayu, and then proceeds to interact with townspeople in little ways, helping kids win a boss battle, cheering up a crying girl, getting gifts for her trouble and giving them away a minute later, generally showing herself to be a respected member of the neighborhood. These people aren’t the allies she was talking about, but it’s a demonstration of how to behave in society, a productive side of her we haven’t seen before. It’s refreshing. Mayu can be a fun character when she’s not all greed and sloth.

Oh, I also watched this. It ended too.

Dantalian no Shoka 9

As it turns out, the story in Dantalian no Shoka 9 is a little silly, and when you think about it, doesn’t make much practical sense. But the presentation is so striking that you won’t care at all. In other words, the animators at Gainax got bored again.

There’s only a slight disorientation when the episode starts. When we see the different art style and the limited palette, we can guess that we’re not in Dalian’s world, we’re probably in a book. What I felt instead was admiration that the animators had taken up this completely different style to tell their story, consistently for almost the entire episode. It looks good but … flat. Too green and beige, or if it’s night, too blue and grey. It’s a world we will visit only once, and I was instantly intrigued. What is the story here? How do Dalian and Huey fit in?

The story itself is messy. We see little scenes where an apprentice mage named Ira (or “Eyebrows” as Dalian calls her) runs about collecting plants, we hear about her would-be boyfriend Tito, a bug invasion, and conflicting opinions of how to deal with it. There’s much more to their world than they tell us. What is the friction between the Chief of Uta and the soldiers? What events led to that? What we have here is the beginnings of a long fantasy trilogy, but we only get to see a half-hour of it. It’s frustrating.

So it’s a relief when Dalian and Huey appear and provide us with an anchor. But their first appearance is just an aside, a view out a window, and then the story of this world continues. It isn’t until later that Ira meets the two. Dalian is instantly snarky (“Eyebrows girl”), and I felt a little more at home. But again, we don’t follow them but continue to follow Eyebrows, sorry, Ira, in her attempt to get the poison to the city for the impending bug invasion.

There’s a question of the story, I mean, the story within the story. It’s obviously a book, and the fact that Dalian and Huey are there means the book has been invaded somehow, but what are the invaders? The bugs? Our heroes? Something else? What would Ira and her grandmother and Tito and Mr. Salut be doing if the book had been left alone? We’ll never know. Dalian and Huey take charge (even their “unlocking” scene is styled differently here), the Chief recognizes the two for who they are, which itself feels wrong, and the bugs are dispatched.

Back to normal.

And we learn the whole story. Incessant rain has brought about in infestation of bookworms. Huey is laboring to fumigate the damaged books. So does this mean that they had to pay a visit to every book that was damaged? And they haven’t answered the question hinted at in the fourth picture above: how did the infestation affect the stories themselves? How did their appearance in the story change the characters? Dalian and Huey had made quite an impression on young Ira, and while we close by watching Dalian leaf through the book, complete with a picture of a happy, middle-aged Ira, is that the story they would have had? Not to mention the bugs (do bookworms have wings? … I’ll write that off as a manifestation of fear). Never mind. Once again this series has taken a questionable story and made it fascinating to watch.

Penguindrum 8, Usagi Drop 9, Dantalian 8

For a while I’ve been hoping that they would wrap up the Ringo story. Her quest, Project M or whatever, was growing more hopeless by the episode, and the farther Ringo takes it, the worse it would turn out. Besides, there’s slingshot girl waiting in the wings. However Mawaru Penguindrum has shown no interest in ending Ringo’s story, instead deciding to take it as far as it can go, no matter what the consequences.

With most other shows this would cause me to lower my interest, but Penguindrum is stylistically so weird that they can get away with it—for now. While I (and Shouma) worried about Ringo’s sanity, especially after seeing her father with another woman and her child (ironically, after going to view the penguins at the aquarium), her fantasies are so over-the-top that you can’t help but have fun with them. More people get turned into imaginary stuffed animals. Her father was already a bear (I think), and now he’s threatened by a moray eel. Keiju is already a prince. So why Ringo suddenly imagines herself as a wild west gunslinger defending a prince and a bear from Yuri and two moray eels I don’t know. Crazy minds like to mix metaphors, I guess.

Fun to watch, but sooner or later we have to go back to reality, that Ringo is preparing to do terrible things to people she supposedly loves, all for a fantasy. Shouma is our representative here. He constantly tries to talk her out of actions, helps her move back home after she discovers Keiju has moved in with Yuri. He’s not the type to outright steal her diary, to Kanda’s contempt, so all he can do is talk, or interfere if her plans get too dangerous, which they do. At the same time, his motives are suspect. Is he only doing this in order to get the diary? Would he go to these lengths otherwise? Ringo strikes home when she accuses him of wanting the same thing she does—the illusion of a happy family. We could compare actions and motives; in pursuit of Himari’s safety Shouma has done some unpleasant things himself, but he hasn’t gone as far as Ringo. Does that make it okay?

What's Celty doing in this show?

The entire episode revolves around Ringo and Shouma. We only get one scene with Kanda and Himari, and one with slingshot girl, and it looks like we’ll still have to wait another week for her, or will we? For, finally, some fresh plot roars in at the end and shakes things up, maybe because Ringo and Shouma have finally had the big argument they should have had episodes ago. I cheered when the diary flew over the balcony, grumbled when Ringo ran and picked it up, and could only scratch my head when the motorcyclist showed up. As for Shouma, any questions about his motives are nullified when he pushes Ringo away from a speeding car. I almost cheered then; whatever danger Shouma is in is less important than the fact that after a couple weeks, the show has finally thrown us something fresh.

Pretty much a plotless episode of Usagi Drop this week. Instead we watch characters act like themselves while the bonds betsween them get stronger, all during a typhoon (What is this? Penguindrum also had a typhoon, and both shows aired the same time that a real one was drenching Japan). Kouki is the episode’s center, and we watch him interact with nice teachers, mean teachers, Rin, Daikichi, and his mother. Each character brings out a different side of him, and since he’s a boy he shows his opinion openly. He’s wilder than Rin and can lead her into adventures, but he listens to her when she puts her foot down, and grudging agrees to wear her clothes when his own get soaked. Daikichi is obviously the father-figure he’s missing. His mother is a nag. But then we see the nag’s reaction when the two families get together and she sees her boy relaxing and having fun. You can tell that she gets to see this side of her son too rarely. Everyone is happy, and there’s something comforting about them all getting together, safe and dry and eating dinner together while the typhoon blows around them. I kept waiting for some bad news to break the mood, but, thankfully, nothing does.

Dantalian no Shoka has brought us some good stories (the courtesan, the deadly fangirl) and others which are no more than trifles, such as the book-flower, and the two that make up episode 8. The first had great potential, a book which enables you to barter for things of equal value, depending on what your values are, and it starts well with Camilla traipsing around the countryside trading one item for another while Huey and Dalian rush to catch up. You worry how it’s going to going to end up as you view one random bartered object after another, and when hopeless lover-boy Armand shows up shooting branches out of his arm you think the story has taken an interesting turn, but no, it’s the introduction to the second story. The first one, alas, is done. Camilla bartered the phantom book. The second story is nonsense about a jealous woman. There’s some interest in how they’ll rescue Armand, but that’s about it. And Armand goes to the underworld but when he comes back no one asks him what it’s like? I can’t believe that.

Dantalian no Shoka 5-7

This season Dantalion no Shoka premiered late, almost as an afterthought, which partly explains why I have fallen three episodes behind. But when I do remember and sit down to watch I’m reminded that this is one of the most fun to watch shows running. Even if the stories are often silly, it is always great to look at.

Come on, this could be a scene right out of an opera.

Episode 5’s title is “Traviata,” but apart from having a courtesan whose name sort of sounds like Violetta there’s no other connection. After introducing us to Viola and suitor #1, a tool named Armand, we move to the action, full of dramatic sayings and gestures and another fabulous light show. Viola always sounds like she’s an actress speaking her lines on stage a little too melodramatically. The evil count is much the same. This isn’t the first time this show has reminded me of something you’d see on stage, a major, over-the-top extravaganza with ridiculous lines and overacting—and a HUGE effects budget. The final confrontation is dazzling to look at. And of course, all this wild talk and action makes Dalian’s snarky asides all the more effective and welcome.

Episode 6 veers away from Dalian Huey and introduce us to Hal and Flam. Since they’re in the OP we were bound to meet them sometime. From their appearance in it I figured they were going to be bad guys. But rather, they seem to be fighting on the same side as Dalian and Huey, but they’re not as nice about it. And they’re looking for our main couple. There’s gonna be a showdown, but not this episode. Here, we learn about the characters and their weaponry, and their rather more disgusting phantom book retrieval scene. Hal and Flam are a cheerful contrast to Huey and Dalian. Hal is quiet, serious and brave, while Huey is brave and a little dull. Flam might be great fun. It looks like she’s up for any sort of nasty behavior, but can also get along with a little girl if the need arises. She doesn’t try to do Dalian’s low-key snark, but simply says whatever she happens to be thinking, embarrassing or unpleasant though it be. This episode’s story wasn’t bad. The dolls were creepy and the mystery interesting, but there was nothing special to it. It felt like a first episode, where the creators introduce us to the characters. Which in a way, it was.

So, I’ve mentioned that the show’s ideas are interesting, the stories awkward, but usually great to look at. Episode 7 is more of the same. Fiona, thanks to her phantom book, has the ability to create scents that not only flatter women but create general happiness. The world’s first aromatherapist. But she’s an artist, so she says, and doesn’t agree with her father’s desire for profit … until we discover that she does. The fact that she can also create powerful, addictive narcotics and paralyzing drugs, and can sense people’s hidden moods by sniffing them, makes her an interesting and formidable character, whipping out this spritzer or that depending on her need. But the plot falls apart in the final scenes, all exposition, and trivial compared not only to her abilities and potential but to the episode’s immense body count. People were dropping like flies this episode. Also, she did a shitty job of running away.

But, once again, good to look at, if not as flashy and stylized as episodes 5 and 6. Damn, this show can be so much fun to watch. I wish they’d work harder on the scripts. It’d be a great series.

Natsume 5, Dantalian 4, Yuruyuri 5

Ah! After a week off the school decided to make up for it by assigning me a six-day work week with nearly double the normal hours. But it’s done now. Time for another attempt to catch up.

It doesn’t feel like Natsume Yuujinchou San 5 had a distinct theme to it, at least not one that the show hasn’t visited before. Much of it is a simple race to stop Kakura, a nasty kimono youkai, from finding it’s missing body parts and become even nastier. But the variations are rather interesting.

I remember that Tanuma can kind of sense youkai, and so lives comfortably within Natsume’s circle of trust, but I don’t remember Taki being in the spiritual loop. But when Kakura gets loose and Natsume is running all over the place trying to find its body parts before she(?) does, she doesn’t stay astonished for long. Soon, she’s trying to help by finding a magic circle so she can see youkai. Maybe I’ve completely forgotten her, or maybe she acts this way because her beloved grandfather, Shin’ichiro, loved and studied youkai even though he couldn’t see them, either.

This tense scene is actually a lesser part of the episode.

And that’s where the real interest in the episode lies. The adventure part, Kakura searching for its body parts and seizing Natsume to steal his arm, I’m afraid is a little dull. It’s livened up by the youkai who hops on Natsume’s shoulder, and the fact that Nyanko toddles off after being fed, so we wonder how Natsume’s going to get out of this on his own. Alas, Nyanko DOES show up in the end. The climax of the struggle has only one interesting thing about it.

That being the other youkai. They used to hang around Shin’ichiro, laughing at him while he read about youkai, unaware that he was surrounded by them. They help Nyanko dispose of Kakura, and then deny they had any ulterior motives. They’re almost tsundere about it. “It’s not because this was Shin’ichiro’s house or anything …” Which leads us to the episode’s loveliest moments, them showing the genuine, but unacknowledged affection they had for the man, and because of that, the affection they obviously have for his granddaughter, who still can’t see them, but thanks them anyway.

Interesting. Natsume’s human friends include (not counting that exorcist guy) a boy who can sort of sense youkai, and a girl who can’t sense them at all.

Dantalian no Shoka 3 was a letdown, two stories that didn’t amount to much (though the thought of kids gaining wisdom beyond their years not doing anything nefarious like taking over the world, because they had become too wise, was a nice idea) Episode 4, however, got me interested right off the bat, with an interesting teaser, and then this:

I read “Time Considered as a Helix of Semi-Precious Stones” in the 70s. I don’t remember a thing about it, so I rushed to Google to catch up, gleefully anticipating a Delany-inspired episode. But the episode never goes beyond the title (though I recall that I await a sequel to another Delany book, “Stars in my Pocket like Grains of Sand,” which he still hasn’t written. C’mon, Sam! You can do it! It’s only been 25 years!) Alas, if the episode is inspired by any work of art, it’s “Misery.”

The first half is fascinating. Huey says Lenny Lents died on the street, but when they visit his home they discover he’s alive, though his sinister “wife,” Paula, doesn’t allow them to see him. But his wife was named something different. What’s more, we saw Lenny die in the teaser. Add to that Leticia, locked in the shed with Lenny’s corpse, begging them to save Lenny (Huh? Wha?), and Huey and Dalian meeting a healthy, smiling Lenny Lents the next day, it’s one mystery after another. Well done!

So it’s sad that it’s all because of a phantom book. The second half of the episode devolves into a bizarre gorefest as Paula repeatedly kills the resurrected Lenny and Leticia in turn (to bring a person back to life they have to sacrifice another). This is a sad, but rather interesting image: two lovers who cannot both be alive at the same time. Sadly, the fact that Paula’s murder methods goes from handgun to shotgun to blows to the head, and the deaths become more and more disgusting (and we see more and more of it) only makes the whole thing comic, and that’s without mentioning Paula’s motives (later mirrored for a laugh by Dalian). Well, never mind that the episode went from intriguing mystery to tragedy to overdone comic horror, not to mention how they get out of it (er, evolution doesn’t work that way, Gainax). The episode was fun to watch, beautiful to look at, even during the disgusting bits. And it was fun to see snarky Dalian go fangirl over what she perceives as a boys love story.

Then, to make sure the evening ended on a stupid note, I watched Yuru Yuri 5. The “Comuket” part was routine, but I liked the joy Kyoko showed when meeting her fans, with sometimes enemy Ayano basking in her glow. After that the show decided that since it’s called Yuruyuri, maybe they should have some additional yuri, which means Chinatsu chasing Akari around to practice kissing, with … interesting results. Oh, and everyone still seems a little surprised that Akari’s still the main character.

Dantalian 2, Prince-Sama 3

At times Dantalian no Shoka feels like a stage play, albeit a modern one with rear-projectors which show flashback images. There are scenes where Huey and whoever are standing around talking plot while Dalian sits to the side, reading and listening, which I can imagine watching in a theatre.

Okay, if it WAS a stage play, Huey would be blocking Mr. Geese from 1/3 of the audience.

Alas, this stage play sometimes isn’t very good. There are too many scenes of pure exposition, talking about the family curse, golems, old news clippings and this week’s phantom book, where one character just talks and the other one nods or goes “hm.” Any snarky comment or attempt at humor signals the end of the scene. A golem crashing through the wall works as well (which leads to another exposition scene, not to mention the bizarre “hand thrust into Dalian’s chest” bit, during which the golem sits there and waits for them to finish their business. You see this a lot in anime, of course, but rarely taken to such extremes).

I was wondering when they'd get back to that.

And the acting isn’t very good. If Huey was a flesh-and-blood character his lines would sound wooden and his movements overly broad, the latter of which works on stage but not so well on a screen. As for Dalian, I can’t get a handle on her character, yet. She hasn’t done much but explain things and toss out the odd insult. The story isn’t much. It’s hard to believe Huey didn’t suspect Estella sooner; the idea that he didn’t because he finds her attractive doesn’t convince me. That idea was pretty much invented by Dalian. Also, the “phantom book of the week” format doesn’t interest me. On the other hand the show demonstrates occasional flashes, like the ED with its voice and strings contrasting with violent or frighening footage. Bits like that make the show much more watchable for me. When they start explaining who that girl is in the teaser maybe the overall effect will improve.

We’re through three episodes of Uta no Prince-Sama and the pattern has formed, and this week’s new boy is grumpy Hijirikawa, though frankly it took me awhile to figure out it wasn’t Tokiya, another black-haired grump. Hijirikawa is the one with in the sweater.

A compassionate teacher-student conference.

Haruka passes the first test thanks to that redhead guy and their generic pop song, but unfounded resentment over her accomplishment remains as strong and nasty as ever, leaving her unable to play the piano, which feeds the vicious cycle further. But this is a cutthroat school, as the cross-dressing homeroom teacher tells us; Haruka better toughen up. This leads to many scenes of her trying to practice and failing, hanging out with sheep and naming that cat-who-has-significance-we-can’t-fathom yet, with a side visit to a bad cooking lesson and a saxophone recital, so all the boys not involved this week can get some screentime.

The scene where Hijirikawa gently helps Haruka regain her playing abilities was a nice one–boring, but nice. I actually wanted something out of Nodame Cantabile, with Haruka screwing up her first note and Hijirikawa smacking her, but let that pass. They could have left it at this, a nice scene where the unsmiling Hijirikawa shows some decency and kindness, but they ruin it with a flashback to … whenever, and Haruka unknowingly inspiring him to study music, and THAT might have been okay, too, cheesy, maybe, but then they go overboard with thoughts like “You’re the one who taught me the magnificence of music.” I expect some cheesiness in shows like this, but a little restraint, please!