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2015 new winter shows #4

January 14, 2015 Leave a comment
That's an elevator cable.

That’s an elevator cable.

Death Parade brings us a young newlywed couple who find themselves in a mysterious bar, where Decim, the bartender, tells them that they can’t leave until they play a game, betting their lives. Turns out to be darts, only the board will cause pain somewhere in the opponent’s body depending on where its hit. As the two play, secrets come out and it’s clear that the two would quickly be heading for divorce court if they weren’t already dead. The game was in fact a way to reveal or decide … something.

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I’ll watch episode two, but the first one left a bad taste. I suppose the game is a way to tear away the illusion that they were a happy couple. In fact, it’s an act of cruelty, and an opportunity for us at home to pass moral judgments on the victims. In the end we learn that the game winner will go off to “the void” while the loser will be reincarnated, and if you say that well, she deserves it, I wasn’t crazy about his behavior during the game, either. In fact, I think their fates had already been decided, meaning the game it self was a way to inflict a little pain on two people who were already going through plenty. But at the end we get a peek of two other characters, and a hint that this series might turn away from “victim of the week,” so I’ll keep watching for now.

Durarara resumes by giving us a close-up of possibly its most beloved character.

Durarara resumes by giving us a close-up of possibly its most beloved character.

Durarara x2 brings back the gang, or gangs, after five years, though it’s only been six months for the characters. Little has changed, or at least that’s what Mikado thinks, and indeed we don’t see much out of the ordinary, just the little plot bits being scattered about. We start with Celty on the run from that motorcycle cop–live on TV, which gives us a reintroduction to many of the characters, because they’re all watching, though they really wanted to watch a documentary on Yuuhei Hanejima, Shizuo’s younger brother, so we get a glimpse of him as well. There’s also a string of grisly murders that has made the TV, which Kyohei and the guys in the van are watching. Which is all mixed in with flashbacks of six months ago.

Too many people figure into this episode, so here's a random pic of Erika and Martin.

Too many people figure into this episode, so here’s a random pic of Erika and Martin.

And so the wild ride starts again. Hard to tell, as usual, where they’re going with this, but apparently Celty’s figurative head is up for grabs with a 10,000,000 yen bounty, and her literal head is not seen this episode. Then there are the murders, and Yuuhei, and Izaya-kun’s up to something again. And new characters to mix in. We get a glimpse of just about everyone, though not enough of Simon. Seeing all the characters made me smile, but we’ll see if this new series can live up the the classic first.

Aldnoah's new season doesn't waste any time.

Aldnoah’s new season doesn’t waste any time.

The first season of Aldnoah.Zero had a pretty crazy ending, with Slaine shooting just about everybody around out of some weird jealousy or misplaced loyalty. It looks like the creators didn’t really like the ending too much, since most of the characters that made the show fun were now dead, apart from Slaine. “What the hell, bring ’em back! And let’s mess with the fans while we’re at it!” So when the story starts, Slaine is apparently a knight of the Vers empire, so a bad guy, and Asseylum is the same, though in a vat in Slaine’s quarters, and there’s another princess back there, muttering about her bloodline. Saazbaum is alive. Oh, we get some backstory to explain it, but it’s still pretty crazy. In the episode, things look dire for the good guys until Inaho (he’s alive too!) shows up and knocks out another generic Vers baddie using only his guile, just like the old days.

And we get another Inaho saves the day scene.

And we get another Inaho saves the day scene.

Like in the first series, the big question is “what is going through Slaine’s mind?” He appears to be a loyal Vers knight now, but since Asseylum’s still there perhaps his loyalties still lie with her. So why did he help Saazbaum escape? Was there no way to rescue the princess? Also, I’m confused about what it was that gave Inaho the aldnoah ability to rescue his team. The blood? The kiss? I wonder if we’re going to get any answers until Asseylum wakes up, which could take a while. It’s an effective episode, getting us back in the war and keeping us guessing at the same time.

A pretty but misleading image to start Rolling GIrls.

A pretty but misleading image to start Rolling GIrls.

Let’s see, Rolling Girls starts with some background on how all the prefectures are now independent, because reasons, and now each prefecture has little squabbles with other prefectures, usually resulting in a fight between super-powered “bests,” while the others “rests” try to mitigate the damage. We watch one best, the maccha-green Masami, go at it with another girl, meanwhile her younger sister, Nozomi, wants to join the gang, to the dismay of Masami and family. Then there’s a fake robot, a ramen eating contest, and in the end Maccha’s group are stuck on a deadly roller-coaster, which even the enemy thinks is a little extreme. Oh, and a girl on a scooter keeps showing up.

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It’s next to impossible to understand what is going on, especially if you’re like me and don’t understand the intricacies and history of the various prefectures, which is what fuels much of the plot. I don’t mind too much. While the two bests are indeed beating the crap out of each other, the rest of it is bright, colorful, and eccentric. The clever, offhand way it introduces everyone reminds me of a better-than-average noitaminA series, something like Tsuritama. It’s nice to look at and has a fun ED. For me, it’s worth keeping an eye on to see if I can figure out what’s going on.

Finales!! Durarara!! Working!!

June 29, 2010 Leave a comment

Though it’s the best show I’ve seen this year, Durarara!! had its down moments. The slashers story arc didn’t work particularly well, possibly because Anri is a fairly passive character. Then with the Yellow Scarves arc the series became more grim than fun. I’m generalizing; there were terrific moments in almost every episode, but my favorites, episodes 3, 6 and 11, were a long time ago. The question was, could it pull everything together in give us another genius episode for a finale? The answer: Damn close.

One thing I demanded from the finale is lots of action. The setup to this episode almost guaranteed that, and subsequent fighting did not disappoint. Neither did Horada’s attempted getaway. I also wanted to see every member contributing, and they do. Kuroda infiltrates the Yellow Scarves along with a bunch of Dollars members. Celty chases Horada’s car right towards an enraged Shizuo. Simon’s moment comes later. Even the cop Kuzuhara joins in. It’s as good as any of the previous action scenes … and then it’s over.

They had to stop and clear up gaps and reconcile characters. Unfortunately, rather than mixing it in, they devote the rest of the episode to it. Our three heroes talk and re-bond. Masaome and Saki make up. Everyone gets covered. Along the way we see how Izaya’s plans unraveled. Who told who what about whom. Apparently people that Izaya had depended upon to play certain roles got tired of being pawns and went against him. It seems everyone had a revelation of some sort, most of it, alas, just talk. The most interesting scene was the confrontation between Anri and Izaya. Izaya says he loves mankind and likes to mess with them, unlike Anri, who suppresses her love through her sword. He hates her for that, but whatever is going to happen will happen in another series, or in the novels (We must get those published over here). What’s mildly disappointing is that Izaya manages to laugh everything off, even the black eye Simon gives him. He’s more amused than angry that things didn’t turn out quite the way he wanted. For now I’ll have to be satisfied with Simon punching him into the “Love” sculpture. Thank you, Simon!

For once, Namie and I agree on something.

As for what it all means, I’m not sure there’s an overriding point to be made. After all, Durarara!! is based on a series of novels. I’m guessing that the creators simply wanted to lift a single mostly-coherent story out of them and tell it as an anime series. You could call it a love story, I suppose, or an examination of the different types of love, good and bad. Or you could call it a supernatural tale of every day Ikebukuro, or a coming-of-age story. It’s a little of all of that as well as things I’m forgetting. So, yeah, Durarara!! stumbled a bit after a red-hot start, but as I said, it’s still the best anime I’ve seen this year. I only hope it’s commercially successful and encourages others to tackle wild stories. We desperately need them.

One more of Shizuo.

While I don’t expect a sequel to Durarara!!, Working!! is certainly gearing up for one. They even introduce a new character, and this is the final episode. Kind of a dirty trick to play on Maya, who’s devotion to normality makes her come off as abnormal. That’s her schtick, and we won’t see it again unless there’s a new season.

Er, nice to meet you, Maya. Too bad this is the last episode.

So let’s move on to the main event: the big date. Yamada and Taneshima thwarts Souta’s attempt to risk his life dressed as a man by getting him wet, and, gee, what a coincidence, they just happen to have some woman’s clothing for him to wear. They also plan to tail the couple, but Satou manages to distract them. So what we get are Satou’s distractions and Maya’s weirdness adding punctuation to the date scenes, and we need them.

Because nothing much happens during the date. Each wonders if the other is doing all right. They visit places that have no men. They worry some more. Finally, Souta risks all by asking Inami to hold hands with him. We get THREE separate scenes of Inami trying, trying, reaching out, only to have to fight back the urge to slug him. The only thing that DOES happen is that Souta realizes he might actually have feelings for her, which unfortunately he speaks out loud using a dog metaphor that even I don’t understand. The next day it’s business as usual, except the couple are completely worn out.

Well, Working!! was hit-or-miss for its entire run, though I thought it had developed a good rhythm near the end. The problems were always the same. The random bits didn’t always work, which slowed episode momentum down, and Inami’s antics overshadowed everything else, even the final episode. If they do make a sequel I might give it a try. I don’t know if the characters’ two-dimensional quirks can sustain more episodes, but it was an amiable series and not like much else being broadcast.

Durarara!! 23, Arakawa 11

June 23, 2010 Leave a comment

With only one episode to go after this, Durarara!! 23 has to assemble the pieces (Izaya-speak) for a big finale, and it does, with one of its best episodes.

The first half our three heroes are at a loss, wondering what’s up with the others, but they are unable to move on their own. But they find their motives for action. Celty urges Mikado to face up to the issues, even though Mikado doesn’t know what they are—just that Dollars members are getting beaten up. Anri, still at Celty and Shinra’s, encounters a wounded and very pissed-off Shizuo, who says he’s going to kill Masaome for putting on the hit. That’s enough for her to spring into action.

Masaome’s motivation comes from threats and danger. Horoda has fired him from the dollars and told him he’d be killed on sight, and that Mikado would die too. Mikado! It’s the most satisfactory of the three. We see him overcome not only the weakness that froze him last time, but also his fear of the past. When he confronts Horoda at the Yellow Scarves HQ he has become afraid of nothing, and displays Shizuo-like fighting skills (okay, not that extreme. No one flies twenty feet in the air) before force of numbers overcomes him.

The Yellow Scarves scene is terrific. Not only for Masaome’s fearlessness, but for the way he practically stares down Horoda, and then the ante is upped by the dramatic appearance of Anri (in “Mother” mode), followed by Celty and Mikado. Unfortunately the episode has to end there. But everything is in place for the big finish this show demands.

Arakawa under the Bridge has a finale to set up, too, and that means its usual random vignettes are mostly discarded in favor of sustained action.

Rec’s father’s company is proceeding with their plans to renovate, and it looks like the one way to stop them is for Rec to leave altogether. But Nino, in a lovely show of support, refuses to let him consider this. Suddenly, he has another plan. He’ll get the development rights himself. So Rec is allowed something to do besides react to the others’ antics. I think the show is always better when this happens. Off he goes to his own company, with his faithful servant Takai, to do the planning.

The others kill time waiting for things to happen. They manage to get some surveyors to go away. Nino forgets what Rec looks like (nice touch). There’s a good scene when he returns and shows them his own development plan, and everyone has issues with it. Meanwhile, I’m getting this “Something’s about to go wrong” feeling. There has to be some setback to lead to the finale, right?

And we get it. But we get something else as well. The show has hinted at the distance between Rec and his father. And in an earlier scene we see the father react to Rec saying (through a spy camera) how it’s impossible to deal with him. In other words next week will not just be about saving the odd lot who live under the bridge, but the two men’s reconciliation, that is, if Rec can actually get his phone number.

Durarara!! 22, Yumeiro 34

June 15, 2010 Leave a comment

I said last week that for me Durarara!! was losing its sense of fun. Things had become too grim, and the humorous edge that had given the show such a lift was gone. Well, this week it gets pretty grim, too, but the first half is as much fun as I can remember.

Anri gets help from all sorts of people.

Anri is cornered by Yellow Scarves members. But Mikado, who was feeling helpless last episode, hears about it and launches into action. It’s sort of a reprise of ep11, where the Dollars all get a phone call and join together to help her. We get a marvelous chase scene where regulars help out and one-shot characters get a reprise. The lost-and-found girl, the guys in the van, Simon, the guy who was beaten up, Kaztano, the runny-nose kid, total strangers, they all come to the aid of the bewildered Anri, who’s never seen such a show of support before. Until it comes down to Celty, and Shizuo’s rage. Great stuff. The only people missing were Isaac and Miria, and I didn’t really expect them to actually take a role in the story.

And it does a couple things. Mikado realizes that the Dollars might be a viable group after all. Anri, safely resting at Celty and Shinra’s place, says she’s tired of running away. Of course, she’s more than capable of defending herself, but unleashing her Slasher-Mom schtick is the last thing she wants to do. She doesn’t want to hurt anybody, something Masaome doesn’t understand at one point when he confronts her during the chase.

But the grimness comes in again. Some Yellow Scarves are on the Dollars’ network. And so infuriated are they that they go out and double-up on their random beating of Dollars members, to the point where Mikado loses all hope again and actually shuts down the Dollars, saying they “… must disappear,” which is actually sort of cryptic. They were sort of invisible already, weren’t they? And Shizuo is gunned down in an alley, just as you thought they might not have hit their grim quota for the week. Interesting, though. He’s always been a trump card for the good guys. Maybe they just want him out of the picture for an episode …

What needs to happen next is that our three heroes must get together and work this out, meaning secrets will have to be revealed. But Mikado seems to want none of this, anymore. Two episodes to go. Can they fit everything in? Will it be fun?

Yumeiro Patissiere 34 is great fun. The main story is about sweets fairy Marron, who’s bored and has decided to go to Earth and partner up with someone (All the sweets fairies head to the Japan branch. Why is that?). She brings along the rebellious boys from early in the series, but happily they don’t contribute to the action at all. Marron’s story isn’t what makes this episode so fun; it’s what we find out about all our fairy friends and human partners.

Our fairy friends introduce Marron to Ojou Miya (They changed her name, dammit. Several episodes ago. I have no brain), but she’s depressed after losing in the Grand Prix and out of sorts, so she goes off on her own to look for more promising humans. What makes this fun is that Marron is headstrong and a little spoiled, in short a perfect match for Ojou Miya, so we’re biding our time waiting for the inevitable hookup to happen. Every one of the promising ones already have fairies, so she decides to get one to drop their fairy and choose her instead, leading to some hilarious moments.

The scene where Marron tries to get Kashino away from Chocolat is the best. In order to display the deep knowledge she has of him, Chocolat begins to reveal some rather … embarrassing things, which include his anatomy (no, not that part, perverts). In doing so Chocolat shows a sneaky, dirty side we haven’t seen before. But it’s not the only good bit.

She looks in on Satsuki and Cafe having a decadent rose water bath together. When they agree to let her partner with them it sounds like they’re arranging a threesome. While Andou and Caramel behave like young lovers. I can’t believe this show’s for children.

There ought to be a side series: “Untold Secrets of the Sweets Academy.” It’d be ratings gold!

But we need to get back to Ojou Miya, newly revived with the thought of just jetting Kashino to Paris himself, giving off her spoiled rich girl laugh every few seconds (Who invented that laugh, anyway? First instance I know of is Utena’s Nanami). Marron likes her style after all, so that’s settled. Now just about every character has a fairy. But Marron is actually helping Miya cook? I thought that wasn’t allowed. Doesn’t matter. Good episode. Fun to watch. Apart from missteps like the last episode this show’s on a roll.

Durarara!! 21, Daimaou 10

June 11, 2010 Leave a comment

I sometimes (too often) use the metaphor of moving pieces around when taking about a particular episode’s story line. In Durarara!! 21 I get to have Izaya do it for me, as friction rises between the factions and he laughs with delight.

Anri, in spite of entreaties from Celty, blames herself for the escalating violence between the Yellow Scarves and the Dollars. She takes action, using her people to intervene when Dollars are attacked. Yellow Scarves members turning on each other during a fight naturally raises the ire of the rest of the group, not to mention Masaome, who puts two and two together and realizes Anri’s involved, somehow. Naturally this puts him in a funk. His two best friends are part of the conflict, and on the other side of it. On the other hand, Anri knows about Masaome, but acts anyway, though she’s doing it to stop the hurting of innocent people. Masaome seems frozen right now (ironic), and in spite of his orders not to start fights, his people are doing so freely.

The one who’s really out of the loop is Mikado. Ironic: his group depends on sophisticated communication technology yet he’s the one who knows the least. This cuts him off from his suddenly busy best friends, and makes him feel powerless and alone. Many Dollars members plan to quit or want him to act, but there’s nothing he can do. Since no one except Izaya and Celty know he’s the leader, he can’t turn to anyone. It’s sad to see him like this when ten episodes ago he used the Dollars to take bold action against Namie and her goons. The other characters make occasional appearances but mainly stand to the side, Kyohei listens to Mikado, Seiji, of all people, gives him love advice, but it looks like he’ll have to do something on his own.

Meanwhile I’m thinking that while the show is still fascinating, it’s lost some of its fun. The stakes are higher now, and no one is enjoying themselves anymore, except for Izaya, the last person on this show you want to see smiling.

At least Durarara!! makes some kind of sense. Ichiban Ushiro no Daimaou 10 has weirdness piled upon weirdness. After a while I stopped trying to make sense of it and just decided to roll with it.

Here’s what I can figure out. Monster after monster is loose and are, er, monstering around the school, and everyone blames Akuto and wants to kill him, for various reasons. Some are doing it because he’s a demon lord, others because they want his power. Meanwhile, Akuto has unleashed these things because he’s trying to protect Keena, or so he says. He confronts various enemies (Yamato) and friends (Hiroshi/Brave, Junko) who can’t make out their mixed feelings about stopping someone who’s been their friend, especially Junko, who’s in love with him. They even throw in a spiritual/sociological discussion or two; the current systems battle believe in gods, and because of these gods they can’t free themselves. Akuto announces he’ll just kill God and free everybody. It was really strange to hear this kind of talk in a show like this.

But weirdness prevails. First there are the intrigues between factions going on. Eiko murders her father to take over and along with some guy codenamed 2-V, tries to manipulate the action. Junko receives some super-sword. Yamato is stopped at the demon’s lair by the school Headmaster, who has barely made an appearance before. The flying battleship is commanded by a Macross wanabee. Some characters named “rubbers” show up to fight. And lets not forget TWO ninja armies. The entire thing is being broadcast and shown on jumbotrons. All the little weird things that occurred earlier in the series have reappeared all at once! It feels like a finale, but there’s two episodes to go yet. I have a feeling anything after this is going to feel like an anticlimax, in terms of one damn thing after another.

Durarara!! 20, Daimaou 9

June 2, 2010 Leave a comment

Durarara 20 goofs around with concepts of reality and fantasy, pushes chess pieces around some more, and then gets violent. The narrator this week is Erika, who, with Martin, have come up with their technique to make life bearable, though I couldn’t follow it. Separate the good things from the painful things and make the latter unreal. Something like that. Their use of it puts them in a world full of “moe, tsundere and boy’s love,” which may of may not be your idea of a good time, but it’s theirs.

Masaome probably wishes he could do such separating himself, but he’s too deep into it now. The past he has tried to ignore has come up again and he must confront it. So as he mulls just what is the truth and what isn’t, he talks to the guys in the van, who help him a little by pointing out what in his revenge plot might be true and what might not be, and give him not so subtle warnings. Then it’s off to talk with Izaya, always a bad idea.

But you won't like it!

Through it all we get a sense that Masaome doesn’t really know what to think, or what his motives are. There’s no evidence that the Dollars are an enemy, or in league with the Slashers. Izaya suggests that he’s going through this for Anri’s sake, because he failed to help Saki. And that he didn’t really love Saki after all (low blow). Then delivers the bombshell: Mikado is the boss of the Dollars.

So Masaome knows Mikado’s secret, and Anri knows Masaome’s. Poor Mikado is left out. Now Masaome is thoroughly confused, and he’s losing his control over the Yellow Scarves. Izaya has managed to blur reality to his purposes again.

Ichiban Ushiro no Daimaou starts clumsily, then drops a whole lot of plot bombshells in about five minutes.

Korone has arranged a marriage interview for Akuto and Junko’s family, but Junko can’t get herself to tell him that’s what this innocent trip to her household is about. Akuto has his own reasons for going, to take responsibility for the monsters appearing everywhere, but why he has to go out to Junko’s home doesn’t enter his mind. And before you know it, they’re engaged. And he STILL doesn’t know. It takes a late-night confession from Junko, who herself is torn between duty and desire, to clear up the action. Then things get stupid.

There’s a mix-up and suddenly he’s on the run from ninjas (I recall a favorite Nanowrimo saying: “When stuck with the plot, throw in some ninjas.”), then Eiko shows up to tempt him to her side, then to kill him, and he learns that Keena back at school is going to be assassinated. Huh? But the mysterious blond guy named Yamato, I believe, stops the attack, because … well, it just gets stranger and stranger. And just when my head wasn’t spinning from yet another magical group showing up and more bizarre revelations …

Never thought I’d be glad to see Fujiko, but cripes, what a mess! An entertaining mess, but still … The upshot of all this is that everyone wants something out of Akuto, either to marry him, enslave him, or kill him. Like Masaome, Akuto wants it to all go away.

Durarara!! 19

May 25, 2010 Leave a comment

Durarara 19, hmm, not much to say about it. Basically all that happens is they turn the screws a little, or maybe it’s Izaya doing the screwing.

Part of it is flashback. Lots of scenes of Mikado, Anri and Masaomi walking along, when the latter suddenly gets a call and runs off, claiming something’s come up. The other two are concerned, especially Anri, which is why she goes off to the meeting only to get spotted. As for Masaomi, he’s hating this whole thing, yet determined to get revenge on the slashers for hurting Anri. Meanwhile, his gang is getting out of control. We learn later (from Izaya) that members of the Blue Squares eventually joined the Gold Scarves, so that the people who badly injured his old girlfriend are now his comrades, a fact he doesn’t know, since he couldn’t bring himself to come to her rescue. So basically he’s a leader of an increasingly violent gang that he knows he can’t control.

The sad part is none of the groups have to fight. Anri has control of the slashers now. In fact, there are slashers among the Yellow Scarves. There are Dollars among the Scarves, too, or maybe it’s the other way around. The Dollars is essentially benign, and it’s interesting that the show’s independent forces for good (Celty, Simon, Shizuo, the guys in the van) are all Dollars members. The Yellow Scarves, know hardly any of this; right now they’re determined to lash out at something. They get a false clue when Celty rescues Anri, who has whipped out her slasher sword. Aha! A Dollars member with the Slasher! They must be in cahoots! You can almost hear Izaya chuckling.

This doesn’t bode well for anyone. Expect more violence next episode, and chances are Simon won’t be around to help.

Good to see you, Simon! Where you been?

Categories: Durarara