Durarara!! 18, K-ON!! 7

So, several episodes ago in Durarara!! we had Mikado turning into a hero of sorts, and this episode we see Masaomi was once a coward. Nothing particularly interesting. They’re laying out the structure for the new story arc.

An Izaya speech hits too close to home, for once.

And we get speeches, weird ones. We start with another of Izaya’s as he plots his next move in the current day. Then we go flashbacking to Izaya and Masaomi, where the former gives another weird speech, this one about how guilt over Saki’s condition would turn her into a diety for Masaomi. Then we flashback from the flashback and see Masaomi meet Izaya for the first time, and then Saki. This time it’s Masaomi with the extravagant speech.

My reaction to many speeches on this show.

What it all boils down to is that the rival Blue Scarves abduct Saki and break her legs, and Masaomi, running there to save her, freezes in fear. Good thing for Saki the guys in the van find out, and we get the most entertaining scene of the episode, with another little speech. Martin’s so into it he even opens his eyes a little.

Martin's speech is perhaps the most abstract.

Kyohei gets one, too–okay, his is more of a straight conversation. All we really learn from all this is that Masaomi is filled with regret and guilt and wants nothing to do with gangs anymore, yet he’s been pulled in again, because of what happened to Anri (not knowing that she’s now the leader of the group that threatened her). Oh, and that Izaya is a manipulating bastard. There would be no story advancement at all if Anri hadn’t spied on a Gold Scarves meeting and seen him.

Oh, for those who want more action, you can catch a clip of Baccano! on a jumbo-tron.

K-ON!! 7 is the third good episode in a row. What’s gotten into them? This one is especially rewarding if you like to watch Mio squirm, not that I have a particular interest in that, but it IS fun, and they manage to sustain it with few drops.

Mio thinks she has a stalker. The rest of the HTT dismiss it, but it turns out it’s happened in the past, and that Mio actually has a fan club, with cards and everything. And we get a flashback to last year when Mio went to the student council president Sokuba, to tell her about the original stalker, only to learn it was Sokuba herself, and that she was the fan club president.

This is embarrassing enough for poor Mio, but then the band decide to hold a tea party for the club, with Mio as the star. This allows her to be humiliated in a number of ways. She enters like a bride coming to the altar (There’s even a giant wedding cake), there are souvenirs (Mio back-scratchers!), a humiliating Q/A, even a slideshow showing “the first half of Mio’s life.” Naturally, and to our delight, Mio becomes a wreck.

Mio looks up at the first half of her life.

On the other hand, it’s for her. And it isn’t just done for the fans; you get the sense that her bandmates are doing it because they love her themselves. And if they can’t resist a little teasing, well that’s HTT for you. The episode is almost completely successful. Like the best K-ON episodes, it’s fluid and funny, and injects the sweetness and sentimentality in consistent little doses.

Durarara!! 17, K-ON!! 6

It’s exclamation mark night on this blog!! Damn, I should have held off on the latest Working! until now. Well, that show only uses one, anyway.

Durarara!! 17 finishes one story arc in wild fashion and then drags a bit as they set up the next one. I’m frankly not sad that they’ve resolved for now the slasher story, as it was getting a little incomprehensible. But at least it went out with a bang.

Shizuo vs. the slashers was everything I had hoped for. But on the other side of the coin we had the confrontation between Anri and Haruna, a slasher against the mother of all slashers. I can see the point of interweaving these two sequences; you can’t have ten straight minutes of Shizuo beating people up, but Anri’s tale, seen through flashbacks, doesn’t explain enough about why she took up with Saika in the first place, or how Saika could “possess” Haruna in a different way than it does her. And Anri’s speeches about being unable to love sounded … fictional, not something I could relate to. Perhaps it’s what this adolescent girl with a tragic past thinks she knows about herself, or maybe it just isn’t written well (or beyond the skills of the translators?). Add to this Izaya’s manipulation of the whole situation (which parts did he manipulate?), the teacher’s odd motives, and you have me wishing they’d go back to Shizuo beating people up.

Then we get some aftermath scenes, followed by a tedious one where Izaya plans his next move. There are three forces out there now: the slashers, the Dollars, and the Yellow Scarves gang. We learn that Masaomi was the founder of the latter, and with a possible gang war coming up, they want him back. Why the Yellow Scarves are so pissed off at the slashers we don’t learn, or what they have against the dollars. We do know that Masaomi hates all this. I guess the gangland fun will start this week, and Masaomi will be the center character. No problem with that. He’s always been a cipher in this series. He deserves his episode or two in the limelight.

(Afterthought) So with the triangle of Mikado, Anri and Masaomi, we have the three gang leaders. I’m so thick sometimes …

K-ON!! 6 breaks the pattern of good ep/bad ep by delivering the second good one in a row. As usual, nothing much happens, but each little scene was entertaining enough. The episode could have been named “A Girl and her Gitah.”

It’s the rainy season, and the girls worry about their instruments. Especially Yui, who has taken on a fierce devotion to hers. She sleeps with it, talks to it, goes to extremes to keep it dry in the rain (while getting sopping wet herself) and is driven frantic when forced to leave it at school. Most of the scenes deal with this, with side glances at how the other characters worry about theirs. I suppose I could go on about how silly Yui is acting but it didn’t bother me this time, possibly because the other characters behave (mostly) sensibly. It’s when they’re all acting like nut jobs that I start gripping my chair in frustration. And, seeing that Yui’s behavior is devoted to keeping her beloved Gitah safe and dry, I can sympathize.

A happy Yui and Gitah.

And it shows a side of Yui that I often overlook amid all her silliness. She’s serious about playing. She practices every day, and it’s showing. She and not Azusa notices when a note is flat. She and Ui have a little sing-along, and nothing could make Ui happier. The others are often taken aback by her actions, such as changing the strings without loosening them first, but they also enjoy basking in her glow. It’s altogether a happy episode.

Durarara! 16, B Gata H Kei 5

Durarara! 16 certainly is an eventful one, at least in terms of its revelations. Unfortunately much of it is buried beneath the concept of a blade procreating with people.

This might take a while.

So let me get this straight: Saika, the blade, can only love by slashing people, the only concrete way for a knife to display anything. The slashed human then shares its love, gets a blade of its own, and goes off to slash more people. All for love! What I’m not getting is why are they spreading now? What’s the catalyst for it? No matter, they are, and soon there are people out there who are targeting certain people, like Shizuo. But how will slashing him in order to get his strength work? Will the slasher immediately become stronger? How does the gene-work, er, work? Does everyone share the genetic traits of each of the victims? Hey! What about if Isaac or Miria get slashed. What happens then? Ah, I’m not going to think about it for now. And along the way there’s a lot of talk about loving people. Anyway, Shinra hypothesizes that each Saika is a descendent of a single “mother” blade. Shizuo and Celty go off to lure it to them.

Just what Durarara needs--another weirdo character.

Meanwhile, Anri gets a visitor, Haruna, the girl who Takashi the teacher made out with before moving to someone else. Now it’s time to examine Anri’s role in all this, because it’s become clear that she has one. There’s more talk about love and murder, a complication arises, and now it’s Takashi’s turn to have a possessed nutball threatening him while talking about love. I’ve never seen a show where so many discussions about love happen at knifepoint. All I know is that Haruna’s knife must certainly be Saika, at least that’s the assumption until …

… Which explains a lot, sort of. We don’t know much about her parents’ death, though we get a couple of quick images while she explains it. She doesn’t quite explain why she can control the blade, unless it’s because, as she says, she’s afraid to love. That would make her quite the strongest person in the entire show. It’s always the quiet ones …

This episode was full of confrontations and threats, but in its heart it’s an exposition episode. Never mind Shizuo’s odd decision to start liking himself. Some of the stuff we learn is pushing the limits for even this show, not that I’m going to stop watching it now. I want to see Shizuo take on a hundred maniacs!

B Gata H Kei tells two stories, and fulfills yet another anime cliché, Valentine’s Day chocolate. To keep it short, both Yamada and Miharu make chocolates for Kosuda, but are too embarrassed to give them to him. The only nice part is that Kosuda has learned enough about Yamada to suspect the box of poorly-made chocolates left in the mailbox was her doing, and calls them “unique.” The second story gets raunchier.

This bit of self-referential humor was the only laugh in the episode.

Yamada decides to go to school without panties, and regrets it. Oh, I am so close to dropping this series. This episode dragged so much it seemed to take an hour. Yamada’s mood swings are beginning to bug me. She’s actually more interesting when she doesn’t obsess about sex. Kosuda does nothing, is just acted upon, and thus is not very interesting. The god of sex character is annoying. I don’t know if the rival character they’ll bring up next week will improve things. And I’m watching too many shows anyway. I’ll just have to make up my mind this week.

Durarara15, Angel Beats 4, Working 3

Ah! I THOUGHT the slasher who appeared at the end of last week’s Durarara!! looked a little different. It looked like he was wearing a trenchcoat. In ep15 my suspicions are comfirmed. That, however, doesn’t mean I was confused as all getout.

We meet (again) Niekawa, the reporter trying to find the strongest man in the city, who, when last seen, was flying in the air thanks to Shizuo. The first half is straightforward. He interviews Simon, a gangster, Izaya, Celty (who kindly shows off her lack of head), and countless others, and begins to demonstrate a strange fascination for Shizuo. He also ruminates about his daughter, Haruna, the same girl who transferred out of Anri’s high school the year before, possibly (or not) because of the creepy teacher hitting on her. So the relationships become even more convoluted. But again, the manner here is straightforward, and Durarara can’t behave like that for too long.

We also have some Anri, her sad happy dreams about her dead parents, her current life, she feels, leeching off of other people (the others don’t see it that way). And the two stories come together. And that’s what confuses me. Niekawa is stabbed, presumably by the slasher, so it seems clear the slasher moves from one body to another (so maybe it’s the knife, but the one we see says “Made in Japan,” but in English … or maybe that’s the fansubbers’ doing). His eyes turn red. He stalks Anri, who inexplicably is off alone again, gets clobbered by Togusa’s van, recovers, goes after Anri again, gets floored by Celty’s bike, recovers again … this time goes after Shizuo?!? Meanwhile the chatboard is flooded by more of Saiko’s weirdo messages. Maybe the Saiko thing brings up whatever dangerous thoughts that are churning, suppressed, in our psyches and tries to act them out. Maybe I have no idea. And what manifestation stabbed Niekawa in the first place? I’m betting on the daughter. Once again Durarara leaves me happily confused.

Angel Beats 4 has the silly overbalancing the poignant, which is okay with me. The last episode, where it was evenly balanced, felt heavy on the latter.

Much of the silly comes from Yui, the hyper, pink-haired girl who we met last episode and plays a surprise part in this week’s ending. She gets involved in another unfathomable Yurippe scheme, winning the school baseball tournament. The losing team gets Yurippe’s punishment match. Now, why are they doing this? What is the point? Just to disrupt a baseball tournament? What does that do, exactly? They don’t even get any meal tickets out of it. Otonashi and Hinata try to form a team, but all the good players are taken, but they manage to put together one anyway, and we’re off for some baseball hijinks!

Overshadowing this is what is obviously a flashback to another game, with a character trying to read a fly ball hit to him. It’s obviously another death memory (looks like they’ll have one a week), and we eventually learn it’s Hinata’s. This is the poignant part, and they make an interesting twist out of it. As you can guess, the last play of the current game is a fly ball to Hinata. Hinata welcomes the chance to redeem himself, and move on to the next world like Iwasawa did last week. But Otonashi doesn’t want Hinata to disappear from this world, whatever it is, and runs to interfere. An interesting twist in itself, and you have to wonder just how Hinata will accept that, and the responsibility Otonashi would bear … but it doesn’t come to that. I won’t say here what DOES happen; I’ll just say it goes back to being silly.

Most of the episode follows the “misfits fight for the championship” format, but the quick jabs of humor and silly situations make it work. The fact that they’re all in some kind of purgatory adds depth. I’m quite enjoying this series.

With Working!!, we’re still at a stage where we’re meeting characters and learning their eccentricities, and I’m not sure there’s going to be much beyond eccentricities in this show, but I’m liking it anyway. Since it looks like every episode is going to be a series of sketches which don’t add up to anything much, we’re probably going to get good and bad ones each week. The ones this week balance out.

We start with the mystery of Yachiyo’s katana. We learn why she has one, but not why she carries it around with her at all times. We also meet the real boss of the restaurant, Otou, and learn his quirks (business trips to look for his missing wife, devotion to Kyouko, a tendency to wear masks, and a general sense of haplessness). From there we watch the quirks bounce off each other. Some of it is good, such as Yachiyo’s jealousy of Otou, a mood swing so great you’d not think it possible for her. I only hope they don’t wear it out. Getting Kyouko to do some actual work was another good one. Souma’s sad tendency to always speak his mind always improves a scene.

It seems not all the character interactions have been explored yet.

But about two-thirds of the way through it began to wear down. Maybe it’s too much of the same, or maybe the last third wasn’t as effective. However, it’s not a bad drop, and it’s becoming clear that the show has more up its sleeve. As for me, I’m liking it more than I thought I would. Nothing much will come of it, but if nothing else, it’s nice to see a comedy with people in a working environment.

Durarara 14, (deep breath) Uragiri wa Boku no Namae wo Shitte Iru 1

Durarara 14 pours on information like it’s nearly the last episode. Luckily for me and others who confuse easily, most of the points were already made, or inferred, especially from the events of last week.

Most of these come from Shingen, Shinra’s father, who wastes no time verifying what we suspected. In a hilarious opening scene he admits he stole Celty’s head and gave it to Yagiri Pharmaceuticals, for whatever reason. Why Celty doesn’t just kill him right there I don’t understand, but, as Izaya points out, she’s become more human since she lost her head. And I’ve had this feeling for a couple of episodes now, that if she ever does get her head back, maybe she would revert to being a complete monster. Dullahans were dangerous, feared creatures, after all, rather than the type of person who, upon seeing Mikado alone in a park sits down to ask him what was wrong, or inspire as much loyalty as Chizuo shows when she mentions her encounter with the slasher (“I’ll kill him!”). Also interesting is that Celty, though she does care about her head, doesn’t worry about it as much as she used to.

So while Celty and others research this slasher, Shingen pulls out his next surprise. He visits Izaya and Namie and lays out everything Izaya had speculated about Celty’s head, as if he had been listening in. Dullahans as valkyries, looking for strife to awaken the head. Shingen’s only been in two episodes but he seems to know everything. Very interesting …

Not all the revelations come from Shingen. Shinra believes the slasher uses a demon sword called Saika, which, coincidentally, was used to get Celty’s head away from her in the first place. Why Celty doesn’t kill HIM I don’t understand, either. Why does he keep withholding information from her? Okay, he had just made the connection, but not to tell her about Saika to begin with … Celty is TOO nice sometimes. Maybe she really ought to get her head back.

There are some other little points to make, like the fate of a student that the teacher who’s been hitting on Anri had the previous year. The Anri/Saika connection is further hinted at. And there’s Saki, the girl in the hospital whom Masaomi visits (she must be important; she’s in the opening credits). And I’m beginning to think that Durarara percolates for a few episodes and then gives us a doozy episode. It’s about time for one.

Episode 1’s keep trickling in. Here’s something called Uagiri wa Boku no Namae wo Shitte Iru, what looks to be a supernatural thriller with Yaoi overtones. Like many supernatural thrillers, it starts by slowly inserting weirdness into everyday events. We meet our hero, Yuki, a nice boy from an orphanage whom everyone likes, the kids, girls his age, and adults, male and female.

Yuki is hugged by a total stranger, well, to him.

The weirdness starts right away. Strange dreams, two people whom he’s never met but who know him, and there’s his cute ability to read people’s emotions and life history by touching them. This chance to view the sorrow in others’ lives should have given him some perspective, but instead he feels like no one wants him, though he’s surrounded by people who do, for whatever reason. Maybe it’s the death threats he’s getting in the mail. Never mind.

There’s more weirdness, with some supernatural force which prompts the character Usuku to try and kill him, binding him with darkness, but he’s saved by Yuka, some guy with tats and piercings and leather jacket, who tells him that he will never betray Yuki. This is interesting because we started the episode with Yuki’s dream of Yuka saying the exact same things to a girl …

Well, it’s good enough. It dragged a bit, like in the bus stop fight, but first episodes have to establish characters and setting, and most shows don’t do it terribly well. Especially when there’s magic involved, because you also have to explain that. But I don’t think this will be a memorable series, maybe a watchable one.

Durarara 13, Senkou no Night Raid 1, B Gata H Kei 2

Durarara‘s OP features a new song and adds a couple of new characters, not to mention actually naming Mika! We meet some of these folks as the show assembles bits and pieces for the next story arc.

The first is Kuzuhara, a motor cop brought into the city to put pressure on Celty. He and his goons chase her down and threaten her, but they don’t show the final outcome of the confrontation. Nevertheless, Celty is badly shaken by the appearance of people who aren’t afraid of what she is or what she can do—and seem to be after her. And you have to wonder … None of the cops there really looked human.

Then there’s Shinra’s father, Shingen, who wears a gas mask and immediately requires rescue by Celty. We don’t get much more of him than that, but his very presence is going to shake some things up. Then there’s a couple more whom we don’t meet. Just great. The cast is even bigger now!

And there’s the slasher, reintroduced to us (apart from lurking behind a sign peering at Shizuo) as it brutally slices down the three girls who like to bully Anri. This episode has followed Anri for a while, though the only comments the narrator makes is that none of this has anything to do with her. Indeed, Anri’s a bit of a mystery. All we really know about her is she feels she needs to latch on to others, perhaps unsure of standing up for herself. On the other hand, when she’s being bullied, the slasher appears behind them and does its work. Connection? What’s more, there’s a creepy guy on the bulletin boards who freaks out when the slasher appears. But we get no more than that. It’s the way Durarara works, and I wouldn’t change it for anything.

Senkou no Night Raid 1 takes place in 1931 Shanghai, and tosses out a bunch of organizations, governments and groups all competing for power. But let’s begin at the beginning. The organization we’re following, whatever they’re called, works for the Japanese government, I think. And they have super powers. Some can teleport, some can see through walls. They’re trying to track down a kidnapped Kaburagi, being held for ransom by some Chinese rebels. While the men they follow in the first section turn out to be decoys, we still get some exciting action scenes.

They’re well-edited and fluid. Even if I didn’t know what’s going on, I was sucked in by this first part. Even though I knew I’d have to endure a long talky scene afterward, which is what happens. I’m not so good with series with a dozen factions and complicated intrigue. I don’t mind them, I just can’t get my head around the story. Darker than Black suffered because of this. But this talky scene resolved this by having the “good guys” (who probably aren’t) immediately plan their next operation: the rescue of Kaburagi. Yes, there’s some exposition, but it’s worked into the practical business at hand.

The raid on Liu Tsung-wu’s headquarters give the show an opportunity to expand upon the special powers. The teleporters can only telport for a limited period of time. Aoi perhaps depends on his ability too much, while Kazura would rather not use his at all. Meanwhile Yukina and the big guy whose name I didn’t get guide them using their seeing and telepathic abilities. It’s another good action scene, livened up by another faction’s sudden, highly-armed appearance.

I don’t know if this is going to be my kind of show, but if the rest of it is executed as well as ep1 I’ll have to watch it anyway. Impressive.

After those two smart shows I turned to a dumb one: B Gata H Kei … and felt a little refreshed. I guess it’s good to turn off your mind once in a while. And, they even eased up on the fanservice, that is, the fanservice they did use wasn’t so in-your-face as last time.

They waste no time getting to the pool scene and the obligatory bikinis. Add to this Yamada’s remarkable mood-swings and I suppose it could be worse. Takeshita, Yamada’s sane, sensible sidekick, brings along her boyfriend Daikuse. Since he and Yosuda are calm, sensible people who like to read, they hit it off.

At this point I’ve realized that I like Yamada the most when she’s upset. She’s much more fun, especially since she hasn’t shown us much of a good side, and no maturity at all. The latter comes out when she forces Kosuda to take the water slide again and again, when he’s scared of heights. Her reaction, upon learning that the only reason he was clinging to her was that he was terrified, is to call him a wuss. Nope. Not seeing any good side to her.

The second part was better, if you ignore the entire condom section, which I wish I could unwatch. Yamada spots Mayu, a potential rival for Kosuda’s affections. Through some ridiculous stalking they discover that Mayu and Kosuda’s families are good friends, and that she has an unrequited crush on Kosuda. It’s all very sweet. Naturally, Yamada’s decision is to act the bully and show her who the better girl is, but in a clever turn of events she winds up becoming Mayu’s love coach. In other words, Yamada only does good things in spite of her intentions.

In spite of this, I’m still not quite ready to toss this show. Yamada annoys me except when she herself is annoyed, but the other characters are decent enough, if bland. I’m predicting I’ll watch a few more before I ask myself what the hell I’m doing.

Durarara 12, Baka to Test 12, Hanamaru 11

After the wildness of last episode Durarara 12 almost feels like a final episode. Things settle down, life goes on. On the other hand there’s a lot of talking about what to do next. It’s as if the show itself isn’t really sure. But this is after a rather large revelation.

Mika Harima didn’t die. Shinra did some cosmetic surgery to make her look like Celty’s head, and Seiji fell for it. The fallout is extensive. Seiji is crushed. Celty angrily goes back and confronts Shinra. His motives are overt. He doesn’t want Celty to regain her head because she might leave him then, or disappear, which amounts to the same thing. Celty is torn. She has an attachment to Shinra, but it’s her head, damnit! But she is afraid of death, and fearful of what might happen if she does indeed get her head back.

Compare this to the final scene, where Izaya is talking about what he wants to do next, all the while carrying Celty’s head around like a football. He imagines that Celty, and all dullahans, are the same as valkyries, and she is simply awaiting for a battle which will reawaken her. So maybe we get an inkling of what’s to come. But where will the fighting come from? Yagira Pharmaceuticals?

I swear, Izaya is everywhere this episode. He pops up unexpectedly to needle people before sauntering off, or running away from Shizuo.

In between we have sort of a filler between story arcs series of scenes. Izaya tells Mikado that what is strange and exciting at first will become mundane shortly, and you must keep evolving to overcome it. Mikado broods on this before deciding to hit on Anri. Celty becomes at peace with herself. Has she given up on the search? Seiji has accepted Harima, at least for now, and even makes peace with Mikado. As I said, it’s almost as if the show was ending and they were tying up loose ends. Or maybe they’ll focus on some new characters now.

Baka to Test tired me out again. There’s so much going on, puns and sight gags and weird action, all of which I love, but not so much when it’s tossed in haphazardly. This episode is a little better. There’s a single goal: Defeat Class-A!

Charge!

Now, supposedly the battles are supposed to be won and lost by test scores, but you can get a good individual matchup against a better student who happens to be weak in one area, or simply gang up on an individual. So running around the place looking for an advantage plays a part, too, something Class-F uses. They feel they’re more practical than the other classes, and more cunning, and they’re almost right. It also adds physical slapstick to the virtual avatar battling. This improves the show’s flexibility but can lead to wearying moments when they try to do too much.

Line of the week.

It’s not a bad idea. Con or give favors to have the other classes mock-attack Class-A first in the hope of tiring them out. Then set elaborate traps for them. It almost works, until Yoshi’s avatar-thing blows up and the school roof collapses. After that there’s a sweet scene where Yuuji rescues his opponent and torturer Shouko and Yoshi rescues Himeji. And I collapses from fatigue. One more episode …

Hanamaru Kindergarten 11 is a low key episode that concentrates on the adults. The only child that has any significant screen time is Anzu.

You might think that this is an episode where Anzu tries to help and makes a mess of things, and there is a little of that, but the focus belongs to Tsuchida, who’s got the blues. He messed up his confession to Yanamoto and has been down ever since. He’s also wondering why he became a kindergarten teacher in the first place. This events around him, with Anzu coming over repeatedly to clean or do his laundry, forms a background of irony.

He takes Anzu home and talks with Sakura. She asks him to write about nineties videogames for her magazine because she’s got a huge deadline and employee shortage, and he’s good at it, suggesting he is good for other things besides being a kindergarten teacher. And he wonders if he was working so hard just to impress Yanamoto. But he chose this profession before he even met her … Doesn’t make sense. I think Tsuchida just has the work blues. Like Izaya said in Durarara, the strange and interesting become mundane pretty quick.

Meanwhile, there’s Anzu to keep him occupied. In a cute little scene, broken up between bits with the Yanamoto sisters, comparing their density, he tells Anzu a story that encapsulates his entire situation. Anzu is delighted by the story. Tsuchida seems delighted to be telling it. All’s really well, in Hanamaru-land. Just working blahs.