A few more quick ones …

Fortune Arterial 10 has Erika’s continuing struggle to sustain herself on blood pouches (and why those aren’t as nutritious as blood from a throbbing vein they don’t tell us). And it has not only more “Let’s work together!” festival preparation scenes, but a beach trip and firework-watching with yukatas as well. You begin to get tired of the BOOM effect whenever the craving strikes Erika, but at least here they manage to time it well with fireworks. And I gotta say, Kohei is way too accommodating.

By Amagami SS standards, episode 23 is pretty eventful: Founders Day preparations lagging behind, girls starting rumors, confessions, more girl-fighting. Junichi and Tsukasa even seal their relationship with a kiss with an episode to spare. And Tsukasa drives it all forward. For the most part Junichi stands on the sidelines, apart from an attempted rescue when girls try to gang up on Tsukasa for dodgeball. He observes her as her mood swings from sweet to vicious, sometimes within seconds. Her sweet mode at the end was downright scary. For the first (and last) time on Amagami, Junichi has a wacko girlfriend on his hands.

Otome Youkai Zakuro 10 starts out as usual, with the Spirit Affairs team attending a fun festival and innocent spirit hijinks, until the plot kicks into gear. I have to say that Zakuro gets herself captured pretty easily. The other main characters mainly stay out of the way as she learns all sorts of stuff. Hanadate, er, Omodaka reveals himself, we see what he wants. We see that Rangui is subordinate to him, and that she’s jealous enough to kill Zakuro, who, meanwhile, is slowly befriending Byakuroku. Zakuro is used well. We see her anger, confusion, and a compassion which makes her abandon her escape when she sees a half-spirit mistreated. It’s good to see her act on her own for a change.

Soredemo Machi wa Mawatteiru 10 brings us the usual two stories, the difference being that both are great fun, if a tad unbelievable. The first more so, as it involves Hotori innocently picking up a dangerous alien weapon only to have two alien robot things show up and fight over it. The second isn’t more believable, but since it involves a ghost it’s more in keeping with the show. I mean, in a slice of life show you don’t expect alien weaponry, but the occasional observant ghost is acceptable. And it’s lovely stuff, an old man (turns out it’s Uki’s late husband) walks around encountering local people who can’t see him, and wondering just why the hell he hasn’t moved on yet, though he doesn’t care much. Overall I prefer this story to the former, but the former made better screenshots, so that’s why I chose it.

And, for the foreseeable future, this truly is the end of the blog. See you.

More nines: Index II, Arterial

In A Certain Magical Index 9, Touma, Stiyl, and Motoharu continue their search for the elusive Orliana, with plenty of explosion, lights, thumping music and weird jargon.

Touma’s got a bead on the girl and gets the other two to join them, only to run into one booby trap after another, which the two, amusingly, push Touma forward to face. Since he can dispel magic it makes sense, but it again emphasizes Touma’s sad-sack qualities in the face of all this weirdness. And we need this humor when the other two are busy going on about finding vital signs and reversing them, or whatever Stiyl’s on about. Something about hastily created, unstable magic books. The upshot is that Stiyl can’t use his magic anymore without pain, and Motoharu has that condition anyway. Again, screw the jargon. It means they may sacrifice their lives in order to stop Orliana, and to Touma’s dismay, are perfectly willing to do it.

How Misaka plays the ball-throwing game.

Index is more fun with characters and battles, so it’s a relief to find that Orliana set a magical trap of sorts in the stadium where the athletic festival is being played. They rush there and slip in, Motoharu babbling jargon the entire time, just in time for the ball-throwing contest. The subsequent scene works not only for the tension of discovering which basket Orliana has tainted, but because this ball-throwing contest includes the kids’ special abilities. This means lots of explosions and smoke and mayhem. What’s more, Misaka is pissed that Touma’s “participating.” It’s the sort of scene this franchise usually does well, mix character-driven comedy with the action, especially when Touma is trying to talk Misaka away from the tainted basket while she’s in full tsundere mode.

Okay, there are dumb things. How did Motoharu know it was one of the baskets that was tainted? Why didn’t Touma just walk straight up to Misaka and pull her away from the basket? But it worked well enough. And when Fukiyose sets off the trap and is injured it makes this situation personal for Touma. Once again, it’s the characters that save this show.

Fortune Arterial 9 has about an equal ratio of vampire story to high school comedy story. Unfortunatly, the episode as a whole is mostly exposition, with a lot of thunderclaps.

But we start with the fallout from last week’s series of crazy events. Haruna has all her memories back and knows Erika is a vampire, and she’s going to tell her sister Kanade. What will the result be? Just what we expected. Kanade is too grateful to Erika for saving her sister’s life that she doesn’t care if Erika is not human. So that’s out of the way. Then we get the question of what a “Servant” is. Kohei wants to know, but Lori proceeds to dump the school cultural festival work on him. And so we get a lot of scenes of students bonding and working, just like they did for the athletic festival. Ah, I think, so it’s going to be one of THOSE episodes …

Then there’s the one bit of actual drama in the episode, mixed in with helpful exposition. Kohei actually asks Erika what a servant is (thunderclap), and we jump to Kiriha and her master, Kaya, who just happens to be Erika and Lori’s mother (thunderclap). I don’t really get the Kiriha angle. We learn that a servant drinks the blood of a vampire to become one, which gives them all the vampire fringe-benefits (eternal life, heightened abilities, etc) but binds them to the vampire as a servant. Meanwhile Kiriha is confronting Kaya, saying it will all stop now, etc. She obviously hates being a servant. Why did she agree to it in the first place? Not to mention that there’s something afoot that she’s against … Oh, by the way, while everyone else was wondering who Kiriha’s master was, Seichiro knew it all along, but wasn’t talking. Huh?

After that it’s a long heartfelt scene where we learn that Kaya is requiring Erika to obtain a servant by graduation or she’ll be dragged back to the estate, never to return. She hates this. She wants to be human. She refuses to drink blood from one (though she’s taken to guzzling packs of it from her fridge). Her mother hates her for acting like this. I can sort of understand her mother’s reaction: “Kids today. They want to have fun in school and hang out with friends instead of going around drinking people’s blood and wearing capes and being evil like their parents. What is this world coming to?” Kohei, by the way, in that friendly, trying-to-help-out manner that male harem leads often have, offers himself as a servant. And something like that may happen. Erika has another attack of blood-lust, particularly Kohei’s blood. The question is will that happen to thunderclaps or sentimental piano music?

Three Eights: God Only Knows, Arakawa, Arterial

The World God Only Knows 8 is a silly filler episode in 3-4 parts which intertwine, but it doesn’t work very well.

In part one Elsie has quite rightly realized she’s pretty useless and decides to counterattack by making Teima a delicious strawberry cake, using her own ingredients. I don’t bake much, but I can understand how frustrating it is when one of the eggs you were going to use hatches to reveal a fearsome mandragon which proceeds to wreak havoc.

We then follow Teima through the same timeline, wondering where Elsie went, playing his games and being harassed by his teacher. There’s nothing much to this. He spends a lot of time reacting to the residue of Elsie’s cooking adventures and wondering why the world keeps dumping on him. And we move on to his mother, who spots the mandragon and later hears a burglar and brains Keima with a vase. The mandragon chases away the annoying teacher, the mandragon gets eaten by Elsie’s bento, and that’s it. The series’ previous filler episode was much better.

Arakawa Under the Bridge x Bridge 8 reintroduces us to the tall, strong, yet girly Amazoness. At first Rec is overjoyed because no one believed he ever saw her. Then things take a troubling turn when her assistants hypnotize him into falling in love with her.

P-ko and Hoshi are appalled, though naturally Hoshi sees this as a way to break Rec and Nino up. Nino doesn’t get it. It takes the Amazoness’s next step to push things to crisis mode, as, under the hypnotism, he learns that she has been arrested, and that could only mean a cry for help, right? So he runs off to Amazon jail, rescues, and marries her. Here’s where it gets interesting. Nino rightfully punches him, then squares off against her giant rival. We wonder what sort of battle they’ll have. Naturally, it’s a weird one.

Nino then adds height to size and Rec’s lecture on volume in a container (which she attended) now makes sense. Her love is HUGE. Plus, she is too confident and big-hearted to hate the Amazoness, and proves it by giving her a hand when the Amazoness collapses. The Amazoness tells her that if she is sickly, Rec would protect her. Nino replies that she protects Rec. So we see another sweet angle of the Rec/Nino relationship.

Last week Fortune Arterial finally started working on the plot, and by the end of episode 8 it has tangled up much of what we’ve seen before into a bizarre knot. We start with Erika having unpleasant vampire dreams, and a girl spots a vampire jumping around campus. Soon the student body is frightened. Okay, so Erika is doing vampire-y stuff in her sleep, right? Even Erika seems to think this possible. But it’s not that simple. We learn who the vampire is.

Nice curveball.

Someone I did not suspect: Kiriha Kuze. Okay, she’s had some time in the spotlight, but mostly she’s been on the outside of events. A cold person, but decent. It didn’t occur to me to suspect her. What’s more, she isn’t just jumping around getting vampire exercise, she seems to be seeking a master, or something. We don’t get explanation, but since the next episode is named “Servant” I don’t think we’ll have to wait long. But the story’s just getting started. Haruna hears a noise, sees Erika chasing Kiriha, and, in typical horror-victim fashion, goes out to investigate, only to run into Erika in her glowing-eyed vampire mode. Erika is exposed as a vampire! Another complication! The series is making up for lost time.

And they’re STILL not done! As good a friend as Haruna is, the vampires know they can’t take the risk of being discovered. It’s one of the few times I’ve seen Lori so serious about anything. So it’s time for the memory-loss trick. Erika, if you please? And we get a new whammy. This isn’t the first time Erika has taken her memories away. In fact, it’s the reason Haruna cannot remember Kohei’s first visit to the island. Geez, the episode is dumping EVERYTHING on us! And then we have the moral dilemma. Erika doesn’t want to do it, but she must. Kohei pleads with her. How can she do that to a trusted friend? This leads to an absolutely lovely moment I won’t spoil here. I’ll just say that Fortune Arterial, to my surprise, can indeed deliver big plot points and make them work. I don’t know if it makes up for the wasted episodes but it’ll keep me watching next week.

Sevens: Index II, Fortune Arterial

A Certain Magical Index II 7 finishes its arc sooner than expected. Aside from some pointless lecturing it’s quite fun.

Okay, Kuroko's lecture wasn't bad.

Kuroko goes off alone to face Awaki in their rematch. How she knows where Awaki is I have no idea, but the point is made again that when Index/Railgun characters try to solve all the problems alone they usually meet with misfortune. Also, it’s too early in the episode for a final fight. Kuroko should get her timing straight. After Awako buries her under a pile of furniture, it’s explanation time. Typically for this franchise the bad guy’s motives make next to no sense. Turns out Awaki wants to use the Remnants to rebuild the Tree Diagram in order to give powers to creatures other than humans. Why would she possibly want to do that? Because, we are told, she is ashamed of her special abilities. Why not refuse to use or negate her abilities, then? I told you it makes no sense.

After Kuroko’s rebuttal, basically, “I don’t care what your motives are, you’re still a shithead who hurts people,” Awaki concedes the point by shooting her (well, Kuroko was swinging a lampstand at her, but still …) and uses her abilities to make the building collapse. Improbable though it was, the subsequent scene is the series’ best yet. Misaka clone 10032 has rousted Touma, who meets up with the real Misaka, and it’s cavalry time. It works partly because the action is terrific, also because I thought for a second that Kuroko was actually going to die (at which point we see a hand holding a coin, and I knew it would be all right).

And then we get a satisfying coda. Though Awaki has escaped, Accelerator confronts her and beats her up. I guess the Misaka clone he shares a bedroom with filled him in. Good to see him in action again. At the moment I forget what side he’s on; in this episode he just seems pissed off. And so the arc ends after only two episodes. I could have done without the crazy lectures, but the action scenes were great.

So I figure someone on the staff of Fortune Arterial said “Wait, isn’t there supposed to be supernatural stuff in this series?” and the others said “Oh, yeah,” and the result is episode 7. The school comedy angle only takes up nine-tenths of the episode.

We can break down the story into two parts with the same conclusion. In the first, Kohei discovers that it’s Erika’s birthday, and though immortal vampires are blasé about such things, he rushes out to get her some flowers. She’s touched by the gift, and later, admiring them in her room, she has the same sort of attack she had in episode one. I was wondering if they’d ever come back to that. I suppose you could call it a metaphor for the chest-tightening of adolescent love as well. In spite of her decision not to date anyone, she doesn’t seem immune to romance.

Then it’s as if it never happened. The big swim meet arrives and everyone happily behaves the way they did during the sports fest. Erika is perfectly fine. I wonder if she even bothered to mention her little interlude to Lori. The episode is called “Omen,” and I was beginning to think we’d already gotten one earlier. Would the rest be all swimming pool hijinks? Would there be another attack? Later on, Erika and Kohei have a swimming match. She holds out her hand to help him out of the pool. Aha! I thought, but no. She just slips. But then their faces get too close, and we see the aftermath.

Really, Erika, you should see a doctor.

Now if all we’re going to get is Erika squirming in her bed clutching her breast, I’d get irritated. However, they do feed us another clue. “I want blood! No … I promised …” but that’s all we get. Well, at least it’s SOMETHING. Maybe next week they’ll actually give us a little more. But the way this show works it’ll probably have to do with the annual culture festival. They haven’t used that cliché yet.

Shiki 15, Fortune Arterial 6

In Shiki 15 Toshio has new challenges. As if torturing his undead wife wasn’t enough.

First, Seishin turns his back on Toshio for the whole unfortunate wife incident. He says that killing is never justifiable, no matter how noble the cause. We come back to this thought when Seishin returns and finds someone (probably Sunako) has scribbled notes in his manuscript. “There is no murder.” “Where there is an intent to kill, there is a reason,” etc., things that make him reflect on his attempt to take his own life. He cannot recall a reason for it. The undeads’ theories of murder are naturally going to conflict with those of the living. Is there a correct answer?

Toshio’s next new obstacle is bureaucratic. The vampires have successfully infiltrated the local government office, to the point where they do their business at night. If that isn’t a dead giveaway to Toshio I don’t know what is, but he goes in anyway, to learn they’ve messed with the records to erase any deaths occurring in the village. Chizuru, one of the Kirishikis, even shows up to inform him that his efforts to expose the vampires will come to naught. He can’t even raise up the living; they don’t believe him or refuse to. Meanwhile we go behind the scenes of the new funeral parlor and see that the Kirishikis run a smooth, if eccentric operation. Oh, and Tatsumi is a werewolf. … A werewolf?!?!

Finally, his own staff, appalled at his indifference to a nurse vanishing, are beginning to turn on him. Toshio is completely alone and apparently defeated. That’s when Natsuno shows up. I wondered what became of him. Their conversation is brief and cryptic, but it suggested that Toshio might not be as alone as he thinks. Now, what he’ll do with this information, I mean, what CAN he do, especially since Natsuno just walks away? I think it’s Natsuno’s turn to make a move. Hell, I hope SOMEONE does. The pacing in this series is beginning to drive me nuts.

Let’s turn to another vampire show, Fortune Arterial. It has some flaws, the main one being the vampires hardly do anything at all. The other is that the show is taking a sentimental, almost maudlin turn.

Kanade’s been acting weird, constantly trying to push her sister Haruna and Kohei together to see if any romantic sparks develop. It’s getting a little annoying, but the would-be lovers mainly shrug it off until Haruna finally snaps in front of much of the student body. The rest of the episode deals with reconciling the girls. We get both sides of the story more than once. Kanade feels guilty because Haruna was sick much of the time and got attention, and she resented her for it, and then came the accident (which, by an incredible coinkidink, wiped out all her memories of Kohei’s first visit). So she’s gone overboard to be nice ever since. And Haruna once resented Kanade’s not being sick, so when she got better, had more fun, until the accident. And now she feels Kanade is sacrificing her own happiness for Haruna. And they talk it out under a tree and a lot of delicate piano music plays. “I want you to be happy!” “I can’t be happy unless you’re happy!” Kohei adds some lines about living in the present. Hugs. The whole thing was dull and unsubtle. Please, let’s have some vampires, please! Even sparkly one!

The only thing the vampires do in this episode is dress students up as maids.

God Only Knows 5, Amagami 18, Arterial 5

The World God Only Knows 5 brings us Kanon, an idol singer, who, in an incredible coincidence, just happens to be in Keima and Elsie’s class.

Elsie and the rest of the school adore her. Keima couldn’t care less, and in a long sequence involving Nazi-style rallies, makes it very clear why he prefers 2D idols. The trouble is, while Kanon is nice and sweet to everyone, she has a desperate need to be, er, idolized, and she has weapons (the cutest stun-guns you’ve ever seen!) to make her point, which Keima painfully learns. It comes as no surprise who this week’s girl is. So while Kanon alternately threatens and sings to Keima to win him over (or as she says, to “defeat” him), he works out his own strategy.

Right now we don’t have any clear reason as to why Kanon acts this way. Her manager says she didn’t use to. It could be the lost soul. We see a lot of her at work; everyone praises her every move, and of course her fans adore her. Keima’s indifference certainly gets a rise out of her. But how is he going to turn that into love? It’s a good challenge for him, but then the episode’s end takes a turn into real strangeness, and it might all be moot.

I’m still not in love with the current Amagami SS story arc. But it’s livened up by a couple characters.

Ruriko and Manaka are seniors in the Tea Club, which is in danger of folding after they graduate. The only other person in it is Rihoko (someone I wouldn’t imagine in such a formal situation). In order to attract more members, and because they see Rihoko’s attraction to Junichi, they shanghai him into helping the club with the Founders’ Day ceremonies. It’s a good thing, too. Junichi and Rihoko are making no progress with each other. They’re not really trying. It’s like they’re not even aware. So the show uses other characters to push them together. It helps that the Tea Club girls have a strange but entertaining rapport, Ruriko is the snarky one, Manaka the cryptic one.

Junichi knows what to say to a girl, sometimes ...

But they can’t save the arc by themselves. Junichi and Rihoko do their normal things. They go skating, they talk about their childhood, they talk about the Tea Club. It’s just not very exciting. There’s a sweet moment when Rihoko gives Junichi gloves she knitted for him, but that’s about it. It’s not like I expect dramatics in every scene, especially in this show, but this arc just seems duller than usual. At least they got away from Rihoko obsessing about her weight …

I think the vampire story in Fortune Arterial gave up and went home. This episode is all about the athletic festival and trying to get one grump to participate. The festival goes off with only a minor hitch or two.

They run out of prizes and have to beg sponsors for more. There’s an amusing moment when Kohei is forced to announce a race. Everybody’s having fun, except for Kuze, who indifferently runs her races then wanders off to pet a cat. We get a lot of moments where Kohei just stands there looking at her. There’s a cryptic conversation where she says she doesn’t refuse to do things because she doesn’t like them, well, I don’t know what she’s thinking. Kohei just wants her to join in the fun. Finally she is talked into participating in the three-legged race (with a costume change at the end).

And we get a lot of her being embarrassed and fighting down the fact that she had fun and people had a good time with her. In other words, it was just another athletic festival episode. And it wasn’t bad, not on the level of the one in Toradora, or the Azumanga trilogy, but I’ve seen worse. But again, no vampires. They don’t even use the word. Are they setting us up for something?

Fours: Index, Arterial, Letter Bee

A Certain Magical Index II 4 brings us plenty of what makes the series so fun to watch.

Touma to the rescue.

The first part is surprisingly low-key. The Catholics have Orsola, and Anglicans can’t interfere, Tatemiya goes off to fight them alone. Touma’s job is done. There’s a long bit where three characters just walk, and you can almost hear the gears turning in Touma’s head as he decides what to do. Unlike some others, he is a free agent, and he has no decreed reason to rescue Orsola, except that she’s a girl in trouble. This is reflected in a nice speech Orsola makes while the nuns are roughing her up. She had received aid from people with nothing to gain. What a gift!

Stiyl and Tatemiya close behind him ...

And you figured that Touma, walking in unarmed and facing a battalion of fighting nuns, would need some aid himself. It’s not surprising that Tatemiya joins him, of course, but then Stiyl finds a loophole in the Anglican policy (I knew that cross that Touma gave Orsola would come into play eventually), and Index is there because Touma is. And we got ourselves a big fight between magic users and nuns. Explosions! Fire! Leaping escapes! Epic swordplay (well, Tatemiya just swings his sword and a bunch of nuns go down, but his friends are pretty good)!

... and Index with her light show.

And the show’s specialty: Cult babble! This time it’s Index’s turn to whip it out. “Sheol Fear,” which, according to the fansubbers, “… thoroughly impeaches contradictions in the Christian teachings.” For our purposes, she starts to sing, a light show begins, and the nuns all fall down. Apparently she can use the power of all those secret books in her brain. Nice trick. But the nuns come up with a rather gross way of overcoming Index’s song, and so the episode ends. It was a good one. It had something for everyone, except fanservice.

Fortune Arterial 4 continues to be a most bewildering vampire show. Once again the only hint of threat is an evil smile from an unknown girl at the very end. Oh, and there’s this part at the beginning.

Lori and Erika give Kohei a matter-of-fact rundown of what vampires really are and aren’t. Yes, they drink blood, but consider actually biting people to be kind of gross. They’re indestructable and immortal, but they’re not sure about that. And Erika doesn’t like hot foods. Now, it’s clear that they have some plan for Kohei, at least Lori does, but I’m beginning to think it’s not going to be very sinister.

The remainder of the episode deals with Kohei in charge of the annual athletic festival, a huge undertaking. Kohei is suddenly beset with work. But he’s determined to fit in and make it fun for everyone, and the student body begins to rally around him. I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop, to have him fall ill from exhaustion, or maybe a bloody vampire shows up, but instead we get one inspirational scene after another. While it’s nice that Kohei is testing his strengths and having a good time, after too much of it I was checking my watch. The festival must be next episode. Maybe a vampire, I mean, a new vampire, will show up.

Letter Bee Reverse 4 is a good one. We start with Lag, working on the engines of the imagery lighthouse he maintains with his beloved grandfather, happy that he’ll one day take on the caretaker’s role, when he starts hearing voices … Huh, what?

Guess who the monster is.

It works well. I try to figure out what the heck is going on with no clues except for a flashback scene where we learn Lag is going on a delivery near the same lighthouse. By the time the beloved grandfather shows up with a gun, muttering “hate,” I was thoroughly perplexed. But with any effective mystery, there’s a letdown once the solution is revealed.

The stories are uneven, but Letter Bee can be great to look at.

Once we learn what’s going on (and Lag uses his spirit amber to get to the bottom of this grandfather fellow) it becomes mundane. There’s bonding between Lag and the cool new character, Jiggy. Lag cries at the grandfather’s grave. The usual Letter Bee stuff. But at least the first half had me going.