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Five Leaves 12 (finale), Ookami-San 1

July 2, 2010 Leave a comment

House of Five Leaves 12 flies by, finished before I realized it. It clears up the confusion I was having about Yaichi’s background. I hadn’t realized that the kidnapped kid early on was in fact him. And the nature of what happens in this episode makes me rethink Akitsu’s role in it.

You could argue that he’s the main character, but Akitsu is in no way involved in the fight, nor are any of the other Five Leaves members. Instead, it’s Yagi, and later Jin, who give Yaichi the information he needs. Yagi tells the story of the young Seioshin, saying he died in an epidemic, but noting that the previous Yaichi was found drowned in a well soon after. Surely that wasn’t a coincidence. He spells out what he think truly happened, and our Yaichi actually reacts to it.

Then he learns from Jin, who’s about to kill him, that the previous Yaichi was not the one who delivered the money and a request to kill him. The sense of betrayal he’s been carrying around all these years was for nothing. So Yaichi, drunk as a skunk, kills Jin, and goes to sob at his namesake’s grave. Where his bodyguard finds him.

In the final scene (above), the roles have reversed. It is now Akitsu giving comfort to Yaichi, who accepts it. While Akitsu’s involvement in Five Leaves and development as a person is part of the story, in the end it’s Yaichi’s tale that drives everything. So while Akitsu, the ronin, is supposed to do the fighting, his role in the final episode is only to look for Yaichi and comfort him. That is Akitsu’s story, and it is not the only one. Akitsu’s curiosity, his efforts to learn Yaichi’s story, was simply a means for us to learn about it, too. Yaichi is the driving force of this series, not Akitsu. Odd it took me so long to figure that out.

It was a good series, a little difficult to follow, but I blame myself for that. I only wish there hadn’t been so many dark scenes. It raised hell on my screenshots.

I think that’s the last of the shows ending this week. Time for the new season. We start with (deep breath) Ookami-San to Shinchinin no Nakama-Tachi, a show that gave off weird vibes for me the moment it started. A girl chasing a boy down an alley, with that artwork and those character designs, my mind went “Is this actually Railgun?”

At first I thought Ryoko looked a little like Misaka, but I take that back. However, little Ringo looks like Komoe (and is voiced by Kanae Ito, who played Saten), and the narrator, Satomi Arai, played Kuroko. When she would go on about Ryoko’s bust size I could almost imagine Kuroko in the booth, with Misaka ready to smack her. Railgun was a good series. I’m not sure this show is going to be.

There are two stories. One concerns the work of the Otogi bank, which helps out students, and their efforts to prevent a tennis star from quitting the team, for the sake of Kakari, who’s smitten with him. The other story concerns the bank’s new recruit, Ryoushi, who is terrified of being seen, and his efforts to prove himself, and constantly failing because of his fear. It comes down to a race to stop Ooji from turning in the resignation.

By the way, everyone is based on fairy tale characters.

There are some nice things about this show. The narrator is snarky and a little perverted, just like Kuroko. On the other hand, the narration gets in the way at times. Ryouko could be an interesting character. Ryoushi, probably not. We don’t learn enough about the other characters. It looks like this will be a problem of the week series, and I’m not crazy about those. I’ll overlook the usual ep1 problems, introducing the characters (clumsily done with narration), setting up the situation, the new boy trying to make good, etc. Don’t know if I’ll keep this one, but I’ll give it another episode or two.

Categories: House of Five Leaves

Five Leaves 11, Daimaou 12 (finale)

June 25, 2010 Leave a comment

I’m not going to say very much about House of Five Leaves 11, because I’ve lost track of the backstory, that is, the events that led to Sei becoming Yaichi, if that’s the case.

In the present day, the Five Leaves gang collectively feel that the end is coming. Ume no longer needs the money. Their latest kidnap victim is in their basement, and they are told by the house that the man comes from that they don’t want him back, just kill him. This sets Yaichi off, and he’s been acting odd anyway.

And then Jin shows up, prepared to kill Yaichi, but Akitsu’s presence scares him off. And Akitsu winds up asking Yaichi a lot of questions about Five Leaves, one of which, about the past coming back, enrages Yaichi. To show how much Akitsu has developed over the series, Akitsu announces he’s going to talk to Elder to get his answers.

The young Yaichi.

When he does, I begin to lose track. The flashback we get shows Yaichi killing a sworn brother because another sworn brother attacked a rival gang boss, and Elder is involved (the one other time he’s seen Yaichi). Yet the night scenes in this series are so murky I have trouble telling who is who and what their relationships are. Well, we have the motivations that set up next week’s finale.

I expected to be confused by Ichiban Ushiro no Daimaou, in fact, I wanted it. I wanted a huge climax with explosions and weird cosmic things happening. The finale had all of that, but in the end it felt like a letdown after the craziness of the last two episodes.

First, Akuto has to defeat Braver/Hiroshi, who has decided he’s on the side of the status quo. Apparently Hiroshi believes Akuto is following through with his destiny. Then it’s Yamato’s turn. Yamato’s whole schtick is that he wants to control the God Suhara himself for the sake of the Law of Identity, who happens at this time to be Keena. This means kidnapping her, though before, in her other mode, she was coming peacefully. Both Hiroshi and Yamato are people working on the wrong side for noble ends. Yamato especially. He’s betraying the system for love. Akuto defeats them both with an even bolder plan.

We know he intends to destroy the gods; it doesn’t bother him to learn (from half and android that Yamato sliced up) that the Demon Lord is a proxy set to destroy humanity on the gods’ behalf. So going against them isn’t just rogue act, it’s probable suicide. Peterhausen the dragon and Keena (naked, as usual) come along without fear as well. Here’s where the cosmic stuff happens, like Peterhausen sprouting cables to link into the computer (that looks like a giant tree), android girls with bows and arrows, and we’d already seen the staircase that twist like DNA, Keena meeting her law-identity self (fully clothed) in some other dimension …

Did I mention the black hole?

And, as I said, it’s a letdown. Big light shows, explosions, etc. And when it’s all over everyone thinks except for the core characters that the Demon Lord has been defeated. Things go on at school as normal, everyone behaving the same way, except the school is in ruinous shape. Akuto even sees the career predictor again, who tells him—he’s going to be a demon lord. In other words, nothing much has changed. We have to wonder if the gods actually died or not. Maybe they have a sequel planned. I wonder if it’ll be worth watching.

This series was … all right. Not a keeper. But I watched it through and was entertained much of the time. But if they can’t reach an actual conclusion I wonder if there’s a point to watching it more, or watching it again.

Five Leaves 10, Maid-Sama 12

June 21, 2010 Leave a comment

Another episode of House of Five Leaves where the intrigue mixes in with everyday life to the sound of accordian music.

Yaichi (the present-day one) has told Akitsu not to hang around with Yagi, but he must know that this won’t happen, so he gives him some rules for behavior. Indeed, everyone in this show can read Akitsu like a book. And in spite of pretending to be weaker than Yagi in sword-practice (in front of Sachi, his sister), Yagi can tell what is really going on. It all has to do with Yaichi’s past, and we actually learn some stuff this time. It turns out he was befriended by Yagi and the older Yaichi as a boy.

Yagi sees through Akitsu's well-intentioned lie.

What’s more, it’s possible he was the one who betrayed the Bakuro gang all those years ago, and that his name was Seinoshin. No doubt he took the name Yaichi in honor of the servant who befriended him. So now he’s got a man with a scar on his face (Jin, I believe), hunting for him out of revenge, and Yagi the cop is on to him, too. No wonder Yaichi’s so depressed this episode.

The more everyday story belongs to Sachi and her experiences in Edo. She decides to go home after all, because she’s homesick. This is a running theme in the episode, as some prostitutes ask Akitsu about his hometown, because they’re homesick for theirs, prompting Akitsu to buy them some sweets to cheer them up. He says it’s Yaichi’s influence, but I can’t see it that way. It’s all layered together, one side of the story quietly alternating with the other. But I have a feeling we’re going to have some genuine threat next time, now that Jin has shown up.

Kaichou wa Maid-Sama 12 is all about the sports festival, the twist being that the winner of each event gets a specific prize. Since the school is mostly boys there’s only one girls’ team, and one of the prizes is a kiss from the terrified Sakura. You can guess how Misa feels about this.

It goes as planned, the only problem is in the obstacle race, the one for which the kiss will be rewarded. Another contestant tries to cheat, but Usui, ho-hum, saves the day and hands the prize to Misa. I’m just reciting the story here, but there’s nothing much to say about this part at all. I just enjoyed Misa’s distorted facial expressions as she competes.

Surprise!

And when you hear that the second half is going to have a costume race, you already know what’s going to happen, right? Happily, they add some twists. Misa indeed accidentally gets the maid costume (Why does it matter? It won’t expose her. I guess it’s the cruel irony of it), but with a mixup in the changing room the costume winds up with vice-president Yukimura, a nonathletic boy who nonetheless is dying to participate in this one event he has a chance in. But now finds himself wearing a humiliating costume, tripping over his skirts and being jeered by the other boys. Naturally this pisses off Misa all over again.

It’s a nice enough moment. The show of solidarity Misa and Usui demonstrate with Yukimura was nice. It’s good to see Usui in particular work to help a male classmate. But as a whole it has some problems. Most of the other contestants are wearing stupid costumes, too. Yukimura should have expected this. The changing-room scene takes way too long. But at least they added a few twists to what could have been an incredibly predictable episode.

Five Leaves 9, Maid-Sama 11

June 14, 2010 Leave a comment

Every time you think there’s going to be an action scene in House of Five Leaves you’re wrong. Such scenes are quick, often off-camera, and instead we see the ramifications, such as in ep9, where Akitsu is preparing to rescue Matsu.

The rescue just happens. There’s one false alarm early on where another bodyguard nearly challenges Akitsu, but in the end it’s a blow in the dark, and Matsu being carried home. The event here isn’t the rescue, it’s that Akitsu is doing it at all, and that Matsu is now indebted to him as well, not that Akitsu counts such things. The latter is old news, the former is actually new. Akitsu shows more confidence then he has at any time in the show, probably due to his sense of obligation to a person he calls a friend (and the other Five Leaves). And it may lead to trouble.

Five Leaves is happy to have Matsu back, but it’s the way Akitsu did it that worries them. Akitsu got an in as a bodyguard thanks to Yagi, and it turns out he’s a policeman. This means he knows all about the original crime, the kidnapping, and the rescue. He even gets the cards back and gives them to Akitsu. What is his game? That’s what Aichi wants to know. In the meantime he forbids Akitsu from hanging out with him, knowing Akitsu cannot keep a secret. To Aichi and the rest of the gang, Akitsu was once a cipher, but now he’s seen as a man who brings in trouble.

And now there might be even more trouble. After all this talk of family in the country, one of them, Akitsu’s little sister Sachi, shows up at Ume’s sake place. She’s run away from home to avoid a forced marriage. What’s she’s going to do in Edo is anyone’s guess. Right now, for the characters and us watching, she’s more of an amusement than a troublemaker. She develops an interest in Otake and follows her around. She’s never been to the big city before and wants to take it all in. You know there’ll be trouble in the future, but for now everyone is watching the brother/sister dynamic and having fun with it. And it IS fun to see awkward, shy Akitsu take on the big brother role when she shows up.

Kaichou wa Maid-Sama 11 is amusing enough. Though it’s fairly predictable.

After Usui inadvertently pays a visit to Misa’s home, and is spotted by Sakura and Shizuko, they speculate on what Usui’s private life must be like. Well, not Misa. She says she’s not interested, but when the other two decide to tail Usui she gets dragged along, you suspect not too unwillingly. At first it looked like it would be a comedy of errors involving the maid cafe, since they spot him going in just as Misa is getting ready for her shift, and they don’t know her secret, but that wouldn’t cover a whole episode, so they just start there and move on.

He visits a rich sports club, an expensive suit store, and a fancy restaurant, while they manage to tag along. The fun comes not from the fact that they’re intimidated by all these places and awed by Usui’s wealth, but by the fact they’re wearing those ridiculous disguises and still manage to get service. This is good, because we’re not really learning anything new about him, and the speculating gets old after a while.

It will come as no surprise to anyone to say Usui’s been leading them on the whole time (Apparently he’s the only one in the show that can recognize a dumb disguise). This leads to him doing more and more bizarre things until Misa gives up. But in the end we do learn something. Animals hate him. A cute enough episode.

Five Leaves 8, WORKING!! 10

June 8, 2010 Leave a comment

House of Five Leaves 8 centers on Matsu, the thief, mostly. There are countless other things lurking on the sides, slowly coming together.

The first is the mystery of Yagi, and why he’s taken such an interest in Akitsu. He’s also interested in Yaichi, though with this show, he naturally doesn’t say why (Everyone in this show is interested in Yaichi, probably for completely different reasons). Also, Ume, who dislikes Matsu, takes an active role at determining where Matsu is, even though Ume has announced he is leaving Five Leaves and going legit. There are, it seems, bonds that are not easily broken.

As for Matsu, he has obligations to people he respects, too. Kiku once loaned him money to pay for his daughter’s treatment (such is this show that no one in the gang even knew he had a kid), and he’s been paying him back little by little, which is why he’s still in the gang. He learns that Otsu, a rival, stole something from Kiku, and he’s caught when he tries to steal them back. The thing is, Kiku did not want Matsu involved, and told him so. It’s not his problem. But Matsu can’t abide seeing someone he respects so much treated like that, so he goes anyway.

Which brings us to Akitsu. He also feels indebted, this time to Matsu, though he gives no reasons why. Possibly because he’s a teammate. He also goes against the opinions of those around him (in this case, Five Leaves), and uses Yagi to get him that bodyguard job to infiltrate Otsu’s place (So now he’s indebted to Yagi, too). “So now,” Matsu says as he sees Akitsu, “I’m indebted to three people.”

An interesting episode with a more straightforward narrative than usual. It was good to see the characters helping each other out because they can, and especially to see Akitsu taking the initiative for once.

WORKING!! 10 continues to lean towards Inami and her interesting relationship with Souta, to the detriment of most everything else. They try a bit where Kyouko goes off on a business trip, leaving Yachiyo despondent, and Aoi tries to draw some attention, but those are pretty much sideshows again.

They do succeed at times in letting characters misunderstand each other’s intentions, with strange results. Nazuna, Souta’s kid sister, curious when he sees her brother and Inami walking home together—using the magic hand—wrangles her way onto the staff for a day to observe. Inami tells herself she won’t hit Souta while his sister’s around, but does so anyway, leading to a little talk where Inami tells her she likes him, but Nazuna thinks she means he likes being hit. Thus, Souta’s life is made just a little crazier.

Then there’s the aftermath of last week’s crossdressing affair. Naturally Souma has taken pictures, but that’s not the worst part, or maybe it is. Souta and Inami’s relationship has changed in a complicated way, and both worry for different reasons. Inami is coming to grips with the fact that she likes him, even though she hates all men. Meanwhile Souta is wondering if Inami’s change of attitude is because she now looks down on him as a transvestite. Again, talking about it doesn’t do much except give Souta another bruise in the face, but at least this time, it’s reassuring, at least to Souta. Now, why, with all the abuse he’s thrown at her, he’s still determined to cure her and be her friend, I have no idea. Maybe Souta is a masochist after all.

The trouble is, right now there’s no way out of this. Minami will be torn between her guilt, her feelings toward Souta, and her androphobia until … something happens. Even Souta knows it will take time. I don’t think the show has many episodes to go. So I think we’re going to see these characters colliding with each other until the season ends.

Five Leaves 7, Yumeiro 32 (not 31, as I first thought)

June 4, 2010 Leave a comment

House of Five Leaves 7 goes the way of the ones before it. We learn a little about Yaichi’s past, and that of Akitsu.

Some of this comes from Kaichi visiting the Elder, who recognizes him and warns him about the return of the Kuhei Bakuro. Akitsu is still curious about Kaichi’s past and he learns from the Elder that Kaichi used to belong to that gang. When these guys finally do show up I bet the show will liven up a bit … No, it won’t. But it looks like the past is going to come back to bother some people. With Durarara! going the way it’s been, this is a running theme in current anime.

Kaichi says he doesn’t care for the past, that the present is much better. Akitsu, thinking about his own past, wishes he could extricate it so easily.

He has his crippling fear of people, and we see him challenged by a samurai and running away. We’ve seen him capably handling his sword in the past. It’s not the fear of fighting. And there’s something about that in his past, that we only see in a vague flashback of his brother, not enough to come to any conclusions. Later, the lady who runs the brothel where he stays has him fight Yaichi, and he nearly panics when the girls run over to watch. What’s more, Yaichi’s presence intimidates him, one of the reasons why he’s so fascinated by he man. But he’s also befriended by Yagi, who offers to spar with him privately. Yagi has secrets of his own, probably, and he’s doing this not simply out of kindness. Everyone in this show is up to something. And considering he takes Akitsu on a visit to a grave belonging to someone named Yaichi, guess what his motives are. With all the interest Yaichi is stirring up it’ll be a relief to see what he does when his past starts catching up.

Yumeiro Patissiere 32 has an interlude in a sweets shop district, a tropical fruits shop, before getting back to the fun of the Grand Prix.

(By the way. The fansubbers mistakenly called this episode 31, a fact I discovered after watching this episode and wondering why it wasn’t like the previews. So I skipped an ep. Looking for a real 31 now.)

The first half is fun enough. Ichigo goes beserk and buys everything before meeting a girl named Natsuki, who tells them to come to a certain shop. There team Ichigo is presented with a lavish feast of prepared fruits that even impresses Kashino. It’s all happy-happy, Ichigo’s made a new friend, and we’re all wondering when the sucker punch is coming.

These girls are daughters of fruit plantation owners in Okinawa and have been doing things with fruit all their lives. And they’re two years above Ichigo and her team. And guess who Team Ichigo’s next opponent turns out to be? Right! And what is the theme? Right again! A plated fruit dessert! This is a fascinating dilemma for Ichigo’s team. Not only are they going against highly-trained specialists who are actually in high school, who could maybe beat Team Ichigo anyway, but they’re also new friends with absolutely no animosity towards them. Natsuki even offers to share their imported fruit (Ichigo kindly refuses), and at the end of the episode they even show Ichigo their planned dessert. Never in this show has an opposing team been that open. They must figure they’re that good, they don’t have to be secretive.

For Team Ichigo to win they shouldn’t use any tropical themes in their dessert, but that leaves them with no strategy whatsoever. They look to Ichigo for inspiration, and she doesn’t have any. Oh, there are little signs of a deepening relationship between Ichigo and Kashino, which kind of weirds me out.

One more mystery. WTF?

After they make some test desserts Ichigo has Vanilla shrink them all down to fairy size before eating. Why? For what purpose? For the hell of it? Sometimes I just don’t understand this show.

Five Leaves 6, Angel Beats 9, Neko Overrun 8

May 31, 2010 Leave a comment

House of Five Leaves 6 continues with characters only explaining what they have to, and little if anything to Akitsu, but it’s notable in that Akitsu actually does something. We carry on with the story of Senkichi, the man who asked the Elder for money last week. The blackmailer, Denshichi, won’t leave him or his past alone.

And there’s more to it. Denshichi’s boss is coming to Edo, and apparently Denshichi wants Senkichi and his skills to join them, whether Senkichi wants to or not. What’s more, Denshichi wants to know where the Elder is living, to get the money he thinks the Elder is giving Senkichi to give him. Maybe he’s just trying to eliminate the middleman. Anyway, with lots of threats and accordian music, it takes us to a confrontation at the Elder’s, where Akitsu is still recuperating.

Interesting that Akitsu says this twice, both times of the presence of a man who everyone, including Ume, considers a “saint.” But I suppose Akitsu’s motives, like everyone else’s, is his own.

So after six episodes Akitsu has had to fight twice, and this time he merely disarms Denshichi. It takes Senkichi to do the killing. So the Elder is safe for now, and able to continue his peaceful life of retirement, taking in the occasional kidnap victim. But let’s not speak about such things, shall we? In this show there are always things that must not be said …

Angel Beats 9 is where Otonashi learns the truth about Kanade, though I suspect everyone watching will have figured it out already. However, it does so in a rather clumsy way.

Kanade/Angel is in the infirmary. The SSS gang are wondering which version of her will wake up. The odds aren’t good that the nice one will. Meanwhile, Otonashi, holding a bedside vigil, falls asleep, and we learn there was more to his death than he first thought. Sadly, it doesn’t work too well. It was nice to see that he initially survived the rail crash, possibly saved the lives of some others, and in his dying moments filled out his organ donor card to save even more. In other words, his belief that he died without accomplishing a single thing is false. The whole survivor sequence goes on a bit long and is fairly predictable, not to mention maudlin; this show has a tendency to do that. It also feels clumsy, like the creators were plugging a plot or motivation hole they had forgotten about.

The conversation with Kanade when he wakes up puts things back on a even keel (for this show). Kanade’s role in all this is to guide these high school kids who had had rotten lives to a more happy existence, so they can smile and let go. But she’s so awkward about it that it’s driven everyone to this bizarre state of war. It’s a weird conversation, with Otonashi agreeing to secretly help her, but presents us with a nice point: Now that Otonashi has seen his true past, he still hasn’t moved on. Is it because of Kanade? Because he wants to ease Yurippe’s distress? Perhaps a little of both.

For a moment I thought I was watching Saki all over again, but no, it’s Mayoi Neko Overrun, a show that’s not afraid to try weird concepts, and half the time, fail. This episode, happily, pretty much succeeded. Chise invites the gang to test a new game called Superblocks. The concept isn’t new. You have to pull out blocks from a tower and place them on the top. The twist comes from the fact that if you succeed you have to follow the directions written on it.

Naturally, Chise is cheating. She’s getting information on where the safe and non-humiliating blocks are. And naturally, it begins to go wrong. So basically what we get is a half-hour of watching Chise’s manipulations, and watching the characters forced to do silly things. It passes the time.

Interesting crisis at the end, concerning who will get to pull out the “Kiss a member of the opposite sex” block when Takumi is the only male left. If Fumino, who sees the writing, chooses it, she’ll have to kiss Takumi. If she declines, Chise would be happy to take it. Goodness knows if (meow) Nozomi will or not. And what if Takumi takes it? They stretch it out too much, but overall it was a fun episode that makes up for the botched experiment they tried last time.