Five Leaves 11, Daimaou 12 (finale)

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.

Confusion: Angel Beats 12, Daimaou 11

I don’t know what to make of Angel Beats 12. Let’s start with the parts that make sense.

Just about all the students not directly involved in the fighting move on, including Girls Dead Monster all at once. This raises the question: why is the SSS still there? What part of their existence remains unsatisfied? The show doesn’t give an answer, but I suspect it’s out of loyalty to Yurippe, the one person there who cannot accept what happened to her in her previous life, and who can blame her? But is she doomed to stay there? These are questions that come up later, when the show starts getting incomprehensible on us.

And there’s the fighting. The shadows are proliferating, and once again we see an NPC transform into one. The gang regroup, in one of those scenes where someone is about to be killed only to be saved by a newcomer, who tosses off a snappy line. It’s good enough, but we know not much will come of it until the source of the shadows is found and destroyed, and that brings us back to Yurippe, down in the guild’s lair, encountering monsters there, too. Here’s where it gets a little strange. A shadow takes her by surprise and she finds herself in a normal classroom. Asked to read a paragraph, she launches into a speech about her life, and how she has to accept it for what it is. Turns out she was nearly overwhelmed by the shadow, but Otonashi yanks her back. Apparently Kanade could sense her distress. Meanwhile, I shrug. Maybe it will make sense later.

Instead, when she finds the source of the shadows (and the reprogrammed Takamatsu) we get a lot of vagueness. Apparently the shadow program kicked in when love appeared in this world, and we can’t have that in the afterlife, can we? We also learn that Yurippe is the source, and that she could make this world a heaven on Earth. And that the programmer has turned himself into an NPC. After Yurippe destroys the computers and saves everyone, she considers herself a failure. I’m not sure why. Maybe because even if she protects everyone, they’ll move on and she’ll be alone. Maybe it’s because she still was unable to save her siblings in the real world. But then in an unexplained bit, the siblings appear and tell her she doesn’t have to fight any more. And finally she wakes up in the school infirmary with the remaining SSS people smiling at her. … It sort of makes sense, gobbledygook about the computer programs aside, and I wonder if now she’s found the peace she needs. I have a feeling next week is going to have a lot of tearful farewells.

Hoo-boy, and I thought Angel Beats didn’t make sense. Ichaban Ushiro no Daimaou 11 is so crazy and frantic that it makes last week’s episode look peaceful. And Akuto hardly appears at all.

Remember, he’s buried underneath the crashed airship. The rest of the characters frantically battle each other until he shows up again. Let’s see, we got Yamato trying to capture Keena, who is being protected by Fujiko. The two armies are after Akuto, I think. Meanwhile, the student council is going against Eiko, who has that puppet guy on her side.

Last minute rescue #468793 in this episode alone.

But it’s not that simple. Like the Angel Beats episode, this one is full of people saving the day at the last minute and uttering pithy lines. And they’re everywhere. One SC member saves Fujiko, then they come back and save the rest of the SC. Korone saves Eiko from Junko, who was saved earlier by Fujiko, I think. It’s all a blur. Oh, Keena undergoes a change of some sort, and Eiko’s father isn’t dead after all. I think he’s a cyborg now, or always was.

In all the craziness they do manage to do a couple things. First, Eiko is defeated. Junko’s house is sworn to Eiko, but she says fuck that and unleashes her magic sword, turning her back on the traditions that have carried her family yet has helped to perpetuate their share of wars. Instead she’ll fight for love. Rather like what Akuto intends to do with all this demon-lord-every-100-years nonsense. So that story part is done with for now. Keena goes off willingly with Yamato, but you know it’ll be more complicated than that. And Hiroshi/Braver is still around, reluctantly siding with Yamato for now, which sets the stage for next week’s finale. There’s no way it can top the fireworks in this episode, but that’s what I said after the LAST week’s.

Durarara!! 21, Daimaou 10

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

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.

Daimaou 8

Ichiban Ushiro no Daimaou 8 is a mish-mosh of secret plans and monsters, oh, and Akuto and Keena.

Really, there are several storylines going on in this episode. We have Eiko and someone plotting … something. There’s an odd one concerning Junko’s possible marriage to Akuto, which takes Junko by surprise. There are further adventures of Hiroshi/Brave. There’s Fujiko, planning to control the loose monsters and subsequent tentacle rape in the dragon’s lair. But mostly it’s about Keena, and Akuto’s conflicting feelings about her. Keena is the ditziest girl in the show, and in spite of that bit of jewelry Akuto might have given her years ago, you get the feeling that these two probably shouldn’t end up together. Akuto is worried about her skipping classes and hanging out with him—it can’t be good for her reputation. It’s not that Keena doesn’t care, instead she seems absolutely clueless about it. She also does incredibly weird and stupid things, like stealing the monster’s egg from Fujiko’s room. Why does she do it? Because she likes egg with her rice … Absolutely clueless …

Now that the demon lord has been awakened, so to speak, monsters are proliferating. We meet the tentacled one early on, and the giant two-headed chicken later. It’s interesting that when Akuto meets the latter he does next to nothing against it except drive it off. It’s Brave who dispatches the chicken, to the delight of the city crowd, not to mention Yuri, an idol singer he has a crush on. It’s not much of a battle but it was nice to get some sustained action going.

This isn't the action I was referring to.

Because after that there’s more foreboding talk, this time by Lily, and more Junko marriage stuff. The episode just wandered aimlessly around, getting nowhere.

Daimaou 7, Neko Overrun 6

A messy episode for Ichiban Ushiro no Daimaou, as they try to do too many different things and not have them fit together.

First, Korone is shot, but being an android, apparently it doesn’t mean much to her. What does is that she’s failed in her mission to seduce Akuto and is off to face her superiors. But that’s not what the thrust of this episode is about.

To no one’s surprise (no one watching, that is) we learn that “sorting hat” of this show designated Hiroshi to be a hero. His family and neighbors on the island can’t believe it. He’s scrawny and not very brave. So he’s conflicted by responsibilities and his apparent weakness.

Then this guy shows up, with his own giant sea cucumber of island destruction.

What his motives are no one explains. He babbles on about art and noise and how destroying the island will make a great work of art. He gets a little lewd with Keena and preadolescent Yukiko, and generally makes life miserable for everyone, including Hiroshi, who is brushed aside like an ant and falls into the lake, still thinking of his responsibilities and failures. The next thing we know he’s at a shrine pulling a sword out of a stone, for chrissakes. Guess what? The sword is a device-thingy with the codename “Brave!”

If I had to wear that suit, I wouldn't want to be a hero either.

I mean, c’mon! Beyond the silliness of the outfit, I could be a hero if I had a power suit like that! You can predict the rest of the episode by now. Only a couple twists: Korone returns, and Hiroshi (still in his super suit) and Akuto have a brief confrontation over the life of the weird guy. In one of the episode’s few nice touches, Hiroshi backs off because he trusts Akuto’s judgement.

Wow, a messy episode. It’s redeemed a little because Hiroshi has been elevated beyond wimpy sidekick status.

While Mayoi Neko Overrun still can’t get its pacing in place, the eccentricity of episode 6 shines through. Not only that, but they almost completely avoid the sentimental lapses which often makes the show stumble. Just when you think they’re leaning towards such a moment, they madly veer back or sublimate it into the background.

Ieyasu: visionary director.

Chise wants to publicize her club, so they decide to do a music video and post it on YouTube. First, Chise and Fumino can’t agree on the song, and you think that it’ll wind up as a “Let’s all cooporate” scene (which, okay, DOES happen, but only later, and it’s not so bad). Then Ieyasu, the director, goes power-mad and forces Chise (she of the unlimited bankroll) to jet everyone around to exotic locals and do things like paint part of the Amazon Forest autumn colors, or dump snow on the pyramids, and you think they veer off into an introspective bit where he regrets it. But no, in both cases they become comic backdrops. While preparing to shoot, Fumino hums her song and Chise yells at her to shut up in the background, while Ieyasu announces his latest bizarre shooting plan, Takumi keeps seeing legendary creatures and grows more and more tired. It’s repeated, locale by locale, all for essentially the same shot, which works as the punchline.

And you know? It works. Each time they repeat it it’s more outlandish. The girls’ background bickering gets sillier, Takumi gets more tired, the dumb shot gets more absurd. It’s a shame they have to add a little drama at the end involving being stranded on a mountain and the aforementioned cooperation scene, but at least those are brief and no one’s crying, for once. As for the video, well, it’s what you would expect from Ieyasu. When this show works, it works very well.

Five Leaves 4, Daimaou 6, Working!! 6

House of Five Leaves 4 gives us brief scenes of how Yaichi slowly put his group together, and beyond that does little but bring up more complications for our hapless ronin Akitsu.

Akitsu still doesn’t consider himself a part of Five Leaves, and he hasn’t yet sent any of his ill-gotten gains to his family. Yet he continues to do about anything Yaichi asks him to, including moving into the brothel where Yaichi hangs out to be a paid bodyguard. It’s becoming clearer that he’s simply too curious about Yaichi to back out, which puts him into uncomfortable situations. He tries to ask the others about Yaichi. Matsu (who, in a flashback, meets Yaichi while on the run from the authorities) is vague. Even though he dislikes Akitsu, Ume is more open, but doesn’t tell him much of use, only that he’s getting dissatisfied. Otake is just as unhelpful.

Yaichi himself looks like he is about ready to open up, but doesn’t. But doesn’t. As one of the prostitutes says, “Everyone has their own reasons for being here.” But considering the pasts that most of the characters have, it’s not a good idea to start talking about it. Pure, innocent Akitsu is alone in this.

There’s another hitch. Akitsu has been feeling weird. His legs aren’t working right and feel dead. He stumbles a few times. It might be that he isn’t eating, or he’s suffering from what Yaichi calls “Edo Agony,” whatever that is. Googling doesn’t find anything I can use. I don’t know if it’s going to play a part in the ongoing story, but it’s good to note.

Ichiban Ushiro no Daimaou 6 is a mish-mosh as they crank up the next story arc. Meanwhile, the fanservice is really starting to bug me.

We start right off with story and fanservice. Korone, being artificial, must follow orders, I suppose. And you begin to wonder again if anyone save Akuto doesn’t have an uterior motive. The school moves, inexplicably, to the beach and you know what that means, especially with one character intent on seducing Akuto. Even before the beach she tries various strategies, playing this role and that to attract him. When they get to the beach it gets even worse.

Korone doesn't mind involving others in her seduction attempts.

So we get Korone dropping her top, pulling down Junko’s top, and there’s a scene involving a sea cucumber that left me shaking my head. They manage to do a few other things: Akuto begins to wonder about his feelings for Keena, there’s a demon lord legend about the island that must be investigated, and there’s a conspiracy to knock off Akuto, probably having to do with the legend. There’s also intrigue concerning different factions, and Peterhausen the dragon gets some good lines. But really it’s a mess until nearly the end, where Akuto tries to track down some noises and Korone appears to be shot. I suppose that’s enough for now to keep me watching; maybe they’ll go for the straightforward action next time.

In Working!! 6 we spend some quality time with Souta’s sisters: Kazue, the bossy one, Izumi, the depressed romance novelist, Kozue, the lush, and Nazuna, who plays the “youngest sister card” a lot, but who is actually quite together and practical.

The Takanashi brother and sisters, minus Nazuna.

We see the dynamics of this dysfunctional household, and it’s a little better than I had feared, and a little worse. Better in that it isn’t just four girls picking on their brother all the time. They bicker amongst themselves as well. Kazue tries to keep everyone in line, but everyone is so strange that they can’t do much to change. While Souta is indeed henpecked, he comes out looking more like the straight man. And his sisters do need him around to help buffer the clashes between them. Unfortunately, the characters are all so many types, and their routines begin to repeat and grow stale after a while.

Breaking up these scenes before they become too tedious, we get back to the girls Souta works with. Okay, they’re pretty shallow, too. It’s White Day, and Souta goes around giving gifts to them and we get a chance to look at their reactions. Incidently, this is the first episode where Inami doesn’t hit anyone, though she does crush a pillar. Really, it’s no more than a chance for them to develop the Inami-crush-on-Souta angle, but the scenes are nicely done, especially when Inami, walking home with Souta, encounters Kazue, who roughs Souta up. Inami feels a little sorry for him. Add to this the bits where we see Inami, touched by Souta’s gift, being completely unable to deal with this emotion in a way we can understand (though her mother mentions how happy she’s acting). So, in the end, we see that Souta gets a lot of grief from women in his life, but also how he’s making their daily lives a little happier.