Other finales have the villains defeated, or the hero getting the girl, or vice-versa, but in the Bakuman world the heroes reach a goal only to get another one thrust before them. The boys spend the episode overworking, again, changing their chapter one manuscript in any way they can to improve it, not even attending the New Years party (leading to an unexpected penalty for Hattori) because Mashiro was reworking the character designs (inspired by Kaya’s phone strap thingies) and Takagi was thinking of new character names. I thought it was too much, but it does make the story better. And we are introduced to two new assistants, Moriya and Shiratori, who start bickering immediately over that old question of art vs. popularity. I suspect they’ll be useful for aesthetic questions down the road. And it ends in triumph, PCP’s first chapter stomps the competition, yay, then gets turned on its head when the boss says he will won’t hesitate to cancel the series if it slips too far. Maybe he still feels burned by the boy’s rebelliousness and that committee vote. So this workingman’s anime goes. There’s always another deadline and more challenges. Their success drives their competitors (who are also loyal friends) to work harder, which inspires the heroes to work harder. Happily, there is a season three coming.
Amagami SS Plus 13 promised us an all-girls bath episode, and that’s exactly what we got. Junichi does actually appear at the start, but mostly it’s the girls attending a baths opening, half-price for women, and for some reason the place is mostly empty apart from them. I hope that’s not a bad sign for the business, but I digress. What we get is, of course, the girls wearing towels and little else, and we get to see references to the first season. I don’t rememeber Kaoru and Ayatsuji being so competitive about staying in the hot water. Haruka brings Jessica along. We get a reprise of Rihoko and the dead skin-eating fish, and her laughter. MY biggest laugh came from Ai’s discovery of the ramen bath, the ramen metaphor being my favorite part of the original series. There are endless boob references mostly inspired by Sae … you get the idea. Miya wanders around and laughs a lot. A silly episode to end a silly series that rarely lived up to the original. But it mostly had the same lightheartedness, the sense of fun that made the first series so watchable. For that reason I’m a little sad that there won’t be any more, but then, what would they do with more episodes?
Oh, and Kill Me Baby ended. Okay, this wasn’t a very good show, but it wasn’t as bad as many people say. This episode had Rie Kugimiya on helium!
Another 11, jam packed with craziness and deaths, apparently wasn’t long enough to show them all.
Another 12 picks up right where we left off. I think the first minute had three or four additional deaths thanks to the homicidal landlady and the hotel burning and all. And the chandelier that lands on a handful of students. One of them manages to squeeze free and runs for the exit LOOK OUT FOR THE PILLAR! … Oh, damn … That moment made me giggle. I think whatever being was in charge of the mayhem was giggling a little at that point, too.
Okay, fun is fun, but this is the final episode. There is a problem to be solved amidst all the mayhem. Okay, two problems: finding the dead person and killing them, and staying alive when some of the people who are also trying solve the problem think you’re the dead person. Both Kouichi and Mei have this second problem. Mei’s already been gone at by two people (yet she remains so eerily calm–only when there’s a weapon pointed directly at her does she show any reaction at all), and now Kouichi’s the intended victim of Kazami, who’s got his dates mixed up. The first death came before Kouichi ever came to class, but no one knew about it, and now he’s past listening to reason. Kouichi is saved by Akazawa, trouble is, she thinks Mei’s the dead one. Soon we got two or three people rolling around hitting and pulling and slashing–oh, the hotel is on fire, remember, and let’s not forget about the lightning, or whatever caused the explosion.
I hate to see a good tsundere go, especially one that’s been trying to fight the good fight all this time, but it seems that if you take a swing at one of the heroes, even under duress, you’re not forgiven. At least she got a few parting lines out. And so, much of the danger is passed, the suddenly heroic librarian has gotten the survivors out, but problem one has yet to be solved, until Mei forces the issue. The identity of the dead person came as no shock to me, but that’s only because it was spoiled for me. And frankly I didn’t really feel that big an emotional connection. Not true for Kouichi, however, and so it was still a moving scene and difficult to watch.
After that it’s back to normal, sort of. Some confusing explanation by the librarian in the cemetery, some chat between the two heroes about getting together again, sort of a letdown. Teshigawara and Mochizuki make another recording for future students, and hide it–why? This is important information. It should be written into the student handbook for chrissakes! And so one of the best shows of the spring season ends. Like most shows, I find things in it that don’t make sense, such as how the class handles its curse, and the curse as a whole was so convoluted that I lost interest in details. The middle parts dragged the story down, but that’s true with a lot of shows. Kouichi was a bit of a wuss but he was brave when he had to be. Mei needed more range. She kept up her undertone behavior even when her life was in danger. But the show did an excellent job in conveying an atmosphere of dread, from the cloudy, decaying feel of the town to the excellent use of music and sound. And if the final two episodes were a bit extreme, they were fun as hell to watch. Another good job by PA Works.
When I started to watch Rinne no Lagrange 12 I thought I had done the same thing as last time, and skipped an episode. What happened? Madoka was going beserk and that flower thing was happening! Now it’s a goodbye party? Nope, I didn’t miss anything. The show was just playing some games with me, or maybe it was telling me where the heart of this show really lay.
We learn some whats but now whys or hows. Lan’s side has shown up on Earth, Lan’s a princess and is going to leave soon. I suppose you could have predicted all of that, so it’s not really a spoiler. Muginami isn’t there, but since no one’s terribly upset you figure she’s not dead. So it’s a bittersweet time when the three must break up, possibly for good. And that’s what this show was all about, much more than any silly intergalactic war or strange cosmic light shows. It was about the friendship of three girls and the town they’ve come to love. Not that I cared. I wanted the battle and the light show. I wanted to know what happened. And finally the show decided to fill me in.
It made even less sense than I expected. The three girls are caught in some kind of glowing triad while the trippy theme plays. Villaguilo is blasting away at them to no effect, and suddenly Madoka’s sitting on a beach, where that strange woman everyone refers to chats with her about personal decisions, though I’m not sure what that has to do with Madoka. Maybe that she shouldn’t let her vox freak out and sit around on surreal beaches. Revived, she gets the others to fly around and around the big cloud, and a big flower is formed. “Aura!” says Moid. But all of a sudden Midori stops dead, The flower withers (in a cosmic, colorful way), Villawhosits attacks, but here comes the De Metrio calvary, and Muginami shows she’s learned nothing and flies him away before he can get killed. So much for the flashback. Now we know.
The trouble is, it raises more questions. Why did Midori suddenly conk out? What was that flower? The show has no interest in telling us. It goes back to goodbyes, and they’re very sweet, but now that we know there’s unexplained story there we know there’s probably more to come. So the sad “bye byes” kind of lose their potency. What’s more, we learn during the previews that not only will there be an OVA but a second series in July! So much for “bye bye!” Not that I mind. This show is by no means a classic, or even very good, but its kind nature, sense of fun, and colorful, trippy aesthetic made it a pleasure to watch every week. Apart from Macross on a good day this is the happiest mecha show I can think of. Sure, I’ll watch more.
And there was Kill Me Baby 12.
I’ve said before that so far Amagami SS Plus hasn’t lived up to the original series. But the return of Haruka as the main girl has brought back a lot of the fun. She was the first girl in the original and has had to wait the longest for her return bout, but she’s making the most of it.
I’d forgotten some things about Haruka. I know she was into playing little games, but not that she would take it to such extremes. Take that impulsiveness, the fact that her grandfather had proposed to her grandmother on her graduation day, in a big-ass British cathedral, and her cousin Jessica Sexy Morishima had the same thing happen, and the gears inside this impulsive senior are spinning like crazy. Soon she’s got Junichi enacting a wedding, visiting the doctor about her “pregnancy” (skipping the wedding night, to Junichi’s chagrin), and a family dinner, dragging poor Hibiki along to be their straight man. The whole thing is playful, much the way the original was and the current series isn’t, though it tries. Then Sexy shows up in Japan.
Think of a girl just as playful as Haruka but less inhibited. What’s more, she’s keen on getting our lovebirds on the same romance/marriage schedule as the rest of her family. So is Haruka, actually, but she’s afraid to beg. Meanwhile, Junichi’s begun to worry what will happen when Haruka graduates and leaves him for college. You see where this is heading. No crisis this time, just a slow realization that they better act fast. So it’s a little odd that the big cliffhanger is Junichi inviting Haruka to her house, even if no one else will be there. It doesn’t matter. This was the most fun I’ve had watching the Plus series. We even get Miya doing an American style laugh: “Ni shi-shi, shi-shi!” I just hope the finale will live up to it.
Moretsu Pirates 11 gets by with nothing getting in the way of its single-minded mission of getting to the golden ghost ship so that Gruier can do whatever it is she had planned to do. Oh, and they need to avoid getting ripped apart from earthquakes and space jumps or getting blown up by the other Serenity ships out there. And they make it. All very straightforward apart from whatever palace intrigues Gruier isn’t telling the Bentenmaru’s crew about, which causes her to gasp and frown every now and then, especially when she discovers her kid sister (and political rival?), Grunhilde is on the Serenity battleship. Whatever. Marika shrewdly takes it in but says nothing much about it. It’d be easy to say she’s now fully in command of the Bendenmaru except that Kane has no problem issuing commands if need be. Or maybe that’s just deferring to the expert. I’ve never been a captain. Anyway, lots of rumbles and bangs and pretty light shows this episode.
On one level, Senki Zesshou Symphogear 11 is compelling. Hibiki’s beloved school is pretty much destroyed, while Ryoko reveals herself as Fine and infiltrates the underground base to find the sword of Durandal. We get Genjuro putting up a manly fight against Fine until something happens that I didn’t quite get and gets skewered (but still alive). The girls fighting near the end made up with story what it lacked in pure action, though the action wasn’t bad. Good, exciting, we-near-the-show-finale stuff. On the other hand, the whole backdrop of sword fragments and reawakened magical figures fighting through history gives the entire thing such a ludicrous bend that the whole thing is in danger of collapsing on itself. The shaft leading to the base turns out to be a tower in reverse. Fine makes it go up instead of down. Apparently (in one of those speeches where everyone stops fighting to listen to her) God destroyed the first tower of babel and so Fine’s built another one. It’s really an ion cannon. To destroy the moon. Yes, to destroy the moon! That will break the curse, she says. I assume she means the curse of multiple languages and the cure for that is song, but they don’t get to that. Yes, this whole plot was in order to destroy the moon. But Chris sacrifices herself (well, sings her swan song, but Tsubasa survived hers, so there’s hope) so that the cannon only blows off a chunk (the moon is apparently a mile or so over the earth). In terms of the characters it’s a moving episode. In terms of the overall story and concept, it’s hard to keep from giggling.
Oh yeah, and Kill Me Baby.
Nisemonogatari 10 … Well, Araragi-kun did keep saying that his sisters were fake …
We don’t know if they both are. In fact, I don’t see any evidence that Karen might also be a supernatural being. First, all her actions, her leaps and handstands and balancing, suggest someone attuned to the physical. Spirits may invade her, but she is a fully human being. As for Tsuhiki, we just haven’t seen very much of her, though, typically for this show, Araragi sees rather too much. She finally participates in a patented ____monogatari conversation three episodes into a story arc named after her. I thought this was just another quirk of the show, but maybe they wanted to keep her under wraps until it became necessary to reveal what she truly is. We get a hint early on when Araragi can’t find any scars on her (which begs a few more questions the show doesn’t seem interested in answering). But the show is full of moments like these, and I almost forgot about it.
Her conversation with Araragi makes more sense in hindsight. She talks about drifting apart from her sister Karen, how she doesn’t have the same sense of justice Karen has. Indeed, “justice” for her is nothing more than an abstract thought. But since we’ve seen very little of her, we don’t take this as something wrong, just the thoughts of an adolescent girl. Indeed, it’s all forgotten until the end. We move on to the Mr. Donut scene, where Shinobu soliloquizes gluttenously and Araragi presses her on the girls we met last episode. Oh, yeah, I’d forgotten about them. Sigh, Kaiki is there, too, and for a large fee he fills in the gaps. Yodzuru is a “specialist” like Oshino, and the posed Yotsugi is her familiar.
The scene at the back of the house is shocking, not so much for the revelation, but for the violence done to poor Tsuhiki, who might be a immortal creature who has infiltrated their household but seems perfectly nice otherwise, at least for a ____monogatori character. Also for the danger they pose to the Araragi household. Tsuhiki’s upper half grows back, but our new enemies threaten to come back tomorrow and finish the job. After ten episodes this is the biggest crisis the show has given us. I’m concerned, but not very. For one thing, how do you kill a phoenix? Second, I can’t believe that Araragi and Shinobu are going to let the girls do what they want without a counterstrategy. It’s the first time all season where the compelling thing isn’t the conversations or the visuals, but the story.
Senki Zesshou Symphogear 10 has a few moments which ought to be compelling, but aren’t. In the first, Kazanari gives another “You aren’t alone” speech to Chris, but it’s overshadowed by the fact that he’s done it before, and because he’s doing it in the ruins of Fine’s headquarters, where Ryoko had recently been ambushed by some gunmen. In other words, Ryoko’s the long-hinted-at spy. It’s no surprise, but for the revelation to come so quickly that it made me gasp. Anyway, Chris winds up sobbing in Kazanari’s arms–but doesn’t join them. That comes later, after we learn about the concept of kan … kannid … hell, I didn’t write it down. Anyway, it’s an ancient word for big, powerful tower. “Aha!” I said “I bet the next scene will be at Tokyo Tower!” And so I won a prize. The next supposedly compelling moment is when Chris joins Hibiki and Tsubasa in order to defeat some airbourne noise. There’s a let’s-all-be-friends scene, initiated by Hibiki of course, in the middle of the battle for fuck’s sake. But since Chris has come through for them before it’s again not so compelling. The only reasonably compelling scene comes at the very end when Miku calls to say the school, Hibiki’s “Home,” is under attack. Even that one isn’t so compelling; earlier in the episode they had a scene talking about the school being home, so naturally it would become a target. Too obvious, and not enough emotional build to succeed.
Inu x Boku SS 9 starts with Ririchihiyo’s nervous planning for her eight o’clock coffee date with Soushi. This filled me with dismay. Scene after scene of Ririchihiyo worrying isn’t the way I want to spend a half hour. And there are indeed scenes like this, livened up a little by Karuta’s tendency to stick tasty food in her mouth, her way of saying, “Don’t worry, life is good.” But the best part of the episode is they never get to the coffee at all. Ririchihiyo get’s dragged into studying, then playing a silly partner game with the other weirdos, allowing each of them to shine for a few moments. Then there are the odd notes on the doors throughout the episode having the characters speak in a confrontation manner or not speak at all. Then after THAT, Kagerou shows up, and the episode is over. It’s as if the show suddenly realized what its true strength is. The trouble is, we’ll have to get to the coffee sometime.
Sae, being so quiet and shy, could have been the weakest girl in the original Amagami SS series, but they covered for that by adding more comic bits. With Plus the same bits are back, and again what could have been a deadly-dull episode was … satisfactory.
There are still dead spots. While Sae has blossomed under Junichi’s tutelage and is now a school idol, now capable of talking not only to vending machines but to human beings, she’s still too quiet to carry a scene. Worse, Junichi has begun to feel the pressure. “What’s THAT loser doing with our beloved Sae?” That sort of thing. It leads to an excruciating scene where he tries to order her lunch and agonizes forever while the queue lengthens behind him. I hate scenes like that. Happily, nothing much comes of it. In the Amagami world many moments which seem important turn out to be nothing at all. The show breezes on.
As for the added bits, they come again through the perpetually amused narrator, and especially from Miya, mishearing some minor news that leads her to believe Sae’s having an arranged marriage. As for the story this time, I’m still looking for it. Junichi panics at the false marriage news which leads to a cute scene. Sae’s put in charge of the founders festival, and Junichi, eager to play instructor again, tells her to go for it. There’s a moment where Junichi’s talking to his buddy and seems doubtful about something, though what, I don’t know. Maybe of what he could possibly do if Sae grows to the point where she doesn’t need him anymore. The episode is called “Doubt,” but apart from that I don’t know what anyone’s doubtful about.
The most annoying thing about Moretsu Pirates is that almost every time the Bentenmaru has a crisis, it turns out to be nothing that requires blasters or explosions. Not to say that the opening scenes in episode 9 were disappointing. It was nice to see Marika quickly snap into action and defuse the potential battle, with Gruier’s help, of course. Um, why did Marika dress her as a pirate, anyway? Was it to see how cute Gruier could look in the pirate captain outfit? … So two dangerous people from a Serenity ship greet Gruier … and then just leave. But, aha! we got a new plot about looking for a mysterious “Golden Ghost Ship.” Sounds like fun … And Marika returns to school. These little deflations will be the death of the show. Why do it? So Gruier could have more cute scenes, this time with the Yacht Club?
Be fair, the show is prepping for future scenes full of intrigue and danger! At least I hope. So after those scenes, and a bit with Chiaki which hints that they may be rivals in this ghost ship hunt, we thankfully return to action as the Bentenmaru prepares to search an impossibly huge sector of space, full of black holes and “clouds,” for the ship. What happened to school? I know there was all that business of learning to fake attendance, but this search realistically could go on until Marika is older than her mom is now. Never mind, it’s a real mission this time. No one’s said anything but Marika seems to have passed all her Bentenmaru training tests and is a real captain. When did that happen? This show skips some important things and pays too much attention to others.
Papa no Iukoto wo Kikinasai 8 is kept interesting by having more than one possible outcome. Yuuta’s friends could find him a new place (what’s wrong with that one place? Relatively luxurious, just a few spirits haunting it. Geez …), they could get evicted and live like rats on the streets, or Sawa, the mean landlady who made Hina cry, could have a change of heart. I was betting on the first, not figuring the amazing powers of cuteness that the girls have on stone hearts, particularly when the heart belongs to a 29 year-old single woman probably wants children of her own. Well, it helped that the actual landlady was the nice older woman whom Hina had already taken a shine to. Overall the episode was a nice mix of little hopes and big worries. Yuuta does most of the latter, but Sora’s doing a good job of sharing them and keeping him honest, telling Yuuta not to stretch himself further than he already has. And she’s right. Much of the appeal of the show is watching how Yuuta copes with enormous challenges. For me, that is. You might just like the cute girls.
A solid episode of Chihayafuru. A little of everything: foreshadowing, old rivals, new rivals and friends, and a good karuta match.
We start with the most revealing scene involving Taichi for a while. After we figure out what everyone’s reacting to (did they plan that shot where it looks like everyone’s looking at his crotch?) we realize, thanks partly to Nishida, what his biggest playing flaw is. He can memorize and recite all the cards randomly, but can he get a feel for the cards in play? It’s an interesting question, but not one we’ll see answered soon, or at least this episode, since we don’t get to watch him play. After we’ve taken care of Taichi for the time being there’s some business to attend to in passing exams (success!) and then we can get to the meat of the episode, the Eastern Qualifier. Sudo shows up so we can get some snarking, exposition about scholarships, and to make a stupid bet. Anyone could have done that exposition, in fact, I’m surprised Taichi or their advisor hadn’t already brought it up, but no one but Sudo would have bet hair. To hell with aspirations and meeting Arata in the finals! Chihaya’s beautiful locks are at stake! And then the tournament begins and we get to the meat of the meat of the episode, Chihaya’s first opponent.
This is what Chihayafuru and much good anime does. Set up a formidable opponent and gradually show their own hopes and fears, i.e., make them human beings. Chihaya must win this first round, if only for the sake of her hair, but to beat her might mean breaking the heart of a 12 year-old girl. And while Ririka is fast, Chihaya uses some experience and training to keep close to her, the girl starts making mistakes, and Chihaya is told to use her speed. In the meantime we get flashbacks about this tot gaining confidence with karuta and the support of her mother, who’s watching breathlessly through the windows outside. It’s a shame if either one of them lose.
But Chihaya instinctively knows this, and while she manages to win the match, her empathy toward the girl makes them friends at the end, to the point where she manages to break up some gossip as they leave the room. Poor Ririka! She gains confidence by playing well only to feel the weight of expectation because of it, much as, come to think of it, Taichi did. And after that, some Arata business which, frankly, carefully-worded phone messages apart, really doesn’t seem to matter much right now.
I haven’t been keeping track, but I don’t recall a Natsume Yuujinchou episode deal with sealing away a god before. That’s rather a step up from some troublesome Youkai. In this episode Natori might have to do just that to a moon god Fudzuki if he can’t unseal Fudzuki’s opponent, Houdzuki, so he can participate in a once-in-ten-years competition. And there are suspicious overtones. Natori is given only one day to find Houdzuki and unseal him, not enough, so it looks like he’ll have to seal Fudzuki instead (to prevent a drought). It sounds complicated, but the underlying themes are the same. Natsume tries to help out the Houdzuki faction (ridiculously), while Natori is not pleased with the thought of sealing away a god, even if it is to protect humans, his goal as an exorcist. Hiiragi wonders if Natori will ever soften up, while Natsume thinks is has already. In other words, the race to unseal the real Houdzuki, or catch the beast, are this week’s plot trappings laid over what’s really important. One good thing about Natori episodes is that it means Hiiragi will be there. She’s one of my favorite characters. Calm, sensible, devoted to Natori, yet she and Natsume share an intimacy formed by shared adventures. They can talk frankly to one another, they try to protect each other. It’s sweet to watch, in a human/youkai way.
In Bakuman II 21 the boys finish up with the gag manga they struggled with and are casting about for new ideas, and they only have three submission meetings to get one. I always liked starting a new project. So many things to try, so many ideas to put on paper! But the boys seem at a loss, as I, with my limited attention span, do whenever I’m free to write anything. Okay, they have some constraints; they’re writing for a boys manga, but even then there are too many possibilities. Often you need an additional constraint, a framework to attach your ideas on. So Miura suggests embellishing an early series of theirs, and later tells them to do a straight fantasy series. I find something satisfying about watching them initially reject the ideas, then try them out, only to find they maybe can do such-and-such a genre after all. It can lead to you discovering things about yourself you hadn’t realized before. So when both ideas are rejected in committee it feels like a low blow. Also sort of ironic. It’s a good episode. I was not expecting both submissions to fail, and you can feel the sense of impending doom hanging over them. Now they’re in a corner but now they have Miura AND Hattori working with them. I guess the latter is trying to get away from the smitten Akina for awhile.
Oh yeah, I also watched Kill Me Baby. Guess how long it takes for Yasuna to get that thing off her head.
Another 7 gives us a Kubodera’s spectaularly bloody death at the very start, and then speculation runs rampant. The fact that the pressures put on Kubodera from both teaching this doomed class and taking care of his sick mother might have driven him to slashing himself up before his shocked students (honestly, couldn’t he have done that at home? The deaths don’t need to be public), which opens up speculation about whether the forces meant for him to do that. Nevertheless, he’s a goner, disproving the ghost student theory and bringing our two heroes back into normal social reality, for what good that does anyone. Now everyone’s trying to figure out who’s the actual dead on in the class, and it begins to settle down into detective work and a field trip that worked once before but not since. Meanwhile there’s a guy Yuuta’s sister knows who might have some useful information, yet no one has actually thought to visit him before? All those corpses through the years, you’d think SOMEONE might have looked him up?
Moretsu Pirates 7 continues with the ridiculous fake pirating of luxury yachts for entertainment value. I wonder how the pirates on board the Bentenmaru sleep at night? Oh, and there’s Marika’s life back on Earth, too, as she tries to sustain both her grades and pirate training and fails at the former, which leads to friends worrying about her. In other words, more of the same … but wait! Something’s afoot! The yacht’s escorts didn’t surrender in the usual manner, and Chiaki gets a worrying phone call, and now they have a stowaway! But she’s a little girl princess (as we learn from the previews), so it looks as though the show’s going to continue with its fluffy ways for the near future, no matter the talk of things changing. The thing that keeps me watching is Marika’s progression. It’s clear that the crew are taking her training as gently as possible, letting her command when she can and stepping in when they have to (like when the escort ships do something suspicious). I’m waiting for the inevitable real crisis where she has to get out of things by herself.
Rinne no Lagrange 7’s interestinng bits, the flashbacks, are about the only interesting thing in the episode. For a while I was confused. We had Lan telling us that Villagiulio was once a crown prince and was a great hope for peace, yet when we see Muginami’s apple-laden memories, he’s a youth on the mean streets of U-Go, where t’s always winter, the sun never shines, and everyone is either stealing from or shooting each other. Which one is he? Rather than a more interesting explanation (alternate realities or something) we learn he got deposed–by Lan’s people. Okay, that’s pretty interesting too, and it explains the tension between them. I’m not sure what the apples were all about except they’re a sign of nourishment and well-being, maybe. They had a beach thing going, too. U-Go’s beach is cold and depressing while in Madoka’s world it means warmth and relaxation or romantic moonlit evenings, you know, happy stuff. The other bits are just the three girls making up and getting naked a lot.
And I watched Kill Me Baby 7, but again I don’t have anything to say about it.