Natsume Shi 7, Inu x Boku 6, Amagami 6 and Kill Me Baby something.

Natsume Yuujinchou Shi 7 concludes the help-me-I’m-stuck-in-a-jar story arc with a great episode.

Tanuma's got more guts than I expected.

The plot involves rescue and escape, but the emotional story in a Natsume episode is always closer to the heart. In this case, Tanuma. He’s tried to find the Natsume-jar and stumbled into youkai land where there’s a big banquet to celebrate the return of Omibashira, a very powerful spirit. Bring gifts! Tanuma has only a sliver of the perception that Natsume does. He can often feel a youkai’s presence, or see a vague shadow, but nothing more. He must at times want a better look at what he can’t see. Now he’s in a place where they’re all visible to him! Plus, he’s desperate to rescue Natsume. No way is he going to hold back now, in spite of what that weird youkai who spots him says. But to impersonate a youkai and try to con the assembled banqueteers is a bold move! Even cynical Nyanko is impressed. Natsume isn’t; he’s alarmed. Involving a friend in a dangerous situation is his worst-case-scenario.

Took me a minute to figure out what Reiko was doing there.

The consequences of Tanuma’s action are twofold. First, he does succeed in freeing Natsume, second, he later is injured while everyone tries to find a way out of the mansion, which is actually a trap not only for humans but for Youkai. Natsume, naturally, is beside himself. But there are advantages to having friends around as well. Natori is there, which means Urihime and (hooray!) Hiiragi is there. And then there’s that odd schoolgirl who rescues them from some searchers. It took me a moment to figure it out who this Reiko-impersonator was, but then I recognized the music. Here’s another thing the series can do well, especially now that the characters are so well established: it can be flat out funny. Reiko was an intense character all by herself; having her do the Nyanko phraseology on top of that nearly put me on the floor.

And another thing that the series does well: danger. It’s often so pastoral and serene that you can forget that lives are at stake, here. It takes work by everyone to seal Omibashira away and save the remaining youkai. Meanwhile Tanuma, in spite of his bravery and desire to help, is really out of his element here, and that brings us back to the theme. Natsume doesn’t want to involve his friends in his youkai adventures, or at least he wants to involve them as little as possible. But can you keep good friends out of something that so dominates your life, and still have them as friends? Remember, in season one Natsume only told Tanuma about the youkai in order to reassure him that he wasn’t seeing things. He had no intention of drawing him closer to that dangerous world. Natori tells Natsume that he was right to choose this path, because he’s strong enough to handle it. I’m not sure I understand, but I assume Natori was talking about living with friends both youkai and human. So, a little bit of everything this week. Excellent episode.

Carpets are masochists. Did you know that?

Six episodes in and I still don’t know what’s up with Inu x Boku SS. It still has overtones of supernatural thriller and romance, with something potentially nasty threatening our little stocking’d tsundere every episode, but each time the threat turns out silly. This time it’s Ririchiyo’s getting stalky text messages which are distracting her from the much more important job of figuring out how to reciprocate Souchi’s kindness (and thus maybe deal with her heart spasms), and choosing the right stationary. This danger, which actually looks dangerous, turns out to be this weirdo (aren’t they all in this show) called Kagerou, once Souchi’s master and currently Ririchiyo’s fiance√©. She might have mentioned that before. However, whatever shock his appearance might have had is quickly dissolved into silliness as he runs around the place dividing the other tenants, agents and inanimate objects into Sadist or Masochist. Then he runs off. So, again, what kind of show is this?

Yawn. Seen it.

Amagami SS+, the conclusion of the Ai arc, is the dullest episode yet. It makes you wonder why they bothered to revive the series at all. At least the first two arcs had something going for them. The Tsukasa arc had a new, evil rival. The Rihoko arc was unfinished, so they had somewhere to go with it. The Ai arc had nothing. Junichi is stuck in cram school. Ai is lonely and wondering what will happen when Junichi goes off to university. Junichi sneaks out of cram school for their Christmas date and reassures her. That’s it. The tossed-in comedy bits worked for as long as they lasted, but in the end all you get are two people in love having a good time together. Promises to the future aside, nothing whatsoever changes from before.

Oh, I also watched Kill me Baby.

I don't know what's going on here.

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Natsume 5, Aquarion 6, Kill Me Baby 5

There are a few set pieces in fiction which I dislike. One of them is where a character cannot be somewhere so someone else, through magic or just disguise, takes their place, interacts with the person’s friends and family, and generally makes an ass of himself. That’s exactly what happens in Natsume Yuujinchou Shi 5 when Natsume gets stuck in a small jar and Nyanko transforms into Natsume so no one will suspect. It makes most of the mistakes these sort of episodes do. Nyanko ought to know better than to behave that way in front of Natsume’s adoptive parents, or say those things to poor Sanada, or even make those poses. You’d expect Nyanko to have a little fun with this, and he’s not the most sensitive creature around, but you’d think he’d show some consideration (when he’s not playing Natsume, he’s his usual entertaining self. “I’ll roll you! Roll, roll, roll …”). And, of course, we get lot of shots of Natsume reacting in his jar. Fortunately, Tanuma eventually figures things out, but by the time he does it’s the end of the episode and we’ve got a two-parter. At least we’ll avoid the impersonation scenes.

He just got here ...

Sometimes I have trouble figuring out if a show is being innovative or simply inept. That’s the problem I’m having with Aquarion – EVOL. On one hand the show is capable of playing out a scene, or multiple scenes in a big scene, with a certain elegance. The intruder warning, Kagura’s search for Mikono, and the vectors scrambling to intercept is a good example. On the other hand, they introduce a perfectly good character last week just to kill him off this week. The reasons why Shrade had to fight are never made clear, apart from Shrade declaring that Kagura “means business.” They always mean business! They’re bad guys! Okay, Kagura’s a tool, but still, that’s no excuse. Maybe if they had played up his urgent overwhelming desire to pilot Aquarion I would have been more convinced. But that idea’s only toyed with. A waste of a character, here.

Kill Me Baby 6 is a slight letdown from last week. When a sketch works it’s as clever as anything else out there right now, but usually the sketches, well it’s not that they don’t work but that they’re near misses. Agiri’s fake substitution jutusu was clever, so it made the rest of the scene worthwhile (also the fact that she put a speaking transmitter on a bird that already talks like her. Sometimes Agiri is inspired). Some of the scenes can be rescued by Yasuna’s antics, such as the festival scene. Sometimes it’s up to Sonya to rescue a scene, like with the puppets. Which covers just about every sketch except the dog scene, and that had a little of everything. Okay, so the show just manages to slip by without being inspiring. I still like it. I don’t understand why so many others don’t. Really. It’s not that bad.

Episode Dump: Amagami 4, Papa no Iukoto 4, Aquarion 5, Kill Me Baby 4

Amagami SS+ 4 has almost nothing to it. Even that so-called cliffhanger last episode is resolved the way you’d expect. Makabe just shrugs and walks away. Junichi is quick to decide he’s in love with Rihoko–all it took was that overheard conversation and a flip through a scrapbook. Now all someone has to do is confess. Naturally this takes forever. First one of them has to get up the courage, then the conversation’s always interrupted, usually by Miya (after a drought of Nishishishis up to now, this episode almost overdoes them). I was torn by this. Those nervous pauses and the blushing and stammering get old pretty fast, best if they got the words out. On the other hand, Miya prevents the episode from getting completely dull. To everyone’s relief, Junichi says the words. Congrats, Rihoko, you bagged the boy. Now we can move on. It’s Ai’s turn next. I wonder if they’ll keep the hot metaphor going?

Papa no Iukoto wo Kikinasai! 4 isn’t showing any improvement. They lay off the emotionally manipulative bits for the most part, but that leaves an episode where Yuuta goes to work and the girls make a mess of things without meaning to. Oh, and going to the laundrimat and not wanting to clean onii-chan’s clothes, or something like that. I thought about skipping ahead after the umpteeth time a girl tried to do something only to trip on something and spill something. Since taking the girls with them was hastily thought out, I’ll forgive the fact that they hadn’t yet thought out the details about buying food, doing laundry, and how to save money. But only for a while. Meanwhile, that club Yuuta joined shows up to complicate his life. They’re not much, but at least it’s something different to spice up the series a bit. I really think Raika should meet the girls. That would liven things up.

And let's not forget the donut metaphors.

I just don’t know what to do with Aquarion EVOL. I’ve been tempted to drop it before, then an episode like #5 comes up which almost makes sense and uses it’s love/sex as flying robot power so extravagently that I can’t help but smile, and then dumps a bit of senselessness at the end. For maximum Aquairion power the students must be on the border of love but not in love (or the robot goes beserk), or is it not love but libido they’re talking about? Not to mention Amata’s tendency to float in the air when excited, and the little torture devices they wear when they’re close to the edge, so to speak. Sigh, I can’t drop this show right now. It’s too silly.

Kill Me Baby 4 is all hot weather clich√©s for the first half, Yasuna wanting to win a free popsicle, trying to smash a watermelon, that sort of thing. It gets better when assassins for some reason decide to go after Sonya. The first one is amusing enough, the second is better. Two different assassins, unbeknownst to each other, decide to disguise themselves as Yasuna. They have Yasuna’s blinding intellect, too. Of course, the real Yasuna has to come along and join the assassins, because, of that blinding intellect I mentioned. Some good gags come out of it. Never mind Yasuna, why does Sonya put up with other assassins in that world she lives in? Maybe that’s why she goes to school: to get training for a better job.

Nisemonogatari 2, Moretsu Pirates 2, Kill Me Baby 2

With Bakemonogatari, I knew that through all of the odd conversations and weird visuals that they would get back to solving the latest problem–eventually. Early on in Nisemonogatari I don’t even know what the problem is.

I thought it was going to lead to why Senjougahara had chained Araragi up. I assumed it would be because of something that happened at Sengoku’s house. This is when I wasn’t thinking that, though this sequel was supposed to concentrate on his sisters, they’d had little do to do with anything yet. This time they get a little introduction by Araragi, who seems to be the central character, and the suggestion that their Fire Sisters tag is somehow fake. Then after an excellent OP, the best of the season, I think, it’s time for more odd conversations. First we get his visit to Sengoku, where she not-so-subtly flirts with him (every time this happens I wonder what will happen if Senjougahara finds out) and talks about the aftermath of her snake affliction (see first season). Karen and Tsuhiki are mentioned, but I couldn’t figure out exactly why. Something about spreading rumors. But in spite of that I went Aha! Now the plot will move. Well, maybe.

Next we get our first real conversation with Karen, the athletic and aggressive sister, who spends most of the scene on her head. Talk of community service and some big thing she’s working on, which, in this show, may have nothing whatsoever to do with Sengoku. But she’s a fun character, as they all are in this show, and it’s fun listening to them banter (and blinking at the countless cuts to different angles) even if I don’t get the gist of the conversation or why they’re bothering to show it to us.

I've always liked Kanbaru's room. All that light and shadow. All that red.

Finally Araragi’s off to help Kanbaru clean her room. This time I pretty much got the gist, though not the reason why they they bother. Kanbaru isn’t as perverted as she claims to be. Well, says Araragi. Kanbaru proceeds to “defend her innocence” on this matter by sexually assaulting him. At which the episode ends, and I’m wondering if we’re ever going to get to why Araragi’s chained up. Senjougahara, by the way, doesn’t appear in the episode at all. As usual, my two thoughts upon finishing an episode of this franchise are “Huh?” and “When’s the next episode coming out?”

Why, Marika, everyone mother worth her salt has a cache of automatic weapons.

Okay, since there’s nothing particularly bodacious about the show in spite of its name, I’m going with Moretsu Pirates from now on. Now we’re in episode two and the exciting battle in the maid cafe over Marika. Except Kurihara has dragged her out of danger, so no exciting battle to watch there. After Kurihara explains the obvious to her, that the cafe was filled with all sorts of special ops and security forces because of her (were they ALL planning to kidnap her?), she winds up with Ririka in a car driving to nowhere for a bit of mother/daughter. It’s not a bad scene. Both Ririka and us at home are watching Marika for her reactions to things like, oh, the fact that her father wasn’t actually dead all this time (but is now. I’d be a little pissed about that. Marika has shown very little interest in her father), the fact that her mother was a space pirate, and that she still has a trunk full of heavy weaponry and likes to blow holes through abandoned tanks in the desert. And plus we get an important speech about the “power of a pirate,” which is, among other things, the ability to make a good decision and the freedom to follow through on it. Marika’s reaction? She drinks it in, cautiously.

After that we get started with a yacht club practice cruise, headed by the new advisor, Kane. All right! Let’s go have some space adventures in that yacht which is mysteriously a former pirate ship which no one but Kane knows about! Nope. We get a long inspection scene followed by one where Marika and Kurihara discover someone is trying to engage in electronic warfare with their vessel, i.e., someone’s trying to hack the system and take over. So now we get more talk. Now, all the talk in this scene and the one before gave us useful information, not to mention a glimpse of Marika and Kurihara bonding, and I’m glad when a show decides to explore the futuristic environment to make it feel more realistic (in spite of that, the girls’ hair stay perfectly in place in zero gravity), but it does slow down the story. At the end, Marika has only just decided to take on the nefarious attacker, and the ship is still moored at port. Well, maybe next week.

Hide and seek.

Kill Me Baby 2 is much like 1. Yasuna bugs Sonya, Sonya hurts her, Yasuna tries again. Something comes up that Sonya can’t handle. Agiri shows up to drawl a little. It’s funny enough. I expect in a few episodes Yasuna will drive me crazy, but for now I’m kind of liking her antics. I feel a little sorry for the bear, who didn’t seem to be bothering anyone.

Finally! Two NEW shows! Ahem, well …

So far this year the shows I’ve watched and noted here have been sequels or continuing series. Today I got my first glance at new shows. Are they a presage of things to come? What does the first season of the new year hold for us?

An assassin, a ninja, and an idiot. Can you tell which is which?

Kill Me Baby … It’s too early to tell. From episode one we get a good idea what the rest of the series will be like. Little sketches about Sonya the assassin, her best friend Yasuna the normal girl/idiot, and Agiri the ninja, and their little adventures at school when Sonya and Agiri aren’t out doing assassin and ninja stuff. Sonya is dead serious all the time and so needs someone to react for her (Yasuna’s job). She obviously has a lot of skills, but she’s scared of cockroaches, ghosts and dogs, so they tend to appear more often in a public school than normal. A lot of the humor relies on Yasuna’s reactions to things, and she’s not bad. She can turn her idiocy on and off and actually got the show’s best laugh doing just that. I would say that Agiri is the more interesting professional killer character because the show makes certain that you don’t quite understand the way her mind works, but she has a lazy vocal delivery which slows things down. In fact, that’s the general problem with the episode. Like other episode ones I’ve seen, it hasn’t got its pacing quite right yet; we get a lot of odd pauses that make you wonder if the creators were in a rush to get it ready. Happily, that can be fixed. Timing aside, I didn’t find it particularly funny or unfunny. We’ll see.

Oh, god, not a recorder ...

I hope every episode of Recorder to Randoseru isn’t going to go the way of episode one. After a minute or two of setting up the situation (Atsushi is a young boy in a handsome man’s body, Atsumi is his high school aged sister who looks like a grade schooler), we get one of the inevitable stories: Atsushi is picked up as a possible child molester because he’s fraternizing with a classmate, a little girl). Atsushi acts as if it’s the first time this has happened. Surely by that point, the neighborhood, not to mention the police, would know all about Atsushi and not drag him off to the station. They introduce another inevitable theme as well but don’t follow through with it this episode: Sayo, one of Atsumi’s high school classmates, gets all blushy when she sees Atsushi. That leaves one other that I can think of: when Atsumi confesses to some boy she likes and he can’t figure out how to handle it, or he reciprocates and HE’S dragged off as a child molester. Apparently recorders will be an ongoing theme, which terrifies me. On the other hand, I liked how Atsushi’s voice actor put little boy inflections into his adult voice.

As for the new season? Er, well, it’s early yet.