In Tsuritama 9 we get … plot! Lots of plot. It starts with plot, it ends with plot, we have big armed forces plot, we have friendship plot, we have bro/sis plot. Really, what we get is everything the show has labored to develop finally coming to a head.
Start at the beginning, we see more ships running aground and people, touching water, coming under the alien mind control and carrying out the nefarious orders of whatever it is, by doing the Enoshima dance. Frankly, this is the happiest alien invasion I can think of. Meanwhile the forces of Duck have arrived and working to evacuate the islanders and find Haru. So we get people running around and hiding from sinister men carrying silly-looking alien sensors and whose water protection suits squeak with every step. The happiest of invasions combating the silliest of defenders. I expected no less from this show.
But it’s not all silliness. The show has developed the characters (perhaps for too long) enough that what happens to the actually matters. Haru and Koko go to meet or fight the alien under the water. The show didn’t work with Koko as much as the others, but the show takes time to show the bond they have before … whatever happens. Seeing her glasses but no Koko is a bad sign, but this series isn’t the type to lash out and kill like that. I think we haven’t seen the last of her. But Haru does, and in his grief goes berserk and squirts everyone he can with his gun, including Yuki and grandma, which leads to the most frightening moment for me, the nice old lady lying unconscious on the floor.
Then there are the friendships. Akira, betrayed by Duck, tries to find Haru and convince Yuki to leave Enoshima, then goes further off orders and decides to work alone. Natsuki needs no second thoughts. He escapes evacuation and somehow returns. It’s Yuki who has the hardest time. He wants to follow Akira’s advice, but obviously has doubts. Well, that’s what grandma (not hurt. Hooray!) is around for. But why are they trying so hard? The threat is obvious. They’ve seen the dancing. But they also know that their friend is not acting like himself. Maybe the thought that they must also save the world has entered into more minds than Akira’s, but the story’s thrust from now be on rescuing Haru. This is just how it should be. Good episode, and just what I was waiting for.
Eureka Seven Ao 9 introduces us to Nakuramura, a guy who works for the Japanese military and has big plans for his country. He wants to get the Nirvash back, but more importantly he wants his hands on some of that Secret technology. I’m surprised every country aren’t going for that, actually. Imagine weapons that can take on any form and look cool to boot. His other stated goal, strangely enough, is to “destroy Japan,” but perhaps he means that metaphorically. Hopefully he does considering the coral burst 70 years destroyed Tokyo. That stuff’s kind of dangerous. Anyway, he’s part of a military plan to stimulate “plant corals” (same as scrub corals?) for whatever reason. Of course things go wrong and GenBleu come to the rescue. In addition we get more internal conflict as Ao discovers his mission isn’t to save lives but to rescue the quartz from coral, so naturally he goes off half-cocked into battle as usual. Alas, Truth is also around, killing people and leering at everyone. But no Naru this week. It’s a routine episode, not very exciting. I suppose they’re moving the pieces around for a big story arc finish.
Natsuiro Kiseki 10 presents more evidence that this mystic, wish-giving rock has a sense of humor. Imagine if the girls want to remember exactly what happened four years ago when they went to explore a haunted building not knowing there was a typhoon coming. You’d think they’d just get their memories back, but I suppose you can’t make an interesting episode out of that. Instead the younger versions of themselves appear in the present day (in which another typhoon is scheduled to appear). So the older girls have to keep an eye out on the younger ones to find out what exactly did happen, and to make sure they don’t get into any trouble. I mean, they obviously survived it four years ago, but this is NOW. Any anomalies that occur, like being spotted by parents, are either brushed aside by the characters or the show itself. Since the girls remember seeing ghosts and thieves during their adventure you can probably figure out what happens, or happened, but it’s all cleverly done nonetheless. Young Saki going after Old Saki with nunchuks was possibly the high point.
And Kore wa Zombie desu ka – of the Dead … ends. Just like that. It’s a good final episode that gets a trifle sentimental but doesn’t go overboard with it, and there’s usually a good gag to undercut any potential tears. The finale is appropriate. They must defeat Chris, so Ayumu undergoes a test to become a full magical girl–and fails, losing his memory in the process. So the others go into his mind to get it back, which we are told is the makeup test, though all it seems to do is undo the damage of the first test. And in the end they don’t even get around to fighting Chris. This is how the show rolls, lurching from one ridiculous situation to another and maybe once every few episodes stumbling upon the story arc. On the way the girls must battle manifestations of Ayumu, all of the smug bishies spouting pretentious lines even the other characters in the show wince at, and it was a pleasure to watch Haruna kick their ass. Eu gets to talk a little. Sera adds her insults. The show ends well, even if everyone forgot the story.
A not bad episode of Polar Bear’s cafe. Episode 11 has the zookeeper Handa coerced into a group blind date at a karaoke place, and Panda and Polar bear come to even up the numbers. You already know what is going to happen, but it’s not all bad for Handa when the girls discover he’s Panda’s keeper and not just a lonely, single male lump. Panda naturally wins over the girls through cuteness, and Polar Bear, mainly staying out of the way (perhaps aware that this outing was not for his benefit), still gets to use his charming personality to get the girls attention. A polar bear who also runs a cafe! And there’s one of the show’s more surreal moments early on at the cafe when Sasako brings Penguin pot stickers, even though they’re not on the menu. What was that all about? Just another one of the show’s gentle mind games.
Natsuiro Kiseki 9 continues the story on the island in a rather sweet episode where, surprisingly, Yuka says the most important thing: some things you can’t do anything about. This is contrasted by the behavior of Ko, the rude boy from last week who’s actually a girl, who misses the doctor who practiced on the island before and can’t stand the thought of a replacement, and also of Natsume, who can’t bare the thought of Saki no longer living next door to her. And thus the girls can understand Ko and that bit is resolved. It was also pleasing to discover that Saki is treated like royalty once they learn she’s tne new doctor’s daughter. In other words, the island is a good place to live. It was done nicely, with no extra goofiness. The goofiness comes with a second magical rock which they, of course, all manage to touch, turning Saki invisible, probably a sign of her conflicted feelings of moving away and being treated so well, well, whatever, but what it leads to is her wandering all around the island naked, just the sort of weirdness to make the bland emotional story palatable.
This week Sankarea 9 dismayed us all by devoting an entire episode to Meru, the laconic, expressionless little sister. Any other week this would be an excellent thing to do. Meru is one of those characters that does very little yet makes you want to learn more, what she thinks of this whole zombie business, what she thinks about doing all the chores all the time. But remember, last week was full of danger. Chihiro had been abducted by a man who wishes to cut his balls off! Rea was almost abducted herself! What will happen? Well, this isn’t the first time Sankarea has delivered a filler episode at the worst time. If you can get over the annoyance you’ll probably enjoy the episode very much. We don’t really learn what makes Meru tick but we get some ideas. It comes clear at the end that she keeps a lot of emotions under wraps, and I’m happy to see Rea innocently slip past her defenses and reveal a few. But otherwise Meru prefers to go with the flow, whether it be this crazy new guest at her home or her friend Ichie’s latest zombie theories. So we really don’t learn a lot. Probably that’s the way she likes it.
Eureka Seven Ao 8 is the silliest episode so far even while it tries to bring up serious themes like father-children relationships. Maybe I’m missing something, but what does Ao have against his father, apart from not being around? Fleur I can understand, after the terrible sacrifice made for her sake; I’d hate to have to carry that emotional burden. But her saying flying for his company is a sort of revenge, which doesn’t make a lot of sense, neither does her attempt at stopping the latest Secret at the loss of her life. The big political picture seems a bit ridiculous, too. Surely in that day and age the US would be able to spot faked footage. Basically nothing much in this episode makes much sense at all.
Kore wa Zombie etc 9 starts out with the gang trying to find an opponent for Chris, that most formidable of enemies. It gets sidetracked by Ayumu’s promise to Saras to attend her next concert. Then it’s the inevitable anticlimatical meeting between Ayumu and the ever-powerful Naeglaria, who turns out to be a sleepy dojinshi artist, and then it turns into a “team up to finish her dojinshi” episode, to demonstrate the ties of friendship. The original goal, to recruit Nene to fight Chris, is apparently forgotten. Oh, some nice bits about keeping promises and a cute Ayumu/Saras scene. What about the two unbeatable foes destined for immortal combat? They’re getting drunk together. So is this a truce or the actual end of the story arc? And who cares either way?
Polar Bear’s cafe 9 was irritating enough when it spent half the episode on Rin Rin the florist and his creepy infatuation with pandas, but then we get 15 minutes of Penguin trying to get up the courage to confess to the girl penguin. The only thing that kept me going was that it looked like he was actually going to do it. Well, Polar Bear’s wise sayings were amusing enough, especially the last one, about the coupons, though hardly waiting a half hour for.
Eureka Seven Ao 7 starts out in the worst way possible, then gets a lot better.
First we have the attack on GenBleu headquarters by that smug asshole calling himself “Truth.” I got what I expected. Truth going around blowing things up at will, guards running around helplessly, and more Truth blowing things up, smirking the entire time and declaring he’s out for the truth, which means, I suppose, he’s out for himself. We even get a replay of last week’s carnage, one of many moments when cringed. The fact that he knows things Ao and the others don’t is to be expected, or else he wouldn’t be in the story. The fact that he’s vague about it all is also to be expected. It’s part of the smug bishie mindset to say cryptic things (smugly) before blowing more things up. There’s an odd moment with a rock singer (every base has a rock star, I suppose), and something was wordless communicated to her. Since her name is “Mirror” I think we’re going to see her again, and we’re going to get some bad symbolism to boot.
But things take an interesting turn. We jump to Okinawa, where, strangely, all the locals who were at GenBleu are now back. Including Ao, much to Naru’s surprise. It’s clear immediately that this Ao is actually Truth in Ao’s shape. But even so, Truth is beginning to show signs that make him slightly less annoying. He’s after The Truth, I suppose, of the scrub coral. What’s more, he might have cured Naru of her sickness by exposing her to some. And they can fly! And all of a sudden Ao’s would-be girlfriend has willingly flown off with the smug white-haired bishie! As for Truth, he finds her more interesting, closer to said truth, than Ao. I approve of this. Naru’s been waiting around for her role in the show to develop. It’s a shame that it had to come in the hands of an cliché anime character, but at least she’s involved now. And the show has gotten more interesting. Let’s hope it can stay that way and get rid of Truth at the same time.
Our first zombie show of the evening, Sankarea 7, after an odd blood trail opening, looks at first the same as last week’s, but with Rea and Chihiro the featured characters rather than Ranko. So we see them eat together. We see Chihiro film obsessively and speculate where those Hydrangea leaves go if zombies don’t use the bathroom, something I hope they don’t show us. We see them shopping for clothes. We get an aside with Ranko, still fuming, and Mero, who hasn’t been used enough this series, though the previews suggest she’ll get more time next week. It isn’t until late that, for the first time in 1.5 episodes, so plot kicks in. Geez, Dan’Ichirou’s been threatening to cut off Chihiro’s balls for several episodes now. About time he did something about it.
In Natsuiro Kiseki 8 the girls decide to take a trip, but where? It’s actually a splendid idea that the others want to visit the place where Saki’s moving to. Not even Saki’s been there, yet. But the effect of the trip so far (two-parter) is to drive home the fact that she is indeed moving. This leads to a non-fight between Saki and Natsumi, and the question of whether its selfish of her to want to stay where she is when moving to this place was her father’s dream. To further complicate matters, it’s a beautiful island, a place you’d want to move to, apart from one asshole local. This episode was a good setup for what I expect will be more questions and maybe a few decisions next week. If only they could have avoided the scenes of girls acting like doofuses on the ferry. I thought I was watching K-ON! for a moment.
Our second Zombie show, Kore wa Zombie etc 8 should be an important episode. Kyouko, one of the main antagonists from last season, the one who murdered Ayumu in the first place returns. She offers to help our guys defeat Chris by filling us in on his weakness, but they must do something for her in return. But this show is far too silly to keep it that simple, so we get Ayumu organizing a mixer, where of course unexpected people show up. This all reminds me. Kyouko is a fearsome person, indeed, she makes some terrific evil faces in this episode, but I can barely remember her. The inanity overwhelms all plot and logic in this series. But one thing the show does not do well is serious emotions, and we get a forced and maudlin last scene, with only Ayumu getting skewered as a pleasant reminder of what the show’s strengths are.
Not much to Polar Bear’s Cafe 8, but is there ever? Reporters led by their editor, a shoebill stork, do a magazine piece about the cafe. As usual, Polar Bear has some fun with it, creating a sob story about his past and not minding a bit when he’s contradicted. In the second half Polar and Grizzly go off to catch salmon while Panda tags along, to grizzly’s annoyance. Again, Polar Bear is above it all. I envy his equanimity.
The latest Lupin/Fujiko is a near-miss. There’s something about the franchise that this episode lacked–a sense of fun, maybe. You might argue that the show was concerned with weightier issues than crime capers, that the show was trying to do something different, but in that case I’ll argue that their way of approaching the time period, reinventing the Cuban missile crisis with fictitious names (Friadel Kestro, the Roniania Union, etc) worked against it, in spite of the whimsy of the names (I was disappointed that they didn’t name the Kennedy character). I started to make comparisons to what little I remember about that incident. The crisis was in 1962, when no one was called a “rock star.” The Beatles didn’t make it big until 1963-4. Never mind things I could forgive, like Goemon atop a biplane keeping pace with much more powerful aircraft, you see, that’s part of the fun. I was also distracted by the show’s decision to have the Soviets, er, Ronianians, shoot first. So I really couldn’t care less about the confusing showdown in the air when Kestro’s plane is seized, you know, the actual story.
Eureka Seven Ao begins a new story arc and finishes one that we didn’t even know about. The personal one involves the death of Bruno, the father-figure for team Goldilocks and the man who told Ao to not hurt the people who love him. It’s a mystery why the man crashed into the Secret and I suspect that will come up later on, the important thing is that he’s dead. Little pilot Chloe, who was especially devoted to Bruno, and Ao exchange pep talks, which leads to what I think is actually a third story arc, Ao’s purpose and importance with GenBleu. He dispatches those doubts. The other main story arc makes a sandwich as we meet a shape-shifter who calls himself “Truth” (sigh) as he effortlessly kills drug dealers and whoever that rich guy was. Now he’s gunning for GenBleu in an unsubtle way considering he can take on many forms. His true form (I guess) is that of a smirking white-haired bishie. This worries me no end. The show was going perfectly well without tossing in a character like this.
Finally, AKB0048 comes back to earth. After three episodes of uninspired drama about girls wanting to be idols, surrounded by a premise of brazen, jaw-dropping weirdness, they lose the weirdness and we get only the uninspired drama. The girls meet two understudies who may always be understudies, and one of them, Kanata, is Sonata’s sister, and dead set against Sonata following her path, and so acts like a big meanie. It plays out like you’d expect. Chieri, being, thank heavens, the coldhearted pragmatist, says Kanata doesn’t have the right aura, or something. I argue that the deck is stacked against her and her partner Mimori, having to sing a bland ballad as a warmup to AKB0048’s big loud song and dance and lightshow number. Kanata’s stated reason for singing is ridiculous; didn’t it ever occur to her that her father was fighting because he loved the cause? And the reconciliation scene was predictable and maudlin that I nearly fast-forwarded it. I hope the creators realize that the thing that has set this show apart has been the crazy universe they’ve invented. Lose that and we get second-rate iDOLM@STER, unless they start working with the characters better.
Kore wa Zombie desu ka – of the Dead 7 finds some plot. Naturally it makes no sense. Something to do with the mana that Haruna stored up in that thing she made last week, which gave her her powers. Oh, she can’t speak now, but Eu can. The big bad guy makes his appearance this week, a middle-aged school teacher who also happens to be the drunken fairy. A shame. I was very fond of the drunken fairy. She’s going to, apparently do something bad, but after a lot of threats and shooting people off into space (they come back) she vanishes. Then again, if this show’s story did make sense I would be disappointed.
Polar Bear’s Cafe gives us a surprise: Penguin actually gets his drivers license. But Polar Bear steals the episode by managing to be an effective straight man and voice of reason, but still being able to act silly when the situation calls for it. And he gets a free sushi meal out of it.
Space Brothers 7 seems to be puttering around, building up Mutta’s self-recriminations as he both watches his brother train and waits for an announcement he is certain he won’t like. Yeah, Hoshika (flowing-hair man) is still on his side, but making no headway in convincing the people who really matter. Meanwhile we get asides where we see him in “Rollin’ Mutta” mode, where he absorbs information from a number of different sources at the same time … And that blind operation test that Hibito fails … And finally, the news of a robber on the loose who uses a fire extinguisher to blind his victims. Can you see where this is going? For a good ten minutes I was muttering “It’s obvious what you’re doing here, so bring on the robbery!” And so it happens–too late for the episode to show it … Well, the storytelling might be a tad clumsy, but at least our man Mutta will finally get to do something but mope.
Watching episode 6 of Lupin III – Mine Fujiko, I wonder why I can’t enjoy this character Oscar. He’s proven himself to be a formidable opponent for Fujiko, to the point where he can cross dress as a schoolgirl for many days without Fujiko realizing it. In fact, the reason he did not apprehend her was simply hubris–in waiting to also catch Lupin (how did he get out of that greenhouse?) he allowed him time to free Fujiko. There’s his odd sexuality, in love with Zenigata but obsessed with Fujiko, calling her a spittoon but tying her up naked and pouring wine on her (standard police procedure, I’m sure. She could be hiding something). I think the answer lies there. It’s not so much the suppressed desire as much as the condescending morality he lays on top of it. As for the episode, it’s on par with the rest, qualms about Fujiko’s failure to recognize Oscar and Lupin’s escape notwithstanding. Oh, and how on earth did Oscar get the bully-girls to work for him? Though I liked the machine guns.
I’ve decided to drop Accel World. There’s nothing really wrong with it. It tells the story reasonably well and is good to look at, but now that the first story arc is over with I find more difficult to care what happens to Haru or Kuroyukihime. And the story will get bigger and more complicated from here on out. Or maybe I’m just growing tired of shows of this nature. I dropped Zetman after two episodes and there wasn’t anything terribly wrong with that show, either. Or maybe it’s Haru’s appearance. Well, I wish the show luck.
Yes, I’m dropping Accel World but still watching Kore wa Zombie Desu Ka – of the Dead. It’s a show that requires no thought. It has a bunch of bizarre characters whose attributes seem random. It keeps threatening to have a bigger story arc but can’t seem to find its way there with everyone acting bizarre in their own way. This week Mylstletain comes back, Ayumu is happy for much of the episode, and the drunken fairy gives a worried look–our only clue to something bigger going on, well apart from Sera and Saras’ usual cryptic conversations.
After episode one of AKB0048 made its bizarre and entertaining statement, I figured episode two would settle down and work on basics, you know, more backstory, introduce more characters, that sort of thing. Well, it did. It was also as crazy as episode one. It was a lot of things. I’m amazed they packed it all in.
But first they take care of business. The three girls are safely aboard the space yacht, but there are other auditioners on board we get to meet. First there’s Makoto, who gives a big speech of self-doubt in her cabin which I found entertaining, then continued on, loudly, through the rest of the episode, so now I’m sick of her. Then ten year-old stowaway Sonata, and Suzuko, the quiet one. They’re all instant friends–and rivals, something the show will play with later. These scenes aren’t bad, but they felt a little clumsy, sometimes tapering off as if the creators were fumbling for the scene-change button. And the art looked crude compared to the richness of that planet. I began to worry. Had they blown it all in episode one?
Besides their adventure, the other story has to do with Chieri, the rich girl who was with them that fateful night but left to do heiress stuff. Now she’s missing, though the show tries not at all to hide the fact that she’s snuck on board. It’s so obvious that when the girls hear she’s missing they instantly search the ship, and Nagisa finds but does not recognize her, though finding a strange girl below-decks who gives her a speech on the Darwinian nature of AKB0048 auditions should have tipped her off. Still, it was a curveball to give Chieri that attitude. “Okay,” I thought. “It’s not as wild as episode one, but interesting enough … Hmm, they have a lot of time left …”
So much happens after that it’s hard to describe it all. The DES attack and seize the ship. We get another insane battle sequence. Nagisa finds the time to rebut Chieri’s earlier speech. “Heavy Rotation!” And that floating, mewling kirara thing that appears in the presence of idols yet apparently gives mixed signals. Just when you think they’re done they throw in something else, up to the group scream at the end. And all for a story that is basically about girls auditioning for a idol group. I think that’s what puts this show (so far) over the top: it’s so damn silly. You can’t resist it. Well, I can’t.
Eureka Seven Ao 4 is odd in that it has the big battle stuff in the first half, and the second is all decisions and escapes, almost like they have it backward. Basically Ao helps destroy the Secret and joins Generation Blue and gets off the island. Little moments stand out. Naru gets very little screen time, but almost every time we see her she does something affecting, even if it’s simply a smile or have tears well up. I hope she’s going to get more action, but they seem to be using her sickness to keep that from happening. She’s about to run off after something when “Cough cough,” and she’s forced to stop. As for Ao, he’s turning into the brave, plucky sort the show needs, but even with his Eureka connection I have trouble with him mastering his Nirvash so quickly. Though I liked his first attempt, and GenBlu’s realization that he’s not ignoring them, he just doesn’t know how to turn on the radio. It just makes his second, studied attempt more unbelievable. Still, everything’s developing nicely.
Kore wa Zombie desu ka of the Dead 5 is no different from the others. Sera and Saras hint at a larger looming threat, but they’ve been doing that for episodes now. What we really get is Eu getting a fever and Ayumu’s attempts to cure her, which involve the usual abuse at the hands of others, mainly Haruna this week, since Sera is off at a hot spring talking about that looming threat. It’s got the usual sweetness quotient, including a bit where Haruna doesn’t beat up Ayumu when Eu climbs into his bed, because she figures she wanted that. So she gets in bed with her herself. Oh, and we learn that tangerine pith is forbidden fruit to “denizens of the netherworld.” Good to know.
Anyone who’s watching Polar Bear’s Cafe probably isn’t doing it for the laughs. You can see those coming a mile away. Like in the first part, where Panda’s dreaded week of full-time work is lightened by a mysterious fan, who, to us, isn’t so mysterious. Or in the second, where Polar Bear decides to invent more parfaits for the fair, and everyone has an idea. You’re probably watching it because of its slow and easygoing nature. But every now and then they manage something a little surreal, like one image that could have come from Utena, or in the scene above. Little bits like that keep me watching.
Eureka Seven Ao 3 is mostly bickering between the Okinawans and other governments and organizations that want the IFO, which, Ao learns, was actually called a Nirvash. Meanwhile, Ao gets abducted and rescued and so conveniently gets to hear different sides of story. Not that it matters to him. The core of the episode is his status as an outsider. The people on the island who wish for independence and who he’s grown up with are the people who now consider him the cause of all their problems. Gazelle is the one who expresses this most eloquently–as they abduct Ao from the people who abducted him in the first place. To all of this Ao has decided “fuck it.” So when he changes his mind and gets in his Nirvash to fight the giant Secret that’s appeared, we don’t hear martial music or a dance beat, but slow, thoughtful violin lines. I love that moment. And it sets this show apart from other action shows involving big robots.
Four episodes in and Kore wa Zombie desu ka – of the Dead is no closer to finding a story arc than it was in the beginning. This episode they even cut out those hints at the end of the episode. Instead Ayumu gets dragged to an abusive maid café where, not surprisingly, most of the girls in the show work. Well, it’s not surprising to us … To get a special deal Ayumu and his nearly-useless partner Orito try to get selected abusive waitresses to fall for them, including girls we hadn’t met yet and one whom I’ve completely forgotten about. It’s worth it if you like to hear girls heap abuse at Ayumu, and in Sera’s case, that’s one of her most endearing qualities.
Natsuiro Kiseki 4 manages to take a dreadful premise and make it watchable, and at one point, even moving. Yuka has a crush on her cousin Takashi, but he has a crush on Saki. Yuka wishes she could be Yuka–while sitting on the rock. You’d think the girls would have learned by now. By the way, Saki is now in Yuka’s body. And indeed the show does indulge in moments where the two must behave like the other would in front of family, etc. I hate scenes like that. But they don’t go too far with them, instead concentrating on the date between Takashi and Yuka in Saki’s body–and the episode becomes worthwhile. Yuka can’t help but be a doofus, but this seems to delight Takashi. And the moment at the end, when they’re about to kiss (so would this count as Saki’s first kiss, or Yuka’s? The show doesn’t explore this very important question, but probably because there was no time in the episode) Yuka knows that the kiss is meant for Saki, not her, but it’s the only kiss from him she’ll ever get. Thus the episode transcends the crappy premise. Oh, Natsumi and Rinko also switch, but nothing is made of it except for some quick gags. I’d have liked to see multiple switches and lots of gags, but it’s fine the way it is. Surprisingly.