Some quick summaries before I go …

Since I have a bit of time, like another day or two, I can post some more. But my computer setup is more frustrating, so it’s not going to be the usual routine.

Kuragehime 8 moved Shuu’s story along nicely, thanks to the greed of the chauffeur and a misdialed number. So not only is Shuu and the girl being tailed, but Shuu knows all about it. At the moment it feels like a completely different story from Tsukimi’s. Kuranosuke is getting more ludicrous in his money-making schemes and in the end announces he’ll make a wedding dress for Tsukimi and they’ll make millions. Tsukimi rightly thinks he’s out of his mind. On the other hand we get the sweet moment pictured above.

I don’t have access to any notes, or Google, I don’t know how I’m going to write about A Certain Magical Index 10 coherently. Um, Touma and Orliana fight. Orliana doesn’t use a spell twice, which will be her undoing in the next battle. Then, when we learn that Academy City is going to be claimed by the Roman Catholics when they stick St. Peter’s Cross into the ground, changing reality and everything. Touma responds to this by meeting up with Index and getting introduced to Misaka’s mother.

It’s more Shiori slowness in The World God Only Knows 10. Endless quiet bits where she struggles to say a word. And we get another waltz-music interlude; this time she turns into a naked fairy. That livened things up a bit. Keima rattles her by dissing books. And slow progress is made. She accidentally flips her inner and outer voices and actually has a conversation of sorts with him. Meanwhile Elsie is still enamored with fire trucks.

Amagami 22, Kuragehime 7

Tsukasa, the latest girl in Amagami SS, may have a sneaky, sinister side to her, but the show is so good-natured that it’s hard to be too worried about it. Of course, Junichi, the victim of her wrath, may not think that way.

Not the only time he says this.
Not the only time Junichi says this.

Indeed, for Junichi, working with this strange girl is like walking through a minefield, though he frankly doesn’t do too bad a job of it. First, they have to clear up the “you read my notebook” problem, with omnious music and cryptic lines like “I’m about to lose a classmate,” until Junichi says he didn’t actually read the whole thing, just thumbed through it … and the omnious music fizzles out. Luck is on Junichi’s side here. He got to know she has a dark side when she had no reason to give it away. While he’s still in danger from her, knowing this fact actually makes HER vulnerable as well, a fact she knows well.

Not the only time Tsukasa says this.

Then Junichi, without meaning to, goes on the offensive by NOT exploiting this secret. Well, he does almost ask Masayochi if he would believe Tsukasa capable of darkness, putting him in more hot water, but that’s his only transgression. He makes up for it by working his butt off for the founders festival, cheerfully doing every duty she assigns him. She works hard, too, so hard that she falls ill. In the next few scenes we see a little of her home life and the tensions between Tsukasa and her sister … and learn absolutely nothing.

Well, we learn that the sister is friendly, outgoing, and a bit of an airhead. Why it bugs Tsukasa so much I don’t know, unless it’s the airhead part. Tsukasa is driven to succeed and to keep her reputation clean. She has big plans in life. But really it feels like nothing more than sibling quibbling. Then again, a person who tries so hard to keep it together is a target for laughter when something embarrassing happens, like the friendly dog peeing on her leg (earlier her sister was trying to befriend another, much more bored dog, so we have a dog metaphor going). But when the embarrassment happens Junichi is there to carry her to the taps, refusing to ridicule her, and thus sneaking past the land mines of her defenses.

A lot of stuff seems to happen in Kuragehime 7, but since they’re pushing plot pieces around it doesn’t add up to much. Still, another good episode.

The episode’s highlight comes fairly early. The evil Inari drops by Amamizu for a friendly chat. The girls are on the defensive. They’re not wearing their battle gear (nice clothes), and she brought macaroons! It takes the sudden appearance of Kuranosuke, and the declaration that they will buy the building themselves to drive them away. So now Kuranosuke has a goal, as far-fetched as it is, to raise enough money from these poor women to get a down-payment. There are a couple of good scenes in this episode, but this one had the most energy.

Different reactions to Shuu's "romance."

We have to get back to the Shuu situation. Tsukimi tells Kuranosuke what he saw between Inari and Shuu, and Kuranosuke puts two and two together. Now get two contrasting reactions. Kuranosuke is shocked that his brother might be doing it. Possibly he’s also trying to figure out the ramifacations for the apartment building, too, but maybe he hasn’t reached that point. On the other hand, poor Tsukimi breaks down and cries. We again see how emotionally vulnerable she is, that the thought of a man that so far has only been nice to her can break her heart.

But that nice little moment is shoved aside for more frivolous stuff. — affirms that she and Shuu had sex, and Shuu is naïve enough to believe it. Kuranosuke goes around trying to raise money, by blackmailing his father (though the father says they never got past second base), selling the cars, selling Chieko’s beloved dolls, bugging the mysterious woman on the third floor to sell her manuscripts, basically making an ass of himself. His desire to help them is inspiring, but he’ll trample any sacred otaku item in his path to do it. He’s a good guy, but he has some growing-up to do. Oh, and if that wasn’t enough, he nearly kisses Tsukimi. Kuranosuke’s a busy man.

Shiki 17, Kuragehime 6

Your weekly noitaninA fix.

Gotta hand it to Shiki. Just when you think things can’t get any worse, they do.

While most of the episode is more of the same, living people getting bitten by the Risen, the remaining heroes all seem to be making some decisions, but the decisions all seem to be rather poorly thought out, or are driven by overwhelming despair. You can’t really blame them. There’s actually a rather funny scene where a man chased by Shiki comes to a house to find shelter, only to find that the residents have already Risen. The pursuers and the residents talk to each other like any normal people would in a small town. It almost makes you forget that the town has been almost completely overrun.

And what to the remaining living people do? Every time they decide to act, they are defeated. We don’t know what happened to Akira but we can make an assumption. Kaori is now all alone and has become completely unglued, asking Seishin for a posthumous name, digging her own grave. On the other hand, a little scene between Tohru and Seishin demonstrates that the undead have their own fits of despair. These scenes, with Tohru’s guilt over killing and the memories of Sunako explaining that there is no terrible death, perhaps helps Seishin make his own dubious decision.

And the bodies continue to pile up. Another nurse from the clinic, then Ritsuko, who has gone out to look for her, to be discovered too late by Toshio. This seems to be his breaking point. Tired of trying to convince people who refuse to believe him, Toshio just says to hell with it and offers no resistance when he’s bitten. And there, I think everyone’s gone now, well, except for Kaori, and she’s losing her mind. Or is part of some grand strategy where they plan to destroy the Shikis from the inside? Nah.

As usual, to pick me up, I turn to Kuragehime. This episode doen’t have the insane highs that some of the previous episodes had, they’re too busy with plot, but it’s enjoyable nonetheless.

The makeover.

The first question on my mind is “What will the girls look like after Kuranosuke’s done with them?” The answer is … good. Presentable. Not necessarily attractive, but fashionable. The transformation isn’t complete. For one thing, they have to learn to wear heels. And their new looks aren’t going to overcome their fear of places like the fashionable restaurant he takes them to. But in a lovely set of scenes we see them slowly unwind … and behave like the otaku they are. Well, little steps. They see that this night life stuff may not be as frightening as they had thought.

Not if he keeps drinking that.

These scenes are mixed with ones between Shuu and Inari. While at first I was wondering simply how girlaphobic Shuu would handle himself, it becomes moot when Inari spikes his drink and drags him home for the usual blackmail pictures. Serious stuff, but it’s enlivened by Inari’s attempts to get good photos, and especially Shuu’s reaction when he wakes up. In fact, I loved his behavior throughout the rest of the episode. He remains almost entirely straight-faced and sober, even keeping a sort of dignity when he’s running out of her apartment while not wearing pants. Or maybe it’s that he forgets his glasses. He looks more formidable without them.

After a pointless scene between Kuranosuke and the PM we get some background on Shuu. Apparently his phobia comes from seeing his father making out with another woman, Kuranosuke’s mother. “Heavy stuff,” says Kuranosuke, as he learns about it the same time we do. And to finish we get an odd moment where Shuu drops by Amamizukan to shake Tsukimi’s hand. Why? God knows. Maybe he just wanted a moment to bask in Tsukimi’s purity, or maybe because she’s the type of woman who would NOT drug him. Note that this is the first paragraph to use Tsukimi’s name. Apart from some moments where Kuranosuke admires her cuteness she’s pretty much a side character in this episode. Well, wait until the love triangle develops …

noitaminA revisited: Shiki 16, Kuragehime 5

Two weeks ago I did both noiaminA shows in the same post. It was so much fun I’m doing it again.

We start with Shiki 16, which this week adds extra sorrow and cruelty to the already depressing story.

Tea time with Sunako.

It looks at first like we’re getting a flashback episode. We start with a bit of Sunako’s story and get back to it later on when she tells Tohru a “story” about a little girl (herself) who was bitten. Her actions in the story are cruel, she cheerfully talks about all the nice people she had to kill in order to survive while searching for her parents. On the other hand, she IS trying to reconnect to her family. We again see that becoming undead do not change your emotions toward your loved ones, or does it? We also get poor Nao’s backstory. After becoming a shiki she killed her family so that she could be with people she loves. But not one of them rose, leaving her alone. In a twisted way we can feel sorry for her as well. Loneliness seems to be the prevailing emotion amongst the shikis.

As if that wasn’t enough, we turn to Akira and Kaori’s father, Tanaka, recently risen. I guess his probationary period is over for Megumi tells him he’ll have to do his own hunting from now on. “Hey, why don’t you start with your own family?” After all, it’s very likely they’ll rise, too, and he won’t be alone (That didn’t work for Nao because she was adopted). And then we get a scene almost as cruel as Toshio’s wife-torture two episodes ago, which inspires some actual positive action from Akira.

Too bad it ends badly for him, well, it’s a cliffhanger, so we won’t know until next week. But, damn, is everyone in the show going to fail and die? At least Akira tried something. “I’m going to stop leaving things to adults.” Quite right. Toshio and Natsuno talk (in daylight, meaning Natsuno must have become a werewolf like Tatsumi, not a vampire) about having to wait. What are they waiting for? Until they’re the only ones left?

Kuragehime 5 starts out depressing as well. Amamizu-Kan, the building where the girls live is going to be sold, meaning that nothing will stand in the way of the planned “Activate City Amamizu” project, i.e., they’re going to tear it down and build a hotel. Tsukimi, still brooding about the aquarium moment, is dragged to a development meeting to protest, and winds up sitting next to Shuu …

… who doesn’t recognize her. What’s more, the girls are thoroughly intimidated by development leader Shoko Inari, a two-faced thing that will finalize deals “between the sheets,” as they call it. They beat a hasty retreat. So not only do they fail at the meeting, but Tsukimi has undergone a humiliating moment at oblivious Shuu’s hands, AND later Tsukimi spots Shoko and Shuu sharing an umbrella. Shoko works fast. From here the episode meanders awhile, but in a beautiful way.

While there are too many “Mama, my chest feels tight” lines, their execution makes them fresh, the best by far being Tsukimi’s sinking into the wet pavement and into a watery world, like a jellyfish, the only place she feels safe. The show is loaded with nice, clever imagery, but this one set a new standard. It almost makes you forget that, for the girls and especially Tsukimi, life really sucks right now.

Kuranosuke prepares the girls for battle.

Leave it to Kuranosuke to shake them up. All episode he’s been on the sidelines, trying to appeal to Shuu over the redevelopment plans or getting Tsukimi to stop moping in her room. There are a few surprises here. First, Mayaya didn’t kick his ass, second, Mayaya doesn’t seem to mind her makeover, and finally, neither do the other girls. They’re too fascinated to complain. Kuranosuke makes the right argument, that they’re not going against their inner nature, they’re going against people who judge by appearances (to emphasize the point we get a quick moment of Shuu meeting up with a dolled-up Shoko), so they must dress up. One more thing: after Kura’s makeover, Mayaya looks fashionable but not pretty. He is not magically recreating the girls like a fairy godmother; he’s working to their strengths.

Kuranosuke does it again! Though I keep wondering, like Tsukimi does, why on earth he’s going to such pains for them?

Once again noitaminA swings from fear and depression to loony glee.

Index 6, Kuragehime 4

A Certain Magical Index moves to a new story and exchanges cult-babble with techno-babble. But it starts innocently enough.

We start with some typical Touma/Index/Sphinx hijinks, apparently there to establish that the weather reports have gotten faulty lately, and then we don’t see them again for the rest of the episode. We get some typical Misaka/Kuroko hijinks (naked drop-kicks in the shower, bra padding, nothing new), and finally the story starts in earnest. Something to do with the theft of some destroyed satellite remnants. Kuroko gets involved and runs into a more formidable teleporter than herself.

So you figure eventually the two will duke it out a second time; it’s good to keep it on a personal level because the story becomes confusing. Something to do with all those Misaka clones they created in the first series, a supercomputer (I think) called Tree Diagram, and starting some project up all over again. More Misaka clones? I’m working with vague memories and Wikipedia to get my head around it all.

I wish I could remember what she's referring to ...

What’s more, Misaka knows all about the intentions of teleporter Awaki, and feels personally responsible for whatever the hell is going on. And she didn’t tell Kuroko about it. Typical of her. In Railgun she was always going off on her own and sometimes paid the price for it. I was more surprised by Kuroko’s reaction. She isn’t angry that Misaka kept something from her; instead she expresses concern and secretly vows to get involved herself. And I learn the lesson again: let the babble flow by and pay attention to the character interactions instead. Oh, and at least one Misaka clone decides to do something, too, but apart from disrobing we don’t know what. I can’t remember, but did the first Index series have this much fanservice?

Another good episode of Kuragehime. We learn some more about Tsukimi’s past and the plot gets stirred a little more.

The key to the plot-stirring is seen in a flashback Tsukimi has while the girls roast sweet potatoes over a fire. At a similar fire her mother collapsed. Her love for her late mother can still upset her. We’ll be getting back to this. But for now they introduce the problem of the building being demolished in two years (the girls are either fine about it or hysterical), set that side as a future plot point, and move on to this week’s actual story. Tsukimi wants to go to a big aquarium to see the jellyfish, Kuranosuke invites himself, and Shou invites himself, too. It’s his car, after all. At first it’s a lovely scene. Surrounded by jellyfish and dressed in one of Chieko’s kimonos, Tsukimi is radiant and happy. Then it gets cheerfully odd when Kuranosuke returns from the bathroom (the ladies’) and sees a shocking event.

Shamefaced confession amongst the jellyfish.

It’s sort of innocent. The jellyfish triggered more memories of her mother, and Shou was simply acting out of compassion. Nevertheless it triggers jealousy in Kuranosuke, much to his surprise. He could have just about any woman he wanted, but when nerd-girl gets hugged by someone else he grows furious! And another thing. Tsukimi might have a thing for Shou, but she can’t talk or act normally around him unless she doesn’t have her glasses on. If she can actually see the world, she is afraid of it.

So we know pretty much what Tsukimi and Kuranosuke are thinking, but what about 30 year-old virgin Shou? We know he likes the dolled-up Tsukimi, but did not recognize the usual nerdy one. We get a possible answer when he sees Tsukimi in sort of a transitional state, half kimono, half nerd clothes. Tsukimi is convinced he’s now disgusted with her, but his reaction is quite different, and leads to the best gag of the episode, and that’s saying something. Just discussing the plot and characters like I’m doing shouldn’t obscure the fact that the show is loaded with funny little moments: Tsukimi’s “ole!” chant, the two nosebleeds, Kuranosuke in the ladies room. There is almost always something interesting going on, and then there are moments where you can just sit there and watch Tsukimi watch the jellyfish with joy.

noitaminA night: Shiki 14, Kuragehime 3

Shiki 14 doesn’t get any happier, but some progress is made.

For much of the time it’s more of the same. The vampires catch some new guy, or start polishing off the remainders of families. This time it’s Kaori and Akira’s father, done in by Megumi. Sadly, the kids know exactly what’s going on, but their mother seems to be in a state of disbelief. Toshio is waiting for change in his dead wife and is walking around like a zombie. But we see other things at work, too. Masao, in death, is the same bastard he was in life, and Megumi beats him up, which is satisfying in itself but also demonstrates again that the vampires aren’t in accord about everything. Hints are made that Natsuno was cremated, but I can’t believe the show would just drop him like that.

The real progress comes when Kyoko wakes up. Toshio straps her down in the O.R. and proceeds to run a few little tests, filming the entire thing. And so he gains some valuable information on how the vampires work and what can affect them. Unfortunately for us it’s painful to watch. He injects her with all sorts of things, including insecticide, and confronts her with sacred artifiacts. She’s awake during the entire ordeal and obviously in terrible pain. When he gets to slicing her open to see what happens if a vein is severed I finally had to turn away. Toshio is basically torturing his wife, and for the first time in the series I had sympathy for a vampire. Okay, some knowledge is gained, but at the cost of part of Toshio’s humanity.

If Shiki 14 made you disgusted and depressed, Kuragehime 3 will pick you up. It’s the best episode so far and a delight to watch.

The Prime Minister boogies with a cross-dresser.

Kuranosuke is up to his tricks. When his uncle the Prime Minister comes over to visit he is at his cross-dressing best. What makes it more fun is that everyone is offended EXCEPT the PM (maybe he doesn’t know the truth). People in this show think they must live by certain norms, whether a somber diplomat or otaku, but if you throw something strange at them the reaction might not be what you expected. So already, expecting a scandalous scene and enraged PM we instead get a bit of happiness. We also see a little of why Kuranosuke behaves this way, well, he tells us. It’s nothing we couldn’t have figured out. But something odd is happening to him. He wants to live in a world of fashion but when his fashionable friends call to invite him out he refuses. Boring. Princess Jellyfish is far more interesting.

Sonofagun, she IS cute.

Then things get really fun. After another friendly visit to the girls (where he manages to offend everyone again) he drags Tsukimi off to his mansion and forces a makeover on her. We get a major surprise. Dress Tsukimi up, and she’s cute! But that’s not enough for this show. In the show’s finest ten seconds so far, Kuranosuke’s brother, the serious Shou, knocks on Kuranosuke’s door. It flies open. We know this will be Tsukimi fleeing in terror, but we haven’t seen her yet. What will she look like? Everything slows down as at the door we see a very pretty girl. A couple seconds later we see that Shou has frozen up, obviously smitten. Violins start to play … I guess you could have predicted that Tsukimi would clean up real nice, though I didn’t, but to get a bonus, an immediate, unexpected plot twist out of it as well, that’s good work!

After a hilarious scene where the dolled-up Tsukimi tries to sneak into her apartment, Kuranosuke causes some more trouble, or maybe not. Seeing Shou’s reaction he suggests Shou return Tsukimi’s glasses and ugly clothes. He could be doing this for the potential for mayhem, but maybe he genuinely wants to help his brother out. And Tsukimi. On retrospect I think it’s the latter. He is disappointed when Shou returns, having seen nothing but crazy otaku girls running around. He didn’t recognize the mousy Tsukimi. But now we have potential for more fun in later episodes. My only fear is that they will cop out and eventually transform Tsukimi into a permanently fashionable person, but I don’t think so. Kuranosuke believes that all girls want to be princesses. He’s wrong, and I suspect part of this show will demonstrate this.

So tonight I went from being depressed and disgusted to laughing with glee. noitaminA covers a lot of ground.

Can't resist one more screenshot. This is the funniest scene I've watched in a while.

God Only Knows 4, Kuragehime 2

There are no new girls in The World God Only Knows 4. Instead, in an odd, disjointed but often funny episode, Keima takes on the challenge of beating the unbeatable game.

You'll see this moment a lot.

It’s not that the game is hard, it’s just unplayable. It’s got so many bugs in it that it is impossible to complete. Keima takes this as a personal challenge. This is confusing because in the first couple scenes (after an atmospheric glimpse inside the game) it looks like business as usual. Keima playing his PFP, Elsie tagging along, concerned, just like the other episodes. We’re waiting for this week’s girl to show up. It takes a while to realize there will be no girl, except for the one within the game.

This is what happens if you order the curry.

But then we get a great scene. We switch to Keima’s view within the game and experience the loops and scene jumps with him. Quiet piano music plays, the girl says a line, he responds, something surreal happens, and they’re back to the quiet piano music. The girl never changes, but the bugs get more surreal, and Keima gets more beaten and frustrated every time it happens. It’s quite funny.

Keima’s motivation to get past the bugs and loops isn’t just pride. He sees the girl in the game as someone to be rescued. The gamemakers have gone out of business, there are no new patches coming. If he can’t get to the end and make the girl happy, no one will. You can call this either pathetic or sweet, or maybe both, but it suggests that Keima is kinder and more sympathetic to others than we were led to believe. By the way, I bet you can predict the ending.

Kuragehime is an amiable enough show but I hope each episode isn’t going to be about hiding Kuranosuke’s true identity.

The first part of episode 2 is all about that, as Tsukimi deals with getting Kuranosuke out of the building while not making the others suspicious. To complicate matters the wig’s in the hallway and the girls want Tsukimi’s attention. Kuranosuke is completely clueless as to what the fuss is all about. In fact, that might get a little old, too. And when he does get out, we don’t see it. He’s just out on the street with Tsukimi. But at least the scene is over.

Precisely the wrong thing to say.

Things get much better. The girls shop for their weekly hotpot feast, and we get to see what a close-knit group they are. They all look forward to the event and choose the ingredients together. Alas, Kuranosuke crashes the event and ruins it. In spite of every indirect (and in Tsukimi’s case, direct) message they send him that he’s not welcome he stays and makes everyone uncomfortable. I must say I am not warming to this character. It’s not just that he is unaware that the girls fear fashionable people as much as men. He just doesn’t see any problem with coming in, unannounced and uninivited, and eating people’s food.

Well, he does make it up to them, and we begin to see why he might enjoy spending time with them, or rather, the Tsukimi. As for her, the heartstrings are starting to play that melody. So she’s going to be dealing with conflicted emotions for some time. I just hope it doesn’t lead to more frantic hiding scenes with quickly made-up lies. This agreeable series is capable of more than that.