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Three finales: Last Exile Fam, Inu x Boku ss, High School Boys

March 30, 2012 Leave a comment

I’m getting tired of writing farewells to series. Today I must write a couple more. Starting with Last Exile – Fam, the Silver Wing.

Let’s start with the big crisis. Luscinia has Sara in the center of the big white exile, everyone else is either trying to get to them, trying to destroy the exile before it blasts another hole in a country, or fighting to stop them. We jump from moments of wild action as vanships and vespas elude starfish, for want of a better name, and warships blasting away on the outside, to calm speeches by both Luscinia and Fam, more worldview declarations than actual fighting. Except Luscinia seems off. He’s not as smug. Either he sees that it’s too late for his side or their side, or he’s just tired of the whole thing. So Fam gets the edge.

Fleet Commander Millia.

As for the action, it’s again fun to watch, but I’m wondering what all those vanships are going to do when they get to where Fam already is. Meanwhile, those on the outside are trying to blow up the exile while their allies are all inside of it. Again, fun to see the guns go off and commanders shouting orders (especially Millia, whose battle command experience points must be about nil up to now), but apart from destroying the exile’s cannons, you wonder if the allies are working at cross purposes.

But in the end he barely tries.

It’s disappointing that Luscinia doesn’t put up more of a fight. He listens to Fam, he hands over Sara, and that’s it. We’ve learned that the exile was meant to take everyone into space; maybe he’s figured out that most people don’t want to go. Or he’s just given up. Whatever, it’s no fun if the man doesn’t have something evil up his sleeve (evil, but for the greater good, he would argue). The best moment is when the exile is disintegrating around them, Luscinia calm and ready to die, and Fam telling him to take responsibility for his actions. Fam’s last words to Luscinia are good ones. Then all that’s left is flight from the collapsing exile, Sadri’s sad and noble death, momentary fear for the heroes until they show up, some tears from Fam. But mostly: Yay! Time for a grand race! And the appearance of two characters we’ve been waiting for! Claus and Lavie. There they are! Yay! Er, Claus …

At last! Claus! Lavie! Great to see you! Er, Claus ...

I briefly googled and found that most everyone else is wondering the same thing: why is Claus in a wheelchair? I think the creators want another season. I guess I’m okay with that. I think the first series was better overall. LE-F told a grand story, but LE’s was even grander. And it did a better job of using its pair of plucky heroes than the successor. LE-F had better battles, but improved animation techniques can explain that. If they do try another series, maybe they should try a different format. Don’t get me wrong, I love the air battles, but it’s getting stale. Maybe some ground-based forces, with infantry and foxholes … Nah. Well, it was fun to watch. One more question: what did Dio get carded for at the race? Because his navigator was imaginary?

The Big Moment.

I was worried the the Inu x Boku SS finale would be one long love-fest, but I was only half right. In fact, I was surprised at the opening tone. It’s as if the events last week were resolved without showing us. Instead everyone is writing letters to future incarnations of themselves for a time capsule, and it’s all lightness and jokes. And since I like the oddball supporting characters in this show I didn’t mind a bit.

Karuta delivering the Line of the Week to Zange.

And when they do get to the lovey stuff the road there brings together two of Ririchiyo’s issues nicely. Her remark to her future self was in fact a list of goals, one of which was staying with Soushi, but she got it mixed up with another letter. Now, it would be easy to explain that she meant to stay with him in a professional way, no harm done, but she bravely decides to confront her other issue at the same time. She won’t hide or put on an act to avoid contact, she tells him that she loves him. A golf clap for that, please. A simple confession is dull, fighting against your fears to confess is far more interesting. That made the final lovey scenes (where a man and a girl in high school seven years his junior consider children–in the future) more palatable.

I don’t have much to say about the end of Daily Lives of High School Boys except it was funny much of the time, and through the narrow lens of television entertainment it tried to be honest with the concept. The boys were young enough that stupid things became important to them, yet just old enough to know that the whole thing was really a big joke so you might as well enjoy it while you could. Or something like that. I don’t know. It’s been a long time since I was in high school. Maybe they WILL come up with another season, and, please, not a live-action one with handsome actors playing the leads …

Last Exile 20 (22?), BRS 8, Amagami+ 12, Inu x Boku 11

March 26, 2012 Leave a comment

Last Exile 20 (or 22) overcomes the problems the show has developed by giving us terrific action. We’ve pretty much had our moral issues discussed. It’s time for the fighting!

But first, the philosophical talky stuff.

Okay, though this show has been something of a letdown with its clumsy storytelling (and that happens in this episode as well), it’s handled the issues fairly well. We’re not talking about simply good vs. bad here. Sadri, the one general still actively supporting Luscinia, knows something about Fam, and even if he didn’t you can tell the man is simply doing his duty. Meanwhile we have turncoat generals reuniting (Sorush’s return was one of the bits of clumsy storytelling I was talking about, as is the Anatory guy), and most of all Dian, who murdered Millia’s sister, and is now asked by Millia to lead the vanships against the Grand Exile. This is not a question of forgiveness, but of necessity, yet it’s the kind of reaching out to enemies that defines Sara’s view of peace as opposed to Luscinia’s concept of peace through conquest. Millia puts it into practice, though the reality is that it must be killing her.

In spite of the blizzard it still looks pretty good.

But enough about moral complexity and peace. Time for the fighting. We start with everyone who can still fly going to what’s left of Glacies, where Luscinia has taken Sara, to revive the Exile there. Millia changes into commander duds and leads the assault as if she had been doing this all her life. A little ridiculous; maybe it’s part of that power she inherited from Lilliana. Lots of shots of her and other commanders giving sweeping instructions mixed in with the actual combat, most of it hard to discern through the blizzard. Pretty lousy conditions to place a final battle, surely Gonzo could have worked it so it happened in a place with more visibility. You never see this problem in Rinne no Lagrange. Never mind. The battle is big and grand, and we can see enough to know when one of the Exiles snake things takes out a warship. Luscinia prepares an Exile attack on distant Turan, just to shit on them, I guess, in case you didn’t already think he was a total bastard, but Millia, with Dio’s help, starts to glow and soon its Exile vs. Exile. Stalemate. There’s a chess term they haven’t used!

Visibility gets better when the vanships get through a hole in the Exile (which seems pretty fragile when attacked, really. Maybe that’s Sara’s doing) and we get some of the show’s best visual effects yet, as Fam and Dian pilot their vanships through huge open spaces and tiny conduits, encountering star-shaped enemy ships we saw in the previous series, the first time I remember seeing them this series. Maybe not, but anyway, they brought to me a rush of recognition and dread. It’s one good moment after another until they reach Luscinia and Sara … and of course the episode ends. But it was a good one. Fam, our hero, is brought back into the action, and the action is good throughout. I hope the series can conclude with such a positive effort.

Black Rock Shooter ends with the feeling I’ve had for awhile that there was less here than meets the eye. In the conclusion we catch up with Strength beating the crap out of BRS, until Yuu (okay, actually strength) decides enough is enough and decides to off herself by jumping into a big hole, meaning Yuu (the real Yuu, posing as Strength) would return to the real world, which she doesn’t want to do, because it’s scary up there. Much better to be a nearly invincible weapon of death down here. I can’t blame her for that. And, in some fashion I can’t now remember, Mato finds herself in BRS form facing BRS, who proceeds to beat the crap out of HER, because Mato won’t fight back, because she doesn’t want to inflict pain and doesn’t want anyone to take her pain for her. Well and good, but then the show veers into overly simple homilies about how you can’t feel pain without hurting others. And here’s where the show has never worked. You could argue that these are young girls and so the words are on their level, but that makes them imprecise and often wrong. In the end they salvage it with the thought that you can’t truly live without experiencing the bad as well as the good–something Strength apparently picked up in the Real World, but it’s hardly a profound statement. Well, no one watched this show for the philosophy. You might have watched it to see how the girls all ended up, and that ending is satisfactory. Or more likely you watched it because you wanted to watch cool figures fighting epic duels, and there the show succeeds. Too bad they couldn’t find a story worthy of the fighting.

Thinking about Amagami SS Plus 12, I wonder if all the Morishima girls used the same cheap trick to get their guys to propose to them, letting on that they’re going away after graduation in order to hasten the boy’s marriage proposal. Be fair, this was Jessica Sexy Morishima’s sneaky trick, not Haruka’s, though I wonder if Haruka wouldn’t actually approve. No matter. It spiced up the episode nicely. Up to about halfway it was simple domestic games and Junichi’s little fantasies … and annoying “She’s in the bath, what should I do?” moments that went on too long. Junichi learning about Haruka’s leaving would have been just as bad, but they gave us little comic bits to help out. But I knew things would liven up at the graduation scene. I knew Junichi would do something completely foolish and probably triumph with it. I didn’t expect Haruka’s amazing leap to the podium, but who did? And with that leap, the Haruka arc reclaimed its position at the top of the Amagami sequel. Next week’s girls-only onsen episode will appeal to some fans, I’m sure, but I wonder how much I’ll like it without Junichi anchoring the show. On the other hand, we’ll get a lot of Miya.

As for Inu x Boku SS 11, I can’t say I was surprised by the supposed secret Soushi’s been keeping from Ririchiyo all these years, especially since it was there on Wikipedia when I’d go to get a character name right. In fact all through episode 11, the long story of Soushi’s emotional rescue at her hands, I kept wondering why Ririchihiyo could ever think Kagerou could write such letters anyway. On the other hand that doesn’t mean she knew Soushi wrote them. The long flashback, NOT a confession as I first thought, went on and on, but the more I watched the more I decided it was the proper length to show Ririchiyo’s constricted upbringing, the scheming, soulless young man he became because of it, and his gradual transformation while impersonating Kagerou in his letters. I’m hoping the actual fallout from the confession next episode will be as elegant. And I rather like Kagerou this episode (for once). You get the idea that he forced the truth out both because it would be fun, and because he wants Soushi to succeed, a bit of decency amidst the narcissism.

Some near-finales for you: Natsu, Ano Natsu, Last Exile Fam

March 21, 2012 Leave a comment

We’re getting a lot of pre-finale cliffhangers this week, a lot of characters in crises of various kinds, some of more interesting than others. We start with Natsume Yuujinchou Shi, where our boy heads to his first home, but before he gets there he’s assailed by youkai and memories of the past.

Nyanko-Sensei comes too.

The two work together. He needs to pick up a key to the old place from a place he used to stay with a nice couple and their daughter who could not understand him at the time, well, none of them did, but little Miyoko was the only one unable to hide it. This would be a perfect place for Natsume to sit down, have some nice tea, and prove to everyone how happy he is now, but he forgot about the house’s other inhabitant.

This can get hard to watch. Natsume, in fighting off this nasty youkai, displays all the behavior that he used to, and again it’s Miyoko, willing to try again with this now grown up and kind of cute boy who’s paying his respects, who can’t handle it. After Natsume barely escapes the house in spite of the parents’ hospitality and concern she chases after him full of accusations, and we learn a little more about why he upsets her. He was an intruder into her household, and one that seemed to need extra attention, meaning she felt left out. The older, wiser Natume tells her “Don’t worry, I won’t take your family” (a line which perhaps also refers to the youkai), and we leave her thinking maybe about things SHE had forgotten about.

The plot twist at the end suggests that the youkai represents the old memories, at least the painful ones. It works with Miyoko, too; the monster is much bigger now after living under the same roof as her. Or maybe not. When it enters Natsume he can only think of getting home. But which home is he referring to? The original home, or the one he’s saying goodbye to? Next week I believe is the finale, and we’ll get our answer there, though it isn’t hard to figure out. I just hope we’re not done with Miyoko. It’s not good that in going to say goodbye and make amends he reopens old wounds.

The buildup in Ano Natsu de Matteru isn’t as quiet and mysterious as Natsume‘s nor as slam-bang as Last Exile Fam‘s, but it nearly the most compelling I’ve seen this season, and I don’t know how they’re doing it. Well, I have some ideas.

You know, like crashing on a No Contact planet and dating an alien ...

First, we have the love-string. Ichika-Kaito-Kanna-Setsuro-Mio, with Remon stirring the pot (or plot) out of what I thought was just boredom and spite, well, until this episode. We start with Emika, Ichika’s sister, come to rescue her and appalled that she actually wants to stay. After the shock of seeing Ichika dating that little guy, she Emika softens a little, but not so much that she can allow Ichika to stay. Ichika broke the Prime Directive, don’t you know. Our couple seperate, depressed. Ichika gets another reverse pep talk from Kanna, which I thought unfair. Ichika was still trying to sort things out; she didn’t need this sort of pressure. Meanwhile, Kaito works on Emika with little result except for that vague reference of trying to find something on this planet, the first time all episode needed its silly SF side to appear. And, finally, Remon makes herself useful.

And it's about time.

I didn’t think about this show very hard, but it had occurred to me that Remon always seemed to know too much. She befriended Ichika right away. She’s always around, even when you don’t expect her. And we still don’t know what she’s about, but she instigates our beleagered team’s counter-strategy: find the place on the maps that isn’t in the alien database. A first contact might have happened there, meaning the planet will be promoted and fraternization would no longer be taboo. Okay, she got Emika to help by supplying her with gadgets, but don’t tell me Remon’s normal after all the wild stuff she whips out during the chase with the spacecraft. It leads to a great few minutes. Suddenly, they’re all running, the music has picked up, it’s fun as hell to watch. Each character “sacrifices” themselves for our heroes in ways only they can as the tricked-out van rushes to The Place, until the last couple seconds … Well, we’ll have to see what the show makes of that next week.

Sara has every reason to look worried.

Last Exile Fam‘s pre-finale events are the most disappointing. Maybe because nothing really happened that you didn’t expect. No surprises. Luscinia kidnaps Sara and gets her to that cold lace where he unleashes an exile, or something, which blows up a lot of stuff, but it’s unclear exactly what’s going on. Meanwhile everyone back at the fortress is either sad about Lilliana dying or pissed off about the Federation, both, as it turns out, right things to concern oneself with. We Luscinia’s arrogant and single-minded concept of uniting everyone–under the Federation, of course, but we heard that all last week. And there’s no response from the good guys. Bleak bleak pre-finale blues. My guess is that Millia, who’s now got the power, is going to unleash some exile-mojo of her own.

Natsume 11, Last Exile Fam 20 (I think), Moretsu 10

March 14, 2012 Leave a comment

Natsume Yuujinchou Shi 11 is the beginning of a two-parter that doesn’t feel like one. Natsume learns that the house he first lived in is going to be sold. It has happy memories for him, about the only ones he had until he moved to where he is now, so he has struggled to forget them because they hurt too much. Odd behavior, indeed. Also, we have a Macguffin: a photo of his late parents, another painful memory. He insists to everyone that he’s okay about the house being sold, and, he can look at the picture now, so he’s fine, right? We even get moments where he talks to himself like he’s giving one of his show-ending soliloquies, but Tanuma sees right through it, and even Nyanko can tell that it’s bothering him. This is reflected in the outing, the boys get lost in the forest while trying to find a soda spring one of them once knew of. A silly adventure to regain something one had when they were young. When a youkai ambushes Natsume and he loses the photo, the boys abandon their goal and help him look for it. They were playing a game; Natsume is trying to regain something he once feared but now desperately needs. Next week he visits the house, but this week felt so complete that it’s hardly a continuing story at all. Still, I wonder what memories the visit will conjure up.

Smile while you can, Sara.

I’m catching up with Last Exile Fam, so I’ll just give some brief thoughts. First, were the people who secretly met with Millia the stupidest conspirators ever? Not only were they so easily caught, but they demanded that Millia make her decision right then and there. And after they’re caught, they blame her for no reason. Good riddance. The Glacies treachery at the end was far more effective because they kept their mouths shut. Also, Fam has a terrible sense of timing, to tread on Sadri’s foot the moment he’s about to give her some important information about her life? But what bugs me the most is the concept that Luscinia, Lilliana, and now Millia have been given a clear vision of How Things Work that makes them invade other countries and slaughter countless soldiers and civilians. The only excuse I’m getting is overpopulation, but there are surely peaceful ways to take care of that. I find this sort of high-handed certainty in leaders that give them an excuse to make their subjects suffer absolutely disgusting. Okay, my thoughts weren’t all THAT brief …

All great miniskirted pirate captains know to put a leg up when making swashbuckling speeches.

It must be tough to be the captain in Moretsu Pirates 10. Not only do they have to fight their way through nasty turbulance and slip past and eventually skirmish with two ships, but Captain Marika is doing it partly blind. It’s clear from earlier episodes and in this one that there is more than one side to Gruier’s empire, and they’re more than willing to fire at each other. Since Gruier is on the Bentenmaru, this puts her on one side. Which means any ship out there might or might not fire on her if they find out. Gruier’s presence is, in Marika’s words, a valuable card that should be held in reserve. But what IS Griuier? We learn that she’s made genetic material that Serenity space buoys older than she is recognizes, suggesting that she’s a clone. A clone princess doesn’t sound right. We don’t get any answers, and neither does Marika. Either that or she’s already figured it out, since she’s got some formidable genes of her own. It’s fun to watch Marika assess the situation and make a quick decision, with a flourish, but like the other episodes it’s all rather routine and straightforward, a straight-ahead plot with little in the way of side notes.

BRS 4, Last Exile Fam 17, Moretsu Pirates 8

February 28, 2012 Leave a comment


Yomi in both worlds.

As I see it, the fighting world in Black Rock Shooter is a reflection of what’s going on, a muddled reflection, sure, but nothing happens in that world that isn’t started in the real world. In the real world we got a lot of teen angst which is interesting only in that the girls are mostly trying their best to get along in their lives. In a slice of life show this would be okay, but no one’s watching BRS as a slice-of-life. It’s where the real world and the fighting world interact that things get really interesting. And that would mean Saya. She’s feeding the girls’ angst, perhaps spiking their coffee and playing little mind games (what counselor would tell a troubled girl “the world doesn’t need you”?), but for what? Is she doing a Kyubey thing, taking some untapped emotions and using them to feed the actions of the fighting world? That’s my best answer right now. So we get Yomi, suddenly feeling bereft of friends (not true) and isolating herself. Kagura has come to school and made her own friends, and Mato’s too busy to give Yomi her full attention. Again, sad, but not terribly interesting. When Kagura talks to her near the end, obviously messed in the head in some way, and we then see Yomi’s fighting character emerge from a prison of chains, it gets interesting. How are they related? Can it be stopped? Meanwhile, what’s with Arata forgetting the boy who dissed her, I mean, literally forgetting him? Is he a fighting world candidate too? He’s a boy! That would ruin everything!

Er, you couldn't have done all this before?

Last Exile – Fam 17 is a real mess. They rush and underexplain so much of the conflict that at times I had no idea what was going on. Why did the Third Fleet (now on Turan, well, Sara’s side fire on the Glacies, or is that actually what happened? All I knew Dian was muttering about betrayal and turning on them. Then we got the return of the Silvius just in the nick of time to kick some whoop-ass on the bad guys. But then we see that Sidri, or someone, had planted mortars to take down Boreas bridges and making the place accessible. When did he do that? Who did it? Why didn’t they try that before. So Sara, feeling bad that everyone she rules is fighting each other signs a decree to make them stop. In a ridiculously hurried and confusing scene Fam (finally doing something useful again) delivers it. So the fighting stops. Just like that. Yay! Why didn’t they do THAT a little earlier? Maybe because Sidri’s a reasonable man? Must be. So, just like that, wham-bam, we got peace. I’m not complaining, but it was an awful episode to get to it.

A sparkly new character!

Speaking of royal people appalled that her subjects are fighting one another, we are introduced to Princess Gruier Serenity (call her Gruier), the seventh princess of the Serenity royal family, who, in Moretsu Pirates 8, has stowed away on the Bentenmaru and sparkles a lot. We’re only given hints at the bigger story, but I can’t help but wonder why Marika and the rest of the crew didn’t bother to ask why she bothered to stow away if all she wanted was to find a ghost ship. While we wait for answers we get more high school stuff–Marika decides to enroll the princess at her school in order to hide her in plain sight, and give us the usual transfer student scenes. The dullness continues while they get a new mission and up to when they head out. Honestly, did we need any of that car scene? Things get a little better when they go off to pick up the ghost ship information while hinting that there might be a battle, and indeed there is. Now we get some idea as to why Gruier did this secretly. Alas, we don’t get Marika’s decision “Captain, your orders?” this week. A shame. I wanted to see how much Marika has learned.

Catching up with Fam and Symphogear

February 21, 2012 Leave a comment

As you probably know by now Last Exile – Fam 15.5 or whatever was another flashback episode, so I kicked back, pushed the button, and wondered why another one? Production issues? But then that music kicked in. Cloud Age Symphony is still one of my favorite OP songs ever. And it was good to see the old folks in action again, even if it was told from Dio’s POV so I didn’t get to see as much of them as I wanted. It all looked a little … old, murky. Still great to look at, but I felt like we were watching a old film. So it was interesting to then watch ep16 and watch the new folks. After all that old footage some of the new stuff looked a little fake. The characters, at least early on, looked almost cartoonish. The look either went away or I got used to it because I had no problem later.

As for the episodes story, centering on the battle for … ah, didn’t write it down, with Orang and Sorush’s motives finally coming into play, it felt perfunctory. We’d been waiting to see what the two generals would do when the crisis (firing on Sara) came, but we’re talking about big issues. The two friends have had strong beliefs about their purpose as soldiers since they were small, and while we’ve seen them (Orang, at least) thinking and full of doubt, when the time came for Orang to fire on Sorush’s vessel it felt rushed. The show hadn’t spent enough time, maybe could never have spent enough time, to show the thought processes, the weighing of loyalties which now conflicted. The creators did a much better job with the aftermath. Orang, Sorush, Vasant and Sara had spent a lot of time together and could all be considered friends. The consequences of Orang’s betrayal, even though he now becomes an unofficial good guy, devestates all of them, to the point where Sara will not even let Vasant see her. What is to become of their friendship, much less the war itself?

That was later. Earlier we got a lot of Fam and her own internal conflicts. She had never fired a weapon at anyone, never wanted to kill, yet she wanted to participate in the battle. We see signs of what you could call weakness here. She freezes up and can’t fire her guns straight. And when she regroups and they try to do a sky pirate number on Sorush’s flagship they find themselves overmatched. It was the first real failure we’ve seen from her. You begin to see how her aspirations, grand as they are, may not be practical for the challenges their side must overcome. But, hell, at least she tried.

HIbiki tries to reach the enemy.

Senki Zesshou Symphogear 6 settles down and mostly repeats the same things as before until finally at least one issue gets resolved. Miku sees Hibiki battling Chris so now she knows why she’s being stood up all the time. Her best friend is a superhero. I’m glad that’s resolved; Miku was getting more pathetic by the episode. Now, of course, she’ll get all worried whenever Hibiki runs off somewhere, but it’s better than not knowing. Otherwise, except for that battle which Hibiki wins in spite of her inability, we get political talk, inspirational talk from Tsubasa, Hibiki and a lunch counter lady. The highlight is Hibiki’s rattling off of pointless information at Chris, to which the latter can only go Huh? and I hate you.

Just hop in, Hibiki.

And then I watched episode 7. Sigh, it looks like we’ll get a lot of wounded-heart Miku before she becomes a worrywart. The initial lashing out she did at Hibiki was unexpected, but after that it was a lot of scenes of her sulking and Hibiki getting all watery-eyed. Give it a couple of episodes. Apart from that, it looked like we’d get some healing for Chris after being abandoned and then helping out two lost children, but now she looks like she’ll be dead meat after Finé is done with her. Why Chris came back to the mansion I don’t know. Oh, the bad guys think they’re saving the world and the good guys are dealing with dark power, well, so are the bad guys. And Ryoko gives some babbling exposition about symphgear armor to make more confusing for us. And what’s with those girls in the cafeteria? Were they trash-talking or just playfully teasing? And who the hell ARE they? Man, this show is a mess. And so my mind wanders, like when Hibiki makes a nervous laugh that sounded exactly like Madoka in episode 12, and I speculated on the connection between the two shows, that is, gaining great power that might destroy them, and then I decide I think too much.

Last Exile Fam 15, Amagami and HS Boys 5

February 7, 2012 Leave a comment

After the wild events of the past two weeks of Last Exile – Fam everyone is content to get their affairs in order or become turncoats. It’s also a way for us to see the current political, military, and exile-ly status of the principals. Most important, it’s where where little Sara Augusta is finally convinced that Luscinia’s technique of blowing up the other side’s ships and dropping huge moon-things on their capitals isn’t the best way to unify the world. But how much of this can she understand? What’s more, there are lots of undercurrents here. Dian and what’s left of Glacies will only grudgingly fight for Millia, the sister of the woman who dropped an exile their land. In a depressing (for the ethnic stereotypes as well as the emotions they’re exhibiting) scene, a war council of sorts becomes a “Let’s all kill that bitch Liliana” fest, much to the frustration of her sister, as you might expect. Millia also sees people who want nothing more than to return to their homeland, people who were there before she was. Again, how much of this can Sara comprehend? It doesn’t really matter. Fam does her usual thing, becomes Augusta’s excellent friend, and thrills her with exploits of the grand race, something they can share. She’s got the right idea. Let’s unite everyone for a beautiful and noble dream! I wonder how many of the soldiers can be talked into that …

You can't keep Junichi down for long.

Some people didn’t like it, but Ai’s story was one of my favorites in the original Amagami SS series. The romance was nothing much, but they had this weird theme going on concerning things in liquids. Ai’s a swimmer, of course, but also the ramen stall, the fact that she turned into ramen at one point, and then they were bobbing about together in a hot spring. The return to Ai here doesn’t feel the same. Oh, it’s still playful and mildly sexy (how did Junichi’s request to sleep on her belly turn to that? And can you think of a better situation to be chastised than by a group of angry girls in swimsuits, or whipped by that fantasy cram school teacher?), but some of the unintrusive weirdness that marked the Ai story is missing. What’s more, the story isn’t terribly dramatic. Junichi, through no fault of his own (he says) has to attend a cram school camp, thereby missing out on their anticipated Christmas Eve date. Frankly, I don’t think they could have topped last year’s anyway, even without the deer breeding (okay, there’s SOME weirdness to this episode), but now they don’t get any fun at all and we get lots of shots of Ai looking sad. But don’t worry, Ai! This is Junichi we’re talking about. It’ll be fine.

The second-to-least funny skit in the episode was still pretty funny.

Daily Lives of High School Boys has become the one show this season where the credits arrive and I say “Aw shit, already?” Then I notice that there’s still several minutes to go yet and they just did it early … Seriously, unlike my first encounters with this show, now I try to figure out which skit was funniest. Was it dubbing the girls? Motoharu’s seniority issues? The play-acting the boys do to save a stranger’s heroic fantasy? The only one that didn’t work was the rubber-band hero. Just a little too far out of bounds of reality for this show. Next from the bottom was the glaring girl, but I laughed at it. … As for my favorite I’m going to have to go with the Ringo-chan scene.