A Certain Magical Index II 4 brings us plenty of what makes the series so fun to watch.
The first part is surprisingly low-key. The Catholics have Orsola, and Anglicans can’t interfere, Tatemiya goes off to fight them alone. Touma’s job is done. There’s a long bit where three characters just walk, and you can almost hear the gears turning in Touma’s head as he decides what to do. Unlike some others, he is a free agent, and he has no decreed reason to rescue Orsola, except that she’s a girl in trouble. This is reflected in a nice speech Orsola makes while the nuns are roughing her up. She had received aid from people with nothing to gain. What a gift!
And you figured that Touma, walking in unarmed and facing a battalion of fighting nuns, would need some aid himself. It’s not surprising that Tatemiya joins him, of course, but then Stiyl finds a loophole in the Anglican policy (I knew that cross that Touma gave Orsola would come into play eventually), and Index is there because Touma is. And we got ourselves a big fight between magic users and nuns. Explosions! Fire! Leaping escapes! Epic swordplay (well, Tatemiya just swings his sword and a bunch of nuns go down, but his friends are pretty good)!
And the show’s specialty: Cult babble! This time it’s Index’s turn to whip it out. “Sheol Fear,” which, according to the fansubbers, “… thoroughly impeaches contradictions in the Christian teachings.” For our purposes, she starts to sing, a light show begins, and the nuns all fall down. Apparently she can use the power of all those secret books in her brain. Nice trick. But the nuns come up with a rather gross way of overcoming Index’s song, and so the episode ends. It was a good one. It had something for everyone, except fanservice.
Fortune Arterial 4 continues to be a most bewildering vampire show. Once again the only hint of threat is an evil smile from an unknown girl at the very end. Oh, and there’s this part at the beginning.
Lori and Erika give Kohei a matter-of-fact rundown of what vampires really are and aren’t. Yes, they drink blood, but consider actually biting people to be kind of gross. They’re indestructable and immortal, but they’re not sure about that. And Erika doesn’t like hot foods. Now, it’s clear that they have some plan for Kohei, at least Lori does, but I’m beginning to think it’s not going to be very sinister.
The remainder of the episode deals with Kohei in charge of the annual athletic festival, a huge undertaking. Kohei is suddenly beset with work. But he’s determined to fit in and make it fun for everyone, and the student body begins to rally around him. I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop, to have him fall ill from exhaustion, or maybe a bloody vampire shows up, but instead we get one inspirational scene after another. While it’s nice that Kohei is testing his strengths and having a good time, after too much of it I was checking my watch. The festival must be next episode. Maybe a vampire, I mean, a new vampire, will show up.
Letter Bee Reverse 4 is a good one. We start with Lag, working on the engines of the imagery lighthouse he maintains with his beloved grandfather, happy that he’ll one day take on the caretaker’s role, when he starts hearing voices … Huh, what?
It works well. I try to figure out what the heck is going on with no clues except for a flashback scene where we learn Lag is going on a delivery near the same lighthouse. By the time the beloved grandfather shows up with a gun, muttering “hate,” I was thoroughly perplexed. But with any effective mystery, there’s a letdown once the solution is revealed.
Once we learn what’s going on (and Lag uses his spirit amber to get to the bottom of this grandfather fellow) it becomes mundane. There’s bonding between Lag and the cool new character, Jiggy. Lag cries at the grandfather’s grave. The usual Letter Bee stuff. But at least the first half had me going.
If you ignore the cult-babble A Certain Magical Index 3 almost makes sense. I suppose it helps to know that the Amakusa Church wants Orsola Aquinas (for different reasons than we think), and so do the Roman Catholics, though why they dragged the Church of England into this I don’t know. But all you need to do is follow Touma, not a member of anything, as he tries to get to the bottom of this for his own reasons. Also Steryl and Index, of course, who have their own way of dealing with the bad guys when they arrive, by deserting Touma.
Yeah, keep it on a human level. There’s a nice but rather long scene between Touma and Orsola (every time she escapes she runs into him) where she wonders what his affiliation is and seems surprised that he doesn’t have one. He’s just helping her out because he wants to. What the connection is with the crucifix he gives her (which Steryl gave to him) we don’t know yet, but that’s normal for this show. As for the plot, it seems that the Amakusa Church wanted Orsola because it will cause their saint, Kanzaki, to … feel better, I suppose. Seiji, the Amakusa leader, is pretty vague. The Roman Catholic Church, he claims, wants to kill her.
You don’t have to understand the stuff about the disciples that sister Angelene unleashes (“debt collector, eradicator of magicians and lowly servant”) or Index negating the spell by babbling letters which sister Luccia (the crazy-looking girl above) describes as a Spell Intercept. Basically, Orsola Knows Too Much, one side wants to kill her, the other to use her, while Touma just wants her safe. Oh, and Index bites Touma’s head again, while Steryl still looks down at everyone. That’s all you need to know.
Psychic Detective Yakumo remains on probation. A lot of things in episode 3 work well, but some do not, and I have to start cutting something.
The story mostly was fine. Since we aren’t really sure which ghost was the main character it kept us guessing. It came to an exciting conclusion with some nice character development for Yakumo. But many things didn’t add up. Why did Nakahara and Haruka go off in his car? Did he have a motive after seeing the picture on Yakumo’s wall? Not to mention the sheer coincidence of Nakahama visiting Yakumo in the first place.
The climax went to a place I didn’t expect and worked well. Yakumo may have certain abilities, but he’s still powerless, unable to rescue the ghost kid from the nasty things in the tunnel. For which he beats himself up. Sadly, this leads to scenes of other characters talking about how troubled he is. We had figured that out already. And Haruka still has no personality at all. And they STILL haven’t gotten to the obviously evil guys we see every episode …
Letter Bee Reverse 3 is a standalone, full of heartwarming moments and stupid plot devices.
Well, it starts out well, discounting the “what shall I write to Gauche?” stuff at the very beginning. Sickly Ray Atlee has been receiving hand-painted postcards from a mysterious someone which have bolstered her spirits. She wants Lag to find out who’s been sending them. Lag becomes a detective, checking out the watermark (the world famous Howling Axolotls brand) and the paints. Meanwhile we’ve seen enough of the story to figure out it’s the clumsy new maid, Kimidori. But it’s nice to see Lag come to this conclusion on his own.
Alas, from here on out we get the same old deux ex amber spirit. When another maid tries to take credit for the postcards (in return for a lot of land) Lag, who has been sworn to secrecy, whips out the gun and, sigh, once again everything is revealed. I’m very tired of this plot device. It looks like Letter Bee hasn’t changed. I should really drop it, but after watching so many episodes I’ve sort of grown attached. I’ll give it one more chance.
Letter Bee Reverse 2 tells me that nothing in this series has changed. They’re going to spend much of their time in side stories rather than the main one.
And even with this side story of Lag reuniting with Niche the episode plods. Lag and Connor’s searching scene plods, the Zazie/Sylviette scene as well, though that one is livened up by Zazie’s delighted discovery that Lag and Niche are bound by underwear. The Niche stuff with Jacob and Sandra is a bit better, but still takes too long. I can’t believe that Lag hasn’t met Jacob yet. Anyway, we’re basically waiting for the inevitable danger scene, where Niche rescues Lag. I didn’t even make a prediction; I just knew it would happen.
And it’s good. One of the best things in this show is Niche in action. Here we not only get that but she puts on the underpants why she’s doing it! A very talented young lady. And naturally Lag was in danger because he was trying to rescue someone else. But, again, it seemed to take forever. They throw in a little bit of main story at the end when Lag receives a cartridge that will deliver a letter, so eventually he will shoot Gauche with it. How many episodes will it take before it happens?
Bakuman 2 is even more slow-paced than the first episode. But important stuff gets accomplished.
The opening scenes take the most time. Moritaka and Akito talk on the way to school. Then they talk in the infirmary, then on the roof. I’m not altogether certain what the point of all of it was except Moritaka will have to tell his parents about his decision. The rest of it, especially the rooftop scene, seems to be setting up the boys’ relationship. Akito goes on and on, talks about couples acting out in public, says Moritaka is smarter than the rest of the class, and moves on to hanging on to dreams. I’m scratching my head.
The second half has more action. Moritaka gets right to it and tells her he’s going to be a manga artist. Good man! She says no, but the male family members haven’t spoken yet, including grandfather, who, of course, has already lost a son to the manga industry. They’re nice scenes. Moreover they suggest that grandpa, at least, had been worried about Moritaka before this decision, but not now. “Men have dreams that women don’t understand” isn’t the most PC line in the world, but coming from Moritaka’s mother, even if she is quoting her husband, it’s pretty funny. So far this series has been calmer and slower than I expected, at times, too much so. Maybe when the boys start working on their dreams in earnest it will pick up.
Hyakka Ryouran Samurai Girls is second only to Star Driver for being the oddest show of the season, but it’s not its schizophrenic story or classical visual design that make it so. It’s the combination.
The old look, with its strategic use of ink drops, give atmosphere to the first part of the episode, Junbei, whom we learn is a new master samurai, fighting it out with Hanzo. But the style remains after the fight is over and the heroes are dragged to the palace, whereupon every starts behaving like goofballs. It almost looks like a typical school comedy where all the girls start to fall for handsome Muneakira (who is NOT Sen’s brother. I got it wrong), blushing and bickering with each other. Not only that but invincible Jubei somehow loses her powers and becomes a typical anime ditz with memory loss. She sits in Muneakira’s lap and he behaves like a frightened boy. All in that old-fashioned style. The ink drops now work to conceal exposed body parts.
Amidst all the body parts and name-calling we do get some story setting. Sanada and Matabel aren’t all that rebellious, really, but just wanted to warn Sen about some bad feng shui mojo they spotted, something about a shadow. Mysterious Jubei is revealed (if that’s the word) as a master samurai. Sen’s brother hears about it from Paris. Paris? So it’s all mysteries, woodcuts and strategic drops of ink for now.
I was going to start the new season with Iron Man, but the sub didn’t work. So it’s on to Panty and Stocking with Garterbelt. By the way, you can gauge the popularity of a show by the number of fansubs that appear. Iron Man has hardly any while PSG has plenty, though not as many as the Sora no Otoshimono sequel, a show I won’t be covering. I couldn’t finish the first season. I know the fansubbers want to do shows they like, but I wish there was a way to spread it around.
I had gathered that Panty and Stocking with Garterbelt was a raunchy show with a Powerpuff Girl vibe. That’s pretty much what I got. The girls and their boss fight ghosts in Daten City, which is on the cusp of something. Panty is sex-starved, Stocking is sugar-starved, and Garterbelt has an afro. That’s about all you need to know about them.Oh, they have a dog-thing named Chuck, I believe, whose job it is to get beaten up by the heroes every few minutes. In the first story they must find out why toilets have been eating people. We quickly learn that the girls don’t give a crap, so to speak, but are interested in heavenly coins they get when they cleanse an possessed person. It’s only when Panty is herself sucked down the loo that they begin to take it seriously.
The show doesn’t hold back. The shit literally flies as the girls confront the monster and “cleanse” it with a gun and sword (the titular items, transformed, which means Panty has to drop ’em before she can effectively fight). Don’t ask me what the pole-dance scene was all about, please. After the probably deliberate shock of the first story the second is bound to be a letdown, since it only has to do with a spirit possessing vehicles which the girls must chase down. But it’s not bad.
The artwork is crude but they make up for it by having something happen almost every moment. It’s almost impossible to keep up. It’s a good thing that they put in two stories per episode. Having one long one would wear me out. There’s nothing really new in this show but if they can keep up the manic pace it’ll be fun to watch once a week. No more.
I’m going to watch Letter Bee Reverse, but it’s on probation. The first season overstuffed itself with badly-written, unimportant stories, meanwhile the main story (Gauche) was pretty much ignored until the finale. Do I want to watch more of this?
First we get the same scene we got before. Lag sees Gauche, but Gauche doesn’t remember him, or anything, really, calls himself Noir, a marauder. He blasts Lag with a black spirit amber. Meanwhile Gauche’s dingo Roda manages to scratch Niche (which apparently means she’s formidable) then hurts her more by saying she’s a failure of a dingo. Off they go, leaving Lag to cry and Niche to fume.
One thing came back to me. Lag cries a lot and lots of time is taken to show it. After an informative scene at the hive (where we are reintroduced to Largo, Aria, and Thunderland, who alas doesn’t talk about dissection) where we learn about an anti-governmental group called Reverse, we fall back to depressed Lag and poor Niche. Another long scene where Lag despairs over telling Sylvette about her brother. Good lord this show takes its time! A scene where Sylvette praises Lag and they cry some more. The only plot movement in the second half involves Niche.
So we’re going to get at least one episode where Lag looks for Niche. There will be crying involved. It will take up a lot of time. But at least they’re more or less still on the main story track—for now. So I’ll keep watching.
Kimi ni Todoke ends the way everyone expects, without going as far as a first kiss. But can you imagine Sawako or Kazehaya brave enough for that step?
The episode itself runs pretty much like the one before it. The two would-be lovebirds talking, doing the New Year things, cutting occasionally to Yano or Yoshida for more lighthearted things. Thank heavens, because nothing much happens between Sawako and Kazehaya at all. All the same, the little things are huge for both of them. The moment he takes her hand to guide her down some slippery steps, even the announcement that they had a good time seems to take on a profound significance. Was this what it was like during adolescence? I’m too far away from it to remember.
Fortunately, along with the side characters’ antics, the episode also provided Sawako and Kazehaya some nice comic moments. Good thing, too; the comic moments with the other characters didn’t always work. Yano’s is pretty much wasted, stuck with a minor character until he’s dragged off, and then squaring off against Pin (who once again appears out of nowhere). This was a final episode. She deserved better. Yoshida and Ryuu (who’s middle name should be “Amazake”) do better, visiting the shrine together and reaffirming … whatever it is they have. Too early to tell.
So after 25 episodes what do we have? Nothing in the romance department, certainly. Odd for a high school romantic comedy. But we do have Sawako’s growing maturity and confidence, and they’ve set the stage for more to come. For surely you don’t think this is really the end of the series, do you? So, until the inevitable part two, here’s goodbye to Sawako and the gang.
I thought I’d be closing two series tonight. I thought Letter Bee 25 was the final episode in the series, but apparently there’s a few more. Probably not enough to actually clear up everything, and this episode annoyed me about as much as the last one did. I don’t know if I have the patience.
I made a mistake in my last Letter Bee post. I said we got to see the gaichuu’s memories. Wrong. Turns out they belonged to hunt. Naturally, it blows Sarah’s scheme wide open, as the townspeople see she’s been lying all this time. The fact that she did it to survive, and protect Hunt, doesn’t matter to them, but they are a mob, after all. Rather a small one, but a mob nonetheless, and they have rocks. There are touching scenes of people protecting each other, sorrys and thank you’s, and once again the story arc ends in the middle of the episode.
And where was Niche during all this? She had drunk the poisoned water and lost her powers, but Hunt was healing her. Still, we don’t get a glimpse of her until everything’s over. Letter Bee’s most effective character and they don’t use her for almost two episodes? Tsk.
There’s more. Returning home, Lag and Niche encounters Gauche, except he calls himself Noir now. When Lag asks too many questions Noir shoots him with an amber spirit gun for no reason. Meanwhile, his dingo Roda battles and antagonizes Niche up on the rocks. Again for no real reason. Then they leave, and Lag cries again. Meanwhile I was wondering what the hell was that for a series finale. But again, it really wasn’t. All I can say is I hope they wrap it up somehow soon. I’ve come close to dropping Letter Bee many times. I can try to endure a couple more episodes, but my patience is wearing thin.
Letter Bee 24 had the potential to be quite an exciting episode, but, well …
It starts off just fine, with Zazie making his surprise appearance and rescuing Lag, but then they flash back as to why he followed, sort of. Zazie likes to kill gaichuu, but says “I had intended to meet you coming back.” Huh? And already the story has stumbled.
But the gaichuu isn’t dead, it’s just patiently waiting for this nonsense to end before making its next move—burrowing back into the ground. The Bees manage to force it back up. It snags Ann, and her memories begin to go. It’s similar to Suou’s “death” in Darker than Black 2, but not nearly as moving. That’s a little unfair. We’ve only known Ann for two episodes, but even taking that into account, viewing the memories as she loses them was more maudlin than in Darker.
Then back to the heroics. Hunt tries to rescue Ann, only to get overwhelmed himself, and now we have to see HIS memories. Naturally there’s a revelation there for Sarah; what point is there in this seeing memories cliché if it doesn’t affect the plot? But that’s TWO sets of memories, twice in this episode we’ve seen it used.
Make it three times. Zazie tries to rescue them both and gets caught, and guess what? Worse, we’ve already seen these memories. They add nothing to what’s going on. So much for what I said about advancing the plot. Finally Lag, running around pointlessly underground, gets the right angle on the gaichuu and destroys it. Guess what? We get to see all the memories the gaichuu ate. All the other gaichuu we’ve seen blown up didn’t do this …
Well, at least we learn what happened to Gauche. I swear, this series can drive me up the wall.
As expected, the last episode of Ookami Kakushi is a throwaway. I guess I can live with that. The show never really lived up to its potential, so why not have some fun with the characters?
It works pretty well. Just about everyone and everything that was weird or threatening in the show is sent up, from the Nemeru’s family’s cultish ways (and why are they trying to form an occult pursuit club when one of its members is as occult as you can get? They don’t have to pursue anything; she’s sitting at their table!), to random townspeople coming on to Hiroshi (who’s learned to carry some hassaku juice in a spray bottle). Nemeru cosplays and plays with Mana, though their mindsets are somewhat different.
The first story is amusing, but the second one is better. A tea-shop is going to be featured on a TV show, so naturally Isuzu and Kaname get jobs waitressing, and for no reason whatsoever they call Hiroshi over and force him to be a waitress, too. Hiroshi is a wuss to the very end … It’s all full of little sight gags that will work on regular viewers, and rather a relief after the heavy-handed seriousness. There’s a nice bit at the end as Hiroshi looks at Nemeru and Isuzu talking while memories of what they’ve experienced together flow by. But strangely, Kaname is left out. She went through some rough stuff, too … Well, there was a lot in this series that didn’t make sense, but overall I liked it.
Hidamari Sketch 11 is one of the better ones, or at least because at least one part played to my interests.
Though I think it’s odd that these girls, apart from Nori, have so little experience with computers. Miyako is flabbergasted by the concept of computer graphics. They’re in an art school! Surely the receive at least a little training in it. On the other hand, it’s cute watching them explore basic computery things. And they come to a conclusion shared, from time to time, by all us computer nuts:
Part two is interesting when you start asking yourself exactly what art is. The seniors have a voluntary exhibition of work, and they’re allowed to put them anywhere they like in the school, leading to some confusion.
Yuno and Miyako begin to see everything around them as a work of art. This messes with their girlish minds and gives us some amusement. It also gets Yuno thinking about next term, and eventually, her graduation, but that’s a long way off, and there’s still cute fun to be had until then. Besides, as Miyako says to cheer her up, “Maybe we won’t graduate!” Pretty good episode.
Cross Game 49 is indeed excruciating to watch. You may think, well, it’s a sports show, so it has to end with victory, but this series has as many letdowns as triumphs. There would be a certain beauty to it if Seishuu loses, and Kou, Aoba and Akaishi don’t realize their dream of playing in the Koshien. There’s no guarantee that they’re going to win the game, and in fact, the game doesn’t end this episode, so we have another week to wait.
While almost every scene concentrates on the game, we get some thoughts about the past. Not only Wakaba’s tragic death, but what happened last year when the two teams met, and Ryuuou won in extra innings. The slugger Mishima remembers it well. So do Kou and his team. But Wakaba is there as well, and later, when the game indeed goes into extra innings, Cross Game eases on the pressure pedal and we get a few moments of memory. Aoba remembers Kou crying. Kou takes out a batting cage token. We see the river Wakaba died in, the spot where Kou and Akaishi always train. At this point we really need to see these moments, because the game, as I said, is excruciating.
We can see the strain and wear on the Seishuu players. The uniforms get dirtier, the faces marked with grime and sweat. There are lucky hits, errors as well as great plays, strikeout after strikeout. After eleven innings both pitchers are still in there—which shouldn’t be permitted. These are still young, still-developing players. They shouldn’t be allowed to extend themselves so much and risk injury. But in the interest of drama I’ll let that pass. Besides, would you want to be the one to tell Kou he’s being relieved? The way he’s pitching?
There are little battles, some laced with irony. Azuma tells Kou that he can do anything today. Moments later a Mishima homer goes foul by centimeters. His subsequent line drive is caught by Azuma. Kou apparently homers off of Oikawa, the opposing pitcher, well, they don’t really officially say it, and the episode ends right there, but I assume from the camera angle of where the ball went that it was fair; they used a similar trick to show that Azuma’s was foul.
Through it all the players on both sides don’t lose their focus or get too optimistic. They are competitors. They know how good the other team is. They won’t let up. A moment or two of jubiliation is all they’ll permit themselves.
And the other characters? They watch and comment. Aoba and Junpei Azuma have some terrific moments as they watch. When Yuhei Azuma hits a triple, his brother is ecstatic. Aoba looks at him, enjoying his happiness. Akane and her parents watch from the hospital. There is nothing any of them can do. And neither can we. And the game isn’t over.
Next episode is the finale. How they’re going to handle the game and all the romantic angles in such a short time is anyone’s guess. It’s not like this series to cram too much into one episode.
Nodame Cantabile Finale ends next week, too. They too have a lot to cram in, like what the hell is Nodame going to do now?
This episode is all about the fallout from Nodame’s debut in London. It quickly got posted in YouTube and now music lovers the world over have seen it. Word quickly spreads to Japan and Paris, to the delight, bewilderment and consternation of the other characters. But the effort seems to have drained her of all passion. She had vanished from Paris, and now she vanishes again—to Egypt??
While people look for her, Auclair runs into Stresemann and admonishes him, but I’m not sure what his point is. Auclair says she was nearly at the point where she was living in music, and that Stresemann screwed that up. But how is getting Nodame to perform with an orchestra screwing anything up? She’s playing music, after all. Perhaps such a big scene was too much for her in her current state, and Nodame’s behavior certainly suggests he could be right, but surely wanting to hide afterwards is a normal reaction for someone new to this. She’s just recharging. Meanwhile, Chiaki can do nothing but brood on what he did wrong and wonder if he’s been dumped, romantically, and professionally.
Nodame returns, after discovering she has fans in Egypt, and a weird moment happens. Tanya and the others start barraging her with questions, and she can’t even look them in the eye. However, kids of Chiaki’s orchestra members have come over, and seeing them she perks up and begins to play with them. Chiaki has wondered if she would have been better off in Japan, away from the stresses of professional music, or maybe this is just he way of recharging her batteries. It does leave a lot to resolve in one more episode, even if Chiaki has decided he will say yes to her proposal.
Letter Bee 23 offers one half of boredom and the other as bewilderment. Connor and Niche are captured by the mob. Lag escapes thanks to Hunt, the monstrous guy who isn’t really a monster, blah blah blah. He’s led off by Ann Graad, who feeds him a backstory I don’t fully understand, but she suggests that Gaichuu are attracted to the sealed hearts in letters, which would explain a lot. Oh, Sarah and Hunt are scam artists, but we knew that.
There’s an equally confusing talk between Connor and Hunt. Normally I would just mutter to myself, but this is the first time I can remember that Connor is good for something. He gets Hunt to talk out, and his completely useless dog turns into a superb burrower. About time those two got to do something besides be fat and lazy.
A gaichuu shows up and starts attacking. The townspeople, thinking the Bees and the government are responsible for them, prevent Lag and Connor from fighting back. So, naturally, they throw in a completely unrelated character …
Strolling into town like Clint Eastwood, Zazie clobbers the gaichuu. While I’m glad to see him, don’t ask me what he’s doing here. Don’t ask me what the backstory is. Don’t ask me anything about this episode. It was dull and senseless with a little action at the end.