Twelves: Arakawa, Neko Overrun, two finales that really aren’t

There’s one more episode, but Arakawa under the Bridge 12 was, I assume, the official climax. Even the prologue seemed more poetic and poignant this time around. The construction under the bridge crisis is halted, to the ignorance of the bridge denizens, who go about doing their typical weird things.

Make a wish!

Turns out Recruit didn’t have the wrong number saved on his phone, he just dialed it wrong. Not ready to face his father, it seems. And he gets a lot of grief from the other bridge people. Naturally (or unnaturally) it leads to him and Hoshi daring each other to jump off the bridge so Nino can make a wish on a falling star. Apparently this happens dozens of times. Well, there’s not much more they can do, if Recruit isn’t willing to call his father. Why not wish on a star?

And the project IS canceled. Maybe the star power worked after all, or maybe it’s the shadowy figure we briefly see. I assume we’ll learn next week. Seki Ichinomia, Recruit’s father, assumes that Recruit did something, and he storms to the bridge to find out what, only to find himself in a situation unfamiliar to him but familiar to us. It’s a good scene. He witnesses first hand Recruit screwing something up; at the same time Nino talks about what a good man he is, how he cares for the people down there. Embittered, talking about how Recruit can do things he cannot, he leaves, only to get arrested for indecent exposure, leaving Nino with his pants—and cell phone.

Which leads to another nice scene, one with an unintentional confession. But it doesn’t stay romantic for long. It doesn’t need to. The prologue and Nino/Seki scene had already established their love. This one devolves into “Where did you get that?!” and “How do I work this thing?”

And Recruit actually made the phone call! Or maybe he was just tired of the abuse he was getting.

I don’t know what they’re going to do next week. In terms of the story, all they need to do is explain how the project got cancelled. That won’t take an entire episode. Maybe more random silliness. Maybe they’ll veer off into something completely different.

Mayoi Neko Overrun 12 was another climatic episode that happens before the series actually ends. I hadn’t expected this; I thought the whole athletic festival plot and Nozomi’s mysterious past plot would take up too much time for 25 minutes, but they manage to cram it together, to the detriment of both.

Nozomi’s been down for a few days, now, afraid that the Murasame Institute would force her to return. “There are laws regarding relatives, but not family,” as she says. They’ve been working this in with the insane Bloomers vs. Spats (or tights, as this fansub group calls them, so I will, too. Sounds better than spats) war. The first half is dedicated to the fighting, and not only is it inconsquential, but a major letdown after last episode’s craziness. Nozomi wears both (bloomers over tights, called “blights”), enters as a third team with one member, and wins all the races. It’s over, just like that. Surely more should have been done with it.

Fun while it lasted.

Then it’s time for the past catching up scenes. This was also a letdown. The Murasame Institute is a prestigious school for orphans, and the best student is allowed to take the name Murasame, i.e., become a member of a family. This in itself is a letdown—I was expecting some secret organization for strange cat-like people, like Nozome. Her, um, cattiness is therefore never explained in this series. No, the institute is a caring, legitimate place, and the 4th Murasame, who has come to take her back, is a kind person. They tried to set her up as nastier by threatening to take Otome to court over custody, but spying on Nozomi having fun at the festival changes her mind, and instead they have a heart to heart.

It turns out Nozomi didn’t leave because she hated it there, but now she’s happier here. And that’s about all she has to say. Murasame says to keep in touch, and leaves. Very disappointing. Neko Overrun had both great episodes and weak ones. The climax of the story should have been one of the former.

It sounds like next time it’ll be all flashbacks. Hoping for a reprise of the bloomers song.

Heroman 12, Neko Overrun 11

The big event in Heroman 12 is that Joey’s identity is revealed to NIA, and apparently next week he’ll be a fugitive from justice, or at least the government. But the show spends most of its time on a more benign story: Joey and Lina’s first date. It’s both good and bad.

Joey is worried about the date, so Psy is as well. He tails them. Denton comes along. They’re joined by Holly and Ms. Collins the teacher. We’ve all seen these sort of episodes before; the only difference is that they have high-tech equipment to help them stalk. And they spend a lot of time wondering if they should be doing it. These scenes drag. But we get a nice irony in that while the stalkers are sneaking around and feeling guilty, Joey and Lina are having a terrific time together. No date-angst from Joey at all.

But we have to get to the story arc sometime, so Minami pretends his green device of doom has gone beserk to draw Heroman out. It works exactly as planned. Joey is obliged to destroy the thing, even though it exposes Heroman to the news chopper and Joey himself to the NIA, because that’s what heroes do. It had to happen sometime; might as well be now. I wonder what will happen next. Now that he’s outed he can’t return to his old life, probably. Well, maybe he can. The public doesn’t know about Joey, yet.

But that will all happen next time. I’m happy that Joey and Lina manage to resume their date and manage to have a good time. Ironically, Hughes had given Joey some valuable dating advice. Seeing the two of them cooing on top of a ferris wheel gondola is a nice way to end things, especially when Joey’s going to be on the run for a while.

Mayoi Neko Overrun 11 is similar to the Heroman episode, in that it injects a threat to a character in an episode that is otherwise oblivious to it. The difference is that Neko Overrun specializes in getting incredibly weird.

We’ll start with the threat. The Stray Cats gang have put up a YouTube video (okay, not YouTube, but that one where comments are streamed across the video) of Nozomi dancing. A woman named Shimako recognizes her. Meanwhile, Nozomi is depressed. It’s hard to say about what, but I think she has come to the conclusion that one can’t feed and protect everyone. It’s obvious that she’s an escapee from Shimako’s academy. Perhaps she fears that she might have to return, for everyone’s good. We’ll see a lot more of this next week, it being the final episode, after all. This show can get maudlin at times, and I hope that doesn’t overwhelm the ending.

The bloomer boys demonstrate.

Let’s turn to the weirdness. The school athletic festival is coming up, and Chise has gone all out. She builds a stadium, will film it all with the finest video gear and … the girls have to wear bloomers. Naturally, Fumino rebels, saying the girls will wear spats instead. The girls like this idea better, the boys don’t. And the school falls into open war. Underlying this rivalry is that fact that both girls want to run with Takumi in the three-legged race, and Takumi is too wishy-washy to decide anything, whether between bloomers vs. spats or Chise vs. Fumino. This makes him a hunted man.

The spats girls retaliate.

It isn’t just that the conflict is bizarre, it’s the extremes to which they take it. There are songs, demonstrations, and armored warriors (Ieyasu) dedicated to the two types of ladies’ athletic wear. Naturally the fanservice gets heavy, yet the show doesn’t care. It delights, revels in its over-the-top bad taste. Lord, you never know what this show is going to give you next. As for me, I can’t get the closing song out of my head. “Bloooomers! Thank you bloomers! Arigato!”

Yumeiro 33, Neko Overrun 10

Yumeiro Patissiere 33 concludes the battle between Team Ichigo and Team Natsuki, i.e. the tropical girls. It’s a little odd because it’s so straightforward, or maybe predictable is the name for it.

Team Natsuki, a team with not only no animosity toward Ichigo (Just like the last group. Apparently all the classless teams were eliminated) but with such openness that they let Ichigo taste their creation before the competition, is going to be a difficult challenge. Naturally, Ichigo despairs for a while, then tries to come up with fruits (in a huge orchard on the school grounds she’s never even heard of before) that won’t play to Natsuki’s strengths, until Kashino sets her straight. And bingo, she has a concept. But, perhaps because there isn’t enough in the story with just the competition, they had to give Ichigo some self-doubt and pre-contest jitters, which isn’t fooling anyone who’s watched the show for so long. We’re basically waiting for the competition to begin.

It’s like the others we’ve seen. Nothing interesting is added. Not only that, but they draw everything out to extremes. Ichigo lacks focus before it, but soon sets to work making macaroons. The performance aspect, well, Natsuki had that hands down. And there’s the presentation and judging, which took forever, dramatic pauses before each category score is announced, math being quickly done, heartbeat noises. Guess who wins?

I suppose that since this contest means more they felt they had to milk out every moment, but it didn’t work. The episode lacks the quirky charm that others have had. The only thing they can do to liven it up is to reveal that Team Natsuki also has sweets fairies. That’s nice. I wonder if we’ll ever see them again. Story-wise, Natsuki’s girls were pretty much shoved to the side. I guess that being friendly and open isn’t dramatic enough. Well, judging from the previews Ojou’s coming back, and she might have gotten a sweets fairy of her own. Must be breeding season.

Sometimes Mayoi Neko Overrun works, sometimes it doesn’t, but at least you never know what to expect. This one is more straightforward, and they handicap it by removing all of the boys and instead concentrate on the girls. Actually, that’s not much of a handicap …

Otome has brought in another stray girl, named Honoka, a quiet little thing who does nothing to move the action along. All the action is brought by Fumino and Chise, and it’s all mindless bickering. They fight about what Honoka’s all about, fixing the doorbell, and other things that don’t matter at all to anyone. In short, nothing happens except them fighting, while Nozomi and Honoka stand by and watch.

As I said.

It gets tedious pretty quickly, especially when you realize they’re not going to give us Honoka’s backstory until late in the episode. The only breaks from this are frantic, unanswered phone calls to Otome, and Nozomi’s kindness. She’s about the only person there who tries to make Honoka feel welcome, even baking her a cake.

When Honoka’s mother comes to pick her up both Honoka and Nozomi are a little sad about it. Honoka has learned she’s not bad with cats, and Nozomi (and later, Chise and Fumino) ponders the concept of having a home to go to. So the underlying theme, that of a place where people with no homes can go to, comes through. I just wish they had done it without twenty minutes of bickering.

Maid-Sama 10, Neko Overrun 9, and predictability

Kaichou wa Maid-Sama 10 is completely predictable, yet as an episode it’s okay. This time the show focuses on Misa’s friend Sakura, who’s in love with Kuuga, singer with a boy band who has been flirting with her onstage and outside the theatre. And now she’s actually been invited to meet her idols for a meal. Bring friends!

You know what’s going to happen. The boys will turn out to be total dicks and Sakura will get her heart broken. You can tell because they spend nearly half the episode showing Sakura delirious with joy. Also, she comes off as totally innocent when it comes to these things. The question is how it will play out, that is, how will Misa handle it.

Oh, they throw in a couple curveballs. Misa’s fanboys work at the restaurant and are thrown into a jealous rage when the band shows up. Usui appears out of nowhere to intervene when Kuuga makes a move on Misa (You KNEW that would happen, right?), and then proceeds to play more mind games with her. And while Kuuga does the expected and starts hitting on Misa, in full view of the slowly falling-apart Sakura, the other band members are taken aback. Sure, they consider meeting their fans like this just good PR, but they don’t actually want to hurt any of them.

Misa explosion in 3 ... 2 ... 1 ...

But in the end, it’s what we expected. Actually, Sakura blows up before Misa does, though her tie-grabbing threat scene comes right after. It’s satisfying to watch. You know Misa’s going to get righteous when her theme music kicks in; it’s something I rather enjoy. Misa getting mad is maybe the show’s greatest strength. It’s when she doesn’t, or Usui steps in, that the show fails. So I’m satisified with this one.

I guess every show like Mayoi Neko Overrun! has to have a beach episode, right?

This one is routine. Everyone thinks Nozomi wants to go to the beach, so they do. Actually, she just wants everyone to have fun together, but let that pass. They do the beach things, watermelon splitting, volleyball, girls splashing each other in the water (“A classic,” says Ieyasu—even the characters know how routine this episode is). They even add the broken swim suit strap bit. They even run out of cliches, and the episode is only half-over.

So they go for another chestnut and give it some depth. Fumino has been troubled much of the time, and Takumi is trying to figure out why. He’s fully aware that she says the opposite of what she means. So when she thinks renting a boat is a stupid idea, off they go! And it begins to rain, and we get a beach episode variant—two characters with possible romantic interest in each other get stranded on an island for the night. In fact I just saw this exact same thing in Kimagure Orange Road, a show from 1987. What rescues it is its concentration on Fumino, and Takumi’s realization that she has feelings for him, and what an ass he is for not noticing. Of course, she confessed to him several episodes ago, but we’ll let that pass, too. We see some genuine pain in her character, her feeling that she will be constantly disappointed for her entire life. Of course, the whole thing is leading to a kiss when …

It even ends like Kimagure Orange Road.

So two predictable shows tonight, but they both manage to hold up.

Five Leaves 6, Angel Beats 9, Neko Overrun 8

House of Five Leaves 6 continues with characters only explaining what they have to, and little if anything to Akitsu, but it’s notable in that Akitsu actually does something. We carry on with the story of Senkichi, the man who asked the Elder for money last week. The blackmailer, Denshichi, won’t leave him or his past alone.

And there’s more to it. Denshichi’s boss is coming to Edo, and apparently Denshichi wants Senkichi and his skills to join them, whether Senkichi wants to or not. What’s more, Denshichi wants to know where the Elder is living, to get the money he thinks the Elder is giving Senkichi to give him. Maybe he’s just trying to eliminate the middleman. Anyway, with lots of threats and accordian music, it takes us to a confrontation at the Elder’s, where Akitsu is still recuperating.

Interesting that Akitsu says this twice, both times of the presence of a man who everyone, including Ume, considers a “saint.” But I suppose Akitsu’s motives, like everyone else’s, is his own.

So after six episodes Akitsu has had to fight twice, and this time he merely disarms Denshichi. It takes Senkichi to do the killing. So the Elder is safe for now, and able to continue his peaceful life of retirement, taking in the occasional kidnap victim. But let’s not speak about such things, shall we? In this show there are always things that must not be said …

Angel Beats 9 is where Otonashi learns the truth about Kanade, though I suspect everyone watching will have figured it out already. However, it does so in a rather clumsy way.

Kanade/Angel is in the infirmary. The SSS gang are wondering which version of her will wake up. The odds aren’t good that the nice one will. Meanwhile, Otonashi, holding a bedside vigil, falls asleep, and we learn there was more to his death than he first thought. Sadly, it doesn’t work too well. It was nice to see that he initially survived the rail crash, possibly saved the lives of some others, and in his dying moments filled out his organ donor card to save even more. In other words, his belief that he died without accomplishing a single thing is false. The whole survivor sequence goes on a bit long and is fairly predictable, not to mention maudlin; this show has a tendency to do that. It also feels clumsy, like the creators were plugging a plot or motivation hole they had forgotten about.

The conversation with Kanade when he wakes up puts things back on a even keel (for this show). Kanade’s role in all this is to guide these high school kids who had had rotten lives to a more happy existence, so they can smile and let go. But she’s so awkward about it that it’s driven everyone to this bizarre state of war. It’s a weird conversation, with Otonashi agreeing to secretly help her, but presents us with a nice point: Now that Otonashi has seen his true past, he still hasn’t moved on. Is it because of Kanade? Because he wants to ease Yurippe’s distress? Perhaps a little of both.

For a moment I thought I was watching Saki all over again, but no, it’s Mayoi Neko Overrun, a show that’s not afraid to try weird concepts, and half the time, fail. This episode, happily, pretty much succeeded. Chise invites the gang to test a new game called Superblocks. The concept isn’t new. You have to pull out blocks from a tower and place them on the top. The twist comes from the fact that if you succeed you have to follow the directions written on it.

Naturally, Chise is cheating. She’s getting information on where the safe and non-humiliating blocks are. And naturally, it begins to go wrong. So basically what we get is a half-hour of watching Chise’s manipulations, and watching the characters forced to do silly things. It passes the time.

Interesting crisis at the end, concerning who will get to pull out the “Kiss a member of the opposite sex” block when Takumi is the only male left. If Fumino, who sees the writing, chooses it, she’ll have to kiss Takumi. If she declines, Chise would be happy to take it. Goodness knows if (meow) Nozomi will or not. And what if Takumi takes it? They stretch it out too much, but overall it was a fun episode that makes up for the botched experiment they tried last time.

Giant Killing 8, Neko Overrun 7

We’re eight episodes into Giant Killing, and the team hasn’t won a game yet. I believe this is only a 13-episode series. Will they go all the way to the final episode before they win? It’s starting to look like it, though in the match this episode ends with they’re only down 1-0.

Their fan base seems to have shrunk, too.

Oh, things happen. Players get turned around, but they’re still not succeeding. First it was Tsubaki and Murakoshi, and now it’s Kuroda and, er, the other defenseman. Are we going to go through this for ever character? Kuroda’s pretty much walked off the team and his friend follows. Dori, the goalkeeper, has given them words of advice, and now they sit and watch the games and for the first time try and figure out what the problem with their play is. In a ludicrous scene they even take inspiration from a ramen shop owner. “Forget your failures and move on!” And, okay, the next match they do indeed play better. Kuroda even pep-talks a defenseman who thinks he’s let in a goal, something he earlier would have yelled at the man for. So I guess they’re turned around. But the team is still losing.

The other players on the field can’t stop screwing up, either. Tsubaki has gotten no better. Gino doesn’t care either way, and the replacement defensemen are doing the same things that the regular starters did. Every time they start a new match you have to think “Yes! This is the one they’ll win!” but so far …

Exactly my thought.

It’s getting frustrating to say the least. And it’s become clear that Giant Killing is intended to be a much longer series than thirteen episodes. At this rate I’ll be lucky to finish the first one.

Mayoi Neko Overrun likes to get a little odd at times. In ep7 they go completely bonkers.

The entire episode is like this: a mecha adventure show with all the characters playing heroic roles. They’re fighting against Duke Machine, who wishes to become emperor of the Machine Empire and is going to suck up the Earth’s energy to do it. All that stands in his way are the Brave Bravers, or something like that.

Watching parts of this episode, I wish I could have.

And it doesn’t really work. First, they do TOO good a job at imitating an old-school mecha show. All the cliches are there: determined words, evil laughter, moments to recollect tragic events, an old enemy turned ally to fight the bigger menace, the all-hope-is-lost moments, more evil laughter, robots transforming into unheard-of new forms, all done in a clunky old-fashioned style which made me check my watch. Second, the characters play straight-up heroes and bear no resemblance to their regular roles, so we lose their quirks. They don’t even use their real names. There was, however, one exception, the only moment that got me laughing:

Look, I appreciate the show’s reach and I hope they keep it up, but I believe this episode failed, maybe not as a concept, but in its execution.

Daimaou 7, Neko Overrun 6

A messy episode for Ichiban Ushiro no Daimaou, as they try to do too many different things and not have them fit together.

First, Korone is shot, but being an android, apparently it doesn’t mean much to her. What does is that she’s failed in her mission to seduce Akuto and is off to face her superiors. But that’s not what the thrust of this episode is about.

To no one’s surprise (no one watching, that is) we learn that “sorting hat” of this show designated Hiroshi to be a hero. His family and neighbors on the island can’t believe it. He’s scrawny and not very brave. So he’s conflicted by responsibilities and his apparent weakness.

Then this guy shows up, with his own giant sea cucumber of island destruction.

What his motives are no one explains. He babbles on about art and noise and how destroying the island will make a great work of art. He gets a little lewd with Keena and preadolescent Yukiko, and generally makes life miserable for everyone, including Hiroshi, who is brushed aside like an ant and falls into the lake, still thinking of his responsibilities and failures. The next thing we know he’s at a shrine pulling a sword out of a stone, for chrissakes. Guess what? The sword is a device-thingy with the codename “Brave!”

If I had to wear that suit, I wouldn't want to be a hero either.

I mean, c’mon! Beyond the silliness of the outfit, I could be a hero if I had a power suit like that! You can predict the rest of the episode by now. Only a couple twists: Korone returns, and Hiroshi (still in his super suit) and Akuto have a brief confrontation over the life of the weird guy. In one of the episode’s few nice touches, Hiroshi backs off because he trusts Akuto’s judgement.

Wow, a messy episode. It’s redeemed a little because Hiroshi has been elevated beyond wimpy sidekick status.

While Mayoi Neko Overrun still can’t get its pacing in place, the eccentricity of episode 6 shines through. Not only that, but they almost completely avoid the sentimental lapses which often makes the show stumble. Just when you think they’re leaning towards such a moment, they madly veer back or sublimate it into the background.

Ieyasu: visionary director.

Chise wants to publicize her club, so they decide to do a music video and post it on YouTube. First, Chise and Fumino can’t agree on the song, and you think that it’ll wind up as a “Let’s all cooporate” scene (which, okay, DOES happen, but only later, and it’s not so bad). Then Ieyasu, the director, goes power-mad and forces Chise (she of the unlimited bankroll) to jet everyone around to exotic locals and do things like paint part of the Amazon Forest autumn colors, or dump snow on the pyramids, and you think they veer off into an introspective bit where he regrets it. But no, in both cases they become comic backdrops. While preparing to shoot, Fumino hums her song and Chise yells at her to shut up in the background, while Ieyasu announces his latest bizarre shooting plan, Takumi keeps seeing legendary creatures and grows more and more tired. It’s repeated, locale by locale, all for essentially the same shot, which works as the punchline.

And you know? It works. Each time they repeat it it’s more outlandish. The girls’ background bickering gets sillier, Takumi gets more tired, the dumb shot gets more absurd. It’s a shame they have to add a little drama at the end involving being stranded on a mountain and the aforementioned cooperation scene, but at least those are brief and no one’s crying, for once. As for the video, well, it’s what you would expect from Ieyasu. When this show works, it works very well.