It feels like Moyashimon Returns finished when it was just getting started. Even though the entire finale was dedicated to goodbyes in France and Hellos in Japan, Marie finding the perfect thing for her dad to do that will keep him interested in the business, and Hasegawa free to return home, only to wonder what’s keeping her at that school now that she’s free, and then finding reasons to stay, I got the feeling the series was over before it began. It’s the show’s fault. It takes so much delight in side bits that have nothing to do with the main plot, like the sideshows at the festival (my favorite bits) and the absolutely necessary lectures by our friends the microbes, that it doesn’t have much room for a story. The ones we got were interesting enough. It’s good that Hasegawa is free, and I never expected that she and Misato would bond a little. Not that the show needs much depth, but it’s nice that they did it. But it wasn’t enough, yet to add more story would have ruined the show’s charming, loony balance … Hmm, I have a perfect solution: Another season!
… By the way, did you notice that both noitaminA series finished with a creatures floating in a blue sky?
Not much to Polar Bear’s Cafe 24. Panda-kun searches for a master to apprentice without having to do any training. Even Sloth’s laziness is too rigorous for him. The second half feels like it could have been funnier, with all the animals together for an athletic festival. The three-legged race isn’t bad, with Panda and Penguin teamed together (random draw), and the end (meaning the last two members to cross the finish line) of the foot race was kind of sweet. But I was expecting something more. I mean, Grizzly was there, all the penguins, all the zoo animals, the entire menagerie. Oh, well.
In Kokoro Connect 11 we get the latest fun torture from Heartseed.
Just looking at it, it doesn’t look so bad. From 12-5 every day, two of the gang will turn into how they were as kids. We’ve seen this sort of thing in comedies before and always for laughs, and that’s mostly how they treat it this episode. It’s fun to see how they acted as kids. And of course they drop some innocent verbal bombs on the grownups. Inaba was a cute, shy little thing. Yui was, er, a young Yui. It’s Lori and Aoki who pose some problems. Lori fits in amazingly well no matter what age she shows up as (it can vary). She still has that multiple-personality fear of hers but outsiders would simply call her a well-adjusted girl who’s easy to get along with. I’m still not convinced that her problem is all that great.
The young Aoki drops the biggest bomb. Turns out he grew up with and dated a girl named Nana, who would look exactly like Yui does now. This brings up some interesting questions that Aoki and Yui worry about a little too much. When they “regress” and then return, their childhood memories become fresh in their mind. Aoki remembers how much he loved Nana and wonders where it went, or if he loves Yui that way. They don’t play up the question of whether Yui is a Nana surregate or not; maybe they’re saving it for next week. Anyway, Aoki is now in a funk. I’d point out the obvious to him: “That was middle-school, you idiot!” But even if he wasn’t a fictional anime character he wouldn’t listen to me. Meanwhile, Taichi doesn’t regress and was told by Heartseed #2 (now we got more than one of the bastards) that he must “be a knight” and keep the others out of trouble. So far, no problem, but I think the real trouble will begin next week.
After I learned about the ugly business involving the Kokoro Connect staff and a powerless voice actor I wondered how that would affect my viewing of the show from here on out. Turns out, not much, though the irony of it happening with a series about people being humiliated by a powerful force for shits and giggles doesn’t escape me.
I have to wonder about what Heartseed was up to when he invaded Lori and gave that message to Inaba. Oh, sure, it was frightening for us since that looming cliff was given, rather obviously, as potential for disaster earlier (Kudos to Lori’s VA for a spot-on Heartseed imitation, by the way). But she’d have found out the truth soon enough. Maybe it was to prompt her crying jag, but after that talk with Lori she’d already be unstable enough to overreact. I guess I’ll chalk it up as Heartseed being his usual hateful self.
In this show many if not all of the crises are resolved by the civilized technique of talking it out. We get another one here, and while it left me disappointed at least it leads to future fun, as the way is clear for an honest battle for a boy. The conversation was more Lori shouting things at Inaba while the latter gave weak defenses and cried a lot. I can understand Inaba’s excuses, that she doesn’t want to make a play for Taichi because he and Lori make a good couple, and it would cause friction in the club, may cause her to lose friends, and she needs all the friends she can get, she has an ugly personality, etc. But we’ve been through much of this before when she earlier told the club she doesn’t trust anybody. For Lori to say she’d be Inaba’s friend anyway is nothing new. But it gets better when they decide to be open, honest rivals for Taichi (I don’t know if I envy or pity him). At least something is accomplished there. So now we watch for news on that front and wait for whatever Dung Beetle, er Heartseed has in store for them next. It can’t be any worse.
Sword Art Online 10 … Dawwww! It only took some treachery and near-death to bring the two lovebirds together.
I’m not crazy about how they handled Kuradeel. When Kirito joined Knights of Blood (through a convincing loss. It’s good to see the boy is capable of losing a fair fight) and is forced to team with him for training, the scene was full of possibilities. Kuradeel could be in love with Asuna and wildly jealous, that sort of thing. They could have made him complicated. Instead they make him an insane killer, in other words, deadly-dull unless his plans are in action. Well, we get plenty of that, and an uncomfortable amount of time watching him smirk and gloat before killing Godfree and almost killing Kirito. It was hard to watch, not only for the cruelty but because we know Kirito would get out of it somehow.
Kirito talked earlier about the limits of being a loner, and at the time we figured he was saying it to make Asuna feel better about joining her guild. But we then witness the advantages of having at least one person fighting with you. Yeah, it was a little ridiculous to have Asuna show up like the cavalry but I can live with it, because it leads to a fun moment where she makes some slices in this scumbag, and leads to her and Kirito breathlessly declaring their devotion to each other, and the show changes, maybe permanently. Kirito is no longer alone. Everything he’ll do from now on he’ll do with Asuna. And it was well-done; from the moment he met her early in the series, the events leading to this felt completely natural. Of course, everything AFTER that in the episode is nervous reaching out as they get accustomed to the new arrangement, so it was silly, but sweet nonetheless. I suppose they’ll have a frivolous episode or two coming up, but why not? They deserve it.
Moyashimon Returns 10 has both Hasegawa and Marie coming to terms with fathers and would-be fiancees. Both stories work pretty well, though Hasegawa’s is more dramatic, with Ryuuka threatening her at one point and collapsing from the norovirus the next, but the keep the drama raised with both by switching from one scene to the next. I frankly don’t quite understand why Marie’s father is so upset that she’s discovered he can’t drink alcohol. I know there’s some pride at stake, but surely if you can’t consume the wine you’re making you should get some help if you’re going to keep making it. Though stomping off from Marie was, as I said a good tense moment. So was her realization that the brewery was too cold (well, the microbes helped by spelling out a message on the car windshield, and Sawaki helped the microbes by pouring wine there in the first place), and what her subsequent actions made her father think. As for Hasegawa, it looked like a good talk with Ryuuka was all they really needed. It’s hard to believe that he might be considered a friendly character now. But the unsung hero of the episode is Sawaki, who not only splashed the wind on the windshield so the microbes could write a message, and recognizing the norovirus before Hasegawa could get infected by it.
A solid episode of Sword Art Online. The big question is did they just finish a small story arc or is this part of a larger one? Never mind the biggest one.
Kirito and Asuna get a look at the 75th level boss and, being the experienced warriors they are, run away and have lunch. Thus we get to see the Kirito/Asuna dynamic in battle and domestic mode right after each other. And I wonder how they’re making it work. It’s clear they’re a great couple, though they’d surely do that “no-no-no” with handwaving if someone told them so. Maybe it’s that the other players get one look at them together and instantly think “couple.” Klein does it in this episode, like Liz did it a while back. Maybe it’s just that reinforcement. But more important, they’re a fun couple. They’re of like minds when it matters, bicker over little things, and back each other up when they need to.
Not everything worked. We learn that Kirito has a special ability no one else has. Where did it come from? I don’t recall it being mentioned before. Even Kirito doesn’t know why he has it. Then there was the “Front,” a team of armored guys who just walk up to the boss and nearly get slaughtered because their leader doesn’t know the word “retreat.” How far can you get in a game like that? And while the boss battle was great fun to watch, I don’t get Asuna’s just charging in when she sees the Front getting wiped out. She’s too experienced a player to behave like that. Besides, she’s got Kirito and Klein, two excellent fighters, with her. Think of a plan! And I mentioned Kirito’s mysterious ability. Were it not for the fact that he was taking damage and the fight scene was so well-done, it would have been a Deus ex Machina.
But these are minor points, and even while those questionable things passed by on the screen I was enjoying the hell out of the episode. It’s one of those shows where the episode ends and I wonder how time could have flown that fast. Looking forward to getting Asuna out of that guild now.
Moyashimon Returns 9 is almost completely focused on plot right now. There were hardly any microrobe lectures until the very end. Though Maria, through anecdotes scattered throughout, taught us more about wine-making. Actually, there are two plots right now. One is getting Hasegawa away from Ryuuta, and it just sort of happens. She decides to run away and Kaoru and Takuma help her. The two are actually useful this episode, and Kaoru actually gets a nice quiet scene with her that involves no violence whatsoever. Well, Why not? The man was actually talking sense for a change. The other plot involves getting Marie to return to the wine business she obviously loves. Sawaki has some good scenes with her. They share a sort of bond–over the smell of yeast. But on the whole the episode wasn’t crazy enough for my tastes.
Kono Naka ni Hitori, Imouto ga Iru! 8 stumbles along and then falls dead in the final moments. This time it’s Rinko who’s the culprit. In order to kill time the show takes her, Shougo, Ikusu and Mana to an amusement park in order to get her outside of school and her morals-nazi mode, and there follw the inevitable scenes. There’s only one moment here worth it, and that’s Ikusu doing a parachute ride, completely unrelated to the story, just someone having fun. Well, it stuck out for me, anyway. Through a coincidence too stupid to mention we learn later that Rinko had the magic pink cell phone, made the call, etc, and we get her sob story, engaged to the son of Shougo’s company’s biggest rival, try to dig up some dirt, on him. Shougo’s solution for this not only makes no sense (pretend they’re dating), but leads to them actually dating even though the engagement was cut off, or something. Well, another one for the harem.
In Moyashimon Returns 8, the guys find Hasegawa, but in a typical Moyashimon way.
They just can’t find the church she’s going to be married in, or anything like that. Instead they have to ride a three-seater bicycle around Burgundy, and we get a small tour and a lecture about the entire region and the wines made there, both from the humans and the microbes. No other show would bother with this sort of information but I know nothing about wine I found it interesting and wanted to know more. They proceed to get hit by a car driven by a young woman who looks just like Kei if he was a blonde frenchwoman. Who just happens to speak Japanese by the way. Oh, and is part of a famous wine family. Because they need a place to sleep they agree to act as waiters for a small banquet she’s a part of that evening.
Things get muddled from here. We get a great scene about the stupidity of pairing wine with just anything, but it then becomes an examination of three people trapped by their pasts and their families. Hasegawa, obviously, but also Sawaki (though it’s been so long since he’s talked about his circumstances I’ve pretty much forgotten about it), and Marie, the blonde, the heiress who wants nothing to do with the business if she has to put up with idiots like Hasegawa’s would-be fiancee. So things get introspective until the end when the microbes give us another lecture which didn’t go as long as I wanted.
Kono Naka ni Hitori, Imouto ga Iru! seems to be in catchup mode after the olympics with two quick episodes in a row. This one is more amusing than the last one, but it takes a while. Due to the mysterious little sister broadcasting all over the school about her existance, and at the same time telling Shougo to pretend she doesn’t exist, the dignitaries visiting the school feel the morals there are too relaxed, and thus Rinka becomes the morals nazi for the school. Just about everything gets banned, including flirting and multiple personalities. Otherwise the show as a clumsy mess again, with an unfortunate scene or two where Shougo tries to collect DNA samples (you can imagine how that turned out, in fact, I had some Nisemonogatari flashbacks, mostly like “Damn, I wish I was watching that show now instead of this one”).
Space Brothers 21 … First, the good news: they’re out of the pod!
The bad news: we still don’t know who they selected! They don’t show us the throw so that we can see anything, and at the time I they’d stretch out the wait for a little while. Sure, why not? After all, we had 147 (by my count) episodes in that pod. Naturally they’ll tease us some more. But after all the post-pod scenes they still haven’t told us.
Okay, be fair, we did learn that Mutta lost, and so did Kenji and Furuya. We spend a lot of time with the latter as he visits a mentor who designed a space suit that short people could wear. It’s a nice bunch of scenes and it shows that Furuya isn’t just a snarky guy with height issues, but a wide-eyed dreamer like the rest of them, but I was surprised that they spent so much time with it. But I would have liked to know how Kenji lost out, and of course I want to know who won the game. Serika, the tall guy, the old guy? Next week is the celebratory dinner, so we’re bound to learn. Right?
Moyashimon Returns 7 drops a bit. It starts out well enough with the Harvest Festival’s evening celebrations, but they don’t show anything as entertaining as last weeks battle for tenure. Apart from the seniors’ suspension and the pulque proceedings being confiscated it fades into the background as we get to the main story. Things get less interesting still when Sawaki and the seniors head off to Paris to buy wine and cheese, and by the way, rescue Hasegawa. Why not Kei, who’d fit right in, or even Aoi, who’d have plenty to drink? So we get endless scenes of the three bumming around, not trying too hard and spending too much money while Hasegawa mopes some more. Sure, the land of wine and cheese gives us some nice microbe moments, but not nearly enough. This show always dithers around, but usually in an entertaining way. Not this time.
Polar Bear’s Cafe 20 doesn’t get interesting until the second part. Well, the first part did show us where some of the animals live, but apart from Tortoise they’re as dull as Handa’s place. The summer festival in part two has some of Grizzly’s finest moments, introduces us to a red panda, has Sasako looking fetching in a yukata, which Handa gets to enjoy (the poor guy needs as many happy moments as he can get), though it doesn’t push the romance any farther. Still, it all makes up for the dull first half.
I have nothing concrete to say about Natsuyuki Rendezvous 6, instead all I have are questions. It’s not fair play for Shimao to inhabit Ryuusuke’s body and make moves on her in the first place, but is it really fair to present to Rokka a combination of the two? Rokka’s falling faster for this dual attack, even declaring her love at the end of the episode, but who is she falling in love with? Shimao is also pondering this problem while he says things to her that he would have said when he still was alive, getting responses, but knowing on the other hand that she is now responding to whom she thinks is Ryuusuke. And that includes her surprise and hesitation when he tries something Ryuusuke wouldn’t dare to do. It’s a little pathetic to see him in this situation. Meanwhile Ryuusuke is still hanging out in fairy-land, now converted to Little Mermaid mode (meanwhile Rokka picks up a copy at the library, but after that imagery had started. I’m not sure how that works into anything. And finally, how long is this body switching charade going to go on? In terms of their future happiness it’s not fair to any of them.
I suppose Hasegawa will eventually return to her beloved university in Moyashimon Returns, but as for me I was having too much fun watching all the illuminating cultural events at the harvest festival. The daytime, public activities are bizarre enough with the pulque and slaughtering chickens in front of entire families, or the relatively innocuous appearance of idol Taka Kyoko, and Oikawa and Kei posing for pictures, but the nighttime events for students and faculty make me want to actually enroll in that school. Kaoru and Takuma’s special pre-chewed sake was the perfect topper, but my favorite bit was the way in which associate professors can get tenure even if they are voted down by the full professors. Every time they switch to Hasegawa moping in France the fun drops. For one thing it isn’t like her to be so powerless, and for another, nothing happens. So now that they have the cash for a ticket maybe that side of the story will liven up. I’m going to miss the festival, though.
The wrap-up of Binbougami Ga!‘s two-parter wasn’t as bad as I had feared. It went smoothly, Ichiko coming to the rescue with the tools she had acquired from Bobby, and Momiji’s pointing out that she’s a god of misfortune, not of death. It was actually sweet, with Keita’s family crying their eyes out and all. It was actually tolerable. But enough of that; this show is better at being crazy and finally we get some, though I’m not at all sure what that handkerchief thing was all about. You can explain it away if she’s indeed falling for Keita, or she was going through a funk because of the “he has everything I don’t and vice versa” business, but they also suggested the near-impossibility that he would actually recognize her as that little girl … Ack, I’m tired. Bring back the violence.
Hatsuyuki Rendezvous 5 livens things up with some surrealism.
I had dreaded this moment when Shimao used Ryuusuke’s body; it was almost as troublesome as I had feared. Shimao gets a pass for fumbling around in this new body of his by the fact that he had been drinking, but you wonder what was going through Rokka’s mind as this guy she hired who likes her starts weeping, asking for her to make a bouquet, etc., especially since she has some feelings for Ryuusuke. When things settle down it gets better. Maybe Shimao getting classes and cutting his hair isn’t a bad look for Ryuusuke (which is all I really care about. I still consider Shimao to be an interloper), and Rokka, reminded of meals with her husband, enjoys the one she has with Ryuusuke/Shimao, not knowing the possible reason.
Meanwhile, Ryuusuke wakes up in never-neverland, which we eventually learn is a page of an unfinished Shimao sketchbook and meets a small, young, perhaps idealized pixie-Rokka. They go off in search of a missing prince (Shimao), and from this we can perhaps assume that Shimao in his life wanted to become Rokka’s prince, but in his own mind was too immature to do so. In MY mind, too, but let that pass. To be fair, we all have these childish fantasies of what we could become. Ryuusuke scores points for being taken aback but not freaking out. I think he realizes that through the fairy-tale images and speech he’s seeing Rokka and Shimao’s relationship from a fresh angle, so he’s interested. Even though he’s unaware that Shimao had taken him over. All in all it’s a refreshing change to this series that had been spinning its wheels before, but will it actually help it get out of the mud? When Shimao leaves Ryuusuke’s body will they fall back in?
Okay, Horizon time. Let me look at my notes. Let me add that I take more notes for this show than any other, and I still don’t know what’s going on.
We start with a feast to celebrate the contract with England. Not surprisingly, it involves lots of meat. The wolf-girl takes care of the vegetables during the opening bit. Tenjo and Cloak Girl, who have began to get along awfully well, are greeted by Milton, a crow, who is then spotted and shot down (symbolically) for something tainted, about the meat, I believe. Talk then turns to the meaning of a symbol found in London where people have vanished and become “lost ones.” A line through a circle, i.e., the London Underground. “Avalon” is also mentioned, but I don’t remember that stop on the line. Tenjo and Cloak Girl are told to test the new bath and upon leaving are accused of being suspicious. And then Asazumi is told to instruct the other girls at the party about what this thing called sex is all about.
The next part actually makes sense. Horizon doesn’t want her emotions recovered if it will cost lives. Sensible, especially since her emotions are WMDs. Toori wants Horizon to have them back and suggests a date at the festival to change her mind. Then the one emotion she DOES have, the Lype Katarrippi, goes missing. Sigh. Tenjo and Cloak-girl have an intimate bath and later talk about Double-Bloody Mary’s execution again, and the start of the Armada war. Then, because one bath scene is not enough for this show, the girls all jump in. Masazumi needs a new spell protection, or something, and a mouse is suggested, but she gets a baby anteater instead. Finally, it’s festival time. Shakespeare (Thomas, not William) sits next to Glasses-guy in the comiket hall and signals the start of something ominous … The sky turns red, and I guess we’ll get more battling next week. You know, I think I’m beginning to understand little bits of this show.
Polar Bear’s Cafe 18 isn’t much, but is it ever? The ghost stories section felt like a missed opportunity to let us know what all these animals are actually afraid of, but apart from Llama’s ghost zebra, none of them held up too well. I would have liked to hear Mandrill’s story, but he’s forced to stop … Part two isn’t much better as it’s just more whining from Panda about having to work all the time. Though I suppose it’s amusing that he considers lazing around as normal behavior but lazing around at the zoo as work.
For Binbougami Ga! 5 Ichiko gets turned into a little girl. This should be all sorts of fun, but unfortunately when she tries to hide from Momiji it means staying with Keito’s family, so a lot more poor happy people scenes. At least this time Ichiko keeps her mouth shut, and since she’s in little girl form the family cuts her more slack. Even worse is her reaction to this family–irritation, well, at least with Keito. I wonder how many episode it’s gonna take before she says “Can this be love … No way!” The only decent moment was the comparison between Momiji and tiny Ichiko’s bust size, and the “Over 9000!” bit they do with it. And, sigh, it’s a two-parter. So expect more of the same next week.
This week, on Moyashimon Returns 5, we learned all about pulque, which I first learned about watching Anthony Bourdain puke it out in his old Food Network show. It’s seen as no less disgusting here. I don’t know why the line outside the fermenting cellar crew booth is so long. Maybe because it’s about the only food at the festival which doesn’t have soy in it. Some of the other stalls looked pretty interesting anyway. Anyway, the lectures by men and microbes push aside the other story arc–Hasegawa is still gone. I was a bit let down that we didn’t get any farther with that. The highlight was the battle: the football and lacrosse clubs try to keep order against an army of housewives set on free produce. They didn’t stand a chance. There wasn’t any reason to devote so much time this part, but this show tends to wander. It’s one of its charms.