A lot of finales … and Polar Bear 13 because I thought that was ending too

I think I’ve seen every season-ender for my shows except Acchi Kocchi. Now I’m ready for the deluge!

The big fight in the Moretsu Pirates finale is underwhelming, but in a different way than usual. A great start, though.

Coorie’s game face.

We see the pirate fleet prepare and sync up. Marika and the crew are taken aback by three Grand Crosses showing up–for maybe two seconds. Coorie is using three of her limbs to type, she’s so busy (the fourth is probably to stick Pocky in her mouth). The pirate fleet(!) is synchronized. From her little meta-cyber-cockpit that looks like she had watched Penguindrum, Quartz is smirking. The music is building up. And it’s on! The pirates have a game plan; they send in decoys and use physical weapons more effective than beams. Lots of things blow up, including one of the Grand Crosses! Yay! Meanwhile I’m watching, noting the time, and waiting for the inevitable counterattack …

The Grand Crosses didn’t put up much of a fight, really.

… Which never comes. The pirates have seen enough of the Grand Cross and its firing and zig-zagging patterns that they can blind the enemy with chaff and sneak more weapons in when they try to evade them. Quartz is overwhelmed. I suppose there’s a point to be made here. Quartz tried to fly all three ships herself. And she’s defeated by a fleet of ships run by coordinated humans. A dozen against one. The hubris of advanced technology, or something like that. But it made the battle one sided, and therefore, disappointing. On the other hand, it was better than having the whole battle stages, or rigged, as the show has done so many times before.

But in this story arc that was partly about the nature of piracy, Marika took me by surprise by doing something pirate-y. She boards the surviving Grand Cross. I had not expected that, which is why I’d probably make a lousy pirate. Once there, she meets Quartz and delivers an unsatisfactory answer to the “Why do we have pirates, anyway?” question by saying, essentially “Well, I’m a pirate. So there!” But the scene does manage to stress that there is a wider galaxy out there and that Marika should explore it, in fact some people dearly want her to. I suppose that’s what we’re going to get when the movie comes out.

A good pirate captain never neglects her studies.

But for now, Marika has exams coming up. (I wish they had given us the hinted-at scene where the pirates learn why Marika scheduled the battle when she did) The show manages some rushed denouement. Ririka and KaneII talk about Marika. Chiaki has to figure out what she’ll do next. We need to see the yacht club girls again, of course. And it’s over. This show did well what two-season anime shows often attempt: give us a heroine and put her on a journey that changes and develops her, prepares her for a large conflict. It got annoying that Marika often went into these dangerous situations protected from real danger, but soon enough she did encounter real danger. I thought the Bentenmaru’s crew grew to trust her instincts too quickly, but that’s no big thing. She never let them down, and often surprised them with how good she was. That said, she didn’t really grow as a person. She was either Schoolgirl or Pirate. The other characters and story arcs were often silly, but the show was fully aware that it wasn’t really a big, serious space drama (just look at the title, er, titles), but a fun, slightly girly pirate adventure story. As for me, I started by wanting to mock everything in the show, but now it’s over an I wished there was more. Well done! Looking foward to the movie.

One more time!

Sankarea could have ended decently at episode 11, but I suppose it was nice to have one more to take care of some issues. For the story, only two issues mattered. First was the Ranko/Rea rivalry. Nicely done by Ranko. Done in only one scene, she accepts Rea into the group, even putting on her yukata for her, while establishing that they are actually rivals. The other was what to do with Rea. Her basic situation had remained the same. She was pretty much limited to staying at home, dependent on the people around her… Okay, she’s a zombie now and the family she’s with is much nicer and isn’t keeping her from doing anything … but APART from that! I find this more interesting than the idea of her rotting away, since, right now, she isn’t. I was delighted when she decided to return to school. that’s a step forward. The only other issue, apart from the postponed rotting, was Chihiro’s occasional mumblings about whether he’s up to the responsibility. Since we know he actually is, it’s not worth spending the time on. So a mixed bag of a finale. This was a good series. The plot stumbled here and there. Some characters deserved more screen time, and not just with with highlight episodes like it gave Ranko and Meru. I would have liked to see them more involved in the action. On the other hand I bring this up because the characters were all a load of fun and deserved more. It was great to look at (a lot of shows are these days). I liked how it juggled the danger and the humor. So, are they planning another series?

Natsuiro Kiseki gives us a more perfunctory finale than I expected. That was a sort of relief. Much of the episode dealt with trying to get the endless day to stop, and that meant leaving everyone satisfied. Yuka’s nagging complaint is solved when she gets through the audition without screwing up. That left Natsumi getting over Saki’s departure, and to my immense relief she manages to do that through sad glances and a nice speech at the rock before they undo the wish, or rather say goodbye to the wishes in general, I think. I’m not sure what the hell they were doing there. Nice touch that Rin’s mom knew about the rock but did not interfere in any way, trusting her daughter and the others to resolve it in their own way. So the wish ends, they finally get to move on. They managed the finale well, but then, this show did just about everything it chose to do well. It falls into the “much better than the premise” category. There was never a monkey’s paw wish or a “leave everything alone; that’s for the best” moral lesson shoved down our throats, well apart from Saki’s inevitable departure, but the girls never actually wished for that. They were sensible about their miracle. They used it to clean things up and make each other happy, and finally, to give themselves memories. A nice, unpretentious series.

On his mother’s grave. Sheesh.

Nazo no Kanojo X also had an unpretentious ending. There was little to it. Urabe meets with Youko, Tsubaki’s older sister and surrogate mom, who tells her a few thing about her late mother. This sparks a completely normal interest in Urabe. She asks Tsubaki to show her the grave, leaves appropriate offerings–and then she and Tsubaki exchange drool while touching the headstone. In a show full of sexual urges subsumed into odd everyday moments this one still managed to stand out. Though the dead mom seemed to like the idea, what with that flower blooming and those petals flying everywhere. But that was the only acknowledgment of the show’s weird premise. Otherwise it was simply about a girl who’s getting more interested in a boy and deciding she wants to take the relationship farther, not necessarily in a sexual way, though that’s implied, but by learning as much as she can about him. It’s appropriate. Some blogger said that the show’s source material may seem a little sick, but that it was actually a rather sweet love story. I don’t know if “sweet” is the word I’d use, though there were certainly moments. Urabe is a bit too odd and withdrawn, and control-happy, for that word. On the other hand we basically had the story of two kids doing their best at this romance thing who have a very odd bond between them. Good thing, too. If you took away the saliva, and the scissors, the show would have been dull. But couldn’t they have chosen anything other than exchanging drool? I never did get used to that.

I watched Polar Bear’s Cafe as well, but it turns out this series runs 24 episodes. That’s fine. I’m not sure what I would do without my show to watch on Saturday or Sunday night when I’m too brain-dead to think rational thoughts. This week they worked on amiable schlub Handa’s crush on the cute Sasako. I’m all for this romance. Handa deserves a girlfriend and Sasako couldn’t get a nicer guy. The show emphasized the possibility by showing her in loving closeups, something they have never done before, and Handa is made to be almost handsome. The other good bits in the episode were the Tanabana wishes and Full-Time Panda’s speech about the use of pandas in human relationships.

Space Bros 13, Sankarea 11, Eureka Ao 10, Natsuiro 12, Polar Bear 12

Mutta thinks abstractly, or something.

Most of Space Brothers 13 was a question: Why are we spending billions of dollars sending people into space when we could devote the funds to something more worthwhile?” The three teams in their little environments are asked to write a rebuttal to a harsh TV critic, and while they do so we’re presented with practical answers (advances in technology) and more philosophical or spiritual ones. An interesting dilemma because the latter goals are more far-reaching but hardly able to convince a “2-D” thinker like the lady on TV. Mutta again distinguishes himself with an unconventional answer.

Mutta works better on a practical level.

But I was more interested in the contrasting thought processes Nitta and Mutta show early on. Nitta feels JAXA wants calm, deliberate people. Meanwhile Mutta seems to simply react to whatever is placed in front of him. His mindset, unless confronted with something like the big question of the episode, is practical, sometimes instinctual. The problem is resolved, you move on. I was reminded of when I watched “Nightline” the night of the Challenger disaster. They had two guests, Ray Bradbury and Chuck Yaeger. For their final thoughts Bradbury spoke eloquently about space and dreams; Yeager simply said “They’ll find the glitch, they’ll fix it. They’ll move on.” Both are valid. This may be one of the reasons why Mutta is still in the astronaut exam.

Everything that’s bad or depressing in Sankarea is concentrated into one character: Dan’Ichirou, that complete tool of a man who kept Rea locked up in that mansion with no friends and took naked pictures of her every year, while boasting about his superior genes and moral direction. You want to see him slapped down–hard, especially because it’s mostly his fault Rea “died” in the first place. Worst of all is that he follows through on his sick whims and has the money and power to do it. So it looks bad indeed for defenseless Chihiro. But Dan’Ichirou is defeated the moment he gets Chihiro into the dojo to duel.

The proper way to deal with Dan’Ichirou.

What must have been going through Chihiro’s mind? Here’s a rich, violent, sick ninny trying to force him to fight him. Chihiro would have no chance if he went through with it. In fact, he finds the whole situation so ridiculous that he spends a minute mocking it, and a few more mocking Dan’Ichirou himself. Dan’Ichiro has no defence. That Chihiro delivers this ridicule in that blasé tone he always has only makes it funnier. Meanwhile, Rea has been taken captive by two maids and forced to put on costumes. There is no reason for this, but it helps undercut any tension Chihiro hasn’t laughed away, and gives the fans a look at her in a bunny costume.

I should point out during this heroic moment that Rea had gotten her sword from Chihiro’s abdomen.

When Dan’Ichiro snaps and runs Chihiro through, we get a technical explanation for him not dying, but mostly we get proof that Dan’Ichirou has no clue how the rest of the world lives, or at least how this anime works. Anything serious is going to get a dose of humor along with it, an element that may turn and make you look idiotic while everyone laughs. I don’t think he even knows the meaning of humor, or irony. He can only smile when he’s in complete control. It’s partly why his household is so miserable and why he loses Rea. And so, back home, Chihiro, Rea, Ranko and the maids have a completely silly scene for themselves, away from the threat. Well, Ranko’s a threat, but more of a heartbreak one.

Ivica being heroic.

It’s hard remembering what was going on in Eureka Seven Ao after its week off, and I was almost at the point of not caring. But episode 10 was good enough to regain my interest. More than anyone else Ivica dominates this episode. Rebecka has her moments too what with her dark secrets and interesting bargaining position she used to allow GenBleu to enter US territory and take on the latest secret, but it’s mostly Ivica’s show. To actually cross the Arizona border without authorization demonstrates that his motives are somewhat different from GenBleu’s, which is a good thing, and makes us (and Ao and the Pied Piper girls) spend much of the time wondering what goes on in his head, well at least after his heroic actions during the battle. And there’s a nice use of the Pied Piper legend as metaphor, which they play with but don’t overuse. However, Ao goes from shell-shock to quick-thinking and decisive not very realistically, but maybe they just wanted to give him something to do. Alas, there’s more of “Truth” this episode. I really wish they would do away with him. Every time he comes on I want to turn the show off.

In a way, they do become idols.

Natsuiro Kiseki 12 sent me into a brief panic. When the girls were sitting near that shrine in Tokyo idly wishing that the summer wouldn’t end, I grew suspicious, then came the two rocks glowing right before the ED. And then … I settled down. This series is only supposed to run one more episode. What are they going to do, make an “Endless Two?” No wild looping in store for us here; this series isn’t like that. Instead, I think the girls are getting an extension because Natsumi isn’t ready to let Saki move away yet. While everyone in this show is sad about it, they’re pretty much resolved. Only Natsumi, with those lines made bitter out of sadness and her sudden illness, hasn’t come around. The previews show the girls having fun with their extra time, but I have the feeling Natsumi’s acceptance will make the finale bittersweet. As for the idol auditions, it was all expected, and the girls kept it in perspective except for Yuka, which was also expected.

I’ve forgotten the context for this line, and I don’t really want to remember it.

Polar Bear’s Cafe 12 has a slightly higher number of good moments than its average. Panda passing the time during the slow period at work kept throwing little surprises and non-sequitors at us, like Full-Time Panda’s hidden model collection. But mostly it makes you wonder how the long-suffering zookeeper Mr. Handa manages to cope. The second half is all about him, well, the Pandas make it about him, and his lack of a girlfriend. And at the end it almost seems as though the show is trying to pair him off with Sasako the waitress. Maybe not, but it would explain the ED sequence they’ve been using recently.

Tsuritama 9, Eureka Ao 9, Natsuiro 10, Kore wa Zombie finale, and Polar Bear 11

In Tsuritama 9 we get … plot! Lots of plot. It starts with plot, it ends with plot, we have big armed forces plot, we have friendship plot, we have bro/sis plot. Really, what we get is everything the show has labored to develop finally coming to a head.

The mighty forces of Duck!

Start at the beginning, we see more ships running aground and people, touching water, coming under the alien mind control and carrying out the nefarious orders of whatever it is, by doing the Enoshima dance. Frankly, this is the happiest alien invasion I can think of. Meanwhile the forces of Duck have arrived and working to evacuate the islanders and find Haru. So we get people running around and hiding from sinister men carrying silly-looking alien sensors and whose water protection suits squeak with every step. The happiest of invasions combating the silliest of defenders. I expected no less from this show.

But it’s not all silliness. The show has developed the characters (perhaps for too long) enough that what happens to the actually matters. Haru and Koko go to meet or fight the alien under the water. The show didn’t work with Koko as much as the others, but the show takes time to show the bond they have before … whatever happens. Seeing her glasses but no Koko is a bad sign, but this series isn’t the type to lash out and kill like that. I think we haven’t seen the last of her. But Haru does, and in his grief goes berserk and squirts everyone he can with his gun, including Yuki and grandma, which leads to the most frightening moment for me, the nice old lady lying unconscious on the floor.

Heroic pose, with heroic duck.

Then there are the friendships. Akira, betrayed by Duck, tries to find Haru and convince Yuki to leave Enoshima, then goes further off orders and decides to work alone. Natsuki needs no second thoughts. He escapes evacuation and somehow returns. It’s Yuki who has the hardest time. He wants to follow Akira’s advice, but obviously has doubts. Well, that’s what grandma (not hurt. Hooray!) is around for. But why are they trying so hard? The threat is obvious. They’ve seen the dancing. But they also know that their friend is not acting like himself. Maybe the thought that they must also save the world has entered into more minds than Akira’s, but the story’s thrust from now be on rescuing Haru. This is just how it should be. Good episode, and just what I was waiting for.

Eureka Seven Ao 9 introduces us to Nakuramura, a guy who works for the Japanese military and has big plans for his country. He wants to get the Nirvash back, but more importantly he wants his hands on some of that Secret technology. I’m surprised every country aren’t going for that, actually. Imagine weapons that can take on any form and look cool to boot. His other stated goal, strangely enough, is to “destroy Japan,” but perhaps he means that metaphorically. Hopefully he does considering the coral burst 70 years destroyed Tokyo. That stuff’s kind of dangerous. Anyway, he’s part of a military plan to stimulate “plant corals” (same as scrub corals?) for whatever reason. Of course things go wrong and GenBleu come to the rescue. In addition we get more internal conflict as Ao discovers his mission isn’t to save lives but to rescue the quartz from coral, so naturally he goes off half-cocked into battle as usual. Alas, Truth is also around, killing people and leering at everyone. But no Naru this week. It’s a routine episode, not very exciting. I suppose they’re moving the pieces around for a big story arc finish.

Natsuiro Kiseki 10 presents more evidence that this mystic, wish-giving rock has a sense of humor. Imagine if the girls want to remember exactly what happened four years ago when they went to explore a haunted building not knowing there was a typhoon coming. You’d think they’d just get their memories back, but I suppose you can’t make an interesting episode out of that. Instead the younger versions of themselves appear in the present day (in which another typhoon is scheduled to appear). So the older girls have to keep an eye out on the younger ones to find out what exactly did happen, and to make sure they don’t get into any trouble. I mean, they obviously survived it four years ago, but this is NOW. Any anomalies that occur, like being spotted by parents, are either brushed aside by the characters or the show itself. Since the girls remember seeing ghosts and thieves during their adventure you can probably figure out what happens, or happened, but it’s all cleverly done nonetheless. Young Saki going after Old Saki with nunchuks was possibly the high point.

Two seasons gone and not much has changed for Ayumu.

And Kore wa Zombie desu ka – of the Dead … ends. Just like that. It’s a good final episode that gets a trifle sentimental but doesn’t go overboard with it, and there’s usually a good gag to undercut any potential tears. The finale is appropriate. They must defeat Chris, so Ayumu undergoes a test to become a full magical girl–and fails, losing his memory in the process. So the others go into his mind to get it back, which we are told is the makeup test, though all it seems to do is undo the damage of the first test. And in the end they don’t even get around to fighting Chris. This is how the show rolls, lurching from one ridiculous situation to another and maybe once every few episodes stumbling upon the story arc. On the way the girls must battle manifestations of Ayumu, all of the smug bishies spouting pretentious lines even the other characters in the show wince at, and it was a pleasure to watch Haruna kick their ass. Eu gets to talk a little. Sera adds her insults. The show ends well, even if everyone forgot the story.

A not bad episode of Polar Bear’s cafe. Episode 11 has the zookeeper Handa coerced into a group blind date at a karaoke place, and Panda and Polar bear come to even up the numbers. You already know what is going to happen, but it’s not all bad for Handa when the girls discover he’s Panda’s keeper and not just a lonely, single male lump. Panda naturally wins over the girls through cuteness, and Polar Bear, mainly staying out of the way (perhaps aware that this outing was not for his benefit), still gets to use his charming personality to get the girls attention. A polar bear who also runs a cafe! And there’s one of the show’s more surreal moments early on at the cafe when Sasako brings Penguin pot stickers, even though they’re not on the menu. What was that all about? Just another one of the show’s gentle mind games.

Nines and an Eight: Natsuiro, Sankarea, Eureka Ao, Kore wa Zombie, Polar Bear

Natsuiro Kiseki 9 continues the story on the island in a rather sweet episode where, surprisingly, Yuka says the most important thing: some things you can’t do anything about. This is contrasted by the behavior of Ko, the rude boy from last week who’s actually a girl, who misses the doctor who practiced on the island before and can’t stand the thought of a replacement, and also of Natsume, who can’t bare the thought of Saki no longer living next door to her. And thus the girls can understand Ko and that bit is resolved. It was also pleasing to discover that Saki is treated like royalty once they learn she’s tne new doctor’s daughter. In other words, the island is a good place to live. It was done nicely, with no extra goofiness. The goofiness comes with a second magical rock which they, of course, all manage to touch, turning Saki invisible, probably a sign of her conflicted feelings of moving away and being treated so well, well, whatever, but what it leads to is her wandering all around the island naked, just the sort of weirdness to make the bland emotional story palatable.

It’s not the tale, Meru, it’s the timing.

This week Sankarea 9 dismayed us all by devoting an entire episode to Meru, the laconic, expressionless little sister. Any other week this would be an excellent thing to do. Meru is one of those characters that does very little yet makes you want to learn more, what she thinks of this whole zombie business, what she thinks about doing all the chores all the time. But remember, last week was full of danger. Chihiro had been abducted by a man who wishes to cut his balls off! Rea was almost abducted herself! What will happen? Well, this isn’t the first time Sankarea has delivered a filler episode at the worst time. If you can get over the annoyance you’ll probably enjoy the episode very much. We don’t really learn what makes Meru tick but we get some ideas. It comes clear at the end that she keeps a lot of emotions under wraps, and I’m happy to see Rea innocently slip past her defenses and reveal a few. But otherwise Meru prefers to go with the flow, whether it be this crazy new guest at her home or her friend Ichie’s latest zombie theories. So we really don’t learn a lot. Probably that’s the way she likes it.

Eureka Seven Ao 8 is the silliest episode so far even while it tries to bring up serious themes like father-children relationships. Maybe I’m missing something, but what does Ao have against his father, apart from not being around? Fleur I can understand, after the terrible sacrifice made for her sake; I’d hate to have to carry that emotional burden. But her saying flying for his company is a sort of revenge, which doesn’t make a lot of sense, neither does her attempt at stopping the latest Secret at the loss of her life. The big political picture seems a bit ridiculous, too. Surely in that day and age the US would be able to spot faked footage. Basically nothing much in this episode makes much sense at all.

This bit had nothing to do with the story arc, but little in the episode did.

Kore wa Zombie etc 9 starts out with the gang trying to find an opponent for Chris, that most formidable of enemies. It gets sidetracked by Ayumu’s promise to Saras to attend her next concert. Then it’s the inevitable anticlimatical meeting between Ayumu and the ever-powerful Naeglaria, who turns out to be a sleepy dojinshi artist, and then it turns into a “team up to finish her dojinshi” episode, to demonstrate the ties of friendship. The original goal, to recruit Nene to fight Chris, is apparently forgotten. Oh, some nice bits about keeping promises and a cute Ayumu/Saras scene. What about the two unbeatable foes destined for immortal combat? They’re getting drunk together. So is this a truce or the actual end of the story arc? And who cares either way?


Polar Bear’s cafe 9 was irritating enough when it spent half the episode on Rin Rin the florist and his creepy infatuation with pandas, but then we get 15 minutes of Penguin trying to get up the courage to confess to the girl penguin. The only thing that kept me going was that it looked like he was actually going to do it. Well, Polar Bear’s wise sayings were amusing enough, especially the last one, about the coupons, though hardly waiting a half hour for.

Sevens and EIghts: Eureka Ao, Sankarea, Natsuiro, Kore wa Zombie, Polar Bear

Eureka Seven Ao 7 starts out in the worst way possible, then gets a lot better.

Oh, god, just shut up already! Shut up!

First we have the attack on GenBleu headquarters by that smug asshole calling himself “Truth.” I got what I expected. Truth going around blowing things up at will, guards running around helplessly, and more Truth blowing things up, smirking the entire time and declaring he’s out for the truth, which means, I suppose, he’s out for himself. We even get a replay of last week’s carnage, one of many moments when cringed. The fact that he knows things Ao and the others don’t is to be expected, or else he wouldn’t be in the story. The fact that he’s vague about it all is also to be expected. It’s part of the smug bishie mindset to say cryptic things (smugly) before blowing more things up. There’s an odd moment with a rock singer (every base has a rock star, I suppose), and something was wordless communicated to her. Since her name is “Mirror” I think we’re going to see her again, and we’re going to get some bad symbolism to boot.

Uh, Naru, you’re flying the wrong way.

But things take an interesting turn. We jump to Okinawa, where, strangely, all the locals who were at GenBleu are now back. Including Ao, much to Naru’s surprise. It’s clear immediately that this Ao is actually Truth in Ao’s shape. But even so, Truth is beginning to show signs that make him slightly less annoying. He’s after The Truth, I suppose, of the scrub coral. What’s more, he might have cured Naru of her sickness by exposing her to some. And they can fly! And all of a sudden Ao’s would-be girlfriend has willingly flown off with the smug white-haired bishie! As for Truth, he finds her more interesting, closer to said truth, than Ao. I approve of this. Naru’s been waiting around for her role in the show to develop. It’s a shame that it had to come in the hands of an cliché anime character, but at least she’s involved now. And the show has gotten more interesting. Let’s hope it can stay that way and get rid of Truth at the same time.

Our first zombie show of the evening, Sankarea 7, after an odd blood trail opening, looks at first the same as last week’s, but with Rea and Chihiro the featured characters rather than Ranko. So we see them eat together. We see Chihiro film obsessively and speculate where those Hydrangea leaves go if zombies don’t use the bathroom, something I hope they don’t show us. We see them shopping for clothes. We get an aside with Ranko, still fuming, and Mero, who hasn’t been used enough this series, though the previews suggest she’ll get more time next week. It isn’t until late that, for the first time in 1.5 episodes, so plot kicks in. Geez, Dan’Ichirou’s been threatening to cut off Chihiro’s balls for several episodes now. About time he did something about it.

In Natsuiro Kiseki 8 the girls decide to take a trip, but where? It’s actually a splendid idea that the others want to visit the place where Saki’s moving to. Not even Saki’s been there, yet. But the effect of the trip so far (two-parter) is to drive home the fact that she is indeed moving. This leads to a non-fight between Saki and Natsumi, and the question of whether its selfish of her to want to stay where she is when moving to this place was her father’s dream. To further complicate matters, it’s a beautiful island, a place you’d want to move to, apart from one asshole local. This episode was a good setup for what I expect will be more questions and maybe a few decisions next week. If only they could have avoided the scenes of girls acting like doofuses on the ferry. I thought I was watching K-ON! for a moment.

Our second Zombie show, Kore wa Zombie etc 8 should be an important episode. Kyouko, one of the main antagonists from last season, the one who murdered Ayumu in the first place returns. She offers to help our guys defeat Chris by filling us in on his weakness, but they must do something for her in return. But this show is far too silly to keep it that simple, so we get Ayumu organizing a mixer, where of course unexpected people show up. This all reminds me. Kyouko is a fearsome person, indeed, she makes some terrific evil faces in this episode, but I can barely remember her. The inanity overwhelms all plot and logic in this series. But one thing the show does not do well is serious emotions, and we get a forced and maudlin last scene, with only Ayumu getting skewered as a pleasant reminder of what the show’s strengths are.

The editor-in-chief samples the pasta lunch.

Not much to Polar Bear’s Cafe 8, but is there ever? Reporters led by their editor, a shoebill stork, do a magazine piece about the cafe. As usual, Polar Bear has some fun with it, creating a sob story about his past and not minding a bit when he’s contradicted. In the second half Polar and Grizzly go off to catch salmon while Panda tags along, to grizzly’s annoyance. Again, Polar Bear is above it all. I envy his equanimity.

Space Bros 8, Sankarea and Natsuiro 7

Interesting episode of Space Brothers. Mutta gets the credit for taking down the crook, but the reality isn’t the same. On one level it would bother me that Mutta outright lied, that he was simply trying to escape, and then increased the lie by giving a speech about truth, justice and the American way. I would feel pretty bad if I passed an astronaut exam by such means. Which is not to say he did. Would the JAXA director have given the same “advice” (order) to pass Mutta if he hadn’t made such a splash? Plus, Mutta later showed some blindfold skills that were not exaggerated. He demonstrated that he has the skills to be an astronaut.

For justice!

But what about the fact that he was acting a bit like a coward during the robbery? Well, remember what got him running: Apo the dog. He forgot everything because he saw Apo running into danger and chased after him. His instinct then was to rescue, not run. Finally, what was the reason for his lying at the press conference? Not to enhance his stature as an astronaut (in fact, that seemed the farthest thing from his mind), but because he wanted to impress two cute girls in the audience. Mutta is an entertaining character because he not only has astronaut skills but because he doesn’t act the part. He reacts the same way that we lesser mortals do, like a human being.

Sankarea decides to devote episode 7 to Ranko’s growing up with Chihiro. In her eyes he starts out heroic, then is revealed to be a dweeb with no friends who’s her first cousin to boot. In between the flashbacks we get the present day where she drags Chihiro off to help deliver food and get him to notice her. Back and forth it goes, and really, apart from the scary dog scene, there’s nothing whatsoever in the boy that would make anyone fall for him. In the end Ranko’s affection remains a mystery. Though there are some nice present-day bits where she tries her best to make him forget about Rea. Thinking about it, I’d be more crushed than she is: before, she could always hope he’d come around when he got over the fact that he’d never get a zombie girlfriend. But now he HAS one! What’s a girl to do?

Who needs magic?

Natsuiro Kiseke 7 reminded me a bit of Tamayura Hitotose’s festival episode in that it rained and nothing could be done but wait it out. Of course Tamayura was a gentle, slice-of-life show, none of them was leaving soon, and there were no magic rocks around, just that fluffy thing. In Natsuiro the girls could wish away the rain so they could participate in the singing competition, but at least two of them have serious doubts. I was also reminded of Yuki in the Haruhi baseball episode who said that changing the weather patterns would cause catastrophic typhoons 10,000 years from now, which was good enough for Kyon. I think Natsume and Saki had similar thoughts: messing with nature was a bad idea. Yuka, meanwhile wants to use the rock to stop the rain AND win the competition, whicn, fortunately, does not happen. The girls have usually been pretty good about using their rock. In the end, they wait it out, the rain stops, they go on with the competition. You don’t need magic to create good memories.

Lots of shows: AKB0048, Tsuritama, Natsuiro, Eureka Ao, Sankarea, Polar Bear

AKB0048 3 is just as insane as the first two, hurrah!

It’s going to be hard to talk about this episode without spoilers, and I’ll do my best, but you are warned. Because for this episode the other side of future-idoling comes into play–the combat. The girls have reached the mothership and are immediately put into training. No singing or dancing, it’s all wrestling robots and learning to fire guns. Naturally the girls all suck at it, and some are pissed off: they thought they would be singing and dancing! They must be from one of the planets without a ban on fabulousness, or they’d know better. Our girls have thoughts both ways. Chieri is the hardest working and most determined, but also aloof from the others. She’s told she won’t pass the audition that way. Nagisa and Yuka, exhausted, visit an AKB0048 rehearsal. Gee, they’re working just as hard as the auditioners are! No one points out that the AKB0048 girls are just singing and dancing.

This is an idol series.

The reason for the intense training is a secret concert on another planet, and here’s where the show gets really wild. The trainees, young girls with maybe two weeks’ training, are put on lookout in a dark wasteland a mile from the concert. DES attack robots show up and all of a sudden we’re in a war movie. Gunfire, explosions, bodies flying, while the AKB0048 group performs in the distance and provide an eerie soundtrack for the carnage and their manager, Tsubasa Katagiri, watches from a safe distance. It’s graphic and not a little frightening, especially when Nagisa and Chieri encounter an armored thing dead set on wiping them out. This show isn’t supposed to do things like this! And it makes me wonder just what they’re going to pull out next week.

Everyone’s too comfortable. Something better happen soon.

Tsuritama 5 is its most uneventful yet. All we get is the usual: Yuki has a new goal, meets adversity, overcomes it, and becomes a slightly better and happier person. The episode feels especially empty because the struggle isn’t a metaphor for anything. Yuki wants money for a rod and reel, goes to help out on the Captain’s fishing boat, fails, then succeeds. There’s nothing more to it except for him saying at the end that he’s happier than he’s ever been. Well, that’s good. His grandmother does not show up, is never mentioned. Coco talks about the thing out there, and Akira hangs around to keep an eye on Haru and talk to his duck. In fact, all Haru does this episode is do his happy thing. It’s like they’re waiting for more stimulus. Maybe what we’ve got here is the end of the first story arc; they’ll work in the other things and get Akira and the duck into the action. Or they’ve run out of things to do.

In Natsuiro Kiseki 6 the girls make a double of Natsumi so she will have time to practice for the big tennis match, help with homework, and take care of her little brother. It goes as expected. We get fairly predictable scenes of shock, frustration of trying to live with oneself, so to speak, but we also get a twist that any other show with a wish premise would not think to do. Natsume 1 is practicing, working on her serve, and getting frustrated. While #2 does the other chores, and more importantly, talks to Saki–and observes. When they become one again, during the tennis match, Natsume has her practice ability AND the advantage of having seen herself from a distance, figuratively and literally. That was well done. And again I truly appreciate this show for taking the idea of wish consequences seriously and not making them a monkey’s paw or a silly moral lesson about how they should have left well enough alone. The girls use the wishes well and gain knowledge and experience from them.

I’m not sure what Eureka Seven Ao 5 was trying to do. It’s one of those episodes where the gifted stranger is taken into the group where he will work. The trouble is, no one really seems to know what to do with him. His teammates are dismissive, won’t even tell him where his quarters are. Fleur says he won’t fly with the Pied Piper team, they just wanted his craft. But when Secret is found lurking in a hurricane he suits up with the rest of the team. Meanwhile the three stowaways are immediately accepted into Generation Bleu as semi-respectable employees, because they apparently know something. And so the episode goes. Ao spends most of the time blundering about, tracking down his the sloth thus meeting another team of eccentric girls, wondering what he’s going to do. Messy.

Chihiro, make a note of what she’s doing, okay?

A couple of things happen in Sankarea 6 as well, but they happen early, after Chihiro discovers what we’ve known all along, that Rea replenishes herself through eating hydrangea leaves. It’s an amusing enough scene, with Rea sneaking about on roofs and the nutty grandfather telling us the instructions for the care and feeding of zombies while swinging around on a half-naked Ranko, but then there’s half an episode to go. The rest of the time is a series of settling in. Rea gets used to zombie life and is grateful for this new lease on life, so to speak, while Chihiro spends his time ogling her and trying to figure out how to keep her alive in winter, when those plants aren’t in bloom. He still hasn’t put the clues together, like the wound-licking, etc … Too bad grandpa went back to being senile after his romp.

Polar Bear’s Cafe 6 gets a little interesting, but not much, when Polar Bear takes Panda to a seedy bar run by a grizzly, after Panda decides he wants to be badder. We meet animals that you wouldn’t actually want to meet in the wild. They all hang out, and apart from the crocodile, make no trouble. I guess they know they’re all dangerous enough not to mess with. I makes you wonder what’s in Polar Bear’s past. Grizzly has the best line. “I guess if a panda made up his mind to be black or white, a polar bear would just be a bear. HAW HAW HAW!”