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.

Moretsu 25, Kanojo X 12, Hyouka 10, AKB0048 9

A really big issue comes up in Moretsu Pirates 25. Ironbeard brings it up. Will the pirates in this “frontier” area of space continue working under the letters of marque or will they go off somewhere and be real pirates? It’s rather different than the big issue I THOUGHT they were going to bring up: would the empire allow pirates to band together and become a possibly dangerous force? I guess they don’t care much. Anyway, this big issue is just tossed out there, almost lost among the confusing story line and dramatic moments and Marika and Chiaki making like idols.

Luca doesn’t tell us nearly enough about her vacation.

First, it took a long time for anyone to wonder what happened to the real Luna. This being the show that it is, they wonder for about five seconds before the real one walks in the door, but it was something I had worried about ever since the android double was shot in the head last week. Marika and the other pirates (and there are tons of them, including three who have a comedy routine they should have retired a long time ago) wonder about other infiltrators while Kane smiles a lot. Meanwhile Ironbeard and Marika’s mom Ririka are heading toward the pirates nest for whatever reason. The Parabellum had chased off the Grand Cross, so while we’re chewing that over Quartz Crystal shows up. I was sitting back and awaiting more confusion when things get fun.

Quartz isn’t used to the pirate dining hall’s dramatic lighting effects.

Quartz said it best afterwards. She showed up to get the drop on the pirates, but Marika wound up running the show, and Ironbeard hogged the spotlight. That’s almost literal. Surrounded by angry pirates, Quartz has got her “I hunt pirates routine” going when Marika interrupts. “Let’s fight!” The lights go out and a spotlight appears with Marika in it. Later Ironbeard ups them both by rising on a platform on the floor! Nothing like some grand entrances to relieve the confusion. The pirates nest dining hall has some nice effects built-in. Naturally, Ironbeard gets his own spotlight, but Marika, undaunted and on a roll, demands to know who he is. Quartz is so rattled during all this that when she gets her own spotlight she tries to step out of it.

So here we have a duplicate Kane, Ironbeard, and Marika’s mom, who’s not supposed to be there … um, plot? Can you explain some of this, please?

Ironbeard is there to escort her to safety, but before he leaves we get the Kane situation cleared up, but not Ririka’s. Why the hell is she there again? Why doesn’t she tell her daughter she’s there? Why did Kane switch with his twin when they both had the same motives? Never mind. We get the formal challenge, Marika and Chiaki doing a pirate song, nerds ogling Coorie (in nerd costume), all to get us revved up for next week’s slam-bang confrontation. This episode was confusing and full of flaws, but the show has much momentum now that it doesn’t matter.

Nazo no Kanojo X 12 sets its new standard for romantic moments, when Tsubaki insists on using the old, dirty gauze on his wound rather than get a fresh, clean one–because his girlfriend had put it on. Okay, so there are more traditional romantic highs also set, while the two lovebirds each try to fight off increasing feelings of lust. Tsubaki, as you would expect, is lousy at this kind of struggle (seeing Urabe naked last episode certainly doesn’t help) and so he’s the recipient of a drum solo. Urabe almost loses control as well, but there it shows itself by less-than-precise scissor skills, hence Tsubaki’s tiny wound. Urabe is a better character when something knocks her off-balance, such as Ako (forever stirring the pot) showing her that naked pic, or accidentally injuring Tsubaki, or seeing him hurt again when he tries to AVOID doing something questionable. It’s then when she stops being cold and formidable and we see other human traits from her, like remorse or even affection.

I’m not sure I read the ending of Hyouka 10 correctly. Or rather, I wish the story arc had finished up this episode. On the other hand, it would make sense to continue it when it looked like Houtarou had come up with the solution but actually missed something. The episode is full of moments when people tell Houtarou how clever he is, and so to show that he’s maybe not so clever after all Ibara mentions that thing about the rope. I forgot what Haba had said about it and don’t really want to go and look. Oh, well. We’ll get to that and whatever Chitanda wanted to say (not enough Chitanda this episode) next week. As for Houtarou, I don’t think the praise was getting to him but it’s clear he’s a sucker for certain types of women. Better watch that, Houtarou.

AKB0048 9 brings us a dilemma in storytelling. How it plays out here is simple: Takamina, injured last week, wants to go onstage for a difficult and dangerous concert on a bleak snowy planet controlled by DES, but is overruled. Kanata, the girl destined to someday replace her, is chosen instead. Until Takamina insists minutes before showtime. She nearly kills herself performing, is flown home by the inspired Kanata, etc. But really nothing has changed here. Sooner or later they’ll have to make a decision about when Takamina will bow out. We’re made to care about both characters, so I can only hope the show will handle that moment with grace.

The distraction concert.

The other story, actually making the concert, made me cringe at first. The mothership is hidden away but the understudies go out to play in the snow, then visit a town with NO IDOLS banners all over the place, and then do an impromptu performance for some kids. Why they just don’t put “Arrest Me!” signs on their backs I don’t know. What’s more, they kind of get away with it, and inspire a strategy for the big performance. This part is fun to watch. They pop up in spotlights and sing and duck away when the DES starts shooting at them. Meanwhile the main concert goes on, almost uninterrupted. Sure, the animation techniques don’t match up well, but that’s been true since the first episode. If you can get past that it’s great eye-candy.

Quick ones: Hyouka 9, Kanojo X 11, AKB0048 8

This episode they’re better at shooting down solutions.

I could say that Hyouka 9 was unsatisfactory in a lot of ways, but I’ve bought into the characters and the format, so to me it was another half hour of pleasure. But I can understand that others might disagree. It’s the driest episode yet. Houtarou and the others just sit there and listen to three people give their theories about who Hongou intended the murderer to be. The first one is abrasive, the second one smug. Only the third one is really any fun, but her theory was a little out there. The only thing we get to break the infodumps and cross-examinations are the usual amusing animation tricks and, of course, Chitanda getting drunk off whiskey candies (As you would expect, she makes an adorable drunk, but she’s nowhere near Clannad’s Nagisa level). And at the end, all they’ve done is reject theories. We still don’t know, because we, and they, don’t have enough information. Next week we’ll get more from Irisu. I’m still thinking the answer has more to do with the film club’s internal politics than anything in the movie. I guess we’ll find out.

Like every other male lead in an anime, Tsubaki doesn’t think to close his eyes.

I expected a few things out of Nazo no Kanojo X 11, such as Urabe showing up at the festival to keep an eye on Tsubaka, Oka and Ueno spotting Tsubaki, Hayakawa putting the moves on Tsubaki, and Tsubaki waffling a lot because he’s a hopeless case. I also expected some violence done to him, maybe with a drum solo. And indeed all these things happened, but not the way I expected. I didn’t expect Oka dress up as a maid, for Ueno to freak out when other boys take pictures of her, like Tsubaki did two episodes ago. I didn’t expect Urabe to appear during the seduction scene wearing a robot costume. I didn’t expect a drool-showdown between the girls. And no one expected that both of them would go through most of the scene naked. What a delicious agony for Tsubaki! This, er, distracted me from a rather nice scene, where Urabe and both take pains to let the beaten Hayakawa down gently, with the added eroticism of the nudity and Urabe reacting almost sexually to Hayakawa’s saliva. As for the violence, what else do you expect in a scene when the blindfold comes loose.

Minami, can that wait? Someone’s shooting at you …

Looking past the weirdness of the entire AKB0048 universe you get a straightforward story with some stock elements that work and some that don’t. I’m frankly getting a little tired of the “must try harder” lines that everyone seems to be saying now, and that the 76th generation SHOULD be saying because the 77th is getting gigs before them now … though I wonder if doing a show in a heavy DES territory isn’t actually a way to cull the ranks, you know, use them as cannon fodder … nah. Teammate jealousy isn’t my favorite plot device in the world. On the other hand, it was a fun, fluid battle at the end. And Minami does have an interesting dilemma. She wants Kanata to become a successor, but that means succeeding HER, and that leads to some angst during battle–that’s the part I didn’t like. You’d think she’d a bit more clear-headed when people are actually shooting at her … Well, it was a good battle, anyway.

Four more before two days off: Apollon 10, Tsuritama 10, Fujiko 11, Kanojo X 10

Sakamichi no Apollon 10 gets down to business now that the bad romance has left town and sets up some major plot kernels, but mainly it’s about Kaoru screwing up.

A bath scene? In THIS show?

Kaoru has some wrong assumptions about what’s going on. Now that Yurika’s gone it’s logical to assume Sentarou will fall back on Ritsuko, such is the type of guy Kaoru thinks Sentarou is. Especially after Sentarou seems so over it when the school removes that painting of him she made. Because of this he doesn’t know what to make of the mittens Ritsuko knitted for him–and not Sentarou. So he tries to remain distant and thus puts himself in danger of rejection. And he nearly ruins it entirely in the bath scene (Did anyone imagine there would be a “innocently open the door and find a member of the opposite sex bathing” scene in this show? Especially when the families share a bath and ought to know better? Sorry, not buying it). It takes a cute-sick scene, where Ritsuko tells him almost exactly what needs to be done (and could he have forced himself down the steps and out the door in his state if he hadn’t met Sentarou?) before he gets his head straight. And then, we skip a few months and nothing’s happened there. Which is probably fine with Ritsuko. Seeing her two boys together seems to make her happiest of all. I think she’s become a teacher already–to two adolescent boys.

Sentarou studies.

When we aren’t watching and wanting to smack Kaoru around a bit, we get mini-adventures. Sentarou’s in danger of flunking but Kaoru forces him to study. The pop music kid announces that he’s going to win the festival this year, which gets our heroes fired up. But the big event is the impending arrival of Sentarou’s father, and this part doesn’t work too well. The scenes with little Sa-chan were nice, but then Sentarou does something I didn’t expect him to do–run from the problem. He wouldn’t do that. If his father has stopped the boozing, then that’s great. If he hasn’t then the children need Sentarou around more than ever. We understand that Sentarou was never a welcome member of his father’s household, and how deep that wound goes, but he’s welcome now, and he’s not a child anymore. He can defend himself, and he has his family and friends. He’s never run from a fight. Sigh. This is a very good show, but every now and then it slips from smart to silly.

Akira has several heroic moments this episode.

A show like Tsuritama can get as silly with its plot as it wants and no one will care. What it’s not immune to is stock anime penultimate episode things like rallying the forces, reconciling foes and giving the despondent character a pep-talk. You can tick each of those off your list while watching. They’re not bad by default, but here in episode 10 they don’t work that well. The good guys, when you get down to it, have no problem evading or bamboozling the Duck forces, who, on their side seem to have given up finding Haru at all. The pep-talk, all about friendship vs going off half-cocked reminded me of a few from Railgun. Besides, at this point we know what needs to be done, and watching everyone scurrying around preparing for it isn’t all that exciting. But they give us a whammy at the end to make everything a little more hopeless, just the thing to set up the (I assume) final episode next week.

This week’s Lupin III – Mine fujiko to lu Onna isn’t as confusing as last week’s but yet again Mine really doesn’t appear. She’s out of the picture and in no condition to steal anything at the moment. Instead the focuses on the life and quite possible death of Oscar, who we learn was rescued and adopted as a boy by Zenigata. Zenigata was moved by the boy’s pride at not losing his last coin, but Oscar along the way has lost all trace of it in his desire to make Zenigata pursue him the way he pursued, caught–and subsequently bedded Fujiko. It’s a bit ridiculous the lengths he goes to achieve this, even pretending to be her and actually stealing stuff. I had to actually watch it twice to figure out what he thought he was up to. What’s more interesting is that Lupin and Goemon work to undo the big caper at the end, as if they were defending Fujiko’s pride. I suppose Oscar needed some attention, but I rather wished they hadn’t devoted an entire episode. I believe there’s only two left and a lot to clear up.

Finally I watched Nazo no Kanojo X 10, that is to say, I saw Tsubaki acting like a complete idiot for 25 minutes, starting with his denial to former crush Hayakawa that he has a girlfriend (though he finally admits it), then not telling Urabe about the school festival situation. I mean, I really think you should tell your current girlfriend that you’re going to pretend to have another for an innocent purpose. But another moment of great idiocy is the fact that he doesn’t even realize Hayakawa is setting a trap. You could write it off as the hormones working, but Hayakawa practically threw himself on him when they accidentally(?) met. Or maybe this is an act of internal rebellion for him. After all, Urabe gets upset when he looks at a girl that reminds him of her. I might feel a little constricted, too.

Kanojo X 9, Hyouka 7, Kimi to Boku II 10

In spite of adding little that’s new, Nazo no Kanojo X 9 is the most interesting episode we’ve had in a while.

Urabe comes to school with bad or, to some, good bed hair, so Oka fixes her up. Suddenly the class can see her face. Her popularity goes up. Pics are secretly taken and sold among the boys. While this would seem like a positive thing for Urabe, and I think so, too, Tsubaki is not so pleased. He’s found himself in an odd situation. He had himself wanted Urabe to change her hair; it was a shame to keep such a cute face hidden (I personally feel that a lot of girls unnecessarily hide their face with their hair because of low self-esteem), but now classmates, potential rivals, are looking in her direction. Well, what would YOU do if your girlfriend was suddenly revealed to be a beauty? You could bask in the pride that you’re dating her, or you could get jealous and ask her to change her hair back. Alas, Tsubaki chooses the latter. Though it leads to a hair-mussing scene which you can add to the list of things the two (and Oka) find erotic.

Then the show makes a sudden turn as the boys decide Urabe looks like a certain pop idol named Imai Momoka. Naturally Tsubaki buys her photo book and discovers they’re right. In a way it’s sort of sweet, that he would admire a idol because she looks like her girlfriend, but it also feels a little unfair, because part of the attraction is that Momoka does things in the photos he’d like to see Urabe do, like, you know, smile. In other words, he’s falling for an image of Urabe that matches what his image of a perfect girlfriend should be. Well, we soon learn how Urabe feels about THAT (drum solo!). The stated message is that maybe Urabe can be as jealous and possessive as Tsubaki can, but I also think it shows that while you can ask things from your partner, you don’t and can’t actually possess them.

Early in Hyouka 7 I wondered why they were using “the ghost, when examined, turned out to be withered flowers” as its tagline when this is true for mysteries in general, before I realized Hyouka had not yet looked at an actual ghost story before this. Though I thought things fell too conveniently into place, it was an interesting mystery. I just wish from time to time they would present red herrings for Houtarou to sort through. As for me, I was too busy analyzing why Kayo didn’t put her names on things, not why Rie did. The other half of the story, again, is the odd relationship between Houtarou and Chitanda as we see the former observes the latter. Chitanda wants a sister but is blind to the idea that they sometimes don’t get along, she is momentarily disappointed that it isn’t a mixed bath(!), is what we see this week, along with her usual adorable curiosity. Her weekly strategy to wheedle assistance out of Houtarou, along with his weary reluctance, is becoming a highlight of the episode for me. He acts as though he gives in to stop her bugging him, but you have to wonder.

Kimi to Boku 2 10 manages to be not nearly as annoying as last week’s (which pissed me off so much I sped through the second half and didn’t write about it) mainly because it brings poor Mary back into the show after Chizuru’s confession. So we get a lot of the two being embarrassed around each other while the others occasionally wonder what’s going on. That’s fine. Mary is a fun little bundle of insecurities, and she is the only one in the show who can actually knock Chizuru off his pins. And it allows Chizuru to show us more of himself than his loud, annoying side. He’s even given moments of introspection and chances to act gallantly, which he does. Too bad it’s only temporary.

Hyouka 5, Kanojo X 8, Acchi Kochi 8

Hyouka goes back to a small, mundane, everyday mystery for episode 5. I suppose you can’t get to the core of a 40 year-old event that ruined one man’s school life and made a little Chitanda cry every week.

But again, the mystery is twofold. Angry shouting in the classroom next door, Houtarou hears Chitanda’s voice, and really doesn’t care. We learn later what the fight was all about. The math teacher, Omichi, had gotten angry at the class for not knowing something they had not yet gone over in class. As usual, the event is described and visualized for us (with a crash test dummy metaphor that later turns into scary masks). They ask questions, they speculate. I thought Houtarou had nailed it when he suggested the teacher was using teaching notes from an old textbook, in fact, I was waiting for it, but Satoshi, that font of “useless information” (which is always useful) shoots it down. In the end it’s a question of how a math teacher would write English letters in notes, not something I would have thought of, and so the mystery solved turned out to be a little unsatisfying. That it’s also mundane is a given in this series.

Just give up, Houtarou.

But the episode is livened up by its fascination with Chitanda. And it leads to the second part of the mystery. Why did Chitanda, who rarely gets angry and hates doing do, get angry at the teacher? This is the second episode where the mystery involved, in part, what the hell Chitanda’s head is all about. In fact, they may have spent more time analyzing Chitanda then they did solving the other mystery. She is examined for the seven deadly sins. She actually defends them. They suggest reasons for her anger, she rejects them one by one. For Satoshi and Ibara it’s just idle fun speculating about a friend. We don’t know why Houtarou is interested apart from his unacknowledged crush. The odd thing is that there isn’t much to speculate about. Chitanda is quite normal, though overly curious about things, so why are we concerned about her, well, apart from that she’s absolutely adorable, especially when something’s on her mind and she wants help with it? She’s as normal and boring in real life as the mysteries Houtarou solves. Still, as I said, she drives the series, and the dynamic between her and Houtarou, with his odd little hallucinations (I’m more interested in his head than in Chitanda’s–check out the cute little Chitanda angels crawling all over him), is always fun to watch.

You could also call Nazo no Kanojo X a mystery that is in fact mundane. In episode 8 Tsubaki is granted permission to his dream the night before, he gets to touch Urabe’s boobs. This is after an awkward meeting on the street and an invitation to her apartment and several minutes of an adolescent boy fighting off his fantasies. I hate scenes like this. I wasn’t surprised that he confessed his dream to her–that little ritual between them means there are very few secrets they can tell. I wasn’t surprised that she granted him permission either, because nothing much that comes out of her mouth surprises me anymore (perhaps I should rephrase that). But for Tsubaki to lose control and go for more than a boob did surprise me, as did Urabe’s apparent giving in, once she realized her scissors were out of reach. But what makes it mundane is Urabe’s reaction the next day. In spite of her mysterious nature she’s on one level nothing more than an adolescent girl meeting her own hormones for the first time. I’m rather hoping they will work to make her a little more mysterious again. This is a show that doesn’t work as well without the mystery.

Acchi Kocchi 8 is not only mundane, it is disgustingly cute, as usual. Tsumiki hugging the stuffed animal and crawling into Io’s futon out of embarrassment were my two favorite cute moments. The second part is better, since there aren’t as many laughs to be gotten out of studying, and a festival scene allows them opportunities to try different things. Sakaki’s goldfish abandoning him for Io’s cup was the funniest moment. Oh, the entire shooting section was pretty good. By the way, I’ve watched countless summer festival anime episodes but this is the first one I can think of where the boys actually wear yukatas too.

Kanojo X 7, Hyouka 5, Moretsu 20, Kimi to Boku 8

Nazo no Kanojo X 7 has Urabe at her most mysterious, and at the same time at her most “normal,” and childish. Early on, taking a cue from Ako, she visits the flu-ridden Tsubaki, and after drool has been exchanged, leaves, not even showing him the swimsuit she had on underneath her coat, because she was shy. It’s like she goes through the motions of social behavior but doesn’t always understand the reason. Then at the end she almost grows angry at Tsubaki for suggesting she join the track club. We know why he’s doing it, because he didn’t want to hold her back from something she might enjoy. She determines through saliva that he wants her for himself, well, the legs, anyway. Apparently the idea that he wants to sacrifice his enjoyment of their walks together for her sake because he cares about her is too complex for spit to convey. For someone who can share feelings and emotions like Urabe can, she can be awfully insensitive.

The rest of the episode is confusing. Why did Tsubaki recover so quickly when Urabe’s spit wasn’t supposed to work? They switched sensations? Then why didn’t Urabe come down with the flu? On the other hand Ako keeps me entertained not only with the sophisticated and erotic ways that he handles Ueno (she can do better than him, really), but her ability to shake up Urabe and slyly come on to her. What’s her mother been teaching her?

Hyouka 5 surprised me by actually polishing off the story arc. I thought it was one that could go on and on if it wanted to. And the final answers Chitanda was looking for came to her. The only thing that seemed like a stretch was the “lame pun” in English that gave the club journal (and, perhaps significantly, that of the show) its name. Houtarou pulled that one out of thin air. The entire mystery was mundane, as most mysteries are after you solve them, yet the episode itself was vivid and powerful. Nothing new there. With this show I’m getting used to people sitting and talking calmly taking on great significance through imaginative visuals.

And this time there was the added weight of Itoigawa remembering a painful time of her life, to say nothing of Chitanda discovering the what her uncle had said that had made her cry. And when she cried this time (the arc would not be complete until she did), it was, as befitting the atmosphere, done calmly, a few tears and a smile. I kind of wish the club would next investigate what happened to Jun in India, but I suspect that would be too much for the club and this show that does just fine with small mysteries.

Ai will not be outdone! Not when she wears that hat!

Moretsu Pirates 20 patiently unfolds the new story arc. There are things they’re not telling us, just sowing seeds, like the new organization who’s trying to horn in on space, and apparently Marika might get involved. It’s odd to see shady, nasty looking people in black suits snickering about things while their goal is to actually protect the heroine, not do away with her. And we got the fact that someone’s trying to sabotage the annual dinghy race. Why they want to do such an EVIL thing as mess with people in dinghies they don’t tell us. Perhaps the answer lies in Marika’s high school being banned from the thing for interference five years ago. A lot of tasty mysteries. Then we get the mundane silliness of Kane training the girls through some extreme measures, simulations in the Red Spot, windsurfing while the Bentenmaru fires on them, and wearing a tiny Speedo. And, far away from intrigue, little Ai gets lots of chances to show off her navigation skills and radiate sheer joy while doing so. It’s a lovely contrast.

Kimi to Boku 2 8 is one of its sweetest and sneakiest episodes, even though it has a boy who asks too much from a girl and gets it. One irony is that the boy, Shun’s younger brother, Fuyuki, asks to touch Mamiya’s chest at a moment when mother-hen Shun has ceased to worry about him doing ecchi things with her. Another irony is that it’s possible none of the main characters have gotten as far with a girl as Fuyuki has, in spite of their advanced age. The actual moment, and the aftermath, is handled gently, with even the karoake noises stilled. The aftermath has bad vibes but turns comical, and we see that what we’ve got here is just two kids who are trying to figure out their urges. Plus an older brother who worries too much and his friends, along for the ride as usual.