A passing glance at shows I watched but didn’t write much about, if anything

Now that many of the season’s shows are wrapping up, I thought I’d give thoughts about the ones that I actually wound up finishing but haven’t written about much, or at all. I polished off RDG last week, so I’ll ignore it here.

Yeah, that bugs me too.
Yeah, that bugs me too.

For me, Hataraku Maou-Sama! never got past the question of how such a wicked demon lord could be so decent here? If he behaved like an overlord on Earth with no powers, he’d wind up in the pokey pretty quick, I know. But in times when he got his powers back he was still a decent fellow. Even Emi doesn’t believe it. The show gave no reasons for it. It makes me wonder what his upbringing on Entre Elba or whatever the place is called was like. Well, when I do ignore this I found the series hit or miss. Scenes when they were setting up stories seemed to take forever. I don’t know why, but Emi’s hesitation over what to do with Maou got on my nerves after a while, but I liked her cynical side. The big scenes were usually fun. The show was good at tossing in a quick line or sight gag when things got too serious. Chiho, a young girl in love but not a blithering idiot about it, was almost always fun to watch. I almost wish she had some powers of her own so she wouldn’t have to get rescued all the time. The whole Entre Elba world was a bunch of ridiculous cliches, but that was the point. Umm, I’ll give it a B-.

Sports festival spirit.
Sports festival spirit.

I think I would have enjoyed My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU more if I had paid more attention. There were some good things in it. Hachiman is an interesting character, a high-schooler whose default mode is bitter, but much of that is a pose and he knows it, perhaps causing his guilty, shifty appearance, like he can’t look anyone in the eye because he’s afraid they’re on to him. Yukino never panned out for me apart from being a good foil for Hachiman. Yui was an ideal counterbalance to the other two, perhaps the only one around who sees how cruel and manipulative others can be, but aware that people don’t have to behave like that, or succumb to bitterness when people do. The show was often painful to watch because of Hachiman’s worldview, especially in the cultural festival arc when he deliberately becomes the most hated man in school to prompt another student to do something she doesn’t want to do. As more that one character tells him after that, his ploy worked, but he hurt himself doing it; please stop doing that. The trouble is, Hachiman doesn’t have any alternatives in his arsenal. Not bad. I’d watch a sequel.

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I paid even less attention to Oreimo season 2. The only affecting part for me was the Kyousuke/Kuroneko romance, where for the first time I wanted to strangle Kuroneko. In fact, the entire season seemed to be Kyousuke shedding girl after girl and winding up with Kirino as … whatever the hell she is to him, but even as I say that I remember episode 12, where they all show up to the housewarming party and it occurred to me that Kyousuke actually has a harem, or could have. And maybe later he’ll get some of them back. The finale is all flashback through Kirino’s eyes, and we get a better idea of this complex thwarted big-brother worship that has messed with her mind since nearly infancy. It’s a not-bad, kinda-sweet way to wrap it up, and reminds us that this whole incest thing was just teaser, and when you look beyond that, there were some interesting characters on display here.

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Hentai Ouji to Warawanai Neko started as a mess and just got messier as it went on. By the end we had Tsukiko not losing her stone face and Youto incapable of remembering anything, I think. Through it all other people showed up and made things even messier, especially since near the end just about anyone could wish on that cat and it would come true. I’m not sure why I watched it all the way through. On the other hand, I did. So there must have been something in it that appealed to me.

Final scene tableau.
Final scene tableau.

Namiuchigiwa no Muromi-san came and went. Most of the humor, especially the tit-ripping scenes, didn’t do much for me, but I liked how they didn’t try and make Takurou a romantic partner (except in Muromi’s eyes, of course). A lot of nice visual moments. The final episode was more introspective, first with Takurou agonizing over his life-goals questionnaire and Muromi getting him to literally chill out, followed by a “bring all the cast together one last time for a celebration” scene, a nice way to end things. Don’t think we need another season of this, though.

Yukari and Yuzuko mess with Yui's head again.
Yukari and Yuzuko mess with Yui’s head again.

As I wrote before, Yuyushiki went from a series that did nothing to me to one I enjoyed watching every week. It was also, believe it or not, one of the most difficult. Yukari would pluck something out of the ether in her brain and present it, then Yuzuko would grab it and run in random directions, playing word association with herself or Yukari, all to get a rise out of Yui. I had to listen (actually read) closely or I’d completely lose track of how one line related to another. Sometimes one of the other three girls would stop by and give us their own, weird, contributions, which required more concentration. Slice-of-life shows about high school girls doing nothing aren’t supposed to be a challenge to watch, but I enjoyed it. In the rankings of such series, I put Yuyushiki above average, that is, closer to Azumanga (the pinnacle) then to A-Channel (the depths).

Another final scene tableau.
Another season finale tableau.

Finally, another slice-of-life show, Aiura, that did itself no favors by being so short. Some characters, like the teachers, are introduced but hardly seen after that. We’re left with little scraps of scenes that suffered from the lack of context but were still strong enough that you paid attention until the episode was over a minute later. My favorite bit was Saki talking to Yukon’s little brother. It had some “I’m older and bigger than you” bullying in it, but you also got the impression that the two genuinely like each other, or maybe they share a bond of frustration over Yukon. I’d like to see more of this, but how about actual half-hour episodes? One more thing, watching it on Niconico gave you an additional 1.5 minutes of animated weirdness that had nothing to do with anything, then a slide for the series with the OP chorus in a loop: “Kanikanikanikani-KaniKanikanikani-Kanikanikanikani …” The only way to watch it, apart from the lack of subtitles.

(Shit. Forgot one)

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Haiyore! Nyarlko-san W wound up pretty much the same as the first season. The finale, a hastily-constructed crisis about a hastily-constructed robot that will replace the goddess girls on Earth, so they’ll move on to other assignments on other worlds, went fairly light on the bathos and worked up the silliness, which is the way this show should alway go. There’s no reason for another season of this, but there was no reason for the season we just got, either, so I’ll probably watch it. Besides, I like the voice talent a lot on this show, especially Kana Asumi and Miyu Matsuki.

There, I think I’m finally done. I almost forgot about Narlko.

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New: Muromi-san, and sort of new: Ore no Imouto etc 2

Beginning season two of Ore no Imouto was a good palate cleanser after Attack on Titan.

As usual.
As usual.

Even if not much really happened. All the episode really tries to do is settle Kirino back into life at home, reintroduce us to all the characters, and update a few plot points, for which I’m grateful because I forgot a lot of what happened. Kyosuke has two worries: he’s worried that he’s hurt his relationship with his sister by forcing her to come back (Force her? I thought she agreed to), and he’s wondering where his relationship with Kuroneko stands now. Kuroneko, meanwhile, despite having little to do this episode, manages to remind us why she became arguably the show’s most popular character. Whatever story arc they’ve got planned can start next week. I don’t mind.

Muromi has just let loose a bad pun involving starfish.
Muromi has just let loose a bad pun involving starfish.

Namiuchigiwa no Muromi-san wastes no time in getting ridiculous. The first thing that happens is a boy named Takurou catches a mermaid, Muromi, while fishing. He shows absolutely no surprise in doing this. Muromi, once he gets the hook out of her mouth, proceeds to eat all his bait and go on a spiel of bad jokes and puns that Takurou doesn’t laugh at, though I found the whole situation kind of amusing. I like the various faces Muromi puts on. I like some of her stories about things you find underwater and Takurou’s confusion about what’s real and not. And the OP promises that the show will eventually go insane, or inane. I’ll keep an eye on it for the cheap laughs.

Tens: Star Driver, Ore no Imouto

Star Driver 10 is pretty straightforward, well, for a show such as this. Baseball, jealousy, spells, and a battle.

We start as usual with school activities, a baseball game between classes, the Onederberry Stars and the Twober Fighters. It’s even more lighthearted than usual as the animators have some fun playing around with baseball drama clichés as well as setting up a love triangle: Takuto, Marino, and the other team’s pitcher, Takeo, who is in love with Marino and of course is “Sword Star” from glittering crux. Takeo, enraged that Takuto ran into his beloved Marino running to first, uses some sneaky magic to strike him out Takuto to end the game.

So we already know what’s going to happen: Takeo is going to go to Zero Time and fight Takuto. But there’s plenty of time in the episode, so we get some character background first. Marina and Mizuno were first abandoned by their father, then their mother, many years ago. Naturally they grow very close, almost telepathic, though how Mizuno can not know about Marina being Manticore of Glittering Crux I don’t understand. Never mind. It’s easy to tell why Marino doesn’t want Mizuno’s identity of Maiden (I forget which direction) known.

We also visit the Vanishing Age lounge for some darts, though it’s a foregone conclusion what’s going to happen. Then it’s fight time. Is there anyone out there who watched this who did NOT expect Takuto to recite “Katami, Wakachita, Yagadanse” at a crucial moment? Really, they’d been hammering in that phrase for the entire episode. Pointless, too. Why didn’t Takuto just use his rockets before? Oh, well. The fight once again was great eye candy.

In Ore no Imouto 10 Ayese wants to give Kirino a nice otaku birthday present, because she pissed Kirino off while discussing figure collecting.

I've often wanted to ask the same thing.

And so a bizarre plot is hatched. Kirino’s friends figure a one-time collectable that’s not for sale would be the best. All they have to do is win a cosplay contest. The scenes where they come up with this are rather long, and it’s followed by another overly long scene where Kyousuke tries to convince Ayase to enter, playing a specific character.

I don’t know why Kyousuke even tried suggesting that. He knows fully well that Ayase hates otaku anyway. Was he hoping that guilt-tripping would make her do it? Fortunately for him, Ayase has her own solution. A friend, model and would-be idol singer named Kanako, who’s all cute to her fans, but to her inner circle …

Poor Kanako is conned into participating in the event. And she shocks everyone with the best performance and an easy victory. I’m not sure I like the ending that much. Ayase gets the collectible, Kirino is pleased as punch, but Ayase was left stranded at the venue, where she caused a scene and was apparently arrested. All available on the Internet! Sure, she was a brat, but she didn’t deserve that, especially after the hard work she did to make someone she didn’t know happy.

Continuing the nines: Star Driver, Ore no Imouto

Star Driver 9 begins work on a new story arc, meaning I’m confused as all getout again. But more importantly, it introduces two new characters.

Here's Mizuno, coming right atcha!

Mizuno makes a grand entrance. She hops from her bedroom window onto her bus, charges into the men’s room at school, talks to crows, and leaps into trees. Everyone else in school is familiar with her. She’s the school freak, or school witch, or both. It’s only Takuto (and us) who have never seen her before. More fun for Takuto: she has an instant crush on him. Later we learn that she’s the West Maiden. Surely Sugata (shown bathing with Takuto, later fighting with him … They made up) and Wako would have known that.

The other character is her sister Marino, a member of Glittering Crux named “Manticore,” and temporary leader when Head decides to take a vacation (never heard of evil organization members taking vacations before). She announces that she is going to find the West Maiden so they can use her to get to Third Phase, bypassing Second Phase, I guess. I dunno. What gets me is that they hadn’t thought of this before. Since they don’t have the power to gain the North Maiden because Takuto keeps beating them up, why NOT try for one of the other two remaining Maidens? Seems a lot easier.

Anyway, I suppose because Star Driver is no fun without a fight, they come up with an excuse for one. A Vanishing Age guy named Stick Star says they should show Manticore the extent of Takuto’s power, so it’s off to Zero Time. Takuto wins without much trouble—maybe he was warmed up from the sword training he was doing with Sugata at the time. Then it’s back for another tub scene, where we learn that Mizuno is the West Maiden and that Marino is devoted to keeping that a secret. So she’s with a group that is pursuing the West Maiden, but she won’t let them find her. Good thing she’s in charge.

Ore no Imouto 9 takes a break from story arcs, totally forgetting about last episode’s anime adaptation fracas, and does nothing but show us the main characters killing time on their own.

Kirino gets a new little sister eroge game and sets out to play it. Since this whole show is sort of a sendup of such things it’s fun to watch Kirino’s reaction to the little sisters, particularly Rinko. The fact that Rinko comes off as a Kirino figure is a little amusing, but it’s Kirino’s reactions to her that makes it genuinely funny. She reacts the same way that Kyousuke does when she insults him. Later she practically uses the same lines Rinko does after Kyousuke spots the panties she accidently dropped on the floor. But in fact most of the Kirino scenes work, talking back to the computer, face turning from bliss to frustration in a few seconds. The only trouble is there are too many such scenes and they begin to repeat.

To break it up, we visit other characters. The Kuroneko scenes are both sad and a little sweet. She’s left at home with her little sister. You get the impression that this happens a lot. You can also tell that she is lonely. However, she and her sister have a close relationship. Kuroneko keeps her distant, calm demeanor around her, but has no trouble with her sister sleeping with her head in her lap. It’s a gentle side of Kuroneko that we haven’t seen before. We also visit the fancy home of a elegant, presumably beautiful (we never see her face) woman, and it took me too long to realize that this is Saori. While she’s comfortable enough talking to her assistants about cosplay outfits, it’s clear that she keeps a strong wall between her presentable side and her otaku side. She ought to team up with Kuranosuke to work on the Kuragehime girls.

We also briefly see Ayase. We don’t, surprisingly, see Manami. And then there’s Kyousuke. He can hear Kirino through his bedroom wall. Needless to say it makes it hard for him to study. Bored, he tries calling people, even Kuroneko. He yells at Kirino to shut up. He gets insulted some more. Yet, he endures. Good episode.

Imouto 8, Zakuro 8

Ore no Imouto 8 feels more serious than usual. I think it’s because of these guys.

I must say that Kirino is simply incredible. Already a successful model, she turns to cell phone novels and gets one published, and now they want to produce it as a anime! Kirino is, not unexpectedly, ecstatic, and nervous enough that she invites Saori and Kuroneko along for the first meeting, leading to another “If you really want to …” and “Well, I’ll go because I just happen to be free …” scene. Saori’s just along for the ride. The fact is that all three are excited. The first meeting scene is amusing at the start, Kirino whipping out impossible requests for voice actors, artists and songs. Then it turns serious when she is shot down. She goes home to mope.

For the first time I can recall, Kirino runs into a wall of hard reality. We learn that the company had another show fall through and are looking for something they can easily churn out to take its place. Since we haven’t read Kirino’s novel (thanks heavens) we can’t tell whether the novel would need some changes in order to make it a work of dramatic art rather than a novel, but they also want to change the sex of the main character to appeal to the male demographic, rather extreme for an original work that has become a best-seller. So the choice is hers: bend over and let them make the changes and create a lackluster show, or stand up for her book at the risk of losing the project altogether. Kirino is too young and inexperienced to make that decision. Naturally, Kyousuke steps in, or rather, Kuroneko.

Unbeknownst to Kirino, Kyousuke and her friends attend another meeting, and he tries to argue on her side. It goes from bad to worse, the animators arguing that they need to make these changes, and maybe they should just cancel the production. Then Kuroneko steals the scene. Her subsequent speech sums everything likable about her character. She’s blunt, insulting, and absolutely right. She doesn’t spare anyone, not even herself. She admits to jealousy over Kirino’s apparently effortless success and hints that the scriptwriter is also jealous of this middle-school girl. Maybe the most fascinating thing about it is that she veers off-topic and asks Kyousuke why he’s making such efforts for her, and in the next scene, on the train, we see a hint of envy in her that Kirino has such a devoted brother. So an episode supposedly devoted to Kirino’s career includes a sort of character study for Kuroneko. Nice job. … I’d be jealous of Kirino, too.

As for Otome Youkai Zakuro 8, I think the main story arc finally got moving. Kei and Susukihotaru (I’m sick of spelling that out; from now on I’m calling her Susu) meet up in town and get kidnapped.

The perps.

Actually, there are three things going on in this episode. The first is the search and rescue of Kei and Susu and the slow unfolding of the main story. The second is the affirmation of love and respect that the humans and spirits share. There’s two scenes even before the action starts where someone outside a couple comment to a member of a couple about the couple. Kei talks to Susu regarding Riken, and Riken talks to the twins regarding Ganryu, and there’s more to come. The third thing is Kushimatsu refusing to allow Zakuro to help in the rescue. Here we don’t know whether she knows something terrible or is simply behaving like a mother refusing to let a prized child out when she could get hurt. But the story wouldn’t move too much if she got her way, so Amaryoju overrules her.

The perps, sisters Daidai and Byakuroku, get some time showing off how evil they are. They come see Kei and Susu, locked in a cellar, to tell them they’re bait for Zakuro. There is no reason for them to do this; they’re just gloating. There’s also no reason when Riken and Zakuro show up (a little late because Riken has to thank Zakuro for loosening up Kei, and Zakuro has to tell Riken that because of him Susu is more confident—Come on, there are people to rescue!) to tell them that rainwater has been diverted to the cellar to drown Kei and Susu. All that does is REALLY piss off Zakuro.

After the rescue (and two more couple comments, Kei taking to Susu about Riken, and Susu talking to Kei about Zakuro, as they try to hold the door against the flood) we get some affirmations, the Kei-Zakuro scene being the best. Zakuro is mad that Kei almost died and shows her affection by crying and calling him stupid. He simply holds her. Then the contrast of a more sinister relationship between Lady Rangui (the Black Widow) and her failed assistants. One of them (I can’t tell them apart yet) says she hates Zakuro for having a happy home, and when you see how Rangui treats her and her sister, you can’t blame her for thinking that way.

Well, it’s good that the series story arc got some attention, since there’s only five episodes to go …

Sevens: Bakuman, Ore no Imouto

There are small events in Bakuman 7 but they take up little time. Most of the episode revolves around Saiko and Miho’s odd relationship.

By agreement they cannot speak to one another, and now they’re assigned classroom seats together. Nervous at first, Saiko starts scribbling innocent questions in his notebook and she responds. The nervousness goes away quick and soon Saiko want to break through the impasse. He does a mild faux-pas and Miho starts to cry.

To me it’s a little ridiculous, and it goes on too long. Having a romance in this story (actually there are two, but Akito hasn’t made any moves yet) is fine, but to set it up so that they can barely communicate, putting everything off until a dream is achieved, doesn’t make the current situation compelling, no matter if Miho is prettily weeping. So Saiko angsts out, Miho gives him her email address, he angsts some more, even running over to her house where he does nothing but turn and go home, and then gives her a note saying he’ll use the email, maybe, when they no longer sit together. This time Miho weeps tears of joy. Well, I’m glad they got that sorted out.

All this does manage to fit into the manga-writing business. Saiko wants to concentrate on winning the Tezuka Award rather than creating another longer work for submission. Akito is dubious until he sees that Saiko wants to impress Miho. That motivates them both, which pleases Hattori, afraid that their first rejected manuscript would break their spirits. And we meet the prodigy Eiji, who at age 15 shows himself to be a bit of an asshole. So it does sort of come together at the end, but events happen so infrequently in this series that it’s getting to be a strain to watch.

Two stories in Ore no Imouto 7. I prefer the first one because of the mix of characters.

Kuroneko has come over to view and discuss Meruru, Kirino’s favorite series, but they make the mistake of reading each other’s fan fiction beforehand. It’s amusing enough. Goth-loli Kirino wrote a cell phone type novel where a goth-loli is raped and murdered. Kuroneko wrote a dense gothy thing with appendices and errata sheets where a pretty model becomes a sex slave. Worse, both novels are Mary Sue stories. While I’m thinking “typical adolescent girl stuff,” the girls are offended. Kyousuke, naturally, is caught in the middle.

What I like about the Kirino/Kuroneko bickering is not only are they actually behaving like friends in their own way, but we get some perspective of different anime styles and their flaws and clichés. Kuroneo is especially blunt about the magical girl format, and watching bits of Meruru I see her point. You can argue that Meruru is a fictitious series, a strawman for those who hate magical girls, but you can’t argue with her comment that there’s too much mixing of “loli and ero” these days.

In the second story we get back to the sibling relationship. Kirino is writing another cell phone novel and drags Kyousuke out with her (on Christmas Eve) to do research, which involves her telling her brother to get hit by a car, buy her jewelry, and take her to a love hotel. And once again I wonder what’s going on in her mind. It’s clear that she at least subconsciously wants to go on a “date” with her brother. She’s thrilled with the earrings he’s forced to buy her. As for the love hotel, she deliberately splashes herself with water (research) and needs to shower to clean up. On this level it can appear a little disturbing. On the other hand, nothing comes of it. They just bicker as they always do. It’s part of the show to flirt with the incestal angle; I just hope they keep it at flirting.

More Sixes: Bakuman, Imouto

Bakuman 6 brings us to the dreaded manuscript submission moment. But we start with some character development.

Saiko and Akito are both so nervous about the interview that they show up at the station an hour early. To kill the time Akito gives us some background about his family, how his mother wanted him to achieve in order to “avenge” his father’s firing. What I liked about it was after Akito lashed out at her, she apparently lightened up. They could have kept the mother an unpleasant character, but the people in this show are rarely so one-dimensional. Anyway, that leads us up to the two nervous boys arriving at the offices and then waiting in a cubicle for the editor, Hattori.

Hattori reads. The boys sweat.

I’ve been on both sides of this situation. I’ve submitted works to live writing workshops and gotten hammered (and occasionally praised) by professionals. It’s nerve-wracking and sometimes humiliating. I’ve also done live critiques and can fully understand the need to state the flaws of a work without crushing the life out of an artist. This scene manages both well. There’s the moment above, with Hattori just reading, eyes glancing from one page to the next, and it seems to take forever. But that’s what the show intended. Draw out the agony! When he finally gives his opinions, they’re fair and thoughtful, and considering the boys’ working strategy, makes perfect sense. Saiko had thought that Akito’s writing didn’t allow the images to tell enough of the story, but the two had agreed not to critique each other’s work. Now they learn that was a mistake. They need to work closer together.

New seating arrangement.

So in the end, not good enough, but they show promise. The concept itself was good, the drawing just needs practice. Hattori thinks they show promise. He gives them his business card. It’s really the best they could have hoped for. I suspect that the next episode or two will bring Miho back into the story, judging from how the episode ends.

Ore no Imouto 6 turns away from Kirino for awhile and looks in at Kyousuke and his childhood friend Manami. It’s a relief after so much friendship-angst we’ve gotten out of Kirino recently.

It’s been obvious since episode 1 that Manami has a thing for Kyousuke. As for him, I don’t think he’s thought out his feelings. He denies any interest in her apart from their old friendship, but he’d beat up any guy that came on to her. The odd thing is, even after he articulates this he doesn’t seem to realize the mixed signals.

Manami's family can't be this cool.

Manami is dull and unassertive, usually, but the atmosphere when Kyousuke visits her home and winds up spending the night changes her a little. The family, two grandparents and a younger brother, are all fun people, and now that Kyousuke and Manami have reached a certain age the old ones can have some more fun teasing them. Even Manami joins in. It doesn’t take Kyousuke long to adapt and fire back in his own way, accepting Manami’s teasing offer to take a bath with her. The other family members jokingly support this turn of events, grandma from the other room, grandpa (the coolest grandpa of the year) from under the table. What’s fun here is you know Manami kind of likes the idea. Same goes for when Grandpa sticks their futons in the same room. This family rocks. Why is it that dull characters, like Manami, or Clannad’s Nagisa, always have the best relatives?

Of course the whole thing is entirely innocent. Once Kyousuke and Manami get over the idea they accept it with no problem. Kyousuke makes an interesting statement: If a girl ever came on to him he’d turn her down. He likes a quiet life. That’s exactly what he has with Manami right now, though it’s clear she would like a little more. A refreshing episode before we get back to whatever Kirino throws at us next.