Finales: Chihayafuru, Ano Natsu de Matteru, Papa finally catches a break

More goodbyes today. I hope Chihayafuru isn’t saying goodbye forever.

With no tournaments to play, or major crises to confront (minor ones, yes), the show spends time sowing seeds for the next season. We start with the end of the men’s championship and more time with Suo, the four-time champion who seems almost inhuman in his ability to know the card on the first syllable, when technically he should only be able to do so on 7 of them. The show kindly goes into his head and we learn one reason: he knows the reader–not that he’s cheating, and he’s vague about the details, but he says the reader for this tournament has the most love for the Japanese language. In other words, he knows how she reads. Of course, the kids watching on TV with growing despair don’t know this, but it seems odd this hasn’t been discussed before.

Anyway, everyone leaves disheartened except for Tsutomu, too intense to be intimidated, maybe. And so we move into the next part of the show, how they react to watching a player seemingly light-years ahead of them, and in this way we get lovely little scenes where everyone gets a little screen time. Except Nishida. Tsutomu has analyzed Chihaya’s playing and tells her that it isn’t psychic to know so many cards on the first syllable–in fact, she does it herself. It’s a sweet moment when Chihaya, shocked with realization, tries to reward him with a couple candies she had in her pocket, the only thing she has with her. And we get to see Tsutomu’s value to the team at the same time. A similar moment comes later with Chihaya muttering first words and lit-loving Kana basking in the sounds … which is turned on its ear a few seconds later. And, of course, Kana’s little tragedy, which is actually a little funny.

Taichi's new strategy: intimidation.

Taichi and Arata’s moment come over the phone. It’s still hard for me to care too much about Arata, but it’s good to see his little crisis, or rather, his friend’s, get resolved, and Taichi gains some insight on how to get better. Interesting that the male rivals seem to have no one but each other to talk things out. So after every character gets a moment (apart from Nishida … what’s up with that?) we get a fresh crisis for season two, and one more look at Chihaya herself, beautiful but socially inept and nerdy, a bundle of contradictions that gave this excellent show its center. I hope we haven’t seen the last of her.

Stupid boy, that's one of the reasons why we like her.

Ano Natsu de Matteru‘s finale promised to be exciting because the crisis hadn’t finished up yet. Everyone was still running from it.

Well, or fighting it. We learn through the conflict where she must have gotten that tricked-out trailer. We also learn what Manami’s husband does for a living. And by an amazing coincidence they have to do with the chase. I thought Remon had some secrets from the start, it would be the only way to explain her detachment from everything, and her perverse interest, which sounds like a contradiction but isn’t. No, really. So she and her new MIB BFF drive off some alien pods, Rimon flies off with another, and the rest of the gang run interference on the last few, Kaito and Ichika have a lovey-dovey train scene and then reach … The Place.

They carved a message for the future on a TREE?!?

And confusion reigns, well, after Ichika says emphatically that This Is The Place it does. They need proof that aliens were here. How about a glowing cube coming out of the lake. Good enough for you? But it explodes or something, and then we’re in Ichika’s brain, I think, or someones … she says something about Taiko being healed with her cells, so apparently he’s able to go wherever the hell she is, which and sounds looks exactly the same as the reality apart from the disembodied voice talking about visiting earth and falling in love there. So we don’t know if this is an old, similar story or Ichika in future time. Either way the SF in the show just got messy. Oh, the thing left for future humans to discover was carved on a tree. This tree, we learn when we return, is now a rotted stump. Meanwhile I’m still trying to figure out what the cube in the lake was. Isn’t THAT proof enough?

Never mind. The show makes up for it. Pods arrive, we get a tearful farewell scene, I’m waiting for more MIB to rescue them … but they don’t. Ichika leaves. I never expected that. The show about love triumphant becomes one about one happy summer and the bittersweet memories it left behind. It’s sad, it’s not the way I wanted it to end, but it’s beautiful. The love string is intact, though no one gets the one they want, including Kaito and Ichika, but what can you do? They remain friends, watch the footage the filmed together, carry on, and hope for some luck. … Then there’s the ending. I don’t want to say it spoils the mood, but, well …

They had a perfectly good bittersweet ending, but they had to mess with it.

So the show gives in to the need for a happier ending. At least they don’t show any more. The HS romance show disguised as a SF story comes to an end leaving a greater impression on me than I expected, mainly because of the characters. Tetsurou and Kanna especially took limited side roles and made themselves stand out, Tetsurou by never seeming to know exactly what he wanted, or being afraid to say it, in spite of his looks and charm, and Kanna … what was it about Kanna? Doomed in love from the start yet the one character you dearly hoped would not wind up alone. I can’t put my finger on how she managed this reaction. In fact, the entire show was like this, more moving than the material deserved. Well done.

Papa no Iukoto wo Kikinasai! has about the best ending possible. The hardest part was telling Hina that her mother and father aren’t coming back, and if it seems wrong to wait so long, well, how would YOU do it? Sora tells her in the most tactful way possible, after that all you can do is wait for the bawling and the emotional scars to heal. That’s actually more interesting than the rest of the story. We don’t know the full extent of the aunt and uncle’s generosity (I couldn’t tell what that contract Yuuta signed was), but we do see them all moving to a new place at the end, hopefully closer to the girls’ school. But the best moment comes from, as usual, Raika, who agrees to be Yuuta’s “wife,” but only for a day, so Hina would have people to cheer for her at her school’s open house, but they don’t tell us that part until later. And so this forgettable show with a bit of bathos and a little too much inappropriate fanservice ends satisfactorily.

Lagrange 10-11, Papa’s Falling Apart 11

I don’t know how I managed to fall two episodes behind with Rinne no Lagrange … well, I neglected to download 10, tried to watch 11, and say “Wait, what’s Madoka doing on that boat, and why is she so pissed off?”

After watching episode 10 it’s easy to understand why. She was betrayed by her two best friends and by the organization which she’s bailed out more than once. Not that you’d know it from the first half of the episode. That’s full of predictable school festival scenes. Maid costumes (well, modern-day school festivals), food, haunted houses. It has the same light spirit as episode 9, but it’s too early, so you know they’re going to change the mood sooner or later. It’s hard to read why Madoka gets so gloomy when Lan and Muginami get dragged off to help other clubs. Asteria, who’s suddenly there without any explanation or reason, claims it’s because she’s afraid she’s going to lose someone she loves–again. Maybe that’s true. Madoka has accepted not being allowed to fly her Vox, but she doesn’t like it. But when she learns that there’s an invasion eminent, and that Asteria AND HER FRIENDS knew about it and didn’t tell her, that’s when she snaps. I don’t blame her. Not being allowed to fly is one thing, but not even being allowed to take part from the ground is a slap in the face. Now I know why she’s on that boat, pissed off.

(pause to watch other stuff and then episode 11 … Okay, I’m back) Episode 11 is a classic pre-finale bang-up. It starts grimly, putting everyone in danger, then hints at a turnaround. The turnaround comes, triumphantly, then a last-second shock to change the whole picture. Oh, and there’s changes of heart from various important participants.

Circle time!

What I’m amazed at is, like Ano Natsu de Matteru, how obvious the whole thing is, yet how how strong the effect. You knew Madoka would get on board her Vox, though I wasn’t expecting Asteria to get talked into it by Youko–I was hoping Tadokoro would be allowed to act on his own. You knew the so-called bad guys would turn, especially after Villagiulio’s “tainted heart” speech. You knew all of it was coming, yet I, for one, was at the edge of my seat the entire time. And some of it I didn’t expect: the townspeople’s message to Madoka, for one–never mind that it comes during the battle yet she still can turn and admire it for a few seconds. There are moments like that that you forgive in a show like this.

Sometimes you cut a show some slack.

One thing that I know enhanced the effect for me was the music. From the moment Youko is lecturing Asteria on triangles, past the moment where Madoka is cleared for takeoff (where what I call the “trippy” theme is first played) up through the town’s message, it builds from some scattered violins to a moment of joy. And is then cut off by the enemy blast intent on destroying the city. Now, in Symphogear, Hibiki is supposed to be torn up because of the threat to her school, the place she called home, but we got no sense of why she should care that much, only that we were told so. But Madoka’s love for Kamogawa was introduced at the very start, and strengthened episode by episode. So when the blast hit the town, I worried too, which made its rescue at the hands of enemies all that more delightful.

As for the shock at the end, we have two things to clear up. First, is Youko actually dead? If she is, will Madoka managed to get back in control? The second of course is the mystery of the demon and those flowers that float down (the other use of the trippy theme, BTW). I’m sure we’ll get our answers, but I doubt that the conclusion will be as exhilarating as the buildup was.

It seems realistic that the biggest threat to the Papa no Iukoto wo Kikinasai! family isn’t a mean landlord or other such crisis, but simple wearing down. Yuuta’s still doing too many jobs and now he’s neglecting school. Sora and Miu are exhausting themselves in and out of school and have no outlets. The place is a mess, and when Hina gets a fever they can’t contact Yuuta because he neglected to charge his cell phone. It takes one visit from a rude aunt for this to strike home. I was wondering when this would all happen. And now they have an offer for the girls to stay with an uncle, thus freeing Yuuta for his studies. “I’m sure that’s what your sister would have wanted,” says the letter (conveniently found by Sora), neglecting the fact that his sister raised Yuuta under similar circumstances. On the other hand, Yuuta’s got three girls to support, not just one. Actually, I’m on the mean aunt’s side on this. Besides, before, the danger was splitting the girls up. Now they’ll stay together, but now Yuuta’s part of their family, too. This would be a decent episode for all these things, except there were far too many bizarre incest dreams by Sora throughout.

BRS 7, Papa’s getting boring, High School Boys, and Inu x Boku 10,

The seams are beginning to show in Black Rock Shooter. I was afraid this would happen. What started as a bizarre and entertaining metaphor where young girls’ pain is shouldered by fighters in another dimension is beginning to lose its power because they feel an obligation to explain everything. I shouldn’t have expected anything else, especially when the franchise began with the fighting world, hell, one image of that world, with the “real” events tacked on later to make a story out of static battle. This week we learn that Yuu, unable to face the pain in her world, switched places with her alter-ego strength. It does provide one point of interest. Yuu seems quite content to battle in that world, and freaks BRS/Mato out when she starts to talk to her. Nobody talks in that world. You could also call it a nice commentary on how Yuu really is, so messed up that she actually considers beating BRS to a pulp as a revenge on Mato. But in the end it feels like a gimmick. Desperate for an idea at a late-night story meeting, someone said “Hey! Let’s have someone switch roles!” and they thought up stuff from there. Now they have one more episode to clean this mess up. What’s more, they’re bringing Yomi back into the fight. It’s going to be messy.

Raika tries to stare some life into the episode.

Papa no Iu Koto o Kikinasai! 10 seems to have done all the things it can do with the basic story. The family is set, poor but surviving, and now all that can really happen is everyone will grow older. Though there’s still room for problems near-poverty can bring. This time the show concentrates on Sora, the eldest, and the one who thinks she has to be the most responsible. She’s working far too hard, just like everyone else, and is a little frustrated because she can’t do everything as well as she can. There’s a touching bit where she quits the choir even though she loves it because she considers it something she “likes,” therefore, I guess, it’s a frill that can be cut out so she can improve on things which really matter. It’s a sad thing to watch but completely realistic. Everyone has had to sacrifice something they love in order to survive. Alas, the show tries to make a happy ending out of it. After some pep talks by Raika (full of entertaining non-sequiturs) and Yuuta (dull, just like him) she rejoins the choir, at least on paper, and her cooking skills magically improve. Also, the Seiiyu next door, also about to give up, comes back. Well, I expected no better from this show.

Daily Lives of High School Boys 10, er, let’s see. The ice bit demonstrates that timing is as important as unpredictability in comedy. I also like Literature Girl chasing down Hidenori (or was that Matsuo? I can’t tell them apart). But I think the best bit was the very end of Mitsuo’s bad luck section. Or was that Hidenori?

I'm beginning to think the entire show is.

Maybe I’m tired, but I couldn’t get any enthusiasm up for the great secrets revealed stuff in Inu x Boku SS 10. We’ve known for a while that Soushi has a secret he’s hiding from Ririchiyo. It was only a matter of time before it came out, and since the show won’t run much longer (I believe), the sooner the better. Naturally, we have to wait next week, just like the coffee date that waited for this week, and still didn’t happen. It partly bugs me because Kagerou is involved. He’s a one-joke character who wore out his welcome five minutes into his appearance this episode, but since he’s the other one with the secret they’ve got to keep him around. All the other characters who are adept at livening up a scene are given one or two lines and pushed out of the way, and so the show tilts toward annoying static self-doubt scenes from Ririchiyo or that secret they’re keeping, scenes stretched to breaking point, like my patience.

BRS 6, Lagrange 9, Amagami+ 10, Papa is not really in this episode 9

Black Rock Shooter 6 gives us some background, but not enough, rather, just enough to be confusing. Mato is now in the fighting world and not enjoying it at all. Every time Black Rock Shooter takes a hit, Mato feels the pain, so you can imagine her state of mind when the fighter’s arm is ripped off (It grows back). While she’s floating there, screaming, her real-world self is in a coma. Yuu drags her to Saya’s place, which sounds like a bad idea, except now we get to learn some of the counselor’s experiences, and here it gets confusing. The flashback of Saya in high school has her befriending the deeply troubled …. Yuu. Same girl, same light build, only with a look that suggests she’s seen too much. She’s the one who knows about the connection between the worlds, and in the end, Saya’s guilt over a hurtful assumption (hurtful but perfectly logical–I would have done the same) gives her the pain-credits to become “Black Gold Saw.” So, what is Yuu? When did she live? Does she live in this world, really? Meanwhile, in the fighting world, Black Rock Shooter is fighting Saya’s entity with Mato and Saya’s voices both interfering. Or something. There’s the moral question of whether they should allow the fighters to shoulder all that pain, but Saya admits she put mental stress on Yomi (who is cured enough to delete Mato’s phone messages) in order to waken Yomi’s fighter. Also, something about “true powers” that I don’t want to think of right now. The motives and desires of all involved confuse me right now, and that’s all right. The more the fighting world is explained, the less power it has for the viewer. Best to use ambiguity to keep it potent.

It's hard to take the villains seriously in this show.

Rinne no Lagrange 9 drops the Madoka and her Vox business for an episode, well, apart from a couple of brief conversations that tell us nothing, and instead gives us a silly episode to prepare for more important stuff later. The villains, such as they are, are pretty much left to their own devices. Izo watches a samurai movie and gets inspired to duel Madoka, leaving the other two to find him, or Madoka, misinterpreting local customs along the way. As I said, silly. The one in the maid getup (which, another points out, he hasn’t taken off yet) winds up working at that cafe to foot his bill. That was predictable. Better was Izo’s going to Madoka’s school, and the third guy actually meets Madoka (who is being heroic, as usual), but doesn’t know it. And they all learn nice things about her along the way, setting up their face turn. Not that they were effective heels to begin with. It’s a more cheerful than usual episode of a generally cheerful series.

Thank god for this narrator.

Sae’s finish in Amagami SS Plus isn’t an improvement. She has a rough time with the Founders Festival preparations, which we all expected. Junichi casts about for something to do with her too busy for him and finds one. They had toyed with the idea that Sae would mature enough that she no longer needed to lean on Junichi and how that would affect his superficial need for such dependence, but don’t follow through apart from Ayatsuji’s advice that he help her in any way she needed. I kept waiting for something interesting to happen, but nothing does. Even Sae’s being in the infirmary turns out to be a red herring. The only distractions are from Miya with her goofy scene “Best Couple” scene with Sae that was the episode’s best moment in that it showed Sae being outgoing, spontaneous and mischievous for the first time, and the amused narrator who’s more than willing to have a joke at Junichi’s expense. Okay, they have their happy ending (one kid and counting). Time for the girl who could turn this sequel around!

With the housing crisis over with Papa no Ikukoto wo Kikinasai! 9 takes an episode to focus on Miu, the middle one. That’s fair. She doesn’t get the shoulder-responsibilities scenes like Sora, or the innocent, sometimes unbearable cute bits like Hina. And while we don’t learn too much about her, only that she likes dressing well, we get to see the effect her new circumstances are having on her. It’s hard to hide her situation from her classmates, who pity her, which she doesn’t like. On a half-day, she decides to go off on her own and just happens to meet Nimura, our playboy with a heart of gold. He treats her to some innocent fun, gets her dirty shoe repaired, in other words, treats her nicely. It’s basically what she needs: a nice day out. It’s not a very interesting episode but it’s time Miu got some attention.

Amagami+ 9, Moretsu 9, Papa drops a plate 8, Kill me Baby … er …

Sae, being so quiet and shy, could have been the weakest girl in the original Amagami SS series, but they covered for that by adding more comic bits. With Plus the same bits are back, and again what could have been a deadly-dull episode was … satisfactory.

There are still dead spots. While Sae has blossomed under Junichi’s tutelage and is now a school idol, now capable of talking not only to vending machines but to human beings, she’s still too quiet to carry a scene. Worse, Junichi has begun to feel the pressure. “What’s THAT loser doing with our beloved Sae?” That sort of thing. It leads to an excruciating scene where he tries to order her lunch and agonizes forever while the queue lengthens behind him. I hate scenes like that. Happily, nothing much comes of it. In the Amagami world many moments which seem important turn out to be nothing at all. The show breezes on.

I hate to think of this series without Miya messing things up.

As for the added bits, they come again through the perpetually amused narrator, and especially from Miya, mishearing some minor news that leads her to believe Sae’s having an arranged marriage. As for the story this time, I’m still looking for it. Junichi panics at the false marriage news which leads to a cute scene. Sae’s put in charge of the founders festival, and Junichi, eager to play instructor again, tells her to go for it. There’s a moment where Junichi’s talking to his buddy and seems doubtful about something, though what, I don’t know. Maybe of what he could possibly do if Sae grows to the point where she doesn’t need him anymore. The episode is called “Doubt,” but apart from that I don’t know what anyone’s doubtful about.

The most annoying thing about Moretsu Pirates is that almost every time the Bentenmaru has a crisis, it turns out to be nothing that requires blasters or explosions. Not to say that the opening scenes in episode 9 were disappointing. It was nice to see Marika quickly snap into action and defuse the potential battle, with Gruier’s help, of course. Um, why did Marika dress her as a pirate, anyway? Was it to see how cute Gruier could look in the pirate captain outfit? … So two dangerous people from a Serenity ship greet Gruier … and then just leave. But, aha! we got a new plot about looking for a mysterious “Golden Ghost Ship.” Sounds like fun … And Marika returns to school. These little deflations will be the death of the show. Why do it? So Gruier could have more cute scenes, this time with the Yacht Club?

Why this scene was in the episode at all?

Be fair, the show is prepping for future scenes full of intrigue and danger! At least I hope. So after those scenes, and a bit with Chiaki which hints that they may be rivals in this ghost ship hunt, we thankfully return to action as the Bentenmaru prepares to search an impossibly huge sector of space, full of black holes and “clouds,” for the ship. What happened to school? I know there was all that business of learning to fake attendance, but this search realistically could go on until Marika is older than her mom is now. Never mind, it’s a real mission this time. No one’s said anything but Marika seems to have passed all her Bentenmaru training tests and is a real captain. When did that happen? This show skips some important things and pays too much attention to others.

The evil landlord is challenged by the forces of cute.

Papa no Iukoto wo Kikinasai 8 is kept interesting by having more than one possible outcome. Yuuta’s friends could find him a new place (what’s wrong with that one place? Relatively luxurious, just a few spirits haunting it. Geez …), they could get evicted and live like rats on the streets, or Sawa, the mean landlady who made Hina cry, could have a change of heart. I was betting on the first, not figuring the amazing powers of cuteness that the girls have on stone hearts, particularly when the heart belongs to a 29 year-old single woman probably wants children of her own. Well, it helped that the actual landlady was the nice older woman whom Hina had already taken a shine to. Overall the episode was a nice mix of little hopes and big worries. Yuuta does most of the latter, but Sora’s doing a good job of sharing them and keeping him honest, telling Yuuta not to stretch himself further than he already has. And she’s right. Much of the appeal of the show is watching how Yuuta copes with enormous challenges. For me, that is. You might just like the cute girls.

Oh, yeah, I watched Kill Me Baby.

Nisemonogatari 8, Symphogear 8, Amagami+ 8, Papa gets evicted 7

Hoo boy, with Nisemonogatari, half the time I don’t know whether to be appalled and amused. But I try to keep my perspective.

Let’s start with the “amused” part. We wrapped up the Karen arc last week, and this week I fully expected an arc starring the littler little sister Tsuhiki, a rather mysterious thing who really hasn’t gotten much screentime yet. And this week we start with Araragi’s brief monologue about her, suggesting that she is immortal, and, of course, another fake. So the episode starts in earnest and what do we get? An episode-long conversation with Karen! Not that I dislike Karen but she had her time, seven episodes worth … Okay, we didn’t get to see a lot of her, in spite of everything this is Araragi’s show, but still … The conversation is livelier than some others, often the case with the ever moving, bouncing, attacking Karen, but little is really discussed. Karen wants to meet Kanbaru and asks Araragi to introduce her. When bouncing around in a short skirt doesn’t work, she tries completely supplication, then violence. The usual for Karen, and fun to watch. As for Araragi, he doesn’t want to the two to meet because of Kanbaru’s … proclivities, which is a laugh considering what the two get at next.

As for the “appalled part,” there’s a sexual undertone that the show likes to emphasize whenever Araragi chats with a female, which is almost all the time. It doesn’t matter if the female is Senjougahara or Karen. We’ve already had lots of it this episode when Araragi proposes a contest: if Karen can stand Araragi brushing her teeth for five minutes, he’ll introduce her. It sounded innocuous to me, too. His point was that he was going to invade a personal part of her body, but come on, don’t tell me Karen’s never seen a dentist before. So he starts to brush her teeth. Turns out Karen gets turned on by it, Araragi too.

I’m getting slightly appalled here. After Tsuhiki (finally!) appears and goes off to buy an awl to kill them, breaking the spell, to my surprise they talk about going right back at it. Now I should be appalled and I am, a little. But then I think back to other episodes of this series, or go back to Bakemonogatari. Like when it looked like Kanbaru’s sexually assaulting Araragi at the end of that one episode. When the next one begins it’s like nothing had happened. And that’s the point. Maybe nothing did. You can’t take half of what they show you in Nisemonogatari seriously. Look at that moment when Tsuhiki leaves–through the wall, or the fight Karen and Araragi had last episode where he was flung against concrete bridges. Did that actually happen? No. So I’m not too worried that they show us something that might appall me. Not too worried.

Senki Zessho Symphogear 8 starts by throwing us a curveball. It’s not a stroke of genius, but it is clever plotting. Okay, not showing us how Chris got away from her boss was either laziness or a missed opportunity for action, but to have her, on the run from Noise, exhausted and collapsing, meet Miku, was a pleasant turn of events that I didn’t expect. Okay, you pretty much knew how it would play out after that. Miku shows Chris some basic kindness, Chris is unaccustomed to this but tries to repay the words with advice about her estranged friend Hibiki “Beat the crap out of whoever it is.” Chris is fun as hell in her current state. Trying to atone, trying to recover from yet another betrayal, and abrasive as hell. The Hibiki/Tsubasa co-advice scene isn’t as interesting, mainly talk about making flaws strengths, how songs aren’t just for destruction but can be inspirational. The battle scene is absurd, with Miku insanely wanting to help by running out there to attract the noise, though Chris’s part in it was just fine. So now everyone is friends again. Next up is more Chris rehabilitation and a scene where she and Hibiki pair up to do some noise control.

Don't worry, in thirty seconds they're laughing again.

Amagami SS+ isn’t living up to the original series. Thinking about it, I don’t think it really could. The original story arcs were probably better planned and were already guaranteed some quality from the original series. The new series feels tacked-on with less time to make each story really compelling. Plus, in every instance but one, Junichi’s already got the girl. What happens in “happily ever after” isn’t going to be as interesting. All the show can do is depend on the characters and come up with a couple sparks of the old magic. Which is what happens with episode 8. Kaoru was my favorite girl for a few reasons, but mainly because she and Junichi could have fun together even if they weren’t lovers. The story of their getting stranded and getting through it (with the utterly absurd but somehow fitting rescue via Umehara) was an example of just that. They argue a lot. They have further adventures. Junichi’s mind wanders like it does. Finally, they both realize that it’s more fun to have fun than to bicker. Sorry to see Kaoru go. Time for Sae.

Papa no Iukoto wo Kikinasai! can be appalling, too. It’s got three disgustingly cute underage girls who all adore their uncle in-law, and while the fanservice isn’t high, at least for the girls, the show can’t resist a scene where the three join Oda in the bath. I thought it would be great for Oda, a harmless weirdo, to meet the girls, then she did, and nothing much happened. She likes them, they like her, except that Sora’s jealous, hence the bath together. Nothing much more than that. Why Sako comes along when everyone thinks it’s a bad idea is anyone’s guess, and here the show hits its low points. Not only is behavior appalling, but they add a split second before each of his comments, as if the show hit a bump and bounced out of rhythm. More interesting is watching Yuuta coming to grips with making enough money to go to school, pay for the girls’ school and Hina’s daycare, not to mention putting food on the table. These problems are not fun but they’re real, and they’re the type millions of people face all the time. Thus, the unexpected whammy at the end hits especially hard.

Chihayafuru 19, Another 6, I’m Your Father 6, Aquarion 7

Chihayafuru 19 is all battle with a little twist. The characters are battling each other.

Chihaya (who lost in the first round) watches Desktomu and Kana finish up their match, even though the bigger fight is over on the B-side, so to speak. They give the Class D match more attention than I thought, especially when we were following it last week. I’m glad they did. Though I know nothing about Karuta I could somewhat follow Desktomu’s strategy of sticking is remaining cards in one area so as to easily guard them, playing the odds. It works for a while, but everyone knows that sooner or later one of Kana’s cards will be chosen, and then the other. Her lead was simply too big. And we have the usual mental narration, first with Desktomu coming up with strategy, and then with Kana, though frankly I don’t remember anything she said. Still, it was a well-done competition scene which ends with a touching moment between the two players.

Intensity-wise they're just getting started.

But it had nothing on the other one. The Taichi/Nishida match was the best match scene of the series so far, and it had no hated rival to root against. Maybe that’s why I could sit back and enjoy it without a knot in my stomach. We only get the tail end. Each player has one card left, and they’re guarding their own. There are six other “dead” cards that could be read. It’s come down to the luck of the draw. Taichi will have none of it. He attacks. The music breaks out of its usual themes by groaning its cellos and scittering its violins (it did the same with the earlier match too–the music this episode was especially effective), and then something magnificent happens. A card is read, Taichi lunges, stops, Nishida blocks … dead card. Without a narrative or any sort of break, the players regroup, wait, the next card is read … dead card. No need to tell us anything. No need to slow things down or even change the camera angle. The show let the match speak for itself. And a tense scene had become even more tense.

It’s almost an anticlimax after that. Nishida helps Taichi get his head back on straight, there’s some comedy at Chihaya’s expense, and almost as an afterthought we learn that Nishida, Kana and Desktomu have all moved up a rank! It’s like it didn’t matter to them. They were too busy playing. So congrats to to the movers-up, and meanwhile, we get another scene with Arata. He hasn’t been around for so long I don’t know if he’s necessary any more.

No one dies in Another 6. We get a brandished knife at the very end, but don’t know who its intended for. Instead this episode is mostly two kinds of talk.

Good talk.

First there’s the good talk. Kouichi and Mei spend a lot of time talking to each other. They don’t have anything else to do. They’re both officially ostracized from the Class 3, while the others get together for lunch, they sit around and talk. When it’s PE they stand around and talk. They seem to like it. You begin to wonder how it was for Mei before Kouichi showed up to share her exile, and it’s fascinating to watch her now. She still speaks in a monotone, but she opens up more. She even smiles. She clearly likes having someone to talk to about this. She’s no longer mystery/eyepatch/death girl, she’s a lonely thing who likes to hang out. How Kouichi feels about this, besides the obvious, and the fact that he liked Mei from the start, might be revealed by that dancing daydream he indulges in. Nothing much plot-wise happens in these talks apart from the growing friendship, and it’s lovely to watch. Also lovely was Mei’s visit to the art club after school, where they welcome her as an old friend. It makes you wonder why she doesn’t spend more time there.

Unfortunately we get a lot of another form of talk: exposition. Kouichi and Mei are still getting to the bottom of this and that means talking to the librarian. The description of names vanishing from the school roster and reappearing again after it’s all over was confusing enough, but the show turns the discussion almost into an interrogation. I’ve seen this before. The protagonist asks questions about something that’s been bothering him/her (actually, us), and the other person gives flat-out answers with almost no hesitation, like they were expecting this question to come up right then and there. Scenes like this never explain the exposition clearly enough for the viewer and the characters have to babble on sounding foolish. It would have been a lot worse if the librarian’s voice actor hadn’t done such a good job replying. He sounded world-weary and resigned, and you could imagine the memories that these questions were giving him. The show does a better job at answering questions, like that odd phone call between Kouichi and his dad which opened up a new set of possibilities. And at the end, maybe to make up for all the talk, the knife appears. The show broke its death streak this week. They need to start a new one.

Papa no Iukoto wo Kikinasai! 6 is usual bland cuteness with occasional bits that border on the unsavory. It brings up one question. If their old house is standing there empty and the kids’ remaining belongings are there, why the hell don’t the adults let Yuuta and the girls stay there? In spite of the sweet but unconvincing final bit, where they now find they can’t sleep unless they’re close together in a cramped room, it would make their lives easier. They even make a point to show that Miu and Sora’s social lives exist in that neighborhood. It makes absolutely no sense. These in-laws are worse than the ones in Usagi Drop, and THOSE people eventually mellowed. Apart from that question rolling around in my brain, and a moment where Sora thinks over taking a family portrait with her, while Yuuta sadly watches, nothing much else to say. Next week apparently Raiko will meet the kids. Maybe that will liven the show up.

Aquarion Evol 7 … First of all, that music guy didn’t die last week. I’m glad to hear it even though it means we’re going to hear too many more speeches about his soul being torn apart by the perfect melody of Aquarion. Other than that the episode was pure silliness. There’s a ghost legend about a doll, the doll exists, turns out it’s just a shy little thing who can turn invisible, just the sort of vector pilot they need when they’re pinned down by random laser fire! Oh, and another moment where Mikono spots Amata apparently doing something naughty with someone else. They clear it up, but I hope that’s not going to be a weekly thing.