Finales: Tiger and Bunny, Sacred Seven

Tiger and Bunny 23 ended with Kotetsu dead and Maverick still free. Episode 24 contains many of the cliches that final episodes do, but has a thoroughly happy, though silly ending. I’m satisfied. That’s all I really wanted from this show.

What's worse than an H-01?

It didn’t start well. First we get a recap of the death scene, leaving out Barnaby’s tearful wild rice line, not to mention Kotetsu’s eyelashes one (hey, producers! What about your yaoi fans?). Then they have to interrupt the death scene because Maverick has more up his sleeve. And I got worried. Last week’s episode had a long stretch of heroes losing and things getting grim. You need these moments of course, but they went on and on with it, countless shots of the good guys fighting and losing until I started to check my watch. This week was more of the same, at least for a couple of minutes. But then, out of despair, the show remembered that old trick of side characters showing up, erasing one threat, giving a pithy speech, then stepping aside for the next side character. When they do it well, like here, it’s irresistible.

First, there’s Saito finding the H-01’s safety code. I had forgotten about them. Then Agnes appears on a helicopter and exposes Maverick’s lies. I hadn’t forgotten about her, I had simply not counted her as in on the action. And if her explanation seems a little lame, well, showing up in a helicopter helps us ignore it. Also, Agnes is the show’s most amoral character. I could even see her going along with Maverick’s game if it brought her show ratings, but exposing the game is an even bigger scoop. But the most satisfying moment was the return of Kotetsu. Never mind that he was dead and just got back up again, or that shrewd little Kaede allowed herself to be held hostage by Maverick. It was handled perfectly. Maverick has a gun to Kaede’s head, we see A shadow on the edge of the screen, and after he slugs Maverick he starts to talk, and we realize that he’s the same good-hearted doofus he always was.

Too bad the show had ten minutes left. They tie up loose ends and forget others. Lunatic takes care of Maverick. Barnaby remembers his parents and why he became a hero, but everyone has forgotten the dead housekeeper. Kotetsu retires but returns like an aging veteran who misses the game (nice touch). It’s all a bit messy. And I was never warm to Barnaby’s plight, anyway. I really never cared about his parents or anything in his life. It made him one-dimensional. Kotetsu on the other hand was a full-fledged character with several sides to him. He was an outstanding anime character and I will miss him. Other quibbles: though some of the side characters got stories, not all of them did. What about Rock Bison? It seems like they were afraid to touch Fire Emblem, but I wonder what Sternbild’s gay community thinks about having an hero who was out, but at the same time, so flaming … I had to throw that joke in once. Both these heroes deserved more time as opposed to Sky High, whose episode simply showed that he was a fool. Also, while we got plenty of chances to see them use their powers, we rarely saw them succeed. Usually their abilities were shown only so we can see that the enemy negate them.

So, okay, an uneven series, but if I gripe about things they didn’t do well it’s only because the show set a high standard. It was fun to watch the desire to do good in the world bounce off a modern, corporate environment. Kotetsu grounded the improbablies with his amiable bumbling. And if some of the stories were unbelievable or inane, well, this IS a superhero cartoon. Well done.

Unlike Tiger and Bunny, Sacred Seven did not have 25 episodes to work with, so the characters had less time to make an impact, not to say they would develop a character to Kotetsu’s level. And the magic-rock world they tried to make was even sillier than superheroes are, but they did a decent job with the time and materials they had.

Kenmi’s powered up, Knight is fighting him, unaware that it’s one of those “absorb the power of the attacks” dealies and that he’s just making him stronger. Fei, used as a hostage, tossed around like a rag doll, gets a little angry and becomes the cutest super-robot you ever saw, and she goes off and inadvertantly increases Kenmi’s strength, so he’s now an armored lizard who likes to give evil speeches. Meanwhile, Ruri tells Tandoji that the power’s always been within himself … sigh, all those precious stones they didn’t have to use … and he goes off to fight, which of course makes Kenmi stronger, so NOW he’s a GOLDEN armored lizard, and invincible, until Kenmi runs around the mountain a few dozen times to build up his speed and clobbers him. Before Kenmi dies he plants the “core of evil” into Fei, and now we got a new battle.

This one’s more about damage control than killing villains. We get a lot of quick flashbacks to touching moments while Tandoji talks to Fei through the crystal wall until Knight can get in and give her a hug. And it’s over. Oh, and Aoi woke up. Okay, this series got silly a lot, I never bought into anyone’s tragic backstory, and I got tired of Hellbrick tossing the word “hell” into every one of his sentences. But the action scenes were fast and fluid, and they created some nice imagery based on the geological theme. This series could have been a lot worse.

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Episode dump, Natsume, Usagi Drop, too many others

Natsume encounters our Youkai of the Week, or Two Weeks in this case.

Natsume Yuujinchou San 9 begins a two-parter, but it’s clear that the underlying theme will again be friendship, the “Trust them” variation. Most interesting to me was the way Natsume and his friend Tanuma react to the situation. Natsume can interact with youkai and Tanuma can sort of see them, so there’s nothing they have to hide from each other, but they do anyway. Tanuma avoids Natsume until a hammer-wielding youkai becomes a danger, and then confesses all. Now it’s Natsume’s turn to withhold information, until a line from Tanuma about talking things out makes him realize his mistake. Later, when they learn all, the youkai possessing Tanuma threatens harm if Natsume doesn’t help her, not knowing that Natsume would help her anyway. And even Tanuma has to go through the motions of asking Natsume even though we know what his answer will be anyway. And we have the usual variations: Nyanko peevishly tells Natsume to dump Tanuma as a friend but later won’t drive out the youkai for fear of hurting him (and earlier we saw him wave to Tanuma). And poor Saki, who can’t see a thing, tags along because she’s both curious and they’re her friends. You have to feel sorry for her, watching the boys dig up invisible objects, wanting to be of help.

Usagi Drop 10 brings us the first real crisis in Daikichi’s stint as parent. To us watching at home it’s no big deal: Rin has a fever. But to a man unused to this it’s a frightening event, and inexperienced Daikichi comes close to freaking out. Fortunately for him (and Rin) Yukari’s around to give advice, make gruel (I thought that’s what you fed orphans in Dickens novels) and above all, tell him not to panic. The scenes with Yukari and Rin are sweet, Yukari being the gentle, patient caregiver while Rin must be wondering where Daikichi is. Not that he’s AWOL. He watches and takes mental notes, and in a long series of scenes, Rin gets better. Rather an inconsequential moment in a child’s life, one repeated for years until they meet enough germs and build immunity, but this show specializes in the little moments and how they reflect on a life as a whole. On the romance front, this is the second episode in a row where Yukari has spent extensive time at Daikichi’s place. Little steps.

I find this interesting about Hanasaku Iroha: there is really no bad end, yet there’s a great deal of tension toward the outcome. It matters a great deal to many people if Kissuiso closes, but if it does it is not the end of the world for any of them. Great times in life, when you find yourself surrounded by people you love, doing work you love, don’t last forever. Sui tells Ohana that keeping the inn running is forcing Enishi and others to live her dream, not theirs. Meanwhile Enishi and others are conspiring to keep the place open in spite of Sui’s orders. Maybe Enishi works at Kissuiso out of family obligation, but he would deny it, and everyone else there wants to work there. But will it be the same place when Sou steps down? No. It will be a different kind of workplace. Dynamics will change. So even if it stays open, and it’s pretty clear story-wise that it will, something will nonetheless be lost. Other than that, the episode has a couple of missteps, the biggest one being the Minko/Tohru manga business, but it was funny, so I’ll let it slide. Same with Sui’s surprise appearance in the bath, not the whole scene, but the end of it. But again, it was funny.

The 101st Fightin' Maid Battlion in action.

Sacred Seven 10 was all flashback,using the “horrible attack which wipes out the beloved family on Christmas Eve” schtick. Episode 11 is a rushed mess, which means it’s a lot of fun to watch. Ruri is accused of tax evasion but when she’s arrested it’s Kenmi who’s got her. He’s going to take out her heart and become, I believe, king of the Aztecs. Meanwhile Tandoji, Kagami, and a bunch of armed maids who escaped arrest because they had been laid off (huh?), oh, and Fei, storm Kenmi’s fortress, or whatever it is. Knight is also storming the place, but he’s freelance. Tandoji discovers his mom’s long-lost magic pendant, releasing Ruri from her crystal shield which came up when Kenmi was going after her heart. Oh, Zero’s been let loose and he goes beserk to the benefit of Kenmi until Fei injects him with serum and he goes beserk on her side, until Kenmi takes HIS heart and becomes an invincible armored something-or-other with an evil laugh, and now it’s showdown time. I will say that the action scenes are a lot of fun and the action music with its big horns and disco-y beat sounds almost old school. I had more fun with that then trying to figure out the plot.

Ayaka doesn't seem to like the way the story is going.

I didn’t notice the direction Kamisama no Memochou 10 was taking until the big event that closes the episode. I thought it’d be all about drugs and addicts and rescuing Ayaka’s brother from Angel Fix, but the episode meanders. It spent a lot of time with Naruma and Ayaka as they chat, fight, make up, while the NEET gang are getting nowhere with their investigation, which is not like them. So it came as a complete shock when suddenly, wham, Ayaka attempts suicide. Was it over her brother? Was it because she was raising flowers in the greenhouse for use in Angel Fix (pesticides, hah!)? She chose a cruel place to do it, off the roof where she and Narumi had spent so many good times, and into another flowerbed. Ayaka is a complicated girl.

The iDOLM@ASTER 9 features the annoying twins in an episode that doesn’t really try too hard to make the mystery of the missing puddings interesting, which is just as well. It’s more of a character study of the two girls and how much they depend on each other, which would have been more touching if the two weren’t, as I said, so annoying. Episode 10 isn’t supposed to feature anybody, but show the girls as they cutely participate in a idol girl’s olympics, which they aren’t supposed to win, but do anyway, because they’re so full of spirit. There’s the cliché of the weak athlete bringing everyone down, also a snotty rival team. And while it doesn’t feature any one girl, Makoto rightfully stands out again by not only winning the key race but unknowingly seducing one of the rival girls.

Episode catchup dump post

Alice, early feminist in training.

Ikoku Meiro no Croisée 8 is another good episode, though it’s a mystery to tired ol’ me how the tension between Claude and Camille came about. All I know was that their little scene had so many secret meanings and unspoken facts going on that it tired me out just watching it. But it looks like their separation isn’t only because of status and wealth. Much more interesting are the folktales and stories that Yune and Alice tell, well, not the stories, but the way Alice reacts to them. She has constantly sniped about the roles women are stuck with in society. Until now I wrote it off as the babblings of a girl unaware of the enormous pressures women face, but now we learn that Alice is much more of an independent spirit than her older sister, and always will be. Alice is turning into quite the interesting character. As for Yune, the title character, she serves as a catalyst, nothing more.

As usual, no big plot dramatics for Usagi Drop 7-8. Though it looks like it at the start, with cousin Haruka and niece Reina leaving their home and showing up at Daikichi’s place. What we get are a lot of adult conversations, and comparisons of parental lives while the kids run around in the background. And since these scenes are all good it doesn’t matter what the dramatic level is. My favorite bit comes after Reina tells Rin that her parents fight all the time, and Daikichi and Haruka start to bicker … Though any one of the scenes where Haruka describes her home life, or the “strength” metaphor are worth noting. It makes an interesting comparison to episode 8 and Masako’s reaction to secretly watching Rin and Daikichi. Seeing Rin now seven years old, no longer a baby, she realizes what she has lost by giving her up, and decides to dive further into her work, the thing she gave up Rin for. That’s what she wanted right? Even though she already works so hard she’s about to collapse. Or maybe she sees her action as a mistake she must atone for, even at the cost of her well-being.

An attempt at drama.

It seems I skipped an episode of Idolm@ster. No matter. I enjoyed (this is a relative term considering the subject) episode 7 for the things it did not do as much as for the things it tried. At first it looked it’d be all about Lori seeing how the commoners live and embarrassing herself, sigh, but Lori quickly adapts to Yayoi’s crowded and lively home and the drama is the kid brother running away. I was so pleased by this turn of events (and Lori’s pep talk to the boy) that I happily forgot that the drama wasn’t very interesting.

Both Sacred Seven 8 and 9 had no real point to them. Episode 8 has Tandoji and Ruri going off to find something to fix Hellbrick, but really it’s an excuse for them to have a date. So they argue, Ruri objecting that Tandoji just says “whatever” all the time and isn’t really interested in this saving the world thing. This is not true, of course; Tandoji always finds motivation to do heroic things. But they bond a little. I guess they both had to talk it out even though we already knew they were fine. But is Ruri’s concern about Tandoji because he’s a valuable teammate or because she likes him? Who knows? Episode 9 is even more pointless, two separate battles with no ramifications, almost a filler episode. But these two evil darkstones, lampposts of destruction, were fun to watch. Why Ruri and Tadaki didn’t realize that the fat one was feeding off the energy they throw at him I don’t understand.

We meet new characters in Yuru Yuri. Episode 8 brings us Chitose’s twin sister Chizuru, which leads to a long and, I suppose, inevitable character confusion scene involving Kyoko at her most annoying. Why the hell did no one in the cast know Chitose had a twin? Even Ayano didn’t know. Chizuru’s best trait is that Kyoko bugs her and she isn’t afraid to retaliate with violence. I wish the other characters would show such initiative. A nice scene where Chitose announces she’s lying, but then says she lied about lying, so in other words, the Student Council president DID explode. I scratched my head over this until I saw episode 9, where we meet said president, Motsumoto and her favorite teacher, Nichigaki, who likes to do experiments. Normally, I like people who like to blow up things, but Nichigaki comes off as dull. Meanwhile her sidekick Motsumoto speaks so quietly that no one can understand her. But together, they’re a bit more interesting. “We’re explosion friends!” So two episodes, three new characters of varying interest.

It's been so long since I watched it I don't remember why they're freaking out.

In Nekogami Yaoyorozu 7 nothing happens. The girls/gods prepare for the festival, sleep over, and tell ghost stories. I didn’t expect any scary stories from them, but I figured on some half-funny ones. Wrong. Only Mayu tells a story that has anything spooky to it. But isn’t it odd to for gods to tell ghost stories in the first place? Once again, I defy my own tastes by finding the whole think kind of cute.

Oh, shut up and go back to Osaka already.

Whenever I watch an episode of Kamisama no Memochou my overall responses are “That was put together well enough,” and “But who cares?” And I feel a little offended. The show assumes I have bonded with these characters, when in fact to me they’re all ciphers, seen just often enough so that we know who they are and what they do, but not enough that I feel any attachment to them. My interest in the Renji and Sou conflict was diminished because I don’t like either character. Let ’em kill each other. It didn’t help that I knew Hison was alive the moment embroidery-guy said “he” had pain in his abdomen. And while the characters can consider it a success that the gang showdown at the concert was a success, we hardly saw any of it.

And finally, Baka to Test to Shoukanju‘s thrilling conclusion to the “I must expose the blackmailer even if it means peeping in the girls’ bath!” story arc. Er, a bit of a letdown. They finally get a good strategy, the blackmailer is exposed, the boys are suspended for a week (they never get the breaks), etc. The only real surprise came at the end, shown in the picture above. Now I’m only one episode behind. Sigh. But I can’t watch anymore.

Penguindrum 6, Sacred Seven 7, Baka to Test Ni 5-6

Very little actual plot happens in Mawaru Penguindrum 6. We do get some answers but we also get more questions. And a lot more colorful weirdness.

Not real. Look, she's transparent.

We learn what the diary is. It belonged to Momoka, Ringo’s sister, who died long ago. And it puts a twist on Ringo’s obsession with Keiju. Before, I had simply thought that Ringo’s behavior was an unhealthy crush, but if we can take her thoughts as the truth (and should we?) what she’s trying to do is become Momoka, using the diary as her guide, in order to save her family (symbolized by two stuffed animals she insists on keeping with her). She’s not doing this strictly for Keiju, she’s doing it for her family. If she succeeds she confirms her sister’s fate, and all will be well. All of which makes me realize that for any unhealthy obsession there’s always more going on than the object of obsession. There are other needs at work, too.

None of this explains what the Schrödinger’s cat metaphor is doing there, or how she can move so many belongings out of her apartment without her mother noticing, or us, for that matter. And it doesn’t tell us a damn thing about Penguin-Himari, who has returned, unaffected by last week’s craziness, to berate Shoma some more. In fact, Ringo’s story seems completely unrelated to Himari’s. You wonder why she sent the boys off to investigate Ringo in the first place. And my thoughts are no longer “How does Ringo fit into this?” but rather “Will she get the help she so obviously needs?”

So we learn some things, but nothing gets resolved. Shoma meets Ringo’s mother, that’s all. There’s more plot in Kanba’s story. No news on how he got that money, but we see that Asami has lost her memories of him, and while he’s with two other former girlfriends they to are shot by Natsume’s cool slingshot and the same thing happens, leaving him with nothing but the remains of a red pellet with a penguin emblem on it. There was also a penguin emblem on a sign on the rooftop where the girls sat. And Natsume has a penguin, too, the fourth one from the OP. The unpleasant-looking one. But that’s as far as we get in this part of the story. And so I muddled through it all, trying to find significance in birthdays and death days and curry days, odd animated signs in the subway (“Look out for the trap at your feet”) and wonder how soon the next episode will come out.

Sacred Seven 7 begins with Fei siphoning Ruri’s blood, while Ruri undergoes the greatest tortures imaginable.

The oldest trick in the book. Naturally, it works. In terms of plot contrivances and unbelievable things, it’s the most blatant, but not by much. It will come as no surprise whatsoever to learn why Kijima and Fei are so upset about Kenmi’s lab. It’s only a little surprise that Fei’s supposedly dead brother is alive, if you can call that living, but why on earth didn’t Kenmi let what’s left of Fei’s brother loose earlier? Well, these things actually go under the category of predictable. Let’s turn to the other categories: Inexplicable and Silly.

When the base collapses Tandoji finds an enormous boulder on his back, which he must support or get crushed along with Ruri and Fei, who are stuck underneath him. He shouldn’t be able to support that boulder, but he does, heroically–and stupidly, for the girls make no effort to squirm out from under him. Okay, you think, they can’t move. That is, until Fei sees Kijima is hurt. Then she’s out of there like a shot. Only then does Ruri does the stone-kiss thing, even though she or Tadoji (I forget who) had suggested it minutes before. At the end, Kenmi denies all accusations with a speech so phony that only an idiot would believe him. To their credit, Tandoji and Ruri don’t, and it’s the maybe the best moment of the episode. It felt honest and real, and presents the heroes with a real dilemma. Kijima’s not playig with a full deck, but his pursuer, though intelligent and sober, might be worse. Much more interesting than the flawed adventure we had just undergone, even if the brief fights were good.

I watched two episodes of Baka to Test to Shoukanjuu Ni so I could see the end of the story arc, but there’s at least one more episode to go. You notice I didn’t do that with the Sacred Seven arc, even though that one has a possible betrayal and lives at stake, while the Baka boys are merely trying to peep into the girls’ bath. That’s because, I admit, Baka to Test can be enormously entertaining. The episodes leading up to this had been slower than usual, but this arc we get a return to the frenetic, nearly exhausting pace that made the first season so fun. And tiring.

It would take too long to explain everything that's going on here.

And not just in the battles. The quiet, talky moments go off on crazy tangents, too. One character will try to make a point, get misunderstood, chibi versions appear, then other visual effects, then more characters with more silly lines and visuals, all of them reacting to or affecting everything else. It’s crude but it’s one of my favorite things: when so much is happening, aural and visual, that my brain races to keep up. I’m happy to see the show back in top form.

And while I was writing this, new episodes of Sacred Seven and Baka to Test have appeared. Sigh.

Usagi Drop, Hanusaka, Sacred Seven, Prince-Sama, Idolmaster–a mess of a post while I catch up

While I was too busy to write last week, I wasn’t too busy to watch an episode or two and scribble notes, which I’ve hastily assembled here and dare to call a coherent blog post.

Usagi Drop 4 and 5 manage to balance Daikichi’s problems with the sheer cuteness of the situation. The big crises, such as they are, the meeting with Rin’s mother and deciding what name to give her are tempered by the joy that Daikichi obviously finds in the little tot. The mother turns out to be an irresponsible manga artist with issues who hasn’t fully realized she’s partially responsible for this mess. As for the name, Rin decides that for herself. Unaware of ramifications or expectations, she goes to the heart of the matter: she’s with Daikichi now. No, he’s not her father and she won’t take his name, but who cares? You wonder if she’s actually right, or just too young. Maybe the show will get back to that. Meanwhile, Daikichi continues to rise to the challenge of acting like a father, even if he isn’t one. In episode six the point is made that a family tradition had been maintained, especially important considering Rin’s existence is definitely NOT traditional. And so Rin becomes a little more a family member. … And we get some nice bits with Rin’s best friend Touki, who has a mother, but is in desperate need of a father.

Hanasaku Iroha 18 features Nako and her mermaid metaphor, but unlike all the other mermaids with shell bras, Nako rather likes swimming in the ocean where she feels free. It’s work at the inn, and school, that drag her out onto dry land. But after getting an unexpected raise she’s convinced to try a few new things out with her friends, to branch out and improve and earn that pay raise. I expected her to make mistakes and feel huge remorse, but the show, as usual, is too smart for that. Some things she regrets, others, she discovers, aren’t so bad, and she now looks upon the land with more confidence. Not much to the episode but, like most in this series, it’s consistently entertaining to watch.

A bento scene gone wrong.

Sacred Seven 5 brings us a beach episode that turns into a darkstone encounter inside a mountain that is shaped like a pyramid. There’s arguing between Kagami and Arma about protecting Ruri and not distracting her from their outing, Kagami goes to investigate, and when he realizes there’s danger there he doesn’t think about going back and getting reinforcements but goes half-cocked right into the danger, eventually causing Ruri and Arma to fall into danger as well. Such is the life of a character in a silly adventure series. Episode 6 gets back to Kijima/Fei and throws Kenmi in for good measure. Nothing much to it; just another story-arc starter. More variations on the “Protect Ruri at all costs” theme, with Kagami screwing up this time. At the same time, he doesn’t want Arma involved, which doesn’t explain why he stops his car to fill Arma in on the situation. “I have a crisis to tell you about, and, oh, stay out of it, please.” Actually Arma spends this episode standing around looking confused, from an odd bento scene (where Ruri flips through several girl-modes, finishing with tsundere, while Arma merely blinks) to grumbling while the others plan. Oh, and a fight with Kenmi’s assistant/dog, who is fun because she simply doesn’t care.

The way to cure acrophobia.

In Uta no Prince-Sama 5 it’s Syo’s turn as problem boy of the week. Since he’s basically a clown, it’s a silly episode where he, with the misguided help of his friends, tries to overcome his fear of heights. It’s predictable enough. The highlight is an impromptu song made by, um, I forget, about Hyouga’s action movie. Just one question: why hasn’t Syo beaten the shit out of Natsuki already?

I don’t really know why I’m still watching Idolm@ster, but I am. I’d say that it’s my silly escapist anime for the season, but I’m also still watching Yuru Yuri and Nyanpire, to name two. Maybe it’s because I don’t expect much from it apart from a small army of characters having goofing around, with maybe one girl spotlighted each episode. And, I would add, it’s relative lack of fanservice in spite of all the opportunities. That is, before I saw episode 5. In ep4 the cooking show camera crew’s interest in fanservice shots was intended to be humiliating for the girls, or at least for Chihaya, but one episode later the show is revelling in swimsuits and dropped towels. Yet I still watch it. Something’s wrong with me.

A few more things I watched before I stop watching for a few days

Because I can, I will tell you some more of the things I’ve been watching before I take an actual vacation …

Idolm@ster 3 splits the story between the girls’ performance in the sticks, and Yukiho’s fear of men and dogs. The sticks part works all right. The girls adapt and help out in ways they didn’t anticipate. The other part had far too many Yukiho freakouts and bonding scenes and was dull as dirt, except for the performance. She gets the audience to respond to her. I’ve seen it before. Some performers like performing because they like the control they have over the crowd, full of people that they might not be able to handle one-on-one. But that’s my observation, and certainly not a reason to be watching this. Why AM I still watching this?

Okabe runs a lot but he never seems to get anywhere.

I know why I’m watching Steins;Gate. It’s excellent, though I’m so lost with all the time traveling that I don’t quite follow what’s going on anymore. Which is why I haven’t said anything about it. But a couple questions: first, what happens to the old timelines? Do they simply vanish or do they go on their merry way? So while characters regret things that they will lose when Okabe jumps, will those things carry on in other timelines? Second, I found an IBM 5100 on Ebay for about 8 grand, after 1 minute of searching. Why haven’t they thought of that? Maybe they don’t have the funds?

You have to ignore a lot of things in Uta no Prince-Sama in order to enjoy it. In episode 4 Ren was able to come up with a full arrangement for his lyrics in so short a time, and Haruka manages to find all those eeny-teeny bits of paper. Fortunately, the insert song is so forgettable that it’s safe to ignore it altogether. What’s maddening about this show is they give us a painful Ren flashback only to leave questions unanswered, i.e., why did his father hate his mother? And his dilemma about staying or going doesn’t work; does he slack off only because he was forced to come to that school? What triggered these thoughts about his mother? Not a very satisfying episode, even for this show.

In Kamisama Dolls 4 good scenes are followed by dumb ones, and by the end all the antagonists have been introduced to one another, to the regret of Kyohei.

Now that we're all gathered ...

Good scenes include the ones between Aki and mad-scientist wannabe Kuuko, who’s tied him up and attempts to torture him. They’ve both got a twisting obsession within them, but it’s not the same one, and it’s nice to see Aki taken aback by an outsider who’s just as crazy as he is. Dumb scenes include the completely unnecessary bath scene and the one where Aki enrages Kyohei by mentioning “Sensei,” causing Kyohei to go beserk. I hate this sort of thing, when the smug villain says THE BAD THING just to piss off the protagonist so he gets to say “See, we’re actually the same,” in order to justify his own psychotic actions. Like any of us DON’T have a very painful memory that causes us to react foolishly.

Worst of all is the kid who does the smug bit to little Utao, the one character who’s totally innocent. Apart from his voice and his size he’s playing an adult character. The fact he is indeed a kid just makes him more annoying. Unfortunately, he’s obviously going to be a long-term villain in this series, and he’s already started the “You’re the same as me” bullshit by announcing that he’s Kyohei’s brother. Sigh.

Bleh! Bluh-bluh-bluh-bluh!

“If there’s someone you want to see, you aren’t alone anymore.” That’s the message, I suppose, of Natsume Yuujinchou San 4, and I don’t buy it. Or maybe I’m thinking not about being alone, but being lonely, something both Natsume and the unnamed youkai of the week have suffered from.

At first we think the story will revolve around Natsume’s grandmother (or whatever she is) meeting an old elementary school classmate and resolving a little fight they have, but that turns out to simply be the theme for a story involving old friends and differences we remember. We watch it mainly through the youkai’s POV, and she’s a lot of fun. Frustrated by the fact that humans can’t see her, when she finds one that does she takes delight in scaring him whenever she can. Pretty childish behavior, but the youkai in this show are rarely models of maturity. So in spite of the problems she causes poor Natsume, I still enjoyed her antics, sitting in her tree, hrumphing her frustrations.

What she doesn’t realize is that she liked having Natsume around not because she could scare him, but because he could actually see her. Being bitter and immature meant she dealt with this the wrong way. It takes the boy Natsume lashing out at her (and an interlude where she becomes a cat and befriends him—did Natsume know all along?) and finally getting shunted away to the next relative before she realizes this. When she does it doesn’t help her mood one bit.

But even if she hasn’t matured, Natsume has. He knew they parted badly and goes out of his way to visit. It’s a simple ending which leads to the Natsume quote above. Okay, maybe you aren’t alone if you want to see someone, even if from time to time you pretend to the world, like Natsume and the youkai do, that people aren’t worth the trouble. It doesn’t make the loneliness go away. Natsume has learned that sometimes you can do something about that.

Nekogami Yaoyoruzu 3 is better than last week’s (I think. I don’t recall what it was about at all). The gang are enlisted to help Yukina, a manga artist and diviner, make a deadline when her familiars run out on her. So half the show is them making a mess of things, and the other half is them trying to capture the wayward familiars, and making a mess of things. They set up the idea of the cat goddess being useless and then forget all about it. There’s a nice bit where we read a bit of the manga and the characters do the dialogue. That’s about it.

Kagami's attempt at concealment actually works.

In Sacred Seven 4 Alma and Kagami must stop a darkstone from interfering with the school festival. With hilarious results. Well, not really. It looks like next week we’ll return to the drama with … a beach episode. Certain to be followed up by a hot spring episode, a karaoke episode, athletic festival episode, home center episode (To my knowledge, only HidaSketch and K-ON!! have had one. It’s underused cliché fodder), etc.

There, that’s done. Tomorrow I catch a train to do touristy stuff.

Continuing with Ro Kyu Bu!, Sacred Seven

If you looked at pictures and a description of Ro Kyu Bu! I bet you’d know the show is about elementary school girls playing basketball, and their high school freshman coach, and this being an anime show, you’d expect certain other things to happen. Sadly, you’d be right. Though some of the fetishistic clichés are unexpected.

Why is the elementary school basketball team dressed as maids? You have to ask?

Subaru, the coach, is blackmailed by his underdeveloped aunt (or something) into coaching the little tykes for three days, after his own team was shut down when their captain touched a elementary schooler indecently (so we’re told). With that unsavory thought in our head we proceed to scenes of the girls revealing their shorts under their maid outfits and later watch as they grope each other in the shower. Needless to say, I’m probably not going to follow this series.

It's a problem when your team's center has issues about her height.

When not feeding the lusts of a hopefully tiny portion of the audience, the girls are engaging enough. The show manages to show off each one’s quirks and fears in one episode; a shame it’s mostly the usual: the genki girl, the tall, shy one, etc. Subaru is as bland as any other harem male. I learned a little about how to pass and shoot, that is, if I was an elementary school girl. Let’s move on.

Sacred Seven also delivers pretty much what you’d expect.

The eyes, apparently, are not a problem.

We get a high school guy tough/pariah named Tandoji, who happens to have a great power locked within him. Some stone medusa thing sinks a ship and a secret organization is out to stop it, if they can unlock Arma’s power. Arma, being bitter and angst-ridden, wants none of it. But, as you know, if you have a great power locked up within you it’s going to get loose sooner or later. Add a normal high school girl named Wakana, the only one at school who goes out of her way to talk to him, put her in danger from the Medusa thing, and we got our story.

Actually that's not Wakana, that's Ruri.

No, it’s nothing new, but I enjoyed the first episode very much. There’s a lot to like. There are good action scenes with surprises (Wakana greeting Arma at the bus stop—kablooie! And the monster isn’t dead yet—twice). Quick cuts here and there that feed information without spoiling the action. Little things like Ruri briefly writhing in pain when casting a spell. The classroom going silent when Arma enters. The music at times sounds both modern and old school in a good way. In short, there’s plenty to make me look forward to episode 2.

On the other hand, it also has this:

Why is Ruri's staff dressed as maids? You have to ask?