Finales: Panzer, Kanojo Pet

Girls und Panzer‘s finale is their biggest and most hopeless-looking battle yet. But you know Miho isn’t going to give up. First they have to take out that monster Maus.

How to trap a maus.
How to trap a maus.

It’s ingenious, like most of Miho’s plans when the odds are against her, but it’s early in the episode yet and there are still a lot of Tigers out there. It gets confusing, but the upshot is they get four or five enemy tanks chasing each good tank. “Operation Stagger.” This evens the odds, well, a little, and it also gives us a chance to watch every team using some tricky maneuver or another to thoroughly flummox their opponent before getting taken out themselves. My favorite was… Hell, I don’t remember which team (the show never tried very hard to introduce the girls beyond the core characters), going in reverse and repeatedly bumping their opponent, getting too close for them to use their guns. Yeah, they get taken out, but they take out a tank or two themselves and manage divert danger from their flag tank. The other teams do their best, too, and finally it’s just Miho and Maho’s tank, in a courtyard with a sealed off entrance (thanks to another noble sacrifice)

waiting for that flag ...
waiting for that flag …

Of course it had to come down to this. We knew it in episode one. The resulting battle is maybe the series’ best. The two tanks circle and race away, firing down open streets when they can, and thanks to some excellent direction we’re racing around with them. Meanwhile Miho and Maho’s heads pop in and out of their tanks, impassive, thinking. Miho sets up one last shot, tracks skid and fly off … Well, you can guess what happens. After that it’s just denouement, celebrations, an important reconciliation, and no weird dancing needed.

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I said last week how the return of this series was a bright light in this dismal season, and the creators didn’t screw up the ending. It’s all good. I watched most of the episode with a grin while hoping other shows can learn some lessons from this one. Face it, it’s a silly premise with by-the-book development. Apart from the novelty (and novelty wears off), there was no reason whatsoever to watch this thing. But the creators found reasons. The hackneyed story of estranged sisters and saving their school provided just enough of an emotional framework for them to develop the concept’s strengths (Schoolgirls! Tank nerdery! Battles!) to their fullest. The battles were well-choreographed, clear (mostly), and genuinely exciting to watch, and when you get all those shouting schoolgirl voices in there you can’t help but smile. The soundtrack, especially the girls marching theme, was infectious, and then they do things like show the Russian team singing a full verse of their song. The show was full of eccentric moments like that. And I haven’t even touched on the WTF of the show’s actual premise, or that aircraft carrier. I even learned more about tanks than I ever expected to. Applause to everyone involved. Other animation companies stuck with dumb projects: this is how you do it.

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We also say goodbye to Sakurasou no Pet na Kanojo, another show which at the start showed us the potential of being dismal and instead wound up … not bad.

There's a lot of kissing and embarrassment in this episode.
There’s a lot of kissing and embarrassment in this episode.

Okay, pretty good. They did this by doing an interesting twist or two in its young, put-upon boy in charge of beautiful but hopeless girl premise and considered by several angles the difficulty that the average, hard-working person has in the face of blinding genius. Our Salieris here are burned more than once when comparing themselves to people like Mashiro or Misaki, and the confusion in the geniuses when the people they live with and care for lash out in frustration gave the show a strong dynamic to work with.

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The other thing that worked in the show’s favor was having the characters forge friendships in spite of their differences in ability. From Mashiro and Misaki, people so talented that they shouldn’t even be there, down to Sorata and Aoyama, who have to work their butts off just to take a single step, they all learn from each other and become a tight enough unit that if one of them left, it would hurt the entire dorm. But this is high school so they do have to go eventually, and so the finale felt more bittersweet than it otherwise would. But that’s okay. Aoyama manages to return, Misaki moves in next door and the dorm’s got two new residents, a genius girl and a pervert boy. They’ll fit right in. Not a great show, but a decent one that I’m sorry to see go.

Kanojo Pet 21-22

Sakurasou no Pet no Kanojo 21 and 22 set things up predictably for an unpredictable finish.

A really awful day for both characters.  No wonder it's raining.
A really awful day for both characters. No wonder it’s raining.

In episode 22 the gang pretty much exhausts their ways to save their dorm. Each day they get a dose of energy from somewhere (probably Misaki) and go out again to get signatures, even though they know they’re going to fail. And, to fully set the mood, the last day to petition is dark and rainy. The perfect setting for Aoyama’s breakdown in class and subsequent discussions with Sorata about being a failure, out in the rain, and in the infirmary. In the middle of this, Sorata gets a happy phone call about HIS failure. The show just decided to drop all the big failures into one episode, just to make the expected comeback feel all the better, I guess. I dunno. I’m annoyed that Sorata is sticking himself in the failure bin when his project passes one test and falls to an undoubtedly expensive vocaloid project in the next. No shame there. Also, it’s not like he’s got no other options in front of him. He’ll make another game, is all. They keep talking about how hard Mashiro works, but she’s been at it for years. I’m not sure Sorata gets that. But it was especially cruel for the game company to offer Mashiro a job, the perfect end to a perfect day, I suppose, and it prompts the plot because Sorata can’t keep in his frustration.

Exactly.
Exactly.

I say unpredictable because how the hell are they going to save Sakurasou, anyway? Oh, they have the rich producer option, I guess, but Chihiro tells him they won’t have to use it, meaning they won’t. Also, why? The episode takes care of a fundamental misunderstanding or two or three Mashiro has, that “Sakurasou” was the building itself, that she was not a part of it, and that Mashiro must hate her. She’s thought that last one before, so we’ll skip it. All it took was a train-station shouting scene to set her straight. The second one, summed up nicely by that painting, sums it up nicely, her love for the people and the fact that she’s not one of them, though this could simply be the artist distancing herself from the subject. But on the other hand, Sorata is right. The picture isn’t complete without her.

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As for that first one, Sakarasou being destroyed. Even if they do save the building (and they will, we just don’t know how), let’s not forget that Misaki and Jin are graduating and Aoyama is leaving school and would be leaving even if she had passed the audition. So it’s interesting that we learn only now that the producer used to live there. The final point I hope the show makes is that “Sakurasou” is an organic, changing collection of people. Some people graduate, others will move in. Actually, I just had a thought that someone should buy up the land and make the dorm like Hidamari Apartments, where the arts department oddballs live.

Robotics 19, Kanojo Pet 20, Bakuman3 21

Robotics;Notes 19 is good stuff, everything the premise could be, but it’s so late in the series that I wonder if the series can be salvaged. Also, it’s damn confusing.

I knew Gunvarrel and spider-robnot would duke it out.
I knew Gunvarrel and spider-robnot would duke it out.

Okay, so the solar flare isn’t real, but using faked reports and footage makes it feel like it’s actually happening. That’s interesting. The question is why they’re doing it. I was unclear on the purpose of using solar flares to decimate mankind in the first place, seems kind of counterproductive, so now that that we know that the impossible to implement story was a ruse, we’re still no closer to getting at why the 300 are doing it in the first place. Controlling the human populace by their minds? That’s almost as ridiculous as the solar flare business. And naturally, in spite of all the stuff going on in this episode, we still aren’t getting the full picture.

Oh, look, Airi's holding a gun ...
Oh, look, Airi’s holding a gun …

And it leads to scene after scene of great moments that just hang there with no explanation. Misaki bounds off and hops into the spider-robot, which starts attacking everything. Yeah! And you knew it would be crazy because they start playing that song just beforehand. But turns out she wasn’t real, or something, because the real Misaki is in another robot suit piloting another spider-robot on some beach. So was the white spider remote-controlled? Then why bother to show her jumping into it? Meanwhile this giant obelisk shows up out of nowhere, and Airi (the real one) is having an encounter with that music, too. The next time we see her she’s pulling a gun on the heroes. As for Frau Koujiro, she’s held at gunpoint until rescued by, of all people, Nae, demonstrating that the good guys haven’t thrown in the towel yet (though at one point Akiho needs a pep-talk). At its best the scenes in this episode seem to head in one direction but suddenly take off in weirder directions. The trouble is, the closer they come to a big climax, the more confused I get.

Fake smiles.
Fake smiles.

I’m also a bit confused by the problems our kids are having in Sakurasou no Pet no Kanojo these days. Let’s see, both the upperclassmen are graduating, Aoyama is going to leave whether she passes the audition or not. That leaves, er, Mashiro and Sorata. Well, and Ryuunosuke, but he’s hardly present anyhow. The latter adds snidely (the only way he is capable of talking) that their friendship is pretty fragile if they need that old building to sustain it. So why are they fighting so hard? Okay, there’s the school’s underhanded method of getting Mashiro into a regular dorm. That’s bad, not only because she’ll be miserable there, but because the school’s decision isn’t only wrong, they’re hiding the motivation. That would piss me off so much that if I would her I’d up and leave the school, much less the dorm she loves. And if that blackmail angle doesn’t work, all you need to do is show an art collector what’s on Sorata’s walls …

Another fake smile.
Another fake smile.

As for the episode itself, it’s like the series. The show has taken on a leaden, melancholic feel and not even Misaki’s genki behavior can quite drive it away. And that’s without Aoyama not passing her audition. Every one of the characters has a forced smile on at the end, celebrating pyrrhic victories like the arrival of a few more signatures which won’t be of much use even if they do get a hearing. And I’m not seeing much opportunity for a change. As I said, half the residents are leaving soon, anyway.

Glad to see Kaya's having fun for a change.
Glad to see Kaya’s having fun for a change.

Bakuman3 21 begins the story arc that will make an anime out of our boys’ work and give Miho her voice acting gig, and, I assume finally finish this series. I wonder if it will end with a typical, all-business, workmanlike episode or if they’ll do something special for it. Events happen so fast in this series that it feels strange for them to slow down and really celebrate something. On the other hand, we had an opening scene with Mashiro, Takagi and Kaya off on a little New Year’s vacation and it even allowed them a minute of introspection. It almost felt like a summing-up of the entire series. It also allowed Kaya the most fun and screentime she’s had in months. I was happy to see it. She’s a fun character and it bugged me that all she ever got to do these days is play the foil and the wife. Well, they’ve got a busy mess of a plot to clear up, so Hattori will be making those breathless visits to the boys’ studio for a while, at least.

Sasami-and-Kotoura-san 6, Kanojo Pet 19

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I’ve been watching Sasami-San@Ganbaranai each week, wishing I knew more about the religions here and marveling at some of the visual ideas, but I began to worry that the show was drifting into a “supernatural being learns how to exist and make friends in the common world” theme, mind you, a Shaft/Shinbou version of such a theme with all the weirdness they’re capable of conjuring (which is a lot), but was it all to mask something mundane? Well, there’s nothing wrong with the theme, and episode 6 raises the stakes with the arrival of Sasami’s dead mother. Just the appearance and how Sasami deals with it would be enough for a good episode, though a slightly less crazy one, but then for this woman to practically drag Sasami back to the shrine to finish her training after killing Kagami and sending Tsurugi to the underworld after beating the crap out of her (albeit after a rousing speech from Tsurugi) was almost too much for me to watch. I don’t expect them to keep this dark mood going for long, but we still have to deal with rather nasty female, and Sasami is going to be the one to do it. Plus, they hint that the mother is in cahoots with the king of the underworld, meaning she’s not working with completely pure motives, either, something that I’m sure will come into play next episode.

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Kotoura-San has settled down into a pretty routine high school comedy, beach episode and everything. The episode isn’t much, just a chance for the characters to show off their quirks for an episode before setting up the big confrontation between Haruka and her mother. Judging from the look on Kumiko’s face this meeting might end up as nasty as Sasami-San’s. Which is a shame, partly because they did such a job establishing Haruka’s isolation in episode one that I feel that she deserves a few years of normal, happy fun life with no conflict. Also, the main group has settled in, with varying levels of interest attached to them. Manabe’s emotions are so obvious to everyone, so guileless is he, that you don’t need esper abilities to know what he’s thinking. When Haruka hugs him out of fright, he’s delighted; when she hugs Yuriko instead, he’s despondent. Moritani is still wrestling with the guilt about how she treated Haruka earlier, and she must also bear the brunt of bad karma the show throws at her. Yuriko and Daichi … what the hell are they all about, anyway? We’ve got some backstory on Yuriko but it feels unfinished, and who knows what goes through Daichi’s mind. Yeah, the supporting cast is a mixed bag.

Sorata meets Misaki.
Sorata meets Misaki.

I mentioned in my posts about the winter shows that it didn’t seem to be the best season. Most shows out there seem to be weak imitations of other shows. I’m not talking derivative; if you got rid of those we’d only have 2-3 shows a season. It’s just that the current shows of their type feel like they’re going through the motions, and I’m finding it hard to care about anything that happens in them. Sakurasou no Pet na Kanojo is sometimes an exception, a show that manages to take the derivative pieces and make us care. I suppose I should point out that this series began LAST season, so everything I’ve said about this season still applies. Episode 19 has everyone reconciled to who likes whom (with the exception of Nanami), so they through a new crisis at us: Sakurasou is to be demolished. But once they’ve announced that the rest of the episode is a flashback to Sorata’s first day at the dorm and meeting the crazy neighbors, putting off any reaction and counterattack until next week. It’s funny enough; Misaki gets a lot of screen/shouting time, so if you like her you’ll like the episode. But I don’t see this new arc having much to do with the show’s strongest point: how do you live with and/or love someone far more talented than you.

Pet 9 and Panzer 8

Sakurasou no Pet na Kanojo 9 starts the next crisis for Sorata and Mashiro. Some crisis.

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A new girl, Rita, arrives and tells Mashiro she should go back to England with her. People are waiting for her next painting. Naturally, Rita’s beautiful, sort of a Mashiro with bigger boobs who can dress herself, and she winds up staying in Sorata’s room because Mashiro doesn’t want to see her. Why she can’t stay with Aoyama is not explained. Anyway, she’s, er, quite convincing, and the show spends some time with Mashiro mad at baka Sorata for even listening to her.

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And then the episode is nearly derailed when the previously unseen, mysterious Akasaka appears. We get scenes with him (in spite of visual evidence) in class not respecting the teacher. The story we had been following goes away. Since this story seems to be as interesting I didn’t mind very much, but then the show forgets about Akasaka and we get back to the story at hand, well, sort of. It’s cultural festival time and the dorm decides to do something together. I guess this will be the backdrop for the unfolding Mashiso/Rita drama.

Mashiro's paitings are immersive.
Mashiro’s paitings are immersive.

The show takes pains to show us just how talented Mashiro is with a paintbrush. Rita takes Sorata to see one of her paintings and is torn, after all, not many paintings can invoke an out-of-body experience like the one the episode shows. It also helps to put to rest a “manga is not real art” conflict I was hoping they’d avoid. Mashiro is just really really good at painting. But why doesn’t Mashiro just paint in Japan? We get a scene in the school’s studio where she’s doing just that (which also suggests that she hasn’t abandoned painting altogether). I’m guessing that’s the direction we’re headed in. By the way, Sorata, do you know just how expensive your bedroom walls are now?

How not to command.
How not to command.

Miho learns a few things in Girls und Panzer 8. First, stick to your game plan in spite of what your subordinates want to do. Because they wanted to forge ahead in spite of being outgunned 15-6, she drops her more conservative strategy and they blunder into a trap. Second, if your subordinates decide to charge when you’re telling them to halt, give them a direct order instead of going “Wait … wait.” Given her background you’d think Miho would have learned something about command, or maybe not, as it looks like she might be disinherited soon. Maybe it was the cold that made the girls rush in like that, even while Erwin was reminded of Stalingrad. Still, it’s fun to see a battle in the snow at night.

A bit late to be asking that.
A bit late to be saying that.

The other thing she learns is that the school will be closed down if they lose. Maybe Anzu and the rest of the student council should have told her before their remaining tanks were stuck in an old church surrounded by the enemy, like back when they intended to at that hot-pot dinner. I assume we’ll learn why the school’s future is pinned to a single tank battle next week. Here they just used it to heighten the cliffhanger’s importance, not that it needed it. I’m much more interested in how they’re going to get out of that church in one piece than what happens to their school. I am also worried about that disinheriting talk, but that can wait. In fact, if she pulls out a victory here her family might well change their minds. Overall, however, the episode was the usual fun. I especially liked the patriotic song the Pravda team sings on their way to the battle. But one note to the fansubbers should they be reading this. When the enemy tanks have surrounded you and they’re demanding your surrender, the correct response is exactly what Momo says: “Nuts!”

Kanojo Pet 8, Tonari 9

Sakurasou no Pet na Kanojo 8 appeared to be a downer episode but to my relief the show refused to give in.

Sorata’s game design passes the first round and he has to give a presentation. Meanwhile, Mashiro’s manga comes up for serialization consideration that very same day (I like to imagine the editors in Bakuan sitting at that table with manila envelopes spread out in front of them. I think she and Eiji would get along famously). This show likes to schedule big days together so that you can’t get too happy about one person’s success without feeling bad for the other’s failure. Everyone helps Sorata prepare his presentation, and overall it’s lighthearted. As a distraction, Mashiro’s going around asking what love is, leading to the usual misunderstandings.

The episode could have gone down this path …

The actual presentation scene wasn’t fun to watch, one of those intimidating wall of suits at a long table type. One of the geniuses Sorata looks up to asks Sorata one of those vague, personal and unanswerable questions you dread hearing at an interview and it’s downhill from there. Since I’ve been back in job interview hell myself recently I can sympathize, and I fully understand why he takes his performance and the rejection so hard. He’s new at this rejection stuff. He hasn’t developed a thick skin yet. He’ll get better at it, but telling him that right now won’t make him feel better. Going home and learning that Sorata’s manga got accepted won’t cheer him up either. And it’s here that Sorata and the show reaches a fork in the plot. Sorata could mope and lash out when people tried to help him, meaning we’d have a two-parter full of dull apologies, or someone could come in and lighten the mood.

But to my relief it went this way instead.

Maybe the best touch on the “let’s sneak into the school pool and have a party!” idea is that the party is not to celebrate Mashiro’s success or to cheer up Sorata. It’s to welcome Aoyama to the dorms. So no guilt about feeling good for Mashiro. And even then, Aoyama doesn’t want to–until Sorata, rightfully forcing himself out of his funk, urges her to go along with it. And in fact, during the pool scene he still carries his disappointment, why shouldn’t he? But thanks to the others he refuses to let it drag him down and at the end feels re-energized. I have to say it was refreshing to watch a character, not to mention the show itself, not go the easy, sulking route but shrug off the bad news and keep fighting. The fireworks were a bit much, but who cares?

How many male tsunderes can you think of?

Tonari no Kaibutsu-kun 9 … The ugliness from last week is gone; no one even mentions that Haru was more or less holding a girl hostage. Instead everyone does very little of anything. Asako fumes because Chizuku has been thinking about the relationship for a month with no progress, because Haru hasn’t given her much reason to, apart from trying to catch her a crayfish she doesn’t need. There’s some background on Chizuku’s life. Her father is a “failure” and her mother has to work to keep the family together. There’s a goldfish metaphor going on which is related to that crayfish. Meanwhile Kenji has officially fallen in love with Chizuku, but he’s not an idiot about it. And Asako seems to be falling for Misawa, and since she does have idiotic tendencies it could be entertaining to watch. I suppose you’d call this a filler episode.

Tonari 8, Kanojo Pet 7, Panzer 6

Tonari no Kaibutsu-kun 8 manages to get stuff done amongst some silly scenes, to my surprise. And it made me think too: just how long is Shizuku going to put up with this?

I think it’s the show’s lighthearted atmosphere of the school festival that threw me off. Starting off with Shizuku as a haunted nurse with a face ala Black Jack, I expected not much of importance was going to happen. When such stuff did happen I really didn’t take it seriously, well, until Haru accidentally slugged Shizuku again, setting off another outburst. Or maybe I couldn’t take it seriously because Shizuku was feeling bad about being pissed off–after getting slugged. Not to mention Kenji insisting that it was all his fault, when, uh, guys, it’s Haru’s fault. I don’t know what goes on in these characters’ minds. But something here gets accomplished amid all the inner monologues of a nurse-zombie, not to mention all the other craziness. Kenji hangs out with Shizuku and to her surprise turns out to be a perceptive guy (that bullshit line about loneliness being impossible without other people around aside) who doesn’t seem interested in making a move on her–except if it pissed off Haru, that is, .

This part was kind of funny.

And Haru has another, much more serious lapse, which came out of the blue because it was one of those “people needing to be alone or hide from other people find themselves all in the same classroom” type of thing. Since it was coming off of an amusing conversation between Oshima and Haru (apart from the “using force” line, a precursor as it turned out), it looked like a comedy topper; Shizuku and Kenji eavesdropping on Haru and Oshima when Yazun walks in. I was getting ready for an entertaining confrontation between Haru and Yuzan, with Kenji as an added bonus. Instead, Haru gets truly frightening for the first time since episode one, and poor Oshima is the near-victim.

This part wasn’t.

I understand that he feels bad afterwards and Shizuku knows it and all that, but a lot of messed up people know that after they mess up. There’s plenty of guilt and then it starts right up again. Then again, Shizuku seems to think her reaction to his antics is somehow a problem, too. She does indeed have a problem. Asana didn’t deserve to be talked to like that. But getting hit, even accidentally, and having to talk Haru down from what’s basically a hostage situation, and not seriously reevaluating her involvement with him, is an act of stupidity. Okay, at the end she does say she needs to think about it, but that’s just because her heart gets all thumpity when she’s trying to study. It’s a shame because the episode (and the series) otherwise can be great fun to watch, but those moments stick out so much it yanks me right out of watching.

Yuuko meets Mashiro.

Just like Sukitte, Sakurasou no Pet na Kanojo 7 starts lighthearted, but it stays this way. No plot advancement. No Misaki/Jin angst, no Sorata angst, no Aoyama despair. Sorata doesn’t even hear back about his game proposal. Maybe the creators thought for this episode “Man, it’s too soon for the new story arc, so let’s throw in all the spare gags we had lying around.” So they get Sorata’s little sister Yuuko to visit and do all the things anime little sisters tend to do …wait, she doesn’t clean his room or find any porn. But she does meet the girls at the dorm and get led into believing the usual things about big brothers and evil, lascivious older women who want to corrupt them.

Yuuko meets the maid avatar.

And it’s pretty funny. Yuuko is especially inspired with the little sister tropes and establishes a lot of ways to be angry when Aoyama goes in denial mode about something misconstrued but innocent, and all Mashiro has to do is open her mouth to cause sibling shock. To help out we get some different artistic styles when Sonata’s desperately calling home, including a live-action puppet thing. Not only that, but the Mashiro breaks the bath so we get a public bath fanservice scene. And now and then they cut to Misaki taking driving lessons. You can imagine how those turn out. It slows down a bit when Sorata takes all the girls on a “date,” though it didn’t get any weaker. Yeah, it was a predictable episode but well-done, and a nice break from sentiment. Just sit back an watch the jokes fly by.

The battle in Girls und Panzer 6 gets a little confusing in spite of the fun of watching the characters react and over-or-under-react, depending on the temperament. We got Oorai leading the Saunders Shermans off to nowhere and then stumbling upon (and chasing) their flag tank, a coincidence that masks its silliness by having the tank commanders not believing it, either. So our gals can win if they can take out that one tank, but when the Shermans come back they seem to forget this strategy and have to be reminded of it. Well, we got the usual from both the heroes and adversaries. Loved the sneaky Saunders commander suddenly babbling about how some guy doesn’t love him. And apart from for battle confusion and the too-long “we’re doomed” bit in the middle, it’s fun to watch as usual. Too bad they have to invent a new crisis at the end, involving Meko’s grandma. But next week, we’re promised Anzio! Don’t know if that’s good or bad …