Summer 2013 #3: Girls, real and not, doing things for and against

Rozen Maiden Whicheverthisis looks great, let’s get that out of the way. It’s a show that I might watch all the way through just for that, even if the story doesn’t work out. As for the story, it’s too soon to tell. Way back in my early days of anime watching I watched Traumend and found it confusing at times. Now, that was a sequel, where this new show appears to be a reboot with higher production values.

Shinku being Shinku
Shinku being Shinku

Jun gets an odd letter sent by a rabbit about winding, and the next thing you know there’s a suitcase on his doorstep, and inside is Shinku. Jun winds her up and she starts to order him around. I remember all that. I also remember Suigintou, who shows up to be unpleasant and to let Shinku know the Alice Game is starting again. We get plenty of exposition mixed in with little battles as more and more dolls are introduced, and I recalled that the dolls’ creator was a psychopath and they were victims of his cruel whims.

Suigintou, posing in her frame.
Suigintou, posing in her frame.

But even with all the catching up they have to do for us, the episode manages to get some story going. Hinaicho is eaten by Kirakisho, so she has a body to mess with. Meanwhile, Suiseiseki and Souseiseki find themselves on opposing sides and so it looks like we’ve got one captured Rosa Mystica already. In other words, the episode is very busy, yet almost comprehensible. It felt very businesslike. And it looks great.

Senki Zesshou Symphogear G pulls out all the stops in episode one, but underneath it all it’s got some of the old problems.

Hibiki's got Chris's back.
Hibiki’s got Chris’s back.

The show’s strengths and weaknesses weave around each other. After a depressing flashback or flash-forward, who knows, we get Hibiki and Chris (now a good guy) on a train that’s delivering Solomon’s Cane to a new home while its attacked by Noise, which is not what Noise usually do. Before, they were random destroyers but now something is clearly controlling them. All this information is delivered to us by talk, part of it by a guy who stops, in between rail cars, with the enemy shooting at them, to tell Hibiki and Chris about it, and they probably already knew. Bad … Bad. But after the girls transform they have such a fun battle with the Noise that I gave the clumsy storytelling a pass. The original series could deliver a good fight scene, and the new one has apparently upped their game.

Tsubasa, upon learning that her stage partner has teamed up with the enemy and announced that she rules the world.
Tsubasa, upon learning that her stage partner has teamed up with the enemy and announced that she rules the world.

It’s also all very silly, but so was the first series, and they up the silliness in the second half, where we find Tsubasa (I wondered where she was) preparing to perform with a new superstar named Maria while backstage people smirk with anticipation. So while the musical pyrotechnics begin we’re all waiting for the attack to start. What they come up with is so over-the-top that I almost want to applaud them. Maria conjures a lot of Noise, who are under control, and declares herself (or whoever she works for) the ruler of Earth! Well done! I had forgotten that this show liked to go for the grand when it could, even if it fell on its face doing so. It didn’t do so this week. Anyway, it looks like for now I’ll keep watching.

Kiroku1-1

Kitakubu Katsudou Kiroku is a more normal show about four abnormal girls, members of the “Go Home Club.” Only this club has a clubroom and don’t actually go home. We observe the seniors, Sakura, Botan, and Claire, as they enlighten the newbies Natsuki (our main character) and Karin. It has its moments. Botan fighting bears was a good bit. So was Karin’s reason for joining the club (she saw a member in a sea lion costume who had fallen over … well, wouldn’t YOU join such a club?). They break the fourth wall at times, going to go to the ED too early, or switching over to simple line drawings because Mugi (rich girl) had no concept of budget … I think. Actually, I didn’t quite get that bit. Natsuki is the straight man for most of this, but many of her reactions fell flat, or went on too long, which is definitely bad in a gag-format show. Hmm, this show is a maybe.

New Shows: Space Bros, Hiiro no Kakera, Zetman, some Folktales … oh, and Symphogear ended

Space Brothers looks very promising … but worrisome at the same time.

Promising because it’s a rare show where the main characters are all adults, doing adult things. The first episode, where we meet brothers Mutta and Hibito as they see a UFO and decide to become astronauts, but only one is going for it, is put together so that there’s something interesting going on every moment, whether it be a fadeout to something unexpected or a quick cut to show the passage of time. The main character, older brother Mutta, thinks he’s made a mess of his life, that his younger brother has gone past him. This is a belief I believe everyone old enough for contemplation shares from time to time. Mutta is played by Horoaki “Wild Tiger” Hirata, and he brings the same fumbling world-weariness to this role. But, as I said, there are things to worry about. Some parts of the setup don’t make much sense. Mutta is an award-winning car designer who got fired for head-butting his supervisor, like Zidane in the World Cup (indeed, the brothers’ destiny seems foretold by soccer events, one of the amusing tricks the show plays). But surely it can’t be THAT hard for such a talent to find another car design job. Also, though we sympathize with Mutta, I don’t know if he is the kind they’d allow into space. Also, the art isn’t that great and I don’t like the character designs very much, though stylistic cleverness overcame much of that in this first episode. Overall, this is a very promising show; I only hope they don’t oversimplify the challenges of getting into space. I hope they’re as ambitious as the boys were.

What was this scene for, anyway?

Hiiro no Kakera hardly left an impression on me at all, but that might have to do with its quiet atmosphere and the straightforward nature of the the opening. A girl named Tamaki is sent to live with her grandmother in the country (she’s perfectly fine with this). On the way there she’s waylaid by a cute bug thing and three not-so-cute big one-eyed things that had me calling out for Nyanko-sensei. She’s rescued by Takuma, a jerk, who takes her to her grandmother’s, where we get an infodump on how she’s got the Tamayori blood in her so she must seal the Onikirimaru to keep whatever that is from trying to destroy the world. Apparently the seal is weakening because grandma, the Tamayori Princess, is getting on in years. And Takuma the jerk has three brothers whose job it is to protect her. They’re all annoying, too, but less so when they start quibbling among themselves. Takagi’s question, besides the understandable “WTF?” (in fact, she seems to get used to all this awfully quick) is why are these cute boys stuck being servants to the Tamayori family? Besides the excuse to put a reverse harem on TV, I mean? I like the girl for even asking this. Apart from that the show has some problems. It doesn’t flow very well. The leisurely pace they’re going for is marred by little moments taking too long, or winding up nowhere (the hot-pot scene), and when they do a sudden jump it left me blinking and going “huh?” But that’s the sort of thing I forgive in first episodes. I’ll keep watching for now.

Lesson learned from episode 1: don't piss off Jin.

Zetman looks good. It seems that some nasty monster creatures bred or adapted from humans for fighting games got loose (in nice, bloody fashion, setting the tone for the show nicely) after gaining sentience and ten years later we got a ten year-old boy named Jin running around, raised by an old homeless man in a shantytown. Fighting for truth and justice rather too efficiently for a boy his age, he rescues a prostitute with a heart of gold named Akemi, goes home and finds the shantytown’s residents all gruesomely murdered by some nasty thing. Then, er, a lot of things happen and we learn a lot. The storytelling’s a lot better than in Hiiro no Kakera. We learn a lot about how this world works and what its people are like just by watching them interact. And this is a much bigger world. We meet (but know little about) a police detective, a smarmy guy who seems to be on the side of the escaped “Players,” two rich kids who are fond of Jin, all of who will play roles sooner or later. What worries me is Jin himself. A homeless kid living on the streets, he is remarkably naive about things like death and crying, or maybe that’s part of his legacy. The action scenes are fluid and fun to watch. I’m glad Akemi survived the late fight, but I don’t see her in the ED. I hope that doesn’t mean she’s done with the series already.

Folktales generally are.

Next is something I doubt I’ll watch every week, but Folktales From Japan looked like it might be a good, quiet show to increase my Japanese cultural knowledge. I don’t know how accurate the tellings here are, especially when the show is intended for children–no Grimm-level violence here, but folktales morph anyhow. We get three stories told with a narrator and simplistic animation. Sometimes the morals are pretty obvious, such as with the old couple who adopt a magical doggy, and sometimes we get a bit of a surprise, such as the third story, which is good because that one displays the problem with many folktales, dull repetition of events. One thing stands out. In two of the stories the people who we might consider wicked (or just greedy) have an altruistic side that the tales’ events allow to flourish. In the second tale the man who gets a gardening job so he can get at a pot of gold seems to enjoy his job so much that you begin to wonder if he really needs the money. It’s pleasant stuff, but again, not something I’ll be likely to write about again.

The wave of new shows is upon us, but one old show, Senki Zesshou Symphogear, had not yet finished and lay there like a piece of dirt that the broom missed. So let’s get it over with … The finale was pretty much as I predicted. Finé brings out a whole lot of noise and the united and all-living girls beat them, so Finé goes to plan B and becomes the sword Durandal. I could spot the design flaw the moment someone blasted a hole in it and it began to close up–get inside before it does! Sure enough the sword is breached and the actual sword is soon spinning into Hibiki’s arms. Now we get a closure to her beserk monster problems with the encouragement of everyone around her, Finé is defeated … and Hibiki tries to befriend her! So Finé pulls down that part of the moon that got blasted off and the girls sing a swan-song trio to end the threat, which answers the mystery was set up in episode 1: how and when would Hibiki die? It’s supposed to be very moving but the show never did a good job of making us care too much about anyone. Besides, there was always the chance the show might cop out and give us a happy ending. Guess what? … Typical. Overall it wasn’t a bad show. The characters didn’t inspire me too much, but the action scenes were often good, even if they did hide their budgets by overusing quick cuts instead of showing motion. Yuuki Aoi as Hibiki was often amusing to listen to, especially when she got her grunts and screams going. Frankly she, and some of the battles were the best part of the series. And now, FINALLY, we have put the old shows to rest.

Natsume Shi Finale, Moretsu and Symphogear 12

Natsume Yuujinchou finishes up its fourth season in a typically warm, forgiving, but a little underwhelming finale.

I’ve said before that the show doesn’t work as well with great drama. It’s the quiet, bittersweet stories work the best, but this two-parter could have used some drama considering what they gave us last week. After introducing Miyoko, a character who suffered in her own way from Natsume’s problems, they don’t do anything more with her. The moments with Miyoko that should have happened this episode happened last episode, including the little attempt at peace he made toward her. It’s a shame. We’ve never seen a character from Natsume’s past quite like this one; her story, or at least a better conclusion, deserved more screen time.

Natsume drives out the threat, Nyanko-Sensei eats it.

Instead we get a very long flashback of his life in this town and that household, and apart from the shrine he discovers in hides in, it’s one unhappy moment after another. He’s teased by classmates, little Miyoko can’t understand his problems (who can?) and is jealous of the attention it gets. We’re seeing all of this because the youkai who entered him last week is showing him the memories, I guess, though it’s never explained. It gets to the point where we’ve had enough of Natsume’s childhood woes (though the final bit, running down the road crying for his dead father to come back, was a good moment). And we saw the key moment, when the youkai offers to eat his memories with Natsume refusing and driving him out of his body, in BRS a few days ago. After that what can you do but find the house, get a little sad, and go to your real home? We all know where Natsume belonged, so does he. So that fact that he returns where he has good friends (they find the soda spring!) and kind guardians, comes as no surprise. Or maybe we’ve just seen too much of Natsume recently. We had two seasons in one year, four in total. While I love this series and would gladly watch another season, I think it’s time to let the lad and his cat have a little rest.

Often I wish the art budget was higher on this show.

Moretsu Pirates 12 brings us another situation where everything looks guns-a-blazin’ but in reality no one gets hurt. Part of me is a little let down by this, but I have to admit that what actually happens is strategically sound. Why shoot at people and possibly die when you can think past the confrontation and achieve your aims without risk? I’m not sure this is proper pirate behavior, but apart from a few downloads I’ve never been a pirate. It was also a splendid surprise. We had a well-done scene where Gruier and Hilde confront each other with their band of troops; we get the jist of their conflict (the ghost ship treasure is its clone-making machine, which Gruier wants to disable and Hilde wants to preserve–the larger jist being: does Serenity still need its monarchy?), meanwhile Marika’s eyes dart about, sizing up the situation, and the other side are making little gestures. It looks like a battle about to start, and then … Elsewhere, the art in this show isn’t bad, but it doesn’t do justice to the ghost ship. Much of the episode has the Bentenmaru crew float through this thing that looks like Clarke’s Rama. The show can barely do the wonder of this thing justice; meanwhile Gruier talks to Marika about what a civilization would most want to preserve. She was talking about the clone-thing, but in reality it’s that gigantic ship they’re passing through.

Senki Zesshou Symphogear 12 has one of those great final moments where the apparently defeated heroine finds, with some help, their reserve of strength. Yuuki Aoi gives one of her better cries of rage, the dead characters wake up, and the frantic OP music kicks in. Cut. Good stuff. So let’s ignore the rest of it, shall we? The black-rage Hibiki, Tsubasa’s sacrifice, the prattling about songs, the endless villain mutterings, the post-rage Hibiki’s angst, the girls in the basement going on about anime characters, all a terrible bore. Forget for now that we have another episode of it. Just remember how much fun the final minute or so is.

Elevens: Amagami+, Moretsu, Symphogear, Kill Me Baby

I’ve said before that so far Amagami SS Plus hasn’t lived up to the original series. But the return of Haruka as the main girl has brought back a lot of the fun. She was the first girl in the original and has had to wait the longest for her return bout, but she’s making the most of it.

Why no, Junichi, Haruka doesn't have anything on her mind. What makes you ask that?

I’d forgotten some things about Haruka. I know she was into playing little games, but not that she would take it to such extremes. Take that impulsiveness, the fact that her grandfather had proposed to her grandmother on her graduation day, in a big-ass British cathedral, and her cousin Jessica Sexy Morishima had the same thing happen, and the gears inside this impulsive senior are spinning like crazy. Soon she’s got Junichi enacting a wedding, visiting the doctor about her “pregnancy” (skipping the wedding night, to Junichi’s chagrin), and a family dinner, dragging poor Hibiki along to be their straight man. The whole thing is playful, much the way the original was and the current series isn’t, though it tries. Then Sexy shows up in Japan.

Think of a girl just as playful as Haruka but less inhibited. What’s more, she’s keen on getting our lovebirds on the same romance/marriage schedule as the rest of her family. So is Haruka, actually, but she’s afraid to beg. Meanwhile, Junichi’s begun to worry what will happen when Haruka graduates and leaves him for college. You see where this is heading. No crisis this time, just a slow realization that they better act fast. So it’s a little odd that the big cliffhanger is Junichi inviting Haruka to her house, even if no one else will be there. It doesn’t matter. This was the most fun I’ve had watching the Plus series. We even get Miya doing an American style laugh: “Ni shi-shi, shi-shi!” I just hope the finale will live up to it.

A good miniskirt captain knows how to use viewscreens to protect her dignity.

Moretsu Pirates 11 gets by with nothing getting in the way of its single-minded mission of getting to the golden ghost ship so that Gruier can do whatever it is she had planned to do. Oh, and they need to avoid getting ripped apart from earthquakes and space jumps or getting blown up by the other Serenity ships out there. And they make it. All very straightforward apart from whatever palace intrigues Gruier isn’t telling the Bentenmaru’s crew about, which causes her to gasp and frown every now and then, especially when she discovers her kid sister (and political rival?), Grunhilde is on the Serenity battleship. Whatever. Marika shrewdly takes it in but says nothing much about it. It’d be easy to say she’s now fully in command of the Bendenmaru except that Kane has no problem issuing commands if need be. Or maybe that’s just deferring to the expert. I’ve never been a captain. Anyway, lots of rumbles and bangs and pretty light shows this episode.

Wait until you hear her EVIL PLAN!

On one level, Senki Zesshou Symphogear 11 is compelling. Hibiki’s beloved school is pretty much destroyed, while Ryoko reveals herself as Fine and infiltrates the underground base to find the sword of Durandal. We get Genjuro putting up a manly fight against Fine until something happens that I didn’t quite get and gets skewered (but still alive). The girls fighting near the end made up with story what it lacked in pure action, though the action wasn’t bad. Good, exciting, we-near-the-show-finale stuff. On the other hand, the whole backdrop of sword fragments and reawakened magical figures fighting through history gives the entire thing such a ludicrous bend that the whole thing is in danger of collapsing on itself. The shaft leading to the base turns out to be a tower in reverse. Fine makes it go up instead of down. Apparently (in one of those speeches where everyone stops fighting to listen to her) God destroyed the first tower of babel and so Fine’s built another one. It’s really an ion cannon. To destroy the moon. Yes, to destroy the moon! That will break the curse, she says. I assume she means the curse of multiple languages and the cure for that is song, but they don’t get to that. Yes, this whole plot was in order to destroy the moon. But Chris sacrifices herself (well, sings her swan song, but Tsubasa survived hers, so there’s hope) so that the cannon only blows off a chunk (the moon is apparently a mile or so over the earth). In terms of the characters it’s a moving episode. In terms of the overall story and concept, it’s hard to keep from giggling.

Oh yeah, and Kill Me Baby.

Nisemonogatari 10, Symphogear 10, Inu x Boku SS 9, Kill Me Baby 10

Nisemonogatari 10 … Well, Araragi-kun did keep saying that his sisters were fake …

We don’t know if they both are. In fact, I don’t see any evidence that Karen might also be a supernatural being. First, all her actions, her leaps and handstands and balancing, suggest someone attuned to the physical. Spirits may invade her, but she is a fully human being. As for Tsuhiki, we just haven’t seen very much of her, though, typically for this show, Araragi sees rather too much. She finally participates in a patented ____monogatari conversation three episodes into a story arc named after her. I thought this was just another quirk of the show, but maybe they wanted to keep her under wraps until it became necessary to reveal what she truly is. We get a hint early on when Araragi can’t find any scars on her (which begs a few more questions the show doesn’t seem interested in answering). But the show is full of moments like these, and I almost forgot about it.

Damn. I thought he had left town.

Her conversation with Araragi makes more sense in hindsight. She talks about drifting apart from her sister Karen, how she doesn’t have the same sense of justice Karen has. Indeed, “justice” for her is nothing more than an abstract thought. But since we’ve seen very little of her, we don’t take this as something wrong, just the thoughts of an adolescent girl. Indeed, it’s all forgotten until the end. We move on to the Mr. Donut scene, where Shinobu soliloquizes gluttenously and Araragi presses her on the girls we met last episode. Oh, yeah, I’d forgotten about them. Sigh, Kaiki is there, too, and for a large fee he fills in the gaps. Yodzuru is a “specialist” like Oshino, and the posed Yotsugi is her familiar.

The scene at the back of the house is shocking, not so much for the revelation, but for the violence done to poor Tsuhiki, who might be a immortal creature who has infiltrated their household but seems perfectly nice otherwise, at least for a ____monogatori character. Also for the danger they pose to the Araragi household. Tsuhiki’s upper half grows back, but our new enemies threaten to come back tomorrow and finish the job. After ten episodes this is the biggest crisis the show has given us. I’m concerned, but not very. For one thing, how do you kill a phoenix? Second, I can’t believe that Araragi and Shinobu are going to let the girls do what they want without a counterstrategy. It’s the first time all season where the compelling thing isn’t the conversations or the visuals, but the story.

Senki Zesshou Symphogear 10 has a few moments which ought to be compelling, but aren’t. In the first, Kazanari gives another “You aren’t alone” speech to Chris, but it’s overshadowed by the fact that he’s done it before, and because he’s doing it in the ruins of Fine’s headquarters, where Ryoko had recently been ambushed by some gunmen. In other words, Ryoko’s the long-hinted-at spy. It’s no surprise, but for the revelation to come so quickly that it made me gasp. Anyway, Chris winds up sobbing in Kazanari’s arms–but doesn’t join them. That comes later, after we learn about the concept of kan … kannid … hell, I didn’t write it down. Anyway, it’s an ancient word for big, powerful tower. “Aha!” I said “I bet the next scene will be at Tokyo Tower!” And so I won a prize. The next supposedly compelling moment is when Chris joins Hibiki and Tsubasa in order to defeat some airbourne noise. There’s a let’s-all-be-friends scene, initiated by Hibiki of course, in the middle of the battle for fuck’s sake. But since Chris has come through for them before it’s again not so compelling. The only reasonably compelling scene comes at the very end when Miku calls to say the school, Hibiki’s “Home,” is under attack. Even that one isn’t so compelling; earlier in the episode they had a scene talking about the school being home, so naturally it would become a target. Too obvious, and not enough emotional build to succeed.

Games before coffee.

Inu x Boku SS 9 starts with Ririchihiyo’s nervous planning for her eight o’clock coffee date with Soushi. This filled me with dismay. Scene after scene of Ririchihiyo worrying isn’t the way I want to spend a half hour. And there are indeed scenes like this, livened up a little by Karuta’s tendency to stick tasty food in her mouth, her way of saying, “Don’t worry, life is good.” But the best part of the episode is they never get to the coffee at all. Ririchihiyo get’s dragged into studying, then playing a silly partner game with the other weirdos, allowing each of them to shine for a few moments. Then there are the odd notes on the doors throughout the episode having the characters speak in a confrontation manner or not speak at all. Then after THAT, Kagerou shows up, and the episode is over. It’s as if the show suddenly realized what its true strength is. The trouble is, we’ll have to get to the coffee sometime.

And there was Kill Me Baby 10 …

Another 9, Natsume Shi 10, Symphogear 9

Whoa, a real bloodbath in Another 9. And it took me only a moment to realize that the show was using some cruel logic on me.

But the fun, if you can call it that, happens mostly at the end, as usual. Before that the show does some tidying up. Nakao probably died because of a head injury he received in Yomiyama. He could have keeled over and died at any time after that. Which can’t come as any consolation to the kids outside of town. The fact remains that he died outside of city lines, and if he had gotten himself checked in town who knows what would have happened? But let’s put that aside. The main thrust of the episode, apart from the flatbed truck carrying construction equipment inserting itself into a house… but I’m getting ahead of myself. The thrust is that Matsunga had said he had left something in the classroom, so Kouichi, Teshigawa and Mochizuki decide to go look for it. No one else. They don’t want anyone else to know, or they might be put in danger. So naturally, Kouichi tells two girls about it as they’re going to the meeting.Aha, I thought. One of them is doomed.

Misaki is also around (a fact that looks more suspicious every time I think about it), and the four of them explore the old school’s classroom 3, full of rotting wood and teetering dusty things piled up, so I knew nothing bad would happen there. They even find room for little bits of comedy. And they find what they’re after and it’s off to the AV room where they listen to Matsunga describe his class’s misadventures at the old shrine. Recently, I was joking about a character getting struck by lightning. Well, guess what. But I didn’t expect a second death moments after. Of course, this is just the flashback. The show cuts from that to shots of the two girls walking home, one getting in a car, maybe moving away, and a guy parking his flatbed truck. Ah! Which one of them will die?

Naturally, the tape cuts out the moment Matsunga gets to stopping the curse. Before I was able to do a facepalm over plot devices, they up the ante by getting interrupted, and Teshigawara breaks the tape. Misaki said “Idiot.” I added “Moron, dumbass,” and other things. I thought cassettes were still in use in Japan. Doesn’t he know not to pull a cassette out while it’s playing? But this bit of pathetic comedy gets brushed aside as the show again jumps to one girl, then the other. I should have seen it coming. Two people died on that mountain moments apart, so why couldn’t two people get killed the same way now? And it was a gloriously frightening series of scenes. We see the truck hit the house and think that’s it, and relax a little as the other girl’s car glides along mountain roads in the rain. Surely the show is just teasing us now, right? … Neither the character nor we viewers get any warning. Well done indeed.

So where does the show go from here? If Mochizuki can repair the tape and not die in the process, I guess that’s the next step. However, Misaki remains a mystery, and I’m still suspicious about the librarian.

Natsume Yuujinchou Shi 10 is mostly plot. While there’s the usual Natsume-musing speech at the end concerning his growing respect and understanding for Natori, it feels like an afterthought, like since they always have Natsume musing about something he’s learned or accepted at the end, they pretty much made it up on the spot. That’s okay. It can’t be easy to have something profound to say every episode. And the story’s conclusion was a good one. For a long time it was unclear how it was going to turn out. Was Houdzuki actually sealed? Did he actually leave the mountain and desert his followers? What if his rival Fudzuki wins their contest? The answers turned out a bit convoluted but with Natsume and Natori working together (and Hiiragi and Nyanko assisting) we get another lovely conclusion. They didn’t have to exorcise anybody, the rival gods made their peace (I don’t think they were really enemies to begin with), everyone floated away while the humans admired the light show. The usual. But it didn’t have the same weight that the great Natsume episodes have.

A new psychological rehabilitation technique: Enka singing.

The main thrust in Senki Zesshou Symphogear 9 is Tsubasa’s healing process. Physically, she’s pronounced fit, not that we needed to know that, really, considering she was in a battle recently, but it’s good to get an official pronouncement. But there’s still the internal stuff going on which leads to a conflict in her character which doesn’t make much sense. She’s said over and over again that singing is a form of combat, that she’s always thought that, but there she was five or so years ago singing happily with Kanade. So she must be lying to herself. This is taken care of when Hibiki and Miku (trusted enough that she’s allowed into the secret base underneath the school–who the hell built a school over a base, or vice-versa? This is almost as stupid as Heroman‘s alien research lab hidden underneath the White House) take her on a “date,” i.e., the usual: Shopping, soppy movie, karaoke, and Hibiki shows her the city that’s been around her all the time. The climax is when Tsubasa does a live concert and rediscovers her love of singing. Well, I’m glad she’s finally cured. Now they can work on Chris, who still mistrusts everyone yet aids Hibiki in destroying some noise, then goes into a bout of self-loathing for it.

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.