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Shiki 18, God Only Knows 9

December 4, 2010 Leave a comment

After several episodes of mounting hopeless and despair, Shiki 18 gives us some hope. Some of the victims refuse to lose. Another one is on the offensive.

And they have a knack for fashion and home design.

We start with a few who have already risen, in fact, it’s hard not to include them, since just about everyone has already done so. We get lots of scenes where Risen go about their daily nightly lives, one ironically saying that his temp job of burying corpses “gives life a purpose.” Heh. We get a friendly lecture turned death threat between Natsuno and Tatsumi, both werewolves. They can eat normal food, go out in daylight, but they need blood to, er, enhance their extra abilities, I guess. Natsuno is the same grumpy teen in death as he was in life, and though he has no obligations to anyone, Tatsumi takes his refusal to cooperate as an affront. Such is how this organization works. Also interesting is the Risen Ritsuko, who refuses to drink blood, because she can choose to do so. And it’s a zinger to poor Tohru, still gripped by guilt over what he did to Natsuno.

Up to now in this episode, apart from Natsuno and Tatsumi, who have their own issues, everyone, dead or alive seems happy. Toshio, bitten last week, is following Chizuru’s orders, seemingly at peace with his plight. He even invites Chizuru out to the local festival. This leads to most satisfying scene in Shiki that I can remember, even in spite of its cruelty. They greet people, smile, drift closer to the shrine that Chizuru can’t get close to, until they get too close. Chizuru begins to freak. And we see just what Toshio has been up to. I swear, I’ve been waiting for him to smile like that for ages.

Some of the scene doesn’t work. It’s hard to believe that the villagers would recognize Chizuru as a Shiki so quickly. I think it’s a lapse of judgement for the Risen to just bite a man who’s on to them and then not check back, especially when the man’s a doctor with access to transfusion materials. But otherwise the scene is superb. I love the twist they add when Seishirou tries to rescue her, using characters introduced but not used for a long time. On the other hand we see Chizuru suffer. Even though she is Risen and has few morals, seeing the mob turn against her was bittersweet. Still, it’s great when when I can watch and not wonder “Can this show get any more depressing?”

As for The World God Only Knows 9, I’m not sure what to think about the new story arc, or the new girl, Shiori.

Elsie is told she doesn’t know enough about the world, so Keima sends her to the school library to do research. And what a library! At least three stories tall! That’s an expensive school Keima goes to. Once there, she gets distracted by a book on fire trucks (I don’t really care for Elsie, but I find this endearing) and goes to the librarian, Shiori, for more. The subsequent conversation, or lack of it, is the first of many painful scenes where Shiori struggles to interact with others. It was a relief when Elsie’s loose spirit alarm goes off, like an embarrassing cell phone. Shh!

That's okay, Shiori. They think you already are.

And this is the problem. She’s like this to everyone, even co-workers she knows well. And when the show obliges us by letting us hear her thoughts, they’re all about what she should say to this latest person. She says almost nothing. Having nothing else to do, the show moves on to give us Keima’s take on the appeal of librarians in games, and an extended sequence where Shiori bemoans her fear of people and rhapsodizes about the joy of books while walking around the library, all to a waltz tune. Rather nice, but long. And the following scene, where she has to help weed the collection, getting depressed as she does so, even if they’re hopelessly out of date tomes about COBOL. As a former librarian I found that funny. It’s next to impossible to keep a computer software section up to date, especially on a budget, which this library doesn’t seem to have.

But the problem remains. Even Keima seems at a loss as to how to reach a girl who’s so painfully afraid of other people. When he approaches her with whatever strategy he has in mind, it’s the old “I can’t reach this shelf, oops I’m falling, who caught me?” routine, which leads to yet another painful scene where Shiori takes 45 minutes (my estimate) to get out the words to thank him. Keima looks more puzzled than anything else. So, can Keima break the ice? And can he do it without more impossibly long moments of silence?

Shiki 17, Kuragehime 6

November 30, 2010 Leave a comment

Your weekly noitaninA fix.

Gotta hand it to Shiki. Just when you think things can’t get any worse, they do.

While most of the episode is more of the same, living people getting bitten by the Risen, the remaining heroes all seem to be making some decisions, but the decisions all seem to be rather poorly thought out, or are driven by overwhelming despair. You can’t really blame them. There’s actually a rather funny scene where a man chased by Shiki comes to a house to find shelter, only to find that the residents have already Risen. The pursuers and the residents talk to each other like any normal people would in a small town. It almost makes you forget that the town has been almost completely overrun.

And what to the remaining living people do? Every time they decide to act, they are defeated. We don’t know what happened to Akira but we can make an assumption. Kaori is now all alone and has become completely unglued, asking Seishin for a posthumous name, digging her own grave. On the other hand, a little scene between Tohru and Seishin demonstrates that the undead have their own fits of despair. These scenes, with Tohru’s guilt over killing and the memories of Sunako explaining that there is no terrible death, perhaps helps Seishin make his own dubious decision.

And the bodies continue to pile up. Another nurse from the clinic, then Ritsuko, who has gone out to look for her, to be discovered too late by Toshio. This seems to be his breaking point. Tired of trying to convince people who refuse to believe him, Toshio just says to hell with it and offers no resistance when he’s bitten. And there, I think everyone’s gone now, well, except for Kaori, and she’s losing her mind. Or is part of some grand strategy where they plan to destroy the Shikis from the inside? Nah.

As usual, to pick me up, I turn to Kuragehime. This episode doen’t have the insane highs that some of the previous episodes had, they’re too busy with plot, but it’s enjoyable nonetheless.

The makeover.

The first question on my mind is “What will the girls look like after Kuranosuke’s done with them?” The answer is … good. Presentable. Not necessarily attractive, but fashionable. The transformation isn’t complete. For one thing, they have to learn to wear heels. And their new looks aren’t going to overcome their fear of places like the fashionable restaurant he takes them to. But in a lovely set of scenes we see them slowly unwind … and behave like the otaku they are. Well, little steps. They see that this night life stuff may not be as frightening as they had thought.

Not if he keeps drinking that.

These scenes are mixed with ones between Shuu and Inari. While at first I was wondering simply how girlaphobic Shuu would handle himself, it becomes moot when Inari spikes his drink and drags him home for the usual blackmail pictures. Serious stuff, but it’s enlivened by Inari’s attempts to get good photos, and especially Shuu’s reaction when he wakes up. In fact, I loved his behavior throughout the rest of the episode. He remains almost entirely straight-faced and sober, even keeping a sort of dignity when he’s running out of her apartment while not wearing pants. Or maybe it’s that he forgets his glasses. He looks more formidable without them.

After a pointless scene between Kuranosuke and the PM we get some background on Shuu. Apparently his phobia comes from seeing his father making out with another woman, Kuranosuke’s mother. “Heavy stuff,” says Kuranosuke, as he learns about it the same time we do. And to finish we get an odd moment where Shuu drops by Amamizukan to shake Tsukimi’s hand. Why? God knows. Maybe he just wanted a moment to bask in Tsukimi’s purity, or maybe because she’s the type of woman who would NOT drug him. Note that this is the first paragraph to use Tsukimi’s name. Apart from some moments where Kuranosuke admires her cuteness she’s pretty much a side character in this episode. Well, wait until the love triangle develops …

Categories: Kuragehime, Shiki

noitaminA revisited: Shiki 16, Kuragehime 5

November 21, 2010 Leave a comment

Two weeks ago I did both noiaminA shows in the same post. It was so much fun I’m doing it again.

We start with Shiki 16, which this week adds extra sorrow and cruelty to the already depressing story.

Tea time with Sunako.

It looks at first like we’re getting a flashback episode. We start with a bit of Sunako’s story and get back to it later on when she tells Tohru a “story” about a little girl (herself) who was bitten. Her actions in the story are cruel, she cheerfully talks about all the nice people she had to kill in order to survive while searching for her parents. On the other hand, she IS trying to reconnect to her family. We again see that becoming undead do not change your emotions toward your loved ones, or does it? We also get poor Nao’s backstory. After becoming a shiki she killed her family so that she could be with people she loves. But not one of them rose, leaving her alone. In a twisted way we can feel sorry for her as well. Loneliness seems to be the prevailing emotion amongst the shikis.

As if that wasn’t enough, we turn to Akira and Kaori’s father, Tanaka, recently risen. I guess his probationary period is over for Megumi tells him he’ll have to do his own hunting from now on. “Hey, why don’t you start with your own family?” After all, it’s very likely they’ll rise, too, and he won’t be alone (That didn’t work for Nao because she was adopted). And then we get a scene almost as cruel as Toshio’s wife-torture two episodes ago, which inspires some actual positive action from Akira.

Too bad it ends badly for him, well, it’s a cliffhanger, so we won’t know until next week. But, damn, is everyone in the show going to fail and die? At least Akira tried something. “I’m going to stop leaving things to adults.” Quite right. Toshio and Natsuno talk (in daylight, meaning Natsuno must have become a werewolf like Tatsumi, not a vampire) about having to wait. What are they waiting for? Until they’re the only ones left?

Kuragehime 5 starts out depressing as well. Amamizu-Kan, the building where the girls live is going to be sold, meaning that nothing will stand in the way of the planned “Activate City Amamizu” project, i.e., they’re going to tear it down and build a hotel. Tsukimi, still brooding about the aquarium moment, is dragged to a development meeting to protest, and winds up sitting next to Shuu …

… who doesn’t recognize her. What’s more, the girls are thoroughly intimidated by development leader Shoko Inari, a two-faced thing that will finalize deals “between the sheets,” as they call it. They beat a hasty retreat. So not only do they fail at the meeting, but Tsukimi has undergone a humiliating moment at oblivious Shuu’s hands, AND later Tsukimi spots Shoko and Shuu sharing an umbrella. Shoko works fast. From here the episode meanders awhile, but in a beautiful way.

While there are too many “Mama, my chest feels tight” lines, their execution makes them fresh, the best by far being Tsukimi’s sinking into the wet pavement and into a watery world, like a jellyfish, the only place she feels safe. The show is loaded with nice, clever imagery, but this one set a new standard. It almost makes you forget that, for the girls and especially Tsukimi, life really sucks right now.

Kuranosuke prepares the girls for battle.

Leave it to Kuranosuke to shake them up. All episode he’s been on the sidelines, trying to appeal to Shuu over the redevelopment plans or getting Tsukimi to stop moping in her room. There are a few surprises here. First, Mayaya didn’t kick his ass, second, Mayaya doesn’t seem to mind her makeover, and finally, neither do the other girls. They’re too fascinated to complain. Kuranosuke makes the right argument, that they’re not going against their inner nature, they’re going against people who judge by appearances (to emphasize the point we get a quick moment of Shuu meeting up with a dolled-up Shoko), so they must dress up. One more thing: after Kura’s makeover, Mayaya looks fashionable but not pretty. He is not magically recreating the girls like a fairy godmother; he’s working to their strengths.

Kuranosuke does it again! Though I keep wondering, like Tsukimi does, why on earth he’s going to such pains for them?

Once again noitaminA swings from fear and depression to loony glee.

Categories: Kuragehime, Shiki

Shiki 15, Fortune Arterial 6

November 14, 2010 Leave a comment

In Shiki 15 Toshio has new challenges. As if torturing his undead wife wasn’t enough.

First, Seishin turns his back on Toshio for the whole unfortunate wife incident. He says that killing is never justifiable, no matter how noble the cause. We come back to this thought when Seishin returns and finds someone (probably Sunako) has scribbled notes in his manuscript. “There is no murder.” “Where there is an intent to kill, there is a reason,” etc., things that make him reflect on his attempt to take his own life. He cannot recall a reason for it. The undeads’ theories of murder are naturally going to conflict with those of the living. Is there a correct answer?

Toshio’s next new obstacle is bureaucratic. The vampires have successfully infiltrated the local government office, to the point where they do their business at night. If that isn’t a dead giveaway to Toshio I don’t know what is, but he goes in anyway, to learn they’ve messed with the records to erase any deaths occurring in the village. Chizuru, one of the Kirishikis, even shows up to inform him that his efforts to expose the vampires will come to naught. He can’t even raise up the living; they don’t believe him or refuse to. Meanwhile we go behind the scenes of the new funeral parlor and see that the Kirishikis run a smooth, if eccentric operation. Oh, and Tatsumi is a werewolf. … A werewolf?!?!

Finally, his own staff, appalled at his indifference to a nurse vanishing, are beginning to turn on him. Toshio is completely alone and apparently defeated. That’s when Natsuno shows up. I wondered what became of him. Their conversation is brief and cryptic, but it suggested that Toshio might not be as alone as he thinks. Now, what he’ll do with this information, I mean, what CAN he do, especially since Natsuno just walks away? I think it’s Natsuno’s turn to make a move. Hell, I hope SOMEONE does. The pacing in this series is beginning to drive me nuts.

Let’s turn to another vampire show, Fortune Arterial. It has some flaws, the main one being the vampires hardly do anything at all. The other is that the show is taking a sentimental, almost maudlin turn.

Kanade’s been acting weird, constantly trying to push her sister Haruna and Kohei together to see if any romantic sparks develop. It’s getting a little annoying, but the would-be lovers mainly shrug it off until Haruna finally snaps in front of much of the student body. The rest of the episode deals with reconciling the girls. We get both sides of the story more than once. Kanade feels guilty because Haruna was sick much of the time and got attention, and she resented her for it, and then came the accident (which, by an incredible coinkidink, wiped out all her memories of Kohei’s first visit). So she’s gone overboard to be nice ever since. And Haruna once resented Kanade’s not being sick, so when she got better, had more fun, until the accident. And now she feels Kanade is sacrificing her own happiness for Haruna. And they talk it out under a tree and a lot of delicate piano music plays. “I want you to be happy!” “I can’t be happy unless you’re happy!” Kohei adds some lines about living in the present. Hugs. The whole thing was dull and unsubtle. Please, let’s have some vampires, please! Even sparkly one!

The only thing the vampires do in this episode is dress students up as maids.

Categories: Fortune Arterial, Shiki

noitaminA night: Shiki 14, Kuragehime 3

November 7, 2010 Leave a comment

Shiki 14 doesn’t get any happier, but some progress is made.

For much of the time it’s more of the same. The vampires catch some new guy, or start polishing off the remainders of families. This time it’s Kaori and Akira’s father, done in by Megumi. Sadly, the kids know exactly what’s going on, but their mother seems to be in a state of disbelief. Toshio is waiting for change in his dead wife and is walking around like a zombie. But we see other things at work, too. Masao, in death, is the same bastard he was in life, and Megumi beats him up, which is satisfying in itself but also demonstrates again that the vampires aren’t in accord about everything. Hints are made that Natsuno was cremated, but I can’t believe the show would just drop him like that.

The real progress comes when Kyoko wakes up. Toshio straps her down in the O.R. and proceeds to run a few little tests, filming the entire thing. And so he gains some valuable information on how the vampires work and what can affect them. Unfortunately for us it’s painful to watch. He injects her with all sorts of things, including insecticide, and confronts her with sacred artifiacts. She’s awake during the entire ordeal and obviously in terrible pain. When he gets to slicing her open to see what happens if a vein is severed I finally had to turn away. Toshio is basically torturing his wife, and for the first time in the series I had sympathy for a vampire. Okay, some knowledge is gained, but at the cost of part of Toshio’s humanity.

If Shiki 14 made you disgusted and depressed, Kuragehime 3 will pick you up. It’s the best episode so far and a delight to watch.

The Prime Minister boogies with a cross-dresser.

Kuranosuke is up to his tricks. When his uncle the Prime Minister comes over to visit he is at his cross-dressing best. What makes it more fun is that everyone is offended EXCEPT the PM (maybe he doesn’t know the truth). People in this show think they must live by certain norms, whether a somber diplomat or otaku, but if you throw something strange at them the reaction might not be what you expected. So already, expecting a scandalous scene and enraged PM we instead get a bit of happiness. We also see a little of why Kuranosuke behaves this way, well, he tells us. It’s nothing we couldn’t have figured out. But something odd is happening to him. He wants to live in a world of fashion but when his fashionable friends call to invite him out he refuses. Boring. Princess Jellyfish is far more interesting.

Sonofagun, she IS cute.

Then things get really fun. After another friendly visit to the girls (where he manages to offend everyone again) he drags Tsukimi off to his mansion and forces a makeover on her. We get a major surprise. Dress Tsukimi up, and she’s cute! But that’s not enough for this show. In the show’s finest ten seconds so far, Kuranosuke’s brother, the serious Shou, knocks on Kuranosuke’s door. It flies open. We know this will be Tsukimi fleeing in terror, but we haven’t seen her yet. What will she look like? Everything slows down as at the door we see a very pretty girl. A couple seconds later we see that Shou has frozen up, obviously smitten. Violins start to play … I guess you could have predicted that Tsukimi would clean up real nice, though I didn’t, but to get a bonus, an immediate, unexpected plot twist out of it as well, that’s good work!

After a hilarious scene where the dolled-up Tsukimi tries to sneak into her apartment, Kuranosuke causes some more trouble, or maybe not. Seeing Shou’s reaction he suggests Shou return Tsukimi’s glasses and ugly clothes. He could be doing this for the potential for mayhem, but maybe he genuinely wants to help his brother out. And Tsukimi. On retrospect I think it’s the latter. He is disappointed when Shou returns, having seen nothing but crazy otaku girls running around. He didn’t recognize the mousy Tsukimi. But now we have potential for more fun in later episodes. My only fear is that they will cop out and eventually transform Tsukimi into a permanently fashionable person, but I don’t think so. Kuranosuke believes that all girls want to be princesses. He’s wrong, and I suspect part of this show will demonstrate this.

So tonight I went from being depressed and disgusted to laughing with glee. noitaminA covers a lot of ground.

Can't resist one more screenshot. This is the funniest scene I've watched in a while.

Categories: Kuragehime, Shiki

A short one: Shiki 13, Bakuman 5

November 2, 2010 Leave a comment

A short one. RL circumstances have made me cranky tonight.

Getting the characters straight with so many delays in watching is not easy, but one thing’s for sure. Shiki just gets bleaker and bleaker.

Bleak for the good guys, at least ...

I’m having trouble thinking up things to say about it. The deaths are coming faster and closer to home. There’s not a single main character who hasn’t had someone in their family bitten. And then there’s Natsuno, who is either too weak to resist or still hopes his friend Tohru will make the decision to spare him. Tough luck.

All the rest of them just stand and watch. There is no progress, well, apart from more deaths. Seishin tends to his sick father. The kids stand by, helpless, and now THEIR father is a victim. Toshio sees his wife die and then works to preserve the body in ice. No idea what he’s thinking, and we see no result this episode. I don’t think we’re going to get a happy ending.

In Bakuman 5 the boys finally get some serious work done.

CHARGE!

They said they’d finish their manga by the end of summer break, and by god they did it! I’m actually impressed. The trouble is, this is such a straightforward show it means a lot of scenes of Saiko working all hours while Akito polishes up the storyboards. Also a lot of mutual confidence boosting and general bonding. Both are critical of their own work and if they don’t like it, into the garbage it goes. They agree not to criticize each other’s work, which I think is maybe a mistake. There’s one moment where they take a break at a fast food place and Akito is distracted by two girls talking about leisurely things. But he snaps back to serious mode pretty quick. But the point is made: the boys are sacrificing their summer vacation.

They call this 'being in tune.'

The only other thing they do is talk on the school roof, and Akito accidentally confesses to Kaya. This leads to a cute scene between her and Miho as they mull this over. This angle could be interesting. It’s good the boys are working so hard, but even we the viewer need a break from it sometimes.

Categories: Bakuman, Shiki

Shiki 12, Arakawa 2, Fortune Arterial 2

October 16, 2010 Leave a comment

Shiki returns after a couple of weeks, and things get even bleaker.

We don’t see Toshio and Seishin this episode. Instead attention is paid to Natsuno and his friends and family, including the risen ones. Natsuno, though bitten, is still healthy enough to tell the kids to leave the village and, in an interesting scene, tries to work things out with Tohru, arguing that in order for the Risen to survive they don’t need to kill, they just need blood. It looks for a moment like it might work. Tohru still has his conscience. But it turns out it’s not that simple. Even the Kirishiki family would like the no-kill option, but, as Sunako says, it leads to an “empty hunger.” Not only that, Natsuno has a conscience as well and when the moment comes can’t bring himself to hurt Tohru.

So the struggle now is to keep Natsuno alive. His father still refuses to admit anything is going on, partly do to a key conversation with the father Kirishiki. Kaori and her brother try to intervene to no avail. They’re just superstitious rural kids to him. Nothing stands in the way of Tohru getting another snack off his best friend. Yet there’s still a hint at dissent amongst the vampires. Megumi hates living in the sticks whether she’s undead or not. Tohru hasn’t done the final bite. Still, I’d like the show to give us some good news for a change.

Arakawa Under the Bridge x Bridge 2 is one of the better ones. Recruit meets some more fascinating people, an Amazonian and the captain of the Earth Defense Force.

The Amazon queen and her secret treasure.

Of course, both are incomprehensible and give Recruit plenty of room for reaction shots. Most of the time this sort of thing gets on my nerves, but here I was actually interested in these new characters, especially when the Amazonian switched to schoolgirl mode for no reason. The punchlines come from undercutting the perceived threat, or rather, going off on a tangent from Mars.

Recruit reveals his true identity to the Earth Defense Force.

Or, in the second half, Venus. Recruit rescues a man wearing odd clothes who claims he’s defending Earth from the Venusians. In other words, he’d fit right in (so would the Amazon, but she lives upstream). I’m not sure why Recruit is so against this. What’s another oddball or two going to matter? In any case he comes up with a story to scare him off. This works in two ways. First, we see the stranger’s vivid imagination, which means we get to see Nino in some absurd SF situations. Second, the Chief, Hoshi and the Sister are around, so naturally the talk gets even weirder. And then Nino the Venusian shows up … Good episode.

If Fortune Arterial is a vampire show they have a funny way of showing it. Once again whatever sinister, under-the-scenes moments we get come at the very end of the episode. The rest of it is simply high school silliness.

It's rarely good when the audience spotlight turns to you.

Tohei has completely written off the fact that he saw a vampire biting a girl the day before and is more worried about standing up Erika at their prearranged meeting. Erika’s putting a spotlight on him during the opening ceremonies and telling the entire school he went into the girls’ bath shows you how mad she can get. In fact, much of the episode is Tohei trying to apologize to her but getting distracted by other adventures instead, like catching that stupid rabbit, or running into quiet, vaguely sinister Kiriha. We do get some vampire stuff at the end, but Tohei isn’t directly involved (Lori obtains a blood sample and pronounces Tohei “different”).

This is a vampire show.

In spite of this I hardly get a vampire vibe at all. Even at the end, where Tohei and Erika make up, they shake hands, but there’s none of that freakout business she had before. Not that I mind how this show is presenting itself but the silly high school stuff is nothing special and gets a little dull. Bring on some vampires!