A few more quick ones …

Fortune Arterial 10 has Erika’s continuing struggle to sustain herself on blood pouches (and why those aren’t as nutritious as blood from a throbbing vein they don’t tell us). And it has not only more “Let’s work together!” festival preparation scenes, but a beach trip and firework-watching with yukatas as well. You begin to get tired of the BOOM effect whenever the craving strikes Erika, but at least here they manage to time it well with fireworks. And I gotta say, Kohei is way too accommodating.

By Amagami SS standards, episode 23 is pretty eventful: Founders Day preparations lagging behind, girls starting rumors, confessions, more girl-fighting. Junichi and Tsukasa even seal their relationship with a kiss with an episode to spare. And Tsukasa drives it all forward. For the most part Junichi stands on the sidelines, apart from an attempted rescue when girls try to gang up on Tsukasa for dodgeball. He observes her as her mood swings from sweet to vicious, sometimes within seconds. Her sweet mode at the end was downright scary. For the first (and last) time on Amagami, Junichi has a wacko girlfriend on his hands.

Otome Youkai Zakuro 10 starts out as usual, with the Spirit Affairs team attending a fun festival and innocent spirit hijinks, until the plot kicks into gear. I have to say that Zakuro gets herself captured pretty easily. The other main characters mainly stay out of the way as she learns all sorts of stuff. Hanadate, er, Omodaka reveals himself, we see what he wants. We see that Rangui is subordinate to him, and that she’s jealous enough to kill Zakuro, who, meanwhile, is slowly befriending Byakuroku. Zakuro is used well. We see her anger, confusion, and a compassion which makes her abandon her escape when she sees a half-spirit mistreated. It’s good to see her act on her own for a change.

Soredemo Machi wa Mawatteiru 10 brings us the usual two stories, the difference being that both are great fun, if a tad unbelievable. The first more so, as it involves Hotori innocently picking up a dangerous alien weapon only to have two alien robot things show up and fight over it. The second isn’t more believable, but since it involves a ghost it’s more in keeping with the show. I mean, in a slice of life show you don’t expect alien weaponry, but the occasional observant ghost is acceptable. And it’s lovely stuff, an old man (turns out it’s Uki’s late husband) walks around encountering local people who can’t see him, and wondering just why the hell he hasn’t moved on yet, though he doesn’t care much. Overall I prefer this story to the former, but the former made better screenshots, so that’s why I chose it.

And, for the foreseeable future, this truly is the end of the blog. See you.

Bakuman 10, Soredemo 9

I’m getting the feeling that Bakuman has settled into a basic flow, a combination of scenes involving either work, interviews with Hattori, and some time left for personal drama.

First visit to the Shonen Jack offices.

We start with the first of two interviews, rather different than the ones before. Hattori brings Saiko and Akito to the editorial offices on the fourth floor, then settles them down for a chat. We get an idea of the push and pull the magazine undergoes between typical Shonen Jack material, and stuff that’s not quite so mainstream. You get the idea that there is no clear boundry, but the general thought is that their stories are too cerebral. Come up with an eccentric main character, and just present “names” for now. The editor-in-chief drops by, purposely drops Saiko’s uncle’s name, and gives them the lowdown on how things work around there. So the boys have a plan which they proceed to screw up.

Those meddling girls ...

Did anyone out there think when Kaya said she wouldn’t interfere, she was lying? I didn’t think so. And thus we get a scene where she drops by the studio in order to do just that. Of course, I have a little sympathy for her. It’s no fun when your significant other is off working all the time. There’s not much to this scene except that a compromise is made, and she becomes nice and helpful. There’s some shock when she brings up that she knows about Saiko and Miho’s little agreement, but why the hell shouldn’t she?

So then it’s more work scenes, and then back to the interview room. This scene confused the hell out of me. After rejecting the submitted names for being too ordinary, a strangely bleary-eyed Hattori goes off on a scheme where if 20% of readers love the story, it’s considered a hit, but it doesn’t work that way with NEXT magazine, but aim for that 20% and keep trying to get in NEXT! That’s the way I understand it, anyway. I think the upshot is they should use their idiosyncratic ideas and not dumb anything down. Or maybe not. I told you it confused me.

Soredemo Machi wa Mawatteiru 9 gives us two good stories, and a nice opening bit. And we see more of the life of antique dealer Shizuka.

But first ...

After Shizuka repeatedly buys and sells (at a profit) a vase the husband loves and the wife hates, but that’s just a quickie. We turn to the girls at gym class. After Hotori’s vault seemingly enters a physical warp she watches Toshiko and Harue, she of the teeth, duel in a table tennis match to the death. It’s played out as dramatically as possible with an unnamed character giving commentary, ending with Toshiko deciding that she’s good, but not great, with anything. A good story, played well, but routine.

The second story is definitely not routine. A man learns that his favorite sweets store is shutting down, because nothing sells. He buys the entire stock and apparently hands them out to people on the street. Shizuka gets one, a “Rainbow Delight,” via her grandfather and is entranced by it, and so we have a mystery to solve. The wrapper has a phone number but it doesn’t work. The address is a mystery. She visits a few places, asks locals, discovers that she’s not the only one trying to track down these Rainbow Delights.

Searching for the elusive Rainbow Delight.

They throw in dream sequences, Shizuka doubting her own memory. Toshiko and Hotori try to recreate one. Weird theories are presented, and it leads to a final scene that’s out there even for this series. Let’s just say time travel paradoxes can be fun!

Zakuro 9, Soredemo 8

It looked at first that Otome Youkai Zakuro 9 was going to be another silly filler episode in a series that is running low on episodes, but at the end they toss a little surprise.

A Kokkuri is a sort of manifestation of maidenly thoughts of love. One’s been going around freaking people out. Hanadate requests Spirit Affairs investigate. This is fine for the annoying servants, as this means attracting it and then asking embarrassing questions, such as “Who does Zakuro love?” With all the characters sort of paired up but not at the romance point, you can imagine how they feel about it. And I’m thinking “Just great. They’re running low on episodes and they’re going to waste another one.”

The trouble with the Kokkuri is that they can’t get rid of it with their usual magic. The thing is not a spirit. So the new plan is to find the thing and say a few false words of woo in its presence. I was not getting any happier with this episode by now. I understand it’s a romantic show as well as an magical-adventure one, but I saw no need for characters to say they love each other when they might not. Story-wise, what’s the point? But I hadn’t counted on Hanadate inviting himself along.

In the end, it’s Hanadate, whom Zakuro gets all blushy about, who says the words of love to Zakuro. Zakuro says them back, and the Kokkuri vanishes. Hanadate adds the zinger. “I’m a poor liar,” implying that his words were the truth. Naturally Kei gets depressed. He shouldn’t be. He tried to say the words but Zakuro stopped him because she didn’t want him to say something he might not mean, suggesting she takes their relationship seriously. She had no problem with herself saying words to a different person. And I’m still thinking that they’re wasting too much time with all this until the ending, where we learn something about Hanadate that we didn’t know before that brings the story arc right back into the mix. So I guess it’s okay. But they’re still running out of time …

Both stories in Soredemo Machi ma Wamatteiru 8 are pretty good. The first one is more of the silly time-wasting type. In the second one, stuff happens.

The girls are stranded and drenched outside a laundromat. Hey! Let’s dry our clothes in here. No one will come while there’s a downpour, right? So of course you expect that someone will. Possibly that cop. But no, they dry their clothes and hang out. They try out the weird vending machines and say a lot of pointless things (apart from Hotori’s splendid question about weathermen having batting averages. You know, they should). Nothing more to it. But it’s done well enough. Some shows can get away with nothing but aimless banter.

The only problem in the second story is the lack of surprise. The girls want to participate in the school festival, Futaba has a slot in the performance section, but no band. Anyone who’s watched the end credits knows that when Hotori says she can play a keyboard instrument and Toshiko knows a stringed instrument knows they don’t mean organ and guitar. A joke in episode 8 was given away at the end of episode 1. Never mind. The rest is good fun.

Sounds about right.

They add some stuff about practicing in the cafe, and they work the nonexistant Toshiko/Sanada romance angle, and waiting backstage, but then they go out and perform. … And they’re pretty good. The song works with their odd instruments, the lyrics are nice and snarky, and the crowd loves them. My favorite line “This song’s a little too hipster for me.” What’s more, the girls are having fun. For one of the few times in the series with no overall story line, or even a story, characters set out to do something and then actually do it. They really ought to keep the band together.

Amagami 20, Soredemo 7

The most interesting thing about Amagami SS 20 and the end of the Rihoko romance arc is that there’s no romance in it, in spite of the Tea Club girls’ best efforts.

And, you know, why not? It was sort of refreshing to see two close friends remain friends in this series, even if one of them is carrying a torch (and a box of choux cremes) for the other. It was mildly disorienting when I realized they weren’t going to make any progress, but then I settled back and watched a bunch of mostly happy people having fun together. So what WAS this episode all about? Apparently it was to get recruits for the tea club.

When the seniors graduate (and I will miss them. I hope they appear in the next arc) Rihoko will be alone and the club will disband. All they need is one recruit. In a very strange scene they try to recruit Haruka through a duel, but that doesn’t pan out. But, hey! Rihoko likes Junichi, right? So for them the job is to get the two together, killing two birds with one stone. Junichi likes the club well enough, but not so much that he’d devote himself as a member. So we get a lot of scenes where the seniors tease and needle Junichi and Rihoko, but all they manage to do is embarrass the both of them. Some of it is repetitive, but other moments (such as comparing Rihoko’s eating to that of a squirrel) were sweet and funny.

It looks hopeless. No recruits by graduation time. A nice scene where the girls say goodbye. But Junichi is the type that usually does the right thing. I’m sure I’m not giving away anything by saying he joins the club. And that’s about all you can expect. Rihoko wrote on her New Years’ wish thing that she wanted to keep up her diet, keep the tea club going, and have her feelings reach Junichi. One out of three ain’t bad …

In Soredemo Machi wa Mawatteiru 7 Hotori goes on two unscheduled trips. The first when she falls asleep on the bus to school. Sanada could ring the bell, but …

Hotori is an expert in getting into trouble, and their decision to just skip school sounds like a mistake, but we don’t see the ramifications. In fact, they cause no trouble whatsoever. They just walk around where the bus finally left them. We get an amusing bit about hand-holding (Hotori thinks it’s perfectly normal, Sanada like he has been formally blessed by God), but really nothing much happens. They grew up together and are used to doing this. At day’s end Sanada, in spite of the day spent with the girl he loves, can think of nothing much to write in his diary.

The second journey happens at night. Little brother Takeru drank some energy drink he shouldn’t have and is too hopped up to sleep, so she takes him on a walk. This works like the first story in that nothing much happens, but we learn about two characters by watching them interact. Well, Hotori does cause a little trouble when trying to get Sanada’s attention from outside his home.

That and a near-encounter with the cop who wants to bust her. But mostly it’s Takeru gasping at the town in darkness and Hotori showing him interesting stuff and explaining the concept of midnight and the barrier between today and yesterday. This nearly blows his little mind. What blew my mind was when they got back and take a bath together. Innocent as it was I don’t think I needed to see that. Still, a pretty good episode, more slice-of-life than usual.

Yumeiro Pro 7, Soredemo 6

In Yumeiro Patissiere Professional 7 the gang finish their tour of the sweets kingdom and witness the exam the Jerks have worked so hard for. Naturally it will be touching; naturally it will be downright weird.

Their last stop before returning is Egg Home, where all the eggs are made and sent through pipes to places around the kingdom. So, er, why go and get them when you can just pick them up? After that we learn more than I, at least, wanted to know about fairy reproductive system. You see, ALL the eggs are produced there. If you’re two fairies in love and want to have a child, you visit Egg Home, cross the Chamber of Trials (no indication what the trials are), then pray for an egg, which may or may not be given to you. Depends on your love, I guess. I am watching all this and speculating that maybe the eggs intended for eating are actually unfertilized fairy eggs, growing disgusted with myself as I do so, meanwhile the fairies and humans all think of the bonds they have with their own parents.

Ichigo's one-track mind.

Now we get to the touching part. All this time someone has been following them around. Now whoever it is becomes a little more blatent, leaving bits of food around for them. When the Jerks lock themselves in their kitchen to work on their exam recipe we learn it’s Kasshi’s mother. I’m kicking myself for not seeing it sooner. In this type of show just about every conflict gets settled within each story arc, well, apart from the long-term ones like the romantic angles and career goals. Kasshi and his mother differ on what Kasshi should do with his life. He wants to be a court patissier, she wants him to work the farm with her. They had parted ways without resolving that. Time to straighten it out.

It’s typical Yumeiro stuff. The mother had said all that because she didn’t want to add to his exam pressure (while, I’m guessing, doing so anyway, but in a different way). She comes to the competition (well, Chocolat drags her in) and inspires the nervous lad. On his end, Kasshi’s contribution to the dessert includes sweet potato, scandalizing the judges, but it’s his MOM’S sweet potato, after all. The queen intercedes and passes the team. And in the end Kasshi decides to make healthy vegetable-based sweets from her mother’s farm, a compromise. So that’s cleared up, and apart from a hint of a Kasshi/Chocolat romance(!) they’re headed back to what they call the real world, where, judging from the previews, Henri and Tennouji will have something to do. Just as well. It was a nice break visiting the fairy kingdom, but after three episodes I’ve had enough.

Soredemo Machi wa Mawatteiru 6 has three stories of no consequence.

Hotori disagrees with me.

Actually, more like two stories, but the second one has segments, well, the first one does, too. Forget it. I just liked the screenshot. In the first, Hotori shops for Toshiko’s birthday present and winds up getting a weird gift from Shizuka, the antique curiosities owner. Turns out it’s also Futaba’s birthday, very embarrassing. Gifts are exchanged. Jokes are made. Let’s move on. In the second, Hotori has to design a web page. She wants to make one for the cafe but needs a computer. Aha! Sanada has one! He also has a lot of porn, which he manages to hide, but you already know what will happen, right?

Having wreaked havoc on Sanada they move on to Futaba’s apartment. She’s in bed with a fever, so the girls decide to help out.

The best part was the sleepwalking Futaba trying to kill them. As I said, stories of no consequence, no matter how many there are.

Fives: Index II, Soredemo

When I watch A Certain Magical Index II (or I, for that matter) I find myself having to take extra notes to help me through all the cult-babble. This time I mostly gave up and just watched.

It’s a losing bet, anyway. The show will invent whatever it wants. All it has to do is sound kabbalistic or at least in Latin. And 9/10’s of it actually have no bearing on the story. Like here. All we need to know is that the good guys are trapped in a cathedral while some crazy deaf nuns with weapons try to break in. Then we learn the ironic truth: there was no reason for anyone to go after Orsola in the first place. Her method to decipher the “Liber AL vel Legis” is bogus. I began to suspect that when she began to explain it. A simple letter replacement system? Come on! But the cool concept here is that the book can be deciphered in hundreds of ways and they never come out right. I love this idea! I wonder what Borges would have done with it.

Sadly, we have to return to the plot. The nuns break in, then all of a sudden (except for Touma having a “I have a plan!” look) Touma is one-on-one with Agnese in some other cathedral. Agnese whips out a crosier and explains the weapon’s abilities and history in some detail while beating Touma up. She also whips up some theology in Orsola’s previous line about people acting through believing. Oh, she also laughs a lot. But then the big fiery cavalry shows up, and the acting through believing concept comes back to bite her on the butt. Not the best Index conclusion, but it will do.

The denouement occurs, as is so often does, in Touma’s hospital room. Kanzaki gives us the rundown, but Touma’s speech is better. The show’s cult-babble is unintelligible but often fun. The politics and power moves by the ten thousand organizations this show juggles is the thing that bugs me the most. Touma cuts through all that by explaining why he’s not affiliated with anyone. He’s worked with the Anglicans before because Index is a member, no other reason. “If Agnese had asked me for help I probably would have helped her.” Too bad there’s more political talk to bring the final moments down.

Two inconsequential stories in Soredemo Machi wa Mawatteiru 5. Both were predictable. The second was better.

Toshiko has won tickets to a private screening and wants to invite Sanada. She tries to get up the nerve, blames her procrastination on Hotori, and fails. Hotori watched from the sidelines, amused; in fact, that’s what she does for the entire episode. In the end she mutters something about having the world work for her, instead of the other way around. Even her boss doesn’t know what to make of that. Not terribly interesting.

In the second one Hotori’s kid brother Takeru is asked out by his tsundere classmate Eri. This puts the boy in all sorts of danger. Eri is the type who would report boys using game cards in school, in other words, the enemy. Of course, we’re all asking why she asked him out in the first place. We don’t get an answer.

So he goes off on his first date with a girl, hoping he isn’t spotted by his male friends, and having various adults he encounters tease him. It’s really the worst thing for a boy. Date-wise he doesn’t do too badly. A couple mistakes, but they manage to have fun and Eri shows she has a sweet side. At the end he figures maybe some girls aren’t so bad after all, until the next day when he meets her in school. His conclusion: “Women are such mysterious creatures.”

Hotori's reaction to Takeru's conclusion.

Again, predictable. But it was nice to see Hotori interact with her siblings (there’s also a mini-story concerning her sister) in ways that aren’t so abrasive.

Star Driver 5, Soredemo 4

After last week’s change of pace Star Driver 5 goes back to its irresistibly bizarre regular format. We get some school scenes, followed by a big colorful fight. But this episode leans farther toward the silly side.

The school nurse's office.

We meet Okamoto, the school nurse, who’s also Professor Green of Glittering Crux, AND Hina, a student who wows the boys thanks to her use of “mandrake love potion.” All of these forms of hers are obsessed with teenage boys. I’m trying to figure out what her antics have to do with breaking the next seal and freeing the cybodies but I’m not having any luck. Okamoto basically switches from one to another, attracts the interest of the Drama Club, and sets off earthquakes. Meanwhile I was waiting for the fight.

I doubt that it's in the manual, but in this show who knows?

We learn some things. The Glittering Crux folk can be unaware of each other in the real world. Okamoto and Keito didn’t know the other was around until Keito caught her stealing some mandrake. I guess that’s what you get when you wear masks all the time. Also, the Glittering Crux folk are quick to give up their identities, at least to Takuto. They’re almost treating all this like a silly game to pass the time. And finally, Glittering Crux pilots aren’t tested for smarts. Maybe only certain people can pilot them, so they have to work with what they get.

Professor Green's lapse in concentration.

Professor Green can see a few seconds into the future, so she can anticipate Galactic Pretty Boy’s every move. This is an ideal ability to have in a fight, and GPB indeed is getting knocked around a lot. But when she takes a moment to ogle him it’s all over. At the end, Takuto is mystified. Her Glittering Crux comrades don’t know whether to yell at her or laugh. I laughed for them. These fights look so cosmic and then fall into this sort of thing, well, it’s one of the reasons I’m watching.

In Soredemo Machi Mawatteiru 4 Hotori shares some quality time with her beloved teacher, Moriaki, in the form of supplemental lessons.

We get some background on the man, a flashback where he cannot accept that a long division problem might end with a remainder, and the teacher’s indifference to his complaint. The teacher became his first enemy. Hotori has become the second. She tortures Moriaki with her tardiness and endless ignorance of math. Moriaki tortures her right back with the supplemental lessons. However, Moriaki is the one in the most pain. Last week Hotori very cleverly solved a mystery for Moriaki; he’s aware that she thinks outside the box and sometimes thinks well, so it must be extra frustrating for him that she is failing only one subject—his.

It’s amusing enough, though it goes on too long. We get stories of Moriaki’s strictness and an annoying scene concerning which chair to sit in. Not as good as last week’s but good enough.