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Tens: Star Driver, Ore no Imouto

December 8, 2010 Leave a comment

Star Driver 10 is pretty straightforward, well, for a show such as this. Baseball, jealousy, spells, and a battle.

We start as usual with school activities, a baseball game between classes, the Onederberry Stars and the Twober Fighters. It’s even more lighthearted than usual as the animators have some fun playing around with baseball drama clichés as well as setting up a love triangle: Takuto, Marino, and the other team’s pitcher, Takeo, who is in love with Marino and of course is “Sword Star” from glittering crux. Takeo, enraged that Takuto ran into his beloved Marino running to first, uses some sneaky magic to strike him out Takuto to end the game.

So we already know what’s going to happen: Takeo is going to go to Zero Time and fight Takuto. But there’s plenty of time in the episode, so we get some character background first. Marina and Mizuno were first abandoned by their father, then their mother, many years ago. Naturally they grow very close, almost telepathic, though how Mizuno can not know about Marina being Manticore of Glittering Crux I don’t understand. Never mind. It’s easy to tell why Marino doesn’t want Mizuno’s identity of Maiden (I forget which direction) known.

We also visit the Vanishing Age lounge for some darts, though it’s a foregone conclusion what’s going to happen. Then it’s fight time. Is there anyone out there who watched this who did NOT expect Takuto to recite “Katami, Wakachita, Yagadanse” at a crucial moment? Really, they’d been hammering in that phrase for the entire episode. Pointless, too. Why didn’t Takuto just use his rockets before? Oh, well. The fight once again was great eye candy.

In Ore no Imouto 10 Ayese wants to give Kirino a nice otaku birthday present, because she pissed Kirino off while discussing figure collecting.

I've often wanted to ask the same thing.

And so a bizarre plot is hatched. Kirino’s friends figure a one-time collectable that’s not for sale would be the best. All they have to do is win a cosplay contest. The scenes where they come up with this are rather long, and it’s followed by another overly long scene where Kyousuke tries to convince Ayase to enter, playing a specific character.

I don’t know why Kyousuke even tried suggesting that. He knows fully well that Ayase hates otaku anyway. Was he hoping that guilt-tripping would make her do it? Fortunately for him, Ayase has her own solution. A friend, model and would-be idol singer named Kanako, who’s all cute to her fans, but to her inner circle …

Poor Kanako is conned into participating in the event. And she shocks everyone with the best performance and an easy victory. I’m not sure I like the ending that much. Ayase gets the collectible, Kirino is pleased as punch, but Ayase was left stranded at the venue, where she caused a scene and was apparently arrested. All available on the Internet! Sure, she was a brat, but she didn’t deserve that, especially after the hard work she did to make someone she didn’t know happy.

Categories: Ore no Imouto, Star Driver

Continuing the nines: Star Driver, Ore no Imouto

December 2, 2010 Leave a comment

Star Driver 9 begins work on a new story arc, meaning I’m confused as all getout again. But more importantly, it introduces two new characters.

Here's Mizuno, coming right atcha!

Mizuno makes a grand entrance. She hops from her bedroom window onto her bus, charges into the men’s room at school, talks to crows, and leaps into trees. Everyone else in school is familiar with her. She’s the school freak, or school witch, or both. It’s only Takuto (and us) who have never seen her before. More fun for Takuto: she has an instant crush on him. Later we learn that she’s the West Maiden. Surely Sugata (shown bathing with Takuto, later fighting with him … They made up) and Wako would have known that.

The other character is her sister Marino, a member of Glittering Crux named “Manticore,” and temporary leader when Head decides to take a vacation (never heard of evil organization members taking vacations before). She announces that she is going to find the West Maiden so they can use her to get to Third Phase, bypassing Second Phase, I guess. I dunno. What gets me is that they hadn’t thought of this before. Since they don’t have the power to gain the North Maiden because Takuto keeps beating them up, why NOT try for one of the other two remaining Maidens? Seems a lot easier.

Anyway, I suppose because Star Driver is no fun without a fight, they come up with an excuse for one. A Vanishing Age guy named Stick Star says they should show Manticore the extent of Takuto’s power, so it’s off to Zero Time. Takuto wins without much trouble—maybe he was warmed up from the sword training he was doing with Sugata at the time. Then it’s back for another tub scene, where we learn that Mizuno is the West Maiden and that Marino is devoted to keeping that a secret. So she’s with a group that is pursuing the West Maiden, but she won’t let them find her. Good thing she’s in charge.

Ore no Imouto 9 takes a break from story arcs, totally forgetting about last episode’s anime adaptation fracas, and does nothing but show us the main characters killing time on their own.

Kirino gets a new little sister eroge game and sets out to play it. Since this whole show is sort of a sendup of such things it’s fun to watch Kirino’s reaction to the little sisters, particularly Rinko. The fact that Rinko comes off as a Kirino figure is a little amusing, but it’s Kirino’s reactions to her that makes it genuinely funny. She reacts the same way that Kyousuke does when she insults him. Later she practically uses the same lines Rinko does after Kyousuke spots the panties she accidently dropped on the floor. But in fact most of the Kirino scenes work, talking back to the computer, face turning from bliss to frustration in a few seconds. The only trouble is there are too many such scenes and they begin to repeat.

To break it up, we visit other characters. The Kuroneko scenes are both sad and a little sweet. She’s left at home with her little sister. You get the impression that this happens a lot. You can also tell that she is lonely. However, she and her sister have a close relationship. Kuroneko keeps her distant, calm demeanor around her, but has no trouble with her sister sleeping with her head in her lap. It’s a gentle side of Kuroneko that we haven’t seen before. We also visit the fancy home of a elegant, presumably beautiful (we never see her face) woman, and it took me too long to realize that this is Saori. While she’s comfortable enough talking to her assistants about cosplay outfits, it’s clear that she keeps a strong wall between her presentable side and her otaku side. She ought to team up with Kuranosuke to work on the Kuragehime girls.

We also briefly see Ayase. We don’t, surprisingly, see Manami. And then there’s Kyousuke. He can hear Kirino through his bedroom wall. Needless to say it makes it hard for him to study. Bored, he tries calling people, even Kuroneko. He yells at Kirino to shut up. He gets insulted some more. Yet, he endures. Good episode.

Categories: Ore no Imouto, Star Driver

Eights: Star Driver, Bakuman

November 26, 2010 Leave a comment

Okay, I don’t know what the hell happened in Star Driver 8. Well, I do on one level: Takuto and Sugata make up their differences by beating each other up, such is the way male friendship sometimes goes, but how they got to that point is almost a complete mystery to me.

Sugata has returned, but he’s being a dick to everyone. I assume that it has to do with Scarlet Kiss’s kiss, meaning she can control him, but when Takuto finally confronts him about it I don’t see any influence on him at all. He can’t leave the island. We’ve known about this resentment for a while. It’s an odd scene. The argument goes from that resentment to the way he’s treating Wako, to a further thought that Sugata has closed himself off to everyone around him. Sugata accuses Takuto of doing the same thing. So is this simply an argument because the each of them won’t let the other one in? Why do we even need Scarlet Kiss for that?

Fish Girl is presented as a possible contrast to this. She finishes her story to Head: Sam kills the girl and takes the galactic ship, only to find that the galaxy had been around him the entire time. Head lets her go, and she leaves the island, something she could not have done if she was still a shrine maiden. Head says they were free to leave from the beginning, but we don’t know if he’s talking about from him or from the island. Fish girl talks about it as if she had just broken up with her boyfriend, nothing more. And I’m wondering if they’re commenting to Sugata and Wako, who are, remember, engaged.

When we get to the fight we learn that Scarlet Kiss has taken control of Sugata, so they’ve got the power of two cybodies in one. Double trouble for Takuto! Too bad for SK that Sugata takes control of the thing and we get the friends duking it out scene, with explanations and even wisecracks tossed in with the punches, only in this fight they’re controlling giant robots. All I can guess is that the only way they could settle their differences was by fighting in Zero Time, but that doesn’t make much sense. Afterwards, back in real time, after forty seconds of heavy breathing, the boys have made up. Maybe they just used the Scarlet Kiss angle to get us a robot fight, instead of just a boy’s fight. As usual, the fight was great to look at. Maybe I should be grateful rather than bewildered.

After all that it’s something of a relief to get to Bakuman 8 and its unsubtle, straightforward story.

Akito writes, Saiko reads and critiques, Akito writes some more, Saiko reads, and finally, countless notebooks later, finds a story he likes, and they’re off to prepare it for the Tezuka Award. I keep hearing how the manga industry is languishing, but when you see an army of young artists busting their butts for periodic awards, I must say it looks pretty healthy to me. On the other hand, for the purposes of this story, I’m a little torn. I’m glad to see these boys busting their own butts to get their story done, but it’s not terribly dramatic to watch a lot of scenes of them writing to background music.

But there are some tense moments. Another interview with Hattori, quite pleased with their newest effort and guardedly confident in its chances for the award. But after that they switch from working to nervously waiting, preoccupied with the manuscript’s chances, something they have no control over. Like the working scenes before it’s perfectly understandable to include these moments, but again, there’s nothing particularly dramatic about them. And their anxiety just makes me want to get to the results. The scene on the day of the final judging, waiting for Hattori to call, took forever.

Nothing should come easy in this show; it’s part of the reason it feels authentic, so I was satisfied by their manuscript missed the final cut. The final scene, where Ishizawa, the mangaka wanna-be, mocks the little space in the magazine dedicated to finalists, added a good touch. His cheap shots about Saiko’s artwork will goad him further or work on his confidence, and I laughed when Ishisawa holds up a page of what are essentially doodles and says he can do better. It’s a good contrast between those who dabble in something to impress friends, and those who are actually serious artists working to improve their craft. The scene does another thing as well. Now everyone knows Takito is writing manga, including Kaya. It will be interesting to see what happens with that.

Categories: Bakuman, Star Driver

More sevens: Star Driver, Zakuro

November 18, 2010 2 comments

In Star Driver 7 Sugata wakes up, but what has he become?

The first half is all about the aftermath of Sugata’s apprivoising and subsequent coma, the type that no one has woken up from. Wako is devastated because he did it to save her. Takuto begins to question his own purpose on the island. One of the Drama Club girls talks with him, says that his arrival made the Wako/Sugata duo into a trio. While Takuto isn’t so sure, he is reminded that he came here for a reason and has a goal. This all done, by the way, to elegant string music, starting with a long tension-filled violin section playing a single note, and slowly building up. The soundtrack to this show has a grandness that I really like.

Glittering Crux is also worried about Sugata, but for other reasons. They decide to make sure he’s unconscious or dead, and Ivrogne is told to finish the job she botched last episode, and before you know it it’s Zero Time! My favorite time of the day, when you see giant mecha battle on LSD. The big complication is that Sugata, still unconscious, is also there, floating in his own bubble. The battle is another routine one, this week’s gimmick being that Ivrogne can “swim” under the floor. It’s complicated a bit when Sugata’s bubble breaks and Takuto has to catch him. Takuto wins (we don’t see Ivrogne stumble out of the “coffin,” something I’ve always enjoyed), everyone heads back.

Now, during the fight Sugata woke up, good news, except it was in Zero Time. In real life he’s awake but disoriented. Now we have the Fish Girl’s story to deal with. In this latest installment, Sam tells the king that he doesn’t want the kingdom, only the galactic ship, and the king says okay, but to power it he has to spill the blood of the girl he loves. I had always figured Takuto to be “Sam,” but all of a sudden we get Glittering Crux members asking woozy Sugata to lead them. What’s more, Scarlet Kiss kisses him. So is Scarlet Kiss now the girl he loves, who’s blood must be spilled, instead of Wako? Maybe Glittering Crux, in its desire to take control of Sugata, has made a tactical error. Or I could be talking out of my hat.

Another episode of Otome Youkai Zakuro with no sign of the overriding story. Even in last week’s decompression episode we had portents and memories. This week they don’t even hint at it. Instead, a girl arrives at Spirits Affairs, hugs Kei and begs him to come home for a visit. Kei says yes, invites Zakuro along as an “assistant,” and, oh, Zakuro, would you hide your ears, please?

You can imagine that Zakuro is in a foul mood for much of the episode. Meanwhile we all wonder just why Kei was asked home, and why he brought Zakuro along. A family crisis? A spirit to deal with? While we wait we get some more evidence of bad spirit/human relations, this time exhibited by Kei’s tool of a father.

So on top of everything else, Zakuro has to listen to that sort of stuff. So I figure that somewhere along the line Zakuro’s ears will be revealed, leading to to a father/son confrontation. But no, instead we get nervous scenes between Tae, the servant in love with Kei, and Zakuro, who hasn’t figured out her own feelings. Oh, and many years ago Kei saw a spirit, his cat Itsue disappeared, and he’s been afraid of spirits since. Zakuro takes care of that little problem.

Itsue turned into a cat demon and has been around the entire time. Kei is grateful. Everyone’s happy. And the reason for the visit? The family just wanted to see him, and Kei wanted Zakuro as a buffer between him and his father. That’s it. Apart from learning a little about Kei’s background, it’s hardly a story at all. Oh, for what it’s worth, Kei’s mother knows Zakuro’s a spirit, and little Kumiko can see Itsue. Can we get to a story arc, please?

Sixes: Star Driver, Yumeiro Pro

November 9, 2010 Leave a comment

Star Driver 6 starts happily enough. Takuto has a pocket watch he wants repaired, and Wako offers to take him to a watchmaker. All this time on the island and he’s seen so little of it, so …

There’s a bit of odd tension when Sugata turns down their offer to join them, but after that it’s scene after scene of the two happily walking around town, Takuto making “deserted island” jokes and Wako poking him. This show usually has a formula to its episodes, but not necessarily, so I was wondering if the grumpy girl who’s been tailing them is going to battle or not. Meanwhile the episode begins to turn melancholy. Wako tells him about Sugata’s problems, especially that one about not approvising or he’ll produce a state called “King’s Pillar” and fall into a permanent coma. Oh, today’s his birthday, too. He hates it. He was told a lot of bad things on his birthday.

Things get more mopey, Wako loses her smile. Then we get our fight. The grumpy girl, Undine, is disgusted that an outsider is fraternizing with a Maiden, and can summon a cybody (called a “mermaidoll,” heh) that can exist outside of zero time. She sends it after Wako, who’s singing outside where Sugata is. I’m not sure of the logic here. Shouldn’t she send it after Takuta? Anyway, we get another insane Star Driver fight scene, except this one happens in the real world, so no wild eye candy this time.

Sugata signs his own death warrant, or coma warrent.

Interestingly, Fish Girl’s story this week has a plot twist where the king drinks the squid-guy’s blood in order to sleep and never wake up. For our purposes the king wanted to die. We know that Sugata invoked King’s Pillar in order to save Wako, but I wonder if there wasn’t also a wish to be free of this nonsense on an island he is forbidden to leave. Well, the show will figure out a way to bring him back.

Yumeiro Patissiere Professional 6 continues with the grand tour of fairyland to pick up foodstuffs. I wonder why more fairies don’t do this to pass their exams, but there are a lot of things in this show I don’t understand.

We know there will be a crisis at one point, especially after the previews last week, but it doesn’t come early. The gang breeze through Powder Desert, Milky Lake, and Oily Jungle, aided by desperation and Johnny’s reckless driving skills. I will say he has a knack with a flying carpet. Little jokes along the way liven it up, and they change costumes again, for reasons that escape me, and Kashino.

The drama happens when they enter Baum Forest, named so because the trees are made of baumkuchen, though the forest is actually famous for its fruits and nuts (There are a lot of things in this show …). Someone’s been indiscriminately munching on the food and not cleaning up; naturally the Guardian of the Forest shows up, accuses the jerks of being responsible, and locks them up. What happens after that is standard Yumeiro fare.

It’s a letdown. The Guardian can’t believe the gang are potential real patissiers, so they make a pound cake for him using forest ingredients, a rock oven, and gathered firewood (wait, the trees are baumkuchen, so why can they … Sigh, there are a lot of things in this show …). Sort of a Yumeiro meets Survivor thing. The Guardian changes his mind, Johnny catches the real culprit, etc etc. The only question is who convinced the Guardian to give the cake a second chance? From time to time we see a figure behind a tree spying on everything, but we won’t learn who he/she is until next time. Otherwise it’s a mundane ending to what began as a fun episode.

Star Driver 5, Soredemo 4

November 1, 2010 Leave a comment

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.

Star Driver 4, Milky Holmes 3

October 26, 2010 Leave a comment

Star Driver 4 doesn’t change the show’s usual format, it just has a funny way of getting there.

After some of the usual high school scenes, this time involving the Drama Club (for some reason it seems fitting that in this show the good guys are in the Drama Club) and hints about something called “Night Flight” (a great show in the ’80’s by the way) Tiger follows a smell to a lab and becomes a subject in a memory experiment, that is to say, she faints. Okay, so this week she’s the one in danger. So far so good.

But instead we get Takuto and Wako alone. Wako quickly realizes they’re in a dream world. But it’s nice and peaceful and no one’s bothering them, so they talk and learn more about each other. When a Cybody finally shows up the fight is anticlimactic. This can’t be what the bad guys had in mind, letting the heroes bond, but the leader seems satisfied anyway. Meanwhile Takuto and Wako wonder whose dream it was, while we know already: Tiger’s wish-dream. A decent episode that demonstrates that this show can break out of its routine and throw us a surprise.

Tantei Opera Milky Holmes 3 is sometimes entertaining and often nonsensical. A rival group, G4, announces they’ll take down the Gentleman Thieves, who have announced their next theft, the Venus of Hama, a big-ass statue that apparently can be moved by two people. Oh, and G4 takes a moment to diss Milky Holmes. So they decide to take action.

Milky Holmes in action.

The story is incomprehensible. G4’s leader Kokoro convinces the girls they’ll get their toys back if they play Twister on an old artifact while she reads out colors from the Rosetta Stone, or whatever it is they call it there. Then the statue is stolen, returned, and there’s a big fight between GT and the still powerless MH until one of each side is stuck in a stone trunk.

Cooperation.

You have to wonder what side the bad guys are on. Well, the underlings behave like bad guys but Arsene clearly has more on her mind than thievery. When Elly temporally regains her toy, Arsene smiles. The action scenes were fun. The rescue scene went on too long. The rest was inane. I’m still not sure why I’m watching this.

Categories: Star Driver