Steins;Gate finale, and other shows.

Not sure I like the ending of Steins;Gate. It makes perfect, logical sense, at least it seems to. I lost track of the endless returns in time to fix this thing or save that person long ago; it really boiled down to whether Okabe could rescue Kurisu, and in what messy way would his Master Plan (you have to use caps to describe much of Okabe’s actions) go wrong, because you knew it would. And it did, with a lightsaber he didn’t check beforehand (just like a mad scientist), leading to his brave sacrifice.

Go, Okabe, er, Hououin, go!

What made it so satisfying was that Okabe was able to be his mad scientist self all the way through the crisis, whipping his lab coat around, taunting Kurisu’s father, even though he knew what he would have to do next, or rather, have done to him. And while I wondered if he would live, I wondered if his death would be worth it. He went through hell to save his friends’ lives; how would they feel if he sacrificed his own. Even though they would not know what he did, they would dearly miss him, and would change the past themselves to save them if they had the ability.

A happy ending.

So I’m glad he’s still around. I’m less happy about the meeting with Kurisu at the end. I know they set up the idea that everyone has some deep-down memories of the lost timelines, but the two getting together at the end felt like a forced happy ending. And, perhaps more importantly, we never do find out who Daru managed to have a kid with. Oh, well, this was a splendid series. Time traveling, suspense, world conspiracies, mixed in with eccentric characters who were as much fun in the slow moments as they were when there was danger, perhaps more so. Okabe, especially, was fun to watch, whether he was speaking into a switched-off phone, making mad scientist speeches, or desperately running to save someone, always arriving too late.

And the finale gave us two “do-do-doos.” It wouldn’t have been complete otherwise.
Tiger and Bunny and Hanasaku Iroha are finishing soon, too. Three solid series that suggest the anime industry isn’t sinking after all. Speaking of which …

A not-so-happy ending, oh, there's an episode left.

Tiger and Bunny is a good-natured, but heavy-handed show. Not much subtlety. Either everything’s going well or they aren’t. Episode 24’s first half, everything is bad, and in the second, everything is good, well mostly. Sometimes it’s too much to bear. There’s so much angst and evil gloating in the first half that I almost jumped ahead. Only the necessary “We believe” speech, provided by Blue Rose, breaks things up. Meanwhile, why didn’t Kotetsu or Barnaby think of using the robot’s gun before? Why didn’t Kaede think of her escape attempt before? At least they explained Lunatic away, though it was through a flashback, as if the creators suddenly remembered they had to account for him. As for the ending, I think it’d be a hell of a thing if Kotetsu is actually dead, but I don’t believe it. Lovely dying conversation between the two heroes, tearful and silly at the same time.

SKET Dance 23 is even more frantic than usual. After introducing us to an anime called “Liberty Maji” in which Maji does a Mami-diamond-musket-barrage thing except with baseball bats, and we learn that the anime director “Watanabe” (think afro) and character designer “Kikukata Sadako” contributed (we see them running down the street, screaming, with storyboards before them), I’m thinking “How many references are going to slip past me THIS week?” Also “Well, it’s got to slow down at some point.” But it doesn’t, really. The girls all drink the youth-elixir and the usually quick dialogue gets even quicker, and louder. Everybody shouts at everything, and this time some of the shouts are little girl voices. I can imagine a lot of people hating this episode for that reason, but I ate it up. I won’t worry too much about the different artistic design this episode, or what the odd, stylistic bits were while they were chasing the cat who had stolen their seaweed (don’t ask).

No.6 10 gives us more absurd dystopia but mainly concerns itself with the action, that of getting Safu out of the correction facility, or whatever they call it. Sion and Rat see another side of this place–from the bottom, where they are dumped, and then climb up a mountain of corpses to get to the ventilator shaft, which is supposed to give a counterpoint to the nice, clean regular No.6 environment. It would have worked better if the corpses were decomposed. Instead, the thousands of them all look fresh. Meanwhile Dogkeeper and Rikiga have gotten into the facility rather easily using other people’s clothes and stolen IDs, where they are able to open automatic doors the moment Sion and Rat need them. No.6’s high-tech surveillance abilities aren’t up to snuff. Things get better when Safu/Elyurias infiltrate Sion’s brain and the tables are turned: Sion suddenly knows exactly where to go and what to do; Rat can only watch in awe. But this god-like force in his mind also turns the boy into a cold-hearted killer. Rat warned Sion that the facility would change him, but I don’t think this is what he had in mind. So while we chew over this moment of relative morality, another door magically opens for them and we’re ready for the finale. I hope it’s hopelessly silly. It’s the only thing that can redeem the series now.

Inami, as usual, ready to hit someone.

Like last time, we get an early look at Working!! season two. Hmm, not bad. They wanted to introduce the characters again so no one dominates the episode, that is to say, Inami only throws one punch. Takanashi’s little thing fetish seems bigger; he gets upset when the manager swats a bug. We still hardly see the new girl. Let’s hope they can keep a better balance this season.

Kyoko, after hitting her head.

Yuru Yuri has a story where the girls recollect a bully from their childhood, who was obviously Chitose. Not bad. Then a story where Kyoko hits her head and becomes normal, and everyone worries. Dull.

Episode dump: little bits about Hanasaku, Steins;Gate, Croisee, etc

Takako shows Ohana how it's done.

There’s no way to describe the plot of Hanasaku Iroha 23. It moves forward, but in little ways, different characters, different scenes. As usual, most of these scenes are spot-on, gentle humor undercutting when things are about to get too maudlin. What I found most interesting was Ohana’s new, fumbling relationship with a woman who, rather to the surprise of both of them, is now her aunt. There’s plenty to dislike about Takako, but, as Ohana finds out when she body-slams the deadbeat director (with the lovely touch of the cellphone playing a tinkling “Ride of the Valkyries”), she has some admirable points. I’m less thrilled with the whole Ko situation; I thought the two of them would have moved on already, but I’ll grant that the scene of Ko and Ohana’s mother watching the “movie” footage was touching (and again, undercut with humor). The encounter at the footbridge was a bit much, though the evening lights coming on (Ohana’s favorite time of day in Tokyo) was another lovely touch.

Okabe's got his mojo back.

I long ago lost track of what happens in each timeline of Steins;Gate, or what the alpha or beta lines signify, or who is whose dad. And I don’t understand why Okabe had to see Kurisu die first. As for all those failed attempts at rescuing Mayuri, I guess he had to undergo that to get to where he is now. Maybe. This takes away a little of the interest for me, but only a little. For over half the season now the show has really been about Okabe trying to save the people he loves. And now he might actually have a way to do it. His triumphant mad scientist declarations and laughter at episode 23’s end was wonderful to watch after so much failure and dread. So I don’t care if the finale won’t make any sense! Go, Hououin Kyouma! Proceed with Operation Skuld!

Ikoku no Meiro Croisée takes the idea of things being there because you want to see them and presents them through Yune’s eyes in two ways. One is the fabulous slide projector and moving picture toys Oscar finds in the storeroom which not only amuses delights Yune but Alice and a store full of locals as well. I’ll ignore the fact that certainly Alice ought to have seen one of those before—I’m a little surprised she doesn’t own one. The other use involves Claude and his father, sadly gone, and Claude’s inability to compare his work to his. We see the father through Claude’s eyes, and through Yune’s, another thing you see because you want to. So the metaphor goes, and so the episode.

Coach

One thing I’ll say about Kamisama no Memochou 9: at least Alice’s Eddie Gaedel tactic wasn’t the reason they won the game, I mean, just give up first to a tiny girl who can’t run that fast, or rather, to the cheerleader who pinch-ran for her. Instead they gave us an A.J. Pierzynski which, er, is almost as stupid. Naruma knowing that the 21st pitch would be a forkball was almost as bad.

A stampede for the climax is never a bad idea.

The Idolm@ster 8 feels like a movie comedy. It starts with mistaken identities and a valuable ring, adds goons, sidekicks, strangers, zoo animals and an oil tycoon, throws in searches and chases and ends with a stampede before everything gets sorted out. It could have gone farther with the craziness but as it is it’s pretty fun. This show is no masterpiece but it it continues to entertain above its roots. And once again, Makoto shows herself to be the coolest girl in the series. Watch her kung-fu on a ladder! Swoon as she slings ham and flings crockery!

Yuru Yuri takes some of the girls to Kyoto on a school outing, where they stay at a Japanese style inn with a hot spring. It’s mainly Kyoko running around like an idiot while Yui acts as the straight man, Ayano as the angry bystander, while Chitose nosebleeds a lot. Points deducted for not covering the following hot spring inn clichés: ping-pong, drinking milk, vibrating chairs and ghost stories.

A few more things I watched before I stop watching for a few days

Because I can, I will tell you some more of the things I’ve been watching before I take an actual vacation …

Idolm@ster 3 splits the story between the girls’ performance in the sticks, and Yukiho’s fear of men and dogs. The sticks part works all right. The girls adapt and help out in ways they didn’t anticipate. The other part had far too many Yukiho freakouts and bonding scenes and was dull as dirt, except for the performance. She gets the audience to respond to her. I’ve seen it before. Some performers like performing because they like the control they have over the crowd, full of people that they might not be able to handle one-on-one. But that’s my observation, and certainly not a reason to be watching this. Why AM I still watching this?

Okabe runs a lot but he never seems to get anywhere.

I know why I’m watching Steins;Gate. It’s excellent, though I’m so lost with all the time traveling that I don’t quite follow what’s going on anymore. Which is why I haven’t said anything about it. But a couple questions: first, what happens to the old timelines? Do they simply vanish or do they go on their merry way? So while characters regret things that they will lose when Okabe jumps, will those things carry on in other timelines? Second, I found an IBM 5100 on Ebay for about 8 grand, after 1 minute of searching. Why haven’t they thought of that? Maybe they don’t have the funds?

You have to ignore a lot of things in Uta no Prince-Sama in order to enjoy it. In episode 4 Ren was able to come up with a full arrangement for his lyrics in so short a time, and Haruka manages to find all those eeny-teeny bits of paper. Fortunately, the insert song is so forgettable that it’s safe to ignore it altogether. What’s maddening about this show is they give us a painful Ren flashback only to leave questions unanswered, i.e., why did his father hate his mother? And his dilemma about staying or going doesn’t work; does he slack off only because he was forced to come to that school? What triggered these thoughts about his mother? Not a very satisfying episode, even for this show.

In Kamisama Dolls 4 good scenes are followed by dumb ones, and by the end all the antagonists have been introduced to one another, to the regret of Kyohei.

Now that we're all gathered ...

Good scenes include the ones between Aki and mad-scientist wannabe Kuuko, who’s tied him up and attempts to torture him. They’ve both got a twisting obsession within them, but it’s not the same one, and it’s nice to see Aki taken aback by an outsider who’s just as crazy as he is. Dumb scenes include the completely unnecessary bath scene and the one where Aki enrages Kyohei by mentioning “Sensei,” causing Kyohei to go beserk. I hate this sort of thing, when the smug villain says THE BAD THING just to piss off the protagonist so he gets to say “See, we’re actually the same,” in order to justify his own psychotic actions. Like any of us DON’T have a very painful memory that causes us to react foolishly.

Worst of all is the kid who does the smug bit to little Utao, the one character who’s totally innocent. Apart from his voice and his size he’s playing an adult character. The fact he is indeed a kid just makes him more annoying. Unfortunately, he’s obviously going to be a long-term villain in this series, and he’s already started the “You’re the same as me” bullshit by announcing that he’s Kyohei’s brother. Sigh.

Bleh! Bluh-bluh-bluh-bluh!

“If there’s someone you want to see, you aren’t alone anymore.” That’s the message, I suppose, of Natsume Yuujinchou San 4, and I don’t buy it. Or maybe I’m thinking not about being alone, but being lonely, something both Natsume and the unnamed youkai of the week have suffered from.

At first we think the story will revolve around Natsume’s grandmother (or whatever she is) meeting an old elementary school classmate and resolving a little fight they have, but that turns out to simply be the theme for a story involving old friends and differences we remember. We watch it mainly through the youkai’s POV, and she’s a lot of fun. Frustrated by the fact that humans can’t see her, when she finds one that does she takes delight in scaring him whenever she can. Pretty childish behavior, but the youkai in this show are rarely models of maturity. So in spite of the problems she causes poor Natsume, I still enjoyed her antics, sitting in her tree, hrumphing her frustrations.

What she doesn’t realize is that she liked having Natsume around not because she could scare him, but because he could actually see her. Being bitter and immature meant she dealt with this the wrong way. It takes the boy Natsume lashing out at her (and an interlude where she becomes a cat and befriends him—did Natsume know all along?) and finally getting shunted away to the next relative before she realizes this. When she does it doesn’t help her mood one bit.

But even if she hasn’t matured, Natsume has. He knew they parted badly and goes out of his way to visit. It’s a simple ending which leads to the Natsume quote above. Okay, maybe you aren’t alone if you want to see someone, even if from time to time you pretend to the world, like Natsume and the youkai do, that people aren’t worth the trouble. It doesn’t make the loneliness go away. Natsume has learned that sometimes you can do something about that.

Nekogami Yaoyoruzu 3 is better than last week’s (I think. I don’t recall what it was about at all). The gang are enlisted to help Yukina, a manga artist and diviner, make a deadline when her familiars run out on her. So half the show is them making a mess of things, and the other half is them trying to capture the wayward familiars, and making a mess of things. They set up the idea of the cat goddess being useless and then forget all about it. There’s a nice bit where we read a bit of the manga and the characters do the dialogue. That’s about it.

Kagami's attempt at concealment actually works.

In Sacred Seven 4 Alma and Kagami must stop a darkstone from interfering with the school festival. With hilarious results. Well, not really. It looks like next week we’ll return to the drama with … a beach episode. Certain to be followed up by a hot spring episode, a karaoke episode, athletic festival episode, home center episode (To my knowledge, only HidaSketch and K-ON!! have had one. It’s underused cliché fodder), etc.

There, that’s done. Tomorrow I catch a train to do touristy stuff.