Summer 2013 #7: where I marathon the rest because I’m hopelessly behind.

A human is a curiosity in the demon world.
A human is a curiosity in the demon world.

Blood Lad turns out to be better than I had thought. From the picture I saw I thought it would be a bunch of stylish modern-day vampires, all smirking bishies of course, but instead we got a comedy about a boss in the demon world (Staz) who has a thing for Japanese pop culture (Eww!) and flips out when a real live human girl (Fuyumi) stumbles from out of nowhere onto his turf … and gets eaten, though that’s not apparently permanent if Staz can work the right magic, if he can travel to Earth, where he’ll be distracted by the pop culture, etc etc. I didn’t really laugh anywhere but I was smiling most of the way through. There are smart, funny moments in almost every scene. Staz is a good combination of cool, capable demon boss and uncool fanboy, and his rapport with his top minion Deku was fun to watch. Fuyumi, being eaten and turned into a ghost, is harder to read right now. A good start.

… and this is the point where I fell even farther behind, due to real life, so I’m going to push through the remaining shows on my list as quickly as I can. Since I’m already two episodes behind that dog and scissors show.

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Makai Ouji – Devils and Realist is about a rich kid named William who doesn’t believe in the occult and then learns he’s a direct descendant of Solomon and thus an “elector” and hot property for all those bishie demons out there who want him to elect them to Lucifer’s job. Episode one had a few good moments. They keep it as light as possible in a story where demons battle using all those gothic trappings. Both servants were entertaining in their butlery way. But William’s denial of the evidence got on my nerves really quickly. This is, by the way, the second show this season where you have turf wars in the demon world. I’m going to pass.

Oh, crap, she remembers everything.
Oh, crap, she remembers everything.

I thought I knew what I was getting into with the third season of The World God Only Knows, but threw something new at me. The reason for it is unclear (or pointless), but the girls Keima saved before are beginning to remember their time with him, and he’s got to sort it out or demons will take over the world, I think. Since the episode ends with an angel (a ditzy version of Kanon who calls herself Apollo) getting stabbed, it’s serious business, more serious than this show usually is. I’m more interested in the repercussions for Keima, however. It was certainly convenient, sort of a male fantasy, to be able to get girls and then have them conveniently forget after he gets them so he can move on, but now Keima is faced with all his conquests suddenly remembering that they are in love with him. It’s also a dilemma because beneath it all Keima’s a decent person. Looks like I’ll have to keep watching for a while.

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Next I got to one of the most anticipated new series of the season: Watashi ga Motenai … hell, I’ll call it Watamote like everyone else. The question after episode one is whether we’re just going to watch Tomoko go and fail every episode (no fun to watch) or will she somehow make friends (like all those other shows, therefore boring)? It’s definitely worth watching to see. Tomoko is charming in a weird, bitter, nearly feral way (nice voice work by Izumi Kitta), and if she has some unpleasant thoughts toward people who haven’t shown any animosity toward her, don’t we all at times when we feel vulnerable socially? I also like how it looks, and the weird effects Tomoko causes with her imagination. I’m happy to keep this for now.

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Gin no Saji, or Silver Spoon. Not bad. It’s nice to see a different kind of high school life for a change, especially after Watamote and its depressing view of it. Episode one is a fish-out-of-water type as our hero, Hachiken, experiences his first full day at the agricultural high school he inexplicably signed up for, and in spite of that, it’s not bad. Hachiken seems adaptable, and the classmates don’t seem like an unpleasant lot. But considering the amount of poop, drool, chicken anuses and blood that we see, maybe I shouldn’t have watched this right before dinner.

Three out of the four main girls.  It wasn't worth finding a screenshot with all of them.
Three out of the four main girls. It wasn’t worth finding a screenshot with all of them.

Hyperdimension Neptunia … dumb, confusing and just bad.

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I decided not to try Gatchaman Crowds. Which leaves me with Kimi no Iru Machi, either a serious love story or a harem series pretending to be one. I wasn’t crazy about the first episode, where this guy named Haruko transfers to a high school in Tokyo in order to see a girl who apparently dumped him, or just left, we don’t know. He stays with his sister and has a crazy classmate living next door who hates him at first, but since then has been giving him sidelong glances. In fact, the episode gives us a lot of glances. It jumps from one closeup to another of some odd thing in the room until I wanted to shout at the show to give us a normal angle of something for a change. Also, in case the thought of a “serious” love story is tempting, it also gives us a number of glances at panties, bikini bottoms, and other things that wreck the romantic mood they are trying to set. And the joking about characters’ accents got old quickly. I think I’ll drop this one, too.

I think that’s it, at least of the shows I wanted to try. Next I’ll have to figure out which ones to write about and which ones to just watch.

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Some quick summaries before I go …

Since I have a bit of time, like another day or two, I can post some more. But my computer setup is more frustrating, so it’s not going to be the usual routine.

Kuragehime 8 moved Shuu’s story along nicely, thanks to the greed of the chauffeur and a misdialed number. So not only is Shuu and the girl being tailed, but Shuu knows all about it. At the moment it feels like a completely different story from Tsukimi’s. Kuranosuke is getting more ludicrous in his money-making schemes and in the end announces he’ll make a wedding dress for Tsukimi and they’ll make millions. Tsukimi rightly thinks he’s out of his mind. On the other hand we get the sweet moment pictured above.

I don’t have access to any notes, or Google, I don’t know how I’m going to write about A Certain Magical Index 10 coherently. Um, Touma and Orliana fight. Orliana doesn’t use a spell twice, which will be her undoing in the next battle. Then, when we learn that Academy City is going to be claimed by the Roman Catholics when they stick St. Peter’s Cross into the ground, changing reality and everything. Touma responds to this by meeting up with Index and getting introduced to Misaka’s mother.

It’s more Shiori slowness in The World God Only Knows 10. Endless quiet bits where she struggles to say a word. And we get another waltz-music interlude; this time she turns into a naked fairy. That livened things up a bit. Keima rattles her by dissing books. And slow progress is made. She accidentally flips her inner and outer voices and actually has a conversation of sorts with him. Meanwhile Elsie is still enamored with fire trucks.

Shiki 18, God Only Knows 9

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?

Three Eights: God Only Knows, Arakawa, Arterial

The World God Only Knows 8 is a silly filler episode in 3-4 parts which intertwine, but it doesn’t work very well.

In part one Elsie has quite rightly realized she’s pretty useless and decides to counterattack by making Teima a delicious strawberry cake, using her own ingredients. I don’t bake much, but I can understand how frustrating it is when one of the eggs you were going to use hatches to reveal a fearsome mandragon which proceeds to wreak havoc.

We then follow Teima through the same timeline, wondering where Elsie went, playing his games and being harassed by his teacher. There’s nothing much to this. He spends a lot of time reacting to the residue of Elsie’s cooking adventures and wondering why the world keeps dumping on him. And we move on to his mother, who spots the mandragon and later hears a burglar and brains Keima with a vase. The mandragon chases away the annoying teacher, the mandragon gets eaten by Elsie’s bento, and that’s it. The series’ previous filler episode was much better.

Arakawa Under the Bridge x Bridge 8 reintroduces us to the tall, strong, yet girly Amazoness. At first Rec is overjoyed because no one believed he ever saw her. Then things take a troubling turn when her assistants hypnotize him into falling in love with her.

P-ko and Hoshi are appalled, though naturally Hoshi sees this as a way to break Rec and Nino up. Nino doesn’t get it. It takes the Amazoness’s next step to push things to crisis mode, as, under the hypnotism, he learns that she has been arrested, and that could only mean a cry for help, right? So he runs off to Amazon jail, rescues, and marries her. Here’s where it gets interesting. Nino rightfully punches him, then squares off against her giant rival. We wonder what sort of battle they’ll have. Naturally, it’s a weird one.

Nino then adds height to size and Rec’s lecture on volume in a container (which she attended) now makes sense. Her love is HUGE. Plus, she is too confident and big-hearted to hate the Amazoness, and proves it by giving her a hand when the Amazoness collapses. The Amazoness tells her that if she is sickly, Rec would protect her. Nino replies that she protects Rec. So we see another sweet angle of the Rec/Nino relationship.

Last week Fortune Arterial finally started working on the plot, and by the end of episode 8 it has tangled up much of what we’ve seen before into a bizarre knot. We start with Erika having unpleasant vampire dreams, and a girl spots a vampire jumping around campus. Soon the student body is frightened. Okay, so Erika is doing vampire-y stuff in her sleep, right? Even Erika seems to think this possible. But it’s not that simple. We learn who the vampire is.

Nice curveball.

Someone I did not suspect: Kiriha Kuze. Okay, she’s had some time in the spotlight, but mostly she’s been on the outside of events. A cold person, but decent. It didn’t occur to me to suspect her. What’s more, she isn’t just jumping around getting vampire exercise, she seems to be seeking a master, or something. We don’t get explanation, but since the next episode is named “Servant” I don’t think we’ll have to wait long. But the story’s just getting started. Haruna hears a noise, sees Erika chasing Kiriha, and, in typical horror-victim fashion, goes out to investigate, only to run into Erika in her glowing-eyed vampire mode. Erika is exposed as a vampire! Another complication! The series is making up for lost time.

And they’re STILL not done! As good a friend as Haruna is, the vampires know they can’t take the risk of being discovered. It’s one of the few times I’ve seen Lori so serious about anything. So it’s time for the memory-loss trick. Erika, if you please? And we get a new whammy. This isn’t the first time Erika has taken her memories away. In fact, it’s the reason Haruna cannot remember Kohei’s first visit to the island. Geez, the episode is dumping EVERYTHING on us! And then we have the moral dilemma. Erika doesn’t want to do it, but she must. Kohei pleads with her. How can she do that to a trusted friend? This leads to an absolutely lovely moment I won’t spoil here. I’ll just say that Fortune Arterial, to my surprise, can indeed deliver big plot points and make them work. I don’t know if it makes up for the wasted episodes but it’ll keep me watching next week.

Arakawa x 2 and God Only Knows 7

Once again, in Arakawa Under the Bridge x Bridge, the show works better when Ric cooperates with the other bridge folk, rather than just reacting to them. On the other hand, this episode wasn’t much anyway.

Shiro and the Mayor have an argument over who will live longest, and so Ric’s company brings in some diagnostic equipment. Everyone has a moment of predictable weirdness. It picks up a little when, in another battle to win Nino’s sympathy, Ric and Hoshi begin to fake illnesses. And this is turned upside down because, if they’re sick, they’ll be unable to go into space with her. So a typical medical exam turns into an astronaut preparedness session. The boys and girls will each spend seven days underground.

So I’m expecting the girls will get along great down there, and the guys will not, so predictably it will actually work the other way around. I was right. Jacqueline can’t handle being without Billy (so she sneaks into the guys’ group dressed as the Mayor), Maria snaps with no one to tease, Stella needs a body to test her new finishing move on, etc. The guys get through it either through mental discipline or going stark raving mad in a girly way. The show’s unpredictability has become predictable, with some small variations.

Really, the three-episode arc that concludes with The World God Only Knows 7 was more like 2.5 episodes.

Kanon's past self could be a little more reassuring.

And it was predictable to boot. We are told that Kanon has two problems. She doesn’t think she can entertain ten thousand fans at a concert, and if she doesn’t the world will turn its back on her and she will disappear again. The first problem seems to be simple stage fright. The second one is more of a danger to her happiness. To make it worse for Keima, she reacts to this double-whammy by disappearing anyway. We get a lot of scenes of people looking for her, Keima included, and then it turns out Elsie can track her down by sensing the lost soul inside her. Nice work, Elsie! I wish you could have thought of this before we had all those searching scenes (then it would have been a 2.25 episode story arc).

The subsequent scene between Keima and Kanon (surprise, she was just down the road!) is only partly satisfying. Keima tells her what her problem is, she moves in to kiss him, but he refuses it. He knows she’s still in danger of vanishing if she doesn’t see she doesn’t need other people to validate her. Another lecture. That part worked pretty well. What didn’t is that Kanon is instantly cured! Her lost soul flies out to get captured by Elsie and she happily returns just in time for her concert to begin. Well, maybe it was the lost soul causing the problem, but it seems to me to be more of a pathological need that you cant cure in one therapy session. But whatever.

The reason the story ended so soon is so they could bring us the concert, including two entire songs. There’s not much visually or musically to these scenes, but they’re enhanced by the fact that she’s happily holding her own in a solo concert for a huge audience. Not only that, but she’s overjoyed that her two former group-mates each sent her good luck flowers, a nice touch. The same when, after everyone’s gone, she goes onstage and sings a bit of a song her old group recorded. When you combine music and story together it usually has an effect on me, even in silly shows like this one.

God Only Knows 6, Amagami 19

By the end of The World God Only Knows 6, Keima announces that he has seen the ending to the Kanon arc. I wish he would tell us. Because I have no idea.

We start with the Keima and Elsie trying to figure out where the hell Kanon disappeared (literally) to. Kanon ruins the speculation by half-reappearing and threatening Keima with her cute stun-gun before walking off. I’m afraid we’re never going to get an answer to this rather mystical phenomenon as the story continues as nothing had happened, only now and then she gets a little transparent. We’re given a scene of her screwing up during a live song because an audience member was busy texting, and others from the past showing her being ignored, not out of meanness, but because she doesn’t stand out. But we had kind of figured out her motivations already.

So she’s afraid of being ignored, and that pathologically works in with her growing idol status. It takes Keima to take the next step. He slips her his phone number and suddenly she won’t leave him alone, texting him whenever something however tiny goes wrong. That’s good that Keima has become her friend, her only one, but bad because the constant messaging is driving poor Keima mad. Meanwhile he plays a PFP game where a singer character tells him she is singing only for him. Sounds good enough. Give Kanon a love she can devote her music to.

But it can’t be easy. There are plenty of people out there willing to praise her every move if she turns to them, and, unlike Keima, they wouldn’t be lying. And there are other clues, like the fans Elsie meets, the scene where Keima’s mother scolds Elsie for coming home late, stuff that doesn’t yet add up. And so, right before a big concert, she disappears again. That’s when Keima announces that he sees the ending. I wish I could. Still, it was a good episode. We see Kanon’s situation from a number of perspectives, including the superficial one the media gives us. It rarely slowed down. This is turning into a pretty good series.

Amagami SS 19 accomplishes absolutely nothing in terms of bringing Junichi and Rihoko closer together, but it’s not a bad episode.

The problem is that our would-be couple are already pretty close. They hang out with the tea club (giving us more quality time with Ruriko and Manaka), they go to Kaoru’s restaurant, there are countless references to the diet. Plus we visit other characters. Ai is assigned the duty of “maintaining the traditional flavor of the swim team,” (that always cracks me up), a great honor. Miya, Sai and Ai hang out. The teacher apologizes for her Founders’ Day drunkenness, which seems to be an annual event in itself. Masayoshi is tickled that Miya answered the phone wearing nothing but a towel. None of it meaning anything, all of it cheerful.

La-la-la-la-la-la La!

There are a couple of events. Rihoko asks Junichi out for a New Years Eve shrine visit, and he agrees. I guess this could be called a date, but Junichi says “yes” so matter-of-factly that it’s hard to think of it that way. Oh, and when she shows up he’s just come out of the bath and drops the towel. Even that moment of drama (if that’s the word) is passed by with no consequences. There’s a charming bit where Miya and Rihoko pretend to be idols. Junichi has learned to make good tea. Again, nothing is accomplished. Rihoko can’t even stay on her diet. Yet it’s all good. Maybe, as Junichi says, refined.

God Only Knows 5, Amagami 18, Arterial 5

The World God Only Knows 5 brings us Kanon, an idol singer, who, in an incredible coincidence, just happens to be in Keima and Elsie’s class.

Elsie and the rest of the school adore her. Keima couldn’t care less, and in a long sequence involving Nazi-style rallies, makes it very clear why he prefers 2D idols. The trouble is, while Kanon is nice and sweet to everyone, she has a desperate need to be, er, idolized, and she has weapons (the cutest stun-guns you’ve ever seen!) to make her point, which Keima painfully learns. It comes as no surprise who this week’s girl is. So while Kanon alternately threatens and sings to Keima to win him over (or as she says, to “defeat” him), he works out his own strategy.

Right now we don’t have any clear reason as to why Kanon acts this way. Her manager says she didn’t use to. It could be the lost soul. We see a lot of her at work; everyone praises her every move, and of course her fans adore her. Keima’s indifference certainly gets a rise out of her. But how is he going to turn that into love? It’s a good challenge for him, but then the episode’s end takes a turn into real strangeness, and it might all be moot.

I’m still not in love with the current Amagami SS story arc. But it’s livened up by a couple characters.

Ruriko and Manaka are seniors in the Tea Club, which is in danger of folding after they graduate. The only other person in it is Rihoko (someone I wouldn’t imagine in such a formal situation). In order to attract more members, and because they see Rihoko’s attraction to Junichi, they shanghai him into helping the club with the Founders’ Day ceremonies. It’s a good thing, too. Junichi and Rihoko are making no progress with each other. They’re not really trying. It’s like they’re not even aware. So the show uses other characters to push them together. It helps that the Tea Club girls have a strange but entertaining rapport, Ruriko is the snarky one, Manaka the cryptic one.

Junichi knows what to say to a girl, sometimes ...

But they can’t save the arc by themselves. Junichi and Rihoko do their normal things. They go skating, they talk about their childhood, they talk about the Tea Club. It’s just not very exciting. There’s a sweet moment when Rihoko gives Junichi gloves she knitted for him, but that’s about it. It’s not like I expect dramatics in every scene, especially in this show, but this arc just seems duller than usual. At least they got away from Rihoko obsessing about her weight …

I think the vampire story in Fortune Arterial gave up and went home. This episode is all about the athletic festival and trying to get one grump to participate. The festival goes off with only a minor hitch or two.

They run out of prizes and have to beg sponsors for more. There’s an amusing moment when Kohei is forced to announce a race. Everybody’s having fun, except for Kuze, who indifferently runs her races then wanders off to pet a cat. We get a lot of moments where Kohei just stands there looking at her. There’s a cryptic conversation where she says she doesn’t refuse to do things because she doesn’t like them, well, I don’t know what she’s thinking. Kohei just wants her to join in the fun. Finally she is talked into participating in the three-legged race (with a costume change at the end).

And we get a lot of her being embarrassed and fighting down the fact that she had fun and people had a good time with her. In other words, it was just another athletic festival episode. And it wasn’t bad, not on the level of the one in Toradora, or the Azumanga trilogy, but I’ve seen worse. But again, no vampires. They don’t even use the word. Are they setting us up for something?