Nisemonogatari 3, the show with subsumed plot and brilliant conversations moves on. This time there might actually be a crisis.
It turns out what has led us to this point is all play. That is, all the girls play with Araragi-kun, and he plays back. They’re happy, he moves on. This time the play continues with Kanbaru, the sexual assault we saw last week is completely ignored or forgotten, or maybe some form of verbal play brought to the viewer through visuals. Because now they’re just sitting there, happy. The books seem to have been moved to help decorate the traditional gardens outside. They play a card game (competitive Kabaru is upset because she loses, moreso because Araragi doesn’t care) and this after playing Life and Twister with Sengoku, not counting the verbal play that is almost a constant in this series. This time the banter about who Araragi will marry and who will be his mistresses. Araragi gives his straight-man responses and eventually moves on.
And finally, there’s a palpable threat. A mysterious man named Kaiki is hanging outside Kanbaru’s house. He mutters things about truths, chats up Araragi a little, and saunters off. Everything about him is threatening. The blood-red colors and grumpy cellos have a lot to do it. It’s the first time all series that I began to worry about Araragi, especially when he decides to follow. What he discovers we don’t know. The next thing we know he’s running into Senjougaraha.
At first it’s the usual. She insults him, he takes it and scores the occasional point by correcting a reference or error of logic, which satisfies her. Again, more simple wordplay. She repeats again her old line about killing him and any girl he’s been unfaithful to her with, but we’ve heard it before. So has Araragi. We’re waiting for the next thing, mentioning Kaiki. Wham! Now we know who Senjougahara is protecting him from. But again, right now it’s all play. Araragi gets this answer out of her but now he’s at a loss. It isn’t until the real crisis happens that the show makes a shift. Something important to Araragi is in danger. He breaks out of the handcuffs easily. He could have the entire time. He didn’t because of his basic kindness and consideration, the thing he’s been showing to the girls since episode one. They wanted to play with him using their rules, for whatever reason. He was happy to play along. Turns out that he was using this same consideration the entire time he was chained up. Senjougahara hates and fears Kaiki and didn’t want Araragi involved. In her strange mind, that meant kidnapping him. He understood this and played along. But play time is over now. Interesting that Senjougahara tries a few verbal tricks to hold him back, and when she sees that it’s useless, she looks at him with love and admiration. In spite of circumstances in this show, it’s what you do and not how you talk that is the most important. Maybe that’s why all those fast-talking girls like Araragi. Now, if someone could tell me what that phone call at the end was all about …
I’m still looking for something bodacious in Moretsu Pirates and failing. In fact, every time something big is going to happen, someone says “Okay, not yet,” and the crisis goes away. This time the electronic warfare cliffhanger (hack attempt) goes away once the ship decides to fight back, though there was something about a button Marika pushed somewhere. As for the various orgainizations interested in abducting or killing Marika, they’re holding off until she becomes a pirate, so she can have a hand in the next privateer license negotiation, or something like that. Marika doesn’t understand it either, so it’s okay. After that there’s a nice scene with her dull friend about being dull, and then everything waits until she finishes her exams (there’s an entire scene for that). FINALLY the yacht club gets to go into space, where hair comes down in zero gravity, and the big crisis, where a mast deploys too early and gets tangled up with another. Kane and a half-dozen girls spacewalk (complete rookies, untethered, but the ship seems to have its own little gravity well, since they can stand on it) and fix it. Ta-dah! End of episode! Oh, we get hints from Kane and Misa about being watched and probably pursued, but chances are, the way this show is going, they will go away too.
In Thermae Romae … heh.. well, our hero Lucius invents a small indoor bath for a geezer, and discovers the concept of shower hats, all from the flat-faced people, ad all for the glory of Rome! Episode 4 is more amusing, as he is called on by Hadrian to build a relaxing bath and the miracle of modern-day Japanese toilets. I wonder what he would have done if he had pressed the bidet button instead? Once again the crude animation makes the whole thing even sillier. Next week it’s the grand finale! Will he become Hadrian’s new lover? What will happen to Lucius?!?!?!
The last of the new shows (for now): Papa no Iukoto wo Kikinasai, Inu x Boku, Daily Lives of High School Boys, Thermae Romae
Maybe I’ll call it Listen to Daddy; I can’t be bothered to write Papa no Iukoto wo Kikinasai (whoops). For a show set in the realistic present this is one of the odder first episodes I’ve seen. We have Yuuta, college freshman, beginning to do all the things college freshmen do, like get drunk off fumes, engaging in strange club initiation rituals for a club he had no intention of joining, having a guy move into his apartment against his will … When all of a sudden we jump to the family he’s left behind, his mother, a father-in-law who had two daughters from a previous marriage, plus a 2-year-old of their own, I think. A messy family life to contrast with his messy (but more typical) college life. It’s like two different shows, both good.
It’s fun watching Yuuta trying to manage his college career and half-heartedly chasing the beautiful and monumentally weird Raika (‘Yo-yo-yo’). It’s also fun watching him playing with his 3 year-old niece Hina, though with the oldest niece we, alas, have the perhaps inevitable scene where he walks in on her while she’s dressing (and he stands there in shock, not closing the door. Sigh). Apart from that bit, the family relationships are more complex than normal, and the show has already taken pains to show they will work with them seriously, which again, will make a good contrast to Yuuta’s college life and Yo-yo-yo. I’m very interested to see how this show works out.
After that mashup of two different story types, it’s a pleasure to go to the comparatively straightforward Inu x Boku, where we meet Ririchiyo, the poor little rich girl, and the latest in a line of small, young snarky ones. She’s moving into a highly secure apartment complex where just about every tenant has an SS agent protecting them. But we see some differences between Ririchiyo and Victorique, et al, from the start. First, she’s moving there because she wants to be alone, second, it’s clear early on that her snarkiness is an act, and she’s aware of it. What’s more, she doesn’t like her “bad habit.” Since she’s a lone protagonist and not a girl who’s brought mysteries, I guess we get this out of the way quick. Very soon she’s being overly-helped by a guy named Soushi, who declares his undying service to her and sparkles a lot when he complements her, which is most of the time. Ririchiyo, always with a rude remark, doesn’t know what to make of him. And so it proceeds. We meet other tenants and their guards, all of whom are amusing, and of course there’s more to this than the show lets on until the creators get tired of the mystery, I suppose, and introduce a random burglar who gets all the characters to reveal their true nature. Not bad. I’m not buying Ririchiyo’s reasons for moving to such a place, and their attempt to explain it during an internal monologue didn’t help; it was too long, too. But I like the characters, including Ririchiyo, and the way the show mocks itself–Soushi’s sparkly complement moments makes a nice running gag. The show’s worth viewing for a while, at least.
The Daily Lives of High School Boys is funny enough. It would be easy to compare it to the previous all-boy high school series Kimi to Boku, so I’ll do it. But rather than talking about the differences I’ll talk about one similarity. The boys in both series have way too much time on their hands and fill it with stupid activities. Whether you like their activities or find them consistent with your own high school life (which is perhaps why I brought up the “too much time” business) is up to you. It’s all done in short sketches so you have plenty of chances to compare. I can’t see any such boy trying on his sister’s uniform, or freaking out TOO much when you see your friend walking with a girl. On the other hand, Hidenori’s riverbank scene with “literary girl” struck home. Was that why I found that scene the funniest (even though they wind up being rather cruel to the poor girl)? While these boys aren’t really stupid, they don’t know enough about certain things. Tadakuni, Yoshitake, and Hidenori have seen the TV shows and movies we have and know how to play the roles (much of the humor comes from watching them do this), but they’re at a loss when forced to take it further.
2011 was an off year for NoitaminA. Their slice-of-life shows were mostly okay (I’m maybe the only one out there who was let down by AnoHana), but everything else besides UN-GO were unimaginative SF clichés or downright messes. What’s worse, they were mostly shows with no imagination. So it’s a relief that they kick off with Thermae Romae for a couple of weeks before switching to, sigh, Black Rock Shooter. Our hero, Lucious, is an unemployed Roman architect who gets sucked down a mysterious drain into modern-day Japan bath houses, where he learns the innovations and returns, just as mysteriously, to Rome. The first two 15-minute episodes are amusing. Luscious is taken aback by the “flat-faced” foreigners who suddenly surround him, and the Japanese are amused by the foreigner’s naivite. Have some fruit milk, Lucious! Have an egg and some sake! Look out for the monkeys! It’s made funnier by the crude animation and cutouts. Lucious is usually in close-up, looking almost like a statue, maybe switching expressions once or twice. Terry Gilliam’s MP work had a bigger budget. A good way to kill a few minutes and get a little education on bath houses in general. It won’t make any best-of-the-year lists, but at least it shows that someone in noitaminA still has the fortitude to do something different.