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Finales: Tiger and Bunny, Sacred Seven

September 19, 2011 Leave a comment

Tiger and Bunny 23 ended with Kotetsu dead and Maverick still free. Episode 24 contains many of the cliches that final episodes do, but has a thoroughly happy, though silly ending. I’m satisfied. That’s all I really wanted from this show.

What's worse than an H-01?

It didn’t start well. First we get a recap of the death scene, leaving out Barnaby’s tearful wild rice line, not to mention Kotetsu’s eyelashes one (hey, producers! What about your yaoi fans?). Then they have to interrupt the death scene because Maverick has more up his sleeve. And I got worried. Last week’s episode had a long stretch of heroes losing and things getting grim. You need these moments of course, but they went on and on with it, countless shots of the good guys fighting and losing until I started to check my watch. This week was more of the same, at least for a couple of minutes. But then, out of despair, the show remembered that old trick of side characters showing up, erasing one threat, giving a pithy speech, then stepping aside for the next side character. When they do it well, like here, it’s irresistible.

First, there’s Saito finding the H-01’s safety code. I had forgotten about them. Then Agnes appears on a helicopter and exposes Maverick’s lies. I hadn’t forgotten about her, I had simply not counted her as in on the action. And if her explanation seems a little lame, well, showing up in a helicopter helps us ignore it. Also, Agnes is the show’s most amoral character. I could even see her going along with Maverick’s game if it brought her show ratings, but exposing the game is an even bigger scoop. But the most satisfying moment was the return of Kotetsu. Never mind that he was dead and just got back up again, or that shrewd little Kaede allowed herself to be held hostage by Maverick. It was handled perfectly. Maverick has a gun to Kaede’s head, we see A shadow on the edge of the screen, and after he slugs Maverick he starts to talk, and we realize that he’s the same good-hearted doofus he always was.

Too bad the show had ten minutes left. They tie up loose ends and forget others. Lunatic takes care of Maverick. Barnaby remembers his parents and why he became a hero, but everyone has forgotten the dead housekeeper. Kotetsu retires but returns like an aging veteran who misses the game (nice touch). It’s all a bit messy. And I was never warm to Barnaby’s plight, anyway. I really never cared about his parents or anything in his life. It made him one-dimensional. Kotetsu on the other hand was a full-fledged character with several sides to him. He was an outstanding anime character and I will miss him. Other quibbles: though some of the side characters got stories, not all of them did. What about Rock Bison? It seems like they were afraid to touch Fire Emblem, but I wonder what Sternbild’s gay community thinks about having an hero who was out, but at the same time, so flaming … I had to throw that joke in once. Both these heroes deserved more time as opposed to Sky High, whose episode simply showed that he was a fool. Also, while we got plenty of chances to see them use their powers, we rarely saw them succeed. Usually their abilities were shown only so we can see that the enemy negate them.

So, okay, an uneven series, but if I gripe about things they didn’t do well it’s only because the show set a high standard. It was fun to watch the desire to do good in the world bounce off a modern, corporate environment. Kotetsu grounded the improbablies with his amiable bumbling. And if some of the stories were unbelievable or inane, well, this IS a superhero cartoon. Well done.

Unlike Tiger and Bunny, Sacred Seven did not have 25 episodes to work with, so the characters had less time to make an impact, not to say they would develop a character to Kotetsu’s level. And the magic-rock world they tried to make was even sillier than superheroes are, but they did a decent job with the time and materials they had.

Kenmi’s powered up, Knight is fighting him, unaware that it’s one of those “absorb the power of the attacks” dealies and that he’s just making him stronger. Fei, used as a hostage, tossed around like a rag doll, gets a little angry and becomes the cutest super-robot you ever saw, and she goes off and inadvertantly increases Kenmi’s strength, so he’s now an armored lizard who likes to give evil speeches. Meanwhile, Ruri tells Tandoji that the power’s always been within himself … sigh, all those precious stones they didn’t have to use … and he goes off to fight, which of course makes Kenmi stronger, so NOW he’s a GOLDEN armored lizard, and invincible, until Kenmi runs around the mountain a few dozen times to build up his speed and clobbers him. Before Kenmi dies he plants the “core of evil” into Fei, and now we got a new battle.

This one’s more about damage control than killing villains. We get a lot of quick flashbacks to touching moments while Tandoji talks to Fei through the crystal wall until Knight can get in and give her a hug. And it’s over. Oh, and Aoi woke up. Okay, this series got silly a lot, I never bought into anyone’s tragic backstory, and I got tired of Hellbrick tossing the word “hell” into every one of his sentences. But the action scenes were fast and fluid, and they created some nice imagery based on the geological theme. This series could have been a lot worse.

Steins;Gate finale, and other shows.

September 14, 2011 Leave a comment

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: Croisee, Natsume, Tiger/Bunny, etc.

September 4, 2011 Leave a comment

I should have posted this before my weekend from hell began and I got too busy (Labor Day Weekend? I wish. Weekends are my busiest time around here). Once again, while I write about these episodes, new ones appear.

Ikoku Meiro no Croisée 9, sorry, partie neuf, continues with the little tea party as the adults muse on the past and what separated Camille and Claude, as if we hadn’t figured it out. We see scenes of the kids having fun together, and then Camille begins to pull away, while Claude remains the boy he always was. She’s still a child at this point, so we can perhaps write off her standoffish behavior as a byproduct of her environment, but, taking into account that these are selected memories, it comes off as abrupt. Last week’s star, Alice, mostly stays out of sight after a humorous attempt at a Japanese tea ceremony with the ever-patient Yune. And at the end we get a cryptic conversation about why Camille wears corsets, i.e., why she allows herself to be constrained by her surroundings, what she gets in return, but while all fingers point to Claude, I’m having trouble making the connection.

Natsume Yuujinchou usually sums up each week’s episode at the end, as seen above, but I don’t know about the road it took. There’s a youkai that’s inhabiting a small rock, then various people, trying to get close to Natsume. When it does, it asks “What’s your secret?” Himoe (after kicking the damn thing out a window—nothing like a direct approach) says the thing had probably spent hundreds of years in a riverbed and is curious about things, and that it’s pretty nasty. Since the episode occurs during the school cultural festival, I thought it would look around and actually SEE what it’s been missing, but it still goes after Natsume. His secret is, of course, his abilities, which he could probably just tell the thing … Never mind. The episode is full of joyous little moments showing just how much Natsume has changed, from spooky kid to a nice one who sometimes acts a little weird and falls over a lot, sometimes off bridges into rivers, and has loads of friends who don’t care if he’s a little weird. The show is in danger of overdoing these moments, but for the time being I smile when the people (or youkai) he’s trying to protect try to protect him back.

I don't think the thumbs-up is going to work, Kotetsu.

I suspected for a couple episodes that Kaede would play a bigger role in Tiger and Bunny; you don’t give someone super powers and don’t let them use them, but I’m disappointed that she was used as a deus ex machina. I had rather hoped that Kotetsu would fix the heroes’ memories by himself. On the other hand, Kotetsu is such a great (but entertaining) doofus that it makes sense that he’d need help. And my disappointment was further assuaged by how she got those particular powers in the first place, a seemingly inconsequential scene (but scary at the time, since we couldn’t know if Maverick knew the girl at first.) from last episode. After that the episode fumbled around, trying to arrange for Kotetsu and Barnaby to get alone for their big showdown, and I had plenty of time to consider all the flaws in Maverick’s evil plan, again. All the people he missed, not taking care of Kotetsu’s family, or his former manager … sigh.

Thanks, Switch. I was actually curious about that.

Judging from the online places I look at, I think I am the only person watching SKET Dance. I wonder why that is. It’s not a bad show; it’s better than a lot of the stuff running now. Like too many comedies it can indulge in the maudlin and not easily climb out, but usually it’s fast and funny. It has quick dialogue, well-done by the voice actors, sly jokes about manga and anime, and likes to break the fourth wall (see above) if there’s a gag in it. Episode 21 was slightly different, more serious, as Switch and Reiko the occult girl go off to buy a laptop. They talk sense about their differences and appearances, and good-naturedly bicker. Reiko does get a makeover, but both agree that it’s not really “her.” There are just enough jokes (often supplied by the other team members, who are tailing them) to keep the episode from getting too normal.

Some good battle scenes, though.

No.6 continues to annoy. The episode itself was pretty interesting, what with Sion and Rat getting themselves captured to get into the correctional facility, Yoming ready to give a rebellion signal through the Internet, and Safu meeting Elyurias, but the setup’s flaws continue to distract. Yoning’s intended use of the Internet is just lazy thinking on the writers’ part, surely by that time the webs would have been superceded by something else, but then again, Yoming’s whole being is lazy, as is the idea that Karan can seemingly talk to anyone without worry of eavesdropping. Well, the whole city is a product of lazy thinking, too. How on Earth did it get that way? And is Elyurias going to be the Deux ex Machina? Hey! That’s it! I predict that Safu will prove to be one of the forest people, which is why she can meet Elyurias, and moreover, she’s Rat’s sister! Okay, maybe not, but it can’t be any worse than what the show has planned for its (I assume) final two episodes.

And finally, I can’t resist this romantic screenshot:

Nerd love.