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Trapeze Finale, Cross Game 38

December 30, 2009 Leave a comment

Trapeze finishes with a bang. This time around we revisit the household of Yuta, the cell-phone kid, and examine his father, Tsuda, and to a lesser extent, his mother. Tsuda is an overworked ER physician with little time for his wife and son, and the early scenes take on a darker, more desperate tone than we’re used to. We see how busy he is at work, and we see how his domestic situation is falling apart because of his absence. It’s an effective look of how a person’s illness can affect the entire family, and a bit of a branching out for this show.

There are a couple changes in format. Tsuda gets his shot but doesn’t turn into anything, Fukuicchi hardly appears at all, and Irabu hardly DOES anything at all (apart from helping him give a kid a shot). Well, that’s not new, but usually Irabu follows the patient around to pester him, or whatever he’s up to. Here he consults with Tsuda a couple times, Mayumi says a few tart things, and that’s about it. Probably because Tsuda isn’t really sick, even though he finds himself repeatedly screaming in a bathroom stall out of frustration every time his distraught wife calls …

Note the ugly splotches on the wall. They weren't there before.

Instead Irabu waits and trusts in Tsuda to make the connection. There’s been a bewildering canary-based theme to this episode, and now we learn what it’s for. Not to mention a nice return to the Christmas party from Yuta’s ep6, where Mayumi sends him home to be with his family. Leave it to Mayumi to give the most practical help.

Both Tsuda and his son get the help they need. Thanks to canaries.

The Three Doctors.

I’m going to miss Trapeze. Not all the episodes worked, but the ones that did inspired a loony joy in me that I don’t think any upcoming show will be capable of doing. And if any of you feel you are in the need of counseling, remember the words of Dr. Fukuicchi:

Thank you again, Dr. Fukuicchi, and Mayumi (for all the shots).

Cross Game isn’t ending, and nothing could make me happier. Unlike the last two, Ep38 doesn’t deal with anything specific. It’s scattershot, pushing little plot points a teeny little bit further. Some little scenes are there for no reason at all, like a brief moment of Akaishi blowing bubble gum on a park bench while cats meow at him. Perhaps he was thinking of Akane. This show will have little moments where people are just sitting there, thinking. Other bits are more ominous:

Boo! Hiss!

I lied. With all the bits and asides going on (Aoba leaves the hospital, Momiji enters middle school, gathering data on other high school teams …), we do have a sort of theme: two dates. The first one, of course, is Kou and Akane’s visit to the Kabuki show. It just sort of happens. Kou isn’t one to talk out, which is both frustrating and part of his charm, but he does admit to Akaishi that he’s completely comfortable around Akane. Meanwhile, she definitely seems interested in Kou.

Which leads us to the second date. Azuma loses a bet to Aoba and has to buy her ramen, and off they go, leaving the other players astonished. Maybe there’s a budding romance going on there, too?

I'm neutral with the pairings, but this just doesn't look right.

Kou, as usual says nothing, but as the image above shows, it’s obvious that he’s affected by the thought. But who’s waiting at the station for him? Akane! With a little gift. One of the joys of this show is you don’t really know who will wind up with whom, or if they’ll wind up together at all. It’s all part of the bigger show, and it has a ways to go yet.

Categories: Cross Game, Trapeze

Seitokai 11, Trapeze 10

December 19, 2009 Leave a comment

Because of its lack of plot and predilection towards quick, meaningless gags, sometimes it’s hard to find anything to say about Seitokai no Ichizon. Ironically the girls in episode eleven have a hard time thinking up anything, too, because Ken is out with a fever. But they somehow manage get through an afternoon of silly talk, though it wears them out.

Let’s see, they talk part-time jobs, discuss what’s in Ken’s bag, but mainly they talk about how it’s not as fun with Ken around. So they decide to visit him. I’ve said before that the show doesn’t work as well when it gets serious or sentimental, but here’s an exception. In spite of Ken’s antics, they do worry about him. Their concern comes off as sweet and honest. Especially Mafuyu’s, even when they encounter two losers boys who knew Ken from middle school and rag on his past transgressions.

Which leads to a surprising confession by Mafuyu. Now, all episode they had been leading toward this, beginning with a confusing dual scene where Ken is either chatting online with someone named Snow or is comforted by Mafuyu IN the snow, but the “I love you” still comes as a shock, especially when there’s only one ep left. Seitokai being what it is they might just ignore it.

Not a bad episode, but the show indeed suffers when Ken isn’t around.

Well, I thought I had wrapped up the episode tens, but I still had Trapeze (and Fairy Tail).

Trapeze 10 is one of its best. Newspaper mogul and baseball owner Tanabe is suffering from panic disorder, possibly brought about by flashbulbs going off, an unavoidable occurance for a public figure like himself. The fact that he’s cured of it isn’t what’s amazing (well, in this show, it kind of is), it’s how it happens, and the fact that the whole show was leading me on.

Irabu starts by trying an experiment even he couldn’t screw up, turning off all the lights, and then, er, screwing it up. Even Mayumi is surprised.

The doctor at work.

As usual he follows Tanabe around in his ever-shifting guises, and I’m beginning to see the reason for this. I thought it was simply because he was weird, but actually he’s trying to present his patients with opportunities to help themselves. Most of the time it leads to nothing, but it only has to work once. He does this by helping Tanabe escape the press by driving him away in his convertible, rather than the dark threatening limo, and Tanabe sees a bit of Tokyo.

Here’s where it gets interesting. Tanabe is shown as young and vital, seeming not really needing that cane he walks with. Japan, he says, is not grown up. There are things he needs to do. Yet the memories that come with his attacks are of an older Japan, starting from just after the war. And here’s where the lovely bits start. As they drive along, seeing familiar sights, Tanabe remembers how things were before and the things he did. And I finally realized the deliberate disconnect between what we’re shown and how things actually are. It’s one of the series’ best sequences.

Disconnect.

In addition we get the usual wild attempts at therapy, the weird and funny imagery, and a ton of self-references. I caught: Bandooo!, Nomora, Ikeyama, the Yakuza guy, the Reporter, and that book appears again. And it’s all good.

I Quarrel with Letter Bee 10, Seitokai 10 and Trapeze 9

December 14, 2009 Leave a comment

For those of you who were tired of backstory in the last episode, Letter Bee 10 is mostly backstory again, even with it being Lag’s first official day on the job.

Lag and his brand spankin' new letter carrier togs.

Aria tells us what happened, let’s see, 12 years ago on day 311 or something like that, when the artificial sun that puts the entire country in a weird twilight decided to flicker a little.

I find this interesting. Are we to suppose that their planet hasn’t a genuine sun anymore? Or the fact that it was night simply mean it was really night? If they had waited, would the real sun have come up? But it would come up anyway, and I have a feeling it would overwhelm the artificial light’s sun. So … no sun? What happened to it? Or am I worrying too much? You see, all this time I assumed that the fake sun was there to mask something the empire doesn’t want them to know. Well, I still believe this. Will it ever be explained?

And there’s a lot to explain! Gauche had been staring right at the sun when it flickered and he loses part of his heart, while Sylvette was born at the same time. And so was Lag. And a dirigible crashes, the biggest WTF moment of the ep. This backstory, at least, is full of questions and weirdness. So later, when Lag helps other Bees wipe out giant beetles with guns that shoot out part of their hearts, all I could think was: “Ah, back to normal.”

Seitokai no Ichizon knows what it is and what it is not. It’s a show full of interrelated vignettes that can head off into random areas of another planet in a single line. The trouble is, often the show tries too hard to be what it is not: serious and touching. No matter what the characters happen to think.

No, but it can pass as an anime series.

So near the end, when the show tries to get a little touching, with kurimu giving a touching speech to the school, and the girls staying behind to help Sugisaki clean up, that’s when the show takes a nose-dive. Happily, the first two-thirds of the show is nothing but the student council goofing up. They do so by making up a serious story for the school festival, which gets more and more ridiculous with each character’s contribution.

This is when Seitokai is at its strongest. The dialogue is quick, the scenes get stranger with each line, and the voice actors again work as a splendid comic ensemble. I suppose you have to work in some serious along with the silly, but it’s a shame this series can’t do it all that well. Stick to goofiness, Seitokai. It suits you.

I’m not sure what conclusion Trapeze 9 comes to. It’s not a new dilemma in fiction: a child actor (Yasukawa) known for a cute smile, tries to make it as an adult, but can’t seem to grow out of his image. That is, he smiles all the time. And it’s hard to get roles with that schtick. Our wise Dr. Irabu springs immediately to work—by hitting on Yasukawa’s agent.

Mayumi looks amused ...

The ending, however, is unclear. Yasukawa discovers that pain will pull the smile off his face and so wears nipple clips to a serious audition. Irabu tells him repeatedly that he never had an image to begin with, and I have a lot of trouble with that conclusion. Finally, he’s reborn as a variety show star, smiling away. So what the hell was he going to therapy for in the first place? It’s not that he’s come to terms with being smiley all the time. Presumably he could have gotten variety show gigs before. Who told him he had to serious-up? His agent? Why wasn’t she getting him roles that emphasized his strengths in the first place? Fire her! Oh, she quit.

Oh well, as long as he's happy.

Next week it’s a baseball owner. Expect some scenes with BANDOOOO! Sorry. I love saying that.

Seitokai no Ichizon 9, Kimi ni Todoke 9, Trapeze 8

December 7, 2009 Leave a comment

I suppose I shouldn’t have watched any anime yesterday after seeing Kiki’s Delivery Service for the first time. Anything else is bound to be a letdown. So I chose Seitokai no Ichizon 9 in hopes that its fast delivery and silly, referential humor would provide at least a change of pace. It pretty much succeeded.

Non-sequitors help, too.

The ep starts odd with an unexplained scene showing Chizuku comforting Sugisaki over something or other. I figure it’s a reference to another show. Then the silliness kicks in, then it gets serious again as Chizuku walks out to reconcile with a girl who once bullied her, while the others read a letter intended for her but addressed to the Student Council. More silliness, but the acoustic piano music comes in (a sure sign of mood change) and we get another quiet moment.

It sort of works. With this show we can never tell if a quiet scene is meant to be serious or a setup for a gag. Since we don’t know what the hell happened in that Chizuku/Sugisaki scene, or the reason why they seem closer at the end of this episode, it left me scratching my head.

But I usually like the sillier moments, so it's okay.

Then, the next day …

Kimi ni Todoke 9 still takes its sweet time getting anywhere. The major event is that Kurumi comes out and makes nice with Sawako, even calling her a friend.

Yano and Yoshida seem worried about this, Kazehaya less so, but goodness, what goes on in that boy’s head, anyway? And most of this happens in the final scene. The rest of it concerns practicing for the sports festival, a fun routine where Sawako considers getting a perm, and a slow buildup to Sawako and Kurumi’s new “friendship,” which, of course, is anything but.

There’s also too much of Sawako’s squirming and sighing any time anyone has a reaction to anything she does. This ep lays it on thick, but there’s something else going on, too. Since we’re viewing this show mostly through Sawako’s point of view we see firsthand how insecure and shy she is, but we can also see the bigger picture. Sometimes we see it when the POV switches away from her, as it did for a second to learn what Kurumi really meant when she said Sawako was “like a doll,” but other times we stay in Sawako’s head and can still see the important things she can’t. This makes her seem even more helpless and vulnerable, and I usually have two reactions: one is to sympathize with her, the other is to yell at her to get her head together, because it’s obvious Kurumi only pretends to like you because she wants Kazehaya, damn it! Sawako! Listen to me!

Ahem, sorry. Why is it fictional characters never pay any attention to us? Anyway, here are two images that single out much of what I do like in this series, apart from Yano and Yoshida.

And now it’s time for my shot. In Trapeze 8 we have Iwamura, whose career as a reporter is jeopardized by his obsessiveness that he left the gas on, or the kettle, or a lit cigarette in an ashtray, etc. Dr. Irabu applies therapy in his usual, professional, clinical way.

Through the ep we see Iwamura get steadily worse, until something odd happens. Obsessively chasing a suspicious homeless poet around (and looping to a scene from another episode—spotting the references has become half the fun of this series. Earlier we got Bandoo! I love to say that), then distracted by an obsession concerning loose auto tires, and god knows what else, we watch as other things that might obsess him fly away, ignored. I don’t think that was the point they wanted to make. The point they DID intend is that thanks to these escapades he lands two, maybe three scoops, and his career is saved. Obsessiveness is an asset to a reporter. Irabu even points that out to him, though I have to wonder if encouraging the disorder’s more destructive aspects is a useful way to go about it.

You're not helping, Dr. Irabu.

And in the end, he’s not cured one bit. But like the guy last week, he starts to learn how to cope with it. Irabu drops a hint as to how. Nice job, Irabu, for once.

Oh, I dropped Kampfer. Why it took me so long to hate this series I don’t know.

Cross Game 34, Blacksmith 8, Trapeze 7

December 2, 2009 Leave a comment

Cross Game 34 takes place around New Year’s, the off-season, but the boys (and one girl) have little else on their mind but baseball. Three of them go to a shrine to pray for the team.

Azuma goes home but returns early because of boredom. Aoba plays around in the batting cage. Azuma tries to talk her into trying out for the All-Japan Women’s team. It’s here where the seriousness begins. Aoba is trying to live Wakaba’s dream of the big tournament, even if it means she can’t play. But is that the best thing? Why shouldn’t she go where they’ll let her on the field? Aoba dismisses Azuma’s opinion, but …

Aoba, conflicted.

Of course, Cross Game just slips this scene into an episode otherwise full of lovely little vignettes. A potential boyfriend for little Momiji takes down a pickpocket, Kou helps Akane with her deliveries (to Aoba’s delight), Junpei helps the Tsukishima family cook (the boys working their way into the girls’ hearts), Senda bikes around wondering where everyone is, Asami climbs a mountain to view the New Year sunrise. We see the families gather together to spend the holidays, or drink like fish. Rarely does a show move so slowly and yet work so well. So do the characters: Akane wants Kou to see a drawing she made, but not until summer. Huh? Akane hadn’t been around for long, but even she has adapted to the show’s slow rhythms.

Romantic snow.

The Sacred Blacksmith 8 starts with the moral dilemma we got at the end of last week’s ep, then ramps it up further by suggesting that Charlotte and her three guards join the “Militant Nation,” in return for all the Empire’s secrets. This doesn’t make their decision any easier to make. It’s little Lisa who comes up with the solution, and Cecily vows to make the girls understand—by beating them up.

She could have said this before she beat them up ...

I understand the logic behind it. But some of the wording is questionable, at least in the translation. Cecily argues (after the beatdown) that it’s okay to live disgustingly as long as you’re all happy together. Really? Disgustingly?

But it works, and what I thought would be an extended story arc suddenly ends with Charlotte and Co. leaving, after giving up their demon swords to the Empire. Well, good luck to them, now pretty much powerless and alone … Though we get a bit at the end where Charlotte says a guy named Siegfried was the one who armed them and told them to get Aria. They were nothing more than pawns. I’m disappointed. There was a lot they could do in this situation: play with the politics, pit one force against another, and I suppose we’ll never know why the Empire rejected Charlotte. Or maybe the image above is correct, and they will all meet again.

In Trapeze 7 Yakuza boss Seiji has a fear of edges and sharp objects, and feuds with another gang over the deed to some property his girlfriend wants, while we get a little tour of past episodes. Seiji himself appeared in ep1 and we flash back to that scene (which is weird as hell, because it means Irabu, in the room with them, was treating two patients in the room at the same time. Which one was he there for, or is he omnipresent?), also, BANDOOO! shows up, we see the party Irabu threw last episode, also Mayumi’s favorite book, and Irabu mentions both Cell Phone Kid and Erection Man. Totally unprofessional, I’m sure, but that’s the way Irabu rolls. In fact, Trapeze 7 sets new levels for Irabu hardly doing anything and letting the patients cure themselves. Seiji isn’t even really cured; he simply decides to deal with it. What helps Seiji the most is the discovery that the rival boss has his own obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Dueling disorders.

Ironically, the rival can’t be with out his sharp sword. I guess Irabu is some use here, as he’s the one who makes the discovery. But I can’t help but feel that he’s treating the whole episode as a patient recruitment drive.

The physician in question.

And it does make Seiji realize that Yakuza members like himself can get fucked up over their pasts and the codes they must follow, but again, he comes to this conclusion himself. Oh, well, I’ve complained about this before. If Irabu changed and became more responsible I doubt the show would be as much fun. This episode is fun as hell, and the closing music still makes me want to disco-dance.

Bantorra 7, Trapeze 6, Railgun 8

November 28, 2009 2 comments

Bantorra isn’t an easy series to follow at any time, but ep7 left me completely confused. We got Zatoh, who has the stolen book and wants to atone for his sins by dying, and naïve Noloty who’s keeping an eye on him by being a pest and getting in his way

We also have monster training, where Enlike kills another student and wonders what it’s like to smile. But then the confusion begins. Zatoh, when examining the book, sees Noloty train, or maybe that was just tossed in there, and instead he sees Meseta chase down some guy. What book is this, anyway? But is Enlike actually Zatoh in the past? For some reason I can’t quite get my head around the idea, though they both want the same thing: to be able to smile.

Meanwhile the creepy old guy with the glasses watches Zatoh with amusement, and so does Meseta. And the true monster is revealed at the end, I think. Well, it’s good to have a show around that doesn’t just plunge straightforward into the plot, and maybe I’ll have it figured out next time.

In Trapeze 6 Yuta’s cell phone addiction is nailed by, of all people, Mayumi the nurse.

All right, we can all go home now.

The stuff before and after is simply embellishment, though it’s nicely done. Yuta is good with his cell phone, but not so great in real life encounters. It’s not as though he withdraws and becomes a lump, but rather he tries too hard to be outgoing and obliging. The VA does a fine job of injecting a layer of desperation into the character’s chatter. Yuta loses a girl because of his cell phone, and he discovers that his friends aren’t really that into him. Dr. Irabu takes a less active role in this episode, not even following the boy around, but he manages to shake Yuta up by sending him endless texts (can you imagine what he’d do with a Twitter account?) and invites him to a party. But again it’s Mayumi who perhaps helps Yuta the most. She says she’s a loner, but Yuta sees that she’s comfortable in the role, confident even, proving that you don’t have to be social to be happy. Yep, the nurse does the heavy lifting in this episode.

Give it up for Mayumi!

The more this show goes on the more I enjoy the means to the end, even if I can spot the end a mile away.

Not much to say about Railgun 8 apart from the fact that this is once again a frustrating show. It has a nice set of characters who interact well, but the script is often so wooden that they have to fight it. I am referring especially to the scene at Uiharu’s where they try to get to the bottom of the Level Upper rumors. Saten just can’t come out and say where she’s gotten her information, it has to be prompted out of her, as dead time passes. Compare that to funny scenes where Misaka tries to charm the info out of some strangers, to Kuroko’s frustration …

Whump ... Whump ... Whump ...

… and we have a show that can turn from entertaining to plodding in a single minute.

Which is a shame, because when the show’s on its game it can be a lot of fun. I love how gangs of people try to rough up Misaka only to get beaten badly, because she delights in the situation.

Misaka loves to be underestimated.

Her dynamic with Kuroko and the other girls help, too, that is, if the scene is at least written well. One other quibble: isn’t the Graviton case over? I mean, they caught the guy, right?

Categories: Index/Railgun, Trapeze

Cross Game 32, Winter Sonata 3, Trapeze 5

November 21, 2009 Leave a comment

Akane continues to turn everyone upside-down in Cross Game 32. The hussy! In this single episode she leaves Kou with her art supplies box, and when he returns it to her all-girls’ school he defeats a pervert with his throwing arm! Aoba does serious research on her, and later scares off a jerk who tries to weasel his way into her heart, with HER throwing arm! (Interesting that Kou’s heroics makes the paper, while Aoba’s doesn’t. Aoba never gets the respect she deserves) Little Momiji is won over by Akane’s evil drawing and kindness! As for father Seiji …

Ah, poor Akane! She still has no clue about the chaos she’s caused just by showing up!

Just when I thought that they could not top the reactions, not only the initial shock, but subsequent meetings, the show adds more ingredients into the stew. Kou comes out to the balcony and accidently sees Akane undressing at the window. There’s the Akane/Momiji drawing scene. Akane is everywhere!

Kou tells Akane that there are three Tsukishima sisters, which bugs Aoba at first.

But it is forgiven. Kou and Aoba, in spite of their bickering, know each other too well, and care for each other so much. When Aoba is late for practice (because she was rescuing Akane) Kou is seriously worried. Aoba delights in finding information about Akane so she can report it to Kou, in case he’s interested. While the main characters are trying to wrap their heads around it all, other characters watch. Akaishi still seems stunned. Momiji, now roughly Wakaba’s age when she died, approves of Akane. Azuma is amused. And so the cast of Cross Game, a show already blessed with great characters, now officially welcomes a new one. God knows what will happen when someone tells Akane what the fuss is all about!

It’s been awhile since I last checked in with Winter Sonata. Episode 3 (actually the fourth) keeps the love triangle turning. Sanghyuk is worried about Yujin going around with Joonsang. Worse for him, Joonsang starts hanging around with Sanghyuk’s professor dad, whose class Joonsang crashed a couple episodes ago. He doesn’t know what to think anymore …

From this moment on it’s a study of how to manage things badly, apart from perhaps Yujin. Sanghyuk confronts Joonsang, possibly a mistake, I mean, what’s wrong with your father studying with your classmate if he’s especially gifted? So what if it’s the same guy who’s stealing your girl? Well, maybe I’d be kind of pissed, too. Joonsang, in all his antisocial glory, admits to wanting to take everything away from Sanghyuk, even though it’s a lie. And guess who’s listening behind the door?

So Joonsang and Yujin break up even though they haven’t had a proper date yet. The episode drops in quality after that. There’s a predictable “relay story” scene where the characters’ contributions reflect the real situation, which falls flat, and then Yujin drives the show into melodrama state by running off and getting lost in the woods. The series is really too subtle and realistic to use such trite devices as these. On the other hand, the characters are still interesting, especially Joonsang, a character I just can’t figure out. The art is still great to look at. And it’s completely different from the other shows this season.

Speaking of completely different, Trapeze tops itself with episode 5. The routine of the patient getting better by figuring out what his trouble is doesn’t change, but this ep’s patient, Ikeyama, is a psychologist himself. What’s more, he’s on the same staff as our Dr. Irabu. And though he’s surprised at Irabu’s methods, he accepts it as part of his therapy and tries to cooperate.

Which means first, of course, getting your shot and turning into an iguana.

… Even if it means acting on his impulses, even when it endangers his reputation, since his father in-law, Nomora, runs the hospital he works at. So he switches the channel from opera to baseball (Bando makes another bad throw! Nice reference there. BANDOOOOO!!!), farts in an elevator, ALMOST hits the emergency button at a train station … but what cures him is a bit of fun at Nomora’s expense.

For the full effect you gotta hear the music playing.

I don’t know why I think this episode tops the others so far. The plot is still routine in spite of its wild colors and imagery. Maybe it’s because the therapy seems to work for him, and the last image is of he and his wife and son laughing about Nomora’s wig, and thinking they might want to go to a ball game some time. Ikeyama seems to actually get it: have some fun for a change and maybe others will have fun with you. It’s certainly the happiest episode I’ve seen so far.

Categories: Cross Game, Trapeze