noitaminA finales: Sakamichi no Apollon, Tsuritama

Interesting conclusion to Sakamichi no Apollon. Not all of it worked, but the conclusion lived up the the show’s standards.

Kaoru … er, what are you thinking?

What made the least sense to me was Kaoru’s lunge at Ritsuko, and his unfortunate words while he was doing it. My first response was “what the hell is he doing? That’s not like him.” But when I think back to earlier episodes and how he acted then … it STILL doesn’t make sense. I can remember him brooding and sulking and rejecting people but he’s never gone out and acted so foolishly before. It’s possible that this is his way of lashing out in his loneliness, or there’s a part of him that wants to alienate anyone or thing that reminds him of Sentarou. Or maybe he had to hit rock-bottom before he could learn to get back up. But these answers don’t feel right.

They kept Sentarou out of the episode until the final scenes, and glorious scenes they are! But I wonder if it was a mistake. Having Sentarou run away and stay away said something negative about his character. Just last week the father had returned and accepted him. The accident was bad but a hurdle he and his family could overcome. Well, he went. That meant we had over half an episode of Kaoru moping his way through his last year of school, scaring poor Ritsuko, and avoiding the piano until the flash-forward. Not terribly interesting.

As for that flash-forward, those scenes were a delight. Not just Kaoru finding the drum kit and summoning Sentarou with the church organ, but the stuff before it. Everyone has moved on. Kaoru’s in residency and mostly looks happy. We see Yuriko and can tell that everything between her and Jun is all right. Making Seiji a pop star was a nice touch. I find it odd, however, that it’s Kaoru (and, as it turns out, Ritsuko) who has to seek Sentarou out, as if Sentarou hadn’t felt able to or worthy of reaching out to them, even eight years later, even though he’s doing well. And he’s on a remote island, for chrissakes! It means the show had to turn once again to coincidence (its fatal flaw throughout) to keep the plot moving.

Never mind. The church scenes were a perfect way to bring the boys together again, hitting all the right notes (the kids listening, our heroes running away when the head priest shows up), and if Ritsuko’s sudden appearance was one coincidence too much, well, the moment was too delicious (imagine what was going through her head when she sees BOTH her boys together!) for me to quibble. A very good show. Not the masterpiece that some people want it to be, but definitely one of the best shows of the year so far.

Next, we have another of the year’s best. Tsuritama‘s ending was more predictable, but like in Apollon’s final scene, it put together everything it had worked on and made it exciting.

I mean, look, he’s all red, what do you think’s gonna happen?

When Yuki’s mind was desperately searching, film-style, for a way to stop Haru from leaving them, I thought for sure that it would mean using Yuki as the bait. After all, the thing is attracted to the color red, right? What’s he wearing? A red jacket. His hair is even red. I was kicking myself for not seeing it before when the show goes and ignores this solution altogether. What was all that stuff about red before about, then? What did I miss? Because Yuki couldn’t possibly be the bait. He’s the one who has to catch the fish. Well, I figure it could just as well be Natsuki, but in terms of the story that wouldn’t work. It has to be Yuki, because … well, he’s the main character. It’s Haru, more aquamarine and white than red, who must act as bait, with one of Sakura’s bracelets in his mouth, so Natsuki isn’t left with only pulling on Yuki’s belt when the time comes. Yuki realizes all of this from remembering the old painting, with two goddesses, something I wish they had pointed out to us earlier, but frankly, the whole story doesn’t make a whole lot of sense anyway.

Which isn’t to say it isn’t great fun to watch. Like last week, the show does a great job of showing the threat on board the boat, with waves rising dramatically and rain falling everywhere, as Yuki casts Haru up and over a Duck military vessel and fish fly everywhere. Meanwhile, back on land, the growing menace of the Enoshima dance is controlling more and more people and missiles are set to launch. Characters race around and do absolutely nothing. I guess the show included them to show that they weren’t forgotten, and to give us a break from the tensions on the boat.

The end is an afterclimax, but I sort of expected that. And it doesn’t matter. In fact, it’s fitting that the monstrous alien turns out to be a new friend. Yes, it’s silly, but that was the show’s main strength. There’s a tense moment where the Duck chief is begging HIS chief to hold off on the missiles (whicch are never launched–feels like a wasted opportunity), the Bermuda threat is growing, tense music is playing, but nearly everyone is happily dancing and chanting, and those that aren’t are wearing silly squeaky fat yellow suits–and turbans. The threats are real and so are the personal crises that the characters go through, but with such a bright, happy backdrop and the kind spirit that flows throughout the show, you can’t worry too much. This was the happiest and brightest show of the season, and I’m going to miss it.

One more of the others, since they had so little to do this episode.

Fujiko 12, Apollon 11, Tsuritama 11

Lupin III – Mine Fujiko to lu Onna 12 is a hell of an episode, and I finally kinda sorta know what the hell’s going on.

The fun begins in Almeida-land.

Frankly, I had found the events leading up to now confusing. I had figured out that Fujiko had been taken at a young age and “raised” by Count Almeida, but everything else was a blur of images. It didn’t help that Lupin had received the most accurate account but was so addled with drugs at the time that we couldn’t tell what was truth and what was illusion. This episode looked to be more of the same, as Fujiko and Zenigata team up to visit Almeida’s theme park. This pairing might be odd, but the circumstances (Zenigata just walks up to Fujiko at a face and slaps handcuffs on her. She offers information on kidnappings similar, we assume, to her own) make sense. Less clear is why Lupin and Jigen also happen to show up at the same park, practically invited to, judging from the tickets they find on themselves (Love how Lupin knows to look under Jigen’s hat).

Renegade Owl?

On the other hand, it also means that Almeida is assembling them there on purpose, and he’s successfully pulled the strings every episode. No one has come close to thwarting him or even worrying him so far. But I’m proven wrong. The owl that confronts Lupin and Jigen on the roller-coaster has a different outcome in mind for Fujiko. Almeida (I assume) just wants her back. His motivations are that of a sick old man who wants to fondle the beauty he once had total control over. It’s a sad, pathetic, desire, also rather boring for a show as quick-witted as this. The other owl (I’m guessing it’s her father) is much more interesting. Maybe he thinks it’s the only way to free her from all this.

In one way this episode is hard to watch. We get to see Lupin, Jigen and later Goemon do their things, leap, dive, shoot, flash swords, defy death, but Fujiko doesn’t get to share any of this. She and Zenigata enter “The House of Fujiko,” a twisted “It’s a small world” type ride where her past is shown to her and she begins to remember the past she had sealed away. She slowly breaks down while Zenigata watches, unable to help. And even he, her last source of support, is distracted when a brainwashed or equally-broken Oscar reappears. It’s a terrible thing to watch for any fan of this series. But we still have the others, “supporting characters in Mine Fujiko’s story,” as Lupin puts it, out there, doing their things. I hope the conclusion is as wild as this episode was.

Look closely.

Sakamichi no Apollon 11 brings us what looks to be the cheapest plot twist imaginable, one that made me throw up my hands in disgust, and this right after one of the loveliest sequences of the series, and a terrific opening scene to boot. I had thought that Sentarou had too much character to simply run away like that, and he did; he just needed Kaoru to remind him by throwing himself on Sentarou and nearly getting killed in the process. Still, Sentarou should have known better than to even try. The “cheap” plot twist is actually misdirection. I’m not sure why they did it that way other than to give us a cheap thrill, or to make me throw up my hands, as I said.

But because of this Sentarou now actually does leave, and like the last attempted exit it doesn’t feel right. I don’t recall anyone being hurt by Sentarou’s actions, in spite of what he said. More interesting is his rejecting the people and things that used to give him comfort. Not just the rosary (hung on the hospital door as if he was passing the comfort to sa-chan), but Kaoru, emerging from the white sheets and being pronounced an angel in that nice rooftop scene.

Her favorite things.

These two bits of plot sandwich a terrific sequence where Ritsuko is coerced into singing “My Favorite Things” for the festival. She’s reluctant, but while she sings the words in an adorable engrish soprano voice we get still shots of them rehearsing. It’s clear that at that time she was surrounded by her favorite things. It’s a shame the show has to thrown in random accidents to generate plot. It can do so well without it.

Our other noitaminA show, Tsuritama, looked for all the world like it might end this week, but the stakes apparently were too high. I mean, what could be higher than our heroes fishing the alien out of the water as foretold by the scolls, before Duck fires its missiles or everyone in the world does the Enoshima dance?

The episode plays out in predictable fashion. The cliffhanger is dealt with (Ayumu survived and rescued the rod), important things are said, a complication when Duck shows up (fought off by Akira, heroic for the second episode in a row, with help from Paprika. Quack!), growing problems with trying the catch the alien (overcome by Yukim though he seemed to pluck the solution of painting the lure red out of nowhere) while the typhoon gets worse, and another crisis at the end which has as much to do with friendship as it has to do with aliens. It’s thrilling to watch. The art style gives us enormous waves everywhere while the soundtrack plays its best exciting themes and Yuuki casts again and again. Eno-shima-bowl!

It’s also silly. Well, it can’t help being silly when the Duck forces, ready to fire missiles, are dressed in those squeaky suits and people are wandering around doing that dance, which is supposed to be a bad thing. Paprika the duck starts the boat. But these things have been so effectively worked into the story that they don’t distract from what’s at stake. The saddest moment of the episode of the show is when the silly alien with a triangle floating over his head decides he has to sacrifice himself, something they had set up before which I hadn’t thought of until it happened. A lot of things developed in early episodes, such as Yuki’s growing as a person (not to mention his fishing skills) and Natsuki’s acceptance of his father, came into play, and it all worked. Well, as I said, there was too much going on for the show to end here, but I’m looking forward to the big finish next week.

Four more before two days off: Apollon 10, Tsuritama 10, Fujiko 11, Kanojo X 10

Sakamichi no Apollon 10 gets down to business now that the bad romance has left town and sets up some major plot kernels, but mainly it’s about Kaoru screwing up.

A bath scene? In THIS show?

Kaoru has some wrong assumptions about what’s going on. Now that Yurika’s gone it’s logical to assume Sentarou will fall back on Ritsuko, such is the type of guy Kaoru thinks Sentarou is. Especially after Sentarou seems so over it when the school removes that painting of him she made. Because of this he doesn’t know what to make of the mittens Ritsuko knitted for him–and not Sentarou. So he tries to remain distant and thus puts himself in danger of rejection. And he nearly ruins it entirely in the bath scene (Did anyone imagine there would be a “innocently open the door and find a member of the opposite sex bathing” scene in this show? Especially when the families share a bath and ought to know better? Sorry, not buying it). It takes a cute-sick scene, where Ritsuko tells him almost exactly what needs to be done (and could he have forced himself down the steps and out the door in his state if he hadn’t met Sentarou?) before he gets his head straight. And then, we skip a few months and nothing’s happened there. Which is probably fine with Ritsuko. Seeing her two boys together seems to make her happiest of all. I think she’s become a teacher already–to two adolescent boys.

Sentarou studies.

When we aren’t watching and wanting to smack Kaoru around a bit, we get mini-adventures. Sentarou’s in danger of flunking but Kaoru forces him to study. The pop music kid announces that he’s going to win the festival this year, which gets our heroes fired up. But the big event is the impending arrival of Sentarou’s father, and this part doesn’t work too well. The scenes with little Sa-chan were nice, but then Sentarou does something I didn’t expect him to do–run from the problem. He wouldn’t do that. If his father has stopped the boozing, then that’s great. If he hasn’t then the children need Sentarou around more than ever. We understand that Sentarou was never a welcome member of his father’s household, and how deep that wound goes, but he’s welcome now, and he’s not a child anymore. He can defend himself, and he has his family and friends. He’s never run from a fight. Sigh. This is a very good show, but every now and then it slips from smart to silly.

Akira has several heroic moments this episode.

A show like Tsuritama can get as silly with its plot as it wants and no one will care. What it’s not immune to is stock anime penultimate episode things like rallying the forces, reconciling foes and giving the despondent character a pep-talk. You can tick each of those off your list while watching. They’re not bad by default, but here in episode 10 they don’t work that well. The good guys, when you get down to it, have no problem evading or bamboozling the Duck forces, who, on their side seem to have given up finding Haru at all. The pep-talk, all about friendship vs going off half-cocked reminded me of a few from Railgun. Besides, at this point we know what needs to be done, and watching everyone scurrying around preparing for it isn’t all that exciting. But they give us a whammy at the end to make everything a little more hopeless, just the thing to set up the (I assume) final episode next week.

This week’s Lupin III – Mine fujiko to lu Onna isn’t as confusing as last week’s but yet again Mine really doesn’t appear. She’s out of the picture and in no condition to steal anything at the moment. Instead the focuses on the life and quite possible death of Oscar, who we learn was rescued and adopted as a boy by Zenigata. Zenigata was moved by the boy’s pride at not losing his last coin, but Oscar along the way has lost all trace of it in his desire to make Zenigata pursue him the way he pursued, caught–and subsequently bedded Fujiko. It’s a bit ridiculous the lengths he goes to achieve this, even pretending to be her and actually stealing stuff. I had to actually watch it twice to figure out what he thought he was up to. What’s more interesting is that Lupin and Goemon work to undo the big caper at the end, as if they were defending Fujiko’s pride. I suppose Oscar needed some attention, but I rather wished they hadn’t devoted an entire episode. I believe there’s only two left and a lot to clear up.

Finally I watched Nazo no Kanojo X 10, that is to say, I saw Tsubaki acting like a complete idiot for 25 minutes, starting with his denial to former crush Hayakawa that he has a girlfriend (though he finally admits it), then not telling Urabe about the school festival situation. I mean, I really think you should tell your current girlfriend that you’re going to pretend to have another for an innocent purpose. But another moment of great idiocy is the fact that he doesn’t even realize Hayakawa is setting a trap. You could write it off as the hormones working, but Hayakawa practically threw himself on him when they accidentally(?) met. Or maybe this is an act of internal rebellion for him. After all, Urabe gets upset when he looks at a girl that reminds him of her. I might feel a little constricted, too.

Tsuritama 9, Eureka Ao 9, Natsuiro 10, Kore wa Zombie finale, and Polar Bear 11

In Tsuritama 9 we get … plot! Lots of plot. It starts with plot, it ends with plot, we have big armed forces plot, we have friendship plot, we have bro/sis plot. Really, what we get is everything the show has labored to develop finally coming to a head.

The mighty forces of Duck!

Start at the beginning, we see more ships running aground and people, touching water, coming under the alien mind control and carrying out the nefarious orders of whatever it is, by doing the Enoshima dance. Frankly, this is the happiest alien invasion I can think of. Meanwhile the forces of Duck have arrived and working to evacuate the islanders and find Haru. So we get people running around and hiding from sinister men carrying silly-looking alien sensors and whose water protection suits squeak with every step. The happiest of invasions combating the silliest of defenders. I expected no less from this show.

But it’s not all silliness. The show has developed the characters (perhaps for too long) enough that what happens to the actually matters. Haru and Koko go to meet or fight the alien under the water. The show didn’t work with Koko as much as the others, but the show takes time to show the bond they have before … whatever happens. Seeing her glasses but no Koko is a bad sign, but this series isn’t the type to lash out and kill like that. I think we haven’t seen the last of her. But Haru does, and in his grief goes berserk and squirts everyone he can with his gun, including Yuki and grandma, which leads to the most frightening moment for me, the nice old lady lying unconscious on the floor.

Heroic pose, with heroic duck.

Then there are the friendships. Akira, betrayed by Duck, tries to find Haru and convince Yuki to leave Enoshima, then goes further off orders and decides to work alone. Natsuki needs no second thoughts. He escapes evacuation and somehow returns. It’s Yuki who has the hardest time. He wants to follow Akira’s advice, but obviously has doubts. Well, that’s what grandma (not hurt. Hooray!) is around for. But why are they trying so hard? The threat is obvious. They’ve seen the dancing. But they also know that their friend is not acting like himself. Maybe the thought that they must also save the world has entered into more minds than Akira’s, but the story’s thrust from now be on rescuing Haru. This is just how it should be. Good episode, and just what I was waiting for.

Eureka Seven Ao 9 introduces us to Nakuramura, a guy who works for the Japanese military and has big plans for his country. He wants to get the Nirvash back, but more importantly he wants his hands on some of that Secret technology. I’m surprised every country aren’t going for that, actually. Imagine weapons that can take on any form and look cool to boot. His other stated goal, strangely enough, is to “destroy Japan,” but perhaps he means that metaphorically. Hopefully he does considering the coral burst 70 years destroyed Tokyo. That stuff’s kind of dangerous. Anyway, he’s part of a military plan to stimulate “plant corals” (same as scrub corals?) for whatever reason. Of course things go wrong and GenBleu come to the rescue. In addition we get more internal conflict as Ao discovers his mission isn’t to save lives but to rescue the quartz from coral, so naturally he goes off half-cocked into battle as usual. Alas, Truth is also around, killing people and leering at everyone. But no Naru this week. It’s a routine episode, not very exciting. I suppose they’re moving the pieces around for a big story arc finish.

Natsuiro Kiseki 10 presents more evidence that this mystic, wish-giving rock has a sense of humor. Imagine if the girls want to remember exactly what happened four years ago when they went to explore a haunted building not knowing there was a typhoon coming. You’d think they’d just get their memories back, but I suppose you can’t make an interesting episode out of that. Instead the younger versions of themselves appear in the present day (in which another typhoon is scheduled to appear). So the older girls have to keep an eye out on the younger ones to find out what exactly did happen, and to make sure they don’t get into any trouble. I mean, they obviously survived it four years ago, but this is NOW. Any anomalies that occur, like being spotted by parents, are either brushed aside by the characters or the show itself. Since the girls remember seeing ghosts and thieves during their adventure you can probably figure out what happens, or happened, but it’s all cleverly done nonetheless. Young Saki going after Old Saki with nunchuks was possibly the high point.

Two seasons gone and not much has changed for Ayumu.

And Kore wa Zombie desu ka – of the Dead … ends. Just like that. It’s a good final episode that gets a trifle sentimental but doesn’t go overboard with it, and there’s usually a good gag to undercut any potential tears. The finale is appropriate. They must defeat Chris, so Ayumu undergoes a test to become a full magical girl–and fails, losing his memory in the process. So the others go into his mind to get it back, which we are told is the makeup test, though all it seems to do is undo the damage of the first test. And in the end they don’t even get around to fighting Chris. This is how the show rolls, lurching from one ridiculous situation to another and maybe once every few episodes stumbling upon the story arc. On the way the girls must battle manifestations of Ayumu, all of the smug bishies spouting pretentious lines even the other characters in the show wince at, and it was a pleasure to watch Haruna kick their ass. Eu gets to talk a little. Sera adds her insults. The show ends well, even if everyone forgot the story.

A not bad episode of Polar Bear’s cafe. Episode 11 has the zookeeper Handa coerced into a group blind date at a karaoke place, and Panda and Polar bear come to even up the numbers. You already know what is going to happen, but it’s not all bad for Handa when the girls discover he’s Panda’s keeper and not just a lonely, single male lump. Panda naturally wins over the girls through cuteness, and Polar Bear, mainly staying out of the way (perhaps aware that this outing was not for his benefit), still gets to use his charming personality to get the girls attention. A polar bear who also runs a cafe! And there’s one of the show’s more surreal moments early on at the cafe when Sasako brings Penguin pot stickers, even though they’re not on the menu. What was that all about? Just another one of the show’s gentle mind games.

Apollon 8, Fujiko 9, Tsuritama 8

After last weeks emotional high on Sakamichi no Apollon, we get an episode where many people are looking for their bad end.

No, Yurika, he doesn’t want you in his apartment. Um … Yurika?

You knew they would pay attention go Jun this week; there wasn’t anyone else left. Kaoru and Sentarou are reconciled, it’s too soon for Ritsuko, and Yurika’s been in a holding pattern ever since she saw Jun that one time. She sees him this episode and forces her way, more or less, into his rented flat, where Jun shows off his self-disgust but can’t make her leave. We get flashbacks showing Jun making an improvising a speech at a student rally and inspiring a buddy to the point where the buddy gets his digits busted up so he can’t play the saxophone again. Now Yurika gets to nurse Jun back to emotional health. This is a very good show, but sometimes the story is on the “television drama” level. Well, it IS a television drama.

So while Yurika hangs out with Jun, cuts her hair (abruptly), and starts getting in trouble at school and at home, we also follow our dynamic duo, and our other possibly doomed character, Sentarou. Now that Kaoru has loosened up and continues to be popular with the girls, his unrequited love Ritsuko is starting to get pitty-pats about him, not her long-time crush Sentarou. Yurika invites herself into men’s apartments. Ritsuko knits sweaters for hers. This is going to blast the current dynamic to pieces, especially with Sentarou finally waking up to a situation that may have passed him by. I’m interested in how Sentarou will handle it. There’s no way he will interfere if things go the way they are now, but what will he actually do? And will Kaoru feel like he’s betraying a friend? Tune in next week for another Days of our … I mean, Kids on the Slope.

A striking episode of Lupin III – Mine Fujiko this week. Also an odd one.

The object to steal this week is a high-class painted lady. A young woman who has spent her entire life being tattooed and displayed as a piece of living art. Lupin and Jigen have teamed up to “steal” her during an exhibition. So has Fujiko, and so we get trademark wild chases and gunfire and it lives up to the best such sequences of this series, but something’s off. Lupin and Jigen are behaving more or less as usual, but there’s something off with Fujiko. We notice it before Lupin does. She’s as formidable an opponent as ever, but she’s … serious. We see it in a flashback where she sees the PW on TV for the first time, where she nearly breaks down. There’s no guile in her this time, no subtlety. Just relentlessness.

We pretty much learn why as the chasing continues, Fujiko close but never quite able to outdo Lupin/Jigen’s combined skills. And since last week we pretty much know the answer. There’s a connection between this PW (who is basically a small illiterate child in a woman’s body–we spend much the episode hoping she doesn’t get hurt) and Fujiko, both powerless, abused, and in someone else’s control their entire lives (another flashback, more damn owls). The next step in the logic, suggested by Lupin, is more problematic. I see no reason why Fujiko would want to kill the PW, even if she did have her own death-wish, but perhaps that’s a reflection of the violent life she has lived. Even Lupin and Jigen, once they have her secured, feel sorry enough for her that they more or less release her. Even so, this rather straightforward episode is the strongest yet, mostly because we are learning what the series is all about, and what Fujiko has to go through to get there.

Well, that’s good and I’m happy about it, but it’s a bit of an anticlimax.

Tsuritama 8 feels odd because it is so straightforward. We start with Sakura’s disappearance. Hints are made that the dragon is about to take his first victim, or sacrifice. Meanwhile, past fights are forgiven; there’s something bigger to worry about. Interestingly it’s Akira who gives Natsuki the tip, and there she is, moping at a table where her mom used to take her. No danger to her, just relief. The episode had barely begun. After that deflation we get a scene where Akira up and asks Haru and Coco what they’re up to–and they up and tell him everything. Just like that. So there’s the immediate crisis resolved and a huge bit of backstory.

Despite my choice of screenshots not everyone spends this episode with their back to the camera.

It goes on like this for too long. A scene with Natsuki and his dad. One with his sister. Yuki talks with his grandmother. Haru does, too. The only portentious thing is Haru; he’s happy again, but he’s getting ready to say goodbye. Other than that, everybody is happy–and fishing. We’re waiting for the big whammy but really don’t get one. Yuki tells us it’s coming, along with a typhoon, by the way (and Haru’s explanation told us why this will be a bad thing), but we’ll have to wait until next week for it to happen. Along with what Duck is going to do … Well, it’s nice to see everyone happy for a change.

Sevens and one Eight: Apollon, Fujiko, Tsuritama, Nyaruko

Sakamichi no Apollon 7 begins by giving us a twist.

Kaoru, chick magnet.

After Kaoru’s temper tantrum last week I expected a lot of episodes of regret from all parties, and I got that. I also expected Kaoru to regress and go back into his shell, to be alone again. But that didn’t happen. Well, it looks that way to start with, but Ritsuko continues to be nice to him, and he’s grown enough to be aware that she is blameless, so he’s nice back to her. Not only that, he’s learned to relax a little. Quickly, the class in general decides he’s not so bad after all. Suddenly, he’s, if not popular, at least likable. The twist is that the one who winds up alone is Sentarou.

… And not just because of that.

We don’t really know what happened to Jun. Ritsuko’s dad says he had a breakdown and that tells us nothing. Yurika sees Jun in that state and freaks, after Sentarou had tried to put the moves on her. I’m not sure what went through Sentarou’s head when he punched Jun, but his walking away alone sums it up. He feels like he’s lost one person close to him after another. Well, he’s got his family (though they don’t appear) and his pop music gig.

It ends with the school festival and a few scenes that are contrived but often effective. The Jazz vs. Pop dynamic felt silly, and I can’t see the entire student body rushing to the auditorium because Kaoru and Sentarou are playing, unless the attraction is that of the biggest brain improvising with the biggest thug. On the other hand, playing a late, great Coltrane standard was a nice touch. Kaoru overhearing Sentarou talking behind the curtain … well, the show’s pulled that sort of trick before. But the important things stand out. Sentarou proves that he will defend the people he likes, and is too big to hold a grudge. While Kaoru discovers that he has a friend who won’t desert him when things get a little sour. Good episode.

Lupin III – Mine Fujiko to lu Onna 8 is a messy one. Nice concept, though. A fortune teller who can tell you the day of your death. Of course, he’s a fraud (or IS he??) who’s been using Lupin as a cover for their deaths, or something. I wasn’t able to figure much of this out. Goemon’s here, too, out to destroy a lithograph that’s already been destroyed, which Shitoto, the fortune teller, was using for his predictions. I have no clue what Fujiko’s doing around, but we get some fascinating information, a man named count Luis Yew Armeid, perhaps an abuser in her past. And now the owl image, used in the past when she’s been in a bind, makes more sense. Otherwise it feels like the pieces of a story that no one thought to tie together. But again, beautiful to look at.

It’s sort of a relief that Yuki isn’t the only source of drama in Tsuritama anymore. Now I wish they’d get to the SF part, but instead episode 7 has features Natsuki’s problems. Well, they’ve been building the problem for ages, it’s about time. It’s also a tad predictable. The father wants to celebrate the boy’s birthday by going fishing. Natsuki, naturally, doesn’t want to go, so he gets Yuki and the rest to join them. There’s the inevitable blow-up on the boat, and the fallout. The fallout was the only real variation, and it’s worrisome because Natsuki’s so devoted to Sakura. Well, it’s his own fault. And his father’s. The rest of the cast spend most of the episode watching or doing damage control. The episode’s slogan seems to be “Just try,” but I’m not sure why. No one tries, really, and those who do either end up in a rage or get hurt. I figure the SF (which appears late and is odd indeed) and the personal stuff will get tossed together in the next episode or two.

Haiyore! Nyaruko-san 7 starts out with Nyaruko at her crazy best and unravels into a simple romance after Mahiro tells her flat out that he doesn’t like her. Actually, it’s sort of pathetic. You feel a little sorry for her when you see how hard she’s taking Mahiro’s statement, but after he realizes he went to far and apologizes she becomes an emotional invalid, ready to turn all-white the moment he says something remotely mean (until he tells her to cut it out), and then blithely treating their time together as completely romantic, utterly blind to how he really feels. It’s sad to see her delude herself, and you have to feel bad for Mahiro, too. He’s utterly trapped. And for Cthugha and Hastur as well, as they can only watch. Too down for a stupid show like this. Bring on some aliens or something!

Sixes: Apollon, Kanojo, Tsuritama, Acchi

The new threat.

Sakamichi no Apollon 6 brings us something new: the threat of change. Its most blatant manifestation comes in the form of Beatles-fan Seiji, Sentarou’s new classmate (the fact that he and Kaoru are now in separate classes is the first sign that things will now be officially different than before). He’s recruiting a drummer for his school festival band. It’s still unclear why Sentarou agrees. The episode took pains to make the effeminate Seiji sympathetic to Sentarou, showing him as poor with a lot of siblings. But the Beatles? However, it’s a sign that perhaps Sentarou is changing a little, broadening his vision. Naturally this doesn’t sit well with Kaoru, both for the Beatles thing (I assume) and that Sentarou will be spending time away from him. This is rough on a boy with desertion issues. In fact, just about everyone this episode is lonely about something, usually love. Everyone is pining for someone they can’t get, and nothing this episode changes that. So maybe this intrusion, plus a late appearance, will shake things up and make everyone even MORE miserable.

Can I take your picture? Huh? Can I? Huh?

I think a fundamental problem with Nazo no Kanojo X has appeared. Part of the charm is that Urabe is mysterious. There’s that magic drool, there’s that scissors thing she does, each of them begging further questions. What’s the deal with that drool? Why does it only effect certain people? Why Tsubaki and Oka? But if the show goes about explaining these things Urabe can no longer be called mysterious. These mysteries are some of the things that attracts Tsubaki, that and the drool. The show would be less fun. Also, Urabe controls almost every facet of this relationship. Tsubaki’s like a loyal dog, always trotting behind. Even when she gives Tsubaki cry-drool to show him how she’d have felt if he had gone off with that other girl, it was all on her terms. Or maybe this way of communicating how she feels for him is too foreign for me to understand. The only character who’s been able to shake her up is Ako, because she can also do the drool, she has a thing for Urabe, and she likes messing with people. I’m not asking for everything to be explained, but I think Urabe does need to be shaken up more.

The usual personal story stuff before the weirdness happens.

In Tsuritama 6 we get … story! And not just the usual “Yuki tries something difficult, fails, then succeeds and learns something” story, though that happens too. Actually, the two are entwined. Grandma is getting out of the hospital at the end of the week, and Yuki decides to challenge himself by catching a tuna for her, his hardest goal yet. But this time he’s got Natsuki on his side and willing to help. The main story kicks in because the only place they’re able to find tuna that day is around an artificial reef called Akemi, which is also small-scale Bermuda Triangle, as they learn the hard way. In other words, we get some actual excitement. But it feels like an anticlimax, because nothing much happens after the wild stuff. And we don’t learn much about what’s really going on, either, except that there’s something out there that Haru, Koko and Akira are all interested in.

Acchi Kocchi 6 is disgustingly cute as usual. Nothing much stood out. The funniest bit was probably the pool cleaning scene, where the girls name a scrubber after Sakaki and knock it around. The cutest was probably Tsumiki and Io’s shirt.