No.6 went through the motions until the very end. It gave us the destruction of the wall, the “liberation” of the inhabitants (who, at the end, were walking like lemmings to the outside, even though they never showed us a single indication that most of them really wanted to know what was out there), and the vindication of the earth mother thing, Elyurias apparently can get vindictive and kill innocent people when she wants to), complete with light shows and explosions. Oh, she can also raise the dead, so we have our happy ending. And we never learned WHY. Why did No.6 turn out so bad? Bad people? That’s an answer for children. Misguided people? Then what turned them to the wrong path? What about the other cities? I suppose the peace-loving inhabitants are meant to represent the happy, materialistic people of our modern society, but that’s also simplistic. This was also a problem with Fractale, that the people in the story were masses of people with no direction at all, except for the few who got lines and were mouthpieces for one view or another. There was one bit I liked, when Sion operates on Rat while the facility is exploding around him. It summed up his love for Rat and his possibly misplaced love of humanity nicely. Then Safu/Elyurias turns up later and heals Rat anyway … Argh, what a mess. This is the third season in a row when a noitaminA show took a promising SF premise and botched it.
If you want to see rich, internal lives of individuals you go to the other noitaminA show that just finished. Usagi Drop has no real story to speak of, it has minor crises that litter ordinary days. We start with Yukari’s cold, the cliffhanger from last episode, and learn that it’s just a cold, though she appreciates the concern Daikichi and Rin bestow upon her. Next comes two huge crises: the jump-roping competition and baby teeth falling out. The former allows four sets of parents to bond and Daikichi to get some exercise. The latter is more suspenseful. When will Rin’s tooth come out? Should she throw it or save it in a cute ladybug box? Next week, if there was one, we’d see something else as thrilling, and as fun to watch. In between these events the episode took time to look back and sum up. None of it comes as a surprise. Daikichi’s happy with Rin. Playing father is difficult but rewarding. That sort of thing. In fact, little in this show came as a surprise, but that was never the point (as opposed to the manga, from what I understand); normal lives don’t have big crises every single day. Measuring Daikichi’s growth as a person is like recording a child’s height by marks on the wall. It’s pointless to do it every day. Yet it happens. Just like the winter season, noitaminA goes one for two.
Natsume Yuujinchou San 9 begins a two-parter, but it’s clear that the underlying theme will again be friendship, the “Trust them” variation. Most interesting to me was the way Natsume and his friend Tanuma react to the situation. Natsume can interact with youkai and Tanuma can sort of see them, so there’s nothing they have to hide from each other, but they do anyway. Tanuma avoids Natsume until a hammer-wielding youkai becomes a danger, and then confesses all. Now it’s Natsume’s turn to withhold information, until a line from Tanuma about talking things out makes him realize his mistake. Later, when they learn all, the youkai possessing Tanuma threatens harm if Natsume doesn’t help her, not knowing that Natsume would help her anyway. And even Tanuma has to go through the motions of asking Natsume even though we know what his answer will be anyway. And we have the usual variations: Nyanko peevishly tells Natsume to dump Tanuma as a friend but later won’t drive out the youkai for fear of hurting him (and earlier we saw him wave to Tanuma). And poor Saki, who can’t see a thing, tags along because she’s both curious and they’re her friends. You have to feel sorry for her, watching the boys dig up invisible objects, wanting to be of help.
Usagi Drop 10 brings us the first real crisis in Daikichi’s stint as parent. To us watching at home it’s no big deal: Rin has a fever. But to a man unused to this it’s a frightening event, and inexperienced Daikichi comes close to freaking out. Fortunately for him (and Rin) Yukari’s around to give advice, make gruel (I thought that’s what you fed orphans in Dickens novels) and above all, tell him not to panic. The scenes with Yukari and Rin are sweet, Yukari being the gentle, patient caregiver while Rin must be wondering where Daikichi is. Not that he’s AWOL. He watches and takes mental notes, and in a long series of scenes, Rin gets better. Rather an inconsequential moment in a child’s life, one repeated for years until they meet enough germs and build immunity, but this show specializes in the little moments and how they reflect on a life as a whole. On the romance front, this is the second episode in a row where Yukari has spent extensive time at Daikichi’s place. Little steps.
I find this interesting about Hanasaku Iroha: there is really no bad end, yet there’s a great deal of tension toward the outcome. It matters a great deal to many people if Kissuiso closes, but if it does it is not the end of the world for any of them. Great times in life, when you find yourself surrounded by people you love, doing work you love, don’t last forever. Sui tells Ohana that keeping the inn running is forcing Enishi and others to live her dream, not theirs. Meanwhile Enishi and others are conspiring to keep the place open in spite of Sui’s orders. Maybe Enishi works at Kissuiso out of family obligation, but he would deny it, and everyone else there wants to work there. But will it be the same place when Sou steps down? No. It will be a different kind of workplace. Dynamics will change. So even if it stays open, and it’s pretty clear story-wise that it will, something will nonetheless be lost. Other than that, the episode has a couple of missteps, the biggest one being the Minko/Tohru manga business, but it was funny, so I’ll let it slide. Same with Sui’s surprise appearance in the bath, not the whole scene, but the end of it. But again, it was funny.
Sacred Seven 10 was all flashback,using the “horrible attack which wipes out the beloved family on Christmas Eve” schtick. Episode 11 is a rushed mess, which means it’s a lot of fun to watch. Ruri is accused of tax evasion but when she’s arrested it’s Kenmi who’s got her. He’s going to take out her heart and become, I believe, king of the Aztecs. Meanwhile Tandoji, Kagami, and a bunch of armed maids who escaped arrest because they had been laid off (huh?), oh, and Fei, storm Kenmi’s fortress, or whatever it is. Knight is also storming the place, but he’s freelance. Tandoji discovers his mom’s long-lost magic pendant, releasing Ruri from her crystal shield which came up when Kenmi was going after her heart. Oh, Zero’s been let loose and he goes beserk to the benefit of Kenmi until Fei injects him with serum and he goes beserk on her side, until Kenmi takes HIS heart and becomes an invincible armored something-or-other with an evil laugh, and now it’s showdown time. I will say that the action scenes are a lot of fun and the action music with its big horns and disco-y beat sounds almost old school. I had more fun with that then trying to figure out the plot.
I didn’t notice the direction Kamisama no Memochou 10 was taking until the big event that closes the episode. I thought it’d be all about drugs and addicts and rescuing Ayaka’s brother from Angel Fix, but the episode meanders. It spent a lot of time with Naruma and Ayaka as they chat, fight, make up, while the NEET gang are getting nowhere with their investigation, which is not like them. So it came as a complete shock when suddenly, wham, Ayaka attempts suicide. Was it over her brother? Was it because she was raising flowers in the greenhouse for use in Angel Fix (pesticides, hah!)? She chose a cruel place to do it, off the roof where she and Narumi had spent so many good times, and into another flowerbed. Ayaka is a complicated girl.
The iDOLM@ASTER 9 features the annoying twins in an episode that doesn’t really try too hard to make the mystery of the missing puddings interesting, which is just as well. It’s more of a character study of the two girls and how much they depend on each other, which would have been more touching if the two weren’t, as I said, so annoying. Episode 10 isn’t supposed to feature anybody, but show the girls as they cutely participate in a idol girl’s olympics, which they aren’t supposed to win, but do anyway, because they’re so full of spirit. There’s the cliché of the weak athlete bringing everyone down, also a snotty rival team. And while it doesn’t feature any one girl, Makoto rightfully stands out again by not only winning the key race but unknowingly seducing one of the rival girls.
For a while I’ve been hoping that they would wrap up the Ringo story. Her quest, Project M or whatever, was growing more hopeless by the episode, and the farther Ringo takes it, the worse it would turn out. Besides, there’s slingshot girl waiting in the wings. However Mawaru Penguindrum has shown no interest in ending Ringo’s story, instead deciding to take it as far as it can go, no matter what the consequences.
With most other shows this would cause me to lower my interest, but Penguindrum is stylistically so weird that they can get away with it—for now. While I (and Shouma) worried about Ringo’s sanity, especially after seeing her father with another woman and her child (ironically, after going to view the penguins at the aquarium), her fantasies are so over-the-top that you can’t help but have fun with them. More people get turned into imaginary stuffed animals. Her father was already a bear (I think), and now he’s threatened by a moray eel. Keiju is already a prince. So why Ringo suddenly imagines herself as a wild west gunslinger defending a prince and a bear from Yuri and two moray eels I don’t know. Crazy minds like to mix metaphors, I guess.
Fun to watch, but sooner or later we have to go back to reality, that Ringo is preparing to do terrible things to people she supposedly loves, all for a fantasy. Shouma is our representative here. He constantly tries to talk her out of actions, helps her move back home after she discovers Keiju has moved in with Yuri. He’s not the type to outright steal her diary, to Kanda’s contempt, so all he can do is talk, or interfere if her plans get too dangerous, which they do. At the same time, his motives are suspect. Is he only doing this in order to get the diary? Would he go to these lengths otherwise? Ringo strikes home when she accuses him of wanting the same thing she does—the illusion of a happy family. We could compare actions and motives; in pursuit of Himari’s safety Shouma has done some unpleasant things himself, but he hasn’t gone as far as Ringo. Does that make it okay?
The entire episode revolves around Ringo and Shouma. We only get one scene with Kanda and Himari, and one with slingshot girl, and it looks like we’ll still have to wait another week for her, or will we? For, finally, some fresh plot roars in at the end and shakes things up, maybe because Ringo and Shouma have finally had the big argument they should have had episodes ago. I cheered when the diary flew over the balcony, grumbled when Ringo ran and picked it up, and could only scratch my head when the motorcyclist showed up. As for Shouma, any questions about his motives are nullified when he pushes Ringo away from a speeding car. I almost cheered then; whatever danger Shouma is in is less important than the fact that after a couple weeks, the show has finally thrown us something fresh.
Pretty much a plotless episode of Usagi Drop this week. Instead we watch characters act like themselves while the bonds betsween them get stronger, all during a typhoon (What is this? Penguindrum also had a typhoon, and both shows aired the same time that a real one was drenching Japan). Kouki is the episode’s center, and we watch him interact with nice teachers, mean teachers, Rin, Daikichi, and his mother. Each character brings out a different side of him, and since he’s a boy he shows his opinion openly. He’s wilder than Rin and can lead her into adventures, but he listens to her when she puts her foot down, and grudging agrees to wear her clothes when his own get soaked. Daikichi is obviously the father-figure he’s missing. His mother is a nag. But then we see the nag’s reaction when the two families get together and she sees her boy relaxing and having fun. You can tell that she gets to see this side of her son too rarely. Everyone is happy, and there’s something comforting about them all getting together, safe and dry and eating dinner together while the typhoon blows around them. I kept waiting for some bad news to break the mood, but, thankfully, nothing does.
Dantalian no Shoka has brought us some good stories (the courtesan, the deadly fangirl) and others which are no more than trifles, such as the book-flower, and the two that make up episode 8. The first had great potential, a book which enables you to barter for things of equal value, depending on what your values are, and it starts well with Camilla traipsing around the countryside trading one item for another while Huey and Dalian rush to catch up. You worry how it’s going to going to end up as you view one random bartered object after another, and when hopeless lover-boy Armand shows up shooting branches out of his arm you think the story has taken an interesting turn, but no, it’s the introduction to the second story. The first one, alas, is done. Camilla bartered the phantom book. The second story is nonsense about a jealous woman. There’s some interest in how they’ll rescue Armand, but that’s about it. And Armand goes to the underworld but when he comes back no one asks him what it’s like? I can’t believe that.
Ikoku Meiro no Croisée 8 is another good episode, though it’s a mystery to tired ol’ me how the tension between Claude and Camille came about. All I know was that their little scene had so many secret meanings and unspoken facts going on that it tired me out just watching it. But it looks like their separation isn’t only because of status and wealth. Much more interesting are the folktales and stories that Yune and Alice tell, well, not the stories, but the way Alice reacts to them. She has constantly sniped about the roles women are stuck with in society. Until now I wrote it off as the babblings of a girl unaware of the enormous pressures women face, but now we learn that Alice is much more of an independent spirit than her older sister, and always will be. Alice is turning into quite the interesting character. As for Yune, the title character, she serves as a catalyst, nothing more.
As usual, no big plot dramatics for Usagi Drop 7-8. Though it looks like it at the start, with cousin Haruka and niece Reina leaving their home and showing up at Daikichi’s place. What we get are a lot of adult conversations, and comparisons of parental lives while the kids run around in the background. And since these scenes are all good it doesn’t matter what the dramatic level is. My favorite bit comes after Reina tells Rin that her parents fight all the time, and Daikichi and Haruka start to bicker … Though any one of the scenes where Haruka describes her home life, or the “strength” metaphor are worth noting. It makes an interesting comparison to episode 8 and Masako’s reaction to secretly watching Rin and Daikichi. Seeing Rin now seven years old, no longer a baby, she realizes what she has lost by giving her up, and decides to dive further into her work, the thing she gave up Rin for. That’s what she wanted right? Even though she already works so hard she’s about to collapse. Or maybe she sees her action as a mistake she must atone for, even at the cost of her well-being.
It seems I skipped an episode of Idolm@ster. No matter. I enjoyed (this is a relative term considering the subject) episode 7 for the things it did not do as much as for the things it tried. At first it looked it’d be all about Lori seeing how the commoners live and embarrassing herself, sigh, but Lori quickly adapts to Yayoi’s crowded and lively home and the drama is the kid brother running away. I was so pleased by this turn of events (and Lori’s pep talk to the boy) that I happily forgot that the drama wasn’t very interesting.
Both Sacred Seven 8 and 9 had no real point to them. Episode 8 has Tandoji and Ruri going off to find something to fix Hellbrick, but really it’s an excuse for them to have a date. So they argue, Ruri objecting that Tandoji just says “whatever” all the time and isn’t really interested in this saving the world thing. This is not true, of course; Tandoji always finds motivation to do heroic things. But they bond a little. I guess they both had to talk it out even though we already knew they were fine. But is Ruri’s concern about Tandoji because he’s a valuable teammate or because she likes him? Who knows? Episode 9 is even more pointless, two separate battles with no ramifications, almost a filler episode. But these two evil darkstones, lampposts of destruction, were fun to watch. Why Ruri and Tadaki didn’t realize that the fat one was feeding off the energy they throw at him I don’t understand.
We meet new characters in Yuru Yuri. Episode 8 brings us Chitose’s twin sister Chizuru, which leads to a long and, I suppose, inevitable character confusion scene involving Kyoko at her most annoying. Why the hell did no one in the cast know Chitose had a twin? Even Ayano didn’t know. Chizuru’s best trait is that Kyoko bugs her and she isn’t afraid to retaliate with violence. I wish the other characters would show such initiative. A nice scene where Chitose announces she’s lying, but then says she lied about lying, so in other words, the Student Council president DID explode. I scratched my head over this until I saw episode 9, where we meet said president, Motsumoto and her favorite teacher, Nichigaki, who likes to do experiments. Normally, I like people who like to blow up things, but Nichigaki comes off as dull. Meanwhile her sidekick Motsumoto speaks so quietly that no one can understand her. But together, they’re a bit more interesting. “We’re explosion friends!” So two episodes, three new characters of varying interest.
In Nekogami Yaoyorozu 7 nothing happens. The girls/gods prepare for the festival, sleep over, and tell ghost stories. I didn’t expect any scary stories from them, but I figured on some half-funny ones. Wrong. Only Mayu tells a story that has anything spooky to it. But isn’t it odd to for gods to tell ghost stories in the first place? Once again, I defy my own tastes by finding the whole think kind of cute.
Whenever I watch an episode of Kamisama no Memochou my overall responses are “That was put together well enough,” and “But who cares?” And I feel a little offended. The show assumes I have bonded with these characters, when in fact to me they’re all ciphers, seen just often enough so that we know who they are and what they do, but not enough that I feel any attachment to them. My interest in the Renji and Sou conflict was diminished because I don’t like either character. Let ’em kill each other. It didn’t help that I knew Hison was alive the moment embroidery-guy said “he” had pain in his abdomen. And while the characters can consider it a success that the gang showdown at the concert was a success, we hardly saw any of it.
And finally, Baka to Test to Shoukanju‘s thrilling conclusion to the “I must expose the blackmailer even if it means peeping in the girls’ bath!” story arc. Er, a bit of a letdown. They finally get a good strategy, the blackmailer is exposed, the boys are suspended for a week (they never get the breaks), etc. The only real surprise came at the end, shown in the picture above. Now I’m only one episode behind. Sigh. But I can’t watch anymore.
While I was too busy to write last week, I wasn’t too busy to watch an episode or two and scribble notes, which I’ve hastily assembled here and dare to call a coherent blog post.
Usagi Drop 4 and 5 manage to balance Daikichi’s problems with the sheer cuteness of the situation. The big crises, such as they are, the meeting with Rin’s mother and deciding what name to give her are tempered by the joy that Daikichi obviously finds in the little tot. The mother turns out to be an irresponsible manga artist with issues who hasn’t fully realized she’s partially responsible for this mess. As for the name, Rin decides that for herself. Unaware of ramifications or expectations, she goes to the heart of the matter: she’s with Daikichi now. No, he’s not her father and she won’t take his name, but who cares? You wonder if she’s actually right, or just too young. Maybe the show will get back to that. Meanwhile, Daikichi continues to rise to the challenge of acting like a father, even if he isn’t one. In episode six the point is made that a family tradition had been maintained, especially important considering Rin’s existence is definitely NOT traditional. And so Rin becomes a little more a family member. … And we get some nice bits with Rin’s best friend Touki, who has a mother, but is in desperate need of a father.
Hanasaku Iroha 18 features Nako and her mermaid metaphor, but unlike all the other mermaids with shell bras, Nako rather likes swimming in the ocean where she feels free. It’s work at the inn, and school, that drag her out onto dry land. But after getting an unexpected raise she’s convinced to try a few new things out with her friends, to branch out and improve and earn that pay raise. I expected her to make mistakes and feel huge remorse, but the show, as usual, is too smart for that. Some things she regrets, others, she discovers, aren’t so bad, and she now looks upon the land with more confidence. Not much to the episode but, like most in this series, it’s consistently entertaining to watch.
Sacred Seven 5 brings us a beach episode that turns into a darkstone encounter inside a mountain that is shaped like a pyramid. There’s arguing between Kagami and Arma about protecting Ruri and not distracting her from their outing, Kagami goes to investigate, and when he realizes there’s danger there he doesn’t think about going back and getting reinforcements but goes half-cocked right into the danger, eventually causing Ruri and Arma to fall into danger as well. Such is the life of a character in a silly adventure series. Episode 6 gets back to Kijima/Fei and throws Kenmi in for good measure. Nothing much to it; just another story-arc starter. More variations on the “Protect Ruri at all costs” theme, with Kagami screwing up this time. At the same time, he doesn’t want Arma involved, which doesn’t explain why he stops his car to fill Arma in on the situation. “I have a crisis to tell you about, and, oh, stay out of it, please.” Actually Arma spends this episode standing around looking confused, from an odd bento scene (where Ruri flips through several girl-modes, finishing with tsundere, while Arma merely blinks) to grumbling while the others plan. Oh, and a fight with Kenmi’s assistant/dog, who is fun because she simply doesn’t care.
In Uta no Prince-Sama 5 it’s Syo’s turn as problem boy of the week. Since he’s basically a clown, it’s a silly episode where he, with the misguided help of his friends, tries to overcome his fear of heights. It’s predictable enough. The highlight is an impromptu song made by, um, I forget, about Hyouga’s action movie. Just one question: why hasn’t Syo beaten the shit out of Natsuki already?
I don’t really know why I’m still watching Idolm@ster, but I am. I’d say that it’s my silly escapist anime for the season, but I’m also still watching Yuru Yuri and Nyanpire, to name two. Maybe it’s because I don’t expect much from it apart from a small army of characters having goofing around, with maybe one girl spotlighted each episode. And, I would add, it’s relative lack of fanservice in spite of all the opportunities. That is, before I saw episode 5. In ep4 the cooking show camera crew’s interest in fanservice shots was intended to be humiliating for the girls, or at least for Chihaya, but one episode later the show is revelling in swimsuits and dropped towels. Yet I still watch it. Something’s wrong with me.
Usagi Drop, the second NoitaminA show is about a bachelor who takes in an abaondoned waif to live with him. I suppose we’ll get all sorts of episodes where the girl (Rin) does something a kid would do and Daikichi learns patience, responsibility, love, etc. I’m not a big fan of this story. But the first episode is promising nonetheless.
Daikichi’s grandfather has died and he returns home to help with the funeral arrangements and meets Rin, the illegitimate offspring of his grandfather. And we get to meet the family, the mother who’s ashamed, and uncles and sisters who’d also rather have the girl not there as well. These are nice little scenes; the family isn’t hostile to Rin, they just don’t know what the hell to do with her, and if they agree to take her in we get a sense that they’re abetting grandfather’s shameful act. Daikichi is the only one who takes any notice of her.
But why? Maybe at age 30 he is tired of living alone. Maybe he’s stung by the accusations that he doesn’t participate within the family as much as he should. Maybe it’s because Rin, though skittish, seems to like him. For the most part she’s floating at the sides of the gathering, not participating or being asked to participate, picking flowers, staring at the trees. The family even thinks she has a speech problem, since she doesn’t talk. But she talks to Daikichi and even falls asleep on his hand (to his discomfort). Then there’s the fact that she clearly loved her father, er, Daikichi’s grandfather (Daikichi is the only one who finds any humor in the situation), and one family member tells Daikichi that he looks like him at age thirty. So off they go together. If the girl is going to cause any trouble it’ll start next episode, and the show is slow and patient, admiring little moments, so I don’t think the crises will be big.
Baka to Test to Shoukanjuu is back. Apart from a “ni” at the end of the title, nothing whatsoever has changed. Akihasa is still stupidly earnest, Kirishima keeps gouging out Youji’s eyes, Mizuki is still pink, Minami is still flat, Voyeur is still Voyeur, and they won’t let Hideyoshi on the beach without a top. For this is a beach episode. You can probably imagine the scenes already. But I don’t care. It may be a stupid show, but it’s good-spirited. My only complaint about the episode is that it wasn’t as frantic as the show’s best episodes, but then there were no test-battles, either.
The plot of Mawaru Penguindrum seems to be this: Shouma (our narrator), his brother Kanba and their sister Himari live together. Then Himari dies, only she doesn’t, for an entity is inhabiting her body and prolonging her life so that the boys can obtain a precious item. In anime terms, this is a perfectly acceptable storyline. But the way it plays out … heh.
After a nice domestic scene in a very colorful little shack, the boys take Himari to the aquarium. It’s all happy, until she keels over and dies. I’m fuming. “So, it’s going to be this kind of show: get us to like a character and kill her off immediately.” Then the show, which up to now had just been eccentric, gets outright weird.
I’m tempted to list all the strange things that happen, but that would take a long time. I will say that not only is there weirdness, but it escalates. At one point Himari shouts out her (I assume) signature phrase “Survival Strategy!” and we (and the boys) find ourselves in either a magical transformation scene or a song-and-dance number, or both. This is when I hit my WTF state. I stared at the screen, open-mouthed, unable to believe I was seeing this. Not a lot of shows do that to me. Utena did, so I wonder if it’s a coincidence that this show has the same director. That may also explain the disturbing incestuous scene at the end. The other sobering element in the show, apart from Himari maybe being doomed, is the concept of fate and the characters relation to it. I’m sure we’ll get more of that. I hope they surround it with odd girls with more power-hats and helpful penguins. The new season has just become worthwhile.
I’ll say this about The Idolm@ster 1: it wasn’t as bad as I had feared.
Oh, it was pretty annoying at times, but the mock-documentary format they used to introduce the characters worked. They were only able to work in one song. Sadly, real life idol training is probably a lot more cutthroat than the happy day-in-the-life we see here. The girls probably don’t spend so much time cutely chasing hamsters, for one. We’ll probably see the regular format starting in episode 2, whereupon I’ll probably drop it.