Finales: Ping Pong, Wixoss, Nanana

It’s an insult to other sports shows when I say Ping Pong is more than a sports show.

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But look at the final match. Sure we get some great action. We see Peco scoring a couple points and then Smile scoring one, but there are gaps in between these points while we watch the people watching or get an extended flashback at how the two boys become friends. Reflecting on their lives so far and then seeing them tear it up at the ping pong table, both at full power and loving the moment, like what Peco showed Kazama to do last week, makes the actual outcome an afterthought. Even Koizumi and Obaba leave the match early, to sit on a bench and reflect on their own pasts and get interrupted by that Kaio guy, another old friend. We only learn about it in the flashforward at the end, in an already-fading photo at Obaba’s dojo.

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That was a little surprising, but not much. The show had things to tell us about ping pong that a single match couldn’t tell us. We see it best in a segment midway through, where we watch each each of major characters as toddlers or children, at the table, hitting the ball back to an unseen person, while the music sings about being alive. There is a joy to playing such a simple game, the simple repetition of it, swinging an object to hit another object, maybe instinctual, almost therapeutic. And the fact that someone is hitting the ball to them in the first place means it’s a shared activity, whether between friends, strangers, or parents.

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And then everyone moves on. Peco reaches a standard, not sure who he’s playing for, but he’s playing. Kazama is at a slight low-ebb, but the fact that he can talk to Smile while skipping stones on the beach says something about his characters. Glad to see Kong decided to stay and is being rewarded, though I worry about his mom. As for Smile, you might wonder why he’s settling for the life he’s in now–a middle school teacher? Really, Smile? But look! He smiled! He laughed! He jokes with kids! Something he had kept locked away for years is free now. It might be that he’s the happiest character in the show now.

One more of Koizume and Obaba.
One more of Koizume and Obaba.

Yeah, it’s an insult to other sports shows, because they all have something to say about life when they have their characters improve their game and climb the ladder, or face setbacks. And even a lesser show like Free! did something similar with its finale when it showed the four boys not terribly concerned with winning, but simply swimming together. But Ping Pong is a grittier, messier show, closer to how ordinary people live than any other sports show I’ve seen. It wasn’t about the game, but how the game can make or define or teach you as you grow up. It depicted these rough, grotesque-looking lives so well that I was drawn into it more than any other show this season. Also, the story seems perfect for an 11-episode season, nothing was rushed or dragged. I know it’s been a manga and a movie before, so I found this impressive. Well done.

Selector Infected WIXOSS doesn’t really end. They’re coming back in the fall, but before they leave us they decided to confuse us even further.

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Let’s see, Hitoe, Ruuko and Yuzuki exchange speeches and ideas and it boils down to Ruuko’s original plan, to wish that all the Lrigs were free. She wins, and suddenly Hitoe can be with her without pain, which wasn’t part of the overall plan but nice nonetheless. Still, how come that wish got granted? Now it’s off to battle Iona, during which, Tama-chan is whisked away so that the oversaturated Mayu can plant seeds of doubt into Tama’s feeble mind about Ruuko’s ultimate desire. So that, while the battle is still going on (?), Tama begins to make the contract with Ruuko but doesn’t say all the words. So instead, Iona’s wish gets granted, Ulith takes Iona’s body and Iona becomes RUUKO’s Lrig. Just what she wanted. Tama is left to drift.

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That last part actually makes sense. Iona gets to team up with someone who loves battling as much as she does. I suppose if you’re going to be an Lrig anyway, that’s the best situation for you. Smart wish, Iona! But where is Tama? Why did Hitoe’s wish get granted? Was the battle over? Who won? Who lost? It’s a shame that we got a season finale where the cliffhangers are outdone by the confusion, but the show had been heading in this direction for a while. The early episodes were nicely plotted, letting peer into the mystery little by little while developing the characters and needs, but then it fumbled the ball, and while it still had some compelling moments, it was harder to see them past the weirdness. Well, I’ll probably pick it up again in the fall. I liked the characters enough that I want to see what happened to them, and that carried me past the show’s flaws, like the battles, which the lightshows couldn’t salvage (overall, the show looked great), and, er, all the confusing things I’ve already mentioned. Let’s see if they can right the ship in the fall.

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I think Nanana’s Buried Treasure ended too, but they were tossing in so many little hints at the end that I wasn’t sure. But noitaminA shows traditionally run 11 episodes and there was no real preview. At the end, we’re no closer to finding Nanana’s killer than we were before. All they did this episode is drive Hiyooi away, maybe catch him in the closing credits. After that we get a rather nice scene between Juugo and Tensai over the artifact they found and Juugo’s promise. Tensai’s grown on me a lot this series, but Juugo still holds maintains his front of uncaring cynicism that no one really believes. To prove my point, he and Nanana have a fight to decide what she really wants and it’s revealed that they both have hearts, which we already knew. Really, not much of anything in this episode, making it feel like they’re expecting a second season. I wonder if they’ll get it. The first season had its moments but it failed in its attempts at telling mystery stories. But I liked some of the characters. Like WIXOSS, I’ll probably watch one just out of momentum.

Ping Pong 10, Wixoss 11, Nanana 10

I can’t remember when I looked forward to an episode as much as Ping Pong 10. Happily, the episode did not disappoint. But it surprised me a little.

The hero arrives!
The hero arrives!

The Peco/Kazama match could have wound up the other way and it would have made sense, maybe more sense than a guy with a bum let taking out the champ. But that wasn’t a big surprise. Instead, we get something different altogether. Yurie hinted at it before she flew away: Kazama’s looking for a hero. I thought him finding it in the form of Peco to be a tad perverse, but it makes sense. Kazama doesn’t believe in heroes–he never had one. Everyone’s always let him down. For Peco to announce before the match that he is the hero only incenses Kazama into bludgeoning him out of the first two games. Meanwhile, Tsukimoto, for whom Peco is indeed a hero, quietly sits in a stairwell and tells Koizumi that the hero is returning (while we get views of a giant, ruined robot in, possibly waiting). Though at the time, we can’t see it.

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If there’s a flaw in the episode it might be that the switch that is flipped inside Peco seems to come out of nowhere. He hears Smile’s voice and responds to it: have fun. Whatever the reason, he starts to play with the joy he used to have, wins the next two games, and we get the second big image of the episode–flying. They point out the contrast (sometimes overdone) between Kazama’s slow, agonizing climb up mountains and Peco, the bird, flying above him with little effort. It connects with that memory of Kazama’s dad talking about birds. Meanwhile, Yurie is flying away in a jet, happily off to find her future. This joy of playing rubs off on Kazama to the point where he actually smiles. Though he loses the match, he finally discovers that the game isn’t necessarily pain. He’s finally found a hero.

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The match takes up the entire episode, as it should, with little breathers where we check up on Tsukimoto in his stairwell, or Baba and Kong, watching with great interest and providing commentary. The show uses every visual trick it has to show the match’s progress. Sometimes it’s a flow of static images scrolling by, sometimes it gets metaphorical and shows the opponents sprouting wings, sometimes they simply play, with no embellishment. They use so many tricks that it comes close to overwhelming the viewer, but to the show’s credit, it doesn’t. They’re the best action sequences of the series yet; the show rose to the occasion. I am, however, worried about next week. Are we going to see a flashback to Koizumi’s loss, what with Peco’s bum knee? I know they’ll play with that angle, but I think the show and the characters are too smart to settle for history repeating.

One more thing. Though they use the bird image for Peco, to me, when he plays, he looks more like a monkey.

If Hitoe wins?  What happens.  If she doesn't?  Well?  Huh?
If Hitoe wins? What happens. If she doesn’t? Well? Huh?

On to Selector Infected WIXOSS and its own game, which no one (among the selectors) is playing for fun anymore. That’s maybe the point of this episode and what appears to be Ruuko’s true wish–that everyone can play together for fun. Well, maybe that’s her wish. She has one other one that is very similar to that wish in that other show I’m trying hard not to compare this show to, but no one thinks it can work. Yuzuki goes into some observations gained while being an lrig to that effect, but she doesn’t really know for sure. Maybe that’s the problem with this show: no one knows what’s going on anymore. Iona’s having a big selector tournament, but why? She’s not saying. Tama thinks there might be a solution, but what? She doesn’t know. Poor Hitoe is so obsesses with her wish that she again doesn’t see that it’s come true for her, though at great and ongoing pain. And we at home hardly know what’s going on anymore. Meanwhile, after we get the Hitoe business taken care of, we’re waiting for the inevitable Ruuko/Iona battle which will do … what? Sad to say, this series has fumbled the ball of plot.

Yuu finally does something constructive.
Yuu finally does something constructive.

The competition in Nanana’s Buried Treasure 10 is who can get to the latest treasure first, the club or Hiiyo. And it works out just as expected. The club does the dirty work and Hiiyo tries to take it away at the end. Well, it was more fun than some other episodes. The whole business of deciding which girder to walk on using the Fibonacci Sequence and a 13-character zodiac didn’t make much sense to me, but the puzzles here rarely do. It was fun to watch because Juugo decides, as usual, to leap right in and nearly get himself killed, and then Tensai gets clumsy and nearly does the same. And it was fun to see Hiiyo get knocked around a little, or a lot. too bad he’s still got that ring, so we have a cliffhanger for next week’s assumed final episode.

Ping Pong 9, Wixoss 10, Sidonia 9

Ping Pong 9 is a little disappointing in one respect, but only one.

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For all of the characters it’s following, all the different paths, like that long-haired guy who’s trying to find himself or that whiny girlfriend Sakuma’s found himself, it looks like this show is going to settle down and be a sports anime after all, for good and bad. We have Peco playing through pain and painkillers to go up against Kazama because his friend Tsukimoto is “calling” to him. What sets is apart from traditional sports shows is that fact that they’re friends and the relationship between them has changed. Smile used to look up to Peco, he was the hero to be called upon, like Peco’s being called upon now. But he’s no longer the stronger force, the protector. You could maybe say that the roles are reversed, but Tsukimoto isn’t the type to play up being a hero. I suspect a lot of heroes are like that.

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Along with the heroes business we get another question: “What do you play for?” We look at Tsukimoto and wonder. Peco because he’s the hero, or so he says. Kazama, holed up in the can, tells Sakuma he is playing for himself, though maybe a better answer would be his father and family. Outside the can he says “for the team.” Meanwhile we got that guy wandering the world in search of himself (no luck), who probably didn’t have anything to play for, which, if this was a lesser show, would suggest that’s why he wasn’t a better player. But the show has been sneaking us glances outside the ping pong arena: Kong’s mother, Sakuma, and showing us that living entirely for the sport is a mistake. Sanada seems to think that he must beat Tsukimoto to earn Kazama’s respect and to get the girl, but it’s possible that he’s mistaken.

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Meanwhile, heroes have to slay monsters. The show has ignored Tsukimoto in the tournament up to now, but the Sanada match is too important to skip. Tsukimoto wins, easily, robotically (I love the hydraulic noises they sneak in while he’s playing), testing Sanada before finding the strategy he uses to beat him. The game features some of the show’s best split-screen moments yet. We watch them slide by like a river, or one image forcing another one offscreen. Next he plays … who? Typical anime logic would suggest that it’s Peco/Smile in the final, but this show is a little smarter than that. Can he actually beat Kazama, even with a knee full of painkillers?

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Meanwhile, on Selector Infected WIXOSS, everyone is still trying to get their heads around the inanity of the situation, hold on, that’s just me. Everyone in the show, since they live in it, is quite serious. It’s just me and a million other viewers who are trying to figure out who thought up these ridiculous rules. Yuzuki, on the other hand, has done some thinking of her own. She’s decided she doesn’t want to play, and she’s gone out and told Ruuko, which means she’s stuck in 2D land forever. Why the hell not? Now that her former lrig Hanayo has her brother/boyfriend, no reason to go back. Hmm, if she hadn’t said that (and the show gave no indication of her being punished yet) and she guides poor Hitoe to victory, she’d get the friends, and Hitoe would be stuck with whatever wish HER selector had. What if her selector is a NEET who hates being around people? Anyway, plot-wise, nothing much gets accomplished. Even the Ruuko-Hitoe battle is interrupted when she freaks out over her former friends’ proximity, which opens up a whole bunch of other questions, like who’s the idiot running this game. Oh, right, that would be Mayu, who we didn’t get a good look at because of the supersaturated light, but she has a nice Kyubey imitation thing going on with her hair. Elsewhere, Iona calls out selectors (by all, I mean Ruuko) for a big event which I figure will round up the series with a million unanswered questions and more bewildered fictional characters and viewers.

Meanwhile, on Knights of Sidonia, Nagate makes a new friend!

Sometimes it points and makes cute noises!
Sometimes it points and makes cute noises!

They don’t have a name for it yet, apart from “Shizuka” or “placenta specimen,” the former being an insult to the real Shizuka and the latter being icky. But watching that thing achieve more sentience and mimick Shizuka’s behaviors, I got to feeling almost paternal toward the thing, and Nagate, still something of a bright-eyed boy in that society, seems to feel the same. If you encounter a monster that can mimic the girl you had a thing for and died, you’d act with revulsion. It must be doing something right to have that effect on Nagate. Or maybe he ought to just get over Shizuka’s death already and move on to another girl, or sexless being. It’s not like he doesn’t have a lot of choices. Numi, the scientist who is in charge of the Shizuka-whatsit even does a clumsy meganekko number on him, but zero gravity makes falling over impossible.

For such a sophisticated show, this looks like something Fritz Lang would do.
For such a sophisticated show, this looks like something Fritz Lang would do.

While we watch Nagate watch Shizuka-placenta and wonder when the thing is going to turn on them (very soon, it appears, but Numi’s on to it) we get other little plot points, such as Nagate’s continued success on the battlefield, the emigration of 100,000 citizens and the social implications of that. That’s in the background for now. We also get strangeness with Kunato (remember him?) discovering a part of the mansion he hadn’t seen before, people visiting Ochiai’s clone, inexplicably held captive down there, but for now it’s just plot seeding. And finally, the harem are trying to get Nagate’s mind off the alien thing and on to … them, I suppose. As for me, I’m rooting for some more battling. It’s been quiet long enough.

M3 6, Wixoss 9, Ping Pong and Nanana 8

This part was kind of fun.  Jilted from beyond the grave!
This part was kind of fun. Jilted from beyond the grave!

Let’s see … in M3: Sono Kuroki Hagane 6, Emiru gets turned into that dark crystal stuff, and that night a corpse, not an admonition, comes out to do the week’s mayhem. Emiru isn’t all dead because Minashi and Heito can hear her voice, well, when the corpse shows up, they all can, but then she IS dead right about the time that Akashi, in the Reaper, gets pissed off because Sasame is in danger. So did the corpse fly off because Emiru was dead, or because Akashi went into some higher state of angst and confusion? And do I really care, either way? Sorry, I don’t have any special feelings for any of the characters in this show, and it’s six episodes in. Not even Emiru, who might actually be dead now. Each one of them has a character trait or another that annoys me, except maybe for the experienced pilot girl who never gets to do anything, and you’ll notice that I’m not using her name, because I’ve forgotten it. Same with that guy she’s teamed up with.

In Selector Infected WIXOSS 9, we have Ruuko feeling sad because both her friends Yuzuki and Hitoe have deserted her. Suddenly, they’re both back! She ought to be happy, right?

Not necessarily.
Not necessarily.

The situation is entirely messed up, and not in a good way. Selectors who succeed become Lrigs, and if they succeed again, they get the wish–the other selector’s wish, not hers. So, Hanayo was once a girl who had a wish of her own. I wonder what it was. I will bet you that it had nothing to do with banging her brother. On the other hand, Kazuki isn’t Hanayo’s brother, so maybe the setup is doing her a favor. She get to get a cute boy as her wish. She just has to put up with the fact that she’s in Yuzuki’s body and everyone in the world, including Yuzuki and Kazuki, calls this incest, and she will be ostracized for it. So, really, the setup isn’t doing either of the girls any favors.

I thinking it's sinking in that it's HER wish, now.
I thinking it’s sinking in that it’s HER wish, now.

The episode is called “The Cruel Truth,” but it feels more inane than cruel. Why on earth is Hitoe getting a second chance at this? And is it beyond the games’ ability to match lrigs and selectors? At least that would make the Yuzuki/Hanayo situation more understandable. But Hitoe doesn’t recognize Ruuko anymore, not even getting jolts of pain when she’s around. What changed about her when she got the new lrig, which she shouldn’t be getting in the first place? Also, what does this all this mean concerning Tama? Was she a special-needs child who found she was good at the game? Did she have a wish? Was she capable of making one? And if not, was that the reason why she got paired with the wish-less Ruuko? That would mean that the pairings are indeed made by some kind of design, so maybe the game creators decided to have a good laugh at Yuzuki’s expense.

Ping Pong 8 begins the championship qualifiers, and looks into how everyone who has a shot, but devotes most of its time to Kong and Peco, who play in round 2.

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That might not be the best picture to use there, because we’re not really sure what Peco’s upset about. When the match with Kong comes he’s full of energy and confidence. He won’t play Tsukimoto until the finals, and he must know he’ll get to him eventually. Maybe he’s worried about that Kaio guy who’s after Kazama’s girl (and may well get him, since she pretty much walked out on him to start the episode off). Well, whatever. There’s still Kazama that someone’s got to beat, and a Peco/Kazama match actually interests me more than Tsukimoto/Kazama, and that one interests me plenty.

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I don’t know if you can all Tsukimoto the main character; maybe the show’s going to pull away from him for a while. All he does this time is win his first couple matches and hover around, bored, as the episode’s real drama plays out. Even Peco’s beating Kong doesn’t really seem to interest him on the surface, though we get a “The Hero Returns” sequence when he sees Peco play. Whatever Tsukimoto thinks of Peco’s resurrection, he isn’t going to show it on his face. The real story is Kong’s defeat, and, if the visuals mean anything, his ultimate return to China. I hope not. I like the character a lot and would like to see him work more with his Japanese team. But in the meantime, we have more games to pay attention to next week! And only three episodes to do it in!

This guy shows up and the episode goes to hell.
This guy shows up and the episode goes to hell.

As for Ryuugajou Nanana no Maizoukin 8, whatever things anyone had going come to a complete stop when they introduce Hiiyo, one of the founding members of the Adventure Club and its acknowledged biggest asshole. Everyone he meets grits their teeth, hides behind other people, or takes a swing at him. It’s not surprising, since the first thing he does when he meets someone is insult them or something they love. It’s rather surprising he’s there to begin with. The episode began with two other characters being introduced, or reintroduced: Yun, or Saki, the cute little thing from Juugo’s delivery mission, and some guy, and I figured we’d spend our time with them. Instead, Hiiyo shows up and pisses everyone off for no apparent reason, including me.

Wixoss 8, Ping Pong 7, M3 4-5

Selector Infected WIXOSS 8 throws a lovely little twist in at the end (spoilers).

Don't go through that dooooorrr!
Don’t go through that dooooorrr!

The show has done a terrific job at laying out just enough mystery to keep us interested, and deepening it when it’s the proper time. Maybe I should have figured out that Eternal Girls become Lrigs for the next girl–I wondered in the back of my head where they come from, but they make it more complicated than a cruel trick. It looks like Yuzuki was getting her wish, having her brother attracted to her, so it’s not like the cake was a lie, but that you have to give part of yourself up for that cake. Perhaps like how she gave up on Ruuko’s friendship and the well-wishes of her friends (not to mention Kazuki’s. If there’s a victim here, it’s him). There’s also the coincidence that she appears in Hitoe’s new deck. What are the odds of that? Is it by design? If so, why? Maybe she secretly wished for Hitoe to be given another chance? Nah. But, as I said, another mystery to be figured out.

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The rest of the episode wasn’t terribly interesting; it was pretty much Yuzuki’s story this week. Ruuko tries to stay away from the game and is succeeding so far. Akira pulls a knife on Ruuko and Yuzuki but the cops show up. I hope the show doesn’t forget that it has a mad stalker on the loose to use if they need one. Probably not. I was afraid that the show was going to forget Hitoe but now she’s right back in it, even though we were led to believe that she would not get a second chance, either a fault of the show or they’re planning more twists for later. As for the fate of the Selectors, it’s too soon to tell yet whether getting your wish is entirely good or bad.

Ping Pong 7 has everyone slowing finding what they need, except for maybe Kazama, who is oblivious that people are gunning for him.

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Mostly what Tsukimoto needs is a father figure. We learn why he was sitting all alone with that cake last week. His mother works nights. After a rough start where Koizumi agrees to let Kazama try and recruit him, he gets the idea and tries to get friendlier with the lad, well, as friendly as Tsukimoto is going to let anyone get. It seems to be working. Tsukimoto won’t admit, but he wants a character like Butterfly Joe in is life. Meanwhile, Peco is working inexplicably hard at his own game, also inexplicably getting accepted into a national school. I’m still not sure why he turned around. We also see him wearing a knee brace, and we hearken back to what Joe said about that one opponent friend he couldn’t bring himself to beat, rather like Tsumiki and Peco. I’d say this is foreshadowing, but the series is usually too subtle for something that obvious.

Sanada's first attempt at Yurie goes well.
Sanada’s first attempt at Yurie goes well.

Kong is working hard too, with a robot that can simulate Kazama’s moves. It’s been fun to see him fit in and work well with his, er, students. Just as it’s nice to see that guy with the hair get along with Tsukimoto for a change. Kong is gunning for Kazama. At the same time, one of Kazama’s teammates, Sanada, is doing the same thing, but he’s aiming for the girlfriend, Yurie. While Kazama isn’t an unsympathetic character, we won’t see any tears shed if Sanada takes her away. He’s pretty much driving her away. All in all, an episode where nothing big happens but little things do every minute.

I finished my previous post and shouted “hurrah, I’m caught up,” and then I realized I was two episodes behind M3: Sono Kuroki Hagane, and I gave a little curse. I should add that when I forget completely about a series it’s a sign that I really should drop it. But it hasn’t been bad enough yet, just kind of dumb.

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The dumbness of episode 4 has to do with the kids being dumped on a tropical island for survival training, the survival part having to do with Heito, the homicidal maniac, already being dumped there. So I expected an episode of slow terror as the kids get slaughtered one by one … Instead we get a bunch of dumbasses walking around in the rain. Whatever terror they generate doesn’t get a rise out of me, because Heito doesn’t show up until they’ve gathered and able to defend themselves. Well, apart from the end, and THAT business between Heito and Emiru will have to wait until next time. This lack of terror ruined any sense of salvation I should have felt when their past lives selves show up (figuratively) and guide them together. A shame, because those scenes where they follow themselves, so to speak, no knowing that they’re doing it, could have been a lovely moment. Well, it was still a nice one.

I like to think she's actually rolling her eyes at him at this moment.
I like to think she’s actually rolling her eyes at him at this moment.

Things get more ridiculous in episode 5. Rather than the continuation of pond scene, we’re thrown back to the classroom, where everyone is grumbling about who they bonded with, or didn’t bond with. Emiru gets the unhappiest pick with Heito. It’s bad enough that he’s a homicidal maniac, but he’s a smirking, giggling one to boot, which means she has to put up with that laugh of his for as long as he or she lasts. That might not be long. She has managed to hide the fact that she’s been turning into an admonition for some time. Her skin is turning into that dark rust, and no one at that sophisticated high-tech base seems to have noticed, apart from her delighted, giggling partner. On the latest training mission I’m happy to report that she lets it all hang out, and now everyone is battling Emiru, or trying to get her settled down, while Heito laughs a lot (as does that longhair guy in glasses). I said happy, because maybe we can get this situation resolved and move on, or at least get Heito out of there. He drives me up the wall.

Ping Pong and Nanana 6, Mahouka 7

Ping Pong 6 has all the characters who were in freefall landing, somewhat hard, and dusting themselve off. Oh, and it’s a Christmas episode, too.

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I absolutely loved the Christmas scene. It’s not the first one I can think of where you get shots of characters doing their thing while a pop song plays, but it’s still an excellent way of showing how each character is doing. And I think the happiest one must be Kong, who’s mother visits and, together with a bunch of friends, prepare a feast. In the meantime, he seems to have accepted what happened and is taking his role of team ringer seriously. Other characters work on down from there. Kazama and the girl’s relationship … well, they act happy, but I’m wondering how they really feel. At the low end we have Smile, in a dark house with no one else to celebrate the day with, blowing out the candles.

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As for Peco, he hits his own low at about that point. The scene with Sakuma, who’s predictable speech is mocked by passers-by (the show is good at poking holes at whatever sports cliche it decides to use) gets genuinely frightening when he jumps into the river, and I actually thought he was going to die and began to wonder what direction the show would take after that, but this scene too is deflated and mocked. But I was surprised that Peco even jumped off the bridge in the first place. He might have been reacting to Sakuma’s declarations that he had been a hero. “Hero” was the key word this week, and we see both honest and cynical takes on the subject from various characters. Anyway, now that he’s hit bottom, how far will he come back up.

It's fun watching Tensai play detective, not because she's good at it but because she has fun while doing it.
It’s fun watching Tensai play detective, not because she’s good at it but because she has fun while doing it.

Nanana’s Buried Treasure, the other noitaminA show, flounders around trying to get a grip on something. They actually get to that hot spring this episode, and Juugo has managed to scrounge up the money somehow. We learn how at the end of the episode, and by that time I was past caring why. By the onsen there’s an abandoned house, but they only need to look in one room, and some people go on ahead, so that the big challenge is the puzzle of stone pillars, and like last time they don’t do a very good job of involving us in the puzzle such as it is. Juugo and that other guy just leap and leap. Then the treasure is stolen, recovered, and the culprit exposed, and it’s the same old people. And then the real anticlimax. I figure this is a standalone filler episode, or at least I hope it is. Because most of the treasure hunting so far has been a bore.

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Mahouka 7 gets off to a promising start when Tatsuya and his band of avengers crash through a gate to get at the bad guys who are hanging out in an abandoned big building, then fizzles as they easily defeat them. There are some light shows to enjoy, but it’s mainly Hayama, the leader of Blanche, giggling evilly and trying to do a Geass on Tatsuya, who, as usual, sees right through it. Even Erika and the rest of them, told to hang back, get bored by all this. Afterwards there are a few scenes where everyone talks about how great Tatsuya is. When Mibu falls in love with Kirihara and not Tatsuya it’s because she knows he is too great for her. And so the first story arc of the series FINALLY comes to an end. It was a distasteful bore. The two villains we meet at the very end don’t appear to be much better, but it’s a change.

Ping Pong and Nanana 5, Nisekoi 18, Mahouka 6

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Ping Pong 5 lowers the intensity a little, except for the dispatching of Sakuma, the guy who dispatched Peco in the tournament. The show seems to enjoy presenting players who are really good only to show how frail they are against people who are better than they are. Except for Kazama, who goes on to win the nationals. It may have been this event that prompted Kong to decide against returning home right away. A single or tournament can have a big effect on everyone involved. After his humiliation, Peco goes to the beach and then drops the game altogether–at least for now. For his teammate Sakuma, it’s a bit more complicated.

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I don’t know how Kaio HS doesn’t penalize Kazama for his remarks after the nationals, where he wins singles but the rest of the team is eliminated. Pro athletes in America might get away with it if it sounds like they’re calling out his teammates for not working hard enough. I think their coach is right: Kazama is undermining team morale. Or maybe their coach is just soft, letting Sakuma play on their team because of his work ethic. You need players like that to set an example. Not that Sakuma is setting any by sneaking off to play Tsukimoto, a breach of rules even if he didn’t get his butt kicked and then kicking the butt of a stranger on the street for good measure.

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Meanwhile, Smile has gone back to machine mode. I don’t understand why he’s become so cold-blooded. Though, thanks to flashbacks, I can see why he might have some animosity toward Sakuma, and it’s good to have no mercy in any competitive sport. But what’s motivating him to train hard beyond that? His forgotten teammates watch him train and sigh at their lower status. Peco watches sadly–we don’t know what’s on his mind, either. In the meantime, Smile gives Sakuma that final push over the edge, Kong trains, and Kazama waits for Smile to switch schools. And once again I have no idea what will happen next episode, and even less idea of what’s going on in Tsukimoto’s head.

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Something I’m trying to figure out about Nanana’s Buried Treasure: is the misdirection deliberate or they can’t be bothered? We start with the group (Isshin has already been forgiven for conning Juugo, it seems) planning a expedition to find some treasure at a beach resort or hot spring or something, I can’t remember now, so I figure this is the excuse to show the characters in various states of undress. Having that to look forward to, we suddenly shift to Juugo’s getting his allowance cut off and being short of money to pay utilities, thus getting a secret part time job, and suddenly we’re in the island’s lawless zone where we meet a whole new pack of weirdos. The boss is some generic tough-talking broad but Yun-chan is a cute little thing. Anyway, stuff happens and Juugo still doesn’t have his money, just his sense of pride of looking out for himself only. Maybe the beach episode or whatever it is is next week, on the other hand, maybe they’ll spend it on Juugo getting up the cash, or maybe they’ll fling something else new and weird at us. Your guess is as good as mine.

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I don’t know if I have or need to say anything besides Nisekoi 18 is a beach episode. It had everything you would expect. The story inches forward or backwards this week with Chitoge wondering if she was falling in love with Raku and asks him what would happen if they WERE a couple, only to get a too-negative reply by Raku that has her not speaking to him. Elsewhere, Onodera bravely blurts out a thing you wouldn’t expect (good for her!), only to have the comedy gods intervene again. She also makes Attack on Titan sandcastles, something else you wouldn’t expect from her … well, Chitoge was helping. Meanwhile, Ruri, Tsugumi, and Marika are introduced at the beginning, so we can see them in swimsuits, and then do next to nothing for the rest of the episode. Next: the cultural festival!

I was afraid of what would happen in Mahouka 6, and I was right to be. First, there’s the terrorist attack on the school assembly (where all the unimportant characters have vanished), which is wrapped up by the good guys in seconds, but it was only a feint, and we discover the terrorists, including Mibu, trying to get access to top secret magical files the school had stored in the library. From what I understand about what they might contain, I might be on the terrorists’ side, but they, too, are quickly dispatched, thanks to Tatsuya. Then it gets worse.

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I figured Tatsuya would lay a lot of pompous speeches on poor Mibu, but with Miyuki’s help it’s worse than I expected. “See how awful the people against us magical people are?” or somesuch. There’s also the condescending “you’re naive, the world is not a perfect place full of happy unicorns,” and adds a line about how if everyone was treated equally, then everyone would be treated equally badly. Correct me if I’m wrong about that line, because I can hardly believe it myself. When Mibu rightfully replies that there IS discrimination there, and that Tatsuya has felt it himself, Miyuki butts in saying that she loves him anyway, and some others like him, and how she pities her, because she’s so unhappy while being so cute and good at kendo. Naturally, this isn’t enough for Mibu, or any rational person, and she flees, only to have to fight Erika, who uses magic, and sophists Mibu into abandoning her magic ring. Mibu is beaten, while Erika says there-there, I actually had to work harder than usual to defeat you, and I’m really a super-elite swordswoman who has magic, and you don’t, so cheer up!

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It gets worse in the next scene, where we learn that Mibu had been discriminated against once at that school, and only once, apparently, and that was actually her mishearing something that Mari said. In other words, she’s never felt discrimination at all! She was such a fool, sob-sob (in Tatsuya’s arms of course)! All the other moments of weeds vs sprouts or whatever must never have happened. Sorry, I’m too pissed off about this group of elite, highly-trained students telling other students bullshit to keep the status quo for me to write anything more. Next week there might be some magic battling. Maybe things will improve. Maybe Tatsuya will be too busy battling to talk.