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Sort-of finales: Cavalry and Asterisk

December 21, 2015 Leave a comment

This time I’ll say goodbye to our spiritual sister shows … for now.

First, Rkudai Kishi no Cavalry wraps up the way we figured it would.
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It looked like the show had a major dilemma on its hands.  Ikki was in no condition to fight, and Touka was damn near unbeatable.  While they are friendly with each other, she would not back down or go easy on him.  Both of them knew it, and so did we.  And any attempt to game the system, or give Ikki the rest he needed before the match would be considered cheating no matter how unfair the situation was now.  So we start with Ikki having to run to the arena, in slow motion, with his moment of self-doubt, until he remembers his promise to Stella.  We get an inspiring moment after that as all the side characters he’s inspired cheer him on the rest of the way, all predictable and not changing the central problem.

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If Cavalry has an edge over that other show, Asterisk, it’s with the visuals.  Ikki decides to go with one strike, squeeze everything out, go beyond himself, and other metaphors, so of course it takes a long time to actually do it with all these words to say, but it’s all right because it’s a great visual moment.  The colors get washed out; only streaks or red (Ikki’s blood) and yellow (er, Touka’s hair).  Everything else is either simple lines or a mottling where the fans are sitting, all black or white.  Though the shot a second after, of the other characters gaping, was an anticlimax.  The proposal, however, was not, more like icing on the cake.

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The winnahs!

At least for now apparently that’s it for this series.  They didn’t even get to the big tournament so the show has plenty more it can do if it comes back.  I’m not sure I want any more.  I’ve pointed out the differences between it and Asterisk many times.  The only big difference between them is Cavalry is a little darker.  A high school where kids do magical battles to advance to a big tournament, lowly hero embarrasing and then impressing a tsundere redhead, harems, buddies, it’s more or less the same, nothing new at all.  If two shows can be so similar do we really NEED more of each?  If there is a second season, I’ll decide then.

Asterisk had a couple of good visual bits too.

Asterisk had a couple of good visual bits too.

Gakusen Toshi Asterisk has more to go, too, but they’re stopping for a season before resuming in April.  The finale, therefore, doesn’t have the same emotional punch as the Cavalry does.  Ironically, the battle goes longer.

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This episode starts with Irene and Priscilla’s already-known backstory, maybe thrown in to emphasize the love and affections feel for each other.  But we knew that, too.  I guess they were trying to set a mood.  Then both teams go to the floor and we have a back-and-forth affair for a while.  Ayato has a sneaky trick he wants to pull; everytime he and Julis do something clever I shouted “Was that the sneaky trick?!”  Well, not really.  But it’s a pretty good fight nonetheless.  Both sides coming up with tricks, surprising the other, occasionally stopping to explain what they or the other side is doing, an anime tradition.

Irene (or her sword) goes nuts.

Irene (or her sword) goes nuts.

The sneaky trick didn’t work, but by now Irene has gone to priscilla’s blood-well twice, and the added effort to protect herself, or her weapon, is too much for her, and her weapon takes over and makes her even nastier.  Meanwhile, Ayato’s time is running out.  Time for one more strike!  So the good guys win, the not-really-bad guys lose but pick up the pieces, and the only change is that now everyone knows about Ayato’s time limit.  Whoops!  The future opponents are already making plans, and Ayato says he has to confront this problem sooner or later anyway … Actually not a bad way to begin a hiatus.  Ayato has a new problem (not to mention his sister, who they tease is coming back), opponents are licking their chops, and his harem is still intact.  I seen no reason not to watch this when it returns.

Cavalry, Asterisk, and OPM 11, Teekyuu 70

December 15, 2015 Leave a comment
The real Touka.

The real Touka.

Rakudai no Kishi no Cavalry 11 brings us to Ikki’s family problems again, when a fake scandal is pumped up by the knights organization and he’s brought in for interrogation, over a week of it and counting, with breaks to do his battles. It all follows a pleasant break where we learn what we expected, Touka is a big adorable klutz with a heart of gold (the glasses were the giveaway) and Ikki wondering what his own source of strength is. Turns out it’s not his family; at one point, Ikki thinks maybe he has earned some redemption and respect from his father, he learns it’s nearly the opposite.

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He’s doing better than expected in the tournament, which might inspire underlings, which is bad for business. So he has to recover from that, find a new source of strength, and battle Touka next round, The episode makes it all work well. Everything to do with the interrogation is done in a blurry, black-white-red setting, and the scene with his dad is made more effective for it. Meanwhile we see the other characters, working hard and feeling a little helpless. The music’s a bit overdone, though. A little O Fortuna-ish.

Priscilla and the real Irene.

Priscilla and the real Irene.

Gakusen Toshi Asterisk 11, the more innocent of our two magical-battle-schools series, works further to change Irene from a dangerous killer to a crazy, spontaneous fighter who’s afraid of her sister. Actually, they did that last week. This time around Ayato rescues Priscilla from some thugs, and Irene thus feels obliged to pay the debt by telling him she’s going to destroy him tomorrow in the tournament because of his weapon. Nice of her. We also hears her story: basically she owes this Dirk asshole a lot of money. Ayato, being a nice, dull, harem male, starts to feel sorry for her. Considering they’re going to battle to possible death tomorrow maybe this isn’t the best idea, but we have to some issues for the battle next week. Also, Claudia tells Ayato about her own weapon and how it imagines all sorts of deaths for her, and she comes on to Ayato twice. I guess seeing a different death every time you doze can make you a tad clingy.

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Often during an episode I’ll watch the clock to see how much time’s left because the episode is dull. With One Punch Man 11 it was with the hope that there’ll be enough time for Saitama and Boros to finish their battle. No such luck. This series is too good at stretching things before the inevitable, and they have an episode to go. Still, it was fun to watch. The S-Class bunch on the ground do a nice job with the seemingly invincible, er, Melzagard, holding off his attacks, finding his weakness, and working together to defeat it, well, there’s one head left. Nice to see that the S-Class gang aren’t incompetents.

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As for Saitama, he wanders around the ship, doing his thing, while the crew there act like idiots, until he gets to Boros, the boss. I should have known the fight wouldn’t start until next week when Boros began telling his story, but it’s of course interesting to learn it’s similar to Saitama’s. No one can beat him, he got bored and traveled through the universe looking for the one who could give him a fight. Saitama might care more if Boros wasn’t trashing his city. I wonder what Saitama would say if a fortune teller told him his one true opponent was elsewhere in the galaxy. Probably “Oh, man I can’t get out there. Oh well (shrug).” Also, I wonder if he’ll get any credit for beating Boros next week. Probably not. Sadly, that’s part of the joke for this series.

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I’m a week behind with Teekyuu!, but will save the gloriousness of ep71 for later. As for #70, they actually play tennis! It’s their annual practice, you see. There were a couple of second-long lags, so it drops to a SPG ratio of 3.00, still impressive.

Tens: Owarimonogatari, OPM (and 9), Cavalry, Asterisk

December 8, 2015 Leave a comment
It's always Araragi's fault.

It’s always Araragi’s fault.

It’s not that I’m tired of all the talking. If I didn’t like talking in anime I would have dropped the franchise long ago. But Owarimonogatari 10 is the second week in a row where a lot of talk can be wearying. I suspect it’s because Gaen is doing all the talking and she has an answer for every question and is a little smug about it. One of the reasons Ougi also gets on my nerves. In this episode, through much of it, anyway, she explains why the “first one” managed to revive himself at that shrine, and it’s somehow all Araragi’s fault. The fault seems to lie in the fact that he happened to be there, or at least did something quite innocently; nonetheless it’s his fault, Gaen says, so naturally Araragi accepts it and goes off to buy a BL book for Kanbaru and donuts for Shinobu, whereupon, to my relief. the episode gets cheerfully silly again. The First One showing up in the guise of a young boy was another welcome, quirky moment, welcome after all the one-sided talk.

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In One Punch Man 9, like Genos, I’m not sure what Saitama was thinking when he turned to the crowd and joked about the other heroes softening up the sea guy so he could he could polish him off and take all the credit. He was being sarcastic, maybe, bitter about the bad rep he’s acquired, or he’s being diplomatic, or he just doesn’t care. Probably all of them in measure. He’s already made it clear that he isn’t in this business for glory or fame, though he wouldn’t mind a nice fan letter or two. His reaction to the hate mail was telling: someone with a lot of free time. The crowd response isn’t important to him, at least not superficially. I also admire the honest way he deals with the other heroes: if they’re shits like the Tank-Top guys he responds. Otherwise he sees them as other folks in the same field, and likes the ones who try hard, like Mumen Rider. We need more superheroes like Saitama.

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And in #10 they have to bring up a new villain. Fortunately Saitama invited himself to the briefing so, unlike last time, he’ll be around right away to help stop the carnage, if the rest of the S-class heroes will stop bickering, that is. Well, that’s unfair. The other heroes are all strange people, as you would expect, but they’re not all pampered superstars, and I frankly can’t think of a time when any of them backed down from a fight. They’re individuals, with their own personalities and occasional petty jealousies. They’re also doing a pretty good job with the current threat. So, like Saitama, we’re all hoping the boss will show up next week and get this threat over with.

Rakudai Kishi no Cavalry 10 features the Shizuku/Touka fight. It goes along predictable lines, but has some nice moments.

Shizuku cleans off the blood.

Shizuku cleans off the blood.

In all such magical battles, the show invents strange magical physics and we’re expected to go along with it. Touka’s great power comes from lightning, and Shizuku’s water, so Touka should have the advantage, except Shizuku can conjure “ultrapure” water. which apparently does not conduct electricity. Okayyy … except the battle becomes such a whorl of water and lighting and ice that it’s never mentioned again. When the match begins, neither contestant moves. We’re told they’re waiting for the other one to move first, whereupon Shizuku moves. I don’t know why Ikki even tries to explain some things …

She's over there.

She’s over there.

No!  She's ---

The very next frame.

But it’s a good battle anyway. We’re told, for perhaps too long, that Shizuku needs to follow Ikki, and so she desperately needs to win this battle against the girl who single-handedly kicked all those monsters’ asses last week. That brings up another point: Touka is not an evil opponent, but an ally. It’s one of those battles where you really don’t want either to lose. The battle itself looks great. Like last week, the show uses another simple trick, having Touka in the distance and in the next frame be right in front of Shizuku, swinging her sword. Simple and well-timed. In the couple times the show did it, we don’t expect it. Neither, sadly, does Shizuku, who finally goes down after her last-ditch flurry fall short. Still, well done! Ikki says she’s become strong, but to me she was as strong before the battle as after it.

Gakusen Toshi Asterisk has a lot of battling, too, but they’re content to show us earlier matches and let some comedy in.

Yay you.  Now put on some clothes.

Yay you. Now put on some clothes.

But first they introduce Irene by having her beat up some thugs and get intimidating with Julis and Ayato … and then bring down her threat level considerably by introducing her more proper sister, Priscilla, who wears the pants in the family, it seems. I wonder what Priscilla thinks of Irene being incarcerated, or was she incarcerated too? Anyway, we move on to Saya and Kirin’s match and the nakedness following, and yet another magic battle academy series uses the “If I rub them they’ll grow bigger” trope, two in a row. There’s also head-patting later. Ayato/Julis’s next round is also a laugher.

MacPhail does better than expected, but ...

MacPhail does better than expected, but …

They save the crazy stuff for the Irene/Priscilla match against MacPhail/Fat Kid. It ends the way you expect, MacPhail being a cannon-fodder character in this series, but he does land some good shots and forces Irene to recharge by going vampire on her sister. So we learn she can be roughed up and perhaps taking care of the sister first would be a good idea. Well, Lester tried that … I liked the idea that her magic weapon made augmentations to her body so that she tap into her sister, so she’s technically a vampire, but not, you know, undead or anything. Anyway, they do look a lot more formidable than they did in the first scene.

Nines: Owarimonogatari, Cavalry, and Asterisk

December 1, 2015 Leave a comment

Owarimonogatari 9 (week nine already?) has, of all things, too much talk.

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We start with that half-crab half-monkey apparition, dispatched by Araragi and Kanbaru and then again by Shinobu when the snakes come out … Every time a familiar animal appears I try to make the connection to the times a character would be inhabited by it, and fail to find one. Especially the snakes. … Anyway, after that we get a strange moment involving the swingset to show that no one in this series, save Araragi, does anything straightforwardly, and then it’s off to meet Gaen, where Araragi and Kanbaru were intending to go in the first place.

Please don't.

Please don’t.

Nothing wrong so far, except the apparition was offed a little too quickly. But when they finally meet Gaen she starts a very long story about the samurai, apparently Shinobu’s first minion from 400 years ago. It boils down to “He killed himself but couldn’t really die and slowly reformed over 400 years and now he’s back,” but Gaen stretches this out for I don’t know how many minutes. We have the usual beautiful illustrations to admire, of course, but still it’s one of the few times when the show famous talking becomes tedious. Maybe a few more interjections by the others would have worked, or more fanservice. I suspect it will continue next week as Gaen will have to explain where the samurai’s been for the last fifteen years. And why Gaen is pretending to be someone else …

Meet Toka.

Meet Toka.

Rakudai Kishi no Cavalry 9 took my breath away at one point with a stylistic trick. The video frame had been narrowed on both sides, and during the battle at the end the black part crumbled away, and a second later they switched it up and did the same to the horizontal edges. All to emphasize the power of SC president Toka, a newcomer to the show and obviously the boss of the good guy’s side. Well done! Oh, she’s Shizuka’s first round opponent btw. A shame the rest of the episode wasn’t all that great. Our lovebirds go on a training trip in the mountains where they’re stuck cleaning. Then Ikki and Stella go into the mountains and the latter promptly gets sick, and it’s raining, leading to a way too long undressing scene in a mountain cabin. Well, it did have the purpose of showing Ikki’s more noble side and got some of that sexual tension out of the way. Most mountain cabin scenes in anime can’t say the same.

They'll fight the heroes later, but it's hard to dislike them.

They’ll fight the heroes later, but it’s hard to dislike them.

Gakusen Toshi Asterisk 9 moves on to the Phoenix tournament, and we learn about it through an infodump midway through that they really didn’t have to do. First week is to knock out the wannabees, the second is where the schools score points. There’s also a confusing speech by the tournament boss about letting alternates in, which must have meant the two autonomous robots we see in the middle of it all. They’re run by Ernesta from that rival school, and it’s hard to take her or the robots Aldy and Rimsey terribly seriously because much of their penchant for humor, especially the robots, who start bickering with each other just after introductions, a surprising comic moment considering how formidable they are and the threat they pose. No, the real danger must be that nasty girl they’re getting out of prison to kill Ayato, but after we meet her at the start the show pays no attention. As for Ayato and Julis, they win their first battle with Julis not even bothering to fight.

35 7, Asterisk and Cavalry 8

November 24, 2015 Leave a comment
Ikagura and Isuka were adorable when they were kids.

Ikagura and Isuka were adorable when they were kids.

Taimado Gakuen 35 Shiken Shoutai has had story arcs opened and more-or-less finished for everyone but Ikagura, the more mature one who wears a lab coat. In episode 7 she gets her turn, and it’s pretty weird. Apparently she was a clone of sorts, raised to wear a lab coat and do research on things without restraint or mercy. We learn this via her “sister” Isuka, who left Alchemist and now works for the bad guys at Valhalla, where she is trying to ressurect dark elves, but they need a elf cell called Last Matrix which Ikagura stole when she fled whichever place they were at. It all sounds like something out of RailDex to be honest. Anyway, Ikagura is going to reunite with Isuka and make these elves for unknown reasons. We also get a sense of the difference between the sisters. Ikagura, we discover through a cute scene with a little elf, has a maternal side she probably won’t admit to herself. Oh, and she decides to have sex with Takeru at the end, though you know that won’t go anywhere.

cavalry8-1Rakudai Kishi no Cavalry 8 looked to be in the middle of a longer story arc, and maybe we’ll see Kuraido again, but the story of Ayase’s old dojo is wrapped up in one battle, Ikki vs. Kuraido. The battle dominates the episode. There’s a flashback to Ayase’s father and his defeat to set up Ikki’s using the old man’s technique to show that he hadn’t really been beaten, his weak heart gave out. Sounds like a lousy excuse if you bring it up, so everyone just thinks he was beaten fairly. As for Kuraido, the episode doesn’t make him entirely sympathetic, but we get an understanding of what the fighting means to him, and thusly to Kaito and to Ikki, leading to a few Ayase lines about not knowing the heart of a warrior. Not a bad episode, the fight was good, but I’m a little surprised that they wrapped the story up so quickly.

askerisk8-1Gakusen Toshi Asterisk 8 already wrapped up its story arc, so we have an in-betweener featuring Kirin and Saya, who have teamed up for the Phoenix tournament, if they can get their teamwork together. It’s a silly and slight bonding episode where they go out shopping for Saya’s dad’s birthday in a seedy gun shop … and the show refuses to make an incident happen. She buys the used gun and walks out peacefully. Later there’s a conflict with a girl at another school at a pool, but there’s no teamwork to be shown there since it’s an individual duel. But they talk a lot and get a little closer, and miraculously their teamwork improves just because of that. Yeah, unrealistic, as was Kirin kickboarding and unable to stop, for chrissakes.

35, Asterisk and Cavalry 7, Teekyuu 67

November 17, 2015 Leave a comment
How is Mari supposed to concentrate with people flying off of balconies all the time?

How is Mari supposed to concentrate with people flying off of balconies all the time?

The story arc introduced last week in Taimado Gakuen 35 Shiken Shoutai looked to be a longer one, what with Usagi’s getting transferred out, that asshole Tenmyoji to deal with, not to mention Mephistopheles, but they managed to wrap it all up in episode six, neatly with a nice ribbon … no wait, that was Usagi.  It’s one of those satisfying arc conclusions where the smug bishies get humiliated, the good person possessed by an evil spirit is told to get acting lessons when she tries to con anyone, in short, the things I usually hate in these stories were cut short.  There was no reason for it despite Ouka’s will, I especially enjoyed her resisting Mephistopheles at the right moment.  But above all I enjoyed Usagi getting over fear and self-loathing and disrupt two bad things happening (the wedding and the leap).  On the other hand, that magical design over the school business was inept.  We never really had a sense of it’s threat.  It looked like something Haruhi Suzumiya might have done to a field to attract aliens, but sloppier.  I suspect they stuck it in there just to keep Mari busy and out of the main story.

Here's Kirin looking more formidable than usual.

Here’s Kirin looking more formidable than usual.

Gakusen Toshi Asterisk has a lot of similarities to Cavalry, but this week it also resembles 35, with Kirin, another short girl with a dark past, self-confidence issues, big boobs, and a fondness for having the dominant male in her life pat her on the head.  Like Usagi, she chooses episode 7 to stand up to an aggressive, manipulative male in thumbs-up fashion (no biting, but she slaps his hand away) and then resumes her role in the main character’s harem.  As for what actually happens, Ayato deals with the monster in the sewers to the pleasure of the rival school peeking in, and then has a duel with Kirin, sort of a coming out party for the newly liberated character, which she loses.  One of those battles where they explain every special move they make before making it, while the other one goes “Oh, I see.”  Not as satisfying as 35’s story, but that’s because there was less at stake.
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And with that, Asterisk’s latest story arc is over.  Over in Rakudai Kishi no Cavalry 7, the story arc continues.  This time the girl with problems who’s been training with the hero, isn’t a seemingly helpless little thing, but a young woman with some cunning, which is how she tricks Ikki into using his big final power by rescuing her, thus making him unable to use it in the upcoming match.  What’s more, Ayase rigs the arena with phantom sword strokes for him to run into, just to make sure.  It all leads to a less friendly and bloodier battle than Asterisk’s but with the same result, since Ikki has more than one super-power.  The girl is redeemed by Ikki, that is, she somehow regains her fighter’s honor or something, and so HIS harem grows a little, well, no, she’s not the harem type.  Anyway, now they have to go after the asshole who caused all this.  Overall, not bad, but routine.
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Finally, Teekyuu! 67 slips to a SPG ratio of 3.91.  However, there was so much going on that I might have missed something.  The bald guy’s evil speeches slowed things down.  In the story, the girls put on a kid show, and justice is destroyed, thanks to a torn ACL.

Sixes: Owarimonogatari, Asterix, Calvary, Comet Lucifer

November 9, 2015 2 comments

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Owarimonogatari 6 feels a bit odd as far as this franchise goes.  I think it’s the extended happy-aftermath business at the end now that Sodachi knows what happened to her mother.  Long interior monologues from Araragi while the love theme variation of the ED plays in the background with simpering violins.  The final “what was in the letter?” bit at the end was an annoying aside and I have no care for an answer.  As for the mystery, it struck me later that Sodachi’s story, while bizarre, had absolute nothing supernatural to it, so maybe I was expecting something … weirder.  Better yet was earlier on, not only the extended trash-talking by Ougi (I kept wondering what Senjougahara would have done–probably broken another finger), which turned the character from disturbing and enigmatic to unpleasant and cruel, but the ten-second process Hanekawa goes through to think of an answer, during which her hair turns that black-white color that we saw in the Tsubasa-Tiger(?) arc.  First, I thought all this happened before those events, and second, why did she need to reveal her hair in order to get the answer about Sodachi’s mother?  We may never know.
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Gakusen Toshi Asterisk 6 is more of Kirin, who quickly moves to fighting Ayato to becoming his training partner, while Ayato and others talk about what an asshole her uncle is.  Naturally, Ayato is especially nice to her and even Julis doesn’t seem to mind.  So it’s cute morning training sessions for a while until some other faction somewhere decide to attack them with fire-breathing doggies that turn into blobs and regenerate when hit, until Ayato and Kirin fall into a big hole that inexplicably opens up.  Well, it’s a pleasant change from all the heartfelt talk and blushing that filled the episode before.  Besides, it was kind of fun seeing the clumsy big-boobed Kirin turn into a formidable swordswoman when they’re attacked.
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Rakudai Kishi no Cavalry 6 keeps up the similarities to Asterisk.  In this case it’s a girl named Ayase who starts training with the hero.  But that’s the only thing.  Otherwise it looks like this new girl, who gets some rather intense if innocent physical attention from Ikki, might wind up betraying him before they can compete.  It’s not a great setup because while we get why she wants to screw him up before their match, we don’t know, er why.  She has to win, okay, but we don’t know the secret behind it.  Was she aligned with the thugs before or were they always her enemies?  Well, I’m sure we’ll get the truth next week.  Bet it has something to do with both the thugs and his father.

The prince arrives!

The prince arrives!

While watching Comet Lucifer 5 I kept thinking that Kaon’s moods and funks over Souga and Ramon were dragging the episode down, but they added a nice twist at the end.  Kaon was muttering earlier about how she ran off during her wedding dress fitting because her prince never showed up.  Then, later, Roman dramatically saves her life in true prince fashion.  What’s more, it all happens during a wedding ceremony.  That was a nice moment, made a little sad because Kaon is putting two and two together and realizing that Souga is going to be taken by Felia, leaving her with Roman.  The other thing I was thinking was that you should never invite Souga, Felia, and Kaon to a wedding.  And finally, Moura sucks at fighting.