Rampo Kitan: Game of Laplace is the first show of the season to finish, and it does so in no better or worse fashion than the ridiculous final story arc permits.
Namikoshi’s nefarious plan to create an explosion of twenty faces for society to deal with is near fruition with his own death. Meanwhile Kobayashi is there too, ready to jump off the tower with him. This was my first disappointment. Kobayashi is a smart, resourceful kid, and I was hoping he would plan some countermove, even if it meant simple debate. Instead, he agrees with everything Namikoshi says and, in that cheerful fashion of his, prepares to kill himself too. Meanwhile the social network of god that Namikoshi made is turning everyone who could hinder Akechi and Hashiba from getting to the site, but nice interference by bag-head guy.
Meanwhile, Namikoshi prattles on with how the victims will rise up and strike back against their aggressors, as if this was a good vs. bad situation (well, the show indeed has always made it out to be–another disappointment), and I began to get bored, in spite of the dazzling visuals. I was also trying to figure out why the hell Namikoshi wanted Akechi to shoulder blame for rescuing either him and not Kobayashi or vice versa. So Akechi shows up, there’s more of the usual talk, and Akechi makes his decision. Namikoshi and Kobayashi are both happy with it–untl Hashiba ruins everything by being heroic. The wonderful, godlike, social virus program has been outdone by a completely expected act by a side character.
Too many things like that prevent this series from fulfilling its potential. I loved the look of it, the evocative imagery, especially the mannequins they would use to suggest outsiders that introverts like Akechi and Kobayashi can’t afford to recognize unless they get in their face. Could have done without the death-butterflies, though they looked pretty. But the show had problems with equating revenge and justice, and the fact that hate makes more hate no matter who’s side is right. Oh, the show tried to show it was wrong, but in saying at the end that the program’s aftereffects have led to a calmer city, the show tells us what side it’s on. Also, I would have liked to know more about Kobayashi, or at least watch him talk about horrific things with that happy voice of his, or maybe I want to figure out if he’s actually a boy. I couldn’t read him as one. Sadly, that is what I’ll take from this show.
Classroom Crisis 12 does a nice job of aligning all the pieces for the big finale next week.
Nagisa’s crisis is not finished, but extended; the stab in the back was just a prelude to more unpleasantness, and it looks to be great fun because Yuuji hasn’t just had a breakdown, he’s transitioned into full Crazy Mad Scientist mode. Not only does he gloat and drool and spout revenge things, but he’s going to stick Nagisa in an improvised rocket/suv and shoot him INTO SPACE! And the rocket will land on top of A-TEC’s last ditch demo! Excellent mad scientist work. And still, Nagisa infuriates him further every time he opens his mouth. I think Nagisa might be enjoying this a little, stab wound, kicks to the side and punches to the head notwithstanding.
Meanwhile the good guys work for a while on locating him until Kaito tells them to go back to their rocket, because of something Nagisa was working on. Seems odd to me, too. That leaves Angelina to track him down. A visit to Coldwood construction firm, where she allies herself with Ibra, their boss, and there’s a nice fight scene after, nice because we get to see Hattori, er, Angelina fighting in a rage for what’s been done to Nagisa. The character has developed a nice combination of kindness, bitchiness, and badassery through the episodes. Too bad they can’t stop the rocket in time. Well, not too bad, because now next week A-TEC will launch their rocket and rescue Nagisa, hopefully with Iris on board. All she got to do this week is fail flight simulations (stupid rocks) and mope a lot.
Being mostly a silly comedy, Sore ga Seiyuu 11’s big crisis is Ichigo’s twisted ankle, and that comes at the very end. The theme this week, so they say, is Taking Care of Yourself, and it’s mainly over halfway through, thanks to celeb cameo Ryoko Shiraishi and her cough drops. A more fitting theme would be Going at your Own Pace, which is what Futaba is trying to do and tries to remember when she sees Ichigo and Rin racing ahead of her. Shiraishi helps there thanks to a unpleasant vocal cord anecdote (the manga had another vocal cord story going, but I don’t know if the the show wants to go there). It also shows while Earphones try to sell tickets to their first concert. I wonder if the theme will continue next wee, with Ichigo’s bum ankle and all …
No crises in Non Non Biyori: Repeat 11 at all, which is how it should be. Instead, we get a mixed bag of little sketches. Komari wants to send a cell phone message and makes me wonder exactly when this story is supposed to take place. She barely understands what dot.com means … Then we watch Renge making New Year cards while Kazuho tries to peek, and then we get a closer look at Hotaru’s maturity. As usual, Renge steals the episode, but I sort of liked Hotaru at home, too, acting like the fifth grader she actually is.
Finally, Teekyuu! 59, while feeling a little off–I think it was because Marimo’s mother was in it–but had a ration of just under 3.00, which is excellent.
Rampo Kitan: Game of Laplace 10 is maybe the weakest episode yet, though it does deserve some credit for stretching out the obvious without me throwing up my hands and jumping forward. Basically, Namikoshi’s abducted Kobayashi and tells him his life story, in the third person, which is basically a story of physical abuse by classmates and his parents until Akechi came along. We knew much of it already from last week, only it becomes more absurd. This Dark Star program that they created, a societal manipulation program at work, basically, bullshit about Laplace’s Dragon aside, can cause trucks to go out of control hit people who just happened to be walking there, and other equally outlandish actions. And so the show, for me, takes a major hit.
Before, this was a show about criminal behavior, predicting it, and solving mysteries (well, and androgynous boys, etc). But the Dark Star program doesn’t fit in. It’s pure fantasy, a godlike piece of software that was programmed and runs easily on a laptop and is now running the story. I can’t believe in it or its place in a tale about detectives and culprits. However, the show can still play to its strength: Akechi catching Namikoshi and rescuing Kobayashi, though I suspect the boy might not need the help. Kobayashi spent the episode asking questions in that curious voice of his; I expect he’s going to have something to do next week, unless Namikoshi pushes him off the tower first …
Classroom Crisis 11 is one of those episodes where the good guys regroup after the bad guys triumphed the week before so we can get ready for the big finale. Well, that sordid little event at the end might throw a monkey wrench into things, but I since Iris didn’t die last week I assume Nagisa won’t die either. I actually don’t care for Nagisa enough that me might as well die, but anyway … The only thing that I’m curious about is why Iris ran away when she saw Mizuki and Nagisa getting romantic; not sure what that was about. And I’m curious about what devious plan Kaito has in mind, but again that attack at the end may make the point moot. I also rather liked Li happily joining the military research unit; he’s an amoral bright-boy playing with toys. But he also has very little to do with the story now. Well, he might, but I can’t figure out what the story is anymore. Is it about A-TEC? Is it about Nagisa’s redemption? The CEO’s downfall? Kirashina’s corrupt past and present? All of them? One or two? I don’t know where to look anymore.
Non Non Biyori 9 is mainly about Natsumi, so there’s a lot of lying and stupid behavior in play. This show is weakest when it shows antics like this, Natsumi trying to cover up the fact that she and Hikage ate all the moon-viewing dumplings, or in another episode, Hotarou trying to hide all of her Komari dolls. But even though you knew Natsumi would break her mom’s watch from the moment they brought it up, it didn’t really turn out so badly. At one point she even tries to apologize, and when that fails, she is put to work, which she earnestly does. The fishing scene had her dive into the pond for a fish, and it’s followed by the other girls trying to make this tomgirl look cute. I guess we saw a lot of sides of Natsumi this week, except the bright and kind sides we saw a few episodes back. However, all these skits meant the moon-viewing scene didn’t last as long as I wanted it.
Rampo Kitan, Game of Laplace 9 shows us most of the show’s strengths and one of its flaws.
We have Akechi, with Kobayashi’s help, trying to refine Namikoshi’s social behavior program to put an end to Twenty Faces. It’s mainly talk about what the program should be able to do, interspersed with Hashiba’s worries about Kobayashi getting too involved and neglecting his studies, and well he might, since we get a moment where K sees H as a silhouette figure for a moment, one of the people he just doesn’t see because they’re not relevant to his current passion. Kobayashi’s rebuttal, that trying to help people and put an end to a social disease is more worthwhile than passing his makeup exams, is a good one, sort of examining the priorities between the two kids. Also interesting that Kobayashi finds the program’s flaw: Akechi failed to include himself and his actions in the formulas. There’s talk about how this is a natural mistake for Akechi to make, that he doesn’t consider his presence to be a factor, though Twenty Faces fans have been tweeting about him for a while.
Then the show decides to get a little crazy on us. They perfect the program, predict the identity of the next vigilante and the victim. And there’s a showdown between Akechi, the cops, and … well, I won’t spoil it, apart from saying it’s not only completely unexpected, but kind of nutty as well. But turns out that’s a red herring, and there’s another Twenty Faces … again, I won’t give it away. It’s supposed to be a shocking moment, but again the show’s sense of style, distancing itself from the action and the character’s emotions, means it doesn’t have the effect it should. Oh, it’s a great plot twist, but I can’t really find myself caring too much. Sure, a little, but not in an emotional way. Anyway, I predict that Kobayashi, the outside thinker, who is probably NOT in Twenty Faces’ mind, will play an important role from here on out. Too bad he’ll probably miss his exams, though.
Sore ga Seiyuu! 9 features the young and serious manager Konno as she does what Futaba and the others have been doing–working hard, making mistakes, getting scolded, and improving. The events are mostly flashbacks, particularly Futaba losing a role to Rin, but seen from her side. She’s inexperienced enough to not know how to handle Futaba’s setback and later tries to make up for it by getting her hopes up about a bad audition. In the end, all she can do is give the girls the opportunity to work and get better, and, this being a mainly happy show, succeeding in the end. And while the girls sometimes have it rough in the studio this episode, Konno’s POV means we don’t have to see much of it, thank goodness. The guest cameo, btw is longtime vet Noriko Hidaka, most notable (to me) for singing the Baka Song.
Finally, in Teekyuu! 57, the girls try to bake potatoes, multiple times. I think the SPG ration was 3.33, but I suspect some of the jokes were obscure Japanese potato-roasting references not known to the average foreigner like me.
Rampo Kitan: Game of Laplace 7 set up an elaborate murder setting consisting of two victims, giant mannequins, gears, and the police and suspects standing around being colorful. So many visuals going on that it was hard to figure out what was going on. So, naturally I figured the solving of the murders would take a little time …
Frankly, I was let down. Weak metal, call in the girl who ordered it, bingo! Then there was the murder confession bit, and I would have been pissed off by the victims’ behavior too, well and good, but considering all the groundwork they had set up, I was let down. I wanted more interviews with witnesses, more weird visuals (well maybe not; they had too many as it was), more tantalizing clues and deduction. Instead, even with a Kobayashi/Hashiba bickering session, there was still half the episode to go.
What they filled it with was a flashback to Akechi’s old friend Namikoshi, who was trying to use chaos theory, Laplace’s Demon, and other math things I barely follow, to create a social … thing, I guess a meme whose rise and effects can be predicted beforehand. Basically, the origin of Twenty Faces. You know from the start that it will not end well for Namikoshi, so we’re just waiting for the how and why. But all we really get was there were flaws in the math, or in the model, but Namikoshi “launched” it anyway. I’m curious as to how. A Twitter message? Facebook page? So now Akechi is determined to catch all the twenty faces that show up, not out of the belief that he’s partly responsible, but for his ego. I’m not sure if this all worked or not. The show, as we saw in the first half, masks its weakness with style, but it provides a nice idea or two.
Classroom Crisis 8 has a school festival in it, and A-TEC is going to launch a water rocket with Iris in it! It sounds like a fun episode, but the show decides to suck the fun out of it through a variety of ways. Iris gets a fever, though it’s unclear whether it’s a physical reaction to her horrible flashbacks, or that the flashbacks come because of her fever. So she lies in bed and has a conversation with Nagisa about her lack of a past. Then there’s the political wrangling going on, one party supporting A-TEC, the other Kirishina Corp., and there’s more ugliness among the Kiryuu clan, with money being siphoned off and some dark secrets going on. The only positive note, apart from the water rocket, is that Nagisa and Angelina are a little surprised to find each other sympathetic to A-TEC. The slow face turn is almost complete, just in time for the corporate and governmental politics to get REALLY nasty.
Gate 8 was the amusing episode I think we expected. The fetish girls see modern-day Tokyo and make some astute comments about it as they marvel. Then Pina and Bozes go off to talk politics and prisoners with the Foreign Ministry. Interesting to watch how each side treats the other, and to realize that even back in fantasyland there is politics at play … Which prisoners should they release? What kind of favors can Pina or the Ministry get out of it? Pina gets to show off some smarts here after a few episodes of being a lousy general or a figurehead.
But the real fun comes with Youji and the others getting investigated by … whoever’s pissed off at them, notably the prosecutor lady who tosses off a lot of accusations only to get shot down by Youji and the girls. Meanwhile, those watching on TV or the interwebs fanboy out. But I can’t just see them just going to a subway afterwards. Even if it’s to throw off some evil organization we don’t know anything about yet, surely they’d be recognized by somebody. And surely there’s a better place to take them than the home of Youji’s otaku ex-wife. Even if the group are celebs and possibly in danger, surely there’s some better place to put them. Besides, I want the girls to meet some creepy otaku to see how they react. Still, fun episode that finished before I was ready.
Rampo Kitan – Game of Laplace has always had vivid, often extreme imagery, but in episode 7 it gets so stylish that the story gets completely swamped. But at least we start normally enough. Kobayashi and Hashiba are taking exams, and Kobayashi challenges Hashiba and Akechi to some card game to bet on whether even bother. The game itself involves both strip poker and Hershey’s kisses and we never do figure out what it’s about. I also don’t know why Kobayashi is dressed as a girl again. It’d be nice to think that he’s developing into a transvestite, but the show gives no indication apart from an earlier thought that it’s easier to solve certain things dressed as a girl, or get taken hostage.
Anyway, another Twenty Faces has appeared, and all semblance of normality goes away. First a visit to Black Lizard, then a trip to a murder scene, an island where a theme park is being built by a dubious major corporation. Island residents appear as mannequins, we get a song and dance by the two builders, who turn out to be the victim, another three-minute murder thing, the bizarre murder location (the victims were crushed by giant mannequins), Akechi talking to characters who aren’t there. More mannequins representing the people who discovered the bodies … It was all Akechi gathering clues and depositions, you know, detective work, but throughout I worried that the show had forgotten what it was there for. When it does return to normal Kobayashi (still in a dress) and Hashiba have arrived via helicopter, maybe the most normal thing in the episode.
The cliffhanger of Gate 6 turned out about as expected.
Episode 7 doesn’t do much else but revel in the JSDF otaku meeting a cat-girl and a bunny-warrior. After that it’s just clearing the way for Youji to meet the Diet, bringing along the magical characters they’ve already met, all of them female fetish objects. This is possibly the best strategy for Youji and the local command to win over the diet and make them think twice about taking over the other world, not that I think it would work. There are too many forces on our earth eager to profit from this new world, and not just in Japan. But the show apparently doesn’t want to work this in yet. So it’s mainly deciding which girls should go. Why Youji is so reluctant to have Pina come along I don’t know. She is the closest thing to a head of government who’s coming. As for Rory … I don’t know if bringing her would be such a great idea.
To be fair, I really should have watched Classroom Crisis next, but I decided to watch Charlotte 7 to see if she’s dead.
Okay, no trolling. Instead they chose the manipulative way out–fiddle with our emotions for no real reason. Well, the alternative was pretty manipulative, too. Unfortunately it meant we got to watch an entire episode of Yuu mourning in his own way, that is, holing up in his apartment, lashing out at everyone who comes near him, getting driven out, living in internet cafes and the streets, and taking delight in hurting thugs. Until Nao puts a stop to it. Sort of a shame. It’d have been fun to see him turn into the show’s villain.
On the other hand, you have to admire Nao’s perseverance, and wonder a bit at her restraint. She watched all the scrapes he got into, saw him sinking further and further, and didn’t interfere. Well, HE didn’t interfere when she was getting beat up … But why did she wait so long? It seems to me she could have kicked him much sooner than that. The only thing I can think of is that not enough time in the episode had passed. As it was, Yuu’s descent was effective to a point but went on far too long. As for Ayumi, I think we haven’t seen the last of her. Misa can channel spirits, remember.
Gate 6 works in two halves, the massacre, er, battle, and the aftermath.
What happens is pretty much expected even if you haven’t seen the previews. The SDF sends in helicopters, complete with missiles, guns, and Wagner music. And Rory gets to have some fun. But Rory hasn’t hit her peak yet, so to speak, and the helicopters are still a ways away. And Pina is in shock and unable to issue single command, not even call Jouji and the other greenies from that distant wall. Will they get there before the brigands are completely victorious? Yes. And it’s hard to say whether the following scenes are fun or scary.
True, there are some entertaining moments. Rory in action is great fun to watch, and when Shino goes a bit beserk and joins her we get a odd view: two women, accustomed to combat and death, fighting together. It almost makes me sad that the helicopters show up and blast all the bad guys to bits after that. But during the scene they bring up an important point. Pina sees the helicopters and sees that her empire wouldn’t stand a chance against them, and the brigand boss suggests to Rory (while she’s killing him) that this isn’t war anymore. Not that we care about the latter; besides, this is exactly what war is: slaughter.
After the “fun” is over we turn to the aftermath. Italica and Pina are shocked that the victorious forces want so little, Jouji gets slugged by Rory, and that’s before he chooses three girls for something. More interesting is what happens on the way back, when the trucks are stopped by the Rose brigade and Jouji’s taken prisoner. This is the first time in the series we’ve seen an SDF person on the weaker side of things. What will Pina do with this new opportunity?
After last week’s distasteful episode of Rampo Kitan: Game of Laplace, episode 6 pulls back and gives us a silly filler episode. Akechi gets visitors. First Kobayashi with a kitten, then Shadow-man with a bomb strapped on his chest, then an abandoned baby, and then terrorists or something downstairs. It works well. Kobayashi’s happy nihlism matches up nicely with Akechi’s world-weariness when they banter anyway, and Shadow-Man’s request that they help him is more of an annoyance to Akechi and a fun challenge to Kobayashi. Hashiba’s there too, to do his straight-man duties.
So they nonchalantly discuss ways to get past the terrorists (all of which leave SM dead) and we learn that Akechi is terrified of cats (so this one naturally loves him at first sight), hates babies (so he says, but his actions suggest otherwise), until the timer runs out. The only disappointment is that they didn’t work in the terrorists. They just remain downstairs shouting threats at people. I mean, you had terrorists and a bomb … lazy thinking, guys.
Ranpo Kitan: Game of Laplace 3 manages to be sinister and eccentric at the same time. The former is demonstrated by Sachiko’s murder; the show had that all set up to be a happy ending, the girl cured, happy, and going to school, only to turn it on its head and make her another victim. It demonstrates just how cruel this show can be. It’s eccentric not only with Koboyashi happily cross-dressing but in its final bit, where bag-head, a man with an unhealthy but benign interest in young girls, fights a man with an unhealthy, possessive and murderous interest in them, two sides of the same coin. Finally, there was that line in Sachiko’s flashback about her father not being able to see her face. Like Kobayashi? Is this going to be a running theme? I guess I’ll find out soon …
Episode four, in spite of a few surprises, didn’t really work. I was rather pleased (though disgusted) that Watanuki returned because it showed this wouldn’t simply be a “murder of the week” series. On the other hand, I can’t agree with the police’s strategy here–letting a serial killer loose to bait a vigilante, and I’m surprised he could just walk around scot-free like that. And while the identity of Twenty Faces was a surprise, there wasn’t much in the way of clues for us to solve. It could have been anyone on the police force if they wanted. Yeah, so Kagami was shown as obsessed and insomniac, that wasn’t enough of a connection for me. Now the show has lost one of Akechi’s best foils on the police force. Finally, what the hell was that scene with Black Lizard about? What did it do apart from introducing a rather disgusting character? Did she help at all?
Episode five was dull and disgusting. We’re forced to watch how Kagami got the way he did, starting as a wide-eyed rookie investigator with a doting younger sister, who we could all guess would be dead meat by the end of the episode. The insanity defense puts some repeat offenders back on the streets and his dedication wavers, then one of them kills the sister … By this time I had turned away from the TV in disgust. And, by the way, you know who all the worst criminals are because they are somehow monstrously deformed. Sugata’s lizard tongue, Watanuki’s extreme obesity. Things like that, where you know you’re supposed to hate them. And they all say “I’ll be free in a few months, ha-ha!,” an oversimplification to make them even more monstrous so you can root for the equally disgusting vigilante “justice.” This show had been been so clever and stylish up to this episode; now it feels derailed.
As a palate cleanser I chose Sore ga Seiyuu! 4. Basically the girls’ show ends, there’s a wrap party, everyone is depressed because there’s no other work coming. Futuba is cheered up by this week’s cameo, Banjou Ginga, whom I had to look up, and then the decision is made to make the girls a unit and keep their radio show going, because they’ve gotten better, probably the moral of the week, unless it’s “Keep trying” again. So now the girls have to adjust to their new, slightly elevated status while they wonder just what the hell it means to be a unit. I’m still not in love with this show, the episode moments where they could pick up the pace, but the goofiness of the 4-koma comes through at times, and there’s the happy, always changing ED where they sing a bit of an anime hit song.
Teekyuu! 51 has already been supplanted by 52, but I need to ration out the show’s greatness, so only one episode here. It’s the cultural festival and we see a lot of Yuri and Udonko, who I don’t remember. An impressive SPG of 2.9, keeping its good streak going.