Robotics;Notes finale, Bakuman3 almost the finale

Robotics;Notes ended the way most shows do. They have a big fight. The “bad” character is redeemed. The villain is destroyed. The club is vindicated. But it all feels underwhelming.

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In spite of the show working on it for episode and episode I could never really get into the threat that the 300 Club (whatever) was presenting to us. Maybe destroying most of the earth’s population was too abstract an idea, the more people dead the harder it is to conceive. It shouldn’t matter. The threat is there, our heroes have specific goals in the finale, and the episode does a pretty good job in building up the suspense.

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In practical terms saving the world meant keeping that rocket from blasting off. Also, Misaki must be rescued and brought back to her true self, whatever the hell that is after years and years of brainwashing. It all happened, but apart from the rocket exhaust taking an agonizingly long time to stop, little of it was as effective a it should be. Akiho has to push that button to get Taiko into slo-mo mode several times, but we don’t see any real consequences to Taiko, in spite of the warnings. Seriously, shouldn’t he have been rushed to the hospital (along with Misaki) the moment the crisis was over? What’s more, how effective can this slo-mo when Taiko’s pushing buttons to move giant hydraulic limbs rather than a virtual game or a quick, tiny robot? I didn’t buy that. I also didn’t buy Nae and her team retaking JAXA, probably because we didn’t get to see it. I was looking forward to it, too.

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As for the Misaki/Akiho story, it went pretty much as countless other stories have. Akiho (and Taiko) talk Misaki out of it while the ghostly Kimijima speaks lines about how shocked he is. But it was also confusing. Misaki stops when Akiho motors out to talk to her, then Taiko starts to trash-talk, and there wasn’t a moment I noticed that suggested the rebooting was done with. So, Akiho was trying to talk her down, Taiko was trying to pick a fight; it looked like they were working at cross-purposes.

The winnah!
The winnah!

Well, it was a decent series. It developed some good characters and was always visually interesting to look at. Not nearly as good as Steins;Gate, but not many shows are, and it was much much better than the dismal Chaos;Head that started this whole business. It falls right in the middle. I’ll look forward to the next installment of this franchise.

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There’s not a lot left to do with Bakuman3 23 being the penultimate episode of a long, long series, but with all the other plotlines burned away they can’t finish without coming to grips with the original goal: Miho acting in Mashiro’s anime series and thus making them eligible for marriage. Auditions are nerve-racking enough for the participants, not to mention us viewers at home, but to make it an open audition and deciding by online vote is made the whole affair tough to watch. And it was terribly unfair to everyone involved to put the casting up to a bunch of fanboys. On the other hand, Miho’s audition piece and the effect it has on everyone who watches it (a shifting tableau of regular characters) was a lovely moment, especially when they framed Miho in front of the manga character she was auditioning for. As for the Weiss vs Schwartz business, who the hell cares?

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Robotics;Notes 20

Today I’m trying to catch up on a lot of shows, but I’m only writing about them if I feel like it. So far, SpaceBros with Mutta in the desert? Nah. The demon king in stocks giving epic speeches? I barely remember what the hell’s going on in that show. Then I watched Robotics;Notes 20, which has an epic speech of its own.

Guess which character is about to make an epic speech?
Guess which character is about to make an epic speech?

Last week we met the “real” (as he gets) Kimijima, alas, a smug, smirking villain, who’s mind-controlling some people including the girl who’s point a gun at the good guys. Actually, this doesn’t really seem like a problem. It’s dark, there’s, like, five people who can scramble away and get behind her. But instead we get Akiho’s epic speech. You know, thinking back on it I’m not even sure what it was about. It felt like a massive “Fuck You!” to the bad guys, but Mitchie manages zap it to all the other side characters in the story so we can have a mass gathering before the battle scene.

Yeah, that'd freak me out too.  No wonder Misaki went nuts.
Yeah, that’d freak me out too. No wonder Misaki went nuts.

When we aren’t watching Akiho make epic speeches or parrots do heroic things or Furugori bark perverted laughter we get a lot of Misaki’s nasty backstory. She kills Kimijima before he can inflict too much damage to that ship (I THINK that’s what happened) and he spends his virtual life breaking her down after that. Frankly, if I had to see that smirk on all the screens I came across I’d snap pretty quickly, myself. She manages to gain some moments of independence and does a very odd thing at the end to Sister Centipede, though I doubt she’s going to survive the series.

Just a sample of the 'rally together' scene's members.
Just a sample of the ‘rally together’ scene’s members.

But there was so much going on in this series recently that I had forgotten just what everyone was up to. Fortunately, we get a few quick infodumps by Nae and Gramps that set up what’s going on. They got to stop the bad guys from launching that big bomb when the storm ends. And for some reason that means they have to rebuild their gunvarrel robot (I thought it would be at the ruined exhibition center, but there’s another one in that hanger) almost overnight. Fortunately it comes time for the aforementioned scene where all the good guys come out at once, preferably with either twenty people, loads of trucks and cranes, or both, to lend support and get a few pithy lines in. Yeah, it’s a cliche, but if done right it can be moving. … I’ll give this on a C+.

Robotics 19, Kanojo Pet 20, Bakuman3 21

Robotics;Notes 19 is good stuff, everything the premise could be, but it’s so late in the series that I wonder if the series can be salvaged. Also, it’s damn confusing.

I knew Gunvarrel and spider-robnot would duke it out.
I knew Gunvarrel and spider-robnot would duke it out.

Okay, so the solar flare isn’t real, but using faked reports and footage makes it feel like it’s actually happening. That’s interesting. The question is why they’re doing it. I was unclear on the purpose of using solar flares to decimate mankind in the first place, seems kind of counterproductive, so now that that we know that the impossible to implement story was a ruse, we’re still no closer to getting at why the 300 are doing it in the first place. Controlling the human populace by their minds? That’s almost as ridiculous as the solar flare business. And naturally, in spite of all the stuff going on in this episode, we still aren’t getting the full picture.

Oh, look, Airi's holding a gun ...
Oh, look, Airi’s holding a gun …

And it leads to scene after scene of great moments that just hang there with no explanation. Misaki bounds off and hops into the spider-robot, which starts attacking everything. Yeah! And you knew it would be crazy because they start playing that song just beforehand. But turns out she wasn’t real, or something, because the real Misaki is in another robot suit piloting another spider-robot on some beach. So was the white spider remote-controlled? Then why bother to show her jumping into it? Meanwhile this giant obelisk shows up out of nowhere, and Airi (the real one) is having an encounter with that music, too. The next time we see her she’s pulling a gun on the heroes. As for Frau Koujiro, she’s held at gunpoint until rescued by, of all people, Nae, demonstrating that the good guys haven’t thrown in the towel yet (though at one point Akiho needs a pep-talk). At its best the scenes in this episode seem to head in one direction but suddenly take off in weirder directions. The trouble is, the closer they come to a big climax, the more confused I get.

Fake smiles.
Fake smiles.

I’m also a bit confused by the problems our kids are having in Sakurasou no Pet no Kanojo these days. Let’s see, both the upperclassmen are graduating, Aoyama is going to leave whether she passes the audition or not. That leaves, er, Mashiro and Sorata. Well, and Ryuunosuke, but he’s hardly present anyhow. The latter adds snidely (the only way he is capable of talking) that their friendship is pretty fragile if they need that old building to sustain it. So why are they fighting so hard? Okay, there’s the school’s underhanded method of getting Mashiro into a regular dorm. That’s bad, not only because she’ll be miserable there, but because the school’s decision isn’t only wrong, they’re hiding the motivation. That would piss me off so much that if I would her I’d up and leave the school, much less the dorm she loves. And if that blackmail angle doesn’t work, all you need to do is show an art collector what’s on Sorata’s walls …

Another fake smile.
Another fake smile.

As for the episode itself, it’s like the series. The show has taken on a leaden, melancholic feel and not even Misaki’s genki behavior can quite drive it away. And that’s without Aoyama not passing her audition. Every one of the characters has a forced smile on at the end, celebrating pyrrhic victories like the arrival of a few more signatures which won’t be of much use even if they do get a hearing. And I’m not seeing much opportunity for a change. As I said, half the residents are leaving soon, anyway.

Glad to see Kaya's having fun for a change.
Glad to see Kaya’s having fun for a change.

Bakuman3 21 begins the story arc that will make an anime out of our boys’ work and give Miho her voice acting gig, and, I assume finally finish this series. I wonder if it will end with a typical, all-business, workmanlike episode or if they’ll do something special for it. Events happen so fast in this series that it feels strange for them to slow down and really celebrate something. On the other hand, we had an opening scene with Mashiro, Takagi and Kaya off on a little New Year’s vacation and it even allowed them a minute of introspection. It almost felt like a summing-up of the entire series. It also allowed Kaya the most fun and screentime she’s had in months. I was happy to see it. She’s a fun character and it bugged me that all she ever got to do these days is play the foil and the wife. Well, they’ve got a busy mess of a plot to clear up, so Hattori will be making those breathless visits to the boys’ studio for a while, at least.

Sasami-San 7, Robotics 18, Polar bear 45

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After the latest episode of Shin Sekai Yori with its thoroughly depressing story of possible human extinction at the hands of rat-pigs, I turned today to a Sasami-San@Ganbaranai with its equally depressing story where Sasami is dragged off by the cruel fragments of her mother after all her friends got the shit kicked out of them or dragged into the underworld, or both. Episode 7 cheered me up considerably, well, as much as it could with its bittersweet overtones of loss. While I was hoping for Tsurugi to return and deliver an ass-kicking of her own, having Tama, the innocent, do the damage was just as satisfactory. I wonder about the mountain of legends that this story is undoubtedly based upon, that she could deliver such a smackdown to an ancient, powerful god almost accidentally, flinging her arms about like a child throwing a tantrum, a righteous tantrum, to be sure, but still a child’s tantrum. But her speech, done as a little girl, had almost as much power as the longer one Sasami had just delivered, and that’s not even including the bites that accumulated on the “mother.” The words may have been infantile but the emotions behind them were as powerful as those of any adult. And she has god-powers to back it up. Heh.

It was either this image of one of Misaki's back.
It was either this image of one of Misaki’s back.

With that last shot in episode 17 (circles appearing on maps–never good) I thought Robotics;Notes was gearing up for some depressing episodes too, but in episode 18 the latest and scariest Kimijima report appears to be nothing more than the dissimulation of the reports to other sources, not a big attack from the sky. And for much of the time we’re back in pluck-kids-making-a-robot story, well, until the very end of THIS episode, a bizarre scene where Akiho finally meets her sister after all those years, only Misaki keeps her back turned, is wearing a robot-suit, speaks, er, robotically, about family matters, and runs off when Sawada shows up and pulls a gun on her. The scene is so full of confusing things that I don’t know where to start. I’ll just say that if the series wanted a BAM moment, they ought to let us know what’s going on first. And finally, while there’s some emotional power to the Gunvarrel showing its moves at the festival (with no one caring except a little kid), I can’t believe that security wasn’t all over that asshole who threw a bottle at Akiho and knocked her off a fucking ladder, for chrissakes! Well, at least Sumio gets to prove he’s worth something other than money. Oh, and there’s Taiko’s nightmare, which was very effective.

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Polar Bear’s Cafe has been slipping a bit recently, really ever since they put in their latest OP, the weakest of the lot. It makes the series look like a children’s show. But episode 45 shows some life in it. Why Panda-kon didn’t get Handa to keep Rin-Rin to stay away before I don’t know. And the fishing was fun to watch, especially Polar Bear’s explanation why smelt are so small.

Catching up with Robotics;Notes

Robotics;Notes 16 and 17 brings the threat closer to Kai and his friends, but we’re still not sure how everything fits together.

There she goes, toward the cliff, and Kai just stands there.
There she goes, toward the cliff, and Kai just stands there.

In ep16 we get two bad events. What a terrible way for Mizuka to go, her mechanical legs marching her off a cliff while she can only watch! Kai spends a lot of time watching too, before he sort of springs into action, but his attempts at stopping her are pathetic to say the least. This guy is great at fighting games yet can’t figure out how to keep Mizuka off her feet? That rather took my mind off the shock of it all, not to mention the noise all the phones were making just before. And earlier we had another robot demonstration by the club and we learned that the thing isn’t steady on its feet, especially in high wind, and that Subaru, like Kai, is a bit slow in the realization department. Frankly, I nearly laughed at that scene. What made it especially pathetic is that the robot was toppled over by winds pushing its side while it was walking, and meanwhile Kai can’t figure out how to stop Mizuka’s legs? Or maybe the irony was intended? And so the episode ends and we’re a little closer to some answers, especially that someone’s out to get them.

Jeez, it's a wonder Subaru isn't dead.
Jeez, it’s a wonder Subaru isn’t dead.

So that’s two down in one episode; the show seems to be making up for lost time, but in ep17 no one is hurt and we just get more threat. Sawada shows up with a “what do you know about …” speech. He’s taken the time to visit Kai himself, meaning it must be important, but Kai doesn’t know enough to make a connection. It’s interesting that this scene takes place just as Kai was about to press that button, just like his scene with Mizuka. Maybe every time we need the plot moved forward we should stick Kai there and have him try to download something.

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Otherwise the show takes the time to mourn Mizuka and fill us in on Subaru (hospital, badly hurt) and deliver the bad news that the school is disbanding the robot club, dismantling all the robots, and generally making everyone as miserable as they can. Apart from the rather scary conclusion (Kimijimi report #7 is apparently an exe file, and when icons start appearing on a world map you figure it ain’t good), the mourning, and Sawada’s cheerful discussion with Kai, it’s time to get Akiho’s spirits back, and suddenly we’re in “plucky kids make a robot for the big tournament” mode again. I wonder when the show will drop this whole robot-contest pretense and get to the interesting stuff, you know, like the destruction of humanity by man-made solar flares. Building a robot feels like a sideshow. Also, since Akiho is starved for attention from her sister, getting to the secrets of the secret society would be the quicker way to reach her.

Robotics 8, Honeycomb 9

Well, those scary men in suits and black dress girl, that supposedly signified the convergence of plot in Robotics;Notes, was a ridiculous red herring.

She was much more interesting wearing that dress and those shades.
She was much more interesting wearing that dress and those shades.

I can see Akiho’s dad trying to help her out, but to get a bunch of goons and black vans was going overboard for this unassuming guy. Not only that, but once they were taken away they just wound up in JAXA along with Furugoori (meaning they had to use stealth) around a table we’ve seen before, and the black dress girl, Nae, returns not even wearing the dress any more. What was the point of the masquerade at all? So instead of a dangerous situation involving international conspiracies and mysterious ringtones (and was it just coincidence that the phones rang just when the vans showed up?) it’s JAXA, well, Akiho’s dad, trying to help her kid out, and we’re back to “plucky kids try to build a robot for the big tournament.” What a letdown!

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When we do get back to the bigger, scarier picture, we find it bubbling under the surface for now. Airi/Sister Centipede gives him the conditions for finding the second Kimijima Report. Most of the conditions are ridiculous, including the way Kaito goes about meeting them. He’s completely oblivious to the fact that there’s a typhoon coming and that opening up that dome would expose the antenna, on the other hand, at least there’s something story-wise happening. Nearly getting himself killed, rescued only by his time-affliction, was frightening while it lasted but nothing came of it, apart from Akiho learning about Airi, and Airi saying she makes sure the antenna broadcasts a signal. As a more practical matter for Kaito, he does get the second document, but he makes it way harder for himself than he could have. The document itself has frightening information about the Committee of 300 and the “Human Domestication Project,” but since Kaito falls asleep reading it I don’t think he’s too concerned, even if we are. This is an odd show. I’m no longer taking bets on when stuff will actually start happening.

Hidamari Sketch – Honeycomb 9 is crowded with gags about previous seasons. If I hadn’t watched them I don’t think I would have enjoyed the episode as much as I did.

Game modding.  And what is Miyako doing to Sae?
Game modding. And what is Miyako doing to Sae?

It’s time for the landlady to show up and mess with the girls a little. She won copy “Game of Life,” gives it to Yuno because she’s too old for it, then stays and plays with them because, well, she’s the landlady. They soon decide that the game isn’t realistic enough for them and so they get out their brushes and paper and create a new, Hidamari Apts version of it. Making and playing it takes up the rest of the episode. No half-episode stories this week. Most of it is good fun, not least for the visual riffs that SHAFT got to do with an iconic game. That spinner, those little cars with the pegs in them …

Chika's on the phone!
Sae? Chika’s on the phone!

They replace squares on the board with things they’ve experienced since moving in. So we get references to the welcome party, that sculpture, crabs in the cafeteria and the ones Miyako won, etc. (and even apart from the game the show piles on more references: “love and piece,” running tofu, so you can’t use the fact that Nazuna and Nori don’t know them either as an excuse) and the only reference new viewers would get is the onsen. I don’t mind remembering about those old episodes but as I said, new viewers won’t know what they’re talking about. It also bothers me a little because it’s self-celebratory. However, there were some original bits. Nazuna’s “talk like a cat” square, which Sae lands on just when Chika calls, was the highlight. In the end it gives the girls a chance to think about the future and their dreams, and for the landlady a chance for encouragement tinged with regret on how SHE turned out. Good episode, but I could use some fresh material.

noitaminA sevens

Robotics;Notes 7 reminds me a lot of that turning point in Steins;Gate, except that no one’s taken a bullet in the forehead yet.

How many of these scene are we going to get?

In both shows the characters dither in a lighthearted way for many episodes until the plot shows up: WHAM! In this show the kids go through their usual routine of getting that big robot on its feet, or in Kaito’s case, not caring, while sinister workings continue underneath, until the end where a lot of black suits and one girl in black cars show up demanding answers. Well, it beats a bullet in the forehead. I’m growing less patient with Akiho’s obviously pointless dream of winning that robo competition and more intrigued with the other stuff. The former means ANOTHER visit to that old guy and more soul-selling to Michie’s brother or whatever, that CEO guy full of impact. And they get parts. Subaru sneaks back to see how they’re doing. Kaito doesn’t care either way. And as usual there’s a lot of talk about broken dreams from Subaru. It’s more of the same and I don’t see how they can work that in with the other, much more interesting story unless they actually build that M45 and it goes amok. Hmm …

I think the plot’s kicking in.

With the other, much more interesting story we have Airi asking Kaito innocent questions, flashbacks to Misaki visiting the old man like her younger sister does now and showing off the same eagerness and gleaming eyes Akiho does now (and in another flashback she talks about her broken dreams much like Subaru does now), which makes you wonder why Misaki looks so brain-dead now at press conferences concerning robots gone amok, another part of the secret story. And there’s Furugoori inviting Kaito to her lair to huddle under blankets, lure out cheaters in the game she invented, and tell him the story about the Gunvarrel final episode murders, and her mom. Oh, and to ask about Kaito’s “condition.” And there’s that solar flares thing, and “Kogame Kogame” playing on that mysterious transmitter AND on everyone’s phone just when the black cars show up. They’ve been letting the mysterious, fun stuff perculate underneath for several episodes now; now there’s so much of it it’s beginning to spill over. I’m really intrigued by it. Now it looks like the show’ll start putting it together at last! I just hope there aren’t any bullets to Akiho’s forehead or anything like that.

We sort of figured that out already. How about some story movement, please?

Psycho-Pass 7 is mostly talk. The first victim appears and it allows the cops to talk. Shinya, too emotionally involved in the case, is dismissed from it, and Akane is told to watch him. So they talk about how Shinya’s old partner (who seems like a complete asshole to me) died and how there are no leads. Meanwhile, the cops still on the case talk about how they have no leads. We move on to the girls academy and find more talk (Oh, I forgot, the daughter Ouryou has a one-sided conversation with her vegetable father early on) about how girls are vanishing. Then there’s the centerpiece talk where Makishima fills us in on a syndome caused by too much stress-relieving treatment, basically what did in the older Ouryou. Philosophers are quoted and Beethoven’s ninth plays. Then Ouryou has another one-sided talk, or maybe it came before, and then another one with Choe Gu-Sung, this one about Makishima, and finally some action involving a taser. And then more talk. And we don’t really learn a lot. There’s still no clue about the girl’s motive apart from a line about her father only going halfway with his sadistic drawings; even Makishima doesn’t know, and the cops are no closer to solving it than before.