Finales: Seakano Flat, Uchouten Kazoku … also Re:Creators 12

It’s been a week, so it’s time to quickly put Saekano Flat to rest …

The first half is Tomoya and Kato’s date, which is not really a date because in spite of all the shopping scenes, hand-holding, and revived fond memories, there is no romance here. It’s partly to cheer up Tomoya, of course, a chance for Megumi to reaffirm her support for his next project, coming right down to a sort of re-creation of their first encounter on the hill, minus the wind. It didn’t really work because they’ve reenacted the scene before, but anyway. Not a romance, but rather a muse reassuring a struggling artist. It also provided Tomoya the opportunity to tearfully release his regrets and frustration of the near-breakup of Blessing Software.

Tomoya, still at the right, but much more composed than the last pic.

That done, we switch to Utaha and Eriri about to board a shinkansen for a business meeting. When Tomoya shows up I thought the show would take a false step and have the girls reconsider, which would be utterly wrong. One of the things I liked in the last few episodes was that it made perfect sense for them to leave Tomoya’s circle and take on a bigger artistic challenge. Happy to say that Tomoya had come around to the same conclusion and he was just saying goodbye. It would have gone on too long except they added a nice comic bit at the end involving a kiss. And then, when Tomoya and Megumi start their senior year, guess who’s entering their school? Izumi! Looks like the circle isn’t dead yet!

The first season was pretty good, and this one was pretty good as well. They managed to balance the story of making a game with exploring the relationships, interestingly, none of them romantic, and story-wise the relationships became more important than the game. And, as I said, I liked the honest approach the show took in terms of Utaha and Eriri moving on. I could have done without some of the fanservice, but the point of the series, partly, was to poke some holes in the romantic game genre, while not mocking it outright, and they did a good job with that too. So I’m sorry to see this one go.

One more bit of meta.
Speaking of meta …

I’m trying wrap my head around the good guys’ plan in Re:Creators 12. It’s pointed out that Altair is gaining powers daily from the addition of fanart and videos put out on the web every day. Meteora proposes that each creator should start augmenting their creations’ powers and also plan for a story-crossing event that will exist in the gap between our world and the fictional one, and means a huge battle between everybody. I have some problems with this. First, Altair will be “lured in.” How? Second, it will take six months to make this happen, and I don’t think they have the time. The plan is too unwieldy and depends on too many things happening, like the fans buying into the new abilities. And why can’t these fictional characters develop new abilities from the fans like Altair is doing? Or, since the late Yuna lived her artistic life online, that’s part of Altair’s strength. Anyway, I think they’re working too hard on this. They already have a crossover platform: Re:Creators itself. Oh, they don’t know their story is fiction, do they?

Finally, a rousing but confusing ending to Uchouten Kazoku. I will never understand the beef between Benten and Nidaime. Well, I don’t understand Benten anyway, but I don’t expect to, and her unpredictability makes her fascinating to watch. Nidaime, on the other hand, should be easier to figure out … why was he sitting despondent, bottle in hand, under a pile of tanuki? Why did he assist in burning up his own house, like he had rejected his false airs, only to tell Yasoburou later that he doesn’t intend to become a tengu? I get the attraction between them, but why the savage fight?

Well, they’re both sad, lonely people. Much happier are Yaichirou and Gyokuran, getting hitched, rather a brief scene for all the import it has, and Yasaburou and Kaisei get engaged again. Meanwhile, Tenmaya is pulled back into hell, nice timing there, and Soun goes with him, though he of course is not dead and will undoubtedly return next year when the Friday Club have another stab at making tanuki hot pot. Yajiro seems to have his transformations back in order, or maybe it’s the drugs, while Yasaburou still has issues when he sees his fiancee. Well, as he says, it’ll work out somehow. He’s probably right.

There are many things that make this series exceptional, the visuals, the odd stories with endless surprising twists, the magic, the characters and their connection not only to folklore but to their own personal histories, the glorious visuals–really, I need to go back to Kyoto soon. But for me Yasaborou puts it beyond most shows. He can (unless he’s targeted for that hot pot) go anywhere he wishes, to his friends, to enemies or threats, even to Hell, and talk, bow, and negotiate with everyone, because he’s “a fool.” Maybe, but a cunning one who can also exhibit kindness to people who might be threats and fool those that he needs to. As a member of a species that is clearly at the lowest status among sentient beings, he uses his formidable skills to keep himself and his family alive, and to keep the peace, unless it’s time to cause trouble, that is. I was delighted to have him and the others back for a second season, but I don’t expect a season three. Well, I didn’t expect a season two, either …

One more of Yasaborou and Benten.

That wraps it up for Spring 2017.  Now I can lazily wait for the Summer season, which begins, er, today.

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Re:Creators 11, Saekano Flat 10

Re:Creators 11 is basically three scenes of talk, but after all the battling recently I think we were due for one.

With Selesia and Meteora out of danger (they heal really fast it seems) Takashi and Selesia have a little talk. It’s not terribly important in terms of the story, but it helps strengthen the bond these two have. Takashi feels really bad about creating Selesia in a world like that, and while she often uses the “You’re the one who created it!” line, it’s begun to sound more like bickering between family. Takashi is a decent man and whatever Selesia feels about the world he made, she sees the decency. He also says he should start adding stories into his story, and I wonder if some day some of those characters will appear in Selesia’s world … The show plays with the implications a lot, but really doesn’t follow up. Not enough time in the series to cover them all.

We follow that with another nice scene where Kanoya takes Souta for a spin in his mecha to cheer him up. While it works (in cheering Souta up, anyway), Kanoya’s conclusions should be more depressing to himself. Basically, he urges Souta to move forward, to create, because, well, creators can DO that, and he can’t. Kanoya might have a point, but he seems pretty cheerful to have realized that he’s limited to the actions of his story and can’t do anything beyond that, sort of “I Have No Mouth, but I Must Scream” situation, except he’s laughing. Maybe it’s the fact that he’s free from that now. I wonder what the fictional characters would do if someone handed them pencil and paper and told to write, or draw? Probably no worse than your average amateur. Another idea the show has no time to explore.

Then we get Souta’s confession to the group for causing this mess in the first place, and then making it worse by not talking. And we get the story in a flashback. He and Yuna meet through an dojin website or something, have a cute first date (but what was the deal with the glasses?), then she gets famous enough that bad stuff happens to her through jealous fans, and Souta … does nothing. That seems to be it. Okay, he wasn’t a very good friend at that time, and while we don’t get the very end of his story, only that he secretly felt satisfied that people were dumping on Yuna, there’s nothing to suggest he joined in and attacked her himself. Also, no indication that her talent was any greater than his. Only that she was luckier. I had thought he was just a low-talent. Anyway, yes, he should feel bad about deserting her, but that doesn’t justify his refusal to give everyone the information. What someone ought to do is put Yuna in a popular story so maybe she’ll get sent here. Problem solved!

Saekano Flat 10 has a few fundamental conversations too, but they happen mostly because characters have to talk themselves into doing the inevitable, that is join Akane’s team. Eriri says she’s against it at first, but Utaha points out that she was just naming the negatives before her decision. Turns out she’s right, but that comes later. Then we have a shorter conversation where Iori politely leaves Akane’s team, then return to Eriri and Utaha, the former discovering she’s over her slump, and that it was Akane’s bad treatment that did it. We were expecting that, but maybe not her wail that if she stayed with Tomoya, she would never be as good an artist as Tomoya wants her to be–best moment in the episode. But what about Tomoya? He does what we expect–he accepts it. After all, this is a hell of a big career advancement for the girls, and while his boast that they wouldn’t have gotten it without him might be a way to grab some good out of a bad situation, it’s also correct. So everyone does as expected–well, apart from Megumi, who asks Tomoya out on a date. Too soon to know if she’s just trying to cheer her up or if she’s serious.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going traveling and won’t have a chance post again for about a week.  See you later.

Sakura Quest 10, Saekano2 9, Re:Creators 10

The man climbing out of the pod during the thunderstorm in Sakura Quest 10 no doubt has a mundane and slightly funny explanation, but it came as a surprise at the end of a typical episode, where once again little bits here and there are thrown together to make a not supernatural at all story. This particular one involves three women in town for a romantic tour of sorts, put together by the tourist board against their will, but of course the real story involves Ririko and her eccentricities. We don’t learn much about them. She’s always been quiet and had different tastes. She doesn’t want to do the traditional dance because, I guess, she would be forced to smile. Nevertheless, she seems to be in more of a funk than usual this week, sitting around mopily, wandering about in the rain. Too bad she can’t or won’t tell anyone why this is going on. Shiori says she’s “changed” but she’s so quiet anyway it’s hard to us at home to tell.

Creator recruitment scene 1
Creator recruitment scene 2

Last week in Saekano Flat, Tomoya got Megumi back into the fold. But unfortunately it looks like Utaha and Eriri are not, because they’ve been recruited to work on a famous game franchise with their 20th anniversary release, with their rival dojin-maker’s Akane at the helm. On one level joining the big franchise makes sense. This would be a major step up the career ladder for both girls and much more than Tomoya could offer. On another, Utaha tells the stricken Tomoya that the new offer is far more challenging and will require much more from them, and in a twisted scene at the end, a glimpse of the recruitment meeting, Akane using both flattery and abuse on them in a flashback, we see just how intense it might be. Tomoya, says Utaha, is too nice to be an effective producer; he doesn’t want to hurt anybody. Yet creative types, she says, need some stress to keep growing. I’m not sure she’s right; the last game turned out fine, and the advice reminds me of that bullshit line about artists having to suffer. Anyway, it’s a surprising turn for the show because right now Tomoya has absolutely no one to make his new game for him.

One thing that Mamika’s death means to us, watching Re:Creators, is that we can expect any character to die now. It almost happens twice in episode 10, one when Meteora is clobbered by the big idiot Aliceteria, and the other when Altair interferes by destroying Selesia’s sword; the jury’s still out on the second one. While she reverts to her injured self after a rather miraculous, ridiculous, but fun sequence involving a new illustration and some fan likes, she’s still alive at the episode’s end. The nicest moment for me was Takashi’s angry speech, as she was lying in a pool of her own blood. The father/daughter relationship they have is one of the better things in the show, which is another reason why I don’t think Selesia’s bought it yet.

Well, he’s trying.

Yeah, this episode was full of heroic rescues and dramatic little bits that had me going, Selestia’s bits at the top–both her appearance and revitalized reappearance. But Yuuya also had his nick-of-time moments. Souta, meanwhile, tries to make up for his complete lack of usefulness by being useful, trying to talk sense into stupid Aliceteria by using her heroism as a model. Nice try, kid. Unfortunately, Magane’s still involved, and now she’s got that doll-thing that Yuuya had, because no one thought to brief him on Magane’s abilities. What are the good guys thinking, anyway? But that’s about all she manages to do.

Sakura Quest 9, Saekano2 8, Re:Creators 9

Yet they can’t think of a regional dish to promote …

Sakura Quest 9, while satisfying in a straight plot kind of way gets a little sloppy in execution. Everything the show was up to last week is taken care of. Shiori takes command of the project and does a good job. The tourism board comes up with a dish. Sayuri and Kumano learn why the other “didn’t show up” on that day. Baa-san and Kadota are satisfied enough that they are less annoying than usual. But I’m not terribly happy about how they went about it. Shiori just steps in, nervously, and does everything. Nothing more is made of it. The dish, chosen by a competition at the festival, came from the fact that everyone in their town eats a hell of a lot of somen, yet no one thought of using it for their promotional dish. Same with the konbu. Finally, how was Sayuri able to deduce that she had the wrong day, several years ago, by seeing calendar for 2016, several years later? So much lazy plotting in this episode. And then there was Yoshi/Doku’s contraption … Maybe it was Yoshi’s way of publicly atoning for screwing up.

Prior to Saekano Flat 8, Tomoya had difficulties with all three girls. Utaha is graduating and may no longer have the time for his next project. Eriri still had artist block, and Meguni was angry with him for excluding her late in the last game’s production. You can’t deal with all three problems in one episode, so instead we get a full half-hour of Tomoya and Megumi talking it out, in the AV room, shopping, cooking dinner, having a bath (by phone), and in (separate) beds. Even without the erotic or even domestic overtones, this sounds great because it’s Megumi, but she, perhaps out of anger, doesn’t come up with a lot of good lines. Nevertheless, one interesting thing comes out. Tomoya makes her realize that she was partly angry because she loved working with the group. But after that there isn’t much interesting to say; you can tell she’s at least partly forgiven him because of all the time they spend together, but it becomes clear that he hasn’t really changed that much. His new game sounds pretty lame, for all his talk, and as Megumi points out, he still can’t figure out what she (or most girls) are thinking. Why she’s hanging around I don’t know.

Souta looks as bored with Magane as I am.

Re:Creators 9 has some bad news in it. I won’t spoil it since it was only aired yesterday, though I also think it’s not the end. Besides, the REALLY bad thing about this episode is that it’s almost entirely devoted to Magane. First she ruins Mamika’s plan to warn Alice-chan about Altair. Alice, being dumb as a box of rocks, falls for it. Then she tries to drive Souta out of his mind with guilt, then it’s another “You’re the same as me” speech, or maybe that was with Souta … Then it’s more smirking and half-truthing when Yuuya and Meteora show up. You want an evil character, fine, but her evil is so damn boring I wanted to jump ahead to a scene where she wasn’t around. Next episode, please, and make it one without Magane.

Re:Creators, Uchouten Kazoku 7, Sakura Quest 8, Saekano2 7

Would you lie to this girl?

In Re:Creators 7 it looks like Souta was the one who created military arms girl, or should I say, Altair, but we can’t be sure. He says “Altair is my …” but stops himself. He might have gone on to say “My friend’s creation.” We still don’t know who the pigtailed girl is. On the other hand, there’s that earlier scene where Masaaki and Takashi ask to see his drawings, and he abruptly leaves. (And, sigh, I went onto Wikipedia to check on a name and accidentally learned the truth. Sigh. Well, I won’t say it here). Meanwhile I want to slap him around for not telling anyone anything about his connection. It also meant lying to Mamika, who, in her earnest search for answers, had begged him for the truth.

Mamika kicks a lot of butt in the battle scene.

And I don’t like the idea of lying to Mamika, not because she’s such a nice girl, well, she is, but her simplicity and earnest desire to do the best thing is one of her greatest assets, not to mention Yuuya’s thought that creations here, cut off from the things that drive them, might be looking for another purpose in life now, exactly what she is doing. Telling her a lie isn’t going to help her development, especially after she almost single-handedly stopped the various factions from fighting in the first scene, using both her powers and common sense.

Meanwhile, we get that fight, enjoyable because we get to see how each character squares up one-and-one against each other, at least until Mamika gets tired of it and kicks some ass. We also get to see Yuuya and Rui bond, which was also fun. And we get the usual speculation and discussion. Is Altair really controlling who gets across? What is Magane going to do with the info she overheard at the Ufotable Cafe? Did she figure out what the show is only teasing us poor people at home? And why Ufotable? Are they involved in the production?

As for Uchouten Kazoku 7, I don’t think anyone saw this coming.

I thought for sure Soun’s new maneuverings would be the focus of the show’s main story arc, but instead he’s shot and bleeds to death in the forest, while Yasaburou tries to comfort him and wonders where all his rage went. Interesting to note that Soun had suggested last episode that he was no longer a tanuki, and when he tried to kill Yasaburou this week he did so in a demon form, yet when he dies, he’s the furball that he had tried to deny he was. It changes everything for the story of course. Just where is the story going now? Will there be a single, main villain? Tenmaya? Jyurojin? There’s still plenty of jerks in the Ebisugawa family, I suppose, but I can’t see any of them stepping up.

Yasaburou’s reaction to Benten’s latest scheme.

These newest events also put a damper on what had been another, delightfully unpredictable episode just minutes before. Weird enough that Soun, a tanuki, would try to join the Friday Club, a group that eats a Tanuki every year, and I think Jyurojin was just toying with him. Yasaburou’s impassioned speech towards Yodogawa about hot pots was a strange moment. I suspect he was just talking to stall for time until a better idea came along than Yodogawa getting shot at by Jyurojin, but his subject matter had me scratching my head. But it worked. Then, heh, Benten decided to have some fun. And so while it was good to see Soun rejected, and intriguing to have Yasaburou(!) join the Friday club instead (the look on his face!), the final five minutes changed everything.

Sakura Quest 8 has the tourism board screwing up big time, holding a regional dish unveiling on the same day as the area’s annual festival, and worse, not telling the merchants board, especially baa-san about it. So Shiori, who baa-san actually seems to like, says she will take charge, after earlier saying she likes to work in the background. So there’s that, and a love-plot going on with Shiroi’s big sis Sayuri and a gourmet chef named Bear, er, Kumano. But really the episode is about eating. Most of the early scenes involve eating food, at home and in restaurants, munching on snacks, coming up with original, weird dishes, and even harvesting. It would have been nice to have more of that and less plot, but I’m hungry at the moment anyway.

Saekano Flat 7, after the publishing of the game, goes into a holding pattern. They make more copies, Utaha prepares to graduate, Eriri finds herself unable to create, and Megumi is still pretty much ignoring Tomoya. The questions on Tomoya’s mind, after chatting with Iori (loved the eavesdropping sale clerk in the background), was what the next project would be and how to get everyone involved in it again. I figured Utaha, who is graduating, would be the biggest problem, but she’s fine with it, and so, I assume, is Eriri, who overhears her. The biggest problem turns out to be Megumi’s hurt feelings, and that links to the next project question–I assume, because Tomoya starts working on it after a Megumi guilt-trip. In the biggest meta moment of the series yet, he calls it “How to Raise a Boring Girlfriend.” So is the new work going to be the story we’ve been watching for nearly two seasons? Well, this show handles its references well, so it would probably be interesting to watch.

Sakura Quest 6, Saekano2 5, Hinako Note 6

No, just suffering for his art.

Sakura Quest 6 has a film crew move in to use Manoyama as a local for a slice-of-life film that’s really a zombie picture, and two people aren’t happy. Maki wants absolutely nothing to do with the production, even with her acting background, and the fact that the movie heroine, Moe, knows her from the city and is delighted to see her again. Trouble is, we don’t have enough clues as to why she is overreacting. Sanae accuses her of running away (Sanae is the expert in that field), but that doesn’t feel quite right. There’s a question about eating a cicada and devotion (the episode has other characters talking about suffering for what you love, which Maki downright rejects), and her issues with her dad, but it doesn’t add up. Maybe we’ll get more next week, though we’ll also have to work in Shiori’s not wanting to burn down an abandoned house because … well, we don’t know yet. Meanwhile, it’s beginning to feel like the series is going to solve each girl’s problems one episode at a time, and I hope it stops.

Saekano Flat 5 wasn’t quite what I expected. Eriri didn’t really have artist’s block; instead she has do a third alternate ending, and artistically it ought to be in a different style than she has using before. Funny that I wasn’t terribly worried about her progress. I seem to have the same trust tempered with worry that Tomoya has, one that annoys both Utaha and Megumi. Utaha thinks Eriri’s running off to a place in the woods to work is following a classic pattern that lead to her unraveling. Also she talks about how Tomoya’s attitude toward her work will prevent her from growing, but I frankly don’t understand her logic. Megumi’s concern is more benign–she gets irritated because Tomoya considers ditching the new route, which would be a slap in the face to Eriri. Anyway she gets it done, because Tomoya believed in her. They’ve set up a sort of cliffhanger at the end, but I don’t think she’s in any real danger. I’m more curious about what the others will think about her work. Oh, and early on Megumi gets confessed to and afterwards throws some classic Megumi verbal darts at Tomo, and Utaha mocks Tomoya about his protagonist status as they eavesdrop. Best part of the episode.

Something to distract us before the big show.

I had Hinako Note on my chopping block. If they spent too much time showing Hinako nervous or doing her scarecrow, I would drop it. But episode 6 … wasn’t bad. They kept the early parts lively, and demonstrated that when she’s in her zone, Hinako was more than capable of performing her part. Since the potential was there I got less worried– Then, believe it or not, the show becomes genuinely funny, with Mayuki doing a maid cafe (all those maid-clones in the background, waving their arms), and then Kuina’s ode to festival food, with “Thus Spoke Zarathustra” on kazoos as accompaniment.

I’ve spent enough time doing theatre that I know how wrong things can get, and I’ve seen enough pre-show jitter scenes in anime and don’t want to see any more, but you have to have a crisis or two. The first, Hinako forgetting her lines before the performance (her brain is so tiny …), was dealt with and quickly forgotten. Then there’s a crisis during the the performance itself, but it has nothing to do with Hinako, but instead Yua, forgetting a key prop. In fact, Hinako manages to defuse the problem with a bit of fourth-wall breaking, and the only scarecrow reference this week was actually a good gag. So all in all, it was a better episode than I thought it would be. I’m not completely sold on the show yet, but if we’ve lost the scarecrow nonsense, and the predictability. the show might now be worth watching.

Saekano2 4, Hinako, Re:Creators and Kazoku 5

I think Tomoya got promoted.

Saekano Flat 4 has Utaha’s expected rage over Tomoya’s rejection of both her endings, and then tears. What I liked about it is that Tomoya doesn’t back down. He has solid, clear reasons why her stories won’t work–they’re too wordy, novelistic, and because he’s so obsessed about the game, he’s not about to let the scripts slide. Once Utaha settles down she accepts this and they work together to improve both her scripts, now routes, and even add a happy route because Tomoya doesn’t want the characters to suffer.

This scene was very strange.

In doing so, Tomoya, at least in Utaha’s eyes, becomes a full creative partner and not simply the gopher with a dream. Naturally these scenes are sexy and the final talk when it’s done, post-coital, Utaha’s lack of clothing (which only freaks Tomoya out once) helping to that effect. Some odd business at the end, where Utaha seems to be giving Megumi the green light to move on Tomoya, then Megumi actually playing her game character, which, in spite of the dreamy school festival bonfire atmosphere, felt out of place. Megumi’s never seemed to consider Tomoya a love interest. Next week we’ll probably move on to Eriri and the writer’s block they’ve been trying too hard to set up.

I’ve about lost my patience with Hinako Note–did I say that last week? This week it was Hinako screwing up at dance rehearsal and crashing into Yua every time, and she practices more and maybe gets better. This damn festival is only a week away but she doesn’t even know her lines yet. Then there are dithering scenes where she and other characters all imitate animals, with fanservice included. I’m a little curious about how the play will turn out, but if the show doesn’t show signs of life in the story, or get less dull in the cute scenes, it’ll be time to drop it.

Re:Creators 5 only gets interesting in the final minute. I had wondered during the cabinet meeting “Why is Souta even there? How is he involved?” Turns out he was thinking the same thing, and then we get a minute of realization, with scans and flashbacks thrown in, to military-arms girl’s probable origin, and a pig-tailed girl he apparently knew. But the show leaves it at that for now. Now I wonder if he’ll rush to his fictional buddies, or maybe calm-voiced investigator Kikuchihara, with the news, or if he’ll go off on his own to find out. Right now, with us knowing so little about him, it could go either way. Elsewhere, the government finally noticed all these strange people flying around (the giant mecha was a giveaway) and rather clumsily brings everyone in for yet another infodump scene. Good to have the government’s backing, I suppose. Meteora makes another probably telling comment about how humanity will solve this problem in the end, not the fictional characters. Oh, and we meet a boy-pilot, an impetuous kid named Kanoya, who acts up but is forgiven because that’s the way he was written, to the author’s regret.

I really must visit Kyoto for the bonfire this year.

Uchouten Kazoku2 5 has assembled plenty of story bits as it moves along, tossing them into a bag, and now they can create an episode just by pulling one or two out, hanging them on an event, and putting them back in again. Last week the event was a shogi tournament, this week the bonfire festival, and we remember what happened last time … But first the show has to get cheerfully strange by having Gyokuran sucked into that hole on the shogi board, followed by Yasoburo and Yaichiro, whereupon we discover the whereabouts of fathers shogi shack … I’m sure there’s some meaning to it all, but I just giggled. The whole Yaichiro/Gyoburan romance gets officially started in a sweet scene on board the flying tram Yajiro, and while I smiled at it, I knew the serenity wouldn’t last since it was only halfway through, and it was, remember, the bonfire festival episode. The last bit pulled from the bag was the Benten/Nidaime business. As usual, plenty of events, and they still have plenty of things in the bag.