LWA 23, Uchouten Kazoku and Sakura Q 11

As expected, Little Witch Academia 23 is a mopey, sad episode where Akko, repeatedly told “A believing heart is your magic,” finds there’s nothing to believe in at the moment and vanishes, while characters spend most of their time worrying about her. The rest is Ursula’s flashback to Chariot’s wild days, and we learn an important fact that you’d think SOMEONE would tell AKKO about: Chariot had no idea what that Dream Fuel Spirit magic was doing to the audience, and when she discovered the truth, she dropped it immediately … and lost her audience, though not before trying to blow up the moon … Anyway, it wasn’t deliberate, and while Akko has every right to be upset, she shouldn’t be upset too much with Ursula, which Ursula and/or Croix should have told Akko last week, but didn’t. Ursula possibly because she would still feel responsible, Croix because she’s the bad person on the show. No, the only person who actually sits down and talks with Akko about all this is Diana, who reassures her while sternly refusing to let her drown in her own pity, and gives everyone watching the last of the backstory. Now we’re set for the final big story arc.

It might happen.

Considering there are only two episodes of Uchouten Kazoku left after this week’s, and now we have Benten actually pissed off at Yasaburou, I figured they’d be cramming in as many story bits as possible, but the episode took its sweet time getting anywhere, building up the tension, flitting from Yaichirou’s ceremony to Yajirou’s travels and meeting that nice young girl, to Yasaburou’s comfortable hiding … how would they get to Yasaburou? And who or what would they pull out of their enormous bag of tricks to do the job? With hindsight it makes perfect sense. I was wondering what was going on with Tenmaya and that gun … Well, he and Kaisei will get out of it somehow. I’m actually more intrigued by the idea that the now-decent Kureichirou might be an imposter; that has long-term ramifications for both families, and whether the time the show has left will be enough to take care of this news.

While Sakura Quest 11’s arc wrap-up was sweet, the series is beginning to feel more contrived than before. It always was to an extent, and I think that slice-of-life shows like this that have obvious themes for its arcs (here it was “outsiders”) have to bend realism a bit to get the theme to work in different ways. It’s not the theme itself doesn’t work; we have Ririko, the Resident Outsider, sad because she doesn’t fit in, who really just needed a hug, and that’s fine. We have the girl outsiders here for a visit, and they’re neutral. Then there’s Chitose, whose family life was broken by outsiders, and Sandal, part Manoyaman as it turns out, with his great grandfather being the outsider, for the counterpoint. Not to mention the origin of the dance, and the legends that go with it. The main idea gets viewed from several angles. Good. It’s the execution where we see the flaws. I can’t believe occult-nut Ririko hadn’t already known of the dragon legend and the various versions. And how Sandal’s song just happened to appear just at the right moment. At times like this my willing suspension of disbelief gets strained. Don’t even get me startd on the guy in the pond.

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.

Re:Creators and Hinako 4, Sakura Q 5

Re:Creators 4 is a series of infodumps. The first one, another long Meteora speech, is the more interesting. She’s concerned that this world can’t take too many fictional characters running around in it, screwing around with our physical laws, and that if it continues, our world and theirs may have to be “reset,” which doesn’t sound pleasant, though he says nothing about who or what would do the resetting. There’s also the concept that our world “has to make things make sense,” an interesting idea that he doesn’t expound on. Still, apart from that last bit it’s all stuff we could easily speculate ourselves. There’s also speculation from military uniform girl, that she might simply want to have the world crash down on itself out of spite. We later turn the mystery girl, who is conning the valkyrie-figure Alicetaria into causing trouble for her sake, though Makina seems to have her doubts. But the best part of the episode goes back to Meteora, who , in a touching speech, announces that she had not taken a side until she played her game and was satisfied that her (deceased) creator obviously cared for her and her world, even if she smilingly refers to her game character as a cariacature of herself. I sort of wished she had used the word “2D.”

As for Hinako Note 4, I’m beginning to lose my patience. I’m a little concerned because this show has developed a plot–putting together a show for the cultural festival, and getting Hinako confident to perform in it. To this end they bring back the absent advisor, who turns out to be a nine year-old prodigy with big boobs. She sees Hinako fail to dance, but also sees her sing brilliantly, Hinako’s moment of triumph for the episode, and promply chooses her to play the lead in her own script. At the end of the scene she gives a hidden, evil grin, which is enough extra plot-fodder for me to keep watching … if I WANTED a plot. My favorite Cute Girls Doing Cute Things shows don’t have one, or there is a minor story each week which is dispatched around cute moments. While the show does aim for cheerfully aimless from time to time, these scenes aren’t as good as in, say “Is the Order a Rabbit?”. Maybe because none of it is weird enough, well, apart from Kuina.

My opinion about the show these days.

Sakura Quest 5 gives us a low-key end to this story arc, but then again, Sanae’s troubles, running away and now maybe running away again, isn’t a problem you solve with big dramatic scenes. Instead she picks up what she needs to go on from Tatsuo and his shoe, an incidental funny anecdote that gets the wheels in his turning, and a not-so-great speech from Yoshi about how all work is made personal, even if some people don’t realize it or give the worker the acknowledgement he or she needs. So Sanae’s taken care of. It’s on to Yoshi’s great plan, to decorate the town hall with hand-carved wood, a ludricrous concept that is happily fiddled with and embelleshed into a 100-year project to decorate the train station with Ranma. Much more sensible, though I wonder if their descendents will follow through, and It’s not a bad idea to think of town revival as a long term thing.

Sakura Quest 4, and catching up with Uchouten Kazoku and LWA

Don’t let this shot mislead you. Doku’s a lot of fun.

Sakura Quest 4 has Yoshi discovering the wood art tradition her area has and trying schemes to re-popularize it. Two woodworkers get the focus: Tatsuo, who is sympathetic, and the gifted Kazushi, who is definitely not. I think he, and Ba-san, have a point that trying to make traditional art modern by sticking the on gadgets (which are legitimately cool and made by a guy named Doku) just makes something like that turnip soda Doku invented, but his narrow, insulting attitude turned me off completely. It came to a head when he accused Sanae of “fleeing” Tokyo. Thought there was a sad backstory there, but instead we learn that she was simply getting out of the rat race. Escaping is not fleeing. But what most interested me was the fact that Manoyama is a place where people devote their time and energy into making things, even if they turn out to taste funny or not work as planned. In that respect, Kazushi and Doku are cousins. I suppose you shouldn’t try to combine them, well, it can be fun if you do, but it’s a value that’s good for the community. Don’t know how Yoshi and the gang would promote it, though.

Meanwhile, in Uchouten Kazoku 2, we’ve had a lot of little bits of plot hopping into focus and hopping away just when they were getting interesting. First it was Hell-refugee Tenmaya, who tricks and frustrates he comes across, until Benten makes her long-awaited appearance on his head. So we follow Benton around awhile, until she has an unpleasant run-in with Nidaime, which is set on the back burner so we can have a shogi tournament and a whole new story, the slow, shy courting of Yaichirou and Gyokuran, one of those deals where everyone knows they’ll wind up married. The shogi tournament devolves into backstory about this and goes on a bit long, and also demonstrates why the annual tournament was shut down years ago. And, to my surprise, it looked as though, a few bits notwithstanding, that this would be a stand-alone episode, well, until Gyokuran gets sucked into that square on the board. However, my favorite bit, besides the nice little scene where Yasaburo coaxes Gyokuran out of hiding, again showing the strengths of his carefree character, sort of hearkens back to Polar Bear’s Cafe–the zoo tanuki duties are usually fulfilled by Gyokuran’s family, but Yasaburo sometimes fills in; the pay is good.

Finally I caught up with Little Witch Academia. Too bad I have very little to say about it except speculate about Croix’s motives. She started out three episodes ago as a flamboyant but shady character, and that was borne out, apparently, when she knocked Akko out and tried to clobber Ursula (who has never looked cooler than her battle up the stairs. She looks so frumpy now that it was great to see she hasn’t lost her talent and energy). But it looks like Croix wasn’t about to dissect Akko or anything. When Ursula arrived she basically gave her back. What she wants, apparently, are the seven words, or at least the restoration of magic, just like the other witches do. She just has her own way of going about it. Well, she’s not a saint, either. Speaking of non-saints, Amanda got more screen time in episode 17, and the show as usual is better for it. However, we’ve seen little of Lotte and Sucy. True, they visit Lotte’s house, but both spend most of their time green and useless.