The last finales, I think: Sakurako-san, 35 (sorry, late)

Sakurako-san no Ashimoto ni wa Shitai ga Umatteiru ends, right when it was getting started.

The early days.
The early days.

We start with Shoutarou moping about, wanting to get in touch with Sakurako and getting no reply when he does. This leads to a flashback about when they first met, the middle-schooler Shoutarou moping about (he mopes about when not around Sakurako, I guess) and keeping an eye on that strange old house, being drawn into a mystery when a granny goes missing a couple times, because nothing is mundane in anime. In spite of the ridiculous answer to the mystery (that little girl did all that?) it’s satisfying enough. We see the beginning of Shoutarou’s complicated fascination with Sakurako. I have to admit that if I was a middle-school kid and I saw Sakurako in a white summer dress I’d be a little smitten, too. Then he gets a load of the morbid boiling bones and the discovery of a corpse and Sakurako’s delight, and we see the poor lad’s been twisted for life. Lucky him.

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His forcing himself back into Sakurako’s life was nicely done. His speech used phrases and images from earlier in the episode in a form of summing up, and his final point makes a lot of sense. If knowing Sakurako puts him in danger, the safest place to be is under her care, right? And so they go off and prepare for nabbing this bad guy who’s been in the shadows up to now, except the season is over. Normally everything we’ve seen before would be preamble to the big confrontation, and for the show to end now feels more than anticlimatic. I haven’t heard anything about a second season yet. If people don’t buy the DVDs Sakurako and that villain are going to awfully pissed off.

Taimadou Gakuen 35 Shiken Soutai is another series cut short and begging for another season. Not sure if it deserves one …

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In the finale, Takeru has to decide whether to kill his sister or not. Since we already knew what his answer would be, the attempt to build suspense on the question fell flat. There was more suspense in whether he was actually alive or not. He was impaled, you remember, and the humvee overturned. But, yep, he was still in one piece in some lala-land with Lapis asking questions about how far he would go to achieve his goals, an obvious reference to Kiseki, and various obligation he has to Lapis herself. That part wasn’t bad, but my favorite bit was earlier when the … whatever-it-was was overwhelming everyone and Ohtori had just gotten a taste of smug bishie villain lines (the episode was full of them, each more cliche than the one before); she shrugs, says “Hey Vlad! Contract, okay?” The fact that Vlad likes her new motivations better was a nice touch.

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Anyway, there’s a confusing ending where Takeru gives some dire pronouncements of doom and then rescues his sister and wasting (hopefully) a bishie villain without a lot of trouble. A bit of business between older people about story arcs we may never see, and the sun rises, the show ends, and we ponder was it worth it. No, not really. Straight magical academy filler. Nothing striking in the animation or art. A couple of interesting stories in it. They used the “carry half your burden” message far too much. But, unlike Sakurako-san, the series actually got somewhere before it finished. It just didn’t get to anywhere interesting.

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Subete ga F ni Naru finale, Sakurako-san and 35 11

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Just some quick thoughts. After watching Subete ga F ni Naru‘s finale I wondered what would have happened if Sakurako-san had been at that lab. She would have slapped on her gloves examined the body, and concluded that the corpse wasn’t Dr. Magata. Well, any competent detective would have done the same. In other words, this show was a mystery without a detective. They fumbled to their conclusions without a professional there, only a person who was very smart (okay, two people) and perhaps came close to the mindset of the murderer. But, as the episode’s first big conversation showed, “close” is the key word. He could rationally understand her motives only, not share them. Because of that it’s unpleasant to think that he could accept the woman who killed three people, willing victims or not, and laugh when he learned she had escaped.

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The second conversation felt more like a making-up than anything else. Moe is upset that she hasn’t gotten closer to Souhei, so he tells her a little story to derail her negativity and show he cared, like he apparently used to do to her with jokes. Still, Moe still can’t catch up to Souhei, while he possibly feels the same way about Shiki, as if he ought to. No answers in the third conversation either, just a figurative trip in the Arabian desert with her daughter while she explains that seeking answers to things gives rise to positive human emotions. The show might be talking about Moe and Souhei, and Souhei and herself, but maybe not.

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In a mystery story without a detective I suppose there needs to be as must focus on the characters as in the mystery, though the sleuthing affirmed that it was at least taking the mystery part seriously. Most of the imagery in this episode, Souhei and Moe’s jumping from location to location, that desert, and the beach with the rotting ship, went past me and I can only make wild grasps at their meaning. I suppose I could add that to the seeking answers metaphor, but it actually means I’m a lazy watcher. Leave it at that. I think I’ll leave this review at that, too, except to say it kept me interested and I was somewhat appalled by the rational immorality shown by some of the characters.

That was quick.
That was quick.

Sakurako-san 11 finishes up the latest mystery in two episodes, like the others. It would feel too brief except that this mystery leads directly to another one. First, Minami has an odd dream and runs downstairs to tell Sakurako where Hitoe probably is, in other words, something that might have taken the whole episode is accomplished during the teaser. So off they go to the cabin with the elm tree, where Hitoe is disappointed that her latest suicide attempt failed (frankly, I don’t think she meant it. She could have swallowed all the pills) and the cute doggie is inexplicably dead. No, not THAT cute doggie. That one is happily digging up Futaba’s corpse.

Love Sakurako's crazed look here.
Love Sakurako’s crazed look here.

It gets a little odd here. First, Minami says that Hitoe said one thing. And after Sakurako, enjoying this demonstration of shock, sorrow, and recriminations a little too much, points something out, the story changes. More tears from everyone except Sakurako and Shoutarou, until the latter brings up another little fact about the corpse, and it becomes something out of AnoHana, only with more hate. And so we get a bead on where the second cours will go, though I’m surprised that Sakurako’s goodbye forever business at the end happened when it did. I expected this out of Sakurako, especially after what happened to him in the previous scene, but how are they going to get the story going if Shoutarou’s not with her?

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It is late in the season, so you’d expect the current arc of Taimadou Gakuen 35 Shiken Shoutai would matter more to me, but I don’t really care much. Sure, I hope Kiseki lives but lives happily, but I can’t say the series has inspired me more than that. Maybe it’s because we didn’t know about Kiseki last week, and I can’t even remember if Kyouya appeared before this arc, or when, or why he’s pissed off all the time, well, Nero has something to do with it. So it’s all getting very messy, and harder for me to care. But I will say that I like Ouka’s little speech about sharing his burden, since that’s his line and all. And the other harem, er, platoon members shocked that he’s accepting help at all.

Our two mystery shows reach episode ten

Gotta love Sakurako's people skills
I guess this is the “bad cop” strategy.

Sakurako-san 10 looks to be the start of a nice, juicy detective story. We find out early on that Hitoe, one of Isozaki’s students, has gone missing. That makes her the second of a trio of former students to vanish, and Isozaki blames himself. And so he, Sakurako, and Shoutarou going from one girl’s family to another (both of them unpleasant), where they actually find tangible clues we can understand, such as teddy bears, receipts, and empty cell phone battery boxes. So far at least, nothing involving the esoteric knowledge of bones that give her an unfair advantage. And it’s fun to watch Sakurako bully and insult the losers that pass as the girls’ parents.

Minami's people skills aren't bad either.
Minami’s people skills aren’t bad either.

On the other hand, we pretty much know what’s going on. Some psycho painter probably seduced and offed Futaba and is preparing to do the same to Hitoe. Minami, though another girlfriend, somehow wasn’t a victim–maybe she made the right choices; we don’t know yet. So we watch and wait for the heroes to locate the cabin, which means getting info out of Minami she doesn’t want to give. I suppose it’s still a mystery, but it feels more like a police procedural at the moment. Well, that’s okay too. And we’ll get to the bottom of what Shoutarou said at the end about Sakurako and Minami in the house next week. Knowing Sakurako, you can only wonder.

In Subete ga F ni Naru we get to mostly the bottom of the mystery while I’m trying to figure out the logic of a crazy woman.

A much more relaxing looking interrogation, even if it's virtual.
A much more relaxing looking interrogation, even if it’s virtual.

Much of the fun happens on a virtual beach resort, or in Moe’s case, an interrogation room, where she and Souhei hold conversations with Shiki. An odd contrast between the two. You could argue that Souhei is working purely through intellect while Moe is the emotional side; Souhei explains the concept of everything become F, or rather FFFF, whipping out hexadecimal code while Shiki smiles and nods, while Moe is stuck going “Why?! Why!? Why?!” a lot. Nevertheless, it turns out Moe was the one who screwed up Shiki’s immaculate plan by asking not-Shiki a very simple question at their first meeting. After that, Souhei and Shiki take a lovely virtual walk and swim, and we learn the rest.

Bye bye.
Bye bye.

And it all makes sense, even if it’s completely unbelievable. I thought it crazy that police wouldn’t have noticed something weird about the body, but I guess she only needed time to escape the island, so I’ll let that pass. But it’s this whole 15 years business. Shiki seems to be saying that kids kill off their parents after fifteen years, but that suggests that parents are useless after that, and she had no trouble reversing the situation when the daughter proved to be less crazy than she was. And there’s also Moe’s story to consider, though Shiki never seemed to know what to think of her. Finally, sealed rooms or not, I refuse to believe that a child could be raised in such a place with no one outside noticing. And that child would have more fucked-up than Shiki was. On the other hand, the people running the lab were pretty nutty, too …

Now, was this the final episode? noitaminA shows usually go 11 …

F, Sakurako-san, and 35 9, Teekyuu 69

He just pushes the cops aside and takes over.
He just pushes the cops aside and takes over.

In spite of my complaints about the pacing, I found myself looking forward to Subete ga F ni Naru 9, if only because noitaminA shows traditionally run only 11 episodes and so they had to start moving along. This week’s breakthrough by Souhei (complete with “how could I be so STUPID?” lines) was ingenious but it stretched things a bit when they all agreed that the new file would have overwritten the older file of the same name. Some programs will save it under a different name, or at least thrown up an error message. Some would have panicked and crashed–well, I suppose Magata-san was too slick for that. The point is that Souhei had assumptions about Red Magic OS that may not have been the case. At any rate, my theory about what really happened to Shiki is back on the table.

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Almost as interesting this week is the Souhei/Moe relationship. Moe forgets about her jealousy over that Tokyo reporter when the intellectual challenge of the mystery comes back. There’s another discussion on the roof, where they seem to bond further, and that’s even before they get into what one of them can “see” that the other can’t. As for that, it was a lovely token of respect from Souhei to Moe, not to mention a display of Moe’s calculation skills, and the best moment of the episode, but I remain unimpressed. Being freakishly good at math doesn’t make you an insightful person. Indeed, Souhei could have whipped up a program find the date himself if he had wanted. That he didn’t shows how much he wanted to show Moe how much he valued her. Kind of sweet, really. And I’m not dismissing Moe’s skills, either. In Hyouka, Satoshi would disparagingly call himself a “database,” but we need databases sometimes. I just don’t think at this moment Souhei absolutely needed Moe to be a calculator.

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Sakurako-san 9 is a sentimental and rather dull affair, all about grandmas, with Sakurako, Shoutarou, and Yumiko’s trying to figure out which painting her dead gran wanted to give her, and then why Shoutarou’s gran insisted he bring a certain type of pudding when visiting her in the hospital. The latter “mystery” was a tad darker, since it gave us an unpleasant insight of what the cancer was really doing to her. I liked how the insight came from Sakurako’s own “gran,” showing where some of Sakurako’s formidable reasoning may have rubbed off from. It was all very sweet, and distracting because there are bigger arcs afoot, like what the hell Sakurako was talking to herself at the end, and that girl with the metaphorical butterfly wings.

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35 Shiken Shoutai has short story arcs, so it’s fitting that their filler episode stories are so brief we can fit two of them in one episode. Too bad neither of them are much fun. In the first one everyone goes undercover at a hostess club to catch someone, and you can imagine the jokes, no, really you can, it’s that predictable. It does get better when Takeru accidentally puts on the drunkenness ring, but that’s because the seiyuus get to do their drunk voices. In part two they get to practice their underwater gurgling voices when they investigate a beach. Gee, a hostess club and a beach … Could it be the creators just want to put the female characters in sexy outfits? Nah.

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In Teekyuu! 69 the girls decide to form a band. All those episodes and they haven’t done this before. I’m impressed. And with at 2.64 SPG the show continues to be in fine shape.

Comet Lucifer, OPM, and Sakurako-san 8, Teekyuu 68

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Comet Lucifer 8 goes from blood death and getting slaughtered to happy la-la new-agey unicorn lands without the unicorns.  For the former, we have lots of flashbacks of Do Mon.  We know he was a grizzled soldier and allies with Gus, and now we know he used to watch over Sougo’s genius mother and obviously had a thing for her.  Then we see her get blown up by bad guys, and next week I assume we’ll see him adopting Sougo.  So there’s a grimness to him that makes him slug Sougo when the boys insists on protecting Felia, and that leads us to the la-la bit.  Moura and Sougo make a pact to protect Felia and so Sougo gets a hippy view of the universe and Felia’s part in it.  I’ve actually heard theories about life on Earth based on Moura’s story, that is until he gets to the part about one person being the living embodiment of a planet.  There’s a perhaps unintended contrast between Do Mon’s role of the mom’s protector, and the role that Sougo is taking up now.  Maybe Do Mon shouldn’t have hit him so quickly.
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One Punch Man 8 is the first where the annoying consequences of the premise overwhelmed the episode.  As I’ve said before, maybe, the big gag of the series is Saitama throwing his punch, which takes all of a second unless he has some ground to cover.  The rest of the time is spent with the bad guys posturing and the other good guys posturing and getting beat up until Saitama gets there.  This week we had some fish-king villain, nothing terribly exciting about him, and some new heroes like Puri-puri Prisoner with their schticks that got old long before the episode ended.  Meanwhile, Genos and Saitama run around looking for the action, and I began to drum my fingers…  And then I got seriously pissed off when the episode ended and Saitama still wasn’t there.  And even though Genos did, there was no time for him to fight before time ran out.  This show doesn’t have the setup to sustain a two-parter!  What were they thinking?

Another bone nut.
Another bone nut.

Sakurako-san 8’s arc conclusion gave us a nice though not unprecedented twist, but the delivery wasn’t terribly interesting.  Shoutarou and Sakurako go and deliver Sasaki’s effects to her sister, Sayuki, who, getting into the morbid spirit of bones along with Sakurako, is disappointed that there wasn’t baby bones added to it.  They find the baby bones quickly enough, and with a lucky circumstance involving toes, unravel more of the mystery, which was more of a regrettable and melancholy series of events and memories than a crime, all of it conveyed by talk.  So not terribly interesting to watch, though I’m relieved Sakurako didn’t do her transformation sequence this time.  As for that guy in the hospital, it was unrelated to this story unless it has something to do with those two cats.  About the only notable thing this week was Shoutarou using some solid insight about them; even Sakurako was impressed.
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Teekyuu! 68 retells the Cinderella tale with Yuri as Cinderella.  Three guesses as to who played the rich stepsisters, all 245 of them.  Not bad.  SPG ratio of 2.0, and there might have been some visual gags I missed.

Sevens: Comet Lucifer, OPM, Sakurako-san

Felia goes all yellow on us.  Good or bad?
Felia goes all yellow on us. Good or bad?

It looks like Comet Lucifer ran out of ideas on its way to the story.  What we get in episode 7 is more of what we saw in episode 6, except no one’s getting married.  They travel for a while, exchange some encouragement, the bad guys attack, Moura gets beaten up again while Sougo and Felia manage to escape, if you can call falling off a cliff when cornered by a bad guy an escape.  … That was actually one of the better moments.  Out of nowhere Roman’s mecha comes flying out of control, hitting the pedophile’s mecha just as he was about to nab Felia.  Utterly ridiculous, and fun.  After that they all wake up in a magic glade, probably the place they were looking for, and Felia gets all cosmic light on everybody.  At least it’s a change from inept mecha pilots.  And it’s about time someone figured out who Honeybee was …
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It hardly feels worth it to talk about One Punch Man 7 so long after the episode aired …  The first half had the same basic flaw that the show often has: we’re just waiting around looking at the threat until Saitama decides to throw a punch.  Not that funny this time, as Genos isn’t terribly funny unless there’s some irony to what he’s saying or he had Saitama around to comment, and the Bang, the old guy, was too busy acting like the senior dojo guy he is.  The second half, where the uncomprehending and ungrateful crowd get egged on to harass Saitama was better, though it went on too long.  I wanted to know how Saitama would handle it, and I didn’t expect basically a “piss off!” from him.
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Sakurako-san no Ashimoto ni wa Shitai ga Umatteiru 7 starts at Shoutarou’s school cultural festival and after some silliness about butler cafes, tosses that backdrop aside as Sakurako gets interested in a collection of bones a nutty old teacher collected.  And I was wondering if they’d be so tactless to stick a murder in a school festival …  Anyway, she starts to index the bones while Isozaki and Shoutarou find some personal effects mixed in, obscure old books with handwritten notes, a mysterious photo, that sort of thing.  So we settle back to see what they’ll figure out.  Then they up the ante with some human bones …
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But it’s hard to say if these bones are the multi-episode arc’s focus, or the spark to another mystery.  Also, there are weirder-than-usual things going on in Sakurako’s head.  After letting poor Shoutarou know that she removed the bones from a cat she had and put them on display, we get the idea that perhaps the old teacher, Sasaki, had much the same idea with the human bones they found, that of an old housekeeper.  But before we can make anything of that connection the story shifts to Sakurako at a hospital bed, getting permission to work on an unsolved case from Masamichi, the person lying there, someone we don’t know about.  Again, we don’t know if the mysteries are related or that Sakurako was prompted by the discovered bones and some buried emotions to investigate another mystery.  And the show isn’t about to tell us this early.

Quick sixes: OPM, Sakurako-san, Teekyuux11

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One Punch Man 6, apart from Saitama having to find villains to beat in order to keep his hero status, is more of the same, mostly.  Fortunately it’s still funny.  Learning that he has to catch a villain a week in order to keep his hero status, Saitama runs around the city looking for something to catch, frightening the civilians as he does.  He hasn’t quite figured out the comic laws in his world.  He just has to walk around doing his daily business and an opponent will show up, which is exactly what happens.  Saitama’s total guilelessness about these things can get annoying.  It took him forever to realize that he could get his status up by beating up the guy who wants to fight him anyway.  Most amusing of all is that heroes and monsters alike are now worried about the ghost town and the mysterious beings there, when it’s probably just Saitama.

In other shows this might be a romantic scene.
In other shows this might be a romantic scene.

The trouble with Sakurako-san 6 is that I had the so-called “suicide note” figured out from the start, and I was wondering why Yuriko was banging her head against the wall in the first place, much less Isozaki, who seems more perceptive.  Basically the setup was to set up the dilemma of whether to find this woman or not, whether to bow to her wish to die or try and stop her.  Isozaki made some valid points, though he was an asshole about it, and his briars growing ot of wounds speech made little sense, but Yuriko, working on emotion, had some as well.  What about the people you leave behind?  But finally Sakurako shows up and announces what everyone should have figured out from the start.  Best laugh came when Shoutarou pages Sakurako by calling her a lost child, which, in a way, she is.
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In Teekyuu 66 the girls try their hand at making Udon to keep so-and-so’s restaurant alive.  Pretty good.  SPG 2.81.