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.
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.
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.
I’ve been watching Sasami-San@Ganbaranai each week, wishing I knew more about the religions here and marveling at some of the visual ideas, but I began to worry that the show was drifting into a “supernatural being learns how to exist and make friends in the common world” theme, mind you, a Shaft/Shinbou version of such a theme with all the weirdness they’re capable of conjuring (which is a lot), but was it all to mask something mundane? Well, there’s nothing wrong with the theme, and episode 6 raises the stakes with the arrival of Sasami’s dead mother. Just the appearance and how Sasami deals with it would be enough for a good episode, though a slightly less crazy one, but then for this woman to practically drag Sasami back to the shrine to finish her training after killing Kagami and sending Tsurugi to the underworld after beating the crap out of her (albeit after a rousing speech from Tsurugi) was almost too much for me to watch. I don’t expect them to keep this dark mood going for long, but we still have to deal with rather nasty female, and Sasami is going to be the one to do it. Plus, they hint that the mother is in cahoots with the king of the underworld, meaning she’s not working with completely pure motives, either, something that I’m sure will come into play next episode.
Kotoura-San has settled down into a pretty routine high school comedy, beach episode and everything. The episode isn’t much, just a chance for the characters to show off their quirks for an episode before setting up the big confrontation between Haruka and her mother. Judging from the look on Kumiko’s face this meeting might end up as nasty as Sasami-San’s. Which is a shame, partly because they did such a job establishing Haruka’s isolation in episode one that I feel that she deserves a few years of normal, happy fun life with no conflict. Also, the main group has settled in, with varying levels of interest attached to them. Manabe’s emotions are so obvious to everyone, so guileless is he, that you don’t need esper abilities to know what he’s thinking. When Haruka hugs him out of fright, he’s delighted; when she hugs Yuriko instead, he’s despondent. Moritani is still wrestling with the guilt about how she treated Haruka earlier, and she must also bear the brunt of bad karma the show throws at her. Yuriko and Daichi … what the hell are they all about, anyway? We’ve got some backstory on Yuriko but it feels unfinished, and who knows what goes through Daichi’s mind. Yeah, the supporting cast is a mixed bag.
I mentioned in my posts about the winter shows that it didn’t seem to be the best season. Most shows out there seem to be weak imitations of other shows. I’m not talking derivative; if you got rid of those we’d only have 2-3 shows a season. It’s just that the current shows of their type feel like they’re going through the motions, and I’m finding it hard to care about anything that happens in them. Sakurasou no Pet na Kanojo is sometimes an exception, a show that manages to take the derivative pieces and make us care. I suppose I should point out that this series began LAST season, so everything I’ve said about this season still applies. Episode 19 has everyone reconciled to who likes whom (with the exception of Nanami), so they through a new crisis at us: Sakurasou is to be demolished. But once they’ve announced that the rest of the episode is a flashback to Sorata’s first day at the dorm and meeting the crazy neighbors, putting off any reaction and counterattack until next week. It’s funny enough; Misaki gets a lot of screen/shouting time, so if you like her you’ll like the episode. But I don’t see this new arc having much to do with the show’s strongest point: how do you live with and/or love someone far more talented than you.
Well, the season now doesn’t look as bleak as it did before. I should have gone to the good stuff to begin with … Oh, wait, I tried that with KyoAni a couple days ago. Never mind. Leave it to SHAFT and Akiyuki Shinbou to deliver … something.
The art in Sasami-San@Ganbaranai is light with lots of pastels, not something I’d seen before in a Shinbou show, but after a few moments of blinking it’s clearly his work. Those quick cuts followed by scenes of someone doing something pointless, often from a distance. And nothing much happens for a while, then a great deal happens quickly. We look at Sasami, a girl who can’t or won’t go to high school, as she goes about her daily shut-in life. Her brother, a teacher named Kamiomi, who constantly hides his face with his briefcase, takes rather too good care of her (when he brushed her teeth I got worried) before he goes off to teach at the same high school she refuses to attend. There he interacts with three sisters, two of them weirdos and the third relatively normal … until stuff starts happening. Sasami watches it through spy cameras.
My ears pricked up when the chocolate theme began to repeat; moments later it dominated the scenes, and then, with an amazing visual moment, everything is chocolate. The art changes, the music changes, the girls transform and for the first time in months I’m watching an anime series with a stupid grin on my face. Yes! I’d been waiting for something like this in the new season; I finally got it. What’s it all mean? Who caused it? Who cares! I know some shows like to dazzle in their first episode, but there’s been nothing else remotely like this yet.
I expected to like Sasami-san@, I’m a sucker for Shinbou’s work, but everything afterwards would be a letdown. Luckily I had saved two shows I knew I’d like if the season was turning out badly. First I’m delighted to welcome back Chihayafuru.
It hasn’t missed a step. The second season starts appropriately with the new school year and an effort to recruit new members (they need at least five, or double their current number–seems rather extreme). Kanade’s opening ceremonies plan of putting Chihaya and Taichi in kimonos and doing the introduction seems to work–until Chihaya gets the microphone. That’s our girl! Still, a number of girls sign up to drool over Taichi, including Sumire, a superficial girl who’s just been dumped and wants a rebound boyfriend quick. But she and the other girls learn that Kurata is a nerdy game and that Chihaya isn’t the only weirdo on the team.
We can expect Sumire to be a new member and thus a regular character. She’s still got her eye on Taichi and there was one Karuta poem that inspired her–albeit to leave practice. I don’t know what she’s going to get out of it. She won’t get Taichi and she has no inclination to learn the 100 poems like taskmaster Akane wants the newbies to do. Meanwhile, the other club members are at odds over their goals. Win the tournaments? Advance Taichi to level A? Who’ll train the newbies? There are tradeoffs and personalities to deal with and the show does its usual good job juggling it all. The direction and acting haven’t lost a step; the show flows as smoothly as its previous season. And Chihaya gets to show off everything that makes her a great character: beautiful, nerdy, passionate, clueless yet thoughtful. Excellent.
And then there was (takes a deep breath) Mondai-Ji-tachi ga Isekai Kara Kuru sou Desu yo?. … I dunno. We get three “problem children” who are whisked off our world to take part in games on another world. There are some things to like. For instance, the three kids (and one cat) are nobody’s fools, and they start trying to game the system the moment they get there. And though they are naturally suspicious, they quickly realize the other two can be fun, meaning they might make an interesting, dysfunctional team. And they like messing around with Black Rabbit, a ditzy servant to the gods, or whatever she is. And there’s an extensive backstory to the whole gaming thing for those who like to be immersed. On the other hand, large infodumps like the one Black Rabbit gives is a bad sign, especially when you’re trying to explain how the world works in episode one. Balancing it out I might watch another episode or two, but we’re not talking greatness here. So for this post that’s two very good episodes and one weak one. Better than what I was batting before.