I watch three Kotoura-Sans and one Space Brothers

Kotoura-san continues to threaten whiplash with its mood changes.

Even Kotoura can't handle them.
Even Kotoura can’t handle them.

While catching up and watching episodes 7-9 today it struck me that I’ve never seen a show that can turn on a dime like this one. Episode one, with its tragic first half and all-romcom second warned us early on. And even now, with a completely predictable story arc concerning assaults on girls and a subsequently more serious tone, the opposite emotion to what we’re watching just pops up out of nowhere. The scenes with the detectives at the crime scene with the usual blood and yellow tape almost turns into a slapstick comedy act. Sometimes Manabe’s guileless presence alone is enough to unpredictably disarm a tense scene, as when he and the others meet Kotoura’s dreaded mother and we get Kimiko’s first moment of sympathy when she clobbers him for saying pervy things about Kotoura. When Manabe is too busy (earning money to get a gift for Kotoura) to talk to Kotoura, the image of her mother’s cruelest moment pops up, a symbol of abandonment, ready to bite the still vulnerable Kotoura when she’s not ready. Just as the grimness is undone by, er, romcom silliness, it doesn’t go away forever.

Moritani's turn to push the story forward.
Moritani’s turn to push the story forward.

Rather sad then that the new arc is falling along predictable lines, as much as the show does when it doesn’t go 360 and hit us from behind with a rubber chicken. Kotoura’s had just been thinking about how happy she was when the violent assault image pops into her brain. You could see it coming in a cloud of dust a mile away. though it admittedly did have an impact given the violence of the images. When Moritani, driven by guilt over rumors spreading about Kotoura that she was in no way responsible for (Moritani is driven to built by everything that moves, apparently), does a “I’ll catch the criminal myself!” routine, you know she’s going to land in trouble, and thus, we know where the story arc is going next. This show has been very good at developing the characters and situation while keeping us guessing, it’s a shame it has to be so routine at the same time. One more thing. While the cops don’t believe Kotoura’s ability, other adults do, like her grandfather, that priest, and her mother. Or maybe that’s how they’ll help bail Moritani out.

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Space Brothers 47 feels like a wasted episode. We learn one interesting thing, that Hibito probably won’t be allowed to do any more EVAs. Mutta’s reaction is interesting–he’s a little relieved. But I and probably he realize that this must be tearing poor Hibito up. Staying at the moonbase, no matter how busy they keep him there, must feel like a punishment to him. But the episode doesn’t touch on that, just shows him lying there in bed, thinking. Elsewhere we have that trainer guy going on about how he’s going to make Mutta’s life hell, but he did that last week. This episode dithers around so much with Murasaki’s theatre metaphor (pointless the first time he brings it up), Serika and so-and-so finding a place to live, an Indian astronaut’s not-optimistic telling of Mutta’s future (though she had already slipped up on another fortune, and seriously, how hard can it be to get ahold of the personnel files and memorize some details?) and Apo’s fear of a dog statue. They don’t even get around to the training. I know this series likes to take things slow, but this is ridiculous. Or have I said that before?

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SpaceBros lightens up for a bit, ShinSekai doesn’t

Shin Sekai Yori 19 doesn’t really answer any questions from last week but instead concentrates on upping the intensity level; no better way to do that than a haunted house.

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Saki and Satarou join the remnants of another group and go investigate a hospital where a friend is recuperating from an undisclosed ailment (hmm … nah.) But the queerats got there first and the place is pretty much trashed, and there are still plenty of the little buggers around. We get an early clue as to what happened when a nearly perfect hole is found where the front door was. They speculate gunpowder, but, come on, they should all know what a hole like that signifies. Then we go into horror-movie mode when one of the new guys goes ahead to check the building out. A lot of “stay here!” and “where did he go?” Which is about the only time the interest in this episode drops. If everyone stays in the boat we get nothing happening unless more queerats show up, so get off and go into the hospital, already! The plot’s waiting for you!

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After that it’s more horror movie stuff. queerat traps, survivors trussed up like mummies hanging from the ceiling. When the fiend shows up we even get a tense closeup of a door handle turning while others watch in terror. And while it’s tense enough the questions remain from last week. Who exactly is the fiend? Is it doing this for squealer on his/her own volition? If so, why? So while this was a typical solid episode it only moved the plot forward, not our understanding of it.

Yo, Hibito!  Heard you nearly died.
Yo, Hibito! Heard you nearly died.

What a relief to watch an episode of Space Brothers that didn’t have a life at stake. With Hibito rescued by the Brianmobile last week all we need to watch is the other astronauts to show up, find out what happened to the other guy, and have Mutta and Hibito have one of those odd talks where they seem to be talking about something mundane until the big moment (“Thank you”) comes up, to get Mutta nearly overcome with emotion so he can recover and end with a cool closing line. We also get some more reminiscing about Brian Jay and a pointless flashback about where he got that doll in the first place. Oh, Azuna was the one who took Mutta’s advice and sent the Brianmobile to that spot in the first place, so he gets a rare bit of action and some praise. Now we can move on to what appears to be non-deadly story arc.

Space Brothers 43

Ever since, episodes ago, when they mentioned that there was a oxygen supply tank named after Brian Jay, I knew they would use it–in the nick of time. And when Hibito was stranded up there with three minutes of oxygen, two, one, and they did flashbacks of good ol’ Brian needling and supporting Hibito during training, I was certain of the last-second rescue. But how would they do it, and this being Space Brothers, how long would it take?

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It’s been, what, three episodes since they bowled over that cliff, the event which started the first truly dangerous moment of the series (well apart from blasting off into space in the first place). And I suppose that in SpaceBro time, the five minutes of oxygen could have been stretched into two or three episodes on its own, so I suppose we ought to be grateful that episode 43 marked the end of the crisis. It had time for everything. We got those flashbacks, mostly prompted by the astronaut doll Brian stuck on that rock, though that seemed to make Hibito’s thoughts about the footprints being proof of being there moot, but hell, that’s another minute or two used up, and it was nicely done.

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Most everything in the episode was–up to the big crisis. There was the desperation of the two astronauts rushing to save them, knowing they would be too late. Meanwhile Mutta, kept in the dark, slumped in his chair looking bored. Hibito’s response to the whole mess was effective, part consternation, part trying to come to grips with his situation while sparing moments for Brian. The final depletion of oxygen and his suffering was especially well done and made me think I maybe he actually WOULD die. The tone through out the arc was appropriately serious. No Apo clowning permitted. The appearance of the Brian-robot lovely. Everything after it, well, he should have been dead already. Never mind. And never mind the time it took to tell this story arc. We all know this show loves to take its time; this was the most important event it’s had, I don’t mind that they stretched it out.

Sukitte and Busters 9, Space Bros 35, and a Teekyuu screenshot

They came close ...
They came close …

Sukitte Ii na yo 9 brings one story arc in for a soft landing and immediately revs the engines for the next one. Since the big crises mostly happened last episode there’s not much to the first half. We start right off with Yamato telling Megumi he’s giving up modeling. I could argue that maybe he should just give up modeling with Megumi, since that’s what’s causing the problems, but I suppose you can’t choose who you model with. Well, it’s a nice gesture leading to a loss of income but he’s happy with his decision. Megumi isn’t and we get some moments of her looking at him from a distance and wondering what went wrong. But that’s the extent of it. I don’t think Megumi has it in her to be conniving and evil. And as the episode goes on we see her train of admirers go down to just one, a nondescript girl I’m sure we’ll learn more of later. As for our lovebirds it’s all nice thoughts and near shenanigans at her place. It’s good to be reminded that this is a high school comedy where sex is a definite possibility.

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Since everyone’s more or less content midway through it’s time to push the next arc forward with Kai the haircut guy. An interesting situation. He’s the guy who was bullied who Yamato couldn’t help. Now he’s bulked up and ready to take revenge on the bullies. Mei takes a more sensible view toward it but this is the sort of stuff you can’t get rid of with just words. Besides, the guy’s been training a year. It takes an encounter with a former bullier who doesn’t remember him to get him to think about how useless this was. I’m not so sure. It’s not just revenge but justice here. A person who hurt other people should not get away with it. It’s a good topic for discussion but this anime isn’t the place to have it. Kai is so impressed with Mei’s words that out of the blue he decides he LIKES her, and tells Yamato so.This feels terribly contrived but Kai might have an interesting motivation. Is this in a way another attempt at revenge for the past, an attempt to hurt a guy who didn’t bully him but couldn’t help him, either? Maybe unconsciously? I doubt much will come of it. Yamato’s got to really fuck up if he’s going to turn Mei against him. I don’t see that happening.

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Space Brothers is the cruelest anime running. I KNEW they would dally before Mutta gets his phone call saying if he’s in or not. Using Kenji’s personal story to do it was to be expected. So we get scenes where he meets his wife, his secure but dull day job, and in case you missed it, TWO scenes of him getting up and getting ready for work (one before applying, one after), which are exactly the same except he now gets up earlier. And it’s sandwiched between him picking up the phone and actually getting the result, followed by an excruciating minute of silence after he puts down the phone. After the announcement the episode is over, and they never did get to Mutta! Maybe if Kenji wasn’t nice but boring I wouldn’t mind so much. And it looks like next week they’ll do the same thing with Serika! Will they do the same for all the applicants, Mutta last? Is this Space Brothers’ Endless Eight?

The rich girl laugh quartet.
The rich girl laugh quartet.

In Little Busters 9 they save the cafeteria. Prior to the crisis Rin finds another note delivered via catmail telling them to do just that. So when all the lunch ladies fall ill on the same day the Busters run in to cook dinner and save the day, while Riki has a lot of internal lines saying “how did they know?” What came to me immediately was, you know, contagion, a virus loose in the kitchens, call in the health department, you know, things like that. This doesn’t occur to Riki or any of the others, in fact, apart from one lunch lady there before it all happened, we don’t see an adult for the entire episode. Well, no one died eating their dishes, so I guess it’s just sloppy thinking on the creators’ part. Most of the episode was so dull Riki had another narcolepsy attack near the end. But early on we get four girls doing the “rich girl” laugh in unison, which has to be a record.

Oh yeah, I also watched this.
Oh yeah, I also watched this.

Sukitte 8, Spacebros 34, Lagrange12.5

One of the things I like about Sukitte Ii na yo 8 is that the romance is messier than the usual anime. It doesn’t have the lovers overcome some obstacle like a boss in a game that leaves them happy ever after (though shows like that can be fun too). Things linger in this show; people find it hard to forget.

Yamato founces off for something she said relating to things he did.

We still have the moments like in other series where the characters are being unrealistically dense and you want to slap them around. Yamato, you should have told Mei flat out about going to Megumi’s apartment the first time you did it. You especially shouldn’t have gone again and again without telling her. And you, Mai, you should have told him how upset you are sooner. Because you didn’t and bottled it and just said “it’s okay” all the time he doesn’t know what to do around you anymore!

Anime characters never listen to me when I lecture them.

It leads to a downer of an episode interrupted by that guy with the hair, whom we learn (because he says it out loud for no reason in particular) that he’s moved to town and will be attending Mei’s school. He seemed sort of threatening at first (the hair?) but anyone who can express such love for a theme park can’t be all bad.

The girl who didn’t get the guy gives love advice to the guy she didn’t get.

Well, they got it cleared up, sort of. We’re not sure what residual damage has been done, and that’s what I meant when I used the word “messy.” Sure, Yamato apologized (after Aiko verbally slapped him around) and they’re picking up the stones from the broken bracelet (rather a cheesy bit of symbolism, I thought), but I don’t think Mei has completely forgiven him. And Yamato still doesn’t really know how to handle her, if that’s the word, or maybe it’s handle himself, and she isn’t giving him much help. Is Aiko going to have to slap them around every time there’s another misunderstanding? Surely she has better things to do, like planning a healthy diet for herself (and not those donuts). One more thing, can we please lose the “overheard classmates” shtick? Every time the show wants to stick it to Mei they have two girls pass by talking about what a great couple Yamato and Megumi would be. It’s three episodes in a row, I think.

Space Brothers 34 starts with Hibito on the moon, skipping around like an idiot (every time I see him in that suit I think of Tintin in “Explorers of the Moon”) and seeing a little flash of light. It will be nice to see if they explained this one. They never did explain the UFO the kids saw, and I realize these oddities in space are as much driven by poetry as by plot, but part of me wants to know what that was flash he saw was. Other than that we had to put up with the highly trained astronauts talking out loud about chores they would never bother to discuss in real life for the benefit of we, the viewer. But Hibito manages to settle most of these problems by stepping in and being Hibito.

I thought it would be appropriate if the episode stayed on the moon, but instead we switch back to Mutta, his parents, and Apo. Some of it is inspiring. I liked him seeing others in his building putting up telescopes on their balconies. I liked how every item in the store is branded with the moon, or Hibito. For personal nostalgia’s sake I had hoped for space food sticks. What these scenes also did was distract us from worrying about the astronaut applications. We’re not reminded of it until Mutta starts obsessing about his luck levels in his typical, Mutta way. It’s only at the episode’s end that the atmosphere gets tense and phone calls start coming in. And guess what? We have to wait until next week. Did you expect anything else from this show?

The entire galaxy tunes in to a girls high school athletic festival.

A Rinne no Lagrange OVA has popped up called “Kamogawa Days,” which is pretty much what it is, a few weeks in the town’s off-season between the show’s two seasons. They try to stick some foreshadowing in but who cares since we know what’ll happen already. We get to spend time with everyone, but the three girls aren’t together, alas. However, Lan and Muginami do meet up at the most amusing concept of the episode, an almost complete replica of Kamogawa, Earth’s most important city. The show still won’t explain how Villa got to be king, but there he is being one and setting fashion styles for the Polyhedron. Meanwhile Madoka goes about being Madoka, even forgetting her birthday, though of course no one else does … It’s what you’d expect from a Lagrange filler episode, only a little longer.

Space Bros 33, SAO 20, Busters 7

Of course, Kirito’s annoying detour in Sword Art Online to break up a peace-treaty ambush instead of heading straight for the World Tree and Asuna (who finally uses that code to sneak out, by the way, after three or so episodes) works to his advantage, as the two sides on the peace treaty are so grateful they’ll take him with them. Even the ambushing Salamanders don’t have a problem with that. The best part of the episode, apart from the good fight, was the reaction of the losing side when their boss gets clobbered (variations of “Awesome fight!”). It reminded us that for everyone involved but one, this is just a game, and the loser behaved like it was a friendly duel. But this isn’t a game for Kirito. And while he did build up some support it’s time he got on with the rescue. Stop flirting with the sexy ambassadors and priestesses (be fair, they were doing the flirting) and get on with it! Good fight, though. And nice scenery.

Yay!

Space Brothers 33 gives us the third episode in a row where the plot sort of stands still but you can’t complain because of the circumstances. This time Hibito takes his first steps on the moon. Yaay! It’s a good episode because it does what the show always does well: it treats the great achievements with the respect they deserve while reminding us that these great achievers are human beings and capable of acting goofy. The two are mixed almost perfectly. I imagine that if I walked on the moon I’d probably sound like the Onion. There’s also Apo, er, Mutta’s video message just before the big event, and of course the parents. While all this history and humor are being tossed about, Mutta can only smile and cry (both!). We’ll get back to him next week.

I thought Little Busters would get better after the Komari arc ended and we focused on a new character, but …

Haruka’s voice isn’t as squeakily annoying as Komari’s is, but it’s bad enough. There’s some value to her almost pathological need to stir things up by playing pranks, but like about half the characters in this show, she’s needlessly obtuse about basic things. The other new characters introduced this week aren’t terribly interesting either. Futuki is a typical harsh authoritarian figure (and skimming Wikipedia to make sure I spelled the name right I learned another fact about her that will come as a surprise to no one), that little thing, Kud … is she new? She seems to be another of the hapless variety like Komari. Meanwhile the rest of the series has degenerated to people making fun of Masato, baseball practice … and that’s it, really. Rin, about the only character in the series who’s actually fun to watch, gets a little to do this week, but not enough.

Sukitte and Busters 6, Spacebros 32, and a Wooser screenshot

Memgumi makes a straightforward play for Yamato.

Sukitte Ii na yo 6 is interesting from a high school romance anime story because it invents an improbable and contrived conflict yet doesn’t fall into any of the usual traps. We meet Megumi, a popular model who just happens to transfer to Mei and Yamato’s school, funny how that happens. She sees Yamato and makes a play for him. That’s par for the course. Yamato turns her down. Okay. Yet Mei, desperately trying to make edible cookies for him, grows worried and her self-esteem drops. That’s to be expected, too. I guess in her mind Megumi’s glamorous and she is, well, she’s not; instead she’s doing wife-material girlfriend things. It doesn’t seem fair.

Part of a more subtle plan.

It’s not really fair to describe the situation that way, either. In episodes like these you’d expect Megumi to be either standoffish to her classmates or falsely friendly while secretly scheming. But Megumi doesn’t show a bit of standoffishness; she’s kind even to the star-struck wimpy boys that surround her now. She’s also nice to the girls. If she is faking it the episode gives no indication. She seems genuinely delighted when some of them visit her at a photoshoot. I’m not saying she doesn’t have designs on Yamato and sees Mei as an obstacle to overcome, in fact, she doesn’t respond much to Mei, though Mei isn’t exactly going out of her way to interact with her, either. In fact, asking him to model with her at a shoot should make her plans obvious. But if she’s going to take Yamato away it looks like she intends to do it fairly, all aboveboard. Knowing Yamato it probably won’t work, but she’s won the first round by making Mei feel miserable watching her and Yamato, a “perfect couple,” pose together. And her willingness to go along with the photoshoot thing to show what a good sport she is might have sent the wrong signals to Yamato, who seems to want maybe not jealousy, but more of a sense that she needs him. She could start by calling him by his given name …

Scarier than space.

Meanwhile, in Space Brothers 32, Mutta’s story is again rightfully sidelined while we dwell on Hibito for another episode, and probably at least the next as well. This time we are introduced to his crewmates in space, well, the male ones. We haven’t seen the last of them. The show manages to keep the sense of wonder afloat but it’s nothing compared to last week’s launch. Next week they walk on the moon so that should bring it back. On Earth, meanwhile, they take care of plot points. Mutta again courts disaster by sitting with Azuma’s family and asking the question: did he defer in favor of Hibito? After he says that we spend some time in Azuma’s head, and we learn the answer is complicated. We see that he hated the limelight and hated even more that it also shone on his wife and son. Brian Jay brings up the idea that it keeps him from fully enjoying his work. As for Mutta, it’s another score as he meets the man’s much friendlier family and makes a small crack in the older man’s facade.

Little Busters 6 manages a genuinely emotional moment at the end of the Komari arc, so it wasn’t a total waste. We learn that Komari wasn’t just blocking out a single sad moment in her life, but any time death comes near her she goes through the same thing. Thus she goes from a girl with some emotional issues who’s in denial, to someone who might me mentally ill, not that it matter to the show. She goes through much of the episode dull-eyed and calling Riki “Onii-chan,” a bit of a relief to me because she’s quieter than before. But Riki has to “cure” her and does so in predictable fashion, continuing the story Komari’s dead brother wrote for her (Her brother had a strange sense of humor, reading her stories involving death and making that weird chicken-egg tale) so it included friends, and bingo! She’s all better after so many years! I hate that sort of thing, but they had built up enough emotion that I admit it had an effect on me. And now her arc is over and next we get a pink-hair girl who appears to be more interesting.

As for Wooser, I have no idea what they were doing through much of episode 6.

Not a clue.