Sword Art Online 10 starts well but falls into a hole, or cave, halfway through. It’s not that they shouldn’t have put that cave scene in the story; it was necessary to clear the air between them, and to allow Sinon to tell her story and make a decision or two about herself. In fact, it’s a good decision. Rather than revert to that terrified girl who shot a bad guy, she decides to toughen up, even though she doesn’t want to. It’s a hard thing to decide. And though she had to go through several emotional stages to get there, they all felt necessary. But then Kirito had to tell HIS backstory for the umpteenth time, with the flashbacks we’ve all seen before. While Sinon needed to hear it, they could have handled it better. Besides, I thought she already knew … And at the end of the episode they were STILL in that cave, talking. I was looking forward to Death Gun showing up, even it it meant more scenes of a shocked Sinon being unable to pull the trigger, which they overdid anyway.
Space Dandy 9 is one of the better ones. Our heroes visit satellite Grease to win dance contest only to learn that the thing hasn’t been held in 500 years, so they help to revive it. And as luck would have it, a certain native plant or something is ready to reproduce, and there’s a sort of cosmic danceathon ending where everything is reborn, or dies and is reborn, or something. I didn’t quite follow. The show tries to peak on a big funky beat and when it does the episode stops making sense, so to speak. Well, it was great to look at, they had some funky music playing, so who really cares?
And episode 10 is more straightforward, where two characters who dislike each other pretend to date only to kind of fall for each other. At least there’s no locket involved this time. We pretty much know where the episode is headed, we just wait to see if they’ll throw us any curveball. Not really, though I didn’t expect the bittersweet ending. I always liked the idea of a Dandy/Scarlet matchup, and since the show can bend time and space and toss other dimensions at us I thought the least they could do was let the pair hook up and explain it away with physics jargon so they won’t have to be a couple next week. Next week it looks like we’re getting a lover from another dimension, so it’s not that the creators didn’t have that idea at their disposal. Kind of cruel.
Also catching up with Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun. Odd that I let it lapse because it’s about the only light comedy series I’m following now, unless you count Free!, and I do look forward to it. Anyway, episode 9 had plenty of Sakura in both halves, so it’s a good episode all around. In the first half they explore the umbrella-sharing romantic bits and poke a few holes into the concept, but it’s pretty straightforward. Better is a visit to Miyako to see how she’s holding up with that terrible editor she has, the type who, when Miyako calls to complain about something, makes her apologize for something completely different. And then there’s all the tanukis. Again, predictable but the actor deliveries and reactions make up for it.
Better than episode 10, where, first, Yuzuki and Hirotaka go to a movie and enjoy completely different things. Well, it’s more that Hirotaka enjoys the normal things and Yuzuki enjoys the bad guys and the violence. It’s pretty much what we expected until the end, where Hirotaka agrees to go to an amusement park with Yuzuki in order to spare other potential victims, which make me think that this might be a real, though twisted, relationship budding. Naturally the date was partly Nozaki’s doing, to aid in his research, though the characters he’s based on the non-lovebirds have their genders swapped. At least there are no tanukis. The next part is better. Yuu’s attempts at singing bring out a new art style in the show, one suggesting depression and pain. The finding a warm body to play a role in the school play wasn’t bad because we could see Hori interact with various characters via stage combat. The series is always better when it lets the characters bounce off each other, and when there’s plenty of Sakura.
Tokyo ESP 8 is a mixed back of little events to set things up for what looks to be a big battle arc. The Professor and Minami go to work recruiting other people who have taken the goldfish, so to speak, one of them completely indifferent, another a sympathetic victim. Since they must murder someone in order to join, one of them goes for Rinka and gets her ass handed to her, I guess to establish how Rinka’s grown or to get us in on the bad guys’ plan, or both, or neither. Too bad there was a long and pointless Rinka in the amusement park scene before it. They also let Azuma go, a move so weird that everyone on both sides is confused by it, including Azuma. Obviously, they’ve done something to him, but the show has given us no hint of that. All they’ve done is bring him food, keep him from leaving, and argue good vs. evil from time to time. The latter scenes do nothing but exhibit the almost random evil platitudes the bad guys live by. My favorite is that doing good is nothing but arrogance, or something like that. Anyway, he’s out and going back to school, and so are the evil girls, but not for the same reason. And on the WTF level this week, they captured Ayumu being an esper on camera, but no one has noticed that he’s a notable anti-esper’s son.
Glasslip 9 has more small events interrupted by bigger ones. The big one might be Kakeru’s inability to hear the “fragments,” something that certainly has to do with his mom showing up and hanging around the house. It could simply be the desire to be a part of a family, fulfilled when she’s there (Indeed, his father seems pretty lonely when she’s not around). But she’s leaving again for a long time soon; we’ll see what happens then. Apart from that, we get Yanagi sending Yuki weird poetic texts that I thought were invitations to meet up at first, but no, they’re just weird texts. This is outside her normal behavior, but Yuki doesn’t seem to mind. The final big moment leaves me confused. Sachan invites Hiro and Touko to hang out on a museum balcony after closing to look at the moon, and suddenly they’re discussing Natsume Sousuke and how he translates “love.” “Tsuki kirei da yo?” and suddenly both Touko and Hiro are slowly turning to her like she said something important. Was it a confession to Hiro? With Touko there? Was she expressing her love to both of them, as a way of making up for her earlier meddling? I have no idea.
Free! Endless Summer 9 was blatant in foreshadowing what would happen this episode. All the talk of college scouts, and the principal declaring him the pride of the school finally got to Haruka. They started the pressure early and kept up the entire time. I wonder, however, if Rin was being his most tactful by talking about scouts and the future between a big race. Surely that can wait until after. In fact, that’s the message Haru should have gotten before, but no one had the brains to tell him. But oddly enough Haru didn’t crack from trying to achieve, instead he lost track of the reasons he wants to swim. He should have been smart enough to ignore all that. And the way he cracked was a splendid moment. He just stopped swimming. As for the other crisis, involving Sousuke’s shoulder, they didn’t get to his race this week, meaning he gets to grimace in pain for longer. Cruel show.
In Space Dandy 8, Dandy finds himself in Limbo, a strange place even by this show’s standards. We pretty much figure out what’s going on at the start, but as the one guy says, some people go hundreds of years before they realize they’re dead. While he gets to the conclusion, or rather, is told it by bizarre characters who could have said it from the start, we see him visit all sorts of bizarre places. The series lives up to its capability this week: each thing we see is weirder than the last, and while we marvel at what the artists and designers have brought in this week we begin to wonder things, and not just “who is that girl?” Why the repetitive talk about living only as a prequel to dying? Was the couple at the dinner table trying to feed him hints? What about the chorus of slug-things chanting like monks about life being an avoidance of death? And what about the girl maybe (because who knows?) sacrificing herself to save him, or what she experiences after that? Was that a hallucination before death? Was the entire planet a hallucination before death? Well, it was a very good episode, and there’s no rule that says it had to explain itself to my satisfaction.
I’m falling behind. Sorry …
Sometimes when I watch Space Dandy I think I’m missing out on the joke. I felt that way through much of episode 6 as I wondered why they had a laugh track going–was this a commentary on modern media, or a reference to another ironic use of that most hated of sitcom devices from my childhood and adolescence? And, for chrissake, when would it stop?! I didn’t find the story itself any clearer. I appreciated the idea of a cloud computing metaphor going on (If that’s what it was. I have no idea), and it was nice to see Scarlet and Honey doing things apart from working. But it bounced from one plot bit to the next with nothing much holding it together. Well, it wasn’t the worst SD episode; I enjoyed watching and trying to figure out what would happen next, and be wrong. I just didn’t understand the point of it all. Maybe I AM too old for this.
Sword Art Online 2 7 is an in-between episode where both Kirito and Sinon gear up for the big battle that evening. Kirito has the most to get through, and it’s not the idea that Death Gun is maybe the guy who’s been killing people. His failure to notify the people who put him up to this is surprising; has he forgotten his mission? He’s more worried now about the guilt he feels for remembering or not remembering the names of the people (I forget which) that he killed. Maybe it hasn’t occurred to him that taking care of Death Gun might be a good way to atone, at least in part. Meanwhile Sinon gears up for the match by acting tsundere over Kirito, only to have Spiegel confess to her when she’s getting her game face on, showing a clueless lack of timing on his part, proof that he understands less about her than he thinks, or maybe he realizes that there’s more to life than therapy through games.
Hanayamata 7 clears the way for Yaya to join the yosakoi club full-time. To do this smoothly they had to invent some drama that mostly fell flat. I can understand Yaya’s intense disappointment over her band breaking up and ruining her ambitions, and how she might jealously lash out at the yosakoi club and thus hurt her friends. But it was too routine and led to too many tears–I expected some, but I thought Hana, giving the tearful speeches she gave, felt like an interloper. Naru was the one who should have given all of them. Well, Naru does get her main point across: Yaya’s been there for her for most of her life, it’s time to give some of that love back. And I liked how they lured Yaya to the roof in the first place–by shouting insults at her. Elsewhere, as I said, it was predictable, though I enjoyed the teacher trying to turn them into cosplayers.
With episode four Zankyou no Terror was stagnating a little, but episode five lets in some fresh air.
We got this woman whom Nine calls Five, and suddenly the work on both sides of this conflict are thrown into disarray. An order from highers-up tells Shibazaki and the rest of the force not to search the trains for the bomb, meanwhile, Nine gets hacked, everyone loses their cell phone connection, and there’s no way to remotely defuse the bomb, meaning the kids have to find the train and do it themselves. (A strange thought in my head: What would the kids in Rail Wars have done?) And within a few minutes the show got more interesting. The police have more bureaucratic headaches and the kids, well, Nine at least, have been flushed out. Also, maybe someone actually died.
It also shows the kid-terrorists in a new light. In spite of their posturing and malicious intent, they don’t want to kill anybody. I suspected this, but it’s nice to see the show confirm it. Though I wonder then what they wanted that plutonium for. It also makes you wonder what they hell they’re doing any of this for. Why bombs? Why not some other, safer means of rebellion? Yeah, their motives are as big a mystery as before, and they’ve shown they can be distracted, Twelve by Lisa (who doesn’t do much in these two episodes except faint and play the bad-cooking newlywed), and Nine by Shibazaki, whom he either considers a worthy opponent or some kind of father-figure he never had.
Good, because as I said the show was stagnating. Episode four had another riddle, and it became even more tiresome because Shibazaki was pulling the answers out of thin air. How did he think to connect the dots and get “running red snake” anyway? It’s as if episode four was playing for time until Five’s plane arrived. But now the story has taken a step forward. Don’t know if I like the looks of Five, though. I mean, I’m not suppose to, but something about her, maybe that smug smile, or the thing with her nails, gets on my nerves.
Catching up with Space Dandy, um, I thought episode 4 would be a chore, considering I didn’t watch any of those films and TV shows they celebrate, but their influence on pop culture means I got the jist. The first song and dance was a bore, as was most of the entirely predictable and dull storyline, but the big finale was rousing enough that I had fun with it; I’m a sucker for a big production number. When, midway through, I saw the sprout on that girl’s head, I thought it would end badly for her, but happily the show decided to leave her alone. And finally, I thought Meow had the best dance moves.
And episode 5 is the best of Space Dandy’s second season. Nothing new to the story, in which Dandy goes off to catch a big fish, meets a little girl, Erssine, and her grumpy grandfather. He hears the fish is a myth but keeps looking anyway, and guess who’s right? Really, most of the episode is nothing but Dandy fishing while little Erssine looks on, with occasional abuse from gramps. But the art team this week is imaginative and it’s never dull to look at. I was reminded of the plant planet episode from the first season, which I think was maybe its best. And even though the big sea monster bit at the end with the villagers all holding on to the rope was expected from the start, it was so trippy (excellent music choices too) that I had a good time watching. Space Dandy will never be the best series in the world, but its best episodes rank right up there.
First off, I didn’t write about Aldnoah Zero 3 but it was a fun episode. It’s always fun when the good guys start bashing on the bad guys after two episodes of abuse. Anyway …
Hanayamata 3 has the show falling into the usual routine. They can’t do club activities when they’re not a club. And to get a club they have to recuit new members, you’ve heard it all before. This particular SC present is a particulary nasty one, too. And we meet the student’s future advisor, who, this being her first episode, refuses. Other than that we get an infodump from the scary yosakoi store owner, who, to no one’s surprise, is a pussycat. What a coincidence, there’s a yosakoi festival coming in a few months! Other than that, Yaya and Hana bond a little, or rather, Yaya sees a glimmer of what her friend sees in this weirdo. As for Hana, as cute as she is, I think having her dialed to 11 in every scene might be wearing me down as much as she did Yaya. But hopefully when the show starts rounding up the stray characters the show will shift its focus.
Space Dandy 2 was such a mess that I can’t bring myself to write about it. Episode 3 was a little better in that the story was more coherent and decently silly. But what really stands out was the art and animation. Some of it reminded me of the work done on the plant planet episode, one of last season’s best. Other parts had the look of moving paintings, and still others were cartoonish. There really wasn’t a reason for this variety; all the styles worked all right with the little scenes but overall didn’t add up to anything. In fact, both episodes felt as though too many different creative minds were tugging at them. Though, as I said, the episode 3 is worth watching just for how it looks.
A good start to Aldnoah Zero.
We meet Princess Asseylum, a young, innocent thing representing the Vers Empire, who has a lot of ancient technology that could easily take over the earth, but she’s on a goodwill mission to keep that sort of thing from happening. Then we switch to a more normal domestic scene and meet Nao and Yuki, follow Nao to his dull school life (He’s pretty dull, too), while Yuki goes off to military training, led by a drunken guy who’s very cynical about earth’s chances in the future, then back to Asseylum’s ship where a jerk named Count Cruhteo listens to another count, one of 37 clans, speculate about what would happen if the humans prove treacherous and kill off the princess and how that would be a perfect excuse to invade, right?
So, though I suspect Asseylum’s not really dead, it looks really bad for Earth. The invasion starts and if we believe the drunken Marito, there’s little anyone can do. As for me, I’m wondering how the hell they’re going to work all these characters and backstories in. Yuki’s in the military, so fine, but brother Nao’s just a schoolkid. Slaine, Asseylum’s human tutor, is just that, basically a whipping boy, but we spend too much time with them to think they’re not important to the story. Well, I suspect the show will think of something. They do a good job of bombarding us with character introductions and backstory without making it TOO confusing, though having two different conversations at once, as they liked to do, doesn’t help make things clearer. The overall tone is big, grand, and dark, and it’s confidently handled. If the story fails, I don’t think it will happen through bad storytelling. I’m keeping this.
Also a good start for Barakamon, but like Aldnoah there are potholes the show must avoid. What we have is a calligrapher named Handa who is told by the guy who runs the pavilion that his entry at a competition is too much in a “copybook style,” and manages a line about mediocrity before Handa punches him, thus getting himself “exiled” to an island where he will experience the bucolic life, get his head straightened out, and meet “the village scamp” Naru, who tells him his letter look just like those in her copybook.
Often when we visit the countryside, whether it be in anime or any other format, the locals are all deliberately, painstakingly eccentric and colorful. And they tend to be wiser than anyone else. There’s that danger here. Naru has a grandfather who is already riffing on Handa’s closed heart metaphor. But fortunately the rest of them seem normal enough. There’s also the danger of getting overly heartwarming and that happens at the end when the villagers all come to help him unpack, but the stick enough humor in it to make it palatable. Kudos to the show: Naru, who’s in Handa’s hair from the moment she meets him, is not annoying as hell, or wise beyond her years. Instead she livens up every scene she’s in by being a kid. This might be a great show if they keep avoiding the potholes.
I don’t know if I’ll keep Sabagebu!, but it too has a promising first episode. We meet transfer student Momoka as she is groped on a bus and rescued by a scary and beautiful young woman, then does the usual first day at new school things, sees the scary girl and follows her out of curiosity, gets kidnapped by the survival club and later forced (drugged) to join. Normally I’d be pissed off at such behavior on the girl’s behalf, but you can see early on that she’s intrigued, by the scary girl (Miou) if nothing else. She also encounters some bullying and gets Miou’s possibly unwanted help. She has her first battle and does well, being a natural shooter, and so a new “chosen one” is found!
Sounds terrible, but it’s not. It works with a lot of gags, and it’s fully aware of what we’re thinking. We have a narrator who comments on the action and points out the clichés. My favorite bit was his reassurances that this wouldn’t be THAT kind of show when the bullying scenes begin. Momoka looks like your average main character, i.e., straight man, but she has a temper, can be petty, is swayed by authority, and is generally tired of the nice-girl act she has to put on every time her family transfers. Miou can be a lot of fun too, because she is not only beautiful but a little vain; she likes to look beautiful while wielding a gun. Too soon to tell about the other girls in the club. I wish they hadn’t revealed who that monster was so soon. I like of liked it sneaking around. Three good starts a row!
The streak is broken for Space Dandy 2, not only because it’s not a start but a second season, but because it wasn’t one of the better episodes. In it, after trying to register the cow above as an alien and getting a lecture from that lady, they speculate about other jobs, pull a thread, and proceed to visit alternate universes with their own Dandys, Meows, and QTs in them. Some of the Dandys try to shoot or capture them, while others are caricatures of famous shows or characters. Soon, the cosmic string unravel even more and things generally go to hell.
And it doesn’t really work. I couldn’t get the rise I should have out of the giant Dandy or the Dragonball Dandy. None of them were that clever or imaginative. I started to wish that they’d get past that bit and work out the solution, and when they did it wasn’t very interesting, either. If they were trying to blow our minds with the cosmic potential of alternate realities, well, that failed too. Well, with this show you can chalk up the failures to the creative team they have on hand this week. Next week they might do better, and this show can do better than this.
Akame ga Kill … I’d say it was a good start but I’m having a hard time with the mixed signals in episode one. We start with good-hearted country boy Tatsumi going to the big city to make his fortune, or save his village’s fortune, defeating an absurd monster along the way. I knew this would be a “dark” show, so I figured the first thing that’ll happen to him in the city is he’d get swindled, in fact, I jumped ahead a minute or two to save myself time. I didn’t expect the nice rich girl to pick him up and take him to her mansion … in fact, it looked like the show would get even more insipid. Then the fun happened.
When I said “mixed signals” above, I didn’t mean the show was confusing its presentation in anyway, I just wasn’t expecting the juxtaposition between the cartoonish aspects we’d seen with the twisted things that happen next. With hindsight the two mixed pretty well, and as much as I don’t want a childish show, one that’s always dark and heavy can be just as unimaginative and shallow. Also, the world they’re setting up looks interesting. We’re led to believe that the kingdom is rotten to the core, but the capital streets are bright with sunshine and full of people happily going about their business, probably with a hand on their wallets, but still … And we’ll have to explore the morality of the “assassins” as well. Take that one guard who tells Tatsumi about all the corruption. Would the assassins have killed him too (maybe they did) even though he is a potential ally? Is everyone with money in the show corrupt and evil? I hope not. That would be simplistic. So an interesting start. A terrible first half to set us up for a shocking second half.
The final episode of Sekai Seifuku: Bouryaku no Zvezda made absolutely no sense, and I couldn’t care less.
The good guys who weren’t there while Kate was beginning her obviously suicidal confrontation with Kyoshiro showed up one by one, and just in the nick of time to rescue someone. And while they did we had a giant robot, flying vending machines which are eaten by stuffed dolls, the dead come to life (twice), thrilling motorcycle driving by Kate, oh, and a high bar routine, deadly cigar smoke, and tons of other stuff that was all completely ridiculous and fun as hell to watch. Also, enemies are reunited and betrayers forgiven, though I’d be a lot slower to forgive Yasu then they did. To get to this nutty battle the series had to go through a couple of dark episodes, but they more than made up for it.
One thing they didn’t do that well, and I suspect that it’s because they didn’t care, is add any depth to the Jimon family relationship. They didn’t even try to reconcile father and son, or even get them talking beyond the level of insults. That’s because the father was an evil alien jerk. No wonder Asuta ran away. The whole Goro screwup situation takes an odd turn, but is otherwise done with quickly. More interesting was the talk between Kyoshiro and Kate, with an interesting take on the latter’s plans for world conquest. She will meet everyone in the world before she conquers them, because how can you conquer them otherwise? In other words (I think), trying to inflict change on a society from a place where you can’t even see the people betrays any idealistic beliefs you have. I think. Who knows with this show?
If you went into the episode looking for more background on just what the hell Kate is, you’ll be disappointed. All I know is that she had more stars around her head than before. I didn’t mind. I like it when a show doesn’t try to explain all the mysteries, and it gives little girl Kate an aura of authority and hidden power, the contrast which remained funny until the end. In fact, I found every one of these misfits funny. I thought the show was funny. It was also nuts, and beneath it all, kind and humane. The sequel they hint at, where they’d battle American stereotypes, doesn’t look as good, but maybe they’ll conquer America quickly and move on to other people. If there’s a sequel. That’s it: Zvezda’s next conquest should be season two!
I doubt that there will be a second season of Nobunagun, and I’m a little disappointed. Whenever those critters begin their next invasion, it will be a letdown. And the show wasn’t that great to begin with. On the other hand, it was fun, silly, and they blew things up.
The final weird thing was the revelation that Florence Nightingale and Jack the Ripper were actually the same person, and that she had gone around slicing those prostitutes up in order to remove highly contagious organs before they caused a pandemic. What kind of strange mind thinks these concepts up, anyway?
Like many anime shows before it, Nobunagun took a bizarre concept and ladled just enough humanity on top to make it palatable, like the BFF to protect, possible romance, and the main character discovering her potential. Oh, and fanservice. Nothing wrong with that. What set it above many such series, for me anyway, was that I found Sio appealing from the start. She was a military nerd, thus an outsider at school, but she was fine with that, or at least resigned. Then her E-gene kicked in, she got that grin on her face, and I liked her even more. In fact, I liked how every character in the show enjoyed the damage they could do, whether it be shooting, slicing, stomping, barrier-making … well, some of the talents got a little strange. The fun they had made the weaker parts of the show more palatable. So I hope there is a second season, even if Sio’s channeling of Oda becomes too familiar and not the surprise and delight it was at first. I had too much fun watching Sio grin and shoot to worry about that.
If the structure of Space Dandy was to give creative talent a template of characters in a situation for them to create standalone works showcasing their abilities and eccentricities, then it’s only fitting that the final episode of season 1 was just that, another episode, without even a hit of finality. That’s fine. The episode falls in the middle of the pack for me. I think QT is put-upon and kind of cute (with that voice), so I liked how the episode gave him an opportunity to fall in love, even if everyone watching knew it would have a tragic or bittersweet end. There was nothing new in the story.
The ideas weren’t exactly fresh, either. Robots that gain sentience is about as old as SF, though they did a nice job combining that with the love story. Having the abandoned ones rebel as they did struck me as too easy. They’re machines. Surely they would have other ways to rebel. On the other hand, I loved the giant mecha they made, completely unexpected, and it looked great. So, a mixed bag, like most of the episodes. That’s what you’re going to get when you have a series full of standalones. They had three episodes in a row that were terrific, most of the rest weren’t bad but not great, and a couple were forgettable. Still, their batting average was high enough that I don’t mind they’re doing another season.