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.

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.

35 10, Owarimonogatari 11, HO 10

Meet Kiseki, who's not having any fun at all.
Meet Kiseki, who’s not having any fun at all.

Taimadou Gakuen 35 Shiken Shoutai seems more and more to be about every nice character’s skeleton-filled closets. Ouka, Mari, Usagi, Ikagura, and now finally it’s time to see what Takeru’s got hidden. Turns out to be Kiseki, a cute little thing with an onii-san complex and the power to destroy the world via, er, well, I didn’t get a good idea of what the inquisitors were saying, only that she could destroy the world. She escapes and finds Takeru, who at least makes a decent decision, to turn her back in, but not before they have a nice date. It’s a good idea. Kiseki is jealous of Takeru’s harem, but after meeting and interacting with them, feels comfortable enough that the only person she wants to destroy is herself. Possibly interesting situation. Is it because she feels Takeru no longer needs or loves her? Or is her wretched life in captivity that bad? Or both. I don’t think the show can make anything profound about it, but I’ll watch it try.

Owarimonogatari, with Gaen’s long monologues, fell into a rut. Episode 11, though with no less talk, maybe even more, is much better.

Disturbing words from the ex.
Disturbing words from the ex.

We start with Araragi’s conversation in the sun-dappled shelter, with, er, First One, Shinobu’s first minion. Basically he wants Araragi to step aside so that he can become Shinobou’s only minion again. He doesn’t have much of an argument, or at least when I try to think about it I can’t remember what it was. Maybe Araragi thought so too. This is the first time I can remember his reactions to a long-winded speaker being so purely negative. He doesn’t like First One at all, he sees no reason to step aside and let him have her, and he lets it show on his face. Not sure why. It’s been clear for a while that Araragi has some sort of love for that cute little vampire, so it might be jealousy (First One correctly comments that this is basically two guys feuding over a girl), or it’s his basic tendency to protect people he cares for, or both.

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Anyway, after some unpleasantness and the reintroduction to a character, named Episode, that I had completely forgotten about, he goes back to the ruined shrine, gets pulled aside by Yotsugi, and witnesses what could pass as another discussion about relationships in general. Since Shinobou is ready to crush Kanbaru’s skull, it’s rather tense. Kanbaru is arguing that First One reassembled himself for 400 years in order to see her, so she should at least do him the courtesy of seeing HIM, even if it’s to say sorry, kill him, whatever. Shinobu’s “you don’t understand” defense gets weaker and weaker the more Kanbaru talks, especially after Kanbaru points out that for an inhuman vampire/minion relationship, Shinobu’s kind of acting rather human about the whole thing. The first time Kanbaru’s out-thought an opponent apart from on a basketball floor. And Araragi’s so impressed that he decides to give in and push the romance image one step farther, by agreeing to duel First One, naturally next episode, or later. With so much good conversation going on the episode has little time for anything else.

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After watching a show that wallows in the sheer joy of good talk, it’s hard to watch Heavy Object and its long, unexciting infodumps, especially buoyed by the “hey-hey” soldier camaraderie schtick. And since it’s a new arc it’s even worse. Best they can do is have Qwenthur distracted by Milinda’s butt while the talking goes on. This time they’re off to find a HO that might not even be there, run by a rogue company pissed off that their technology (shooting spacecraft into orbit) was turned down by the much-cooler concept of laser guided space elevators. So we learn about this, watch Quenthur drool over Milinda and fried chicken, watch their CO do a pole dance (what a sick military this is), and blow up a lot of stuff that isn’t an object. And talk. And talk. Not Owarimonogatari level talk. Just talk.

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.

F 8, HO 9, 35th 8

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As for Subete ga F ni Naru 8, well, I still think the jury’s out on Shiki uploading herself. The show, through Shimada, does its best to convince us that anyone could have faked her “appearance” thanks to voice files. And it would mean a different show than what we thought, but I haven’t thrown out the idea. Elsewhere, we get the institute switching from Red Magic to UNIX, which frankly sounds pretty hard. There’s more talk to no end, until, in the dark, Souhei has some sort of breakthrough, which we know must be big because they show us those images of aborigines again, plus some other strangeness. But of course he isn’t letting anyone in on it yet. There’s also the thought that the two murders are unrelated, that is, different murderers with different motives. And Moe helpfully says people could get up and down floors with a rope (what about her elevator insight? Forgotten this week). There’s a touching sunrise conversation. And they play that Bach cello piece. I guess we’ll have to wait until next week before we get any more clues. But if Shiki did upload herself, did she just die when they switched OS’s?

Qwenthur doing his usual thing.
Qwenthur doing his usual thing.

It’s getting colder here, so the last thing I wanted to see was another Heavy Object story arc in a cold place. Yet in episode 9 there they are in Antarctica. The good news is they wrap it up in one episode. Evidently all they really wanted to do this episode is introduce Havia’s bethrothed, some pretty blonde thing from another rich family–that Havia’s family is supposed to hate. I’m sure that angle will be explored sooner or later. Anyway, our heroes encounter terrorists, fanboy over penguins with said terrorists (the episodes stupid cute moment) get shot at blow up a lot of ice, nearly get blown up by guns, etc. It leads to them deciding to screw up a mission to kill an asshole because it would also kill the bethrothed, our moral puzzle of the w

I liked Ikagura before, but now I think I'm in love,.
I liked Ikagura before, but now I think I’m in love,.

Taimadou Gakuen 35 Shiken Shoutai 8 confused and bored me at times, but at the end I was satisfied with the story arc. My interest went up when Ikagura met Isuga and we never saw that little shiny green lost matrix gem. Instead, Ikagura opens her shirt (yet again) and transforms into a dark elf. So she was able to crack the code. What’s more, we later learn that Alchemy or Valhalla had managed to build a big dragon, all part of the confusion for me. But it gets clearer when we realize Ikagura was there to rescue her clone-sister. This was all very good, but outside the tower we had a dull battle with Takeru going against mecha run by we don’t know who, though in the dark they looked exactly like the ones Outori sent to attack, meaning they were on Takeru’s side, so I don’t get what the fighting was all about. Still, we learn that Ikagura is a lot more interesting than the show was letti

35 7, Asterisk and Cavalry 8

Ikagura and Isuka were adorable when they were kids.
Ikagura and Isuka were adorable when they were kids.

Taimado Gakuen 35 Shiken Shoutai has had story arcs opened and more-or-less finished for everyone but Ikagura, the more mature one who wears a lab coat. In episode 7 she gets her turn, and it’s pretty weird. Apparently she was a clone of sorts, raised to wear a lab coat and do research on things without restraint or mercy. We learn this via her “sister” Isuka, who left Alchemist and now works for the bad guys at Valhalla, where she is trying to ressurect dark elves, but they need a elf cell called Last Matrix which Ikagura stole when she fled whichever place they were at. It all sounds like something out of RailDex to be honest. Anyway, Ikagura is going to reunite with Isuka and make these elves for unknown reasons. We also get a sense of the difference between the sisters. Ikagura, we discover through a cute scene with a little elf, has a maternal side she probably won’t admit to herself. Oh, and she decides to have sex with Takeru at the end, though you know that won’t go anywhere.

cavalry8-1Rakudai Kishi no Cavalry 8 looked to be in the middle of a longer story arc, and maybe we’ll see Kuraido again, but the story of Ayase’s old dojo is wrapped up in one battle, Ikki vs. Kuraido. The battle dominates the episode. There’s a flashback to Ayase’s father and his defeat to set up Ikki’s using the old man’s technique to show that he hadn’t really been beaten, his weak heart gave out. Sounds like a lousy excuse if you bring it up, so everyone just thinks he was beaten fairly. As for Kuraido, the episode doesn’t make him entirely sympathetic, but we get an understanding of what the fighting means to him, and thusly to Kaito and to Ikki, leading to a few Ayase lines about not knowing the heart of a warrior. Not a bad episode, the fight was good, but I’m a little surprised that they wrapped the story up so quickly.

askerisk8-1Gakusen Toshi Asterisk 8 already wrapped up its story arc, so we have an in-betweener featuring Kirin and Saya, who have teamed up for the Phoenix tournament, if they can get their teamwork together. It’s a silly and slight bonding episode where they go out shopping for Saya’s dad’s birthday in a seedy gun shop … and the show refuses to make an incident happen. She buys the used gun and walks out peacefully. Later there’s a conflict with a girl at another school at a pool, but there’s no teamwork to be shown there since it’s an individual duel. But they talk a lot and get a little closer, and miraculously their teamwork improves just because of that. Yeah, unrealistic, as was Kirin kickboarding and unable to stop, for chrissakes.

35, Asterisk and Cavalry 7, Teekyuu 67

How is Mari supposed to concentrate with people flying off of balconies all the time?
How is Mari supposed to concentrate with people flying off of balconies all the time?

The story arc introduced last week in Taimado Gakuen 35 Shiken Shoutai looked to be a longer one, what with Usagi’s getting transferred out, that asshole Tenmyoji to deal with, not to mention Mephistopheles, but they managed to wrap it all up in episode six, neatly with a nice ribbon … no wait, that was Usagi.  It’s one of those satisfying arc conclusions where the smug bishies get humiliated, the good person possessed by an evil spirit is told to get acting lessons when she tries to con anyone, in short, the things I usually hate in these stories were cut short.  There was no reason for it despite Ouka’s will, I especially enjoyed her resisting Mephistopheles at the right moment.  But above all I enjoyed Usagi getting over fear and self-loathing and disrupt two bad things happening (the wedding and the leap).  On the other hand, that magical design over the school business was inept.  We never really had a sense of it’s threat.  It looked like something Haruhi Suzumiya might have done to a field to attract aliens, but sloppier.  I suspect they stuck it in there just to keep Mari busy and out of the main story.

Here's Kirin looking more formidable than usual.
Here’s Kirin looking more formidable than usual.

Gakusen Toshi Asterisk has a lot of similarities to Cavalry, but this week it also resembles 35, with Kirin, another short girl with a dark past, self-confidence issues, big boobs, and a fondness for having the dominant male in her life pat her on the head.  Like Usagi, she chooses episode 7 to stand up to an aggressive, manipulative male in thumbs-up fashion (no biting, but she slaps his hand away) and then resumes her role in the main character’s harem.  As for what actually happens, Ayato deals with the monster in the sewers to the pleasure of the rival school peeking in, and then has a duel with Kirin, sort of a coming out party for the newly liberated character, which she loses.  One of those battles where they explain every special move they make before making it, while the other one goes “Oh, I see.”  Not as satisfying as 35’s story, but that’s because there was less at stake.
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And with that, Asterisk’s latest story arc is over.  Over in Rakudai Kishi no Cavalry 7, the story arc continues.  This time the girl with problems who’s been training with the hero, isn’t a seemingly helpless little thing, but a young woman with some cunning, which is how she tricks Ikki into using his big final power by rescuing her, thus making him unable to use it in the upcoming match.  What’s more, Ayase rigs the arena with phantom sword strokes for him to run into, just to make sure.  It all leads to a less friendly and bloodier battle than Asterisk’s but with the same result, since Ikki has more than one super-power.  The girl is redeemed by Ikki, that is, she somehow regains her fighter’s honor or something, and so HIS harem grows a little, well, no, she’s not the harem type.  Anyway, now they have to go after the asshole who caused all this.  Overall, not bad, but routine.
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Finally, Teekyuu! 67 slips to a SPG ratio of 3.91.  However, there was so much going on that I might have missed something.  The bald guy’s evil speeches slowed things down.  In the story, the girls put on a kid show, and justice is destroyed, thanks to a torn ACL.