Finales to shows I didn’t write much about, pt. 1

Though I’ve been writing about a handful of shows this season, I’ve been watching a few more. Of the ones I dropped, I’d like to apologize to Silver Spoon. It wasn’t bad at all, but I somehow got stuck way back in the pizza-making episode and eventually realized I’d never get around to finishing it. Maybe later.

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The first to finish that I watched was Tamayura–More Aggressive. I understand the word means something different in Japanese; this show, the least aggressive in anime, couldn’t possibly be using it the way we do. Throughout the second season it kept it’s slow, steady flow going. Quiet moments looking at beautiful things or moments, while reflecting on other moments, with light ambient music and nature sounds to listen to, and every few minutes, you might get a joke. Enough to drive many anime watchers crazy, to which the show might reply “Oh, I’m so sorry. Have some plum chiffon cake with herbal tea with yozu and leek.”

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The second season had its moments, particularly in the final two episodes. Episode 11 almost felt like a finale with its reprise of the We festival and New Years (both in one episode!), and #12 brought Yuu’s mom out of the relative shadows for a reconciliation and thank you scene where neither was truly necessary, but appreciated. But elsewhere the show seemed to get stuck in its slow routine. The other girls had no episodes of their own. They got maybe two moments per episode where they could do their bits and then step aside so Yuu and Kanae, the new girl, could take over. Kanae never really did it for me. In spite of her cute introductory scenes, she never seemed to develop a personality of her own, apart from her habit of repeating phrases when she was unsure, which I got tired of by episode four. Yuu, on the other hand, without any obvious pointers, became more mature. I noticed about midway through the season that she seemed to walk around with more assurance, camera in hand, as she continued to handle the tragedy of her father and move on. More aggressive, no, but more confident. This almost invisible progression, plus what little bits the others were permitted to do, kept the series moving at the times when it threatened to get stuck in an emotional rut.

These are high-schoolers.
These are high-schoolers.

Then I polished off Kiniro Mosaic … I’ll give it a C. I was surprise when the show shifted to the story of Alice and Shino, east and west, etc, to a more typical gag-format format. The show’s best move was to make Shino an idiot. For all her talk about becoming a translator she doesn’t even try to learn the language, and her preoccupation with blond hair made her come off as borderline crazy. That worked very well, especially with Alice’s devotion to her. The other characters weren’t bad. I liked Karen and Yoko, and Aya’s shy interest in the latter. But the gags often fell flat. I’m not the only one to notice that all the girls here, apart from Yoko, don’t act like high-schoolers. The show could have put them all into middle school and no one would notice the difference, apart from it feeling more natural. So when they’d do a silly joke or react in a stupid way I kept wanting them to act their age. But it ended well. Shino tells a nice little fairy tale that uses all the characters to their advantage, a cute way to end things. I’ll say that for this series: it’s cute as hell. But I like laughs along with my cuteness, and this show didn’t deliver enough of those.

Riko's finally about to receive her punishment.
Riko’s finally about to receive her punishment.

Love Lab isn’t as cute, but it wasn’t trying to be. And it was a much more successful show. I noticed it early on, when they were working Sayo and Eno into the plot. The conversations were good and funny. They were keeping the story going, defining these new characters and their relationships to the old ones while tossing in gags at the right moments. What’s more, each character was well-defined. With other shows, like Kiniro, it didn’t really matter who said many of the lines, but in Love Lab you’d never hear, say, Suzu say a Sayo line. And they interacted well. I could enjoy a pointless love-lesson scene as much as an overarching plot moment. A good thing, too, since that plot (Riko trying to bring herself to confess that she wasn’t a love expert) got tiresome really fast, dragged on to the final episode, and then they had to drag the scenes leading to it on forever, when all we wanted is for her to say the words, Maki to forgive her, Riko to start bawling, Maki to start bawling … which is exactly how it worked out, after pointless “dark” scenes which did nothing at all (with more good gags bobbing to surface for us to cling to). Well, it’s out in the open, and Riko was justly punished and forgiven. I hope that doesn’t mean there won’t be a season two. These characters are strong and funny enough to handle other plots, and I’d like to see them.

Summer 2013 #1: dogs and writers, samurai bros, girl bros, swimming bros

First off we have Iku to Hasami wa Tsukaiyou, about a girl and her dog, or vice versa.

This sums up the episode pretty well.
This sums up the episode pretty well.

Harumi, teen bibliophile, gets killed protecting a girl from a robber with a rifle. He reincarnates as a dog and is lounging around a pet store wishing he had something to read when the girl shows up, with scissors, who cuts him free–from a cage. Next thing he knows he’s trussed up and hanging from a rope and the girl is threatening him with death. Turns out she can read his thoughts and it’s driving her a little nuts, and she was nuts to begin with. Oh, she’s also Harumi’s favorite author. This is all told through Harumi’s point of view, and Sakurai Takahiro does an excellent job with it, just the right combination of surprise over each weird situation and desire to read anything he can get his paws on. His first words upon learning who the girl really is is for her to finish the book he’s been waiting for.

Um, Yomiko?  Nenene?  There's a guy with a gun there ...
Um, Yomiko? Nenene? There’s a guy with a gun there …

I don’t recall such book-obsessed people since Read or Die all those years ago; in fact, with its shots of people reading while waiting for a train, or during breaks in school, there’s a strong ROD vibe throughout. Plus the fact that the words “reading” and “dying” are used together several times, and Natsuno (the author) with her glasses on looks a lot like Yomiko, or Nenene, though she sure as hell doesn’t dress like either of them. This is all fine by me. I don’t think the stories are going to devote themselves to books, but that’s okay. Promising start.

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I’m not a fan of the genre, but I thought I’d give Gifuu Doudou etc a try. It looks like what it is, a historical adventure series starring Keiji and Kanetsugu, two samurai who are best bros. After an odd introduction scene which suggest murder and mayhem but goes eccentric, like the bros, we get the part on how they meet, well, the first part. Keiji is interfering with a strange ritual between wives and exes and Kanetsugu goes to investigate, sits down to listen to Keiji’s sublime biwa playing, and together they wipe out some goons who burst in to do whatever they were going to do. It is not explained. There’s a lot of talk, battle strategies, historical situations, protocol on wives and exes, some nice visuals. I’m not sure the animation is up to it, but it looks adequate. All in all it looks pretty good, but as I said, it’s not my genre.

Let’s turn to a franchise whose mindset is about as far away as blades and samurai as possible. Tamayura returns, and this time they’re going to be More Aggressive! Well, it’s all relative, I suppose.

The girls becoming more aggressive.
The girls becoming more aggressive.

We start with part one of the episode’s crisis: Fuu’s been spacing out more than usual lately, making her friends worry. Turns out she gets that way when she’s thinking hard about something, in this case, forming a photography club at school (at which point, nightmarish thoughts about Photokano burbled up in my brain, which I immediately suppressed). It’s a healthy idea for Fuu to have, and she’s doing it for healthy reasons: she hopes to connect with more people. That she has such a hard time deciding to do it is typical for Fuu, and it’s typical that the episode does little else. All of her friends, friendly adults, and family have to hear about it and give their approval. Okay, it’s a first episode of the series, so everyone must be reintroduced. But I forgot just how LONG it takes for anything to happen in this show.

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Which is unfair. This is one of the ultimate stop-and-smell-the-roses franchises and has never pretended to be anything else. This means the occasional maddeningly slow parts, but also lovely, quiet moments, and I suspect your mood at the time will decide which. Once again it’s aided by the music, usually just a quiet piano, that sets the mood perfectly. Visually, the town looks just the same as before, a lovely, inviting tourist trap. Really, the only thing that’s changed is that they’re about to become second years … oh, and we’re going to get a new character, but all she does this episode is lurk–in a non-threatening way. Happy to see the series back.

The big showdown!  ... next week.
The big showdown! … next week.

It’s too early to say about Free!. We got Haru, a gifted swimmer who only swims freestyle, and who’s abandoned competitive swimming for reasons unknown and spends his time sulking in the bathtub. His best friend is Mako, a friendly, lunkish type. They are joined by Nagisa, the impetuous kid whom they swam with in elementary school. And then there’s Rin, who went off to train in Australia and now is back to get revenge on Haru, or something. Together they once won a relay, which apparently was the peak of their competitive careers, then stuff happened. Part of what the show is about is apparently finding out just what, especially with Haru. That, and what made Rin become such a jerk. Actually, Haru’s kind of a jerk, too. I don’t think this is going to be a simple sports anime; their high school has no swim team and I can’t see any of these characters forming a club. Oh, and there’s Rin’s sister, Gou, sorry, Kou, who spends her time this episode just staring at the guys until they start asking her questions. It’s a KyoAni show, so of course it looks great, and this time they get to play with water. The direction feels like any of their recent shows. Some missteps, like the boys not realizing the abandoned pool had no water in it … Geez … Well, we’ll have to see how the story and characters pan out.

Episode dump: Chihayafuru, Tomodachi, Working’!!, Tamayura, Horizon

Kana gets a little carried away if there's poetry involved.

Since Chihayafuru 12 became available to me the moment I had finished with #11, I might as well take care of it now. The prelims are done, the nationals are head, Mizusawa is going to represent all of Tokyo … and nobody else cares. That’s the nice irony that this show gives us, the fact that you can become so devoted to something which really is not that important, at least in the practical modern world. It’s shown here by the Empress (grumpy old advisor lady) not understanding what the fuss is about, and Chihaya’s family not seemingly knowing or caring that she even went to a tournament that weekend at all, because her model-sister is on TV. Chihaya’s reaction to this is rather sad. She’s so used to it that she just shrugs it off and joins the family to watch the tape, which makes the payoff later in the episode more emotional. The rest of the time is spent practicing under tougher competition at various clubs, with Chihaya feeling the pressure, reassuring bonks on the head by Taichi, and checking up on the morale of Desktomu, who’s grades are slipping, and who, strangely, does not care too much. But the best moment comes at the end. Kana reminds us that these cards they’re batting around have poems on them. They represent a culture and history that must be remembered, even if they seemingly have no practical use (she doesn’t actually say that, but it’s clear that the creators want that point made), which leads to Chihaya later saying she sees “her” card as bright red. Especially notable in this series where all the colors are washed out. And what does Omi Jingu, the Nationals venue look like? Yup. Lovely moment. Sometimes I think this show’s at its best when it’s not filled with frantic tournament action, when it moves more slowly and allows the metaphors and imagery to drift in.

Boku wa Tomodachi ga Sukunai 11 doesn’t do much of anything until the very end. That’s okay. For me, half of the show’s fun is watching the characters screw around with each other. This week it’s the local summer festival. We get the scene where someone wants to go but doesn’t want to admit it, and soon everyone winds up going (the excuse is to eat takoyaki), we get rather too much of Yozora and Sena competing in games normally beneath them, Kobato and Maria going at each other, etc, the only difference being just about everyone is wearing a yukata, except Yozora, who’s character is always in danger of veering away from healthy misanthropy to stick-in-the-mudness. Apart from the end, the highlight was Kodaka trying to define Rika’s stock anime character and the Comiket flashback including the Ore no Imouto characters. As for the end, well, I’m glad they got to the revelation, and I’m glad Kodaka realized it himself, but there was nothing leading up to it at all. Yozora cut her hair, Kodaka made the connection–that’s it. Kind of a letdown. But it should give the final episode some extra spice.

Working’!! 12 is mostly about Inami and her androphobia, but that’s okay. The season has done well in not overemphasizing it, rather, using it as part of their now-extensive comic arsenal. What’s more, Inami’s gotten better and has in fact set a record for days in a row not punching a guy. Not only am I happy that the show’s not weighed down with her, but enough time has passed that I’m happy for her character; she’s about the only one there capable of growing, well, apart from Takanashi’s little sister. And it’s a good episode all around. Also, so many little bits are worked around the Inami story that it feels balanced. We get bits with Yamada and her bear (the other crisis of the story), with Kozue, and Yamada’s brother and Inami-stalker, and almost all of them are funny. The dialogue and visuals mesh together in inventive ways to tell the jokes, my favorite bit this week being Satou’s slow and unnoticable backing up when Yamada and Poplar take Inami on the “Wagnaria man tour.”

Farewell to Tamayura – Hitotose. It’s an eventful little episode, as these things go. The “Ourselves Festival” goes by without a hitch. When Maon sat down to do her reading I inwardly cringed, but it was a better story this time, and it had special effects (and later, we learn that she killed off the main character!). Little Komachi’s photographic additions to the exhibit (all of Norie being angry) was a nice touch. Best of all, it was all over halfway through the episode. After that it’s New Year’s Eve stuff (I rather like watching depictions of New Years in anime), a call from Chihiro, and Sayomi drags the girls off to see the New Year sunrise … only to have the car balancing on the edge of a steep incline, another thing I didn’t expect from this show. But they get to see the sunrise from a new angle, people stop and brings them warm food and heaters until the tow truck can arrive, and it turns into a party on the roadside, a good way to end this sweet and innocuous series. It sometimes got too sentimental, especially at first when Fuu was still getting over the loss of her father, but at its best it drifted along with few words, and invited us to enjoy the everyday moments of life along with the characters, with some gags tossed in at just the right moment. Not bad.

The most profound battle of wits since the Marx Brothers' 'Swordfish' routine.

I hoped that Kyoukai Senjou no Horizon 12 was its final episode, but apparently they want to squeeze as much confusion out of this premise as they can. As you recall, Muneshige is about to fire Lype Katarripsi at Mushashi, but Futayo decides she’s not done yet, gets off the ground, and beats him. Something to do with her father’s legacy, since he had beaten Muneshige before. Muneshige is fine with this and falls unconscious. Then we get to the real action. Toori’s at the wall of sins, or whatever, talking to Horizon, or rather, the automation that carries her soul. It’s love declaration time! She says the world is more important than his wishes, so he announces he’ll become king of the world and lists just about every single weird thing we’ve seen in twelve episodes and balls them up into “Us.” It’s a long, eloquent list, an impressive speech overall, so naturally she rejects it. So he says he loves her. She says, being an automation, love is a foreign concept. So he talks about her boobs, she (and everyone watching) calls him disgusting, and announces that their personalities are “parallel,” so it can never work. Perfect! Toori plays that game where you reverse every sentence so that their contradictions wind up agreeing with you. This works just fine until he brings up her boobs again. After the Pope tries to interfere he accidentally touches the deadly wall (actually her boob, which is on the other side of it) and now he has to deny his greatest sin, which really isn’t much, since it wasn’t entirely his fault. They survive the trial, Horizon is rescued, hooray! Parallel lines meet above the horizon! Hooray! Let’s end the series right here! … Unfortunately, there are too many other characters standing about, and a few armies. It looks like they have to fight a war first. Maybe next episode.

Episode dump; iDOLM@STER 23, UN-GO 10, BakumanII 12, Ben-To 11, Tamayura 11

Another iDOLM@STER character spends time with her outer child.

iDOLM@STER 23 continues the Haruka story, rather, it’s her turn to wander off in a funk and think things out while everyone else worries about her. It’s practically a mirror image of Chihaya’s crisis, though this one has no ridiculous bad guys behind it or painful past to overcome (but she does sit around at home and even meets her younger self, just like Chihaya did). Rather, she’s worried about the future. The drifting apart continues, people still aren’t making it for the New Years rehearsals. Not to mention that the producer is in the hospital because of that trap. One of the weirder moments of the story arc is that while everyone is worried about him, the show pretty much ignores him except for some words of wisdom for Chihaya which sets the girls plan in action. Other words of wisdom come from Touma, Jupiter’s former lead asshat, who’s happier with the smaller-scale productions they are forced into because he enjoys the sense of community. And so on. Meanwhile I waited and worried that there wouldn’t be anything to spice the inevitable reunion up … until a typical kids in the park sequence, where their little voices transform into those of 765 Pro, an unexpected and beautiful moment that made me gasp and fumble for the rewind button. And yes, we get our reunion bit, though everything else felt flat compared to that moment before.

But he's still alive, or maybe he's not, or he's an AI or ... my head hurts.

I had a write-up for UN-GO 9 all written up, but it went missing, overwritten, probably, or copied over … Or maybe Kaishou didn’t want me to post the explosive truths contained in that post, so he used that software he made!! YEAH!!! Anyway, episode 11 goes farther out of its limb concerning The Truth. Let me just say that I hope the series doesn’t wind up with a pat conclusion such as “there is no absolute truth or reality.” I hate it when creators do this, unless he’s Philip K. Dick (on the other hand, at least this show’s source material isn’t simply ripping Dick off). But I think Shinjuru agrees with me on this. He seems pretty certain that there is a truth. Not to mention that Inga could force it out of people (But this would explain why he/she’s at a loss when Bettenou’s around). As for the plot, I’ll say again that I suck at mysteries. I was following along quite happily until they got to the humming and the handkerchief and suddenly Shinjuru was running off somewhere, throwing Kazamori at somebody, at which point my eyes glazed over. I didn’t really focus again until Shinjuru held up that invitation. Well, all will be explained next week unless it’s not the truth, or THAT’s not the truth, or THAT’s not, ad nauseum.

Lovers' tiff.

The straight line in Bakuman 2 12 is the growing relationship between Miura and the boys, or that’s how it felt like, and looking at it that way it makes a nice contrast with the episode’s theme of love and relationships in general. Starting with an embarrassing text dialogue Kaya jokingly reads aloud, we next get Nagai falling in love with Kato (poor sap), Aoki’s new editor putting the moves on her (what a slimeball), and Aoki’s subsequent meeting with Aiko at college. I had forgotten completely about her, but she’s the one who rejected Takagi because he wanted to write manga, or did he reject her? I forget. Now she meets Aoki, and the scene feels completely different, like the beginning of a romantic story not at all related to Bakuman. Where it will go, I don’t know. But back to the heroes and Miura. The arguments about whether or not to do a gag manga, not to mention the exhaustive research on sales Miura makes, then his saying the wrong thing and having to apologize, after the boys had realized how much work and care he had taken (shown in a gift package full of gag manga with extensive, scrupulous notes) for them, feels like a manga-ka equivalent of any relationship past its first stages and at the point where you start to learn what your lover is really like.

Who is this guy and why is he barging into our story arc?

After the trauma of last week, Ben-To 11 comes as a disappointment. Two or three things go on. First, we learn about the Sawagi twins’ happy childhood, kindergartners entranced by a violent bento fight, and we get some more of Kyou (not Kyou)’s dual identities. Then there’s Satou visiting Sen the day after and learning she has a cold, and that’s maybe why she lost. The scene is inflated with the usual Satou fantasies, which never really work for me. Meanwhile other people try to figure out where Othrus comes from. We find out. And the usual Oshiroi bit. Satou loses again to Othrus but we don’t see it. The only interesting thing comes at the end, when some totally unmentioned newcomer, who three years ago beat Othrus so badly they still have nightmares (well, Kyou does. Not Kyou), shows up to do it again. Where did he come from? Why is he messing up with our perfectly good but currently slow-moving story arc? Especially with only one more episode to go?

Tamayura – Hitotose 11 presents us with possibly the most excruciating type of story (for me) imaginable: doing a stage show. Because I’ve done a lot of theatre I know what can go wrong, so I can’t help but feel nervous along with the poor performers. This episode promises to be even worse, for it’s Maon who’s going to perform. But right away they do some things right. First, it’s not a whistling exhibition! (Insert cheers and fireworks here). Rather, it’s going to be a recital drama, where she’s going to stand up there and tell a story, or something. Here’s where the unwelcome pressure comes in. Since it’s for the “Ourselves Festival” she wants to try out her material in her home town, at her family’s inn, for whoever’s around. But word gets out, big posters are made, people invite other people, and soon they have to rent out the Virgo Theatre, a large space where, ironically, Maon has always dreamed of performing. Also, she has no material to try out. What keeps this from getting to be too much is the gentle overall tone of the series. There’s that tranquil piano music playing throughout even Maon’s worst moments of fear. You know the show is not mean-spirited enough for worse-case theatrical scenarios. And while her nervous recitation of a text any 2nd grader could write wasn’t all that great (we are fortunate to only see a little of it), and was no more than a metaphor for her making friends and growing up, everyone watching is a friend. It could have been a lot worse. For one thing, she could have chosen whistling.

Episode dump: Ben-To 10, Bakuman 11, Tamayura 10, Kimi to Boku 11

Ben-To 10 makes me wonder about the use of magical items found in supermarkets. It’s obvious to anyone who’s used them that shopping baskets have some sort of fundamental magic to them, something which causes them to knock items off the shelf when you’re not looking. But to have the weird black stuff coming out of them that Orthrus, i.e., Kyou and nee-san, i.e., the twins, use to defeat the Ice Witch, I dunno. It’s pushing whatever physical and unnatural laws the show had in place. On the other hand, battling with baskets is such a good idea I wonder why the other Wolves don’t use it. As far as the story is concerned, seeing Sen go down was for me a bit hard to watch, but the show had to do it sooner or later, and she WAS double-teamed. But it’s hard to follow a battle when all three are have the same uniform and hair color. Since Kyou and Kyou are comfortably in the opening credits now, I assume there will be a face turn in the future, hopefully after they lose a battle for once.

Eiji's opinion of Future Watch

With Bakuman II 11, the boys embark on their goal to both win the monthly contest with Future Watch and get a serialization with Ten. Okay, they really want a serialization out of Future Watch, but many people disagree, especially Miura. And in the end, both appear as one shots; let the readers decide. Meanwhile, they begin to suspect that Miura’s opinions, especially about gags, are suspect, and newly serialized Takahama is beginning to agree. And in the end, well, it’s hard to keep watching this show sometimes. Everything is such a damn grind. You work your butt off and no one cares. On the other hand, real life is like that, too, especially in creative fields. Success doesn’t magically appear. You have to work hard AND get lucky. You have to give Bakuman credit for that, even if it makes everything move at a snail’s pace. But there were good moments, Eiji’s good for a laugh, Ishizawa reappears for a bit, and Nakai meets Kato …

Tamayura ~ Hitotose 10 gently drew me in to Kaoru’s problem and then proceeded to drive me crazy, gently. It was set up nicely. Everyone thinks Kaoru’s acting strangely. How they can tell is anyone’s guess, because Kaoru up to now has shown little personality at all. It’s her sister who’s the driving force in her family. But, okay, she’s acting strangely. Everyone else seems to know what they want to do, except for Maon, who has so many things she wants to do she can’t decide. Not knowing what you want to do with your life at age 14 or 15 is expected, you know. Besides, I thought they had gone over this theme with Maon. So they drag her off to the little cafe and they all talk about it until Kaoru announces theres something she wants to do: an “Ourselves Expo,” with Norie’s sweets, Fuu’s photographs, and Maon doing a whistling exhibition (No! NOO!), and a corner for Kaoru’s popurri. It feels a little sad. These are all, to put it bluntly, “first-world things,” what you’d do if you were living in some small town by the sea with a heavy tourist presence. Places like this are fine to visit, to enjoy some views, view fresh air, and forget about the real world for a while. But to people just starting out in life, with so much else to experience, I don’t know. It bugs me that they won’t look beyond their little touristy town, nice as it is. Just like this show is nice to watch once a week. But no more than that.

Kimi to Boku 11, our other slice of life show, though more realistic, has Yuuki maybe or maybe not developing a crush on a lunchlady. It’s hard to tell with him. Every chance he gets to do something with her can be easily construed as a normal interaction in school. Except for the last part, where he helps her wipe down tables for a couple of her convenience store stickers (collect thirty and you get a plate!), which he actually could care less about. The lunchlady, Kayo, is an ordinary young woman, and it seems even Yukki isn’t sure what the attraction is, apart from his talk about hair curled around a finger, this week’s poetic statement that sort of reflects the episode. None of the other characters have much to do. It’s refreshing to see Kaname amused by something for a few seconds. And how long does it take for paint to dry, anyway? I know they said they can’t use the roof for lunch because it’s getting colder, but no one takes the sign down. Such are the thoughts that go through my mind as I watch ths show.

Last Exile Fam 8, Tamamura 9, UN-GO 8

And I thought that the last episode of Last Exile – Fam had some exciting scenes. Episode 8 is even better. As you remember, the bad guys, led by a not-impulsive older guy aboard their flagship Anshar, have tailed Fam to the Silvius and are demanding they hand over Millia.

There’s a brief discussion. Millia wants to avoid bloodshed on the Silvius, but who really believes that the Federation’s going to let them go scot-free anyway? Besides, we’d lose out a hell of a battle if they did. So there are lots of scenes of Millia being upset and guilty, and Fam as well, since she considers herself responsible. But nothing to be done. Battle stations! Release the vanships! Open up the ports to let the explody things out! And in a great moment, the martial music slowly dies away as the vanships take flight, and there’s only the sound of wind and engines, until stuff starts to blow up.

Neeeeaaaaaoooowww BLAM! Ratatatat! Boom! BOOM! Pew Pew Pew!

I swear, I got my stupid-grin on for just about every minute of these scenes. They’re absolutely amazing. As for the battle itself, the good guys manage some good damage and evasive maneuvers (why are the bad guys always surprised by smoke screens?), but they’re taking hits themselves. The bad guy captain is no fool. They outnumber the Silvius and know a few tricks themselves. And then there’s the little fact that they’re all near the Glacies border. We’ve seen their pilots already, noting the foreign craft and muttering in what I assume is Russian. The fact the show dwells on two of them suggests they’ll have a bigger role to play later. “They” meaning the two women. Glacies gets involved pretty quick. But until then it’s beginning to look bleak, and when they’re this bleak, it’s time for Fam to step in and suggest something heroic and absolutely insane.

(sigh) Fam ... Fam ... Fam ...

What Fam is actually going to do out skyfishing out there while everyone’s trying to blow each other up is anyone’s guess, and I lost track on just what was going on. We do know that the Silvius blows a hole in a weak fissure of a cliff, momentarily escapes into Glacies territory, and lets the Russians start blazing away. But it’s still badly damaged and now there are TWO nations trying to get at it (and each other). Meanwhile Fam and Millia(!?) fly around, spot one of the Glacies pilots trying to do some skyfishing herself in her wounded aircraft, and prop her up with their aircraft. Why? I don’t know. Having saved her, they go after the Anshar and Millia manages to fire a single shot right where the Anshar is most vulnerable, like that shaft on the Death Star. And down she goes! Utterly ridiculous and fun as hell to watch.

Fam, doing something ridiculously heroic and dangerous again.

But when a show presents itself so well you gniggle about the lapses in logic later. You can also wonder why Gisey wasn’t with Fam, or how she’s feeling at the moment (lousy). But at the time you enjoy the show’s strengths: a young, impulsive hero (who’s not a jerk), big countries with big agendas and big armies, and art and animation you just don’t see anywhere else, though Fate/Zero certainly has its moments. Sigh, I suppose next week they’ll have to settle down and throw some intrigue at us. It’ll be a letdown.

No connection between this screenshot and the Fam entry intended. Really.

I was pleased that UN-GO 8 didn’t continue asking questions about what reality is and rather, went back to investigating why the hell Shinjuru was placed in that prison when he had committed no crime. It was more satisfactory to have Shinjuru active and in control rather than reacting to strange events. If that meant another long string of detective musings and figuring out who the murderer is, that’s fine. For the story splits in two. Shinjuru comes to his senses (zap!) but won’t leave until he discovers who killed the “director.” But really, what set this episode apart is that line above, spoken by the woman in the fake world where there was no war, where people play war instead. A fantasy, comforting, but oblivious to the potential of war and with no true understanding of its consequences. UN-GO always wishes us to compare its fictional society to our own, and this is its most chilling comparison yet.

Time for something quiet. Tamayura – Hitotose 9 has a pointless little story about Momoneko, that white ball of fluff and a wild boar. The second story was better as we meet Shimako, the girl who said she was going to confess at the festival. She returns to town, binge eats, and acts like she’s drunk, until a friend comes to fetch her and teach her about love, using reckless driving as a metaphor. Screams are heard, tears are shed, and the kids all watch. Not much to it.

Last Exile Fam 7, Tamayura 8

Last Exile Fam is living up to the original series.

Relax, Gisey, it's just a handshake.

But we start with a lull in the action to get us updated on various people. Little Sara Augusta is despondent because she couldn’t protect the nobles who were massacred last episode. She had failed their trust, unlike her wise mother. She comes off as a little naive, but she is a little girl, after all, and she has her heart in the right place. The trouble is, it’s clear she isn’t the one making decisions right now, it’s Luscinia. What happens when he turns against her? Again, that’s for future episodes. The other quiet moments involve Giselle and her quiet but obvious jealousy toward Millia, and her fear that Fam is turning from her. She’s young, too, though not as young as Sara, so all we can do is hope that she sees that what she feels is illusory. Near the end of the episode Fam says a few appropriate words to her, without knowing that anything’s bothering her. That’s the problem with quiet characters. Only Millia seems to know what’s going on, and she does her best to keep Giselle from distraction. For there’s work to do. A fleet of noble’s ships! Skyfish heaven! Let’s go!

Personally, I'd be using stronger language than that.

In the first moments of this fantastic action scene the big crisis would seem to be the arrival of Fam’s old comrades who also want to steal a vessel of two. Damn it! Nothing like old friends to screw up your plans. Just when we’re wondering if Fam can snare a ship with all the competition swarming around him, an Ades fleet, or two or three, descends from the clouds and begins firing. It’s an ambush! NOW we’re wondering if ANY of them is even going to get out of this alive. There follows several moments of drop-dead beautiful animation, tempered by the desperate situation they’re in, and accompanied by a score loaded with fanfares. Absolutely amazing stuff. And through it all, providing the anchor, we watch as Fam and Giselle dodge explosives and think as hard as they can, until they come up with an improbable idea, which naturally works. And just as I was beginning to relax, they toss a cliffhanger at us for next episode.

Uh, Fam, behind you ...

This is what the original series did so well: the great plans of nations surrounding two young, resourceful heroes, well, that and great art, music and animation.

In Tamayura Hitose 8 Fuu and her friends step to the side while we watch some adults do some adult thinking. Well, Fuu is there, watching, but she’s really not the center of whatever little story this is. If there is a dilemma in this episode it would be “Is Shimomi going to give up photography?” And the answer is, “who knows?” My other answer is, if she does, she could easily make money modeling, for all the loving close-ups this episode gives her. Have her look somewhere off-camera with a wistful look, she could easily make some bucks. But I suppose the theme is wisdom and experience handed down (and around), as we discover that little tyke has taken up photography, inspired by Fuu, who was inspired by Shihomi. In the episode we discover that Shihomi is staying with Hoboro, er, Chimo (leading to the episode’s other big question, if you’re an adult), and the three of them visit another restaurant, run by Mihono, another mentor/friend. We hear them talk about switching jobs and why they like what they do, even if it means leaving something you’re good at. It’s a good lesson, though impractical for many in this lovely economy we live in now. In other words, it’s grownup talk, and Fuu tries to take it in using the “Ticket to the sky” metaphor, i.e., you are currently aimless, but it means there are so many possibilities. And no, Shihomi isn’t giving up photography yet.