Tokyo ESP 4, Nozaki-kun 4-5

Tokyo ESP 4 winds up its first arc in solid fashion.

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First they have to rescue Murasaki, and it’s pretty easy, considering. In spite of her injuries Rinka beats up several men twice her size and only uses her power to avoid bullets. It’s ridiculous, but she looked so formidable swinging that sword around that I didn’t care much. The rest of it was just as improbable and my capacity to care didn’t go up; I was having too much fun watching Peggy the penguin get pissed off and remove that gang leader’s power, Azuma teleporting several bodies so they wind up landing on the scene’s current bad guy, or Rindou showing up just in time to rescue Kuroi. And we meet the show’s chief antagonist, and wonder why Azuna freaks out, leading to some godlike thing who borrowed Monogatari’s snake motif … Well done.

The bonding takes some interesting turns.
The bonding takes some interesting turns.

They have to settle a few things after that. In the episode’s weakest moment Azuna goes missing and we watch him walking in the rain without an umbrella, and worried Rinka doing the same, without the umbrella, at which point I got tired of watching unhappy people get wet–the same thing happened in the latest Hanayamata as well. Then they find him, making me wonder why they bothered with the whole thing, unless it was to demonstrate one of the bonds the characters are building which Rinka refers to in a voice-over at the end. As for Murasake, she has her own crisis, solved when the gang take her in and her dad shows he’s not such a bad guy after all. These quiet scenes mostly feel like a letdown after the first half’s action, but there were enough good moments in them that, yes, I didn’t care too much.

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Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun 4 stops introducing introducing new characters (but next week we’ll get back to it) and concentrated on Mikoto, the weakest of the lot. Which is not to say he’s incapable of being entertaining, just that he has strong competition. The first story, where he entices Nozaki to play a dating sim, has its moments but its due to Nozaki being himself and imagining himself as the females, thus getting all the answers wrong, but in the end, being right in reality. The biggest problem is that Chiyo isn’t around. I begin to realize just how much the show depends on her, even when she’s just a straight man. But she shows up for the second half, where Mikoto asks Nozaki for help in practicing for a mixer, and her displays of adoration for Nozaki along with her usual glares of annoyance and solid straight-man work help the scenes immensely, as does Nozaki, his height, and his lunk-headedness. Yeah, Mikoto isn’t bad, but he can’t carry a scene without help.

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Episode 5 came moments after I started writing about episode 4, so even though there’s plenty of other shows to write about, I thought “what the hell.” We DO meet a new character, Ken-san, Kozaki’s editor, and learn about Maeno, the former one. What’s interesting about Ken is that he’s shown as a laconic, all-business type, which leads Chiyo to believe he doesn’t like Nozaki. But in the second half we see Ken as a straight man, putting up with Nozaki’s odd experiments to get inside a woman’s head and heart, or at least that of the manga’s heroine. And so we learn that Nozaki isn’t as great a manga-ka as we had been led to believe. So why is he so popular? Part of the fun of Nozaki is he is a big lunkhead who nevertheless perfectly understands young girls, but since then the show has been doing its best to show just the opposite. Unless they’re trying to show that such effortless grace on paper comes from endless hard work and countless mistakes.

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Tokyo ESP 3, Aldnoah, Akame and SAO2 4

Episode one of Tokyo ESP was dark, episode two was goofy. With #3 they try to mix the two moods with interesting results.

Goofy stuff near the start.
Goofy stuff near the start.

After rescuing a girl named Murasaki while she was trying to rescue the flying penguin (from whom?), Rinka begins to think that there might be something to this superheroing business after all, though I also appreciated her first impulse–using it to make money–it has a Spider-Man vibe to it, as well as the hints of responsibility that, well, you know. At the time we think she might be caught in Azuma’s altruistic, optimistic vibe, but then we see Azuma get down and dirty with another batch of people who kidnap Murasaki, and we see that things aren’t as cut and dried as we thought.

More serious by the end.
More serious by the end.

And by the end you might wonder where the optimism went. Both of them are personally involved, both for being in the wrong place at the wrong time, and because having these powers makes them targets. That’s why they’re preparing to storm the yakuza lair. Sure, they might have done it anyway, but it wouldn’t have been so urgent if they hadn’t already met Murasaki. Elsewhere, it’s an effective episode; I’m excited to see the battle next week, and I wonder what that fish Murasaki absorbed is going to do to her. And Kuroi has yet to make her face turn; she’s such a bad person in this episode that I wonder how they’ll do it, unless the others will simply take her in, warts and all, because she’s one of them. … Nah. The show’s too goofy for that, I think.

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We have some shifting morals in Aldnoah.Zero as well. I think Rayet is the one I’m going to pay attention to. She has the most interesting story. She’s basically a traitor, of the willing daughter of a traitor, and when her boss kills her father and the other rats, she does a 180 and joins the good guys, though she’s keeping her background a secret. So first of all it’s kind of fun to watch her interact with people who were enemies a day ago, not to mention a princess her side tried to kill but who is alive and being nice to her, while Inaho tells her that her father are the real enemies. So she’s working with revenge, guilt, and her father’s poisonous upbringing bashing each other around in her head.

Meanwhile, the bad guys blow up the city.
Meanwhile, the bad guys blow up the city.

The other characters’ stances are sillier. So far all the Martian noblemen have proven themselves to be high-talking swine, though I’m still convinced Cruhteo has a face turn coming. Slaine is interesting but his decision to “take revenge,” i.e., screw up the Martian invasion by invading it, feels suicidal to me, which might be what he’s after. The good guys are all basic types right now, except for Inaho, who looks and acts like Robotics;Notes’ Kaito–inexpressive, more going on inside his head then you read on his face, which makes him dull unless he’s doing something brilliant on the battlefield, like he does in this episode again. And I should mention that among all this good and bad characterization this was another fun episode with a lot of good moments, though the mecha battle near the end confused me a little.

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I suppose you could talk about the morality of Akame ga Kill, but I don’t see a point since it’s come down to “We kill them or they’ll kill us.” Not much to say there. Episode four has Night Raid going after Zank the Executioner, who started hearing voices while doing his job and now lops off the heads of everyone he encounters. So Night Raid kills him. Basically it’s all to fill us in on the Imperial Arms, of which there are 48, of which Night Raid owns six, no, seven now. Also it’s an excuse to show Akame in battle, and she doesn’t let us down. Okay, now that they’ve done all that it’s time to get the overreaching plot started again. Apart from a bit with Najenda and a dying rebel, there’s been little going on with that.

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Sword Art Online 2 4 has Kirito logging in to GGO for the first time, discovering he’s a girl here, and getting leers by half the gamers he passes by, an interesting comment on girls in games in general, but it’s quickly forgotten as the gods of convenience intervene and he meets Sinon, who just happens to have the time (though she doesn’t, it turns out) to give Kirito and us an infodump on what goes on here, and a tour to boot. Kirito gets to show us just how adept he is at dodging when he challenges an in-game game for the money, and how lousy he is at firing a gun. I’m probably the 100,000th person to use the “bring a sword to a gun fight” line, but since the OP has him battling with just his laser sword, it seems the show doesn’t care. And it looks like Sinon’s getting interested in him, another discrepancy with the OP. Not a great episode, but I guess we need the information for future use.

Zankyou and Tokyo ESP 2, SAO2 2-3

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After Zankyou no Terror 2 I went and looked up the riddle of the sphinx because I had never heard of the second interpretation, that it referred to Oedipus himself. After one minute on Wikipedia hours of thorough searching I didn’t find it, nor did I find any indication that it happened after Oedipus blinded himself. And I got lost in speculation, which is what the police were more or less doing the entire episode–trying to figure out the implications of an ancient riddle rather than doing actual detective work (long briefing session notwithstanding) or letting just any noodle delivery boy into their offices.

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But if the show wants to make itself a battle of wits between the two boys and Shibazaki, that’s okay too. We don’t get too many of those types of battles in anime. And the show is doing a very good job of making me wonder just what the boys’ motives are. And what their motives toward Lisa are as well. Why DID Twelve refer to Lisa as an accomplice when they don’t intend to include her in their plans? I don’t think they know, either. And Lisa remains an effective wild card–we see a bit of her miserable home life–a situation any one of us would want to run away from, were it not for the guilt. I’ll probably never learn to like the boys, however. Their experience is too distant from ours for me to feel any sympathy. Thankfully, the show isn’t entirely about them, and they’re telling the story very well.

Drawbacks to being an esper.
Drawbacks to being an esper.

I shouldn’t have watched Tokyo ESP right after Zankyou no Terror. The art and animation, even in the battle scenes, looks amateurish in comparison. Also, episode two gets very silly, almost like it’s a different show altogether. And then there’s the fanservice, not only of the naked Rinka phasing through floors, but that other naked girl running through the ED until she gets stabbed, about the only dark bit of the entire episode. The backstory is amusing enough if you can ignore the moronic policemen guarding the artwork, the ridiculous villain, and the concept you’d forget seeing something like goldfish in the air, then all of a sudden remember it when reminded. At least they didn’t have any villains spouting lame evil lines, though Black Fist came close. Instead we have Azuma giving lame hero speeches. Well, there was enough weirdness for me to consider watching another episode. Note to self: don’t do it after watching Zankyou no Terror.

Sinon in the game, kicking butt.
Sinon in the game, kicking butt.

Catching up with Sword Art Online 2. Episode two was interesting, basically an introduction to how GGO works in a battle situation, and to Sinon the sniper, as she and a batch of lesser players ambush some monster hunters only to find they have a guy with a Really Big Gun on their side. The rest of the episode is spent with Sinon’s group (depicted as a bunch of losers) as they get blown apart and all cowardly until Sinon, who clearly does not want to be seen with them, at least not in real life, takes over. Everybody on both sides dies but her. She frequently mentions that the RBG guy is “strong enough to smile on the battlefield,” and so admires this that she swears she’s going to kill him. To me such a person is a psychotic (the smiler, not Sinon), so I’m happy she took him out, too. Meanwhile, we get nothing of Kirito or Azuma until the very end, still playing with fairies in that other game. Kind of a jarring juxtaposition.

Shino, not in the game, not kicking butt.
Shino, not kicking butt.

And in episode 3 it becomes clear that this new season is going to take its time doing things. After that online situation last time which took up most of the episode we get a look at Sinon’s real-life person, Shino, and follow her around as she gets bullied, meets a good friend who’s clearly in love with her, and then has an unpleasant flashback showing us why she can’t look or touch guns in real life. I wonder if those girls who bully her know she’s killed a man? Anyway, it all works pretty well. I mentioned the slow pace this season but I don’t mind it. A few scenes drag a little, but this feels like a more natural pace for the story and I’m like it. But I’m glad Kirito finally put on those goggles. Enough introductions, time for the story.

2014 Summer Shows — the Last

Zankyou no Terror (no, zankYOU!) has an effective first episode that leaves us with a bunch of questions.

Why does a nuclear plant use wind turbines?
Why does a nuclear plant use wind turbines?

We start in snowy somewhere, a nuclear plant of some sort, which is raided by two people in nuclear suits, who escape with only one explosion and no loss of blood anywhere, which is pretty good work. Then it’s six months later in Tokyo and hot as hell, and two high school boys who call themselves Nine (boyish) and Twelve (tall and austere) transfer in under different names and try not to call attention to themselves. We wonder who the other numbers are, and later, I wondered why they bothered to transfer into school in the first place. Later they set up an elaborate series of bombs and set them off, causing the building they targeted to blow up WTC style … except there’s a new classmate, Lisa, caught in there. They give her the chance of either dying or becoming an accomplice. Assholes.

Like I said.
Like I said.

Every moment in the episode looks good and well thought-out. It looks great, and the show flexes its animation muscles early when it follows the snowmobile around. What’s more, they split the time around between the boys, Lisa, and two detective types who spot a warning on Youtube. So we don’t really know what’s happening until the bombs go off … well, we can sort of guess. The show doesn’t waste time explaining things. We know that boys were an in institution and that something bad happened there, but nothing more than that. Lisa is not “one of them” but has emotional issues to deal with. Why did they save her? Twelve seems sympathetic to her but would have happily left her to die if she hadn’t followed directions. And why is that one guy an ex-detective? Unlike some shows, all these mysteries are set up subtly but clearly. Very interesting start. We’ll see how it pans out.

I forget.
I forget.

Next we have Ai Mai Mi – Mousou Catastrophie, a sequel to a show I don’t remember at all. And we get a lot of weird fantasy stuff, with manga stuff thrown in. I can’t make head or tail of this thing. Since it’s only three minutes long I suppose it doesn’t matter. Let’s move on.

The apartment before things happen.
The apartment before things happen.

Next it’s Rokujouma no Shinryakusha, a show tries too hard to be funny. We meet Koutarou, a boy entering high school who has moved into a place of his own to take it easy on his busy dad. Fifty bucks a month! Perfect! But his friend Makkenji tells him that it’s haunted. He sleeps through one ghost attack, but at work the next day falls through the earth’s crust and meets some cosmic girl who’s been waiting for him, the he wakes up. The next day the ghost confronts him over the apartment, which she claims is hers.

The apartment while things are happening.
The apartment while things are happening.

She is followed by a magical girl or cosplayer, a girl from underground who wants to take over the earth, a princess of a galactic empire, and then the landlady, who’s pissed about the mess they’re making. We’re supposed to react to this pile-on of weird females, but, as I said, they try too hard. The underground scene and the hints of people in the shadows and trees kept me interested for a while, but after the fighting began I kept hoping the next girl would show up soon because I was bored by the one being ridiculous on screen now. Also, it wasn’t terribly funny. I’ll give it another episode to see if things can settle down.

Tokyo ESP looks great, has some nice action bits in it, and it irritated the hell out of me.

Christmas in Tokyo--what the hell is THAT?
Christmas in Tokyo–what the hell is THAT?

Modern-day Tokyo, and suddenly everyone looks up and there’s a big rock floating in the sky, actually, the Parliment building. The MPs they haven’t killed already are being held hostage by a group of espers, a particularly nasty group, too, as they have no compunction at killing anyone who tries to stop them and anyone who isn’t trying to stop them. There are bad guys on the floating rock and more on the ground, wreaking havoc and distracting emergency and military forces until they’re at their wit’s end. Two members of an esper dispatch unit manage to fight one esper to a standstill, so I guess they’ll be recurring characters, and then there are some good espers who stop blending in and start kicking esper butt on their own.

We get scene after scene of this.
We get scene after scene of this.

The trouble is that the bad espers are such poor chariactures of anime villains that they sucked any sort of sympathy out of the situation and replaced it with annoyance and anger. The head bad guy, the one with the scar, starts off with a speech about how puny humans can’t see the truth so they must be enslaved, and right there the warning signs went off in my head. Of course, even bad bosses with bad lines seem to have minions, and their lines are even worse. “Strike! Mankind out!” I think hits a new low at bad villain jokes. Meanwhile, the humans that aren’t in special forces and getting killed kept saying “If only White Girl was here!” And at the end, when White Girl and her friends do indeed show up, it’s a relief. Not only because the news has all been bad before then, but because now at least some of the bad espers will shut up. I’m going to watch another episode, if only because the series does look great, but I think it’s tipped its hand early.

Blade Dance starts with a stadium, where a dull battle takes place.
Blade Dance starts with a stadium, where a dull battle takes place.

Finally, I think, we have Seirei Tsukai no Blade Dance. I think after the bad taste of those villains got out of my mouth it was a relief to see a poorly-animated generic show about witch-schools, magical powers, a harem, and lots of cries of “hentai!”

Oh, and a maid.
Oh, and a maid.

Well, not a relief, as I don’t think I’m going to watch this. We have Kamito entering an all girl’s magic school, where they all have pseudo-western names like Claire Rouge, or Greyworth, or Ashbell. Naturally, it starts with a Claire bathing and Kamito accidentally seeing her, magic attacks, and things move predictably along from there. The next important girl we meet is Ellis, a tsundere, (hell, every girl at the school who isn’t afraid of him is), who resents his being at the school and threatens to turn him into various kinds of food, which made me like her. And the Headmaster, Greyworth, is an evil witch who’s behind all this. None of it is very new or interesting, but it’s all agreeably dumb. I watch it again, but I won’t write about it.

I think I’m finished.