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Finales: Uchouten Kazoku, Genshiken N

October 2, 2013 2 comments
Why the tanuki don't do this more often to humans who try to eat them I don't know.

Why the tanuki don’t do this more often to humans who try to eat them I don’t know.

Uchouten Kazoku‘s final had a big exciting scene in it, but mainly it was a lot of mythical creatures talking about not much. The big scene, Friday Fellows vs. Tengu, was as weird as I expected. Unlike Railgun S, which I watched earlier today, here’s a confrontation that no one expected or really wanted, apart from maybe Yasaburou, because maybe his mother would be rescued, and anyway, it might be fun. And the confrontation, once each side figured out the identity of the other side, WAS fun. Cute, too, with all those little furry creatures running around. I had some problems with it, though. Why do the tanuki not mind so much about one of them getting eaten every year when Yaichiro can scare the shit out of humans with his tiger routine? How can the elder Ebisugawa so easily forget that he’s been denying stories of putting tanuki into stew pots and go on and on to the Friday Fellows about doing just that? How come no one except the odd passer-bys in Kyoto care too much about sudden hurricane gusts or trolleys racing through streets and into buildings where there aren’t even tracks?

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I suppose you can attribute the first and maybe the second to “idiot blood,” the most convenient excuse for possible bad plotting that I’d heard in a while. As for the others, maybe Kyoto is used to weirdness like that. I should visit it some day. Other questions I don’t mind not being answered, such as, what was up with Benten? Today she shows a kinder side and acts like she, like Yasaburou, is just looking for fun. Yet at the end she’s back with Akadama. There isn’t a reason for this that the show is willing to give, and while I liked her capricious side more, I see nothing wrong with it if she’s happy. I wonder if the Friday Fellows are going to continue their yearly ritual (probably). I wonder if Yajiro is going to stop being a frog (probably). I wonder if Kaisei is ever going to let Yasaburou see her (no idea, but I hope so). And I could think of others. However, this show has rolled along, er, eccentrically, since the start, following its own rules, and watching it was entertaining enough that I didn’t mind the unanswered questions, or the idiocy.

One more example of the beautiful background art.

One more example of the beautiful background art.

Genshiken N has no overarching plot worries, and no questions that I needed answers. Some of the characters have worries and questions, and this final episode shows them on the way to answering them for themselves, with the help of everyone.

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Mainly, Hato. He’s been avoiding everyone and hasn’t come to change in Madarame’s room recently, so they coax him out with a road trip, sort of how Ogiue came to terms with herself (and Sasahara) on that trip before. While we still haven’t watched that old scene animated, they throw in some quick flashbacks to make the connection. Not that Hato is in such bad shape as Ogiue was. He’s thinking about his crossdressing and he’s worried about Madarame quitting his job. In a good scene, the two talk at the onsen. Madarame simplifies Hato’s crossdressing dilemma by stating the obvious, and the quitting seemed like the thing to do, so relax.

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Apart from that, there’s nothing much for the episode to accomplish apart from bathing, bonding, and a vote to decide if Hato should be a girl or boy. A nice bit where Kuchiki, moving like one of Kyojin’s abnormal giants, attempting to ambush Hato on his way to the bath (what the fuck is wrong with Kuchiki?), is ambushed himself by Sue, moving like a fighting game character. Sue has done yeoman work for this series from the start. But really, there’s nothing else to say about it, and, oddly for a final episode, nothing to wrap up. It’s as if they had more episodes to go. I hope eventually they do, the manga is still going, and there really isn’t another series like this now, where intelligent, comparatively normal young people follow their passions and discover things about themselves along the way, with no goals in mind, just what they encounter.

One more of Sue.

One more of Sue.

Categories: Genshiken, Uchouten Kazoku

Kyojin 24, Monogatari SS and Uchouten K 12

September 24, 2013 1 comment

Shingeki no Kyojin 24 builds well and leaves us waiting for another big giantXgiant battle next week. But two things occur to me.

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First, why didn’t Eren transform sooner? He lay there in the wreckage for several minutes, had two pep talks, one from Jean, the other from Armin. At first it’s understandable; he couldn’t believe that Annie was really that Titan, even after she transformed right in front of him. Some people need time to digest shocking news, so I don’t mind that bit, and I appreciated that chilling moment when Mikasa suggested there were “other” reasons why he couldn’t transform. Never has Mikasa looked so scary. But in the end he practically had to will himself to be angry and focused enough. There was no other reason. He couldn’t see the fighting from where he was lying, couldn’t see Mikasa knocked flat, twice. The reason is, of course, that they wanted a big buildup before he came to the rescue, but that’s a poor reason.

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The rest of it, however, was fantastic. There were people flying around everywhere, getting squished by Annie, who, having a brain, keeps coming up with inventive ways of squishing them. Mikasa’s two attempts at Annie’s head, though failures, showed her at her most furious and brave. And the camera swoops and glides around everyone like it was on wires on its own. It was a joy to watch … and that’s the other problem. The men and women fighting on wires, small and vulnerable though they are, have a poetry to them; the two giants are just going to duke it out like two people in a cage. No matter how much money they throw at the animation, it simply can’t match up. Well, never mind. It’s bound to be exciting anyway. But many shows’ peak moments come in the buildup. I’m worried that this will be one of them.

Ougi Oshiro

Sengoku meets Ougi Oshiro

We start Monogatari Second Season‘s Nadeko Medusa arc with that very same character brutally killing Araragi and Sengoku. With that cheery future event to look forward to, we move past the OP (a pretty good one) and follow Sengoku Nakeko around as she has Monogatari-style conversations. In the first one we meet Ougi Oshino, who nearly runs her over, tells her that they will meet in the future, so this is a screw-up, and lectures her on victims and aggressors. Basically, You can be one or another, or both, and which one is Sengoku, anyway, because you’re not purely the victim, Sengoku, ARE YOU? It makes little sense to Sengoku, or to me, but never mind, this bizarre bicycle girl who talks like Hidamari’s Miyako triggers the new arc.

Another snake.

Sengoku meets another snake.

While I was trying to remember exactly how Sengoku could be blamed for anything, we get a monologue about her class in school being fans of those charms that that con-man was peddling a while back, and why they’re all so melancholy now. So maybe Sengoku is guilty by association? No, she and her friends are victims here. But that snake that pops up and engages her in the final conversation of the week give us an answer, or the snakes’s answer, anyway. I don’t trust the snake. There’s more at work in Sengoku’s mind than guilt over killing a bunch of snakes back when she was trying to save her own life. It probably has to do with that snake that Araragi got to leave back in Bake–. Why kill him and Shinobou over that? Well, the snake will let us know soon enough.

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Uchouten Kazoku 12 brings us the big action promised last week, but it’s undone pretty quickly, then redone, and we wind up with a bizarre confrontation brewing in the final episode. Fun as it was (and this episode was all about fun) I was a little surprised that Yajiro did his streetcar impersonation so early in the episode. It meant a turnaround thanks to more of the twins’ treachery, but I didn’t anticipate another turnaround, thanks to Yashiro. I should have seen the flying trolley bit coming, it happens so often in anime. The other great surprise was Akadama’s sudden appearance right when things were getting the most grim. I should have seen it coming, but unlike Yajiro’s train job, even if the previews hadn’t given it away, I didn’t. Great to look at though it was, I’m more interested in next week, when we get the Friday Fellows meeting a room full of tanuki. I’m looking forward to the reactions on both sides when they find out. I just hope they do it without ignoring all the questions we have about Benten, or are they pretty much done with her? Never mind. Remember what Yasaburou (and half of the rest of the cast) says this week:

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Uchouten K and Genshiken N elevens

September 17, 2013 Leave a comment

Uchouten Kazoku 11 starts out hopeless and gets hopelesser for a while. The Ebisugawa twins are actually a lot smarter than they’ve been acting, and it isn’t long before Yasaburou is in a cage along with the others.

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But along the way we get a little more insight on the enigmatic Benten, after she rescues Yasaburou. She refers to herself as a tengu. Yasaburou quickly points out that she isn’t one, perhaps because of her cruelty. She’s fully human, even if she can fly, and I wonder if that is what makes at times her go to Yajirou’s well and cry. It might also be the reason for her final indifference to who it is who winds up in the pot, though if that’s the case why did she rescue Yasaburou in the first place? Fondness for him? More likely she wants him to have a fair fight. For whatever compassion and sense of justice she might have, I think she actually doesn’t care who it is she eats that night. Fully human.

Just get on with the story, please.

Just get on with the story, please.

Then we get a lot of teeth-gnashing from Yaichiro, entreaties and calm from their mother, and a pointlessly long taunting scene by the Ebisugawa brothers, or maybe it just seemed long because I want to see their asses get kicked, or maybe their smug act was already stale by episode three. It wasn’t until the very end that we get any sort of rally, as the show plays the Kaisei card and frees … Yashirou, possibly the one least able to do any good. Well, it’s time he stepped up. Next week they’ll play the Yajirou card (the preview gives it away) and we’ll have a rollicking finish, I suppose. I’m afraid I might be a little underwhelmed. There’s so much in this rich world they’ve invented that they can’t possibly fulfill in so short a time.

Genshiken Nidaime 11 brings us plenty of Saki, and Madarame, and it winds up being an important one for both of them.

Good old Saki.

Good old Saki.

The show is always interesting when Saki’s around. She doesn’t feel the same restraints the otaku around her do about speaking of certain things, plus, she hasn’t seen everyone in a while and wants to catch up, allowing US to catch up a little with Tanaka and Kugayama (I was happy to learn that the former might open up a cosplay shop. He’s always been the practical sort). And to tease Ohno, and especially Madarame, when she begins to think that with Sue, Angela and Hato revolving around him that it’s “his turn to be popular” (Madarame, in true harem lead fashion, is oblivious). But of course, an episode wouldn’t be complete without everyone some humiliation for our hero, and the conversation soon turns to what hentai stuff he keeps in his apartment. By the way, can you think of another show where this sort of thing is talked about so openly? What if someone peeked into your computer?

The confession doesn't go as planned.

The confession doesn’t go as planned.

This would be fun on its own, but Keiko suggests something I found annoying and intrusive (but so is Keiko) but the other characters don’t really mind, stick Saki and Madarame in the clubroom and have then sort out their “relationship,” i.e., get Madarame to confess so Saki can finally shoot him down and they can move on. I frankly thought this was simply more added cruelty for Madarame, but it turned out to be a lovely scene. Saki already knew but wasn’t going to say anything (until, as she says, she realized this might be hurting him), and her sentences work a balance of “I don’t know what you’re talking about” and “I know exactly what you’re trying to say.” It seemed cruel at first, trying to drag him into saying the three little words, but she also shows a gentleness we don’t often get to see. In spite of what she says about if she didn’t have Kousaka (I don’t believe it for a second), she would never date him, but she is fond of him and wants him to be happy. Madarame never does manage to say the words. But the communication is made, the conversation works, and they’re both relieved to the point of tears. Lovely scene.

Categories: Genshiken, Uchouten Kazoku

Kyojin 22, Monogatari SS and Uchouten Kazoku 10

September 10, 2013 Leave a comment

Shingeki no Kyojin 22 is, er, not very cheerful.

Levi makes it look easy.

Levi makes it look easy.

We get two action scenes, the first being the pursuit and rescue of Eren, that is to say, the incapacitating of the female giant who ate him. It’s an interesting look at Mikasa in blood rage compared to the much cooler and more effective Levi. In fact, Levi is so adept at making the giant a hunk of useless meat in human form that you wonder why he didn’t do that when the giant was chasing them all earlier. Well, it doesn’t matter, Eren is rescued, though Mikasa wasn’t given the chance for revenge. Maybe next time. The second bit of action was a cautionary tale about recovering the bodies, which wound up creating another body or two. I’m fully on Erwin and Levi’s side on this one. Dead is dead.

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The remainder involves the army’s inglorious retreat to the city, and the show takes great pains to compare it to previous inglorious returns, the ones that the young Eren looked at with such admiration. There’s even a little kid playing the Eren role, which probably cheered Eren and Mikasa up a little, but the whole thing was so heavy-handed that I felt more like Erwin and Levi at that moment, stoically moving on while townspeople asked about sons and daughters or jeered about the terrible loss of life. That’s how I felt about the scene, anyway: just keep moving, they’re laying the sorrows of war stuff on too thick, but the scene will be over soon. Things promise to get more interesting next week when it’s back to the courtroom. Oh, shit, another courtroom scene with stereotypical societal faction members give ridiculous speeches? Maybe not so interesting. We’ll see what Armin has up his sleeve …

On the other hand, Monogatari Second Season 10 is a pretty cheerful episode … overall. I didn’t expect this arc to finish so quickly.

Mayoi's grown into her backpack.

Mayoi’s grown into her backpack.

We start with the initial shock of Araragi returning to the present only to find his world overrun by zombies. Rather, as Oshino helpfully explains in a letter, this is actually an alternate timeline, and not the inevitable consequence of saving Mayoi. I think. I’m not really sure. Time travel stories always confuse me. Anyway, after the zombies are driven away (with rice?!), we and our heroes get the delightful surprise of seeing Mayoi fully grown and in survivalist mode. What’s more, she has a letter from Oshino that explains the situation. As far as conversations go it’s straight and too the point–surprisingly so, I thought, and I sort of wished Araragi had told her the truth of the situation. I’m sure she was wondering what’s going on.

Not quite, you're going to save the girl AND the world.

Not quite, you’re going to save the girl AND the world.

After that it’s time to meet Kiss-Shot Acerola-Orion Heart-Under-Blade, or the person wielding it. I had forgotten who this person or thing is, only thinking when they briefly showed her face during the Oshino letter visual rush, that she looked like Shinobou. Along the way, of course, we have a conversation, and given the circumstances (possible death from an opponent far more powerful than them) it’s a brave and positive one that showed the bond that these two odd people have made, mostly on the idea of “saving the girl in front of you” and choosing between the girl and the world. They’re both smiling and laughing throughout. They’ve made their choices and don’t regret them.

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Which I suppose was the intent, for this older, bitter Shinobou they encounter is the person who didn’t make the right choices and regrets it. I expected a long, bloody battle with bitter tongue-lashings from KSAOHUB and Shinobou both, but the only blood we see comes from KSAOHUB’s eyes, and then Shinobou’s, as they’re both in agreement. “I made the wrong decisions and now you’re standing before me happy.” “My decisions were pretty close to yours, so I can’t figure it out.” “Me neither. Well, you better kill me.” “‘kay.” And that’s it. So rather than a fight, we get another conversation, a short, sad one. All Araragi gets to do is pat KSAOHUB’s head. Mission accomplished. Araragi saved Mayoi and then the world she was in, then returns and meets the Mayoi he knows in typical fashion, but reversed. I didn’t expect that at all, and it was beautifully done.

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After and during a lot of dire warnings by frogs, Uchouten Kazoku 10 brings us the long-awaited Ebisugawa plans for winning the election, and it’s pretty cruel, actually. The father actually wants to wipe out the Shimogawa family, and we see them one-by-one fall prey to the attacks. Okay, we only see two of them and can only imagine what happened to the mother, and Yasaburou is surrounded at the episode’s end. All for a petty love squabble many years ago. We also, finally, get the details of Souichirou’s capture and death by stew, but as Yasaburou mutters, he sort of had figured it out already. In short, this is one of the bleak episodes that many series have before the tables slowly turn closer to the end, in this case, two episodes away.

Kyojin 21, Genshiken and Uchouten 9

September 3, 2013 Leave a comment

When, last week in Shingeki no Kyojin, the female giant got herself devoured to prevent capture, it meant we’d have to wait a few more dragging episodes before we saw her again. Happily, I was wrong.

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It STARTS that way. From their various locations in the forest the characters talk about the implications, Armin as usual making the most sense, Erwin pondering future strategies and battle philosophies while fleeing. The danger is still there. There is a traitor in their midst and they don’t know who, so there’s an edge to these scenes, but really you want the big girl back. Fortunately, Erwin’s speculation that the traitor may have to transform again is proven true, and we get what we wish. But then it begins to look like another pointless chase through that never ending forest, complete with another Eren “should I or shouldn’t I?” scene, but we get another twist: those elite corpsmen get the upper hand of the giant for a minute or two, then get crushed. … Well, Levi DID say there was no right or wrong answer, right?

And there's the bell for round one ...

And there’s the bell for round one …

It’s on! And it’s also weird as hell, and a bit kinky, especially when Eren straddles her and then pauses, as if he was thinking thoughts he hadn’t considered before. But no, he’s just thinking the usual things, revenge, kill, rage rage rage, the boring stuff he always feels. Meanwhile his opponent, already wounded, is clearly thinking about the battle more than Eren is. She’s on the defensive most of the time, but she’s clearly buying herself time to regenerate and waiting for the right moment, which comes so fast that you’re not sure what happened except the top of Eren’s giant head is falling off. And guess who shows up just in time to watch what happens next?

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Watching what happened next I fully expected to see Misaka actually kill the giantess. We all know that she’s a great fighter, and, unlike Eren, she uses her rage almost like a weapon unto itself, motivating her to make moves on the giantess that would be suicidal for other corpsmen. And we’ve seen enough of the giantess to know that she was afraid. If she hadn’t had that crystallizing ability … But even though Mikasa didn’t succeed, her righteous anger is a joy to watch. The scene also made me think. The giantess hadn’t eaten anyone before. What’s more, I believe she swallowed Eren whole. If she had wanted to kill him she could have mashed him like she does all the others. In other words, she wants Eren alive. This is a giant version of kidnapping. I want to see what they do with this.

Just one of many little conversations in this episode.

Just one of many little conversations in this episode.

Genshiken Nidaime 9, like many of the other episodes, moves along in a leisurely way, tossing out little plot and character bits along the way, until a small crisis I don’t understand in the slightest pops up at the end. Most of it works. They spend too much time with Hato realizing that others might also know about Madarame’s interest in Saki, but they also introduce a bunch of new characters, all of them old friends of the main group who have come to say hello during the festival. It’s fun to see the type of people they used to hang out with. Yoshitake and Yajima’s friends make sense (passionate and mousy), and we’ll learn more about Hato’s next week, including whether they’re actually friends or not. Meanwhile, that room is getting awfully crowded. Plenty of potential for fun next week.

There she is!

There she is!

Uchouten Kazokou 9 is pretty much the same as Genshiken. Little scenes that want to establish characters rather than move plot forward. We get a brief scene between Yasaburou and the professor about procuring a tanuki for their feast, perhaps there to show the prof’s reluctance to find one at all, another scene where the candidates for the election (and I hope both lose somehow) bow before the center stone (with an amusing flashback), one where the tanuki try to get stubborn old Akadama to preside at the election (handled by Yasaburou–contrasting the earlier scene where Ebisugawas try to bar the Shimogamos from the meeting, here the tanuki part to let Yasaburou in), until we get to the main bit, a conversation between Yasaburou and Kaisei, whom we finally get to see, though Yasaburou can’t and maybe never has. Not much to the scene. We already know that the girl doesn’t like her family, but has some sort of affection for Yasaburou, at least. There’s a hint of threat at the end, but we already figure that the Ebisugawas are going to go on the offensive again. Not that I care. And, like every week, the episode breezes by so quickly that I’m surprised when it’s over.

Uchouten and Watamote 8, plus disappointing Teekyuu stats

August 29, 2013 Leave a comment

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Uchouten Kazoku 8 starts with last week’s surprise, as well as some startling new information which doesn’t add up until the end. It’s also an elegy of some sort for the old man, for us, really, as the family had said goodbye long ago. In that respect it’s a lovely episode of memory, and it becomes even more poignant when Akadama-sensei tells us his side of what happened that evening. Souichirou hears that Yajima is in love with Kaisei (whom we better damn well meet one of these days), though she’s engaged to Yasaburou(!). Souichirou tells his son not to grow separate from the rest of the family. Then we later discover that Souichirou met Akadama to say goodbye before going off to … wherever they go.

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I missed it the first time, in fact, I had a paragraph written about how he went off to be caught, deliberately, but actually Souichiriou meets Akadama for the last time after his death, not before, and the questions that raised about Yajiro and the rest of the family. Instead, we simply have a restatement of the fact that Souichirou went to his death with few if any regrets, and the questionable assertion by Yasaburou that the death united the family. The only question I have is why Yasaburou isn’t sharing more of these stories with his brothers and mother. Especially in an episode filled with memories and regrets like this one is. Well, the other question has to do with the details of Souichirou’s capture, or maybe it’s not important. They have idiot blood, you know, the show won’t shut up about it, though I must say Souichirou and Yasaburou seem to have less than the others.

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Watamote 8 was the most painful one to watch yet. The only part that offered any hope for her at all was her cousin’s internal decision to forgive her for all the shit she tried to pull. As for Tomoko, the return karma burned her even more than usual, and it was worse because she is so idiotic in letting things spiral out of control. She could have just said the truth, that the boy wasn’t her boyfriend, just a guy, and kept up her fabrications. Safer that way. But perhaps the most pathetic part was that card game. Not only is cheating schoolkids a low thing to do, but it brings her the only adulation she ever gets. On the other hand, I did admire her slight-of-hand. Maybe she ought to learn some other tricks like that. She doesn’t have anything else to do. Sigh.

So am I!

So am I!

Finally, Teekyuu 20 has an embarrassing drop in gags. They had been averaging about one gag every 3-4 seconds, but episode 20 takes over an average drops to over five! There was only one gag in the teaser, and later one of the girls goes into a ten-second speech about how they’re all different and how that makes them special, and there was no gag whatsoever! C’mon girls! You know better than that!

Sevens: Watamote, Uchouten Kazoku, oh, and Teekyuu

August 24, 2013 Leave a comment
Well, that's how I spend most of MY free time ...

Well, that’s how I spend most of MY free time …

Watamote 7 shows Tomoko on the first eight days or so of summer break, sometimes agonizing because she’s not doing anything. But the thing is, she actually is. Sure, little of it can be called productive. She surfs the net, she watches tv, she reads books and magazines, and from time to time she worries about where her vacation is going, but on the whole she seems happy. There’s a stigma placed on people who prefer to be alone, and Tomoko certainly feels it, but it’s really nothing to be ashamed about. And in Tomoko’s world, the outsiders may not be understanding, but once again in this episode, no one is deliberately unkind to her. They are simply indifferent. So enjoy your free time alone, Tomoko! And good on you for going to that seiyuu handshake event (and good for the seiyuu for being so professional), at least trying a webcam, and doing that creative sound splicing, even if that was to satisfy your own perversions. You’re doing stuff. Relax!

Uchouten Kazoku 7 was a bit of a disappointment, for two reasons.

Sorry.

Sorry.

First, I expected a big fight in the baths with lots of slapstick damage and tails flying, but the only tail the flew was Kinkaku’s or maybe his brother’s. The comic bit with the iron underpants was okay, but surely those two tanuki aren’t THAT stupid. And why don’t they tranform into something threatening so we could have that big fight? The second disappointment, well, not really a disappointment, was the discovery that Yajirou spent the evening getting drunk with Father the night he was caught.

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Yaichiro is hurt by this news, but Yasaborou takes it with his usual calm. I suppose it’s his nature, and his carefree look on life, or maybe hearing about Hotei’s meeting with him, and the respect he felt, had Yasaburou feel like his father had died well. Or you could argue that it reflects on Yasaburou’s maybe too-heavy sense of fatality. Also, even with the brothers being hit hard by the news, it doesn’t do much to the story except perhaps explain why Yajirou’s now living as a frog in a well. What happens next with the story? That election? More on Benten? I don’t know where this show is going.

School athletic festival.

School athletic festival.

I don’t remember the exact stats, but Teekyuu is still managing a gag about every 3 1/3 seconds. Midseason form.