Finales: Seakano Flat, Uchouten Kazoku … also Re:Creators 12

It’s been a week, so it’s time to quickly put Saekano Flat to rest …

The first half is Tomoya and Kato’s date, which is not really a date because in spite of all the shopping scenes, hand-holding, and revived fond memories, there is no romance here. It’s partly to cheer up Tomoya, of course, a chance for Megumi to reaffirm her support for his next project, coming right down to a sort of re-creation of their first encounter on the hill, minus the wind. It didn’t really work because they’ve reenacted the scene before, but anyway. Not a romance, but rather a muse reassuring a struggling artist. It also provided Tomoya the opportunity to tearfully release his regrets and frustration of the near-breakup of Blessing Software.

Tomoya, still at the right, but much more composed than the last pic.

That done, we switch to Utaha and Eriri about to board a shinkansen for a business meeting. When Tomoya shows up I thought the show would take a false step and have the girls reconsider, which would be utterly wrong. One of the things I liked in the last few episodes was that it made perfect sense for them to leave Tomoya’s circle and take on a bigger artistic challenge. Happy to say that Tomoya had come around to the same conclusion and he was just saying goodbye. It would have gone on too long except they added a nice comic bit at the end involving a kiss. And then, when Tomoya and Megumi start their senior year, guess who’s entering their school? Izumi! Looks like the circle isn’t dead yet!

The first season was pretty good, and this one was pretty good as well. They managed to balance the story of making a game with exploring the relationships, interestingly, none of them romantic, and story-wise the relationships became more important than the game. And, as I said, I liked the honest approach the show took in terms of Utaha and Eriri moving on. I could have done without some of the fanservice, but the point of the series, partly, was to poke some holes in the romantic game genre, while not mocking it outright, and they did a good job with that too. So I’m sorry to see this one go.

One more bit of meta.
Speaking of meta …

I’m trying wrap my head around the good guys’ plan in Re:Creators 12. It’s pointed out that Altair is gaining powers daily from the addition of fanart and videos put out on the web every day. Meteora proposes that each creator should start augmenting their creations’ powers and also plan for a story-crossing event that will exist in the gap between our world and the fictional one, and means a huge battle between everybody. I have some problems with this. First, Altair will be “lured in.” How? Second, it will take six months to make this happen, and I don’t think they have the time. The plan is too unwieldy and depends on too many things happening, like the fans buying into the new abilities. And why can’t these fictional characters develop new abilities from the fans like Altair is doing? Or, since the late Yuna lived her artistic life online, that’s part of Altair’s strength. Anyway, I think they’re working too hard on this. They already have a crossover platform: Re:Creators itself. Oh, they don’t know their story is fiction, do they?

Finally, a rousing but confusing ending to Uchouten Kazoku. I will never understand the beef between Benten and Nidaime. Well, I don’t understand Benten anyway, but I don’t expect to, and her unpredictability makes her fascinating to watch. Nidaime, on the other hand, should be easier to figure out … why was he sitting despondent, bottle in hand, under a pile of tanuki? Why did he assist in burning up his own house, like he had rejected his false airs, only to tell Yasoburou later that he doesn’t intend to become a tengu? I get the attraction between them, but why the savage fight?

Well, they’re both sad, lonely people. Much happier are Yaichirou and Gyokuran, getting hitched, rather a brief scene for all the import it has, and Yasaburou and Kaisei get engaged again. Meanwhile, Tenmaya is pulled back into hell, nice timing there, and Soun goes with him, though he of course is not dead and will undoubtedly return next year when the Friday Club have another stab at making tanuki hot pot. Yajiro seems to have his transformations back in order, or maybe it’s the drugs, while Yasaburou still has issues when he sees his fiancee. Well, as he says, it’ll work out somehow. He’s probably right.

There are many things that make this series exceptional, the visuals, the odd stories with endless surprising twists, the magic, the characters and their connection not only to folklore but to their own personal histories, the glorious visuals–really, I need to go back to Kyoto soon. But for me Yasaborou puts it beyond most shows. He can (unless he’s targeted for that hot pot) go anywhere he wishes, to his friends, to enemies or threats, even to Hell, and talk, bow, and negotiate with everyone, because he’s “a fool.” Maybe, but a cunning one who can also exhibit kindness to people who might be threats and fool those that he needs to. As a member of a species that is clearly at the lowest status among sentient beings, he uses his formidable skills to keep himself and his family alive, and to keep the peace, unless it’s time to cause trouble, that is. I was delighted to have him and the others back for a second season, but I don’t expect a season three. Well, I didn’t expect a season two, either …

One more of Yasaborou and Benten.

That wraps it up for Spring 2017.  Now I can lazily wait for the Summer season, which begins, er, today.

LWA 23, Uchouten Kazoku and Sakura Q 11

As expected, Little Witch Academia 23 is a mopey, sad episode where Akko, repeatedly told “A believing heart is your magic,” finds there’s nothing to believe in at the moment and vanishes, while characters spend most of their time worrying about her. The rest is Ursula’s flashback to Chariot’s wild days, and we learn an important fact that you’d think SOMEONE would tell AKKO about: Chariot had no idea what that Dream Fuel Spirit magic was doing to the audience, and when she discovered the truth, she dropped it immediately … and lost her audience, though not before trying to blow up the moon … Anyway, it wasn’t deliberate, and while Akko has every right to be upset, she shouldn’t be upset too much with Ursula, which Ursula and/or Croix should have told Akko last week, but didn’t. Ursula possibly because she would still feel responsible, Croix because she’s the bad person on the show. No, the only person who actually sits down and talks with Akko about all this is Diana, who reassures her while sternly refusing to let her drown in her own pity, and gives everyone watching the last of the backstory. Now we’re set for the final big story arc.

It might happen.

Considering there are only two episodes of Uchouten Kazoku left after this week’s, and now we have Benten actually pissed off at Yasaburou, I figured they’d be cramming in as many story bits as possible, but the episode took its sweet time getting anywhere, building up the tension, flitting from Yaichirou’s ceremony to Yajirou’s travels and meeting that nice young girl, to Yasaburou’s comfortable hiding … how would they get to Yasaburou? And who or what would they pull out of their enormous bag of tricks to do the job? With hindsight it makes perfect sense. I was wondering what was going on with Tenmaya and that gun … Well, he and Kaisei will get out of it somehow. I’m actually more intrigued by the idea that the now-decent Kureichirou might be an imposter; that has long-term ramifications for both families, and whether the time the show has left will be enough to take care of this news.

While Sakura Quest 11’s arc wrap-up was sweet, the series is beginning to feel more contrived than before. It always was to an extent, and I think that slice-of-life shows like this that have obvious themes for its arcs (here it was “outsiders”) have to bend realism a bit to get the theme to work in different ways. It’s not the theme itself doesn’t work; we have Ririko, the Resident Outsider, sad because she doesn’t fit in, who really just needed a hug, and that’s fine. We have the girl outsiders here for a visit, and they’re neutral. Then there’s Chitose, whose family life was broken by outsiders, and Sandal, part Manoyaman as it turns out, with his great grandfather being the outsider, for the counterpoint. Not to mention the origin of the dance, and the legends that go with it. The main idea gets viewed from several angles. Good. It’s the execution where we see the flaws. I can’t believe occult-nut Ririko hadn’t already known of the dragon legend and the various versions. And how Sandal’s song just happened to appear just at the right moment. At times like this my willing suspension of disbelief gets strained. Don’t even get me startd on the guy in the pond.

Uchouten Kazoku 9, Little Witch 22

Benten sums herself up, at least until her mood changes.

Though it looks as though Uchouten Kazoku 2 isn’t going to have as big a story arc as its first season, it’s still finding ways to entertain. It helps, again, that the show has Benten, a character so dangerous and unpredictable that the very thought of having her as the observer for the Trick Magister election fills the tanuki community with grave doubt. She does, after all, eat tanuki. She doesn’t float into the episode until very late, and then it’s to wreak a little havoc and get some revenge on Yasaburou, who was mostly responsible for getting Nidaime to take her place. It was the first time I’ve ever been grateful to have Nidaime–a bit of a tool–show up, because at that moment I was genuinely worried for Yasaburou’s health. The Benten effect again. One other thing … do we know why Yajiro has taken off on a grand tour of Japan?

All of Croix’s favorite things.

Uchouten Kazoku might be lacking in story right now, but Little Witch Academia 22 just doubled its own story’s intensity. It’s one of those episodes where the creators lay all their cards on the table, well save one (the incident at Chariot’s last show), and poor Akko is running away in tears, unable to trust anyone. That we find out the details of Croix’s nasty plans to save magic is the smallest event. Akko also learns that Ursula is Chariot. That’s been a long time coming, to the point where I was getting sick of every attempt of Ursula’s to tell her, because I knew there would be a knock on the door, or something flitting past the window, something to delay the news a little longer. It was also clear that when Akko did discover the truth, it would be by accident.

But because we were expecting this reveal for some time, it’s not the big moment of the episode. That comes at the end, when Croix rebukes Ursula for using emotion magic when she herself used something worse to fuel the magic for her performances, and hey, now you know why Akko has so little magic! It’s a revelation that technically makes little sense since Akko indeed HAS magic and is pursuing those stones, not sure how they’ll wriggle out of that one, anyway, that’s not the shock. Chariot/Ursula was not only morally okay with stealing magical abilities, but she probably stole Akko’s, and, maybe worst of all, she’s been lying about it all this time. Hell of a lot to dump on poor Akko in one episode! There’s going to be lots of tears and moping the next couple episodes, until she remembers that line she shared with Andrew: nobody else is going to do it, you have to do it yourself.

I have a feeling this line will become very important soon.

Re:Creators 8, LWA 20-21, Uchouten Kazoku 8

Oh what a giveaway!

Re:Creators 8, after an amusing scene where more authors are confronted with their creations, well, Yuuya meets his and is not impressed, follows Souta’s path down the road of fear and self-hate, starting with a nice chat with Meteora, the first time I’ve not thought of her as a boy, must be the skirt, where he more or less blurts out that out of jealousy he was mean to Setsuna, and she offed herself because of it, or so he thinks. Meteora might not have realized who Souta was talking about, she didn’t let on, but that would surprise me coming from such a thoughtful and perceptive person. I hope she figures it out. Anyway, Souta should have blurted this all out the moment he made the connection two episodes ago. Now Magane, nasty as ever, knows the truth and will use it for her own ends, which surely aren’t good. Nice job Souta, you spineless wimp.

Meanwhile, Mamika has a goodbye speech with Aliceteria, has just enough wits to figure out the subtext but too dense to figure out what Mamika is up to, and we get our weekly verbal battle, this one with Altar (I’m so happy I don’t have to write “Military Uniform Girl” anymore), over her motives. We know enough now to see some sorrow in Altair, whose creator was alone and miserable, and to have a little sympathy for her. But Mamika’s right. She doesn’t have to choose this “destroy the world” path. It’s rather similar to what Meteora was saying to Souta about jealousy and how it festers. Altair also seems to suggest that her creator, Setsuna, is a character in another story; maybe she’s talking about our daily lives in this real world, and that’s why she wants to destroy it. Well, doesn’t matter, as she snaps when Mamika says Setsuna’s name, and I guess we’ll learn next week if these characters can actually die in this land …

Fell behind with Little Witch Academia again, sorry. Episode 20 finishes the Diana story arc in a way I sort of expected, that is, I knew Diana would get inspired by an Akko pep talk at one point, but I didn’t expect that the pep talk would have Diana go ahead and try to become family head. Well, okay, Akko suggests that Diana could be family head AND attend Luna Nova, which hadn’t occurred to anybody. The thing is, we still don’t know what Diana is trying to accomplish there. Akko’s got the magic stones thing going for her; what’s Diana got except stubbornness? The episode was worth it to see Diana’s face light up with joy when she sees the new stone recovered and discovers there IS a way to get the ritual done.

What is she thinking now?

#21 is much more substantial, even if it leaves a lot of things unaccomplished. While it has Akko off to climb a very big tree (more of a beanstalk, really, but that’s another tale) which might release pollen which will take her powers, such as they are, away, the big story is who she will choose as a mentor. So we have Croix lying to her about the tree’s danger and sewing seeds of doubt toward Ursula in the meantime, and we have Ursula coming to Akko’s rescue and being, at first, rejected, at least until the pollen comes out. And we get another new word in the process. It also makes Croix’s attitude toward Ursula a mystery. We get a flashback from Croix’s memory where rod chooses a partner: Chariot, not her, and we see Croix’s bitterness over that, but we also see Croix, in Ursula’s memory of things, being gracious about it. Which version is true? Maybe both. Maybe Croix’s version is tainted by regret and guilt, in which case it’s a shock at the end to have Croix announce that she doesn’t need all those words, she’ll break the seal with technology. Interesting woman.

This screenshot doesn’t have much to do with anything, but it’s pretty.

Uchouten Kazoku 8 naturally first spends some time with aftermath of Soun’s death, and some peace being made between the two families, thanks to Kureichirou. After that it looked to be a bunch little scenes to feed this plot point or that. Yashirou gets a “lab” play around with, there’s talk about what makes each of them lose their transformation and turn back into tanuki, Benten and Nidaime go out on an odd date, Yajirou plans to leave Kyoto, but why? It’s only later when Yaichiro asks Yasaburou to re-start his engagement to Kaisei that any sort of story momentum happens, as Yasaburou rejects the idea and goes off to pout for a week. For two seasons now we’ve been wondering why it was called off in the first place. Yasaburou’s disgust with Kaisei’s sharp tongue seemed like a superficial reason. Well, we find out when she goes off to bring Yasaburou back, in a sweet and funny scene, and one of the things I mentioned above turns out to be a punchline.

Re:Creators, Uchouten Kazoku 7, Sakura Quest 8, Saekano2 7

Would you lie to this girl?

In Re:Creators 7 it looks like Souta was the one who created military arms girl, or should I say, Altair, but we can’t be sure. He says “Altair is my …” but stops himself. He might have gone on to say “My friend’s creation.” We still don’t know who the pigtailed girl is. On the other hand, there’s that earlier scene where Masaaki and Takashi ask to see his drawings, and he abruptly leaves. (And, sigh, I went onto Wikipedia to check on a name and accidentally learned the truth. Sigh. Well, I won’t say it here). Meanwhile I want to slap him around for not telling anyone anything about his connection. It also meant lying to Mamika, who, in her earnest search for answers, had begged him for the truth.

Mamika kicks a lot of butt in the battle scene.

And I don’t like the idea of lying to Mamika, not because she’s such a nice girl, well, she is, but her simplicity and earnest desire to do the best thing is one of her greatest assets, not to mention Yuuya’s thought that creations here, cut off from the things that drive them, might be looking for another purpose in life now, exactly what she is doing. Telling her a lie isn’t going to help her development, especially after she almost single-handedly stopped the various factions from fighting in the first scene, using both her powers and common sense.

Meanwhile, we get that fight, enjoyable because we get to see how each character squares up one-and-one against each other, at least until Mamika gets tired of it and kicks some ass. We also get to see Yuuya and Rui bond, which was also fun. And we get the usual speculation and discussion. Is Altair really controlling who gets across? What is Magane going to do with the info she overheard at the Ufotable Cafe? Did she figure out what the show is only teasing us poor people at home? And why Ufotable? Are they involved in the production?

As for Uchouten Kazoku 7, I don’t think anyone saw this coming.

I thought for sure Soun’s new maneuverings would be the focus of the show’s main story arc, but instead he’s shot and bleeds to death in the forest, while Yasaburou tries to comfort him and wonders where all his rage went. Interesting to note that Soun had suggested last episode that he was no longer a tanuki, and when he tried to kill Yasaburou this week he did so in a demon form, yet when he dies, he’s the furball that he had tried to deny he was. It changes everything for the story of course. Just where is the story going now? Will there be a single, main villain? Tenmaya? Jyurojin? There’s still plenty of jerks in the Ebisugawa family, I suppose, but I can’t see any of them stepping up.

Yasaburou’s reaction to Benten’s latest scheme.

These newest events also put a damper on what had been another, delightfully unpredictable episode just minutes before. Weird enough that Soun, a tanuki, would try to join the Friday Club, a group that eats a Tanuki every year, and I think Jyurojin was just toying with him. Yasaburou’s impassioned speech towards Yodogawa about hot pots was a strange moment. I suspect he was just talking to stall for time until a better idea came along than Yodogawa getting shot at by Jyurojin, but his subject matter had me scratching my head. But it worked. Then, heh, Benten decided to have some fun. And so while it was good to see Soun rejected, and intriguing to have Yasaburou(!) join the Friday club instead (the look on his face!), the final five minutes changed everything.

Sakura Quest 8 has the tourism board screwing up big time, holding a regional dish unveiling on the same day as the area’s annual festival, and worse, not telling the merchants board, especially baa-san about it. So Shiori, who baa-san actually seems to like, says she will take charge, after earlier saying she likes to work in the background. So there’s that, and a love-plot going on with Shiroi’s big sis Sayuri and a gourmet chef named Bear, er, Kumano. But really the episode is about eating. Most of the early scenes involve eating food, at home and in restaurants, munching on snacks, coming up with original, weird dishes, and even harvesting. It would have been nice to have more of that and less plot, but I’m hungry at the moment anyway.

Saekano Flat 7, after the publishing of the game, goes into a holding pattern. They make more copies, Utaha prepares to graduate, Eriri finds herself unable to create, and Megumi is still pretty much ignoring Tomoya. The questions on Tomoya’s mind, after chatting with Iori (loved the eavesdropping sale clerk in the background), was what the next project would be and how to get everyone involved in it again. I figured Utaha, who is graduating, would be the biggest problem, but she’s fine with it, and so, I assume, is Eriri, who overhears her. The biggest problem turns out to be Megumi’s hurt feelings, and that links to the next project question–I assume, because Tomoya starts working on it after a Megumi guilt-trip. In the biggest meta moment of the series yet, he calls it “How to Raise a Boring Girlfriend.” So is the new work going to be the story we’ve been watching for nearly two seasons? Well, this show handles its references well, so it would probably be interesting to watch.

Re:Creators 6, LWA 18-19, Uchouten Kazoku 6

Meet Magane.

Re:Creators 6 introduces a new character, I didn’t get the name but Wikipedia calls her Magane. A nasty free-killing sort who will happily turn a lie into a lie and then a nasty thing shows up and slaughters whoever her opponent is. Aliceteria and Mamika, after a conversation between themselves over the type of people they want to fight with, meet her, Selestia and Meteora show up, along with beard-guy, Blitz, and soon everyone’s squaring off against each other.All of them apart from Mamika wanting to fight but for different reasons. By now we’ve got just about everyone’s motivations clear, and we see why Aliceteria is siding with Military Arms Princess–her world is a terrible place and she wants to put a stop to it. Meteora brings up the point that the “gods” of this world are just as mortal as anyone on their own worlds. Magane, alas, uses the stale “You’re the same as me” argument. Maybe the best moment apart from Rui chatting up girls on the street is Mamika coming to a decision about when she should fight, and that is to stop the fighting. Stopping Blitz’s bullet with a heart-thingy and a cute “pop!” noise jarred me with its stylistic clash, but was very effective. However, I hope they’re more or less finished with the talky character-establishment they’ve been doing. Oh, Souta cops out and doesn’t tell anyone about what he learned last episode. Idiot.

I fell behind with Little Witch Academia, so I didn’t watch the wonderful magical mecha battle until now. On the other hand, apart from that and another Croix experiment, there wasn’t anything in the episode that moved the story along. I suppose you could argue that Akko befriending Constanze does, but as a perso who likes being alone a lot myself, I kind of felt Akko’s refusal to not interfere annoying. Well, it was still fun to watch.

#19 might be getting closer to the main story. Diana has decided to leave Luna Nova and become the head of Cavendish, because if she doesn’t her Aunt Caryl will continue to sell off the family’s (and perhaps the story’s) important artifacts, including the Beatrix Tapestry left by either Beatrix or Sybilladura Lelladybura, I got confused there, one of the original Nine Olde Witches. That is to say, the Cavendish family is yet another victim of magic’s decline, and the sooner Akko can mix the traditional magic with modern … whatever, the better for Diana. Unfortunately it took the entire episode to spell this out and we’ll have to wait for more next week. It’s good to notice, however, that Diana has completely accepted Akko’s role of gem-getter and magic saver.

That’s the sugar bowl talking.

The thing about Uchouten Kazoku is that you’re never quite sure where the story is going. This episode looked to be about Yodogawa being forced out of the university, and while the episode follows that for a bit, Yasaburo is soon off to Arima Onsen for reasons I forget, and discovers, by following Benten, that the nasty Soun is back and to be inducted into the Friday Club, meaning a tanuki will eat tanuki, though he considers that he has been cast out of tanuki-dom, so it’s okay. There’s more than one person this season who is trying to deny their origins, Nidaime acting like a gentleman and the idiot twins imitating him, and the twice-made comment made this week that Souichiro didn’t smell like himself after an onsen, or when Soun tried to impersonate him.

Yasaburo hangs out in Hell for a while.

Anyway, Soun shows up and casts Yasaburo into a picture of hell, Tenmaya might have something to do with that, and suddenly he’s impersonating an oni and getting hit on by a female oni and being told about Hell’s industrial revolution. While we’re absorbing this he goes to a sumo match and finds a person there taking on all comers. Maybe you can guess who it is. In other words, once again the show has taken a couple things out of its bag and tied them together in ways you would not expect. Oh, the artwork for hell is as amazing as the show’s artwork for Kyoto, not that I’m making a connection there.

Saekano2 4, Hinako, Re:Creators and Kazoku 5

I think Tomoya got promoted.

Saekano Flat 4 has Utaha’s expected rage over Tomoya’s rejection of both her endings, and then tears. What I liked about it is that Tomoya doesn’t back down. He has solid, clear reasons why her stories won’t work–they’re too wordy, novelistic, and because he’s so obsessed about the game, he’s not about to let the scripts slide. Once Utaha settles down she accepts this and they work together to improve both her scripts, now routes, and even add a happy route because Tomoya doesn’t want the characters to suffer.

This scene was very strange.

In doing so, Tomoya, at least in Utaha’s eyes, becomes a full creative partner and not simply the gopher with a dream. Naturally these scenes are sexy and the final talk when it’s done, post-coital, Utaha’s lack of clothing (which only freaks Tomoya out once) helping to that effect. Some odd business at the end, where Utaha seems to be giving Megumi the green light to move on Tomoya, then Megumi actually playing her game character, which, in spite of the dreamy school festival bonfire atmosphere, felt out of place. Megumi’s never seemed to consider Tomoya a love interest. Next week we’ll probably move on to Eriri and the writer’s block they’ve been trying too hard to set up.

I’ve about lost my patience with Hinako Note–did I say that last week? This week it was Hinako screwing up at dance rehearsal and crashing into Yua every time, and she practices more and maybe gets better. This damn festival is only a week away but she doesn’t even know her lines yet. Then there are dithering scenes where she and other characters all imitate animals, with fanservice included. I’m a little curious about how the play will turn out, but if the show doesn’t show signs of life in the story, or get less dull in the cute scenes, it’ll be time to drop it.

Re:Creators 5 only gets interesting in the final minute. I had wondered during the cabinet meeting “Why is Souta even there? How is he involved?” Turns out he was thinking the same thing, and then we get a minute of realization, with scans and flashbacks thrown in, to military-arms girl’s probable origin, and a pig-tailed girl he apparently knew. But the show leaves it at that for now. Now I wonder if he’ll rush to his fictional buddies, or maybe calm-voiced investigator Kikuchihara, with the news, or if he’ll go off on his own to find out. Right now, with us knowing so little about him, it could go either way. Elsewhere, the government finally noticed all these strange people flying around (the giant mecha was a giveaway) and rather clumsily brings everyone in for yet another infodump scene. Good to have the government’s backing, I suppose. Meteora makes another probably telling comment about how humanity will solve this problem in the end, not the fictional characters. Oh, and we meet a boy-pilot, an impetuous kid named Kanoya, who acts up but is forgiven because that’s the way he was written, to the author’s regret.

I really must visit Kyoto for the bonfire this year.

Uchouten Kazoku2 5 has assembled plenty of story bits as it moves along, tossing them into a bag, and now they can create an episode just by pulling one or two out, hanging them on an event, and putting them back in again. Last week the event was a shogi tournament, this week the bonfire festival, and we remember what happened last time … But first the show has to get cheerfully strange by having Gyokuran sucked into that hole on the shogi board, followed by Yasoburo and Yaichiro, whereupon we discover the whereabouts of fathers shogi shack … I’m sure there’s some meaning to it all, but I just giggled. The whole Yaichiro/Gyoburan romance gets officially started in a sweet scene on board the flying tram Yajiro, and while I smiled at it, I knew the serenity wouldn’t last since it was only halfway through, and it was, remember, the bonfire festival episode. The last bit pulled from the bag was the Benten/Nidaime business. As usual, plenty of events, and they still have plenty of things in the bag.