SAO 22, Shinki 9 and an inevitable Wooser screenshot

Solid episode of Sword Art Online. Things get accomplished in the game and in the real world.

What he's fighting for.
What he’s fighting for.

No one expected Kirito to just fly up and meet Asuna, but I was delighted by how hard he tried. After that dallying with the peace treaty ambush I was wondering if he had lost his inspiration, but when he learned conclusively that she was up there (I didn’t like so much Asuna dropping that card out of her cage. If I was stuck in there I’d have thrown everything I could out already, if only to piss off the people underneath) off he went like a bull against a concrete wall. Concrete wall wins, but fair play to the bull. Leafa, unwittingly going against her own feelings, gets him to try the expected way, though that’s not going to work, either. She knows it’s pointless to argue, and she doesn’t want to go against his wishes, because, you know …

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The way up inside the tree gives us another good battle and some actual tension. You know he has to lose, but you also know he’s going to throw everything he has into it (with Asuna flashbacks whenever he falters giving him a chance to focus and give another shout), and because of that it looked for a minute like he might actually win … until the bowmen show up. It gets weird here after he dies. He “dies” and he sees a timer counting out when he can revive, but his little flame is just floating there. Are the enemies just going to skewer him the moment he does? Maybe because this is a special quest the rules are different and that’s why Leafa has to rescue him.

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Talking about hitting a wall! Sugu can’t turn anywhere without running into one. I thought at first her reaction was too extreme, but then I considered her getting her onii-san who’s not really one back, investing some interest in him, learning he has a girlfriend, turning to her online persona and falling in love there, and learning it’s the same guy she can’t have in real life AND he’s just down the hall from her. Even if she made an emotional mistake by confusing Kazuto’s kindness to her when he returned as a “chance,” it’s still going to hurt a lot. And for us it’s another detour; you know Kirito will want to settle things with Sugu before he unfurls his wings and goes at that tower again. It’s possible that Sugu will decide to fly up there with him, but it will take some series time before they’re ready for that.

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Busou Shinki 9 sets personal bests for its bizarre situation, and its plodding storytelling lives up to its usual low standard. On the way to bringing Master’s lunch to him the shinki wind up in an underground city of their own kind, where discarded Shinki are terrorized by a shinki named Claudi. We learn that unwanted shinki are seized by the manufacturer, meaning I guess that they’re like Amazon’s DRM’d Kindle books which you don’t really own. But some refuse and run away. I applaud the Shinki for refusing this fate. But they still have tragic attachments to their former masters, or like Claudi, they were tossed aside and hold a grudge. Anyone who mentions a master is made into a slave and must run treadmills and hamster wheels to generate power, which seems inefficient to me. The others live in poverty and look depressed, even though there’s a hole that will allow them to escape. There’s even a shinki religion that doesn’t pray to their masters but for the arrival of a shinki amidst golden snow and a red weenie (not really, but … well, watch the episode). Our heroines get caught up in the rebellion. We meet two shinki who would be lovers if they were human (and they both survive!), and, well, it’s ridiculous. I’d recommend the episode for the WTF moments but as I said the narrative is so inept that I can’t do that with a conscience.

And then there was this. I knew they’d give in sooner or later.

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Honeycomb and Jojo 7, Robotics 6

It’s been a while since we’ve had two Hidamari Sketch – Honeycomb parts both devoted to Yuno. I don’t know if there’s been an episode like that all season. Well, episode 7 makes up for it. It’s a full episode of good things happening to Yuno!

Basking in the glow of Yuno’s creation.

The episode feels like it wants to have fun after the sentiment of last week. It feels more playful all around. Even those cards between gags are more fun (I loved the “shoujo manga Miyako”). First, her class is assigned to make brochure designs for the upcoming cultural festival, the best one being used. It’s a chance for her trade lines with Miyako, who as usual is as carefree as Yuno is stressed. while being creative. It’s as entertaining as all the other such scenes we’ve had through the seasons–and it has an imporant difference. Yuno wins! The show has never been concerned with showing us how the characters mature as artists; all we’ve seen in fact is Yuno’s work being ranked rather low, leading to her usual self-esteem moments. This is the first time the show has ever suggested she’s improved. She’s certainly tougher now. When the time was running out she remembered what happened last year, buckles down, and finishes. After that it’s all congrats and watching her nose grow. And besides Yuno’s “Preparations …” drawing we also get the return of the infamous bust of the Principal by Yoshinoya.

So Yuno has plenty to be happy about, but in the second half she gets more when Arisawa calls out of the blue. I looked for hidden meanings here but really couldn’t find any, but it’s still rather odd. As far as we know they met twice last season and got along great, but why would Arisawa suddenly call her out of the blue after graduating and heading to college? All I could think of (ignoring the yuri undertones, even with the restaurant they choose) is that Arisawa is a little lonely, or homesick for high school, in spite of how great she says everything is, but I think I’m reading too much into it. There’s a brief return to sentiment when Arisawa makes the point about not letting go of friends; that brings us back to Hiro’s episode last week, but with no tears shed. So it was a great episode for Yuno; I doubt shell get another one like it this season. Enjoy it, Yuno!

A crisis in the mundane half.

Last week Robotics Notes looked to be discarding the “plucky kids build a robot for competition against all odds” in favor of the more sinister thing about the sun blowing up or something. This week it’s the opposite. There is some of the latter here in episode 6, with Kaito going down the spooky stairway and findng a big machine that’s transmitting a signal into space, but that discovery is left there as if the creators signed out of the game at just that point, and we move to the plucky kids part, though Akiho, frankly, is about the only plucky one, the rest there by the sheer force of her enthusiasm, or something. And it takes a classic turn when Subaru’s father shows up for a “I told you never to ___” scene and references from two characters about the death of a dream (different dreams, though). The question is how long is the show going to tell these two stories at once? Furugoori seems to be a key to combining them but she refuses to come out, just snickers from her bunker. I don’t mind, really. I like both the stories and I’m looking forward to where it’s all heading; I just wonder how long it will take.

Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure 7 is a little disappointing. After a big buildup for Zeppeli’s epic battle with Tarkus he’s pretty much incapacitated (cut in half) only a couple of minutes into it. Yeah yeah, he gives his life force and his biggest power (SUPREME DEEP PASS OVERDRIVE!!) to Jojo before he goes, but I expected more from him. As it turns out, he’s cut in two, Jojo gets his power, and destroys Tarkus with half the episode to go. All that’s left is Zeppeli’s dying inspirational speech while Jojo holds him up like a ventriliquist’s dummy and we move on to the next part which is basically Dio acting evil and Jojo and Speedwagon (who does nothing again except declaim how cruel something is then giving out a huge scream) meeting Sage Tompeti (Zeppeli’s tutor) and his disciples (sigh) Dire and Straits. And there’s a town full of Zombies, and Poco’s sister … Yeah, could have been better. Let’s see if Zombie-town is any fun.

Oh yeah, and I watched this.

He gets eaten, but he’s died before.

Sukitte and Busters 6, Spacebros 32, and a Wooser screenshot

Memgumi makes a straightforward play for Yamato.

Sukitte Ii na yo 6 is interesting from a high school romance anime story because it invents an improbable and contrived conflict yet doesn’t fall into any of the usual traps. We meet Megumi, a popular model who just happens to transfer to Mei and Yamato’s school, funny how that happens. She sees Yamato and makes a play for him. That’s par for the course. Yamato turns her down. Okay. Yet Mei, desperately trying to make edible cookies for him, grows worried and her self-esteem drops. That’s to be expected, too. I guess in her mind Megumi’s glamorous and she is, well, she’s not; instead she’s doing wife-material girlfriend things. It doesn’t seem fair.

Part of a more subtle plan.

It’s not really fair to describe the situation that way, either. In episodes like these you’d expect Megumi to be either standoffish to her classmates or falsely friendly while secretly scheming. But Megumi doesn’t show a bit of standoffishness; she’s kind even to the star-struck wimpy boys that surround her now. She’s also nice to the girls. If she is faking it the episode gives no indication. She seems genuinely delighted when some of them visit her at a photoshoot. I’m not saying she doesn’t have designs on Yamato and sees Mei as an obstacle to overcome, in fact, she doesn’t respond much to Mei, though Mei isn’t exactly going out of her way to interact with her, either. In fact, asking him to model with her at a shoot should make her plans obvious. But if she’s going to take Yamato away it looks like she intends to do it fairly, all aboveboard. Knowing Yamato it probably won’t work, but she’s won the first round by making Mei feel miserable watching her and Yamato, a “perfect couple,” pose together. And her willingness to go along with the photoshoot thing to show what a good sport she is might have sent the wrong signals to Yamato, who seems to want maybe not jealousy, but more of a sense that she needs him. She could start by calling him by his given name …

Scarier than space.

Meanwhile, in Space Brothers 32, Mutta’s story is again rightfully sidelined while we dwell on Hibito for another episode, and probably at least the next as well. This time we are introduced to his crewmates in space, well, the male ones. We haven’t seen the last of them. The show manages to keep the sense of wonder afloat but it’s nothing compared to last week’s launch. Next week they walk on the moon so that should bring it back. On Earth, meanwhile, they take care of plot points. Mutta again courts disaster by sitting with Azuma’s family and asking the question: did he defer in favor of Hibito? After he says that we spend some time in Azuma’s head, and we learn the answer is complicated. We see that he hated the limelight and hated even more that it also shone on his wife and son. Brian Jay brings up the idea that it keeps him from fully enjoying his work. As for Mutta, it’s another score as he meets the man’s much friendlier family and makes a small crack in the older man’s facade.

Little Busters 6 manages a genuinely emotional moment at the end of the Komari arc, so it wasn’t a total waste. We learn that Komari wasn’t just blocking out a single sad moment in her life, but any time death comes near her she goes through the same thing. Thus she goes from a girl with some emotional issues who’s in denial, to someone who might me mentally ill, not that it matter to the show. She goes through much of the episode dull-eyed and calling Riki “Onii-chan,” a bit of a relief to me because she’s quieter than before. But Riki has to “cure” her and does so in predictable fashion, continuing the story Komari’s dead brother wrote for her (Her brother had a strange sense of humor, reading her stories involving death and making that weird chicken-egg tale) so it included friends, and bingo! She’s all better after so many years! I hate that sort of thing, but they had built up enough emotion that I admit it had an effect on me. And now her arc is over and next we get a pink-hair girl who appears to be more interesting.

As for Wooser, I have no idea what they were doing through much of episode 6.

Not a clue.

Sukitte 4, Chu2koi 5, and some Joshiraku and a Wooser screenshot for the hell of it

I’d hate to think that this is going to be the routine for Sukitte Ii na yo: Mei encounters something unpleasant about Yamato or his world, and gets all grumpy until they make up at the end.

So he’s going to make the worst impression he possibly can.

Okay, that’s not really fair. There were differences between Mei’s past blue funks and the righteous anger she experienced this time. And I must say that Yamato does have some interesting, if unpleasant friends. It’s clear early on that Hayakawa is a tool, even before he meets Mei; it also comes as no surprise that he has friends like this. None of the people he hangs out with so far have been people I’d like to meet on a regular basis, no, scratch that comment; it’s as superficial as Hayakawa’s mindset. It’s interesting to watch Yamato here, clearly reluctant to have Hayakawa meet Mei, as I would, but leaving it up to Mei. Maybe it’ll turn out all right, he’s thinking. Then at the lunch he talks about Mei almost like she’s a pet he’s training. And after Mei gets pissed off (Wonderful bit. No shouting, just deleting his phone number, saying a few disdainful words, slapping money down, and leaving, exactly what she should do) and leaves (not mopey, not sad, but rightfully angry) he at least shows some more anger and concern on her behalf, not faked, and he has the injured hand to prove it. I’m more convinced that he’s sincere about Mei now, but I’m worried that he’s treating her like a project rather than a girlfriend. But at least his more superficial friends are getting the message that this relationship is for real.

But maybe to prove that Yamato doesn’t surround himself with just losers, we get more screentime with Aiko. She spends time chatting with Hayakawa about Mei, and one of them says something about there only being three left. I assume they’re talking about the superficial lovers club, but that wouldn’t be fair to Aoki. Aoki and Hayakawa have a fight. She calls him superficial, so he mocks her weight issues, thus conceding to debate. Mei steps in to defend her, and now we got a scene that steps out of the shoujo romance routine. Mei speaks some simple truths that Hayakawa can’t handle, then does the same to Aoki. I loved Aoki’s response. She switches to her disdainful (defensive) stance. She tried for Yamato and failed, she can’t believe that this little thing standing before her has gotten him instead. She’s jealous and angry, but she’s also resigned to the fact that she’s already lost, and isn’t crazy about seeing Mei and Yamato together, in other words, unpleasant but understandably human. It’s a good scene that cuts through the stereotypes that Aoki could have represented and makes her a strong character in this series. I’m hoping we’ll see more her and less of Hayakawa, who’s just a little too villainous for my taste. Besides, he has poor table manners.

Rikka calls up all her dark powers for the upcoming math battle, er, test.

Chuunibyou Demo Koi ga Shitai! 5 is a “must pass exam or (insert terrible fate here)” episode. It goes the way you’d expect. Rikka tries every trick in the book to avoid studying until she realizes it’s hopeless and then knuckles down and studies. Normally these sort of episodes bug me. I keep wanting to give Rikka a hard shake and shout “study damn it!” Quite like I did with K-ON (“rehearse, damn it!”). But this episode is saved by things that happen along the way, including the usual antics from the other club members. They only got in the way, but the distractions are amusing enough that it made me relax. I liked the pool business especially. And we got a few looks at the humans behind the affectations, like Rikka as she grew more and more desperate, and the realization Yuuta makes about her: she has so few people she can depend on, a fact subtexted into a phone number exchange. Toori gets a couple of revealing moments talking with Yuuta, a brief moment where she can express concern for her sister and gratitude toward Yuuta without saying so, not to mention playing divorce with Yumeha. And the show works a little more on the concept that all that dark flame master stuff might be embarrassing nonsense, but was fun at the time, and maybe fun now if done sparingly. It’s a routine plot made nearly great by the characters and direction, as usual. I just wish Yuuta had more to do than play straight man.

Two more episodes of Joshiraku appear after a silence. Not much to say. Vacationing in the dressing room, school swimsuits, a trip to Musashi-Sakai, which looks pretty dull, actually. Also a giant Christmas tree and jungle battles amongst the branches. On to episode 12 where Kukuru can’t sleep so hasn’t had her New Years dream yet, leading to what the lucky items in those dreams are after Mr. Fuji, eggplants, etc. Our trip is to Roppongi Hills, which seems to have some interesting modern art, and Marii is rather violently thrown back to the bubble age in a scene more poignant than most. Finally, it’s too hot so they try to keep cool.

Then there was this:

Robotics:Notes 1, Btoom, Hidamari and Wooser 2

I’m not sure how, but ROBOTICS;NOTES (noitaminA has an all-caps block this season) is from the same creative source as Chaos;Head and Steins;Gate. The former was dismal, the latter, fantastic. Judging from episode one, I expect this one to fall somewhere in between.

Our heroes in their customary attitudes.

Our heroes are Kaito and Aki. Kaito is a bored sort who always has his head stuck in a game, but unlike other such characters in anime he doesn’t mind popping out of it to help the “stupidly positive” (her own words) Aki. They’re the remaining members of the schools robotic club and they have a giant one in construction. But there only being two of them there’s only so much work they can manage. The vice principal tells them that she’ll increase their budget if they win a robotics tournament in two weeks, which is no time at all. I’m unclear on whether she means with the Gunvarrel they’re working on or something smaller, but either way it looks impossible. This setup of “win the big tournament with no time to prepare” doesn’t inspire much confidence in me, but the series has more than that going for it.

Kaito seems full of concern.

We meet some other characters, such as Hidaka, who would bring a lot to the robotic club if he’d only join, which he won’t (so you know he will soon enough), their adviser the spitting Mitchie, who’s in love with the sexy convenience store clerk Mizuka. All of them are potentially interesting. It feels rather like a PA Works show where the characters are more important than the goal. And the show has a dreamy feel that’s mostly inspired by Kaito’s Houtarou-like indifference. On the other hand, Aki is genki as all getout and fun to watch, a good match for him. Oh, and there’s some mysterious girl in the final seconds who looks like she’s come out of a game, and who dominates the closing credits. The only weak point, apart from the main premise, is the episode’s tendency to throw infodumps at us. On the whole we got a cheerful first episode and a lot of possibilities.

BTOOOM! 2 switches from Ryouta’s story to that of Himiko, the blonde. We learn of a real-life offer where you can give the name of a person you want to see gone forever for a substantial sum of money, the best of both worlds. The only question is who sent Himiko there. We jump from the real world, where she and her friends are abused by a group of men (and she runs away to call the cops and thus earns the girls’ animosity) and the island, where she is befriended by a group of equally unsavory men, including a murderous psychopath whom I’m sure we’ll see again, and a fat slob who decides to try and rape her out of the blue. It’s not really Himiko’s fault that she couldn’t help her friend before (though her friend surely doesn’t believe that). Was she going to stay and maybe die or escape and call the cops? But this makes her a “bad person” who has been sent to the island supposedly for her sins. But everyone else on the island, except for Ryouta, is a foul, disgusting person. Aren’t there any others that have been wrongfully accused, or is the show just going to give us one asshole after another, so that we don’t have any qualms about them dying?

Hiro! Sae! Don’t say a word!

Hidamari Sketch – Honeycomb finishes up Sae and Hiro’s adventures in Hokkaido and what the others did without them. Yuno’s low-pressure angst about setting an example gets sorted out when she suggests they all go to the bathhouse and they have a good time. It’s also a chance to use some of the jokes from their previous visits (“Yuno-sama?!”). Indeed, bits of it, like Miyako’s milk drinking, are exactly the same. Not only that, it’s the third visit in a row where the place was deserted apart from them. While it’s nice to see Sae and Hiro together in a different environment, those scenes still felt lacking. They play off other girls on the trip but we don’t know enough about them to get as involved. Not that I’d mind additional characters, but if the show’s going to use them, introduce them already! Though there’s another bit about the perception of art and artists that I liked, when they botch their glass-blowing project. It reminded me of Yuno’s unfinished drawing for the festival and what people said about it.

Wooser no Sonohi Gurashi 2 isn’t a bad way to kill three minutes. In this one Wooser dies. That’s about all they have time for, apart from the bass quartet pictured here.

Chuunibyou 1, Horizon finale, Wooser 1

Chuunibyou Demo Koi ga Shitai! is off to a promising start. Not surprising with its pedigree.

Yuuta–the embarrassing years.

We got Yuuta, entering high school, wanting to put all of his 8th grade syndrome fantasies behind him, especially this dark flame master stuff he obsessed about. He’s boxing up all that old crap when a mysterious girl appears on his balcony! Okay, she’s clambering down a rope and isn’t wearing shoes, so it’s not as mysterious as all that, but it’s the first of a few instances where something foreboding or strange appears to happen only to have it prove to be mundane. The next day, after the usual beginning school business, trying to fit in, meeting-cute the class beauty Shinka and his new assigned pervy friend Makoto, Yuuta has more run-ins with the not-so-mysterious girl Rikka, who is caught in the foul throes of her own 8th grade syndrome, and winds up having to escort her home. Guess where she lives?

And so she’s moved to the apartment above his.

You forgive the ridiculous coincidences in a show like this, that the girl goes to the same distant school as the boy while living in the floor above him, because that’s standard issue for a high school romance. The trick is how things will play out. Too soon to tell, but Rikka scores big points for her combo of affected talk and exaggerated gestures coupled with a basic cute clumsiness. Jun Fukuyama provides an ideal voice for Yuuta, a boy who desperately wants to forget his old affectations but can’t because Rikka is there, constantly reminding him. The only problem I had was that Yuuta goes overboard with his denial, the acrobatic scene in the nurse’s office, for example, fun though it was to watch. But on the whole the tension between the boy and girl is just about right.

Rikka demonstrates a new demonic move while Yuuta watches in fascination or something.

And the show has a head start with the talent that Kyoto Animation can throw at it. It looks great of course, maybe not quite on the level of Hyouka, but that’s another show with different moods and therefore needs (apart from Chuunibyou’s opening scene, which was pure Hyouka). This is a more straightforward comedy. Like Tari Tari seemed to happen in the Hanasaku Iroha universe, Chuunibyou feels like it’s in K-ON‘s. That is, a silly story with a fun characters, and smart script and direction… and the aforementioned animation.

Next we have our exciting, touching, and utterly confusing conclusion to Kyoukaisenjou no Horizon II. No, be fair, this wasn’t a confusing episode by Horizon standards. Instead, it’s the usual season-ending climactic final battle with ships flying everywhere, things blowing up, and lovers and friends celebrating (and accidentally throwing eroge games into the bonfire) episode you see in many other series. But since it’s Horizon we’re talking about, we see it through a fog of weird characters and even even weirder tech/cult-babble and weaponry.

Musashi backflip!

Our witches start it off by reuniting and blowing up some stuff in exciting fashion (the battle scenes in this series are always good to watch), then there’s some sneaky cloaking maneuvers, but that’s a prelude to the big problem, Tres Espana’s plan to, I think, sink their own flagship so that the battle will be nullified. I don’t understand the ramifications of that, but of the two outcomes both would be bad for the Musashi. So in order to get behind (or in front) of said flagship Adele orders the enormous Musashi to execute a backflip. Very impressive! Then Horizon whips out her WMD and fires it. Should be game over (I thought it was game over last week when Gin lost) but the Tres Espana guys manage to push the beam back with great heroism and characters appearing out of nowhere and saying brave things. I love scenes like this, but these are the bad guys! I almost started rooting for them.

But then Horizon whips out her SECOND WMD, the one Neshibara got from Shakespeare, which means breaking a seal and adding avarice to her emotions. We also learn that Toori (still naked) is an outlet that acts as a go-between for Musashi’s ether supply. What that means to us is words of hope and confirmation from our loving couple, along with the warning that Horizon will be more difficult to handle in the future, not that Toori minds. It’s made moot by a Tres Espana vessel blocking the beam (they just won’t give up), but Double Bloody Mary, who’s not supposed to be there I thought, with Tenzo’s help, whips out big glowing sword thing and then it’s finally over. Sorry, Muneshige.

The afterparty.

After that they tie up the loose ends. DBM joins the Musashi and shacks up with Tenzo (C’mon, Tenzo, be a man!), bonfires on both sides. That blond guy shows up alive and well to be with Gin. Curry is served. And the second season of the most confounding, bizarre, head-scratching series I can think of comes to a close. Two WMDs recovered, five to go! And in spite of all the things I’ve said here, I’ll probably watch the next one, because for all the bizarre characters and backstory, this mess of a story was always delivered with high spirits and a sense of adventure. You didn’t always know what was going on (hell, I rarely did), but you could tell that they were having a great time doing it.

Finally, a three-minute thing called Wooser no Sono Higurashi. I’ve seen many mini-shows like this fall on their faces. Chitose was annoying. Yurumates made me wonder why they bothered. I will say that Wooser has better lines than the either of those. The character Wooser’s cynical, hapless delivery works well with the cutesy voices of the girls.