Abbreviated new shows fall 2016 1

With my schedule being what it is I don’t have the time to look at as many new shows, let alone follow them. so I’m afraid that this season I will be a lot more picky about what I’ll watch and skip shows I would normally take a look at. Sorry about that. As usual I’ll follow with the order given on the Random Curiosity preview page, and I’ll start with the first coherent image from each episode one.  Here we go …

I got bogged down in the first season of Bubuki Buranki, so I’ll skip this new one.

Shuumatsu no Izetta starts with little floaty things that will be important later.
Shuumatsu no Izetta starts with little floaty things that will be important later.

Which takes us to Shuumatsu no Izetta, where we see a girl named Fine chasing around the woods with her dog until she discovers floating glowing things which leads to a redhead floating there. Jump to 1939 and Germania invading everybody, and threatening the tiny country of Eylstadt (Austria, or part of it) where Fine is princess. She’s on a train to a neutral country (Switzerland) to meet with a rep from Britannica (you know) to agree to marry their prince if Britannica helps out Eylstadt in the war. Oh, Germania soldiers and some sinister officers are chasing them around in a train for a while. She’s captured eventually, and, wouldn’t you know it, winds up on the same plane as the top secret thingy where guess who is kept in cold storage. It’s a happy meeting, things blow up, and so WW Whatever gets a little crazier.

Hell of a way to meet an old friend.
Hell of a way to meet an old friend.

Not bad, a little darker than the promo picture with the redhead floating on a bazooka would suggest. Fine has two subjects watching over her, they act like they’re going to be regulars, but they’re both killed. Fine reminded me of Chiko from Daughter of Twenty Faces, brave and resourceful. Too soon to tell about the witch yet. There’s a hint of yuri about between the two girls as well. On the other hand, the whole rewriting of WWII is simplistic and you can be sure, as dark as the show might get, that the atrocities of that war will mostly be left out. They’re just using the war as a framework to tell their story. Also, I didn’t care for how the show ogled Fine in the shower. So some good and bad. But in my current state I won’t watch any more.

It's always old in the Working world.
It’s always cold in the Working! world.

Working! was okay, Working!! was excellent, didn’t finish the third one, and now we got WWW.Working!, based on the webcomic. We meet Daisuke, the new kid at Wagnaria, where he works because his dad went bankrupt (Tou otousan!, or something like that). He spends the rest of the episode meeting the rest of the staff, all of them weird, especially the girls, and watching them interact while finding a niche for himself. In other words it’s just like the previous Working(!!!) but with different weird characters.

All Wagnarias are the same, apparently.
All Wagnarias are the same, apparently.

It’s off to a good start. One thing the first three seasons had trouble doing was finding a comic rhythm, but when it found it the series was terrific. This new series has the comic framework already in place and so the obligatory introduction episode avoided the problems such episodes usually have. The new characters all have potential for fun. My favorites at the moment are Miyakoshi and Sayura. I’m a little concerned about Daisuke. He’s too normal right now and his family are more annoying than funny–I miss the Takanashi sisters already, but that’s about the only thing I missed this episode, well, apart from Popura, of course. I may have to keep this one.

Mahou Shoujo Ikusei Keikaku … a dark take on magical girls. I can’t deal with anything heavy this season, so no. … VIVid Strike is another take on a franchise I never watched in the first place, so no. Never got far with Uta no Prince-sama, so not going to watch this new one … Not interested in wrestling, so going to skip Tiger Mask W. Never watched the first Gundam Orphans, so no …

Those colors, this is Show by Rock all right.
Those colors, this is Show by Rock all right.

Let’s look at Show by Rock!!#. I was one of those strange people who liked the first season, not that I’d put it on any list. What will they do for an encore? Well, we start with our newest villain, the Queen of Darkness, as she and her armada launch a “black hole Canon” beam at Planet Sound, and everything blows up. It looks bad, so some folks go back in time to stave off the attack, leading us to Plasmagica, minus Cyan, Criticrista, and those Key guys bickering(and thus reintroducing themselves) about a big concert. Then they announce an earlier, bigger concert, everyone goes off to play, but are interrupted by an evil girls group, and it looks bad until the future group actually called Ninjinriot, interrupt the interruption. Oh, Cyan, back in reality, tries to write a song but an armored suit enters her bedroom and carries her off, hopefully to Midi City.

A look at all the characters that matter except Cyan.
A look at all the characters that matter except Cyan.

Yeah, the show never cared much about a coherent story, that and the nuttiness they use to replace it are one of the things I liked about the original. I think this episode made a misstep in not showing us Cyan until nearly the end, since I for one was waiting for her to appear. Meanwhile, everyone else in the cast goes through their motions until she does, which isn’t a bad thing, though I get a little tired of all the Shingan Crimsonz members having to deliver a line at once, entertaining as some of then are. Not sure if I want to keep watching this with my schedule and all, but since there’s no significant drop in quality I’ll keep it in mind.

What’s next … Touken Ranbu–I think I’ve seen people play that game on Niconico, but no … Idol Memories–no … 12-Sai. Chicchana Mune no Tokimeki, didn’t watch the first season, so no … Stella no Mahou, maybe later … Trickster looks interesting but heavy and I want silliness for the time being, so no … Shakunetsu no Takkyuu Musume–no. TO BE CONTINUED …

New Summer 2015 #3

PA Works is one of my favorite studios.  Their shows look great, with great direction, and their attention to detail is one of the best around.  But they often get meandering, slightly self-indulgent material to work with and they had fallen into a rut, until, well, you know.  So now we see their latest: Charlotte.  Going in I wondered if it was going to be another Shirobako, or a Glasslip?  I still haven’t decided.

Charlotte's opening shot doesn't suggest anything.
Charlotte’s opening shot doesn’t suggest anything.

Otosaka discovers he has the ability to take enter the body of another person for five seconds.  Being an asshole, he abuses this to get petty revenge and cheat at tests, winding up in the best high school he can, and then begins to manipulate the school’s idol.  Basically, the show casts him as completely unlikable.  So it’s satisfying that there are people on to him.
This was all setup, to establish the hero being a jerk and get him transferred to a school full of other powered kids.  Along the way we also meet his happy little sister, about the only person he’s earnestly nice to, and two of his future classmates.  It’s too early to tell yet.  I don’t think it’s going to a wasted effort like Glasslip, but I also don’t think it’ll match the joy that Shirobako brought.  It does feel a little different from their other shows, more straight-up comedy, less character-driven and introspective, but that last quality sank some other PA Works shows before, so maybe this is a good thing.

Ah, Wagnaria.  Let's stop here.  You can always depend on good service.
Ah, Wagnaria. Let’s stop here. You can always depend on good service.

Awhile back I put on an old episode of Working!! because I wanted to see something in the OP … and would up watching the whole damn episode.  I had forgotten just how good a Working!! episode could be, how good the ensemble was.  So I’m delighted to see a third season appear.  What’s more, they bring the cute little girl back!  And Kyouko didn’t eat her!

Hi Popura!  Good to see you again!  Hows ya been?
Hi Popura! Great to see you again! How ya been?

Unfortunately, enough time has passed that they had to reintroduce everyone again and so the episode didn’t really flow as well as it could.  We had to learn all over again that Souta loves cute little things, Popura is a cute little thing, Inami is afraid of men (though she didn’t punch anyone this week), Kyouko likes to eat, etc etc.  But it had its moments.  The best bit was Souma and Yachiyo sealing Otoo’s long-missing wife in the break room.  Sigh, poor Otoo.  Well, I have confidence that the series will find its excellent comic stride again.

Opening the book on an old tale that the show will tell again anyway.
Opening the book on an old tale that the show will tell again anyway.

Rokka no Yuusha takes us to an Aztec-style fantasy world where they’re holding a contest to see who the six heroes or champions or whatever are, so they can go off and fight demons, who are about due to show up after 300 years.  A guy named Adlet crashes the semifinals, uses trickery to beat the contestants, and is promptly thrown in jail.  He’s chatted up by a maid (obviously the local princess, and probably one of the other six heroes) who repeats a very long, repetitive tale that Adlet already knows (and that we’ve already inferred).  Later there’s some cosmic things going on, a tattoo appears on his hand, and they he and the princess are off to find the other heroes and fight demons!
I’m on the fence.  Some of it looks great, and they use some nice animation (the swirling duel early on) and effects (days and nights passing in Adlet’s prison pit).  The story is the usual select the heroes and go fight the bad guys thing right now, but that’s all right.  Adlet is annoying.  He keeps claiming over and over that he’s the strongest man in the world but he doesn’t do anything to prove it.  The demon infodump was ridiculously long.  Apparently this was originally a light novel and they seem to be following it closely.  But it’s a first episode, I’ll cut it some slack and see if I want to watch another episode later.

It took me a moment, but that's salmon grilling.
It took me a moment, but that’s salmon grilling.

Next we have a short one: Wakako-Zake.  In the first episode two men walk into a bar (not a setup for a joke) and encounter Wakako eating fried salmon with sake.  She obviously enjoys it, so one of the men orders the same, only with rice.  Wakako’s mood sours and she leaves, pondering the world she lives in … and that’s it.

And that's it for this week!
And that’s it for this week!

They were just getting started!  I was ready to watch Wakako try a different restaurant and eat some more, or at least ponder the world some more …  That’s the only problem I have with the show.  It’s way too short to get any momentum going.  On the other hand, we can always use another show about food, and people eating food.  Not hard to fit into my schedule, either.  Don’t know if I’ll write about it, though.  Damn, now I want some salmon skin …

It's going to fade in to a water droplet in a few seconds.
It’s going to fade in to a water droplet in a few seconds.

Akagami no Shirayukihime, a mashup of fairy tales, stars Shirayuki, a herbalist whose bright red hair attracts the attention of the local decadent prince.  He orders her to be his concubine.  She runs off and meets some fun young people in the next kingdom, including Zen.  They hit it off more or less immediately and are soon tossing red metaphors around, especially the string of fate.  But that prince sends some poison apples (also red) over, which Zen eats, leading to attempted blackmail and the discovery that Zen is the prince of THAT country, only not decadent.  Then we get more metaphors, this time about poison.

A fairy tale love story, maybe.  We got mirror-mirror, those poisoned apples, and certainly more down the road.  But Shirayuki is no princess that we know of, just a practical herbalist.  Zen’s a tad annoying but his heart’s in the right place.  I’m not sure where it’s going but the ED has Shirayuki both doing herbalist stuff in the palace and dancing in a gown with Zen.  I’m not sure I’ll watch it.  Nothing really wrong here, just opening episode clumsiness.  I am interested to see how Shirayuki chooses to live, considering she’s been displaced and is living in that new kingdom by the grace of Prince Zen.  Also, will she be happy to be stuck in that palace when the show makes it clear that she loves nature?  Another “we’ll see.”

Outside a high school.
Outside a high school.

Finally, Jitsu wa Watashi wa, where a high school boy named Asahi has gotten his gumption together and gone to confess to the alluring, green-haired Youko.  We don’t see what happens but there’s a lot of screaming.  After the OP we flash back and learn over and over that Asahi can neither keep a secret or tell a lie.  Well, he can, but his face is so obvious that no one is fooled.  Even his crush on Youko is an open book.  So he decides to confess, discovers she’s a vampire, and so now has to keep a really big secret when he’s incapable of keeping any.  And there are other characters snooping around.  They’re not malicious, they’re just snoops.


Like seemingly every other show in this installment, I’m not sure.  Again, it was all basic setup and we didn’t get many ideas on how the story’s going to roll.  Is it going to be a wacky, Liar-Liar type of thing, or more subdued.  The episode was pretty low energy for a high school romcom, but again, first episode problems.  It’s not worked out well, either.  Asahi didn’t confess to Youko, so he’s actually keeping two secrets now …  As far as the characters, I’m not taken by either him or Youko, though Asahi’s friends, teasing yet supportive, might be fun to watch.  The snoops, one a class rep, the other on the student newspaper, are the most promising characters in the batch.

Running out of stuff to watch. Working’!! finale, Bakuman II 13

With these two episodes, I have officially run out of shows to watch, at least of the ones I’m following. I even watched the Toradora! special (what’s with the art?) and the one for God Only Knows (zzzz …) to fill out my watching, not to mention my Bakemonogatari rewatch to get ready for that spinoff that’s equally hard to spell. So here we go.

Working’!!, much like K-ON!!, had a decent but uneven first season which did not make me optimistic for the second, which then proved to be better. In both cases the shows’ obvious strong points were undermined by things that weren’t as effective or overused. In Working!!’s case, Inami kept hitting people, which is fine, but they harped on it so much that I desperately wanted to see an episode about something else. With Working’!!, it was different. Inami kept hitting Takanashi, but not every episode, and other, appealing aspects of the show filled in the vacuum. What we got with season 2 was a consistently funny slice-of-life series with winning characters interacting flawlessly, and sharp comic timing. The show plays with the idea of a final episode by setting up a misunderstanding (where would Working’!! be without misunderstandings?) about Poplar quitting. It’s ridiculous, but a little sweet when the characters all try to imagine working life without her. Naturally, it’s Yamada who starts the rumor, which should have been a giveaway right there, and Poplar skips through the episode asking for exam advice and wondering why everyone is acting so weird. Oh, just like the last series, Maya, the “normal” girl, is given some screentime–in the final episode, poor girl. I looked forward to this series every week, something I didn’t expect, but there’s a ray of hope: there’s nothing to prevent Working’!! from having a third season.

Aoki did not expect this turn in the conversation.

Maybe because it’s been a while since I’ve watched it, but I enjoyed Bakuman II 13 more than I had anticipated, or maybe it’s just a good episode. Takagi and Aoki start to have innocent conversations about the opposite sex–for their manga! ReallY! I’m not lying! Anyway, they talk on the phone, and talk, and talk, and it’s morning. Aoki, who has never had a serious boyfriend and pretends to be aloof about it all, is becoming just a little smitten with Takagi, while he, perfectly happy with Kaya, is completely oblivious to the situation, maybe because he doesn’t understand women, which is why he’s talking to her in the first place. Meanwhile, Aoki is trying to understand the female heart they way a Shounen Jack reader understands it, I guess, meaning, not at all. Since she seems to have little idea what she herself wants, she needs all the help she can get. Iwase interferes, and, if Aoki just realized it, give her a perfect female model to use. Then a three-way conversation goes a little bizarro and leaves Takagi and Aoki scratching their heads, while Iwase, a beautiful, published author of fine literature, announces she will beat Tagagi at making manga. I can’t remember an episode as funny as this one, though it gets less funny when Kaya discovers a mash note Iwase slipped Takagi (which he never read). Now I’d say it’s a potential tragedy, except this is Kaya we’re talking about. In other words, it may start with tears but it will end with her kicking Takagi’s ass. I’m very fond of Kaya, so I’m looking forward to it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Penguindrum 23, Working’!! 11, Horizon 11

I’m not sure why, but Mawarau Penguindrum 23 seemed to have absolutely no sound to it. Okay, voices talking (Sanetoshi’s low voice especially), the alarm noise used to introduce flashbacks, and clocks ticking, and a song during the closing credits, but everything else around them felt completely silent, like unimportant things had been stripped away. The episode was tense and sorrowful, although, again, no one is actually dead yet.

The first scene flat-out tells us what is going on. Sanetoshi was going to kill a lot of people sixteen years ago, but Momoka stopped him, at some expense to herself, and thus were born two penguinhats and two dark bunnies. As an aside, why one black hat and one white one, while you get two black bunnies? Anyway, this itself feels like the sort of fairy tale they were banding about many episodes ago. Maybe because it’s far in the past that the story’s rough edges have smoothed down to something more universal. If that’s the case we have to assume the fairy tale hasn’t ended, since the hats and bunnies aren’t done yet.

Interesting comment ...

We learn a few things and see a few that seem to break the show’s rules. Masako dies but is brought back by Sanetoshi, simply to prove a point. But she seems aware of what happened and refuses to accept it, only that Kanba stop listening to Sanetoshi. Kanba, apparently, is now the lost one of the family that he now denies having, well, apart from Himari. Meanwhile, Shouma, in vigil over Himari’s anticipated deathbed, has a dream where Himari articulates this. It’s as if Shouma has replaced Kanba as Himari’s rescuer. While in my mind I’m thinking “Wrong person to ask. Shouma hasn’t done anything all series.” Indeed, Kanba shows up and dispatches (but does not kill) Kanba rather easily, making me wonder what’s going to happen next week, when it’s down to him.

Tick ... tick ... tick ...

Indeed, Kanba/Sanetoshi seem in full command of their battles. Ringo is stopped. Both halves of the diary are burned (unless Yuri pulled another fast one, but I doubt it. I think her role in this series is done). Maybe it’s the ease with which Kanba/Sanetoshi achieve their aims that give the episode its serious, silent feel. There was little visually to surprise or delight us. They have showed us all the symbols already. There was only the completely unexpected (and, frankly, wrong-feeling) moment where the penguinhat actually talks to Shouma. There is no one left to speak for it; I guess it had to talk on its own. That’s the only reason I can think of. Next week is the finale. I have no idea what is going to happen, but I’m hoping to find out what the hell a penguindrum is, and for more life and energy. And more sound.

This serious-looking moment is actually silly as all getout.

Working’!! 11 spends some time with Satou, oh, and with Yamada looking for her stuffed bear. It’s a typical Working’!! instance of misunderstanding. He tells Mitsuki to leave Yachiyo alone, which Yachiyo overhears and assumes means Satou’s confessing to Mitsuki, I think. So both Satou and Yachiyo go around in a funk for a while, long enough that we pay a visit to see how Takanashi’s sisters are all doing (fine). And another conversation where both parties discuss something the other doesn’t know anything about, Working’!!’s specialty, and it’s resolved in that everything is the same as it was before. One thing to remember about this show is that nothing much really changes, unless they introduce a new character. I am relieved, however that the episode is not only not Inami-centric, but that we barely see her at all. Come to think of it, whatever happened to the normal girl, the one with glasses? The best moments, sadly, have nothing to do with the main story, and involve the sisters, and the bit where everyone just walks away from Yamada.

The Pope!

Kyoukai Senjou no Horizon 11 has a few battles of more or less equal inanity. The first one has Mushashi’s God of War (two girls) attack the bad guys’ massed army by flinging something at it. It seems to work. Bodies fly everywhere. Everyone else on that side just stand around watching as Neito Argent Loup Mito Tsudaira (cal her Mito. Her title is even longer) finally lands. They continue to stand there as Mito, the enemy, walks right past them and up to Toori, sho gives her noogies of appreciation. She goes back to fighting the army, who JUST STAND THERE, until Pope President Innocentius of KPA Italia tells them they weren’t the good soldiers anyway. Here’s his real army. And top prove it, he casts a spell using his mortal armament, the “armament of mortal sin for lust, stateis Porneia,” that seems to tak away all the enemies’ strength. I bet that other army wished they had that kind of support. So Toori signs a quick contract that endows him with 1/4 of the ether in Musashi, provided his offering of happiness remains. He can’t be unhappy. Since I’ve never seen him without a smile on his face, this should not be a problem. He plugs into the good guys, literally, and they start pushing the enemy back. Meanwhile Masazumi, (botched sex change, remember?) challenges the Pope to a one-on-one, and some other guy takes on Galileo, who has armed himself with “Ptolemaic theory” defense, but is undone by punching by the months of the year. I didn’t quite get that. Oh, and Futayo takes on Tachibana Muneshige again, but loses this time. So now there’s a big gun pointed at Mushashi; there’s a lot of talk about what this means, but a big gun pointed at something is always serious business. That’s all we need to know. Or want to know.

Chihayafuru 10, Working’!! 10, iDOLM@STER 23, Horizon 10

In Chihayafuru 10, I find it improbable that Chihaya’s team would go to their first tournament and actually win the thing. It doesn’t feel right for a series that has done so many other things well, so far. On the other hand, they have a crisis and overcome it, and everyone uses their strengths to overcome the team’s weaknesses, so it’s all right.

Not really a team, yet ...

It starts lightly. They’re wearing traditional clothes and feel a little embarrassed, Chihaya recognizes some old enemies and treats them as friends. Poor Retro-Kun doesn’t seem to know what hit him. The matches start, and Kana actually gets a win! Yay! But the crisis is upon them, actually, two or three of them.

First is Desktomu, he of great brains and some arrogance, but almost no playing experience. He gets wiped out in his matches and lets his immaturity come out. Feeling he’s bringing the team down he announces he’s leaving. They don’t need him there, anyway. Basically a poorly-timed sulk. Taichi may have some issues of his own, but he shows a moment of good leadership here. He tells him that he can sit out the semifinal match but to be ready for the final. In other words he smacks down a subordinate junior and at the same time reassures him that he’s needed. It works. But Desktomu’s sulk has bad effect on Chihaya.

Just breathe ...

Part of Desktomu’s rant was that he believes Chihaya wants to get to the nationals in order to meet Arata again (well, that’s his excuse, anyway), and that he’s just a pawn in her plans, a fifth member because they need five members. This knocks Chihaya sideways and she finds herself losing in her semifinal match against a mutually supportive, upbeat, not to mention loud and distracting team. A real team. Chihaya’s side hasn’t meshed that well yet. Here’s when Taichi shows his second good moment of leadership. He scatters cards all over the place and while picking them up goes to each member and gives them reassurance. Breathe, Chihaya. And you get your come from behind victory with the sound of hands slapping mats amplified and the swelling music, etc. I would like to point out just how effective the show is with the hand slapping. It’s a percussive motif that punctuates every important moment of the match. Well, as I said, I don’t buy how they made it to the final match (and I guess we’ll learn a lot more about the smirking villain on the other side next week), but as usual the show was executed well enough to cover for it.

My biggest problem with season one of Working’!! was that Inami and her androphobia overwhelmed the rest of the show. I know they were playing the romance angle, but there were plenty of other good things in the show that we didn’t see enough of because of it. Season two has largely kept the punches and romance in a better balance, but now the series is in danger again. We recently had an episode featuring the two, and now we have another. Well, it was enjoyable enough. Everyone played to their strengths. My favorite bit came early on with Satou and Inami on break at the same time. Inami frantically tries to make conversation and not hit him, while admiring Satou’s calm exterior, while Satou’s real thoughts deliver the punchline. Poplar throws in some good moments, and Souma even manages to add some well-timed comments while not for once being despicable. Actually, it’s unfair to single him out for that. Everyone working on the show has refined the comic timing that even a Inami-weighted episode is still fun to watch.

iDOLM@ASTER 23 brings us the bad vibes that were temporarily held away from their most recent triumph and the holiday episode. It really is a good thing, you know, that everyone’s so busy. Haruka knows it, and when she reads an article about some of her coworkers in a magazine while the taxi rides past billboards and TV screens showing other idols also making good, we feel the pleasure she’s feeling. But when the bad vibes start happening you’re not sure exactly what she’s feeling bad about. Is it because everyone’s so busy they can’t get everyone to the New Years show rehearsals? Are we going to see them on stage, unrehearsed and failing? Is it because she’s not seeing any one of them? She’s seeing quite a few. Her beloved Producer isn’t exactly ignoring her. Because they won’t be doing that daytime show any more? Is it because they’re going their separate ways? Because that was inevitable. Is it because Miki told her that she definitely wants the role they’re both going for, so that “working together” wouldn’t be accurate (I know exactly what Miki means, and she’s nice about it, but she really could have phrased that more gently)? Or is it because the stage crew didn’t close the FUCKING TRAP IN THE FLOOR??? WHERE WERE THOSE ASSHOLES TRAINED, ANYWAY?? … I vote for all of them.

Your lesbian techno-witch image for the week.

Kyoukai Senjou no Horizon 10 manages to bring us what is meant to be a thrilling battle AND its usual endless backstory and techno-cult-babble. Which is not so amazing considering one side of the battle seems to freeze when the other half gets going. Let’s see … Horizon is still captive, behind a disintegration wall. In this world, disintegration means you will see your greatest sin replayed before your eyes before you’re devoured for it. You can avoid that by denying your sin, but who can deny their sin? While the theologians among you sort that out, we see the enemy’s Tercio formation (which exists, BTW), and that is discussed until Toori decides to just run ahead and start the battle. We see the danger of the Tercio immediately, when it opens up to reveal a HUGE gun in the middle. But Adele rebuffs the shot with her heavy armor retainer (big mecha), which causes her some pain and a little annoyance. Everyone on both sides stops to marvel at her old-fashioned suit for a few minutes, then the good guys line up directly behind her and push her in front of them. So the Tres Espana and other bad guy airships launch missiles, but they are rebuffed by maids wielding bows and that one whose name I forget. Who am I kidding? I’ve forgotten almost all the names in this show. So the now-burning Tres Espana unleashes a God of War (flying mecha) and the lesbian witches go to fend it off after a magical girl-style transformation, using Techno Magic. The sleepy blonde witch is knocked unconscious but is revived by a pep-talk from an old guy. The blond sets up her big attack by saying “White magic creates plus power. Black magic creates minus power. Guess what you get when you combine the two?” I’m thinking that this is the least inspiring description of a weapon I’ve ever heard, but it works. Then the ground forces, who have all paused to admire the battle going on in the sky, get back to work. The good guys are split in two! But they launch a god of war of their own. End of episode. So much for THIS show until next week.

Normal, everyday people in episode nines: Chihayafuru, Bakuman II, Working’!!

With Chihayafuru 9 the show has moved from an interesting, complex story about three young people and how their relationships can affect their desires to a more routine show about forming a club with lots of newbies and going for a championship. Not to say it’s going to stay like that. Arata, that absent force behind Chihaya’s passion for karuta, lurks in the background, sending a text message at the end that thrills Chihaya, but not Taichi. But Taichi’s acting oddly too, refusing to let her into his bedroom (or is just because that’s where they hid the cake?). We don’t know exactly what is going on with them. And why does Arata text Taichi and not Chihaya? Other than that the episode is all about training and bonding. The group gets along very well right now. Porky, surprisingly, supports everyone and cheers the loudest when Kana gets her first card. Desktomu is obsessive but not rude. Apart from that there’s the question of the big tournament coming up, where to practice, the miniscule club budget, the things you usually see with club stories, things not really worth writing about. Unless Arata shows up early, the next big thing in the show should be the tournament.

What's up with the weird look the characters get sometimes?

Starting a new creative project is always fun. So many possibilities, nothing seems tired, yet. But in Bakuman II 9, our boys are working for a magazine with a narrow readership and an editor with ideas which may not mesh with theirs. So a lot of scenes here are arguments with Miura. Saiko wants to do a one-shot with the hope of getting it serialized. Miura wants a regular serialization submission, AND he wants a gag manga. And back and forth they go. Little bits like Aoki rejecting Nakai’s confession, and Aoki’s subsequent, charming talk with her would-be new editor give variations on the constraints different manga artists undergo. And in the end our boys pull off a gag manga that’s not funny and a funny manga they want to make dark, and a third piece, and there’s more arguments, more overachieving, and a final challenge. Other highlights include weird facial things, Eiji giving career advice while drooling toothpaste. Typical stuff.

For our third comparatively realistic show today we turn to Working’!! 9, an ordinary, average episode where nothing much gets overdone and everything balances with everything else. At least that’s what the ideal Working!! episode is like. This one’s pretty good. Satou gets to make deadpan reactions to Yachiro’s buying a cell phone, meanwhile her old buddies are spying on her to keep her away from dangerous people. Takanashi’s drunk sister is around to liven things up, Yamada gets mad at Takanashi and runs away, Inami DOESN’T hit anything, and Poplar is hardly seen at all. It’s mostly splendidly timed as usual, though I think they’re in danger of overusing the long pause before the punch line.