Bakuman 25

I stress that it would have been truly shitty of the producers of Bakuman to not let Mashiro and Takagi get serialized in Jack after all of this effort. But after Koogy turned out to be a bit of a red herring, The duo known as Ashirogi Muto surged past both Nakai/Aoki and Fukuba to become one of the four manga that won. This was a great ending to the first season, and now the real story begins.

This final episode itself detailed how the editors’ meeting goes down and how they make their selections. The Editor-in-Chief is pretty clear-cut on this process: if the manga he reads is interesting, it’s a “yes”; if it isn’t, it’s a “no.” As they go through manga one by one, we experience the same anxiety and impatience as both the authors and their editors. No matter what they try to do to kill the time – play cards, chess, smoke, or just sit and mope – their thoughts are consumed with the results of the meeting, which will determine their ultimate fate.

Not to be overlooked is the whole reason Mashiro is doing this: for love. Miho finally calls him on the phone and talks to him, and they both discover that it isn’t nearly as scary as they thought it would be; in fact, it’s the tops. Forgive the cliche, but you can really feel the love here. It’s a patient, slow-burning, deliberate love, a love still conditional on that anime, but they’re certainly on their way, and I’ll be rooting for the fulfillment of their dreams in season two, fully cognizant that that won’t happen easily. The easy part is probably over. Rating: 4

Series Mean Ranking: 3.654

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Star Driver 25

Gahh, I just watched the second-straight finale of a Fall 2010 anime in which the bad guy is defeated by an Epic Punch To The Face. Only in Star Driver’s finale, both the puncher and punchee were characters of consequence, with stakes of even greater consequence still. Youthful super-evil/vain father, Tokio/Head, wants to destroy/rule the entire world, and by breaking the last seal, Wako, and Sugata and Samekh under his command, he can do it, too.

But Takuto/Tauburn won’t go away quietly, nor let his dad get away with hurting his friends, which leads to the eventual punch to the face. To get to that point, he depends on all of the members of Glittering Crux expelling Head, retaking their reborn cybodies, and fighting alongside Tauburn (both out of simple morality, but also because he scorned them, using Crux as pawns all along). Thus we get an epic multi-cybody battle with the same bite-and-burn animation we’re used to, only turned up to 11. To paraphrase one Crux member, they finally get to fight in a battle that matters, not just one that serve’s Head’s schemes.

But what of Sugata and King Samekh? Sugata is ready to sacrifice himself to seal him off once and for all and prevent the end of the world Head talked about. However, Takuto and Wako share a deep long look at one another, and Takuto then decides to destroy Wako’s cybody and break the last seal anyway. WTF, you may ask; but they simply couldn’t and wouldn’t let the love triangle be resolved so cheaply; by Sugata’s death. Takuto follows Samekh into Earth orbit, where he destroys him and saves Sugata. Thus Wako is still not forced to make a choice she apparently can’t make. And neither is the show.

So yeah, Star Driver. It’s been a long ride, and I have to say I enjoyed it overall. The Tauburn introduction scene got really old, but for the most part the weekly battles stayed fresh and brief. Takuto was a hero who was always upbeat, never angsty; the core of him, Wako and Sugata had great chemistry from beginning to end, and their romantic dilemma was never annoying. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t get lost keeping all the characters and Crux factions in check, but having seen the series reach its conclusion, there would be value in re-watching it someday. Rating: 4

Series Mean Ranking: 3.615

To Aru Majutsu no Index II 24

The finale of Index II had some very nicely-animated combat scenes and plenty of cameos from all of the characters introduced throughout the series’ run, but ultimately it wasn’t very satisfying. The predictability of the outcome of this season’s arcs got a bit tiring, and by this, the fifteenth or so instance of Touma saving the world by punching someone, was both anti-climatic and a tad boring.

That defragmented montage of cameos at the end kinda said it all: all of these dozens of characters made appearences, but they never seemed to play any real crucial part to the story. It’s as if once their one of two episodes of fame were used up, they kept showing up in episodes, as if no one had told them they weren’t needed anymore. Index II tried to stuff as many people and as many layers of intrigue it possibly could, and ended up with an unfocused, muddled mess.

Iif there will be a second season of Index II to continue all of the stories and conflicts left open-ended at the end of this first season, I may not be troubled to watch it. So much of this series was wasted with the inclusion of excessive characters with schemes and motives that usually boiled down to they’re bad guys Touma needs to punch. Perhaps the unnecessary window dressing jaded me. Splitting up Touma and Mikoto (who IMO have the best chemistry of any other pair) didn’t help matters, nor did giving Accelerator so much friggin’ screen time (he’s a psychotic, invincible mass murderer, and I yet I still don’t find him interesting). Rating: 3

Series Mean Ranking: 3.312