Sket Dance 4

Maybe I just wasn’t being all that observant in earlier episodes, but this week’s Sket Dance seemed to break the fourth wall a whole lot more than the previous three combined. It’s not necessarily a bad thing; pointing out cliches at least shows an awareness of those cliches, and attempting to subvert otherwise stale tropes by basically talking directly to the audience is hard to pull off convincingly, but here it works.

The first part made good use of the fourth wall by introducing an old school anime girl who often slips into a kind of drunk-glasses mode where she sees Bossun as a charming prince, and a lollipop-branded towel as a puppy. Seriously, if I was this person, I wouldn’t go out at night; a rapist or murderer might look like a banana parfait and ladybug. It’s also cheeky that Bossun is a much better draftsman than a member of the manga club, and furthermore he’s the one who ultimately realizes he’s the guy she’s looking for, just by hanging out with her enough.

The second part is a lollipop caper, involvoing the baddie from the first episode. I don’t really remember him, but he was more memorable here, exhibiting more depth and range of emotions. As it turns out, he also happened to be wrongly accused of theft by Sket-dan, and he was just lucky that day because his horoscope said he would be. No matter; no matter how silly and absurd Sket-dan’s missions get, they always get their clients results in the end. They also keep you guessing, and keep you entertained with rapid-fire banter and excellent chemistry. All without resorting to fanservice or harems. Not a bad deal so far. Rating: 3.5

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It’s 2PM, and 2PM is stuck in my head…thanks to Bach

A German dude who died 261 years ago is still influencing Korean boy bands.

I’ll explain: I have a bit of a problem. The ending theme to Ao no Exorcist has been firmly lodged in my head. Despite a strict regime of drum-and-bass Pandora, I can’t escape the four-on-the-floor beats and capable, if cheesy, vocals. I’ll also admit to being quite surprised when I learned that the music track, a single called “Take Off”, wasn’t by a J-pop group, but a South Korean boy band called 2PM. They also happen to be the first Korean band to reach the Number One spot on the USEN’s J-Pop Chart, whatever the hell that means. It’s three releases also ranked 1, 2, and 3 on the Tower Records Japan pre-order chart. To translate: I’m not the only person who thinks this is a catchy tune.

One of the things that I wracked my brain about was this: what is that electronic arpeggio running the whole course of the song? It sounded so familiar. That’s because it was. But from where? I traced my media steps. Did it play on Buffy? No…Hanna? No, that was all Chemical Brothers. King’s Speech? No; Beethoven’s 7th. Puella Magi Madoka Magica? BINGO. Sayaka’s would-be boyfriend plays the Romantic violin half of Ave Maria, whereby Charles Gounod superimposes the strings over Prelude No. 1 in C major by who else but Johann Sebastian Bach, part of his Well-Tempered Clavier. When a pal of mine from Cali came home for Christmas, he also played this Bach prelude on the ivories. It’s one of my favorite Bach pieces, and it definitely augments the hopeful energy of “Take Off.”

Mind you, it isn’t just the music that makes Ao no Exorcist’s ending a great one in my books. The visuals consist of a straight-up to straight-on, 90-degree vertical pan to a first-person drive along an extremely straight road that traverses a sea and passes under True Cross Academy Island. The sky also quickly but smoothly transitions from day to dusk to calm night. Characters from the series can be seen on video billboards doing the same choreography as 2PM, a clever touch, while other billboards display static images of other characters. The camera finally stops its relentless push forward on an isolated, grassy island, just before a blue-glowing katana.

It’s a great concept, very nicely executed. And even scoring the Bach reference, it remains firmly implanted in my head, likely impervious even to the auto-tuned stylings of Fraulein Black. Damn pop music.