Michiko to Hatchin – 03

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Michiko consults with a fortune teller who gives several prophecies to both her and Hatchin, she also sells a “miracle stone” that Michiko gives an unconvinced Hatchin. When Hatchin steps in dog doo, Michiko steals her a new pair of shoes. Hatchin convinces a Chinese restaurateur to give her a chance. As Michiko asks around for Hiroshi, Hatchin works for free to prove she’s serious. She runs after a dine-and-dasher to his favela (going against the fortune teller’s warnings) and is then chased by his friend with a gun. Cornered, she stuns him with her stone. Michiko arrives to pick her up and scare the others off. They go to the shanty where Michiko believes Hiroshi lives, but when a woman answers the door, Michiko storms off with Hatchin in tow, insisting it wasn’t her dad after all.

After shooting down helicopters riding motorbikes through windows and Rube Goldberg-like police chases through town, this episode is a lot quieter (there are some gunshots, but they’re poorly aimed). Now in a relatively safe place where they don’t have to be in survival mode, Michiko sets about her mission to find her man. It’s charming how much faith she puts in the old lady compared to Hatchin’s naked skepticism, and we knew when she started spouting off vague prophesies in her trance, that the episode would unfold much as she said, only with results different than Michiko and Hatchin interpreted them. We also see that Hatchin is still not ready to lead a life of crime, refusing to wear her shiny new shoes until she’s paid for them with a part-time job.

Hatchin’s oppressor-of-the-week is Ramu, but it’s different that she’s there by choice. Being a little kid with no ID, Ramu’s about as kind to you as you’d expect someone in his position to be (he also has a daughter). We also liked Hatchin shearing her pom-poms, a gesture symbolizing that the old put-upon Hana is gone (even if that’s not really true, at least not yet). Her enthusiasm in her quasi-job (she’s never actually paid) and her failure to heed the warning about “climbing the mountain” almost got her killed, but she finally gives in to the superstition, and her miracle stone flies true. As for Hiroshi, we’re guessing that really wasn’t him – just a white guy who resembled the sketch – we’ll know for sure if Michiko continues her search.

9_superiorRating: 9 (Superior)

Stray Observations:

  • This is a show that keeps track of its days and locations, so we know it’s been nearly two weeks since Michiko escaped and not even a week since she and Hatchin teamed up, which explains why Hana and Michiko aren’t quite best buds yet.
  • Hana’s cat-and-mouse chase with the boy who stole lunch (and her shoes) was excellent, especially when the tables were turned and Hana became the mouse in the favela.
  • Where is Michiko getting all these outfits? Never mind, we won’t ask…
  • Like the previous episodes, the built-up, lived-in environs are exquisitely detailed. It’s clear Brazil itself (at least an animated version of it) will be a major character in this series.
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End-of-Month Rundown – September 2013

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This month’s rundown is also an end-of-season rundown, as both Spring series and eleven of twelve Summer series all wrapped this past week. Only Monogatari is continuing on (and it has a strange structure due to its multi-arc format). That’s a lot of Fins!

There were couple of series we might not have stuck with were we not obsessive completionists. Aside from a handful of standout episodes, Danganronpa, Love Lab, and Servant x Service weren’t necessarily bad, but they never quite met our admittedly high expectations, hence their sub-7 finishes.

While Uchouten Kazoku remained the unchallenged King of the Season, Gatchaman, Free! and Tamayura also impressed with 7.8s or higher, while Monogatari and Stella hit some nice second winds. Three familiar franchises (Tamayura, Railgun, and TWGOK) also produced perhaps their best all-around seasons yet showing they have staying power.

We’re going to try to be a little more harsh on the Fall season, definitely keeping our watchlist under a dozen and ideally under ten in order to give all the casts and stories a fair amount of attention. That being said, it looks like a good season, which will make our task that much tougher.

14. Danganronpa: The Animation Complete (6.615) – In a somewhat rushed ending, the mastermind was revealed as Junko, who pulled the twin switcheroo. Naegi outhopes her despair (and crazy) and the students escape. Unfortunately, where they go and how they fare could be left to a future season

13. Love Lab Complete (6.692) – Realistically shows how a little lie can grow into a big problem, but because the lie wasn’t why everyone was friends with Riko anyway – and Riko was, beyond the lie, a good person – she was forgiven by all

12. Servant x Service Complete  (6.769) – The climactic date between Hasebe and Yamagami was well worth the wait and the standout episode we were looking for. We particularly liked how it was played relatively straight and it helped reinforce to Lucy that Hasebe really was a good guy

11. Blood Lad Complete  (7.125) – For all the supernatural elements, a major theme of this series was family: Staz reconnecting with his, Braz fighting to avenge his dad, Fuyumi meeting her sister and half-mother. But a rare series that simultaneously felt too short but we’re glad wasn’t longer

10. Majestic Prince Complete  (7.083) – We got the massive space battle we thought we’d get, but at the end of the day the Wulgaru’s hearts weren’t in it. They were fairly easily beaten back, and one Star Rose plus one gate equaled Wulgaru defeat, at least for the season

9. Kimi no Iru Machi Complete  (7.250) – We were wrong last month: the series was interested in bringing Eba and Haruto back together, but Eba didn’t change her mind until Haruto was already in a servicable if safe relationship with Asuka, who unfortunately has to be cut loose. If nothing else, a series that starkly lays out how much location and timing determine who ends up with whom

8. The World God Only Knows III (Goddesses Arc) Complete (7.500) – It was pretty much the ending we wanted: the goddesses are released, the world is saved in a battle involving pretty much everyone, and Keima is not entirely content with the end, as he appears to still harbor feelings for Chihiro and he starts to wonder if maybe games alone aren’t enough

7. To Aru Kagaku no Railgun S Complete (7.500) – The Febri arc took a lot of leaps in plausability, and the smorgasbord ending was very similar to that of the Index film we just saw, but it was still a hell of a lot of fun to watch the positive results of people relying on each other rather than bearing burdens alone

6. Stella Jogakuin Koutouka C3-bu Complete  (7.692) – Yura’s exile is short-lived, and after hitting rock-bottom she’s welcomed back with open arms, and utilize her powers to turn the entire school into airsofters for one last battle with Kashima

5. Monogatari Series: Second Season 13/- (including 2 recaps)  (7.727) – The second season has hit its stride, as the time travel arc was better than Hanekawa’s, and Nadeko’s medusa arc is just as engrossing, as we watch her slow descent into the monster she becomes in the prologue

4. Tamayura: More Aggressive Complete  (7.833) – Between a second We exhibition, a bittersweet new year’s celebration culminating in Kanae’s departure from the club and steps toward the future, and Potte’s roadtrip with her mom, there were plenty of opportunities for tears to form right up to the end

3. Free! Complete  (7.917) – We finally learn why Rin has such a chip on his shoulder; he didn’t do well in Australia. Even so, Rei proves his salt when he arranges for Rin to swim in his place at the regionals. They’re disqualified, but what mattered was the friends reconciled and had fun

2. Gatchaman Crowds Complete  (8.250) – Rui gets X back, and O.D. chips in to get his note back. He makes a leap of faith, convinced unlike Berg, that if everyone is given the power of Crowds, mankind won’t destroy itself, but will self-regulate, with the good overpowering the bad. It works, and society learns to live with the crowds

1. Uchouten Kazoku Complete  (8.769) – Soun’s sins are finally uncovered and he is deprived of the Nise-emonship, but more importantly the Shimogamo family is reunited with no one being cooked in a hot pot. Benten shows in the end she’s no villain, and Yasaburou keeps living a fun and interesting life with ambitions in check

Michiko to Hatchin – 02

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In a flashback 12 years ago, Michiko is transferred to Diamandra prison, where she’s visited and taunted by police sergeant Atsuko, who she grew up with. Atsuko also shows her a photo of the infant Hana. In the present, Atsuko is in charge of the police task force pursuing Michiko, who makes no effort to lay low. Despite Hana’s dubiousness, Michiko promises to protect her no matter what, and starts calling her “Ha-chin”. Atsuko and a police motorcade block the exit of the town where they refueled, and a wild chase ensues. Father Pedro, convinced if he kills Hana ke can collect the insurance money, chases and shoots at Hana, but Michiko rescues her, and they return to the road.

She and Michiko are being pursued for very different reasons, but after gaining her freedom from her horrible adoptive family, Hana – or “Hatchin” learns quickly that freedom is very difficult to hold on to once you have it, and requires constant vigilance; especially if your travelling partner-slash-mom happens to have the GTA equivalent of Seven Stars. Hana’s first impression of her mom is that she’s not really her mom, but is bad at math and is an immoral member of the criminal classes she wants nothing to do with. But she knows they’re connected, because they share the same tattoo (though Hana won’t let her see it.)

Michiko may not be perfect, but she does know how to survive, and she’s all Hana’s got. She’s too small and vulnerable to survive on her own, Pedro is convinced he’d make more money if she was dead, and if the police get her, she’ll be given back to them, or worse, sent to an even worse foster family or group home. As Hatchin comes to terms with the nature of her savior, we learn that knowing Hatchin was out there somewhere was what kept Michiko going in Diamandra. But if she wants to stay out, she might want to think about being more careful and less reckless now that Hana’s in her care. Not that that police chase wasn’t awesome; it was.

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Rating: 8 
(Great)

Uchouten Kazoku – 13 (Fin)

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Yaichiro informs the elders of Soun’s treachery, but he stubbornly feigns innocence. Enraged, Yaichiro transforms him into a tiger and throws Soun through the wall, into the room where the Friday Fellows relocated. They have mother in a cage, which even enraged Soun, and when Hotei gets a good look at her, refuses to let her get boiled. Akadama interrupts the chaos and blows everyone away with his fan, and continues to chase Hotei through the streets as the Shimogamo brothers chase him. Benten takes over, coaxing him into a cab. The brothers talk to their mom, who is safe and sound at Akegarasu. The next day the family celebrates New Years at the shrine.

This episode takes some time to get going, as we must endure more of Soun’s lies, but Yaichiro finally does what we’ve wanted him to do for a while now: go into Tiger Mode and flatten him. In a city where humans, tanuki and tengu live in a delicate balance, they all end up converging at the same restaurant to celebrate New Year’s Eve. While the Friday Fellow’s sacred tradition is deferred and the election for Nise-emon in tatters, the Shimogamo family is made whole again. That’s all that mattered to Yasaburou, his mom, and us. Yajirou speaks to his mother again, Hotei meets the tanuki he nursed back to health, and even Benten returns to her master. New year, indeed.

Yasaburou has spoken at length about the idiot blood of tanukis. Perhaps part of that idiocy is trying to create the same hierarchies and possess the same lofty ambitions as humans. In the end, Souichiro rose as high as a tanuki could rise, but it didn’t save him. Yasaburou doesn’t want to be Nise-emon. He just wants to live a full and interesting life, and to have fun with his family, which is now whole again. Of course, now all the tanukis and fellows who were present that very weird night will remember Yaichiro turning into a tiger and taking Soun down – some of the small “glory” Yasaburou allowed for in his New Year’s wish. And interestingly, he didn’t wish to see Kaisei’s face: that’s her choice.

9_superiorRating: 9 (Superior)

 

To Aru Kagaku no Railgun S – 24 (Fin)

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The four small groups holding back Study’s AIMs are supplemented by the entirety of Judgment, stepping in after Anti-Skill’s hands were tied. With Febri’s help, Mikoto reaches Janie’s general position, but Aritomi sends hundreds of AIMs to surround her in an arena. When the first waves of AIMs are taken out, his colleagues sortie in heavier-duty robots armed with a facsimile of the Meltdowner’s beam weapon. On the front lines, they’re taken care of by a robot built by Kongou Airlines and piloted by Saten and Uiharu. In the arena, a furious Mugino and the rest of ITEM mop up the robots.

Fearing defeat is eminent, Aritomi enables Janie’s “Final Stage”, which will launch a missile from orbit that will turn Academy City to Ash. He tries to commit suicide, but Mikoto stops him, vehemently voices her commitment to protecting Febri and the city. As Shinobu and Saten coax Febri into forming a connection with Janie, Mikoto and Kuroko pilot the Kongou-bot up into orbit – with the Sister network assisting with calculations. Mikoto launches the robot at the missile before it fractures into warheads, averting disaster. Later, after Mikoto & Co. bid farewell to Shinobu, Febri, and Janie boarding an overseas flight, they agree to grab lunch before heading to their classes.

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We’re not going to sit here and tell you this episode didn’t have its share of plausibility issues. If you watched, you saw what we saw: a bunch of frail high schoolers holding back giant sophisticated robots with glorified shields and spears and low-level esper powers. We saw live ammunition being fired into large crowds of unprotected people and no one was shot. We saw Study Corp’s mission quickly evolving wanting to be recognized to wanting to turn the entire city to ash. And yes, we saw the a hastily-built off-screen mecha being used to even the odds on the ground, then used to launch into orbit, where Mikoto and Kuroko hold their breath while destroying a missile.

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None of this makes any damn sense, but Raildex has never been about plausibility or hard science. It’s been about cute slice-of-life interrupted by elaborate spectacle. And we’ll admit, watching everyone fighting together in one huge climactic battle was fun and exciting enough for us to forgive the many implausible jumps the episode takes as the stakes are raised. Of course, we were also a bit spoiled by watching the Index film, in which pretty much the same thing happens, only even more parties are involved. But as ridiculous as things got, the point is, many people together can do great things, things no one could ever do alone.

This season started with Sisters who thought they were expendable puppets. Mikoto and Touma helped them understand they were more. And those sisters were the first expression of that idea that there’s strength in numbers, a lesson Mikoto finally learned which led to all the great deeds that took place in this finale. Study was a group working together too, but they were megalomaniacal thugs threatening the city and the innocent. Once a larger group was mobilized against them, Aritomi never had a chance. In the last montage, we see that no one is alone and all’s right in the world…until the next baddie comes along.

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Rating: 8 
(Great)

Otorimonogatari – 02

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After letting herself be possessed by Kuchinawa, Nadeko lies to Koyomi on the phone about nothing being the matter. Taking the form of a white scrunchie on her wrist, Kuchinawa badgers her during the day, until she reminds him that her days were hers to do what she pleased without interference, and in exchange she’ll use the nights to search for his corpse. That night she goes out, but her parents call Tsukihi wondering where she is and Koyomi finds her and brings her to his room. Koyomi suggests she sleep in his bed, but Shinobu knocks him out and takes issue with her passivity, but admits she’s “enchanting.”

Last week showed us what probably awaits us at the climax of this arc: Koyomi and Shinobu fighting Nadeko, who had at some point become twisted by Kuchinawa to the extent that they had to try to take her out – and fail. But this week Kuchinawa and Nadeko are still on their “honeymoon”, with Nadeko striking a deal that she do his bidding in a way that won’t draw undue attention to her. Even so, sneaking out late at night is not normal behavior for Nadeko the quiet “good girl”, and she’s soon scooped up by Koyomi, who may well have some not-so-wholesome ideas for her. Enter Shinobu, who implies she’s saving Nadeko from “early motherhood.”

Once a totally silent, morose-looking little vamp who sat in the darkness, these days ‘Bu speaks her mind, and minces no words in sizing-up Nadeko. She calls her privileged, and when Nadeko protests, she fires off all of the ways she is indeed privileged. Her silence has netted her many boons, among them freedom from suspicion, the consensus that she’s smart and a good girl. Her genuine air-headedness and cuteness “enchants” other humans, to the point Shinobu compares her to an oddity. There’s a good chance while she’s saying all this she’s well aware Nadeko is possessed; she had dealings with Kuchinawa in the past, after all. So her sarcastic call for Nadeko to keep letting Koyomi worry about her is as much a warning as a barb.

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Rating: 8 
(Great)

Stray Observations:

  • This series has always been known for intimate close-ups of its characters, but camera made particularly sweet love to Nadeko this whole episode, fixating on her from every possible angle as she spoke to her wrist, or later with Koyomi and Shinobu. 
  • We enjoyed the architecture of Nadeko’s school and apartment, as well as Tsukihi’s rarely-seen, ridiculous bedroom. 
  • Nadeko’s nighttime adventure starts with a montage of gorgeous still shots that wouldn’t look half bad framed on our walls.

Kimi no Iru Machi – 12 (Fin)

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Asuka calls Haruto a liar and storms off. In the middle of the night he tells Rin about his situation, and she offers herself as a third choice, not helping. Back in Tokyo, Haruto dumps Asuka, who is crestfallen. He meets with Yuzuki and gives her his answer: they both desire the same thing: to be together. After thanking Rin for helping him come to a decision, he tells Yuzuki he’s planning to move out of his sister’s place. He encounters Asuka, who can’t bring herself to hate him.

That’s right, folks, in this series, the archetypal “good guy” dies of an unspecified illness and the loyal, trusting, devoted “good girl” gets her heart broken. The two people who caused everyone else the most pain – and therefore earned the most disdain from us – end up with each other, putting their happiness first. Is this selfish? Sure. But it’s also understandable. Haruto always did love Yuzuki and never fell out of love for her. No matter how profound Asuka saw her relationship with Haruto or how much she loved him, he never loved her as much as he loved Yuzuki. Their breakup was inevitable, and it was better to do it quickly than to draw it out. That’s not to say that the breakup wasn’t tremendously brutal to watch – it was…and we felt even worse when she said she’d take him back if it didn’t work out with Yuzuki.

Everything that happened came down to which town everyone lived in and when, making the title fitting. Rin drove Yuzuki out of their town and into Haruto’s, which is how the two met. When Yuzuki left, the distance cause them to drift apart. When Haruto followed her, his timing was off. When she rejected him before and after Kyousuke’s death, he went to Asuka. Then Yuzuki’s love for Haruto resurfaced, and the two reconnected in the town where they first fell in love, dooming Asuka. Several hearts were shuffled throughout this series’ run, but it just wasn’t in the cards for her. Rin too, for that matter: no matter how much she bad-mouthed him, she wanted Haruto too, but lost out to her sister, which was kinda karmic justice for mistreating Yuzuki.

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Rating: 8 
(Great)

Love Lab – 13 (Fin)

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After overhearing Riko, Maki’s behavior changes. She starts making clumsy mistakes and suspends love lab work. Riko tells herself she’ll tell Maki the truth tomorrow, and practices her confession to Sayo in a wig. That afternoon at cram school, a friend of Nagino’s tells Maki she’s naive for believing Riko said she was popular with the guys. Riko arrives and kicks him, then blames herself. Nagino bails her out by admitting he liked her. Maki runs home, and Nagi orders Riko to go after her.

At Maki’s house, Riko finally confesses that she’s also a beginner in love and lied to her. She says she’ll make amends by quitting the love lab, but doesn’t want to, nor does Maki want her too. Maki is sad and disappointed, but also relieved Riko wasn’t forcing herself to hang out with her, and even happy that she’s a beginner like her. At school, Riko confesses and apologizes to Suzu and Eno, and after everyone attacks her with huge slapsticks, the newspaper club enters with the first issue of the underground newspaper.

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Love Lab probably wins the prize for least enticing title and premise: a school club devoted to affairs of the heart. And while it’s hit a few bumps here and there, on the whole it was a very nicely-animated exploration of how a small lie at the start of a friendship can grow into a major problem that threatens those bonds, but how a true friendship can endure such hardships, as long as its participants are honest and forthright in the end. Riko is both of these things, thanks in part to Sayo’s prodding (who says her over-thinking is keeping her from acting) and the fact things have gotten so awkward in the club. Minute for minute, this episode probably contained more drama than any previous Love Lab episode.

Even so, the show didn’t abandon its trademark bawdy slapstick comedy either. We get a nice balance of both, which keeps the drama from going melo. The random kid spilling the beans, was, well, random, but it gave Nagi the chance to shine, and also made it imperative that Riko confess. When she did, it was a surprisingly well-acted scene for both her and Maki. It turns the lie about her popularity wasn’t the foundation of any of her friendships, as she feared. The lie was just some of the grout, which can be mended. Maki, Suzu and even Sayo and Eno are friends with her because she’s a kind person who is ready to help others without a second thought. That’s probably why Nagi like(d) her too.

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Rating: 8 
(Great)

Danganronpa: The Animation – 13 (Fin)

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Enoshima Junko exposits at length before the remaining students, revealing that they’ve been at Hope’s Peak Academy for more than two years. A year after they enrolled, a calamity befell the world, which fell into despair. The principal turned the school into a shelter for its students, most of whom died, leaving only the sixteen surviving students, including Junko and her sister, whom she killed out of contempt. Junko announces it’s time to vote: either for her despair or their hope, sweetening the deal by saying they’ll all live if they sacrifice Naegi.

She also says the air in the outside world is contaminated, and if she’s killed, the school’s air purifier will shut down, killing them all. However, armed with “bullets of hope”, Naegi gives uplifting speeches to everyone, and they all end up voting for Junko. She willingly accepts her punishment: a combo of all the previous executions. Naegi uses her controller to open the front door to the school, and everyone steps out into the world. Monokuma reappears in the trial room, still talking and moving despite Junko dying…

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Call it hokey if you must, but it turns out this wasn’t a battle between hope and despair, but rather trying to reach a place where both coexist. The high school life of mutual killings was an exercise in despair and despair alone, but Naegi was accepted to the school as almost a fail-safe, in case despair went too far. His hope spread just as readily to his peers (who, as it turns out, were all his friends prior to losing their memories), and the world represents that place where they’ll likely run into both, but that’s life. Unfortunately we don’t see one bit of what becomes of them after stepping outside.

Prior to their escape Junko adopts multiple personas during her long-winded speechifying, but she doesn’t end up saying all much. She paints in very broad strokes that are somewhat dull and unsatisfying, a contrast from the intricate detail the murder trials brought to the table. Maybe she’s being intentionally mysterious…or more likely the series is withholding all the answers for a sequel down the road. But as with Blood Lad, we’re content with just this one season. It was fun, but the lack of a single 8 rating or higher is a sure sign of a series that  never really wowed us.


Rating: 6 (Good)

Stella Women’s Academy, High School Division Class C3 – 13 (Fin)

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Out of ammo after their last match, the C3 club enters in the 5th Annual “Field Queen Contest” with 16 other hopefuls, to win a year’s supply of BBs. Daishichi gives the play-by-play while Sono gives color commentary. When matches last longer than ten minutes, the winner is chosen by the audience, hence the need for showmanship and flair. Karila makes it to the final after defeating Yura and Aira, while Honoka defeats Rin with psychological warfare. Honoka and Karila’s match goes over ten, and Honoka wins the vote of the people.

With the main story arc all wrapped up last week, this was essentially a bonus episode, with little in the way of lasting impact, but was nevertheless a fun and entertaining end to the show, efficiently utilizing the skills, personalities, and yes, “assets” of both the main and supporting cast. Sure, things got a little corny at times, and we hasten to remark that Yura could easily win with her supernatural powers, but the mood was charmingly chipper and the pace was quick and confident, never bogging down as the pageant bracket filled out.

As an innocuous bonus episode, there was plenty of (very mild) fanservice, a product of the contest being more than just shooting your opponent, but also currying favor with the audience. Rin’s self-introduction in sailor fuku was pretty amusing, as was her ultimate defeat to Honoka after hearing all burdens that will befall her should she win. We were glad Yura and Rin didn’t progress that far, and the spotlight instead fell on her teammates. Honoka was the master strategist right up to the end, keeping Karila at bay while making sure she showed enough skin.


Rating: 6 (Good)

Gatchaman Crowds – 12 (Fin)

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O.D. taunts Berg-Katze into coming to the Spiritual Precipice. There, O.D. finally reveals his Gatchaman form and pummels Katze into the ground, retrieving Rui’s note in the process. O.D. returns teh note to Rui. With the increasing chaos, he knows he can’t do anything alone, so he appeals to the world, offering the Crowds ability to anyone who joins the “Tachikawa Crowds Game”, in which good deeds are incentivized. Millions join and have fun helping out in Tachikawa, and the Neo Hundred’s mischief is soon at an end. The Prime Minister decides that everyone should be allowed to keep their Crowds ability.

Rui’s plans to update the world were based on the assumption that mankind is intrinsically good, and that in this age of evolved society, mutual altruism ensures rather than hampers individual survival. But only under certain conditions. In the blaze of fear and distrust Berg-Katze whipped up, a limited number of people with Crowds act for their own interests; they only care about changing the world insofar as they can control it. Berg gave people Crowds believing that if these stupid humans were given too much power, they’d destroy themselves. Rui successfully douses the flames by leveling the playing field in a risky move.

By giving everyone the power of heroes, he risked augmenting the chaos and accelerating the world’s self-destruction as Katze was hoping for. He does so by diffusing the fear and replacing it with hope and fun. Once he gives the initial friendly invitation, mankind essentially sorts everything out, with the now larger mass of balanced, moderate Crowds neutralizing the extremists. Throughout the episode Hajime asked in her singsong way, “what makes a hero?” The positive outcome answered that: once properly motivated and encouraged, heroes make themselves.

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Rating: 8 
(Great)

Stray Observations:

  • Having rallied everyone who needed to be rallied in order to win the day for the good guys, Hajime does very little besides mill around singing; not the usual role of the heroine, but we kinda like it that way.
  • Of course, JJ-sama does even less, and doesn’t even seem fazed when Katze crashes in and swipes his scissors.
  • It was great seeing Rui cheer up (and return to dressing in drag!) and come out of his shell, charming and entertaining everyone went a long way towards convincing them there was nothing to fear and to participate. 
  • Hajime apparently has Katze in her duck backpack and takes him along on a lovely day. He doesn’t seem enthused.

Servant x Service – 13 (Fin)

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Hasebe learns that because he had a high fever, his father was preoccupied with him and thus registered Lucy’s ridiculous name. Burdened with this secret and worried Lucy will hate him for his indirect role in her naming, Hasebe and Lucy are awkward all day. Chihaya rubs his nose in it while Ichimiya and Saya try to cheer him up; by the end of the day all of them agree he should tell her the truth as soon as possible. He finally confronts her and tells her, and she doesn’t blame him, and wants him to keep calling her Lucy. She again rejects his call to go out with him, but qualifies it by saying simply “not yet,” and finally gives him her email address.

For thirteen weeks we’ve looked in on the lives of three new civil servants experiencing life in the workplace for the first time, their slightly more experienced supervisor, his not-so-secret girlfriend/co-worker, his irritating but devoted little sister, and the stuffed section chief. When we look back on how we entered their lives and now how we’ve left, it definitely makes the term “slice-of-life”, as this was literally just a thirteen-week slice. But ultimately the focus of these weeks was on the unlikely but burgeoning relationship between the girl with the really long weird hippie name and the guy who falls for her despite himself, and finds out he’s ultimately responsible for that name. Their scenes together have been the highlight of a series that was always consistently pretty good, though never outstanding.

One thing we didn’t like about this series was how much time it devoted to Toko. But when she wasn’t in the picture, we were watching adults taking care of business, but also earnestly (sometimes harshly) reaching out to one another – or at least trying their best to do so. Right up to the end, Lucy proves she’s an adult by shrugging off the truth Hasebe finally reveals to her after much stressing (their awkward exchanges prior to the confession are very well done.) She doesn’t even consider blaming Hasebe for having a fever…because she’s reasonable. We’re also content with her “not yet” answer to Hasebe’s repeated propositioning. It’s just like her to be careful and tentative in an arena in which she’s still very green, but it’s also clear she likes Hasebe, wants to spend time with him, and, after all her bluster about hating her name, likes it when he calls her by it.

7_very_good
Rating:7 (Very Good)

Free! – 12 (Fin)

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On the day of the regional tournament, the Iwatobi Swim Club watches Rin swim in the 100m relay, but he performs terribly, and they learn from the program that he was removed from the relay. After yelling at Nitori, Rin says he’s done swimming and storms off. Rei tells the others what Rin told him, and offers to give up his spot. Haru and the others go off in search of Rin. Haru finds him, and after an emotional exchange, Haru tells him he can swim with them again after all. Rin takes Rei’s place for the relay and they win their heat, only to be disqualified later, but they vow to return next year even stronger.

The water is alive. Once you dive in, it will immediately bare its fangs and attack. But there’s nothing to fear. Don’t resist the water. Thrust your fingers into the surface and carve an opening.

So says Haru in his final monologue. The words apply just as much to life as it does to swimming. Rin dove in, trying to follow his dad’s dream, and the world bit back, shaking his confidence both while in Australia and being cut from the relay. Haru reminds him of that which Rin originally taught him, and still applies in the present: winning is meaningless if you don’t know why you swim. Swimming with the team and bringing out the best in one another made them happy, and does so again. Rin’s quest to achieve greatness for his father’s sake made the pool a prison. Haru helped to free him, but he had help: we can’t overstate how awesome Rei is in this episode.

When Rei learns the full story of Rin’s turmoil, and that turmoil spreads to Haru and the others, he knows the best thing for his team is to let Rin swim in his place this once. So he gracefully steps aside, and he – and we – are rewarded by the finest swimming sequence the show has yet shown, with gorgeous water animation and all four swimmers entering “the zone” on their laps (with those zones varying by swimmer).The episode doesn’t cheat, as Iwatobi wins the heat but are kicked out of the tournament for their stunt, and even messes with us a little when Rin pretends to transfer to the school. The “See You Next Summer” suggests Free! could be back for a second season next year, and we’ll most likely be watching.

9_superiorRating: 9 (Superior)