Valvrave the Liberator – 13

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Two months after Module 77 narrowly escapes destruction, they dock at the neutral Moon, where they receive sympathy and supplies but run into bureaucratic hurdles with ARUS. Module 77 plans to send a delegation to Earth, but the Valvraves shut down, their energy exhausted. Kibukawa and L-elf determine that the “runes” that fuel the Valvrave can only be gathered by attacking humans. Haruto grudingly attacks L-elf, refueling the Valvraves, and they cross the neutral zone and battle the Dorssian fleet that was waiting for them.

After a season-long hiatus, Valvrave is back to baffle, shock, and entertain us in relatively equal measure. We can’t say we missed all the mythological mumbo-jumbo about councils of the hundred, magiuses, and holy spirits, but we’re glad to be once again following the trials and tribulations of one of the high school that declared itself an independant nation, protected by five mechas piloted by students who tosses aside their humanity and essentially became vampires. We especially liked how Shouko and L-Elf had settled nicely into their new official roles, though they both faced plenty of challenges.

Reinforcing their status as horrifying burdens in addition to the only force that is currently staving off enslavement by Dorssia, Haruto gets the bad news that he’s been going into fits and viciously attacking people because he’s jonesin’ for their “runes”, which we guess is a fancy way of saying “life force”. Haruto-y Haruto that he is, he’s hell-bent on carrying as much as this burden as he can, and he’s to find the people who developed the damnable things on Earth. He wants to be human again, and if that can’t happen, he wants to destroy the Valvraves once they’ve fulfiled their use. Just one problem: when exactly will New JIOR ever not need them?


Rating: 7 (Very Good)

Stray Observations:

  • Saki records a bestselling album, then offers her body to Haruto, who resists. Then he feeds from L-Elf. Saki probably won’t be happy if she learns about that.
  • We get to see the Dorssians in their training sweats sipping from 80’s-style water bottles. Pretty sweet.
  • Apparently the OS avatar in Haruto’s unit is called “Pino”, while the one in Cain’s is called “Prue.”
  • Cain and his superior Mirko watch with smug satisfaction as the “children” of Valvrave are constructed. That isn’t going to be good for JIOR.
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Otorimonogatari – 04

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Koyomi orders Nadeko to put the talisman down, but she swallows it instead, reviving the serpant god with her body as its vessel. Fast-forward to the shrine, where Nadeko quickly dispatches Koyomi and Shinobu. She converses with the serpent – i.e. herself – about how she came to be in this situation. When she’s about to kill Koyomi, Senjougahara calls his phone. Nadeko answers and agrees to a half-year truce before killing her, Shinobu, and Koyomi, in that order. The episodes ends with a “trailer” for the battle that takes place in half a year, with Nadeko taking on Koyomi, Senjougahara, Shinobu, Kanbaru, and Hanekawa.

Monogatari likes to mess with our expectations. After an arc about time travel, Nadeko’s story starts at the climax, when she’s about to kill pretty much everyone we know and then, who knows, chill at that shrine for a few millenia. Things come full circle this week, but instead of a conventional resolution, the arc lobs another curveball. Most of this episode is simply Nadeko, in the moments just prior to her final victory, reflecting on how she got here. Koyomi and Shinobu just lie there bleeding as she talks to herself, and in the end, none of the contemplation really matters. She was just lost in thought.

Except that it does, because that amount of time she was ruminating ended up delaying Koyomi’s death just long enough to allow Senjougahara to call and postpone Nadeko’s plans. Had she not called, Nadeko would have killed Koyomi before killing Shinobu, which wouldn’t have been good for anyone (see last arc). And then the series switches gears again with that bizarre post-credits trailer, presented by Nadeko, who, at least from her own perspective, has that final boss battle in the bag. But that confidence might be premature. After all, she gave the enemy a half-year to prepare for her.

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Rating:7 (Very Good)

White Album 2 – 02

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Haruki throws caution to the wind and asks Ogiso to join the light music club. The next day she respectfully declines, but when he visits her at her secret part-time job, he asks again, and she tells him to meet her in an hour. At karaoke, where she sings by herself every week, she agrees to join the club. The next day she meets the third member, Iizuka Takeya, but thinks he’s the pianist. Haruki and Takeya search for the pianist to no avail, until Haruki happens to bump into Touma Kazusa after school. When he hears the piano, he climbs out to the window of the locked music room, and is about to fall when the window opens and Touma herself grabs his hand.

This was an episode full of discoveries. Haruki learns of Setsuna’s secret rooftop singing, part-time job, and karaoke nights, and learns that the girl who sat next to him is the elite pianist who played along to his guitar. He may only be seeking their services to augment his decimated light music club, but the ramifications of seeking out and courting them both with reach beyond club affairs to matters of the heart. We know this because of the helpful, somewhat spoilery prologue. But as is usually the case with these kinds of romances, it’s not about whether or not Haruki enters this triangle; it’s about how that happens: the journey.

He’s inadvertently made a lot of progress with Ogiso already; the more he learns about her, the more she warms up to him. Touma, meanwhile, is a much tougher book to read (when the episode deigns to show us her face) and nut to crack. She seems put out saving Haruki from falling. Someone who values their privacy so much would be hard-pressed to join a music club with “inferior talents” and ultimately fall into a love triangle. Still, Haruki’s only ever been nice to his desk neighbor, and she did play along to his guitar for some reason. Recruiting her will be tricky, but not impossible.

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Rating:7 (Very Good)

Golden Time – 02

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A week into the semester, Kaga still obsessively trying to make contact with Mitsuo, who continues to avoid her. This irks Tada, but he concedes that ignoring her it Mitsuo’s choice, just as feeling bad for her is his. Tada accompanies Mitsuo to a party the film club is having at “Golden Time” restaurant. Tada is ensnared by the aggressive tea club in the next room and parties all night. The next day he’s rescued from club recruiters once again by Linda. They part when he spots Kaga sitting alone again. She tells him no clubs have approached her, and he suggest she reach out to more people. A pushy club recruiter from another college wrangles them into a three-day, two-night retreat.

Having experienced it ourselves (at art school, no less), we have to applaud this series for so faithfully depicting the chaotic first week of college life. New, fascinating, and unexpected experiences abound for Tada, and at times it is downright overwhelming. We like how the series exaggerates these experiences for dramatic effect; the awesome ordeal with the hard-drinking, hard-partying tea club being the most prominent example. But he survives that trial, and comes out a more informed, wiser (and hung-over) man. But what really seeks to tarnish his golden time is the knowledge that Kaga may not be happy here. Again, no one can fault Mitsuo for acting the way he does towards her; it may seem cruel to us, but we simply don’t know the whole story.

Maybe she does deserve this treatment. But none of that matters to Tada; he wants to get to know Kaga better. She’s a tough nut to crack for sure, described by recruiters as overpowering or out-of-reach. Kaga herself says she feels invisible, even though Tada has been seeing and talking to her all along. Visibility is a common thread here. By abjuring Kaga, Mitsuo seeks to render her invisible. By the end of the episode, Kaga has finally remembered Tada’s name, meaning he’s that much more visible to her. Linda isn’t quite as visible to Tada as she’d like; the light from Kaga is obscuring Linda’s, who may actually be the better match.

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Rating: 8 
(Great)

Stray Obserations:

  • That Tea Club Party was nuts. Binge-drinking; stripping; “bowling” into each other crotches and sniffing; turning first-year guys into man-slaves with the force of their personality. All it lacked was kegstands and beer bongs!
  • Cafe au Laits in bowls? That sounds like something you’d first encounter in college.
  • We see Linda out-of-costume for the first time, and we really dig her androgynous character-design. She really couldn’t look any more different from Kaga – which is the point.
  • Idiots usually make bad characters, but Tada’s no idiot, as a part of him is aware she could be putting on an act, even as he desires a relationship with her. Like us, he needs more info to make a solid judgment about her.
  • The cold open: an bandaged Tada in hospital garb runs through a dark forest and falls down a steep hill chasing a light. A figure approaches and lends him her hand. In a flash of light and flurry of roses, it becomes Kaga. But before that flash? The silhouette looked an awful lot like Linda. This, and Linda’s body language when with Tada, got us thinking, did she and Tada meet before his accident, and did he lose his memory of her?

Samurai Flamenco – 01

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Policeman Goto Hidenori encounters Hazama Masayoshi naked in an alley, having failed in his debut as the superhero “Samurai Flamenco” when a drunk punched him. Goto escorts Masayoshi home, where he learns he’s a model and a hardcore fan of superhero shows, believing them to hold weight in the real world. Goto hears him out and warns him to be careful, but the next night Masayoshi ends up in another spot when he takes on a gang of delinquent kids. He loses but Goto arrives and scatters the kids. Masayoshi continues fighting petty crime, and his legend starts to grow on the web.

In its first of twenty-two episodes, we found a heckuva lot to like about Samurai Flamenco, such that we found it worthy of the first “9” of the season. The realistic urban setting, the likable characters; but we were also impressed with how much logical sense it was making. We believe Masayoshi as one of the rare people who never let society jade him from the idealism of the hero anime he used to watch (and still watches). His comfortable life as a popular model can quench his thirst for justice. Being a model, he has a swanky base of operations and access to a fashion designer who can make him awesome costumes – it’s perfect. But even better is the bond forged between him – an unconventional defender of justice – and Goto, an actual cop living a relatively dull existence.

They’re your classic odd couple; one who eats justice for breakfast and the other ignoring minor offenses like most everyone else because it’s easier. Details like Goto’s long-distance girlfriend and daily quest to the 7-Eleven for dinner and smokes drive home the point that this is a no-nonsense, minimal-excitement kinda guy. Still, he doesn’t dismiss Masayoshi’s nonsense out of hand, because at the end of the day it isn’t nonsense. Give certain bad apples in the city an inch and they’ll take a mile, dragging down society with it. The path of a superhero is not an easy one – Masayoshi has already been on the receiving end of two beatings – but he knows he must walk that path with the utmost resolve – and it seems Goto will have to walk that path with him – a couple steps behind – just in case.

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Rating: 9 (Superior)

Stray Observations:

  • Goto might seem like this is all a bit hassle – “why me” and so forth – but he’s kidding no one; we’re certain deep down he’s loving his suddenly spiced-up life.
  • A potentially good running joke: if we never see or hear Goto’s GF, making her just as mythical as Harakiri Sunshine…or Santa!
  • The food metaphors are awesome, as is the majority of the dialogue.
  • Masayoshi mentions a “new suit” in his closet that he uses. We thought that would be the cue to him unleashing some kind of real superpower on the kids. It turned out to be a tease, but a good one. 
  • FWIW we hope there aren’t any supernatural happenings moving forward – and that the OP and promo art are only puffed-up fantasies of what Masayoshi imagines to be doing, rather than chiding jaywalkers.
  • There’s a three-girl idol group that is only present in the ED (which really isn’t bad as j-pop endings go); we’re wondering if Masa’s status as a model will have him crossing paths with them at some point.
  • The punk who beat up Masayoshi was wearing…Crocs. Insult to injury…

Nagi no Asukara – 02

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The fish in Hanaka’s knee swims away, and she tries to get Uroko to curse her again. When Tsumugu volunteers to build the Ojoushi-sama, a wooden doll used as a sacrifice in the Ofunehiki (boatdrift) ceremony, Manaka, Hikari, Chisaki and Kaname join him. At the end of the day, they spot Akari kissing a surface guy; a banishable offense. Hikari snaps at Manaka and then Chisaki. Manaka asks Uroko to curse her again, but is interrupted by townsfolk who have arrested Akari. Hikari and Akari’s dad arrives and takes over, ordering everyone else to leave.

Tempests are raging within the hearts of Hikari, Manaka, and Chisaki, belying the cool tranquility of the sea in which they dwell. Chisaki’s situation in particular calls to mind a similar situation with Nadeko in Monogatari: she is in love with someone who doesn’t notice her, but isn’t doing anything to get noticed, because that’s the easiest course. Chisaki understands Hikari’s love for Manaka all too well, as it mirrors her love for him. But confessing her love would make things difficult for everyone, so she abstains. Well, whether she likes it or not, the status quo is already shattered thanks to Manaka’s fated encounter with Tsumugu. he doesn’t really do anything to cause all this havoc with his new sea-dwelling classmates, besides exist and be kind to Manaka.

Hikari even admits he’s a good guy, but that’s irrelevant to him: Manaka is his – not just his charge, but his love. But as he struggles with those feelings, she seems to be slipping away. The tension between everyone is palpably expressed in the awkward way they’re often arranged within the camera frame (see above). Chisaki selflessly warns Tsumugu (under her breath) to stop being so kind to Manaka. Akari provides a solemn warning about what happens when sea-dweller falls for a dry-lander. All of this underlines the theme of the world beneath the sea being so fragile and vulnerable to contamination, versus the unyielding, almost inevitable force of the surface. One by one, people are leaving the sea for good. You have to think at one point in the future there will be no one left down there.

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Rating:7 (Very Good)