Golden Time – 05

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After finding the photo of him with Linda, Banri visits the bridge where he was injured. Kouko declares him a “great friend”, and next morning is acting strange again; too enthusiastic. She and Banri join the festival club, but Kouko struggles with dancing. She bursts into tears, but later apolgizes to Banri for taking advantage of his kindness. In a flashback, the “past” Banri recalls seeing a light in the forest from his hospital room. He escapes and checks it out, and bumps into Linda, whom he doesn’t recognize. Linda doesn’t lead on that he knows her, but she still convinces him to go to Tokyo and start over.

Well…we weren’t expecting any of that! Not that that’s a bad thing; we prefer being surprised to knowing how things are going to proceed – as long as no sharks are jumped. It turns out we were a little premature in celebrating Banri’s confession to Kouko, and with good reason: turns out that wasn’t the perfect time to do so. Kouko is only two days removed from the Mitsuo incident; her emotions are still confused, and if she’s honest – and to her credit, she’s extremely honest throughout this episode – they were confused before, too. She still feels hopeless, and so she’s willing to take whatever kindness and understanding comes her way. But yeah, even she knows by expressing her hope she and Banri can be good friends, she’s essentially rejecting the guy, at least for the time being. Banri is disappointed, but for much of the episode he’s preoccupied with that photo of him with Linda.

Who was she to him, and why is she acting like they just met? As soon as he found that photo, we wanted Banri to simply confront Linda and ask her these question, with the same resolve with which he stepped up and confessed to Kouko. We can take a guess why: it could be Linda’s way of “respecting” the “New Banri.” Whatever her relationship was with him, that was a different person. The show makes a very interesting choice in providing us with answers New Banri isn’t privy to, courtesy of the bodiless “Old Banri”, a device which works for us. The flashback not only confirms that Linda cared a great deal for Banri, but we’re given more evidence for why she’s stayed mum about knowing Banri: in that flashback, he vows to cast away all his old bonds…and though he doesn’t know it, she’s one of them.

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Rating: 8 
(Great)

Stray Observations:

  • Kouko demonstrates that when you’re “good friends” with her, you’d better be prepared to take the good with an occasional side of crazy. The latter is a part of her; it didn’t vanish just because Mitsuo abjured her.
  • The flashback builds on the cold open of episode two, when Banri was walking through the forest. Though this time, it’s not Kouko beyond the light, but Linda.
  • We really dig past Linda’s hairstyle. Wonder if changing her hair had something to do with wanting to “start over” once what happened to Banri happened.
  • We see that  Linda has a motorbike. Was that supposed to make us think she was the one who ran him over in the first place? WHY ARE WE THINKING THAT?!

 

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Kill la Kill – 05

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“Anti-Uniform Guerilla” Kinagase Tsumugu of the Nudist Beach organization arrives at Konnouji to eliminate Ryuuko’s Kamui. His first attempt is interrupted by his old friend Mikisugi who asks him not to target her. Kinagase refuses, certain that if left alone Senketsu could grow even more dangerous than Kiryuin. Satsuki sends Non-Athletic Committee Chair Jakuzure Nonon to deal with him.

Kinagase quickly dispatches the small-fry clubs she deploys, and corners Ryuuko again, and Senketsu flies off her to save her, and he’s pinned down, but Mako puts the kamui back to Ryuuko arms before leaving. When Kinagase threatens to harm Ryuuko, he can hear Senketsu speak and learns the kamui cares about her. Jakuzure arrives and he makes a quick getaway with Ryuuko, leaving her in Mikisugi’s office, telling him he’ll give Ryuuko a chance.

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Last week’s self-contained “no-late-day” story gives way to some meatier story wherein a third party enters the fray between Ryuuko and Satsuki. In the real world, most nudists are regarded as harmless weirdos, but Kinagase is more of a revolutionary, wielding a sewing machine-like gun and utterly devoted to eradicating the scourge of life fibers, which he sees as parasites. We can’t really fault his motives, considering the damage we’ve seen the uniforms do even when their wearers are in mostly full control of them.

But as much as the guy scowls and threatens to strip girls, he’s not so bad a guy: when he sees that Ryuuko and Senketsu aren’t just a parasite and host but actual friends, he has a change of heart, even saving Ryuuko from Jakuzure. Jakuzure’s role on the periphery of Kinagase’s pursuit of Ryuuko is a calculation by her and Satsuki; sending cannon fodder at him in order to collect combat data. Even if it’s a rout, it’s a highly enjoyable one, as Jakuzure conducts an orchestra as the battle unfolds.

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Rating: 9 (Superior)

Stray Observations:

  • We’re amused at how raucous and nutty Mako’s family behaves, and yet they’re concerned about Ryuuko being weird just because she talks to her uni.
  • Jakuzure is voiced by none other than Shintani Mayumi, whom we hadn’t heard since her role as Haruko in FLCL.
  • Mako proves she’s a brave and loyal friend by standing up to Kinagase and delivering another long-winded, passionate monologue.

End-of-Month Rundown – October 2013

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We said last month we were hoping to keep our Fall watchlist under a dozen, and we seem to have settled on a dozen exactly, eight of which are currently rated 7 (Very Good) or higher after 3-4 episodes. So how has it all wrung out in this first month of the Fall?

12. Strike the Blood 4/-  (6.000) – A very by-the-numbers supernatural buddy rom-com that breaks no new ground, but has a certain inscrutable charm to it, which has a lot to do with the couple, who have nice chemistry (once you get past the awful pervert gags).

11. White Album 2 4/12  (6.750) – A classic example of a show not trying to do too much; just getting two girls and a guy together in a band and watching how things get complicated when they all start to like each other. Don’t read too much into that!

10. Yozakura Quartet: Hana no Uta 4/13  (6.750) – The second of two non-sequel franchise “re-imaginings” (the other being White Album), this richly-detailed supernatural slice-of-life with occasional spurts of intense action got off to a very promising start, but its creators clearly didn’t know what they were doing in the last episode, which is troubling.

9. Arpeggio of Blue Steel: Ars Nova 4/12  (7.000) – The bizarre concept of haughty “mental models” – avatars of anachronistic Japanese warships – coming to appreciate the value of humans through their defeats appeals to us, and the battles are awesome. But if the cel-shaded characters have the Uncanny Valley effect on you, you won’t like this one bit.

8. Kakumeiki Valvrave 2nd Season 3/-  (7.333) – Three episodes is a small sample size, but Valvrave’s second season has yet to make any serious missteps. Of course, last season’s worst episode was its fourth, so knock on wood. We still couldn’t care less about the esoteric “Magius” business, but we like how characters like Akira and Marie are getting more fleshed out.

7. Kyoukai no Kanata 5/- (7.400) – After completely changing gears with the innovative, guy-centric Free!, KyoAni returns to its well-worn “adorable goofball girl” formula. We were initially dubious that this series had anything new to say, but when what it does say is said in such riveting fashion as its fourth episode, it’s hard not to keep watching.

6. Monogatari Series: Second Season 4/12 (including 1 recap)  (7.667) – Sengoku Nadeko’s arc is notable in that there is no happy ending, only setup to a possible conclusion in the indeterminate future. After the recap we shift to a new arc that explains why Koyomi was mostly absent for Nekomonogatari(Shiro). It just started, but we like the sound of learning more about the lil’ vampire’s past.

5. Nagi no Asukara 4/26  (7.750) – Aside from being utterly gorgeous, we like the worldbuilding/mythos behind this show, how it’s been dealing with societal issues like ingrained prejudice, and how it’s underscored how fragile and possibly doomed the sea people and their culture are.

4. Golden Time 4/12 (including 2 recaps)  (8.000) – Don’t let it’s #4 ranking here mislead you: Golden Time is a smart, sweet, top-tier series with some really solid writing and character development. It took an obnoxious brat of a character and made her sympathetic, and the male lead didn’t waste any time expressing his feelings for her. The college adventures are also fresh and relatable. It’s also covered an impressive amount of ground in four episodes, considering it’s running for a full 26.

3. Kill la Kill 4/-  (8.250) – It’s clear both from the first four episodes of this show and all of the shows they’ve made before that the creator(s) are very well-attuned to the primary purpose of anime: to entertain. Kill la Kill is insanely fun to watch, but also tells a coherent story. It’s replete with fanservice that cleverly serves that story: modesty lessens the power of the uniforms.

2. Kyousougiga 3/10  (8.333) – While Kill la Kill will almost always out-crazy this show in a head-to-head crazy duel, Kyousougiga’s focus is on history, family, and love, much like last season’s Uchouten Kazoku. Like that tanuki-infested gem, this show is full of lively characters, all with their own agendas.

1. Samurai Flamenco 3/22  (8.667) – We’re not in middle or high school anymore, so we always rejoice when a good show featuring adults comes around. And this show is very good indeed, having a lot of fun with the audience’s expectations of how far the superhero milieu will go. Like Kick-ass and real-life viral superheroes, it looks like this will stay grounded in reality, which is just fine with us!

Kyoukai no Kanata – 05

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Mirai joins the literary club at Akihito’s insistence  officially meeting Hiromi and Mizuki. The four go to the Nase residence, where Izumi confiscates Mirai’s hunting license for a month due to her actions. Mizuki and Mirai work together to destroy a youmu possessing a passerby. Mizuki helps Mirai get a part-time job minding Ayaka’s store and posing for photos. Depressed after his transformation, Akihito skips class. After much convincing, Mirai gets Mizuki to end her embargo and attend the lantern festival, where they’re joined by Akihito and Hiromi.

There’s really nothing quite like a well-funded Kyoto Animation series, and little this season can match its frame-for-frame grace and beauty. Lovely details abound: characters rapidly cycling through facial expressions, lessening the need for spoken words; characters playing with their hair; swirling ice in a glass; arrogantly sipping on a juice box. If this is a guilty pleasure, we don’t want to be innocent. In contrast to last week’s focus on one big central story-line – defeating the hollow shadow – this week is a veritable smorgasbord of little vignettes that make up the day and night Mirai spends mostly with Mizuki, leading to something resembling the start of a friendship.

When Mizuki first shares a space with Mirai this week, you can tell there’s tension. We’re assuming if Mizuki had her way she’d simply be able to “observe” Akihito in peace, free of interloping bespectacled strumpets. But the more time she spends with Mirai, her notion of her softens, to the point she’s even laughing and smiling around her. Perhaps a part of her admires Mirai’s willingness to reassess her ascetic outlook in light of recent events. Mizuki’s stoic sister admonishes her that she’ll always be alone due to her calling. But in truth, everyone is “all alone” at one point or another, so its something everyone can relate to.

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Rating: 8 
(Great)

Stray Observations:

  • A kind reader pointed out something to us we had somehow missed up until this week: that the episodes titles refer to a common visual motif in that episode, in this case, “Chartreuse Light”, which is everywhere: tea, a sweater, a soft drink, and of course, lanterns.
  • Akihito puts up a brave front in the opening scene (for once, confiding with Hiromi on Mirai’s “little-sisterness” in a way making him worthy of her and Mizuki’s scorn), then kinda going off by himself to mope.
  • Mirai’s tendency to “whine on her blog” is a pretty funny aspect of her character, and in reality great way of letting off steam.
  • Ayaka does run a studio, and Mirai did need the cash, so the photo shoot counts as Justified Fanservice.