Just as I was complimenting MMR’s compact cast, this episode introduces three new characters, the girls of the disciplinary committee. It’s not as bad as all that, though; two of the three are little more than background, while the third, Inoue Sumiko, turns out to be a lot more interesting than the cliched imperious school busybody constantly adjusting her glasses.
Don’t get me wrong: she is bossy and domineering, at school at least (though I didn’t notice an excessive amount of glasses-straightening); quite possibly to the point of overstepping her official bounds with regards to confiscating and destroying contraband ero literature, of which Kouta is known school-wide as a prolific wheeler and dealer. But here’s the thing: she’s not being a heel simply for being a heel’s sake—this is personal for her.
Drawn far more straight, sturdy, and angular than the girls regarded as “hotties” in previous episodes, it’s made clear by several trips into Sumiko’s head that she harbors a deep resentment towards her peers, who never regarded her as a girl. None of the boys would even flip her skirt—once a source of pride, now fuel for her high school angst. But there was one boy who did flip her skirt, and isn’t shy about regarding her for being her: and that boy was Kouta.
That’s right: in school they’re arch-nemeses, but in the real world their mothers are friends. They go way back. It would seem they live close by. If their families were more traditional, they may even have been betrothed to be wed by now. It occurs that were Rurumo not in Kouta’s picture, Sumiko would be the primary female interest in his life. Kouta’s tawdry rep precludes them appearing to get along in school, but they seem to get along just fine on the outside.
By “getting along” I mean Kouta can earnestly compliment Sumiko’s cute clothes when she delivers cake to his house; she can put on Rurumo’s pair of “Glasses of Misfortune” and cling to him when rats appear (it was frogs for Rurumo), and then he can chase her down the street during which she gets drenched by various water sources. She may call him a pervert, but he’s her pervert. As for Sumiko herself, she was a pleasant surprise.
- Rurumo got the short shrift this week…and was almost done in by frogs!
- Chiro can transform into a human girl. Not sure why, but it was the first time in 25 years that she did it, and she did seem to revel in it. Could come in handy later.
- Again Kouta uses his magic selflessly…or at least semi-selflessly, as he can’t bear to have to report back to his buds that all of their accumulated treasures were cast into the incinerator.
- I kinda want Kouta to ask Sumiko out (or vice versa).
As for the rundown, we’ve decided to keep it simple with a nice, big colorful bar graph that visualizes our progress with the many shows we’re watching and compares our ratings to current MAL scores.
One quarter in, it’s been a very full but very good Summer, even though several shows have yet to truly take off. Individual thoughts below.
Hannah: The two shows at the top of my list (and the overall list, for that matter) are both awesome and compelling in different ways. The world of Zankyou no Terror is very much intact—minus a building or two—and deals with more realistic stakes, making it feel grittier and more immediate. And while there are explosions, it’s more a battle of minds—old and grizzled versus young and pissed off—and both sides have been wronged by society. We’re only three episodes in, but it has the unassailable whiff of prestige all over it.
Aldnoah.Zero is, on it’s surface, a much more black-and-white tale of advanced Martians beating up on their distant human cousins, but wisely chooses to put us on the ground, in the thick of the action, where ingenuity and resourcefulness battle brawn and arrogance. It’s doing a very nice job making the small victories of the band of high schoolers—supported by adults in the military—feel as plausible as they are satisfying. It also helps quite a bit that the protagonist is not the typical whiny twerp. He’s downright stoic.
Sword Art Online II is…just beginning. Being a huge fan of the last season but having endured some of its missteps, I am not opposed to it getting its ducks in a row before delving in. I’m in no rush. What I can say is that I like Sinon so far. I like her dual identities in the real and virtual world, I like that she’s voiced by Sawashiro Miyuki, and I like that her hair is my favorite color. I just hope she isn’t reduced to another damsel for Kirito to save. Please, show: let her save him; at least once!
A bit further down on that chart is my fourth show, Rail Wars!, but 7.50 is perfectly respectable. Rail Wars! is right up my alley in many ways, celebrating mass transit and the minutiae of trains and transit, which sound very dry on paper, but spicing it up with tight skirts, guns, martial arts, and other fun stuff, which sounds ridiculous. And yet it all works just fine. The red-haired firebrand of a female lead Aoi is a big reason why.
Zane: No show has given me more laughs per minute than Barakamon, which full of colorful, hilarious, and adorable characters of all stripes. The fish-out-of-water in the center of it all is all but powerless against the charms of the podunk island village where he’s been deposited, and where he attempts to wrestle his creative identity into submission. The premise, if mishandled, could easily enter the realm of hoakiness, but it isn’t being mishandled.
Not far from Barakamon is Gekkan Shoujo-Nozaki-kun, with its addictive brand of rapid-fire exchanges and satirical exploration of the shoujo genre. I will say that the girl’s personal romance story isn’t exactly progressing with any kind of alacrity, but in the meantime there’s plenty of fun to be had and poked at said genre. My only gripes thus far are a slightly over-sized cast and one episode’s worth of excessive violence towards a girl.
I’ve really enjoyed Hanayamata’s joie de vivre and attention to detail regarding the movements and gestures of its characters; a good approach in a show centered around a type of dance. There’s precious little actual dance in it, but I’m finding the other dance—that of a group of one becoming two, then three, than eventually five—just as entertaining.
Space Dandy 2 is…just like Space Dandy, which is just like a box of chocolates. If you like chocolate and aren’t allergic to anything, you’re going to enjoy most of the contents of that box. Sometimes one will stand out among the others as a particularly mind-bendingly delicious piece; sometimes there’ll be a dud. Its eclecticism remains more an asset than a liability.
Ao Haru Ride is my standard shoujo romance show of the season, and so far it’s doing its job well…we’re on board for the ride and like where it’s going. It’s very straightforward in the push-pull, love-me-hate-me dance of the central couple, but it’s wisely putting most of the focus on that couple rather than unduly scattering our attention. And my attention span sucks. Yes the characters can be a bit bug-eyed, but I honestly don’t mind.
Last and least on my list, though not by much, is Glasslip, which is juggling several little mini-dramas within its running time. The literal world isn’t ending for them the way it was in Nagi no Asukara, but that doesn’t make their personal problems any less weighty to them. We come on this long-time circle of friends during what could be their last Summer together. To put a twist on a common phrase from Game of Thrones: Autumn is Coming.
Preston: Curiously, the show I got into last currently tops my list, just as a very similar show in Hitsugi no Chaika did this past Spring. What can I say; I’m a sucker for action-adventure romps in fantasy worlds not too much unlike our own. Akame ga Kill! traverses many very well-tread roads, but traverses them with competence and confidence with a bit of spunk and a little glint in its eye. It’s not groundbreaking, but it’s quite stylish and a load of fun.
Majimoji Rurumo has avoided the pitfalls that sunk Witch Craft Works, namely shoving dozens of characters we don’t give a crap down our gullets or constantly fielding utterly incompetent villains. There’s also nice dissonance in the fact such a sweet romance is brewing as the protagonist’s life is literally being burnt away, one magic ticket at a time. The show also has a zany but not overly goofy visual style and a funky soundtrack to boot.
Sailor Moon Crystal delivered two very respectable episodes to us. The only problem is, it took a month for that to happen. Anticipation doesn’t so much build as I kind of forget about the show until it decides to show up again. This biweekly thing is highly irritating, but I’m not blaming the show, which is, as I’ve said, marches to the beat of a different drummer in more ways than just scheduling, and in a good way.
Ah, Tokyo Ghoul: not nearly as good as MAL thinks it is, but not bad, either. It suffers from a fairly insufferable protagonist supported by a far more likable supporting cast. If nothing else, it provides the darkness and goriness to counter the lighter, flowerier stuff I’m watching. I always strive for balance through contrasting media.
Finally, DRAMAtical Murder, a show chock-full of characters with extremely specific looks hanging around shooting the breeze, as increasingly strange/bad things happen around them. The only women are a snot-nosed little girl and an ox of a grandmother, which is kind of refreshing. But yeah, the OP and ED continue to write checks the show in between can’t quite cash.
(Franklin sounds off on his shows in the comments.)
Urara, Maya and Kaya each gets their own mini-chapters. Urara is revealed to be a psycho and masochist, Maya a wimp and Kaya a pragmatic combatant. Each is PULVERIZED by Momoka in one way or another, solidifying her place as most lethal of the group.
This week expands on characters and solidifies Momoka’s place in the group. Urara’s chapter is physical, and reveals her demure exterior to be a ruse hiding a jealous, wrathful interior and deep obsession with Mio, who is revealed to be her childhood friend.
We get wrestling and fighting and it lovingly goes absolutely sideways when Momoka fights back. To my surprise (and Momoka’s!) Urara’s beat-down results in absolute love-struck loyalty. Will this powerful alliance last or will it’s foundation on BDSM lead to a rocky future?
Maya’s chapter is all about boobs boobs BOOBS! Maya doesn’t have much else going for her and she turns to the group for help over coming her fear of a certain disgustingly sticky Japanese food she needs to eat in a commercial. Unfortunately for her, Momoka is jealous of Maya’s boobs and, with Urara’s help, makes friendly assistance look more like GitMo style torture.
As with the rest, Kaya’s chapter is as much about Momoka as anyone else. Here we see the two end up in a heated gun fight for reasons unclear, only to then form a short alliance when the three other girls join in and attack them. Kaya and Momoka are clearly the pair to beat but, Momoka is first to break their alliance by shooting Kaya in the face. Right after Kaya announces that they tied.
Sabagebu! remains totally over the top, crazy fun to watch, and Momoka’s plain girl with wrath issues (and a gamer’s heart?) is deliciously brutal entertainment. While I can’t imagine every rating it above a 7 because it’s just not very pretty or thought provoking… or innovative, I am very glad to be watching Sabagebu! this season. If you have time amidst all the great shows this summer, you should be watching it too!
Hannah has Zankyou no Terror (all nines thru three) and Preston has Akame ga Kill (all eights thru four), but it looks like Hanayamata is my rock—the show that has consistently performed a a high level in the first third of its run. That’s especially surprising considering the group we see dancing in the OP is still barely three-fifths complete as of this week’s episode.
This week the focus shifts to Nishimikado Tami, somebody who is both Naru’s “big-sis” figure and the perfect princess from her fantasy tales, made flesh. Not surprisingly, Tami doesn’t have quite that high an opinion of herself, as she has always worked tirelessly to earn her rich, busy father’s praise and esteem, but not always gotten it.
All that work includes delving into fields like tea, flower arranging, and piano, all of which are skills a proper Japanese lady supposedly needs to excel in, but in which she has less personal interest than say, ballet, which she had to quit to make time for the other things. Her friend (and the student council president) Machi is worried Tami is still stuck in “little girl” mode, placing far too much emphasis on pleasing Daddy, while neglecting her own passions and goals.
Machi doesn’t dabble in any of the extracurriculars Tami does, as she’s putting much of her focus into attaining academic rather than cultural excellence. Then again, Machi doesn’t come from an old, rich, powerful family. Tami was raised to believe the Nishimikado name is something that must be lived up to. But at the end of the day, a life-sized doll in a kimono could accomplish the same task; that of being ignored when her father comes home.
On the other hand, Naru declares “It has to be you,” meaning a doll won’t cut it. It may, but the complex is strong with Tami, and only the slightest hint of discouragement from her father is enough for her to reject Hana’s invitation to join the yosakoi club. It’s a reflex at this point in her life, but one that is almost immediately challenged by a lasting gloom and stinging in the chest that isn’t relieved until she crosses paths with Naru again.
Having been given the little push she needed to move forward and try something new by Hana, it falls on Naru to do the pushing here, after recognizing the pain she’s in. Tami, in turn, comes around to the idea that she can’t go on deferring her happiness for daddy’s benefit. When she declares her intention to take up yosakoi, I’m certain her dad won’t be pleased, but that’s not her damn problem.
- Hana believes it’s the duty of every self-respecting Japanese student to eat their lunch on the school roof. I agree.
- Tami shows off her ninja skillz as she sneaks up on Naru and Hana not once but twice.
- She’s also still quite good at ballet, despite being out of practice.
- Eating out and staying out late: mortal sins to Tamihime.
- I kinda like the fact that I still have no frikkin’ clue how Machi is going to be brought into the fold.
- MAL’s score of Hanayamata (7.19 as of this writing) feels really low to me. Not sure what they don’t like about it. (Too moe? What does moe even mean?)
The leadership training retreat turns out to be something of a comedy of errors right from the start, but leaving her bag at his place and getting on the wrong train does result in Futaba and Kou spending more time alone together than they otherwise might have. Futaba also gets to see (and feel) Kou shirtless. But they end up being so late to the retreat that they have to write formal apologies.
They also end up alienating two-thirds of the other three members of their group. Murao and Kou do not get along in their first encounter, Kominato takes her side and leaves with her, but not before taking Yuuri’s cupcake, revealing her dark side. The group is in tatters, which doesn’t speak well for the leadership skills of the reps. Then again, this is training; you don’t just hop on a bike and start riding; you have to skin a couple of knees.
The thing is, Kou and Futaba are generally quite nice to one another throughout the episode, culminating in a very nicely-staged scene at night where Kou puts his head down on the table opposite Futaba’s, and they both end up turning to face one another. This is while Kou is, in spite of the devil-may-care attitude he tries to maintain, going out of his way to say nice things about her.
They’ve rarely if ever been as close as they are here, but as lovely a moment it is while it lasts, it’s a bit premature, as Kou isn’t ready to admit how he feels about Futaba; not ready enough to be at the point where she’s nuzzling up to him. It’s panic and his long-honed defenses kicking in at the worst moment; he throws barbs her way, and she gets pissed. It’s a lasting pissed-ness, one the others can’t help but notice.
Futaba and Kou act very much like an old couple locked into a familiar battle. Futaba snaps out of the funk on her own, realizing that it isn’t that she doesn’t love the New Kou, it’s that she still has a lot of work to do in getting to know him, as well as continuing to improve herself. Which is why it almost seems like we’re going to be subjected to a cliched gut-punch when she goes to make up with Kou and spots him smiling at a girl apparently confessing to him.
That doesn’t happen, thankfully. Instead, there’s a twist: Futaba somehow thought two third-year boys were trees or something, and ended up clinging to them long enough that they thought she wanted to confess to them. But yet again, Kou steps up to rescue her, even going so far as to tell them she’s his girlfriend. She also starts to suspect that she may love Kou after all, since whatever he says to her affects her deeply and lastingly. He’s under her skin, and she’s pretty much under his too—why else would he keep finding ways to be with her?
It’s weird watching a rom-com that satirizes shoujo (GSNK) right beside the very kind shoujo anime it enjoys satirizing. Ao Haru Ride has its share of funny moments, but they’re never ironic commentary on the genre the show inhabits. It’s playing things straight and sticking with the fundamentals, which is fine with me.
Part of Murao’s hostility towards Kou stems from the fact she’s infatuated with his older brother, whom she gets alone and tries to make a move on but is rejected, not for the first time. Falling for a teacher who isn’t going to cross that line…not a pleasant position to be in.
We’re starting with an ending this week, namely the very good new ending to Aldnoah.Zero. While the visuals are basically a pretty slideshow, the song “aLIEz”, composed by Sawano Hiroyuki got us super pumped-up for whatever happens in episode five and beyond.
It was a nice callback to the theme that played in the episode when Inaho & Co. were ready to take care of business fighting off Vlad. It also reminded us a bit of the Kill la Kill song “Before My Body Is Dry.”
Izumi makes it to the photo shoot, has somewhat understandable panic attacks, which only make Ryouma fall for him harder. As he did 10 years before, Ryouma helps calm Izumi down, which also wins a bit of Izumi’s heart. The commercial is filmed and both characters have a strong respect, tipping on affection, for each other. Then Izumi’s secret is blown and Ryouma runs off angry, hurt and sexually confused…
This week opens with a dream sequence I was way too dim witted to catch onto until it was over and, Man! What a hoot! Cute, artsy sequences, magic girls fighting plant monsters hand me going… and then back we went to the real show and I sure felt sheepish.
Beyond the obvious, this week also gives us a lot more of Shouga, Izumi’s older rock star brother. He pretty much controls Izumi, but not in a bad or creepy way. Shouga’s just the only one who can motivate Izumi in the first place… usually with creepy magic girl body pillows.
What I liked last week remains the same: the cast is up-beat, nice and positive. Izumi pretty much shrugs off the social chaos of his gender reveal, his parents are supportive and happy regardless, and the family manager is beginning to understand how Izumi works (and cared about Izumi before hand, regardless).
Even Ryouma, who has a totally understandable name-calling freak-out moment after learning Izumi is a boy, also has a serious “What the heck does this actually mean to me?” moment, sans dialog, as he’s driven away by his manager.
I also really really appreciate that the show just jumps right in and reveals Izumi’s gender by the second episode. It tells me the show will be about consequences and “what’s next” more than a when will it all come crashing down house of cards event.
Also, body pillows!
Mikorin reveals himself as far more comfortable around fictional girls than real ones, as evidenced by his love of dating sims. When he tries to get Nozaki into them as well, a hilarious send-up of the genre ensues. As an accomplished shoujo artist, Nozaki enters the game as the protagonist fom his own manga, who isn’t the slightest bit interested in any of the girls in the game. He also serves as skeptic to Mikorin’s true believer, picking the sim apart as he plays.
Nozaki sees ulterior motives in the characters that don’t belong in the game’s genre, but on one point manages to convert Mikorin with the sentiment that the game’s protagonist’s best friend Tomoda is way too selfless, sacrificing his own youth to support them. Suddenly motivated to pull an all-nighter drawing a manga in which Tomoda is the protagonist, the most suitable person to pair him with turns out to be the protagonist from the game, making it a BL manga and thoroughly confusing Chiyo when she arrives in the morning.
After subverting the dating sim by pointing out the sidekick best friend is the most compeling character in it, GSNK moves on to a new story in its second half, in which Mikorin must prepare for what is, despite his playboy persona at school, his first mixer ever. He solicits advice from Nozaki and Chiyo, who turn out to be ill-suited to the task, as both of them would prove insufferable at a mixer. Nozaki, posing as a girl, gives conversation-killing answers to Mikorin’s questions, while Chiyo is only interested in meeting someone who matches Nozaki’s description exactly.
Nozaki also insists on “going to the toilet” with Chiyo to talk “in private”, but when Mikorin insists on joining them, they’re all just in Nozaki’s bathroom for no reason, which is great! Ultimately, Mikorin sends Kashima (who thankfully escapes physical abuse this week) to the mixer in his place. The Prince ends up conquering all four of the other girls, leaving the three guys in the dust. Not that having Mikorin there would have resulted in a dramatically different outcome, but Kashima sure seemed more into it.
I said I might have to drop this show now that I’ve discovered AGK, but I haven’t done so yet. That could be because there isn’t another show this Summer that has me as much in the dark about as many things. I’m eager for some answers, but only get more questions. And yet, on I watch.
The unfortunately named Platinum Jail; its developer, who ends up in the same limo as Grams earlier in the episode; the disappearance of Dry Juice, and the painting over of all their tags with Morphine tags; Trip and Virus’ involvement; Clear and Noiz’s obsessions with Aoba; it’s all just floating around in one big cloud of mystery.
I hope something gives soon. I don’t mind lingering mysteries, as long as something comes of them, but the show could throw us a bone here or there. After a police patrol cuts Koujaku and Noiz’s fight (ostensibly over Aoba) short, Aoba comes home to find his Grams gone, replaced by a couple of unconscious Morphine members and Mink.
Whether Mink is a friend or foe, and what if anything he has to say to Aoba that might shed some light on all of this stuff, we’ll have to wait another week. But with all these elements listed above in play yet presently isolated from one another, I imagine at some point some dots will be connected. Some point soon, hopefully!
AGK has been nothing if not consistent, balancing fairly equal measures of exposition, world-building, character dev and action, and keeping me thoroughly entertained. This week is no different, formally introducing us to the forty-eight Imperial Arms, six of which are wielded by Night Raid mebers, while the seventh belongs to the target-of-the-week, Zank the Executioner. Around the time the empire started to rot, Zank was made to take so many heads it became a compulsion, and he started taking heads at random, regardless of whether they were condemned to die.
This makes Zank notable in that as crazy and murderous a demon as he has become, he was, and one point, just an ordinary overworked executioner, and not necessarily evil. Zank also refrains from rape threats, as he’s only interested in beheading people. Heck, he even thanks Akame for killing him and “silencing the voices of all the people he’s killed, a marked contrast to the previous demons’ last words of protest or contempt.
His third-eye style sense-augmenting and illusion-creating Imperial Arm makes him the most challenging foe yet, as Tatsumi lacks the strength to defeat him alone. But then that’s why Night Raid was sent out in pairs, and Akame is his partner this week. Zank disguises himself as Sayo to lure Tatsumi away from her, but Tatsumi is able to stay alive lone enough for Akame to find him and clean up the mess.
When Zank transforms into Akame’s dearest loved one, it backfires on him, as she kills “her” as quickly as possible because she loves her so much. Despite her age, Akame is a hardened assassin who won’t succumb to mind games. And thanks to her Imperial Arm Murasame, it only takes a scratch to kill her opponent, which begs the question: why don’t all the Imperial Arms have that ability?
Akame’s mindset is not to overestimate the power of her sword; it is a bitch to clean, after all, but they live in a world where just one cut can kill you anyway, regardless of the weapon. Wielders of Imperial Arms are undeniably stronger than those with conventional arms, but they’re still just tools; tools that only sing for the right hands and minds. I imagine Zank’s Arm will pass to Tatsumi, but simply possessing one doesn’t make you invincible.
There are Space Dandy episodes I can run out onto the parquet dance floor and bust various moves with, and then there are those where I’m just kind of chilling in the periphery of the venue, sitting on a folding chair, sipping some punch, and tapping my foot, half to the beat, half impatiently. This was one of those latter episodes.
Dandy has done a lot of different stuff, but hadn’t tackled the “high school musical” genre yet. But it just didn’t feel like its heart was in it in the same way it is for all of its trippy, metaphysical, and high concept episodes. As Dandy remarks upon first meeting his future prom date, much of the episode had a “well-honed plainness” to it. Much of the ground it covers has already been covered in better ways.
A good musical, high school or no, has to have good songs, but most of the songs here were seriously lacking. The lyrics were dull, simplistic, and repetitive, and the pacing of the song and dance numbers dragged on way too long: the Queen Bee describing the school’s caste pyramid took up way too much time, and even if the awkward pacing was intentional, it just felt like stalling.
That said, it was still a fun episode with some good bits: Dandy getting shot down by increasingly alien girls, and the 80’s-style pre-prom training montage, and the fact the girl was the rare alien Dandy enrolled to the school to find in the first place, but he, QT and Meow simply forgot about by the end. With Dandy, if you don’t like one episode, just move on to the next.