DRAMAtical Murder – 03

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The past Aoba doesn’t even remember having is catching up with him, as a former Rhyme playmate of his pays him a visit. Noiz’s first visit to the junk shop is uneventful, minus a few weird stares. Then Aoba finds him in his room on his computer. Noiz wants to play Rhyme with Aoba again. If Aoba refuses, he’ll do something terrible to Ren. Hey, WHOA. LEAVE REN ALONE, you spiky bastard!

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Just then, Clear bursts into Aoba’s room, and Koujaku right after that, and suddenly it’s really crowded in there, with blood about to go on the boil. Noiz and Koujaku make a mess of the place with their rough-housing. Aoba and his Grams are able to calm the crowd with tea and biscuits (or something), but it’s clear Aoba isn’t about to have a Noiz-less future from here on in.

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The next day, Koujaku and Aoba visit Mizuki, who has been noticeably down of late (I forget the details). I’m thinking it was the voice actors laying the friendly sarcasm on a bit thick, but they have what sounds like a very stiff, almost forced conversation, perhaps reflecting the disquiet lurking just beneath their easy smiles.

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Speaking of tongues, Noiz returns to Aoba’s shop, this time dispatching the three kids who are always bothering Aoba, grabbing the girl by the scruff and kissing her hand, telling her “Rowdy girls aren’t cute.” Hey, who asked you, pal? That’s a matter of opinion! When the kids scurry off and Aoba mentions the inappropriateness of the kiss…Noiz kisses him.

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Was he trying to trigger Aoba’s lost memories? Did they have a thing? Aoba is drawn away by news his Grams is in trouble, but it was just her back giving out. He carries her home and she goes in her room…then before the credits roll we see another Grams in the back of a Rolls-Royce, with the driver saying “So he was alive.” A doppelgramser? Okay, Dmmd: I’ll bite. But damn, the animation quality was poor this week!

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Space Dandy 2 – 03

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“Oh shut up. If we have this, we could do this and that, and then that’ll happen, and we’ll be able to eat as much as we want.”

This is Dandy’s defense this after Meow scolds him for buying a sketchy teleporting flashlight instead of food because the lady who sold it to him was hot. It also serves as a tidy and prescient synopsis for their adventures to come, which are many in number and absolutely insane in nature. Seriously, there hasn’t been a Dandy this free-wheelingly, awesomely nutty in quite a while, and yet it all holds together quite nicely when you remember Dandy’s above line.

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Essentially, the episode is a treatise on the merits of another one of Dandy’s lines, and the title of the episode itself: “Good things come to those who wait [baby].” That applies as much to us the audience as it does Dandy, Meow, and QT, as the episode is deliberately roundabout and baroque in its storytelling, and initially quite head-scratching and surreal. For a few minutes there, we had no idea what was going on. Like Dandy’s head, we were just…watching a fish set up an umbrella and beach towel.

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From the first scene at the space mall that accentuated the crippling amount of choice was available to Dandy and Meow to the “fistronaut’s” futuristic underground city, this was also one of the more detail and vista-packed episodes of Dandy in a while, though all of its episodes are pretty intricate. The episode also had fun with physics, astronomy, and relativity, and dished out some very painterly, lyrical animation for the boat trip up the water column from Planet Pushy Boyfriend to Planet Girlfriend. Even those random names describe the planets pretty well in their way.

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There are a lot of familiar Dandyisms on display here: from Meow’s hunger leading to crazy adventures, to Dandy snatching perceptiveness out of the jaws of ignorance, to Dr. Gel almost capturing Dandy, to a hastily-told but intricate look into the worlds orbiting one of the countless stars in space. Dandy and Meow also witness a couple more ends: both the end of the short-sighted civilization of arrogant, mean-spirited, clothed fish, to the fishtronaut himself, who turns into grilled fish that is the food Dandy promised the flashlight would ultimately provide.

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Also like many other Dandy episodes, this one has high re-watch value, though there’s nothing like being blissfully in the dark and wondering precisely how (or if) the show is going to divine a coherent resolution from all the colorful chaos. And no show airing now is quite as good at bending my minds and making me hungry at the same time. If you’ll excuse me, I’m going to attempt to locate some grilled fish. The more interesting the life they’ve lived, the tastier they are.

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Tokyo Ghoul – 03

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Tokyo Ghoul got back on track this week by teaching us a lot more about Ghoul society, introducing a far more compelling adversary in the CCG (Customizable Card Game?), and having Ken come to terms with his new status and finally find a way to contribute. Overall it was a far more efficient, purposeful, and interesting outing than last week’s boss-of-the-week.

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First, Ken is lucky he was “turned” in the 20th Ward, which has the reputation of being one of the most peaceful Ghoul communities. He thought things were bad there, but it’s worse almost everywhere else, something he learns when Touka takes him to a rougher part of town to meet Uta, who measures him for a mask.

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Uta starts the realignment of Ken’s thinking by saying Touka’s far more than just a scary girl; she works diligently to balance her ghoul existence with her human life, as her boss Yoshimura has. There’s a neat scene where Yoshimura tells him how to eat human food. Appearences must be kept up; if Hide finds out Ken’s a ghoul, Touka has promised to kill Hide on the spot. (I enjoyed watching the many sides of Touka this week, from prickly to affable).

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The purpose of the mask is to hide one’s face in case the “Doves” descend upon you. The doves are what they call the CCG, a police-like organization operating out of a gleaming skyscraper that seems to have one goal in mind: ghoul-busting. Whether they only mean to keep the ghouls disorganized and in check or exterminate them outright, it’s a pretty odious business and a pretty strong allegory for racist social policy.

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These swine would even consider little Hinami, frightened daughter of the ward’s ghoul doctor who is being kept in hiding at Yoshimura’s cafe. Aside from her need for human flesh, she’s harmless and deserves to live as normal a life as she can. She and Ken bond over their mutual love of books. Yoshimura even has ghouls go on “shopping trips” to pick up suicide victims, avoiding killing. It’s a philosophy of “mainstreaming”; playing by as many of mankind’s rules as they possibly can.

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It’s also tremendously difficult, as Ken is quickly learning, and those who pull it off like Yoshimura and Touka deserve his admiration. We witness what happens to bold, reckless ghouls who cross the lines; they’re taken out one by one by the odd couple of CCG detectives: the young, stoic Amon and the slightly mad-scientist-y Mado. They’re ultimately after Rize, which means they’ll soon be on Ken’s trail.

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This episode excels in that it underlines how many new threats and hazards and difficulties Ken now faces, right up to the end when a menacing-looking guy in a blazing red suit barges in the cafe, apparently drawn there by Ken’s scent. But at the same time, it shows us that Ken’s life isn’t really that bad, that he’s starting to get that others have it far worse, and shows him all of the ways he can make this work.

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Barakamon – 03

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It’s not very often an episode comes around where I’m snickering or laughing almost the entire time, but this was one of those. It all starts with the stern, severe, hard-as-stone gaze of SAMURAI HARU, capturing the pride and maturity a youngin’ feels when she’s learned something new, the Kana on a chocolate bar and milk carton, in this case. Of course, when she’s corrected, the swagger vanishes and she’s back to being a little kid.

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That’s the first of a series of vignettes the episode starts out with, enticing my palette and leaving me wanting more, then getting something a little different that produces the same effect. It’s a tactic similar to that used by chef Thomas Keller to relieve well-off people of hundreds of dollars and many hours of their evenings…and it works.

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When Seishuu goes to the town general store, he learns a clever way to pick up fallen needles (YEAH BITCH! MAGNETS! OH!), and also gets a taste of the older villagers’ thick and all but indecipherable dialect, one that sometimes even leads to misunderstandings between each other. It’s also funny that one old lady thinks another is hard of hearing, when she really isn’t.

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The most sustained bit comes when Seishuu and Tamako end up going for the same bottle of ink; Seishuu lets the younger Tama have it (foreshadowing the episode’s eventual moral) for her manga manuscript, which Tama humbly asks him to take a look at. When he dare question the highly questionable content, Tama lets him have it in Full Mangaka Passion Mode.

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She’s extreme, but Seishuu can relate; they’re both artists, after all. That encounter segues to Tama lending him her favorite manga, then getting worried she accidentally lent him one of her incriminating BL mangas she secretly treasures (her whole story of how that came about is marvelous). She arrives at Seishuu’s house to clear up the misunderstandings he may be harboring, only to see him apparently locked in a passionate BL embrace with Hiroshi, which is another misunderstanding (Hiroshi merely caught him from falling).

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In the midst of all this island craziness, Seishuu had shipped off his latest and most expressive calligraphy for an exhibition, but is outraged and crestfallen to learn he only managed second place, losing to an eighteen year old whelp. When other whelps show up with their cheerful demeanor, he snaps at them, but again, Tama understands his passion, and she takes Miwa and leaves, leaving the cheering up to Haru, who keeps it simple: “Are you having fun right now?…If you’re not, let’s go have some!”

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She urges him to take a plastic bag and come with her and everyone else to the mochi-tossing ceremony to commemorate the building of a new boat. Seishuu is warned to stay away from the professionals (Yasuba and Panchi) but be aggressive. But again and again, he bounces off the crush of people, and is unable to snatch up a single mochi, despite being young above average in height, and keen.

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The ceremony is a simplified analog to his current situation with calligraphy: striving to be the best is futile: there will always be someone better. Pressing against those waves of reality is a waste of effort. It’s better to, as Yasuba says, say “Go on ahead” to the one who barges past. Yield to what must be yielded to and wait for the next opportunities, which will come with patience. Never stop fighting, but avoid unwinnable struggles.

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This was probably the best Barakamon to date, besting out the first episode (Don’t despair, first episode! Second Place is good too!). But I wouldn’t be surprised if a future episode comes along to best it. But for now, this is it, and it was glorious and hilarious from start to finish. From Samurai Haru and Psycho Poodle to Tama’s fujoshi ravings, it looked like the artists had as much fun drawing and voicing this one as I had watching it.

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Stay Observations:

  • “Kids grow up so fast.” LOL. Loved Giant Haru stomping off to the horizon.
  • The screaming noise Tama’s manga made when he slipped it out of the envelope was a nice touch.
  • “Society demands story elements it has never seen before,” proclaims Tama. Could she be talking about the show she’s in?
  • The BL manga that changed Tama’s life? Overtime Work Lovers: “Huh? You’re still here?!” That title is GOLD.
  • Tama uses Hideo Nomo’s “Tornado” delivery to throw the manga against a wall.
  • Seishuu and Hiroshi’s “embrace” literally blows Tama away…Akira style.
  • More village etiquette: Panchi knows she’s a heel during mochi-pickings, so she leaves home-cooked apology meals at the homes of those she wronged.
  • In the omake, Haru is appropriately mortified by how the schoolmaster (who looks and sounds like a gangster) uses crayfish as bait.