Rail Wars! – 08

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The girl standoff is defused in the ep’s first two minutes, which I thought was a good move. Goofy harems? Not so exciting. Emergency organ delivery runs via draisine? Way more exciting…not to mention topical! The story is simple: a storm has caused rockfalls and mudslides, knocking out rail service, but one of the train’s passengers is delivering an organ that won’t be viable by the time service is restored.

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Enter D4, who are in earshot of the dilemma and are ready and willing to do what they can to get that organ to its destination. Naoto, Aoi, Haruka and Shou have the blessing of both Narita and a high-ranking JNR official, and are assigned to a vintage four-man draisine to make the trip along the abandoned but possibly open old line.

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Naoto comes up with the idea, after Haruka offers to deliver the organ on foot, which is admirable, but would probably take too long. The draisine itself is a nifty mechanism in which to place D4: a small, temperamental machine in which the four members of D4 must work together as a cohesive unit, relying on one another’s individual strengths to traverse the not unperilous 11.2 km distance.

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I also like how this draisine’s operation isn’t as simple as pedaling and braking, as D4 finds out. Due to time constraints, Haruka speed-reads the manual and fills in the others in transit. Notably, the numerous bends in the track make the little car lean to one side, requiring the muscle of the group, Shou and Aoi, to lean out of one side or the other to provide counterbalance.

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It’s super-dangerous, daredevil work, but it’s absolutely necessary to prevent catastrophe, and neither hesitate in their task. Aoi even tears up her best dress in order to gain more freedom of motion. This crazy roller coaster ride turns out to be a far better test than any simulation without being as heavy a responsibility as driving a full-size train loaded with passengers. They still have lives to protect: their own, and one life to save: the organ recipient.

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At episode’s end they’re halfway there, reaching the old part of the line fouled by branches, roots, and other obstacles. That is, the “easy part” is over, and it didn’t feel that easy, which means the hard part should be that much more interesting. What I know for sure is that this episode was a lot of fun, which along with the bomb threat and concert episodes, form the three reasons I’m glad I’ve stuck with this show.

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Love Stage!! – 07

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The opening romance is cut short by Ryouma, who’s furious with despondent Izumi and storms out. Izumi goes back to sleep and dreams of Lala-lulu’s world.

There, he’s about to join Evil Lala-lulu’s side — he even gives the good guy gone bad speech — but is saved at the last moment by Good Lala-lulu.

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Izumi wakes and reads hundreds of missed calls and texts from Rei. Izumi realizes Rei really cares about him, and that he’s always known this but been too stupid to admit it.

Ryouma returns with a surprise: he had Izumi’s manga reviewed by no one other than Lala-lulu’s creator (and Izumi’s idol)! Izumi’s mind is blown, both by Ryouma’s ability to get such a thing and by the kind words from Lala’s creator, which amount to “you suck now but have passion — keep that passion and gain experience.”

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Izumi comes to terms with tackling life’s challenges and resolves to go back home and enter show biz.

Rei is happy to see him and collapses in exhaustion (having been awake for 60 hours straight) and all is well.

Izumi tells Ryouma that he’s like a brother to him and Ryouma kisses him good night. “take a good look. i’m not your older brother” (end episode)

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“Dreams and Hope are nothing but Illusions” – Evil’zumi

And with that, Love Stage!! slams the ball out of the park. I can not stress how well this episode works as a closer for the series. The actors are all clearly introduced and their roles have a natural direction to follow — and if you omit the rapey-part of episode 3, all the relationships make plenty of sense.

Yes! the show will continue on to a happier ending a few episodes down the line but, for me, I’m taking this as a great stopping point. Everyone is happy. Everyone is hopeful and there’s nothing to look forward to but some serious BL from here on out.

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“Dont you dare mock my feels for you” – Ryouma

Was Love Stage!! worth a watch? Yes! I’m glad i took a chance on it. (at least for this long) However, so many elements of the show either don’t work due to my own gender biases OR don’t work because of the show’s.

Seriously! There’s no way Izumi’s mom would be considered funny for not caring where he is if he were female. (and recently raped and missing for 60 hours) No more than any of the weird yuk-yuk jokes make by Rei over the rape itself. The results just come off creepy and are so consistent that I don’t feel the studio would agree.

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Still, at the end of the day, Love Stage!! delivered a decent drama — and one in a genre I would not usually have watched. It held my attention with decently above average annimation, solid voice work and a deeply desturbing early season twist. For that, all I can say is Thumbs up!

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Glasslip – 08

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This episode could best be summed up thus:

Touka be Glasstrippin’.

[drops mic]

sesameacrylic OUT. Have a good night! Drive safe!

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Huh? Oh…alright, I’ll say a bit more. Here’s what we know: Touka’s hallucinations are getting longer and more intense, now replacing whole chunks of the real world with…something else entirely, including this week’s titular “snow.” They seem to get stronger when she’s around Kakeru—not exclusively so (she has a pretty strong one alone at the glass studio), but enough to make her afraid to get too close to her. Kakeru is also afraid, and with good cause: he likes Touka; I’m sure he doesn’t want to accidentally “break” her!

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That’s about all we know. This episode doesn’t give us any answers, but only deepens and intensifies the mystery. It also has Touka and Kakeru’s “connection” arriving at the point where they can’t hide it from the others anymore, even if they’re worried they won’t be believed (and who can blame them? no one else can see or hear what they do). It’s notable that the episode closes with Kakeru placing his hands on a panicking Touka’s trembling shoulders (right after she envisioned him grabbing and kissing her). Despite the distinct possibility he’s causing this, Kakeru can’t leave her side; not while she’s like this.

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That’s a tricky situation no matter how you slice it; one that either of them would probably happily trade for the more conventional relationship troubles their friends are presently embroiled in. Weakest of these is the Yana/Yuki/Hina triad, in which Touka’s sister continues to observe the other two in a way that borders on the voyeuristic. Back in the pool, poppet! We’re also treated to Yana walking around her house buck naked…for some reason, then she decides to run when and where Yuki ran. Alright, then!

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Yuki, meanwhile, blew town for a late summer track camp, where he fits back in with his old teammates right up until the point they all breeze past him. It could be the case that even taking things nice and slow won’t give Yuki back what he lost, athletically speaking. Or is his heartache causing him to unconsciously loaf? I don’t know, but he’s technically the first member of the circle of friends to have left town (though he’ll probably return) and he didn’t tell anyone (not even Yana) that he was going. Yeesh.

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Touka and Kakeru are getting more interesting as a couple thanks to all the mysterious doins-a-transpirin’, but on the other side of town, our favorite couple doesn’t need any fancypants supernatural whatsit to be compelling. Sachi who is imperfect and wonderful, feels bad about using Hiro, and lonely that he doesn’t show on her last day at the hospital. Momo says Hi, ignorant as she is of their spat (her poor sad car’s deterioration proceeds apace). I love how devastated both Sachi and Hiro are; this is their first time, after all, and it shows. I hope they can make up, or else we’re through, Glasslip.

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Still, while what Sachi did was wrong, and she knows it, I’m not sure she wouldn’t do it all over again if given the chance. Even if she regrets it (and I’m sure she does, considering her reaction to Hiro’s reaction), a part of her also must regret not being able to follow through on her plan to break up Kakeru’s date. Touka’s hallucinations are strange, but they’re also dark. Perhaps Sachi somehow senses that darkness in Kakeru, and her happiness with Hiro took a backseat to her desire to protect Touka. Judging from what I’ve seen, I can’t rule out her being in the right: maybe Kakeru is dangerous.

8_ses

 

Love Stage!! – 06

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Ryouma is finally confronted by his Agency about his relationship with Izumi. Except, everyone assumes Izumi is female. 

Rei takes this opportunity to launch Izumi’s show bix career. Except they have an angry fight because Izumi wants to become a manga artist.

A deal is struck: If Izumi’s submission is accepted in the manga contest, Rei will support him and, if not, Izumi will dive into show biz without hesitation. (end act 1)

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Izumi’s work is rejected. Izumi is rejected. Izumi stumbles through the rain to Ryouma, the only person he feels cares about him.

Izumi spends the night, barely unmolested, only to end up there early the next morning. Cliffhanger sexy time! (end episode)

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“Mister President, Please dont stand on your desk.” – unnamed assistant.

Love Stage’s sixth outing was not exactly the height of drama, but it kept itself sincere (mostly) and had several good lines of dialog. That said, its sincerity was all over the place in tone and I found it a little jarring to bounce from Izumi’s teen-angst life drama to Ryouma’s sex-angst drama. Sure, LS went out of its way to establish a reason for these two characters to have a post rape connection — even a reliance on each other — but the script can’t escape how different the two characters’ stories are in tone.

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Oh! Haha! Rei wasn’t worried about Izumi getting raped. Je was worried Ryouma would see Izumi’s manga. Good joke!

Addressing the juxtaposition of those scripts appears to be a frequent stumbling point. In fact, I’d argue most of the awkward/horrifying humor (see above) stems from the script’s attempt to blend a happy go luck ‘loser comedy’ with the hard edge of sex drama and social messaging. Why else would it present a mega nose-bleed scene for Ryouma as he oggle’s Izumi’s sleeping body? Why else would he fantasize about Izumi not wearing ‘panties’?

Even when the humor works, it feels out of place. Especially from the Lala-lulu break out segments, where Izumi fantasizes about his favorite Anime character roughly contextualizing an aspect of his own narrative. Lala pokes decent, if not cheap fun at the magic girl genre and she works — but only for “Izumi’s Show.”

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“I know I have rational thought in me, somewhere…” – Ryouma.

You’re probably wondering why, despite my criticisms, episode six is rated 8 this week? Well… it all comes down to the closing scene:

Ryouma and Izumi have a lovely morning but Ryouma wants Izumi to do the right thing and call home. Izumi, still being childish and upset, flippantly says he wants to stay with Ryouma forever instead and hides under the covers. Ryouma, calmly but forcefully rips off the covers, mounts a now startled Izumi and asks him if he’s forgotten who he’s talking to. Izumi turns away and says:

“Just do it. I don’t care anymore.”

Then we get a sailor moon style sex scene and the episode is over…

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This reminder that Ryouma is a rapist and that Izumi has been playing with napalm is the thread seriously missing from the past 2 episodes. Maybe it needed to be missing to make this scene as strong as it was. Regardless, and regardless of how you feel about the subject matter, the scene was powerful, thought provoking and well delivered.

Is Izumi now onboard with BL? (at least in a completely apathetic way) Will Rei and Izumi’s family handle the fall out? Where will next week take us?

Have to wait and see!

8_ogk

Weekly ED: Rail Wars!

Let’s face it: Rail Wars! isn’t going to win any awards for its script, animation, or character development, and it’s probably going to remain near the bottom of the Big Board for the rest of the Summer. But I still like it, and when it’s firing on all cylinders, it has great bodacious energy to it.

That energy is exemplified in both its rockin’ OP and more EDM ED. Like another good ED from a middling show (Nobunaga the Fool), it employs a hint of dubstep but never gets too annoying, and the ED’s visuals, with some nice faux-3D animation effects and lens flares, aren’t bad at all. For the record, the closing theme is “OVERDRIVER” by ZAQ.

Rokujouma no Shinryakusha!? – 06

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Satomi challenges The Roommates to each create a script for the Theatre Club, with 5 points awarded for a finished script and 20 points of territory rewarded if the club chooses a Roommate’s script. The amount of turf is too hard for The Roommates to pass up and soon they are all happily competing. 

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Tulip wins by *cough* plagiarizing *cough* a common fable of her people entitled The Gray Princess and the Blue Knight. Her happiness is quickly dashed as actual casting her fellow high school students in the lead roles only plops Satomi and Sakuraba together, furthering their chemistry and chances of hook up.

Little do the Roommates know, another alien has landed via space time quake and is watching them prepare for the play. Clearly, she is up to no good!

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RnS loads the bases this week with an unexpected drive into left field. I wasn’t expecting a two part ‘school play’ episode immediately after a two part beech episode and I was expecting it to present an entirely new, mythical side story even less.

Could Satomi actually be the fabled Blue Knight of legend somehow? Could Sakuraba be his Gray Princess? Everyone appears to be seeing visions along those lines…

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Meanwhile, a giant Rhinoceros Beetle is living in their closet. Long story short: it’s Cosplay Girl’s fault and “Hercules-Chan” is there mostly as a throw away gag to tie into Ruth’s previous unrequited love plot from the beach arc.

That said, something’s going on with that beetle and I wouldn’t be surprised to see it again as a more prominent plot device.

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When did this show get so pretty?

From Tulip’s hologram/bound book to Ghost Girl possessing Satomi to ‘Ghost Write’ her contribution for the script challenge, to the cheap box of curry behind Cosplay Girl, episode six is packed with nice details. In fact, this episode is the best looking the show has produced so far.

So much so that I had to pause and make sure I hadn’t downloaded an OAV by mistake!

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Oddness about a middle shelf show’s mid season looking better than it’s early season aside, what really confuses me about RnS is that it is no longer a comedy.

Sure, Cosplay Girl playing the horse’s ass in the play is funny, and sure, RnS goes through the motions with zany situations like having a Roommate bring home a gigantic beetle but it’s trying fewer than 10 jokes an episode — and that’s counting “we’re embarrassed” style humor.

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I don’t get it? These characters are totally over the top and they’ve been played over the top for 4 episodes. How am I supposed to suddenly shift gears and care about light-touch romantic drama when magic powers and space mecha are still floating around??

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As for the Mysterious New Alien Girl with glasses and cat teeth, who knows? I’m sure she’ll be defeated right away and get stuck in the room with everyone else.

Maybe she’ll be a two-off like the evil Ghost Girl from the beach resort episodes? She’s obviously going to give us exposition and develop Tulip’s back story, which I don’t care about in any way.

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Honestly, if RnS hadn’t upped the render quality (it now has a lighting and color treatment more like Angel Beats!) I may have dropped it this week. Even so, this is not an interestingly rendered show.

Oh RnS…what to make of you?

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