Sabagebu! – 08

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Maya convinces Momoka to model for an amateur photo shoot. Unfortunately, Momoka runs into Fried Chicken Lemon, the light-gun champion she defeated a few weeks back, is in attendance. Worse, the Camera Men of Death show up and go all-out against Momoka to snap her panty shot.

Momoka wins at every turn, thanks to some help from FCL, but is ultimately undone by her own kindness. (end act 1)

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Maya shrugs off Momoka’s post panty-shot photo session fury with the words “there’s no such thing as a bad fan.” Little does Maya know how wrong she is about to be proved at their snowy-mountain top show down with the Immaculate and Pure Womans University Survival Game Circle.

Arriving in santa-costumes (Kaya!) complete with skimpy skirts and reindeer antlers, the girls find themselves out classed by the IaPWUSC. Even Momoka is gun downed quickly.

However, Serious fighting is not on LaPWUSC’s agenda and they proceed to chase Maya and gun off all of her clothing. By the end, she’s naked, in a barrel, floating down a river with the girl’s rabidly swimming after her, eating her own words. (episode end)

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Sabagebu! Eight brings us more than its share of fan service, but it does so in such a mocking, annoyed way that I just ate it up. Just think about it! What other show has the gal to pull out a ‘skin’ episode built around fandom being full of pervs and, regardless of their sympathetic reasons for falling into perv.dom, that they are jerks and pervs and hurting people?

I also appreciated the return of Friend Chicken Lemon. Not as a character per-see (he’s not much of a character, really) but I enjoyed that Sabagebu! has a world—a persistent world—to draw actors from and won’t just toss us a new disposable character every episode.

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“They have so much money to waste” – Momoka after the Camera Men of Death return with more cameras.

The first act really drives home how wasteful everyone is in all their endeavors. From the CMoD’s unending supply of expensive equipment just to score a meaningless panty shot on a girl they don’t know, to Momoka herself, he blasts an uncountable number of hairbands at them to protect herself from being photographed by some meaningless pervs. Again, everything was delivered with Sabagebu’s signature liveliness and humor but it was still social commentary.

Color me impressed!

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In many ways, this week’s second act was also poignant: be mindful of what other’s have experienced, lest you experience it yourself.

That said, this is a smaller message and much more of the arc was devoted to simple abuse of Maya, skimpy clothes and over-the-top things going wrong and, for that, it stood out as the funnier of the two segments!

The Survival Club’s ‘transformation sequence’ in particular was excellent this week, due to the addition of santa-garb. While I do not condone Santa and guns during the X-mas holidays, it sure does make for a humorous juxtaposition.

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Another week and another bubbly half hour of fun from Sabagebu! This show continues to surprise me with its depth and flexibility—and even more so that it doesn’t lose sight of why we are watching in the first place along the way.

Above all, Sabagebu is a funny show and it’s fun to watch. Many many thumbs up!

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Akame ga Kill! – 08

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As Big Boss Battles between former mentors and students go, this was competently staged and executed, and there were more than a couple times I wished I had a controller to participate in the battle myself, a la PlayStation. It was still a fun battle to watch, even if most of the beats it hit are well well-trodden tropes and a few moments of plot contrivance are present.

Esdeath’s Three Beasts turn out not to be an enduring adversary, as Bulat halves Daidara without mussing his greased-up hair. When he realizes his next opponent is his old general, he acknowledges that goingout for a beer with Liver would be nice except for the fact Liver’s now working for a genocidal psychopath in Esdeath. An Esdeath underling is automatically an enemy of the people and of peace, which outstrips whatever bond Bulat and Liver once shared.

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I like how there’s never any doubt in Bulat’s convictions. Liver, both because of the past they shared and acknowledgement that his student has surpassed him, still asks Bulat to join him and Esdeath. But Bulat refuses the offer immediately, and doesn’t offer any counteroffer other than a promise to kill him. Liver must sacrifice his life to do Bulat in, combining a poison he takes with his Imperial Arm’s ability to manipulate liquids to make bullets of his own blood.

Those last-ditch tactics, combined with the Liver’s initial advantage while at sea, were all clever ways of chipping away at the nigh-invincible Bulat, and it also reinforces the truth that a fight between two Arm users will always result in one dying, since both died. Less clever, and verging on a plot hole, is how much time a perfectly fit and ready-to-fight Nyau stays off-camera and thus isn’t a threat to the on-camera goings-on.

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Tatsumi initially tries to hold Nyau off, but even wounded, the churl is almost as fast as Akame, so Tatsumi takes a beating. Not to take anything away from Tatsumi (fighting an Arm user without an Arm of his own is impressive in its own right), but for a good chunk of time between Liver dying and the transfer of Incursio, Nyau had a veritable eternity to finish off his opponents.

What holds him back, which is a bit flimsy, is his desire for an entertaining fight, since after fluting himself to He-Man proportions, squashing Tatsumi like a bug would be boring. He also expected Incursio to kill Tatsumi when he put it on, so I guess biding his time made at least a little sense. Instead, Incursio adapts to Tatsumi (and vice versa) just fine, and it’s sayonara, face-collector!

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In hindsight, perhaps the Three Beasts were sent by Esdeath as a lark to give Bulat, a beast of a warrior no army would refuse, one last chance to join them. I say that because in the end, they didn’t seem all that strong…though to be fair, they were up against Bulat and a kid who could potentially surpass Bulat, meaning he could one day match Esdeath, whose strength and beauty Liver came to idolize.

At any rate, Bulat is gone, Tatsumi has an Imperial Arm, and Esdeath is recruiting an all-new five-man death crew, including Akame’s sadistic little sister Kurome,who is voiced by the same girl who voices the not-entirely-wholesome-herself Momoka in Sabagebu!; a nice touch. We’ll see what fresh bloody insanity she brings to the table.

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Space Dandy 2 – 08

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Every once in a while a rare and truly special episode comes along that wraps you up in it like a warm, thick blanket on a cold winter’s night. It’s not the kind of episode an anime, even Space Dandy, can or should do every week, as it would then cease to be rare and special. But when it does come around, it’s a wonderful thing.

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This episode is oozing with highly refined whimsical trippy goodness right from the start, as the camera pulls back from the Aloha Oe’s pinup to show her crashed on a planet with plants growing out of her, followed by a kind of Norse funeral, with a long-haired Dandy as the honored dead. The show often makes fun of blowing up its world and characters only to hit the reset button, but there’s a much more serious tone here.

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Then Dandy wakes up in his viking boat, which crumbles away to dust, and starts wandering a utterly alien and yet immediately comforting world of lush, gorgeous imagery and a similarly lush, immersive soundtrack to match. There are enough visual and musical cues to make this identifiable as a Dandy episode, and Dandy remains the same old Dandy, but there’s a heightened dreaminess to everything around him. Compared with his usual alien milieu, it all feels a lot more human here.

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Everything has this lovely, fantastical, trippy “off” quality to it (reminding me of everything from Ghibli and Bosch and Pink Floyd to Schim Schimmel and Alice in Wonderland), but as I said, not in a threatening way. As it turns out, this is Planet Limbo, a world without sadness, which also means a world without joy, as you can’t have one without having experienced the other. Any world that lacks one or the other is not a world Dandy, or any human can live in happily.

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None of the colorful characters Dandy meets cast reflections in the water, meaning they’re ghosts who are caught between the worlds of the living and dead, and are neither as long as they’re there. Dandy’s not done living yet, so he elects to board one of the awesome trams strung along the sky piloted by a strange white girl, a girl who has a brief monologue in the beginning of the episode but otherwise wordlessly watches Dandy from afar.

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This girl is Limbo, the avatar of the planet itself, the only living thing left on a world whose civilization destroyed itself long ago. Now that another living thing, Dandy, is there, she has fallen in love. But loving him, she is willing to let him return to the living world he treasures, even sacrificing the planet’s remaining energy to send him back. As it turns out, Dandy hit his head on a lever in the Oe during a choppy ride through a dark nebula.

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When QT and Meow see him passed out over the lever, they assume he’s sleeping and leave him be, and he returns to Limbo on the same Tram he left on. It’s a very sudden and bizarre but strangely sweet twist, because it means Limbo will be reunited with her love, suggesting that maybe, with at least some life among all the dead, there can be joy in limbo after all.

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It seems unfair to call this just another anime episode. This was a 24-minute psychedelic cinematic masterpiece: an offbeat exploration of life, death, and in-between; soaring vistas; a wealth of memorable images; a simple little love story for good measure; and an absorbing, truly inspired and score that complements the visuals and themes perfectly (if you enjoy DSotM, you’ll dig this music too). The only downside to this episode I can see is that its greatness will cast a long shadow over the show’s five remaining outings.

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Barakamon – 08

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This week offers two slice-of-life stories that reinforce how nicely Seishuu has fit into the village, and how close his bond with Naru has gotten without him knowing it. In the first story, it’s Naru’s seventh birthday. After Miwa and Tama get ¥1000 out of Seishuu for a cake, he realizes he must also get her a suitable gift for Naru.

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Unsurprisingly, most gifts deemed “suitable” for a seven-year-old girl aren’t going to cut it for the precocious tomboy. His first thought is bugs, sending him on a bug-hunting adventure with the three village boys her age. This exercise backfires, since in addition to the fact the boys have already chosen to give her bugs, Seishuu is completely inept at catching them, and even when he manages to do so, falls off a ladder and kills it.

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The evening of the party arrives, and Seishuu’s last-minute half-assed gift—a hand-written, one-time “do whatever you say” ticket—ends up thrilling her immensely, to everyone else’s surprise. It just goes to show that Seishuu cares enough for Naru to want to give her a good gift, and knows her a lot better than he gives himself credit for.

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In the second story, it’s Obon, and Naru’s grandpa asks Seishuu to keep Naru company as she holds vigil over her grandma. It’s another new world for Seishuu, as he’s not used to a graveyard in the evening, lighting lanterns and setting off fireworks. He’s also mesmerized by the Onde dance performed for the recently deceased.

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Hanging out in the graveyard, and more to the point, being totally welcome there despite being an outsider, again drives home the fact that this village is becoming a home to Seishuu. Being there also makes him wonder where Naru’s parents are, and realizes that despite almost constantly being surrounded by people, Naru gets lonely too.

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In the beginning of the episode, he waters sunflowers despite not knowing who grew them and the fact they could well grow just fine without his care. Later they become a metaphor for Naru. She too could grow up just fine without him, but he wants to be there for her anyway. In an omake dream, the shopkeep’s dog joins him forfishing and asks him why he doesn’t simply settle down here. It’s a good question.

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