Barakamon – 09

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Seishuu may have acclimated somewhat to his remote island village home, but that doesn’t change the fact that he’s a city boy, and there’s still a lot he has yet to experience. Case in point, when his gas-fueled bath heater packs it in, he must resort to foraging for twigs and building a fire in the old wood heater. The village chief makes the point that if Seishuu had a wife, she’d tend the fire for him.

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Seishuu has never bothered with romance, pouring everything he has into his art, reasonably certain he’ll die alone, but not necessarily happy about it. He emerges from the bath and is surprised to find Hiro in the kitchen making his food (his mom was busy). Hiro often seems more mature than Seishuu despite the fact the latter is older, and that’s exhibited when Seishuu tries to “out-prepare” a bowl of miso cucumber rice. Suffice it to say, Seishuu can’t cook…but he’s too proud to admit it.

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Next, Seishuu finds himself in the middle of deep-seeded island politics when Hina tells him Naru is being bullied by kids from the neighboring village. Seishuu and Hiro try their best to reason with, and later intimidate the little punks, but they’re at a distinct disadvantage in that said punks know the adults can’t really hit them, or they’ll be arrested. Turns out the punks are friends with Akki, who resolves the situation simply by passing by. If anything, this segment reminds me of the best strategy for dealing with combative kids: Don’t. Just avoid them if you can.

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Finally, with just over two weeks left until the Naruka Exhibition, Seishuu’s sparks of drawing inspiration in response to his new living situation have grown more infrequent, to the point where he questions the efficacy of simply waiting for inspiration to show up, even though that’s really the only way. After a day of playing Tarzan with the kids, he gets one in the form of a truly awesome sunset. He makes a move back for home, but slips and falls off a ledge.

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Reverting to full City Boy mode, being isolated, alone, and lost in the dark terrifies him, until he sees a glint in the grass and finds the key to his house Miwa had lost. Then he gets his second flash of inspiration of the day: a majestic star field. His resulting drawing, with white writing on a black background, is another fun, striking, inventive piece he never would’ve attempted before coming to the island. Which begs the question: what is said to him on the phone that makes him so quickly and easily agree to leave?

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Akame ga Kill! – 10

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This week Tatsumi is by Esdeath’s side almost the entire time, scores a lot of solid intelligence on the Jaegers, and is used as a body pillow. I’ll be honest: it’s a lot of fun watching him behind enemy lines. He (and we) end up seeing sides of Esdeath no one else has seen, a gentle, kind Esdeath, to the point he wonders if it would be possible to convince her to switch sides and join the rebels. This, of course, is not the case, as Esdeath has a strict “Survival of the Fittest” philosophy.

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Furthermore, she’s not interested in him changing her principles: it is she who will change his. She has fought and won countless battles, and this is another one of those to her, only completely different in how it’s waged, and very exciting to boot. I must say, while it could be easy to play Esdeath’s affection for Tatsumi, the show finds moments to show us that Esdeath is quite serious about being in love.

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Also, Esdeath knows what she feels and respects it rather than trying to shove it down. She doesn’t see it as weakness, but as a challenge. So even when Tatsumi escapes while on a hunting mission with Wave, Esdeath is still confident she’ll see him again, and not simply force him to see things her way, but legitimatly convince him to support her of his own free will. That’s the true battle.

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Frankly, I hope Tatsumi does end up back by Esdeath’s side at some point, even if there’s virtually no chance of her suceeding in turning him, because his time with Esdeath and the Jaegers was frustratingly short, especially when you consider this show has a whole other cour to work with. And not just because watching Tatsumi squirm around Esdeath’s genuine affection.

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Watching him interact with the Jaegars was also fun, particularly the “Him” of the Jaegers, Wave, with whom he shares much in common, including a running commentary on the strangeness of his colleagues. Still, it’s also good to see a friendly face in Akame, as she rescues him from a danger beast. Akame vows to be the one to kill Esdeath, while her sister vows to kill her. And with Dr. Stylish Johnny-on-the-spot with the Tatsumi tracking, those confrontations can’t be far off.

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Space Dandy 2 – 10

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Yet again, Space Dandy demonstrates that it can handle a conventional human love story as deftly as the most tripped-out existential alien fantasy adventure. Of course, even the alien tales are based on elements of the human condition, but sometimes it’s nice for Dandy to have another actual human to relate to in a universe full of non-humans.

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The only two recurring human characters are Honey, with whom Dandy has a more playful, less personal relationship, while Scarlett has been teased before as a more serious, mature potential mate for the Dandy, and despite the fact she looks down on him, it’s clear she’s simply doesn’t have that many other choices out there. Space is so big, the saying “Not even if you were the only man in the galaxy” is a claim that can be legitimately tested.

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That’s exactly what happens when Scarlett asks Dandy to enter into a contract whereby he pretends to be her boyfriend, a plot line normally reserved for high school romantic comedies, but which can be an endless font of said comedy in the right hands, and Space Dandy’s are almost always the right hands. But because this is also a sci-fi show, Dandy can also blend elements of that genre; specifically, Gundam.

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In a bit of a masterstroke, Scarlett’s ex Dolph is a Gundam pilot who utilizes its capabilities to stalk her incessantly. It’s a hilarious look at the possible downsides of putting emotionally weak or stunted young men in such powerful machines. The close-up of the mecha’s red-glowing eyes being repurposed from igniting fighting spirit a to creepy obsessiveness.

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Going to Planet Trendy, which has any possible date setting trendy young couples crave, allows for lots of different environments in which Dandy and Scarlett carry out their week of fake romance in hopes Dolph will get the picture and go away. He doesn’t, but sticking him in the corner of every idyllic romantic setting makes for great visual gags.

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Also deliciously ironic: while Scarlett is behind the desk of the Alien Registration office, Dandy only ever has failure to show her, but while on their dates, he keeps ending up “hunting” (i.e., being chased by) legit rare aliens. It’s almost as if Scarlett is his unwitting muse. This sudden rise in fortune for Dandy mostly irks Scarlett because he’s doing this stuff on their dates, when he’s supposed to be looking after her.

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This episode is packed with so many great moments, like Dandy and Scarlett parting ways at the end of the day, only to come running at the sound of her scream. Turns out it’s only a spider, but that spider is horrifying, and in the act of neutralizing it, Dandy destroys her entire house, after which the two can only laugh about it. It’s nice to see Scarlett’s hair down, armor off, and cheeks flushed.

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Eventually, Dolph can’t take it anymore, alights from his Gundam, punches Dandy out, and gets way too close to Scarlett. Dandy realizes that the only way to get rid of him for good is to kiss her, and that sends Dolph into a fury worthy of a climactic Gundam episode, only he’s arrested, jailed, and has a restraining order filed against him. With Dolph off her back, all that’s left is to end her arrangement with Dandy, a day early, too…but their parting is melancholy, and both end up back at home feeling miserable that it’s over.

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The icing on the cake of this episode is one last gorgeously staged romantic interlude, where the two meet at the bar like they were scheduled to, only Dandy is just a minute or so too late, and so the storybook happy ending doesn’t happen. Things go back to normal with Scarlett at the office and Dandy showing up with crap, but they exchange looks that indicate that things are at least a little different.

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Tokyo Ghoul – 10

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Our friends at Anteiku may have enjoyed a period of peace and calm in the time between Mado’s death and the previous episode…we just don’t get to see a lot of it. Thus, in this way, despite the disorientation of a time-jump and a crapload of new characters—some more interesting than others—the tension is kept up in a show that needs tension and peril to thrive.

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An all-out war between Ghouls and Doves isn’t just “coming”, it’s already here, as Aogiri Tree riads the CCG’s 11th Ward precinct and slaughters every last Dove. Marude, the guy put in charge of the response who very much looks like he’s trying to pop his skull out of his face, has decided to evacuate the ward of all humans in preparation for a massive strike.

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There’s a lot of sneering, eye-bulging, and yelling going on this week, as tempers run short and hot. Worse, Aogiri Tree’s aggression is utterly destroying any chance of detente between the races of the kind Anteiku has successfully achieved. Of course, by harboring Rize’s vessel Kaneki Kei, they made themselves a target of radical ghouls and “special” Doves like Suzuya Juzo, who I hope is insufferably repulsive on purpose.

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This episode also marks the end of a good run of episodes in which Ken wasn’t kidnapped, as a sequence of n’er-do-wells darken Anteiku’s door, starting with Banjou (who resembles a DRAMAtical Murder character), his three masked and numbered underlings, Touka’s brother Ayato, and then, in a case of Bad Guy Overkill, the comically huge and comically-attired Yamori (why a leisure suit?) and his gay stereotype partner Nico.

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We like Banjo’s volatile personality, kooky underlings, funny swirl beard, but he’s too quickly edged out by Ayato, who’s your typical cliched Evil Sibling who only seems to exist to make life more miserable for Touka, and the less seen of Yamori and Nico the better; they really class down the joint with their ridiculous, bordering-on-silly over-the-topness.

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Case in point, an inordinate amount of time is spent on Yamori beating the ever-loving shit out of Ken because, oh I don’t know, the episode has time to kill. And yet, despite varying between seven and ten feet tall, the bear-like Yamori isn’t even able to do much physical damage to Ken.We see showers of blood, but it’s hard to care about the beating when we know Ken isn’t really at risk of being killed. The show just likes using him as a punching bag a little too much.

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In a nice grasping of the concept of gender balance many other shows struggle with, this results in a case of the girl (Touka) having to go save the guy. She won’t be going alone, though. Yoshimura is tired of all these nutjobs messing up his lawn and hurting his friends. He’s closing Anteiku until further notice, and along with Yomo, Nishio, and even ‘lil Hinami, he’s going to help rescue Ken. We’ve seen the bad guys’ teeth, now it’s time to see what the good guys can do when fully mustered.

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Sword Art Online II – 10

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On the one hand, I watched a good deal of this episode with a firm frown on my face, bitterly annoyed and disappointed that Sinon is, for lack of a better word, comprehensively emasculated from the in-game bad-ass we liked so much since her first episode, and put into the position where the steady, reliable Kirito has to rescue her, even if she’s not even sure she wants to be rescued.

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“It’s all good Sinon. We all have our days when we’re not at our best.”

On the other hand, that Sinon we liked never really existed. She was only a front; a shell Asada Shino created when she started GGO as a form of therapy. In other words, when it was just a game. When suddenly confronted with a trigger for her PTSD—namely, the gun she used to kill someone—she crumbles and can no longer pull the trigger, but there’s nothing out of left field about that; it makes sense, when taking all her circumstances into account.

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THERE…That wasn’t so hard, was it?! (It was.)

The flaw in Sinon’s goal, as laudable as it sounded in theory, was that even if she was recognized as the strongest player in GGO, it wouldn’t have any effect on the Asada Shino in the real world. Sinon was a persona, and a fragile one, that the reality of her psychological issues was simply too much for. So while we’re disappointed Shino had to hit rock bottom, it’s better for her illusion of strength to be broken now, not quite halfway through, so she can begin the process of becoming stronger the right way (whatever that is).

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You may ask yourself: “But Hannah, if Sinon gets so worked up around Death Gun and her past, why is Kirito such a cool cucumber?” Well, I have a few answers to that. Sinon had to kill when she was just eleven years old; she killed in the real world, getting literal blood on her hands; she was ostracized by her peers. Shino got the shorter end of the stick all around, and had a far weaker support system. Long before Kirito was trapped in SAO, Shino was trapped in a prison of guilt and self-loathing.

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For the record: the “Circle of Chanting Mean Kids” trope should really be retired.

She’s still not completely out of that prison, and Kirito is still in one of his own. As cool and composed as he was this week, he still can’t guarantee he won’t abandon her, turn tail and run when that Death Gun is pointed at him again. Storms of fear and doubt rage beneath his calm exterior, Sinon just hasn’t seen it’s full extent, while we (and Nurse Aki) have.

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So…when does he break it to her he’s spoken for?

I’ll be honest: the show is currently breaking zero ground in having the girl rely on the guy so much thus far, but I can accept this setback provisionally if it represents the first step towards her properly dealing with her past (Wishful thinking? We’ll see!), which could lead to a stronger, more stable self. That’s a greater possibility now that she knows Kirito shares the burden of having killed for real. She’s been working so hard to forget about what she did, but Kirito did forget, and can speak from experience: forgetting and plowing ahead will never be as effective as acceptance and forgiveness.

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