Ao Haru Ride – 11

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Not sure what this exchange was all about, but I warn you, show: I’m in no mood for new characters!

Most of the first half of this episode expounds upon the daily grief, emptiness, and hesitation to care that Kou has felt every waking day since losing his mother. The manner in which he lost her: very slowly; while he was mostly alone with her; while working so hard to get good grades and a good job that he didn’t spend as much time with her while she was healthy; that he didn’t even catch signs that she might not be well, even though he was doing everything for her; that his brother told him to look after mom, and he failed.

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These are the reasons Kou is the way he is, and the reasons he changed so much from the boy Futaba fell for in middle school. And for once, the show comes up with a metaphor for us: it isn’t so much how Futaba puts it: that the door to his heart is closed and double-locked, it’s that the door doesn’t have a doorknob or keyhole. He’s not just keeping people like Futaba and his new friends out; he’s trapped inside, and doesn’t know the way out of there.

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Doorknob, lock, or no, Futaba is determined to break through that door no matter what, not just to let herself in, but to bust him out of the emotional prison he inadvertently built. Futaba is more determined than she’s ever been, to the point that Yuuri doesn’t really seem to have that much of a chance. She may know about Kou’s grief, but when push comes to shove she didn’t have the guts to do what Futaba does, descend upon him like a storm that will blow the door to his heart open.

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As clouds gather in the sky, it takes grabbing Kou, falling upon him, and embracing him tightly, as well as finding the right words to convince him, but Futaba seems to finally make some progress, giving Kou the “permission” he’d always been seeking to feel for someone or something again. That no hole in his heart can’t be filled, even if it takes more than one, or dozens, or hundreds of smaller things to fill it. It isn’t going to be easy, but Futaba is there to stand with and support him in the gradual but necessary process of forgiving himself and moving forward.

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Akame ga Kill! – 11

"I'm not dead! No worries!"
“I’m not dead! No worries!”

From the moment Leone is stabbed in the head, I knew this was going to be a different kind of AGK; one in which for the first time Night Raid will have to repel an invasion of their no-longer-secret headquarters. The Jeager Dr. Stylish, your typical mad scientists, sends waves of foot soldiers and lieutenants at Night Raid, resulting in some nice matchups and a good variety of battles, some of which are faught in their pajamas!

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“Sorry, No time to change.”
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“‘Tis…but…a SCRATCH…”

First, a wrong is righted when Kakusan, bearing Sheele’s scissors, picks a fight with Tatsumi. Both are brawny, but Tatsumi does his job, getting beaten up enough for Kakusan to get too cocky, whereupon Mine arrives and uses her rifle in the worst possible pinch, making the weapon powerful enough to do Kakusan in entirely. The scissors are now back in Night Raid’s hands. It occured to us if Tatsumi’s old sword broke, he could become their new user, but we’ll see.

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Repelling an invasion is tiring work

An HQ invasion is a good chance to see the rear line in action, and we see the ingenuity necessary to ably wield Lubbock’s string arms, as he fights a knight-like foe in a narrow hallway. Lubbock gives way to Akane to lop off limb after limb off the increasingly Monty-Pythonesque knight, but it’s Lubbock who delivers the killing blow, an unsporting surprise blow from behind. But this isn’t the time for fair play; not with Night Raid’s haven and home on the line.

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“That was bugging me.”

After Leone takes out the guy who originally stabbed her (catching another one of his knives in her teeth), Dr. Stylish surrounds the assembled Night Raiders, who all succumb to a weakening poison except the armored Tatsumi. That’s when the cavalry comes into play, atop a giant manta ray danger beast. Najenda has returned just in time with two new members, only one of whom we see in action.

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“Hi-Ho, Tatsumi!”

Susanoo, as he’s called, is a powerful “Human-type Imperial Arm” whose very body is the arm itself, making him the one fighter immune to Stylish’s poison. He also takes the time fix Mine’s mussed hair, lightening the mood. Of course, his arrival on the battlefield leads Stylish to take it up a notch and inject himself with something that turns him into a berzerking monster, as mad scientists in things like this tend to do when they’re out of options.

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“I could use a shower. And breakfast.”

Tatsumi isn’t quite the poisoned Akame’s knight so much as her horse, as he carries her up to Stylish’s weak spot in a nice bit of teamwork. Again, it was good for Najenda and the other newbie not to engage in battle at all, as it’s smart to save some reserve awesomeness for the battles to come. After all, Stylish is just one Jaeger, and probably not the strongest.

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Sabagebu! – 11

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Sabagebu enters it’s final run without a care in the world and, truth be told, we couldn’t be happier! Sure, we appreciate the continuity of Girls Survival Club and enjoy seeing their world fleshed out, but Sabagebu has always placed wacky one-off humor over a season spanning narrative.

On with the synopsis!

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Episode 11 opens with Momoka making a gun-run to Joe’s for Miou. This is a total red herring though, as Momoka never makes it to Joe’s and, instead, is side tracked by a pastry shop. One thing leads to another and Miou’s gun gets plastered with decorative candy ornaments!

The dueling narratives — what Momoka means and what the shop keeper thinks Momoka means because she’s seen Miou’s gun and not Momoka’s cell phone — is fantastic and classic Sabagebu. Even better, it’s a rare case of Momoka not trying to take advantage of someone and being totally bewildered by the results.

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Momoka can’t hide the damage to Miou’s gun for long but her fear of reprisal (I assume Momoka has no capacity for sympathy) is short lived as the chocolate bar grip and weight make the gun more stable and comfortable in Miou’s hand and the cherry/teddy bear combo work as a fantastic site!

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Soon the entire club is back at the candy shop, getting their guns and gear outfitted in candy deco, to the embarrassed horror of Momoka. We can assume the candy shop clerk was none to happy either, still fearing the Momoka as a blood drinking Yakuza. (end act 1)

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Momoka, Kaya and Maya watch a news cast by an old man who’s witnessed the most graceful person walking in high heels ever and, in cinderella fashion, he’s offering a reward to see that person again. Momoka obviously goes all in but has no experience in heels.

Enter Friend Chicken Lemon to the rescue, sort of! Lemon gives Momoka (and we the viewers) a quick history lesson on high heels and culture then begins to train Momoka in their artful use. Unfortunately, this involves walking down a road covered in dog $%IT while balancing a glass of water on Momoka’s head…

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I loved the show’s ‘censored’ dog poop being strawberries. Not only did it tie back into to the previous act but softened the totally gross moment of Lemon sliding across it.

Momoka makes her debut in front of the wealthy man but is unable to be as graceful as he wants. Lemon comes to the rescue again, sort of, and reveals that he was the original walker all along. In a nice turn of events, Lemon is rewarded for his fetishism and act 2 comes to a close.

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Maya is hit first again!

Miou brings a giant, high value crab to share with her club, which has everyone drooling over it’s taste and or cash value. Unfortunately, the crab is still alive and gets into a fearsome fight with Platty. Then it attaches itself to Maya’s face and starts laying eggs!

Double unfortunately for the girls, when they finally over power the crab, Platty joins the frey on the crabs side. Apparently feeling a bond with the beast after locking claws with it, he takes it on a run and a battle ensues across the whole school and town.

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While this final act was not a direct parody of Gainax’s horrible girls with airsoft’s final episode, it gets pretty close. The entire school is drawn into the action, the weapon’s are over the top, and the bodies are piled knee high as the girls chase Platty across the campus. It’s a nice nod to the show we all think about when we think about why Sabagebu may have happened, without needing to homage directly.

The final battle is also nice and consistent with Sabagebu lore, as Maya is the first to get gunned down, followed by Kaya, and then Urara (who Momoka uses as a human shield again). If anything, I was surprised Momoka’s mom and/or sally didn’t end up in the fray by the end but I’m guessing Sabagebu is saving those characters for next week’s final horah!

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The episode comes to a close with the girls accepting the crab into the club, only to accidentally cook him in the hot springs. It’s a clever little end to a cute, mean spirited but often funny show.

I’m gonna miss you Sabagebu. I really will. xoxo

9_ogk

Space Dandy 2 – 11

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That’s not a box…it’s a tesseract!

In its more bizarre yet creative outings, Space Dandy has a knack for imbuing abstract concepts with a recognizable specificity in order to tell an conventional story. Last week and this week were both conventional romances, told in completely different ways. Last week Scarlett hired Dandy to pretend to be her boyfriend, then fell for him for real. This week we see one of the “couple hundred or so pasts” Dandy’s had that he’d rather not re-live, in this case a transdimensional love triangle.

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Little bit of Aubrey Beardsley in this composition, oddly enough.

The cold open set us up to expect a standard tale of a fire going out in a relationship, but it’s good that we don’t see Catherine in this scene, because it would give away the fact that Catherine is a 4D being represented by a tesseract with a beating cartoon heart at its core, which would have killed the mood a bit, at least at first. In the normal 3D present, neither the cat or the robot get what Dandy ever saw, but Honey understands completely: love is love, and it takes all forms and, apparently, dimensions.

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The third member of the triangle is Paul (a simple name for a complex character), who has arrived in the third dimension within his 2D universe, which resembles a full level map from Nintendo Power, which turns anything it touches into 2D. It’s not Dandy who first encounters it, but Dr. Gel and Bea. The Gogol overlords treat it as an invasion, but Gel is a man of science before he’s a man of war, and relishes being transformed into 2D, because he gets to experience the unknown.

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It’s interesting then, that what is a total unknown for a venerable scientist is old news for Dandy. It’s just taken on faith that somehow, he entered into a romantic relationship with a 4D woman, without going into detail exactly how that works, because, after all, love is just as inscrutable between 3D lovers. Cathy’s 4D/2D fling with Paul is even more inexplicable, but it doesn’t matter; the dimensions may as well be different countries, and the lovers’ dimensional differences a matter of differences of perspective.

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Of course, the concept of a romance “just not working out” is a lot easier to quantify in this story: of course things “just wouldn’t work out” for beings of fundamentally different spacial dimensions! But we still see from the way Dandy treats Cathy that there’s still affection there, even if it’s more of the “just friends” kind. The fact they can still be friends and that Dandy would help Cathy out with Paul goes to show that while their past breakup was painful, it was more an act of evolution than destruction.

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Our heads thus firmly wrapped around the love story, the presentation and mechanics of the clashing dimensions is a lot of fun, as the 2D visuals are accompanied by suitably retro 8-bit sound effects. Several video games are loosely represented in the 2Dverse including Space Invaders, Civ, SimCity and Zelda, and the fact of the universe folding itself up like a newspaper, only to be punched through by the Aloha Oe’s giant scissors (an idea that came from Honey) is another crazy but clever way of the dimensions going at it. Gel and Bea’s eventual devolution into zero dimensions is also funny, if a bit chilling (though I’m sure Gel’s lovin’ every minute of it).

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Finally, while Meow and QT often just served as the skeptic and reporter this week, Honey got some nice screen time. Cathy likes how Dandy is now hanging around someone as positive and “spunky” as Honey, while Honey shows off a bit of her self-interest by accompanying the others out of the perceived possibility of scoring with Paul, who is a 2D prince. In the end though, love can’t always overcome looks, as Honey considers Paul’s simple crowned blue rectangle form a deal-breaker.

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Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun – 11

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GSN dash k roars into the final stretch with an episode so packed with charming content and humor that even Sabagebu would blush! I laughed, I smirked, and I appreciated that an end game plot seems to be coming together, which is kinda rare for this genre actually!

First the synopsis!

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Nozaki tells Chiyo about the first time he met Ken-san. In typical Nozaki fashion, he was completely crazy and refused to get close enough to reach, gets ‘puma mom’ over potential changes to his manga (baby) and totally annoys Ken. However, it all turns around when Ken shows a clear knowledge of Nozaki’s cast. Then Nozaki gets a little too friendly…

Interesting note, even though this scene is being told to Chiyo by Nozaki, we see it from Ken-san’s perspective. I don’t know what to make of that decision — not sure if it’s meant to have meaning — but it piqued my curiosity.

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While working on next month’s strip, Nozaki thinks aloud at Chiyo on ways to make the strip more exciting or memorable. In typical Nozaki fashion, his ideas are completely crazy. He proposes the characters have a typical day, featuring a helicopter rescue from a rock wall or everyone carrying knives. 

His final attempt is close, featuring many warm moments with the female lead always zoomed in but totally ruins it when he reveals she’s been riding her love’s shoulders all day long…

Nozaki wants to experiment, as he always does, and promises to show Chiyo something tomorrow.

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“Excitement is hard” – a straight faced Nozaki

The follow school day, Chiyo sits down at her desk. Then she realizes she’s sitting on Nozaki’s back and freaks out! Then Nozaki does a magic trick and offer’s her flowers. This goes well until his hand falls off as part of the trick.

Then they have lunch together and Chiyo is surprised to receive a bento. Then surprised the bento only contains white rice. Then surprised and delighted that curry was hidden under the rice.

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The day rolls on and Nozaki tries many things and, by the end of the day, Chiyo is on constant alert for wacky antics. So much so that she can’t enjoy their nice walk home together. She’s so flustered when they reach his bus stop that she shouts at him ‘Where’s the surprise??’ but Nozaki totally surprises her by saying he just wanted to walk with her. No ‘surprise’ needed.

Sadly, when Nozaki presents his new script to Ken-san, the delivery falls short of his real world experience and Ken politely rejects it.

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Approaching storm metaphor!

Mikorin, Hori and Waka all end up at Nozaki’s to escape the rain and, even though they can all guess the others work on Nozaki’s manga, no one wants to admit it. In typical Nozaki fashion, he takes advantage of the situation and uses it to frame a sleep-over scenario for a future manga.

Hori notices and, being the only one who knows that Nozaki bases his characters on his friend has a mixture of curiosity and terror watching the night unfold. (special note on terror as Mikorin’s dialog is immediately turned into girl talk in Nozaki’s sketches)

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The night wears down and the guys try to talk about some relationships. Hori and Mikorin immediately think about Chiyo and, knowing the time is right, ask Nozaki if he actually likes her. Unfortunately, Nozaki is asleep and the guys get into a rough house moment of excitement over bravado which poor Nozaki had wanted to see and take notes on all this time!

Dun dun duuuuunnnnn!

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Goodness! Episode 11 was packed with development, relationships, a few reveals and an obvious set up for Nozaki and Chiyo to have a romantic showdown in the near future! Between the on coming storm and 2/3 of Nozaki’s boy friends now being curious (and making assumptions) a show down just seems unavoidable.

Will anything come of it? Will Waka/Lorelei or Hori/Kashima get some final screen time? Not likely but I greatly appreciate the show making the effort to get everyone set up. Honestly, I can’t wait to see how it all shakes out!

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