GARO: Honoo no Kokuin – 03

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“Better get used to me, kid!”

GARO slips right back into high form in its third outing, which starts with the receipt of a cool floating-rune message that “Zaruba is complete.” After crossing paths with Emma Guzman in their inn (by “coincidence”), they waste no time rushing to the secluded home of the Makai Alchemist Gael, who fought alongside Leon’s grandfather, who was the last Garo.

They don't hang about, do they?
They don’t hang about, do they?

We get a short but sweet flashback to when a sixteen-years-younger yet far more world-weary Herman is still on the run with lil’ Leon, and asks Gael to fix the Madou Ring that allows the Golden Knight to contract with Zaruba and lend him his strength. All this plot and terminology could have been a ponderous ordeal to sit through, but it’s all very easy to follow, and it’s delivered with flair, which this show has in spades.

Leon looks a lot like his dad, as demonstrated in this flashback
Leon looks a lot like his dad, as demonstrated in this flashback

Like German, Gael has an apprentice of his own, Marcelo, who is eager but somewhat inept, a fact Gael is quick to remind him of for launching a neat “drum-needle” barrage a the approaching Makai Knights. But in sixteen years of watching Gael work on the ring, the idea took root in Marcelo’s mind that Herman would never return, and that the ring would fall to him. He hides it well, but he’s pissed Herman came back.

Whatever Gael is doing here, you gotta respect the energy! "Ah, FUCK IT, I'M THROWING IN THE LOT!!"
Whatever Gael is doing here, you gotta respect the energy! “Ah, FUCK IT, I’M THROWING IN THE LOT!!”

Marcelo has the sense to make sure Gael has completed the ring before killing him and snatching it as Herman and Leon sleep. When he bumps into Emma in the forest (who’d slapped a tracking device on Leon at the inn), Marcelo even thinks quick on his feet, overpowering her, then maintaining his innocence with Leon, claiming she killed Gael and stole the ring.

You're ah...you're not lookin' so hot there, sport. You okay?
You’re ah…you’re not lookin’ so hot there, sport. You okay?

Marcelo must’ve remembered the helpless boy Herman brought with him sixteen years ago, and even if he didn’t know Leon already inherently distrusted Emma, is able to easily convince him she’s the bad guy. I really love the scene where Emma thinks Leon passed and exhales, only to get into a heated but short fight, which ends with Emma telling Leon he’s been had: Marcelo has become a horror.

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As one would expect, even though he’s probably distraught over Gael’s death, Herman doesn’t swallow Marcelo’s fiction so easily, mostly because Gael was killed by a sword like Marcelo’s; a weapon Emma would never stoop to as long as she had her spool of string. The jig is up, and Marcelo, cornered, finds to his dismay that Zaruba will only contract with the Golden Knight, which he ain’t. Furious, he transforms into his monstrous Horror form.

"This should be good..."
“This should be good…”

Again, Herman leaves the work to the kid, who transforms into Garo and takes it to Marcelo-HORROR like a Final Fantasy protagonist to a major boss. Leon’s little skirmish with Emma was cool-looking enough itself, but once he dons the armor the combat spectacle takes on a whole new level, suitably accompanied by Garo’s sweet battle theme.

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Look around--choose your own ground...
Look around–choose your own ground…

When he finds an opening, he punches through Marcelo to get to the ring, briefly enters a sparse scene that resembles some 70s prog-rock album cover, and meets and contracts with Zaruba, who has a surprisingly personable voice (though not as goofy as say, Excalibur’s, though that would have been cool too.) Zaruba not only strengthens Garo, but calms his flames. Calmly, smoothly, Leon slices and dices the horror into oblivion.

Cue Victory Fanfare; tally EXP. CONGRATULATIONS. (Wait…why the hell is this eight minutes long?):

Now in possession of the restored Madou Ring, Leon can become a full-fledged knight. Afterwards, Emma takes off on her own (though I’m certain they’ll meet again), and the father and son continue on. That would’ve been a fine place to end, but this episode wasn’t done yet, giving us BONUS GARO by checking in on Alfonso, now a fugitive on the streets of his own capital by rights.

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He learns to his horror when defending himself that it isn’t just regular police being sent after him, but DEMON Police (which are, like Marcelo, of a pretty cool-looking design; not bad for grunts), which he simply isn’t equipped to deal with (yet). So it’s a good thing, then, that a Makai Knight was in town to save his life, waste the demons, and then pose stylishly with the moon as a backdrop.

"Hey. Hey Alfonso. Take a snap for my Instagram, yeah?"
“Hey. Hey Alfonso. Take a snap for my Instagram, yeah?”

It’s a thrillingly efficient closing scene that assures us the show hasn’t forgotten about Alfie, that he still has a lot to learn about that thing round his neck, and that he and Leon are sure to cross paths at some point.

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Yuuki Yuuna wa Yuusha de Aru – 02

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Inutozaki, Itsuki, Yuna, and Togo wrap up their first missing and are returned to the roof top of the school. Of course, since time froze during the battle with the monster, they are missing class…

However, logistical problems aren’t the real big deal here. The big deal is that Togo is not only angry that she had no warning before being nominated for hero’ship (and thrust into a do or die battle to save the world), she’s angry at herself for deserting her friends and feeling helpless.

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Togo’s conflict boils up during their first post-kill briefing in the club room. It doesn’t matter how forward Inutozaki is now, it doesn’t matter how reasonable her secrecy was, and it doesn’t matter how much Yuna and Itsuki are down with how things played out: Togo is pissed, gets snappy, and exits the room.

Yuna follows to fix things and we get a funny familiar-as-boobs joke to break the foul mood.

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As you would imagine from this kind of show, the next big-bads come sooner than later and this time there are 3 all at once! On the plus side, there will only be 12 total, which means we have plenty of episodes left over for a swimsuit/hot springs episode, a school festival, and a 2-part finale!

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So the battle unfolds the way a second battle should. The new enemies are stronger, more interesting, and provide a variety of individual challenges. Most significantly, the attack as a team.

The second battle also brings Togo into the fold as a full suited-up hero. I have to say, her costume design is awesome! I mean, I was curious how YYwYdA would handle her legs and the design choice does not disappoint!

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Basically, Togo’s legs are still useless. However, these scarf-like arms hold her upright and let her move around. It’s downright creepy by cool looking and, since Togo is the teams sniper, we get an interesting nod to SAO2. If that’s a thing we should be wanting.

Enemies defeated, friendships mended, and purpose set — everything is in place now for… well… for whatever the next major plot twist turns out to be!

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Ai Tenchi Muyo! – 08

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Kurihara’s mocking of Tenchi’s phallic heirloom charm is interrupted by another battle between StuCo and the Science Club, over the latter’s demands and former’s refusal of more materials. Tenchi and Kurihara break up the fight. When Hachiko is sent to the warehouse to retrieve some materials for the Drama Club, Tenchi tags along to help.

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All of a sudden we’re back at school in the “present”, and get another dose of the continual squabbling between Fuka Yuki’s Science Club and the StuCo, of which Momo is technically President, but which is actually run by everyone else. There is much rancor and discussion about these precious “materials”, but the episode refuses to elaborate on what exactly they are, which is fine. If they don’t care, why should I? All that matters is the StuCo has ’em and Yuki can’t have ’em.

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Another neat moment was that Tenchi was able to easily stop the blow of Kinojou Beni, who we know is one of the heavies, along with Hachiko, among the students. His charm also seems to have some kind of power, and a “Miss Junai” Contest is imminent. But what awaits Tenchi and Hachiko in that sketchy warehouse? I can’t very well not keep watching to find out, now can I?

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Gundam: G no Reconguista – 04

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Aida pointing out the fact not much happened this week

When the Capital Army Commander hears that Director Zellam, Noredo and Raraiya have been “taken hostage” by the pirates, he uses it an excuse to launch a military attack under the guise of a non-military rescue mission. Not only is the justification and classification flimsy, it violates the “Ag-Tech taboo against the advancement of science.” It would seem the use of advanced warmechs like Caitsiths is to be minimized as much as possible as the world “recovers” from what must have been a destructive, catastrophic war that may well have had beginnings just as modest as a captured official’s son.

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WAT

Where I start to kinda lose Recon in G is this taboo: I mean, if certain levels of technology aren’t allowed, why do the Caitsiths and Rectons and whatnot exist? I mean, shouldn’t building them have been just as taboo? It doesn’t really matter; the condition of the earth is kind of in the background anyway. Taboos aside, Bellri’s own instructor Dellensen leads the Capital Army mission to rescue him and the civvies, resulting in another somewhat awkward battle and the deaths of several men, none of which had to actually happen.

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I will say, that is a nice classic design

While Bell is piloting the G-Self to further examine it on Lt. “Genius” Klim’s orders, Capital arrives, giving the pirates an ultimatum. Bell wants to talk them down, but when the crucial moment to do so arrives, he learns he can only receive, not send, communications. Klim picks a fight, and the needless battle ensues, in which Dellensen loses a good number of pilots. Still, they’re nameless, faceless pilots that we can’t and don’t really care about. The typical Gundam Move of One Side Retreating for the Time Being ensues, and we’re back where we started: with Bell, Noredo and Raraiya as “guests” of Aida and the pirates.

"How long do I have to Mondaysit?"
“How long do I have to Mondaysit?”

Somewhat worryingly, on top of being an episode with a battle that only happened because of a stupid busted radio as the centerpiece, there was little to no character development for anyone. Bell and Aida’s interactions were all business without even a hint of romance, Klim is still a punk who’s constantly calling himself a genius, Noredo is just kind of around, periodically glaring at Aida, and Raraiya continues to be an amnesiac cypher. Is she ever going to be able to talk normally? I hope so. I hope a lot of things happen next week, because the retro sheen is rapidly fading.

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Yuuki Yuuna wa Yuusha de Aru – 01

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Sanshu Middle School Hero Club flew so low under my radar for the past two weeks that I almost didn’t watch it. Then, as it looked to be a low steaks civic-minded girl power middle school slice-of-life club genre piece, I almost didn’t finish it. However, one detail caught my attention:

Togo-san, one of the four central club members, is handicapped and must ride out her life in a wheelchair.

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In fact, I almost dismissed YYwYdA as wheelchair-awareness-porn. Not that making people more aware of the disabled, and showcasing their challenges passively through a slice of life drama is a bad Idea. I imagine their population is as glossed over in Japan as gnomes, psychics and the transgendered are here.

Still, this season is packed tight with good shows and a middle-of-the-road slice-of-life with blushing girls trying to do good in middle school didn’t seemed like a hard sell to me. Ethically righteous or not.

Then, plot twist.

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Half way through the episode, club president Inutozaki Fu let on to her sister Itsuki that she had a bit of a secret. Since they’d been talking about the school’s cultural festival and what the club was planning to do for it, I just assumed all her barely hidden shame was, well, kid stuff.

Like she had another responsibility and, despite being the anchor of the club, was going to dump it on Itsuki-chan and didn’t know how to get out of it.

I did not, however, expect that she had scouted the club to be volunteered to defend Shinju-sama (God?) from the Vertex, world destroying monsters!

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One class-interrupting cell call later and Inutozaki, Itsuki, Yuna, and Togo (aka Wheelchair-sama) find themselves transported to a colorful world with a large, abstract monster bearing down on them.

Togo completely loses her shit. She’s been in a wheelchair a long time and the idea that she has to suddenly fight — physically fight — a giant monstrosity or die is understandably hard for her to accept. And this week, we don’t even see what that will ultimately look like.

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It’s a cute touch that their cell phone’s all have an app that ties them together, and ties into their powers. Like everything else, I’d written it off as a funky looking chat-app that was either aping something in Japan that I’m not aware of or was slightly sci-fi for funsies.

While it’s a little silly watching the girls talk to each other over their phones during battle, it works. It certainly points out how difficult communication and coordination would be for untrained fighters who don’t have access to magic brain-to-brain com lines or military style headsets.

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So, is this worth following?

Short answer: Yes! (At least for now.)

Long answer: I can’t exactly call using a handicapped character bold, but it is unusual and I didn’t expect the show’s twist at all. The magic uniforms are pretty nice too, and the world is generally beautiful, even if it has a bit of Trinity Seven’s muddy gray/black color pallet splopping on the school uniforms. At the very least, I don’t know what to expect and will give it another episode!

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Danna ga Nani wo Itteiru ka Wakaranai Ken – 03

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Danna ga Nani wo Itteiru ka Wakaranai Ken Episode 3 is the most slice-like slice of life this short-format has produced so far. What do I mean?

This week’s scene was so truncated, it’s difficult to even call it a scene. It was, essentially, just three jokes strung together.

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(I’m not counting his screenname as one of the jokes)

Joke 1: Husband and his little brother/sister have no friends (except the internet)

Joke 2: Husband’s little brother/sister is oddly pervy and implies they should have a circle jerk. Then he’s sent home on the train. (like last week)

Joke 3: No one knows Husband’s little brother/sister is male and, at a physical otaku meetup, one of Husband’s online acquaintances decided to make a move on brother/sister. Husband approves, if only to do away with both of them for now.

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Wife’s role in this was to make the first two jokes. That’s about it.

There isn’t anything to say about this week’s offering. It is visually acceptable, uneventful and toes the line of being funny but it was devoid of content to an absurd extreme. Again, it functions because it is short but it would probably function as well if all the micro-parts were strung together into a single normal format episode.

Maybe.

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Shirobako – 02

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Shirobako is a strange beast. It’s well-animated, well voiced and the plot and characters are moving on nicely. However, that plot is about a plucky young studio making a fictional anime, is deeply involved in the particulars of making anime in general, and features a cast so broad there is no way we will ever remember their names or come to know more than a sliver of them.

Oh yeah! Not only did it introduce new characters this week, but it sent a toss back to the opening of the first episode to remind us that the true story here is about the five girls who wanted to go into animation when they were in high school.

Ahhhh!

shirobako2_7Harry Potter is in the cast now…  for some reason.

This week, Exodus hits a few stumbling points. First, episode 3 and 4’s keyframe animator is sick and second, the wishy-washy director wants to redo a lot of work very very late in production.

Both of these challenges fall on the shoulders of our heroine, who’s name I can’t remember because she’s one of 40 characters zipping around all the time. Rather, she’s usually sitting down, but we are zipping from scene to scene.

Zooooom!

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Obviously, our heroine saves the day by finding a replacement keyframe lead and deftly directs the development conversation into better understanding the characters, and making those characters compelling enough for the crew to get on board with reanimating them.

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Then Exodus’ characters come alive right on top of the conference table. I have no idea if this was a literal scene or just an over the top manifestation of the crew’s communal vision.

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Because a show with a cast this large needed to introduce each voice actor for it’s own fictional anime. Rock’n!

Given how mundane yet technical Shirobako’s plot is turning out to be, not much is popping out for me to comment on. The show isn’t dull, per se, it’s just…unimportant? I mean, it’s hard to care about the world-building of an office that is debating world-building.

Yes! I went to art school for eight years, and Yes! I’ve done technical management and development in the creative industry for ten years, so Yes! I see this stuff all the time. But even I don’t find it very compelling storytelling.

…Yay?

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Cute jab at the industry and, basically, this week’s only “joke”…

I honestly don’t know what to make of this show. I’m not even sure I’m going to stop watching it — it’s very easy to watch and, while the characters may be played out if you have to work with people like them professionally, nothing is unbearable. But…

I mean what am I really watching? Why does this exist? It’s not especially compelling and the core characters are buried in extraneous other content. Crushed under it. Hrm…

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11 Pink-Haired Anime Characters of October

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October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Is it mere coincidence that so many characters appearing in anime this month have pink (or pinkish) hair?

Well, actually yes…yes it is a coincidence.

But who cares! Let’s go down the rolls of eleven Fall 2014 characters who sport the somewhat unnatural but very visible hue atop their heads, in alphabetical order:

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1. Amira

Shingeki no Bahamut: Genesis • CV: Shimizu Ai

There are really two Amiras: the innocent, curious young woman (with pink hair) riding horses, imbibing and dancing for the first time…and the bad-ass demon warrior whom even hardened knights can only tickle with their magic. Her hair is also very very pale pink…though I wouldn’t call it strawberry blonde.

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2. Asami Lilith

Trinity Seven • CV: Hara Yumi

Lilith is a teacher at the Magic Academy, and introduces the protagonist Arata to the magic world. A bit of a prude, it’s nevertheless clear she likes Arata, as most of the other girls in the show do. I guess her hair is more rose than pink, but I’ll allow it.

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3. Ersha

Cross Ange • CV: Koshimizu Ami

Also spelled “Elsha” in some places, We haven’t seen much of Ersha yet, but among the older First Troop pilots, she seems to be the nicest and friendliest, and doesn’t have any particular beef with Anget. Of course, who knows, she may tear Ange’s kidney out and eat it next week…the show could go that way. In any case, Ami is one of our favorite seiyus.

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4. Kanzaki Tomoyo

InoBato • CV: Yamazaki Haruka

While she’s tended towards the common “I like the protagonist but will NEVER EVER admit it!” pattern so far, Tomoyo is still one of our favorite pinkhairs because of her playful, knowing chemistry with Jurai. Also, she can stop, slow, or speed up time. Sure, her hair is more crimson than pink, but according to Wikipedia, pink is really just a pale crimson!

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5. Kawaganare Momo

Ai Tenchi Muyo! • CV: Touyama Nao

Momo is voiced by Touyama Nao, wears flip-flops instead of loafers or uwabaki, and duh, has pink hair. She also definitely wears panties. But seven episodes in, there are more questions than answers about her, like what she really is and where she comes from. But of all the girls Tenchi comes across, she’s the least hostile by far.

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6. Kodachi Nagi

Daitoshokan no Hitsujikai • CV: Tanezaki Atsumi

Another rosehead like Lilith whom we’re still including. We’ve only seen a little bit of her, but one thing we already like about her is the fact she’s voiced by Tanezaki Atsumi, who also voiced Lisa in Zankyou no Terror. She also seems to be orchestrating the creation of Kakei Kyoutarou’s harem.

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7. Komine Sachi

Grisaia no Kajitsu • CV: Shimizu Ai

Sachi is almost always in a maid outfit, because friends say she looks good in it. She is also extremely eager to please and dedicated to satisfying demands. In other words, a “good girl.”

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8. Mine

Akame ga Kill! • CV: Tamura Yukari

Mine’s story is pretty simple: she and her people had everything taken away from the empire, she has a big gun that become more powerful the bigger the pinch she’s in, she likes Tatsumi but would never let on, and she has very pink hair and clothes.

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9. Noredo Nug

Gundam: G no Reconguista • CV: Kotobuki Minako

Unlike a couple other pinkhairs on this list, Noredo isn’t really interested in hiding the fact that she likes her man Bellri. But it doesn’t look like Bell likes her quite the same way, a point underscored when he seems suddenly smitten with new girl Aida, who has coral hair. “Noredo Nug” is also such a bad name it’s good.

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10. Serizawa Miyu

Daitoshokan no Hitsujikai • CV: Satou Rina

School radio host and friend (or past friend?) of Misono Senri. She has a cotton candy thing going on with her hair.

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11. Shinozaki “Lisbeth” Rika

Sword Art Online II • CV: Takagaki Ayahi

We probably shouldn’t count Rika for a couple reasons: she’s little more than a cameo in SAO II, and she only has pink hair when she’s “Lisbeth” in ALO. Still, here she is.


That’s all for now. Expect more lists of characters with similar traits in the near to distant future!

Ai Tenchi Muyo! – 07

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Aboard a spaceship in orbit encounters a large-scale gravitational anomaly, it its pilot, Kinojou Beni, launches an escape pod with a young Momo aboard. Back in the past, Tenchi and young Momo are about to knock on a door when they’re spotted by Touri, Hana, and Hachiko, who are looking for a demon.

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They find one in Space Pirate Hakubi Ryouko, whom Tenchi knows, but who doesn’t know him. Ryouko and Hachiko fight, then Ryouko attacks Tenchi, but Momo blasts her back with an unknown protective power. The fight is broken up by the arrival of a Galaxy Police mecha piloted by Kuramitsu Mihoshi, announcing Ryouko is under arrest.

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Whew! That was a mouthful, and a whole crap-load of plot in four short minutes, spanning a whole host of genres. I like how the same characters appear in different times in different garb but more or less the same personalities and roles. I also like how pieces of the great puzzle that started in the beginning are gradually falling into place one by one.

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Like Washuu, Ryouko and Mihoshi are long-standing characters of the franchise, but even if they’re as new to me as the new characters, they add color, flair, and a little more welcome chaos to the proceedings. ATM! is proving an increasingly eclectic and oddly engaging little show. You can’t help but want to see what happens (or who shows up) next.

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Ai Tenchi Muyo! – 06

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After his long ordeal, Tenchi returns to his home, where Sasami and Aeka tend to him, serving tea and helping him unpack a “care package” from Washuu containing items he’d never believe necessary for the task at hand. Tenchi’s relaxing bath is interrupted by a cheeky Ryouko, and Sasami and Aeka come in and add to the unwelcome commotion.

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First of all, man, Tenchi’s got more girls than old men have hair in strange places. The latest two, Sasami and Aeka, are legacy characters from the original show, and there’s a lot written about them over at MAL, though I didn’t read it. Suffice it to say they’re a bit of a combination of doting housemates, sisters, and wives, and Tenchi doesn’t mind having them around…

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Unless they disturb his peaceful bath, that is. To be fair, the Masaki sisters were only responding to the noise Ryouko (another legacy character) was making while pestering Tenchi. But yeah, between all the anal-retentive signs on the walls (and the racket within them) and all the new girls at school he must contend with, there’s clearly not a lot of alone time for Tenchi…although that also means there’s nary a dull moment.

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