Kantai Collection: KanColle – 03

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In her first mission briefing, Fubaki and her fellow ships learn that after their recent and successful attack on the Abyssals’ base, a massive enemy counterattack is expected. Before that happens, the Admiral is sending Torpedo Squadrons Three and Four to capture “W” Island in a surprise attack.

On a personal level, Fubaki is very uneasy and worried she’ll slow everyone down, and feels undeserving of her senpais’ tokens and words of support.

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One night before the battle, it is Mutsuki who puts Fubuki at ease, saying she believes in her, just as Mutsuki’s sister ship Kisaragi believed in her. In a touching flashback, we see Mutsuki take damage in a battle, but Kisaragi stays with her until help arrives and throughout her repairs, forming a bond that goes beyond respect and appreciation and into love.

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At dawn, Fubuki goes out to train a little more before the big night battle. She runs into Akagi in the harbor, who hits a bull’s-eye with her eyes closed and imparts the words “Shoot true, never miss.” It turns out Mutsuki was the one who brought Akagi to Fubuki.

Both Mutsuki and Fubuki express frustration and being unable to ever repay their friends and senpais who have helped them. Akagi assures them no one expects nor needs to be repaid; a simple “thank you” will suffice, and for the recipients of their goodwill to “shoot true” and “never miss.”

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Akagi’s words weren’t just meant to guide Fubuki’s conduct in battle, but in life as well.

“Don’t hesitate to tell the people you care about the feelings you have for them. Because they may not be there tomorrow.”

They’re simple words, but easily overlooked, and beautifully stated. Akagi says this as the morning sun rises out of the horizon, just as the power of her words dawn on Fubuki and Mutsuki, who promptly thank and express their love to one another on the spot. Fubuki also voices her respect for Akagi and her hope they’ll fight in the same fleet one day.

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As for Mutsuki, well, the death flags fly free for the majority of this episode, especially when she tells her sister ship Kisaragi “she needs to tell her something” when they get back from the battle. The bittersweet tone of the music, the words by Akagi, Mutsuki’s flags: they all point to something sinister; the coming battle won’t be a cakewalk.

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Once at the island, the Sendai-class light cruisers launch their Type-0 recon seaplanes, but the element of surprise is almost immediately lost, and Squad Three retreats from an enemy torpedo squad right into the jaws of two enemy carriers launching swarms of fighters.

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Well and truly in the shit, Squad Three takes a defensive formation and fights for survival as they attempt to meet up with squad four. For a hot second, it looked like Mutsuki’s death flags were going to strike true, when Fubuki swoops in at the last second, aims true, and doesn’t miss.

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Everyone stays alive long enough for the the big guns of the Second Fleet (including the fast battleships Kongou and Hiei) to shoo the enemy squadrons away. “W” Island wasn’t taken, but the Fleet Girls suffered no major losses…

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…Until a solitary, straggling Abyssal fighter catches a relieved Kisaragi unawares, firing a bomb right into her stern before blowing up himself. Kisaragi explodes and sinks into the deep dark sea.

KanColle got me for two reasons: One, I was distracted by all of Mutsuki’s death flags to notice it was really Kisaragi in the crosshairs.

Two, I’m not well-versed in naval history enough to know that in real life, the Mutsuki-class Kisaragi was the second warship sunk during the war, in the Battle of Wake Island (hence the “W”. The island on Nagato’s map even resembles the Pacific atoll). FYI, Kisaragi was sunk by USMC aviator Capt. Henry T. Elrod on Dec. 11, 1941, by detonating the depth charge stores in her stern with small-caliber bombs.

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Also, even though Mutsuki (“January”) was the first ship of her class, Kisaragi (“February”) was actually launched and commissioned before her, making her Mutsuki’s “big-sis”. I had no idea the story would hew this close to history. It’s strange, but so far, it’s pretty historically accurate in terms of what went down during the first attempt to take Wake.

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Having nothing to do with history is the fact that, in KanColle, Mutsuki is not just a ship, but a girl who just lost someone more dear to her than anyone else, whom she was planning to confess her love to. But while we’re aware of the tragedy that has befallen them, Mutuski and Fubuki remain unaware of the sinking through the end of the episode. They race out to the cape at sunset, waiting for Torpedo Squadron Four, and Mutsuki’s love, to return. Excuse me…but…sniff…does anyone have a goddamn tissue?

This episode basically fixed all of the drawbacks of the first two episodes: the reliance on fancy visuals, cute character designs, and novelty of the fleet girls (though all were still present), and the lack of a tough enemy or heavy stakes. The affection and camaraderie of the girls was stronger than ever here, and while she was only a minor character and it was a bit telegraphed, Kisaragi’s loss was still palpable and her demise shocking in its practical portrayal. KanColle has my full attention.

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Stray Observations:

  • It’s hard to tell without checking MAL, but a mere handful of seiyus are voicing several characters each. For example, all three Sendai-class cruisers and Nagato are voiced by Sakura Ayane, while Suzuki Aya voices all three Akatsuki-class destroyers. That’s some nice range right there!
  • While Mutsuki, Kisaragi, and other ships with fleet girl characters were involved in the Battle of Wake Island, Fubuki was not (it was in Hainan then French Indochina), which suggests events will not unfold precisely as they did in the real-life Pacific War.
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Kiseijuu: Sei no Kakuritsu – 15

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This week’s Parasyte starts off as many previous ones have—one of the titular monsters snatches up some lunch—with two key distinctions. First of all, he’s being watched and followed by an associate of the Kuranomi (the P.I.). Secondly, before that associate meets his untimely but inevitable demise, the parasyte has a lot more personality than we’re used to. With a wry grin and taunting self-scolding for letting himself be followed, he seems far less animalistic and far more like, an evil human villain.

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When Kuronomi recruits Shinichi to accompany him to the garage, they find another parasyte about to feed. Ryouko’s outwardly “civilized” crew have made the garage a discreet dining area. The activities may be different, but such a location is as suitable for humans to misbehave as parasytes.

Kuronomi films everything as Shinichi lunges out of the shadows and dispatches the parasyte (who isn’t quite as emotional as the cold open’s), but not before the monster kills the woman, with grim efficiency, in the blink of an eye. In case you’d forgotten: Yes, humans are very very weak.

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After witnessing that murder, and the monsters dueling, Kuranomi is OUT. Forget his high-minded talk of helping to save humanity, he has a wife and kid, and neither the strength nor courage he credits Shinichi with having. While I can’t blame him, at the end of the day he’s exhibiting It’s the typical “I’m just one guy, what can I do” attitude common to normal humans.

Shinichi knows he’s not a normal human anymore. Keeping Satomi at a distance and reaching an impasse with Ryouko; all of it has been to prepare for a war he has only a vague idea how to fight, against a foe he doesn’t know as well as he thinks.

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Shinichi believes himself well-informed on the evolution of parasytes—just because his right hand is one of them—at his peril. Ryouko’s crew initially has varying opinions (more human behavior), but they eventually come to the consensus, Ryouko included, that Shinichi is a threat that must be eliminated. Her only proviso is that they bring him back intact enough for her to dissect him; it would be a waste to destroy such an enlightening subject.

As one parasyte plays Chopin beautifully on the piano (in nothing but boxer briefs) a chilling spectacle, he and another discuss sending someone named “Miki” after Shinichi. Their demeanor suggests he’s a tough one.

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Speaking of chilling spectacles…Good GOD that was a creepy nightmare, where a pale, demonic parasite with Migi’s voice shows Shinichi his reflection, and he sees his face rotting away. I’m not going to read too much into this, but could that skeletal wight be Shinichi’s final form, once all of his humanity is sheared away? I shudder to think.

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Like I said last week, just because Shinichi is trying his hardest to make Satomi hate him doesn’t mean she’s going to cooperate. This is because she isn’t an idiot; she can connect the dots and arrive at the possibility that everything Shinichi is doing, including keeping her in the dark, is to protect her.

If she’s ever going to re-enter what’s left of Shinichi’s life, she’s going to have to force her way in. But she’s neither strong enough to break through the bars of that gate, forged by Shinichi to keep her safe, with the unfortunate but unavoidable side-effect of keeping them apart. If Satomi is with Shinichi, she is the very definition of unsafe.

But weak as she is, I’m inclined to believe it should be her choice. Calling Shinichi a paternalistic bastard is oversimplifying, but he is dictating how Satomi should live her life. She has every right to fight and die by his side rather live without him. It’s not logical or self-preserving, but love seldom is.

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I’m not saying having Satomi around is a good idea, of course. But the Ryouko crew’s carefully-implemented plan is executed just as Migi has to go to sleep, resulting in a four-hour period that’s both thrilling and oddly casual, as even without Migi Shinichi can still get away with the best of them.

When Migi does wake up in the nick of time, Shinichi learns that all three of the parasytes after him are really contained within the body of the single guy chasing him, a very expressive guy named “Miki” who is confident the battle is over and he’s won before it begins, but I doubt that’s the case.

With thrice the cutlery, Shinichi and Migi are suddenly up against their toughest opponent yet. I don’t doubt they’ll find someway to survive and possibly even defeat Miki, but there’s sure to be a cost.

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Franklin’s Take:

I remain a fan of parasyte’s world, characters, and disturbing emotional dilemmas. I especially enjoy Migi and his ongoing evolution towards a more human human than Shinichi (in current hybrid form) That said…

Meh? The animation has become a bit ho-hum, we’re retreading Shinichi’s emotional ground and nothing is really moving forward that hasn’t been put into place for weeks. It’s also a bit average, by Parasyte standards, we didn’t get a good fight or gore/terror injection this week. So, despite enjoying the show and the occasional bit of dark-black-humor, my verdict is much lower than Preston’s.

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Binan Koukou Chikyuu Bouei-bu Love! – 03

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The world turned completely upside-down this week as Binan Koukou was hysterically fun time and Yatterman was a dull sad slog.

While I truly believe Yatterman has more potential in the long run, it’s lucky that it’s getting another week to show off against Binan because if I called it here, I’d call it for Binan in a heartbeat.

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I don’t even know how to sum up Binan this week. Certainly, there’s no way I’ll be able to capture how funny it was by explaining the jokes to you.

In a nutshell, the boys are bored again this week but, instead of following Binan’s formula of waiting around for a monster to show up and then defeating it, they are much more active with a school wide plot before the monster appears.

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That plot is the 1579th Binan High School Pretty Boy Contest, which they only participate in because Pink is deeply frustrated by his popularity stalemate with the pretty boy on the student council.

It’s more complicated than that and involves choosing club activities based on the paper quality of other club’s flyers (for use as paper airplanes) and the other guys get into the contest because they are so very bored and it annoys their wombat to no end.

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Remember that Binan is an all guys school and that all of the characters are straight? Well, so do our heroes… at least, in theory. They get pretty carried away in their struggle to win the pageant.

In fact, Binan delivers the most over the top penis joke in the form of Orenge’s bank statement, which is glowing for some reason and the implication that he’s showing it to another man at crotch level while standing at a urinal. It’s epic and I don’t want to spoil the others but each participant accidentally wins the loyal heart of the guy or guys who’s proving a point to.

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Then the ballet club advisor turns into the black swan and actually seduces the Battle Lovers before Red defeats him with a bit of therapy!

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What sold it: the serious effort the Battle Lovers put into winning the votes of their classmates would be at home in any slice of life romcom or BL but the work better than that here because the Battle Lovers are only doing it for boredom and spite.

That aside, the timing of the human was spot on and, at the end of the day, I have to wonder how much of the rest of the series will call back on this episode where half of the cast has accidentally made it look like they were BL players.

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My only criticism of this episode was that the boss fight followed the normal formula and, while the black swan was a good image, it just wasn’t as funny as the first half of the episode.

Verdict: I am sorely tempted to give Binan a 9. By far, this provided the most laughs of any show this season and, while Binan won’t make anyone’s best of the best list, its solidly built and smart.

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Weekly OP: Yuri Kuma Arashi

Song: “Ano Mori de Matteru” (あの森で待ってる; I’ve Been Waiting in That Forest) by Bonjour Suzuki

A clarion chorus, breathy, sensual vocals, and lush, crisp visuals of girls in various states of undress or bear-dress nuzzling and licking one another: it’s like being slowly lowered into a bathtub full of honey in a forest; something admittedly not everyone would want done to them! But while it is on the cutesy/suggestive side, it’s pretty much a pitch-perfect start to the show. Like that honey bath, it’s best to take it slow.

Be that as it may, Love Bullet Yurikuma Arashi’s OP is probably as polarizing as the show itself. However, if you like what you’ve seen so far and are still a little lost, I recommend this essay written by Gabriella Ekens over at ANN, which provides some satisfying, stick-to-your-ribs analysis and poining out several references I missed initially (and kudos to commenter Tausif for sharing that link).

Yoru no Yatterman – 02

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This week’s Yoru no Yatterman follows the course set in the first episode but the result is significantly less satisfying. I could go so far as to call it dull.

The retro costumes and revenge structure is still there, and it’s still juxtaposed with bleak environments and a population that is obviously starving. So what isn’t working?

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Leopard has renamed herself Miss Doronjo, and her henchmen Boyaki and Tonzra after their ancestors. Each member of Doronbo experiments with his or her new identity a bit — Doronjo acts a bit reckless, Boyaki tries to add double-entendres to his repertoire, Tonzra …smashes stuff, and Honorable Oda the pig becomes the group’s problem solver.

They quickly find an alternate rout into Yatter Kingdom via a book called “The Secret of Seikan Tunnel,” which is about a train tunnel and probably significant if I knew anything about the Japanese rail system, but I don’t so if it was a gag it flew over my head.

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After clearing the rubble at the mouth of the tunnel, Boyaki, who also calls himself Boyayan sometimes which is also probably a joke that I don’t understand, builds a wacky mine-car and they zip through.

Along the way they pass several lighted placards that the show clearly wants us to notice: The first is a station or destination sign, which probably identifies where YnY takes place in modern day Japan. The second features an angel girl, who is referenced at the end of the episode.

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The last placard features a dopey Basset hound… which I also don’t understand the significance to. However, I vaguely remember Ghost in the Shell’s director Mamoru Oshii having a thing for Basset Hounds, which comes up more in his terrible live action eastern European anime-inspired cyberpunk movie Avalon but I have no idea what that has to do with anything?

You may have noticed that, only a few minutes in, I’m don’t generally know what YnY is making jokes about or, if they even are jokes, why they would be funny. Considering how sparse the visuals are (the tunnel is basically empty except for our heroes and the mine cart) I felt no connection to anything.

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When Doronbo reaches Yatter Kingdom, they build a head-flicking robot and fight the Yattermen. Well, not actually the real Yattermen. Rather, a near infinite stream of robot Yattermen who chant “Yatter Yatter” and eventually overwhelm them.

While still painted in the dreary cold, wet aesthetic elsewhere in the show, and slightly weirdified by a shadow filter that frames many of the scenes, this is the best part of the episode. All the contrasts work well, the villains are interesting, and the mecha is delightfully silly/old school.

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Fleeing for their lives, Doronbo is turned away by the various Yatter-citizens they meet. In a call back to the maple-leaf-eating of their own poverty, the Yatter-citizens are doing the same thing, living in the same poor wooden houses, on a muddy, plant less earth.

If it weren’t so slow and directionless feeling, these scenes would be interesting too. Obviously, if the Grand Yatterlands are as destitute as the Doronbo lands, we must wonder what the world is like or, guessing based on the art from the original series in the 70s, what has happened to make the Yatter-lands so terrible since then?

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Unfortunately, these scenes are slow and the Yatter-bots’ chase sequence is very long and it watching it just feels so hopeless.

What also felt hopeless was the attempt to pump slapstick humor into the mix. Take Honorable Oda’s gigantic fart scene, where he’s just been saved by Tonzra as he falls from a tree. Huge, well animated gas attack ensues, which re-alerts the Yatter-bots and resumes the chase.

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The episode ends with Doronbo drying off at an empty house’s fire when a blind girl walks in and decides Miss Doronjo is the Angel she’s been waiting for all this time.

It’s all a big…Whaaaa?, and in the same way that any ‘plot twist’ annoys us when it comes completely out of left field, the entire story felt like a confused, random, mess that was written for an audience that does not include me.

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So what worked? Watching the characters review a children’s book for how they should act, and not be able to capture those identities (or even want to) was clever and lent a playfulness to the central trio…that feels totally out of place with everything else.

I loved the vehicle design too. This is definitely subjective, but the “hand shaped battle mech designed to flick” struck me as charming. The Yatter-bird vehicle was less so, but still matched the retro vibe and when it ‘spits’ a missile at Doronbo, I really did get a “Haha that’s so stupid” laugh out of it.

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Nothing else worked. More specifically, the flow of action and the movement of the narrative were constantly coming to a halt. Shots of Doronbo standing around. Shots of Miss Doronjo looking and thinking and feeling… stuff. Stills with added ‘brush’ effects. It’s actually impressive how little actual animation happened in this episode and how a jerky pacing can crush any enjoyment you may get from wacky antics.

I’m confident there’s an intelligent reason for all of this and I just don’t have the cultural awareness to ‘get it’ but that doesn’t make it any easier to watch.

I must admit, I was completely surprised by this turn of events. I think it’s very likely that Yatterman will be a more interesting show than Binan Koukou over the long run but, even with its silly premise, I had a lot more fun with Binan’s second outing than this.

I guess Yatterman is lucky it’s getting a third week. Otherwise, I’d be very tempted to drop it.

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