Gunslinger Stratos – 04

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I’ll admit, I was going to drop this last week, but for the fact it ended with the unexpected death of a character who’d had a non-trivial amount of screen time up to that point. Yes, much of that screen time was spent setting up death flags for her, but it was still a shock to see Sidune get taken out so quickly and gorily. Everyone reacts how I’d expected, which is both good (no one acting out of character) and bad (such reactions are predictable).

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While the first half of the episode was about mourning the dead and dealing with the fact it wasn’t any one person’s fault, the second half was all about moving forward, and on to the next battle the Timekeepers set up. Life goes on, except for the people turning into dust. Tooru and Kyoka also had a nice little moment of shared grief, but their would-be kiss is unfortunately interrupted by an alarm.

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From there, it’s back to 2015 Tokyo, and more battling with their alternate doubles. Both the other Sidune and Olga get badly injured, and the two Toorus race each other to the goal gate atop Tokyo Sky Tree, in a sequence that really did the massive structure justice in terms of accentuating its sheer scale (only Burj Khalifa is currently taller).

Still, my drop reprieve was only for one additional episode, so this will be all from me, reviews-wise. I imagine if I was a big fan of the game I’d be a little more passionate about it.

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Denpa Kyoushi – 04

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Kagami-sensei’s latest lecture kills two birds with one stone: teaching Irregular Twintails (Makina) the true dignity of maids (Akiba, not regular), while encouraging Potatoes (Kiriko) to get back to doing what she loves: performing as the underground maid idol and YouTube sensation “Cutter Girl.”

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Makina puts up a fight, offering her Wikipedic knowledge of real-world maids and dismissing the Akiba kind as “fakes.” Even so, she agrees to serve as a maid at a cafe run by a friend of Kagami’s who has gotten serving down to an intricate science.

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Kagami, or rather the cafe where he brought Makina, makes a decent case for the dignity of Akiba maids by showing her the amount of skill, initiative, creativity, and people skills required to make a diverse array of “masters” happy. Sometimes that means acting cute or subservient…sometimes it means being standoffish and rude.

He paints maid cafes as a microcosm for society at large, but Makina fires back that most of society doesn’t “get” or approve of maid cafes, so she can’t let Kiriko continue lest she give the school a bad image.

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In the B-part (which Kagami announces by tapping on the fourth-wall), Kagami arranges a live performance in front of a growing crowd of people, with the idea being if society doesn’t approve, she’ll make them approve by delivering a dazzling performance.

Potatoes, suddenly full of confidence, calls Makina’s bid, stating she’d be able to weather explusion better than not being able to do what she loves. She then takes the stage and becomes an instant hit online and off, with Kagami pulling the logistical strings. Now, it would hurt the school’s image if they did expel Potatoes.

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While I’m glad the show seems to be back on track with regard to Kagami tackling the problems of a student or two per week, this will be my final review of Denpa Kyoushi. It’s far from terrible, and often downright charming. In a lighter season, or with higher quality visuals, I’d keep it. But the fact of the matter is I’m reviewing more shows than I want to this season, and Denpa’s iffy production values made it vulnerable for culling.

Class dismissed!

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Yamada-kun to 7-nin no Majo – 03

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In addition to its ability to smartly construct episodes that go off in interesting and unexpected directions, 7-nin also does quite a good job balancing comedy and poignancy without coming off as sappy. It reminds me a lot of Majimoji Rurumo, only with far more refined character design.

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It’s also clever in the way it brings up situations in which one’s gender makes a difference, such as dealing with the President, Yamazaki Haruma, who doesn’t give men the time of day, which turns out to be a red herring. The Prez can tell from their smell that he’s talking to Yamada and Miyamura, not Urara and Itou. But that’s fine, because he has a job for Yamada: convince Urara to apply to college. Then he’ll get his club budget.

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Yamada, Miyamura, and Itou are then confronted in an outdoor corridor by Vice Prez Odagiri Nene (Kitamura Eri) and Igarashi Ushio, the latter of whom seems to have some kind of undisclosed history with Yamada. Ushio mocks Yamada for being Miyamura’s “dog” now, while Nene warns Miyamura that she, not he, will be the next President.

Turns out Miyamura has more banking on their deal with Yamazaki than Yamada and Itou realized. But Miyamura assures them it’s not just about him anymore; he honestly wants to see the club succeed. He also warns Yamada that if they fail, Yamazaki might shut down the club altogether.

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The interesting mechanics of the body-swapping play a crucial role in Yamada’s ultimate success, though it doesn’t seem like that at first, what with Urara suddenly swapping bodies with Yamada, who not only gets Urara’s body, but her nasty cold as well. Assuming she tricked him so she could study at school, she goes home…to Urara’s house, with Miyamura and Itou tagging along.

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What I love about where this mission takes the three is, despite his delinquent rep, Yamada’s the most not-okay with snooping around Urara’s place, even if it could reveal clues about why she doesn’t want to apply to college. But Yamada finds something else out about the home and Urara’s life; something not immediately apparent to the others: the home may appear “normal”, but it’s also an oppressively lonely place. Even her photo albums are full of forced smiles.

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Not coincidentally, when Urara comes home in Yamada’s body, angry as hell he ditched her (even though Yamada was sure the opposite was the case), we see that what truly hurt her was opening the clubroom to find no one there. When she remarks how it’s lonely whether she’s at school or at home and tells him to go home, Yamada gets the picture and decides he’s not going anywhere.

Even though her face is turned, her memory of the empty clubroom made it clear she wished Yamada had disobeyed her, so she’s elated when he comes back with a damp washcloth. Then he proceeds to shock her and me by making a deal with her: he’ll make a serious run at getting into college, if she comes with him.

With the prospect of college no longer just another setting in which to be alone, she accepts, just as the sun comes out. It may seem fast, but let’s not forget these two have shared bodies, kissed several times, and come to learn a lot about one another, including sides of them no one else knows about.

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That would have made a fine ending, but 7-nin wasn’t quite done. Why close on a poignant moment when you can close with the realization of Yamada’s precious dream of having a microwave in the clubroom, which was his initial motivation, after all.

Only it doesn’t turn out quite as wonderfully as he’d dreamt: not only does Itou microwave his prized yakisoba bread too long while still its plastic wrapping, Yamada’s own body has caught Urara’s cold, which makes sense, as he kissed her twice. You know you’ve got your Couple Card when you’re making each other sick!

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Sidonia no Kishi 2 – 03

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Kobayashi’s coup went off without a hitch, and she immediately changes Sidonia’s course, both literally and figuratively, in a chilling scene that makes it obvious there was no love lost between her and the not-so-Immortals. And yet this doesn’t mark any kind of sea change in the day-to-day operations of the ship, nor do higher-ranking officers like Yutaha have any problem with the new change of leadership. After all, Kobayashi’s bosses never were in the spotlight; it’s hard to mourn their loss. Or maybe Yutaha is simply being pragmatic.

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Either way, big changes in how Sidonia wages war are being implemented, from upgrading the armor of the Type-18 frames, to impregnating Placental Hoshijiro with a human seed, making her Tsugumi’s mommy. I really like the creep-factor this kind of sci-fi body mod/body horror stuff lends to Sidonia’s “world,” one already full of oddities.

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At the same time, this episode doesn’t forget about the sheer majesty of simply floating outside Sidonia. The careful camera placement and motion really sell the idea of how vast space is, and how the terror of that vastness can cause people like Kobayashi to take extreme steps to preserve their tiny civilization.  

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Where Sidonia continues to flail and fail is at comedy, particularly anything involving Nagate seeing naked ladies. All of the careful physics go out the window as they resort to cartoon violence, smashing a heavy metal door into Nagate, who hits the wall hard, and then has the door smash down on him, a sequence that would surely have put him in the hospital.

Like a previous instance in the first season where his face swelled up after getting beaten for a similar transgression, seeing his CG face get bent up here breaks the uncanny valley in a bad way. But most of all, this attempt at lightweight comedy comes off as ham-fisted and obvious, nothing like the expert precision of other areas of the show.

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This is more like it: giving us a glimpse into Yutaha’s spartan quarters gives us a glimpse into her character off-bridge: she dresses down, builds scale models, and tries to keep up with the news. Sure, emergency maneuvers would send most of the contents of her room flying along with her, but those are rare enough.

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While checking the logs of who’s gone to see Tsumugi, Yuhata discovers Nagate and Izana have been occasional visitors. I was expecting some kind of confrontation, but instead Yuhata is merely curious, and the others even invite her to lock hands with them, as they had come to do with Tsugumi (or rather Tsugumi’s balloon “sock puppet” avatar). Tsugumi continues to nicely toe the line between cute and creepy.

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When her sharp eyes spot a 500-core Gauna force heading their way, Kunato requests to intercept it with Tsugumi. Yuhata wants to see how she works in a formation, and so denies the request, but she’s overruled by Kobayashi, who is eager to see the full extent of the chimera’s powers. Perhaps because Kunato wasn’t among those who locked hands (a pilot superstition I’d expect him to shun), things go very wrong when he flies Tsugumi into a Gauna placenta trap. This, after Kunato guaranteed defeating the force would be a cakewalk.

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Two more of Sidonia’s strengths are its thrilling launch sequences and visceral pilot POV shots, both of which contribute to an adrenaline-laced sci-fi spectacle to end the ep. With Tsugumi neutralized, it’s up to the conventional Guardes to avert disaster on the very first leg of Kobayashi’s very possibly ill-conceived new course.

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To that end, all the Guardians that launch—96 in all—lock hands into a ring formation and blast away with authority, which is another Sidonia strength: immensely enticing cliffhangers. The strengths definitely outweighed the weaknesses this week, as they usually do with Sidonia, while building great anticipation for next week’s big battle.

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