Space Patrol Luluco – 06

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Luluco’s free-spirited, proudly non-normal mom Lalako Godspeed steals both Luluco’s dad’s frozen body and the e-auction is on for the illicit sale of her home Ogikubo. Now just a pile of bones but still full of spirit, the director general has his secretary microwave and reanimate the slab Keiji’s brain they still have

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Bodyless but still in good shape mind-wise, Keiji leads the others on a mission to shoplift back the shoplifted town from his wife, while making a personal appeal for her to return to normality.

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Lalako won’t hear of it, but before she can ship Ogikubo to the winning bidder via wormhole, Midori uses her modded Blackhole app to pluck Lalako’s ship with her gigantified hand. A struggle ensues, and the ship with Luluco and the others ends up in some distant galaxy/dimension. END OF SEASON 2.

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Space Patrol Luluco does what all good Gainax pieces, but particularly Gurren Lagann, excelled at: playing with leaps in scale at a breakneck pace. At first, Lalako’s ship seem’s massive and imposing, as it’s able to grab the highest skyscraper and pull Ogikubo up from its roots.

Then, all of a sudden, the town folds up into a normal brown cardboard box for shipping, and then Midori’s hand dwarfs the ship and the shipping wormhole. It all brought me back to thinking about the classic National Geographic map of the known universe. No matter how huge you think things are out there, they just get huger and huger!

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This episode-let kept up the fever pace of the last one, packed with action, laughs, imaginative twists, goofy justice speeches and blink-and-you-miss ’em visual gags. Suffice it so say, Luluco’s life isn’t going to be normal for the foreseeable future.

At the same time, there’s enough heart present for me to hope for a day when Luluco and her irascible mom can reconcile, even if becoming a family with her dad is out of the question. Not to mention if she’ll ever be able to restore her dad and her hometown, get back to Earth, and reach that dreamy romantic ideal of the breathy, ethereal end credits. We’ll find out “next season…”

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Ushio to Tora – 32

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“Mother” – such a simple title for an episode positively bursting with powerful, complex emotions; frustration, loneliness, and powerlessness among them. Ignoring his fearful young colleague, the Undine’s grizzled pilot Goro is willing to take Ushio where he needs to go now that he knows what Ushio wants to do once he sees his mom, which is to give her a stern talking-to about how devastating her absence from his life has been.

But nothing, nothing can prepare Ushio, who has been through so much, for the singular occasion of being in the presence of his mother for the first time since he was barely crawling. He doesn’t even remember her face, and for one horrifying moment I thought a monster or corpse would be all he would find. The episode really does a good job building up this, one of the most important moments both of Ushio’s life and for the show as a whole.

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The sights and sounds of his journey to his mother’s side is filled with a sense of quiet awe and grandeur. And to my relief, his mom is just a regular woman…who happens to have been sitting in the same place for nearly Ushio’s entire life. She may have freakishly-long hair, but she also has Ushio’s familiar dark eyebrows above warm, kind eyes. There’s no doubt about it: this is Ushio’s mom.

And look a how all of the things Ushio wanted to say to his mom melt away, replaced by love, gratitude, and relief. He’s in awe of his mother and her own meekness and contriteness. Her first act upon seeing him is to bow her head. But before he lets her ask his forgiveness, he assures her, by showing her all of his various scars and wounds—some acquired fighting monsters, others just doing stuff kids do—that it’s no big deal; and it’s true.

While she’s been here, the love she put into Ushio endured and sustained him, and made him into the fine young man he is today. He knows that, and he no longer has any hard feelings on the matter. How can he, when his mother sacrificed so much?

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Her look when he starts dusting her off, and the laugh they share when he bashfully askes for miso soup (there’s no kitchen there, bub!), it’s all wonderful. Finally, goddamnit, Ushio gets to see his mom, and she’s not terrible! What is terrible is the impending situation, in which the shit hits the fan before his mom can pat him properly on the head.

The East and West youkai have arrived up at the surface (in giant amalgamated forms), with the former keeping the latter from attacking Hakumen by fighting them. The navy fires its torpedoes and destroys the stone pillar, as Hakumen had planned. Ushio’s mom’s barrier finally fails after 700 years of continuous activation.

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It’s the end of the line for Ushio’s mom as far as being the Oyakume goes, which begs the question: where the heck is Mayuko at? Isn’t she supposed to pick up where Ushio’s mom left off? I hope she gets there soon, because it becomes clear Hakumen isn’t going to stay put.

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Indeed, after ignoring Ushio’s mom’s warning that he’ll be dealt with by Ushio and the others soon enough and has no reason to celebrate, Hakumen still appears to be very happy to be free, and does celebrate by tossing the entire sub fleet into the air and impaling the East youkai, then vowing to destroy everything in the world.

All poor Tora can do is watch! I do hope his girl Mayuko arrives soon with a barrier, or some other somebody comes out of the woodwork to lend him and Tora a hand. I also hope that while her Oyakume days are over, Ushio’s mom doesn’t have to die; at least not until she gets to see her son defeat Hakumen no Mono once and for all.

Then she gets to pat Ushio head, and they get to spend some time as mother and son, with worries about saving the world far behind them. But I’m getting ahead of myself…the next episode’s title isn’t vague at all: “Beast Spear Destroyed.” Nuts!

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Kuromukuro – 05

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Yukina has neither nerves of steel nor a dead family to avenge; she’s just…a girl. Below average in some areas, above average in others, and just average in still others. She has a little sister, an uncle, a morning routine.

She goes to school. She has an admirer in Akagi Ryouto, but doesn’t know it. And she’s now suddenly living companion, navigator, and classmate to a ruggedly handsome but extremely prickly 400+ year-old samurai who happens to be the same age as her and ruggedly handsome.

There’s nothing out of left field here, but I’m finding it a neat dynamic that sells itself, even if it didn’t have impeccably clean, attractive design backing it up. Kuromukuro’s originality and pacing may still be in question, but its execution is assuredly not.

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Indeed, despite being the fifth episode, a lot of people are introduced for the first time, and Yukina’s suddenly highly-modified, previously-normal life takes a lot of turns. And yet things still begin with breakfast. Kuromukuro has been adept at showing us the life in between the big bold battles.

Kennosuke, AKA Ken or “Kenny-chan”, is now a part of every aspect of Yukina’s life now, and she seems a little…overwhelmed at times; almost in a kind of shock. And why shouldn’t she? So much has happened all at once. She’s a second lieutenant now, as well as a celebrity at school, and she’s being challenged by the likes of established pilot Sophie Noelle “Why do you fight?”

Fight? She’s barely had time to catch her breath, let alone ponder such questions. Furthermore, Yukina isn’t what you’d call a deep thinker; she’s been largely gliding through life so far, and you can see the weight of all this shit suddenly on her.

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When an emergency strikes, she’s swept up in a big public departure operation with Ken with the whole school gawking at her. Ryouto, who’d been watching her from afar the whole episode (and certainly before all this stuff happened to her), isn’t content to let her speed off in Ken’s steed; he hops on his bike and goes after her.

Could he do anything to protect her? Maybe not, but he wants to. And say what you want about Yukina, but it’s not like she’s in love with Ken. We didn’t get a lot of Ryouto (most of it came via his two mates), but I don’t hate the guy, and it’s nice to see the guy chase the (justifiably) oblivious girl once in a while.

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Yukina didn’t really choose all this upheaval in her life, and yet here she is, in a cockpit, being assured by Ken that he’ll take care of everything. She’s got nanomachines in her body that can’t be removed without risking paralysis or death, and so she’s the navigator of Ken’s artifact, whether she actually wanted to be (she didn’t) or had a reason to be (she doesn’t)

She’s a lot like Shinji in Eva (sans Hedgehog’s dilemma and other psychoses); her emotions have yet to catch up to all this, even though there have been down times here and there to do so. This is a lot, and all she can do for now is go along for the ride.

And like I said, unlike Ken, she hasn’t lost anyone or anything yet, so there’s that. But does tragedy and a desire for revenge have to chart her course in life the way it charted his? Will she find her sense of duty, to protect, not merely avenge? We shall see…

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Netoge no Yome wa Onnanoko ja Nai to Omotta? – 05

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Turns out Sette-san isn’t Nishimura’s sister, but his pink-haired classmate (and friend of Segawa’s), Akiyama. She teases both him and Ako by glomming on him in class, but she causes a lot more trouble than she expected, as she creates an environment Ako no longer feels comfortable in. She even suggests the club play an FPS unrelated to LA, likely to avoid Akiyama/Sette.

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Ako then recedes again from school life, vowing only to live in LA, where she knows Rusian is his wife, if nowhere else. At long last, Nishimura’s wishy-washiness and failure to clearly define his real world relationship with Ako has been laid bare, and this is the sum product: an Ako more reclusive than ever, who wishes to “reincarnate” into someone cooler.

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The club pretty easily figures out that Ako herself is caught up in a spiral of stubbornness and a desire not to lose further face, and that Nishimura is the only one who has a shot to bring her back to school. While walking home with Segawa, she relays to him how important he was to Ako, both in the game and in her life, and how she, like Ako, wouldn’t mind spending a good long time with Nishimura…gaming, of course. Just gaming. As usual, Segawa fools precisely no one but the guy she’s trying to pretend she doesn’t like.

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When he arrives at Ako’s house, Nishimura is confronted by Ako’s mom, who looks more like an equally attractive older sister and is delighted that Ako’s “future husband” has come to sort her “problem daughter” out. She then shuffles off to work, leaving him with the key to Ako’s room, of all things.

When he enters, Ako isn’t ready for him, being in her underwear and all. When she tells him she is ready and he can come in, she’s totally naked, revealing her and Nishimura’s definitions of “ready” in this instance differ greatly. She eventually gets some damn clothes on, however, and to her surprise, Nishimura isn’t there to drag her back to school; he’s just there to play LA with her.

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After a day of this, during which they were supposed to be at school, Nishimura essentially proposes mutually assured destruction: if Ako can stay home forever and never go to school or see any of their friends, so can he, and whatever fallout there is from that, so be it.

While I kinda doubt Nishimura’s parents would allow him to ruin his chances of getting into college or securing a good job, Ako is touched by Rusian’s devotion. The knowledge that he’d stay home with her forever if that’s what she eventually decided gives her the strength to tough it out at school with him.

Once she’s there, Akiyama mends fences by proclaiming to Ako’s peers that she has a dutiful boyfriend who visited her when she wasn’t feeling well. That’s a narrative Ako can get behind. Do I buy that it’s enough to mitigate all her other mental and social issues? Not really. Is Nishimura now Ako’s explicitly public boyfriend? No. Is that fundamental ambiguity a problem going forward? Certainly.

Furthermore, the last few episodes have felt like slightly-tweaked versions of the same story, beginning and ending in virtually the same space. Characters can talk about Ako “progressing”, but that doesn’t mean it’s true.

And everyone’s too…nice. This is high school, where are the “normie” antagonists? Those issues, combined with its Thursday night time slot (my movie night) and lackluster production values, are making this a hard show to stick with.

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