Gi(a)rlish Number – 03

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Chitose, having judged others harshly and beleiving she’s God’s gift to voice acting, gets a rude awakening as the honeymoon ends and the actual voice acting starts. In the first sesson, she walks in the studio like she owns the place, but comes out, after many re-takes, feeling considerably less confident.

Her official stance is the line above, and while she drank the Kool-Aid of the glad-handing execs, her brother Gojou is all too willing to bring her back down to earth, and as dense as she is, even she knows she didn’t do a very good job.

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Her second session goes even worse, to the point we get to listen in on the producers talk about how they’re probably not going to be able to get anything more out of her than what they’re getting.

Whether Chitose has any future at all in this industry depends on how she responds to the realization that she’s not All That, or even Anything At All. She must identify and acknowledge her flaws, and work that much harder than everyone else in order to improve.

After a talk with Momoka, Chitose hunkers down and starts taking this gig seriously. Her bro is surprised but also probably relieved to see her at the TV researching and taking notes, rather than out drinking with Koto and Yae (who are better than her by every measure).

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The result of actually putting in effort, and in capitalizing on the “spunk” her bro said was one of her few redeeming qualities, Chitose knocks the third sesson out of the park, impressing everyone, even Momoka and Kazuha, with her rapid improvement and showing them that she might just belong in there with them after all. Koto and Yae also look proud of her. More importantly, she’s proud of herself, but not overly so.

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Rather than staying late for endless, futile retakes, the group actually finishes early due to Chitose actually being a pro. This way, everyone can go out drinking without reservation, even Kazuha. There, Kazuha laments that the work they do can barely be called “acting”, but Momoka is less cynical: If it’s what they (the producers) want from them, it’s good enough, right?

It certainly seems to be enough for Chitose, for now. A lead role, even a cliched one in an increasingly troubled (at the top) anime production, is still a lead role. And it’s clear Chitose would much rather be a seiyu than another, more conventional (read: dull) profession.

This was an episode that definitely didn’t go easy on its protagonist, which worked out for the best because as confident as she was at the start, she wasn’t approaching her work the right way, and it was suffering as a result.

It’s not that she has NO talent; only that she had to figure out the way to unlock it. To channel her spunk into a job well done, in an industry that seems at times to be far harsher to the seiyus than to the often subpar works they lend their voices to.

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WWW.Working!! – 04

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This fourth episode of WWW.Working!! seems content to continue running three gags firmly into the ground: Hana is really bad at cooking, Shiho is extremely vindictive, and Rui likes Higashia but can’t tell him.

Everyone else is kinda just around, and Higashida exhibits a stubborn cynicism about just about everything that makes him a hard guy to root for. He has a couple choice rejoinders, but it’s not enough.

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By the episode’s end, Hana has made more chocolate for Higashida, and it’s just as bad as her first attempt, sending Higashida into an unimaginative psychedelic trance. Shiho buys Yuuta dog food, because she’s horrible, and Rui makes chocolate for Higashida, but gives it to Miri instead (who goes on to give Higashida a surprise taste).

Back when I started this show, I took solace in the fact the characters showed promise, such that the lack of a plot that moved forward quickly might not be a problem. But to stay invested, the characters need to be more than just their quirks (or in Higashida’s case, his attitude). This week they weren’t, and the episode suffered.

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Yuri!!! on Ice – 02

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The Gist: Victor Nikiforov is in Yuri’s family inn and all hell breaks loose very quickly. Yuri struggles to know what to feel but terror is a good place to start when confronted with his life long idol. Bewilderment too, as that same person offers him great help, but also takes up a space in the inn, and employs a mix of sexual overtones and tough-love to get Yuri to get back into physical shape.

Training montages, casual tourism of Yuri’s town, and finally a visit to Hasetsu Castle culminate in Russian Yuri arriving in town and challenging Japanese Yuri to a competition for Victor. The trio of Skating Otaku (and the media) swarm the scene and the stage is set for a show down.

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But there’s so much more than that going on — Victor is sucking in so much of Yuri’s world, through the physical place, the friends and the stories, which informs so much about Yuri — and about Victor himself. I can not give an example of another show that did so much in a single half hour, that did not feel rushed or info dumpy in the process…

At the end, Victor pulls Yuri and Yurio (Russian Yuri’s name as given by Japanese Yuri’s sister) and lets them hear two versions of the same music. When they have different responses and preferences, he forces them to stake their competition on the other skaters style. That’s the way to be unexpected for the audience, and being unexpected is the core of professional skating.

Roll Credits!

Let’s put aside any discussion about Yuri!!!’s top shelf quality animation, intensely detailed (but not distracting) costuming and set design, it’s subtly brilliant audio design and sound track, solid script and voice acting, and focus on what solidly plants this show in the ranks of best of the best. Every aspect of its production and presentation is masterfully executed, and works in concert, but the characters themselves (and their complex interactions) make it shine.

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Yurio (Yuri Plistsky) is a tsundere. Except he’s also just a hot tempered boy who with believable distractions, likes and frustrations. His youthful (millennial?) spirit shows through when he wants to take pictures of Yuri’s quirky Japanese town, but realizes that would tip his hand… but then, In the middle of a rant and laughably conspicuous stalking of Victor, he sees (and absolutely must buy) a bad ass sweatshirt with a tiger on it. Which he then selfies onto twitter.

There’s a ton going on with this character, just in one scene, that makes his age and tone and style all feel authentic. So when Yurio and Yuri finally meet, he doesn’t just come off as the villain of the week, or a season-long rival, but an equally relevant character who’s victory or failure has just as much weight.

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The Verdict: For a very brief moment in the opening, I worried the show was going to become silly and blatantly boy-love, but it not only surged into deeper, more earnest content, it gave simple context as to Victor’s motivations.

He may tease and cross our protagonist’s comfort zone, which itself carries a dynamic bisexuality born of intense admiration for an athlete of the same gender, in a sport that dose emphasize male sexuality, but Victor is here because he is a professional. He too risks a slump or a ceiling in his own abilities and he too will benefit from working with these up and coming skaters.

Absolutely watch this series!

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Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans – 29

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When Kudelia didn’t play ball with Allium, he sent the Dawn Horizon Corps after Tekkadan, but quickly lost control when Sandoval decided to use the job as an opportunity to put the upstart Tekkadan in its place.

Throw in rival Gjallarhorn forces and you have a chaotic, compelling mix of goals and motivations. It’s a big knot that came together last week, and by the end of this episode, that knot is mostly undone and replaced by other, tighter knots.

First things first: Nab Sandoval, and Tekkadan wins. Orga tells Mika to win it for them, and he does, capturing the pirate leader before Julieta can (Julieta is pissed, but not manically so, at least for now).

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For their victory, Barristan awards them the biggest half-metal mine in Chryse – giving Tekkadan the well-earned opportunity to supplement or even eliminate their mercenary activities with self-sustaining revenue stream…once it’s up and running of course. More victories, more rewards…more problems.

After the fine battle where he was essentially only part of the pit crew, Hush decides he deserves not just to confront Eugene and Shino, but ask them to ask Orga for a mobile suit. Mika says he will, after Hush tells him why: to become stronger than him. That’s fine with Mika; he’s not in a competition to be the strongest, he just is the strongest.

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Later, we see Allium desperately trying to pick up the pieces, continually reminding us of that cockroach Todo, only somehow less capable. Nobliss doesn’t answer his calls, and when Orga and Mika have come to ask for compensation for his treachery, a call to Gjallarhorn is of no avail.

Here we see a combination of the dual hats Orga must wear. He has to be the politician in the tie, making sure all his connections are in order before he steps in Allium’s office. Naze knows this side will be tough for him.

But in using Mika as his unblinking attack dog when diplomacy fails, Orga shows he must still cultivate and bring out the brawler/gangster side, backing words with steel. All Allium had in the end were words: far too many and not convincing enough to save him.

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It’s no accident that this unpleasant if necessary scene is juxtaposed with a far more peaceful moment between Kudelia and Atra at the Sakura Farm, tossing out potential death flags in committing to an endgame that is, as we saw with Orga and Mika, still quite a ways (and many more battles) off.

Kudelia is out of immediate, constant danger of the kind she was in last season, but she is still struggling with exactly how to end the deadly “chain reaction” of creating Mikas and Tekkadans to achieve her desired gains. Like Mika with the other types of seeds, she’s going to have to trying multiple methods, with no guarantee of success despite the conviction of her promise.

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Peace is a lot tougher not just when you’re surrounded by resentful rivals (two of whom Tekkadan ends in Terra Liberionis and the Dawn Horizon Corps) but possessed of all-too-tantalizing weapons.

At the end of the day, the nabbed Sandoval and won the mine thanks to Mika in his Barbatos. I’m not sure if Barristan knew about the more immediate treasures in the mine—a Gundam frame and “something bigger”—but it’s looking more likely like Hush may get his shot.

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Finally, Orga, along with Mika and Merribit, are invited (not summoned) to Gjallarhorn’s Mars HQ, Ares, and to the same office where Coral once plotted their and Kudelia’s demise. That didn’t go well, because Coral was corrupt and unprepared.  McGillis won’t make the same mistake of underestimating Tekkadan’s desire to survive and thrive and the upside of remaining close allies.

Orga and Mika are understanably suspicious—this guy wears more than one mask—but in this place and time it seems only appropriate to continue working with him. They want a less corrupt Gjallarhorn too, and McGillis offers advantages he says will outweigh whatever problems come from gaining the same enemies he has, which include Rustal, Iok, Julieta…and Gaelio.

I really liked this scene, because it shows McGillis dispensing with Gjallarhorn superiority, looking a potential ally level in the face, and offering an earnest hand of friendship and cooperation without strings (that we know of). Perhaps it’s because McGillis, like Orga, Mika, and Tekkadan, is not only an orphan, but an upstart rising high. Upstart orphans gotta stick together in a world trying to keep them down.

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3-gatsu no Lion – 03

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3GL‘s third episode is again split into two vignettes with an overarching theme: Rei encountering those with more powerful outward emotions than he expresses, leading him question if the way he handles his own emotions is really optimal.

The first vignette deals with his self-proclaimed rival Nikaidou Harunobu, whom Rei beat on the rooftop of a department store in the searing summer heat years ago. In what he describes as an arrogant presumption, he wished to defeat Harunobu quickly so the poor kid could get out of the hot sun.

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But his strategy only made Harunobu play harder, desperately dragging out the game until he was totally out of moves. Years later he faces Harunobu in a professional match, and Harunobu is pumped up, but nothing has really changed.

It takes many hours, but Rei eventually defeats Harunobu once more, because like him, he doesn’t want to lose. Harunobu’s new line of attack is better than the last one, but Rei is better too, and he does what has to be done to win again. He’s both bemused and a bit inspired by Harunobu’s raw intensity.

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The second vignette, a real tearjerker, marks the welcome return of the Kawamoto sisters and their gramps, completing their Obon observance with an elaborate meal. Rei comes late but Rina has his dishes ready, in appropriately small portions to match his slight appetite.

As they light the fire to see off their lost loved ones they only recently welcomed back with a similar ritual, Rei sees the barely-contained pain in the faces of the Kawamotos, though Akari is still smiling outwardly and Momo hides her face. He doesn’t see the point of doing something that brings out so much pain.

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When Hinata suddenly says she has to grab a manga at the convenience store, Gramps sends Rei to go with her, but Rei keeps his distance, even as Hina’s pace quickens and it’s clear her destination isn’t the store, but the river. There, he finds her crying her eyes out, the gorgeous July moon shining down on her.

As with Harunobu, Rei is a bit in awe of Hina’s intense display, a display he long gave up on when he decided to push the pain of losing his family away. There is no doubt Hina is not okay, but just because he’s not crying doesn’t mean he is.

Again he wonders if the path he chose in dealing with his loss was the right one, all while staying with Hinata and giving her all the time she needs to cry it out. Just as certain defeat isn’t enough to rush a match to its conclusion, pushing pain aside doesn’t make it disappear.

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