Iroduku: The World in Colors – 07 – The Face of Certainty

Hey, Hitomi got her colors back…PSYCH! The show chooses to rip them away almost immediately, off-camera. That’s kind of a downer to start with! But her granny Kohaku is right there to cheer her up with a star-reading (Hitomi’s a Leo), telling her to have fun in the moment…just as Summer Break rolls around.

Shou nominates Asagi to be his successor as president of the club, and the other members agree. She’s nervous about the responsibility, but Hitomi for one assures her she’ll be there to help. Hitomi is named vice-president, and that night her great grandfather gives her a tablet to keep in touch with friends. She considers when the right time will be to tell the other club members she can’t see color.

But while Hitomi and her worries about announcing something like that so late in their friendships forms part of this episode, the balance turns its eye on Kawai Kurumi, the ever-cheerful, enthusiastic glasses-wearer who organizes trips for the club and constantly flirt-bickers with Chigusa.

We learn that cheerfulness and enthusiasm is a front for her deeper-seated frustrations and perceived inadequacies, and lack of certainty in what she should be doing. She deeply envies her big sister, who dreamt of becoming a pastry chef and went out and did it, even against their dad’s wishes.

As the group goes on a one-day training camp, there’s a gray cloud constantly hanging over Kurumi’s head. When Chigusa brings up her sister, Kurumi sings her praises, but also runs herself down as a “nothing,” and Chigusa’s request to use her as a model is met by flat rejection, which brings down the whole mood.

For much of the camp Kurumi ends up isolating herself somewhere, but both times Hitomi comes to ask if everything is okay, seeing as how its painfully obvious it isn’t. It isn’t just Kurumi’s sister that’s bothering her, but pretty much everyone who has “that look”—a confident look towards the future…a look of certainty. It’s a look Kurumi just can’t muster, because she doesn’t believe she has anything important in her life to cause it.

Yuito tracks down Hitomi and shows her his newest picture, which is clearly inspired by her desire to see color. Hitomi can indeed see the colors in the painting, but no more Gold Fish pops out and paints the whole environment in colors. Even so, she’s just happy Yuito is able to draw again, and that he’s willing to share his creation with her.

Hitomi meets up with Kurumi a second time, and tries to cheer her up the way Kohaku did with her: a star-reading, with an identical fortune as she got. But even if Hitomi was giving her a fake fortune, it becomes real when the cruise ship Chigusa was going to photograph departs far sooner than scheduled.

Chigusa tries to chase it down by dropping all his luggage and running for it. Kohaku and Hitomi join him, and after some hemming and hawing, so does Kurumi, deciding to take the advice of her “fortune.” When they can’t catch up to the accelerating ship, Chigusa settles for a picture of Kurumi’s face; which carries the look of frustration that he’s giving up.

It joins a number of photos he’s taken of her throughout their time in the club, which he uses to assure her that as long as she’s making such faces, there’s nothing to worry about.

While others may seem to like things or be further ahead in making their dreams come true, the fact is everyone likes things with different intensities, or discover things they truly like at different paces. There is no right or wrong way to do it, and just because she can’t do what her sister did doesn’t mean she’s less than.

And just in case you were thinking that’s probably enough Kurumi and Chigusa for one episode, Hitomi has everyone pay attention to her once more, as she’s ready to tell them she can’t see the colors they see in that gorgeous night skyline backdrop. Somehow, I can’t imagine they’ll de-friend her on the spot!

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To Aru Majutsu no Index III – 07 – The Bodyguard

Like a jargon-heavy book that keeps making you flip to the glossary in the back, the Academy City Underworld arc was so laden with groups, individuals, motives and goals that I had to refer to the Index wiki on more than one occasion just to find out who the hell some of the people were. As a result, it was hard to sit back and just enjoy the action.

So thank goodness this week is a far simpler Index episode (even though it takes a number of turns), featuring a straightforward plot and familiar, beloved  characters. It certainly starts out where Kamijou Touma would prefer to be, at school, where the most fraught action is being chased by a burly teacher when he and Tsuchimikado are the only two able to escape school to get to the convenience store for the lunch they want.

For all the misfortune swirling around him, Touma does catch a break every once in a while. In this case, a very lovely break in the person of Itsuwa, who mistakes Saigo for a hostile and takes him out for Touma. She’s come to A.C. to serve as Touma’s bodyguard due to stirrings that the powerful Saint Acqua of the Back (or Rear) is going to target him.

The rest of Amakusa is there to back Itsuwa up, as well as to try to get her to pull the trigger on Touma, whom she apparently likes. In this venture it’s Itsuwa who is more unfortunate, since she must contend with the jealousy of Biribiri, who makes a welcome return to the show. Misaka was actually concerned that Touma had amnesia, only to catch him deep in Itsuwa’s bust. Thankfully, Touma manages to keep Itsuwa from mistaking her for a hostile…even though she kinda is!

This also marks the rare Index III episode that actually has sizable portions of Index in it, as she watches with concern as Itsuwa enters her and Touma’s home, buys the loyalty of Sphinx with some high-quality bonito, and starts making dinner.

Like living a simple high school life with occasionally exciting lunch runs, just seeing a girl in his kitchen making dinner gives him no end of joy. The fact that Itsuwa is acting like a proper house guest and helping out exposes how comparatively little his other guest Index does.

Of course, the reason Index doesn’t help out is that her help often only causes more work, such as when she pours an entire bottle of drain cleaner down the shower and almost causes a fire.

Itsuwa cuts off their ensuing dust-up, rents a motorcycle and sidecar, and takes Touma and Index to a splendid public bathhouse in the 22nd School District, which is entirely underground yet has a giant screen in its “sky” projecting the real sky. It’s a really beautiful motorcycle ride that shows yet another side of the sprawling city.

Naturally, Misaka ends up in the same bath as Index and Itsuwa, and as Itsuwa clumsily tries to explain how Touma came to end up in her breasts she then becomes the target of Index’s ire, while Biribiri stews until she overheats and a medical team with a stretcher has to be called.

I presume Misaka had to be temporarily taken out of comission in order to lend more peril to the final act of the episode. Touma and Itsuwa go on what could be construed as a romantic evening constitutional, but once they reach the bridge (Touma and bridges don’t mix!), Acqua suddenly appears, and wastes no time mopping the floor with the both of them.

Itsuwa is a strong and honorable bodyguard, but she simply has no chance against a Saint, and her restoration spells have limited effect on Touma due to his right arm. About that arm: Acqua will let him live if he cuts it off and gives it to him. He couldn’t care less about Kamijou Touma, he wants Imagine Breaker taken out of the equation of church and global affairs.

In his surpassing charity, Acqua doesn’t simply take what he wants, even though he’s certainly capable of doing so (unless Imagine Breaker somehow prevents the arm from being separated from Touma’s body). He gives Touma one day to decide whether he’ll give it up willingly, or die. And since Itsuwa is his sworn bodyguard, she and the rest of Amakusa will certainly die defending him before he does.

So yeah, a Saint with the Right Hand of God either wants Touma’s arm or his life, and Itsuwa alone won’t be enough to stop him. Like I said, straightforward! I imagine one needs a Saint to fight a Saint, so we’ll see if Kanzaki enters the fray…not to mention Misaka once she recovers from overheating in the bath.

Zombieland Saga – 07 – A Truly Shocking Performance

(Apologies for the horrible pun that titles this post.—Ed.) Last week’s episode proved ZLS is far more than just a venue for Miyano Mamoru’s manic voice performances or a showcase for idol-dancing CGI. It can also do serious character drama. How would it resolve the generational rift between Franchouchou’s dual aces?

With Junko unwilling/unable to continue in this new and scary idoling world and holed up in one of the mansion’s many rooms, Ai commits to doing Junko’s part as the days to Saga Rock count down, even as the strain causes her head and limbs literally fall off (kudos to the foley artists for appropriately gross sound effects as the zombies move about).

Even Lily admits there may be nothing any of them can to to convince Ai to come back. Sakura asks Tatsumi for help, but he shouts her away. Even so, Tatsumi later breaks down the barricade Junko had built over the door and, surprisingly enough, provides the sober voice of reason. He acknowledges Junko’s fear of how things have changed in the last thirty years, but assures her the calling of idol is no less noble than it was in her time.

He also suggests something Junko didn’t consider a possibility: that if she doesn’t want to get so close to her fans…that she just shouldn’t. She can still sing and dance with the others while continuing to carry the Showa flag and live the life she’s most comfortable with.

He also reminds Junko that she’s not the only one with fears as a result of waking up a zombie in a strange time and place. He informs her how Ai died, and the weather forecast for the festival, and how Ai is going forward to face her fears. Considering she’s already dead, what harm would it do Junko to give this idol thing one last try?

With that, Tatsumi leaves Junko with her outfit for tomorrow’s festival…and a casual order to fix the door he busted (hey, this is still a comedy first and foremost). The next morning everyone waits as long as they can, but then pack into the van without Junko.

Just as they start off, Junko heroically leaps over the mansion gate lands in front of the van…which absolutely pummels her, in such a similar fashion to Sakura’s own demise it sparks a vague memory for her. Like a zombie horror movie, Ai slowly gets up…but not to eat brains; to join her fellow members of Franchouchou, all of whom but Ai run to embrace her.

Still, Ai decides to bury the hatchet as the group prepares for their show, promising Junko she’ll have her back. Tatsumi liberally sprays shoe waterproofing all over the girls so their makeup won’t melt in the coming rains.

The others join Ai as she watches her old group Iron Frill knock it out of the park (without anyone getting roasted by lightning). Why the more popular band would open for unknowns like Franchouchou, I have no idea, but that plot contrivance is only one of a long chain of them that, IMO, somewhat mar the group’s biggest moment yet.

While Iron Frill’s dancing and singing was 2D animation, the show breaks back out the smoother-moving but still far creepier CGI models of the Franchouchou members. I remain mostly unconvinced this was the best way to animate them performing, as it really pulls you out of the otherwise 2D world of the show.

Technical aspects aside, I liked how the storms made Ai so frightened she couldn’t sing properly, threatening to make their big break a disaster right from the start (the rain also forces much of Iron Frill’s crowd to flee, combined with the fact they don’t know who Franchouchou is). I liked Junko having Ai’s back even better, especially when Ai said she’d have hers. Junko may have nerves too, but they don’t relate to performing in a thunderstorm.

The idols regroup and finish out their first song strong, but the entire stage is suddenly destroyed by lightning, making real Ai’s worst nightmare: a repeat of the events that killed her. However, due to them already being dead and zombies (and perhaps the thick coats of spray Tatsumi applied), their exposure to lightning only makes them glow, and makes their voices distorted.

The group proceeds to perform their last song in “autotune” remix mode, their bodies providing the only light on the stage, and occasionally shooting lightning beams out of their fingers. This sequence of events represents a new level of preposterous-ness for the show.

While a show about zombie idols already demands one to suspend disbelief about quite a number of things, the piling on of absurd events culminating in glowing idols shooting lasers while singing autotune…was just a bit much.

The attitude that created this sequence seems to be: “So we carefully crafted a nuanced character conflict between Junko and AI rooted in generational differences…but SCREW ALL THATAnything goes when they take the stage; nothing has to make sense!” Never mind the fact that there were zero consequences for Junko not practicing with the group for weeks. I know she’s one of the best from her time, but no one’s that good!

All that criticism aside, the festival, ridiculous as it was, had the intended effect of getting Franchouchou much-needed publicity, as news of their “illuminating” performance at Saga Rock ends up published in a magazine. We’ll see how that translates into cash to fund their operation, but more importantly how it heightens their statute in the idol world, and how they’ll respond to that increased fame.