And now for something completely…alternate.
This week we take a break from the trials and travails of Huey Disward and Dalian and follow along a brand spankin’ new duo of bookish detective and bratty library-maiden. They are Hal Kamhout and Flamberge. Hal looks like he could be an officer in Fullmetal Alchemist, while Flam reminds me a bit of Tycho Science from Diebuster, only with the voice of Holo from Spice & Wolf.
There’s is an adversarial but clearly effective working relationship here, although they bury their mutual respect for one another behind slightly more vicious teasing and insults. Hal keeps Flam locked up in chains, even in the heat of battle, and when he unlocks the library within her, well, let’s just say he’s not as gentle as Huey is with Dalian. Aside from the new faces, it’s another open-shut case involving a town full of enchanted dolls, repopulated by a female cop after a bombing raid killed most of the town’s population.
Unlike Huey, who is just kinda muddling through with his role, Hal is a full-fledged “Libricide officer” complete with knowledge of baritsu and possession the Staff of Surtr (kinda a mini Lance of Longinus?) whose duty is to find phantom books, take them out, and “burn away” the evil parts of the people who use them, if they can be redeemed, as the cop could. Nice diversion, but I still think I like Huey and Dalian more.
Saya is good at killing elder bairns, and by extension protecting her friends and her town...from a distance. But as it’s been demonstrated, once an elder bairn has a victim in sight, Saya can’t do much to save them. She can’t fight and protect Nene at the same time. And so Nene becomes the first of Saya’s classmates to die. The scene is portrayed with all the necessary horror. We knew it was pretty much inevitable, but it still hurts to watch (though less bloody thanks to network censors).
Just when you thought, well, she has an identical twin, they wouldn’t kill off both in the same episode…well, they do. Nono doesn’t just die, she’s possessed by her own shadow while pleading for Saya to tell her where her sister is. The shadow consumes her and Saya, and when Saya defeats it, Nono is torn to pieces in a rain of blood. I cannot overstate the gruesomeness – especially when neither Nene nor Nono had anything to do with this elder bairn business until that cliffhanger. The contrast from the lighter moments of the series couldn’t be more stark. Hell, they couldn’t be more lannister.
Fumito is as creepily supportive as ever, Tokizane wants Saya to spill the beans about what’s troubling her, and that little doglike animal that’s been showing up so often finally talks to her, telling her to “wake up”. Saya is coming to grips with the fact she’s little more than a deadly weapon with no free will of her own, not a shield that can protect her friends. And I don’t think it’s helping her sanity. One thing’s certain: the lighthearted school moments are over with.
Whatever screw is loose in Ringo, it’s getting looser by the week. Kanba’s woman troubles are far more serious than he had predicted. Shoma is no closer to ‘obtaining the Penguin Drum’, drawing the ire of the hat. The animated displays on the Metro warned about falling for a trap. Yes, it’s a typical Mawaru Penguindrum; jumping all over the place and yet totally cohesive and monstrously entertaining.
Somebody has it in for Kanba in a way that makes his other exes’ scornedness seem trifling. This woman, with orange hair and blue eyes, is eliminating the memories of Kanba’s exes. Holed up in her ginormous mansion full of marble busts, she vows to methodically destroy Kanba. She claims to control fate. Who is she? One possibility is Momoka, Ringo’s older sister (though that’s just a wild guess).
She supposedly died years ago, and was Tabuki’s first, possibly only true love. Ringo inherited Momoka’s diary, and believes its her destiny to become her sister – which means being with Tabuki. Her obsession is starting to have physical consequences – she has a high fever, and is prone to uncontrollable actions that – ahem – scare Shoma and make her mother get the wrong idea.
This is all deliciously excellent buildup. I’m itching for more answers, but in the meantime the show does a superb job keeping you constantly interested in what’s going on, not just longing for what’s to come. “Plan M” is something both Ringo and the mysterious “ex-girlfriend memory assassin” mention as well – it probably doesn’t mean “marriage”, but could mean “Momoka”, another reason I suspect she’s Ringo’s sister.
So Narumi’s wild-haired new friend Renji is not only a former Hirasaka group member (his name’s even Hirasaka), but it turns out he’s the one behind the Hirasaka T-shirt theft, along with the concert venue sabotage. It seems he may have a score to settle with his former associate Souchiro, but so far the details of that score remain anyone’s guess.
When Souchiro learns Narumi has had contact with Renji, and after he half-chokes him to death, he gives the ominous reason of “he broke a promise” to explain what happened between him and Renji. For his part, Renji seems to be a bit devious; I for one am not buying his chummy demeanor with Narumi, even if Narumi is. Whatever he’s up to, it ain’t good.
“Once a fool, always a fool” is Alice’s take on the matter, as she doesn’t want Narumi rushing headlong into matters that could get him hurt or killed (Tetsu saves him and Ayaka from just that). Despite her constantly protesting his ineptitude, she’s become quite attached to him. Which is why she lets him go try to prove to himself that he can be useful, equipped with a plush protection owl.
Humans love mirrors, even abstract ones. Which is why Daikichi feels it isn’t quite right for Rin to plant a commemorative tree for her first day of grade school. She should have a life tree, a tree planted when she was born, so it’s the same age and grows with her. I’m not sure if this is a Japanese thing or just a family thing, but I have to say I like it. Life trees are like reverse tombstones.
Fortunately, Daikichi’s grandfather made sure one was planted, and Misaka even remembers where in the yard it’s planted. Drawing a little map like the lil’ mangaka she is was a very cute touch. Maaya Sakamoto’s warm, mellow voice is a perfect match for the character. Daikichi transplants it at his house, and all’s well with the world.
Well, except Kouki’s acting like such a boy. He almost leaves poor Rin lost in the lurch on the way to school. I do not want an episode where Rin is lost. But Daikichi’s fear of just that is constantly there, and palpable. It just means he’s becoming more and more of a real dad. Why is it watching Rin mull over the market’s choice of cereals (something she’s never tried before this week) is more interesting to me than anything happening over at No. 6?
I like how Safu is walking around a cold, windless No. 6 with a look of contempt on her place. If it weren’t for her grandmother dying, Safu would never have returned to No. 6, and learned that Shion’s no longer there, but out in the West Block. When she learns this, she immediately declares her undying love for him and vows to track him down. But the security bureau have other ideas, and promptly detain her after she leaves Shion’s mom’s bakery.
I can safely say Safu is my favorite character in this series, and so it’s good to see more of her. The black-and-white-haired lovebirds have just gotten boring. They repeat the same arguments over and over; Nezumi is a totally static dickweed, and Shion is as plain and dull as his hair color, going on about developing a serum and breaking down the wall. It would be nice to see exciting stuff like that, but instead we get more odd couple bickering.
Great things have been done in eleven episodes before. AnoHana most recently. FLCL was only six episodes; Blue Submarine No. 6 only four. All of them did an infinitely better job telling a story in a limited time than this. The main characters are totally unlikable and they’re either too waffling or too weak to do anything. The only person who tries to take action – Safu – is immediately arrested. And when Nezumi gets word of this, does he tell Shion? ‘Course not. Give me a break, No. 6!
Everyone wants to encounter love and live with it to the fullest. But isn’t it a wonderful thing? It can’t be helped if we get hurt. There are loads of things that won’t change. I want to be by your side.
Great, but wtf does that have to do with sniffing armpits and blowing a chance to lend a girl an umbrella? Sigh…
Croisée VI: The Return of Alice. Alice is not the most annoying character I’ve known – not by a long shot – but she is edging towards most annoying of the season, and isn’t helped by the fact there’s a much better, more tolerable Alice doing duty on the S.S. Kamisama no Memo-cho. This one treats Yune like a doll with no free will to play dress-up with and have photos taken for her facebook (which, in these days, was just a book.)
Still, despite the fact Alice has a lot of screentime this week, it was still an enjoyable episode, with Yune learning the tribulations and sheer lunacy of Western aristocratic garb. She likens the carilion, for example, to a birdcage, which it is to an extent, as it limits the movement of birds (ladies). Alice is just as astonished by how expertly Yune folds initially massive kimonos into the neat, compact outfits she wears daily.
It’s a shame though that Alice’s older sister Camille didn’t have more to say or do, she struck me as immediately more interesting than the tiringly hyper Alice. She looks very much the caged bird, extremely well-bred and well-trained, but there’s always a little melancholy in her face and few words, and when she looks at the corsetless Yune – whose future can be whatever she wants – she almost seems a little envious.
After lots of excitement in Tokyo, Kamisama Dolls heads to Karakami village this week for some peace, quiet, and convalescence. Kukuri is repaired by the Utsuwashi (kakashi mechanics), we meet some new faces, and Utao’s master confirms to her that Kirio is indeed her younger twin brother. The two were seperated at birth (not literally, they weren’t conjoined twins) and he was raised by the Hyuga.
To make an SAT analogy: Utao : Kirio :: Kyouhei : Aki. Kirio and Aki are bitter that Utao and Kyouhei had easier lives. That bitterness has twisted both of them, but it may not be too late for Kirio. Koushiro seems to want to take care of Kirio, which makes you wonder where he’s been all the years the Hyuga master has beaten him. Also, as HIbino gets more involved with the Kugas, she wants to know what happened with Kyouhei and Aki in the past.
Overall, this is a nice respite, with much lighter fare than previous episodes. This series continues to excel with facial expressions – particularly Utao and Hibino’s faces are extremely emphatic – and quick action animation, as demonstrated with the comedy/fanservice setpiece where Utao tries flying Kukuri with Kyouhei and Hibino riding along. It involves both Kuga siblings pulling on either end of Hibino…meh, I guess you had to see it. :P
This week could have been a really big mess: all the women in Makoto’s life end up under one roof, but he’s able to handle it, and they don’t all start grabbing at his limbs. I didn’t think it would descend to that; the relationships at play here are a lot more nuanced. Meme, Erio, Ryuushi and Maekawa all seem to like Makoto, but in different ways. Furthermore, Meme and Maekawa are willing to let Ryuushi right of first refusal where Makoto is concerned.
Of all the females, Ryuushi does seem the most realistic match for Makoto, but (of course) she considers herself a bad person for letting her friends badmouth Erio. Most everyone at school apparently still remember’s Erio; she probably wasn’t any less odd than she is now, and the whole cycling into the sea and dropping out of school doesn’t help matters. Erio also still needs a futon – anyone’s futon – in times when she’s feeling particularly insecure or anxious about the social situation.
Still, despite his lack of experience with girls (which he makes clear he’s well aware of in his narration), Makoto shows poise, if a little denseness where Ryuushi is concerned. The time might come for him to not worry about all the points to be scored from actions he takes, and rather focus on the actions of others, particularly Ryuushi. I don’t think she wants to be “just friends”. An aside: as in most SHAFT series, the close-ups are bangin’. Rating: 3.5
This week Keima regains his composure, as he discovers that it isn’t necessarily Chihiro’s heart he must conquer. But the fact that his words and actions continue to “trigger events” convinces him she isn’t just a background character. So instead of trying to make her fall for him – he will coach her on how to conquer the heart of her crush, some random kid she just happened to zero in on. This means intricate diagrams, stacks of research, and intricate schemes to interact with said crush.
Chihiro is initially dismissive of Keima’s credentials, but we know the facts: Keima has successfully won the hearts of no less than five real girls, one of them a freakin’ famous teen idol – by applying the same methods as he uses in the gaming world. On the other hand, Chihiro, like Haqua, is just talk – having never scored a single boy’s heart. While Keima can’t give her details (as all his conquests have lost their memories), he quickly demonstrates to her that listening to him yields quick and favorable results: her crush now knows she exists and even talks to her.
Also interesting in this episode is the presence of Ayumi, Keima’s first conquest, who is friends with Chihiro and wants them to make up. Ayumi pairs them the two for after-school cleaning duty that leads to them making up and forming an alliance. Keima muses if a perhaps some of Ayumi’s memories of loving him resurfaced. Elcie surmises that because Keima filled the emptiness of her heart (and removed the loose soul), it stands to reason she’d be a different, more chipper Ayumi. Similarly, there’s a lot of evidence (see pic above) suggesting Chihiro may end up falling for Keima after all (ejecting her loose soul in the process), which would be a nice twist. Rating: 3.5
Kissuiso has been a bathhouse in decline long before Ohana arrived. Her uncle seems to believe modernization is the key, and that requires a consultant. The consultant has a needlessly dramatic entrance, nearly killing Ohana and Nako and covering them in a cloud of dust, then scolds them for not welcoming her properly. But she’s of little use, suggesting silly gimmicks like tarting up the staff. To be fair though, the manager wants no part of her “consultations”.
This episode makes me wonder what the Japanese definition of “Old-fashioned” entails. Is it so bad that Kissuiso errs on the side of tradition? I’ve been to a TOTO bathroom fixture showroom in Shinjuku, and many of the displays featured Japanese baths, which are pretty much stools with a hose and bucket. This traditional form of bathing actually saves water, because a whole bathtub needn’t be drawn; only a few buckets worth for rinsing. A bath is primarily scrubbing while the water’s off. Thus, it makes sense that a very old-fashioned form of bathing – just like the kind one would do by the river centuries ago – survives in resource-scarce Japan.
So many establishments have decided to go outside their element in an attempt to wrangle customers, but this can easily backfire, as exhibited when Ohana and Nako, dressed in skimpy Chinese dresses, greet a family and end up embarassing the dad (through no fault of his own). Skimpy dresses and other cosplay simply don’t fit with Kissuiso’s image. Ohana’s grandmother isn’t being stubborn simply for stubbornness’ sake; she wants to preserve as traditional a bathhouse as she can; even profits seem secondary to that vision. Rating: 3