Eizouken ni wa Te wo Dasu na! – 08 – Forward March!

There’s a palpable sense of anticipation in the sight the Eizouken putting the finishing audio touches on the cultural festival preview of SHIBA8 vs The Pistol Crabtle, lit only by a single office lamp and the editing monitor. As director Midori displays a uncanny knack for knowing when to time music and sound effects to the visuals.

Unfortunately they didn’t have time to record the voice actors so they’ll be doing it live in the auditorium, adding another set of things that could go wrong, from both technical and personnel-wise. But the show must go on, and it will. The main challenge is to create sufficient buzz at the festival to lure a sufficiently large audience.

Throughout this episode from start to finish, Tsubame’s rich actor parents loom large, but not as villains ready to undermine the Eizouken, but rather as parents who find they’ll have time to visit their daughter’s school festival. They almost seem eager to do so, well aware of how their careers have made it tough for her to get a fair share of time with them throughout her childhood.

Like just about every shot in this episode before the festival starts, the scene of Tsubame’s mom discovering she never came home is lit so beautifully, with the light of dawn just behind the horizon but already lending a hazy blue color to the sky.

Even more magical is the scene of the Eizouken trio tucking into campfire ramen outside their ramshackle studio. The warm firelight dancing off their relaxed figures as the ethereal purple dawn rises in the background. There’s an intoxicating combination of comfort, coziness, and a sense of impending drama.

The three don’t seem to notice how gorgeous and almost iconic their surroundings are, but that goes without saying: they’ve been working without sleep for who-knows-how-long and are in strict ramen-scarfing mode. Will they remember this meager fireside feast before the premiere of their first large scale effort, or will the day’s excitement cloud these quiet, delicate, hauntingly gorgeous earlier moments? I hope not.

Just as the Eizouken’s robot project dwarfs their gas mask short in size and complexity, Shibahama’s Cultural Festival’s unrestrained chaos makes the earlier budgetary committee look quaint by comparison. Competition ferocity is on par with the Serengeti, and one could see Midori and/or Tsubame getting absolutely lost in the stampede.

Fortunately, both Sayaka and the Robot Club have taken care of everything and are prepared for virtually every eventuality. The Robot Club also breaks a few school rules, using water rockets and megaphones to amplify their cause. This draws the ire of the StuCo and Security Clubs, who initially target Tsubame as the amateur-model-ringleader for arrest.

Thanks to the expert distribution of similar-looking cardboard robot costumes and Sayaka’s birds-eye-view of the premises, Tsubame is able to take direction from Sayaka via walkie-talkie and gradually navigate her way to the designated auditorium where the screening will take place—and where her notoriety is key to drawing a big chunk of the crowd.

Sayaka also successfully blackmails the normally untouchable HVAC club (all of whom are caught wasting A/C on a hot day) into ensuring the auditorium will be enticingly cool for audience members coming in from the outside. Sure, Tsubame enough could be a good draw, but the A/C draws in even those few who don’t know her or about robots or anime.

In another impressive demonstration of intricate planning, logistics, timing, and luck, Robot Club’s Ono takes a zipline across the breadth of the campus, with a huge banner trailing behind him notifying the gawking masses of the impending screening.

Like Tsubame, the cat-and-mouse chase between him and those who would shut them down takes on the feel of a madcap video game, complete with platforms, mazes, obstacles, and end-goals. It’s just a tremendous amount of fun and imagination—and all before we see a single frame of the movie!

Everything goes off without a hitch. The auditorium is nice and cool and the crowd is huge. Even Tsubame’s parents attend, eager to see what their daughter has been up to (turns out using MIBs to discourage her from anime pursuits was her dad’s idea). There are no technical difficulties with the video or audio or the live-voicing setup.

The crowd watches the robot-crabtle battle with stunned looks, the screen glowing in their eyes. Tsubame’s parents admire the animation with prime, and are able to see Tsubame’s love of capturing motion through art in this manner. Pride washes over their faces. They realize this, not live-action acting, is what their daughter loves and excels at.

After the screening, and a brief autograph/handshake session, Tsubame is dispatched to get lunch for Midori and Sayaka, and runs into her parents. The three have a cordial mini-lunch together, and Tsubame draws upon her parents’ careers as artists for perhaps the first time, asking if they’re ever satisfied after a performance.

She’s relieved to hear neither of them are, because neither is she…and we no neither is Midori. They’re relieved Tsubame has been off doing her own thing, and it’s something they’re not going to try to hold her back from anymore. To do so would be to prevent her from “performing” the way she knows best: with pencil and paper.

Finally, her parents poke their heads in a shed where the Eizouken 3 are taking a break from all the hubbub, and about to scarf down the lunch Tsubame brought. Her parents ask if these are her friends; Midori responds that they’re comrades. The bonds of comrades, joined not by blood but by common cause and common fate, surpass mere friendship, for even the best of friends can have vastly different goals.

It’s no surprise Midori is donned in full camo combat fatigues. The cultural festival was the Eizouken’s greatest battle yet, and victory was achieved. Not flawlessly, mind you—Midori estimates she’s only 20% satisfied with the product they presented—but enough to get the job done.

The fact Tsubame’s parents can no longer be counted among their enemies is both strategically advantageous and a timely boost to unit morale. On to the next battle!

The Promised Neverland – 11 – All Or Nothing, Now Or Never

It’s heartening to learn neither Ray nor Emma had ever truly given up on escaping, but they’re out of time, so they have to implement whatever plan they have immediately. The key is to distract and misdirect Mama so all of the kids can escape, and the best way to do that is by setting the house on fire.

But Ray knows that won’t be enough, which is why he’s been planning and working his ass off to be the most valuable pieces of meat Mama has ever raised. He’ll set himself on fire so that Mama will stay fixed on trying to save him. And while he brooks no argument from Emma, we never see him actually drop the match into the fire.

Nevertheless, Mama comes out of her office smelling burnt flesh, and finds Emma kneeling before the conflagration in the dining hall, telling her Ray’s in there. She orders an evacuation while she desperately tries to save what she can of her great prize.

She also urges Emma to get out of there, but when she turns around, Emma is already gone. When she tracks her with her watch, she discovers Emma has cut off the ear containing her tracking device. She’s off the grid, and has a huge head start.

When she meets up with the others, Ray is with them, to our surprise. Turns out Emma caught the lit match in her bare hands before it could fall on the oil. She has an alternate plan for Ray that doesn’t require his sacrifice. It’s a plan Norman gave to her, and which she distributed to everyone else bit by bit.

Norman told Emma exactly what Ray would do and how to stop him, including with a pile of meats and human hair that will smell like someone burning. The whole time Emma appeared to have lost all hope and was being comforted by the little ones, she was actually muttering to them the plan that will spring them.

When Emma reaches the wall with the others and prepares to climb, the specter of a smiling Norman pats her on the back, urging her to keep going. But Ray senses somebody is missing…and somebody is. Mama manages to escape the burning house with her radio but nothing else, but she’s determined to retrieve her beloved Emma and Ray. To her surprise, she still has a hostage—with which to lure one or both of them back—in little Phil.

After so much preparation and time-biding, the escape is finally on, and there is no going back, as the home where they used to live has been destroyed. But if I know Emma, she’s not about to leave anyone behind, and that could well lead to her ruin.

HaruChika – 03

hc31

Haruta and Chika’s lame love triangle continues to be an ongoing problem with HaruChika. If it were a classmate they both loved, male or female, that would be one thing; the fact their object of affection is a teacher all but eliminates the possibility of anything actually going anywhere. It doesn’t help that said teacher is a walking snooze-fest. I simply ain’t buying what either the show or its two title leads are selling.

But hey, at least that triangle is only a peripheral element of the story. This week, the show once again focuses on a new character, Sei Maren, who doesn’t get off to a stirring start with an opening line like “Where is the step I should take to move forward?” Whoa there, Proust.

He also has a whole built-in story, with a Life Box he opens sometimes to stoke his angst! Haru, Chika, and Miyoko encounter him in drama club, looking lost (and not at all good at drama, as the leader Nagoe admits frankly).

hc32

So this Sei guy has a personal problem, and people are worried about him (particularly Miyoko, randomly). So what does Haruta do? Write a play that will “make everyone happy.” Only Nagoe rips it up, and the drama club and brass band get into a little exchange of unfriendly words, resulting in a challenge that will be settled on the stage.

The subsequent dramatic “exit game”, in which Haru, Chika, and Miyoko square off against Nagoe, Sei, and their star actress Yaeko (who does a fair impression of Princess Mononoke), is actually the niftiest part of the episode. It has all six “actors” essentially straddling two different worlds, gradually adding to the complexity of their setting and situation in order to get one of their opponents’ actors to exit stage right.

hc33

Of course, it ain’t perfect. Haruta shows yet another skill he’s good at – acting and improvisation, as well as being nigh telepathic about Sei’s personal concerns, not helping his annoying Gary Stu status. Many of his lines in the exit game are a little too on the nose, to the point of being cruel to Sei. But more than what he knows and probably shouldn’t, it’s just deeply troubling how meddling this guy is!

He’s such a busybody, interfering in others’ lives and being as coy and dramatic about it as he can, in this case literally. They also somehow stole Sei’s Life Box from the closet in his room! WTF? (Note: I don’t want to hear a rational explanation for this; it’s just silly.) And Sei’s feelings about abandonment are far too easily quelled by Haruta and Nagoe’s intrusive charade.

As for Miyoko’s apparent feelings for the guy, well, she must see something I don’t, which is to say she sees…something, period.

Haruta also didn’t have to keep Chika in the dark…but of course he did, because he’s a jerk! So when Chika kicks him and sends him careening to the earth, it’s highly satisfying. I LOL’d. It’s like she’s kicking the little twerp not just for her own sake, or for Sei’s, but for all of us.

5_ses

Owari no Seraph 2 – 06

owa2_61

Unlike the foppish Lucal, Crowley isn’t above treating the humans as a legitimate threat, or at least a nuisance more pressing than a smattering of ants at his feet. Testing the power of the demon gear of a dead soldier on his lieutenant Chess, then cutting himself and noting it isn’t healing; he’s carefully assessing the advancing enemy before acting.

But this isn’t out of respect for a worthy adversary. In fact, judging from their casual attitude and banter, Crowley and his ladies are just as certain in the supremacy of vampires. Rather, Crowley suspects the humans are getting help from a high-ranking vampire traitor, and he has a pretty good idea that it’s either Ferid or Krul.

What would surprise Crowly is if his treacherous comrades were the ones having their strings pulled by a lowly human. Such a human might even hold his interest for a measurable amount of time, insomuch as a cool-looking bug would for you or me.

owa2_62

As Crowley watches, waits, and thinks, Shinoa and Narumi’s squads stand by awaiting the other squads at a rendezvous point. The focus of last week’s battle, here they’re only around for a bit, to show Guren the teams have gelled nicely and that he was right to put Yuu under Narumi’s charge; the two are a lot alike and both enjoy the occasional joke.

But it’s easy to joke around a bit when you’ve come off your last battle unscathed. And the result of a squad that didn’t fare to well is the focus of this week, which could just as easily be titled The Passion of Aihara Aiko. Aihara’s squad of fifteen completed their mission objectives, but lost eight in the process, and Aihara is extremely upset and guilty about it, and her mask of stoicism quickly falls.

owa2_63

Guren can’t wait for the other squads, so he takes Shinoa’s and Narumi’s and his own and head to city hall to rescue the hostages, leaving Aihara and her men to stay behind in case other squads arrive. Another decimated squad joins them, but so do a couple of Vampire Chinooks. Aihara takes one out with her bow, but the second drops its troops, led by Lacus, Rene…and Mika.

When the vampires capture all of Aihara’s men, she orders them to bite down on their suicide pills. Just like that, her unit is gone, and there’s only her and Mika, who pulls the pill out of her mouth before she can join her comrades. He wants one thing: info on Yuu. And he’s willing to spare Aihara to get it.

owa2_64

As Lacus and Rene survey the area Aihara and Mika’s exchange is masterful. She’s initially defiant and tells him to go ahead and kill her, but she then gets the feeling there’s something different about this particular vampire while Mika knows she’s met Yuu.

The two then do a little bit of play-acting, with Aihara agreeing to “inform” on the other humans if he spares her life. In this way, she tells only Mika that Yuu is headed to city hall, but sends Lacus and Rene in the wrong direction, which is what both she and Mika want, for different reasons.

owa2_65

Mika’s fine with leaving Aihara alone at that point, but she doesn’t want him to leave her alone; she wants him to kill her, because her squad, her family, is all gone, and she thinks it’s because of her. She has nothing left to live for. Mika refuses to do it, but she forces the issue by attacking him. She thanks him with her dying breath as she falls to the ground. Lacus and Rene shrug and head off.

Honestly I didn’t remember much about Aihara Aiko until this week, but I will surely remember her now, in this, the tensest and most affecting episode of Seraph 2. Her palpable despair, her sense of loss, her fleeting ‘dance’ with Mika, and the increasing unlikelihood she would come out of all this alive; all of it combined to form a sad but brilliant self-contained tragedy that underlines the challenges humanity faces in directly taking the vampires on.

It also underscored Mika’s single-mindedness. No Crowley- or Hiiragi-type big-picture stuff here: Mika wants to live happily ever after with his family Yuu safe in his arms. And woe betide any human or vampire who stands in the way of that goal.

9_mag

Taimadou Gakuen 35 Shiken Shoutai – 06

35ss61

And here I thought the platoon was going to get to work scoring points for Usagi. That enterprise is totally sidelined when Mephisto makes her move. Turns out the scumbag Tenmyoji Reima’s quick rise was made possible by a deal with the witch, who aims to retrieve her body from Taimadou’s custody and exact some revenge.

Mephisto first possesses President Hoshijiro’s ninja aide, then Ootori, who goes after Tenmyoji, incorrectly guessing he’s Mephisto. It’s not the most stunning twist of fate, but it works, and now two platoon members are in danger. Also, it’s cool to see Ootori wearing an evil smirk.

53ss62

What decidedly isn’t cool in any way, shape, or form, like, at all, is what Usagi goes through this week, and what she has gone through ever since she met Reima. When her older brother was playing with a rifle, she struggled with him to stop and he accidentally got shot. To Reima, that means she’s a brother-murderer, and he never lets her forget it, claiming her as his property and marking her with a slap even when the two are just peewees.

Yet this is just a memory; the true horror occurs when Usagi wakes up from her latest fainting spell (the fact Reima gives her devastating panic attacks just sickens me) to find herself in a wedding dress, with “betrothed” on top of her, ready to consummate. He uses the same old spiel about how he’s the only one who’ll have her and not abandon her after what she did.

Usagi goes numb for a moment, but thankfully doesn’t give up and let him have his way with her. She remembers he’s wrong; she has a family who will fight for her, so she has to fight too. So she bares those bunny’s fangs and sinks them into Reima.

35ss63

That gets Reima mad, and he activates his armor, but Takeru, tipped off by Hoshijiro, intervenes in time to save Usagi. But with Ootori under Mephisto’s control, he can’t have Usagi rest easy now that she’s been rescued: it’s her turn to step up to the plate, using her grandfather’s rifle to fire special magic bullets that will destroy Mephisto without killing Ootori.

Usagi is up for it, but Ootoriphisto uses her craftiness to stay a step ahead, placing a charm spell on her that makes all the guys in the vicinity amorously flock to her. Thankfully, she’s able to run away and no inappropriate contact occurs.

35ss64

Back in the church where Reima was going to defile Usagi, Takeru makes certain the little shitbag will never touch Usagi again by scaring him straight (and making him wet himself). If anything, it’s almost too easy, this bad guy. He’s sooooo evil and soooo wrong, and when he loses Mephisto’s protection, he turns into a puddle of cowardice, because of course he does.

Ootoriphisto tries to trick Usagi again by acting like a concerned Ootori (who Mari earlier saw right through, because the real Ootori wouldn’t give a shit about her, at least openly) and telling her Takeru is Mephisto. Takeru retorts that if she doesn’t know who to shoot, just shoot him, than Ootori. Well, he cracked that little standoff quickly enough, didn’t he?

But really, he didn’t have to: somehow, Ootori manages to wrest some control back from Mephisto, at least stop her from moving. This makes it clear beyond a shadow of a doubt who the witch is, and Usagi takes her shots and doesn’t miss. Goodbye, Mephisto. We hardly knew ye, but considering how easily you were defeated by a pack of misfits, we probably didn’t need to know ye.

35ss65

With that, Usagi is safe, then Ootori is safe, and all’s well that ends well. Super-well, as it turns out, because in the midst of the festival during which the 35th does a cosplay cafe, Usagi informs him—embarrassingly festooned with gift bows by Suginami, herself donning an outrageous sexy succubus outfit)—that the marriage to the shitberg is officially off, without any further efforts to legitimize her admittance to the school.

Good. The less we see of Reima moving forward, the better. As for Usagi, she likes it when Takeru pats her on the head, but if somebody ever tries to touch her without her permission again, she won’t hesitate to break out those fangs.

Next up to have a personal crisis that the platoon must band together to help despite her desire not to get them involved? Suginami. I predict a solid Shiraishi Ryouko performance is in the near future.

8_brav2

Jormungand – 08

In England, Koko leads a HCLI bid for Predator UAV sales to “Country B.” She’s up against Euro Group, represented by the accomplished former actress and heiress Amalia Tolokohovsky. Amalia gets a head start on Koko, closing deals with nearly every potential client. Annoyed but undefeated, Koko holes up in her hotel room and orchestrates numerous deals at the 25th hour that flip all of Amalia’s customers. The tables now turned, Koko meets with Amalia. Third-party snipers by angered clients are neutralized by Lutz. Amalia announces Euro Group will pull out of negotiations, and then agrees to a buyback at a 5% premium. Koko is victorious.

Arms dealing is simple business: show your wares to the customer, they buy some, and you go on your merry way, right? Well, not exactly. With past episodes focusing on the prowess of the bodyguards Koko surrounds herself with, all of them were bystanders for her not-so-little UAV war with Amalia, who started it by getting greedy and trying to outmaneuver Koko. That was enough to fire Koko up for some serious laptop-piloting and junk food-munching. Arms dealing at this level is less a simple transaciton and more an intricate Swiss watch with millions of moving pieces, and she simply manipulates those pieces better than Amalia this week, and at the right times.

It’s fun to watch her initially get stood up at client meeting after meeting, and then see her bear down and do the hard work that’s necessary to defeat one’s adversary. She utilized her new CIA friend Chocolade, kept her eye on the prize, and showed former actress Amalia that she’s a pretty fine actress herself, when she needs to be. Her efforts result in pulling a stunning, absolute victory from the initial jaws of defeat, and nobody is hurt or killed in the processs. It’s no wonder why everyone seems to love working for the “princess”. This episode aptly demonstrated what happens when she harnesses her potential.


Rating: 9 (Superior)

Car Cameos: Lots – this series doesn’t skimp on recognizable vehicle models. Team HCLI seems to have adopted the Volkswagen Touareg as their go-to car, though they also ride in a Mitsubishi Montero. In one scene a Toyota HiAce drives alongside the ‘Reg. Amalia travels in a white Mercedes-Benz S-Class (a W221). There are also lots of recognizable cars in the airport parking lot: A Subaru Forester and Legacy wagon, a Peugeot 406, Toyota Prius, Lancia Delta, Mitsubishi Montero and Lancer EvolutionToyota Progres and a Volvo C70.

Sket Dance – 42

In part one, the Sket-dan hangs out with Momoka, who is worried about her impending role in a stage play. The script contains extremely simple dialogue, leaving the actors to interpret it how they choose. Practicing with Bossun, they play the proposal scene straight, then Switch makes the character her hulk-like father in a postapocalyptic setting; then Bossun and Momoka pretend to be Americans, saying whatever English phrases sound vaguely like the Japanese dialog. At her rehersal, Momoka sings her lines, impressing her director.

This part was all about taking a simple idea – like the sparse script – and coming up with several very different interpretations. It succeeds giving Bossun and Switch different personas for Momoka to bounce off of. We like the idea that Bossun is a good actor in his own right, and here he even throws off his coyness and embraces Momoka. He ceases to be Bossun and becomes the dull character. Bossun is the kind of guy who could well be good at everything – as long as he puts in the effort. Both the opening scene at the karaoke and the rehersal with the director prove that Momoka can do no wrong; she’ll always find success no matter what she does.

In part two, Himeko is contemplating what she wants to do in the future when Roman busts in with news: her manga has won a prize and has been published in Margerine magazine. It’s a poorly-drawn, rambling affair, but the Sket-dan agrees it is at least fun. Momoka’s protege Fumi shows her her own manga. Momoka is very impressed, and suggests they work together to get more of their work published.

Roman is an interesting character in that she more than any other non-core character manipulates and changes the rules of the episodes in which she appears. She is a master of time, space, and matter, able to create scenery and transitions like some kind of sorcery. The sket-dan can even inexplicably hear her inner voice. Like Momoka, Roman has managed to find success despite not having the best technical skills – her drawing is shaky and the story is a random mess, but the editors chose it for its sheer audacity. As usual, the sket-dan’s commentary during her manga presentation provided ample laughs.


Rating: 3

No. 6 5

Okay, so Nezumi’s an actor, but because he’s so pretty, he plays female roles, of course. Against his wishes, Shion goes to see him perform Shakespeare. Meanwhile, in No. 5, Safu is visiting a museum with her classmates when both she and Nezumi are hit by a strange “wind”, start to hear singing, and then pass out into a dream state.

Safu wakes up in hospital, while Nezumi is carried home by Shion, who then tells him about the parasite bee attacks. Nezumi teaches him how to dance for some reason, the lovebirds kill some time dancing, and then Shion touches Nezumi’s neck, surprising him, as he didn’t have time to dodge. Perhaps Shion’s new hair and tats lent him some powers?

The Safu and Nezumi connection threw me off a bit, especially when he said it had nothing to do with bees. What exactly is going on is still something that mostly escapes me, and aside from the shared dizzy spell and the suspicion next week Nezumi and Shion may be eskimo kissing, this episode felt too much like a holding pattern, even stalling.


Rating: 2.5