It’s 1966, and Nishimi Kaoru has move to Kyushu to live with his aunt while his dad is away at work. He is a shy and asocial kid who manages high grades and plays the piano, but makes a prime target for bullies. The most notorious is Kawabuchi Sentaro, who actually takes an odd liking to him after fighting three seniors over the key to the roof. Kaoru also quickly makes friends with class rep Mukae Ritsuko, Sentaro’s childhood friend, whose family owns a record store with a practice room in the basement. Kaoru is inspired when he hears Sentaro play jazz on the drums.
It’s series like this that make us feel like we’re seriously wasting our time on drivel like Shining Hearts or unfocused dreck like Dusk Maiden, shows we’ll gladly drop to spend more time on something like this. First of all, when we learned both Shinichiro Wantanabe and Yoko Kanno were working on this, a light went on in our head; it’s doubtful this would be a dud. This whole episodes swings, and has a really nice lived-in feel to it. None of the characters are over-pretty or over-huge; though Sentaro looks a bit like Archie.
Most importantly, everyone is likeable, from the kind and friendly Ritsuko to Kaoru himself, who may be a bit angsty but at least has a reason to be. Sentaro is a big, lovable goof, who can handle himself in a fight and lay it down at the drums. The animation of his drumwork (both on drums and with twigs earlier on, before we even meet him) are a highlight of the episode, as is the promise of more excellent jazz to accompany the series. We’ve already got a nice nucleus of friends, and it looks like Kaoru is going to be just fine judging from the way he jaunts down the hill with Ritsuko by episode’s end.
Rating: 9 (Superior)
Mikage antagonizes Kagura until he escapes from his thorn cage in beast form and steals his mecha. Izumo tries to stop him, but Mikage exponentially enhances his combat abilities, and opens the gate to Vega for him. He’s coming for his “wench”, Mikono, thought to be the Sylvie to his Apollon – the ones who will awaken the machine god Genesis that slumbers beneath Vega. Back at Neo-Deava, Zessica struggles with feelings for Amata, while Amata tries to make his feelings known to Mikono, and learn what Kagura is to her.
After last week, when an antagonist was given the most screen time, this week is primarily dedicated to Kagura as he escapes from Altair. Our usual cast occupy the B-story; the antihero gets the A. But for all the time he and his voice-throwing benefactor get, they’re still not the most compelling characters, and this episode wasn’t nearly as good at fleshing them out as it was Jin. We find Kagura a shonen-like pain in the ass, frankly, what with all his roaring and screaming and “my wench” this and “my wench” that. That’s not how you court a lady, son.
As for Mikage, well, we’re not huge fans quite yet. Now that he’s awake, what, Izumo and the powers that be simply tolerate him? Or perhaps they weren’t aware how powerful he could be, how how strong he could make Kagura. Either way, his constant flowery patter gets a little repetitive. One things for certain: there’s more than one faction of the Abductors. Izumo wants True Eve to repopulate Altair, but Mikage has a more romantic – and for Vega and possibly Altair as well, more dangerous and chaotic – goal. And if Kagura unions with Mikono, well, that’s good news for Zessica, as Amata will suddenly be a free agent!
Kotetsu duels with Barnaby until calling him Bunny restores his memory. Saito and Ben arrive to aid them in opposing Maverick, but he’s already captured all the other heroes and Kaede is a hostage. Maverick has also recruited Rotwang to develop androids that will replace the heroes. Kotetsu and Barnaby have to defeat the fake RoboTiger in order to save everyone, while the others have the option to save themselves by killing everyone else, a test of their bonds.
So, all it took was a little punching, a bitch slap, and some sobbing to snap Bunny out of it. The series wisely avoided what I had dreaded – Barnaby staying bad – and instead everyone is now united against Maverick. Of course, he has everyone where he wants them, and it all comes down to Tiger & Bunny being able to get the job done. By making a nice connection to the episode with the android woman who Sky High fell in love with, the point is driven home: this is not going to be easy or painless.
I realize Maverick is a rich and powerful guy who wants more riches and power, but as he is forced to take stronger and more dastardly measures, it’s pretty obvious his own greed and arrogance will be his undoing. Was it really necessary to make mortal enemies of such powerful people as the heroes under his employ? Does he truly believe androids will make better heroes than human NEXTs? Why exactly is he going so far? I’m not sure the series cares whether we understand him or not, only that he’s the bad guy and he has to go down.