Hanebado! – 12 – Crossfire

Hanesaki Ayano is good, but not invincible, and while she wins the first game, it’s not a blowout but a 20-16 eke-through, because Nagisa refuses to play the game Ayano thought she’d play. Put simply, Nagisa goes on the defense, forcing Ayano to be the aggressor, which gives Nagisa time to think and keep Ayano off-balance, all while sapping her stamina.

Nagisa’s knee is a concern, but Tachibana examines it and she seems to be okay. Erena hears from Ayano’s mom that her intent, however monstrous, was to get Ayano to become a better player by playing for herself, not for the sake of her mother. Abandoning her made her hate her mother, and thus made her find a new reason to improve: revenge.

But while she won the first game and is determined to beat Nagisa in straight sets, it just doesn’t go that way. Nagisa keeps up the defense and keeps hanging in there long enough to finally release her jumping smash at the most devastating moment. It’s everything Ayano has not to completely melt down on the court.

That’s because despite her brave face and resolve to reject her mom, Ayano still fears abandonment over everything else. By losing the second set, she feels she’s on the cusp of being abandoned again; this time by everyone who isn’t her mom. She enters a tailspin, going down 0-8 in the third game, causing some to consider the match over before it officially ends.

But then something happens: despite how badly she treated her teammates, they still cheer her on and urge her to do her best, not just for her own sake, but for the sake of the team, who can say they sent two teammates to the Nationals. Erena adds her voice to a crowd that is suddenly on Ayano’s side, as if sensing the emotional turmoil in which she’s roiling.

The sudden surge of support works. No longer afraid she’ll be discarded for being useless, Ayano breaks out something new from her back of tricks: she ends Nagisa’s 8-point scoring streak by scoring a point of her own, with her right hand. Could it be she’s a natural righty even though she’s been playing lefty all this time? Or is she simply ambidextrous?

In any case, she’s back in the game. Also worth looking for in the final episode: whether Ayano’s come-from-behind win is really in the cards. Maybe Nagisa will upset her, but then again, maybe Ayano needs to learn that she doesn’t need to win all the time to avoid being abandoned.

Advertisements

Hanebado! – 11 – Creating a Monster

“Why do you play badminton?” That question is oft asked in Hanebado!. Characters ask other characters, and also ask themselves. “Because I love it” seems to be a pretty popular answer. I mean, why participate in a sport and work hard at it if you don’t feel a kind of affinity for it, or because it makes you feel good?

Ayano claims not to subscribe to such a glib answer. Everyone who says they play because they love it seems to get on her nerves. Perhaps it’s envy, or perhaps it’s obfuscation. Regardless, Ayano isn’t in this for the love of the game; she’s in it for revenge against the mother who abandoned her—even as that mother claims she left her so she would become stronger.

You can call Ayano’s decision to renounce her mother a kind of growth, but there’s just as much Nagisa growth on display this week. For one thing, she’s learned not to get bothered by Ayano’s haughty provocations. She’s also learned not to push herself too far.

As Ayano is trying her best not to let the sudden reappearance of her mother throw her off her game (she sees it as yet another hurdle to clear), Nagisa is trying to get to bed at a reasonable hour the night before the match; though she can’t sleep and instead studies film of Ayano, ending up with less than three hours of sleep.

The day of the match, Ayano’s “teammates” encourage her, but she rejects that encouragement as a waste of time; her performance won’t be affected either way by their words. It’s the last display of cruel pomposity Elena is willing to bear. She takes Ayano aside and learns of Ayano’s plan to abandon her mom. And Elena blames herself for making Ayano join the club.

I can’t say I disagree with that placing of blame; while Ayano was hardly in a good place emotionally prior to being forced into joining club, the fact that she had come to hate badminton meant she had find a reason other than love of the game in order to prosper in it. With the best of intentions, Elena created a monster.

When play begins, Nagisa shows growth once more by playing a different game; not relying too much on her smash, and using more deception and less aggressive bull-headedness. She’s rewarded by winning the first two points of the first set. She also has the crowd behind her.

Elena spots Uchika walking out after her daughter’s two lost points, and as the rain starts to fall, expresses her desire to talk about Ayano with her. Meanwhile, Ayano, who didn’t see Uchika leave and probably doesn’t much care anymore, is hardly fazed by Nagisa’s surprisingly strong start.

In fact, she’s mildly amused, and then blurts out the strategy Nagisa is trying to employ. Nagisa was able to use the element of surprise to steal a couple of points, but she knew it wouldn’t be long before Ayano picked up on what was going on and adjusted her game.

While it only took Ayano two points for her to analyze Nagisa’s strategy, the show seems to want to present the possibility Nagisa could beat Ayano…but we’ll have to wait at least one of the final two episodes to know the final result. All we know is that Ayano will have a counterattack…and that we’re probably in for more flashbacks next week!

Hanebado! – 10 – Shuttlecock Tease

Finally, the long-awaited rematch between Nagisa and Ayano in the…wait, we’re not getting that this week? It’s just the boy’s matches? LAME. I won’t apologize for simply not caring about chunks of Hanebado! I feel to be padding, and a sure as hell don’t care any more about Yuu’s weird crush on Hayama or his and Isehara’s matches than I did before.

do care about Ayano, so it’s good to see her deliver the only appropriate welcome to a mother who peace’d out and found a taller, blonder girl to be her daughter and successor: a nonexistent welcome. Ayano doesn’t say one word to Uchika the whole episode, and frankly, one word would be one too many.

You can lay into Ayano all you want for being such an awful, insufferably haughty jerk to Nagisa and everyone else, but her mother’s shunning is primarily to blame.

We don’t even meet Nagisa’s parents, but we can assume they’re better than Ayano simply because they’ve stayed in her life and presumably didn’t betray her. One wonders why none of the kids on the team seem to have parents or siblings to watch them play.

Isehara and Hayama proceed with their matches, and it’s all a bit of a yawnfest, honestly. It’s just another version of the “hard work means something” and “you don’t have to have the most talent to play” trope. Isehara is talented—and handsome—but he loses anyway, just as Hayama does even though he works his ass off and has the enthusiastic support of his team

As for Yuu—Ebina Yuu; we finally get her last name, ten episodes in!—her crush dies shortly after Hayama loses, or possibly even during his match, but not because she thinks he sucks. Rather, her desire to support her came out of her own inadequacies. Now that he showed her there’s still value in fighting on despite not being any good, she’s content to part ways with a hearty thank you and goodbye.

This is honestly the boringest way things between them could have ended, which serves to fully justify my lack of enthusiasm for their plotline all along.

With the boys out of the way, all that remains is the final between Nagisa and Ayano…and if it doesn’t take place next week, I’m honestly going to skip the episode! Ayano is either intentionally or unintentionally continuing to provoke Nagisa into a “practice” match with her, as a kind of dry run to the finals, because she finds no one else (save the Olympics-caliber Coach Tachibana) a worthy opponent.

Nagisa doesn’t necessarily rise to the provocations; she wants to play in the finals with Ayano for a different, more personal reason. This isn’t about revenge, it’s about redemption. Nagisa acknowledges that she gave up in the All-Japan Juniors; she lost more to herself than Ayano. So she doesn’t see this as fighting Ayano, but fighting the person she was back then. It didn’t have to be Ayano.

As for Ayano, her mom mentioning she knows about her match with Connie, and her mom’s sudden offer to take her away from Japan (presumably to be a real family along with Connie), may yet create a psychological hitch in Ayano’s match with Nagisa. It’s not much, but especially with her troublesome knees, Nagisa will need all the help she can get.

Shokugeki no Souma 2 – 12

sns2121

What better way to follow up an episode that brought back the magic…than the Magician of Legumes himself? Food Wars goes right there in its next-to-last episode, focusing the entire episode on Souma as he advances to the next level: SHINO’S brand-new Tokyo destination.

Everyone’s very casual and genial to start out (Lucie, whom I believe to be voiced by the great Arai Satomi, is a standout), and Shino even cooks everyone a lovely mushroom burdock quiche after they finish cleaning and prepping for the day. Yay! But once the lights come on, Souma gets a rude awakening: this ain’t a family restaurant, and it ain’t gonna be a cakewalk like his first residency.

sns2122

This is haute cuisine, and Lucie, Gao, Abel, and Shino are polished PROS. They would be; back in Paris SHINO’S has two Michelin Stars. Thus it’s as if Souma’s difficulty level has been jacked up from 2 to 10. He’s astounded by the speed, precision, and silence of the intentionally short-staffed kitchen. Even on the first pre-open night, Souma can just barely get by.

The episode does a great job illustrating the whirlwind of pressure and activity, frazzling and intimidating Souma like never before. He’s not alone: the Staigaire gets tougher for everyone, as we see in the only cutaway to students other than Souma: all seem to be locked in some kind of epic battle, and everyone’s trying to hide a degree of fear and inadequacy and focus on the tasks at hand. Many anonymous students fail.

sns2123

But this is Souma we’re talking about; he’s not going to give up. In the deep end of the pool without floaties, he spends the week learning how to swim, and not just doggie paddle.

He foregoes sleep to absorb all of the kitchen’s precise and intricate French cooking techniques, all while getting into the pace and rhythms of the kitchen. He doesn’t have time to feel sorry for himself as the staff berates him mercilessly. He starts having a blast.

Shino’s team is wowed. but Shino is less impressed; after all this was the kid who challenged him to a Shokugeki; it would be a huge shame if he turned out to be anything less than what he’s become now. And despite all the gruntwork required of him, Souma has been developing a specialty he wishes to submit for the staff presentation following the pre-open. I can’t wait to see what he comes up with.

16rating_9

Qualidea Code – 04

qc41

Qualidea Code is a flawed show, but it’s showed signs of incremental improvement in the last two episodes. Lask week solved the “not enough peril” problem; while this week fixes Ichiya’s “boundless bluster” problem, delivering a much-needed dose of Canaria’s humility.

Indeed, while the turnabout in his personality was, uh, rapid, rapid change is possible in the midst of the person he cares more about than anyone else getting seriously hurt in a battle he instigated.

qc42

As the exterior peril intensifies, internal strife fades away for the good of the whole group. Thus Ichiya’s improved personality raises all boats, showing that when the going (finally) gets tough, he can count on his fellow heads and their subheads.

Ichiya presents this new-and-improved, common sense-armed self to the adult bosses, who endorse his plan to ally with Kanagawa and Chiba to defeat the Leviathan properly.

He’s learned his lesson, and hopefully retired his tired catchphrase “I’m all we need.” Clearly both he and they need more than just him; they need each other, working together.

qc43

His new plan for attack is neither nonsensical nor reckless; it is actually pretty by-the-book and straightforward, with each city playing to its strengths in an effort to distract, misdirect, and get through the armor of the Unknown.

Ichiya also leaves Aoi in charge of keeping an eye on Cana, who wakes up shortly after he departs for battle. She immediately sits up and gets dressed to catch up with him, but while Aoi tries to stop her, her fellow Tokyo broom-riders suggest a shortcut and for Aoi to accompany them.

qc44

Kazumi uses explosives and something called “dead space” to suspend their assault train into a position from which the ground forces can attack, while Hime surfaces her submarine carrier right beside the enemy to deliver a blow that still isn’t quite enough.

Turns out, the five fighting the battle can’t defeat the Leviathan without their sixth, Canaria, who comes in singing and buffing everyone around her. Realizing he’s stronger with everyone than all alone, Ichiya scoops up Hime and flies her to the spot she needs to get to to take out the Leviathan.

qc45

Remember what I said about QC being flawed? Well, while the peril is nicely pitched and the characters have gotten more interesting…the animation during the climax of the battle stinks, with the frame-rate dropping until it’s just a Powerpoint deck of still shots.

The show tries to pass this off as a “slowing of time” effect for enhanced drama, but actually has the opposite effect since at the end of the day, things weren’t really animated at a crucial part of the episode. The result was underwhelming and sloppy.

However, the episode makes up for that a bit with the aftermath, when Ichiya takes Cana back the hospital on his back and everyone celebrates a great victory….only for tragedy to suddenly, unexpectedly strike once more.

qc46

A post-credits scene with Ichiya and Cana has all the makings of a quiet epilogue to close the episode out, but for Asanagi’s shocked, pained reactions to seeing something on Aoi’s neck, indicating she, Cana, and the others who broke Cana out of the hospital went through a “no-entry zone.” We also see flashing red lights in the ocean, and one of those foreboding seagulls gets killed in the sky.

Just as Ichiya is telling Canaria he’s asking for a demotion that would swap their ranks, making her head, and telling her how he doesn’t care about anyone in the world as much as her, a huge mass falls out of the sky and smites Canaria. One moment, she’s there smiling, the next, a perfectly circular hole in the ground, and a spot of blood in the water.

I’m not sure exactly what happened here, and it surely adds to the mystery of what the adults aren’t telling the kids. But whatever we learn or however Ichiya deals, killing off a likable main character in the fourth episode is a bold move.

16rating_8

Fate / stay night: Unlimited Blade Works – 24

fsn241

UBW really kicked into high gear as expected, delivering a powerhouse finale to the battle to save the world from Gilgamesh. From the moment Shirou got back to his feet, to Rin’s beautifully dorky victorious thumbs-up, it was an intense ride, with some of the best action sequences yet delivered on a show that specializes in such things.

fsn242

As Gilgamesh and Shirou continue to bandy words, the latter begins to understand what his magic is all about, and why he’ll be able to defeat Gil without Saber’s help, a laughable proposition to the king. But it’s because he’s a king that Shirou, a warrior who’s very body is made of infinite swords, will always be able to stay one step ahead of GIlgamesh one-on-one in the reality marble of his making.

 

Gilgamesh owns swords, i.e. Noble Phantasms, and stores them in his treasury. But it’s still a finite number, and he’s mastered none of them, just like Shirou. If any other servant was the last one standing, he or she would easily defeat Shirou with their mastered Noble Phantasm.

fsn245

d

fsn243

That…actually makes a lot of sense, at least relative to the show’s mythology. Speaking of warriors, Saber comes to Rin’s aid, but is a bit too late and Rin and Shinji are consumed by the Holy Grail goop. Rin’s about to give up and Saber is about to obey her command seals and blow the whole thing up, but a brace of arrows from the sky cut Rin free. Turns out Archer, our Archer, is still around, which makes sense, since he made it clear he remains irrevocably trapped between life and death.

fsn244

With Rin out of harm’s way, Saber gives in to her command seal and unleashes Excalibur on the Grail/Servant Monster, blowing it to bits in an awesome display of light and power. But using the Holy Sword means the end of Saber, who wishes she could stick around, but is content in knowing Rin is around to take care of Shirou. (She also probably realizes that if she stayed, the love triangle that would persist would be a pain in the ass ;)

fsn245

Saber’s exit is quick, but not unexpected, because the show had foreshadowed quite a bit up to now that she’d be the sacrifice necessary to save Shirou and Rin and end the war. With the grail destroyed, it’s left to Shirou to continue hacking away at Gilgamesh, who is forced to “go all out.” Even so, Shirou slashes his arm off before Ea can touch him.

The reality marble vanishes as Shirou runs out of mana, but Gil can’t kill him because a remnant of the grail attempts to make him its new vessel. Gil, not wanting to die, tries to tether himself to Shirou with a chain, but Archer helps Shirou out one last time by delivering an arrow to Gil’s head. He’s sucked into oblivion. And just like that, it’s over. Cue victory fanfare and calculation of loot and EXP.

fsn246

Archer visits Rin one last time to say goodbye and laugh at the “state” both of them are in. His usual scowl and tough-guy talk gone, he looks and sounds more like the Shirou. He urges her, as Saber did, to take care of Shirou so he won’t end up like him, before vanishing before a gorgeous sunrise.

fsn247

With Saber and Archer gone, we’re left with two humans (three, if you count Shinji, which I don’t). There’s a big exhale and feeling of heady relief as Shirou suggest to Rin they go home, clean up, get some food in them, and get some rest. Having wrapped up all the big stuff here, UBW can give the entire last episode over to epilogue, an arrangement I can get behind. Let’s see what all this fighting and sacrifice wrought.

10_brav2

Mikagura Gakuen Kumikyoku – 03

mika31

On Cloud Nine after her upset victory over Himi, Eruna is already prepared to take over the school and the world with the power she just awakened. She also believes she’s already won the heart of Mikagura Seisa, whom she fantasizes about embracing her like a lover in her trademark delusions.

mika32

Last week we saw a glimpse of Eruna’s potential, but she’s clearly jumping the gun, so this week she gets a sobering, but not devastating, dose of reality. Seisa invites Eruna and Himi to her mansion and her room and even indulges Eruna by praising her and patting her on the head, a gesture Himi mimics, to Eruna’s elation.

mika33

Seisa is right: Eruna really only won because Himi let her guard down and didn’t go in for the kill before her opponent’s power could awaken. If they faced off again, Himi would almost certainly win. Eruna isn’t so sure, and in her hubris, agrees to a practice battle against Seisa herself, but she’ll be kicked out of the “Going-Home Club” (is that really even a club?) if she loses.

mika34

Prior to her battle, Eruna soaks in another practice battle, between Imizu Asuhi (telescope boy) and Akama Yuuto (drama club rep) Unlike Himi with Eruna, the experienced Akama doesn’t waste any time dispatching the rookie with ease. It’s an effective warning to Eruna not to take a peactice battle against a veteran lightly.

mika35

Well, it would be effective, if Eruna weren’t so gosh-darn cocky and sure she’ll be able to take out one of Seisa’s crystals. Just as it covered her first fancy breakfast at the school, the very on-top-of-things newspaper club prints a very timely extra about the Eruna/Seisa clash, complete with bikini shots of Eruna that get her cousin very excited.

mika36

In the battle that followed, Mikagura showed that Eruna isn’t going to pull off a win and get her way every week just because she’s awakened her power. She manages to fly all over the field of battle like lightning, but when she lands a blow on a crystal her hand goes right through it, and her beam fails to manifest. Eruna doesn’t even see Seisa snatch her crystals out of the air and smash them with her bare hands. It’s a total, utter defeat, and Seisa isn’t particularly nice about it, either: “Nice try. Too bad.”

mika37

Thus chastened, kicked out of Seisa’s club, and served generous portions of humble pie, Eruna retreats to a quiet corner of the school to lick her wounds and munch on that pie. She’s joined by Kuzuryu, who offers her milk and a light kick in the bum, but to his surprise, Eruna can’t drink milk and haughtily requests something else form him, preferably in the 300-yen range. It’s a nice senpai/kohai moment that cheers Eruna up and gets her thinking about her next steps.

mika38

With no existing clubs up her alley, Eruna decides to form her own, the nature of which is TBD (Seisa Fan Club doesn’t count, I imagine). But in an act of defiant perseverance, she marches up to the walls of Seisa’s giant mansion, builds a “clubroom” out of cardboard, and prepares to spend the night in it, promising Seisa (who happens to be listening from her window) she’ll keep growing and improving (a rookie battle she might be able to win is coming up), so she can one day face off against her once again.

Seemingly moved by Eruna’s determination and pluck, she meets her out in the rain and lets her move into her mansion, if only the hallway where she’ll be allowed to set up her sleeping bag. Eruna wanted to take big huge leaps to greatness, but smaller steps and more incremental goals are going to be the way to go. It’ll be tough, but no one’s ever going to accuse Eruna of not being tough!

7_ses

Mikagura Gakuen Kumikyoku – 02

mika21

I’m really digging Mikagura’s reverse-gender shonen story and its boisterous, manic energy. But as rowdy and enthusiastic as Eruna is, she remains homeless and hungry, and joining the Going Home Club only netted her an extra minute in the shower and a tiny portion of natto. She has to start winning battles…but how?

mika22

Eruna decides to visit all the high-ranking clubs seeking advice. Kuzuryuu ignores her, Himi will only help if Eruna buys her dessert (which she can’t afford), Seisa doesn’t even let her in the house, and while Imizu Asuhi is so cute and feminine Eruna could swear he’s a she, she ends up accidentally setting off his telescope gun. The recurring theme of these encounters is clear: this is something she needs to figure out for herself, as they did. If she can’t, she doesn’t deserve to be there.

mika23

With no direction whatsoever, Eruna takes a game Shigure up on his offer to assist her, and while she comes up with cool names for the moves she tries on him, at the end of the day, she’s only hitting him with her bookbag and sleeping bag, then getting pulled back into her dating sim and her beloved 2D GF Yuriko (the timing of this joke is great). The rest is merely her delusions…and she knows that…but she’s not sure what else to do.

mika24

When she crosses paths with Seisa, she delivers a confession of sorts; that the whole reason she came to the school was because she wanted to hang out with a lovely person like the girl in the brochure, and she’s committed to trying her very best to make her proud of her.

The exchange reminds me of what a male character of similar background and personality might say to the girl he likes (if he had he the guts to do so), only Eruna happens to also be a girl (and does have the guts). She’s just a super-likable character I can’t help but wanna root for. I know, that’s the point, but she show hit the mark well.

mika25

But as her battle neared, and Eruna showed no signs of being remotely prepared, I’ll admit I started to feel a little apprehensive. Eruna can imagine whatever positive outcome she likes and delude herself that’s it’s going to happen, but she gets a cold dose of reality when what she considers a pretty clever ambush attempt is foiled easily by the experienced Himi. Himi is also pretty cocky, remarking how she wants to wrap this dawdle up soon so she can go eat some snacks.

mika26

Just when the weight of what defeat would mean begins to slowly descend upon a limping, winded Eruna, she comes across a door covered in seals that release when she touches it. Inside is a room full of light where a slightly more throwback version of herself tells her to awaken her power; the power she had inside all along, but just didn’t know how to tap into. After this encounter, a switch goes off, and suddenly Eruna is dodging Himi’s attack with ease and flying through the school like a bat out of hell.

mika27

As Eruna’s strength, speed, and agility rise exponentially, she’s overcome by a combination of disbelief and excitement, and the animation of the episodes gets bolder and jauntier to keep up with her. With a great beam of light emanating from her index finger, she shatters all three of Himi’s crystals simultaneously, earning her a decisive upset win.

Perhaps her delusions of greatness were really an expression her hidden power trying to emerge. Now they have, and that greatness is no longer just a delusion.

mika28

It’s a win the whole school watched from their smartphones, including Seisa, who certainly looks impressed with what she saw, and all of a sudden Eruna is no longer the over-fantasizing, hapless rookie underdog…but an imposing upstart who’s only just cracked the surface of the potential her bloodline has passed down to her.

Perhaps most important, people will start to stop looking down on her; not just because she can soar high into the sky now, but because she made the same breakthrough all of them made before her. Now she really is one of them.

8_ses

Kill la Kill – 09

kill9

Kiryuin appoints Gamagoori Ira as Ryuuko’s first opponent, due to him having defeated the least cannon fodder out of the Elite Four. Her scissor can’t penetrate the cloth armor protecting the life fiber within, so when he launches his regalia, she and Senketsu bite into his whips with his teeth, and get thrust inside his uniform. Senketsu transforms into “Senjin” mode, becoming covered in blades that tear Gamagoori’s uniform to shreds.

The first of Ryuuko’s battles with the Elite Four committee chairs was immensly fun to watch. It was well-established last week that Gamagoori wasn’t going to be a cakewalk, a notion reinforced by his flashback battle with the adorable Lil’ Kiryuin, in which he managed to snatch the scabbard of her sword to prevent himself from kneeling before her. Last week we saw what he was capable of tactically; this week we find out why he does it: his self-punishes as an example to the student body to correct their own behavior of their own accord. When Ryuuko refuses to do the same, he revokes her independence and threatens to mold her into a model student. Mold literally, like taiyaki, which is hilarious. We also like how the battle was initially delayed, another example of Gamagoori’s devotion to protocol.

But both the intensity of Gamagoori’s resolve and his dogged desire to impress his mistress form another shield: one of arrogance. He’s too busy getting the job done (and punishing himself) to realize Ryuuko and Senketsu have a plan; they adjust their tactics to the mechanics of this particular battle (she also ate Mako’s mom’s bento, ensuring victory!) Senketsu’s new look is even more ridiculous and extreme in keeping with the show’s escalatory nature. No doubt other transformations will reveal themselves as Ryuuko faces the other three. But we’re wondering why Mikisugi won’t tell her anything, doesn’t want her to fight the elite four, and isn’t “happy about it” when she beats Gamagoori. Will the truth implicate him in some way, or otherwise make Ryuuko even more angry and unsatisfied?

8_great
Rating: 8 
(Great)