Macross Delta – 03

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The plot: Mirage and Messer don’t like Hayate and Hayate isn’t helping his case. He skips class and doesn’t take his training seriously and only survives his final examine because Freyja sings to him.

And until Hayate needs help, Freyja was under-performing as well. However, in her case she both takes the training seriously and her fellow songstresses are far more supportive and understanding.

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The Problem: This episode paints a bleak picture for Macross Delta. When all the extraneous, predictable and force-fed nostalgia is stripped away, all that is left is a beautifully-rendered but vapid show.

Worse, there are so many characters fighting for screen time, and each is so distractingly over-designed, that there’s no room for the main characters to breath. For goodness sake, the three street children from last week’s throwaway phone joke did not need to become recurring secondary characters.

Screen Shot 2016-04-18 at 4.03.25 PMIncluding the girl with the ai octopus hairpiece on her head, 5 of these characters have speaking lines and I have no idea who any of them are beyond ‘pilot’ or ‘deck crew’

Counting the slap-stick Mercat, who’s antics are clearly telegraphed as a teaching tool for Hayate to using in his exam, this episode features sixteen secondary characters, three main characters and that’s not counting the Aerial Knights who teaser us after the ending credits. Too much!

Even if Delta weren’t choking to death on frivolous characters and predictable plots, other plot elements feel purely nostalgic. Flying in VF-01 trainers (and being told they are ‘cute’) feels forced and without in-show purpose.

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You will probably enjoy it: because it’s wondrously rendered and packed with details. Even Elysion Colony floating in the bay itself is a visual callback to Frontier and Macross 8, and anchors this show within the greater universe.

You may not enjoy it: because the plot is predictable and the characters, what little we get to see of them, are Macross archetypes: Low-stress anti-war fighter ace, bright eyed loli-songstress whose spunk will win the day, and a rainbow of inconsequential ‘advance the plot’ secondary cast characters.

Sadly, Mirage’s tsundere character is about the most original thing here, and it’s only somewhat original to Macross, not anime in general. I am seriously tempted to rate this a 7.

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Macross Delta – 02

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Delta quickly wraps up last week’s cliffhanger with Mirage swooping in to rescue Hayate & Freyja’s falling, crippled variable fighter and the Aerial Knights retreating, having collected the data they were after.

The remainder of the episode sets out to establish more of the world, context for Freyja’s ability, character relationships and how Hayate & Freyja ultimately join Walkure.

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From mer-cats to gilled street kids with webbed fingers selling organic fish cellphone bracelets, the world around Macross Elysion, Delta Platoon’s HQ, is a fantastical buffet of extraneous but enjoyable details.

It’s all lovingly rendered but Hayate literally grabs Freyja and runs her out of the scene because they have so little narrative purpose, beyond a minor nod to Ranka Lee’s squeezable organic cell phone in Macross Frontier. Even the brief scene in the Aerial Knight’s mountain castle, which includes a column-like pipe organ in the background, only repeats information we’ve already been told.

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As to the joining Walkure part, Freyja is given an audition, which she fails and Hayate is outright offered a piloting position by Delta Platoon Arad Molders. Later, on her way back to the city, Freyja’s tram suddenly halts and one of the passengers goes var-mad. Freyja is knocked to the ground but she sings her way to safety and passes Walkure’s final, secret audition test.

Delta deserves serious credit for its solid sound design.  Music cues are tight. We can feel Freyja’s frustration in the droning elevator-pop of the tram ride and feel her surprise as that music cuts off with the lights and is replaced by something more ominous. Subtle too, that omens music is fun-house style goofy, which softly hints that not all is as it seems to the viewer.

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As to the character relationships, Mirage and Hayate are immediately set up as rivals (and, probably, long term love interests) due to Hayate’s natural skills and matter of fact criticism of the military and rules following. It doesn’t help that Mirage was out of sync during combat too and they both know it.

More broadly, we see Arad’s fatherly relations with with his pilots and other admin, as well as how most people are scared of Elysion’s Captain Ernest Johnson, who is probably Zentradi but looks like an adult version of Teen Titans’ Beast Boy. We also see the Aerial Knights have a lot of internal conflict, which will no doubt be their undoing.

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Stray details and speculation: The Aerial Knights’ SV-262 Draken III’s appeal to be capable of docking with a Ghost on the end of each wing. This not only looks pretty cool, but could imply reliance on artificial intelligence to bolster their numbers. (AI is also generally outlawed in the Macross universe, following Sharon Apple’s rampage in Plus and whatever the heck the androids of Macross Galaxy were up to in Frontier)

Also worth noting the Aerial Knight’s resemblance to the pre-space era earth villains in Macross Zero. The fighters look similar, also had purple, and the characters had feudal sounding titles and ranks…

Also also, Walkure’s VF-31 “Siegfrieds” are named after a dragon slayer, which is important because “Draken” means dragon in swedish.

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Delta’s strength is that it is very well produced: tremendous precision went into its sound design, visual styling, animation and world building. It somehow even keeps its 17+ characters recognizable and coherent.

Delta’s weakness is it has 17+ characters to show us, tons of world building to get through, and some technobabble about singing/fold-space potential, and even more alien races than Macross has ever tackled before.

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It does a good job balancing that all out, but there is so much packed into this episode, I found it hard to absorb in one sitting. More critically, despite the extraneous detail scenes that serve as points of ‘rest,’ the shows maximum level of information density stops individual elements from standing out.

It’s like playing a game for the first time with 2 years worth of DLC turned on from the very beginning!

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Macross Delta – 01

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Note: This is a repost of my January review of the preview special, updated with the rest of the episode that more recently aired.

Cute, quirky, idealistic heroine whom the serious male protag helps out? Check. Rather than Ranka Lee, we have Freyja Wion. She’s also voiced by a first-time seiyu (Suzuki Minori), who does a pretty good job balancing goofiness, earnestness, vulnerability and determination.

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If you’re not put off by Freyja’s bubbly enthusiasm, you’ll want to root for her almost immediately. She’s on the run from an arranged marriage to audition for Walkure, a “Tactical Sound Unit” that uses music to fight the Var, which unlike the Vajra aren’t a primal alien race, but a disease that infects everyone, potentially making anybody a weapon in its arsenal.

While there’s a lot of terminology right out of the gate, Delta doesn’t drown you in it, and also assumes this isn’t your first Macross rodeo (my other exposure to the franchise is the excellent 25th anniversary series Macross Frontier). Like that show, the world is lush and detailed, only the visuals here in 2016 are even more smooth and refined, particularly where CGI is concerned.

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The male protag, Hayate Immelmann (probably named for the turn), is initially put off by Freyja’s weirdness, but ends up rescuing her, though having been someone who’s dreamed big in the past and gotten nowhere, he remains skeptical of her lofty aspirations.

Something tells me his attitude will have changed when this episode concludes in April. He even seems to come under a little bit of a spell from her overflowing charisma—until she loses her foothold and he has to catch her in an awkward position that has him at gunpoint for suspected perversion by Mirage, a soldier in Delta Platoon, Walkure’s escort unit.

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The misunderstanding is corrected just in time for a city-wide Var Alert. The Var infect the local Zentradi base (as in Frontier, the green-skinned giants are normally allies of the humans here), and Freyja and Hayate become naught but two more ants on a massive battlefield, running for their lives.

Then we’re introduced to the four members of Walkure who run towards the danger, transforming into their magical songstress forms: You have the Sheryl Nome-esque star Mikumo, the tomboyish Reina, the girly Makina, and the sporty leader, Kaname.

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Working in concert with the Delta Platoon, they neutralize the effects of the Var with their music, as the battle on the ground is essentially one big music video. This is a departure from Frontier in that the effects of the singing on the enemy aren’t known until later in the show. Here, Walkure is an active participant in the combat, and also in protecting the hordes of citizens with swarms of multidrones.

As one would expect of an experienced and practiced pop music group, Walkure knows exactly what to do and carry it out swiftly and efficiently, but also with an ample helping of style. So confident is Mikumo in her powers of charm, she gets right in a Var-infected Zentradi pilot’s face and cures him on the spot, getting him to exclaim that iconic line, “Deculture!”

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But that’s not all for enemies. In orbit, the planet’s space fleet is attacked by the Aerial Knights, a group of badass male warriors who look to be the Walkure Girls’ rivals and foils. When they engage the Delta Platoon on the surface, they learn they’re more than a match.

Be it the Huge Capital Ship Getting Blow’d Up Real Good in orbit or the Zig-Zagging Dogfight in the skies, Delta doesn’t separate itself much from Frontier in these areas, but it does distinguish itself in sheer quality and refinement. There’s nary a frame out of place, and as previously stated, the CGI is far better integrated into the regular animation than the older work. The plane, ship, cockpit, and HUD designs are also new and very cool-looking, all with a welcome nod to the past.

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With all the big battles and explosions going on, the episode could be excused for completely forgetting about Freyja and Hayate, but when the Knights push Walkure and Delta into a corner, we come back to them, trying not to get caught in the crossfire. Then Mikumo emerges from the pile of wreckage, ready to rumble anew, and changes the tune—literally—to a more aggressive but still upbeat song.

Freyja’s little heart-shaped stone on her head starts to glow (as it did when Hayate fell on her), and she can’t resist singing along and running towards the battle rather than away. It’s an inspiring sight for young Hayate, seeing her risk her life with a smile on her face and a song in her heart, without a care in the world that things won’t work out.

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So…what does the newly-aired episode add to the preview? Nothing that changes my original score of an 8. Right after Freyja runs off, Hayate commandeers a partially-wrecked mech to back her up. As Walkure detects Freyja adding her voice to theirs (and it’s a nice voice), Hayate takes out baddies with the grace of a dancer.

Eventually, he gets lost in the song, and he and Freyja spend a little time in Glowing Naked Blue Sky Land before enemy fire snaps Hayate out of it, and the two start plummeting to the Earth. With their fates uncertain (though not really; they’ll be fine) the episode really just replaced one ellipsis with another, only now Walkure and Delta Platoon have seen a little of what these two crazy kids can do.

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Macross Delta (Preview Special) – 01

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A couple of things: First, to my surprise, Macross Delta won’t be airing until April as a Spring 2016 show (which is for the best, as I wasn’t sure I’d be able to handle both a Gundam and a Macross at the same time). Second, while this isn’t a complete episode, it is comprised of 391 of the 450 frames of the first episode, or over 86% of the total. So we get a pretty good look.

A lot of those 391 frames contain some pretty familiar stuff…but this is Macross, so you go in fully expecting that.  Cute, quirky, idealistic heroine whom the serious male protag helps out? Check. Rather than Ranka Lee, we have Freyja Wion. She’s also voiced by a first-time seiyu (Suzuki Minori), who does a pretty good job balancing goofiness, earnestness, vulnerability and determination.

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If you’re not put off by Freyja’s bubbly enthusiasm, you’ll want to root for her almost immediately. She’s on the run from an arranged marriage to audition for Walkure, a “Tactical Sound Unit” that uses music to fight the Var, which unlike the Vajra aren’t a primal alien race, but a disease that infects everyone, potentially making anybody a weapon in its arsenal.

While there’s a lot of terminology right out of the gate, Delta doesn’t drown you in it, and also assumes this isn’t your first Macross rodeo (my other exposure to the franchise is the excellent 25th anniversary series Macross Frontier). Like that show, the world is lush and detailed, only the visuals here in 2016 are even more smooth and refined, particularly where CGI is concerned.

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The male protag, Hayate Immelmann (probably named for the turn), is initially put off by Freyja’s weirdness, but ends up rescuing her, though having been someone who’s dreamed big in the past and gotten nowhere, he remains skeptical of her lofty aspirations.

Something tells me his attitude will have changed when this episode concludes in April. He even seems to come under a little bit of a spell from her overflowing charisma—until she loses her foothold and he has to catch her in an awkward position that has him at gunpoint for suspected perversion by Mirage, a soldier in Delta Platoon, Walkure’s escort unit.

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The misunderstanding is corrected just in time for a city-wide Var Alert. The Var infect the local Zentradi base (as in Frontier, the green-skinned giants are normally allies of the humans here), and Freyja and Hayate become naught but two more ants on a massive battlefield, running for their lives.

Then we’re introduced to the four members of Walkure who run towards the danger, transforming into their magical songstress forms: You have the leader, the Sheryl Nome-esque leader Mikumo, the tomboyish Reina, the girly Makina, and the sporty Kaname (thanks Starqo).

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Working in concert with the Delta Platoon, they neutralize the effects of the Var with their music, as the battle on the ground is essentially one big music video. This is a departure from Frontier in that the effects of the singing on the enemy aren’t known until later in the show. Here, Walkure is an active participant in the combat, and also in protecting the hordes of citizens with swarms of multidrones.

As one would expect of an experienced and practiced pop music group, Walkure knows exactly what to do and carry it out swiftly and efficiently, but also with an ample helping of style. So confident is Mikumo in her powers of charm, she gets right in a Var-infected Zentradi pilot’s face and cures him on the spot, getting him to exclaim  that iconic line, “Deculture!”

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But that’s not all for enemies. In orbit, the planet’s space fleet is attacked by the Aerial Knights, a group of badass male warriors who look to be the Walkure Girls’ rivals and foils. When they engage the Delta Platoon on the surface, they learn they’re more than a match.

Be it the Huge Capital Ship Getting Blow’d Up Real Good in orbit or the Zig-Zagging Dogfight in the skies, Delta doesn’t separate itself much from Frontier in these areas, but it does distinguish itself in sheer quality and refinement. There’s nary a frame out of place, and as previously stated, the CGI is far better integrated into the regular animation than the older work. The plane, ship, cockpit, and HUD designs are also new and very cool-looking, all with a welcome nod to the past.

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With all the big battles and explosions going on, the episode could be excused for completely forgetting about Freyja and Hayate, but when the Knights push Walkure and Delta into a corner, we come back to them, trying not to get caught in the crossfire. Then Mikumo emerges from the pile of wreckage, ready to rumble anew, and changes the tune—literally—to a more aggressive but still upbeat song.

Freyja’s little heart-shaped stone on her head starts to glow (as it did when Hayate fell on her), and she can’t resist singing along and running towards the battle rather than away. It’s an inspiring sight for young Hayate, seeing her risk her life with a smile on her face and a song in her heart, without a care in the world that things won’t work out.

Even though Freyja stowed away on a ship to the wrong planet, it looks like she’ll get her audition after all—we’ll just have to wait until April to see how it goes. Until then, I know I have a big, bold, upbeat new Macross to look forward to when the chill breaks.

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Gakusen Toshi Asterisk – 04

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Aha…so the man behind the attacks on Festa participants was…SILAS NORMAN. Wait, who? Julis’ opponent turns out to be Lester’s bowl-cut toady, with Lester himself unaware of the cowardly tactics Silas was implementing (Les is the sort to challenge his opponents face-to-face).

But I’m still grasping for reasons to care about Silas, or why he continually thinks he has the upper hand against Julis and Lester and that they’re DOOMED before his army of slow, lame golems. It’s like Crabbe or Goyle fighting Harry Potter instead of Malfoy, with substandard magic: nothing much other than shrug-worthy.

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He does have on thing on his side: numbers (and the fact Julis tends to block her own field of vision with her huge fiery spells, which…is actually a good point). So when her leg is grazed by a bullet the golems are able to bum rush her. Then Silas reveals he’s a sadist who wanted to “take his time” with Julis, because of course he is and does.

But before he can strike the decisive blow, Julis’ night in school uniform swoops in, halves the golems holding her down, and takes her aside. They then proceed to have a nice casual little chat together while Silas and his golems patiently wait. Again, Silas never struck me as anything resembling a credible threat (the episode refuses to respect him; why should I?), so this isn’t that strange.

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While Julis is initially upset Ayato came and put himself in danger for her sake, he tells her why: being by her side is the purpose he’s chosen, even if he has to do boring stuff like mop up Silas’ sad golem army, which is so easy with the Ser Veresta that he can do it while carrying Julis around.

The reveal that the army is structure like a chess game (Oooh, chess!) adds absolutely nothing to the tension; only the opportunity for Ayato to say “Checkmate!” at some point.

But he doesn’t! Instead, he says “Ripping apart the five viscera and severing the four limbs…Amagiri Shinmei-style, Second Sword: Nine-Fanged Sword!”…Not as cool. Plus, ya said “sword” twice there, brah.

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When Silas limps away on his last functioning golem, Ayato prepares to put Julis down and go after him, but Julis has a better idea: cast a flying spell and pilot Ayato to Silas up in the sky. Finally, after beaing nearly defeated way too easily by Silas, Julis gets to do something besides hang around in Ayato’s arm while he does all the fighting.

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He delivers one more blow, halving Silas’ lifeboat and sending him plummeting to the streets to be arrested by Claudia. (Lester is never seen again, for the record). But Ayato and Julis can’t enjoy the lovely sunset or their victory for long, because an imprisonment spell restraining Ayato’s powers takes effect, making him pass out. It was a spell cast by his sister, perhaps in order to protect him from himself.

He then wakes up in the lap of Julis, who is totally okay with having his head in her lap. What ultimately saves this episode from sixdom is the fact that the whole battle with Silas was a kind of audition for Ayato, to prove to Julis once more that even if she thinks she can go it alone, he’s going to be there for her. It wasn’t the toughest battle, but then again, Julis did end up restrained and almost taken out.

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So when Ayato requests to be her partner in the Festa, she eventually agrees, trying and failing to hide her blushing happiness the whole time. It’s all very nice. But more importantly, these two lovebirds are still chess pieces for someone, and that someone is Claudia.

While I don’t think she’s evil or anything, she is ruthless in getting her way, which means ensuring Ayato and Julis become a powerful pair who will go far in the Festa, as well as handing a viciously bloodied Silas off  to her “Shadow Stars” for further interrogation (i.e. torture). I almost feel bad for poor old Silas OH WAIT NO I DON’T.

Finally, Silas was only ever a pawn himself, for the rival school Allekant, a confident, scheming representative of which we meet for the first time, watching Claudia on surveillance video. Clearly, Silas wasn’t her only piece on the board.

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Sore ga Seiyuu! – 07

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More jobs have come for Futaba, Ichigo and Rin, to the point that they’re busy enough to end up in the same studio on the same day, not for their Earphones work but for three separate gigs: Futaba is dubbing a zombie movie with veteran Koyama Rikiya (and the rude guy who said she stunk way back when), Ichigo is reading for an audiobook, and Rin is doing voice work for a video game.

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Futaba is scared of the film’s horror theme, especially the fact one of her roles is a zombie, but eventually finds her footing, inspired by the always professional (and veggie juice-drinking) Koyama. Ichigo must adjust her voice to something less urgent than anime yet emphatic enough to get the point across. Rin has the strangest and most abstract job, simply firing off all her lines with no one else around, and even making noises for when her character receives small, medium, and large punches.

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While all three were nervous going into their respective jobs, by the end they’re all happy and confident in their performances. And while it’s raining when it’s time to leave the studio, Futaba and Ichigo remembered to bring umbrellas, proving they’ve grown since the day they had to share Rin’s due to poor preparation. That preparation and growth is also apparent, as both the rude guy and Koyama say Futaba did well, raising her spirits even more as they head to the wrap party.

So ends another funny, informative, and charming episode about the day in the life of new but increasingly successful seiyus.

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Sore ga Seiyuu! – 06

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Earphones are about to go through a very busy gauntlet of dancing lessons, recording, music video filming, events, and promotion for their first single, “Into Your Ears.” But before that, Futaba recalls the her of last year, who recorded a Drama CD with Kugimiya Rie (the show is on a mini Toradora! tear).

When she passes a video store and sees a display for an anime adaptation of the CD, she gets excited about having to budget her time even more, which feels pretty premature; it’s practically assured at this point she’s going to end up disappointed.

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Sure enough, she doesn’t hear from the producers of the CD when she should, and it’s Rin who inadvertently breaks the news to her in the middle of one of their radio shows: she, not Futaba, will be voicing Kugimiya’s little sister in the anime version.

Futaba is able to keep it together long enough to finish the show, but after that, she just needs to get away from Rin, and Ichigo, and everything. The show really lets us feel the sting of rejection, garnished with the extra shock of her friend and unit partner being the one usurping her.

It falls to her senpai Shiodome to talk her out of her funk, and I’m pleased to report Shiodome, while kind, isn’t overly or conspicuously kind, and it seems from her body language she’d prefer not to be so hands-on with her juniors, lest they not learn the lessons they need to learn. But in this case, Futaba had her idea of being a seiyu being a dream burst.

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Shiodome clarifies that it’s the audience that sees and hears the dream, not the seiyu. The seiyu make the dream possible through their commitment and professionalism, performing with everything they’ve got no matter what’s going on with their personal lives. And all seiyu, even TsundeRie and Hocchan, have felt the sting she’s feeling.

Futaba listens to her drama CD again and learns that the her of a year ago actually sucked, but realizes the fact she can tell is proof she’s grown, and demands more of herself. Expressing to Rin her jealousy and frustration with not getting the part, but also her excitment by what Rin will bring to the part, help clear the air.

For now, Futaba must focus on Earphones, singing and dancing her heart out. If she does well, she’ll get noticed, and other jobs will come.

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Sore ga Seiyuu! – 05

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After a few eps centered on Futaba, this week focuses on Ichigo, perhaps the most abrasive of the three members of Headphones due to her need to live her Strawberry Princess persona at all times. Even alone, she refers to her room as her kingdom, even though she was fired from her part-time job and both the electricity and gas have been switched off.

It’s certainly not all strawberries and cream for Ichigo, but she gets a call from her agency notifying her she won a role in the sequel to a popular video game. Sure, it’s the role of an artificial bug who sits on the main character’s shoulder and mostly just says “Poro”, but it’s a part, damnit! People whose utilities have been switched off can’t be picky!

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After collecting her three boxes of script for the game, she shows up at the Shibuya Public Hall for a pre-launch event hosted by the game company and featuring the cast, including the lead, who is none other than Horie Yui.

Full disclosure: I’ve only experienced a tiny fraction of the 350+ productions Hocchan has performed in since 1997, but I’ve been in love ever since her wonderful role as Minori Kushieda in Toradora!.She was also pretty fantastic in Golden TimeI could go on, but suffice it to say she’s a giant in the industry.

So it’s great to see Hocchan in anime form show up not just as a cameo, but a persistent figure throughout Ichigo’s very first event of this kind. What’s also great is how casual, down to earth, and approachable Ichigo discovers her hero to be, what with her mussed hair, comfortable wardrobe, and smushed melon-pan.

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Ichigo had a nightmare about performing before a totally silent crowd before the event where over 2,000 people will turn out, so she needs all the support she can get from more experienced talent. You don’t get much more experienced and professional than Hocchan. Ichigo’s reaction to Hocchan’s transformation from frumpy-ish housecat to stunning idol is pretty priceless. It’s one thing to see a celebrity in magazines or on TV, but in person it’s as if they become more real.

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The event unfolds as a sequence of stills, which is a bit lazy, but the episode is strapped for time at this point. In fact, the montage pretty effectively illustrates just how fast it all flies by for Ichigo, and how it’s all over before she even gets a good grasp of what she’s doing. But she shouldn’t have expected any more from herself; this was her first time, and she’ll get better at them with time.

Furthermore, watching Horie Yui fire up the crowd with a mini-concert (she is good at the theme song singing), and watching Hocchan’s professionalism and magnetic personality on display in general, inspires Ichigo to keep doing her best.

When her dad shot her a text asking how she was, Ichigo was about to tell him she’s scared and doesn’t know what to do, but decided not to send it. It was a brave gesture, showing that she trusts in her ability to get those lights and hot water back on very soon.

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Sore ga Seiyuu! – 04

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SgS keeps pace with Dandelion this week, as we come to love the characters in both shows the more time we spend with them. It has occured to me that Sore is very much a love letter to the seiyu industry and the people in it, almost playing like a documentary of these girls’ lives, yet avoids being over-indulgent or extra-congratulatory.

With the highs come the lows, and the lows suck when you’re in them, regardless of vocation. That’s what this episode captures best: Futaba at first believing she’s all alone in her doubt and despair, when in fact, everyone goes those emotions. That knowledge brings comfort and motivation to strive harder.

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With Bodhisattvon wraping and all three girls failing to pass auditions for the next show (doubly upsetting since we saw Futaba part with most of her petty cash to buy the manga), they’re feeling uneasy about the future. Futaba in particular is sure she’ll get more work before the Bodhi recording and radio show both wrap, but she’s incorrect on both counts.

All it takes to clear Futaba’s clouds of despair and worry is to bump into a legend like Ginga Banjou, who has died many more times than she on screen. Because of that, he can lend her valuable words of supportive advice that apply not only to dealing with the deaths of one’s characters, but in dealing with the serial rejection all seiyus (and indeed, artists) must endure. Futaba is not alone.

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When their radio show ends, it looks like Futaba is about to stare down the long, dusty road of non-employment in her chosen field (though she still has the part-time job), but their boss springs another surprise on them: not only has their radio show been extended, but he’s putting them in a unit, to record the theme song to the show and perhaps eventually become a full-on idol group.

This is a lot for Futaba and even Rin to take in, though it’s exactly what Ichigo has been dreaming of. I like how they all react by paying more attention to themselves, whether it’s Futaba being broken out of her daydream by her jiggly arm, Rin training herself to wear miniskirts, or Ichigo’s overdone yet somehow appropriate ringlets.

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Really, I should have seen this development coming: Futaba, Rin and Ichigo already had the built-in look of characters who wouldn’t look out of place in a sci-fi magical girl or music anime. Now, they could be on the road to just those kinds of roles, if it all pans out. Everyone’s nervous, like they were when the radio show first started. But with time, they got better at that, and they’ll eventually get better at all this unit stuff, too.

ED request: The theme to Sailor Moon Crystal.

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Sore ga Seiyuu! – 03

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Before they begin their own web radio show, they go on Futaba’s senpai Shidome’s bigger radio show to promote it. Flanked by the venerable Tamura Yukari, the trio are literally petrified in front of the mics, as any newbies would be under the circumstances. Despite this, Tamura-san thinks they’re funny, and wishes them good luck.

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When the day of their first recording arrives, the three gather at a much smaller studio with a much smaller staff of one, and a script of only a few pages, with the particularly scary “free talk” mixed in. There’s no rehearsals or practices; they’re thrust right into the studio and onto a live show where every moment of hesitation is a moment of dead air.

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The pressure under the girls is palpable, and things start out pretty rough, but while they show is “all over the place”, they do get into a nice rhythm towards the end, and their boss says they have potential. All they need to do is gather the confidence to converse the way they normally do in front of the mics, and they’ll be golden.

By the same measure, when the three girls watch (and listen) to the anime they had roles in, they’re all a little disappointed in themselves, but that just inspires them to keep working harder to become great. It doesn’t happen overnight.

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Sore ga Seiyuu! – 02

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I was going to try to choose between Seiyu’s Life! and Dandelion in order to pare down my workload as we all must do around this time in the season, but after two episodes, I’m no closer to making that choice; both have their charms.

The second outing of SGS shows us more of Futaba’s not-so-glamorous life as a struggling seiyu: part-time work at Lawson (Ichigo works at an even more clinical box lunch processing plant), walking into the office to find a tiny slip of a script next to a tower of scripts for Kamiya Hiroshi (that’s right, The Kamiya Hiroshi, in the flesh!) with a backdrop of rookie seiyus with no work at all simply standing there hoping they’ll be remembered, a sign that things could be worse.

But things get a little better for Futaba when she gets an audition for a new adaptation of a manga with “Titan” in the name. Even better, the two friends she made at her recording session, Rin and Ichigo, are also in the audition, and they’re not competing for the same role.

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Things look bright for Futaba, but once she enters that oddly-empty and silent studio, I think she tenses up a bit. She’s able to visualize the character she’s voicing (as herself!) and all her personality traits and moods, but it comes off as a bit mechanical and even forced. At the same time, I think she puts too much stock in the producers’ seemingly apathetic reaction to her performance; it could just be they’re yawning because it’s a long day…right?

Ichigo’s sexy voice gets laughs, and she’s asked to voice a different character, after which the producers react by staring at their phones, so not promising. As for Rin, she does just fine. After the stressful audition, the three go to a cafe for coffee and cake and just shoot the breeze; Futaba even comes up with the nickname “Evil Ichigo.”

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The next day it’s back to work on the Evangelion clone, where Futaba learns Pipo blows up and doesn’t come back. This setback, just when she’s told the others that if she’s still not showing promise in a year, she’ll share poor Pipo’s fate and be culled by her company (it’s a cutthroat industry, eh?).

But outside the studio, a suspicious looking mustachioed man confronts the trio of girls. He’s been watching them interact, you see, and apparently sees something in them, because he wants them to do a web radio show…which explains what the ED is all about!

Like last week, as the credits roll, the girls switch between singing the ending theme, doing commentary on the episode that just aired, and singing a request (this week, appropriately due to the Kamiya Hiroshi cameo, it’s a song from Zetsubou-sensei.) It’s a great ED format, but it also previews what should be an interesting and promising new opportunity for Futaba & Co.

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Hanayamata – 07

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Hana and Naru’s hold on Yaya in the yosakoi club was always tenuous, due to her insistence on “member in name only” status and her obligations to her band. When Need Cool Quality bombs at their audition and then disbands just as Hana and Naru are trying to involve Yaya more, it’s the perfect recipe for Yaya to blow up. And blow up she does.

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It’s not out of the blue, either: in her wounded state, all the giddy enthusiasm of the yosakoi girls throw at her is akin to mocking or laughing at her misfortune, at least from her perspective. When Tami purports to know exactly what’s going on with Yaya, based on her experience with Machi, Hana and Naru’s super-confident first reconciliation attempt backfires spectacularly—as it should, IMO—leaving them far worse off than if they’d said nothing.

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Yaya and Naru’s dynamic used to be that of the superior perfect idol and the fawning acolyte, respectively. Now Yaya’s band is in a ditch—a decision made by the others without her input, no less—yet Naru and Hana’s yosakoi club is chugging along full speed ahead. She’s jealous of their success, and bitter for having taken her own past success for granted. She’s humbled, embarrassed, gloomy, and generally pissed off.

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Naru and Hana’s first attempt didn’t fail because they were being too lovey-dovey, but because they approached Yaya as if they knew exactly what she was feeling and how to “fix everything”, thus projecting a patronizing, almost haughty tone. They correct that the next time, first luring Yaya to the roof by hurling harsh insults upon her, then acting more contrite, with some desperation and genuine waterworks for good measure.

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Getting someone as stubborn as Yaya to back down from comments like “I hate you all!” and “Don’t talk to me ever again!” is no cakewalk, but they pull it off, accepting all the blame for the recent spat and beg her forgiveness, and cry a lot, giving her tacit permission to do the same. Most importantly, they acknowledge they don’t have all the answers. Hana doesn’t make the strongest case in the climactic exchange, but Naru says more than enough to stick the dramatic landing, leading to tearful catharsis.

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Fox Girl Tami Hugs for Everyone!

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Hanayamata – 06

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Naru has been following through on her efforts to change herself for the better, and those efforts haven’t gone unnoticed by her father. He’s concerned by the change, suspecting everything from delinquency to illicit sexual relations, and even more confused when she asked him if he’s noticed her changing, but he has nothing to fear.

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Naru’s simply found something to be passionate about, and work hard with others on. He unwittingly gives her the idea to make the favorite flowers of its members the theme of their yosakoi club. But with only two months to prepare for the Hanairo Festival, they decide that a smaller event would be better in order to test how they’ll perform for a crowd.

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Hana finds such an event at a department store, but numerous hurdles stand in their way. Sari is working hard not to be a pushover, and denies permission to participate unless they all score an average of 80 in their exams and show her their complete performance beforehand. Yaya also has to prepare for her band’s audition, which is a big deal to her and her bandmates. (Interestingly, we don’t get to watch their audition.)

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In the end, Hana doesn’t score high enough, but turns in supplementary work to Sari, not to change her mind, but to show her she’s working hard. When she accidentally gives Sari a notebook with their choreography, Sari starts to have a change of heart, and changes her mind after seeing them perform in front of the class.

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That first impromptu public performance comes when a classmate spots the naruko in Yaya’s hand, and Hana gets the idea to show rather than tell the class exactly what they’re up to. It’s certainly not a perfect or even complete performance, but you have to start somewhere. Also, the music Tami wrote is a really nice piano arrangement of the opening theme.

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But while the yosakoi club enjoys a victory this week, Yaya’s band did not qualify, and they look pretty forlorn about it. At this point I’m sure Yaya is wondering whether her drumming suffered due to diverting some of her passion and energy to yosakoi. The time may come when she’ll have to choose one or the other, and it won’t be an easy choice.

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