Cardcaptor Sakura – 04 – Into the Woods

Sakura is super-hyped about a Sunday picnic with Tomoyo, but that particular bubble is burst when Touya reminds her that she has to do all of the house chores on Sunday, as a result of switching days with him earlier. Still, after calling to postpone (and Tomoyo’s sumptuous basket lunch is already prepared, *sniff*!) Sakura rolls her sleeves up and gets to it, briefly transforming into Housecleaner Sakura and enlisting Kero for laundry duty.

While she first discovered the Clow Cards in the basement, up until this point none had started anything in her house. That changes when in the process of cleaning she finds not one but two cards, one of them smudged with ink. When her dad calls her to come to the bus stop to bring him a file he forgot, she leaves the cards alone briefly without writing her name on them, but that’s long enough for the woody mischief to begin!

After hearing ominous groaning sounds, Sakura opens the basement door to find a gigantic tree has sprouted. She releases her staff and seals the card, but it soon returns with a vengeance, since the card itself is still in the basement with a second card. As Tomoyo arrives to help (but mostly to dress Sakura up and film her) the tree re-sprouts with a vengeance, threatening to destroy the house…something Sakura can’t allow to happen.

Donning a super-cool pink pop costume complete with winged headband and moon boots, Sakura braves the labyrinth of branches until she reaches the basement and locates the source of all the trouble. According to Kero-chan, The Wood is a very gentle card, but the second card, Rainy, is basically The Wood’s rowdy enabling friend, raining on the tree and spurring its growth. In order to calm The Wood down, Rainy must be dealt with.

Sakura ends up fighting water with water, summoning Watery to create a feedback loop of water and rain and eventually restraining and sealing the mischievous Rainy. With the catalyst for growth gone, Kero urges patience, and after a moment the branches withdraw, leaving the structure house rather implausibly intact (though Kero said it was gentle; in this case extremely so!)

Still, the aftermath leaves the house a horrendous mess, but have no fear: Tomoyo volunteers to help Sakura and Kero set everything right, and by the time Touya and her dad come home the place is sparkling once more. The first of likely many “stay-at-home” episodes, we got a glimpse of life in the Kinomoto residence, where every family member in. We also witness Kero-chan’s lifeless “Plushie Mode” for the first time!

Cardcaptor Sakura – 03 – Ice to See You

Let’s get one thing out of the way, which I believe was an issue I had with Clear Card: Touya and Yukito are way too tall. That, or Sakura, Tomoyo and friends are too short. In any case, the proportions are all messed up. Just take this image: Sakura is standing straight yet the top of her head just reaches Touya’s navel. Even if Touya is six feet tall—pretty tall for a 15-year old!—that would make Sakura only three-foot-six, or nowhere near her listed height of four-foot-six.

But nevermind. What isn’t strange is that her big brother’s best friend Yukito is handsome and kind to Sakura, so it’s understandable for her to harbor a cute little crush on him. Sakura even gladly offers some of her hotcakes (the mix for which she bought with her allowance) with Yukito, while castigating her brother for sneaking a bite.

Yukito repays her generosity by making her dreams come true and taking her on a date, and to one of her favorite spots: the aquarium. Knowing what I know about Yukito’s hidden true identity from Clear Card, I assumed the date was an excuse for him to investigate the disturbance that occurred when Sakura and her class went there on a field trip. A strange whirlwind caught one of the penguin assistants, and then the penguin itself, almost drowning both.

As it turns out, Yukito is just Yukito this week, and just showing Sakura a harmless fun time. For the record, it’s fun watching Sakura react so lovey-dovily and elatedly to her good fortune of scoring a date with her crush. She also learns that Touya works with the penguins, something she sees as a dream job. Both the aquarium date and the eventual breaking of the water tank and flooding of the cafe are elements that are revisited in Clear Card’s ninth episode.

In this far earlier iteration, the cause of the disturbance isn’t the Clear Card Spiral, but the Clow Card Watery, which Kero-chan warns is an aggressive unruly card that Sakura can’t hope to defeat with just Windy, Fly, and Shadow in her hand. Like that episode, Tomoyo records both the date and the battle with the card, and provides logistic assistance to Sakura, in addition to providing her a sharp, jester-style blue battle costume.

Sakura determines that if she can simply slow Watery down she’ll have a good chance to capture it, so she provokes it into chasing her as she flies through the bowels of the Aquarium until it dead-ends into the walk-in fridge—where the penguin food is stored! There, Sakura summons Windy to whip up the cold air around Watery until the card is frozen solid. Now Sakura has two elements to work with, and her first truly offensive card to use against future cards.

Cardcaptor Sakura – 02 – Clothes Maketh the Magical Girl

When Sakura wakes up to the sound of an Osaka accent, she assumes the TV is on. Alas, the developments of the last day and night are of the lasting variety: she’s a magical girl with a tiny winged familiar. And even she knows she should keep those things secret as long as she can.

To that end, she sneaks Kero some food and warns him to keep it down until her dad and brother leave. Turns out Kero-chan wasn’t interested in sitting around her room all day, but stows away in her bag. Sakura’s best friend Daidouji Tomoyo discovers him, and just like that the cat’s out of the bag.

Tomoyo actually already knew about her magical girling, because she filmed it with her camcorder. Fortunately, the secret is safe with Tomoyo. A nastier character might try to blackmail Sakura with the footage, but Tomoyo loves Sakura and would never betray her.

In a sight that’s commonplace in the Monogatari series, Sakura, Tomoyo, and their classmates find all their desks haphazardly piled up on top of one another. Everyone else assumes it’s an ambitious act of vandalism, but now knowing what Sakura is caught up in, Tomoyo suspects a Clow Card to be the culprit.

That night Tomoyo meets Sakura and Kero at school—for the record, Sakura is just naturally scared of school after dark—with a quartet of her expensive suit-wearing bodyguards in tow. Tomoyo dismisses them until needed…which never happens, and what could bodyguards do against magical creatures anyway?

Tomoyo then invites Sakura into a big Dodge van that doubles as a mobile wardrobe, packed with magical girl outfits she’s made for Sakura. Her first official battle costume ever consists of a navy leotard and leggings, white tunic, bold red cape, bow, and cap, and some slick high-top sneakers. It’s a pretty bitchin’ look…not to mention cute as hell!

I’ve always enjoyed this quirk of CCS—the clothes don’t just magically appear when she transforms, but are lovingly made by Tomoyo. The show doesn’t always address the practicalities of how Sakura finds time to change into these elaborate outfits, but in the words of Ruby Rhod (no stranger to fashion), “Who cares!”

Her wardrobe thus sorted, Sakura proceeds to have a rough time with the escaped Clow Card, called Shadow. But in what will follow a familiar but solid formula, she’s eventually able to utilize the two cards in her possession (Fly and Windy) to restrain, capture and seal Shadow and restore peace to the school…at least until the next card shows up.

Part of that card-catching formula not only includes Tomoyo’s input as costume designer, but one-girl film crew for the documentation of Sakura’s heroics. The next day Sakura finds Tomoyo in the screening room watching Sakura’s fight—the good, the bad, and the ugly—and Sakura is embarrassed. But she’d better get used to it, because this is only the beginning of Tomoyo’s well-intended involvement in her new magical girl career!

P.S. You can expect CCS reviews on Tuesdays and/or Fridays, time permitting. The schedule may change/slow when Summer 2020 heats up—P.

Princess Connect! Re:Dive – 08 – Big Trouble with Little Lyrical

As she enjoys a sumptuous post-rice planting repast courtesy of Pecorine, Karyl remembers “Her Majesty’s” orders to not only observe the always-hungry knight, but Yuuki as well, and introducing her to the Shadows.

Whenever this exchange took place relative to the Targum quest, it’s clear that Karyl continues to struggle with playing both sides, and that struggle only intensifies as the bonds between her and her guild-mates strengthen.

Other than that initial sobering scene, it’s all fun and games this week, as Little Lyrical, Landosol’s Most Adorable Guild, enlist the aid of the Gourmet Guild to help whip them into a fighting force as formidable as they are charming.

I’ll note that Karyl is the least enthusiastic about taking on an unofficial quest like this that won’t net them any cash (so far all their rewards have been food-related), but even she can’t resist the pleas of the pint-sized trio.

Not only that, Karyl puts her all into designing the perfect route for a training quest. She’s definitely the most meticulous and detail-oriented of the guild, and isn’t in the habit of half-assing anything.

Unfortunately, her best-laid plans are sabotaged when Misogi, Mimi, and Kyouka are left in Yuuki’s care for the quest while the other three observe. Yuuki’s sense of direction is no better than that of his charges.

That said, Peco’s monster costume is impressive and she ends up underestimating the trio’s offensive prowess. It’s when they continue to stay from the prescribed path and run into real monsters (all of which want to chew on Yuuki’s head, of course) that Karyl and Kokkoro must act quickly and quietly to vanquish said monsters lest Little Lyrical end up in big trouble.

Ultimately, the off-the-rails practice quest crosses with the quest to defeat a giant bird monster ruining rice paddies, as the bird carries Yuuki to her nest and Little Lyrical are all KO’d after a valiant attempt to rescue him. The peril is upped when Karyl and Kokkoro run out of magic (having defeated monsters all day) and Peco is not only trapped in her costume but too hungry to fight.

That is, until a well-placed strike from the bird frees Peco, she eats the lunch Little Lyrical packed, and Princess Strikes the bird into oblivion.

The quest thus complete, but with Little Lyrical nowhere near the actual designated goal, Pecorine offers a giant egg as their reward, only for it to hatch into a giant, adorable chick that immediately imprints upon the trio, becoming their new mascot and conveyance. With that, the Gourmet Guild returns to the paddies to plant rice, much to Karyl’s chagrin.

PriConne definitely takes the kawaii factor up a couple dozen notches with the focus on Little Lyrical, and your enjoyment of this episode will depend on your tolerance for cuteness. Everything about Misogi, Mimi and Kyouka screams Squeeee, from their play-acting outside the tavern and their initially clumsy tactics, to their instant bond with their new feathered friend.

I for one had a gas watching them, and the Gourmet Guild proved perfect teachers, letting them largely figure things out for themselves and offering aid when needed.

BokuBen 2 – 12 – The Show Meowst Go On

The Swim Club’s Full Pure show goes off without a hitch, thanks to some unseen technological wizards who managed to build artificial clones of the club members and program them to dance and sing perfectly! Just kidding; it’s only another case of using CGI to animate their dance number.

The moves are fluid, but too precise and perfect, and while stills of the quartet look fine, in action they look too…mechanical. This is not a problem exclusive to BokuBen, but at least in the ED of Cautious Hero the CGI Rista is meant to be a figurine, not the flesh-and-blood character.

I also had a problem with Nariyuki being able to sew the cosplay outfit of an anime character introduced that morning to Uruka’s exact measurements. When the heck did he do that? The suspension of disbelief if our Mary Sue MC is strong with this episode.

It isn’t long until the Thorns have Nariyuki in their clutches, but due to yet another costume mix-up, he ends up emerging from the changing room as “Meowpoleon”, the character Kirisu’s colleagues meant for her to wear (which redeems them somewhat). The Thorn guards miss him, as do his siblings, while the teachers start chasing him around the school.

Nariyuki ends up crossing paths with a rocked-out Asumi, who came to play with her old light music club juniors. Using the school’s network of ducts, she leads Nariyuki to a shortcut to the gym (where he’s to report for the play), then distracts the teachers looking for him with her Top Maid charm.

Nariyuki ends up emerging from the ducts in the catwalks above the stage. Since he’s under the impression he’s not meant to perform in the play, he stands by while the play becomes completely undone by his absence. When a teacher declares that anyone in the crowd could be the prince who will kiss Fumino (assuming the kiss will just be pretend), chaos reigns as the Thorns fight off boys.

In the fracas, the heavy scenery is damaged and starts to fall on Fumino, but Nariyuki-as-Meowpoleon rescues her in the nick of time. Improvising for herself, and possibly aware of who might be behind those dead Hello Kittyish eyes, Fumino plants a kiss, resulting in a very close-quarters indirect kiss with Nariyuki.

I docked points from last week’s BokuBen for all but tabling the harem romance for a rote two-part school festival episode, presumably in order to run out the clock. Aside from the kiss, Uruka getting a costume hand-made by the guy she likes, and some mild flirting from Asumi, the needle doesn’t move for anyone in this episode either.

Then again, it’s probably counterproductive to think Nariyuki was going to settle on any one girl in these last episodes. With one remaining, that seems even more unlikely. After all, why satisfy or anger the fans of a particular girl if you can string everyone along for a third season?

BokuBen 2 – 11 – Festival Follies

Having helped his tutees take steps closer to their respective futures, Nariyuki starts thinking about his own future path. Then the cultural festival arrives, and all he can do is scramble to help everyone out in the present.

After a couple episodes focusing on individual love interests, this is a true ensemble affair. First, due to Rizu’s father making 1,000 bowls of udon (instead of 100; he read the order wrong), she needs help selling, so Nariyuki volunteers.

Little does he know that Fumino’s class plotted to make her the star in their Sleeping Beauty play, with Nariyuki as the Prince who will wake her up with a kiss. The class is utterly united in this decision, which if implemented will surely undermine the work Fumino had been doing to avoid getting entangled in the Rizu-Nariyuki-Uruka triangle. Unfortunately, that ship has long since sailed – and she’s in it.

Nariyuki’s third entanglement is helping Uruka locate her missing costume for her swim club’s live idol show, which just happened to be the same costume Kirisu-sensei’s male peers decided to provide for her public class lecture. Aside from those guys continuing to be straight-up creeps, Kirisu ends up unable to remove the costume without destroying it, so she takes Uruka’s place on the stage.

As all this was going on, part of me wondered how can Nariyuki actually do all of this at once? Surely, helping Rizu try to sell 1,000 bowls of udon precludes his participation in the Sleeping Beauty play, and that Rizu herself can’t afford to take a break for the idol show, right? It’s as if the episode jacked the difficulty level up to 10 in the beginning, but ratcheted it down to 4-5 by the end.

This is a two-part festival episode, which means we’ll find out about the play, and who ends up in physical contact with Nariyuki when the first firework goes off during the end celebrations. Uruka really wants to be that person, but Sawako is plotting to make it Rizu. Meanwhile, the previews promise Asumi will be joining the fray. In any case, it’ll be another busy episode for Nariyuki. With only two remaining (this season anyway), IF he’s going to choose someone, he’s running out of time.

My Hero Academia – 07

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We get it: Deku isn’t trying to “trick” or “underestimate” Kacchan. He simply has to believe he can surpass someone as amazing as Kacchan if he’s ever going to develop into reliable hero. So while the trial is supposed to be about heroes and villains, Kacchan makes it into a duel of nemeses, and Deku has to choice but to play along, while trusting Ochako to handle the bomb retrieval.

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Deku’s notebook knowledge serves him well against an unfocused and increasingly angry Kacchan, but as he gets worn down from all the dodging, and Kacchan gets angrier stalking through the halls, remembering all the times Deku proved himself useless when they were little kids, Kacchan devises more and more subtle yet devastating attacks.

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Mind you, that’s after he blasts a hole in his own “villain stronghold”, leading All Might to warn him if he causes that much destruction again, he’ll forfeit the match.

But he and Deku both know Kacchan doesn’t give a shit about the outcome of the match. He wants Deku to know his place. And All Might knows Deku won’t make any progress getting through to Kacchan if he suspends the match.

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The duel culminates in the two driving their fists at each other, Kacchan with his explosive power and Deku with All For One—but Deku isn’t going for Kacchan, he’s going for the ceiling.

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By blasting numerous holes in the building, he creates a diversion, as well as ammo, for Ochako to wield her antigrav powers and make contact with the bomb, flummoxing Iida, who had tried so hard to play the role of mustache-twirling villain.

As time runs out and the Hero team wins, Kacchan is still playing the same refrain: “Don’t underestimate me. I’m better than you.” 

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Well, talent and strength, especially in the quantities he possesses, certainly are great to have. But that alone doesn’t make a hero. Kacchan seemed constantly driven by hatred for that which he always thought was weaker than him, but day by day is being proven wrong, making him question his own worth deep inside.

Add to that nitroglycerin palm sweat (how the hell did he not accidentally burn his house down nine thousand times as a kid?), and you have a volatile combination. But when Deku tells Kacchan can’t use his quirk lest it destroy his body, and  Kacchan sees the damage to prove it, his scowl of contempt softens into something resembling pity, maybe even understanding and regret for what he’s put Deku through.

Because I feel like a lot of his anger has to do with the fact that Deku never once deserved the shitty treatment Kacchan dumped on him. Quite the opposite, whenever Kacchan even looked like he was in trouble, Deku and only Deku rushed out to help him. Just as Deku needs to strengthen his body and master his quirk to have a future as a hero, Kacchan will have to resolve his various emotional issues.

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My Hero Academia – 06

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Plus Ultra to you on this fine Mother’s Day (USA)! I shall be covering Hero this week in Hannah’s place. Yoroshiku onegaishimasu! After Midoriya successfully gets a hero-like number on the ball throw, a furious Kacchan rushes him before being stopped by Aizawa-sensei.

Kacchan of all people simply can’t understand how his childhood friend could have a quirk all of a sudden, and the ‘my own effort’ explanation he gets from Iida second-hand isn’t satisfactory. Deku is pissing all over his moment, and he doesn’t like it! Boo-hoo.

Despite placing last in total test points, Midoriya moves on, because as Aizawa says to All Might, his potential is “not zero”. Midoriya settles into a cozy group of budding friends in the earnest-to-a-fault Iida and the adorable, friendly Ochako, who re-purposes the insulting nickname “Deku-kun” to something cool, because it reminds her of “Ganbatte”.

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Once the class starts hero training with their new teacher All Might (whom almost everyone is in awe of), he unveils that the superhero costumes they requested are ready. Due to various clerical hiccups, Midoriya gets his by another channel – his adorable mom saw the design in his notebook and had it made in secret, as an apology for giving up on him when he never did.

The new costumes really give a sense of pomp and occasion to this upcoming test that the PE uniforms lacked. It also makes everyone far more distinctive and reveals some things about their tastes and personalities. Class ace Yaoyorozu, for instance, isn’t afraid to show a little sideboob, while Ochako didn’t put in any preference and ended up in a tasteful skintight jumpsuit that, if anything, only amplifies her cuteness.

(Speaking of big groups of superheroes taking the stage: I’d just caught Captain America: Civil War Friday night, one of the climactic scenes of which was also bursting with cool costumes.)

As for “Deku’s” suit, it borrows a few details from All Might but has a totally different vibe to it; more Sonic the Hedgehog than Superman; I like it. I’m not as big a fan as Iida’s rather boring suit of armor or Kacchan’s tacky suit that makes him look like a fireworks point-of-purchase. Still, it’s clear from many outfits that they started out as crude pencil sketches.

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The next exercise involves two pairs of students facing off as heroes and villains, with the former having to either capture the latter or the latter keeping their nuke out of the former’s hands. Deku and Ochako are paired up again, to Ochako’s delight.

In the dark, close confines of the test building, Kacchan again breaks the rules to take it to Deku by staging a surprise attack…only to find Deku a far more challenging opponent than he expected, and not because of Deku’s strength, either.

The hero notebook Deku meticulously prepared included notes on his childhood friend, so Deku knows how he fights and how to fight back. This fight should be interesting, assuming Deku doesn’t slip up and get char-broiled before Ochako can step in with her zero-grav assistance.

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Yoru no Yatterman – 05

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Yoru no Yatterman took some interesting turns this week but, ultimately, has become the Gundam G of the deconstructionist, post-apocalyptic, retro-theme genre. The story lurches incoherently between formulaicly crazy and weirdly mysterious but flat.

It’s all over the place and, because I’m not invested in the original franchise, the simple fight-of-the-week formula isn’t gripping me and I just don’t enjoy watching it anymore.

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This week introduces Takeshi, who’s super strong, fighting to win comforts for his sick mom, and has a bladder infection or something because he’s constantly peeing everywhere.

I’m sure his peeing ties into earlier Yatterman shows or is a cultural joke or… something, but it felt totally random to me and, after the first time it’s used as a joke, it wasn’t very funny.

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Yes Yatterbot soldiers. It was just some snowmen peeing on that Yatterking statue…

This was actually the funniest moment in the episode.

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Beyond Takeshi, the first half of the episode is dedicated to Gatchan trying to show strength and get ready for a prize match (against Takeshi). I enjoyed watching Gatchan get all riled up over beating Miss Doronjo into the ground and then losing his confidence immediately because he can’t even defeat Boyaki but… Gatchan is such a dull character to begin with.

Rather, any character development he gains from this is cliche at best.

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As far as visuals, this week presents another mixed bag. On the up side, we got a decent amount of action in the animation, plenty of characters and mechs designs, and some occasional uses of color.

On the down side, even at 1080p the snowy background washed out many of the opening scenes. Worse, the ‘flash back’ scenes with Doronjo and her mom may as well have been on blank white fields, they were so high contrast. Even if I liked Yatterman’s aesthetic, and I don’t, this wasn’t the show’s best week.

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So Yatterman obviously cheats and sends mega-mecha to the fighting tournament and destroys all 3 of the champions instead of giving out a goat each and some pocket money. Nothing new or surprising, given how purely villainous Yatterman has been presented up to now.

Then Doronbo shows up and beats the Yattermen completely for once. They also leave the winnings with Takeshi, who is unconscious but wakes up soon to pee…

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The mechs fights were especially quirky, especially because they were narrated by ‘the whispering reporter’ who may or may not be a new character or a call back to original Yatterman. He added a level of pun humor that was… weirder than funny.

That all aside, we see another parallel between Ally and Doronjo’s mom (Ally repeats a scene of building snow men from Doronjo’s memory) and I have to wonder where that season long plot arc is going. It was given so little attention though, and it was so blatant a ‘this is an important long-arc’ scene that I didn’t really care.

All these ‘what a twists’ just don’t feel earned.

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Yoru no Yatterman – 04

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Yoru no Yatterman is all about fake outs and call backs this week. There’s a functional story that further emphasizes how terrible it is to live in Yatter Kingdom, and how broken the citizens are too, but bait, swap, then call back was most of what it was doing.

There’s no other way to say this but Yatterman Nights isn’t compelling… and it really should be. While the treatment is unique and the academic structure has my attention, the methodical pass, rough visuals, and total bleakness makes it unenjoyable to watch.

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Bait and Swaps: The episode opens with an un-origin story for Honorable Oda, but then leaves Oda out of the rest of the episode. Sure, the unexplained reason why the party doesn’t eat him and his spoiled nature are ‘called back’ early on… but he has no impact on this week’s story. He’s not even visible for most of the episode.

Similarly, Boyaki and Tonzra attempt to snake-oil people with ‘magic walking sticks’ after the opening credits because they are broke. The walking sticks themselves may get a call back (Tonzra uses two like swords during the fight sequence) and ‘money’ is called back via wanted posters for the team, but Doronbo’s need for money never does.

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In fact, it’s hard to see why money would have value in the Yatter Kingdom in the first place. The Yattermen ‘tax’ the citizens, but there doesn’t seem to be anything for the citizens to buy — and the Yattermen just take what they want (including the citizens themselves) whenever they want it.

This makes the entire plot thread come off as superfluous — arbitrary — and if there’s one thing a slow-moving show built around the intellectual deconstruction of a genre and nostalgia for retro-brands doesn’t need, it’s that.

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And then this episode is also a hot springs episode. At least for a few moments. Thankfully there’s no fan service (which would be super creepy since it would feature a little girl, a helpless blind girl and a pregnant woman and three gender non-specific monkeys) but this scene too feels unsupported.

Perhaps it’s here to poke fun at the peeking scenes? Perhaps it’s here only to give a call-forward hook for Doronbo’s Monkey Mech in the final fight sequence? Maybe it’s just here to make us ask why it is here?

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The meat and potatoes of the episode revolves around a couple facing separation at the hands of the Yattermen, and everyone including the pregnant wife force themselves to be happy about it.

It drives home the point that this society is truly broken, that nice people are traitorous through fear and all the normal reasons the good will bow before the bad. It’s so over the top that it works (happy song and dance for the condemned anyone?) even if it isn’t especially interesting or unique a concept in dystopian dramas.

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Then there’s a stylish fight between General Goro and Doronbo, Doronbo loses, and Doronjo finally realizes that Yatter Kingdom is not heaven but a literal hell.

The fight is stylish, albeit goofy. Perhaps I felt it was drawn out a bit but Tonzra x Goro’s sword fight more or less makes up for it. Additionally, it’s implied that Goro even mistreats the Yatter robots, as he’s seen tazering the Yatterpup mech for not finishing the Doronbo monkey mech quickly enough.

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But it really was no fun to watch. Doronbo’s betrayal at the hands of the good couple was obvious. The Battle (sword fight excluded) was more weird and understated than exciting. The unending bleakness just sucks the life out of it.

Given how strong Death Parade was this week, it’s easy to see how much a richer (more expensive) art style can pull a show through the weaker gaps in its setup period. More importantly, it shows how a show can spend its money effectively. Death Parade is barely animated, after all, but the style sucks us in regardless.

By comparison, Yatterman is struggling to even make me sigh in disappointment…

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Yoru no Yatterman – 03

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It’s make or break for Yoru no Yatterman this week and, for the most part, it succeeded. However, “Yatterman Nights” remains a deeply strange show to watch, as again there were details I didn’t understand, it has a slow pace, and even at 1080p it has a certain… ugliness to its beauty.

I can excuse all of that though, because this week’s nods to the past were either less esoteric or less complicated to surmise. In a nutshell, I understood more of what is going on and, thusly, it held my attention all the way through.

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To sum up: team Doronbo meets Alouette, an immensely kind girl who is nearly blind and has a nagging resemblance to Leopard’s mother. While uncomfortable lying to her, Miss Doronjo agrees with Boyaki that not correcting Allouette about being angels is acceptably grey for her ethics and probably necessary to survive the night.

The situation becomes more complex when Galina, Allouette’s friend and of-so-blind protector shows up. However, he quickly shows that he has no love for Yattermen, and is willing to let the roll of a D6 determine if he will reveal their presence or not.

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As luck would have it, he keeps quiet and a showdown is avoided. This scene is especially quirky, as it reveals the Yatterman’s dance-like salute (which is adorably weird) and makes it very unclear if the ‘Robots’ that Doronbo blew up last week were actually people in masks… which is a little disconcerting.

It also results in Doronbo’s costumes being destroyed to keep them hidden but, in a fairly obvious twist, Galina sews them new (and far superior costumes in thanks.

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See ‘Gatchan’ and ‘Ally’ have a beef with Yatterman too. It’s a big one, and it involved the death of their parents and family dog. Owing to the fact that Ally is older than Leopard, I’m not entirely sold on Gatchan’s story.

Rather, I’m sold on his story but confident the show will throw a sisters-twist in there eventually. Regardless, it’s compelling and ties the group together so that, when Yattermen return the following day, the battle goes in Doronbo’s favor this time.

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What worked really well: the reto-nods were more natural, Gatchan’s development with room for future betrayals, and the focus on Yatterman’s capital as a destination all gave the show a stronger focus and a better core for the weirdness to orbit around.

I especially enjoyed the robot-or-not Yattermen banter, which presents a deeply twisted take on the ‘filler’ baddies common to these shows. ‘Why don’t you try shooting it first’ paints them as more then mindless minions. At least, until they are all destroyed (or killed?) in Doronbo’s massive explosion.

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What still doesn’t work: This is, of course, subjective and a bit technical but Yatterman Nights is rather ugly. The color is intentionally desaturated, which makes everything muddy, and lack visual impact but, on top of that, a post-process filter has been applied to the line art, which results in ‘unclean’ edge to color fields and outlines, even when viewed at full 1080p.

It is obviously intentional but, when a show like Rolling Girls is playing with similar themes but is so much more vibrant and ‘fun’ to watch, it’s hard not to feel that YnY is missing something.

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Verdict: I maintain that Yatterman Nights goes a bit too far for art’s sake — Academic / High Art — and that results in a less exciting, less stunning show for us to watch. However, now that it has a near-term goal to focus on, I’m finding it much more satisfying to watch.

This definitely was the push it needed to edge past Binan Koukou for next week’s elimination round but, only time will tell if it can maintain that focus (or if I can survive such a drably colored show) for the remained of the season

8_ogk

Yoru no Yatterman – 02

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This week’s Yoru no Yatterman follows the course set in the first episode but the result is significantly less satisfying. I could go so far as to call it dull.

The retro costumes and revenge structure is still there, and it’s still juxtaposed with bleak environments and a population that is obviously starving. So what isn’t working?

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Leopard has renamed herself Miss Doronjo, and her henchmen Boyaki and Tonzra after their ancestors. Each member of Doronbo experiments with his or her new identity a bit — Doronjo acts a bit reckless, Boyaki tries to add double-entendres to his repertoire, Tonzra …smashes stuff, and Honorable Oda the pig becomes the group’s problem solver.

They quickly find an alternate rout into Yatter Kingdom via a book called “The Secret of Seikan Tunnel,” which is about a train tunnel and probably significant if I knew anything about the Japanese rail system, but I don’t so if it was a gag it flew over my head.

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After clearing the rubble at the mouth of the tunnel, Boyaki, who also calls himself Boyayan sometimes which is also probably a joke that I don’t understand, builds a wacky mine-car and they zip through.

Along the way they pass several lighted placards that the show clearly wants us to notice: The first is a station or destination sign, which probably identifies where YnY takes place in modern day Japan. The second features an angel girl, who is referenced at the end of the episode.

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The last placard features a dopey Basset hound… which I also don’t understand the significance to. However, I vaguely remember Ghost in the Shell’s director Mamoru Oshii having a thing for Basset Hounds, which comes up more in his terrible live action eastern European anime-inspired cyberpunk movie Avalon but I have no idea what that has to do with anything?

You may have noticed that, only a few minutes in, I’m don’t generally know what YnY is making jokes about or, if they even are jokes, why they would be funny. Considering how sparse the visuals are (the tunnel is basically empty except for our heroes and the mine cart) I felt no connection to anything.

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When Doronbo reaches Yatter Kingdom, they build a head-flicking robot and fight the Yattermen. Well, not actually the real Yattermen. Rather, a near infinite stream of robot Yattermen who chant “Yatter Yatter” and eventually overwhelm them.

While still painted in the dreary cold, wet aesthetic elsewhere in the show, and slightly weirdified by a shadow filter that frames many of the scenes, this is the best part of the episode. All the contrasts work well, the villains are interesting, and the mecha is delightfully silly/old school.

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Fleeing for their lives, Doronbo is turned away by the various Yatter-citizens they meet. In a call back to the maple-leaf-eating of their own poverty, the Yatter-citizens are doing the same thing, living in the same poor wooden houses, on a muddy, plant less earth.

If it weren’t so slow and directionless feeling, these scenes would be interesting too. Obviously, if the Grand Yatterlands are as destitute as the Doronbo lands, we must wonder what the world is like or, guessing based on the art from the original series in the 70s, what has happened to make the Yatter-lands so terrible since then?

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Unfortunately, these scenes are slow and the Yatter-bots’ chase sequence is very long and it watching it just feels so hopeless.

What also felt hopeless was the attempt to pump slapstick humor into the mix. Take Honorable Oda’s gigantic fart scene, where he’s just been saved by Tonzra as he falls from a tree. Huge, well animated gas attack ensues, which re-alerts the Yatter-bots and resumes the chase.

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The episode ends with Doronbo drying off at an empty house’s fire when a blind girl walks in and decides Miss Doronjo is the Angel she’s been waiting for all this time.

It’s all a big…Whaaaa?, and in the same way that any ‘plot twist’ annoys us when it comes completely out of left field, the entire story felt like a confused, random, mess that was written for an audience that does not include me.

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So what worked? Watching the characters review a children’s book for how they should act, and not be able to capture those identities (or even want to) was clever and lent a playfulness to the central trio…that feels totally out of place with everything else.

I loved the vehicle design too. This is definitely subjective, but the “hand shaped battle mech designed to flick” struck me as charming. The Yatter-bird vehicle was less so, but still matched the retro vibe and when it ‘spits’ a missile at Doronbo, I really did get a “Haha that’s so stupid” laugh out of it.

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Nothing else worked. More specifically, the flow of action and the movement of the narrative were constantly coming to a halt. Shots of Doronbo standing around. Shots of Miss Doronjo looking and thinking and feeling… stuff. Stills with added ‘brush’ effects. It’s actually impressive how little actual animation happened in this episode and how a jerky pacing can crush any enjoyment you may get from wacky antics.

I’m confident there’s an intelligent reason for all of this and I just don’t have the cultural awareness to ‘get it’ but that doesn’t make it any easier to watch.

I must admit, I was completely surprised by this turn of events. I think it’s very likely that Yatterman will be a more interesting show than Binan Koukou over the long run but, even with its silly premise, I had a lot more fun with Binan’s second outing than this.

I guess Yatterman is lucky it’s getting a third week. Otherwise, I’d be very tempted to drop it.

6_ogk

Yoru no Yatterman – 01 (First Impressions)

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Yoru no Yatterman is the grimmest ‘happy show’ I’ve ever seen. It’s a post-apocalyptic fighter with a fantastic sense of style, bleak colors, death and sadness, and a spunky nine-year-old protagonist.

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Leopard, who wee see grow in bursts from birth to her ninth birthday, lives in a bizarre world where a great towering wall seems to rise over the mountains in the distance and fog obscures the mythical Yatter Kingdom across the sea. It’s a cold, and eternally dark world, but her mother and two bonded servants fill her life with joy.

Her mother dies soon after her birthday.

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Like Zvezda, Kill La Kill and even this season’s Rolling Girls, Yoru no Yatterman does a great job of breaking out of the typical anime character design mold. Elephantus (the family’s giant) has a unusual body shape, and the wonderfully retro fighting costumes are hand made, planting them firmly in our understanding of time and space.

Also like those shows, YnY sports elastic gestures, grand explosions, and beautifully rendered vapor as it swooshes around in the air. Dull colors or not, it is a treat for the eyes to see.

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It will be interesting to watch this in tandem with Rolling Girls, since they both have a similar setting to them. However, I already like both shows for very different reasons. Where RG sports vibrant colors and a grand open world, YnY is bleak, timid, yet so confident in the strength of it’s characters as individuals that it only introduces five of them. (of which one is already dead and two are leering villains)

It’s worth nothing that, unlike RG, YnY’s premiere feels more rounded as a starting episode. The infodump is restrained and spread across the episode—and some of that info even twists as more is revealed. However, the biggest difference is in the shows’ endings: Where RG ends like any mid-season episode, YnY’s Leopard belts out her mission and then they depart on it, to spawn episodes afterwards.

Neither is yet superior. Just different.

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If you liked Gurren Laggen for it’s masterful blend of aesthetics and tones, this may be a show for you. It is unquestionably dark but Leopard brings so much hope to it, so much optimism that you may find it hard not to smile all the way through.

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You may not be interested in Yoru no Yatterman if…I’m not sure why, actually? It isn’t a masterpiece by any means, but I’m finding it hard to identify any glaring faults.

Perhaps it will develop them in the future but for now, you have no reason not to watch it!

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My first impression was obviously a good one. Not only did I know little about this show before reviewing it, what I did know was categorically inaccurate. That surprise, added to YnY’s surprising level of restraint that keeps all of the over the top wacky elements in check, made for a wonderful viewing experience.

I’ve heard that this may have a distant relation to an old franchise but I know nothing about that. If you do, or have any thoughts, drop ’em in the comments below!

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