Grand Blue – 04 – Trying Hard in a Bad Way

There’s no diving in the ocean this week, but Chisa, Iori and Kohei all “dive into” a new experience: being on stage, in front of hundreds if not thousands of spectators. But first, they help man the Okonomiyaki stall at the Izu Spring Festival.

While on a break, Iori fails to clear up Asuza’s misunderstanding about him being bi, but only when Asuza tells him how nice it is to have someone else to talk to about it. This is how you know beneath all the drunken boorishness Iori has a good heart: while the truth is always better, it also hurts, and he doesn’t want to hurt a friend if he doesn’t have to.

However, he does want to talk about it with Chisa, so on the next break the two are left alone, and I love how they work the griddle like a single highly-polished unit, dazzling the customers—but they don’t notice how skilled they’re being! Unfortunately, not much comes of the talk; Chisa assumes Iori is nervous because Asuza is so pretty, not because Asuza thinks he’s bi.

Asuza and her sister also insist she wear something more appropriate than her regular street clothes for the 4PM women’s pageant. Iori knows Chisa well, and so knows when Chisa is nervous. She stiffens up, and her aura and responses initially come off as cold and curt. They want to help her, but he and dating-sim expert Kohei only have bad ideas that make things worse.

When they try to make her smiling by smiling at her, but their grins come off as creepy and off-putting. Ditto posing shirtless as a club and raising a banner professing their love for her.

Finally they agree to throw a bunch of bouncy balls on the stage that will flip her skirt up and show her bashful side. They get it, but it’s bashfulness cut with seething rage. Iori knows he went too far, and only went as far as he did because he thought everyone would do it.

While Iori is hiding from Chisa’s wrath with Kohei, the latter is pounced upon by another woman who was part of the pageant; one with makeup so thick they use the nickname “cakey” on her. She asks Kohei out; Kohei hesitates and she storms off.

They go to the drinking party hosted by the rugby club. Chisa initially forgave Iori for the upskirt incident, but when he mentions how he’ll buy her sexier underwear, he’s back on her shitlist, and she intends to make him suffer with two liters of shochu.

While getting some air, Iori and Kohei again encounter Cakey, whose real name is Yoshiwara Aina. She’s deep into her own cups, and proves a very…emotive drunk. But she also provides the lads with a clearer picture of her deal; she was accepted into the tennis club of beautiful people, but basically only so they could laugh at her, and when they got bored, they told her she could leave.

Iori and Kohei decide to use the pageant as a means to not only raise Aina’s spirits, but to give the cocky blue-haired tennis captain a dose of his own medicine. And yet by getting swept up in this new mission, they forget about Chisa.

Kohei sets a trap by confessing to Asuza on stage; the captain does the same, only for the lads to reveal “Asuza” was really Iori in disguise. In other words, they balance the distribution of laughter, disproving her belief it was eternally directed at her.

All’s well that ends well, as Iori and Kohei may well have made a new friend who is grateful for what they did for her…but the partying that follows leaves the lads horrendous wrecks, unable to protect the winner of the women’s pageant—Chisa—from another round of advances from guys, which she hates more than anything.

Up to this point, I had felt like Chisa was too often being defined through Iori, as Iori’s love interest. But Asuza makes clear to the other guys why exactly Chisa is upset: Iori and Kohei worked hard, but for the other girl, not her. In a rare instance of seeking/expecting protection from them, they let her down.

And so just as the tennis captain got his comeuppance, so must Iori. Upon receiving her award for winning the pageant, Chisa delcares to all assembled that she’s off the market: Iori is her boyfriend. Iori can’t protest, because he’s passed out.

In effect, Chisa has made delicious lemonade with the lemons she was dealt: Iori will repel other guys for her. He’ll be her shield. Considering how popular the pageant made Chisa with the guys, it won’t be an easy job; Iori may well prefer the tranquility of the ocean floor!

Kuromukuro – 18

kuro181

It’s a little detail, but I appreciate the fact that we see Yukina and Ken finally getting paid by the UN for their services. Everyone else working there seems to be. It also lets us know it’s been about three months since they started working together. The sudden influx of funds leads to Yukina taking her family to a hot spring inn. Mika catches word, unilaterally invites anyone who will come, and we’re off to the races.

kuro182

The hot spring inn isn’t the most luxurious—no food service and not even any close hot springs—but the ten attendees make do, and Ken uses the $400 pot he bought online to make curry (with Yukina’s help). The centerpiece of the episode is a long dinner scene that to its credit looks like a really fun place to be, unless of course you’re Carlos.

He tried to be clever about announcing he’s transferring but his cosplay video editing job was universally panned, and the announcement (and his on-screen plea not to be forgotten) is ignored in favor of other myriad conversations. The scene has a great energy, jumping from one discussion to another with several interruptions and interludes, just the way a big group dinner works in real life.

kuro183

Once it becomes time to check out the actual hot springs the next morning, Yukina happens to forget her towel, and she and Ken happen to go the wrong way and find a different hot spring than the others, where an injured Muetta just happens to be hiding.

We are tipped off to Muetta being at a hot spring before the encounter, and we actually catch a glimpse of her life as a child back home, a gorgeously alien world with crazy sky colors and celestial alignments. It makes her argument that she is not Ken’s princess a lot easier to buy. At least, she’s not lying when she says she has no memory of being Yukihime.

kuro184

Not long after Yukina and Ken find Muetta, men in black show up to secure the location…only for Yukina and Ken to end up separated again, and in that moment, Yukina is snatched up by an Efidolg robot and rises up into orbit, leaving her robe behind.

I wasn’t a fan of all the coincidences necessary for that ending to be achieved. This also smells like yet another case of Poor Defenseless Yukina being kidnapped—while naked, no less—and the Dashing Samurai having to find a way to rescue her. Not the most innovative storytelling. Also, while the emphasis on him is played mostly for comedy, I just don’t really care about Carlos, or whether he ceases to be on the show or not. Why should I, when no one else does?

Still, I liked the slice of life vacation elements, and I did not expect things to end so badly, so quickly, for Yukina and Ken. Yukina suddenly being up in orbit, at the mercy of those thoroughly unpleasant Efidolg knights, is a huge turning point—As is finally having Muetta in custody. I don’t doubt that in his desperation to quickly save his new princess, he’ll try to enlist the help of the old one. Pulling that off should prove even tougher than salvaging Carlos’ hack job.

16rating_7

GARO: Honoo no Kokuin – 08

garo81

This week’s Herman-centric episode was as good as last week’s Leon-centric episode was bad. Because both took place over the same period of time, Garo could have structured it as a more integrated two-parter, in which Herman’s and Leon’s scenes would be woven together. But if that had been the case, this second episode would have suffered for it.

One way to think about it is that Leon lost, and learned he’s not as ready as he thinks he is, so it stands to reason his episode would also lose to Herman’s in terms of story, action, and especially comedy. This week repaired all the damage to my faith in the show last week caused.

Keeping the two sides separate let us experience All Herman, All the time. Mind you, if Herman’s horny roguishness and rubs you the wrong way, you probably didn’t enjoy this episode any more than last week’s…but I did.

garo81a

I really like how comedy was such a persistent presence this week, in contrast to the stiff joylessness of Leon’s dealings. One source of that comedy is the fact Herman is naked as his name day for most of the episode. Ironically, Herman was talking last night’s conquest about how he prefers his birthday suit to any clothes, let alone armor.

Then universe grants his wish, along with one hell of a taxing day in which he just can’t seem to stay out of trouble.

garo82

Mind you, the trouble he gets himself into is all his fault, for letting his little Herman lead him around. No one makes him disrobe; he does it of his own volition once he’s confident the pretty damsel in distress he rescued from three goons will sleep him…which isn’t the most unreasonable assumption, but it is an assumption; made in haste in hopes of satisfying his libido.

garo83

The damsel turns out to be in cahoots with the goons and rob him blind, and since he already helpfully removed his clothes, they decide to go ahead and take those too. Thanks to some quick thinking and resourcefulness (as a Makai knight, he’s used to fighting larger opponent) he manages to escape.

garo84

But must escape naked, which gets him into trouble fast in the busy city. It’s great how fast his plight escalates, until there’s literally an army chasing after the guy. Mind you, this is really just one drawn-out hassle for him; he’s not about to take any of this misfortune as some kind of lesson in being more cautious with women. Herman is who he is, and sometimes shit like this is going to happen.

garo85

This is illustrated perfectly when Herman borrows a sheet from a washerwoman’s line. A crossbowman with terrible aim corners him and accidentally loses a bolt, and Herman catches it before it hits the lady. In effect, this was a transaction: Herman takes the lady’s sheet, and pays for it by saving her life. Though he put her life was put at risk in the first place, I still think she got the better end of the bargain.

garo86

Herman loses his sheet almost immediately while being chased by mounted soldiers, but is rescued by Emma, who always seems to show up at the right time. But she doesn’t just vanish in ten seconds like last week; she reports to Herman what she witnessed: Leon losing to the Black Knight, Bernardo Dion.

garo86a

With that name drop, the mood gets more serious (you almost forget he’s nude but for a junk-covering pink bonnet), as you can tell from Herman’s and Emma’s Serious Faces above. Knowing Leon is alive, however, Herman isn’t in a hurry to go to him; he’s a teacher as well as a father, and a teacher can’t always be bailing out his student when they run into adversity.

Heck, part of him is relieved Leon lost; after all, he was never going to believe his carefree horndog dad telling him he’s not ready to storm the castle. And Leon didn’t just fall short in strength here; a Makai knight’s duty is to protect, not fight or to dream of taking revenge and defeating nemeses. A Makai knight must float above all that, or risk being turned by the darkness inherent in their business; ‘one who studies horrors is studied by horrors’, and such.

Anyway, below is the exchange that ends the episode’s A-part, and from the delivery of the lines to the pause between them, followed by an abrupt cut to commercial, it’s pretty much goddamned perfect:

garo87

I Lol’d.

garo88

Herman ends up paying a visit to Garm, someone we haven’t seen in a while but seems to be a kind of Makai Supervisor who never wants for fruit. She also knows a lot more than Herman does, which pisses him off when she doesn’t inform him Dion turned ‘dark’ and attacked Leon.

garo89

This is important because he and Dion were once on the same side, despite being complete opposites in personality-wise. Herman was pretty much the same outwardly carefree horny guy back then, while Dion was sterner, more serious, and the look of being weighed down by something. Herman, Anna, and Dion stuck together as the witchhunts raged, and one night when the three were cornered, Dion stayed behind to cover the escape of the other two.

It’s a valiant, honorable thing to do, but it spells doom for Dion, as in order to save his friends, he puts himself in the position of losing himself to the darkness he always felt lurking within him (that ‘weight’ I mentioned). Herman and Anna may well have been the last two people Dion protected as a Makai Knight. Now he works for Mendoza.

garo810

I didn’t think we’d ever return to that barn where Herman was cockblocked and robbed, but we do, and this time Irene is genuinely upset and in need of rescuing, as one of her associates has turned into a Horror. He’s not a particularly tough horror, and Nude Herman is able to dispatch him without even donning his armor.

garo811

Heck, when he ends up back in a situation where he must protect Irene — for real this time — and it’s suggested they sleep together after all, it’s as if the universe is balancing things out, just as he expected they would. Though he still needs to go pick up his clothes at the pawn shop, which means he needs coin, and last week’s final scene of a naked Herman is thus fully explained.

Yes, I much preferred separation Herman and Leon’s stories to their being meshed across two episodes. I’m glad Leon’s story was over and done with so it didn’t have to stink this up. Throughout most of last week I was frustrated, lost, and a little bored, to the point of wondering “Hey, I wonder what his dad is up to!” Now we know. We got the Full Monty, and it was glorious.

9_mag

Sword Art Online II – 17

sao2170

Nearly as quick as a fairy archer’s kick to a frost giant’s nose, the Norse Mythology / Excaliber (not “ur”) quest is wrapped up.  King Thrym turns out to be far less of a threat than I thought, and he’s dealt with in the episode’s A-part.

sao2171

That’s accomplished due to more teamwork by the party, and in this case, again I find myself forgiving the sheer size of said party, for no other reason then…well, look at the size of the boss! You need a forward team laying down melee attacks while others stay back and offer ranged attacks and support spells. It’s all pretty by-the-numbers…then Freyja has Kirito find Mjolnir and transforms into a He-Man-garbed Thor!

sao2171a
OMG ASUNA DOES SOMETHING THIS WEEK!

Not does her sudden gender-swap kill Klein’s brief and only love interest to date (not that it really mattered, since she was virtual), but gives the party the edge they need to bring down Thrym, as Thor proves quite the large and effective decoy, keeping Thrym’s hands full as the rest of the party can attack at will.

sao2172

sao2173
SUUUURRRRRRRRRGE!

Klein wins Mjolnir as a reward (though he sucks at hammer-wielding), and the party moves on to the lowest level of Thrymheim where Excaliber rests. It’s at this point that both Kirito and I remember that he summoned the holy sword once before, after his foe failed to do so…

Yeah, I kinda wish the sword had turned into an creepy, annoyingly haughty cartoon character.

sap2174

After it’s removed, Thrymheim crumbles and the party starts falling with it, but Tonkii arrives on cue to bear them to safety. It’s at this point that Kirito holds Excaliber uneasily in his hand, and, deeming it still too heavy, throws the thing into the dry lake.

sao2176

This seemed like a stupid thing to do, and Sinon, agreeing with me, quickly retrieves it with an arrow enchanted with a retrieval spell. I thought she did this because she wanted it herself, but she just gives it back to Kirito, making him promise to think of her when he uses it. A little out-of-character this week, aren’t we, Sinon? Also, why are you giving it back to him? He’ll just throw it away again!

sao2175
Okay, that helmet is kinda cute…

Then Urd appears along with her sisters Verdandi and Skuld to thank the party and officially end the quest, and Klein instantly falls for Skuld and asks for her contact info even though she’s just a virtual NPC and not a real woman and he just met her. This strange and somewhat pathetic move somehow earns Klein Lisbeth’s respect…though maybe she’s being sarcastic?

sao2177

We cut to Kazuto showing Shino and Sugu his new “mechatronics” demo which allows his digi-daughter Yui fly around the bar, and is it just me, or is the episode running out of stuff to do??

sao2178

Finally, we end with a big New Year’s feast in the real world, with Kirito taking care of the check with funds he presumably earned in the GGO arc. Overall, this episode was a little disappointing and safe. It wrapped up a fairly inconsequential sidequest, but seemed to have difficulty filling the running time. I’m wondering if one or two more lightweight sidequests are all that’s left in store for the last seven episodes, which would be an even greater disappointment.

6_mag

Sword Art Online II – 16

sao2160

The stakes of the group’s New Years “Just For Fun” Optional Quest for Excalibur are raised significantly when Yui realizes that because ALO uses the same Cardinal architecture for creating random quests drawn from human mythology, literature, and history, the natural conclusion to their present Norse quest is Ragnarok, a “final battle” that will destroy the world, meaning the entire ALO game map, wiping out everyone’s progress.

sao2160a

That’s like your Playstation packing up without warning. Yes, this has happened to me, and it sucks. So now that this is no longer playing around, this episode get sback to the basics of SAO: RPG-style battles filled with physical and magical attacks and defenses. We also finally get why the party is so big; even the minotaur-like guards on the “easier” of the four floors are tough customers that require sustained onslaughts to bring them down. The only thing missing from the battle are flying numbers showing how much HP and MP is being lost or spent.

sao2161

That tough battle is eventually won thanks to contributions from everyone — yes, even Asuna and Silica fight! — and they move down to the next level, but run into an ice cage where a beautiful damsel is imprisoned and, well, Klein can’t help himself, succumbing to his “Bushido” and freeing her, even though everyone (including him) is pretty dang sure It’s A Trap!

sao2162

She turns out to be not just any wench, but Freyja, Norse goddess of love, sexuality, beauty, fertility, gold, seiðr (sorcery), war, and death. Not a bad addition to the party, in other words…and Hey, none of the other girls seem to have an interest in Klein, but Klein needs love too!

sao2163

With Freyja now part of the fray, Kirito goes over the plan with everyone: Nothing fancy, just observe the upcoming boss’ moves, look for patterns and weaknesses, and take the bastard out before the medallion turns completely black and they lose all the hours of progress they’d amassed in the game thus far. This one’s for all the marbles.

sao2165

Freyja immediately exhibits a boon of having her in the party, as she casts a spell similar to “Bubble” that no one else wields, which increases everyone’s Max HP by at least 50%. Combined with Asuna’s party buffs, they’re as prepared as they’ll ever be to face King Thrym. My only nitpick would be that they didn’t get a little more intricate and thorough with the support spells, the way one must do in RPGs prior to a big fight.

sao2167

Once in the King’s Chambers, the party is flanked by fantastic wealth, obviously meant as a temptation to draw them off their path or even just delay them until Ragnarok arrives. King Thrym himself, being a frost giant, is suitably imposing, haughty, and mocking, dismissing the intruders as nothing more than flies sent by Urd to annoy him with their buzzing.

sao2168

Before the battle begins, Thrym notes that Freyja is with him, and that she was sent to his fortress to wed him, an offer he’s kept open, but imprisoned her because he suspected she was trying to steal from him (likely Excalibur). He also loads up three separate health bars, meaning he’s no Yiazmat (by God that guy was a pain in the ass), but he’s no Goomba, either

8_brav

 

 

 

 

 

Koimonogatari – 04

koimo4

Kaiki finds a note reading “Stay out of it” on the floor of his hotel room. He flushes it and calls Senjougahara, reporting on his encounter with Ononoki and Gaen’s warning. The conversation evolves to a discussion of whether anyone is aware of Senjougahara’s contact with him, then Senjougahara warns him about visiting Nadeko too much, lest he become “charmed” by her; he considers scaling back his visits. The next day he gives Nadeko an offering of ¥20,000, more string, and a bottle of Sake, which she accepts. When he leaves the shrine he encounters Hanekawa, who is back from overseas to exchange. They share a cab back to the city and meet in her hotel room to exchange information.

In case there was any doubt, this episode makes it abundantly, cymbol-crashingly clear: we’re dealing with noir here. He may not wear a hat or smoke a cig, but Kaiki is every bit the cynical, trench-coated, hardboiled private dick, while Senjougahara is the Damsel in Distress. The overarching mystery to be solved? How to keep her and Araragi alive. In this regard, Nadeko is the mob boss Senjougahara owes, big time, while Gaen represents the commissioner warning him to stop snooping around her town, while Ononoki being her beat cop liason. Finally we have Hanekawa: while she may not carry herself like a femme fatale, we know from her striped hair and troubled past that that’s kinda what she is.

What made this episode and the arc in general so enjoyable is that it pays homage to those historic, timeless archetypes while putting a decidedly Monogatari twist on them. Indeed, it’s twisting them into a cat’s cradle; something of a very precise pattern and structure; every movement fussed over. Kaiki’s call to Senjougahara is sumptuously decorated by the constantly changing colors on Kaiki’s phone, the undulating patterns on the floor and walls, and the dazzling city outside. Dotted with natural gas flares and sporting a giant LCD panel showing Senjougahara performing very familiar movements, things get very Los Angeles 2019…”Kaiki Deishu” even sounds kinda like an anagram of “Rick Deckard”. Will we get the abruptly happy ending the financiers pushed for here as well?

8_great
Rating: 8 
(Great)

Stray Observations:

  • Kaiki’s shower requires comfort with one’s own body, as it displays it for all to see, as rich people’s showers tend to do.
  • Not sure we’ve mentioned this before, but we love Kaiki’s notebook is full of chibi diagrams. The art style is identical to the Bakemonogatari next episode previews, the Fire Sisters’ first appearance.
  • Kaiki pulls a Catherine Tramell in Hanekawa’s room.
  • We never did find out what was in Nadeko’s closet, while this week we don’t figure out exactly what Hanekawa has to say.
  • A couple more references: Kaiki’s red sports car in the OP is very Magnum P.I., while Tokyo is lit much like Neo-Tokyo in Akira.
  • Another nod to black-and-white of film noir: Tsubasa’s B&W hair.

To Aru Kagaku no Railgun S – 15

railguns15

Touma races to the site of the next experiment, but his phone has frozen, so he’s late, and Accelerator is already pummeling MISAKA 10032. He intervenes, catching MISAKA when Accelerator sends her flying, and proceeds to get beaten up dodging Accerlator’s attacks. Touma eventually gets close enough to use his Imagine Breaker, which he then uses to punch Accelerator repeatedly, until Accelerator sets off a dust explosion, disabling Touma. Accelerator then powers up, and is able to manipulate the wind and air, creating a ball of plasma over the city. Misaka uses 10032 to contact the Sisters network, who dissipate the plasma through the city’s wind turbines. Accelerator then turns on Misaka and MISAKA, and is about to kill them when Touma stirs once more…

We didn’t think this episode would be able to match the emotional powerhouse of last week, but it ended up doing just that with an unconventional but grand battle between Touma and Accelerator. Touma plans to prove the scientists wrong and make them give up the project that’s killing the Sisters, which is a laudable goal worth fighting towards, but he only seems to make Accelerator angrier, crazier, and more powerful, until he’s seconds away from burning all of Academy City away just to test his newly-awakened power to control…well space? You have to hand it to Railgun; they don’t mess around with their uber-villains.

Our only concern with last week was that a strapping young lad would save the damsel(s) in distress, but thankfully, that wasn’t what went down here. Sure, Touma is helping Misaka and her “sisters” because he likes them, and beause he has an ingrained duty to use whatever power he has to protect the weak. But when Accelerator explodes a mill’s worth of flour, and Touma seems out for the count, Misaka comes in at a crucial moment. If she doesn’t, he’s dead. We wouldn’t rule out Touma’s stunned state to be an opportunity for Misaka to sacrifice herself, but Accelerator’s little display should be ample proof that doing so would be utterly futile. Accelerator can’t simply be taken down a peg, he needs to be defeated, and not just for the Sisters, but for the sake of all of humanity.

9_superior
Rating: 9 (Superior)

Stray Observations:

  • A lot of the epic, cinematic quality of this episode is due to the fantastic soundtrack, which doesn’t hold back when it needs to be big and bold.
  • That first punch in the face (complete with familiar “imagine breaker” sound) was so satisfying to watch.
  • Accelerator is very quickly turning into an unreasonably powerful esper. By the end of the episode we’re wondering how in the hell anybody or anything is going to stop (or at least calm) him now that he can make plasmanados. But that’s okay: show us, Railgun!
  • Touma made a very poignant point: the sisters aren’t suicidal at all: they in fact are, as he says, “doing everything they possibly can to live.” The problem is, Accelerator is way, way stronger, and what they can “possibly” do is limited by their programming.

 

To Aru Kagaku no Railgun S – 14

Kamijou Touma, Kuroko Shirai

Kuroko is waiting up for Onee-sama when Touma is a the door. Kuroko lets him come up to the dorm to wait with her, but when the dorm supervisor arrives, she stuffs him under Mikoto’s bed. There he finds documents sticking out of her teddy bear, and learns about Accelerator and the clones. He sees that the next experiment will take place in just under and hour, and so races to Mikoto, heading her off on the bridge.

The Tree Diagram calculated her death in 185 moves against Accelerator, but she plans to foil its prediction by going down in the first, on the small chance it will cause the researchers doubt its other predictions and cancel the project. Touma won’t let her pass, and when she attacks with electricity, he doesn’t cancel it with his ability, and is knocked out. He tells her he’ll prove the researchers wrong by beating Accelerator, saving Mikoto and the sisters.

Misaka Mikoto

Had Touma not been worried about his treasured friend and gone to her dorm and been stuffed under her bed, he may have sat in that room with Kuroko as Mikoto let herself get killed by Accelerator; either by disguising herself as a sister or simply asking him to kill her in one shot, something Accelerator probably wouldn’t mind doing that much. But he was worried, and he wasn’t going to let that friend sacrifice herself for such a limited return. At first Mikoto assumes Touma has come to confront, scold, and possibly even punish her; something for which she’s prepared.

What she wasn’t prepared for was Touma putting his body on the line to show her his resolve to stop her, someone who on that bridge on that moment fulfilled the inner wishes Mikoto had long repressed as foolish: miracles can happen, heroes can emerge, and damsels can be saved in the nick of time. And most importantly, she has worth; worth that warrants finding another way to achieve her goals without sacrificing herself.

9_superior
Rating: 9 (Superior)

Stray Observations:

  • Good for Kuroko being mature and letting Touma up. She doesn’t know it, but she saved her Onee-sama’s life.
  • We thought Touma and Mikoto’s exchange on the bridge was a emotional, pardon the pun, electric tour-de-force.
  • We’re a little conflicted about the ramifications: the heroine is essentially stepping aside to let the shining prince save the day. That being said, Mikoto isn’t your typical damsel in distress, tears this week aside, and will likely have plenty to contribute in a climactic fight with Accelerator.