Lord El-Melloi II Case Files – 06 – Mage Girls Trip

Six episodes in, were you ready for the titular Rail Zeppelin arc to begin in earnest? Well you may have been and I may have been, but apparently the show wasn’t, so instead we get a bottle episode. Gray asks Reines about the Holy Grail War and her mentor’s role in it, and Reines agrees to tell her, but only if she gets to take Gray shopping at Carnac, London’s largest and most extravagant store.

After dressing Gray up in a number of fetching ensembles, they are joined by Luviagelita Edelfelt, Carnac’s newly-installed owner, and she joins their “girls’ party.” She’s also responsible for the décor—for which the word gaudy doesn’t do justice—which is magically formulated to stimulate customers’ desire to spend. A slideshow of cute moments among the trio ensues.

While resting in the owner’s room, Reines finally tells Gray about Iskandar, though can’t speak to what precisely the former Mr. Velvet went through. Then, in an instant, all of the color leaves their surroundings, and the three of them are the only people in the entire store. More strangely, there is no way to exit without returning where you started.

Breaking the Bechdel Test, the three ask “What Would Lord El-Melloi II Do?” and with the whydunit not making sense, conclude this isn’t an incident perpetrated by anyone, but an accident brought about by the excessively ornate renovations, both physical and magical. Luvia elects to clean up her own mess, utilizing her extensive pro wrestling(!) skills to neutralize the automated security force.

After that, Reines has Trim smash the central relic controlling the store’s magecraft, which shatters the bounded field and returns the three to the normal world. Reines later deduces that the spell wouldn’t let fortune escape, implying the three ladies were treasures not to be taken outside. When Gray protests that unlike Reines and Luvia she’s “not that special,” Reines reminds her of the noble phantasm she carries…then encourages her to deliver the gift she bought for Lord El-Melloi.

She’s unable to do so, but primarily due to the Lord’s mood when she returns. He’s in a mood because the Mantle of Iskandar was stolen from him, replaced by a note inviting him to—you guessed it—the Rail Zeppelin. El-Melloi then invites Gray to join him on that infamous train that buys and sells mystic eyes.

While not particularly essential viewing, this week’s Case Files was adequately diverting, featuring a rare combo of all-female characters (though El-Melloi was a frequent topic of conversation) and taking place in one huge, intriguing, isolated space. Gray also got to learn a little more about her mentor, and got a slight boost to her severely deficient self-esteem. In all, far from a waste of time.

Hanayamata – 09

haana91

While Naru has a serious case of “Oh no, not again!” with regards to her little slip-up, it is quickly acknowledged by everyone else that this is, indeed, not the end of the world, and Naru needn’t commit seppuku about it. If anything, the crowd was probably moved by the camaraderie and love inherent in the other three helping her back to her feet and finishing out their routine.

hana93

The fact that Naru passed out moments after they finished and the general fatigue from lack of sleep due to excitement meant the group wasn’t going to put on a flawless show anyway; Naru just happened to be the first to stumble. However they fared (and they didn’t fare that badly), it was valuable experience to build upon for Hanairo.

hana94

Everything is peachy…until the members find out their club isn’t official yet, since Sally-chan-sensei is just a substitute. This news is first relayed by Sari’s sister, Machi…and that’s no coincidence: Machi doesn’t want messing up Tami and the others like she messed her up. The balance of the episode is about how Machi’s idolization of her big sis evaporated after Sari left home to pursue her own interests.

hana94a

It was, as Machi oft repeats, “selfish and irresponsible”, but let’s be honest here: Machi herself is just as guilty of those adjectives. She thinks Sachi will betray and abandon them just they put the most faith in her, but isn’t Machi also afraid that the opposite could happen? That her sister could find happiness advising the Yosakoi Club, and “rub it in her face?”

hana95

Machi has been staring at the flame of resentment she’s kept burning so long, she can’t see past her younger wounded self. In hindsight, she sees that she overreacted to her sister leaving. She knows how much pressure their doctor parents put on them, and Sari didn’t want to be a doctor, she wanted to be a teacher. She also learns that Sari wants to repair their rift, which is why she’s at the school at all. You could say if it wasn’t for Machi, there’d be no Yosakoi Club.

hana96

Now that Machi’s older and wiser, she’s aware of the fact Sari did what she did out of her own personal drive, which everyone has to follow, even if it doesn’t hew to the expectations of those we hold most dear. But Machi wouldn’t have put out that flame if it wasn’t for Tami’s diplomacy. And in exchange for her help, Machi doesn’t refuse an invitation to the Yosakoi Club. We were wondering how she was going to join!

7_ses

Hanayamata – 08

“The variety of personality types is perfect!” —Sari-sensei

As this week’s episode crept closer to the girls’ first official public performance, they cross every T and dot every I, and a great deal of anticipation is built up. Finally, it’s happening, after so much hard work and such humble beginnings.

“Practice wherever you are, whatever you’re doing, whenever you can.” —Me

Haru and Tami take Sari-sensei too seriously and get self-consicous about their thighs, leading to last minute exercise. Yaya and Hana remark that they aren’t actually fat, but Yaya also remarks that they could use a little extra stamina.

SCANDAL!

They’re inspired to exercise more after Yaya proves how valuable a member not in name only she can be, by adding her drums to Tami’s piano music and making a hip little arrangement: the OP with a synth tone replacing the vocals.

Nice assortment of reactions to the department store shindig

Yaya also proves vital in both the planing and scheduling stages, as she insists they all arrive at the station by 8:00, even though the performance isn’t until 1:00. Sure enough, the other girls are late, but she planned for that, so it’s all good.

“I’ve got your back…literally and figuratively!”

Disaster strikes when they forget the music CD, but Sari’s sister (and Tami’s friend) Machi arrives with it in hand. As soon as this fact is made official, we get a glimpse of their strained relationship, stemming from their different personalities.

Lookin’ good…

Finally, it’s showtime, and everyone is nervous (even Yaya’s legs shake), but once they get up there to before a small but lively crowd, and the music starts, for a pretty decent amount of time the four are kicking ass. And then Naru makes a wrong move, bumps Hana, and falls, dropping her Naruko.

“No…not again….”

It mirrors her bad dream last night, which was actually a memory of falling while cheerleading in elementary school. In the present, we can only watch in horror as everything all of a sudden goes horribly wrong in excruciating slow-motion. Rats…so close!

“Maybe I should join? According to the OP, I DO join, after all…”

But hey, it’s not the end of the world. This is their first show, and it wasn’t meant to be some big unrealistic breakthrough. It was valuable practice for future public performances. We fall down so we can get back up again. I hope Naru remembers that and doesn’t dwell on her failure. Their dancing also seemed to momentarily impress Machi, though it looked like watching her sister watch and cheer them on made her jealous as well.

8_ses

Hanayamata – 06

hana61

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.

hana62

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.

hana63

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.)

hana64

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.

hana65

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.

hana66

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.

8_ses

Mekakucity Actors – 01

mek11

Kisaragi Shintaro is a hikikomori haunted by two girls. One is a mysterious dark-haired girl in a sailor fuku who talks to him in strange, melancholy dreamscapes. The other is the puckish Ene, a boisterous computer program he downloaded out of curiosity, but has since become a constant (and often quite irritating) presence in his life. When Ene causes him to spill Coke all over his keyboard, he must brave the outside world and a crowded department store to procure a new one.

mek12

That store is taken over by terrorists who hacked the computer-controlled security, and he suddenly finds himself a hostage the first time he’s left his apartment in a year, which seems to confirm many hikikomoris’ worst fears. Despite their apparent proficiency with technology, the crims don’t bother taking away Shintaro’s smartphone, which also contains Ene. When two game fellow hostages arrange a diversion, Shintaro springs into action, hooking Ene into the store’s computers and canceling the lockdown.

mek13

Leaving aside the fact those looked like display units in an electronic store (and hence normally wouldn’t be connected in any way to the store’s security system), this was a low-key yet engrossing introduction to this world, which looks like a city just a few towns over from Naoetsu, the setting for most of the Monogatari Series. Like that and other SHAFT shows, we’re shown a plethora of bumper cards, wide shots, detailed expressive close-ups. I’m a fan of this precise, schematic aesthetic.

mek14

Unlike other first episodes this season that lay out fairly clearly what they’re about through various kinds of exposition, Mekakucity prefers to present most of its first episode without excessive comment or explanation. I know how Shintaro and Ene “met”, that there’s something to that girl in Shintaro’s mind, and that he’ll surely cross paths with the hooded people he meets in the store; but why he’s a hikikomori, who he was before, and where all of this is going are things the show decided not to reveal from the get-go.

mek15

As if to underline its deliberateness, we get what will likely be the show’s OP presented as the ED (a fairly common first episode thing to do), and a rainbow cornucopia of cool-looking characters flash across the screen, most of whom only appeared in this episode for a moment, if that. It’s a little overwhelming, but also enticing and invigorating, like getting used to the interface of a new video game you just cracked open. My questions are many, but answers are sure to come…along with more questions.

8_ses

Sket Dance 21

This week’s a field trip, with Himeko and Bossun bumping into each other in the city, then spotting Switch on what initially looks like a date with Yuuki, the plain, pallid, Ring-like occult chick. It turns out he’s coming with her to pick out a computer, but it soon evolves into much more than that.

I really enjoyed their philosophical banter. These two are definitely intellectual rivals who are more alike than different; they’re simply dedicated to opposite ends of the human condition, namely the supernatural and the scientific. When they bump into a former classmate of hers, it’s learned that back before she was so involved with the occult, she confessed to him and got shot down because she was “scary-looking.” Switch’s cosmetic advice to her is similarly amusing.

They’re at a department store, so they avail themselves of the available services, and tarts her up. The transformation is striking, and the fact she still sounds the same and walks with the worst posture in the world is hilarious. I must say I definitely enjoyed virtually a whole episode dedicated to Switch and Yuuki; they really bring out the best in each other. The fresh setting brought back memories of Tokyo’s massive department stores that sell just about everything.


Rating: 3

Ikoku Meiro no Croisée 2

As the tiny Yune darts around learning about cheese, fresh bread, breakfast, spoons, and evil department stores, I couldn’t help but conclude than she, Claude and Oscar were having way more fun than I was having watching it. That’s not to say it isn’t fun; the episode was pleasant enough, but now we’re two weeks in and we still have no idea who Yune is and why she accompanied Oscar to France.

Perhaps that’s unfair. In a season full of complex narratives and sprawling casts, it can be tempting to try to fit this round peg into a square hole. No such luck; this series is unapologetic as it is diligent in its detailed depiction of ordinary everyday life in this time and place. The nearest thing to a looming conflict seems to be the big-box store, which looks like an elegant destination for shoppers, but a cancer to local specialty store owners who will die off one by one in its price-cutting shadow.

Will that shadow gradually move in and ruin the light and breezy mood of this series? Unlikely. One thing’s certain: Claude has warmed up to Yune much quicker than I envisioned. So far, this is about a girl in a strange new land, but knows the language, has made friends, and is discovering the foreign culture. What happens next? Rating: 3