Carole & Tuesday – 04 – Caveat Emptor Robotus

Unsuccessful in collabing with DJ Ertegun, Gus presents his second idea for Carole & Tuesday making it big: a music video. Despite my initial suspicion that they’d try to make it big without AI, they end up buying a 19-Woolong robot who will direct, film, and edit.

The low, low price immediately threw up a red flag for me, but the crew presses forward, throwing out a king’s ransom in pop culture references from Thriller to The Avengers, which the robot somehow manages to make sense of, and then provides a list of required things.

Gus meets with his stylish ex-wife Marie for her know-how with hair, makeup, and wardrobe. Perhaps impressed he’s off the bottle and serious about helping some new talent soar, Marie agrees, despite no upfront payment.

The SpielbergBot, AKA IDEA, turns out to be a beer fanatic in the vein of Futurama’s Bender, and mostly lazes around watching TV as C&T write a new song for the video (incidently, the one that plays over the end credits).

Meanwhile, Roddy manages to score an expensive car courtesy of DJ Ertegun. When Roddy is initially dishonest about knowing the girls, Ertegun flashes a number of looks at him—accompanied by hilarious EDM sounds—but ultimately helps his young friend out.

C&T meet Marie’s wardrobe friend and lover, then try on a number of outfits in another montage as Roddy practices his dance moves. When he shows up in the car all debonair an’ shit, the girls aren’t interested in him at all, only the car itself. Roddy also provides the “giant robot” in his ultra-rare limited-edition resin models, which IDEA will scale up in post.

The day of filming begins, and it’s a bit chaotic; befitting all the myriad ideas everyone threw out at the beginning. C&T jump from setting to setting and costume to costume with no real consistent narrative or theme, and from the look of Roddy by the end, something terrible happened to Ertegun’s car.

We then learn while IDEA is having a bath back at Carole’s place that he’s running some kind of scam on the humans, insulting their intelligence and threatening Carole’s owl alarm clock not to snitch.

Gus and Marie have a drink to celebrate the wrap of the video, and both admit to how much goshdarn fun they had getting back in the game like that. Marie even wonders what went wrong with their marriage, insinuating it wasn’t all Gus’ fault, then tells him she’s getting remarried to an amazing woman.

When IDEA is done editing, Carole, Tuesday and Gus prepare to watch with baited breath, while Roddy stays home and finds out on the news that IDEA is an AI scammer. It’s news delivered far too late, as after they watch his train wreck of a video (most of which isn’t even in focus), C, T, and G all glare menacingly at IDEA before boxing him up and sending him back to the fulfillment center.

After two episodes of relative realism (aided by coincidence and fate, but still realistic), C&T gets a little more madcap and cartoonish, and everyone is a little dumber for one episode as they put their complete trust, time, and effort in a totally dubious mechanism. Their “guerrilla” performances at the music hall and laundromat feel at once more effective and more sincere than any cut-rate video production anyway. When you’re broke, elegant minimalism is key. This was all too baroque.

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Hinamatsuri – 11 – Just a Regular Nice Guy

TV journalist Seta Daisuke looking for an exciting, violent, and profane yakuza story and thinks he’s found one in Yoshifumi Nitta, who, after all, is known to have taken down an entire rival group single-handedly. Seta steels himself for a tough assignment, even writing his will.

As we know from watching Nitta, that might’ve been, ah, a bit premature. While Seta initially believes Nitta is just putting up a calm front to hide the unhinged savage within, Nitta’s daily life leads to Seta coming to the crushing conclusion that his vicious yakuza is just…a regular nice guy.

His mom and sister all but confirm it when they burst into rude laughter upon being asked whether there are any “exciting” stories about their son and brother. My friends, there are not. Nitta is as cool a cucumber as one can get in his business.

Mind you, we the audience know that he’s actually had some pretty spectacular moments that any journalist would sell non-vital organ to cover, but most to all of those involve Hina in some way, and Nitta has no intention of revealing anything about her besides the fact she has no one else so he takes care of her.

Seta resorts to staging a scene where Nitta loses his temper and brains Sabu with an ashtray. While it’s true he went a bit to far, Sabu kinda had it coming considering he almost got Nitta killed during the group’s now amicably-resolved succession crisis. That’s some good unspoken continuity!

When Seta surveys his amassed footage and concludes that he will be fired the moment he shows this to his boss at the station, he decides to abandon his journalistic integrity and resort to clever editing, narration, and flat-out fake news.

Nitta and Hina watch the farce of a yakuza profile, in which a pixel-faced Nitta’s completely tepid responses are made to sound like he’s the monster Seta’s voiceover claims him to be. Ironically, he ends his piece by lamenting the end of the decent, respectable yakuza in favor of “monsters” like Nitta (or the completely phony Nitta he created); despite the fact Nitta actually is that guy.

And not just him. His yakuza associates don’t hesitate to tease him with memorized lines from the show they knew was a bunch of bologna. Combined with Hina doing the same (and asking, bemused, who exactly was the subject of the profile they watched, ’cause it wasn’t him!), Nitta ends up running away, barely holding back tears. I guess it’s for the best the yakuza aren’t portrayed exactly like him…

 

In the second part of this episode, Nitta hosts Anzu while her parents are away at a hot spring. With Hina away on her middle school’s ski-training trip(?), it’s just him and Anzu, and in Anzu he finds a girl much better suited for his life than Hina, in terms of her ability, and enthusiastic willingness, to help out with domestic chores.

She doesn’t subtly mock or shade Nitta (as Hina is wont to do) either! Anzu is such a consistently, relentlessly good girl throughout her visit, Nitta has to run into another room to scream and curse the chinese restaurant owners for getting the good girl-in-a-metal-egg, while he’s stuck with…with Hina.

In fact, Nitta experiences a bit of what Seta did during the interview in the first segment. All of Anzu’s pleasantries and smiles sound fake to him after the ruthless “realness” of life with Hina, whom he regards as the typical spoiled brat of a kid who is a pain in the ass to their parent or guardian just ’cause.

But he’s wrong; just as Seta was wrong. This Anzu is the real Anzu. She may have been a lot more like Hina in the past, but her experiences and environment since have changed her, for the better.

Eventually, Anzu unconsciously manages to wear Nitta down until he dissolves into a cloud of sand, re-coalesces in mid-air, and flies away in formation with several Anzu-angels, leaving the Hina-demons crawling along the ground far behind.

After an incredible night in the “Ideal Father’s World”, the day arrives when Anzu’s folks return and she returns home, and the dream is over. Nitta decries that fact that “Reality is coming home.”

All the time he was shitting on Hina, something in the back of my head was telling me the show was going to teach him a lesson about not knowing what he’s lost until he lost it…even though it kinda already did that. My intuition turned out to be correct.

He gets an ominous call from the school ski trip informing him that Hina has been “lost in the mountains.” Now, you, me, and Nitta know that with her telekinetic abilities she’ll probably be just fine, and could easily deal with any threat she might come across.

That’s perhaps why Nitta responds so nonchalantly. But it’s still upsetting to hear that she’s lost, just when Nitta was dreading her return. Here’s hoping the final episode is devoted to his search for her and their reunion, perhaps with some assists from his various friends.

Fune wo Amu – 11 (Fin)

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Last week restored my faith in Fune wo Amu’s ability to engage and pull its audience in with an up-against-the-wall crisis that requires a tremendous group effort to pull off. But that same goodwill didn’t quite carry over in the show’s eleventh and final episode, which only reinforced a problem I’ve had since the eighth episode pushed us forward so many years without warning.

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I understand how the show basically needed to show us the ultimate payoff of a published Great Passage, but I maintain that it didn’t have enough time to tell that story, nor would extending the effort across, say, a full 26-episode series would have been possible before getting stale, monotonous, or over-contrived in an effort to stoke up some drama.

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Before the dictionary officially goes on sale, Matsumoto suddenly succombs to esophageal cancer he only told his comrades a day or so before his death. His death has been telegraphed so much, it didn’t elicit a shock in me so much as a shrug. Again, his death only underlines the problematic nature of leaping so far ahead in the dictionary’s timeline to a point where most people only look slightly different, but suddenly Matsumoto is at death’s door.

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The missing words episode was a temporary diversion from the fact the development of the dictionary didn’t feel as epic as it should have because the show skipped too much time.  Ditto Matsumoto’s death. He seemed like a nice guy and all, but he was a character with a tendency to spout flowery philosophy and little else. Post time-jump, it was hard to get a handle on the characters were; spending so much time with the new hire didn’t help matters.

So yeah, Fune wo Amu was, to me, the definition of “watchable,” but I won’t lie: I’m glad there’s no twelfth episode, because I’ve been mostly checked out since episode 6, when Majime’s attainment of Kaguya was sold as the Most Important Thing going on in the show, without ever really getting into why the two liked, let alone loved, each other.

The show had glimmers of greatness, but couldn’t help but feel either too drawn-out (earlier in the story) or too rushed (after the time jump). And there’s only so many ways you can present the metaphor of a ship lighting the way.

Considering how carefully the dictionary at the heart of its story was planned and prepared, Fune wo Amu too often felt unsure of itself and random in where it chose to focus its attention. That made it hard to stay involved.

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Fune wo Amu – 10

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There’s a missing word in The Great Passage. The ship has a hole in the hull before it’s been launched. That’s actually a good thing; better now than when it was on sale. But Majime can’t let this one word go.

There could be others, so he mobilizes a small army of temps, and together with Kishibe and Araki, sets to work re-checking each and every one of the Passage’s 240,000 words.

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It’s a massive undertaking due to the limited time frame — which is never actually stated, but must limited, or else everyone wouldn’t work almost around the clock and not leave the editorial office. Fatigue inevitable sets in, and like it did in “33”, the first (and best) episode of Battlestar Galactica, it’s engrossing to behold.

Not necessarily Majime’s too-on-the-nose dreams of words escaping through a tear in his “construct“, but in the way people start to get slower and more tired, but still have a job to do, and struggle through. It adds a welcome touch of adventure to the proceedings.

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Of course, eventually Majime has to send everyone home to get some real sleep (no Cylons chasing them, thankfully), and he comes home to a Kaguya who is nothing but warm, loving, and caring, feeding Majime a home-cooked meal before sending him back out to fight the good fight.

Kaguya understands pride in one’s work; she’s an accomplished restaurateur. She knows it’s pride that drives her husband to ensure without a shadow of a doubt that the ship he’s building is as perfect as he can make it.

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Marking time throughout the episode (in addition to the changes in people as they tire) is a huge table where each section completed is marked in red. For much of the episode less than half of it is marked, but it eventually becomes fully red.

In the surprisingly thrilling final minutes, Kishibe, Araki, and lastly Majime officially finish the checking, immediately after which the legion of temps, all of them having just shared a life-changing experience they won’t soon forget, either cheer in exultation or breathe deep sighs of relief it’s finally over.

Only it isn’t. The book still must be printed, bound, put on sale, marketed, and most importantly, it must sell, or everyone involved will likely have to fall on their swords, Majime most of all.

As for Matsumoto, he’s seemed ill since the time-shift (which the show somewhat cheekily nearly admits was pretty abrupt, as hardly anyone’s appearance has changed), and the episode’s final shot in his empty house seems to suggest he may not live to see The Great Passage leave port.

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Fune wo Amu – 09

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Kishibe is a lover of words – but also, apparently, of alcohol, and is a bit of a lightweight. Still, she powers through hangovers to work hard under Majime, and The Great Passage starts its final phases of construction. It’s about this time Kishibe tries, through Nishioka, to understand her chief a little better.

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Nishioka sets her on a little mini treasure hunt that leads her to Majime’s love letter to Kaguya, which Nishioka (somewhat creepily) photocopied and hid in a book in the stacks. Still, it gets the job done: Kishibe sees how carefully (if variably successfully) Majime chooses words from the many many words he knows, and is amused, heartened, and inspired by his efforts to woo his future wife.

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The overwhelmed feeling Kishibe had is replaced by stalwart optimism, which she successfully transfers to the paper guy, Miyamoto, even as Majime rejects paper after paper. But since the editors like Kishibe are working so hard, Miaymoto keeps at it, until he finally gets the right balance of strength and stickiness.

Unfortunately, with The Great Passage set to be launched (i.e. published), Kishibe spots a leak, and all of a sudden Majime wonders in horror what other words may be missing. Will the great ship sink on its maiden voyage, or is this just a problem all of those who dared to make great dictionaries were faced with in the final stages?

This was another *okay* episode, but ever since Majime finally made his feelings known to Kaguya, the show has frankly felt a bit sedate (well, more sedate than usual). The time jump of many years still seems like an awkward move, as the characters look pretty much the same.

As for characters continuing to wax philosophical about the power of dictionaries and words, well…everything’s pretty much been said already, so it’s getting rather repetitive.

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Fune wo Amu – 08

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When newbie Kishibe arrives at the dictionary editorial department, she’s surprised to learn the only other full-time employee there is Majime. She comes from a fashion magazine, and like Nishioka, didn’t have much choice in transferring. This episode centers on her, and as a result, I felt a little bit of, as she herself puts it, “out of placeness” coming off of it.

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When Majime’s paper guy shows up with samples that have the right thickness and opacity but aren’t sticky enough for TGP, it’s clear said TGP is coming along, if slowly. We later learn thirteen years have passed since TGP was started. That’s a huge time leap, and I’m not sure how I feel about it yet. It’s shocking how much time has been skipped over, just to end up in another relatively sleepy workaday episode.

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Other changes include an ailing Matsumoto, a part-time Araki, a slightly older-looking Kaguya who is now both a restaurant owner and Majime’s supportive wife. There’s no shrine to her mother, but we don’t see her, so she may have passed in the interim. At her welcoming party, Kishibe has a little too much to drink and freaks out about not being able to cut it as a dictionary editor.

When Majime’s words of encouragement don’t work, Nishioka tracks her down and shows her how being good with words, as she is, is a very good thing. Her confidence thus buoyed, she asks Majime, and he agrees, to let her edit his own fashion definitions, which she finds “lacking.” Turns out her experience in another field will help enrich TGP.

I just wish so much damn time hadn’t passed so quickly. It’s disorienting! Ah well.

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Fune wo Amu – 07

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After another scene illustrating how hemmed-in Nishioka feels, having to force his girlfriend to walk far ahead of him on the way to work, and decline the squid ink paella place lest they be seen there together, we get into the nitty-gritty of manuscript editing.

Matumoto proudly listens as Nishioka and Majime work like a two-part well-oiled machine as they sift through Professor Oda’s extraneous verbiage and cut to the core of what a certain Great Passage word definition should consist of and why.

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It’s just a shame they only have one more month together. This is a show that seems to shift between Majime and Nishioka; the former too often a prisoner within himself, the latter too often a prisoner to outside forces, like the ones that enabled the Passage to survive.

But while Majime is sad to see Nishioka go, as Nishioka seems sad to be leaving something he felt at the time was very important, they’re still pulling for each other in the future, even if that immediate future doesn’t involve working together.

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We simply don’t see any of the aftermath of Majime and Kaguya connecting; only the indication that things are moving along fine, with Majime going to Apricot to sample the first dinner she has full control over; essentially to support her on her next step on the long road to realizing her goals.

Nishioka has a nice girlfriend in Remi, but definitely seems to dislike how careful they have to be in public (not sure why this is, so I’m assuming it’s company policy). It’s nice to see their domestic scenes together as a contrast to the distance they must flub when out in the world, but it can’t go on this way if Nishioka is to be truly happy.

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When Professor Oda calls Nishioka in to bitch at him about the extreme editing to his manuscript Majime has done, as well as to complain about the lateness of his transfer announcement, Nishioka turns up the charm, flattering Oda by saying most other writers need far more editing than he.

It’s when Oda tries to get Nishioka to kneel down in apology to him that Nishioka finally demurs. He feels such grovelling beneath the noble builders of The Great Passage, and instead essentially blackmails Oda with his knowledge of his young student mistress.

With Oda back under control, Nishioka goes a little further, rebelling against the same structures that give weight to his threats against Oda by texting Remi to meet him for dinner at the squid ink paella place. Appearances be damned: he’s going to live and enjoy himself.

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