3-gatsu no Lion – 40

I realized something this week. Whenever 3GL strays too far from the core cast of Rei, the Kawamotos, and Niakidou, my interest flags. We’re now in episode 40 of 44, and the show (granted, based on the manga) has seen fit to spend not just one but two episodes on the grizzled 9-time Kishou champion Yanagihara, looking to beat a revitalized Shimada for his tenth to make him an “eternal champion.”

Which is fine; that’s all fine…if I really cared about Yanagihara as a character…and I don’t. Aside from bickering with the comic relief chariman, I hadn’t really thought much of the guy, and while we certainly get a portrait of the kind of man he is and the burdens he carries (all his old retired friends see him as a proxy in this match), the “old man raging against the dying of the light” is, to be generous, a well-tread path.


From a technical standpoint the execution is all there, as is Shinbou’s usual eclectic visualizations of the players’ emotional states. The trips into Yanagihara’s psyche in which he’s bound and pulled by the hundreds to thousands of strips of cloth, or burning like a human torch, or standing in a one-burnt but now verdant field, are all visually arresting.

And yet…I was still left mostly cold, in part because he ends up winning (and delivering Shimada yet another loss), and in part because, as I said, Yanagihara just isn’t on my list of characters I’m emotionally invested in, and two episodes simultaneously felt like not quite enough to get invested in, and too much time to spend on a tertiary (at best) member of the cast.

Mostly, I think I’ve just got Kawamoto withdrawal. So congrats, Saku-chan, for winning the tenth and becoming eternal with one hell of a game of shogi—a game no one who knows shogi (or thought they knew it) expected a man of his years to play. But with just four episodes left, I’m ready to get back to our core characters’ lives.

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3-gatsu no Lion – 39

Returning from an Olympic break, 3GL turns its attention away from both Rei and the Kawamoto and focuses on two other shogi players. Shimada is going up against Yanagihara Sakutarou in the Kishou Championship; Rei and Nikaidou will only be giving commentary.

Yanagihara has won the championship fourteen times, and at 66 is the oldest active Class A player. As one of the elder statesmen of his sport, he seems to effortlessly surround himself with supporters and pals, all of whom call him “Saku-chan.” This irks Shimada, who really really wants to win his first title, even if he has to end Yanagihara’s warm reunions.

What Shimada might be too focused on winning to understand is that Yanagihara isn’t interested in passing the mantle of Kishou champion to anyone. Why would he? What comes next after he’s been knocked off the top of the pyramid?

He now stands alone, while everyone else has put their faith and their hopes in his continued success, and he wears those wishes like a mess of heavy white sashes, constantly threatening to smother him.

We see the weight both of those sashes and the realities of old age, as he takes every morning extra slow to ensure he takes all the medicine he needs to take. Once the match begins, Shimada is determined and uncharacteristically fiery, but Yanagihara is no slouch.

On the contrary, when an old friend told him early retirement “scared him” and was like “standing in a burnt field”, Yanagihara summons the flames that burned the field to begin with, and uses them to propel himself along in the match, which so far looks like the liveliest and most aggressive Kishou final match in years. Poor Shimada…he has the worst luck with opponents!

Kujira no Kora wa Sajou ni Utau Dropped

It is with a not-particularly-heavy heart that I say adieu to Children of the Whales, a show that just hasn’t been doing if for me the last couple of weeks. Its appalling lack of focus and momentum, the blandness of its many characters, and its thoroughly incoherent mythos (glowing hands, anyone?) all conspired to sap away any interest I might have initially harbored. To sit and watch the show try to flesh out and humanize the magenta-haired sadistic murderer who’d been nothing but a detestable jerk this whole time…yeah,  I’m out.

Kujira no Kora wa Sajou ni Utau – 07

I asked for the battle to finally begin, and I got what I wanted…sort of? As intimidating as the looming Skylos appears out of the sandstorm and as meaty the score sounds, the battle largely lacks punch. Neri’s song is nice, I just wish more were going on while she sang it. As for the return of Mr. Pinkhair, lets just say I wish he’d stayed out of this; he’s a thoroughly uninteresting, annoying “crazy killer warrior.”

I am somewhat relieved this battle isn’t as large or lopsided a slaughter as the first; the Thymia-armed defenders, many of them kids, get their licks in before, say, one fighter lets her guard down and gets stabbed by Pinky.

The Elder who wanted to sink the whale also gets an excellent death, getting cut right down the middle of his face but using his momentum to send the two attackers plummeting to their deaths with him, saving several children.

Suou finds the elder, but before he can say goodbye properly, Pinky is there to torment him. Pinky is everywhere! How does he cover ground so quickly? At any rate, the Kamiya Hiroshi-voiced Shuan is poised to rescue Suou by giving Pinky a good fight. Not this week, though.

The raid on Skylos goes all too predictably well at first, until half of the force walks straight into a just-as-predictable trap right when they thought they were nearing the finish line. They all get slaughtered, though Lykos hung back, sensing said trap, while Ginshu guards the door with a wounded Nibi.

It would seem Falaina’s raiders were allowed to have their fun; now the hammer of Skylos is poised to come down on them, and hard. The commander was quite clear that all should be annihilated, even Lykos, despite her brother’s status.

Chakuro—I haven’t mentioned him yet, have I?—really doesn’t want to fight or kill, but did a decent job with his defensive magic. It’s clear Team Falaina is going to need more of it if what’s left of them are going to survive this thing.

Owari no Seraph – 08

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Ahh, good ol’ Omotesando Station… I remember it well, travelling on the Ginza Metro line between Shibuya and Shimbashi. It was in a far better state of repair when I was there. On Owari, after the fall, it’s been re-purposed as a creepy lair for the team’s next targets: seven vampires. Shinoa says they’d probably do okay fighting individually, but better to work together and defeat them without a scratch. For once, Yuu agrees.

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They enter not to find fello Metro users like myself, but the vampires’ thralls, who give their blood in exchange for protection from the monsters above ground. They glare at the soldiers as they press on to their primary targets; saving them is secondary, and for once, Yuu doesn’t protest. They glare because they wish they had the power to choose a different fate for themselves besides this or death.

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When Mitsuba gives the order to prepare their weapons, Yuu takes it upon himself to cut down an unarmed vamp, their first catch of the day, following the letter but not necessarily the spirit of his orders. This irks Mitsuba, but he catches her hand before she can slap him again, then maneuvers her out of the way of a second vamp’s strike, whom he takes care of without any trouble. Two down, five to go, and Yuu’s first rescue of Mitsuba.

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When they confront the final five, three more pop out from behind Mitsuba, and one of them grabs her by the throat. But in one of the vamps’ sillier choices, he decides not to kill her immediately, but wait until Yuu and the others have engaged his comrades to do it, by which time it’s too late, and Yuu slices him in half.

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With Mitsuba rescued by Yuu once more (who regards her as his family), the team closes ranks and mops up the remaining vamps, armed with second-rate weapons no match for their cursed gear. In all, it’s a good first subterranean fight, packed with peril but ultimately not too difficult to pull off with the lessons they’ve learned.

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The girl who told them about the vamps in the station lowballed the figure to save her own friends/family, something Yuu doesn’t hold against her when they return to base camp, where other former thralls are being tended to by the army. When Mitsuba learns from Shinoa about Yuu’s past, and how it so closely resembles her own, but his denseness annoys her and she storms off without telling him anything. There’s pretty textbook romantic bonding exercise in practice here, but not unearned due to solid fundamentals and decent voicework by Iguchi Yuka.

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The second half opens with Shiho getting a derelict Hummer H2T running again to shorten their trip to Shinjuku. While Yuu grows up a lot in this episode, the comedic scene the show allows as a breath between life-and-death ordeals successfully reminds us he still is a kid, judging from how stoked he is about driving a car for the first time. This is Yuu as a charming, wide-eyed kid, not an annoying angsty or arrogant; and it’s nice.

The shot of Shiho gathering the others, as Yuu drives into the frame and crashes into a lamppost, demonstrates decent comedic timing (plus it looks like Yuu is having a ton of fun, which I can speak to having driven one of those brutes). Shinoa sitting in the drivers seat is a nice sight gag, as is her off-camera revenge over the lads for laughing at her.

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Once everyone’s aboard and they near the Shinjuku barrier wall, they spot a Vampire Noble, the first we’ve seen in action since Yuu ran from Ferid. Everyone bails as they set the Hummer on a collision course with the vamp, but he stops the three-ton SUT with one hand and flings it back at them like a toy. *GULP*. They had a relatively easy time with vamps up till now, but it’s clear this will be a little different.

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The noble is so fast he’s upon Shinoa before she can raise her weapon. Yuu is able to block his blow and disarm him, showing her yet again why he and Shiho are Guren’s favorites. The noble is a little impressed as two more noble vamps descend from the sky, flanking him.

Yuu asks if they should retreat from this. Let me repeat that: Yuu mentions retreat. But it’s too late; Shiona believes they’ll still have a chance if the five of them work as one unit at the very limit of their demon power, but she doesn’t pretend there won’t probably be a casualty or two.

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The lady vamps have come to bring their comrade to the front lines, and he grudgingly goes along with them, sparing Yuu & Co. from a fight but promising he’ll drink their blood when they meet again, casually tapping him on the shoulder before flying off. That easy arrogance really ticks Yuu off, but Shinoa is still visibly terrified from the bullet they just dodged.

Even if Yuu had what it took today to take that noble on one-on-one, his friends would get killed as he fought without teamwork. Shinoa also does what Mitsuba couldn’t: thank him promptly for saving her life, noting that as Guren said, he really does care about his friends. Her gratitude brings the bashful boy out in Yuu.

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Those nobles were pretty damn scary, but they’re gone for the moment, and while the episode ends with the team staring down a Shinjuku under assault, about to enter that inferno themselves, it ends with an upward pan right into the smoke, as upbeat music plays. It will be tough going from here on, but they’re going in together, and whatever they face in there, they’ll get through it with teamwork.

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Kamisama Dolls 13

Kukuri, singing the song it sung when Kyohei was its seki, saves Hibino and Kyohei and destroys Magatsuhi. Mahiru flees. While unconscious, Kyohei dreams of the past with Aki, Mahiru, and Senou. After he found Aki with a dead Senou, he threatened to kill him with Kukuri, lashing out at anyone who interfered, but without trying, Utao took control of Kukuri from him. He wakes up proclaiming Hibino is his, and Hibino just happened to be by his side. On the roof of the hospital, they kiss, and Hibino tells him not to worry about involving her in his troubles. Utao can no longer move Kukuri. Aki pays him Kyohei a visit, telling him he’s headed to the village, where he and the Elder Hyuga will reawaken the giant monster he defeated in the past. Kyohei takes the challenge.

Oh, wait, what? A second season is forthcoming? Well, ya’know what, that’s okay with me. After all I’ve invested in this excellent cast, I’d hate for it to end so abruptly. Once Magatsuhi was dealt with and everyone was out of danger, this became a much more laid-back, relaxed episode, almost as if it were winding down in preparation for hibernation (I’m unsure whether it will continue airing during the Fall season, or if it won’t be back until next year). That’s fine though. Cliffhangers aren’t mandatory by any means.

For all the trials ahead for our man Kyohei, and despite the fact Mahiru’s kakashi was wasted and Utao lost control of hers, this was also a surprisingly upbeat episode. Kyohei and Aki’s final scene together was awesome; these two can never escape the fact that they’re brothers, any more than they can escape Kurakami. This wasn’t the time for a final duel with tons of shouting; that’s yet to come. And Kyohei and Hibino finally lockin’ lips, with Hibino making the first move? Well, better late than never!


Rating: 3.5