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.
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.
The people—specifically the youth—of Falaina prepare for battle. After a certain age even the Marked can’t use Thymia, so they’ll be depending on children to fight, many of them quite small, and like everyone else, tought their entire lives not to use their power to hurt people.
They must unlearn all that pacifist conditioning and learn to kill, which is what their enemies will be experts at right out of the gate. A seldom-seen elder makes sure Suou understands what leadership is: he’ll be sending children to kill and die. Suou seems to. I mean, what’s the alternative; just sit around and wait to be killed?
One Falainan who’s never had trouble hurting people with his Thymia is Ouni, and he mentally prepares for the task ahead with his old friend Nibi, who welcomed him into his gang when they were kids when Ouni showed him that things like the Bowels weren’t really that scary.
There are scary times ahead, but it certainly seems that Nibi will be by Ouni’s side for them. Whether that spells the end for him when they infiltrate Skylos and try to kill its Nous…this isn’t the episode about that fight, but the final build-up to it. And at that, it works generally well.
As one of the people going on the infiltration mission, Chakuro will be doing more than simply witnessing events, he’ll be a direct participant in them; forced to use his infamous “destroyer” powers for actual destroying; maybe of the Nous, maybe of fellow humans, maybe both. It’s uncharted territory.
Fortunately, Lykos will be by his side, and while her gradual falling for Chakuro was both inevitable and predictable, it sure beats her having no emotions at all, even if, as she says, “feelings get in the way.” It’s true! But without feelings, would life really be worth living? I mean, what are we doin’ here, trying to win a stoicism contest, or LIVING?!
While preparing for the battle that may decide the fate of many a person, as well as that of the entire Mud Whale, the show remains content to keep us in the dark about Neri and her apparent twin, Ema, or what is up with her angel wings of light.
Suffice it to say, she’ll play a more satisfying role educating Chakuro on the secrets of the Mud Whale perhaps nobody knows besides the elders; and some stuff that even they might not know. But for Ema to start spilling the beans, Chakuro has to come out of this in one piece.
The villagers throw sand at each other in a tradition called the “sand returning” which kicks up those who have been lost into the air. In a touching scene Lykos witnesses Chakuro doing this for the late, dearly departed Sami.
After that calm comes the storm—a sandstorm, of course! Skylos can be heard before its red lights can be seen, but the great battleship doesn’t fully emerge quite yet; we get the credits. That means next week will be the battle – no more procrastinating!
This week Chakuro and his friends locate the nous at the core of Falaina that apparently every sand ship has, are interrupted by three elders who bring archers to kill the nous, thus sinking the Mud Whale, but Chakuro manages to convince them not to, though they do manage to shoot Lykos in the leg.
After that, Suou is freed and Taisha’s aides gather to his side, he meets with Lykos, who tells everyone about the eight ships the empire has and how there could be other countries out there, and Suou gives a speech to the rest of the Whale’s population that they’re going to fight and defend until they can find allies.
That’s a good amount of material in one episode…so why the heck did it feel to me like virtually nothing happened? I suspect it’s at least in part due to the overall presentation, which has felt lacking in urgency and peril since the surprise attack that ended episode two.
There’s also the fact that the Mud Whale feels like such a small and static setting whose leadership seems to change on a dime with little to no repercussions. The rest of the population is treated like one united faceless entity that cheers at the prospect of Ouni joining the defense force.
Perhaps most troubling—and contributory to my waning interest in this show—is the protagonist Chakuro, whose defining character trait is a guy who says a lot—both to others and through narration—but does very little, while Lykos’ is simply “girl who developed emotions” and little else.
As a result, it feels like I’m watching a set of thin and fairly generic characters caught up in a world that’s groaning under the weight of its convoluted (and at times, random-feeling) mythology.
Right now, that’s just not grabbing and holding my attention as much as the other Fall shows I’m watching. Maybe next week, when the defense of the whale begins in earnest, I’ll be able to muster more enthusiasm.
In the first half, Ao and three classmates take care of Hime when she falls ill. Vice Principal Uzu visits to deliver the elders’ offical request that she resign as mayor as she’s “not suited for it”, though he himself believe she’s doing a great job. In the second half, Hime, Kana and Mina visit Juri, but she’s asleep. She dreams of when she first arrived in Tokyo, eager to grow into an adult so she can silence her ancestor’s detractors. She meets Hime’s grandmother Machi, who takes Juri to the empty lot where her descendant ran a clinic. There Machi tells her she can take her time, and introduces her to Hime.
This week is even lighter-weight than last, starting with a sick-day slice-of-life that confirms what’s already quite well-established: the quartet are tight, devoted friends. Hime is beloved as the mayor. Everyone depends on one another. Ao wears shimapan. Then we were treated to the origin story of Juri, a minor character in the previous YQ anime, but is being given a lot more to do here. The thing is, just as the elders aren’t sure Hime is suited for mayorship, we’re not sure Juri is suited to such prominence in the show. She’s got a great bod and all, but the Frankenstein story is just a tad ridiculous. We’re not sure why that particular name from literary history had to be dropped (suddenly, like a mic) into a story primarily about human-youkai relations.
It doesn’t help that past Juri’s a dull, bull-headed, angsty high school student who wants to kick all the adults’ asses for making all those libelous movies about her many-great-grandfather(?). However, we can forgive half the episode being about her if it meant finally meeting Hime’s granny, who’s just as magnificent as we imagined (we also catch a glimpse of adorable Lil’ Hime). Machi is a quiet but immensely strong old woman who makes everyone around her better—as a mayor must. She has no trouble at all setting young Juri on a more peaceful, life path not dominated by hatred. Be they loud or soft, Juri’s words won’t change anyone’s minds, but her actions will. As she wakes up in the present, her honorary little sister curled up beside her, in the clinic she built to help the townsfolk, we’d say that they have.
Rating: 6 (Good)
In the first half, the episode follows new resident Kurumaki Zakuro as she finds her way around Sakurashin, encountering fellow half-youkai Kotoha and Shinozuka on the way and ending up at a memorial ground for the tuned. In the second half, Akina, Juri, Morino and Kohime visit the same ground, and are confronted by Enjin, who tries to steal Akina’s body. Elder Iyo and Shidare arrive and intervene, as Enjin is desecrating the memorial. Juri and Akina also fight him, and he eventually retreats.
Our first thought at the end of this episode was “Wow, what a scattered, disjointed, random mess!” But we did learn a great many things: Kotoha prefers going commando in the summer; Juri is descended from Frankenstein and wears pink panties; the elders use a kind of scientific magic substitute called “esoterism” to keep youkai in check. And once you get past the persistent and overt fanservice (from which even poor Kohime isn’t immune) and look back on everything that happened, there’s a method to the madness, and it’s this: the episode focused exclusively on half-youkai and humans, and their role in the coming trials.
It may have been random to focus on Zakuro, a character no one who hadn’t seen any previous YQ would know about, for half an episode but it’s also a very interesting move. Everything newbies needed to know was shown, not told, in the opening credits. We see that even those with horrendously violent pasts can live a peaceful existence in Sakurashin: watching her awkwardly adjust to that life with Rin, Kotoha, etc. demonstrates what the town is all about. And whether it’s esoterism, Frankenstein strength, or the powers of the dutybound, there are humans who will stand with their full- and half-youkai friends to preserve and defend it. It’s okay if everyone’s a “monster”, as long as there’s balance.
Rating:7 (Very Good)
Shinozuka accompanies Kana and Mina on a Seven Pillars Tour, using the opportunity to apologize to everyone he fought. Hime asks Akina if anything’s changed now that he knows she’s a youkai, but he doesn’t have a chance to answer. He and Hime are called before the elders; Akina is reluctant to go beause of their disregard for youkai. They warn him that Enjin has taken up with four half-youkai youkai hunters.
Hime’s position as mayor may be stable and the townspeople seem fine with her being a youkai, but she’s still uneasy, particularly where Akina is concerned. Now that he knows her secret—and she knows his, for that matter—she’s worried that something’s “changed” between them. And she doesn’t get any straight answers, so she can only judge for herself by how Akina acts around her. She may well be worried about nothing at all—Akina’s all about harmony with youkai—but even if you tell her that, she’s still likely to be worried. Every scene the two are in is a nice mixture of comfort in each other, tinged with tension from recent events. But all either of them can do for now is carry on and hope for the best.
We really dig the subtle, tender Akina-Hime dynamic, and while not a lot happens in this episode, watching them interact are the highlights. They’re united in the belief that Sakurashin remain a town of humans and youkai. Akina is not willing to sacrifice the youkai to save the humans, but he has yet to find a solution that will stop the pillars blooming without losing anyone. If there even is one, odds are Enjin’s one of the only people who knows about it Of course, Enjin wants them to bloom, so convincing him otherwise won’t be easy, especially now that he now has his own quartet of powerful new friends.
Rating: 6 (Good)
- Nanami is confident her brother’s soul is still intact and fighting Enjin. We wouldn’t be surprised if sometime near the end of all this, Nanami Gin regains his body and reunites with her.
- Hi, Kotoha’s panties!
- Offering Akina a bowl, then asking if she can eat it after all: a classic Hime move.
- The head elder’s quite the dick, isn’t he? Akina is having none of his nonsense.
- We like the many ways Hime’s ridiculously-long scarf is used, including as a way to pull her near you and to hide her tears.
Mahiru of the Hyuga clan arrives in Tokyo unbeknownst to Koushiro or anyone else, and immediately makes her presence felt. Kuuko has put Aki before the diet member representing Kurakami village, who believes it’s time for the village to change with the times, which means eliminating the elders. He’s called Mahiru for the same purpose, though she insists she only came to see Kyohei, whom she loves and idolizes ever since a terrifying incident covered in a flashback.
So…yeah, introducing a character as volatile as Mahiru this late in the series was a bold move. She didn’t make the best first impression on me, but I had to remember, she’s essentially a princess, and she is a pretty powerful seki – some swagger comes with that. She’s also loud, highly irrational, prone to mood swings, and even a little sadist (she zaps Kuuko with her own stun gun just for the heck of it). In a word: unhinged. Seiyu Kana Hanazawa’s performance is feistier than I’ve heard her in a while – kind of a Kuroneko taken up a couple notches – I like it. Mahiru grew on me as the episode progressed and I learned more about her.
In a character- and action-packed flashback, Kyohei puts his life on the line numerous times to save Mahiru’s – and Aki’s – lives, when the three stumble upon a sekiless monster kakashi. It was an incredibly traumatic experience for all involved, but Kyohei saved the day, though he says it was the day he “lost his sanity.” Whatever happened, Mahiru still adores him for it, and despises Aki for being as helpless as she was, and a pain-in-the-ass to boot (he was ‘good’ back then, but the warning signs were there). Along with Hirashiro – the Diet guy – and his plans to uproot the old way in the village, there’s now a whole new layer to the series’ story. More to the point, do we care if those dusty elders get offed? Do I smell a second season…?