Zombieland Saga – 08 – An Unexpected Father-Daughter Reunion

It’s a Lily episode! By which I mean, it’s a Gou Masao episode, since we learn that’s her birth name. And it’s just as much a Gou Takeo episode, Takeo being Lily’s father. That makes this the first episode of ZLS that is at least partially told from the POV of a person who survived one of the members of Franchouchou.

At first the show plays around with the idea this immense mountain of a man could simply be a creep, but I never bought into that angle. Instead I see his fatherly determination to confirm whether “Number 6” is really his Masao. That enthusiasm earns him a rolling sobat from Saki, protecting her girls. But Lily later reveals to Sakura that the giant was indeed her father.

Lily explains the vast size differential by saying she took after her mother, who died when she was very young. Her father raised her on his own, and when she noticed how much he loved TV, she signed up for auditions, got cast in one thing after another, and never looked back.

However, Masao AKA Lily put so much stock in her tininess and cuteness that the day she found a hair on her leg she refused to go out and perform, and when she found a whisker on her face, she basically died of mental shock.

From Takeo’s POV, he was a bad father, pushing Masao too far. When he saw her smile appear posthumously on TV, he picked up the set and threw it at the wall, and ceased to watch any TV ever again.

Lily and her dad’s next meeting is a lot more cordial as both apologize, but Lily doesn’t betray who she really is, and her dad doesn’t pry, convinced No.6 just looks like his daughter—besides, from where he’s standing, there’s no way she could just come back to life. His daughter is gone; he doesn’t want to cause some girl undue stress or harm just for resembling her.

While Saki is the leader of Franchouchou, she’s always erred on the side of mocking Lily, both for her tiny stature and later for her butch real name and ridiculously vain way of dying. But Sakura has shown she’s much better with Lily, and in Sakura Lily finds the shoulder she needs to cry in after putting on a brave face for her dad.

Sakura and the other girls put their heads together and get clearance from Tatsumi to hold a free public show and invite Lily’s dad, who almost doesn’t attend, but changes his mind at the last second. He’s then treated to a concert in which the other idols provide backup vocals and moves and Lily is in the spotlight.

She sings a song with lyrics that, while perhaps a bit too on-the-nose and even kinda sappy, nevertheless successfully delivers her feelings to her father, even if he still doesn’t realize she’s really his daughter. The next time he’s at work, he doesn’t go out for lunch while his co-workers watch TV, which of course features that chicken commercial in which Lily appears.

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SSSS.Gridman – 04 – Truly Vexing to Watch

Akane is pretty sure Yuuta is Girdman, but not 100% sure. She wants to investigate further, which includes questioning Rikka when the two take the bus to school on a scorcher of a day. The two also end up joining Rikka’s friends Namiko and Hass on a group date with the Youtube group of college boys called Arcadia, despite the fact neither Rikka nor Akane are really into group dating…or any dating at all.

Yuuta doesn’t really like the idea of Rikka going on any kind of date that doesn’t involve him, and Gridman can sense he’s troubled about it (though Yuuta tells him not to worry about it). Yuuta and Shou decide to basically shadow the group date, as it involves two women they’re both emotionally invested in (in Shou’s case, Akane; in Yuuta’s case Rikka).

Neither really ever had anything to worry about; the only two women remotely  interested in Arcadia are Namiko and Hass. Akane is far more interested in learning why Rikka is spending more time with the guy she suspects to be aligned with her arch-enemy Gridman.

Akane also ditches the other girls at her earliest convenience, and succeeds in killing all but one of them with a kaiju. Rikka later catches on to the fact three of the four members of the group were killed and erased from the collective memory of society (including her friends), so she meets with the last surviving member, Yamato, to warn him of his impending doom.

She’s almost too late, as the fog that serves as the precursor to the latest kaiju attack envelops Yamato. It’s Samurai Calibur who ends up saving them both from the kaiju. Yuuta and Gridman deploy, but they end up having to fight not only the insectoid kaiju that killed the other members of Arcadia, but Item as well, who is singularly interested in defeating Gridman and nothing else.

All four members of Neon Genesis decide to sortie at once, but when combined with Gridman’s deployment, the computer they’re all working through basically freezes, freezing all of them in turn. Rikka scares the shit out of Shou by unplugging the computer, then plugging it back in and rebooting it, but doing so actually solves the problem, as the whole of Neon Genesis simply isn’t able to sortie simultaneously.

Instead, only one of them, the tank from last week, sorties, combining with Gridman into Gridman Max, defeating the insectoid kaiju. Item then reaches his time limit and reverts to his human state. It’s another victory, albeit a close one.

Later, at the shop, Yuuta works up the courage to ask Rikka out to grab something to eat, but she misinterprets it as a suggestion for the whole group to have a meal together. Mind you, Yuuta could mend the misunderstanding with two words: “just us,” but of course he doesn’t, mimicking Wile E. Coyote in the “trying something only once” strategy.

This was an episode in which the large-scale battles between Gridman and kaiju took a backseat to the high school romantic drama unfolding between Yuuta, Rikka, and Akane. Yuuta has proved pretty inept at getting Rikka to notice him in the way he’d prefer, but he should have plenty more opportunities, especially since she doesn’t have the slightest interest in Arcadia’s Yamato.

SSSS.Gridman – 03 – Gridman, I Hate You!

It’s a rainy day in Tokyo when the newest kaiju appears, and this one seems different, because Akane isn’t making a model, but interacting with a small silver-haired boy named Anti who can transform into a kaiju. Why does he eat like he does, and why does hate Gridman so much? We don’t know. For that matter, we don’t know why Akane hates Gridman and wants him dead so badly, aside from having lost to him twice.

In any case, the Gridman Alliance is collected by Calibur, and before Rikka can apologize for not answering Yuuta’s phone call, Yuuta heads into action—and once again has his ass handed to him. Combined with Yuuta’s worry that he may be fighting/killing a human inside his opponent, he doesn’t fight back, even with Calibur by his side, and the two LOSE to Anti, much to Akane’s elation.

Rikka and Shou are stunned. They fear Yuuta and Calibur are dead, and in lieu of knowing what to do next, they wait in the shop and snipe at each other out of frustration. Their quarrel is broken up by the arrival of the “Neo Genesis Junior High Students” a team allied with Calibur and Gridman (and whose name is an homage to Evangelion). They tell Rikka simply to call Yuuta, and to her and Shou’s great relief, he is alive, and Gridman is simply regenerating. Before long he’s back in the fight.

One of the members of Neon Genesis joins the battle in the form of a battle tank, and combines with Gridman to form a new set of extra-chunky arms and fists with which to defeat Anti, who “runs out of time” in kaiju mode and reverts to human form, after which he’s basically disowned by a furious Akane.

Back at Junk, Rikka apologizes to Yuuta, which is something I think is way overblown in the grand scheme of things (I mean, people miss calls; she was trying to help someone she thought was in need), while her mom (who is voiced by the same actor who portrayed Haruka in FLCL) wonders where so many new people suddenly showed up in her shop.

While Gridman’s defeat was a nice change of pace, the fact it was resolved so easily—with Rikka and Shou simply sitting around until the cavalry arrived—kind of gutted the suspense. Everything is in a very bad way, and then moments later everything’s fine and dandy.

As for why Akane is doing what she’s doing, where exactly Anti came from, and other mysteries, lets just say I’m not holding my breath for satisfying explanations. Perhaps it would be best to just sit back and enjoy the action…it would just be nice if it meant more.

SSSS.Gridman – 02 – Keep Doing What You Can Do

When Yuuta, Rikka and Shou return to school, they learn that several of their classmates have disappeared and nobody has any memory that they ever existed, or of the kaiju battle. They decide to seek answers from Gridman on the computer in Rikka’s shop, which was going to be closed so Rikka could hang out with her two best friends. Meanwhile Akane takes an interest in what Yuuta is talking about and joins him on the roof for lunch, but doesn’t get far.

Turns out Shinjou Akane is very different from the perfect student Shou made her out to be. She lives in an apartment packed with trash and clay models of kaiju. Turns out she’s the one who’s made some kind of Faustian bargain with Gridman’s enemy, who turns all of her creations into full-size kaiju which then kill people she doesn’t like. She may be talented, but she’s not a good person, and must be stopped.

The suspicious-looking sleepy-eyed man eventually arrives at the junk shop, introducing himself as Samurai Calibur and failing to enter or exit a door without getting caught by his ridiculously long four katanas. He “optimizes” the computer so Rikka and Shou can hear Gridman and see the giant kaiju they’re not aware their cute classmate is making and deploying. Her latest creation is “brought to life” and starts wreaking havoc in much the same way as the first one.

As Akane watches the carnage unfold from the safety of her apartment, Yuuta, Rikka and Shou are nearly flattened by a stray steel beam, but Samurai Calibur demonstrates his prowess by slicing it in two, saving them. They rush to the computer, and because it’s now optimized, Gridman (who is nothing but energy in this universe and needs a human with which to collaborate) provides Yuuta with a “Primal Acceptor” bracelet that lets him customize Gridman to his specs and colors.

The new-and-improved Gridman is lighter and faster, but his Grid Beam is deflected; Akane makes improvements to each kaiju based on the failures of the former ones. Gridman gets beaten up again, but Samurai Calibur joins the battle in the form of a gleaming golden sword, with which Yuuta/Gridman uses to cleave the kaiju in two, destroying it and pissing Akane off royally.

Back at school, Akane’s intended target is unharmed and like everyone else, has forgotten all about the attack. But unlike when he bumped into Akane, sparking her ire, he apologizes after bumping into Yuuta, suggesting perhaps the experience unconsciously made him more courteous.

In any case, I’m sure Yuuta and Akane will be facing off a lot more with their respective weapons. The question is, will the Gridman Alliance ever find out she’s the kaiju-maker, will she reveal it to them when she’s ready to eliminate them once and for all, or can she be convinced to stop this evil, destructive venture? On I watch…

SSSS.Gridman – 01 (First Impressions) – Old Computers are Terrifying…and Awesome

SSSS Gridman follows a familiar formula of “average kid awakens as mecha pilot and fights monsters” and elevates it with a movie-quality production that doesn’t skimp on naturalistic sights, sounds and pacing to immerse you into its once-but-no-longer-mundane world.

The simple beginning of Hibiki Yuuta waking up in Takarada Rikka’s house, recipient of an act of kindness. He hears a voice from an old, cobbled-together computer in Rikka’s family junk store, but only he can see and hear the robot on the screen introducing himself as Gridman.

Similarly, only he can see the immense kaiju looming in the otherwise ordinary Tokyo dusk. Heck, it looks almost like a cloud cell. At first things are kept at a normal level: perhaps Yuuta just hit his head, has temporary memory loss with some audiovisual hallucinations. It’s why Rikka makes sure he gets home safe and someone picks him up in the morning.

That someone is his friend Utsumi Shou, who recommends they carry on like everything’s normal. Yuuta gets a “special hot dog” from the class idol Shinjou Akane, but Shou thinks it’s more out of pity than kindness.

The school scene is full of naturalistic sounds and leisurely pacing that emulates real life. The voice actors all use a casual conversational style that makes the scenes feel lived in.

He wants to see what Yuuta saw, so the boys return to Rikka’s mom’s store. Neither of Yuuta’s new friends can see or hear Gridman on the screen, but they do hear and feel the tremors in the ground when a kaiju finally shows up and starts wreaking havoc on the city.

And boy, is there a lot of havoc. Vehicles are flung about like toys, energy balls are shot from the kaiju’s mouth that level whatever buildings it doesn’t flatten with its lumbering gait—including Yuuta’s school. In the tradition of Power Rangers, the big boss is slightly unsettling looking…yet also a bit cute.

It isn’t until Yuuta is transported into the computer to have a quick confab with Gridman that Rikka and Shou can see the robot on the monitor. Outside, the full-size Gridman materializes and starts going at it with the kaiju, but just as Shinji’s first go in Unit 01 didn’t go so swimmingly, Yuuta quickly gets put on his ass by his opponent.

Wanting to help in some way, Rikka decides to try typing encouragement to Yuuta on the computer, exhibiting her skill for speed-typing. It gets through to Yuuta, who stands up, dusts himself off, and then goes at the monster with a full head of steam, culminating in ripping its head and neck off and finishing it off with a good old-fashioned Grid Beam.

Once the battle is over Yuuta materializes back in Rikka’s place, victorious, but Gridman warns him this is only the beginning; there will be far more to his mission. Shou can’t believe what he just saw but is really pumped up; Rikka is more reserved and kind of freaking out as her mind tries to process it all. So Yuuta and Shou head home.

The next morning everything is back to normal…too normal, as their school was definitely destroyed last night, but when they arrive, it’s been fully restored with neither a scratch nor a dead kaiju head rotting in the yard. There’s also another “chosen pilot” on the opposite side of the fight being encouraged by a robot different from Gridman.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m not here to tell you SSSS.Gridman is some marvel of original, compelling stroytelling. It basically steals everything it is form other sources, some of them many would rather re-watch than see in bastardized form.

But I will say simply that I was greatly entertained, fully engaged, and came to like the lead characters whose broad strokes were given texture by their seiyus. And if every episode comes close to being as much of a feast for the eyes and ears as this one, then I’m excited to watch more. It’s nothing fancy, fancily executed.

Kekkai Sensen & Beyond – 09

The “Desperate Fight in the Macro Zone” concludes in epic, massively satisfying, and surprisingly moving fashion, proving that splitting it into two parts was a smart move. Hellsalem’s Lot gathers on rooftops to watch the pandemonium unfold, confident the world’s largest individual, Gigagigafutmassif will put the Rielmonster in its place.

Of course, using force against Riel only makes him bigger and stronger, leading Giga to beat a hasty retreat and leaving the crowd without a champion to save them from certain ruin. Chain and the Werewolf Bureau are in the midst of a week wine cellar-emptying girls’ “night” out, and miss the whole thing.

Riel has long since had his fill of his situation, but Gemnemo is unsympathetic; he wants his latest experiment to play itself out to its devastating conclusion, with him pulling the strings the whole way. Riel now knows how solitary it is “at the top” of the city’s food chain.

For such an action-packed episode, the first act is mostly Riel fondly remembering one fine day in Central Park (or whatever it’s called in HSL) with Leo. When a batted baseball breaks Riel’s arm, Leo goes to bat for him, not only standing up to the bully that hit the ball and laughed at Riel’s arm, but headbutting him.

Leo didn’t back down on that lovely, pastoral day (it really is a gorgeous memory accompanied by an appropriately wistful musical score), despite being small and relatively puny; Riel, on the other hand, is disgusted with himself for running away in a similar situation.

Now that he’s more lucid, he can see Libra members not back down even though their opponent is orders of magnitude bigger and stronger. And with infiltration expert Chain indisposed, it falls to lil’ Leo and Sonic to deposit Li Gado’s weapon into Riel’s giant body. Leo has to take his God’s Eyes to their absolute limit, but he’s not giving up on his friend.

Gado makes it clear that Riel is probably not even in control of his body any more, as Gemnemo is a control freak who responds to Riel’s second thoughts by starting an operation that will eliminate his free will—but not his senses, making him watch and hear all the millions he’ll kill.

Gemnemo, in the end, is just another bully who has exploited Riel’s need to be stronger for his own scientific gain. Thankfuly, Sonic gets to Gemnemo in time to stop him, and Riel’s giant body gradually shrinks, until he stumbles and falls into the Eternal Hollow.

In the aftermath, Zapp tries to excoriate a contrite (and likely hungover) Chain for being AWOL during the battle, but Leo steps in to remind Zapp that he was indisposed as well due to his attempt to swindle Riel when he was more human-sized.

Five days later, Leo has a walk in the park, still picturesque and tranquil, but seems lonelier without Mr. Riel by his side. All of a sudden, he notices something under his shoe: Gado’s weapon shrunk Riel to the size of a mouse!

But Riel is actually just fine being this size; for one thing, the view’s not bad (Leo now appears monumental to him, matching his bravery and loyalty to his friends); for another, he wouldn’t feel right being all the way back to normal after the fuss he caused.

Sidonia no Kishi 2 – 12 (Fin)

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We left Nagate in a very bad, but at the same time very sexy way, with placenta in the precise form, sound, and probably even smell of his first love Shizuka, whom he’d once shared a very meaningful period of time while stranded in a cockpit. But the senses are deceiving; this is not Shizuka and never was, it’s a predator, and she looks primed to eat him.

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Or…well, do something with him. The French kiss she/it initiates, and the whole slow pace of her attack on Nagate, suggests something other than mere feeding. She’s taking her time with him, restraining him, and about to become one with him; I wouldn’t be surprised if this is Benisuzume either conducting an experiment of her own or something built into her genetic profile.

In any case, Beni didn’t count on Izana being inside Nagate’s frame. She’s able to use her bionic arm to activate aux power and close the neck airlock, separating the Shizuka placenta from the rest of Beni and releasing Nagate, who stabs her in her core, causing not one but two of those sweet, sweet bubble disintegration sounds that tell you a Gauna’s gone for good.

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That’s not the end of this decisive battle, however; Planet Nine remains a battlefield, and Nagate, the crippled Tsumugi, Izana, and whatshisname are soon surrounded by seemingly all the Gauna on the planet. Nagate prepares for another last stand, but he’s bailed out by a cavalry of Hayakazes led by Samari, who have finally arrived in orbit, one hundred strong (grouped in 25 Hayakazes). As Nagate and Tsumugi serve as bait, the rest of the planet’s Gauna are mopped up with overwhelming firepower.

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It’s a great feeling when that last Gauna disintegreates, but due to the nature of this show, it never felt quite right to let my guard down until everyone was back aboard Sidonia, and even then, there could have been some ginormous ship-to-ship battle in space to close us out.

Instead, Nagate (with a still-alive nude Placental Shizuka in his arms) carries Tsumugi and launches away from the planet to join the Hayakaze squad, and they return to the mothership without incident.

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With the titular Battle for Planet Nine won, the balance of the episode, and perhaps the Sidonia series, is spent in Epilogue Mode, similar to the last episode of UBW. Nagate is awarded a medal (the first awarded in decades) by Kobayashi in order to continue building him up as the Great Hero to inspire the rest of the soldiers; there’s a party where the Honoka clones cluster around Nagate to Izana’s disapproval.

Nagate asks what’s become of the new Placental Shizuka, and Kunato tells him she’s being treated as a valuable specimen for further research, citing “important things must have a spare.” The march of “progress” goes on, and I imagine it also entails one day creating a spare Nagate.

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The series then ends where it began, which I thought was a nice touch (though my one major gripe about this finale is that we didn’t get to see any more Izana after that awards ceremony). Nagate hadn’t just come a long way in becoming a decorated, respected, and fawned-over pilot and war hero; he also came a long way geographically, as the same journey through the bowels of Sidonia from his cloistered domicile to the rice thresher is played in reverse, only instead of an urchin on the run for theft, he has an entry pass and is welcomed with salutes once the staff knows who he is.

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Nagate inspects the simulator his grandfather and him used to learn how to fight Gauna, giving him the tools to make a contribution to society should he leave the confines of his sheltered home. He did, and he doesn’t regret it. He’s seen and done amazing, extraordinary things with a host amazing people of all stripes.

Yes, he’s still technically a pawn of the junta, but that doesn’t change the fact that he’s a Knight of Sidonia, who will keep fighting to protect his home and its inhabitants until he draws his last breath—or at least until his new-and-improved Chimera replacement takes over for him!

As for me, I shall deeply miss Sidonia’s dark, gritty, sexy, terrifying, and always gorgeous and impeccably-rendered sci-fi milieu. From the start it’s reminded me of the rebooted Battlestar Galactica, only it managed to maintain the mystique of its primary foe (the Gauna remain alien and terrifying by the show’s end; the Cylons, not so much). Sidionia told and showed us a lot,  but never too much; it’s deepest mysteries remained so through to the end.

I really wouldn’t mind a third season, or failing that, a Blame! anime, a peek of which we saw on Nagate’s TV. I want this style of anime to continue.

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Sidonia no Kishi 2 – 11

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Sidonia 2’s second-to-last episode is another brutal, no-holds-barred battle for survival between human and Gauna (and Chimera). Whether it’s in the duel between Tsumugi and Benisuzume or Nagate and seemingly all the other Gauna on the planet, it’s all about staying one step ahead, and constantly worried about looking over your shoulder at the next damn thing that could kill you in the blink on an eye.

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Izana’s battle is more of a race, as she and the lollygagging bearded redshirt pilot run for their lives from an absolutely terrifying Gauna Giant who seems intent on sampling a couple of hors d’oeuvres to go. The show actually subverts the predictable by  keeping the bearded guy alive throughout, but by the end of the episode, who knows who’ll survive this thing.

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They’re driven to the precipice of a cliff, and just when the Gauna’s tentacles are about to grab them, Nagate saves the day with his particle beam. But rescuing the two pilots is only a small and temporary victory; now he has to rendezvous with Tsumugi (who it’s assumed will make quick work of Benisuzume) past a humongous gauntlet of Gauna.

Nagate digs into one of the floating islands and lets loose with his cannon until he’s out of ammo, then takes care of the last three Gauna with his new sword, laughed off earlier as something one would use on themselves, but proving crucial to survival here. And once he defeats every last Gauna that surrounds him, he still has to meet up with Tsumugi.

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As Benisuzume giggles and grunts and gasps while locked in battle with Tsumugi, Mozuku is convinced it’s only a matter of time before the under-matched Beni slips up and gets her core penetrated. She, not Beni, is the “Ultimate Being,” or so it’s been drilled into her psyche. But that superiority affords a certain arrogance that proves decisive. After Tsumugi has blown most of her placenta away, Beni plays possum, and a seemingly human Shizuka crawls out of the placenta.

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In that moment of confusion and possibly fellow feeling, at the sight someone the same size and makeup as her friends, Tsumugi lets her guard down, and Beni jams a stake through her neck and starts sucking out all of her Hyggs particles (i.e. go juice). Now Benisuzume has the upper hand, presumably since she’s not bothered by sentiment, and proceeds to literally nail the poor outsmarted Tsumugi to the wall, almost as bait.

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Nagate saves Tsugumi in the nick of time, but again, only temporarily, as Beni has summoned thousands of her friends to their location, and she herself gloms onto Tsugumori. Nagate blasts her with the beam in his head, but she fires back, blinding him. She then sneaks up from behind and sticks all of her tentacles into his frame’s hull, and all of a sudden it looks like game over…but only if Benisuzume’s only goal was to kill him, which it clearly isn’t, because she forms another human Hoshijiro Shizuka inside his cockpit.

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When “Shizuka” opens her eyes to reveal they’re both human, it resparks debate on what elements of Nagate’s old flame are still extant, and the nature of what it means to be someone, especially someone you love. Is Benisuzume merely taking her time for creulty’s sake, or does she intend to mate with Nagate.

Nagate, for his part, is literally cornered, strapped into his cockpit with absolutely nowhere to go. But Izana and Beardy are still in there somewhere, so it’s not ridiculous to think they might have a role to play in the immediate future in freeing Nagate somehow.

Until then, we’re left with one strange, sexy, frightening scenario: Nagate either about to be killed, fucked, and/or eaten (in no particular order) by a monster with the face and body of his believed-dead first love. Yikes.

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Ore Monogatari!! – 01 (First Impressions)

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A giant boy with ogre-like features lives in the shadow of his more popular male friend, until one day the the ogre rescues a girl on a train and, despite his looks, she seems to have fallen for him.

And his friend, who has never cared for any girl, has an eye for her. A love triangle, a story of social justice, and a damn fine comedy ensues!

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You should watch Ore Monogatari!! because its protagonist is unusual and the fact that the show treats him with reverence, instead of as a joke, shows a degree of social conscience not too frequent in anime or, bluntly, Japanese culture.

As with Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun’s unstated presentation of autism, and the un-importance of that mental state in regards to a person having value, strengths, and above all else deserving love, Ore Monogatari!! gives it’s unstated mixed protagonist social justice.

It’s hella funny too, not surprisingly for the same reasons GSN-k was chokingly funny.

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If you need an excuse not to watch this show, like GSN-k, it has intentional moments of rest between the comedy, and is unlikely to present much action. Likewise, it isn’t overly pretty to look at—not ugly—just plain looking.

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OM!! can be subtle too, which I guess you may not like. Or, perhaps, you’re fried on all the high school dramas out there or find the socially awkward things teenagers do is too cringeworthy to watch?

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Honestly, all those criticisms feel like a stretch to me. The cringes were never that great and, to me, they were counterbalanced by the geniality of the three central characters.

The dialogue is tight, the humor well-timed and amusing, and it all has heart. What else can you ask for from a Grade-A comedy like this?

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