Rolling Girls – 06

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RG wraps up another arc with its zany blend of over-the-top, stylized action and painfully bland soft J-rock, and the titular Girls manage to go the extra mile for their latest warring factions, but like the Always Comima mission, for all its glitz, the show has simply lacked the same magic as that episode two battle between Maccha Green and Shigyo Kuniko.

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There are lots of reasons for this. Unlike Nozomi during Himeko’s dad’s hospital bed speech, I was never all that emotionally invested either in the father-daughter conflict or the Aichi-Mie one. The whole reason the two countries combined was flimsy, so it never made much sense why they had to find some kind of middle ground, especially considering how different their cultures were. While it’s kind of sad, why not live and let live? The show’s only answer is “because we said so.”

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When Nozomi decides simply taking the stone and moving on isn’t an option, they try to build their own shachihoko, which inspires Himeko to get back into it, during which time she remembers that despite the pressure to succeed or surpass her dad, she still loves simply doing it for its own sake.

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On the track, Dandy, who turns out to be a former racing legend, inspires Tomoki to get back into the race, whereupon he beats his vice-captain fair-and-square, who retaliates by blowing up Tomoki’s bike with missiles. But Tomoki gets that feeling back, the feeling he’d lost after all those easy wins.

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Rolling Girls exhibits its signature elaborate disregard for physics and load weights, and while the animation is appropriately fast and furious during the race, it simply didn’t get my blood pumping as much as Macha/Shigyo duel; though your mileage may vary.

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In the end, the shachihokos get to the top of Nagoya Castle in the most ridiculous way possible, pedaled up a disintegrating ramp on a disintegrating bicycle powered by Tomoki’s shonen will. Father and daughter make automotive and food-based mods to the shachihoko that mostly satisfy everyone, Aichi and Mie alike.

But even this moment of triumph feels a bit too neat and tidy, with time, space, and gravity being warped so much the participants in the story are lost in the chaos. Perhaps I’m just running out of gas with this particular show. There’s plenty to look at, most of it exceedingly pretty…but this week left me pretty cold.

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Rolling Girls – 05

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The Rolling Girls’ next mission comes from a letter asking for help bringing peace to “Mie-Aichi”, also known as “Aichi-Mie”, a new country made up of those two very different prefectures united around the fact that both claim to be the birthplace of a certain kind of regional food, but both former prefectures have vigilante groups that constantly battle each other, while all the public roads double as racing circuits.

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In the midst of such a large conflict is Uotora Himeko, prodigal daughter of Aichi’s master carpenter, the one repsonsible for the city’s famous “shachihoko” fish sculptures, guardian gods that protect the roofs of buildings from fire.

Himeko is back after getting bored with playing around on the road, just when every shachihoko in town explodes. The Mie Motors vigilantes are suspected, and while there isn’t proof, the Aichi tenmusus want to duel them on the circuit to determine who rules the country once and for all.

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The Tenmusus’ captain, a tough dandy and cafe owner, tries to keep the peace, but the young pups are getting restless, and he has to rely on his absurd brute strength to keep the Mie Motors’ vice-captain at bay (in a running gag the vice-captain is constantly revving his engine, so you can never clearly hear what he’s saying). Negotiating peace seems like a tall order for Nozomi & Co.

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The Old Aichi townsfolk, however, are more concerned with getting all the shachihoko repaired. The only problem is, Himeko’s stubborn dad claims he’s lost all feeling in his arm and is thus no longer able to create. This puts the onus on the long-estranged daughter to do the work. When she was a little girl, she wanted nothing more than to follow in her father’s footsteps, but girls grow up and the paths they want to take change.

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It’s a tough spot for Himeko, made worse when she learns her dad’s arm is actually fine, and that he was faking it to make her take on the responsibility. She pays him back with words harsh enough that he slaps her, an action he instantly regrets but only pushes her away further.

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Meanwhile, the Rolling Girls have determined that Suzuka Tomoki, the captain of Mie Motors, reigning circuit champion, and only “Bike Taxi” in town, sent them the letter asking for help, in Himeko’s name (the fact he called the country Mie-Aichi instead of Aichi-Mie gave it away).

But when he zooms by to drop off a fare, the girls don’t have a change to catch his attention before it’s taken away by his loose-cannon vice captain, itching for a battle. Tomoki won’t allow one, but when a squad of Tenmusus arrives, they clash with vice-captain’s squad anyway.

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In all of this, Tomoki and Himeko both seem to be caught up in things far bigger than they are. But these two share a past, and perhaps they share a future in restoring peace to their joint country.

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After all, Tomoki seems to have the equivalent of a moonlight stone, and while shachihoko sculptures are merely symbols of peace, symbols are powerful things. Himeko may be rusty, but she and Tomoki may be the ones who help cooler heads prevail over hot ones. But first…dinner!

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Space Dandy – 07

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Many a great sci-fi series features a good old-fashioned Grand Prix race at some point in its run, and Space Dandy reaches into that deep cookie jar of stand-bys with its usual cheek and flair. It’s yet another great opportunity for universe-building, as the various drivers come in every size, shape and color. But the only one that matters to Dandy is the one stealing his thunder at Boobies: The Prince, voiced by Kaji Yuki.

While Dr. Gel is the antagonistic thorn that…never actually makes it into Dandy’s side, Prince is his first legitimate rival, winning hearts of the ladies through impeccable polish, politeness, boyish good looks, and by being the very best at what he does, which Dandy is decidedly not, no matter how entertaining his missions have been. Still, Dandy doesn’t hesitate to take Prince on at his own game, and enters the Magellanic Nebulae Grand Prix.

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QT and Meow are dubious of any kind of success against Prince, but when they find out that Prince is essentially a Bizarro Dandy with his own arrogant robot and (Mickey-like) rat sidekicks, they buy in at once, and the race is on, along a course that bears a close resemblance to Silverstone. (We’re also watching this episode on the day of the Daytona 500; a cool coincidence). Dandy doesn’t get off to a good start, but makes good use of his many trump cards, all of which are activated by the same yellow button.

The race itself is a gorgeous panorama of diverse environments and menagerie of funky aliens, which again just adds to the scale and intricate texture of the Space Dandy universe. The Prince is heel-and-toeing along in the lead, but Dandy keeps clawing and bearing down and showing up in the rear-view mirror until before Prince knows it, Dandy’s in the lead, and he does it His Way, which is to say by ignoring the laws of chemistry, metallurgy, physics—but none of the race rules.

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In the process of dueling with Dandy while the other competitors crash and explode (including Dr. Gel, who got so caught up in the race he briefly overtook his quarry), Prince undergoes a transformation (emotional, not physical): for the first time, he’s going all out and not leaving the competition in the dust. Dandy is pursuing him against all odds, flying in the face of the truths he had held inviolable: that nobody could beat him; that despite the love of the millions, he was alone at the front of the pack—until now.

We expected an ending in which the result of the race was disputed in some fashion or another, but with Prince and Dandy coming away more friends than enemies. But the Prince falling in love with Dandy, Dandy plowing into him from behind at the Seventh Space Velocity, Dandy achieving a higher level of existence, emerging 5 billion years later to find that he had been revered as a Buddha-like deity? Not expected. And those incessant bumper cards throughout the episode in which a chorus sang “Dandy” in various chords actually foreshadowed his apotheosis: it was a mantra.

9_superiorRating: 9 (Superior)