Banana Fish – 12 – “Who am I?”

Ash continues his winning streak by knocking off one gang leader after another, with Arther getting more flustered as his subordinates report the losses.

Ash is also confident almost to a fault, whether it’s confronting Dino at the airport to tell him shit is ON, to meeting with the leader of a Harlem gang alone and even pulling a gun on him while completely surrounded. In both cases, Ash earns respect.

He and Eiji have also settled in to an idyllic domestic life at the fancy condo. Eiji is kept busy photographing everyone who goes in and out of the mafia property next door, as well as preparing a traditional Japanese dinner.

But while it’s all smiles and rainbows at home, Ash is spilling lots of blood on the streets, including by his own hand. While I’m sure opinions vary on its continued utility, I feel that instances in which protagonists come right out and ask themselves “Who am I?”  should be retired from drama forever.

That being said, I do enjoy the very natural chemistry and interactions between Ash and Eiji throughout the episode; they truly come off as a couple of people who care about each other a great deal despite very different backgrounds and skills.

Indeed, when they get into a fight when Ash comes home with blood on his shirt, Eiji basically has him pegged, and Ash lashes out not because Eiji is wrong about him, but because he’s right. Thankfully, they make up quickly the next day, when Eiji finds him at the library.

The Harlem gang leader (Bloody Cain) whom Ash impressed with their first meeting ends up as a go-between observer in Ash and Arthur’s full-on war, which I imagine will soon culminate in Ash and Arthur going at it mano-a-mano. In preparation for that, Ash is ready to send both Eiji and Ibe back to Japan…though one wonders if they’ll be safe there.

Meanwhile, Eiji’s photos and further research have uncovered a massive conspiracy between White House officials, congressmen, and military officers. Ash believes Banana Fish will be used to cause coups-de-etat in countries America wants kept in chaos.

As Max says, this is really big…too big, frankly. Just like Ash’s unspeakably awful past or the extent of the gang activity on Manhattan, the whole titular Banana Fish thing is just too comically huge and ungainly; it’s honestly hard to take seriously.

Orenchi no Furo Jijou – 05

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Orenchi no Furo Jijou episode 5 goes trick or treating for Halloween. Strangely, for a holiday I would imagine Anime could have a ton of fun with (especially by not understanding the cultural details) Halloween is one of those rarely-given-an-episode events.

So seeing it here was nice, if not absurdly short like everything Orenchi does.

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Takasu is dressed as a Witch, because he’s a blonde and that’s his curse! Wakasa is dressed as a vampire and Mikuni goes as a mummy!

Since they can’t go anywhere else, they just keep saying Trick or Treak to Tatsumi who dutifully keeps giving them candy. Soon they realize he’s the youngest and should be treated more specially than they. Then its over.

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Reviewing Orenchi is a bit of an exercise in finding something to say. Honestly, there weren’t any jokes this week, unless you count Wakasa wanting to hide his head inside the jack-o-lantern because it’s a small dark space.

Uhm…

So this is a thing you could watch while brushing your teeth because you too ate too much candy a few days ago. Or you could skip it. Up to you really…

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End-of-Month Rundown – October 2014

Click to view full-size
Click to view full-size

Happy Halloween, ya’ll! We’ve compiled the big-ass chart above to illustrate just how much the four of us have watched this month. Some of it good, some of it great…some of it meh, and some of it horrid. Let’s get down to business.

The Top Ten

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Fate/stay night: Unlimited Blade Works

Franklin: F/sn: UBW merges film school theory with fantastic visuals and thoughtful storytelling to create the best show this season. Anyone who claims otherwise is trolling.

Hannah: I would say I respect, rather than love, F/sn: UBW. For all its visual and aural style, It can feel a bit dry and sterile at times. I’m also not enamored of Rin’s derivative character type so far (though it’s early) as the girl who has feelings for the guy but is constantly ragging/looking down on him.

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Shingeki no Bahamut: Genesis

Hannah: Where do I begin? There is so much to like about this show, from its colorful, complex characters and excellent chemsitry, a vast, expansive world, intricate magical/mythological milieu and supernatural elements that are all polished to the max. Each episode has told a different story with different genres in play, yet they all fit together to form a cohesive and compelling whole. I can’t belive this is based on a card game!

Franklin: Bahamut contends with F/sn for best looking, most fantastically animated show this season. It may well be better animated, actually. Fluid, less conventional character design, and people of color: it’s only missing Samurai Champloo/Cowboy Bebop’s legendary musical support to achieve maximum greatness!

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Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso

Zane: I had no shows at all nailed down for Fall. It was a grab bag I was reaching into in the dark, hoping to find some gems. But I knew at the first glance of Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso’s Shinkai-esque promo art that this had the potential to be something special. So far, it is just that, and not just because it’s so desperately pretty, but because I care about each and every character. And the musical performances…oh, man, the musical performances. So much win.

Franklin: The piano-deaf trope keeps it away from top shelf and the recent ‘hospital hints’ may have spoiled its next tragedy for me – but I’m keeping quiet. This drama’s blond has my heart and, like it’s protagonist, I can’t help but race along behind it!

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Amagi Brilliant Park

Franklin: wears a confident smile beneath is ice-cold gaze. Mystery, humor, lovely visuals and playful style. It beats all but the most Piano’d of quirky teen romantic dramas this season, and only then, because Shigatsu’s got higher stakes.

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Inou-Battle wa Nichijou-kei no Naka de

Zane: I’m intent on not directly comparing InoBato to past magical school greats like Suzumiya Haruhi and Chu2Koi; which is a tall task. But I’ve given InoBato all nines because shortcomings compared to those shows (and the pretty dang overt harem aspect) aside, it’s drawn me in. Trigger’s “gorgeously competent” animation isn’t all this has going for it, at least for me. It’s not an all-time great, but it is delivering what its title promised: the rendering of commonplace life in a high school club whose members just happen to have awesome powers.

Franklin: InoBato somehow mashes up the extremely well constructed yet uninteresting nature of Shirobako with the soullessness of a Chu2Koi clone. I respect it. I even appreciate the word play on several levels but InoBato’s cast is shallow compared to similar shows of this season and appallingly so, compared to Chu2Koi. I’m no longer watching.

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PSYCHO-PASS 2

Hannah: I mentioned in my reviews a slight “Psycho-Pass fatigue” that made my buy-in a bit slower compared to the first series, but three episodes in, both the show and I have found its groove. It takes storylines like Akane’s unique relationship with the Chief/Sybil and the fate of Ginoza, and gives us a new villain who may not be quite as brilliant as Makishima, but has more noble intentions. I consider Akane the best all-round character of the Fall.

I have Nothing. I am Nothing. I will live. Kill and live. That is all.
I have Nothing. I am Nothing. I will live. Kill and live. That is all.

Cross Ange: Tenshi to Ryuu no Rondo

Franklin: Cross-Ange shows us the beauty in misery and the misery in objectified beauty. Blood, mecha, betrayal and dragons are only half it’s value. It takes guts to use objectification so knowingly. Even the characters seem to hate it.

Hannah: Cross-Ange seems to be suffering in the MAL rankings, and I can understand that: sometimes it’s simply hard to watch. But unlike other shows that are hard to watch but so on-point in their message that you respect them while not necessarily loving them, I also love Cross-Ange. It has guts; both the kind that takes risks and the kind that splatter all over the place.

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GARO: Honoo no Kokuin

Preston: This is, I believe, the only show we’re reviewing this Fall focusing primarily on a father and son…and what a father and son these are! The father tends towards hedonism while the son is straight as an arrow – and all the more naive for it. Together they make a great duo, and it’s a treat when they whip out their armor. That being said, the bad guys in this are pretty generic. But I love the show’s offbeat style and the action music is brash assertive in the best way.

Franklin: CGI is good but lacks fidelity and integration of F/Sn or Bahamut. It also has a dreadfully dull world, populated by paper-thin politics, emotionally dull villains, and everyone with facial hair looks idiotic to me. By no means is it anything less than an 8. However, it is by no means something I’m still watching.

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Grisaia no Kajitsu

Franklin: promised a deeply weird sense of humor and an unsettling environment for its unsettled cast. It remains visually unique, yet not unbelievably so, and by episode 4 we’re starting to see the truly weird world under its candy-sweet harem exterior. It’s taking it’s time though, and not in a good way.

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Gugure! Kokkuri-san

Franklin: mash up of Inuyasha and Barakamon feels better on paper than in practice. It gets me laughing to be sure but lacks soul and has a bland look. However, like Kohina-chan’s ramen addiction, I can’t seem to stop eating up GKs’ cheap artificial thrills.

Kiseijuu: Sei no Kakuritsu

Franklin: Parasyte creeps me out, makes me smile, and gives me nightmares to laugh at in the morning. The perfect off-kilter mid-level genre defier for the season.

Preston: Talk about marching – or rather slithering to the beat of its own drum (or rapidly-beating heart). As its title suggests, Parasyte burrows itself into your soul and nibbles away, setting off your primal reptilian fight-or-flight response, but also tantalyzingly toeing the line between pain and pleasure. There’s also a really good romance at its core, but you can’t help it’s SO doomed!

Ookami Shoujo to Kuro Ouji

Zane: The title and synopsis suggest this was going to be another flash-in-the-pan misogynistic rom-com that I’d have a little fun skewering until skipping it off a creek like a smooth, flat rock, never to be seen again. How wrong I was! While the titular Wolf Girl is indeed treated badly (or rather, like a literal dog) more than occasionally, it’s a situation entirely of her making. The show already seems to be exhibiting signs of moving past that initial goofy charade, as both girl and guy definitely have legitimate feelings for each other. It’s just a matter of making the transition.

Sanzoku no Musume Ronja

Franklin: Ronja hangs on by a thread on my watchlist, and that thread is a 3-year-old boy who asks me to watch it once a day, all week long. It partially shows how underwhelming Garo’s CGI truly is and, unlike Garo, frustrates me by how good it would look without that CG. Pretty, safe, remarkably fresh compared to western children’s television but not meant for me.

Preston: That’s weird, I never once thought GARO’s CGI was that bad, it was just being used for a very specific, special purpose (for the armor). Meanwhile, the content of Ronja is pretty and happy and pleasant enough, and by the end of the first two eps I was even mostly used to the CGI. But then the end credits rolled, showing the same characters in 2D, and I thought to myself “Dagnabbit…why doesn’t the show look like this all the time!”

SHIROBAKO

Franklin: This show will be remembered for being consistently the highest rated show I see no reason to watch. Flawlessly constructed, it’s massive cast held together, yet utterly uninteresting due to it’s pedantic subject matter. Shirobako is the define of unnecessary self indulgence. Dropped.

Akame ga Kill!

Preston: From the start, this been mostly big, loud, colorful, goofy, over-the-top fantasy action, but I’ve found it extremely watchable nonetheless, and when characters are killed off, it’s done a reasonable job making those ends emotionally resonant, if uncomplicated. Most of all, I’ve enjoyed the Tatsumi-Esdeath quasi-romance, but there’s sadly been precious little of that.

Denki-gai no Honya-san

Franklin: is savagely awkward, charming, and intentionally ugly. Also very funny.

Hitsugi no Chaika: Avenging Battle

Preston: Chaika is like a slightly more serious and well-made Akame ga Kill!, further underlined by the fact that like Akame, it’s got a lot of past material to build upon and a huge cast. Chaika’s ten-episode second season is all about discovering new truths, most of them disconcerting, horrible, and, for the main Chaika, life-upheaving. But the chemistry between the choppy-speaking loli and the sibling bodyguards has always been decent.

Franklin: Chaika: AB doesn’t work without it’s first season, which was only mid-quality to begin with. Now that Gillet is back, and probably evil for a short eye rolling plot arc to come, its narrative cowardice is plain to see. Not terrible but I no longer find it worth watching.

Sora no Method

Preston: Zane told me after getting somewhat burned by the often-inscrutable Glasslip, he was taking a break from P.A. Works, which fielded SHIROBAKO this year (which Franklin has dropped). But Sora no Method feels an awful lot like my last P.A. Works piece, Nagi no Asukara, which also started slow and got better and better with time, like wine. One notable difference with Sora is that it’s not about a love polygon, just a circle of friends who have drifted apart. Still, it’s showed polish and promise so far, and its setting is sleepy but lushly rendered.

Ushinawareta Mirai wo Motomete

Franklin: WareMete could be brilliant if it even lived up to the ending of its first episode. Unfortunately, as with that episode pre-tragic twist, it’s rather unremarkable now. Slow to the point of feeling delayed, not fantastically animated, and not confident in its purpose. I’m no longer watching.

Zane: I am, but if things don’t pick up soon (and they did a bit last week), I may not be for long. Seriously, that was a great first episode (not necessarily from start-to-finish, but that finish!). Can it fnd that magic again?

Sailor Moon Crystal

Preston: In the last installment (episode 8), this new Sailor Moon (my first exposure to the franchise ever) really hit its stride, earning its first 9. The final guardian has revealed herself, Usagi is no longer just a bumbling airhead depending on her man to save her, and the war against an admittedly very shallow and repetitive force of bad guys is heating up. My long-standing major criticism of the show remains its momentum-hampering biweekly format.

Sword Art Online II

Hannah: The GGO arc bogged down pretty hardcore, but pulled out of its stall and ended strong. After both a stock-taking episode and a recap, SAO has returned to ALfheim Online and, largely, back to the RPG procedural basics of the show, which I think makes for a nice change of pace. Of course, there are two glaring problem with the present arc: One, their lives aren’t on the line, just their game progress. Two, so far Sinon has been relegated to supporting character duty. Neither are enough for me to give up (I rarely give up on shows), but they’re concerns.

Daitoshokan no Hitsujikai

Zane: First InoBato, then Daitoshokan…what is it with these unapologetic harem shows that are actually not bad at all? Daitoshokan is aided by great character chemistry and just-above average production values for its genre. It has demonstrated it’s not afraid to dive into the usual harem tropes without really putting any kind of spin on them, but it’s also capable of more heartfelt development.

Gundam: G no Reconguista

Franklin:  G wants us to remember the 80s and get all warm and fuzzy about how incoherent, sluggish, and stylistically ugly shows were back then. It’s playing at ‘its so bad its funny again’ but I just reviewed 90+ hours of bad Gundam this summer, thanks. I’m no longer watching.

Hannah: Well, there’s your problem: Don’t watch 90+ hours of bad Gundam before watching this show! In fact, don’t watch this show at all unless your able to get on board with its cheeky, semi-serious tone and intentinally clunky action. I will say that the character designs, at least for me, are above reproach, coming from the same hand that penned Eureka Seven. I’m not going to sit here and say the plot is coherent, but you can tell that a lot of work and love was put into this show, but it doesn’t quite feel like a complete show quite yet; more a love letter.

Franklin: To be fair, I liked about 24 hours of the Gundam I watched this summer. Stardust Memory, 06th Team, War in the Pocket, and Unicorn were visually striking and interesting takes on life during mecha warfare, politics and love. However, Gundam G is nothing like those shows. It’s like Zeta and Double Zeta, which were absurdly nonsensical, awkwardly comedic 80s romps through looking down on women, space-magic, and mecha-savior-spaceboy fetishism.

Magic Kaito 1412 and Tribe Cool Crew

Franklin: Both shows succeed as pleasant, fun shows that I encourage watching if you’re into their genres. Nothing bad here, just unremarkable and draining to maintain in the review schedule. I’m still watching Kaito.

Yuuki Yuuna wa Yuusha de Aru

Franklin: Where the heck did you come from? Average in all categories without Wheelchair-chan but interesting because of her. Will it continue to have legs? Probably not but it’s good junk food in the meantime.

Donten ni Warau

Hannah: I tried to get into this affable period piece about three brothers in a alternate version of Japan’s tumultuous period where Western and Eastern culture clashed. But…it kinda just fell by the wayside. There just wasn’t anything that hooked me.

Girl Friend BETA

Zane: Yes, this is based on a cell-phone game and yes, there are more than one million characters, but I’m liking its simple but relatable stories about friendships and its unabashedly positive outlook.

Madan no Ou to Vanadis

Franklin: Vanadis is a lazy, ugly failure, populated by powerful women with giant breasts who, generally speaking, hate other women and squabble over men. Vanadis’ attempt at world building is so pathetic that we are told about scenes of exposition that happened off screen. The old saying ‘Show not tell’ has never been so needed as it is here. Dropped.

Preston: Wow, way to condemn a show based entirely on one dud episode! Wizard Barristers also had a dud late in its run (because they forgot to animate it), and while the timing was awful, it didn’t ruin the series. It was just a bruise, not a mortal wound. Vanadis’ fourth episode was a little more troubling, but I really enjoyed the first (which introduced us to the world) and third (which gave us what I thought was a pretty nice battle). I’m hoping those episodes are a better indication of what we’re in for moving forward, and that week four was merely an unfortunate aberration. No, the big boobs aren’t going away, but big boobs alone do not a show ruin!

Franklin: My criticism of the show far out strips a single episode and big boobs. The total lack of world building has been an issue from the get go, as has the simplistic cast of pure villains, as has the hand-wavy resolution of any conflict in Tigre’s favor. The fact that woman hate each other for no good reason only makes it despicable as a show, as opposed to an empty Shonen masturbation piece.

Preston: Your outrage is noted.

Ai Tenchi Muyo!

Zane: ATM! is short, sweet, and stupid, but also pretty fun and surprisingly addictive. That’s all it needs to be, and that’s about all there is to say about it! Oh, and compared to previous shows in the franchise, the character design kicks ass.

Orenchi no Furo Jijou

Franklin: is droppable but continues to sucker me in with a low low three minute commitment each week. It’s empty but inoffensive and its worth 30 seconds to know the sea-creature/boy mash of the week.

Trinity Seven

Franklin: teeters on the edge of being dropped. Witty banter aside, the character motivations are unreasonable and feel contrived for the plot. Otherwise, it’s just another boob-grabbing harem with a smirking demon lord/boy as the central hero. If it doesn’t get interesting soon, out the window.

Akatsuki no Yona

Franklin: for a show I dropped in the first week, I’ve sure reviewed a bunch of these haven’t I? Honestly, it’s generic, uneventful, and cheaply animated and has no hook at all. For now, I’m respectfully watching it because of its harmless, easy to review nature.

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Franklin: is balancing out with Orenchi, in that they are both completely harmless, not especially funny, nor especially clear what they want to do with themselves shows. Otaku Husband is starting to develop a bit of a plot… and Orenchi isn’t. Expect their ratings to flip flop in the coming weeks.