Kuma Miko – 07

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Another Tuesday, another mediocre Kuma Miko: Machi cuts fire wood with an axe. Then she lights the kitchen on fire because her anxiety prevents her from using the rice cooker properly.

Then Yoshio has Natsu perform a ritual, except Yoshio’s granny didn’t leave instructions and no one actually knows what the ceremony is for or how to do it.

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Nothing of consequence happened this week but, unlike the average episode of Flying Witch, there’s nothing warm and comfortable about Kuma Miko. Mentally ill or not, Machi is an unpleasant character who’s self-fulfilling idiocy brings the misfortune in the most telegraphed, dull, way possible.

Meanwhile Yoshio is portrayed as a simpleton, just going through the motions and Natsu is shown as loving Machi, but not always able to express it without insulting her. And his love hasn’t really been returned by Machi these past few episodes, making the relationship (and Machi herself) less bearable.

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The verdict: the punchline is everyone has mental illness, obliviousness, and a nihilistic outlook for the aging people of the mountains. Old people are stupid, deaf, and the few offspring they’ve culturally trapped through bumpkin-ism are resentful about the meaningless and smallness of their lives, and they retaliate through lazy destruction and not taking their jobs seriously.

Being technically competent is not enough to save Kuma Miko from its dull, repetitive stagger off my review list. It’s not worth hating but the formula isn’t funny or charming enough to get me through the rest.

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Kuma Miko – 06

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This week Machi tried to go to a novelty bookstore but a self-hatred-fueled freakout rampage prevented her from doing so. She also met a boy, although that doesn’t appear to be relevant to the narrative.

Later, still gripped with terror/embarrassment/self-loathing, Machi freaks out at Natsu. But then she has a fever and Natsu feels bad about making her go to the bookstore. He tries to make her feel better by cooking a meal and taking the blame for her troubles. Eventually, after savagely beating him for a night, Machi feels better and goes to school.

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So… that was awful. Ignoring the complete lack of content, set backs to Machi’s arduously slow growth, and reliance on girl punches guy humor, episode six was simply dull. The lack of new situations was also emphasized by Machi being ‘saved’ by the boy on the escalator, only for the episode to drop him completely out of the narrative.

Hibiki existed only to name drop this week’s business for the show to visit; Yoshio existed only to move Machi from space to space and strike his ‘you got this’ pose; Machi existed only to hate herself, and Natsu only existed to flash us back to Machi being a nice caring girl when she was younger and for some bear slap-stick cooking mishaps.

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The verditc: abusive, childish, tantrumming and self hatred are not the strongest themes for comedy. Nor are they good anchors for ‘lite’ casual watching. If not for Natsu’s predictable but — yes — still adorable kitchen antics, this episode would be a total failure.

Good job show. If your goal was to make me not like Machi this week, you were very successful. Why you would want me to hate your protagonist though… uh… yeah why would you want that??

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Kuma Miko – 05

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Unwinding Kuma Miko’s narrative is a little harder than unwinding this week’s underlying theme: a person’s surface traits only obscures an opposite underlying reality.

Machi’s keen observation and ‘possessed’ knowledge obscures her lack of real work understanding, Natsu’s kindness masks a deep frustration with the ‘dumbness’  of people, Hibiki’s violent demeanor simply hides her bashful love, and Yoshio’s constant scheming is only a pretense for a deeply simple man with a deeply simple brain…

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What happened? The girls flaunted their new clothes, Hibiki’s motives for helping Machi were implied to be due to Yoshio asking, and that Hibiki has a strong love for Yoshio.

Also, a little boy was locked in a cave with Natsu to scare him straight and there was a lot of blushing. Honestly, nothing that really matters narratively beyond Hibiki liking Yoshio…

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Was it good? Sure! Kuma Miko’s blend of unexpected yet simple humor is as often comforting as it is truly funny. Natsu is incredibly likable, and his rare annoyance with everyone being so simple–even after he tries to explain things simply–is understandable.

Kuma Miko is ultimately harder to deep critique beyond that point. It’s a good slice of life and characterization with gentle humor and blush-blush yuck-yuck gentle romance. Sure, it wouldn’t be much without the weird central characters and a talking bear, but even then, it would be completely watchable.

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Kuma Miko – 04

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I never expected Kuma Miko to carry last week’s costumes over to a second episode and, coupled with the village ceremonies, the village men chatting about the costumes they preferred, and watching Machi and Natsu eat sushi together, the first act is a master class in slice-of-life as world-building.

It was slow, comfortable, almost joke-free but still enjoyable. The fact Machi gets more character designs and the in-show world responds to it is a nice play on anime convention.

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Then the second act comes out of nowhere and introduces Yoshi’s childhood friend Hibiki and goes off on a tangent about the Shimomura clothing retailer. Hibiki aside, the Shimomura segment is a lot like last season’s Dagashi Kashi, as I have no context for this company and have no idea why the writers felt a possessed Machi rambling off factoids about this company would be funny or even interesting.

Because Hibiki is introduced to us abruptly, and Machi is wearing her ‘flashback’ school clothes AND because we’d seen flashbacks in the first act, I initially though the entire scene WAS a flashback. Put it all together and the second half is a confusing mess.

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Last week I called out Kuma Miko for being overly safe and relying on it’s central relationship’s quirkiness for all it’s humor. I’m not sure that is still true this week, with the introduction of Hibiki and Machi’s relationship.

However, the second act is so random and disconnected from the show that playing it safe may be all Kuma Miko is able to do? Definitely watchable, strange, but not really ‘good’ as an alternative.

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Kuma Miko – 03

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Kuma Miko is a remarkable safe, enjoyable comedy that relies on the goofiness of its setting and central relationship for most of its humor. Previous episodes have hung close to Machi’s urge to leave her small rural nest and her challenge she must overcome to do so.

This week took an unexpectedly interesting look at how heritage itself must face the modern world. The result was clever, even if it wasn’t any funnier or more dramatic than before.

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In the opening act, Machi notices she’s gained a weight and attempts to co-opt ritual dance into exercise – complete with gym-coach style one-two-one-two dance music.

Natsu finds this a little sacrilegious at first but eventually bumps it up a notch further with a bear-based DJ session…that results in angering the mountain gods and bringing the rain.

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In the second act, the towns people have made 4 summer-style costumes for Machi to wear at the shrine. Machi is initially very excited by the prospect of seeing a new take on Ainu tradition, but quickly learns the costumes are all embarrassing to wear and make minimal nods to tradition.

The second costume in particular includes bear ears and a tail…

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What stood out: the bear clubbing session was fun and it added nuance and supportive nature to Natsu’s character. Some of the animations of Machi moving around on the floor were also above average. The throw away gag about learning the history of electricity at the open was also entertaining.

Over all, Kuma Miko is a low 8 but still an 8. It isn’t remarkable in many ways, as it generally plays it safe, but the humor and core relationship has a good hook.

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Kuma Miko – 02

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Kuma Miko demonstrates this week that it’s prepared to go to some pretty far-flung lengths for the sake of comedy, including a conspicuous amount of Uniqlo exposure. Machi remains firm in her desire to move to the city, but Natsu still doesn’t think she’s ready.

She literally grapples Natsu and then turns on the waterworks, and Natsu relents, drawing up on ink and paper the next trial to determine her readiness for life outside the village. It’s totally out-of-left-field trial, too:

“Buy a HEATTECH item from Uniqlo.”

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Just go to a store and buy an item from a particular line. Sounds simple, right; especially with two days to work with? HA! Little did I know how epic an adventure was about to unfold. It’s a long way from the village to the nearest Uniqlo, and the bridge out of the village is out, so Machi has to wait a whole day to even leave.

When she does, she finds her bike has been taken by her uncle for the day, so she has to borrow her cousin’s infamous bike, which…is not a good bike. It’s too big for Machi, and very heavy too, due to a completely unnecessary mini leather armchair for a seat and an animal carrier in back.

Seriously, I felt uncomfortable watching her ride the thing. Things seemed to be going okay at first, but I was tense when Machi started descending a hill a bit too fast; sure enough, the brakes fail and she’s out of control!

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After briefly getting air, a la E.T., Machi bails out, and the bike smashes against a tree trunk into dozens of pieces. She lands awkwardly and gets several bruises and scratches, but is otherwise okay physically.

But mentally? She can’t help but crumple into a ball and call for her Natsu to help her, like the dependent Machi of yore. Natsu seems to get the message that his ward is in trouble, Lassie-style…but it turns out his back is itchy and he needs to rub it on a tree trunk.

With Natsu not coming, Machi rights the leather chair, has a seat, and simply takes a moment, before slapping her thighs and re-committing herself to completing this task, even if she has to walk through the dangerous mountain woods to reach the Uniqlo.

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Fortuitously, she comes upon the stream where Yoshio is fishin with a completely toasted Matsu, whose booze breath, demeanor and constant mocking Machi is forced to put up with as Yoshio drives them to the Uniqlo, where she successfully buys here HEATTECH item (a t-shirt…not a heater).

Before piling back in the car, she finally loses her cool, beats Matsu with her bag, and punches Yoshio in the gut for making her endure so much BS (Yoshio, of course, being the owner of that ridiculous bike). It’s righteous payback for everything she’s endured up to that point.

She returns to Natsu not any surer of her ability to take care of herself, having had to rely on a ride from Yoshio—even though Natsu always assumed she’d get a ride from him anyway. Machi basically made the task far harder than it needed to be.

But as she says, all’s well that ends well: with her revealing her chic new HEATTECH top she dons defiantly beneath her miko garb; naturally, the “S S S S S” sticker still affixed. She’s one step closer to gaining the bear’s permission to move out.

Before credits, Yoshio goes to the garage to find his stupid bike missing, and the episode cuts to the spot in the forest where Machi regained her resolve—where the stately leather armchair still sits, bathed in golden light. An absurd, surreal sight if I ever saw one!

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Kuma Miko – 01 (First Impressions)

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I like a good balance of complicated (Mayoiga) and uncomplicated shows on my list, and Kuma Miko certainly fits the latter. You’ve got your bear, your girl, and your tiny sleepy village she wants to leave for the big city to attend school. The “Girl” in Girl Meets Bear doesn’t actually meet the bear; she’s always known the bear since she was a tyke; he’s her guardian.

So when the two meet in the forest in the cold open, it’s set up like some kind of hazardous clash about to befall the poor unsuspecting girl, but like Hobbes in Calvin & Hobbes, the bear is simply putting on an act in welcoming his companion home.

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Machi, a 14-year-old shrine maiden (Miko) has outgrown her paltry, unstimulating surroundings. She longs for road signs, cell reception, and 24-hour convenience stores. Natsu, her bear guardian, is cognizant of the fact his baby bird wants and needs to spread her wings, but isn’t hapy about it, so sets up a quiz designed to confound Machi on urban matters.

How Natsu got information about Suica cards and the OIOI sign is beside the point, and adds to the slightly surreal comedy of an anthropomorphic bear sparring with a teenage girl on the matter of independence.

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The second half introduces us to Machi’s civil servant cousin Yoshio, who deems his three nine-year-old charges old enough to hear the true story of Kumade village’s relationship with bears. It involves a bear, a broad, and the birds and bees. Suffice it to say, the bears in Kumade are tame and can speak like humans, as per a long-standing agreement.

Beyond the absurd places the depraved mind of a nine-year-old boy takes such things (especially when he meets Machi and Natsu), it’s kinda cool to think that in some isolated village somewhere people and bears can coexist and converse with one another, only it’s a secret so there’s no outside proof. I also like how kids are also duly impressed with Machi’s status as Miko, even if she can’t wait to be rid of it and living in the city.

Kuma Miko is a fun, quirky, uncomplicated little show with a neat little comic duo in Machi and Natsu (voiced by Chad!), a picturesque rural setting, and very dope and catchy OP and ED. Worth a look!

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Space Dandy 2 – 05

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After a middling high school musical episode, Dandy bounces back with a particularly spiffy alien twist on the classic “Big Fish” adventure. It starts as an ordinary fishing trip, with QT lording his expertise over everyone, until Meow suggests they fish for something that will make them money. To whit: the legendary Munagi of the planet Kayu.

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A bit of defining: we learned after watching that Munagi means “ridgepole” while Kayu means “porridge.” And Kayu indeed is a world with an exceedingly thick, goopy, viscous ocean. The world is also suitably alien and bizarre-looking, looking influenced by some canny combination of Dali, Seuss, Dunning, and Hokusai.

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When the Aloha Oe is stuck in space kelp(!), Dandy teleports to Kayu and meets the small, adorable Erssime, who lives with her grandfather(?) L’Delise, a seasoned fisherman. These two happen to be the only ones who, like Dandy, believe in the Munagi, but L’Delise wants nothing to do with Dandy and snorts at his feeble attempts to catch it.

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We’re treated to another lovely Dandy montage of Dandy and Erssime fishing in various strange landscapes. Eventually some other locals laugh at Dandy for believing the ramblings of a little kid and a weird old man. The legend doesn’t even make sense: the Munagi is said to come on a blue moon, but Kayu has no moon.

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But then, one stormy night, a blue moon does appear; in actuality it’s the blue Rubini Comet, which last passed by Kayu 3600 years ago, matching the timing of the Munagi legend. L’Delise and Dandy put their differences aside and, with the help of Erssime, Meow, QT, and a gaggle of convinced locals, get a good grip on the emerging Munagi.

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Ultimately, the King Munagi and all of its smaller subjects are far to collossal to be caught, and in any case they’ve risen to the surface in order to hitch a ride on the very comet that deposited them at Kayu nearly four milennia ago. They lost the Munagi, but everyone is safe, and the collective experience brought everyone closer together.

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Dandy, Meow, and QT end up in the same place they were in the beginning: fishing, with Meow suggesting they catch something profitable. After all, there are plenty of fish (-populated planets) in the sea (of stars). Unlike the high school ep, this one took it well-tread story—the Big Fish Tale—and put a truly creative, whimsical spin on it.

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Samurai Flamenco – 03

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Rumors spiral that Hazama is Samurai Flamenco, but he insists he isn’t when Ishihara asks. Konno has offered a bounty the one who unmasks the superhero, and while on the Wow! Show, to Hazama’s surprise, his childhood hero, Kaname Joji (AKA Red Axe) poses as Samurai Flamenco, resurrecting his stalled career. Hazama sends a challenge to Kaname, and they meet at a superhero show stage after dark and have it out. Hazama insists he won’t allow Red Axe sully his good name by lying. When Kaname goes back on the air, he tells the world Flamenco is his student. Goto poses as Hazama on live TV so Hazama can “prove” to Ishihara it isn’t him.

Starting out as a kind of buddy comedy, another dimension is added to the series with the introduction of the impostor, who is actually Hazama’s boyhood idol and about as close to a real superhero as you can get. Don’t get us wrong, whether he’s Samurai Flamenco or his teacher, Kaname has a lot to gain by staying involved with Hazama, who’s younger and more popular with the young ladies. But the episode does a good job showing that he isn’t just a haughty ass of a celebrity. His emotional reaction and pivot in mission after Hazama challenges and confronts him is a combination of genuine concern and good improvisation. A lesser show would make Hazama and Kaname duke it out week after week as rivals, and to be honest, that doesn’t sound that interesting.

Instead, Kaname makes a compromise that keeps him in the limelight and also lets Hazama preserve his identity. Even though Kaname didn’t remember Hazama after the first time he met him, he will certainly remember him from now on. We also think he appreciates Hazama’s dedication to him as an admirer of Red Axe, and having a weakling reproach him for what he knows to be conduct that’s beneath Red Axe. And then there’s Goto, who actually agrees (offscreen) to don SF’s costume, pretend to be him – and actually enjoy it. Combined with Ishihara’s confusion about whether Hazama is telling her the truth and Mari’s awareness of who he is, we’re really enjoying how all of the relationships are turning out.

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Rating: 8 
(Great)

Tasogare Otome x Amnesia – 06

As the school festival continues, the legend of a bloodthirsty monster called Akahito spreads through the school like a virus. One Kirishima Yuuko, who just happens to share her name with the famous ghost, is committed to destroying all ghost stories and those who spread them. However, she gets caught by crazed mob who prepare to make her an offering. At Teiichi’s request, his Yuuko takes on the form of Akahito to scare the mob straight, saving Kirishima from harm.

This series is all over the place. It’s tone is consistently inconsistent. That being said, we can still enjoy individual episodes, without trying to make any sense of the series as a whole. Perhaps it’s the creators’ intent to make things as strange and disjointed as possible, or perhaps they’re as clueless as we are about where this is going. Last week was a character study of Kirie, but this week went for full-on horror, complete with some admittedly creepy camera work and some very over-the-top, nightmarish elements, like half the school going totally mad and bloodlustful, Another-style.

Despite some interesting and dark moments, though, this is no Another. Considering this story came out of nowhere and even defied logic by having a new legend show up right in the middle of a student festival that was still going on for some reason, it doesn’t have the lasting power it would have if the series hadn’t been spinning its wheels up to this point. In short: it’s all bark and no bite. And despite the post-credits cliffhanger of the “real” Akahito cornering Kirie in the clock tower, we can’t be certain next week won’t return to lighthearted flirting between Yuuko and Teiichi with horrible comic relief by Okonogi. This show is unpredictable…in a bad way.


Rating: 4 (Fair)
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Rinne no Lagrange – 03

Madoka is locked in battle with Kirius, and makes great pains not to cause excessive damage to Kamogawa, eventually moving the action to a vacant lot. Lan gathers up the courage to go out in Vox Lympha, but Izo’s ovid leaps out of the sea to stop her from interfering with Kirius’ fight. Madoka keeps her spirits up by singing her Jersey club fight song, and by her words helps Lan overcome her fear and unleash Lympha’s warrior mode for the first time. Faced with two Voxes, Kirius orders a retreat. Victorious, Madoka and Lan meet up and name their Voxes Midori and Orca, respectively. In his cell, Array recites the legend Lan fears, in which the three Voxes are harbingers of destruction.

Ignorance is bliss, at least in Madoka’s case. Forced to improvise against Kirius, Madoka resorts to stopping his non-lethal sword strikes with Vox’s hands, and even tries to choke his ovid with an electrical cable. Such tactics throw Kirius off, unaware of just how inexperienced his opponent really is. But that same ignorance helps Madoka press on with Vox, something Lan can’t initially do, because she knows about the legend. Will Madoka lose her edge when she learns of the foretold destruction her green Vox might cause? Who knows; for now, she’s two-for-two, thanks to her obligation to “finish what she starts”, a tenet of the Jersey club to which she belongs (translated as “Sweats club” last week).

Also, she’s helped Lan achieve what she couldn’t before, which is a big boost to her confidence. Making the princess Lan more initially flawed than the tomboy Madoka makes her more interesting, and we like how she has the same seiyu as Chihaya. We were also impressed not only with the gorgeous battle animation, but both the producers’ and Madoka’s committment not to forget where it is she’s fighting: in the middle of a densely-populated town she loves very much. Not only is she holding her own with Kirius, but she makes every effort to minimize collateral damage, and even smashes away a flying vending machine with a baseball swing to save two schoolgirls, punctuated by her trademark “Maru!” (“circle”). We like this kid!


Rating: 4

Tiger & Bunny 16

This was definitely one of the darker weeks of Tiger & Bunny, despite a hilarious banquet scene where the heroes are all dolled up (see above). The occasion is Barnaby breaking a record previously held by Mr. Legend, the original Hero. He’s the guy who inspired Kotetsu to become a hero himself. He still gets teary-eyed watching old TV footage of the guy…and I’m sure deep down Tiger kinda resents Bunny breaking his childhood hero’s record, though he’d never say it.

They could have just let Legend be an infallible legend and called it a week, but no! While Ao no Exorcist uses the heroic memory of Shiro, this series chooses to tear the legend of Legend down. Tiger’s friend Ben uncovers something huge: Legend also experienced a dip in powers late in his career; so much so that his criminal captures had to be staged to keep up appearances. This lead to a drinking habit, and then it led to the habit of beating his loving wife out of frustration. Legend was killed by his own son, to save her.

And his son’s name? Yuri…AKA Lunatic. Dunno about you, but I wasn’t expecting that! This was a bold move, but it works; it explains Lunatic’s vast wealth and resources, and because of what happened between him and his father, he developed his twisted sense of justice. Meanwhile, Tiger’s powers are dwindling so rapidly, he can’t even stop an ordinary human, and ends up in a dumpster, his ideals crushed, his dream of his daughter calling him cool in serious jeopardy, and his days as a hero seemingly numbered.


Rating: 3.5