The next system Ai must face is school, and not altogether surprisingly. She is a child, after all, and children belong in school, if only to “isolate them from the rest of society so that they don’t impede its functioning”, as Hampnie rather hilariously put it. Not to mention children are a dwindling resource in the world, to the point this particular school, Goran Academy, receives generous government stipends for every child they capture in their murdered-out Dodge Chargers (which Yuri’s rundown microbus thankfully can’t hope to catch up to, in a nice bit of automotive accuracy).
Goran in particular rounds up children who’ve had brushes with death. They made powerful wishes that influenced the lives they managed to cling to. The “School for Gifted Youngsters” is a very well-tread trope both within and without anime, from Harry Potter to Soul Eater (the titular protagonist of which shares his voice with Sunday’s Alis Color), and it makes sense for schools to grow ever more “protective” of children in a world where they’re no longer made. But even if it made sense most of the time, this seventh episode was still a bit of a stinker, especially relative to the first six.
We were looking forward to Ai’s road trip with Yuri and Scar (and Scar’s baby too!) to proceed apace after leaving Ortus. Nothing like having Ai suddenly spirited away to a prison-school to abruptly arrest the momentum of both her mission to Save The World. We also felt the episode was overstuffed with technicolor characters who weren’t interesting just because they have special powers. In fact, most of them were downright dreadful, save maybe Tanya, who at least had something quintessentially Sunday Without God-ly to say about Ai’s “sound”, which she compared to a moonbow, of all things.
It’s a credit to the episode that right after things are at their most dire, when Alice breaks into the girl’s bath, the episode starts getting better, as if sensing our displeasure with things so far. The boys aren’t trying to sneak a peek, you see (and the show mercifully refrains from age-inappropriate fanservice): they’re trying to escape from the school. Moreover, Alice’s ghostly familiar Dee tells Ai that the three of them were destined to meet. Perhaps, along with all those other hastily-introduced characters, they’re all meant to aid Ai in her world-saving fight? In any case, this episode had some good parts, but it was still half-bad…and we don’t mean morally-ambiguous!
Rating: 5 (Average)
Can the wrong in a lifetime’s worth of indifference and passivity be righted in one glorious moment? It kinda is this week, the final episode of Denpa to air on TV. Makoto has been dreading the day of the big game, but Yashiro’s words moved him; he takes a stand and makes his big entrance as the hero for once. And he does a fairly nice job.
I like baseball settings, so I’m not annoyed in the slightest that this episode was all about baseball on the surface. But baseball can be a metaphor for countless things. Baseball is a sport with roles. There are background roles, temp roles, and lead roles. It’s all about specialization. But sometimes, one player has it all on their shoulders. The stress of this leads the ace pitcher of the market district, Maekawa’s dad, to go AWOL.
Sent by his aunt to look for him, Makoto finds him and finds a kindred spirit in terms of how he sees himself, the world, and his role in it. After he convinces him to come back with him, there’s a priceless and extremely hilarious scene where Mr. Maekawa, who has to sit behind Makoto on his bike, sternly interrogates him on his intentions with his daughter. Makoto just has to carrry everyone on his bike…
So yeah, Makoto gets out of his funk and steps out of the shadow of his doubt and fear and just goes for it. He manages to hit Hanazawa’s pitch, but it’s a pop fly until Yashiro apparently changes the wind to carry the ball all the way into the drink for a home run. Unfortunately for him, the only kiss he gets is from his aunt. It would seem that while he may have learned to be more assertive, Makoto still needs a lot of adolescence points before attaining his ultimate goal. The true conclusion will come in a few months. Rating: 3.5
In the midst of summer, Makoto continues to juggle all the various idiosyncratic women in his life. The one with who seems the most natural, obvious choice to be his girlfriend would be Ryuushi, obviously. They exchange phone numbers, and she starts texting him immediately. She also wants him to support her in sports. Her flirting is also the most intentional and most blatant out of everyone (well, except Meme, but Makoto has no designs on her).
Despite all her odd costumes, Maekawa seems far more mature and sly with her words than Ryuushi. She also seems to relish being a rival to Ryuushi for Makoto’s heart, although we don’t really know if her intention is to win it. Ryuushi’s mostly an open book; Maekawa’s murkier; an enigma. And then there’s the family: Meme annoys and even disturbs him most of the time, but there’s no disputing she is drop-dead gorgeous. His cousin Erio continues to cast an otherworldly spell on him.
This week, with its morning baseball game by the river played amongst people in business suits, space suits, and mackerel suits, aesthetic echoes of Arakawa Under the Bridge abound. It also contained lots of tongue-in-cheeck wordplay and jokes; I particularly liked Maekawa’s comment about “sports fishing.” She also calls the ace pitcher for the opposing team “Hanazawa-san” – before we learn that the short-skirted girl is indeed voiced by Kana Hanazawa. Man, that girl’s everywhere…not that I’m complaining.
So yeah, with three to four very different women around him all vying for his time and attention, Makoto is one busy adolescent. The appeal of this show isn’t just in the charm of the characters, but in reveling in just what a great life Makoto has. Fortunately, he seems to realize this himself, and isn’t constantly moping. Summertime; baseball; a serene town; cuties everywhere – this is the place to be. Rating: 3.5
This week contained the same events as the previous one, but this time completely from Meme’s perspective. as a newly-initiated member of the 40-year-old club, she decides to aid in “Yamamoto’s” bottle rocket campaign, turning it into a counterattack against aliens. This is to appease her grandmother the candy store owner, who’s certain she’ll meet the same fate as all that cattle that got mutilated by aliens.
Meme is hard to take seriously as an adult due to the childish manner in which she looks, talks, and acts. Truthfully, hearing her saccharine, sometimes downright shrill voice talk so much this week was a bit of an ordeal. But she’s still an interesting character, and the fact that she lives her life how she wants to is admirable: despite having her second love, Erio with her first love, Elliot, she never married, and never plans to.
Whenever the same story is told twice, there are pitfalls; the second telling can get boring. While it lagged at times, the fresh perspective of Meme and the flashbacks of her life in the town when Elliot was still around break up that repetition. That said, this series works best with its core taking center stage: Makoto, Erio, and Ryuushi. But the occasional reminiscing slice-of-life episode isn’t unwelcome. Rating: 3
This week, Mako gets his adolescence on, by sharing awkward silences with Erio and Ryuushi; enjoying girls’ home cooking; having an impromptu sleepover with Ryuushi, Maekawa, and Erio; seeing Ryuushi and Maekawa in bathtowels; talking with Ryuushi alone under the stars; and helping someone else with their adolescence points. What I thought would be a Maekawacentric episode (it was at first, at least) incorporated everyone except Meme, including the businessman with the odd ear tag, who is so into bottle rockets.
Ryuushi is also quite active, believing she needs to compete with Maekawa and Erio for Mako’s affections. While Maekawa seems pretty content and uninterested in being a rival, Erio is more competitive, in her own passive, sheepish way. As for Mako, he’s just going with the flow. It’s worked so far and there’s no reason to believe it won’t keep working out. He’s fine with letting life sweep him along for the ride; after all, it’s how he came to be in a new town in a new home with a new family in the first place. Rating: 3.5
This week could have been a really big mess: all the women in Makoto’s life end up under one roof, but he’s able to handle it, and they don’t all start grabbing at his limbs. I didn’t think it would descend to that; the relationships at play here are a lot more nuanced. Meme, Erio, Ryuushi and Maekawa all seem to like Makoto, but in different ways. Furthermore, Meme and Maekawa are willing to let Ryuushi right of first refusal where Makoto is concerned.
Of all the females, Ryuushi does seem the most realistic match for Makoto, but (of course) she considers herself a bad person for letting her friends badmouth Erio. Most everyone at school apparently still remember’s Erio; she probably wasn’t any less odd than she is now, and the whole cycling into the sea and dropping out of school doesn’t help matters. Erio also still needs a futon – anyone’s futon – in times when she’s feeling particularly insecure or anxious about the social situation.
Still, despite his lack of experience with girls (which he makes clear he’s well aware of in his narration), Makoto shows poise, if a little denseness where Ryuushi is concerned. The time might come for him to not worry about all the points to be scored from actions he takes, and rather focus on the actions of others, particularly Ryuushi. I don’t think she wants to be “just friends”. An aside: as in most SHAFT series, the close-ups are bangin’. Rating: 3.5
Underneath a glass-top coffee table while Meme sits on it wrapped in a futon; the inside of Ryuushi’s orange drink box; a forty year-old in twin tails offering her daughter, then herself to her nephew; a ‘cycloptic’ granny — Denpa Onna to Seishun Otoko is full of unique angles and images. It’s the same ‘easily-distracted’ camera Akiyuki Shinbo has made a part of his visual style. It especially fits a series in which Mako is trying to bring his cousin back down to earth: back to reality. Because reality can be as, if not more, amazing than fantasies in one’s head.
It’s working, as Erio wants a part-time job. Gravity is pulling her back to society even more than Mako initially thinks: while he finds it odd she’d rather work than return to school. Meme later tells him, Erio is worried about the financial burden returning to school would be, hence working and saving up first. Getting shot down in her first interview – due to her infamous reputation around town, no less – crushes her, but its only temporary, as Meme points them to a candy shop where the old lady needs a hand. Meme does this while watching the end Mimi wo Sumaseba! SHIZUKU! I LOVE YOU!!
Of course, this may be a case of one step forward and two steps back, as the granny candy shop owner turns out to be an alien enthusiast who is obsessed with the possibility she could become a victim of cattle mutilation. The look in Erio’s eyes as this is revealed is troubling. After two seasons of a fairly static Nino in Arakawa, is it wrong for me to want Erio to not continue to regress into childlike eccentricity, and to continue striving to become normal? Rating: 3.5
Mako is definitely overthinking things with his obsessive calculations of adolescence. The points system he’s devised (or simply inferred from his experiences) makes sense, but when someone is constantly analyzing rating their experiences, one cannot truly enjoy them. Sure, his cousin is strange, and his aunt is an embarassing tease. But at least two girls in his class are interested in him, and will probably clash for his favor in the future, if how they interact while visiting him in the hospital is any indication.
Ryuushi and Maekawa are both quite strange too, but Mako can enjoy their weirdness because he isn’t related to them. His post-accident convalescence is a good opportunity for the characters to simply chat with one another. But back to that overanlyzing – perhaps it changes experiences, but I shouldn’t say it detracts from them. After all, we here at RABUJOI tend to analyze and rate an episode right after watching it. To our knowledge, our enjoyment of those episodes isn’t compromised by our almost compulsive desire to assign statistics to them and compare them to other works. End digression.
Most importantly, it seems like Erio is going to be okay. Mako certainly ripped the bandage off, but it did more good than harm. It seems like Erio will accept the fact she’s an ordinary earthling, just as Mako wonders whether aliens do exist, and they may have helped speed up the bike so they’d fly rather than fall straight down to more serious injury or worse. Maybe Ryuushi and Maekawa are aliens; they just aren’t going out of their way to announce it like Erio did. Or maybe they’re just eccentric kids. Rating: 3.5
Makoto goes on a date with the almost sickly-cute Ryuushi and really enjoys himself (although dude…you can’t handle fizzy drinks? wtf…), but he finds himself distracted by thoughts of Erio. What is her deal? Meme tells him (in a rather awkward bedroom scene) not to pry, just leave Erio be, like she does – she just wants to be left alone. While that may be true – Erio is in a futon most of the time – Mako simply can’t let her be. He wants to snap her out of it.
To crush her delusions, he decides to go on a bicycle ride with her in the same bike she rode off a bridge, essentially repeating the incident that caused her present trauma and memory loss. He makes her promise to renounce her claim of being alien if she can’t make them fly in the bike. Not surprisingly, they fail to fly, though they fall spectacularly into the sea and the bike is lost. This seems to awaken Erio a bit; her manner of speaking is much more normal, and she concedes defeat. Mako and Erio re-introduce themselves, as Mako believes this is the true beginnning of their friendship. Even though he didn’t mean to take the game of chicken so far (physics had other ideas), he seems quite happy with the result.
This series is really good with close-ups, particularly those of the female characters of the show. But I noticed some really crappy animation mixed in, as well as lots of poorly proportioned limbs, still shots and other instances were corners were clearly cut, which is a shame, especially when Puella Magi Madoka Magica looked consistently superb throughout. Also, the opening theme is easily the worst I’ve ever heard, and the ending isn’t much better (Etsuko Yakushimaru’s songs all sound the same to be now). Depsite these shortcomings, I’m confident the story and characters will continue to do the heavy lifting here. Rating: 3.5