Re:Creators – 06

Souta realizes who the MUP’s Creator is (or was), but he’s reluctant to tell Celestia, who is back in normal clothing and is having fun with her new smartphone. And that’s pretty much it for Souta; he carries his secret with him and will have to resolve his moral dilemma another week.

This episode is all about the arrival of another new Creation, Chikujouin Makagami, who is nothing but trouble. Her arrival sparks the big multiplayer confrontation we knew was coming, while being an eminently fun-to-watch player in her own right.

As befits a dynamic-shifting character, Chiku is voiced by the illustrious Sakamoto Maaya, unquestionably one of the best in the business since her debut in Escaflowne two decades ago. She has a lot of fun in what sounds like a fun role to play.

Like a similar scenario in Captain America: Civil War, an eclectic combination of heroes and villains of diverse backgrounds, powers, weaknesses, and worldviews come together and we behold the beautiful chaos that ensues. To its credit, Re:Creators gives characters on both sides the opportunity to express their views one way or another.

The unlikely friendship between Alice and Mamika—one from a war-torn dystopia, the other from a Tokyo not dissimilar from the Creators’— continues with the two discussing how they should deal with the newcomer.

Mamika believes as long as someone is a “good person” they can be a powerful and worthwhile ally, even if their goals don’t mesh with your own. Alice hears her, and compliments her for “knowing where justice lies.”

Chikujouin will test everyone’s sense of justice, because she’s a trickster who loves flipping things upside down and inside out, including lies. When she catches a bookstore clerk in a web of “lies about lies” it seems to give her the power to summon beasts that tear him to shreds.

Kikuchihara and a normally-dressed Meteora (a subtle but nice touch for both her, Celestia, and Rui) determine Chiku is a villain (duh) and start their search, but Alice and Mamika have already found her.

The initially cordial encounter soon sours when Alice smells blood and malevolence all over Chiku, and Chiku realizes she has another mark in Alice with whom she can provoke into “lying about lies.”

Alice, naturally, dismisses everything Chiku says, calls her a “buffoon”, and charges straight at her. Before Chiku can make Alice stab herself with her own spear, Celestia arrives, with Meteora by her side.

Mamika and Meteora plead for calm—everyone’s in the same boat; there’s no need to fight each other—but hotter heads blow over, as Alice thinks no more of Meteora’s musings than Chiku’s.

Alice and Celestia won’t back down, so the two warriors go at it, and Meteora must defend Celestia with her shield. Tokar Blitz enters the fray on Team Alice, but first tells Mamika that she has the power to stop the fight. Mamika knows this, but is afraid to use her powers again after what she did to Celestia when they first met (justifiably so).

And yet it’s Tokar, disabling Meteora’s shield with a gravity round then preparing to finish her off, when Mamika finally says enough and intervenes, saving Meteora and destroying every bullet Tokar fires.

In a battle of clashing powers from clashing genres, I love how it’s the magical girl abilities that seem to be the most powerful here, precisely because they come from such a vague, whimsical, and non-scientific source.

From the moment Celestia and Meteora appeared, Chiku is on the sidelines, literally, and once the swords start to cross and the bullets start to fly, she kick back, cracks open a juice and enjoys the show.

I for one appreciated this approach, because beyond its meta value (she, like us, is eagerly awaiting what will happen next) it’s in a trickster like Chiku’s nature to play sides off each other, then step aside and let everyone beat each other up, leaving her unscathed.

This was the Re:Creators episode I’ve been waiting for, and it felt the fleetest of the lot so far. It’s an episode where everyone’s disparate personalities are on display and where interesting things happen when they butt up against each other.

Having Yuuya and Rui sit this particular battle out keeps things from getting too chaotic too fast—though I’m sure we’ll see larger and more complicated battles in the future.

I’m also glad it’s Mamika, who not only has the “purest” powers but also the “purest” sense of justice, who not only has wherewithal but also the moral compulsion to stop the fighting before someone gets hurt too badly.

She may be “naive” and may not come from as bad a place as some of the others, but she knows what she needs to know: that there’s a better way to solve problems than trying to kill each other. As such, she’s emerged as an important bridge between the pro and anti-MUP factions.

Those who don’t like it better be ready to taste an assortment of colorful hearts, stars, bows, and crescent moons.

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Re:Creators – 05

Episode five is talky, like the previous four, but the quality of the conversations ticks up thanks to a generous helping of light humor and a few significant steps forward with the plot, as the “good” creations add mecha pilot Kanoya Rui to their ranks and forge an official alliance with the Japanese government.

Things are lighthearted at first, as Kanoya proves to be very mild-mannered when not riled up, then things get tense as the JSDF raids the home of Kanoya’s creator. This is where I came to appreciate Meteora as the official spokesperson of the creation/creators. Measured and precise in her words, she’s able to calm the situation and put the soldiers at ease. None of the others in that house could have done it better.

They end up before a board of government bigwigs called the Special Situations Countermeasures Council, and briefed by the council’s General Coordination Officer, Kikuchihara. The proceedings are understandably a bit stiff, but things are lightened considerably when Kikuchihara informs Meteroa of the missing JSDF weaponry she “borrowed”, for which she can only offer a sheepish but sincere apology.

Fortunately, Kikuchihara is a stabilizing force, like the Meteora of the bigwigs, and has an open enough mind to appreciate the creators and creations’ situation, while acknowledging the former’s status as persons, offering them legal status and government protection.

Their shared goal of fixing what the Military Uniform girl broke and returning everyone to whence they came is sure to go easier with the coordination with Kikuchihara and the council.

Despite likely being offered government-funded accomodation, Meteora and Celestia decide to remain at Marine’s house, which is just fine with her, as it’s made her home life more fun, as “every night is girl’s night”, as Meteora puts it.

The four guys (one of whom, Kanoya, is voiced by a girl) aren’t as enthused, as Kanoya’s creator’s house was destroyed, but of far greater concern to Souta is his sudden realization of the origin of the Military Uniform girl: it would seem her creator is Shimazaki, who took her life by jumping in front of an incoming train at the very beginning of the first episode.

It makes sense that Military Uniform girl is trying to overthrow/destroy the world of creators, considering it’s a world that essentially rejected her creator. Hopefully more will be revealed about Souta’s specific connection to Shimazaki. Until then, some nice incremental progress was made, with just the right amount of comical flair to avoid things getting to stodgy, but enough seriousness to maintain credibility.

Re:Creators – 04

(For this week’s Re:C I’m filling in for Franklin, who is currently battling a bit of a backlog in both inbox and anime queue. Ganbatte, Oigakkosan! —Hannah)

After learning her creator died in an auto accident, a rudderless Meteora does a fair amount of soul-searching, starting by purchasing the game she’s in and playing it all the way to the end, in an effort to both learn more about herself and the person who created her, in hopes that information will help her make an informed decision about what to do next.

She painstakingly reports all of this to the others, as well as presents her hypothesis about this world only being able to take so many “translations” of creations before it crumbles under the weight of all the “contradictions.” For the fourth straight episode, this involves Meteora talking and explaining in a measured tone for an extended period of time—until the sun sets outside, in fact.

And while it does manage to hit some emotional beats towards the end—basically, she likes her creator, his creation, and wants to fight to get everything back to the way it was—it once more expose’s this show using such scenes as a crutch to keep the audience appraised. It’s too much tell and not enough show.

The chatting continues in a dark warehouse, where the onna-kishi Alicetelia has captured her creator and forced him to revise her world so there isn’t so much dang war, only for it not to work. The Military Uniform Princess assures her that this is an our worlds-vs.-their world situation, she’s leading the revolt, and could use able warriors like Alice.

We meet Beardy, who like Yuuya is content to have fun in this world for a time, and not in a rush to return to his world. Mamika also softens “Alice-chan’s” character somewhat by questioning rash side-taking, especially with people like the MUP, while tucking into boil-in-the-bag curry, the package of which bears Mamika’s likeness.

One of Matsubara’s fellow creators then calls him, informing him that one of his creations—a young mecha pilot—has suddenly appeared, along with his mecha, who on the surface looks like he’d be on Team Celestia/Meteora. That leaves just one more main creation from the promo art and OP to introduce: the Oushino Ougi-esque Chikujouin Makagami, who looks more like Team MUP.

As this is a 22-episode run, it’s not unusual to not have all the main players introduced after four episodes. But there remains a sluggishness and a feeling that we’re not seeing as much of the potential of this premise as we could, and are instead hearing a whole lot about it from static characters as other characters sit around in rooms listening.

To be blunt, I’m eager for Re:Creators to get out of those rooms and start kicking some ass out in the world. With the lines starting to be drawn among the creations according to how they want to proceed, hopefully we’ll get more actual confrontations soon.

Handa-kun – 06

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The Gist: Kawafuji is aware of Handa’s increasing paranoia in the wake of the amnesia plot and tries to introduce him to a new friend. Handa, being paranoid, dresses in a disguise for the meeting. However, at the end of their hang out day he comes to like the new person… but totally confuses issues be rescuing his new friend from bullies as Handa.

Later, Handa defeats his middle school nemesis, a track star named Dash. Dash gets raped by a horny dog. Twice.

Then the school palm reader is stumped by how average Handa’s palm is. Also, that he will never marry nor have love, but will be surrounded by many children in the near future. She too takes this as an accidental compliment from Handa and strives to work harder.

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The Verdict: while I greatly enjoyed the dog-rape segment for it’s rapier like subtlety, the third act was the most concise joke. There’s not much to say beyond that really… Handa-kun’s accidental nice guy hero formula is pretty straight forward and the cast around him follows such a predictable pattern, once you’ve seen one, you’ve seen it all.

Still worth a chuckle. Not a very clever chuckle but a chuckle all the same;

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Handa-kun – 05

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The age of males is long gone…

The Gist: This week’s unintentional conflict pits Handa against Tennouji Sawako-sama, the man-hating student council president. This is because Handa is popular, technically viceless, and looks like he is amassing a group of powerful students… all things that could challenge Sawako’s domination of the school, and males in general.

Sawako’s first plan is to seduce and control Handa with two of the school’s most predatory females but it’s thwarted in traditional Handa fashion: the girls overhear what seems like a genuine life lesson directed at them and leave, only for Handa to actually be talking to stray cats.

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Sawako’s second plan is to capture Handa and force him to wear a skirt. This leads to a chase by de-masculinated student council vice-president Rikimaru, which culminates in Handa and Sawako falling down the stares. Handa appears to have protected her during the fall and, again following the show’s formula, wins Sawako’s heart without knowing what is going on at all.

In an unexpected twist, Handa loses his memory and becomes a creepy opportunist clown. There are many jokes about him trying to pick up girls but everyone things he’s just another fake because the real Handa would never cheapen himself like that. Eventually, Handa becomes depressed again, maybe or maybe not actually regaining his memory in the process…

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The Verdict: The opening act was pure formula but it was moderately entertaining. The jokes were well timed, the visuals were silly, and the accidental life lesson was amusing.

Unfortunately, the second act was not so good. It didn’t do anything with the amnesia tropes, it was short, and nothing really came of it except end everything was back to normal by the end.

To its credit, Handa-kun builds a remarkably lived in world where any character that has received a face and screen time continues to weave in and out of future episodes. Suicide-chan and the Predator Girls and not-Handa all make appearances here. But it’s a pretty average, lightly funny world to have dedicated so much effort to.

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Handa-kun – 04

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The Gist: This week Handa-kun continued to hit its stride with another trio of silly nonsensical situations. First we meet a Handa-kun cosplayer with terrible teeth, then students misunderstand Handa’s mom to be his girlfriend, and last Handa tries to make small talk because his parent teacher meeting doesn’t go well.

The Verdict: Handa-kun’s shortcomings as a show remain the same but so do its strengths in comedic timing. This leaves me with little to say beyond summarizing the episode, unfortunately. Fortunately, I was laughing most of the way!

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Handa-kun – 03

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The Gist: This week concludes the character introductions with Tsutsui Akane-kun, Kondo Yokio and Kawafuji-kun. The three-part episode format makes each segment feel a little short but, honestly, that’s probably for the best.

Even though the core gag is the same in each segment (Handa-kun thinks the opposite of what everyone thinks he thinks), hopping from segment to segment keeps it from feeling over used. Played out or not, the question is, does Handa-kun have enough to like in the first place?

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Tsutsui Akane-kun’s segment is the most interesting, structurally. See, Akane-Kun used to be a girly boy and he was literally tormented by the way Handa imagines being tormented. In a way, it is the way Handa is tormented: Girls thought Akane was stealing their boyfriends.

Unlike Handa, Akane broke and left school to become a shut in. Then he became a tough and redefined himself. When Handa/misunderstanding inevitably brings Akane back to school, the cycle continues with his own awkwardness leading Handa to think they are enemies.

tl;dr? It’s smarter than it is funny but it was also pretty funny.

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Yokio’s section would be straight forward except we, as viewers, can draw a deeper understanding of Handa’s weird popularity from Yokio’s conclusions. Yokio see’s Handa’s decisions as bizarre, and he can see everyone is forcing themselves to think of these decisions in a positive light, but he can also see that the results are positive. Handa-Force stops fighting to pay attention to Handa’s kitchen fire and they all appreciate getting ‘treat’ of special custard at the end, even if it’s gross.

The results make the intention unimportant. In a way, because Handa is an eccentric artist, his actions are basically performances too, which makes them not out of place for him to do… in an academic sense.

Looking at it from another angle, Yokio knows Handa’s work is high concept and he gets that ‘an ordinary Joe can’t grasp his appeal’ but that’s not going to stop him from trying.

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Kawafuji’s segment isn’t particularly interesting from a structural stand point and the jokes are over the top instead of funny. However, it shows us why Handa is so terrified of everyone, why Kawafuji is his only friend and why they would still be together in Barakamon.

Spoilers: it’s Kawafuji’s fault because he was jealous. It’s also his fault because he hasn’t told Handa the truth yet. It’s also likely in Handa’s favor not to learn the truth because a normal acting Handa loses all the mystique. It loses any purpose to watch the show, really.

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The Verdict: This week gave us the best Handa outing so far, largely because Akane, Yokio and Kawafuji are more interesting characters than the chairman and the model. Yokio and Kawafuji are especially good, because they actually see Handa for what he is: a wreck and bizarre.

Now that the comedic timing and dialog are tight, Handa-kun is enjoyable to watch. (even with the socially awkward cringe-factor) If some chuckles and tie-forward to the better show is enough to warrant keeping it on your schedule, there you have it. If not, summer’s packed with great shows. No big loss.

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Handa-kun – 02

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The Gist: Handa ‘defeats’ the two girls from last week, as well as ‘glasses’ Aizawa Junichi and ‘model’ Nikaido Reo who were introduced as members of Handa-force last week.

As with last week, Handa ‘defeats’ these opponents largely through his lack of understanding and, for the same reason, most people think highly of him. As you may have expected: all’s well that ends well: ‘muscles’ Juri-chan and Maiko-chan are back to being friends… and accept being romantic rivals.

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What makes Handa-kun special: its protagonist is a hot mess of illogical responses that, against all odds, turn out in his favor. Take his misunderstanding of Maiko and his choice to write her a letter.

By making Muscles (Juri) fall for him, she became aware of the inequity of her relationship with Maiko. Then, after they both fail to win his affections and choose to try calligraphy, their relationship realigns, but with a new balance between them. A truer balance. That’s good narrative building!

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What holds Handa-kun back from being great is that it only gives us one side of the coin seen in Barakamon. There, Handa played off of another character, and there was warmth from their back-and-forth.

Here, there is truly no warmth. Handa doesn’t like anyone here, not even a little. This isn’t ‘wrong’ but it is a little weird if you think about it: it’s about a talented jackass getting away with whatever and everyone assuming he’s a nice person.

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The Verdict: Handa-kun has a solid formula and it deserves plenty of laughs. There’s real craft to how the narrative is constructed too. That said, it’s hard to imagine Handa-kun standing out without Barakamon.

And this is no Barakamon.

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Handa-kun – 01 (First Impressions)

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Barakamon was an awesome, often frenetic comedy with a ton of heart, so I was weary of a prequel taking place in high school. There was no need to worry: Handa-kun is an entirely different animal in the best way. It’s no match for Barakamon, but it has it’s own absurd energy and charm.

If you’d assume the first half of the first episode of a show called Handa-kun would contain…Handa-kun, you’d be mistaken! Instead, we get a lengthy, and very meta, scene in which four of Handa’s friends miss the first episode of his anime, and so make their own horrifying Handa-kun, until the studio mails the real anime to them.

The scene plays with out own expectations and ignorance about what exactly this show is going to be about (besides Handa in high school), while taking a couple of good-hearted digs at the expectant audience-anime studio relationship.

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When we finally get to Handa in high school, he’s an absolute mess, as expected. While everyone around him either loves, envies, or reveres him, Handa doesn’t have a clue, and gets the exact opposite vibes that are being thrown his way. Even the button-cute class idol wants to date him, but he assumes she’s trying to beat him up.

Handa’s talent also lets him get away with murder in class, as his thought processes often leak into public hearing, the math lesson be damned. He doesn’t bother to look or hear anything anyone does or says correctly. He’s hopeless.

That being said, Handa tries to hear Maiko out, but in the strangest way possible; writing a note for Maiko’s gruff, bizarrely proportioned friend Juri, in a scrawl elaborate and nigh-incomprehensible to a high schooler. Not exactly the best way to relay a clear message!

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His note convinces Juri that he’s into her, and so when Handa arrives at the agreed upon spot behind the gym after school, both Juri and Maiko are there waiting for him. Naturally, he assumes the worst: some kind of challenged or fight is imminent, but you have to respect his “courage”…if only he had a friggin’ clue what was going on around him! Alas, his constantly churning mind obscures all.

We close on that spot behind the gym, and go back to the group of four friends who started the episode, just as frustrated as I am by the “To Be Continued.” But the kicker is when they mail Handa their creepily-drawn homemade anime, and before the OP is over,  he simply has to switch it off.

Well, that’s not what I’ll be doing with the real anime…it was a gas, and I’m excited to see what bizarreness it can bring to bear next time.

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