Happy Sugar Life – 06 – Losing the Moon

Shouko, who is consistently the most normal of characters in this show full of loons, encounters Asahi, and she isn’t one to just keep walking. At her heart she’s a “good girl”, even as she once made a habit of staying out late at night to fool around with men.

She’s also good enough friends with Satou that she knows when she’s hiding something. She’s just not ready to believe Taiyo’s accusations. Meanwhile, Satou tries to hem in Taiyo from further interference by offering to let him meet Shio, while the masochistic teacher is dedicated to finding proof Satou murdered her aunt.

Satou’s far-too-together demeanor at work continuies to elicit suspicion in Shoko, who walks the same shopping district she and Satou used to hang out looking for guys. Only this time, she goes to the park to find Asahi sleeping under a bench, and gives him more food. She has no ulterior motives, she has no hidden neurosis; she’s just helping someone in need.

She wants to know how Asahi got into this state, and he tells her the story of how his mother and Shio escaped the house where her drunk husband was beating her. Asahi stayed behind so “the devil” wouldn’t go looking for his mom and Chio.

Staying meant enduring beatings and KGB-style fingernail torture, but Asahi it was worth it; he’d take the abuse so Mom and Chio could be safe and free. He had his moments of despair, but ultimately endured until his father drank himself to death.

The unbridled joy of discovering this fact is quickly marred when Asahi goes to his mom’s house to find Chio has been kidnapped. His Mom, who from the look of the place was not coping well with living and caring for her kid on her own (even though the alternative would’ve obviously been worse; at least she’s not being beaten) simply tells Asahi it was “too late.”

Shouko scores a day out with Satou, their first time hanging out as friends in a good long time. They have a lot of fun, but Shouko has a mission in mind: she wants to know the truth. Satou is initially totally unwilling to tell her, since it’s something she doesn’t want a good girl like Shouko getting mixed up in.

Shouko forces the issue by telling Satou that she wants nothing else but to know what she’s involved in, because she loves her friend more than anyone else. These words seem to move Satou, and she invites Shouko to come to her house to learn what secret she’s been hiding with a non-existent boyfriend.

Even so, I’m not convinced Satou is capable of trusting Shouko with all of the dark things she’s done that even she herself has compartmentalized. Then again, I find it hard to believe Satou would do anything to Shouko in the presence of Shio—which calls to mind how exactly Shio’s kidnapping went down. More concerning is the fact the masochistic teacher is tailing Satou. I can’t see any of this ending well.

One Punch Man – 12 (Fin)

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With just one episode left, One Punch Man doesn’t waste any time with an OP or recap; we’re plunged right into the hugely-anticipated Saitama-Boros bout. It’s everything I could have hoped for. As Saitama claims an early arm from Boros, below the ship the S’s finish off their opponent, led by Silverfang/Bang, who grabs the foe’s core before he can regenerate his body around it, showing sprightliness beyond his years. Drive Knight also warns Genos not to trust Metal Knight, potentially presaging interhero treachery.

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Meantime, it’s back to the Main Event. Yep, all my shows are ending the same way, but that’s okay, as they’ve all used slightly different approaches to the Final Epic Duel. OPM gets into abstract territory by unleashing a lush and dazzling rainbow of colors, textures, movements, and styles of line, with ironically very little damage being done to either combatant. Hell, Saitama is punched literally To The Moon—what I assume is an equally iconic image in the manga.

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But it’s no big; Saitama takes advantage of the Moon’s weaker gravity to blast himself right back to ex-City A (causing the alien ship to list in the process) and the battle continues. It’s clear both combatants are having a lot of fun, now that they’re fighting opponents who won’t go down instantly. And many a frame in the fight would make a great piece of art to hang on your wall.

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After hearing about so many special moves from so many foes, Saitama decides to break out his ulitmate move: Killer Move: Serious Series…Serious Punch. And No, he doesn’t need to work on that awful name; the fact that it’s awful matches his persona perfectly…not to mention reminds me of “The Paddling of the Swollen Ass…With Paddles.”

Whatever it’s called, it’s the punch that defeats Boros, who remains alive long enough to thank Saitama for a good fight, happy that the prophecy proved true, but also very cognizant of the fact Saitama had plenty of strength to spare and held back; Boros never had a chance of beating him. It’s nice to hear an enemy admit defeat so graciously at the end, rather than cursing and fuming his way to the grave, as many a final boss are wont to do.

As for his surviving crew? The Class S’s round them up and take them into custody, but before that, Amai Mask confronts them and tells them what a terrible job they did due to the destruction of City A and resultant damage to the Hero Association’s reputation. He doubts the media and public will buy that they “did their best”, even though they did.

Amai Mask thus reveals himself as the ultimate villain in OPM; the guy who’s never satisfied with a victory he did not himself create. Metal Knight swoops in like a vulture to pick the bones of the alien ship and develop new weapons…for, uh, for peace. Right.

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Due to coincidence, Tornado happens to be floating right by the exact spot where Saitama bursts out of the wreckage of the ship, where he’s met by an elated Genos. Both of them ignore the little green esper until she protests, and Genos shows some rare saltiness by calling her a spoiled brat and ordering her silence (Bang breaks up an extended fight).

While Amai Mask is initially right and the destruction of City A remains in the headlines for months, news about it, and any public disgust that went with it, eventually fades. The Hero Association builds an even bigger, stronger headquarters, and builds highways sprawling out like spokes from a wheel to every city for quick dispatch of heroes. Humanity comes out of its clash with Boros’ ship stronger than ever.

And, in a comforting epilogue, Saitama and Genos remain Master and Apprentice in mopping up baddies who’d threaten humanity. Sure, there’s still a lot of collateral damage in such battles, but buildings and infrastructure can always be rebuilt. Evil must be punched, and Saitama and Genos will keep punching, for fun and profit. Here’s hoping someday we get to watch them punch more.

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Houkago no Pleiades – 04

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The magical transformations girls make in Magical Girl shows often go hand in hand with their personal growth. It’s as much about discovery and mastery of their identity as much as their powers.

Pleiades is no different from this convention; where it continues to distinguish itself is in the execution and the emotional impact of its situations. Last week was about Subaru. This week, it’s Hikaru’s turn to get fleshed out.

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At the same time, the show continues to incrementally extend the reach of its magical girl action with each passing episode, much to my delight. First the sky, then the boundary between Earth and space, and now…the moon. The training, involving being able to attain not only escape velocity, but a speed that will ensure they don’t miss school! I love it.

While largely about the highly intelligent and talented, yet underachieving Hikaru’s personal emotional impasse with her similarly intelligent, talented, overachieving parents, there’s also room this week for Subaru’s weekly visit to Minato’s garden of encouragement, where he plants the seed of believing someone, and being believed, if there’s no reason for them to think you’re lying.

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That’s important, because Hikaru’s family communicates their daily whereabouts primarily through whiteboard. Her apartment may look empty and lonely at first glance, but that board is crucial, dutifully filled out as it is every day without fail: it’s the way they devised to always stay in contact in spirit, if not often in person.

Before leaving for the moon, Hikaru makes something up on the board, once again “doing things halfway”. But then she decides to wipe out the white lie on the whiteboard and write where she’s actually going: the Moon.

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It’s another awesome journey full of grace and grandeur; another wonderful study on the full breadth of magical girl power. I especially liked the different, more subtle sound space made once the girls were clear of Earth’s atmo, and I really enjoyed Hikaru’s cute little dream where her subconscious’ version Subaru as a bit of an idiot—only to learn Subaru shared her dream!

That’s also key because Subaru knows about Hikaru’s unease with her father and the song he wrote. One night she heard music in his practice room even though he wasn’t in there, and decided to write a measure of music in a place where he had gotten stuck. It’s something she always felt guilty about, worried she was interfering in her parents fully achieving their dreams.

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Where she’s wrong is that she is the shared dream of her parents; one far more important than any concerto or astronomical discovery. When her dad sees she wrote down “Moon!” on the whiteboard, he and her mom work together to send his piano music to the Moon; to the cherished daughter they don’t feel they deserve.

She didn’t mess up her dad’s music; she helped him finished it, and the loving way he plays it demonstrates his pride and gratitude for that. The nabbing of their biggest fragment yet is a great product of their lunar excursion, but it’s overshadowed by Hikaru finally being able to show her feelings in front of her friends, who may be initially shocked by her tears, but are also happy they’re seeing another side of their friend.

So, all in all another very good episode from Pleiades. I look forward to seeing who’s turn it will be to get a little more fleshed out next week—Itsuki? Nanako?—and hope the show’s expansion will proceed deeper out into the solar system, and beyond!

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Gundam: G no Reconguista – 13

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She does? Well that’s good. What’s also good: I think kinda understand the situation too! Representatives of Capital Tower and Ameria find themselves at Sankt Porto, faced with a common enemy from the Moon. The two entities that have been warring all this time are better off forming a united front against this enemy.

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To that end, the grown-up have to talk it out and discuss the wherefores and particulars and whatnot…

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Hey Bell, this is boring, right? How ’bout we head back out into space and kick some mobile ass!

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RED RUM. RED RUM.

Rara may understand the situation, but it’s still tricky to understand her, or her sudden and cryptic reactions to things. And her vocabulary remains shockingly limited.

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Well, yeah. What are you fogeys going to do…talk the enemy to death? Actually, that might work.

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I like how Kerbes Yoh is the voice of reason in wondering why Bell is going into battle with two civilians stuffed into his cockpit. For their part, Neither Noredo nor Rara want to leave, and Bell is so used to being surrounded by girls in his cockpit that it would have never occured to him to drop them off somewhere safe.

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A tender moment between Mask and BARARA. Of course, he’s telling her they’ll only go so far in their cooperation with the Amerians. If the opportunity arises to get the upper hand on them, they’ll take it. Bara likes how he’s thinking.

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Bell and Aida board the Garanden under a flag of truce, and they’re surprised to find their old friend Manny there, she having followed Luin but lost track of him, probably because now he wears a mask, making all his other distinguishing features invisible to the eye (apparently).

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It’s actually a pretty cool sight to see the Capital Mack Knifes in a joint formation with the G-Self and other various suits, then meeting up with Klim and his sidekick. As the moon fleet sends negotiators to Sankt, Klim decides to use a false white flag to get closer to them.

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It doesn’t work at all, and I’m glad it doesn’t, because it means these Moonies are your typical idiotic tacticians. They launch a torrent of missles at the joint formation, but all are deflected or destroyed, and everyone retreats back to the port. The Moonies cease fire, not wanting to hit the port.

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This leads to maybe one of the best moments in the show, when everyone who had been battling each other all this time, for various purposes (or due to outright misunderstandings) all end up in the same elevator together. The line above really says it all.

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Alright…WHO FARTED? I’m lookin’ at you, Maskie.

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From the elevator, everyone eventually files into a large audience chamber where Aida’s Dad, Bell’s Mom, and His Holiness are already talking things over with the Moonies, and again you get the feeling the youths would rather be somewhere else shooting or punching something. In fact, a fistfight does almost break out between Klim and one of the Moon pilots, but Bell comes between them.

Oh, Klim also is the first to say “reconguista” in the show, because of course he is.

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Ultimately, Aida isn’t going to take the Moonies by their many many boring words. She wants to spring back into action, which means heading to the moon herself and seeing what she sees with eyes unclouded by the motives of other parties. So that’s where she and Bell and likely the rest of the gang are headed next week.

Entering it’s second half, Recon in G is finally starting to make some doggone sense! But the plot still didn’t interest me so much as all the lovely reluctant alliances and strange bedfellows created this week.

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Nobunaga the Fool – 09

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Jeanne wants to stand beside Nobunaga the Savior King and protect him, but that means she needs a giant war armor. Happily, da Vinci just happens to build Orleans out of spare parts in what seems like no time at all, proving he truly was the MacGyver of his age. The only problem is, Jeanne can’t seem to get the damn regalia activated.

Nobu is as tactful and patient as he is modest, offering Jeanne no comfort for her struggles. As for Himiko, she’s caught on that “Ranmaru” is a potential rival in the fight for her betrothed’s heart. Then there’s the matter of Uesugi Kenshin deciding to ally with the Caesar-led Takeda clan, despite not liking the guy. This sends Nobu’s advisors and subjects alike into a panic. Some even bring up the prospect of simply surrendering.

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Jeanne’s tarot draw is The Moon, reversed: to advance without hesitation. Jeanne removes the hesitation by vowing not just to protect the Savior King, but all of heaven and earth he’s destined to rule. With her way of thinking shifted and her power unlocked, Nobu meets with his advisors and da Vinci has him mic’d up as he gives one of his uber-motivational speeches. Seriously, if we heard all that blaring from “speakers” we never knew existed, we’d totally turn around and head back home.

In addition to Nobu rallying the troops and Jeanne finding her groove, the episode gives us a little more of a glimpse into Mitsuhide’s tortured existence, as he awakes from nightmares about Nobukatsu, his arm wavers as he reaches for his demon mask again (to deal with more treasonous advisors), and he dismisses Ichihime’s advances. Caesar is still around and has powerful new allies, but at least they don’t like him. Also, Himiko tells Jeanne she considers her a rival for Nobu’s heart, but she doesn’t intend to lose. Unfortunately, Nobu ignores her the entire episode.

7_very_goodRating:7 (Very Good)

Samurai Flamenco – 18

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Well now, that was pretty damn weird. Dealing with the fairly lame Alien Flamenco, thought to be the next great menace to world peace, was only a one-episode exercise, in which Samurai Flamenco attains new heights of ridiculousness. It aims to fit all of the random stuff that has happened to Masayoshi and Co. up to now into one grand unifying theory of bullshit, and it doesn’t quite pull it off.

In its haste to explain the connections between all of Flamenco’s increasingly strange battles, it inflates Masayoshi to an undesirable god-like status, or at least to the level of a messiah-like instrument of God. Saying the “will of the universe” sent enemy after enemy to Masayoshi because he wished for them is tidy and all, but ultimately not very satisfying. It was all a bit silly, frankly.

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While it tries to come off as a “Ha-ha, we’re in on the joke” silly, we got more of a “Meh, we’ll just make it up as we go along” vibe, which can be fine, but it’s harder than it looks. Even if this was all planned from the start, the answers we get this week just weren’t worth all of the whiplash of the past escalations. It’s a nonchalant, overly-meta resolution that does a disservice to the other characters who sweated and bled and cried and struggled by his side all this time. Like the big From Beyond battle, this just wasn’t as clever or ironic as it thought it was.

Take away the window-dressing of the “illusions” and the brief and fairly plain space battle, and this was nothing but Masayoshi standing around talking with a robot who’d finish sentences in English for no reason, followed by somebody who may as well be God, taking the form of Masayoshi’s friends and enemies. But hey, at least he makes what we thought was the right decision: to stop the flow of goofy villains and return to normal life on Earth.


Rating: 5 (Average)

Valvrave the Liberator – 20

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Haruto and the rest of the team that went to earth successfully stop the Phantom headed to Module 77 and return to a hero’s welcome, as Shoko has been gathering support and media attention. She has also arranged an international summit, where ARUS and other powers have pledged to condemn Dorssia’s actions. L-elf has isolated himself in a cargo hold. When the summit starts, the Dorssian Fuhrer commences a broadcast announcing they have Rukino Saki in custody. Cain stabs her through the heart and everyone watches her revive and heal, proving she isn’t human.

Last season we weren’t shy in expressing our reservations about the viability of an independent country ruled for and by a bunch of high schoolers. We’d spent so much time with the Earth-bound team recently that we nearly forgot the bulk of the country was still on the Moon, trying not to wear out their welcome and forging alliances. Haruto also forgot that Shoko and the others were fighting while he was otherwise occupied. It’s a shock to see the fruit of his labors in the form of tearful family reunions and hard-hitting media interviews by journalist who have dealt with his naive sort before, who make him wonder if he really is tilting at windmills.

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Kyuuma also tells Haruto he’ll go mad if he tries to fix all the myriad problems currently on his plate, and should enjoy life while he can; for tomorrow, everything could be over. Haruto shows a glimmer of reception to that, as he’s well aware he’s running himself ragged trying to do everything when he can’t. There’s no more powerful reminder of the result of that path than poor L-elf, who executed his plan all the way to the end but ended up losing the most important thing in the world to him. Now he’s lost, inconsolable, and New JIOR is immediately worse off for it, as Dorssia proves they can fight a P.R. war with the best of them.

Now that the secret of the Valvrave pilots is essentially out, New JIOR will likely find themselves standing alone, and all of Shoko’s diplomatic work blowing up in her face. That unfortunate and sudden reversal of fortune is the Council’s doing, as they’re tired of these children and want them out of the way. Even if L-elf was 100% back on his game, the fact remained they left Saki behind. And almost as a cruel self-rebuttal to that horrible music video the JIORans made in more innocent times, the show has Saki viciously stabbed through the heart on live TV to an audience of hundreds of millions. Valvrave does not mess around.

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Rating: 8 
(Great)
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Valvrave the Liberator – 13

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Two months after Module 77 narrowly escapes destruction, they dock at the neutral Moon, where they receive sympathy and supplies but run into bureaucratic hurdles with ARUS. Module 77 plans to send a delegation to Earth, but the Valvraves shut down, their energy exhausted. Kibukawa and L-elf determine that the “runes” that fuel the Valvrave can only be gathered by attacking humans. Haruto grudingly attacks L-elf, refueling the Valvraves, and they cross the neutral zone and battle the Dorssian fleet that was waiting for them.

After a season-long hiatus, Valvrave is back to baffle, shock, and entertain us in relatively equal measure. We can’t say we missed all the mythological mumbo-jumbo about councils of the hundred, magiuses, and holy spirits, but we’re glad to be once again following the trials and tribulations of one of the high school that declared itself an independant nation, protected by five mechas piloted by students who tosses aside their humanity and essentially became vampires. We especially liked how Shouko and L-Elf had settled nicely into their new official roles, though they both faced plenty of challenges.

Reinforcing their status as horrifying burdens in addition to the only force that is currently staving off enslavement by Dorssia, Haruto gets the bad news that he’s been going into fits and viciously attacking people because he’s jonesin’ for their “runes”, which we guess is a fancy way of saying “life force”. Haruto-y Haruto that he is, he’s hell-bent on carrying as much as this burden as he can, and he’s to find the people who developed the damnable things on Earth. He wants to be human again, and if that can’t happen, he wants to destroy the Valvraves once they’ve fulfiled their use. Just one problem: when exactly will New JIOR ever not need them?


Rating: 7 (Very Good)

Stray Observations:

  • Saki records a bestselling album, then offers her body to Haruto, who resists. Then he feeds from L-Elf. Saki probably won’t be happy if she learns about that.
  • We get to see the Dorssians in their training sweats sipping from 80’s-style water bottles. Pretty sweet.
  • Apparently the OS avatar in Haruto’s unit is called “Pino”, while the one in Cain’s is called “Prue.”
  • Cain and his superior Mirko watch with smug satisfaction as the “children” of Valvrave are constructed. That isn’t going to be good for JIOR.

Nerawareta Gakuen

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Seki Kenji is a seemingly average, clumsy junior high student who lives with his grandfather and baby sister, and lives next door to the athletic Ryouura Natsuki, his childhood friend who harbors feelings for him. Kenji and Natsuki start the first day of school meeting their friend Kahori Harukawa, who Kenji has a crush on, but before that Kenji meets the new transfer student, Kyougoku Ryouichi, for the first time.

Ryouichi turns out to be a time traveler from a future where mankind has abandoned Earth and live on the moon. He has come to awaken the psychic powers of people in Kenji’s time. Kahori falls in love with him at first sight, leading to her rejecting Kenji, who is later confessed to by Natsuki in no uncertain terms. As Kenji, Natsuki, and Kahori struggle with their relationships, the student body is being reprogrammed by Ryouichi, and the council becomes more and more averse to cell phones. Ryouichi warns Kenji that they’ll have to fight, but agrees to put it off so the four of them can have a day at the beach.

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When it’s over, Kenji’s time on Earth is almost up, he reciprocates his feelings for Kahori, but knows her memory of him will vanish when he returns to the moon. Kenji’s psychic powers are released by his grandfather, and he uses them to return Ryouichi to his time. He goes with him, telling Natsuki to wait for him. After they’re gone, neither Kahori or Natsuki remember Ryouichi or Kenji. But one day, at the start of another school year, the two girls discuss the new transfer student, and Kenji reappears, along with Natsuki’s memories of him.

While we tend to focus nearly exclusively on television anime, we find it important to check out a film once and a while, to see what a big budget and one-and-three-quarter-plus running time can do. This film does quite a bit, transporting us into an epically gorgeous and lush seaside town and drawing us into the lives of kids who’d realize how gosh-darn lucky they are to live in such an idyllic world if they weren’t constantly pining for one another. With all kinds of jumps, flips, bounces, and blows, the fluid animation brings Kenji, Natsuki, Kahori and Ryouichi to life at a level television can’t ever match with consistency.

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The visuals are all on, all the time, a picture of otherworldly hyperrealism to reflect how Ryouichi sees the Earth after living his whole life on the moon, with unblinking eyes. Our Favorite Seiyu Hanazawa Kana lends her voice to the surface-perfect Kahori, while Natsuki is voiced by the up-and-coming Wantanabe Mayu, who knocks it out of the park in the first thing we ever heard her in. Natsuki’s incessant teasing got on our nerves at first, but before long we were rooting for her. Just as ambitious as the sights and sounds is the sprawling story of two separate worlds and a moving love polygon that resolves itself in a way that’s to our liking (there’s one kiss in particular that was stunning in its execution).

There’s a lovely recurring theme of mirrors. The teacher likens theater to a mirror through which the audience see versions of themselves. Natsuki, whose love for Kenji is (initially) one-sided – sees Kenji (who has the same one-sided feelings for Kahori) as a mirror. The moon mirrors the earth. The mechanics of time travel and the awakening and use psychic powers are handled elegantly and without too much fuss. In the end, Ryouichi may have failed the mission his father sent him on, but his presence on earth led to Natsuki’s feelings finally reaching Kenji, creating the possibility that the two needn’t remain nothing more or less than just neighbors.

In fact, one of our only gripes with this film might just be its title, translated as “Psychic School Wars” – which hardly does the film justice.

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Rating: 9 (Superior)