Fire Force – 07 – A Long Way to Go

In the wake of the nighttime “joint exercise” (read: heated battle) between the 5th and 8th companies, their commanders decide to hold a “job well done” cookout in hopes of fostering peace—and keeping their superiors off their backs.

There’s no clearer evidence that the two companies have put their differences aside than Princess Hibana feeding Shinra cuts of grilled meat, but she also agrees to assist Captain Oubi and the 8th in their investigation of the scourge of spontaneous human combustions.

The most likely culprit is believed to be someone from the 1st company, since most of the man-made infernals come from their jurisdiction. It’s logical enough, even if it’s almost as likely to be someone not of the 1st who just happens to operating there.

In any case, Oubi wants eyes and ears on the inside, so he makes use of the above-board, inter-company trainee exchange program to send Shinra and Arthur to the 1st. They’re accompanied by first-years from the 2nd and 8th to allay suspicion that the 8th is up to something.

When Maki escorts the trainees to the 1st’s Captain Burns (the fire soldier at the scene when Shinra’s family was killed), Shinra immediately challenges him to sparring, with the understanding that if he can beat Burns, the good captain has to answer his questions without reservation.

But as both the 2nd Company trainee and Arthur exhibit, these 1st dudes are no joke, and challenging them to a fight so soon, even under the guise of training, doesn’t so much help their investigation as show them exactly what they’re up against in terms of strength.

One of Burns’ lieutenants, Karim, can turn flame into ice with the use of some kind of one-man-band air compressor, while Burns is able to stop and extinguish Arthur’s vaunted Excalibur with one lazily outstretched hand.

When Shinra gives Burns his best shot, it’s clear no member of the 1st is breaking a sweat today, despite Tamaki’s needless worry that Shinra might be able to hurt one of them. Once Burns dispatches Shinra, he asks him why he became a fire soldier, and suddenly Shinra’s spiel about wanting to be a hero to stop what happened to his family to happen ever again, Burns simply replies that Shinra has a long way to go to achieving that goal.

Still, perhaps being among such scarily powerful fire soldiers will help Shinra learn a thing or two, even as he and Arthur investigate the possibility one of them is creating Infernals. One 1st soldier I’m reasonably certain is innocent in all this is Tamaki, whose main special skill seems to be accidentally tripping and falling on men…her superiors have even adopted a habit of catching her in mid-air.

Owari no Seraph 2 – 07

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After just leaving Aihara Aiko and her squad behind to die, Guren indulges Yuu’s desire to save the hostages rather than kill them to end their suffering and retreat. But since these noble attacks are decoys to allow the main Shibuya force to move without detection, it doesn’t really matter how they proceed at Nagoya city hall, as long as the count of able-bodied soldiers doesn’t go down too far.

Shinoa tells Yuu to be calm more than once when discussing what’s to be done about the hostages, but she’ll suffer no deviation from her orders: if they can’t save the hostages in five minutes, everyone is to retreat, no ifs ands or buts. Narumi’s squad will back hers, while Guren, Shinya, and his team will target Crowley, Belle, and Horn. But as Shinya and Yoichi’s first shot demonstrates, these nobles won’t go down so easily.

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While I can see what the show was trying to do by building up the attack, the orders not to die and the setting of the watches, and all the talking didn’t help the pace of this episode, nor did the apparent contradiction in abandoning one squad to die but saving another in a much more dangerous situation. But when the battle finally begins, things pick up nicely, as we see just how easily Guren’s people can mow down vampire foot soldiers.

Still, it’s nobles Guren is after, and when he finally crosses swords with Crowley, what is surely his best strike is easily turned away. Crowley is more bemused than anything else by the sudden attack, but admits to his two lieutenants that in the short-term, humans can actually be somewhat entertaining. The result of their efforts isn’t in doubt for him, but he’ll patiently see what they can do.

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Guren on his own is clearly not enough against Crowley, but Shinya undermines the element of surprise by announcing he’s behind Crowley. Before he can say “checkmate”, both Guren and Shinya are in a pile, and have to regroup. Meanwhile, Yuu and the others are done early, so under pressure from Yuu, Shinoa decides to dedicate three minutes—no more—to helping Guren out. Interestingly, this week there’s no downing of PEDs, though one would think those would come in handy against nobles as they had in the past. Maybe they took some earlier and they haven’t worn off yet?

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In any case, Guren and Shinya, wounded and soundly outmatched, are forced to scurry from one room to another at an increasingly slow clip, with Crowley and his ladies always catching up. Yet as long as they’re keeping the nobles busy, the mission continues to be a success. It’s just…it would be really nice if these three vampires could be brought down.

But considering how easily we’ve seen Guren take care of Yuu, I don’t see how Yuu is the man to do it. It will have be a concerted team effort, as it was for their first bagged noble. But all that might be moot once Mika arrives. Could he join forces with Yuu to beat Crowley, in service of his ultimate goal to free and protect Yuu from those who would hurt or use him? Stranger things have happened.

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Owari no Seraph 2 – 06

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Unlike the foppish Lucal, Crowley isn’t above treating the humans as a legitimate threat, or at least a nuisance more pressing than a smattering of ants at his feet. Testing the power of the demon gear of a dead soldier on his lieutenant Chess, then cutting himself and noting it isn’t healing; he’s carefully assessing the advancing enemy before acting.

But this isn’t out of respect for a worthy adversary. In fact, judging from their casual attitude and banter, Crowley and his ladies are just as certain in the supremacy of vampires. Rather, Crowley suspects the humans are getting help from a high-ranking vampire traitor, and he has a pretty good idea that it’s either Ferid or Krul.

What would surprise Crowly is if his treacherous comrades were the ones having their strings pulled by a lowly human. Such a human might even hold his interest for a measurable amount of time, insomuch as a cool-looking bug would for you or me.

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As Crowley watches, waits, and thinks, Shinoa and Narumi’s squads stand by awaiting the other squads at a rendezvous point. The focus of last week’s battle, here they’re only around for a bit, to show Guren the teams have gelled nicely and that he was right to put Yuu under Narumi’s charge; the two are a lot alike and both enjoy the occasional joke.

But it’s easy to joke around a bit when you’ve come off your last battle unscathed. And the result of a squad that didn’t fare to well is the focus of this week, which could just as easily be titled The Passion of Aihara Aiko. Aihara’s squad of fifteen completed their mission objectives, but lost eight in the process, and Aihara is extremely upset and guilty about it, and her mask of stoicism quickly falls.

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Guren can’t wait for the other squads, so he takes Shinoa’s and Narumi’s and his own and head to city hall to rescue the hostages, leaving Aihara and her men to stay behind in case other squads arrive. Another decimated squad joins them, but so do a couple of Vampire Chinooks. Aihara takes one out with her bow, but the second drops its troops, led by Lacus, Rene…and Mika.

When the vampires capture all of Aihara’s men, she orders them to bite down on their suicide pills. Just like that, her unit is gone, and there’s only her and Mika, who pulls the pill out of her mouth before she can join her comrades. He wants one thing: info on Yuu. And he’s willing to spare Aihara to get it.

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As Lacus and Rene survey the area Aihara and Mika’s exchange is masterful. She’s initially defiant and tells him to go ahead and kill her, but she then gets the feeling there’s something different about this particular vampire while Mika knows she’s met Yuu.

The two then do a little bit of play-acting, with Aihara agreeing to “inform” on the other humans if he spares her life. In this way, she tells only Mika that Yuu is headed to city hall, but sends Lacus and Rene in the wrong direction, which is what both she and Mika want, for different reasons.

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Mika’s fine with leaving Aihara alone at that point, but she doesn’t want him to leave her alone; she wants him to kill her, because her squad, her family, is all gone, and she thinks it’s because of her. She has nothing left to live for. Mika refuses to do it, but she forces the issue by attacking him. She thanks him with her dying breath as she falls to the ground. Lacus and Rene shrug and head off.

Honestly I didn’t remember much about Aihara Aiko until this week, but I will surely remember her now, in this, the tensest and most affecting episode of Seraph 2. Her palpable despair, her sense of loss, her fleeting ‘dance’ with Mika, and the increasing unlikelihood she would come out of all this alive; all of it combined to form a sad but brilliant self-contained tragedy that underlines the challenges humanity faces in directly taking the vampires on.

It also underscored Mika’s single-mindedness. No Crowley- or Hiiragi-type big-picture stuff here: Mika wants to live happily ever after with his family Yuu safe in his arms. And woe betide any human or vampire who stands in the way of that goal.

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Owari no Seraph 2 – 05

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This is it; no more messing around: it’s time to start killing vampire nobles. Narumi and Shinoa’s squads plus Shinya are tasked with destroying Lucal Wesker, a foppish vamp who loves drinking blood on his favorite park bench that offers snipers a perfect target. But he sits out there in the open to make a point: he doesn’t fear livestock. He should.

Before they move out, however, Yuu stretches and makes a dig about their target’s name, which is just more ammo for the Narumi team to think they can’t count on these newbies. Both Shinoa and Yuu apologize, with Yuu solemnly stating he only remembers the names of those he wants to protect, then surprises his new comrades by stating all their names, gaining more of their trust.

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Meanwhile, Yoichi is up in a radio tower, learning the sniping ropes with Shinya. But Lucal senses their first shot before they fire it, and sacrifices his right-hand man to block it. He blocks Yuu’s strike with one hand and stops Shinoa’s scythe with his other. At this point Lucal is more displeased with having spilled his glass of AAA four-year-old female blood; it would have been cooler if he’d continue holding it and handle the humans with one hand, without spilling. Alas.

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If nothing else, this fight shows that Guren was right to increase manpower per noble, as Lucal is perfectly able to withstand even a multi-pronged attack with the element of surprise against him. But getting away from one onslaught means sacrificing his own left forearm, which Shiho uses as bait while provoking him to enter their formation, which he does.

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Lucal finally got fed up with being messed with by all this livestock, and when he figures his time is up, he refuses to give them the pleasure of having finished him, doing the job himself. I really thought the redhead Yayoi Endo was a goner, but Lucal merely shoved her aside. Their mission is a success, and the Narumi team learns that the Shinoa team, and even Yuu, are people they can put their trust in. It was an enlightening, complete team effort.

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But these two teams are clearly two of the best; after all, three teams each were sent after other nobles. We watched the best take care of business, but the not-best didn’t fare so well. Their hard-won victory begs the question of how the other teams are doing. We don’t see them, but instead check in on Guren as he barely finishes a noble on his own; his elite team of five is working alone.

A dying survivor then arrives to report to Guren that the city hall team’s mission was a fiasco: 26 killed, 19 taken hostage. Guren knows it’s a trap. His comrades know its a trap. But they have to go anyway. His team will join with Narumi and Shinoa’s squad, and take out the target: 13th Progenitor Crowley Eusford, who I recognize from last season as the first noble Yuu & Co. encountered. I bet he’ll be a bit tougher to bring down than Lucal.

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Owari no Seraph 2 – 04

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On the way to Nagoya, after fighting off Four Horsemen of Johns, Shinoa has a little fun by leaving Yuu behind to walk the rest of the way. In addition to being a little too mean, it seems extraordinarily stupid thing to do under such serious circumstances. The show thinks it was dumb to, and Shinoa later comes to regret it, because Guren throws and elaborate lesson their way that drives the message into her and all the other newbies’ heads. Fooling around will get your family killed, so knock it off.

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When the five show up late, they make a bad first impression on the more experienced squads Guren has amassed. Then Yuu takes full responsibility, but Guren knows he’s covering. Then he, Shinya, and Mito face off against the five right there and then to test how well they gel as a team. Even three-on-five, the older soldiers barely break a sweat overwhelming the noobs. Yuu hangs in there with Guren, but in the process, all of his comrades are “killed” by the other two veterans.

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The lesson is, take this seriously and learn to work better together under duress, because the vampire nobles they’re going after are even tougher, and won’t end the lesson by sparing lives and mussing Yuu’s hair. Yuu is uncharacteristically mature throughout this lesson, already working out how they should handle such a fight next time, and taking it in stride when Sgt. Narumi protests the newbies’ inclusion in the plan.

Speaking up backfires for Narumi, as Guren puts him and his haughty squad in charge of teaching Shinoa’s squad the ropes, much to their chagrin. But Yuu doesn’t feel like a hot potato, or at least doesn’t show it: he’s eager to work and learn. As long as he can kill vampires and get Mika back, he’s growing up in a hurry.

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As for Mika, the day Krul warned about—when her blood alone would no longer be sufficient—is fast arriving. Mika has insisted on not drinking human blood, but the blood calls to him as his partner and their squad rounds up children for tribute to the very nobles Guren’s group of 100 are going after.

He pounces on a girl and grabs her by the throat, but is able to pull himself back…for now. But that control will only get more and more difficult to maintain. When that happens, he’ll have little choice but death or human blood. But would he really choose the former, knowing what it might do to Yuu?

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Sore ga Seiyuu! – 09

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After eight episodes focusing on the seiyu, mostly Futaba, this episode switches things up a bit and re-tells many of the past events, along with a couple future ones, from the perspective of Futaba’s petite but tireless manager Konno Aoi.

As the intermediary between numerous seiyu and numerous production companies, her day is never not busy, and it’s full of small victories and failures, either made better or worse by how she reacts to them and how she delivers the news to her charges.

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From a flashback in the cold open we see what brought Konno into this kind of work: while taking the stage or the spotlight isn’t for her, facilitating the rise of others is not only something she’s good at, but something she enjoys, especially when she gets a big hug from the recipient as a reward.

Just as Futaba makes up for her relative deficiency of otherworldly talent of the Kamiyas and Hories by working hard and trying to stay positive, Konno works no less hard to get Futaba two jobs in one day, further building up her experience, motivation, and confidence as she gets better with time.

Plus, their increasingly dramatic run through the city to make a recording appointment (instead of simply calling to say they got held up in traffic) made for an unexpectedly amusingly action sequence.

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Sore ga Seiyuu! – 08

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This week Futa-Futa, Ichigo and Rin-Rin are reunited for an in-store event marking the release of their first CD single, “Into Your Ears.” There, they learn of the stress and anticipation prior to the event starting, along with the understanding that the designated performance room will not be packed, judging from the wider spacing of the seats and the fact a couple of employees will be in the crowd (I count 31 total people above).

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But despite all that, the girls do their best for their small but passionate mini-legion of fans who did turn out to watch their first performance, and while the song doesn’t start exactly when they think it will, they don’t make any mistakes in the actual performance, which is good. Far from a fiasco, everything goes pretty smoothly.

It becomes clear to Futaba that Rin and Ichigo are more popular than she, but is heartened by an encounter with one particular fan of hers who not only knows her C.V. and traveled from Saga to see her, but bought the same Korori doll she has. I’m also glad the show didn’t go too dark or cynical with regard to the intensity of the fans; they all behaved themselves…except, perhaps, Rin’s hyper classmate/”first fan” Sayo!

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Earphones as a group also learns that they have to be realistic about the speed of their ascent into J-pop relevance, and have to be satisfied with a few CD sales rather than selling out, just as they have to be satisfied with a third- to half-full hall. Everything takes time, patience, resilience, and work work work.

After the event, Futaba ends up being called into Gonzo’s TV studios to do a narration for a show, her first such job. She’s understandably nervous about this too, especially when she learns the guy doing the job with her is the famous TV voice Machi Yuji (also the voice of Ultraman Tiga, and Tsukino Usagi’s dad). Machi-san is a Pro with a capital P, having amassed enough skill and experience to nail a script that’s literally just been handed to him, even offering the producers corrections down to the frame.

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Watching Machi work and make it look so easy is obviously quite intimidating to Futaba, to the point she totally blows her dry run. But when Machi-san tells her he used to be in her position—no one starts out perfect, or even good—she’s stops worrying about how bad she was and starts working to be as good as she can be.

Her second try is much better, and Futaba’s seiyu Takahashi Rie does a fine job clearly differentiating between bad and better to even the untrained ear. She gets through the job, and impresses enough that Machi mentions finishing a story he started next time they meet, suggesting she’ll get more work there.

If she does, each time she goes, she’ll learn more and more, and get better and better. But she won’t ever be able to stop working any less hard than she is now. Constant improvement requires constant struggle, especially for people like Futaba.

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Sore ga Seiyuu! – 07

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More jobs have come for Futaba, Ichigo and Rin, to the point that they’re busy enough to end up in the same studio on the same day, not for their Earphones work but for three separate gigs: Futaba is dubbing a zombie movie with veteran Koyama Rikiya (and the rude guy who said she stunk way back when), Ichigo is reading for an audiobook, and Rin is doing voice work for a video game.

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Futaba is scared of the film’s horror theme, especially the fact one of her roles is a zombie, but eventually finds her footing, inspired by the always professional (and veggie juice-drinking) Koyama. Ichigo must adjust her voice to something less urgent than anime yet emphatic enough to get the point across. Rin has the strangest and most abstract job, simply firing off all her lines with no one else around, and even making noises for when her character receives small, medium, and large punches.

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While all three were nervous going into their respective jobs, by the end they’re all happy and confident in their performances. And while it’s raining when it’s time to leave the studio, Futaba and Ichigo remembered to bring umbrellas, proving they’ve grown since the day they had to share Rin’s due to poor preparation. That preparation and growth is also apparent, as both the rude guy and Koyama say Futaba did well, raising her spirits even more as they head to the wrap party.

So ends another funny, informative, and charming episode about the day in the life of new but increasingly successful seiyus.

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Sore ga Seiyuu! – 06

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Earphones are about to go through a very busy gauntlet of dancing lessons, recording, music video filming, events, and promotion for their first single, “Into Your Ears.” But before that, Futaba recalls the her of last year, who recorded a Drama CD with Kugimiya Rie (the show is on a mini Toradora! tear).

When she passes a video store and sees a display for an anime adaptation of the CD, she gets excited about having to budget her time even more, which feels pretty premature; it’s practically assured at this point she’s going to end up disappointed.

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Sure enough, she doesn’t hear from the producers of the CD when she should, and it’s Rin who inadvertently breaks the news to her in the middle of one of their radio shows: she, not Futaba, will be voicing Kugimiya’s little sister in the anime version.

Futaba is able to keep it together long enough to finish the show, but after that, she just needs to get away from Rin, and Ichigo, and everything. The show really lets us feel the sting of rejection, garnished with the extra shock of her friend and unit partner being the one usurping her.

It falls to her senpai Shiodome to talk her out of her funk, and I’m pleased to report Shiodome, while kind, isn’t overly or conspicuously kind, and it seems from her body language she’d prefer not to be so hands-on with her juniors, lest they not learn the lessons they need to learn. But in this case, Futaba had her idea of being a seiyu being a dream burst.

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Shiodome clarifies that it’s the audience that sees and hears the dream, not the seiyu. The seiyu make the dream possible through their commitment and professionalism, performing with everything they’ve got no matter what’s going on with their personal lives. And all seiyu, even TsundeRie and Hocchan, have felt the sting she’s feeling.

Futaba listens to her drama CD again and learns that the her of a year ago actually sucked, but realizes the fact she can tell is proof she’s grown, and demands more of herself. Expressing to Rin her jealousy and frustration with not getting the part, but also her excitment by what Rin will bring to the part, help clear the air.

For now, Futaba must focus on Earphones, singing and dancing her heart out. If she does well, she’ll get noticed, and other jobs will come.

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Sore ga Seiyuu! – 05

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After a few eps centered on Futaba, this week focuses on Ichigo, perhaps the most abrasive of the three members of Headphones due to her need to live her Strawberry Princess persona at all times. Even alone, she refers to her room as her kingdom, even though she was fired from her part-time job and both the electricity and gas have been switched off.

It’s certainly not all strawberries and cream for Ichigo, but she gets a call from her agency notifying her she won a role in the sequel to a popular video game. Sure, it’s the role of an artificial bug who sits on the main character’s shoulder and mostly just says “Poro”, but it’s a part, damnit! People whose utilities have been switched off can’t be picky!

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After collecting her three boxes of script for the game, she shows up at the Shibuya Public Hall for a pre-launch event hosted by the game company and featuring the cast, including the lead, who is none other than Horie Yui.

Full disclosure: I’ve only experienced a tiny fraction of the 350+ productions Hocchan has performed in since 1997, but I’ve been in love ever since her wonderful role as Minori Kushieda in Toradora!.She was also pretty fantastic in Golden TimeI could go on, but suffice it to say she’s a giant in the industry.

So it’s great to see Hocchan in anime form show up not just as a cameo, but a persistent figure throughout Ichigo’s very first event of this kind. What’s also great is how casual, down to earth, and approachable Ichigo discovers her hero to be, what with her mussed hair, comfortable wardrobe, and smushed melon-pan.

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Ichigo had a nightmare about performing before a totally silent crowd before the event where over 2,000 people will turn out, so she needs all the support she can get from more experienced talent. You don’t get much more experienced and professional than Hocchan. Ichigo’s reaction to Hocchan’s transformation from frumpy-ish housecat to stunning idol is pretty priceless. It’s one thing to see a celebrity in magazines or on TV, but in person it’s as if they become more real.

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The event unfolds as a sequence of stills, which is a bit lazy, but the episode is strapped for time at this point. In fact, the montage pretty effectively illustrates just how fast it all flies by for Ichigo, and how it’s all over before she even gets a good grasp of what she’s doing. But she shouldn’t have expected any more from herself; this was her first time, and she’ll get better at them with time.

Furthermore, watching Horie Yui fire up the crowd with a mini-concert (she is good at the theme song singing), and watching Hocchan’s professionalism and magnetic personality on display in general, inspires Ichigo to keep doing her best.

When her dad shot her a text asking how she was, Ichigo was about to tell him she’s scared and doesn’t know what to do, but decided not to send it. It was a brave gesture, showing that she trusts in her ability to get those lights and hot water back on very soon.

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Sore ga Seiyuu! – 04

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SgS keeps pace with Dandelion this week, as we come to love the characters in both shows the more time we spend with them. It has occured to me that Sore is very much a love letter to the seiyu industry and the people in it, almost playing like a documentary of these girls’ lives, yet avoids being over-indulgent or extra-congratulatory.

With the highs come the lows, and the lows suck when you’re in them, regardless of vocation. That’s what this episode captures best: Futaba at first believing she’s all alone in her doubt and despair, when in fact, everyone goes those emotions. That knowledge brings comfort and motivation to strive harder.

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With Bodhisattvon wraping and all three girls failing to pass auditions for the next show (doubly upsetting since we saw Futaba part with most of her petty cash to buy the manga), they’re feeling uneasy about the future. Futaba in particular is sure she’ll get more work before the Bodhi recording and radio show both wrap, but she’s incorrect on both counts.

All it takes to clear Futaba’s clouds of despair and worry is to bump into a legend like Ginga Banjou, who has died many more times than she on screen. Because of that, he can lend her valuable words of supportive advice that apply not only to dealing with the deaths of one’s characters, but in dealing with the serial rejection all seiyus (and indeed, artists) must endure. Futaba is not alone.

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When their radio show ends, it looks like Futaba is about to stare down the long, dusty road of non-employment in her chosen field (though she still has the part-time job), but their boss springs another surprise on them: not only has their radio show been extended, but he’s putting them in a unit, to record the theme song to the show and perhaps eventually become a full-on idol group.

This is a lot for Futaba and even Rin to take in, though it’s exactly what Ichigo has been dreaming of. I like how they all react by paying more attention to themselves, whether it’s Futaba being broken out of her daydream by her jiggly arm, Rin training herself to wear miniskirts, or Ichigo’s overdone yet somehow appropriate ringlets.

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Really, I should have seen this development coming: Futaba, Rin and Ichigo already had the built-in look of characters who wouldn’t look out of place in a sci-fi magical girl or music anime. Now, they could be on the road to just those kinds of roles, if it all pans out. Everyone’s nervous, like they were when the radio show first started. But with time, they got better at that, and they’ll eventually get better at all this unit stuff, too.

ED request: The theme to Sailor Moon Crystal.

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Sore ga Seiyuu! – 03

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Before they begin their own web radio show, they go on Futaba’s senpai Shidome’s bigger radio show to promote it. Flanked by the venerable Tamura Yukari, the trio are literally petrified in front of the mics, as any newbies would be under the circumstances. Despite this, Tamura-san thinks they’re funny, and wishes them good luck.

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When the day of their first recording arrives, the three gather at a much smaller studio with a much smaller staff of one, and a script of only a few pages, with the particularly scary “free talk” mixed in. There’s no rehearsals or practices; they’re thrust right into the studio and onto a live show where every moment of hesitation is a moment of dead air.

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The pressure under the girls is palpable, and things start out pretty rough, but while they show is “all over the place”, they do get into a nice rhythm towards the end, and their boss says they have potential. All they need to do is gather the confidence to converse the way they normally do in front of the mics, and they’ll be golden.

By the same measure, when the three girls watch (and listen) to the anime they had roles in, they’re all a little disappointed in themselves, but that just inspires them to keep working harder to become great. It doesn’t happen overnight.

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Sore ga Seiyuu! – 02

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I was going to try to choose between Seiyu’s Life! and Dandelion in order to pare down my workload as we all must do around this time in the season, but after two episodes, I’m no closer to making that choice; both have their charms.

The second outing of SGS shows us more of Futaba’s not-so-glamorous life as a struggling seiyu: part-time work at Lawson (Ichigo works at an even more clinical box lunch processing plant), walking into the office to find a tiny slip of a script next to a tower of scripts for Kamiya Hiroshi (that’s right, The Kamiya Hiroshi, in the flesh!) with a backdrop of rookie seiyus with no work at all simply standing there hoping they’ll be remembered, a sign that things could be worse.

But things get a little better for Futaba when she gets an audition for a new adaptation of a manga with “Titan” in the name. Even better, the two friends she made at her recording session, Rin and Ichigo, are also in the audition, and they’re not competing for the same role.

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Things look bright for Futaba, but once she enters that oddly-empty and silent studio, I think she tenses up a bit. She’s able to visualize the character she’s voicing (as herself!) and all her personality traits and moods, but it comes off as a bit mechanical and even forced. At the same time, I think she puts too much stock in the producers’ seemingly apathetic reaction to her performance; it could just be they’re yawning because it’s a long day…right?

Ichigo’s sexy voice gets laughs, and she’s asked to voice a different character, after which the producers react by staring at their phones, so not promising. As for Rin, she does just fine. After the stressful audition, the three go to a cafe for coffee and cake and just shoot the breeze; Futaba even comes up with the nickname “Evil Ichigo.”

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The next day it’s back to work on the Evangelion clone, where Futaba learns Pipo blows up and doesn’t come back. This setback, just when she’s told the others that if she’s still not showing promise in a year, she’ll share poor Pipo’s fate and be culled by her company (it’s a cutthroat industry, eh?).

But outside the studio, a suspicious looking mustachioed man confronts the trio of girls. He’s been watching them interact, you see, and apparently sees something in them, because he wants them to do a web radio show…which explains what the ED is all about!

Like last week, as the credits roll, the girls switch between singing the ending theme, doing commentary on the episode that just aired, and singing a request (this week, appropriately due to the Kamiya Hiroshi cameo, it’s a song from Zetsubou-sensei.) It’s a great ED format, but it also previews what should be an interesting and promising new opportunity for Futaba & Co.

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