3-gatsu no Lion – 10

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Another week, another weak opponent with a sad story Rei must face, another dose of caustic venom from Kyoko. Remembering back to a Christmas where Kyoko’s dad gave him a shogi set instead of her, Rei admits he wants to hear the poison from Kyoko.

He must believe on some unconscious level that he deserves punishment for the pain he caused her. Kyoko is all too happy to oblige, but her shtick is getting a little old, and not just with me.

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Predictably, Rei defeats Mr. Yasui. It doesn’t even take that long. He can tell Yasui is trying his best to bring a victory home to his daughter on the last Christmas before his divorce. But Rei sees Yasui’s mistakes before he does.

That means he can see more moves ahead, which means Yasui never had a chance. Throughout the game, Rei feels like he’s walking on eggshells around the faintly alcohol-scented ol’ bastard, and doesn’t feel particularly good about dispatching him so easily.

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When Yasui slinks away without the bag containing a gift for his daughter, Rei tries to be a nice guy and gets the bag back to him. Yasui pretends it isn’t his at first, but Rei presses the issue and Yasui angrily snatches it away before continuing off, probably to get drunk.

All the while, I was thinking about how unwise it was for Rei to involve himself in the personal lives of the sadsack opponents he beats. They’re not your problem, dude. You gotta focus on winning matches so you can eat and pay the bills.

Turns out…he listened!

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WRONG, Trump, WRONG! Not everything is Rei’s fault! It’s his opponents’ faults they lost, because they weren’t good enough to beat him. He realizes there’s a “beast” inside of him, fighting for his survival, that will elicit no mercy once the battle has begun.

No matter how he became a shogi player, the fact of the matter is, he’s a Shogi Player, and a damn good one. He’s sick of feeling like shit for beating people…and allowing Kyoko to keep that river of shit flowing. Could this be a turning point?

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3-gatsu no Lion – 09

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Rei isn’t feeling great about having to bring down a guy who’s been playing more than twice as long as he’s been alive, and that feeling doesn’t improve when he spots his opponent, Matsunaga, praying at a local shrine and acting very erratic.

The old man’s inscrutability translates to his shogi game, which Rei can’t quite suss out, even to the point he wonders if Matsunaga is placing pieces randomly. He also starts to doubt if his opponent’s stress is real or all an act. Neither can we; his opaqueness makes for some entertaining human observation.

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When the match is over, and Rei wins, Matsunaga nearly falls down some stairs (the same stairs Rei was going to use to sneak away), and ends up treating the old man to a sumptuous feast and more than he can drink. Turns out Rei is a nice guy like Kyouko said, because he doesn’t leave the man’s side as long as he’s not certain he’ll be okay.

But he will be okay. The liquor greases the hinges of the door to Matsunaga’s heart, and he opens up to us and Rei. Rei may not be able to fathom forty years of shogi, but hearing the old man speak of the addictive elation of victory despite the bitterness of defeat (and he’s suffered a lot more defeats than Rei), he’s able to finally relate. Those are the same things he feels.

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Even if Rei claims to hate shogi, and Matsunaga can’t answer the question of whether he likes it, the fact of the matter is, they are both shogi players. So when Kyouko calls to gloat over Rei having to “strangle an old dog”, Rei proudly announces that Matsunaga will, in fact, not be retiring from shogi after all.

Rather than serve as a young, beautiful grim reaper for the old man, Rei, their match, and the night that followed, made him reconsider quitting the game, even after Rei beat him (that, and he really doesn’t want to do house chores).

I honestly didn’t know what to expect from Matsunaga this week, as I’m sure Rei didn’t. But I was pleasantly surprised by the swiftness with which his character was fleshed out. This week was a sprawling profile of the guy, from his knowledge of Fukushima history to the drive to play not snuffed out by Rei. Sorry Kyouko – no win for you!

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Fune wo Amu – 02

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When I was in Tokyo, I availed myself of the impeccable (compared to my city) mass transit, not just to get from Point A to Point B, but because I have an affinity for trains, and subways in particular. It was like I had died and gone to heaven: the unique aesthetics of the individual stations, the elaborate yet useful signage, the machines that sold everything from drinks to books.

Oh, and the people. Never did a single person block the opening doors of a train. People got in tidy lines, often using the lines on the platform, and ingress and egress were smooth and efficient, and ultimately quicker than if it was every person for themselves. Especially in the early mornings, it was a rush and a crush, but it all worked, and it was all polite and precise.

When Majime speaks almost wistfully about the way people on the subway got into neat lines (as if controlled by some unseen power…called courtesy!) and rode the escalators up and down, I could relate. I was on vacation after all; I had no particular place to be, nor any particular time to be there. Majime also takes his time, and Araki and Matsumoto are impressed by how he’s able to express how he enjoys his “hobby” of escalator-watching.

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The point is, everything is “fun” for someone, even if it’s boring for others, or even most people. Majime finds observing humans on the go fun. Matsumoto and Araki find dictionary-making fun—why else be in the business so long? And Majime’s new job, for which he seems preternaturally well-suited, also looks like a lot of fun.

His new office is an old, dim, dusty building (once the main building for the company), and there are stacked books with colored tags and shelves full of tiny cards, containing hundreds of thousands of words and their definitions. It is, to use the symbolism of the show, a shipyard—the place where the ship The Great Passage will be built, patiently, steadily, over a period of ten years.

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Majime seems pleased with his new position, and eager to contribute…but it’s working together with other people (rather than simply observing them) that troubles him. He’s unsure he’ll fit in, and even more worried he’ll let the others down.

His landlady Take asserts that he really shouldn’t be sweating such things at his age. Socializing with people is give-and-take, plain and simple. Take the two of them: she essentially exchanges hot, tasty meals for company, but through multiple encounters over however many months or years he’s lived in the boarding house, and it’s as if a different symbolic ship has been constructed—a friendship, to quote Mr. Burns—and Take’s able to say with confidence dictionary editor is the perfect job for young Majime.

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This episode is called “Encounter”, and it’s not just his new job, his new colleagues, and the great new undertaking he encounters. It’s a beautiful young woman, posed perfectly in front of a huge yellow moon, whom he encounters by chance while looking for his big fat orange cat Tiger.

Majime is literally taken aback by the sight of this striking person, and likely even more intrigued that she’d playfully take the words meant for Tiger (“There you are…I’ve come to get you”) as words he meant for her. No doubt she’ll play a big role in Majime’s growth in the coming episodes.

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Fune wo Amu – 01 (First Impressions)

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What is it: The beginnings of a story about building a great ship called The Great Passage to navigate the “sea of words”—in other words, a dictionary. Retiring editor-in-chief Araki Kouhei of Genbu Publishing’s Dictionary Department is looking for a successor. His subbordinate Nishioka Masashi inadvertently discovers one in Majime Mitsuya, an socially awkward salesman with a knack for defining words.

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Why You Should Watch: First of all, this is a grown-up show, and by that I don’t mean it’s full of boobs and curse words. It’s got adult characters with subtle adult problems. The stakes are low, unless you care about one of the many dictionaries on the market one day fizzling out due to a lack of strong leadership or inspiration.

It’s also a show that revels in its ordinariness, making cuts to the proverbial “sea of words” or scenes of words jumping off the page all the more striking. Majime isn’t in the middle of some kind of life crisis, wondering where he went wrong: he’s merely in the wrong job at first. Araki sees him for the talented student of words that he is and puts him in the right one.

By presenting relatively ordinary people with only slightly offbeat jobs (editing dictionaries is specialized work, but not overly strange—someone’s gotta put them together) in an ordinary Tokyo, the world of Fune wo Amu is very easy to settle into and its people easy to empathize with.

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Why You Shouldn’t Watch: If you’re looking for over-the-top drama or comedy, you’re in the wrong place. This is pretty straightforward, almost overly earnest grown-up storytelling. As I said, the only thing at stake is the continued success of a publication.

Parts of the city are nicely rendered but the animation of characters is nothing fancy. And while this episode brough Majime and Araki together pretty quickly, it did it at its own leaisurely pace, giving moments time to breathe.

The Verdict: In order to consider one more Fall show to add to my list this late in the game, Fune wo Amu had to demonstrate it was not only something worth watching, but something perhaps worth knocking another show off to watch.

It didn’t knock my socks off, but I’d say both it, Gi(a)rlish Number, and WWW.Working!! had equally enjoyable starts, but it had the most creative premise, so I’ll keep all three workplace shows for now.

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Akuma no Riddle – 08

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Speaking from experience, it’s a very bizarre feeling to be in class trying to pay attention to the lecture when the skies outside grow darker and darker from a brewing storm. I wouldn’t call it fear, just unease, since I’m so used to darkness signifying night. When the skies are black in the morning or afternoon, it like nature’s trying to mess with my circadian rhythm.

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It’s under these circumstances that we hear Mizorogi-sensei lecturing about sweetfish, specifically, how they’ll so fiercely defend their territory, they open themselves up to a decoy attack. That sweetfish is Akuma, and us too, to a degree. Previously, episodes were fairly direct about who’d try to assassinate Haru next; this one decided to toy with us a little bit: would it be Bamba…or Inukai?

It’s another example of how this show always does or says something for a reason that will come into play later, rarely wasting its time. Many of the things it does in the first half play with our expectations, which we’ve built up after watching the previous episodes. We even catch a glimpse of the person in charge of the killing game, someone who one a past game herself in just six days.

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With the assassins down to four and victory in sight, Haru asks Azuma what she’ll be up to when it’s over, and Azuma has no answer whatsoever. All this time, she’s been using her time at the school to try to forget or avoid everything outside. Protecting Haru is all that matters: that’s the purpose of her existence. Thinking about the future doesn’t serve that directive.

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But it’s her absolute devotion that opens her up to the same decoy approach used on sweetfish. She goes after Isuke thinking it better to fight her away from Haru, but she never suspected that Isuke was the decoy—despite forging Bamba name—and that Isuke and Bamba would work together to separate the two. Also’s Bamba’s alter-ego’s name, Shin’ya, means “full night.” This is her time.

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Isuke has also figured out Azuma’s Big Secret, that she’s never actually killed and doesn’t seem able to, giving her a huge advantage in their fight. Isuke had a wretchedly traumatic childhood but was saved by her neighbors, one of whom is an assassin. She wants to win so her parents can retire, paying them back for their kindness. It’s a surprisingly sweet and selfless wish, and she’s damned close to getting it, assuming she and Bamba are allowed to share the win.

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Stray Observations:

  • Mahiru/Shinya Bamba is/are a character I wish got screen time. Here we see how her two opposite selves communicate with one another.
  • Despite having not ended in six days like hers, the lady in charge has been impressed with this Class Black.
  • It is pretty impressive that Azuma hasn’t actually had to kill anyone to get as far as she has. Hell, even Haru’s killed!

Tiger & Bunny 25 (Fin)

After Bunny defeats one H-1, Rotwang unleashes an entire squad of them at the heroes. Saito manages to put them into safety mode using a code Bunny’s parents devised. After killing Rotwang, Maverick attempts escape, but his big mouth gets him in trouble when its revealed he’s being filmed by the Hero TV crew. He takes Kaede hostage, but Kotetsu wakes up and knocks him out. He wipes out his own memory and is arrested, and everyone is out of harm’s way. Lunatic intercepts the paddy wagon and kills Maverick for his crimes. Tiger & Bunny both retire, but get back into the superhero game a year later.

Tiger & Bunny wraps up with a solid, satisfying finale, with its fair share of action, slapstick, and a lot of heart. This series always seemed to care a great deal about its cast, and whenever it focused on one or another, it really made the characters shine. Those character pieces always worked better when the series took more introspective views of the characters, rather than bundle them all up with little to do, like the last few episodes where they had to deal with Maverick. But Kotetsu really took center stage – apparently “sacrificing” himself last week, only to make a hero’s comeback at the most opportune time – to look cool in the eyes of his daughter.

This is another one of those “life goes on pretty much as it has” endings, where Tiger returns to the Hero biz, not out of selfishness, but because Kaede told him to. The fact that his powers are only good for a minute don’t faze him; one cannot hold back the tide, as the late Legend proved. He’ll just do what he can to help out and protect his family. As for Barnaby, he wasn’t interested in being a hero without Tiger by his side, so when Tiger returned, so did he. A testament to how far their friendship has come.


Rating: 3.5

Tiger & Bunny 19

Kotetsu should really retire. His daughter Kaede needs him in this crucial time when her power(s) are coalescing, and his own powers dwindling. It just makes sense. Unfortunately, not only did he make zero progress last week communicating his wishes to Barnaby and the others, but thanks to Kriem, Barnaby has totally gone bye-bye. I’ll give Tiger this: he sure knows how to get himself into some friggin’ spots (or stripes. He’s a Tiger.)

This week’s title is, fittingly, “There’s no way out,” as Kotetsu has to try to help Bunny out of his funk. After retracing Bunny’s steps of the day his parents were murdered, Bunny passes out. When he comes to he finds Tiger on the phone with Kaede, hears everything, and, of course, gets the wrong idea. They fall out, and Bunny hangs with Mr. Maverick, who has all the answers for him.

The big secret Mav reveals is that he murdered Bunny’s folks. He’s a bad, bad man. They provided hero suits for his show, but when he started selling them to the criminals of Ouroboros to make the crimes more exciting – and hence the ratings higher – they objected. He killed them to keep the secret, and used his NEXT ability – memory implantation – to cover his tracks. Only Jake’s lack of a tattoo on his hand broke the illusion.

Needless to say, this is a lot to take in. Parts of me suspected Maverick may have been up to something, but not to this extent. It’s a little goofily diabolical, this plan of his, but it fits within this silly futuristic world of brash personalities.The things you do for love…in his case, the love of money.


Rating: 3

Tiger & Bunny 18

Yeah, I knew Tiger wasn’t going to quit being a hero this week and return home to take care of Kaede. But part of me still wished he did. But then it wouldn’t be Tiger & Bunny, now would it? What I didn’t expect was the tragic life story of Kriem, and how Jake Martinez saved her, as told on her deathbed.

Kaede’s powers are starting to run amok back home. It turns out she doesn’t just have Tiger’s Hundred Power. She can copy powers. Yegods, that’s an awesome power! If she can master it, what’s stopping her from moving to Sternbild to help fight crime, or at the very least, be closer to her father. I mean hell, Karina is still in high school, and she’s a hero. Dragon Kid’s just…a kid, amarite? I’m just looking for the most mutually beneficial solution here.

To be fair to Kotetsu, he never really has a good time to announce his retirement: the rest of the gang is so happy to see him back (especially the previously mentioned Karina). And before she dies, Kriem drops a bomb on Barnaby: Jake didn’t murder his parents. It’s proven when the hand tattoo in Bunny’s memory is missing from Jake’s hand in footage. This causes Barnaby to question his fitness to be a hero, at exactly the wrong time for Kotetsu. Nothing comes easy for ‘ol Tiger.


Rating: 3.5