3-gatsu no Lion – 23

In a relatively slow, uneventful, yet still thoroughly enjoyable episode, we revel along with Rei in the warm camaraderie and cool science of the Shogi Science club. By school club standards, it’s small, but packs a punch in terms of the transfer of knowledge and even life perspective.

His fellow club members, for instance, had no idea how nerve-wracking defeat could be, how bitter it tastes as opposed to sweet victory, and how those intense emotions never go away and indeed grow more intense still as one plays shogi professionally for years. Rei may look slight, but he’s actually a pretty tough young man.

After playing shogi, his clubmates and advisor join him in watching a very serious and intense televised match between Souya and Kamakura Kengo, and watching how they recharge their brains in-game with concentrated doses of glucose—Souya preferring soft glucose cubes with lemon in his tea; while Kamakura quickly houses three delicious-looking slices of cake. Neither takes their eyes of the board.

The use of glucose to recharge provides a nice segue for the club to move from shogi to science, as the mustachioed Noguchi shows Rei how to make ramune candy from scratch and invites him to make some of his own. Rei is over the moon, participating in club activities and interacting with other humans who aren’t professional shogi players.

As for the Sisters Kawamoto, like citric acid in the ramune, we only get a miniscule amount of them this week, but what little we do see of them is adorable as usual. There’s something so heartwarming about Rei leaving one rewarding social activity and then going straight to another one; he’s only alone in the opening moments of the episode, on his way to club, but he looks a lot more together and less depressing.

Rei looks well on the way to living a more balanced and happy life, and even if he can’t quickly answer whether he finds shogi fun, there is thankfully stuff in his life now he can quickly and categorically describe as fun.

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3-gatsu no Lion – 22 (Fin)

The more I watched this episode, the more I wished it didn’t have to exist. I mean…I already KNOW Rei’s a really lonely guy with no friends whatsoever at school. Do I really need the show to drill it into my head with more lonely montages? No, I do not.

It’s doubly frustrating to see Rei fail so hard at interacting with his peers because last’s week’s episode felt so good, and this is like having cold water poured on you; it’s just…unpleasant to watch Rei at school, as it always has. Seriously, Hayashida-sensei and those four weird burner club guys who aren’t really characters—those are the only people he ever speaks to!

At certain breaks in his inner monologue, I kept hoping against hope that someone, anyone resembling a normal high school student would approach him, maybe having seen or read about him. But no one ever comes.

The second half, which starts as a flashback to really drive home the point that Rei is awkward and lonely, again feels like a redundant detour that illustrates what I already know: Shogi is the “ticket” that ensures someone will always sit by him.

Rei envisions himself on (and the show is very intent on repeatedly showing) a magical floating CGI train in the sky; a train he shares with many other people headed towards the same destination.

Call me bitter because the previous episode was a perfect ending to the series as a whole, not just the Kawamoto side of Rei’s story. I guess, like all those high school kids, the actual shogi was never that interesting too me; too arcane to get too far into with its alphanumerical nomenclature.

Fortunately, everything else was not only interesting but endearing, charming, and relatable. So while it’s regrettable the series ends on a meh note, it doesn’t take away from last week’s loveliness, nor do I regret getting into the show.

Average Rating (22 episodes): 8.14

Ai Tenchi Muyo! – 40

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The day of the big debate is here, and while Tenchi gives Momo some last-minute encouragement (without picking a side), he gets a flash of past young Momo wearing vintage garb when they shake hands, as Momo tells him she feels like he’s always been there protecting her. Probably because I guess he technically has!

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With the live polling numbers displayed above the stage showing Momo and Yuki exactly tied, this is both their time to grab the lead. Yuki starts off with flashy poses and promises both she and the voters probably know she can’t keep.

Then she brings up the newspaper scandal she cooked up, which proves to be a critical mistake, because Momo turns it around and delivers a monologue about how everything comes from love, so there’s nothing wrong with showing it.

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The speech isn’t that sophisticated, and she completely skirts over things like inappropriate underage relations, but that’s not what’s going on between her and Tenchi anyway, and she’s so earnest and cute she wins the crowd over immediately, leaving Yuki looking like a steaming stick-in-the-mud.

Victory seems well in hand for Momo…until her entire body seems to shimmer in and out of cohesion, Kurihara’s earring glows, and that huge spaceship we saw a few eps back appears in Earth orbit. Looks like they’ve come for the ‘temporal fugitive(s).’

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Ai Tenchi Muyo! – 39

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As expected, Tenchi gets pulled from a gaggle of student reporters (why are there so many?) into the faculty lounge, where Kurihara seems primed to administer some lashes with her whip. She doesn’t really care if the rumors are true; the mere fact an article was published at all compromises his position in the school. And she did warn him not to get too close to the students…many times.

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It looks bad for Tenchi, until a determined, true-with-it Momo enters the lounge defiantly and confirms she’s the student in the picture, opening herself up for disciplinary action. But it isn’t anything out of character for Momo. She’s all about helping people, and right now Tenchi is the one in a bind.

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The perpetually sandal-wearing Prez goes face-to-face with Kurihara and explains her position: accident or not and regardless of their positions in the school, there was nothing wrong with what she and Tenchi did. Impressed by her chutzpah, Kurihara agrees to drop the matter…but only if Momo wins the election.

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Momo reflects on the roof with Tenchi. As a person who understands her own undeniable charisma and power to bring people together – even people who’d normally be enemies – Momo wants to remain in the spotlight so everyone who needs to can see her and feed off of her light and positive energy. Tenchi cheers her up and gets her pumped for what is sure to be an animated and fierce debate with Yuki.

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Ai Tenchi Muyo! – 38

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For the first time in a while on ATM!, three minutes still felt too long for what we got this time. Most of it is just Momo, Touri, Hana in the dark council room looking through all the illicit electoral cheating paraphernalia confiscated from the Fuka campaign, a scene that drags. Yeah, we get it, Yuki is a trickster!

The episodelet does redeem itself somewhat when Hachiko arrives with a newspaper not published by the newspaper club with a big spread about an affair between Momo and Tenchi, which is ridiculous for anyone who’s watched the two interact in context, but out of context is pretty convincing to the average student.

I just wish they’d gone further, having incriminating photos of every out-of-context instance in which Momo and Tenchi ended up close and personal, since there are a lot of them; enough to create enough of a misunderstanding to get Tenchi canned, to be sure.

The newspaper makes the paraphernalia look like a distraction for the council, and shows that Yuki is serious about winning at any cost, even hurting Tenchi. It also looks like Momo is going to try to convince the school administration (read: Kurihara) that Tenchi is innocent, but will her pleas fall on deaf ears?

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Ai Tenchi Muyo! – 37

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In the last InoBato, Sagami warned Sayumi that she wouldn’t win the battle for Jurai by playing clean, and whether or not he’s right about that, Fuka Yuki seems to be of the same mind when it comes to winning the StuCo presidential election. Starting with falsifying her ‘assets’ in her sexy election poster, and now bribing voters with counterfeit meal tickets, Yuki is doing whatever it takes to win, with the greater goal of having the resources to unearth the treasure her mysterious contact demands.

Well, the incumbent StuCo won’t stand for this corruption, and once Touri connects the decreased cafeteria revenues and Hana goes undercover to get a ‘handshake’ from Yuki, it doesn’t take long for the crimes to be exposed.

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Rui is also caught red-handed making fake meal tickets. Yuki’s response is to produce a fake bug which freaks out not only Touri, but makes Rui flip out, giving the candidate the diversion she needs to slip away. She even digs her hole deeper by gluing Hana to a bomb (which is really a firework, but still, dangerous!)

Thanks to some quick thinking from Tenchi, Beni, and Hachiko, the firework goes off in the sky, but Yuki still must be found and dealt with.

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Ai Tenchi Muyo! – 36

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You know, I’m glad I watched this right after Gundam Recon in G, because this particular episode of ATM! demonstrated how Sci-fi Bureaucracy meeting should be done: with clarity, irreverence and humor, and above all, with speed. The show tells us these guys are after Washuu in the space of less than a minute. Brevity is the soul of wit. Don’t waste my time. ATM! doesn’t.

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Back down on earth, Touri and Hachiko are working on most important part of the upcoming presidential elections: the poster. Hana rejects their goal to make a sexy poster, making them do something more conventional. She knows they have to be on their guard where the Science Club is concerned.

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Ironically, Fuka Yuki goes right down the very avenue Hana rejected, photoshopping her slight bust into something far more, well, Hana-like in scale for her sexy poster. The gloves are coming off. The bras, too!

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Ai Tenchi Muyo! – 35

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35 episodes in, I’m wondering, is Takahashi, Okayama satisfied with their arrangement with this anime? Do they feel they’re getting their money’s worth? I mean, the wooded environs of Junai High seem like a nice enough place, but they don’t feel like a specific place; they feel pretty generic, to be honest. I guess it depends on how much money they contributed, of if the “sponsorship” was more of a ceremonial thing. In any case, I’m not quite sure how this show is promoting tourism.

That aside, we haven’t had an episode in which students try to have a sleepover at Tenchi’s house yet, and this episode rectifies that by having Momo, Touri, Hachiko, and Hana insist on spending the night in case the Science Club decides to kidnap him again.

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If ATM! excels at one thing (it actually excels at more than one thing, but bear with me), it’s consistency of its characters. Momo has the innocent good girl with a heart of gold; Hachiko is deeply loyal and up for any challenge; Touri is highly analytical, except where Samami is involved, with whom she’s almost disturbingly smitten. In fact, let’s leave out  the almost! And Hana, well, she’s a fujoshi, but also a masochist in her interactions with the older, stronger Ayeka. Everyone makes sense as a character, and watching the wildly clashing personalities is a lot of fun.

I also like the idea of Ryouko, Momo, and Hachiko getting all gung-ho about a cook-off, but spend so much time preparing, Tenchi, Ayeka, and Sasami make do with cup noodles instead. It’s a nice little bait-and-switch. Also, Touri seems to derive all the nourishment (and pleasure) she needs (and wants) by plunging her face in Sasami’s bathwater, which…GROSS.

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In other news, the Science Club’s secret contact urges them to continue their efforts to recover the treasure, even though the caverns have collapsed. The contact suggests they become active in the upcoming election to choose a new Student Council. We also learn that Kurihara-sensei is a member of the Galaxy Police, and both Momo and Beni are in her crosshairs as ‘time anomaly suspects’ or some-such. Between her continued investigations and the upcoming election, ATM! seems to be in for more upheaval in its home stretch.

Note: Again, I don’t count the “Looking Back” recaps in my episode numbering. But if I did, this would be episode 43, with at least one more recap in store. So we kinda are in the home stretch despite this being only the 35th ‘real’ episode. Here is a handy episode list to clarify what the heck I’m on about.

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Ai Tenchi Muyo! – 34

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Wait, I don’t understand, what the heck is going on?

It’s really quite simple, Fuka-san: Momo and Beni activate a new search app on the smartphone that shows them the treasure they’re looking for is directly beneath them, despite the face they were standing on a totally random spot. Also, Touri has a thing for Sasami. Upstairs, Ryouko destroys Hachiko’s swords, inadvertantly turning her into a bawling child. I guess she hadn’t overcome that weakness after all!

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They dig and hit paydirt: a Juria Sword, which when grabbed by both Momo and Beni completes the tripartite sword that unlocks the Jurai starship buried below; the very ship that brought Momo and Beni to the planet to begin with. Now we’re getting somewhere!

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Like Ryouko, Ayeka has no trouble making her opponent tap out (and swear fealty). Then they feel the upheaval going on downstairs as if it were and earthquake. The earth does indeed quake and rend below, and Beni must make a choice between grabbing the sword and ‘taking back who she really is’, or accepting Tenchi’s hand and accepting who she is, who Momo loves regardless. She choses the hand, and the ruins and the building above them collapse. Perhaps it was for the best.

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Ai Tenchi Muyo! – 33

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Hachiko and Hana take on Gouriki, demonstrating that x-acto knives and wooden swords are curiously effective against killbots while allowing Momo and Touri to get to the caves.

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Down there, the Science Club and Tenchi’s crew join forces to try to find the treasure, whatever it is. Yuki points out that while she just wants money, the treasure is more important to Beni. Also, as things would work out, Momo happens to land her tush on Tenchi’s face and bounce into Beni’s arms.

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Above ground, Ryouko and Ayeka take up arms against Hachiko and Hana in Tenchi’s name, and Hana even pisses off Ayeka by calling her ‘Auntie’. Down below, having seen the photo of Tenchi and Sasami, Touri throws the smartphone at Tenchi, but misses. It ends up in the hands of Momo and Beni, who start to glow, then Washuu elatedly reports that “It’s happening!”

What’s happening? Not sure. Temporal re-alignment? The reveal of the treasure? We must watch on to find out.

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Ai Tenchi Muyo! – 32

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Another piece of the puzzle falls into place, as Mihoshi explains her reason for being in the mines: she came to investigate a possible time crime, and decided to give Yuki a hand trying to find a treasure, even though she doubts there’s anything there.

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Yuki begs to differ, and flanked by Beni, Rui, and Gouriki, offers to show Tenchi and the others proof. Meanwhile, Touri, Hachiko and Hana are convinced Tenchi was taken away for nefarious purposes and formulate a rescue plan as an incredulous Momo looks on.

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Yuki produces a smartphone that was found deep in the caverns and has determined it is from 1,300 years ago, making it an OOPArt (not ‘oppai’, Ryouko. That was too easy). This, of course, is the phone Tenchi dropped into a chasm when he was in the past.

When Yuki switches it on, everyone is less shocked that Tenchi is on the 1,300 -year-old wallpaper than they are skeeved out by the fact he’s posing shirtless with a loli swimsuit-wearing Sasami.

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Up above the caverns, Touri, Hachiko and Hana begin their mission, starting with getting past an improved Gouriki. How far will they go before they realize they’ve got the wrong idea?

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Ai Tenchi Muyo! – 31

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After that lovely communal barbecue/bonding exercise, the science club is back to confering with a giant black monolith with a glowing red crab insignia, telling them to “find the treasure.” Again with this nebulous treasure? What could it be? I’m assuming it’s not Momo here.

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Seeing the science club in the spot they’re in, unofficial member Beni does what she can to help them by getting on her non animal print boot-adorned knees and begging Tenchi, Ayeka, Sasami and Ryouko to help her search for the treasure, knowing they’re different from ordinary people.

Surprised by her seriousness and deference, they agree. When Tenchi doesn’t show up in the faculty lounge later, Kurihara-sensei assumes he’s been kidnapped.

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Beni leads them to the caverns deep under the school, a setting we haven’t been to since episode 5. There, the gang is surprised to find Kuramitsu Mihoshi of the galaxy police, someone we haven’t seen since she and Ryouko dueled in the past back in episode 13.

She doesn’t seem to be making much progress with her pickaxe — unless she’s the one who carved out the whole of these tunnels — but nor does she seemed to concerned about it. So…Treasure Hunt on!

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Ai Tenchi Muyo! – 26

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Tenchi patrols the hallways after lights-out, notices lights on, and discovers Yuki and Rui bent over some contraband ramen like a couple of junkies. However, they offer him a cup and he goes easy on them. As they tuck in, Tenchi learns a lot more about the Science Club girls.

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For instance, while Fuka built Gouriki’s basic structure, she has no idea what powers him; that Kinojou isn’t technically a club member and has no memory of her past, and Fuka and Rui are simply helping her look for…something. Gouriki’s head’s “treasure detector” indicates is below their dorm, but they find nothing and Yuki shoos Tenchi away.

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