Planet With – 02 – Dearth of Enthusiasm

As the “Citizens’ Safety Center Special Defense Division: Grand Paladin” deals with the aftermath of losing one of their seven fighters to the enemy (which is called “Nebula”), Souya doesn’t so much as get real meat as a reward for his victory.

He lashes out at both Ginko and Sensei and skips school, then encounters Torai, the guy he just beat last night. Now lacking Photon Armor, he’s on investigation duty, but his memories of meeting Souya are fuzzy, so it’s a cordial exchange. Then another, even weirder UFO arrives.

Sensei clarifies that while he and Ginko are with Nebula, they’re with the pacifist faction that only wants to relieve humanity of the power the Photon Armor, which they’re using Souya to do (the “Sealing” faction wants to take it a step forward and actually keep humanity from ever evolving to a point where they develop such power).

Inaba Miu, the youngest member of Grand Paladin, is the star of the show, defeating the UFO after getting stuck in an illusion involving her and her friend and comrade Harumi in a judo match. But shortly after winning, Miu and Harumi are confronted by Souya and Sensei, and a 2-on-1 fight ensues.

Once Souya gets the hang of operating his “Sensei Armor”, he manages to defeat Miu and snatch away her power, but gets greedy and wants to go after Harumi too, against Sensei and Ginko’s order to withdraw. As a result, the rest of Grand Paladin show up and surround them. Could the gig be up just 2/7ths of the way into their mission?

Planet With episode two has the same shortcomings as the first: a whiny protagonist; loose-sketch supporting characters; goofy-looking anonymous UFOs. The CGI fights come with some decent SFX but are otherwise fairly standard 2018 fare. But with no strong characters or ideas to get enthusiastic about, the show feels very color-by-number so far.

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Planet With – 01 (First Impressions) – Unidentified Rooting Interest

What Planet With lacks in originality (weird mecha fighting an even weirder enemy is a tale as old as time) it makes up for in polish, panache, and, well, specificity. Kuroi Souya isn’t just one such mecha pilot; he’s an orphaned amnesiac transfer student who lives with a green-haired maid and giant purple cat-man that only eats lettuce/cabbage.

Despite the best efforts of his charming class rep (and occult research club member) Takamagahara, Souya ends up splitting off from his class when massive UFOs start appearing close to coastal cities, including his. A band of seven superheroes transform into mecha to meet the extremely bizarre object.

Souya isn’t among them. In fact, the maid (Ginko) and cat-man (“Sensei”) meet up with him and instruct him not to take out the UFO, but the seven superheroes, one of whom (Torai) manages to enter the core of the UFO. Just like a JSDF fighter pilot earlier, Torai is transported to an elaborate illusion, given the chance to save his mom who he couldn’t save in real life. He manages to break through the illusion and destroy the UFO, and the others explode with it around the world.

Before his mecha can be repaired, he’s confronted by Souya, who ends up piloting “Sensei”, who transforms into a vaguely feline mecha. Souya manages to defeat Torai’s far larger mecha and steal the source of his power; a vial filled with silver star-shaped particles. Souya laments that he may have been taken in by Ginko and Sensei in order to fight as their soldier…though at least this time, he’s won over by the promise of a meat (though not beef)-filled dinner.

And that’s where we leave things. The question is, who is the good guy here? Souya all but admits he’s the two weirdos’ weapon, while after the credits, whoever is in charge of the seven superheroes (who Torai claim are protecting the planet) hardly looks like the benevolent type.

Everything looks and sounds great in Planet With, but take away the spectacle and there’s not much to invest in here…at least not yet. As with Souya and the promise of meat, I’ll settle for spectacle for now. But meat alone isn’t a meal; hopefully some potatoes are forthcoming.

Citrus – 08

Matsuri continues to Be The Worst when Mei tags along on her “date” with Yuzu, which Yuzu never meant to be a romantic date. Matsuri loudly embarrasses her about wanting to be a couple and have sex, while Mei mostly keeps her distance and lets Matsuri do as she pleases…for now.

But Mei’s presence alone is enough to enrage Matsuri to the point she decides to use it for a fresh bit of blackmail, which Mei is unusually vulnerable to due to her dad’s side of the family and position at school.

When she confronts Mei and tries to goad her into slapping her, Mei kisses her instead, “taking back” the kiss Matsuri stole from Yuzu. This surprises Matsuri, but only entertains her more. In any case, she has her incriminating photo.

Matsuri then takes off on her own. Mei feels responsible, but Yuzu doesn’t blame her. It gets colder, and they hold hands as they walk home. I love how Mei’s come to appreciate Yuzu’s warmth in the winter.

I don’t love how Matsuri didn’t go home, but wanted to creepily watch them from afar. Why? And aren’t all of them going to catch their death with such few layers out there?

Mei has apparently never celebrated Christmas, so Yuzu is excited to get her involved in their traditional family-only party. Hime shows more maturity by telling Mei to enjoy herself, while Harumin, who was barely in the episode, is playfully jealous she can’t join either.

As Yuzu makes the preparations, both culinary and stuffed bear-related, Mei works overtime after school so she doesn’t leave too much for her subordinates, and that’s when Matsuri shows up, no doubt to threaten her with the photo of them kissing.

So far Matsuri has been totally incapable of driving any kind of meaningful wedge between Yuzu and Mei, and that’s a good thing. Here’s hoping her string of failures continues and she’s left alone and miserable on Christmas and every other day.

Or maybe, if she eventually gives up these cruel and childish games and decides to change her awful ways, she can be rewarded with contentment in her friendship with Yuzu and maybe even Mei as well…But I don’t think it’s gonna happen.

Citrus – 07

Yuzu needs to score in the top 100 if she wants Mei and Gramps off her back, but she can’t concentrate after her last kiss with Mei, which felt different and more meaningful. Alas, Mei withdraws to the outmoded “we’re both girls” and more reasonable “we’re sisters, so we should stop this.”

Yuzu is devastated, because she takes Mei at her word; in reality there’s a lot of doubt behind Mei’s supposed certainty, as we’ll see later in the ep. Good Ol’ Harumin is there to console Yuzu with an after-school arcade session where commentary on her getting a game over matches commentary about her Mei dilemma.

Then THE DEVIL takes the stage. Satan has many forms, but chooses a pleasing and seemingly harmless one in Mizusawa Matsuri, Yuzu’s childhood friend. Now where have I heard of an anime in which one relationship is suddenly put at risk by a meddling childhood friend? Oh yeah, pretty much all of them.

Subtlety is not Matsuri’s strong suit, with her devil-may-care headphones, bubble gum (and bubble gum pink hair), and seiyu Izawa Shiori’s trademark apathetic drone. Because Yuzu is a sweet, innocent, kind person, she’s a sitting duck for Matsuri, who is not the girl Yuzu remembers, if she ever was.

Harumin immediately senses Pinky is BAD NEWS, even before Matsuri brings up her part-time job of sexting dirty old men, despite being in seventh grade. And yet Matsuri shows how skillful she is at manipulating people like Yuzu even with Harumin ostensibly in the way.

Matsuri snatches Yuzu’s phone and steals a picture of her with Mei, then drags Yuzu and Harumi to a karaoke when Yuzu is supposed to be buying things to make dinner. But she’s too nice to say “gotta go” to her former little-sister figure.

Worse still, Harumi suddenly has to duck out to take care of a family matter (part of me thought Matsuri sent her a false message), leaving Matsuri all alone with Yuzu. Matsuri promptly confesses her love and tries to kiss Yuzu, and is interrupted by a call from Mei asking about dinner.

Later, when Mei and Yuzu nearly cross paths at an intersection, Matsuri pulls Yuzu aside and kisses her in full view of Mei, whom Yuzu never saw. Frankly the coincidence and perfect execution of Matsuri’s fuck-you to Mei are a bit much; We get it, she’s pink scum.

Back home, Mei is less angry at Yuzu than I expected, which actually makes sense since Mei realizes she is the one who told Yuzu everything was over when it clearly wasn’t. When Yuzu is just to cute for her to resist any longer, Mei comes at her from behind and licks her neck, literally marking the Yuzu she won’t share with pink-haired interlopers.

Of course, Mei is almost as ill-equipped to deal with Matsuri as Yuzu, since she’s being driven primarily by emotions. Mizusawa Matsuri may say she loves Yuzu but I don’t think she loves anyone, except maybe Mizusawa Matsuri. The show introduced her as someone who manipulates people for the hell of it. Whether she derives fun, I can’t say; maybe this is all she thinks she can do.

The show is not yet ready to portray her as anything other than a villain so far, brazenly invading Yuzu and Mei’s school and making a big fuss about going on an after-school date. Mei shoos her off, but Matsuri won’t give up easily. We’ll see if Matsuri’s story gets a little more nuance and dimension like Hime’s, because right now, if she had a pink mustache, she’d be twirling it.

Citrus – 06

My first thought about Mei’s Dad showing up is Please don’t be a creep. But once it’s clear he’s not, it’s also clear what else he’s not: Mei’s strict “sensei.” Mei’s ideal of her father is who he was, not who he is or who he’ll ever be again. He chose to leave the academy and won’t go back.

That decision left Mei alone on a path she thought they’d share forever. Her father’s absence has only made things worse, as by not opening his letters she could convince herself there was still hope he’d come back to that path.

Now that Yuzu knows the score from both sides, her goal of bringing the two together has gotten a lot more complicated. Mei is so distraught and fatalistic, she seeks an easy escape in fooling around with Yuzu. Yuzu is understandably insulted and pained if Mei thinks the only way Yuzu can “accept” her and “be the one that needs” her is to submit to commiseratory sex.

After an awkward morning where Mei slips out without breakfast, Yuzu’s Mama adds another piece to the puzzle: she calls her husband a “tsundere”, able to spread education and love to kids the world over, but finds it almost cripplingly difficult to do the same with his own natural daughter. And yet, he accepts that maybe he’s just not cut out for it, and that it might be too late, and asks Yuzu to be the support Mei needs in his stead.

While attempting to ascertain what Mei needs and how to support her, Yuzu gets some very welcome emotional and logistical support from Harumin, who strikes about the right balance between being almost too perfectly helpful and being a character in her own right.

When Yuzu gets word from Mama that Papa is leaving for abroad in less than two hours, Harumin takes Yuzu to school on her bike so she can find Mei, not wanting her dad to leave with things the way they are.

When they just miss each other in the chairman’s office, Yuzu hijacks the P.A. system to get a message to Mei: that she’s done a good job; that she shouldn’t blame herself anymore; that she’s pushed herself enough for someone else’s sake.

Yuzu snatches up Mei and they race to the station, which Mei thinks is another example of Yuzu acting without thinking. But Yuzu has thought about it a lot, and this is what she’s decided to do: cultivate a situation in which Mei is able to let go of “sensei”, embrace her father for who he is, choose her own path, and move forward.

They get to the station right on time to catch Mei’s dad. After they share some words, they have a cordial goodbye, and Mei actually calls him “father” for once. It’s certainly a bittersweet moment, but it also must be exciting and relieving for her; she really will inherit the academy, because it’s what she has decided to do.

That night, she opens and reads all of her father’s letters to her with Yuzu by her side. Yuzu is so relieved and happy that Mei has made so much progress that she can’t help but tear up a little. That, in turn, brings Mei’s face close enough to hers for a kiss, and they do kiss, but it’s not anything like any of the other kisses they’ve shared before. For one thing, neither forced it on the other.

With Mei’s daddy dilemma largely resolved, we immediately move on to this next stage in their relationship, just as Yuzu’s pink-haired, conniving, scheming, manipulative childhood friend remembers her and plans to “get back in touch”, which could well mean an attempt to ruin Yuzu’s life for her own amusement. Should be fun!

Citrus – 05

Mei has no time for Yuzu and Himeko’s little competition for her, as she’s busy with both student council duties and filling in for her grandfather, the chairman. She orders the rivals to eat lunch together instead, and neither dare disobey.

Thus starts the first of many of the kind of interactions I was hoping for between Yuzu and Himeko: ones in which they put their gloves down for a second and simply exist adjacent to one another, as they must due to their associations with Mei.

Harumin serves as a great mediator in this venture, even suggesting the three of them and Mei go to Amagi Brilliant Park (well, something like it). Both Himeko and Yuzu doubt Mei will agree, but Yuzu will give it a try.

What Yuzu does manage is to get a day alone with Mei when they’re not at school; when Yuzu lies and said Mama would also like it if she accompanies Yuzu to visit her Papa. Note that Mei probably would have refused if Yuzu hadn’t lied, but it’s a good thing she did.

At first, Yuzu treats this like her first date with Mei, and tries to “cross a line” like Himeko claims to have done, first by breathing on Mei’s ear in a packed train (at first an accident, but repeated once she notices Mei’s reaction), then licking it.

When Mei asks her what the heck is up with her, Yuzu mentions what Himeko said, and Mei sets her straight: Himeko tried to do something weird to her and she scolded her. There’s nothing between them. This really puts a spark in Yuzu’s idea of her chances.

This leads to her trying to get an indirect kiss out of Mei by having a bite of her crepe, only for Mei to have only finished it. Mei delivers revenge for the ear-licking by wiping some cream off Yuzu’s face and eating it slowly, causing Yuzu to nearly boil over.

All these sensual gestures, combined with the simple pleasure of hanging out with Mei alone, gets Yuzu all worked up; she wants to kiss Mei and shout her love from the mountaintop more than ever.

But when she’s about to ask if they can hold hands (incremental steps), Himeko pulls up in her S-Class Benz and starts attacking Yuzu.

With a cruel, icy calmness, Mei basically tells Himeko to buzz off, and beckons for Yuzu to keep going. Mei and Yuzu walk away, leaving Himeko standing there, stunned, alone, and hurt.

It’s not the first time I felt for Himeko, but I’d never felt for her more before this moment. Even Yuzu can’t help but turn back, not to gloat, but with a pained, empathetic look.

It was around the time I was thinking “when the heck are they going to meet Yuzu’s Papa” that Yuzu brings Mei to a graveyard. It never occurred to me he was deceased, as I (wrongly) assumed her mom was divorced, not widowed. Mei also seems both surprised to have been brought there, but also honored.

It’s a very solemn, touching scene when Yuzu says all the good and bad things about Mei when introducing her and Mei doesn’t challenge any of it; this isn’t the time or place. Even more touching is Yuzu’s reaction when Mei silently prays at the grave. Yuzu is about to muster the courage to say something she needs to say…but Mei beats her to it.

The letters Mei gets from her father (whom she calls “Sensei”), one of which Yuzu jokingly threatened to open? Mei has never opened any of them. She’s afraid to, because if any of them contradict her long-standing hope that he’ll come back one day and everything “will be the way it was”, she’d be crushed.

When a shaken, tearful Mei asks Yuzu if such an outcome is really possible, Yuzu says the tactful thing, even if it isn’t something she can guarantee: everything will be fine, and she’ll help her in any way she can, like a sister should. The smile Mei gives Yuzu drives the point home: Mei doesn’t need love; at least not right now. She needs family.

As Yuzu cries out of Mei’s sight, Mei seems to be laboring to maintain consciousness, and sure enough, she collapses on the stairs at school the next day, right in front of Himeko. Trying to force herself up, she runs down Himeko just as Yuzu enters earshot, and, whatever bad shape she’s in, Yuzu doesn’t let Mei’s cruelty towards Himeko go unanswered.

What she does do is order Himeko to take Mei’s place at the various meetings she meant to attend, while she takes Mei to the nurse’s office. The two drop their rivalry for Mei’s sake, because Mei has not been looking out for herself properly enough, and their childish rivalry has blinded them to the toll Mei’s overwork has taken.

In the nurse’s, there’s no makeout scene, but a scolding scene. Mei explains how driven she is to become a worthy successor to her grandfather, especially now that his health may be failing. Yuzu wonders out loud why Mei’s father doesn’t take over, and Mei, for once, agrees with Yuzu’s  “nonsense”, which she likens to a broken watch—right twice a day.

And just to bring things around, Yuzu and Himeko have a nice little scene together in which Yuzu scolds her for overwork as well, tells her to be more honest, and the two come to a kind of detente.

That detente is sealed, in a way, when while walking to school the next day, Yuzu urges Mei to go ahead when they spot Himeko. Mei apologizes for being such a bitch to her and taking her for granted, and Himeko is instantly in tears, hugging her tightly, probably telling Mei she has nothing to apologize for.

That night, Mei’s father shows up, just like that. Yuzu has no idea who he is, and gets skeeved out when he hugs her and doesn’t let go (which, yeah guy, don’t hug a girl who doesn’t know you). Mei’s reaction to seeing her father again—as well as his reaction to seeing her—tells me things aren’t going to be the same in the Aihara household…but they’re definitely not going to be boring!

In the meantime, I really enjoyed both Himeko and Yuzu’s growth in this episode, the continued casual, reliable support role Harumin plays, and how Mei and Yuzu drew closer together not in a romantic way, but as family. Most importantly, Yuzu is now consciously weighing her own desires with what is actually best for her “little sister.”

Aho Girl – 08

Yoshiko continues to methodically tear down the Gals’ rep by digging into their love lives…or lack thereof. Turns out the only one with a “boyfriend” has neither kissed, held hands, or even told him she likes him. Yoshiko is ruthless in her mockery of the surprisingly pure gal, but does get her to express her feelings to the guy.

Yoshiko then inserts herself in the middle of the little kids’ field trip snack-shopping mission, where she dissuades them from buying chips or chocolate lest they get crushed or melt. She also points out the high-priced deluxe Pocky that must not be purchased no matter what…only for Nozomi to not only buy it (with all her money) but is nice enough to share with everyone.

Fuuki Iinchou has to be taken to the roof by Sayaka to try to get her to stop acting so crazy around A-kun, but Fuuki, blinded by love, has no idea how erratically or insanely she’s behaving. When Sayaka tells her the truth, Fuuki is so devastated Sayaka has to take it all back as joking around. This is beyond Sayaka’s ability to deal with alone, if at all.

Lastly, Yoshiko and Dog meet Sayaka’s dog, Pomi the Pomeranian. At first Yoshiko thinks she’s ludicrously tiny and weak, until it’s Dog cowering in fear behind her skirt. Yoshiko misreads their romantic interactions for aggression, but Dog is ultimately too embarrassed and runs off, with Yoshiko riding him, of course.

Aho Girl – 07

Yoshiko’s idiocy envelops her 28-year-old love-starved sensei, her huge white dog, and the class gal and her two vice-gals. First up, sensei, who Yoshiko cheers up by disguising herself as a dude named “Yoshio” and throwing out all the cliched lines in the book at her. “Yoshio” is rather scarily good at seducing a woman (at least one as desperate as sensei), but for obvious reasons their “romance” can only go so far.

Next up, Dog…and A-kun’s continued frustration he doesn’t have a proper name. Yoshiko is clearly fine with “Dog”, but A-kun thinks it should be “George”, so they both try—far too hard—to gain the dog’s favor, and he runs off in exasperation. Once both of them decide to put the naming conflict aside for the good of the dog, Yoshiko pushes a bit too far…and receives a devastating uppercut for her trouble.

Finally, the class Gals. They tried to avoid Yoshiko, but when they said they were going to “play around” she thought in the playground sense, first with tag and then hide-and-seek. The Gals trick her by making her hide and then ditching her, but she stays hidden for three days and nights without food, or water. They finally go looking for her out of guilt, and find her in a drainage channel, filthy and hungry but immediately up for another game. This girl is otherworldly.

I liked the three longer segments followed by a super-short fourth (in which A-kun insults his sister again by giving her a book on how to survive without a degree and saying “it’s okay to give up,” convinced she’s let too much of Yoshiko rub off on her. This arrangement allowed the Yoshio and Gal segments to run a little longer, to their benefit.

Kyousougiga – 07

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Koto returns safely to the Mirrored City with her mother Lady Koto in tow. After a reunion and tour of the city, Lady Koto says it’s time for her to go back, surprising everyone. She tells Koto to help her older brother Myoue, but later that night a distraught Koto breaks down in Myoue’s room. Meanwhile, a portal opens in Kurama’s temple, and Koto’s first “sensei” Inari emerges. He arrives at Myoue’s house and removed his mask revealing himself as the original Myoue, Yakushimaru’s adoptive father. As a result of his entrance, the Mirrored City starts to disintigrate.

For something as momentous as Myoue, Yase, Kurama and Koto’s mother returning after who knows how many years away, her return is surprisingly low-key. Koto and Yase are the ones most outwardly excited, but Myoue and Kurama are more reserved. She’s glad everyone is all right, is pleased with what they’ve done with the place, and asks forgiveness for being gone so long. But she doesn’t solve everyone’s problems; in fact, she creates totally new ones. The original Myoue must’ve sensed her arrival and came back himself, causing serious damage to the drawing in the real world and thus the Mirrored City.

So what, is he the bad guy all of a sudden? Is he improvising, or was this all part of his original plan? Did he even have a plan? Is the city toast? There are just three more episodes to answer those pressing questions, but for now, despite the foreboding tone of the ending, we’ll be cautiously optimistic. After all, the family is finally back together; how could that be bad? Also of note this week: Koto finally protesting being constantly used and asked to do things when nobody is willing to give her any answers about her past. With her sensei back in the picture, that might change.

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Rating: 9 (Superior)

Kyousougiga – 02

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This episode documents the young Koto’s life prior to entering the Mirrored Kyoto and becoming the ward of Myoue. Abandoned at a very young age, she was taken in and trained by Inari (AKA “The Fox”), and despite early complaints by his peers, she proves to have a great deal of talent. When Koto suddenly appears in the Mirrored Kyoto with her two familiars, A and Un, the Council of Three (the siblings Kurama, Myoue, and Yase), they debate whether she is related to them, or could actually be the reincarnation of their mother, who shares her name and eyes.

It’s just a fact of anime that whenever there are two characters with identical eye color (in an anime where not all characters have the same eye color, that is), it almost always means they’re related. So it’s no coincidence that lil’ Koto has the same red eyes as the departed Lady Koto or Myoue Shounin, just like it’s no coincidence that Inari also has the same color eyes. The narrator in the very first moments of the episode is also quite clear: “This is the story of one family’s love and rebirth.” Meaning Inari and Koto could well be Shounin and Lady Koto, reborn.

Mind you, the episode doesn’t come right out and confirm anything one way or the other, while the dream-like sequences of Koto and Inari in the secret room with the drawings of Mirror Kyoto and Koto the rabbit don’t make things much clearer. But whether she’s Myoue/Kurama/Yase’s mother or sister, she’s definitely a member of their family. Her appearance represents a sea change, both in their lives and in the world they preside over. The first major change since their parents left. We’ll see how each of them end up dealing with it.

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Rating: 8 
(Great)

The World God Only Knows II 9

How does the ketchup stay so perfect?

Jun Nagase: twenty-one years old; pro-wrestling fan; student teacher. She lives her life by the ideals of Jumbo Tsuruma: life is full of challenges; face them with everything you’ve got. Nagase is extremely stoked and confident about being the best damn teacher she can be. The male students salivate over her. The female students admire her. But there’s one student who she instantly identifies as a problem child: Keima Katsuragi. Keima is her project. And when she’s suddenly infected with a loose soul, she becomes his, much to his dismay.

Keima knows teachers from dating sims. They’re the toughest, most time-consuming conquests, due to the inherent problems with the student-teacher relationship. Clawing one’s way onto equal footing is not easy, and that’s just the first step; after becoming legitimate friends, he must take it a step further to love. As long as he stays away from Nagase, he can reach that equal footing sooner. But being her project, she gets right in his face and makes the first move. For the first time in a while, Keima is genuinely flustered.

This episode would make no sense whatsoever to a God Only Knows noob, because they’d assume everything Nagase assumes about Keima. She has no idea what his philosophy or M.O. is, and so formulates her own: he’s a shy, bored, troubled youth who needs her help. She even manages to reveal something in common between them: she loves pro-wrestling more than MMA because she values ideals over reality, just as he does. Aki Toyosaki brings a surefooted, bubbly exuberance to the role without coming off as annoying. With both participants on missions to reform/court the other, this should make for a most interesting final conquest. Rating: 4