Shoujo Shuumatsu Ryokou – 05

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Dwarfed as they always are by their vast, abandoned urban labyrinth, the girls come upon habitations. They grossly underestimate the number of people who could live there—millions, not a mere thousand, but it that speaks to their extended isolation in general.

They explore inside one and find a place that, in another time, and if the city around them wasn’t totally dead, they might’ve lived. At least for one night, they stay in the room, and as they each imagine how they’d furnish it, those items magically appear, as if the girls were sharing the contents of their minds’ eyes.

Still, they decide they can’t stay any longer; they’d run out of food for one; the automatic lights would keep them up for another (unless they find a switch). Their “house” is now the Kettenkrad; they feel most comfortable aboard it, always on the move.

But due to the little amount of sleep they got under the lights, Chito falls asleep at the handlebars, and only Yuuri waking up and rousing Chito stops them from crashing. Still, they need to stop and rest, which they do in an eerily gorgeous geometric landscape, surrounded by clusters of buildings suspended on tall poles.

While their brainstorming in the house was more magical realism, Chi’s bizarre dreams enter the world of the surreal, and also highlight what could be some deeply-ingrained anxiety over Yuuri. Her more aggressive personality and “bigger” presence give her monumental scale, suddenly of a piece with the colossal surroundings, and only Chi alone, small and vulnerable.

First MegaYuuri blows Chito off a carefully balanced pile of rocks (like the one they built before going to sleep), then Chito finds herself in a vast ocean, riding the same kind of fish they ate a couple episodes back, only for Yuuri to appear in monstrous fish form to try to eat Chi, who wakes up with a start. To her irritation, Yuuri, still asleep, seems to be dreaming about eating something…or someone.

(Now let’s switch it up to some rain.)

Girls’ Last Tour has always been a very immersive, atmospheric, and for all its fantastical ruined landscapes, naturalistic show, but the last segment, “Sound of Rain”, really kicked those qualities up to eleven. When it starts to rain, the girls find shelter under a partially-collapsed structure of unknown purpose. There, they dry their jackets, Chito reads, and Yuuri gets bored.

But when she focuses in on one raindrop hitting a surface, then another, she decides to place objects under those drops, eventually creating a relaxing orchestra of sound that is random-sounding at first but suddenly snaps into a musical rhythm—which turns into a new song that plays as the credits roll.

The sounds took me right back to the last time I sat on the porch and simply listened to the gently falling rain. Kino doesn’t have the monopoly on the “Beautiful World”; it’s here too, in all its glory.

Dagashi Kashi – 12 (Fin)

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Here it is: the last episode of the Winter for RABUJOI, ending it with, well, not a whimper, but not really a bang either. The show was clearly never interested in brining the candy shop succession plot to any kind of resolution, and so instead stuck to its usual formula of crafting a slice-of-life skit around particular brands or types of candies.

Specifically, Saya is momentarily freaked out by the possibility of having a yuri moment with Hotaru, who asks her about the “flavor of love”, but she’s only talking about a cherry candy with a poem on the package called Sakuranbo no Uta. Meanwhile, Koko and Tou have a very over-dramatic exchange about the proper use of fortune-telling Taberun Desu Hi candies.

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The next skit is devoted to Morinaga Milk Caramels, with Hotaru sitting in the smoking section of Saya and Tou’s family cafe as a kind of acknowledgement that they used to be marketed to adults as a tobacco substitute.

Mind you, before she comes in Koko is worried about “tying down” Hotaru with his indecision about succeeding the store, which Saya incorrectly imagines to be bondage. But Hotaru leaves impressed that Koko fulfilled her expectations, talking about the caramel’s history and mentioning its many flavors, including coconut.

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The final skit is notable for its visual beauty as well as the transformation of the weather from beginning to end. While running after Hotaru to talk to her about his concerns, it starts to rain hard, and the two end up sheletering at a bus stop. There, Hotaru tries to break open a tin of Sakumashiki Drops, but can’t get it open; Koko pries the top with a 10-yen-coin, amazing Hotaru.

Then he tries to put the peppermint flavor drop he gets back in the tin, which Hotaru stops him. He tries it, and it turns out to be much better than he thought, which is again what Hotaru wanted him to realize: one has to try new things to be surprised.

As for tying her down and keeping her from her own business, Hotaru tells him that’s simply not the case: she’s in Koko’s town not just because she wants to recruit his father and get him to succeed the shop, but because she enjoys hanging out there; that’s all. He’s been overthinking things, and like overthinking this show, that gets you nowhere.

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One Punch Man – 09

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ENTER GENOS. Genos doesn’t mess around this week. He gets right down to the Sea King Clobberin’. And it looks, for a hot moment, like he was sufficient, until the Sea King swoops back into view and clobbers him right back. Genos holds out, buying valuable time for the surely en route-by-now Saitama, but when a little girl cheering him on gets targeted by the King’s acid loogie, he blocks it, at great physical cost.

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All I can say is goddamn, it’s a good thing Genos is a cyborg primarily composed of replaceable artificial parts, becaue he looks near-as-makes-no-difference GONE after that acid’s done eating away at him. For a usually funny show, this is a horrific, visceral image that instills despair in that little girl.

And then, Mumen Rider tosses his bike at the Sea King. That gentle rattle of the King’s body brings the laughter right back. Mumen, unlike Saitama, belongs in Class C, at least as far as strength and ability is concerned. But he has a Class S heart, and that’s what matters as he refuses to back down and even tries to feed (in vain) off of the support of the crowd. Again, while he has no hope of victory, he’s buying time for Saitama.

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ENTER SAITAMA. The man we’ve all been waiting to see saunter up to the Sea King. The King sends Saitama’s head gently, hilariously bobbling with his initial punch, but that’s all he does. Saitama doesn’t want to stand in the rain much longer, so he wants to get this over with his usual way, so he does, blasting a hole through the Sea King so hard, the force of his punch actually blows the rainclouds away, an awesome effect. It’s all over; Perfect Victory to Saitama. The crowd of evacuees vociferously voice their gratitude.

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The next day Saitama and (a fully repaired!) Genos receive fan mail via HA delivery drone (they’re going to be a thing, people!), but the first letter Saitama opens is a violently scrawled accusation that’s he’s a cheat who should burn in hell. So hate mail.  We’re helpfully sent back to the immediate aftermath of his defeat of Sea King. There, we see just how much one or two bad apples spoil the bunch when it comes to skewing the opinion of the whole.

One of the evacuees, whose character design seems to have been painstakingly developed to be as loathsome, adversarial, and (one!-)punchable as possible, brings up the fact that this bald guy isn’t necessarily strong, but the other heroes who fell before him were weak. He goes on to call the entire hero class system into question.

This angers Saitama, but he reacts quite differently than I expected: he embraces his role as the guy who “just” delivered the finishing blow. His self-depricating words are a means of preserving the sacrifice of the heroes before him, and he doubles down on racing in at the last second to steal wins off of them. He’s not about to let other heroes who fought with everything they had be thrown under the bus because of his mis-classification. What was left of Genos at the time manages a grin of appreciation; his master truly is amazing.

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And while Saitama’s public image may not be what he might have wanted going into this whole pro hero thing, the fact is paddling against the flow of public opinion is never really going to be worthwhile as long as he’s Class C. That changes after this fight, as he becomes ranked first in C, with the option to be promoted to B after an exhaustive interview; an option he accepts, and which puts him on Amai Mask’s radar as a potential threat closing fast.

Saitama did get one hastily-scrawled letter expressing genuine thanks for his heroism. Turns out it was from Mumen Rider, who treats him to dinner at a food stand. Unlike Saitama, Mumen may be exactly where he should be—atop Class C—but that doesn’t matter to Saitama.

Mumen gave him a ride when he needed one, stood up to the Demon-class Sea King, and took an epic beating that in hindsight couldn’t have been that bad as he’s out of the hospital and ambulatory not long thereafter. We see mutual respect at that stand. And Mumen’s thanks means more to Saitama than the impersonal acceptance and love of the masses. This could be the start of a beautiful friendship.

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One Punch Man – 08

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Another day, another enemy defeated by Saitama in one punch, almost boring the crowds but helping him rise to Class C Rank 2, almost Class B! Progress. Only the octopus monster he defeated was only the vanguard of a much larger force of seafolk, led by the thoroughly evil-and-damn-proud-of-it Deep Sea King. The King takes out Stinger, then Lightning Max, with ease.

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Aside from a couple of hilarious but all-to-brief scenes of Genos and Saitama drying dishes and running, there’s just not much of the main duo in the picture this week, and while sometimes skipping their action is used for comedic effect, it’s a liability this week. I just didn’t find Stinger, Max, and Puri-Puri-Prisoner all that interesting as they tried and failed to defeat the King.

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Sonic tries to spice things up, and puts up the best fight yet against the King (along with the best combat animation in the episode), but once it starts raining the King gets bigger, stronger, and faster, while Sonic gets tired and retreats to find a weapon. Meanwhile, Amai Mask, the top Class-A hero, is more concerned with his hot new single than hero-duties.

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Mumen Rider is also in this episode, but he’s late to the battle in the cold open, and in transit the rest of the time. Like Saitama and Genos, he doesn’t really do anything. Then the episode ends and I’m left wondering why we were spending so much time watching all the other heroes try in vain to defeat the King, when we all knew it was going to come down to Saitama, Genos, Mumen Rider, or some combination of those three.

One Punch Man just wasn’t its usual sprightly, decisive self, feeling strangely sluggish and tentative throughout its weakest outing to date. At least it provided quite exhaustive setup to the showdown between the Deep Sea King and the three heroes who have yet to face him.

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