To Aru Majutsu no Index III – 03 – Precedence: Show Higher; Tell Lower

I realize Index is shounen, and a lot of chatter and explanation of tactics is par for the course, but by God there seemed to be a lot of it this week! Much is made about Terra of the Left’s “Precedence” ability, but as a member of the Right Hand of God, neither his presence or his abilities evoke terror. One big problem is it just takes so goddamn long for him to spit out the various incantations that give one thing (like flour) precedence over another (stone, metal, flesh, etc.).

Terra’s seiyu is the venerable Ootsuka Houchuu, but saddling the old man with explaining his attacks and making him say “Precedence: X higher, Y lower” every time he attacks just slows the battle way down to the point where when he gives Touma and Itsuwa “ten seconds” to attack or run, I had to laugh out loud; Dude, you’ve given them over half an hour!

Touma and Itsuwa eventually end up with Tsuchimikado, but only for a hot minute, as they split up again so he can face down some of the invading Academy City Powered Suits. Again, much of the battle is spent with him talking, explaining how he’s going to bring the suits down.

Two other weird little details: when Touma calls Misaka to ask if Avignon’s in the news (which it most definitely is), they didn’t bother to add a “phone filter” to Misaka’s voice, making it sound like she’s there in the Papal Palace with him. Not only that, for a kid who can’t always afford food, he’s racking up quite an international call charge leaving his phone on the hook!

If it sounds like I’m nitpicking, well, I am, but only because the show is so consumed with explaining every, attack, effect, and motive, it all kinda ends up muddling together into a gray mass that makes it easy to be distracted to the little things like the sound Misaka’s voice or Touma’s phone bill.

And at the end of the day, Terra and his attack just aren’t that impressive; certainly not as much as Imagine Breaker (even though Touma either forgot its true power or wants confirmation from Terra). Touma punches Terra a couple times, and then destroys the Document of C when he touches it with his right hand.

Back in the Tower of London, Lidvia continues explaining how the Right Hand of God wants to not only gain the power of angels, but gain equivalency with God himself and even surpass him. Such a lofty yet abstract goal is akin to Jafar’s final wish to the Genie in Aladdin: becoming an all-powerful genie. Sure, you can juggle planets in your hands, but to what end? At what point do you have enough power?

I’m not sure, and neither is the show. The Right Hand of God are simply Bad Guys, and Touma, Misaka, Itsuwa, etc. are the Good Guys. Spending the better part of two episodes on Terra feels even more pointless when we learn the RHG isn’t even really a united force; after having a chat with Terra, Acqua rips a column of the vatican off its mounts and crushes him with it.

Besides being a needlessly destructive way to kill someone, it was also a “twist” that had absolutely no effect on me. Acqua is an even more boring dude then Terra, who at least had a certain joie de vivre about him. Meanwhile, the second straight episode ends with Misaka just hanging out in her dorm, doing nothing. Not a rousing start!

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TenSura – 02 – A Slimy New Hope

When some initial attempts to free Veldora the Storm Dragon fail, Satoru decides to envelop him in his stomach, but not before they give each other names: with Satoru being named Rimuru Tempest and the dragon Veldora Tempest. It works: the dragon is no longer a prisoner of the spell, but nor does he have physical form anymore. Rimuru, however, knows he’s in there somewhere.

For the next few weeks Rimuru sets to work gaining new skills, some of which he gains just by performing a new task; some of which he takes from the various beasts he defeats. It’s a very procedural sequence but it’s well-paced and always satisfying when he slays a new foe with the skills of the previous one.

In this way he gathers quite a bit of power, and eventually reaches the front door of the cave, which to his surprise opens to reveal three human adventurers. Rimuru slips out without them noticing, and the “disappearance” of Veldora changes the balance of power in the entire region.

For instance, Rimuru assumes Veldora, or at least his power, kept direwolves away from a village of (non-rapey!) goblins, whom are extremely frightened of the slime due to the intense magical aura he’s emitting. It seems even sealed away Veldora cast a big shadow in the area.

Rimuru hears out the goblin elder and decides to help out, considering how hopeless their fight is (there are only 60 goblins to 100 wolves, each of which requires an average of ten goblins to defeat, so they’re at least 940 short). In exchange, the villagers offer him their undying loyalty.

And so, not long after befriending and then absorbing a tsundere storm dragon, the Slime has now become a goblin leader. Never a dull moment here on TenSura.

Tensei shitara Slime Datta Ken – 01 (First Impressions) – Slime Meets Storm Dragon

To be more precise: 37-year-old virgin is stabbed to death in random act of Tokyo street violence, is unexpectedly reincarnated as a slime in some random cave, and then meets the storm dragon. Thus begins the Fall 2018 season: with a very odd and unique premise that could prove to be an interesting variation on the “Awakening in a New Fantasy World” genre.

The bluish slime is the former Mikami Satou, who was meeting a kohai’s girlfriend for the first time when said stabbing occured. Up until that point he’d lived the most normal life a 37-year-old who’d never had a girlfriend could live.

So it stands to reason suddenly waking up as a ball of plant-and-crystal-dissolving slime would represent a serious game change.

And it’s definitely a game change, as in normal life changing into a game-like fantasy world in which an echo-y female voice is constantly keeping the former Satoru informed on what skills he’s amassing as he performs certain actions or becomes aware of certain things.

He eventually encounters the storm dragon Verudora, who was sealed and imprisoned in the cave by some kind of elite mage called a “summon” over three centuries ago. Verudora is a bit bemused by the fact a slime is self-aware and can talk, but he’s not picky about company.

Indeed, he’s desperately bored and in need of a friend. The funny thing is, he ends up being quite amusingly tsundere-y about it, before acknowledging Satoru the Slime as his first friend and conversation partner in a long, long time.

We’ll see where things go from here, but it’s a good start, keeping things basic and giving us time to get used to the surroundings and rules of the world. And if I hold onto this show, it will be the only non-sequel / spinoff / carryover I’ll be watching.

Hanebado! – 02 – Smashing a Slump

The epic clash between Nagisa and Ayano…doesn’t go well, mostly due to the massive differential in both talent and motivation. Ayano just doesn’t care, so when Nagisa gets too into it, she just gives up, which of course makes Nagisa even more angry.

Ayano still stays in the club—ostensibly because Elena elects to become the manager, and she and Ayano can never be apart…I guess?—but Nagisa is caught in a bad slump, and feels she can’t get out of it unless she beats Ayano in a match in which both players are invested…easier said than done.

The three quitters also converse with another first-year, Yuu, who has a ritual of eating a hot dog on a stick after every workout. They can tell things are no less tense at practices than before they quit.

When paired up for doubles, Nagisa and Ayano crash into each other, but you get the feeling the collisions are all Nagisa’s fault, because she’s thinking about coming out of her slump and proving something far more than she’s thinking about the team. Coach Tachibana switches her out for Riko, who ducks to let Ayano return the shot.

Nagisa sees this as nothing but making Tachibana’s “favorite” look good, which she says is all everyone thinks people without talent are good for: making the talented look better. Nagisa’s huge chip on her shoulder is long-standing; she’s always been tall for her age, and despite working harder than almost everyone, that height was seen as a natural (and unfair) advantage.

When the quitters see Nagisa yelling at Yuu out of frustration, one of them confronts her, saying she used to envy her love of badminton. Left unsaid is the fact she probably pities her now.

Having watched enough of Nagisa’s play (and attitude) to diagnose the cause of her slump, Tachibana engages in a bit of tough love by having a match with her. Before he blew out his knee he was an Olympics-bound player, and it shows: he straight-up schools the slumping Nagisa.

But then, he says all the things she needed to hear: the misconceptions people have for tall people like her; the acknowledgement she’s good because of hard work, not her height; and perhaps most important, that she can’t just rely on being tall to deliver jumping smashes at this stage in her career, but have more trust in her shot and be less obsessed with controlling everything.

It’s a pep talk with immediate positive effects, and by the end of their match, Nagisa has scored a point against a would-be Olympian, and a smile returns to her face. She later apologizes to the team, promises she’ll be less selfish going forward, but also vows to one day beat Ayano. I’m just glad she’s out of her funk!

Hanebado! – 01 (First Impressions) – Everything is Pointless

Hanebado! opens fast and crisp, in the midst of a match in the badminton nationals. One player is struggling as hard as she can and sweating bullets; the other is just calmly, coolly blowing her opponent away with a 21-o game.

The scene features some really decent sports animation, elevating the action to a kind of heightened reality with viewing angles, cuts, and shifts in speed. But as exciting as the match looks, neither player is happy at the end; neither the victor nor the defeated.

Cut to six months later, the victor (Hanesaki Ayano) along with her longtime friend (Fujisawa Elena) are first years at the same school as third-year player she defeated (Aragaki Nagisa), who is so upset over the loss she’s taking it out on the other players in the club, forcing several to quit rather than endure more abuse.

Ayano wants nothing to do with badminton, but while exchanging easy volleys with Elena on a tennis court, an errant bounce of a serve by the boy’s tennis club’s first-year ace Saionji nearly hits Elena in the face, but Ayano lunges in front of her and smashes it away, gaining a point in a game she wasn’t even playing.

A coach grabs Ayano and inspects her wrists and hands, forcing Elena to defend her. Meanwhile Nagisa (whom Ayano beat) wanders off, regretting how harsh she was with the now-departed players. She’s comforted by her friend Riko, who remains with the team and is likely the only person Nagisa is comfortable crying around.

So the main players in Hanebado! are a girl possessed with phenomenal natural talent who has no motivation to actually play, and a girl who is basically the opposite, with a good metric fuckton of angst between them. A classic talent-vs.-hard work dynamic, which results in a very shounen manga-style challenge at the end: If Ayano beats Nagisa, she won’t have to join.

That means in this rematch, Nagisa will have to find some way to turn the tables. Perhaps in the last six months she’s narrowed the gap between them? I’m a couple weeks behind in this show because I was trying to avoid watching a sports anime, but there’s no way I’m backing out of this before I watch the result, which will no doubt feature more of that sweet sweet shuttlecock action!

Shokugeki no Souma 3 – 01 (First Impressions)

Food Wars is back, baby! FWIII. It’s a brand new autumn, Souma’s got a brand-new scooter (which he rides at low speed so Megumi can keep up—nice!), and it’s almost time for something he’s never heard of: Totsuki’s Moon Festival, which will feature many a food booth, including some from the Elite Ten.

Souma picks out one of the friendlier-seeming of the group—Eighth Seat Kuga Terunomi, voiced by Kaji Yuki—and gets him to agree to a Shokugeki with his seat on the line if he can cook him something good. Megumi, Erina, and many of Souma’s other peers can only sigh at their poor friend displaying his appalling naïveté once more; trying to go up against Kuga and outsell him with half a plan is like simply walking into Mordor: One Doesn’t Simply Do That.

But this is Souma we’re talking about: he does things whether they’re done or not, sometimes without even knowing the significance of his actions. Since Kuga’s specialty is Chinese cuisine (specifically Sichuan) Megumi introduces him to Hojo Miyoko, who then takes him to Kuga’s well-oiled machine of a club where legions of identical baldies cook perfect Sichuan mapo tofu (one of my personal faves) perfectly before Souma’s eyes.

While a supremely confident fellow, Kuga’s team’s performance does finally impress upon Souma the weight of what he means to accomplish. It also helps to learn certain important details about the festival he means to dominate, like, say, the number of expected daily servings (>1,000) or the different sections of the festival (ranging from low-cost, high-volume main street to the rarefied air of the no-limit Yamanote area.

Souma, antagonizing Erina without even trying as usual, spends the days leading up to the application deadline mulling over how he can possibly compete seriously against an immensely powerful and popular force like Kuga, but it’s his proximity to Erina that allows it to dawn on him: he’ll leech excess customers off Kuga, like he did with Erina.

SnS settles back into a groove almost as effortlessly as Erina gets pissed off by Souma. While focusing on Souma, Kuga, and the upcoming festival, it casually reintroduces the core and a few key secondary and tertiary characters from last season. The intro to the complete Elite Ten was a bit overwhelming, but obviously Souma will only be dealing with one at a time.

Oh yeah, and if his booth loses money, Souma will be…EXPELLED. *GASP!* Hmm…now where have I heard that before? That’s a hollow threat and I won’t fall for it, show. Nevertheless, for Souma and his challenge of the master of spicy Sichuan cuisine, the heat…  ( •_•)>⌐□-□. (⌐□_□) will be on.

Boruto: Naruto Next Generations – 02

Last week I felt bad for Hinata stuck at home as a housewife and mom when she, Naruto, and their friends once did battle side-by-side on the front lines…but I just might have it all wrong. This peaceful life, both for themselves and for their children, is what they fought for in the first place. But some youngins are restless, and long for a time they probably romanticize since they weren’t even alive for the worst of it.

One such knucklehead, Aino Iwabe, picks on Denki, leading to Boruto challenging him. It’s the second straight week Boruto saves Denki from a bully or bullies, only this week there’s much more emphasis on Boruto as a brat riding his illustrious dad’s coattails. After all, he crashed a train into a mountain and just got a slap on a wrist.

Between that incident, the lenient punishment, Yamanaka Inojin’s shade, and Iwabe’s taunts, Boruto has to work for acceptance by his peers (at least the ones who aren’t Denki or Shikadai). That means the class dismisses itself for a good old-fashioned schoolyard duel.

Boruto is able to keep up, but gets thrashed around quite a bit by the older and clearly more advanced Iwabe. Even Uchida Sarada, who had put up a haughty dismissive front to that point, seems to fret over the outcome of her childhood friend’s fight with the older kid.

In the end, Boruto all but convinces Iwabe that everyone has their individual circumstances, but blaming “the times” for one’s failures, not to mention picking on those weaker than you, is way uncool.

When Iwabe loses his temper and readies an earth-based weapon, he is quickly stopped by Inojin, who despite his earlier shade, gained respect for Boruto for defending Denki and proving through his skills that he’s not simply riding coattails.

When class reconvenes, Iwabe is right there behind Boruto, and they exchange cordial greetings. And Boruto is no longer unpopular, getting lunch invitations from many a classmate. Another peaceful resolution in a peaceful world. No one knows how long such peace will last, but they certainly can enjoy it while it does.

Busou Shoujo Machiavellianism – 01 (First Impressions)

The Gist: Aichi Coexistence Private Academy was once an all girls school but, for reasons not entirely clear, it was made co-ed. However, this resulted in the girls bringing weapons to school and, eventually, the rise of the Supreme Five Swords—the baddest warrioresses on campus who ultimately run the school.

Now, Aichi is the destination for male students too tough for the regular school system and Nomura Fudou, our unwitting protagonist, fits that bill to a T…

You may get a kick out of Armed Girls’ if you can roll with how silly it all is. The art is decent enough, with short-cut but acceptable action animation and good enough character designs. Everyone in the cast speaks with a slight accent. All the boys are in drag. The first of the five swords wears a literal devil mask, which breaks cheekily after she and Nomura accidentally kiss. Silly stuff like that.

You may groan and roll your eyes at Armed Girls’ because everyone in the cast is basically a pretentious a-hole, a cliché, or both. (The french girl’s haughty fake laugh is especially cringe inducing)

The pace is also a bit slow, with an over reliance on characters standing still to yell at each other and/or introduce special techniques that don’t stand out visually from each other. The result feels very formulaic and, combined with the characters all being unlikable, Armed Girls’ doesn’t feel like much love was put into its production.

The Verdict: Nomura Fudou seems like the intended protagonist, obviously, but in many ways Rin Onigawara is set up to experience more emotional change along the way. Regardless, I’m not sure Busou Shoujo Machiavellianism actually has a protagonist, as Rin and Nomura  get about the same screen time and neither has an especially compelling backstory, mystery, or quest.

I didn’t find Busou Shoujo Machiavellianism especially funny or exciting. It’s just good enough to review, but not so much so that I actually want to review it. For goodness sakes, the only eventful element of the first episode is Nomura x Rin’s accidental first kiss, which is itself a total cliché…

Boruto: Naruto Next Generations – 01 (First Impressions)

This spin-off of and semi-sequel to Naruto starts at the end, and in a pretty dark place with Naruto’s grown-up son Boruto fighting some baddie among the ruins of Konohagakure. Looks pretty serious and hardcore, but it is only a small taste of what will supposedly come to pass many years hence.

Rewind to when Boruto is just a little punk kid, on the eve of the Academy entrance ceremony. He spots a boy being bullied and later learns his name is Denki and he’ll also be attending the academy, but only because his father is making him as part of his duty as heir to the family business empire. Boruto can probably relate to dad’s casting long shadows, as his own is none other than the Seventh Hokage.

Back home we check in on Boruto’s little sister Himawari and his mom and Naruto’s wife Hinata. Seems like a nice enough house but if I recall correctly Hyuuga Hinata was and is a pretty large badass kunoichi, and frankly looks rather bored looking after the ol’ homestead while Naruto is buried under paperwork at Hokage HQ. But this show ain’t about the parents; they had their time in the limelight…fifteen years and 720 episodes’ worth, to be precise.

Naturally Boruto and Denki don’t simply arrive at the opening ceremony on time and get on with classes, because that wouldn’t be that exciting. Instead, Denki’s bitterness at being rejected by his dad causes him to be possessed by an evil aura, which Boruto is able to see with his trick right eye.

Denki sets it up so the bullies will get killed in a head-on collision of two trains (built and run by his dad’s company). Boruto gets him to snap out of it and cast off the evil aura, and with Boruto uses his clones’ combined reach to pull the switch that avoids the collision. Everybody’s safe and sound, and both Denki and the bullies learn a lesson and bond a little through their shared ordeal.

With that, all that’s left is to get to the ceremony on time, and Boruto and Denki just make it, by making one hell of a ridiculous entrance, aboard the derailed train car, which crashes into the side of Naruto’s face. Not his real face, but the colossal stone face carved into the mountain with the other Hokage. Symbolism, much?

This week is the Boruto & Denki show, sprinkled with a bit of Nara Shikadai, with naught but a cameo by Sakura and Sasuke’s daughter Sarada. The episode gets the job done: introducing the title character, demonstrating his considerable but still very-raw abilities and very familiar personality, and giving him a mission-of-the-week to carry out with Denki.

I’ll admit to dropping Naruto: Shippuden about two years in after completing Naruto, but there’s a nice fresh-start feel about Boruto, a newly-revamped take on an old, familiar world. The production values are higher than I remember (granted, back when Naruto started there was no widescreen or HD). It’s nothing fancy, and is by definition unoriginal, but there’s a inscrutable easy watchability to it nonetheless. Whether you’re a big fan of the franchise, a complete noob, or somewhere in between like me seeking ‘shounen comfort food’, it’s worth a quick glance.

Keijo!!!!!!!! – 12 (Fin)

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The Finale: Cockroach-chan’s showdown with Kaya, Maya’s abuse-fueld alter-ego is intense but ultimately morphs back into a duel with Maya, after a rousing pep-talk about wanting to be proud of the fight. Cockroach-chan wins, of course, having been upgraded by her team mates and having unlocked the full power of the vacuum butt cannon.

But all it well that ends well and the girls have a lovely banquet together afterwards. Despite their on-land meanness, team evil is all puppies and kittens now, and quickly becomes friends.

Final Verdict: This was pretty terrible. I get the point is exploitation backed by friendly non-objectifying girls who love (and take seriously) a sport but… nah this is just nipple-less T&A wrapped around generic fighting tourney tropes. There was no charm at the end, no humor to balance the final fight, and Team-evil never had a chance, nor was there 5 episode arc built up enough for it to have weight or stakes.

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Keijo!!!!!!!! – 11

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The Gist: Cockroach-chan takes Qi-girl head on and gets a whiff of victory… yes, literally. Ultimately, after a lengthy duel that breaks Qi-girl’s mind and turns her hair white, they are still at a standstill.

Meanwhile, Neko-chan and the other girls who’s names I don’t remember defeat a magician who pulls cards out of her butt and a girl with green hair who joins with the magician to form a combination-attack form. Yes, they literally share a swimsuit to do this.

Also there’s a heavy set girl who hasn’t lost yet but she isn’t given much screen time and doesn’t seem to be a real threat…

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The Verdict: there are a few truly fantastic moments of comedy this week surrounded by dull fighting tropes, unnecessary backstory elements for the villains, and sloppy pacing. Over all, this was a see-saw affair and how much enjoyment you get from it depends on how much the highs charm you and the lows irritate you.

The magician’s butt cards had me giggling like an idiot but her boob flashing and her ultimate KO were a snooze. The combination form with green hair chan was also great, especially due to the sound effects and the hilarious giant-robo style camera angle for their ‘hook up’ but the minutes spent ‘locked butt to butt’ with Pink-chan was totally uneventful on the flip side. Cockroach-chan sniffing Qi-chan’s arse — especially the poor voice actress doing a pig snort — was to die for but the fight itself was bland paste. I don’t care at all about Qi-chan and didn’t need her backstory or second form to pad out the episode :(

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Keijo!!!!!!!! – 10

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The Gist: the second race is underway and, surprise surprise, Team Pompous gets mauled by our clever underdogs. First, two girls get flung overboard when The Ass of Varja and Hillbilly-chan sync-bounce the seaplane wings. Then Heart-Eye-chan takes out another girl with mutual annihilation. Finally, Hillbilly-chan and Aoba use their roommate attacks to bring down the last opponent.

Unfortunately, everyone is eliminated at the same time and, in a twist, the last Pompous girl uses propeller breasts to stay in the air a split second longer than Aoba, thus winning the match narrowly upon video review.

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The Verdict: while more watchable than last week, Keijo’s second act remains fairly generic by sports anime conventions. Yes, the various attacks and super powers are silly and raunchy but there isn’t much warmth to the character interactions and, honestly, the novelty has worn off.

Structurally, I don’t know how Keijo un-jumps the shark here? Introducing new girls and new abilities with more epic effects is just an extension of what it was already doing. There’s nothing unusual about the underdog team winning (or doing well against) the expected power house in sports anime either. Making them mean girl jerks doesn’t make them compelling characters to boot.

:/

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Keijo!!!!!!!! – 09

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The Gist: Judo-chan and Bi-chan survive a cringe worthy battle between a generic body-builder type, twins, and a sneering redhead who apparently knows Judo and uses synesthesia to understand body heat, movement and strength. And Yes, Judo-chan wins by giving herself a hard nipple to launch a Keijo-legal shoulder throw.

Evil-chan and team evil seem completely dumbfounded as they lose, despite obvious strengths and advantages shown early on by team good guys. Their mean-lady coach seems surprised too, again bizarre because everyone knows Judo-chan was a world-class judoka ahead of time, and that Bi-chan is the best of the best.

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The Verdict: Oh how the mighty have fallen… There’s no better description than generic for this one and, were it not for the production quality, this week’s pandering would have kicked it down to a 5 or 4.

As is, the episode felt gross to watch, contained no real humor, and was a predictable good guys beat the pompous bad guys first match.

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