Sekai Seifuku: Bouryaku no Zvezda – 09

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Apparently it was onsen week, as Samurai Flamenco, Nisekoi, and now Zvezda all featured hot springs. Of the three, we’d have to say Zvezda’s offering was the most creative and impactful. Having both White Light and Zvezda hold their company retreats at the same hot spring, and not knowing the either would be there, is both silly and brilliant—as is having the elderly innkeepers be on opposite sides.

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When White Robin bumps into Dva, one would think Robin would immediately engage in combat, but it doesn’t go that way; Dva buys her a soda and they simply relax in this neutral place. After all, both “companies” are there to relax; maintaining a truce with the enemy keeps things from getting unrelaxed. But thanks to White Egret, a battle breaks out anyway.

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While not happy with Miki picking a fight with Dva, Falcon decides to launch an all-out assault. Watching different halves of the assembled “employees” pull off their robes to unveil their true colors was a great bit of stagecraft, and the innkeepers duelling as Kate dozes below them is both thrilling and hilarious (Kate shows a lot of her kid-side this week by being immodest in the bath, conquering milk, and getting drowsy when its her bedtime). What was really cool was how casually Renge learned that Egret and Dva were Miki and Asuta all along.

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Asuta still doesn’t know Renge is Robin, but we thought it was significant that Robin saved Dva before she knew who he was—not because she was betraying White Light, but because she didn’t see him as a threat. Now she knows, and her immediate reaction is tentative. As the war between White Light and Zvezda escalates (it sure looks like Yase betrayed Zvezda and their HQ has been blown up), there will probably be more instances when Renge will have to choose what matters more: duty or love.

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Rating: 8 
(Great)

 

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Sekai Seifuku: Bouryaku no Zvezda – 08

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Zvezda has been very zany, witty, whimsical and fun over its first seven outings, but it’s not what you’d call sophisticated drama. This episode aims to change that, as Zvezda’s secret base is infiltrated deeper than ever before, while the history of Zvezda’s dependable rock General Pepel AKA Shikabane Gorou is explored deeper than before. The show decides not to immediately jump into the confrontation between Asuta and his dad, instead revealing the mysterious commander of White Light, who harbors a personal grudge against Zvezda and its chief, Gorou.

Things start off innocently enough, as Gorou is checking out pastry exhibition, which is hilariously random but also disarming, since maybe the old man’s just there for the sweets. After their big battle last week, Asuta, Kate, and Robo are simply kicking back, and the lead voice actress in Kate’s favorite anime turns out to be White Light’s commander, White Falcon. Things take a turn for the worse when she bombards Kate, Asuta, Robo, and Tasha with puppeteer waves and invites herself to their base, where she deploys a large White Light contingent.

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It’s a very nice dastardly plot because it comes out of nowhere, as does Falcon herself. Even so, she makes a lot of progress because she identified and isolated Zvezda’s most conventionally powerful (i.e., non-magical) member at the moment. The connections come fast and furious: the pastry chef Pierre was thrown out of the gang by Gorou’s wife(?), Tsubaki; White Falcon is really Tsubaki’s sister (possibly making her Gorou’s sister-in-law); Itsuka is Tsubaki’s daughter. All these ties both enrich and explain the underlying conflict between Zvezda and White Light; now it more closely resembles a family feud.

This episode also bucked the trend of focusing on Asuta (the ostensible protagonist) or Kate (the ostensible leader of Zvezda), and focused on the underutilized but incredibly Badass Old Dude; his Old Dude friend who’s really good at baking (and stopping steamrollers); and his Old Dude past, which shaped the Old Dude he is today. After being disguised as a stationary bronze bust for the last two weeks, he gets his time in the spotlight, brings a welcome dose of seriousness and gravitas, and shows Kaori that he won’t allow himself or Zvezda and the ideal of world conquest to be defeated as neatly as she’d planned.

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Rating: 8 
(Great)

 

 

Sket Dance – 76

In the first half, Katou Kiri pledges serve Tsubaki in everything. This makes Tsubaki uncomfortable at first, but eventually learns he can use his power to turn Katou into a useful member of the student council, as he helps anyone who needs it using his ninjitsu. In the second half, the Sket-dan teams up with Tsubaki, Asahina, Unyuu and Katou to try to cure Usami of her dual personalities. The girls try dressing like guys, but that doesn’t work; then the guys dress up as girls, and Bossun and Switch are convincing enough to prevent her from transforming into Bunny, if only briefly.

Prior to watching this episode, we learned that this would be the next-to-last episode of Sket Dance, which will wrap after a robust 77 episodes. This is a pretty by-the-numbers episode, focusing heavily on the new student council in the first half, then pulling out the ol’ gender switcheroo premise for the second half. While we felt a subtle but distinct hint of going through the motions, this was still an enjoyable episode.

Like previous dramatic episodes in which a character underwent some kind of change, that change carries through to the episodes that follow. Thus Katou will obey any order Tsubaki gives him – including the order to obey the other student council members. Grateful for Tsubaki’s loyalty, friendship, and for saving his ass, this makes perfect sense. Usami, meanwhile, has yet to overcome her personality-splitting ways, despite some very convincing (to Himeko, anyway) “girl talk” by Bossun and Switch (Tsubaki and Katou shrink before this particular task). It showed that the Sket-dan still had something unique to contribute with only one more episode remaining.


Rating: 6 (Good)

Sket Dance – 74

In the first half, Bossun is playing with a collectable toy car in the hallway when he’s scolded by Tsubaki, who breaks it while attempting to confiscate it. Mimorin recognizes the car as the same kind her father collects, and invites Tsubaki, Bossun, and Himeko over to her “house”, which is more like an underground city. In the second half, the ramen shop owner challenges Captain to a rematch, but Bossun’s indelicate words lead to her retiring her “Cap’n Munch” special eating move. Bossun takes her place in the challenge, but can’t cut it. She swoops in and uses a supersonic “Neo-Cap’n Munch” to defeat the shop owner once more, until she learns she ate hard-boiled eggs and throws everything up.

This week was a very special episode of Sket Dance, in which we get an inside look at the living conditions of perhaps the wealthiest anime characters we’ve ever known, the Unyuus. Worth at least 5 quintillion yen (50 followed by eighteen zeros), we learn that all of Mimorin’s boasts throughout the series were justified…and then some. Her family is in fact worth many times more than the whole rest of the world economy, which is fun. More to the point, we love just how over-the-top and uncompromising her wealth is depicted. She doesn’t just have a butler; she has hundreds of servants who live in an underground city with a stark palette. Her above-ground entrance hall occupies several city blocks. It’s nuts, but hilariously so.

The second half can’t quite match the scale of the first, but it exceeds it in passion – or should we say, “Cap’passion”; as in the infectious competitive passion of the captain, Takahashi Chiaki, who gets another chance to show off her eating skills. Like the first half, it starts small: Bossun makes an offhand comment about how quickly Captain eats. It puts her in a self-conscious, sulky mood, and she gives up the “Cap’n Munch” ability. Still, Bossun, Switch, the ramen shop owner, and eventually even Hani and Asahina get all fired up, and their passion then re-stokes hers as she sees Bossun struggling. It’s all very dramatic and powerfully depicted, only to be comically and suddenly cut short at the end when she barfs it all up (off-camera), thanks to the end credits rolling in the middle.


Rating: 8 (Great)

Car Cameos: This episode was replete with some classics, being about collecting cars: Bossun is playing with a toy Mercedes-Benz SSK, and gets an SSKL from the Unyuus after a lot of trouble. Among the model and real cars Rintarou owns are a Mercedes-Benz 300SL, a Volkswagen Beetle (pictured), a Volkswagen Golf MkI, and a Mercedes-Benz 280SL. In Mimorin’s recollection, there’s also a Shelby Cobra, Beetle Cabriolet, and a ’55-’56 GMC Truck. None of the cars and trucks in the Unyuu underground city were detailed enough to be identified, but they looked to be of general 70s-80s vintage.

Sket Dance – 69

In the first half, Bossun has to go to the bathroom, but finds himself constantly blocked or otherwise prevented from going. In the second half, Tsubaki asks the Sket-dan to help him refine a two-page manga-style wanted ad for the student council to replace Agata and Michiru.

Our first reaction to half an episode being dedicated to taking a shit is “Really, Sket Dance? You that short on ideas?” But as the segment progressed, we found ourselves enjoying watching Bossun squirm as a proxy for ourselves, and admired the audacity of devoting an entire half to such a ‘high concept’. Sket Dance once again proves its adeptness at putting its characters in extremely relatable situations. Who hasn’t had one of those days when you just can’t get to a toilet in time…or worse, you get to one, and suddenly your colon won’t cooperate? Well, at least we’ve never been held up by a visual kei guy.

The second part was equally competant, and surprisingly involved manga without involving Saotome Roman. That’s not a bad thing, as it was nice to get a fresh art style for Tsubaki’s poster. As artists who have always been weary of “permanent” media such as watercolor, gauche, and ink, we also connected with the pitfalls of those media: when you make a mistake, you have to improvise to erase it or make it seem intentional. This half also served as foreshadowing for the recruiting of two new student council members, who are already in the OP.


Rating: 5 (Average)

Sket Dance – 65

When Council president Agata Soujirou sees his sister Saaya talking to Tsubaki, he grilles her and Tsubaki on their intentions. Tsubaki answers believing Agata is talking about Bosssun, and says he’ll have dinner again. When Agata sees that Saaya wasn’t invited to dinner, he prods her; she answers belieiving her brother is talking about Bossun as well, and asks him out on a date. Tailing her, Agata is angry when he sees Bossun with Tsubaki and Saaya, though it was Tsubaki who was there by coincidence. The four have awkward tea, where Agata incorrectly deduces that Bosssun is in love with Saaya.

While we can see how they would drive some people up a wall, we love episodes like this that take a triangle of people, give them all misconceptions about who they’re all talking about, tangle them all up and run with it. Have you ever been in a conversation where one of you pauses and asks “wait, we’re talking about the same person, right?” This never happens in any conversations, leading Agata to take what he hears and apply it to the wrong people in his 160-IQ brain. This isn’t easy to keep up naturally and believably, but Agata, Saaya, Bossun and Tsubaki pull it off without breaking a sweat. And it’s great to see the normally cool and laid-back Agata getting all bent out of shape for once.

The underlying cause of all these misunderstandings is that on matters concerning his lil’ sis, Agata’s massive intellect betrays him. He worries about her, as any good big brother should, but he over-meddles. His reward is that he comes away from his encounter with the Saaya/Bossun/Tsubaki triangle with completely the wrong idea, and the more he prys, the less legitimate information he gleans. As for Saaya, she actually got something worthwhile, even if her bro and Tsubaki ruined her first date: Agata got Bossun to admit some pretty flattering things about her. The only problem here is that Bossun is still too dense vis-a-vis Saaya. Seriously, where the hell is this kid’s sex drive?


Rating: 6 (Good)

Sket Dance – 63

Bossun and Himeko switch personalities. Tsubaki is hypnotized into believing he’s a cat. The only person who can help them has no motivation. Saaya is thinking about confessing to Bossun. Switch, who encouraged Saaya, now has to keep her away from Bossun, who is actually Himeko, who has to keep Himeko, who is actually Bossun, away from her body and other girls. Roman, who is omniscient, knows Bossun’s secret, because it’s how she’d write a high school trip anime. Enough going on for ya?

These situations, on their own, would make for pretty thin episodes (or half-episodes). But all of these things are going on in one episode, making for a dense, multifaceted episode with a manic pace. There’s so much going on here, all of which matches the established lore of the characters thus far. It’s no surprise to us that both Himeko and Bossun would think it would be easy to imitate one another, and not think further ahead to all of the awkward situations they’d get themselves into. Something as mundane as bathing with her fellow female classmates suddenly becomes a big deal. Things are chaotic.

Switch’s clandestine role to ensure Saaya won’t speak to Bossun when Himeko’s in his body – despite having prodded her to do just that last week – works well. Saaya’s own constant insistence that Bossun’s a “kind creep” hits fever pitch, and Bossun (with Himeko’s personality within) only fuels the fire. We also like how the generic student extras check off many of the things the Sket-dan has done (mentioning the events of previous episodes) and it’s true, to the mis- or under-informed, it might look like the club screws around more than it helps. But those extras respresent how dull the school would be without the Sket-dan, or their legion of eccentric friends and the student council, for that matter. Such a school would carry no interest for us.


Rating: 3.5

Sket Dance – 62

Class 2’s ski trip to Niigata nears, but the various classes must compete in a group jump rope competition in order to go. Saaya, who is bad at sports, is weary of letting her class down, and her classmate Horii lets her know about it. Saaya practices with the Sket-dan, and the next day her class comes within a skip of the record. Saaya says she was the one who missed a skip, covering for the real culprit Horii.

In the second part, the trip is underway, with the Sket-dan’s class sharing a bus with Tsubaki’s. Saaya, in another bus considers telling Bossun how she feels on the trip, after getting advice from Switch at a rest stop. When the journey continues Himeko gets motion sickness, and Chuu-san is ready with a galaxy of pills, many of which Bossun had already tried previously. Himeko, Bossun and Tsubaki end up taking the wrong pills, the result of which Bossun and Himeko switch personalities and Tsubaki is hypnotized into thinking he’s Bossun.

This week we’re presented with one fairly unexcceptional and one fairly enjoyable outings, both of which set up the two-part class trip episode that may mark the end of the series (though we’re 0-for-everything on predicting the end of the series.) The first part is fairly Saaya-heavy, and as your ironically-typical tsundere, she’s not all that compelling and can’t carry a half-episode all on her own. The second half was better, with the Sket-dan and Tsubaki falling victim to Chuu’s ridiculous drugs. You would have thought they’d learned their lesson by now, but no. Now the dynamic of the class trip will have a whole new meaning, with their personalities being screwed up for three whole days.


Rating: 3

Sket Dance – 61

In the first part, the Sket-dan observes Roman tutor her protege Fumi at the manga club. Roman had a one-shot published and is currently storyboarding her second piece. After reading Fumi’s manga, the Sket-dan is weary of Fumi’s chances, but she ends up winning the contest. In the second part, the Sket-dan are doing impressions of student council members, attracting Tsubaki, who lost his contacts and can’t see properly. They run with the misunderstanding and mess with him, and end up having to sit through a council meeting, impersonating the other officers.

We have no idea when Sket Dance will be wrapping up, but if it’s soon, we’re glad they stuck in one more Saotome Roman segment. She can get a little rote, but when utilized properly, her Suzumiya-style control over time and space is something to beheld. This segment plays her relatively straight, laying out her goals and motivations succinctly, then demonstrating that while her art style leaves much to the imagination, she’s a naturally gifted teacher, and her storytelling, while unorthodox, is anything but boring. As is typical during the readthroughs of manga involving Roman, we were laughing almost the whole time, not just at the absurdity, but the reactions of Bossun and Himeko.

While not as good, the second half was a good demonstration of how a practical joke can bite you in the ass if you don’t end it soon enough. When Tsubaki told them getting teased over his glasses netted him a complex about wearing them: that was the time to stop, but they didn’t, and ended up having to maintain their impressions far longer than they bargained for. To their credit, the impressons are pretty funny, as is the whole situation of dealing with someone who believes three people are four other people as his vision slowly improves. As for the circumstances that occupied the real council – the principal just felt like gushing about his grandchild – was amsuingly innocuous.


Rating: 3

Sket Dance – 59

Daisey is harassed by delinquents from Tachi High, but when both Bossun and later Tsubaki offer to help her, she refuses it, not wanting to trouble anyone. She accepts an invitation to meet the gang’s leader, one Yabuka, who wants to make her his woman (he has others). He kisses her, gets her contact info, and steals her Munmun strap. Despite Asahina’s insistence he not interfere, Tsubaki confronts the gang – on his own, refusing help from Bossun. He ends up beaten severely until the Sket-dan shows up anyway, in lame disguises. They take out the small fry, leaving him to deliver a devastating fist to Yabuka’s face. Both he and Asahina learn to accept help from friends when they’re in need.

Asahina (Daisey) and Tsubaki are very much alike; both are upstanding members of the student council, but both have large chips on their shoulder and are incredibly stubborn. When offered or given help, they turn their nose up and say “i didn’t ask for help.” Yet Tsubaki, like his brother Bossun, has an innate desire and compulsion to help those in need. Even those who, like Tsubaki, want no such help – like Asahina. But although they wouldn’t care to admit it, it really isn’t possible to survive without help from anybody, ever.

You never who among the huge cast of Sket Dance will get the focus from week to week (unless you watch the previews), but we were very much on board with a Daisey/Tsubaki episode. Daisey is one of the more underutilized side characters, and this week gave her a little more dimension. We also appreciated Tsubaki voluntarily going to his (slightly) older brother for advice, and that Tsubaki took action confidently after Bossun’s advice mirrored his own intentions. His only problem was trying to go it alone; not practicing what he preached to Asahina. Also, the deer mask makes an unlikely but hilarious appearance, and really dug how Himeko remains the most useful Sket-dan member in a fight by quite a large margin.


Rating: 3.5

Sket Dance – 54

When Himeko goes to have her fortune told by Yuuki, Bossun, Switch and Saaya tag along, and learn that Yuuki is selling cheap talismans for her divination mentor, the famous Minakami Himiko. They confront Minakami in person, who challenges Bossun to a fortune-reading in front of a seminar of her followers. Bossun leaves the strategy to Switch.

When the date arrives, and Minakami refutes Switch’s claims that she’s fraudulent, then correctly decribes Bossun’s past, including the realization he has a twin. However, Bossun is actually Tsubaki in disguise. The student council discovered she’d sent her men to investigate Bossun prior to the telling, and she is exposed as a fraud.

It’s an almost Scooby-Doo type episode this week, as the meddling schoolkids go up against a powerful, haughty old fortuneteller who resembles a well-fed Cruella De Vil with a butch haircut. But it isn’t just an arbitrary challenge: Switch thinks Yuuki’s taking-in of all the woman’s BS will dull her as a sparring partner, and he feels it’s his responsibility to prove to Yuuki that her mentor is no good.

Switch deftly explains how Minakami employs the Barnum effect and both cold and hot reading to make her subjects believe she’s reading their aura. Using Tsubaki was a clever twist. The resulting showdown at her seminar makes for an entertaining show, especially if I was a spectator not expecting Minakami to be so thoroughly and publically debunked. This episode also continues the idea that Saaya actually likes Bossun, but because she’s a tsundere, nothing will ever come of it.


Rating: 3.5

Sket Dance – 51

In the first half, both Himeko/Switch and the Student Council conspire to send Bossun and Tsubaki on a banner-writing mission alone together while they observe. The newly-discovered twin brothers bicker the whole time, and end up making multiple mistakes. In the second half, Tsubaki comes to Bossun’s house for dinner, where he meets Akane and Rumi and sees photos and videos of his biological parents. The two then take a picture for their parents’ shrine.

51 episodes. Only a few series we’ve ever watched have stretched so far, and many of those ended right there at 51. This episode wan’t the end of Sket Dance, but it was the end of the “year”, and the end of an arc, specifically, the Brother Arc. Seeing Tsubaki in a whole different light, it dawns on us how much it was foreshadowed that they were separated at birth. Their physical differences are a result of Bossun taking after his father and Tsubaki his mother. Tsubaki’s even a lefty to Bossun’s righty. There’s a lot of differences between the two, but there’s still that underlying bond neither of them can ignore – one you only get with blood.

I imagine if it turned out two of my friends in high school found out they were related, it would be a pretty exciting time, even if it had next to nothing to do with me. Both clubs they belong to seem to feel this excitement too (Switch likens it to fatherly pride), as do Bossun’s mother and sister. So with this arc mostly resolved and the two brothers on more-or-less cordial terms, the next year of Sket Dance will introduce a new character – possibly a new Sket-dan member, who looks to possess every anime cliche in the book – intentionally, of  course. We’ll be watching to see how that goes.


Rating: 3.5

Sket Dance – 40

When they hear about fellow students being subjected to shakedowns while walking home, both Tsubaki and Bossun answer the call to track down and punish the culprit responsible, but neither knows the other is on the case until they bump into each other staking out the same spot at the same time. Increasingly immature banter ensues until the mugger arrives with his would-be prey. Bossun and Tsubaki spring into action and successfully catch the assailant.

Tsubaki and Bossun would never admit, and likely don’t even see it, but they’re two halves of the same coin. Both are passionate about helping out their fellow students; they just have very different ways of going about doing so. The Sket-dan by nature treads upon the purview of the officialy elected/appointed student council, so conflict is inevitable. Still, the school thus far has been big enough for these two organizations with similar missions but differing methods.

In a neat little bit of cause & effect, Bossun accidentally dousing Himeko with water while trying to hit Tsubaki gave her a cold that put both her and Switch out of commission for the episode, ultimately leading to him butting heads with the fiery vice president. But we wish they’d taken the idea of Bossun recruiting outside help further. He briefly rents Momoka’s gang, butwe imagine characters like Jason and Shinzou would also be appropriate. But Bossun’s right…there’s nothin’ like canned coffee.


Rating: 3