Holmes of Kyoto – 06 – Oh No They Cela-Didn’t

At school we see Aoi has remained in touch with Kaori. Aoi has been invited to the Owner’s 77th birthday party, which is apparently quite a bash. Aoi learns quite a bit of new things the day of the party.

First, Holmes has a kind of male version of her in Takiyama Rikyu, a kid whose 40-ish mom (who looks half her age) is the Owner’s girlfriend, Yoshie. When Aoi finds she’s under-dressed for the occasion, Yoshie hooks her up.

The “mystery”, which is a bit contrived almost to the point of exhibition (though I guess that was true of last week with the monk too) involves the Owner’s most valuable antique—a Chinese Celadon vase—that for some reason is not encased in glass like the rest of the less valuable vases. That was weird for a start. Even weirder is that Holmes has the key to the hall of antiques, and leaves that key in Aoi’s possession. To which I say…why?

The story about the two proteges of a famous magician exacting revenge on the owner by pretending to break the vase by switching it out for a shattered fake, getting everyone to look up at what would have been an obviously visible chandelier, and using some kind of portable speaker to make the shattering noise…again, it’s all very strained and artificial.

Unlike previous “cases” I couldn’t help but ask questions the show wasn’t interested in addressing like “why aren’t there servants in such a big house?”, or “how did Owner make so much money?”, or “why was the vase out in the open like that for anyone to knock over?”

Elsewhere, Aoi’s nebulous/intermittent interest in Holmes is starting to wear thin, as is Holmes’ seeming omniscience with the cards. And don’t get me started on the show’s looks…it doesn’t have any. But I’m probably being too granular and harsh on a show that’s just trying to tell a series of fun little mysteries.

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Gatchaman Crowds Insight – 05

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“A person is smart. People are dumb, panicky dangerous animals and you know it.”

I’m reminded of that line by Kay from Men In Black because it’s true. The larger a group of people gets, the more they’re able to do, but at the same time, the dumber they get as a collective. It’s a concept that’s demonstrated in this very action-light, politics-heavy episode of Gatchaman, in which Gelsadra challenges the incumbent Sugayama in the smartphone election for the next Japanese PM.

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I put Sugane’s harem up top not because they had any significant role to play this week, but because they’re an example of what Kay was talking about. First the three girls are united in their support of Sugiyama, reflecting the opinion of the general public. Then, after a few gaffes from Sugayama and some good PR from Gel-san and Tsubasa, all of a sudden they’re for Gel-san. They go with the flow, where everyone else seems to be going. And in the meantime, they burn Sugane’s meat.

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It’s six months until the first primaries here in the states, but there have already been some notable gaffes that candidates continue to pay for due to the echo chamber of the media, from O’Malley’s “#WhiteLivesMatter” to Trump’s “Mexican Rapists” tirade. Similarly, in the world of Gatchaman, if you screw up on camera, those words will haunt you the rest of your days.

Sugayama calls his naysayers “dumb” on live television (believing the camera was no longer rolling), and it proves his undoing, as the media proceeds to pick apart every other thing he says and does, creating a pattern of missteps that erodes the public trust he once enjoyed.

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Meanwhile, there’s nothing particularly special about what Gel-san and Tsubasa do to rise in the polls, aside form the fact Gel-san can simply yell “GE-RU-RU-RU-RU-RU” from a rooftop and collect everyone’s desires. From there, he uses simple arithmetic to determine the best policy position: that Crowds should be abolished. Tsubasa and Jou are with Gel on this, while Hajime is neutral (of course) and Utsutsu helps Paiman out with his own campaign, which doesn’t go far because let’s face it, even if he dominates the little kid vote, he’s not getting much adult support.

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When Rui and Hajime visit Suzuki Rizumu in his cell, his position on people is similar to MiB’s Kay; with collective intelligence decreasing as the size of the sample increases. He’s harsher, calling them “apes”, who like any other animal in nature, goes with the flow of nature.

Despite Gel’s promise to abolish Crowds, Rizumu still believe Gel is “dangerous” and calls him the “Master Ape,” because all he’s doing is going along with what the majority of people want. Sometimes that’s not what’s best, or even right. But Gel wins in a landslide, so we’re about to find out just how wrong it is.

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Gatchaman Crowds Insight – 04

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Well, that was weird.

After deploying in full force last week (save O.D.) and Tsubasa making her big debut on the battlefield, the Gatchamen find themselves at a crossroads. VAPE’s leader has been caught, and relatively easily, but then again, he doesn’t put up much of a fight. Why should he? He accomplished everything he set out to do. The Red Crowds were a menace. He suspects most people will think no differently about Blue Crowds.

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A great blow has been dealt to Rui’s dream of updating the world. But not all Gatchamen are on board about that being their purpose. “We’re heroes”, Tsubasa says again and again about her and the rest of them; that means when Rui is in trouble, she came to rescue him, even though he didn’t want to be rescued. Joe and Tsubasa remain of similar minds: endorsing Crowds is not their top priority; protecting the people is.

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While the Crowds have never been more feared by the public, opinion on the actual Gatchamen (and on Gelsadra) remains high, to the point Millio wants her and Tsubasa to be regulars on his TV show, perhaps ditching O.D. in the process. In an even stranger development, the Prime Minister resigns after the VAPE attack and calls for smartphone elections…again. This time, he makes it clear a vote for him is a vote for the continued presence of (Blue) Crowds in society.

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While Gel is certainly a popular idol, she believes the best way for her to enact real change on Earth is by winning that election. When she’s told she’s just a little girl, she transforms into an adult man—heck, why not? She’s an alien! I’d say she has a decent shot at winning. Does that mean the Crowds will be put on the back burner, replaced by Gel’s different approach of “uniting minds” and sowing mass happiness? Will the rift between Rui and less pro-Crowds faction of the Gatchamen widen? Times suddenly feel very uncertain.

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Gatchaman Crowds Insight – 03

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Tsubasa and Gelsadra are wrangled into appearing on the Millione Show where they show off their practiced jokes, then visit the drugged-out Gatchaman HQ for the first time, where Paiman is angry they went on TV. Tsubasa doesn’t see the problem; it can’t be a bad thing for heroes to appear on TV to inspire the people they protect. Ultimately Paiman is appeased when Tsubasa calls him “Leader.”

Tsubasa’s goals as Gatchaman couldn’t be simpler: be a hero who protects the people. That’s it. She doesn’t have any interest in “updating the world” or evolution, as Rui does. When a disturbing new prophecy from JJ portends a city “of teeming masses colored crimson”, and Rui informs the other Gatchamen of Suzuki Rizumu’s aims, Tsubasa more or less sides with Hibiki Jou’s objection to keeping something like Crowds around when there’s the potential for danger and even bloodshed.

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Jou likes the newbie’s simpler, more realistic goals, and calls Rui’s determination “idealism.” This is the largest philosophical gap we’ve seen in the Gatchamen thus far, as Jou’s opinion isn’t all that different thatn Rizumu’s It’s also given credence when the prophecy comes true and the city turns red with great coordinated masses of red Crowds.

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No less than six Gatchamen suit up, the largest deployment in insight so far, and while it’s great to see them start to take the fight to the red Crowds, it’s clear they’re woefully outnumbered, as usual. Tsubasa, meanwhile, is stuck on the sidelines since she can’t reliably transform, and before long, Rui meets Rizumu on a rooftop helipad, where Rizumu says today is the day his Crowds will start taking lives.

He sees Rui’s attitude as that of a spoiled child having his toy taken away. He wants Rui’s note, too, and refusing to give up his ideals or belief in eveyrone, including Rizumu, Rui hands it over, only to cough up blood and collapse when Rizumu repeatedly stabs it.

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But JJ’s prophecy also mentioned “a great wind” saving “the flame of life.” That wind comes from Gelsadra, who after activating the moods of everyone in the city (who are mostly frightened), she sucks up all of those thousands mood icons, figures something out, then transforms into a figure of smoke, blasting the prophesied wind towards Tsubasa, who has successfully transformed and is racing to Rui’s aid with Hajime.

Rui is willing do sacrifice his life for his ideals, hoping his very public and televised death will be the catalyst that finally causes that world update he’s so intent on. And he could be right; the people are disgusted by the red Crowds’ actions. But even if the blue Crowds get their shit together, we’re still talking about a war, which won’t be bloodless. Not only that, Tsubasa isn’t going to let Rui die if she can help it.

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Gatchaman Crowds Insight – 02

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As Gelsadra is welcomed to Earth (touted by Paiman as a potential facilitator of world peace) and Misudachi initiated into the Gatchamen, X reports to Rui an increase in GALAX de-installations as a result of VAPE’s mischief. Their leader even shows up in Rui’s living room, using a red Crowds as a conduit.

He doesn’t see VAPE as making mischief, only demonstrating the folly of giving the “ape-like” masses such powerful technology. He believes society is sure to abuse it, as VAPE does, while Rui still believes in the inherent goodness of people. In a way, VAPE is a self-fulfilling prophecy.

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There’s a ceremony at a Nagaoka mall to celebrate Gel and Tsubasa, but it’s crashed by VAPE, whose red Crowds are soon challenged by the blue Crowds of bystanders looking to help the outnumbered Gatchamen. In fact, it’s just Hajime at the mall; Tsubasa isn’t able to reach the emotional intensity necessary to transform, or is possibly too nervous.

When she does try to intervene without transforming, the Crowds she incapacitates almost falls on a granny. She’s still got a lot to learn about the intricacies of heroism, and with the red Crowds intent on showing that all Crowds are bad news, she’s been thrown into the proverbial frying pan to train.

It’s a defeat for Crowds and Rui, because he had no choice but to forcefully terminate the blue Crowds accounts to stop the chaos.

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Tsubasa regrets indirectly injuring a bystander, but Hajime won’t scold or punish her, except by turning her head to face the gorgeous sunset. I like the dynamic of these two, with Hajime as the more mysterious/opaque personality and Tsubasa much more of an open book, devoid of vocal tics. It’s also clear that Gelsadra, the possible savior of the world based on her race’s track record upon arriving on worlds, must be protected both physically and mentally if she’s going to fulfill that promise.

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Rui manages to get the name of the orange-haired VAPE leader—college student Suzuki Rizumu—so I imagine Rui is eager to be the one to confront him for their next meeting and philosophical debate. Meantime, despite her early hiccup, Tsubasa is headed back to the city with Hajime to hone her Gatchaman skills and join the ranks of the heroes.

Her gramps (a part of whom I’m sure is proud of her, though he’d never show it) warns her she can’t shoulder the weight of peace. I take that to mean it must be shouldered by all. While she may be strong, she mustn’t fear the help and support of others, strong or weak, nor bite off more than she can chew.

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Joukamachi no Dandelion – 01 (First Impressions)

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The Skinny: The Sakuradas are a perfectly normal family of eleven with two important distinctions: all nine kids have superpowers, and their dad is King of the country, making them princes and princesses. The next king will be chosen by the people form among them, so they have to deal with surveillance cameras, TV cameras and competitions designed to help the people get to know them better.

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Pros: It’s a clever, somewhat random premise in a season full of them. This isn’t just a big royal family, it’s a big royal family whose king decided he wanted his kids to stay in touch with the regular people, so they live in a regular middle-class house and everyone does their part (and shares one bathroom). They dress like normal people, and if it weren’t for the crown, you’d never know their dad was King.

I also liked the democratic aspect, and the way the king is uging all his kids to work hard and fulfill their responsibilities as the symbols of hope for their country. Also, the three oldest princesses are voiced by Kayano Ai, Hana-Kana, and Ishihara Kaori, with Kana playing the shyest of the kids, who wants to be king “so she can lead a quiet life,” which does sound contradictory. All in all, it’s a lighthearted, kind, fun little show.

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Cons: The show is, at times, a little too proud of its premise. The superpowers seem almost tacked-on, and the competition that showed them off was pretty slow and plodding. The constant mention of Akane’s panties was also tiresome (if you can fly and don’t want anyone seeing them, wear pants, highness). There also seem to be a superfluous number of characters, though I’m sure they’re all get their focus in time. The stakes aren’t exactly stratospheric either, but this is slice-of-life.

Verdict: As Tuesdays are typically pretty light for anime, but also happen to be Tuesdays, not the best day of the week (at least for me), a nice lightweight chuckleworthy comedy could hit the spot.

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Gatchaman Crowds Insight – 01

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After a half-length, action-packed zeroth episode, GCI’s first full-length episode feels a lot more leisurely and filler-y. In fact, the true-feast-for-the-eyes OP and ED showed more action than the show in between. But that doesn’t mean it wasn’t without its notable events. First we meet the girl who will by episode’s end become the newest Gatchaman, the energetic firework crafter’s apprentice Misudachi Tsubasa (voiced by Ishihara Kaori of Rinne no Lagrange).

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The Gatchamen have arrived in Tsubasa’s hometown of Nagaoka, Niigata to find their newest member when an alien spacecraft suddenly soft-lands in a rice field, bearing a new, red-skinned, blue-haired alien: Gelsadra (Hanazawa Kana). Gel has the rather interesting ability to place social media-icon like symbols above people’s heads showing their present state of mind.

As those states shift, the shape and color of the symbol shifts too (except, notably, for those Hajime and Tsubasa’s great-grandpa, which remain neutral gray). Did I mention Berg Katze now resides within Hajime’s bust, where I assume he can do no harm? Well…he does.

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Meanwhile, Sugane is at college and extremely popular with the pastel-haired young ladies, Hibiki Jo now works for the PM’s office, and O.D. has his own variety show, in which his cameras just happen to descend on Tsubasa’s hometown to get info on both the alien and new Gatchaman. Oh, and the next national election will be open to everyone 16 or older, and people will be able to vote by smartphone.

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Tsubasa is somewhat frightened by her encounter with JJ, but once she gets her Gatchaman notebook and is able to transform as a result of her frustration with the gaggle of reporters, JJ’s prophecy turns out to have made sense after all: “A delicate ray of light (the UFO) falls upon a land illuminated by fireworks (Nagaoka) near the North Sea (Sea of Japan) where it will meet wings that are still blue (Tsubasa’s notebook is blue). 

Despite the length of time spent in her town and her house, we didn’t learn that much about Tsubasa, except that she seems to have made quick friends with Hajime and Gel, doesn’t like big gray guys with claws or reporters, and should make a nice addition to the Gatchaman corps, just when Red Crowds attacks are on the rise.

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Sidonia no Kishi 2 – 08

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First of all, a hearty bravo is in order for the show’s opening, in which we see a totally different character battle some kind of cyborg in a Sidonia-style setting. From last week’s cliffhanger, I imagined we were suddenly thrown into the events on Planet Seven, so I was pleasantly surprised when it was revealed Nagate, Izana, Yuhata and Tsumugi were merely watching a very well-produced TV show.

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The fact they’re gathered ’round the tube after a hard day’s hull reconstruction, and that Tsumugi is getting more playful and spontaneous (sometimes leading to non-lethal accidents) all contributes to the family atmosphere in Nagate and Izana’s new home.

When Yuhata moves in and she and Tsumugi turn Izana’s room into a communal space with a kotatsu, it’s disrupting Izana’s ideal living situation with Nagate and Nagate alone, but at least in Tsumugi’s case, she means well. In Yuhata’s case, she uses her rank and the need for further conservation of resources to move in, but we know she has the sorta-hots for Nagate.

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Her increasingly lively household, paired with the strenuous labor of reconstruction, and the fact she’s dealing with fundamental changes to her body (both her mechanical and female parts), all contribute to make Izana look like a person who needs to relax and take a break.

Her ageless grandma Yure notices this, and also notices how Izana is starting to blossom into a younger version of herself. To that end, she requests that Izana wear one of her fetching old dresses and the two Shinatoses go out on the town. Those outfits strike the right balance of revealing (with that nice back latticing) and practicality (they still have carabiners in case of gravity fluctuations). Even Izana’s clear weariness with being dolled up like this doesn’t change the fact that she looks fantastic.

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Naturally, she runs into Nagate while trying to hurry home without being seen, and since their home is the same now, it makes for an awkward walk, but also a flattering one. Like myself, Nagate has always found Izana cute, but now that she’s more overtly feminine, he can’t help but blush in her presence, and whenever they accidentally touch, neither quite knows what to do with themselves.

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Nagate takes the route of passivity, but when he straight-up fails to notice Izana is behind him while he’s headed back to base in formation with the Tsumugi, Izana gets upset with him. Again, Yure takes notice, and decides to take matters into her own hands, knowing she’s witnessing a romantic stalemate in progress.

Nagate is never going to ask Izana out, or vice versa, so Yure puts it into terms he can understand: duty and orders; life and death. She suddenly summons him to her presence, timing how long he takes to get there, then starts to tell—not ask—him to go on a top secret snap “Cultural Properties Inspection” of the Thousand Year Village, and telling him to ask Izana to accompany him.

Yure gives him the distinct impression—in surely the funniest use of the show’s omnipresent schematics yet—that if he in any way fails to complete his mission to her satisfaction, she may sever his head with an explosive she planted in his neck vertebrae. What’s so great is that you can’t be sure at all whether she’s serious. This is how you move things forward.

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When Nagate comes home and discusses their “mission” with all that official-sounding terminology, Izana picks up on what’s going on, accepts that this is the only way Nagate can ask her to go on a vacation with him, and says yes. The couple’s body language here, and throughout the episode, really, is really well done.

All the while, their privacy is violated by a too-curious-not-to-look Tsumugi, who suspends Yuhata in the air so she can peek too. In the morning, they’re both kind of put off by Nagate and Izana’s not-too-subtle subterfuge as they sneak out one at a time.

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When they arrive at the entrance to the Thousand Year Village, and the doors open to reveal a gorgeous traditional building amongst a grove of cherry blossoms, it’s like they’re walking into another dimension. The metal and concrete walls of Sidonia are still there, but this place is a warm rejection of that cold science.

Izana is so bowled over by the sights, she doesn’t even realize she’s taken Nagate by the hand. But in a nice change of  pace, they don’t both turn beet red, quickly let go and back away. They continue holding hands, look into each others’ eyes, and say each others’ names. How romantic is that?

While I’m sure there are detractors to this kind of character-focused “Sidonia Lite”, I’m loving and savoring every minute of it. The next horrific threat could pop up at any time, and with the likes of Kobayashi in charge, it certainly will; but in the meantime I’m perfectly happy watching Nagate and Izana live their lives and draw closer to one another.

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Sket Dance – 66

In the first half, Switch announces his new invention: a device that reads and plays back the thoughts of animals like Hoosuke, who teaches them the importance of friendship. In the second half, Momoka asks Himeko to participate in a Tsukkomi battle show on TV that she’s co-hosting. Himeko excels at the movie-riffing, then selects Bossun from the audience to pick him apart and beat the professional comedian she was up against.

Sket Dance returns to it’s two-part format, with stories that don’t involve who likes whom. Instead, both parts of this episode are about Bossun and Himeko playing off of things. Actually, this is what much of the series is about: these two reacting and offering more than their two cents about a character, situation, drug, game, or an invention, like Switch’s animal translator that starts reading everyones’ minds, leading to much ardor about who’s thinking what, and they’re surprised more often than not (and Roman inadvertently providing Hoosuke’s thoughts is a nice touch at the end).

The second part was a nice showcase of Himeko’s talent for picking things apart, and proves she can beat a professional when the variables align. I imagine no matter what film or TV show or video game or whatever you sit Himeko down in front of, she’ll offer funny commentary, pointing out whatever’s out of place and expressing her frustration with said anomalies. She also makes clever use of Bossun by knowing full well he’ll melt under the lights. Thus she makes him her mark/straight man, bouncing things off him she knows will make him act funnier. It’s a skit that makes good use of the characters we know so well.


Rating: 5 (Average)

Car Cameos: In the “police documentary” Himeko and her opponent watch, there are four very identifiable drive-bys: a Prius, a first-gen Nissan Fuga, a second-gen Toyota Alphard, a third-gen Honda Stepwgn.