Vinland Saga – 16 – End of His Rope

Askeladd’s luck ran out the moment Anne was found by Thorkell’s men. The weight of his army steadily bearing down on Askeladd’s comparatively paltry band fills this episode with increasing tension. While there are warriors like Bjorn and Thorfinn who will never betray him, those two aren’t nearly enough to counter the precipitous drop in morale, and thus loyalty, among the majority of his men.

When I think of how much fun Askeladd and his men once had earlier in the series when his luck was riding high, it only puts his current predicament into greater focus. By episode’s end he can count on one hand the number of men he can truly count on, with fingers to spare. When an English captain simply won’t talk no matter how many fingers Askeladd snips off, it’s almost the final nail in the coffin for him; a sign that he’s lost his power.

When your men are all either worshipers of older gods or of no god at all, they put their trust in a leader with luck and strength, and Askeladd’s is almost totally out. His side plan to force Prince Canute to toughen up pretty much takes a back seat to the far more pressing matters of how long it will be before Askeladd’s men turn against him, and when Thorkell will finally catch up to them.

Thorkell’s name invokes far more fear than Askeladd’s at this point, which means Askeladd’s time is almost out. However, it’s not yet certain whether his longer-term plan to “reform” Canute will fail. All we see is that after he leaves Ragnar behind without any kind of funeral and slaps Canute across the face, Canute starts adopting a far more Thorfinnian visage.

Askeladd is nothing if not perceptive, and has no illusions about how things will go down once the men who are done with him gather enough allies within their ranks to pull something off. That’s why when Thorkell finally appears on that horizon—the glinting from the tips of his mens’ spears portending dread, while his own thrown spear impales three men and beheads a fourth—Askeladd has the best possible defensive position he can have.

Bjorn is at the reins of the lead sled with Thorfinn, Canute, the priest, and two horses when the rest of the men surround Askeladd, calling for an end to his leadership. It is without doubt the most precarious position he’s ever been in, but one should never underestimate Thorfinn’s desire to have at least one more duel with Askeladd—which means keeping him alive…maybe.

Anne Happy♪ – 04

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The gist: Hibari, Hanako and Botan are assigned ‘punishment’ homework in the form of a treasure hunt of sorts. They must photograph Botan having a good memory with friends, Hibari smiling and Hanako at the gate of dawn with the flower of happiness.

Meanwhile, Hibiki and Ren follow them around town, mostly without a clear objective, until Hanako’s bad luck thrusts the 5 together in a date-like romp around the town garden, ultimately to find the flower of happiness.

 

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This week, we learned that Botan actually really likes squid. At least, it’s a recurring theme. We also learned all 5 girls will be good friends and have a happy, if not unlucky, time in high school together.

There were few, if any jokes. The animation was even less energetic than usual. The dialog was slow and the characterization was pleasant, but without anything to make it interesting.

Verdict: unless you absolutely must see sadly every safe school girl friendship show, there’s nothing here for you. I for one, am happy that the girls are happy and will quietly drop it off my schedule…

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Anne Happy♪ – 03

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The gist: Hagyu Hibiki and Ekoda Ren formally become main characters. Hibiki-chan is an awful human being who constantly gets lost, is a klutz and and infatuated with Ren. Ren’s only trouble seems to be her willingness to be near Hibiki.

Along with Hibari, Hanako and Botan, they are subjected to a bizarre set of game show style games, by Timothy and the Teacher, 500 meters under the gym. Nothing makes sense, all of the jokes repeat what we’ve seen before, although I a bizarre LSD tripping balls context.

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I can’t even process how weird this episode is. If there’d been violence, it could have been Dengenrompa. As it was, I don’t know why the writers felt it necessary to change the formula from ‘silly unexpected things happen to girls in a bland high school setting’ to bland high school girls in an unexpectedly silly setting.

And I have no idea why their teacher (and probably Timothy) is evil? Is this supposed to make the girls even more unfortunate for being in a program dedicated to their misfortune?

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Should you watch it? If you strip all the weirdness away, Anne Happy has 5 core jokes: Botan is injured by everything, Hanako always loses, Hibari is bashfully along for the ride, Hibiki is always lost and Ren is deadpan. Those jokes were told at least 3 times for each character during this episode, which isn’t compelling.

I may give this show another week but I’m not hopeful.

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Anne Happy♪ – 02

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Hibari, Hanako and Botan are joined by Thomas, the… school’s sentient robot bunny, who’s been tasked to observe and record the misfortunes of these particularly unfortunate girls. Despite his over the top bunny in a tuxedo design, Thomas is fairly neutral by anime conventions: he’s not especially mean, nor nice, nor does he have lazer eyes or any special powers. (except for being impossible for Hanako to catch and pet)

Because I find the android cutsey character type annoying and often inexplicably anachronistic, I am thankful for his tame presentation. That said, there’s really no real reason for the character to be a robot bunny at all if he has no powers or weirdness…

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Anyway, our girls’ unluckiness continues to be measured. First they answer basic questions about hobbies and skills, then they take a physical examine. Each mini segment reinforces the unfortunate traits we learned last week.

Hibari is relatively unaffected by misfortune, except for her self-imposed romantic obsession with the construction sign Botan isn’t really unfortunate either, beyond her constantly breaking bones, poor musicale strength and lack of flexibility; and Hanako is absurdly unlucky, as she can’t even order items from a vending machine without absurdity happening.

And, of course, she’s the only girl with no boobs!

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Later, the girls explore the school’s clubs. Hibari does well in the cooking club, Botan is repeatedly damaged by the athletics club, and Hanako is almost devoured by a mob of evil pets from the pet society.

The importance here being Hibari’s relative normalness could pull her away from the other girls, the only friends she’s ever had and who accept her for her mild weirdness. In the end, Hibari chooses ‘go home together club’ and everyone lives happily ever after.

Roll credits…

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You should watch this because: As before, episode 2 is charming. The world is weird — and the jokes aren’t always so much funny as just weird — but pleasant, because the characters all like each other and there are really no stakes yet. The bright colors and occasional transparency give it a dream like quality too.

You may not be hooked because: Anne Happy plays it safe. Weirdness aside, the characters are simple and the formula is obviously ‘something weird will happen to them each week.’ Also, that something will probably be Botan being injured, Hanako being attacked by animals, and Hibari coming to the rescue.

It is, by definition, a 3 note show. If you are okay with that, join me. There are far worse comfort foods to snack on!

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Anne Happy♪ – 01 (First Impressions)

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On her way to her first day of high school, Hibari pauses at the bridge that brings her sadness. As she looks down, she sees Hanako hung from the bridge by her uniform’s collar, holding a dog.

“Are you okay?”

“Aside from this dog that’s biting me,” the girl named Hanako replies cheerfully. “and my hair being pulled out, I’m just fine.”

She then falls from the bridge into the river.

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Later, the girls meet Kumegawa Botan, a girl with long pink hair and mental illness. Botan also has bones of glass and is quickly destroyed by Hanako’s friendly handshake. Fortunately, she has a lunchbox full of pills and medical tape.

You see, these three girls are freshmen at Tennomifume Academy’s class 7. Classed 1-3 focus on academics, 4-6 focus on sports and class 7 focuses on…making its students of tremendous bad luck happy.

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From getting lost to being mauled constantly by animals, everyone in this class is unfortunate. Hibari’s own past is not entirely clear but we can assume it’s fairly tragic.

Unhappy presents all of this in happy-go-lucky watercolors, brightly-colored characters and a ho-hum happy recorder soundtrack. The juxtaposition is obvious and it works pretty well.

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However, as much of a smile Unhappy gave me, it never quite made me laugh. The intentional slowness of it all, and the lack of true shock value in the first half, it feels too safe.

Cutesy animals cutely biting cute girls with over the top blood but no meaningful consequences is not really different from cute clumsy girls dropping pies and being flustered about boys in other run of the mill slice-o-life shows. So I’ll have to see where it goes next episode before I commit to watching the whole season.

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Kimi no Iru Machi – 12 (Fin)

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Asuka calls Haruto a liar and storms off. In the middle of the night he tells Rin about his situation, and she offers herself as a third choice, not helping. Back in Tokyo, Haruto dumps Asuka, who is crestfallen. He meets with Yuzuki and gives her his answer: they both desire the same thing: to be together. After thanking Rin for helping him come to a decision, he tells Yuzuki he’s planning to move out of his sister’s place. He encounters Asuka, who can’t bring herself to hate him.

That’s right, folks, in this series, the archetypal “good guy” dies of an unspecified illness and the loyal, trusting, devoted “good girl” gets her heart broken. The two people who caused everyone else the most pain – and therefore earned the most disdain from us – end up with each other, putting their happiness first. Is this selfish? Sure. But it’s also understandable. Haruto always did love Yuzuki and never fell out of love for her. No matter how profound Asuka saw her relationship with Haruto or how much she loved him, he never loved her as much as he loved Yuzuki. Their breakup was inevitable, and it was better to do it quickly than to draw it out. That’s not to say that the breakup wasn’t tremendously brutal to watch – it was…and we felt even worse when she said she’d take him back if it didn’t work out with Yuzuki.

Everything that happened came down to which town everyone lived in and when, making the title fitting. Rin drove Yuzuki out of their town and into Haruto’s, which is how the two met. When Yuzuki left, the distance cause them to drift apart. When Haruto followed her, his timing was off. When she rejected him before and after Kyousuke’s death, he went to Asuka. Then Yuzuki’s love for Haruto resurfaced, and the two reconnected in the town where they first fell in love, dooming Asuka. Several hearts were shuffled throughout this series’ run, but it just wasn’t in the cards for her. Rin too, for that matter: no matter how much she bad-mouthed him, she wanted Haruto too, but lost out to her sister, which was kinda karmic justice for mistreating Yuzuki.

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Rating: 8 
(Great)