Tying up some loose show ends, here are my thoughts on the latest Space Brothers and Hyouka, very different shows both anchored in their strict realism and deliberate pacing. Ranking attached at the end!
Space Brothers 5
Mutta finally goes to visit Hibito in Houston, where he waxes uncertainly on his chances of ever joining his younger brother. We get a cute mascot in Hibito’s dog Apo, and our titular siblings get some interesting character building. In the final scene, one of the JAXA selection committee members points out Mutta as the most likely candidate to cut.
My plot synopsis was pretty brief because the plot of this episode is fairly thin. It takes a subsidiary role to an engrossing character study, with Mutta and his insecurities taking center stage. He is still living in Hibito’s shadow, even being defined by his role as “the famous astronaut’s brother.” Hibito himself can see that Mutta has lost his spark to compete, probably one of the reasons for the invitation in the first place. Some poignant flashbacks help hammer home how much optimism Mutta has lost since his childhood. Yet Mutta hasn’t lost his sense of wonder, as seen quite clearly in the backyard scene. Space travel, despite adult logic, still has this air of brilliant magic to it that you something you can cover with your thumb can still be so far away. The Smiths, Hibito’s neighbors, remind Mutta of something very basic, but very important: no one is perfect and everyone has something that they’re lacking. Mutta takes all this to heart and finally decides to go to the Johnson space center, facing his own fear of failure.
Next episode looks to be pretty interesting, with the final scene showing a selection member heartily opposed to Mutta moving on in the candidacy test. From the previews, it looks like the headbutted boss is the root of this problem, once again trying to sabotage his ex-employee. I can only imagine that someone in JAXA is going to take a stand for our hero and push his candidacy forward, for Space Brothers is nothing if not ebulliently hopeful.
Hotarou is becoming accustomed to the Classics Club, using it as his after-school hangout. Chitanda is restless though, and has of her own ideas for what the Club should be. The first item on the agenda: compiling an anthology for the upcoming culture fair. In the quest to find previous years’ anthologies, the two of them venture to the library where Satoshi and assistant librarian Ibara are waiting. As they wait for the head librarian, a mystery inevitably crops up. Hotarou, teaming up with Chitanda’s hound-like sense of smell, solves the caper after some lengthy discussion and art room investigation. That Sunday, Chitanda calls up Hotarou for a cafe meetup; apparently Chitanda has something to confess…
Once again, while the episode was thoroughly mundane, it was also thoroughly enjoyable. Ibara’s verbal sparring with Hotarou was amusing to behold, as were Hotarou’s abstract dream scenarios. The mystery itself was pretty straightforward, though it did rely on Chitanda’s super-human sense of smell to really come together. The classical-styled BGM continues to be appropriately pleasant, and the visuals, as always, are top notch.
Where the series really shines is the subtler character interactions. Hotarou has unspoken, and unacknowledged, connection to Chitanda that he fails to realize, justifying spending time with her with his energy saving motto. Her catchphrase, “I’m curious”, never fails to spur him to some mystery solving though. Satoshi seems to have a keen insight into them, mockingly calling them the school’s finest couple, though he himself is the victim of Ibara’s unrequited love. Speaking of Ibara, her vitriol towards Hotarou was certainly funny to behold, with her constantly mocking his laziness and giving him vicious looks. She does acknowledge his mystery-solving abilities, albeit she is more puzzled at the resolution than thankful.
The conclusion provided a tantalizing cliffhanger. Chitanda has something to confess, but it is most assuredly not a love confession. Next episode previews point to some kind of heritage between Chitanda and the Classics Club; this could lead to any number of things, even some kind of more serious overarching plot. More likely, it will simply be a repurposing of the club as a bona fide mystery club, though seems to be all they do anyway, what with the anthology project coming to an indefinite halt and all.
1. Kids on the Slope (0)
2. Space Brothers (0)
3. Eureka Seven Ao (+2)
4. Hyouka (-)
5. Fujiko Mine (-1)
6. Tsuritama (-3)
7. Jormungand (+2)
8. Nyarko-san (0)
9. Sankarea (-3)
Some more on Zetman
Upon further consideration, I think I’ll be dropping my blogging of the Zetman anime. While I’ll still be watching it, my thoughts on the adaptation are severely colored by my manga experience, and I’m pretty sure I’m going to end up negatively criticizing the anime much more than it deserves. I feel like going to the “it’s way too rushed” well is going to get tiring for me and you. So rather than berate you with my intolerance at adaptations that take some liberty with the source material, I will gracefully drop out, though covering new manga chapters is something that I may one day undertake.
For those manga fans who are still watching the anime, I did hear that the Jirou arc may be done later as a flashback, though that is strictly hearsay. Here’s some potential hope for you!
This season’s excellent Noitamina block marches on, this week with some emphasis on personal relationships.
Kids on the Slope 3
Things get complicated on the slope as Sentaro discovers that the beautiful damsel he’s fallen for is one Fukahori Yurika, a student at his school. Kaoru manages to put the oaf up to actually asking her out, but it transforms into a four person trip back to the reservoir with Kaoru and Ritsuko in tow. There, Kaoru discovers that Ritsuko has feelings for the oblivious Sentaro and that his attempts to set him only hurt the girl he cares for the most. Kaoru must figure out how to make things right as Sentaro and Yurika only get closer and closer.
KontS really got down to its josei roots this episode with a healthy dose of angsty, unrequited romance rearing its mighty head. In hindsight it seems pretty obvious that Ritsuko would have had feelings for Sentaro, who up to this point was very naive above love. Kaoru, in trying to ward off romantic competition, ends up breaking Ritsuko’s heart, causing a very heart-rending crying scene during their trip. Ritsuko initially thinks that Kaoru asked out Yurika, a hope that she tries to cling to even in the face of Sentaro’s obvious affection. Kaoru, unlike a lot of other exasperating male leads, ends the episode with a confession to the unaware Ritsuko, accompanying it with a nice personal piano performance.
I like this show more and more every week. I didn’t expect for the jazz to take such a backseat to the relationships between the characters, but I’m kind of glad it ended up this way. Jazz is just a common interest among these people; it flavors their lives, but it isn’t their all-consuming obsession. They have their own deep emotional entanglements: unrequited loves and misunderstood intentions abound. This could have easily gone down a cliched path of unrequited threads and failures to communicate, but Kaoru’s confession really breaks that down and adds some real pathos to all the angst. KontS is subtly masterful, with some beautiful animation and music talent to back it up, and this is only episode 3! It’s certainly still my top pick for the season.
Fishing lessons continue as Natsuki, at Haru’s goading, tries to teach Yuki proper casting technique. Meanwhile Yuki’s grandmother has a heart-to-heart where she reveals a hidden illness. Haru ignores his sister’s warnings about getting too close to Yuki. Elsewhere, Yamada reveals himself to be an agent of a MIB-like organization known as DUCK; he is rather dissatisfied with his boring surveillance of the quirky alien duo. As things end, Yuki, after endless repetition, finally figures out how to cast accurately, all to the mantra of: Enoshima don!
This show has been slowly shifting away from its blisteringly strange premiere and shifting to a much more familiar character study. I’m not going to say that it’s become mundane, as its certainly not, but the heavy dose of weirdness in the premiere just makes this episode seem so tame. This study of victory through perseverance is certainly nothing new at all, and as soon as they started casting training, I had a pretty good idea of where the entire episode was headed. Haru too is still as insipid as ever, cloyingly latching on to someone he hardly knows, much too close to romantically tinged for my liking. His sister provides some weirdly out of place fanservice in my bros fishing show. Yuki’s grandmother’s illness provides a ridiculous case of mood whiplash and further mystifies when the one she confides to ends up being the alien interloper.
Still, it’s hard to fault this show too much. It was a very enjoyable outing, with Natsuki and Yamada providing some nice moments. Yamada’s DUCK organization is delightfully bizarre, full with fabulously attired leaders and strange pose-offs. Tapioca is still funny just for the fact that he’s a duck, an unexplained and simply accepted curiosity. Natsuki really shined with the little touches of humanity that escaped his jaded teenage facade, first in teaching Yuki the casting mantra, which we learn was what his family used on their old fishing outings, and secondly in his grinning sprint at the end when Yuki finally succeeds in hitting the bucket. These moments make me faithful that this show will eventually blossom into something profound, or bizarre, or both. It’s sole sin was making a premiere that was a bit too much better than the following episodes.
Here’s my roundup, late as customary.
Fujiko Mine 4
In nice symmetrical rotation, Lupin and Zenigata return this episode, with a glittery opera mask being the heist target. As continues to be the trend, this was a very solid, nostalgia-laden episode with some nice phantom of the opera motifs woven right in. Add some Lupin shenanigans, Fujiko wiles, and an honest love story at the core and you have a pretty entertaining concoction. Zenigata coercing Fujiko into some sexy time was a tad bit of a disturbing way to kick things off, but otherwise this was a stellar episode of retro fun. Lupin’s fake blood trick: most certainly the hilarious highlight!
After last week’s rather relaxed episode, we got some nice fever-pitch fun this week. Assassin duo Orchestra face off against Koko’s team to delightful result. The forced music gimmick was a little out there, but Orchestra’s absurd dialogue more than made up for that silliness. Some fun action set pieces were amped up with a well chosen aggressive score, though some of the standoffs did drag a little. Also, I’m not sure I entirely like the abandoning of realism here, with so many characters running into gunfire and emerging unscathed; attempts at giving Jonah some characterization, while amusing, felt ultimately slow and tedious, and detracted from the over-the-top tone of the rest of the episode. Yet the pacing was decent enough, the new characters Black Lagoon level sociopathic, and Koko laughing maniacally. All-in-all a good showing and a great improvement.
Eureka Seven AO 3
This show just keeps pumping out some real winners. Last week’s action-packed episode was excellent, and this week we get some interesting characterization and world-building. We get some intriguing backstory about Ao and Eureka; she apparently “fell from the skies,” leading to some very interesting possibilities for the connection of this show to its fore bearer. The leader of Generation Bleu also seems to be familiar with her, making his eventual meeting with Ao all the more exciting. Gazelle revealed himself to be the son of the local chief, as well as outing his elders as inciting all the bullying against Ao. Despite all the shit that the locals have put Ao through (burning down his house and all), the final scenes still have him boarding the Nirvash and putting it all on the line for his homeland. Next episode looks to bring back some slick aerial combat courtesy of Bones’ gorgeous animation. This is one excellent sequel and it may deserve a much more detailed post in the coming weeks as a I accrue some free time.
Moe of the Dead 4
Meanwhile in strange fetish land, we get some serious mood whiplash as Sankarea descends into some pretty rote romantic comedy. It really felt like the fanservice was seriously ratcheted up this episode, with a lot of extraneous breasts flailing every which way. Wanko is such an extraneous-feeling character and feels pretty irrelevant to the actual plot. Furuya meanwhile falls into plot-induced stupidity and fails to realize the very easy remedy for Rea’s rigor mortis. Blehhh. However good last episode was, it doesn’t redeem this sudden and awful shift. That shower scene with the loofah alone was shamelessly infuriating. I am really close to dropping the show based on this episode alone, but I will tenuously wait for one more outing before I completely dismiss. There is just way too much fetishy fanservice here than I can handle.
There is something oddly amusing about this otaku-pander-fest that is Nyaruko-san. The rapid-fire jokes are often more puzzling than funny and all the over-the-top characters are pretty much archetypal cliches. Still, its hard not to get on board when it takes itself so non-seriously. Nyarko’s high energy antics are funny to behold; her chainsaw attack and FMA references legitimately made me laugh. Kuko and Nyarko’s brother are entertaining in their own one-dimensional ways. In the end though, it is the interaction of Nyarko and Mahiro that keeps me coming back, with Mahiro playing the straight man admirably well. It’s nice to see a protagonist that isn’t absolutely clueless or a pervert; Mahiro knows very well that he doesn’t want a relationship with a creepy tentacle monster, and he is sticking to his guns. Maybe its stupid, but its a hilarious kind of stupid, so for now Nyaruko-san is alright in my books.
I’ll be posting about Hyouka, Zetman, and Space Brothers soon! My weekly lineup will be in there somewhere. Cheers.
The final Zet-straw
Ugh. Zetman skipped the Kouga captivity arc entirely, going right to the Undertown brawl with the arachnid trio. I had to go back to the manga to entirely confirm the chronology, and my worst fears were most certainly realized.
I know that they have limited space to tell the story, but that captivity arc is an indispensable part of Kouga’s background as a hero. Kouga encounters some fairly horrific things firsthand, thoroughly transforming his naive thoughts. Moreso than all the other rushed antics of the adaptation’s plot, this is the most distressing to me; without that arc, I will just have to treat the anime as a separate entity from the manga, a less complete echo. The animation in this latest episode is noticeably downgraded too.
I guess I won’t be dropping it entirely, but I am thoroughly disappointed in this adaptation. I may start commenting on the manga chapters as they, very gradually, come out, but Zetman the butchered anime will be relegated to my weekly roundups.
Our final spring premiere is Kyo-ani’s latest outing, this time with a high school mystery show. They bring their usual voice-acting favorites and expected high quality animation to this interesting new addition to the season.
Hotaro Oreki is fellow with a simple slogan: “Don’t do anything you don’t have to. If you have to do it, do it quickly.” Though ostensibly a low energy guy, he has a keen mind and the opening has him pondering the restless people surrounding him. We soon might his erstwhile friend, and foil, Satoshi Fukube. In their after school discussion, Hotaro mentions that he’s joining one of the school’s many clubs, the Classic Club, under duress from his sister. Arriving at the club room later on, he finds Eru Chitanda, the school beauty, already there. Satoshi soon shows up and the three discuss the mystery of how Chitanda ended up in a locked room. Hotaro quickly, yet reluctantly, deduces that it was the simple matter of the janitor locking her in; despite the banality of the problem, he still manages to make a strong impression on Chitanda, who convinces the slacker to permanently join the club. The following day, Satoshi relates two mystery stories to Hotaro: one about a ghost in the music room and one about a secret club operating outside the student council. When Chitanda later shows up, Hotaro focuses on the later one and has them go to the main bulletin board to find their hidden recruitment poster. Hotaro finds it, to Chitanda’s amazement. Later though, we find out that Hotaro planted it there so that they would not have to walk all the way to the music room to investigate that mystery; Satoshi notes that his attempt at shortcutting may have brought some interesting complications with it.
Visually, this is a dazzling production, with top-notch animation and character designs making it a treat to watch. The classical musical score is pretty apt too, really emphasizing the show’s relaxed and languid demeanor perfectly. There were some very interesting metaphorical scenes involving Chitanda snaring Hotaro with her flower-woven hair that really dazzled the eye, as well.
Plot-wise things are much more humdrum. Nothing of much substance has happened, in usual slice of life fashion. Our main trio solidified the Classic Club’s existence as a mystery-solving club, with Hotaro’s rapid-fire thinking solving a pretty banal mystery and unraveling a school rumor. What really interests me though is the implication of the Golden Web; Hotaro may have planted their recruitment poster, but the very rumor of their existence seems like it foreshadows some intriguing future mysteries.
Character dynamics are not too shabby either. Hotaro and Chitanda seem to have an especially interesting connection, with the latter really inspiring the former to change his pace of life. Hotaro too has a noted influence on Chitanda, continually impressing her with his quick reasoning. The scene where they gaze into each others’ eyes is surely a case of love at first sight, though the metaphorical ensnaring adds a wonderfully symbolic subtext to everything. Satoshi seems like a pretty stock character thus far, ably and predictably playing the role of cheerful best friend. His connection to the student council plays an interesting logistic role in the mystery club, but he is otherwise too rote to be truly an intriguing character.
In the end, high end production values encapsulate a fairly low-energy story of a school’s mystery club. There is nothing new or earth-shattering to be found in Hyouka so far, just the usual slice of life and romance cliches. Still, it is strictly inoffensive, impressive to look at, and a pretty relaxing watch overall. It may not be the best this superb season has to offer, but it does offer a solid addition to the lineup.
I’m still parceling through my thoughts on last week’s show, saving some of the best for last. The Noitamina block continues to be top notch, though my choice for top Noitamina dog may be changing!
Kids on the Slope 2
Things start briskly this episode with Kaoru surrounded by some jealous school bullies. Sentaro shows up just in time though and mops the floor with the would-be oppressors; Kaoru even makes a comic attempt at backing him up after Ritsuko frees him from his bonds. Later, when stopping by the shop, Kaoru joins an impromptu jazz session between visiting Brother Jun, Sentaro, and Ritsuko’s dad. He clearly has some latent talent. After that, Kaoru asks Ritsuko out on a study date; she immediately accepts. The next day though, after seeing Ritsuko and Sentaro praying at a Catholic church, Kaoru finds out that the date is actually a boating trip with Sentaro in tow. They have some summer fun, and the episode closes with Sentaro defending a girl from some bullies on the beach, a girl that he is immediately smitten with.
This episode covers the rest of my manga knowledge, and adapts it beautifully. Our core cast is excellently characterized, each hiding their own depth of personality. Kaoru stands out at forefront, as we actually get a glimpse inside his head; his anxieties and loneliness are slowly transforming into hope and true passion due to his newly acquired friends. The surprising Catholic angle on Sentaro and Ritsuko is particularly interesting, belying some true heart underneath Sentaro’s bravado.
There were so many beautiful scenes in this episode; two really stand out though: the shrine fight scene and the jazz session. The first is notable in how enjoyable it was. Music perfectly accompanied Sentaro’s goofy chasing of the bullies and comically punctuated Kaoru’s clumsiness. The latter was more spectacular from a plot and musical standpoint. It showcases Kaoru’s first real jazz experience, as a musician, and his budding passion where none existed before. That it was a great listening experience doesn’t hurt either, with flawless CGI blending the instruments to the well-conducted score. Animation-wise too, this series is breathtaking, with the detailed character designs and thoughtful backgrounds solidified with fluid movement and a very appealing color scheme.
It was a beautiful expansion from the premiere, and I can only continue to expect some solid characters, music, and animation from this spectacular adaptation. Watanabe and Kanno, indeed.
Our fishing show delves deeper in its fishing subject matter. We meet Coco, Haru’s sister, and equally odd alien visitor. They reveal their goal to Yuki: to catch a certain special kind of fish to ensure their safe return home and the safety of the planet. Natsuki, via some more magical watergun action, is recruited to help Yuki and his alien compatriots by teaching them some actual fishing technique. Yuki grows frustrated with Haru’s antics though and storms off. While tying a fishing knot though, our protagonist discovers he may have an actual passion for the art of fishing. Resident duck-owner Yamada pops up at the end, transferring into Yuki’s class, despite his professed 25-years of age.
This show continues to be delightfully bizarre, with Coco increasing the number of resident aliens to two. While I’m not terribly interested in fishing, this show did an admirable job of making it appealing, kind of like Chihayafuru, just with its artistic sensibilities and eclectic cast. The quirky BGM is definitely the highlight, adding a great deal to the surreal pastels and metaphorical water imagery.
Cast-wise its rarely seen Yamada that really catches my intention, mostly due to the amazing Sugita that voices him. His appearance are sporadic, but bizarrely memorable, and his transfer ensures that we’ll be seeing a lot more of him and Tapioca. Yuki is a serviceable protagonist so far, though a little predictable in his anxious reluctance; much like Kaoru from KontS, its his discovery of an undiscovered passion that turns him compelling, with fishing feeling a real void in his lonely life. Natsuki surpasses his jaded teenage cliche this episode, as we see into his family situation a bit, and see an uncomfortable step-parent situation. While this doesn’t solve all of his issues as a character, its starting to at least give him some depth and explain his annoying cynicism. The alien siblings grate on me much more though, especially the high-pitched, over-enthusiast Haru, whose eccentric act is starting to wear quite thin. His sister is not quite as bad, though their collective tyranny over Yuki with their magical water pistols is somewhat upsetting.
This episode felt a bit less awesome than the dazzling premiere, perhaps mostly because the viewer had already been dosed with the show’s weird demeanor already. It’s still quite the experience though, and aesthetically the show’s magical realism is something I am entirely satisfied with. If we swapped Haru’s screentime with Yamada’s this might be the perfect show for me; as it is, I love its bizarre demeanor, but long for some concrete plot direction and less genki alien annoyance.
Here is the ranking of my current lineup (not counting yesterday’s Zetman or Haiyore as I have not seen those; I will also eventually get to seeing Hyouka):
1. Kids on the Slope (+1)
2. Space Bros (+2)
3. Tsuritama (-2)
4. Fujiko Mine (-1)
5. Eureka Seven Ao (+2)
6. Sankarea (+2)
7. Zetman (-2)
8. Nyaruko-san (+1)
9. Jormungand (-3)
Jormungand, while at the bottom of my ranking, was still quite good; it’s just that with all these high quality shows, something had to bottom it out!
Bros in Space 3-4
I can’t help but notice that I missed a Space Brothers update last week, a real shame since this is a truly quality show. I guess I have no choice but to double feature it up!
Space Bros 3-4
Testing continues at Jaxa, with Mutta being subject to a whole battery of examinations. He worries at his inferiority in physical fitness, though he does manage to do exceedingly well at the lung capacity test, succumbing only to Itou Serika’s charms. Serika herself gets some narrative time too, as she reminisces how Mutta’s peek into the space suit was just like her father years ago. Mutta and Kenji meanwhile continue becoming closer and closer friends. A battery of interviews soon ensue and Mutta is exceedingly nervous for the ultimate one. He gets a difficult introspective question, which he responds to quite banally, and which later prompts endless streams of regret. On the other side of the world, Hibito invites Mutta to visit NASA, a thoroughly exciting prospect.
This show has a lot of powerful characterization behind it, with Mutta completely stealing the show as the nervous every-man. His actions and doubts are utterly believable; it’s almost impossible not to constantly be routing for the goofball. His budding relationship with Serika is pretty interesting too, with Serika’s flashback certainly setting up their future romantic involvement. Little things really add a lot to the narrative. Mutta peeking into the space suit and imagining his picture alongside Hibito’s in the hall of astronauts are certainly powerful moments, but more trivial set pieces, like Mutta picking out empty edamame shells, add a thoroughly human aspect to the whole telling as well. I think this show’s deliberate pacing is a thorough blessing, allowing the tale to progress organically and emotionally, and those criticizing it for its deliberateness are not appreciating its delightful brand of powerful storytelling. It, like Chihayafuru last season, is also a thoroughly feel-good show, adding another incentive to watch beneath is other solid attributes. Space Brothers just continues to highlight this awesome season.
Rounding it out
Here is my weekly catchup post, compensating for my end-of-week negligence. Everything I’m following has been pretty good so far, resulting in no cuts this week. Warning: longish post.
TL;DR for the lazy: Everything is awesome and you should check these shows out!
This week our spunky otherworldly abomination took the fight to the human traffickers, taking Mahiro to an illegal auction on the ancient city of R’lyeh. In the standard reversal, the dreaded city of Lovecraft lore turns out to be a theme-parked tourist trap, and the slave trader’s real intention for Mahiro was as a star of BL-theme TV drama. Nyaruko herself gets involved in a tiff with an old classmate named Kuko who has a very overt love interest in the Nyarlathotepian. Things are eventually resolved and the manhunt for Mahiro is called off; that doesn’t prevent Nyaruko from sticking around for the foreseeable future though.
This show continues to generate breakneck-paced absurdity, and I can’t help but be terribly amused despite how much I want to hate it. My Lovecraft knowledge is definitely helping in that respect, with all the subversions of classic Cthulu lore being silly to the point of ridiculousness. Nyaruko’s transformation into her favorite sentai hero this episode caught me completely off-guard, in a good way, and couldn’t help but smirk. Even Nyaruko’s creepy sexual advances have gone so far overboard to become ridiculous parody, and Kuko’s yuri tendencies veer in the same direction. This may be a guilty pleasure, but it sure does please.
Mine Fujiko 3
Goemon takes the stage this episode as we fill out our main cast introduction. Fujiko is playing Mary Poppins to the grandchildren of an European king, hoping to steal the fellow’s priceless art collection as it is transported via rail. Our errant samurai, meanwhile, has been hired to kill said monarch; a timely betrayal derails his dedication to that plan though, and he ends up saving the train from a disastrous derailment. Fujiko shows us her human side, opting to save the kids over trying to rescue the treasure. She does end up stealing a priceless belt though as well as enchanting the naive Goemon.
Continuing in its trend of nostalgic panache, this show delivers another solid outing. Fujiko’s breasts take a notable back stage, only appearing once at the very end, to the very likeable Goemon, a self-aware anachronism of a man complete with his excellent catchphrase “I cut something useless again.” It’s hard not to love the guy as an out-of-his-luck, overly skilled, and hopelessly chivalrous mercenary, seemingly out of place historically. His interactions with the grandkids were priceless, and his sword wielding antics were awesome to behold, despite being way beyond the scope of reality. Fujiko too shined with her child interactions, showing the viewer that there is an honest to goodness human being behind the wily and murderous seductress we saw in the previous two episodes. Taking the cake of course was Goemon’s hopefully naive line: “Did I just get a girlfriend?” So good.
Eureka Seven Ao 2
Picking up right where the premiere left off, Ao refuses to give up the armband; the mercenaries reveal its actually a key to a LF that is being held by the Japanese. It’s up to Ao to defend the island from the G-monster, and boy does he do it. After some flashy aerial antics, Ao hides the Mark-1 and incited some curiosity from late-to-the-scene Generation Bleu pilots.
Whoa! This episode was an absurdly good follow-up to the premiere, surpassing it entirely. Ao shines brightly as the protagonists, taking up the fight against the G-Monster without any hesitation, and giving us a spectacular aerial scene so reminiscent of the original series. Solid Bones visuals make this a really beautiful experience, and excellent BGM makes it exciting to boot. In addition to the building sci-fi plot, there is an interesting undercurrent of modern politics with the whole Okinawan independence issue. How this series ties into the original isn’t readily apparent yet; Eureka seems to be Ao’s mother, but the setting doesn’t quite fit. In any case, much moreso than the premiere, this episode has me ecstatic to see where the show goes, with a portentously potential plot being backed by some very solid mecha action.
Koko is up to her shenanigans once more, this time with an arms deal in Chechnya. Things go south when negotiations break down, especially with the arrival of a rival dealer. In the end though, Koko’s quick thinking has the militants targeting their rivals instead of them, allowing for a rapid and cheery escape.
This episode dialed the action back a bit, with only Valmet’s sleek knife fighting standing out. What we did get was some nice character development and more insight into Koko’s business methods. While the deceptive tactics that put Koko ahead did not involve any sleek action pieces, they were enjoyable nonetheless and Koko is a nothing but a thrill to watch. Some additional characters added some more spice, with Valmet’s more unstable counterpart providing a nice wacky diversion as well as a curious yuri love triangle.
Rea’s fascist father puts her under permanent house arrest after last episode. She overhears him threatening Furuya though and sneaks out to warn him. Furuya himself meanwhile is still surprised at Babu’s resurrection and trying to apprehend the fleeing zombie feline. Following Babu leads him back to the hydrangea field near his old haunt. Rea soon shows up on the overhead cliff, pursued by her father. A kerfuffle ensues and Rea ends up falling off, impaling herself on a spiky stick in the flower field. She arises and reminds Furuya of his promise to resurrect her.
As I said last time, this would be the episode that really made the show, and I can’t help but feel it was pretty successful. The inevitable death scene was truly chilling, and, more importantly, horrifically uncomfortable to watch, with Rea’s tragic life culminating in a senseless death. Her father finally had a comeuppance, though in the saddest of ways; slaying his own daughter is a terrible karmic twist. Amidst all this dramatic melancholy, the show added some whiplashing comedy, with Furuya’s friends and Wanko-service proving odd interludes to the overarching tragedy. All the imagery in the opening is coming together, and the hydrangea zombies are rising.
Round and round-up
I, in my utter laziness, forgot to post anything for most of the stuff I saw last week. Here’s a brisk summary post, with some more verdicts and a ranking, even!
Eureka Seven AO 1
I got into the Eureka Seven franchise pretty late, only having seen all of it about two years ago. While I initially was not sold, I was thoroughly convinced by the midpoint: ES was great. AO, which I am not sure whether exists as sequel or prequel, begins with Renton look-alike Ao who comes face to face with the Scub Corral menace in the very first episode. I see a lot of the same potential as the first here, with a nice variety of cast members and a visceral conflict at its center. My concern though is how truly similar it is to the original, with a lot of eery counterparts to the original cast and plot. So far though some nice Bones animation and a promising plot provide a solid first outing.
Verdict: Strong keep; kicking the Last Exile sequel’s ass already
Fujiko’s Breasts 2
This week we got the dark mafioso figure of Jigen, who gets a solid character study to back up his premiere. Lupin himself took a hiatus, though the viewer’s eyes are solidly locked on Jigen’s eventual meetup with the thief. There was a lot of good, but predictable, pathos here, with Jigen and Cicciolina’s starstruck romance proving classically nostalgic. Fujiko’s breasts thankfully toned their appearance a fair degree; the OP and ED’s full-on nudity are here to stay, apparently. Otherwise, I’ve got much the same to say as before: this is an awesome nostalgia fest and Jigen’s ultra-skewed character design was a fitting addition to this 70’s style adventure.
Verdict: Perma-keep; it would take a lot more than gratuitous nudity to dim the quality of this production
Attempted necromancy continues, with the spotlight falling on Rea’s utterly dysfunctional home life. Jeez, Rea’s father sure is messed up, and I really feel for the poor girl. Some real plot development pushes the premise to the forefront as we may have a real zombie potion on our hands. It’s effects on the living should prove interesting. Despite these novel developments, everything seems pretty cliche so far and the Wanko-service is much more obnoxious than titillating. Next episode looks to be a key make-or-break moment as the results of the inciting incident finally pay their dividends.
Verdict: Keep until next week’s big reveal; therein lies the true mettle of this series
Polar Bear Cafe 2
I could hardly tell you what happened in this episode. There was some meaningless discussion about themed-cafes, a forgettable pick-nick, and Hiroshi Kamiya doing a classy penguin routine. I really want to like this show’s laid back demeanor and ambiance; it has the cardinal sin of being simply unfunny, and on top of that, actively boring. It’s a pleasant enough diversion, but alas I think I have not the time for such a comedically and narratively empty show.
Verdict: Drop, with some reluctance; there goes my Hiroshi Kamiya quota!
Accel World 2
Why? That’s all I could think when Brain Burst’s true nature was revealed. Not only is it infinite effort for just an online fighting game, it’s a thoroughly uninteresting fighting game to boot. I was still half on board until that dismal fight that took up the latter half of this episode. Simply miserable. It’s a shame too, as there were some good looking visuals and production values at work here, with a halfway decent potential premise. I’m sure that light-novel readers could illuminate some value in this later on, but I am too disillusioned with the cliche-path that Accel World has grumbled down.
Verdict: Easily dropped; a fighting game, reallllly?
That’s it for this round, ladies and gentle-readers. Most of the premieres are done, except for the mysterious Hyou-ka, so on my way out, here’s a quick ranking of my keepers for the season so far (this is a remarkably high quality season, so things are rather close for a lot of these):
2. Kids on the Slope
3. Lupin III
4. Space Bros
7. Eureka Seven AO