Double Feature: Nobunagun Episodes 10 + 11

They fight, and fight, and fight and fight and fight…

Nobunagun-Episode-11-05

Okay, my finger hasn’t been burning the last couple days, so I think it’s okay to put some stress on the left hand. Huzzah! Time to play catch-up.

Nobunagun 10 gives us a bit of backstory on the Commander, before diving into the final battle that will come to dominate the remainder of the series.

I have to admit I am flummoxed as to why they felt this was necessary.  Let’s go, Samurai Kyubey.

It’s the third century, and the Commander is a little girl.  Her village, it seems, has been burned to the ground.  It’s in Japan, which is interesting.  She mentions “Himiko-sama”.  Now according to Chinese records, prior to this period the islands lived in a feudal system of over two dozen tribes with “a shaman queen”, whom they named Himiko.  It was eventually replaced by a five-empire system of strong military states.  In effect, the Commander is from the transition period of this feminine empire (from what we can tell, she was an elected ruler) to the Imperial-samurai system we know so well.

Is that really important? Not really. I just wanted to point it out.  It would be nice if it had much bearing on the story but that would be hope. And, on this blog, hope comes here to die.  Still, I’m a little impressed about the detail as traditional Japanese history has tended to expunge the fact they ever willingly submitted to a woman.

No, instead, Samurai Kyubey just kind of whisks her away to help him acquire souls of Humanity’s best and brightest. Most disconcerting is that her first nap in stasis is 300 years long.  Yes, Samurai Kyubey abducts a little girl like a stray and keeps her in stasis until he needs her help retrieving blood samples.  What? Is she sleeping with all of them? Probably.

Continue reading

Advertisements

Noragami: Episode 10

Disappear.

1394382757444

Kicking off our final story arc is Yukine working in shop with Daikoku.  Yukine is working to pay off the money he stole over the past few…weeks? Which presumably means there was way more than we saw, since he left the charity money on the ground the one time we saw.

Speaking of paying back, Kofuku reminds Hiyori that she has a debt to pay. Twice now she’s helped Hiyori bail Yato out of a predicament, which by her estimations comes to 10million yen. …Kofuku suggests Hiyori gets into porn.  Oh I love you, Kofuku, destroying people’s lives no matter how you try to help.

Well, it’s a visit to Tenjin’s now.  He notes he’s surprised to see Yukine still, after the danger Yato put himself through.  Yato says it was part of his plan, and personally I like the idea of Yato being a pragmatic kami than this whole “father” bullshit.  It isn’t enough to say Yato wants to invest in Yukine, to see him reach his full potential, because he naturally believes in him? We have to tack silly paternal bonds onto it?  Okay okay, cultural identity and all that. I still think it’s silly.

Yato also thanks Mayu, and Tenjin even admits that Mayu is extremely tough after being trained by Yato.

One of Tenjin’s regalia, Miyu, is missing.  Mayu tells Hiyori and Yukine privately that it’s because she stung Tenjin.  It seems just being introduced to the idea of Yukine’s crisis was enough to make her contemplate her own lost life, and she stung Tenjin in a moment, it seems she wanted to be a teacher, or something.  Or at least it was a prayer regarding becoming a teacher that moved her so, which may explain how she came to serve Tenjin in the first place.

Mayu explains that as far-shore creatures, Regalia are prone to want to cross over.  It makes them very vulnerable to temptation and regret, which is why they must be vigilant and like water, never allowing things to bother them. Continue reading

Sakura Trick: Episode 10

Do you want to build a snowman?

1394808550647

The Grown-Up in me is saying “Gee, Anna, cutting it close? Nobunagun and Noragami are two days away.”  But the kid in me is saying “SQUEE SQUEE BACK TO BACK SAKURA TRICK TIME NAO!”

If there had been any doubt that Sakura Trick is throwing slice-of-life static universes to the wind, this episode, shored up by last week’s, has really been…depressing, in a way.  I used the word “finality” last time, and this week brought it up like the looming mountain ahead.  But there’s still plenty of open road between here and there. Though considering the implications socially about our lead characters’ lives, perhaps “oncoming storm” is more appropriate, and these are starting to feel like the last bit of sunshine.

Fitting then, that this episode is about having no sunshine.  In more ways than one.

Mind, I don’t think we’re headed for a sad ending.  Only that this week’s tone was very…looming.

It is snowing! Something that doesn’t happen often, and the girls are split right down the middle.  Haruka and Shizuku love the snow and want to eat outside.  Kotone, Yuu, and Yuzu are against.  With Kaede abstaining a vote (due to the final student council meeting of the academic year), inside lunch wins! Unfortunately for Archbishop Kotone and her forces, Pope Haruka has chosen to secede, taking Shizuku outside where they will eat lunch!

Shizuku suggests, however, they return inside, it is rather cold for them.  But Haruka insists. It may not snow the next two years.  She will not miss her only high school snow (oh come on Haruka, it will snow next season, it has to).

Shizuku observes that Haruka is like Kotone in this regard.  And that is why they both lead the Church of Yuri.

The show will elaborate on this, but by flashing back to Episode 3 where Kotone got serious-face, it puts the idea in your head without anyone saying it that this snow, which will probably be gone by tomorrow or the day after, is a metaphor.  Or am I confusing my metaphors and analogies again? DAMN MOON SPEAK!

Haruka (arguably influenced by Head Haruka), also notes this.  We are reminded quite quickly, and bitterly, that for Shizuku and Kotone, the party doesn’t last forever. Their relationship has a defined end, and that end is graduation, which is now just over two years away. Continue reading

Sakura Trick: Episode 9

All of my warm fuzzies.

Sakura Trick - 09

I originally hit the “play” button on Sakura Trick this week mostly out of obligation, but leave it to this show to fix my bad mood.  Well, lifting my spirits for a time, I can’t say it cures all of my cynicism. But then again no weapon could ever do that.

This show messes with the established format this week, in more ways than one. The first is it is divided into three, rather than two parts.  Not exactly groundbreaking but it did catch me off guard.

The second is that none of these little stories is exactly what we’ve come to regard as normal. The first part more so than the rest and it really shows.

It’s New Year’s Eve and Haruka calls Yuu on her cell to chat with her.  Just to hear her voice, she says.  Though her subversive goal becomes clear that she wants to be the very first person Yuu wishes a “Happy New Year” to.  This is one of those Japanese holiday customs that is slightly off-base, but whereas this might normally be a source of confusion, since it is not the focus it isn’t distracting at all and there is plenty to latch onto to understand why this is important to Haruka without needing the exact details of the past 100 years of Japanese cultural identity to get the point.

And the surprise: That’s all this episode is.  It is the pair on the phone with each other one night before a big holiday, just a day in the life.  While that sounds boring on paper, the camera cutting between the two, and Mitsuki’s interruptions, with POV shifting at just the right times, makes two high school girls on the phone really damn engaging, when usually having to listen to such might make you want to reconsider your opinion on whether or not we should classify murder as a misdemeanor.

I even recommend this if your experience with the series is light because it is a great microcosm of the Yuu-Haruka relationship, which has to be the thing that carries this part of the show, the chemistry between these two (and later, Mitsuki’s dynamic thrown in).

There is a concept in metaphysics about the division of your actions.  The two sides (much like Yin and Yang) are the Sei and the Do.  Sei is your rational brain. Sei can see the red hot burner on your stove, and knows what that means. It is a trained process you have.  Military color guards are exhibiting immense Sei energy, they are calculating exactly their movements and pin-point precision to pull them off because it is the object of their undivided attention.  Do, on the other hand, is when your hand brushes over the burner and the sensation of the heat causes you to recoil instinctively.  It is reflex, your gut.  A person who, despite having no training, can pick up a tennis racket and beat his instructor in his very first practice match is exhibiting Do energy.

And that is very much the relationship our main couple has found themselves in.  This has always been apparent, but this week it is almost an exhibition in this dynamic, rather than being an underlying theme.  Yuu asks why Haruka called, thinking there is a process. Haruka answers she wanted to hear Yuu’s voice, an impulse.

Now, the whole “conflict” this episode is, Yuu is being summoned by her parents to spend the last half hour of the year (before midnight and Jan 1) with her family and share their traditional yearly meal (Haruka responds her family just finishes the leftovers from Christmas.  While a cute line, it says a lot about where Haruka got her “go with the flow” attitude, and also reinforces the point of structure vs. impulse).  Haruka wants to be the first person Yuu says “Happy New Year” to and refuses (mostly) to acknowledge that Yuu’s family unit isn’t primarily…well…her.

Which is perfect in casting Haruka as the Do personality.  More than just impulse, it demonstrates Haruka’s baser nature.  Yuu has, despite her ditzy personality and rather thick skull, been the level headed one here.  If Haruka had been the safety manager in this relationship, they’d have been discovered months ago (and judging by the timing here, it has been nine months since they got together.)  But even more than that, Haruka is exhibiting a nature as base instinct.  She is very much, and I mean no disrespect or insult here, like an animal with her impulses. My needs, my desires, my status.  She barely even acknowledges Yuu’s family exists, let alone that they might have some “claim” to her over some girl who, as far Yuu’s family is concerned, is just a kid she goes to school with. Continue reading

Noragami: Episode 9

Foul, I call foul.

1394342229777

In a Strike the Blood opening, we undo that last little scene from last episode with Daikoku letting Hiyori inside the barrier to be purified.  But for Yato, the situation is much more grim and saving him will require a complicated ritual of some kind, and he sets off to find two more regalia to help him with the purification.

He even threatens to kill Yukine if he takes a step. Yeah, you show him!

In one of the more pointless bits of fanservice, we see Kofuku filling a tub with her showerhead, which is fed from her sacred spring.  Then the next scene Hiyori is naked and using the showerhead directly because…because she has a great body and spirit clothing is easy to get off. I guess.

Doikoku’s first stop is Tenjin’s shrine, where Mayu offers her help.  She may have despised working for Yato, but she doesn’t want him dead.  But the others are afraid of the fact that a purification is a fatal procedure if done wrong.

Hiyori overhears this on the phone and…where did you find a payphone Daikoku? Sorry that’s just a weird moment…I mean we can’t find a third regalia, but we found a pay phone.  That’s like being able to find a leprechaun’s pot of gold, but not your car keys.

Anyway Hiyori naturally takes matters into her own hands.  Impressively, she doesn’t try to find Nora, knowing she’d probably just kill Yukine.  And Hiyori wants everyone to come through this alive.  A little bit of a parallel to Yato’s gamble with the schoolboy last episode.  It’s all or nothing, happy ending or bust.

Disregarding Kazuma’s warning, she heads for Bishamonten’s shrine, looking for him specifically.

Everyone has been insisting Yukine must be destroyed. And here Kazuma asks one last time for Yato to release Yukine from his bond, which Yato refuses. Continue reading

Nobunagun: Episode 9

Author’s note: The next few reviews have been delayed, but I can’t put them off anymore, because my life has been hectic and depressing of late.  Some of my sour mood will probably spill over.  So take these opines with a grain of salt.

Nobunagun-Episode-9-03

This weeks Nobunagun demonstrated the aspect of human nature that craves and idolizes that which it cannot have. A look into the psyche about not always getting what you want.

Yes I’m referring to the audience, why do you ask?

Nobunagun finally played the Asao-san card.  And…I know I’ve been yelling for this for weeks…but…in the end, I think Nobunagun was too certain of its own conclusions to actually get what they wanted out.  This isn’t even about the blow to our yuri-goggles this week, but that just compounds the frustration.

We begin with Shio waking in a hospital.  Apparently the Commander gave Shio one day in the hospital in her native country as a favor.  We know it’s only one day because St. Germain is here to tell Shio she’s back on active duty TOMORROW.

God I hope the plane fare was worth it.  Seems like you could have treated her on-site and she’d be fixed before the plane even landed if all she has is a sprained ankle.  Well at least DOGOO is as competent in its fiscal division as research or combat.

Now, in what are probably the first shots fired for the conclusion of the series, it seems that the Evos have been launching a total attack. Everywhere. All at once.   They know the jig is up on their main base, so in order to buy time they are throwing everything they can at Humanity.  DOGOO is holding, so there’s no critical disasters yet, but neither will Team1 and Team2 be receiving any backup when they launch their final attack on the tunnel-base. Things are just stretched to the limit right now.

It turns out what the Evos are guarding is very likely some version of stem-cells. Suddenly Evo evolution is completely synonymous with Earth evolution, which is how we determined this. See, Vidocq deduces that since the guard Evo was a squid type, and several of the kaiju they’ve sent at the mainland has been vertebrate, that there must be a source material that allows the Evos to go in either direction.  A sort of genetic forge where they turn out the latest and greatest models of cars, boats, AND planes.

Of course there are several explanations that might just as easily fit, say, Evos can reproduce down caste lines and evolve between generations, but we will give them the benefit of the doubt on this one that they actually know this based on dissection, and not just by looking at a picture and saying “must be.” Continue reading

Sakura Trick: Episode 8

Alright, back off, it’s official we have adults.

1393620599872

Yes, real live breathing parents! They exist!

Of all the things I expected this episode, that was not one of them.

The first episode is quite simple.  And, I am forced to admit, I didn’t particularly enjoy it, not really.

Except for the live-action Head Haruka where her father gets super protective of the prospect of Haruka wedding some punk, which she totally interprets as him being okay with her marrying a girl.  Keep on trekking, mein Pope.

Why the talk about weddings? Well Haruka’s…I think it’s her cousin but it remains a little undefined, is getting married. And since Haruka’s father can’t make it, her mother lets her bring a friend.  Naturally, she picks Yuu.

Cue lingual misunderstanding of the week.  Yuu seems to interpret it as Haruka wanting to get married, and cue the shenanigans.

I have a confession, I am not a big fan of “misunderstanding humor”.  Which is a problem because it is even more prevalent in Japanese comedy than Western.  There is just NOTHING funny to me about a Three’s-Company moment, and I avoid all such humor because I find it absolutely unbearable, if not downright uncomfortable.  An oddity in my personality I guess, considering the jackassery that passes for humor on this blog. Continue reading

Space Dandy: I Surrender

Space-Dandy-Wallpaper

Normally when you do not see a post as scheduled on this blog, it is for one of two reasons.  One, I am seriously considering dropping the show and am giving the series that extra week to prove it worth my time (this happened with BlazBlue).  Two, I simply haven’t gotten around to it, for various reasons, be they hospitalizations or court trips or whatever that bogs down my week, in such a case I probably haven’t SEEN the show yet so I tend triage the schedule and you’ll see a burst of reviews out on a single day.  And three: I just plain forgot. Okay so I lied there were two reasons.

Space Dandy falls into none of these categories.  I have been fully conscious I wasn’t watching it week to week. I dread it. I don’t want to do it.

I didn’t want to watch Machine Doll either, but there was a twisted sort of karmic joy in tearing it apart week after week that let me struggle through.

But I have purposefully been avoiding Space Dandy, and now that it’s been a month since I did my last review on the show, I figured it needed to be this weekend or never.

And I quit. I can’t do it. I’ve only gotten one episode down and I practically skipped half the second one I was so bored.

So Space Dandy…I concede defeat. You have bested me. I lose this round.

I don’t want to give the impression that I think Space Dandy is a bad show.  It isn’t, and objectively I can recognize that.  It has weak spots and strong spots, but the very episodic nature will of course incline it to be a wildly variant experience week to week.

But I, me, Anna, personally, cannot sit through it.  As I said, this show is perfect if I had a TV.  But TV for me now means “Independent computer time.”  It can’t be something I am doing while I play games or write, it can’t be something I look at out of the corner of my eye, laugh, and go back to what I was doing (which is always what Adult Swim was to me…the exception being the celebration of Ramen-dan on Sunday nights back in…2007?).  Right now I have to consider Dandy worth my near-undivided attention….and it isn’t.

I am having way more fun admitting to you I bested myself and am too weak willed to follow through on only one of five shows I’m giving attention to.  That is how obnoxious I find it.  There is no character I like, there is no archetype for me to enjoy.  Like Nobunaga the Fool, this is a show about “man-culture”, and while I’m totally comfortable ripping apart a dramatic presentation of it…comedy is much harder for me to derive some enjoyment out of it.   If Space Dandy was this bitter, cynical satire of the man-life, I could deal with it. But it’s affectionate, and I cannot relate to that affection.

Comedy is simple. You found something funny, or you didn’t.  And when you don’t find anything funny, what is there to fall back on?

So, officially, consider Space Dandy dropped, if its absence from the weeklies wasn’t an indicator.

Nobunagun: Episode 8

Shio, you got some essplainin to do…

1393199321620

Okay…fair enough, I am willing to give you a holding action on Asao content, Nobunagun.  But the cheap dream sequence really takes the teeth out of it.

I would kill to see just a little phone call between the pair every episode or two.  Something that just reminds us how important the pair is to each other.  Which this does, certainly, from Shio’s perspective.  So I let it slide, but “real” interaction would be much nicer.

Shio’s dream, specifically, is a beach scene where her brain is trying to sort out this relationship mess.  It is a very strange concept, to me, seeing Shio is so old and these are basic feelings she must have confronted by now at least once or twice.  So, Shio’s brain definitely likes seeing Asao in skimpy swimsuits.  That’ll do, Brain, that’ll do.

One by one the cast enters, first Jack, being his normal fed-up self.  And then Gandhi, who for some reason in this dream is shipped with Jack.  Did not see that coming. Then again Gandhi has hit on just about anything he meets, it’s just his team is mostly female between Shio, Newton and Galiko.  So extending that to Jack really is not a big personality stretch.  And it’s just silly.  And it’s a dream! Silly is fine.  My favorite bit is the “Nice Couple?” label at the bottom in rainbow letters.

Asao’s reactions are nice.  They don’t actually tell us anything about HER character, so much as how Shio perceives Asao.  Or should I say, wants to perceive her.  She is doing that very, well…that very Japanese thing of whittling down “Is that your lover? Is that? Is that? No? Then…you’re single?”  And the face she makes when Newton arrives and picks Shio up in her arms…And her very dejected looking face at Newton’s arrival. “It’s okay Shio, I’ll always be your friend.”

I think it’s important to note that it wasn’t Jack, whom Asao seemed to regard with bemusement, but Newton, the other -woman-, that makes this dream-Asao take her leave. Is that subconscious? Is this actually a reflection of Shio’s brain? “Jack’s cute and all but…but he’s a guy. He’s not a real threat.”?

Just as likely it’s to make Newton obnoxiously sexually aggressive as Shio wakes up in a cold sweat…only to see Newton staring at her, lying in her bed.  So maybe all those things Newton said were what she whispered in Shio’s ear while she was dreaming. Who knows.

Cutting to the meta-plot, Vidocq has sent Team 1 to scout for an underwater passage between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.  We’ll forgive the comic book science involved.  And boy have they found it. It’s crawling with Evos and it’s bad enough that Team 2 is going to be sent to back them up.

A nice touch as Jack’s briefing them on the details, Shio’s eyes in her contemplation are the Nobunaga eyes, those slightly rounder, more determined looking ones. I also like this scene as it’s very front-line.  The fighting teams may be the focus characters, and do all the heavy lifting, but in the end they’re just the muscle.  It’s the brains in Vidocq and the Commander who do the “important” work, and the soldiers feel content to leave it at that, Jack in particular seems to have accepted that his insight isn’t going to be very useful. Continue reading

Noragami: Episode 8

The ultimate sin is…vandalism?

1393196958498

Right from the get go I am torn. On the one hand, the male-character-mistaken-for-peeper gag is so old, it has ceased being funny. Is it only that way because anime has trained me to find it habitual? Who knows. Whatever the reason it just stopped having even the glimmer of interest years ago.

On the other hand, watching Hiyori, specifically, beat on three boys with a broom for two minutes straight can’t be bad for you.

Wait, three? Yes, the third is Yato’s client.  Hiyori is all sympathy for him, of course.  Which I like, actually. Hiyori’s compassion is, quite certainly, a character flaw. And it’s always there, it’s nice that it doesn’t just exist for the sake of making Yukine look bad, and then EVERY other time it’s reeled into normal-person levels. Even when it’s with a random guy in the girl’s bathroom.

Speaking of little shits, Yukine loathes this client, who is looking to be saved from bullies. Yato only comments that Yukine hates what he sees in himself.  Yato then gives the boy advice and a “something”.  The sound effects used and the dialogue are meant to make you think it’s a gun, but that would be so cliche you say “No, this isn’t a PSA movie from the 1980s, this is Noragami, what is it really?”

Yukine storms out, and he will again abandon our other two heroes for the remainder of the episode.

Hiyori is freaking, asking what Yato was thinking.  Yato’s response is he is merely providing a mode of action.

It is a chaotic attitude, and one the “god of calamity” would almost certainly have.  It plays to that strong characterization that the kami have in this series.  You or I might say, “Stand up to them,” or “tell a teacher”, or “sticks and stones, nyah nyah”, or whatever trite garbage the elementary psychologist drilled into your heads when you were younger.  But Yato doesn’t have that education, nor even those values.  He doesn’t even REALLY care which way this goes.

I think it goes back to what I suggested about why Yato holds out on fixing Hiyori (or stringing her along that he CAN fix her). He holds her in his pocket because he wants to make a strong impression.  And to handle it so dramatically will leave an impression on the boy (his name is Manabu).  One thing is for sure, if Manabu doesn’t confront them, or confronts them in an ineffectual way, it will continue, and his prayers will NOT be answered.  In such a situation, by a person like Yato’s reasoning, action would be better than that, and it doesn’t matter WHAT the action is, but to do nothing is stagnation and that is almost certainly the opposite of fixing a problem. Now, is this what is in Manabu’s best interests? Probably not.  Because this could have resolved in so many bad ways (we’ll get to that later), but I don’t think Yato is operating from the realm of compassion.  He is rolling a gamble. He will solve it or go for broke.

Insert obligatory “god helps only those who help themselves first” nonsense.
Continue reading