Saturday, 31 August 2013

Genshiken Second Season - Episode 9

As the school festival approaches, Ogiue has her story all prepared for the one-off manga set to star within the Genshiken club magazine - now, all that's required is to figure out how to get an angle on Hato's art...

Any confidence that Hato can draw something that isn't Boy's Love provided he has a story to work on quickly proves to be unfounded, and as Ogiue tries to get to the bottom of Hato's complex psyche and how it affects his ability to draw manga it seems that simply her presence is enough to get her junior to focus on his work properly... at least, when the pair aren't getting interrupted in ways which quickly cause them both to become somewhat distracted.

Still, all's well that ends well, and the magazine is complete and ready by the time the festival rolls around in a blitz of cosplay and illustrations for the Genshiken to exhibit.  Given that the festival is also effectively an open day, it's an opportunity for former club members to drop by, and also a chance for some of the newcomers to meet up with former school friends.  Yajima and Yoshitake may be thrilled to catch up with old faces, but things are rather different from Hato as two of his former schoolmates drop by on the hunt for their former acquaintance.  Hato assumes that his cross-dressing and false name should be enough to throw them off the trail even when they come face to face with him, but this is to reckon within Kuchiki's unerring ability to put a spanner in the works in any given situation.

In the grand scheme of things, this wasn't the sharpest episode of Genshiken Second Season in terms of humour, but thankfully its cast are more than capable of carrying the series at this point even when the laughs aren't coming thick and fast.  As a result, it was still enjoyable to watch the goings-on here, broken up by the odd giggle here and there, and once again we're left with the promise of yet more of Hato's seemingly troubled past being revealed - he certainly takes up a lot of this show's time, but I don't have a problem with it all when he actually continues to be used so effectively as a character, and the show still seems to know when to let others grab the limelight, no matter how briefly.

Space Brothers - Episode 71

Mutta's current mission is one that he should be capable of specialising in, that being work on improving the lunar buggy, but for now that takes something of a back burner as other elements come to the fore.

Although Mutta does discuss any perceived weaknesses of the buggy with his brother (and everyone seems to have completely overlooked the catastrophic operational and instructional oversight that caused the lunar accident for some reason, Hibito included), his more pressing requirement is actually a photo shoot - a joint effort with Hibito for a Japanese business magazine that depicts the two brothers, complete with spacesuits, on the Moon's surface.

Alongside this, we get a glimpse into an issue that Hibito has previously kept quiet about - but simply, he's suffering from panic attacks whenever he dons a spacesuit in any kind of potentially stressful situation.  Given his nightmarish accident and near-death on the Moon, this is hardly surprising, but it's rather a large problem for both Hibito himself and NASA, who have warned him that he can't participate in any lunar missions in his current state.

It might not make for the best television in its own right, but it's actually rather impressive to see Space Brothers give some time and thought to a panic disorder such as this; particularly one inherent from a traumatic experience that goes on to cause real issues in Hibito's work.  Having suffered from such a disorder for a while as a result of illness myself (elements of which still come back to bite me on occasion), I'll be interested to see how its handling pans out, but once again it adds real weight to the overall experience of watching the series and the thought that it's put into its scenario.

il sole penetra le illusioni ~ Day Break Illusion - Episode 9

Ginka's fateful encounter with the "pair annihilation" phenomenon (which, as the name suggests, didn't end well for her) reverberates heavily through this week's Day Break Illusion as her team-mates try to come to terms with her lost.

Perhaps surprisingly it's Luna who is the hardest hit by these events, albeit mostly out of fear for her own life - thus, while Akari and Seira remain committed to the cause, Luna requests some time off to return home and get her head in order.  It's a rather tall order too given everything that has transpired, and a look into Luna's past shows that her entire life has been a rather tough one, compounded by the disappearance of her sister, who just so happens to look a little like Akari.

Speaking of our protagonist, she appears out of nowhere to hang out with Luna and take a break together with her until Luna has sorted her head out and is ready to return, allowing the pair to become closer than ever.  But is everything here really as it seems?  No, as it turns out, as Luna's love for Akari is turned back on her and then some as the truth of this particular scenario is revealed via a gruesome climax...

As seems to be the norm for this series, this week's Day Break Illusion seems to be running under the impression that it's pulling the rug out from under its viewers in some clever and shocking ways without realising that the whole thing was patently obvious from the outset - of course that wasn't really Akari visiting Luna, and it was so obvious from the very start of that scenario that there was no real shock when the twist finally came around.  It's yet another example of this show's clumsy writing that continues to thwart its every turn to be anything more than mediocre at best, and at this point it seems fair to say that this series is going to struggle to do anything to capture the audience's imagination for more than five minutes.  A shame, given the possibilities inherent within parts of its premise.

Danganronpa - Episode 9

Yet another death brings the remaining student trapped in their nightmarish school perhaps their trickiest case yet - what appears to be a "locked room" mystery.  Then again, perhaps that very fact is what should make this their easiest case thus far...

Regardless, with a few clues and oddities in-hand, as another classroom trial begins it takes no time at all for an obvious culprit to be fingered, with Fukawa announcing that she saw Hagakure whacking Sakura with a bottle.  However, given that the victim suffered two blows to the head, who provided the second?  It seems that Fukawa, as her Genociber alter-ego, was responsible for this one, but even this doesn't explain the fact that Ohgami was ultimately poisoned.

It's to Asahina that accusations turn at this point, as her footprints and whereabouts seem to match the possibility that a protein shake was switched out with poison.  Lo and behold, Asahina willingly admits her guilt... this still doesn't explain the whole locked room problem though, and with a little more thought the truth emerges - there was no murderer, but rather a case of suicide.  Therefore, the "culprit" has again been successfully identified, although that doesn't stop Monokuma from using his punishment game to a different end, that being the destruction of Alter Ego.  The remaining students are now determined to put up a united front to find out the truth behind their circumstances, but it seems that Monokuma also has some more tricks up his own sleeve...

After a lot of rather entertaining twisting and turning as the story behind the latest incident unraveled, its eventual revelation wasn't exactly too much of a shock given that it seemed the most logical outcome which other evidence only seemed to be obfuscating.  It's entertainment that this series is ultimately all about though, so I suppose I can forgive it that as we enter what looks to be a rather different final leg of the series which I'm plenty curious to see.  I'll openly admit to being a little unimpressed with the eventual layout of its previous couple of mysteries in comparison to my expectations, but as long as Danranronpa remains fun to watch, as it's succeeded in thus far, it's still onto a winner overall.

A Certain Scientific Railgun S - Episode 20

The immediate threat of "malfunctioning" security robots over, Anti-Skill find themselves rather baffled as to how these machines could have caused any issues at all as they reveal that these were new units that hadn't even had batteries installed yet.

While Kuroko and Uiharu continue to investigate the scene with Anti-Skill, Misaka and Saten take Febri for some ice cream, before the group reconvenes for no particularly good reason (aside from the obvious) at a bath house for more fun and frolics.

In the midst of all this, sinister goings on continue with the mysterious individuals who now seem intent upon testing Misaka's powers, and the group's post-bath walk soon turns into a detour straight into a trap - a dead end leading to a warehouse which holds some kind of terrifying mechanical menace.  With this machine proving more or less invulnerable to Misaka's electrical attacks, the group are in a tight spot before the machine mysteriously stops at a pivotal moment just in time for Kongou to save the day.  With Febri taken ill in the aftermath of all of this, concern for her overtakes any worries about who was responsible for this attack, and it's news about Febri that provides some punch to the end of this week's episode...

Although this latest story arc finally seems to be warming up by the time we reach the end of this instalment, it sure has taken a while to get there - most of the first half of this week's episode was effectively superfluous, and the story insists upon slowly teasing details out of the narrative in a way that feels like it's trying to elongate things rather than to actually aid delivery of the story.  Hopefully the rest of this arc can hit the ground running from next week onwards, so that the series can end with a bang rather than a whimper.

Thursday, 29 August 2013

Servant x Service - Episode 9

Lucy may have her troubles, but it's Chihaya who is truly distracted as this week's Servant x Service begins.

Between the continued complexities of dealing with boyfriend Taishi and her various costume creating efforts that flit from cosplay through to figuring out what Lucy should wear on her date with Hasebe, she certainly has a lot on her plate, and with her relationship frustrations building taking Yamagami out shopping for a skirt seems like the best possible option.  With her low self-esteem and uncertainty however, Lucy isn't exactly the easiest girl in the world to shop for though, although a glimpse into Chihaya's past shows at least something of a kindred spirit in days gone by.

Later on, Miyoshi finally finds herself introduced to Hasebe's sister, which in turn allows her to be granted Kaoru's take on Jouji Tanaka's personality and his rather "unique" relationship with her brother - not that it really helps her impression of him much.  More importantly, Miyoshi almost causes a major incident via a sentence only half-heard by Hasebe which leaves him with the false impression that Lucy is now engaged - a thought that sends him into a major slump, to a point from which even the resolution of this misunderstanding doesn't particularly lighten his mood.  If that isn't love, I don't know what is...

Its second half may have wavered a little, but once again there was no shortage of laugh out loud moments in this week's instalment of Servant x Service - as well as establishing its characters, it feels as if the dialogue within the series has really picked up over the weeks to the point where it can churn out plenty of great comments and one-liners when required to keep the humour coming even when its plot points are arguably a little tired and almost lazy.  In other words, watching this series is as fun as ever, and when all else fails Yamagami's ahoge continues to dazzle as the summer season's most energetic on-screen performer.

Silver Spoon - Episode 8

To say that Hachiken has settled into his part-time role as a farmhand for the summer would be an understatement - rising early, working diligently and proving his worth, he almost seems like a natural at this point.

However, his unusual yet somehow perfect summer is disrupted briefly by the appearance of a familiar face in the midst of a bovine crisis, as Hachiken's brother decides to pay him a surprise visit at the behest of his parents.   A seemingly natural genius who had won a place at Tokyo University, Shingo is clearly part of the reason for Yugo's inferiority complex; not that Shingo seems to be enjoying his life as a star pupil as he announces that he's dropped out of university to travel the country and learn how to cook.  This revelation also brings us into brief contact with the father of the family, and thus the real reason why Yugo doesn't want to go home as he refers to both of his sons as "worthless".

Not that this label fazes Shingo, nor does it disrupt Yugo's enjoyment of farm life, although the latter threatens to be disrupted by a simple but costly error made by Hachiken during a milking session.  Once again though, this crucial moment demonstrates the difference between the mentality of this farming family and many other organisations, as they merely shrug off the loss of milk and money in favour of getting on with clearing up and carrying on - after all, everybody makes mistakes, so why worry about it?

Although this simple mantra of "everybody makes mistakes" is the kind of thing you might expect to hear at the conclusion of a 1980s Saturday morning cartoon, it's surprisingly refreshing to hear it utilised here - as someone who works in a corporate environment where any mistake or error is analysed to the nth degree, it's enough to make you wish you worked within a more realistic and common sense-driven business.  That aside, we finally have an answer to the reason for Hachiken's desire to stay away from home (obvious though it was), and it's still immensely satisfying to watch his character growing and maturing in his current environment without losing his sense of excitement over the smallest things, and when coupled with some more snappy moments of humour it ensures that the series still remains a lot of fun.

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

WATAMOTE ~No Matter How I Look at It, It’s You Guys Fault I’m Not Popular!~ - Episode 8

Tomoko's summer break continues with a visit from her younger cousin Kii - unfortunately, that also means that Tomoko is going to have to work on reinforcing the tissue of lies she's built up around herself.

Having previously told Kii that she has an older boyfriend who she fools around with all the time, Tomoko is determined to up her game and provide evidence of her adventures this time around - cue a session of trying to give herself hickies which ultimately sees her disastrously turning to a vacuum cleaner for assistance.  Still, Kii seems suitably impressed, and is even more so when she actually gets to see Tomoko with her boyfriend...

Of course, the reality of this is in fact a fumbled conversation between Tomoko and the boy she met several episodes previously who had given her an umbrella - so botched is this conversation that he doesn't even get Tomoko's name right, but it isn't as if Kii is going to know any better, right?  Naturally, the following day sees this train of thought fall flat as Kii spots said boy with another girl, leading to a chain of events which destroys her image of Tomoko.  By the end of the episode and having watched her cheating while playing a card game with a bunch of kids, Kii still looks up to Tomoko in awe - just a very different kind of awe to how her visit started.

Although it again only had flashes of humour to offer up, there was something oddly satisfying about watching Tomoko getting her just desserts so comprehensively, be it quickly ruining the possibility of any kind of relationship with the first boy to actually talk to her or wrecking her cousin's impression of her completely.  The trouble is, I'm not sure that means much when it isn't going to lead to any kind of character development in the long-term, which is the kind of thing that would work just fine for a laugh out loud comedy but struggles when you have a series that doesn't really have the kind of comedic punch required to eschew those other elements.

Monday, 26 August 2013

Blood Lad - Episode 8

The search begins (again) for Fuyumi in this week's Blood Lad, but no sooner does it start than Liz in particular runs into a new problem.

The issue in question is Beros, some kind of demonic policewoman who duly arrests Braz, thus removing any possibility of him helping or offering up additional information about where Fuyumi might have gone.  For Liz's part, she's unable to find Fuyumi even with the aid of the tracking device planted on her, suggesting that she's currently somewhere outside of even Braz's reach.  As Staz beings to find the clues he needs to track down his missing friend, so Fuyumi pops out into the open for just long enough to both alert Bell of her whereabouts while also allowing Liz to track her location for a split second.

Given her abilities it's none too surprising that Bell is first on the scene, but she's quickly confronted by a dilemma as it's none other than her brother who has captured Fuyumi at the behest of their mother.  As blood runs thicker than water, Bell sees no choice but to help her brother in whatever odd job it is he's involved in, which puts her into immediate conflict with Staz... a difficult battle at the best of times, but even more so once Bell finds herself in a decidedly compromising position that leaves her no option but to switch sides again and help Staz's rescue mission.

Even as it continues to move along at break-neck pace, Blood Lad remains incredibly dull to watch as it runs through its gamut of bad jokes, sloppy action and fan service without ever really providing much in the way of entertainment or notable humour, not helped by the fact that its constantly shifting narrative goals have very little to distinguish themselves from one another.  In other words, Blood Lad's constant rinse and repeat in terms of its story-telling is about as interesting as washing your hair.

Sunday, 25 August 2013

The Eccentric Family - Episode 8

We've already seen throughout this series how heavily the death of their father weighs upon this family, but how will they cope with the revelation that Yajirou was the last to see him and arguably had a hand in the lead up to his demise?

For Yajirou's part, he certainly has no intentions of denying this possibility, and thus he recounts the whole story of the final meeting with his father - a secret meeting to allow Yajirou to discuss the difficulties of his love for Kaisei in spite of her engagement to his brother Yasaburou, to which Souichirou promised to do what he could.  From there, the father and son pair decided to drink away their troubles before engaging in some local tomfoolery before departing from one another, with Yajirou heading home and his father ultimately meeting his demise at the hands (or rather, mouths) of the Friday Fellows.  Of course, as a result of all this his father's demise was enough to leave the normally placid Yajirou in a tailspin, leading to him effectively quitting both his family and life as a tanuki.

In the wake of all this emotion, Professor Akadama has his own postscript to add to the story, having "met" a surprisingly sanguine Souichirou after his demise to say farewell to his friend.  As the Shimogamo family returns home from this difficult evening however, it seems that the Ebisugawa's plan to break apart their rivals has backfired spectacularly, instead only serving to strengthen the ties that bind this otherwise disparate set of brothers.

As per every other week when I write about this series, I still have no idea where The Eccentric Family is headed or what its grand plan is, but it doesn't really matter when it delivers fare like this.  This week's episode was beautifully poignant in a way that anime rarely succeeds in being - heartfelt without being overly maudlin or saccharine, and superbly capturing the bonds of a family in simple yet heart-breaking terms.  Between material like this and the intrigue surrounding the fascinating Benten, it's no surprise that this show continues to be a surprise contender for one of the summer's finest.

Monogatari Second Season - Episode 8

Shinobu and Araragi's jaunt into the past have taken them rather a lot further back in time than they originally planned, although there are no prizes for guessing why they're so off-target as they wind up eleven years in the past.

It is, of course, Araragi's concern for Hachikuji that has brought them here, as he ponders the possibility of saving her from her fate and the accident that took her life on Mother's Day, thus sealing her fate as an oddity.  For her part, Shinobu isn't convinced that things will be quite that easy, but she agrees to tag along nonetheless to see how things pan out.

The first step of this plan is actually to find Hachikuji - a plan almost derailed by running into a decidedly younger (but no less savvy) Hanekawa.  With this potential obstacle overcome eventually, Mayoi's house is found and all that remains is to follow her when she leaves to visit her mother the next day.  Cue Mayoi herself blowing a hole in this plan by leaving early in the morning before Araragi is on the scene, although as luck would have it he manages to not only catch up to her but to save her from her fate... even if it seems that he was also the cause of that fate.  With their mission complete, it's time to return to the present day - except things are decidedly different to how they left them...

After a bit of a slow start to this arc, this week's Monogatari Second Season managed to up the pace and perhaps more importantly up the humour, making the most of Araragi's more, err, "disturbing" predilections for comedy value to surprisingly good effect.  On the other hand, the story-telling within this instalment was actually pretty simplistic, although it seems clear that these events are merely a means to an end which we should be well and truly getting our teeth into next week.

Attack on Titan - Episode 20

Most of the Survey Corps are still in the dark when it comes to Levi and Erwin's current masterplan in the forest, but with the mysterious female Titan now captured even those who aren't clued in on these events are beginning to figure things out for themselves in the midst of the sounds of explosions coming from said forest.

For Erwin and company however, their top priority is figuring out how to remove what they assume to be the "pilot" of this Titan from inside her giant body alive while also ensuring that she has no means of escape, and while the Titan is now safely moored so that it has no possibility of moving removing its occupant is another matter entirely.

Although such a task would normally be simple, it appears that this Titan has more going for it than merely speed and intelligence, as it also has the ability to harden parts of its body in self-defence - with its hands covering the weak spot on its neck while suitably hardened, it's effectively impenetrable.... until the Survey Corps produce explosives to literally blow the occupant out of the Titan.  With a blood-curdling scream emanating from the Titan, it seems as if sheer terror has gripped this assailant... or has it?  This cry brings Titans rushing to the Aberrant from all around, overwhelming the Survey Corps - rather than a Titan rescue mission however, they rush their subject simply to devour it, although the fate of the pilot inside is potentially another matter entirely.

Following the fast-paced tension of recent episodes, I suppose I can forgive the first half of this week's Attack on Titan for finding a pause to catch its breath as its cast fathom out exactly what operation they've been a part of, especially seeing as we soon return to the heart of the action all the way through to yet more twists in the tale which are now becoming a staple of the show's diet.  It's these constantly shifting sands that make Attack on Titan so engaging to watch and a great series to jump on board just for the thrill of the ride - provided your sufficiently invested in its world and premise, then the rewards are great for going with the flow and soaking up everything that it provides.

Saturday, 24 August 2013

Genshiken Second Season - Episode 8

As Yajima and Yoshitake wax lyrical over the creative process as it pertains to them, we're still waiting to see if Hato decides to take the plunge and work on a manga with Oguie for the Spring Fair.

For Hato's part, he's still rather unsure as to whether he's even capable of being involved in creating something that isn't Boys Love, and any ponderings are soon short-circuited by a visit to Madarame's apartment to change and the discovery of the eroge that Kousaka was advertising at Comiket.  Has Madarame played his trap-centric game?  More importantly, has he played the route revolving around the character that shares both a name and likeness with his former club-mate?

When Hato gets a chance to sit down and have a chat with Madarame, he manages to get an answer to all these questions and more (the answer being yes, and they get married with Kousaka pregnant.  Eroge can be weird, guys) as they talk about eroge and the like, with Madarame also revealing that he's pondering moving away from the area of the university and finding another job so that he can truly move on with his life, much to Hato's shock.  Still, if nothing else Madarame has also persuaded his junior to carry on drawing no matter what, and in turn Hato decides to go ahead with Oguie's Spring Festival concept.

Once again, we have an episode of Genshiken Second Season that made me laugh out loud time and again with its well-placed referential humour and ability to poke fun at every aspect of otaku-dom without prejudice.  When coupled with a group of characters that I feel fully invested in at this point, this makes for a potent combination that remains perhaps the most outright entertaining series I'm watching this season as it continues to surpass its source material quite handily week after week.  With five episodes (and an OVA) still to come, I'm already pondering a time where I'm going to really miss this show come the autumn.

il sole penetra le illusioni ~ Day Break Illusion - Episode 8

This week in Madoka Illusion... sorry, Day Break Illusion, another spanner has been thrown into the works for our team of magical girls.

That spanner comes in the form of a phenomenon known as "pair annihilation", and put succinctly it means that meeting a Daemonia which shares the same Tarot Card as a magical girl means that regardless of the outcome of the battle said magical girl will be (as the name suggests) annihilated.  With no escape from this fate, the advice in such a scenario is simple - run.

Meanwhile, Cerebrum's plan seems to be accelerating apace, removing political opposition to his master with one hand while taking more than a passing interest in Akari for some reason with the other.  It isn't Akari but Ginka who is the focus of the next Daemonia attack however, and you can probably guess where this is going as she meets her "clone" - after running from their first battle, Ginka decides that she has no choice but to face this enemy despite it sealing her doom.

So, we can now add another item to the list of "things this series does to try and be as edgy as Madoka Magica", that being a requirement to start killing off its main cast.  This isn't necessarily a bad decision by any stretch of the imagination, but again this week's Day Break Illusion is lacking in its execution - as soon as it invokes the idea of pair annihilation we know exactly where the episode is headed, and given the way other character dynamics are set up there's no huge shock to find where the focus of this concept is.  Given that we still have no concrete idea as to what the forces of evil want or hope to achieve with their plans, even eight episodes in this series still feels like a case of stuff happening with no concrete reason as to why, and it's perhaps this above all else that is making it tough to actually care about anything going on within the show or regarding its cast.

A Certain Scientific Railgun S - Episode 19

Having found a small child alone in a flowerbed in the middle of the park, there is but one question for the quartet of friends as this week's A Certain Scientific Railgun S begins - what do they do with her now?

While Saten has no trouble coaxing a name - Febri - out of and making friends with this girl, it seems that Misaka is a little more intimidating for this little 'un; despite knowing her name, she doesn't want to get too close to the Level 5.  With the day growing late and no other options, Saten offers to look after this kid for the night at her place with the help of Uiharu.

Come the next morning, there's still no helpful information about Febri in terms of whether she's a missing or lost child or to whom she belongs, leaving no options other than to label her a Child Error (a harsh piece of terminology if ever there was one) and to find her a home to be placed in.  worried about her well-being, the group ensure that they find a good orphanage for her to go to, despite this meaning that the gang will have to look after her for another five days until a suitable place opens up.  If Febri herself proves to be an occasional handful, especially when Misaka tries to look after her for a spell, it's as of nothing compared to the dangers it seems that Misaka might have just brought upon herself by her involvement in this child's life...

In all honesty, I was hoping this week's episode would be a little faster moving than it ultimately turned out to be - while it was pleasant enough to watch it didn't really do a whole lot to reveal the underlying story being built up, and it took a long time to bring those underlying elements into sufficient contact with Misaka to make her the focus of whatever is going on.  Hopefully know this has been done we can crack on and get to the meat of this story arc, as it's certainly had more than enough build-up now.

Friday, 23 August 2013

Danganronpa - Episode 8

Another new floor opens up after the successful resolution to the last trial, but this isn't the most pressing concern in Naegi's mind right now as he tries to process what he's just seen.

Although he refuses to talk to Kirigiri about it (much to her chagrin), Naegi is primarily pondering why Oogami is fighting with Monokuma - could it be that she's the previously mooted "mole" in their midst?  It doesn't take too long before we find out, as Monokuma himself announces that Sakura is indeed his secret agent, to the dismay of all and the disbelief in particular of Asahina who refuses to believe this role was taken up by her friend out of anything other than duress.

In fact, Asahina's support for her friend is absolute, leading to a major falling out with Togami and a scrap with Genocider as she refuses to back down from her stance.  While Naegi and Kirigiri are sidetracked by both revelations about the past of Hope's Peak Academy and Alter Ego's request so that she too can join the battle to escape the premises, another murder is carried out - they target this time is hardly unexpected, which might just make tracking down the culprit much more difficult.

At this point in the series Danganronpa's episode structure is set in stone to ensure no surprises, but I'm still enjoying it in spite of this - this week's episode in particular builds up a pretty compelling locked room murder-mystery for us to get our teeth into (with hopefully a little more time spent on gathering evidence than the rushed montage at the end of the episode), and its character interactions only serve to accentuate said mystery.  I'm still waiting for this series to spiral off into outright lunacy to the point where I lose interest, but for now it's doing a good job of staying on the rails, albeit by the skin of its teeth at times.

Servant x Service - Episode 8

Lucy may still be feeling frustrated by her name, but it seems that her particular brand of troubles are as of nothing compared to some of those around her.

As Hasebe takes Yamagami out to eat yet again, it appears that Tanaka has taken more than a passing interest in these events, and he begins to hatch a plan which effectively involves all-but kidnapping Lucy so that he can not only spill the beans about his relationship with his friend-cum-enemy, but also in the hope of asking Yamagami out to steal her from Hasebe - a plan that would have worked a whole lot better had he not been drunk while attempting to do so, I would wager...

Tipped off by Miyoshi about what is transpiring Hasebe steps in to rescue Lucy and resolve the situation (mostly by repeatedly punching Tanaka, admittedly), bringing yet another round of profound thank yous from Yamagami.  Indeed, such is Lucy's attitude as he talks with Hasebe and tries to help him out with his own problems that the poor fellow is falling entirely head over heels for her to the point where he can barely function in the workplace - quite a feat for someone who typically barely functions in the workplace.  Still, even in this compromised state Hasebe isn't beyond putting together a perfect plan to get Lucy to go out on a date with him, even managing to rope Chihaya in on the act into the bargain.

It's perhaps telling as to how Servant x Service can ease itself along quite happily week on week when the show's post-credit moment of surrealism and a hilarious spot the difference contest are its comedy highlights - then again, it doesn't need to go all-out in terms of injecting humour into everything when it has a cast that everyone has warmed to so greatly.  Even if it isn't making me laugh very much, I still enjoy simply hanging out with its characters each week and watching the shifting sands of their various relationships.  It's exactly the same trick that Working pulled off so well, and although I'd still rate that show higher than this one it shouldn't obfuscate the fact that this is a whole lot of fun too.

Thursday, 22 August 2013

Silver Spoon - Episode 7

Having seen the homely, small-time take on farming thanks to his helping Mikage's family during the summer break, this episode grants Hachiken an opportunity to see the other side of the farming coin.

This comes courtesy of Tamako and her family's GIGA FARM (it isn't actually capitalised but it's the kind of name you can only really shout out loud), a frighteningly large establishment which covers a vast area and uses a lot of the latest technology with a view towards being fast and efficient at all things, and with little time for sick or diseased animals whatsoever.  This visit also reveals the true extent of Tamako's passion for making money, to the point where she seems all set to kick her parents out of their own business so that she can expand the business and "go global".

All this talk of inheritance once again sees Mikage looking a little gloomy for reasons that she finally reveals to Hachiken come the end of this week's episode, while some more time spent on the GIGA FARM (like I say, I'm sorry but I have to shout it out) proves that it isn't quite as heartless a place as it initially looks, with the birth of a baby calf giving Hachiken some (admittedly gross, to his eyes) perspective on how life is still something to be celebrated even in this sterilised and highly business-oriented environment.

While I still enjoyed this week's episode of Silver Spoon, and it still had me laughing out loud a few times, it didn't quite have the punch of prior instalments somehow.  Maybe it's the fact that a lot of the thoughts explored in this episode had been at least touched on previously; at least, I hope it's that as I'd hate to think that this series is running out of steam already.  Still, even when it wavers a little this series is still providing plenty of entertainment, so I'm hardly ready to sound the death knell for it or anything, and from a wider view it's nice to see its relationships within the show continue to develop at a nice pace to add another reason to keep on coming back for more.

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

The Eccentric Family - Episode 7

While Yasaburou waxes lyrical about the ties that bind the extended tanuki family, younger brother Yashirou has a rather more immediate problem that he's struggling with.

Unsurprisingly, Professor Akadama is playing up without Yasaburou's attentions, refusing to take a bath and quite literally whipping up a storm if anyone tries to persuade him otherwise.  Alongside some other issues, it's all too much for the little tanuki, and so Yasaburou has to come to the rescue to face down Akadama and persuade him that he really has no choice but to join the brothers and take a trip to the bath house.

Once there, Akadama still isn't exactly the perfect guest, but his role is soon overshadowed by the appearance of the Ebisugawa Elite Guard, headed up by Ginkaku and Kinkaku.  The reason for this little visit is obvious - they want to persuade Yaichirou to step down from his attempts to become the next Nise-emon.  This isn't all the two brothers are here to say however, and although their iron underpants (I'm not kidding) don't save them from embarrassment at the hands of Yaichirou, they arguably have the last laugh as they reveal what they claim is the truth behind the events leading up to the death of Souichirou Shimogamo.  Is Yajirou's involvement in those events really true?  Needless to say, Yaichirou in particular is determined to find out straight away...

I'm still not sure where all of this continued focus upon the family's deceased father is leading us, but The Eccentric Family still continues to be entertaining in a wider sense - I'm a big fan of its quirky soundtrack, its visuals continue to be occasionally stunning when Kyoto's streets and landscapes are involved, and the show's characters are hard not to fall in love with from the chilled out Yashirou through to the thick as thieves Ebisagawa brothers.  Aside from a distinct lack of Benten this week, there's still a lot to love here.

Blood Lad - Episode 7

Now that Staz has his brother onsite (if only somewhat), it's time to get down to the serious business of resurrecting Fuyumi.

Inevitably this isn't the kind of process that can be completed with merely a wave of a magic wand, so Staz is left to play "blood bank" to her again while Braz begins the process by taking the samples he needs to create Fuyumi a new body.  Of course, he isn't doing this merely out of some sense of charity - in fact, he's more interested in getting a hold of evidence of Staz's new, unlocked powers that were also contained within the samples taken from Fuyumi.

As Braz heads off to begin his work, Liz is left behind to keep an eye on his little brother.  In spite of her best efforts to remain focused upon the task at hand, she can't help but be won over by Fuyumi in particular as the latter bathes, sleeps with and helps out the former - a first for this decidedly lonely young girl.  When Liz wakes to find Fuyumi gone and only a note in her place saying "Don't look for me", it's clear that the note is a hoax and that Fuyumi has been kidnapped.  Cue a search for the mysterious individual who seems likely to be at the centre of it all.

Once again, Blood Lad manages to produce an episode that is as dull as it is rote - I can't deny that the show's story keeps progressing and moving it an impressive pace, but when none of those developments are interesting in the slightest there really isn't too much to praise about it.  Mix that in with the clunky animation and humour that rarely (if ever) hits the mark, and the only reason I'm still watching the series at this point is so that you don't have to.

WATAMOTE ~No Matter How I Look at It, It’s You Guys Fault I’m Not Popular!~ - Episode 7

It's summer break at last, and an opportunity for Tomoko to live her life to the fullest.

Of course, in her particular case enjoying life consists mostly of playing games and watching online videos, a revelry that soon gives way to questions in her mind about whether she could be doing something more worthwhile with her time.  With even posts to Yahoo Answers giving no responses, perhaps it's time for Tomoko to take to the stage with her own live stream?  With all the correct equipment in place, Tomoko's online debut is unsurprisingly not quite a roaring success.

As she continues to search around for something to do with her summer, Tomoko eventually strikes upon what might be the perfect way to spend a day - a meet and greet with a voice actor who will also record any line of dialogue you want for you.  After a distracted night where her search of what the limits of what she asks said actor to say turns into reading a bunch of ghost stories, Tomoko is actually surprisingly conservative when it comes to picking a line of choice... at least, that's the case until she hears what some of the other girls at the event have come up with.  As Tomoko plays with mashing up the long-winded dialogue she ultimately chooses, of course even this ends up in embarrassment - is there anything worse than plugging your headphones into the wrong jack at a moment such as this?

Overall, this is probably my favourite episode of WATAMOTE so far simply because it's (mostly) material that is far easier to relate to for me than this show's standard fare - the conflict between lazing around doing very little and have a fulfilling summer holiday is a universal one (writes the guy taking a week off work and spending some of it writing about WATAMOTE), and the riffing on online culture was amusingly accurate.  Plus, let's be honest here, who hasn't plugged their headphones into the microphone jack by mistake at least once in their lives?

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Attack on Titan - Episode 19

With their fast-paced Titan assailant closing fast on the main body of the Survey Corps, it's looking like do or die time for Levi and company.  But with no sign of a decision coming from the group's top man, has he lost his bottle at a pivotal moment or is something else afoot?

Although it seems that Levi does have something up his sleeve, that being a noise-producing round, this does nothing to slow their pursuer or even break its stride, and with reinforcements being obliterated hither and thither Eren starts to serious consider turning into a Titan there and then to try and take on their opponent.  Although most of his comrades implore him to follow Levi's lead and continue their escape, Levi himself is rather sanguine upon what decision Eren should make, leaving it up to him whether to place his faith in his own abilities or those of the soldiers around him.

As he weighs up this decision, we flash back to the build-up to this mission, as Levi informs Eren that he believes there's an - admittedly painful - way of stopping him in his Titan state without killing him, while Hanji looks to perform some experiments while Eren is in his transformed state.  However, no matter how hard he tries Eren simply can't transform (performance anxiety perhaps?), until a seemingly innocuous action somehow triggers the process to the horror and concern of his squad mates.  Still, something new has been learned about Eren's ability, and perhaps there is further progress to be made as we flash back to the present and finally see part of Levi's plan come to fruition.

Although it just about worked as a whole, I can't help but feel that the flashback in this week's episode felt a little jarring in the midst of such a tense moment - it seemed like those scenes could have been placed into their correct place in the story without spoiling anything and would have allowed the main scenario within this instalment to fully ramp up the pressure of the moment.  Still, we once again find ourselves reaching another interesting point in the series, and we once again arrive at that point via a kick-ass moment that was worth waiting for, and it's those occurrences which ensure that Attack on Titan remains a hot property that everybody is talking about.

Space Brothers - Episode 70

Not only has Mutta made a major step closer to achieving his dream by becoming a fully-fledged astronaut, and no sooner as he done so than he finds himself offered a spot on a mission's backup crew.

Unfortunately, any excitement at this possibility is tempered by the announcement that this mission involves not the Moon but the International Space Station - a fantastic opportunity for sure, but one which might elongate any time-frame for Mutta reaching his real goal of walking upon the lunar surface.  It's time that he simply doesn't have considering his promise to Sharon, and just as importantly Mutta knows somebody who would be even better suited for this particular role, and so ultimately he chooses to turn down the role while recommending that Serika take his place instead.

With management seemingly in agreement, Serika takes her place on the ISS backup crew - so what of Mutta?  Our protagonist instead finds himself assigned to a department that seems to be a perfect fit for his abilities, that being the group that designs vehicles for NASA.  The team in question have been tasked with improving safety on the buggy which causes brother Hibito's accident, and despite his dismay at taking what seems to be a step further away from his goal, Mutta is quickly given the motivation he needs to redouble his efforts on this difficult task in the knowledge that it could be his path to the Moon.

Although designing buggies (and chairs!) is hardly the most glamorous aspect this series has promised so far I'm actually really looking forward to seeing Mutta in what should be his element, and what's more addressing challenges that directly relate to his brother's accident.  It seems like the perfect subject matter for another fascinating story arc, complete with motivation that Mutta's true goal could be not too far away - given the quality of this series as a whole, I feel pretty confident that it'll deliver more of what keeps us coming back to this series.

Monogatari Second Season - Episode 7

After last week's recap, normal (well, as normal as this show gets) service is resumed with the beginnings of a new story arc, that being Kabukimonogatari and a returning focus upon Mayoi Hachikuji.  Firstly however, we learn that Araragi really doesn't know a whole lot about how traffic lights work courtesy of Ougi Oshino (who I don't believe we've been introduced to before).

Actually, Hachikuji herself doesn't really feature in this first episode of the arc at all - instead, merely her backpack become a prominent part of the episode after Hachikuji apparently left it behind after visiting Araragi at his home.  As Araragi tries to find the rightful owner of said iconic backpack, he comes across Yotsugi Ononoki, who is thankfully wandering around without her sister and has also vowed never to deliver a posed look.  Ononoki seems to be rater interested in Mayoi overall - how she came to be a ghost, why she might have forgotten her backpack, and perhaps most importantly why she's still a ghost despite Araragi having resolved her problems back in the first season.

All of this questioning has also left Koyomi pondering about Hachikuji's past and current feelings, so much so that he seems to have completely forgotten the small problem of some summer homework that needs doing, but which he no longer has time to complete.  Luckily for him, Shinobu is on-hand to suggest a solution to the problem - a spot of time travel back to the previous day so he can get it done.  This pocket-sized vampire is certainly able to live up to her word and send them both back in time without doing much difficulty, but returning may be another matter entirely, and it seems as if the duo's destination has been overshot by a rather considerable amount...

By this franchise's standards this was a pretty quiet episode of Monogatari Second Season - it had a few nicely delivered moments, and it was really enjoyable watching the developing relationship between Araragi and Shinobu (which seems to flow better than it has previously), but Ononoki's appearance was perhaps a little protracted and Ougi's introduction a little confusing.  Still, the episode leaves us with a nice little cliff-hanger to what looks set to be Hachikuji's origin story, which certainly seems ripe with potential that the show can hopefully deliver on.

Genshiken Second Season - Episode 7

The events just keep on coming for the Genshiken crew, and no sooner is Comiket out of the way it's time to start thinking about the college's Spring Fair and what the group might present for said event.

While there's some talk of holding a cosplay photo shoot for the event (no prizes for guessing where that comes from), Oguie is keen to get a magazine published that Genshiken can sell at the event.  After finding out that this plan won't run afoul of the powers that be, the question is finding people willing to create suitable content for it.  Yajima and Yoshitake originally plan to collaborate on a story written by the latter and illustrated by the former, but "creative differences" soon put paid to that idea, and it seems that Ogiue's idea to have Hato create his own manga also soon runs into problems.

To be precise, Hato has a dilemma - he can create fantastic illustrations but only when dressed as a girl, and the resulting works are... well... not entirely family friendly.  Conversely, when dressed as a guy Hato has no problem keeping his imagination in check, but his actual artistic ability leaves a lot to be desired.  Eventually, Ogiue strikes upon an idea to workaround this problem - she'll create the story herself, and allow Hato to illustrate it.  However, Ogiue is keen on creating some kind of love story based around a school festival, so is there anyone in the group to draw experience from?  Maybe so...

This might not have been the most laugh out loud instalment of this series so far, but it was still a huge amount of fun to watch once again - somehow I'm still yet to tire on the incessant focus on Hato even though his "powers" are becoming more ludicrous by the week (and this is coming from someone who acknowledges that I work better dependent upon what I'm wearing), and the rest of the cast are as engaging as ever to keep things moving along nicely.  In other words it's just really enjoyable to hang out with the Genshiken every week, and I hope it continues in that vein for its remaining episodes.

il sole penetra le illusioni ~ Day Break Illusion - Episode 7

Something is amiss in Moscow, with news breaking that a Tarot user at that particular branch has been obliterated by Daemonia - something is clearly amiss, and it's becoming increasingly certain to those in positions of power within the organisation that recent events haven't just been occurring randomly.

All of this is of no concern to our quartet of magical girls however - Seira and Akari have finally resolved their differences and are getting on like a house on fire now and what's more the opportunity arises for the group to have a day off, allowing them to take a little holiday together.  Cue lots of wandering around sightseeing, eating and so on, although the new-found bond of friendship between Akari and Seira seems to be bothering Luna somewhat, which I believe is what they call foreshadowing...

During their wandering around town, and as the girls complete ignore all kinds of signs of potential turmoil just around the corner, Akari spots a familiar face - one of her fortune-telling Aunties from the start of the series.  It turns out that this entire group of fortune-tellers has moved out here after their previous home burned down, and they seem to be doing a roaring trade.  Offering to read the fortunes of the four girls provides some disturbing results that hint at a dark future (who would have thought?), but that doesn't dissuade them from providing some entertainment in the form of a test of courage.  Oh, and cake.

For an episode where nothing particularly massive happens, it's a little surprising that this felt like possibly the most proficient episode of Day Break Illusion yet.  Sure, its foreshadowing of future events was all as heavy-handed as ever, but at least the interactions of the main cast seem to have settled down to the point where it all feels a little more natural, and the lack of any overt Daemonia issues to deal with let the rest of the instalment breathe a little.  I wouldn't go so far as to call it good, but an improvement is still an improvement and maybe this can provide a launch pad to some more compelling story-telling in the show's second half.

Monday, 19 August 2013

Ore no Imouto ga Konnani Kawaii Wake ga Nai 2 - Episodes 14-16 (Completed)

Episodes of Oreimo are like buses... they often turn out to be full of creepy people in the end.

Anyhow, before this triumvirate of finale episodes to the series, it was clear that Kyousuke had finally made a decision as to where his heart lies, and having brushed off Ayase his next job is to make it abundantly clear to Ruri that he's now in love with someone else... namely Kirino.  In spite of her knowing this the whole time, Kuroneko is still understandably torn up by the whole thing, but apparently not enough to play at least some role in Kyousuke's next plan - to invite Kirino out on a Christmas date under the premise of getting some exclusive merchandise at a couples event at Akihabara, although what he really wants to do is confess to her.  After needing to give chase after Kirino gets the wrong end of the stick initially, things don't look much better when she gets the right end of the stick, calling Kyousuke creepy and an awful lot.  Until he asks her to marry him.  Then she says yes.  "What?!" I hear you cry.  Yes, quite.

So, with this pairing now finally admitting their feelings for one another, what next?  It's time to play some eroge of course!  Alongside that, it's also time for Kyousuke and Kirino to decide their future, and the next thing we know this "couple" are dating, albeit in that kind of oh-so innocent way that only happens in Amish populations and anime series.  This means that Kyousuke also has to wander out rejecting the advances of any other girls who might otherwise leap upon him, namely Kanako who chooses to confess during a live event yet somehow manages to (I assume) escape without being burned alive and strung up by her rabid otaku following.

With support from their friends and the like, things seem to be going pretty well for the couple in spite of the obvious difficulties of their situation - this is, however, a scenario that childhood friend Manami simply won't put up with.  Well, I say childhood friend Manami, but she's actually played in the show's final episode by Kamijou Touma from A Certain Magical Index (she even heals as quickly as he does), causing a punch-up between herself and Kirino.  Even here Kyousuke refuses to back down in his love for Kirino, leaving yet another girl crying in his wake because he's fucking insane.  With all obstacles now removed, we eventually discover the truth behind Kyousuke and Kirino's relationship - this was simply a limited-time offer until their respective graduations, after which they return to being normal brother and sister.  Considering they didn't actually do anything before this point, couldn't they have just gone back to being normal siblings at the start of all this nonsense and actually allowed Kyousuke to have a normal high school life?

Ultimately, such questions are all but pointless in the face of three episodes which showcase the absolute best and worst of the series - getting to see Kirino and Kuroneko argue about anime one final time was just one reminder of what this show could do really well, but on the other hand watching Manami's character change entirely in this second season was equally a reminder of how these later episodes felt more like some kind of particularly screwball fan fiction that somehow got mistaken for the show's actual scripts.  If you can buy into the whole "incest for the win" concept (yes, that is an actual line in the final episode), then these final three episodes aren't entirely terrible, but even then they've managed to completely negate what made this series successful initially, turning a comedy about otaku with some romantic undertones into an absurdist harem comedy that only kept mentioning eroge in a desperate attempt to hold onto its roots.  This second season of Oreimo hasn't entirely destroyed all of the good work of the first, but by the end of it all my enthusiasm for the franchise as a whole has largely been reduced to a smouldering wreck, like so many light novels burned by Kuroneko fans.

A Certain Scientific Railgun S - Episode 18

ITEM are out on another assignment, this time under some watchful eyes even if this is unbeknownst to them - could it be that more nefarious activities are at hand within Academy City?

Meanwhile, Mitsuko Kongo is using her powers to stop a petty thief only to find herself chastised for it by an unspoken young man who is clearly no random passer-by, and some strange goings-on that has caused a bunch of traffic signals to fail keeps Uiharu and Kuroko busy when they'd rather be elsewhere.  Couple this with the unexpected discovery of a little girl sleeping in a bed of flowers by the usual gang, and it's almost as if this episode is building up a new story arc...

That aside, the emotional focus of this episode is on Uiharu and Haruue, as we finally get to the bottom of what was bugging the former in particular in last week's episode - put simply, Haruue is moving out so that she can instead move in with the freshly discharged Banri to help her out as she transitions from hospital life to real life.  As the group celebrates Banri's discharge it's a bittersweet moment for Uiharu especially as she has to face up to student life without the roommate that's defined a period of her life.

I have to confess, that emotional core of this week's A Certain Scientific Railgun S was both effective and pretty satisfying, again serving as a reminder of the strength of the show's main cast beyond their special powers (although who do I have to talk to to hire the Kuroko Teleporation Taxi Service?).  It's a shame then that some of the build-up to the story arc that will define the remainder of the series felt pretty disjointed, flitting around all over the place and not always giving what was going on enough time to really sink it effectively.  Still, at least we're slowly setting up for what will hopefully be more good stuff in the near future - fingers crossed it can at least go some way towards matching the stellar Sisters arc, tough ask though that is.

Danganronpa - Episode 7

Our ever-dwindling group of academy students have now found themselves with not one but two murders to ponder this time around - is this a scenario that they can ever hope to get to the bottom of?

Initially (and as is so often the case with these things), it seems to be clear as to who the culprit- or perhaps culprits - are.  Yamada's final words don't seem particularly helpful, but with both Kirigiri and Hagakure missing there are two obvious students without alibis.  This isn't exactly helped by the fact that Hagakure is foind, by Kirigiri no less, dressed as the so-called "justice robot" - although he claims he was forced into the suit by somebody, it's hard to shake the implications of what this might mean.

As the trial rolls around, it's up to Naegi to put on his thinking cap and make sense of the madness once again - having put paid to any thoughts that those without alibis were responsible, it looks as if the gang might reach a stalemate and all lose this horrendous game, before Naegi stumbled across a simple sentence that beings to unravel the lies and deceits which led up to these dual murders...

Just like the previous arc, there are moments in this week's Danganronpa that feel just plain silly, but thankfully these moments don't do too much damage to the overall entertainment value.  If anything, I'd probably argue that this particular episode tried a little too hard to flag its main guilty party before all of the arc's evidence was laid on the table, which strips a little of the desire to figure it all out yourself from the information at hand even if it isn't an invalid way of handling its characters per se.  Overall though, I'm continuing to enjoy the Danganronpa experience warts and all, and there are clearly still more major twists and turns to come yet.

Thursday, 15 August 2013

Servant x Service - Episode 7

Considering the lack of attention from her boyfriend, it's little wonder that Chihaya is bored... so what better way to alleviate that boredom than by playing with Toko for a while?

Having proved that Toko is as clueless about games and cosplay as she is her brother, the relationship between Chihaya and Taishi comes under scrutiny in the office thanks to the section chief worrying that the two of them aren't getting along.  Thus, he hatches a plot to bring them closer together, which almost causes a major incident when Lucy catches them in a rather compromising position.  As even Toko's friends start to fathom the nature of Chihaya's relationship with her brother, said relationship continues to bump along in a decidedly unsatisfactory manner.

Speaking of relationships, Miyoshi finally comes face to face with Tanaka's much vaunted grandson, who is indeed as responsible and sensible as she suggested... at least, he is until he catches sight of Hasebe, which engages an entirely different side of him.  It seems that this pairing have a rather strange and long-standing rivalry going on (even if Chihaya puts their reactions down to something else entirely...) - not that any of this helps Miyoshi and her attempts to delicately avoid Tanaka's match-making.

Even as its situations and inter-character relationships become more ludicrous by the week, so Servant x Service's sense of fun manages to shine through to a sufficient extent to extract a few decent laughs and giggles along the way - heck, it even finds time to poke a little fun at Free during its "quiz".  For a show filled with rather a lot of nonsense (even more so than Working), it sure does know how to make its nonsense fun now that it's gotten over the early hurdles of setting up its characters and their interactions.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is probably the last you'll hear from me until Monday, as I'm off to Ayacon 2013.  See you on the other side!

Silver Spoon - Episode 6

The advent of the summer break means that even the agricultural academy is set to shut down for the duration, leaving Hachiken with the depressing possibility that he might have to go back to stay with his parents for the summer.

It's at this point that an angel of mercy appears in the form of Mikage, who invites Hachiken to stay at her place for the summer, commenting that her parents won't be around.  As Hachiken's head begins to swim with heady dreams of romance, reality suddenly dawns on him - he's actually being propositioned to work on her family's farm for the summer.

Not that this is particularly off-putting for our protagonist - it keeps him away from his family and gives him an opportunity to earn money for the first time, so he jumps at the chance to do a little part-time work.  Of course, working on a farm isn't an easy business, and the lack of any mobile phone signal is making letting his parents know where he is almost impossible.  Finding the signal he needs brings him to Komaba's own family farm, as Hachiken gets a further glimpse into how this driven young man is determined to help his mother while also being presented with an opportunity to learn first-hand whether he can cope with the demans of taking an animal and turning it into food.

Once again, I'm left marveling a little at how effortless Silver Spoon is at getting you on its side - how it can somehow talk about gutting a dead deer with a shrug and a smile and a lightness of tone that doesn't detract from the fact that this is still "a big deal" (a living thing has died, and you're about to slice it up and eat it) or make light of it, but acknowledges that this is part of the circle of life or some other Lion King quote.  It knows exactly when to be funny, and when to be a little poignant, and when to simply be quiet and leave the viewer to ponder about how they'd react in that situation.  Couple that with a great and universally lovable cast of characters and some really snappy humour, and you have yourself a winner - Silver Spoon remains a show that is staunchly not for everyone largely on account of its outlook and those squeamish moments, but if you're on-board with what it seeks to do it continues to deliver in spades.

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

WATAMOTE ~No Matter How I Look at It, It’s You Guys Fault I’m Not Popular!~ - Episode 6

The summer holidays are almost upon our unfortunate protagonist as this week's WATAMOTE begins - but hey, finding someone to hang out and watch the fireworks with will be no problem for someone as steeped in the ways of love as Tomoko, right?

Of course, the trouble is that all of this experience comes from visual novels, but then again maybe that isn't such a bad thing... isn't Tomoko looking a little more radiant and, well, normal after a night of gaming?  Having noticed it for herself, there's only one conclusion to be drawn, and even a women's magazine seems to back it up - the hormones released from love and sex make a woman more beautiful.  Thus, playing visual novels and eroge non-stop will surely net her any guy she wants...

Indeed, the next day sees Tomoko receiving an unusual amount of male attention, which of course is absolutely nothing to do with the fact that there are ants crawling all over her or anything, while Tomoko herself  is too shocked to even respond to any of these "advances".  Thanks to this, even come the summer holidays and the fireworks that accompany it, Tomoko can find nobody to share the experience of watching them with her despite her best efforts.  Then again, it seems that fate has destined that she get to watch a very different display that night...

As episodes of WATAMOTE go, this has felt like one of the show's stronger instalments - its structure and pacing seemed to work in its favour rather than against it, and although the series remains anything but a pinnacle of hilarity it offered just about enough entertainment value to get by even if it only really had one joke to fall back on; that being the same joke as every week's episode, now I think about it.  But hey, even repetitive humour can tickle me sometimes, and this is probably as close as WATAMOTE has gotten to succeeding in its endeavours.

Monday, 12 August 2013

Monogatari Second Season - Episode 6

With its first full story arc closed out last week, Monogatari Second Season's sixth instalment chooses to look back and recap Nekomonogatari: Black.

As recaps go, this is pretty unspectacular fare - the series isn't really best served in recap form, to the point where characters end up talking over one another to squeeze everything in and a certain amount of the show's visual flair and panache goes missing.

Still, if you really haven't seen this story arc and somehow don't want to make the time to do so in full, then I guess this will give you an appraisal of the entire set of circumstances, even if it feels a little like it comes entirely too late given how it links in to the events of the opening episodes of Monogatari: Second Season.

Roll on the return to the series proper...

Blood Lad - Episode 6

With his powers revived thanks to the removal of that pesky bullet, Staz is now adequately prepared to take on a rampaging monster at his brother's behest.  Not that he particularly wants to, mind you...

Staz's arrival on the scene is not a moment too soon either, as in spite of his best efforts even Wolf's strongest powers have little effect on this particular enemy, between his almost zombie-like properties and his ability to manipulate and shift through space a la Bell.

If Wolf has met his match, the same cannot be said for Staz, and things really come to a head when his opponent disses him for attempting a Kamehameha - if there's one thing you don't do it's cast aspersions on one of Staz's animated idols, and the next thing we know it's game over and the day is won.  Things still don't seem to be going exactly to plan in the aftermath of this however - Wolf is more interested in another match-up with Staz than checking in on Fuyumi's condition, Franken's own hopes of dealing with Fuyumi are also dealt a blow by the appearance of Braz, and it seems that his big brother also has another mission in hand for Staz to boot.

After a number of tepid episodes of Blood Lad, this week's instalment did at least feel like an improvement of sorts - its riffing on Dragon Ball Z amused me (perhaps more than it should have), and a random reference to Hayao Miyazaki also tickled me, if only because I imagine even Staz wouldn't want to get on the wrong side of the old geezer.  It's actually enough to get me wondering why the series doesn't lean harder into its protagonist's otaku tendencies - yes, it makes for lazy comedy, but in a show that can hardly be described as doing anything original it would potentially hold up a lot better than the half-baked gags we've been treated to for the most part.  Mix that in with some stronger action elements (although I'm not sure what the series can do now that it's made Staz so insanely powerful), and you might have actually had a more watchable series on your hands.

Sunday, 11 August 2013

Space Brothers - Episode 69

If there were any doubts as to Hibito's popularity in his homeland, they can be dispelled as an anime series about him hits the air.  No, I don't mean Space Brothers...

As Hibito returns to Houston (with more than a little relief at escaping his new-found celebrity status), so things are moving apace for Mutta.  Firstly, his flight training with Deneil has now finished, allowing the old-timer to retire, but not before enjoying a final flight where Mutta takes the controls from beginning to end before taking on the time-honoured tradition of celebrating Young's retirement by dousing him in water.

With that obstacle out of the way, it's time for underwater training to simulate spacewalks, and before we know it Mutta and his fellow JAXA trainees are no longer mere candidates but fully-fledged astronauts, complete with pictures hung on the wall of JAXA's corridors and all.  Of course, Mutta's photo ends up looking rather... "unique"... but then again perhaps he has every right to a lop-sided grin given the news presented him by NASA's top dog.

For all of the occasions where Space Brothers has paced itself a little too slowly, this week's instalment certainly isn't one of them as it makes for a sudden dash to the finishing line of its current arc, making Mutta a fully-fledged astronaut so we can move on in new directions.  I can't really ding the series for doing so, even if I would have liked to have seen more time spent looking at the group's spacewalk training and the like, and I'm more than happy to see where the show is headed next while feeling satisfied by this amusing and joyful instalment.  Maybe we'll be heading into space, perhaps.  Who knows?

The Eccentric Family - Episode 6

The aftermath of the Friday Fellows' meeting-cum-hotpot party continues in this week's Eccentric Family, although not before we get a brief view into Benten's origins as a human school girl before being kidnapped by Professor Akadama and integrated into the world of tengu to ultimately become the enigma that we have before us.

Speaking of Benten, as she continues to flit across the rooftops with one of the Friday Fellows and Yasaburou in her wake it becomes clear that there's something rather melancholy about her demeanour, and ultimately she decides to up and leave, abandoning her guests on a rooftop with no clear way down.  This is, it seems, standard behaviour for Benten, and the conversation between the remaining duo soon turns elsewhere, namely to a strange discussion of the importance of eating and enjoying food, and what it is to both eat and be eaten.

This particular discussion culminates in what we already really knew - the story of how this Professor and Benten came to eat Yasaburou's father.  It's a prospect that leaves our protagonist incredibly conflicted as the night comes to an end - he greatly enjoys the company of this eccentric fellow and respects the fact that he saved the life of Yasaburou's mother, yet at the same time he gleefully gobbled up his father as part of a hotpot.  A similar state of conflict also extends to Benten herself, as Yasaburou tries to come to terms with his crush on her offset against her tanuki-eating ways.  As for Benten herself, she remains as inscrutable as ever...

To be quite honest, The Eccentric Family really has no right to be as good as it is.  Take this episode as a perfect example - virtually nothing happens and there's very little progression made in terms of either time or plot, yet the running time of this instalment flies by in a flash to leave you hungry for more.  Dig a little deeper and you realise that the show's characters are doing a fantastic job of powering the series forward - Yasaburou is likable in all the right ways, and there are few characters in anime more fascinating than Benten, leaving you desperate to get to the bottom of her persona and find out what makes her tick.  I wish I could better explain what's so good about the series, but really putting a finger on the exact secrets of its success has me rather stumped.

Attack on Titan - Episode 18

Although Armin and company have survived their skirmish with the particular fearsome Aberrant Titan, they're still left with some problems to deal with as a result - namely, Armin's head injury and the fact that the trio are now one horse short.

As their discussion of these issues and how to remedy them comes to a head with the prospect of one of them being left behind help arrives, bringing with it that recovered missing horse.  Thus, the group are on the move once again, although they become increasingly baffled as it's clear that the mission is still continuing despite the Aberrant encounters and the loss of much of the Survey Corps' reconnaissance capabilities.

Eventually, the entire group comes to a dense forest that was once a tourist attraction before the emergence of the Titans, leading to the centrepiece of the formation to cut straight through the forest while the group's flanks instead skirt it.  As many of those groups are ultimately requisitioned to stand guard at the forest entrance and keep any Titans out, discord begins to stir as questions are asked about exactly what Erwin is planning with these moves.  As the fast-moving Aberrant arrives and begins to close on Levi, Eren and company, it begins to seem like nobody in a position of responsibility has any plan at all...

Right the way through to its cruel cliffhanger, this week's Attack on Titan has again proven to be both fascinating and accomplished - the strong feeling that everything about the show's world has been thought out in-depth continues to impress, and the carefully unfolding events of the current story arc just about to balance bursts of action with ramping up the tension in the wake of no clear suggestion as to where things are headed.  The fact that the wait until next week's episode will be a frustrating one says it all really.

Saturday, 10 August 2013

Genshiken Second Season - Episode 6

All of the fun of Comiket is now over for the gang, leaving behind only the fallout from the event, and I don't just meet the group's missed opportunities to pick up doujinshi about swimming...

Of course, the real talking point is Hato's little outburst in front of Madarame - an outburst from which Kuchiki still seems to be suffering shock while Hato himself is just straight up embarrassed.  But what can the others do to reassure him?  It's Sue who comes up with a simple enough idea - Hato's vision of Madarame isn't all that different from Ogiue's illustrations of him and Sasahara, so why not show them to Hato to reassure him that he really isn't all that different from his fujoshi club-mates?  This tactic certainly works well enough, but has it only served to open up another can of worms?

As the episode progresses, it seems that Hato isn't alone in another sense of his proclivities, as we're introduced to Yoshitake's big brother... and by that, I mean we're introduced to Yoshitake's little sister, whose figure and interest in basketball means that she's frequently mistaken for a guy.  With a love of shota, Risa is rather interested in Hato and how he looks as a boy, and thanks to her big sister's meddling and perverted nature she ends up getting a rather comprehensive view of Hato's male figure...

Even when it's playing the slapstick card (as it does quite a lot in this episode), Genshiken Second Season is continuing to be a whole lot of fun - despite adding more newcomers to its cast, everyone within that cast seems to slot together wonderfully with various fun and smooth-flowing dynamics on show to ease each episode along with no shortage of energy and a fair few belly laughs.  It isn't very often I find myself consistently praising an anime adaptation for outdoing its manga source material, but Genshiken Second Season seems like a perfect example of a series that flat-out works better in this medium.

il sole penetra le illusioni ~ Day Break Illusion - Episode 6

Having spent the series so far being stand-offish, it's time for Seira to get her episode in the spotlight with this week's instalment of Day Break Illusion.

The episode begins with Seira helping out another magical girl team (well, duo to be precise), to whom she admits that she doesn't even really feel comfortable calling her own set of comrades a team, mainly due to her inability to hold any appreciation for Akari's ability to hear the voices of Daemonia, believing it to be nothing more than an unnecessary distraction.

When Seira bumps into a pair of girls out shopping and befriend them both, it brings us a glimpse into exactly why she's so determined to terminate Daemonia without prejudice - it's an attitude put to a stern test however when one of her two new-found friends collapses with heart problems, and the other proves willing to do anything to help her friend get the transplant she needs...

Once again, the only illusion this series seems to have about itself is that it has some truly fascinating dark story-telling to hand, whereas all it actually has to offer is clumsy and blatantly obvious narrative to dole up every week.  As soon as Seira was rolled out as the main character of this week's episode you could see where it was headed, and lo and behold some suitably silly back story was delivered against the backdrop or perhaps the most obvious plot ever to grace the small screen.  When you can map out an episode in your head a good fifteen minutes before any of it happens, it's hard to even call it entertainment any more, and more patience with this series has pretty much run out at this point.  Hopefully it can at least kick on and do something a little more interesting now that most of its heavy-handed character development is out of the way.

Danganronpa - Episode 6

With another trial over and another slice of "justice" served, our surviving students find another floor of the academy opening up to them, alongside more intriguing information and possibilities.

As another temptation is set in the students path in the form of ten billion Yen to be given to the next murderer (should they not be caught, of course), so another concern emerges - is there a ghost in the building?  Asahina seems to think so, but a little investigation reveals something even more intriguing - a laptop hidden away which contains an AI "alter-ego" of the murdered Fujisaki, stored within the building's bathhouse free from any surveillance cameras.  With this AI attempting to crack some files which may hold secrets to the insanity surrounding the group, the virtual Fujisaki could be an important part of any attempts to escape the current predicament - however, both Yamada and a decidedly broken Ishimaru seem to have latched on to this AI for other reasons.

Things quickly take a turn for the worse from here - first, the laptop in question goes missing with no clues as to who might have taken it, suggesting that there could be a "mole" in the group's midst.  Even this possibility is put on the back-burner as more pressing matters come to hand, with students being attacked by an assailant with so-called "Justice Hammers", allegedly by a robot.  In the midst of this confusion, not one but two murders occur in a complex and baffling set of circumstances that is going to take a lot of work to unravel, while promising to also hold some secrets as the current situation.

Although part of me worries a little that Danganronpa is trying to ramp up the insanity a little too far (justice robots?!), thinking about it this isn't really the time to peg current events as a step too far given that everything the series does is sheer lunacy anyhow.  With seemingly its most complex set of circumstances yet to sift through, I'll be curious to see whether next week's episode can do a satisfying job of running through everything in the time allotted to it - assuming the way everything is unraveled is suitably satisfying, I'm sure any doubts will soon be expunged from my head as a result.