Monday, 30 September 2013

The Eccentric Family - Episode 13 (Completed)

As we reach the finale of The Eccentric Family, the tanuki elite and the Friday Fellows are now sharing adjacent rooms in the Sensuiro restaurant.  What could possibly go wrong?

Needless to say, tempers are flaring on the tanuki side of the partition, with Yaichirou not slow to reel off the list of accusations against his uncle, who of course denies them all fervently even with Yajirou on-hand as an (admittedly biased) witness.  When simply flinging accusations turns into something more physical - and more importantly, Yaichirou turns into a tiger - it's no time at all before the partition is knocked down and these two disparate elements come face-to-face.  The timing of this is perfect too, with the Shimogamo family's mother having just been brought in to take her unwelcome place within the Friday Fellows party.

Once a decidedly angry Professor Akadama gets involved, and with his ire further stirred by a cheeky little moment of trouble-making from Yasaburou, chaos soon ensues - as if tanuki running all over the place wasn't chaotic enough, the wind from the Professor's fan literally wrecks everything in its path.  Akadama's warpath offers the perfect opportunity for everyone to escape, although only Benten has what it takes to soothe his rampage before he flattens half of Kyoto.  Thus, all's well that ends well even if the choice of Nise-emon has now become all-but impossible - but maybe a world for tanuki free from politics and self-advancement is exactly what is required?

Some anime series suffered from introducing a feel-good ending, but in The Eccentric Family's case it's just what the doctor ordered via a wonderfully absurd finale that set a literal cat amongst the proverbial pigeons, lit the blue touch paper and stood well back to let the fireworks take care of themselves.  It's an enjoyable ending to a charming series whose only fault is perhaps not delving a little deeper into Benten's psyche given what a fascinating character she is; that aside, this was a series that managed to look beautiful in an unconventional way while also serving up its comedy and drama in an equally unusual manner that was ceaselessly refreshing to watch.  Such is the feeling that this show succeeded in daring to be different that I wouldn't dare to suggest that we need more of the same in the future, as familiarity breeds contempt and perhaps this single, isolated glimpse into the world of tanuki and tengu is all that we need to sustain us for a long, long time.  In a season filled with surprises, The Eccentric Family was perhaps the biggest surprise of them all.

Sunday, 29 September 2013

Monogatari Second Season - Episode 13

Despite accepting his offer of help, as this week's episode of Monogatari Second Season begins we see that Nadeko has instead decided to eschew any assistance from her "big brother" now that she knows the true face of the snake which seems to have been haunting her, making her excuses so that she can go it alone and do Kuchinawa's bidding.

Put simply, Kuchinawa is looking for his body, and he wants Nadeko's help in finding it - something that it seems she has little choice but to accept, although she does at least manage to persuade her new "friend" to let her attend school as normal as long as she agrees to help him look for his body come nightfall.  Thus, Nadeko's uncomfortable school life continues, as Kuchinawa probes her about school life and the behaviour of her class, and we learn a little more about Nadeko's take on life, together with the fact that she's actually the class representative, if only because nobody else wanted to take on the role.

Once night falls, Nadeko sneaks out to look for Kuchinawa's body - unfortunately for her, she's not all that adept at either the searching part or the sneaking out part, and as a result of the latter she ends up running into Araragi who has gone out looking for her after one of her sisters received a call from Nadeko's parents.  Luckily for Nadeko, Tsuhiki had the presence of mind to lie, telling them that Nadeko was staying over with her, and as a result Nadeko gets to spend the night with Araragi.  Well, she might had done were it not for a (probably fortuitous) intervention from Shinobu, who has a few things to say about their guest herself.  Could it be that she's figured out that the accessory Nadeko sports is actually an oddity?

Overall, this felt like a really strong episode of Monogatari, with a couple of moments of great humour and an opportunity to delve into Nadeko's character in a way that was never really attempted by the first series.  This has actually fleshed her out quite nicely from the quiet and somewhat ill-defined character we've seen previously, and it's certainly piqued my interest as to where this story arc is headed, even if we know at least partly how things are going to wind up.  Having felt like its previous arc was lacking in the character stakes, this is a refreshing return to what the series does best.

A Certain Scientific Railgun S - Episode 24 (Completed)

Aritomi and company's plan is about to enter full swing, with 20,000 remote controlled powered suits at the forefront of their assault - surely this is too much for Misaka and her friends to handle?

It most certainly is... but then again that isn't really a problem when they can also call on the rest of their fellow students to assemble en masse and task them with containing these powered suits to ensure that they can't even begin their assault.  While Misaka heads in the direction of Aritomi and STUDY themselves, it seems that this plan is all set to work perfectly to thwart their plan - at least, it does until their opponents add some more difficulties to the situation by jamming the student's communications and launching some manned machines with a rather substantial amount of firepower behind them.

However, STUDY aren't the only ones with a trick or two up their sleeves - enter Kongou Airline's own giant robot, ready and waiting to be piloted by Saten to take out some of these pesky opponents, while ITEM also come to Misaka's aid to deal with some machines based upon Mugino's Meltdowner ability.  With Aritomi cornered, in desperation he launches his group's final ploy - a missile set to use Janie's power to mess with all of the AIM diffusion fields across Academy city.  It's time for Misaka's "sisters" to take the stage here, as a plan quickly forms to take out this missile above the Earth's atmosphere before it's too late.

It feels like it's taken rather a while to get here for this story arc, but this was certainly a rip-roaring finale for the series - action-packed, excellently animated and... well, entirely bonkers when you actually start to think about the level of insanity involved in the episode's events.  But hey, I can forgive the series such things when it manages to provide it with such panache, and it delivered the kind of ending that I wanted from a series that also kicked things off in similarly spectacular style.  Thankfully, the content in-between was largely excellent too - okay, the whole Febri story was a slow-burner that never quite got into gear, but that's mostly offset by the sheer strength of the Sisters arc which was the show's real focus.  Once it has more manga to work from, I really hope this isn't the last we've seen of our titular Railgun and her friends.

Attack on Titan - Episode 25 (Completed)

It came later than planned, but Eren has finally succeeded in taking on his Titan form - but can he really defeat Annie in her own Titan form this time around?

If nothing else, it seems that Annie has given up on trying to capture Eren again and is instead intent upon making good her escape - something which a now-furious Eren has no intention of allowing her to do.  The result is utter chaos, as these two behemoths crash around the city destroying everything in their path, caught up as they are purely in their own struggle with one another.

As arguments continue beneath them between the various military factions, it seems as if Annie has once again gained the upper hand as she leaves Eren seemingly incapacitated to make a dash for the city walls.  Eren is in no move to give up however, and if anything his resolve has only been strengthened as he gives chase once again.  Although this appears to be too little too late, it seems that Mikasa also has no intention of allowing Annie to flee, literally cutting her down as she tries to climb the wall.  This leaves her prone for Eren to end this battle and forcibly remove Annie from her Titan, but a moment's hesitation is a moment too long - although Annie is indeed captured, it isn't before she entombs herself in a prison of her own making into which nobody can intrude.  With no prospect of obtaining information from her this appears to be another defeat for the Survey Corps, but perhaps their actions are at least enough to ensure their continued existence and the power to fight whatever evils lurk within the city walls.

It's rather fitting for Attack on Titan to end via an action-packed instalment such as this, as it's one of the elements that has made this series so compelling.  I'm sure nobody would deny that this adaptation has had its issues, in terms of both animation quality and - more seriously - it's uneven pacing, but whenever this show was running at full pelt it was simply breath-taking to watch, and those highlights go a long, long way to extinguishing, or at least damping down, any of those aforementioned issues.  It's easy to build a feeling of smug self-superiority but not liking what's hot in any given cultural medium, but in Attack on Titan's case its popularity is entirely justified - it builds a wonderfully realised, detailed and compelling world, seeds it with well fleshed-out characters and then flings them into the jaws of chaos and watches them fight for their lives.  All of these elements would make for a good anime series in their own right, but meld them together and you have one of the most striking shows that we've seen in years.  I'm not even going to bother expounding upon my hopes for a second season, as it's surely an inevitability.

Saturday, 28 September 2013

Genshiken Second Season - Episode 13 (Completed)

Madarame quitting his job was certainly something of a shock, but just how badly has his decision affected Hato?  With the club's resident cross-dresser not visiting Madarame or the Genshiken, or even answering his phone, something is clearly amiss.

Fortuitously however, it just so happens to be time for a club trip, making for a perfect excuse to all-but force Hato to participate, even if that does mean sending a telegram to tell him about it.  So it goes that an unusually sullen Hato turns up for a trip with the rest of the group, including a newly-unemployed Madarame.  With Rika in charge of the arrangements, it's inevitable that there's plenty of Warring States era history to take in (and lots of generals and their predilections to talk about) before heading to the traditional hot springs resort to relax.

As per what seems to be club tradition at this point, this outing also provides a perfect opportunity to resolve any troubles within the group and it's Ogiue who takes the lead here, proving her mettle as the club president by taking Hato to one side and giving him some advice to help him clear up any confusion in his mind.  Couple that with an opportunity for him to talk about things with Madarame, and the overwhelming support of his fellow club members when it comes to his cross-dressing, that come the end of the break Hato is back to his usual (or unusual, you could say), self.  With plans afoot for the next club magazine, we might even be perfectly placed for Genshiken Second Season Second Season....

So ends a fitting finale to a wonderful, wonderful series - no matter how much I enjoy all things Genshiken, even I wasn't expecting this anime adaptation to be quite so good, but as I've mentioned previously it's managed to surpass its source material quite handily.  Not only is this the one show that has made me laugh uncontrollably every week (thanks largely to an Attack on Titan parody this time around), it's also made me bawl my eyes out on one occasion and has generally made me care about its entire cast of characters.  Its slant on otaku and fandom may be very different from the original Genshiken, but it's no less accurate and amusing because of it, and I really can't express enough how much I hope we get more of Production I.G.'s efforts to bring this to the small screen, and it absolutely deserves it.

il sole penetra le illusioni ~ Day Break Illusion - Episode 13 (Completed)

As all and sundry around her try to save Akari from Cerebrum's plan, Akari herself seems to be at breaking point in her psychological battle with her own painful memories as she relives Fuyuna's descent into a Daemonia over and over again.

However, breaking point or not she seems to have reached a breakthrough in terms of her understanding of Fuyuna and why things transpired the way that they did.  Although this understanding can't change Fuyuna's fate, it does allow to Akari to reconcile her feelings and actions, thus avoiding the situation which Cerebrum was relying upon to further his plan.

Now that said plan is in tatters, Cerebru has little choice but to attack Akari directly, although unfortunately for him this is also the moment where the hard work of her comrades sees Akari sprung from her prison.  With Cerebrum's attempts to psychologically attack this group of magical girls falling upon deaf ears, he instead turns to attacking them using his true form, leaving us a big old battle between this sentient Daemonia and the group of magical girls to bring the series to a climax.

Having tried to quietly but deliberately hype itself up as a dark magical girl series, Day Break Illusion's target was obvious - what a shame though that it missed it by miles.  There were certainly some decent enough ideas to be found here, but they were all for naught in the face of clumsy character development, poor pacing and messy story-telling, leaving you with a series where you could always second-guess what was going to happen next; without any surprises, there was really nothing left to the series to keep the viewer on-board.  In that sense, this bland finale underlines exactly how off-track this series managed to go, and come the end of it all it's hard to really pinpoint anything that it succeeded in doing.

Space Brothers - Episode 75

Mutta has pulled off the vertical roll climb right in front of NASA's chief as planned, but he isn't done yet with his aerobatic attempts.

Part two of his masterplan involves getting the attention of Serika, and what better way to do that than by drawing a heart in the sky?  Certainly, Serika is suitably impressed... the trouble is, a delay to her shuttle bus means that she doesn't see said heart from the correct angle, and when coupled with her being oblivious to Mutta's interest in her she totally misinterprets what she sees before.  Unfortunately, the same can also be said of Butler himself, who is perfectly placed to see this heart drawn in the sky and... well, you can probably guess the misunderstanding that comes from that.

After this light-hearted fare, our attention returns to Sharon, whose condition has noticeably worsened since we last checked in on her.  Although work towards constructing and preparing her lunar telescope is still well and truly underway thanks to the help of umpteen others to make it a possibility, there's no escaping from Sharon's despair at her own failing health.  Still, perhaps there's still hope for Mutta being involved in the mission to construct the telescope...

All in all, Space Brothers was probably due something of a light-hearted respite, and thankfully the first half of this episode was a hugely enjoyable one that got some big laughs out of me even though you could see where it was heading in advance.  This slice of comedy was all the more important to ease us into Sharon's heart-rending troubles, which become harder to watch by the week.  We are, however, one step closer to seeing Mutta reach the moon, as a positive to end another really quite superb episode of this series.

Danganronpa - Episode 13 (Completed)

Now that the mastermind behind their incarceration has been revealed, it's time for the remaining students of Hope Peak's Academy to learn the truth behind their situation as they face their final challenge.

Although those gathered believe that they've only spent two short weeks at the school, the truth is rather different - they've actually been classmates for two years prior to losing their memories.  It seems that their idyllic school life turned into a despair-ridden one as an event shook - and effectively destroyed - the outside world, leading to the school's principle turning the academy into a safe-house for the students rather than have them "contaminated" by the contagion which has turned the planet upside-down.  It's from these protective roots that Junko's game has sprouted, turning the student's protection into a prison for her own amusement.

With the past revealed, what of the future?  The final trial facing the students is a simple one - do they choose to punish Junko, or choose to live by remaining in the safe confines of the academy for the rest of their existence.  However, there's a final twist to this choice - they can only choose this safe option if they agree to sacrifice Naegi into the bargain.  Thus, it's our protagonist's job to persuade his fellow schoolmates to choose the path of hope despite the dangers lurking in the outside world, rather than the despair of a life inside the academy's confines which would also bring about his demise.

Stripped of its muder-mystery slant for this finale, I have to confess that I was a little apathetic to what was going on in this last episode of Danganronpa - it didn't really delve into some of the most interesting parts of its revelations about the world (albeit deliberately), and Naegi's need to convince his classmates to follow the right path felt arbitrary rather than a genuine moment of tension.  Still, this shouldn't really put too much of a dampener on a series that was always bonkers, but equally always pretty fun to watch. It was never quite as smart or edgy as it maybe thought it was, but it bounced its characters off of one another and made use of its scenario in effective ways to keep me entertained week on week, and even managed to run with the video game-esque presentation from its source material without feeling too frustrating.  Overall, I enjoyed the show enough to be on-board for any adaptations of further Danganronpa games (and the end of this episode certainly seems to hint that there's more on the way), which marks this series as at least a moderate success in my book.

Friday, 27 September 2013

Servant x Service - Episode 13 (Completed)

Things seemed to be going so swimmingly at last between Hasebe and Yamagami... at least, they were until that revelation at the end of last week's penultimate episode of Servant x Service.

After announcing to his other co-workers (Lucy excluded, of course) that it was in fact Hasebe's father who signed off on her insane name, we get to dig a little into the reasons why - reasons which unfortunately mean that simply reassuring Hasebe that it isn't his fault fall upon deaf ears, as it was his father's worry about Hasebe junior suffering from a fever that caused him to be less than thorough in his work in the first place.

Of course, there's nothing to be done about the past, so the next question is how Hasebe should handle the situation.  Chihaya doesn't really have anything constructive to add here, but regardless she seems to be on the right track by assuming that any course of action will cause Lucy to hate him.  The trouble is, the unease and tension around the office in the wake of this information is only making things a whole lot worse, meaning that Hasebe is going to have to do something...

Luckily, this something takes us on to a rather sweet little ending mixed in with some of the show's typical humour - an innate knowledge of what to do with its cast and when for maximum comedy value.  The gags in this final episode really sum up Servant x Service as a whole - it isn't breaking new ground in terms of its comedy, and it's simply Working in a more grown-up setting in a lot of ways, but that doesn't diminish the fact that it's actually rather a lot of fun and more than capable of producing plenty of laughs, even from material that would otherwise be tired and boring when presented by a lesser series.  That some pretty typical humour can be given a fresh lease of life by a show like this is something akin to alchemy, but the result is a little bit of summer magic that I think I'm going to miss more than I'd care to admit.

Of course, Servant x Service will never leave me entirely - that bloody opening theme is going to be stuck in my head forever, I tell you.

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

WATAMOTE ~No Matter How I Look at It, It’s You Guys Fault I’m Not Popular!~ - Episode 12 (Completed)

The culture festival is over and winter is fast approaching, yet Tomoko still isn't popular.  Is it too late for her high school life to blossom?

Beyond this question is an equally pressing one of her future plans beyond high school - with no ideas of her own she calls Yuu for advice, only to be reminded that she spent her middle school years insistently telling her friend that she was going to become a prolific female arms dealer.  I guess that's what happens when you spend too much time reading Jormungand...

With thoughts of the future causing too many bad memories, perhaps it's best for Tomoko to focus upon the present, and with a third of the school year to go there's still time for her popularity to skyrocket, right?  Having heard the gushing praise of her peers for the student council president, Tomoko wonders, and then discovers, what her classmates are saying about her behind her back - nothing, of course.  This soon changes when Tomoko steps into the breach to deal with an errant cockroach, but the shift in perception towards her isn't quite what she was hoping for.  Perhaps the student council president herself can give Tomoko some advice?  When even this goes wrong, it seems that it's game over for our protagonist.

As this series ends, so I feel like I simply wasn't the target audience for WATAMOTE - while I'm sure anyone and everyone can relate to moments of social awkwardness, the moments depicted here were mostly so majorly overblown that I could neither relate nor sympathise, which left me ultimately feeling impatience as I waited for Tomoko to learn some valuable lessons or grow up a little, which she never does.  I will give the series kudos for its final scene - effectively a middle finger and loud "who cares" to the idea that it's necessary to be popular and the centre of attention - but that sole sentiment isn't really enough to gloss over the fact that this series has too often misfired in its comedy or the way it presents its characters.  This anime adaptation is certainly a decent and occasionally fascinatingly presented attempt to adapt its source material, but it's material that doesn't really do it for me, leaving a series that isn't bad but one that will be quickly forgotten.

Sunday, 22 September 2013

The Eccentric Family - Episode 12

Thanks to Kaisei's intervention at the end of last week's episode, it's up to Yashirou to save the day as the rest of his Eccentric Family are in dire straits.

All of them, that is, except for Yajirou - frog at the bottom of a well he might be, but Yashirou has a cunning plan to lure him out to help his brothers, and like all of the best cunning plans it involves alcohol.  Before we know it, the False Eizan Electric Railway is back in business, and its first stop is rescuing Yasaburou from the clutches of Ginkaku and Kinkaku.  Although this proves simple enough, there's still another trap laying in wait for this tanuki turned runaway train, although Yashirou even seems to have thought this possibility through and saves the day once again.

With a little (okay, massive) just of wind, the now-free brothers literally plough into the midst of the Friday Fellows meeting, causing sufficient chaos to free Yaichirou and send him on his way to the big meeting which will decide the next Nise-emon.  That problem solved, the only remaining question is how the brothers can save their mother, but with Benten playing along Yasaburou manages to ingratiate himself into the Friday Fellows as they relocate their party.... right next door to the tanuki Nise-emon meeting, of all places.

I'm not sure The Eccentric Family could have found a better way to speed onwards to its finale - this crazy and chaotic rollercoaster ride felt like a pinnacle of the series as its titular family come together against the odds to use their idiocy in the name of justice; the result was both occasionally hilarious and feel-good entertainment as it presses all of the right buttons.  Hopefully it still has enough in store to create a fitting finale, and at this moment in time I don't doubt that it will be a thing of beauty as all of its pieces slot into place perfectly.  Perhaps the biggest question of them all is how Benten will fit into the unfolding events, but however it pans out I really can't wait.

Monogatari Second Season - Episode 12

Nadeko becomes the focus of Monogatari once again as a new story arc begins - despite reeling off a glut of information about her this isn't the Nadeko we know and love however, but a Nadeko Medusa (for that is the story arc's name) with snakes for hair and an overwhelming desire to kill Araragi; something it seems that she's more than capable of doing judging by the opening scenes of this episode.

Rewinding back to the start of all this, we find Nadeko preparing herself for a normal day at school, and by normal I mean "depressing" - it seems that the trickster Kaiki's influence (see Nisemonogatari for more details) has cast a pall over her class in particular, fostering a sense of isolation and mistrust between the students within the class which leaves it a miserable place to be.  On her way to school, Nadeko bumps into (or rather, is avoided so that no bumping occurs) Ougi, who introduces herself and waxes lyrical over whether Nadeko's previous encounter with an apparition has her pegged as a victim or not.

If going to school was already on Nadeko's list of things she isn't looking forward to, this isn't exactly helped by her seeing white snakes cropping up all over the place - figment of her imagination or not something isn't right here, and after calling Araragi to ask for his assistance she agrees to meet him that evening.  That might just be too late however, as Nadeko is approached by Kuchinawa, a snake of some kind of who seems to be looking for some kind of penance from Nadeko for the snakes she killed while trying to waive the effects of that aforementioned apparition.  It seems that there's little choice for our protagonist for this story arc but to accept the fact that she'll have to do Kuchinawa's bidding; little does she know exactly what this "favour" will entail.

I'm not a big fan of the whole "show the ending (or something close to it) first" narrative conceit when it comes to a show like this - I'd rather just see how things pan out without that prior information - but that aside this feels like an interesting use of Nadeko's personality and character, coupled with her back story from the previous series, that seems to be pretty promising at this juncture.  We shall have to wait and see what it has up its sleeve for now though.  Snakes, I imagine.

Genshiken Second Season - Episode 12

Now that everything between himself and Kasukabe has been aired and resolved, Madarame can relax and return to normality, right?

Well, not quite - as Keiko sees it, resolving the issue personally is only part of the solution, and she insist that he now goes and updates the rest of the Genshiken crew as to what has happened.  Of course, they already knew all about Madarame's unrequited feelins for Saki so there are no shocks to be found here, and the group does their utmost to cheer up Madarame in their own inimitable Genshiken style.

Madarame isn't the only one pondering what their future might hold however, as Ohno is having to face up to the fact that graduation is looking and that there's still no sign of any kind of gainful employment for her once she leaves the university.  Cue Rika with an innovative money-making idea - why doesn't she make and sell a mildly risque cosplay CD?  It's something that Ohno gives some serious consideration... and then some not-so serious consideration thanks to a cosplay photo shoot and a bottle of sake.  It's a combination that is never likely to end well, although thanks to Tanaka's presence Ohno's drunken breakdown and confession of everything that is on her mind at least serves to cement their relationship.  If only things were looking quite so rosy for Madarame, as his post-Saki decision-making appears to be verging upon the self-destructive.

In the midst of all its fun and frolics, Genshiken sure does have some important items on its agenda at the moment as it considers the futures of members of its cast - thankfully, this doesn't destroy the show's sense of fun, and these moments of adversity for some of its individuals really allow the rest of the cast to go to work in terms of depicting the power of friendship.  It's really pretty heart-warming seeing the Genshiken crew helping one another out, and even more so when it happens in such an organic, wordless way - this is true friendship where problems don't need to explained and expounded upon, and others are there for you to take your mind off things and remind you why life can be fun rather than psycho-analyse you.  Heck, I may need some cheering up myself once this series ends next weekend, as I'm certainly going to miss it.

Attack on Titan - Episode 24

As their plans to capture Annie go rather awry, this penultimate episode of Attack on Titan rewinds a little to see the formation of this plan, together with the flimsy but undeniable evidence provided by Armin which leads to its inception.  It's an inconvenient truth that Armin really doesn't want to believe, which proves to be an issue further down the line...

Having successfully morphed into her Titan form, Annie is now all-but unstoppable as she gambles on being able to kidnap Eren once again in this form.  It's a bet she seems willing to place no matter how low the odds, as she even goes so far as to collapse sections of the underground tunnel where Eren and company are hiding regardless of the risk that he may be crushed and killed under the falling debris.  Trapped and with no escape, it seems as if only Eren's own Titan form will get them out of this tight spot...

...except Eren finds himself unable to transform once again, for reasons that Mikasa soon pinpoints as relating to his refusal to believe that Annie might be working against him and what he stands for.  This leaves Mikasa and Armin to figure out a plan to keep Annie away from Eren, while chaos ensues amongst the populace and military as you might expect when a Titan suddenly materialises in their midst.  It's the Survey Corps who take the lead with other plans already in place to take down Annie - a task which is easier said than done.  Despite ending up trapped under a pile of rubble however, perhaps Eren is finally regaining the determination that he needs to fight as the insanity around him unfolds.

Having skillfully kept its cards pretty close to its chest in last week's episode before revealing all deliciously at the end, this week's instalment of Attack on Titan shifts effortlessly back into more action-oriented territory.  It probably goes without saying that this remains one of the show's strong points, with its dizzying aerial combat against ridiculously over-sized (and over-powered, in Annie's case) opponents, but there's also enough tension and a feeling of critical importance to ensure that the action isn't just shoe-horned in for the sake of looking cool.  Roll on next week's finale, in the hope that it at least brings us a decent stopping off point rather than leaving us hanging for the inevitable second season.

Saturday, 21 September 2013

Space Brothers - Episode 74

His presentation for a new lunar rover design successfully completed and creating lots of excitement amongst the management, Mutta focuses his sights once again upon reaching the moon.

This desire is once again increasing in its urgency as letters from Sharon become rarer and with poorer handwriting, suggesting a deterioration in her condition.  Little does Mutta know that is that the chief is continuing to worry about what adding Mutta to a lunar mission might do for his brother's confidence and motivation as he continues to suffer from a panic disorder following his lunar accident.

To further flesh this train of thought out, we look back into Butler's past, and his own experiences with a former colleague who suffered from a panic disorder after a training jet accident which prevented him from ever stepping foot on the moon or completing his training.  This also ties into Mutta's grand plan to impress Butler - after looking up his past on Wikipedia he decides to recreate the vertical roll climb that Butler saw as both a proof of his intent to reach the moon and the turning point where he could be seen as a proper pilot.

All of this combines to create another simple but effective episode of Space Brothers that doesn't move the story forward by any huge amount but still does a good job of building its characters and providing another interesting story via its cast that never feels superfluous to proceedings.  Beyond this, it's also nice to see Mutta getting things right and applying himself with confidence, which suggests a fair amount of development compared to the uncertain character we were following earlier in the series - a little touch which is exactly the kind of thing that keeps me watching week in, week out.

il sole penetra le illusioni ~ Day Break Illusion - Episode 12

Cerebrum has laid out his terms for saving Luna and Seira to Akari, and the price for their survival is a high one... effectively, he wants to mate with her in return for their safety.

Akari being who she is however, it doesn't take too much hesitation before she agrees and finds herself whisked away to the Clessidra, a kind of limbo between the Astralux and the real world.  It's here that Cerebrum intends to have his wicked way with Akari, but not before breaking her mind by making her relieve a single event over and over again, that being the day of Fuyuna's transformation into a Daemonia.

Stubbornly, Akari refuses to give in and relives this scenario over and over as she tries to figure out how to save her cousin - meanwhile, a recovered Luna and Seira are now free and able to join their former employers in the hunt for Akari.  With the likely location of Cerebrum pinned down, they rush to Akari's aid, and even find themselves joined by a very familiar face as they begin their fight to free her.

With its decent soundtrack and some reasonably interesting ideas, this is another episode of Day Break Illusion that serves as a reminder of the potential that the series had, while also showing why it never quite managed to execute upon it as it rushes through things or throws in additional plot elements that feel like they've come straight out of Dragon Ball Z (I'm looking at you, Ginka).  These missteps dilute any emotional power or shock value the series could have hoped to have and leave it floundering at key points where it should be driving home its key moments - something which Day Break Illusion seems singularly incapable of doing as the missed opportunities for it pile up high.

Danganronpa - Episode 12

Danganronpa's series of cruel tests reaches its end-game this week, but the stakes are high with a requirement to not only unravel the mystery of the school's final murder, but also pinpoint and point the finger at the mastermind behind it all.

With the entire school now unlocked there's no time to lose, and Kirigiri and Naegi's first port of call is the principle's office - a location which initially seems to offer up little evidence bar the grisly confirmation of the principle's (and Kirigiri's father's) death.  However, look a little closer and there are some valuable items at hand, including the principle's personal organiser and a memory card which seems to hold evidence of each of the students agreeing that they'd spend the rest of their life at the Academy.  This in turn matches up with notebooks found by Naegi that seems to suggest that all of the group had already been students at the Academy despite their having no such memories - a suggestion backed up by further photographic evidence distributed by Monokuma.

As further investigation also sheds light on a disparity between the number of bodies within the establishement's morgue, the number of students and the number of supposed murders committed, things are seemingly falling into place within Naegi's head, which means shocking revelation follow shocking revelation in the final classroom trial as the mastermind behind this whole despicable debacle is unmasked.

Even if some of these revelations have to work a little too hard to justify themselves, the whole process of the layers of the show's mystery being peeled away was a lot of fun provided you brought the requisite suspension of disbelief with you.  The episode's relentless pace and determination to keep things moving swiftly were a real boon here, throwing out claims and counter-claims carefully enough for you to ingest them all but rapidly enough for you not to have too much time to think about them and pick holes in them.  I have no idea how the series is planning to close things off now the cat is out of the bag, but hopefully it can prove equally entertaining rather than limiting itself to massive later information dump to explain everything.

A Certain Scientific Railgun S - Episode 23

The villain of the piece has finally revealed himself to Misaka - not that she can do much about it, given that she's been temporarily paralyzed.

Although Aritomi isn't stupid enough to give away all of his plans to Misaka (which is surprising for a villain in itself), what is clear is that his frustration at Academy City's reliance upon espers over all else is about to boil over into an attempted revolution, with his so-called Chemicaloids of Febri and, more importantly, Janie, at the heart of whatever it is he's planning.

Leaving Misaka and Shinobu to their own devices in the assumption that they have no way of halting Aritomi and STUDY's plan (okay, so maybe he isn't so smart) allows the two of them to at least begin hatching a plan as Shinobu eventually reluctantly realises that she can't resolve this situation alone and needs help in doing so.  Misaka certainly has no shortage of assistance to offer between herself, her friends and her Sisters, and with the sheer scope of this revolution at dawn becoming clear she's likely to need every last bit of help to fend off the swarm of powered suits that are all set to spearhead it.

Having complained about this particular story arc being a lot of built-up and not a whole lot of pay off previously, I should probably feel the same about this week's instalment which again was heavy with exposition and moving the show's proverbial chess pieces into place; however, a lot of the build-up this time around was pretty satisfying to watch and at least it looks like we're set for an explosive finale which will hopefully go at least some way towards justifying all of that preparation.  There's no danger of this story arc even coming close to matching what came before, but I'd at least like to see the series go out with a bang.

Thursday, 19 September 2013

Servant x Service - Episode 12

Lucy's big date is looming as this week's Servant x Service kicks off - but is her official clothing provider for said date Chihaya still going to be in a fit state to make her outfit?

With no shortage of cosplay outfit creation also on the go (and it seems that Chihaya is a fan of Attack on Titan amongst other things, incidentally), Chihaya is struggling to stay away let alone anything else, and thus she decides to take three days off work at short notice to complete her various masterpieces - a decision which gives Ichimiya something of a holiday of his own, although his decision to visit Chihaya at the end of her leave finds her in worse shape than he might have imagined.

Still, if nothing else Lucy's dress for her date is completed, and in spite of her initial embarrassment about wearing it she (belatedly) makes it to her date with Hasebe - and what a gentleman he is too, taking her where she might want to go, carrying her bags and looking out for her every step of the way.  In fact, so unlike his normal self does this seem to Lucy that she tries to do a runner - not the smartest idea in high heels, it has to be said.  With a family arrangement ultimately causing their date to be postponed before it plays out in full, Hasebe at least has a "rematch" to look forward to, but it seems that there's something else nagging away at him...

With a few laugh out loud exceptions, this is one of those episodes of Servant x Service which I'd label as "fun" rather than outright "hilarious"; the kind of episode that really cashes in on your love of its characters by putting them into amusing or otherwise pleasing situations that work organically and without too much effort at all.  Thankfully, the series has a lot of cash in its goodwill bank to provide just such instalments of pleasant fun, and with a little drama thrown in to spice up the series finale hopefully it can provide some more giggles to see us out next week.

Silver Spoon - Episode 11 (Completed)

It seems that Hachiken has become rather popular as this first season of Silver Spoon comes to a close - all the girls want to talk to him (to ask him for bacon) and all of the guys want to give him whatever foodstuffs he may desire (in return for bacon).  In short, bacon is clearly the best way to make friends and influence people.

With his first year at Ezonoo coming to an end, so thoughts turn to the future - not just for Hachiken, but for many of the other students as they try to figure out their future paths.  At the centre of this is Komaba, who continues to pursue his dream, however unlikely it might be, of becoming a professional baseball player.

This isn't the kind of all-encompassing, do-or-die dream however - Komaba shrugs off a bad game while praising his team-mates for picking up the slack and helping them to a victory that takes them one step closer to Koshien in a way which fires up his agricultural cohorts.  While all of this is going on, Hachiken's influence is still keenly felt by those around him, something which the university's head notes as he talks with Hachiken and urges him to have more faith in himself and his own eloquence; an eloquence which might actually help those around him who are less adept at expressing their feelings.  We also see suggestions of Hachiken's own personal development as he chooses to send some of the bacon he produced to his family of a token of what he's capable of - then again, he clearly hasn't developed beyond naming the next batch of pigs to be bred at the establishment...

So ends one of the most flat-out enjoyable series of the summer, and thank goodness we'll be able to rejoin Hachiken and company for the winter after a short break as the show's characters have been an unending pleasure to "hang out" with.  For a series about farming, it's beyond impressive to see the way Silver Spoon has built up its characters and made them the centre of not just comedy, but also thought-provoking and emotional dilemmas that you don't have to be a wannabe farmer to recognise or understand.  Setting aside, this is a pretty dyed in the wool coming of age story, but one so wonderfully told that despite its strong sentiments you never feel like you're being educated or preached at, merely entertained while being plied with topics for consideration via osmosis.  It's a sneaky trick really, but this series is welcome to indoctrinate me any time it likes, and I'll be returning for more once its second season rolls around.

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

WATAMOTE ~No Matter How I Look at It, It’s You Guys Fault I’m Not Popular!~ - Episode 11

The culture festival is here, and needless to say Tomoko is finding it hard to manoeuvre herself into a position to do anything much as preparation for the big event picks up pace.

However, eventually Tomoko does manage to find sufficient reserves of self-confidence to ask to help with cutting some leaflets, a task which she plans to stretch out over the entire day until she's assigned some help who make that goal distinctly impossible.  Not that this matters much, as she soon succeeds in slicing her hand open with a box cutter, which is perhaps not the greatest form of "clumsy moe" out there.

Still, at least this accident brings Tomoko into contact with the lovely chairman of the festival's planning committee (voiced by the equally lovely Ai Nonoka), who becomes something of a guardian angel who looks out for Tomoko from that point forth even if she perhaps doesn't register it.  For Tomoko's part, she's more worried about the visit of Yuu to the school festival - a visit which threatens to expose another of Tomoko's lies, which is quickly forgot thanks to our protagonist actually (shock, horror) having fun!

I feeling a little like this week's WATAMOTE showcases the best and worst of the series in a single instalment - on the one hand it can be quite sweet at times and even its most blatant nods to and parodies of anime have a certain charm to them, but on the other Tomoko is still an irredeemably horrible person for the most part which in turn reduces the impact of those sweet moments as they somehow feel less deserved.  As a whole, I'd certainly put myself amongst those who still don't really "get" the appeal of this series, but I have perhaps emerged with more of an appreciation of what it is that has caught the eye of so many even if it isn't something I can quite relate to myself.

Sunday, 15 September 2013

Monogatari Second Season - Episode 11

It's recap time again for Monogatari Second Season, and this time around we somehow manage to cover the entirety of Bakemonogatari in a single episode.  Or should we be calling it Monogatari First Season now?

Told complete with a voiceover from Araragi as he reminisces, the episode perhaps rightfully dedicates half of the episode to the show's first Hitagi Crab arc, complete with some snippets of new animation.

From there, we race through Hachikuji, Kanbaru and Nadeko's story arcs with no spectacular additions to note, before that wonderful finale to the series is squeezed into the ending credits in a not particularly satisfying manner.

As per the first recap episode, the timing of introducing a reminder to these story elements right now feels a little odd, and aside from stalling for more time to complete work on the show proper's next story arc (which I'm all for after the issues Bakemonogatari suffered at TV broadcast time) there doesn't really seem to be much need of them at this point in a second season.  But hey ho, roll on the resumption of normal service (and hopefully some more good stuff) next week.  Except there's still another recap yet to come at some point.  Joy.

The Eccentric Family - Episode 11

His fellow family members kidnapped and surrounded himself, Yasaburou seems like his time is up as the last hope for avoiding a member of the Shimogamo family ending up in the Friday Fellows' hotpot.

This is, however, to reckon without Benten, who happens to be in the vicinity and needs an umbrella in the pouring rain.  Yasaburou naturally transforms and obliges, and Benten offers him salvation from his current predicament, even if she isn't generous enough to help any further with his plans to save his family.  Still, with Yasaburou running into the Professor tasked with finding a suitable "victim" for the hotpot - and carrying a cage no less - it seems that the game is afoot.

Unfortunately for Yasaburou, it isn't the game he was expecting, as this entire scenario is nothing more than yet another trick by Ginkaku and Kinkaku with the explicit goal of capturing him.  With Yaichirou and his mother also captive and caged, Yajirou nowhere to be seen and Yashirou locked away, the game is surely up... until her brothers give Kaisei some valuable information, and she spies an opportunity to allow Yashirou to make good his escape to suggest that maybe not all hope is lost after all.

So ends another great episode of The Eccentric Family, which made good use of its twists and turns to take the viewer on something of a rollercoaster while also adding a little to Benten's mystique yet again and tugging a little at the heartstrings as the family we've followed for all these weeks on the brink of being torn asunder in a web of betrayal and the selfishness of others.  It seems that we're all set for a fantastic finale by the end of this week's instalment, so boy do I hope the series can live up to the possibilities that it has smartly built up for itself over the past couple of weeks.

Space Brothers - Episode 73

With a potential place on a future lunar mission at stake, it's time for Mutta to put his money where his mouth is and impress the bigwigs with his new lunar rover design in this week's Space Brothers.

For all of the talk of flying cars both last week and this, Mutta's actual ideas to improve the rover are far more down to earth than that. As well as some tweaking to the suspension of the existing vehicles, the main gist of his ideas is a simple one - use Google Glass.

Okay okay, so it isn't literally to use Google Glass, but the concept is similar. While Mutta's flying car concept for Miracle Car was (understandably) rejected, one part of it which did excite his then employers was the concept of displaying virtual roads on the windscreen to manage the traffic and also acts as a navigation system.  With this concept now fleshed out into a system that is ready for production on cars, all that would be required is to fit a similar windscreen to the lunar rovers - with navigation data provided from 3D maps of the moon's surface created by a JAXA satellite, and with Miracle Car looking to produce the system in return for some good publicity, it seems as if Mutta has met all of the targets set for him with this particular task.  Is this going to be enough to get him to the moon?

For an episode that ostensibly didn't stray too far outside of a meeting room, this week's Space Brothers was once again great stuff - there's a lot of simple enjoyment to be had from watching Mutta craft an elegant and relatively simple solution to a problem, and to be quite honest I could probably watch that kind of thing on its own even without the show's space angle.  It isn't the high drama or human emotion that we've seen elsewhere in this series, but it ticks a very particular box for me that you can't really find elsewhere, which certainly goes some way to explaining why I'm still enjoying Space Brothers immensely even after well over a year of watching it week in, week out.

Attack on Titan - Episode 23

After the failure of their grand plan, the Survey Corps are left very much on the back foot in terms of their political support, and as this week's Attack on Titan begins we switch our view to take in the world of the Military Police.

More specifically, we initially follow events through Annie's eyes, as her group is tasked with escorting and protecting the Survey Corps as they move through town as part of a plan to "rehome" Eren as his future becomes uncertain once again.  Compared to the earnest nature of those within the Survey Corps however, the Military Police couldn't be much more different - its high-ranking officers are only interested in gambling, drinking and playing games, while even the rank and file will happily sell off equipment on the black market to make easy money over and above protecting the populace.

Against this backdrop appears Armin, beseeching Annie for help in assisting Eren with escaping his current quandary.  After some initial reticence she eventually agrees, and joins Armin, Eren and Mikasa as they seem to journey undetected to, and then beyond, the city walls.  As this journey looks to take them underground however, Annie hesitates, claiming a fear of dark, enclosed spaces.  Suddenly, the tension in the air from all parties becomes electric - Annie refuses to proceed any further, and the others are ever more insistent that she has to come with them.  Something clearly isn't right here, and talk of aiding Eren's rescue soon turns to an entirely different topic - Annie's destruction of the captured Titans, and more importantly her role as the female Titan which tried to kidnap Eren.  The game is up, but can Annie by captured before she uses her ability to wreak havoc?

Shorn of the action which has perhaps become this show's trademark it might be, but this was another suitably strong episode of Attack on Titan - I think the identity of the female Titan from the last story arc has been clear for a while now, but the manner in which this was built up to and then revealed was superb in the way it built up its tension while also peeling back another layer on the show's world, and there are still myriad questions left to be asked even in its wake.  I just hope that the final couple of episodes are sufficiently well-paced to let the series close at a suitable juncture without either rushing to cram in details or slow to an unsatisfying crawl.

Saturday, 14 September 2013

Genshiken Second Season - Episode 11

The on-going Spring Fair certainly didn't need any more livening up for the Genshiken crew, but regardless of this is seems that Kasukabe's appearance is going to give it yet another shot in the arm.

Aside from her glee at getting to call Madarame a lolicon at every available opportunity having spied him with Sue, Saki is also more than happy to be able to catch up with old friends and be introduced to new ones, while Hato looks on and picks up on every single being given off by Madarame as though he's the only one to notice.  In fact, it's Hato's instinct to defend Madarame at every turn that actually gets the latter into trouble, as Kasukabe's jibes about the kind of material he keeps in his apartment leads to Hato inadvertently revealing that he has something far worse there... Saki's cosplay photos, that is.

Hato's refusal to reveal what thought he'd just reacted, coupled with Madarame leaving immediately after, only makes things worse, and eventually Keiko press-gangs Hato into revealing all.  Needless to say, she finds the whole thing hilarious, but nonetheless spies a perfect opportunity to square the circle for Madarame, and thus a plan is hatched to get him and Kasukabe in a room together so that he can finally explain all.  Cue the most touching scenes ever to come out of Genshiken, and me finishing the episode as a blubbing wreck because the whole thing is far too emotionally resonant for me.

Having gushed about Genshiken Second Season so often already, I haven't left myself much space to ramp up my use of superlatives when it gets even better as this episode did.  This week's instalment really hits at the core of everything that is so wonderful about the show - its humour springs forth naturally from conversations and frequently proves to be laugh out loud, it has a surprisingly sincere soft centre when it chooses to dig down into it, and the viewer is so deeply invested in the characters and situations that the series has created that... well, see the end of the previous paragraph for details.  In a season of strong series, it isn't over-egging the pudding for me to state that Genshiken Second Season continues to punch above its weight as both my favourite and certainly the summer's most consistent show in terms of delivering the goods.  I might just cry again when the series finishes, because boy am I going to miss it.

il sole penetra le illusioni ~ Day Break Illusion - Episode 11

Their establishment-cum-base in ruins, Luna now serving as a Daemonia and Seira stripped of her powers - things aren't exactly going too well for Akari's employers at the moment.

They have, however, managed to escape with their lives in the wake of the riots and arson which razed their property to the ground, and as they regroup it's time to decide their next course of action.  Any such decision is as of nothing compared to that faced by Seira - having tracked down Cerebrum and Luna, she's faced with an agonising choice between allowing her former friend to live on as a Daemonia and leaving her without her Elemental Tarot powers, or killing Luna and regaining those powers as a result.

As Seira faces this dilemma, so Akari finally learns some of the truths that have been hidden from her at the behest of the Leguzario - information pertaining to her mother, the circumstances leading up to her birth and, crucially, the fact that she is effectively half-Daemonia herself.  All of this explains both Cerebrum and the Leguzario's interest in her, but it also leads her into a quandry of her own - whether to give herself up to Cerebrum in the hope of saving her friends or fight on and potentially lose everything precious to her.

By this show's standards, this week's Day Break Illusion was actually pretty good - it finally got to the heart of some of the elements of its plot, and the revelations surrounding Akari are at least mildly interesting, as is Seira's dilemma with regards to Luna.  None of this is enough to save the wider quality of the series as a whole, but it at least holds a glimmer of hope for a decent ending to a series that has singularly failed to live up to what it clearly hoped (and perhaps even assumed) it would be.

Danganronpa - Episode 11

It's time for another, rather unexpected, classroom trial as this week's Danganronpa begins in the wake of the death of mysterious sixteenth student Mukuro Ikusaba.

With no knowledge of who this student is and little time to gather clues, the resulting trial is decidedly incoherent apart from one recurring theme - the insistence that Kirigiri must be responsible for this murder.  To be fair, it seems like a strong accusation to make as she is the only person whose whereabouts are unknown in the time period where the murder could have been carried out, and for her part Kirigiri becomes more irritable and nervy as the accusations against her pile up.  Once Naegi begins to suspect that all is not as it seems with this trial, Monokuma is quick to shut him up and push the students towards voting -a decision which coincides with Kirigiri slathering Naegi in last-minute suspicion.  Lo and behold, it's his name that is flagged as the murderer, and his punishment awaits...

Except, for once, not everything goes as Monokuma expects - an intervention via the assumed defunct Alter Ego saves Naegi's lift, but instead leaves him thrown out with the garbage at the bottom of the building with no way out.  Not one to give up, Naegi prevails, until eventually Kirigiri comes to the rescue.  As they climb the ladder back into the school building, Kirigiri reveals her true - and recently remembered - identity, which explains why the powers that be in this so-called school were trying to frame and execute her.  It seems as if the gloves are off, but with Naegi's safety and the knowledge that their trials and tribulations are being broadcast on live television, Kirigiri engineers a final showdown with the myriad secrets of the academy at stake.

Overall, I think this might just have been the most enjoyable episode of Danganronpa yet, perhaps largely because it breaks with some of the show's game-like conventions in aid of pulling the rug out from under its surviving students.  The result was perhaps the tensest trial yet, and the events which followed do a good job of setting the series up for its final showdown while conveniently waving away one of the game's rules to do so.  Breaking the rules of your story is bad, except for when it's good, and on this occasion shrugging off a mechanic for generating tension within the rest of the series is entirely forgivable - now, bring on the final showdown for the truth!

A Certain Scientific Railgun S - Episode 22

The clock is ticking for Febri, and with time running out Misaka is left with little choice than to plunge headlong into the "darkness" of Academy City by facing an old (and now thankfully incarcerated) adversary.

Naturally, Therestina Kihara Lifeline is more than happy to remind Misaka of just how dark Academy City can get, run as it is with its students serving more or less as guinea pigs for the powers that be.  Nonetheless, there's no dissuading Misaka from getting to the bottom of this particular situation and no amount of teasing, provocation and the like from Therestina is going to change that, which eventually gives her some more slithers of information to go by.  From here, the gang manages to identify a list of potential suspects, and thanks to Kengou go even further in tracking down the likely mastermind of the project from which Febri was formed.

With a laboratory belonging to the man in question identified, Misaka heads there in the hope of at least finding the "recipe" to the chemical which keeps Febri alive, but upon arrive she finds something rather unexpected - ITEM in the midst of some wanton destruction as part of their latest job.  Once they've left Misaka is free to explore the establishment, bringing her into contact with another old "friend" as she finally learns of Nunotaba's role in Febri's circumstances.  There's little time for small talk however, as both of them appear to have been bested by Haruki Aritomi, as his plans move even closer to fruition...

At last, and inevitably given that we only have a couple of episodes left to run, things are starting to move on at a decent pace - we still don't know entirely what Aritomi is up to but I guess we'll find out next week as the pieces of the puzzle are starting to come together.  My biggest gripe that offsets this is that this story arc is starting to feel a little too much like it was engineered around shoe-horning cameos into its narrative - I hope ITEM are going to become part of the plot for a better reason than it being cool to have them around, and even Nunotaba and Therestina's roles felt a little like they were there more for the sake of it than anything else when they could just have easily have introduced new original characters into these roles.  Hopefully these final two episodes can rise above such concerns to at least deliver a rip-roaring finale to the series.

Thursday, 12 September 2013

Servant x Service - Episode 11

The stress of recent events surrounding Lucy have clearly taken their toll on Hasebe by the start of this week's Servant x Service, to the point where he vanishes from his workplace even more than is normal for this natural-born layabout.

But exactly where has Hasebe gone?  He's nowhere to be found in any of the usual haunts, but the section chief posits that he might be hanging out at a bazaar being held outside the building.  It seems like a smart enough observation, but then again it might just be that the chief wants to check out the bazaar for himself... either way, it somehow also leads to him vanishing as well, leaving Lucy to pick up the pieces and retrieve his adorable rabbit form which seems to have been procured by an adoring child.

While the aftermath of this provides an opportunity for Lucy and Hasebe to straighten things out (if only for a moment before Lucy tramples all over his heart again), there's less reassurance available to Miyoshi has she has to face up to a meal with Tanaka.  Trying to spend her day off in town to take her mind off this might seem like a good idea, but when you end up bumping into everybody from your workplace and involving yourself in whatever issues they might have it can be rather exhausting.  In the wake of all this, it seems as if Miyoshi's "date" with Tanaka looks set to go the same, although he isn't so bad when he isn't talking incessantly about Hasebe.  Then again, anyone is easy to put up with once you've passed out from drinking alchohol.

Even when it's at its silliest (aka anything to do with the section chief), Servant x Service has certainly succeeded in setting out its stall as being fun by this point in time, and this episode is no different - it perhaps isn't the show at its funniest but it frequently does enough to put a smile on your face or give you a giggle here and there, which is really all you can ask for of a show like this as it continues to run its course in a mostly pleasing manner.

Silver Spoon - Episode 10

As Hachiken continues to look after Pork Bowl and company, a throwaway conversation with Yoshino suddenly sends the ever-grinding rumour mill into overdrive.

With talk of a "bump on the way" and Hachiken having to "take responsibility", it's not all that surprising that somebody might get the wrong end of the stick, although once teachers intervene any confusion is soon cleared up in short order, even if it does mean yet more punishment for Nishikawa.  Speaking of Pork Bowl however, the time has come for him to be shipped out to the slaughterhouse, meaning that Hachiken finally has to accept the reality of the once cute little piglet meeting its maker for meat.  Unsurprisingly, Hachiken's reaction isn't one of apathy, and instead he makes a snap judgment to buy Pork Bowl...

...for meat.  It's an odd decision, especially when it leaves you out of pocket and with 50 kilograms of meat (I love bacon as much as the next guy, but that's a lot of the stuff).  Although quieter than usual, Hachiken takes saying his goodbye to Pork Bowl better than might have been expected, and when this event coincides with the showing of a graphic video of the factory process of killing animals for meat Hachiken actually copes better than some of his comrades.  When the final cuts of meat arrive for him, it's time to decide what to do with it, leading to him learning about making bacon (literally not figuratively) and ultimately leading to another feast for the students.

I think the way this episode played out says quite a lot about Silver Spoon - if you were expecting floods of tears, weeping and introspection then think again, as this week's instalment depicted a largely grown-up and mature response to a tough situation on Hachiken's part.  Admittedly this makes it harder to empathise with his character in this situation than crying and bawling might have been, but it does get to the heart of the show's (and the industry it represents) thinking, and even with this serious matter at hand it still wasn't beyond providing a few big laughs as a further reminder of how this show can entertain as easily as it fascinates and (to an extent) educates.  Thank goodness next week's season finale is simply an au revoir, and not a goodbye.

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Autumn 2013 anime preview guide

The never ending progression of the seasons continues apace, and that means it's time to start considering what new anime to watch again.  As per usual, I've toiled over a hot keyboard to put together a new season preview guide for the autumn (or fall, for you American types) over at UK Anime.

Enjoy checking out this behemoth of an article, and let me know what you're planning to watch from the new anime season!

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Blood Lad - Episode 10 (Completed)

You know what they say about what happens when the cat's away, and it seems as if the proverbial mice of Staz's area of the demon world have finally caught on to the fact that he isn't around.

This, however, isn't really Staz's major concern, as he instead finds himself facing Bell's father Hydra - a simultaneously angry yet friendly fellow from whom Bell has inherited her powers, who wants to have a bit of a man to man (well, demon to vampire) chat about the history of Bell, Fuyumi and their respective parents.  In short, Hydra is a little worried about Staz's intentions not only towards Bell, but more importantly towards Fuyumi - just why does he want to resurrect her exactly?

Staz admitting that even he isn't sure whether he simply wants to drink Fuyumi's blood or something more wholesome doesn't really help in the matter, but Hydra ultimately makes our anti-hero make a pledge - that he'll let Fuyumi and only Fuyumi decide whether she'll allow Staz to resurrect her, and similarly that she'll be the only one to decide whether he can drink her blood.  With that agreed upon, all that remains is for Fuyumi herself to agreed to return to the mission to resurrect her, while meanwhile Braz continues with his own nefarious plans and Staz's homeland somehow remains safe for another day.

So goes an unsatisfying end to an unsatisfying series - a sequence of rushed and half-baked partial resolutions to plot points still left broadly open in the (surely vain) hope of a second season.  To be quite frank, this show really doesn't deserve one - from beginning to end it has been almost universally unfunny, poorly animated, sloppily scripted and plotted and needlessly burdened with half-baked fan service.  Everything about Blood Lad has been painfully average to a degree where it's largely been a virtual masterclass in tedium - sometimes being abjectly mediocre is worse for the viewer than being downright bad, and this is undoubtedly one of those occasions.  Never mind Fuyumi, let's just hope that nobody chooses to resurrect Blood Lad in animated form any time soon.

WATAMOTE ~No Matter How I Look at It, It’s You Guys Fault I’m Not Popular!~ - Episode 10

A new school term has begun, and immediately any thoughts that this is the real start of Tomoko's high school existence are not so much dashed against the rocks of reality as obliterated entirely.

For starters, a seat reorganisation sees her lose her prized seat at the back by the window, instead thrusting her into the limelight in the midst of a bunch of talkative students... not that anyone particularly wants to talk to Tomoko mind you.  Before she knows it, Tomoko's desk becomes part of the lunchtime furniture for a group of friends, leaving her to find shelter elsewhere to eat her lunch.  The school roof may not be open but there's a prime location available next to it, until even this is snatched from her, leading to her simply not eating lunch at all and quite literally flaking out.

Of course, the advent of preparations for the school culture festival is going to do nothing to change Tomoko's standing in her class - if anything, it makes her feel even more lonely.  Perhaps she should join a club?  No, perhaps she should start her own?  Tomoko's fantasies of life in an after-school club seems to be exactly what she needs to glean at least some enjoyment from her high school life, but when even these plans are shot down it seems as if there's literally nowhere left for her to turn.

Regardless of any debate about the frequency and quality of WATAMOTE's comedy, its almost entire absence in this episode leads to an instalment that is hugely depressing - I'm left half-expecting next week's episode to open with Tomoko hanging from a clumsily fashioned noose or something.  It actually feels a little odd to run this episode when there are still a couple of the series left unless they have something special lined up for it; this feels like a finale to the series to show that nothing has changed and likely never will, so I'm not really sure what (if anything) it has up its sleeve.  Still, at least it can only be more cheerful than this relentless and unforgiving portrait of abject loneliness - not that there's anything wrong with that kind of outlook, but without anything to actual say for itself about the situation I can't really fathom its ultimate goal.

Sunday, 8 September 2013

The Eccentric Family - Episode 10

The big day has finally arrived - not only the anniversary of Souichirou Shimogamo's death, but also the day when the next Nise-emon is selected.

While Yaichirou looks to focus his mind on making the final preparations for this big day, Yasaburou can't help but dwell on Kaisei's vague warning to him from last week's episode - thoughts that continue to prickle at the back of his mind even as he visits Yajirou in his well to shoot the breeze.  Speaking of breezes, a sudden outbreak of gale force winds and storms warns that something less than savory is afoot, but even Yasaburou can't comprehend the exact scale of what is about to transpire.

Of course, it's the Ebisugawa family at the centre of these nefarious goings-on as they seek to kidnap all and sundry within the Shimogamo family starting with Yashirou and working their way up, and by the time he makes it back to the family home Yasaburou finds himself entirely alone.  He does, however, have one ally - Kaisei, who not only informs him that the rest of his family have been snatched away by the rest of her family but also reveals the shocking truth behind Souichirou's ultimate fate.  The real problem for Yasaburou however is the one immediately at hand, and as the full force of the Ebisugawa family set themselves up to descend upon him it appears there may be no escape.

I've pondered several times over the course of this series what The Eccentric Family's ultimate goal might be, and here it is - a full manifestation of the Ebisugawa family's slow-burning hatred and jealousy towards their own fellow tanuki to set up a grande finale in which Yasaburou and, surely, Benten, will play a major part.  It's a pretty heavy and seismic shift in a series that has been pretty gentle and contemplative thus far, but that doesn't make it an unwanted one - I'm actually rather excited to see how Yasaburou in particular behaves when the chips are down to such a massive degree, and this is perhaps exactly what was required of the show to compliment the more thoughtful and heartfelt fare we've been treated to previously.  Roll on next week's episode...

Monogatari Second Season - Episode 10

It's the end of the world as we know it, and Araragi most certainly doesn't feel fine - a feeling not helped by the fact that he and Shinobu's attempt to communicate with any other potential survivors in this apocalyptic wasteland have instead attracted only a teeming swarm of zombies-cum-vampires.

Actually, that isn't strictly true, as a rice shower which sends the "zombies" scarpering for some reason brings with it a helpful survivor... not just any survivor either, but a fully grown Mayoi Hachikuji.  Although she doesn't recognise the boy that saved her in her youth beyond a vague sensation that they've met before, Hachikuji does have a letter for him and Shinobu - a letter penned by Oshino, no less.  To keep it simple, this letter explains that what they see before them isn't the fact of their world but rather an alternate version of it, and implores Araragi to save this world (or at least what remains of it) by facing off against the source of its malaise, Kiss-shot Acerola-orion Heart-under-blade.

Without any real powers to speak of or much hope of winning in a straight-up fight against a wounded but still fully functional Kiss-shot, Koyomi and Shinobu nonetheless head off to face their opponent.  Upon meeting Kiss-shot however, it becomes clear that conflict isn't the order of the day here - she bears no ill will towards Araragi, and indeed is happy to offer up the energy required to send him and Shinobu back to their own timeline.  Thus, this world is saved by virtue of placating Kiss-shot, while Araragi gets to return to his enjoyable life in his own world, replete with Hachikuji and all.

Although it exhibits a lot of the same sense of story-telling that has been a trademark of all things Monogatari from the get-go, this Kabukimonogatari story arc simply... well, wasn't that interesting.  For a story focused around Hachikuji she played very little part, the climax to the tale was decidedly anti-climatic, and the apocalyptic setting prevented the series from doing what it does best in terms of dialogue and witty repartee.  That said, there were still some nice character moments and smart little twists here and there, but as a whole this certainly isn't Monogatari at its most powerful, and as a result it feels like rather a come-down after the superb opening story arc of this series.

Attack on Titan - Episode 22

His pugilistic battle with the mysterious Female Titan over and ending in defeat, Eren is now hostage to said Titan as it looks to make good its escape.

However, you couldn't ask for a more effective duo to give chase here than Levi and Mikasa, and it is indeed these two who find themselves in hot pursuit of this tiring Titan.  Although hoping to kill it seems to be nothing more than folly at this juncture, rescuing Eren remains a possibility, and it's this which becomes their sole objective.  With Levi's speed and abilities, this proves to be a surprisingly simple operation, and after some slashing at the Titan to immobilise it Levi has enough time to slice its jaw open and retrieve Eren before scarpering.

With Eren unconscious but safe, all that remains is for the long journey home to return within the city walls - a difficult journey not because of the danger of a Titan attack at any moment, but because of the opportunity this serves to take stock of the human costs of this failed operation.  As the bodies pile high, for some the lack of a body for their comrades is too much, and the unsanctioned retrieval of a corpse from the mission by a couple of individuals sees the entire group pursued by Titans - a particularly problematic issue as it occurs in an open space, and one that leaves them no choice but to jettison the bodies that they had collected.  This arguably makes the return to the city even more morose, but the mission's failure is set to have even bigger implications for Eren in particular.

Following on from the majesty of recent weeks, it was inevitable that things would have to slow down at some point, and this week's Attack on Titan is that point after a surprisingly quick resolution of last week's cliffhanger.  Couple this with an almost throwaway reveal to set the scene for the final episodes of the series and this could be seen as a frustrating episode, but despite these shortcomings the continuing ability of the series to drive home the human cost of the Titan fight and the effect it has on those involved ensures that the episode has some impact and offers more than just hack and slash action.

Saturday, 7 September 2013

Genshiken Second Season - Episode 10

Hato's perfect disguise has left him confident that he won't be recognised by his former schoolmates during the festival - he has, however, reckoned without his Genshiken colleagues.

Between Kuchiki and Madarame, Hato is all but outed to his two former classmates, and once his former senior Kaminaga is on the scene and his wig is removed... well, the game is well and truly up.  Having witnessed him in this cross-dressing state one of those former classmates, Konno, is distraught that she is somehow responsible for "breaking" Hato, and as the discussion moves somewhere more private the whole story of Hato's school life is revealed.

Despite being an otaku with a passing interest in Boys Love, and in particular Kaminaga's expertly illustrated BL imaginings, Hato was determined to stay out of such interactions - until, that is, some of Kaminaga's illustrations were left unattended in the art room he spent so much time in after school.  Having decided to take a look at these in the bathroom, he returns to find Kanno looking for said pictures and explains the whole thing - a chain of events which ultimately led to Hato being shunned, while the rumour mill soon caught onto his actions, labeling him as gay.  With Kaminaga dating Hato's brother and Hato's cross-dressing often bearing more than a passing similarity to her, there are plenty of complexities to this whole situation, but it seems that if anything Kaminaga (and even Ogiue) can see the attraction of the scenario... in fujoshi terms of course.

In spite of spending a hefty chunk of time in flashback, this was another hugely enjoyable episode of Genshiken Second Season - getting to grips with Hato's past was much-needed, and delivered in an entertaining and suitably heart-felt way, as were the introductions of all of his former school acquaintances.  The episode also found time for a few more laugh out loud moments, with Sue and Madarame in particular ensuring that comedy was (quite literally) just around the corner while other more serious discussion were taking place.  Add to that a zinger of a final line to close the episode, and this series is still firing on all cylinders and then some.

il sole penetra le illusioni ~ Day Break Illusion - Episode 10

Now that Luna has been attacked in her own home Cerebrum, things are about to become nigh-on impossible for our group of magical heroines in this week's Day Break Illusion.

For starters, there's Luna herself, who is sent out to attack her former comrades now that she's becoming a Daemonia.  Although Seira has no qualms about fighting her one-time friend in this new state Akari simply won't have it, and the result of this sees Seira attacked and bitten by Luna in her new form before Akari enables both of them to escape.  With the remains of the other magical girl team attacked by their doppelgangers and with the bite on Seira stripping her of her Elemental Tarot abilities, the group is left decimated in a single night.

As a result, Akari is left to go it alone in fending off the Daemonia night after night, while also trying to come to terms with the loss of her friend and the fact that all and sundry insists that she has to kill Luna if the two are to meet again.  Of course, when this does actually happen, Akari has no intention of killing Luna, and does at least manage to reveal a slither of humanity still left within her friend.  This is of little comfort however, as Cerebrum looks to destroy the academy and coerce Akari into joining his own forces.

Unsurprisingly, this week's Day Break Illusion is again a clunky affair - it's heart is in the right place, but it rushes through its material without giving any of it time to sink in or resonate with the viewer.  The result is an episode where no shortage of "stuff" happens, but it remains impossible to actually care about any of it; a quandry not helped by the half-baked and predictable plot and characterisation.  At this point I'll just be glad to reach the end of this series, as it's a poorly executed affair that deserves to be put out of its misery sooner rather than later.