Thursday, 31 October 2013

Golden Time - Episode 5

Banri's return home has proved to be rather a confusing one for him - spurred on by a seemingly random comment from Linda, a hunt through his old possessions seems to suggest beyond all doubt that she knew him - and was very close to him in fact - before amnesia struck him and his memories.

Not that there's all that much time to digest this possibility, as Koko is as ebullient as ever - indeed, she seems to have struck upon a new vein of positivity as she works hard to get her university life together.  Unfortunately for Banri, that also means unequivocally shooting down his confession with an over-bearing instance that they're simply best friends - a new-found status that she also uses as a stick to beat Mitsuo with at the first available opportunity.

While both Banri and Koko finally join the festival club and go through the motions of enjoying life, underneath it all it's clear that this is a facade for both of them - Koko is still a mass of uncertainty and regret in light of how her relationship with Mitsuo has panned out, while Banri can't shake the constant, nagging worries about why Linda is hiding what she really knows about him as he comes to remember that she is in fact the whole reason he's currently in Tokyo in the first place.

It's taken a little while, but it's finally feeling like we're starting to dig in and explore the depths of some of Golden Time's main characters - yes, Koko's still pretty annoying and decidedly high maintenance for the most part, and Banri's amnesia still feels like a lazy plot device, but both characters seem to be headed in interesting directions in their own right and as a "couple".  If this trend continues, then perhaps we'll start to see the kind of emotionally resonant drama I was hoping for from this series after all.

Galilei Donna - Episode 4

The search for the Galileo Tesoro is on - first stop, Germany!

Upon landing at their desired location, it quickly becomes clear that a park has recently been built over the land where the first clue to this treasure is hidden, which looks likely to make finding it difficult.  In fact, all the girls can find within the park is a homeless man on the scrounge for food, and upon helping him out they learn of his past as a scientist and how he gave up on an incredible medical invention in the wake of his daughter's death.

If all of this seems like some frivolous fluff to fill time then think again, as a shopping trip to buy provisions ends in disaster - while trying to escape from those pesky air pirates once again, a leap of faith to evade them across the rooftops goes badly wrong, leaving Hozuki badly injured.  There's only one person who can save the day, and there's no prizes for guessing who that is...

Although this week's episode of Galilei Donnaworked pretty well as a redemption episode of Kazuki as the situation necessitated her action and allowed for her to be proved useful both to others and, more importantly, herself, boy was this a hokey way of going about it, with the episode literally throwing one of its characters from the top of a building in order to give her something to do.  Hopefully it's the kind of clumsy story-telling which will only be a one-off, as it undermines some of the fun behind the series and detracts from some of its mystery, not least as it relates to Anna.  As a result, I'm still not convinced by the series as a whole, but it still has the potential to shine given the chance.

Kill la Kill - Episode 5

After last week's frivolity, it's back to school for Matoi - but it seems she's being watched through the scope of a sniper, and more to the point by a man named Tsugumu Kinagase.

It soon becomes clear that Kinagase is not someone to be trifled with as he quickly and easily dispatches a Goku Uniform gardening club head without a second though, and the next thing we know he's given Mako a little dose of friendly acupuncture so that he can move on his true objective - getting Matoi out of her uniform.  Of course, Ryuuko is going to do no such thing, although even with her Kamui it seems that she doesn't have the power to stop him either.  One man who does seem to have a rein on Tsumugu is Mikisugi - in fact, it seems that they're a part of the same collective as the latter warns the former off doing anything to Matoi.

This warning seems to have served only as a temporary respite for our heroine however, as the very next day Kinagase is back on her trail, with the appearance of a group of the school's minor clubs only slowing down his rampage slightly.  This time, it appears that there really is no escape for Ryuuko - enter Mako to save the day before Senketsu himself gives their assailant pause for thought, seemingly disproving his assumption that the only purpose of Kamui and the like is to use, abuse and ultimate abandon or kill their owners.

Although I mentioned last week that I felt like I'd be quite happy to simply sit and watch Kill la Kill goofing around in the name of comedy, I have to confess that I was rather impressed by the way this week's episode has built up its story quite effectively.  As a result, we're now starting to get a glimpse of the bigger picture for this crazy world and the various factions (and their goals) within it.  What's more, this episode also succeeded in delivering some genuinely strong character-centric moments to boot, but without losing sight of the lunacy and comedy that makes the series what it is.  If Kill la Kill can continue to balance these elements effectively, then it could well continue to live up to the hype foisted upon it before it began airing.

Nagi no Asukara - Episode 5

It's decision time for Akari as the future of her relationship comes to a head in this week's Nagi no Asukara - mind you, it seems as if the wheels are now well and truly in motion for some of the other romantic entanglements portrayed by the series too.

Most notably, Chisaki has not so much put her foot in it as thrust her entire leg into an open wound, as an impromptu admittance Tsumugu about her feelings toward Hikari are overheard in their entirety by Manaka, who proceeds to run off.  Although the pair seem to carry on as normal, there are clearly some major issues bubbling under the surface here.

As for Akari, she's decided that abandoning her relationship is the best thing for everyone involved in her particular situation - unfortunately though, she seems to have entirely misunderstood Miuna's hostility towards her and the reasons for it, and when the young girl goes missing she's beside herself with worry.  Of all people, it's Hikari once again who shows a surprising bout of maturity as he and his friends search for and find Miura, and ultimately come to understand just why she's so scared of Akari becoming part of her family.

Although I can't help but feel the way in which the love triangle between Manaka and Chisaki as it relates to Hikari was progressed in a rather lazy and predictable fashion, this was otherwise another strong episode of Nagi no Asukara which made good use of the Akari's situation and the feelings of those around her to ultimately deliver some pretty powerful, and rather satisfying, moments.  If the series can keep how it handles the emotional core of its story at this level then that can only be a good thing, although it still hope that it expands further into exploring the world it's set up rather than simply using it as a base for romance and family matter - time will tell in which direction it would rather head, I suspect.

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Coppelion - Episode 5

Now that the rescue of Professor Shiba has been completed, a clean-up operation is beginning of the toxic waste that has been found dumped in the city and all appears to be well - or at least as well as it can be in an irradiated city.

Any such sense of tranquility doesn't last long however, and before we know it a tank has appeared to shoot down one of the modified helicopters charged with cleaning up that toxic waste while Ibara and her comrades find tyre tracks leading to a crash vehicle containing a man and his pregnant daughter.  An already tricky rescue is made more difficult by the appearance of the aforementioned tank, apparently a remnant of the SDF's 1st Division who were also presumed dead in the aftermath of the initial catastrophe which overtook the city.

Whatever their current status, these guys aren't exactly friendly, and thus there's nothing for it but to escape - something which the girls and their newly rescued friends succeed in achieving, but not before Taeko is shot and wounded and the pregnant woman threatens to go into labour.  With the Prime Minister of Japan himself weighing in and telling Ibara that her team's new order is to attack and annihilate the 1st Division, it seems as if assistance won't be arriving quickly - although perhaps it doesn't need to with this latest group of survivors boasting a home known as "the Planet", a massive sphere complete with its own ecosystem and hydroelectric power supply.

At this point in the series, I'm really not sure what Coppelion is setting out to do any more - a lot of its more introspective moments about humanity and human behaviour seems to have been cast aside for (admittedly half-decent) action scenes and (rather less decent) moments of additional world building around Ibara's classmates and some of the unfeasibly complex science and construction that seems to have taken place since the initial disaster.  I really hope that this show has an interesting end goal in mind, but at the moment it feels a little like it's spinning its wheels simply because it can - a situation not helped by the fact that I'm increasingly finding myself wishing that Aoi was the one that had been shot...

Beyond the Boundary - Episode 5

The Hollow Shadow (or whatever it was that attacked the town) might have been defeated, but there's now a new danger for Mirai to face - joining the literature club and its pair of male members who waste no time in proving that they have mastered the art of sexual harassment.

Still, this isn't the only thing of note going on in the lives of the main cast in the wake of the previous episode, as Mirai finds her license as a Spirit World Warrior rescinded for a month due to her foolish actions, and Akihito also gets a telling off which, when coupled with an uncomfortable meeting with a certain someone, only seems to deepen his depression originated from his turning into a youmu at the end of the previous episode.

With her ability to earn money from capturing youmu curtailed by her suspension, Mirai has to go looking elsewhere for work, which ultimately comes courtesy of Mitsuki who allows her to join in and help with her part-time job, although it seems that Mirai is willing to go a little further in her efforts and take on a slightly more salacious role within her workplace.  With a festival impending and Mitsuki fretting about her sense of loneliness on account of her position and heritage, it's surprisingly Mirai that pulls her out of her shell by insisting that she attend said festival with her friends despite Mitsuki's determination not to go.

After the action and drama of the previous episode, this week's Beyond the Boundary was inevitably going to be a quieter, more introspective affair, and so it proved as it made at least some effort to look at the effect of those events and the wider goings-on in the world upon the main cast of characters.  The trouble is, a lot of this effort was overshadowed by the incessant sense of the episode pandering towards its audience.  "Ooh, look at Mirai in glasses being all clumsy and cute! Look at her in a maid outfit!  I bet you'd like to see her naked - maybe you should make a doujinshi about it?"  All of this felt surprisingly overt from a studio that normally at least tries to pretend that it's refraining from such baiting of its audience, and it detracts from a show that doesn't have a strong enough story to overpower such elements in the first place.

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

White Album 2 - Episode 4

With the main trio of their new band now assembled, it's time for the real hard work to begin for the light music club with the school festival fast approaching.

Luckily for Haruki, Touma is both a decent teacher and an incredibly hard taskmaster who simply refuses to give up as her new club-mate fumbles over the same parts of the song over and over again - indeed, quite a rapport seems to be building between them, to the point where Haruki is quite happy to spend most of his waking hours practicing at Touma's house; a fact that they're both keeping secret from the other club members.

Such are Touma's organisational skills that she also quickly whips the rest of the club into shape too, sending Takuya to work on backing tracks (as they don't have enough members to perform all of the required roles live) and organising a full get-together for the group while concerns about how Setsuna will perform in front of an audience will be left for another day.  Everything is going so smoothly that the group are ready to embark upon learning a second song for the festival... but are these relations about to be set ablaze by a simple toothbrush?

So, here we are, finally entering what looks set to be a phase of the kind of drama you'd expect from a visual novel adaptation such as this.  It arrives at just about the right time too you could argue, with its focus on Haruki and Touma's practice sessions taking up a little too much time for too little pay-off, having reached a point where its just about built up its character relationships enough but could probably have done a better job of going so in the grand scheme of things.  In short then, it's make or break for White Album 2, as this is the point where it can mark itself out as something a little more memorable than it's proved to be so far.

Monday, 28 October 2013

Space Brothers - Episode 79

Is this the end of the road for Hibito's career in space?  It certainly seems that way as he received the fateful call to return to the US and NASA with his rehabilitation still very much incomplete.

Much to the frustration of Ivan, there's nothing he or his higher-ups can suggest to prevent Hibito's departure, and it goes without saying that Olga isn't exactly thrilled to learn that he'll be leaving either - in fact, she's downright devastated, especially given that she was gearing up for her next "date" with him.

Single-minded girl that she is, the tearful Olga drags out from confinement in her bedroom to meet Hibito one more time, offering him the second half of the DVD compilation showing her rise to ballet stardom, while walking with him and discussing Gagarin amongst other things.  Perhaps these are all elements which can help Hibito to focus and overcome his problem on his own terms, before it's too late for his career?

Given that I haven't particular bought into any potential romance between Hibito and Olga (even ignoring her age for a moment), I'm not sure that this was really how I wanted this aspect of the show's plot to end - hopefully it can build this into a more compelling aspect of Hibito's rehabilitation, but at this point it felt rather arbitrary and a bit of a damp squib to his trip to Russia after some decent build-up in places.  Still, maybe a return to see what's going on with NASA is exactly what the series needs, if only to keep us away from more awkward Russian stereotyping for a while.

Little Busters! Refrain - Episode 4

Kurugaya seems to have vanished without a trace, but it's some of her parting words that are playing on Riki's mind as this week's Little Busters! Refrain begins - a demand that he look after Rin.

This request is brought into relief yet further by a stalker of Naoe revealing herself before dealing him an impromptu confession to ponder.  Happy though he is to find a cute girl telling him that she loves him, all he can think about in the aftermath of this confession is Rin...could this mean that his romantic feelings are, in fact, dedicated to her?  This seems to be further cemented by Riki's sense of concern when Kyousuke tells him that a boy confessed to Rin not so long ago before being promptly shot down, but while Naoe spends his time fretting it seems that the object of all that worry has no such qualms and straightforwardly suggests that they should start going out.  Well, that's that then, I suppose.

With that agreed upon, all that remains is for the pair to tell all of their friends, all of whom are happy for this new couple, albeit tinged with a little regret and jealousy here and there.  It's Kyousuke's reaction and subsequent actions which garner the most interest, as there is clearly more to this actions, responses and knowledge than meets the eye.  With cat-cum-messenger delivering Riki and Rin a supposedly final task to handle however, perhaps all of these elements are finally coming together.

In spite of some pretty hefty tonal shifts throughout this episode of Little Busters, it actually worked pretty well - its foreshadowing is blatant but offset pretty well by a continued sense of mystery, and Riki and Rin's relationship just about manages to come off as feeling like something that would actually come about rather than purely being foisted upon them by the show's narrative requirements.  I'm still not enjoying this series anything like as much as other Key visual novel adaptations, but I have to admit that my curiosity on where this show is headed has been well and truly piqued by this point.

Arpeggio of Blue Steel: Ars Nova - Episode 4

Although it had hardly been a happy homecoming for Chihaya and his crew in the first place, things look set to become a whole lot more uncomfortable as the port of Yokosuka finds itself the subject of a concerted attack by a pair of Fog battleships.

This deadly duo, known as Haruna and Kirishima to Iori, have no qualms about laying waste to everything that they see before them, and with the I-401's supergravity cannon still out of commission and ammunition in short supply as a whole it seems almost suicidal for this single submarine to take on two opponents in a face-off where it's outgunned and outnumbered.

However, Gunzou has no shortage of tricks up his sleeves, most of which come from the fact that this is "home soil" for him and his crew - thus, they use the now-sunken and ruined city of old Yokosuka below the sea as the starting point for an assault that allows them to hide themselves and deploy semi-automated torpedoes.  Although this is small fry to their opponents, it does give them enough trouble to send Kirishima into a rage - with the two battleships combining to use what they expect to be their final attack, literally dragging the I-401 out of the water as they prepare to obliterate it with their supergravity cannon, this offers up exactly the sort of opportunity to deal a surprise final blow that Gunzou has been waiting for.

As per my comments on episode two, this is further evidence of what Arpeggio of Blue Steel does best - never mind that whole "plot" malarkey, just give us a 3D CG-rendered game of battleships filled with tactics, strategy and lots of things blowing up and I'll be more than happy.  This proved to be another hugely enjoyable and occasionally thrilling ride that makes good use of the show's scenario to deliver the goods, while also fitting perfectly with the aesthetic Sanzigen has to offer.  This isn't going to be the kind of series we're talking about for years to come (apart from its use of CG, perhaps), but boy is it great fun to watch when it provides material like this, techno-babble, crazy weapons and all.

Monogatari Second Season - Episode 17

It's time for Shinobu to take centre stage once again - well, not that she truly arrives until late in this episode, but then again this instalment also promises a journey four hundred years into her past but we haven't quite arrive there yet either.

Anyhow, our real focus for much of this episode sees Koyomi spending some time with Hachikuji, and more specifically seeking to return her backpack after his misadventure to try and save her life in a previous story arc.  With the backpack safely in Mayoi's possession however, the pair of them see something unusual.  Rather, they don't see anything unusual, which is why they know they've just seen something unusual.

With this invisible something made from nothing giving chase, there's nothing for it than to try to escape by bicycle - something which proves first difficult, then impossible.  Luckily for Araragi, Ononoki is there to save the day, rescuing the pair of them before leaving them to their own devices, albeit not before providing Koyomi with an interesting and thought-provoking parting "gift".  None of this serves to answer the question as to what Araragi and Hachikuji had just experienced was though, and it's left to Shinobu to deliver at least part of the answer to this question.

This was another episode of Monogatari that served to remind me of everything that I truly love about this series - its superb one-liners and quips, its insane concepts that somehow slot naturally into its world, and a characters that fizz and jump out at you even when they're being irredeemably lecherous.  I laughed throughout, and I want to know more about where this story arc is headed, which is exactly what I ask for week after week from a series such as this one, and boy does it deliver when it's on this kind of form.

Golden Time - Episode 4

Linda and her festival club's appearance ensured that Kaga and Banri were saved from the perils of the religious cult into which they have stumbled, but have either of them learned anything about pouring their hearts out to one another in the wake of that disastrous "club trip".

Well, no, it seems - having sent Kaga a text to find out whether she was okay during that incident, it seems that Mitsuo has now unleashed the worst excesses of his childhood friend upon himself once again.  It's a situation made worse by the presence of Chinami Oka, who gets venom spewed at her by Koko until Mitsuo says enough is enough and storms off with Chinami in tow.  It seems that even Koko has realised that she overstepped the mark big time; not that this seems to stop her over-bearing pursuit of Mitsuo...

While Banri and Kaga look into joining the festival club (spurring some moments which almost seem about to jog the former's lost memories for a moment), Koko's relationship with Mitsuo ultimately comes to a head on both sides, with Mitsuo looking to state his intention to date Chinami while Koko... well, you can guess.  Banri also finds himself towed along to see this showdown where things naturally don't go well, with a tearful Kaga seeking to go off the rails having been rejected by Mitsuo by going to a NANA concert (no, really) and acting up before being kicked out of the club.  Mind you, it seems like none of this has diminished Kaga in our protagonist's eyes.

Golden Time at this point is very much a series of two halves - on the one hand it's chock full of forced, overbearing and frankly quite stupid drama which has been shoe-horned into the plot to provide something for the characters to bounce off, yet on the other I'm not convinced that it actually needs to manufacture this drama as its most powerful moments come organically from the clashes between Koko and Mitsuo, and then later the interactions between Tada and Koko.  If only there was a more thoughtful structure to the series to mesh those standout moments together rather than the soap opera currently on show, then this series would be substantially more enjoyable than it is.

Friday, 25 October 2013

Samurai Flamenco - Episode 3

Samurai Flamenco is becoming a YouTube sensation, and as you might expect this quickly starts to cause some issues for Hazama when it comes to preserving the secret of his true identity.

Most pressing of these issues is Ishihara, who is beginning to have very definite suspicions about what her charge is up to, even though he dnies outright to her face (and her death threats) that he isn't Samurai Flamenco.  To make things worse, there's now a one million Yen "bounty" on this not-so superheroes head, available to anyone who names the man himself.  When Hazama is invited onto a show that's all set to discuss Samurai Flamenco, and then announces that they're about to name and reveal him live on television, he begins to fear the worse...

...imagine his surprise then when a former super sentai actor, and the man behind the mask of Red Axe, who Hazama adores, reveals himself to be the rather unlikely (and decidedly violent) claimant of the Samurai Flamenco name, even taking the hefty rewarding and offering to donate it to charity.  Although Hazama considers keeping quiet and simply letting the torch be handed over to this man, Joji Kaname, Goto is having none of it; thus, Hazama ends up in a behind the scenes showdown with Kaname to duke it out for the right to call himself Samurai Flamenco.  No prizes for guessing who wins, of course, even if it's achieved with heart rather than hands.

If nothing else, Samurai Flamenco is still pretty fun to watch - its cast works well, it provides some very well executed moments of comedy, and the grounded nature of its take on superheroes and the like still feels pretty fresh.  However, I do have to question how long it can continue down this path however, as it feels like a more seismic shift is required of the series sooner rather than later if it hopes to stay the course, especially across almost twenty more episodes.  There is clearly a lot still to be revealed and moved forward, but now seems like the time for the show to pick up the pace rather than luxuriating in its current circumstances for too much longer.

Thursday, 24 October 2013

Nagi no Asukara - Episode 4

As if Akari's romantic entanglement with someone from the land wasn't tough enough, we now learn that the man in question has a daughter of his own, which only succeeds in further inflaming Hikari's ire.

However, and perhaps surprisingly for him, rather than take action at the behest of said daughter and her friend, he chooses to simply walk away.  Unfortunately, this isn't a habitual reaction for our protagonist, and as the spectre of bullying once again raises its head at school it doesn't take long for him to snap - although he manages to remain restrained when a cooking lesson ends with Manaka pushed to the ground, discovering that the Ojoshi the group has been working on is ruined pushes him over the edge, and he attacks the assumed culprits with extreme prejudice.

Having been sent home for his efforts (and with Manaka following stubbornly in his wake), Chisaki discovers the true culprit of this particular event and finds herself determined to protect Hikari from further trouble by hiding it despite others knowing better than to do so.  Ultimately, this act of vandalism ties back in to Akari's relationship, as we discover when her boyfriend almost drowns trying to pay her a visit under the sea only to be saved by Hikari, while Akari herself talks of her own feelings as they developed over time.  In the aftermath of all of this, and Hikari coming to discover the true Ojoshi vandal (or so he thinks, anyway), he begins to question whether he's still protecting Manaka or whether it is in fact the other way around.

As I mentioned after last week's episode, I remain a little torn about Nagi no Asukara - I love its setting but still don't feel its being used to its fullest extent (most of the drama here could be provided without the undersea versus land-dwellers premise), and find myself occasionally frustrated by the simply nature of the show's drama and how elements of it spring up and resolve, before reminding myself that this is a series about a group of kids for the most part and that this is basically how things tend to pan out when you're that age.  One area where I am definitely mellowing is in my feelings towards Hikari - I'm really rather starting to like his character and specifically the way its developing and maturing, and he now feels like an interesting focal point for proceedings rather than an overblown cipher for any drama.  I'm still not entirely convinced that Nagi no Asukara has enough going for it to fill out twenty-six episodes, but it's providing me with enough entertainment for me to enjoy watching it at present.

Kill la Kill - Episode 4

Does Senketsu come with washing instructions?  Can he be tumble dried?  Is he suitable for ironing?  So many important questions that we have to face as this week's Kill la Kill begins.

Unfortunately, it seems that Mako's mother has little concerns about such things, and thus Matoi awakens to find Senketsu being thoroughly washed, meaning that there's nothing for it than to for her to go to school in her pyjamas.  She couldn't have picked a worse day to do so either, as today is "No-Late" day, a once a term test to toughen up the academy's no-star students by setting a plethora of traps for them on their way to school and ensuring that anyone who doesn't arrive at school on time is expelled.

As if this wasn't tricky enough, Matoi soon picks up another straggler alongside Mako; Maiko, who appears to suffering from a broken arm.  Despite being Kamui-less, Matoi is determined to make it through the seemingly endless traps in her path, while Mako's family have some... err, "issue" of another kind trying to delivery Matoi's uniform back to her.  One hijacked bus later, we learn that Maiko isn't quite who she seems, bringing yet more challenges to our protagonist's proverbial doorstep.

In largely jettisoning any wider, over-arching storylines, this week's Kill la Kill was pure madcap comedy... and you know, I think I prefer it that way.  Even though its animation quality threatened to be eclipsed by even Teekyu at times, its energetic humour shone through from beginning to end, and yet more overbearing lashing of fan service aside it sported a whole bundle of laugh out loud moments to make this my favourite episode of the series thus far.  No doubt we'll be returning to more serious fare (and I use that term very loosely) next week, but I really hope we get some more asides such as this out of the remainder of the series as the entire show seems perfectly placed to have fun and be silly, perhaps more than it is to throw any action or drama our way.

Galilei Donna - Episode 3

The Ferrari sisters have escaped their pursuers for the time being, and their father is also on the run, but it seems that their mother hasn't been quite so luckily...

We learn this as the true face of the family's nemesis becomes clear - outwardly, they're a respectable company named Adni Moon, but beneath that businesslike exterior resides their darker face, Messier, a group responsible for attacks on methane hydrate sites around the world (which they then conveniently blame on sky pirates), and perhaps more importantly the true force currently on the hunt for the Galileo Tesoro.  With Sylvia Ferrari in their grasp, now suffering from amnesia but still with all of her technical knowledge intact, it's her daughters that are now firmly in the focus of Messier.

Not that this is an immediate concern to the three sisters, as they continue to travel as far from home as possible using Hozuki's goldfish craft - while the other "residents" of the ship seem to have quickly come to terms with the situation, Kazuki is a notable exception as she laments her situation and seems to continue to harbour quite the grudge against her younger sister's ability.  When Messier come calling with a mech of their own, it's Kazuki who is immediately ready to give up the first clue they hold to the Tesoro's whereabouts, but thanks to some help from an unexpected source it seems that the game is not yet up for the Ferrari sisters and Anna Hendrix.

I still have no idea what the ultimate goals of Galilei Donna are even now we're three episodes in, but in fairness I am starting to warm to the series - it's building at least some of its characters in interesting ways and its core premise (which is effectively a treasure hunt) is appealing to me for reasons I can't quite discern, especially when complemented with some of the show's crazy technology.  This still feels like a series that could go either way in terms of its narrative quality and entertainment value, but hopefully Galilei Donna will start to show its hand more explicitly over the next episode or two, which could be a make of break moment for how it ultimately pans out.

Coppelion - Episode 4

Trained in combat or not, most people would leave an escaping stealth bomber well alone - not so Ibara and company, who are keen to give chase against the mysterious individuals who landed said bomber in the middle of the city.

Then again, when you have a guided rocket launcher to hand, maybe chasing after the bomber in a jeep isn't such a crazy idea - cue the obligatory (but really rather awesome) chase sequence as hunter becomes hunted thanks to the aircraft's maneuverability, before a little tactical thinking on Ibara's part gives her the opportunity she needs to hit the bomber squarely where it hurts with a rocket.

Rather than crash down in flames however, the aircraft still has enough speed, altitude and control to head for a nearby stretch of water in the middle of a particularly contaminated zone - ditching the professor for his own safety, the girls give chase but fail to reach the bomber before its occupants have abandoned it and fled.  What they do discover, however, is that this speedboat lake has become a massive dumping ground for chemical waste, seemingly left there illegally by the Japanese firm tasked with safely disposing of such waste.  This knowledge seems to be the tipping point for the professor, who goes away and removes his mask to die; a decision that the girls simply won't accept, leaving them with a race against time to get him to help before it's too late.

Although I know that Coppelion has bigger fish to fry than lots of high-octane action, I'm starting to wish it would service that side of its possibilities a little more often, as it's jeep chase sequence was incredibly satisfying to watch and rather slickly executed.  Once that was over, we returned to the harsh realities of predictable story development and reasonably ideas executed in a sub-par fashion - never mind the logic of giving someone exactly ten minutes to live, at least make full use of the tension created by that situation instead of cutting your pivotal scene at its climax in a way which drains a lot of that tension disappointingly.  Then again, I am still enjoying the show's environments and the general disposition and reactions of its female cast, so it isn't all bad - it just isn't the kind of fascinating series that something of this ilk should be at the moment.

Beyond the Boundary - Episode 4

Despite all advice to the contrary, Mirai has headed off alone to defeat the Hollow Shadow - luckily for her she isn't entirely alone, as inevitably Akihito has taken it upon himself to follow her.

Although he manages to save Mirai from her immediate fate and an unexpected enemy, escaping the clutches of the Hollow Shadow itself is another matter entirely, and it's a problem which only becomes more complicated once the pair find themselves tossed into some surreal dream world while still being chased by Sakura Inami, the sister of the girl that Mirai purportedly "killed", Yui.

Of course, given that this dream world is most likely feeding off Mirai's deepest, darkest fears, it's really up to her to win over her own subconscious first and foremost, and in the wake of this it seems that the day has been won... until the Hollow Shadow takes over Kanbara's body, forcing Mirai to attack and stab her friend to both save him and defeat the enemy.  With this done however, we get to see that Akihito is far from normal himself, and just like Kuriyama's own secret Akihito's "true" form is a decidedly deadly one...

Having failed to catch my eye with its opening three episodes, this at last felt like an interesting instalment of Beyond the Boundary - its comedy was pitched and timed better to offset some decent (if rather predictable) action, and some nicely timed twists and turns to keep the story moving and also set up what looks to be a wider narrative for the show to pursue moving forward.  It isn't enough to shift my opinion on this series entirely, and I suspect it'll fall back into its old ways again next week, but this is at least an encouraging example of what this series can do when its planets align and it puts its mind to it.

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Monogatari Second Season - Episode 16

With Nadeko's story arc not at all resolved but put on the back burner until a later date, it's back to the recap episodes for this episode of Monogatari Second Season.

More precisely, this episode takes us back through the events of Nisemonogatri at break-neck speed - something which still doesn't really suit this series where the execution is usually more entertaining than the pay-off.  Still, if you wanted to see Shinobu and Koyomi naked in the bath together again then you can do so just fine - oh, there's also the whole storyline regarding Kaiki and the revelations surrounding Tsukihi to take in again here too.

No tooth-brushing to be found here though, unless I dozed off and missed it.  A real travesty, I tell you.

Anyway, with another recap out of the way, it's back to the series proper again for episode seventeen!

Arpeggio of Blue Steel: Ars Nova - Episode 3

With Takao defeated in impressive fashion, the I-401 and her crew can continue onto their destination, which marks a return home for Gunzou and company as they dock in the port of Yokosuka, now impressively fortified to protect against the Fog.

With the resupply of food and munitions underway, but the supergravity cannon beyond repair with the materials currently at their disposal, Chihaya leaves the rest of his crew to it to visit a naval graveyard with Iona.  Whilst there, they bump into a young girl who seems to have rather unusually piqued the mental model's interest, but they and the rest of the I-401's crew soon meet a rather less friendly stranger... a group of strangers who seem to want to invite the crew to dinner.  At gunpoint.

All of this is at the behest of an admiral turned prominent politician, and it doesn't take a genius to figure out what he wants - to take control of the I-401 away from Gunzou; partly to use it in the fight against the Fog himself, and partly from fear of what might happen were Iona to defect and return to the Fog's side once again.  This isn't exactly the kind of thing Gunzou is likely to agree to, and any thoughts about forcing the matter are interrupted by a Fog attack, which in turn allows Iona to turn the tables on the crew's captors.  Thus, it's off to another battle we go, while in the meantime Takao is now yearning for a certain captain and Iona's counterparts I-400 and I-402 are on the hunt for the information...

Following last week's superb slice of action and tactical naval battles, it was inevitable that we had to return to the story, and probably equally inevitable that said story was all rather predictable as Gunzou finds himself troubled by human opposition as the rest of the plot rearranges itself to provide what is hopefully more of that aforementioned top-notch action.  If we can continue to move between plot progression and engaging naval battles, I'm sure I can forgive some mediocre attempts at the former in return for scintillating moments of the latter.

White Album 2 - Episode 3

The mystery pianist has been revealed, and it's none other than the girl who sits right next to Haruki in class!

Indeed, perhaps more notable here is that the girl in question, Kazusa Touma, is in fact a long-standing friend of Haruki's - or perhaps we should say was a long-standing friend, as they don't really talk much these days.  Despite being the girl who taught him to play guitar in the first place however, Touma isn't slow in stating that she has absolutely no desire whatsoever to play alongside Haruki in the light music club; not that he seems capable of taking no for an answer.

Enter Ogiso into the fray, who seems to have picked up the same sense of determination somewhere along the line as she begins her own campaign to convince Kazusa, taking her out for a drink to try and figure out her reluctance to join the club, then inviting both Touma and Kitahara to a home-cooked meal at her house in the hope of them talking things out and coming to an agreement.  When Setsuna's family, and her father in particular, become involved in their daughter's desire to join the club we soon get to see why she's so keen to make some friends and do something different, and it's this above all else that proves to be the key to changing Touma's mind...

Now that we have all three of our main characters established, it certainly doesn't look like White Album 2 is going to blaze any new trails by any stretch of the imagination - still, it's pleasant to look at and pleasant to watch for the most part even when some of its humorous moments miss by a country mile, ensuring that it keeps its place as an unremarkable piece of inoffensive entertainment.  I realise this is damning with faint praise, and that is perhaps the point - while its predecessor at least had an interesting era and ideas to work with, this is a decidedly run-of-the-mill visual novel adaptation that shows no signs of breaking out of those shackles.

Little Busters! Refrain - Episode 3

What looked like a case of déjà vu on Riki's part has now escalated far beyond that, as he finds himself reliving the 20th of June over and over and over again - a series of events that led to me suffering from brief flashbacks to Endless Eight.

Although most of those around him seem to have no recollection of previous instances of the same day, Kurugaya also seems to be experiencing the same effect - not that she appears to be bothered by it as Naoe is; indeed, she almost seems to revel in it as she seeks to keep hold of her memories of the fireworks of that night.

Things are only getting stranger and stranger for Naoe however - first, he experiences snowfall in the middle of summer, then finds himself unable to wake his friends or even locate Kyousuke, all the while suffering from a nagging feeling that something important has been forgotten.  Eventually, he stumbles upon Kurugaya once again, and the truth is revealed - to never move on from the happiest day of her life is simply Kurugaya's dream, and somehow Riki has been pulled into it.  This allows us some insight into Kurugaya's past, exploring her childhood as a genius in both academics and athletics that led to her being viewed as aloof and thus shunned by those around her - until the Little Busters came along, of course.  Having experienced so much, and ultimately experienced love, for the first time, Kurugaya is ready to move on.  But to where?

As a finale to the current arc, this episode of Little Busters is really as proficient as you could ask of it - slightly touching but perhaps not as much as it hoped to be, and capable of exhibiting its "time loop" plot device in a way that made its point without becoming overly repetitive.  Taken as a whole though, this conclusion leaves a lot more questions than it answers - a state of affairs which hopefully bodes well for the rest of the series as I'm actually curious to piece together where it's headed, and curiosity isn't something I can say I've boasted before while watching this series.

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Space Brothers - Episode 78

Hibichov... err, Hibito... has seen Olga's clumsy first steps into ballet, followed by the finished product and rising star that she is now.  But how did she come to reach these heights of her talent?

It's something for Hibito to ponder as he finds Olga hanging out with him, heading out on a "date" with him where he ends up buying her coffee and boots.  Unfortunately, her father won't divulge part two of the "Olga story" on DVD, leaving him guessing - not that he really has time for such things as thoughts return to his rehabilitation.  To that end, Ivan seems to have come up with a fun but decidedly odd system to slowly but surely cure Hibito of his panic disorder, starting out with sunglasses and moving onwards and upwards towards a final goal of wearing that pressure suit once more.

Unfortunately, it seems that this might not be the best moment to start a slow and gradual spell of rehabilitation, as the higher-ups at NASA have caught wind of Hibito's problem and have no patience in waiting for a resolution to it.  Instead, they send news of Hibito's issue and their recommendations to JAXA, with a view towards pushing the astronaut sideways into a dead-end "safety advisor" job; effectively giving him the boot in a way that won't cause a public outcry given their subject's popularity in the media.

For all of my frustrations with recent episodes of Space Brothers, this felt like a return to more solid fare - daft though Ivan's plan for Hibito is it has at least brought a solution to his issues into focus, and the new pressures of NASA's actions have brought some much needed tension in the midst of that levity.  Once again, I'm interested to see where this story arc is heading, and that's most certainly good news.

Golden Time - Episode 3

Having had her complaints about being left alone with nobody to talk to at university heard, Koko has herself a club to join thanks to Banri, and without further ado it's time to set off on what promises to be an enjoyable club getaway with both new and existing members of this vague but intriguing outfit.

However, the reason for the lack of clarity surrounding this club quickly becomes clear, as the new prospective members are picked up, bundled into vans, asked quite forcibly to write down all of their contact details and then driven into the middle of nowhere.  When the religious proselytizing begins, Koko and Tada's mistake becomes clear - they're inadvertently signed up for a religious cult.

With seemingly no way out, it's Banri who takes the initiative, making use of other prospective members discontent to become (ironically) a martyr for them by expressing his deep interest in the group and suggesting that the other heathens be allowed to leave.  As plans go, this works perfectly as the group agrees to his suggestion - the trouble is, his real motivation for doing this is to let Kaga escape, and she's the one person who ultimately refuses to leave him alone.  Thus, a more drastic escape plan is required, which ultimately leaves our two lead characters in the middle of a forest with no phone signal, and nothing to do but discuss their pasts - or lack of, in Banri's case.  The result is a discussion that should bring the two closer, were it not for the fact that Koko is still so obsessed with Mitsuo.

For a show that already sports a girl obsessively in love with someone who doesn't want to reciprocate and an amnesiac, I suppose I shouldn't be surprised to see Golden Time throwing them both into the midst of a religious cult in the name of plot development.  It's surprisingly heavy-handed stuff and its a scenario which stretches the show's already thin credibility, but the lead characters still just about manage to keep it on track by the skin of their teeth - memory loss or not Banri is a likeable fellow, and Koko's eventual honesty and small but noticeable hidden depths keeps things interesting on her side of the fence.  Whether this will be enough to build from and create something more memorable than we're currently witnessing remains to be seen, but I'm hopefully that these are simply some clumsy first steps towards something more impressive.

Galilei Donna - Episode 2

When it comes to conflict resolution, it's hard to beat a flying, mechanised goldfish, and thanks to Hozuki any immediate threat to her family has been well and truly been quelled, damage to the family home and surroundings be damned.

Indeed, the rest of the Ferrari family are beyond impressed with both Hozuki's guts and her engineering ability as they quiz her on the origins of her machine - all, that is, aside from Kazuki, who doesn't seem too taken with the craft's aesthetic.  With the police now on the scene, all is now well again... or is it?  While a mysterious woman introduces herself to Hozuki as hardcore Galileo fan Anna Hendrix, the rest of her family are being held at gunpoint and taken to the local station, which is clearly nothing to do with hunting down those responsible for the previous events.

Its left to Anna to fill us in here, as she discusses her discovery of some information surrounding something known as the Galileo Tesoro, which is seems is related to the inheritance of which everyone speaks.  As it's revealed that the hunt for the Tesoro has taken in big business, the police and sky pirates, it becomes clear that Hozuki's parents and siblings are in danger, and only she has the technology required to bust them out of their incarceration.

Having rolled with the first episode, I'm really not too sure what to make of Galilei Donna as of this second instalment. It certainly has its moments (be they goldfish mecha or the Ferrari family kicking ass in their own unique ways), but the plot to this point feels contrived and willfully clumsy to prop up its narrative.  If the series can settle down and get into a groove then perhaps it can offer up something interesting, but for now it feels a little like a collection of hastily assembled ideas that all sound cool in isolation but don't come together to form a coherent whole.  Hopefully somebody can bring along some plot glue in episode three to stick everything together...

Monday, 21 October 2013

Kill la Kill - Episode 3

This third episode of Kill la Kill begins by offering us a rare moment to get into the head of antagonist Satsuki Kiryuin - or at least it lets us see the object of her desires, a garment which seems not entirely dissimilar to that discovered and sported by Matoi, and a piece of clothing promised to Satsuki as the head of the family upon her marriage.

Meanwhile, Matoi herself is looking to find out a little more about her own outfit Senketsu, and her obvious target to ply for information is her teacher Mikisugi.  Reticent though he initially seems to give too much away, he eventually folds and explains the source of Senketsu's powers, and indeed the powers of the school's Goku uniforms.  Effectively, these powers come from so-called "Life Fibres", and while Goku uniforms contain ten to twenty percent of these fibres for one and two-star uniforms respectively, Kamui such as Senketsu are made of nothing but Life Fibres.  However, this kind of concentrated awesomeness is too much for some, as failed experiments of the past has proven.

It is perhaps this reason that Kiryuin has been kept from donning her own Kamui in the past, but having seen what Matoi is capable of she is in no mood to be beaten to the punch, proverbially or literally - as a result, she storms in and dons Junketsu, her own Kamui before proceeding to show Matoi how it's really done.  For her part, it seems that Matoi's embarrassment over her revealing outfit as actually prevented her from learning the true extent of Senketsu's powers, meaning that her only chance to survive and potentially emerge victorious is to discard her shame... and even more of her clothing.

As increasingly silly and borderline exploitative this show's fan service and ever-more revealing outfits are becoming, Kill la Kill remains a lot of fun at this juncture - wonderfully energetic, effortlessly funny when it needs to be and with crazy action that mostly looks fantastic alongside all of its other insane elements.  My biggest worry now is that with its lead characters powered up significantly (transformation sequences and all) and the promise of a requirement for Matoi to beat the school's various club captains is that we're either going to end up with a lot of mismatched battles or a lot of "opponent of the week" fare.  Given how the series has progressed so far however, anything could happen in the next episode... and probably will.

Thursday, 17 October 2013

Samurai Flamenco - Episode 2

Humble though his beginnings might be, but Samurai Flamenco is continuing to fight against evil as best he knows how... even if this knowledge is limiting him to telling people not to put out their rubbish at the wrong time amongst other things.

No matter how pure his motivations, it seems as if a lot of people are getting the wrong idea about what Samurai Flamenco is up to in some shape or form, causing police complaints to pile up, in turn giving Goto something of a headache as he ponders what to do about the situation.  In the meantime, we're introduced to Hazama's rather fierce manager Ishihara, and also get to see Hazama taking on a job outside of his normal modelling comfort zone - a job that sees him grab the interest of an upcoming idol when she catches him quietly singing the theme tune to one of his favourite superhero shows.

As the complaints against "that weird guy with the tights" continue to build, Goto has no choice but to pull his new-found friend to one side and ask him to cool his "performances" as Samurai Flamenco for a while - a request that falls on deaf ears, of course.  While Goto again suggests that fighting against such tiny "crimes" is pointless, Hazama recounts the story of the time as a child when he took a classmates umbrella and the consequences of that act as a formative moment in his life - and whaddya know, it seems that someone has pinched Goto's umbrella as he goes to leave the restaurant with Hazama.  The result is another moment in the limelight for Samurai Flamenco as the video of him retrieving the umbrella goes viral online.

Let's get the big negative about this week's Samurai Flamenco out of the way first - the whole umbrella thing was a pretty daft and tortured way of moving the episode and this series forward in the way that it wanted to progress, and even considering the show's premise it felt incredibly cheesy.  Luckily, this arguably lazy decision didn't impact too heavily on what was otherwise a hugely entertaining episode - clearly this show needs to head in some different directions before its current ideas become stale, but there was a lot of fun to be had watching Hazama flapping around in and out of costume, while his interactions with Goto work better than they probably should.  I'm a bit worried that the series will end up becoming predictable, but at the moment I'm still very much enjoying it.

Nagi no Asukara - Episode 3

Hikari's sister is in hot water (with no pun intended) now that her relationship with a boy from the surface has been discovered - as she's lectured by the elders, is she prepared to give up on her under-sea life, or instead abandon her love?

Inevitably, Hikari isn't exactly the type to leave well alone as this scenario pans out, and after a "strategy meeting" which ends up with him hearing Manaka pondering her feelings towards Tsumugu he decides there's only one way to resolve his sister's problem - to punch out the guy responsible for the whole thing.

Although it takes a while to track him down and catch him, Hikari eventually corners the man in question - fortunately (or unfortunately) this actually happens right outside Tsumugu's family home, which leads to a further discussion around why the law about someone from the sea being banished if they marry someone from the land even exists.  Not that this is enough to stop Hikari using his fists with extreme prejudice, mind you.  Ultimately, it seems as if Akari has given up on pursuing her love, once again acting selflessly in order to support those around her - something which doesn't fill Hikari with much happiness either, although his relationship with Kihara at least seems to have settled down into something resembling a friendship, albeit one tinged with jealousy.

I really wasn't convinced at first, but I'm beginning to come to enjoy Nagi no Asukara - I'm a little torn on my feelings towards Hikari as a character and protagonist, but he seems like a pretty well-rounded and fleshed out individual who works well in terms of keeping the story moving, and those around him are equally interesting to watch as they grow and develop their relationships.  Its "people who live under the sea" concept still feels a bit gimmicky in the grand scheme of things, but if it can keep this decent blend of drama and comedy coming then I don't really mind at all.

Coppelion - Episode 3

The events of the previous episode are clearly still resounding with Ibara as this third instalment of Coppelion begins - there's little time to fret over those events however, as another mission quickly comes their way.

Put simply, the trio's latest task is to find the "delivery man" who has been bringing aid to numerous survivors within this post-apocalyptic wasteland, and with the group having found a car key seemingly linked to these deliveries it doesn't take long to track out the owners.  As our group of "heroines" and this hero in his own right share information, the girls' superior gets to the bottom of this man's identity and his important to them - in short, he's the scientist around which this entire disaster ultimately revolved.

This is all of secondary important to Ibara and company however, as their primary task is to rescue the final survivor that had been receiving aid from this man, although it soon also becomes clear to all concerned that their second objective is to bring the "delivery man" into custody to face the music.  As the girls search for the missing "granny" however, other forces come into place - forces with a stealth bomber at their disposal, and a desire to forcibly silence anyone who spots their activities.  Could this bomber be related to the "Zones" of rising radiation that seem to be cropping up without warning around the city?

Much like last week's episode, there's some very forced drama and social commentary placed up-front and centre in this week's Coppelion - putting a scientist at least somewhat responsible for this disaster in the spotlight and asking how much responsibility he should take for his part in it, and making some pointed commentary about Japan's elderly populace and how they are viewed by younger generations.  Unlike last week's episode however, none of these points really felt polished enough to garner anything more than simply acknowledgement of their existence - they didn't move me or make me think, beyond a suspicion that some increasingly silly things are going to start cropping up in the series.  Coppelion can still bring to bear some decent action and ideas here and there, but that might not be enough if its broader narrative starts to head in the wrong direction.

White Album 2 - Episode 2

Haruki's usual impromptu duet with a pianist in the adjoining music room has suddenly been complemented by some unknown vocalist with a beautiful voice - you can hardy blame him, then, for rushing to the rooftop to find its source.

Of course, we could already have guessed who the owner of that voice would be - none other than Setsuna Ogiso.  Despite his better judgement, he asks her to join the light music club with the school festival coming ever closer, and of course the following morning she rejects his offer - a rejection made worse by Haruki's friends assuming it was a rejection of a more personal kind.

This isn't where the story ends however, as Ogiso's love of singing if far-reaching indeed, and her initial, wavering rejection soon crumbles, perhaps helped on a little by Haruki noticing his potential bandmate dressed frumpily and working in secret in a local shop.  After taking him out to karaoke so that she can strut her stuff, Setsuna agrees to join the club - the trouble is, she does so under the assumption that the mystery pianist is also a member of the band.  Thus, Haruki has no choice but to try and convince this individual, whoever they might be, to join their club - something which is easier said than done as the person in question seems determined to retain an air of mystery around them.

Two episodes in there's really nothing substantial to say about White Album 2 - its premise and the way its story so far are playing out is all pretty cheesy and predictable, so this certainly isn't a show that's going to win any awards for its narrative.  That said, this second instalment is actually kind of fun - Haruki is still more likeable than your average visual novel protagonist, and his chemistry with the enthusiastic Setsuna works well for the most part.  Assuming the unveiling of our mystery pianist doesn't destroy this dynamic, all the pieces are in place for a passable piece of entertainment - without the unique factors of its predecessors, that's pretty much the best White Album 2 can hope for.

Beyond the Boundary - Episode 3

Having made her position as not only a loner but also (in her mind) a murderer, Mirai continues to go it alone while shunning the help of those around her...

...unless it comes to the prospect of receiving a 10,000 Yen bill, that is.  It seems that money is still a weak spot for Mirai even as she refuses to except any assistance when it comes to either her life or her youmu hunting.  This looks set to be particularly problematic when confirmation comes that the Hollow Shadow will be passing through the town that night - as Spirit World Warriors congregate to see how this fearsome creature manifests itself, the consensus is to stay well away and let it pass, using barriers or cages to aid its passage safely through town wherever possible.

For whatever reason however, Mirai is determined to take on the Hollow Shadow and defeat it alone - while others begin to concern themselves with some increasingly aggressive youmu activity, Mirai goes it alone while shrugging off Akihito's attempts to stop her from doing something foolish.  Not that Akihito is one to ultimately leave Mirai to her own devices when her life is endangered by what appears to be a familiar face to her...

As gorgeous as this series increasingly looks, with this episode in particular really proving to be eye-catching, I'm still struggling massively to be drawn into Beyond the Boundary's story or resonate with any of its characters.  As a result, it continues to feel like plenty of things are happening in each episode, but that none of them really connect with either one another or the viewer in a satisfying fashion.  Perhaps the conclusion of current events will help to bring all of these loose ends together, but it certainly hasn't made for a compelling start to a series that feels too much like a lot of decent ideas thrown together into a bowl and mixed together with ill-considered abandon.

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Space Brothers - Episode 77

Hibito is at an all-time low as this latest instalment of Space Brothers begins - so much so that he isn't even turning up to his training-cum-rehabilitation any more, and to all intents and purposes it seems as though he's given up on any hope of recovery.

Although Ivan isn't the type to call his temporary subordinate in and force him to attend his rehabilitation sessions, he does have a rather different way of persuading Hibito to give things another try - by taking him out drinking.  Aside from his assured belief that alcohol makes everything better (he may have a point), he also points out that had Hibito been a Russian astronaut he would never have even been left to stew after his accident, and would have been straight back on the proverbial horse and taking part in EVA missions as soon as possible.

Of course, this wasn't the case as one of NASA's charges, and thus the only thing for it is a long, protracted recovery.  To this end, Ivan talks Hibito into filming his daughter at a ballet performance for him, while also kitting him out with preparatory material in the form of video of her training from a young age.  Of course, the point he's trying to make here is obvious - if you can't succeed at something with raw talent, then succeed through sheer effort and hard work; a concept which is perhaps growing on Hibito as he sees the teenage Olga in action.

Having been really looking forward to seeing how Hibito's panic disorder is dealt with, I'm really not too convinced about this story arc and the way it's progressing at this point in time - aside from being lazily stereotypical in its depiction of Russia (which admittedly the show is equally guilty of when it comes to America), it's starting to feel equally lazy in its handling of Hibito's treatment.  Certainly, its singing the praises of "getting back on the horse" isn't far off the mark, but its assertions of hard work and simply getting on with it conquering all does threaten to trivialise Hibito's disorder somewhat if it carries on down that line.  We shall see how it ultimately pans out, but this might be a rare weak moment for Space Brothers' narrative.

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Arpeggio of Blue Steel: Ars Nova - Episode 2

As this second episode of Arpeggio of Blue Steel opens, there's a formidable challenge on the horizon for Gunzou and Iona being posed by the Fleet of Fog.

As a typhoon rages overhead, the threat in question is posed by another of the Fog's war vessels known as Takao, and we join the battle to find that said vessel is unerringly destroying any decoy ships that Iona happens to toss into their opponent's range of detection.  Although the I-401 could try to skirt around Takao to reach their destination port, the danger if being detected and pursued to said port and the subsequent damage risked by both themselves and the surrounding area is simply too much to contemplate - thus, there's nothing for it other than to strike while the iron's hot and attack before the typhoon subsides to grant the absolute advantage to Takao.

Luckily, it seems that Chihaya Gunzou is rather a proficient (albeit reckless) tactician, and thus this entire episode revolves around his attempts to qualify the capabilities of his opponent via some very deliberate manoeuvres which ultimately reveal a surprising truth - that Takao is hiding another Fog vessel that is enabling her to pinpoint them so accurately.  From there, the mission is "simple" - to split up these two vessels; something which proves to be rather easy when you have a supergravity cannon stashed away on your submarine.

I'm not going to lie - I loved this week's episode of Arpeggio of Blue Steel.  To Hell with any broader narrative, diving into the crew's back story or pondering the wider ramifications of this war against the Fog or what they're actually doing on Earth in the first place - I'd be quite happy if this series pushed most of its context to one side and just focused on kick-ass tactical naval battles as this episode succeeded in doing.  The CG largely fitted it well, the soundtrack is great, and the actual action walked the line between gripping and impressively cool with ease.  In other words, this was a lot of fun to watch, and I really hope that the series can continue in this vein to at least some extent as it seems to be what it's likely to excel at.

Little Busters! Refrain - Episode 2

Naoe's latest bout of narcolepsy seems to have brought with it a strange sense of deja-vu - not that this is his major concern, as he awakes to find that Kurugaya has been taking care of him during his sleep.

Being the person that she is, it seems that Kurugaya can't resist teasing and flirting with Naoe, making him increasingly flustered before telling him that she likes him.  Naturally, this confession of sorts plays on Naoe's mind greatly - was she being serious, or was it merely part of her teasing?  Unfortunately, his easy to read nature ensures that soon Kyousuke and company are also teasing and probing their friend on what he's pondering, and before he knows it they've engineered a plan to help him confess to Kurugaya under the light of fireworks, much to the irritation of Rin.

Cheesy it may sound, but it's a plan that is executed upon almost flawlessly, and before we know it Kurugaya and Naoe are left alone in a classroom watching the fireworks together when Naoe dropping his phone gives away the grand plan.  This, however, is where things become odd - the next thing we know we seem to have returned to the beginning of the day once again, and while Naoe has obvious recollections of what has occurred nobody else around him seems to.  Was it a dream?  Or further déjà vu on his part?  Something is most definitely not as it should be here.

Although you've probably noticed that I'm not exactly a huge Little Busters fan for the most part, I am at least intrigued by where this story arc is headed and what it intends to deliver next - as long as it isn't Endless Eight all over again hopefully it'll be something worthy of that intrigue.  That aside, this was a pretty decent episode, that mixed its mystery and confusion with just the right amount of goofy comedy to keep things moving and entertain - something that this series has forgotten to do too frequently in the past.  Maybe things are looking up for Refrain after all, although perhaps it'll simply get stuck in a loop of flattering to deceive.

Monday, 14 October 2013

Monogatari Second Season - Episode 15

Nadeko has found what she's looking for on behalf of Kuchinawa, but unfortunately for her this discovery also coincides with Araragi returning home, and needless to say he's keen to stop her from doing anything foolish.

As Koyomi pleads with Sengoku to put the talisman she's found down, our protagonist for this story arc seem to have little intent of doing so.  Such is the severity of the situation that even Shinobu becomes involved in trying to persuade Nadeko to stop what she's doing, but it seems that Nadeko's patience has run thin and she thus swallows the talisman in spite of Shinobu's best efforts to stop her.  Of course, we know what happens from here, and it involves both master and servant ending up in a bloody puddle at Sengoku's hands.

Thus Kuchinawa has been returned to his status as a God - but did he actually exist in the first place?  Although this God most certainly does exist, this wasn't the case until he was revived by Nadeko, meaning that all of her actions up to that point were simply her own desires reinforced by some rather comprehensive delusions to explain those actions.  With this in mind, we fill in the blanks about her behaviour, and pivotally aspects of her meeting with Ougi that were previously omitted - not that any of this seems to matter much now, with Nadeko determined to kill both Koyomi and Shinobu.  This desire has, however, reckoned without one Hitagi Senjougahara, who speaks to Nadeko with first a piece of advice - who to kill in what order, given that she too is on Sengoku's hit list - and a request to defer the trio's demise until after graduation.  In other words, this is a story that we'll be revisiting another day...

Frustrating though its finale certainly is, this turned out to be another decidedly strong Monogatari story arc as a whole that again delighted in its twists having pulled the wool over the viewer's eyes simply via who it selected as its "eyes" for the duration of its narrative.  Having been a bit of a weak character the first time around, seeing Nadeko fleshed out so substantially was very satisfying indeed, and I can only hope the eventual resolution to this story (whenever it appears in animated form) will live up to its preparation and execution to date.  After a bit of a weak previous story arc, it seems as if Monogatari is back on track.

Friday, 11 October 2013

Golden Time - Episode 2

It's one week on from the start of college life, and Koko still hasn't let up in her persistent attempts to follow Mitsuo everywhere that he goes - similarly, Mistuo certainly has no intention of falling in with Kaga and does everything in his powers to avoid her.

As a result, Banri starts to find himself feeling rather sorry for Koko - with her expensive tastes in clothing and the demeanour she exudes, nobody is willing to approach or talk to her, leaving her entirely alone once paired with Mitsuo's determination to avoid her.  Of course, Mitsuo is having none of this when Tada broaches the subject with him, insisting that her behaviour is all just an act that shouldn't be fallen for.

In the meantime, Banri continues to try and figure out what club to join, hanging out at a welcoming party held by the college's film club before being kidnapped and dragged into another party held by the ultimate den of hedonism that is the tea club.  With other organisations also desperate to snap up fresh meat, Tada certainly has no shortage of offers, yet once again this only leads to the realisation that Koko hasn't been approached by anybody to join their club.  As fate would have it however, a chance meeting between Bandri and Kaga leads to them both being pursued by another random club - one with a very persuasive (and verbose) leader that seemingly leaves them little choice but to at least try it out.

It's perhaps a little too obvious where this series is heading in the grand scheme of things (the opening credits certainly seem to make no effort to hide it), but there's certainly a lot of light-hearted fun to be found within Golden Timethus far - all of its cast of characters seem likeable and work well together, and this episode in particular is clearly gleaning a lot of enjoyment (which proves rather infectious) in its depiction of university life.  Overall, the easy-going nature of these early episodes, tinged with just a little emotion and drama, is working for me, so hopefully it can continue to deliver moving forward.

Thursday, 10 October 2013

Nagi no Asukara - Episode 2

Manaka's firsh curse problem seems to have resolved itself the morning after a difficult day - but then again, maybe she didn't want it to go away after all, as we discover that Tsumugu was rather taken with it.

Of course, any kind of friendship Manaka might have with Tsumugu is incredibly problematic when it comes to the over-protective Hikari, who wastes no time in warning this surface-dwelling "friend" away from his own childhood sweetheart, and equally wastes no time in getting angry with Manaka over pretty much anything when it comes to her involving Tsumugu.

This dislike for Kihara, and indeed those who live on the surface in general, isn't helped when he spies his older sister returning from a date with a surface dweller - a moment upon which Isaki helpfully points out that anyone who wants to live with someone from the surface will be duly banished from the community forever.  As Hikari frets about this fact coupled with the behaviour of both his sister and his childhood friend, the complexities of the group's relationships also show themselves elsewhere, with Manaka looking to get back her fish curse while Chisaki finds herself both egging on and pleading Tsumugu to stay away from her friend on account of her own conflict between friendship and love.

Between these tangles relationships and the more deep-seated politics of the show's setting, there's plenty boiling underneath the surface (with every pun intended) to keep me interested in this show - its characters still need to be fleshed out a little more beyond what we're seeing now to really make any drama and emotional impact the show hopes to deliver work fully, but it certainly seems to be headed in the right direction and with the right blend of elements to make it work.  It could all fall apart further down the line, but overall I'm getting a good feeling from Nagi no Asukara for the time being.

Samurai Flamenco - Episode 1

It isn't every day that you run into a superhero; it's even less frequent to run into one whose hiding naked behind some bins.

This, however, is exactly the situation that off-duty policeman Hidenori Goto finds himself in as he stumbles across said naked man who claims to be a superhero.  As if this wasn't bad enough, Goto's lit cigarette ends up setting our supposed hero's discarded costume alight, leaving him with nothing to wear home.  Thus, Goto has to lend this man some of his clothes, which proves to be the beginning of an unlikely friendship.

Despite his claims to being a superhero, there's really nothing super or heroic about Masayoshi Hazama - during the day he works as a model, but by night he lives out his long-held fantasies of being a hero of justice.  Without any special powers or technology to help him out however, Hazama's brand of crime-fighting is decidedly low-key, from lecturing jaywalking drunks (the incident which leads to the whole "naked behind the bins" incident) to telling off delinquent middle school students.  Unfortunately, even this seems to be beyond Hazama's abilities, and although his heart is in the right place it's Goto who ends up picking up the pieces time and again.  Maybe, however, Hazama can win the hearts of the populace by gaining notoriety online....

Although it still feels like there's a lot left to be introduced within this series, there's no denying that Samurai Flamenco's opener was a lot of fun - the rapport between Hazama and Goto somehow clicks straight away, and the core concept of the show feels a little like Tiger & Bunny meets Kick-Ass, which is no bad thing.  As with so many series the big question is whether it has legs to stay the course and remain as enjoyable and amusing, but this is certainly a solid start that gives us plenty to figure out what directions the series might head in, from its comedy through to its monologue of a lecture.  For now, this definitely remains one to watch for the autumn.

Kill la Kill - Episode 2

Come the end of the first episode of Kill la Kill, Matoi has won herself an opportunity to quiz her nemesis Satsuki about the death of her father - the trouble is, the amount of blood consumed by the school uniform which fuels her power means that she's also about toi pass out, meaning that she has to beat a tactical retreat.

Collapsing in town while making this mistake, Matoi is luckily taken into the care of Mako's family, including her backstreet doctor of a father - after patching up her wounds, feeding her and giving her a place to sleep, Ryuko has quite literally lived to fight another day.  A good job too, as it seems that Mako is in trouble for missing the academy tennis club's practice session, and crying off with an excuse like "I was kidnapped and held hostage" isn't going to cut it.

Rather than allow Mako to be subjected to a million tennis balls to face, Matoi stands up for her friend, but let down by her uniform she has no hope of standing up to tennis club captain Omiko Hatodate, who of course has a Goku uniform to boast as part of her position.  Defeated and left to float in a sewer, Matoi is rescued by her homeroom teacher, who tells her everything that she needs to know about her own so-called Kamui uniform (which she's named Senketsu, incidentally) and how to make it do her bidding - just what Matoi needed to face up to a rematch against Hatodate to save Mako from her fate.

As per its first episode, this week's Kill la Kill was a huge amount of fun - increasingly gratuitous in its fan service, yes (and it can only get away with playing so much of that for laughs before I have to call it out on that fact), but vibrant and filled with energy to move everything it does along at a break-neck pace.  The series so far has also managed to blend its action and comedy together quite nicely - this episode had a decent share of humorous moments (largely courtesy of Mako) which managed to complement the on-screen insanity nicely.  I still wonder whether the series will have a point where the story falls flat and the constant lunacy won't be enough to make up for it, but for now who cares about the story when we're having a ball watching this show throw itself around at a million miles an hour?

Galilei Donna - Episode 1

A ship sails through the sky, dropping a decidedly deadly cargo upon an unsuspected mine, with the giant robots unleashed by said craft blowing the whole place to smithereens.

Alongside this, it seems that whoever has a penchant for blue ships isn't doing much for the reputation, as the next thing we see is three very different girls finding themselves simultaneously under threat of being kidnapped.  The trio all manage to escape in their own varied ways, and from this we come to learn that, different though they might be, the three are in fact sisters.  Not only that, they're distant descendant of Galileo (cue Bohemian Rhapsody) - something of which they're mother is clearly very proud.

As we learn a little more about the workings (or lack thereof) of this dysfunctional family, so the person we assume to be the orchestrator of those kidnapping attempts comes calling to their home, literally bursting through the wall brandishing a gun.  With some World Cup qualifiers about to start, this man is in a hurry and he has a simple demand - he wants them to hand over Galileo's inheritance.  The family seem confused by this request, but as their captor's patience runs thin and he calls for his giant flying ship to increase the pressure upon them it seems that they have met their match courtesy of one of the three Ferrari sisters, Hozuki, and a giant mechanical goldfish.  No, really, I haven't been drinking.  Yet.

This is perhaps the kind of series that isn't well served by promotional trailers, and as a result I'm left entirely unsure of what to make of this first episode of Galilei Donna - I love its dysfunctional family and the relationships and attitudes between its three sisters in particular, which is the stuff of situation comedy writ large.  Beyond that, the episode becomes so bonkers so quickly and with so little exposition to back up what's going on that I can't really cast any further judgement on the show at this point.  I'm intrigued, which is a good start, but hopefully the series will come up trumps with more than just crazy stuff happening around these three siblings once it starts to bed in and develop.