Saturday, 30 November 2013

White Album 2 - Episode 9

What should have been so simply has proven to be anything but, as the relationships between Hazuki, Setsuna and Touma become ever-more tangled.

In fact, as this episode begins and we enter January, the relationship between Hazuki and Kazusa has broken down entirely - she ignores his calls and visits under the auspices of practicing hard for a piano recital, but given that she finds at least some time to speak with Setsuna her true intentions are pretty clear.  When the trio finally get together and Touma still ignores Hazuki the situation becomes even more clear, although Setsuna seems to be blind to the whole thing and is still dead set on the three of them spending as much time together as possible.

Kazusa's attitude isn't the only thing Hazuki is struggling with - although things still seem to be going decidedly well between himself and Setsuna, Touma is still clearly on his mind, and when he sees her strutting her stuff at the piano recital it all proves to be so much for him.  As a result, Hazuki tries to redouble his efforts and throw himself fully into his romance - something which proves difficult when Setsuna is still oblivious to the tension between her boyfriend and best friend.  With her birthday looming, things might be about to reach a head....

I'll certainly give some credit to White Album 2 for keeping things trucking along at a point in the show's story where it threatened to find itself with nowhere left to go, although it's a little hard to buy Setsuna's inability to fathom what's going on with the people closest to her as she seemingly carries on in her own little world regardless of the obvious hints that things are amiss elsewhere between Touma and Hazuki.  I'm curious as to how all of this will pan out, but I'm still finding it tough to really feel any kind of emotional resonance to the cast - even at this juncture the main characters feel a little ill-defined and with a tendency to shift in their behaviour in ways that don't always add up.  Still, it's all undeniably more interesting than all of that school festival preparation, for which I'm very grateful.

Little Busters! Refrain - Episode 9

Having won Masato over from whatever insanity had gripped him, Riki's next target in his reforming of the Little Busters is Kengo.

Just like Masato, Kengo immediately knows what's up when he's approached by Naoe and he wastes no time in warning him off trying to get him to join his merry band.  With no obvious way of persuading Kengo appearing before him Riki talks to Kyousuke, who lets slip one slither of information - that Kengo is lying about something.  A brief look at Kengo's behaviour soon makes it clear what that lie is - either his previous injury has now healed and Kengo is continuing to pretend it's a problem, or the injury was never real in the first place.

Either way, Riki now knows what he must do - that is, to challenge Kengo.  With the thought of playing kendo to decide whether he should join the Little Busters out of the question, it's inevitably to baseball that he turns as the source of his challenge.  Kengo can't say no to such a request, but his determination to win is strong, and perhaps more importantly for the viewer he lets far more slip about the state of the world and the secret being kept from Naoe - in short, events keep repeating, and it seems as if Kyousuke's failed grand plan was an attempt to break the cycle to whatever ends he was hoping for.  In a similar vein, Kengo sees victory over Riki as a chance to move forward, but perhaps fate is conspiring to ensure that this isn't the case...

Although I still feel like Little Busters! Refrain is keeping its cards a little too close to its chest, this week's episode managed to avoid being a rinse and repeat of last week's instalment by letting a few details slip out, thus allowing us to at least start building a picture of what's going on and why Riki and Rin are being kept in the dark.  It has the potential to be some intriguing stuff so hopefully the revelations will keep on coming, as they surely must to keep this series moving now that it's finally slowing glimpses of getting on track with just a few episodes to go.

Space Brothers - Episode 84

After the initial shock of discovering that only one of them will be selected for the next lunar mission, Mutta has quickly found the resolve he needs to fight for his place, even if it means thwarting Kenji's own lunar dreams as a result.

Having initially agreed to cut his suggested parts of the scale lunar base they're tasked with building, Mutta has now rescinded that decision and insisted that they should go ahead with their original, more grandiose scheme.  But does he have a plan to back up these words given the small amount of time available to the group?  Well, no, at least not initially... but if anyone can put together an impressively pragmatic plan to get things done, it's Mutta.

Thus, what seems like merely an attempt to join forces with Andy and work extra long hours to get more done turns out to be entirely false - in fact, Mutta's goal is to work smarter rather than harder, putting his engineering nous to good effect by increasing their capability to transport and move materials massively by thinking outside of the box and making full use of the vehicles and staff provided to them.  It's unarguably clever thinking that even Kenji struggles to argue against, meaning that it's his turn to fall into a self-pitying depression, albeit a brief one that Mutta himself quickly ensures he's pulled out of.

This current story arc of Space Brothers continues to make full use of everything at its disposal, while succeeding in providing another of those wonderful moments where Mutta's intellect and pragmatism come to the form in a genuinely impressive way that ultimately makes for something of a feel-good episode as it also moves on to thaw the brief "cold war" of sorts between himself and Kenji.  Whether these shifts have come too soon to the point where they might threaten the value of the next few episodes remains to be seen, but it's certainly another highlight to add to the growing list provided by this ever-enjoyable series.

Friday, 29 November 2013

Samurai Flamenco - Episode 8

I have to admit that I suspected that somebody had spiked my cup of tea while I was watching last week's Samurai Flamenco but no, apparently all that crazy shit really did happen, and any assumptions that the whole thing was some kind of crazed fever dream on Hazama's part are also quickly vanquished this week.

So, it seems that the Torture organisation and their leader, the cunningly named King Torture, really do exist, and what's more he's willing to send all sorts of monsters to Earth in the hope of conquering and subjugating its people.  King Torture's only fear is, for some reason, Samurai Flamenco - not because he's been littering, one assumes - and he's quick to threaten this hero with death should he interfere.  Of course, Hazama's sense of justice will allow him to do no such thing, while Mari is (as always) itching for a fight and a new challenge.

Thus, this week's episode is spent fending off a menagerie of weird and wonderful creatures, from a Rhino wearing a cauldron through to a snake on wheels, all of whom refuse to surrender to Samurai Flamenco's growing arsenal of stationery and all of whom explode upon defeat.  In fact, most of these individuals are sufficiently weak that even the government and police aren't really all that worried about them, while Mari is also losing interest as Hazama hogs the spotlight.  There certainly seems to be more than meets the eye to these monster attacks, but for Goto's part his main concern is Hazama himself, who seems to have abandoned his previous concerns about justice and saving everyone including the monsters he fights in favour of simply enjoying the fruits of his superhero life and his growing success as an actor and model.

I'm still really not too sure what to make of this shift in tone and concept for Samurai Flamenco, and my uncertainly is fueled all the further by the distinct feeling that this current story arc is simply a means to a greater end, whatever that might be.  Still, weird though its current situation is, the series certainly hasn't lsot its sharp (and occasionally satirical) sense of humour which really aids in keeping the series moving along quite nicely, even for an episode that was clearly animated during "bring your children to work and make sure they bring crayons" week.  In short, I'm still enjoying watching this show, but I still have no idea what its end-game is - a situation which, I have to admit, is kind of becoming part of the fun of watching it.

Thursday, 28 November 2013

Galilei Donna - Episode 8

The pendant may be lost, but the search for Galileo's sketches continues, meaning that it's off to Japan we go for this week's episode of Galilei Donna.

However, before the sketch hunt begins in earnest, Hozuki and her sisters have a request - to make a stop in Kyoto to visit their grandfather.  Even Anna can't resist this request when it comes so earnestly from all three of them, and so this detour is made, allowing the trio to both meet their grandfather and see where their father grew up.  This also gives a glimpse into the extent of their father's genius, as a scrawl he made in elementary school turns out to be the blueprint for an efficient energy generation and distribution system for the home - a system which Hozuki works at completing during her visit.

All of this takes place while the sisters enjoy their grandfather's hospitality as well as exploring Kyoto - exploration which, in Hazuki's instance, brings her to another meeting with air pirate Cicinho, who she seems to be softening towards.  It's Anna to whom we should be paying the most attention to however, as the Ferrari sisters still seem to trust her implicitly despite the fact that she's effectively betrayed them once already, and although her feelings are wavering she's poised to do so again as another sketch is collected.

It's this blind trust in Anna that feels like another weak link in a number of such moments to plague Galilei Donna - its actually a sedate and somewhat enjoyable show when the three Ferrari sisters are just left to bounce off of one another as they travel, but any attempts to add something deeper to proceedings whether it's Anna's behaviour, Roberto's continued "I am the baddest bad guy" act or Cicinho's clowning all fall well and truly flat.  Given that these elements clashing will surely be the crux of the show's final episodes once all of the MacGuffins... sorry, sketches... have been collected, I'm not going to hold my breath for a memorable finish to the show.

Golden Time - Episode 9

Banri's subconscious outburst at the end of last week's episode of Golden Time certainly made his feelings clear, if only to us as onlookers (and most likely to Linda as well) - but were we the only ones to hear those words?

As night turns to morning and a sluggish Banri sleeps in as the other party-goers in his room leave, Koko seems to be far from her usual ebullient self, and when classes start up again she's nowhere to be found having stayed home with a cold.  As minor ailments go it seems to be a long-lasting one, and even when she does return to the college she's still a shadow of her usual self - quiet, unsure and easily distracted.  When a festival club meeting brings Linda into the picture, it soon becomes clear what is really paining Koko, and after an awkward practice session the walk home with Banri leads to Kaga pouring her heart out about her worries without ever directly touching on the obvious fact that she overheard Banri and Linda's prior conversation.

It's thoughts of Linda that we stick with for much of the remainder of the episode however, as we slip back into Banri's past and another pivotal occasion in his prior relationship to her.  This particular story concerns her brother, and more importantly his fiancee - when Linda suspects that she's cheating on her brother, Banri offers to help obtain the evidence required to out her, before Linda changes her mind and instead opts for a more "grown-up" approach to handling the situation.  The aftermath of this puts Linda and Banri closer together than ever, and it seems as if these deeply held memories are about to come flooding to the surface, from Banri's "ghost" into the young man himself.

Although I still like quite a lot of what Golden Time is doing in isolation - even the memory loss stuff is at least working reasonably well within the show's wider framework - its presentation still feels lacking in ways that I can't quite put a finger on.  It's almost as if it shies away from really grappling with the full emotional range of its characters - just as we get another glimpse into Koko's psyche we're whisked away elsewhere, and the rest of the cast keep their cards close enough to their chest that we're rarely even granted that.  Luckily I like most of the main cast of characters enough to persevere and still gain some enjoyment from watching how things pan out, but the nagging sensation that Golden Time should simply be better at what it's attempting persists like a ghost in the back of my own mind.

Kill la Kill - Episode 9

With the prospect of learning the truth about her father's death dangling in front of her, Ryuuko is face with one simple task - she only has to defeat the student council's Elite Four to be granted an audience with Satsuki.

While all of the parties concerned are ready and raring to go in this battle, it's Gamagoori who gets the first crack at defeating Matoi... but not until the specified time of the first match.  This gives our heroine time to grab some lunch, as well as some words of advice (or rather, discouragement) from her mysterious homeroom teacher Mikisugi, before embarking on this seemingly impossible battle against the Gamagoori and his three-star Goku Uniform.

However, Ryuuko has a plan - if she doesn't attack, then Ira's uniform can't soak up that power to become stronger, right?  Well, there's certainly some truth to that, but Gamagoori is the kind of man who has no qualms about "attacking" himself, and before she knows it Matoi is on the bring of defeat time and again, while we're taken back to a further demonstrate of this man's resolve at the hands of a younger Kiryuin.  Gamagoori.  Back in the present, Ira's resolve is to transform Ryuuko into a model student - a decision which proves to be his first fatal mistake as Matoi turns the table thanks to the evolving abilities of Senketsu.  One down, three to go...

It might not have been packed with humour or anything narratively to make this week's episode stand out, but in a way this is further proof of Kill la Kill's strength - even when it enters the realm of straight-up tournament battle anime it continues to be charismatic and entertaining, doing all of the right things to keep the viewer's interest and building its characters and plot even when it's effectively just a pair of individuals whaling on one another for twenty minutes.  Of course, this is helped no end by the show's unrestrained imagination, which ensures that the show stands out, and when you combine all of these qualities Kill la Kill becomes a fearsome beast indeed - one of 2013's Elite Four in TV anime terms, most probably.

Nagi no Asukara - Episode 9

The appearance of saltflake snow on the surface is certainly unusual, but seems like little more than a novelty to most.  Is it, however, portentous in signifying a forthcoming calamity?

Meanwhile on that surface, Hikari finds himself privately worrying about his father while publicly stating that he has no interest in returning home - a thought process pushed to the back of his mind by a decision to once again work at rebuilding the Ojoshi with a view towards performing the Ofunehiki even if neither the people of the surface nor the sea are interested in formally supporting them.  Certainly, Hikari has no problems gaining the support of his teacher and classmates, and thus their efforts are redoubled to put together the necessary items, boat and all.

As work continues towards this end, so the relationships between the cast continue to swirl and change - Chisaki may have decided to be "mature" about her feelings towards Hikari but it hasn't impressed Tsumugu one little bit, Kaname looks likely to be dragged into proceedings and even Hikari can't help but let some of his feelings towards Manaka show as the episode reaches its conclusion.  What an important conclusion it is too, with the children of Shioshishio told not to return to the surface under any circumstances - it seems that the calamity in question is one that endangers the land far more than it does these sea-dwellers...

We certainly seem to be getting into the meat of Nagi no Asukara now, and I'm more than a little happy to see that the series is managing to blend its wider plot elements in well with the more personal side of the series, melding the big picture in with the minutiae of Hikari and Manaka's relationship in particular.  If the series can continue to do this in such a capable fashion, then it certainly seems to have the ability to remain in my mind as one of the autumn's better series as I find myself more and more engaged by it the longer that it continues.

Coppelion - Episode 9

As if things weren't tough enough with a pregnant woman about to give birth, the Ozu sisters on the rampage and the 1st Division looking to destroy the whole world, now even the weather is against Naruse and her charges.

More to the point, a strong wind seems to be blowing the radiation in all directions, moving the centre of the Zone dangerously close to the Planet, and meaning that there's nothing for it than to move all and sundry to safer ground.  But where, and more importantly, how?  Thus, a plan is hatched to bring the city's train service back into commission specifically to transport them to where they need to go - namely a hospital to ease the delivery of Ibuki's child, while also providing a helipad for the group to be airlifted to safety.

Of course, with the Ozu sisters still at large this plan also needs to distract them, and with Aoi finally coming out of hiding the group do at least have numbers on their side, even if Ibuki's pregnancy situation is getting decidedly desperate.  With everything ready to go and even No-Sense opting to join the party, will this escape plan come to fruition?

Having impressed - well, okay, not impressed but entertained - me last week, this instalment of Coppelion felt like it was simply lining things up so that it could do the same in episode ten.  As a result, there's a lot of build-up here but no pay-off, which is fair enough if it all comes to fruition next week.  Certainly, as I mentioned last time out this series now seems quite happy to do nothing but provide dumb action, as it throws in scenes reminiscent of The Day After Tomorrow (except with wind chasing the cast, slightly less ludicrous than ice doing so in said movie) as one of its sillier moments.  But hey, if the next episode is silly yet cool, I can forgive it that.

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Beyond the Boundary - Episode 9

Ironically, things are getting dangerous in the midst of the Calm, and no more so than for Akihito.

Although this event should theoretically be responsible for weakening youmu, in Akihito's case it appears to be doing the opposite, with his human half weakening considerably and thus allowing the youmu half of his being to take over - no wonder he's the source of so much interest.  While various parties fight over him, Akihito's youmu form awakens and simply vanishes into the night, leaving his friends - including Izumi - searching for him.

Well, I refer to Izumi as a friend, but her thoughts on dealing with Akihito certainly don't count as friendly, as she suggests to Mirai that she should steel herself to kill him should she meet him, in the assumption that he'll never recover from his present youmu form and that he'll be practically indestructible once the Calm is over.  As you might expect, this prospect leaves Mirai distraught and with lots of soul-searching to do, although by the time she actually comes face to face with this dilemma it seems that her mind has been well and truly made up.  With suggestions that Izumi and the Nase family having their own interests in these current affairs and the prospective emergence of the youmu known as Beyond the Boundary, while other parties within the Spirit World Warriors have agendas of their own, it seems likely that there are no shortage of major clashes over the horizon.

As per last week's episode, this was another stronger instalment of Beyond the Boundary - its action scenes were exactly the kind of thing that I hoped for from this series, and although the current story arc isn't as well defined as it probably should be in places it's set up a number of interesting conceits for it to resolve over the next few episodes.  Even during an episode like this it can't completely abandon the tired elements of its humour, but it's certainly refreshing to see them take a back seat to more intriguing fare, and this show has suddenly become so much the better for it.

Monday, 25 November 2013

Arpeggio of Blue Steel: Ars Nova - Episode 8

Repaired and refreshed at their island home of Iwoto they might be, but Gunzou and his growing team now find themselves surrounded and with nowhere to run, as Kengou and Maya close in on them.  Their base may be well fortified thanks to Hyuuga's efforts, but can it really withstand this kind of offensive?

However, it seems that Chihaya has no intention of allowing himself to be besieged, or indeed to engage in needless combat of any kind, and thus he does what any naval captain would do in this situation... he invites his opponents for a cup of tea and a barbecue.

Although this invitation extended to Kongou and Maya may seem like mere formalities and politeness gone mad, there is a method to Chihaya's thinking - on the one hand, he wants to learn exactly why the Fog are determined to wipe out humanity ("because they're programmed to" seems to be the broad answer to that one), and on the other he wants to allow the pair to taste human customs (and cuisine) in the hope that it might unravel an error in their logic in the same way that other Fog vessels have come to join him.  Kongou, it seems, is made of sterner stuff however, and any attempts to woo her fall upon deaf ears as she returns to her ship to start an all-out attack that could spell the end for the human resistance.

Given that I hoped last week's events were going to lead into another epic naval battle this time around, you can probably imagine that I wasn't exactly thrilled to see this week's Arpeggio of Blue Steel threatening to descend into K-ON with AI battleship girls, but in fairness events as they panned out did at least fit in with Chihaya's modus operandi and although the whole thing was a little fan service-y (yet again) there were some interesting little points to ponder.  Still, I now find myself looking forward far, far more to next week's episode, where we hopefully really will have some kick-ass naval action to look forward to, which is the main fillip which has kept me watching this series throughout.

Sunday, 24 November 2013

Monogatari Second Season - Episode 21

Now that my eyes are just about dry after last week's emotional farewell, we move forward into the final story arc of Monogatari Second Second season.

This time around, our tale is being told by Kaiki, meaning that - as he succinctly points out - we really don't know how much of it is the truth or how much of it is a lie.  Anyhow, the story begins on New Year's Day, where Kaiki's reverie (if you can call it that) is broken by a phone call from none other than Senjougahara... sorry, Senshougahara, who has a request for Kaiki... sorry, Suzuki - effectively, she wants to deceive somebody, and he is clearly the best suited man for the job.

Thanks to just such an attempt to deceive his would-be client, Kaiki finds himself flying all the way out to Okinawa to meet a cunningly disguised Senjougahara and find out what it is she requires of him.  In fact, her request is simple - following on from Nadeko's descent (or should that be ascent?) into the form of a snake God, Senjougahara requires that Kaiki deceive her so that he might save Hitagi and Koyomi from their fate at her hands.  Is it something Kaiki can do?  Perhaps, but is it something he even wants to do?  As he ponders the situation, it seems as if there's nothing in it for him, although of all people it's his consideration of Kanbaru that finally changes his mind.  Thus, the game is afoot...

It feels a little silly to even earmark an episode of Monogatari as dialogue-heavy, but after no shortage of long, drawn out conversations in its previous story arc Koimonogatari begins in a similar vein, giving us little respite from the constant dialogue of late.  Then again, I'm very much on-board with both seeing how the problems with Nadeko are going to be resolved as well as the prospect of spending some more time with Senjougahara, and even in this episode filled with talking heads there are still some wonderful moments to be hold - Hitagi losing her cool and cracking up at Kaiki's appearance, or the regular moments of drink-throwing the pair engage in add some fun slapstick to the engaging chit-chat to serve as a reminder that this can be a series of actions as well as words.  Either way, I'm very much ready to see what this show has to bring us next, as it's rarely let us down up to this point.

Saturday, 23 November 2013

White Album 2 - Episode 8

The school festival is over and Hazuki's heart has been won... or has it?

Certainly, he has at least accepted Setsuna's confession, even if she's feeling incredibly guilty about it and the fact that she feels that she's "stolen" him from Kazusa - not that Touma is having any of this, which only serves to further cement the bonds between the two of them.  Indeed, it seems as if nothing has changed from the events immediately after the end of the school festival, as the trio continue to spend a lot of time together, albeit preparing for exams and graduation rather than anything more exciting.

Such is the close nature of the three's relationship that they even share a Christmas trip to a hot springs resort together (despite Hazuki's protestations), although it's here that perhaps truth begins to invade upon their idyllic sense of togetherness - while Setsuna imagines the three of them making a similar trip every year, Kazusa brings her down to earth by pointing out that she'll be going elsewhere to college, or perhaps even pursuing other plans, after graduation, while there are also some uncomfortable moments as Hazuki inadvertently makes it clear that his heart still hasn't been entirely won over by Setsuna while Touma is still around.

Now that the whole school festival thing is over, it does feel as if White Album 2 is potentially taking a more interesting turn - while the festival preparations tended to get in the way of the story if anything, the relationship between the main trio of characters is a whole lot more fascinating now it has some room to breathe and move in some different directions.  Whether this will be enough to save the series as a whole remains to be seen, but at least it seems as if the main course is about to be delivered after having to sit poking at the starter with a spoon for a couple of months.

Little Busters! Refrain - Episode 8

Trying to recreate the Little Busters from their recent adventures as a baseball team have proved fruitless, but that isn't the end of the matter for Riki, as he sets his sights on going back even further into the group's history to effectively recreate it from the very start.

After quizzing Rin on how Kyousuke started the Little Busters, he learns that his first target is to be Masato, although directly approaching him and asking him to join the gang really doesn't go well at all, with Masato asserting that all he wants to do is to be the strongest while warning both Riki and Rin to stay well away.  This is no idle warning either, as it soon comes to light that Masato is wandering the school randomly punching people's lights out for what seems to be no reason whatsoever.

As a result, Riki takes another leaf out of Kyousuke's book, devising a trap to ensnare Masato so that he can talk to him and win him over.  Even this is reckoning without the full strength of Masato, as he overcomes attempt after attempt to slow him down, leaving Naoe with nothing for it but to abandon using his brains and resort to brawn to get his way.  For his part, it seems that Masato has entered some kind of hallucinogenic state that causes him to see everybody as a copy of himself, because.... oh, I'll be damned if I know, does anything that Little Busters adds to its narrative make sense any more?

I can certain appreciate what Refrain is trying to do at this point, but yet again its clumsy handling of its ideas seem likely to hole it under the surface - I'm all for some mystery and touches of the supernatural as per other Key works, but on this occasional subtle touches along those lines have been replaced with a sledgehammer to beat the plot into submission whenever the story requires it.  I keep on hoping that everything will be explained at some point, but there's now so much material in the "stuff that needs to be explained" inbox that it's going to need a full-time staff to keep track of it, again fueling my suspicions that aspects of the story are just making things up as they go along - there's a big difference between not holding the viewer's hand to leave them to figure things out and simply making no sense, and Little Busters is veering dangerously close to the latter right now.

Space Brothers - Episode 83

Paired together in their underwater NEEMO training, Mutta and Kenji seemed to be a perfect team - a combination that would take them all the way to the Moon.  At least, that's what they thought....

Having been informed that, in fact, only one of the two of them will be selected from their team for the next lunar mission, the atmosphere suddenly changes markedly, and while Mutta seems to almost instantly resign himself to having no chance against Kenji's abilities, Kenji has clearly decided that nothing is going to stand in the way of his goal.  From the warm friendship the two of them shared a cold war of sorts grows, with Kenji taking the lead in a bid to cement his place on the next lunar mission while Mutta flounders in his own worries and self-pity.

Such is the extent of Mutta's self-doubt that he immediately cedes plans to built a lunar telescope into the team's moonbase design after Kenji suggests that it should be cut alongside other elements of their plan to ensure that everything is finished on time.  With the pair avoiding each other, Mutta continues to wallow in his worries until a combination of a discussion with senior team member Andy and a swarm of Barracuda awaken him from his malaise - with Andy discussing how he too was once burdened by the weight of similar worries about making it into space before deciding not to think about it and throw himself into his work again, Mutta suddenly sees a path clear in front of him with regard to what he must do.

All of this combines into another wonderfully character-driven episode of Space Brothers - having spent so much time building up Kenji and Mutta's friendship over the course of the series, it makes this cooling of that friendship all the more affecting while still playing off the natural drama which comes via the incredibly difficult selection process for lunar missions.  Its current underwater setting might not quite have the flair and excitement of space itself, but it's serving as a perfect staging ground for another bumper helping of what makes this series what it is.

Thursday, 21 November 2013

Galilei Donna - Episode 7

In spite of their globe-trotting adventures, was the Galilei Tesoro really being carried around by Hozuki the entire time?  It certainly seems that way, but perhaps there's more to this enigmatic legacy of Galileo's than meets the eye.  Regardless, the same can certainly be said of Alice, as we get full confirmation of the fact that she's been working with Roberto and Adni Moon all along, although even she's beginning to have second thoughts after his mindless slaughter in the previous episode.

Given what they've seen and experienced, and with the knowledge that Adni Moon will happily kill to get their hands on whatever lays at the heart of this mystery, the obvious question is raised as to whether the Ferrari sisters want to continue in their current quest - a question which gets a resounding "no" from Kazuki, but an even more passionate "yes" from her sisters.

Thus, the journey continues, underwater now to avoid detection - a plan that only takes them so far before Roberto comes calling..  With no means of escape there's nothing for it but to take to the skies to try and win in a one-on-one battle, but as you might expect this very quickly proves futile.  With their ship crashed and damaged and Roberto looking likely to kill everyone in his sight, Kazuki literally throws the seemingly powerful hourglass at him and tells him to go away - something which Roberto surprisingly complies with.  Is this the end of the road for the sisters?  Perhaps not, with sketches still left undiscovered....

Given that last week's episode of Galilei Donna was (to put it politely) a disaster area, anything was likely to be an improvement, and that was certainly the case here - after that horribly contrived way of advancing the plot, this instalment at least did something with that weakly won progression, even if it ultimately feels like we might be returning to weekly treasure hunt adventures for at least another episode or two.  Perhaps it can even salvage some interesting ideas out of the remainder of the series, although at this point I think both plot and characters and sufficiently compromised to make that nigh-on impossible unless the show has some seriously impressive tricks up its sleeve.  Like a gorilla with a guillotine stomach, perhaps...

Samurai Flamenco - Episode 7

Between them, Samurai Flamenco and the Flamenco Girls have been doing a sterling job... perhaps a little too good a job, given that criminals now seem to be few and far between.

Ironically, this proves to be rather frustrating for all and sundry - Hazama is left pondering what to do next, Mari is climbing up the walls without any crotches to stomp on, the hunt to reveal any of the hero's identities fizzles out and Goto's role suddenly becomes decidedly desolate as complaints about Samurai Flamenco dry up, to be replaced with nothing but letters of praise.

In the midst of all this, Hazama learns a shocking truth - his parents didn't die in an accident, they were murdered in an incident abroad.  This leads to further questions about how he should handle himself and what his future as a two-bit hero holds... there's no time to ponder this too much however, as there's a giant gorilla with a guillotine for a stomach rampaging in the midst of a police drugs raid.  No, really, don't look at me as if I'm the one on drugs here.

Having questioned on numerous occasions where this series ultimately planned to head I anticipated that things would switch up quite drastically at some point, but I certainly wasn't expecting this much of a sudden tonal shift.  So jarring is the move from sedate comedy with occasional dramatic leanings into full-on bonkers "scary monsters and super creeps" material that I'm really not sure what to say about it - is this the most foolish move in the history of anime, or a Madoka Magica level moment of shocking genius?  It's a question that we won't be able to answer until next week at the earliest, but in terms of catching the viewer unawares you'll be hard-pressed to find anything more potent this year.

Kill la Kill - Episode 8

Having inadvertently aided Satsuki in her plan to refresh the student council and Gou uniform owners with her whole Fight Club idea, Ryuuko now finds another tantalising carrot dangled in front of her in the form of a survival game-cum-general election (or General Selection, as Kiryuin would rather have it) to pick the best of the best in a free-for-all involving the entire student body.

While the minions fight amongst themselves for this rare opportunity to dine at the academy's proverbial top table, it seems like an opportunity for some of the most powerful players in the school's world to take a bit of a breather - a decision which is particularly true of Ira Gamagoori, who wants to do a little driving having just picked up his license.  For her part, Matoi also has things to do, namely hunting for any further clues about her father or his killer at her former home.

When her borrowed scooter runs out of petrol on the way back from this investigation, Mako and Matoi are both left stranded until they're offered a lift from an unexpected source... Gamagoori himself.  As it turns out, this man mountain still cares about the safety of the students (when he isn't beating them to a pulp anyhow), but this soon takes a back seat as Gamagoori finds himself challenged by the amalgamation of the Airsoft and Automobile clubs - no prizes for guessing what they've become.  The result of this is a chance to see exactly how deep this member of the Elite Four's powers run, as well as gaining some insight into both his past and that of Satsuki.  With the grand finale of Kiryuin's current plan about to bloom however, it's time for Matoi to strut her stuff once again in what will surely be her toughest set of challenges yet.

It may have had a couple of brief spells which felt almost oddly sedate for Kill la Kill, but this was actually a welcome breather before we returned to more of the bombastic insanity which has become the hallmark of the series - Mako is still hilarious every time she opens her mouth (and every time that she doesn't even have to, now I come to think about it), the style and delivery of the show's flashbacks continue to be incredibly satisfying, and the larger than life characters fit perfectly with the aesthetic and tone of whatever's going on on-screen.  Now that it's settled down fully into its rhythm, Kill la Kill is starting to feel unstoppable.

Golden Time - Episode 8

This week's episode of Golden Time begins with some further dipping into Banri and Linda's past to fill in more of the blanks in their prior relationship (if there were any such blanks still to be filled in).

Any such musings are interrupted by Koko's report that Mitsuo is in trouble, sending Banri to his rescue in her stead - a smart move perhaps, as his ability to improvise and overact on the spot saves his friend from a particularly busty problem.  With that dilemma out of the way, it's clear that Mitsuo is still in rather a mess - a mental state reflected by his apartment as he continues to beat himself up about how things have gone with Chinami; a situation he's managed to make worse by telling her never to speak to him again.

Of course, times like this are exactly what friends are for, and thus Banri instigates a plan to cheer Mitsuo up by inviting him out to have some fun with Satou... a plan which seems to be going more and more awry as first Koko invites herself along, and then she in turn invites Chinami to join them, which leaves Mitsuo mortified.  When push comes to shove however this proves to be a stroke of genius, and a day at an amusement park followed by a night of drink eases any tensions within the group, restoring their friendships as if by magic.  While everyone sleeps off the day's exertions, Banri and Linda find some time to catch up, and it becomes clear that Tada's feelings aren't entirely devoted to Koko, if only when it comes to the "ghost" of his past self at this point.

As we move towards the half-way point of this series, I'm becoming increasingly torn in my feelings for Golden Time - it manages to amuse me from time to time, and I'm really intriguing to see how some of its relationships develop and shift moving forward, but on the other hand Koko's over-bearing character has a tendency to scrawl over a lot of the more subtle moments of the series with a permanent marker, and the use of Tada's amnesia still feels lazy even when it's been used in some quite interesting ways.  At this juncture I'd probably tend towards the position in terms of my feelings towards the show, but it's a close-run thing, and probably a tougher call to make than it really should be.

Coppelion - Episode 8

Trying to get a heavily pregnant woman in labour to a hospital isn't really the time to be dealing with any distractions, but that's exactly what Naruse and company have to deal with in this week's Coppelion.

With every route blocked by the mysterious appearance of canisters of high-level nuclear waste, the group eventually comes across the origin of these obstructions - two girls in school uniform.  It's pretty obvious that this pair are also Coppelion, and more specifically they're the other members of Haruto's unit - unfortunately, this particular pair have decided to "go rogue", and between a hatred of humans and an intense dislike of Ibara they're about to cause a whole lot of trouble.

The reason for the Ozu sisters' ire is two-fold - first, their DNA came from a serial killer (because obviously a mass murderer is perfect genetic material from which to create clones to save people), and secondly, they've learned the true extent of the mortality foist upon them by their creators.  As a result, they're quite happy to help out with the 1st Division's own crackpot plan to contaminate the world - at least, when it suits them.  For those involved however, simple survival from the onslaught of these super-powered twins is the top priority, leading to action aplenty in a battle simply to stay alive.

I almost feel like this is the point in the series where Coppelion has really shown its true colours, giving only a secondary thought to narrative and back-story in deference to some actually pretty kick-ass action scenes in this desolate wasteland of a city.  To be honest, I'm actually okay with this - there's a certain energy and tension to the fight between competing Coppelion, which allows you to at least push some of the more nonsensical aspects of the show's story at this point to the back of your mind.  It's a bit of a shame for a series that has at least occasionally shown that it has heart and seemingly wanted to provoke at least a little thought, but sometimes you can ask for from a series is a motorbike driven by a super-strong girl and someone who can fire electricity out of their body chasing a tank.

Nagi no Asukara - Episode 8

Having survived the trials and tribulations associated with their difficult decision to leave for the surface, Akari and Hikari are all set to begin their new lives, however awkward those first steps might be.

Indeed, their first evening at the home of Akari's boyfriend and daughter Miura is a classic case of nobody knowing quite how to act and what to say, while any attempt for Hikari to be tactful and take his leave are quickly rejected by his sister.  Although she remains quite, it's really Miura who's having arguably the toughest time - although she's very much over her attempts to push Akari away, she's still struggling to find the right words to say to welcome her into the family.

So, if words won't work, why not something else?  Hikari is once again the generator of a rather good idea, which sees him and his friends take Miura on a shopping trip to the city - a first for all of them aside from Tsumugu, who is also tagging along.  When Miura sets her heart on a pendant that's out of stock, all and sundry work their socks off scouring the city for somewhere else that might have it - but perhaps there's no need to spend inordinate amounts of money for Miura to convey her feelings at all, when the real answer resides much closer to home?

All in all, this was a thoroughly enjoyable feel-good episode of this Nagi no Asukara, which offered us a chance to really see how much all of the main cast have matured and learned important lessons over the course of the series so far (something which really doesn't happen often enough in shows like this), leading into a really satisfying end to the main thrust of the episode which also lay down some very important seeds for future plot developments.  It might not be able to command the hype and excitement of Kill la Kill and its ilk, but there's an increasingly quiet majesty to the way this show is going about its business that makes it a joy to watch, and a visual feast to boot.

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Beyond the Boundary - Episode 8

Everything has settled down for Mirai now that her issues with Sakura have been resolved (so much so that the two now effectively act like sisters around one another), and with news spreading that the Calm is on its way, surely there's nothing left to be worried about?

For a Spirit World Warrior like Mirai this is perhaps true, but the impending Calm is problematic for others, marking a period where youmu's powers are significantly weakened, in turn creating a kind of "open season" for those who seek to hunt them down in the hope of the riches defeating them could bring (although as any good wolf goddess will tell you, a surfeit of youmu being cashed in would cause the market to crash).  Perhaps more prescient here is what effect this even will have upon Akihito given his half-youmu, half-human genetics - unfortunately, the answer is that nobody seems to know.

It appears that there's more than just good, honest youmu hunting being planned to coincide with the Calm however - Miroku Fujima in particular seems to have a plan that he's determined to carry out, and it's becoming increasingly clear that Akihito is an important part of it.  To get a hold of our protagonist however, he's going to have to make his way past some powerful opponents who are determined that Fujima won't be allowed to lay a finger on his current quarry.

Although it loses its way a little when it reverts to it fan service elements or simply tries to cram too many elements and plot points into too short a space of time, Beyond the Boundary does at least feel as if it's building towards something quite interesting here having positioned things where they seemingly need to be to provide some compelling narrative and big revelations.  Provided it can live up to that potential then this could actually be an opportunity to get a real look at the strengths of the series - something that we sadly haven't been able to do anything like as much of as I would have hoped up to this point.

Monday, 18 November 2013

Arpeggio of Blue Steel: Ars Nova - Episode 7

Its back to the water we go for the start of this week's Arpeggio of Blue Steel, as the I-401 returns to the sea for a journey "home"... and this time, she's bringing a trio of new guests with her.

Upon arriving at Chihaya's carefully hidden dock, Iwoto, it appears that it perhaps wasn't quite so carefully hidden as they have an unexpected guest waiting for them in the form of Takao.  Of course, Takao's goal isn't one of aggression, and although she's unable to verbalise her feelings in front of Gunzou it's very clear that there is nothing to fear from her at this point in time.  It also seems that Chihaya has yet another mental model within the growing crowd surrounding him in the form of Hyuuga, who is set the task of repairing the I-401 - a task which she clearly relishes given her rather, err, "unique" interest in Iona.

Much of this episode is spent either goofing around or getting to grips with the feelings of Gunzou's harem, I mean collection of Mental Models, as they themselves try to fathom how they've ended up in the positions they now occupy.  Either way, none of these ships seem to be particularly keen on fighting for the Fog against humanity, which could give Chihaya an immensely powerful arsenal if those around him side with him during his coming mission to move the vibration warheads in his possession to America.  Needless to say, it isn't looking like an easy journey however.

While I'll openly admit that the early part of this week's episode of Arpeggio of Blue Steel was rather a lot of fun thanks to its comedy leanings, it does also unfortunately serve to undermine any pretensions at serving up a serious story as a result.  With such a collection of battleship-girls around him, this is starting to feel a little like a half-baked harem show, so I really hope that next week's episode can bring us some naval action again - not only because it's what the show does best narratively, but also because it's best suited to the series' CG rendered aesthetic, which really starts to struggle when characters are flinging themselves at one another and trying to act like embarrassed school girls.  It feels as if the laughs are over and we're returning to serious business now, and this certainly seems like the right moment to break with such levity and get down to it, as time is fast running out to bulk up the show's story.

Sunday, 17 November 2013

Monogatari Second Season - Episode 20

With Shinobu missing and the instinct danger tormenting them liable to show up again at any time, Koyomi and company have finally managed to track down Izuko Gaen in search of help with their current quandary... or perhaps I should say that Gaen has tracked them down.

Given that she claims to know everything, it seems that nobody is better placed to inform Araragi et al how to defeat their current opponent, but before that Gaen wants three promises out of Koyomi - to be introduced to Kanbaru by him, and for both him and Kanbaru to help Ononoki with the work she was tasked to do before being distracted by current circumstances.

Having agreed to all of this, Gaen's answer to Araragi's pleas aren't so much disappointing as downright distressing - although she confirms that not only is Shinobu safe but that she's actually not the true target of this "darkness", the real truth is perhaps even worse.  In other words, it's actually Hachikuji who is the target of this darkness, as it seems to restore balance to the unnatural situation in which Mayoi now resides - essentially, she should have passed on to the afterlife by now having achieved her goal and found her way thanks to Koyomi, but rather than doing this or continuing her "work" as an apparition she's instead found herself unable to separate herself from Araragi.  As she's adamant that she won't return to a life of ensuring that others get lost, there's nothing for it but for her to accept her fate on move on.

Cue half an episode designed to successfully reduce me to a mess of tears via an elongated but poignant and occasionally rather beautiful farewell to Hachikuji, which adds another hugely memorable moment to the increasing list of such memories provided by this franchise as a whole.  The ability of this series to shift from the silly to the serious, and from tears of laughter to those of sorrow, is something which has really come into its own within Monogatari Second Season, and the joy of watching it is the feeling that you never quite know what you're going to get next, even when that something leaves you blubbing.  Every time I worry that this show might be dipping into a rut, it somehow manages to surprise me, and long may that continue.

Saturday, 16 November 2013

White Album 2 - Episode 7

It's the day of the festival at last, and everything is running smoothly, assuming you're happy to discount Touma's complaints about the outfit chosen for her.

This week's instalment wastes no time in getting the light music club take to the stage, allowing us to watch the increasingly enraptured crowd taking in two of the three songs that make up their set list, as well as Setsuna's MC'ing inbetween.  The electric atmosphere isn't just between performers and crowd however, as the rivalry between Ogiso and Kazusa reaches an unspoken fever pitch right in front of an unaware Hazuki.

Once the crowds have disappeared and the concert is over, thoughts quickly turn towards the future - while Setsuna is co-opted into helping her class' festival efforts having skipped out the previous day, it's left to Hazuki and Touma to talk about their futures first.  For Hazuki's part, he seems to have thoroughly enjoyed seeing the "real" Kazusa during preparations for the festival, and states his desire to remain with her.... as a friend.  Although these aren't the exact words out of his mouth, a tearful Touma interprets them as such, but there isn't room for much more conversation before Hazuki falls asleep.  If this is a faux pas, it's surely more than made up for by waking up to find Setsuna waiting for him, and she too doesn't want to be separated from Hazuki - her way of stating her intentions is far more straightforward and direct than that of her rival, however.

Now that the school festival and preparation for it are over, it finally feels like this series can actually get started - Ogiso's statement of intent at the end of the episode is a refreshing change from the usual dilly-dallying which accompany visual novel adaptations, and I'm keen to see what this series can do with its main trio in light of this after all of that (occasionally interminable) build-up that was made partly redundant by the show starting with events from this episode before flashing back to said build-up.  A blitz of reused animation and lingering shots of Setsuna's thighs might not be the most reassuring way for White Album 2 to set itself to step things up a gear, but fingers crossed all of the pieces are in place for a far more satisfying second half to the series.

Little Busters! Refrain - Episode 7

Their attempt to run away ending in failure, it seems that everything has changed as this seventh episode of Little Busters! Refrain begins.

Perhaps the most marked shift here belongs to Kyousuke, who returns from job-hunting in Tokyo a broken man with no interest in his friends, instead locking himself away in his room, reading manga, and generally being decidedly emo.  Things aren't much better for Rin, who has reverted back to a kind of child-like state where she wants nothing to do with grown-ups, or even Masato and Kengo, responding only to Rin and even then in a half-hearted manner.

With Kyousuke effectively out of commission and the rest of the cast missing completely, everyone seems to be looking to Riki to take the lead and find exciting and entertaining things for the remaining group to do - not exactly his forte, it has to be said.  Ultimately, all he can do is focus on making Rin happy, which also proves to be easier said than done in her current state.  When she responds positively to an opportunity to play baseball however - something which to Riki's knowledge they haven't done for many, many years - perhaps he's stumbled on the perfect opportunity to reunite the old gang?  Not so, for both Kengo and Masato want nothing to do with it, leaving Naoe and Rin contemplating the fact that they might just be the only ones who haven't been let in on a particularly important secret.

Although I'm willing to cut it a significant amount of slack for the fact that it's clearly done deliberately, this is certainly a discombobulating episode of Little Busters, throwing us with gusto into the next stage of its story without doing anything to clean up the events at the end of the previous instalment or give us any grounding into where we are now.  This certainly helps to bring us into line with Riki's own experience, which is a confusing existence of half-remembered events, half-truths and things which don't add up in his mind, although I'm not sure even that knowledge makes it a particularly satisfying viewing experience for at least the first half of the episode.  That said, I am now really intrigued as to what's going on, so even if its story-telling is a little flat it's still doing enough to drag me along for the ride.

Space Brothers - Episode 82

Kenji and Mutta's undersea training and testing continues apace, but first this week's Space Brothers treats us to some very good news for both Serika and Ena.

For the main focus of this instalment however, the three teams engaged in NEEMO training receive their first mission - to build a 1:3 scale model of a moon base, which they can base upon either an existing design or by creating one of their own.  Needless to say, the teams involved have very different ideas on how to go about creating this in the limited time granted to them, but there seems to be no disagreement between Kenji and Mutta as they plan out what they want to do in perfect harmony.

Such is their ability to work together, that both individuals ponder how great it would be for them to work together on the Moon - of course, we already know that this won't be possible due to the very organisation of this stage of their training (which only takes a single candidate from each team), but it's left up to the seniors working alongside them to decided whether or not to let them in on the secret.  This revelation's delivery to the pair couldn't come at a worse time for Kenji in particular, as he ponders the difficulties he's caused his family in his pursuit of becoming a lunar astronaut, which in turn gives him abundant motivation to achieve his goal no matter what.  You can probably see where that train of thought is heading...

All of this contributes to another simple but effective episode - moments like its relation of the difficulties suffered by Kenji's wife would feel contrived elsewhere but help to flesh out the story and the motivations of the cast nicely, and the way the current story arc is progressing continues to build up its promise nicely in a way which looks set to fit perfectly with so much of what Space Brothers does well.

Friday, 15 November 2013

Samurai Flamenco - Episode 6

Samurai Flamenco and Flamenco Girl have parted ways, but despite their differences neither of them seem to have any intention of backing away from their lives of crime-fighting.

Indeed, in Maya's case she's actually somehow managed to rope her fellow idols into joining her to create a trio of crime-fighting heroines - three peas in a pod... at least until Maya manages to persuade Goto to drop by, albeit in a fruitless attempt to seduce him.  Meanwhile, life remains dangerous on the streets for Samurai Flamenco, especially so when a man approaches him and bluntly states that he's going to die soon.  This seems to make little sense given that the guy in question is a mere PR representative for a stationary company, but he seems to hold some items that are of more than a little interest to Hazama...

As if knife-wielding small-time criminals isn't bad enough, Samurai Flamenco soon finds himself being pursued by all and sundry as everyone who spots him suddenly seems to want to capture this everyday hero.  The reason for this is simple enough - the "bounty" on his head for his capture has now been raised to ten million Yen, which is enough to start up a city-wide manhunt using social media to help track him down.  Lucky for Hazama then that he's packed some of the latest state-of-the-art stationary, and his escape is aided by some of the most innovative offensive use of office equipment since Bakemonogatari, even if this hero's tendency to trust and seek to help people no matter what threatens to backfire on him.

Although I keep worrying about what Samurai Flamenco plans to do with its narrative in the grand scheme of things, episodes like this are exactly what I need to learn to stop worrying and enjoy the show for what it is - a slightly bonkers but incredibly entertaining and funny tale that, thus far, has always just managed to find enough new material to keep the series fresh each week whenever it otherwise threatens to become stale.  Sure, it's stretching the credulity of its premise by this point in time, but that's easily forgiven when watching the show is such a blast, and if it can continue to entertain in this vein then I'm beginning to suspect that it doesn't matter if the show's wider ideas are limited after all.

Golden Time - Episode 7

Nothing punctuates a confession of love quite like being arrested for theft immediately after - well, it certainly makes for a memorable event if nothing else...

So it goes that Koko's confession to Banri is quickly followed by her arrest for the bicycle she stole to chase after Banri, leading to some time in questioning followed by the rite of passage that is having your father come to collect you from the police station.  Still, Koko isn't too worried about all of this - after all, she has herself a wonderful boyfriend now!  As you might expect given her previous behaviour around Mitsuo, Koko is a very.... dedicated girlfriend, wanting to spend every possible waking second with Banri, who somehow manages to be passive enough to deal with that, even if Koko still loses her cool when Mitsuo is around.

Such is Koko's reaction to the former apple of her eye that is begins to seem like all of the major characters are still running away from something (or rather, someone) - Koko is still trying to gloss over her previous feelings for Mitsuo, who for his part is avoiding Chinami after his botched confession.  That brings us to Banri, who is still avoiding Linda like the plague despite her constant attempts to contact him.  When these all fail, a friend who just so happens to live next to Tada forces both of their hands, bringing them together into a tearful reconciliation - not that we have much time to consider the ramifications of this, as Kaga reports that Mitsuo is in trouble.

Following some of the strong dramatic moments in last week's episode it was always going to be tough to follow it up, and as a result this seventh instalment of Golden Time doesn't quite hit the mark with its most emotional moment - it still holds some ability to tug at the heartstrings once Banri and Linda are forced to talk to one another again, but perhaps not quite as much as it should.  That aside, this episode does at least do a good job of making the relationship between Koko and Banri, and their feelings for one another, feel natural - it has all of the awkwardness inherent in the change of their relationship status, but the two normally rather different characters fit together pretty well as they bounce off of one another.  Taken as a whole though, this was another satisfying episode that at least keeps up some of the momentum brought to bear by last week's instalment.

Thursday, 14 November 2013

Kill la Kill - Episode 7

What's a girl got to do to get some peace and quiet?  As if having her bath time interrupted by the peeping Toms which make up her surrogate family isn't bad enough, Matoi's lunch breaks at school seem to leave little time for eating in the midst of the constant attacks from low-rent school clubs desperate to prove their worth by defeating her.

As the saying goes, "when you can't beat them, join them", and with that in mind Ryuko has a plan - to create a club of her own as a launching ground to go on the offensive and take on every ever club president she can find.  Thus, Fight Club is born (I wonder what the rules are?) - a club that almost seems doomed from the start as Matoi threatens to be buried under paperwork, before neatly sidestepping any such responsibilities to hand the club presidency instead to Mako.

Needless to say, Matoi is pretty proficient at the whole fighting thing, and having a Kamui doesn't hurt either when facing off against single star Goku Uniform-sporting rivals, and before we know it Matoi, Mako and her family are propelled up the social strata, enjoying more and more luxury and finery as Fight Club's standing rises to the stratosphere.  Money and a life of luxury are not, however, a guarantee of happiness, and in the case of Mako and her family much of the simple happiness they once knew is lost, replaced by a lust for the extravagant and a determination to never slip back down into poverty.  Eventually, enough is enough for Matoi as she looks to quit the club - but will Mako let her, especially now that she's been granted a two-star Goku uniform of her own?

Some of you are probably sick of hearing people gush over this series by this point in time, but this week's Kill la Kill was a work of simple brilliance - there's nothing new about the story of this episode or the morals it purports to display, but that doesn't stop it being slickly delivered, laugh out loud funny in all of the right places yet still emotionally resonant enough to prove surprisingly touching even if there were no shocks to be found in the way the instalment panned out.  Kill la Kill could easily be accused of trying too hard at times, or simply spinning its wheels in the name of churning out its particular brand of insanity, but this episode felt like neither of those things and worked in the purest way possible to deliver perhaps the most entertaining single instalment of anime from this season, if not one of the strongest of the year.  Even from a series I've enjoyed a lot thus far, this feels like a standout moment from within it.

Galilei Donna - Episode 6

It's Hazuki's turn to be injured courtesy of the fallout from last week's episode of Galilei Donna, leaving Hozuki with no other alternative than to set a course for the nearest hospital despite their status as fugitives.  If only you'd brought the homeless guy with the magic medical robot along with you, eh?

Speaking of homeless people, this week's episode also delves into the back story of two characters - Roberto Materazzi, who has become evil because some homeless people his parents fed when they were starving refused to help said parents when they were crushed under their own home after some kind of disaster; and Cicinho, a homeless kid with a sense of justice to match his attitude, thus allowing him to build the loyal band of pirates that he currently commands.

Fortuitously, it just so happens that all of these characters wind up at exactly the same hospital (what are the chances?), leading to plenty of uneasy stand-offs and some further suggestions that Anna isn't all that she seems.  Things go seriously awry however when Roberto decides to start shooting everybody in sight because... I don't know, he's probably been playing too much Call of Duty recently or something.  Still traumatised by Theo's death (and the fact that they didn't really use that dog much in Call of Duty: Ghosts after all), enough is enough for Hozuki, who leaps at Roberto to stop his killing spree, in the process triggering the pendant around her neck.  Perhaps the Galilei Tesoro wasn't so far away from the Ferrari sisters after all?

As much as I'd love to take this week's episode of Galilei Donna seriously, it's kind of hard to do so - this week's "message" was more heavy handed than some hands made out of really heavy things, and the plot was incredibly contrived to the point of being laughable.  For a show that seemed so fun and promising from its first episode, the glimpses of that promise seem to have transformed into the taunts of a series that has gone horribly wrong somewhere - the sense of fun and entertainment is gone, and attempts to craft something more serious, deeper and darker are falling flat on their face to the extent that I'm struggling to take it seriously at all any more.

Nagi no Asukara - Episode 7

After all of the various trials and tribulations surrounding its creation, the Ojoshi is finally complete - cue celebrations from those responsible for crafting it, be they from the sea and the surface.

In fact, so proud are those involved that a stirring of a more fundamental desire springs forth - these kids want to use the fruit of their labours to resurrect the Ofunehiki festival that has otherwise been cancelled.  It seems like nothing more than a pipe dream, but such is the determination and enthusiasm shown by those behind it that before we know it they're collecting signatures, convincing those in positions of power on both sides of the divide surrounding the festival, and ultimately arranging a meeting to talk things over.

With even Hikari's reticent father in attendance, hopes are high that the negotiations stemming from this meeting will be successful and bring about a reinstatement of the Ofunehiki, and this is only bolstered by the fact that all involved are decidedly impressed with the youngster's hard work and effort on the Ojoshi.  However, when it comes down to the real crux of the matter, things soon take a turn for the worse - those representing the people of the sea expect an apology from those on the surface, and before we know it this group of so-called grown-ups are reduced to name calling and, ultimately, the threat of fisticuffs that eventually boils over into the inadvertent destruction of the Ojoshi.  With Akari and her boyfriend also mired in the midst of this debate turned sour, things reach a seemingly impossible impasse while also destroying any chance of reconciliation between Akari and her father as she decides to leave to live on the surface.  With Hikari also deciding to take his leave in light of his father's actions, things are looking decidedly depressing for Shioshishio.

With so much coming to a head here, this was a top-notch episode of Nagi no Nasukara - the instalment's heart-warming first half was perfectly offset by the harsh realities of the second in a world where the children are the ones acting like reasonable human beings while the grown-ups act like spoiled little kids.  It isn't a particularly original sentiment, but it's one that never fails to resonate, and positioned in the midst of such heart-felt and engaging story beats it works rather well to create an emotional wave for the following episodes to hopefully ride on the crest of.

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Coppelion - Episode 7

Things have gone decidedly sideways in the latest attempt to rescue Aoi, and although this member of the Coppelion team is now safe, it seems to have come at a great cost to Ibara.

With a shrapnel wound, heavy blood loss and in cardiac arrest, it takes everything that Haruto and the rag-tag collective around him have got to stabilise her so that they can return her to The Planet for surgery and a life-saving blood transfusion.  All of this is too much for Aoi, who locks herself away whilst blaming herself solely for the deadly fate that almost befell her friend and comrade, but in the meantime the group also has themselves a decidedly handy prisoner in the form of the leader of the 1st Division.

As a result of this - and some disregard for human life shown by Haruto - we learn the true intentions of this mysterious pseudo-military division, and the news isn't good.  In essence, the group's plan is to use the sarcophagus which is at the centre of this Tokyo wasteland as a weapon to terrorise and most likely destroy Japan.  It is however, a plan that needs the held of a Coppelion to even get near the highly radioactive sarcophagus; certainly, with none of the group in question captured nobody seems to be taking their threat all too seriously, especially when they have a pregnant woman about to give birth to worry about instead.  This, though, is a small slice of hubris which is potentially about to be punished...

If you can get past the fact that by this juncture Coppelion's plot has more holes than a Swiss cheese after a session with an electric drill, it feels as if the series is finally going somewhere in the grand scheme of its story.  We now seem to have a central "enemy" to worry about, the final characters within Tokyo's proverbial chess board are about to reveal themselves, and the cast all seem to be in the right place to deliver some decent action and plot progression.  It's a real shame that the series is so heavy-handed when it comes to some of the things that it's really trying to say - criticism of government priorities for the most part at present - and it's clearly not going to be a much-loved classic by this point, so I hope at least that we can get some more strong moments out of Coppelion before it fizzles out.  The show has proved itself capable of providing such moments at least occasionally, so perhaps next week's instalment will manage to add to that number.

Beyond the Boundary - Episode 7

With its idol-esque shenanigans out of the way, in this week's Beyond the Boundary Mitsuki joins HND48... at least, in Hiromi's dreams she does.

That aside, Mirai's never-ending cavalcade of problems continues, as it becomes clear that Sakura Inami is about to transfer to her school - and into her class no less.  This wouldn't be such a problem is Sakura wasn't still so dead-set on wreaking vengeance upon Mirai for causing her sister Yui's death - indeed, she's going to great lengths to prepare herself for this revenge mission, using a weapon given to her by some unknown third-party which she's been feeding with youmu to strengthen it considerably.

Although Mirai could sidestep the immediate issue by using her contacts to block Sakura's transfer, she chooses not to do so as it's clear that it'll make little difference to the fact that there'll be a showdown between the two of them sooner or later regardless.  So it proves too, with the pair meeting to duke it out in the alleys and sewers of the town.  With no more youmu left to feed it however, Sakura's loaned weapon needs something else for its sustenance, and one Sakura finds herself unable to best Mirai's efforts it's the weapon's current owner that looks set to become its next meal.  Ironically, it's Mirai who saves the day and rescues Sakura, leading to at least something approaching a truce between them, but this is but the start of some more sinister goings-on instigated by the true owner of this weapon.

In the grand scheme of things, this was at least one of the stronger episodes of Beyond the Boundary - it just about got the balance of its comedy (tiresome though some of it is becoming) right, the dynamic between Mirai and Sakura was interesting even if it wasn't played out with any particular panache to leave the pivotal part of the story feeling a little sedate, and the closing moments of the episode certainly hold promise for the next episode or two.  This is, admittedly, still weak praise for a series that hasn't exactly set the world alight, but if it can ramp up its narrative to provide something more substantial for the second half of the series it would certainly be most welcome.

Monday, 11 November 2013

Arpeggio of Blue Steel: Ars Nova - Episode 6

Never mind the pair of mental models on their doorstep, the armed forces have only one target in mind as this week's Arpeggio of Blue Steel begins - little kid-cum-artificial intelligence Makie.

Having befriended her however, Haruna in particular has no intentions of letting Makie come to harm at anyone's hands, and thus she sets about attacking the forces which have come to dispatch this child genius.  Protecting Makie is easier said than done when the girl herself demands that Haruna doesn't bring those trying to kill her to any harm, and Haruna's thought processes are further shook up as Makie pulls away from her after realising that she is, in fact, part of the Fog.

Nonetheless, Haruna stands firm in her desire to protect her new friend, creating a decoy to lure troops away so that Makie might escape with some help from Kirishima.  This proves to be easier said than done, and once she realises what's happening Makie similarly refuses to leave Haruna in danger, leading to a dangerous reunion that puts them right in the middle of the concentrated armed forces stacked against them.  With her powers dwindling, all Haruna can do is cry out for help from anyone in a last desperate bid to protect Makie... enter Iona, her crew, and a whole lot of weaponry.

As cool as parts of this week's episode were, I think Arpeggio of Blue Steel would do well to stick to playing in water in future - even at their best there's something far less satisfying about watching the show's Mental Models fighting on land in their human forms (or teddy bear forms, in Kirishima's particularly ridiculous case).  I'll give this episode some credit for continuing to progress the show's story as it pertains to developing the Mental Models characters and sense of human emotion, but I can't pretend that it's highbrow stuff, and I'd still swap any plot development for another tense naval battle or two in an instant.

Sunday, 10 November 2013

Monogatari Second Season - Episode 19

Shinobu's long tale about her past, and her previous encounter with the mysterious "darkness", may be over, but it seems that we're still no closer to finding a solution to the crisis currently facing Araragi and company.

However, perhaps three heads are better than two, as rather than going off to return to work as she'd previously suggested it seems that Ononoki has been handing around to eavesdrop on this whole tale, and thus she returns just in time for Hachikuji to also regain consciousness, although I suspect she wishes that she hadn't given that all it gains her is another molestation at the hands of Koyomi.

Although Ononoki doesn't get on at all with Shinobu, the three girls ends up teaming up against Araragi to tease him mercilessly to the point of almost losing sight of the real heart of the matter at hand, although a reminder of this predicament soon makes itself very brazenly known to jolt the quartet back to reality.  Thus, it's time to effect an escape once again, although this time around it seems that not everybody has gotten off quite so likely, as recovering from their quite literal leap to safety it soon becomes clear that Shinobu is nowhere to be found...

Following that entire episode of story-telling last week, this particular Monogatari story arc continues to be quite the slow burner, spending a lot of its time goofing around before returning to the crux of its story.  Thankfully, this series is nothing if not masterful at letting its characters joke around and bounce off of one another, even if it sometimes entirely too reliant on Koyomi being an irredeemable pervert at the heart of its humour.  Uncomfortable though this occasionally makes things, I can't deny that it's a whole lot of fun, and the fact that I really have no idea what's going to happen next in this series in terms of the wider plot of this arc is no bad thing either - maybe this wasn't an example of pure-spun gold Monogatari, but it remains pretty great more often than not.

Saturday, 9 November 2013

White Album 2 - Episode 6

Whether it's through overwork, stress or plain old organic illness, Touma's collapse isn't exactly good news with the school festival only a couple of days away.

Having not turned up to school or answered her phone, it's Haruki who comes to the rescue and finds Touma in a heap, and he sets about skipping both school and the light music club's first rehearsal to look after his old friend and club-mate.  It's something he proves rather proficient at, not only when it comes to undressing her but also in cooking for her and phoning both her housekeeper and doctor to make sure that everything is under control.  It's the kind of attention to detail that Touma has little choice but to grudgingly accept as she seeks to recover her strength and fight off her illness before the group's big day.

This leaves us concerned with Setsuna, who is having some issues of her own - namely that she completely freezes when put under the spotlight at the rehearsal, claiming that she simply can't sing without Haruki and Touma present.  This means that their first rehearsal is largely wasted, and with much still to do Haruki decides that there's nothing for it but to steal Setsuna away from the school festival's first day for another all-day session of hard practice - in fact, they even have a third song to learn and rehearse, with lyrics penned by Haruki and the song itself composed by Kazusa.

So, White Album 2 continues to roll along at a decent clip - it doesn't really do anything wrong, so I can't particularly criticise it, but it isn't doing anything particularly interesting either, leaving both me and the series to just go through the motions week upon week.  The series continues to insist that it's going to have a lot more to say once the school festival is done and dusted, so hopefully that can at least offer some moments to lift White Album 2 out of the realms of abject mediocrity for the second half of the series.

Little Busters! Refrain - Episode 6

As if having to say goodbye to Rin as part of her temporary transfer of schools wasn't bad enough, Riki also has to swallow the fact that the entire thing - and indeed the entire history of the Little Busters - was manufactured by Kyousuke as a way to help Rin in growing up and maturing.

Although Naoe has no problem with that concept in and of itself, the way Kyousuke has gone about it leaves him seething.  While Masato seems happy to remain loyal to Kyousuke no matter what, Riki at least finds a kindred spirit in Kengo, who also agrees that Kyousuke is out of line.

Inevitably, word soon starts to filter through from Rin that she's decidedly unhappy at her new location - surrounded by depressed people and unable to make any friends, she only withdraws further into herself and simply doesn't know what to do - a fact not helped by her being unable to e-mail Komari for some reason, which Naoe suspects is another part of Kyousuke's plot.  When Rin returns for a weekend back at "home" as little more than a mere shell, Riki decides that enough is enough, and with Kyousuke determined to send her back he and Kengo challenge him to a dual, which of course they summarily lose. Thus, there's nothing else for it but for Naoe to run away with Rin - another option which is only ever likely to end in failure.

While I remain intrigued as to where Little Busters! Refrain is heading in the sense of its wider narrative, it's struggling to grab me at all on an episode by episode basis - a lot of its plot points either feel poorly fleshed out or simply without anything to make them interesting, which leaves the series limping along seemingly unable to draw any real emotion out of its circumstances.  It's certainly still a million miles away from the Clannad anime adaptation, which seemed to know how to entertain and fascinate even when it was just going through the motions.  This really shouldn't surprise me given the mediocrity of the first series of Little Busters, but I was still expecting more here somehow, and remain disappointed at its inability to consistently deliver at this juncture.