Welcome to another edition of Annotated Anime, the weekly recap that isn't afraid to declare itself above all others, because it knows this to be the truth!
This week we're going in heavy, loaded for bear with armor-piercing recaps from the latest in cartoon goodness, including Chuunibyou, Girls und Panzer, Shin Sekai Yori, Little Busters!, Magi, Busou Shinki, Muv-Luv, Sword Art Online, Oniai, Bakuman, Robotics;Notes, Space Bros., The Pet Girl of Sakurasou, Hidamari Sketch, Jormungand, JoJo's Bizarre Adventure, and Blast of Tempest!
It's a barrage of anime worthy of Stalin's Organ, all right below, primed and ready for your perusal!
Girls und Panzer episode 8
Goodness, but this show is brilliant. Not only is it fan service of the highest order for the military buff and a genuinely enjoyable journey into absurdity for sports anime, it's also got a love of history and even culture that the Hetalias and samurai gender-swappers of the anime world struggle to express.
And as with the lovely video above, it's perhaps most apparent in the music rather than the characters, who aren't as transparent in their adherence to national stereotyping. From using "The British Grenadiers" for the fake-British team to "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" for the fake-American team, Asread outdoes itself by actually having its fake-Russian team sing the classic wartime folk song "Katyusha" as their horde of T-34s roll across the snowy steppe. Lovely.
It's also a pretty good indicator of how high the stakes are now for the girls of Ooarai. They didn't even need the sudden "Gotta win to save the school" motivation to put the pressure up. When the little loli Commissar declared that they'd know what true strength is right before the song, everyone knew that for the first time in the show Tankery is serious business. Maybe too serious, given how the Nishizumi family's victory hard-on drove Miho away in the first place, but the time for playing around is over.
This is war sports.
On a side note, if the Ooarai girls really intend to take on Maho and the other champs, they're really going to need that Tiger (P) they found but inexplicably did not bring to the steppe. Sodoko and co.'s French B1 bis is going to help, and the upgunning of the IV takes some of the pressure off Team Hippo's StuG III, but when even the weakest enemy unit can send a shell straight through half your tanks' thickest facings, it's time to get better hardware.
[Vykhodila na bereg Katyusha, and you can watch this on The Anime Network]
Busou Shinki episode 9
Whew. Busou Shinki managed to arrest its slide into suckiness - for me, at least - this week, by actually doing something closer to what it's been good at doing so far. The last two episodes stumbled when they emphasized the wrong parts of what makes Busou Shinki's absurdity fun. Episode 7 came out of left field with lame ghost stories, and episode 8 failed to capitalize on the potential inherent in the concept of Shinkis getting malware and what robots see when they dream.
Episode 9, however, gets it, and once more sparks the nerd imagination with something straight out of Toy Story: A secret Shinki society full of abandoned Shinkis, away from their masters but afraid to risk returning to the manufacturer (which is apparently a warranty thing). And of course, a Mad Max-esque warlord with a grudge against masters has taken over, with the still master-loving resistance cooking up hilarious prophetic visions of a savior come to liberate the oppressed.
It's all very absurd, but all in the right ways, especially once the prophecy is fulfilled, and throwaway visual elements raise fun nerd-baiting questions. Since there's a cat in the warlord's throne room, does this mean that Shinkis can keep pets? If that's the case, can a legal Shinki (not these refugees) own property? If a Master is cruel to his Shinkis (like Sid, the the fireworks-on-army-men kid from Toy Story), is it considered abuse or cruelty? If an abused Shinki is a Maochao (Cat-type) or Howling (Dog-type), is it cruelty to animals? What about the Shinkis themselves? So many questions.
Lastly, the villains of the piece are a bit of a disappointment. There was an opportunity here to debut a bunch of new Shinkis, but again we're stuck with hooker-makeup versions of the Eukrant, Ach, and Yda we've already seen, plus a hobo version of yet another Zelnogrard. The only new girls are the fencer-type Oorbellen and Zielbellen, but they don't get enough screentime with their armor on to distinguish them from Lene, who looks a tad too similar.
[Carry the red lord while standing in golden snow, and shout the word of hope while watching this on The Anime Network]
Robotics;Notes episode 8
It seems the appearance of Nao from Steins;Gate was a bit of a fake-out, as she turns out not to be a sinister NASA agent but a chipper JAXA employee, as if Aki had grown up wanting to be an astronaut instead of a super robot pilot and grown a sense of etiquette. That JAXA would have been willing to fund a giant robot* was momentous enough, but the fact that Aki turned them down because the giant robot couldn't be GunMake-1 suggests her motivation for finishing it has more to do with big sister's shadow than genuine GUNVARREL fangirlism. I look forward to the day the former turns to the latter.
In the meantime, the crazed conspiracy subplot, which is more than a little similar to Assassin's Creed III's right now, believe it or not - are solar flares the new asteroids and volcanoes? - belongs exclusively to Kai and Kugyuu Airi as Kai takes on a hilariously complex series of AR challenges - worthy of an "ilovebees" or Majestic, except with the modern trappings of smartphones, leaderboards and geotagging. One question, though: What kind of sadist designs a radome with the dome controls floating over a sheer 150-foot drop? I understand that the structure is in disrepair, but even if it were brand-new maintenance workers would have needed to bring a pole (or a Fing-Longer) with them just to do their jobs. Not everyone has cool-yet-painful Matrix-powers to save them from a gruesome death.
In any case, the plot proceeds apace, but it may need to speed up a little if it's going to go anywhere, now that we're in the back quarter of the show's run. I've heard no rumbles of a second cour as of yet, and I'm beginning to fear a plot-dump if things don't go well.
*Aki's dad is kind of awesome, by the way.
Chuunibyou Demo Koi ga Shitai! Episode 9
With the school festival around the corner and Rikka acting oddly distant toward Yuuta, Shinka quickly realizes that our eye patch girl is head over heels in love. She hatches multiple plans to get Rikka to confess her feelings, all but one of which fail in hilarious fashion. The final attempt and coup de grace is a romantic moment on the roof of the school, one that goes sour when Rikka slips and nearly falls to her death. Yuuta, being the Dark Flame badass that he is, rushes down to the floor below the roof and grabs her in his arms. The two share an incredibly sweet moment, and somewhere somebody is probably listening to "That's the Power of Love" by Huey Lewis and the News.
Just when I think this show can't make me "d'aw" any further, it catches me with a sucker punch to the gut. I came into Chuu2 expecting well produced harem hijinks, but what I've gotten instead is a fairly straightforward romantic comedy about two individuals and the weirdos that surround them. This core romance has been a slow burn, and I think the series is better for it. Now that the wheels have started moving, I'm really looking forward to seeing how this all comes together.
Bring it on KyoAni.
[Catch Chuunibyou Demo Koi ga Shitai! on the Anime Network]
Sword Art Online Episode 22
At this point, I don't expect SAO to ever wow me with its writing or any of its attempts at emotional sequences. The only thing I hope for is beautifully animated action, which A-1 delivered in quantity this week.
Kirito rushes into the final dungeon to take down the bosses and save his beloved Asuna, but is instead met with a seemingly limitless army of guardians who best him with a storm of arrows. He tries his damnest to break through, and its here that you can see the studio flexing its animation muscle. Sparks fly, warriors are sliced in half and much violence is had. Unfortunately I had a hard time caring about the emotional underpinnings of the battle, but at least it was a visual feast.
Leafa/Sugu discovers Kirito's true identity and has an emotional breakdown, logging out of the game immediately but failing to escape from her brother who, you know, lives right next to her. Kirito confronts his little sister and discovers her incestuous feelings for him, but can only respond with an awkward sorry. Despite having become so close after his return from SAO, the siblings are once again separated by cruel fate! Alas!
Honestly, I could write a relatively decent sized essay detailing all the narrative problems that SAO has been suffering from. That'd also be a waste of time though, at this point. If you've been following this series since the beginning, you're in it until the end, for better or worse.
All we can do is hope for more cool action.
[Catch Sword Art Online over at Crunchyroll]
Magi Episode 9
Picking up where we left off last week, Alibaba continues his story of why he became the leader of the Fog Troupe, admitting that he was well aware of how Kassim had treated their friendship in the past.
His reasoning runs deeper than just friendship; after returning to his home country and seeing it in ruins, Alibaba made the decision to fight for the people of the slums. By lending his name and power to the Fog Troupe, he had hoped to give justification to its existence. Unfortunately, things haven't gone so well for him and his new friends.
Kassim interrupts the trio's reunion to take Alibaba back, only to be met with resistance from Sinbad and his people. A fight ensues on the roof of the hotel, but ends with a quick victory for the king of the seven seas. In a surprising move, Sinbad extends a helping hand to the Troupe, offering to lend his support to Alibaba and his friends. He explains that he's on a mission to fix the abnormalities that have been plaguing the land, and Balbadd's current crisis falls under that umbrella. Alibaba accepts the proposal, and the two announce to the people of the city that he will be confronting his brother to negotiate terms that will hopefully lead to a better way of life for the citizens. After an emotional plea, Alibaba is crushed to find that the king couldn't care less about what he has to say.
There was a noticeable dip in animation quality this week (probably went to SAO), but the actual content was fairly solid. There wasn't a whole lot of action, though Sinbad's antics more than made up for it. If it's not already clear, this arc very much belongs to Alibaba, and I'm glad that A-1 isn't skimping on covering all the details of his past. His relationship with Kassim is a complicated one, and I'm looking forward to seeing how it plays out over the next few episodes.
[Catch Magi via Crunchyroll]
JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Episode 9
Man tears all out of my face. Or, as my friend said which would be infinitely more accurate in the JoJo universe, vampire bullets. Either way, I think it's hard not to have something coming out of your body after watching this episode.
I hate when people tell me "keep watching, it gets better". If you didn't like this arc, maybe JoJo isn't for you. (It's okay. Not everyone can handle awesome in its purest form.) If you didn't love this arc, but you got some tingles here and there throughout your body, I can assure you I have generally loved the JoJo manga more with each turn of the page. The anime has been no different as I have hopefully made clear over the past 9 weeks.
It was a big shock to me when Jonathan died. To kill a main character and keep them dead is so difficult and such a bold and powerful move. The tragedy that was Jonathan's life, cut short just when he finally seemed to have some peace. As much as Erina was willing to die with him, it was just pure poetry that he insisted that she save the child whose mother died to protect them – the same exact fate that befell JoJo's own mother.
I'd be repeating myself to say it was well animated and paced. I'll say it anyway. It sure was. I think from now on I'll only really comment about that if I think an episode isn't. Starting next week we'll get a whole new story where what happened over the past nine episodes becomes important in a variety of ways. It's a very exciting moment.
Oniai Episode 9
A little different than usual this time, Oniai's cold intro is barely four minutes long! Joking aside, there is just one skit after the OP, and it's about Akito getting stick. Naturally, the girls all try to get a chance to nurse him back to health.
The jokes this week are mostly missing, although Oniai retains its tongue-in-cheek humor. Akito, in his good graces, deals with his ham fisted charges with as much grace as a sick person can. Nasuhara has a cute tsundere skit. Arisa pulls the "exotic Asian traditional cure" route complete with a spring onion up the butt (don't ask). A surprisingly tender moment shared between Akiko and Akito foreshadows, perhaps, that his editor might actually be on to something.
Speaking of his editor, her gags are probably the one slap-stick saving grace this week. Oniai episode nine, however, is really about setting up Gin and her back story with Akito. During Gin's segment with the sleeping Akito, we see a flashback where Akito dreams a shared memory between them during their early days. It segues abruptly to the ending and continues with the usual word collage for the next episode preview.
There isn't a lot to say about a build-up episode, but it's in times like this we see Oniai's formula in the clearest form. I think the character chemistry between Akito and the girls are the strongest, and that probably makes this harem-esqe story strangely more interesting than most. It's too bad this applies mostly to Akiko and Arisa, and the ick factor is ever present with those two.
The Pet Girl of Sakurasou Episode 9
There is a blonde foreigner in the Sakura house.
Here comes, from marry old England, Shiina’s old roommate Rita! She has come to Japan to take Shiina back to England. Excuse me? You can’t come and take the main female character away from the story. The title of the anime is The Pet Girl of Sakurasou and if you take our pet girl away it will only be The of Sakurasou. That just doesn't sound right at all. You won’t be able to sell any merchandise like that. I think it would be better if she just stayed there and let the story run its course.
In all seriousness, it is kind of hard to swallow this kind of story line. You already know it can’t happen because we are talking about our title girl here. It just wouldn't work if they actually took the main female lead out of the story. I mean it just can’t happen, right? Well by the end of the episode, it looks like Sorata thinks that this might not be a bad idea to have her go back. It’s a bit surprising but at the same time needed. Looking into my crystal ball I see this pulling them closer together as they figure out if Shiina should go or not. Sorata will be battling his emotions as he struggles to figure out what is best for her or even him. Sorata does discover how amazing Shiina’s artwork really is. She is a genius at art and could easily be put in the history books as one of the greats. He doesn't want to see her leave and yet knows that she should go and be everything she can be.
Also Akasaka finally comes out of his room and looks like a fem-male.
[Draw on the walls at Crunchyroll]
Space Bros. Episode 35
Ehhhh. I'm not sure I really like the way that this episode went, nor the way it looks like the next episode is going. I understand that these phone calls about whether or not key characters are going to become astronauts are pretty important, but do we really need them to be an episode each? Even Kenji mentions in the episode that he wishes the guy on the phone would stop waffling on and just get to the point. That's pretty much my opinion on the episode.
Don't get me wrong, it was nice enough to see a little more of Kenji's past. It's nice to see that his wife is awesome, and that he always wanted to climb higher and higher. I understand that. It's just that this episode seems like one giant, glorified advert from JAXA to get people out of their jobs and applying to become astronauts. Of course, when I say it 'seems' this way, I mean it is this way.
Still, we see that he made it through okay, and that his wife seemed to be celebrating the fact that he wouldn't be around often (an affair, perhaps?). We also discover that Kenji wakes up, washes his face and does his hair before leaving. I sure hope there's a shower involved somewhere, but perhaps he's the kind of guy to do all the washing the night before.
Mutta doesn't want udon.
[Space pugs can be found on Crunchyroll!]
Little Busters! Episode 9
We take a quick break from hunting new members for the Little Busters to instead spend the episode on cafeteria duty, following mysterious orders from a cat masquerading as a member of The Beatles. Not only do they continue to obey the furry feline, but it can now apparently predict the future. Unfortunately, it chose not to warn Riki that he'd be sleeping on the kitchen floor mid-service. Asshole.
So this was pretty much the Rin episode, as it focused on her super shyness and how she eventually turns to the newer members of the Little Busters for help. Incidentally, it's a little weird that all the male members were 'founders'. Well, unless the opening hasn't spoiled the full Little Buster crew, but it certainly seems that it's only the umbrella lady left to go.
It was a sweet side-story, but I'd love it if we can get back to the meat of the tale. Even though Riki is the main character and he has this terrifying sleep problem, we really haven't seen much. I know it's going to come, but I feel we're just going a tad to slow.
Jormungand: Perfect Order Episode 8
And after twenty episodes, we get the name drop! Seems all of these satellites being launched actually serve a purpose besides winding people up, as Kasper mentions they'll speed up deployment of military or something. I have no idea how, nor do I really care, but it seems he's trying for a monopoly on arms dealing. Well, that sure is something!
Meanwhile, Koko hangs out more with the butterfly lady she has this satellite deal with, and then she proceeds to be bugged about her plans by some other person we've not met before. There may also be a fight brewing over Jonah, as it seems Koko isn't the only one who adores the little fella.
Speaking of fights, wasn't that a glorious one between Milde and Karen? A pointless yet brutal fist fight between two ladies just for the sake of it pretty much explains why I enjoy this show as much as I do, as I can't help but find it so damn entertaining. There's also a plot in most cases, though it seems this episode was purely devoted to setting up the Jormungand for later on.
Hidamari Sketch x Honeycomb Episode 8
I'm just going to go ahead and say it, but this episode was pretty much a dream come true for any budding yuri fanatic that fancies seeing something more from Yuno and Miyako's relationship. I mean, we had shared bathing in the previous episode, and now we're having Yuno doing things like dressing and feeding Miyako? I'm sure it had plenty of people getting steamy!
More continuity, as the Hidamari girls have that festival they were talking about. Yuno gets a little too attached to her pamphlet design, but hey, why not enjoy it? I still prefer Miyako's 3D entry, myself. I wonder if they'll package some glasses in with the Blu-ray edition of the show?
We also see more of that one person that left the school that Yuno met up with a while back. What is this, a love triangle? Gasp! Also, it seems that we've finally confirmed that Nazuna will be hooking up with the principal, if the episode preview is telling the truth. Seven kids? Seems like they'll be busy, and I'm more than certain my monitor will not be able to handle the SUPER WIDEFACE.
Bakuman. 3 Episode 8
Finally! Say hello to Nanimine Tooru, otherwise known as 'that one character that the authors couldn't quite fit into Death Note'. While I had been enjoying the Bakumanga for a long time prior to this arc, it was certainly around this time that I became truly hooked, to the point where I'd be constantly checking if the chapter had released on a Friday. He's a great character, as you'll see from now on.
It was also pretty nice seeing Ashirogi change their opinions on him in such a short space of time. They sing their praises of the guy when they had only read Classroom of Truth, and upon meeting the guy they end up feeling disgusted.
If nothing else, they now feel they need to give their new found rival a good whooping in the manga ratings. Hopefully Mashiro and Takagi can stop being depressed long enough to do so without being sidetracked by a woman/a dog/writers block/angst/all.
Shin Sekai Yori Episode 10
Holy info dump Batmeng! Saki finds Shun in some sort of strange, otherworldly area and gets about ten minutes to find out all the information she can. To put it succinctly, the barrier around the town was put into place to keep humans in the town, not keep beasties out. Humans have difficulty controlling their inner impulses, so the Canti has a habit of getting out and messing things up. Considering how far the old world went to try and control those with PSY powers, it makes sense that a barrier would be put around a town.
Instead of worrying about, you know, creating mutants out in the wild, Saki focuses on why Shun and his pup are all messed up. He gets the point across that his PSY powers are out of control and he has to GTFO to keep from damaging his surroundings. It's an interesting twist that makes the actions of the adults make a bit more sense, as they have to worry about containing people that get out of control.
A cat manages to get into Shun's hide out. It attacks Shun, but his dog jumps in and takes a fatal bite. WIth his last companion dead, Shun ends his own life while ensuring that Saki gets out of the area. Well, now that Saki has a better idea about how the system works to prevent out of control psychics, I'm curious as to what she'll do. As is always with Shin Sekai Yori, I'm not sure what the through line is here. Is she going to rebel and take out the city? Get the kids to fight back? Who knows. It's a problem that the show has only a couple of episodes to solve.
Muv-Luv Alternative - Total Eclipse Episode 22
Leave it to humans to always mess things up. While there are quite a few messed up things going on in the Eurasian front of the war against the BETA, attacking the facility that's developing weapons to fight the ultra powerful alien threat isn't the best of ideas. Then again, when have human ambitions ever been tempered by common sense?
Anyway, Argos team, Yui, Cryska and Cui get suited up and head out to try and combat the RLF. Things get a bit strange when Sandek, the USSR commander that's been über suspicious, drives out and meets up with the impromptu flight of TSFs. While the puppet master behind the attack remains unknown, Sandek suspects it may be American-based. Despite the USSR commander's worries, Yui decides to send Stella and VG out to the Anchorage base while everybody else stays behind to fight. They're in for a bit of trouble too, as the team of five is set to fight an entire flight of RLF.
I'm quite pleased with the direction Total Eclipse is taking for the finale. It's a great, serious situation after way too much messing around. While I can guess that the BETA in that lab will become an issue later, it's interesting seeing how humans are tearing themselves apart. Character wise, I'm also happy to see Yui kicking some ass again, both as a pilot and a leader. It's only taken the entirety of the show to see her back to being her old self.
Zetsuen no Tempest Episode 9
Betrayal abound, as a lot of speculation is thrown around at Hakaze's supposed skeleton. I really hope that it isn't true, as time manipulation doesn't feel right with what's been built up thus far. It doesn't bother Mahiro much, as all he cares about is finding out who murdered Aika. With a pair of giant brass balls, Mahiro threatens Samon to get the identity of his sister's murderer. Surprisingly enough, Samon has the common sense and decency to agree.
Yoshino isn't too pleased that Mahiro is so willing to switch sides, so he picks up communicating with Hakaze. He has a flashback involving Aika referencing Shakespere's The Tempest, which gives him the wherewithal to try and save Hakaze too. What happens is that Yoshino and Mahiro clash, with a very confused Samon trying to keep things in his favor. Yoshino claims to have know a way to save Hakaze and offers to tell Mahiro the identity of Aika's boyfriend. With nothing to lose, Mahiro gives Yoshino until Samon finds Aika's murderer to prove that he can save Hakaze.
While Samon is definitely the antagonist here, I'm seeing more shades of gray here than normal. He doesn't necessarily seem like a bad guy, just one with an opposing opinion and is willing to do what he feels is right. I really dig that. It's so rare in to see a villain like that in anime, so I feel it's worth highlighting whenever one pops up.