Welcome to this week's edition of Annotated Anime, the weekly anime recap that's being repurposed as an extension of Japanator's 2012 Holiday Shopping Guide! At the top of our list? Some "HANA * COME ON"-brand tissue and "KET'S FUKEY"- brand paper towels! Yes, that will fulfill your quota on the "weird Japanese goods front", at least. Of course, while you're waiting for the rest of our Holiday Guides to show up (videogames here, by the way), you can feast your eyes on the latest in Japanese cartoons! Because this is a recap in addition to a toilet-paper-and-tissue-recommendation column.
This week Jeff continues his affair with both Oniai and Seitokai no Ichizon, Salvador drops K down a hole (let's call it a "K-hole" for drug references' sake), Eric is filled with manly fervor by JoJo's Bizarre Adventure, Pedro plays MEGA-catch-up with Shin Sekai Yori, Muv-Luv Alternative, and Blast of Tempest, Josh continues petting his girl (of Sakurasou), Elliot delivers Magi, Chuunibyou, and Sword Art Online, Chris brings the fearsome quintet (also known as Space Bros., Bakuman, Little Busters!, Jormungand, and Hidamari Sketch, and I am weirded out, excited, and intrigued by Busou Shinki, Girls und Panzer, and Robotics;Notes, respectively!
Seitokai no Ichizon Lv.2 Episode 5
If I were to guess which anime would make an elaborate gag with a video game's DRM, Seitokai no Ichizon would be at the top of my list of educated guesses. It does not disappoint this week, with the B-part of the episode dedicated to one long running gag involving a little sister and an eroge. Well, at least one of that is true.
Isn't it fascinating that today, in 2012, we have an anime that talks about how when you upgrade your computer, you will have to re-install the old games you want to replay? And in those cases where a product key is involved, it means you'll have to keep the packaging around? And that I just spent 10 minutes watching how Sugisaki called home (he attends school far from home, I guess), coerced her opposite-gender, younger, and underaged sibling to dig out that product key from storage, when the said packaging indicates that the game you want to play is probably adult-only? Sometimes an anime might throw you a plot device that just seems way too Japanese, lack of a better term; I think this one could be for real. This one could happen to any of us who are old enough. At least, until everything goes the way of Steam (or Mangagamer, for those naughty games). Thank you, Steam. Thank you Mangagamer. And lastly thank you Ringo Sugisaki, for making that cute photo for Ken; it's simply just adorable.
The first half of this week's Seizon also revolves around a series of misunderstandings. It's relatively less hard-hitting, as it involves a simple moment of private time between Ken and Kurimu. Ms. President may be immature and entirely selfish, but she knows what is important--both her current situation and that personal alarm of hers. It pushes forward the characters forward, even if by that little bit. It's all I could ask of the little girl.
Oniai Episode 8
This week, the entire crew goes to shop for some swimwear. Akito stayed home, because it took over nine minutes before the OP kicked in. That is a new record for Oniai's cold opening. It's certainly the most educational one of them all thus far.
In the second half of the episode, Akito instead becomes the judge for the girls--just whose swimsuit is better? The antics here are about as outrageous as you would expect, but I think the first half was much better. When Ms. Student Council President couldn't get that string bikini tied around her, she enlisted Akiko's help. Invariably her bikini top breaks, and her boobs bounced forward, catching an unsuspecting Ginbei in the face, knocking her out cold. Talk about slapstick!
Other than the protracted, initial gag, this week's Oniai is on the slow side. Even when Arashi shows off her swimsuit in the second half, we were expecting something a little more original than simply her wearing nothing. I suppose seeing Akito's editor randomly with her swimsuit, and attending a meeting with him about his latest work in the like, have to do it for this week.
Oniai has established that it can be good with its outrageous jokes when it wants to. However sometimes it tries to be a little too orthogonal, and gets people expecting too much that it has a hard time resetting my expectations. I have to give it credit for trying, but this week is a dud, fanservice notwithstanding. Maybe it's just Akiko's t-shirt is kind of lame this week? I guess it is truly creative to pass off chest padding as tea cup.
[Catch the Oniai swimsuit pageant via FUNi!]
JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Episode 8
Another big episode. Big episode. Huge! I really can't even begin to talk about much without getting into heavy spoiler territories so be warned!
Within ten minutes – ten minutes! – a extremely awful looking zombie dude was introduced and taken care of. Have I mentioned how much I love the pacing in this show? Powered up via Zeppli, JoJo is so amazing with his blood techniques that he shot the poison out of his own blood stream. So. Hard. Core. Poco's sister is saved and gross snake guy is gone. Justice is partially served.
So now finally, the big fight with Dio. Dire wants to take him out as revenge for Zeppli, but unfortunately for Dire, most characters don't seem to outlive their welcome in this series. Dio completely shatters Dire's body and Dire is all but finished before his disembodied head spits a rose stem right into Dio's eye. Right into it. I can't help but cheer.
While Tom Petty (Tonpetti, fine) and Straits (Straitzo, whatever) take out a bunch of zombies and Speedwagon narrates like it's his job, JoJo and Dio finally get it on. I really love the the fire/ice dichotomy between JoJo and Dio. It's simple to the point of being cliche, but they are really such opposites that it is only fitting that it is represented by the most primal of opposites. I thought the fight was beautifully animated and really used color well. It's hard not to be on the edge of my seat the entire time, even though, heck, we generally know how these sorts of things play out. However, as these past few episodes have taught us, in JoJo even when there is victory something will likely be lost.
Muv-Luv Alternative - Total Eclipse Episode 19 - 21
One of the American members of the UN proposes a friendship seminar to boost overall moral and get everybody focused on taking care of the BETA. Unfortunately, he proposes this while everybody is focused on the Blue Flag exercises, so none of the pilots involved in this 'friendship seminar' are too pleased. Of course, there's a cash prized involved with getting to the meeting place, so things are once again a competition. Figures.
Argos team lands and the four head out into the woods. They make it near to the meeting point when they begin to smell something strange. Thinking it's a wild animal, they go into attack formation and bump into the American team. What they find is a natural hot-spring with the other teams already enjoying the warm water. Everybody unpacks and begin preparations for dinner, which devolves into typical hot-spring antics. I will say that this'll probably be worth watching when you can watch the episode uncensored. Too much steam for my taste.
After a fairly useless clip show, we jump into the final arc of the series. Argos team is attempting to form a strategy against the American team when they're interrupted by Cui. She offers to help Argos team practice for their fight in exchange for a date with Yuuya. I'm just going to say right now that I've had it with this punk ass. She adds nothing except to complicate things at a time where things should start to be coming together. I'm hoping she gets wiped out in some sort of struggle in the end.
Anyway, there's a side plot where an organization called the Refugee Liberation Front is attempting to hijack or destroy the UN base. This is some interesting stuff. Total Eclipse is like The Walking Dead in that the main crux of the show aren't the monsters that have caused the conflict, but the ways in which humanity changes afterward. Despite the end of their species seemingly at hand, humans are still quibbling amongst themselves. Things get especially interesting when these people raid a lab and find dozens of BETA being tested on. Once again, humanity's curiosity is going to get it into some major trouble.
What I'm really happy about is the show got mean again. After episodes and episodes of silly antics, we've finally been reminded that this is a Hobbesian world. Characters you've grown to like are starting to get the axe, starting with poor Natalie. Add in the potential BETA factor and I think we are going to have a huge massacre on our hands.
Shin Sekai Yori Episode 7 - 9
Alright, so we've got a group of about six against several thousand huge beasts. The big group have got weapons, the small group has an exhausted user of PSY. That doesn't seem like things will end well. Lucky for them, another group of monsters saves them when things look their worst. That doesn't mean that Saki and Satoru are safe, as they surmise that their saviors probably have orders to kill the kids for knowing too much. When they set off on their own, they find out that their hunch was right. However, the monsters let them go and since the kids helped them out.
Saki and Satoru end up meeting back up with the rest of their group. Saki figures out how to get everybody else's powers back, so now the kids have to get back home. They all make it back and instead of seeing the immediate consequences, we jump ahead two years. Now all 14 years old, the kids are displaying some pretty heavy amounts of PDA, similar to what that archive was mentioning a couple episodes back. What's even more interesting is that most of the kids shown are in homosexual relationships. I don't know if it has anything to do with the story yet, but it's a neat wrinkle in something that could've been completely formulaic. It also adds an interesting twist to the usual complexities of teenage relationships. Then again, the usual teenage relationship doesn't have to contend with PSY abilities that could rip people apart.
After an episode setting up how the kids have grown (and coincidentally fallen into the habits the archive talked about), Shun is forced to go to 'rehab,' probably due to malicious intents. Before he leaves, he lets Saki know that the temple knows what happened two years ago. He gives Saki a charm and tells her to warn the others. The group splits up to try and find Shun, which leads to the discovery that Shun's entire town has been cordoned off. When Saki and Satoru break into the area, they find a ton of anomalies that lead to a hole. A giant hole. Where the town used to be. The plot thickens as Saki figures out that she had an older sibling that nobody talks about, including her parents. Later that night, Maria knocks on Saki's window and tells her about the teachers and how they're sending the giant cats after Shun to prevent him from going on a rampage. Saki sneaks out of her house to look for Shun and instead bumps into one of the giant freakin' cats.
So many of these whispered conspiracies are finally coming to a head. We see how the village suppresses those show potential for destruction, the social reaction to stress and the lengths that the adults go to hide the nature of those that go nuts. Things feel like they are barely held together as is and things are looking like they're going to get worse. While I'd prefer the show to go on a wider scale, i.e. show how the rest of the world has dealt with the PSYpocalypse, having things fall apart in this town are good enough. At its best moments, I get a Higurashi feel to the proceedings, which is high praise for a show like this.
Zetsuen no Tempest Episode 6 - 8
OK, so that whole thing with Hakaze being dead? It looks like it's an elaborate swerve, as the only thing that Samon brought back was a skeleton. I was wondering what they were going to do there, as they established that it would be immensely difficult to kill her. Junichiro is perceptive enough to guess that she might still be alive and working through Mahiro and Yoshino, but he doesn't question any further. However, Junichiro drops a bomb by saying that Hakaze and the Tree of Genesis is as big a threat to the world as Samon and the Tree of Exodus. We later find out that the reawakening of the Tree of Genesis will correct all the wrongs in the world by destroying everything that's on it. I like that twist. It makes it so Hakaze's battle isn't entirely good and Samon's actions aren't entirely evil. A bit of grey is good.
Mahiro and Yoshino are ambushed per an earlier agreement between Evangeline and Yoshino. We find out that the government has a secret task force to deal with mages if they get out of hand. After Mahiro catches up to Yoshino, the two bounce and get back on the road toward their goal. After spending a night on a bus, the two head out toward the Kusaribe base. When the boys get there, the military begins their ultimately futile attack. The guys break through the magical barrier and head to the Tree of Exodus. They're intercepted by Samon and they find out the truth behind the Trees. Despite some all around doubts, Yoshino decides to side with Hakaze. It's at this point that Hakaze postulates that Aika was killed in order to motivate Yoshino to side with the Tree of Genesis. Samon again pushes out Hakaze's skeleton and says that she's dead. According to Samon, he trapped her in a time distortion where she's two years in the past. It seems like the skeleton IS Hakaze. The present Hakaze is dead while the one that was originally kidnapped is communicating through magic and time. I definitely wasn't expecting that.
There are a couple interesting moments in these three episodes involving Aika. One of my favorite things about Zetsuen no Tempest is the impact that she has on both Mahiro and Yoshino. We find out that Mahiro wasn't related to Aika by blood, so the intensity of his revenge is brought into question. There's a flashback that infers that Mahiro might have been in love with Aika, which doesn't come as a surprise to Yoshino. There's an interesting aside that he makes about Aika and Mahiro, talking about how the cocky Mahiro never knew how to act around his sister. I have a feeling that Mahiro knows and isn't saying anything. Considering the bond the two share, he probably would't put a woman ahead of his bro.
The Pet Girl of Sakurasou Episode 8
What a messed up episode...
When I mean messed up I mean in the emotional way. There are feelings being thrown around all over the place that it is hard to keep the general entertainment in check. It was more like you put everything you like into one sandwich, took a bite, and just stood there shaking your head at it. You’re not sure why it was bad but it just was. This is what this series is doing to me.
I want to love this series but it keeps fighting against me. I keep wanting a good romantic comedy and it switches it to full on drama. Then I want it to be silly slapstick and it gives me a harem. All parts are good in their own right but it’s just not finding a way to piece it all together correctly. Hell, I’m not sure if it can but we do have quite a few episodes left to figure it out.
This time around we find out about Sorata’s fate in the design a game contest. Sorata’s emotions play a keen roll in this episode which is why all the ups and downs that goes with it. He is battling with himself on how he did in the contest to Shiina’s publication to Nanami’s known feelings about him. The boy has it rough. We do at least get a small swimsuit section in this episode but I was more wishing for a full on beach episode. I might still get my wish later on. There are plenty of episodes left for that or a hot springs episode.
Interestingly, we are getting another new female next episode. It’s Rita from England, who seems to be just a crazy as everyone else. Joy!
[Learn about love at Crunchyroll]
K - consider it dropped
Ladies and germs, I am afraid that I have some unfortunate news for you. GoHands and GORA kept fooling around with their show, so I had to resort to the most possible outcome that I have in my arsenal. As of last week, K has been officially dropped out of my radar. And as a going away present, I am going to make a wild guess about episode eight.
Seeing how long it took them to reveal Shiro's memories, K continues to fool around with the viewers. If there was one important thing, it's that the Silver King is at the center of this whole mess. There were no flashy battles to go along with the major twist, and our time is wasted with more nonsense between Shiro, Neko, Kuro, Scepter 4, and HOMRA.
We probably get a glimpse of the Silver King's intentions, but that's as far as things go for episode eight. So was I correct on my guess, or was I off by a few scenes? Either way, it's not going to change my decision on K's fate. K got my hopes up during the first few weeks, but the Durarara and X/1999 vibes that I had about the series are long gone, since the interesting setting and narrative were hindered by the show's tendency to take its viewers on a wild goose chase.
It's a shame to part ways, but sometimes we need to cherish the valuable time that we have left. For those that are still watching the show, I hope that K's later episodes reward you with the time you put into watching the series. And as a last note, I bid K adieu, and may we never cross paths in the streets ever again.
[You can continue K's endurance run at Viz Anime]
Magi Episode 8 & 9
Enter Sinbad, the most goofy badass of all time.
Hyperbole aside, Sinbad is a fantastic character and I'm really looking forward to seeing his treatment in this anime adaptation. They certainly nailed the nude element just fine.
Our heroes finally arrive in Balbadd after months of traveling. Recently, when the city is engulfed in fog, a thief group called the Fog Troupe appear and steal from the rich, handing out the goods to the poor people. The leader of this gang of thieves? Alibaba. The current leader of Balbadd isn't so happy about this, and refuses to open trading routes for King Sinbad. He volunteers to clear out the Fog Troupe in exchange for the routes being reopened. After discovering that Aladdin is a Magi, Sinbad asks if he might assist in capturing the Fog Troupe. Sharing the same goal, the pair decides to cooperate.
The fog rolls in, and Sinbad bears witness to the true extent of Balbadd's corruption. Elsewhere, the Fog Troupe Strikes, using a strange mist that causes illusions. Sinbad's secondhand man, Jafar, intercepts the thieves, only to get caught in a trap by the leader of the gang, Kassim. Mor and Aladdin manage to break through Kassim's defenses, and are faced with a less than happy looking Alibaba.The young magi explains that he's been traveling for a long time so he could see his friend again, but Alibaba gently pats him on the shoulder, explaining that he can't keep the promise he made to him.
The next day, Alibaba and Kassim are accepting new members into the Fog Troupe. Our blonde haired hero is fighting against the army in an attempt to help the people of the slums. The reason? Balbadd is the place he grew up, and Kassim is his best friend. That night, Mor sneaks into the Troupe's hideout and confronts Alibaba face to face. Clearly irritated that he seems to be brushing off his friends, Mor kidnaps and carries him to Aladdin by hand. Like a boss.
Here, Alibaba explains that he grew up in the slums with Kassim. His mother was a prostitute who cared about him deeply, but his friend wasn't so lucky. Kassim's father was an abusive jackass who beat both him and his sister frequently before suddenly disappearing one day. Alibaba's mother took in the siblings and raised them as her own all the way up until the day she died from sickness. One day the king of Balbadd paid a visit to the slums and took Alibaba in, proclaiming that he was his illegitimate child. From that day forward, he was raised as royalty. Afterward, through a series of naive and poor decisions, Alibaba led Kassim directly into the palace, resulting in the death of the king and many others. Whoops!
Now that A-1 has finally entered the Balbadd arc, things are looking up for Magi. The pacing feels solid and the adaptation is a solid reflection of the source material right now. Animation has been fairly consistent across the past two weeks, and the art hasn't dipped too low as of yet. It's nice to be able to get excited for new episodes of Magi again.
[Check out Magi over at Crunchyroll]
Sword Art Online Episode 21
Well that was an episode of Sword Art Online.
Asuna breaks out of her giant bird cage and goes on an adventure, leading her into proverbial back alley of Alfheim Online. Here, she discover's the truth behind the game's creation (human experimentation), and the reality that Sword Art Online might as well have been a testing ground compared to the innocents being experimented on. In the real world, Sugu asks if she can tag along with Kirito on his trip to visit Asuna. More than happy to introduce the two, Sugu finally gets her first real look at the love of her brother's life.
Meanwhile, Asuna is playing Metal Gear Solid with a bunch of slug dudes, because if you were going to be an administrator in an online game, you'd totally pick a slug as your avatar. Asuna manages to find the logout prompt and is just about ready to hit the switch, but is rudely interrupted by the weird looking admins. Tentacles happen, weird juxtapositions between reality and the digital world are made, and everyone just has a bad day overall. Once again in her cage but filled with a new sense of hope and a brand new ID card, Asuna is nowhere even close to giving up.
Back in Alfheim Online, Leafa confesses to Kirito that she's been rejected in the real world. Irony is had by all, considering she's unknowingly telling this to the guy who she's talking about in the first place. Now at the base of the World Tree, Yui informs Kirito that Asuna is directly above them. He freaks the hell out and flies straight up into the air.
Woh, talk about skipping a huge portion of the original source material. Granted, it's mostly action and not particularly relevant to the current arc, but it's nonetheless shocking. The tentacle 'rape' scene was grown worthy and unncecessary, but we did find out some cool little details about the real world. I like that its explained how Kirito and the other SAO players will have a special school in place for them. That kind of attention to detail is always really interesting. Otherwise, another typical episode of SAO. Next episode should be quite funny.
[Catch Sword Art Online over at Crunchyroll]
Chuunibyou Demo Koi ga Shitai! Episode 8
I'm really fond of the way that Chuu2 has been handling its drama. There's something fascinating about the mix of Rikka's fantasy world and Yuta's reality that makes otherwise conventional scenes of dialogue super exciting. We learn more about Rikka's depressing past, and Yuta continues to try and come to terms with how he feels about this strange girl.
After taking her back to his place while the rest of the crew is still on vacation, Yuta gets to spend some quality time with Rikka. The whole back half of the episode is dedicated to these quiet, silly moments between the two that, while nothing groundbreaking, do a great job of setting up how sweet this pair really is. In particular, the final few sequences in which Rikka describes how her heart rate has gone up are undeniably adorable. Watching Yuta get flustered and try to explain away his own feelings is equally as fun. This girl just came into his life and turned things upside down.
Give me more. Now.
[Catch Chuunibyou Demo Koi ga Shitai! over at the Anime Network]
Tonari no Kaibutsu-kun/My Little Monster episode 9
This episode, we tap into Shizuku's home life, and see just how dysfunctional it really is. Her mother hates her father from afar, Shizuku gets no love so she's a robot, and now she has to confront her way of thinking to understand why she is who she is.
This sort of self-discovery period strikes me as common in the whole process of growing up. In fact, This American Life just covered this subject in one of their recent episodes on middle school. It's well worth a listen, if you've got the time. For those that don't, they talk about how we develop into being aware of ourselves and our environment, and we begin to define ourselves in middle school.
In Kaibutsu-kun, the application is this: Mizutani already defined herself in elementary and middle school in this "all or nothing" state, and now that love and friendship has been introduced, she has to explore and redefine the model that is her way of life.
Space Bros. Episode 34
Looks like my wishes for Space Bros. to become a tragedy anime sure aren't going to come true. I mean, Hibito already has his face plastered on cartons of milk. My spiritual prowess simply can't compete with that, so it looks like we're stuck with what seems to be a year-long feel good story. Well, when we get further, anyway. It seems we're stuck watching Hibito skip along the moon for a few more episodes yet.
Meanwhile on Earth, Mutta wins loads of toilet paper, gets chatted up by some hot looking lady and somehow manages to complain about it. Then there were some borderline images that would have Sigmund Freud hot under the collar. I mean, really? Your butt is clean for the next three months, be happy about it!
Oh, space results. Drama next episode!
[Space pugs can be found on Crunchyroll!]
Little Busters! Episode 8
Wafu. Wafu wafu wafu, wafu wafu? Wafu, wafu wafu. Wafu, wa-wafu wafu! Wafu, wafu wafu-fu.
Good lord, I do seem to be going insane. At least it's a good insanity, as Kud is too damn adorable for me to get annoyed at the constant wafu...ing. Someone will need to help me out here, but somehow I need to get hold of about three of her, so I can have the darned cutest pets going. What's that? She's human? So the pet thing is out of the question, huh.
The episode didn't really move places in terms of a plot, as it was pretty much an animated 'side-quest' for finding Kud a room mate. We did get introduced to the lady with the umbrella, who we already know will join the Little Busters because of the opening spoilers. A little something, but yeah, missing this episode isn't going to leave you in the dark in a later episode.
Still, seeing Kud be Kud was enough for me. Seems we might even get to see the disciplinary demon head act like a human in the near future. Something to look forward to, I'm sure. Kind of a bit disappointed that Riki would suggest turning her offer down, as she obviously wants the company too. Shame on you!
Jormungand: Perfect Order Episode 7
An entire episode dedicated to showcasing Wilee Coyote? Well I never! Of course, this isn't the real Road Runner chaser, but rather the big, language-teaching guy we haven't seen do too much. Turns out he's a demolitions expert who just might have a bigger lust for explosions than that one guy from Naruto.
He's also the only other member of Koko's crew that is on the FBI most wanted list, counting Koko herself. Yep, that means all of the crazy snipers and the old man aren't meant to be as dangerous as him. Considering he enjoys disarming bombs, only to set them up to explode on the person that put them there, I reckon he's earned his fame.
All in all, it was a fun episode. The next episode preview shows that the plot is going somewhere, but while this one didn't offer anything in the ways of pushing the story forward, it was just as awesome as your typical Jormungand gunfight, if not better. Who would have thought that this show would be so darn entertaining?
It has me wondering about all of these details about the Koko crew. If you look at any other anime, this kind of thing happens just before someone is about to die. It happened earlier in the series with that one fella I forget the name of, and I'm starting to wonder if it's about to happen again. Not necessarily Wilee, but someone's going to kick the bucket. I just have a feeling.
Hidamari Sketch x Honeycomb Episode 7 6
After accidentally skipping an episode last week, here's the episode six recap in all of its glory. Seems it was definitely worth going back to, as I got to see Hiro cry and Sae more or less confirm that they will both be married in a years time. These girls are certainly getting more adventurous by the episode?
What, you're telling me that they won't get married? Of course they will, don't be silly.
The rest of the episode was standard fare, just with a whole bunch of Hiro being miserable because she wants to be a teacher and apparently they have to be miserable as it's an entry requirement. One thing that did catch my eye in particular concerned Yuno and her reaction to Miyako randomly saying that she was cute. Apparently she pulled a weird face when Yuno replied that Miyako was a beauty, and we never got to see it. Never really thought much of a budding romance between anyone other than Sae and Hiro in this show, but hey, I'm open to being surprised.
Also, art happened.
Bakuman. 3 Episode 7
That one editor I forget the name of has arrived! That one manga by that one other guy has been submitted to Treasure! This can only mean one thing! That one arc is about to start! Woo!
Anyway, back to the episode at hand. I could say it's a major development, and for Hiramaru it certainly is, but now that he finally has Aoki as his lovely lady there isn't going to be much of a change. We still get his crazy antics, so we don't have to worry about that at least.
Slow paced in comparison to the previous episodes, but let's be honest, it was probably a story worth slowing down for. I'm all geared up for the next episode though! Let's just get on with that! Okay fine, there's not much I can really say about this episode, I'll admit. Padding!
Busou Shinki episode 8
I was right here, watching the eighth episode of Busou Shinki, and regretting my decision to call the seventh episode of Busou Shinki "the weakest episode of Busou Shinki so far", because surely this episode was the weakest yet, and if I wrote it that way this week, I would be repeating myself, and the readers would hate me forever.
And then the episode ended. I was shocked, confused, and frankly bewildered, and began questioning if I could possibly make any valid judgment of this week's episode in light of the final 30 seconds of the eighth episode of Busou Shinki. It was almost as if they stuck a strange, deja vu-laden they-changed-something-in-the-Matrix moment specifically to deflect my ability to criticize the eight episode of Busou Shinki for having precious little of what I have liked about the show so far.
That strange, deja vu-laden they-changed-something-in-the-Matrix moment led me to watch the episode again, leading to another somewhat strange moment: noticing that instead of the four-character ensemble singing the opening theme "Install Dream", the whole sequence had been left up to Ann's voice actress, Kana Asumi. What was that all about?
Then it struck me. I like Busou Shinki mainly for reasons of my projecting personal interest onto what is, objectively speaking, a dumb show. Imagining a world where Shinkis exist gets my imagination going, and the few bones it throws me in that regard (episode six is a particular treat) is enough to keep me watching week to week. Episodes seven and eight haven't thrown those bones yet (hence my dissatisfaction), but have revealed more about how the show is made.
Basically, Busou Shinki is made however damn well 8-Bit please. It's like whoever is episode director gets to do whatever they want, even if it involves doing a moe-moe take on the answer to the question "Do Androids dream of electric sheep?"
Busou Shinki has no source material that is valid in a narrative sense. It has no driving artistic direction (besides "cute girls with vaguely mechanical add-ons"), and by nature it has no characters to speak of. You think K-ON!! and Lucky Star are "plot-less" shows? Busou Shinki puts them to shame, and for the first time, that's begun to work against it.
8-Bit seem like they're running out of ideas, and with episode eight they just squandered an awesome opportunity to rip off one of my very favorite episodes of Evangelion (episode thirteen, "Lilliputian Hitcher").
I simply don't know. It's weird, and fascinating that 8-Bit did what they did this week, but for all our sakes, I'm hoping they don't do it again next week. Or at least not in the same way.
[Did they change something in the matrix? Find out on The Anime Network]
Girls und Panzer episodes 6 and 7
Where Busou Shinki has inspired a distressing amount of ambivalence lately, it's been nothing but love for Girls und Panzer, which warpped up the tense tank war between Ooarai and Saunders with all the tactical brilliance of Gundam and Legend of the Galactic Heroes' pitched robot-and-spaceship engagements. Only here it's tanks, and the girls are way cuter.
After the drama of the Saunders battle I was beginning to worry about the prospects for the show's continuing tank battles. To be frank, even by the first fight against St. Gloriana's it was already difficult to see Ooarai's ragtag assembly or pre- and early-war tanks could win against organized, historically consistent formations of mid- and late-war armor. Taking on Matildas at point-blank range and leading win-by-numbers Shermans into a StuG's sights is one thing, but effectively speaking two-thirds of the Ooarai Panzer contingent are useless for anything except rolling over barbed wire or crawling up to machine-gun nests, neither of which exist in a spot that's all-tanks. In World of Tanks terms, once they took on the fake-Russians and Miho's sister, it would be like taking Tier 2 and Tier 3 tanks up against Tier 5 to 7, a virtually impossible matchup barring extensive use of plot armor and other ridiculousness.
Thankfully, the girls are getting some new additions, in the form of a gun upgrade for the venerable Panzer IV (think "ausf. D upped to F2 or G"), a sweet French Char B1 "Bis" (a twin-gun heavy used by the resistance), and another German tank destroyer, the Elefant Tiger P. It's still definitely ragtag and not quite up to the standards that a platoon of T-34s (fake-Russian Pravda school) or Tiger Is (Maho and co.), but it'll be enough to grant them victory, with some luck and the uncommon tactics that saw them through their fights against fake-Britain and fake-America.
One might be worried that the already-voluminous cast of eighteen would balloon past workability, but thankfully the show has wisely kept the character-development spotlight on the main crew (Anglerfish Team!), with new insights into the motivations of Mako, and some welcome elaboration on Miho's tanker trauma. To be honest I'd have expected something more dramatic in Miho's case, but it works nonetheless. For a school so straightforward in its push for victory (Panzerfahren is SERIOUS BUSINESS), one wonders what the Nishizumi family thinks of Miho's so far tricky winning strategies.
If there's any regret to be had this week, it's that the battle against fake-Italy was far too brief. It's understandable that they'd want to save up their CG budget for fighting fake-Russia et al, but ten seconds of a surrender flag is simply not enough! Especially not since fake-Italy's flag is basically a pizza.
[Check your tiers and hope for more custom WoT skins on The Anime Network]
Robotics;Notes episode 7
After the "your parents hate your dreams" drama of last week, a lesser show might have devoted the episode (or even the whole arc, if this were the type of anime to be on our Shonen Showdown column) to convincing Subaru to stand up to daddy dearest and pursue his dream of being Mr. Pleiades, ROBO-ONE World Champion. But no. In the paraphrased words of Kai, this is his problem, and though Subaru does come back to the club (but not Hobby Robots, apparently), it feels refreshing that the rest of the cast was prudent enough to let people handle their own issues (much to Aki's dismay).
Also refreshing is the much-needed move to actually integrate Fraukojiro (should I start calling her Kona now?) and Jun into the story proper. Jun's familiarity with urban legends and the insane natural disasters befalling everywhere except Japan - Seriously? A solar flare blacking out the whole American West Coast? - is putting her at the forefront of Kai's on-and-off investigation, while Kona's personal stake in the final episode of GUNVARREL actually brings the whole GUNVARREL connection into the mix.
Better still, Kai gives everyone a plausible reason not to want his anime superpower. Funny enough, it's the simplest sort of reason not to want anything - his Slow-Mo really really hurts. I can certainly buy that.
And then, that kid from Steins;Gate arrives! What's that all about?!
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