It’s a testament to the chemistry the show’s been building between the main four that the drama over Akihito’s transformation this time felt as real as it did. I particularly liked the scene where Mirai found his notes on her birthday gift; that was a nice, quiet package of emotion.
Unfortunately, that was one of the few things I liked about this episode, the rest was full of irritating, bush-league cliches.
Eschewing my usual order for this week for the obvious reasons, plus the fact that I’m a day late getting to everything that came out since Monday.
Samurai Flamenco is the Allen Iverson of the Fall season; every subplot you can dredge up is interesting as hell. For starters, King Torture is going to be a thing. Which means that Goto and the Flamencos are an, albeit not entirely textbook, hero team. It’s a dynamic made more juicy by the fact that Mari didn’t really react to King Torture’s proclamation until he acknowledged Samurai Flamenco as the main character of the show. Meanwhile, her finisher remains blunt trauma to the groin even with triceratops-cauldron hybrids.*
On the production side, there’s plenty more to sink your teeth into. Takahiro Omori is still a badass who pulled off a longer version of Escaflowne’s prologue, except in 2013 where that stuff is approximately 20 times as commercially painful. This is far from the biggest right turn a show written by Hideyuki Kurata has ever taken, but the “coolest show by him” crown is very much in a rough and tumble title defense at the moment. The show is still hiding OST at this point; the scene where SF showed up on the bus had another brand-new track. And just how little animation can they get away with? This episode utilized still frames like it was the late-80s.
I’m a huge fan of both Dai-Guard and Astro Fighter Sunred, but I didn’t think you could mix their formulae like that and have it work. It’s working right now, though. The fact that they’ve already gone through at least 8 monster of the week battles after an episode and change does make me wonder whether this arc is going to last for 13 episodes or just 3. The pacing suggests to me that this King Torture business will either be over or escalating wildly when it hits the halfway break in late December.
*Oh, a further fun subplot alert: If it wasn’t enough that Stroheim’s VA showed up last week, now ACDC is getting in on the action. I have to wonder if this show is eventually going to tap the entire vocal cast of Battle Tendency.
I was expecting a more straightforward head-on confrontation after the arrangement of battleships opposite one another last week, but this show surprised me again. It was a sense of surprise that went from cautiously neutral to pleasant, as the cast just ended up in a scenario that was equal parts smooth-talking negotiations and beach party. There’s certainly an appeal to the way Gunzou picked, the subversive-diplomacy-verging-on-bribary option. It’s just a shame the ship he was trying to lull ate the peppers first, disarming the live charm-offensive grenade Gunzou and the crew tossed out. The slight expression of realization from Iona when she looked at Kongou’s plate was beyond priceless.
Beyond that, I gotta say that I really liked the beach party portion of the episode. One of the pleasures in anime with even decent casts of character is just watching them bounce off one another in goofy freestyle, and the beach party was just jam packed with that. In addition to bulking up the charming aspects of them all, it also doubles as a bonding experience for everyone on team Gunzou, as they hadn’t really had time to hang out as a group and gel before now. It should make the next episode, which will presumably contain a straight-up blow-by-blow with the now guns-blazing Kongou, worth the wait.
This is only the second episode of the year to which my immediate reaction was to go back and watch the whole damn thing over again. While the last four minutes of it will understandably get the most attention, that was by no means the only part of the episode that wowed. There was so much stuff happening this episode, well beyond the typical level of “everyone doing their own thing” that characterized the episodes introducing the Flamenco Girls. Looking back on the episode a second time, it’s actually pretty clear that most elements of this episode were there to bring the first, more realistic portion of the series to a close while still keeping some compelling elements simmering. Because while the choreography of the fight scene in the final minutes was delightfully down to earth,* that doesn’t change the fact that it was against a man who had animorphed into a mechanical gorilla with a guillotine in its chest.
I wasn’t particularly looking forward to the show’s promise of more plot, and this episode was more or less what I expected in that regard. The worst part was the scene with Miroku in the car with Mitsuki. Is it really necessary for this show to force its title down my throat with a bunch of terminology? Do they really need to go that far out of the way to explain the concept of a super-S class demon to an experienced audience? Though, granted, a lot of that scene was the shadowy organization’s Miroku spewing bull intentionally to throw the protagonists into confusion. There have been many, many better monologues this year alone; his was just poorly presented, opaque foreshadowing.
Still, at least it was more subtle than the imagery surrounding Akihito’s flashback sequence.
One of the fun things of reading a manga or watching an anime that didn’t start out with a rock-solid grasp of its own identity is the sometimes-futile-but-always-amusing attempts to meld a bunch of disparate elements together into something that feels like a complete product. Maybe it’s just that I prefer mixed genre shows to pure cases of one element, but I, at least, gravitate towards shows that have that organic feel. It’s one of the reasons I like mid-tier monthly manga so much; between their loud, energetic character types and their solid+ grasp of visual techniques, they hold a little more intrinsic cohesion than the field. Put another way, you can mix vastly disparate genres provided your characters are amusing and your visual acumen is there.
Hence the candid camera
And this was the week Arpeggio really flashed its chops in that regard. Already having solidly established the show in the naval combat department, the Kishi/Uezu team really embraced the harem comedy components of the show this week, and the result was pretty much up to their track record, an effective combination of character-centric gags that cleared the air after last week’ darker dramatic turn.
Insofar as this show appears to be attempting to dial up the zany each week, this episode’s chase scene/gadget showcase definitely qualified as an upgrade in that department. For one thing, chase scenes are just intrinsically great ways of continually feeding tension, and the stakes (Masayoshi’s identity against 10 million yen) were plenty high. For another, there’s something intrinsically fun about watching a guy casually dodge bodies while talking on the phone.
This week Kyoukai no Kanata decided to start facing up to some of the loose ends it dropped during the Hollow Shadow arc. One of them, Sakura’s murky quest for revenge, was more or less fully dealt with. After a little bit of action, it became clear that a) she was totally outclassed by Mirai and b) she wasn’t so much hell-bent on revenge as she just needed an outlet for her grief. It was fairly refreshing how they wrapped things up quickly and didn’t force the miscommunications any longer than they had to.
Though this week’s episode featured a battle about as explosive as the rest of them in the series, it lacked the punch of episodes 2 and 4. The main reason for that is that, while the first two battles were tactical affairs that featured Iona’s crew out-clevering a superior force, this fight consisted mostly of Haruna holding off ground forces with a nanomachine double and some magic force fields. And some scenes of Kirishima fighting as a stuffed bear; to be fair, that was a pretty cool usage of a character who was overacted in the first place.
This week also saw a wrapping-up of the mini-arc featuring Haruna, Kirishima, and Makie’s newfound friendship. The whole arc was pretty standard “aliens befriending humans” stuff, and I don’t have too much to say about that. It’ll be interesting, though, to see how those three mesh with Iona’s crew as they all head towards where Takao is now being presumably imprisoned.
There are a couple of primary rules to following modern anime that I’ve discovered since first getting into it in 2007, something I feel I should mention because I violated one of them last week:
1. Never count out a show before it airs. It doesn’t matter if the studio, staff, and source material are all seemingly dog meat, miracles happen more often than you’d think.
2. Dropping anything new after 1 episode is perfectly acceptable. Shows that don’t have a gripping intro in today’s ultra-competitive market are the ones missing a beat. If they don’t care about themselves, neither should I. The inverse is not necessarily true; a good first episode means a lot more than a good third episode, where the staff can afford to throttle down for the sake of a particular story because they know they have their audience.
3. 90% of all game adaptations are bad according to people who played the game. Not so much for manga, where plenty of anime staffers have gotten absurd amounts of praise for storyboards that were basically carbon copies of their award winning source material.
4. Don’t expect people to like or hate the same things you do. Learn to love the party going on around a show or just leave it alone.
5. Doubt Takahiro Omori, Kishi Seiji, Kenji Nakamura, and Taniguchi Goro, under any circumstances, at your own peril. Though they don’t always hit home runs, they can do anything, they’ve proved it, and they just keep grinding like they’re playing Dragon Quest and unmade anime are a bunch of hapless slimes.
True to form, Omori and writer Hideyuki Kurata didn’t take long to go from the introduction of Flamenco Girl’s clashing colors to weave her and the consequences of her actions into the larger tapestry of circumstances. Now she’s been humanized, the cast in general has matured, and we’re set with at least 3 or 4 new emerging plot and character threads that ought to keep things fresh perhaps even to the halfway point.