The Stream
Papa's Delivery Service

by Bamboo Dong, Mar 6th 2012

Another column, another show dropped. The thing about TV shows is that the decision to keep watching one, or finally drop it, is really the culmination of many little things. Each week, the little things that you love—or conversely, the little things that you hate—keep piling up and piling up, and even though sometimes you'll have episodes that deviate from the norm, eventually you'll reach the same conclusion.

Let's dive in!

 

#1 - Chihayafuru [ep. 20-21]

With only a handful of episodes left, I'm not really sure where this series is going to go. On the one hand, I'm worried that Chihaya won't be able to reach her goals without a sequel (Sequel?? Sequel?????). But on the other hand, I'm comfortable with the series ending in another four episodes or so, without stretching out indefinitely like a shonen show. I've always cherished Chihayafuru for its ability to consistently make interesting and compelling episodes, week in and week out, and part of that is knowing when to stop.

Chihaya and her teammates have all grown considerably, both as responsible students-going-on-adults, and as karuta players. There's a remarkably thoughtful scene from an episode back where the members have to forcibly remove themselves from the tatami mats to study for finals. It doesn't sound like a big deal, since what high school student doesn't have to deal with exams, but it was presented in such a way that it could easily step in for a very ageless conundrum. As Desktomu quipped, “You have to do the things you don't want to do, before you can do the things you actually want to do.” If only that wasn't so depressingly true about life. But in a high school setting, in which the fun distraction is busting your ass at an offbeat card game, there's no better time to learn such a lesson. Spoiler alert, Chihaya passes her exams.

Throughout the series, I've especially appreciated Chihaya's narrow-minded, tunnel-visioned approach to excelling in karuta. Not just because I love her dedication and I think she's a good role model—but it also keeps the drama factor almost non-existent. If anything, the only human drama element has come from Taichi, but he's marching to the beat of his own angst drum. For those of you who've seen at least up to episode 21, you know that even his angst just skirts the border between cute and soapy. I won't lie—my eyes felt a little moist after his confrontation with Arata.

I think there's a bit of backlash in the anime community against Chihayafuru, because it has been so overwhelmingly lauded by so many fans. But, all I can say is, it's a show that you have to welcome with open arms, and if you do, it can be immensely rewarding. That, and haters gonna hate.

Status: Only a few more episodes to go, but this series is still going strong. I'm loving watching Chihaya mature as a karuta player, even if it means playing some annoying old women and little kids along the way.


 

#2 - Another [ep. 7-8]

Episode eight of Another was pretty amazing. I know I've been whining and spitting about this show all season, but that episode was the bee's knees. For starters, it addressed my biggest complaint, which is that no one at the school seemed to be proactively doing anything about this curse. They also stopped with the silly “non-existent” thing, which truthfully, I thought was a rather stupid red herring. But mostly, the atmosphere in this episode is absolutely incredible. There is nothing more eerie and amazing than watching a group of people emptily going through the motions of enjoying themselves at the beach while creepy music plays.

It's such a good scene. Beach episodes are so played out in every anime. What made this episode so brilliant is that the characters had what looked to be a stereotypical beach cliche—but it was empty and shallow and meaningless. I don't know if the director purposely meant for this episode to be a tongue-in-cheek prod at the cliché, but either way, it played out beautifully. It's incredible what the right background music cue can do to set the scene. And that ending? Fantastic.

I'm really happy with the new direction that Another has taken. The old format was so tedious, and quite frankly, I thought it ran its course a couple episodes ago. Now that the students have banded together to try and solve this problem, it gives the series a lot more room to breathe and flex its muscles. I'm really looking forward to what might transpire in the next few episodes.

Status: I'm actually pretty excited for this show now. The beach episode was my favorite one by far, and if it keeps going along this thread (talk about a crazy twist with the calamity, right?), then we're in for a fun ride.


 

#3 - Bodacious Space Pirates [ep. 7-9]

Watch out, crew, there's a stowaway on board! She's a wise-beyond-her-years princess from some planet somewhere, and she's got a mission for the Bentenmaru. She wants them to help track down a golden ghost ship, which could either be really awesome (given its cargo of cryo-hibernating people), or just a silly excursion. I've got my money on the former. Knowing how well the series has subtly tied in its sociopolitical backstory with the plot events so far, I have confidence in the direction of this series.

However, that doesn't mean I necessarily loved the past couple of episodes. I have a kneejerk reaction against the Cute Little Pre-teen Who's Really Strong and Sassy archetype (see Lagrange this week, for an appearance of a similar archetype), because I feel like it's been played out a bit too much. In Bodacious Space Pirates, they don't really do anything different with this character either, which is a bit of a disappointment. You get the requisite scenes of people fawning over the princess, and her obligatory tears of joy at being treated as an equal by the yacht club, but truthfully, I could've done without these episodes.

I was vastly more interested in the brief dialogue between Marika and Chiaki at the end of the last episode, where Chiaki warned her about the dangers and secrecy shrouding this ghost ship mission. Like I said, I'm hoping the series ties all of this back in with the political and geographic conflicts that are alluded to throughout the show. Without it, we could just be in for a wild goose chase.

Status: Not the best episodes, but still a strong series. It's also still one of the most visually pleasing series thus far, and I've been enjoying the heck out of the spaceship designs.


 

#4 - Ano Natsu de Matteru [ep. 7-8]

The alien backstory of Ano Natsu de Matteru might actually be the least interesting aspect of the story. I understand Ichika's fears and insecurities, and it certainly provides some razzle dazzle—especially with the turn of events at the end of episode eight—but this story would be just as potent without it. I'm even willing to say that the alien aspect detracts from the show—the exact same events could happen with a slight alteration of events. Instead of having to deal with alien shenanigans, Ichika could just be faced with a cross-country move.

Either way, the meat and potatoes of this story is the relationship between the kids, and their blooming romances. Of all the shonen romances that get churned out every year, Ano Natsu has been one of the more realistic. The shy and awkward way that the kids stumble around their emotions is relatable, and I appreciate that it's not just a show about needy women who are breaking their backs trying to cook for some lanky cookie-cutter male protagonist stand-in. The hurt that Kanna feels is genuine, and I like that this series is making a solid effort to show an unrequited love that doesn't end in wacky hijinks. I will say this, though—I'm pretty sure that teen pregnancy rates would plummet if more teenagers were as sexually awkward as these bunch. Kaito has been living under the same roof as Ichika for weeks now, and they haven't been able to complete their first kiss yet. If this were closer to real life, and not as super kawaii chaste, this show would be an animated version of Skins.

I do hope that there are some resolution of feelings in the next few episodes. As much as I'm enjoying this little slice of teen drama life, I don't want to be left on the hook forever. Hopefully this alien debacle will help move things along, and not just derail the show.

Status: I can't help it. I love shows like this. Nothing gets me going like reliving my own teen troubles. I'm not digging this stupid alien thing, but this is a weird partial homage to Onegai Teacher, after all.


 

#5 - Listen To Me, Girls, I'm Your Father [ep. 7-8]

Bless you, logic, for finally showing up to the party. All this time, I had wondered why the hell nobody else thought it incredibly awful to shove four people in a one-room shoebox, but Lady Logic finally blessed us with an appearance. In a tragic, but necessary, twist, a responsible, mature adult has intervened and said, “Hey, look, you live in an apartment the size of a mattress; you can't have four people here.” It sucks for the girls, and it sucks for Yuuta, but had this not happened, I would've cried foul.

At the end of the day, no matter how many violin-accompanied scenes we have where people hold each other and cry softly in the sunset, one must wake up, stop playing house, and realize that there are three growing girls whose well-being and education need to be looked after. Previously, PapaKiki was not that show, and being the raincloud of gloom that I am, I was not able to let that slide. But now, I can comfortably say that this series is finally going in the right direction. Ultimately, there are a ton of challenges in raising three kids (I imagine) that Yuuta did not think about, and I'm glad someone's calling him out on being irresponsible. Now the real story can begin. Now he needs to contend with how to juggle college and jobs, and making sure the kids get to school, and making sure the littlest one can go to daycare. Now he needs to contend with renting an apartment that's appropriate for the size of their family. This is when the real struggle begins, and I have been waiting (impatiently) for this moment since the show began.

I'm also really relieved that the creep factor has largely been confined to Creepy McMouth Breather. He's still super gross and disgusting, but it's some mild solace that the other characters also find him inappropriate. Though, if he were my friend, instead of just slapping him with a comically large fan every time he talked about little girls, I might tell him to seek professional help. The wink, wink, nudge, nudge response is a little weird when your friend is a raging pedo. But hey, at least now he's the only source of ick in PapaKiki. That, and the obligatory scene in every single episode where Hina puts a dick-shaped food in her mouth. Boy, people sure do love handing her dick-shaped foods.

Still, I'm very satisfied with the route that this series is taking. I feel like now that the characters are no longer living in a rose-tinted fantasy land of dreams and bubbles, they can start tackling the challenges of the real world. And the sooner, the better for the series, because this is a premise worth exploring, but only if it's done right.

Status: Hanging on to this one. The show has gotten substantially better over the last few episodes too, so I hope it doesn't let me down.


 

#6 - Hunter x Hunter [21]

I'm relieved that the main phase of the Hunter exam is over. It was nice while it lasted, but I'm looking forward to having more of a storyline that's not limited to the confines of short-term goals. Now that our buddies are all official Hunters, they set off to track down Killua and rescue him from his personal demons. Undoubtedly, they will run into many obstacles, but at least they won't just be jumping through exam hoops.

While Hunter x Hunter has remained a staple of my weeks, at this point in the game, my enthusiasm has dampened. I'm not as obsessed with it as I used to be, and part of that may just be the natural passage of time. It was really exciting at first, because it was new, but now that we're 20-episodes in, I can feel myself slogging a bit. What never ceases to impress me about Hunter x Hunter, though, is that even this late in the game, there are still a ton of things that we don't know about the characters. Hisoka still continues to shock and awe, and even the members of the core group—now just Kurapika and Leorio—are as mysterious now as they were at the beginning of the series. That's what makes this series still interesting every single week—despite my decreased fervor.

Sadly, there was a week without an episode, so we're only one more episode up, but if anything has been accomplished, it's the blessed release from the Hunter exam. Now the real fun can begin, and I'll be happy for the change in scenery.

Status: Still chugging forward, despite some ups and downs. It should be nice to see where this show goes now that they don't have to play their little games.


 

#7 - Lagrange ~The Flower of Rin-Ne~ [ep. 8-9]

With a bit of a divulge in information, Lagrange - The Flower of Rin-ne has gotten somewhat better, although viewers still have to slog through a fair amount of trivial fluff. In two episodes, we've not only gotten a bit more information on the Voxi, but also Madoka's back story, and why she's so gung-ho about helping others. It's nice to finally have more solid bearings on the whys and hows of this series.

The exposition about the Vox is particularly interesting—maybe more so for how the Nomundus are dealing with it. 20,000 years ago, some form of tragedy struck Earth and its inhabitants, causing everyone to flee. Left behind were the Vox, but legend has prevailed that they are harbingers of destruction, particular Madoka's green Midori. That in and of itself is standard mysterious-mecha-show fare, but what caught my interest was how the characters up the chain of command are choosing to deal with it. Even just the threat of destruction is enough for new character Asteria, the acting leader of the Nomundus, to pull the plug on Midori. It's not terribly difficult to find real life parallels for this type of fear-driven decision making, and I appreciate the series for trying to touch on it.

I still wish, though, that the series would take this new information and run with it, without having to break up the flow of the action with a school festival episode. True, we did get valuable insight into Madoka's past, but I feel like it wasn't worth having to sit through lengthy minutes of watching Lan clumsily hammer nails into a billboard, and watching yet more people wait tables at the burger shack. If this series could cut down on the fluff by about 90%, I'd be a happier customer.

In some series, this day-to-day stuff is what drives the story and what makes it interesting. But in Lagrange, it just feels like pandering. Part of it is the way in which these scenes are introduced—hackneyed jokes about guys in drag and the obligatory scenes of cute girls doing cute things. It makes it hard for me to fully immerse myself in this world, because I keep being pulled back with these filler scenes. It certainly doesn't help that all of the characters are goofy to a fault. But the series is slowly getting better, so I'm interested in seeing what will happen next.

Status: Okay, Lagrange, you win. I'm still watching this. I wouldn't mind a little more Vox, and a little less fluff, though.


 

#8 - The Knight in the Area [ep. 8-9]

This show has no idea what it's doing anymore. I think it started out as this super inspirational tale about this boy who learned to love soccer again through the sacrifice of his dead brother. At least that's the impression I got from the first few episodes, and the promos. Now it's endless close-ups of people's feet kicking a ball. Sometimes those feet do some crazy footwork. Sometimes they don't. The end. Oh, and that crazy Araki sure does eat too much!

I've just summarized nine episodes of The Knight in the Area for you. Feel free to thank me later.

Whereas The Knight in the Area was never truly “good,” now it's teetering on “bad.” It was one thing for the series to be weirdly creepy about Kakeru's heart transplant… but somehow I got over that. It was another thing for the series to brush Araki's 100+ pound weight loss under the rug… but somehow I got over that too. Now we learn that Nana is actually this secret SOCCER STAR nicknamed “Little Witch,” which actually sounds just as stupid when you say it out loud, as when you read it. She burst onto the American soccer scene when she was abroad, but a mysterious set of circumstances made her vanish again. Now she's been recruited to play for a Japanese national women's team, and they get to play exciting teams like the ultra-butch US team, Miami Hurricane. You can tell Nana's really talented, because there are a lot of close up shots of her feet moving really fast.

In the meantime, the boys are at some training camp, where 90% of the gags involve Araki eating too much.

Judging from the next episode preview, we're in for a thrilling match between Nana's newfound team and some German team.

I mean, maybe I'm wrong, but I thought this show was supposed to be about Kakeru learning to love soccer again and chase his dreams. If not, then they wasted a perfectly good death scene and hyped up this whole brotherly sacrifice thing for nothing. What we actually have instead is a show that feels like a collection of YouTube videos of cool plays from the weekend's EPL games. I'm not entirely sure there's a protagonist anymore (hey, there's no I in TEAM), or a story trajectory. I'm pretty sure there's not even a knight in the area anymore. It's just disjointed clips of people's feet and shots of balls rocketing into goals.

Boy, I sure fell out of love with this show fast. Please let it be Spring already. Please just put me out of my misery.

Status: BOOOOOOOO. You know, I was okay with that whole Araki nonsense as long as the Kakeru-Wants-To-Be-A-Star storyline was still going strong, but now it's just descended into a maelstrom of unrelated soccer clips. And really? The Little Witch? If I'm going to be “that guy,” I'm going to point out that there's no way Nana would be allowed to play in a sanctioned national match without being on the roster or payroll. SO THERE. This show is terrible. Dropped.



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