The Stream
(Almost) Spring Fling

by Bamboo Dong, Apr 4th 2012

With the Spring Preview Guide already in full swing, I'm ready to give Old Man Winter a hearty kick in the behind and send him on his merry way. With the exception of a few shows here and there, it's been a dreary, shadowless season, and we're all the more ragged for it. Here's the final thoughts on the remaining series, and soon we'll be ready to buckle down for the Spring.

Let's dive in!

 

#1 - Chihayafuru [ep. 24-25]

This entire series, I've never really known what I wanted to see in subsequent episodes, but the show always surprised me and satisfied me. I never knew what was around the corner, but every episode, I was happy with the decisions it made, and the direction it took. That being said, I had no idea what I wanted for the finale. Part of me wanted Chihaya to see her dreams come true, but when she lost in the Qualifiers, I knew that couldn't happen. And yet, I'm glad it didn't. Even as Chihaya's #1 Fan (we can fight over this later), I don't think I would've wanted her to rocket to success so quickly, even within the fictional confines of an anime series. It's heartening to watch her and her teammates struggle past their weaknesses, and will themselves to work harder and harder. Hell, if I had even 1/10th of their dedication, I think I'd be a far more accomplished person.

In the last two episodes, the series takes an interesting turn, and we're left to watch the final Queen match and the final Master match. Even without having an emotional connection to the players, they were fun episodes to watch, partly because of the inspiration they kindled in the characters we've already come to love. Admittedly, I thought the plot point about Shinobu's weight gain was kind of bizarre and unnecessary. I'm not really sure what the point of that was, except to show her blind dedication to… Snowmaru? If eating ice cream for mascot merchandise is an analogy for practicing karuta, then half of America could be card slappin' champions.

I don't know if there's already a sequel planned, perhaps after a time jump of a couple years, but I hope there is. It'd be a waste to let the story peter away at this point, especially since there are unresolved dreams and unspoken emotions between Chihaya, Taichi, and Arata. I'm thankful the series didn't focus on their relationship too much, but that doesn't mean I don't want to see it play out. So please, Mad House, give me a sequel.

Status: I'm bummed that the series is ending, but it's been a good run. I haven't felt this good about a series in a long time, and now a new bar has been set for this upcoming season. Definitely do yourself a favor and watch this. I know the hype hasn't helped, but it's worth it. Trust me.


 

#2 - Hunter x Hunter [24-25]

After a heartbreaking scene a couple episodes back where Gon was continually beat back from the Zoldyk estate by Canary, we're treated to an amazing episode that focuses on a past incident between Canary and Killua. Aside from her capabilities as a fighter and as a master of certain assassin techniques, Canary is, at the core, still just a little girl. Just like Killua, she craves friendship, and that flashback episode was worth its timestamp in gold. I would have regretted seeing the end of our time with Canary, had it not been followed up by Another subtly amazing episode, the one in which Gon convinces the Zoldyck butlers to let him go out in the world with Killua.

Every time I become mildly dissatisfied with Hunter x Hunter, and wonder why I'm no longer as happy with the series, episodes like these two come along and remind me what good anime is. Not only did they give us a glimpse at Killua's incredibly messed up upbringing, but also the sad and lonely existence of those around him. The fact that everyone around him is incredulous that he has a friend, and jealous of it, speaks volumes of his character and background. It's episodes like these that prove that you can tell a lot more from a sidelong glance and a long pause than a lengthy info dump.

I actually wish that someone would authorize a spinoff of Hunter x Hunter where the entire series would focus on the Zoldyck family and their household staff. There's so much packed into these last few episodes that I'd like to see more of. I want to learn more about Killua's little sister, and learn more about the same sadness that flashes through her eyes as the others when “friendship” is mentioned. I'd like to know more about the butlers and how they interact with the family. It's kind of impressive how much emotion and unspoken thoughts can be rendered in a few frames of animation, especially one with such cartoonish character designs, but these last few episodes proved that drawings can speak volumes.

I'm a little apprehensive about the next arc, since it sounds an awful lot like a series of tests and ordeals much like the Hunter Exam. At least Gon will be with Killua, and not much can go wrong when my two favorite characters from the series are together.

Status: At the last second, Hunter x Hunter made a huge push and shut back up in the rankings. I was unpleased with how quickly it was barreling through some of the plot points, but these last two episodes really showed me that this series can be amazing when it gives itself the time to flesh some things out. The Canary story was excellent, and all the unspoken words between the many characters made the ending to this arc a memorable experience.


 

#3 - Bodacious Space Pirates [ep. 12-13]

All in all, Bodacious Space Pirates has been a very cute—and very unique—series. It's not all like what I was originally expecting from the beginning—in fact, it's barely pirate-y at all. But what we got was a laidback, thoughtfully written show that shared an immense love of space and a willingness to slow things down in favor of characterization. The series has dabbled with a few action scenes—my favorite is still episode 11 where the Bentenmaru has to race a space time quake to reach the ghost ship—but it's spent most of its time watching Marika grow as a captain, and gain confidence in her decision-making abilities.

Episode 12 is, for all intents and purposes, the finale of the series, with episode 13 serving as more of a follow-up. The crew finally boards the ghost ship, and the visuals that greet the viewers is worth the wait. Throughout the series, the artwork has always been beautiful, in a grandiose manner befitting a futuristic space show. From the mail technology to the cute “yacht club,” everything has been a quaint mix of current technology and fantasy. The view from inside the ghost ship is just as breathtaking, as one might expect from a ship large enough to hold a new colony. Without spoiling anything, the treasure inside is a surprise, too. I was expecting anything from a warehouse full of snap-frozen people to a giant weapon, but I was certainly not expecting to find the object that they were actually looking for. It's not only an interesting twist, but it takes Gruier in a new direction too.

The series is supposed to run for 26 episodes, but I'd be okay if the series ended where it did. It was enjoyable, and it wrapped itself up nicely. In the end, it wasn't quite the space epic that people were expecting, but it was nevertheless a fun distraction that's definitely worth watching.

Status: Overall, very charming. It may be more new-school science fiction than old-school, but you can tell the writers are nostalgic for the old-school and it shows.


 

#4 - Another [ep. 12]

The entire last few episodes can be summed up in one line of dialogue, in which the teacher looks at the camera and says, “This isn't normal.” No, it's not normal, but it is fascinating, and it skirts the line between outright murder porn and social commentary. One might think, “This would never happen in real life!” and although these exact sequence of events are highly exaggerated, it certainly wouldn't be the first time people in large numbers have done excessively stupid things because they were scared.

One thing that continued to frustrate me even until the end, though, was why nothing was done about any of this earlier. And as if the show was reading my mind, Sakakibara asked Misaki why she didn't tell anyone earlier what she knew about the extra person. Her response was that she didn't think it would've mattered, but I hesitate to agree with her. At the end of the day, though, if I can find a massacre between students reasonably realistic, then I have to grudgingly admit, too, that everyone's inaction and ridiculous posturing up until that point logical, too. Because it wouldn't be the first time either that people in large groups have conjured up silly rules and beliefs to try to stave off their fear.

Ultimately, I don't regret watching Another. Near the end, I enjoyed it immensely, partly for its amazing(ly fresh take on a) beach episode, and partly to sit back and gawk at the waves of paranoia that rippled through the students. Of course, the reveal in the last episode was great too, and I can safely say I didn't see it coming. Another has a lot of ridiculous, eye-rolling moments, but it has a reasonable pay-off.

Status:

I ended up loving this show, but there are still aspects of this show that bothered me from the beginning that never quite left. I've been perpetually up and down about this show, but in the end, I think it's worth watching, despite its weak beginning.

 

#5 - Ano Natsu de Matteru [ep. 11-12]

As more and more aliens (or alien technology) came crashing to the Earth, my love for the series waned. I said last time that I wish the entire series was rewritten without the alien subplot, and I'm now more sure than ever of that sentiment. I think the alien nonsense cheapens the emotions in the series. Why couldn't Ichika and Kaitou have faced the same emotional swells without her having to be an alien? That extraterrestrial forces wrench them apart doesn't make it more bittersweet—it makes it just a little hackier. Had she left because of life circumstances, like moving to a different continent, I think the pangs of love lost might have been stronger.

Instead, I find myself annoyed at how fast and how forcibly the departure was foisted upon viewers, and I find myself irritated on behalf of Kaitou and Ichika's friends, for leaving them to deal with hostile alien pods and emotional baggage. The cheeky, “Look how crazy our summer was!” doesn't make the pill easier to swallow.

Of course, the finality of Ichika's departure is up for debate. Did my eyes deceive me, or was the final frame in their school film one of her wearing the blouse that Kaitou's sister brought back from Bolivia? Regardless of what that implies, though, the series post-coupling still felt very rushed and ultimately unsatisfying. Part of what I loved so much about the middle part of the series was the raw, realistic emotion that was whizzing around the group of friends. Especially the unrequited loves. Having such an unrealistic ending to conveniently tie up the loose ends felt like a copout, like the writers didn't know what to do after they got the leads together.

I am a huge fan of bittersweet endings. I love films where lovers don't, or can't, stay together simply because life interferes. I love them exponentially less if it feels like a copout, like the writers were lifting from the textbook of emotional cues, rather than weaving a genuine story.

So yes, Ano Natsu de Matteru had many beautiful moments, but it would've been a much better series without aliens.

Status: Loved parts, disliked parts. But if you like the emotional tumult that comes with teenage love, then this is worth watching. And maybe you'll like that alien crap more than I did.


 

#6 - Listen To Me, Girls, I'm Your Father [ep. 11-12]

Here is a series that never fully lived up to its potential. It came close on several occasions, and pulled out lots of tearjerkers, but it never hit its mark. It always chickened out and backed down, either because it was afraid to stay ugly for too long, or because it preferred to keep dancing in the clouds. This entire time, we've watched the girls stay brave for each other, but when the littlest one says that she's still waiting for her mom and dad to come home, it's devastating. Yet instead of riding out this scene for every last year it deserves, it fizzled away almost as quickly as it came. Young Hina wallows for a couple days then realizes that hey, she's done crying, and that's that.

I don't know why PapaKiki is so afraid of getting down and dirty in the mud and staying there. Everyone wants to see a victor pull him/herself from the trenches and persevere, but if there's no pain, then there's nothing to be gained. That's the problem that this series has faced since the beginning. There simply isn't enough sadness for the amount of shit that the kids have been through. Even when they were threatened with eviction, that carried itself out for a mere episode, then was magicked away. It's almost impossible to really take this series all that seriously when it feels more like someone's (dark) fantasy than reality.

In the last couple of episodes, Yuta comes to the shocking realization that he's not a good father figure. He's not aware that Miu and Sora are struggling in school, and he's not around when Hina falls ill in school. Naturally, his aunt and uncle step in and offer to take the girls off his hands. He of course fights back, but in a flight of fancy, even this little storm blows over within an episode. There is literally nothing at stake in this series. Everything fixes itself in an episode, and the girls don't really appear to have any of the emotional baggage that one would expect from such a tragic scenario.

PapaKiki had moments of brilliance when the Sora found chance to pour out her heart, but aside from those moments, it's mostly been Drama Lite. I haven't read the manga, so I can't speak for the source material, but this anime has been overall disappointing. It had so much good material to work with, that it can only blame itself for not rising to the occasion.

Status: This series wins the Wasted Potential Award of the year. It could've been amazing, but it just wasn't willing to break more hearts and stay gritty.


 

#7 - Lagrange ~The Flower of Rin-Ne~ [ep. 12]

I think Lagrange could definitely use a fresh start in the summer. It definitely grew stronger as the season progressed, culminating in the scene where Madoka loses her sanity when the realities of war start hitting her. But unfortunately, it spends far too much time traipsing around with trivialities throughout the series. So little happens in the way of plot progression, that it feels almost like an immense amount of time is wasted just on cutesy scenes.

After Madoka's freak out and the subsequent rain of flowers, things largely back down to a whisper again. The alien onslaught is dealt with, and over the next few weeks of Lagrange time, we get a few farewells, setting us up for the continuation of the series. Ultimately, what that means is that if anyone was looking for more answers regarding the Flowers of Rin-Ne, or more insight on the early civilization of people that left the planet, there are none. Cumulatively, this entire season has largely only accomplished a handful of character introductions, and a sneak peek at what the series might be capable of, should it buckle down.

For better or for worse, I stuck out with this series because I am a sucker for cryptic robot mythology. I think the series has a lot of potential, but it might not come to fruition until the second season. Unfortunately, that's a long time to wait for some people, and in retrospect, I probably should have dropped this series earlier.

Status:

You know, eh. This show "got better," as fans say, who don't like to admit that they had to slog through double-digits for a show to get interesting. Then again, I kept watching, so I guess I'm one of those suckers.

That's it for this season. Whew! All I can say is, thank goodness Spring is here.



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