The Killing Fields
by Bamboo Dong,
1 (1) Chihayafuru
2 (2) Another
3 (3) Bodacious Space Pirates
4 (5) Listen to Me, Girls, I'm Your Father
5 (4) Ano Natsu de Matteru
6 (6) Hunter x Hunter
7 (7) Lagrange ~The Flower of Rin-Ne~
Let's do this.
Episode 23 of Chihayafuru may have been one of the best episodes of the season. As I was watching one of the characters sob into his mentor's lap, I realized with a jolt that this series could've easily been about something else. It could've been about a group of aspiring concert pianists, or a high school baseball team. That the series spent so much time analyzing karuta matches was just tension-building involving a hobby that could've been replaced by another. That's what makes this series so easy to relate to; you can watch Chihayafuru and use it for inspiration for any facet of your life.
This most recent episode hits a bittersweet spot for anyone who's ever tried really hard to win something and failed. It's for anyone who's ever needed to drag themselves back onto their feet to try something again, or for anyone who needs a little extra motivation for that last two-day push before finals. It's for anyone who's ever admitted to themselves that they didn't succeed at something because they didn't work as hard as they could have.
And yes, for those who like their visual media peppered with romance, this episode is for them, too. Nothing major happens, but one character's realization about his feelings is enough to crack an “aww” out of even the most stalwart of viewers.
I am a huge fan of this series, but admittedly, I am ready for it to be over. I want it to stop while it's still good and have positive memories of the series. I'd like for there to be a sequel a year or so down the line, but for now, I'm looking forward to a solid resolution.
Status: Almost there. The characters have won some, and they've lost some, but they've all managed to learn something in the process. There should be some kind of consistency award. I don't know how this series has managed to be so damned good for so long.
Over the past few episodes, Another has exploded into one of the most interesting and surprising series of the season. It may have started out a bit on the silly side, but it's since become one of the most consistently entertaining shows week after week—even if some of the old communication issues that irked me about the first few episodes still plague my sensibilities. For instance, after the students figure out how to stop the calamity, Mei admits to Kouichi that she knows who the dead person is, but doesn't get a chance to reveal it. To which I thought, “Hey, if you just say who the dead person is, we can put a wrench in this nonsense and at least try to patch this up.” Nope. Or maybe if she told the increasingly crazy student body the same story she told Kouichi—the origin of her glass eye and the relationship with her cousin—then maybe that would slow things down a tad, too.
I guess the key word here is “crazy,” in that the students are at this point so mad with fear and paranoia that nothing in the world could stop them—though I certainly wish someone (read: Mei) would try to slow them down. That “crazy” aspect is what makes the most recent episode of Another so fascinating. In the way that the students are so easily swayed by any glimmer of salvation, to the point where they'd discard their humanity, and the way that they're so quick to rally to scapegoatism, sheds an all too familiar light on the actions of humans in large groups. If we could watch this show and dismiss it as absurd, it might make for lighter entertainment, but perhaps the real horror is its uncomfortable accuracy in portraying mass psychology.
There's two ways to watch Another at this point, and both are valid, entertaining reasons. The first is, of course, to sit back and mull over the individual actions of the students, and analyze how a horror anime can be such a spitting microcosm of many of our social problems. And the other is to simply enjoy it at face value, for the gory and insanely thrilling bloodbath that it is. Without spoiling anything, the body count is now easily in the double digits, and some of the scenes are slowly veering into Final Destination territory. It's sick, but for those who enjoy blood fests, it's also freakishly fun to watch. Better yet, you could just enjoy it for the violent circus that it's become, throw out some theories about who the dead person is, and in the back of your head, shake your head sadly at just how unfortunately realistic all this behavior is.
Status: Another has definitely risen to the top as one of the season's most interesting. Time's running out for the calamity to be stopped, but at this point, who's really left?
Yes, yes, yes! A million times yes! Episodes like the most recent one are the exact reason why years ago, I dove head-first into science fiction fandom. It is just so freaking fun. Watching episode eleven was pure nerd joy for me, from watching the Bentenmaru racing a SPACE TIME QUAKE and reverse airbraking into the loading dock of an airship.
For all the times that I've complained about Bodacious Space Pirates slowing down in the past few episodes, I take all of that back on the merits of this last episode alone. It was so cool, I watched the episode twice. That's how awesome it was.
I'll admit, despite my unwavering love for this series, it hasn't always been pumping out gems. Some of the episodes in the middle dragged a bit, and I have to confess that I couldn't really care less about the princess that Marika's got on board, and her dumb agenda. But what I did want was some great intergalactic space traveling, some nifty futuristic technology (can we talk about how cool their email system is?), and my personal favorite—people typing really fast on holographic keyboards.
Sure, now that our pirates are actually on board the Golden Ghost Ship, I'm sure we're in for a solid story about the lost crew aboard the ship… but from a purely adrenaline-fueled, wide-eyed entertainment point of view, this show doesn't get any better than episode eleven. If you've been slacking off on this show, now's the time to catch up. This is why science fiction is the best kind of fiction.
Status: Yes, please, and I'll take seconds.
As the girls learn to cope with commuting to school for hours each day, juggling their schoolwork and housework, and taking care of Hina, PapaKiki has taken on a much more tender tone. Gone are the incessant attempts at comedy, and gone are the rose-colored, fairly tale adventures the girls have been having. Hina still gets fed dick-shaped foods, presumably, but that happens off screen now, when a shopkeeper yells out, “Hina, do you want to eat this?” No thanks, dude.
What the series has become is much, much better than the series that it started out as. For a subject matter as grave as the one the girls find themselves in, I was always put off by the show's lack of gravitas. Now the real world has caught up to them, and it's finally a series worth the premise it's presenting. Episode ten is remarkably sweet—it focuses on Sora as she struggles to balance everything in her life, and she has to make the decision whether or not to stay in the choir club. It's a really cute episode. You can see both the at-home Sora that we've been watching up until now, but also the Sora that just wants to be a normal teenager. I think as long as the series keeps showing us these little internal struggles, it'll keep being a really delightful show to watch.
I'm not entirely sure how many episodes this series is slated to run. Having not read the light novels, I'm also not entirely sure where this story goes. For the time being, I don't really mind. It makes me sound callous to keep hoping for further problems to befall this household, but those are the kinds of conflicts that makes shows like this more realistic and more intriguing.
Status: I'm glad this show is taking itself more seriously. That's what it was missing.
Tying up relationship knots is a difficult thing to accomplish in TV shows. On the one hand, as a viewer, you desperately want the series to stop knocking around the bush and finally seal the deal for your favorite couple. On the other hand, once that event happens, you're left with a feeling of emptiness. Now what?
I felt a lot of that emptiness in the tenth episode of Ano Natsu de Matteru.
Episode nine delivered what a I wanted—a resolution to what two of the characters were feeling—but ten… Episode ten felt like that awkward moment after you say goodbye to a friend in the parking lot, but realize you're still walking in the same direction for another few minutes. The big relationship question was finally settled (not for long, I hope), but everyone else kept gnawing at the edges of the story, trying to force screen time. In true high school romcom fashion, there were an additional three confessions.
If I could go back in time, I'd step into the boardroom where they brainstormed this series and strongly advise them to re-write the show with Kanna as the lead character. Her character arc is infinitely more fascinating than the bland little love fest between Tits O'Alien and the bland chunk of cardboard that is Kaito. Kanna is more realistic, more loveable, and in the aftermath of the events leading up until this point, much more sympathizable and relatable. It's a shame that they had to end episode ten the way they did, with her gutsy confession and Kaito's nonchalant dismissal. It seemed like they were waving off the only three-dimensional character in lieu of some fanservice scraps, where fanboys get to fantasize what it'd be like to have their own big breasted alien serve them tea.
Basically, this entire series would've been better without that stupid alien subplot.
I suspect that, superficial ties to Onegai Teacher aside, the creators worried that without a gimmick, no one would watch the series. It makes me think that they didn't have confidence in their own storytelling abilities, and it bums me out. A lot of series would be vastly improved without their main gimmick, and Ano Natsu de Matteru is one of them.
Status: With the series winding down, we're in for one last shake-up. If only it had nothing to do with extraterrestrials.
This show takes a lot of shortcuts. Not able to directly compare this 2011 reboot with the original manga or TV adaptation, I can't say for certain if it's just this version or a systemic problem, but yes, there are some corners cut. Not in the quality, mind you, but the story. I've had the nagging suspicion for a while now that this series rushes through things for the sake of keeping viewer interest in a faster-paced world, but now I'm sure of it.
If you recall, Gon broke his arm at the outset of the final phase of the Hunter exam. Now he, Leorio, and Kurapika are trying to track down Killua at his assassin compound to give him some support and to talk things through. In order to get there, they have to jump through some dangerous hoops, including giant man-eating dogs and Willow Smith. Their first test is to pass through the aptly named Testing Door, which is literally just a really heavy set of doors. What chaps me is that the entire time Leorio and Kurapika are training, they're telling Gon to just take it easy, so we get all these go-get-'em scenes of Gon secretly doing one-armed pushups in the middle of the night.
Oh, but then it turns out, his other arm is healed! Even though all of his secret training scenes were of him just working out one arm. I'm not saying that Gon doesn't have super healing like Wolverine, but don't show me a million scenes of him souping up one arm, only to fake me out about the health status of his broken arm.
At this point, fans may try to chime in with a dozen nit-picky reasons as to why this is a legitimate turn of events, but ultimately, that's not really the issue. The issue is mostly the slipshod way that the series sweeps these things under a rug. Oh, his arm's broken? Uh… not anymore! He was only exercising one arm? Well, uh… he's just really mentally strong! And scrappy! Yeah, that's our Gon, the victim of half-assed writing!
I started out really loving this series, but lately I feel like I'm getting my leg pulled a little. Just as I'm losing steam with this show, I wonder if the writers are too. Which is a shame, because they've signed onto a really long project.
Status: If I had to choose between watching more Hunter exam phases, and this Journey to the Killua's House, I don't know which I'd pick. The exams seemed more fleshed out, but Killua's house has more assassins per capita, so maybe things will pick up now that they waved away Gon's arm ailment.
Let's play a game. Name a non-franchise mech show in the past 20 years in which a pilot hasn't flown into a blind rage. It's more fun when they do, isn't it? Especially when it's such a dramatic shift from that character's established personality. This entire season, I've been trashing on Madoka for being a Peppy McPepster, but over the past few episodes, her buttons have been being pushed increasingly harder. It's pretty awesome. I still expect them to all hug it out at the end and maybe dance on a rainbow or something, but for now, I'm relieved that our fearless characters are finally showing some cracks around the edges.
I kind of wish that this series had focused a bit more on the Aura mythology, and had spent less time goofing around with the comedic alien characters. The exposition on the Voxi and their tie-ins with ancient human civilization are a billion times more interesting than watching the aliens run around town, so based on that alone, the series is on an upswing. All the filler is gone, and it's just the girls, the robots, and the fate of the world. I don't want to spoil anything about this massive battle that the characters are finding themselves in, but there was a moment where the inhabitants of the city sent Madoka an encouraging message that almost brought a tear to my dry, hardened eyes. After that, all Hell breaks loose, and if I had money to throw in the hat, I'd bet on one doozy of a finale.
Lagrange still isn't high on my list of favorites this season, but I don't regret staying with it. If anything, now I'm just in too deep.
Status: I mean, I kind of have to keep watching at this point, right?
Thanks for reading, y'all. Want to argue? Start a fight? Agree with me whole-heartedly? Jump on over to the forums and let your thoughts be known, or you can follow me in the Twitterverse at @ANN_Bamboo.
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