This Week: Kill La Kill, Nagi No Asukara, Space Dandy, Pupa, and Gundam Build Fighters.
Several of these programs have only hours remaining until their conclusions, so it is time to do some medical rounds and check pulses.
Kill La Kill (episode twenty three)
“Welcome to the runway of death.”
Kill la Kill and Project Runway: Under the Gunn air on the same day, so that makes up my Thursday night.
I would contribute serious personal effort to hear Tim Gunn make a grand declaration like that at a crucial series moment.
The penultimate episode of this show then. We have been on track for a spell now regarding things like trying to tie back together elements regarding clothes, family, friendship, and the like. Unless a series wants to risk unraveling everything it has come to gel towards, there is little legitimate room to do more than double down.
So that is what it did: the massive throwdown on the sea and in the air, culminating in near total enemy defeat on each front due to raw I Have To Win Because Friends And Family. power displays Which is not a terrible thing, mind, as everyone received their tailor suited piece. Ryuuko gets a suicidal death wish dive to victory, Satsuki defeats Ragyou by virtue of convincing her to monologue herself to defeat, and Mako’s human fusion reactor core of a personality barreling through both enemy forces and generating the hamster wheel power to run an aircraft carrier. Among other folks like the Elite Foure and such as well of course. A destruction and visual flair filled means of the show aiming to tie up the bows that bond them. And everyone is going to get to have Mitsuzo’s tea again.
Which is, itself, not quite enough yet. There is still a ground (and maybe space?) war to win. The Earth being the very floor homes, cities, nations, and the like are built on. And Ragyou is wearing… an outfit inspired by traditional Japanese wedding dresses. Which devours Rei as an underling to submit to it and give it strength. You don’t say.
As Junketsu has had plenty of wedding dress phrasing and visuals presented around it, in addition to the ones from the original ending credits, this next episode I hope will come to apply conceptual finishing touches for at least some of the points regarding clothing the series has raised thus far over its duration. It was one of the aspects I was most interested about the series, after all.
The wedding dress, across cultures, is an institution almost unto itself. Alien, almost, compared to many other kinds of clothes given how occasion and life event specific they often are. And yet wedding dresses and marriage as a social and legal matter have gone through various revolutions over the years. As such, this is almost an unstoppable force (changes by younger generations and the forward march of time) meets an immovable object (entrenched establishment of older generation resistant to altering status quo) scenario. And trying to stick the landing was always going to be hard for such a wild series as this. One can hope though that with this episode doing so much of the collective character unity work displays, that would leave plenty of room for the follow-up finale to deal more in the conceptual clothing battles it has waved around.
Well Trigger, as Tim Gunn would say: Make it work.
Nagi No Asukara (episode twenty four)
Word to the wise: never, ever say a line like “I feel your feelings are for me now” to somebody you want to date.
Imperative after they have run away from you once already.
That said, I do like the sentiment behind Tsumugu’s speech about watching Chisaki going through so much. And I can appreciate that it is wooden in concept, as these kinds of declarations can be. But his flat intonation is rather odd. Tsumugu already has a stoic monotone most of the time, so here his I Just Chased You To The Bottom Of The Ocean love declaration sounds like he is reading any other line of the script. Something with a bit more of a pace to it one way or another would have been called for, I feel. He was more emotional impact when he discovered his farting fish arm than talking about the feelings of his heart.
Given, Tsumugu’s reaction was better than the giant dripping globby tear beards several folks wore this episode. I don’t care how pretty and sparkling P.A. Works makes them; it goes over the edge and just doesn’t do it for me. I feel I’m being told to feel sad rather than compelled to. That’s a fine line personal thing though, as I have for sure been sad at tears in other shows.
Same thing with Manaka bolting from her location due to a little kid who can not even form coherent words drawing an I Love Manaka crayon note. It just feels like a cheap shot. I understand she technically can not feel love at the moment, but… still. I just think there was a better screenwriting way to present her coming to grips with the whole I Do Not Feel Love And What Is That Feeling Like thing. Maybe react to her friends, after Sayu and Kaname give a go at dating after this episode. But that world have required said event to occur far sooner in the narrative, and would have meant more episodes where the plot moved after the time skip rather than trying to preserve the love polygon pileup.
Hikari remains denser than depleted uranium with his “What do the Ofunehiki and Manaka have to do with anything” remarks, while Tsumugu as one of our only adults and change agents gets the gears in motion to save the world.
Maybe they can make a point of that.
Space Dandy (episode twelve)
Satoshi Saga’s career is a real grab bag mishmash hodgepodge. They were a Key Animator on the likes of Dirty Pair: Project Eden and Five Star Stories, they were the Animation Director for the Tenchi Muyo! The Night Before The Carnival OVA, and their Director chair resume area is things like Green Legend Ran and Armitage III. There are many parts floating around in there, and a lot of single episode stints flitting between various programs.
His episode is all about a space chameleon. Sounds about right.
If I was in the business of ranking the various Space Dandy episodes thus far, this would be on the lower end for me. There are a lot of individual parts I should in theory like. Some classic cartoon slapstick (complete with spinning stars and birds over the head). There is someone taking a casual activity like fishing for aliens way to serious. Verbal references like “Game over man, game over” from Aliens while our characters were at their wits end looking for an extraterrestrial on the prowl.
But so much of it felt strangely… flat. And I watch and enjoy lot of classic cartoon antics.
Even nifty science fiction mind snack things like the idea of what does it matter if Dandy was real or the fake came across more like a desperate late game saving throw attempt than trying to tie up the whole package. It is unfortunate, as a nonstarter is never the way one wants to head into a finale off of. But the rotating staff does allay most of the fear I could have.
Pupa (episode eleven)
When I asked for the return of comedy stuffed bears several episodes back, I did not expect DEEN to actually do it.
“If we are alone, we’ll fall. But as long as we’re together, maybe we won’t fall.” Cue squeaky toy noises. I’m sorry to be the bringer of bad news Pupa, but given what I read around the internet you are in even worse shape than that. You are for certain not alone, given the viewership.
But you are primarily surrounded by people who mock you.
Since the show wanted to go down the route of “Which is a dream? Which is reality?” this week via juxtapositions between the slaughterhouse of a research facility and the whimsical brother-sister feeding at school, I’ll play ball. Pupa again shows that vague abusive father figure they have always done minimal establishment for, and in his recollections he again says terrible things of our siblings while our leads endure their situation.
Now, what if the father was supposed to be like us? We, as viewers, are just so often consistently awful to these kids and the container they happen to reside within. If a show is intentionally designed to fail at various construction levels, in an attempt to generate horrible commentary and thus place the viewer in a position similar to that of the individual the protagonists fear so much, is that a valid artistic point or performance art? How would we even draw the lines on such a thing, between such a reality and an anime dream?
Note, this is a thought experiment more than anything: I do not think this is what Pupa is up to. Unless a massive change comes in the series finale, and not even that seems reasonable to expect. Maybe Maria’s monster incest baby she has been a surrogate to is revealed to be us, the viewership, having gestated for so long and contemplating our terrible lineage or whatever. I do not know.
In a sense, this strained hypothetical is a slightly different version of what I come to end up personally calling The Cannibal Holocaust Defense.
Now, that movie is a vile piece of work, including multiple genuine animal deaths. The protagonists are horrible people of the highest order, and there is no earthly reason to root for anything they do. They cut a swath of absolute and total destruction in the name of trumping up how sensational they will be able to make their news story. As a viewer, one gets angry at them. Everything about their actions in the quest for ratings are repugnant. Yet the film takes the found footage concept to such a horrifyingly insane extreme it can be read as lambasting the entirety of exploitative journalism and the horrors of many modern consumer media fascinations like reality programming. And the stunt is dedicated and absolute, not unlike watching something akin to Genocyber on the anime end.
In the case of Pupa, the trick would need to come to be delivered on not necessarily from the character actions but from an actual construction standpoint. By and large, most of the flack I’ve seen (and participated in) comes less from Yume and her brother directly as protagonists but more regarding how the actual show is assembled. How it walks, talks, moves around the house, that sort of thing. Actions often lack in making sense due to poor context, and the way the narrative has flowed from the school and park in the beginning to Maria’s facility to the borderline full sex scene episode to the “enemy” research lab to the present is incredibly convoluted.
Somebody, with a razor sharp three minute script, could attempt to make some sort of point about that. About anime and narrative structure and delivery and audience response and all being represented in a sense by a mocking in-universe figure. Hell, the director, Tomomi Mochizuki, was the director for one of the two episodes of Twilight Q! Admittedly the less interesting one because it was not the Mamoru Oshii episode, but that is a harsh comparison to be against. But at some point in his younger career, he could have figured a slick way out to tie up this material.
But I am pretty sure I just pitched a better idea for a screenplay.
Gundam Build Fighters (episode twenty four)
As our pre-game and setup for the battle was last week, this entry was action and execution. Go go go, we have only one episode left, kind of material.
Which I feel did bite the show in the revelation of the Chairman’s identity as a thief from another dimension. I would have liked to have a better buildup or delivery of that, as it did feel just rammed into everything else. It is not the biggest deal in the world, as we did always know something was up with him and the reveal was only a matter of time. Though it just being tossed out there as it was this week seems disappointing compared to what could have been done.
The championship battle though is, first and foremost, the most crucial part of this episode.
The improved Embody system PPSE and Flana chose to integrate into the Meijin costume serves a secondary purpose in that it renders the one under its influence unable to communicate. We are then spared much in the way of grand Gundam philosophy blows being tossed around in dialogue while the show attempts to also handle an giant robot action. The Star Build Strike in turn could just get dominated and have those visuals and pilot reactions attempt to sell the situation, as it rapidly begins sloughing off parts and acquiring increasing levels of damage. The mid-fight field change was something I am sure I wondered about happening in the back of my head at some point weeks ago, but it was a nifty quirk to see here. It would have been great had there been more diverse alterations than from outer space to the bland inside of a station hallway, though it did put the protagonists literally up against a wall.
Of all things, A Baoa Qu pops up at the end up due to runaway particle dispersal. It makes sense thematically, as Zeon’s most powerful space fortress during the original One Year War from the first Gundam show. What on earth it will actually do is another matter. Could the Chairman try and ram it into the stadium because, hey, this is Gundam and we haven’t had a colony drop or other existential terror threat yet? Will the entire audience join together to defeat it and think it is all part of a grand finale?
Will Tequila Gundam commemorative adult beverage cups remain in stock?
Hangers is a weekly series containing my passing thoughts on currently airing anime productions. Opinions, as always, are subject to change.