This Week: Barakamon, Free! – Eternal Summer, Mobile Suit Gundam-san, Rowdy Sumo Wrestler Matsutaro!!, Space☆Dandy Season Two, and Tokyo ESP.
A straggler from my summer season list managed to find their way to the house party this past week (the barely cognizant M3: The Dark Metal notwithstanding), so let’s check in and see how (or if) everyone is enjoying themselves.
Barakamon [Episode two]
After last week setting the general rural slice of life tone and getting our primary leading man and sidekick youngster together for later (mis)adventures, our second expedition out was a bit different.
This is what I at times have called an equipment or gear check episode, in that we need to spend the time adding some things on to better ensure the series will be able to continue. Introduce Hiroshi, Tamako, Miwa, etc. Let them enter the scenes and get their general characters beats out: Hiroshi’s average at best grades and concerns over talent, folks like Miwa have likely been teaching little Naru words without appropriate meaning, etc.
It is a useful episode to have, particularly early on. One risks slowing momentum in the hope of being able to plant character seeds that will be livier later, but as far as gambling goes it tends to be a pretty safe move in television series production. And in a slice of life show, characters are definitely everything.
That said, I do think Barakamon did deflate a bit since last week.
The material with Hiroshi is fine, and even the antics where Miwa and Tamako try to take back Seishuu’s room as their hangout base seem appropriate enough in-universe for the kinds of characters they are and the dynamic they have. Once things get to the hospital though, I feel the episode stalls out a fair bit. Too many suppositories jokes, pretty much everything involving trying to make comedy out of the young but married nurse misses the mark for me, and so on. Inserting the ghost story aspect, while it makes for a nice moment when Seishuu is speaking with the old man, does also seem a bit like time that could have gone to something else for him to come to a similar conclusion regarding the positive aspects of the lively group around him.
The show clearly wants to be more unchained from reality and wackier in character action, so I do not feel like I am missing that element at all or trying to see the show as something it is not. Sometimes these sort of misfire zones pop up in a comedy series, especially early on when it is still trying to set everyone’s characters up at the same time. So I am not too worried, at least for now, as despite my stated reservations or quirks I had with it I think the episode was fine in the department of rolling more of the cast out.
There will be plenty of time to for them to play more freely down the road.
Free! – Eternal Summer [Episode three]
Despite winning the school wide club field day event, our Iwatobi swim team just can not attract any new blood for their ranks.
Which, given the vibes this season was wanted to have so far, does serve dual purposes. It sets up the easy gags where the group clearly prepares for those wide-eyed fresh initiates who never actually arrive, on the one hand. On the other, with everyone advancing through the school years and the increased talk of what they will need to do after graduation, there is the notion of who would come to be able to take over the team once most of our cast leaves these educational halls. Meanwhile, Rin over at Samezuka would not need to be concerned with the raw survival of his team, but still needs to captain the ship to maintain it.
On that note: Rin switching dorm rooms as part of the general advancement of time, where he will be with Sousuke as his underclassman Nitori becomes a more direct senpai to Momotarou does itself also serve dual purpose. It gives Sousuke a more immediate presence to potentially influence Rin’s choices going forwards, as well as elevates Nitori’s levels of character activity and personal narrative. He can not just be Rin’s biggest fanboy forever, after all. There are other responsibilities and potential guidance to provide as well.
The primary force driving the drama element of this episode then turns to Rei, and whether or not he will be leaving the swimming club (or Nagisa!) for more land based pastures.
Or, at least as much drama as one would be able to wring out of that concept. The club would no longer have its membership quota were he to actually leave, which would introduce a whole other set of affairs that would probably get too cramped for the pace and aim of the series at this time relating to growing up. So it is far more of a “What is he personally working though?” scenario.
To an extent, this actually is a nice little reversal on the ninth episode of the first season. That showing, if you remember, was where Detective Rei not-so-secretly trailed Rin around at the festival to see what he was up to and to let to group better keep Haru and Rin apart. Here, the group comes to eventually track Rei in a similar comedic manner (though I doubt he actually noticed), and come to discover a secret he had been keeping from them.
A simple little episode, as with most of the series on the whole, but it sets up a fair amount of what is to come down the road. Spills and splits may have been avoided this week, but Sousuke and how he views his own relationship to Rin is sure to put a strain on that sooner or later as he exerts himself more.
Mobile Suit Gundam-san (Kidou Senshi Gundam-san) [Episode two]
The hard questions every young Gundam “Why do the Dom units in the Zeon forces have skirts anyway?”
Nevermind the technical answer (they house and armor thermonuclear jet engines, in case you were wondering). This is Amuro Ray being a Newtype and thus bringing with him all kinds of new types of perverted battlefield fantasy. The boy is going through puberty, after all, and Newtypes have, well, a lot of stuff on their super minds.
Like trying to look up Dom skirts.
Zeonic psychological warfare at its most potent then, I suppose.
Incidentally, the whole “Newtype” thing always sort of bugs me in the Universal Century timeline. It is not really a big deal breaker or anything (I have certainly watched more than my fair share of Gundam entries from both UC and otherwise over the years). Their abilities tend to be pretty nebulously defined though. As a result, the trait can essentially plot device folks out of otherwise impossible events, which in certain circumstances can come off as anticlimactic.
Amuro Ray’s super space next level of human evolution mind going full speed bonkers when it comes to his adolescent brain thinking of sex all. The. Time?
It’s alright, for a two minute gag reel.
Rowdy Sumo Wrestler Matsutaro!! (Abarenbou Kishi!! Matsutarou) [Episode thirteen]
The Season’s End
Which is such an odd timing for such an episode title, in the sense that most of us tend to think of this time of year indicating being in full swing of a brand new anime season. But, this is one of those more “evergreen” shows that sort of operates independently of all that, going along with Mike Toole’s recent ANN article that features the series extensively. Still, given that there was a two week production break not all that long ago, one would have imagined an episode like this that comes down to a title and promotional bout would have been the last one prior to that.
But, either way, here we are. And it is time for wrestling like we have never wrestled before.
Which I suppose is as good a time as any to consider Sakaguchi did enter the sumo world at makushita level, the third highest of the six ranked sumo divisions.
I had never actually paid much attention to where they actually placed him, before. It probably slipped by me entirely, as I feel this is something that had to have come up as at least an offhanded remark earlier, and I was terrible at actually noticing his style of dress was indicative of it. It is actually a really solid place to have put him, in a story framework like this, now that I am thinking about it though. This is the thoroughfare, where folks with promising careers yo-yo back and forth with both each other and more established individuals recovering from setbacks. Hit the jūryō level, and one gets to be sekitori like Inokawa. Which is to say, the top seventy wrestlers between the top two divisions (jūryō and makuuchi), and in turn those who come to be served rather than those who serve. Naturally, a big prize for someone like Sakaguchi, though for perhaps the wrong reasons.
That Kondo had the consideration he would meet our leading lad again in future fights I feel is also a good nod towards this entire system. While he is by all means incensed by Sakaguchi’s unbecoming behavior, he does not want to use trickier tactics against him as it would in turn come to set a tone for the bouts that may come later. And it is a good fight, a clean fight with just a hint of a Looney Tunes chase it in and a reasonable level of Sakaguchi’s strength coming into play. One can not really ask for more than that, really, especially when it comes to where our lead will go from here.
Space☆Dandy Season Two [Episode two]
Episode Director: Toshiaki Kidokoro, Animation Director: Eiji Nakada and Yuriko Chiba, Storyboard: Masashi Ikeda Script: Keiko Nobumoto
This one has a rather intriguing setup, in that our director is practically green when it comes to Space☆Dandy’s usual affairs. Kidokoro has worked on about a dozen shows, but in random one off directing gigs. Meanwhile, the script comes courtesy of Nobumoto (Screenplay for Macross Plus and Tokyo Godfathers, Series Composition for Cowboy Bebop, etc) to be storyboarded by varied ‘90’s shotgun Ikeda. Hurl in the double experienced animation directing team from Space☆Dandy season one, episode seven (the space race), and one has essentially given a sort of anime sports car team to Kidokoro.
And I feel he managed to navigate a rather effective little piece that is both able to make use of timeline ideas touched on in the previous episode and yet make them wholly their own thing here. The mood a bit more mysterious, but not too serious. Instead of hopping all over with wild style switches and engages us that way, we get a more straightforward delivery that can instead aim to be more lush. The forested planet and frozen statues are the sort of thing that seems simultaneously alien and familiar to our own world in various respects, and it is a nice line to walk after the previous episodes affairs.
Ukulele Man being a seemingly friendly and yet off putting “collector of smiles” and his particular kind of garden also certainly could be read as some sort of commentary on obsessive otaku escapism inclinations. Though, he works just as well on the level of an antagonist straight out of The Twilight Zone, so I do not even think one would need to take things that far.
Dandy imagining the beautiful alien, who he thinks surely must have invited him out so far for their party, as a horned oni girl is the sort of thing that as a reference reminds me that I am reaaaally behind on trying to finish all of Urusei Yatsura in terms of New Year’s resolutions. Gosh darned ding dang currently airing shows, keeping me from lightning bolt hurling alien princess overload death.
As we saw Honey for all of about eight total seconds this week: Remember the big mega internet fuss when a line was slightly altered in the first episode of the dub that it was said would come to massively change her character interpretation over time? I am still waiting for her to get more significant screen time, especially as I feel it could be a nice spin to even give her more of her own episode given the nature of the series.
Tokyo ESP [Episode one]
I do not know what it is, but that Kadokawa Video intro throws me off guard every time I see it. It was developed in the 2000’s, but it feels significantly more, say, 1980’s. Then my mind needs to readjust and remind myself if I turned the right thing on.
But, I think it is fair to say, Tokyo ESP served up an opening episode that would not have been out of place on a spectacle reliant 1980’s OVA release.
What are these We Mean Business folks doing? Taking over the Diet building. How are they doing it? They have powers. What powers? Like super speed combined with swords or being able to imprint their image on others so defenders shoot each other. Other allies of theirs? In the streets, blowing up traffic, buildings, tanks, and so on. Snowing. Christmas time. Can someone throw a train? Let us throw a train. Decorative lights. Helicopters going down. Guns. Big Cool Red Motorcycles. Some stuff about social structures. The bad guys want to Colony Drop the floating Diet building. The divides between humans and ESPers. Maybe threaten to blow up a kid’s mom with a truck bomb. Have bomb thwarted in time. Someone is kicking busses like they were footballs. Lead character shows up. Roll credits. Drop mic. Walk out.
It is the kind of intro designed less around world building, character narrative, and more to just hurl out a blockbuster “Stuff Goes Down” clash banking on telling someone from the start that things will end up this way down the road.
Is that good, is that bad? Well, it is the sort of in media res approach that relies on the series coming back around to fill in the blanks. Who anyone is, what their motivations may be, or what brought things to this ESPer terrorism point. Those with one note powers are defined to us by how their abilities work in action, one after another, as their primary definitive characteristics. The X-Men comparison many have thrown around regarding this series is accurate, putting so many to use and employing their abilities to bombastic effect with the promise we will get to know them later.
Right now we really do not know a whole lot other than that and boom bang explosion as Tokyo descends into chaos. Which is not itself a death sentence, and indeed even a solid technique if this does come to want to use this as a climatic preview of what is to come. It “just” needs to fill us in on everything else that already happened.
Which, for a bunch of ESPers, one would hope to be pretty easy.
Hangers is a weekly series containing my passing thoughts on currently airing anime productions. Opinions, as always, are subject to change.