This Week: Barakamon, Free! – Eternal Summer, M3: The Dark Metal, Mobile Suit Gundam-san, Rowdy Sumo Wrestler Matsutaro!!, Space☆Dandy Season Two, and Tokyo ESP.
Hanamonogatari has also seen its full airing, as mentioned in the first week of this season. Also as I had brought up there, I would not be covering it in these posts because by it being a five episode simultaneous release, it would probably be better served just getting its own space than being crammed in here with one off episodes of everything else.
Though, that all being said, while I have seen the complete arc Hanamonogatari dealt with, at this time I feel I probably will not write about it at length in such a future post. I figure there are enough folks who are going to end up doing that anyway where I may as well use that time for other projects rather than grasp for the same oxygen on that front. While I really did enjoy what Monogatari Series Second Season did to and for the franchise, I am not really as hot on the overall line of television series as a lot of other folks are.
Hanamonogatari by and large followed that trend, where I thought it was alright but not outstanding. I have enough other pieces of drafts on other subjects floating around that I do not really think it warrants bumping other things from my writing schedule. Despite the fact Monogatari anything posts do pretty well when it comes to long term things like image search results.
Barakamon [Episode seven]
Takao and Kousuke have already hit the end of their vacation? Well, that is a shame.
I am sure we will end up seeing more of them before the series is through of course, but having them arrive at the island community last episode only to have them leave by the end of this one seems a little abrupt. Another episode, or half an episode, could have been made of their trip I would say. It would space things out a bit more, especially for an episode like this. It so wanted to have both its incredibly manic stages like Takao powering up like he was a Drangonball Z character as he mimicked their esteemed calligraphy director while also shooting for personal moments like being inspired by the day at the pier with friends to do a large calligraphy work with fish as the brush.
I touched on a lot of this last week in particular, as I rather enjoyed that episode, but when the series veers into its more manic stages is when I tend to be the least interested in what is going on. I do not feel the show tends to handle the transitional bridge between its amped up and heartfelt scenes with much grace. And it usually comes at the expense of the latter, which is why I would rather prefer this show to pick a comedic tonal speed and stick with it.
If a show wants to just run speedlights, that is one approach, but it is then in more extreme danger when it then aims to lessen its resolve on that front and slow down in the middle of the intersection than if it had just kept going, as it were.
Unlike a case like Space☆Dandy, which is an episodic and creative reset each and every time, Barakamon is a more linear character comedy.
So I feel the need to pick at Barakamon more, as it seems like it wants to be two separate kinds of comedy shows at once, but they are fighting for space and territory. And in a set of circumstances where the show is not constantly resetting itself, or is not long enough to know it has the time for both, that conflict keeps boiling up in ways that end up falling flat for me in the laughs department. Polar Bear’s Cafe had plenty of manic out of left field moments for instance, and I enjoyed it immensely, but they were punchy because the show was also long enough to know it had plenty of time for the heartwarming scenes as well. In turn, it could provide ample attention for both, and over the curve of the show all these events felt like they were each within the same series.
I find that a nice amount of my Barakamon reflections tend to be me comparing and cross examining it against other comedies, which can come off as if I hate it more than other comedy series I am watching. Which really is not the case: Tokyo ESP is far worse, for one, and Gundam-san is very lukewarm for me and that is only because I am a Gundam fan willing to give it rope to play with. But, Barakamon more often than not tends to be in a range where I am not physically or mentally laughing at what it is up to, while also not being perturbed on the same level as I am by Tokyo ESP.
Takao speaks this episode of potentially having wasted his vacation, and that would be a pretty terrible sentiment to have towards this show in the end should I still feel in this weird neutral zone several weeks from now. I mean, even a bad vacation tends to at least generate some stories to share with others.
Free! – Eternal Summer [Episode eight]
Things have toned down a bit since the more argumentative issue of Rin and Sousuke last time, as this is very much getting us back to more of the graduation and life choices, that have been something of a on and off guiding force topic this season.
To that end, we have Makoto assisting with swimming lessons at Gorou’s revitalized Iwatobi swim club, and Sousuke comes to taking time of his own to coach Aiichirou in his goal to be able to swim with Rin before Samezuka’s competitive year is over. There is a nice contrast in, in that when Makoto shares what he has gotten into in the teaching department with his teammates the conclusion they all reach is there would be greater benefit for the three of them to continue to work on themselves rather than join him. For understandable reasons of course, as the show has already mentioned matters like Nagisa needing to improve his grades.
Meanwhile, Sousuke looking out for Aiichirou’s continued advancement is something that I feel is implied to be something he would be keeping low on the radar. That Rin happens to stumble upon them by chance is no matter, as he reflects on the swell moment without breaking into it or otherwise making his presence known. While these latter swimming training moments do not receive anywhere near as much as Makoto’s sessions, I would think Sousuke’s intentions would be to downplay his involvement in Aiichirou’s advancement so that the progress of this younger student would look better when actually shown off.
It is not like he was not already practicing, after all, there was just a less than optimal level of form involved. And as we ourselves come to learn that at some point in the recent past Sousuke has been to the hospital for his shoulder, he may well know a thing or two about bad form or overworking oneself to physical detriment.
As for the primary top level plot of the episode, Makoto teaching his students and in particular the little boy Hayato Kisumi, it harkens back a bit to the midseason island training episodes in the first Free! – Iwatobi Swim Club.
More specifically, we learned at that time Makoto suffered from thalassophobia (fear of the sea). While I would more than hesitate to classify Hayato’s circumstances as raw aquaphobia (fear of the water), he is by all measures afraid of swimming in the pool sans kickboard as an understandable reaction to a past drowning scare. I feel Makoto’s previous reactions on a similar level, insofar as having no previous bad experience with the ocean until his fisherman friend was killed in a storm and thus having adverse reactions to deep sea water despite being very good at swimming on the whole, are a good thing to thematically touch base on again here.
Likewise with the more newly revealed information of his own earliest swimming sessions being unfruitful until he came to learn the backstroke. While all very simple as narrative construction, it all plays well to the notion of him having particular experiences and perspectives that make him quite valuable and good at providing guidance and teaching experiences in these kinds of situations. Which, for a season that has the creeping threat of graduation in the background, is something important for him to be realizing now when it comes to potentially deciding what to do next with his life.
Haru, meanwhile, still does not have much in the way of answers. Despite saying and doing little this episode, his general agitation or unease levels seem higher than normal, particularly at the sight of someone, Shigino Kisumi, he knew from middle school. Everyone keeps getting older, after all, and Haru just wants to be able to keep swimming.
M3: The Dark Metal (M3: Sono Kuroki Hagane) [Episode eighteen]
“You roach woman!”
Well, I can not say I have heard that one before. This is right up there with Akashi’s disdainful dialogue toward Tsumugi a few episodes back being translated as “Wench” in areas. At which point, I am not sure if these are merely very particular phrasing quirks of the official translation team (be they the site, the studio, etc) in how they want to adapt the more incendiary dialogue for Daisuki, or Mari Okada’s scripts for the show really are just this strained for thesaurus words to hurl out that will indicate the character speaker has some really deep rooted issues with women. Given that the entire series of M3 takes any and all opportunities it can to treat women poorly, be it through visual assaults and displays, through shockingly paper-thin narrative motivations, and so on, I am still inclined to lean towards the latter.
Our team of teenagers and some of their supervisory adults who may as well be come to the conclusion that they need to get out to the island Sasame, Tsumugi, and Minashi grew up on. Which would be fine, minus the fact the entire emergency transport structure is in a mess due to the expanding Lightless Realm and general disorder after a previous Admonition assault. So they can not even temporarily command something from the Self Defense Force. So they come to the conclusion they need to raid an airbase inside of the Lightless Realm, as it would in turn have abandoned plane.
Let us back up for a second and do a very dangerous thing which involves actually thinking about the framework already provided by this series.
We have seen in previous circumstances recon planes flying from normal airspace out and over the Lightless Realm becoming contaminated with Necrometal, thus needing to very quickly turn course if not engage in outright mechanical failure. Even were I to instigate some handwave logic that a plane within a hanger within the Lightless Realm were to be shielded enough temporarily to be physically sound, it can not get out without interacting with Lightless Realm atmospheric qualities. Any acquired plane would, given what we have previously seen, be prone to very quickly being in an emergency state. Which, given the characters do have a sense of this being a very risky and kind of hail mary move. Even so, while the plane acquires some Necrometal, this is a long distance flight over open water. It should have some very significant problems, if not crash part way resulting in perhaps something like lifeboat rafting the rest of the way.
The plane makes it across fine and dandy for reasons that basically extend as far as The Plot Demands It. Not only that, but Susan as the driver of an open air vehicle to get to the hanger does not ever wear any kind of minorly protective suit at all, whereas in a previous attempt where she nearly hurled herself into the Lightless Realm she at least had a cursory MA-Vess suit. We were even told it would protect her for maybe an hour or so.
I can not imagine the military facility they are running from has an exact number of suits. That, and if one is already running off to a faraway island with said organization’s entire cadre of psychic teen mech pilots, it is not like those back on base are going to go too terrible long without noticing anyway.
I am more than willing to give shows ample levels of rope to play with, but M3 deserves no such trust because it seems to actively forget or ignore aspects of its own production. Like it was assembled in a huge first draft rush without any kind of editor coming back and doubling checking that its parts actually fit together.
The second half of this episode rotates around a giant exposition dump regarding Minashi walking around the island and recalling things, and more prominently Natsuiri’s past.
This bugs me on two levels. For one, while Minashi is really one of the only people in this entire plot who seems to have a significant grasp on what is going on, that is really on through his just happening to have answers and statements to give when times call for them. Which can make for an interesting kind of character, to have the memories others lack, but he is just a walking checklist reader whose characterization swerves pretty radically without much reason. One moment he can tell all about the past like he was some sort of saintly figure, the next moment he is in situations trying to take Sasame by force or otherwise have a sinister vibe. Which in a production that already has a good half dozen antagonistic entities already, is just exhausting. I would almost prefer we were back where this series was in its earliest stages, and knocking folks off weekly.
As for Natsuiri? For as much as the series has waggled his around, his backstory allows for the plot to pull Minashi’s sister (who we have never previously heard of even existing), out of a dead end plot idea bin. Hers is the same flatly tragic past one could pratically imagine just by me putting her character and Natsuiri in the same sentence. He was mocked for his mental linking research when he was much younger, but she believed in him and encouraged him. They have some variety of relationship, he gets to go to the island to carry out his work on her native people, they go too far, she walks out, he stops her by tranquilizers and uses her for a most extreme of scientific experiments. It is as exhausting to type as the show seems interested in relaying it all back to us.
And before the episode ends, the Necrometal that did accumulate on the stolen plane is now suddenly spreading across the island and causing voices of dead villagers to call out. Which is something it can apparently do now.
Supposedly, this is all going to wrap up at episode twenty four. I’ll believe it when I see it, as the team at Satelight have dug themselves into one hell of a hole.
Mobile Suit Gundam-san (Kidou Senshi Gundam-san) [Episode seven]
I wondered last week if the show, after pointing out Sayla’s medical student history as a special trivia / narrative headnod to Mobile Suit Gundam was going to continue on, as the show had not been making moves like that as explicitly prior. Here, it seems as though I have received my answer, as it has Lalah pointing out highlights and bulleted points of who Garma Zabi is, right down to his most famous phrase and in which episode he died in within the original television series.
It is such a strange move, when a show itself feels the need to point out to me what the most famous phrase of a particular character in such a famed franchise is.
I would understand in full were they to use variations of it to comedic effect (and they do), but pointing out what the original phrase was explicitly to the audience via another character telling us that information seems like the sort of thing I should be doing to build a word count!
Otherwise, much like how last week was a simple enough if kind of underwhelming sex gag, this week we turn to Char timing his good friend’s bathroom behavior and trying to get a urinal side measurement of those most particular of Zabi family jewels.
Does the front loaded character sheet data dump kind of expedite this process? Well… I suppose? It establishes things like Garma’s “Char! You decided me, Char!” line upfront, and them just rambles off some word replacements. But it seems less amusing than were they to just run with the scenario.
As Garma Zabi’s death is the elaborate funeral affair for which his brother Gihren gives the famous “Sieg Zeon” speech, I do wonder if that affair could be one taken to the Gundam-san script targeting computer.
Rowdy Sumo Wrestler Matsutaro!! (Abarenbou Kishi!! Matsutarou) [Episode seventeen]
This episode was delayed due to the Obon holiday, which makes sense (though the exact timing varies by location): it is a festival time and one of honoring one’s ancestors at that, and given the intended audience for this series runs a lot older than most other anime taking time off is logical.
Though interestingly enough, the series did not take the complete week off, and instead popped this episode out in the middle of the week instead. And episode eighteen will still come out this weekend as it normally would. I have been raking through my mental cobwebs, and I can not recall this sort of thing happening with any other series I have blogged about so far. Not to say it has never happened before at all in anime (I would be shocked if this was the first time, really), though it is certainly an odd set of circumstances to me. I suppose, as the show did take those two weeks off around early summer when the World Cup was going on, they still want to maintain some semblance of keeping up with their actual internal schedule. Though we still lack an actual end episode projection count as of this writing.
Anyway, let us stare at the episode we do have.
This episode is entitled Osaka Rampage.
Our motley crew of sumo wrestlers are lodging in a temple. Not only do they have the natural force of nature that is Matsutaro in tow, but the temple is also next to a cemetery and the characters remark on how Tanaka get become terribly powerful and frightening when properly spooked. As far as Rowdy Sumo Wrestler Matsutaro!! plots go, the writing for this is all over the walls. Which is to say, before the episode is over, some of those are likely to be coming down. And one would be half right, because it turns out it is mostly temple doors which bear the brunt of the facility destruction by the end.
That aside, for what is another more slapsticky filler style episode over any character advancement (which I imagine this entire sumo tour may well turn out to be), there are some reasonable moments. Our lead, who just in the previous episode was stealing wholesale quantities of food from the luggage car on the train, catches Nishio here trying to take a candybar offering from a gravestone after a curt little prayer. And he puts a stop to it, gruffly responding that the old man would be cursed for doing such a thing. So that is by all means a contrast to what our leading man was up to last time, and that he actually does have (been it recently acquired or not) a line when it comes to this sort of sneak stealing behaviour.
On the subject of snacks, much of the rest of this episode does involve Matsutaro and Tanaka eating out, which is by all means something the city in question is famous for being able to provide in ample quantity. The most lengthy of all the bits in this sequence of eating down the lane comes to involve a significant argument over the cultural values of double dipping one’s food in communal sauce ment for skewered fried pork. Well, it is as significant a clash as anything else in this show, at any rate. Matsutaro’s course of action, naturally, involving triple and then quadruple dipping, by way of multiple wrongs must in turn make a right logic. Tanaka’s solution to this situation however, as the establishment in question issues fines for double dipping, is to merely chug the entire container. Thus, since it would need to be washed anyway when depleted and there is really no theoretical limit when it comes to sauce consumption (just one of practicality), the day is arguably saved at the cost of severe potential future indigestion.
Especially given that by the end of the episode, we do indeed have Tanaka go into full power compensation freakout mode when in the cemetery after they stayed out too late. May those aforementioned wooden doors rest in pieces.
This is essentially Dad Jokes, if not Grandad Jokes, The Show, so that is fine enough for what it wants to do here. I will be interested if the show has anything up its sleeve for this weekend, since it did not want to set anything back any further.
Space☆Dandy Season Two [Episode seven]
Arguably one of, if not the most critically well regarded woman directing anime in the present industry today, I was pretty excited to see what Yamamoto was going to bring to the table for her crack at the Space☆Dandy buffet.
Best known for helming Michiko & Hatchin and the Lupin III: The Woman Called Fujiko Mine, the later of which being the first Lupin III television series in over a quarter century, she has been carving out a name for herself when it comes to stylistically vibrant works. Of those two, I have only so far seen Fujiko Mine, and it is deserving of all the velvet pillow in a smoke drenched whiskey bar praise it receives. Really, any problems I have with that work come from quirks in other areas (like some of Mari Okada’s script choices for the finale arc), while the overall direction, timing, etc holds so much of it together.
On the Animation Director front, we have another team up affair. Ito is the more senior of the two, having done key animation work on Ghost in the Shell, Jin-Roh – The Wolf Brigade, and Cowboy Bebop, among others. Inadome is no slouch either, their list of credits merely being smaller and less fleshed out due to having been in the industry for less time. Their primary resume guns consist of key animation on Crest of the Stars, the RahXephon: Pluralitas Concentio film, and being one of the three Main Animator credits on Oh! Edo Rocket.
In short, this is a setup that brings in Ito as the heavy for technical consistency oversight, with Inadome as someone able to perhaps better capitalize on how to handle a space fantasy visual look.
I feel for some of these most recent weeks I have to indulging in the technical staff overviews more than what actually goes down in the episodes themselves.
Admittedly, some of them have been pretty straightforward plots (episode four being the school musical, five being the legendary fish expedition, etc), so things have tilted more towards that direction to really get into anything for these posts.
Arguably, this situation is not all that different. A rock group assembled by circumstance, with big dreams in their eyes, only to go on to have a single hit or famous show before they are broken up. Plus a mashup with a high level but young government leader leading a double life for a while to see what he could do with his talents on his own, before returning to his original position style of plot thread.
But my word is it stylish. Lighting and bloom effects as far as it can reasonably be stretched without looking garish, dynamic camera work, some technical trickery like a few scenes shot through the “lens” of a camera (something Flag pretty much wrote the entire book on, but gets painfully little use in other productions). Right down to the ample application of Ben-day dots throughout the episode, which one only sees in very occasional circumstances so abundantly used in animation, like the Gunsmith Cats introductory credits.
Even the aspic consomme of lobster sparkles and glows a golden hue.
I found it to be an incredibly fun episode, committed as it was to energetically plowing ahead while rambling off as many of these rock band film or television media cliches as it could with its own sensibilities. Here for example, it makes sense that Honey is more sexualized than usual, as her restaurant table service is by far the most provocative in the series so fat. But, it works for the general flashy aspiring rock star thematic vibe I feel, so it gels more cohesively than it otherwise would had it been dropped into another episode.
Really, the most disappointing thing in the whole display for me is that, while Johnny makes a grand concert entrance in what may as well be an RX-77-2 Guncannon straight out of Mobile Suit Gundam, with a giant feline face emerging from the torso area like they ripped a body part off something from Voltron (Beast King GoLion), we do not run the complete circuit for a Super Dimension Fortress Macross style musical warfare finale. Johnny’s Jaicro forces are all lined up and ready to invade the Gogol Empire, while he decides the concert is where he would rather be and scampers off, but Dandy and friends do not get to (un)intentionally inspirationally power a space armada to an extravagant Do You Remember Love? style victory.
But, if that is my biggest personal hangup with an episode, it really is not must of an issue at all. I had a pretty goofy grin on my face the whole time.
Tokyo ESP [Episode six]
Minami has a line early on in this episode directed towards Rinka: “You have no conviction.”
This feels like such an apt way to summarize on so much of what has transpired thus far in this show. Around the similar point early in the episode, the cargo ship from before is dropped against the Tokyo Tower, which sounds like such a dramatic event. And it clearly wants the viewer to treat it as such, given the attention to emergency crews, the news, people talking about the event, and so on. But on an actual execution level, with camera work, music, pacing, and so on, it is just A Thing That Happens presented plainly as could be.
Right down to the emergency crews themselves getting a regulation throwaway line line or two in about how folks like Rinka and her father are clearly espers as well, and thus are they not terrorists too? There is no passion in their voices or concern in their tone. They are not gravely questioning the situation in front of them or having a difficult internal debate on if they can trust the big man floating up piles steel reinforced concrete through the air so victims underneath can be rescued.
A “Can we trust them?” style scene is just what the superhero checklist demands occur in a situation like this
Then we fast forward through a bit of a news montage, and ten days have elapsed.
Which would itself be fine, it would be understandable for there to be a zone of inactivity from our protagonist while Rinka recovers from the fights that occurred previously and overall dwells on her situation. But we have classmates of hers going all “Have you heard…” to another about the cargo ship being floated and air dropped on the Tokyo Tower. Not like, say, theories about the attack. But that the situation occured.
This is a city that, for our purposes, has endured a rather significant terrorist strike. Forty two deaths due to the resulting physical damage, plus the overall strangeness of a cargo freight ship being airdropped on a significant metropolitan landmark adding fuel to the fire. For which, additional esper crime has broken out in the meantime. And this act of the Professor’s happened well over a week ago, given the ten day skip.
I imagine, yes, every single human being of a cognizant mental state in this city would have heard of this event by this point.
Elsewhere in this episode, Rinka gets to have a few sparring sessions with her father. Which is the kind of thing I have certainly been calling for, that the series would want to highlight their relationship and dynamics a bit more. He is the one who taught her to fight, he is a single parent with an only daughter in an increasingly radical and dangerous situation, and on every level provides the basis for the series to work some interesting angles. It does not even necessarily need to be a “deep” or multifaceted family drama situation (Tokyo ESP is still, as ever, more of an action-comedy than anything else), it just needs to wiggle some gears around competently enough for us to get a good handle on them and their history together.
Naturally, the series drops this ball in favour of having a short older man in a panda costume show up, steal Rinka’s bra, and fondle her several times. Complete with declarative Panda Boob Fist action phrase in his later attempts. He does his introductory ones though, mind you, before the eyes of her father, who does and says nothing. The old panda guy is his old martial arts trainer, you see! Which apparently extends him an unlimited free pass to sexuality assault Rinka without her dad even batting an eye at the situation and her clear embarrassment and uncomfortability.
There is wanting a show to be one thing, and the final product of the show itself being something else. I would say in such situations I do try to by and large reorient myself somewhat appropriately. Tokyo ESP clearly wants to be a far less ambitious action show than I would have prefered. Even with that though, and with this episode in particular, its flat approach to speeding through the superhero narrative checklist opens up these scene cracks where one does not even need to overthink the situations at hand to find them problematic or troubling.
It does the exact opposite of what a lot of superhero media can do. Rather than making me engaged with its social dynamic representations, personal struggles with strange and unknown forces beyond one’s own power, or even the fantasy of a world I would want to escape into, I find myself to want very little to do with Tokyo ESP’s universe. And no amount of antics from Peggy the penguin look to be set to change that.
Hangers is a weekly series containing my passing thoughts on currently airing anime productions. Opinions, as always, are subject to change.