This Week: Barakamon, Free! – Eternal Summer, Mobile Suit Gundam-san, M3: The Dark Metal, Rowdy Sumo Wrestler Matsutaro!!, Space☆Dandy Season Two, and Tokyo ESP.
I make it a point to ensure every show I cover gets a featured image in these posts at some point during a season, or at least before its end of run for larger series. I thought I was doing a lot worse than I was, as the second season of Space☆Dandy holds five of the spots so far! But there are one shot distributions amongst most others at least. Only M3: The Dark Metal and Barakamon remained unaccounted for when I tallied them up.
This does not itself actually mean anything, I just like to maintain leading image variety and it is so easy to lose track of things in the middle of a season.
I am going with M3 this week, as I would get to use a sunset shot rather than gambling and then later having to use something from the murky grey Lightless Realm. Even M3 can manage sunsets.
Always be on the lookout for positives! The summer season is almost over.
Barakamon [Episode nine]
Of anything I am watching this season, this series tends to be one I tend to worry about the most.
I mean, this is as close to “The Feel Good Rustic Comedy Hit Of The Season!” as one gets from the crop of shows this summer. And I enjoy those, by and large! But, I feel as if it is perhaps only now getting into a good stride with me. Which is concerning if only because I want it to maintain that sort of progress rather than take a step back towards the more manic “I’m not a fujoshi!” humor or the like which is displayed in its earlier rounds. Sometimes the show works for me, other times not so much. I just hope to ensure I can leave with racking up more positives in my pocket, you know?
We have two in-universe weeks until Seishuu’s next exhibition participation then, which almost but not quite lines up with there only being three episodes of the series after this. As such, the actual show could either be the finale, so as to wrap things up there. Or perhaps the more likely option would be to use it as the second to last episode such that any aftermath and “You know, I want to stay on the island” feelings can be executed on in that last episode. Either way, he does not have a whole lot to show for the, well, show at the start of this episode.
But that is a problem for future Seishuu to deal with.
Our down home island shenanigans this episode essentially are a collage of the kinds of things a series like this is best at trying to pull.
The gas bath does not work, so we need to switch to firewood. Leading man from the more metropolitan areas? Has no idea how to build a fire, collect the right wood, etc. He requires people outside of the bath to maintain it, and thus a natural vector for other character involvements. Some simple cooking recipe tips (I might get some of my own mileage out of the cucumber miso dish dealt with here), before having the meal interrupted because bullying is afoot among the children. Tarzan swings over a river. Getting lost going home and seeing the stars at night.
It does not really dwell on any one particular thing for too long, which is perhaps to its benefit. It keeps the scenes tighter in focus and pacing, and allows fewer opportunities for it to derail itself. Now given, one could also say this episode had quite a bit of a mid-season feel to it. At least, this is the perspective I walked away from the experience with, due to that more sampler platter progression model as opposed to its tendency to often have two distinct halves to an episode. Not needing to delve too far into any one area, just a spread of characters across different locations and circumstances with situational humor to fit the bill that can play off their personalities a bit.
Perhaps also though I would prefer this being around the middle stage so I could be taking it all as a sign of having so much more left to build off of this material, rather than some of what I considered to be weaker episodes earlier. Then also knowing in the back of my head the series is nearly over, and so it does not have a whole lot of time left to capitalize off of this kind of episode.
Free! – Eternal Summer [Episode eleven]
There is a level of joy and a significant amount of, well, the opposite in the water this week.
Good news first: Momotarou gets to be the in-dialogue champion of the There Is No Such Thing As A Last Summer concept in the face of changing times and looming graduations. This is, of course, what the ideal version of events one would extrapolate from the Eternal Summer title. That just because one is out of school, their friendships made there can endure past that and the swimming will always be able to continue long into the future. I feel it is important that, as a newer member to the cast for this season (thus needing to bond with his teammates), one of the youngest swimmers of any of the main characters, and the sibling to a character who has already graduated, that he has this point of vision to impart.
Arguably, Momotarou would be the most objective of the eight main swimmers between Iwatobi and Samezuka. Everyone at Iwatobi is well connected to each other now, Haru and Rin have their history together, there is the vectors of Sousuke and Aiichirou and their own times and relationship with Rin. Momotarou, by contrast, is just sort of orbiting around this group. Not that he is disconnected; he and Aiichirou clearly get on well, for instance. But he does not have months to years of being entrenched in a personal relationship web with anyone here where he may worry more about the graduations and such.
As a result, he can provide rather appropriate advice and insight, which can be difficult when one may be more personally close to the situation. Even (or especially) if many of them are friends.
Elsewhere, our Iwatobi friends get their congratulations from the school for qualifying for nationals.
Not as a large scale pep rally, no, but personally and on more individual levels. This is, again, rather crucial. Were the situation portrayed as a wider scope in a gymnasium or auditorium, with the entire school looking on and clapping or cheering among a giant but difficult to parse out crowd, that would play directly to the kind of situation Haru sees as meaningless to his goals and why he personally swims. That these more direct and for lack of a better word intimate congratulations and support are provided, and Haru is still reacting with negativity and dismissal, then lend greater credence to the issues he is contending with than if things were “just” a pep rally.
The long and the short of the matter is, he has been going through a lot of classic symptoms of depression.
The type that affects one over long periods of time, impacts their interactions and social lives, can become internally destructive as the mind does its loops, and so on. His avoidance of what to do with his guidance counselor forms, not being interested in the scouting offers he received, to outright stopping in the middle of a race that would have surely acquired him additional offers had he continued. But he could not bring himself to do so. Remember, there were even murky metaphorical tentacles during that scene that were effectively these emotional issues surging about.
And there are a lot of really, really complex and understandable reasons for anyone to go through longer term depressive episodes. Fears of change would certainly be one of them, as actively working on things that signal or could result in alterations of the status quo (like the forms, or winning his individual event) then makes the reality of such events far more “real.” Present, and inescapable. And yet not merely a fear of the future, but so too that others are getting their plans in order around him. Goals and dreams they have for the future they will be hoping to work towards after high school, while Haru sees the conclusion of high school in and of itself as the end.
And we have Sousuke turning to Haru now saying if he stops swimming it could impact Rins desire to swim as well, which is a major turn from their earlier interactions. We have the Iwatobi team vritually having an intervention during the holiday event fireworks they attend. And, indeed, even Makoto having decided that he will be leaving to attend university in Tokyo. It feels like a betrayal of sorts to Haru, because this is truly a kind of last straw. And it is difficult, when one is in a mental situation like his, to not see it as such. That there is an somehow an antagonism in others as they move forwards but one feels, as Haru himself does, like he has no future or dream of their own. That they personally wanted things to merely stay as they were, somehow, and achieve a kind of eternal summer through that. But that is increasingly becoming apparent of not working out. And it is troubling to him.
Haru and Momotarou do in their own way have very divergent opinions on what a never ending summer would look like in their respective situations. That we have the view of the effectual poster boy of the series and the one of the closest thing to an outsider is, I feel, a simple but effective delivery on ideas the show has always been hinting at this season it wanted to bring up as we came closer to the ever forward march to the end.
M3: The Dark Metal (M3: Sono Kuroki Hagane) [Episode twenty one]
Aoshi, as potentially expected after sending his mecha into a kind of high grade overdrive last week to save the woman he loved, is confirmed to have died.
Now, we did not get to know him too terribly well over the course of the series as more than a plot device, but I can understand the kind of shock that the series was going for here. Beyond Aoshi being Akashi’s older brother and previously in a relationship with Kasane, Aoshi was now a LIM unit. And we have not yet in this show killed one of those off. Even so, the team reaction of “But they said your heart can live forever as a LIM!” seems… misplaced and highly unwarranted, to me. While the individual inside a LIM unit is effectively a physical vegetable, and their souls and whatnot can at times manage to come through elsewhere, there is still the body in question. These are not, say, consciousness maps transferred into a cloud computing datanet, for example. A scenario by which someone who was a LIM would take sufficient damage to die, be it external through combat or internal through any number of complications, would seem reasonable to me.
But this is taken to be significant world upending understanding of the basic systems in play here by the characters. Certainly I can understand that becoming a LIM grants seemingly indefinite stabilization against encroaching necrometal contamination and thus can extend their life that way. But it is not like Aoshi died of said necrometal poisoning, but other emotional, organic, and mechanical stressors as he used every ounce of whatever he could muster to control the Argent and save his previous girlfriend. Really, the LIM system works just as intended and explained to us previously, but the cast seem either under a different interpretation of the rules or are being played up for artificial and resoundingly flat reaction drama. The series also, at this time, recalls Heito is a character, and has been necrometal contaminated and wasting away in the basement for just about half the show now. He has been off the visual and narrative grid entirely since the initial botched Lightless Realm mission.
Maamu gets a seemingly key little scene again, beyond the notebook shenanigans thing that was floated for a while episodes ago. For a character who has been though a lot of abuse, neglect, and divisiveness over her years and in the present day of the show to get to have an honest to goodness screaming, gnashing of teeth fit.
It would be a really, really nice scene to have actually witnessed.
As it is, she places herself within a closet within her room, and the camera sits outside of the door just zooming out as she goes to town in there. Now, could one make a really great scene of even just that, on a basic level? Sure, I would say so, especially with the right prior character work and attention to the background. One could even, were they so inclined, to make a case for why this could take place in a closet and the viewer does not get to see the meltdown. Maamu is effectively best known for this animated gif from being assaulted by sport equipment early in the show. So being someone who wanted to retreat to a dark enclosed space where absolutely nobody could see them for one brief personal moment would go back to fears of objectification, self confidence, and any number of things. A piece of media then could try and execute on her having her moment, while the camera is but outside the door and not itself able to go further to where she is.
But tonally, this is all way off base in execution even if it could be what was intended when this scene was initially thought of. What we end up with is what looks like a desperate grab for saving precious animation budget and time, for a series which has endured multiple production issues and has not taken off at all. A scene of someone having a breakdown, with any and all flailing of limbs, hair, head movements, and so one, may well be not justifiable at this stage of the series. It could have jeopardized its ability to continue to be able to get out the door, and I do not believe I am using hyperbole here. The overall visual quality of the series has been on a general decline for much of its run.
And while all of these thoughts may be going through a viewer’s head, we have Kasane trying to manually break the password of Natsuiri’s most highly treasured research data. Typing in his old student and employee ID numbers, phone numbers, and so on. Eventually managing to guess the correct password due to his favorite type of pasta. Which essentially means a basic dictionary cracker could have undone his entire database of top secret, classified, or otherwise restricted data.
Given how generally unintelligent the show seems to think its own characters are, I can not be sure who would be more silly here. Kasane sitting and guessing personally for hours over using an easily available (especially to any kind of high level scientific military facility like IX) computer tool. Or Natsuiri for making the password as simple as “Napolitan,” but potentially with the knowledge a dictionary cracker would not be used.
As is the story of M3, whoever wins, we all lose for having gone through it.
Mobile Suit Gundam-san (Kidou Senshi Gundam-san) [Episode ten]
We continue where we left off last week, which is always sort of an odd thing in this series.
Actually, this instances of continuity only truly occur within the episodes dealing in Char and the small Angry Bird which antagonizes his sensibilities. Even further, this episode ends on a “To Be Continued” note, so we will have at least a three parter here! Which, for a two minute or so gag comedy, seems like another odd decision in which one could take as a general series of strange choices. It meant about twenty seconds of this episode went to recapping the events of last time, for instance, before transitioning into Lahla profoundly kicking Char in what is now surely his reddest of comets and sufficiently stomping him into the floorboards.
Which is alright by me, I figure, by the school of Tom and Jerry level cartoon violence reciprocation. Lahla has not gotten to actually do too terribly much in this show outside of some bit lines or calling out Char on behaviour he has not made sufficient changes to. There has been indicators that she should not be trifled with to far, and here is the delivery on that after several episodes of these homestead affairs over the course of the show.
Mechanically, having her detonate on Char here but while retaining a smile on her face nearly all the while to sell the dissonance to the observing bird, that works.
The rest of the episode dealing in the Sayla Mass style avian lookalike sister bird conversing to the one Char has been fighting with, it was a little cute to see.
Having them act out their “Why won’t you return?” and general family separation issues between them while also being on two sides of a larger conflict, in their obvious roles relating to the famous human counterparts? Having Char see that and react is kinda neat, since at this point in the Gundam-san narrative he would be unaware of his own actual relationship to the Gundam-san Sayla.
But, since this is all “To Be Continued,” it all all set up to be executed on next time. Hopefully that allows the production team to go more all out next time, as the imagined scenario of Char and Sayla being in the same room as the two birds could be quite funny should the series choose to be attempting the long game. Though, it could also perhaps call into greater question why this is not more of a five minute show over a two minute one in duration.
Rowdy Sumo Wrestler Matsutaro!! (Abarenbou Kishi!! Matsutarou) [Episode twenty]
In a way, it is quite appropriate here for the series to pull the nearly two minute recap card of just the last episode. It was, in the end, a sabotaged wedding for the good of the bride’s freedom of an arranged marriage as well as providing an outlet for Matsutaro and his associates to shake things up to their hearts content. You can not exactly ruin the bride’s wedding when she does not even want to be in the situation to begin with and has provided carte blanche to for them to crash the ceremony, after all.
That episode is classical comedic because it deals in unexpected scenarios befalling what is usually supposed to be a more formal event. But sometimes, you know, people do actually want to get married because they like their partner! And someone who may like another may not have their feelings actually reciprocated at all.
And so here with are with the “Matsutaro Confesses” episode of the series, attempting to make good on a plot point that has always sort of hung around the show but it never really wanted to deal in too terribly much on the more dramatic end of the spectrum. Matsutaro fancies Reiko, but she has been encouraging him to do well because she wants him to succeed as a person, not because she secretly wants to date him or the like.
For that matter, Tanaka has thought Reiko is pretty cute as well, since he first made her acquaintance, which has allowed for some minor back and forth lines between the two wrestlers here and there over the weeks.
So through what has already been a long series of misunderstandings and fantasy sequences already, we get one more on the larger episode scale. Reiko inviting them out for dinner, each of them taking it way too seriously from fantasy boating sequences to showing up with a ludicrously large bouquet of flowers (especially when accounting for sumo size).
We have the antics of who gets to sit where at the table, the standing of ground and the frustrations when one does not get their way, while at the same time each attempting to put on a semblance of their best face. And it is all, still here, a giant misunderstanding. Reiko has invited them out as friends, not for anything more than that. She already has someone she happens to have gone through marriage meeting matchmakings with, and most importantly, actually likes the prospect of being in a relationship with. There is this mix of a kind of progressive move while also retaining a traditional bent. It makes sense neither of the guys would have considered the possibility, given their mental states and some goings on in the larger background (such as a general decline of but by no means extinguished custom of matchmaking meeting practices).
Let us be honest, even in most media taking place in a modern setting the basic scenario of a young woman asking out a professional athlete guy to dinner could still be taken to similar levels of crazed misunderstanding for plot purposes, and yet this show is taking place in the 1970’s. We are effectively out of the post-World War II reconstruction years which stabilized and bloomed to great effect during the 1960’s and right on the cusp of the Japanese Economic Miracle of the 1980’s. There are a lot of changes happening in the midst of all of this from a social standpoint. While the series does not really directly deal in them so as to continue generally being a more comedic show I feel these are important matters in keep in mind at least on a surface level, especially for anyone who managed to make it this far in the series so far.
Even so, while this was certainly one of the more dramatic leaning episodes by the end, Matsutaro does get to make a big mess.
It just happens to be the one created on the big guy’s face when they realize the feelings of another are not something they can brute force they way into.
Space☆Dandy Season Two [Episode Ten]
We hand the directing reins back over to Mukai, who handled the first episode of this Space☆Dandy season.
As that premier was a more raw off the wall fun and comedy fest to act as a sort of celebratory return party, delving into alternative universe Dandy’s and friends as it did, is is nice that Mukai is allowed a more personal or exploratory episode here later on to make marks with. Similarly, Kubota and Inadome have each been Animation Director’s on several previous episodes of the show, and Koiso has been an Assistant Animation Director twice prior this season. Even going steps further than that, this is Ueno’s third time at the scripting bat during this second run of episodes (having previously written episodes one and seven of this collection).
This is about as close to an all veteran Space☆Dandy production selection as one tends to be able to cobble together, aside from Kotaro Tamura providing storyboards. It is a position they have served in here and there in selected episodes of various productions, but most would likely know their work best from being the Assistant Director under Mamoru Hosoda for Wolf Children. It is an experience which plays well to their task here: how a scene can look and play out from one place to another to attempt to sell and shift between different emotional tones of a bonding relationship.
Which, as the plot of this episode is quite literally Scarlett trying to fool her ex-boyfriend into thinking Dandy is her new beau, is a warranted skill set to call up.
For all the little media references this series slips in throughout itself, especially when the 1980’s is involved, Chuck Norris jokes are a territory that was probably all but inevitable for it to apply at some point.
Given that the scope of the episode encompassed a wider “We are just pretending to be in a relationship but this is getting dangerously close to becoming an actual one” progression over just Reference HumorTM, I feel it came off better than I would have expected. Using the idea of the fictional action hero as a media franchise in universe for Dandy and Scarlett in universe to find a silly bond over, while elsewhere in the plot the crazed Dolph Lundgren ex-boyfriend foil frenzies on in a bulked up giant robot firing off Itano Circus style Macross missile barrages. It is balanced by it functioning as a small plot device that perfectly works on its own even if the viewer has no idea who Chuck Norris is as a film star (or what he became later in life, for that matter). The core idea of a super cheesy action film hero star showing up in multiple works they both happen to be a fan of still functions, and it does not interrupt the overall flow of the episode.
It also moves toward giving additional little personable quirks to Scarlet, who has not really received too many over the course of the series. All mixed up with the idea that she and Dandy may have more in common than they realize, compared to their usual interactions at the Alien Registration Center. Even the idea that Dandy is significantly more successful with rare alien finding when he is on vacation with Scarlet than he has been at any other previous point in the show. He is not just finding one or even two, but whole carloads to cart back to the point of it seriously impacting their “actual” mission of messing with mecha pilot Dolph Lundgren’s head. They do, in their own ways, work better together.
And it almost works out.
When one gets right down to it, after they part ways when their “goal” of misleading the ex boyfriend had been accomplished, Dandy turns down a trip to his favorite space Hooters restaurant chain in the whole universe chain to run around town chasing after her. So they can go watch some silly action movie they talked about having her over to see together. Even for a series that is wholly episodic and thus has little real continuity, character personality traits are consistent, and so that is a rather particular thing for him to do for anyone. It was never going to succeed as a realized romance of course, and deep down everyone watching knows that. But, we get the hints of it all, the what could have been, and perhaps the broader concept that in some other timeline of events this all did work out for them both.
It is very much a back to basics episode executing on a reliable narrative with an established stable of Space☆Dandy veterans. Which, as there are only three episodes left of the series after this, there is likely a good call to be made for having that here.
Next episode look to be an ex girlfriend story for Dandy, apparently having once had a relationship with a tesseract from the looks of the preview and likely then to be hitting more experimental buttons. The penultimate episode? Already mentioned by the production team months ago to have significant budget cuts, to funnel more resources into an all out finale.
This may well be the last “normal” episode of the show then, potentially, and at that I feel it achieved its goal in pacing as regards the relationship to the viewers at home. Even if that also means one of Scarlet and Dandy could not come to be.
Tokyo ESP [Episode nine]
The episode where I learned Peggy is actually a male penguin, and not a female penguin.
It is possible a personal pronoun may have been hurled out in an earlier episode somewhere that I did not immediately react to. But even so, this would be where “he” was used several times in quick succession to refer to our esper fish eating magical bird. Which is kind of unfortunate, because mentally I had interpreted Peggy as a female, in which case it would be the one woman character the series sort of has a grip on and does not have terrible framing to their activities or treatment. Peggy is a pretty solid character have a handle on what to do with: they offer huggable support to the cast as a cute critter, a rare and significant ability to consume the power granting fish, and otherwise can be utilized for a comedically oriented scene in a pinch (like trying to use a toothbrush).
So of course the series makes Peggy a guy. Which should not bug me anywhere near as much as it does, if at all. There is no reason it should disappoint me. Had it not been for how so much of the rest of this series consistently feels like it has some seriously tone deaf ideas on female superheroes and villains.
We see a full team of young women (and one guy with flamethrower arm attachments) besiege Rinka’s school in an attempt to flush her out and execute her on live streaming cell phone video for the city of Tokyo to see. To show what they will do to espers who do not join them, and those who do not otherwise meet their demands.
Ok, sure, fair enough. It would be a hamfisted approach, to be sure, but this is anything but a subtle series. So the core idea of what they are seeking to do here, as a Point A to Point B objective set, I can follow along with and be strapped in for the ride. And yet, as is often the case in this show, it fails to sell a sense of “Why” or “Who” to differentiate from the top level “How.” Or, put things another way: I can not tell anyone involved on the esper villain/terrorism side of the equation apart from one another as characters. The quiet cell phone girl, woman stung up in a restaurant rape locker, etc from last episode, a plant vine tentacle whipper introduced here in passing, they all have identical manic “Kill! Kill! This is so much fun!” style archetype personalities here. Outside of their power sets and differences in appearance, they have no differences in banter or commentary, be it either amongst themselves, with Rinka, or to other students.
I am not even asking so much for them to be well developed characters with rich motivations and complex ideologies. I just want the sense that the words coming out of any of their mouths are ones partial to them. That they should reflect something their behavior, language use, cadence, etc. As it is, they are all but only interchangeable modular parts to say script lines, with just the surface level of visual character model differentiation.
Going along with this, that we have Rinka summarily beaten to so near the point of death that her esper fish leaves her body.
It is assuming it to have ceased functioning permanently, and I actually do like the idea of that. These are special powers with unique mechanisms for which they are able to manifest, and we have Peggy to show a system is in place where such fish can be removed even by force. So the “Heroine loses their powers, and must move on without them until they can be regained” plot is a trusty standby to call up. How to make do in the world where she would have been marked as an esper, despite having no ability to act on such powers at the present. So I am even alright with time advancing while she was unconscious in the hospital, and how there is now an esper detainment team through some special emergency order.
And yet, things like her being handcuffed to the hospital bed, when her esper power is to move through solid objects (so long as it is not flesh), is questionable in context. Nobody else knew her powers were gone at the time, and she indeed tries to use them them and everything needs to have a thinking session to come to “the fish left her” conclusion. Murasaki taking out multiple healy armed government special forces is nifty as a visual, but it seems to conflict with or otherwise be confused by what her power actually is. She is stated to be able to see the past history of a given object she touches. Yet here she grabs a set of historic Totally Not Used By Bruce Lee martial arts weapons and now instantly knows how to use them.
While quite similar power sets, and each potentially useful in their own way, there is a slight difference between the two.
It goes back to the matters of attention to craft and intent, and the problem this series seems to have with it. During a show about superheroes, I really should not even have the thought cross my mind if the writing room (past or present) implemented what someone’s superpowers are incorrectly.
Hangers is a weekly series containing my passing thoughts on currently airing anime productions. Opinions, as always, are subject to change.