This Week: Death Parade, Gundam Build Fighters Try, Gundam Reconguista in G, The Rolling Girls, Yatterman Night.
It appears my Winter Anime 2015, Week One post did not originally go up when I had thought it was scheduled, so either head on over that way to get up to speed or you can take this express elevator over here.
I also recognize I mentioned these posts would be going up around my Sunday this season, but this most recent weekend was an extended one for me so I thought I would take advantage of it.
Things will now return to my intended timeline.
Death Parade [Episode two]
There are few ways to grind a series to a halt as quickly as having chunks of the previous episode play out while now interspersed with commentary from representatives of the larger cast.
In short, this was a world building episode. How the arbiters get to work. The idea that there are many different floors to this plane of existence, of which the bar is but one. Memory transfers of the deceased the the arbiters. The wall of bodies behind Decim at the bar that so much shock and horror the guests express fear towards are really just mannequins he builds in his spare time. Showing how the entire arbitration process goes down, as Nona and the new recruit watch what we saw in our previous episode so as to link up with their reveal at the end of the same.
I would hesitate call an episode like this “necessary” like I may grant in some other circumstances. It does do quite a lot to strip out a lot of the mystery or wonder one could imagine or project upon it. Then again, to the arbiters this would be just a job over a period of time, and therefor they would be seeing it more for its functionality than anything else. It is part of why the entire game concept even exists, as we have it portrayed to us. Since the arbiters either can not or will not make decisions based on the memories of the deceased alone, they need the guests to also be put through a trial like circumstance. But less in the formal legal sense (though a judgement is being passed), but as an exercise in which extreme duress is piled on to the point where psychological breaking points are hit. To see how everything that has lead up to this moment, and the game on top of that, may cause the players to act now in the present.
One can debate the merits of the system or its relative fairness, though I am also not entire sure that should be a route I should be taking these write ups at this time. That the decisions must (as far as we know) always result in one party being sent for reincarnation and another having their soul dismissed to the void would already be something that indicates a very zero sum game being in effect for whatever bookkeeping drives this world. Likewise, Decim’s apparent critical miss in being able to detect if the newlywed wife he passed judgement on would be lying or not does mean the system is by no means perfect as far as we would view it. But that Nona whips back into line to shake it off and move on would mean that these situations are not necessarily unheard of, but everything must continue to operate to the best of their ability regardless.
The system far less ambiguous now than in Death Billiards, in that we are getting to see how the sausage is made as it were. So while I am sure one could do an expanded view into the potential religious through-lines and the mixing of them this series is taking, I would also hesitate on that as well until things pick up again more in earnest. Certainly, there are going to be a lot of other facets of how everything works coming out over time as well.
For as much of an emergency stop this episode may have felt like at times so as to ensure as many viewers as possible were on board, I am sure it did not reveal all its cards quite yet either.
I can say I do enjoy the potential with Nona’s character a lot.
Of all the new figures she seems to get the most prominence in the intro, and that seems to be for good reason. Her personality can snap emotions on a dime from disinterest to fun to sternness and back again to equal effect across the board, and the ruins from the opening sequence seem to be what is her home, sitting on something of a peninsula on a lake surrounded by a combination of devastation and greenery. Intentionally or not, a knee jerk reflection on this episode places my interests more with her and what she is up to rather than the more blank slate like new hire. Of course, as our newbie also does not remember anything from her past (though does retain morality perspectives enough to immediately cut down Decim’s decision), she naturally would not have must to draw from to start with. As Nona mentions over the phone that this new employee would be for a three month term, there is the idea of if everyone else’s terms of employment may be on a more permanent basis and what that could potentially mean either way when those months have elapsed.
It was an interesting episode from that perspective of commuting and just seeing the facilities as a functional workspace rather than something with a larger and mysterious mythology. And I can see a value in that, as it can going forwards make some of the verdicts ring out all the harder depending on which direction the show wishes to go.
But I can not also deny it was a thumb twiddling affair in places as well, like I was waiting for the subway to pull into the station myself.
Gundam Build Fighters Try [Episode fourteen]
The last episode in the set that make up our training camp arc, as next week (for us) the national level tournament begins. For the characters in-universe, ten days.
Either way, it does mean packing up and heading out from the training center and moving on back to home base for a little while for rest or recuperation. Also the complete opposite of that, as characters not have the space and time away to reflect on what they ran into and to bust out any last minute enhancements and upgrades for their strategies and Gunpla.
As we did not have much in the way of dependably deployable training montages during the actual training camp then, we do here get a big fast forwarding of the week and half period. The Gunpla building, festive fireworks, sleeping on tables, and all the rest. Since this is the last of what is by and large a bridge arc between tournaments, it feels warranted enough. There is no reason to have multiple episodes of time between training camp and the actual main event, but having the characters plan out what must be done with their units to be competitive going forwards is essential enough to give it at least one. In addition to the general relaxation or friendship vibes in a more homely environment.
This will likely be the last of that we will see for the foreseeable future.
Gyanko antics and Mirai Kamiki getting the potential go ahead to be the upcoming Gunpla idol due to a pregnancy by the established winner aside, for what little we do get to see of the repair and redevelopment work there is at least one interesting tidbit.
Yuuma states that this is the very first time he has taken the Build Burning Gundam apart. His fascination with its construction and components in then of course quite understandable in such a context, though it does also made some previous events feel a bit fiddly. They has been limb smashing levels of damage in multiple previous fights, and I am not convinced all of them were at damage settings of C or below. This is the sort of thing I would have to rewatch the series for, admittedly. It is possible every single prior incident of Sekai’s model kit being wrecked has a justification for why it would not have needed Yuuma to take a look at it (especially given how Sekai is not the best at repairs, as established last episode). But it does not feel probable, as even if it turns out to be turn I still think it comes across a little odd.
In either event I feel the series has not been as forthright about what damage levels can do what real world effects. While they can be inferred well enough, I do also think given the younger target audience the series could just be all around cleaner on this front. It would make the contrast for this larger and more serious upcoming tournament, with expected higher caliber damage calibration to match, seem all the more imposing and exciting for the younger viewers as well.
We also have another returning character from the first season, and in this case I can honestly say I did not expect to see them again. Even though it makes rather perfect sense in retrospect. Lucas Kankaansyrjä, so the little boy whose grandfather was the chairman of Team Nemesis and wanted to win the tournament effectively as a trifling gift for the kid, has cropped up again. In this case taking on the moniker of Lucas Nemesis and holding an undefeated record and the European junior championship. His win rate aside (as out of nowhere undefeated rival characters in tournament fighters are near exclusively set up just to be knocked down a peg), the generational bridge aspect here is a definite line that can be worked with. Here is a character who was very much a little kid before, and after being told if they wanted the championship they would need to play themselves going on to do just that.
Of course, it should be noted that the individual who told him that was Aila Jyrkiäinen. Whose eventual fate and what she has been up to after the previous season is still very much one of the choicest reveals the series is likely to hold on to for quite some time still.
Gundam Reconguista in G (Gundam: G no Reconguista) [Episode sixteen]
G-Reco is, if anything, consistent with the kinds of issues I have had with it. What is beginning to shift, however, is how much this damage to its construction is beginning to impact things when it aims to deliver payloads.
As a lead-in example, there is a conversation very early on in the episode about the trees on the moon colony. Fair enough, and an understandable thing for characters to speak about. Noredo is curious as to if the plant life came from Mars or Venus, which is valid enough in-universe though the show itself has also not brought up much regarding what things are like near either planetary body. One would need to dig up supplementary interviews and other materials. Putting that aside, after Noredo inquires about where the trees came from the literal next line of dialogue (delivered by Raraiya) is that they are olive trees.
It is the correct answer to a question that was not asked, but may have been asked after Noredo’s original question. G-Reco has a dialogue flow problem which can have the effect of one wondering if they momentarily zoned out for about five seconds or so. Only to learn that this is indeed how these sentences go after one another in the show.
This is by no means new however, as the hiccups I have felt in this department have been duly noted time and again.
I bring up this small exchange, because there is a whopper of an event within this episode later on.
This is the episode where we learn about the secret histroy of Aida and Bellri. That they are not only siblings, but the effective princess and price due to their connection to the Rayhunton line. Separated from their family near birth and sent off as orphans so as to better protect them for the future.
This should, I feel, be an episode made up of good and strong moments. I do not think anyone would think that farfetched. While rumors about Bellri possibly being adopted have been mentioned since very early on in the show, this is still the delivery on that. These are hefty revelations for a human being to hear. That their life has been something of a lie on a certain level. To be shown the place where you were born, which is not even on the planet you assumed you were born on. The kind of lineage and history that would go along with all of this.
I will not slam Aida for tearing up at her baby photos or her parents all of a sudden, because again these are big revelations. I can say I did not feel anything from it, as characterization has been rushed to papered over across the board for the cast given how dialogue often works in this show. But the physical action of what she does, I can let that slide in context. The immediate launch into an off the cuff series of angry-ish statements about what tragedy they inherited or the combat engagements they had to go through because of this entire legacy undertaking has the quirks a lot of lines in this series have. But again I can at least understand what she is going for, though also at the same time noting I am unfortunately not having a more lightning infused connection with her character on an emotional level due to how slapdash a lot of the script in this series has been. These are theoretically powerful moments undercut by shortcuts or other flow issues that have been compounding for a while now. And there is an unfortunate quality to that, as I can see what this could have been.
Bellri’s reactions for the rest of the episode form an even more demonstrative damnation, however.
Seemingly without missing a beat and turning on an effective dime, he has no problem calling Aida “Sis” near immediately after these revelations. No hesitation or the kind of curious discomfort or strangeness one would perhaps assume. In a flustered combat engagement later on, he is enraged at being called an Earthling when enemy forces figure out Raraiya is not the one piloting the G-Self. How dare they, of course, Bellri having learned near minutes to hours ago that he was born in space and all. After the battle has concluded he is inversely enraged at the thought of calling space his homeland. What is supposed to be going on here, I feel, is that Bellri is intended to be torn between allegiances and the sides he should be fighting for or on. That would be a legitimate line of narrative inquiry, and a valid character arc to explore.
However, that being said, Bellri is also a character whose allegiances already had potential threats to explore jettisoned out the airlock. He has fought almost exclusively from the Megafauna and thus under the wing of Ameria’s military forces, despite claiming even up until now to be part of the Capitol Guard. There is much that could have been done there, about him clinging to that aspect of his identity despite seeing far more combat hours for another national entity. Even to the extent of killing of his own instructor. But these moments of reflection and introspection never come through. When one throws on the dialogue flow feeling more than a bit like an abridged version of a larger script on top of all this, what should be the frantic emotional flailing of a teenager whose entire worldview has been rocked to its very core upon discovering his birth history comes across feeling like… just about most other scenes in the show.
The series is so well past the point of bleeding out due to its compound fractures it is actively hemorrhaging what should be vital organs.
The Rolling Girls (Rolling☆Girls) [Episode two]
Setting aside the fact that the previous episode ended on a high stakes runaway roller coaster train style cliffhanger and thus was going to need a follow up by default, these are very much two halves of the same whole.
I do not just mean in continuing the plot however, but also how the episodes came across to me. If my feelings of the first excursion were that things to very compressed and seemingly bursting at the seams (for good or for ill) with ideas, expositions, and where it wanted to go, this episode felt much more drawn out. By a significant margin. It by all means was still sending up the same visual force and level of animation, splurging as it was on fight scenes between Maccha Green and Kuniko Shigyou while also having elaborate transforming roller coaster antics and the character antics therein. We had everything from flyaway Crocodile to neon projectile vomiting, and a whole world in between.
A lot of it felt very disconnected to me, however.
I think it is valid to bring up that in terms of how I process media, there tends to be something of a tipping point where I feel that while there may be a lot going on visually I also feel very disconnected. More specifically for example purposes, things like the first OVA and initial miniseries for Kyousougiga bounced off of me like an art student flipping over a bunch of tables in their studio as homework. And there can be meaning inferred, as with any art (and indeed, Rolling Girls is an intentionally constructed piece at that). Though after the impact of the initial bombastic nature begins to wear off, normalized as the visual activity soon becomes should it go on long enough, I end up poking for anchoring points to continue to tie me to the experience.
That this episode had more than one scene backed up by vocal songs and the main theme of the show while events energetically played out on screen (like the runaway coaster) leads credence to my gut feeling that for as much as going on visually in a lot of scenes, I also felt disconnected. Like these were montages or music videos. Which would be fine in their own right of course. But as large parts holding up over twenty minutes of television narrative content so early on I am not so sure of. There is a floaty quality to it all. It is the sort of thing that makes me feel this could have been a deluxe showing with the first episode, though as an original animated property that too may be a bridge too far.
I think it is a difficult episode for me in get in the right mindset for by itself in isolation as part of a weekly viewing.
There is a hook I can speak on though, even if I did feel like I was often looking for an anchor.
The thread of Masami being absolutely hellbent on trying to keep her identity as Maccha Green identity a secret, feeling as she does that she can better protect Nozomi that way. And there is a goodness of heart and intent there, with the reveal that a younger Nozomi almost got herself killed once trying to save a Masami merely pretending to drown. One can extrapolate the kind of impact that would have, realizing that sort of very real danger after the fact as a child. The kind of worldview that would then drive her to become a protective figure for others in her community, while also trying to ensure that by concealing her identity one who wants to protect her remains safe.
This is perhaps somewhat immediately deflated by the framing of how Nozomi responds that she would not be so stupid so as to intervene in a fight between Bests. The construction of her scene reacting to all this does position Masami as an idiot for having taken such measures. One could perhaps also argue though that, indeed, Nozomi would have grown in some ways as well in the time sense. So in some other time, this could have been a thing they discussed, rather than making assumptions about each other.
This whole back and forth between them does make it the highlight of the episode to me. That also being said though, it is easy to be the most nutritious part of a meal when so much surrounding material is candy and soda pop. Kuniko Shigyou’s mental breakdown concerning her apparent past as a more heroic figure who has gone on to become something of a villain would have had the potential to be great to me, but I also do not feel well versed enough in what befell the world and the struggles gone through there. The scene felt awkwardly timed and ill fitting, as not only did it seem like the episode was trying to make up for lost time but at this moment it seems like something that would be more useful to have done down the road. A realization come to as Kuniko and Masami are in the hospital together, for instance.
The format of the series seems to want to be one where Nozomi and newfound friends go on roadtrips and the like, with claims to representing Macha Green in tow. And at that, with perhaps a tigher focus for different prefecture nation-states and the like, perhaps it will do well in. But I can not shake the dual feeling this was a whole lot of running time that was both trying to accomplish too much and too little to get us to this point.
Yatterman Night (Yoru no Yatterman) [Episode two]
This episode functioned as a sort of homage to Mamoru Oshii’s style, so given how I enjoy his works I was on board with that.
In the earliest points of his industry career, he directed and storyboarded two episodes of the original Yatterman, in addition to more episodes doing the same duties on offshoot Time Bokan series Zenderman. So it was nice to see a little recognition here in episode two. This comes mostly in the form of little visual cues like overabundant levels of birds, long shots of posters on tunnel walls, and other Oshii tendencies in addition to general landscape cinematography as well as much longer than average cuts. This was very much the “right” kind of way to go about this, as the episode still remained wholly its own thing. There was never a point where I felt the references or stylistic nods were grinding the episode to a halt, and that is putting aside how I would have an affinity for them. Long cuts in tunnels or with characters wandering around on the run make sense in context to their own scenes. Things have been storyboarded out in a manner that allowed a more Oshii-like style to emerge as a natural and understandable result, rather than try to shoehorn it in awkwardly.
As for the narrative, we get our gang’s first real mission together to strike back at the Yattermen. And it is a big mission, with the intent for a big (well, relative to a child’s mind) payoff: a giant robot designed wholly around forehead flicking the enemy, to enact punishment and judgement for their wrongdoings.
There are nifty notions of identity running through this episode.
For our lead characters, they are still very much fumbling around with their new positions. The kind of names they need to use for each other now, when they have donned their costumes. Trying to act like their ancestors to better embody what they feel they should be like as a unit, such as Voltkatze as Boyacky aiming to tell more dirty jokes because he feels he is supposed to in that role. Similarly, on the Yattermen side we now see them out of the shadows and for what they really are: machines. Not even just one or two at that, but an entire army of them. Mass production versions of the heroes of old. Cold and unfeeling, as they stomp over their fallen comrades to continue advancing at all costs.
I find the kind of messaging implications on either side of this equation to be rather thunderous. Especially in a modern superhero media climate where we have comic book movies charted out all the way to the 2030’s and beyond.
Going a bit further, an additional matter our new Doronjo and company need to tackle is when and how to justify breaking some of their valued morality. Soaked and on the run from the Yattermen, they need to dry off and hide for a time. Nobody is willing to help them of their own volition. Breaking and entering an empty for now but lived in home whose resident/s have seemingly stepped out for a bit then is presented as an option. And breaking and entering is wrong, bad, and a crime. But it is in the moment seen as a necessity, so, just this once. What will be interesting is how often “just this once” may or may not become something that needs to be engaged with more often, as the episodes play out and our heroes try to avoid turning out as villains.
As a final bit of the episode, that the homeowner or resident returns to find our cast warming themselves by the fire would be an expected enough turn. However, those lines about feelings of electrical shocks by our characters is more than just dialogue of surprise. In the original series, Ai Kaminari (otherwise known as Ai-chan) used an electrical stick to shock her opponents when in Yatterman-2 form. The what appears to be blind young lady, who also has other Yatterman materials on their shelves, appears at this time to be a descendant of one of the original heroes themselves.
In which case, what she is doing way out in the poor rural community too and not living in the kingdom of her own ancestors should form another piece of what is really going on in the land of heroes.
Hangers is a weekly series containing my passing thoughts on currently airing anime productions. Opinions, as always, are subject to change.