This Week: Death Parade, Gundam Build Fighters Try, Gundam Reconguista in G, The Rolling Girls, Yatterman Night.
As a snowstorm threatens to cause my power to fail, there is the consideration of if any episodes this week would make good firewood.
Death Parade [Episode three]
Sega Hard Girls really did get dark after the finale; M·A·O was voicing Dreamcast last season, and now ends up playing bowling for her afterlife this week!
It was a fun little thought which came to me while I was watching, and indeed this is fair to say this would be the most positive episode on the whole in fact. The first going for a more amped up marital drama, the second on the mechanics, and now with a rather nice little all rounder. I am not even trying to make a bad bowling pun here.
There is lying in this episode, as our two leads cover their emotions regarding either the state of their play, potential eventual fate, or indeed even the initial trying to hide if they think the other is cute or the like. It feels like a strange thing to say, but it is in many ways “positive” lying, insofar that it is two people in an unfamiliar situation where they recognize they may as well play the game, and need to make the most of it. Since we do have some of the inner gears of the process explained to us due to last week, the intimidation factor for a viewer in this specific instance is less, but in this case warranted. The episode is aiming to be a more pleasant time as the characters slowly recall each other from their past. They died together, but unlike the first episode which was more due to the couple in question having a spat which sent themselves over a cliff, in this case they can be regarded as being without fault here. If you are on public transportation, and your bus is slammed into by some other errant force, that is very much beyond your control.
It is even possible, if the show wanted to go in such a direction, that some future episode could tie into events like this. It would be easy to think any individuals in whatever vehicle hit the bus may not have left with their lives.
But, that may be something more appropriate as a tie in were there to be a second season, rather than an initial run which still needs to roll out many of the characters in the introductory credits sequence.
To return to the couple that both was and was not ever meant to be though, the bittersweetness of it does help in more ways than one.
In its own right, it is a nice and indeed even relatable story – someone liking another to the point where they would even change aspects of themselves to perhaps make themselves stand out more. Given how it seems the characters grew up together, but then grew apart only to meet up again later in life (otherwise one would have known of the surgery the other had), this would apply not only on an immediate childhood level but indeed the kind of psychological conditions where one considers themselves in need of plastic surgery and significant facial restructuring, despite being someone only in their late teens or early twenties due to longer standing self image conditioning.
There is a lot of unstated sadness and self hatred even, in one of the stories here, while the other was completely oblivious to their adoration earlier in life. The surgery is something born out of a larger reflection there that one is riddled with flaws, or can be closer to a select ideal, and in some respects even a desire to move on. And there are positive and negative qualities in that, as to deny whatever happiness it did provide would also be a great wrong. But one can also see the connection where one of our leads this episode had a much harder time remembering who they were at the start.
I do wonder how much of that is either placed on them as a byproduct of the arrival memory flush, or is very intentional by Decim and the bar at large as a means of promoting additional reactions to observe.
The eventual date the characters do get to have together, if seen only in ending credit images, I feel is a neat touch even beyond the character narrative at hand. Their final fulfilment is welcome of course, and a nice send off in its own right. It does also gets us back around to the notion that our show does take place, first and foremost, in a bar. A meeting place of relaxation and the like. It doe bring up the notion that there is something of a schedule at hand, but the characters are able to essentially make use of the rest of their block to take time and enjoy themselves before they go. Previous judgements between Death Billiards and the first episode of Death Parade have resulted in what appears to be characters moving very quickly to the elevators after their game has concluded and they have learned the true nature of their situation. That they have already passed on, and this is just a kind of judgmental limbo before they move on to something else, whichever direction they head to.
There are potential tools and uses of hanging out after the games have concluded as well though, both for the temporary episode characters and for the bar staff. Certainly I know I would probably want at least one last drink, for instance. But that unwinding time could in its own ways also explore the system and characters in its own little ways here and there, coming down from the extreme pressures of a game, and so I feel it is something to be potentially excited for in the future.
Gundam Build Fighters Try [Episode fifteen]
As much as last week may have been the end of the transitional arc to this next and larger tournament setting on the national stage, we are still not quite back into the full swing of things yet.
Something which had been gnawing at me slowly in the back of my head during these last few episodes is the sense the series had been spinning its wheels a fair bit. As understandable as training arcs or reconfirming ones commitment to their sport of choice are for these kinds of narratives, things have also felt more drawn out than may have been necessary. For sake of comparison, the World Tournament in the first season had already begun by episode ten. Also of note is that during the transitional stage too that is where our leads were meeting friends like Mao, or the series introducing us to folks like Nils.
Setting aside the fact that this initial season is something I have a full picture of, while Try is still airing, I feel less invested regarding the various other individuals met during the tournament training episodes this season. Some of it may come down to formatting; with three on three battles, more characters need to be pumped in to make up the same amount of battles, for instance.
But that does not feel like the whole story either.
There is a fun faction that feels somehow a little ajar, even with the animal robots in the post-credits scene.
Team White Wolf, Kei Karima, the Shiki triplets, Saga Adou and Wilfrid Kijima, all of them are amped up as hardcore fighters. Now, there are differences of course in levels and degrees (Kei is clearly supposed to be the kind of chap nobody remembers enough to begin to take seriously), but as a matter of framing it does tend to paint over a large swath of the cast with an aspect of sameness in these last few weeks. Even Lucas as a returning figure, though much older, is portrayed as much more hardened. Yet also, with so many others filling similar roles, even he feels like he would be struggling for space going forwards. Thing have, on the whole, become a bit less colorful or joyful in terms of cast composition. Even Shia as an Aila analogue is much colder than her predecessor in personality.
While one would not want to have the characters come across the same, when so much of the overall experience already has more of an icy disposition to it there begins to form the consideration of if this season will be at a risk of losing some of what make the first Build Fighters so enjoyable.
This was at the forefront of my mind this week, as while characters are having glare downs and confrontations in the tournament halls there is the worry of if I am going to feel as fulfilled when all is said and done. As much as it is expected that the main fight after a team wide upgrade session would consist of our leads absolutely demolishing their enemy (and indeed that is what happens), it does also mean my mind can wander a bit more. We have a lot less time to cover a similar amount of tournament space as last season, and I worry out of care, you see.
This week did have the aspect of Yuuma building spare parts for future use. Which on the one hand is an excellent thing we never saw as much of in the previous season, given some of the last minute repair rushes. At the same time, it may itself be something of an admission there may not be as much room for that sort of thing going forwards.
Gundam Reconguista in G (Gundam: G no Reconguista) [Episode seventeen]
Part of the running conversation I have been having over the course of this series is if it would be better or worse off between focusing more or individual characters versus spreading itself out with character moments.
When the series leans hard in the first direction, such as last week regarding the past of Aida and Bellri, the crunched writing throughout the series makes what should be violently shifting inner emotional turmoil come across just as sensibly as any other exchange in the series. By contrast, this week the series goes for a huge spread by way of navigation a collective cleanup campaign. It too feel disjointed, given how it hard transitions and the number of characters it wants to jam it. Yet I wonder if it would be the more defensible option, as while the shorter dialogue sessions and smaller scenes en masse do mean they can come across as just washing over a viewer there is less time for a longer moment to royally trip the narrative delivery up.
Taken in that light, as a “Let’s all work together to help this community” shuffle it is not as wonky as other episodes have been, I feel. Messy in exposition and heavy handed plot points to be sure, trying to shoehorn in remarks about the Hermes Foundation and the battery distribution process while also trying to promote Cumpa’s plan to take Towasanga while going for the dramatic aspect during it all of an accidental war will break out due to forces colliding with each other during cleanup operations. It wants to pack in as much data and information as it can, as always, and not in a pleasant or emotionally fulfilling manner. But, with all of the jumping around for this kind of episode, as the divided fleets maneuver around each other and aim to wrap up space debris, soil, and the like from the ruptured station, it does have the effect of “feeling” less damaging than some of its alternative approaches. This is highly dependant on personal reaction however, even more so than normal. These are, of course, my personal braindumps more than anything else, nothing necessarily objective.
Or even reflective how much space something takes up in running time.
To wit: Aida is mentally paralyzed for the majority of the episode, though it does not come across as much given her much reduced screen presence due to the rotation.
When she is around though, she is having a mental crisis which I imagine is to in a way go along with how Bellri was supposed to be having identity issues at the end of the previous episode. In her case, she is in a mental lock due to worrying about what her role is and how she now only become a “stupid, incompetent princess.” While by all means she has had some big news delivered because of what she learned last week, and again a character warbling because of it would be understandable, this is also something of a character backslide. Aida was, at the start of this show, practically spitting in the face of enemy military personnel upon having been captured. Her adopted parent is a high ranking official of the Amerian leadership and military oversight processes, so her environment was also one of degrees of power and responsibility.
There are understandable and valid differences for matters such as finding out you are actually from space of course, but my overall point is that this is not a matter of something like a demure and pauper level girl coming to terms with newfound responsibility. At the same time, and I can not stress this enough, the raw idea of the paralysis is a crux that I can see be compelling, much like the potential of Bellri’s wildly swinging back and forth last week. There can be a good path in her previous resilience being born part out of reassurance and knowledge of her skills and position, and some of that is definitely gone having discovered she had a secret past.
Due to the handling and execution however, the transition from the Aida at the start of the show, and even to the one who near immediately transitioned into chewing out the Rayhunton allies last week after learning her birth circumstances, has a texture less of a crunchy contemplation of one’s place in the world and more of a slipshod realization that scenes like this should probably happen and just needs to get out the door.
As the remaining episode count begins to creep into the single digits, Cumpa hurling out the suggestive accusation near the end for if a nuclear self destruct device was slipped into the G-Self is the kind of thing which I am sure is intended to instil a sense of ominous weight to its combat actions. Tomino’s Turn A Gundam even had several notable uses of the titular Gundam carrying nuclear arms, though the intent was different since it was transporting them for a time. With a full blown war having ever less time to play out, I have to consider if some future accident may bring the whole thing crashing down with sudden and immediate impact.
There would be potential in that, of course. But the series has not been particularly apt in delivering on the promises of good ideas.
The Rolling Girls (Rolling☆Girls) [Episode three]
Episode three, and the series starts what its intended goal has always been: all of the different prefecture breakaways after the downfall of Japan, and the road trips and problem solving by our lead characters as they travel the land to collect some very important items.
It feels like a very strange thing to say, as it does mean we shelve a lot of things from those first two episodes. Masami and Kuniko are in the hospital, and by extension potentially quite restricted in their ability to participate in the larger plot or journeys. By our headline characters leaving for their trips, Nozomi’s parental figures may well get less time. The Hiroshi Town Propellers which Nozomi was so eager to start with are left behind (and thus we also lose Crocodile), since we will be off elsewhere. Meanwhile, Ai Hibiki quite literally just joins our group out of nowhere last week for the featured four, and Chiaya Misono has had only slightly more screen time previously. Yukina Kosaka at least had some justification for being new to the Propellers, same with Nozomi, and they did have some scenes together on the roller coaster and such previously.
But, if it seems like this week had even more of a hollow quality to it (as I feel it did), I do not think that is unwarranted. We have done something of a cast replacement dance, and while that is in part by design it does also mean it will take until at least episode four for much in the way of connectivity to be felt between this core group from the introductory credits. It will give them at least two episodes together, to at least break even for the first two which were more focused on the Nozomi-Masami line. That is a lot to ask for, and that it does feel odd I think speaks to some structural quirks. The series right from episode one indicated it wanted to pull threads in all kinds of different directions, and the ability to weave them all together may be beyond its grasp.
But, I did consider that it would be an interesting series to see unfold, after all. Not necessarily stellar, rather that I was curious for which paths it would choose to go down.
Four our initial road trip location then: Always Comina.
Be Forever Comina. The Eternal Comina Family.
Which is to say, a society built up around the idea of a never ending Comic Market. Stalls and costumes as far as the eye can see. Superheroes for miles. Security enforcement dressed like caped wizards and witches. Marketing splattered everywhere. Founded in part, either in reality or through self imposed mythology (as it would be hard to tell in this kind of show) via a hellscape evoking aspects of Neon Genesis Evangelion and the like.
The maddening thing is, for all of the visual splendor that could be had with that, a substantial part of the episode takes place in a rather judicial room. I am unable to make a call on if this is either an attempt for an intentional joke, for contrast purposes, or more of a workflow management justification. The series hurled out a lot of complex and highly lavish animation cuts for the first two episodes, and something as visually lavish as an Always Comina gets a lot of attention for the outside scenes while leaving the indoors ones to be more “functional” in style, for lack of a better word. Something needs to budge somewhere, or that level of output would not be sustainable.
Even Space☆Dandy would rejigger resources around in season one and season two so that some episodes could get away with fewer animators and still work out fine for purpose. That the most visually impressive aspects (to me) of the Always Comina seem to come from the background art staff would also seem to indicate an episode with this manner of visual direction may have been quite necessary. Were a Wizard Barristers broadcast episode eleven situation come about, where animation production just utterly collapses, I feel the response would be quite dire. This is a show which at this stage I feel is banking more on visual momentum to keep rolling, as it were.
What seems curious, of the many curious things one could point to regarding the writing direction in a given week, is how it seems every Best has the heart shaped stones Chiaya (and by extension, her mother Haruka) are looking for. Yet, nobody seems to be putting two and two together regarding that they may well have supernatural ability granting powers, given the incredibly power boost Best’s are known to have compared to the Rest. It appears obvious enough that it is kind of bafflingly that it has not come up from anyone in the group. Haruka does seem to desire having a bunch for a project, and it would appear she is what is driving Chiaya to get a bunch even if she does not know their purposes, though if that is a matter for some sort of arms race or the like remains to be seen.
Yatterman Night (Yoru no Yatterman) [Episode three]
We return to our heroes and/or villains in their state of disrepair. Which is to say, their being naked and trying to warm themselves by a fire they effectively are stealing heat from after breaking into someone’s home.
The idea, of if our lead characters are doing the right thing or not, does rear its head ever more as this situation plays out. Alouette, being blind, can not tell that Leopard and her crew and not angels on a literal level. Her further mental exercises in refusing to believe in her parents death at the hands of being in unsafe working conditions under the Yatterman regime and manipulating her worldview into one where they would still be alive leads a further distressing air to the situation as our gang figure out her situation. They are lying, claiming to be the angels the young woman has so wished for. And lying is wrong, which is brought up verbatim.
Yet in this case, they are also managing to get some food, shelter, and the like out of compromising on this and misleading the kindly, if mistaken and sadly deluded blind woman.
If we accept Alouette as a potential analogue if not full blown descendant for Ai from the original series, which even the decorations and toys on the shelves would indicate as well, then it logically follows to accept Galina as similar for Gan.
In vintage Yatterman, Gan was a skilled mechanical craftsman. As this is a role also held by Boyacky on the Doronjo side of the equation, both on the original series and in so here as well, moving Galina to still be good with his hands but in clothing and related sense fits. Yatterman Night will be more of a restricted run series than one for dozens and dozens of episodes, and so in that light one would not want too many characters stepping over each others footing. It also adds the further sentimentality of someone who is seemingly a descendant of the original heroes granting the descendants of the original villains their new costumes, as Leopard/Doronjo and crew seek to right the wrongs the Yatter Kingdom has brought about.
Meanwhile, I feel one can get a more solid sense of the mechanical Yatter troopers this episode as well. House checks and demands for inspection, to say nothing of literally putting a gun to a citizens head and demanding said character take a certain action to assist in their investigation. In a different light or production, like the more recent Batman films by Christopher Nolan, these would be seen as potentially heroic actions.
But they are not.
These are aspects Gatchamn Crowds set off on me as well, regarding ideas of hero’s. And I am sure it will not be the last time I bang on this drum of how much a whole lot of modern superhero media has bugged me . At the same time, I do enjoy how these troopers do possess individual qualities. When confronted by the unexpected disabling of their flying bird deployment transport by the Doronbow Gang and a hastily constructed mechanical device, they do show emotional processes. Confusion. Fear. Trepidation about who should go in or act first in reaction to this. And it is a silly little scene, to be sure. But, I think this is actually a lot more effective at the mass production heroes aspect than if they were all identical machines and artificial intelligences. This is more akin to characters going through different writing teams or the like, such as how different teams have handled a character cranked out over the years. Fundamentally the same, but different enough to perhaps also not always react the same
Given the craftsmanship abilities in our team, especially having now added two new members, I do wonder what would happen were they ever able to take one of the Yatterman look-alike troopers captive.
Hangers is a weekly series containing my passing thoughts on currently airing anime productions. Opinions, as always, are subject to change.