All that punctuation in the title is my way of foreshadowing the eventual return of my Serial Experiments Lain episodics, as demanded by animekritik, whose relevance to the title is twofold: I’ve struck a deal with him. In exchange for his watching Ben-to, I picked up Persona 4. This was the best deal I’ve ever made.
It’s halftime! All things considered, I’m not doing that bad! I missed weeks five and six entirely save for Boku wa Tomodachi ga Sukunai, which I watched and posted about, meanwhile skipping a whole post that could’ve been written about episode four of Ben-to. But let’s leave that and all this meta behind and get on with it!
I realized what series this show is comparable to after the spectacular Monarch arc: Durarara!!. If only the production values were as good as that show, I’d probably love it just as much. Funny thing, too, as I’d agreed with Andrew Cunningham before that if Ben-to was to be adapted, Brains Base would be a great choice to do it. I was ambivalent when it was picked up by David Production, but boy has it ever proven itself!
Since I haven’t posted about the last three episodes, I’ll open by stating that episode four was IMO the best episode of anime in the Fall season so far, and one of the best character introductions I’ve ever seen. Kato Emiri’s performance as Shaga is godly, rounding out a cast that’s given this show a life unlike any other (if the story and animation weren’t doing that enough already). Yarizui Sen might be my favorite character of the season, and she easily matches, if not exceeds the coolness of Saber in Fate/Zero (just put her in a dress suit…).
The Monarch arc was great and ended spectacularly. I think that the arc’s characters could’ve been fleshed out more, but at the same time I wouldn’t want to slow the series down. Again, I just wish it had the strength of production to be quite as intense as a Brains Base animation, but fuck if it isn’t the next best thing.
I must say, I’m surprised by how much action this show contains. Given the first couple of episodes, I thought I was in for mostly a talky with strong horror elements. I mean, the show still is that, but there’s tons of combat, which when I think about it is something Urobuchi Gen always has (Madoka Magica, Phantom, and Blassreiter all have considerable amounts of action afaik). And the action is good; well, cutting down a bunch of baby Cthulhus isn’t the highlight of episode seven, but stuff like Kayneth vs. Kiritsugu is quite nice.
What I don’t care that much for is Caster’s obsession with Saber. I think it would be way more effective if Caster was significantly creepy and threatening to Saber, but he comes across as a goofball, especially with his voice. Yeah, he can slaughter a forest full of little kids, but he barely lays a finger on Saber, and when he gets anywhere close, Lancer shows up to save the day. What might be effective would be Caster horribly murdering Lancer on the spot or some other significant proof of his power. I just want something that puts him in the arena, the way Lancer, Saber, Archer, Rider, and Berserker are. Also, get his master more involved. Ryuunosuke is plenty interesting, but he barely gets to do anything yet.
Anyway, aside from those complaints, Fate/Zero is still the show to be watching this season, but in light of how amazing Ben-to has been, I can’t quite call it my favorite right now.
First: the end of episode six (pictured), besides being lovely, was the first effective fanservice moment in this show. I’d almost written off this show’s fanservice as trite, but here it was really great.
Next: here’s my fantasy reading of the show which helps me to enjoy it. I imagine a familial relationship between all of the characters. Shingo and Airi are obviously the mother and father; Shingo could be called a Marty Stu nice guy with his ridiculous kindness and attentiveness, but that along with his maturity makes me see him like a fatherly figure. Airi also has a strong sense of responsibility in spite of her insecurities, and shows it when she comes through for the other girls in episodes five and six. Sakuno remains Shingo’s sister, thereby the aunt of the other girls, and maintains her caretaker role in Shingo’s life. This is because, while Airi can take care of Shingo in her own way, they’re both busy parents who will need the assistance of others. Mukunashi is the cool uncle, Shingo’s brother, the same age and equally responsible, close to the family, but not an immediate member of it so less important to its workings. Miu is the eldest daughter, able to handle herself and do her own thing, but still relies on her parents from time to time. Sana is the aggravating middle child who’s at ends with her father but really looks up to her big sister. She wants to be supportive of Miu, but really needs more support herself. Finally, Angie is the baby girl who everyone has to take care of and keep out of trouble.
Why the elaborate fantasy? Because it helps me to cope with some of the things I really don’t like about this show. On a large, crippling scale, I find Sana and Angie completely fucking annoying (especially the latter because of her voice). It’s off-putting to have two obnoxious, uninteresting characters surrounded by more interesting, down-to-earth characters. They throw off the relaxed tempo of the show that I love so much. It’s even worse because neither of them was bad at the start—it was once they got more screentime that they became annoying. That they (and pretty much everyone in the show) have bad porn seiyuu doesn’t help.
Additionally, stupid things still happen, mostly in the “comedy” scenes (Angie crying over her headband), but also in the drama scenes—which brings me to my fantasy. It’s a lot easier for me to accept a father reaching into a furnace to recover his daughter’s important drawings than it is a concerned friend. The whole gesture was really unnecessary, but parents can be frenzied like that. All it really takes to make this acceptable is my willing suspension of disbelief over how far a friend would go to help, but I’m kind of unwilling to go that far here. I’d rather stick to my fantasy.
I enjoy Mashiro-iro Symphony and think that what’s good is really, really good, but what isn’t good is also really, really not good.
I’m in for the long haul with Working, so even though I didn’t think episodes six and seven were very good, it’s not that big a deal. I might as well say that half the episodes of Ranma 1/2 were complete ass—it doesn’t matter because I watched it all.
There’s something to be said about the introduction of three new characters in the last two episodes along the lines of, “they finally ran out of ideas.” Seriously, the Mashiba twins were pointless. It’s kind of amazing how both of them became one-trick ponies in record time, almost like a microcosm of all that’s wrong with Working as a show. All of their jokes were crammed into half an episode, rehashing the biggest problem I had with the first season. But that episode sucked in a lot of ways, like the animation, which had me joking that the budget all went to hiring Tomatsu Haruka and Nakamura Yuuichi for those guest roles.
Speaking of beating dead horses, these two episodes had the exact same plot. In both, a new character is introduced, they run through their bit gags, and then for some reason they pose a threat to the relationship between Inami and Takanashi, sending the latter into hysterics that reach a point of, “Inami really likes this guy?” Kirio is automatically more interesting than the Mashiba twins because ZOMG he’s Yamada’s brother, and he’s even got her gorgeous, upturned, almost Hiiragi Kagami eyes. Making him in love with Inami this late in the game is pretty pointless, though. He clearly poses little or no threat to the practically canon relationship of TakanashiXInami. If he did pose a threat, I might welcome it to shake up some of the Inami love angst and open an avenue of possibility that maybe Takanashi and Poplar are actually a viable pairing. I have no hopes for this at such a late stage in the show, though. Unless we’re headed for another damn season.
Poplar and Yamada still never bore me. If I could have this show with them as the only main characters I think I’d love it.
Persona 4 the Animation
Episodes five and six blew the first four out of the water. The show is a lot more successful to me when it plays up its comedic element and lets the drama ride on that, rather than the other way around. Episode five had every bit as much soul-searching and even more inter-personal affairs than the first four, but with way more laughs, much better pacing and, in the end, better effect in general. I feared, when the characters were discussing the return to their investigation at the end of the episode, that things were going to serious up again in episode six. This wasn’t the case, and that episode was also paced right, finally letting a character’s story cross into a second episode, and had the best gag in the show so far with the beef hot pot delivery service and Kanji’s ultra hard-gay persona. Clearly episode seven will be another Persona-capturing wangst-filled dramagasm, but having seen Kanji’s other side, it should be hilarious. Especially because he’s voiced by Tomokazu Seki. On that note, I just had a look through the cast and was embarrassed to see that a lot of my favorite seiyuu are in this show and I didn’t even recognize them. I’m tempted to watch the eps again just for that.
The image above represents the worst thing about Un-Go—most of it is very awkward. I mean, why the hell would people stand in a straight line and stay that way for five minutes? It looks silly. The character art is inconsistent, and generally the attention to detail and composition of individual shots is lacking. Maybe the show is poorly storyboarded; I can’t bring myself to blame the director. Un-Go is paced ridiculously, jumping between constant scenes of expository dialog all jumbled up and hard to follow. The mysteries are mysterious to me for no other reason than that I have no idea what the fuck is going on until everything’s getting wrapped up.
I haven’t seen any of them in whole, but the pacing reminds me of what I’ve seen from the Battles Without Honor or Humanity films. Things happen fast and people get killed. Those are the moments where the show shines. Things occur suddenly and violently in jarring ways. Is it a weakness that the show never gives the viewer time to take in all the surroundings and what’s going on, or is it to purposefully create a feeling of chaos when something or someone rushes in from off-stage and explodes? Sometimes it seems accidental, like this show was thrown together all at once and there wasn’t time to bring everything into consideration. Other times, it seems like it’s very calculated and methodical. One thing’s for sure: the show is only eleven episodes long, so I may as well see it through to the end. Especially with that hot loli sex robot thing wandering around. That thing would actually make a good third party for the make-out session at the top of this post.
Boku wa Tomodachi ga Sukunai: All the character introductions and stuff are over, and we’re left with… Yozora being an unbearable bitch and fighting Sena constantly about stupid bullshit. The karaoke episode, usually something to look forward to in a show like this, was a pile of shit, and we didn’t even get to hear HanaKana sing. I’m done.
That completes the halftime report! I’m so glad I caught up with everything! As I thought, having to post on all the shows at once increases the pressure to watch all of them.