Fall 2011 Week… Eight? Still Watching: Ben-to, Fate/Zero, Mashiro-iro Symphony, Working’!!, Persona 4, and Un-Go

We’re deep in it now. At this point, it would be rather meaningless to drop any of these shows, although I’m quite willing to drop a show in its final stretch if it pisses me off enough. For now, though, I wanna keep the faith and believe I can ride these shows to the end, making this the first season I’ve ever watched and blogged from start to finish. It’s exciting!

Fate/Zero ep 8

Here’s an episode wherein a lot of interesting things happened and no one died. Maybe because there was so much death by this point in Madoka Magica, I felt like someone should’ve died here, especially when there were so many people coming close. The disappointment is having to watch three battles end with someone who was almost dead be not dead and escape, though at least Irisviel’s survival was justified. Thing is, there are potential bonuses to people surviving this fight. Maybe Kayneth will develop further as a character after reflecting on his embarrassing loss. Kiritsugu already got a brilliant moment after his almost-kill, but more on that in a bit.

What was the point of Caster in this fight? Obviously he was the distraction that brought Saber into battle to begin with while the thinkers ran around trying to assassinate one-another. Lancer was just kind of there, and Caster escaped, nothing changed. He lost his Necronomicon, so he took off. I got nothing out of this fight, except for the awesome visuals both when all the baby Cthulhus exploded and when the blood was made into a mist. I’m a sucker for a spectacle, which is really what I come for in a show like this, but it won’t make me forget that Caster was worthless in this fight.

Speaking of spectacle, the scene from Kiritsugu’s past was exactly what I love so much about Nasu and the kind of works that follow him. Bullets made from Kiritsugu’s ground-up ribs, crafted by a beautiful woman whom we look at from some artsy angle while she prattles on about shit in a sexy voice. (THIS IS WHAT I WATCHED KARA NO KYOUKAI FOR.) The result is that Kayneth vs. Kiritsugu was pretty awesome. Of the three characters who ran their mouth at their opponent and then got completely defeated, Kayneth was the one with the most characterization and the most satisfying comeuppance.

Still, the coolest fights involved Kotomine Kirei beating the shit out of Kiritsugu’s women. I’d taken note before that Kotomine’s knives looked like those used by Alexander Anderson in Hellsing, and now he fights like Anderson, too. This is a joy to watch because Anderson, who was played by Wakamoto Norio in Hellsing, was the arch-rival of Alucard, who was played by none other than Nakata Jouji (Kotomine). There’s a high attention to detail in Kiritsugu’s effectiveness—nice touch how he kicked Maiya in the throat. Him killing Irisviel was a hell of a great moment, even if Irisviel just came back a minute later. The money line is Kotomine assuring himself that Kiritsugu must be like himself, must have sent these women to fight him for some reason, even though that idea doesn’t make any sense, even to him. It’s like he’s desperately searching for kinship in his enemy, perhaps hoping to believe that there’s another like him. I’d love to know more about Kotomine and why he feels this way.

Ben-to ep 7

In watching ten metric fucktons of anime, I’ve seen way more than my fair share of pool/beach/hot spring episodes. These episodes are everywhere, from bishoujo anime to magical girl shows and pretty much anything else that’s loosely structured and features a large base cast. For the most part, I hate these episodes. I don’t like swimsuits at all, vastly preferring plainclothes on my anime girls, and it’s made worse by the fact that character art tends to fall apart in these episodes. When the characters aren’t wearing anything, the inconsistency of drawings becomes entirely too apparent (see: Haganai 3). Even though animators will put their all into a few stills or jiggle sequences in the episode, most of it will look like utter shit.

But like everything in anime, there are exceptions to the rule of suck. Shows like Cardcaptor Sakura and Ouran High School Host Club had pool episodes that were at least on par for how good the show usually is—but in a few cases, a pool episode exceeds all expectations to be one of the best episodes of the show. Without a doubt, Seikon no Qwaser had the best pool/hot springs episodes of all time, but Ben-to guns for second place.

What makes this episode so special? Mostly, it doesn’t forget to be Motherfucking Ben-to and come up with some wild curveballs to keep things interesting. If they had simply fought for their lunches at the poolside, this would’ve been completely lame, but instead the pool setting is used to put yet another twist concept on the bento battles. As an added bonus, it also took the opportunity to change up the food menu since the fight was in an exotic location, which I really appreciated.

The pool battle was impressive. Ben-to fights tend not to be the most pretty or well-animated, but manage to have enough intensity and cool moments to be a blast to watch. That this aspect was kept up in a pool fight is pretty impressive. I also dig ideas like Satou using a rudder to enhance his maneuverability.

The fanservice/perversion aspect of this episode doesn’t do much for me because again the art isn’t very good and I don’t care for swimsuits, not to mention the designs in this show aren’t the best to begin with. However, Yarizui Sen manages to ground all the perverse humor by attacking it straight-faced. She doesn’t criticize the boys for being perverts, but she’s disappointed to see that their perversion causes them to falter in battle. Her attitude is a very refreshing response to perversion.

On another note, between this episode and Gundam Unicorn 4, what a great weak for sound editing in anime! (Not that this comes anywhere near Unicorn, but still.)

Working’!! ep 8

So much Yamada! This was a pretty entertaining episode, especially the supermall scene. As usual, Souma’s attempts to be evil backfire on him, and in this episode he actually reaches a point where he’s not even sure if it’s worth the effort. But Souma is too deliciously fail to just turn around after that and make things right, so he ends up tired out and not even sure if he did something right in the end. For my money, this justified the prolonged scenes of keeping the Yamadas apart (if Yamada’s ultra-adorableness wasn’t enough).

Oh, there was a first half to this episode too, I almost forgot. Poplar was cute as usual and altogether the episode was paced well, like the other good episodes this season. I enjoy the implication that Inami might’ve been masturbating to Takanashi’s voice on her phone. Somehow, the more obsessively gaga she gets over him, the more entertaining she becomes. Takanashi, however, is continuing a now three-episode trend of being a brat, so I’m not sure how I feel about him anymore.

Un-Go ep 6

I would easily consider this to have been the best episode of Un-Go yet, especially because it’s the first one wherein I understood what was happening throughout the entire episode. Yeah, that means it was a little less intense than the other ones, but I also felt it was held together much better, with the directing feeling right the whole time instead of only some of the time.

Oh, and looking at the staff list again, I now know exactly what makes this show so bizarre, and that it’s on purpose. The series is written by the same Aikawa Shou who created and wrote Neo-Ranga, and also wrote on Martian Successor Nadesico. In a way, this explains everything.

But anyway, Un-Go at its finest still isn’t really my cup of tea, and is more fascinating to me than enjoyable. I wouldn’t be bothering with it still if it weren’t only eleven episodes long.

Persona 4 the Animation ep 7

Episode seven was exactly as expected: more uber-dramatic coming-to-terms, this time made funny by Kanji’s hard-gay persona. The portrayal of said hard-gay persona was the usual overblown turbo-gay rapist thing commonly seen in anime, which is often hilarious but equally offensive. However, it’s forgivable in this case because that’s kinda the point. The characters’ personas are always overblown versions of their inner angst. Yukiko’s desire to get out and be less shy turned into some kind of ridiculous pop idol TV show host, so Kanji’s bicuriosity unsurprisingly amounted to something much more outrageous, especially when the emotions he had were ones that he didn’t understand. Is it a cop out that he gets over it without having to admit to being gay/bi—instead only admitting that he likes “cute shit”—or is that more of the slap-myself-in-the-face realism that actually comes from beating back your teen hormones? I experienced something similar regarding my sexuality in my teen years (lol I can use that phrase now) and came to a similar conclusion. I never would’ve had a paranoia that I was so hard gay, but I’ve got other things that prove I had at least emotions this extreme (my old journals are made of ugh).

Besides that, if the previous episodes had seemed at all like the animation/art directing had improved, then this episode dispelled those hopes. The brief action scenes in the episode were nonsensical blurs where something certainly appeared to have happened, but what it was, I cannot say. At least the enemies were more interesting this time, and the persona Kanji actually got was pretty cool, even though the one he fought looked like it was coming out of a big flowery vagina. (Maybe that was the point?) In any case there was some funny shit in this episode, most of which AK pointed out, but I’ll add to that the amazing hard-gay English phrases. “FEELING SO GOOD!”

Mashiro-iro Symphony ep 7

…ugh. You must know that for myself to have gotten so far into this series, I want to like it very badly. I don’t like this genre—this show I want to be an exception. I want to think that it follows in Kami Nomi zo Shiru Sekai’s tradition of being a Manglobe show that defies the expectation that they’ve sold out and proves they might still be ambitious (I won’t say good because I don’t even really like Manglobe!) To be clear, I’m sworn to watch every Manglobe series, so in spite of what I said at the top of the post, I will not drop this series no matter what. I only might find that I want to. I want to believe that I won’t want to.

Sana and Angie are so very annoying. I wish that their arcs are over, but I think Sana’s will continue into the next episode. This will add up to two episodes for each girl that isn’t Sakuno, starting from episode five, or as I’ll remember it, the one where shit went south. The best parts of this show were in episodes three and four wherein everyone was just hanging out, and it started unravelling once it got into arcs, primarily because the characters in those arcs have been annoying, and because the plots of those arcs have been stupid.

Here’s something I hate about the structure of these shows: a girl is going along just fine until their arc and suddenly, now they reveal an entirely different, unwanted side of their character, to be resolved by the end of the arc and then we move on. It’s this whole stupid fix the girl to win her pussy structure or whatever, I guess it’s the core of an eroge, but I don’t play those. Was this show never meant for me? Or should I be allowed to demand better when it showed me better, and besides the lead has no romantic interest in these girls whatsoever. ARGH.

I very sincerely hope that my frustration with this show only goes so far as the two annoying characters, and that once their arcs are finished, I’ll enjoy the rest of the show. It could really go either way depending on if the arrival of arcs for the other characters ends up being the catalyst to make them annoying. On another note, man I spill a lot of digital ink on this show every week!

That does it for week eight! Next week: these six shows again! In the meantime, I’ll be watching my secret santa shows (Kita e, Bokurano, Beast Player Erin), possibly some of my on-holds, Sky Girls, and some of the 2011 shows I never ended up finishing before.

11 thoughts on “Fall 2011 Week… Eight? Still Watching: Ben-to, Fate/Zero, Mashiro-iro Symphony, Working’!!, Persona 4, and Un-Go

  1. Simply to clarify: Noble Phantasms are indestructible, apart from when the owner himself decides to break them. So the Necronomicon is just fine. Lancer’s spear just momentarily disrupted the flow of prana (it is the book that sustains the summons, and not Caster himself), which caused the monsters to, well, explode, as they cannot maintain their shape in this world (they’re considered foreign elements and are eliminated by the world itself, not unlike Servants disappearing without a Master, only the process is much faster for the monsters). Caster can only summon them using dead flesh, and that is why he was out of options there.

  2. I loved Ben-To lots, but it’s really one of those chapters I don’t think I need to blog. I’ll probably say something once Persona comes out, just bundle it together. I love the rudder deal, and the new characters (twins?) look interesting.

    Kanji’s Persona is awesome. This “cop-out” you talk about does show up in the game too, though at a deeper level it isn’t a cop-out. The point is not to be afraid. Men, women are details..

  3. As to Caster being useless, well that’s kind of the point. He isnt a very famous Spirit, and his master isn’t even a mage. He isn’t in danger of running out of mana cause he has been draining plenty of mana from all the people and kids(its mostly kids and women.) that they have been kidnapping. Still, compared to the other Servants, Caster’s stats are pretty low. The only reason he’s a threat is because of that Noble Phantasm book that can summon sea demons infinitely and doesnt drain any of Casters mana to do it.

    Also, just in case you were wondering about Maiya’s bullets not hurting Kirei(not sure if you already knew this or not), The reason he could run through Maiya’s bullets is because the Priest outfit he is wearing (which is the standard uniform for all executors of the church) is lined with Kevlar and protection spells that make it bulletproof. That’s why he raised his arms to shield his unguarded face when he charged in at Maiya.

    Anyway, dont worry about the lack of deaths, all shall come in good time. If we killed people too quickly the story would be over pretty quickly :P

    P.S. “crafted by a beautiful woman whom we look at from some artsy angle while she prattles on about shit in a sexy voice. (THIS IS WHAT I WATCHED KARA NO KYOUKAI FOR.)”

    Since i just finished Kara no Kyoukai recently, this made me lol hard.

    • Fate/Zero is set to be 25 episodes. Actually, in shows of this length, episode 8 is a pretty standard episode to kill off the first major character, a tradition seen through all eras of anime. Plus this show has a huge cast, and even if only one of the three near-deaths had died, I would’ve been satisfied. Especially Kayneth since his survival was barely justified.

      If Caster is never meant to be a threat, then he should’ve died here. Unless he plans to become a threat later on.

      Cool info re the bulletproof uniform. There really does always seem to be an extensive explanation for everything in Nasu works, but I’m usually lazy about learning all of it lol.

      • I did note that there were multiple near-death instances in episode 8, and nobody got away entirely unscathed (except for Kirei, the bastard), unlike the battles we’ve had before. And since I fully expect the final act of this series to be a kill-em-all clusterfuck, I’m just looking at episode 8 as escalation, or something similar.

        If nobody’s dead by the end of the first season, though, I call bullshit.

  4. Yeah, I likewise felt a bit disappointed with the latest Fate/zero ep, even though I still enjoyed it and am still liking the show quite a bit overall. I’d probably be a bit more unsatisfied if I didn’t already know that another season is on the horizon. But whatever the case, I enjoyed Kayneth getting owned and Kirei being scary awesome, even while he’s hurting characters I actually like.

  5. Kayneth is likely coming out of this fight crippled, judging from the explanation given about Kiritsugu’s mage-slaying bullets. His fate is an interesting commentary really on the nature of conflict; Kayneth out of all the characters is the one coming into the Grail War expecting an “honourable” duel between mages, rather than the knives-in-the-dark business the war is shaping up to be.
    All the characters also are coming in with their own preconceptions that are slowly being challenged or shattered as well (Waver comes to mind, as well as Kirei after this episode, being unable to understand the actions of both women). It’s this sort of character development that really makes Fate/Zero all the more enjoyable.

    • less than an honourable and not-knives-in-the-dark fight, I think it’s important that Keyneth expected *mages*. Honor maybe, but I think it’s more like pride. After all, he fights like a bitch himself and is underhanded, but it offends him to fight people of ignoble blood.

  6. Pingback: It May Be 2012, But I’m Finishing the Fall 2011 Season Here and Now | My Sword Is Unbelievably Dull

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