Week in Review, 4/11 – 4/17

macross delta 2

THIS HAND OF MINE GLOWS WITH AN AWESOME POWER

Last week, I was changing in the bathroom at work when a weird noise started coming from one of the sinks. It sounded like it was probably the drain, and I started to move to walk over to it, but then I stopped. I knew this scenario. If it was an episode of Kagewani, I would be about to get my face eaten off. So I approached the sink, promptly pulled the plug shut, and resumed my monster-free life, free to enjoy anime.

The Lost Village, ep. 1-3

I like to think that THe Lost Village’s creative process involves director Tsutomu Mizushima and writer Mari Okada having drunken brainstorming sessions weekly. I have this mental image of them snickering among beer bottles as they try to one-up each other in terms of ideas, scribbling away at paper in barely legible handwriting.

This, by the way, isn’t to say that this is bad. To the contrary, I think it’s quite good; it was a true stroke of genius to marry Mizushima’s B-movie grade of horror to Okada’s melodramatic stylings. Remember Another? I remember being very annoyed when I first tried it, as I was expecting “actual” horror, not the schlocky, QUICK SHOT OF DOLL’S EYE, CHECK OUT THIS ALI PROJECT that it proved to be. Going back to it a year or so later, though, I was delighted by its absurdities and its apparently boundless creativity when it came to killing young teenagers. It wasn’t scary, but it was extremely entertaining.

The Lost Village in these episodes feels like a refinement of that. While it’s certainly operating in the B-movie realm, there is a mild lurking sense of unease, albeit one which dips a bit in the third episode (ironically considering that episode three delivers the first dead body). The cast is also itself often off-putting, made up of naïve misfits seeking a new life as it is. I cringe quite shamelessly as some of them whenever they’re featured. My favorites so far are Hyouketsu no Judgeness and Nyanta, the cat/gun girl. (The latter strikes me as brilliant – why settle for a girl who nyaas when you can have a girl who nyaas AND is a gun nut?)

This isn’t to say, of course, that the show doesn’t have some issues. Having the woman who is escaping sexual harassment also be the “shrew” of the group is frustrating, as it to some degree implies that she’s just a “man-hater”. (It also was strange that when one of the jerk bros said that Yottsun had probably tried to sexually assault Masaki, this woman didn’t step in at all to tell people to back off the girl. She was blunt from the outset about dealing with sexual harassment herself, so there didn’t seem any reason for her to leave the girl twisting in the wind.) Similarly, the woman stalking victim is portrayed as often, and unknowingly, saying things that seem laden with innuendo – HMM, did she lead her stalker on?! In a different show, I wouldn’t necessarily look at this specifically as a problem, but given that the show seems unlikely to be thoughtful about things, I’ve got a fairly substantial sense of misgiving here.

On the plus side, SPOILER, they killed the would-be rapist off. Woohoo! But we also still have a really angry guy who tried to strangle a woman! Boohoo. And Angry Man seems a good bet for lasting most of the show. He is useful in terms of forcing things to happen, but that doesn’t mean I like him. I was a bit surprised at how sedate his backstory was, by the way – I figured it was going to involve something like a system he designed went rogue, locked down a burning building, and as a result a horde of kindergarteners were burned to death.

Macross Delta, ep. 2

I’ll note before going any further that I don’t consider myself a Macross fan. I really enjoyed Macross 7, felt that Macross: Do You Remember Love? Was a genuinely great movie with some pretty huge problems (I’m still stunned that NO ONE who had written stuff which I read about this film beforehand mentioned that there’s a scene involving a woman being sexually assaulted in a restaurant as two of her fellow diners look blithely on), and saw the first Frontier movie (and dropped the second approximately thirty seconds into it). So, I can’t bring the fine-grained analysis of this within the Macross universe that I know some folks can apply. However! I did watch all of AKB0048, and, wow, was this reminiscent of that!

So; I liked this episode a fair bit, but with the huuuge caveat that I find the male lead totally uninteresting. Having previously not been terribly fussed on Hikaru in DYRL?, and having found Alto extremely dull in the first Frontier movie, there’s at least some consistency here. Hayate (had to look up his name!) was pretty bland in episode one, but in opting to try to make him less so in episode two, they’ve just swapped in “asshole” instead. His nastiness to Freyja feels about as warranted as Mirage punching him in the face. Ok, I get it, he’s a civilian and could’ve caused problems by just hopping into a Valkyrie, but popping out of nowhere to clobber him seems like overkill. I guess Kawamori doesn’t know how to depict a military woman as strident when her being in the military is itself no longer necessarily indicative of such, like it did with Misa over thirty years ago.

By the way, Ikenai Borderline is fantastic. Who knew that what my life was missing was a throbbing J-pop tune sung by magical girl idols?

Kagewani: Shou, ep. 3

Watching this episode, I came to the conclusion that were I in the world of this show, I’d probably never feature in the show since I wouldn’t be likely to ever stumble into a situation involving one of its monsters. We have a pair who goes to a hot spring after one anonymous internet denizen recommends it. I scoffed – who the hell just takes the recommendation of a stranger and tromps off into the woods? More research, thanks! Later on, when they give the name of it to someone, the person comments that it’s been closed for years. Maybe should’ve used TripAdvisor, folks.

Sailor Moon S, ep. 15-18

Watching these episodes, I continue to marvel at just how thoroughly earth-shattering Haruka and Michiru are as characters and as a couple. Even as they’re groundbreaking, the show presents them fairly simply, without making a fuss about them. They’re meant to be glamorous and admirable, but they’re framed in the same way that all other characters who are meant to be similarly viewed are framed. We’re supposed to be impressed and think they’re cool, but not because they’re unapologetically a gay magical girl couple… although, inevitably for many of us, this fact heightens their coolness. What I’m really driving at is that they’re never presented in a Very Special Episode-like fashion which continues to haunt LGBT characters in media that is meant for a “general” (i.e. not-queer) audience.

Within the bounds of the show, though, their relationship is meant to be special, but in the way that Usagi and Mamoru’s is. Chibiusa’s observation that they remind her of her own parents, whom she herself admires strongly, is one of the more obvious giveaways that this is the intent. That theirs is, too, the only other long-time romantic relationship among the primary cast in the anime is also key (I hesitate to give Luna and Artemis this same status in the anime, because while they, too, get a future child, in the present time of the show they get almost nothing in terms of development this way).

I mention all this since this set of episodes includes the one which features their backstory. This is one of the spots where I think the original anime did a better job than the manga, as the latter doesn’t give this degree of detail (this is a good place to reminds folks that the Sailor Moon manga is only fifty-two chapters long, with an additional ten side-stories; Death Busters is a scant ten chapters). It also furthers some changes in characterization that Haruka in particular gets in the anime versus the manga, as its Michiru who we learn pursued Haruka, and Michiru who realized her destiny first, whereas Haruka was trying to dodge it. By itself, it’s some solid characterization, but considered in the broader pop culture, it sticks out for moving beyond the butch/femme paradigm.

The episodes book-ending this episode aren’t noteworthy, to be honest, although Chibiusa’s aforementioned comment comes in episode fifteen. Both are centered more around Chibiusa as she tries to obey her mother’s directive to make friends. However, her efforts amount more to pursuing crushes rather than the making of friends. Both are fairly heavy on the humor, in part as a result of Eudial stepping up to be the antagonist our cast primarily interacts with. She has a penchant for nonchalantly driving her car into people’s yards and into buildings, and strikes a much more humorous tone than Kaolinite was ever interested in.

Tonkatsu DJ Agetarou, ep. 2

I think this would fit in very, very well on Adult Swim. I’ve noticed that this sort of description of late has turned into a pejorative (because apparently Space Dandy was something we would’ve been better off without…?), but I absolutely don’t use it in that sense. It just has a similar feel to their shorter-format programming.

I didn’t dig the second episode as much as the first (I do not find “is afraid of women” an endearing character quirk, and someone who has it is introduced here), but it’s still not much like anything else currently airing. The closest might be Luluco, actually, although it’s a superficial comparison at best – both are shorts concerned with adolescents who are finding their way in the world.

By the way, remember the school chairman in Prison School? He would’ve loved this episode.

Bungou Stray Dogs

This was… really bad. Any of the sparks the first episode had were entirely absent here, and I can’t quite nail down why. It’s still the same basic thing, as it doesn’t differ fundamentally from the opening episode – it’s a lot of contortions of facial features with a heavy sprinkling of absurdity of circumstances to go along. But it felt flat where the first episode did not, and I was bored senseless. I’m not quite ready to drop it, but it isn’t so much that I’d prefer not to drop as I feel I should allow it another chance.

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