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Archive for March, 2011

Bakuman Episode 24 – Sowing and Reaping

While last episode technically ended on a cliffhanger, the themes of the episode and the series as a whole dictated that Koogy’s entry would get slaughtered, and that’s exactly what happened. While the initial response to Moritaka and Takagi’s “Detective Trap,” Fukada’s “Kiyoshi Knight,” and Nakai and Aoki’s “Hideout Door” were all highly positive, Koogy’s intitial survey results fall towards the bottom of the barrel.

With Koogy’s utter failure removing him from the picture, the rest of the episode focuses on the end result of the contest, as the final survey determines the rankings of the three series still in competition. While it’s technically just a side show to Moritaka and Takagi finally getting serialized—which is a pretty much a sure thing at this point, but is being saved for next episode, there’s enough crammed into the episode that it doesn’t seem like the writers stalling for the inevitable conclusion. Instead it feels like a step by step exploration of how the pair’s labor has brought them to this point.
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Gosick Episode 10 – Turning Things Around

Gosick’s mysteries have tended to come in two ways. The first are those with incredibly obvious solutions, such that it takes idiots like Kujo and Grevil not to understand them. The second are incredibly convoluted ones, that take a seemingly superhuman genius like Victorique to put together. Neither type is particularly interesting in itself.

Gosick seems increasingly aware of this, which is why recent episodes have done more and more to shift the emphasis away from the puzzles and toward Victorique and Kujo’s maturing relationship. This episode goes further: for this entire arc, the mystery is inverted. We know that the proprietors at Jiantan are up to something; Kujo, with Victorique’s help, just needs to prove it.

The show thus abandons the who-done-it plots for something completely different. And in fact, it works marvelously well. The way in which they catch the criminals is clever, makes sense, and affords some welcome element of surprise. It’s not an L tracking down a Kira, but it does its job, which is more than we can say about the previous mysteries. And just about everything else in this episode is also an improvement on what has come before.
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Fractale Episode 9 – Almost Crimes

March 27, 2011 Leave a comment

Now that the base where Phryne has been endlessly cloned in order to create a version of her suitable to be The Key has been destroyed, the show is free to settle down into doing what it most enjoys: moments of small-scale character drama that presage some momentous, world-rending action in future episodes but are otherwise unmemorable.

I guess I should be more charitable. This episode does scatter some mild revelations about the Fractale system, and the nature of the Key. It also has a climax of sorts in the mandatory love triangle between the hero and two main heroines. But it’s mostly yet another bridge to a conclusion that could not hope to be satisfying enough to justify the interminable build-up.
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Kimi ni Todoke 2 Episode 10 – Feelings on Parade

This episode picks up right where the earlier one drops off, the night before the culture festival’s costume parade with all the students doing cram work for it. The episode ends, chronologically, less than a day later, as the costume parade wraps up and the sun starts setting. It’s about 24 hours after the emotional climax of last episode.

As much as the last few episodes have felt rather drawn out, it’s actually shocking how much character growth has happened in a 24 hour span. There was a long road to get to this point, but now the feelings pour out in a rush.
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Wandering Son Episode 9 – Catching Signals That Sound in the Dark

March 24, 2011 4 comments

On an elevated crosswalk Shuu asks Yoshino about the bra he wears that flattens his breasts. In the trans-male community this is called binding. It is the first real step most transmen take toward transition. Shuu asks Yoshino if it is uncomfortable, but he says it’s comfortable—emotionally, at least. Implicit in this statement is his argument for a transition (a transition that he has not decided on or—in any formal way—declared) despite all obstacles: there are awkward aches and lingering pains that are more nagging and more demanding of relief than the discomforts of a body contorted.

So when Yoshino, at the episodes outset, goes to school dressed in a boy’s uniform that is why. It is because the specter of being dismissed, or mocked, or trivialized became less haunting than the alternative. Since he is not the first one to do this, as has been discussed as early as the first episode, the reaction from classmates and faculty is either positive or indifferent.
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Bakuman Episode 23 – Slow and Steady Wins the Race

With syndication on the line in the latest magazine competition, Takagi and Moritaka have never been closer to their goal. The series has been hinting that this time will be their breakout moment, but it’s hinted at that before too. And never before has the duo’s competition been given such attention. Niizuma has had prominence from early on, but Fukada, Nakai, and Aoki all are seen as equal in skill to the protagonists—and Koogy, however obnoxious, has been presented as a serious threat to all of them in the popular polling.

In some ways, however, relative standing isn’t that important. As each entry is judged individually, Moritaka and Takagi don’t necessarily have to be the best. They just have to be good enough to reach a point of critical mass. And, for better or worse, Niizuma’s cryptic evaluation of their work and that of their competitors has convinced them that they need to do more.

This is better, of course, in the sense that the go back to the drawing board—quite literally in their case—and further tweak, adjust, and fine tune their work to raise its quality. It’s worse in a narrative sense, because that means a decent chunk of the episode is about them improving the work further, which leads to yet another production montage. I think I’ve seen enough to those to last me through the spring season.
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Puella Magi Madoka Magica Episode 9 – The Truth Hurts

March 21, 2011 Leave a comment

Madoka Magica has hinted at a darker meaning behind the war between magi and witches for the entirety of its run, and this episode, the truth is finally revealed. And I won’t lie to you: it’s pretty dumb.

Unlike some other shows airing this season, though, it has something going for it besides the mystery of its setting, however. Tragic character drama, not the truth about magi and witches has always been at the heart of Madoka, and that’s why this episode remains interesting despite itself.
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