Hope you all had a merry Christmas and are enjoying the holiday season. This is the final week of the Autumn season, so this is the last weekly anime review for now. Expect the same format to reappear in the 2012 with a slew of new anime and a few favorites from this season to carry over. This week: Maya in Working’!!, that crazy and random fight between beasts in UN-Go, bonding with Chizuru in Ika Musume, and an appropriate but ambiguous finale for Penguindrum.
Working’!! (Episode 12 and 13) – This space should really be reserved for episode 12 but 13 had the most Maya we’ve ever seen in Working!! and Maya is my 2nd favorite character in the series, so this will be all about her. It’s a tease to only involve Maya in the anime only the finales of each season. She has excellent chemistry with the rest of the cast when she isn’t constantly avoiding them and actually has some humor that gets me above the usual smile reaction and into genuine laughs. One fear I have with Maya is that the whole ‘normal’ gag will eventually lose its humor since it was Maya’s only joke but this episode invented some new humor for her to use, like her agitated overreactions and her friendliness toward female coworkers, making her more versatile and able to interact with others during their jokes. It’s a shame they only use her in one episode each season but it does help increase her charm and value when she’s on screen. If they make another season of Working!! I beg they have Maya involved in the ‘normal’ cast with everyone else.
UN-Go (Episode 11) – That fight between Inga and Bettenou is probably going to be the most discussed or mentioned aspect of the finale of UN-Go simply because it was so haphazard, unnecessary, and clashing to the rest of the episode. My thoughts on it? Well, I took the approach everyone else in the anime did and simply ignore it. That’s right, did you notice what everyone did during the fantastic brawl between mythical spirits? No, they didn’t run to the window to watch in awe with mouths agape. They ignored the whole thing and talked about the mystery. They knew the mystery was much more important and they stuck with it, even though the only action in the entire anime was taking place concurrently. Other thoughts on the finale include it being one of the most appropriate finales of the year for its anime, not being as climatic or dramatic as I had imagined, excellent in that we both saw Shinjurou’s and Kaishou’s perspective on truth, and hopes there are still enough good novels available to make another season if they so choose to do so. Overall, one of the best anime of the year for me.
The iDOLM@ASTER (Episode 25) – Episodes 20-24 really warmed me up to the Idolmaster anime and I began to enjoy the anime so much more. I really wish the whole series would be like that but that would be countered by the louder outcry of dissatisfied fans for not seeing their kawaii idols have fun and be happy. Oh well. The best part about the finale was the whole concert/dance routine which consisted of about 2 minutes of straight animation, motion, kinetics, and swooping and panning cameras. If Makoto was my favorite part of Idolmaster, then the animation, especially the sakuga sequences, were my next favorite part. Really happy they had the talent and budget to pull those sequences off. I should keep my eyes on this studio for the next couple of season in case they make another anime with animation like that.
Tamayura ~hitotose~ (Episode 12) – This was the most enjoyable episode in all of Tamayura. Why? Because it’s the first one that actually felt like an episode of Aria to me. While other episodes came close with their settings and the themes, this one is the only one that created the same vibe as Aria, matching on atmosphere, emotion, and meaning. The characters reduced their one-dimensional gimmicks completely or reversed them into something useful, like Norie’s cooking corner and Maon’s storytime (thank God it wasn’t a whistling show). Plus the ending sequences where they crash the car and watch the sunrise from some unplanned and ordinary could’ve been used in Aria without me knowing. A shame more episodes weren’t like this but they saved the best for last and that’s what I hope for since those will always be my most recent memories of this anime.
Shinryaku!? Ika Musume (Episode 11) – Watching Ika Musume and Chizuru bond really brightened my mood regarding this second season of Ika Musume. Not only was it heartwarming and authentic character development but it actually made Chizuru look like a normal human rather than a gag character that she’s unfortunately evolved into. It’s that kind of progress that this season of Ika Musume has been missing that has made it feel substandard compared to the first season (which got a 10/10 for me, so that’s pretty damn hard to match it). While the comedy has been great and the characters seem more integrated, there was really no substantial progress in Ika Musume until this skit. So I’m happy they added that in before the finale and with a character like Chizuru. I hope to see her and Ika Musume do stuff together like how Ika Musume plays video games with Eiko or playing outside with Takeru.
Persona 4 the Animation (Episode 12) – I’ve never played any of the Persona games and have only seen a few screenshots and videos from Persona 4, so it was quite the experience when a friend showed me a few videos of some fights and cutscenes from the game that corresponded to the ones in this episode. To say the least, I’m impressed with both. For one, I’m impressed the anime can compress so much information and essentials into such a limited time. It’s amazing what kind of job they’re doing with the story, pacing, and developments considering they have to trim so much for everything to fit. Even more remarkable is how superior the anime is in terms of comedy. And for the game itself, the conversations seemed surprisingly natural and relaxing. When people talked it didn’t sound like they were reading from a script or trying to hit all the key points before leaving, they sounded like real friends talking to each other about subjects. And the fights from the game look like loads of fun, too. I’m starting to get the itch to get the game and play it now but with my current priorities…
Mawaru Penguindrum (Episode 24) – Ambiguous anime always have ambiguous endings like this but they always seem appropriate. They’re not always the most satisfying or concrete of finales since they leave a ton of details and aspects open to interpretation or debate (Were the children dying in the Children Broiler signaling the moment they’re picked up for adoption by foster families? What role did Mario play in the end? Where was Sanetoshi before he appears in the South Pole 16 years ago? What about the constant symbolism of two or halves?) but the finale to Penguindrum did enough to leave me content. I’ve never been a fan of anime drunk on symbolism or metaphysics but I felt Penguindrum did a good job of handling everything and producing a rewarding ending. The tension, emotion, and sacrifice are what did it for me in the ending and explanations provided were sound enough for me to accept them, even though some aspects were still left uncertain. In the end, I’m glad they chose to have an ambiguous ending like this since it matched the themes from earlier on in the anime, answered most of the central questions, and was directed to excellence.
Future Diary (Mirai Nikki) (Episode 11) – I realize this anime is about a survival game but I kinda want everyone in the anime to die before the ending. Yup, even characters like Yuki, Yuno, and Minene. Maybe not someone like Mur Mur or Hinata but everyone else should be dead. I don’t know why but I just think they all kind of deserve it now and what put me over the edge was Yuki shooting that featureless cop in this episode. That was the straw that broke the camel’s back for me. Yuno, I believe, is destined to die before the ending due to her dark nature, constant obsession, and the fact that she believes that her final goal is a happy end (there is no such end for her). Not sure about Minene yet but there’s a decent chance she will survive, especially until the end, but she deserves to end up dead due to her wanton destruction and general disregard to human safety and disrespect to Japanese infrastructure. Everyone else in the survival game will probably end up dead soon, so no worries about that and Deus Ex Machina, unless he’s just trolling everyone, will die before the end, too. You know, I might get my request if everything plays out according to plan.
Chihayafuru (Episode 12) – While I’ve discovered a newfound interesting in karuta and love to see Chihaya and friends play it every episode, I do want to see Chihayafuru take a step back from the game and show the group do something else together. You know, to show that their bonds are not only karuta-deep but that they have real friendships with each other. Maybe something like when they went to Taichi’s home for the training session or when they had Chihaya’s birthday cake outside in the middle of the night but for a whole episode and detailing the relationships with each other. I’m fine with watching them play karuta together every week but it never really highlights the individual bonds in the group or shows their relationships outside of karuta. I’m sure when we see the individual character episodes the anime will take a step back from karuta to focus solely on the character but I don’t want to wait around for something that is uncertain to happen the way I desire. And no, it’s not that I’m getting bored of karuta or anything that parallels that though but I want to see the characters do something else to build depth and explore the character beyond slapping at cards after they hear a “chi” or a “ta”.