01/23/14 Odds & Ends: Another week…

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You should know the drill by now: I enjoy Samurai Flamenco while hating almost everything else.

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Gin no Saji Ep. 3

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Episode summary: Everyone can get their horses to jump over an obstacle but Hachiken, who begins to get really frustrated because it reminds him of when he failed his high school entrance exams. When our protagonist tries to solve the problem as if he could just go to equestrian cram school, Aki gets mad at him for not considering the horse’s feelings. The following day, she takes him to see a horse competition where our hero suddenly, uh, understands the importance of partnership between a jockey and his or her horse. The next time he tries to ride Maron, it actually jumps too high, ‘causing Hachiken to fall off.

Thoughts: That was boring. The conflict was just so one-dimensional. Ah yes, we must have a symbiotic relationship with the animals we rear. What I mean is that Hachiken is so obviously wrong here that there was nothing to consider, no challenging viewpoints to assess. Whatever. If nothing significant happens next week, I’ll drop this show.

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Golden Time Ep. 15

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Episode summary: It’s the beach episode! Unfortunately, it begins to rain so everyone’s bummed out. It doesn’t help either that the car ride to the beach ends up taking forever. Still, everyone makes the best out of a terrible situation and the beach episode returns to being fun again. Fun, generic beach episode. Yeah…. On the way home, both Koko and Banri fall asleep at the wheel. The latter only wakes up in time to save everyone’s lives ’cause, as per usual, his “other self” starts obsessing over Linda.

Thoughts: Eh, if you’re tired of pointless love triangles, just take like… the first nineteen minutes of this episode and call it the series finale. Not much else to say, but it looks like the next few episodes are going to be a real drag.

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Inari, Konkon, Koi Iroha Ep. 2

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Episode summary: Inari turns into one of Koji’s friends to check up on him and make sure he won’t miss playing in the all-important basketball game. It turns out he missed school in order to take care of his ailing mother (what a purepure boi!). When Inari returns home, both she and Uka are whisked away to see Amaterasu, who intends to test the former. Inari must not use her powers for one whole day. If she fails, she must stay in Heaven forever and Uka will be forced into an arranged marriage. For the most part, Inari manages to avoid using her powers, but when Akemi suffers from a heat stroke, our heroine bites the bullet in order to help out a friend. In the end, Amaterasu reveals that she was just testing both Inari and Uka… mostly out of boredom.

Thoughts: I think this show can actually be pretty funny; I honestly laughed out loud once during this episode, which doesn’t happen very often with anime. Having said that, this isn’t strictly a comedy series, so of course Inari, Konkon, Koi Iroha will take itself seriously from time to time. I always saw it as a romance with some light-hearted comedy thrown in every now and then, so the tearjerking scenes don’t really bother me. Well, they fail to be really tearjerky, but that’s another issue entirely….

My small beef lies with the moral dilemma at the center of this week’s episode. Inari didn’t know that her test was just a divine prank; she truly believed that if she failed, not only would she be stuck in Heaven forever, but Uka would be forced into an arranged marriage. Nevertheless, Inari chose to save Akemi anyway. I don’t know if that was the “right” thing to do. Is it okay to potentially save a person’s life — she knew Akemi was in trouble but she didn’t know whether or not it was truly life-threatening (and it wasn’t) — at the cost of dooming another? Oh, you might say Uka isn’t doomed or anything, but I dunno, friend… forcing a woman — even if it is a goddess — into marriage sounds pretty damn heinous to me. Perhaps it’s a matter of perspective. I view a loss of freedom as almost or equally reprehensible as a loss of life.

In any case, Inari had the desire to save her friend regardless of her decision. She was simply prevented from doing so because the mischievous gods had trapped the two girls in a building. If anything, moral culpability lies with the gods, not the poor girl who was stuck between a rock and a hard place. Again, I’m not saying that Inari made the wrong decision, but you’d have a hard time convincing me she made the right one.

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Mahou Sensou Ep. 3

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Episode summary: Takeshi and Kurumi totally aren’t dating, but they totally are because if he gets close to another girl, she gets so jealous. Takeshi and Mui aren’t dating either, but they might as well be dating, ’cause she got really sad and awkward around Takeshi after she learned that Takeshi and Kurumi are dating even though we know they’re really not. Takeshi and Kurumi are only “dating,” because she’s, like, so goddamn beautiful that even college guys went after her when she was in middle school. So of course, by pretending to be her boyfriend, Takeshi keeps all the perverts away. Japanese perverts are, after all, the politest perverts in the world. They would never rape a girl if it turns out she has a boyfriend; that’s just rude and uncouth! What are we, barbarians? No!

So anyway, one day, Takeshi gets tired of pretending to date Kurumi, so he breaks up with her. This made everyone sad, even Mui because she blames herself for it. So in the end, Takeshi and Kurumi get back “together” but they’re not really together ’cause they were never dating to begin with! Meanwhile, Takeshi’s brother Gekkou is still super mad at our hero, because he actually likes Kurumi. Like for real real, not fake like. Mm hmm, mm hmm. Say, why don’t we just explain to Gekkou that we’re just fake-dating? Naaah. Why doesn’t Gekkou pretend to be Kurumi’s boyfriend instead then? Naaaaaaaah. Let’s just have a car run him over instead LULZ. Hehe, Magical Warfare more like Magical Love Polygon Warfare.

Thoughts: Hey guys… guys… hey. Psst.  Did you know that this is the Ruined World? Now, did you also know that there are factions at war with each other in this Ruined World? Betcha didn’t know, huh? Thank god we found a pristine location for a school campus. It comes with everything, even a sparkling pool with water supplied by… uh… Ruined Water Co., yeah! And the hallways are beautifully well-kept with ornate picture frames on the wall and everything! And a spiral staircase! You could hardly imagine that there’s literally a war raging on the outside, and that the rest of Tokyo is in ruins! Oh don’t worry, nobody will ever attack the school ’cause, uh, they just won’t. They’d rather recruit the students after they’ve gone through years of instruction and indoctrination from the good guys rather than just right off the bat. It just makes more sense that way, duh.

Hmm, is there anything else to say…? …heh, aren’t boobs funny?

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Samurai Flamenco Ep. 14

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Episode summary: Not only did Masayoshi’s impromptu announcement ruffle some government feathers, it also caused city-wide panic as people desperately tried to escape Tokyo’s boundaries. Masayoshi is forced to make another video urging people to stay calm and rely on the police for help and protection. When the fateful day arrives, our heroes are initially overwhelmed by the From Beyond monsters until Joji returns to action. Oh and he brought friends too. In the end, our heroes were successful in repelling all but one of the enemy forces. The final “monster” then requests a private, face-to-face meeting with Masayoshi. When our hero complies, it is no other than From Beyond’s Beyond Flamenco! Oh yeah, it’s Masayoshi’s brother.

Thoughts: The Super Sentai stuff kinda became popular around the time when Japan had just successfully rebuilt itself from its post-war condition. Everything seemed so rosy. Japanese industries were on the rise, there were plenty of jobs, Japan was regaining international respect, etc. To reflect this, the Super Sentai heroes were just brimming with optimism. Teamwork! Yes, that’s right. Such a simple ethos would be the key to tackling all of the country’s problems… manifested as silly costumed monsters, of course.

Somewhere along the way, the bubble burst. We don’t need to get into an extensive history lesson or anything, but teamwork and, more important, hard work weren’t going to suffice. There are just factors simply outside your control, so bad things can happen to good people no matter how much we fight it. Maybe that’s when people got cynical. I don’t know. Seeing as how I’m not a Japanese citizen, I can only draw parallels. There has been a recent trend in my own American culture to… how should I say this… “darken up” our superheroes. Everything is meaner, grittier, harsher, etc. Superheroes are less colorful, there are more shades of grey, you get the picture. Basically, superheroes are not ideal. They became as flawed as you or me.

You can sort of see this strain of cynicism attempting to rear its ugly head in Samurai Flamenco. No, it’s not from the monsters themselves. The cynicism actually lies in the hearts of men… as corny as that may sound. When faced with adversity, how will most people react? Are they going to look out for themselves? That’s certainly what the members of the Diet did. Plus, there are traffic jams all across Tokyo’s highways because everyone’s scrambling to save themselves. So there’s the cynicism. The question now is whether or not this cynicism can handle Super Sentai logic.

You have sixty thousand monsters aiming to attack the entire nation. What do you do? Cynically, there’s probably nothing you can do. We only have five heroes, and realistically, how can five heroes fight back against sixty thousand monsters? So again, what do you do? You fight fire with fire. Out of nowhere, heroes of old reappear to save Japan from the brink of destruction. Joji tells us, “In reality, your superheroes were always fighting. To teach viewers courage and the meaning of justice! No matter how many enemies there are… No matter how strong evil is… Just remember… Does any [other] country have so many heroes?”

Isn’t this quaint sort of optimism rather adorable? He’s not just talking about the Super Sentai heroes of old, though he kinda is. Basically, the Super Sentai series never went anywhere nor are they ever going to go anywhere. They have become an undeniable fixture of Japanese culture, its legacy living on forever in future stories. No matter what happens, no matter how cynical we get, the Super Sentai series will always be there for us to watch and enjoy. Ehh, okay, is this show just one giant product placement then? Not really. The real optimism can be found in the last sentence I quoted. Yeah, Japan has a lot of heroes! Japan’s heroes are its own people. This is why, when Joji and his gang showed up, the police got a boost in morale to continue resisting the From Beyond monsters.

It’s silly and it’s “unrealistic,” but I think a lot of viewers are missing the forest for the trees. No matter what happens to Japan or its people, these superhero tales will always be there to inspire. And of course it’s unrealistic. And of course, in terms of pure storytelling, you might want a hero with pathos. You might want a hero with relatable flaws that render him or her human like you or me. But the point is, the Super Sentai shows can never die just like Joji will never truly retire, because they represent an ideal. And ideals are perhaps necessarily unrealistic, because ideals also exist as something we should aim for even if it’s realistically unattainable.

There are a lot of problems facing Japan right now just like how there are a lot of monsters facing the Flamengers. We can look out for just numero uno and say, “C’mon, I’m just being realistic!” Or, we can try to emulate our superheroes of the past and fight on. Even if we fail. Is Samurai Flamenco a parody? Nah. It’s just a love letter. A love letter in a post-post-post-war Japan. Of course it’s going to be rosy, but every love letter is rosy even when times are tough. And it’s silly and kind of stupid at the same time, but y’know, optimism itself can be silly and kinda stupid at times. But… it’s optimism.

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2 thoughts on “01/23/14 Odds & Ends: Another week…”

  1. I stopped with Silver Spoon last week myself. Whilst it’s technically a second half in the same vein as Bebop’s second half, it feels more like some unnecessary sequel to something that didn’t really need one. Not enough laughs. Not enough of an insight into farming culture. Not enough story. Just a whole load of meh.

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