Gate – Episodes 8 & 9

So here it is, the nationalistic overtones that I was warned about.  The politics of Gate aside, what really bothers me is that the show has lost it’s narrative.

The Good:

If there has there ever been a main character that is divorced in an anime I have seen, I don’t remember it.  The break up was caused by Itami choosing duty over his relationship, which adds another layer to him.  In episode 8 we find out that he is Special Forces, and in 9 we find out he is friends with the defence minister.  However, the failed relationship tells us more about the man and his priorities.  Frankly, the “Itami is really a badass” shtick is getting old.

The Bad:

Itami is the only one we are really learning anything about.  What was an interesting group dynamic has morphed into a more traditional harem show.  The girls are mostly replaceable side characters.  This is an unfortunate turn in the story, and the series has become the Itami show since they returned to Japan.  The last two episodes have been bloated by unnecessary scenes.  The Diet scene in episode 8 was pointless, except to show that at least the perception of our politicians as grandstanding idiots is something the US and Japan have in common.  Still, contrived as it was, the dressing down the Diet member received (did it have to be a woman?) was somewhat satisfying.  The shopping scene in episode 9 was similarly pointless.  If you needed filler you could have made the dragon battle last longer a few episodes ago.  Even better, you could spend some time on fleshing out someone other than Itami.

The Ugly:

Ah, politics.  The Diet scene aside, the interesting political message was the show’s statement about the Japanese Military.  I found it interesting that with Russia, China, and the US all playing close attention to what was going on with the “Special Region,” only the US has taken military action.  The commentary that the US raiders didn’t expect the Japanese units to “be this good” was ridiculous.  US Army Special Forces helped Japan form their SFG.  They are well aware of how well trained they are.  (They are well trained, by all accounts).  Somebody apparently has a complex.  The Japanese generally trusts the US, and do not trust China, so I thought this was an odd plot choice.  Any country with a decent military force would be deadly on their home turf, so I viewed the message as “we are just as good as you” and not a declaration of Japanese superiority.  However, I can see how some would take it that way.

Gate has lost its way at the moment.  There is plenty of room for good a story here, but wasting time on sideshows (I can’t even call it filler) and petty nationalism is not helping.  Gate is running out of time to tell a compelling story this season.  Hopefully, they’ll stop messing around and get serious..


Gate – Episode 7

Now we know the answer (in case there was any doubt)

Gate mostly took a break from any serious storytelling or characterizations this week to have some fun with the new world. Yes, Sergeant, there are indeed catgirls. In fact there are catgirl maids.   I’m really surprised at the reaction or non-reaction that the show is getting from review sites and blogs.  Theron Martin is doing the review for ANN, which generally means that all people are expecting from the show is going to be the pantsu shots.  This week, though, Gate does indulge its pervy side a bit.  This was harmless enough, and not nearly as creepy as Rory’s orgasmic response to the violence in episode 6.  The one thing we did learn was the Itami is Ranger qualified.  Japanese Ranger School is based on the US Ranger School, meaning that, even in military circles, Itami is a bit of a badass. (the other notable anime character that was a JSDF Ranger is Batou in Ghost in the Shell).  Obviously, next episode will treat us to everyone’s reactions to modern Tokyo, and hopefully we will get a little plot as well.  Things has been a little light on story lately.

Caution, Mini Rant:

Something that has bothered me about the reactions I have seen online to the show, is the number of people talking about military fetishism or labeling it propaganda.  As a veteran, I find this really irritating.  Gate has actually been pretty light on military details.  There haven’t been any of the kind of technical breakdowns of tactics or military equipment that would have a military otaku drooling, and the motives of the Japanese government have been ambiguous at best.  What Gate does seem to show is a modern military conducting itself in a professional manner.  The JSDF depictions in Gate could easily be Australia, Canada, the US, France, or any number of countries.  I am getting the impression that people feel that the show is portraying the JSDF soldiers in too positive a light, and that pisses me off.  The soldiers in Gate thus far, minus the silly Apocalypse Now references, have acted very similar to how my unit acted in Kosovo.  I am not sure how they really expect the JSDF to act.  They aren’t going to rape and pillage their way through the newly discovered world, they are professional soldiers.  Whatever bias is at play here, it stinks.  Its hard to read stuff like that and not respond emotionally the way I would if someone said “That depiction is off.  That character is way too well mannered to be (insert race here).”

My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU Too – Episode 13 and Season Review

Disclaimer: The first part of this post is going to talk about the final episode, so if you are worried about spoilers and just want my overall review of SNAFU Too, please scroll down.

Episode 13: So it’s halfway into the summer season and I am just getting around to discussing the last episode. While it’s true that I have been busy, it’s also true that I have been putting this off a bit. As much as episode 12 was a fluff ball, this episode was heavy.

Imagine Yui’s dilemma: You like someone, but they have been burnt in the past and won’t open up to anyone.  Over the course of a year, you manage to stay close enough to this turbulent and sometimes abrasive personality that they finally start opening up to you.  Unfortunately, at almost the same time he starts showing an interest in spending time with you, you also notice some awkward chemistry between him and your best friend.  Your best friend, for her part, is another awkward social disaster who also can’t make her own decisions. You’ve been holding things up a bit because you feel bad for her, but you liked him first.  You’ve been waiting for almost a year for him to open up and now he looks like he may be falling for your friend.  So what do you do?  Well, you need to stay true to yourself and that’s what Yui does.  She sets up one last day together.  A nice three way date to the aquarium.  After savoring their friendship for as long as she can, Yui does something she nows might smash it to pieces. Looking serious and trembling, she gives Hachiman her homemade cookies and gives Yukino an ultimatum.  “If we each find out how the other feels, I don’t think we’ll be able to stay the way we are.  So this will be the last help we give.”  In other words, Yui isn’t going to hold back anymore. If Yukino isn’t going to try to get closer to Hachiman on her own, Yui isn’t going to keep giving her space. “If I win, I’ll take everything.”  After Yui asks if that is OK, Yukino starts to cave, as Yui knew she would (that’s why she says it’s unfair).  Hachiman steps in and says that Yukino has to make her own decisions.  Yui knew he would say something and in doing so he saves the girls relationship for the moment.  It’s a beautiful scene, but is also just “kicks the can down the road.” Nothing is really resolved here.  Yui likes Hachiman and Yukino likes Hachiman.  Hachiman likes them both.  The only thing that has changed is that Yui isn’t going to prop up her friend anymore and help her take the heart of the guy she loves.  Yui has told her that she is giving her cookies to Hachiman, whether or not Yukino has the guts to give him what’s in her bag.  And then ED starts.

This is the problem with this season, and it was the problem of the first season as well.  The show just stops.  This isn’t an ending.  It is doubtful whether we will ever get an ending.  Perhaps someone is planning a movie or something, but it doesn’t seem like there is enough left in this story for another whole season.  If this was supposed to be an open ending, it was a very unsatisfying one.  Another issue is that the final scene was very open to interpretation.  I’ve given my impression of the scene, but there are other explanations that also have merit.  That kind of ambiguity is a sour note to end the show on.

Season Review:

The way the season ended was really a downer for me. SNAFU Too spent most of the season being good or even great, but the last scene was convoluted. Even worse, it didn’t actually wrap things up in any way. “Everything will be different now, but we aren’t going to show you that, because the show is over.” What they did they largely did well. Things did get a bit rushed in the last few episodes, and that was even more aggravating considering that they were rushed to fit in this non-ending, but the quality if the show is still high. I like this show and I really want it to be good in the end. A well done ending will elevate this into a contender for one of my all-time favorites. As it stands though, it’s just a very good show. That might be good enough if the potential for greatness wasn’t so strong with this one.

9 out of 10

The State of the Service Club:

I already gave my interpretation of the ending scene. So here, taking the LNs into account is where I think things stand.

Hachiman is opening up to the idea that Yui likes him. I don’t think he loves her yet, but he is open to dating and spending time alone with her. He is also crushing on Yukino. Yukino’s big advantage over Yui is that she needs him. That’s powerful stuff. The two are so awkward though that it’s hard to see a way forward for them.

Yui‘s gambit placed the ball squarely in Hachiman’s court, so what she will do next is a bit of a mystery. Despite her declaration, I have a hard time imagining what her going all out to win Hachiman’s affection will look like. His verbal rescue of Yukino was a setback, even if she expected it. Given how awkward he gets when Iroha toys with him. It is hard to imagine our protag holding out against a sustained effort by Yui during a date.

Yukino has a lot on her plate. In addition to her family troubles, she has to be aware of her feelings for Hachiman at this point. To avoid heartbreak, she will have to move forward and be honest with herself. She can’t rely on her best friend for too much help, as she is a rival for the affection she desires.

Iroha is the wildcard. She’s a cute girl with a crush on Hachiman (I think it’s fairly obvious now) who is comfortable enough and direct enough to make a move at any time. She might make a move in response to Yui or Yukino or she might not. (in volume 10.5 of the novels, which wasn’t adapted, she cons him into taking her on a date.) Even if the other girls were content to keep things as they are, she will provide the pressure to keep things moving.


What I Am Watching, Summer 2015 Edition


I realize that my military experience colors my assessment, but I am really enjoying Gate so far this season. In fact, it is the only new anime I am following closely. Here is why.

Depictions of modern soldiers tend to fall into a few distinct categories: Badasses, Goofs, and Mopes. There is an element of truth to each of these, but for the most part soldiers aren’t that different from everyone else. Lt Itami and his crew touch all the usual military tropes, grizzled sarge, goofball, overeager, caring medic, etc. without making them seem like caricatures. This is refreshing in any medium, but is particularly surprising in anime, where traits are so often exaggerated.

Spend any amount of time in the army and you won’t feel like a badass. Trying to be a “Hollywood” style toughie will get you called out in a real military unit in heartbeat, because those guys get people killed. Goofs, while they exist, do not get the kind of free reign that shows like MASH or other military comedies might like you to believe, because they also can get somebody killed. Mopes also exist, but that “brooding presence commenting on the futility of war” shtick is generally reserved for the kind of downtime that most shows stay away from (for good reason, it’s boring as hell).

There is a flipside though, that most shows never touch on. The army is full of geeks. I could always get a game of Magic the Gathering in the barracks and during any given downtime, a group of guys in my Company would be watching anime. I remember once being completely bewildered by a conversation in the motor pool until I realized that the two guys in question were discussing an MMO video game.  Geeky guys with a military fetish that get picked on in school join the military in droves. Itami and his driver are some of the most realistic military personalities I have ever seen on screen.

This solid foundation holds the rest of the show up.  The goth loli, perpetually blushing elf, and background political scheming have yet to materialize into something really interesting, but I am enjoying the recon team’s adventures in the strange land enough for now.  Hopefully the rest of the series will strengthen some of the weaker links.  Gate has a lot of potential, but even if it doesn’t reach great heights, I give it high marks for it’s down to earth depictions of a modern military unit.


Well, This Was Unexpected


So, I got nominated by ignite18@MarvelouslyMismatched. Thank you.  The catch is, she gets to ask me some qustions.  So I decided to take a break from my mound of work to be done and answer them.  Here we go.

  1. If you could hang out with one anime character for year who would it be and why? Hmmm, I would probably hang out with Rokuro Okajima (Rock) from Black Lagoon.  Such an interesting setting, such an interesting guy, and a WW2 PT boat.  Awesome.
  2. What anime would you love to see remade or touched up? I would love to see Ninja Scroll redone as a TV series.  Kibagame Jubei was a great character and the setting was fun.  It would be nice to see it done for TV with less sexual assault and more time for intrigue.  I’d also like to see Bubblegum Crisis redone, but it was already redone, so…
  3. What anime food would you die for?  This question is the one that stumped me, but I’ll go with some of Hachiken’s Pizza from Silver Spoon.  All those fresh handcrafted ingredients enjoyed outside in Hokkaido.  Makes my mouth water just thinking about it.  (It’s worth noting that although I’ve read Shokugeki no Souma, I’ve yet to watch it.  I might have been swayed by one of those incredible dishes.)
  4. If you weren’t into anime what would you be into? Probably music.  I have a Musicman Bass sitting in the corner of my living room constantly mocking me.  I’ve promised myself that when I complete some of my current projects I’ll get back to plucking out some bass lines.
  5. Which anime character would you marry if you could and why? Generally, I stay away from Waifu questions and statements, but I’ll make an exception here.  (Don’t tell my wife)   I am attracted to strong women, which is both a blessing and a curse.  I can list a number of confident and sexy anime characters who would be almost irresistible in real life.  The top spot goes to Shizuka Hiratsuka (sensei from My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU).  OK, Hachiman, I’ll marry her already!  Smart, tender, a great worldview, beautiful, and that car, rawr.  We’d have to work on the smoking though.
  6. What anime character from what anime made a difference to you? How did this character affect you?  Ranma Saotome.  Wait! Don’t leave! I can explain! You see, I found Ranma 1/2 at a time when I was questioning everything.  I had been raised in a very close minded, religious household.  Without going in to personal details, in my late teens I had found there was much more to the world than I had ever noticed before.  My xenophobic upbringing was clashing against a newfound curiosity and I found myself trying to balance two very opposed world views.  Although books of Herman Hesse had a bigger impact, Ranma’s struggles with his own duality and the constant stream of change in Furinkan made an impression as well.  It might sound strange, but Ranma’s “bring it on” mentality and his willingness to use (and abuse) his duality was oddly inspiring.  I was encouraged to dive further down the rabbit hole instead of seeking solace in a smaller, simpler, xenophobic world.  So here we are, pushing 40 and still playing with plastic army men and watching shows geared toward teenagers in another country.  Thanks Ranma.
  7. What anime character would you get in deep trouble with and why? What would you do to earn the anger of everybody or get yourselves in a situation you can’t see yourselves getting out of? Koyomi Araragi from Bakemonogatari, his destructive predisposition towards self-sacrifice would reinforce similar issues I have.  Add in all the supernatural attention and a harem that could be the end of any mortal being and I could see things going very wrong indeed.

Disclaimer:  As with any questions of this type, ask me on a different day and you may well get a different answer.  I might decide to hang out with Major Kusanagi, remake Armored Trooper Votoms, eat any dish from Wagnaria, get into photography, marry Erica Blandeli or Ayaka Kagari, wax poetic about Spike Speigel, and follow my base desires to my destruction with Akeno Himejima.  These answers are a snapshot in time.


My Apologies

A quick post to apologize for the lack of posts.  I’ve been very busy lately and probably will be for the near future.  I will be back to tie up loose ends at some point though.  Full reviews for SNAFU and Sound! as well as an overall spring season review.  Hopefully I can get them done in time for them to still be relevant.  I’m also hoping to do a post on the new Dark Angels codex for Warhammer 40k.  Now I have to get back to work!




Sound! Euphonium – Episode 12


Sound! is back with its best episode so far this season.  Kumiko’s struggle was compelling and beautiful.  I’ll be sad to see this series end.  It’s been a joy to watch.

General thoughts:

Taki-sensei was back in character after losing his confidence over the last two episodes.  His actions toward Kumiko fit better with his no nonsense approach in the earlier episodes than his shrugging of responsibility the last couple of weeks.

Shuuichi is still hovering at the fringes, making me wonder if this will still reverse course on the girls romance in the future.

Natsuki was great in her only scene.  Give us more please.  Can she pick on the the bow-haired girl every week?

Reina and Kumiko didn’t interact too much, except to show that Reina is ready to be there for Kumiko just like Kumiko was for her.

Learning how to work hard and pushing through your own barriers is something that every teen needs to learn.  I didn’t, and I drifted aimlessly for years relying on natural abilities instead of work ethic.  Even seeing even a fictional character find the drive to push herself is inspiring to me.  I only wish I had found that drive sometime before my late 20s.

There isn’t a lot to say this week.  I can’t frame the episode better than it did itself.  If for some reason you are reading this and haven’t watched it yet.  Go watch it now.


My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU Too – Episode 12

This was not what I was expecting since we burnt through a bunch of material so that this could get animated. This was RomCom 101 stuff. I considered watching the episode again and taking notes so I would have enough to say here, but I decided to roll with it.

General thoughts:

So it’s Valentines Day! Cue some domestic chocolate stuff and some flirting. This episode wasn’t bad, it just wasn’t up to the standard the show has set this season.  This felt more like an indulgent OVA.

Yui is obviously aware that Yukino is crushing on Hachiman and seems to be pulling back for her friends sake. I’m not sure Yui thinks she is good enough for Hachiman.  I still think that any of the 3 girls would be good for Hachiman.

Yukino is so off balance right now I’m surprised she can stand up for more than 5 seconds at a time. It would be cute to watch if her mom and sister weren’t messing with her.  She’s turning into a beautiful disaster.

Congrats on being a harem protag Hachiman, too bad this isn’t the kind of fan service laden show where you actually maintain a harem. These girls are going to tear your heart out before this is over.

It was interesting that this was the first show that I hadn’t read the source material for and I didn’t like it as much as the other episodes. It makes me wonder how much my reading has colored my earlier perceptions.

I’ve given Haruna the benefit of the doubt to this point, but now she is starting to seem vindictive. I understand that not all siblings get along, but you should not enjoy being cruel to your sister like that.

I’m getting a White Album 2 feel from things here. I’m starting to doubt that there will be a happy ending. Haruna and her mom have a final boss feel to them and I don’t see how Hachiman can help Yukino at the moment.


Sound! Euphonium – Episode 11

If this was a girl and a guy, would there be any question?
If this was a girl and a guy, would there be any question?

A Note about Last Episode:

Episode 10 was a divisive episode for the anime community. Many people were disappointed in a perceived shift away from a possible romance between Kumiko and Reina. Personally, I thought the episode had other issues, and I was not convinced that the romance was necessarily dead. However, I thought that the yuri angle deserved some extra discussion.

On the surface, Japan can seem to be fairly open minded when it comes to LGBT issues. In practice though, from what I have heard from a number of sources including people who live there, is that anything other than having the “normal” husband, wife, and kids family is not really culturally acceptable. Same sex relationships are considered by manyin Japan to be youthful dalliances and are expected to be outgrown by responsible people. I touch on this a little in this post, but in some cases, a wider cultural context is needed to understand where an anime is coming from. Sound! captured my attention in part because it seemed like a departure from this cultural norm, and seemed to be a case where a same sex relationship would be played straight and not for laughs or fan service. LGBT characters have been in anime for decades, but they are rarely (never, afaik) shown in actual relationships. Little details, like the red string in the ending, got me wondering and episode 8 looked like confirmation (it still does if viewed on its own).

Of course, this information forms the core of the counter argument as well, which I’ve basically heard related as “It was foolish to think that this was ever going to be a yuri relationship anyway.” The source material, from what I’ve heard, doesn’t have the two brassy (sorry, couldn’t resist) youngsters getting together, and Kyoani is infamous for setting up ships and then not following through. Add this together with the “Lesbianism is something to grow out of” cultural attitude in Japan and it does seem far-fetched that this show was ever going to deliver with a real same sex relationship. Cynical as I am, I still wanted to believe that anime was capable of more than Sakura Trick, but is it fair to hold that against the show?

Yes, I think it is. If this was just a lark on the author’s part (reports have the yuri baiting was even more pronounced in the LN), then I think it does hurt the show considerably. The band drama is not bad, but also nothing particularly special. Where the show has shined is in the nuances of the character interactions. I was looking forward to the complexity and drama that a same sex relationship would bring. Without this element, Sound! becomes just another sports style anime.

On to this Week’s Episode:

This week we some good characterization, some bad plot, and a doubling down on the lesbian romance/baiting. I can’t say that Sound! has redeemed itself, since this little loop seems completely unnecessary. I can say that this episode was better than the last one.

General thoughts:

Asuka is emotionally distant, whether we find out a reason for this or not will be interesting to see. It was interesting to see the club president calling her on copping out on her friends. She has turned out to be a very selfish character. I hope she is confronted about this at some point.

Taki-sensei got away with one here, as Kaori Nakaseko turned down the Trumpet solo. Considering Reina’s feelings for him, I think the show needs to address the fact that he just tried to screw her over. I also thought it was interesting that so few of the band members got involved. I voiced my dislike for this entire plotline last week, and seeing it through does nothing to change my mind. Reina played better, presumably twice, and he still offered the part to Kaori. If this was how things were going to go, why did he have auditions?

Natsuki is turning into quite the character. Her confrontation with the overly emotional bow girl was a good scene. She seems to be taking up Asuka-senpai’s slack. Hazuki and Natsuki are both characters I like that are likely going to be regulated to the sidelines as the show progresses because they didn’t make the cut. That makes me sad.

Reina and Kumiko really do have great chemistry, which just puts more weight on the shoulders of their relationship. As I point out above, I really should be able to believe that they are a couple, but I can’t. The show has thrown enough seeds of doubt around to make me unsure. That in itself is quite depressing.

This week Sound! made up some lost ground, but my doubts about where this is going is hurting my enjoyment of the show. I will have to re-watch the show when it is done to really appreciate some of these scenes. This has the feeling of a friend telling you something when you suspect they are just messing with you. If this is a joke KyoAni, it isn’t funny.


My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU Too – Episode 11

There are two stories occurring in parallel here and there has been for the last couple of episodes. One is the continuing story of Hachiman and how he is maturing, and the second is the budding romance between Hachiman and Yukino. The first story progressed nicely this week, and the second awkwardly progressed as well. Things still seemed rushed, and whether we get original stories or a preview of Volume 11 in these last two episodes. They better be worth the hack job we’ve been getting the last couple of weeks.

General thoughts:

Yukino is being sucked into Hachiman’s orbit. Declaring that she doesn’t care what others think of her if the people close to her understand (while staring at Hachiman). There was also the scene where they stared into each other’s eyes long enough for things to get awkward. For someone so emotionally guarded, falling for someone must be terrifying.

Hachiman for his part is also obviously sinking fast. His internal dialogue during the infirmary stare down would have been a nice way to make that scene a little less awkward, but maybe that’s how they wanted it.

Yui was largely on the sidelines again in this one. The cover of Volume 11 shows her with a very melancholy look on her face.

There are no evil characters in this show, which is a nice change. Miura is a little stuck up, but thought was given to showing to her motivations and weaknesses. (Unfortunately, her motherly scenes were among those that ended up getting cut) The antagonist in this show is inside of the characters themselves. Well, Haruno might be evil, but I suspect she is doing the things she does because she loves her sister.

Hayama is good guy because he wants to be, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a burden. He does envy Hachiman’s ability to work outside of that good guy bubble and still be a good person. This is only because working for the sake of others is a new thing for Hachiman. As the people around him come to depend on him more and more, he will be trapped inside his own bubble, just like Hayama. In the end though, Hayama will put up with the burden of being a good guy, because that’s the price of being who he wants to be.

Iroha, what are you playing at. Flirting with our protag in front of Yukino is playing with fire. If you are just goofing around it’s not worth the danger.