PenguinDust (Level 13)

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 Ah, I'll do it later...
 Ah, I'll do it later...
Lazy, lazy, lazy…that’s what I am blaming the delay of this blog on this time.  Well, there is some procrastination as well.  I was hoping to finish a few more shows before settling down to write this, but invariably something would pop up and I’d put it off for another day.  Those excuses piled up and before I knew it, more than a week had passed again.  So, I decided to write something about the shows I had completed now rather than wait until I’m done with the others.  It’s not as if I have a shortage of topics anyway.  I’ll try and talk about four shows today with a brief mention of two ongoing series.  I’m planning on being a bit briefer today because there is a lot to cover.  We’ll see how that goes, of course. 

Soredemo Machi wa Mawatteiru (Yet the Town Keeps Going)

 They don't do windows
 They don't do windows
The first show I’d like to talk about is one from this past Fall season.  Back when people were talking about the upcoming Fall releases, I wrote that Soredemo Machi wa Mawatteiru seemed like it could be funny day-to-day stuff with a touch of romance, plus it has maids.  As it turns out, it was exactly that but I’d add that the comedic elements were much more engaging than what I’d previously perceived.  Honestly, when I heard about it, I thought this show would be on the order of other maid/butler series.  By that I mean the humor would rise from romance anxieties, underwear exposure and a liberal amount of slapstick violence to correct any misdeeds (i.e., peeking, accidental groping, etc…).  And, while there is some slapstick, the later two are actually underplayed or practically non-existent. All in all, I found it very refreshing!  Now, that isn’t to say I don’t love a good pratfall following an accidental panty glimpse, but discovering something that departs from the norm is enjoyable in its own way.  

 Hotori is the main maid
 Hotori is the main maid
The best way for me to describe Soredemo Machi wa Mawatteiru is it plays like a sitcom.  Most of the humor comes from the characters just being themselves and interacting with each other.  The set up and punch lines flow with a subtlety that makes it feel very natural.  Other slice-of-life comedies like Lucky Star can be very aware of themselves and even a bit too “smart” for their own benefit.  That isn’t the case here perhaps due to the brevity of each story.  Each episode is comprised of three smaller stories usually unrelated to each other.  In fact, an order of events is not strictly adhered to throughout.  The anecdotes within each show are from the manga with chapter and volume displayed alongside title.  Hence, it was easy to spot if some new sketch occurred chronologically prior to an earlier story.  The format works to the show’s advantage, because it fabricates a sense of intimate voyeurism between the audience and the characters.  I don’t mean that in a salacious way, either.  I felt as if I was just another customer in the café who happened to be privy to the goings-on between the cast.  

 Kon - Harue - Sanada
 Kon - Harue - Sanada
I guess I should say something about the who and what of it all.  The setting of Soredemo Machi wa Mawatteiru is a maid’s café for the most part although it isn’t chained to that locale.  In fact my favorite story took place in a laundry mat where the girls took shelter during a rain storm. The principle character, Hotori Arashiyama is a lazy, whiny, clumsy high school girl who works at the Seaside Café.  She’s also not too bright even though she tries in her own fashion.  Much to the frustration of her math teacher, Natsuhiko Moriaki, she’d rather read mystery novels than study for her exams, and ironically, as much as she detests the subject she develops a crush on him. Toshiko Tatsuno, her best friend, also works at the café.  She decided to apply on a whim when she discovered that her crush, Hiroyuki Sanada, who himself has a secret crush on Hotori frequented the establishment.  It’s not School Rumble as far relationship complexities go, but it took me a moment to get straight in my head.  Futaba Kon and Harue Haribara complete the female quartet of friends.

 Best friend, Toshiko
 Best friend, Toshiko
This show probably isn’t going to appeal to everyone, but I found it wonderfully different.  It isn’t for those seeking fast action, moral dilemmas, or buoyant fetishism (the latter being a personal favorite of mine).  It is instead a light, affectionate comedy replete with seemingly meaningless happenings collectively combined to an uplifting narrative.  If you’re in the mood for something pleasant, then I’d recommend Soredemo Machi wa Mawatteiru.


Shinryaku! Ika Musume (Invasion! Squid Girl)

  Moé  personified
  Moé  personified
Okay, I admit it.  What drew me to this comedy was its pronounced moé-ness. The character design, especially from the main heroine, trumpets cuteness.  And, if there was an award for most adorable protagonist of 2010, Ika Musume would win hands down.  She is irresistibly charming.  Moreover, she manages to avoid becoming too much the stereotype by fostering a handful of playfully devilish traits.  After all, she is an invader from the sea seeking to conquer the surface world and punish humanity for abusing the oceans.  If I may interject, “kawaii!!”.  Ika wants to be taken seriously as a threat to human civilization, but she gets sidetracked by her good nature and positive attitude.  

 Squid Girl's made new friends!
 Squid Girl's made new friends!
The premise of Shinryaku! Ika Musume is as I’ve described it above.  Ika Musume, “Squid Girl”, swam up from the sea and stepped out onto the beach of a seasonal Japanese resort town with the intent of subduing humankind and dominating over them like a cruel and despotic empress, but the best laid plans of mice and squids sometimes go awry. When she demands that the customers of the Lemon Beach House snack shack kneel before their new overlord (Zod?!), she is believed to be just an over-imaginative cosplayer. Eiko Aizawa, one of the proprietors of the café reprimands her outside for disturbing the customers, and in the process of convincing her of her squidly sincerity, Ika accidentally puts a hole through the wall of the building.  Chizuru, Eiko’s older sister and co-worker at the shop suggests she now work off the debt for repairs at the Lemon Beach House.  Beneath her benign and maternal façade, Chizuru emits a frightening aura and some astonishing martial arts abilities which convince Ika to accept her new position.  Squid Girl puts her scheme for world domination on hold in order to waitress and bus tables.  

 Bow down, human scumbags
 Bow down, human scumbags
The 12 episode series follows a format similar to Soredemo Machi wa Mawatteiru in that each show is comprised of three smaller tales; however Shinryaku! Ika Musume seems to evolve in a more orderly manner.  New characters and the events surrounding resurface in later mini-sodes continuing their stories.  The comedy is more traditional than Soredemo but that’s okay since it fits the style of the genre.  The familiar isn’t a negative when it’s executed well.  When it was over, I felt satisfied with the experience, but I wasn’t longing for more from these characters.  That isn’t to say I wouldn’t enjoy a second season if it appeared.  I guess I am noncommittal on the subject.  There are a lot of shows desperately in need of a return season, but this isn’t one of them.  I had a good time watching Squid Girl and company and would recommend it for those seeking an exceptionally sweet comedy.
 

 
 

Tantei Opera Milky Holmes (Detective Opera Milky Holmes)

At some point I started watching Mobile Fighter G Gundam.  I’m a little more than two-thirds through it and I hope to write something about it next blog. Ah, my back log is certainly starting to pile up considering I still haven’t touched on Ranma ½ or finished my reports on Ah, My Goddess and Urusei Yatsura as promised.  

 Milky Holmes detectives
 Milky Holmes detectives
Anyway, I took a break in the middle of G Gundam to watch this fascinating detective comedy.  I say “fascinating” because I can’t quite figure out the targeted audience for this title.  However, perhaps the answer is ashamedly before me since I wound up liking it much more than I anticipated.  Tantei Opera Milky Holmes is a whole multimedia franchise in Japan with collectible card games, video games, manga, and a radio drama available for the fanbase to enjoy.  I didn’t know any of that before I started watching.  Like always, I dived in expecting one thing and, much to my delight, found another.  I looked at the images for the show and thought it would be a moé version of Detective Conan.  I still believe a little more of that would have improved the quality of this show, but I still liked enough elements to feel it was worth the effort.  I know I sound a bit tentative, but there are a few reasons for this.  Milky Holmes has more in common with Koihime Musou than any mystery series.  In other words, it’s about pretty girls having goofy adventures, fighting surmountable foes and believing in each other and the friendship they share.  Group hug, everyone!  Honestly, Squid Girl has more depth but there were a couple of attributes which captured my focus throughout.  

 Arsene and her gang
 Arsene and her gang
Arsene is a “gentleman thief”.  With catlike grace and cunning equal to a military strategist, she executes elaborate capers in pursuit of the world’s most valuable treasures.  She leads a team of bandits prowling the night always one step ahead of justice.  It is the mission of detective team, Milky Holmes to protect society from her expert criminality.  Four resourceful teenage girls who with the aid of their powerful “toys” intend to capture her and bring them all before the law and judgment.  That is the duty of a “master detective”.  At least that’s how things were supposed to work in theory.  However, misfortune has a way of subverting even the most noble of intentions.  In the first episode, the quartet lose their “toys”, their position of entitlement at the Holmes Detective Academy, and the respect of their peers.  For all practical purposes, “toys” are superpowers.  Sherlock "Sheryl" Shellingford (Milky Pink) is the agreed leader of the team, however Cordelia Glauca (Milky Blue) issues most of the group’s directions.  Telekinesis and enhanced perception are their toys respectively. Nero Yuzurizaki is the tomboy type with the power to control machines.  Finally, shy Hercule "Elly" Barton is granted Herculean strength by her toy.  Without the use of their special abilities, the foursome find themselves to be outcasts sharing a single bed in the leaky attic of the academy.  Despite their past record they would have been expelled with the loss of their toys, however Henriette Mystere, the buxom student council president, spoke on their behalf and won them temporary relief from exile.  

 Henriette and her fellow students and staff
 Henriette and her fellow students and staff
I said earlier that there were a few elements nestled within this archetypical moé adventure-comedy that captivated.  The four teammates themselves are locked in their roles of perky-but-clumsy Sheryl, maternal Cordelia, energetic-but-stubborn Nero and bashful Elly.  They’re cute but mostly uninteresting because they progress in a well established manner.  Except for an episode where they were each possessed by the spirits of their great ancestors, I never cared too much about them.  Henriette Mystere, Arsene and her followers, Stone River, Twenty, & Rat are the ones that purloined my attention during the course of the show.  I will admit that at their core, they too are stereotypical in many regards, but they’re the uncommon type on commonality.  In other words, once you see them, you know what character type they personify, but that type isn’t as over exposed as the Milky Holmes girls.  For me that means male narcissists who fondle their own nipples in public while striping down to a thong haven’t yet reached saturation.  

 The beautiful and bewitching Arsene
The beautiful and bewitching Arsene
At the start of this section I wondered who this anime is for?  The vast majority of it plays like something geared toward the Sailor Moon crowd, but it always manages to toss in a few lewd sexual references to mix things up.  On top of that there is Arsene herself and her bountiful figure.  While the team of Milky Holmes remains largely pure…well, “pure” as it’s defined in a moé series (there is a beach episode), Arsene’s bust bounces with the resilience of Superball.  It’s even a major plot point.  I am unashamedly transfixed by a gravity defying boing-boing, so that might explain my juvenile affinity for the show, but for the rest of polite society, I’m unclear on how you build a multimedia property from this awkward fusion of the risqué and childishness.  It reminds me of Needless; however Needless was conspicuously a parody of the sub-genre.  Tantei Opera Milky Holmes is what it is with all the myopic sincerity it can exploit.  

I might sound a bit harsh in that last statement, and as I’ve stated numerously, I enjoyed the show.  Perhaps it was that barely achieved balance of contradictions that softened by opinion.  Or maybe I was in a good mood when I watched it.  Whatever the reason is, I kind of want to see it again someday.  Oh, and in case you're curious most of the cast are named after famous fictional detectives and thieves.

And now, as they say, for something completely different.


Rideback

 Who says ladies can't drive mechs?  Not me...honest.
 Who says ladies can't drive mechs?  Not me...honest.
The truth of the matter is I watched this series a while ago, but am just now getting around to profiling it.  I started this series when I was looking for a break from the significant comedies I enjoy.  I wanted something “techy” but also unfamiliar.  That meant no Macross, Gundam, or other well known franchises.  What ultimately convinced me to give it a chance was the main protagonist.  You don’t see too many girls piloting giant robots in anime, and this one was able to retain her femininity and independence.  I’m not saying it’s unheard of as I’ve commented on Jo of Burst Angel, Mylene & Milia Jenius of Macross, and the voluptuous pilots of Divergence Eve in past blogs.  Hell, Allenby Beardsley is kickin’ ass in a sailor-suited giant robot in my current show, G Gundam.  Then there’s Gunbuster, Patlabor, Vandread, Godannar, Melissa Mao from Full Metal Panic!, Eureka and Anemone from E7, the replacement pilots of Nadesico, Rei, Asuka, and Mari of Evangelion.  Hmm, and that’s just off the top of my head.  Okay, it was a stupid statement and I’m a moron.  Well, no surprises there.  Still, I did find Rin Ogata to be a unique character unlike any of the other female pilots I’ve mentioned.  

 Rin dances again
 Rin dances again
Rideback takes place in the near future familiar to most anime fans.  It’s modern day Japan with a few more robots wandering the streets and a touch of civil unrest kept in check by any number of corporate oppressors.  For the most part, people go about there daily lives with the same hopes and dreams that they do today,  The only real difference is their access to a few more advanced tech-toys.  Following in the footsteps of her mother, Rin aspires to be a world-class ballerina and through her own considerable talents, she achieves some fame on stage.  Dancing before an audience is her world.  Tragically, she suffers a serious injury while performing and gives up ballet.  Depressed by the twist of fate, she returns to college and meets up with a childhood friend, Shouko Uemura who becomes her roommate.  The two encounter an enthusiastic fan of Rin’s stage life in Suzuri Uchida, a fellow student at the university.  

One rainy evening while wandering around on campus, Rin ducks into a small warehouse after spotting someone drive off on an odd looking motorcycle.  Inside she spots another vehicle and is taken by the aesthetic grace of its design.  She learns from Haruki Hishida, a second year student that the machines are called Ridebacks.  They are sort of a cross between a motorcycle and a robot.  They have legs and arms, but can transform into a more standard cycle contour.  The rider sits onto as if receiving a “piggyback” ride from the transport.  The university has a club for Ridebacks and after impressing the club’s president, Tamayo Kataoka (a national champion rider) she joins the club.  The unconventional design of the vehicle allows her to dance again.  But, Rin soon finds herself pulled deeper into a world of chaos and rebellion as events out of her control push her towards tragedy.

The Grand Jeté, a high leap in classical ballet, performed from atop her machine
The Grand Jeté, a high leap in classical ballet, performed from atop her machine

 Tamayo - Haruki - Suzuri - Shouko
 Tamayo - Haruki - Suzuri - Shouko
Rideback is a very engaging story.  As I alluded to above, Rin isn’t like most armored mech pilots.  She’s a dancer not a fighter and exhibits no combat ability beyond her spectacular talent of control.  Time and time again, she tries to do the right thing but unforeseen consequences bedevil her decisions and lead to more trouble.  I felt like she was desperately trying to get out, but fate wouldn’t allow it.  She radiates a delicate vulnerability while also strength of purpose as she strives to save those dear to her and understand herself.  

I would definitely recommend this one to fans of action and the cyberpunk genre.  The series isn’t too long and wraps up nicely.  There is a lot of classical music in the soundtrack, too.  

Wow, well that brings this expanded blog to a close.  I want to say that I also watched the “Tower of Heaven” and “Fighting Festival” story arcs of Fairy Tail and Bleach 266 to 278 where the Visored finally show up above Karakura.  With that I will leave you with the video for "DOWN TOWN" by Maaya Sakamoto from Soredemo Machi wa Mawatteiru.  It’s very jazzy.
  
  
  On a side note: currently there is no page for Tantei Opera Milky Holmes on AV (none that I could find at least).
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