Weekly Round-Up: March 2nd

Sometimes fate can be cruel. For example, I recently spent over £60 on single DVDs of Scrapped Princess, and now a cheap boxset has appeared for around a third of that price. I even looked for a boxset before settling on the singles, and there didn’t seem to be any sign of one. Damn you, Bandai- damn you, I say!

Reviewed this week: Iroha 13-15, Busou Renkin 21, Deltora Quest 3, Kanon 21, Les Miserables 3, Red Garden 17-18

…and in manga: Emma Bangaihen 6, Fate/Stay Night 6, Shana 9, School Rumble, Spiral Alive 2, Tsubasa 145, NHK 33-4, xxxHOLiC vol 10 c2

ANIME

Bakumatsu Kikansetsu Irohanihoheto 13-15: Whilst episode thirteen sees the dramatic conclusion to the mix of stage play and real life events that Soutetsu has orchestrated, episode fourteen takes us on the aftermath, with both Kanna and Akidzuki choosing their next moves. With everything thus in place, fifteen properly commences a fresh arc, with Akidzuki and Kakunojo setting off on a journey together to seal the Lord’s Head- although Kakunojo seems in danger of becoming the stereotypical useless female tag-along at first, matters seem more promising at the conclusion of the episode.

Apart from some irritating funeral chanting at the beginning of episode fourteen (I won’t tell you who died, but suffice to say the chanting erased what little emotion I felt at their passing) and some grating singing in episode fifteen, this is a trio of highly enjoyable episodes, with some well executed action scenes and excellent background music.

Busou Renkin 21: Busou Renkin still seems to be stuck in plot limbo in this episode, resulting in a rather pointless fight between flame user Hiwatari and our heroes, whilst Victor ends up taking on a submarine. I can’t help feeling we could have done without this episode entirely and perhaps had something a bit more relevant to the plot, but then again not having read the manga I don’t really know if the remaining material would fill the last stretch of episodes satisfactorily.

Deltora Quest 3: It’s always a worrying sign when a series has to resort to budget saving stills and recap during its third episode, but that is exactly the fate that befalls Deltora Quest in this instalment. As Lief and Barda face their first real boss in the form of golden armour Gorl, the pace slows to an excruciating crawl as what was meant to be a battle turns into an extended talking session. Oh well, at least this series will be fun to parody when the time comes.

Kanon 21: With no new arcs to come, I’ve finally reached the point in the series where I can stop expecting Kanon to suddenly become good and just enjoy it on the basis of thinking up a parody explanation for what is going on. With Ayu gone, this episode sees Yuuichi finally spend some time with poor, neglected Nayuki, but can one girl ever be enough for a certified harem master? Complete with a car crash ending that initially seemed a little over the top until I saw the video of it happening in real life, Kanon 21 might promise a cliff-hanger to those unfamiliar with the franchise, but the rest of us already know how it will turn out.

Les Miserables Shoujo Cosette 3: As it moves ahead into its third episode, it becomes clear that Les Mis would be a solid and enjoyable series if not for one thing- its painful level of predictability. In this episode, Cosette’s miserable life continues, but at least she and Gavroche are able to make a new friend when they take home a puppy. Naturally, the puppy must be kept a secret from the Thenardiers, which, alongside such plot elements as having to wash Eponine’s favourite blouse which absolutely must not be damaged in any way, ensures that viewers don’t need a degree in theoretical physics to know exactly what is going to happen. Fortunately, this side of the story is at least tempered by the ongoing story of Madeleine/Valjean, who is in for a nasty surprise when old nemesis Inspector Javert becomes the chief of police in his town.

Red Garden 17-18: There are times when I have to wonder just what the entire point of Red Garden is- I call those times “the minutes spent watching Red Garden”. Whilst episode seventeen sees the others eventually find out they will lose their memories in the midst of a sea of pointless angst, eighteen is somehow even less edifying, with Hervé chatting to a restaurant billboard, Lise walking into the sea, and Rose deciding that life with her increasingly irritating siblings is better than blissful forgetfulness. There is a bit more to it than that, but it’s all so dull and needlessly convoluted that it’s actually hard to care, especially when the visuals seem to have lapsed back into ugliness.


MANGA

Emma Bangaihen 6: Bangaihen slips further and further away from the main story as this chapter focuses on minor maid Tasha as she goes home to visit her family and contemplate her future. Once again, as short and vaguely Emma-related stories go, it remains enjoyable, although the ending is a little abrupt.

Fate/Stay Night 6: With its recounting of the beginning of Rin and Archer’s relationship, this chapter certainly makes a refreshing break from the usually Shirou-centric nature of the series, but even so, giving Archer dialogue just demonstrates what an annoying character he is. A fairly innocuous chapter overall- nothing special, but not particularly poor either.

Shakugan no Shana 9: The mediocrity continues as Shana puts the PE teacher in his place (what other fate can someone who messes with the title character expect?), before the story slowly crawls onwards. Perhaps by the end of the volume there’ll actually be some action, but don’t hold your breath.

*CATCH-UP* School Rumble: For one brief, shining moment, I thought the School Rumble manga could take away the taste of the disappointing season two, but unfortunately, I was terribly wrong. Although I had hoped that many of the more pointless and tiresome segments of season two were just filler, far too many of them turned out to be manga material (Akira et al stuck in the floor springs to mind), and it only gets worse as the manga progresses past the anime. With a trip to Kyoto that involves a fight with students visiting from England, and a complete change in character for Eri, this is one series I cannot even recommend to fans of the anime.

Spiral Alive 2: Imari has just learned that Amanae, the most beautiful girl in school, is dating the boy she likes, but this no normal tale of high school romance- someone has just been murdered, and one of Amanae’s music boxes has been left at the scene of the crime. It may not yet be clear what the bigger picture is, but as a prequel to Spiral, excellent artwork and an intriguing story is all but assured.

Tsubasa Chronicle 145: Whilst Syaoran’s fight with Hikaru gets underway (fans of Angelic Layer should at least enjoy this part), we continue to uncover a little more about Sakura’s motivations- having used her slowly returning precognitive power to see a future she wishes to change, she has decided to travel to a specific world alone. Unfortunately, with the Infinity method of crossing worlds unable to determine which world the traveller ends up in, Sakura must also pay Yuuko if she wants to get to her desired destination- and the price is her extraordinary good luck. Somehow, Sakura without her good fortune (aka plot protection) doesn’t seem right, but we’ll just have to wait and see how this turns out.

Welcome to the NHK 33-4: To say that NHK is a series where every character remains stuck in their rut was perhaps a little of unfair of my past attitude, for I now realise it is actually more a case of them all getting progressively worse. By this point in the series, Satou, Misaki and Yamazaki all seem so far gone that the chances of them ever recovering are slim at best- it is certainly hard to believe that a scant few chapters ago it looked as if Satou might actually get better. Admittedly, having waited so long since the last batch of chapters makes this slightly more entertaining than it would have otherwise been, but reading entire volumes of this in one go is not recommended.


xxxHOLiC vol 10, chapter 2: After so many short chapters, it was a surprise to see this one running to fifty-three pages, although unfortunately most of those are dedicated to Watanuki and Doumeki repeatedly fetching water from a well- all the while watched by a mysterious, unchanging woman in a nearby house. Towards the end, however, things become more interesting when the duo enters the house to retrieve a cloth, and discovers the truth about the woman, leading to a cliff-hanger ending that may finally reveal a little more about Himawari.