Reviewed this week: Cazador 18, Darker than Black 18, Higurashi Kai 5, Mononoke 2, Mushi-Uta 5, SaiMono II 17, Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei 4, Seirei no Moribito 17
…and in manga: Akagi 4, Aria 21-3, Claymore ES 2, El Cazador 2, Erementar Gerad 26, Gunslinger Girl 31, REC 32, Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei 1-6, Spiral 44-5
CURRENT SERIES RANKINGS
- Dennou Coil (1) – to infinite 1337, and beyond!
- SaiMono II (3) – who will win Eigetsu’s heart?
- Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei (2) – mail mail
- Darker than Black (4) – some good, some bad
- Baccano! (5) – intriguing
- Mononoke (6) – good but slow paced
- Mushi-Uta (10) – huge improvement
- Tetsuko no Tabi (7)- train adventures
- Doujin Work (9) – this is becoming a guilty pleasure
- Romeo X Juliet (8) – Hermione comes, Hermione goes
- Koutetsu Sangokushi (12) – HARD GAY
- Higurashi no Naku Koro ni Kai (13) – interest at minimum
- Seirei no Moribito (11) – an exercise in monotony
- El Cazador de la Bruja (14) – El Caza-bore
El Cazador de la Bruja 18: This week on El Cazador, even Ellis has realised how useless Nadie is, leading her to ask for her own room when the pair stay at the Kokopelli inn. Naturally, Ricardo, Lirio, LA, Blue Eyes and her underlings all just happen to show up too, and after a night of random yet ultimately unimportant events, they all leave again. It’s not the worst that El Cazador has to offer (feeling more like 50 minutes in length than three hours), but that hardly makes it good.
Darker than Black 18: The somewhat pointless diversion arc comes to an end in this episode, one which offered mixed good and bad in a way not too dissimilar from a packet of dark and light chocolate sprinkles. The story itself, and the throwaway characters of the arc are somewhat frustratingly pointless, but every so often I see glimpses of the excellence that first drew me to the series. In brief scenes such as Hei stopping the generics with boxes, or the moment where we are led to question the nature of Dolls and by extension that of Contractors, I am once again drawn to the series, but it just can’t seem to hold my attention the whole way- after all, I surely shouldn’t be witnessing a fire fight in a parking lot and merely thinking “that car is an interesting shade of purple”.
Higurashi no Naku Koro ni Kai 5: It’s another one of those ‘everyone dies’ episodes that Higurashi is so famous for, and if anything, the fact that such a massacre occurred only highlights how much I’ve lost interest in the franchise, for even this cannot shake my ennui towards the series. People are dying, but so what? Who really cares anymore? In fact, halfway through the episode I was ready to drop it forever, and only the glimpse of Hanyu in the preview was enough to keep me going.
Mononoke 2: Poor Mononoke, if only it could escape the multi-episode arcs of its predecessor, it would be quite a good series, but as it stands, it’s a little too slow paced to be truly memorable. In this episode, we learn that the inn was once a brothel, and that the mysterious room was once an abortion room- and naturally, the spirits of the dead children are attracted to the pregnant woman. With the help of plenty of bizarre imagery, the pacing is slowed down to cover a single arc in three to four episodes, where it could really do with being concluded in a single one.
Mushi-Uta 5: Last week, the double bill of Mushi-Uta left me confused and dissatisfied, but happily, this instalment is a huge improvement. As Shiika and Rina get to know each other better as people, neither of them have any idea as to the complex tangle that links their respective alter egos as Hosts. For the first time, the lighter and more serious elements are meshing together well, and despite the distinct air of Kanon about the flashback sequence, it has turned out to be the most entertaining episode yet.
Saiunkoku Monogatari II 17: With all the high drama of the arc over and done with, it’s time for everyone to sit back and relax, as Shuurei prepares to cook a feast to mark her last days in Sa Province. And even as Ryuuren shows everyone the sights, there’s even time for some romance, as Kourin tries to wrest Eigetsu from Ryuuren’s grasp and Shuurei considers her feelings for Ryuuki. Overall, this makes for a nice look into the characters’ feelings, with Shuurei especially starting to become more introspective in light of her dismissal; up until now, she has had to be entirely focused on current events, but now she finally has time to stop, think and let her inner feelings out.
Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei 4: After a weak third episode, Sensei is back on form in this episode, which introduces another character in the form of an animal-loving tail puller, as well as focusing on Meru, the quiet girl who is entirely timid when it comes to actual speech, but is rude and abusive in her text messages. Although I’m missing Sensei’s suicide attempts, this was a thoroughly entertaining episode.
Seirei no Moribito 17: As El Cazador’s compatriot in the boredom stakes, Seirei offers another unexciting episode, in which Shuga tries to end the series prematurely by taking Chagum back to court, only for Balsa to defend her screen time by taking him on the run again. The only event of note is the burning of the water mill, and by the time you reach it, you will be so inattentive that it will be of little more than passing interest. I’m only really watching this now because, like Macbeth, I feel like I’ve come too far to stop.
Akagi 4: Akagi’s legendary first game continues, and whilst the onlookers are sure that he is just scraping through with blind luck, there is more to his genius than mere coincidence. Since this chapter doesn’t advance the story very far, it is hard to say much about it (and indeed, it will probably be this way for most chapters of the series), but nonetheless it remains as gripping as the anime.
Aria 21-3: Volume five gets going in these three chapters, which cover stories already seen in the anime- specifically, Akari’s day with Mr Postman, Athena’s introduction and the night of the meteor shower. Regardless of whether or not you’ve seen these stories in the anime, they remain as good as ever, with beautiful artwork and charming content. I really can’t praise this series enough.
Claymore ES 2: It’s quite ironic that I find these side stories more enjoyable than the main chapters, but there you go. This time around, we delve into Miria’s past, fleshing out the brief flashback mention of her friend who turned into an Awakened Being. Although the ending reuses some content from the main series, overall this is a touching story that offers more character development than most of the actual Claymore chapters.
El Cazador 2: This manga really has everything the anime hasn’t- action, fanservice, even a semblance of quality. This chapter recreates the convent battle against the two cross-dressing bounty hunters, and whilst it isn’t exactly great, at least in this form it is a serviceable story that is over quickly (and if you ever wanted to see what nuns wear under their habits, now’s your chance).
Erementar Gerad 26: Whilst Coud finds himself a wanted criminal for illegal entry into the city, Greyarts is about to receive punishment for his failure- and it’s one that’s far more graphic than anything the anime dared show. Overall, there isn’t a great deal of story advancement in this chapter, but it’s still nice to see it stepping up a notch from the animated version.
Gunslinger Girl 31: The excellence of Gunslinger Girl is very much evident in this chapter, which is devoted entirely to the back story of Elizaveta (now Petrushka), a girl who dedicated her entire life to ballet, only to have her dreams cruelly cut short when she is diagnosed with bone cancer. In a desperate attempt to avoid having her leg amputated, Liza is sent to Italy for treatment, but ultimately she is turned into a second generation cyborg. She may have only been introduced in this volume, but the series has certainly done an excellent job of making us really care about this character.
REC 32: When Ao falls asleep after coming onto Matsumaru, he decides to take her back to the studio where she works- only to end up getting drafted into working on the Jupiter the Great anime. With this new plot development, the story picks up at long last, although the fact that Matsumaru and Ao are now in close quarters is yet another tiresome strain on his relationship with Aka. I really wish some time could be spent on developing their relationship instead of keeping it in the same loop of almost breaking up but being rescued at the last minute.
*CATCH-UP* Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei 1-6: Despite the trepidation born from the quality of the Pani Poni manga, I decided to give this series a try, although ultimately it proved to be much the same as the anime. Over the course of six chapters, we are introduced to most of the characters we have met in the anime, and although the animated version has the edge in terms of art style, this is still a worthy read, even if it doesn’t offer anything in the way of new content.
Spiral 44-5: Volume nine concludes with these chapters, in which Hiyono puts her very life on the line so that Ayumu and the others can have a long exposition scene about how to capture Kanone. All the sitting and talking is a bit of a momentum-diffuser, but I’m still looking forward to seeing how this situation pans out. Also included at the end is a side story about Kiyotaka, in which he solves a case by dressing in a rabbit suit- it’s an amusing tale, but it makes me long for more in this section of the timeline.