And with this recap I am fully caught up for the first time since… well, let’s not dwell on that, shall we? Let’s instead get on with what must be my most detailed and screenshot-laden recap to date.
Princess Akira, I mean Prince Takumi, is making Mashiro’s staff nervous with his stern behaviour. It’s not as though they aren’t already nervous enough on account of not knowing Mashiro’s whereabouts. Nina and Arika’s arrival presents them with a possible, albeit farfetched, solution: Have Arika stand in for the queen!
I’ll pause for a moment and bask in the delicate subtlety of this plot device.
Here’s the second recap of the week! This time I’ll be relying heavily on screencaps, partly because there really isn’t that much to say about the episode itself, and partly because there’s something of a theme for this episode that’s best expressed visually. What’s this theme, you ask? It’s “The Many Faces of Nina Wong (And Various Other Persons)”.
The plot, in a nutshell, goes something like this: We learn from the girls that Arika retook the hike challenge and aced it, solo, which brought her ranking in the class way, way up. It’s Nina’s birthday, and the Queen’s birthday… and Arika’s birthday too. That last coincidence unnerves Nina greatly as it suggests to her that her adoptive father picked this date to be her “birthday” because of Arika, whose presumed mother Sergei apparently longed for.
Double-digits at last! Yes, I’m still behind… way, way behind. This week we’ll be getting fully caught up, however! (Really!) Bringing this project back up to speed, however, may entail posting one or two moderately terse recaps but at least I’ve thrown some screenies into the mix to keep things entertaining.
We pick up a bit before where we left off, with everyone wondering where Arika and Erstin have gone. Nagi seems to have a pretty good idea, and sends Sergei off to assist in the search. His little motorboat arrives just in time to see Arika’s fall from the cliff edge. The cyborg from Aswald spots him and summons a Slave (how convenient is it that it’s an aquatic type?) to get rid of this intruder who might, after all, rescue that inconvenient witness. Sergei, for some reason, thinks that weilding a speargun will make for a fair fight. The Slave destroys the boat and… well, that’s all we get for a little while.
(Yes, I know. No Mai Otome recap? For shame! And I’m more than a week behind! I’ll remedy this by Christmas, I assure you.)
The DVDtalk website has posted what can only be a blatant challenge to any anime fan with decent taste. Yes, it’s a year-end “top 10″ list of domestic release titles. Mind you, they cheat a bit by listing two Miyazaki films at #6, but what the heck. I couldn’t resist taking the opportunity to razz and rave on their picks a bit…
- Samurai 7: I’ll grant you, this is a good series presented in a very nifty package. That said… what? Best series of the year over such fare as Fullmetal Alchemist? Over Samurai Champloo, even? I’m sorry, I just don’t get it. Yes, I know it’s a great homage to a classic film, but c’mon.
- Ghost in the Shell SAC (2nd gig): I haven’t seen it. No comment.
- Fullmetal Alchemist: With no qualms, I can easily say that this is the best series to come out of Japan’s anime studios in the last few years. No, really. It’s that good.
- Planetes: Interpersonal drama in near-future space. It’s often amusing, sometimes sad, generally well produced and acted, and definitely worth seeing at least once, especially if you’re a space buff like Yours Truly.
- Samurai Champloo: In case you didn’t already know, it’s Cowboy Bebop except with hip-hop instead of jazz and a feudal-era Japan instead of futuristic outer-space setting. And yet, it works amazingly well. This is one of those cutting-edge (pardon the pun) shows that may not be a general-purpose crowd-pleaser but delivers as a pinnacle of its art form.
- Porco Rosso & Nausicaa: I haven’t seen Porco Rosso, but picking up Nausicaa on DVD was one of the true fanboy highlights of my year. The new dub leaves something to be desired, like most dubs, but seeing the whole movie and hearing the original voice talents at long last was a true joy. It’s a classic, pure and simple.
- Appleseed: They made another one? Who knew? Apparently somebody did. I’ll see this eventually, I suppose.
- Gankutsuou (The Count of Monte Cristo): Gonzo seems to like doing two things intermittently. Either they make a show that’s entirely for-the-masses action-adventure fluff (paging Bakuretsu Tenshi!) or something like Gankutsuou. The visual style alone merits, even demands, special mention. It’s a jarring, daring thing that you’ll either hate on sight or get used to. You’ve been warned. That said, the show is an interesting take on a classic storyline.
- Gunslinger Girl: This is a good, if not great, take on the “girls with guns” motif. Its short run left me thinking that there must be another series coming along at some point, as I didn’t get a real sense of conclusion to the story. Also, the animation budget seems to decline quite a bit past the first few action-packed episodes. This doesn’t cut into the visual quality of the show, mind you, just the amount of action. One normally expects things to ramp up over the course of a series, but here it almost goes the other direction. Still, I recommend this to anyone who thought Noir was a neat concept but a bit slow and overwrought. (Which reminds me: I need to post a Noir review, don’t I? I just finished watching the boxed set…)
- Area 88: Wait, wasn’t this a show from the 80s? Sorry, I never watched any of its incarnations. Ah well.
And there you have it. If nothing else, this gave me an excuse to write something other than a Mai Otome recap… which, yes, I’ll get back to shortly. Honest.
Oh, one more thing. Below the “top 10″ list on that page I linked you’ll find some other disc reviews. Somewhere in there the reviewer mentions Daphne in the Brilliant Blue as “one of the better series of the year.” I humbly submit that said reviewer is on crack. That, or they’re only in it for the nigh-gratuitous scantily-clad babe factor. I like scantily-clad babes, but the show itself was so gratingly lacking in plot and good dialog that I gave it up after five episodes. Better series, my ass.
Whoops. I was supposed to get this one finished a week ago. I even posted all the screencaps to the gallery! I guess this week I’ll do something like the reverse of my lazy trick from a while back: I’ll just post copious screenies with very little commentary, instead of all commentary and no screenies…
Here’s the short synopsis of the episode: We’re teased with a beach episode but instead we get a grueling hike challenge that counts as a significant part of the semester grade for our up-and-coming Otome candidates. Arika and Erstin are paired up, but someone sabotages their call-for-help bracelets and, of course, they end up needing to call for help because Erstin falls down sick. When Arika tries to find help she instead bumps into a cyborg from the Aswald group who tries to eliminate our plucky young interloper, who ends up falling off a cliff into the sea. Other than that we’re treated to a lot of comedy beats and minor intrigue.
Well. I really let things slide, didn’t I? I have a good excuse (and we all know what those are like, don’t we?) involving visiting family, visiting girlfriend, and work stress, but you don’t want to hear about all of that. You want your long-awaited recap, don’t you? Of course you do.
When last we left our adorable young Master and Otome, they’d made a contract involving gems provided by Arika’s deus ex pendant. As this is a great big no-no, they’re now taking great pains to hide their new jewelry. Mind you, they’re not fooling anybody who matters. Natsuki knows, and Shizuru offers to discretely snoop around a bit to see how much the girls really understand about what they’ve gotten themselves into.