The Roundup: Winter 2015 Volume 4

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In this week’s installment…

Shoooooock! (kuma shock)… I’ve been waiting all season to slip that in and finally get my chance as Yurikuma Arashi guest stars in the Roundup this week. While Yurikuma and Death Parade go heavy on the allegorical fairy tales, we also have our second drop of the season. What could it possibly be???

The Roundup is a weekly guide to all the “other” shows we’re watching this season. Check out our full, weekly coverage of:

JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Stardust Crusaders / Gundam: Reconguista in G / Assassination Classroom / The Rolling Girls / Gundam Build Fighters Try / Kamen Rider DriveParasyte – The Maxim / Your Lie In April / Durarara!! x2

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Cute High Earth Defense Club LOVE!
Episode 5

Fridays 1:40 am EST on Funimation

Watching: ArtemisJel, Marlin

Jel: It’s probably telling that I couldn’t remember a thing about this episode 2 days later when I tried to write about it. Upon refreshing my memory, I realized the newspaper club catching on to the boys’ exploits was such an obvious turn of events that it left no impression on me whatsoever. There’s no “but this time, with boys!” wink and nod to the camera that we’ve seen in previous episodes. It’s all played completely straight and boring, and this is not a series where being straight is a good thing – pun intended. I’ll see how I feel next week, but after a string of bad episodes it’s possible my time with the Earth Defense Club is over.

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Shirobako
Episode 17

Thursdays 11:30 am EST on Crunchyroll

Watching: Aquagaze, Gee, Marlin

Gee: Ah, the medium standby, the PV. The reputation and expectations of an upcoming anime can often hinge on its ability to gets its prospective audience hooked. Not every show can pull a Kill la Kill, and lord knows there are some that fell under the radar because of their inability to catch our attention. All that said, I think Shirobako may be slightly overstating how truly important a PV is. Lord knows how many anime PVs end up being stills of character art with some voice acting thrown in, finishing off with a title splash at the end. Still, I can understand the pressure. To suddenly generate even a few seconds of footage to the point of being displayable is a herculean task, especially when you have less than two weeks to do it. In fact, I’d say this episode is a perfect example of why I appreciate Shirobako as an entity. Many of the creative trials and tribulations are ones I’m either intimately familiar with or have been informed about as a result of my schooling and profession. The issue of creating a PV however, is one that I hadn’t initially considered. In this way, Shirobako does an excellent job of sharing some of these obstacles that beset the creative industry, not only making it interesting, but compelling as well.

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Garo: The Animation
Episode 17

Fridays 12:23 am EST on Funimation

Watching: Aquagaze, Gee

Aqua: There’ll at least be one of you reading this and thinking me a sucker for actually falling for the oldest trope in the book, but I did so not see this one coming. Not necessarily because Lara is prominently featured in promotional artwork and in the end credits — usually a pretty reliable indicator of who has plot armour — but because I figured Garo had let León off the hook. He lost his mother, his freedom, his armour and his reason to live. Lara and her family were the hands that helped him up, the first steps on his road to redemption. Yet, in the end, they were little more than a faint glimmer of hope before fate kicks him all the way back into the proverbial pit he crawled out from. It’s easy to dismiss Garo as ‘grimdark’ and ‘edgy’, but said image board buzzwords always tend to imply a sense of dishonesty. Garo lacks this malicious intent to manipulate. In spite of its over-the-top gothic aesthetic and gruesome contents,truly  it does know what bleakness truly encompasses. There’s no denying that Lara was ‘stuffed in the fridge’, presented as cute, gentle and quirky only to be killed off to fuel the angst and anger of our brooding male hero. Yet the cleverness of her death lies in that Lara didn’t die because she met León. She wasn’t taken away from León by a villain out to hurt him. She was just another victim of just another Horror, one of the hundreds of deaths caused by rampaging Horrors every day. It’s not so much a lesson for León that misfortune will follow in his wake because he is a Makai Knight, as it is a reminder of what he vowed to fight for. Not to protect his friend or avenge his mother, but to make sure no one will have to see their loved ones die in their arms ever again. Another death in the family puts León in danger of repeating his mistakes. He may resent Alphonso like he resented his father, and let his cancerous lust for revenge drive him to ruin once again, or he may turn his sadness to compassion and become the Makai Knight he was destined to be.

Gee: Goddamn it Garo, way to twist the knife. We didn’t get a lot of time with Lara, but with her showing up in both the OP and ED, I think we all kind of hoped she would go on to become León’s moral strength, his light in the darkness, so to speak. Sadly, Garo’s writers aren’t going to give León that respite just yet. What makes the event so tragic is that the family who would save him from the darkness; the catalyst for his willingness to cast aside the Garo lineage and live in peace, should also be the same catalyst for his downfall yet again. If León had Garo, could he have saved them? Maybe, maybe not. But as it stands now, there was nothing León could do, and that sense of helpless is truly one of the most tragic things a person can endure. It makes Alphonso’s absolutely stunning takedown of the Horror all the more of a gut punch. In a flurry of rapid fisticuffs that would make even Jotaro take notice, the fight stands as a strong contrast to Leon’s feeble inability to save Lara’s life. And where does this leave us? With a León who’s lost even more than ever, but a changed León. This isn’t the man who has lost the right to Garo, but a man who has lived and lost. If Alphonso is the light that will guide the people, León is on his way to being the light in the darkness. The hero who’s endured so much, that his only option left is to shine brighter than anyone else. At least, that’s where I hope this is all going. I wasn’t sold on León as a character starting out, but after all he’s endured, I’m ready to root for the guy. He deserves that much.

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Death Parade – Sakamoto makes his first anime appearance since 2011

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Death Parade
Episode 5

Fridays 1:30 pm EST on Funimation

Watching: Aquagaze, Artemis, Euri, Iro, Jel, Marlin

Artemis: I’ve got to hand it to Death Parade – you don’t see many shows that follow an episodic format while still managing to mix things up as much as this one does. I probably would have been happy enough for Death Parade to become a mainly formulaic series as I was initially expecting – I find the basic premise interesting enough to tolerate that, especially on a once-weekly basis. Yet the show throws just enough surprises in there that it never really feels like it’s simply repeating the same scenario each time, and episode 5 was perhaps the most surprising so far, with a would-be couple of characters turning out to be both far more and far less than they first appeared and a few more tantalizing glimpses of world context and character backstory. It was also a relief to be introduced to some new faces previously only seen in the OP, as I was getting worried about the amount of time left in Death Parade to do so without seeming rushed. Far from growing bored with this title, I find myself becoming more curious with each passing week.

Jel: Awesome turn of events this week as we go deeper behind the scenes and once again avoid getting stagnant with the Game of the Week format. Who’d have thought we would have ended up with a cool fight scene in this show? I guess it never occurred to me that The Assistant (for lack of a better name) was different than the other arbiters. I just assumed she was going through the same process they all went through when they first arrived. Making her an out of place human is an interesting wrinkle but I kind of hope it’s not as simple as she was Decim’s childhood friend or something. That’s the initial impression I got from her storybook dream memories as not too many little boys have gray hair like that. That said, this is a world where it seems memories can easily be erased or implanted, so time will tell if it really is that simple.

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Log Horizon II
Episode 18

Saturdays 7:30 am EST on Crunchyroll

Watching: Gee, Iro, Marlin, Timmy

Marlin: Man, Log Horizon just doesn’t want us to have our sweet covered wagon adventure does it. Rudy’s talk with Isuzu was the most heartfelt thing we’ve seen from this show in a while. It makes sense that these kids most of all would be taking their isolation from their families hard. Learning about how the artifacts of this world’s origin as a game being the reason people love her music was a fascinating new look at the weird issues that would come from such a world. I’m still not sure what Nureha has to do with this plot, as she just seems to be around to act weird. Looks like the roadtrip is done for good as the wyverns start descending. Taking a page from Season One, it seems they’re suffering another case of the changing world causing big problems. Seeing as this is a quest that low level characters used to take all the time, it makes me wonder if it is a very similar problem to the Goblin King, that a lack of low level characters hunting wyverns has caused an unstable population growth, and subsequently creating this mob.

Iro: This episode was a return to form for Log Horizon, bringing back a lot of the aspects I enjoyed from the first season. The revealing conversation about the Landers and their music makes sense in the context of the world, shows how circumstances have wildly changed for both Landers and Adventurers, and it allows for a genuinely emotional moment between Rudy and Isuzu. I can definitely empathize with the sense of guilt that she feels over seeing others do what she thinks she should be doing, and it adds another dimension to her relationship with Rudy, considering what he’s been through. On the action side of things, an army of wyverns are descending upon the town, which I can only assume is some sort of plot hatched by Plant Hywaden for…. some reason. I can’t see any other purpose for Nureha to still be sneaking around, anyway. Considering that Chief Nyanta seems to also be hanging around to keep an eye on the kids, I’m looking forward to seeing him bring the heat.

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Maria the Virgin Witch – Hey bro, I don’t think that’s how swords work

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Maria The Virgin Witch
Episode 5

Sundays 9:30 am EST on Funimation

Watching: Aquagaze, Gee, Jel, Marlin

Jel: Using Galfa’s story as a microcosm of the bigger issue was a smart move. By making things more personal, it helps both Maria and the audience understand that just stopping conflicts doesn’t solve the underlying mess that causes them. Galfa deserved to face consequences for his actions but the knight he dishonored wasn’t exactly making it easy to root for him either. I know I kind of wanted both of them to lose at a certain point, and it’s possible Maria did too as she was finally hesitant to intervene. At the very least it was nice to have an episode that wasn’t laser focused on Maria’s virginity, and this was certainly one of the show’s more intelligent looks at the questions it’s raising.

Marlin: Maria is starting to run out of steam for me. Having such a singularly focused episode probably didn’t help that this week, especially as it focused on the character I cared the very least about. There’s not much sympathetic in Galfa’s story. He apparently wants to become a great man, but easily falls prey to his own selfishness and short-sightedness. The turnaround in the duel was an interesting use of plausible Medieval weaponry, but it still makes the guy look like a total asshole when he goes “The guy killed himself, oh well.” By the way, the idea of a knight killing himself over his honor seems more like something borrowed from Bushido than not considering how much of a taboo that is in Christian dogma. I’ll allow that this whole fight might also be emphasizing how out of date knights became by the end of the Hundred Year’s War in the light of new technology and tactics. It wasn’t all disappointing though, Bernard still seems to be set up as a somewhat villainous figure, but he seems to be directing Maria’s efforts in an attempt to end the war. His goal is selfish as it biases a French victory, but he at least does seem to desire peace.

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Yatterman Night – Yes, that is a giant robot boxing kangaroo punching a giant robot Genghis Khan head

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Yatterman Night
Episode 5

Sundays 10:30 am EST on Funimation

Watching: Gee, Iro, Jel, Marlin

Gee: Yatterman Night seriously can’t decide on what it wants to be, and yet, I somehow don’t mind anyway. After last week’s soul-crushing downer of an episode, this week veers into a much more…retro direction. With a fighting tournament, shonen-style heroes, frequent public urination, and a robotic boxing kangaroo, this week’s episode seems to be harkening to the kind of old-school silliness that defined the likes of Yatterman and its peers. Despite all of this though, it never loses its energy or sense of spirit. There are still robots being summoned out of nowhere, Leopard is still fighting the good fight, and overall, these are the same characters we saw last week, just in a much less dramatic environment. It works as a nice respite, even if it feels a bit like mood whiplash. And I mean come on, the hilarious escalation of this episode was a perfect bit of comedic timing, switching from the bull to the tiger to the kangaroo. Ever since the third episode, I’ve been trying to figure out what exactly Yatterman Night wants to be. At this point, I’ve accepted that maybe that’s not an easy answer, but it doesn’t make the journey any less of a ride.

Iro: Last week I praised Yatterman for jumping between tones, but this week’s episode was almost 100% silliness with barely a single dramatic moment in sight. Not that this was a bad thing; I was laughing almost every few seconds at Doronbow’s antics or at Takeshi’s bizarre behavior. The premise of a triple fighting tournament ending with a clash with giant robots is just the right kind of crazy, and handily fulfilled the show’s weird mech requirement for the episode. Overall, it was a simple, enjoyable romp, albeit one that worries me that next week is going to be the downer to end all downers…

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Yurikuma Arashi
Episode 5 & 6

Mondays 1:30 am EST on Funimation

Watching: Artemis, Aquagaze, Jel, Marlin, Zigg

Marlin: Yurikuma continues to stick to its guns, offering bits and pieces of a narrative that links our two main characters. In any normal story it would be pretty lazy for the main character to just forget their memories of a person, but in magical Ikuhara land I find this development much easier to accept. The sixth episode gives us another classic Ikuhara staple, the allegory storybook. Considering how vague Mawaru Penguindrum’s was, it makes me wonder what symbolism this story might be hiding. At face value, it seems to simply be talking about Ginko and Kureha having to overcome some personal boundary in order to realize their love. Considering Sumika is truly gone, would this mean having Kureha move on from her love of her to a love for Ginko? I could see from a mile away that Sumika’s letter was eventually going to refer to Ginko and Lulu, but it made for a good dramatic scene as the bitchy girls revealed their true colors. I’m surprised that the Invisible Storm still only amounts to the concept of peer pressure. It may be that behind Ikuhara’s flowery symbolism he’s merely trying to make a point about the cruelty inherent in the pressure to conform to societal norms.

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