Saturday, April 30, 2011

Moshidora - 4-5


Moshidara concludes its first week with probably the two most interesting episodes to date. The subject of both episodes was more or less innovation, one of the key elements of Drucker's management theories.

For starters, Nikai - the glasses-boy who always shows up for practice but isn't very good - decides to finally pack in it as a player and join the management team. This is a bit of a shock to his teammates but ultimately, he proves quite useful. The first big change is the kind of symbiotic relationship he and the other managers form with the other clubs at school. They get to eat the Home Ec food in exchange for critiquing it. They do joint practices with the track club and get some instruction on running technique. For being the first ones to ever ask the mediocre brass band to play at their events, they get a cheering squad. It's an interesting idea, and I wonder if it happens in schools here and there.

Even more interesting is when Minami asks the coach to apply innovation to the game itself. He mentions something called "Free baseball" that was started by a coach in Ibaraki, where the players were allowed to have fun and be themselves during games, and won the Koshien. If such a thing happened I could find no mention of it via Google, and I checked as it's a particular curiosity of mine. When I attended a Spring Koshien game a few weeks ago I was certainly struck by the fundamental soundness of the play - but there was a joyless quality to it that I found depressing. It seems unnatural for 16 and 17 year-old boys to play baseball without any celebration, high-fives, etc. - but it just isn't part of the HS game in Japan. If that coach in Ibaraki really did what he said, good for him.

Hodo's coach has his own way to try and reinvent the game - the "no balls, no bunt" strategy". The idea is to throw nothing but strikes to pitch to contact and minimize the pitch count, and always swing away at bat. It's an interesting idea, though the early returns aren't so good as Hodo loses 35-2. Of course that's against a college team - I felt sorry for the little guys going against those hulking collegians - but the idea of playing a vastly superior opponent makes sense. How good will a HS pitcher look after facing that?

The character stuff going on here is still pretty much going through the motions. Yunosuke may or may not have a thing fr Yuki. Yuki finally has her surgery. And via an outing with Jil a little of Minami's past and why she now hates baseball is revealed. It's clearly not the priority for this series to tell character stories, and it really shows - but at this point I may as well accept it because that's just how it's going to be. At least the baseball stuff was interesting this time around.

Denpa Onna to Seishun Otoko - 3

This was definitely the strongest episode of the first three of Denpa Onna for me. I still have some issues with the show, but there were promising signs. The more serious turn the show has been hinting at taking finally materialized, though it's all relative I suppose - it remains very odd and squarely in the absurdist camp.

The ep was structured interestingly. The first half was basically a slice-of-life episode, with Makoto spending time with Ryuushi (mostly) and Maekawa. For him it was more than getting to know the town and racking up puberty points - he also used the girls as a sounding board for his thoughts about Erio and her condition. There was also a rather amusing interlude in his bedroom with Aunt Meme, who gave a very convincing portrayal of a woman trying to seduce her nephew. Even there a little seriousness crept in, though, as he confronted her about Erio's birth and childhood, and she warned him to keep his distance from her (which Makoto, of course, ignores).

After the eyecatch things finally get to the point the first three eps were building up to. Makoto - convinced to his own satisfaction that Erio is merely deluding herself into thinking she's an alien - decides to force the issue once and for all. His method is somewhat crude - ride the bicycle off the cliff "ET" style, with Erio in the basket, to prove to her she can't fly. Of course there are obvious flaws with this method ("Scarier than steamed buns!")  but it seems to have the desired result - Erio confronting her reality - though at the cost of the bicycle and possibly a broken arm.

There's no doubt that some of the success of the third episode rests on the shoulders of Irinu Miyu, as Makoto's internal dialogues carry most of the weight of the episode. The writing is generally pretty sharp, though, with clever allusions to both The Girl Who Leapt Through Time and Index and a nice mix of oddball humor and genuine feeling. It's hard to tell how straight this story is playing it even now - there's still Meme's odd comments about not remembering Erio's birth and her odd behavior generally, and it's hard to believe the "alien" angle is just going to be tossed aside completely. Is this going to become a school life series now, with Erio joining Ryuushi and Maekawa for classroom shenanigans? I rather doubt it will be that simple, though that doesn't sound entirely like a bad prospect.

Dororon Enma-kun Meeramera - 4

He didn't...  Did he?
I don't know if anything I see this season is going to be able to match last week's episode of Dororon for pure depravity, but fortunately Go Nagai has endless reserves of the stuff - so we figure to be treated to healthy doses of the stuff for the rest of the series.

There were a number of highlights this week, which centered around a demon named Incupuss (LOL) whose schtick is posing as a cat and causing humans and other demons to fall asleep. Turns out he's working for yet another demon, a hundred-handed weirdo who tosses everyone into a giant cookpot and remolds them into bizarre caricatures of themselves that aren't entirely clear to me. Harumi is the first victim, followed by Yukiko (I believe you can see where this is headed). Naturally, when they're asleep Incupuss' victims go to some sort of bizarre psychedelic 60'sle style dance party - don't ask, I have no idea.

Chappeau-ji tells Enma he'd better wake the girls up at any cost - which leads to Enma-kun kissing, orally pleasuring and apparently eventually going all the way with the sleeping Yukiko. Unfortunately for our heroes, this only lands the rest of them asleep as well - and somehow Enma-kun living out some sort of crossdressing fantasy as Heidi (or Pippi Lonstockings) while 12 year-old Harumi parades around naked bar a pair of wings and a figurative fig leaf. Oh, dear.

I don't think any of this really needs to make sense - that isn't the point. But for God's sake, won't someone please think of the children? At the very least, whatever you do don't let them watch. I think you pretty much know at this point how the ep itself is going to end - Enma wakes up eventually, cuts off cat's tail and - with some help from Yukiko - blasts Incupuss and his boss to Hell although they've already surrendered. And, while he'd also apparently blasted all the other humans who'd gone into the stockpot into smithereens, they all wake up fine at the end and "everyone lives happily ever after". Except Kappeiru, who's been deformed to the point where Enma-kun thinks he's now an enemy.

Oh yes, that little cliffhanger from the end of episode 3. The exhibitionist witch, Enbi is still around - though we don't see her until the postscript once again. She introduces herself as "Dororon" Enbi this time, and Enma seems quite anxious that Kappeiru not reveal her true identity.

Hyouge Mono - 3

If the boundaries between eras and between fact and fiction ever loosed enough to allow me to share company with Sasuke, I would love to play poker with him. I suspect he may be the worst poker face in human history.

Damn, that was fascinating. We're really being treated to a psychological tour-de-force here. Set in an era and social situation where men rarely spoke their true thoughts, so much of this series is about guys trying to figure out what other guys are really thinking - what they know and what they don't. There were numerous examples in this episode, starting with the tea master Senna. In every one of these situations the players have something they want - in his case, it was the tea bowl Sasuke had procured by illicit means in the prior ep. Despite this being a capital offense, no doubt, he kept Sasuke's secret in order to get his bowl back - just as Sasuke had spared the general's life to get the bowl in the first place.

The chess game here is wildly interesting, especially given the benefit of some historical knowledge. Mitsuhide, of course, is to go on to... Well - maybe I won't say, as I suppose it's an anime spoiler though the information is in any Japanese history book. But Sasuke, being the aesthete that he is, picks up on the odd clue that Mitsuhide did not use the precious kettle gifted to him by Oda. As well, though he defended Oda to his grumbling vassals there's the subtly odd comment to "Keep silent" about their concerns.

Meanwhile Hideyoshi (no, not that Hideyoshi), the quiet man and subject of the dismissive "Simian" insults by Mitsuhide's men, mines Sasuke for information about Mitsuhide's banquet while also testing his loyalty. Hideyoshi was constantly underestimated - not only because of his legendary monkey-like appearance, but because he was the son of commoners - in fact, no commoner in Japan before or since rose so high as Hideyoshi. Hideyoshi is no less ambitious than Oda but far more subtle - and shrewd enough to let the dim view his rivals take of him work to his advantage. And also to his advantage was his loyalty to Oda, which was second to none.

And then there's Oda himself, perhaps the most troubling and difficult figure in Japanese history. He's far more fascinating here than in any other anime depiction I've seen - as witness the scene where he offers Sasuke the choice between money and the lacquer cabinet. Even in this relatively small vassal Oda sees the possibilities - though he recognizes Sasuke has transgressed somehow, he still sees value in him - and he ends up giving his subject both items, though Sasuke had forced himself to accept the gold despite desperately wanting the container. In Oda's pure practicality and scope of ambition Sasuke finally sees something beautiful - his aesthete's sense recognizing the sheer magnitude of the man's will. His rapture in that moment reminded me of Hoji from Rurouni Kenshin - in the near-orgiastic joy he took in serving Makoto Shishio.

I'm sure a lot of people are avoiding this series based on the premise, and I can't blame them - but I urge everyone to give it a chance. It's smart, complex and thought-provoking - but it's anything but dry or academic. You'll be amazed at how much tension and excitement a show with virtually no action or violence is able to generate via dialogue, facial expression and good writing.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Ana Hi Mita Hana no Namae o Boku-tachi wa Mada Shiranai - 3

Let's review: A day in the life of a very strange ghost:

- Make very material muffins with very material ingredients
- Pray at the altar of another dead person
- Go screaming through the woods because someone says they saw your ghost. Oh, yeah - that's you!

Without question, this has been the most consistently involving series of the season for me so far. All three episodes have been stellar, and emotionally right on target. There was an awful lot happening in the third episode, which felt like it lasted about four minutes - but it didn't feel rushed. In Mari Okada I trust - she knows her way around both plot construction and human emotions. She's good.

Although perhaps my favorite line of the episode was Menma's "I'm dead, too - but I'm doing great right now!" while praying at Jintan's mother's altar, I think the truest scene was Jintan's walk to school. The internal monologue playing in his head - "Sweat. People. Glances. Sweat. People. Disgusting." - that was perfect. No one who has never missed extended time at school can understand just how difficult it is to bring yourself to face it all again. The conflict within him was beautifully portrayed - the genuine desire to keep his promise to Anaru and please Menma vs. his fear and loathing (projected both inwards and outwards).

We also know, now, that his last words to Menma are not the only regret poor Jinta is carrying with him. His mother died young, of illness - and while we don't know if the scene in the hospital was the last time he saw her (probably not) it represents another moment he can never make right with another loved one forever gone. It's becoming clear than Jinta is a perfect example of how the sheer weight of regret can take an ebullient, outgoing and confident child and turn him into a beaten, mournful young man. That, as much as anything, has to be part of what brought Menma back.

Speaking of her, there are a couple of mysterious bookends involving our little ghost at either end of the ep. The first being Poppo's glimpse of "her" while taking a moonlit piss, the second being Yukiatsu's claim that he saw her when he arrived at Poppo's BBQ at the clubhouse. Given the clues revealed earlier this week by enterprising viewers - namely, that Poppo's "ghost" was wearing a wristwatch - my theory is that it was actually Yukiatsu in drag - which would also explain the dress-sniffing scene in episode two. So Yukiatsu isn't just sniffing Menma's dress, but wearing it? I guess that's even creepier - but if anything it makes me feel sorry for him. As for his claim at the end, my suspicion is that it was simply a bogus claim to try and draw some attention to himself. It appears from the flashbacks that Yukiatsu was always at the fringe of the group, and certainly resented Jinta for always being at the center of attention - which of course he was again with the ghost story.

The entire BBQ scene, in fact, was revelatory to say the least - another great bit of writing. It acts as a natural follow-up to the Nokemon scene last week, which was so wonderful - and the magic this week was in finally seeing all five (or six, depending on your POV) Super Peace Busters together. Like the Nokemon scene, despite the awkwardness you could still see the connections between all of them - the strings of fate that brought them together as kids, still intact. All of these characters are fleshed out, complex and real - contrary to many other pretty good series this season that are struggling to make their characters more than two-dimensional plot devices - but it was Yukiatsu and Tsuruko who were last to be fleshed out. Tsuruko's choice of candles for the BBQ - eerily lit in the night forest in a beautifully staged and animated shot - revealed almost as much about her as her conversation with Anaru (looking adorable with her hair down). The tension between them was thick enough to cut with a knife, but you could see what was lurking underneath - Anaru's frantic desire for acceptance, Tsuruko's effort to retain the icy facade and not show the affection she clearly felt.

Lastly, how great - again - to hear the Cross Game leads in action once more. Miyu and Haruka-san especially shone this week - I can't imagine anyone else capturing the complexity of feeling that Jinta is struggling with, and nobody does brash overcompensation better than Haruka. As with Aoba, she has the ability to take what could have been a standard tsundere role and fearlessly show us the vulnerability underneath.

This is great stuff, really - top-notch drama that's firing on all cylinders. I remain astonished that this show is as popular as it appears to be, but let's hope it keeps up and the studios take notice.

C: The Money of Soul and Possibility Control - 3


I'm really trying hard to get invested in C. It's an interesting premise and has a great pedigree, and it's not as if there's been anything to dislike in the first three episodes. It's a flashy, cool and eye-catching show.

But for whatever reason, there's some element that's missing for me. Maybe there's a sense of detachment in the style that isn't so appealing, but I think that's intentional - more or less. And working against that theory is that the show really tried to go for a little sentiment this week, with Kimimaro looking for information on his missing parent. Via a notebook his father had left with Kimimaro's Aunt, the boy finds out that Dad was a Financial District guy, too - and from a guy who seems to make a living photographing deals going down he hears that his father was a financial whiz who went bankrupt on a big deal. When you go bankrupt in the FD that means your future is used up.

Stepping into the role of surrogate father is Soichiro, who tries to bond with Kimimaro over his own father issues. Soichiro is an interesting character - he claims to be using the money he's earning to "help the country". But this missing father/surrogate father storyline is the first major element of the series that's felt derivative - it certainly isn't anything we haven't seen countless times before. Maybe they can pull it off - they're interesting characters, especially Soichiro, but so far it's an open question.

There was another new character introduced here - a woman who acts as a kind of participant observer in the FD. She's reporting to some nameless international organization and the guy she reports to speaks pretty good Engrish. But despite her conviction that the Midas system is evil, all she does is observe - she's not expected to do anything with the information she gathers but report it and then shut up. There's some sort of metaphor in there for this series as a whole, I think.

Moshidora - 3


Are there problems with Moshidora dramatically? Er, ah - hai.

At this point it seems as if this just isn't an especially good show when viewed as an entertainment. The humor - such as the aforementioned catch phrase - falls kind of flat. The BGM in the dramatic scenes is way over the top. And the characters and plot are pretty much on auto-pilot. It might be too harsh to call them "props" but to some extent, that's what they are - archetypes there to fill out the show as it acts as an educational exercise.

It remains interesting - watching Minami apply Drucker to HS baseball piece by piece is certainly a novel experience when viewing anime. I just think on some level the show is falling short on its first responsibility, which is to tell a compelling narrative story about characters the audience cares about. There's no shame in it - more shows fail at that than succeed, and they're intellectually barren to boot whole this one is unique and thought-provoking. But really, now - every club in the school decided they want Minami as a manager after the minimal accomplishments she's displayed? That takes us to the realm of fairy tale, really, and I don't think that's where this series is trying to go.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Oreimo - 14

Kuroneko's campaign for "Best Female Character" of the last year picks up steam with the third "True End" episode of Oreimo this week. I have absolutely no idea how Kyousuke has the will power (and/or density) to resist her - I swear, every time she does that face-down pose on his bed I need a cold shower. In Kirino's absence she's effectively become the main character of the show, and it's become a totally different show. Whether that's good or bad depends, I guess, on your point-of-view - but I'm finding these extra eps thoroughly entertaining.

The premise this week is that the two new girls in the club are assigned to create a game for an upcoming competition, with the idea being to promote teamwork between the two of them. Despite Kyou's surprisingly bold suggestion that they write an eroge - and his offer to help write the sex scenes (revealing how he got the "Sexual-harassment Sempai" moniker referenced by Kuroneko in the commentaries) - it ends up being a competition between Kuroneko's idea and Akagi's idea, with a majority vote deciding. Kuroneko talks about Kirino and her advice about writing what she loves ("If they're going to accuse this of being a masturbatory work, then I'll show them one hell of a masturbation scene!"). When Akagi's effort turns out to be a hard-gay RPG with the male club members as characters, it's not surprisingly a unanimous vote for Kuroneko's depressing novel game and Akagi storms out of the club in a hissy fit.  Eventually she comes back as Kuroneko swallows her pride and begs her to debug the game (in the weakest scene of the ep) and the effort ends up winning the "Best Shitty Game" award at the competition.

Really, though, that's all an excuse for some pretty hilarious dialogue with Akagi - who really is crazy - and a chance to see Kyou and Kuroneko get ever closer as he acts as her game tester. The scene in his bedroom is pretty brilliant - Kuroneko - via Kana Hanazawa - has a way of delivering dialogue that's like nobody I've seen in anime. A sort of sultry, snarky, purr that's somehow both insecure and cocky at the same time. So many great lines - "Let's play a game together, Nii-san!". "I like you as much as your sister does." As if all that weren't enough, she invites Kyou to rub her feet and lie next to her on the bed. And still - either from strength of character or denseness, he resists.

I almost feel sorry for Kirino in absentia - she's shunted off to America, almost forgotten as everyone else gets on with their lives. In reality, the rest of them are really better in her absence in most ways - Kyousuke is less neurotic and insecure, Kuroneko more confident and less combative. Most importantly he's free to pursue whatever his romantic intentions are - be they Kuroneko or Manami - without the pointless distraction of a brocon imouto. Not that we have any indication that he's going to actually do that - though there's no question that he's growing closer to Kuroneko with each episode. Ironically it may be that it will take Kirino's return to the scene to be the catalyst forcing him to a decision. With one episode left, I can only assume she will return - and there's an awful lot left to sort out once she does.

Of note, it was announced today that Kuroneko will be starring in a spinoff manga - hardly a surprise, given that she's the runaway most popular character. It's also worth noting that the BD/DVD sales for this show continue to be off the charts, so it seems almost unimaginable to me that there won't be some sort of follow-up to this - a second season or series of OVAs, maybe even an adaptation of the spinoff manga eventually. I hope so - I've grown attached to these characters, especially Kuroneko and Kyousuke, and I'd like to see a lot more of their teenaged years.

Moshidora - 2


After the first half of this episode, I was beginning to really wonder if Moshidora was for me. At that point it seemed to me more an academic exercise than anything else - interesting but dry and frankly, a little boring. But things did pick up a bit after the eyecatch, and the second part was certainly the best of any of the segments thus far.

It says something about how vestigial the players at Hodo High have been to the presentation so far that the only one whose name I could remember without checking the credits list was Asano, the pitcher. After the players are briefly introduced via a brief interview montage with Yuki - along with timid co-manager Ayano - the second half focuses on Asano and the coach. Asano seems like a nice kid but never shows up to practice, and bears a grudge against the coach for pulling him after third baseman Yunosuke (I looked it up) booted a ball in the summer tournament. The coach pulled him because his pitch count was over 100 and his mechanics were degrading - but he never communicated that to Asano.

This all sets off a somewhat interesting look at "translate" portion of Drucker's book. Having correctly figured out that it's the players themselves who are the customers, Minami now realizes she has to act as a translator between the "expert" - the coach - and the players. Since these are high-school boys, a big part of that is understanding their feelings - and while the coach finally seems to pick up on that, at this point he doesn't look like much of a leader, though he knows baseball - thus, a power vacuum for Minami to step in and be the leader the team needs. Since the outcome is spoiled in the introduction - "the story of a girl who leads her high school team to Koshien" - one can only assume she succeeds.

I hope the focus continues to be on the characters and their feelings, and not just on the text of "Management". It will certainly make for a much more engaging anime if it does.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Steins;Gate - 4


I'm very much of two minds about this series. On the one hand, the dialogue is clever, subversive and frequently hilarious. There's a great attention to detail, and I love all the small nuggets of Akihabara lore in there - the logo on the recycling bins, the "I Heart CRT" T-shirt Braun was wearing. The banter between Okarin and Makise is world-class - full of spit and piss and sass.

On the other, though, I think the show sometimes makes it a little too clear that it doesn't really take what's happening seriously. The show is certainly trying to walk a line between hard science-fiction and comedy, and often succeeds. But this week, so very little happened. They did laundry (amusingly). A very silly game with Feyris-chan. An encounter with world-class trap Ruka and his father, the Shrine Priest. It was all good, but considering the magnitude of events that are supposedly happening - or at risk of happening - I think a bit more gravity occasionally would be a positive thing.

Given that we have two cours of this on the way, the slow pacing is probably not a major flaw, at least. It's a series that's portioning out information at an agonizingly slow rate, clearly on purpose. A tiny nugget about Mayuri here, a hint about Makise there, a text from John Titor - you just have to be satisfied when the story occasionally meanders back to the main plot. And the thing is, it is an interesting plot - the shrewd mix of science fact and science fiction is interesting, and there's a very real sense of something big lurking just under the surface - that Okarin's conspiracy-theories might just have some basis in fact. If they ever get around to showing it.

Oh well. With dialogue such as "Like the universe, Daru is constantly expanding" I can live with a little plot drift.

First Impressions: Moshidora


Only in Japan.

To say the subject matter of Moshidora is unusual in the world of anime is something of an understatement. Peter Drucker's "Management" - while one of the best-selling and most influential business books ever - hardly seems like an interesting subject for an animated series. And applying it to managing a high school baseball team is hardly a logical extension of the source material. And the format - 10 episodes airing on 10 consecutive weeknights - is unique in anime as far as I know.

There's a lot going for this show, though. I'm obviously a sucker for HS baseball series, and it's from the normally Godly Production I.G.. Clearly, this isn't their most lavishly animated series but it has a nice look - the art style and character design vaguely reminiscent of Kimi ni Todoke. But the most important question: is it entertaining?

I would say - somewhat. The first ep certainly wasn't riveting, and none of the characters jumped off the screen. The main, Minami (Yoko Hikasa) is a 2nd year high-school girl and former ballplayer who says he now "hates baseball". She takes the place of sickly BFF Yuki (Kana Hanazawa, extraordinarily busy as usual) as manager of the baseball team. She picks up a copy of Drucker's book from a well-meaning bookstore clerk, not realizing it isn't about managing baseball - and decided to try and apply it anyway. It's a fascinating concept, and there's no question the show is genuinely interesting. The questions Minami - via Drucker - asks are unusual in the context of basbeall, but oddly relevant. I respect any series that can make you look at something familiar in a new way.

But interesting and entertaining are two different things. I don't know if this is destined to be a somewhat dry educational exercise, or whether it will pick up some actual dramatic imperative and be a really good watch. Given the format I'm going to withhold judgment for now in deference to the unique challenge the studio has set for itself here, and hope for the best.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Dororon Enma-kun Meeramera - 3

Right in the Golden Carp
I can't even begin to list all the ways that this third episode was completely, dangerously insane. And wrong. And insane. Honestly, you just have to watch it - no attempt to recount it could do it justice.

But seriously, if there was any doubt whatsoever that that remake was not meant for kids, you can safely put that aside. This is so far over the edge that it's a little shocking, even to me. But the clever thing is, there's very little for the censors to get them slimy little hands on - it's mostly innuendo, double entendre and not-quite nudity. Mind you, there's some stuff that does get cropped - and a few lines of dialogue that are more over than implied. But honestly - how can you possibly censor "Right in the golden carp!"? Or "Who's got the death grip on my sack?" OK, maybe that one - but it made it in...

The thing is, this is really pure genius in the execution - a total commitment to the randomness and ecchi without any concern for good taste or reason. The whole episode was nominally about the superdemon "Bonedaddy", who has poisoned the teacher Ms. Chikko and turned her into a kind of black-belt super-slut - but he didn't even make an appearance until the closing credits, and that was to complain about not being in the show. Then, after the credits, he was defeated in about 10 seconds by Enma-kun and went off to Hell with a plaintive, "So I leave a life full of regret." After which Harumi says "I'm not really sure there was a point to all that... But we saved the day anyway!" Seriously - how awesome is that?

Honestly, it was all an excuse for some of the most deliciously improper fanservice ever. Harumi (what is she, 12?) and Yukiko stripping off Chiko-sensei's thong and then doing a kind of erotic dance around the room as Enma-kun peeked through the window, grinding himself against the glass. I had to rub my eyes a few times to make sure it was really happening. Of course, all this was to the accompaniment of a vintage '70s insert song totally unsuited to the material, as Chapeau-ji, Kappaeiru and a random dog joined Enma-kun in leering at them. Wowzer - that's seriously twisted stuff. You really have to see it to believe it, please for the love of God - don't take my word for it.

Lest you get complacent, next week we meet a barely-dressed witch named Enbi-chan, who enters our screens with the promise of making the mortal world a "Sexier and more exciting place!" I, for one, can hardly wait.

Hoshizora e Kakaru Hashi - 3

Poof!

If I really stop and consider it, there's really no denying that this show is pretty dumb. There isn't an ounce of sophistication to it, and not more than an ounce or two of originality. But dammit, there's just some quality to it that engenders affection. If I had to name it, I would say it's goofy. Dumb, but totally lacking in self-consciousness about it. Shameless and without vanity whatsoever. Taken as a whole, it sort of works.

I guess we're going to be teased with some groan-worthy "otouto route" gags every episode, but I don't think it's going to go any deeper than that. But I'll say this - Kazuma might be the bestest big brother ever. His devotion to Ayumu is, if not otoutocon, disturbingly maternal. It's sort of understandable, given Ayumu's frail nature and all, but when he stared lovingly off into the distance as Ayumu walked off to school... Oy.

Meanwhile, we have a longer introduction to Madoka (no, not that one) the Miko who was apparently given a homemade engagement ring by Kazuma when they were small. She has androphobia (fear of men), an increasingly common anime malady since Working! aired last year, and promptly deposits Kazuma on his back after he grabs her shoulder. When he tries to apologize at the shrine the next day we meet the next walking cliche, genki pixie - complete with striped leggings - Koyori-chan. Her "Poof!" speech was probably the comedic highlight of the episode - again, hilarious just for its sheer stupidity.

I guess if guilty pleasures in anime really do exist, this is one for me. There's no denying it is a pleasure for me so far, no matter how much shame that brings me. In terms of the harem it looks to me like Ui is a shoo-in, but it's early days yet.

Awkward...

Game of Thrones - 2


Well, that was exciting.

What this is turning out to be - at least after two episodes - is one kick-ass soap opera with epic fantasy trappings and an "R" rating. It's closer to Rome than Lord of the Rings so far, but we're at the beginning of the beginning, so I realize it's dangerous to make too many assumptions just yet.

There's so much going on in this episode that it's a bit dizzying - maybe too much going on, in all honestly. But it does manage to create a veritable freight train of dramatic tension as all the various plotlines play out. One thing that's abundantly clear is that the Lannisters are one vile bunch of cocoanuts - even King Robert seems to know it on some level, but there's no doubting that the Queen's dwarf brother Tyrion knows on every level. Peter Dinklage really shows his chops this week - his scenes are all superb, especially his exchange with Ned's bastard son Jon Snow. Snow is headed to "The Wall", the great barrier in the North that protects the kingdom from boogeymen of all stripes - along with his Uncle Benji and, oddly, Tyrion. He professes a desire to "piss of the end of the world" but I suspect there's more than that involved. Snow is a fascinating one, too - treated badly by his otherwise kind stepmother Cat, but clearly beloved by both his siblings and father. Tyrion sees the obvious karmic connection he has with Snow and seems to be cultivating a relationship that might pay dividends later.

Meanwhile, Bran is in a coma - much to the dismay of the Queen and her brother/lover, who very much want to see him quiet (as in dead) and stage a fire to get an assassin into his bedchambers to finish him off. But a defiant Cat and Bran's dire wolf prevent the killing, and Cat - armed with the knowledge that Bran was pushed off the wall and suspecting who did it - rides off to catch up Ned and the King's party, headed South. Tomboy Arya and her prissy sister Sansa get mixed up with the Queen's vile teenaged son Joffrey, a cowardly popinjay if ever one existed, and it costs Sansa's wolf, Lady, and the butcher's son their lives. Two innocents gone, there - along with a measure of Ned's respect for his friend the King, for not standing up for the truth in the face of his wife's carping for revenge. We mustn't forget about Danerys and her horse lord husband, Drago. In case the guys in the audience were getting bored we get some girl-girl interplay between she and her slave, as she seeks to learn how to please her husband. The show has just about everything else, so why not that as well?

With Bran waking up at the end of the episode, things are surely about to hit the fan next week. If the milk of Ned's friendship with King Robert wasn't already soured by this week's events, surely Cat's news will be the poison pill. The Lannisters are the obvious villains of the piece, but Ned's duties to his kingdom - he's clearly a man who takes them seriously - may compel him to support his king irrespective of what ugly truths he learns. Robert is about to be challenged from the South by the family he usurped twenty years earlier, and the "whitewalkers" and other supernatural uglies that appear to come along as part of winter's return are about to assault from the North. Robert's loyalties will be tested, too - we know already he doesn't love his wife - it was Ned's late sister he loved - and he's clearly disgusted by Joffrey (the heir to the throne).

Again, this feels more like a soap opera - albeit a really, really good one - than an epic fantasy to me at this point. That doesn't make me any less interested in what's happening - the series has done a fine job establishing character and investing the audience in what's happening on screen. It's obvious already that there are no boundaries here - children and animals are fair game just like anyone else - and that makes a kind of thrilling atmosphere in which anything and everything might happen next.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Hanasaku Iroha - 4

I'll admit I was a little worried after last week's wayward episode, which felt like a completely different series had possessed the one I'd grown to admire so much after two episodes. But based on this week, I needn't have - unless Hanasaku Iroha has one of the biggest cases of multiple personality disorder ever. Episode 4 was absolutely stellar from start to finish.

There are a lot of different things happening in this story, which seems to be a common recurring thread among Mari Okada's adaptations. While it's most overtly about Ohana's quest for self-discovery, it's also a really interesting fish-out-of-water tale about her adapting to small-town life. It's a romance, it's a study of village life itself, a commentary on family relationships and family businesses. And what's more, all of these aspects are just about equally interesting. The one dead-end so far has been Jiro, the "novelist" - and after last week's disastrous ep devoted entirely to him (apart from the brilliant last two minutes) the reverse happens this time - he's around for two minutes, then blissfully forgotten for the remaining twenty.

I loved Ohana's reaction to the grey heron - "Aren't they usually at the zoo?" That animal represents more than just an animal - but equally spot-on was the reaction of the small-town kids in Ohana's homeroom to the fact that she was from Tokyo. There's a real clash happening here - between a rural and urban view of life that are mutually incompatible, and very often at odds in today's Japan. Ohana also has an internal clash going on, between her fascination with the simple pleasures of her new life and the pull of her old life in Tokyo. I can't help but feel for Ko-chan - it's obvious that there was something very real between he and Ohana, but she's left him behind through no fault of his own - at least for now. Can someone grow without growing apart from the person they loved before? An interesting question, and one we haven't seen the last of in this series I'm sure.

I'm not crazy about Nako as a character - her whispering timidity is annoyingly trite and she feels like the least interesting person in the cast. But Minchi is growing in stature as the series progresses. You can't help but root for Ohana in her quest to build a relationship with her - and let's face it, this is anime so you know they'll eventually be friends - but at the same time, I just want to tell Ohana to back the Hell off. Her quality of rarely having an unspoken thought gets her in so much trouble with Minchi, with whom she seems to have a magical gift for saying the wrong thing. Of course it never occurs to her until it's too late that Tohru is the one Minchi likes - leading to the hilarious scene in the bath - but she then compounds her mistake by just not letting it go. It's the impatience of youth, I suppose - wanting to make things right immediately without thinking of the consequences. But if youth is wasted on the young, patience is surely wasted on the old.

I can't write this without touching on the beautiful look of the show here. Backgrounds, animation, character design - all off the charts. This show is delivering some of the loveliest visuals of any TV anime since Seirei no Moribito. P.A. Works has delivered gorgeous animation before - True Tears certainly comes to mind - but I think this may even be a touch better. The village setting is conveyed with such realism and detail that it feels as if you're watching a movie at times. The heron, the sakura, the shrine - at times this week I found myself gasping, pausing and rewinding just to savor the sights one more time. Director Masahiro Ando's finest work is the lavishly beautiful feature film Sword of the Stranger, and he clearly knows how to take all that gorgeous art and use it to its full advantage. I still rank AnoHana as the best show of the season, but with a few more eps like this week Hanasaku Iroha is going to make that a tough call.

Tiger & Bunny - 4


It's not an exaggeration to say there's very little that hasn't been done in the superhero genre. I think they ran out of original straight-up stories a couple decades ago, and at this point there have been so many reboots and parodies and satires that the satires themselves are starting to be satirized. In short - if you can imagine it, it's probably been done.

So I don't really hold it against Tiger & Bunny that it isn't exactly the freshest flower in the vase. Fact is, this feels pretty fresh. The reason, I think, is that Sunrise is really fully committed to the idea of a superhero slice-of-life series. Yes, we get our little action sequences every week - but they're really like little "Afterschool Specials", designed to illustrate the larger point being told in the episode. As Sackett over at Animesuki said, this is kind of a "buddy cop" show as much as anything - the grizzled, fading veteran and the clever, naive rookie teamed up against their will. And any good buddy-cop series is really about the lives of the cops.

This week was nominally about Karina, the "Blue Rose" of the heroes guild and famous for her Pepsi commercials. She's a high-schooler who really wants to be a singer, and is only doing the hero gig because the agency she works for demanded it as part of the deal. She's a likable enough addition, but this is really about Wild Tiger - to show us that Kotetsu never really stops being a Dad. He's the last idealist, Tiger - he saves people because it's the right thing to do. Naturally this attitude rubs off on the cynical but impressionable Karina, just in the nick of time for her to save everyone at the burning oil rig (whoops) in the middle of the bay.

A simple message, even sappy - but that's Tiger & Bunny. On the one hand it takes great pains to show us that even the seemingly exotic and spectacular is really mostly mundane and distasteful underneath. But it also takes pains to show that Kotetsu represents a kind of triumph of the spirit - a guy who isn't the best at what he does but always manages to keep smiling and doing the best he can for those he cares about. And in his case, that's just about everybody - even the bad guys, sometimes. We've seen the glorification of the mediocre in superhero comics before, but this is a pleasant and heartfelt take on it. So far, it's been a winning formula.

Ao no Exorcist - 2

In a sense, this is a pretty easy review to write. There's nothing too subtle about the appeal of this series - it's just solid - make that excellent - straightforward shounen. This is an old formula custom-tailored to appeal to a young male demographic - take some supernatural, superpowers, a little violence, throw in a very strong resonance with the frustrations of adolescence. It's a story about guys, starring mostly guys - in an odd way it reminds me of Bakuman in that sense - and it does a great job packaging all of it in an entertaining way.

Since this is fairly basic material, the execution is everything. Even though I knew what was coming in this episode, the death of Shiro was still meaningful and jarring. Part of this was no doubt due to the excellent performances by Nobuhiko Okamoto and especially Keiji Fujiwara, but it's also a tribute to the strong setup in the manga. The emotions between Shiro and his sons felt genuine right from the very beginning, and it made his loss all the more painful.

The contradiction of Rin's existence comes to the fore in the second episode, with Satan's minions making an all-out assault on Shiro's monastery to retrieve him and, when that fails, the ultimate final boss himself taking possession of Shiro's body to try and finish the job. It's only by drawing the sword that hold his demon powers - and thereby releasing his own demonic nature and forever ending his chance to be human - that Rin is able to close the gate to Gehenna and buy himself some time. But it's too late for Shiro, whose mortal body was destroyed by Satan's power. His last instruction was for Rin to call the only number in his phone - the best friend who would surely protect his son.

When said best friend shows up, however, it's with the announcement that he and his order are there to destroy Rin as a threat to humanity. It's Mephisto Pheles, in the person of yet another legendary seiyuu, Hiroshi Kamiya. He's a long way from Takashi Natsume now, though - a flashy, flamboyant kind of mad hatter exorcist. He agrees to take Rin on board as a member of his order and train him - but only with the warning that Rin will surely grow to wish he'd killed him this day. And what of Yuki, the "good son"? How will he react to everything that's happened?

This is an old formula, but there's nothing else like it in my rotation this Spring, so I'm glad to have it. As I said, execution is everything - and so far, the execution is superb. With the talents involved here, I expect it to stay that way.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Deadman Wonderland - 2

We finally get our OP this week, and it's a good one - a suitably industrial-sounding J-rock number with blood-red tinged visuals of the characters in grotesquely sultry poses.

Based on the PV for episode 3, it definitely looks like Manglobe is planning to tell this story in 12 episodes - and God speed, because I think that's close to impossible - because things appear to be accelerated quite a bit. I was holding out hope that this would be some sort of split-cour series or something similar, but it doesn't look that way. I won't spoil the manga, but if they do indeed squeeze this into a cour a lot of the detail is certainly going to be lost.

For all that, I think Manglobe has done a very nice job capturing the essence of what makes the manga so successful. This is all about brutality. The brutality Ganta faces at the hands of those bigger and stronger than he is, like the martial-arts master turned murderer Kozuji Kazumasa. The brutality of just how unfair Ganta's fate is - and the fact that he has to accept that unfairness if he's to survive it. And the brutality of a government that would use prisoners as profit-generators in a grotesque theme park of a prison. Yes, there's some social commentary going on here, sorry, but that's just part of the deal with Kataoka and Nondou's manga.

The dog race concept isn't a totally original idea, I freely admit - we've seen setups like this before, and the special "high stakes" version of the race scumbag Tamaki puts on for Ganta's benefit is something straight out of "Prince of Persia" with spinning blades, acid pits and plunges to a splattering doom - all to the shrieking delight of a paying audience trying to convince itself it's all faked. Fortunately for Ganta - naively never even having read enough of the rule book to realize he needs the prison's special candy every three days or the poison in his collar win kill him - Nessa Shiro is along to protect him from the many death traps and from Kazumasa, besides. Ganta doesn't realize this right away, of course - it's only in the end, when she tries to help him win the race and the 100K "cast points" that go with it - that he realizes she'd been saving his butt all along and not larking around.

What the anime is slowly doing is revealing the nature of the characters surrounding Ganta. He has a few allies in his despair - most obviously Shiro, but also a Chief Guard, Makina, who bridles at some of the things Assistant Warden Tamaki forces her to do. Ganta also thinks he's found a friend in fellow inmate Yoh Takami, but unfortunately for Ganta he's a mole reporting to Tamaki.  Just how many people are in on the secret of Ganta's innocence isn't made clear yet, but there are certainly those who can see something isn't right with this whole picture. 

But of course, in this world founded on lies Ganta (and we) can't really take anything we see at face value. This isn't a happy story and it isn't going to be a pleasant ride, but if they continue to succeed in capturing something of what makes the manga great it's going to be a gut-wrenching, emotional and breathlessly exciting one. I wish Manglobe all the luck in the world - they're going to need it.

Doctor Who Season 32, Episode 1: The Impossible Astronaut

But first, a little story.

Doctor Who is probably the very first thing I was an otaku for. Before I knew what anime or manga was (though I'd seen "Star Blazers" and "Speed Racer") I was staying up late on Sunday nights, watching "Who" on WTTW in Chicago at 11:00 PM. My first Doctor was Tom Baker, and to this day he's my favorite - but once I was a fan, I was hooked, and I watched them all. I became quite the little fanatic - I attended a few cons, bought a Dr. Who scarf (well, my parents did) and converted the rest of family - sisters, parents (Mom especially). It was quite an obsession.

"Who" ran more or less uninterrupted for 26 seasons, starting on the BBC on November 22, 1963 - the day JFK was assassinated, as it happens. There was a little 18-month hiatus in the '80s, but that's the only break - until 1989, when the BBC cancelled the series. There were intermittent rumors of a theatrical film, a TV revival, even an abortive TV movie "co-produced" by the BBC and Fox in 1995 starring Paul McGann. But then, in 2005, the impossible moment came - the BBC revived the series, under the direction of "Queer as Folk" creator Russel T. Davies. Now in the 6th season of it's new incarnation, we're already on out 3rd lead actor (I'll assume you know how all this works) and 2nd show runner.

I think we've done pretty well on this second go-around, Doctor-wise. Christopher Eccelston was one of darkest Doctors, but a fascinating figure and a fine actor - but he left after only one season. David Tennant replaced him and, while he struggled at first, in my view he grew into one of the finest incarnations of the character. After three years he left, replaced by the current actor, Matt Smith - the youngest ever to fill the role at 27. More on him in a minute.

Russell Davies is a contradiction. The debt Whovians (don't ask) owe him is undeniable - he persuaded the Beeb to bring the series back from the dead. He undeniably made it a commercial success, even generating two spinoffs - Torchwood and the Sarah Jane Adventures (starring the incomparable Liz Sladen, who passed tragically just this week) reprising her role as the Doctor's most beloved companion. But on some level, RTD just didn't get Who. His shows were earthbound, too campy, generally lacking the essence of what made the series great even through 26 years of change. Fortunately his replacement was Steven Moffat - the "Grand Moff" who had written many of the best episodes of the RTD years. Now in his 2nd year, it's clear Moff gets the series in a way RTD never did. The shows are still current, updated, different from the old show - but something of the same spirit now inhabits it again.

With that, we're at the premiere of S32 (or S6 if you're a non-traditionalist). One thing is clear - Moff is a believer in big, continuous storylines (a rarity in the old Who) and likes the keep the audience guessing. Perhaps in a concession to the age and the reality that the audience for this series skews older now, the storytelling style is much less direct - it's all about subterfuge, misdirection, and foreshadowing. Much of the groundwork fr this plot line has been laid in the last year - the mysteries surrounding companion Amy Pond, in-the-know wild card River Song, the "Time War" which wiped out the Doctor's home planet of Gallifrey and his race, the Time Lords. As we begin, the Doctor has disappeared - but he's sent invitations out to Amy (and hubby Rory), River, a mysterious old man and... Someone else. The invitations give a time and place - the desert in the American West, presumably 2011.

This is interesting in that it's the first time the series has filmed in the US, and they ham it up pretty good - roadside diners, Stetson hats, six-shooters. What appears to happen is that the Doctor has invited the others - and a younger version of himself - to his own death, at the hands of an "impossible astronaut" who appears out of the middle of a lake. When the Doctor - the younger version - and his team travel back to 1969 to figure out just what his older self was up to (the others aren't allowed to tell him for fear of blowing up the universe with a time paradox) they find there are some weird aliens involved, too - aliens who you forget as soon as you look away from them. And not just that, but a little girl who calls President Nixon (not one of the better versions you'll see) every night, telling them that a spaceman is about to eat her. Nixon has called on rogue FBI man Canton Everett Delaware III (LOL) to figure it out - in a nice touch, father and son actors William and Mark Sheppard play the young and old versions of Delaware. When the Tardis turns up in the Oval Office, all Hell breaks loose.

If that doesn't make sense from you I won't even try and explain it - the mythology behind this show is so complex and has so many internal inconsistencies that you have to either do some real research or just accept it at face value. What matters now is whether it's entertaining and whether it's "Who". I'd give this episode a fairly solid "yes" on both questions. It's over-complex and doesn't exactly play fair with the audience, and some of the facts (like the younger Doctor being 200 years younger) don't make sense with any timeline or internal "law" I've seen. As for the cast, River is a character I've come full circle on (that's a test of how big a fan you are, BTW). I loved her when Moffatt first introduced her with Tennant, but she's come to annoy me now with her constant sexual innuendo and talk of "spoilers". She feels the least like a real Who character of anyone on the show, in my view. Amy and Rory are better. I've always liked the dynamic of a male and female companion together, though we've never had a real couple before. Amy is fun - spirited, quirky and fairly resourceful. Importantly, she appears to have no romantic interest in the Doctor. One of the biggest failings of the RTD years is that the barrier that always existed between the Doctor and his companions was lowered way too much. He is an alien, after all - and that separation was important. Affection was fine - but what we saw under RTD was too much like a relationship on even terms.

As for Smith himself, now in his second season, I think he's faring pretty well. I was worried about his age at first, but he has an "old soul" quality and an ageless look that quickly make you believe him as an 1100 year-old Time Lord. At this point he's a bit nice for my tastes - probably, along with Peter Davison, the nicest of all the Doctors. I'd like a little more mystery, a longer glimpse into the alien nature of the character - but I can live with what I'm getting. He's a force of nature, is Smith - all arms and legs and yet graceful (Smith was once an elite schoolboy football player).

This promises to be an interesting season, with an episode by Neil Gaiman to come, along with several more by Moffatt. As much as he likes to string the audience along, Moff is probably going to have to resolve this running plot this season - starting with some serious explanations in part 2 next week. His scripts generally pack a lot of suspense, sometimes some real scares, and he's not afraid to take the Doctor to some dark places. That's as it should be with this series. I don't feel the same way about Doctor Who as I did when I was watching those late-night screenings on channel 11 - maybe it's a bit like "As Time Goes By" in that my youthful passion has matured into a comfortable affection. But it will always hold a special place in my heart, and it's nice to see it back - delivering some of the best drama on TV in a way that's fairly consistent with the show I loved in my youth.

Yondemasu Yo, Azazel-san - 3


This one keeps striving to top itself, setting a pretty high standard for tastelessness and shock value after only three episodes. This week, we meet an overweight stalker who has contracted the salamander demon, Kimitake-sensei, to help him marry the pretty model he's stalking. Sakuma is naturally suspicious, but Kimitake's power - in addition to projectile expectoration - is to take someone's false words and make the person actually believe them. Sakuma falls victim to this and is now compeltely on-board, and Azael and Beelzebub can only see the benefits of this for sexual harassment and shit-eating, so they willingly join in too.

Meanwhile, the model has hired Akatube (unaware of the goings-on in his office) to get rid of the stalker. He breaks up the others little party and lamps pretty quickly to what's happening and what Kimitake can do, but the stalker and the others escape. He summons yet another demon, this one a fishy-mermaidy thing named Citro. It's Kobayashi Yuu in full frantic-mode, and her special power - in addition to taking it in the mouth - is to transform anyone she's jealous of because they seem happier than she is. Oh, dear.

This is not exactly the next Seirei no Moribito or Ghost Hound for Production I.G. to proudly place in their historical record. No, it's ten minutes of sheer gross-out stupidity - kind of like an anime version of "The Aristocrats" played out with demons. But it's undeniably funny if you have a high enough threshold for tastelessness.

"Her special power is taking it in the mouth"

Gosick - 14

Things progressed shockingly quickly in this episode, all things considered. An awful lot of things that hadn't happened for 13 episodes finally did here, and it was a lot to take in - kind of a character development and plot overload for a show that has generally moved things along at a pretty leisurely pace.

The abstract conflict between Avril and Victorique escalated into a full-fledged shooting war this week, a kind of moe-off between the two of them that must have had viewers dazed. From Avril's delighted screaming in the graveyard to Victorique's reaction to being offered a raspberry sandwich (?) there were kawaii missiles exploding all over the landscape. If that weren't enough, the two of them finally met face to face and that's when the real heavy artillery was fired.

To begin with, Cecile - proving herself to be every bit the airhead sensei her character design portended, forced Victorique into attending class for some reason. She was seated in front of Avril and then, for whatever reason, Avril showed a nasty streak that seemed a little out of character. She mocked the trembling Victorique by calling her "Gray Wolf", "Monster", etc. - which understandably pissed Victorique off to no end. Unfortunately she overreacted by throwing her desk at Avril (believe it or not) and landing her in the infirmary. She was OK, but this exchange led to a serious run of unpleasantness between the two girls and Kujo - with Victorique refusing Kujo's admonition to apologize and instead calling Avril a "farting newt" when the older girl tried to apologize to her. Rebuffed at every turn in attemping to set things right, Avril finally resorted to calling Victorique a "frilly witch" and decided on a competition to solve the Leviathan mystery, she and Kujo against the Gray Wolf - which is surely rifles against slingshots in an unfair fight.

Oh yes, that Leviathan mystery wasn't forgotten. We had some interesting little tidbits - the village is full of hidden rooms where Protestants were sheltered in the old days, and mass graves of Protestant victims of state-sponsored violence. There were a group of Africans who lived in the village once, but were all wiped out in a plague in 1873. And Victorique opines that Leviathan is both 100% dead and a 100% fraud - turning a white rose into a blue as proof.

The other milestone this week was that Brian Roscoe finally interacted with the main cast - first Victorique, then Kujo - after hovering on the fringe of the story for 13 eps. Victorique has certainly linked him to the death of the Asian man (Roscoe's fellow magician) in the clock tower, and she implies that she knows he's connected to her mother as well. Their clock-tower meeting is interrupted by the arrival of a carpenter assessing whether it should be torn down, but he meets Kujo there later, one-on-one - at which point it seems Kujo has figured out Roscoe's place in the narrative as well.

This was certainly one of the fastest-paced and densely packed episodes so far. I fount that exciting but a bit jarring, as was Avril's verbal assault on Victorique. After never having even met to see the two of them engaged in full-on combat over Kujo was jarring as well. Everyone behaved indefensibly here to some extent, and a lot of feelings were singed pretty badly. The crux of the matter is that Avril has no chance to defeat Victorique for Kujo's affections, and that's going to become obvious even to her at some point - at which time it will be interesting to see where her story goes. Kujo was certainly overzealous in his demands that Victorique apologize and should have let Avril finish her confession about her blame in all of it, but there was obviously a build-up of frustration on his part at Victorique's rude and abusive behavior. I don't think she can be pardoned for that - it's understandable, given her background and what she's had to endure, but understandable is not excusable. I for one thought it was a good thing that Kujo finally stood up to her and called her out for being anti-social. It's good for her in the long run.