Turkey is coming ...

Happy Thanksgiving…even though I’m British, the US has always been like a sister country to me, so I’ll most likely end up doing something minor too. Like have a turkey sandwich on that Thursday or something.

Back to anime. Last week saw Long Riders! off the list; maybe the writers needed time to recover from the impossibly bad episode before (involving cheongsams and magical maids). Thankfully cycling returned, and Ami mustered the courage to get on her new road bike, and mystery girl emerges, with a name: Saki.

Long Riders! has turned into a happy feel-good show, with no drama concerning the characters whatsoever; while I have no complaints about that, I am a little worried about the show, since it appears to be going at a very slow speed. With 2 delays and last week’s incredibly bad episode, is this going to be the shortest show I’ve ever done for OASG? My newly-found interest in cycling is the only thing that is really keeping me watching this now; none of the characters are that interesting, and it’s only when they reach pretty countrysides that I get excited. I’d already foresaw trouble when I noticed that about 90% of the OP just contained clips from the first two episodes, and nothing original.

I admit that Brave Witches hasn’t really shown anything original either, but I don’t think it’s the kind of show that can stand out among its predecessor; it’s a spin-off, nothing more (and nothing less). I’m enjoying what I see, and it brings back a lot of good memories when I saw the 501st unit in action, while this show is supposed to focuse on the 502nd unit, and is set between seasons 1 and 2 of Strike Witches.

I’ll begin by saying that Aleksandra is a very pretty girl. The command leader, and sole Orussian of the unit, it was very interesting to see her background story. She is painted as someone who is not very confident in herself, and feels that another can do a better job…alas she knows that being flight lieutenant and second-in-command is an important role that someone has to do, so all she can do is her very best. Leading a small squad consisting of Hikari and Nikka to chase after a shape-shifting Neuroi unit around Petersburg, she finds herself out of her element, as she knows nothing about the town……or does she? With her key power being memory, Aleksandra finds it odd she has sudden visions of her younger self playing in town. Soon enough we learn that, even though she was born in south Orussia, she spent parts of her childhood in Petersburg. Nikka sees through this straight away and puts her life at risk to destroy the Neuroi unit so that the city’s main church isn’t in ruins.

I never actually saw Aleksandra and Nikka as a pairing, but it does mirror the Strike Witches pairing of the Orussian Sanya and the Suomus Eila (the most well-known pairing of the 501st unit), plus it is the most adorable, easily beating last week’s Sadako and Georgette pairing.

This week’s Sangatsu no Lion picks up from where last week left us; a tall and foreboding middle-schooler staring down at Rei in a McDonalds clone (I find jocks scary too). Turns out that he recognises him via his father (who won’t shut up about him), and as he’s already conflicted about his own future (stay in the city or move), Rei is left stumped, as he has trouble answering a question regarding the validity of life. It’s noteworthy on how Rei is still in his losing streak and feels like anything he can say to this middle-schooler would be empty words, as he doesn’t believe in them himself.

After some curry and an embarrassing video of Rei playing the NHK cup on TV, Harunobu is brought into the show, attempting to motivate him (addressing the TV camera as a commentator), but to little avail, as Rei still refuses to believe that more people want to help him than he realises. Hina suddenly announcing she wants to learn shogi comes not much of a surprise; an attempt to get to know Rei better by understanding the world he lives in……but only SHAFT can make shogi fun to learn, by teaching the pieces and moves in the end credits.

[NB: the manga names this as the MHK cup, but as the show is shown on NHK, who broadcast shogi matches, they decided to change it.]

While we watch Rei wrestle with his mental health in the show, so many more of the characters in Sangatsu no Lion are, I think, just as valuable. The Kawamoto sisters are gradually becoming more of a prominence, as the three of them grow closer to him and act as a new foster family to him (the sisters he desperately wants), and while Harunobu is more of a comedy act, the two of them need each other to lean on (even if Rei often doesn’t like it). His original foster sister, Kyouko, will arrive as a solid secondary character shortly, and I know that both factually and instinctively.

While I knew what would happen in Sangatsu no Lion (my own fault for reading the manga), I was spot-on with Hibike! Euphonium 2. Volume 2 of the light novel ended the arc concerning the band split in the previous year, and moved straight to Asuka, and her mother’s anger in her playing a key role in band. This is something perfectly understandable for a parent; I mean I might if my daughter appeared to be more concerned with playing the euphonium than concentrating on her entrance exams. Asuka’s absence from the club was central to this episode; whether this will continue next week remains to be seen, because even though she reappeared at the end, this story was left a little open-ended. That was what conflicted me this week…I was looking forward to this storyline for weeks, where we finally see Asuka at her weakest (as opposed to her being practically perfect in every way). Instead things fell a little flat when the “will-she-stay-or-will-she-go” rumours were spread, and it was only until the end when it perked up again.

Related to this storyline, since the show began last year, I’ve always held the idea that Haruka was pushed/forced/bullied into becoming president, either by her fellow classmates or by the fact that no-one else wanted to do it. She doesn’t have as much screen-time as I’d like, but I still love her a lot because she fits my persona almost to the letter. I have a massive inferiority complex, like her, and I almost always have to rely on others for support, also like her. So I’m very happy that my favourite secondary character has been given her time to shine in this train station concert, doing a baritone sax solo. She has used Asuka’s absence to prove that she is a capable person who can lead, and is capable of standing on her own two feet. Hopefully Asuka will have noticed this, and thus let Haruka show that she is a better person than she believes she is.

I haven’t been feeling so well in this past week (both inside and outside), so watching Haruka taking center-stage has made me feel so much better…then again, I discovered that one of my most hated manga, Netsuzou Trap, is getting an anime adaptation. Your Name is being released this week here in the UK, so I can’t wait to watch that (considering our local cinema only ever shows samey Hollywood 3D trash for kids and toilet humour). I will also be taking a break from social media; I hope the holidays (our family celebrate both Christmas and Yule) will cheer me up.

Oh, and coming soon will be some one-off reviews, and I’ll be adopting a new format for the Winter season, so check that out.