Everything about this show screams dichotomy to me. I think it has a good heart and buried deep inside it there’s a real intelligence that could be put to good use in telling this story. But it’s so hopelessly ensnared in light novel trappings that I’m not sure it’s ever going to be able to escape. And every time I think it’s going to achieve a moment of emotional subtlety, it clubs me over the head with incredibly broad and manipulative dialogue.
I find something quite poignant in the fundamental observation at the heart of the series – all of the main characters basically spend their time dreaming up reasons for why they’re isolated, when the reality is that they’re simply very bad at moving along with the crowd. Hikki’s tortured navel-gazing mixed metaphor at the beginning (a lone-wolf bear) sums him up pretty well, and it’s quite affecting even if it is rather pathetic. Yukino’s ridiculously high standards for other people are just a way of justifying why none of them want anything to do with her. And Yui is simply a climber who’s neither ruthless or skilled enough to achieve the acceptance she so badly craves. The irony here – Hikki and Yukino are supposedly too honest for their own good when in fact they’re experts at self-deception – is an effective one.
It doesn’t help that this series is such a weird hodge-podge of themes floating about in the atmosphere – we meet a chuunibyou character this week in Zaimokuza Yukiteru (Hiyama Nobuyuki, bombastically funny as usual). There are parts of the Service Club premise that feel like recycled Sket Dance or Medaka Box. And it’s impossible not to see the thematic parallels with Haganai as the oddballs of the Service Club conglomerate around Hachiman – heck, we even meet a character this week who I assume is a girl dressed as a boy. It feels as if all the expected boxes are being checked off, one by one.
I really want to like Yahari, because I think ultimately it has a good message and the ability to deliver it in a pleasing way – and I think there’s still a chance I will. But it’s driving me crazy so often with its trendy clichés that I’m really not sure I’ll be able to stick it out long enough for that to happen. Another problem is that while I sympathize with all the main characters so far, I don’t especially like any of them with the marginal exception of Hikki. Three episode rule? For sure – at the very least. But I have serious doubts at the moment.
Ginga Kikoutai Majestic Prince – 02
OK, I’m sure this is just a coincidence, but what were the odds that a character named “Saionji Reika” would show up in two straight series with “Ginga” in the title? Ginga e Kickoff fans will know that name of course, and in this episode of Majestic Prince we meet the busty, boozy mechanic by the same name (played by Oohara Sayaka). Or maybe, just maybe, there’s a GeK fan somewhere at Dogakobo?
As for the second episode itself, it was somewhat less relentlessly silly than the premiere, but still reveals a mecha show that doesn’t take itself nearly as seriously as the other two airing this season. We got an interesting Tiger & Bunny moment when Team Rabbit’s mobile suits were given corporate sponsors after their success made the “Majestic Princes” instant celebrities. And there’s clearly a division in opinion at HQ over the entire program, with some like Lt. Amane (Asano Masumi) openly disgusted with the use of minors as child soldiers. That especially becomes egregious in this episode, as military strategy takes a back seat to marketing and PR.
I was entertained by this episode, especially by the travails of the hapless Rabbits as they tried to deal with their newfound celebrity. However, it remains to be seen whether there’s enough meat on the bones of this premise to keep Majestic Prince going for two cours, especially if it (as seems likely) becomes less of a true comedy and more of an ironic action/drama. I won’t judge GKMP by the standards of Valvrave and especially Gargantia, because it isn’t trying to be the same kind of series those are – it doesn’t have their ambition and it certainly doesn’t have their budgets. But it still needs to be entertaining and have a raison d’etre in a crowded lexicon of mecha anime, and I have some concerns about whether it can answer those questions in the affirmative.
Photo Kano – 02
Photo Kano is a pretty bland offering thus far, despite the fact that Madhouse is doing the production and it has a terrific cast. Right now we’re just seeing an avalanche of heroines flashing on and off the screen, and the male lead agonizing over the dubious antics of the Photography Club. None of it is really making much of an impression either to the positive or negative, which is a tough place to build from.
I’m not generally a huge fan of the omnibus format used by the Amagami SS series, but maybe it’s a better fit for the Enterbrain school of VN than a traditional format. Love it or hate the individual routes at least Amagami always had a sense of narrative drive, which is largely lacking in PK so far. You don’t expect the male lead in this sort of series to have the charisma to carry the show, and Kazuya is certainly no different, but with so many girls fighting over screen time none of them is making much impact either. I quite liked Niimi Haruka (played by the superb Itou Kanae) – maybe there’s just something about Harukas in shows like this – and we also got the great Nakahara Mai playing the student council president, Muroto Aki. But right now I don’t see they or anything else bringing enough to the table to make Photo Kano really take off as a series.