To be brutally honest, part of me was hoping Majestic Prince would completely lose me this week and I’d be able to drop it – at least from blogging – with no reservations. My weekends are looking crazy this season as is. But while there are numerous issues that keep the show from being a standout, I confess I’m still more engaged with it than I expected to be.
Here’s the deal. The oatmeal faces are a distraction. The characters are shallow enough that I still can’t place the names to the faces. The animation is nothing special. The moralizing is pretty broad and simplistic. Yet still, somehow, I sort of like the show. The attitude of the adults exploiting the kids pisses me off. Some of the gags make me laugh. And I do feel empathy for the pilots being exploited. Is all that enough to keep me blogging it? I guess I can only say “We’ll see”.
The interesting thing is, it appears that the outrageously frivolous tone of the premiere was something of a feint. GKMP still seems to be a satire of the child soldier-mecha genre, but with a bit more edge than it looked at first (and I say this even if Tamaki survives, as I expect her to). The scenes with the five pilots getting their medical exam and going for the most depressing vacation ever were quite effective, because what they showed was how the kids have had all the joy sucked out of their lives by having adult responsibilities dumped on them and being relegated to tools in someone else’s arsenal. In its way that’s a more powerful condemnation of the child soldier system than seeing them under brutal physical threat in battle.
I know none of this is really new and it’s certainly not subtle, but there’s an honesty and directness to the series’ POV that kind of works for me. In many ways I’m reminded of Symphogear – both series are almost amateurish in some ways, but play almost like appreciations by enthusiastic fans of their respective genres. I’m certainly going to give it another couple of weeks as a viewer at the very least.
Yahari Ore no Seishun Love Come ga Machigatteiru – 03
In contrast to Majestic Prince, Yahari is a series I was really hoping would decisively pull me in and make me a believer. I want to like this show more than I do – it’s Brains Base, has a certain depth to it, and seems to have an impulse to try and tell and do something meaningful. But in the end I’m in just about the same place – interested, but possibly not enough to keep blogging it.
While self-deception is at the heart of Yahari, I confess I find Yukino’s brand of it rather unappealing. That I’ve grown to really dislike her isn’t especially helpful in trying to connect to the show, but it’s not an insurmountable problem. In contrast to Hachiman, I sense with Yukino that she could easily be popular if she wanted – she’s attractive and smart and erudite – but she’s so judgmental that no one can sufficiently meet her exacting standards to become her friend. Where I find his isolation somewhat sympathetic, hers seems self-inflicted (well, his is too, to a lesser extent). What they share, I suppose, is that in both cases there’s an element of wish-fulfillment.
As for this week’s episode, we seem to be going down the Haganai path in the introduction of a reverse trap in Totsuka Saika (Komatsu Mikako), the Tennis Club member who appeals to Hikki for help. I suppose he could be a “straight” trap (the androgynous style of dress doesn’t help make it easier to tell) and actually male, but my initial reaction was the same as when I saw Yukimura – “There’s no way in hell that’s a dude.” If Saika is indeed a boy that adds an interesting element to the story, as there seems to be genuine romantic interest towards Hachiman and genuine attraction going the other way. The tennis plot itself is mostly notable for the role of Hayato (Kondou Takashi) who perhaps most among any of the characters we’ve met so far is a puzzle to figure out. Is he really a peacemaker and a nice guy, or just an arrogant SOB who gets off on showing how “accepting” he is towards the social rejects?
Karneval – 03
Sigh… Yet another fence-sitter for me, but I’m leaning against continuing with Karneval. It definitely has its charms, but the style is so foppish and absurd that I really have a hard time taking anything that happens with even the admittedly modest level of seriousness we’re being asked to. And while I hate to get so hung-up on casting that it can be a deal-breaker, Shimono Hiro sounds so utterly preposterous as Nai that I’m having a hard time getting past it. To an extent I think he’s doing exactly what he’s supposed to – it just doesn’t work for me.
On the other hand, the plot isn’t half-bad. The revelation that Nai is actually some sort of human/magical pixie-beast hybrid does explain a lot, and I’m not uninterested in finding out what the struggle between Circus and Kafka is really all about. There are hints that the story could go a lot darker, which would make a welcome respite from the silliness and bishounen fetishizing. What made shows like Pandora Hearts and D.Gray-man tolerable was that there was a cutting edge to the narrative, and a willingness to go to painful and uncomfortable places.
There’s a lot of talent involved with Karneval, but right now I’m not buying any of the performances unreservedly and none of the characters stands out as really compelling. And with the cast as large as it already is and growing weekly, finding someone to really identify with isn’t going to get any easier. Sadly – for this is another show I quite wanted to stick with – Karneval looks like a likely candidate for the chopping block.