Gingitsune is certainly a steak without a whole lot of sizzle. While the art is quite attractive the animation itself is quite basic, even rough. Plot-wise the focus so far has been squarely on the mundane, with the loftier mystical elements quite secondary. It’s a slice-of-life all right, and that there’s a quaint quality to the whole enterprise makes the somewhat dated visuals less of a problem than they might otherwise be. But so far it could hardly be said to be gripping.
About the flashiest part of Gingitsune is Miki Shinichirou’s standout performance as Gintarou, so an episode like this one where he’s not much involved is going to be have even less pop than normal. To be blunt it bordered on boring for me at times, and the school scenes dragged more than a little. There’s not a lot of subtlety in the moral positions the series takes, so the scenarios play out more like children’s stories where they tell you the moral at the end (though it isn’t necessary here) than anything else. I think the series could use a jolt of energy and a little conflict, and maybe the arrival of the boy Makoto’s age with his own Shrine Herald will bring those elements – he’s quite prominent in the OP and ED so I’m surprised we haven’t seen him yet.
For all that, though, I still like Gingitsune. I won’t deny that it may in large part be due to the fact that this is a show tailor-made for Shinto otaku, and I certainly am one – who knew you were supposed to walk on the left side of the stairs, for example? I fully agree with Makoto – shrines are magical places, and you do get the feeling that ageless spirits might be watching you when you visit one. That won’t cut it for everybody, but the series has other charms, mainly the fact that it has a lot of heart and it wears it on its sleeve. It needs a little more going for it to be truly engaging and it’ll need to show me more if I’m going to blog it, but my leash will be a little longer with Gingitsune than most shows because it pushes a lot of my buttons.
Kingdom 2 – 19
The first thing that should be said about this week’s episode of Kingdom is that it was a lot better visually than the last one, which is quite a relief. That means more with this show than it would with most, given its history – there was a bit of bad CGI this week, but much more in-line with what we’ve been seeing for most of the season – the occasional crowd shot or galloping horse, rather than the extended stretches of really off-model stuff and character close-ups. If this episode is any judge, Kingdom doesn’t seem to be headed for a full-on relapse.
As long as that’s the case we’re free to soak in the epicness of it all, which Kingdom delivers with remarkable consistency, especially this season. It really is a terrible break for Qin that Lian Po happened to end up in Wei, because that country was really supposed to be little more than a speed bump on Qin’s road to unifying the Warring States. As it stands they seem to have the upper hand in the first direct skirmish between the main armies thanks to Lian Po’s stratagems and the brilliance of his inner circle. So far the attention has mostly been on Lun Hu, who’s the point on Lian Po’s spear, but we see one of the other jewels in Lian Po’s crown start to have an impact at last.
Though it wasn’t his direct intention, it’s Xin and the Feixin Unit who break up Lun Hu and Wang Ben’s tea party, and one suspects just in the nick of time for the latter. Wang Ben is good with a lance and good as a leader, but Lun Hu is simply better – and the fact that he’s twice Wang Ben’s age and has probably ten times the battle experience doesn’t hurt either. The young thousand-man general does manage to land a glancing blow when he unleashes his signature move, but it’s nothing Lun Hu hasn’t seen before – and he seriously wounds Wang Ben before he or any of his men even realize he’s been attacked. But the Feixin Force is slowly turning the tide of the battle and moving the center of gravity towards this duel, and becoming the first flaw in the perfection of Lian Po’s strategy.
Ultimately, though, it’s not Xin who causes Lun Hu to strategically retreat but Xuan Feng, the mustachioed old man who’s been in the background up till now. His strategy is a simple one, but it causes chaos for the Qin forces – he bathes the battlefield in smoke, then uses small units clanging spears together to tell his archers where the enemy is. What I like here is that Lun Hu, while obviously disappointed that he didn’t get to dominate the battlefield himself, doesn’t get caught up in nonsense like Wang Ben’s challenge for a one-on-one fight or seizing the glory for himself – it’s all about winning, and when the smoke hits he does what he’s supposed to do and slips away along with the rest of the Wei soldiers.
While there are many parts of Meng Ao’s army that haven’t been heard from yet – not least the two vice-generals and Meng Tian – for those already on the battlefield the situation is pretty dire. It seems that it’s going to fall to Qiang Li to figure out the way to bear Xuan Feng’s trap and perhaps force another one of Lian Po’s lieutenants to reveal his strength.