May 17 - 18, 2008

So, welcome to the AV Club's Adult Swim coverage! I'll be your host for this evening–drink all you want, but please use the coasters, they're there for a reason.

Saturday:

The anime block opens with Bleach–"New School Term, Renji Has Come To The Material World?!" The start of the show's third major story arc, "New School" has a quiet before the storm feel; after saving Rukia in Soul Society, everybody is back home and getting into their normal lives. Ichigo reconnects with his family (including his father, who has a "Not now, Kato!" approach to child-rearing), while Orihime struggles to overcome her feelings of inadequacy. Those feelings make her vulnerable when her (dead) brother comes knocking, leading to a cliff-hanger with Orihime sucked through the gates to the Underworld while a creepy blonde girl laughs surrounded by her equally creepy, well-shadowed friends. There are some exciting bits, like a brief Hollow attack on the high school, but overall, "New School Term" was mostly about changing gears, and it doesn't really get going till the last five minutes.

Next up, episode 4 of Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion, or "His Name Is Zero." It turns out there are actually repercussions to killing a Governor-General. When Lord Jeremiah can't find Clovis' real killer, he's frames Suzaku Kururugi, a soldier in the Britannia army. Lelouch uses Kururugi's incarceration as an excuse to contact the Japanese rebellion disguised as Zero, his super-hero-esque alter-ego. While Suzaku is being transported to his court martial, Lelouch-as-Zero reveals himself publicly, showing his nifty goth fencer outfit off to its best advantage before using his Geass power (which lets him order someone to do whatever he wants, ala Preacher's Word of God) to order Jeremiah to help Suzaku escape. This leads to the episode's best scene, when Zero tries to convince Suzaku to his cause; Suzaku refuses, deciding to turn himself back in and change the system from the inside.

Serial storytelling is all about raising the stakes–Geass looks off to a good start, but Death Note is practically the platonic ideal. Like mid-game in chess, it exists entirely in a series of pressures, each check growing more drastic as turn by turn pieces drop off the board. "Justice" keeps up the danger, with Mello coming out of hiding long enough to tell Near that not all the rules in the Death Note are true. In the sort of logic-problem-with-daggers that the series excels at, Near uses this to put Light (who Near suspects of being Kira with "7 percent certainty") in a spot, by offering him the thing he wants most–Mello's death–but only at the cost of implicating Light as Kira once again. After Light wriggles out of the test, he goes on the offensive, exploiting his power over the US president to hunt down Near's base of operations and expose him. With Light/Kira's pet film crew dispatched to be first on the scene, and Misa Aname ready at her notebook to write Near's name the moment he comes into view, things look bad for the only person left alive who could take Kira down.

And then it's off to the ski slopes for Shin Chan and "Super Happy Fun Time American School Presents: Winter Blunderland!" Shin and his classmates are on a two day field trip; while Shin hits on lesbians and other women at least four times his age, his teachers obsess over getting laid and, um, getting laid a lot. Shin briefly goes off on his own to put the moves on some college girls, but he comes back in time for some crudely drawn male nudity and penis jokes in the steam room. Shin is all about shock value, which can get exhausting after a while. Still, you gotta love a show that retells the "Thriller" video as an actual ghost story, with the scariest bit being that the girl goes home with Michael Jackson in the end. And the brief action show parody ("Action Bastard!") that caps off the twenty minutes is choice–the hero sounds like Nick Danger from the Firesign Theater radio parodies, and the sexual integrity of his sidekick, Lollipop ("Just how old are you?") is funny in all the wrong/right ways.

Plus, it's a perfect segue into the meta-wackiness of

Sunday:

In a rare move for Metalocalypse, "Dethwedding" is almost gore free–in fact, apart from the assassination of the head of Dethklok's Australian fan club in the first thirty seconds, no one dies. Instead, we get lots of angsty internal violence when Pickles receives a video message from his no-good brother, Seth, inviting Dethklok to his wedding. (The invite is shot like an inspirational montage for celibate twenty-somethings.) The situation is so dire that even the Tribunal keeps its hands off, since there's no evil they could do that would be worse than marriage. Seth gloms more and more money from the group until Pickles finally snaps and beats the crap out of his stupid, greedy leech of a sibling. Murderface and Nathan just soak it in; "It's like an eclipse," Murderface says. "You just have to be there." Overall, the ep was a little too low key, but not bad. And the expression on Nathan's face when some old dude at the reception asks him "the difference between a guitar and a bass guitar" was kind of awesome.

The Atlanta of Squidbillies is going through one hell of a drought in "The Okaleechee Dam Jam," bad enough to cancel the Wet T-Shirt contest, to the disappointment of Granny and her dangling balloon boobs. Dan Halen's water park is hit worst of all–the water slide only works off of Early's tobacco spit (ew), and the pool is full of the best "Chinese wolf piss" money can buy (ach). Which would've made for the grossest moment, until Granny talks about her urine and/or crap being green with whole cities of little orange bugs. Thankfully, Halen has seen Early's utter commitment to line dancing and comes up with a plan to save the town: he hires David Allan Coe to do a song that forces Early to dance his way straight to blowing up the town dam. Huzzah. Damn but that orange bug thing was gross.

Then there's Assy McGee. It's hard to believe a premise that would've made an okay Garbage Pail Kid has lasted over a season. As a parody of cop dramas, Assy never really gets better than its opening credits; the show itself can't seem to be bothered to go past the easiest (and, occasionally, kind of funny) joke. In "Vowel Movement," Assy is put to work tracking down a missing spelling bee champion. Maybe it was the late hour, but I couldn't stop wondering at the plain old fashion mechanics of being an ass on two legs. When Assy has sex with one of the missing kid's teachers, I got freaked trying to figure out how would that even work. Where there prosthetics involved? Man, serious nightmare fuel. And then I started thinking about that cool Tom Waits song, "Eyeball Kid," and then Assy played Russian Roulette with a Shanghai gang leader and of course he had the red cloth around his "head" like in The Deer Hunter. And then it was done.

That kind of a show, really. I guess if you can fill twelve minutes consistently, somebody's going to like it.

Grades:

Bleach, "New School Term, Renji Has Come To The Material World?!": B+

Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion, "His Name Is Zero": A-

Death Note, "Justice": A-

Shin Chan, "Super Happy Fun Time American School Presents: Winter Blunderland!": B+

Metalocalypse, "Dethwedding": B

Squidbillies, "The Okaleechee Dam Jam": B+

Assy McGee, "Vowel Movement": C+

Stray Observations:

- From Shin Chan: Miss Katz, longing for a handsome man, "and his timid friends who hopefully like to watch."

- "How many field trips must end with a child eaten by wolves?"

- I'd been away from Death Note for a while, and I'll admit; it still bothers me that the original L is dead. Easily my favorite character on the show, although Near is a decent replacement.

- It feels weird giving the anime letter grades–I'll keep with tradition for now, but I'm curious, how important are they to people?

- So, comments? Any ardent Assy McGee supporters out there?

- Venture Bros. Two weeks.

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