It was discussed in last week's comments that the current Bleach arc is basically filler, created to stall for time so Tite Kubo, writer and illustrator of the manga on which the series is based, could come up with a new storyline. This isn't automatically a bad thing; a new creative voice on a series can offer a different perspective, and take familiar characters in new directions.
There's still time for that to happen in the arc now airing, but if "Episode 66" is any indication, breath should not be held for fear of a serious case of unconsciousness. Ichigo, Renji, and Uryu visit Urahara's shop to confer about Chad's disappearance, and Urahara tells them what he learned last week, that the girl's voice that's been directing the group around town has no "fingerprint," or ramon. Ichigo gets a new phone call from the kidnappers, ordering him and his friends to the Katakura museum. There, they find an endless series of empty rooms, punctuated only by the occasional death trap.
The museum "game," as the kidnappers call it, is clever but somewhat familiar; anyone whose watched there share of genre television will be familiar with the "traps that are only in your miiiiiind" trick, although Uryu's geometric deductions are a new twist. But the real kick in the teeth comes in the show's final moments. After realizing that the bad guys are "Mod Souls," modified souls created by Soul Reapers that come in handy pill form, the heroes are released into the morning sun to find Chad and Orihime waiting, with no idea how they got there. Annoying Girl urges everyone to go to school, where the next "game" will start, but you can't help noticing that the last three episodes have accomplished just about nothing.
With "The Stolen Mask," Code Geass initially seems headed in the same water-treading direction. Suzaku is having a hard time fitting in at school because of his eleven-status, but Lelouch invites him over to spend some time with the family and reminisce about their shared past. Lelouch's sister, Nunnally, is rapidly becoming my least favorite character on the show–not only is she blind and in a wheelchair, her dubbed voice brings back memories of Little Nell from Dickens. Meanwhile, Lord Jeremiah is released from prison with a three rank demotion, and Cornelia attacks another faction of the Japanese revolutionaries in her caped robot, obsessed with tracking Zero down.
I'll admit, the caped robot was cool, but for the first part of "Mask," my attention wandered. Between Nunnally's simpering and Suzaku's endless nobility, there didn't seem to be much going down. But then, C.C. finds Lelouch packing away his Zero mask to avoid detection–and a cat sneaks into the room, and inadvertently gets the mask stuck on its head. And runs away with it.
Anime fans are no strangers to tonal shifts, but the ensuing chase sequence, starting with Lelouch racing after the purloining feline but ultimately spiraling until it involves the entire school, plays like someone flipped the zany switch. Especially the school involvement; when Lelouch's friends discover what he's chasing, they decide the cat has evidence of some secret he's been keeping from them, and the class president announces over the intercom that whoever manages to catch the puss will get a kiss from a member of the student council. It's like something out of "Saved By The Bell," with apparently every boy and girl on campus going spastic at the idea of a ten second lip-lock. In the end, Lelouch keeps his secret, and Suzaku overcomes the prejudice of others by proving his worth in a daring roof-top rescue. It's a light-hearted romp, but the goofiness of the last half saves the episode from being a complete write-off.
In "Selection," Death Note slows down long enough to give us a brief history of the Note's new holder, Kira-devotee and persecuting attorney Teru Mikami. Another in the series line of justice-fixated anti-heroes, Mikami takes the philosophy to its natural, objectivist conclusion. Mikami decides at an early age that people are either Good or Evil, with no gray area, and it's his duty to fight against the Evil as best he can. This starts as defending fellow students from bullies, and leads to his job as an attorney and his need to "delete" Evil. (Always with the capital E.) Along the way, Mikami loses faith in his mother when she urges him to compromise his mission, only to see her killed in a car accident that also ends the lives of four juvenile delinquents. From then on, anyone that Mikami decides doesn't deserve to live dies, without his intervention; coincidence or not, it makes him all the more vulnerable to Kira's ultimate offer.
Light, in his work as Kira, is a megalomaniac, arrogant, ruthless, and utterly convinced in his own righteousness. Mikami shares these traits, but he's also a fanatic; his early attempts to save people resulted in a growing need for the approval of others, and in Kira's word, he has the end and be all of his self-worth. His fanaticism, while initially providing Light with a safe choice to share power with, poses a danger because of its unpredictability; Mikami is not just crazy, he's crazy with a purpose, and without the inherent self-interest that keeps Light (relatively) in check, there's every reason to believe the new Kira could throw off the whole game.
Light gets a glimpse of this danger when Mikami finds a new spokesperson for Kira, Kiyomi Takada, a newswoman who shares Mikami's feelings on justice. Her first Kira-dictated broadcast takes Light's vision for the future too fast; but Light has a connection to Takada from his college years that he can exploit to make contact with his disciple. There's no sign of Near, and only brief glimpse of Mello, and Light's task force make for lousy antagonists, making Light's apparent victory at "Selection"'s end feel a bit too inevitable. Still, Mikami's history is great–his whacked out deletion sessions promise bitter times ahead.
According to Wikipedia, the FUNimation English dub of Shin Chan "takes many liberties with the source material"; knowing that, each episode becomes a game of "spot the original plot." A kind of low-rent What's Up, Tiger Lily?, the dissonance between the relatively low-key domestic visuals and crude dialogue is part of where the show gets its humor. Although given the number of cartoon penises (peni?) from a couple weeks back, it's hard to argue that Shin is entirely innocent.
"Ass Got Breezy Being Green" has Shin and the gang go frog hunting. It's all very Normal Rockwell, once you get past Shin's backside open frog costume. (As someone says, "Do all your costumes have to be assless?") The late appearance of a couple second grade bullies threatens to derail the fun, but Shin's freaky ass costume saves the day.
Most of "Ass"'s dubbing matches the animation, apart from a random line from some guy hiding in the grass who we never see; but the dubbing of "Summer Baby" makes you wonder how the original script played. Summer and her daughter Paris visit the Chan household, much to Shin's mom's regret, and nothing anyone says sounds quite like it should; one exchange in particular, a three minute riff on Paris's "dwarfism," sounds like a tweaked improv session between college kids. And it's about as funny.
Bleach, "Episode 65": B-
Code Geass, "The Stolen Mask": B
Death Note, "Selection": A-
Shin Chan, "Ass Got Breezy Being Green/Summer Baby": C+
-Shin Chan finally has its mantra: "Butts are funny."