Good news, everyone! Bowing to the will of the republic, The A.V. Club Watches Adult Swim Because I Don't Leave The House On Weekends has been split into two easy to swallow entries, Saturday Night Action Etc. and Sunday Night Meta-Madness. Thus, anime-haters will have one comment section, while those despising absurdist [blank] will be free to vent in another. (The people who don't like Venture Bros will, I hope, continue to not exist.)
Of the four series making up the Saturday block, Bleach is probably the hardest for me to get a handle on. Along with Code Geass and Death Note, its focus is on serial arcs over multiple episodes, as opposed to closed stories in each twenty minute segment. But where Geass and Note both attempt thematic coherence on the smaller scale, Bleach really seems like it would be best viewed in two or three hour chunks. Doesn't make it any less fun to watch, really, but it does make commenting on individual eps a bit–interesting.
"Episode 65" follows Ichigo and the gang as they try to solve Orihime's disappearance; a disappearance so thorough that no one back at the school even remembers who she is. Seeing everyone work together as a team as they investigate Orihime's home and follow a series of phone calls across town, I realized what the show reminds me of: The Real Ghostbusters. There's no direct character analog (if you squint, you could maybe mix up Orihime and Janine Melnitz)(okay, if you squinted and were kind of drunk), but there is a bunch of guys battling ghosts, with the same mixture of slapstick goofiness and sharp plunges into spook stuff. The designs and even some of the music cues are also sort of familiar, in a comforting way. When Chad gets kidnapped at the end of the ep and the three responsible for his and Orhime's disappearance reveal themselves, it gave me fond memories of sitting on the carpet Saturday mornings, hopped up on sugar and waiting for the Boogeyman to get his ass kicked.
Still, there's something inherently frustrating in not having any resolution–it's all the suspense of a two-parter, but with the added knowledge that it'll take a lot longer than just next week for things to finish playing out. I'm betting this will improve once the current arc hits its stride, but "65" seems to hit the end credits just at the moment it was finally getting awesome.
Code Geassoperates under a similar long term plot-installment plan, it still finds the time to work some structure into "The Princess And The Witch." After a brief opening robot fight in the desert, we get to meet the girl who showed up in Lelouch's sister's room last week; the mysterious, green-haired C2, who gave Lelouch his Geass (pronounced "ge-az," with a hard "g") powers at the start of the series. Lelouch isn't exactly happy with this development, but C2 quickly installs herself in his room and even at his school, completely impervious to his protests.
At the same time, Suzaku is acquitted of Clovis's murder; no sooner does he leave the court-house but a strange girl falls out of a window and into his arms. The girl seems a daft bit of sunshine, talking to cats and immediately latching onto Suzaku as he wanders around the city, but unsurprisingly, there's more to her than meets the eye. She's the "princess" of the title, while C2 is the "witch," and the ep contrasts the attitudes Lelouch and Suzaku explain to their Girl Fridays. Lelouch is all about revenge and destruction–the power of Geass is just a means to defeating his enemies, and for him, "when somebody wins, the fighting will end." For Suzaku, things are not quite so simple. He's just as committed to fixing the system, but he wants to work within it; for him, conflict is last possible resort. There's a definite sense that Suzaku is more interested in the long term. In a way, it's inevitable that Lelouch got the Power of Command–not because he'll use it responsibly or even that wisely, but because, between the two of them (and of the people we've seen, Lelouch and Suzaku have the best chance of successfully leading the rebellion), he's the only one who would use it. Suzaku would be too horrified of the possible consequences.
"Princess" ends with another robot fight (longer, and cooler, than the opening, but still sort of a tease), giving Suzaku a chance to put his money were his mouth is and defend Lord Jeremiah, the very man who tried to convict him of Clovis's murder. The episode lacks "His Name Is Zero"'s excellent final twist, but it does raise some questions; namely, how likely is it that Lelouch and Suzaku are going to be set against each other? Also, could the female students' skirts be any shorter? 'Cause I'm thinking no.
Someone mentioned in the comments section how awesome the opening credits song for Death Note is, and I have to agree; after the standard cheeriness of Bleach and the kind of generic rock of Geass, the pounding metal is a nice change of pace.
Right off the bat in "Transfer," Near finds a way out of Light's trap–first he bribes the crowd outside the SPK building, then he and his team disguise themselves in riot gear and escape with the police squad that arrives to disperse the mob. Which makes Light's scheming look a bit clumsy, especially considering that it just serves to strengthen Near's already strong suspicions. Near again asks the members of Light's team to contact him, and one finally does, forcing Light to send Misa an order that makes her very happy–so happy than when two team members visit her and Light's apartment to search for a Death Notebook, she's all dressed up in her best Strawberry Shortcake After Dark outfit. It's not till the final minutes that we learn what's got her so overjoyed; when the host of "Kira's Kingdom" dies on-air, we learn that Light had Misa mail her Death Note to a fan of Kira's called Teru Mikame. Mikame is an attorney who's expressed his devotion to Kira's vision with such intensity that Light believes he's trustworthy even without direction, leaving him clear of any direction connection to the ongoing deaths. Of course, it's doubtful that Near will be thrown off the trail quite that easily…
Whew. "Transfer" focuses mostly on the Japanese Task Force and their growing doubts about Light. The dramatic tension is important, but I missed the side details about Kira's affect on the public. Last week showed people getting increasingly paranoid or convinced of the righteousness of his cause, and while Light's plan to remake the world into what he considers a more just place seems to be succeeding, it's inevitable that there will be some results he just can't foresee. One of Death Note's great strengths is how deftly it handles its premise; but while the plotting is necessary to keep the pace up, "Transfer" could've benefited from a little more texture.
After all that heady stuff, Shin Chan is like a breath of fresh air. Fresh, fart-stinking air. There was a lot of hate directed at the show in comments last week, and while I can understand where that hate comes from–it's definitely a "be in the right mindset and oh do you like cartoon ass shots" kind of thing–I don't consider Shin completely unwatchable. I had a friend in college who had a thing about shock humor; once he figured you weren't going to be too offended, he'd just unload a bunch of jokes about dead babies, hiding dead babies, storing dead babies, raping dead babies, dead babies and the other dead babies who loved them, occasional race baiting, and then something about Hitler. It wasn't always funny, but more often then not, you'd end up laughing because, well, who the hell says stuff like that?
Shin operates on the same principle. "It Puts The Lotion On The Baby/Dildor of Destiny" have pretty straightforward plots: "Lotion" revolves around Shin's conviction that his mother plans to skin Baby Hima to replenish her time-ravaged looks, while "Dildor" has Shin running into a crazy man in the park who thinks Shin is some sort of legendary savior. The former is actually charming, as Shin's misguided antics are motivated by a desire to protect his sister; when he engages the baby in an "ass war," it's more cute than horrifying. "Dildor" makes for a slight parody of Chosen One-plots, with the funniest bits coming from Crazy Guy's confused memories of his past; there's a nun he calls "Slutterous," and a shot of him beating a stick figure dressed in a habit that just rocked. (The live action cut to a pair of walnuts when Crazy Guy gets hit in the crotch was lame, though.) The show ends with another episode of "Action Bastard," this time revealing the mastermind behind Philippe's brainwashing–Dr. Hitler Clone's Clone! And like all evil geniuses, he has a plan to save the world: "The only solution is to randomly kill as many people as you can." Words to live by, truly
Bleach, "Episode 65": B
Code Geass, "The Princess And The Witch": A-
Death Note, "Transfer": B+
Shin Chan, "It Puts The Lotion On The Baby/Dildor Of Destiny": B+
-This current run of shows is fairly low key when it comes to Fan Service, but in addition to the impossibly short skirts of Geass, there's Orhime's improbable breasts. Oh, and Misa's outfit, although that's at least justified character-wise.
-Shin Chan quote: "You wouldn't be the first mom who wanted to strangle her own daughter in a jealous fit over her good looks."
-Thank the Maker there is no Fan Service in Shin Chan.