Genius Takes Flight: Shoujo Shuumatsu Ryokou, Episode 6

Welcome, all, again.  Today I digress from all past practice in order to focus upon one particular episode of a series, returning us to Shoujo Shuumatsu Ryokou (hereafter referred to as SSR).  Some while back, I wrote a post about how certain specific episodes of anime can buoy the spirit, fitting corresponding moods.  The best of these individual episodes can actually create from scratch the moods that they then inhabit.  Take episode 1 of Usagi Drop, for instance.  The unwary or uninformed viewer finds him/herself caught-up and tossed by the emotional maelstrom coiled within these quiet characters and their impending, imploding familial situation.  And while March Comes in Like a Lion begins its story more subtly,  viewers soon stand as bereft as Rei in the face of the gaping, hungering emotional chasm that is his life.  Episode 6 of SSR packs a similar emotional punch, taking viewers on a veritable roller coaster ride of the heart.  Thing is, this episode builds up so very subtly that its ultimate impact might come as a surprise.

So, just what is it that makes episode 6 such a big deal?  Its quietude, dear reader, its quietude.  After all, still waters are said to run deep.  Episode 6 sees our girls find another human, their first such encounter since they crossed paths with the mapmaker Kanazawa in episode 3.  Ishii is a female living alone in the ruins of what appears to be an aircraft hangar.  She presents the demeanor and focus of a scientist, even while designing like an engineer and building like a mechanic.  But in a post-apocalyptic world, those distinctions are basically meaningless.  Ishii has a dream, and it’s a big one–she wants to construct a working airplane and use it to fly to another city.  Still, she is able to couch her dream within the sensible, saying that to remain in one place until all resources are used or devoured is to invite not just death, but first, privation.  I’m sure that Yuu felt that listening to Ishii was a lot like listening to an older version of Chii; I certainly felt that way.

And here’s where the story starts worming its way into your psyche before you ever realize it. . .the girls and Ishii bond in a way never possible with the male Kanazawa, of whom the girls remained at least vaguely wary.  Chii (and therefore Yuu) needs help repairing the damaged Kettenkrad, while Ishii’s dream will manifest much more quickly with extra hands available to perform extra work.  There is mutual need and mutual respect, not to mention shared admiration for and curiosity about the decision to either travel or homestead.  Bonds are established through the sharing of food and living space.  For a brief moment, these three enjoy the creation of what is almost an ad hoc  family.  As we watch, these characters quietly establish emotional investment in each other, in themselves as a group, and even in each other’s pursuits and decisions.  So do we.

Potato!

As usual, I am ignorant of this anime’s source material.  I’ve never read the manga (although I’ve heard that this anime is being relatively faithful to said material).  But I had somehow heard about this Ishii/airplane business, and had been eagerly anticipating it.  And I was consequently amazed that the whole thing was covered, beginning to end, in just one episode.  Amazed, but not disappointed, because this was some tight and careful writing! Conversations remain leisurely to the ear, but you soon realize that not a word nor even a pause was wasted, and that you have been walked to the edge of a precipice.  As Chii records the momentous flight in her journal, she tells Ishii that she might well be the last pilot in human history.  Hauntingly, she gives no voice to the recognized continuation of that thought: that Ishii is probably the last person with the skill and understanding to even construct an aircraft.  In the aftermath of catastrophe, mankind fell from the skies; in the aftermath of Ishii, he might never return.  The heart rises to the throat at this realization, then falls to the stomach as the plane approaches take-off. . .this is an episode to which you will repeatedly return, so rejoice!  This is why we’re fans.

 

Opportunity Knocks! (Current Anime Crowdfunding)

Welcome, all, again.  Normally within these digitally confined walls, I review an anime while suggesting that you watch it.  Occasionally, I even suggest crowdfunding projects for your consideration; these are, however, usually related to music albums.  Not today!  Today I submit for your perusal two anime projects and one comic book, so please take a look:

Anime project #1: UNDER THE DOG the Movie                                          Now, this is really the addition of two new parts to the original half-hour UNDER THE DOG Episode 0 released in 2016.  The first addition will be a live-action short of approximately 20 minutes during which intended series protagonist Anthea relates her story.  This will segue viewers into the actual anime, following girls who fight for a paramilitary organization called Flowers as they carry out one of their missions.  Then will come the second new addition, a closing music video made by K-ON! veterans Atsushi Isoyama (producer) and Shoko Omori (lyricist).  The ultimate goal of this theatrical release is to help generate interest in a televised anime series.

 

I loved the original pilot, and look forward to this new, expanded version.  Especially since the current team is promising to avoid repeating the many mistakes and disappointments experienced by supporters in the actual release and distribution of the original.  If interested in contributing, please visit: [https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1356660673/under-the-dog-the-movie-live-action-short-and-musi?ref=user_menu]

Anime project #2: Halloween Pajama in Seattle: the Dream Catcher                So, what have we here?  Halloween Pajama is the creation of Yasuhiro Irie, known for his work on such anime as Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, Alien 9, and–two of my personal favorites–KURAU Phantom Memory and Scorching Ping Pong GirlsHalloween Pajama marks his foray into the world of manga (with volumes 1-5), but, as might be expected from someone with such an extensive anime pedigree, he began wishing to see his creations in motion.  Halloween Pajama is herself the superhero alter-ego of 10-year-old Jakou Ran, a clever and energetic girl immersed in a world of Halloween motifs.  One last thing: the anime will be a musical.  But, seeing that this is scheduled for a roughly 20-minute run time, that shouldn’t become a problem.  This guy is the real deal, so I anticipate the same from his new work!  Please find information at: [https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1489287301/yasuhiro-iries-animation-film-halloween-pajama-in?ref=profile_starred]

And, finally, our comic book project: Goth Ghost Girl comic book #1          OK, so there’s no pressure here, because this one is more than fully funded already.  But don’t you still want to be part of this, to know that you were there at the beginning for what became one of your favorite comics?  The murdered guitarist of an all-girl punk rock band returns from the grave to seek vengeance and mad beats. . .the first storyline sees our heroine Lilly O-Siris (and I’m loving that name-play!) try to help an abused girl with some sickening home issues.  But if the story sounds intense, the artwork is glorious[!], illustrated by none other than Sergio Quijada.  Seriously, I can get lost for hours just on that guy’s DeviantArt page.  This looks to have some solid storytelling by creator and author John Schlim, Jr., and Quijada’s art is already amazing, so check things out at:[https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/fablehaus/goth-ghost-girl-comic-book-1?ref=user_menu]

And there you are, three projects actively seeking your help in jumping from idea to reality!  I’m excited for all three, and encourage you to consider their merits relative to your own tastes.  Moreover, I encourage you to visit crowdfunding sites such as kickstarter.com and pledgemusic.com to explore your own interests–you might just become part of something really special!

 

Shoujo Shuumatsu Ryokou (Girls’ Last Tour)

Welcome, all, again.  I hope that everybody enjoyed their Halloween (Samhain, for some of us)!  I had a good time handing out candy and inviting family and friends into my home.  I even managed to give away most of the candy; I can’t imagine what I’m going to do with my one leftover bag of Milky Ways. . .Anynom, imagine trying to exist in a world without a home or without any dependable means of obtaining food.  That’s the scenario for our heroines in today’s discussion, which focuses upon Shoujo Shuumatsu Ryokou (also called Girls’ Last Tour).  And, appropriate for this time of year, this is one scary anime!

Somebody’s hungry!

Chii and Yuu wander through a post-apocalyptic landscape in constant search of food, fuel, and shelter.  The end seems to have come through some huge war, and weapons and vehicles lie scattered everywhere like so much windblown litter.  Indeed, the girls travel on a Kettenkrad, a WWII German contraption that looks like the ungainly lovechild of a motorcycle and a small tank, and was originally designed as a military small tractor.  Both girls are dressed in what appear to be old military uniforms, and Yuu carries a rifle with which she seems quite capable and accurate.  Chii eschews weapons and is instead skilled in mechanics.   She also enjoys reading and keeps a journal.  And while it seems to be a constant struggle to survive their situation, they persevere through a quietly pedestrian tenacity and reliance upon each other.

Because we only have each other. . .

Sounds more bleak than scary?  Watch again.  How overpopulated did the world become that we had to build multilayered cities?  How quickly would food production have become inadequate to feed so many people?  Or watch Chii read without knowing what certain key words reference or mean–then watch Yuu struggle to read at all.  Notice how desolate of life is their world.  Then, perhaps most ominous of all, consider how (beautifully) detailed the background artwork is in comparison to Chii and Yuu, whose faces seem practically featureless.  Everything, even their Kettenkrad, is attentively drawn in much more detail than our protagonists–why?  Is it to show them as Everymen, thereby thrusting viewers into their roles and struggles?  Is it to emphasize their transience and mortality, mocking that they are destined for the grave long before the already dead civilization that birthed them?  Or, worse yet, might it be both these things combined?  Revelation and accusation of our individual insignificance in the face of the world we’ve created?  Now, that’s scary!

I love this series and strongly recommend it!  It is starkly beautiful and picturesque even while being visually disturbing.  Meanwhile, Chii and Yuu are sympathetic characters who are nonetheless more apt to elicit feelings of camaraderie than immediate concern.  (You worry about them, but never with any urgency.)  It would have been easy for this simple premise to devolve into a monotonous bore of a story, but the slow pace is well-managed and the writing quietly clever and strong.  So watch for relaxation or for contemplation, just so long as you give this show a try.

SENGOKU NIGHT BLOOD

Welcome, all, again.  Today’s choice for discussion is SENGOKU NIGHT BLOOD, an anime offering from Marvelous AQL, Inc., itself one of the collaborators on the game upon which the anime is based.  As indicated by the title, this series is set in Japan’s Warring States period, lasting roughly from 1467 to 1603 or thereabouts.  Well, it’s almost set there, being in another dimension with very similar (but occasionally pointedly different) history and societal development.  Protagonist Yuzuki gets sucked into her cell phone and transported to Shinga, where she must survive local wars long enough to figure out a way home.

We have over the past few viewing seasons been offered a wide variety of treatments of famous Sengoku period warriors.  We’ve several times seen Nobunaga and his peers as females; we’ve seen them with mecha; we’ve seen them reincarnated into future generations; we’ve even seen them as animals (SENGOKUCHOJYUGIGA remains one of the most imaginative and unique anime series I’ve ever watched!).  So I suppose that it was almost inevitable that we’d eventually see them as vampires, werewolves, and whatnot.  Shinga, the land into which Yuzuki is brought, is ruled by clans of supernatural creatures bearing familiar names and lineages; the Toyotomi are vampires, whereas the Takeda are werewolves.  And Yuzuki?  She’s just trying to make sure her blood stays in her own veins!

It seems that Yuzuki’s blood has restorative powers for the Gegga tribes, the collective name of these supernatural warrior clans.  Her blood awakens and activates latent powers of theirs, such as the near-immediate healing of wounds.  This mirrors the blood of the Himemiko, a being revered by the various Gegga tribes and under whose rule Shinga was at peace.  It was her disappearance that prompted the outbreak of conflict, and Yuzuki is even secretly recruited to help look for her.  Meanwhile, though, spreading knowledge of this unique quality of Yuzuki’s blood might make her a little less likely to be killed, but a lot more likely to be abducted or enslaved.  This series seems so far to have just a vague flavor of Vampire Knight, what with Yuzuki’s strangely protective attitude towards her current hosts (captors) and her would-be captors.  I’d almost accuse her of having Stockholm Syndrome, but for that to be true, she’d need to actually realize that she’s already a captive.  As it stands, this heroine’s superpower seems to be compassionate kindness rather than alacrity.

So, why do I like this show?  There are plenty of other clueless characters in anime to watch, so it’s not Yuzuki (although the fact that she realizes she’s not the sharpest tool in the shed does make the fact less irritating than normal).  The artwork is pretty standard fare, although it seems sometimes to have a peculiar (and literal) sheen that sets it apart from other shows.  Character exposition has thus far been a bit abrupt; I hope to see character development occur a little more smoothly.  So, again, why do I like this show?  I guess that I’m just fascinated enough by the larger-than-life personalities who shaped the Sengoku period that I want to see how this latest interpretation of them plays out. . .besides, who wouldn’t agree that Date Masamune would have made one heck of a werewolf, even if friendly with the church?  (And that, my friends, is no Papal bull!)

Initial Thoughts about TwoCar and Anime-Gataris

Welcome, all, again.  This is another “initial thoughts” post while I give all the new anime series 2-3 episodes to get themselves in order and on track.  Sadly, Black Clover has already fallen off my viewing list.  All respect to Mr. Horie, but even his talent couldn’t redeem that cacophony: Asta’s voice just could not be more grating.  So, one down.  But today I bring you two dark horse candidates, TwoCar and Anime-Gataris.  And I say “dark horse” with reason: one is about a sport unknown to many, while the other is about a non-anime watcher’s introduction into anime.  Heavy stuff, here.

We’ll begin with TwoCar, which follows a high school’s girls sidecar racing team as they compete with other teams and with each other.  So, sidecar racing. . .yes, it’s real.  My first introduction came courtesy of the TV program World’s Dumbest, so you can bet that the folks whom I watched were NOT doing it correctly!  Anyway, it’s basically racing with a motorcycle that has a sidecar attached, and the driver and passenger must shift their weights in relation to the vehicle and each other in order to provide the best turning, course traction, etc.  However, “sidecar” is apparently a very fluid term, as some motorcycles seem to have only variations of a basic platform for the passenger’s use (hence the sport is also called kneeler racing).  While this is obviously more dangerous, it also allows for greater flexibility of body placement and thus weight distribution.  Again, this is a real thing, as is the Isle of Man TT mentioned in the first episode (a race of roughly 113 miles, thrice around the island’s famous Mountain Course).  So, learning.  Oh, and it helps the story immensely that the school’s star two-girl team are currently at each other’s throats because of competing crushes on their coach.  The same coach who’s already resigned and left to race on the Isle of Man.  BAKUON!! this is not.  But I’ve got nothing against fast bikes and fistfights, provided I don’t have to personally participate.

Moving on, we have Anime-Gataris, a show about a non-fan’s sudden introduction to anime and its fandom.  It seems that as a child, Asagaya Minoa watched a memorable scene in an anime series she’s since forgotten; the school’s Anime Club seeks to jog her memory!  So far it’s pretty cute, an effortless watch for easy laughs rooted in instant recognition.  Of course, that’s also the danger to this approach–with anime’s growing popularity, curiosity is more prevalent now, making the show’s premise a not uncommon situation IRL.  To wit, while the show is fun to watch, isn’t it even more fun to subtly (and good-naturedly!) mess with a real friend as you introduce them to real anime?  I’m looking forward to watching our protagonist wade through her viewing list and her new acquaintances, and can’t wait to witness her interpretations of anime’s abundant genres.  But the real fun so far is watching this total newbie’s reactions to the classic tropes with which her club assails her!  My only fear is that, because this one’s preaching to the proverbial choir, it will probably be all or nothing–either a hilarious romp or a dry and dusty flop.  I’ll hope for the first!

Initial Thoughts about Black Clover and KONOHANA KITAN

Welcome, all, again.  As we enter a new viewing season, I shall today make a few observations about two new shows that might be getting attention for entirely different reasons.  Mind you, at just one episode in apiece, I’m certainly not attempting any sort of review.  But Black Clover and KONOHANA KITAN have both caught my interest, so I wanted to share a few thoughts. . .

Let us begin with Black Clover, a much-anticipated arrival due to the popularity of its ongoing manga run in Weekly Shonen Jump.  This series had some serious preceding buzz, but sadly it was the buzz-saw voice acting for one of the two protagonists that stole the show.  Lead character Asta, voiced by veteran VA Shun Horie (iDOLM@STER, Whistle!, and others), screams his way through almost the entire first episode, and it gets old very quickly.  Now, we realize that he’s hyper.  And we also realize that he’s frustrated, being the only person around who cannot perform magic.  But none of that excuses what we viewers endured (or tried to).  So now I have to ask: if Horie was searching for Asta’s voice, why didn’t he get better guidance?  Aren’t there a number of production and sound staff present during recording sessions?  This was a big disappointment, especially considering the pretty artwork and solid story: two frenemies who’ve grown up together as church-reared orphans come of age in a land ruled by magic–which only one of them can wield.  Let’s hope that fan complaints (already saturating the internet) can help fix this problem and salvage what should have been an early favorite show!  (I actually liked the show itself, all except for Asta’s grating vocalizations.)

Meanwhile, KONOHANA KITAN–about which I heard barely even a whisper before its sudden appearance–is as muted as Asta is loud.  But, wow!  Oh, wow!  I never knew that pastels could be so vibrant!  Just looking at this show is an experience to be savored–the artwork is exceptional, and often effulgent.  The story seems (superficially, at least) quite similar in plot and setting to Hanasaku Iroha, but in a less-modern age and with a hotel staff of Kitsune.  And that pretty much covers it: cute fox-girls working at a quietly elegant hotel are joined by a new staff member; training and other life experiences ensue.  Soft voices, slow story pacing, and absolutely mesmerizing artwork combine to relax and seduce the viewer.  This show’s first episode was a joy to watch, and I’m already re-watching it.  And, yes, I’m also already planning to purchase the series when it becomes available–it’s just that gorgeous!  So please give this show a chance.  Even if it turns out that it’s not your thing, I doubt that you’ll regret watching.

And that’s it for now.  I’ll probably do another post along these lines before I start trying to actually review any of the new shows–you know, give them time to get up-and-running.  If you want to check out Black Clover, I seriously suggest watching on “mute” with subtitles engaged.  Asta’s constant screeching is that horrendous.  But get good and comfortable for watching KONOHANA KITAN, as you might be in no hurry to leave. . .

Blade Runner Blackout 2022

Trixie en route to destiny.

Welcome, all, again.  I’ll get right to the point–I just watched Blade Runner Blackout 2022, and it is amazing!  This is a roughly 15-minute short by the Shinichiro Watanabe of Cowboy Bebop and Samurai Champloo fame, and he has provided an emotionally charged piece worthy of Spike’s own infamous exit.  Honestly, there’s not much in the way of story, here, so I’m assuming that the two preceding prequels to the forthcoming Blade Runner movie offer a more solid foundation of premise and plot.  (I’ve seen neither, though, so that’s obviously a big assumption.)  This brief piece focuses upon the actions of just three characters, two Replicants (very advanced androids) and the human who loves one of them, as they act to sabotage L.A.’s power grid; nonetheless, it is more emotive than expository.  But it is the emotional depth and resonance to their story that will have you watching it again and again.  How do we–any of us–decide what is most precious to us?  And to what lengths will we go to protect it, once found?  Yes, this is a ridiculously short review, but it’s about a stupendously moving bit of anime.  So do yourself a favor and check this one out ASAP!  (You can watch on YouTube or Crunchyroll.com.)

 

Of MSonic! and Blue Screens. . .

Welcome, all, again.  I apologize for this latest absence, which was caused when my computer blue-screened about a week-and-a-half ago.  On the day after I posted my review of Frame Arms Girl, I left my computer on while going into the kitchen to cook a quick meal.  Upon my return some 15-20 minutes later, I found a bright blue screen showing and also found myself unable to move beyond it.  Being something of a technophobe, I confess to some slight panicking.  The local Office Depot, to which I took my computer problems for years, no longer has a tech on staff, so I went to OfficeMax (aren’t they the same company, now?).  This provided me with a partial victory, as the tech managed to resurrect my computer but not my stuff.  So, basically, my computer has amnesia and I’ve been trying to help her regain her memory.  No easy task when I relied upon her to remember so much for me!  Seriously, she doesn’t even remember her own name.  (Speaking of which, why do folks of my generation–people whom I heard name their cars while back in high school–look at me like I’m crazy when I say I named my computer?  WTH?!)

Lucy gets ready to rock in our spin-off’s prequel OVA

But I guess that’s as good of a way to segue into my review as any, focusing as it does upon a little anime aside called MSonic!, spun-off from Monster Strike but preceded by the OVA A Rhapsody Called Lucy–The Very First Song.  Honestly, I’ve never seen an episode of Monster Strike, which is itself based upon a mobile physics game (and later RPG) of the same name.  The Monster Strike anime series follows the efforts of Ren Homura to establish a new life in his old hometown, despite his inability to remember much about previously living there.  The show has characters playing its namesake game competitively in leagues, using monsters that are actually advanced holograms.  But in the anime’s second season, monsters begin appearing in real life outside of the game.  Not that any of that really matters in our current discussion.

Now, I’ve said before that I’m not a gamer, and I seldom have much interest in anime series that focus upon games (or sports, for that matter).  And MSonic doesn’t.  Made as a miniseries, this short traces the trajectory of D’Artagnyan’s rise to idol status, seemingly as a grateful acknowledgement of the interest displayed by Monster Strike‘s fandom.  Apparently, D’Artagnyan was a minor but unexpectedly popular character, so her personal story is receiving special treatment as something of a love letter to fans.  And me?  I just like the lightness and fun feel of the show–there’s really neither message nor social commentary (subliminal or overt) to examine.  Somebody simply woke up one day and decided to make a show about a cute neko-girl chasing her sudden dream to become a pop idol.  And that works well; certainly well enough for me!

 

Frame Arms Girl, a Guilty Pleasure

Welcome, all, again.  I have recently been watching Frame Arms Girl on hidive.com, and have grown to greatly enjoy it.  And believe me, this was no foregone conclusion.  Like Robot Girls Z, this series focuses upon anthropomorphized cute-girl versions of fighting robots, these originating with the Frame Arms mecha line.  And both lines, original and female, existed as model kits prior to either this series or its previous manga adaptation.  In other words, this show runs the risk of being considered just one long commercial.  But having grown up watching Western cartoons, I’m already quite inured to and unswayed by this situation.  From Transformers to Bratz, marketing by way of animated series has become an established mainstay of toy marketing strategy.  In fact, looking back through the jaded eyes of an adult, even the original Scooby Doo seems like one extended, trippy promo for pot usage–or at least an associated lifestyle.  Not brand-specific advertising, perhaps, but certainly interpretable as marketing.

Yet sometimes these purveyors of plastic blow-molding artifice get so worked-up over a project that they accidentally create real entertainment within their advertising.  Witness My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic.  Now, I’m no brony, but I completely forget about the toys et al. while watching this show.  Great characterization is combined with far-ranging storylines–and all those bright, pretty colors (of course)!–to keep me glued to my seat.  (Speaking of which: hey, Hasbro, has Fluffle Puff been licensed yet?!  Officially licensed?  We fans shouldn’t be forced to go to YouTube just to see Fluffle Puff. . .Hasbro?  Hasbro!)  Anyway, getting back on topic, some shows are able to transcend their inherent marketing raison d’etre.  Frame Arms Girl does just that.

This series follows the daily lives of Frame Arms (F. A.) girls as they learn about the world in which they exist while also fighting each other.  The girls are sentient automatons who stand several inches tall and who possess the rough intelligence of a human 10-year-old when initially activated.  They are designed to accumulate knowledge and incorporate it into their interactions with their environment; in short, they are made to learn and adapt.  But also to fight.  Each girl has weapons, armor, and combat capabilities specific to her person, and uses these as she battles other F. A. girls.  Meanwhile (and for some unexplained reason), the girls’ creator, Factory Advance, seeks to accumulate combat data from their matches.  Things seem just a bit suspicious.

Suspicious to me, maybe, but not to Ao Gennai, the high school girl around whom our diminutive cast assemble.  Ao one day receives a delivery–quite possibly a misdelivery–of what she takes to be a doll sent by her father.  This figure is actually Gourai, a Frame Arms girl specializing in ground warfare.  And after Ao accidentally activates her, two more F. A. girls appear, seeking battle with Gourai.  It seems that Ao has initiated the only successful activation of a Gourai unit, so other models of F. A. girls begin to flock to her apartment in order to test themselves against a truly unique opponent.  This quickly becomes inconvenient for Ao, who then considers just returning the small warriors, but is dissuaded by the promise of monetary compensation for hosting the girls and their battles.  Living on her own and beset by everyday expenses, Ao is quick to seize upon this windfall of financial opportunity.  And so the girls learn that money has power.

But they’re learning a lot more, as well.  Interacting with Ao and each other helps them to recognize and develop emotions, even as they gain concrete knowledge of the world beyond their battle stage.  One bit of learning that does sometimes seem excessive is in the yuri undertones of certain storylines–younger viewers might be made curious while older viewers might be made uncomfortable.  There are even brief moments when the word hentai might not be an incorrect description of the action and dialogue presented.  (I haven’t seen this many panty shots since Strike Witches!)  But the show’s real focus is upon the development of affection and trust amongst these many different personalities, creating an opportunity for friendship.   Which is, of course, magic.  Right, Fluffle Puff?

[Parental Note: this series contains a lot of thinly veiled sexual references, from power cord insertion “punishments” to drop-of-the-hat moaning sessions.  The story itself is pretty good, but the show through which it’s told will be a guilty pleasure.]

Action Heroine Cheer Fruits, a Real Treat!

Welcome, all, again.  I have mentioned several times already the abundance of quality shows available this viewing season, and Action Heroine Cheer Fruits continues that trend!  Imagine taking the very best elements of Sakura Quest, Locodol, and Magica Wars, and finding a way to combine them almost seamlessly.  You’d have something unique yet recognizable, compelling but comfortable–you’d have Action Heroine Cheer Fruits, in which a group of high school students come together to create a hero show in their hometown of Hinano City.   But each girl’s reasons for joining the effort are her own, and half the fun is watching as they try to establish and then settle into their individual roles.  Not only are there too many cooks for just one pot of soup, they’re not even working from the same recipe!

Student council president Misaki Shirogane is the granddaughter of the deceased former prefectural governor (I think, although he might have been the city mayor), whose political and personal reputation has been sullied by the legacy of debt he left the city.  Misaki is desperate to restore her grandfather’s honor and is constantly scouring the city for ideas for its revitalization.  (It seems that, in addition to massive debt, Hinano City is also suffering from a dwindling population.)  Chasing inspiration, Misaki stumbles upon fellow schoolmates An Akagi and Mikan Kise as they practice a routine from the popular children’s character Kamidaio, with which they hope to entertain Mikan’s younger sister Yuzuka.  They do just that, but Misaki secretly films them and uploads the video to the web, then uses the popularity of the clip to entice the two into becoming Hinano City’s new local heroines.  (Remind anyone else of the sneaky way in which Nanako’s uncle recruited her in Locodol?)

As in Locodol, we see a group of girls slowly gain members and build into a cohesive unit, becoming more assured and practiced in the entertainment they offer.  And as in Sakura Quest, these girls take their individual reasons for participating and direct them towards fulfilling a common need and goal: offsetting the city’s debt and shrinking revenue while also restoring civic pride.  Also like the characters in Sakura Quest, these seem to operate with a great deal of autonomy and freedom.  And if you’re wondering about the Magica Wars reference, that comes from the competitiveness  between heroines representing different regions.

Of course, our protagonists are not allowed an easy road, and the challenges they face are many and diverse.  But from the personal vendettas of petty rivalries to the legal repercussions of alleged copyright infringement, our team maintains their drive and continues pushing forward (even if forward seems to strongly resemble a brick wall!).  In fact, the question of copyright infringement leads to the watershed decision to morph into an identifiably local group, the Cheer Fruits, performing original material called “Hina Nectar” shows.  These changes then inspire the recruitment of additional members, in turn expanding the group’s creative capabilities even further!  And the story continues to develop along these lines.  Scenarios and focus change from episode to episode, but the show itself maintains a cohesively positive storyline.  This is a fun series that’s well-worth an investment of your time.  (It simulcasts on hidive.com every Saturday at 8AM.)