The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin Episode 1

The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin Sunshine DessertsI first watched The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin as a child (not on first broadcast – I wasn’t born), and found it absolutely hilarious. It appealed to me on one particular level, mainly thanks to the farting chairs in CJ’s office and the frequent appearances of a stock footage hippopotamus to represent Reggie’s mother-in-law. As an adult I bought the series on DVD and was struck by the melancholy nature of the series. British comedy is often tinged with sadness, and this is the perfect blend. Oh, and I still loved the farting chairs.

Leonard Rossiter was of course a comedy genius, and his performance in this episode takes us on a journey through the first stages of his mental breakdown. Over the course of three days his world starts to unravel. We start on a Tuesday, that most uneventful of days. Reggie goes through the same routine he lives through every day, with very little variation. His wife doesn’t help, saying the same thing every time he leaves the house, including a rather pointless question: “back at the usual time?” Reggie is always back at the usual time, and that time is always 11 minutes late, due to train delays which are more reliable than the timetables.

“Have a good day at the office.”
“I won’t.”

He walks through Coleridge Close, Tennyson Avenue and Wordsworth Drive, the very picture of 70s suburbia. As he approaches the station he joins a crowd of other business men all dressed the same, in business suits, carrying umbrellas and briefcases. These are cogs in a machine, men who have lost their individuality, swallowed up by the bland and repetitive 9-to-5 office toil. He arrives at Sunshine Desserts eleven minutes late, but the sign says “Sunshine Des erts”, an indication of his world started to fall apart. This will be the day Reggie starts to lose his mind.

Everything about this episode brings home his humdrum, repetitive existence, where nothing seems to really matter. The genius of the writing is that it manages to be hugely funny, while portraying a boring life. That takes some doing. CJ’s office is full of photos of CJ, and he repeats his catchphrase whenever he can, in his self-aggrandising way: “I didn’t get where I am today…” Reggie is surrounded by yes men (“Great!”; “Super!”) a role he can’t quite manage himself. His mind wanders into a fantasy sequence about his secretary Joan. He is starting to lose concentration, and he is also fantasising about cheating. This is a man who is looking for an escape route. CJ notices, and responds with a thinly veiled threat:

“We’re not one of those dreadful firms that thinks a chap’s no good after he’s 46 goodbye Reggie.”

There is definitely no full stop in that sentence. The first day is complete and a huge amount of information about Reggie’s day has been imparted to the viewer, plus a lot of very funny comedy, and we are only at the eight minute mark. Over the next two days Reggie continues to lose control of himself, fantasising more and more about outrageous behaviour, including flashing at his neighbours, and forgetting what he said earlier in the day. He is surrounded by absurd characters (well, mainly the male ones), including Doc Morrissey, who is the one person who could have identified his symptoms of depression and warned Reggie that he is heading for a mental breakdown, but of course Morrissey is just as useless as everyone Reggie works with. There is a rather prescient joke later in the day about the frustration of malfunctioning computers, when some data about flavours of ice cream is fed in to the system and the resulting top three flavours come out as “bookends, pumice stone and West Germany”. Rossiter’s performance during this scene in particular is remarkably clever. He is breathless and his voice is starting to crack. This is a man breaking down in front of our eyes, and we are invited to laugh at that. This is dark humour, when you think about it.

The interesting thing about the third day is that Reggie is trying to find a solution to his problems. He makes a change. Snapping out of an obvious moment of depression, where he is reluctant to leave, he steals a flower for his button hole from a neighbouring garden. He is starting to rebel. Then he reaches a revelation:

“From now on, I’m going to do everything differently.”

For a while that seems to work for Reggie. His umbrella finds the hook on the stand for the first time, as if he is starting to regain control of his life. He catches a later train “because the sun was shining”. He seems to have found a new philosophy of life that might just work. The really clever bit is the foreshadowing that happens when he walks under the sign. It is the same as the day before, so this indicates that he has stopped his life from falling apart… until one more letter drops just as he enters the building and breaks on the steps behind him. And it all starts to go wrong again. The biggest problem is he doesn’t know how to rebel. He ends up harming himself instead. His three course meal of “ravioli, ravioli and ravioli” is hilarious, but just makes him “rather full of ravioli”, and by the time he returns home he is drunk. His scream that ends the episode says it all. He is a man who is trapped, and his escape plan has only made things worse.

The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin is a great series, deservedly remembered as one of the highlights of British comedy, and I love every minute of the first two seasons (the third is a bit of a slog), but for my money this first episode is an absolute masterclass. It’s not just that it’s enormously funny. If anyone wants to know how to structure half an hour of television, take a look at this episode, which has as much character development as you would find in most series over the course of a whole season. This is what happens when writing and acting come together in perfect harmony, and both are the work of a genius. It’s great… and indeed, super.   RP

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Nagato 16: Fireworks

Nagato Yuki-Chan Kyon-kun denwa!The junkyard presents two articles about the Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-Chan episode Fireworks...

The view from 5930 miles away:

“Hey Kyon, your phone’s ringing!”

…or for the sub viewers, the absolutely infamous:

“Kyon-Kun denwa!”

This was a moment to induce panic attacks amongst a generation of anime fans suffering PTSD brought on by the Endless Eight: Kyon’s little sister speaking those words again. Haruhi phones Kyon, and she’s got a checklist again.

“We have to get through this entire list before the end of summer.”

We already had some E8 activities last week, but this finale episode really wallows in the nostalgia of the parent series. Some activities only get a mention (pool, bon festival, part time job, stargazing, goby fishing), and then we get the batting practice, bowling, fireworks show and goldfish scooping. And yet never for a second does this seem repetitive or annoying. I gave some explanation as to why that is last week, but let’s focus on Nagato for a moment. In the original E8 she was the only one of the group in a living hell, remembering every iteration, an unimaginable purgatory of a repetitive existence. The reversal here is rather lovely. She is oblivious to the struggles Kyon is going through, and enjoys the happiest summer of her life, culminating in the perfect romantic moment when Kyon whisks her off to confess his feelings. She might not hear every word he says, but it is clear that they are on a path to something now.

“I finally said what I needed to say and I feel a lot better.”

Kyon of course feels the need to respond to the alternate Nagato’s confession, and finds a way to do so, allowing his budding romance with his Nagato to develop at its own pace, finally free from all the Disappearance-induced angst. He can be himself around her once more. And we are allowed a moment to reflect one last time on the loser in this love triangle. We are reminded that Kyon and Haruhi were perhaps made for each other:

“No way! My mind works in the same way as hers!”

…and in the end Haruhi is the only one not watching the fireworks. This has been the one aspect of the series I have really struggled with. Haruhi’s suffering at losing Kyon has been palpable, and it’s still hard to accept any romantic outcome for these characters other than Kyon x Haruhi.

As a finale, though, this hits all the right notes, quite literally at times. When Itsumo no Fuukei started playing at the end it sent shivers down my spine. There was the fascinatingly meta-textual idea that the Haruhi from this universe wrote the events of the original series, and then that post-credits sequence…

“I got all of my homework done a while ago. What about you Kyon?”

It’s not quite the end of the story. There was one OVA episode, which represents the last ever anime episode from the Haruhi franchise to date. We’ll take a look at that next week.   RP

The view from 6,868 miles away:

We’ve got effectively 22 minutes to tell the story of how Kyon finally tells Yuki that he likes her.  I feel like a dude in the waiting room anxious for the news that the baby has been born!  Come on… don’t make me wait.  As Kyon says at the start of the episode, “let it be over soon!”  Oh, no, this is one of those doctors who like to make the people in the waiting room wait.  With a sense of twisted humor, the doctor effectively comes out and says “nope, not born yet” just to screw with our heads.  In the Yuki universe, it’s actually more vile than that – Haruhi calls as if we’re about to start off The Endless Eight again, that series of unending repeats that the creators of the show tormented us with in the previous series.  So naturally, panic sets in.  But when Haruhi mirrors Kyon’s earlier thoughts about this being the “fifth station of Mt Fuji”, I had to laugh and it broke the tension nicely.  The mention of Sisyphus didn’t hurt because I can absolutely relate to that, especially these days!

The episode focuses on Kyon’s turmoil about telling Yuki how he feels.  It’s sweet but good god, let it end!  I sound like I’m complaining – I’m not.  It’s a good episode and it’s funny, but this is one of those slow burns that really drain us.  Through this unending wait, there are some fun and clever scenes.  While really funny that the moment Yuki tries to catch a fish, her net breaks, it’s also a neat little allegory about “the one that got away”.  It doesn’t escape Kyon’s notice either.  It’s also lovely that Haruhi was playing along trying to give Kyon and Yuki a chance and once the two walk off, Haruhi lets her pair of fish go, as if the masquerade could end.  Asakura has her moments of wisdom too, letting Kyon know that the two Nagato’s, while different, were still the same person.  She also points out that from Yuki’s point of view, he’s been acting distant and Kyon realizes that she doesn’t even have the luxury of the full story.

And so with a lot of patience, we get there.  Kyon tells her how he feels.  “Given time, I think I would have fallen in love with you too.”

Say what, now?  What was that?  Was that … no, it had to be a problem with the dub.  Surely that’s not what we’ve been waiting for, is it?  No, no, no, no, no!  Impossible.  It’s like, “yeah, I’m not really into you but hey, one day I might be.  Maybe.”  That was absolutely not what I’d been waiting for!  I feel gypped!  At least it ends with some genuinely funny moment.  Kyon offers to buy Yuki food and remarks that Haruhi would have made him do it anyway.  The moment Haruhi sees him, she yells at him and says he has to buy them all food.  His simple, over-the-shoulder “see” was brilliant.

As the story wraps up, Kyon discusses what it would be like if Haruhi wrote a novel and how it would include espers, time travelers, aliens, and people from parallel universes and suddenly I wonder: was this the spinoff universe, or was this meant to be the real one and The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya is the “book”?  Perhaps, the literary club does write a story one day, and it becomes that series.  Well, it wouldn’t be the first paradox I’ve encountered that started with the ending.

Yuki wraps the story as she started it, “This is the story of a somewhat shy, bookish girl!”  I love symmetry.  And as the group sit together discussing that summer is almost over, the question is posed to Kyon about whether or not he completed his summer homework; a terrifying reminder of The Endless Eight one more time.  The final image of the series and his little gut-punch sound, had me laughing for the next ten minutes.  A solid ending to a … wait a moment!  There’s one episode to go?  What the deuce?!!?

image003

I suddenly feel as shocked as this guy… ML

Read next in the Junkyard… Nagato Yuki-Chan OVA

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Babylon 5: Between the Darkness and the Light

Babylon 5 ArtworkI love the title of this episode almost as much as what happens in it.  The line is a part of the Minbari mantra from the Grey Council.  They stand between the darkness and the light.  Like so much else in this episode, that’s interestingly symbolic.  The “good guys” are doing bad things for the right reasons – they are killing their own people but in the hopes of putting an end to a terrible reign.  I love symbolism when it’s done well. How about Michael getting stabbed in the back – both representing what he did to Sheridan as well as a reminder that even in season one, Michael was told to “watch his back”.   (And I’ll avoid all the symbolism with the names of the ships and leave that to the inquisitive viewer.)

The episode opens with a trick played on the viewer.  Sheridan is back in his quarters and we are initially wondering if JMS is going to pull a fast one after last week’s stunning Intersections in Real Time.  Will we be told how Sheridan escaped through flashbacks?  Or not at all?  No, the truth reveals itself quickly: this is another Prisoner-esque torture tactic taking place on Mars.  But truth plays a part in this story on a number of occasions.   Lyta shows Number One the truth of what happened to Garibaldi and even accompanies it with an outstanding line, “The truth speaks for itself; I’m just a messenger.”  Susan calls Marcus out on his hidden truth and thanks him for it.  Later, Susan says no one will tell her the truth and asks John to be the voice of honesty.  Even the council deliberation discusses truth – the truth of what Sheridan did for all of them and they now owe him.  Politics and morality on the same side!  (If only…)

Less truthful is Number One.  She tells Stephen and Lyta that she can spare only a “skeleton crew” to try to rescue Sheridan.  Now, while I found the lie uncomfortable, since she only gives a single person, that person is veteran genre femme fatale Musetta Vander.  She’s had a history with science fiction, not the least of which is Star Trek, Highlander, and Buffy, to name just a few.  The point is, I was not complaining to have her in B5.  I always felt she had beautiful eyes.  You know who else does?  Lyta.  When she probes Michael’s mind, they do that all-black thing that I find amazing.  Other things I find amazing is watching Londo and G’Kar agree and working together.  There is a lot of talk about why Londo helps Sheridan but for those who don’t know, this season was nearly the last.  JMS fought with the networks and, not knowing if they would approve the final season, some of the plot threads were “adjusted”.  I’d like to think that in the adjusted script, we were seeing Londo find his redemption.  It’s a wonderful moment.  Londo even considers Delenn’s position in the voting.  It’s a great moment and seeing the league all stand together is exactly what Sheridan said at the start of the season: “Will you stand together?”

The great moments don’t end there.  The guard who explains to Michael that he doesn’t watch TV because it’s a wasteland is very funny.  Ironically, Doctor Who had a similar scene during McCoy’s era.   Also funny is Michael’s discussion on who gulped from their canteen and Lyta being accused of being a good liar.  Of somewhat questionable merit, when Michael is jumped, he’s taking a beating, but once a bag is put over his head, a single hit can knock him out.  (Note to self: keep a bag handy…)    When Sheridan is broken out of prison, he gets his hands on a gun and unloads on one of the guards.  Who could blame him?  But the look he gives Garibaldi is actually scary.  Later, the fact that Susan remembered Marcus’s words was another great moment, but it’s made more powerful when she says to Marcus that it’s the last time she will ever trust him.  This is because of where the episode takes us: back into the darkness.

Susan gets a heck of a line.  Flying into battle against Earth ships armed with Shadow tech, she is asked who she is.  She delivers her line with icy resolve:   “Negative on surrender.  We will not stand down!  … Who am I?  I am Susan Ivanova, Commander… I am the right hand of vengeance and the boot that is going to kick your sorry ass all the way back to earth.  I am death incarnate and the last living thing you are ever going to see.  God sent me.”  She beats the Shadow-enhanced warships, but perhaps her taking the lord’s name in vain is also symbolic because her ship is damaged and she is mortally injured.  It truly will be the last time she ever trusts Marcus.  In the Minbari bed, after her accident, Claudia acts her heart out and has me on the brink of tears with Delenn, Marcus and Sheridan.  She makes one more (symbolic) request of John.  She asks him to bring the battle home from the Agamemnon.   With three episodes to go, things are heating up!  ML

The view from across the pond:

This episode picks up where the last one left off, with Sheridan’s captors trying to find a way to break him. Taking another leaf out of the Prisoner book of tricks, they are brainwashing him into thinking he has escaped. I was half expecting a revelation at the end of the episode that the entire rescue of Sheridan was just another dream, but it turns out that JMS isn’t that sadistic a writer… probably. There remains the possibility that we might still have our Bobby Ewing in the shower moment at a later date. The modus operandi of Sheridan’s captors was reinforced:

“We don’t want cooperation. We want conversion. We want repentance.”

Interesting, that last one, but this is an episode that uses religious language quite significantly. After all, dictatorships, propaganda, and cynical politicians in general often make use of that. The people who think they are on the right side do that too.

“God sent me.”

Now who’s behaving like a messiah? According to JMS in an interview, Ivanova’s speech is deliberately over-the-top, like a boxer who “wants to psych the other person out”. I’m not sure if it quite hits the right notes. I couldn’t help but smile at the corny language.

While Ivanova is claiming to be sent by heaven, Lyta’s super-powers raise a whole different prospect:

“What do you know about hell? Would you like me to show it to you, mine and his?”

I can’t help thinking she’s going to be the key to defeating Bester in the end. That lady has some serious skills, and that was a scary dark-eyed moment.

So we have Ivanova the messiah and Lyta raising hell, while Sheridan stands firm and doesn’t give his captors the repentance they are looking for. In the meantime, Garibaldi is looking for his chance at redemption, and JMS has done a very effective U-turn with him, turning him back into a hero again. Ironically he uses his hero status with the enemy regime to become a hero to the resistance, helping to break Sheridan out of prison. It’s a victory that perhaps comes a little too easily in dramatic terms, although he did have Super Lyta on his side. I liked the philosophising guard, which put me in mind of a similar scene from Dragonfire (Doctor Who).

“I don’t watch TV. It’s a cultural wasteland filled with inappropriate metaphors and unrealistic portrayal of life created by the liberal media elite.”

The best sci-fi challenges assumptions. These are not words we would usually expect from a guard on a prison door. They usually exist in sci-fi to be stupid and get thumped. Instead this one is clever and gets thumped, which is a bigger leap into enlightened storytelling than it sounds.

We weren’t able to enjoy the triumphant moment of Sheridan’s freedom for long, because this turned out to be a highly emotionally-charged episode. The budding romance between Ivanova and Marcus feels a little bit thrown in at the last minute to add to the impact of Ivanova’s fatal wounds. As this kind of thing goes it’s very skilfully done, but it could have used more groundwork in previous episodes beyond a compliment in Minbari. Ivanova’s emotional exchange with Sheridan ended up pulling on the heartstrings far more: this is a man having to tell an old friend the truth about her condition, and how little time she has left. Her last request is an interesting one:

“I’m assuming the command of the Agamemnon. A friend asked me to command the last battle from here.”

I wonder why. Superficially, it seems like Ivanova felt like it was the right place for Sheridan to be, back on his own ship, a rousing symbol of heroism and national pride, with his captaincy of an Earth vessel adding legitimacy to his cause. But I can’t help thinking there’s something more behind her request, because earlier in the episode this happened:

“Not everyone who defects to your side really defects.”

A couple of weeks ago I mentioned that the Agamemnon joining the resistance seemed a little too easy. Perhaps Ivanova saw the need for a change of command. This is one of many questions that remain to be answered. Does Sheridan have any lasting psychological damage from his incarceration? We did see him shooting a felled man over and over again. How will the League forces figure in the battle for Mars and Earth? It might have seemed like a triumphant moment, but a whole load of alien ships turning up might just play into the arms of Clark’s xenophobic propaganda machine. And is Ivanova really done for? She’s only being tended to by Minbari doctors at the moment. Franklin might have something to say about the prognosis. So many questions, and I can’t wait to find out the answers. B5 has my attention once more, well and truly.   RP

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Gibbous: A Cthulhu Adventure

Eldritch castles and elder signs, squatting squid-headed statues and hooded cultists, fishmen and shoggoths, the dreaded Necronomicon and talking cats… what do they all have in com…. wait a second… talking cats?  In my quest to play a few more Lovecraft themed games before HBO completes its season of Lovecraft Country has been far easier than I expected.  There are a lot of Lovecraftian games out there.  Alas, I didn’t play one for each week of the show, but I have managed to keep a few going with unexpected results.  This latest had me quaking but unlike most Lovecraft stories, it was not quaking in terror.  I was quaking with laughter.

Adventure games are not my thing.  Adventure games that are “dark scifi a’venchir” games, however… that might get me.  The truth about adventure games is that I like them but rarely commit to them.  I play games for action mostly.  I do like puzzles, but don’t like pixel hunts.  Who wants to be hunting a pixel on a 32″ monitor with bazillions of pixels all over it?  Sure, I’ve played all the Sherlock Holmes games, but I’m a fan of Holmes.  That doesn’t mean I liked hunting a random dot that couldn’t be scene without a black light.  No, I hate having to move the mouse over every pixel looking for that one special clue.  But Gibbous got such great reviews, and I did want to stick with Lovecraft, so… I dropped the $20.  (Actually, I dropped $17 during a sale and even got the soundtrack with it!)

I admit I used a walkthrough for a bit in chapter one, which put me off for a solid day.  I felt like I shouldn’t need a walkthrough already.  Games are supposed to ramp you up, not make you feel dumb.  But what I learned was that I needed to understand the dynamic of the game.  After chapter one, some puzzles took me a bit but they were worth the effort and I didn’t need to go back to a walkthrough at all.  In fact, the penultimate chapter has a puzzle room that’s very hard and I was so close to looking up how to get through it, when I had a revelation and it all clicked together.  The lightbulb moment made me very happy indeed.

The game has you playing 2 characters in alternating chapters.  The first is a detective named Don R. Ketype.  It took me ages to realize who he sounded like: Batman.  But this Batman has some damned funny lines.  Think of the How It Should Have Ended version of Batman – the one that’s great, and you know why?  Because he’s Batman!  (Sorry, couldn’t resist!)   Ketype’s description of things in that clipped tone adds a magnificent sense of humor that had me talking that way to my wife until she eventually told me to stop talking like that.  (By eventually, I mean, I got one sentence out!)   He was by far my preferred character.  At one point in the game, he wants to say something profound.  You get options on which of four choices you will go with.  I selected the most meaningful one.  The one that summed up freedom and something intrinsic to all that is right and good in the world.  I was rewarded with a one word comment that left me in tears!   Mind you, this might be the funniest chapter too because of what I ended up doing with a fire extinguisher moments earlier which had me in full-on belly laughs.  Buzz Kerwin is the local librarian who you play as who accidentally humanizes his cat when he finds the Necronomicon.  Kerwin is a good character as well but the cat really adds the comedy.  Her annoyance at being humanized is outstanding.   However, Buzz has his moments especially when he ends up in Transylvania and has to have a rap battle to move the story along.  I am no fan of rap, but again found myself wiping the tears from my eyes.  Truly outstanding.

If the game has one weakness, it’s the dialogue periodically goes on too long.  I’m all for banter and comedic dialogue, but let me move while it’s taking place.  Or give me a back and forth that is just that: back and forth… and done!  In other words, I wanted something akin to: “how’s the weather?” “I’m a cat, how would I know?”  Ok, short and sweet, I can move on.  “Well, you can feel can’t you?” “Yes, I feel like you’re asking me too many things!” “But that’s what I do.” “Well don’t do it with me…”  etc.  That gets old real fast.  Not that this was an actual example – I am not going to ruin anything more than a couple reference for the purpose of my article.

But that really was the weakest element to the game.  Everything else about the game was amazingly good and I still have a chapter to go!  The voice acting is brilliant and the use of the space bar to illuminate all the clickable items means there’s no worry about pixel hunting – a quality that diminishes Adventure games.  As I mentioned above, I picked this up during a sale, which gave me the digital soundtrack as well; this should tell you that there’s a soundtrack worthy of inclusion.  The cast of characters is utterly marvelous and some of them really enhance the experience.  I’m looking at you Piscilla.  (No, I don’t mean Priscilla!)  And you Finman!  And Css Css.  And of course, Otis!

One thing I have not talked about is by far the most obvious element of the game: the artwork.  It’s animated.  You’re literally playing a cartoon and as the ad says, its traditionally drawn and hand painted.  It looks great.  Developer Stuck in Attic really showed a love for the source material while adding enough humor to it to give players a run for their money.  This isn’t adventure gaming the way I remember it; this is something fun.  I didn’t need to look for random pixels to keep the story going.

I’ve invested 10 hours into it so far, have one chapter (of a total of 7) to go, and have laughed a lot!  Worth the money?  I’d say so.  Check out the trailer here:

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Star Trek: Space Seed

Star Trek Opening TitlesIn terms of the lore of Star Trek, Space Seed may be the single most important episode of the original 79.  We are introduced to Khan.  While I’m guessing that most visitors of the Junkyard will know, I won’t go jumping through time to talk about why he is important, but he’s a guy we want to keep an eye on.  Ricardo Montalban does an outstanding job bringing the would-be dictator to life and his powerhouse performance is remembered years after this episode was created.  Mind you, years after the episode was created, the writers Gene Coon and Carey Wilber predicted some major events in our planet’s history.  The 1990’s were “the future” and we were due to have some major advances including in the field of eugenics.  But that wasn’t all we were worried about.  A “final” world war was anticipated and with the tensions of the late 60’s, that might not have been that surprising.  Thankfully we had neither a final world war, nor an Eugenics War.  At least they anticipated that by the far future, 2018, things would have improved.  (Surely, they meant scientifically.  No one was talking politics at the time…)

So Kirk’s mission is to investigate this mysterious ship that’s floating through space.  He boards it with a small landing party, when they spot a malfunction that almost kills the crew of 72.  With a little help from Scotty, they save the sleepers who had been on a long range deep space ship reminiscent of Buck Rogers but unlike Buck, these guys aren’t the good guys.  They were conquerors of the past.  Kirk then has to find a way to beat a superior foe and save the day.

OK, first things first.  What was up with Kirk at the start of this episode?  Did he have some bad Romulan Ale the night before?  He snaps at Uhura when she’s picking up the transmission from the Botany Bay with a “We’re reading it it!” as if he just wanted to shut her up.  Then when he asks for McGivers to meet in the transporter room, he mentions that it’ll give her “something to do”.  Hey, man, you’re the captain; if you know she’s sitting around doing nothing all day, maybe you should write her review and have the talk with her about her future on the ship.  More likely, he’s still pissed that he lost that other psychologist, Helen Noel, in Dagger of the Mind and he’s not happy with the latest replacement.  (She was certainly a dagger in my mind, too, Jim… don’t feel bad!)  But he wasn’t the only one in a mood.  McCoy comes to the transporter room to vent his dislike about transporters before using one to get to the Botany Bay.  And even Scotty seems a bit punchy.  When he gets loose from captivity later in the episode, as everyone runs for the door, he stops to punch someone in the face before escaping.

On top of that, I do wonder how Spock deals with his fellow crewmen as logic is seriously lacking from most of them.  I mean, Kirk has this guy on board who he knows nothing about but he does know his ship was named after a penal colony.  So where’s the logic in giving him access to the ship’s technical specs?  Furthermore, McCoy has people in sick bay all the time.  Why have a display on the wall complete with all forms of dangerous surgical equipment, and not even have it behind a glass case?  It’s asking for trouble!  Spock probably envies Khan for his taste.  I mean, of the 72 of Khan’s crew to survive, 30 are woman and I can’t be alone in noticing how Khan only handed out clothing to the men.  All the women have to wear these net garments that were really quite seductive.  (Kirk, get with the program, man!  Update the dress code!)  And while I’m talking about clothing, I discovered that Red Shirts don’t just die.  Sometimes, even worse things befall them.   When Khan belts one in the face, so hard that he flies through the air, his pants split right in the front when he lands!  Yes, I am completely serious.  Whether he died or not, this guy deserved a commendation!!

There are some really interesting ideas brought to light in this story too.  While I have a lot of fun watching these episodes and poking fun at a good deal of what happens in them, the truth is, there are often some really great ideas bubbling under the surface.  “Superior ability breeds superior ambition,” says Khan, effectively telling Kirk that he’s not content to sit back and watch the universe when he could, in fact, tame it.  The whole idea of selective breeding was truly the work of fiction during 1966, but today it’s very real.  Should we perhaps see this as a cautionary tale of what might be?  These “supermen” do have a streak of barbarism but the real question is: isn’t that likely?  If we created real life superheroes, would they see us as relevant?  The Boys on Amazon Prime, The Watchmen graphic novel, The X-men in both comic and movie iterations, and dozens of other works have all speculated about what happens when we tamper with our basic genetic information and create beings of enhanced ability.  Do they not become like gods, and the rest of us mere bugs?  Is that not the true danger of selective breeding?  “If I could have honesty, it makes it easier to overlook mistakes!”  You said it, Khan.  And I think we have to be honest with ourselves and consider it, before we do have to contend with it in real life.  (And that obviously means having large spanners built into various parts of the home, in case we need a good bludgeon to get rid of these megalomaniacs!)

With a quick lesson about Milton, Kirk somehow re-obtains the Botany Bay (which was cut adrift earlier in the episode) to use as a prison transport for Khan and his crew.  They are cast down to the planet Ceti Alpha V like Milton’s fallen angels.  McGivers “givers” herself over to Khan to see what it will be like to conquer a planet.  So it seems the crew has just lost one more member.  Like last week’s Return of the Archons, it’s by choice; no visible deaths on screen unless pants-splitter died from the embarrassment.    Well, that’s one way to offload staff members who don’t do anything all day.  Saves Jim writing that review after all…   ML

The view from across the pond:

I clearly wasn’t paying attention in the 1990s. I was still at school for most of the decade so I wasn’t particularly interested in politics at the time, but you would have thought I might have remembered something as significant as the Eugenics Wars. I also somehow missed the development of suspended animation, a dictator ruling over a quarter of the globe, and the prevalent fashion of women wearing netting over the top of their underwear. I’m surprised I didn’t remember that last one in particular.

Dipping into the Star Trek universe in my topsy turvy way, I’m actually very familiar with the idea of the Eugenics Wars, thanks to the excellent Doctor Bashir storyline in DS9. Here we actually get to see somebody from that time, world leader Khan, played with great gusto and self-assurance by Ricardo Montalbán, a man who has had reviewers searching through their word processor’s special character menu for decades. Falling for his charms is traitor McGivers. From the word go, she doesn’t seem Enterprise material, summoned to beam across to the mystery vessel and clearly annoyed that her artwork is being disturbed by having to do some actual work. For a moment I entertained the hope that Trek was going to give us an interesting female character, with some kind of characterisation beyond fancying Kirk, but her edginess was smoothed off the moment she saw Khan and became the latest in a line of soft-focus, simpering, love-sick puppies. It really is sickening how the camera blurs at the sight of any woman in close-up in Trek, just to shout out the point the directors are always making to the viewers: here is an ornament, not a person.

The dialogue ameliorates what happens to McGivers to some extent, with the point made that Khan has some kind of genetically-engineered magnetism that is hard to resist, but what happens to her is still brutal. He starts off bossy, telling her to “sit and entertain me”, and then he starts controlling her, criticising her hairstyle and taking it upon himself to change it. When she starts talking about history he is rude and arrogant, interrupting her, and later he manipulates her, making her ask him to stay and then kneel in front of him. At that point he has a slave, not a lover.

“I’ll do anything you ask.”

At best she is brainwashed, and at worst she is the victim of an abusive, controlling man, which sours Kirk’s apparent compassion towards her at the end. Superficially, he seems to be very fair, offering her the chance to leave with Khan, but what kind of a life awaits her, and was she ever capable of making informed decisions while under his insidious influence? At least it is an ending that attempts to show resolution rather than retribution. Trek continues to impress me with the amount of episodes that don’t actually end with Kirk destroying his enemies. The series is steering clear of simplistic good vs evil stories much more than the average sci-fi series, especially for the 60s. Less impressive is how every storyline seems to rely on Kirk making at least one very foolish error of judgement. This week he sees nothing wrong with Khan’s request to study the “technical manuals” of the Enterprise. The Kirk fight of the week is also becoming tiresomely predictable, and this week the stunt doubles were all too obvious.

Kirk seems to veer back and forth between gullible and canny, depending on the needs of the script. Khan sums him up very well:

“You are an excellent tactician Captain. You let your second in command attack while you sit and watch for weakness.”
“You have a tendency to express ideas in military terms, Mr Khan. This is a social occasion.”
“It has been said that social occasions are only warfare concealed.”

Wise words, and perhaps a good reason to avoid too many social occasions. I would rather watch battles play out in Star Trek than fight wars of words over tea and biscuits. You never know, the person I’m talking too might just be a product of those Eugenics Wars I can’t remember. I didn’t realise how lucky I was to survive the 1990s.   RP

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Children of Earth: Day Five

Torchwood Children of EarthDay 5 is upon us and we have an opening of Gwen looking into a camera commenting that it’s the end of the world.  She talks of Jack’s old friend, the Doctor, and how he must look upon this world in shame.  It’s a tough opener, but when that scene comes into focus later in the episode, it packs an even greater punch because of the conversation she has with Rhys next.  Earth is doomed.  It’s doomed to lose 10% of the population of its children or be destroyed if they retaliate.  The burden is almost too much to take but that doesn’t stop the writing for adding salt to the wound: John Frobisher is expected to allow his own children to be taken to the 456.

It’s not that we like Frobisher, it’s that he’s a fall guy for a Prime Minister whose sole concern is his own skin.  The PM allows John to take that particularly nasty fall and the fact that Frobisher doesn’t murder the man on the spot is what shocked me more than anything.  There was a phone handy… Capaldi really sells his character with his range of emotions but the end result of what he has to do is gut wrenching!  I may not have liked Frobisher, but I felt for him.  Again, marks of good writing: no one is ever just one thing.  The worst part is that if he just waited a little longer…  Well, best not think on things like that.  It hurts too much.

Meanwhile the 456 reveal why they want the children and it’s disgusting: “the hit”, they say.  The children create chemicals that the 456 are “shooting up”.  The children stay alive well past their natural lives, but as drugs.  Aware, but not “alive”.  And in that moment, the Masters of the Pregnant Pause who vomit periodically suddenly seemed more believable to me.  They aren’t “dramatic” in their answers; they are high and are responding as if through a drug-addled mind, slowly forming the words needed to get an answer out.  The bile-like fluid might be them throwing up from their constant overdosing.  Whatever it is, it’s horrible and it needs to be fought.  But what do we have against so great a power?

Which brings us to Johnson.  Why does she show Alice the footage of what’s going on?  It’s clear she had a change of heart, no longer sure who she was serving, but showing Alice  the footage only served one purpose: to get Alice to tell her what she already knew.   The only chance they have to fight the monsters is Jack Harkness.  But at what price?  I get it: Johnson isn’t wrong when she says one child to save millions.  But could I do it if it were my nephew?  Could I accept what Jack has to do?  And why does no one come to even attempt CPR on Steven?  Was the solution so catastrophic that there really was no hope?  And why didn’t someone smash Dekker in the face once more, for being happy that a child would “fry”?  The episode wraps up an amazing 5-episode arc of must see tv.  But it does not give us the feel good ending of a Doctor Who episode.  But it’s an ending we will never forget.

But I’m not done talking about it yet.  As I commented about Dekker, above, I was uncharacteristically happy watching him get smashed in the face and then shot in the leg.  He was such a self-serving know-it-all, that little victory helped the hopelessness feel that much less bleak.  I think I was impressed by his quick thinking to stay alive originally, but after his laugh over the fact that a child would have to burn, I wanted him given over to the 456!   Rhys is a great character and his feelings of hope for his own child, even in a world like this, makes him one of the most consistently hopeful characters in the show.  The scene where he asks Gwen about giving up the baby almost had me blubbering.  Bridget, who has always been a hard character, turns the table on the Prime Minister giving us one more victory but it’s a good one.  He was such a selfish jerk; it felt great watching him get taken down.  And I was delighted Bridget and Lois Habiba are “free to go” because they ended up being the strongest members of the British Government.  And lastly, the death of the 456 was delightful.  I’m always the one saying we should save the aliens and find common ground.  Not with this batch!  I was delighted that they seemed to be destroyed so painfully!

Thus ends the original Torchwood.  I’ll be entering the forth season in a week, but that wasn’t Torchwood; as far as I can tell, Torchwood wrapped up gloriously with Children of Earth.  Jack leaves for a passing starship and presumably meets the Doctor, who gives him Alonso’s number as we see at the end of Tennant’s era.  Jack left Earth having saved millions of children, but I don’t think he left as a hero.   He allowed an innocent to die; and not just any innocent, but part of his own family.  His daughter will never look at him again and he has that horror to live with.  It might take millions of years to get that “dirt off his boots”.  Luckily, he has plenty of time…  ML

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Eden of the East: The King of Eden

King of EdenThis feels like stating the obvious, but you have to watch the Eden of the East television series before you watch the two films that follow it. I shouldn’t really need to say that, but bizarrely just about every review I’ve read of The King of Eden complains that it requires knowledge of the television series and doesn’t stand alone. I find that strange. Why would anyone want to watch this if they don’t know the series? It seems to be a thing that people always say about films that spin off from television shows, and yet I would be surprised if one person who wasn’t already an Eden of the East fan has ever attempted to watch it, certainly outside of Japan. But I think the reason why it always gets mentioned for this film in particular is that the writers clearly have no interest whatsoever in those (probably mythical) viewers who come fresh to the films. This follows directly from the television series, albeit with a gap of about six months, and at no point attempts any kind of explanation as to what’s going on. I’m fine with that. I don’t want any of the running time of a spinoff film wasted on explaining the basic premise. I already know that.

At the end of the television series Akira lost his memory again and left, so a lot of the story here is concerned with Saki trying to track him down. To a certain extent it feels like we’ve been here before. We’re back in America, with Saki getting into trouble with the authorities, losing her passport, and being helped out by the amnesiac Akira who gradually relearns who he is. We’ve seen a different iteration of these same ideas at the beginning of the television series. The romance between them also has to start from scratch, and is a very slow burn once again, but this film also suffers from being the first of a two-parter. It should really have “Part One” in the title, because it’s like they took a second season of the anime and simply split it into two films instead of individual episodes, so this feels like a few early episodes of a television series bolted together. Only the slightly higher production values and the running time mark this out as a film rather than a television episode. As a consequence, this feels like the setting-up part of a season made into a film, so it’s not hugely exciting. You’re watching all the groundwork here, and presumably the pay-off is in the second film.

The writers make sure they give plenty of screen time to the full ensemble of characters, and it’s great to see Pantsu getting out of his lonely existence and becoming a fully-fledged member of the group. As commendable as that all is, it would probably have been better if there had been a tighter focus on Akira and Saki. With the story divided 50/50 between two countries, and two groups of people who rarely interact in any way, it all feels a little disjointed, and the Akira/Saki reunion is fun but we needed to see more of them. A lot of time is spent on a new Seleção who provides a lot of the comedy, with a very combative relationship with his Juiz. He’s funny, and I did enjoy that aspect of the film, but he’s not a particularly credible threat and certainly not at all scary as a villain. What did work very well was the increased focus on the battle between the surviving Seleção. They have extraordinary power at their fingertips, and using that to directly attack each other makes for a fascinating game of cat and mouse. I wasn’t so keen on the rules of the game being rewritten or abandoned. The idea that spending all their money, destroying their phone, or walking away from the game in any way would result in certain death for the Seleção, was a big factor in the excitement and tension of the television series, and some of that seems no longer to apply. Presumably the reason for that will be explained in the second film, but I’m not sure of the wisdom of making the world Akira and Saki inhabit feel that bit less dangerous. On the other hand, the direct attack on their friends back home, forcing them to shut down the Eden of the East network, does feel quite scary. They are all such computer geniuses, so to see them fall victim to a hacking attack themselves is surprising and really brings home the magnitude of the threat they are facing.

By the end of the film the team are on their way to reassemble, and it feels like we are heading towards their final battle. To some extent we’ve come on a circular route back to where we were before, but it’s still been a fun journey.   RP

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The Quatermass Experiment 2

QuatermassPersons Reported Missing

Last week I mentioned that the slow pacing worked effectively to gradually build the tension. This week the slow and steady style of 1950s storytelling starts to get a bit tedious. Mainly this is because we aren’t building up to anything any more. The capsule is open, and one survivor has emerged. Instead we have a mystery: what has happened to the other two crewmembers? By the end of the episode we are a step closer to the answer, but things are still not entirely clear. Victor identifies himself as Dr Ludwig Reichenheim (one of the other crewmembers), and it’s pretty obvious that this is more than simple insanity, because he can speak German as well. So there appears to be some kind of body swap going on. But what about the physical bodies of the others? Some organic powder is found at the end of the episode, so it looks like nobody ever left the capsule after all.

Nowadays, we would of course have reached this point within a few minutes rather than half an hour, and it has to be said that the time is unfortunately filled with a lot of unnecessary padding. However, there are some moments that work really well. The video of the astronauts just before take off is a poignant scene, and it helps to put faces to the missing men and prepares us for the moment when the apparent body swap is revealed. The revelation that Judith has been having an affair also works well, and her decisions are now being ruled by guilt rather than what she wants from life.

“I felt so disloyal, almost as if I’d caused it to happen.”

But the best moments are two quiet speeches where both Fullalove and Quatermass separately muse on mankind’s helplessness. Firstly, Fullalove shrewdly identifies the purpose behind all the “technical waffle”, which is almost a meta observation on the inclusion of technobabble in sci-fi (let’s face it, the comment doesn’t quite work in terms of genuine, purposeful, scientific jargon):

“Mankind trying to sound certain of itself, because he knows that just beyond the air begins a new wilderness, pitch dark both day and night, empty and cold.”

Secondly, Quatermass acknowledges how much uncertainty there was surrounding the project, at least in his mind, and worries that he has been messing with things that are beyond the human experience:

“I’ve always been secretly afraid that some time something would happen that we can’t deal with.”

Sadly, this is the last episode we can watch from this series. The remaining four episodes were broadcast live and never recorded, and you can see clearly (well, blurrily) why the taping of live episodes was deemed a failure at this stage. This is worse than the first episode, with a fuzzy and sometimes distorted picture, and a one point I was trying to flick a fly off my screen, only to realise it was part of the picture. So what are we missing? What happened next? On the DVD set there are scripts of the remaining episodes, but you will need some determination to read through those, because they are fuzzier than the two existing episodes.

The rest of the story can easily be explained for the Doctor Who fans among us, because it’s basically The Seeds of Doom, with hints of The Ark in Space and The Lazarus Experiment. Victor isn’t actually the victim of a body swap. Instead, the three astronauts are now combined in the one body, and that body starts to change, turning into a plant-like monster. The danger levels are ramped up when Quatermass realises that the monster might spore and spread around the Earth, wiping out human life in the process. By that point, Victor has been abducted by foreign agents and has escaped, and is finally tracked down in Westminster Abbey and killed by the army. The last episode is a very sad loss, because I would love to see that final encounter. The budget didn’t stretch to filming a giant monster prop in the Abbey, but instead a photographic blow up was used, with a sort of glove puppet monster. It sounds like a lame idea, but the photos that exist make it look quite effective. But I suppose we mustn’t focus too much on what we don’t have, when we are so lucky to be able to watch the two episodes that do exist, plus the second and third seasons in their entirety. We will have to be content with that, and the monster in Westminster Abbey will just have to live in our imaginations instead.   RP

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The Fanservice Debate: Nagato Ep 15

Can fanservice ever be justified in anime or is it a disturbing and unnecessary aspect of the genre? In this occasional series we look at the rights and wrongs of fanservice and other questionable content in anime. A warning: this series will have plenty of spoilers and sometimes NSFW discussions and images. This week, the beach episode of Haruhi Suzumiya spinoff The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-Chan.

What’s the deal?

Nagato Yuki-Chan Haruhi BeachThis series veers back and forth between slice-of-life, rom com, the usual Haruhi shenanigans, and a compelling amnesia storyline for a few episodes. Approaching the end of the series we are firmly back in slice-of-life territory, riffing on the original Haruhi Endless Eight arc as an excuse to show the characters having fun and slowly move the love angle between Kyon and Yuki along. This week, the group of friends are having fun at the beach.

Why it’s not OK.

Nagato Yuki-Chan Beach Mikuru and Kyon's Little SisterThere was an element of fanservice to the original Endless Eight arc, but this series goes much stronger with it, and mainly that distinction comes down to shot choice. If you are focussing a shot on Kyon’s little sister, and she is being upstaged by Mikuru’s chest, that’s not an accident. Poor Mikuru doesn’t even get her head in shot at that moment. Her costume also doesn’t fit with her character. She’s supposed to be a shy, nervous thing. Would she really choose that bikini? And Tsuruya’s costume is just crazy – surely no teenage girl would wear that for a day at the beach with her friends? Also, the way Kyon ends up on top of Yuki is rather contrived, although it is quite amusing. Where Kyon’s little sister goes, trouble will always be found.

Why it’s OK.

As a general rule I tend to think these kinds of episodes have their place in anime series, simply because they throw familiar characters into a very different setting and see what happens. That can be a golden opportunity to move character development along. In particular here, the focus is on Kyon’s awkwardness around Yuki after her alter-ego’s love confession. It makes for an interesting contrast. They are in a fun setting and should be enjoying themselves, but instead Kyon is full of pent-up frustration at his inability to “just be normal”. And I think this episode puts something important into perspective with Kyon. Faced with a barrage of busty girls in revealing bikinis, he still obsesses over the quiet, visually unimpressive girl in her modest outfit. That must be love.   RP

Read the individual episode reviews: The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya
Read more fanservice debate articles:  The Fanservice Debate

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Nagato 15: His Uncertainty

Nagato Yuki-Chan His Uncertainty Kyon's Little SisterThe junkyard presents two articles about the Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-Chan episode His Uncertainty...

The view from 5930 miles away:

I bet you never thought you would be watching the Endless Eight again! Actually, that’s a little unfair, because this is very different, but it does take place during the same summer and feature some of the same activities, so it deftly manages to make a nostalgia kick out of what is a bad memory for many viewers. It actually shows how the Endless Eight could have worked so much better, with a bit of added variety.

To add to the nostalgia kick, Kyon gets his narrator duties back, and the episode is so much better for it. As I mentioned a few weeks back, this is an area where the spinoff has felt like it was lacking. References to The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya abound, and not just the summer activities themselves. There is the sound of cicadas, Tsuruya’s summer home, Koizumi’s distant relative and his private island, and the ultimate nostalgia kick: Kyon’s little sister. She’s still the fabulous bundle of trouble we remember, trying to stow away in a suitcase (again!) and flooring Kyon with a flying tackle on two separate occasions, the second of which leads to an entertaining rom com moment, and the kind of tactless question only a child would ask:

“Are you gonna kiss?”

As for the Endless Eight activities themselves, half the episode is given over to the beach shenanigans, understandably as this series has been much more blatant with the fanservice. It’s an excuse to show plenty of close up shots of girls in bikinis from different angles, but it also provides the perfect setting for Kyon and Yuki to struggle with their post-Disappearance awkwardness. Trying to make small talk is one thing. Trying to make small talk wearing not much and bouncing a ball to each other is a whole other category of uncomfortable.

“Act normal.”

Then we have the Cicada Catching Competition, which is little more than a nostalgia trip, with Mikuru getting a butterfly on her nose and Yuki catching a giant hercules beetle. But it works for the same reason that all these blasts from the past work: the dynamics are different. This time round we have Kyon’s little sister joining in, and we also have Asakura scheming to find ways for Yuki and Kyon to spend time together; most importantly we have Tsuruya, taking Haruhi’s place as the one who laughs at poor Mikuru’s afflictions. Haruhi isn’t the ringleader any more. That’s Tsuruya, who pushes for the beach and bug catching idea, and creates the test of courage. A world where Haruhi and Tsuruya are friends, partners in crime, and equally powerful forces of nature, is almost as interesting as Haruhi’s original godlike powers. This final arc has a much bigger cast of core characters than anything we have seen in the original series or spinoff before, with a group of eight friends all fully involved in the narrative. It takes some skill to juggle all those characters, and make it feel like all of them matter, and I would argue this is the first time the series has really achieved that with all seven characters, let alone eight.

Our final E8 activity this week is the test of courage, generally a fleeting moment in the original and sometimes not even shown. Here it takes on a much greater significance, because it’s Kyon and Yuki’s big romantic moment of the episode, holding hands while they watch the fireflies, another example of how beautiful the animation has been for this series when the script has called for it.

Although this series started slowly and really reached its climax two episodes ago, and although we are back into the realms of gentle slice-of-life entertainment, I find myself feeling melancholy as we approach the end. I love these characters, every one of them (well, maybe not Koizumi). I don’t want this to end. And for a series that’s bringing back the spectre of the Endless Eight, that’s really saying something. RP

The view from 6,868 miles away:

With the arrival of summer, we run the risk of repeating the same day some 15000 times, but luckily, this is not the parent series and that’s unlikely to happen again.  Instead, we will get some theoretical ideas proposed by Haruhi and some actual plans proposed by Tsuruya.  Thankfully, her family has money and she has an idea: go to the beach.  Right away, this shouted: FAN SERVICE.  But, if I’m honest, it’s not and the one real attempt to draw attention to it is a hilarious line about Haruhi from Kyon, “She may be nuts, but she’s got a great body!”  And with that, the visit to the beach couldn’t be more natural.

Here again, I feel like I’m watching a bug caught in the water as it spins around a drain.  Circling and circling, but not going down.  Are we going into the parent universe or aren’t we?  So many things happen that remind me of The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya that it’s hard to ignore the chances are there; maybe there will be some acknowledgement of that alternate universe.  Maybe it’s just there for the fans.  Between the beach and Kyon’s sister (who unexpectedly injures him time and again, to my delight), to the cicada catching contest, there are moments that remind the viewer about where we were before.  Even Koizumi with his distant relative that bought a deserted island and put on a locked room murder mystery of which only Haruhi would appreciate… it’s all there.  And it’s absolutely enjoyable.  As are the characters.

Asakura has a few outstanding moments as she tries to set Kyon and Yuki up, and later when she gets to dodge the scary bullet by staying behind with Kyon’s sister, both images are marvelously animated with something akin to angelic backgrounds.  I think Kyon must be in awe of her cleverness!

The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan His Uncertainty

Haruhi is completely the source of what makes this series great.  Her watermelon-smashing contest, putting a watermelon between the heads of Koizumi and Kyon and blindfolding Asakura to try to hit the right thing, made it where I had to pause through my laughter.  And her attempt to race to an island which might be miles out at sea was absolute comic gold.  She is also such a great character because her common sense has not fully made her abandon her imagination and she still can’t wait to see bogeymen, ghosts, ghouls, goblins and demons.  This comes about when the group decide to go test their courage in the woods at night.  The lead up to this is another magnificent character piece as we get a brief chance to hear everyone’s internal thought.  Haruhi is all about the demons but it’s Yuki that I relate to: she’s the only one focusing on the food she’s eating.  (I think I relate to her more with every episode!)

But I realize this entire episode is a build-up.  And that makes me question whether Roger has me brainwashed or maybe I’m as big a sap as he is for the romantic, but I want to see Yuki and Kyon together.  In fact, I think I want that more than the sci-fi!  So all those scenes that put us on the edge of it just serve to remind me of the bug in the water: it’s circling over and over, but not getting down the drain.  The point is, when Kyon has an imagination of Yuki saying she has him there to protect her, we want her to actually say that.  (Instead we have yet another artistic moment of her eyes being obscured by light reflected off her glasses!)  Earlier, on the beach, when Kyon’s little sister drop kicks him onto Yuki, we want them to become a couple, but instead we get his sister’s hilarious comment: “you’re a naughty boy, Kyon!”

And in those instances I realize I do want them together; I have come to realize that the sci-fi element that might never be acknowledged is totally OK.  What they cannot fail to do, if they want to keep me impressed, is make sure to offer us a resolution to this plot.  If this ends up being a blind alley too, I’m going to be upset!  However the episode ends with Ms. Asahina screaming so Kyon grabs Yuki by the hand and they go running off to see what happened.  Upon arriving, they realize the scream was over a misunderstanding about fireflies (which alone is genius) but the realization didn’t change one thing, which we see in the final moment:

Kyon and Yuki hold hands

With the next episode titled “Fireworks”, I’m surprisingly excited to see this play out.  Two episodes to go.  If I don’t get the science fiction, I can live with that.  If Yuki and Kyon end up being a red herring, I’m might fly to England to have a word with Roger!  But I’m a double click away from finding out!  ML

Read next in the Junkyard…Nagato 16: Fireworks
Or read more about this episode:
The Fanservice Debate: Nagato Ep 15

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