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01 November 2011 @ 08:44 pm
Weekly Rankings - October 24th to October 30th  
Let's try an experiment.

I watch and enjoy a lot of Japanese media. I also love to talk about it, but besides babbling to friends on IMs, or trying to dance around spoilers while still rambling on Twitter (which gets lost minutes later, anyway,) I don't have a venue to talk about all of it. I do participate on a semi-regular basis with the Superhero Time podcast, but that only covers Tokusatsu and only on the weeks when my schedule enables me to pop in.

So, realizing I have this journal sitting around, I figured I might as well do something about it. Thus, my Weekly Media Rankings were born. Let's see if this actually is something I can keep up with. Because Lord knows that any of the series rundowns I've been wanting to do haven't surfaced yet.

For now, this only covers Japanese media I am watching weekly - Kamen Rider Fourze, Kaizoku Sentai Gokaiger, Suite Precure, Digimon Xros Wars, Persona 4 The Animation, Mobile Suit Gundam AGE, and GARO Makaisenki. I watch plenty of Western media too, but usually in the form of marathoning DVD box sets. You can bet your ass Transformers Prime will work its way in here when it restarts, though.

These articles WILL contain spoilers for all of the above mentioned shows, so you are warned well in advance. They will be ranked simply from the show I enjoyed most working down - just because a show is towards the bottom of the list doesn't mean it's necessarily BAD, though. Well. With one notable exception.

So, with all that out of the way...

[#1] GARO Makaisenki - Episode 04

GARO amazes the hell out of me. It took me forever to get in to - I was turned off early in the first series by its reliance on CGI in fights, and a feeling in the opening episodes like I wasn't sure where it could possibly be going. After marathoning through the first series and subsequent movies, I've now headed into the newest series with a new found appreciation for it.

What we have here this week is an entirely standalone story, with a simple premise - a Horror hiding amongst a Poker game of death, which Kouga must infiltrate. At first, I headed into it a little disappointed that the whole "mark of death" sub plot and Rei's cameo from last week wasn't being followed up on in the slightest. That disappointment was short lived, however.

This episode executes its plot with so much style and energy I couldn't help but love it. For an episode where everyone spends most of it sitting around the table, the whole affair is very engaging. Topping it off with a fight that is just over the top enough, and just long enough to be satisfying, and this easily ended up being the single thing I enjoyed watching the most this week.

Plus, just as Gokaiger taught us this year, we learn again that it's perfect okay to cheat at Poker, so long as your opponent is evil.

Speaking of which...

[#2] Kaizoku Sentai Gokaiger - Episode 36

Choosing between this and GARO in this was difficult, with the Golden Knight winning out on sheer style alone this week. But worry not - as always, the Pirates have plenty of style to spare. I've made note before on this journal of how much I love this show, and 30 episodes later it's not lost a bit of steam. If anything, it's gotten even better.

Part 2 of the Go-onger tribute story brings us the latest upgrade to Gokai-Oh, in the form of the Engine Machalcon, voiced by Hiroaki Hirata. You may recognize him as the voice of Kotetsu from Tiger & Bunny, or Leomon from the Digimon franchise. The former becomes especially amusing, as Machalcon goes off on trying to be convinced to help with "heroic nonsense." It's very nice how much Machalcon is treated as a CHARACTER in this episode, and I do hope the remainder of the series capitalizes on that.

As a Go-onger tribute, it's great, capturing the essence of the show it's paying homage to, while still maintaining that Gokaiger flavor. Especially nice is when Walz Gil and the Zangyack forces arrive to ... save the day, as the Gaiark are encroaching on their territory.

The returning villain from Shinkenger VS Go-onger isn't wholly impressive, but that's more than made up for by everything else. The transformed battle as the Go-ongers is one of the best in recent memory, while the mecha battle is likewise fantastic, especially for a series that hasn't been known for its outstanding mecha combat. Hardly a hint of CGI is seen in the mecha battle, with heavy reliance on some excellent model work, instead.

There is so very much that could have gone wrong from Gokaiger's base concept since the very beginning, but it continues to knock it out of the park week after week. It's a perfect storm of awesome, and it's sad to think it'll be leaving us in another 13 or so episodes.

[#3] Persona 4 The Animation - Episode 04

Full disclosure: I have never played a single Persona or Shin Megami Tensei game. I have always wanted to, but have never had the time to invest in a 100 hour JRPG in the past few years. I don't have any idea how accurate or not this series has been to the games, but coming in cold it has been a very appealing series.

Besides being extremely well animated, P4 has done a very good job at getting intently in-depth with each character's psyche, giving more insight on our four (thus far) protagonists than some show's have for their entire run. The past three episodes have adhered to very similar patterns, and that's something that could have easily been a negative, but there's been such a good job digging into the characters' cores that it's easily overlooked.

This week, our protagonists don't even set foot in the real world, spending the entirety of it trying to rescue Yukiko from her shadow self, after she vanished the episode before. The entire experience is extremely emotional for both Chie and Yukiko herself, doing a lot to endear me to their characters in particular.

Narukami continuing his ability to suddenly change his Persona into other forms is probably one of my only quibbles with things so far. Both times it's happened, it's been in a fairly random manner with the most convenient of timing. I'm certain it ties to the game's own systems, but it feels like they could have handled it a little smoother here.

Besides that, though, P4 is great.

While Kuma/Teddie is the greatest.

[#4] Mobile Suit Gundam AGE - Episode 04

Gundam AGE can be summed up very simply - it is a solidly written show that is also very much a typical Gundam show, meaning that thus far it has been fairly predictable. That trend continues this week, but don't take that descriptor as a slight. AGE is very much worth watching, anyone who whines about its so-called "kiddie" style notwithstanding.

This week, we are introduced to Woolf, our resident Sempai Ace Pilot for at least Flit's act of the story. The way he is introduced is at least the slightest bit odd, having woken up from suspended animation on the Diva. I guess we're supposed to assume that warships in this universe keep ace pilots on ice with a "Break Glass In Case of Alien Invasion" sign posted nearby.

Woolf adds a great new angle to the developing story, though, in that we finally have someone in the main cast who doesn't buy into Flit's boy genius routine. Much as I like Flit, having this perspective mixes up interactions in a delightful way. Having him challenge Flit's ownership of the Gundam only makes sense, and truth be told at the moment I'm not entirely sure it wouldn't be better off in his hands. I'm sure that will change with time, either with Flit's developing skills, and/or Woolf obtaining something better than a recolored grunt MS.

The mystery of the UE deepens a bit this week, with Captain Grodek apparently starting to understand just what's going on. I just hope he doesn't leave us on the edge of the seat with whatever this knowledge is for TOO long.

[#5] Suite Precure - Episode 37

No subs have made the rounds for Suite Precure this week yet, but I'm pretty confident in my ability to understand what's going on here enough to judge it just for this.

This week, we deal with the aftermath of Mephisto being purified, and Falsetto being outed as a much bigger villain than I could have ever anticipated. They are wasting very little time in showing just what Falsetto is capable of, just as they're wasting little time rousing this newly revealed evil being, "Noise" from its slumber. Bassdrum and Baritone get worked over pretty badly by their new boss this week, and I can't help but wonder if they might be thinking Ellen had the right idea by the end of the series.

The primary focus, however, is our recently revealed Cure Muse, Ako. For someone who's sole purpose for most of the series that has been to show up and be a brat for a few minutes every other episode, they've done a lot of good work in the past few episodes to make the audience care about Ako. This is something Suite Precure is really good at - the overall plot comes in small bursts, but it is exceedingly good at establishing character relationships and development over the course of episodes.

Between this episode and when Cure Beat joined the team, I do however have to note - Kanade enjoys dressing up new team members way too much.

It is a bit disappointing that Cure Muse doesn't have her own weapon, but it's at the same time nice that her personal finishing attack is entirely unlike the other three girls. Muse's transformation is also worked very well into the entire team transformation, which is more than you could say for Moonlight last year. I'm also delighted that Dodori maintains the character trait even now of being sort of a little brat his/her/itself. The moment between Muse and Dodori after the fight was gold.

Things seem to be moving at a faster clip now - Noise appears to have woken up, and much like Gokaiger we've got a glimpse of the path we're headed down for the final climax. Also much like Gokaiger I've got a pretty good confidence that this show knows what it's doing, so I'm looking forward to it.

[#6] Kamen Rider Fourze - Episode 09

This is one of those first episodes of a Kamen Rider arc that just screams "set up." For those not in the know, a single episode story in Rider shows are very rare nowadays - every story is split into 2-episode arcs. Basically, the franchise really, really wants to be an hour-long drama but isn't able to.

So, following it week to week, you occasionally get an episode which is only there to set up the more interesting, NEXT episode. This is one of those episodes.

It is certainly not a BAD episode, but it is just sort of there. We get some development on Tomoko, the last member of the SOS Brigade Kamen Rider Club from the Opening that has yet to join. It feels a bit less focused on her than the situation she's currently in though, which is where I suspect the next week will come in on her development there.

Really, there's not much to talk about on this episode. Fire States is introduced, and Gentarou almost fills a schoolgirl full of lead when he tries out the Gatling Switch for the first time.

Unfortunately, we're not going to get the conclusion to this for another two weeks. Fourze (and I presume Suite, as well) is getting per-empted for something or another next week.

[#7] Digimon Xros Wars: The Boy Hunters Who Leap Through Time - Episode 05 (59)

Little pains my fanboy heart more than to say I really dislike a Digimon series. Sadly, that time has finally arrived. At this point, I'd rather go back to watch Digimon Adventure 02.

I do not like this show, and I don't know how much longer I'm going to be able to keep up with watching it. Xros Wars was an okay show for what it was. It would vary wildly in quality from great to godawful, but on average it was okay, just with a pretty poor run of episodes towards the end.

Hunters is not good. I was slightly hopeful after I almost enjoyed last week's episode, but this episode just reaffirms my dislike on so many levels. We get focus on Suzaki Airu, who is single handedly the most grating and unlikable female to ever be animated in this franchise. She comes across as nothing but a vapid, single-minded, and sadistic little girl who cares for nothing more than "capturing cute Digimon." Though I'd like to HOPE they will improve her later on, I also have no faith that will be the case when Nene's entire plot line last series was basically handed to Taiki instead.

Certainly, there has to be a better way to write a female antagonist, guys. Ryouma and Ren are likable enough.

It does not pay to be a girl in Xros Wars, far less so than is even average for this franchise or the Japanese media I watch in general.

On that note, Pop Idol Nene isn't quite "Astronaut Yamato" level bad, but it is at LEAST above "Sora Plays Tennis Now" if not worse than "Cooking Show Host Mimi" on the "Stupid Left Field Post-Show Activities" scale.

As an aside related to that, how do we have an entire episode focused on Cutemon, and not even ONE mention of Akari?

There are so many questions raised by Damemon's sudden reappearance and why Damemon & Tsuwamon are separate Digimon now. No, "Because Damemon said so," isn't an acceptable answer.

Another great question is why Super Evolution is so easily attained, now. Taiki and Kiriha had to bust their asses to obtain OmegaShoutmon and ZekeGreymon in the first series. It's hard to believe that a vapid bitch like Airu with such a little understanding of the world she's involved in could attain something on par with it. Yuu, meanwhile, activates it less than 30 seconds after being reunited with Damemon, just because.

At least in 02, there was some sort of sense that obtaining an evolution was a hurdle to overcome. Even if Iori's was a bit glossed over, Daisuke and Miyako had entire episodes dedicated to this. (Even IF Daisuke's is a bit shameful. Oh, pissing Tortomon...) Super Evolution was supposedly this special, hard to obtain power in the first Xros Wars. Now it's just thrown about like it's nothing. Someone like Airu can attain it, but Nene couldn't? That's kind of crappy.

(Plus, if they weren't going to have these guys' evolution sequences look ANYTHING like Shoutmon's, they should have at least redone Shoutmon's to match theirs. Instead, they use both side-by-side, and Shoutmon evolving to OmegaShoutmon looks completely out of place. Add to that the new kids' evolution sequences not being that great in the FIRST place... Can I just have "The Shoutmon Show" back? Really. I mean it.)

Of course, that's only scratching the surface of inconsistencies between Hunters and the original Xros Wars. But that's enough out of me on that, for now. Those things are just all the more baffling when they're the product of the same writer.

Oh, Riku Sanjo. What the hell happened to you?
James Matthew Backes, aka Razorsawrazorsaw on November 2nd, 2011 12:52 am (UTC)
*headtilt* Is a sub of Suite out yet?
Ken: COW! JOKER!mugennoken on November 2nd, 2011 12:54 am (UTC)
Given I said that it wasn't? No. :P
Kenmugennoken on November 2nd, 2011 12:55 am (UTC)
Which is to say, understanding the goings on of a Japanese show meant for little girls is not entirely difficult.
James Matthew Backes, aka Razorsawrazorsaw on November 2nd, 2011 12:58 am (UTC)
Derp. Sorry. x_x
Wingus: Rider Derpwingus on November 2nd, 2011 04:53 pm (UTC)
I get the feeling that I'm gonna wind up getting sucked into GARO eventually.

As much of a setup episode Fourze was this week, it was pretty darn fun. I do so love seeing Gen screw up and learn from it, as he noted the Gatling Switch was a bit of overkill.

I do hope that once Tomoko joins the crew we start seeing some inklings of a plot, though. At least more than "Zodiarts exist and we gotta stop 'em!"
Kenmugennoken on November 3rd, 2011 05:24 am (UTC)
You should. GARO is amazing. :D

But oh, yeah. Fourze was DEFINITELY still fun. It's definitely not a bad episode at all - it just has the unfortunate fate of being stuck next-to-last by means of how things fell down.

However, I'll totally agree - while I am on board with the whole "establish the cast" thing early on here, once the Kamen Rider Club is completely formed, we totally need some plot development. Scopio can only troll people with random Zodiart Switches for so long.