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Quick Notes: Code Geass, kyouran kazoku nikki, Planetess

Just putting some thoughts down as I roll into the end of the second season of Code Geass and the midpoint of Kazoku Kyouran Nikki.

Nearing the end of the second season of the first chunk of Code Geass and just got to the episode where everything hits the fan. I’m half impressed, half disappointed. It was obvious everything was going to hell, and the more it looked like it might have a hard-fought but happy end the more I knew it was all going to fall apart—the optimistic, nice characters in the series are, frankly, too naive to realize it ain’t going to be that easy. What impressed me, though, was how fast it went to hell, and how completely. Hope to complete bloodbath in literally ten seconds flat. Now the fun of it is trying to figure out exactly how this new, vicious twist will play out—my friends and I have come up with at least three possible scenarios that would result in layered and brutal tragedy of the highest order, depending on who lives as a broken shell and who will kill who, so we’ll see if any of us are right. So far I haven’t done too well other than in the general, but I’m more confident in my prediction this time.

The disappointment was that though the disaster is complete, the way it was done was kind of a cop-out. In that the series has gradually set up layered emotional conundrums (I wanted to write conundra, but that’s apparently wrong) that would eventually result in exquisite tragedy that the characters only realize they have created when it’s too late. The kicker, though, was really just a dumb accident, which, as effective as it was, seemed like a rather blunt instrument by the standards this series has set. Sure, it sets up the impossible actions the characters will have no choice but to follow through on, but I’d have liked it to be done in a more intentional, shoulda-seen-that-coming way.

Also a little worried about how much it’s holding back for the second series; I’ve got a creeping suspicion that it’s either going to veer off into some totally different direction or start treading water to keep itself going.  But, it’s so far held together remarkably well through the soap operatic twists, so maybe it’ll keep it up.  (Also, maybe I’m a little prejudiced against series that go on longer than a couple seasons—it’s one of the reasons I much prefer the finite 1-2 season runs of almost all anime to US TV’s choice of either endless treading water or the overblown mess that things like X Files or Lost turn into eventually.)

There’s also C.C. and the related Geass business getting ramped up with the addition of some ancient artifacts and the Emperor doing some creepy stuff.  My first reaction was “oh, great, ancient ruins and hidden magic powers” until I reminded myself that the entire foundation of the thing is the Geass powers and C.C.’s background, so it’s not like it didn’t put the supernatural stuff out front from episode 1.   I suppose it’s so solidly grounded otherwise it’s easy to forget the whole concept is pretty whacked.

Kazoku Kyouran Nikki, I’m completely sold on. The series is flat-out awesome as far as deranged, hyperactive comedy goes. Every time I think it’s put the cherry on top of the towering sundae of crazy it goes and adds another scoop of wow. Even the odd, sort-of-prequel episode tossed into the middle had multiple kinds of wonderful madness in it (though why they didn’t give you some signal at the beginning as to the fact it took place before the series proper, I don’t know—I’d have spent less time trying to figure out how it fit in that way). That you also empathize with and to some degree even care about the family members and side characters is icing on the cake (doubling up on my confectionary metaphors there, but then this series is on a perpetual sugar rush so it’s appropriate). It’s like Excel Saga with the nutty heroine factor cranked a notch higher (yes, I’m serious) except the world is at least a little bit functional and you actually care about the characters. The tears-to-the-eyes hilarity is chocolate sprinkles on the icing on the cake (…on the sundae?). Usually I fear a series this good falling apart at the end, but thus far it has ignored every opportunity to do wrong, so I’m remaining unusually optimistic.

Speaking of optimistic, Planetes was recommended to me quite some time ago by M Man, a fellow of impeccable taste, but I just recently got around to adding it to my weekly viewing get together. I should have listened sooner—it’s like all the best parts of Wings of Honneamise (one of my favorite films) in TV form with lots and lots of good science. The best parts, for reference, are low-key humor, an air of realistic adventure, cool science-based mechanical design, and a sense of wonder (tempered by jaded pessimism) about space. It’s a bit preachy on occasion, and I could picture it getting too heavy, but so far I’m loving what I’m seeing.

Also: I’m still not sure how Honneamise is supposed to be pronounced when speaking English without sounding weird, a fact that has been brought to the fore by Bandai’s Honneamise blu-ray label. Sometimes writing is easier—it always sounds fine in your head.