Summer 2018 3

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A spooky beginning to Jashin-chan Dropkick

In Jashin-chan Dropkick we get the setup from the OP. Jashin wants to kill her summoner, Yurine, for summoning her. So the episode begins and she spends all her time trying to do just that, to the horror and resignation of some fellow demons and angels who hang out at Yurine’s apartment. Let’s see we have Medusa, the sweet one, whose hair is quite normal, and Minos, a cowgirl of some kind, and Pekola, who’s an angel so disapproves of all this demon ruckus, but doesn’t have the nerve to stop it. And of course, Yurine, a goth girl with eyepatch who’s pretty much one step ahead of Jashin. In the first half, Jashin-chan gets chopped for hot-pot because she was greedy and ate all the beef. Then there’s an attack with a crowbar, and finally a birthday party where the taser falls into the wrong hands, so it’s more Jashin-meat for the hot-pot!

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The only decent screenshot of all the characters I could get comes in the ED.

It’s all nutty, bloody, and alas, I didn’t laugh very much. I like how they skipped the origin stories and just stuck it into the OP so we don’t have to bother with it. But while I liked some of the bloody hijinks, it’s obviously a show where one person will try to outdo another person and fail every week with their tail in a hot pot, maybe several times an episode. They’ll add little stories about the side characters from time to time, but they frankly didn’t interest me too much. Also, I had problems with how it all flowed. They spent too much time on the angel Pekola being tempted by meat in scene one, for example. And why focus on her and not Yurine? I did like the fourth wall breaking, but that probably won’t be enough for me to watch episode 2.

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Phantom of the Twilight starts with London at night.

In Phantom in the Twilight we get two Chinese students arriving at London (a cozy, picturesque London) to begin studies. While wandering around the tourist traps a blurry thing steals their luggage and other stuff, including a keepsake ring that belonged to our heroine Ton’s great-great-great-great grandmother, or something, Sha Rijan, who once called London her home. Anyway, Ton bravely chases after the blurry thing which only she can see, until she does a magic spell which leads her to a bishie guy cafe, where she walks through a mirror. The magical bishies figure out the deal and they wind up fighting the goblin in Hyde park. Ton discovers she has MORE magical powers, and afterwards Vlad (head bishie guy) hypnotizes her so she doesn’t remember a thing. What fun is that? Well, her friend Shinyao’s gonna get kidnapped next week, as the tag cheerfully tells us, so she’ll be back in action soon.

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Oh, she just walked through a mirror while chasing a paper airplane. Nothing suspicious.

Another one I feel torn about. It’s maybe a reverse harem for one, and frankly, visually, it feels a little crude and lifeless. On the other hand, I enjoyed just about everything else. The bishies are less annoying than most, more fatherly in their attention toward Ton. I liked how Ton leaped into whatever trouble around her–passive females are almost as bad as bishie males. The story was laid out fairly well, though I didn’t care for how Shinya dropped out of the picture when the action started, and there was that dull train conversation. On the other hand, it kept me interested in Ton’s g-g-g-grandma’s history and what Ton will discover about herself. I might watch another episode.

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The sky over Kyoto.

Kyoto Teramachi Sanjou no Holmes starts with a quick flashback (A girl named Aoi visits an antique shop in Kyoto) jumps to now (Aoi now works there), then jumps back, to her first meeting with Kiyotaka, known as Holmes. In the present day a guy brings in a bowl for Holmes to appraise and gets upset when Holmes calls it a fake. He doesn’t get any happier when Holmes goes into a, er, Holmes-like appraisal of the man himself, analyzing his clothes and behavior and basically saying the man knew the item was fake all along. He does the same thing to poor Aoi in the flashback, telling her how long she’s been in Kyoto, and at times seems able to read Aoi’s mind. And so begins the weekly deductions of Holmes, while Aoi looks on in awe.

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He’s kind of weird, actually.

There might be an overriding story arc involving that one man, but this feels like it’s mostly going to be a bunch of standalone stories. I’m not crazy about those. Holmes is an interesting character just for his deductive abilities, but Aoi’s a bit dull and shallow. On the other hand, it’s educational. In one episode we learned a little about Karatsu ware, and a little about the life of Hakuin Ekaku. And despite the show’s sedate, slightly dull nature, the presence of forgeries and forgers gives the show a dangerous edge. This is one of those shows where I’ll wait to see if I feel like watching another episode next week.

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Tensai Bakabon doesn’t look like it’s changed … Heh.

Tensai Bakabon returns after eighteen years with a new series. I’m not familiar with it but the show is kind enough to reintroduce the characters. In the starter, Papa realizes that they haven’t changed at all in those eighteen years and goes about changing things, especially himself. He holds auditions for a new voice actor, transforms himself into something out of Onihei Hankachou, then a WOMAN out of Onihei Hankachou. He orders that Tokyo be filled with Hooters, turns Bakabon into six Bakabons and then into bystanders, turns Rerere into a rhoomba, etc. Until Mama puts her foot down and things get back to normal for episode two.

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It would take too long to explain what’s going on here.

Ahem, I don’t think the original Tensai Bakabon was this weird. I’m sure it will settle down next week, but this episode was a hell of a lot of fun. Everyone is completely aware that they’re in an anime, and that it’s been eighteen years, and the creators have a lot of fun playing with it. Countless art styles, changing the aspect ratio with physical force, cameos by Nozawa Masako and Jun Fukuyama (the latter has to play Papa in both male and female forms), not to mention Black Jack, and a nod to the late manka-ka, Akatsuka Fujio. I spent more time looking up references than I did watching the episode. That might be a problem for some people. At least in this episode, newer viewers like myself won’t catch all the references. I doubt that I’ll keep watching when the show hits its routine, but I’m glad I watched episode 1.

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An intense face to begin this one.

Tenrou: Sirius the Jaeger is the latest PA works production, and since their shows are generally smarter than average I decided to give it a try. The episode hops from one thing to another. We get a declaration of a new offensive from some vampires who then bloodily munch on the nice girls brought in, and then the good guys show up. Our central character (unless he died at the end of the episode), Yully, gets a little obsessed with smells and goes after the vampires himself, to the annoyance of his comrades. His group, the Jaegers, head to pre-war Japan, poorly disguised as trade magnates, where we get some internal infighting between this government faction and that. Then more blood, and a chase at the end where Yully maybe buys it, but at least he hacked a couple limbs off the nasty Agatha.

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Our heroes.

I said the episode hops around. It does so sometimes in the middle of scenes, and figuring out the continuity can get confusing, but I figure we’ll figure out the whole story eventually, though I don’t really know why they brought in that murderer guy when he’s not needed except to distract the police. Also there’s that nice girl Ryouko … If you don’t know much about pre-war Japan, and I don’t, I’m sure there are things that will go whoosh over your head. On the other hand, it looks great, and the animation is up to PA Works standard. There’s a splendid, vivid car chase near the end that’s worth watching on its own. So, a little hard to get into, but it might be worth it for what could be a well-told story and the eye candy. And the gore. Lots of gore.

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Summer 2018 2

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An appropriate view for the start of Harukana Receive.

Harukana Receive, the second sports anime I’m looking at this season (I normally don’t watch them at all) features Haruka, high school girl who moves to Okinawa, where her cousin and new roomie Kanata picks her up. On the way to granny’s house, they stop on the beach so that Haruka can splash about in the water a bit, and then she spots two high school girls practicing beach volleyball. One of them, Ayasa, is friendly enough, but Narumi is full of competitive fire and resentment, especially when Kanata shows up. There’s some history there but the show only teases us with it. Anyway, they have a “friendly” seven-point match where they hit to ball to Haruka every time, and she fucks it up every time but the last, when Narumi is shocked by her jumping ability (Haruka is as tall as Kanata is short). They agree to a revenge match in seven days, if Haruka can learn the rules, and then it’s revealed that Narumi and Ayasa are the high school champions. Still, that’s not going to stop Haruka.

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Duh-Duh-Dunnn!

It’s not bad, but after it became clear that Kanata and Narumi have some issues with each other everything else in the episode went out the window with me. I suspect it has to do with the shrine they have at the house to a girl who might have been Kanata’s beach volleyball partner. Everything else is straightforward sports anime first episode stuff, meaning partly that I can’t wait for Narumi to lighten up. Though I did enjoy Haruka’s reaction to everything. She’s delighted to be there in Okinawa, eager to learn beach volleyball, and she makes Narumi step back once or twice out of sheer, uncomplicated enthusiasm. She wants to have fun, and “fun” seems to be something Narumi has forgotten about. The whole show is pleasant enough, full of bright sunshine, not to mention all the fanservice we get from the girls, and let’s be honest, that’s going to be a selling point for the show. Don’t know if that’s enough to get me watching a sports anime, though.

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Chio-chan’s OP has her in a game.

Chio-chan no Tsuugakuro stars Chio, your average high school girl, and her misadventures walking to school every day, or at least that was what episode one was about. In the first half, she’s already late and her shortcut is cut off by construction. After some doubts, she climbs up walls and roofs, having various things happen to her along the way, especially the fear of being noticed because she wants a quiet high school life. Naturally, she IS noticed, but she doesn’t notice the noticers so I guess it’s okay. In the second half she winds up walking with the popular Yuki, who is actually being nice to her for no reason (apart from them being classmates and it’s a natural thing to do), and we get a boatload of social anxieties from Chio, who considers herself below-average. Happily, both parts turn out all right, and Yuki is going to be a regular side character.

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Chio-chan’s most important goal is to go unnoticed.

I am seriously torn about this one. On one side, I found both parts excruciating at times, with way too many waiting moments and Chio’s endless internal monologue, like waiting for the tooth-brusher to finish, or trying to figure out what to say to Yuki-chan. That would be enough to turn me off completely, but I’m also interested in Chio-chan. She wants a normal life but, inspired by the games she plays way too much, she goes into “assassin” mode at the drop of a hat. Her wild imagination constantly interferes with her needs and desires, not to mention practicality, but she makes it all work. And there are brief moments of delight mixed in, like the balloon pulled down by the pebble. We’ll have to see what happens when enough side characters arrive for them to bounce off each other. Another episode or two.

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Some of these objects have already been explained in episode 1.

Hataraku Saibou stars, I think a new red blood cell, named AE3803, as she goes about her daily duties of delivering oxygen, CO2, and nutrients to various parts of her world, i.e, someone’s body. In the first episode she’s menaced by a pneumococcus, gets rescued by a heroic, taciturn white blood cell, gets lost on her way to the lungs (giving us glimpses of various organ, such as the spleen, which looks like a cozy tea shop), meets some adorable little platelets, gets menaced again, but is rescued by the same white blood cell who lures it to a spot where it’s sneezed out of the body, using a rocket launching metaphor. AE3803 is smitten by the white blood cell, but there are so many of both types that they’ll probably never see each other again. Well, back to work for both of them.

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red and white blood cells sit to watch the launch of a sneeze.

It’s all very clever in how it describes various cell functions in metaphors we can understand. The red blood cells are like delivery people seen in Japanese offices nationwide, for example, but sometimes it doesn’t work and we don’t care, like a white blood cell stabbing a bacteria to death, with lots of blood(?), or both the red and white blood cells helping the platelets unload supplies–I don’t think you’d see two different cells like that cooperating in a real life body, but again, who cares? It’s cute. It’s also educational. I kept stopping to look up various cell types and organ functions–human biology wasn’t my best subject in school. On the other hand, can they make this interesting for a whole season? Well, there are lots of organs and other body bits they can explore. I’m especially looking forward to learning about that cozy little spleen.

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Lovely moon.

Hyakuren no Haou to Seiyaku no Valkyria is yet another story of a modern-day person being tossed into a fantasy world. Hear it’s Yuuto, who has risen to the role of Patriarch of the Wolf Clan, and thus leads them into battle against other clans, like Horn, and Hoof. We see them in battle, well, he stays on a cliff with his sexy assistant Felicia while the men fight using a phalanx formation, which he got from his smartphone … and that’s sort of new for this sort of series. Not only can he wiki up important things, but he can also call his little sister in the real world. Anyway, the Wolf Clan wins and he goes back to the capital where he gets the defeated Horn clan leader Linnea to submit to being his sister (better than a dog, which is what Felicia and Run are), then learns of an invasion that he must fight off.

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She’ll say Yes soon. They all seem to.

I am grateful that we skip the first two years of Yuuto’s life in, er, Yggdrasil and go straight to him being the boss. Otherwise there’s not much here. I suppose it’s too early to really develop whatever intrigues his older and jealous cabinet members may have for him. Not to mention politics with the other clans. There’s also the harem aspect. Felicia makes it quite clear that she will do whatever Yuuto wants to do with her, same with Run, in fact, they’d enjoy it. Linnea, the defeated leader, is coming around to the same idea, and there’s also Mitsuki, who knows Yuuto from our world and is the show’s tsundere. There’s also a hint that, like that other show, Yuuto needs to show himself off as a badass to people, though here it’s out of political necessity and not a social survival thing. The first episode stumbled along, setting up this and that story inter-spaced with flirty girls, which, given by the ED, is going to be the show’s main point. Mmm … Nah.

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Asobi Asobase starts with the girls’ legs before a misleading OP.

The OP of Asobi Asobase has three young girls in summer dresses looking around dreamily around while a nice song plays. Then the episode begins with a story of how Kasumi has learned to hate to have fun, and now two of the girls are playing around and irritating the hell out of her in the classroom. We also learn that Olivia the blond American has spent all her life in Japan but pretends to be a dumb foreigner to mess with Hanako, the other girl. Kasumi rather nastily tries to get Olivia to teach her English, though Olivia is bad at it too. They end up playing a lot of games to decide who will do what. Meanwhile Olivia still won’t admit she doesn’t speak English.

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Why they’re in swimsuits here isn’t worth mentioning.

I’d like this better if all three of the characters weren’t so unpleasant and childish. Why Olivia won’t fess up is never explained, nor why she plays the dumb foreigner even with the teachers who know better. Hanako would probably ditch both these girls if it gave her a chance to be in with the popular girls. And Kasumi comes off as bitter, bitter, bitter. I got the impression that the games aren’t the matter for any of these girls as much as it is the chance to stick it to the other two. Meanwhile, are we presented with a variety of grotesque facial reactions from all of them. That said, some of their biting comments are genuinely funny, as well as the snarky side comments. So in the end I’m not sure. It’s probably going to be game after game in that classroom with as many ugly thoughts as the creators can dream up. Not sure I want a season of that, but we’ll see.

 

 

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Planet With begins with a fiery bad dream.

Planet With, so far the weirdest opening I’ve watched, has a boy named Soya have a bad dream, wake up, greet a maid-girl and a big cat thing who eats cabbage, and heads off to school like nothing’s wrong. Conversations with, er, (checks notes) Takamagahara, the kindly class rep reveal that he has lost his memories. Then they’re evacuated because a UFO, a giant cat-thing with “Peas” written on it, glides nearer the town, and a fighter jet pilot has a weird encounter. A team of heroes gather to meet it and transform. Ginko (the maid-girl) and Sensei (the cat (nyan)) tell Soya that he must defeat the heroes, not the UFO. Well, it’s too late to save the UFO but Soya’s weird mecha does steal one of the heroes’ powers later. So, um, that’s it for episode one.

 

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Oh yeah, there’s also a bit of “boy mecha pilot” thrown in.

In spite of the weirdness there’s a tongue-in-cheek aspect I enjoyed, such as Soya’s deadpan explanation about his memory loss, as if the creators knew what a cliche it is and so have some fun with it. I liked a little less the common thread some of the characters have. They have experienced painful things and need to find some release and closure. The giant cat (not Sensei. Nyan) seems to offer them a peace, but it’s too perfect, an illusion. Soya’s own memories begin to wake up as well, but they seem to make him angry more than anything. Meanwhile, he’s possibly fighting for the wrong side. Not sure what to make of it all, yet. It sort of reminds me of Zvesda, a show I liked a good deal. We’ll see how this holds up after another episode or two.

Summer 2018 1

Time to start the anime summer season, hurrah! Because of this and that I wasn’t able to watch as many shows last season as I wanted, like, only four. This time I hope to do a bit better. For those of you who don’t know, or actually care, I should explain that I’m not going to watch everything, or even most things. I have my favorite genres as much as anybody else. As always, I will go mostly by the Random Curiosity preview page. And I always start each review with a screenshot of the show’s first comprehensible moment. So off we go!

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Island starts with a box of things that will probably be important later.

We start with Island, where a guy wakes up naked on an Island called Urashima with just pieces of memory, like he’s a time traveler and he has to save a girl, and kill someone. He is discovered in embarrassing fashion by a girl named Karen, and the irritable mayor (and Karen’s dad) tells him to get the hell out. No outsiders here. He sneaks away, discovers Karen again, then is spotted by another girl, Rinne, who can’t go out in the sun and claims to be a time traveler too, takes him to her mansion and makes him a maid. Meanwhile he keeps getting flashbacks of mostly unpleasant things. Also, he keeps hearing that “Setsuna must die,” which just happens to be the name Rinne gives him. Then there’s another girl, a shrine maiden named Sara, who cutely tries to kill him. Also, someone named Rinne vanished two years ago, and other weird and mysterious things. Also, people tend to cry for no reason they can figure out.

island1-1An intriguing start, and I might watch episode 2, but frankly I found myself a little bored by episode one. Not sure why. I tend to like shows where they drop hints of mysterious things left and right, and I rather liked the businesslike tone the episode set, with the amiable but slightly ecchi Setsuna trying to put everything together. But it left me impatient for something, maybe answers. Or maybe it was the constant sounds of the sea in the background, along with the almost absent background music. Anyway, it looks like Setsuna will begin to build a harem of girls too young for him, who will either help him or try to kill him, or both.

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Hanebado! starts with Nagisa not having a good time on the court.

Next is Hanebado!. I’m not really into sports anime, and I’m sure I’m missing a lot by having this view, but the excellent Sakuga Blog suggested there might be something interesting to see, at least visually. We start in a six-month flashback where we watch a girl getting destroyed in a badminton tournament match, mutterins things like “why am I even doing this?” A sentiment expressed by her mostly unseen opponent as well, as she wins 21-nil. Flash forward to the future and we see the loser, Nagisa, her school’s team captain, bullying anyone who can’t keep up with her. It’s so bad that possible new members are too scared to join, and the others are ready to quit. Switch to the tennis courts where another girl has joined the team and is having fun. Turns out her name is Ayano, and she’s the one who kicked Nagisa’s butt that day. A friend drags her, almost kicking and screaming, to join the badminton team, but she doesn’t want to join. Of course, in a move that even the characters admit is right out of a shoujo manga, Nagisa challenges her in one of those “You lose, you join” things. End of episode, please watch the exciting match in episode two.

hanebado1-1Well, I’m still not going to watch it. The story was laid out nicely enough, and in my synopsis I left out a lot of things, like Nagisa’s understanding best friend, and the nice job they did depicting the matches (I don’t like that new coach, though), and the comparison between the big, imposing, and scary Nagisa and smaller, nice (though we get a couple of excellent death-stares out of her, thanks to Nagisa’s painful memories) We see that Ayano, a natural and gifted talent, has some personal battles she’s going to fight through, and Nagisa will struggle to reach Ayano’s level … But really it’s all routine for a sports anime, and the thrill of sports competition, no matter how well depicted, doesn’t make it for me. Not to mention the boob and butt shots … But really, nothing’s wrong with episode one if you like sports anime.

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Isekai Maou to Shoukan Shoujo no Dorei Majutsu starts by telling us what game everyone’s playing.

Skipping a few that I might come back for, I watched Isekai Maou to Shoukan Shoujo no Dorei Majutsu, where a shut-in mook in our world is the reigning demon lord of a MMORPG called Cross Reverie. You can already guess what happens next. Yup, he’s transported to the game itself by buxom-elfen Shera and catgirl Rem, to be their slave, but he’s so powerful that the magic backfires and they become his slaves instead. They take him to a town while everyone tries to figure this all out. He meets Celes, the head mage for the city, and thus learns that Rem has the top evil boss trapped inside her. He agrees to help her out, and then some jealous mages challenge him to a fight and get beaten up. He still isn’t sure what the hell is going on, but anyway.

demonlord1-1There are of course a lot of shows where characters get thrown into their games, smart shows like Log Horizon and goofy ones like KonoSuba. This one’s angle is that Diablo (the mook demon lord) isn’t used to dealing with people in general, much less girls, much much less really cute girls with a ton of fanservice thrown in. In order to get by, he has to play his evil Diablo role, yet he just isn’t that evil inside. So his demeanor is haughty but his actions are decent. He can’t bring himself to Ravish poor Rem (well, that’s partly his introversion) and agrees to help her with her problem. So this show will partly be about Diablo learning to interact with people. It is also, partly, an excuse to have countless girls in compromising positions, with, as I said, a ton of fanservice. That last bit might turn some people off, but I don’t mind fanservice if the story is good. This first episode is all right. I like the mix of arrogance and social inability that Diablo has. Too soon to say about the other characters.

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There’s a prince floating around in that ether somewhere.

Yume Oukoku to Nemureru 100 Nin no Ouji-sama stars, well the show keeps calling her Princess, but the RC preview says she’s Haruka, so I’ll go with that. Anyway, we start with a bishie guy floating in a purple place until he’s summoned by Haruka to this magical land. Haruka just got there herself, and since she’s an office lady in real life, she’s terribly confused, especially when this cat thing introduces himself as her butler and calls her “Princess.” Anyway, this world lives on drams, and there are dream-eater monsters going around ruining things. A lot of princes fought the monsters and got sealed into rings, and it’s Haruka’s job to free them so they can try again. They meet another bishi, Kiel, a more carefree type with memory loss. Naturally, he and the first prince, Avi wind up bickering all the time.

yumeoukoku1-1Well, I probably wouldn’t watch this even if the first episode had been any good. Not a fan of bishie harems. Worse, the episode just plods along, not trying to find anything new in its routine setting. Haruka is a bore, so is Navi the talking stuffed animal, and Avi isn’t much better. I will say that I enjoyed Kiel’s seiyuu work–it was about the only lively thing in the episode. However, the Princes’ bickering that we are supposed to think is cute and endearing got tiresome after the first bicker. The art and animation are just average, and the BGM often sounds like it came from a toy synthesizer. Not for me, thanks.

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Shichisei no Subaru starts with a boss battle, only it’s kind of lame.

Shichisei no Subaru is another look at MMORPG gaming except that no one is trapped inside one, well apart from maybe … Well, this game is called Unite (at first), and an elite team of adventurers named Suburu, basically a pack of elementary school kids, who are damn near unbeatable. A little too much time is spent introducing them as they decide on a new, particularly nasty quest. While fighting the boss, one member, Asahi, sacrifices herself to save Haruto, probably because of her crush (we get a lot of character dynamics from the start–so and so likes so and so, and so on). Later, the kids learn that Asahi had died in real life at just the same time. Haruto blames himself and stops gaming until six years later a friend convinces him to try with the new version, ReUnion. He reluctantly joins them, they reach a weird dungeon and a treasure box. What’s inside it? Asahi!

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You never know what you’ll find in a treasure box.

So it’s different from most of these animes about gaming in that, like the Hack franchise, the characters still have active real lives. Also, the character relationships are a bit more mature, and it will be interesting to see how the characters work together after six years and the weight of the death has on them. But there’s also the sheer weirdness of Asahi in the box. Are the game developers that sick-minded? I get the idea that Haruto has to confront the past, but what an odd way to go about it! That last scene alone is enough to make me check episode 2.

FranXX 23, Hisone finale

franxx23-1Darling in the FranXX 23, while being a big space-battle episode, does a better job when it focuses on humanity in the future. I say “humanity” because the show makes a point that the Children, some of whom are fighting in space, some (Mitsuru and Kokoro) staying on Earth, are basically it, as far as humanity is concerned. Those strange other people have probably all died, apart from people involved in the battle like Nana and Hatchi. Those two talk about what the children will do next, surprised at their own concern and desire to keep guiding them. They’ve found their future role (so they probably won’t die next episode). Mitsuru has found, even with his memories gone, that his future lies with Kokoro, who at first resists and then accepts it. The Alphas have nothing but battle, so they happily die in a blaze of glory, helping Hiro reach Strelizia Apus, where he and 02 have their own stylized, storybook argument, before 02 happily accepts him. The other children have more choices for their future, but first they’ll finish the battle.

franxx23-2The battle, meanwhile, looks pretty. Lots and lots of spaceships and super-rays and explosions, but I could never really connect to it, even with the sacrifices and acts of bravery it takes to get Hiro to Strelizia. Sometimes enemy ships would land on Strelizia and do … whatever, and get blown away. I never got the impression that Strelizia was in trouble. I only began to worry when the two living beings who are suppose to run it won’t agree, so it wouldn’t turn on. When it did, it was fun but ludicrous. Streliza turns into a sexy, armored, live 02 in space! Flowing hair and all! Almost as weird is when the wormhole appears (the klaxasaurs seemed to have figured this all out) and Hiro/02 (the latter’s giant head saying the words–in space!) say, “Well, gotta go to the bad guys’ home and end the war. Bye bye!” leading all the characters (and myself) wondering what the hell’s up. The episode ends. The voice-over suggests that they haven’t returned yet. What is the finale going to give us? Will we see the battle? Will it be 24 minutes of the remaining children farming? I have no idea.

Hisone to Masotan finishes in grand style, confusing though it be.

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Make up your mind.

The girls learn that Hitatsu, the massive dragon, needs a sacrifice as part of the ritual, and that means Natsume, who gamely goes through the motions but you know her heart isn’t in it, and that’s important. The pilots are stunned by the inhumanity and you-know-who decides to put a stop to it. Interestingly, Masotan has no qualms about delivering her to Natsume (I thought he might refuse, but maybe he’s on the girls’ side), whereupon Hisone and Natsume get into a quarrel about Okonogi. And so Mitatsu isn’t lulled to sleep, so it’s all ruined. Er, except it’s not. Apparently the pilots, with Sada, come up with an alternate plan, which also almost fails (stupid torpedoes), so they release Mitatsu’s binds, or something, and it’s Hisone, of all people, who stays (well, with Masotan) to do the final thing, after announcing that she’d be back. Months later, Okonogi goes to the new island and there are Hisone and Masotan! What they were doing for three months isn’t explained. So the ritual really seems to be kind of a sham. I suppose Mitatsu needed a guide to his new resting place, but the sacrifices were, apparently, completely unnecessary …

hisonemasotan12-3Well, good for them for figuring that out. I’d hate to see anyone actually die. However, it does make the romance angle, and the decisions of what or who to love, or to love at all, a little confusing. We see Natsume, later, as just a high school girl, figuring out her career path in a scene mirroring the series’ first scene. She makes no mention of Okonogi. Happy to see Hoshino and Zaito clear the air … I guess in the end everyone ends up with what they want, more or less. Except Hisone and Masotan are still a team, so where does that lead Okonogi? At the end, Masotan swallows him, so he’s with Hisone inside, so does that mean Masotan’s accepted the current relationship? Or was it all the cell phones he had with him?

hisonemasotan12-4Yes, a messy ending that ignored the situation and the decisions the characters would have to make. Or rather, the characters ignored the situation and made their own ending. I always cheer when characters ignore or reject what fate tells them to do, but here there was no setup for that, no suggestion that there were alternatives. … It really doesn’t matter whether or not the ending was satisfactory. This was a terrific series from beginning to almost-end. It managed to work in serious issues of love and duty but kept the tone so light that I was chuckling throughout. It had a cartoonish look to it that belied the depth of the characters and the sophisticated art and animation. I found myself liking all the characters, even the unpleasant ones, though I wish Ririko had had more to do. And finally, the dragons managed to be both formidable and cute. Ah, I’m sorry this show is over.

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One more of Natsume, because I love this screenshot.
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And one more of Futomomo, my favorite dragon.

 

FranXX 22, Hisone 11, Steins;Gate 12

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You know, if I were the Earth, I’d consider rejecting you too.

Darling in the FranXX 22, post Grande Crevasse battle, has the kids trying to prepare for the next stage in their lives, or so they think. So they dutifully plant vegetables, which die because there’s no life in the earth anymore. Meanwhile, everyone learns what we already knew–that Kokoro is pregnant, and she’s given choices, neither of them having to do with actually having a baby. Other team members get sick from the pressure or overwork. The Nines are pitiful possibly because they can’t get the nutrients they need, but they’ve lost their reason for existence. And 02 is a zombie who keeps getting mysterious cuts on her arms, until Hiro, not at 100% either as you can imagine, realizes it’s because she’s still in Strelizia, up in space, and the cuts wounds from battle (he learns this from a mind-meld from when their horns touch–something I figured they would have figured out before). But there’s hope. One of the plantations is still intact and it has good soil, but by now Hiro has made his decision. He’s going to ride a Klaxosaur that somehow will respond to human orders up into space, up to Mars, to reach Hiro, as they promised. The others … well, it’s an interesting question.

franxx22-2They use the proverb “You can’t swim in the same river twice” several times. You can take that as a metaphor for them to turn their blades into plowshares, but for all of them to decide to go up with Hiro, to return to the fight, seems to reject this notion. Battle is all the Nines ever knew, it’s all they think they’re good for, so they’re fine with going up (never thought I’d see that asshole Alpha on the same side as our guys, but anime loves to redeem villains). But the others are now fully-human adults who have seen other things of the world. Hiro, of course, has no choice but to join 02, but the others? Because they can’t abandon their friend, who has always, as Goro points out with a fist to the jaw, gone his own way? Because eking out a living on Earth isn’t appealing to them? Because the battle isn’t over? Maybe the latter, but the people doing the fighting were never doing it for them. Why should they care? And what about those frozen people, the ones without abilities. Quite possibly our heroes will die or get transformed in space and they’ll be unfrozen and sent to Mistilteinn to start a farm …

hisonemasotan11-1Hisone to Masotan is getting near the climax, too, and while episode 11 is the grandest episode of the lot, the major story-point, well, up until the very end, is an internal realization and decision by Hisone. She’s quit the SDF and returned to her parents’ house where she mopes and remembers Kakiyasu almost physically throwing her off the base. Meanwhile, the ritual has begun, Sada flying Masotan, and it’s going swimmingly. I figured Hisone would have a turnaround at some point, and it comes. She realizes that while she had found a lot of people to love (that she turned her back on), but it was because of Masotan, and she must protect that which is most precious.

hisonemasotan11-2Great, I thought, but the ritual has begun, Masotan is a long way away, how on earth could she even get up there? But at this point the show throws us a curveball, as Sada remembers a lost love of her own–how she lost it is the episode’s last story-point, and Masotan freaks out. How Hisone manages to meet up with Kakiyasu et al., in a nice, wet scene of apologies and forgiveness, then actually get back in Masotan’s stomach, is absolutely ridiculous but effective and fun. And cheerworthy. As provincial as I am, I should point out that there is a bridge like that in Toyama–it’s on the way to Takaoka.

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When this show started, I never thought the yogurt lady would play such a key role.

The episode has by now hit us with despair and triumph, but we got the final plot point, and it’s an interesting one. While Hisone has realized how important Masotan is to her, there’s still her interest in Okonogi to contend with. The situation looked impossible before, now it’s maybe impossible again. Can someone bear to let whoever it is get sacrificed? I’m not sure who it’s going to be … by the ragged clothing it’s suggested that it will be that girl whose name I can’t remember, but I get the feeling Okonogi will intervene, or Hisone. Either way, it’s a sad, primitive way to do things, and I for one would object to anyone going. I wonder if the people in the belly of the giant dragon feel the same way? Well, we’ll find out next week, even if I think it can’t possibly top this episode.hisonemasotan11-4

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This is a lovely little scene, even if Mayuri doesn’t know what’s going on.

Steins;Gate 0 had a mid-way arc-closer last week, so I figured something big would happen this week. Looks like we’ll have to wait until next week, because episode 12 turned to the more personal story of Kagari and her lost memories, and the question of whether it’s better if she gets them back or not, considering the hell she’ll remember. But the issue is presented gently, in the form of a song that Mayuri in the future taught the young Kagari, that causes a fainting spell when Mayuri sings it again. We spend most of the time with Rintarou and the girls going from character to character trying to find the origin of the song. One person heard it from another, just about every girl in the cast except Maho, who’s not around. Rintarou thinks it might be a telephone game, and it would indeed have been fun, if a pointless exercise, to discover that no one invented it–someone heard it from the past, or the future, from someone else who heard it from the same people. It all finishes with a bit of plot at the end. Kagari discovers at least part of her memories, happy ones, but at the same time, some bad people have spotted her. Well, overall a sweet way to spend an episode, but I suppose it couldn’t last.

Steins;Gate 0 11, Comic Girls finale

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It looks like a final episode …

Steins;Gate 0 11 has one more confrontation with goons and then seems to turn into a finale, but, of course, there are too many loose ends to take care of. Important things get accomplished: Rintarou finally tells Maho most of the truth about the time machine, and then there’s her emotional decision about what to do with the computer, destroy the closes thing she has to Kurisu, or take Rintarou’s word for it and destroy the reason for the next world war. The fact that they’re tracked down by goons again almost has nothing to do with it. One set of goons goes after the computer, another set comes and shoots the first group, and destroys it. Essentially the same thing that Rintarou wanted, only he gets grazed by a bullet in the second case. A lot of time is spent with Maho getting over the loss of Kurisu’s data, but a calm, rational Rintarou talks sense to her–never thought I’d see that. Then it’s … goodbye. Everyone goes home and hopes it’s all over, except Yuki is still around, and so is Kagari. So I figure the next story arc is going to have a lot to do with her. In the meantime, it’s nice to get an episode which ends calmly, with no cliffhanger.

comicgirls12-1Comic Girls ends, and I expected a sad but sweet goodbye episode now that Kaos-chan had a manuscript approved, so I expected to be bored. But it turns out Kaos still has the crisis producing the two-parter. The first half had maybe too much help from the others, but now they’ve left the dorm, so she is faced with doing part 2 on her own. There are lots of “do your best!” lines, some from her mom who comes to visit, and temporary moments of inspiration, but in the end what keeps the scenes from being deadly were Kaos-chan’s near-constant anxiety attacks, made worse from her mom’s bringing baby pictures. Even then the episode got dull because we knew she would finish it and it would be accepted. And that’s just what happens. And because the everything is better than we think, it turns out they were just building a NEW dorm (rather fast, I think), and they move back in together, and everyone’s happy, except that Kaos is back to getting her manuscripts rejected.

comicgirls12-2There are good CGDCT shows but more bad ones. This one was good. It didn’t have the intangible qualities that Azumanga Daoih had, nor the inventive, silly, and playful art and animation of Hidamari Sketch, nor the sheer weirdness of Is the Order a Rabbit, three of the best shows of the genre I can think of. But it did have other strengths shared by them: fun characters and a genuinely funny script performed by excellent seiyuu. You could argue about whether the other girls were all THAT interesting, and I’ll nod my head, but it had Kaos-chan and her superbly executed and timed freakouts which punctuated almost every good scene. Basically the show, the direction at least, fell on her shoulders, and seiyuu Hikaru Akao did outstanding work. Everyone else involved just had to make sure they did their jobs. Next for Ms. Akao is something called Backstreet Girls, which looks weird, but not as cute.

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One more of Kaos-chan freaking out about something or other. Does it matter what?

FranXX21, Hisone 10, Comic Girls 11

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Our heroes are, understandably, at a loss as to who they should fight.

Darling in the FranXX 21 is a big, grand, heroic episode where everyone makes dramatic decisions and sacrifices, sometimes more than once. Naturally, little of it makes any sense. We start with the ongoing fight, and the bad guys announcing again that they’re going to set off the Klaxosaur bomb thing and blow everything up, like, in an hour or so, enough time for several things to happen. 02 manages to crawl back where Franxx and that other guy is, while muttering about how little time they have, and she gets an IV or two. Then the gang, disobeying orders that no one should take seriously anyway, since they’re actually from the bad guys’, burst in, giving 02 and Franxx transportation and defense to get to where Strelizia is. Meanwhile, Hiro and the Princess are doing the contrasting “We’re doomed” “No, we’re not, I’ll fight for life until I’m dead!” routine. The rescuers do their heroic last actions and speeches, getting 02 and Franxx to the gate that won’t open until Franxx gives up his arm to open it, a klaxosaur appears and lets 02 ride it to where Strelizia stands immobilized by tentacles or something. Okay, in anime terms, this part is pretty normal. We may not know quite what’s going on, but we can follow the characters’ desires.

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I hope this isn’t the overriding theme of the series.

Things get out-and-out weird when 02 gets to Strelizia’s cockpit and finds Hiro apparently dead. She kisses him and then they’re both in an enchanted garden and have the grateful reunification that, I suppose, the show needs them to have. This inspires the nearly-dead princess to give her very last effort. Before, she had been talking about how the klaxosaurs had, out of a necessity not explained to us, they evolved alone and unable to procreate. Now she sees 02, her despised clone, kissing the random variable boy, and decides maybe solitude isn’t the way for everyone. Time’s up, but 02 grows a new set of horns, Strelizia bursts out of the Crevasse in its new Strelizia-Apata form. The bad guys, pissed that the bomb didn’t go off, grab some super-lance and run off, shouting that they would return. So I guess the good guys won, but what was with that garden? Is 02 now dead? (nah!) And what are they going to do in the remain episodes? I think there are three more … Okay, I’m going to stop here. It was confusing as hell, but fun to watch in that “everyone does the heroic thing, even the morally ambiguous guys” way.

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… and coming to a stupid solution

Hisone to Masotan 10 is no weirder than any of the other episodes. It’s very simple, everyone tries to help get Ei and Hisone straightened out. Ei’s problem was handled easily, though at the cost of some heartbreak for her and for Zaito. All he needed to do was act like a sexist jerk around her, which he reluctantly does, for the good of the mission! Poor guy, for once I feel sorry for him. On the other hand, it means we’re treated to Ei in full fury mode, which is her best. Unfortunately, Hisone’s problems aren’t so easy to fix, partly because she’s the main character and so we want her to have her cake and eat it, too. Quitting the air force won’t help at all, of course. What was Ikushima thinking, getting Nao to pilot Masotan and letting Hisone see it? The last thing she needs to think is that she can be replaced.

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Kaos receives some good news for a change.

Comic Girls 11 is predictable from start to finish. Not that that’s a problem if it’s executed well, and it mostly is. The dorm closing did not come as a surprise, in fact, when the episode starts they are already preparing to leave. The main issue is whether Kaos-chan will manage to get a manuscript accepted before the dorm, and the show, closes. Of course she will–the world isn’t THAT cruel to Kaos. So we have a first half of the girls going through old files and manuscripts left behind by previous tenants, with Kaos discovering a Gannbate! message on a wall. This fires her up, and she winds up submitting four manuscripts. We all know that it will be the fourth (her worst) one that will interest Mayu; the only question is what will the manga be about. I should have expected it–it seems to be more or less about four girls doing comics. But it does bring up an important lesson for creative types: sometimes you do your best work when you’re tired, so that stuff gets past your inner defenses. Again, most of this is predictable, but it’s made effective mostly by Kaos-chans frequent anxiety attacks. In fact, that carries the episode, which was quieter and more introspective than usual.