2-3’s for Dagashi, Divine Gate, Pandora, Marshmallow. Guess which I’m dropping? WRONG!

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After episode one, I figured the point of Dagashi Kashi was to show us Hotaru’s various schemes to keep Kokonatsu working at the candy store. I expected devious and funny plans and a good deal of tempting via fanservice. Episodes 2-3 showed us that while Hotaru’s goal is the same, the show is less interested in that than honoring and riffing on the idiosyncrasies of various bad snacks. Okay, if they can keep it entertaining, I don’t care much either way. In fact, in a way it reminds me of Moyasimon in how it decides to ignore the story for awhile when if finds something irreverent but fun to explore. In episode 2 we get strategies for eating kinako-bou, Hotaru getting drunk on namaiki beer (because they wanted a cute drunk scene), the uplifting story of fue ramune, and Saya’s utter mastery of menko card throwing.

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Episode three continues with eating Buta-men broth in intense heat, not eating kurukuru bou jelly at the pool (part of an evil plan that fails), while the bontan-ame segment gets poetic with lines about removing the rice paper from Endo’s heart, and we learn, from Seven Neon packaging, how candies are made more difficult to eat to extend the time it takes to eat them, important for kids with little pocket money. Sounds silly, but I recall how Tootie Rolls marketing strategy was to show kids how long it took to eat one. So while the show’s plot isn’t moving forward at all, I’m learning a lot about bad Japanese candy.

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Decided to drop Divine Gate after episode 2. It still looks impressive, but it’s heavy-handed on the themes, has not a single interesting character and a character or two (Loki) whom I wanted to strangle after fifteen seconds, and it gets damn confusing to boot. This week they took the concept of fathers and tore it to bits. Aoto supposedly killed his, claims he did, anyway. Akane lost his dad, maybe. And there’s the dad this episode who wanted to save his son but couldn’t. Akane is furious at him, never mind that the man was on a cane and the kid up at least twenty feet in rubble. Instead, we get a inane explanation from Aoto about conscious and unconscious. The only person in the show I want to open his mouth less is that weird kid that Aoto can see, who spouts ridiculous┬áproverbs and then goes away. No, I’ve heard enough.

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On the other hand, I’m keeping Koukaku no Pandora for now. It’s just as confusing as Divine Gate is, has a few annoying characters, the story is all over the place, and it doesn’t move forward as much as it gasps and jerks from one scene to the next, or even in a conversation. Even the fanservice is ridiculous, given that these are robots we’re talking about. And, compared to Divine Gate, it looks terrible. On the other hand, it’s so all over the place that it makes you wonder where the next bit is coming from. Since it’s a comedy series it can get away with silliness. Also, it’s cute. I might throw up my hands after episode four, but I kind of want to know what happens next. That’s not something I care about with Divine Gate.

The season's most romantic scene so far.
The season’s most romantic scene so far.

Finally, it’s a no-brainer to keep Ojisan to Marshmallow. It’s weirder and funnier than any of the full-length shows, apart from Dagashi Kashi … which also features snack food that’s bad for you … IS THERE A CONNECTION HERE? … Ahem, it also has Wakabayashi, her strange attraction, and Hige’s defenseless confusion concerning her, you can’t blame him. So will he figure it out? Will Wakabayashi have to fling him down and ravish him to get her point across? Who knows?

New Shows Winter 2016 #2

Though there were no stinkers, nothing in my first post thrilled me too much. Let’s see if Active Raid -Kidou Kyoushuushitsu Dai Hakkei- can liven things up.

The show and the show's computer boots up at the same time.
The show and the show’s computer boots up at the same time.

We got Asami, a young intern who’s been sent to Tokyo’s misfit police squad, the Special Public Security 5th Division 3rd Mobile Assault Unit 8, who have a reputation for blowing things up and not obeying protocol. As Asami soon learns when the unit drags her off on a mission right when she arrives. Two idiots in armored suits steal some gold, so the unit gets two of their guys into powered suits while the rest of them make phone calls to ask permission from higher-ups to do just about everything. Meanwhile everyone ignores Asami’s orders. It’s one of those newbie on the first day of her job things.

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I really can’t think of anything wrong with it. Well, there’s some male body-ogling during the suiting up, and an attempts at infodump which are happily quick, in fact, cut off at one point because everyone there knows it already. The chasing down was fun to watch–didn’t see the biplane coming. But none of it really got me interested. It felt, like many other episode ones this season and others, like a stock introductory episode with nothing to make it stand out. I found Asami, our heroine, irritating, as were both the suit pilots. The political power-play world where they’re supposed to do their job was just depressing, though the episode was overall cheerful. Yeah, nothing really bad about any of it, but I’m dropping it anyway.

A typical look-down-at-the-town opening shot.
A typical look-down-at-the-town opening shot.

Shoujo-tachi wa Kouya wo Mezasu stars Buntarou, or Bunta, ordinary high school student who lives in his own apartment, works his butt off at his part-time, doesn’t know what to put on his career survey, has two weird friends, etc. He’s approached, in the boys bathroom, by the beautiful, quiet, mysterious, and as it turns out, odd Kuroda, who asks him out. So they have a date, and at the end she tells him she wants him to write a visual novel with her, and the date was a sort of test of his abilities. I don’t know whether Bunta should be honored or disappointed. When he asks why she gives a speech about failure or success, or seizing the day, or the world’s corruption, I don’t know what this girl’s thinking.

In the boy's room.
In the boy’s room.

So it’s like Saekano except the passionate one is the opposite of Saekano’s Tomoya: female, attractive, quiet. Plus, she’s not the show’s lead. We’re watching this through Bunta’s eyes. He is so perfectly “normal” that he’s never heard of yuri. The school play script he wrote just happened to have it. When he hangs around with his two friends he acts like the mature older brother. So he’s a little dull, but not a fool. Kuroda has potential with her desire to radiate coolness and beauty so often undercut by things she likes, like dolphins, though they overplay this contrast a bit. The two friends should get on my nerves but don’t. I was one of the 33% who liked Saekano, and I like shows involving creative challenges in general, so unless they really screw this up I’ll keep watching.

A disconcerting way to start  Boku Dake.  Who's in that elevator.
A disconcerting way to start Boku Dake. Who’s in that elevator?

Next, I watched the feel-good anime of the season, Boku Dake ga Inai Machi. I believe it has the first protagonist this season who’s not in high school, unless you count Sushi Police. It stars Fujinuma, failing manga artist and a guy who likes to keep to himself. Trouble, something won’t let him, and he experiences “revivals,” where he goes into the brief past and averts a bad thing. This time around he saves a kid but winds up in the hospital himself. In addition, he has a hazy memory of a bad event in his past. In the first episode, thanks to his mom, he starts getting the memories back, and then the plot careens into the unexpected, not once but twice.

Revival time.
Revival time.

It’s very well done. At the end, after the final plot twist, they play a child’s voice as he passes Fujinuma by, and I almost jumped out of my seat. And even before that, simply through the direction, I was engaged in the story in a way I haven’t felt yet this season. During a revival I would go back to the first time to compare it with the second. Most other shows I just wouldn’t care that much. There’s no particular reason I can think of apart from the episode has a lot of talent who work together extremely well. But now, is Fujinuma going to stay where he is for the rest of the season? I don’t know if I want to watch that. Or is this just story arc one? We’ll see. Anyway, the season now has a front-runner.

Marshmallow begins with a flashforeward?  Dream sequence?
Marshmallow begins with a flashforeward? Dream sequence?

I thought I had Oji-san to Marshmallow pegged from the title, but the 3.5 min episode one went to some odd places. I figured it would be a lot of family oriented jokes about a man who loves marshmallows. I wasn’t counting on the mind games his coworker Wakabayashi plays on him, and how it escalated.

The beautiful calligraphy of Kusaka and Wakabayashi.
The beautiful calligraphy of Kusaka and Wakabayashi.  Love the ponytail.

Maybe that’s why I found the episode to be a pleasant surprise, but I think the Kusaka/Wakabayashi relation stands on its own. He’s too dense to see that she likes him, she has no other way to express herself, leading to that delightful, near-violent dance they do. I’m not sure the series can develop any further than this situation, but it’s short, so why not?

Our heroes skate toward some bug-things.
Our heroes skate toward some bug-things.

Phantasy Star Online 2, the Animation I can safely drop. After an action sequence against bug things you see in every other anime show, we got perfectly normal Itsuki going to a strange high school and hanging out with his perfectly normal friends, meeting Rina, the perfect student council president one day, and then gets roped into joining them, in spite of the rest of the council’s wishes. His job will be to play PSO2 and report on it. No, he doesn’t understand it either. So online he goes, meets a overzealous mecha character named Soro, who is, guess who? and beats up on a bug or two, in spite of being a complete newbie not only to this game, but games in general.

You don't need to explain every little thing to us, you know.
You don’t need to explain every little thing to us, you know.

It’s all full of nothing much. Most of the characters have little to no personality at all, including Itsuki. The story is completely predictable, and we’re all waiting for the moment when the game becomes reality, or whatever variant they decide to do. I chuckled when I realized who Soro really was, but that’s about it. Okay, the whole Soro character, with all his/her cliches, was pretty funny. The only thing … They wind up explaining things that only an idiot wouldn’t understand already. Apart from the over cgi’d action sequences, the animation and characters would have looked dated ten years ago. Nothing more I want to see here.