Isekai Maou 5-6, Island 6-7, Starlight 4-5, Harukana and Saibou 6.

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Meet Alicia.

Nothing much to report with Isekai Maou to Shoukan Shoujo no Dorei Majutsu 5, just a story arc beginning with the information given us first by Sylvie and then by the town’s protector, Galford, the latter allowing Diablo to try and balance his sternness and his people skills, and it works out as he manages to put out the right lines at the right time. Mainly, however, it’s a chance to meet the overly-diligent new character Alicia, who balances her people skills with an annoying tendency to apologize for not being perfect. For action, Shera is briefly abducted, Alicia blames herself, and Emile shows up to introduce himself again. It’s good to see Diablo, behind his bravado and social anxieties, have the presence of mind to conjure up a plan to defeat those elves in the woods, without hurting them, though we won’t actually see the plan until next week. I’m glad his social balancing act is only part of his character.

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Yes, we are, Shera. Now lie down.

Episode 6 is nothing much either. The three go to a slave market where the owner, Medios, teaches Diablo a way to remove Shera’s collar. Naturally it’s extremely sexy, though it doesn’t work and it exhausts Diablo. I’ll let you play around with the metaphors. Then Keera visits, nicely, and tries to talk Shera into returning to Elfland, which makes her a little nostalgic, but still unwilling. Keera’s evil plan will be hatched next week. Oh, and then Shera repeats the collar-removal sexy bit with Rem, so we get to see both girls aroused this week, if you’re into that.

island6-1Having more or less taken care of Sara and Karen for the time being, Island 6 gets back to Rinne and the main mystery. This episode follows the usual pattern–the first half is lighthearted and fun, and the second gets serious with new revelations. So to begin with we watch as Rinne and Setsuna get closer, still not romantically, go on a cute date, sleep together chastely (at Rinne’s request, Setsuna going with the flow, which is what he always does), while Sara invents theories about future-man and present-woman destroying the time-space continuum, as she does. There’s also a cute scene between the cop and Karen, the former claiming he’s going to marry her, the latter playfully deflecting his statements. But here Setsuna shows up and more legends about the first Rinne’s fate comes up. Apparently she throws herself off a cliff when she discovers she married the wrong man, but that contradicts the memory-return she experiences when she and Setsuna finally open that shack, where she and the real Setsuna spend the night, whereupon her angry father throws Setsuna into the ocean, and she jumps after him … Fanciful legends, fairy tales versus an uglier reality. None of this, however, helps us with Setsuna’s own memory loss and whether he’s the real Setsuna or just a surrogate.

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Rinne’s in full crazy-mode now.

And in episode 7, more stuff is explained, or theorized, though can’t believe that Setsuna has spent all that time on the island without anyone telling her that Rinne had vanished five years ago and reappeared only a month ago, looking the exact same age and wearing the same clothes. Or about the mysterious island Boryujima which only appears during storms. But now that we all know this the story doesn’t get any less complicated. Sara speculates that Setsuna came to the past, while Rinne, now slightly crazy with returning memories, is trying to get to her own past to find HER Setsuna (whom we see, more or less, and it’s not our Setsuna. He’s got weird marks on his skin for one thing), who gave up the one spot on the boat for her. Whatever’s going on, her current motivations are clear–riddled with guilt, she tries to get back to that island, glowing with menace, in a storm, which is where, naturally, the episode ends …

revuestarlight4-1Shoujo Kakeki Revue Starlight has no battle in episode 4, mainly it’s just Karen running around to various Tokyo locales to find Hikari, who seems to be leaving the school. Meanwhile I’m trying to work the jellyfish imagery into all the other stuff this show has, and failing. Anyway, they make up whatever conflict they were having by having Karen say that the two girls will reach the center position together. But is that even possible? Before that they both seemed confused as to what to do next. Karen is perhaps afraid to go it alone, and she can’t win that way, either. Hikari says very little about her own dreams but seems happy to be a part of Karen’s. Elsewhere we get Maya and Claudine dancing but not saying anything we didn’t know already, and comical bits by the girls to cover for Karen and Hikari’s absence, including a nice acting out by Mahiru, who didn’t seem the type to twirl a baton and declare herself the guardian of the hallway.

revuestarlight5-1Then, episode 5 has the battle that I figured was coming, though I wasn’t aware that Mahiru was actually a part of the Giraffe Auditions. They’ve been teasing this angle forever; Karen is drawn to Hikari and no longer hangs out with Mahiru, and the latter’s self-confidence wasn’t all that great to begin with, a simple rural girl who worked hard and got to a prestigious academy where she was placed among people who outshine her. Finally she snaps, and we get the weirdest battle yet, Mahiru on the attack with baseball metaphors, Karen falling through trap doors and barging into the other girls’ duels (to various expressions of WTF from them). It only takes a few lines from Karen between feints to convince Mahiru that she’s better than she thinks she is, and the battle swiftly finishes. Though I kind of liked the “crazy-Mahiru” from the duel. The conclusion is a broad show of support from all the girls for Mahiru, or at least the delicious potatoes that her family sent her. Not sure if they love her for her enthusiasm and kindness or for the spuds.

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That’s the match.

I’m relieved that Harukana Receive lightened up on the flashbacks and other delays and gave us about nine minutes of straight-up volleyball, with a funky drum track, to start episode 6. I guess there wasn’t anything more to say. Kanata kept doing those pokeys and the strategy became clear. She was running poor Mai all over the court until fatigue set in and she began to make mistakes. Also, it gave Haruka more time to figure out her timing on the blocks, so, apart from some silliness at the end, the show got through to the victory more quickly than I imagined. I’m just glad it didn’t go to a third set. After that we naturally go to Ai and Mai, apologizing and cheering each other up, and then it’s the usual post-match silliness all around. Eclair won the tourney and Harukana didn’t get past round two, but everyone’s satisfied. Time to introduce some new characters, which happens right at the end. Good. The show could use some fresh bodies.

hatarakusaibou6-1Two stories in Hataraku Saibou 6, and the way they present them brings up a possible weakness in the series. More or less, what we’re getting every week are traditional exciting stories, mostly for children. The first one gives us Red Cell on a nostalgia trip as she sees her old bone marrow, er, school, and where, as a little Erythroblast youngster, she has a scary experience with some sort of invader, but is defended by a young White cell in training, a story of possibly romantic rescue and a moment of courage for the white blood cell, like he was fending off a bully, all scenes you need for that kind of story, but it takes so long with the pauses for evil speeches and reaction shots that the whole thing gets too long, so that the second story, for me the more interesting one, is cut off before it’s finished. Here it’s White Cell, a Killer-T, and a new one, an NK-cell, done as a rogue fighter who can’t get along with anyone, try to track down a virus that’s invading the T-shirt guys. Here they have to dally too so that Killer and NK can be seen not getting along, for too long. I didn’t mind as much because it tickles me to see good cells not getting along. Besides, the NK is kind of hot.

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Island 5, Harukana and Saibou 4-5, Planet With 5

island5-1Once again, Island takes a complex story arc and polishes it off in one episode. In episode 5 we focus on Sara, the cute little shrine maiden with great hair, as she has Setsuna do a few weird things. First, catch a dangerous sea snake (the venom might help cure Soot Blight Syndrome), then a dangerous massage, then make him ride her all around the island to give the old folks massages, er, that aren’t dangerous. Setsuna does it all with his usual good nature, and then the really weird truth comes out. She has to go back in time and conceive herself, with Setsuna as the father, and yes, Heinlein is mentioned. That way she can also prevent the terrible fire that killed her mother, I mean, her, and become a child of god again. If you think that’s weird, the true story of her famous family (which is conveniently in a book Rinne finds) is even weirder, and especially nasty. But there’s a happy ending, well, apart from the shrine burning down. For all the events it’s actually a nice, compact little episode, but they’re running out of people for Setsuna to help.

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Caught!

Harukana Receive 4 has very little to do with the current story arc, which is about the junior tournament everyone’s training for. The episode is mostly about how Haruka can get Kanata to trust her more on the court (is “court” the right word for beach volleyball?), and it’s not one that is solved through any dramatic conflict, it’s little gives and takes, like choosing matching swimsuits. Haruka wants this one set, but they’re snapped up by another volleyball team, Ai and Mai, a convenient way to introduce more characters, so they go with the set that Kanata wants. Emily steps in, at the request of Narumi, encourages Kanata that it’s okay if she partners with someone else. Meantime, Haruka is doing secret training so Kanata will entrust more of the floor (sand?) to her. Apart from the expected “geez, I wish you had told me?” lines, everything is accomplished, and the two are now calling each other by their given names. How it’s going to work when they actually play together is anyone’s guess.

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The match is off to a rocky start.

Episode 5 brings us the first round of the tournament … well, naturally they are going to drag it out so we don’t get to see who wins the match with Ai/Mai. This is thanks to some flashbacks of Ai convincing Mai to try volleyball (indoor), because it’s a game where short people can defeat tall people, or so Ai says, whereupon they lose a match because, Mai thinks, she isn’t tall enough. Ai is determined to make it up to Mai, and Mai becomes an unlikable competitive trash-talker. Unused to beach volleyball they make a few mistakes, but by the episode’s end they seem to have their groove, and Kanata is so devoted to the pokey that Ai/Mai are now picking it up easily, and Haruka hasn’t gotten her block timing down yet. I wonder if Kanata’s strategy is to let Haruka find her groove, or she’s just pointing her obvious pokeys up because she doesn’t know what else to do. Meanwhile, Eclair win their match easily and then turn to adding sideline comments to Harukana’s. Because it’s only the second set, expect another episode just like this one next week, full of flashbacks and “We’ll definitely win!” comments. I’ll be looking forward to Eclair’s commentary.

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The Eosinophil cell shows her true strength.

It’s never a dull moment in Hataraku Saibou, just one disaster after another for this hapless human. Last week it was two types of flu, and this week it’s food poisoning probably from bad sushi. But it gives us a chance to meet another new cell, the Eosinophil, sort of like last week, she’s seen as weak against invading germs, though brave, and other cells make snide comments, but then another threat arrives, a parasite, something that even our regular white blood cell can’t handle, and she gets to show what she’s really made of. The visualization of the first germ, the enteritis vibrio, was kind of lame, though white blood cell killing it from the inside was fun. The parasite, Parasitic Anisakis, was pretty cool–a giant monster dolphin. The format is all getting kind of predictable, a new threat, a new cell to combat it, red cell going “What’s that?” and the white cell explaining, a bloody battle and some heroics. Next week it’s cedar allergies. Boy, this poor body can’t catch a break.

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Geez, I’m glad I don’t have allergies …

At least episode 5 deals with something mundane, well, pollen allergies are a yearly annoyance, but usually not life-threatening. But inside this body it wreaks more destruction than the other pathogens and viruses combined, to the point of legends of the apocalypse. The fun is that it’s two different body functions (B-cells and mast cells) who are trying to help and making things worse (“the B stands for baka!”). Their fight, coming right when things are at their bleakest, teardrop floods, mucus flooding, multiple sneezing launches, etc) was probably the funniest moment of the series so far. Also, I had wondered when and how the show would introduce a drug, and I figured it would be something robotic, and I was right! What do I get?

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Don’t forget about the snake.

Meanwhile, in Planet With 4, even as we get new revelations, gets more confusing. We see what the sealing power can do to a human, as Nezuya appears, not weird, and with the fire out in his eyes. Then a sweet scene between Nozomi and Souya where he tells her a lot that he didn’t need to, and she thanks him for defending the town, which he did, and he’s taken by surprise by this fact. This might become important later when he squares off with Takezou and tells him that, essentially, he chooses whom he fights, i.e,, he’s amoral. The idea that he actually does care for some people and will defend them, like Nozomi, hasn’t struck him yet. Meanwhile, Takashi is set to battle the dog faction of Nebula after his nice secretary turns heel on him. In other words, two cliffhangers. So we got both Nebula factions in battle, and Souya and Takezou, who are Nebula and whoever the good guys represent. I don’t think they even know. Why Takezou is going against Souya when they have the same goals is beyond me, but in this show a lot of things are.

Hataraku Saibou 2-3, Planet With 2-4, Revue Starlight 2-3

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Go Platelets go!

As promised, Hataraku Saibou 2 gives a lot more of the adorable little platelets. We get an early scene where they’re just moving stuff around, afraid of stairs, being altogether cute, but after that turns to an abrasion, and the invasion of evil germs that get in. So we go from cuteness to bloody, life or death battling. White fights bravely, mowing down a lot of germs (I was taking notes on the germ names but they threw in too many–and do germs really bleed red when slashed? Should there be an anime about what goes on inside a germ, or even a red blood cell? The show would get recursive awfully fast), but it looks helpless until the return of the mighty cuteness, as the platelets manage to (seh-no! seh-no!) clot the abrasion. Hooray for the cute little platelets! I’m 2-3 weeks behind, so you’ve probably already seen this episode, but anyway …

hatarakusaibou3-1Episode 3, with influenza as the theme, doesn’t work as well, as we are subjected to too many scenes of a naive T-cell running from battle and crying a lot. At least that Dendritic green guy inspires to him to “activate” into a fighting machine, but way too late for my tastes. The idea that influenza turns normal cells into zombies was a clever one, but maybe a bit over-simplistic. However, the montage near the end of all the body systems working together to battle the zombie attack, er, virus infection, was effective, especially for me because I didn’t know that stuff about fever and chills. Also, the macrophages (ala-ala!) were fun. But it ends on a dark note, since we get an attack by Influenza type-A, really nasty, and the show ends before it anything is resolved. Since next week is about food poisoning, I doubt we’ll get anything more. Maybe we should assume that the body dies …

planetwith2-1Planet With 2 does some basic situational development which makes things … just as confusing as before. Souya learns from Ginko and Sensei (nyan) that the weirdo things invading earth are the “sealing faction,” that is, they want to seal humanity’s development, while She and Sensei are in the pacifist faction, who hopes humanity will choose love over power instead, good luck with that. And after some dithering, where Souya meets Torai in a friendly fashion, we get a new invasion, same result, and this time Souya battles Miu, whose goal in life is to get stronger, more powerful … hmm. And besides, the judo fantasy she has, isn’t judo about using your opponent’s power against them? Meanwhile Souya is still on the fence about this, but seems to take his bad-guy status seriously. And he’s surrounded by the good guys at the end. Next time it’s the beginning of a two-parter, but surely we’re in the middle of one now.

planetwith3-1Okay, Souya is from the planet Sirius, which got destroyed by dragon power and in spite of Sensei’s efforts, and Sensei is still feeling guilty about it, so the dog-guy (or is it Sealer of Fastidious White?) says. Oh, and the “good guys” are using the dragon power to fight, and Souya et al. are trying to take it before it goes out of control. A shame this had to be explained via a dream sequence/infodump, amusing though it was. What I liked better was Nozomi dragging Souya to join the occult club, where he’s befriended by Nezuya, an enemy, and to his surprise has a nice time. It was good to see Souya happy for a change. As for this week’s weirdness it doesn’t really bear mentioning, apart from Souya’s shock at seeing Nezuya’s unconscious form plummeting to earth. You know, both sides here are sincere and just want the best for Earth, and they get along when not fighting, so I kind of wish they’d just all sit down at a table somewhere.

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Haru snaps.

Episode 4 puts Souya aside in terms of character development and instead makes him just another fighter in the battle to defeat the dragon and save Haru-chan. It’s interesting because it takes the logical next step. Ever since the beginning some of the fighters have had doubts about their roles battle and what they’re supposed to be fighting for. Since “good guys” have won battles by facing their own illusions (though Kezuya, even though hurtling toward possible doom, is quite happy with the fantasy they gave him), maybe it was too personal for them to see the big picture. But when Haru’s desire to “avenge” Miu causes her to lose control, Benika, Yosuke and SOUYA (with Nyan-sensei’s blessing) team up to fight the dragon she becomes. So Haru loses her vial, and Benika returns her and quits the team. Part of the city getting blown up will shake you up a bit. And so the battle ended in true manga fashion, as they might say, with Miu getting to Haru’s cockpit. I only wish we had seen the conversation between Souya and Benika near the end. Just how much do they know about each other now? I found this unseen conversation and Benika’s subsequent resignation more interesting than the battle, or the Haru/Miu dyanic–they’ve done too much of the latter recently.

revuestarlight2-1Shoujo Kageki Revue Starlight 2 has Karen waking up, and having been warned by the Giraffe not to talk about this with anybody, proceeds to talk about it to several people, who all tell her to shut up. And so the episode proceeds, splitting up the story into three pieces. First there’s Junna, who Karen defeated last week. Constantly working, practicing, and studying, she has decided to step out of the shadows and become a star, or something like that, in spite of a self-defeating streak she has. Karen points out during their battle that you don’t just get one shot, that you can get up and keep trying, and thus wins the argument and possibly because of that, the battle. There’s no hard feelings this time, rather like those Utena battles where Utena wins and the loser chats with her at school the next day. The other stories involving Karen trying to reconcile with Hikari, who clearly wants to but something is holding her back. Maybe she doesn’t want to share the spotlight. Finally, we get glimpses of Tendo and Claudine, who dance great together and make a great pair, but they seem to hate each other, well, Claudine clearly hates Tendo, anyway. Turns out they were having their own audition duel at the same time. I’m sure we’ll get more of them later, as well as the motorcycle couple. I must say this episode juggled the three stories very well. I guess we’ll figure out the mannequins later.

revuestarlight3-1In episode 3’s scores, Claudine gets some pride back by defeating Futaba, and while those two don’t have a history, there’s a connection played with that Futaba “abandoned” Kaoruko, and Claudine was abandoned by Maya, the latter of which we learn during the main battle, where top-seed Maya defeated up-and-comer Karen. Here the theme is more clear, because Maya flat-out explains that she abandoned Claudine because there can only be room for one at the top, and that requires sacrifices. Karen, meanwhile, wants to share position zero with Hikari, and Maya can’t accept that way of thinking. However, it’s ironic that Karen has inadvertently been ignoring her best friend Mahiru because of Hikari. Also, Hikari does her damnedest to keep Karen from fighting this battle, even locking her in a shed. Is it because she knows Karen couldn’t win at this point? Also interesting is that Karen can’t get into the audition-battle complex, well, she had the day off, but that didn’t stop Karen in episode 1. It’s as if the giraffe needed Karen to fight alone. As for the slap and “baka!” at the end, was it because Karen fought, or that she was so confused after losing. Also, who makes up the rankings in this show? One loss and Karen’s seeded 9th? I don’t understand how she falls that far.

Island and Isekai Maou 2-4, HaruKana 2-3

island2-1Getting into the episode twos … Island doesn’t try to do anything dramatic, but has Setsuna wander around the island, chatting up various girls, mainly about Soot Blight Syndrome, which Rinne supposedly has, and so does the nice obaasan who collapses and is rushed to the hospital. From this Karen and Sara tell Setsuna about the legends of the three families of the island, mainly connected to steps they took to contain the disease before it could hit the mainland. But a later chat with Rinne’s mother tells us that Rinne doesn’t actually have it, but Setsuna is at a loss as to what to do with that information. Nonetheless, we have the first story arc–getting Rinne out into the sun like she is in the OP. Also, Sara tries to seduce Setsuna (after trying to kill him last episode), he walks in on Karen, who is undressed because she’s also a maid at that house now. I suspect we’re going to get one flash of skin every episode.

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Oh, that was easy.

Okay, so the next big story arc isn’t about Rinne going outside. She’s drawn outside out of annoyance that the others were pretending to have fun at the beach, an amusing bit, though I’d be giggling if I had to read the sexy lines Sara wrote in her little scripts. So what IS the next story arc? Right now it seems to be Karen’s wanting to get off the island to search for her mother, but as Sara points out, she might not be as sincere about that as she’d like Setsuna to believe, and this is all her acting out at her father. Or maybe they’ll drop that for a while and we’ll get back to the question over Setsuna’s true identity: is he really the legendary Setsuna? When Rinne faints at the sight of the beach house it was because, she now remembers, that she used to meet another Setsuna there. But our Setsuna has no memories of that shack. The skin for this episode was provided by Rinne in the hot bath, and the girl to come onto Setsuna this time is Karen at the very end, but I think she’s just acting out again …

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That also wrapped up quickly.

In episode 4, just like last time, what I expected to be a major story arc is accomplished in one episode. Karen, in spite of the talk of acting out, decides to finally leave the island. Oh, there’s a ruse early on where she and everyone but her dad create a marriage scenario (with the nice island cop), but really she could have just run off. And it turns out her mother isn’t too hard to find, either, if you have the map her brother made for her. It leads right to her grave. And it turns out her mother wrote the book she likes so much, and that she was a successful scientist who researched … okay, why did her cute assistant Momoka keep quiet about it? It’s obviously about the secret of the world, or at least the island, that really ought to be revealed if they want “the revolution” to happen, and that’s what the story seems to be about. Anyway, that’s all settled. Next week it’s Sara’s crisis to deal with, and it will probably take under one episode.

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Diablo gets his level checked.

Isekai Maou to Shoukan Shoujo no Dorei Majutsu has a little less skin than Island, but it’s much lewder. In episode 2 Diablo wakes up and finds his hands on the boobs of both Shera and Rem, and it goes on from there. The episode itself is nothing much, more world-building in registering for quests, where we meet Sylvie, a scantily-clad guildmaster, and some character development when the first quest proves to be a trap set by that asshole from last week, involving hapless elves from Shera’s land. Turns out she’s a princess and is betrothed to “nii-san,” which worries me. That minor annoyance done with we get some actual good musing from Diablo about why the levels here are so low–because there’s no resurrection. Why risk your life? Then, because this show knows getting too thoughtful for too long would be bad, Shera comes on to Diablo. I don’t know why I’m still watching this, but I still rather like it …

isekaimao3-1Episode 3 lightens up on the sexiness, apart from the inadequate clothing, and actually splits into two stories. But first they have to introduce Emile, an enthusiastic moron who tries to free the girls from Diablo. After that nuisance, Diablo and Rem do a simple quest and find themselves facing a Fallen invasion, which is tough even for Diablo, but really it’s just a way to introduce that girl in the OP, Edelgard, boss of bosses, or something like that. But the story is unresolved at the end. So is the other one, where Galluk, fired by the mage association, tries to get a bit of revenge and it turns out he’s been housing a Fallen of his own, Gregure. This is unresolved too, but both cliffhangers were effective. Can Rem and Celes defend themselves when Diablo isn’t around, and how will Edelgard turn into Diablo’s ally?

isekaimaou4-1Well, well, Diablo saves the day by somehow coming up with transporting magic that he didn’t have before. So he’s able to save the day on two fronts. His first battle with Edelgard was the more interesting one, because Edelgard is the one person he’s fought that actually inflicted damage on him. Not enough to defeat him, but it gave him a new experience and demonstrated that he CAN be hurt. I don’t mind invincible characters if the story is interesting, but at least now we have a new angle on the character. The other battle was a bit of a bore, because we knew Emile wouldn’t defeat the Fallen on his own, so we had to put up with his brave speeches which even bored the monster until Diablo showed up and made quick work of it. At least Diablo had the decency to be tired after all that. After that some more contemplation of the mortality of this world, and the unquenchable human spirit, and then some fanservice to wrap up this story arc.

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Um, someone get that.

Harukana Receive 2 has the match that Haruka has been diligently practicing for, but the match is of course a catalyst for exposing the relationships as they used to be and they are now. Basically, Kanata used to be partners with Narumi, but she would freeze when receiving, so Narumi was forced to switch partners and team with Ayasa, the sensible middle-man in this situation. So in the return match Haruka (who had talked to Ayasa about Kanata’s problems, with Kanata conveniently overhearing) did a switch, and after one failure Kanata succeeds in receiving one of Narumi’s serves. So now it’s Narumi who’s upset, because Haruka got Kanata to do something that she herself could not. Where it goes from here I’ll find out soon, but Ayasa will have an episode or two down the line, since Kanata is now a threat to her pairing. And throughout there will be lots more butt and boob shots, but of course we expect that. As for me, I’m still on the fence on this show.

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Claire’s a good addition to the show.

Still on the fence after episode 3. It’s not a bad show, but I’m beginning to wonder how many inhibitions Kanata has. This time it’s about her reluctance to use a “pokey” spike. Turns out that as a child, well, younger, she used to be a power player, but now she’s too short, and somehow she thinks using one is not being true to herself. Emily, one of two fun newcomers this week, points out she DID use it as a child; it was another offensive weapon at her disposal, and as the show says (rather too many times), what the hell, if you score, it’s all good. Sometimes I don’t know how Kanata’s head is wired … as for Emily and her exuberant sister Claire (Emily is the serious one, you can tell because she wears glasses), their bicker brings some comedy to the series, which is good. Haruka’s not bad, but she can’t do it alone.

Summer 2018 4

It’s embarrassing that I’m still working on episode ones when some shows are up to episode threes, but nothing I can do about it.

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Karen in the darkness, watching a show.

Shoujo – Kageki Revue Starlight starts off normally enough, with our ditzy heroine Karen dragged to school by her shy friend Mahiru, where they prepare for morning ballet practice at the prestigious performing arts school for girls Seisho Music Academy. We watch a bunch of girls enter and interact and learn about the upcoming production of Starlight, which they will do at the school’s 100th festival.

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Looks mundane enough, right?

But a transfer student, Hikari, enters, who’s really good at everything, prompting some good-natured jealousy from the others (nice to see them supportive of each other, for now). Karen and Hikari knew each other twelve years ago, but now Hikari is aloof, though it seems to be shyness. Karen has a weird dream where Hikari pushes her off the top of Tokyo Tower … Okay, that’s kind of weird, but nothing is made of it until Karen, looking for Hikari, takes an elevator that she didn’t know the school had … NOW it gets really weird, and magnificent, but why a giraffe?

starlight1-3It reminds me of something by Kunihiku Ikuhara in the way it drops from a relatively normal situation into strangeness, like Penguindrum, and the stylized combat of Utena with military officer tunics, with brass buttons replacing roses, though the look of Starlight is more traditional, and no, he’s not involved in this. Also, I can sort of see where this show is going. These eight girls will probably settle their personal scores and professional jealousies in combat, one per episode, but Karen says more than once that they will all become Starlight together, meaning she will support the team, not an individual, not even herself, or maybe she was talking about her and her childhood friend Hikari, center stage and all that. Karen might be the kind of brave, dynamic girl to make that work. This first battle, in fact the episode, was fluid and very well-done. Well, I’m a fan of grounded weirdness in anime, so I think I’ll give this one a shot. Besides it gave me the first “Holy Shit!” moment of the season.

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High Score Girl begins in a smoky old arcade.

In High Score Girl it’s 1991, and we follow a boy named Haruo, great at arcade games, who finally meets his match in his smart, popular, and rich classmate Akira. He gets so frustrated that he does a low move (“Turtling with Guile” in Street Fighter 2), getting him a punch in the jaw. Later he plays against a couple who throw tantrums, decides to back off, so Akira beats their ass instead, in the game and in real life after they beat on poor Haruo for a while. Then they play together at a candy store to pass the time until it stops raining, and to keep the storekeeper off their backs for not buying anything. Haruo is further abused, but maybe in love. As for Akira, she’s too weird for us to tell.

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With buttons missing?!

Great fun. I thought I would find it annoying, but I warmed up to Haruo’s internal monologue immediately–not sure why. And Akira is so odd that it’s impossible not to like her. She doesn’t say a word; her actions and incomprehensible face that provide the only clues as to what she’s thinking. And it’s another educational show. We learn a lot about early 90s arcade games. My only question is, why is turtling with Guile considered such a breach of courtesy? It’s in the game–you should use it. I only hope that the show gives us a big story arc. Right now it looks like it’ll have a few little stories an episode, each based on a different game.

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Lord of Vermillion starts with a red moon. Go figure.

Lord of Vermillion Guren no Ou starts in the ruins of Tokyo, I guess, where some superpowered young folk are flying around killing each other while spouting lines, until they’re all dead. The end. Well, maybe, but after that we meet Chihiro, college kid who was taken in by a nice kendo dojo owner and his son and best bud, Kotetsu. They head to campus when a weird noise and red mist happens and everyone collapses. Chihiro has a dream where a girl quotes Shakespeare (Tempest) at him, and wakes up five months later, and we see huge plant-tentacles all over the city, which is closed off. He returns to the dojo where the nice old man has turned into a huge monster …

vermillion1-1I am intrigued by the mystery of it all, and the event thirteen years ago that a reporter keeps asking Chihiro about. However, I wasn’t terribly thrilled by anything else. All of the characters are dull, except for maybe the rude nurse, and Chihiro is the dullest. Also, it looks like it’s going to be about a lot of people with superpowers trying to kill each other. That doesn’t interest me. It looks okay and it has some nice supernatural light shows, but it’s all in bloody red. I’ll pass.

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Grand Blue starts with a lengthy essay about how these are fictional characters and kids shouldn’t drink, etc.

Don’t know if I’ll pass on Grand Blue or not. In episode one Iori returns to the beach town where he used to live to begin college. Sounds like a romance story right there, right? All those childhood friends and all. But instead he’s chased around by naked men who want him to join their scuba club and drink way too much alcohol, to the disdain of his cute cousin, Chisa. Thanks to these drunks, he gets in and out of trouble all episode, and ropes in another new student only to get the heat off him, oh, and in exchange for some clothes, though at least he has trunks on.

grandblue1-1Here’s the thing, if the show was only going to be about drunken college capers I’d ditch it right away, but there is the scuba angle, which they barely explored in ep1. I don’t know about romance, however, since both the girls we meet here are cousins of his. Next week it looks like they’ll actually dive, and we’ll see how that balances with the excessive partying.

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Yuuna-san starts in a hot bath, where our hero will doubtlessly be beaten up numerous times during the season.

Yuragi-sou no Yuuna-san starts out with a guy named Kogarashi, somewhat trained in getting rid of nasty ghosts (all he knows is punching them, but he’s good at it), starts a happy new life in an onsen town at a haunted boarding house, fully expecting that, when the ghost shows up, he’ll punch them and he can enjoy the low rent and free hot spring all he wants. The ghost indeed appears, while he’s in the water, only it’s a sexy young girl who keeps falling out of her yukata. How can he punch that? Worse, once she realizes this boy can see everything, she’s embarrassed no end and beats him up. Waking up, he meets the other tenants, all suspicious, sexy girls, and then the ghost, Yuuna, who’s actually quite sweet and wouldn’t hurt a flea, good thing, too because they’re sharing the same room … Oh, there’s some talk about her turning evil, and Kogarashi gets beaten up by the other tenants for falling into their bath.

yuragisou1-1Need I say there’s a lot of fanservice in this show? Well, that’s okay. This is no masterpiece by any measure but it wasn’t that bad, either. Kogarashi is no wimpy harem lead–he jumps into the fray when another exorcist tries to banish Yuuna and apart from Yuuna he’s quite confident. Which is nice because it looks like the harem is going to treat him like this is Love Hina, especially the falling into the girls’ bath thing. The episode flows along with no missteps, doing what it has to do in establishing characters (the harem girls might actually be interesting) and overarching story, the regret that keeps Yuuna stuck here. We’ll see if it can keep up this acceptable first episode.

Nothing else really interests me, so that’s it for now.   Now on to episode twos (and threes) Thanks for reading!

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.

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.