Haikyuu!! Second Season – 02


Haikyuu!! introduced two new characters this week: the grouchy but driven college girl Saeko and timid but smart first year Yatchi Hidoka. While Saeko barely made an appearance, Yatchi adds a few hooks for the show to tell its story, and even retell the viewer some details about volleyball and school life.

Over all, it was a successful second episode for a second season and fleshed out the non-sports side arc that the first episode’s “same old same old” was lacking.


As an unwitting applicant to replace Team Raven’s soon to be graduating manager, Yatchi feels like a plot convenience, but she fits well enough. Her over the top panic about people wanting to kill her matches the rest of the cast’s hyper activeness to be sure and, as a academically competent student, she immediately has something to do in the story: make sure Hinata and Kageyama don’t flunk their exams.

Silly, quick, but effective at adding some high school slice of life to a show that spends the majority of time in the gym.


Saeko adds a sense of space and context too, albeit only briefly and barely more than Hint’s baby sister and off-screen mother telling him to stop shouting. That context is that: yes, these are hyper teenaged boys, who go to school like everyone else and live with normal families. (by anime standards)

Both girls also give us a chance to see normal people respond to the cast when they are not on the court, slamming volleys. As you would imagine, they find them as over the top as we do as viewers.


So my verdict ticks up from last week. Because Yatchi doesn’t know about volleyball, you’re probably going to get a refresh on how the game is played, which means you won’t be as lost without the first season.

Similarly, we got a scene where Hinata texts back and forth with one of the opponents from last season, which gives you more context for the relationships and challenges the team will face.


It’s enough to make it coherent for a first-time viewer I think and, if it continues on this track, you should be fine without going back. As long as you want a hyper, Naruto-like show about volleyball, that is?

My schedule is probably not reliably open enough to review the show for you but you can bet I’ll be watching.


Comet Lucifer – 02


We return to the caverns where Sogo, Kaon, and the mystery girl who emerged from the giant Giftdium crystal basically stand around trying not to get smushed, incinerated, or riddled with bullets from two dueling mechas: the one that seems to be protecting the girl, and the one piloted by Gus Stewart (who apparently isn’t drunk anymore).

The former ends up winning out, as it has an answer for everything Gus throws at it.  Then the kids fall down another big hole, but this time we’re shown how they survive: the girl’s mecha catches them and cushions their fall. Then Roman and Otto appear literally out of nowhere and call a truce so they can all escape the crumbling caverns.


Back at the cafe above which Sogo lives, the group determines their next moves. Roman postpones the arranged wedding until further notice, and they wait for the girl to wake up. When she does, she seems to parrot everything Kaon says and beam with glee at every new word, object, or piece of tarte tatin placed in front of her.

In other words, she’s a sponge for information, and seems to be experiencing everything for the first time. She’s also a very cute little kid. While Kaon and the girl are in the shower (amazingly, Sogo doesn’t walk in on them) he finds a curious green rock on the floor. When he tries to saw into it, it reveals itself as some kind of bizarre creature that can talk.


Meanwhile, Gus Stewart wallows in his failure, but is presented with an even more sophisticated “assault bipetal armor” code-named Efreet, which he agrees to use…well, I’m a little fuzzy on his exact goals…furthering the prosperity and greatness of the entity he serves? Restoring a bit of his old lustre from back in the days of the “Great War?” The city we saw seems like a gorgeous and wonderful place to live; I’m wondering why all these military types are so keen to shake things up when they already have a nice thing going.

And in a rather harsh contrast to the cute, hyper little girl flitting about laughing and naming things, Gus breaks an old comrade out of jail: a killing machine of a kid named “Pack” who makes Gus’ plans even more nebulous. Does he need a co-pilot for Efreet? Will Pack be piloting his own beside him? If capturing Felia (the girl) is his goal, is there really a need for this homicidal maniac?


Disjointed narratives and clashing tones aside, it was fairly obvious after the mecha protecting Felia vanished without a trace, and a small green ball fell out of Roman’s car, that that green ball was the mecha in miniaturized form, and that one way or another, it was going to activate while inside the cafe, causing a huge amount of damage.

That is indeed what happens when Felia messes up her telekinetic powers and drops hot curry on Sogo. This occurance, along with a crest on Sogo’s hand, show that this mecha, which Felia calls Moura once it appears, isn’t just protecting her, but Sogo as well. Who can say when this bunch of kids will cross paths with Gus again (or other government officials/evil dudes), but I imagine they’ll be able to hold their own with Moura on their side.


One Punch Man – 02


The first episode of OPM was going to be a tough act to follow, no matter what, so I fully expected at least a degree of regression in the second. But while that did happen, and this wasn’t nearly as good as the first episode, it was still very good, as Saitama and the young cyborg Genos join forces…or to be precise, Saitama tolerates him being around, despite not really needing anyone to fight supervillains with.


The two meet over mosquitos. While Saitama finds himself unable to kill a single mosquito buzzing around his apartment, Genos targets Mosquito Girl, the first “sexy” supervillain OPM has fielded (voiced by Sawashiro Miyuki, who is perfect for the role), who uses her giant swarm of mosquitoes to harvest blood from the living things around her, be they animals or people.


She also puts up a mean fight against Genos, as the two exchange the detachment of limbs and she sacrifices her sworm to power up and start beating Genos to a pulp, until Saitama arrives, running after a mosquito with bug spray. I know this show revels in absurdity, but I would have liked a more clever reason for Saitama to encounter Genos, and Saitama’s puns (“They sure bugged out”; “Mosquitoes suck”) fell to the floor with loud clangs.


Still, Saitama takes care of Mosquito Girl with one punch, leading Genos to want to become his disciple. Saitama invites him in for some tea once he’s repaired (apparently easy, as long as parts are available) and Genos mistakes Saitama as a fellow cyborg.

He also launches into a monologue of interminable length, which is so long and accompanied by so many still shots (though I liked the micro-story of the pillbug getting up) it stopped being funny. “Drawn-out” comedy has to be utilized sparingly and not taken too far (see a classic example here). But hey, if we were supposed to get as annoyed as Saitama, mission accomplished!

We also learn that Mosquito Girl was just one of dozens of monsters being developed at the “House of Evolution”, run by a bespectacled mad-ish scientist who has his eyes on Saitama and who induced the biggest laugh in the episode:

“Why is he naked?”
“Well, whatever.”


The scientists sends more monsters to escort Saitama to the HoE, but they predictably fail, being one-punched one after the other. He doesn’t even let the mole get away. But what’s funny about this final act is that Genos ends up in a fight with a cyborg he suspects could be the one that killed his family, but is just a gorilla trying to sound cool, while Saitama stays buried in the ground until it’s absolutely necessary to come out because it feels so nice down there.

So yeah, another entertaining episode with some genuinely funny moments, but just not quite as awesome or hilarious as the first. Which, again, is nothing to be ashamed of.


Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans – 02


Gundam IBO backtracks a bit with the first of what seemed like a redundant scenes whose heavy lifting had already been more efficiently handled last week: Orga sends Mika to fire up the Gundam. This week we see Mika’s side of it, and I can’t say we didn’t learn a lot: why Mika was bleeding last week (Gundam’s visceral neural interface is a lot tougher on the body than the mobile workers), Aina’s condemnation of using such barbaric interfaces (no surprise there; but Mika doesn’t care if it will help them survive), and the fact Mika can’t read. That’s right, Mika is the Charlie Kelly of GIBO.

That’s all well and good, but it was an awful lot of infodumping so early in the episode, and I enjoyed the alacrity with which Mika simply showed up in the Gundam that had been teased early last week, without excessive explanation.


But once we’re back in the present with Mika battling and bleeding in Barbatos, we learn that he and his Gundam are only the savior’s by a very shallow margin. Because a lot of quick jerry-rigging had to take place to even get it going, the mechanic forgot to fill it up with gas. Also, Mika himself soon runs out of juice and passes out, mere moments after Lt. Crank, his arrogant young CO killed and his subordinate injured, orders a retreat. The Third Group lives another day thanks to Mika and Orga, but only barely.


As Mika’s adorable love interest Atri heads to CGS for a supply run while giving Biscuit’s twin sisters Cookie and Cracker a lift, Coral lays into Crank for not getting the job (getting Aina killed in “glorious battle”) done. This was the other scene that I felt went too far out of its way to explain the Aina assassination plot, which was more elegantly implied last week. Still, Coral’s men’s failure harms his reputation and threatens his unit’s funding, so he orders Crank to take care of Aina before the blue-coated Gjallarhorn inspectors show up, which is soon.

Crank, an old space salt, has no desire to do further battle with child soldiers like the pilot of the Gundam, as he fears they’re fighting against their will. His empathy falls on deaf ears, as Coral will certainly find someone else to do his dirty work if Crank doesn’t. But this is the first case of someone in Gjallarhorn having an ounce of empathy for the childrens’ plight, and depending on how things go, it could be paving the way Crank defecting.


Atra’s encounter with Mika—which she was clearly very much looking forward to any may well have been the primary reason for her coming at all—lasts all of ten seconds. Atra doesn’t challenge the still-bloodstained Mika’s assurance that he’s all right, and he shuffles off, saying he has things to attend to. Mika may regret taking Atra’s love for granted down the road.

As Mika attends to things, he crosses paths with Aina. During the battle, she felt useless. After the battle, she’s still there, and feels she can’t leave, out of guilt for everyone who died for her sake, feelings she relays to Mika as an act of contrition. But Mika doesn’t want her sorrow or her pity, and coldly requests she not look down on his fallen comrades and think they only died for her. They also died for him, for their other comrades, and for themselves.

That brings us to what is perhaps the Third Group’s breaking point: the First Corps is back, but rather than have their tails between their legs, they’re eager to punish the Third for their insubordinate actions. Orga, respectful of his superior on the surface but clearly restraining his contempt, works out a lovely explanation for what happened, but is met by his superior’s fist.

Orga takes this beating for his men, but it looks like he’s not any more willing to take any more than his men are willing to watch. Orga knows how things will go with the First Corps dopes in charge. Declining business, higher-risk ops, and more Third Group death and suffering as they’re used as bait. He’s through with that life, and starts preparing for a mutiny.


In another instance of their strong fraternal, symbiotic bond, Orga says he’ll call the whole thing off if Mika isn’t on board, while assuring the men that Mika will definitely say yes. When he meets up with Mika, who is fueling the Gundam that is stuck where he left it, he says he’s on board with whatever Orga thinks is best. He’s also working rather than paying respect for the dead because of something Orga said to him when they were young: “You can see the dead when you’re dead, so to keep the living alive, do everything you can.”

“Everything you can” means rising up against their First Corps oppressors before they’re sent on a mission they can’t come back from. But with Aina still at the base, Coral nervously receiving the two elite young Gjallarhorn inspector-majors he has no intention of revealing his failures to, and the decent veteran Crank deploying alone to complete the mission Orlis could not, possible alliances abound. Yet at the end of the day the Third Group will probably have to take care of themselves, as they always have.


Utawarerumono: Itsuwari no Kamen – 02


That lovely, cozy, immersive quality I spoke of last week? It was largely supplanted this week by an ably executed but mostly pedestrian adventure-of-the-week.

When Kuon is hired by Ukon to hunt some giriri (giant centipedes) lurking on the outskirts of the village, and Kuon insists Haku comes along, it means a fast pace and more action than last week, with so much going on relative to last week it was hard to settle in. All the extra action also exposed the show’s sometimes iffy production values.


Ukon is a pretty bland strongman with a penchant for being surprised whenever Haku makes himself useful, while Mororo is the archetypal prancing anime dandy. Neither are repellant, but they’re not as interesting as Kuon and Haku on their own.

The episode is effective in one regard: it shows there are all kinds of ways to contribute, not just to the village, but in a more high-stakes situation involving giant centipedes. Haku also demonstrates he’s a natural math whiz, which will serve him well in the capital.


My problem with Utawarerumono: I find myself preferring a slighter cast and well-placed bursts of action punctuating more world-building slice-of-life; in other words, a series of episodes like its first. But that’s probably not what this show is going to be, judging from its 25-episode length and an OP positively bursting with dozens of different characters that made my eyes glaze over.

A trip to the capital means more introductions…a lot more, as well as a departure from the snowy environs that drew me into the show in the first place. I’m not saying I feel misled, nor expected the show to languish in that village for 25 episodes. I’m just saying the things I like about the show and the things the show intends to focus on may not be the same going forward.


Owari no Seraph: Nagoya Kessen-hen – 01 (First Impressions)


“It’s no longer clear who’s on your side and who’s not.”

That line by Shinoa reflects the main theme of this new episode of Owari no Seraph, and possibly of the season to come. On the battlefield, it was humans vs. vampires. Off it, all bets are off. Shinoa is worried Guren is using Yu for some dark purpose; Guren is worried about Yu switching sides when the Hiiragis summon him for an interview; the powerful Hiiragis, who essentially run the human resistance against vampiredom, have clearly been spooked by recent events, and suspect spies are in their midst.


Meanwhile, Yu has pretty much fully recovered form his battle wounds, Shinoa is her usual, artificially bubbly and chipper self around him, always deflecting more serious matters…until it comes to the Hiiragis. She warns Yu that they’re scary. Guren makes an appeal to Yu’s loyalty to his family, which now consists of his unit. Mitsu warns Yu that they’re terrifying. 

But Mitsu also laments that she was promoted despite not doing anything of note on the battlefield. The New Yu who was born last season comes out here, expressing his support for her promotion rather than mocking her family connections. A lot of this show revolves around things the protagonist has little or no idea of, and the fact both Shinoa and Mitsu come from big families escaped him all this time, and in any case wouldn’t have affected their status as his family.

Still, even if she’s half-joking in deadpan, it’s a little unsettling for Shinoa to accuse Mitsu of ratting Yu out in exchange for that promotion.


When Yu arrives at the Hiiragi “interview”, he first has to dispose of a captive vampire, then cross swords with both Hiiragi Kureto and Hiiragi Shinya. Kureto in particular isn’t all that pleased with Yu flaunting his ignorance, both of who Kureto is, and how much he still has to learn about Cursed Gear.


But the trio of Hiiragi’s in that office aren’t half as scary as the ones who enter a dark room with a one-way mirror, revealing Shiho and Yoichi, bound and beaten. Kureto is convinced Yu is a vampire spy, and if he can’t convince him otherwise, he’s going to kill the two them. It’s a taut, tense scene, one in which the classic shonen hero is put on trial by the bureaucracy that has been in the shadows all along.

Yu doesn’t say anything particularly convincing, but the answers he does give help Kureto figure out for himself that Yu was rescued by Guren for a purpose, which must have something to do with the fact Yu was a human experimentation subject for the Hyakuya vampires. Yu dismisses all this as some bullshit feud between Kureto and Guren.


When Yu finally emerges with Shiho and Yoichi to a relieved Mitsu and Shinoa, the camera pans around to reveal Guren is there too, only far away. The distance signified to me the lack of trust everyone in the unit has for him right now. But he admits he rescued Yu because he had value, and he says all the other right things to keep Yu on his side, for now.

As for Mika, who it seems will always be on Yu’s side if he has any say in the matter, is dealing with blood withdrawal, but refuses a human child Ferid offers as food to arrest his aging. This scene seemed to me a way to again portray Ferid as an awful guy, while the possibility exists he’s working with Guren—perhaps the very vampire spy the Hiiragis are looking for—against the vampire leadership.

The Hiiragis are Guren and Ferid’s enemy. Tepes is Guren and Ferid’s enemy. So are they operating in an “enemy of my enemy is my friend” mode? Whatever the case may be, Yu, Shinoa & Co. will clearly need to watch their backs vigilantly this season, and not just against vampires.