Gakkou Gurashi! – 08

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No Kamo no Chomei recitations this week; rather, we have an algae-covered Yuki and Taroumaru, resulting in the need for baths for both. But I must admit this episode, despite its ample charming slice-of-life and revelatory ending, had neither the drive nor the punch, nor the resonance of previous episodes. For the first time, GG! felt like it was, if not stalling, at least dawdling.

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The totem connecting the recent past to the present is a Polaroid camera, a pre-digital mechanism capable of producing instant images of the moment the shutter click captures. Moments that no longer exist, like those with Megu-nee. While searching the faculty lounge for the lock the mystery key fits, Yuuri recalls the day both she and Megumi came up with the whole idea of the School Life Club in order to break up the monotony of simple survival.

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But the very ease of their survival thus far has created a kernel of doubt and suspicion, not only in Rii-san, but Miki as well: both believe the school to be almost too well-equipped for long-term survival, which is why Rii-san wants to find out what the key unlocks so badly. It just takes a bit of aforementioned dawdling on the part of Yuki and the dog to get to this plot-propelling point.

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But it’s Yuki, the delusional one, who ends up finding the secret compartment where the safe that the key belongs to is located. Yet Yuki isn’t made privy to said contents: a DVD and documents relating to the effects of a biological weapon, contamination, and isolation, all but assuring that the present zombified state of the country and possibly the world is a man-made occurrence.

On the one hand, the revelation of these documents takes us deeper down the rabbit hole. On the other hand, some of the mystery has been eroded, leaving us with facts that may or may not provide ample recompense for what had been an immersive mystique. In so much fiction, sometimes the more you learn about something, the less you end up caring about it. Some things are better left unknown. It remains to be seen if this is one of them.

In the next four episodes, will anything come of Yuuri, Miki, and Kurumi learning more about what happened? Will they be able to use this information to enact significant change in the present state of the world? Or has their fate already been sealed, in which case they may have been better off in La-La Land with Yuki?

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Ore Monogatari!! – 21

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For White Day, Takeo gives Yamato cookies he baked. You heard that right: gives her cookies he baked. And while he’s his own toughest critic on said cookies, the fact that they even exist bowls Yamato over; she declares them too precious to eat—and meaning it—but still takes a bite and is delighted with them. Finally, Takeo gets to experience what she’s been able to since they met: watch someone he loves enjoying something he made.

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The Valentines/White Day proceedings were an effective and logical segue to the next arc, “Find Love For Suna.” Turns out there was no one to find; someone was watching him and circling him from afar all along, becoming a little bolder every year, especially after Valentines, and possibly borne out of the knowledge she’s running out of school years to follow Suna. This girl, Amami Yukika comes close enough that she enters Takeo’s keen “follower radar”, misjudging her as someone with malevolent intentions, then rescuing her letter from the river.

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If any show can make a stalker girl sympathetic, it’s Ore Monogatari!!, as well as the talented voice of Kayano Ai, who gives Amami the right blend of delicate femininity and forthright determination. Judging from Suna’s photo album, Amami has literally been in the background of Suna and Takeo’s lives since kindergarten when she fell for him when him after he saved her from a thrown dodgeball. The trouble is, she hasn’t made any moves to get him to acknowledge her (all her Valentines letters were anonymous), so she hasn’t been acknowledged.

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“Takeo Cupid” wants to help in any way he can, but he also realizes it’s Amami who will have to do the heavy lifting like, you know, talking to Suna. All she really needs is a push…or rather, several pushes, as she’s so overwhelmed by suddenly being in the foreground with Suna (rather than watching him from afar) it’s hard to breathe, let alone talk. Still, when he not only refers to her by name but the fact he’s known of her existence since kindergarten, she confesses her love to him right there in the street, with Takeo looking on. Then she runs.

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This is where a second nudge by Takeo is needed. He brings her back to Suna (who almost seemed to be waiting for them), where she tells him she wants him to watch her and learn more about her before he gives her his response. I thought this was overly cautious on her part, since it wasn’t completely outside the realm of possibility he’d say “sure, let’s go out.” Suna isn’t opposed to going out with girls, just girls who talk shit about Takeo.

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They exchange cell numbers, and an initial bond is formed, to my relief. But Amami needs a couple more nudges, as she finds it hard to break out of her usual routine of stalking-kinda-not-stalking. Takeo sends Suna off to walk her home, but she still can’t talk, so Takeo then brings in Yamato for a female perspective on the thing. She shares her experience having difficulty making moves toward a relationship, but as we’ve seen the benefits of making those moves have been more than worth the stress involved.

Ultimately, they determine the best way forward is for Amami, Suna, Takeo and Yamato to do a double date, in this case to the zoo, which Suna promptly agrees to. Takeo tells him he doesn’t have to, but Suna knows that, and wouldn’t say he’s going if he didn’t want to. That doesn’t mean he’s going to say straight-up “Yes, I want to go on a double date with Amami to see if it will work out because she seems like a genuinely good person and possibly a good match as well.”

Even if asked directly, he won’t answer that directly, but the seeming lack of enthusiasm can’t be taken as an actual lack of it. I imagine he’s just as interested to see where this goes as Takeo, Yamato…and me. Lord knows Suna has demonstrated throughout the show that he deserves a good woman, and not just because he’s good-looking.

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Sore ga Seiyuu! – 08

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This week Futa-Futa, Ichigo and Rin-Rin are reunited for an in-store event marking the release of their first CD single, “Into Your Ears.” There, they learn of the stress and anticipation prior to the event starting, along with the understanding that the designated performance room will not be packed, judging from the wider spacing of the seats and the fact a couple of employees will be in the crowd (I count 31 total people above).

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But despite all that, the girls do their best for their small but passionate mini-legion of fans who did turn out to watch their first performance, and while the song doesn’t start exactly when they think it will, they don’t make any mistakes in the actual performance, which is good. Far from a fiasco, everything goes pretty smoothly.

It becomes clear to Futaba that Rin and Ichigo are more popular than she, but is heartened by an encounter with one particular fan of hers who not only knows her C.V. and traveled from Saga to see her, but bought the same Korori doll she has. I’m also glad the show didn’t go too dark or cynical with regard to the intensity of the fans; they all behaved themselves…except, perhaps, Rin’s hyper classmate/”first fan” Sayo!

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Earphones as a group also learns that they have to be realistic about the speed of their ascent into J-pop relevance, and have to be satisfied with a few CD sales rather than selling out, just as they have to be satisfied with a third- to half-full hall. Everything takes time, patience, resilience, and work work work.

After the event, Futaba ends up being called into Gonzo’s TV studios to do a narration for a show, her first such job. She’s understandably nervous about this too, especially when she learns the guy doing the job with her is the famous TV voice Machi Yuji (also the voice of Ultraman Tiga, and Tsukino Usagi’s dad). Machi-san is a Pro with a capital P, having amassed enough skill and experience to nail a script that’s literally just been handed to him, even offering the producers corrections down to the frame.

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Watching Machi work and make it look so easy is obviously quite intimidating to Futaba, to the point she totally blows her dry run. But when Machi-san tells her he used to be in her position—no one starts out perfect, or even good—she’s stops worrying about how bad she was and starts working to be as good as she can be.

Her second try is much better, and Futaba’s seiyu Takahashi Rie does a fine job clearly differentiating between bad and better to even the untrained ear. She gets through the job, and impresses enough that Machi mentions finishing a story he started next time they meet, suggesting she’ll get more work there.

If she does, each time she goes, she’ll learn more and more, and get better and better. But she won’t ever be able to stop working any less hard than she is now. Constant improvement requires constant struggle, especially for people like Futaba.

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OverLord – 08

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Given that the show had built Clementine up to be one of the toughest baddies yet to appear, it was pretty clear Nphirea was going to end up being captured, even with the Swords of Darkness defending him (one of which, who I thought sounded like a girl, turned out to be a girl). In the time it takes for Momon to register Hamusuke, Clem takes care of the lot of them, not just killing them, but turning them into zombies whom Momon has to put out of their misery. But before she does, she details her great plan, as villains are wont to do:

“…Although it’s impossible to control all the undead we summon, we’ll be able to lead them in various general directions! IT’S THE PERFECT PLAN!”

love this monologue by Clem, because she prefaces her assertion that her plan is perfect by pointing out that it’s not perfect. But Clem is strong and evil enough not to care that much about the details. As long as the world is on fire, she’s happy to watch it burn. Yuuki Aoi continues to breathe life into the “inhuman warrior” with her zany, gusto-filled performance.

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When Momon learns all his former comrades are dead, just like that, he is “displeased”; he doesn’t wig out or scream or fume like your average shonen hero. This is the undead OverLord, people; and Clem’s victims were above all “tools to raise his name,” not friends. His beef with her is the fact she destroyed his tools, not that she cut his close human bonds.

Furthermore, he treats Nphirea’s rescue as a transaction; his granny agrees to pay him everything she has to save Nphi, and Momon has no cumpunction whatsoever about exploiting a grandmother’s unconditional love. Notably, there’s a lot less internal monologue from Momonga this week, suggesting an ever-greater comfort in his new, apparently permanent overlord skin.

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Like Clem’s imperfect plan, even in an episode where most of the characters from the last couple of episodes have been murdered finds places to infuse moments of comedy, such as when Nabe has to carry Hamusuke on her back as she flies over the undead army in the cemetery.

Between that and all the scroll spells they cast to locate Nphirea, there’s a firm practicality to Momon’s course of action, which isn’t ideal due to the time constraints. He may not know the bad guys’ plans, but he knows Nphi isn’t long for his world if he dawdles. But in taking out the bulk of the zombie army before several city guard witnesses, he’s already succeeded in furthering his name. He just has to stick the landing by defeating the bosses.

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Finally, Momon and Nabe come face to face with Clem and Khaj, and I’m reminded of the cocky Slane army with their formidable-looking mecha-angels. Clem and Khaj aren’t exactly shaking in their boots, and Nabe’s first lightning spell, while taking out all of Khaj’s subordinates, only manages to give him a small scratch. So either Nabe’s going too easy on him, or he’s the first truly tough customer she’s had to deal with.

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Similarly, Clementine, she of the many tones of voice and twisted facial expressions, is confident she can take Momon, because she only knows of a few people who can hold their own in a fight with her. Of course, since one of those names is Stronoff, we know for a fact Momon will have no trouble eliminating her…eventually.

So it’s less a matter of if he defeats Clem, but how. Just to turn things around and piss her off, Momon declares he’ll implement a handicap in fighting her, refusing to go all out on her, no matter what. We’ve only seen playful, confident Clem up to this point, but I’m certain next week we’ll see her truly pissed off and on the defensive for perhaps the first time in her life. But one thing I can’t believe is that Momon will lose. If he does, it’ll be because he wants to.

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Joukamachi no Dandelion – 08

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JnD may be based on a 4-koma, but that doesn’t mean it can’t carry on compelling, moving serialized stories, including in the romance department.

It’s even a bit coy about it, starting off with all the Sakurada siblings’ powers going berserk in an occasional phase called “Break Out.” I’m assuming this only happens in adolescence, as it would be pretty inconvenient for the king to be so compromised at regular intervals. That being said, seeing everyone’s  power going haywire in one place makes for some good visual comedy.

Shuu isn’t immune to Break Out, and inadvertently teleports away as he’s walking Satou Hana (the girl who confessed to him a few eps back) home. Hana panics—not unreasonably—and calls Akane for help. Akane uses this as an excuse to practice hanging out in big crowds, and promptly assuages Hana’s fears about Shuu teleporting away intentionally.

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Hana and Akane have some great comedic exchanges in which one is weirding out the other, and the balance is pretty good. Akane completing her inner monologue by yelling “I’ll do it”, or Hana loudly ruling out marriage without context to the crowds around them. I also like Akane’s two-birds-with-one-stone plan to offer advice to Hana while enduring crowds.

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But her Break Out isn’t gone, and crazy, scary things start happening, Hana doesn’t panic, but covers Akane up just as her clothes are being torn up by berserk gravity manipulation (the show avoids fanservice, since this is a serious moment). Hana then goes the extra mile, covering Akane’s escape indoors by loudly, proudly confessing her love for Shuu and her intention to go out with him with marriage in mind for the future, to great applause.

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Shuu seems pretty okay with Hana’s announcement when he sees it on TV (and would probably be even more okay if he knew she was making the announcement to save his sister undue embarrassment), but Kanade is concerned about his indifference, both about how Hana is taking charge of their relationship and, perhaps, also how little he seems to be interested in becoming king.

That’s a perfect segue to a flashback segment that serves as a How I Met Your Mother for the Sakurada parents, King Souichirou and his consort Satsuki. Unlike his kids, Sou spend much of his school years alone, constantly accompanied by his guardian/maid Sowa. He could see the discomfort in people, because reading auras is his superpower.

One day, while escaping from Sowa’s gaze for the seventeenth time, he explores the roof of the school and finds a coral-haired girl sleeping in the sun like a cat, with a petal on her nose. He gets close enough to make her think he’s up to no good (and she tells him it could be construed as an insult if he wasn’t, demonstrating the complicated nature of girls) and conscripts him as her pack-horse for grocery shopping (blowing off class in the process).

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After his face is called dull by the grocer, he and the girl head to her home, where four hungry mouths are waiting for her to make dinner (her parents are working late, not deceased). She makes dinner and Sou joins them, and it’s a transformative experience for him, whose parents have both passed and has no siblings.

The warmth and happiness exuding from the girl’s family puts a kind of spell on him. This girl, Satsuki, will be the girl he ends up marrying. Someone who makes him a better person; brings out new parts of him he didn’t know he had. She helped him become a better king, who can connect with the people in spite of his dull face It’s a lovely, funny, and incredibly efficient love story.

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Fast-forward to the present, and Satsuki remains a strong force, not letting the fact her husband is king let him get away with slacking around the house. When Shuu, presently considering a relationship of his own, seeks advice from his dad, Sou tells him the duty of a king is to make sure his family is living happily. In other words, a king must “rule” his house first, otherwise, why should he be fit to rule anything else?

Shuu takes that advice to heart when meeting with Hana on the same rooftop where Sou met Satsuki (a nice touch there!), but Hana is worried her antics at the cafe crossed the line, and Shuu is about to dump her. She maintains that fear when he accidentally teleports them both to an arctic range, even going so far as to fear he’s going to leave her there after dumping her!

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Of course, she’s got it all wrong: Shuu was glad and inspired by her courageous, confident announcement, and far from thinking she’s not a good match for her, he was worried he wasn’t a good enough match for her. But he wants to be, and he’s going to work to become just that, if Hana would stay by his side even after the elections.

It’s a lovely romantic moment and a happy ending that’s about to be punctuated by a kiss…but the episode reminds us they are in Antarctica (or Nepal)…and Shuu need to get them somewhere warmer pronto!

And that, ladies and gentlemen, completes and episode full of wit and heart; funny images and touching moments and connections. In other words, the best JnD yet.

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Akagami no Shirayuki-hime – 08

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Raj is back home and Shirayuki’s place in the castle is secure, but now half of Wistal is convinced she’s actually Zen’s fiancee, for better or worse, so Zen assigns Obi, recently returned from a no-supervision trip to test his trustworthiness, to guard her. The two have had a prickly history together, but end up getting along. The problem is, the Chief herbalist tries to pull a prank on them, unaware of just how much Shirayuki can’t handle her liquor.

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With Shirayuki thus knocked out, the rest of the episode is given over to the story of how Mitsuhide was assigned to Zen, just as Obi was assigned to Shirayuki. Mitsu struggled to connect to the young prince, who said he had to maintain distance to maintain authority, like his brother Izana (who ordered Mitsu to guard him), yet has an increasingly suspicious secret friend and brother-like figure in the archer guard Atri.

Like me, Mitsu was almost instantly weary of Atri, him because of his instincts, me because of all the shots of him making an arrowhead and squinting forebodingly into the camera. The last straw is when Atri says he’s switching to the night shift and would like it if Zen came out to see him then. Zen was obviously very naive around this time.

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Fortunately Izana assigned Mitsu to him when he did, because both of them are able to stop Atri’s associates, disgruntled rebels from Lido, from capturing or hurting Zen; Mitsu even manages to slice Atri’s arrow in two while it’s in flight, which is almost incredulously badass.

The naive Zen largely died that night when Atri, someone he thought was his friend turned on him, having waited for his opportunity the whole time. Even so, Zen mourns Atri’s death, and Atri remarks that it might have been better if Zen wasn’t a prince, otherwise they wouldn’t be in such a situation and could have been friends.

Obi gives Shirayuki the same line (which Mitsuhide overhears, leading to this flashback), but Shirayuki warns Obi not to talk like that, lest she take it as an insult. Zen is a prince, she’s an apprentice herbalist (who later accidentally gets toasted). On the path she’s traveling, she’s accepted all these things, and like a good politician, isnt’ about entertaining theoreticals.

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OverLord – 07

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This new world Momonga finds himself seems a little smaller this week, as the girl Nphirea likes (and is sadly unable to propose to) turns out to be Enri, the girl Momonga saved. She summoned helpful goblins who help keep the village safe and are even training the villagers to defend themselves. I for one am glad not all goblins are bad. Of course, Nphirea former knows him as Mr. Momon, while Enri knows him as Lord Gown.

Thus Momonga ends up getting caught in his own web of lies. Fortunately, Nphirea doesn’t have a malevolent bone in his body; he just wanted to follow and learn from Momon, and promises to keep the fact he has multiple identities a secret. Nabe offers to kill herself for blabbing about Albedo, but Momonga considers the incident closed and all is forgiven.

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Nphirea asks Momon not to kill the Wise King of the Forest if he encounters it, lest the power vacuum of the forest lead to an uptick in monster activity (the King is the lesser of two evils). His domain is a lovely, lush, dense forest primeval that reminds me of Mononoke-hime, and Aura’s giant talking beast friends continue that theme…

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…As does the unveil of the Wise King himself: a giant talking hamster. I…was not expecting that, though when I first saw the squirrel-like eyes in the dark I suspected something rodent-y. This is absurd and a little trippy, and Momonga, knowing an ally of his had a similar pet, doesn’t really want to deal with this guy, so I really like how everyone else is so in awe of this Wise King, despite being a giant hamster. Even Nabe sees power in its gaze (I didn’t catch a gender).

He also achieves what he wanted originally: to gain prestige and create buzz back in the city by capturing and registering the legendary beast, while inspiring Nphirea to ask if he can join his team. Momonga gently refuses, but promises he’ll help protect Carne, and in the meantime Nphirea is welcome to keep observing and learning from him.

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Back in town there’s the sense that everyone had just undertaken a great adventure and are now back home sweet home. Nphirea himself is ready to settle in for the night when he notices his grandma isn’t around, and that’s when he finds Clementine lying in wait for him, offering her chilling sing-song “Hiiii.” This is not good news for our long-banged pharmacist, but it is good news for the show. Things are moving along, slowly but surely.

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