Sore ga Seiyuu! – 04

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SgS keeps pace with Dandelion this week, as we come to love the characters in both shows the more time we spend with them. It has occured to me that Sore is very much a love letter to the seiyu industry and the people in it, almost playing like a documentary of these girls’ lives, yet avoids being over-indulgent or extra-congratulatory.

With the highs come the lows, and the lows suck when you’re in them, regardless of vocation. That’s what this episode captures best: Futaba at first believing she’s all alone in her doubt and despair, when in fact, everyone goes those emotions. That knowledge brings comfort and motivation to strive harder.

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With Bodhisattvon wraping and all three girls failing to pass auditions for the next show (doubly upsetting since we saw Futaba part with most of her petty cash to buy the manga), they’re feeling uneasy about the future. Futaba in particular is sure she’ll get more work before the Bodhi recording and radio show both wrap, but she’s incorrect on both counts.

All it takes to clear Futaba’s clouds of despair and worry is to bump into a legend like Ginga Banjou, who has died many more times than she on screen. Because of that, he can lend her valuable words of supportive advice that apply not only to dealing with the deaths of one’s characters, but in dealing with the serial rejection all seiyus (and indeed, artists) must endure. Futaba is not alone.

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When their radio show ends, it looks like Futaba is about to stare down the long, dusty road of non-employment in her chosen field (though she still has the part-time job), but their boss springs another surprise on them: not only has their radio show been extended, but he’s putting them in a unit, to record the theme song to the show and perhaps eventually become a full-on idol group.

This is a lot for Futaba and even Rin to take in, though it’s exactly what Ichigo has been dreaming of. I like how they all react by paying more attention to themselves, whether it’s Futaba being broken out of her daydream by her jiggly arm, Rin training herself to wear miniskirts, or Ichigo’s overdone yet somehow appropriate ringlets.

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Really, I should have seen this development coming: Futaba, Rin and Ichigo already had the built-in look of characters who wouldn’t look out of place in a sci-fi magical girl or music anime. Now, they could be on the road to just those kinds of roles, if it all pans out. Everyone’s nervous, like they were when the radio show first started. But with time, they got better at that, and they’ll eventually get better at all this unit stuff, too.

ED request: The theme to Sailor Moon Crystal.

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Joukamachi no Dandelion – 04

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This week was highly Akane-centric, but the episode really mixed things up by offering her story from multiple perspectives, starting with her cat Borscht, who through Shiori’s ability we know to consider plastic more fun to chew on than the substandard kibble he’s subjected to. He assumed wrongly that a royal family would serve better grub.

We also watch Akane through the eyes of her admiring best friend Karen, who seems to harbor a girl-crush on her royal friend. Because she knows Akane so well, she’s paralyzed when it comes to how to break it to her that she came to school not wearing a skirt.

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Karen knows no matter how she breaks it to her, Akane is going to die of embarrassment, so that lack of a skirt just hangs there, like a Chekhov’s Lack of a Skirt if you will, waiting for someone else to break it to her. Her classmate, “President” Fukushima, simultaneously points out to his male peers the possibility not only could there be no skirt under Akane’s long sweater, but no underwear as well. He also does nothing to stop the charge of every guy in school once they learn Akane will be climbing some steps.

It’s a little sophomoric, sure, but it’s nicely staged, and the built-up tension works right until Akane assures everyone that no, her skirt ripped so she’s wearing her gym shorts…only to lift up her skirt to reveal nothing but panties. And confirming her true feelings for Akane, Karen’s nose bleeds along with the he lads’.

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With that trauma behind her, the next day Akane learns (from StuCo Veep and older sister Kanade) that the school will participate in a town beautification mission, requiring she go out and be exposed to the world and all its cameras for far longer than she’d like. And yet, she doesn’t want preferential treatment, and is resolved to simply power through it.

That makes Fukushima change his mind about fixing things so Akane doens’t have to leave school grounds. As Kanade herself convinces him, it’s not just good for her to face such things, but he’ll get to see her get embarrassed, which is the cutest thing in the world and one of the reasons Fukushima gets up in the morning. That’s because he’s President, not of the StuCo (as Akane wondered, and goes on a failed wild goose chase to confirm), but of the Akane Fan Club.

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Pivoting the club to respecting her will to endure the clean-up day rather than simply make things easier for her gives Fukushima extra energy and motivation, which Akane is quick to pick up on, wondering if he was always so intense and commanding. When it comes to supporting her as President of a fan club devoted to her, he doesn’t mess about.

Borscht bookends the episode, first by communicating his dissatisfaction with the food (complete with flamenco guitar and a deep, passionate voice), this time he curls up on Akane, but not because she feeds him. No, her flat chest is the perfect balance of rigidity and warmth, reminding him of his bedding when he was a stray. It’s a surface that even Hikari (on a non-magic-related growth spurt, to Akane’s horror) can match.

Knowing a black and white cat who always sleeps on a slight incline, this is exactly the kind of stuff I imagine goes on in their heads.

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Akagami no Shirayuki-hime – 04

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What makes Shirayuki such a delight to watch isn’t just her striking hair, but her warm, striking, magnetic personality, and the fact that she’s not perfect, or even fully formed; she’s still searching and exploring, working hard and learning something new every day, picking up stones in sequence as she paves her chosen path.

And yet, it’s not a path she needs or wants to walk entirely alone. Zen may be a prince, but first and foremost he’s a friends, and someone who can calm her of exam nerves simply by resting her hand on his…and certainly not by using his position to get her a job.

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This week Shirayuki plunges into the world of court herbalism, first by meeting the castle’s chief herbalist, Garak, and then being given a small garden to tend and test her skills. She wants to do this right; gain the position with her own strength.

Zen, who as we know is under Shirayuki’s spell (who wouldn’t be?), is worried about her, so when he sees lights on in a greenhouse, he checks it out and they end up together, just before some unseen person locks them in together. His amplified concern is clear when she mentions a toxin in the water and he grabs her as if to save her life (the toxin isn’t harmful to humans).

What could have been a silly conceit, or an attempt to sabotage her exam through the appearance of nepotism, turns out to be something far more enticing, because Shirayuki changes the tone of the situation. Whether they’re locked in or not, she’s detected a toxin in the aqueducts that could kill everything in the garden if she doesn’t act quickly, even if it means having Zen help her. She simply rolls up her sleeves and gets to work.

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The sun rises, and with it comes Garak to unlock the door with her assistant. She’s surprised to find Zen there, but when she questions why Shirayuki let him help, she frames it as a matter of his highness’ safety. She also asks Zen why he doesn’t just snap his fingers and make Shirayuki is a court herbalist with his authority.

Garak probably already knows the answer that Zen gives her: that would defeat the purpose. Shirayuki doesn’t mind the occasional helping hand, but she won’t have someone doing all the work paving the road ahead; that’s hers to pave.

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Garak is impressed with Shirayuki’s skills, diligence, and I daresay wit, and passes her, making her officially an apprentice court herbalist. She’s paired with her superior Ryuu, who despite being a socially awkward little boy, is the herbalist version of Natural Police. 

Ryuu also tends to go with the flow, so when a patient comes in and refuses to be treated by Ryuu (fearing he’ll be made a test subject), Shirayuki wastes no time putting the asshat in his place, showing us her short temper for baseless conjecture, ignorance, and general prejudice. Fire-kissed hair, indeed!

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It doesn’t just hurt Shirayuki that the guy said those terrible things about Ryuu, but that Ryuu put up no defense. She’s been actively fighting for her freedom and her own kind of life for so long, she herself is ignorant to those like Ryuu who are more water than fire. When Shirayuki calls Ryuu “foolish” for telling her to let it go; it happens all the time, Ryuu is shaken, afraid he’s already ruined another relationship.

Still, the waterworks do come for Shirayuki when Garak, realizing she’s with Zen more than any of the other apprentices, decides to give her Zen’s medical records, so she knows what to do in “emergencies.” This isn’t something often given to a prospective girlfriend, but her position calls for it.

While I’m sure Garak probably saw it as a prudent, practical gesture, when Shirayuki reads through the journals intricately documenting the suffering Zen went through to work up his resistance to poisons, she is thoroughly shaken. And with good reason: she truly does care about Zen, and it’s more than fealty.

It turns out to be Ryuu, who sees her crying, who runs to Zen pleading for him to help her. Ryuu may have thought it was all his fault, but Zen knows that it’s his own. He also knows that Shirayuki isn’t going to turn her back at those records, but they might go down a little easier if their subject is right there beside her, alive and well.

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That’s exactly what Shirayuki needed, and when she returns to Ryuu both apologetic and grateful, everything turns out to be fine. And with Shirayuki smiling brightly, practically, glowing in the daylight, Ryuu not only betrays a blush, but stealthily confesses his affection for his new apprentice by telling her the plant that was the focus of her exam is his favorite because it’s “red and pretty.”

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Gatchaman Crowds Insight – 04

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Well, that was weird.

After deploying in full force last week (save O.D.) and Tsubasa making her big debut on the battlefield, the Gatchamen find themselves at a crossroads. VAPE’s leader has been caught, and relatively easily, but then again, he doesn’t put up much of a fight. Why should he? He accomplished everything he set out to do. The Red Crowds were a menace. He suspects most people will think no differently about Blue Crowds.

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A great blow has been dealt to Rui’s dream of updating the world. But not all Gatchamen are on board about that being their purpose. “We’re heroes”, Tsubasa says again and again about her and the rest of them; that means when Rui is in trouble, she came to rescue him, even though he didn’t want to be rescued. Joe and Tsubasa remain of similar minds: endorsing Crowds is not their top priority; protecting the people is.

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While the Crowds have never been more feared by the public, opinion on the actual Gatchamen (and on Gelsadra) remains high, to the point Millio wants her and Tsubasa to be regulars on his TV show, perhaps ditching O.D. in the process. In an even stranger development, the Prime Minister resigns after the VAPE attack and calls for smartphone elections…again. This time, he makes it clear a vote for him is a vote for the continued presence of (Blue) Crowds in society.

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While Gel is certainly a popular idol, she believes the best way for her to enact real change on Earth is by winning that election. When she’s told she’s just a little girl, she transforms into an adult man—heck, why not? She’s an alien! I’d say she has a decent shot at winning. Does that mean the Crowds will be put on the back burner, replaced by Gel’s different approach of “uniting minds” and sowing mass happiness? Will the rift between Rui and less pro-Crowds faction of the Gatchamen widen? Times suddenly feel very uncertain.

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GOD EATER – 03

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GOD EATER follows up its slow, stretched-out, uninspired second episode with a big shot of adrenaline, as the entire third episode is one big aerial battle. It could also have been titled “Enter Underboob”, as after a couple of glimpses of her last week we finally see Alisa in her element (as opposed to sitting quietly on a plane) as a (mostly) efficient exterminator of Aragami.

The First Unit and Lenka in particular gawk from their helicopter as the one-woman army Alisa darts and jumps and repels about the giant transport plane. Not only does it get to show us the extent of her abilities (and her superiority to fellow new-type Lenka), but also the various tools at a new-type’s disposal. Alisa switches from sword to gun with ease, and when she tuns out of ammo, she simply uses her arc to devour an aragami and convert it into more ammo…which is a handy trick.

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When Lindow, Sakuya, and Lenka spot a gigantic swarm of fresh Aragami on the horizon, Lindow decides it’s time to grab Alisa and leave before they get there. It’s a practical and pragmatic call, considering Alisa’s importance to the war effort. But when Lenka jumps down to get her, Alisa pounces on him and proceeds to beat the everloving shit out of him. The message is clear: she’s not leaving the plane. Shortly thereafter we learn why, and see another side of Alisa: the plane is full of wounded survivors, and she won’t abandon them to save her own skin. She values their lives as much as her own (if not more).

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If Alisa won’t leave and they can’t make her, Lindow changes his orders: the four God Eaters will go all out in a defensive stand. They’ll either defeat all the Aragami after them and land safely at Fenrir east together, or they’ll die together.

We get a lot of badass shots of the team about to get to work, and then working. Lenka gradually gets the hang of his arc and is able to keep up with Alisa; while she had a head start I imagine his kill tally was comparable to hers when all was said and done. He even learns to devour.

There are also a lot of smooth moves, like Alisa and Lenka using both versions of their weapons to kill Aragami, or Lindow tossing one into Sakuya’s firing line so she can finish it off. Their flying battlefield, surrounded by sky on all sides, adds excitement and breathlessness to the proceedings.

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Speaking of breathless, how about that sunset, as seen from the plane’s cargo bay ramp? Or the shot of the absolutely massive Aragami taking the helicopter decoy bait, which definitely looks like a very very good thing to happen, as despite our heroes’ successes, there remain things well out of their league…at least for now.

So…why only an 8? Well, because GOD EATER is very one-dimensional. It’s hella cool and stylish and fun, but it’s ultimately empty calories: immediate satisfaction but no nutrition. The characters are very well-drawn and awesome looking, but there’s nothing below the surface. Alisa, like Lenka, is just another bland cipher we’ve seen a million times before (though Sakamoto Maaya does a good job voicing her).

And while I’m not really going to get into the hefty suspension of disbelief required to accept the physics of the battle (Are everyone’s shoes magnetic? Does no one need oxygen), it was pretty silly how last week the much faster fighter jets were immediately taken out by the Aragami, yet this week the helicopter was completely ignored. GOD EATER remains great fun and this was a far better episode than last week’s, but its core flaws remain, which can’t be ignored.

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Shimoneta – 04

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At first, Anna seems to be processing her “experience” with Okuma last week by clamping down on school indecency, tightening her grip on public morality as her mother prepares to make a speech at her school on her “final solution” for nipping lewdness in the bud and preserving the purity of Japan’s youth, saving them from their own base urges. Anna is also straight-up avoiding Okuma, making him think she despises him now.

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With a vote on the X Prohibition Law looming, Ayame briefs her SOX team of Okuma and Otome on their next mission, which is to storm a forest where hardcore porn is known to be located (the forest was once the property of a famous pornographer) with a mass of “cherry” boys and girls from school, overwhelming the authorities with numbers. SOX is not the only dirty terror group, but one of several all working to free Japan from the shackles of artificial sexual repression.

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Anna’s mom ends up surprising Ayame by announcing the student vote for X Prohibition will take place the same time control will be lifted from the porn forest. She also unveils the future of oppression: heavy-duty chastity belts that prevent any fooling around in that area by either sex, further closing off that crucial part of the human anatomy to youth a a crucial time in their development. The image is somewhat humorous, but the idea behind it is truly chilling.

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Ayame is pissed off about her plan becoming far more difficult, but she still thinks she can convince the student body to storm the forest IF she can get Otome out of her artistic funk. To do that, Ayame exploits Okuma’s new stalker, who has stuffed his mailbox with love letters and left puddles of saliva on his patio, by putting a note telling her to come in, all while Otome hides in his closet and observes.

Okuma is convinced nothing will happen and Otome will see nothing interesting, but he ends up about as wrong as it is humanly possible to be, as his stalker turns out to be Anna, who is extremely sex-crazed despite having no idea what sex is. She enters Okuma’s apartment, tears his and her clothes off, mounts him, and starts licking him. All she knows is that this feels good, so it must be good, and right, and pure.

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Clearly having no idea the note on Okuma’s door would be so successful, Ayame walks in on this spectacle, and Anna basically grabs her clothes and runs out in embarrassment, yet still in a kind of trance in which she doesn’t think there’s anything wrong with what she’s doing. Why would she? Her parents never told her about this kind of stuff. Yet the burning in her loins cannot be denied.

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It took an accidental kiss during a stalker dust-up, but Okuma’s beloved angel Anna has well and truly broken out of her shell. Her ignorance is such that rather than admit her harsher enforcement measures at school constitute gross hypocrisy considering how she’s been behaving on the side vis-a-vis Okuma, she absolves herself by proclaiming that “love is justice”, and that the more she doles out on others, the more love she’s able to give to Okuma.

Absent any kind of proper education on romance or sex, Anna is quite literally making it up as she goes along. Even more troubling, her authority and pedigree are such that few can dare challenge her improvisatory philosophy. She’s suddenly become quite the hedonist, but she’s playing with porn-burning fire.

Most surprisingly, Anna put her money where dirty-talking Ayame’s mouth is, taking debauchery to levels that make Blue Snow herself blush. Or in baseball terms (Hi Preston!), Ayame has been shouting slogans from the stands, but it’s Anna who rounded second base and slid into third, naked and drooling.

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Rokka no Yuusha – 04

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Introductions between Fremy and Tania/Goldof are tense because Goldof has it on good authority that Fremy is in fact the Brave-Killer…an accusation she doesn’t even bother refuting. Yet Adlet still shields her from Tania’s blades. Why? Because whatever she did in the past, she’s one of the Six Braves now, by the will of the Goddess, and The Strongest Man in the World isn’t going to let them fight among themselves.

Tania stands down, because she trusts Adlet, not Fremy. Fremy tells her she’s a naive girl and doesn’t so much as thank Adlet for saving her, but the group of four is off to meet the remaining two.

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As soon as they’re in the dense forest, a fleet of aerial fiends begins bombing it, while land-based fiends swarm and surround them. Here, for the first time, we see what kind of badassery four Braves are capable of, especially since one of those four, Adlet, is able to continue on to the temple, since three Braves are enough to hold off the horde: Tania and Fremy from long-range; Goldof the close-range brawler.

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Adlet finds the beautiful yet foreboding temple (looking like the entrance to many an FF dungeon) and meets an injured priestess only to watch her transform into a fiend (which promptly, confusingly runs away). Rather than pursue, Adlet enters the temple, shocked to find the phantasmal barrier already active, and even when the others arrive unharmed, they’re unable to shut it down. Adlet tries using his blood, while Tania flails about in a panic, to the point I though for a moment she was hallucinating.

Then, it all becomes clear: the barrier is active because it was activated by the remaining Braves. First, they meet Chamo Rosso, a small, child-like girl in green whom Adlet acknowledges as the “claimed” strongest person in the world; a claim he obviously disputes.

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Chamo immediately wishes to kill Fremy, who must’ve gotten the same memo as Goldof, and we learn for certain why when not one but two more Braves grace their presence—Mora Chester and Hans Humpty (dumb name)—for a total of seven. Since there was never any instance in all of history of their being any less or more than six Braves, everyone concludes that there’s an impostor in their midst.

Assuming they’re right, who could it be? Have we already been privy to previously unnoticed clues? At this point Fremy seems too obvious. Hans, who seems a bit more sinister than the others, also seems too obvious. I wouldn’t have cast any suspicion whatsoever on Nashetania, were it not for a heavily Tania-centric ending sequence (complete with an awesome ending theme). As for Adlet, well, we witnessed him become a Brave. Hell, maybe there are just supposed to be seven this time around…

While the action and adventure were definitely here, there was something mechanical and underwhelming about the reveal of the other three Braves. They just kinda…show up, all at once, with little fanfare or showmanship. I suppose I’ve been hanging around the showboating Adlet and stylish Tania too long. I’m also loath to watch the group continue bickering when there’s a Demon God to defeat. Finally, the character animation looked rougher and sloppier than usual at points, possibly in order to accommodate the CGI fiends.

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