Oreimo 5

The drama is taken up a notch, but it’s good drama, with exemplary voice-work by all involved. Ayase, who was very friendly and polite when we met her, suddenly goes apeshit on Kirino, unilaterally cutting off the friendship when she discovers Kirino’s…secret. Ayase doesn’t know much about otaku-ism, but from what she does know is that it can sap a person’s humanity and lead to criminal activity. She cannot and will not associate with anyone interested in…that stuff.

Because Kirino is a beautiful top student and an accomplished athlete, she is also a prime example that Ayase’s interpretation is neither fair nor complete. Ayase’s underlying motivation is her belief that Kirino cares more about anime than their friendship. To her, this feels like a betrayal. Add to that the fact Kirino did lie to her and never so much as mention this very important aspect of her life. Most best friends would be understandably hurt by this. In the end, they make up because Kirino makes it clear, she needs Ayase and anime, not one or the other.

I also felt quite sorry for Kirino’s brother: he had to act fast to get Ayase to make up with his sister, so he feigns another humiliating confession that makes him a disgusting pervert in Ayase’s eyes and kills any chance he might have had at her. One wonders what his devoted, ‘plain’ childhood friend who wants to marry him will feel if she finds out about all this otaku nonsense. Rating: 3.5

Panty & Stocking 5

The first part of this episode is more than a little gross. Intense, sustained nose-picking has not only become socially acceptable and chic, but can also potentially be an entirely new kind of sex act, which intrigues Panty. Worse still, the monster responsible for the boogers that emit the gas that causes the compulsive nose-digging is disguised as the owner of a sweets shop who sells the boogers as confections, which are Stocking’s weakness. Of course, it’s a given that P&S will prevail at the end, and the manner in which it’s done is suitably disgusting.

What really got my attention was part two, which was drawn in a completely different style, and only showed P&S in action for a moment at the very end. The rest was a snapshot of the life of an old, salesman in a dead-end job, kind of like gil. He wants to get an autograph from P&G for his kid’s b-day, but is sidetracked by co-workers who make him drink. All of his pent-up rage expresses itself in a vomit monster, which lures P&G to his location. And the rest you can probably figure out. Nice change of pace in this segment. Rating: 3.5

Shiki 13

Things just keep getting worse in the ol’ village. Toru ends up drinking enough of Natsuno’s blood to finally do him in. He’s definitely not gone, though, he’s sure to become the newest okiagari, which will have all kinds of ramifications. Meanwhile, even Toshio’s wife ensnared by the risen, and he’s powerless to stop her death.

When Natsuno’s dad emerges from his workshop to find his wife has run off and his son is dead, he has his body taken away by the new funeral home (apparently, word’s gotten out there’s mortuary money to be made in this village), but the good doctor instead decides to put his recently deceased spouse on ice, presumably to wait for her to wake up again.

Both deaths are surprisingly austere and there isn’t much exposition, a testament to how accustomed everyone is getting to death. With one of the main characters sure to become a vampire, and no sure solutions in sight, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to imagine how anyone is going to be left alive in the village. Rating: 3

The World God Only Knows 4

Flag 4 disposes of the usual formula and wholly involves Keima attempting to beat a game on his PFP. This particular game is famous for being full of bugs, including one scene that always loops, not matter what choice you make; making the game impossible to beat. Everyone eventually gave up and stopped playing it and the studio that made it went out of business.

Not even technical glitches will deter Keima from taking up the challenge. El questions why he’d play such an obviously crappy game when he says that real life is exactly that – a crappy game. His response further reinforces how seriously he takes gaming: it isn’t the heroine’s fault the game she’s in is crappy. The bugs have trapped her, and it’s his duty as the last player to save her. She is no less real to him than the girls he’s courted thus far. Rating: 3

Hyakka Ryouran 4

While Jubei continues to harbor some mysteries (why did she fall from the sky, etc.) we at least learn something new and significant about Muneakira: when Sanada kisses him (while locked in an extremely compromising position) she is transformed into a master samurai as well. Princess Sen probably wanted to test this as well, but the opportunity to kiss him never came up. Seriously, aren’t these people adults?

Anyway, while Sanada has gained supersized wind-emitting fans (perfect for slicing strategic bombers), she cannot control the sudden surge in powers. Interestingly, her personality doesn’t change like Jubei’s does, and Muneakira isn’t paralyzed either. This probably means there’ll be a similar result if Sen, Hanzo, or Matabei kissed him.

It’s intimated that without master samurai, Great Japan would fall to invading armies (apparently there’s no JSDF in this alternate present). So it’s good that Muneakira can make them simply by kissing people. But how and why, we simply don’t know yet. Rating: 3

Yosuga no Sora 4

In this episode, a sister does get kissed by her sibling, but it isn’t Haru’s, it’s Kazuha’s, and it’s so Akira can make a point: don’t sacrifice happiness and all that because you’ve fallen for a guy and aren’t paying as much attention to her. It’s clear Kazuha feels guilty that Akira’s life turned out the way it did (if I’m not mistaken, Akira’s mother is the shopkeeper, and making ends meet hasn’t been easy), but none of that is Kazuha’s fault.

The same exact thing is happening with Haru and Sora, because he’s fallen for Kazuha, he isn’t spending any time at all with his sister. Even with the end credits sequence, we aren’t quite sure why their parents are dead, but for all intents and purposes, Haru is all Sora has, and if their distance widens, there could be trouble.

Haru’s waking dream while Kazuha is playing the viola is pretty funny (and suitably over-the-top), especially since it isn’t played as a dream at first. But it establishes that he indeed loves her, or at least wants her. I’m glad that, unlike Tarou and Yuuno in MM, this series kept developing Haru and Kazuha’s relationship, rather than just hitting the pause button. Rating: 3.5

Psychic Detective Yakumo 4

Now we’re learning a lot more about Yakumo. He’s in his mid-twenties, his mother was afraid of him as soon as he was born, tried to kill him when he was still a little squirt, and took off somewhere, never to be seen again. Obviously, he’s confused and bitter about all this, and combined with the eye, he’s grown up into the wolfpack of one that he is, refusing to share feelings with anyone. Haruka seeks to change that.

But then, crap, she wakes up in a gynecologists office, and has no idea how she got there. That is never a good thing. Worse still, the dark, stylish couple watching Yakumo from the shadows have taken an interest in her, and the doctor who delivered Yakumo (at that same office) seems to be in cahoots with them. Really not good.

According to Yakumo, there are two kinds of people in his life: those who find his eye strange, and those who want to profit from it in some way. Interestingly, Haruka doesn’t seem to be either. But by meeting and befriending him, she may be kissing her ordinary life goodbye. Rating: 3

Otome Youkai Zakuro 4

This is the episode where Susukihotaru and Riken are fleshed out, both as individuals and as each others companions. Like Agemaki with youkai (initially), Susukihotaru is scared of humans, and always keeps her head down in public. It’s also revealed she’s empathic (kinda out of the blue, but okay), which is handy when the lieutenant you’re paired with hardly ever talks.

Anyway, there’s a pretty unexceptional mission where the other two thirds of Spirit Affairs (Zakuro and Agemaki get the day off) encounter a comely human woman who employs a youkai and needs a demon sword taken off her hands. Pretty dull, but it provided a chance for vital characterization, as Susukihotaru and Riken have a little more depth now.

Ganryuu, Daidai and Kiri are pretty much useless, as usual, but at least the preview hinted that the next episode would focus on them. That could be horrible, or it could redeem them. All I know is, they are currently dragging the whole show down; though not as much as the annoying little youkai children. Rating: 3

Oreimo 4

In a series with several otaku as among the main characters, an episode was inevitably going to involve Summer Comiket, and this is it. Before that, however, Kirino has her ‘normal’ friends over and orders Kyousuke to stay out of sight. He doesn’t, and one of the girls (voiced by Saki from Eden of the East) seemingly takes a liking to him.

Fast forward to Tokyo Big Sight, which is a really nice depiction of an enormous, bustling convention in the dead of summer. Lots of waiting in line and crowds and battling staff members at video games, there’s a great energy to it all. And then that girl I mentioned before, who liked Kyousuke, she sees Kirino fresh out of Comiket – and the two worlds collide.

The thing is, this girl Ayase doesn’t sound that bad. She witnessed Kyousuke in the classic “falling on a girl and breaking the fall with her boob” – with his sister, no less. But rather than overreact, Ayase knew it was simply an accident and, unpredictably, didn’t judge him. So maybe she won’t judge Kirino for being an otaku. We’ll See. Rating: 3.5

Arakawa Under the Bridge x 2 3

Arakawa 4 serves up a hearty balance of tenderness and genuine knee-slapping comedy. It marries the intimate and the absurd. It’s characters may be eccentric, bizarre, and even clinical, but they’re also honest and surprisingly believable. For seemingly the first time, Recruit seems to genuinely anger Nino when he catches him listening to her cassette tape.

Rather than leave it there in the first eight minutes, the entire episode covers Recruit’s many attempts at damage control, to coax Nino down from her electric pole perch, and then from all of the girls who form a conclave around her and initially refuse to let him state his case.  However. the ladies can’t stand in the way of love. Rating: 3.5

Star Driver 4

I love episodes where things aren’t what they seem. The TNG episode where time stops for instance, and Picard draws a smiley face in the smoke of a warp core breach. In this episode of Star Driver, a cybody who can create illusions isolates Takuto and Wako in Zero Time.

…Only the pilot isn’t a willing participant; a member of Glittering Crux drugs her and makes her operate it. Once Takuto figures out how to summon Tauburn in this space, the enemy cybody makes a hasty retreat. But even though there’s no climactic fight and Wako is never in danger, Takuto learns more about how far Crux is willing to go, and resolves to defeat every last one of their cybodys.

As I said, I enjoyed the dreamlike atmosphere of this episode; it’s relaxed pace, the chemistry between Takuto and Wako, and the weather that naturally transitions from dreary rain to a gorgeous, clearing sky. Finally, this episode broke the formula for the previous three, before it got too monotonous. It switched things up a bit. Rating: 4

Bakuman 4

Again, the sheer magnitude of work necessary to become a mangaka hits Mashiro and Akito like a ton of bricks. A ridiculous amount of work is involved in preparing a manuscript, and a high schooler can’t go long without sleep; believe me, I know. Being a trained artist myself, I shared Mashiro’s frustration with being unable to instantly master a certain type of ink pen; in his case, knowing full well he doesn’t have a future unless he does. He needs to practice; but if his grades fall, he’s toast.

This episode is also where the two aspiring mangakas realize they’re not alone; others have the same dream they do. When Akito flips through a magazine and discovers a 15-year-old published mangaka, the pressure is on, and it’s felt. Neither of them are peerless prodigies, and must rely on hubris, effort, and luck in their venture.

I do worry that Mashiro has a good chance of repeating his uncles mistakes re romance; he doesn’t even have Miho’s email yet. Still, it was reassuring to see them pass each other on a street – Mashiro with Akito, Miho with her mom and sister – and pause and look back at each other not once, but twice. Rating: 3.5

To Aru Majutsu no Index II 3

The conflict between Amakusa and the Catholic church becomes much more complicated, and as usual, Touma and Index are caught in the middle of an elaborate conflict between the biggest Christian faction and a crafty elusive Japanese offshoot. We don’t see the Catholic’s diversionary battle, only the stealthy rescue mission, which gave everyone something to do. It’s always good to see characters contributing and not just sitting around with their mouths hanging open.

I don’t know what’s more ridicuous looking: dozens of attractive young nuns with swords and spears, or ordinarily-dressed Japanese people with the same weapons. I’m also unsure of where Misaka fits into all this; so far, Index II has been all religion and magic and no science or espers. Of course, like Touma himself, this show has a penchant for keeping its audience in the dark until it’s good and ready to reveal stuff. Rating: 3