Hyakka Ryouran 5

Another samurai girl is introduced – Naoe, voiced by Aki Toyosaki – an old friend of Sanada’s who was hired by Princess Sen’s brother to spy on the dojo. She’s not very good at subterfuge, however, and everyone is immediately suspicious of her. Also, she isn’t a threat, because Sanada can now transform into a master samurai at will.

Not just Sanada, either. When eavesdropping on Sen and Jubei, Naoe misunderstands the situation and believes Muneakira is running a harem. Naoe is a woman of spotless moral fiber, and invokes the name of Ragaraja when challenges Muneakira to a duel. Guilty over the burden he’s placed on Sanada, he simply lets Naoe whale on him until Sen intervenes, eventually kissing Muneakira and transforming into a master just as Sanada did.

Naoe retreats, but she’ll definintely be back. So it’s official, Muneakira is a master samurai maker. As usual, the character design and art direction remains above reproach, and even the dialogue has been tightened up a bit as the chemistry between characters has begun to gel. We’ll see if the improvement is cumulative. Rating: 3

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Psychic Detective Yakumo 5

There were quite a few issues left to resolve last week, and thankfully most of them were in this episode. Haruka is abducted by the doctor (who turns out to be bad) and is dropped into a river where the guy’s daughter died. His hope is that his daughter’s spirit will possess Haruka and she’ll be resurrected. Which begs the question: won’t Haruka, the vessel, just drown in the water?

Anyway, Yakumo and Gotou arrive just in time and save Haruka, which leaves the possessed news reporter. The guy possessing her was the one who kidnapped girls for the doctor (he made numerous attempts to resurrect his daughter in this way) and he killed him so he wouldn’t blab to the cops. Anyway, this dead guy releases his hold on the reporter when he sees the doctor is in custody. After all, possessing somebody can’t bring you back from the dead.

That leaves…the sunglasses couple. The man is apparently Yakumo’s father, and even helped the doctor capture Haruka. The question is, why is he doing this to Yakumo, why is he involving Haurka, and what is Yakumo going to do about it? Inquiring minds want to know. Rating: 3

Arakawa Under the Bridge x 2 4

Homemade films and haunted houses are the order of the week under the bridge. Specifically, P-Ko recruits…Recruit to direct a film using a script she’s written, and hilarity ensues. Unfortunately, Billy the pigeon-headed hitman declines to participate, which is a shame, because I love that guy.

The haunted house segment pits Ric against the best efforts of his underbridgemates to frighten him, with mixed results. His scariest encounter turns out to be an accident, when Nino puts glasses on him from behind and he ends up in a mirror, and thinks he sees his father.

At the end of the day though, this episode kinda seemed to be in cruise control. I just wasn’t feeling it. It was funny enough, but not nearly as engrossing as last week, when Ric upset Nino. This seemed more…static. It didn’t innovate the way I know it can. Rating: 2.5

Otome Youkai Zakuro 5

Honzoki and Bonbori finally get to fight on their own. Well, Bonbori fights, while Honzoki protects Ganryu, who is now more mindful than ever that compared to his twin companions, he’s pretty weak and helpless. I declare the three of them now far less annoying as a result of, you know, showing emotion and doing stuff. And I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of that battle song, it’s got such a nice haunting beauty to it.

It’s kind of glossed over, but Lieutenant Hanadate, whom Zakuro has a crush on, kinda ditches her for a cougar who turns out to be a Black Widow. It’s this instance, when Zakuro finds herself alone and cornered by two uncouth officers, when Agemaki comes to her rescue, which she greatly appreciates. Agemaki doesn’t even flinch at her creepy bunny sidekick anymore; he’s definitely growing

The pale “weirdos” make brief appearances (are they Sith?) but we don’t really know what they’re all about yet. Another nice touch: the Black Widow actually doesn’t reveal any information when Ganryu demands it. She only hints at knowing something about Zakuro’s mother, but vanishes before they can get anything else out of her. This was nice because I hate it when villains just spill the beans – the good guys have to work to solve the mystery here! Rating: 3.5

Yosuga no Sora 5

This series takes a complete U-turn back to when Haru finds out that Kazu and Akira are related, and then Haru ends up with Akira instead. I like this in the same way I like Amagami’s way of handling romance with multiple love interests: manipulation of the timeline. It’s more interesting than for both to be in love with the guy at once, because that competition is always taking up time better spent developing one relationship at time. I’m not saying love triangles (or polygons) don’t work,it’s just that they’ve been overused in this medium, and its nice when shows try other things.

Something triggers Haru’s memory of Akira; how they were close years ago, and how much he cared about her. Things then advance with dizzying speed, all the way to making love in the bath, a scene that was tastefully handled (unlike this series’s awful epilogues). It doesn’t come off as random or rushed, because they already loved each other; Haru simply repressed memories (something caused that, we’ll see if it’s ever revealed), and Akira was obviously just waiting for him to remember her. They just acted on it when the opportunity arose.  Rating: 3.5

Star Driver 5

Star Driver gets back to Zero Time, and Takuto battles another troubled member of Glittering Crux. This time, it’s the school nurse, who has a Pretty Boy Complex (why are nurses always after the students?) She pilots a cybody with precognitive abilities that can see a couple seconds into the future, as well as transform her to high school age in the real world. Pretty snappy!

Combined with a love potion concocted with chemicals from the science club, she uses her science to cause a ruckus at the school, ultimately seeking out Takuto, the ultimate pretty boy. When he demurs, she challenges him upfront. Indeed, with her temporal advantage, Tauburn would have been as good as defeated, and she’d be leader of Crux were it not for her one flaw: pretty boys make her distracted, and she let her guard down long enough for Takuto to capitalize and dispatch her.

It’s also made clear that only the ‘drama club’ knows of the existence of Crux and the cybodys. So it’s interesting that they’d let the nurse go back to her job like nothing’s happened – especially when she caused numerous earthquakes that almost caused a volcanic eruption. Regardless, another Crux member is down, and their numbers are dwindling. My interest in this series, however, is a strong as ever. Rating: 3.5

Bakuman 5

Mashiro and Akito work long hours during the summer break and make some steady progress. In fact, more than some: they complete a manuscript by episode’s end and are on the phone to submit it to a magazine for publishing. For a 25-episode series, this is faster progress than I expected.

Meanwhile, Akito learns he may be on the ‘same wavelength’ as his female friend Kaya, in the same way Mashiro and Miho are locked in. I’m still concerned that Mashiro could fall into the same trap as his uncle and let the girl slip through his fingers through inaction, so I maintain my hope they interact more.

There were also nice little touches, like the screentone clippings, the perils of drawing in ink while extremely fatigued, and the victorious feeling of completing a phase of a task and moving on to the next. Thus far, Bakuman has been steadfastly solid. Rating: 3.5

To Aru Majutsu no Index II 4

The battle from the previous episode continues, and it isn’t quite resolved by the end of this one. But despite the stormtrooper-esque weakness of the army of Catholic nuns, the battle stays pretty interesting throughout. Touma – someone who’s confident he was blessed with Imagine Breaker so he could to protect the weak – restarts the hostilities, this time, against the Catholics he worked with just earlier that evening.

Sister Agenes turns out to be a wolf in nun’s clothing, and spends a good amount of time very un-Christian-ly beating the shit out of Sister Orsula when Touma shows up, but before the 100s-against-one fight can begin, Steyr, Amakusa, and Index join in, in that order. Meanwhile, Kaori and the spy dude kinda watch all hell break from afar, as they have been doing.

As he’s not exactly inexperienced with situations like this, give credit to Touma for not backing down, and to Index for continuing into her vast bag of magical tricks to prove her mettle. The third member of the Index Trinity – the Railgun, still has yet to appear. When she does, it’ll be yet another layer of flavor to already thick, juicy steak of an anime that is right in its element. Stay the course. Rating: 3.5

MM! 5

Mio expressed it best: “What is this?” I’ll admit, there were a couple funny lines, but the rest of this episode was shark-jumping, pathetic excuse for shounen parody. I realize it wasn’t being serious, but in a series with only twelve episodes, why totally waste one on a totally bland, unrealistic new character and a story that makes no sense whatsoever?

Where before he had only two girls after him – Mio and Yuuno, we can thank this episode for adding another to the mix. What will it be, a girl a week now? Each one more boring than the next? This show needs to recover from this nonsensical disaster by quickly returning to what it does relatively well: romantic comedy between people with issues – Not half-assed genre-bending that goes nowhere. Rating: 2

Shinryaku! Ika Musume 2

Episode two builds on the solid comedy of the first not by repeating all the same jokes and situations, but by serving up a wealth of new ones – owing to the vast possibilities of a squid-out-of-water heroine. On the one hand, she has designs on “subduing” the entire human race, but she’s so clumsy and uninformed, it’s hard to take them seriously.

Concepts like beach lifeguards, birthdays, dogs, and cosplay-obsessed photographers are as foreign to her as having squid ink for spit is to humans. When she interacts with new people, reacts to new things, or even mispronounces new words, hilarity ensues. Ditto when the humans react to her quirks and abilities. Rating: 3.5

Shinryaku! Ika Musume – First Impressions

Let’s get this out of the way: yes, Squid Girl says squid a lot. But at least it’s in Japanese, and when she substitutes squid (or squidy, or squiding) for a cus word, it’s actually pretty funny and keeps the show PG.

Anyway, I’ve replaced Togainu no Chi in my watchlist with this much brighter, more upbeat series. It promises squid girl and it delivers. She has legitimate powers which could be a threat against humanity; at least until she threatens the younger sister and brother of the proprietor of a seaside cafe. She’s one of those characters who hardly ever opens her eyes, but when she does, look out.

As I said, this show is certainly lightweight, but I’ve always made room for such fare to balance out the more serious, deeper, darker. A good show needn’t be too complicated, and this isn’t. It’s cute, its to-the-point, and its lovingly made, with a bright, cheerful palate, smooth animation, and instantly charming characters. Shall I keep watching? Squid yeah. Rating: 3.5

Soredemo Machi wa Mawatteiru 4

This was an exploration of Hotori and Mr. Moriaki’s complex relationship. Obviously, the latter is the strict teacher and the former is the slacking student, but Moriaki is baffled by Hotori’s total lack of mathematical ability to the point that he considers her his “second natural enemy.” The first was his teacher, who told him that in division, sometimes you simply have to live with the remainder.

Moriaki obviously considers himself much more than a simple math teacher; he sees himself as standing on the front lines in a battle between order and chaos. He’s with order; Hotori’s with chaos. They both thrive in their respective realms, and interact like they’re from different planets. Despite being his kryptonite, Hotori seems to have a crush on him. Naturally, he’d firmly reject any advance by a student; his morals wouldn’t allow it.

The interesting part? He’s already had to do just that in the past, and that first student with a crush came back six years later to teach beside him. All in all, an intriguing profile of a character upon whom Hotori seems to be inflicting much more stress than she’s aware. And that broken chair bit was, in the parlance of our times, pure win. Rating: 3.5

Kuragehime 2

The band of single otaku women show their ugly side in this episode where the ones who feel excluded most of the time end up wanting to exclude. The first episode somewhat idealized their existence, so it was good to see them taken down a peg and made, well, less ideal.

Isoating oneself totally from men or beautiful women (or beautiful men dressed like women) and total devotion to one narrow interest can make you an expert on that particular interest, but also make you so clueless about anything else – like social interaction with outsiders – as to be harmful to one’s personality. That everyone was so cold and unwelcoming to the cross-dresser just because she was attractive and stylish is proof of this, and their behavior came off as immature and off-putting.

Thankfully, Tsukini has evolved to the point she can carry on a conversation with her new friend, who seems to genuinely like spending time with her. It turns out that a peace offering of top-quality beef is enough to get that acceptance to spread throughout the ‘nunnery’. But if they find out he’s actually a boy, there will be blood. Rating: 3.5