Kuragehime 11 and Wrap-up

Last week’s episode closed with Amamizu-kan covered with tarps and scaffolding. Game Over? Well, obviously, no. If Yakumo managed to end so happily, what chance did Kuragehime have to end in tragedy and defeat? None. The sight of Kuronosuke in essentially the very Jellyfish dress of her dreams flips a switch in Tsukini, and she’s all gung-ho about making more. Priorities change when she sees the tarps: panic sets in; cash is needed to buy the place, fast.

Tsukimi and the sisterhood go with what worked before: Jellyfish dolls. I like how Kuronosuke actually has to actively correct their course by informing them that clothes can cost more than $5.00, thanks to hype, fashion, and branding. It also makes sense that the sisterhood is surprised by the fact that clothes can sell for much more than dolls. With his tentacles all over the fashion industry, Kuronosuke arranged for Tsukimi’s work to be shown at a competition.

The combination of his looks and Tsukimi’s designs result in a sweep. Their designs are a hit; they’re in business. Of course, when they return home and Chieko’s mother shows up, all their frantic efforts were unnecessary; she’s decided not to sell. Of course, it isn’t all for naught; Tsukimi has found a way to make a living, and she and Kuronosuke have grown a little closer.

Don’t get me wrong: Kuragehime was a pleasant diversion, and Kana Hanazawa was on top of her game voicing the nervous and timid yet hopeful Tsukimi. But with only eleven episodes to work with, Tsukimi, Kuronosuke and Shu’s storylines weren’t explored to their full potential. The conflict was too easily resolved, and the villaness is too easily neutralized. Then again, 11 more episodes of those static otaku side characters wouldn’t have improved matters. Never mind: what happened in Kuragehime happened, and couldn’t have happened any other way. And I enjoyed it just fine. Rating: 3.5

Series Mean Ranking: 3.545 (Ranked 4th out of 15 Fall 2010 Series)

Psychic Detective Yakumo 13 and Wrap-up


After a fairly unnecessary cliffhanger and a bizarrely-directed standoff, Yakumo levels out and turns in a decent happy ending for all (well, except for the bad guys, but that’s expected). The one Nanase shoots is Gotou, in hopes that killing him will be the final straw for Yakumo, despair-and-hatewise.

His father means to possess his physical body so that he can wreck havoc by himself. But when he tries, Yakumo fights him and keeps him out. Dejected that the plan has failed, Nanase books it, and Yakumo’s dad goes off somewhere, to keep egging weak people on to commit crimes.

Yakumo has despair and hatred, but those things don’t automatically make someone evil; it all depends on what you do with it. He hates the doctor who made Isshin brain dead, but rather let the doctor’s innocent daughter die for spite, and consents to have his uncle’s organs harvested. He breaks the chain of hatred and shows his father that while they share blood, evil isn’t for him.

Gotou recovers quickly. and after sending off Isshin, life goes back to normal for Yakumo, Haruka, his family (Gotou and his wife adopt Nao), and everyone else. A surprisingly feel-good ending. Rating: 3.5

Series Mean Ranking: 3.308 (Ranked 11th out of 15 Fall 2010 Series)

Angel Beats! Special Episode – Stairway to Heaven

The Afterlife Battlefront is at it again one more time in this unexpected OVA, which takes place at a point in the story where the bulk of the characters are still around. Angel Beats! was one of my favorite anime of 2010, so it was great to see it back and firing on all thrusters. Yurippe devises a scheme she hopes will lead Angel to lure them to God. She orders everyone to create “maximum tension” and have an unreasonable amount of enthusiasm from every single moment (or at least pretend to). In theory, the appearance of such life-fulfilling experiences would lead them to pass on to the beyond, but they won’t, because they’re just acting. It’s hoped this will flummox Angel and send her running to God.

With a fluctuating “tension meter” ever present, the sustained instances of high-tension got predictably chaotic and, well, tense. The entire gang gets to participate, each contributing their unique characteristics to the cause (Yui’s rocking out is fitting, while Shiina’s manic sewing is particularly cute). Also predictably, Otonashi only ever reduces the tension, all but refusing to get into the spirit of things. No matter, it seems like Yurippe is on to something, as Angel eventually leads them on what turns out to be a wild goose chase based upon a hilariously convoluted misunderstanding. While hardly masterful, this was a solid, fun addition to the Angel Beats! archive. Rating: 3.5

Shiki 22 and Wrap-up

(Spoilers Throughout.) The Shiki finale was unbelievably good. Naturally, just when victory is in sight for the villagers, a fire breaks out. And when a fire starts in a dry, windy forest, it doesn’t bode well for the village it surrounds. Toshio tried to fulfill his duty to protect the village the best he could; his rage and sorrow is palpable when he swings his chainsaw around wildy. Still, he saved many lives.

Of course, none of this would have been possible without Natsuno. He hypnotised Toshio before Chizuru, which is why her glamoring didn’t take. I imagine Natsuno basically told him to keep doing what he was doing, and he did. By the  end, there’s only two vampires left: Sunako, and the newly-risen Seishin, who has chosen to stay by her side.

Everyone else meets their end in various awesome ways. Megumi is found sneaking around, and her desperate pleas for mercy fall on deaf ears: by now the villagers have heard it all. They run her over with various farm equipment until she’s immobilized, then stake her. I kind of wish Megumi had made it to the big city, and I felt a bit bad that they’d just destory her so callously; but her surviving just wasn’t in the cards. Natsuno throws himself and Tatsumi into a huge pit full of corpses by design, and blows them both up with dynomite. It’s clear Natsuno had no intention of living as a werewolf, so taking Tatsumi out with him two birds with one stone. He also made sure Kaori and her little brother were safe in a neighboring town before going back to take care of business.

I truly thought Sunako’s long time on the earth was at an end when Oosaki cornered her in a church, but Seishin rescued her at the last minute (whaddaya know, the big bearded dude’s mortal after all!). As out-of-town firetrucks and helicopters descend upon doomed Sotoba village, he sneaks out in a car with her in a suitcase. The final moment was cut perfectly and gave me the goosebumps I expect from any great finale.

This was a truly excellent finish to what became the series  whose episodes I came to anticipate most each week, once it got going. The payoff was made so much more satisfying and impactful by the careful, intricate build-up in the first half. When I get the chance I’d really like to watch it through again without my previous prejudices about its character design and pace – this was a series that slowly but surely changed my mind about it. I’ll miss its broodiness, casual gore, sexiness, and general strangeness, as well as its superb score. Rating: 4

Thanks!

As the year of 2010 and the very long, dense Fall 2010 season winds to a crawl (only four episodes left to review), we here are RABUJOI would like to once again take the time to thank everyone who has visited the site and skimmed, read, and/or perused our reviews. We don’t believe in such a thing as a blog thanking one’s readers too often — without readers, RABUJOI would be no more than digitally talking to a wall. Thankfully that hasn’t been the case, especially this December, which has brought us more than double the readers as November, an increase unexpected by all.

It’s always nice to see people reading your stuff, whatever it may be, but ultimately, watching good anime is its own reward; watching great anime, more so. With 2011 comes a brace of fresh new series, some from studios and starring seiyus we know well, while others are unknown, or at least less well-versed. But like the beginning of a new sports season, everyone starts out undefeated; unblemished; perfect. In the next couple weeks we’ll be putting the new series through their paces and share with you our impressions. We’re looking forward to it. So, keep reading, if you wish, and from all of us, have a happy and a healthy New Year!

– RABUJOI STAFF

Nurarihyon no Mago 26 and Wrap-up

As I should have expected, this final episode wasn’t really a new episode at all in that it didn’t really offer any new material, only new narration over a summary of the Shikoku arc. That’s alright though; the series had already ended properly and in hindsight there wasn’t any point in stretching out the epilogue any longer.

If it goes a second season, I don’t think I’ll watch it. The animation wasn’t particularly outstanding, the character designs were hit-and-miss, and the battles were often poorly orchestrated. There’s enough on my list for Winter 2010 as it is, and I’d rather move forward with new and series than continue waiting for this to meet its full potential.

Bakuman 13

Bakuman’s first season ends with a veritable nor’easter of developments. Hattori is impressed with their manuscript and okays it. They are confident they can beat Niizuma, and they actually do in the early returns, but the final results place them not second, but third. These guys were due for a defeat, and they got one. In this business, however, defeats must be taken in stride, and one must feed off adversity.

Even more unexpected than their third place finish? Moritaka actually texted Miho. She responds to his extremely long text almost instantly, and he learns a lot about who she is by her surprisingly short replies. This may not seem like much, but for this particular couple, it’s a huge step. Actual communication. Yet again this series contrasts their bond with Takagi and Kaya’s. They’re at the same school and enjoying each other’s company, while don’t even see Miho, nor does Moritaka.

I’ve really been taken in by Bakuman’s roller coaster of ups and downs, defeats and victories, and all the built-up suspense in between. After trying to play to their strengths and appeal to that odd 20%, Moritaka is convinced the only way they’ll get an anime by 18 (and hence the only way he’ll get Miho) is by going mainstream. I can’t be sure, but I’m guessing that mainstream manga they’ll come up with next season will be called Bakuman. Rating: 4

Series Mean Ranking: 3.654 (Ranked 3rd out of 15 Fall 2010 Series)

Arakawa Under the Bridge x 2 12

The mayor institutes a Battle Royale under the bridge, with the prize of being crowned “King” and having your (pre-decided upon) decree granted. Aside from the Amazonness faction (who I’ve frankly seen enough of), everyone is involved and has a few moments to shine.

Notable performances include Billy’s rescue of Jacqueline at the cost of his own elimination (you gotta love that guy), and P’ko’s own sacrifice in the name of love, which both isn’t and is an act, as it knocks both her and Mayor out of the running. This series is always strongest when it uses the peculiar quirks of its characters to drive the narrative (and the comedy), which it achieves this week.

The last two standing are Maria and Sister. Recruit fear what it would mean if Maria wins, but on the other hand, there’s not much he can do to help, as Maria is Sister’s Achilles Heel. We’ll have to wait until next week to find out. Rating: 3.5

Otome Youkai Zakuro 13 and Wrap-up

Omodaka is reformed after all, as Agemaki saves him against Rangui, who has killed Daidai and is threatening to devour everyone else in her path. She loathes Zakuro most of all. Zakuro cannot move but she can tell what’s going on around her. When Agemaki says the magic words, she wakes up and takes care of business.

After the Village of Oracles mess is sorted out, word comes down that Spirit Affairs is to be resolved, and the soldiers recalled. This news forces Zakuro to confess to Agemaki as he confessed to her (FINALLY). Susukihotaru and Riken and Ganryuu and the twins make similar pacts to keep in touch. It seems a page is about to be turned…and then everything returns to the way it was as Spirit Affairs is almost instantly reinstated.

While that last twist was somewhat unnecessary considering the series has ended, it is consistent with the series’ overarching hope and optimism. Terrible things may have befallen the half-spirit girls in the past, but that past cannot define them. Life will go on with their military companions, and together they’ll help humans and spirits to understand each other just as they grew to. Rating: 3.5

Series Mean Ranking: 3.192 (Ranked 13th out of 15 Fall 2010 Series)

Star Driver 13

This week focused on the spunky, pink-haired leader of Filament, Scarlet Kiss aka Benio Shinada. Filament is made up of people from families who once bore marks, like Sugata, but over time they lost them. Despite this, Benio has always “admired the strong”, and there was no one she knew more powerful than Sugata, her frequent sparring partner. That admiration led to love.

When Sugata says Takuto is much stronger than him, she’s intrigued, and challenges Takuto to a kendo match instead, which she quickly wins. This turns out to be her downfall, because when in zero time, she tries the same move again and loses instantly. A rematch in the real world confirms it: Takuto won’t lose twice to the same move. I like the vulnerable side of Benio on display throughout the episode. It’s clear she likes both Takuto and Sugata, and is a very proud person, but her desire to become stronger than them makes them her enemies.

But that Scarlet Kiss was in a cybody at all was a major development: Crux can now fully restore cybodies. Kiss didn’t have one, so she depended on Manticore’s to fix the cybody she had piloted with Sugata when she brainwashed him. However, her hypnotic kiss doesn’t work on Takuto, nor does her resurrected cybody work on Tauburn. Which begs the question, what’s the point of restoring cybodies if he’s just going to keep defeating them? Why not lay down their crux masks and live normal lives? Because…they have goals, and they won’t let the Galactic Prettyboy stand in their way. Rating: 3.5

Series Mean Ranking: 3.731 (Ranked 1st out of 15 Fall 2010 Series)

Kuragehime 10

Although the mere mention of his brother sends Tsukimi reeling in despair, Kuronosuke manages to get her interested in making jellyfish-inspired clothes. The entire sisterhood is scattered and distracted: Mayaya and Banba are out spending 5000 yen Kuro paid them to go away, while Chieko and Jiji help him and Tsukimi with the skirt. It’s actually kind of funny for how much he loves clothes, how little he knows about how to make them.

However, it would appear to be too late to make a fortune on jellyfish apparel (especially when its made with million-yen pink pearls), as construction tarps cover Amamizu-kan’s facade when Mayaya and Banba return home. Meanwhile, Shoko is yet again able to get under Shu’s skin, but their relationship seems to have gotten a little complicated. Through her constant efforts to woo him, she seems to have developed real feelings.

And so the web becomes Shoko and Tsukimi after Shu, and Shu and Kuronosuke after Tsukimi. Quite the web, as there’s only one episode left to resolve both that stalemate and the threat of the sisterhood’s eviction. I’m looking forward to seeing how this all turns out. Rating: 3.5

Shiki 21

As if there was any remaining doubt about whether there is a distinct good or bad guy in Shiki (and there really isn’t), this episode drives the point home: there isn’t. The Vampires and werewolves mostly kill to survive, as the humans do. But just as some vamps kill for sport, so do the humans kill other humans they believe to be collaborating. Things have gotten out of hand, and Toshio is so focused on victory he can’t see the ultimate tragedy: even if the living win, they’ve cast away too much of their humanity to do so.

This is perfectly illustrated in a prologue that makes one’s skin crawl, as Chizuko and the gals cluck it up after a hard evening’s transporting dead vampire bodies. They have a meal right in the midst of corpses, without even washing the blood of their hands. This isn’t just getting used to a tough situation: to me, this is a form of insanity brought on by the need to cope with one’s hellish reality. They’ve hardened themselves to the point that cutting a person into pieces appears as easy as throwing a load of towels in the wash. Win or lose, things will never go back to the way they were. Society’s rabid compulsion to survive has led to its own collapse.

Seishin finally asks Tatsumi why he does so much to serve Sunako, despite werewolves seemingly superior to vampires in all ways. Tatsumi scoffs at this: it has nothing to do with superiority and everything to do with feelings. He loves Sunako because amidst the cycles of society collapsing and rebuilding – the centuries of humans and their civilizations tearing themselves down and building themselves back up again – only Sunako remains and endures to see the next phase, the next world.

Her timelessness is a source of awe. Those who know and admire her cannot bear to think of her demise. Their own existence is meaningless compared to hers, and they’re willing to sacrifice themselves if it means she can continue existing. Seishin obviously believes this as well, as he exerts all his remaining energies to help Sunako escape her hunters. But their hot on his trail, and his blood will lead them right to her. Will she wake up in time? I think we all know the answer to that! Rating: 4

Tron Legacy

No, Tron Legacy is not an anime, so I can’t rate it here. But I will say that while it didn’t have a lot going for it in the plot department, it was an exceedingly awesome-looking and -sounding film. It owes a lot of this to Daft Punk, who were also partially responsible for Interstella 5555, which was an anime. They were also totally responsible for an rippin’ good score. They were one of the three reasons I went to see this. The other two were Olivia Wilde and all the cool future stuff.

There’s a great scale to everything, and a great sense of perfection you get from artificiality. Although Avatar’s effects were arguably better, its story was far sappier and more derivative, its acting was far worse, and all the goofy fantasy animals and silly blue Na’vi and the invincible old man all kinda chipped away pretty seriously at my ability to…take it seriously. Tron had none of these flaws, and even though many of its characters are just manifestations of programs, they had a surprising amount of humanity to them, as the actors did the best they could with what they were given. Well, except Michael Sheen…he just tried out his best Johnny Depp-as-Wonka impression.

This film also proves that you can never have too much Jeff Bridges. And that you can wait twenty-eight years to make a sequel and that sequel can be better than the original (to me, at least; as I didn’t see the original in 1982and so wasn’t as blown away as I should’ve been). One final note: Quorra looked like an anime character. I guess everyone else did too, but she looked most like one.