To Aru Majutsu no Index II 16

Once more, the fate of all freedom and science-loving peoples rests in the right (and left) fist of Kamijou Touma. Why he decided going on vacation in the country that’s home to Catholic HQ was a good idea, but it’s a good thing he did; otherwise the Ice Fleet would have done irreparable damage to human society, culture, and history.

What I found odd was that while every time his fist hit a wall, it created an opening, what i don’t understand is why his ability wouldn’t negate the entire ship itself. I mean, that constituted a very serious limit to his powers: yes, he has to make sure the rest of his body isn’t injured to use Imagine Breaker, but I don’t see why he couldn’t just destroy the whole dang ship that contained all the apparatus needed for Biagio the Evil Priest to carry out his dastardly plan.

No matter; Amakusa kept the sisters at bay while he dueled with the awesome-voiced Biagio, ultimately scoring that oh-so-important blow to the face after telling him he should have made sure he was dead. Then he goes and makes the exact same mistake, turning his back on his opponent. You’d think he’d learn from Oriana Thomson and all the other people he’d punched in the past: sometimes one punch isn’t enough. Rating: 3

Kimi ni Todoke 2nd Season 3

This is more like it. Just as Ume was often more interesting than Sadako, Kent is almost immediately more interesting than Kazehaya. While he claims to be a psychic, he may just be very observant and have good ears, because Sadako isn’t all that hard to read. But he’s in a new class, and is obviously bored with normal girls, so Sadako is the perfect project to keep him entertained. And she’s putty in his paws.

That isn’t to say he has ill intent; he may well be genuinely concerned for her well-being and social progression. Unlike Kazehaya, he’s able to speak to her plainly and comfortably. Kazehaya seems more human in this episode, and his chat with Shuu is one of his more heartfelt. He actually gets riled up, realizing he hasn’t made his position clear (one must bang it over Sadako’s head, after all), and with Kent on the prowl, his window is closing.

That Kazehaya just comes out and says he’s a “self-centered, inconsiderate, possessive jerk”, the stoic Shuu doesn’t disagree, only adds that Kazehaya also has a temper. These are the flaws beneath his otherwise perfect exterior that few, other than Shuu, know about. Sadako certainly doesn’t know, as she idolizes anyone who takes the slightest interest in her. This makes her vulnerable to being toyed with; first by Ume, and now, perhaps, by Kent.

Kazehaya hardly makes things better by telling her even more imprecise, cryptic things than he said before, leaving her to try to figure it out in her head…never a good thing. Regardless of the continued misunderstanding due to poor communication skills, this was the best episode of the series so far. Rating: 3.5

Freezing 4

Uh…déjà vu? Another week, another crazy upperclassman with a bone to pick. This time it’s Ingrid Bernstein who challenges Sattelizer, but rather than wanting her limiter like Miyabi, she wants revenge for first-years abandoning her and her friend while they fought off an S-type Nova. She survived, her friend didn’t. So she’s angry. Grr.

I get that, but this still seems like a flimsy premise for targeting Sattelizer. I mean, why her, specifically? Isn’t her beef with all the first-years who were there? Ganessa was too, but Ingrid doesn’t even know who she is. She’s another traitor, yo! Finish what you start! But no: she just wants to fight Sattelizer, with or without a limiter. Aoi offers to join with Sat, but she demurs for the umpteenth time.

What follows is the same battle where boobs are inevitably exposed (that this is so overused really takes away from the serious tone of the series) and despite having a baptism, Aoi saves the day with his unbelievably powerful solo Freezing. This could be the way it’s going to be: Sat doesn’t want to be touched, and Aoi doesn’t need to be her limiter to do what he does, so it seems like a perfect fit. Now all she needs are clothes that won’t fall off at the drop of a hat… Rating: 2.5

Infinite Stratos 4

If I had to describe the first third of IS, I think the most fitting word would be “tiresome”. After this episode, I’m fairly convinced watching the final two thirds will be a waste of time. There’s finally a decent battle, first between Ichika and Rin, then with the two of them fighting an unmanned drone, but slick action alone does not a watchable anime make.

And frankly, there’s nothing else interesting about this anime. The fact that three girls are competing for him is simply ridiculous, especially when it’s clear he has no romantic designs on any of them and is your typical dense dude who is the target of nearly all women around him. This has been done before, and it has been done before better.

While the battles are quick, fluid, and well-animated, I feel I’ve seen all of it as well, in better series like Macross and Gundam, which are augmented by interesting characters and plot lines. This is just a school in an awesome-looking futuristic city that we’ve yet to see any of, where the first thing remotely resembling an enemy didn’t show up until the fourth episode. This show seems to want to spend most of its time on the silly love polygons; I’m better off spending time watching other things. Rating: 2 (dropped)

Fractale 3

This week really elaborated on humanity’s situation in this strange, Ghibli-like world. Most of the world is sheep, plugged into the Fractale system and living as their handlers order. Then there is a bastion of unplugged, self-sufficient humans, committed to taking down that system. Clain sees them as terrorists, and later we find that, well, yes indeed, they are!

This group’s leader, Sunda, is charismatic and passionate in his cause, and treats Clain and Nessa as honored guests more than prisoners. Aside from a couple of cantankerous old men, the villagers are kind and curious about them as well. There’s a lively banquet, and they get some solid digs to crash at. But all the goodwill and friendly faces don’t prepare Clain for what follows.

After a whimsical excursion aboard their airship, Clain accompanies them on a horribly-designed raid of a “Star Festival” designed to keep people brainwashed. Sunda’s idea of “crashing” this festival is to open fire on it…with bullets. Blood is spilled all over the place. Unarmed bystanders and priestesses alike. Sorry, but this is how terrorists act.

Why are they killing? Has it really gone beyond talking? Are the people being brainwashed really better off dead in Sunda’s eyes? WTF? Phyrne also reappears to calm things down. Clain is sick. Neither side is innocent, but I’m left wondering which side (if any) is more in the right here. Rating: 3.5

Yumekui Merry 4

Merry finally stops turning her nose up at Yumeji’s offers to help and embraces the title “Yumekui Merry”, agreeing to destory the dream demons he detects. Heck she even moves in with him, like some kind of dream-world Ika Musume. This week, someone close to Yumeji, his class prez, is possessed by a nightmare. He makes her text and pine obsessively, as if he were her unrequited love.

The personal stake makes this more interesting than last week’s random little girl, in my opinion. Once he daydreams, Yumeji tries to pull a Kamijou Touma and punch the guy in the face. It doesn’t quite work, but fortunately Merry shows up right when he needs her to. They could make a good team…but it’s still not clear why Merry is doing this, and why Yumeji wants to help her, other than they’re both nice. An aside: the brief instrumental tune played during the previews is very pretty. Rating: 3

Bakuman 16

The drama mounts: Akito is struggling with coming up with a good enough name for a mainstream manga, while becoming continually distracted by Kaya. Moritaka, meanwhile, is buoyed by Miho’s appearance in an anime, and then asked by Hattori to be Niizuma’s summer drawing assistant.

All of these events have repercussions. Moritaka will be working separate from Akito, which will create a rift between them, whether they like it or not. Then again, perhaps being apart will help Akito focus and come up with something before summer’s end. Only problem is, his girlfriend isn’t going anywhere, and he kind of likes spending time with her.

I love it when Kaya asks him: “I’m not getting in the way, am I?” His response is to kiss her. In reality, she is getting in the way, but in the way of Moritaka and Akito making a manga...not in the way of Akito finding happiness. Even though he was the one who dragged Moritaka into this, he could be the one starting to tire of the constant work and rejections, and may just want a normal high school life with his girl.

Even if he wants to stay on the manga track, he may not have a choice…he and Kaya aren’t as patient and disciplined as Moritaka and Miho… Rating: 3.5

Puella Magi Madoka Magica 4

Booyah! This was in my opinion the best episode of the season among all the new winter shows. The fact that Mami “bit it” but no one in the normal world knows, and she didn’t leave a corpse, really puts into perspective how tough it is to be a maho shojo. The dark undertone of this series so far is exactly what I was hoping for; the girls don’t just automatically contract with Kyubei; there has to be a deep, heartfelt reason to do so.

Sayaka finds it, as she can no longer live with the injustice of her friend – a violin prodigy – losing the ability to move his hands after an accident. His life of music was taken away, and there’s nothing a normal Sayaka can do about it, which crushes her. However, magic and miracles, she has learned, do exist, and she decides to make that contract, in exchange for her friend recovering his gift and hence, his life.

Equally moving is how she realizes that she isn’t just doing this for him; there is a part of her she detests that wants to be the one to save him, and for him to fall for her in return. It’s a selfish fairy tale in her mind, but it also happens to be perfectly doable. Considering the good her wish will do, though, I think she made the right choice.

I also like how we don’t actually witness Sayaka’s contracting and transformation; but she shows up in the nick of time to save Madoka, who is still too scared and indecisive to contract, and trapped in the middle of a group of people (including a classmate) charmed by a witch into poison themselves in a warehouse, possibly for nothing other than the witch’s amusement. This is dark stuff, and the suspense around Madoka’s peril is very well presented.

I’m really enjoying how witches and the creepy, crazy, messed-up way they futz with reality and perception. They’re so far removed from conventional reality, and yet know exactly how to manipulate humans, including Madoka, into wishing they had never been born, or to kill themselves at the drop of a hat, or whatever.

Anyway, Sayaka is now a maho shojo. Will Madoka follow suit? Obviously; I’m really looking forward to how. I’m guessing for now that Sayaka may start facing challenges from rival shojos wanting a piece of Mami’s former territory; and the rookie Sayaka unable to hold them back without Madoka’s or Homura’s help. But even though our main character isn’t a maho shojo yet, this episode rocked. Rating: 4

Star Driver 16

Okay…so much epic shit went down this week. After keeping us in the dark about Takuto’s past, we finally learn of what exactly brought him to the island, how he got his mark; the secret of Mizuno; and that Head is another Galactic Prettyboy! Star Driver’s second half is also making many winter series I’m still watching for some reason look just plain bad.

Apparently the reason Marino looks just like Mizuno is that she is an illusion she made so she wouldn’t be alone. But after enough time, Marino became real, for all intents and purposes, and even gained her own cybody. When Mizuno is captured by Crux and her seal broken, Marino is nowhere to be found. Fortunately, she’s not the only one Mizuno can rely on.

This looked to be the toughest duel for Tauburn by far, and it even looked like game over until Takuto remembered back to a past summer when he and an ill friend built and flew gliders. This led to him getting his mark, and the recollection awakened a light in Takuto that soups up Tauburn and allows him to easily dispatch Head’s cybody, saving Mizuno. But her days of being a maiden are through. It was a fantastic battle and a great payoff.
Rating: 4

Freezing 3

Okay, it’s offficial: most of the students at Genetics are assholes. Sattelizer just minds her business and kicks ass, but everyone looks down on her for seeming so aloof and untouchable. This grates at Aoi, who thinks she’s merely shy and misunderstood. For Satellizer’s part, she’s astounded that Aoi is the only person who can touch her without her feeling ill.

Miyabi, an upperclassman who goes by the name “The Limiter Eater” learns of Aoi’s existence and immediately tries to “recruit” him into her male harem. Satellizer tries to stop her, but with three limiters against her none, she quickly succumbs to their freezing. What follows is an incident that would result in a swift explusion and likely criminal charges for the Limiter eater, but apparently stripping a fellow student down and taking phone pics of her isn’t that big of a deal.

Aoi doesn’t stand by and watch helplessly for long. He’s able to cast a powerful freezing over Miyabi and her minions, allowing Satellizer to get the upper hand. However, by the time Chiffon shows up, it appears as though Satellizer was the primary belligerent, as she has a sword at Miyabi’s throat and all. Never any luck, this girl…

Still,  she and Aoi are on the fast track to ‘baptism’ – the contract between pandora and limiter. They’ll have to contract soon – defeating a sempai means other sempais will challenge them before long. All of this begs the question: are these psychos just going to keep whaling on each other, or don’t they have, you know, a common enemy to fight, the Nova-something-or-other? Rating: 2.5

Infinite Stratos 3

Infinite Stratos is wearing a bit thin. It isn’t enough that the entire school full of girls is in love with him in addition to the pompous Brit whose character completely changed, and the childhood friend who doesn’t know what she wants. Somebody thought it would be a good idea if Ichika had another attractive childhood friend, accompanied by her own Chinese-style theme music.

In the episode, Ichika actually refers to Houka as his “First Childhood Friend” and to Rin as his “Second Childhood Friend”. In Engrish. More than once. There’s just something really stupid about that. And of course, she’s an incredibly skilled IS pilot too, because why not?

So all of these girls are falling over themselves to get close to Ichika because…well, because he’s the only guy around, I guess. This episode might have been partially saved by some kind of epic aerial battle, but alas, all we get is Rin lunging at the camera and the end credits (which are also lame). Stop being pointless and boring, damnit! Rating: 2

Yumekui Merry 3

I’m really liking Yumekui’s visual style; the way it handles dreams and the diversity of facial expressions and all, but so far it still seems a little, i dunno, disjointed and disorganized. It’s clear this series is going to introduce new character with a “mumi” problem just about every episode, in which Merry and Yumeji help them out, but I just can’t help but feel like these main character’s stories are being sidetracked by the girl-of-the-week.

Merry randomly wanders around and comes across a girl with a needy mumi. Yumeji, resolved to help Merry regardless of her opinion on the matter, goes looking for her, and somehow finds her. Could it be he’s somehow drawn to her? Perhaps, but a city is a big thing. It seemed like too much of a coincidence. Also, the lonely clumsy girl? A tad too cliche.

Also, Yumeji appears in Minato’s dream, but why is Yumeji there? He has nothing to do; Merry really only needs to yell at and bitch-slap Minato’s mumi and call it a day. Yumeji stands around. What is he? And one more disjointed bit: the episode shows us a young woman in a grody apartment, but explains nothing. I know from the preview she’ll have a role next week, but her very brief appearence wasn’t necessary here. Rating: 2.5

To Aru Majutsu no Index II 15

So yeah…the fleet of boats…now it makes sense. My Roman-Venetian history is a little fuzzy. Im sure there were gobs of naval battles in the Adriatic between the Pope and the Republic. This fleet is kind of a slight nod to that, but that’s about all. The rest is more Index II sectarian conflicts. Oh, and Touma is finally on the receiving end of a punch from a girl, instead of vice-versa!

Sister Agnese turns out to be kinda on Touma and Orsula’s side, as she and her two sidekick nuns are no longer in the Catholics’ good graces. Agnese agrees to spring them if they take Lucia and Angelene with them while she goes off to do some ritual only she can perform – to create a weapon something that could wipe Venice and all its culture off the map.

So those are the stakes ~ pretty high, considering Venice is a real city and Academy City is a fictional one, but one wonders why the church wants to destroy Venice anyway. Whatever the reason, Touma, Touma’s fist, Orsola, Lucia, Angelene, Index, and Amakusa are all going to work together to stop that weapon. Touma should have gone on vacation in the D.R...Rating: 3

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