Kimi ni Todoke 2nd Season – First Impressions

The first season definitely had its faults. To say the relationship between Sawako and Kazehaya developed at a casual pace would be ludicrously understating matters. Also, Kurumi – the wedge between them – was a bit of a distraction at a crucial point in the story.

Still, this first episode of the second season (labeled “Episode 0”) reminded me why I watched all of the first: I really enjoy the character design. Along with the watercolor backgrounds, this series has always been a feast for the eyes. This episode still way overuses chibi-cuts, but it’s a small price to pay IMO.

This first episode was like easing into a warm bath: it was half-recap of the Kurumi triangle arc, but with new narration from Kurumi’s perspective. I’m a fan of both Aya Hirano’s and Mamiko Noto’s performances as Kurumi and Sawako, respectively. Their vocal versatility combined with the excellent facial animation really brings the characters to life.

I’m hoping this season will not be more of the same wheel-spinning and actually depict Sawako and Kazehaya actually making progress with their mutual courtship..though that may just be blind optimism. I’m not just looking for more of the same…I want to see improvement this season. Rating: 2.5

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Rio – Rainbow Gate! – First Impressions

This first new series of the winter season to meet my eyes held its cards close, not immediately revealing to me exactly what of show it would be. Like all of the season’s new series, I went in blind, and so didn’t know what to expect. I can report I wasn’t unimpressed with what I saw. There’s promise here.

The premiere initially follows the sister of the tiny teacher from Index around. Her name is Mint and there’s nothing all that interesting about her. It’s when Mint crosses paths with Rio that things get more interesting. Rio is a cool customer: strong, multi-talented, confident, and beautiful. The latter bit is perhaps expressed a bit to strongly throughout the episode, but remember the setting: a posh and swanky seaside casino city. It’s perfectly reasonable to find women in all manner of tight, revealing garb. Rio is also voiced by Chiri Kitsu herself, Marina Inoue. This is not a bad thing.

What I found interesting is that not only did this episode contain a climactic (and psychedelic) poker game, it was also a kind of game, where its intentions were constantly hidden. The “Queen Killer” and his associates set up the story to seem like some kind of international espionage caper, with Mint’s teddy stuffed with microfilm or some such. The truth turned out to be far more harmless. In other words, the story bluffed...but I didn’t feel cheated. I have no idea if Rio’s stories will continue to keep me guessing, but if they do, I’ll keep watching. Rating: 3