The RABUJOI Winter Diet

This post may come as somewhat unwelcome news to some watching the shows involved in the winter diet, but as time constraints mount, RABUJOI must evolve and streamline, and so the proverbial fat has been trimmed. Winter 2011 is no Winter 2010, nor is it as good as Fall 2010. There aren’t many series to begin with. Many bad and meh series, which we’ll no longer be watching so we can focus on the good ones.

We decided after two episodes that Rio – Rainbow Gate! was not worth our time. IS – Infinite Stratos also proved too mediocre and generic to stick with despite the mecha eye candy. Elegant battles alone could also not save Freezing, as it featured too many nonsensical character motivations and predictable boob exposures. Finally, we just haven’t been feeling Yumekui Merry. The characters have little in the way of dimension and background, and Puella Magi Madoka Magica is simply more trippy and whimsical, despite slightly inferior character design.

So what’s left? We’re continuing with the three Fall series, and retaining four Winter ones: Kimi ni Todoke, Puella, Level E and Fractale. From a corpulent, uneven eleven to a lean and solid seven.

Puella Magi Madoka Magica 5

As Madoka continues to weigh whether she should become a Majo Shojo for a surprising fifth week, Sayaka reaps the benefits of doing so right away, as her friend is able to play the violin beautifully like nothing ever happened. But the price of doing what Sayaka did, according to Homura, is too high. She tells Madoka she can’t protect Sayaka, and she should give up on her.

Majo Shojos all seem to be resigned to losing their lives at any moment, because, as Mimi demonstrated, they can. Contracting with Kyubei is almost like dying itself; you just stick around to fight witches until you have a bad day, and then, pfft. I can understand Madoka’s reticence, especially since her wish isn’t as specific or clear-cut as Sayaka’s was.

Madoka obviously wants to protect Sayaka, but that isn’t a wish. Furthermore, when a new, hardened Majo Shojo appears and tries to shoo Sayaka off, provoking her into a duel against one another, Madoka is moments from contracting when Homura shows up, to do just what she said she wouldn’t: keep an eye on Sayaka. She must really not want Madoka to become a Majo Shojo. Perhaps she knows, somehow, that if she did, there’d be no stopping her. Rating: 3.5

Level E 4

After the introductory arc, Level E takes a brief detour, apparently delving into the lives of four high school dudes who witness a girl being eaten alive by a classmate. After being referred to an “eccentric” researcher by a drug-adled acquaintance, and after said researcher uses their fear of death to handsomely extort 1 million yen each from them, they learn the truth: their bogeyman is an alien; one of only three of his kind on earth, and back home, they eat the female to reproduce. Hence he wouldn’t attack males. It’s a bodily function, like hunger or thirst.

That’s wacky enough, but it’s played straight all the way through, and with a rougher, more hand-drawn animation style than we’re used to. Of course, that leads to the ultimate conceit of this episode (spoilers ahead!): it’s just a pitch by Prince for an anime intended to facilitate the revealing of aliens on earth to the human race. Oh, and the whole operation to organize this pitch takes place in Tsutsui’s flat, much to his chagrin!

This was yet another great story within a story, leading the audience on with a fairly compelling sci-fi mystery, then pulling the curtains to reveal that it was all going on in Prince’s imagination. The producer he meets with warns the premise is too dark. Looking at the lineup of shows this season, a dark premise requires lots of boobs (re Freezing)… fortunately Level E dives into dark places but always comes up for air, and is always good for significant laughs. Rating: 3.5

Bakuman 17

For Moritaka, this week is a illuminating lesson in mangaka collaboration. While Akito hangs out with Kaya half the time (while staring at an empty notebook the other half), Moritaka swallows his pride and checks in with Niizuma, whose other two assistants are much older; Fukuda in his mid-twenties, Nakai is a thirty-three year old who cries in his sleep over not being published.

Needless to say, Moritaka has much more success interacting with Niizuma than the older guys, and rather than being an asshole, Niizuma genuinely respects Moritaka (and Akito, as he’s half of the “Money & Intelligence” everybody seems to like.) But Fukuda assistant warns that if Niizuma only draws what he is interested in, his readers will eventually get bored and his ranking will drop.

Moritaka gains indispensable insight into both Niizuma’s creative process and the critical thinking all mangakas must cultivate in addition to their skills. The older dudes are still trying to get published (it’s probably never going to happen for Nakai), so if anything, just because he’s hit a little bump in the road, it could be worse. He and Akito are still quite young, and have plenty of time to reach their potential. Rating: 3.5