The World God Only Knows II 8

Since there are only three official “conquests” shown in the opening sequence, I knew this second season would go one of two routes: longer arcs, or buffer episodes. I watch this series to see Keima scheme and conquer women’s hearts using his knowledge of dating sims. So any time an episode fails to deliver that, I fear I’ll be disappointed.

Mind you, this could have been worse; Elcie is actually quite a bit more tolerable browsing through a game store than she is cooking or baking, which was the low point of last season. And Haqua is similarly tolerable with her not-so-modest modesty and strained excuse to show back up (shouldn’t she have given a report weeks ago?) So tolerable, but just. Mostly, it just made me wish there were more than three girls to conquer this season. Rating: 2.5

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Hanasaku Iroha 9

The longest day at Kissuiso continues with Ohana in a labyrinthene exhibition hall, looking for Tohru. Her search initially proves both fruitless and disruptive, and she retreats to a lonely staircase. Just then, Ko calls her, and tells her exactly what she needs to hear. She and Ko are never quite on the same wavelength, which is a factor of Ko not making it clear what he’s doing and why. If he likes her, and wants to see her, he should just tell her and meet up with her. Instead, he’s intent on keeping crucial information from Ohana, and as a result, he is never able to see her.

I prefer this, his decision to withhold his intentions, to dumb luck and coincidence keeping them apart. Ohana is extremely busy and extremely ditzy; Ko should know this, and spell everything out as clearly as possible. It’s disappointing that he isn’t able to get the words out in the precious few moments on the phone with her, but the fact he’s able to cheer her up at just the right time doesn’t quite seem like enough for either of them. These two are stuck in a long-distance holding pattern, which is a shame, but there’s plenty of episodes to resolve (or not resolve) this.

Meanwhile, the highly-charged energy and kinesis of Kissuiso continues. Ohana’s instincts prove correct, as when she brings Tohru back, the situation matures from barely-contained fiasco it was to a more controlled scenario where everything that needs to be done will get done. She also proves correct in insisting every guest be treated with equal care, as the mystery guests turn out to be different from the ones the consultant lady assumed. The manager returns to a reinvigorated Kissuiso, that can run smoothly in her absense and gained new pride in their teamwork and the service they provide. That should prove a great comfort and great worry to the aging manager. Rating: 4

Ao no Exorcist 7

Exorcist gets right back on point with a episode containing a good mix of instruction, character progression, peril, and action. Shiemi wants to make friends, and chooses the most unpleasant of classmates in Izumo. She’s descended from a shrine maiden and can summon demon foxes without batting an eyelid, but she’s kind of a bitch too, who looks down on everyone and turns Shiemi into her servant under the false pretense of friendship. Having “never had” a friend before, Shiemi doesn’t think anything of this treatment, but it angers Rin and Izumo’s longtime friend Pazu.

It’s worth mentioning that while Shiemi hadn’t formed any significant bonds up until this week, if, like her, you don’t count Rin and Yukio, Rin meanwhile has pretty much been accepted by Bon and his mates, despite Bon’s external reluctance. Also, Bon’s group all want to be Arias, and they’ll need a knight; enter Rin. When a demon invades the girl’s bath, the previously calm, confident Izumo is an emotional wreck after Pazu admonishes her for the way she’s treated Shiemi.

Thus, her summoned foxes turn on her and the demon wounds Pazu. This scene wisely eschews overt fanservice; on the contrary, the fact only Izumo managed to get undressed before the peril actually underscores her vulnerability. In reality, she’s just like Shiemi: she believes there are few who’d find her worth the trouble, so she depends on Pazu’s presence. If eyebrows would only lower the bitch-armor, Izumo might realize that Shiemi and Rin can be worthwhile, powerful friends. They certainly made a good team here.

Both Shiemi’s tamer/doctor skills and Rin’s diversionary tactics save Izumo and Pazu, while Yukio chases the demon off with his gun. The demon, it would seem, was sent by the demon-summoning teacher to attack Rin, which begs a couple questions: one, why was it in the girl’s bathroom, and two, wouldn’t the teacher have known such a relatively weak demon would have been easily dispatched, as it was? Whatever the case, as the core of “Exwires” gels, people are still gunning for Rin’s head. Rating: 3.5

Deadman Wonderland 7

Another amazing episode. This one was jam-packed with new characters, new twists, new opportunities and new hazards for our seemingly cursed protagonist, Ganta. There’s even a moment when he, Yoh, and Minatsuki seem as normal and comfortable as Ganta with his old, dearly departed friends. That brighter tone doesn’t last, but it I am glad the series is mixing moments of levity/comedy/romance in with the horror. Even Senji makes an appearence, exhibiting no hard feelings for Ganta.

More big news come in the form of a Lal’C-looking lady (Koshio) who socks Ganta then brings him to the hideout of Scar Chain, DMW’s underground resistance. They like his spunk and his straight-arrowness, and want him on their team. Scar’s leader even makes sure the only thing Minatsuki loses in her Penalty Game is her hair. Seems to good to be true, and it is, as their encounter is rudely interrupted by Promotor Tamaki’s “ultra-priest” pal, Genkaku, owner of a Fender Explorer that turns into a machine gun. However, if they ever get out of this, Scar Chain should team up with Warden Makina – she’s apparently also sick of the insanity around here, and of Tamaki in particular.

The episode also gives us loads of new info about Ganta’s childhood, notably, that his mom was a scientist, Shiro showed signs of superhuman strength even back then, and there were experimental terror dogs roaming wherever it was Ganta hung out back then. He was also a fan of the super-hero Ace-Man, who bears an uncanny resemblence to the mysterious Wretched Egg, “Red Man”, who originally set Ganta up. Oh, and can’t overlook this lil’ nugget: SHIRO is the friggin’ Wretched Egg. Ganta can’t catch a break! Rating: 4

[C]: Control: The Money and Soul of Possibility 7

This episode of [C] is reflective. First, we get the story of Mikuni’s past, which to a large degree explains his present methods and motives. His father taught him that when enough money is bound together, it ceases to be money, and becomes power. The lust for this power led his father to abandon a chance to save his own daughter’s life, and he forcably prevented Mikuni from taking action. Before breathing her last, Mikuni’s sister Takako told him to treasure things like “tomorrow, next week, next month, and next year”, because they’re all things she’ll never see.

After her death, he closed himself off, and got a visit from the Midas dude just a bit too late to save his sister. This got him off on the wrong foot with the financial district, and after fighting deals and learning the system, he began to believe Midas was directionless, merely mocking and playing with people’s destinies at will. It was chaos, and with the guild, he sought to bring order. He may have learned a lot from his father, but his father’s success, in effect, cost him his daughter’s life. Mikuni will be damned if he’s going to allow such a thing to happen again. And is it just me, or does Takako vaguely resemble his asset Q?

The second half is all about Mashyu’s adjustment to having Yoga as an entre, their relationship becoming close and oddly human (despite the fact she isn’t human), and realizing why people like Mikuni and Satou want him to lend them his strength. He’s seemingly the only one she sees in the financial district who is so completely unsure about everything, and yet, when he does act, it’s always significant in one way or another. He hesitates because he won’t act unless his heart is sure of it. A nice parallel to this is waving off Mashyu kissing him, because she needs to “like him 30 times more” to be able to kiss him.

While only four episodes now remain in [C], I’m glad the series took the time to paint two rich character narratives this week. Both Mikuni and Mashyu will be far more interesting to watch, judging from the new things we know about them, and we also learned about how Yoga fits into their respective pictures. It’s also a bit chilling when Yoga notices that the Shinjuku skyline is missing skyscrapers: when people lose their future in the district, more than people and power disappears. That just punctuated just how unnervingly, insidious and dangerous Midas can be. Rating: 4

Summer 2011 Season Preview

Here’s what RABUJOI will be watching this summer, starting in July. Due to four Spring carryovers, a few summer series may not make the ultimate cut, but we won’t know until we watch. So, without further ado:

Blood-C – Production I.G. – July 8 – MBS/TBS
Dantalian no Shoka  GAINAX – July 16
Usagi Drop – Production I.G. – July 7 – Fuji TV (Noitamina)
Ikoku Meiro no Croisée  Satelight – July 3
Kamisama Dolls   Brains BaseJuly 7 – AT-X
Kami-sama no Memo-cho  J.C. Staff – July 2
Mawaru Penguindrum – Brains Base – July 8 – AT/X
No. 6 – 
BONES – July 7 – Fuji TV (Noitamina)
Morita-san wa Mukuchi  SevenJuly 8 – Nico Nico Douga

Spring 2011 Carryovers:

Ao no Exorcist – A-1 – MBS
Hanasaku Iroha – P.A.Works
Sket Dance – Tatsunoko Production – April – TV Tokyo Kei
Tiger & Bunny – Sunrise – BS11/MBS/Tokyo MX

Denpa Onna to Seishun Otoko 7

This week, Mako gets his adolescence on, by sharing awkward silences with Erio and Ryuushi; enjoying girls’ home cooking; having an impromptu sleepover with Ryuushi, Maekawa, and Erio; seeing Ryuushi and Maekawa in bathtowels; talking with Ryuushi alone under the stars; and helping someone else with their adolescence points. What I thought would be a Maekawacentric episode (it was at first, at least) incorporated everyone except Meme, including the businessman with the odd ear tag, who is so into bottle rockets.

Ryuushi is also quite active, believing she needs to compete with Maekawa and Erio for Mako’s affections. While Maekawa seems pretty content and uninterested in being a rival, Erio is more competitive, in her own passive, sheepish way. As for Mako, he’s just going with the flow. It’s worked so far and there’s no reason to believe it won’t keep working out. He’s fine with letting life sweep him along for the ride; after all, it’s how he came to be in a new town in a new home with a new family in the first place. Rating: 3.5

AnoHana 7

This was just a flat-out superb episode for Jintan and Anaru. Straight away this week, their romantic tension is escalated just a bit more, as Anaru proves to be quite the klutz. I’m aware that relationships don’t typically begin with awkward trips into someone’s personal space, but it works here, perhaps because we know these characters so well and they know each other so well. Anywho, the two of them and Poppo finally open Menma’s diary, which starts out prretty non-specific and innocuous.

But even seemingly dead-end declarations like “we had to go to the hopital today” open an entirely new set of memories for Jintan. All these years he and everyone else has been wrestling with their own memories; the diary is a window into memories from an entirely new perspective and tone. It also provides clues as to what Menma’s elusive “wish” might have been…if any. Finding their crude diagrams reminds them how big they used to dream before, you know, they became jaded sixteen year-olds. Alas, even acquiring toy fireworks requires a license, and paying someone to make a rocket for them will cost $2000. Denied!

Not to be stymied by financial obstacles, Jintan gets a job at the video store where Anaru works, and their interactions are simply fantastic. They get into such a comfort zone, they’re even able to call each other by their old nicknames again. Similarly, Yukiatsu and Tsuruko continue their subtle, aloof dance. Hey, maybe these crazy kids should forget about Menma, stop living in the past, and look at what they have right in front of them? Well, for one thing, because Jintan still sees her ghost.

So, what about Menma? Well, when she first learns about Jintan’s job from a third party, she’s angry, but then she learns why he, Anaru and Poppo are working: her wish to send a rocket to God. She realizes he’s not lying out of malice, but so that he can surprise her. Seeing him alive makes her feel alive. Whether it will help her move on to the beyond, we’ll have to see. Finally, Yukiatsu, who’s been so honest and open lately, is still keeping something from Jintan, namely that the day she died, Menma called everyone but Jintan to meet up at the secret base. What’s that about? Rating: 4

Sket Dance 8

Sket-dan deals with Momoka in the first half and a new client, a teacher, in the second. After their puppet show, Momoka has been scouted, so she comes to the Sket-dan for advice on how to prepare for her seiyu audition. Switch, the club’s resident anime expert, sets up a TV and plays numerous genre-bending anime with bizarre yet strangely believable premises that don’t appeal at all to their original intended audience. Himeko and Bossun are totally lost, but Momoka is committed to doing a good job. After her initial go at the mic, her producer comes in and gropes her, unleashing the punk Momoka within, and an evil aura that has the other producers swooning. So mission accomplished!

The second half gets a bit too hyper at times, but that unrelenting energy is what makes Sket Dance so fun, and I love made-up sports like Quidditch or, in this case, “Genesis”. Its rule may sound fuzzy, arbitrary, and ridiculous, but how is that different from say, cricket, with its esoteric structure and vocabulary? I myself know the rules to most sports, but like probably many others, Cricket will probably always remain a mystery to me. Such is Genesis; although for what it’s worth, the game looks quite fun and challenging: flippers on, morning stars in hand, and a volleyball to volley. Now I want to give it a try! Rating: 3

Tiger & Bunny 8

With Lunatic running wild murdering murderers, public opinion around Sternbild is starting to sway in his favor. I mean, it’s not like he’s killing innocent people, amirite? Next to him, the heroes look a bit impotent. So Apollon Media decides to send out their heroes for some good ol’ PR. You know, rather than looking for Lunatic. They end up a Barnaby’s former school, which bears a slight resemblance to Professor Charles Xavier’s.

This series has gradually been delving deeper into various characters, obviously starting with Tiger, then Blue Rose and Bunny, and this week it’s Ivan/Origami Cyclone’s turn. I have to admit I initially found his sudden and intense self-doubt a bit strange, and I was definitely perplexed when Tiger exhibited surprise at his special power of mimicry. Haven’t these two fought together before? Mimicry is most definitely a useful superpower. It’s baffling that he hasn’t figured that out at this point in his career.

While mopey Origami wasn’t all that interesting, I like how they weaved Lunatic into the story, just when you thought he was on a break this week. Lunatic also seemed a lot less invincible than last week, as Tiger was able to soar into the sky and smash his mask. We even see him sans mask…what a girly man! Another plus: not all NEXTs have powers that are well-suited for heroism. Some are seemingly just circus freaks. Then again, Fantastic Four and X-Men made it work…Rating: 3

The World God Only Knows II 7

Well, I called it, but it was pretty obvious Chihiro was going to come around and fall for Keima. The early scenes with Chihiro before going to bed, waking up, and going to school are nicely done; just nice, calm, quiet scenes that don’t need any embellishment. The fact that Keima is listed in her phone as “dweeb” is also a nice touch.

Keima’s initial thickheadedness is a little frustrating, but as he’s gone virtually the entire series declaring, almost with a sense of strange pride, that he doesn’t get real girls. When she decides not to confess to Yuta – out of affection for him, he reacts entirely the wrong way and sends her running after a tearful confession of her ordinary-ness. Fortunately, he soon realizes the error of his ways and gives chase, remembering the overarching mission – to relieve Chihiro of the loose soul.

She’s still upset, but her main issue is, she’s allowing external forces decide for her who she is, what she’s capable of, and how to live her life. Keima has always rejected the real world’s conventions while never betraying his own self. After a motivational speech, a well-timed cloudbreak, and a kiss, Chihiro’s loose soul is history, and while her memory of falling in love with Keima goes with it, the Chihiro that remains vows to take charge of her life and not be limited by self-doubt. Rating: 3.5

Hanasaku Iroha 8

Hanasaku Iroha finally arrests its downward trend and comes surging back with an extremely dense yet focused episode that recalled the energy of the excellent early episodes of this series. Like those, a lot of stuff happens in a short time, making the episode feel much longer than it actually was. With seven groups equalling twenty fresh customers descending on Kissuiso all at once, it’s all hands on deck.

But it isn’t: the manager falls ill with old lady syndrome; Nako is off; Tohru is at a wedding somewhere, and the chef, finally in a high-pressure situation for the first time in a long while, is starting to crack. The absences aren’t the only thing that need to be addressed, either. One or more of the groups could be a “mystery guest” from the travel magazines, meaning if their stay isn’t perfect, they’ll write about it with their more-mightier-than-sword pens. And, oh yeah, Ko is coming to see Ohana, but since her phone is off during work (and thanks to an awfully-timed tunnel), she misses potentially crucial calls to meeting up with him.

Throughout all the chaos, Ohana is running all over the place with a glimmer of doubt, like something is “off”, but that’s natural: the head honcho, her grandmother, is out of comission, and Ohana has never had to deal with the inn at this level of busy-ness. When she realizes she’s inadvertently ignored Ko’s calls, she flips her phone back shut; she has a mission to accomplish (locate Tohru), and cannot let her personal problems get in the way of her job and the people depending on her. That’s kind of a raw deal for Ko, but that’s the price of surprising your very busy would-be girlfriend. As for how things will work out at the inn, this is a two-parter, so we don’t know yet. But I damn sure want to find out! Rating: 4

Ao no Exorcist 6

So, five episodes in, and we get filler? Oh dear. Focusing an entire episode on cooking and food was a misstep, IMO, and I like cooking and food. And while it’s great that Rin loves cooking, it certainly wasn’t mentioned or came into play until this episode. Frankly, even with 26 episodes to play with, this was not the time or place for this.

Everyone’s behaviour is a bit baffling: I understand if you’re shy around girls, but why would Yukio repeatedly turn down lunches made especially for him by his admirers? He doesn’t have to eat them; he could accept them with gratitude, then give them to his starving half-demon brother. And why do they never question who cooks their meals in their dorm? They’re the only ones there. You’d think the fact they never had to pay for those meals (since Ukobach doesn’t need money) would be a dead giveaway that something was amiss.

Furthermore, when Rin trespasses in the kitchen and Ukobach goes on strike, why doesn’t Mephisto just let Rin handle the cooking as both he and Yukio would prefer? Doesn’t the headmaster of an enormous academy have other things to do? I could write more on the silliness of this episode, but I won’t. It was silly, period. Ao no Exorcist: if you’re going to go off on a tangent, do a better job next time. I know you canRating: 2.5