Sket Dance 13

I predicted that the Sket-dan would win the Bibage Tournament, it was just a matter of whether Roman or Bossun lost their challenge. It turns out, both of them lost. Roman was infinitely more charming than Uryuu, who wooed her target with a fat check. But it was just bad luck that the guy, while totally smitten with Roman, nonetheless chose the girl who was more “his type”. Roman did nothing wrong, it just wasn’t to be.

The final challenge seemingly becomes must-win when the council prez, Agata, raises the stakes: Whoever loses quits their respective club. Their challenge, Pixie Garden, is a game of wits, and the 200 (or 160) I.Q. Agata changes gears from laid back and affable to manipulative and ruthless. He disrupts Bossun’s concentration by bringing up something we’ve yet to learn: why Switch and Himeko are so trusting of and loyal to him. Why he wants to help people. Is he atoning for something?

In any case, Agata keeps Bossun tense the whole way, and is always a step or two ahead in the game. Even when Bossun remembers the order of the cards, he makes one mistake at the end, because Agata correctly predicted everything he’d do. He didn’t just lose, he lost at the worst possible time. His opponent did what he wanted to do: snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. It doesn’t matter, since the prez wasn’t serious…though it’s pretty funny how Sket-dan proceeds with a “Farewell Bossun” party anyway.

So yeah, this first half of Sket Dance was good school comedy with a lot of ridiculous side characters and a strong core trio of likable leads. The show never aims to be serious, and for the most part sticks to its strengths. It and its cast are eccentric, yet down to earth. I look forward to what they throw at us in the second half. Rating: 3.5

P.S.: For some reason, the two Bibage mascots reminded me of Panty & Stocking…

The World God Only Knows II 12 (Fin)

I wasn’t expecting a masterpiece, and I was expecting just an isolated, mostly irrelevant slice-of-life episode that drove home Keima’s ideals once more (like last season’s finale), and I shouldn’t have expected the series to resolve itself in just one episode, but I was still pretty disappointed with this final week. Last season’s finale was more unhinged. This one was kind of recycling ideas, and the presentation of his ideal dating sim was a major let-down. It just felt kinda lame, and the horribly-drawn character just seemed like an excuse to…horribly draw something.

There’s a semi-serious mention of the show “continuing” for yet another season, which explains the filler-like nature of this episode. After all, Keima and Elcie still have collars that bind them together until a certain number of souls are caught. Now, considering the number 50,000 has been tossed around, perhaps their contract will never be fulfilled, and Keima is simply doomed for life to make girls fall in love with him and then lose them.

And that’s the flaw of this season: for all the girls whose lives he’s changed by releasing them from loose souls, Keima remains stubbornly static. He just goes through the motions. He hasn’t changed one bit. This season resolved nothing. At the end of every arc, he seems to dump whatever emotional investment. I can’t help but wish he’d develop a little more beyond discovering new schemes for conquering. But he doesn’t care about reality, and so none of the relationships he forms ever have any lasting emotional effect on him.

It’s a shame, and if another season is just going to continue the by-now tired formula, it’s going to be very hard to watch.
Ah, screw it. It’s just good, dumb, light entertainment. I’m actually glad that something deeper and more serious isn’t being attempted; I can go elsewhere for that…and I will. Whether I watch next season totally depends on how much is airing that’s better than this. Rating: 2.5

Okage de futatabi!

Everyone here at RABUJOI wish to express our sincere gratitude to you for taking the time to visit us. RABUJOI’s philosophy has been, and will always be to deliver timely(ish) anime reviews for your reading pleasure, and read you have: In the last five months we’ve more than doubled our monthly readership. 2011 has been very good to us and we hope for that success to continue as we near the Summer season.

We’re well aware that there are a seemingly infinite number of blogs out there reviewing anime. We pride ourselves on providing reviews containing wit, humor, information, and correct spelling, and we’re glad you’ve come, and keep coming, to read them. Regardless of how many people visit or read or come back for more, we cannot look at the future of RABUJOI remains…luminescent. So keep reading, and don’t be afraid to post a comment! Thanks again!

-RABUJOI STAFF

Tiger & Bunny 13

So it took about three weeks and half of the Heroes’ asses getting kicked for them to find out that – gasp – Jake Martinez has not one, but two powers: the barrier power, and telepathy. Interestingly, classically the least observant and analytical hero, Tiger, is the one who discovers this. Everyone else who fought him just kept rushing Jake until they could no longer stand. So the big bad of the season is dealt with through the use of…an ordinary stun grenade. Something that would disorient anyone. Sooo….why didn’t they use one at the beginning???

Well, the episode answers that question to my satisfaction: they needed to stall for time, and divert both Jake’s and Kriem’s attention while they set up a jamming signal for the exobots. Once they do, Fire Emblem, Blue Rose and Dragon Kid finally have something to do besides sit in a lounge and watch what we’re watching. I got the feeling that just about everyone played an important role this week, which is good. Also, the episode dispenses with excessive exhibition and starts right off the bat with Barnaby taking it to Jake. The combat animation is quick and sharp.

So yeah, I enjoyed this episode more than the previous two partially because it was better, but also because I knew this arc had to end eventually. It’s a bit of an anticlimax that Jake doesn’t even remember Bunny’s parents, but I’m glad that in the heat of the battle he didn’t say something to the effect of “Haha, I actually DO remember your parents! They begged for mercy yadda yadda yadda”; I feel like that line is overdone. He didn’t remember them, period. So, remember, if you want to hold a city hostage, have more than a team of just two people, both of whom are busy playing around while their robots are jammed and disabled. Rating: 3.5

Ao no Exorcist 11

I ragged on this series’ sixth episode – the kitchen demon – as filler, and this week was also filler. But it was better filler. It came after we got to know a little more about the characters involved – particularly Izumo. She can act bratty and superior, but that facade conceals inner turmoil and vulnerability. She’s a tough nut to crack, but she can be cracked. This week, it took a Kraken…and a hard-headed local kid.

I should tip my hat the producers for at least not giving us what was expected – a full-on beach episode that’s all fanservice and little or no peril, where the major conflict is who has the sexiest swimsuit. That can be left to throwaway OVAs, or even better, DeviantArt. In fact, the cast is pared down to just Izumo, Renzou (pinkie), and Rin, with his new familiar Kuro (who sort of comes in handy). This gives these three characters more time to gel, but unfortunately the main character of this episode is neither of them.

It’s a punk kid. I don’t typically like little kids, especially when they sound like Black Star, whose voice is perhaps even more annoying than Rin’s (when he’s screaming). The kid is constantly belting out macho proverbs his missing dad taught him, and he gets a crush on Izumo after saving her life in the sea. But while there was a lot of build-up to the big bad of the week, the kraken turned out to be domesticated, completely deflating whatever peril the episode had. In short, if this series can keep it to two filler eps per half, it should still be okay. Rating: 3

Super 8: The Anime?

Sometimes our minds wander here at RABUJOI, and we think about anime that might work – or decidedly not work – as American TV shows and films, or vice versa. We’re not talking about particularly financially successful shows and films…just interesting ones. And sometimes we just draw parallels from existing anime to existing Americana, or vice versa.

A few for instances: there are tinges of Harry Potter in Occult Academy and Blue Exorcist. True Blood, while a good show, would be far scarier and less goofy if it followed Shiki’s storyline rather than Charlene Harris’s books. I was so turned off by the Marvel-backed Heroman (Bones) and Iron Man (Madhouse) anime, I didn’t even bother with Wolverine (which some may say was a mistake, but I still don’t really regret skipping it).

And then there’s Super 8: a perfectly decent and well-executed sci-fi mystery thriller that amazingly stars a bunch of middle schoolers – including Dakota Fanning’s little sis Elle – that manage not to annoy the hell out of me. The film wasn’t perfect, and the whole time I was watching it I was cursing J.J. Abrams for taking the time to make this film instead of the new Star Trek sequel (Classically a Trek film came out once every two years…the next one better be good for the extra year-plus we have to wait).

Super 8 was a very charming, engaging, and entertaining film, and for some reason I think it would make a great anime. Not a long one, mind you; an 11-episode series in the Noitamina timeslot would suffice in building up and laying out the nicely self-contained story. There are a lot of subtle changes that would have to be made that wouldn’t affect that story in the least. To wit: JSDF instead of USAF; a rural Japanese town instead of a rural American one; a HDV camera instead of a Super 8.

Other things could be left alone. There’s a lot to love: A romance between a boy and girl that’s forbidden by no fault of their own, but by their fathers, due to bad blood? Check. Love triangle that doesn’t get in the way? Check. Train wreck? Check. Weird happenings in a small, quiet town? Check. Classmates making a movie? Check (it worked in Haruhi Suzumiya). Aliens? Check. The town policeman bumping up against the industrial military complex? Check A shonen having to work up the courage to not just defy his and her dads, but to save said girl from said angsty alien? Check and check!

I think Super 8 has great potential moving to the anime medium. Realistically, the chances of J.J. Abrams licensing his script to a Japanese production company are probably slim to nil, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a good idea. Fortunately, and this is why I watch far more anime than American television, there is no shortage of great stories that already inhabit the anime world.

Hanasaku Iroha 13

With this episode, the first half of the 26-episode run of Hanasaku Iroha comes to a strong close. And even though [C] ranked slightly higher this season, I consider this my second-favorite of the season, after runaway best, AnoHana. What’s more, I’m actually looking forward to the second half. This series has staying power.

Unlike those two 11-episode series, Hanasaku Iroha really is one of those series that benefits from being stretched out. It’s chock full of great characters, great atmosphere, and great slice-of-life…and has looked consistently awesome. I haven’t seen True Tears, and Canaan was underwhelming, but going forward this definitely could give my standing favorite P.A. Works piece, Angel Beats!, a run for its money.

This week was a family reunion of sorts, as the prodigal daughter Satsuki returns as per Ohana’s request. The horror stories of her little brother Enishi, who stayed by his mom’s side in the business, are really nicely depicted. Satsuki, for her part, has the typical gripes about the place and her mother not having changed a bit. But she isn’t just there to criticize; in fact, she invites her daughter and mother to her room and the three generations of Shijimas have a nice heart-to-heart-to-heart.

During this, a tossed(?) Ohana spills the beans about Ko; her mom and granny both think she’s giving up too easily; but this isn’t the only family reunion that took place. The other was Ohana returning to her family at Kissuiso; her friends Nako and Minko are like sisters to her, and she’s come to love the inn and everyone she works with. This is her life now; a life in Tokyo with Ko just wasn’t in the cards. Of course, this is her mom’s fault for shipping her here in the first place, but what happened happened, something good came out of it, and Ohana is staying put. She misses Ko, but she’s where she wants to be. Rating: 4

Deadman Wonderland 11

Things can’t get much worse, but they will -that’s a good slogan for Deadman Wonderland. After managing to survive the first raid attempt, Karako rallies what’s left of Scar Chain to attempt to rescue Nagi. She keeps Ganta out of it, guilty of what she’s already put him through. Little does she know, her dear leader doesn’t want to be rescued, or even to live. And he doesn’t want anyone else to live either. He’s become a nihilist.

Ganta, desperate to do something and make a difference, trains with Crow – losing nearly all his blood in the process – and is introduced to a very creepily friendly Mockingbird (aka Toto). In fact, true to his/her name, Toto mocks both Crow and Ganta here, and it’s pretty unnerving to see Crow actually afraid of something; in this case, a deadman who’s stronger than him. When Genkaku calls Scar Chain out, having captured both Karako and Shiro (and seem to be threatening to rape them before they’re killed), Ganta is off to the races, having just improved his Ganta Gun by speeding it up, but very low on blood indeed.

This episode also had a brief cameo by Minatsuki, who gets Ganta out of an initial spot, but refuses to fight for Scar Chain – as she explains, she has to look out for Yoh, and she wasn’t framed; she is a murderer. She isn’t interested in freedom anymore. Ganta proceeds, and manages to knock out a bunch of undertaker guards with his faster blood bullets – but he’s far from out of the woods, as he still has to deal with Genkaku, the second grader, and a new, “sane” Nagi – while suffering from anemia. Most important, he has to apologize to Shiro. This was definitely one of Ganta’s more assertive moments…but will it mean anything? Just one more episode to determine that. Rating: 3.5

[C]: Control: The Money and Soul of Possibility 11 (Fin)

What’s worth saving, today or tomorrow? I think I’d have to go with Yoga and say tomorrow. The case for Mikuni’s way got weaker and weaker, as his numerous uses of Midas’ rotary press essentially bankrupted Japan. It was finally Yoga’s turn to stand up to him and fight to get Japan’s future back. The first half is almost non-stop action, as their duel reaches fever pitch. The combat system of [C] was always a bit dorky, but never boring, and this week was no exception. More than anything, it was basically what the whole series has been: ambitious, creative,  intriguing, and weird.

That said, there was a breakthrough, as Yoga saw Mikuni’s most powerful asset, Q, for who she was; Mikuni’s sister Takako. Q is a crazed demon-like fighter, but while fighting Mashyu, who all but became human thanks to Yoga, snapped her out of it. Yoga defeats Mikuni, and the latter ends up in a 2001-style time warping sequence in Takako’s hospital room. Basically, she wants him to stop fighting. She wants the future to unfold as it should, not be stuck in the present.

If all this sounds abstract, it is, but it was still cool. And the animation, while a bit choppy and far from perfect, was at least really bright and vivid. When Yoga reverses the rotary press, the financial district becomes all sparkly and pretty, like there are christmas lights everywhere. It is here where Mikuni says goodbye to Takako, and Yoga bids farewell to Mashyu, who now well and truly loves him. Their passionate kiss seems a bit strange after Yoga earlier saw her as a daughter-like figure, but whatevs.

When he returns to the real world, things look pretty good – the Sky Tree is back, and the city is clean and cared-for, people are prosperous. The teacher’s family appears to be back. Hanabi also seems back to normal, but doesn’t seem to know him anymore. In an interesting twist, Japan is now using dollars, the yen having literally vanished into nothingness (a nice tie-in with the opening sequence). But the financial district isn’t gone, and neither is Mazakaki, or his godlike boss, who makes a cryptic appearence here. Still, I don’t see Yoga going back to Midas anytime soon. He could never get back everything he lost. He’s learned the cost of playing around with the future. Rating: 4

P.S.: About a year ago this month, I snapped a picture of the Tokyo Stock Exchange in Nihombashi. Coincidence? Well, yes, actually.

Sket Dance 12

This is the episode where I totally stopped caring about what’s at stake in this ridiculously high-budget competition between Sket-dan and the Student Council, because the show doesn’t really care about it either at the moment, it’s all about the here and now. And it delivered not one but two superb duels – one between Tsubaki and Shinzo, and another between Switch and Daisy. The two matches couldn’t have been more different, but they both worked, and rocked.

Tsubaki probably had Shinzo hook-line-and-sinker had he not called into question his samurainess. The words stung Shinzo deep, and made him remember his master’s teachings. The fact he burst his own second-to-last blood ball was particularly badass, and it made sense why he did it – Samurai only have one life to give; and his only two options are to win or die. So with the teams tied at one victory apiece (complete with victory rock that reminded me of Queen), Switch volunteers for the shoot out with Daisy in a dark warehouse.

Daisy may well be a crack shot who carries out orders without hesitation, Switch arguably scores the first unofficial point by loosing a barrage of information about her character, along with his analysis that she may be into S&M. She returns fire with perhaps the best and most elegant-sounding insults of the whole season – “Dobu De Oborete Shinde Ikikaete Mata Shine”, or “Drown in a gutter and die, come back to life, then die again.” Itai! Another nice touch – the two are kitted out in classy noir costumes.

As I said, Daisy has the better eye (though they both wear glasses; who knows), but Switch has a laptop, which he uses to misdirect and fool her into thinking he’s out of ammo. It’s more chess than pistols, as Switch uses his heretofore ambidexterity to get the winning shot just one-hundreth of a second before Daisy shoots him. Margin for error was zero, but he had confidence. Sket-dan up 2-1. Now, will the ringer, Roman, lose the “love challenge” against Uryuu, or will Bossun lose the last match to the council Prez? We’ll have to find out next week. Rating: 3.5

AnoHana 11 (Fin)

That was a properly fitting and satisfying finale. It cemented its place as the best series of the season by far, along with perhaps the most consistent, moving and best-executed eleven-episode series I’ve ever seen. I was expecting a good ending, but I could never have predicted just how totally it would kick all ass. Nothing in it felt the slightest bit contrived or out of place; it remained fiercely true to its characters, and above all, was a surprisingly happy ending, and the perfect place to close the book.

After Menma fails to pass to heaven, the busters regroup and it turns into an all out cryfest, with everyone pouring their guts out. Even Tsuruko gets worked up for the first time. Even Poppo lost his composure. And in this mega-catharsis, they all finally realize that none of them are alone in their inconsolable grief or guilt. They’re all in the same boat. They can all forgive each other, and themselves. They all love her. And I’m sorry, but Anaru’s little eyelash moment was the perfect way to re-lighten the mood.

After this, Jintan races home to collect Menma so they can finish things and say goodbye. But she’s fading fast; it turns out, her wish was inadvertently granted: the wish to make Jintan cry. She promised his mom she’d do it. More specifically, to make him break out of his shell and properly grief, embrace the pain and the love that’s released, and to be able to live his life. By the time he reaches the base, he can’t see her anymore, and is sent into a panic. “Oh no,” I thought; “Will this just end with him still crazy?”

Thankfully, I had no reason to worry. She says goodbye to them all by hastily scrawling goodbyes to everyone, which sets off another cryfest. All that’s left is to finish the game of “hide and seek” – at the end of which everyone can see Menma – and get Jintan to cry once more, and then she disappears, content and with her wish fulfilled. Closure at last!

What follows is a phenomenal end-credits epilogue, in which Jintan goes back to school and shows signs of giving Anaru a chance; Poppo is working construction and studying for a diploma; and Yukiatsu and Tsuruko become an item (her tiny smirk is genius. I honestly wouldn’t mind these two as the focus of a spin-off).  This series was an emotional roller coaster, and its makers knew the viewers wanted and deserved this ending and wrap-up. Menma’s ultimate gift was bringing these friends back together.

So what have we learned? Well, first of all, director Tatsuyuki Nagai and scriptwriter Mari Okada put on a romantic drama clinic, and I shall most definitely be looking out for their next works. Secondly, don’t collapse within your own grief. Everyone has it; let it out and make your true feelings known. Don’t let ghosts haunt you. Er…don’t go up to a hotel with a guy you just met. And, of course stay in school! Rating: 4 ~Series elevated to Favorites~

The World God Only Knows II 11

This week’s cold open is a stark contrast to last week’s. Both are of Nagase in her apartment; last week’s was full of confidence and energy, while this week’s was full of doubt and lethargy, feeling that she can’t do anything right, that she’s a bad teacher; that she can’t fix Keima. But she doesn’t head to school, she heads to a wrestling match to clear her head. Of course, Keima is waiting there for her with a ticket for the exact same seat, courtesy of Elsie. This was a deliciously devious way to get Jun on the same level as Keima, by basically giving her no choice but to share the narrow seat with him.

During this intimate match, Keima starts to get why she likes it so much; it’s a total effort. Not just the wrestlers, but the officials, staff, and spectators all contribute to create a passion you don’t often see elsewhere. Having been to numerous sporting events, I can vouch for the excitement of being among as many as 70 thousand fellow fans. Ideals do exist in the real world – and these events are one of them. Things are black-and-white; one side is good, the other evil; and if you don’t win, you lose.

For most of the episode, Keima is just upsetting Jun, but there’s most definitely a method to his madness. Jun puts her class out by entering them all into a marathon, and when they balk and deride her excessive care for them to bond, she accuses them of being selfish. This reinforce’s Keima’s theory that like the basketball team in the past, Jun is always “crushing” people with her ideals, and they’re always balking at the pressure she puts on them. But Keima doesn’t think she should change – he thinks she should keep doing it. Why worry what others think? He doesn’t.

No one can tell you how to live your life, and if you want to live it by trying to push and fire up and motivate others to follow your ideals, so be it. There are costs, of course; not everyone will respect or even like you, but life is full of challenges, and like Jumbo Tsuruma, one cannot back down from them, but must push forward. By comforting her when she needed it most and restoring her faith in herself and her ideals, Keima helps Jun Nagase end her student teaching stint on a high note. He also nicely sets up a scenario in which she could see him as something other than a student (literally when she’s done the stint), thus making it okay for her to kiss him, something she couldn’t do while at school. This releases the loose soul, and ends a final conquest arc that was as unique as it was enjoyable. Rating: 4