Kami-sama no Memo-cho 1, Parts A & B – First Impressions

Forgive the pun, but “Memo Pad of the Gods” makes a very good case for itself. It some ways, it picks up in Sibuya where Durarara left off in Ikebukuro by instantly painting a picture of a well-lived in world full of oddballs and secret lives. Narumi Fujishima is our avatar in this rich painting, and for once in his life he feels like a part of something bigger, rather than simply the kid who floats around pretending he belongs.

The new life he fell into fits him like a glove. This first, hourlong episode chronicles his addition to a team of “NEET Detectives” led by the enigmatic Alice, a 12-or-so year-old who possesses detective skills and wisdom far beyond her years, but also gets all weepy. if one of her many teddy bear’s ears gets torn. I also like her calm, logical, curt demeanor. She isn’t a squeaky menace.

But she’s just one of many interesting and promising characters. This agency has a crack team of specialists in diverse fields: Hiro is a suave ‘gigalo’, brother of a yakuza boss, and expert in women. ‘Major’ is a military spy freak who likes to stick rifles in people’s faces. Tetsu is the polic snoop. Min runs and Ayaka works at the ramen/ice cream shop above which Alice resides, in her Lain-like cocoon.

The core cast is plenty interesting, but this series doesn’t fall into the same traps of the latest J.C. Staff series like Yumekui Merry, Ookami-san, and Index II, all of which kinda fizzled. This series feels more honest, and its characters and themes are suitably adult and mature. High school girls losing it and entering the world of vice is not the kind of thing those series would touch upon, but such things can and do happen in the real world, which is what this series feels like.

The first case we’re presented with is nicely opened, investigated, solved, and shut within the hourlong period. Whether future episodes are two-parters like this remains to be seen, but it’s definitely not a bad thing if they are; the story never felt dragged out here, and on half-hour simply wouldn’t be enough to tell it properly.

The people involved in the specific case – Miku, Teraoka, and Shoko, served their roles well, and didn’t feel like throwaway characters. The case itself even had a macabre twist, in which Shoko “froze time” like she had wanted to, by committing suicide in a tub of ice. Yikes, you may say, but horrible things can happen, and it’s Alice and her agency’s jobs as detectives to either ‘tarnish the living to maintain the honor of the dead’, or ‘tarnish the dead to comfort the living.’ I look forward to their next case. Rating: 4

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Ao no Exorcist 12

The gang of esquires is given a seemingly innocuous mission to extract a harmless ghost from the ridiculous “MepphyLand” amusement park, in which the most dramatic development could be Shiemi switching from her bulky kimono to an ordinary school uniform, complete with short skirt; but it turns into far more than that quite quickly. One of Mephisto’s brothers, Amaimon, shows up, takes Rin’s sword, and unsheaths it, releasing Rin’s demon side. Then he proceeds to mop the floor with him.

This underscores just how vulnerable not only Rin is, but also how fragile his grip on (relatively) ordinary life is. One minute, he’s arranging a date with Shiemi, the next, he’s transformed into a vicious monster through no fault of his own, and almost loses himself in the process. It’s only through the intervention of Shura – a “High Inspector, Upper First Class Exorcist” – that he’s able regain his humanity. Shura was disguised as the member of the gang always obscured by his hoodie. “He” is also a she.

My immediate first impression of Shura is, sadly, “stupid-looking”; Yoruichi-san looked sexy enough in a glorified tracksuit; why this person has to walk around in a tiny bikini top is beyond me. Still, it opens up a new can of worms regarding Rin: his identity as a son of satan is revealed to a very high-ranking exorcist, and that can’t be good. Not only that, but Amaimon will be back, and he may not be as playful next time. Are Rin’s hopes of living a normal life as a human exorcist toast? Rating: 3.5

Hanasaku Iroha 14

Click here to read more reviews of Hanasaku, including the first thirteen episodes.

“What’s the point of him yelling?”Exactly, Minchi; Exactly. On their high school summer getaway to the beach, Ohana, Minchi, Nako and Yuina are suddenly thrown into the bizarro world, inn-wise. Rather than serving customers, they are the customers, and must act as such. But while the head clerk and ‘heri’ of the Fukuya Inn, a certain Yosuke, may be Yuina’s fiancee, he isn’t the most pleasant guy to work with.

I’m going to be the bitches’ advocate here and say the part-time workers can’t possibly see what’s going on in any other light than Yosuke lumping work on them and treating them like crap while he woos his girlfriend. Or can they? Hard to say, but I doubt it would be an issue if they weren’t part-time to begin with, but rather girls like Ohana, Nako, and Minchi, who work full-time and are passionate about their work at the inn, and about improving themselves. It’s more than just a job for them, because they have time to make it so. If it’s just a part-time job, it’s harder to, well, care.

Even if Fukuya Inn is big and booming and can accomodate high school classes, and Yosuke hasn’t even heard of Kissuiso, it’s state-of-the-art technology and business practices have their cost. But even more pressing to Yosuke is getting an answer from Yuina regarding her future. It turns out she doesn’t consider running an inn to be part of the future she wants. This is harsh, but it’s also her life and her decision to make. Her answer also comes at a particularly knife-twisting moment when Yosuke’s underlings stage a mass quitting, undermining his leadership in the eyes of his superiors.

This wasn’t the idle beach episode I was somewhat dreading (and it’s good that so many anime recently have turned off that desperately-beaten path), but actually contained some development. Despite her enviable position as heiress to her family’s inn, Yuina apparently wants something else in life. Meanwhile, Ohana, who still tears up whenever she remembers Ko’s last words to her, nevertheless resolves to not let such things disrupt her life or drag her down. That’s probably a good attitude. Rating: 3.5