The Karuta club becomes official, with Taichi presiding and Chihaya as the Captain. She has lofty goals for her five-man team: to reach the national tournament. To that end, she plans on pushing the rookies Oe and Desktomu hard, facing them both herself in order to toughen them and give them valuable experience. They arrange a weekend camp at Taichi’s house, but his mom returns prematurely, and in any case the rooks are exhausted. Returning home guilty she pushed them so hard, Oe gets a text and races to a riverside park with Chihaya in tow for an impromptu celebration of her sweet sixteen.
Just an episode removed from finally becoming complete, the club Chihaya and Taichi have founded is already hummin’ along very nicely. Taichi is incredulous at first when Chihaya announces she’ll be the rookie’s first opponent, but having played her first game against Arata, she’s well aware of how valuable getting creamed is, as you get to see the person creaming you going all out, as she does. Oe and Desktomu are understandably dubious of their abilities, but by the time Oe snags her first card from Taichi, she’s addicted to playing and getting better.
Aside from getting the club up and running, the primary substory in play throughout is the increasing romantic tension between Taichi and Chihaya. Neither say anything to this effect, but the couple moments where they’re close or touch speak volumes, and are very well done. Chihaya could finally be starting to see Taichi as more than just that bratty little kid from her childhood. Taichi meanwhile is already quite far along in his longing, and of course a golden opportunity is snatched from him when Arata texts with birthday wishes for Chihaya. As for the birthday: while random at first, it was the perfect way to brighten Chihaya’s spirits. We don’t think it would have had as strong an effect if we’d known about it beforehand.
As Ades prepares to attack the isolationist stronghold of Gracies, Fam plans to swoop in and steal eight ships being transferred to the Federation from surrendered nations, thus completing her contract with Captain Wisla. When they approach the ships, the fleet from Kartoffel is there as well. Both parties took the Ades bait, as a huge fleet descends upon them and lays waste. Fam and Gisey manage to guide the remains of the fleet out of danger by making use of the shockwaves caused by ice falling into the sea, but the damage is done and the mission is a failure. Fam and Gisey return to the Sylvius, only to have been tailed by the first fleet, who demand they hand over Princess Millia or be sunk.
Hmm…something tells us “Your Princess Is In Another Castle” won’t work on these guys. Also, with all the Ades traps being sprung this week, we was looking for a certain Mon Calamari admiral to pop out of the woodwork and yell “It’s a TRAP!” (Wrong franchises; we know). Most importantly, it was about time things stopped being so easy for Fam and the sky pirates, and here they finally run into some serious trouble. The surprise attack on the pirates meant we were treated to a ginormous, epic sky battle in which the bad guys got to let out some of their frustrations. Fam and Gisey don’t crash, but they come about as close as you possibly can. And that water looked cold.
This whole episode, Gisey was down in the dumps and just…weary that they were about to five Ades just one too many pokes. Fam rushed into battle full of optimism like she usually does, and was totally blind to the possibility things wouldn’t all come up Fam Fan Fan. We wish Gisey learned to speak up for once, but as Fam’s Navi, she feels obligated to do whatever Fam wants, regardless of what she wants. She’ll probably blame herself for not sniffing out the trap, but the fact of the matter is she had A Bad Feeling about the operation before it even got started. Ah, no matter. We got to see absolutely fantastic sky combat…and birds! Grand Birds!
Yuki and Yuno start their first day at their new school, and much to Yuno’s irritation, Yuki almost instantly gains new friends: Hinata, Mao, and Kousaka. They set out in a group to survey crime scenes of a serial attacker, but Hinata runs off on her own and has her arm bitten off by a pack of feral dogs with metal jaws. The rest, along with another kid, Akise, seek refuge in a glass pavilion, where Yuki directs them on which windows to lean up upon to absorb the impact of the pouncing dogs. When the dogs give up, Mao puts a knife to Yuki’s throat, and a very alive and two-armed Hinata reveals she’s the holder of the Breeder’s Diary, and she’s after Akise’s Future Diary.
This is an episode full of…interesting choices. First of all, Hinata’s scheme to corner Akise seems awfully roundabout and random; you’d think there’d be a more elegant way than pretending to get your arm munched off then setting a pack of dogs on him. We’re to understand her grandfather is actually the diary holder, but passed it to her, and we assume she’s trying to win the game that will net her godhood. Of course, before we knew this, she just seemed like a cute, friendly, outgoing girl who has a moe friend, gets away with belly-baring shirts in school, and reacts very slowly to having her panties exposed. But just ’cause somebody pretends to like him for an afternoon, Yuki reveals his deepest secret? That’s idiotic even for him.
The episode tried tossing red herrings like Akise – who’s probably also a nutso killer too, just not as immediate a threat as Hinata – and Kousaka, who somewhat inexplicably gives Yuki a hard time for running from the school bombing, then makes nice later one. But as usual, Yuno’s suspicions are our suspicions. Anyone who is friendly to this little pipsqueak probably has unsavory plans for him. That includes Yuno, but Yuno’s never done anything but protect him so far, so we’re not ready to believe smiling moe faces over her judgement. Lastly, what the heck is up with Yuki’s get-up? He’s enough of a weenie as it is without dressing like some Oliver Twist muthaf***a…Yuno, get that boy some damn regular clothes.
At Souma’s sly suggestion and with Kyoko’s indifferent blessing, Sato comes with Yachiyo to get her a cell phone, something she’s never had before. Yohei and Mitsuki return to continue helping Kyoko, and Yohei gets snagged by Kozue, who’s lamenting another dumping. Takanashi is tired of Yamada’s lollygagging and tells her to write everything he tells her to do down, but she misses the point.
Mitsuki is quite correct; Yachiyo is cute, and always has been…but so shy, and as this episode indicates, hopeless in all non-work-related social situations. Still, the cell phone sales rep barely conceals her contempt for what looks to anyone like a couple in Sato and Yachiyo, and they would be one if Sato had the guts to set things in motion (and Yachiyo had only the slightest awareness. As things stand, she only has eyes for Kyoko).
As for Kozue, she may be drunk and loose, but her intuition isn’t wrong. Even if she is just teasing Mitsuki, Souma is in fact sadistic, Sato is sweet beneath his rough surface, and despite his oh-so-subtle gestures, he’s definitely into her, even if the crushing futility of ever attaining anything more than friendship weighs him down. When one can’t be direct in their like for someone, they typically tease or otherwise mess with them instead. Oh yeah, there was more Yamada Being Yamada, and for once Inami didn’t punch Takanashi (she was barely in this, though). That is all…
Mashiro is discharged and returns to the studio, but TRAP begins a precipitous drop in rankings, to the point that they are warned that they won’t be safe in the next meeting. Meanwhile, Miho continues to get anime roles, Niizuma’s Crow anime starts, and Takahama gets runner-up with a one-shot. In the end, both TRAP and hideout door are terminated, all but killing Muto’s confidence, until a text by Miho insisting they get married before she turns 40 re-energize’s Mashiro’s passion.
Granted, this series has never been one to pull punches or bring out ridiculous twists in fortune, but wow, that was kinda surprising. TRAP is dead. It never recovered from its hiatus and new stories that competed for detective readers. Now Mashiro and Takagi are back at Square One. Considering how high they flew all season, we finally got an episode with another huge, crushing setback that brought back similar feelings of apprehension and disappointment from last season’s many setbacks.
We knew Mashiro would get better. We knew TRAP would drop in rankings (the episode titles tend to be spoilers in and of themselves). But we weren’t sure if the series still wouldn’t turn things around with one final, amazing chapter. It just doesn’t work that way with Jack. They have a tried-and-true system for picking winners and losers, and Trap lost. Miho revising her promise to only wait for him only another couple decades and change provided sufficient incentive for Mashiro to break out of his pity party and start coming up with a new, better manga. Something called Bakuman, perhaps?
In the first half, Roman presents her guide to manga for newcomers to the Sket-dan for inspection. As per usual, her artistic skills are dubious, but all of the instructional knowledge is there. However, once Roman’s protege Fumi intensely studies the guide, her drawing becomes crappier.
In the second half, Remi puts on a klutz’s clinic, making countless mistakes in her lesson, then abusing and throwing out her beloved “Specter” doll by mistake. The Sket-dan helps her search for it, and in the process they bump into a group of preschoolers in trouble. Remi shows her strength in leading young children, suggesting she’s more cut out for teaching preschool than high school.
A somewhat pedestrian dual effort this week, as Sket Dance gives Roman and Remi more airtime. Unfortunately, we’ve seen funnier and generally better Roman episodes and Remi episodes in the past. The bombastic commentary of Bossun and Himeko as Roman gives her manga spiel is entertaining enough, but we’ve already been here. In the second half, Remi does her best to prove she’s too ditzy to live. It would’ve made more sense for her to quit as a high school teacher, but that never panned out here.
When Sen loses in quick succession to Shaga, Asebi, and You at Sega, she throws it out the window. You leaps out to catch it, but ends up in the hospital, covered in bandages. A pair of twins from Shaga’s school mistake You for the Ice Witch, whom they’re extremely interested in meeting. They disguise themselves as nurses and visit him one at a time. When one twin removes the bandages and sees what’s beneath, she races through the hospital yelling “freak”, unaware at the time that that boy is actually You, AKA Freak. They abort their mission, then hit up a supermarket and instantly dominate everyone else there.
The Bento Club’s normal operations are interrupted by a rather reckless – but very poetic – self-defenistration of You Satou, and much of the episode revolves around the exploits of the Sawagi sisters, whom he haven’t met before. By episode’s end, it would seem they’ll be more competition for Sen and her pack in the near future. The only Bento battle happened at the end, and we didn’t see it, but we saw all we needed to to get that these twins mean business. However, unlike the Monarch for instance, these twins seem to have a lot of esteem for the Witch, and would consider it an honor to fight her and an even greater honor to defeat her. Of course, they could just approach Sen and talk to her directly, but we guess that wouldn’t be as fun as all this subterfuge…
Though they look alike, one Sawagi twin (voiced by the higher-pitched Yukari Tamura) is impulsive and emotional (like Shaga), while the other (voiced by a lower-pitched Yui Horie) is more stoic and analytical (like Sen). You has the misfortune of wearing more bandages than he needs (Asebi’s family owns the hospital, and Shaga got them to overbandage him) when the twins descend upon him, albeit one at a time. His squirming and confusion with the dual personalities of who as far as he knows is only one hottie nurse, provides much of the episode’s comedy. His subsequent romp through the hospital corridors as his bandages unravel, and getting tangled up with Asebi and hot milk, only further justify his nom-de-guerre. The things we do for Sega.
Vexed by extremely warm weather, the Neighbor Club makes a trip to the pool park. However, both the bus and the venue are extremely crowded, making the antisocial Yozora and Rika ill. The club is only there for a brief while before Sena gets a text that Yozora and Rika took off. Kodaka and the others leave too.
Like Ben-To, Haganai tries to put its own mark on the done-to-death fanservice fest that is the pool episode (the second of this series) by having two of the characters so socially awkward, they don’t even change, which is a refreshing twist. The final scene, with everyone going home in a somber mood that’s played for genuine drama, also jumps out of us as something that goes against the type.
Otherwise, there’s not much we can say; there was a ton of service, much of it focusing on Sena’s huge cans (the hugeness seems to vary greatly), Yukimura’s questionable gender, Rika’s dirty mouth, and Kobato’s inapproprately revealing-for-a-middle-schooler swimwear. Also, there were precious few minutes of Yozora-Sena bickering, though it was replaced by Maria-Kobato bickering, which is worse.
Flashbacks recount the story of how Shoma met Himari. While his father was giving motivational speeches to the members of the Penguin/Kiga Force, Shoma happened upon her. They take care of a kitten together, but it’s killed by the rules. Himari heads for the Child Broiler to be made invisible, but Shoma saves her. Back in the present, the Kiga force continues to plan, and Kanba is intimately involved.
That was a bona fide tear-jerker. This was one of Mawaru Penguindrum’s best episodes, a feat considering week after week this series has rocked harder than anything else out there. Last week it said Shoma and Himari were soulmates, which threw us off, and this week it just came out and flat-out proved it without a shadow of a doubt. Himari would be long gone if Shoma hadn’t chosen her. The thing is, Shoma, Kanba and Masako, whatever they are to each other, were the children of members of the Penguin Force. Shoma blames himself for Himari’s fate because he’s the one who brought her into the “family”, i.e. the cult of penguin-loving eco-terrorists whose “survival strategy” isn’t limited to buying only local and organic.
The group believes they live in a bleak, “frozen” world full of corruption, divided between the chosen and unchosen. The unchosen die, after becoming invisible, as Himari almost did. (We’re not sure what good bombing (or apples) will do about this). Speaking of invisible apples, Ringo has had a much smaller role as we hit the home stretch. This is such a weird show, making us believe for so long the Takakuras are biological siblings, then setting up two love triangles – Shoma/Himari/Ringo, and Kanba/Himari/Masako. One of many things we’re still pondering: is the world and everything we saw this week the way it is because Momoka was killed? Was she the only one who could’ve made it better?
The gang goes on a school camping trip. They clean up a forest in tracksuits, and meet Konishi’s little brother, who has become isolated by her death. The girls stink at making curry. Yu and Yosuke are uncomfortable sleeping next to Kanji, Chie and Yukiko can’t sleep for their fat tentmate’s snoring, so the girls shack up with the guys, and then no one can sleep. The girls show a little skin. Kanji shares a night with the fat girl, but later she rejects him.
On numerous occasions, Yu simply asked the straightforward question no one wanted to ask, whether it comes to asking Naoki if he feels left out (he does), saying the curry iss bad (it is), or telling the girls they look good in the swimsuits Yosuke helpfully provided (they do). Yet when it comes to Kanji, for some reason he’s just as unreasonable and childish as Yosuke, only without any of the facial expressions. Is his ambiguous sexuality just going to be his singular characteristic from now on, despite the fact his encounter with the fat girl – and his insistence – put that to rest?
Anyway, yeah, this was a momentum-killing filler episode. We were hoping to learn a little more about the short kid with the tam or the third girl, but alas, we just got more of the same tired jokes at Kanji’s expense, and a whole lot of high school cliches thrown in for good measure. We get it; Yu and Yukiko like each other, as do Yosuke and Chie…but none of them will ever admit to each other ever, The End. The only notable (though awkwardly-shoehorned-in) nugget of info was something we’d already assumed: all the victims appeared on TV shortly before disappearing. But that just isn’t enough substance. We would have preferred more developments.
Fu learns that her fellow photographer, Shihomi Riho, has become fast friends with Hoboro and is staying with her for the time being. When Riho tells Fu she doesn’t photograph the sky anymore, Fu is worried Riho may quit photography altogether. Fu joins Riho and Chimo on a trip to Kure to visit Riho’s senpai Misano, an illustrator who now owns a cafe like Chimo. Misano often experiments with strange food combinations, because she likes the diversity, just as Fu likes taking pictures of everything she can. The lesson is to never limit oneself to one rigid dicipline or one dream.
What do Fu, Riho, Chimo and Misano all have in common? They all believe “Greed Is Good.” Through all the good times and great photos she’s taken, Fu has remained ever weary and unsure of exactly what she should be doing or aiming for. When she first interacts with all these older young women, she is visibly nervous and self-conscious, as if she feels guilty for subjecting them to her lowly presence. I wouldn’t call it low self-esteem or self-worth, but certainly a feeling of inadequacy and not meeting her full potential. In reality, none of that is the case, and as she even says to herself, she’s often simply overthinking things.
Fu wrongly assumed Riho only took photos of the sky, in the belief that when one becomes Serious about something, one concentrates on that one thing and hones it until one is better at it than anyone else. Photographing everything is self-indulgent and undisciplined, right? Wrong – Riho’s past gift to Fu of a train ticket with no destination says it all: that ticket is Fu’s future. No one can decide when and where it will occur – or what form it will take – but Fu. So she should keep trying anything and everything she can. The sky’s the limit. Diversity is good…as is greed.
Shu returns to school, where nasty rumors about his encounter with GHQ are snuffed out by Class Prez Kuhouin Arisa, heiress to the powerful, anti-GHQ Kuhouin Group. Shu’s mom Haruka surprises him by coming home while Inori is there, forcing them to meet. Haruka is off to a party held offshore on a cruise ship, which is the same party Gai and Shu crash. Gai alerted the GHQ about the party, and a gung-ho Colonel targets the ship with missiles. Shu draws out Arisa’s void – a shield – which saves the ship and provides a live demonstration of the Untertakers’ power to her grampa, the Kuhouin boss, who agrees to provide transport services.
Segai’s superior, Colonel Eagleman – a fairly stereotyped American – is constantly talking about “guts”, and having the adequate amount to triumph. Well, Gai essentially called in a GHQ missle attack on a civilian cruise ship he’d be on at the time in order to impress his potential business parter. How’s that for gutsy? As for Shu, he more confident and looks like he’s having a lot more fun in this episode. He’d probably have freaked out if he knew what Gai did, but he didn’t, and did exactly what Gai needed for him to do: draw out Arisa’s void. Saving the ship and Arisa double as a thank-you for her sticking up for him when assholish classmates get on his case, but most of all, she and Shu’s mother were people he was determined to protect.
While the military action was limited to running around, missile launches, and holding a big void umbrella, this episode was more about infiltration, charm, and theater. Gai was funny playing the lovable rogue for a flustered Arisa, and the ballroom scene with Tchaikovsky playing over the light show was pretty sharp. Oh yeah, it looks like Shu’s mom is aware of his powers – probably always has (she is a scientist). Her drunk exhibitionist act may fool Shu, but not us. Her idea of “protecting” could mean getting separating him from the Undertakers in the future.
While meeting with the “novelist”, Shinjurou somehow passes into an alternate world where there’s been no war, but he’s a cameraman on the set of a war movie. He acts naturally in this sudden new role, but has a persistent urge that there’s a mystery there to be solved. Indeed, when the hostile film director is found murdered, he determines himself the prime suspect. But there’s a strong possibility he’s being toyed with, as Inga and Kazamori aren’t able to get to him back at the prison.
This Un-Go is a mystery within a mystery, as Shinjurou attempts to solve a mystery on a movie set while an overarching mystery festers throughout: where is he, and what the heck is going on? A lot of the details and dialogue suggest a dream sequence. The novelist and his funkily-dressed girl companion behind him to whom we haven’t been introduced yet; they’re definitely behind this, but how far does it go?
If this novelist can do what he claims he can do, probably quite far. Shinjurou, Rie, Kazamori, and the others merely literary concoctions of this dude made flesh; puppets with which he weaves mysteries for them to solve? Has he authored all the mysteries we’ve seen so far? Have we been inside his little world all along? Is his presence in the prison cell simply another artifice, and the prisoner merely his avatar in that plane of reality? We’ve gotten a fair share of hints, but that doesn’t mean we’ve figured out exactly what’s going on.