Sket Dance – 39

Switch repairs a mysterious game system for Yamanobe, who lets them play the ultimate video game, “Special Mariko Broken.” At first it’s a derivative, confounding, random mess, but after four hours, the Sket-dan are utterly enraptured, and end up beating the game. But as the ending runs, they forget the system malfunctions after four hours. It explodes and burns up, leaving them empty inside.

First he tackled athletics with “Genesis.” Then board games with “Hyperion.” This week, everyone’s favorite eccentric Yamanobe returns, and this time he’s taking on video games. And boy howdy does this episode parody video games within an inch of their lives. It touches on just about everything, from hand-writen cartridge labels and blowing into the games (we still do that!) to downright weird stuff like a controller with buttons A-U, no down, and a uirou dispenser. We had to look that one up.

But while the game is initially a Super Mario Bros. ripoff, it makes numerous leaps and bounds in graphical quality and represents a whole multitude of games, from sidescrollers to RPGs and visual novels. And it’s all tremendously entertaining, because like Yamanobe’s other games, you just don’t know what’s coming next. The post-credit clip-show was pretty shameless, but at least there were a couple fake scenes – they should have done more.

Rating: 3.5

Chihayafuru – 13

The day of the national karuta tournament arrives, but the conditions prove too much for Chihaya, who cannot focus and faints in the middle of the first match. Meanwhile, as Arata makes his way to the match, he rememices about the past, including his grandfather’s stroke and subsequent dementia. He is able to meet briefly with Chihaya until she goes to the hospital. When she wakes up, Taichi has present from him that assures her he’ll play her in a match next time.

This was another excellent episode, but it didn’t feel like the end; perhaps there’s more episodes in store? If so, that’s news to us, but we certainly wouldn’t begrudge a continuation. While the regional matches were comprehensively covered, the nationals end about as soon as they begin for poor Chihaya, who has to forfeit for, shall we say, unspecified illness, exacerbated by the crush of people, the heat, and of course, all the pressure on her elegant shoulders.

Chihaya is one to punish herself for letting people down, but when she awakens in hospital, her teammates aren’t down at all; Desktomu even won his first two games, and everyone is in high spirits, eager to play more. We’d be remiss if we didn’t mention Arata’s part in this episode. His scenes with his deteriorating grandfather are very moving. You know he’s moved too when a karuta official tells him he plays like his grandfather. His teachings live on in Arata; wasting them wouldn’t be cool.

Rating: 4