Chihayafuru – 21

Chihaya passes all her exams, so she’s allowed to compete in the Eastern qualifiers, her next step on the road to a rematch with Shinobu and a shot at her crown. Her first opponent is a child prodigy named Ririka, who initially surprises her with her speed and excellent hearing. She sees some of herself in Ririka, but at the end of the day, she combines timing with speed to put her away and move to the next round. Taichi challenges Arata to win the West, because he aims to win the East and play him.

Chihaya wants that damn crown, and she’s doing everything she can to get good enough to take a shot at it. She studied enough so her academics wouldn’t get in the way. She took away her speed and started learning more about timing, accuracy, and situational awareness to complement her natural sense for the game. She shouldn’t rely solely on speed, but that doesn’t mean she should never use it. This week it was crucial to overwhelm lil’ Ririka. When Chihaya finally has her speed limiter released, it’s an awesome thing to behold, complete with a nice metal accompaniment.

We kinda knew Chihaya wasn’t going to end up shaving her head this week, but nor was this an easy victory. It has certainly been fun watching Chihaya’s game progress. Ultimately the goal is for all three friends to end up at the top, but while Chihaya can become Queen without having to defeat a good friend, among Arata and Taichi there can only be one master. We kinda doubt Taichi would ever be able to beat Arata, but if he can memorize all the cards verbatim, heck, anything’s possible!


Rating: 3.5

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Sket Dance – 46

Bossun has started watching old video tapes he found in his mother Akane’s closet of her life when she was a young woman, along with her friend Haru and a guy named Ryousuke who looks just like him. His mother takes the tapes away, but the day before his birthday, he finds albums with pictures of the same trio, except none of Akane alone with Ryousuke. Confronting his mother, she tells him Haru was his biological mother, and both she and Kyousuke were killed in separate accidents, Haru when Akane was driving her to the hospital while she was in labor with Bossun.

Let’s get a couple things out of the way. First of all, in this Sket Dance world, there are way too many people doing 50 mph in narrow alleys with no regard for life. Secondly, if Bossun’s mother really wanted to keep the secret of Bossun’s parentage secret, she would have at least kept the videos and albums under lock and key, if not destroyed them. She certainly wouldn’t have left them sitting around waiting to be found. Kids go through their parents things, that’s a fact of life. Finally, the emotional power of the last moments of the episode were somewhat diminished by the same ol’ horrible ending sequence. This episode did away with a cold open; it could have had a unique, more appropriate ending too All that aside, this was more Serious Sket Dance, and the above hiccups couldn’t derail and otherwise excellent dramatic episode.

It was Bossun’s turn to have his past filled out, and we have to wonder if he wasn’t better not knowing the truth. Obviously the truth must always out, but what a frikkin’ truth – his mother isn’t his mother, and his real parents were both killed?! That’s just ridiculously depressing. Still, there’s one thing Bossun’s mother didn’t lie about – she did end up raising him and later Rumi as a single mother. He can be mad at her for keeping thetruth from him so long, but he shouldn’t be anything but greatful for her raising him as if he were her own, which he now is anyway. He’s not suddenly ‘alone’ just because he now has this information.


Rating: 3.5

Car Cameos: Lots of Toyotas: a Vista/Camry Prominent almost brazenly murders Kyousuke and a little kid, and a Land Cruiser, Crown, Starlet, and Celsior are at the scene of the accident. There’s also a Nissan Cube and Fuga in an establishing shot. All the cars save the Windom and Starlet are later generations that didn’t exist in 1994, when the flashback takes place.

Another – 08

Sakakibara, Izumi, and a group of classmates go on a trip to Teshi, a seaside village where Matsunaga lives. Reiko drives them. They hope to get some info about how he prevented the calamity 15 years ago. He’s unavailable when they arrive, so they have fun on the beach while they wait. Sakakibara finds Misaki playing by herself on the same beach. Matsunaga arrives, and he starts to remember something about what he used being at the school, but a stiff gust sends their beach ball into the sea. Nakao swims out to get it, and is killed by the propeller of a passing boat.

Oho, Another…you’re good. Very good. 9/10ths of the episode was inconsequential car ride and beach fun. Everyone assumes because they’re not in Yomiyama, the curse has no power and they’ll all be safe. Well, they aren’t. There’s an initial and obvious moment dread – a passing tanker truck on the road, but that threat passes and we let our guard down. Coast clear. Could this be another bloodless episode? No. One of the lesser-known students, Nakao, gets killed after something convinced him it was a good idea to swim out to where there are boats. Heck, we even thought someone might taste that poisonous pufferfish.

The car ride was a nice way for Sakakibara to learn more about Akazawa, while his scenes with Misaki on the beach are also fun bonding experiences. All of this also served to lull us into a false sense that this would just be yet another beach episode; something that arrests the momentum of the horror. But the horror came, and better late than never. And it almost happened in slow motion, with everyone watching – almost knowing what was coming – but helpless to prevent it. Theory about being safe outside Yomiyama? Disproved. The importance of Matsunaga remembering more about the past? Crucial.


Rating: 4

Car Cameos: Aunt Reiko drives a Toyota Starlet 5-door (with plenty of road rage). Akazawa’s dad drives a Toyota Crown. One of the several cars Reiko passes is a Suzuki Wagon R+.

Aquarion Evol – 09

Izumo cancels all sorties until Jin’s safety is confirmed, but Mikage manipulates the minds of three pilots and sends them to Vega. Andy is confounded by all his holes getting filled, and isn’t surprised when it turns out to be Mix’s doing. Her element power is the exact opposite of his, but despite being able to fill holes, she can’t fill the hole in her heart, caused by a father who ran off with another woman. Fudo sends the two out into battle with Mikono. Thanks to her powers of connection and Andy’s selfless acts, Mix agrees to union with them. Before they can complete it, the abductors attack, and Andy takes a hit for Mix. He is switched out for Amata, and re-unions with Mix and Mikono. She uses her power to jam the enemies’ weapons, causing their machines to explode.

Chairman Fudo is quite fond of donuts, and waxes philosophically about holes. Everyone else joins in the absurdity with traditional sayings modified to include holes, with perhaps the silliest being Crea’s “Bros Before Holes” line. But all the talk of holes – and the rings around the holes of said donuts – was consistent with the key conflict of the week: whether Mix and Andy can ever union, let alone get along. They’re diametrically opposed: oil and water, digging holes and filling them. And Mix is an insufferable prude, believing all men to be evil and tainted.

That position was going to hold her back from exploring her full potential, however, so Fudo had to get them working together. It’s helpful that Andy isn’t a dick, but rather an otherwise charming, honorable guy who just happens to have a compulsion to dig holes. It’s in his blood. We’re definitely enjoying how elements’ character traits shine through in their abilities, but even those can’t be fully expressed unless all the members of a union trust one another. Mikono is the glue that helps those unions stick – making her a very hot commodity for both Neo-Deava and the lady-less Abductors.


Rating: 4

Mirai Nikki – 20

Yukiteru disregards all this talk of imposters – “Yuno is Yuno” as far as he’s concerned. Ninth wants to defeat Eleventh, but she barely escapes from his guards while spying on him and Eighth, whose Server diary he connects to a supercomputer to make all the citizens of Sakurami into apprentice diary holders. Deus tells Ninth that Eleventh designed the diaries for use in the survival game, and his allows him to spy on other diary holders, while his secretary lets him avoid misinformation. Nishijima is killed and Ninth is cornered, but she’s saved by Yukiteru and Yuno, who arrive with civilian hostages, the mayor’s weakness.

And so Nishijima follows his late superior to the grave, protecting the person he loves, as his late superior did. He tries his best to get Minene to agree to marry him in order for his help, but it doesn’t come off as desperate or creepy, and even Minene can’t help but be flattered. Just when she thinks she’s found a way around Eleventh’s spying by using Kousaka, Hinata, and Mao, he sets a bomb off that takes off her hand, and Nishijima gets a bullet to the heart, followed by more when he makes himself her shield.

This episode primarily followed Minene around. She’s certainly a much deeper character than the touched-in-the-head school terrorist from her first appearence, but all this talk of getting married and having kids bemuses her teribly. It seems absurd to her: she’s always lived alone, for herself. Still, she appeared to find the possibility at least somewhat intriguing, and when Nishijima was killed, eliminating that possibility, she seemed genuinely hurt. As for Yukkii and Yuno, they’re still cheerfully wreaking havoc, running along that path to godhood. Eleventh is a tough cookie, but if anyone can crumble it, it’s that pair.


Rating: 4

Last Exile: Ginyoku no Fam – 17

Boreas is in allied hands, Dio and Alvis have arrived, and things seem calm, until Admiral Sadri’s first fleet arrives. He takes advantage of the patchwork nature of his opponent by sending orders to Orang’s third fleet to initiate a pincer attack, something Orang has no intention of doing. Even so, the Glacies pilots take the bait, and it takes Fam intercepting them to end the infighting. The Silvius reappears to help win the day, but the first fleet is back that evening with a sneak attack. Sara sends Millia to Vasant and Fam to Sadri with her decree that all hostilities cease. Dian goes after Fam and Gisey, but they evade her and deliver the decree to Sadri, who agrees to abide by Sara’s wishes.

Fam makes herself surprisingly useful this week, preventing a continuation of friendly fire that would have torn the allied fleet apart, and even successfully delivers a call for a ceasefire that is accepted. As the oldest of the Adean admirals, Sadri knew Sara’s mother well, and knew her ideals. But perhaps more importantly, Fam herself reminds him of a girl named Raha with the same color hair and eyes. Who is this Laha, and is she indeed related to Fam? A mother? A sister? Intriguing. Finally, how could he say no to a couple of cute girls who risked their lives in the name of peace?

This week it was Millia’s turn to falter. She sent out a preemptive strike against a far more experienced opponent with a far more cohesive and disciplined fleet at his command. If it weren’t for Fam and the Silvius perhaps too magically appearing when all hope seemed lost, both Millia and Vasant would have been in real trouble. The alliance showed how shaky it is, though the key belligerents seem to be Dian and the Glacian sky goddesses, who have lost everything and won’t settle for this ceasefire. They want their enemies dead, period, and even Fam may not make them see reason.


Rating: 3.5

Bakuman 2 – 20

Tanto’s rank is steady, but low, and Takagi is nearing the limit of his jokes, pulling all-nighters days before his wedding to no avail. At his and Kaya’s wedding reception, Mashiro confronts Hattori to tell him straight up whether Tanto is good; he says it isn’t. The final straw is when Niizuma calls Ashirogi Muto his rivals on live TV. Both Takagi and Mashiro ask the chief editor if they can quit Tanto and work on something that will surpass Niizuma – if they can’t, their Jack days are over.

First Trap got cancelled. They liked it, but the rankings fell to far. Now with Tanto, the rankings aren’t falling enough to risk cancellation, and it’s important to Jack as a kids’ manga – but both Takagi and Mashiro feel it’s holding them back. While it may seem unwise to put so much faith in the opinions of a few peers – in this case, Niizuma and Hattori – the way they see it, they would rather try and fail to surpass Niizuma with everything they’ve got rather than continue to dabble in obscurity. If they truly have the talent and it’s a matter of proper utilization, then Tanto has to go.

It’s a big gamble, because, well, what if they truly can never surpass Niizuma, and burn themselves out in the attempt? They’re already known as “troublemakers” in the industry, and there’s apparently no better publication to be in than Jack, so they’re really limiting their options. But continuing to eke out Tanto would be limiting them even further. Would Mashiro really be okay marrying Miho after getting a late night anime deal like Hiramaru? I doubt it. He wants the primetime, and he wants to be the best. And so they roll the dice.


Rating: 3.5

Baby, Please Kill Me! – 08

Ennui, garbage can armor, heat and salad oil, rock magazines, tambourines, flute swords, dog whistles, darts, and targets.

Yasuna presents one of the above subjects. Sonya shows disinterest. Yasuna presses the issue. Sonya injures Yasuna. Repeat!

Rinne no Lagrange – 08

While flying training maneuvers, Madoka, Lan, and Muginami are recalled back to base, as word has come down that the Chairmon of Novumundus is paying a visit to Pharos. Todoroko is surprised when the chairman’s great-grandaughter comes in his place, a curt young lady named Asteria. Novumundus’ goal is to prevent Rin-ne from re-blossoming, causing a similar calamity to one 20,000 years ago, for which there are no archaelogical records, but was the time of an advanced civilization. To that end, she grounds Aura and Madoka. Lan and Muginami lock themselves in the Vox hangar in protest, but a very appreciative Madoka convinces them to stand down.

Okay, so now all three sci-fi series we’re watching this Winter can each claim their own Lolita in a Position of Power, which we shall call LoPos, or lopes. The latest lope is perhaps the most dynamic thus far: Moretsu Pirates’ princess is fairly inoucuous, and we haven’t seen enough of Aquarion Evol’s chairman to form an opinion. But despite her awful aristocratic name (Asteria Lizamarie de Roschefall), we didn’t dislike her introduction. Despite her darling looks, she weilds her authority firmly without being an ankle-biting baby about it.

She’s mature beyond her years, and while she’s on Pharos, her word is law. Sure, she’ll cop the odd feel or pinch the odd bottom, but we can forgive such abuses of power as a glimmer of levity in her otherwise very businesslike M.O. There’s a certain comfort we get in knowing she’s taking this very seriously. After all, the whole reason she and her kind are out in space is because this Vox Aura went berzerk. That’s a very interesting development; these are no aliens, but humans long estranged from Earth. And Nuvomundus is all about keeping Earth neutral, relatively uncorrupted, and…intact (Asteria is to Earth as Madoka is to Kamogawa). Villagiulio? Well, he’s got other plans!


Rating: 4

Nisemonogatari – 08

Karen interrupts her brother’s studying to show him a new look, wearing Tsukihi’s clothes. She knows he knows Kanbaru, but Araragi won’t introduce her to her unless she wins a “game” involing him brushing her teeth. It goes a bit far, and Tsukihi walks in on them and isn’t pleased. When she storms off, they continue the game.

Nisemonogatari reaches new heights of creepy sibling interactions, specifically Koyomi enjoying brushing Karen’s teeth – and Karen enjoying him brush her teeth – a bit too much. We can expect Koyomi to act like this: he’s been interacting like this with girls – particularly younger ones – all season. And he’s part vampire, making him literally not entirely human. But what, we wonder, is Karen’s issue? On second thought, eh, perhaps it would be best if we just not wonder and simply move on, shall we? Tsukihi comes in and breaks it up, only for them to  get right back to it when she leaves.

Clearly Akiyuki Shinbo does not have any particular qualms about dealing with these kinds of issues. If there is a taboo to be exploited, he’ll put it right up in our face, as close and intimate as possible, not skimping on a single facial expression or sound of enjoyment, while staying right on the edge.  Indeed, this was perhaps the weirdest -and wrongest – tooth-brushing session we’ve ever witnessed. Tsukihi seemed to concur.


Rating: 3.5

Moretsu Pirates – 08

The stowaway turns out to be Princess Gruier of the old and powerful Serenity royal family. She boarded the Bentenmaru of her own accord to request that they investigate the legendary Golden Ghost Ship. When media reports the princess is missing, Marika decides to enroll her at her school on Morningstar, limiting her enemies’ moves. A sudden job hits, in which the Bentenmaru must intercept an escort ship from Serenity carrying palace records relating to the ghost ship. When it arrives, it appears damaged, and is being pursued by a battleship and four other escorts – also Serenity affiliated.

Whether she’s there by her own will or not, the whole “Princess stowaway” premise was very well represented in the annals of Star Trek. Members of royalty often tend to act spoiled and aloof to their reluctant spacefaring hosts. Princess Gruier may be a downright silly-looking character, but she’s very polite, once she learns Marika is indeed the father of the captain she sought out. It seems a bit rash for a young princess to sneak aboard a pirate ship to make such a seemingly odd request, but perhaps we can chalk it up to no one in Serenity taking her seriously.

Of course, the events in the closing moments of the episode, like those last week, will likely have the biggest effect on where the story will go next week. We’ve got apparent Serenity-on-Serenity battle, and a Bentenmaru that will need to take a side. For now though, the main crew is formerly introduced in the guise of Gruier meeting them. They’re a most colorful group. With all these sudden royal circumstances, Marika’s pirate captain training has already burst out of its cruise ship-raiding mold.


Rating: 3.5

Black Rock Shooter – 04

Kagari returns to school and instantly finds a clique of friends, further frustrating Yomi, who is now feeling ignored and unused by everyone – Mato because of Yuu, and Kagari because of all her new friends. In the dream world, Yomi becomes enveloped in a mass of metal chains. Kohata’s admiree stops by practice to apologize for the love letter incident and to reciprocate his feelings, but she has no memory of him. Yomi holes up in her house, and when she finally recieves her, Kagari tells her exactly everything she doesn’t need, and in the dream world Yomi’s chain nest explodes, revealing an immense boss for Black Rock Shooter.

Well, Kagari seems to be adjusting nicely to normal high school life, and all but discards Yomi by the episode’s end. This is troubling to Yomi, because as it turns out she was just as dependent on Kagari as she was on her; moreso, in fact. Kagari is not one to mince worlds and in fact seems to go out of the way to state things as nastily as she possibly can – and already teetering on the edge, Yomi seems to crack. It’s her turn to be saved, and it’s up to Black Rock Shooter to defeat her very nasty evolved form.

As for the whole deal with Saya, well, the woman is clearly a bit of a sadist, happily contributing to Yomi’s instability by saying the magic words: “Nobody really needs you.” She also really likes her coffee. It’s our experience that whenever an anime series with fantasy elements has a character who believes she is useles and the world wouldn’t even bat an eye if they never existed, that character goes on some kind of rampage, followed by a catharsis. It will be fun to watch Mato snap her out of it, if she can. As for Kotoha, we’re not sure what’s up with that yet.


Rating: 4

Guilty Crown – 18

After taking Shu’s power, a newly-crowned Gai uses Nanba and other students to form a combination void that blocks the UN bombing and destroys the bomber. After destroying a carrier strike group, he warns the world to cease all miilitary operations and essentially await further orders. Inori sneaks off and tends to Shu, and they squat in a half-destroyed planetarium. After multiple violent outbursts, Inori realizes the monster within her cannot be controlled. Remembering Shu’s words, she decides to “be herself” and take on Gai’s forces in her berzerk mode. However, Gai uses a void to capture her.

They took his normality, they took his girl, they took his arm, they took his powers and his kingdom…and now they take his other girl. But it looks like it’s going to stop there, because for one, Shu doesn’t have anything else, and for another, his last look was full of resolve. He’s going to go get her back. Right? Otherwise, this was an episode in which Arisa kills her grandfather (who came to kill her for her betrayal, but stayed his sword), Nanba and his minions are thankfully wiped out, Inori wastes a gang of would-be rapists, Daryl Yan disobeys orders, and a stealth bomber gets blowed up real good.

What have we got, four episodes left? That sounds about right. Shu, outta stuff to lose; Inori, losing what humanity she had, Gai, back and on the wrong side and threatening the entire world, the remnants of the Undertakers/Funeral Parlor lost and and seemingly aimless, and a totally wrecked Tokyo (remember how they knocked over the tower last week?). So we’re definitely getting near the end here. What end that will be we have no idea, but we’re enjoying the ride.


Rating: 3

Plane Cameo: It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s…yes, it’s a plane. a B-2 Spirit!