Tasogare Otome x Amnesia – 04

Over summer vacation, Kirie spearheads a training camp for the club, which involves swimming in the pool, sleeping in the abandoned night duty room, and investigating school legends, like the ghost of said room. Yuuko is upset that Teiichi ignored her, and pulls several pranks to punish him, but at the same time shows him the “other side” of the school.

After four weeks, this series’ dilly-dallying is growing tiresome. For yet another episode, we’re teased by suggestions of darker elements, only to have them utterly deflated by Yuuko’s silly antics. She’s basically just messing with Teiichi the whole time, and as a result, we feel like the series is messing with us. It doesn’t know what it wants to be, which is why it’s trying to be everything…and not succeeding. Yuuko has potential as a character, but that has yet to be realized and there was no urgency to correct that this week. She seems content in her amnesia, as long as she has Teiichi to play with.

As for the rest of the cast, the whole reason everyone was together at all was Kirie’s desire to have a training camp. There wasn’t a strong reason why Kirie joined the club at all, and there’s no reason at all why she would organize such a camp. The only reason there was a pool scene is so the girls could be in swimsuits, which has nothing to do with anything. As for Okonagi Momoe, she’s officially the most annoying character of the season (yes, more than that blue-haired girl in Medaka Box). If we don’t see some improvement next week, it will be hard to not drop this.


Rating: 4 (Fair)

Aquarion Evol – 18

With the situation on Altair deteriorating rapidly and Kagura nowhere to be found and proven unreliable, Izumo mans the Ahura Gnis and travels to Vega himself to find a Rare Igura who could be the True Eve. Zessica, who is feeling weak and unsure of what to do next, resigns herself to only being with Amata when in union, but Izumo proved powerful, breaking past the defenses and demanding Chairman Crea hand over an Igura. Zessica volunteers, but while trying to stop her Mix gets in the way and her Vector is captured and taken back to Altair.

We have to say, we don’t really mind this Izumo guy. He’s got a lot on his plate: the imminent collapse of his world and nothing to save it with. He’s done depending on others; needs a True Eve pronto. He’s a pragmatic guy; so rather than pounding his chest and attacking, he begins with peaceful negotiations. One girl in exchange for no war; which is not a bad deal. Only, there’s no telling what he and Altair will be up to in if their power is restored. For all we know, maybe Altair needs to be weak if Vega is to thrive. Izumo refers to Vega as a former battlefield; it would seem from the look of the two worlds that his side lost. It also means he’s a seasoned veteran and a pro; not some greenhorn teenager, and pilots his mecha accordingly. The Aquarion Gang is good, but aren’t any match for Izumo.

He probably could have destroyed the Aquarion and escort Vectors without breaking a sweat, killing half the cast in one blow, but like we said, he’s not evil. And he’s almost as intrigued by Amata as Mikage. But as to that cast: Mix regrets how her actions caused Andy grief, which may or may not have motivated her to step in and prevent Zessica from getting abducted. It could have just as well been comraderie, something Zessica wasn’t interested in this week. It was all about poor old Me Myself and I. Scorned by Amata, she wants to hit something hard, and prove to herself she’s still a warrior. Well, she failed, and Mix may end up paying the price for her selfishness.


Rating: 4

Hyouka – 02

One month after the Classics Club was assembled, Chitanda is frustrated by the lack of club activities. She leads him to the library, where Satoshi and another friend, Ibara Mayaka, present them with a small mystery involving a large book that’s been checked out for one day five weeks in a row by five different girls. When Chitanda notices it smells of paint thinner, he deduces it’s being used a painting subject in the art room, impressing both Chitanda and Ibara. Chitanda calls him that Sunday, and they meet at a cafe, where she nervously tells him she has a confession to make…

Instead of robberies and murders, what if Sherlock Holmes only dealt in small but tasty mysteries at his school? More to the point, what if Sherlock just couldn’t be bothered to exert any energy solving anything without firm prodding by Watson? What if Watson was a pretty girl with amethysts for eyes? That’s Oreki for you. He’d rather not do anything at all with his free time, but Watson Chitanda just won’t leave him alone, and he just can’t refuse those eyes. Near the end when everyone – even Ibara, whose opinion of him has never been high – is congratulating him for his discovery, he even wonders who this person is, exerting all his energy.

Like last week, the dialogue crackles and pops, the characters brim with energy, and the series excels both at natural, realistic animation and fantastical glimpses into Oreki’s mind’s eye, including a very striking scene where he’s seated at a grand dining table being bullied by Chitanda, or something momentary, like Chitanda with a tail. We’ve only seen two episodes of Hyouka, but we can say without hesitation that we’re positively hyouked. And we can probably expect that Chitanda’s impending “confession” probably won’t be what we’re expecting.


Rating: 8
 (Great)

Car Cameo: There’s a spankin’-new blue Toyota Ractis parked outside Oreki’s crib.



P.S. What’s with the ending sequence? Chitanda and Ibara in skimpy see-through nighties sprawled out on a big…wait, never mind, we get it.

 

Nazo no Kanojo X – 04

As Ueno waxes about the imminent joy of seeing his girlfriend Oka in her summer P.E. uniform, Oka shares her lunch with Urabe. Surprised she’s interacting with another girl, Tsubaki tells her he’s happy, but she maintains she needs no friends as long as she has him. When running in a relay, Urabe scrapes her knee, and Oka takes her to the nurse’s office to bandage it. After they share a drink, Oka’s knee becomes cut. Urabe confirms it by cutting her palm; her drool transferred the wounds to Oka, who knows about her and Tsubaki. Urabe declines the offer of friendship, but Oka still wants to get along. The next day she gives Urabe her drool, and learns Urabe and Tsubaki have not yet kissed.

We’re fans of economical casts; series that belt out dozens of people to keep track of can be overwhelming. Which is why we’re glad Nazo no Kanojo X is focusing on a relatively small cast. This week formally introduces Oka, who is immediately a more interesting and dynamic character than her boyfriend Ueno, who’s your pretty standard horny school chum hanging on Tsubaki’s shoulder. Like Tsubaki, and the other guy last week (we already forgot his name), Oka is simply fascinated by Urabe, and wants to be her friend; after having seen her and Tsubaki together, and knowing approaching Tsubaki would be “troublesome”.

Urabe’s refrain is “I don’t need friends”, but after what happens in P.E., perhaps a better way to phrase it is “it’s best if I don’t have too many friends,” after Oka gets her wounds. Being friends means sometimes sharing feelings and sometimes pain; in this case, literal physical ailments – which is a crazy supernatural power that the series presents in a surprisingly low-key manner. Both Urabe and Oka (and Tsubaki for that matter) simply accept that this is how drool works. What surprised us most of all was Oka using a drool test to determine how far Urabe’s gotten with Tsubaki, proving that Urabe isn’t the only one who can administer such a test.


Rating: 8 (Great)

Accel World – 04

When Haru describes how he direct linked with Chiyu and learned she wasn’t Cyan Pile, but only a conduit, Kuroyukihime gets upset and storms off. Haru refutes claims he’s going out with her, and cannot fathom someone like her actually liking him. After school they walk home, and he confronts her about it, further upsetting her. A car nearly hits them when they burst link, and Kuroyukhime uses her level 9 power to use her real body to push him out of the car’s path, hitting her. In the hospital in critical condition, and with 99% of her points lost, Haru vows to protect her from Pile, who arrives and is revealed as Taku. Haru initiates a duel with him.

This week Haruyuki Arita is a particularly insufferable little pipsqueak, and while we can’t blame him, considering his point-of-view, for questioning the sincerity of Kuroyukihime’s feelings, we can surely blame him for making things worse by insisting she must hate herself for pretending to like him, and that she simply use him like the disposable pawn he is. This is how this kid has always thought about himself; worthless. Which doesn’t make much sense considering he has such a loving, supportive friend in Chiyu up to this point, though perhaps even she has always been unable to convince him he’s worth more than dirt.

In any case, Kuroyukihime lets her guard down, and they end up in a situation where she’s the only one who can save them from a runaway car, so she does, confessing most doubt-allayingly her new-found love for him before sacrificing herself (though she isn’t killed, this is the future, after all.) Is it indeed pretty far-fetched for her to fall so hard in love with him so soon? Perhaps, but love is a many-splendored thing, and logic rarely figures into the equation. It’s also more than a little convenient that she happens to be in love with someone who’s friends with the girlfriend of one of her mortal enemies in Taku. But then again…six degrees of separation.

Rating: 7 (Very Good)

Car Cameos: There were a couple tight close-ups of cars, but they were of the fictional futuristic variety.

Moretsu Pirates – 17

Lynn asks Marika to take on a mission to board a liner and ‘kidnap’ Jenny Dolittle, who is being forced into an arranged marriage by her uncle so he can make his son the heir to the massive Hugh-Dolittle company. Marika agrees, but Jenny arrives aboard a state-of-the-art spacecraft before they get started. Lynn and Jenny reveal they’re in a relationship, and Jenny requests asylum, which Marika grants. Jenny’s uncle tries to pressure Harold Lloyd to make Marika give her up, but Marika is able to negotiate a deal with Show that will work out for everyone, which he agrees to. Not long afterward, the Hugh Dolittle fleet opens fire on the Bentenmaru, which jumps away in retreat.

For Marika Kato, an awful lot can happen in a day. One minute you’re assembling a subsitute amateur crew of novices who work out how to operate the ship and pull off a standard pirating job by the skin of their teeth; the next, you’re in quite a bit more potential trouble, taking on a job that places you, your ship, and the insurance company that covers you in a very powerful interstellar corporation’s crosshairs. We can only salute this episode for it’s sheer scope, ambition, and for sweating the details.


We love how the initial plan – which really sounds like how the episode will unfold – is suddenly and totally subverted by, of all things, the client herself, Jenny. Despite her looks she’s no damsel in distress; she can take care of herself, and when she sees and opportunity, she takes the initiative. Justice is on Jenny’s side: her uncle has no right to push her out of the picture by marrying her off, but it’s interesting how there’s more to this than business. Lynn didn’t just do it out of a sense of duty to her former captain, but out of love for her; love Jenny reciprocates. Marika can hardly stand by while two friends’ hearts are at risk of being torn from one another.

We have to point out that Marika makes some initially very questionable command decisions (agreeing to a mission that could cost her her license; allowing Jenny’s ship to dock before confirming it’s her) but her utter conviction in making them (there’s a reason she’s the captain, and she’s her father’s daughter), and the way events unfold, everything manages to Come Up Marika. The cost of failure is high, but the cost of success is damned high. All they need to do is protect Jenny from her uncle and his big bad corporate fleet…with rookie high school students manning the helm and FTL drive. The training cruise is over.


Rating: 4

Eureka Seven AO – 03

Ao decides he doesn’t want to pilot the giant again, for fear he’ll cause more damage than he’d prevent. On the way home, he and Naru are ambushed by Naru’s father and friends. They capture Ao and plan to use him as a bargaining chip in negotiations with Japan. The Okinawans also capture Elena in order to get Gen-Bleu’s attention, and warn them to stay out of their affairs. When an aircraft carrier-sized secret appears, escorted by a fleet of smaller secrets, Fleur and Elena engage it in battle. Both Bleu’s Ivica and Gazelle descend on the house where Ao is being held, with Gazelle ultimately rescuing him and flying him to the Nirvash, which he decides he must pilot so he’ll never have to apologize to the next generation for doing nothing.

If it weren’t for the kind old Dr. Toshio Fukai, Ao probably wouldn’t exist. Yet when Eureka fell from the sky and was eventually ostracized by the island’s people, he took her into his clinic and she gave birth to a son. One person’s kindness made all the difference. “Never hate, no matter what,” is Toshio’s advice to Ao. This, in the midst of his hospital, burned down and ransacked by vandals (and not for the first time). He turns the other cheek. So what if all the older people on the island want to blame Ao for all their problems? He’s going to protect them anyway. Not for their sake, but for their children; for the future.

If we remember correctly, Renton was a lot more self-centered and his self-doubt and feelings of inadequacy often paralyzed him. While it seemed like Ao (his son?? who knows at this point) was possibly going to follow this path (you’re not piloting it anymore? Really, kid?), but after spending some time with bitter geezers and being rescued by their kids who feel bad for bullying a foreigner, he changes his mind. We’re glad it didn’t take six episodes to do so, either. This doesn’t mean he’s in that cockpit for good, of course, but it’s encouraging that he’s taking on challenges – like the super-huge G-monster. With all this heavy, serious stuff going down, though, the episode still makes room for a brief gag in which Elena and a government official are caught singing karaoke.


Rating: 6 (Good)


Car Cameos: More Nissan X-Trail action, and Naru and Noah are taken away in what looks like a black Toyota Crown sedan of some kind; can’t tell which for sure.

Eureka Seven AO – 02

Gazelle doesn’t take Ao’s bracelet, but suggests he come with them. They tether their car to the retreating JSDF ship, but the Secret attacks and they crash onto the flight deck. Ao has no choice but to enter the cockpit of a tarped FP that turns out to be an IFO called the Mk. I, the oldest of its kind known. He takes the reins and goes after the Secret. He almost has a redoubt, but Naru gets through to him and he defeats the monster just as Generation Bleu arrives. Ao ditches and is fished out of the sea by GB pilot Fleur Blanc. When he goes home he learns the townsfolk blame him and his mother for the island’s misfortune. Naru finds and reassures him. He shows her the “Sea Giant” he piloted.

In this world, Japan and Okinawa are separate sovereign powers that don’t exactly like or trust each other, and the Japanese forces exploit the island’s emergency to enter Okinawan waters. It’s an interesting dynamic, and the Okinawans don’t seem to like foreigners like Ao, especially when it seems troubles started the moment he arrived. This gets to Ao, but he learns that he’s a wanted man (and has blue hair) after he saves the island from the Secret. Talk about gratitude. Still, he’s upset that they may be right; fortunately, Naru is no fair-weather friend, and as far as she’s concerned, he’s a hero. We really like their friendship so far.

We’ll see from this point on where fate sweeps young Ao and Naru. There’s Gazelle and Co., there’s the JSDF and OSDF, and there’s Generation Bleu, who are rather surprised to see the Mark I flynig around, considering they believed it was scrapped years ago. There’s lots of danger and peril in these first episodes, but also lots of heart and determination, and lots of colorful, likable characters. We were better able to sort everything and everyone out this week, and this looks to be a most immersive sci-fi-drama. Not as in-your-face or insane as Aquarion Evol, but more serious and mature.


Rating: 7
 (Very Good)


Car Cameos:
Ao’s gramps drives a beige Suzuki Wagon R, while the Okinawan military guys get around in a Nissan X-Trail. Ao discovers his blue hair in the sideview mirror of a Toyota bB (pictured).

Eureka Seven AO – 01

Trouble begins to brew on an Oknawan island when Ao crosses paths with a trio of smugglers led by Gazelle. Ao comes into possession of a glowing green bracelet, and suddenly a “scub coral” emerges from the ground, and a “G-monster” emerges from the sky. They eventually retreat, but return the next morning, causing widespread destruction. Worried about his adoptive grandfather and sickly friend Narau, Ao is cornered by Gazelle & Co., but refuses to relinquish the bracelet, which reminds him of his mother…

It’s comforting to know that Japan shares Americans’ apparent obsession with remakes and sequels. Nostalgia is a powerful thing, and slapping the name of something well-known and well-liked will always increase its chances of success. So here we have a sequel to Eureka SeveN, six years after its first run. It was, at the time, the longest series we’d ever watched at 50 episodes, and we really enjoyed its style, its beauty, and most of its characters. We say most, because Renton Thurston really dragged the series down with his angsty, selfish, annoying behavior.

Well, Renton isn’t in this; instead we have Ao, who we gather is Eureka’s son. He doesn’t come off as whiny, and even if he’s weak, he’s willing to protect his weaker friend Naru and isn’t willing to simply hand something over simply because an adult threatens him. We like him so far, and this first episode really gave us the feeling of him suddenly being dropped into this overwhelming, perilous situation, yet maintaining his cool. This pilot also went big on the visual front: lots of stuff got Blow’d Up Real Good (clearly this series won’t be as delicate with its town as Rinne no Lagrange). There’s also a sloth, which is pretty awesome. But this first episode was merely setup: all we know is that something life-changing is going to happen to young Ao – in the next episode. Till then!


Rating: 7
 
(Very Good)


Car Cameos:
Ao’s FP closely resembles a Piaggio Ape, only it canfly, so it’s much cooler. Townsfolk flee the carnage in what looks like a late-’80s, bug-eyed Honda Acty Truck.

P.S. Sorry for the belated review, but we were on the fence about getting into this series, and finally caved – a decision we don’t regret.

 

Natsuiro Kiseki – 04

Yuka likes her cousin Takashi, but he’s interested in Saki. While resting on the rock, she accidentally makes a wish that swaps their bodies. Yuka is elated, and is able to arrange a date with Takashi. Saki is furious, and makes everyone wish for them to switch back, but Natsumi and Rinko switch bodies instead. The next day, Yuka goes on the date with Takashi while Saki, Natsumi and Rinko shadow them. When it starts to get serious, Yuka realizes it was a bad idea, since he only sees Saki and not her; Rinko spirits her away before they kiss, and everyone returns to their normal body.

We had pretty good episodes focusing on Natsumi and Saki; this week it was Yuka’s turn to take center stage. Only, most of the time, Yuka isn’t in her own green-haired, relatively out-of-shape body, but in Saki’s. When her wish to become Saki comes true, she totally runs with it without hesitation. For most of the episode, nobody is who they should be. We must salute the four voice actresses for nailing one another’s way of speaking and mannerisms, and there were lots of nice touches like Yuka-as-Saki cooling her face with a cola. Natsumi-in-Rinko was so much peppier than she usually is (reminding us of how she played Fam). We love bodyswap episodes (Fairy Tail and DS9 had some good ones), and this one delivered the goods.

The swapping wasn’t just played for laughs. Yuka learned that looking and sounding like Saki is no way to win the heart of her cousin (it’s allowed in Japan, though in decline). Going on a date with him only gave him the idea that Saki liked him, since that’s how he saw her. They made a good couple, but it was a dead end. Ultimately, she’ll have to approach him honestly, as Yuka, if she wants to get anywhere. We kinda feel bad for poor Takashi: about to kiss Saki one minute, and suffering rejection-by-text the next. Both Yuka and Saki kinda ended up toying with his heart. They are some cold witches.


Rating: 9 (Superior)

Car Cameo: A Daihatsu Hijet kei truck pulls up right at the beginning.

Sankarea – 04

Furuya comes to grips with the situation he’s in: Rea is now a zombie, which means he’s now living his dream. Rea’s father vows to win her back an exact revenge upon Furuya. Gramps mistakes Rea for his resurrected mistress. Rigor mortis sets in for Rea. Estimating she’ll rot into bones in a month, Furuya considers how he’ll be able to protect and preserve her body.

Now that Rea has been zombified thanks to Furuya’s magic potion, her goal is to experience everything a normal girl should experience; that’s how she interpreted his promise to stay by her side. That equates to making her his girlfriend, which is everything he ever wanted. He’s a bit slow on the uptake, however, as it’s more than halfway through the episode until he realizes that there are worse things than having a gorgeous zombie girl living in his bedroom.

Of course, there are some issues he’s going to have to deal with. Protecting the secret of Rea from his family won’t be easy, as it’s not a huge house; the encounter with gramps was a close (and hilarious) call. Whether he’s aware or not, Rea’s father isn’t finished with him, and won’t give up on getting his beloved daughter back. And then there’s the practical difficulties; at some point, we gather Rea’s going to need some brains to eat, and Furuya needs to get Rea embalmed or something soon, or he’ll have a real mess on his hands.


Rating: 7 (Very Good)

Sket Dance – 55

Part 1: While cleaning Chuu’s classroom, Bossun drinks from a Coke bottle containing a potion that mixes up his feelings and expressions: he laughs when angry, cries when bored, looks cool when he’s crying and looks angry when embarrassed. Remi messes up Chuu’s antidote, so Bossun’s expression becomes frozen in anger.

Part 2: When doing origami, Himeko discovers Bossun is an origami virtuoso: not only able to make any common form one-handed, but can make a realistic paper sculpture of anything on demand. When Switch tells him about a contest with a one-million yen prize, Bossun holes up in the clubroom and creates a fantastic pegasus, but accidentally uses the paper he wrote the directions to the contest on.

We consider episodes involving Chuu-san’s crazy concoctions to be among the most consistently hilarious of the series, including perhaps the best non-serious Sket Dance episode, number 9 – when Bossun becomes tiny. It was just as hilarious on the second watch, with a breakneck pace and rapid-fire gags that simply never quit. This newest potion mixes up all of Bossun’s expressions, and the result is some truly strange, absurd interactions. As veteran viewers of anime, it’s ingrained within us to expect certain tones of voice to be accompanied by the appropriate expressions. This segment turned that on its head, taking us out of that comfort zone, which was definitely interesting and different.

Far less surreal was the discovery of Bossun’s innate talent for origami mastery, which along with his powers of concentration, dinky slingshot, and “servile” personality, only add to his oddness among shounen characters. The ease with which he makes amazing paper creations is milked for all it’s worth, and by episode’s end he’s acting like some kind of zen master dishing out wisdom. One really nice touch: he replaces his hat and armband with paper facsimilies, but no mention of this is made whatsoever; it’s a subtle gag that works very well, as does his ultimate undoing. Next time pin those directions to the wall or something, Boss.


Rating: 3.5

Medaka Box – 04

With Medaka insisting he win for her, Zenkichi defeats Akune in their Judo match by scoring a point before he could score ten. His victory is short-lived when Akune is cut from the team and joins the student council as secretary. Medaka puts Akune to work immediately, tasking him with assisting third-year tomboy Yatsushiro with writing a love letter. When he brings his first attempt to Medaka for approval, it is summarily rejected. Akune changes his strategy and tutors Yatsushiro so she can write the letter herself. For this, Medaka gives him a pat on the head, and the flowers start to extend past the council room.

We’re definitely noticing similarities between Medaka Box and Sket Dance: obviously, both are about small but spirited organizations that help anyone with anything they might require. The difference so far is that Sket Dance’s comedy is typically centered around how they’re often totally unprepared for their missions, and the difficulties and frustrations they face. Medaka Box, which we like just as much at this point, is about people who are very good at many things. There’s rarely any doubt that a mission will be accomplished, it’s just a matter of how it’s done. Even so, Medaka would never call herself perfect or a prodigy, even if she kinda is; she believes everyone is the same and has equal potential for greatness.

Also unlike Sket Dance, we have a love triangle of sorts in play that really isn’t there between Bossun, Himeko and Switch. Sure, Zenkichi isn’t about to ask Medaka out, but nor will he allow anyone else to take his place by her side, even if it’s a platonic side. Enter Akune, who very much wants to win her heart, even though she’s stated categorically “she can never belong to one person”, which is a little haughty of her. But that’s what we love about Medaka: she’s perfect in somethings, and not perfect in others, but gets away with it. We look forward to the council of three swelling to four, as the opening and ending foretell a second girl in the works.


Rating: 6 (Good)