Hyouka – 11.5

Oreki’s sister returns home, and persuades him to be a lifeguard for the public pool for the day. When Satoshi calls asking for a book back and hear’s of Oreki’s intention to work, he hurries to the pool, Mayaka and Chitanda in tow. The three have fun while Oreki lifeguards. Chitanda believes a woman may have lost her earring. They all look for it, but Oreki learns that it wasn’t an earring Chitanda saw, but ice cream from the woman’s kid.

In this mid-series ‘special episode’ (hence no official rating), the Classics Club heads to the pool! Why a pool, you say? Well, for one thing, it’s summer, and for another, Chitanda and Mayaka haven’t appeared in swimsuits yet (though they’re not wearing much in the ED either). All the events of this episode could have been summed up as “Oreki takes a long nap at home” if only he’d defied his older sister. But for some reason, he can’t say no…just like he can’t say no to Chitanda.

We’re not saying there’s a definite connection between those two women; and while the episode never shows her face, perhaps the fact is Oreki just can’t say no to a pretty face. We liked how Oreki’s lack of motivation irked Mayaka and Satoshi to the point they called him out on it, which in turn led to him taking the “white ear case” seriously and arriving at a conclusion that satisfies and impresses all (especially Chitanda). We also like the possibility Satoshi used Oreki’s working at the pool as an excuse to slack off.

(No Rating)

Muv-Luv Alternative: Total Eclipse – 01

Mankind makes first contact with a hostile extra-terrestrial race classified as “BETA” in 1967. Thirty years later, Earth has been invaded, and Japan is one of the last countries not directly under siege. Still, the enemy is coming, and shogun vasssal Takamura Yui and her classmates are being quickly trained for battle. One year later, in 1998, the capital Kyoto is under siege, and Yui’s trainee squad is one of the last lines of defense.

Aliens invade Earth and girls in skintight bodysuits have to fight them! Sound familiar? Well, with Total Eclipse, it’s all in the execution, and despite some flaws (more on them later), it does a very effective job selling the very real peril Yui, her comrades, and all humanity faces. This is a seemingly hopeless fight, and all the humans can seem to do is fall back and die before the implacable, merciless BETA. This encroaching darkness builds slowly as the episode progreses, culminating in Yui & Co. charging into their first battle. Once engaged with the BETA, the average soldier lasts eight minutes. Harsh stuff indeed – and not the environment you’d want high school girls in.

While this first episode successfully drew out the right emotions, it did stumble on a couple of technical points. The production values are uneven, and the CGI is not very well integrated with the conventional animation. Some vehicles – like the Mecha – are detailed CG models, but ordinary cars and trucks are hand-drawn and choppy. The character designs are somewhat plain and uninspired, and the mecha themselves, more often than not, just look like huge lumbering targets that can barely get out of their own way. After the eye candy smorgasbord that was Aquarion Evol, this is definitely a step down in quality, but as long as we’re emotionally invested – and we are so far – we can see ourselves getting used to it.

Rating: 7 (Very Good)

End-of-Month Rundown – June 2012

The ten Spring series we watched to the end and two Winter carryovers all conspired to create a very entertaining season with an eclectic mix of genres and a handful of real gems. Here’s how everything shook out in the end…in, er…refreshing mixological terms!

1. Nazo no Kanojo X (3.923) – The Mysterious Girlfriend
1 part each strange, horny girl with an unusually natural voice and normal, horny guy. Pour in mixing glass with a whimsical soundtrack, retro 80s character design, and liberal amount of saliva. Stir well, garnish with hundreds of lemons.

2. Sakamichi no Apollon (3.917) – Moanin’
1 part each rich egghead pianist, poor delinquent drummer, cute earnest girl, pretty adventurous girl, and depressed trumpeter. Combine and shake well to the stylings of Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers.

3. Hyouka (3.818) – The Sherlock Toddy
1 part each lackadaisical guy, walking encyclopedia, loud fiery girl, and rich inquisitive girl. Slowly combine so the ingredients start bouncing ideas off one another.
Garnish with whiskey bonbons.

4. Jormungand (3.792) – The Koko Loco
Combine 10 different kinds of whoopass in a large pitcher, shoot it with lots of guns, set it on fire, and chase with a car bomb.

5. Natsuiro Kiseki (3.750) – The Endless Summer (non-alcoholic)
4 parts high school girls yearning to stick togther, muddle a few wishes on a big rock, top with club soda and a scoop of ice cream. Repeat.

6. Aquarion Evol (3.692) – The Machine Angel
Mix everything, ever, for thousands of years. Doesn’t matter what. Just MIX. MEEEEEEKUUUUUUSUUUUU!

7. Moretsu Pirates (3.538) – Bodacious Grog
1 part each high school, waitressing, piracy, and space. Shake faster than light with lots and lots of characters. Serve beside pot-au-feu.

8. Eureka Seven AO (3.500) – The I.F.O.
3 parts gifted teenage pilots, 1 part multinational peacekeeping organization, a dash of sloth. Lightly garnish with Truth.

9. Sankarea (3.346) – Zombie Romance
Use pre-mixed resurrection potion to revive one dead cat and one dead girl. Mix with fresh hydrangea leaves and serve chilled, avoiding direct sunlight.

10. Accel World (3.250) – The Brain Buster
1 part each stunted fatty, handsome best friend, black snow princess, a midget firecracker, and plenty of digital mumbo-jumbo. Serve online.

11. Medaka Box (3.208) – The Suggestion Box
1 part omnipotent busty student council president, 3 parts capable minions. Serve straight up in a box. Garnish with sweets.

Car Cameo Update

RABUJOI is, to our knowledge, the only anime review blog that consistently identifies and catalogues nearly every real-world vehicle that makes an appearence in the anime we watch. (If there’s another blog that does this, please let us know!) Our Car Cameo garage has grown quite a bit since its inception five months ago.

Here are some observations:

• Jormungand dominated in car cameos with 21 in just 12 episodes. What with all the car chases, that’s not all that surprising.

• Hyouka, only half-over, occupies second place with 9 cameos and has a solid chance to beat Jormy, despite the fact cars are only background. This is KyoAni we’re talking about, though, so of course most of those car models are of the highest quality.

• Eureka Seven AO has had 7 cameos so far, while Sket Dance has had 6. All other series have featured five or less in their runs.

• With 23 cameos – and probably a few more we missed, Toyota is the top marque. Not surprising, since Toyota dominates the Japanese domestic market. Of the 19 different Toyota models that appear, the “Crown” family is the most common, followed by the Prius.

• In a distant second and third are Nissan and Honda, with 9 and 8 cameos each, respectively.

• Jormungand featured lots of German marques like BMW and Mercedes, and Volkswagen as well as Frenchies Citroen and Peugeot,  Swedish Volvos and Italian Lancias. Call it the UN of the bunch.

• One of our own cars, an eigth-gen Honda Civic sedan, has a cameo in Hyouka 04. For the record, the car is named Kana-chan, after Hanazawa, the prolific seiyu.

• Strangest Cameos? It’s a tie between the legendary Lancia Delta HF Integrale 16v Evoluzione II (quite a mouthful!) from Aquarion Evol 15 and the immense ’75 Chevrolet Caprice Estate Wagon from Eureka Seven AO 11.

• Head-scratchers: Accel World features many real-life cars (like the Prius), but some that are quasi-futuristic mashups we couldn’t identify. We convinced ourselves one such model really existed, and drove ourselves half-mad trying to find it on various Japanese car websites, to no avail. :P

• Tari Tari is off to a good start – automotively, with 5 distinct cameos in its first episode. Looking forward to spotting more cameos in the coming Summer season!