End-of-Month Rundown – September 2012

11. Binbougami-ga! – Complete (5.923) – At times, this series was either trying to do too much or not doing enough, but it had a strong finish to go with its strong first episode, and Ichiko and Momiji had a good friendship arc. Aside from Rindou, we didn’t really care for the supporting cast.

10. Accel World –  Complete (6.000) Some nice twists at the end, including some epic scheming by Chiyu, completed a consistently decent second half, marred only in the middle by Hime’s forgettable beach mini-arc.

8. Muv-Luv Alternative: Total Eclipse – 13/24 (6.308) – Yui and Yuuya have always been fun to watch both earlier when they were at each other’s throats and more recently now that they’re essentially best buds. The show does best when it focuses on these two and amps up the danger levels, definitely not when it’s going for fanservice or comedy.

9. Sket Dance – Complete (6.385) – Still…can’t believe…it’s over…but we’re also kinda glad it ended when it did, with the nostalgic return of episode one client Teppei and the bang of Saaya’s simple, earnest confession.

7. Tari Tari – Complete (7.154) – By the time the end came around, the spell Tari Tari had cast on us was wearing thin, as it lacked balance in the attention it gave its characters, and their goals were just a little on the hokey side.

6. Sword Art Online – 13/25 (7.154) – Kirito and Asuna are officially a couple, and aside from a side episode or two, the remainder of the series should focus on continuing to work towards beating the game. We hope we get to see some of these people waking up in the real world!

5. Rinne no Lagrange Season 2 Complete (7.333) – A second season that was just as good, if not a little better than the first is what we were hoping for. The competent action and space battles all continued to take a backseat to the characters and their bonds. It earned its tidy, feel-good epilogue.

4. Kokoro ConnectComplete; until extra episodes (7.769) – Like Oreimo, there will be four more episodes to come, but even if there weren’t, the series had a great ending. We liked all three arcs, all the characters, and cared about what happened to them. Their interactions under duress were always engrossing.

3. Hyouka – Complete (8.333) – The perfect example of a series not going where we might’ve liked, but still being amazing to watch, maybe even in spite of Chitanda and Oreki never quite getting anywhere on the couple front.

2. Eureka Seven AO – 22/24 (8.444) – AO has really stepped up its game in the second half, and the twists and trippy turns never quit. Ao, Fleur, Elena, Naru and Truth have all been through a ton – as has the world. The cliffhanger leaves us highly anticipating the final conclusion later this fall.

1. Natsuyuki RendezvousComplete (8.636) – The best series of 2012 so far. A short, sweet, mature, and absolutely moving romantic drama.

Muv-Luv Alternative: Total Eclipse – 14

Moments from defeat, Yuuya is bailed out by Latrova and the Zhar battalion, who wipe out the Beta surrounding him. The Soviet bombers start bombing the base, killing five of Latrova’s Eishis. Laser-Class Betas take out the bombers, saving Zhar. Latrova orders Kayl and Tonya to escort Yuuya to safety. She pursues an unknown signal while the rest of her battalion attempt to destroy the Laser-Classes. Just as Argos is about to pull out of the USSR, ending their joint exercises, Yuuya hobbles home, to everyone’s joy and relief. Later, news comes that Zhar Battalion was victorious in holding the front, but were was lost in the process. A new “Second Phase” Shiranui is unveiled.

Numerous times while conversing, Latrova mocks Yuuya’s Soviet conspiracy theories as not only stupid, but irrelevant. He and she are Eishis – the only remotely effective weapon against the Beta. They have neither the time nor the inclination to worry about politics. She has a point – it’s a strenuous job without worrying about the moral implications. But she also shows her softer side in voicing her belief that Eishis have a unique power to protect those things closest to them. Fikatsia Latrova lost her husband and son because she lost sight of her primary duty, and perhaps shared Yuuya’s suspicions. Now she has a new family with Zhar Battalion, and she intends to protect them to the end.

To do so, she covers their rear by going after a lightning-fast, mysterious TSF that’s shadowing her, but we never see the result. But she knew that both she and her battalion probably weren’t coming out of this alive. When she sends two of her comrades off with Yuuya with orders not to return, she’s actually saving their lives by excluding them from the impending battle. Of course, they disobey and return after dropping Yuuya off, likely joining their commander’s fate. But much to Yui’s relief, Yuuya returns, with Shiranui in almost one piece, and the unveiling of its replacement marks the end of the Soviet arc and the start of the next chapter in humanity’s struggle against the vile Beta.


Rating: 7 (Very Good)

From the New World (Shin Sekai yori) – 01

1000 years from the present day, in a tranquil and isolated village, Wantanabe Saki begins Apotheosis class in which to master her newly-bestowed “cursed powers” of telekinesis, or juryoku. She recieved her “blessing” late, causing her and her parents to worry because of a mysterious rumor of a “Faze Cat” that takes underachieving children away. The unconfident weak link in Saki’s group, Amano Reiko, suddenly disappears.

This table and tone-setting first episode does not unfold strictly linearly, starting in more-or-less the present day we recognize, in which a troubled-looking young man blows out the door of the taxi he’s in with his mind, then sets to work ‘popping’ everyone around him with deadly telekinesis. Jump forward a millenium, and society has – depending on your opinion – progressed or regressed. Technology is almost nonexistent; the land is lush and untouched by industry; villages are modest; no one can leave their boundaries; and everyone develops telekinetic skills.

We don’t see (not yet at least) what exactly people do with these powers – normal scenes like dinner are presented without any juryoku, which is limited to training in the classroom – but considering all the talk about Akki and Faze Cats and other supernatural baddies – some of which may be taking the less-talented telekinesists away to their doom – it would seem these cursed powers are a necessity for survival in this new age. Wantanabe Saki is mindful of this as we watch most of this episode from her perspective, dotted with foreboding moments of her past that inform her present. It’s a neat, cerebral, and very cool presentation. Combined with above-par animation, deep colors, a slick, moody soundtrack, and cool wardrobe, this series didn’t waste any time showing promise.


Rating: 7 (Very Good)


Car Cameo:
Our horrid little person-exploding boy arrives at his destination in a green-and-yellow Toyota Comfort taxi.

Sword Art Online – 13

After catching a huge legendary fish with an old man named Nishida, Kirito and Asuna are summoned back to the front lines by Heathcliff. The KBO guild are the first line of attack against the newest boss, The Skull Reaper. The boss is extremely powerful – able to kill a player in one strike – to the point only combined coordinated attacks of Heathcliff, Kirito and Asuna will have any effect.

We feel a little cheated over the first third of this episode. Sure, there was a very sweet and intimate bedtime scene between Kirito and Asuna, but for crying out loud, the rest was all about catching a daggone FISH. It was just filler! But in case you haven’t grasped the depths of Asuna’s love for Kirito: she cried herself to sleep every night until he came along; he became her only reason for living, if he were ever to die, she’d kill herself; and she wants to date and marry and grow old together with Kirito, even if it’s in hospital beds hooked up to machines. That last point is the first serious mention of interest in what could be going on with peoples’ bodies in the real world.

Asuna’s absolute devotion forces us to take a good long look at Fayt Leingod Kirito and ponder: is he worth all the fuss? Don’t get us wrong, he’s a nice guy, who’s saved Asuna’s life and the lives of countless others. But now it’s as if Asuna doesn’t consider herself an individual anymore. She’s either going to be with Kirito, or she doesn’t exist. For his part, Kirito is fine with all this devotion-bordering on-obsession, but can’t quite match her desperately intense passion. All of Asuna’s lovey-dovey talk could also be foreshadowing her death, but we highly doubt the series will pull a stunt like that on such a popular character at this juncture, if ever.


Rating: 6 (Good)

Sket Dance – 77 (FIN!)

When Jougasaki injures two basketball team members, he asks Bossun to play as a substitute so the team can compete. When Bossun notices Jougasaki still plays, he convinces him to take his place, reuniting him with Teppei. Saaya manages to get Bossun alone, and finally confesses to him. Bossun reacts as expected: like a little kid. The Sket-dan continues to perform duties for its fellow students, including aiding the student council with security as Momoka films a movie.

All pretty good things must come to an end, and to be honest, we’re comfortable calling Sket Dance a pretty good show throughout its run. It’s never been perfect, but it’s been steady and consistent, and it goes out on a nice note, tying up the “Will Saaya Confess” loose end and giving pretty much every character a cameo, including their very first client: Teppei. After the basketball job is done, Saaya makes her move on Bossun. The girl shows both guts and incredible poise throughout the process, because coming out with her feeling for him without any cliche’d misunderstandings is such a load off her ample chest.

The animators do a good job visualizing the subtle change in how she looks and carries herself after confessing, and Himeko notices too. Bossun stays true to character too, not knowing what to say or do. Were there ten or so more episodes to show how he’d come around to giving Saaya a direct answer – even if it’s probably yes – that could be more interesting character work, but ending things here is fine too. So we say sayonara to Sket Dance – which, unless we combine the hundred total episodes of Gundam SEED and Gundam SEED Destiny – has been the longest series we’ve watched to its conclusion; a record that will be hard to break.


Rating: 7 (Very Good)

Kokoro Connect – 13 (Fin, till the Blu-ray)

Himeko forces Taichi to tell them what he knows, and #2 punishes them by making the age reversals totally random. They stay holed up in the abandoned building to avoid further exposure. But Iori is worried about her mother after they agree to let her violent ex-husband stay with them. Taichi, Himeko, Yui and Aoki back her up, but both Aoki and Iori both revert to babies, scuttling the first attempt. The first Heartseed confronts them with news he has ended the phenomenon and sent #2 away.

As an apology for what they went through, he says he’ll let Iori go back in time to redo her childhood. Taichi and Himeko take her hands and she declines, as going back would erase the person she has become through her original past. The six go back to Iori’s house, where they both thought they were making one another happy, when neither of them wanted the ex there. Her mom shoos him off herself. Yui makes up with Chinatsu and gets back into karate, and life goes on with the StuCS.

When the cold open ended with Iori suddenly shuddering, we feared the worst: that not only did Taichi age-revert, he also switched bodies with Iori – meaning everyone’s ages would jump around along with their bodies, out of sync and at random, forever. But such a complicated development would be nigh impossible to pull off – not to mention border on silly. Instead, the episode has a better idea: just the time and duration of the age-reversals become random. But the phenomenon isn’t even the major issue here: it’s only the means by which Aoki, Yui, and now Iori are pushed into making decisions about their lives, having been rudely reminded of pasts they thought they’d put behind them.

At first, Iori wants a fresh start; a reset button, but she rightly realizes that wouldn’t solve anything, and the product of it wouldn’t be any more the “real her” that she is now. She IS the real her, both the good and the bad; all of her experiences, choices, and interactions. Changing them would be a cheat. And once she sits down and talks with her mom, both are shocked to learn that both of them were trying to make each other happy at the cost of their own happiness, so no one was happy. Now everybody’s happy, but at the very end of what could well be the last episode for a long while, Iori wonders if she feels for Taichi is really love. A nice teaser for what’s to come after a very satisfying conclusion to the third arc.


Rating: 9 (Superior)

Eureka Seven AO – 22 (Fin; ’till late autumn)

Ao, Elena and Maggie face off against Truth, but he’s capable of creating a trapar storm that disorients Ao, who crashes into a scub coral. He comes out in Iwato, brought there by Naru, who serves him rice and tries to convince him not to fight Truth, who like him, is merely a child of two races. However, his mind is made up, telling her neither of them have changed. Pied Piper, Harlequin, and the Secret allies take Truth on, but can’t make a dent in him. Ao and Naru arrive, and Ao rushes at Truth. Flash forward to a ruined New York City in the year 12021. An adult Renton Thurston witnesses a Seven Swell and flies into it with his Nirvash, hoping to find Eureka and “bring everything to an end.”

We’re not going to mince words like we always do, and just curse instead: that was a fucking awesome episode. It soared with big happenings, big battles, big explosions, big revelations and one hell of a cut to a finish that brought friggin’ Renton back as a hardened, obsessed man on a mission – apparently jumping from time to time and world to world seeking Eureka. He’s a pretty snappy dresser and owner of some strategically graying hair to boot! And unlike the rather pointless momentary cameos of Claus and Lavie in Exile no Fam, he looks primed to play a crucial role in the finale, which apparently isn’t coming until late autumn. That…caught us a little by surprise, though we should have known that was going to be the case, considering the two week hiatus it took earlier in the season. Gotta milk it for all it’s worth, right?

But seriously, enough can’t be said about how much awesomesauce they crammed into this episode – and how it broke down a lot of previous assumptions and replaced them with new ones. Turns out, Naru’s alien ears are fakes, she’s not romantically into Truth (much to Ao’s relief), and is deeply insulted when Ao tries to refer to her as a big sis figure. But Naru’s theory about coral carriers being blessed is getting trashed by Truth’s evil rays, which cause fatal breakouts in anyone affected. Basically, this guy is just a pure force of nature now, who doesn’t want to reason, which makes it seem like a coral/human hybrid like Ao can exist in human society but a coral/secret hybrid like Truth can’t. Unless he’s just a dick…


Rating: 10 (Masterpiece)

RABUJOI World Heritage List

Binbougami ga! – 13 (Fin)

Ichiko stops Teddy and Momou from soiling Momiji and she escapes out the window with her. Ranmaru catches them in midair, and they hitch a ride with Bobby to get away. Teddy and Momou are in hot pursuit, but Ranmaru takes on Momou. Using Bobby’s “Jazz Hyper” charm, Ichiko takes on Teddy, but gets knocked out. Keita looms over her when she awakes, and she asks him a “hypothetical” question about Momoji that she already knows the answer to, she races back to Momiji, catching her as she’s falling from the bridge, then dropping her in a passing garbage barge. She returns to her normal, abrasive self.

Well now, that was a pleasant surprise: a finale that tied everything up neatly and entertainingly, completed Sakura Ichiko’s arc, and providing plenty of high-stakes action and more kinetic comedy. The episode juxtaposes scenes of motion and stillness (with appropriate changes in tone) and gives the whole cast something to do – even Nadeshiko has a (real) cameo. Ranmaru and Momou’s duel is particularly badass, with all the requisite pre-battle banter one would expect of a shounen anime. But one reason this episode worked is that its resolution wasn’t as simple as Ichiko’s original goal of saving Momiji.

At the episode’s beginning, Ichiko didn’t want Momiji to change back because “things were easier this way”, by the end, and with prodding by both Teddy and Keita, she decides to not allow Momiji sacrifice her godhood. But she claims, as always, to be doing it for herself – as friendly and lovable as Momiji-chan was, Ichiko knew deep down it wasn’t right, sparring with the insulting foul-mouthed Binbougami-ga was simply more entertaining. We’d also say that Momiji’s mission was successful: Ichiko’s gone from a lonely, bitchy luck-vacuum to someone with friends she cares about and shares her fortune.


Rating: 7 (Very Good)

Mawaru Penguindrum – 18 (Retro Review)

Originally posted 11 Nov 2011 (11/11/11!) – Tabuki kidnaps Himari, puts her in a bucket suspended by cables, and blows the cables up one by one as Kanba tries to reason with him. Tabuki wants to punish their father for killing Momoka, who was his savior, that of all mankind, and his only reason for living. When the last cable breaks, Kanba provides a lifeline for Himari, at the cost of his hand, but she is saved, and Tabuki slinks off, warning Ringo, imprisoned in the elevator the whole time, not to turn out like him. She swears she won’t.

It was pretty inevitable we’d get a Tabuki episode this week, and it was suitably dark, befitting someone now so lost, he’s prepared to kill poor innocent Himari as payback for losing Momoka. Like Yuri, Tabuki was abused as a child, first emotionally, as her mother demanded prodigal talent in exchange for love, and then physically, when his hand was slammed in a piano, ruining his future as a pianist. Things get a little symbolic with the “Child Broiler”, but suffice it to say, he’s about to be crushed into oblivion when Momoka saves him, begging him to live for her, who loves him.

Up until the last couple episodes, Tabuki has done a bang-up job concealing both his hatred of the Takakuras and the fact that the one person he chose to live for is gone. For years it stewed in him, culminating in the desperate ultimatum he issues Kanba. For a minute, we really though Himari was history, and the show played it that way, but seeing Kanba’s selfless love for Himari must have reminded him of Momoka, and so he spared her. We’ll tell ya what, now we’d like to meet their father and give him a good punch in the face for what he’s put his poor kids through…only it’s all fate, the good and the bad. Will what the parents do ever be revealed? It would be nice, but at this point unnecessary. This is some sublime drama.


Rating: 9 (Superior)

Shiki – 20 (Retro Review)

Originally posted 18 Dec 2010 – We were initially a bit dubious of Shiki’s unique, out-there character design, just as we were with House of Five Leaves, but in both cases, simply watching them through has totally eliminated that stigma. And having so intricately built up a story with so many characters and motivations, the final payoff is made all the more awesome. Toshio and his followers (led by Ookawa) go on a staking spree, but only succeed in destroying a third of the Shiki; there are other hiding places.

Some Shiki have resorted to desperate measures: murdering Toshio’s mother as retaliation and to send a message to other humans; an enraged Seishin picking off humans with his rifle; and even glamored humans being sent out as assassins. It’s all underhanded and not what Sunako wanted at all. She’s still in the basement with Seishin, growing more and more afraid of her expectant demise. You can’t help but sympathize with her: though she’s killed thousands in her centuries of life, it was always so she wouldn’t starve. She now questions whether it would have been better to starve; if her life itself is a sin that shouldn’t be.

Meanwhile, Tohru finally surrenders to Ritsuko’s refusal to feed off of her friend. She wishes to avoid detesting herself by not killing anyone, even at the cost of her life. She wishes she had never risen. Tohru’s pleas are no use; all he can do is make her comfortable in her waning hours. At some point, Sunako, Tohru, and all the others made the choice to live and live with the guilt, a choice Ritsuko isn’t capable of making. She is a nurse, after all. It is truly heart-wrenching to see her suffer, but breaking her will would be worse.

Which brings us to Toshio’s dilemma: their enemies aren’t just Shiki, but the humans they control through drinking their blood. Ookawa splits the village into black-and-white: good guys (them) versus bad guys (the Shiki and the “traitors”). Ookawa even stakes the human assassin, disturbing Toshio. He absolutely does not want humans murdering other humans, but what choice do they have when they’re coming to kill them? We’re in for a hell of a final two episodes.


Rating: 9 (Superior)

AnoHana – 06 (Retro Review)

Originally posted 22 May 2011 – Deep in thought about why Menma is haunting him to begin with, Jinta decides to attempt another return to school, as per one of her wishes-in-passing. He not only makes it through the gates, but into his classroom and to his desk, only to notice hardly anyone is talking about him, but rather the recent incident involving Anaru and the love hotel. Apparently, someone saw her walking around in a slinky outfit with an older man. (Though we don’t (or don’t want) to believe she was ratted out by her “it” girl “friends”.)

Just when he senses Anaru is about to lose it from all the murmurs, he stands up and sticks his neck out for her, with a passionate, heartfelt defense, the jist of which was: “She’s a great person who’d never have sex for money, so everyone shut the hell up.” While he may have let loose one too many personal details for Anaru’s taste, she is both grateful to him for the effort and greatly entertained by the embarrassing spectacle he wrought. She’s also probably happy he’s back in class – if only briefly. Their relationship has come a long way.

When Poppo recommends they visit Menma’s house for clues, their mother is kind enough to let him, Jinta and Anaru pray by her shrine, enter her empty room, view her box of possessions, and even borrow her diary. After reporting this to Menma back home, Menma is upset by the prospect their visit made her mother remember and worry about her, causing her more grief. This could be the key to why Menma is still loitering around: she can’t stop putting others ahead of herself, even after death.


Rating: 9 (Superior)

P.S. In the beginning Jinta is watching Occult Academy! He has excellent taste. 

Mawaru Penguindrum – 17 (Retro Review)

Originally posted 4 Nov 2011 – Himari is getting better thanks to Sanetoshi’s medicine, but the Penguin hat possesses her once more to reiterate that if they neglect the penguin drum, her bros will lose “what they treasure most” – but hesitates when asked whether the diary is the drum. Meanwhile, Yuri and Tabuki’s grudge against the Takekuras for their loss of Momoka comes to a head when both prepare an assault against Himari. Masako intercepts Yuri, wanting the other half of the diary for Mario, and they duel with words and weapons. Tabuki isolates Himari and Ringo, and makes his intentions known.

Wait…what is this? There’s too many episodes left, there can’t be a showdown! And yet, that’s exactly what we get, on multiple fronts, too. All the players and motives and vendettas continue to intertwine like strings of yarn in a sweater or subway lines on a map. Everything’s, like, connectin’, maaan. This episode gives us the warm highs of a happy, reunited group of siblings, and all the while the wolves wait at their door, wanting blood as payment for their parents’ crimes. It give just about everyone a little bit of screen time too, evoking a real feeling of…penultimateness.

The Penguin hat wants the drum, for what reason we still don’t know. Masako wants the diary to save Mario at any cost. Yuri wants it to transfer fate; for revenge. But most (and least) surprising is Tabuki, who we’ve hardly seen at all recently. Even after playing the Devil’s Advocate with Yuri, he turns out to be no less dead set on punishing the Takekuras. And then there’s Sanetoshi, whose minions warn Himari better hightail it back to the hospital, or they’ll punish her. As for Kanba, it’s hinted that his heart – the thing he’s using as currency to keep Himari alive – is the penguin drum. Well, both have a beat. Hey, why not?


Rating: 9 (Superior)

Shiki – 19 (Retro Review)

Originally posted 12 Dec 2010 – The war begins between the surviving humans and the Shiki, as Chizuru is very publicly exposed and staked and Toshio is finally able to convince a mob to join him in driving out the “pests”. Yet we’re on the fence as to who’s truly in the right here; since we’ve learned so much about the Shiki. They aren’t killing because they’re evil demons. They’re killing because they need human blood to survive.

The Shiki must kill humans to live; the humans must destroy the Shiki to live. No wonder coexistence is so tough. Even if a segment of humans were okay with giving blood to feed them – and there is – there will always be extremists on both sides who will sabotage any chance at peace. Both overly wild and violent vampires and intolerant humans won’t agree to even the most mutually amicable compromise.

Sunako sheds tears not only for her child Chizuru, but because after coming so close to realizing the dream of a Shiki village, Toshio now threatens to crush that dream. Even worse, when day breaks, she falls asleep, leaving her defenseless. Who has been charged with protecting her in the basement? A supine, anemic, Seishin. Meaning if the mob finds them, they’re toast.


Rating: 7 (Very Good)