Zetsuen no Tempest – 01

Takigawa Yoshino’s best friend Fuwa Mahiro has been missing for a month, not long after his younger sister Aika is murdered in a robbery. One gray afternoon Yoshino visits Aika’s grave and is confronted by Evangeline Yamamoto, a government “volunteer” who wants to know the whereabouts of Mahiro. She pulls a gun on Yashiro, but Mahiro flies in and disables her using magic. He’s made a deal with the powerful mage Kusaribe Hakaze to aid her in exchange for helping him locate Aika’s killer. Hakaze is the heiress to a powerful magic family tried to awaken something, which is causing a metallicizing epidemic to spread across Japan. She has been stranded by her relation Samon.

People deal with grief in different ways. Some of them find a wooden doll in a bottle washed up on the shore, and follow it’s instructions to drive a nail into it so it will grant their wish, at which point it becomes a sort of walkie-talkie for communication between them and a powerful sorceress stranded on a remote island by her family with nothing but a dress and sandals, who promises to help them bring justice to those who took their sister away. Others…don’t go that far. They simply maintain, keeping on their cell phone not only a photo of and last text from the girl who always pretended she hated him around her brother but in reality was his girlfriend. And not being interested in anyone else. This was an awesome twist at the end, by the way. And now, here are these two lads, reunited, with the latter about to be swept up in the tempest his wayward friend brought with him.

This is a very impressive start to what could be a definite keeper among those shows we hadn’t initially considered trying out. However, we took a look, and were very glad we did. Full of complex emotions and dilemmas and populated by interesting, flawed characters, and told primarily from the point of view of someone like us who don’t see enough magic to be comfortable with it. It’s also wonderfully animated, with a badass fight and some creepy rituals. It’s got great scope and epic scale, and is full of intriguing possibilities. There’s no way we’re missing the next episode.

Rating: 9 (Superior)

Mawaru Penguindrum – 22 (Retro Review)

Originally posted 10 Dec 2011 – Hikari and Hibari visit the Takakura residence to thank Himari for the scarves, but she’s no longer there. She took off to try to convince Kanba not to throw his or anyone elses’ lives away for her sake. He won’t listen, and would sooner turn the world to ash than let her die. Masako also tries to get him to snap out of his obsession, but he starts an operation of car bombings that get him surrounded by police. He heads down into the bowels of Tokyo to escape, but they’re there too, and he gets shot. Masako decides to protect him by acting as bait.

Kanba’s stint as a terrorist leader is short-lived this week, as he initiates several brazen attacks with his car bomb smartphone bowling app (!), and essentially escapes too slowly. Neither of his siters want him to continue to serve the “curses” of Sanetoshi and the dead Takakuras. But Kanba is a stubborn kid, and he’ll to absolutely anything to save Himari. Her and Masako’s feelings just bounce off him. He’ll die for her…and by episode’s end he’s well on his way to just that.

Kanba, Shoma, Himari, Masako, Mario: it would seem fate was against all of them. Even Momoka couldn’t escape her ultimate fate of oblivion. Love is certainly losing out to fate and curses at this point, but we’re not about to throw in the towel and lebel this series as fatalist or pessimistic. Love, and life, are down, but not out. Double-H didn’t just show up at random at this point in the story: they have to have some deeper purpose.

Rating: 9 (Superior)


AnoHana – 09 (Retro Review)

Originally posted 11 Jun 2011 – Yukiatsu and other doubters can no longer deny it: Menma is there, and only Jinta can see and hear her. She can write to them, but only on certain things (her diary, and the planks of the secret base, for instance.) This is initially a great relief for Jinta, and Menma has never been more cheerful. But when the plan to launch fireworks and send Menma to heaven are revived (thanks in part to Yukiatsu’s groveling), Jinta has to consider whether he actually wants her to leave.

The group is finally being open with each other about their feelings, but the people they want to hear them most…aren’t. Anaru likes Jintan, but he doesn’t notice her because of Menma. Yukiatsu likes Menma, but can’t see or hear her. Tsuruko likes Yukiatsu, but at the same time is disgusted by his Menma complex. Even Poppo hints that he had a crush on Menma. Apparently uninterested in Tsuruko, but now conceding he will never reach Menma, Yukiatsu reaches out to Anaru.

There are so many great, complex, weird relationships in AnoHana that we’re loath to pick favorites, but if we had to, we’d probably pick Yukiatsu and Anaru right now, the “kindred spirits” who are both tormented by unrequited love for people physically right next to them. They also seem to have evolved the most in the course of the series. As sweet as it is for Jintan to finally be acknowledging how much he loved Menma, never wanting her to go is moving backwards.

Right now he still has Anaru, a living, breathing friend who loves him. But if he continues to let the past (literally) haunt him, Anaru and everyone else may pass him by…again. At the same time, we wonder if Yukiatsu is offering Anaru a false choice by going out with him – will he ever be over Menma? Will she ever be over Jintan? Poppo’s hesitation to ask Menma anything serious is also intriguing, as well as Tsuruko discovering (or at least confirming) Yukiatsu’s manner with Anaru. Hard to believe it’s only been nine episodes.

Rating: 9 (Superior)

Kamisama Hajimemashita – 01

High school Momozono Nanami’s deadbeat father runs off and she is saddled with all his gambling debts and evicted from their apartment. She saves a man named Mikage in the park from a dog. He gives her a kiss on the forehead and a map to a place to stay. It turns out to be a shrine, and she has inhereted Mikage’s role as the local earth deity. Her first challenge is to get the divine messenger, the fox demon Tomoe – to accept it and contract with her. Doing so also requires a kiss, which she delivers while falling from a tree, and he saves her from a demon hag.

Like Chuunibyou, this first look at Kamisama Hajimemashita is an amusing, charming affair, centered on two disparate characters – a girl and a guy – who end up connecting in the end. In that series, it’s a weird girl and a guy trying to be normal; in this case it’s a normal human girl who has fallen backwards into godhood, and must contract with a weird guy with fox ears. Who is deliciously willful and selfish until that sealing peck on the forehead. Particularly funny is quick, cruel dismissal of Nanami’s sob story. Their dialogue is very snappy throughout.

Nanami makes a good impression as a down-on-her-luck girl who is willing to give this thing a go, but that initial gung-ho-ness bumps up against the massive duties her position entails; duties all but impossible without Tomoe’s help. But she also shows her stubborn in that she’s not about to grovel and beg to someone who’s been nothing but rude and contemptuous. Tomoe showed before that his “bark is worse than his bite” so she rolls the dice and falls off that tree betting he’ll follow her down, and that’s when she plants a big ol’ smooch on him. Not necessarily because she likes him (yet), but because she has to.

Rating: 8 (Great)