Zetsuen no Tempest – 16

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Samon and Yamamoto implement their plan to make Hanemura a very flashy public hero. Meanwhile Hakaze and Yoshino return to Kusaribe village to investigate a possible spy there trying to expose the villagers’ use of magic. Hakaze struggles to keep her feelings for Yoshino in check. When the spy reveals himself, takes a hostage, and sets fire to the shrine, Yoshino tries to resolve the situation without magic. The spy is apprehended, and Hakaze cannot help but embrace him. Yoshino’s effect on Hakaze has Tetsuma convinced he’s the real mage of Exodus.

Ever since Hakaze met Yoshino, she’s been extremely intrigued by him. Now that they’re spending so much time together in person, she’s constantly retreating into her thoughts, simultaneously worried about whether Yoshino finds her attractive and trying to convince herself that there’s nothing too these strange feelings. But the old ladies of the village see right through her: she’s got it bad for Yoshino, and by episode’s end she’s in his arms. She has no choice. The question is, is this just a girl falling for a guy, or is it the mage of Genesis being seduced by the mage of Exodus by some kind of calculation?

We as viewers know that Yoshino’s girlfriend is dead, but Hakaze doesn’t, and part of her reluctance was Junichiro’s warning that her intensified interest in Yoshino would lead the tree of Genesis killing his girlfriend. But even that isn’t enough, as Yoshino sticks his neck out and risks his life to save Sana, a village girl who’d already suffered enough, while also trying to preserve the secrets of the village. All the while characters heavily reference the Shakespeare works, leading us to wonder where this series is ultimately headed: to the tragic end of Hamlet, or the happy ending of The Tempest.


Rating: 8 (Great)

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Kotoura-san – 04

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Manabe, Mifune, and Muroto set out to find Kotoura, starting at a town where train station cameras caught her. The three spend the night at a temple whose head monk knows Kotoura, and directs them to her house in town. After chasing her around the house, they finally catch her, but she doesn’t want to go back for fear she’ll hurt one of them again. Moritani arrives outside Kotoura’s house to apologize and convince her to come back to school. She agrees, and life returns to normal, only “a little better”.

Kotoura’s ESP bestows her with a bit of arrogance, as if reading the random thoughts of people is enough to know what kind of people they are. Having heard Moritani (who became an emotional wreck) and Manabe (who was beaten up), she decided unilaterally to cut ties with them all and disappear, believing it was all her fault. But what she needed to realize is that it’s not just her fault, or her choice. Her friends get to have a say in whether they shoulder the risk of being friends with her. Manabe made a promise to stay by her side, and that’s what he’s going to do, and rather than continue as an adversary, Moritani wants peace.

While we could have done without the perverted grandfather (seriously dude…WTF), he was the only unsightly blemish on a very nice episode in which Kotoura’s friends – and her rival Moritani – take the initiative in preventing her from retreating back into her shell of loneliness  They don’t want her to settle for that life, they want to share theirs with her, and whatever bumps in the road might come, they’ll face them together. As for Moritani, she should thank her lucky stars Manabe isn’t pressing charges, cause she was totes an accessory to assault!


Rating: 8 (Great)

Tamako Market – 04

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The Usagiyama summer festival approaches, which means the mochi shop is at its busiest. Tamako’s little sister Anko wants to go on a Sunday trip to a museum with her fiends, among them a boy she likes. Her father forbids it, but eventually allows it after her grandpa negotiates a compromise. When the day arrives, she’s so caught up in the festivities that she isn’t able to make it anyway. Instead, her friends come to visit her. She runs and hides in her wardrobe, embarrased, but the very boy she likes comes in and coaxes her out, offering her a gift.

As far as we know so far, there isn’t a boy Tamako currently “likes”, nor is there any indication she’s remotely interested in boys. In that regard, her little sister Anko (sorry, “An“; it’s apparently cooler) has already surpassed her, on top of being better at making mochi than Tamako was at her age. The blissfully dense Tamako doesn’t even realize her sister likes a boy, because she’s too busy being content with her life in the shopping district as a mochi maker’s daughter. Anko, though admittedly still young and phase-prone, is far more restless. For one, nobody is calling her by the name she prefers.

She’s also annoyed that she’s being forced to work on the date she wants to hang out with friends. But after grand-dad steps up to the plate for her and she wins her freedom, she bumps into the florist with the manly voice on her way to her museum date and helps with the elegantly-dressed girls in the parade. They remind her of herself, and that priceless moment when she first looked in the mirror and saw a princess. Once it was clear Anko wouldn’t make it, she realized it wasn’t the end of the world. As Dera (who was painted gold this week) says in the end:

…even if things don’t go as you planned, on another road grows another flower.


Rating: 7 (Very Good)

Amnesia – 04

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As Shin walks the heroine home, he tells her he doesn’t want to go back to being just childhood friends. When she and her coworkers have a fireworks party, she invites him. He declines at first, then comes, and proceeds to tell her about the accident. He was too forceful, which led to her running off and falling off a cliff. In the past, she didn’t give up on him, so he vows not to give up on her. After almost getting hit by a car, she wakes up. It’s August 1st again, and Ikki is back, and calling her out for a date. When she heads outside, she sees him with the girls who confronted her in the future.

This week some of the pieces finally started to fall into place for the heroine. She now knows about the bond between her and Shin that led to his confessing to her, as well as what transpired before she fell off the cliff. Shin is a forceful, aggressive guy who doesn’t usually mince words, and at first glance he seems a curious choice for the heroine to date, but after this episode we could definitely see her saying yes to him. She never gave up on Shin after the unpleasantness that followed his dad being branded a murderer, and never let him give up on himself. He wants to return the favor by not giving up on her.

For a long stretch of the episode, even though Shin is giving her a lot of backstory, there’s the sense that the heroine is no longer just trying to regain lost memories, but being content for the time being to form happy new ones, like the little fireworks soirée. These are people she got along with and even loved; in time, memory loss or not, she’ll reform the bonds she lost. But only if she can stay in the same place! Her shift back to August 1st, and the reappearance of Ikki the also-super-aggressive ladies’ man (dick didn’t even give her the chance to say ‘No’), threatens all the progress made with Shin. Her trials continue.


Rating: 7 (Very Good)

Our second favorite OP or ED of Winter 2013 (Video)

While our favorite ED this season by far is still Maoyu’s, Tamako Market’s “Neguse” is no slouch. It features the vocals of Suzaki Aya (the voice of Tamako herself), who while no match for Arai Akino, does an admirable job for a rookie. The vocals are cute and peppy but never get too saccharine because there’s a bittersweet, reflective tone to the theme.

She’s also helped by a very smoothly-produced piece of music by the series composer, Kataoka Tomoko. This is only his second series (the first being Winter Garden, which we haven’t seen). The four-on-the-floor beats and day-dreamy atmosphere reminded us a little of Halcali’s “Tip Taps Tip” (one of our favorite ever EDs).

Add in some reliably lush KyoAnimation, and you have a nice little ED that manages to be both cheerful, hopeful, and contemplative.

Zettai Karen Children: The Unlimited – Hyoubu Kyousuke – 04

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PANDRA travels to Japan where Hyoubu Kyousuke wishes to check on his “queen” Akashi Kaoru, one of the Children who work for BABEL. Minamoto sends her along with Nogami Aoi and Sannomiya Shiho to impound the Catastrophe and arrest all of PANDRA. Andy is stuck in the middle, but ultimately helps Hyoubu defeat BABEL. The Children use their Triple Boost ESP to control the Catastrophe, but Hyoubu counters with his Unlimited power, and PANDRA escapes.

We were just saying last week how we were bummed that so far Hyoubu and PANDRA were punching so far below their weight class. This week, our concerns are addressed, as they face off against their arch-rivals. We meet the Children from Zettai Karen Children for the first time, and they’re a force to behold. It’s almost scary how quick, efficient, and coordinated they are, which is good, because for once PANDRA actually has to break a sweat. If it weren’t for Hyoubu and Andy, they’d all be in Japanese prison.

Hyoubu wants to create a world where espers aren’t treated like second-class citizens. He’ll always put an esper above a “normal”. So in this regard, the espers of BABEL aren’t really his enemies, only misguided comrades to be converted. The one he’s most bent on converting is Akashi Kaoru, the most powerful of the Children and the one he wants sitting on the Throne as queen of the new world he wants to build. Of course, she and her two colleagues are still just kids (and sore losers to boot), so Hyoubu will do what all good antagonists do and bide his time.


Rating: 7 (Very Good)

Chihayafuru 2 – 03

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The high school Tokyo regionals commence, with Misusawa facing off against Shuryukan and West High. Though Sumire and Tsubaka aren’t originally scheduled to play games, Tsutomu shakes up the order to give both of them the same chance he got. Sumire and Tsubaka lose their games, but gain valuable playing time against superior opponents. Chihaya wins two perfect games and Misusawa advances. Meanwhile, Wataya also enters the high school tournament, with designs on playing his old friends. Shinobu is also excited when she hears he’ll be in the individual bracket.

It’s right back to business for Team Misusawa, as they’re well-poised to repeat in the Tokyo regional.They’re deeper and full of potential, but first its newbies Tsukaba and Sumire have to endure a trial-by-fire. Sumire rocks a hakama and learns that her looks can be a weapon (her opponent is so charmed he lets her have a few cards). When she finally sees Chihaya in full-on Terminator Mode (it’s great seeing what a badass she’s become), she’s fired up about improving her speed and memorization  Similarly, Tsubaka comes in confident, but has to face West High’s Class A captain, who isn’t merciful. Even though he takes one for the team, his three brothers aren’t ashamed or disillusioned.

With Chihaya on his team, they know he’ll get better, and they want to help. Tsutomu also remembers when he almost gave up, and makes sure Tsukaba is involved in the match and gets some time in. Tsukaba’s creepy stare and tongue also creep his opponent out thoroughly. We got cameos from the vocal West High team with their constant rah-rah (that Misusawa has learned to counter with their own) as well as the always annoying Retro-kun. Wataya looks forward to Chihaya and Taichi, while a slimmed-down Shinobu makes an appearance at the end. Here’s hoping these guys get to face off down the road.


Rating: 7 (Very Good)

OreShura – 04

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Eita goes to the station to perform recon on Chiwa’s date, and finds Masuzu there doing the same. Sakagami makes her wait an hour, then comes by with his friends to tease her; it was all a prank. Eita runs in and scares them off with Chuunibyou-speak, but when tackles Sakagami when his back is turned, he recieves a beating. Masuzu tosses a pole at Chiwa, who uses kendo to defeat the punks, then apologizes for pretending to like him. The next day Eita has a reputation, and after skipping school Masuzu gives him his first kiss. The next morning, Eita finds Chiwa and Masuzu in his house, and fails to keep them apart.

Due to her mixed signals, we continue to doubt Masuzu’s insistence she’s “anti-love”. Its seems more like she’s “anti-lonely.” She clearly isn’t happy when Eita decides to save the day for Chiwa (the only way he knows how – with a barrage of chuunibyou patter), yet she still throws Chiwa a pole so she can defend herself. While it was the decent thing to do, it was also evidence of Masuzu’s pragmatism. We believe even she herself isn’t sure which feelings for Eita are real and which are fake. We also believe she resents not only Chiwa’s bond with Eita, but her honesty. We’re not huge fans of liars. They only make things more complicated.

Chiwa, for her part, doesn’t even seem all that surprised that Sakagami is a dick. She didn’t really like him anyway. Her mature defusing of the situation with Sakagami (after putting on a kendo clinic) is also no surprise: Chiwa wants Eita, period, and she’s not going to let Masuzu have him. The final act of the episode was perhaps a bit too literal/obvious presentation of Eita’s current problem (if you want to call it that): he has two girls fighting for him and a third – who watched his chuunibyou fight from the shadows – also gunning for him. With his harem quickly expanding, a fake monogamous relationship is about the best he can hope for.


Rating: 7 (Very Good)

From the New World (Shin Sekai yori) – 17

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In Saki’s 26th year, she is now a bureaucrat at what amounts to the Department of Queerat Control. Satoru, with whom she’d had a falling out not long ago, reports an unauthorized attack of one queerat colony by another. Saki gives a report to the village brass, and they call in the leaders of the two most powerful alliances: Kiroumaru and Yakomaru. They make no progress. Later, Saki and her colleague Inui are on hand to approve a battle between the Giant Hornets and the Robber Fly colony’s allies. That particular battle is won, but by day’s end the Giant Hornets are wiped out.

We’ve now seen Saki and Satoru grow from little kids playing with pottery in classrooms to responsible adults who now have active roles in the protection of mankind. That one more day the two had to save Maria and Mamoru evidently wasn’t enough, and at the moment, Satoru and Saki aren’t talking after a petty argument. It’s interesting that this chapter of Saki’s 26th year begins with the two on bad terms; we wouldn’t be surprised if Saki ultimately found Satoru unable to fill the void left by Maria (Saki seems to be reminded of her in a scene where only a single flower is colored), but nor is she above maintaining their friendship, and this new queerat incident is the perfect opening for that. But that’s not the focus of this episode.

Bottom line: the queerats (sorry, “exospecies”) are slowly but surely falling out of human control, and fast. You can’t help but fear that one day they’ll progress so far they will develop a means to counter the human cantus. Every word a queerat says – be it Yakomaru or Kiroumaru – contains a resentful undertone. Genetic predisposition towards loyalty is fading as their populations surge; and while humans have a nuclear option – annihilating any colony that opposes them – one wonders how such a violent and destructive action will affect them. Saki calls herself a “pencil pusher” but the queerats call her a shinigami (death god). Being a god ain’t all it’s cracked up to be.


Rating: 8 (Great)

Maoyuu Maou Yuusha – 04

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Maou hosts a young merchant and member of the Alliance for negotiations: she offers the idea of introducing corn crops in regions where previous agriculture had failed. The merchant is intrigued, and smitten by her fire, going so far as to propose marriage before they part ways. Maou has also not seen Yuusha for six months. Yuusha is afraid to get too close to her, lest his demise cause her sorrow. Onna-Kishi trains the town nobles in Yuusha’s stead, and Maid Ane asks her to help teach her how to fight.

Maou declares the second-strongest bond between heaven and earth is having something to gain from one another. It is with that belief that she reaches out to any and all that could help her gain what she desires: world peace. Even if the Alliance, which depends on the furtherance of the war to prosper, cannot share that particular desire, they’ll still make a huge amount of profit from corn, and so contracting with her is still the right move. This week Maou proves adept at negotiating, even while she wears her heart on her sleeve with regards to that ultimate goal of hers.

That brings us to the strongest bond: love. Yuusha, who has exiled himself from the one he gave himself to, can’t quite grasp what use he is to Maou, but in reality, the hero is the most important thing to her. She is uneasy and distracted by his conspicuous absense, and even breaks out the Yuusha pillow! Her…enthusiasm for him is keeping him away because he’s afraid. Not of sex, but afraid of what taking the next step will do: make it that much harder for Maou if she were to lose him. But like Maou, perhaps it isn’t good for Yuusha to think too much about such things.


Rating: 8 (Great)

Sasami-san@Ganbaranai – 03

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Sasami types about her family, the Tsukuyomi clan, descended from the first human to have the power of Amaterasu. She was given intense training at a remote shrine to become the latest vessel for her powers, but she got sick of it and left with her brother. When a third arm comes out of her chest as she’s typing, it represents a part of her personality that was repressed as part of her training – a sense of desire. It tells her her brother has returned to the shrine. Sasami follows him, accompanied by the Yagami sisters, who destroy the shrine. Tsusugi reveals she is actually Amaterasu, and she and her “sisters” came into being because of Sasami’s wish. With that, Sasami learns she, not her brother, had Amaterasu’s power all along.

This episode finally provides some concrete context for what the hell has been going on in the first two. It contains a lot of exposition and backstory and revealed identities, but still contains just as much excitement and action as its predecessors. A ton of revelations are dished out, not the least of which is Tsurugi’s true identity as Amaterasu incarnate, and her sisters aren’t really sisters, but gods she created from parts of herself she tore off. Tsurugi, Kagami, and Tama are here because of Sasami. She desired a normal life free of the responsibilities of being a vessel Amaterasu’s powers, and they coalesced to protect that life.

Her brother was a MacGuffin all along, having no divinity at all. Instead, he remains her steadfast, loyal, obedient, loving brother, whose duty is to protect her from sadness and harm. Even knowing he has no divine powers, Sasami seems to give herself a kick in the pants and march outside to make her brother’s efforts worthwhile. It turns out a curse made her a hikikomori, so now she can go outside with ease. But how far will she “try at life” before she finds herself with responsibilities and duties once again? If that happens, the Yagami sisters will be there to stamp it out, preserving Sasami’s god-given right to be as lazy and useless as she cares to be.


Rating: 8 (Great)

 

Vividred Operation – 03

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Akane is late for her first day of school, so she uses her Vivid power to fly to school. She comes afoul of the school’s pride and kendo ace, Saegusa Wakaba, who attacks Akane as an intruder – and loses. When Wakaba and Aoi end up in Saegusa’s class, Wakaba challenges Akane to a duel on the beach. It is interrupted by a new Alone emerging from the sea. Watching Akane and Aoi fight, Wakaba wants to join them. Akane gives her a key, and they dock to exeute the Vividgreen Operation, defeating the Alone.

In this third episode we are introduced to the third member of the Vivid girls, and she’s an interesting addition. She’s good at everything…except losing. And she’s a very very bad loser. So bad that when she decides to attack someone who turned out to be faster and stronger than her (Akane in Vivid mode), she essentially throws a tantrum and chase Akane around the school. Fair enough; when you’re as accomplished as she is, and not accustomed to defeat, you’re bound to make mistakes. But by the episode’s climax, when an Alone appears, she watches Akane and Aoi run toward – not away – from the danger.

It’s then that Wakaba realizes what her father was trying to tell her about true strength. Being strong isn’t just about winning; it’s about knowing when and how to use the power, when not to, and when to accept that things won’t always go your way…because they won’t. Simple, but good advice. This episode was full of some very nice combat and chase animation, and once the Alone comes, wastes no time bringing Wakaba into the fold. The wooden sword duel between Akane and Wakaba was very slickly done. Again the mysterious girl shot a berserk arrow into the Alone; perhaps she’s testing Akane & Co.?


Rating: 7 (Very Good)

Tamako Market – 03

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Spring arrives, and with it a new school year. Tamako is interested in her new classmate Asagiri Shiori, but Shiori won’t give her the time of day. Mochimazzi gets lost and falls from the sky and is caught by Shiori, who takes him home to Tamako’s. She stays for dinner and goes to the bath with Tamako. The next day she can’t find the words to thank her, but she ends up back at Tamako’s anyway, helping her lost teacher make a home call. Over coffee and music at the cafe, Shiori is finally able to express her thanks to Tamako, and the two become friends.

This was a very pretty episode, that made us wish Spring were here already. It also makes the friendship of the devastatingly shy Shiori and the bubbly, friendly Tamako almost a matter of fate. After all, external forces (Mochimazzi and the teacher) drew Shiori to Tamako’s house both times, but she enjoyed herself both times. It was also nice to see how an “outsider” deals with all the generosity and friendliness of the shopping district as a whole. If you’re a friend of Tamako, you’re a friend of theirs, too.

While we’ll admit part of us wanted Shiori to finally blow her stack and verbally unload on Tamako, that wouldn’t quite fit the tone of this series thus far. Instead, she practices thanking her in the mirror, and after some strong coffee and a little music, she’s finally able to communicate her feelings. Tamako and the bird aren’t causing her trouble. On the contrary, she always wanted to be part of Tamako’s world. And now she is. Croquettes and sakuramochi for everyone!…Except Mochimazzi…bird need to lose some weight like yesterday.


Rating: 8 (Great)