Sasami-san@Ganbaranai – 11

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Still on their class trip, Sasami (using Tama) tries to become closer friends with Edogawa Jou, who believes she has ulterior motives. As they spend more time together, Kagami grows depressed. On the night of the summer festival, she storms off, and Sasami chases her. Kagami believes she’s broken because she isn’t happy about Sasami being friends with Jou, but Sasami assures her its a very human way to act. Switching to Tsurugi’s body, Sasami enjoys the fireworks with her brother on the beach.

This was a quiet, pleasant little episode before the finale in which Sasami continues her use of Tama to experience more of normal high school girl existence, which includes class trips. Ironically, while she’s striving for an ordinary life free of the burdens of her previous station as vessel of Amaterasu’s power, the friends she’s made thus far are anything but normal. Kagami is still coming to grips with what being a friend means (as opposed to just a “practice doll”), while Edogawa Jou sees everyone as either enemies or servants (and to her, a lover goes in the latter category).

Frankly, it’s okay that Kagami and Jou are so weird. We also like how being with Sasami has made Kagami so much more human, as she expresses jealousy and lonliness. Kagami has grown quite a bit right along with Sasami. Jou seems far denser, as everything has a meaning other than its simplest interpretation to her, but we enjoyed hearing her less-aloof servants (not friends of course!) Foxie and Babysitter try to steer her right, even if they don’t always succeed. She may consider herself Sasami’s arch-nemesis (and she may yet prove why in the finale), but for now, Sasami (and Tama) are fine with being her friend too.


Rating: 7 (Very Good)

Stray Observations:

  • We liked how Sasami’s trip was documented via strange postcards that her mom and Micchan recieve.
  • Edogawa doesn’t have a dick anymore. Good for her!
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OreShura – 12

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The Maiden club arrives at the beach. Masuzu and Eita set to work trying to convince the other girls they’re a real couple, but they aren’t buying it. Ai tells Suzu she won’t forgive her if she’s just been stringing Eita along. Suzu devises a scheme in which Eita gives her casual kiss goodnight, but before he can, the other girls present them with matching straps as a sign of their membership. The gesture depresses Masuzu, and she doesn’t leave her room in the morning. While on a stroll, Eita bumps into Mana, who tells her she’s glad he’s come to like her, and sees him as a worthy “accomplice” for her big sister.

Masuzu and Eita believed this entire beach trip would be one tense battlefield from start to finish, and considering how they ham it up on the bus, they may not have the resources to succeed in fooling Chiwa, Ai, and Hime, despite how compromised they may be by “love on the brain”. The fact is, Suzu’s three rivals not only get along with each other famously, but aren’t making over-concerted efforts to steal Eita away. They make a gesture here and there, but enjoying themselves at the beach takes precedence. This pragmatism comes to a head when Eita and Suzu’s plan is foiled by chance, when the girls decide to give their club founder a token of their esteem. All of their earnestness wears Masuzu down until she becomes more depressed with herself.

But as Mana points out to Eita in an exchange that becomes surprisingly civil (considering it started with a bike accident and his hand on her bum), Suzu’s sister Mana tells him the whole story of why her sister is so all over the place. As her father’s status symbol, Masuzu has been acting and pretending so long, Mana believes she’s “gone crazy”. Suzu doesn’t know who the real her is anymore, so she jumps from warm to cold, and strings Eita along for the rid. The thing is, Eita hasn’t minded this. He’s enjoyed his time with Masuzu, even the blackmail and abuse. And when she says she’ll release him after the trip, he seems apprehensive. So who’s he ending up with? We’ll see if the impending contest in the finale carries any answers.


Rating: 8 (Great)

From the New World (Shin Sekai yori) – 25 (Fin)

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Saki charges the queerat-raised child with a disguised Kiroumaru ahead of her. The kid kills Kiroumaru, and death feedback kills him. Yakomaru is captured, and after a show trial, is sentenced to eternal agony. The central library, temple of purity, and Saki’s parents were all lost in her absence  She returns to work at Exospecies control, where Satoru tells her he’s discovered the shocking truth about queerats. Time passes, Saki and Satoru get married, and ten years later, Saki completes her book. She is with child, but it is now an object of hope, not fear.

This was a strong and emotional end to a strong and emotional series that asked a lot of tough questions about human nature and how our desire to survive can lead to questionable decisions that bite us in the ass later on. We watched a civilization of people who are programmed to die if they kill fear the powers of their own offspring. We learned that humans with cantus decided to mix non-cantus humans with naked molerats to create a new species they could control and kill without feedback. Though they lacked cantus, queerats still did all they could to survive. Kiroumaru gladly gives up his life for Saki if she saves his colony, and she succeeds. We liked the elegance of the plan to take out Maria and Mamoru’s kid, but share Saki’s sadness that he had to go.

What’s gratifying about the ending is that we go back to all the events of this work and think about how all of it came from the pen of a thirty-something Saki, sitting safe and comfortable in her lovely home with a bun in the oven. Her survival was never in doubt, but everything else was up for grabs, including what had become of her and where he was writing or recollecting this. Few of us can say we’ve lost as much as Saki lost in her still short lifetime: family, friends, lovers, and even memories. But in the end, she carried on with her life, started a new family with Satoru, remembered everything about her old world and wrote it down, in hope the new world will be better for her child. She’s a strong one.


Rating: 9 (Superior)

Stray Obserations:

  • Not a single frame was wasted as this episode was dotted with gorgeous vista after gorgeous vista. We’ll miss this beautiful world.
  • We agree that Squealer deserves punishment for murdering so many, but “eternal hell”? That’s harsh.
  • We’d heard Dvorak’s ninth symphony many times before, but we didn’t know it was called “From the New World.” It’s gotta be one of our favorite pieces of orchestral music, and the title suits it perfectly.
  • Seeing that Satoru survived with Saki and they eventually married and had a kid made us very happy.

Maoyuu Maou Yuusha – 11

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When White Night Country launches a surprise attack against Iron Country, A demon army approaches from the south. The Winter King and Onna-Kishi lead up the defense against White Night, while Yuusha heads south to deal with the demons. He encounters the Mage, who tells him to destroy the gate after she teleports the entire demon army back home. Yuusha discovers the demon world is merely deep underground, and blasts into the central castle where he finds the head maid has been maimed by Maou, who has been corrupted by evil demon kings of the past.

Like Spice & Wolf, Maoyu hasn’t been content to just tell the story of its small cast of characters, but lay out in great detail the mechanics of the world in which they live. Here in Maoyu, though, the hero and demon king aren’t just two people trying to find their way in the world, but are crucial players who will shape its future…especially now that we know the demon world and human world aren’t even separate realms. The series has also been very stingy with the female Mage, but now that she finally has more than a few moments of screen time, she doesn’t waste any time establishing that she’s properly badass…and has multiple personalities to boot!

Yuusha is now faced with the same situation in the first episode: crossing swords with the Demon King (or at least catching her scythe in his palms). But as that goes on, the gears of the world keep turning, with everyone’s favorite alliance merchant making a counter-move to Central’s reissuing of currency. Wheat is used as a food, a currency, and a weapon of war (when Onna-Kishi taints some to prevent a cavalry attack). We also get a peak at three of the “students” Maou, Maid Chou and Onna thought  They’re all making names for themselves. One on the battle lines, one negotiating with the merchant, and Maid Ane spreading the truth in print.


Rating: 8 (Great)

Vividred Operation – 11

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As she’s taken away by the UDF, Rei calls the girls liars. Kenjirou determines she’s from another world and acts as beacon for the alones, leading them to the Manifestor engine. Not happy where they left things with Rei, the girls infiltrate UDF HQ. Akane breaks through to Rei’s cell, and they make up. But the crow arrives and tells Kenjirou its bosses won’t let this world have Manifestor technology. It swallows Rei whole and turns into a giant monster that destroys UDF HQ.

I see what’s going on now…you four were just pretending to be nice to me!

Even if Rei was correct in this assessment (she’s not), what she’s been hiding from them (that she’s trying to destroy their world for the sake of hers) is far worse, so she hardly has the moral high ground. Fortunately for Akane and the other three girls, they’re not so much guilty or upset as they are restless and totally unwilling to let Rei’s misunderstanding…stand. Even before learning the truth – that she’s a pawn with little choice in matters – it was important that they made her realize they weren’t pretending.

Unfortunately, while Rei is a sympathetic anti-heroine, and the girls’ assault on UDF HQ is pretty cool, Rei’s boss the “mediator” crow and the Q/Godlike beings it (she?) represents are pretty one-dimensionally evil and dull. They’re little more than inter-dimensional bullies pushing weaker beings around, only this time their would-be victims won’t go out without a fight, doubtlessly employing more crisp CGI, pose-striking and crotch shots.


Rating: 7 (Very Good)

Stray Observations:

  • Why exactly are there nude pictures of Rei in her computer profile? Aren’t there laws against that kinda stuff?
  • At the boardroom meeting, a government official calls Kenjirou’s theory of Rei being from a parallel world “a joke.” Mind you, he just received this information from a magical talking weasel.
  • Rei’s apartment is only depressing because of the lack of furniture. When this is all over maybe the girls can take her to Ikea!
  • The crow suddenly swallowing Rei…well now, that was unexpected!

Zetsuen no Tempest – 23

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The team heads to the shore, where they’ll make their final preparations to implement their plan. Yoshino and Mahiro insist on being involved. This angers Hakaze, as Yoshino knows how she feels about him, but he convinces her to go along with it. When the day arrives, Hakaze disguises herself as the Mage of Exodus and attacks the fleet. Hanemura, dressed as the Dancing Princess, gets the fleet to back him up in fighting the Mage of Exodus, drawing them away from the pillar. When he’s close enough, Hanemura and Tetsuma switch places, Hanemura heads for the tree, and Yoshino and Mahiro hijack the survey boat. While their backs are turned on their hostages, one pulls a gun and shoots Yoshino.

How do seven people and one boat take on a armada of one hundred cruisers? Deception, and lots of it. Mahiro is the director of the ballet to save the world, and everyone has a specific role to play. Hanemura plays the classic hero, only hopefully someone who won’t go out with the Tree of Genesis and have to rely on Mahiro tracking down his ex-girlfriend (he forgets that if he fails, everyone’s screwed). Hakaze plays the evil Mage of Exodus, and Hanemura’s costume fits her just fine…like magic! Samon, Junichiro, Yamamoto, and Natsumura Tetsuma all play supporting roles. And while Aika decided hers would be a one-woman-play, tactically declining his help, Yoshino refuses to stand on the sidelines as others he cares about – including Hakaze – fight and sacrifice.

The mission commences in a wonderfully-drawn and paced sequence of the mission being carried out interspersed with Mahiro describing it. We love how pissed off Samon and Tetsuma are to be dressed like tourists, and that Hanemura must endure at least one more indignity by dressing in drag. Everything goes off without a hitch until Yoshino and Mahiro turn their backs on their prisoners, betraying their relative inexperience with terrorism. The cliffhanger wants us to believe Yoshino’s life is in danger again, and maybe it is, but we also know he’s been cut in half before, and survived. The question is: will Hanemura succeed in destroying Genesis?


Rating: 9 (Superior)

 

Kotoura-san – 11

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Muroto takes the attacker’s blow for Yuriko and is knocked out. Moritani fights him but he easily dispatches her and flees. Kotoura blames herself for the entire incident and runs off. Moritani confesses to Manabe, but is turned down. Kotoura ends up in the park where she talked with Tsukino, whom she bumps into again. She invites Kotoura to her house to patch up her scraped knee, have dinner, and spend the night, but turns out to be the attacker. Muroto wakes up and connects the dots, and directs Manabe to Tsukino’s apartment building, where he arrives just in time. Kotoura talks Tsukino down, and Tsukino turns herself in to police.

Sometimes penultimate episodes leave you hanging for the finale, while others, like this one, resolved a lot, allowing the finale to breathe. We have to say, we like the latter as many anime series, particularly one-cour ones, feel compelled to wait until the bitter end, and so the endings feel rushed. Not here. This episode does a superb job balancing the plot resolution requirements, but ditches the pervert humor altogether and doesn’t for a second forget about any of the characters. Everyone gets great scenes, big moments, and grows in this episode. Balancing all that isn’t an easy feat, but this episode made it look easy.

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First, we like the simplicity of Moritani’s confession and the swift rejection by Manabe. Better to tie up loose ends early. Moritani doesn’t seem bothered until Manabe leaves, and then she starts bawling. Hey, rejection hurts, no matter how strong you are. But before he leaves, she segues immediately to how much she loves Manabe and Kotoura as a couple, how they seem right for one another, about how she worried when they got in a fight. Moritani has come a long way from bullying and putting out hits on people.

Then there’s the relationship between Mifune and Muroto. Since Mifune was young and bullied for being the spawn of a “liar”, Muroto has stood by her side and taken licks for her, and this week is no different. Daichi may be a little guy, but he has a huge, stout heart. He’s the Manabe to Yuriko’s Kotoura: he ain’t leaving her side. Ironically, it seems while Manabe remembers a particularly mean insult he threw at Moritani ages ago, he seems to have forgotten the promise he made her in the first place, though it seems to be a case more of absent-mindedness than malice.

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Finally, we come to Tsukino. When we saw the hair and the martial arts moves, we first though – wait – Manabe is the attacker?! But…he, or we should say she, was too tall to be him. Ever since we met her there have been subtle hints that there may be something off about her, and this week finally drops the hammer. A childhood of abuse by her peers caused her to develop a split personality: the kind ditz Kotoura can read the mind of, and a brutal cad who attacks people to blow off steam. Kotoura reminds her of her – someone different from the others (in this case, she’s huge) – only the fact Kotoura has friends irks her to no end.

Even she isn’t a merely mindless, cackling villain: she stops her attack, listens to reason, and decides to face the consequences of what she’s done. And after all those thoughts of wanting to not exist, when she’s finally facing the potential end of her existence, Kotoura learns she doesn’t want to die. Yes, she was lucky she was still sane enough to listen to reason, and very lucky Manabe somehow ended up finding them (does he have Kotouradar or something?), but as we’ve said, we don’t mind tidy endings as long as they’re well-executed and entertaining. This was that and more.


Rating: 9 (Superior)

Tamako Market – 11

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Word spreads around the district that Tamako is a “princess”, but she’s more excited about winning a medal for filling 100 order cards throughout the years. Her dad is sour about the entire idea, and Mochizou isn’t altogether ecstatic either, especially, when Tamako gets to chat briefly with the prince via Dera. After Mochizou tells her if she’s happy, he’s happy, and Anko sleeps with her, Tamako wakes up to find the medal gone. In the street, it is handed to her by none other than the prince.

As one of the shopkeepers says to her dejected dad, Tamako is very good around the house and with the mochi shop. But that doesn’t mean that everything’s going to stay the same forever. Even if she herself doesn’t want to leave yet, one day she may. No one, not even Choi, knows exactly what the future holds. We certainly don’t, after an episode that’s all about how everyone reacts to the biggest change yet: Tamako moving away to marry some weird prince. And to be fair, no one – not her dad, Anko, Midori, Kanna, Shiori, or Mochizou, saw that coming.

Of course, a lot of smaller changes have already taken place in the course of the series: When Dera arrived, that was certainly change; but it didn’t really shake anything up, because he was the one sticking around, in a new life. For everyone else, it was the same old life. In fact, now that he’s a fixture of the household. But Tamako leaving? That’s a change that scares everyone close to her, and her most of all, especially because she doesn’t know exactly how she feels or should feel about this, and no one has satisfactory answers, because it’s her life.


Rating: 7 (Very Good)

Girls und Panzer – 11

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The Ooarai team nevertheless keeps Black Forest Peak on its toes through the use of unconventional tactics like smokescreens, towing their slowest tank with the others, reaching the high ground, then using the 38(t) to weave in and out of the enemy formation. The orderly discipline of Black Forest Peak is shaken up, allowing Ooarai to break through and make a run for it. They ford a river, but the Rabbit team’s M3 stalls in the middle. Rather than leave it behind, Miho stops and helps them out. They enter a town, but a super-heavy Maus is waiting, and takes out the Ducks’ Type 89B and the Hippos’ StuG III.

We were going to wait until the twelfth and final episode aired to do a review, but then we thought, “why would we do that to ourselves”, and also didn’t feel like waiting. We daresay it was worth the wait: this episode provides perhaps the most tank-on-tank combat awesomeness per minute than any previous episode. And with good reason: it’s the final battle! Not only is it yet another underdog battle, but it’s also a battle of wills and philosophies. Miho wants to conduct a caring, loving Panzerfahren that treats no one as disposable and puts the lives of her comrades before victory, while still aiming for victory, in defiance of the Nishizumi School.

The thing is, while their cheeky and audacious tactics do indeed rile up a good many of the Black Forest Peak team – and piss off Erika to no end – Peak’s leader, Miho’s sister Maho, remains an island of tranquility in a sea of chaos. Whatever her lil’ sis throws at her, she’s not going to lose control of the situation like Miho’s previous foes did. Even with all of Ooarai’s efforts, the fact is they’ve lost three tanks and are down to five against Maho’s seventeen, including that ridiculously massive, scary Maus. Despite all of their small victories throughout this episode, by it’s end, defeating Black Forest Peak seems no more plausible than the first time we laid eyes on their massive force.


Rating: 8(Great)

Amnesia – 11

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The heroine and Orion learn that Ukyou has a split personality: one side wants to protect her and prevent her from dying on the 25th, the other side wants to kill her so he can live. Despite warning her to stay away, she can’t, and when a text he sends her a text on the 25th implying he’ll die that night, and she goes out into a storm to find him. The evil Ukyou corners her in a burning church.

The heroine proves yet again that her sense of self-preservation is iffy at best, but overpowered by her refusal to stand by and let anyone suffer, especially if it’s for her sake. Logically, if half of Ukyou wants to see what the inside of her skull looks like, she should stay away from him, period. But she thinks with her heart, not her head, and for her trouble she ends up right where she started the series: in that burning church, hiding from the person she came to save. Nice symmetry!

Apparently, while this world will try to kill the heroine until the 25th, if Ukyou dies in her place, she’ll live on. Ukyou makes reference to having met the heroine and seen her die countless times, so it’s not unrealistic to assume the experience has made him go at least half-mad, developing a side of himself to stop him from dying in the heroine’s place. That half’s willing to do anything – kill anyone – to stay alive, just as the heroine is willing to risk her life again and again to relieve the pain of others.


Rating: 7 (Very Good)

Zettai Karen Children: The Unlimited – Hyoubu Kyousuke – 11

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Hyoubu and Andy locate Walsh, and make him show them the location of Yugiri. He leads them to the bowels of a USEI installation, but it’s a trap. Saotome tells them they have to “administer” espers in order to prevent Ihachigo’s prophecy of catastrophe led by Akashi Kaoru in the future. Hyoubu and Andy are able to escape as PANDRA members show up to help, but when they travel to New York, where they find a reprogramed Yugiri who defeats them one by one.

This week, Hyoubu reunites with PANDRA, Andy chooses a side, they learn that Saotome’s still alive (somehow), and the USEI’s plan for espers, manage to escape a maximum security military installation, and did we mention a pro-esper mayor is elected in New York? Yeah, that last one is kinda out of left field; apparently meant to be a hint that the foretold destruction of mankind will occur there. The idea is, that if given equal rights, espers will cause the apocalypse. Unfortunately, Hyoubu and Andy’s escape is downright ludicrous.

There’s a scene during their escape when all of their opponents helpfully stop firing for a very long time…for no reason. The mini-security drones are laughably inept, and the human commandos have abysmal aim.  Combined with the routine twist of Yuugiri being re-programmed by USEI to attack espers and the convenient reappearance of PANDRA’s sub in the knick of time, this episode is a bit of a mess: more concerned with packing in as much plot and action as possible without regard to pace and plausibility. When the baddies are this stupid, it neutralizes the peril. Though we do like how Kaoru is prophesied to be the harbinger of doom.


Rating: 5 (Average)

Chihayafuru 2 – 10

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Mizusawa’s next opponent is Yamaguchi Mioka, a team of memory aces and quiz champions, who arrange their cards in the middle and constantly change their order. As a result, the Mizusawa players must draw upon the individual strengths of their games to defeat them. Chihaya, Taichi, and Nishida win, Oe loses a very close match, and only Tsukuba loses badly, and the team moves on. Meanwhile, Wakamiya threatens to forfeit if the gamemakers don’t reinstate Arata.

To all of the myriad uses of Karuta, add studying aid. The NERRRDS of Yamaguchi Mioka, and their captain, Takayama, discovered the game by chance, and noticed the similarities with their competitive quiz play. Both games require memorization and a certain speed with the hand, and buzzing in answers before the question is finished is much like taking a card after the first syllable or two. But of course, the team isn’t that one-dimensional. We greatly enjoyed the creative ways the thoughts of the players are visualized, and how the Mizusawa members deal with their opponents in very different ways.

Nishida relies on the defensive style of his society. Oe (in perhaps the coolest visualization), memorizes by author and them rather than position. Taichi…plays just like these guys, so he does fine. And Chihaya? Once she breathes and calms down, she relies on her power/accuracy combo and otherworldly game sense. What’s also great is how the game doesn’t dominate the episode. There’s enough time to propel Arata’s story forward (and we’re now thinking Chihaya is to Shinobu is to Chihaya as Arata is to Taichi), and showing more of the Tsutomu and Hanane scouting team.


Rating: 9 (Superior)

OreShura – 11

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Masuzu bristles at Saeko’s assessment that her and Eita are fake-dating, but the standoff ends when Saeko collapses from hunger. After a meal and a nap, Saeko suggests a way the Maiden Club can go to the beach: by participating in a contest at the promotional event for her new game, “OreDere,” which is near the beach. Saeko say’s she’ll stamp the marriage contract of whichever girl wins. Meanwhile, Eita notices that Ai has become good friends with both Chiwa and Hime, but Mazusu is alone.

Oh yeah, about those four girls…do you want to turn your life into a harem? Or do you want to turn it into a battlefield?

One thing’s for sure, this series doesn’t want to be just another harem series. If it did, it wouldn’t make skillful use of Eita’s young but sage aunt to pour cold water over Eita’s little love-in. She’s a designer of dating games and deals with artificial relationships all the time. When combined with her intuition, there’s no way she wouldn’t notice Eita and Masuzu are acting one out. Chihuahua, “Straight-Bangs” and “Tsundere” (both of her!) are all pretty clear about their love for Eita.

Despite Eita and Masuzu’s businesslike meeting at the playground, we still think Saeko isn’t being fair to Masuzu. Masuzu may be in love with Eita, but just doesn’t know it or want to acknowledge it in anyway, because she’d be betraying her anti-love stance. But the time has come for her to decide, like Eita, to choose between a fake relationship and a real one. We agree with Saeko’s insinuation that Eita is too nice a guy to be stuck in a weird fake one…and both he and Masuzu are too young to be giving up on love.


Rating: 8 (Great)

P.S. OreDere? Sounds awful…