Oreimo 2 – 09


On the first day back at school, Kyousuke finds out Kuroneko has transferred to another school. She’s also moved out of her house and won’t answer her phone. That night, Kyousuke wakes Kirino and asks for advice. When Kirino sees how sad he is, she has to help, and they head to a hot spring town to look for Kuroneko. They find her by chance; she makes Kirino admit she never wanted him to have girlfriend, but she also says seeing how sad he was when Kuroneko left was even worse. Before Kyousuke can tell Kuroneko what he’s going to do, she passes out. When she comes to, she says her family’s only moving to Matsudo, which isn’t that far, so while Kyousuke won’t see her at school anymore, he’ll still be able to see her, as will Kirino.

Well…that was odd…and not what we were expecting at all. But it wasn’t bad, either. Things get pretty bad early in the episode, when we learn that not only did last week’s written break-up stand (begging the question how the two separated that night, which is never answered), but she seems to have fallen off the face of the earth. In the end, Kuroneko’s breakup and departure turned out to be a combination of family circumstances she couldn’t control (dad gets a new job, family moving to company housing) and part of a rather sinister plan to make Kirino tell her her true feelings, not accepting that she was fine with her dating Kyousuke. Still, the stunt she pulls on Kyousuke is cruel and awful, and we’d have trouble letting her off the hook completely. Of course, love can make one very forgiving.

For her plan to have worked, Kyousuke and Kirino had to run into Kuroneko just when they did, while she was on vacation, which has less to do with their determination to find her and bring her back, and less pure dumb luck. Then again, Kuroneko has always believed in destiny; she has a whole journal of her life drawn out, so we’ll forgive that. And the plan does work. Kirino finally tells her she wanted to be the most important person in Kyousuke’s life…but, but…not at the cost of his happiness. At first she was happy when Kuroneko dumped him, but that didn’t last, because it left Kyousuke a wreck (understandably). So now, with Kuroneko moving away, albeit not far, it’s logical to assume we’ll see less of her and perhaps less of her and Kyousuke. And that doesn’t make us happy at all. But hey, at least they’re still a couple…sorta…

Rating: 8 

Stray Observations:

  • Anything worse than sending a text you really want answered, and it’s never responded to? This is why you don’t text for these kinds of things!
  • Kirino is actually pretty selfless and cool this week, doing everything she can to help Kyousuke, because he helped her so much. 
  • She even tells him its no good for Kyousuke not to date anyone until she dates someone, because that would make him unhappy as she’d be if he dated someone. Oroboros!
  • While it probably didn’t make sense to believe this, we’d always thought Ruri lived alone with her sisters. She didn’t mention a parent until last week, and we’ve yet to see either of them. 
  • More nice symmetry: Kyousuke climbing on Kirino in bed in the night to ask for advice, just like she did to him in the very first episode.

Chihayafuru 2 – 21

Ayase Chihaya, Wataya Arata

Chihaya struggles early against Yuube, but once she stops overthinking, goes with a more basic approach, and flips around the cards on her own side to make them easier to take with her left hand, and eeks out a win by two cards. Arata and Shinobu quickly defeat their opponents, and all the other Mizusawa players advance. Nishida has to face Arata in the next round, and while he puts up a passionate fight, he ultimately loses. Chihaya moves on to the Final 8, but rather than Arata, her next opponent is Shinobu.

Wow, this individual tournament is moving along at quite a clip! In a single episode we go from 32 players to just eight; Chihaya figures out how to switch her game from right to left, defeats two players, and with four episodes left, Chihaya is about to face off against her nememuse, the Queen herself: Wakamiya Shinobu. As a result, while she was saving her right hand for Arata (that just sounds wrong…), she knows she’ll have to use it against Shinobu. That’s a huge gamble, especially when last week a single tentative swipe caused intense pain.

But while the odds are very much against her no matter what hand she uses, Fujisaki’s loss proved that giants can be slain. If Chihaya defeated Shinobu to finally face off against Arata, you can be assured we’d pretty much lose it. That would be like a whole season of Kyousuke and Kuroneko dating. Arata, meanwhile, is just scary good, and even with all the negative energy directed at his game (his parents want him to lose so they don’t have to pay for his college in Tokyo), he eliminates his first opponent and barely breaks a sweat dispatching Nishida. We hope Chihaya’s journey doesn’t end with Shinobu doing to her what Arata did to Nishida.

Rating: 8 

To Aru Kagaku no Railgun S – 08

Misaka Mikoto

A group of cleaners called ITEM is hired to protect the two remaining labs running the Sisters experiments. Three of the four members stake out one lab, while the fourth, Frenda, covers the second lab on her own, hoping for a bonus. Mikoto attacks this lab, and Frenda has placed explosive booby traps everywhere. Mikoto barrels through them all and corners Frenda in a small room, and Frenda tries to stay a step ahead, but ends up on the wrong end of Mikoto’s electricity. Before she can get any info out of her, the rest of ITEM bursts through the wall to bail Frenda out.

Hopefully this goes down without a hitch.

Well, thankfully, it didn’t, or we wouldn’t have had a very eventful episode! Mikoto would have destroyed the last two labs, completed her mission, and, I dunno, gone underwear shopping with Kuroko or something. Instead, she has to deal with one tough customer in Frenda Seivelun, a tiny, blonde ball of energy who may not be an esper, but is a magician with both explosives, traps, hand-to-hand combat, and nearly inexhaustible supply of counterattacks, feints, and bluffs. She and Mikoto fight for most of the episode, and it’s incredibly fun to watch the more direct Mikoto constantly run into a trap, only to overcome because she’s Level 5. You get the idea that if ITEM knew that little nugget of information, they never would have split their forces. But even so, Mikoto takes a beating before getting the upper hand.

ITEM is kind of a parallel to Mikoto’s group of four friends: imagine that instead of solving crime and protecting the weak and innocent from baddies, they start their own cleaning business. Lord knows there are plenty of labs out there doing awful shit that need protection. And Frenda makes it clear to Mikoto she doesn’t care what the client is up to (technically her client is a middleman) or whose cause is just or right. That’s not how things work for ITEM. They were paid to do a job, Mikoto’s the target, they eliminate the target and get paid. That’s it. Their casual, “another day at the office” repartee (the hallmark of Jormungand, for better or worse) in the cold open is proof they’ve been doing this a long time and they’re good at it. Which means Mikoto is in serious trouble, and in need of an ally or two of her own…

Rating: 8 

Stray Observations:

  • ITEM breakdown: the leader is Mugino Shizuri, voiced by Koshimizu Ami (AKA Holo/Maou), who is an esper. Her three underlings are Frenda (a very florid Uchida Maaya), Kinuhata Saiai (Akasaki Chinatsu), and Takitsubo Rikou (Suzaki Aya). It’s a nice mix of voices we know well, and they’re all good additions to the cast.
  • Great battle action this week, something Railgun does better than random slice-of-life, IMO (not to say they’re bad at SoL; Mikoto’s day with MISAKA was wonderful).
  • While Maaya’s voice is a bit grating at times, she gets a few deliciously dark and evil things to say to Mikoto as they duel.
  • About that ally: the next-ep preview makes it plain, but Nunotaba Shinobu is tired of sitting on the sidelines. She pays a visit to the other lab, and while Mikoto distracts ITEM and the lab admins, she’ll be doing her part to stop the experiments and help Mikoto.

End-of-Month Rundown – May 2013

Nakamura Sawa

May’s over. June is here. It was a pretty good month, all told. Let’s break it down, deviants!

10. Kakumeiki Valvrave 8/12 (6.375) – Like Aquarion Evol, Valvrave seems to revel in absurdity. But Valvrave hasn’t been providing quite enough compelling eye candy to overcome its character shortcomings. For example, MJP’s most recent battle with the Wulgaru was far more grand, chaotic, and entertaining than Valvrave’s slower, simpler affair in episode 7. This is still watchable stuff because it’s still audacious and you never know what it’s going to pull next, but at least in May, Valvrave brought up the rear

9. Oregairu 9/13 (6.778) – Every episode has deftly touched upon some aspect of high school social life, but the fact remains the bond between the three leads – Hachiman, Yukino, and Yui – are still too ambiguous for our tastes. The first two in particular still stubbornly cling to the idea that they’re still not really friends, when we know better. We’ve also liked the moments of cooperation between the social outcasts and the it crowd, coming a long way during their camp counseling duties since their more adversarial tennis match. As predicted, a love triangle is also forming

8. Ginga Kikoutai Majestic Prince 9/24 (7.000) –  Majestic Prince is rife with cliches, and the Wulgaru are particularly one-dimensional and disappointing, but the Fail Five are fun to watch, both when they’re dicking around off-duty or kicking ass and taking names on duty. We also hope the long-suffering Lt. Amane gets her chance to shine soon, and isn’t just someone stuck under the heel of her incompetent, preening superior

7. Toaru Kagaku no Railgun S – 7/24 (7.143) –  As is typcial of her character, Misaka Mikoto is trying to do everything alone, including destroying all of the labs involved in sending wave after wave of her clones into Accelerator’s waiting jaws. It’s a sick game that she isn’t going to allow to continue if she can do anything about it…which means people are going to start gunning for her. The series has done a good job showing how deeply Mikoto’s been wronged by the system, and the toll her one-woman war has taken on her “normal” life

6. RDG: Red Data Girl – 9/12 (7.444) – This series is second only to Aku no Hana in creating a very specific and effervescent atmosphere, a hard-to-describe ethereal quality that speaks to the magical that lurks just beneath the mundane; think Spirited Away, only in a high school. We like how Izumiko and Sagara are still trying to find their place and their strength in this world of Red Data people and their various factions, but that hasn’t stopped them from taking action when their new friends were in need of aid. The ramifications of the Himegami being able to possess Izumiko at will are also intriguing

5. Oreimo 2 8/13 (7.750) – This was a huge month for Kuroneko/Shironeko/Kamineko/Ruri-nee, as she finally gets Kyousuke to agree to date her. Hanazawa Kana’s dynamic, layered performances and her character’s addictive chemistry with Kyousuke have always been our favorite parts of the series, but we’ve always feared we were far more invested in a Kyousuke/Kuroneko relationship than the series itself was interested in portraying. Sure enough, their whole lovely summer of dating is apparently some kind of experiment that Kuroneko will unilaterally bring to an end due to the conflict it creates with Kirino. While that’s a shame, it’s not at all unexpected, and at least the series gave us an episode and a half of pure romantic bliss

4. Hataraku Maou-sama! – 9/13 (7.889) – This show has added characters at a dizzying pace, and the more they add, the less time the core trio of Maou, Yusa, and Chiho get, with only five episodes left. The newest of those characters has clear ulterior motives, but the series is doing a good job humanizing her first; though the organization she represents is yet another in a long line of vague, faceless anime theocracies who are pretty much evil for evil’s sake, and won’t let Maou or Yusa life their normal lives in peace. That said, we like the insertion of Rika to offer fresh, normal human perspective on the characters

3. Suisei no Gargantia 8/13  (8.125) – This remains a gorgeous and imaginative series, and after a few episodes of settling in, the sudden appearance of what Ledo believes to be humanity’s ultimate enemy leads to quite a shake-up. Not only does the fleet commander die, but a sizable chunk of the fleet splits off. There are many separations, and Ledo from Amy is the one that will hurt the most, as their romance never even got anywhere. She might have seen the “real Ledo” the night of the festival, smiling and enjoying simply existing; but the call of duty to an alliance that may not even exist anymore is winning out so far

2. Chihayafuru 2 20/25 (8.167) – Mizusawa finally wins a championship, and while they’re the best team in Japan (and thus the world), their victory is almost immediately undercut by two factors: one, both the elite and the custodians of karuta all look down on team matches as inferior to individual play, and two, Chihaya enters individual tournament with a fractured finger, thus having to play with the wrong hand against a very hungry, aggressive opponent. With so few episodes left, this will either end unsatisfyingly quickly, or go on another season. Neither possibility is ideal, but doesn’t change the fact the Fujisaki match was epic

1. Aku no Hana – 8/13 (8.500) – After the first episode, we were left wondering why this series was rotoscoped. After eight episodes, we’re left feeling there was no other way to animate this deliciously-chilling story about the walls we build to function in society, and what happens when an external force gets her pigeon-toed Airwalk in the crack of one of those walls and starts tearing them down one by one. The classroom-trashing scene at the end of episode seven was simply one of the most powerful and beautiful scenes of raw emotion we’d ever seen on the screen. We can wait for just about every other series’ next episode; but the six days between each Aku no Hana episode is barely-tolerable agony by comparison