Love Lab – 03

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Now that she knows Sayo is after her, Maki is working herself to the bone, worrying Riko. Eno, desperate to get Maki to acknowledge her, yells insults from the roof. Eno and Sayo sneak into the council office and Sayo finds a binder containing Maki and Riko’s love research, which she plans to use as leverage. When Maki collapses from exhaustion, Riko asks Sayo to return as treasurer. Sayo tells her about her and Eno’s scheme, and Eno shows up as Sayo is praising her. Eno defends her actions to Riko as wanting to get acknowledge.

She demands Riko quit as Maki’s assistant. Riko refuses, and talks break down. When copies Eno makes get mixed up, the incriminating love research is distributed to the student council during their meeting, upsetting them. Riko pins the blame on “President” Eno, but Sayo comes up with the story the research was not personal, but being done in response to a request from the suggestion box. All four girls escape the meeting unharmed, and Eno decides to return, this time as vice-president, and Sayo as Treasurer.

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Love Lab was very clever in this very involved third week. Last week it undersold the characters of Eno and Sayo as fairly standard school rivals bent on making life difficult for our heroines, Maki and Riko, so they can return to their old posts. This week they get a lot more fleshed out, all the more surprising considering our initially low expectations. This week Maki and Riko’s situation is weighed against Eno and Sayo’s and in the end we sympathize with both, especially when all four end up on the hot seat with the council regarding the love research (the distribution of which was very blatantly telegraphed). Also, in the end, it behooves all parties involved to make peace and re/join forces.

It’s good that that’s the case, and that they all arrive at that conclusion without too much dilly-dallying. Everyone stands to gain something: With more help, Maki won’t get overworked and die, and Riko can focus on more love research, leaving all other council matters to the others. Sayo will get to handle the money again, and her friend will be back in a position of power (vice is better than nothing). Eno shows maturity by accepting the vice presidency. Her ability to and ease with trusting and relying on others will gradually rub off on Maki, while Maki’s efficient work ethic will rub off on Eno. All’s well that ends well, but with these four (plus Suzune, so five), things are just beginning.

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Rating: 8 
(Great)

Gatchaman Crowds – 02

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Hajime interferes in Sugane’s mission, and is able to coax the MESS into taking a scissors-like form. She moves into new digs with Sugane and Paiman, and after moving all her stuff in she brings Sugane along on a collage community get-together on a monorail, arranged by the social media network GALAX. Shortly after returning to HQ, they are summoned by JJ, whom Hajime approaches directly. He sends her and Sugane to the site of the next MESS, which Hajime is able to tame. Meanwhile, some unsavory shape-shifting fellow injures several bystanders, but thanks to GALAX they are tended to quickly.

This episode was very encouraging not only for looking just as good if not better than the first, but continuing to throw a whole lot of ideas and themes around at once, piquing our interest and entertaining without explicitly nailing anything down. The straight-as-an-arrow Sugane is immediately swept up in Hajime’s vibrant life, along with many other Gatchamen (Gatchamans?). We’re relieved that while Hajime is incredibly peppy and gregarious, she never descents into annoying-ness, and this week proves quite perceptive. Unlike the others, she’s not just going to kill MESSes just because she’s told to. It may look random to Sugane and others like him, but she does live by a code, that won’t let her take action against a party without knowing that party.

The MESS, just an abstract foe to be destroyed, becomes something else entirely under Hajime’s tutelage. We have a feeling this was part of JJ’s reasoning for bringing Hajime into the fold. Add to that her use of GALAX (kind a Facebook/LinkedIn with miis) to bring together people to make collages to comfort victims of a recent unnamed disaster, and she’s a busy girl. Her and Sugane’s exploits could easily fill the episode, but we also got a sneak peek at the series’ potential villain, who seems to take pleasure in making humans suffer, and a new character who wears a disguise outdoors and may be the mastermind behind the very popular and useful GALAX. One thing’s for sure: Gatchaman offers ample bang for the buck.

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Rating: 9 (Superior)

Stray Observations:

  • A Collage Community Chartered Monorail Ride? THAT SOUNDS AWESOME.
  • Hajime’s Collage friends include both the fire chief and mayor of Tachikana, plus many other people of all ages and walks, lending instant credibility to her skill as a networker.
  • We like how Hajime can so utterly dominate a conversation with the well-spoken Sugane. We also like how often her hand gestures resemble scissors.
  • Hajime bedazzled the physical manifestation of her soul. Sounds about right!
  • Walking across that steep drop and sitting down next to JJ, that was pretty cheeky!
  • This was the second straght episode that was so immersive we were surprised when it suddenly ended.

Stella Women’s Academy, High School Division Class C3 – 03

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Yura participates her first high school airsoft tournament with the C3 Club. She’s the one to capture the flag in their first battle and things go fairly easily in the others, but their last opponent is Meisei Girls’ Academy, led by Haruna Rin, a partner of Sonora’s in America. Stella launches an all-or-nothing attack, and get picked off one by one until Yura is all that’s left. She runs, hides, and surrenders when she realizes Rin is going to hunt her down. She disappoints Sonora, but the rest of the club tells her not to worry, as there will be plenty of chances to redeem herself. She resolves to improve, cutting her hair short as a symbol of her desire to change.

On the one hand, airsoft is all fun and games; a means of sharpening coordination, teamwork, and general killing skills, which can then be applied in other, less military areas of life, while developing bonds with one’s teammates. On the other hand, for some (like the likes of Haruna Rin) airsoft is not a game at all, and fun is the mind-killer, along with fear, doubt, and hesitation. Yura still has all of those qualities in spades, making her the one weak link in Stella that Rin and Meisei mercilessly exploit to win. And exploit they do: they not only won, but shook Yura to the bone, ruining a day that was supposed to be (and started out) fun.

Every rival club or team seems to have a Haruna Rin, and we 100% agree with Karila: her obsession with form over fun makes her boring, and her unseemly mind games make her a bitch. Airsoft is supposed to be fun. If she really finds Yura’s wavering and forfeiture in her very first tournament to be “despicable”, then she needs to kindly get a life. Sonora isn’t mad at Yura because they lost because of her, but because Yura gave up. Rin expected to be able to overwhelm a rookie, and Yura played right into her hands. It was a depressing loss, but Yura learned a valuable lesson that’s as important in sports as it is in life: the only thing to fear is fear itself, not one’s own imagined limitations.

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Rating: 8 
(Great)

Stray Observations:

  • Han Solo has a few words for Yura after winning her first battle: “Don’t get cocky!”
  • We like how all the mock battles trigger Yura’s vivid imagination, and when things turn sour, it turns into a sinister war scene that overwhelms her. Maybe skip the ‘shrooms next go around?
  • Karila does her Matrix-like acrobatics again, while we see Sonora kicking ass for the first time. We like how everyone has their own unique style of fighting to go along with their unique weapons.
  • Whatever Rin won’t forgive Sonora for, Sonora doesn’t seem to be in any hurry to apologize.
  • After two episodes with an ED featuring crudely-scrawled illustrations, this week we get a far better-produced sequence.
  • As part of her makeover, Yura will not allow herself to be addressed as anything other than “Yura.” We were finding all the nicknames a bit distracting, too…though we kinda liked “Lil’ Yura.”