To Aru Kagaku no Railgun S – 13

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Learning that Tree Diagram is gone and unsure of her next move, Misaka takes out her aggression on the nearest Sisters facility, which is evacuated as she tears the place apart, vowing to destroy everything. However, when she watches MISAKA 10031 being killed by Accelerator on a monitor, she breaks down. Touma looks for MISAKA and hears gunshots, but by the time he arrives in the alley, only a puddle of blood remains of her. He informs Antiskill, but the mess is cleaned up once they arrive. Touma meets the sisters and learns about the experiment, and heads to Misaka’s dorm to talk about it.

Kamijou Touma has been blissfully unaware of the Level 6 Shift experiment and the existence of more than one MISAKA sister, but that’s all over now, as he meets a whole company of ’em, performing cleanup work after one of the ones he met met a sticky end. Flash back to Accelerator’s very first fight against a clone, when he easily disables her, but is initially weary about killing her off until the gold-toothed scientist assures him they’re merely puppets, and for the clones’ part they won’t stop trying to kill Accelerator until they’re dead or physically unable to. Whatever sliver of remorse he had in that first fight has completely evaporated, and now he has “fun” with the experiments, tossing out riddles and such before going in for the kill. It’s awful.

Also awful? Kamijou Touma finds out about the fight going on too late. Even if the sister wouldn’t have allowed him to intervene in the experiment (i.e. not let him save her life) there’s a chance he could have at least slowed Accelerator down. When he reports the death to normal authorities, he is too late again, as the sisters had cleaned up the mess, but the fact remains, if Touma continues to pry, he’ll be a target too. As Misaka is growing desperate beneath the weight and scope of the task before her (destroy everything and everyone involved, playing every bit the righteous “villain”), now would be a good time for Touma to step in and help in some way, any way, before she goes nuts, destroys herself, or both.

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Rating:7 (Very Good)

Ginga Kikoutai Majestic Prince – 13

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The ship Suruga was waiting for his entire day off turns out to be transporting a new AHSMB, Black 6, to be piloted by a new member of Team Rabbits, Ange Kuroki. While seemingly shy and submissive at first, after engaging in a mock battle with Izuru (which he wins handily) his personality totally changes; a slap from Kei and the soft-spoken Ange returns. The MJPs are deployed to 4 Vesta to defend the GDF base from a Wulgaru attack led by Klein. Ange ignores all orders and operates on his own, destroying Klein’s entire squadron, then Klein himself, all while displaying the highest harmonic levels ever seen.

Well, that’s one way to shake things up! With a new half-season comes a new character, the “aloof ace”, someone who isn’t concerned with hobbies, socializing with his teammates, or even listening to a damn word they say. Ange Kuroki…well, he gets Angery. Ahem…we mean angry. He totally schools Izuru, then looks down on him. His AHSMB is the most advanced unit, and he must be the product of some new training program that’s left him less functional as a complete human being than the others. He’s not fitting in, nor does he seem to want to. Sure, Ange disobeyed orders, broke formation and did whatever he wanted, but he got the job done, and the superiors only care about results.

With the possibility Ange ever becoming one of the team being remote when he and his AHSMB are so far ahead of the curve, you have to wonder why he isn’t just his own one-man team. He certainly makes the other Rabbits look bad; no one but Ange is able to save an ambused Kei, who let herself get surrounded, and Tamaki just blasted after the first bogey Kei saw: a decoy. Add a pinned Izuru and Asagi and an inaccurate Suruga, and the team looked pretty poor out there. Even so, we’ve seen what they’re capable of and know they’re better than this. It just seems like Ange served as a hair in their pickled fish guts. Unfortunately for them, it’s a hair they’ll have to live with.

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Rating:7 (Very Good)

Stray Observations:

  • We’re assuming Ange’s a male and not a female, though he obviously has at least two distinct personalities. FWIW he’s voiced by a lady; Watanabe Akeno, who’s voiced characters of both genders, including Gou from Free!
  • That said, we like how disenchanted Suruga and Tamaki get after Ange’s revealing tantrum.
  • As if we didn’t have enough reasons to love Kei, she’s the first to slap Ange. Excellent!
  • Rin keeps trying to get closer to Izuru, only for him to completely not notice her. Keep at it, Kei!
  • We like the new OP and ED; we liked the old ones too but it’s good to freshen things up.

Stella Women’s Academy, High School Division Class C3 – 01

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Yamato Yura is excited to be starting her sophomore year of high school at Stella Women’s Academy, but has troulbe making friends and doesn’t like big groups. However, when she’s walked in on by a member of the “C3” club, they take an instant interest in her. She meets Hatsuse Karila, Hinata Yachiyo, Kirishima Rento, and Mutsu Honoka, who participate in mock battles akin to war games using airsoft rifles and pistols. She’s initially weary of joining, but Kirishima insists. She participates in a “Rambo”-style battle with Karila as Rambo and the other four as sheriffs. As the battle heats up, Yura starts to get it, and “steps in to a new world.”

Ahh, Girls With Guns. For some people, it will never get old. We’re some people. Especially since they’re not real guns; it’s all good clean fun with “airsoft” weapons (and candy bars for knives), while the club drinks tea and eats cake when not going to war. Parallels to Girls und Panzer are inevitable, but this episode felt a lot less “aw shucksy” and earnest than that series, with more of a chip on its shoulder and a potential for more comedy. We’re still learning the girls’ names (and their guns of choice), but the C3 club has a looser vibe to it; no one’s getting disowned and the fate of the school isn’t on their shoulders.

And yet, once the battle begins, the girls are all business, with Karila operating as a one-woman wrecking crew and the others working together like a well-oiled machine. Yura, who is searching for somewhere to fit in, knowing it’s not with the cliques of chatty, gossipy “normal girls”, is in awe of the spectacle before her, and the moment she gets into the swing of things, triggering her vivid imagination, is the moment she realizes she may have just found that place where she’s accepted for herself. She only has to embrace the weirdness…and learn to hold her gun correctly!

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Rating: 8 
(Great)

Stray Observations:

  • Yamato Yura’s roommate, senior Kashima Sonora, only appears at the very end, showing great proficiency with the always menacing Desert Eagle .50. They’ll meet next week; the others warning that she’s the biggest weirdo out of all of them.
  • Yes, all six members have famous Japanese battleship family names. Those Japanese love their battleships. So do Americans, for that matter…we named most of our states after them! :D
  • Everyone has their own pet name for Yura: Karila calls her “Lil’ Yura”, Yachiyo calls her “Yuracchi”, Honoka calls her “Yurara”, and Reno calls her “Yurapyon.”
  • We’re not familiar with Kirishima’s rookie seiyu Nishizaki Rima or Yamato’s seiyu Makino Yui, but the other girls: Kayano Ai (Karila), Yonezawa Madoka (Yachiyo), Saito Chiwa (Honoka), and Sawashiro Miyuki (Sonora).

Danganronpa: The Animation – 01

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Plain, average Makoto Naegi is excited about starting a new year at the prestigious Hope’s Peak Private Academy, having been chosen by sheer luck. When he enters he passes out, and wakes up in a classroom. He heads to the gym where fourteen elite students are assembled, each experts in a particular field. A strange two-toned bear, Monokuma, appears, claiming to be the principal.

He tells the fifteen students that they are trapped inside the academy with no hope of escape, and the only way to leave is to kill somebody else; he doesn’t care who or how. The students are all against killing at first, so three days, later, Monokuma gives them videos of horrible events designed to make the students want to leave at all costs; in Makoto’s case, the belief his family is dead.

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We’re always weary of huge casts in anime, especially, when they’re all introduced at once in a “character dump.” It’s not that we dislike them, just that with upwards of a dozen series on tap this summer, keeping track of the casts can be taxing on the ol’ noggins. That’s why we spent a big chunk of time familiarizing ourselves with the cast: names, appearance, and any familiar voices before watching the episode. As a result, we could focus more on what was being said, not on who was saying it.

This will get easier as we watch more, and watch more we will! How can we not? We’re no strangers to the murder-mystery genre, and we’re already seeing thematic shades of Mirai Nikki, Another, Deadman Wonderland, and even Battle Royale. Only this is a locked room murder mystery, and there’s a survivor count at the end of every episode. Everyone survived this week, but with thirteen planned episodes, that number is bound to drop soon, in an order and by twisted methods we couldn’t possibly predict.

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Rating:7 (Very Good)

Here’s the key to the class portrait above, along with their most distinguishing features. They’re quite a colorful bunch!

1. Hagakure Yasuhiro (dreads)
2. Asahina Aoi (boobs/swimmer)
3. Ohwada Mondo (biker, greaser hair)
4. Togami Byakuya (blonde/glasses)
5. Kirigiri Kyouko (silver hair)
6. Ishimarru Kiyotaka (red eyes/white uniform)
7. Kuwata Leon (red hair/piercings)
8. Makoto Naegi (small/normal)
9. Maizono Sayaka (blue eyes/idol)
10. Fujisaki Chihiro (short/hacker)
11. Celestia Lundenberg (red eyes/goth)
12. Fukawa Touko (dark braids/glasses)
13. Yamada Yifune (fat/cat mouth)
14. Oogami Sakura (street fighter)
15. Enoshima Junko (blonde/big hair)

Servant x Service – 01

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Newcomers Yamagami Lucy Kimiko Akie Airi Shiori Rinne Yoshiho Ayano Tomika Chitose Sanae…, Hasebe Yukata, and Miyoshi Saya start their new positions as civil servants in the health and welfare section of the city ward office, where Ichimiya Taishi and Chihaya Megumi have already been working for years. Lucy is hardworking but tense and easily distracted by Hasebe’s teasing of her name and sensitive to scolding, Saya attracts older women with rambling stories, and Hasebe slacks off every chance he gets. They help bail each other out when they get into tight spots with clients, but learn that ultimately the job is essentially to get scolded and being able to absorb the abuse without cracking is vital.

As we said in the season preview, we love slice-of-life series involving adults (or at least older teens) working and going about their normal lives, such as Working!!. This series takes us out of the familiar restaurant setting and into an expansive city office where the servants serve the citizens, and also serve as punching bags. Lucy, Yukata and Saya are thrown right into the arena, but comport themselves well, though in different ways. Lucy (whose name is actually much longer thanks to new-agey parents) is actually there for revenge, but turns out to have a knack for civil service, even if she herself hates it (and that’s, again, mostly because of her name.)

Yukata is a third-gen servant, and a highly intelligent, sociable, talented young man to boot. The thing is, while he’s stellar when he applies himself, he rarely intentionally applies himself, preferring to glide through life with this cushy job. Of course, we see firsthand that it can be particularly un-cushy. A lot of the clients are taking time off work and don’t want to be there, so they’re understandably impatient, but there’s also a stigma about Lucy, Yukata, and Saya’s line of work: they’re paid with taxes, so the taxpayers not only resent them, but demand perfection. Still, when the second day ends, Lucy & Co. get thanks from the same clients who were difficult earlier, it’s clear that properly dealing with them has its rewards.

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Rating:7 (Very Good)

Stray Observations:

  • The OP is the coolest this season so far, combining live action shots of an office with CGI and animation, along with a very peppy, Working!!-like theme song.
  • We find it kinda funny that Lucy is so self-conscious about her name. Sure, all the other names are extraneous, but “Lucy” is not a bad name from where we’re from!
  • Lucy’s ahoge is kinda outta control, innit?
  • When the workday is over, “From the New World” plays on the P.A. Weird…
  • We love the ED too, which shows the three ladies relaxing at home after work, pouring themselves three beverages and chillaxing.

Tamayura: More Aggressive – 01

Sakurada Maon, Okazaki Norie, Hanawa Kaoru, Sawatari Fuu (Seated)

It’s been a year since Sawatari Fuu (AKA Potte) moved back to Takehara. Her friends Hanawa Kaoru, Okazaki Norie, and Sakurada Maon notice her spacing out more than usual. Fuu tells them she’s reminiscing about the last year, and repeats her goal to be “more aggressive.” She later admits that she’s been thinking a lot about starting a photography club at school. after the success of the “We” exhibition. Her friends, including Miyoshi Chihiro from afar – and her family all support her in this, and she decides she’s going to give it her all.

The Tamayura slice-of-life saga picks up pretty much where it left off, with Potte and her friends hanging around town, being very open with their feelings to the point of making each other tear up with emotion. The show remains just as lovely, warm, calm, breezy, and welcoming as before, and plenty of flashbacks are provided to refresh our memories. As for the rather surprising sub-title “More Aggressive”, no, Fuu is not starting MMA club! Back in the very first episode of ~hitotose~, when Potte and Chihiro parted ways, they both vowed to become more “aggressive”, finding their passions and applying maximum effort and energy to them.

“Aggressive” is a far more nuanced adjective than its typical use to denote anger or hostility. The “target” Potte aims to “attack” is her passivity, indecision, longing, and melancholy from loss. She chooses to stay positive while carrying her father’s camera about, the object, even totem by which she’s made friends and found her passion. To that end, she’s starting a photography club, which will be tough, like the exhibition, but ultimately will allow her to explore and share her love of photography while meeting more people.

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Rating: 8 
(Great)

Stray Observations:

  • It was nice to hear about Potte’s return to Takehara from the perspective of Kaoru, who was worried that Potte might hate the town and still be depressed about her father. To her relief and joy, Potte is just fine, thanks in part to her camera, which is almost a character in and of itself at this point.
  • A random classmate who happens to be passing by catches word of the photography club. We checked the cast list ahead and found out this is probably Mitane Kanae (voiced by Kayano Ai), one of this season’s new characters.
  • Chihiro seems to have gained her own “Norie” of sorts in the energetic Tomo-chan, but we don’t know who voices her yet.
  • That white cat is so damned abstract and weird-looking, but we still love him/her.
  • The dialogue between Potte, Kaoru, Norie and Maon continues to pop and bubble with a nice rhythm and energy. We know all of these seiyus by now and they have good chemistry.
  • Along with the impending Swim Club in Free!, this is the second straight episode in which a “normal” (read, not silly, random, or useless) club is started by one of the characters.

Car Cameos:

Free! – 01

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Nanase Haruka is a boy who has always loved water and swimming. Back in elementary school his swim club, consisting of Tachibana Makoto, Hazuki Nagisa, and Matsuoka Rin, won a swimming tournament, but went their separate ways afterwards. Now 17 and in high school. Haruka no longer competes, but is reunited with Makoto and Nagisa. Rin returns to Japan from Australia with a bad attitude and enrolls at Samezuka Academy a swimming powerhouse, with plans to become an Olympic swimmer.

What do we have here? A series that focuses on four/five guys, with no major female characters? That’s as refreshing as a crisp dive into the pool. We’re not usually viewers of sports series (except for Chihayafuru, which taught us that yet, karuta is a sport!), but when a highly anticipated new KyoAni series comes along, one is obliged to take a look. It’s an amiable, straightforward story: a group of friends (with girly names) bound by their love of swimming drift apart, but then come back together.

Nanase Haruka is your typical KyoAni male lead; talented but of dubious motivation. He loves swimming, but snickers at his past idealism, remembering instead the words of his grandmother: once you turn twenty, you become ordinary. In the beginning, he seems to be looking forward to crossing the threshold into adult mediocrity, but when Rin, formerly chipper and friendly, now a bit of a dick – returns to his life and challenges him at that which he does best, he’s shaken out of complacency. We’ll see how things shake out.

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Rating:7 (Very Good)

Stray Observations:

  • This episode was replete with shots of shirtless (and sometimes pantsless), muscular guys. That being said, we can’t really call it fansevice, since that imagery is kind of a given where swimming is concerned.
  • Rin’s estranged sister Gou (who wants to be called Kou because Gou is manly) wants to find out more about her bro through Haruka…or maybe her interest is in Haruka alone.
  • Why “Free!”? ‘Cause Haruka only does FREEstyle.

Inu to Hasami wa Tsukaiyou – 01

Harumi Kazuhito, Natsuno Kirihime

Harumi Kazuhito is a student and compulsive reader who lives alone in Tokyo, and whose favorite author is the prolific, diverse Akiyama Shinobu. While in a restaurant, he is shot by an armed robber and killed. He is reincarnated as a Dachshund, waking up in a pet store, and quickly purchased by the same red-eyed woman named Natsuno Kirihime, whose life he saved from the robber. She can read his thoughts, and is initially very abusive, but turns out to be Akiyama, and gives him access to her massive library and human food. One day she announces they’re going out to “settle a score”, and arrive at his former apartment.

Welcome to the Summer 2013 season! We begin with GONZO’s “Dog & Scissors”, a series that’s patently absurd on its surface, and infused with some very hit-and-miss interpersonal comedy and simply average animation. However, it sets things up very assuredly and the situation that results: that of an obsessive reader (in dog form) moving in with an obsessive writer, is one that carries potential for a lot of fun. Basically, Kazuhito has a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day, and he is a dog now, but he’s going to try to make the best of things.

Kirihime, for her part, seems willing to help him out in that regard, bringing him into her home. Part of that is because she could read his thoughts when no one else could; part of it could be an obligation to his well-being after he saved her life at the cost of his own. We love her sumptuous bachelorette pad and lifestyle as active and diverse as her writing: learning and experiencing as much as she can in service of her writing. The random cuts to J-idols on TV and the undertones of BDSM involving a dog are the least interesting elements of this story, but not enough for us to pull the cord; we’ll be staying on this gravy train for now.

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Rating:7 (Very Good)

Car Cameos:

Nerawareta Gakuen

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Seki Kenji is a seemingly average, clumsy junior high student who lives with his grandfather and baby sister, and lives next door to the athletic Ryouura Natsuki, his childhood friend who harbors feelings for him. Kenji and Natsuki start the first day of school meeting their friend Kahori Harukawa, who Kenji has a crush on, but before that Kenji meets the new transfer student, Kyougoku Ryouichi, for the first time.

Ryouichi turns out to be a time traveler from a future where mankind has abandoned Earth and live on the moon. He has come to awaken the psychic powers of people in Kenji’s time. Kahori falls in love with him at first sight, leading to her rejecting Kenji, who is later confessed to by Natsuki in no uncertain terms. As Kenji, Natsuki, and Kahori struggle with their relationships, the student body is being reprogrammed by Ryouichi, and the council becomes more and more averse to cell phones. Ryouichi warns Kenji that they’ll have to fight, but agrees to put it off so the four of them can have a day at the beach.

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When it’s over, Kenji’s time on Earth is almost up, he reciprocates his feelings for Kahori, but knows her memory of him will vanish when he returns to the moon. Kenji’s psychic powers are released by his grandfather, and he uses them to return Ryouichi to his time. He goes with him, telling Natsuki to wait for him. After they’re gone, neither Kahori or Natsuki remember Ryouichi or Kenji. But one day, at the start of another school year, the two girls discuss the new transfer student, and Kenji reappears, along with Natsuki’s memories of him.

While we tend to focus nearly exclusively on television anime, we find it important to check out a film once and a while, to see what a big budget and one-and-three-quarter-plus running time can do. This film does quite a bit, transporting us into an epically gorgeous and lush seaside town and drawing us into the lives of kids who’d realize how gosh-darn lucky they are to live in such an idyllic world if they weren’t constantly pining for one another. With all kinds of jumps, flips, bounces, and blows, the fluid animation brings Kenji, Natsuki, Kahori and Ryouichi to life at a level television can’t ever match with consistency.

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The visuals are all on, all the time, a picture of otherworldly hyperrealism to reflect how Ryouichi sees the Earth after living his whole life on the moon, with unblinking eyes. Our Favorite Seiyu Hanazawa Kana lends her voice to the surface-perfect Kahori, while Natsuki is voiced by the up-and-coming Wantanabe Mayu, who knocks it out of the park in the first thing we ever heard her in. Natsuki’s incessant teasing got on our nerves at first, but before long we were rooting for her. Just as ambitious as the sights and sounds is the sprawling story of two separate worlds and a moving love polygon that resolves itself in a way that’s to our liking (there’s one kiss in particular that was stunning in its execution).

There’s a lovely recurring theme of mirrors. The teacher likens theater to a mirror through which the audience see versions of themselves. Natsuki, whose love for Kenji is (initially) one-sided – sees Kenji (who has the same one-sided feelings for Kahori) as a mirror. The moon mirrors the earth. The mechanics of time travel and the awakening and use psychic powers are handled elegantly and without too much fuss. In the end, Ryouichi may have failed the mission his father sent him on, but his presence on earth led to Natsuki’s feelings finally reaching Kenji, creating the possibility that the two needn’t remain nothing more or less than just neighbors.

In fact, one of our only gripes with this film might just be its title, translated as “Psychic School Wars” – which hardly does the film justice.

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Rating: 9 (Superior)

End-of-Month Rundown – June 2013

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June is history, as are all the Spring series, except for MJP and Railgun, which will continue. A couple series swapped places with others, but no seismic shifts to behold; Aku no Hana was the unquestioned King of the Spring, and will go down as one of our favorite series as well, regardless of how or when it ends. Gargantia has also come on strong in its later episodes. How did the other eight fare? Let’s turn on the RABUJuice and see what shakes loose…

10. Kakumeiki Valvrave 12/12 (6.583) – Valvrave continued to bring up the rear as its first season ends (the second is coming in the Fall), with the most uneven tone of all the Spring series and the questionable inclusion of a scene of sexual assault. It makes things far more serious…but we’re not sure we needed them too be! Still, we’ll be watching this Fall, if only to see what other shocking turns this series is willing to make

9. Ginga Kikoutai Majestic Prince 12/24 (6.750) –  In the final episodes the Princes learn the truth about the Wulgaru: they’re not mindless monsters, but actually the progenitors of humanity, and kind of assholes to boot! Thankfully one of them – Theoria – isn’t an asshole, and is helping humans fight her people off. The Mars mission was another example of the Rabbits getting things done their own way, while the latest episode continued the trend of slice-of-life cooling-down periods after big ops

8. Oregairu 13/13 (6.923) – One school cultural festival wasn’t enough for Oregairu…it needed an athletics festival too! But as farewells go it wasn’t bad, showing that Hikky’s high school romantic comedy may not be what he expected, but turned out to be pretty fun to watch and the pointed, fizzy banter never disappointed

7. Toaru Kagaku no Railgun S – 12/24 (7.167) –  Misaka clashes with the mercenary group ITEM, led by a Level 5 esper just one rung below her (and thinks she’s better anyway). Mikoto stubornly refuses to lie down and die for them, much to their chagrin. As Mikoto learrns that the Sisters project is being tacitly condoned by practically the entire city, she prepares to fight that city – on her own, if necessary. She aims to misbehave

6. Oreimo 2 13/13 (7.538) – Oreimo 2 took the harem angle to the extreme by giving Kyousuke his own place where all of the girls in his life could descend and fight over him, but order is restored by Kuroneko, who is now very open about her love with him. Ayase also finally confesses to him, having punished him all this time for her own repressed feelings. The finale was a cute origin story: how much Kirino loved her brother and how they drifted away before the events of the last two seasons

5. RDG: Red Data Girl – 12/12 (7.583) – RDG’s climactic school festival culminated in the series best episode – a finale that encapsulated everything we liked about the series: the unique atmosphere and aura, the hidden worlds its characters created, the lovely chemistry and budding love between the two leads, and antagonists who aren’t just pure evil. The story definitely has legs for a second cour/season

4. Hataraku Maou-sama! – 13/13 (7.615) – Like RDG, the series ended strong, albeit in its penultimate episode, with tons of action and comedy, securing Hataraku’s Bronze finish among Spring series. Maou proved yet again to Emi and Suzuno that in this world, he is a good and honest person, and practically everyone got a nice sendoff in the epilogue-like last episode

3. Suisei no Gargantia 13/13  (8.308) – Things for the new Flange/Pinion fleet go sour fast as they encounter a fleet ruled with an iron fist by Ledo’s Commander Kugel – only Kugel has been long dead and his mecha Striker is calling the shots. It’s an awesome twist that leads to some even awsomer arguing between Striker and Chamber, who nobly sacrifices himself so his pilot can live on on Gargantia with Amy

2. Chihayafuru 2 25/25 (8.364) – Chihaya is beaten by Shinobu, who is then dispatched by Arata without too much difficulty. The wonderful finale a recovering Chihaya is still caught between Arata and Taichi, but understands a little more about how important she’s been to Arata’s success, and how much her love of karuta revolves around her love for him. Taichi, meanwhile, must work harder if he wants her heart

1. Aku no Hana – 13/13 (8.538) – With his normal life crumbling under the weight of his sins, Kasuga tries to escape to the other side of the hill with Nakamura…but can’t. He ends up pushing both girls away, but can’t leave Nakamura alone for long. In the stirring final episode Kasuga remembers everything that’s happened and everything that might potentially happen in the future, and reasserts his devotion to Nakamura. We thought waiting a week for the next episode was bad, but now we’ll have to wait an unknown amount of time for something else: the confirmation of a Part Two, and its air date. Our lives will be as incomplete as Kasuga’s without those things