Samurai Flamenco – 11

sam11

Right after Samumenco defeats King Torture and reveals his identity as Hazama Masayoshi, a strange, massive coral-like object rises out of Tokyo Bay,calling themselves “From Beyond” Kaname Joji spirits Hazama off to a secret Samurai base where he’s recruited a team of “Flamengers” to deal with the threat. When the other four Flamengers end up killed by Deadly Toxic Poison, a From Beyond member who infiltrated the base, Kaname calls upon four other Flamen Red candidates. Hazama takes the leadership role, and the five Flamengers defeat Poison in typical Super Sentai fashion.

Samurai Flamenco is a show that has grown more and more ridiculous with each major arc, culminating in this newest one, which shakes everything up. MMM is nowhere to be found, and instead of what we thought would be the main conflict of the episode—the real-world fallout from Hazama revealing his identity—we get, well, something else entirely, which was wholly and utterly absurd from start to finish. But that was our mistake: thinking we had any clue in hell where the show would take us next. The Torture arc felt like a warm-up, a way to acclimate us to the crazy before presenting us with a bigger, louder, more meta brand of crazy.

The final act of the episode played out in a manner very familiar to anyone who ever watched Power Rangers or the like, which we did on occasion. When hand-to-hand combat with Ridiculously-Themed Villain fails, both foe and heroes grow to monumental scale and duke it out there. While that ending was pretty much rote, the real fun was in the outlandishly implausible journey to get to that point, in which Joji reveals that he’s been busy all those times he flaked out on Hazama, and Hazama gets a crew of four young peers to work with, all of whom share his thirst for justice. Plus, in the very very end it went all the way back to Hazama’s original problem: dealing with his manager.


Rating: 6 (Good)

Stray Observations:

  • Not only did Joji’s giant tiltrotor look completely incapable of flight, it was also pretty useless, as a normal helicopter could have sufficed.
  • The reality seems to be that Joji is a real hero with the PM’s ear, and serious national resources committed to his enterprise, which seems to be a little disorganized and impulsive.
  • Someone at From Beyond needs to tell the video guy that he’s not David Lynch; get the message out clearly and concisely, and ditch the feeble attempts at…er…auteurism.
  • Making all the Flamengers red and making them sort it out…that’s just the kind of creative twist on a very old genre that keeps things fresh and entertaining.
  • As ambitious, audacious, fun, and action-packed as the episode was, the producers’ eyes were bigger than their budget; as a result, the animation was a bit rough in places.
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Golden Time – 12

gold12

Banri and Linda get into the spirit of the party and they’re posing for a photo in a compromising position just as Koko has tracked him down. She throws a drink at him and slaps him. Back at his place he explains the situation and apologizes profusely. When Koko presents him with the photo of him with Linda, he tells her the full truth about his past with Linda. Koko begs him not to remember any more. To that end, the next day, Banri meets with Linda, confirms that she didn’t like him romantically in the past, and asks her to pretend they don’t know each other from now on. He gives her the photo, which she tears up.

This episode goes from being brutal for Koko—63 unanswered texts, roaming the streets in the middle of the night worried sick, finally finding her lying boyfriend in drag tangled up with Linda—to brutal for Linda: having someone she’s always loved literally in her arms, having him snatched away by the interloper, and the next day losing him as a friend altogether. Having just finished Kyoukai no Kanata, Mirai’s refrain of “it would have been better had I never met you” would seem to apply to poor Linda—the opposite of the adage “better to have loved and lost.” It sucks to see them split like this, but as we’re only halfway through the series, something tells us she’s still not out of the running. That’s not to discount Banri’s relationship with Koko, which almost bursts into flames before his eyes.

He works feverishly to repair the mess he’s made by telling Koko the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, even the things that may shock and hurt Koko, and he’s to be commended for doing so. His feelings for Linda may come to the surface now and again, but with no memories to accompany them, and the knowledge that he never dated Linda, he’s decided to ignore and bury them as much as he can, committing himself fully to Koko. After falling down last week, the truth sets Banri free. One day, the past Banri may still resurface, eliminating the Banri who loves Koko. But he won’t let the threat of that theoretical day ruin what he has with Koko. Of course, he may think slightly differently if he knew Linda loved him, and loves him still. If he’s a storm as Koko says, he wants to be like the Great Red Spot: the kind of storm that won’t be dissipating anytime soon.

9_superior
Rating: 9 (Superior)

Stray Observations:

  • Yowzah, Banri and Linda went from eye-screwing to steamy full contact in no time at all, thanks to their bacchanalian surroundings; a realistic portrayal of the power of great parties.
  • We’re not saying he’s that shallow, but Mitsuo seemed awfully smitten with Linda’s assets. Forget 2D-kun; there’s a better chance of Linda ending up with Banri’s best mate. Uh-oh!
  • We’re willing to forgive the coincidence of Koko ending up at the club. She was doing a very thorough sweep of the town, and a late night party kinda stands out.
  • That being said, the woman who took the picture of Banri and Linda with the glowstick looked an awful lot like Koko. Was that intentional?
  • They’ve been dating for six episodes and Banri and Koko have no pictures of themselves as a couple? WTF? There are cameras on their frikkin’ phones. It may seem like a trifling detail, but as we see when Koko expresses her unease, a photo can make a big difference.
  • We’ve noticed that a lot of important discussions between characters have happened in the dark; the notable exception being the meeting where Banri cuts Linda lose.

Top 20 Female Seiyus of 2013

kana

Last year, in our first Top Female Seiyu list, we ranked fifteen female seiyus. This year things are a bit different: the ladies below are listed alphabetically; we decided not to rank them, as there’d inevitably be a couple messy ties here and there, and we’re not getting into the mathematical nitty-gritty required to create ratings for them.

Below is a rundown of everyone we liked and why. There are also five more ladies on the list this year, all of whom appeared in three or fewer shows, but still made strong impressions. Main characters the seiyu voiced are in bold, while our favorite characters the seiyu voiced are starred*.

Akasaki ChinatsuAkasaki Chinatsu

Love Lab (Maki Natsuo*)
OreShura (Harusaki Chiwa)
Toaru Kagaku no Railgun S (Kinuhata Saiai)
Kotoura-san (Mai)

In the two main roles we caught her in last year, Chinatsu played the restlessly creative comic half of the double act in Kill Me Baby, and a reformed dork in Chu2Koi. This year she plays another manic comic weirdo in Maki Natsuo, and plays it well coming up with ridiculous scheme after another in an effort to understand love better, though like her Chu2Koi character, she initially hides behind a veneer of normalcy/perfection.

Asumi KanaAsumi Kana

Sasami-san@Ganbaranai (Tsukuyomi Sasami*)
Tamayura: More Aggressive (Hanawa Kaoru)
InuHasa (Harumi Madoka)
Kami nomi zo Shiru Sekai: Megami-hen (Kosaka Chihiro)
Suisei no Gargantia (Melty)

We first noticed Kana as voice of the patient, peppy, hardworking Popura in Working!!, but she makes our 2013 list thanks to her role as an unmotivated hikikomori trying to ignore the fact she’s the vessel for Amaterasu. Both Sasami and Chihiro got pretty emotional at times, and Kana was able to connect us with both Sasami and Chihiro as they struggled with their various issues.

Hanazawa KanaHanazawa Kana

Coppelion (Fukasaku Aoi)
Kotoura-san (Mifune, Yuriko)
Nagi no Asukara (Mukaido Manaka)
Oreimo 2 (Gokou Ruri*)
Sasami-san@Ganbaranai (Yagami Kagami)
Kami nomi zo Shiru Sekai: Megami-hen (Shiomiya Shiori/Minerva)
Monogatari Series: Second Season (Sengoku Nadeko)
Toaru Kagaku no Railgun S (Haruue Erii)

One of our favorite seiyus due to her very earnest, distinctive, almost otherworldly voice, “Hana-Kana”s 2013 was mixed. While she stole, broke, and re-stole our hearts in Oreimo 2, did a decent job with Yuriko-senpai, and really got our attention when Nadeko finally snapped (seriously, that rant was outstanding), her roles as Aoi, Manaka, and Erii often cross the line from charming to cloying/annoying. On the other hand, the uber-shy Shiori worked for us, so go figure.

Hayami SaoriHayami Saori

Kami nomi zo Shiru Sekai: Megami-hen (Haqua)
Oregairu (Yukinoshita Yukino)
RDG: Red Data Girl (Suzuhara Izumiko*)
Kimi no Iru Machi (Kanzaki Nanami)
Love Lab (Tanahashi Hiroka)
Monogatari Series: Second Season (Ononoki Yotsugi)
Oreimo 2 (Fujisaki Ayaka)

When we listen to them side-by-side, Saori and Hana-Kana’s voices aren’t that different; Saori’s is a little more down-to-earth, less ethereal and typically a bit deeper. She was busy this year playing strong, matter-of-fact characters like Haqua, Yukino, and Ononoki and Ayaka. But our favorite role of hers this year was her turn as Red Data Girl Izumiko.

Hisaka YokoHikasa Yoko

Aku no Hana (Saeki Nanako*)
Danganronpa (Kirigiri Kyouko)
Ginga Kikoutai Majestic Prince (Kugimiya Kei)
Hataraku Maou-sama! (Yusa Emi)
Toaru Majutsu no Index: Endymion no Kiseki (Sequenzia Shutaura)
Tamako Market (Kitashirakawa Hinako, Uotani Mari)

Another voice we’ve only recently discovered, Yoko brought a great strength, independence, and assertiveness to some characters (Kirigiri, early Kei, Emi), but was also capable of great grace and delicacy in her role as Kasuga’s angelic muse, Saeki. We’ll definitely be looking for future shows where she contributes her voice.

Horie YuiHorie Yui

Golden Time (Kaga Kouko*)
Kakumeiki Valvrave (Nanami Rion)
Monogatari Series: Second Season (Hanekawa Tsubasa)

Unlike Yoko, we’ve known about Yui for a relatively long time, starting with her goofy, frisky yet surprisingly textured performance as Kushieda in Toradora!, one of our favorite rom-coms. She’s back at it in Golden Time—as of now another of our favorite rom-coms—in another awesome and textured performance as Kaga Kouko. She’s been able to make us not only empathize but relate to a clingy character with stalkerish tendencies.

Ise MariyaIse Mariya

Aku no Hana (Nakamura Sawa*)
Oreimo 2 (Akagi Sena)

We cannot overstate how much ass Mariya kicked in Aku no Hana as Kasuga’s unbalanced molester/tormentor/anti-muse. Her work in that show was a revelation; so much so that chills ran down our spines when we heard her voice in Oreimo 2, even though we’d heard her as Sena before we ever heard her as Sawa. A lasting impression, to be sure.

Kanemoto HisakoKanemoto Hisako

Kotoura-San (Kotoura Haruka*)
OreShura (Akishino Himeka)
Suisei no Gargantia (Amy)
Strike the Blood (Minamiya Natsuki)

Our first encounter with Hisako was when she voiced Squid Girl, a game but lightweight comedy series that accentuated her very high-pitched, cutesy voice. Last year as Yui in Kokoro Connect and this year with Kotoura-san, she got some dramatic meat to chew on, and she doesn’t disappoint. Kotoura-san hinged entirely on whether you cared about Kotoura, and we definitely did right from the start.

Kato EmiriKato Emiri

Log Horizon (Akatsuki)
Monogatari Series: Second Season (Hachikuji Mayoi*)

We know Emiri best as the voice of that catlike-thing in Puella Magi Madoka Magicka, and give credit where credit is due: she made that little guy thoroughly despicable with its calmly-delivered, cruelly matter-of-fact monologues. We include her on this list not because she’s a main character in a series we dropped (in which she was fine), but for her moving performance at the end of Onimonogatari arc, a fitting sendoff for the Snail Girl.

Kayano AiKayano Ai

Golden Time (Hayashida Nana/Linda*)
Nagi no Asukara (Hiradaira Chisaki)
OreShura (Fuyuumi Ai)
Servant x Service (Yamagami Lucy (…))
Stella Jogakuin Kotou-ka C3-bu (Hatsuse Karila)
Tamayura: More Aggressive (Mitani Kanae)
Kakumeiki Valvrave (Sakurai Aina, Pino)
Suisei no Gargantia (Saaya)
Yozakura Quartet: Hana no Uta (V Lila F)

While down from her thirteen roles last year, nine is nothing to sniff at, and Ai-chan retains her position as busiest seiyu in the business, at least among the shows we’ve watched. She also leads the field with no fewer than six leading roles. She tends to stick with the same voice for most of them, but uses a very different, much tougher tomboy voice for Karila in C3-bu, and kicks up the frazzle with Lucy, our second favorite role of hers this year. Our favorite role of hers by far this year has been Linda from Golden Time, who as a result of indecision, horrible timing and circumstance, finds her self in one of the most unenviable yet engrossing love triangles in recent animemory.

Koshimizu AmiKoshimizu Ami

Kill la Kill (Matoi Ryuuko*)
Maoyuu Maou Yuusha (Maou)
Oregairu (Kawasaki Saki)
Toaru Kagaku no Railgun S (Mugino Shizuri)

Perhaps it’s because we first noticed her voice as Holo in Spice & Wolf, but Ami has a knack for channeling a comforting confidence and wisdom beyond her years—as if she’s done this before in a previous life—which she also achieves when voicing the sage badass Maou. Her other three characters listed above are also confident badasses. Ami’s killing it as Ryuuko in Kill la Kill, though in that case Ryuuko is in the dark about a great many things, and she longs to know the truth.

Nakamichi MihokoNakamichi Mihoko

Chihayafuru 2 (Wakamiya Shinobu*)

To date, the eccentric karuta goddess-queen Shinobu is the one and only role Nakamichi-san is listed as voicing, and it was a good one. A great blend of aloofness, cockiness, and, later on, vulnerability. The Yin to Chihaya’s Yang; the water to her fire.

Nazuka KaoriNazuka Kaori

Amnesia (Heroine)
Kami nomi zo Shiru Sekai: Megami-hen (Ayukawa Tenri/Diana)
Nagi no Asukara (Sakishima Akari*)
OreShura (Kiryuu Saeko)

The only main role we saw the veteran Kaori (voice of Eureka) in was as the unnamed heroine in a show that never really wowed us, but that wasn’t her fault. Having not seen the Tenri-han OVA, we were pleasantly surprised to hear her voicing Diana in Megami-hen, and have greatly enjoyed her semi-main role of Akari, for which her calm, smooth, gentle, motherly voice is most appropriate

Numakura ManamiNumakura Manami

Love Lab (Kurahashi Riko*)
Arpeggio of Blue Steel (Takao)
Sasami-san@Ganbaranai (Edogawa Jou)

Another new voice, for us, Manami stood out in all three of her roles this year. Jou was appropriately haughty foil-turned-friend of Sasami’s, Riko was a worthy straight man for Chinatsu’s Maki, and Takao was one of the most consistently human of the cel-shaded AI battleship girls.

Sakamoto MaayaSakamoto Maaya

Monogatari Series: Second Season (Oshino Shinobu*)

Maaya’s another veteran  seiyu who has distinguished herself with only one role we watched this year: that of the centuries-old vampire stuck in a child’s body, who didn’t even speak in Bakemonogatari. We’re not experts on dialects, but lilting manner of speech sounds old-fashioned yet regal, a perfect fit considering Shinobu’s age. Her soliloquy in Onimonogatari, paired with the gorgeous visuals, was a highlight of the season.

Sawashiro MiyukiSawashiro Miyuki

Stella Jogakuin Kotou-ka C3-bu (Kashima Sonora)
Yozakura Quartet: Hana no Uta (Isone Kotoha)
Danganronpa (Fukawa Touko*)
Maoyuu Maou Yuusha (Onna Kishi)
Monogatari Series: Second Season (Kanbaru Suruga)

Like Hana-Kawa and Ai-chan, Miyuki’s warm, slightly mischievous voice seems to show up in pretty much every other series we watch, for which we’re thankful. She rarely changes up her style—Sonora, Kotoha, Suruga, and Kishi sound pretty much the same—but that’s never bothered us. If we had to choose a favorite among her 2013 roles, it would probably be her turn as Fukawa Touko, since she actually has two voices: one the extremely shy, nervous, and paranoid Touko, and her gloriously-insane (and irreverent) Genocider Syo alter-ego.

Seto AsamiSeto Asami

Chihayafuru 2 (Ayase Chihaya*)
Kakumeiki Valvrave (Sashinami Shouko)
Stella Jogakuin Kotou-ka C3-bu (Haruna Rin)
Strike the Blood (Aiba Asagi)
Toaru Majutsu no Index: Endymion no Kiseki (Marie Spearhead)

Asami broke onto the scene with Chihayafuru, and in the sequel she proves just as good at playing the lovely, passionate, tomboyish, romantically-dense, fiercely-competitive narcoleptic we’ve come to know and love. She changes gears in C3-bu with the far sterner, fun-hating Haruna Rin (though that character eventually softens a bit), while the increasingly enormous weight of responsibility that rests on young Madame Prime Minister Sashinami’s slender shoulders comes through loud and clear in her voice.

Suzaki AyaSuzaki Aya

Kill la Kill (Mankanshoku Mako*)
Tamako Market (Kitashirakawa Tamako)
Toaru Kagaku no Railgun S (Takisubo Rikou)

We’d assumed by her short resume that Suzaki was quite young, but she’s actually older than Hana-Kawa. No matter: her youthful, energetic voice brings both Tamako and Mako to vibrant life, as those long-surnamed characters practically leap out of the screen thanks to her enthusiastic performances. When Mako turns aloof and evil for an episode, Suzaki makes the necessary adjustments to her voice, elevating Mako from mere comic relief to dimensional anti-heroine. Her emotional support later on is crucial to Ryuuko’s success.

Tomatsu HarukaTomatsu Haruka

Naruse Ibara (Coppelion)
Kakumeiki Valvrave (Rukino Saki)
Kami nomi zo Shiru Sekai: Megami-hen (Lune)
Maoyuu Maou Yuusha (Maid Ane)
Toaru Kagaku no Railgun S (Wannai Kinuho)
Samurai Flamenco (Maya Mari*)
Yozakura Quartet: Hana no Uta (Kishi Touka)
Zettai Karen Children: The Unlimited – Hyoubu Kyousuke (Sannomiya Shiho)

While it may look like Haruka-chan had a light 2013 with only two main roles (one of which in a series we dropped), those bolded roles can be deceptive (as they are for many Monogatari characters). Maya Mari is a starring role in everything but name, despite what King Torture might think, while even Maoyu’s Maid Ane has one episode in which she is the main character, and Haruka delivers one of her more moving monologues. Meanwhile, Haruka continues to bring a nice edge to idol-turned-holy spirit pilot Rukino Saki, who has unfortunately not gotten a load of screen time in the second season.

Touyama NaoTouyama Nao

Hataraku Maou-sama! (Sasaki Chiho)
Oregairu (Yuigahama Yui*)
Zettai Karen Children: The Unlimited – Hyoubu Kyousuke (Yuugiri)
Arpeggio of Blue Steel (Hozumi Shizuka)
Ginga Kikoutai Majestic Prince (Yamada Peko)
Kami nomi zo Shiru Sekai: Megami-hen (Nakagawa Kanon/Apollo)
Maoyuu Maou Yuusha (Maid Imouto)
OreShura (Natsukawa Mana)
Tamayura: More Aggressive (Tomo)

Last but not least we have Nao-chan, who appeared in an impressive nine shows we watched this year, many of them as small, nauseatingly cute characters she paired with a high-pitched voice that can border on shrill and syrupy. The roles that did interest us were the two at the top of the list: Sasaki Chiho and Yuigahama Yui. They may both be cute high schoolers, but both are in the process of maturing into adults in control of their lives and feelings. As such, Nao tones down the sugar for their voices – a welcome adjustment.