Koimonogatari – 05

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Hanekawa explains the town’s events to Kaiki, as well as her impression of Sengoku as someone who doesn’t actually love anyone. Kaiki continues to visit Sengoku to curry favor. The day to deceive her arrives, and he and Senjougahara share a bittersweet phone call. Ononoki meets with him to warn him, out her and Gaen’s concern for his well-being, that he will fail, as he failed to resolve the situation with Senjougahara’s mother. At the shrine, Kaiki tells Sengoku wishes spoken out loud can never come true, and she won’t be able to kill Araragi, Senjougahara, or Oshino, because they died in a traffic accident. Sengoku immediately detects deception.

The past four episodes we’ve seen a Kaiki thoroughly throw himself into the role of investigator, carefully collecting information while carefully manipulating Sengoku into liking and trusting him for the big day when he deceives her. He’s been a picture of efficiency and competence. But as he himself admits to Ononoki, he has no more idea of what he’s doing than anyone else in the world. That proves true in the very last scene, when he’s unable to take candy from a baby. For all her childlike dalliance, Sengoku sniffed out his lie immediately. So it sure looks like he’s failed. More to the point, Gaen, who knows everything, said he would fail, so failure was inevitable.

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The question is, why? The never knowing exactly what your doing is part of it, but there’s something else too. Regardless of whether he’s merely putting on a tremendous performance deceiving Senjougahara and us, the audience, Kaiki must be defined by his actions and not his words. Again, as he said, the moment thoughts and wishes are given form in words, they become dramatized and lose their power. The words he exchanges with Senjougahara during their long conversations may have been all over the place, but his actions speak for themselves: affection for her plays a role. there’s a sutble paternal concern and disapproval lurking beneath his digs at Senjougahara’s relationship with Araragi.

When answering what she sees in the boy, she says first and foremost: “He’s not you,” something a daughter might say. There’s been a strong familial cordiality to their dealings, and as the mission is about to wrap up, both admit a part of them will miss each other’s company. Kaiki has always marveled at how Senjougahara has survived and endured her life despite seeming so fragile. She is a miracle to him, one he feels compelled to preserve at all costs. This arc hasn’t documented a strictly dispassionate business transaction. It really has been a love story…just not the one we expected.

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Rating: 8 
(Great)

Stray Observations:

  • Interesting name drops this week: the vampire Episode, whom we have only a cursory familiarity with, and Numachi Rouka, who we don’t know at all.
  • Kaiki is still keeping secret to everyone what was in the forbidden closet, dismissing its contents as unimportant. Wonder if that will change now that he’s failed to deceive Sengoku…
  • Gaen/Ononoki’s attitude towards Kaiki shifts this week their concern he’s meddling in a town where Gaen has plans, to something like genuine concern Kaiki is repeating history, to the detriment of his physical and emotional well-being.
  • What’s Kaiki’s next move? Will he be shocked Sengoku didn’t believe his story? Will she add him to her kill list? Or was his lie about the accident merely his first move, with many to come?

 

 

White Album 2 – 12

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Touma tells Setsuna she’s moving to Vienna. While on the school rooftop, Setsuna tells Io how she “jumped in the middle” between Haruki and Touma, even though she knew about Touma’s feelings for him. On graduation day, Setsuna tells Haruki Touma left her a note. He goes looking for her, without success. Later that night Touma finally calls him, and he finds her right outside his building, where they embrace, call each other by their first names and kiss.

Setsuna admits fault for snatching Haruki from  Touma Kazusa, but it wasn’t really much of a surprise that she knew Kazusa liked him, and was even there when Kazusa kissed the sleeping Haruki after the concert. But in that moment, Setsuna, having fallen for Haruki, couldn’t be blamed for taking the course of action that would lead to her happiness. It was as much an act of desperation as it was pragmatism. Her happiness at his saying yes overpowered her sense of loyalty to Kazusa.

Of course, Setsuna also happens to believe Haruki only accepted her confession because he was thinking of her feelings before his own. But as we look at how things eventually turned out, we can’t discount the possibility Haruki and Kazusa may never have gotten anywhere were it not for Setsuna. It took Kazusa losing Haruki to Setsuna—and Haruki nearly losing Kazusa to Vienna—for the two of them to fully grasp how deeply they felt for one another.

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Rating: 8 
(Great)

Valvrave the Liberator – 23

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Haruto, Rukino, Yamada and Akira return to the rocketship, where Shoko thanks them but confines them to the hangar. Posing as an injured pilot, L-elf infiltrates Dorssian forces; A-drei and X-eins share his goals to eliminate Cain and his allies. As the Dorssian Fuhrer holds a speech on a heavily-defended Module 77, the Valvraves launch a seemingly desperate attack. Haruto loses more memories of Shoko but fights on as he promised Rukino. Yamada is killed by Q-vier while defending Akira, and she’s able to hack the comms network so the Council can’t cut the feed when L-elf appears on stage, slits the Fuhrer’s throat, and the world watches the wound heal, exposing his inhumanity.

In case you missed it (you probably didn’t): what’s left of New JIOR continues to owe its very existence to the efforts of L-elf, who springs back into action, dons his old gaudy uniform, yells “LIGHTNING SWORD!”, and fights alongside his old comrades, all doing their part to “unveil the world.” It’s a triumphant turnaround to be sure after the abject despair of two weeks ago. That being said, the important victory achieved this week was a full team effort. L-elf was aided by comrades on both sides. Haruto Valvrave pilots were resolved to fight to the bitter end even if their own people hated them, while Cain’s villainy had simply gotten to be too much for A-drei and X-eins, and Kriemhild.

It’s also an episode of brave faces: Haruto’s, Shoko’s, and L-elf’s. They put them on not just for their friends and allies, but for themselves, to get through what must be gotten through. These three simply cannot give up. Of course, all the resolve and bravery in the world (ahem, Yamada, RIP) won’t save you if you don’t have a decent plan for victory: enter L-elf once more, turning the tables in the P.R. battle. The people may not yet trust JIOR, but they now know they can’t trust anyone. The people still have to be convinced they can trust the Valvraves, while the Council must still be brought low, and Cain hasn’t even entered the fray in honest yet. There’s an awful lot to do in the final episode, much like last season.

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Rating: 8 
(Great)

Nagi no Asukara – 12

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Akari and Hikari’s dad meets Miuna. Tsumugu, Manaka and Chisaki go into town to buy a kimono. Tsumugu runs into his mother, with whom he’s not close. Akari has a conciliatory talk with her dad. Hikari volunteers to bear one of the huge flags that will guide the Ojoushi-sama during the Ofunehiki. Hikari, Manaka, Chisaki and Kaname return to Shioshishio to find the younger children have already started to hibernate. While reminiscing at their old school, Kaname asks Hikari about Manaka, and he says he loves her. She freaks out and runs away. Hikari runs after her, but stops and turns back when Chisaki falls, and she in turn confesses to him.

As the growing evidence all around them attests, it won’t be long before this quartet of friends starts drifitng off into a hibernation of indeterminate time, and there’s no guarantee they’ll ever be together if and when it ends. As unpopular as the general opinion is about confronting various matters, Kaname takes it upon himself to be the guy to force a confrontation. It’s something Manaka still isn’t ready for, since she’s not sure who she’s in love with, and so it comes off as cruel, but thanks to Kaname, everyone finally knows who likes whom (again, except Manaka). The parties involved can either pretend these truths never came out and continue maintaining the status quo until the end, or they can act on the information, one way or another.

All we can say is, thank God for Kaname and his forthrightness; if not for him the awkwardness would only continue. As things stand, Hikari is glad he was finally able to express his feelings clearly to Manaka, regardless of how she took the news, while Chisaki is equally glad she was able express hers to him. They were alike in their hesitation out of fear of destroying friendships, and both seem to take solace in knowing they’re not alone in their frustration, and never were. Manaka can’t find such solace, as she’s still too unsure of her feelings. No doubt adding to her anxiety is the fact that her uncertainty won’t change just because time is running out. While Akari had time to grow up and choose her path before calamity came, Manaka isn’t so lucky.

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Rating: 8 
(Great)

Kill la Kill – 12

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Nui Harime and Ryuko fight, and Nui’s flippant attitude enrages her more and more until Senketsu explodes out of control, merging with Ryuko into a grotesque monster. Mikisugi and Kinagase’s efforts to neutralize her fail. Satsuki dons Junketsu and steps in to put Ryuko out of her misery, but before she kills her Mako races to Ryuko’s side and slaps her back into coherence. Satsuki bans Nui from Honnouji. Days later Satsuki tells Ryuko thanks to her battles, she’s helped her perfect her Goku uniforms, which she’ll deploy immediately to conquer the western academy administrators.

Amidst all the outrageous, expressionistic, sometimes psychedelic as-all-get-out Trigger action, this episode was a ripe opportunity to explore the relationships the arch-rivals Ryuko and Satsuki possess. First of all, Nui Harime is basically a thoroughly irritating thorn in everyone’s side, but to Satsuki, she’s also something of an employee. If Nui were to blatantly disobey an order or otherwise oppose Satsuki, there’d be hell to pay, hell Nui isn’t immediately interested in seeing.

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Jakuzure, meanwhile, is one of Satsuki’s officers, unqeustionably obedient and at the mercy of her whims. Like the other Elite Three and the rest of the student body, Satsuki is essentially their goddess. Then you have Mako: Ryuko owes her very life to the very nearly suicidal intervention of her best friend Mako, who didn’t merely save her out of the kindness or love, but also to repay a debt: when Mako was drunk on power and lost, Ryuko brought her back.

What that means is that Mako is no underling, servant, or acolyte of Ryuko’s—they are equals. Amigas. Buds. They keep each other honest…and alive. Even Satsuki sees this, and acknowledges Mako by name as Ryuko’s savior. There’s a glint of appreciation in her face, as we kinda doubt Satsuki wanted victory the way it was going. And though it’s highly unlikely she’s wired this way, given her affluent upbringing, it’s possible that for a nanosecond Satsuki was jealous that Ryuko had a real, true friend: something she didn’t.

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Rating: 9 (Superior)

The Top 20 Episodes of 2013

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We’ve sat through 544 episodes of anime in the 353 days of 2013 there have been so far, a not-excessive-at-all 1.54 episodes per day. The following are the twenty episodes we enjoyed the most, comprising 3.68% of the total; the cream of the crop. These episodes stuck out, and in every case had a significant emotional impact on us, whether that emotion was elation, despair, excitement, fuck-yeah-ness, etc.

We realize there are still twelve days left in the year, and many shows save their best for last, but rather than replace the episodes on this list we’ll merely add them. Accompanying each of our 20 choices is a quote from our review of it. Let’s dive into the cream:

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20. The World God Only Knows III – 10

“This is the second time in two days we’ve dealt with an episode in which the bad guys…puts our heroes’ backs up against the wall…Last week’s diversion to Point Rock was a little flimsy, but the raised stakes work here…Keima completely abandons pretense and tact. He mutters things out loud that he’d normally only think…in the end, he’s the cooler head who rejects going out in a blaze of glory”

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19. Kyousougiga – 06

“The more we learn of Yakushimaru’s past, the more it seems like he was the victim of a mad scientist/priest…Yakushimaru didn’t sign up for any of this…but he’s stuck…there’s a striking contrast between the playful bliss of the siblings’ past and their over-the-top sparring in the present…Myoue’s beads, Yase’s brawn, and Kurama’s tech smash into each other in a brilliant amplification of rough-housing”

Team Mizusawa

18. Chihayafuru 2 – 19

“[Taichi] grabs luck by the scuff of the next and gives it a good shake until it finally favors him. Of course, he didn’t win just because of luck. It was a team match and it was a full team effort. It was also, not surprisingly, the best match of the season to watch. With the table so deftly set and the pieces in position and the stakes loud and clear, all this episode has to do is let ‘er rip”

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17. Kotoura-san – 03

“Once Kotoura is in the hospital, peeking in at a battered Manabe, thinking about how he doesn’t mind getting hurt for her sake, she chokes, and decides to run (though, obviously, not for good).What she has yet to learn is that part of letting people get close to you is accepting that sometimes they’ll get hurt, and so will you. It’s not her fault, nor anyone else’s. It’s just life”

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16. Golden Time – 06

“we were expecting Banri’s “just friends” situation with Kouko to be drawn out a little more to underline how miserable it’s making Banri to be around someone who doesn’t share his feelings…but all the conditions necessary for him to let Kouko go—and confront Linda—were met this week, and in short order…In a superbly emotional, adrenalin-charged moment that nicely skirted the edge of schmaltz, [Kouko] gives him the straight answer he had been awaiting for years: No, she doesn’t want them to be apart. Yes, she loves him too”

15. Maoyu – 01

“We love anime with a Final Fantasy-like epic vibe to them, and this series truly delivers…FF can be a bit stodgy, taking itself too seriously…that’s not the case here, as there’s a nice balance of the serious thematic elements of a huge war, while also finding time for tongue-and-cheek moments…the entire situation is a bit absurd, and the series itself is aware of this, but it’s not too winky, either”

Misaka Mikoto

13/14. Toaru Kagaku no Railgun S – 14/15

“Had Touma not been worried about his friend…he may have sat in that room with Kuroko as Mikoto let herself get killed…but he was worried, and he wasn’t going to let her sacrifice herself for such a limited return”

“[Mikoto] wasn’t prepared for Touma putting his body on the line…in that moment [he] fulfilled the inner wishes Mikoto had long repressed as foolish: miracles can happen, heroes can emerge, damsels can be saved in the nick of time. And most importantly, she has worth”

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“We didn’t think this episode would be able to match the emotional powerhouse of last week, but it ended up doing just that with an unconventional but grand battle…You have to hand it to Railgun; they don’t mess around with their uber-villains”

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12. Kill la Kill – 07

“Like Mako’s family (briefly), this episode had it all. It grabbed and held our interest. It made Ryuuko the architect of her own near-downfall through a seemingly harmless choice. It rocketed us along with the family during their meteoric rise, not skimping on the details of the ritzier life they gain. It slowed them way down when they grew rich and stuffy. Perhaps most impressive was Mako’s transformation from kooky comic relief sidekick to serious foe who doesn’t hesitate to turn on Ryuuko despite all they’d been through. It was a veritable windfall of magnificence”

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11. Stella Women’s Academy, High School Division Class C3 – 04

“This week, the ancient surroundings have a powerful effect on Yura, and there she not only discovers “her idea of airsoft”, but also manages to change history itself…one could dismiss the awesome, fantastical elements of this episode as just that: Yura’s delusions, but…that all goes out the window when Rento sees the same scene as Yura…the ramifications are positively spine-tingling, and elevate C3-bu to a whole other level”

(A Level that wouldn’t be reached again, as Yura’s “power” was rarely used again.)

Kousaka Kyousuke, Gokou Ruri

9/10. Oreimo 2 – 07/08

“We were fully resigned to Kyousuke further stalling or outright rejecting Ruri so that he can continue his dead-end quasi-romance with his little sister. Instead…Kyousuke finally makes the right choice: he chooses Kuroneko. And we couldn’t be happier…”

“If you’re not a fan of Kuroneko or this new union, then it was a pretty rough and tedious episode to watch. As for us, we loved every last moment…They go out a ton, have lots of fun, and Kyousuke ends up learning far more about Ruri and liking her much more than before. We love seeing Kyousuke like this, because lord knows he’s earned the right to have an normal relationship with a smart, beautiful girl who isn’t his sister”

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8. Hataraku Maou-sama! – 05

“Not only was this the most action-packed episode, it was also the funniest by far…with an epic, cinematic feel and a lot of well-oiled moving parts humming along in perfect harmony and formidable speed. But in the midst of all the magic spectacle and comedy, the four core characters stay true to themselves throughout”

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7. Kyoukai no Kanata – 06

“A curious cold open…is the harbinger for perhaps the funniest, most inventive, and most satisfying episode of Kyoukai no Kanata yet…one that helps the show take one more step out of the shadows of its KyoAni forebears…there are times when the characters act a little bit too dumb or short-sighted, but the episode knows this as well as we do…In fact, it revels in it, as things go from bad to worse, despite the gang exerting more and more energy each go-around”

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6. Suisei no Gargantia – 01

“The opening battle is a tour de force of sci-fi mayhem, with a lot of different weapons and formations and tactics flying around the screen. After that thrilling and auspicious start, the episode slows down and takes its time; we go from a fantastic hi-tech world to somewhere that wouldn’t be out of place in a Miyazaki film”

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5. Chihayafuru 2 – 25

“This was a beautiful episode that had Chihaya cooped up in hospital, leaving her little to do but study Arata, think about Arata, talk to Arata, and summon feelings for Arata that she doesn’t understand…Also brilliant was the use of Chihaya’s poetry, as read by Oe (by far the best character in the show at reading poetry) to indicate that Taichi’s window is rapidly closing, and further dalliances only make his climb steeper”

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4. Uchouten Kazoku – 10

“[Ginkaku and Kinkaku’s] petty mischief lulled us into forgetting that the family they represent is not merely a political rival but an existential threat to the Shimogamo family. This week they’re charged with capturing the youngest, weakest Shimogamo, while their father, Soun, takes the lead in executing a carefully-planned takedown that is devastating in its efficiency. The episode oozes with imminent dread that gradually builds like that storm as things go from bad to worse…A day filled with so much hope and promise turns to utter shit for the Shimogamos, many of whom never see what’s coming”

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3. Aku no Hana – 10

“[Kasuga and Nakamura’s] great deviant adventure stalls in its infancy, and isn’t allowed to start back up. Nakamura muses that over that hill could be the end of the world, and until they actually get there, for all intents and purposes, it is… It isn’t until he’s between the two girls, faced with the choice of one, that he completely tears himself down in an effort to make himself undesirable to both”

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2. Onimonogatari – 02

(Monogatari Series: Second Season – 18)

“In the last episode we remarked that Oshino Shinobu is unlike any other entity inhabiting the series due to her longevity, scale of experience, and moral complexity…we knew when we delved deeper into her past, it would be something to behold; and so it was: a bold, indulgent, tantalizingly unique approach is utilized in visualizing Kiss-shot’s epic tale”

Nakamura Sawa, Kasuga Takao

1. Aku no Hana – 07

“Kasuga adds to his sins and the relationship between him and Nakamura becomes even deeper, more intimate, and more fucked-up, culminating in one of the tensest, sexiest, most powerful sequences we’ve ever seen on television, period”

Samurai Flamenco – 11

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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.

Golden Time – 12

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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.

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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

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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.

Kyoukai no Kanata – 12 (Fin)

kyoukan12

Reunited within Kyoukai no Kanata, Akihito and Mirai work together to fight their way to its core. Izumi duels Fujima, who reveals to Hiromi that both of them conceal youmu within their bodies. When surrounded by dead humans, Akihito tells Mirai to close her eyes and listen only to him, breaking the illusion and revealing a massive congregation of monsters, whom Ayaka and Ai help them defeat. Once Akihito beats back the Kyoukai no Kanata and forces it back within him, Mirai vanishes along with it, after confessing her love. Some time later, all is back to normal, and the ring she left behind vanishes. Akihito runs to the school rooftop, and reunites with Mirai.

All of the light and dark colors that make up the world combine like paint into gray. Evil will neither ever totally disappear from the world nor totally absorb the world. It’s a world that matches its inhabitants, and few inhabitants match it better than Kanbara Akihito and Kuriyama Mirai. Both had loathed the darkness that lurked within them their entire lives, regarding it as a curse they must bear, but wished it would go away. Despite their hatred for their darkness, it was their darkness that brought them together. When Mirai took Akihito’s youmu away, it took her away too, and he learned he couldn’t live in a future without either. Fortunately for him, things worked out so he wouldn’t have to, because honestly, this would’ve been a pretty cruel episode if she’d stayed gone simply because of…magic n’ stuff.

And so the first Fall 2013 series we saw is the first to end. We had our doubts early on: it initially looked and felt like a rehash of past KyoAni series that while good didn’t require revisiting. But a quarter of the way through, we were proven wrong consistently and thoroughly. Conscious that fantastic production values (which it had) alone do not a great show make, KnK gave us a lovely, slowly-building, often gripping, not unpleasant romance between two characters with compelling chemistry, infused with comedy that was smart but not smarmy. We could have done without the one-dimensionally evil Fujima, and were never that interested in Nase Izumi’s dark past, but they did represent paths Mirai and Akihito could have gone down, were it not for their love for each other.

For all the darkness they both harbored, Mirai and Akihito ended up shining the brightest. Long live Glasses Girl, and her beloved Immortal Half-Youmu!

9_superior
Rating: 9 (Superior)
Final Cumulative Rating: 8.333
MyAnimeList Score
(as of 12/18/13): 7.91

Stray Observations:

  • The episode used every second of its running time, eschewing the usual OP and ED, a move we feel is essential to a good finale.
  • As shown above, there was a little E.T. in the moment when the lovebirds are floating in the sky between planes of existence.
  • We were also a little disappointed in how inert Mitsuki was down the stretch. Or perhaps she was a love triangle red herring all along, as she saw Akihito as more of another troublesome brother.
  • Ayaka is a really cool-looking youmu, so it’s kinda disappointing that Ai’s just a kitten. Not that she isn’t cute.
  • That rooftop scene gave us the happy ending we wanted, and the presentation of the glasses had all the formality and suspense of a proposal. Nicely done.
  • Chu2Koi 2 will have some shoes to fill when it premieres next month.

Arpeggio of Blue Steel: Ars Nova – 11

blue111

I-401, newly transformed by the merge with Takao (who is still alive within the ship’s systems), easily dispatches a fleet of Nagara-class cruisers and sets course for Hawaii, with I-400 and I-402 in pursuit. With a confrontation inevitable, Iona tries to talk to them, but they limit their exposure to her and open fire. Hyuuga and Haruna/Kirishima create decoys of the I-401, and the sisters are kept off balance.

When I-400 is unable to dodge an incoming torpedo, I-402 sacrifices herself for her sister, not wanting her to get hurt. I-400 is trapped in a wire net and also sunk, causing Iona distress. The I-401 resumes course only to be intercepted by a huge fleet of American Fog ships on one side, and a rapidly-closing Kongou, who has escaped custody and merged with Maya, on the other.

blue112

Straying from the Code of Admiralty has its costs. In doing so by being sunk and siding with Gunzou, Hyuuga, Haruna, Kirishima, and now Takao have lost their ships; and now Takao’s even lost her physical model. While it’s somewhat disappointing the show didn’t have the stones give her a “complete” death, the fact that so many former ships are now limited to their mental models makes up for it. No matter how many chefs are in the kitchen, there’s still only one real kitchen: I-401. If she’s sunk, everyone sinks with her.

But the other cost in leaving the Fog is in the emotional toll, most pronounced this week for Iona, who has to kill her sister ships, whom she considers actual sisters, even if they don’t believe the same. They were the last of the Japanese fog ships that held true to the Code, but after their brief contact even I-402 can’t bear to see her sister destroyed. Iona pleaded for them not to fight her, and now she must live with the grief. Of course, with American battleships on one side and a seriously-pissed Kongou on the other, she may not have to live with it long.

7_very_good
Rating:7 (Very Good)

Stray Observations:

  • The New I-401 looks awesome.
  • Haruna and Kirishima messing with the now body-less Takao (“Step into the light!”) was a nice moment of levity.
  • Nice underwater tactics this week, what with the decoys and wire trap. Those by-the-book sisters didn’t know who they were messing with.
  • Introducing an entirely new faction of Fog with just one episode left gives us the feeling that this might go another season. Not sure how we feel about that; we were kinda hoping things would resolve in 13.

Kyousougiga – 09

kyouso9

Koto pleads her case with the chief priest that the mirror world should survive. She doesn’t make any headway, but Inari embraces and praises her for becoming “the other [him he] always wanted”. He stabs her with his sword, putting her in a trance, and she starts to destroy all of the planes. Myoue wakes up in a cave with Kyouko and Kurama, who tells him he was always supposed to rule the mirrored city alone when he was ready. Armed with the beads that contain the power of creation, Myoue rushes to find Koto, snaps her out of her trance, to create a new beginning together.

It only comes as a minor surprise that Inari is indeed a god, the brother of the cheif priest, who was tasked with creating the twelve planes and looking over them for their “lazy dad.” Inari got bored with that existence and a bit too creative, resulting the thirteenth plane, which was outside of his mandate. When he finally returned, preceded by Koto, it was to put an end to the current order of things and start over. He instigated the end, which is in progress as of the end of this episode, while it’s up to Myoue to see to it there’s something after that end. As Kurama tells him in a subterranean pep talk, the world won’t change if he doesn’t.

Kurama’s always been the one to deliver him cold truths, from the time he says he and Yase are “false siblings” to the day their parents leave. It’s fitting that the big bro, false or not, is there to give a sulking Myoue a slap in the face. For so long Myoue’s been fixated on the past and his own denied death. But the truth is that life is gone and won’t be coming back. But he does have Koto, and his prayer beads, and he won’t let everything end the way Inari has set things up…”probably”. Inari pulls a bit of an infodump early on, and the score goes big and movie-like, almost bordering on sappy at times, but after last week’s standoff it’s good to see things on the right track to a favorable conclusion.

8_great
Rating: 8 
(Great)

Koimonogatari – 04

koimo4

Kaiki finds a note reading “Stay out of it” on the floor of his hotel room. He flushes it and calls Senjougahara, reporting on his encounter with Ononoki and Gaen’s warning. The conversation evolves to a discussion of whether anyone is aware of Senjougahara’s contact with him, then Senjougahara warns him about visiting Nadeko too much, lest he become “charmed” by her; he considers scaling back his visits. The next day he gives Nadeko an offering of ¥20,000, more string, and a bottle of Sake, which she accepts. When he leaves the shrine he encounters Hanekawa, who is back from overseas to exchange. They share a cab back to the city and meet in her hotel room to exchange information.

In case there was any doubt, this episode makes it abundantly, cymbol-crashingly clear: we’re dealing with noir here. He may not wear a hat or smoke a cig, but Kaiki is every bit the cynical, trench-coated, hardboiled private dick, while Senjougahara is the Damsel in Distress. The overarching mystery to be solved? How to keep her and Araragi alive. In this regard, Nadeko is the mob boss Senjougahara owes, big time, while Gaen represents the commissioner warning him to stop snooping around her town, while Ononoki being her beat cop liason. Finally we have Hanekawa: while she may not carry herself like a femme fatale, we know from her striped hair and troubled past that that’s kinda what she is.

What made this episode and the arc in general so enjoyable is that it pays homage to those historic, timeless archetypes while putting a decidedly Monogatari twist on them. Indeed, it’s twisting them into a cat’s cradle; something of a very precise pattern and structure; every movement fussed over. Kaiki’s call to Senjougahara is sumptuously decorated by the constantly changing colors on Kaiki’s phone, the undulating patterns on the floor and walls, and the dazzling city outside. Dotted with natural gas flares and sporting a giant LCD panel showing Senjougahara performing very familiar movements, things get very Los Angeles 2019…”Kaiki Deishu” even sounds kinda like an anagram of “Rick Deckard”. Will we get the abruptly happy ending the financiers pushed for here as well?

8_great
Rating: 8 
(Great)

Stray Observations:

  • Kaiki’s shower requires comfort with one’s own body, as it displays it for all to see, as rich people’s showers tend to do.
  • Not sure we’ve mentioned this before, but we love Kaiki’s notebook is full of chibi diagrams. The art style is identical to the Bakemonogatari next episode previews, the Fire Sisters’ first appearance.
  • Kaiki pulls a Catherine Tramell in Hanekawa’s room.
  • We never did find out what was in Nadeko’s closet, while this week we don’t figure out exactly what Hanekawa has to say.
  • A couple more references: Kaiki’s red sports car in the OP is very Magnum P.I., while Tokyo is lit much like Neo-Tokyo in Akira.
  • Another nod to black-and-white of film noir: Tsubasa’s B&W hair.