Pupa – 04

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Introducing Maria: the viral researcher who dresses like a witch and has no qualms about her entire staff being killed when Utsutsu, who had been eaten by Yume, wakes up in one piece, alive and not well. Maria confirms that the siblings’ affliction is a virus called Pupa, and she’s eager to continue “researching” them. With this tidbit-episode, the world of Pupa expands to include science, conspiracy, and potential persecution from the likes of Maria.

Utsutsu has vowed not to repeat his father’s sins and protect Yume, but preserving their “normal life” will require him to resort to abnormal measures, namely let Yume feed off him and only him. But even if they manage to make it work, they’re only upholding the illusion of normalcy. In reality, there’s absolutely nothing normal about them, nor will there be unless they can find the cure. Something tells us Maria isn’t in a hurry to find one.


Rating: 6 (Good)

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Sakura Trick – 04

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As it turns out, Yuu managed to convince Mitsuki that she tripped and fell on Haruka. If that sounds like a cop-out or delay of the inevitable, it helps to remember that this show does its best to avoid protracted conflicts or drama. Instead, it prefers to focus on the little “mini-dramas” that are always prevalent in loving relationships (regardless of gender) in which separation of feet can feel like miles, or hours of being apart can feel like days.

Haruka stresses out whenever Yuu gets near another girl, but Yuu is always there at the end to assure her there’s nothing to fear. We liked how Haruka admitted that she liked how she and Yuu were different heights, and how Yuu was briefly “taller” than her while sitting on her lap. It’s little details like that which prove the show isn’t simply interested in cheap yuri fanservice, but in fully and carefully illustrating why Haruka loves Yuu so much and vice versa.

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Of course, Yuu’s hasty trip excuse wasn’t all that effective, and ever since, Mitsuki has been suspicious and interrogatory,even conscripting Kaede and Yuzu to spy on them for her. Acknowledging that going behind their friends’ back is wrong, they observe the couple anyway, but they show a sort of unconscious loyalty by delivering a crap report back to Mitsuki. We may see Haruka and Yuu making out all the time, but they’ve typically been careful to do it in seclusion; their only slip-up involving Mitsuki’s walk-in. They also rely on a bit of luck, which is what happens when they’re invited out for fireworks by Kaede.

When Kaede is nowhere to be found and lots are drawn, Haruka thinks a test of courage is afoot, and it’s sweet to see her fantasy comes true when a frightened Yuu turns to her for relief. Of course, the one inadvertently scaring Yuu turns out to be Mitsuki, who was trying to spy on them again but got caught up in the innate creepiness of her dark arboreal surroundings. It’s here when Haruka offers a supportive hand to her, and she realizes Haruka is actually a very kind, caring, person. So much so, in fact, that Mitsuki seems to be involuntarily developing a crush on her.

7_very_goodRating: 7 (Very Good)

Kill la Kill – 16

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Leave it to Kill la Kill to earnestly, regretfully inform us from the start that this is the recap episode we’ve been dreading, only to blaze through said recap in less than two minutes, occupying only the cold open before a brand new (and quite spiffy) OP. It’s a great little psychout, and one more reminder Kill la Kill isn’t just kicking ass telling its own story, but also an ongoing commentary of anime in general.

To whit: this week we learn the deep dark secrets of life fibers and kamui, and Ryuuko is revealed as the “Chosen One” who will curtail the Kiryuuins’ seemingly infinite ambitions. But Ryuuko isn’t the only chosen one here; so is Satsuki, who surprisingly undergoes an education parallel to Ryuuko’s: here we were thinking she was in the know about everything (she certainly didn’t hesitate to make Ryuuko think that was the case), but she wasn’t.

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It’s fitting then, that it’s confirmed to both her and Ryuuko at the same time what they had already suspected: each girl is the savior and hope of their respective faction, which makes them diametrically opposed enemies.That deep dark truth? In short, Life Fibers are aliens. They helped humanity evolve to its present level of physical and mental sophistication, and then, like creator gods, they simply sat back and admired what they had wrought. Like farmers, they awaited the fattening of their herds, for Life Fibers use humans as food.

As such, humans didn’t choose clothing, clothing chose them – a concept as absurd as it is awesome. Kiryuuin Ragyo re-initiated contact and has been essentially doing their bidding, distributing dormant fibers to the population on a global scale. Now possessed of this knowledge and their expected roles in the great battle to come, Ryuuko and Satsuki react in appropriately opposite ways.

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When the hatch to the helicopter closed, Satsuki collapsed from exhaustion and her kamui had to be sedated. Her activities have taken a far greater toll than Ryuuko or anyone beneath her know, but she refuses to give in to fatigue or pain. And yet even after her mother essentially fondles her in the bath (what is it with rich people?), and even though there are times when Satsuki seems taken aback by the things she’s learning, she doesn’t (outwardly) hesitate in answering her call to duty.

Meanwhlie, Ryuuko says “fuck that.” Because she doesn’t want to fight? Because she can’t handle that level of responsibility? No: because she doesn’t want her friend Senketsu to be forced into fighting his own kind just because Matoi Isshin made him good at it. At the end of the day, the only one who chose her to be the “Chosen One” was her dad, just as the only one who chose Satsuki was her mom. But we’re certain Senketsu will choose to fight with Ryuuko.

9_superiorRating: 9 (Superior)

Stray Observations:

  • Ryuuko’s dad used to work for Ragyo. This is just speculation, but were they once lovers too, making Ryuuko and Satsuki sisters? It would certainly be fitting.
  • Ryuuko’s dad also founded Nudist Beach, which has an actual nudist beach underground. Neat!
  • Mako isn’t going to stay behind while Ryuuko fights…though she’s not quite resolved to go nude.
  • The new ED is very Mako-centric (not a bad thing), and is what we imagine is what the inside of her head looks like. Kinda like how Kenneth in 30 Rock sees everyone as Muppets.

Weekly ED – Toaru Hikuushi e no Koiuta

The sepia reminds us of the opening credits to Castle in the Sky; a good start. The musical track—Kaze ga Shitteru (風が知ってる;The Wind Knows)” by Akai Kōen, immediately makes a good impression, contrasting the march-like beat and sharply distorted guitars with soft, supple vocals.

The imagery is straightforward but effective; Kal and Claire on a bike as war explodes above them. A sudden cut to the endless blue skies, where they share another embrace; perhaps a dream, as in the end we return to Kal on his bike in the sepia world, only this time he’s alone.

End-of-Month Rundown – January 2014

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It’s been a cold, snowy, icy January in these parts (We’d never experienced a 4°F (-16°C) morning before this year…Verdict: Not Fun!), but we’ve managed to stay warm with a combination of layers, space heaters, blankets, cats, cocoa, and most importantly, anime.

We’ve got ourselves yet another baker’s dozen of shows to watch (to quote Nobunaga: “It was inevitable!”), though Pupa is really only a fifth of a show so far, so let’s call it a regular dozen, with our reviews typically bunching around Thursday and Sunday.

Other news:

  • You’ve probably noticed some slight design changes to the site. The theme is bluish at the moment, representing Winter. We plan on switching up the colors as the seasons change.
  • Fresh Org Charts for currently-running shows will continue to trickle out as we get a better picture of the shows’ relationships.
  • We’ve received a new (for us, at least) Ghibli movie in the mail, so we’ll be writing a review of that at some point.
  • Thanks to you, dear readers, January 2014 was our best month ever for views and visitors, surpassing December 2013, our previous best. Thank you as always for tolerating our inane drivel!

Now, on to the January rankings:

13. Pupa

Like a moth emerging from its cocoon, Pupa is a slow burn, with its story coming in weekly four-minute trickles, but so far our patience has been rewarded as the episodes have gotten progressively better…and weirder. We still wish they were full-length, as there’s nothing else we’re watching this season that’s as dark or brooding, but it is what it is.

Cumulative Rating: 5.000 (3 of 12 episodes watched)
MyAnimeList Score: 5.22

12. Samuai Flamenco (second cour)

Samurai Flamenco has been straying further and further from our ideal of the show, which was a hero with strong convictions and modest beginnings fighting human beings in the real world. It was less about the “heroing” and more about how Masayoshi’s life and the lives of his friends changed and evolved. With Torture and From Beyond, the show has simply been replicating well-tred hero scenarios with little or no irony or “catch.” It’s not a send-up of Power Rangers, it’s just Power Rangers. It doesn’t help that in a season full of true lookers, when it comes time to execute large-scale battles, the show comes up dreadfully short in the production values department. We’re hopeful the last eight episodes will be watchable, but we’re not sure it will ever return to the quality of the pre-Torture/Beyond episodes.

Cumulative Rating: 6.333 (3 of 11 episodes watched)
MyAnimeList Score: 6.94

11. Sakura Trick

The Love Lab of the Winter season wouldn’t do Sakura Trick justice. Love Lab was much better than we thought it would be: with surprisingly funny and often touching stories about the not-so-effective romantic strategizing of a group of girls inexperienced with love. But Love Lab never had any actual romance between two people in it, something Sakura Trick thankfully provides. Also thankfully, the central romance is more or less established right at the start and is mutual (not one-sided) with the couple taking a step or two forward each week, sparing us the stress and drama of two hearts failing to come together before doing so, and the show effectively captures the thrill of high school romance.

Cumulative Rating: 6.667 (3 of 12 episodes watched)
MyAnimeList Score: 7.59

10. Toaru Hikuushi e no Koiuta

While not nearly as beautiful or grand in design as Last Exile, unlike that show there’s a far more effective romance in play right from the get-go, the sweet, budding love between Kal and Claire. A quarter into the series, we the audience now know who the two truly are, and Claire is reasonably sure who Kal is, but we’ll see what the show is made of when it Claire’s fears are confirmed and Kal learns the truth of who Claire is. Does his thirst for revenge against Nina Viento outweigh his love for Claire? The show is doing a good job keeping us in the dark (along with the students) about what exactly is on the horizon, which will also play a factor in whether they have a future together, or at all.

Cumulative Rating: 7.250 (4 of 12 episodes watched)
MyAnimeList Score: 7.37

9. Nisekoi

Guy and Girl from warring clans are forced into a relationship to keep the peace: it’s a very old story, but we feel Shaft’s new take on it is well-executed and full of style. Our feelings for Onodera, the girl stuck in the middle, however, are mixed. On the one hand, she’s the victim of terrible luck as her love interest is taken out of play, and she still doesn’t know it’s all fake. On the other hand, she’s had multiple opportunities (even in three episodes) to make her feelings for Raku plain. She’s her own worst enemy right now, and the more she hesitates, the closer and less-forced Chitoge and Raku’s relationship will get.

Cumulative Rating: 7.333 (3 of 12 episodes watched)
MyAnimeList Score: 8.05

7. (tie) Nobunaga the Fool

In the best tradition of Satelight series like Macross Frontier and Aquarion Evol comes Nobunaga the Fool, in which mecha are blended with both Japanese and European history in an absurd but incredibly fun and entertaining fandango that feels like Final Fantasy with characters borrowed from real-world history. There are some demerits: Nobu can be a chauvanist dick at times, while Jeanne Kaguya d’Arc (not sure why the Kaguya is in there), while initially promising, has so far been sidelined and stripped of her femininity, at least while they remain in feudal Japan. We do like da Vinci’s role as the genius who defected from his home (a la Einstein) to provide the East with potentially decisive technology, as well as the nature of the tarot cards he carries around.
Cumulative Rating: 7.500 (4 of 12 episodes watched)
MyAnimeList Score: 6.99

7. (tie) Noragami

It didn’t take long for this stylish and witty supernatural new series from Bones to win us over. Having Kamiya Hiroshi voicing the lead role a down-on-his-luck minor god with big plans is a good start. Iki Hiyori is equally fun to watch as the human girl who suddenly finds herself outside her body with a long ethereal tail. Watching her embrace her new powers (and go too far with them), while watching Yato prove his detractors wrong with flashes of badassdom, are all sources of Noragami’s appeal. Iwasaki Taku’s eclectic soundtrack is icing on the cake; a more focused effort than his work in Gatchaman Crowds.

Cumulative Rating: 7.500 (4 of 12 episodes watched)
MyAnimeList Score: 8.02

6. Sekai Seifuku:Bouryaku no Zvezda

Zvezda is cute. Not sickeningly-nyan-nyan-cute, but pleasantly impish-cute. The threats involved in the titular secret organization “conquering” various things while moving towards the ultimate goal of conquering the world are not particularly terrifying. In fact, Jimon Asuta, having reached irreconcilable differences at home, has found a home in Zvezda, and settled into a job as their cook. We love cooking, so we think it’s a pretty sweet deal, especially when you get to run around with people in ridiculous outfits doing outrageous things. There’s something quite charming about such a powerful organization being led by a tween with very simple, possibly naive, ultimately pure views about the workings of the world, especially when she backs it up with an as-yet-unexplained power. The only downside is Asuta presently finds himself on the opposing side of his classmate and crush.

Cumulative Rating: 7.667 (3 of 12 episodes watched)
MyAnimeList Score: 7.33

5. Witch Craft Works

We’ll admit to being Harry Potter fans, or for that matter, fans of any fiction in which there’s a subset of people with amazing powers living among those who don’t, with their own laws, conflicts, and ways of life. We’re also fans of Kiki’s Delivery Service (which predates HP by quite a bit) for it’s portrayal of a world where witches are not only accepted within society, but valued and esteemed for the services they provide for their communities. Witch Craft Works tends more towards the Kiki side of things, though unlike Kiki there’s a well-defined faction of “bad/evil witches” the good witches are constantly trying to keep from blowing up the world. Another aspect of Kiki we loved: she’s such a tough, independent young lady, but not perfect. In shows with a good/evil conflict, we’ll never take for granted those that give the ladies equal or greater power than the guys. Where this show further excels is in making it plain that while he lacks physical or tactical strength and is protected by women, Honoka is neither a moron or a coward, which makes him worth protecting.
Cumulative Rating: 7.750 (4 of 12 episodes watched)
MyAnimeList Score: 7.37

4. Golden Time (second cour)

To his credit, Tada Banri is moving on with his life with Kaga Kouko, leaving whatever past he might/ve had with Linda behind. His ghostly past self, and the show for that matter, are determined not to let him do so easily. We balked a bit at the “mechanics” of Ghost Banri’s interference, but this cour we see it on full display: causing mishap after mishap until he went far further than he wanted and almost killed everyone, which led to a “wake-up call” for Banri and Koko. We also like how Linda has apparently moved on with MItsuo of all people, further complicating Ghost Banri’s plans. The lack of a body is definitely an issue, but time itself is his enemy as well. He’s taken stern measures and didn’t like the taste it left in his mouth. Is his cause, and the cause of all Banri+Linda supporters, doomed to fail?

Cumulative Rating: 8.000 (4 of 12 episodes watched)
MyAnimeList Score: 7.94

2. (tie) Chuunibyou demo Koi ga Shitai! Ren

The sequel picks up where the Fall 2012 show left off, in which its characters seek to find the proper balance between normal life and the world of magic and fantasy that exists only in their heads. This is an important distinction, as there are no real supernatural elements in Chu-2-koi, only elaborate delusions. The new series brings a new rival for Rikka in Satone and new challenges for Rikka and Yuuta as they determine the full nature and pace of their relationship. It’s quickly established that neither will be conventional. Lao-Tzu said, the flame that burns twice as bright burns half as long. Rikka and Yuuta may not be an out-of-control Bunsen burner, but their mutual affection and chemistry is still very evident, and their interactions are always fun to watch.

Cumulative Rating: 8.500 (4 of 12 episodes watched)
MyAnimeList Score: 8.13

2. (tie) Space Dandy

Space Dandy is one of those rare, vital shows that does something a little bit (or wildly) different each week rather than settle into a routine, and so far whatever theme it’s tackled, from space chases to culinary journeys to touching life stories to zombies, it’s hit every one way out of the ballpark. We may not have the slightest clue what will go on in the next episode, but we know it will be good, because the people who made Space Dandy know what they’re doing, and furthermore, are having a ton of fun doing it. As with Nobu, we wish Dandy was a less of a dick to women, but at least there’s Scarlett to beat the shit out of him if he crosses a line.

Cumulative Rating: 8.500 (4 of 12 episodes watched)
MyAnimeList Score: 7.49

1. Kill la Kill (second cour)

Getting back to flames, in the case of Kill la Kill, Lao Tzu’s saying doesn’t apply: this show keeps burning furiously like an eternal flame continuously replenished by the hidden power of the universe. Ryuuko’s odyssey from face-down in the dirt with just one scrap of Senketsu to a return to fighting form stronger than ever was enough to earn the legitimate respect of Satsuki herself, and we dig Ryuuko’s realignment of priorities from seeking revenge for her father’s death, which was never going to end well, to stopping evil and opposing the regime of fear in which Satsuki seeks to wreathe the world. Ryuuko has often played the role of  pawn and guinea pig in Satsuki’s machinations, but Ryuuko’s recent battle to a draw suggests that may be coming to an end.

Cumulative Rating: 8.667 (3 of 12 episodes watched)
MyAnimeList Score: 8.02