No Game No Life – 04

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With the proper wisdom, the weakest can defeat the strongest—that’s the credo of King Blank; the newly-risen combo of Sora and Shiro, having beaten Zell fair and square at one of the most ludicrous games of “chess” I’ve ever witnessed. Even her massive and egregious amount of cheating with Elven magic couldn’t topple the formidable wisdom Blank possesses. The One True God Tet plucked them from a world where they were only kings of a small room into a world seemingly designed to be ruled by them.

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After dipping into his expertise in dating sims to win the crown, Sora uses his experience playing Civ to iron out the domestic problems with Elkia, then delivers a long and stirring (and long) motivational speech to its demoralized populace. He tells them Imanity had the monopoly on weakness and wisdom before war was banned, and the first step to regaining their old stature is to acknowledge and embrace it’s position as the weakest race in Disboard. Dora is dazzled by their proficiency in matters of state and knack for igniting a crowd.

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Lounging in their new royal chambers, the siblings are visited by Tet once more, who asks them how they like the place. Sora cuts to the heart of matters: when Tet lost to them at chess, it may well have been the first time Tet lost at anything. Therefore, Tet brought them to Disboard as a challenge, the first stage of which was to become King of Elkia. The next step is to conquer the world—commanding all sixteen races like sixteen chess pieces. Then they’ll be ready to take Tet on.

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After that tough battle in which their opponent brazenly cheated, Blank’s victory and rise to the throne was satisfying (and Zell bursting into tears was an amusing surprise), but I’m curious to see where the show is going. If Sora and Shiro really aren’t ever going to lose a game, the show’s success will hinge on how craftily and awesomely they win (and the opponents not always being pushovers). Delivering a show in which winning is a forgone conclusion will be tough to pull off, but despite their recent success Blank still feel like underdogs, so we look forward to the endeavor.

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Hitsugi no Chaika – 04

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A fourth member unexpectedly joins the group at the end of this episode, but before the trio becomes a quartet, they’re saved by Dominica Scola, who invites them to her manor, and everything there is a bit…off. First of all, the place is run down and deserted, save a cat, and completely filled with statues and paintings of Scoda.

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When Tooru executes Plan A—simply asking for Goz’s remains—it’s no surprise the warrior ruler refuses; judging from the state of her existence, she’s longed for a good fight for some time. But I like how he’ll do this each time: after all, the goal isn’t to get into fights, but to fulfill the wishes of the master, i.e. Chaika.

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The twist is that the ruler they meant to take the remains from died herself years ago, having fulfilled her purpose: defeating Goz wih the other seven. That left her dragoon alone and without a purpose, or rather to find a new purpose. It’s the dragoon they fight, not Dominica, and she can take many forms, from her master to a metal dragon to a cat to what must be her “default” form, a girl called Fredrika.

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Having a defined purpose in life is a recurring theme here, with Chaika’s purpose seemingly to gather her father’s remains. By hiring Tooru, she gave him a fresh purpose suited to his nature. Interestingly, Akari, who seems to hold a legitimate flame for him, wasn’t able to do this, but could only stand by as he “rotted on the vine” while she adapted to a quiet domestic life.

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By allowing (or at least tolerating) Fredrika to accompany them, they’re gaining a powerful temporary ally, and she’s gaining a new purpose: to follow Tooru and eventually kill him, presumably for his transgressions. As for us, we get to hear Saito Chiwa show off her vocal range.

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End-of-Month Rundown – April 2014

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12. Gokukoku no Brynhildr

Brynhildr had an intriguing start, but my main qualm continues to be a jarring lack of consistency in tone throughout episodes. The fourth episode in particular was quite egregious in jumping from gratuitous violence and high school harem situations with some truly dark and horrifying concepts like human experimentation and body liquification. It’s an unbalanced top right now, and it may fall right off our watchlist if it doesn’t improve—MagicalChurlSukui

Average Rating: 6.25 (4 of 13 episodes watched)
MAL Score: 7.56

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10. Akuma no Riddle

This show has settled into what I consider to be a good solid formula moving forward: there’s about as many assassins as episodes left, meaning about one will go after Haru every week, during which time we’ll learn more about them. Of course, if the show wants to switch things up by having multiple assassins join forces, have more assassins join Haru and Tokaku’s side, that works for me, too. And while each has saved the other’s life at least once, the romantic relationship teased in the OP has yet to pan out a quarter of the way into the show. Sakura Trick this is not—Braverade

Average Rating: 7.25 (4 of 12 episodes watched)
MAL Score: 7.46

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10. Mahouka Koukou no Rettousei

With a full 26-episode run, Mahouka taking its time establishing its world, systems, relationships and factions, but it’s great seeing the apparent “weed” Tatsuya being able to stand toe-to-toe with the most elite “blooms” the school has to offer, due to his mysterious, unique powers. Miyuki’s very close bond with her brother is apparently going to be a continuing source of comedy, but so far it’s been overused—MagicalChurlSukui

Average Rating: 7.25 (4 of 13 first cour episodes watched)
MAL Score: 8.00

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9. Ryuugajou Nanana no Maizoukin

While I’m enjoying the growing bond between the lead guy and the master detective, the true strength of Ryuugajou so far is the execution of its puzzles, much like No Game No Life hinges on well-executed games. So far, I’ve really enjoyed the initial inscrutability of the puzzles, as well as the ways the group figures things out and use their combined skills to solve them. I’m less enamored of the threat of a Big Bad Organization aiming to ruin all the fun, however—sesameacrylic

Average Rating: 7.33 (3 of 11 episodes watched)
MAL Score: 7.58

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7. Mekakucity Actors

Mekakucity aims to be hip and stylish, and in some regards in succeeds due to its quirky editing and “camerawork” typical of Shaft/Shinbou joints (see Nisekoi). And after three episodes, the nine-member group seems to be coming together nicely, and I like the diverse personalities (and powers). But this is a stylish show in a season full of stylish shows, so it will have to find a way to distinguish itself—sesameacrylic

Average Rating: 7.67 (3 of 12 episodes watched)
MAL Score: 7.74

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7. Hitsugi no Chaika

Like Spice & Wolf and Sunday Without God, this show brings together strangers who become friends on an exciting adventure through an alternate-universe world. I haven’t been shy with the FF comparisons, meant as complimentary and not knocks. The mission of the core trio couldn’t be simpler on the surface, but I like how they could end up inadvertently throwing the realm into chaos if they ultimately succeed, and all the parties trying to keep that from happening. The battles and beasts are also awesome so far—MagicalChurlSukui

Average Rating: 7.67 (3 of 12 episodes watched)
MAL Score: 7.36

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4. No Game No Life

NGNL carries on the always entertaining tradition of an elite gamer suddenly finding his skills are useful in reality, like SAO (returning this Summer) and God Only Knows. In this case, it’s and all new world, and a rich and detailed one at that, with its own gamey systems of operation. It was a very auspicious and ambitious start, and the games are played out as intense battles full of internal analysis and strategizing. The show can get a little hyper at times, but I prefer energy to listlessness—sesameacrylic

Average Rating: 8.00 (3 of 12 episodes watched)
MAL Score: 8.46

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4. Nisekoi

With just four episodes left, two things are clear: One, Raku has to make a decision; and Two, that decision is incredibly tough. I’ve shuffled my ranking of the four girls around plenty, but the thing is, every time I’ve settled on a ranking, an episode focusing on one girl comes around to remind you that ranking them is a waste of time, because they’ve all demonstrated they make equally great choices. I will say that Raku should go with the girl he currently likes quite a lot at present, and that’s Kosaki. But that could change next week—sesameacrylic

Average Rating: 8.00 (3 of 8 second cour episodes watched)
MAL Score: 8.16

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4. Black Bullet

With four straight 8s out of the gate, it would be argued Bullet is the most consistent Spring show. I’m enjoying the fast-paced action, but also the close relationship established between the core duo, suggesting they’re not only a formidable at fighting gastrea, but at questioning the prejudice and oppression that infects the world they’re protecting, taking up the social justice baton passed to it by WizBar last season—Braverade

Average Rating: 8.00 (4 of 13 episodes watched)
MAL Score: 7.81

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3. One Week Friends

My favorite show so far combines elements from some of my favorite striaght romances and rom-coms of recent years, such as Kimi ni TodokeSukitte Ii na yo, Kotoura-san, and most recently, Golden Time, with the memory element. I also love the show’s delicate pastel palette and way the edges of the show’s frames are fuzzy, reflecting the ephemeral nature of Kaori’s memories. Taneda Risa is also turning in another memorable performance after Kyoukai no Kanata. -sesameacrylic

Average Rating: 8.50 (4 of 13 episodes watched)
MAL Score: 8.02

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2. Sidonia no Kishi

Here’s the show with the widest distance between RABUJOI and MAL scores, and part of that could be the polarizing CGI animation. But the first episode packed a huge punch, pressing me to drop both Nobunaga and Captain Earth, two other mecha shows that just didn’t engage me. Sidonia’s characters may have a certain CGI sheen, but they’ve so far managed to pump a lot of warmth, humanity, and angst into them, and both they and their setting have a gritty, well-worn look. I don’t know much about the Gauna yet, but I know they scare the crap outta me and I’m glad I don’t have to fight them! I know, ironic considering my handle. -Braverade

Average Rating: 8.67 (3 of 12 episodes watched)
MAL Score: 7.27

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1. Nagi no Asukara

Fall 2013 is the season that keeps on kicking ass, with Nagi joining Golden Time and Kill la Kill as second cours that outshine everything in the present season. Granted, Nagi has a leg up in that its story and our investment in its characters are already well-established, but regardless Nagi is simply killing it right now with 9s across the board and very few flaws. MAL would seem to agree with us: it’s the highest-rated show on this list, edging out NGNL. -MagicalChurlSukui

Average Rating: 9.00 (5 of 13 second cour episodes watched)
MAL Score: 8.52