Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun – 04

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Mikorin reveals himself as far more comfortable around fictional girls than real ones, as evidenced by his love of dating sims. When he tries to get Nozaki into them as well, a hilarious send-up of the genre ensues. As an accomplished shoujo artist, Nozaki enters the game as the protagonist fom his own manga, who isn’t the slightest bit interested in any of the girls in the game. He also serves as skeptic to Mikorin’s true believer, picking the sim apart as he plays.

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Nozaki sees ulterior motives in the characters that don’t belong in the game’s genre, but on one point manages to convert Mikorin with the sentiment that the game’s protagonist’s best friend Tomoda is way too selfless, sacrificing his own youth to support them. Suddenly motivated to pull an all-nighter drawing a manga in which Tomoda is the protagonist, the most suitable person to pair him with turns out to be the protagonist from the game, making it a BL manga and thoroughly confusing Chiyo when she arrives in the morning.

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After subverting the dating sim by pointing out the sidekick best friend is the most compeling character in it, GSNK moves on to a new story in its second half, in which Mikorin must prepare for what is, despite his playboy persona at school, his first mixer ever. He solicits advice from Nozaki and Chiyo, who turn out to be ill-suited to the task, as both of them would prove insufferable at a mixer. Nozaki, posing as a girl, gives conversation-killing answers to Mikorin’s questions, while Chiyo is only interested in meeting someone who matches Nozaki’s description exactly.

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Nozaki also insists on “going to the toilet” with Chiyo to talk “in private”, but when Mikorin insists on joining them, they’re all just in Nozaki’s bathroom for no reason, which is great! Ultimately, Mikorin sends Kashima (who thankfully escapes physical abuse this week) to the mixer in his place. The Prince ends up conquering all four of the other girls, leaving the three guys in the dust. Not that having Mikorin there would have resulted in a dramatically different outcome, but Kashima sure seemed more into it.

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DRAMAtical Murder – 04

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I said I might have to drop this show now that I’ve discovered AGK, but I haven’t done so yet. That could be because there isn’t another show this Summer that has me as much in the dark about as many things. I’m eager for some answers, but only get more questions. And yet, on I watch.

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The unfortunately named Platinum Jail; its developer, who ends up in the same limo as Grams earlier in the episode; the disappearance of Dry Juice, and the painting over of all their tags with Morphine tags; Trip and Virus’ involvement; Clear and Noiz’s obsessions with Aoba; it’s all just floating around in one big cloud of mystery.

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I hope something gives soon. I don’t mind lingering mysteries, as long as something comes of them, but the show could throw us a bone here or there. After a police patrol cuts Koujaku and Noiz’s fight (ostensibly over Aoba) short, Aoba comes home to find his Grams gone, replaced by a couple of unconscious Morphine members and Mink.

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Whether Mink is a friend or foe, and what if anything he has to say to Aoba that might shed some light on all of this stuff, we’ll have to wait another week. But with all these elements listed above in play yet presently isolated from one another, I imagine at some point some dots will be connected. Some point soon, hopefully!

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Akame ga Kill! – 04

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AGK has been nothing if not consistent, balancing fairly equal measures of exposition, world-building, character dev and action, and keeping me thoroughly entertained. This week is no different, formally introducing us to the forty-eight Imperial Arms, six of which are wielded by Night Raid mebers, while the seventh belongs to the target-of-the-week, Zank the Executioner. Around the time the empire started to rot, Zank was made to take so many heads it became a compulsion, and he started taking heads at random, regardless of whether they were condemned to die.

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This makes Zank notable in that as crazy and murderous a demon as he has become, he was, and one point, just an ordinary overworked executioner, and not necessarily evil. Zank also refrains from rape threats, as he’s only interested in beheading people. Heck, he even thanks Akame for killing him and “silencing the voices of all the people he’s killed, a marked contrast to the previous demons’ last words of protest or contempt.

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His third-eye style sense-augmenting and illusion-creating Imperial Arm makes him the most challenging foe yet, as Tatsumi lacks the strength to defeat him alone. But then that’s why Night Raid was sent out in pairs, and Akame is his partner this week. Zank disguises himself as Sayo to lure Tatsumi away from her, but Tatsumi is able to stay alive lone enough for Akame to find him and clean up the mess.

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When Zank transforms into Akame’s dearest loved one, it backfires on him, as she kills “her” as quickly as possible because she loves her so much. Despite her age, Akame is a hardened assassin who won’t succumb to mind games. And thanks to her Imperial Arm Murasame, it only takes a scratch to kill her opponent, which begs the question: why don’t all the Imperial Arms have that ability?

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Akame’s mindset is not to overestimate the power of her sword; it is a bitch to clean, after all, but they live in a world where just one cut can kill you anyway, regardless of the weapon. Wielders of Imperial Arms are undeniably stronger than those with conventional arms, but they’re still just tools; tools that only sing for the right hands and minds. I imagine Zank’s Arm will pass to Tatsumi, but simply possessing one doesn’t make you invincible.

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Space Dandy 2 – 04

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There are Space Dandy episodes I can run out onto the parquet dance floor and bust various moves with, and then there are those where I’m just kind of chilling in the periphery of the venue, sitting on a folding chair, sipping some punch, and tapping my foot, half to the beat, half impatiently. This was one of those latter episodes.

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Dandy has done a lot of different stuff, but hadn’t tackled the “high school musical” genre yet. But it just didn’t feel like its heart was in it in the same way it is for all of its trippy, metaphysical, and high concept episodes. As Dandy remarks upon first meeting his future prom date, much of the episode had a “well-honed plainness” to it. Much of the ground it covers has already been covered in better ways.

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A good musical, high school or no, has to have good songs, but most of the songs here were seriously lacking. The lyrics were dull, simplistic, and repetitive, and the pacing of the song and dance numbers dragged on way too long: the Queen Bee describing the school’s caste pyramid took up way too much time, and even if the awkward pacing was intentional, it just felt like stalling.

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That said, it was still a fun episode with some good bits: Dandy getting shot down by increasingly alien girls, and the 80’s-style pre-prom training montage, and the fact the girl was the rare alien Dandy enrolled to the school to find in the first place, but he, QT and Meow simply forgot about by the end. With Dandy, if you don’t like one episode, just move on to the next.

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Barakamon – 04

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When I decided to paint beige-colored racing stripes on 1991 Honda Accord, the most difficult step in the process wasn’t the measuring, the marking of guide points with non-permanent marker, or making sure the masking was tight. No, the toughest part was making that very first mark with the paint upon the (sorta) pristine blank surface. There was no going back from that moment, so I figured I’d best not screw up.

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Once that first mark was made, I felt a lot more confident, and sure enough the stripes were turned out true and crisp. Seishuu faces similar apprehension, only it’s quite a bit more pronounced, because the boat he’s painting belongs to an ill-tempered gangster (and Miwa’s pops), and for the entire process he is distracted by a gaggle of little kids darting around like gnats, upsetting the calm such a job normally requires.

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Then there’s the fact that he shouldn’t be doing odd calligraphy jobs now that he’s been entered in the upcoming Naruka Institute Calligraphy Exhibition. Exhibiting the humility he’s gained since moving to the island, he doesn’t promise to claim to Grand Prize, as he’s still “in the darkness,” but he’s certain he’ll someday “find the light,” lines that are both cool and corny. I don’t buy, however, that someone his age has never operated a rotary phone!

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If you can successfully paint a five-kanji name on the boat of a prickly gangster-geezer under the constant distraction urchins constantly up in your business, well…you’re not completely worthless as a human. Intimidated by the vast stretch of pure, empty white, Seishuu ceases up, until Naru plants a tiny black hand on that white. Then another, then the others join in.

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It’s as if whatever spell was keeping Seishu from touching brush to boat was lifted. From there, Seishuu dives in going with a wild, splattery style to cover up the prints, and ending up with something both he and Yamamura can be satisfied with. But the true challenge lies ahead with his exhibition work, where he won’t have the benefit of Naru making the first mark for him.

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