Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun – 05

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Nozaki gives his apartment a thorough cleaning for his extremely curt editor, Miyamae. Chiyo doesn’t think the editor likes Nozaki at all, but Nozaki is totally in love with the guy for the punctual and straightforward nature of their communication. We learn why Nozaki feels this way in an episode that explores the mangaka-editor relationship, which can be a treacherous sea.

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Nozaki has been scarred by his previous editor, Maeno (whose name means “previous”): who always suggested and took credit for obvious ideas Nozaki had either already come up with, or ones he hates. After a subtly manipulative, self-important boob like Maeno, Miyamae seems pretty darn “cool and mature”, as Nozaki describes him.

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Nozaki is also troubled by the fact his neighbor and fellow mangaka—the beautiful college student Miyako Yukari—is still suffering under the affable boot heel of Maeno, who forces her to put random tanukis in everything she draws, regardless of genre (her apartment is also full of the things). The website set up ostensibly for artists’ benefit is full of posts of him describing what he’s wearing or abusing Miyako’s manuscript.

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Miyako should get mad—indeed, when Maeno shows up unannounced and teases Nozaki, Nozaki very nearly hulks up—but she doesn’t. Such is the insufferable, inscrutable power of Maeno, something Nozaki is very glad to be (mostly) rid of. From there, Nozaki receives criticism from Miyamae that he isn’t revealing enough of Mamiko’s emotions to the reader. Believing the only way to understand Mamiko is to become Mamiko, Nozaki decides to do just that.

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The results are unsurprisingly hilarious, though not as over-the-top as you’d think. He makes a bunch of bentos to give to friends to try to capture Mamiko’s feelings, but ends up conjuring a somewhat sinister Mamiko. He also tries to understand what it’s like to have girls for enemies. In an inspired choice, he does this by speeding Kashima around on a hand cart; her hordes of worshipers in hot pursuit.

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The chase sequence is a hilarious peace of physical comedy, and the little moment the “spurned” Kashima has with Hori afterward is pretty cute as well. Ultimately all of Nozaki’s research only leads to an even more confusing, unrealistic version of Mamiko that further frustrates Miyamae. Even so, it was neat to watch the creative process in action.

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DRAMAtical Murder – 05

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Aoba wakes up from his fist nap face to face with Mink, leader of Scratch and the guy who punched him…only to get beaten again for protesting the situation. I was right there with Aoba in his combined confusion and rage: damn it, show, what’s going on here?

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The show eventually relented, but only partially: Mink wanted information from Aoba; information he has now acquired. Mink agrees to help Aoba find Grams if Aoba agrees to do what he says. Mink is not the sort of guy you want to try to haggle with, and Grams comes first, so Aoba agrees.

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Returning home to find a worried Clear and Koujaku, Aoba has to play peacemaker between Koujaku and Mink, which is fine; it’s not as if opposing gang leaders are supposed to get alng. When Mink discovers Noiz has the house under surveillance, they invite him to join them in the operation to save Grams.

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The operation that follows is the first time the show has gathered so many disperate actors in a loose coalition, all helping Aoba out. Koujaku, Mink, and even Clear prove quite capable of dealing with the Morphine foot soldiers sent at them, many of whom are former members of Dry Juice.

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When Aoba arrives in the parking lot where Grams is being moved, there’s another surprise: Mizuki is the one shoving her into a truck. He clearly isn’t himself from Aoba’s perspective. Things get a little bit weird when Aoba suddenly involuntarily enters a virtual world where the “real” Mizuki describes how Morphine betrayed him.

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Then Aoba’s head starts pounding again, and an evil-looking “inner-Aoba” says “Destroy” again and again, causing Mizuki intense pain. Not sure what’s up with all that, but I will say this episode was never boring.

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Akame ga Kill! – 05

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This week Tatsumi shadows Sheele, who is on the surface a clumsy airhead, but conceals just about as dark and rough a past as the other members of Night Raid. Again Tatsumi’s loss of Sayo and Ieyasu is put into perspective. He can, after all, cook and do other things well, whereas the only thing Sheele is really good at is killing, something she learned under terrible circumstances.

Her story, in which she saves her only friend from being strangled to death by an ex by slitting the ex’s throat with calm, grim efficiency. The friend survives, but in exchange for Sheele’s bloody awakening, she and the friend never speak again. From there, the ex’s buds try to get revenge on Sheele, but she wastes them all, and she gets work as a freelance assassin, eventually joining up with Night Raid.

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Tatsumi also has his dark and bloody tale of how he ended up with Night Raid, and with Zank’s defeat, he also has the opportunity to try out an Imperial Arm. But after glimpsing all the ladies in their underwear (revealing a hint of perversion on the part of the late emperor) he is utterly exhausted; the arm simply isn’t a good match for him, and that’s that. But other arms will come around, and collecting them Night Raid’s ongoing side-quest.

That’s when Tatsumi gets super excited all of a sudden about the possibility one of those arms out there could somehow resurrect Sayo and Ieyasu, who still haunt his dreams. The other Night Raid members are quick to quash this hope; none of the Arms can restore a lost life; they were created with human morality very much in mind, to be inherited by future generations, not to bring back past ones.

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Hastily developed impossible dream or no, having his hopes shot down is a blow to Tatsumi, but that’s where he reveals another way for Sheele to be useful beyond killing: comforting Tatsumi and giving him all the time he needs to express his grief and try to move on from those dreams. Her seiyu Noto Mamiko certainly has the right gentle, soothing voice for such a task.

Meanwhile, a nightmare lurks in the far north. We’re introduced to the infamous butcher general Esdeath, the first glimpse of whom we get as the former Hero of the North licks her boots, naked and broken in the cold. In color and disposition she reminds us of Kiryuin Satsuki, not a bad template when you’re going for Ruthless Ice Queen.

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Esdeath is the very embodiment of the demonic rot that has infected the empire, and Premier Honest wants her in the capital to deal with Night Raid once and for all. Saying she’ll likely hang around in a battle against our assassin antiheroes would be a gross understatement. As bosses go, she’s utterly terrifying. The fat, goofy, meat-gnawing Honest…less so.

As if there wasn’t enough squeezed into this episode, when Tatsumi gets separated from Leone at her old stomping grounds in the slums, he comes across another new character: the plucky, happy-go-lucky “soldier of justice”, Seryu (Hanazawa Kana) of the Imperial Police. She’s ever so polite and helpful to Tatsumi, not knowing he’s the one who assassinated her beloved boss, mentor, and father figure, Ogre.

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That’s right folks, in the last couple minutes of this ep we get the show’s first attempt at engendering a degree of moral grayness to its cadre of villains. Seryu serves the evil Night Raid seeks to wipe out, but her lot in life logically led to her situation. One could call her naive or misguided, but from her perspective she’s one of the good guys, and she’s half right: Night Raid themselves admit to being murderers operating above the laws of the land.

Seryu also happens to be equipped with a bizarre Imperial Arm, the dog-like Coro, and we see that several others died in compatibility tests. She took the fact the Coro chose her as a sign that she needs to become stronger to defeat injustice (as she sees it, at least). Interestingly, Coro doesn’t expose Tatsumi in their first encounter, but I have a feeling next time Tatsumi and Seryu meet, things won’t be as cordial.

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Space Dandy 2 – 05

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After a middling high school musical episode, Dandy bounces back with a particularly spiffy alien twist on the classic “Big Fish” adventure. It starts as an ordinary fishing trip, with QT lording his expertise over everyone, until Meow suggests they fish for something that will make them money. To whit: the legendary Munagi of the planet Kayu.

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A bit of defining: we learned after watching that Munagi means “ridgepole” while Kayu means “porridge.” And Kayu indeed is a world with an exceedingly thick, goopy, viscous ocean. The world is also suitably alien and bizarre-looking, looking influenced by some canny combination of Dali, Seuss, Dunning, and Hokusai.

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When the Aloha Oe is stuck in space kelp(!), Dandy teleports to Kayu and meets the small, adorable Erssime, who lives with her grandfather(?) L’Delise, a seasoned fisherman. These two happen to be the only ones who, like Dandy, believe in the Munagi, but L’Delise wants nothing to do with Dandy and snorts at his feeble attempts to catch it.

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We’re treated to another lovely Dandy montage of Dandy and Erssime fishing in various strange landscapes. Eventually some other locals laugh at Dandy for believing the ramblings of a little kid and a weird old man. The legend doesn’t even make sense: the Munagi is said to come on a blue moon, but Kayu has no moon.

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But then, one stormy night, a blue moon does appear; in actuality it’s the blue Rubini Comet, which last passed by Kayu 3600 years ago, matching the timing of the Munagi legend. L’Delise and Dandy put their differences aside and, with the help of Erssime, Meow, QT, and a gaggle of convinced locals, get a good grip on the emerging Munagi.

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Ultimately, the King Munagi and all of its smaller subjects are far to collossal to be caught, and in any case they’ve risen to the surface in order to hitch a ride on the very comet that deposited them at Kayu nearly four milennia ago. They lost the Munagi, but everyone is safe, and the collective experience brought everyone closer together.

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Dandy, Meow, and QT end up in the same place they were in the beginning: fishing, with Meow suggesting they catch something profitable. After all, there are plenty of fish (-populated planets) in the sea (of stars). Unlike the high school ep, this one took it well-tread story—the Big Fish Tale—and put a truly creative, whimsical spin on it.

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Barakamon – 05

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This episode illustrates how Seishuu, formerly the outsider, is steadily becoming “one of the gang,” someone both the adults and children of the village can trust and rely on. Rather than shun a city slicker, they welcomed him warmly, and Seishuu has settled nicely into their flow.

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While he’s periodically pacing around paper and slowly having all thought replaced by konomon, the girls (Naru, Tama, and Miwa) decide to enlist his help with their calligraphy assignment, and he takes to teaching like a fish to water, giving instruction and not suffering (or trying not to suffer) any dalliance.

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I particularly like how Miwa describes Seishuu’s present style as “fuzzy” and “showy,” and that Seishuu won’t teach it to them until it’s acknowledged; i.e. won grand prize. Naturally, he goes a bit far in vocalizing his passion for the art, and the girls’ focus pivots from their calligraphy to the fact that calligraphy seems to be all Sensei thinks or cares about.

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One would guess that Seishuu doesn’t have a girlfriend because he feels any time or energy spent on one would be time and energy taken from the calligraphy, which would be disastrous. But the fact is, he’s already spending a lot of time and energy with the girls and other villagers, and that energy is helping his work evolve and improve.

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When Seishuu is asked to chaperone the kids on a trip to the beach. It’s a beach black rocks rather than soft sand. While he has trouble with his footing on the slippery rocks, one can say he’s definitely found his footing in the village. Having to watch the kids and keep them from killing themselves makes him realize how much he’s come to care for them.

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