Shingeki no Bahamut: Genesis – 02

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This was one of those episodes that had a little bit of everything, and just kept getting better and better. I don’t care if this is based off a Pachinko game; it’s a blast. The cold open takes us to an Olympus-style heavenly realm, then down to a legendary battle between Jeanne D’arc’s army of knights and the forces of darkness. All with the titular Bahamut floating in the sky, dormant but ominous.

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After an awesome OP with a healthy dose of metal, we return to the present and to Favaro’s latest predicament: in kissing him the previous night, the pink-haired maiden gave him a demon’s tail, which won’t go away until he tells her the way to Helheim as promised. Life’s tough in a world without Google Maps. The only thing that matters to Favaro is getting rid of that tail. But he probably lied about knowing where Helheim is. Probably, because when he looks the lady straight in the eye, it isn’t long before he has to smirk.

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That’s beside the point, as after escaping once again from his noble nemesis Kaisar, Fav immediately considers simply murdering the woman in order to break the spell. That’s right, this guy shot Greedo first; he’s no saint, and he’s always looked out for one guy: Favaro. When he brings her along to a manor to slay a demon goat (ram?) mounted in the wall, he sees her demon power again and realizes killing her won’t be so easy. So he plays a longer game.

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With the bounty Bacchus pays him for the work the lady mostly did, Favaro buys her some clothes (after trying on a good number of outfits), some food, and then some drink, which she’s apparently never had before, but enjoys quite a bit, to the point that when the music picks up, she joins Favaro for some stirring, sexy and very well-animated dancing, followed by a dip in a gorgeous starlit lake.

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At this point, Favaro is thinking it’s the perfect time to stab her in the back, but then he learns her name—Amira—and why she wants to go to Helheim—to reunite with her mother—and he hesitates just long enough for Kaisar to burst out of the lake, having held his breath an untold amount of time. Kaisar, momentarily dazed by Amira’s beauty, gets drop-kicked by Favaro, and the two escape again. Between the goat in the wall, the fantastic dancing, and Kaisar, this episode is full of surprises.

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Here’s another, though I shouldn’t have been surprised: the next day, Favaro sells Amira out to knights for what looks like pocket change. Can you believe this piece of work? Lucky for him, his own horse won’t sit back and let her get killed. And oh yeah, the knights, with all their bad-ass armor and magic circles, only manage to give Amira strange and oddly pleasant tingles, so she was never in much danger.

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Still, now that he’s with Amira again, Favaro decides, for now at least, to stick with her. When they’re blocked on either side of a rope bridge over a massive waterfall, Fav shoots the bridge and they drop, Fugitive-style. I imagine a lot more thrilling predicaments and death-defying stunts are in store for this trouble-prone couple, as they now have a bounty out against them (which Kaisar takes up), while a collection of demon authorities watch the progress of Amira, who bears one of the two “God Keys” that can unlock Bahamut.

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Even if Amira is your standard fish-out-of-water bishoujo with hidden powers, it’s a hell of a lot of fun whether she’s hanging out with Favaro having fun or showing off those frightening (and slick) powers. The cat-and-mouse between the roguish Favaro and Kaisar, stemming from some incident we don’t yet know about (but the details of which vary greatly between the two) is similarly amusing to watch unfold.

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Donten ni Warau – 02

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One thing I enjoyed about the first episode was its simplicity: three close brothers, carving out a living ferrying criminals to prison and keeping the peace. By the end of the second, things are a lot more complicated, not only introducing a new baddie-of-the week who wants to topple the emperor, but an entire elite unit of government officials, of which Tenka was once a member; possibly the member

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And oh yes, did we mention that both Tenka and the unit (called Yamainu…”mountain dog?”) are after the “vessel of Orochi” as is Chuutarou’s lilac-haired teacher? Or that it’s strongly implied Soramaru may be that very vessel? And that Yamainu and Tenka have opposing plans for said vessel? Yeah, it’s a lot of plot in one episode. It’s a lot of characters, too, and Yamainu is apparently one of those government squads with lax dress codes.

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But despite all this stuff coming to light, the show doesn’t forget about its core, the trio of brothers. I like how distraught Chuutarou gets when Sora gets mad at him for touching his neck, and doesn’t respond to a gift of poo-on-a-stick (?) But then Soramaru goes and gets distraught about Tenka keeping secrets from him, like the one about the vessel. Sure, there’s probably good reasons for that, but it’s another sign Sora resents being in such a protected state all the time.

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And for his part, Tenka is as playful and nonchalant as ever, but a couple of people piss him off, and we see a bit of the thunder behind the clouds. We also learn their lodger Kinjou Shirasu was/is a member of an all-but-extinct Fuma clan of ninja murderers, something Tenka is very much aware of, but I imagine because he saved his life a while back, and because they’re friends, Tenka lets Shirasu stick around to help out. In any case, he’s a nice ally to have in a pinch.

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Soramaru gets in another pinch with an enemy far weaker than his big brother. Which begs the question: will this show end up getting rid of Tenka, and making comparative lion cubs Soramaru and Chuutarou stand on their own? Beyond his easygoing demeanor, Tenka is shouldering all the family’s burdens, but as the eldest, be probably feels that’s his duty until death.

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Orenchi no Furo Jijou – 02

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Tatsumi’s gas bill is way high and he works such a low paying job he fears he wont be able to keep up with it. Worse, Wakasa is very wasteful with hot water, having no real concept of it’s cost.

However, Wakasa is completely aware of it’s value, having lived in the river during winter for many years. He hates the struggle of it and, even though he’s terrible at helping out, he does go along with Tatsumi’s attempts to make a compromise.

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First they try filling the tub with water bottles to reduce the amount of water used, but this looks and feels like living in a trash filled river. Then they try to put an insulated cover over top of the bathtub, which also works, but isn’t practical to move around under without making more of a mess.

In the end, Tatsumi remits and says he’ll work longer hours to sustain the both of them.

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Orenchi no Furo Jijou is a weird show. In some ways, it feels like it could go BL on us at any minute. I mean, it’s just 2 guys sitting in a bathroom, occasionally bathing together, having a relationship…

Still, I can’t help but watch. It remains charming, harmless, and under five minutes. The perfect length for my Monday lunch!

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Girl Friend BETA – 01

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With my schedule pretty much set at five shows plus one short, Girl Friend BETA was the last Fall show on my preliminary watchlist to check out, and, well, I’ll give it this: it’s a lot different from everything else I’m watching. By far, it is the most “slice-of-life-y” slice-of-lifes I’ve encountered this season, with very little in the way of conflict.

It’s just a typical school day from start to finish for Shiina Kokomi, member of the rhythmic gymnastics team. Ironically, she can’t get into a rhythm during morning practice because she is continually encountering other characters who want to have a word with her. During one of these conversations, the French exchange student Chloe drops a family photo, and it becomes Kokomi’s mission to track her down and return it to her before the day is out, or the world will end.

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Well, the world won’t really end, it will just be a minor convenience. Still, in her epic search for Chloe, Kokomi canvasses literally dozens of characters throughout the school. Like the mobile game it’s based on, this show is packed with characters and many well-known seiyus, leaving me to wonder if the point of said game is to “collect ’em all.”

The separation between “girl” and “friend” in the official show’s logo also suggests this is more about making friends who are girls than having girlfriends, at least so far—though one such girl does make Kokomi blush, and when she finally finds Chloe and returns the photo, she gets a kiss, though Chloe’s French, so it’s not meant to be romantic. I actually like how Chloe’s seiyu tries to replicate someone for which Japanese is not their first language, though the effort is somewhat undercut by bad French.

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Girl Friend BETA is kinda like Oberto Beef Jerky: You get out…what you put in. Many of Kokomi’s conversations feel a bit stiff and formulaic, and the sheer volume of characters can be daunting, especially in a season full of shows with large casts to keep track of. Still, there’s nothing particularly awful or offensive about Girl Friend BETA, and has the makings of a passable “rest” show to spool up whenever you just want to turn your brain off and simply enjoy a school slice of life.

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Tribe Cool Crew – 03

 tcc3_1Not even Haneru remembers the order to the words in their group name…

Tri-Cool, continues from last week’s on-stage challenge between Haneru and Kanon’s “Cool Dragon Dash Rising Brilliant Crew” and Kumo and Mizuki’s “Tribal Soul”. Kanon is nervous, never having performed in front of an audience, and neither of them really know what they are doing, but the audience is surprisingly enthusiastic.

We learn about some of the rules for a dance off and, after Haneru and Kanon ‘lose,’ we get a little more explanation as to why the audience thought Tribal Soul was better.

tcc3_2Haneru jumping vertically out of the frame again… down boy!

Basically, Tribal Soul was more in sync with the music, even though CDDRBC’s best moves were, well, better.

Regardless of the outcome, everyone is happy, the crowd only makes noise when encouraged to do so, and I have to wonder if Japanese audiences are just more polite than ours because, in my experience, this would have been a mean spirited, jeering filled, bottle throwing event.

Man I’ll never try to show off MY dance moves again!

tcc3_3my eyes are shaped like rabbit teeth!

Tri-cool is as cute as ever. It’s pepper under dog fueled never give up spirit is satisfying and harmless. It’s also, very very very obviously, kid stuff.

And like super sweet breakfast cereal, at my age, a single bowl is more than enough. Thanks for the happy highs Tric-cool! Best of luck. Old-man out!

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Gugure! Kokkuri-san – 02

gks2_7“If you lie, you have to swallow a thousand needles” – Kohina

On the surface, this week Gugure! is all about getting Kohina-chan to smile and to introduce the next regular character. However, if you think about it, this episode is really all about what makes Kohina-chan happy.

Whether she admits it or not, Kohina is lonely and wants friends. However, she’s deeply weird and wants deeply weird friends… and a bit of dark chaos. We’ll see how long it takes Kokkuri-san to figure this out!

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After torturing Kokkuri-san for a while, Kohina decides to try out smiling after all. Everyone else seems to do it and, even though she doesn’t really get why (or want to admit she does get why) she realizes it’s important to know how to do.

Her experiments do not go well.

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I loved the Fukuwarai face expressions Kohina creates. I love them even more when THEY FALL OFF HER FACE entirely. It’s hard to tell if they are literal, magical, or just a short-hand for being so weird that people can’t comprehend them in a normal way.

4th wall breaking or not, they are silly and people’s reactions to them are highly entertaining.

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Speaking of adorable, we see a lot more of Kokkuri-san in fox form, usually when he’s crying (to win an argument with Kohina). Kohina obviously likes this form as much as I do, and especially enjoys rubbing the fox’s paw pads. It’s all very awwwww! making.

More important than that though, this second form reinforces the idea that people (or, at least, this show’s characters) have multiple sides. Here, they are literal forms that represent a shift in the character’s personality: Kohina looks more natural* when she is actually feeling emotion and Kokkuri becomes an animal when he can not accomplish his task in a rational, adult like way.

It’s also illuminating that Kohina and Kokkuri’s alternate forms are used sparingly. In a way, I’m assuming the alternates represent their true forms, forms which neither is able to come to terms with yet…

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Then we meet Inugami, the ghost of a dog that was sacrificed to cast a curse. He’s a bit of a hentai, though it may be more accurate to say he’s obsessed with Kohina for showing him compassion while he was still alive.

Kokkuri is deeply distrustful of Inugami — and for good reason! This type of spirit brings its owner great fortune for a time but almost always snatches that fortune away by the end, which usually results in the owner’s demise…

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Inugami can change form too, though his cute form may be a response to Kokkuri doing it and less be a meaningful alternate. While Inugami is very pleasant to touch in this form — something that brings Kohina great pleasure — his personality remains mostly the same.

So Kokkuri-san puts him in a blender and grinds his spirit into burger meat. It’s gross but the pixelated censorship pattern makes it pretty funny. And, somewhat obviously, Inugami is a spirit and can’t be killed anyway.

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Which brings us to Inugami’s fourth form: a sexy female version of him/herself. Again, I’m get the feeling that, for all his/her forms, Inugami has no depth and no true alternate. He may pretend to have different emotions and motives, but he is actually quite true to himself and his real goal — his real feelings — are always plain as day to see.

Or maybe these forms are just shallow ways to reflect other people’s wants back at them? Kohina obviously likes the cute plushi form and, to a degree, Kokkuri-san is male and marginally responds better to the female form. At least, he doesn’t hit her with a frying pan or put her in a blender.

gks2_12…now where have I seen this particular gun recently?

Then Inugami and Kokkuri fight in Kohina’s yard. For her part, Kohina doesn’t enjoy their fighting, which I assume is because they aren’t paying attention directly to her. (even if they are fighting over her) So she ignores them and starts playing with a stray cat.

Both being canines, the fight ends quickly and they come to a very brief truce to chase the cat away.

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In the end, they bond over their innate sense of inferiority to cats. After all, cats score higher on google and get more cute videos and are just better pets anyway. (and a cat video has run after the credits of both episodes so far!)

Ultimately though, bonding isn’t enough and the only solution is to make Inugami sleep outside, which he/she agrees to do because Kohina built his dog house as a craft project for school.

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GK-s proudly shows off its witty, quick banter and simple but amusing visuals. It’s a treat in the simplest sense: little girls who can’t smle, ghosts who want to take care of them, and evil ghosts that are obsessed with them. its all very silly but it made me laugh as much, if not more, than any other show this week.

Why give it only an 8? Well… for starters, despite being fairly well drawn, GK-s is only a hair above generic. Likewise, the plot is fairly compact and most likely will follow a direct, predictable trajectory.

There’s nothing wrong with that! As I’ve said, GK-s is very funny. However, it deserves less than the complex, narrative-driven shows like Brilliant Park, which are equally funny and better drawn and feature characters and story with more potential.

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*natural, by anime terms.