Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso – 02

"He's tapping his fingers...I knew he'd like being back here."
“He’s tapping his fingers…I knew he’d like being back here.”

I should have known this show had every intention of surpassing its already excellent first episode in pure win with its second, showing us just how powerless Arima is to Miyazono Kaori’s charms. He was smitten enough—as I was—before we heard her play. And then we heard her play, and goddamn, that was the best musical performance I’ve seen in an anime since Kids on the Slope; mayyybe a bit better. A truly spellbinding scene that almost seemed to transcend time.

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First I like both the feeling and the characters’ observaiton that the inside of Tama Hall almost feels like they stepped into another dimension. The world of classical music appears small, insular, and passionate. The set piece for the competition is Beethoven’s Violin Sonata No.9 (Kreutzer), and the winner gets to play a rare Guarneri in a recital. We see as the competition progresses that this is a hall that can put you to sleep, but it can also be a place where light and magic springs forth from the hands of the musicians.

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The latter is what happens when it’s Kaori’s turn. She seems to utter a small incantation before not slavishly playing the composer’s piece, but feinting, lunging, and parrying the Sonata as if it were a fencing opponent. One of the more conservative judges calls her play blasphemy, accusing her of “picking a fight” with Beethoven. But I’m not sure he wouldn’t have enjoyed such a rousing version, which sounded nothing like the other players. (Note that I know jack about music, but I know what I like, as does the audience, who chooses Kaori.)

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Not only does Kaori bring the half-full hall to its feet in sustained applause usually reserved for formal concerts, but also tightens her grip on Arima’s heart. Tsubaki surprised him into coming, as this was once a venue where he was all but forced to perform at the highest level to achieve first place at any cost for his mother; in other words, he’s understandably edgy at first. But Kaori simultaneously calms him and sets his heart ablaze.

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After her performance, Kaori intently seeks Arima’s opinion, her hands shaking with anticipation…does she know about him and his past, or does she simply sense it (or neither)? Arima, speechless as he is, is still able to convey how he felt about it: it was the kind of performance that compelled perfect strangers to buy her flowers. I also like how he describes watching Kaori like some kind of movie. He could have also said it was the kind of performance to make someone fall in love, but the reality is she’s on a date with Watari, and he’s designated “Friend A” and nothing more.

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But from the way Kaori acts towards him, it’s bound not to stay that way. Watari, preeminent ladies’ man, senses Arima is crushing on her, but far from warning him to stay away from his girl, he advises him not to be so hasty in accepting defeat or believing he has no chance. He knows from experience, people fall in love not because the ones they fall for are obtainable, but because they sparkle in your eyes; it’s not rational. And its also not just up to Arima: Watari tells him the girl will let him know.

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Last week we had a Castle in the Sky reference, but the introduction of the violin is pure Whisper of the Heart

That’s quite the evolved sensibility from Watari; he seems the kind of guy who wouldn’t take a girl his friend formed a closer bond to. But again, it’s ultimately up to Arima to fight for her, and up to Kaori to decide who she likes. There are indications she’s leaning Arima’s way, judging by how seriously she valued his opinion and the fact she let his lie about Watari practicing slide because it was his way of professing his desire to walk her home, and promotes him from Friend A to Substitute Watari. Progress!

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Poor Tsubaki! She looked like a perfectly acceptable choice for Arima for most of last week’s episode right up until Arima met Kaori. But now, Arima settling for her, as cute and loyal and fun and close as she is, could only feel like defeat at this point. Kaori is rapidly restoring Arima’s passion for music and sweeping away all the bile that had amassing in him from his mother’s negative influence. But in setting up this fateful double date, Tsubaki may have handed her beloved Arima to another.

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Two episodes in, and this show is hitting on all cylinders, with few if any flaws. The animation during Kaori’s performance was fantastic, and while we have Beethoven to partially thank for elevating the scene, we have whomever put such a provocative, avant-garde spin on his Sonata for elevating it even more. I want a musical performance in every episode. And I want to watch Kaori and Arima to play together…like soon. Bra-fucking-vo. Encore! Buick Encore!!

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PSYCHO-PASS 2 – 02

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Last season, Makishima wanted Kogami to come out and play, sensing he was a kindred intellect. Now Makishima is dead and Kogami is who-knows-where, and Akane has fully taken on the mantle of brilliant yet tortured ace detective who could one day end up a latent criminal. And what do you know, she has an admirer of her own, who not only leaves a message at the site where he used a paralyzed inspector to kill an enforcer, but scratched into the wall of her apartment.

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“WC?” “Water Closet” was my first guess too. It only takes this episode for Akane to figure it out, but this time she can’t keep Kitazawa from meeting the business end of a Lethal Eliminator. Before that, Mr. WC? is able to somehow reduce Kitazawa’s crime coeficient to below criminal levels, resulting in his transfer to a medical facility. During the transfer, Kitazawa escapes, attacks Inspector Aoyanagi and sets up more bombs, but Akane is right there to cut off his escape route.

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It would seem that Mr. WC?, whom we learn is named Kamui, set up this whole situation, perhaps to see how Akane would manage to save Kitazawa. That’s an inspector’s life: people are constantly putting peoples lives in your hands. It’s no wonder most of them smoke; even Akane lights them to see if the smell on her lingers (for some reason, for moment there I was shocked and scandalized at the prospect of Akane smoking!)

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Because Akane is not the only inspector on the scene (Aoyanagi is there too, and she has a settle to score) and there are more lives on the line if Kitazawa detonates another bomb, Kitazawa gets popped. But before he does, he asks her “What Color” he is, thus solving the puzzle. Despite his use of messages, pawns, and general mayhem, Kamui doesn’t seem to be cut from the same cloth as Makishima. He’s not trying to watch the world burn; but maybe wants to save it.

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Only his methods threaten to expose the holes in the Sybil System, something Akane can’t allow to fall quite yet. In the meantime, I’m loving how she’s taken to her new role as Division 1 boss, perpetually pissing the by-the-book Mika off with her unconventional methods and empathy for enforcers. Speaking of which, holo-engineer Hinakawa and ex-therapist Togane look like solid additions to the unit so far.

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Ai Tenchi Muyo! – 05

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Momo, Touri, Hana and Hachiko arrive to rescue Tenchi from the science club. As Hachiko battles Kinojou, Momo frees Tenchi, who saves her from falling rocks as the caves start to collapse. Everyone makes it back to the surface safe and sound.

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That’s more like it: a short, sweet, daring, action-packed rescue mission, made possible by the tracking device in Tenchi’s Gentleman’s Area, presumably put their by Touri. Momo and the StuCo prevail, ending up with Tenchi, who shows he can be heroic in a pinch, but we’re sure the tug-of-war (with him as the rope) has only just begun. Oh, and the dress code at this school is appallingly loose!

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Denki-gai no Honya-san – 03

cs3_17Yes, she has snacks hidden under that giant hat. Mystery solved!

Denki-Gai no Honya-san goes all christmas episode on us this week, divided in no fewer than 5 acts! That’s a lot of little pieces of crazy for us to gobble up make sense of. So lets get cracking!

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Act 1 starts us off with Hiotan, who’s agreed to dress up in a skimpy santa for the store’s first holiday sale. Little did she know that she would be standing out in a blizzard handing out fliers and that Fu-girl made the superior choice when she chose to dress as a reindeer.

The reindeer is totally gross by the way. It has a giant outy-style belly button but it is warm. FULL ARMOR ON!

cs3_99Love the zombie-like visualization for their customers. creepy AND easy to spot the employees in the crowd!

The director and Hiotan spar a bit, but the director comes out on top. Ehem. Which results in Hiotan agreeing to help him shop for decorations — for the employee christmas cosplay party hosted at the Director’s luxury apartment!

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Act 2 and 3 give Hiotan some payback. First, she totally has fun crashing around Director’s apartment. Then, after the sad-sack employee party act is over, she doesn’t leave with everyone else in the morning.

Instead, Hiotan hangs around reading manga (possibly the Director’s manga?), eating his food, and playing his gaming consoles. They have a good time, sorta, and eventually have dinner together.

Then Hiotan ‘comes back’ (aka never leaves) and Director is stuck with her all over again!

cs3_19Not to self: do not think about food when Hiotan is in the room. She can sense it and will say she’s hungry too!

I’m not sure if DGnHs is angling for a romantic interest between these two characters, but the implication is there. At least, that they sometimes like each other’s company. I only note it because I got the feeling Hiotan was part of a love triangle with Protagonist-kun and Sensei-chan.

Oh well, they get their own little segment soon but first…

cs3_22Gah! Fu-girl! Your freakish shark teeth give me nightmares!

The Electric City Bookstore throws a big sale for new years and everyone is killed in act 4. It’s all pretty crazy, watching more or the gray, zombie like shoppers trample our cast to death, or simply over work them at the register. Hat-chan’s unexplained blood-splosion was definitely my favorite moment.

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Act 5 is returns us to what may sorta, kinda, maybe, if anything is, be DGnHs’s central plot thread: the romantic tension between protagonist and sensei.

Here, we find them taking a train home alone. Together. Sorta both. Then, being the more interesting one of the two, Sensei finally speaks up and asks Protagonist if he wants to join her at a quiet shrine for New Years ceremony stuff.

He does and they do, which is a quiet good time that ends with them not entirely but maybe letting on that they like each other. At least, to themselves.

cs3_18What? My nips? nah dog, just took a bath. … why are you still in my house, anyway??

This week’s structure worked quite well. The little modules let us take little bites from many people’s cakes. Slice of life and all. As usual, everyone and everything is very silly, over the top, and funny.

For me, the most interesting development was the apparent redirection of Hiotan from the triangle over to Director. It’s not a bad thing. Not even clearly a stated intent. But it does mix up the formula and keep me guessing — and uncertainty is a good thing!

cs3_11about to cut off my finger in 3… 2… 1…

I’m not even sure I know what this show is about? Slice of life, duh, sure, but who’s? Not Fu or Sommelier or Hat-chan obviously, but we’re starting to get thought bubbles from Hiotan and Sensei as frequently as from Protagonist-kun.

Scratch that! We’re getting more thought bubbles from Sensei than any of them. Weird! Exciting! Unpredictable! Funny! If you liked Sabagebu! Go watch it!

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Sanzoku no Musume Ronja – 01 & 02

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Sanzoku no Musume Ronja is an adaptation of Swedish author Astrid Anna Emilia Lindgren’s tale of a bandit king’s daughter who grows up in a magical forest. The series was developed by Studio Ghibli, though that may not be totally obvious, because everything except the backgrounds is cel-shading style CGI.

Studio Ghibli has certainly dabbled with CGI elements in the past, and their expertise with detail, lovingly rendered animals and warm, childlike colors all shine through. I found their take on anime-style hair in 3D especially respectable. However, the over all result is jarring, simultaneously too fluid and too robotic.

It’s… kinda unpleasant to look at, if I’m honest.

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Where most anime is uniform and the people and their expressions are purely place holders for our own projection, Ronja’s overly-diverse looking characters with typical anime expressions cause a disconnect. I’m speculating here, but that’s my gut tells me.

At least the aesthetic is fairly consistent. There’s a handmade quality to everything and a blend of Viking and Princess Mononoke that all gels in a believable, medieval way. That said, this realistic approach also makes Ronja jarring when less believable things happen.

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Ronja’s mom, Lovis, is by far the best character. Her deadpan timing and annoyance with the rest of the cast is spot on!

This double premiere takes us from little Ronja’s birth during a lightning storm to the day she leaves on her first unsupervised trip to the forest.

We start off in Mattis’ perspective, sorta. He’s the leader of a bandit tribe who live in a castle, deep in a forest. He and his many men are quirky but kind, and generally happy. Above all else, they are excited that a Mattis’ wife has a baby on the way.

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The bandits wear monster costumes to frighten their targets. This seems largely unnecessary, since the bandits are able to take out three armed knights via “rope attacks” before anyone has any idea what is going on.

In a clever twist, we learn the forest really is home to magical creatures. I say clever, because dressing in costumes put me in a non-fantasy mindset and so I just assumed that Lovis was annoyed at shrieking hawks outside her castle window.

I never expected a real Harpy to land and have a conversation with Mattis…

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The harpies are the best drawn element of the show and their scenes, while ultimately without purpose, have great angles.

Later, during the happy party that follows Ronja’s birth, lightning strikes the castle and apparently is able to blast through 80 feet of rock. In fact, the damage is so serious that we see the castle remain ‘split in two’ for the rest of the show.

Here’s where the show starts to lose me. Despite being rendered in a way that should make everything feel more real, the show’s totally un-grounded, happy-go-lucky weirdness makes it feel the opposite.

There’s just no weight to anything. No conflict. Ronja just feels so…insubstantial.

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Baby in a burrito!

Cute, it has in spades, but Ronja seems to mistake weird for funny. For example…

During the next ambush, we see what appears to be two horse-drawn carts with no guards moving through the forest. Again, this is from Mattis’ point of view and everything about his expression and how it looks like guards could be hidden from view in the rear of the carts, made me expect a trap. Possibly even a sudden tragic loss of Mattis to shape Ronja’s childhood.

Nope. Mattis is distracted because he wants to feed Ronja rice pudding and his men want to watch. So they abandon the raid and rush back to the castle.

I can see how that should be funny, but it just misses and comes off weird.

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Ronja eats her first porridge, unless she’s had it before and its not as special an event as Mattis is making it out to be.

Then, for the first time we see from Ronja’s perspective. She imagines the dancing men are frolicking lambs. She crawls around a bit then gets tossed into the air by a happy Mattis. Then she transitions into being an older child and is being tossed still.

Its a simple transition and it makes her childhood clear: it was full of song and dance and cheer. she has every right to be the happy dancing acrobat child she appears to have become.

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The final act is dedicated to Ronja’s first day being allowed to leave the castle and enter the surrounding forest on her own. It’s really still about her dad and his coming to terms with it being time to let her grow up. It’s not really about the forest. She just sees it in the distance and runs toward it before then the credits roll.

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I honestly have no idea what to rate this show. Ronja is the third show this season that’s definitely not intended for me as an audience. However, unlike World Trigger and Joker, Ronja has a lot more serious artistic thought put into it.

It feels like an 8 but a very weird one that I don’t have any interest in watching. Oh Well? We’ll see what Preston thinks, when she has a chance to start reviewing it next week. For now? 8 it is.

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Daitoshokan no Hitsujikai – 02

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The Shiomi Happy Project is shaping up nicely. While Ikkei is present as a token second guy (and the less bookish, more enthusiastic of the two), let’s not kid ourselves: a harem is in the making. At various points Kyoutarou has what could be construed as flirtatious moments with Tsugumi, the newest member Suzuki Kana, and the “Song Princess” Misono Senri.

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That last one seems to have some kind of Secret regarding The Past, one she and the school radio host Serizawa Miyu seem to share. As Tsugumi sets the club to work picking up trash on the school grounds to built trust with the student body, the finding of her tuning fork makes Senri the first direct recipient of the Happy Project’s assistance.

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That’s if you don’t count the blonde, Suzuki Kana, who joins the club quickly and seems to fit right in. She seems to be withholding certain information about her circumstances; it could be, for instance, that her old cell phone didn’t break, but she didn’t have one to begin with until Kyoutarou helped her pick one. That, in turn, would mean Kakei, Tsugumi, Tamamo and Ikkei were her first contacts. She just had a lonely vibe about her.

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Speaking of lonely, Kodachi Nagi is on the periphery of this episode, observing the growing club occupying what was once Kyoutarou’s Fortress of Solitude. While it’s pretty clear she’s at least partly responsible for bringing the various club members together (she means to get Senri to join too), when she’s interacting with them, it’s only to tell them to pipe down, which is clearly an act, because they wouldn’t be in there making noise if she hadn’t done…whatever she’s doing!

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One of the side effects of agreeing to participate in Tsugumi’s Happy Project is that he’s becoming a lot more tolerable of things that aren’t books, like people and non-reading activities. He even volunteers to accompany Tsugumi to Senri’s house at night, concerned for her safety. And after seeing her wait outside the door, he finally decides to give her the key to the clubroom, and leave to make copies for everyone.

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Tsugumi means to convince him to stay with her past Golden Week, and she’s off to a good start. Similarly, if Nagi, as a member of “Shepherd” is gauging Kyoutarou’s own shepherding abilities through experimentation, well, she’s off to a good start too…as is the show itself.

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There’s a pleasant, understated earnestness about it, along with a warm, amiable energy. Kyoutarou is aware that conditions around him are shifting rapidly, but not for the worse, and he’s willing to go with the flow and see where Tsugumi’s light takes him.

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