Girl Friend BETA – 04

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GF Beta is a pleasant, ultra-lightweight show, but it’s also oddly ambitious; never more so than this week. Cutting us loose in a universe of roughly fourteen million characters, it appears to clearly favor quantity over quality. And yet, there’s still a quality about that quantity; with such a big, diverse cast, the possibilities for storytelling are almost endless. So far, despite pretty much switching up the order and hierarchy of the focus cast each week, its fresh stories have consistently held my interest.

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Our “anchor” this week is the school radio emcee Sakurai Akane (Satou Rina, who also voices Misaka in Railgun), who finds Shiranui Isuzu (Yuuki Aoi, also Madoka in Madoka) looking over five abandoned kittens. She decides to help Isuzu find them homes, but the students who volunteer need to get good midterm grades to earn their new pets. This is a collection of students whose lives are already packed with extracurricular activities, jobs, and housework; so their grades suffer accordingly. Only the night before do they manage to arrange an all-night study session; Isuzu offers her sprawling home to host it.

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That night, the girls do, well…pretty much everything but study. They’e in awe of their classy traditional surroundings, spend lots of time on introductions, cook dinner, go out to buy snacks, get stuck in the rain, go to a bath house, and return to Isuzu’s home to tell ghost stories.

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When Isuzu comes in to see what the screaming is about, they see the cat on her obi and are reminded of why they’re really there: For the Kittens. The studying then commences in earnest. The night is a fine depiction of the myriad forms of procrastination that can transpire in such scenarios. There’s an epic quality to it that often accompanies all-night scenes where a deadline is nigh.

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The study session proves to be more than just a means of raising the girls’ scores to win kittens (which they do); the group also gained friendships (including the shy Isuzu), and making friends (or exploring why people are friends) is what this show is all about. And everyone was united by Akane, who, wishing to help both the kittens and Isuzu, made the radio announcement.

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Shingeki no Bahamut: Genesis – 05

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Bahamut delivers yet another exceedingly exciting, breathlessly swift-moving episode where no one is standing still long. Favaro teams up with Rita to infiltrate the enemy castle, then convinces Kaisar to put aside his vengence for the moment so they can rescue Amira. The plot is pretty straightforward, which works in its favor, because what makes the episode truly special (and immensely fun) is the execution and details of that plot, along with its ability to utilize — and reward us for — our emotional investment in the characters.

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Last week Azazel snatched up Amira and Kaisar with the tentacles from his boss flying bio-castle, Gregor, and is enjoying a fine repast as Amira is tortured by Pazuzu. I loved the almost office-like atmosphere of the villans’ lair. Kaisar also has to watch, and when he brings up Favaro as the demon who tricked Amira into stealing the God Key, they all heartily guffaw. It’s great how as clearly evil as these guys are, Favaro is even worse than all of them in Kaisar’s mind.

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But, of course, that’s far too harsh, and being far too narrow-minded about who is responsible for who’s downfall and death. But harsh and quick-to-judgment is Kaisar’s M.O. in dealings with Favaro. Meanwhile, Favaro is able to convince Bacchus to lend him his flying carriage, but only if he pays the “fare”, which Bacchus leaves up to him. Favaro chooses to sacrifice his bounty hunter armband — practically his livelihood, up to this point — making him just another outlaw. That’s dedication, especially for a demon-girl who gave you a tail and your childhood friend who wants to kill you.

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Rita and Favaro prove just as irresistable a duo as Kaisar…moreso, even. Unlike the upstanding-to-the-point-of-back-spasms Kaisar, Favaro and Rita remain stubbornly morally ambiguous (although one could argue that Kaisar’s vendetta and bloodlust are hardly morally pure virtues, even if he thinks he’s righteous). For half a ‘mo, Favaro considered the advantages of having Amira and Kaisar out of his hair, but sees that Rita is willing to spring into action, so he follows her lead.

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On more than one occasion, Rita wonders out loud why Favaro is going so far, as if to validate the fact she’s doing the same thing for Kaisar. And so they egg each other on to be the brave, and valiant heroes. And they proceed to kick some Gregor dungeon grunt ass on their way to where Amira is being held.

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Kaisar, who is also there, was told all about what Amira is and what she did, but he ends up being used as a pawn by his captors, who egg him on into taking care of their intruder problem for them. And after all that traveling, Favaro is a half-step behind the rested and super-pissed Kaisar, who’s still convinced Favaro is guilty of putting Amira in danger too. Again, this is a perfectly reasonable position for someone with his level of loathing towards Favaro.

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Rita ends up breaking up the fight by launching her separated arm at his face and calling him a “brat”; which is a pretty awesome way to break up a fight!

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Having had some sense knocked into him, Kaisar agrees to table his quarrel with Favaro until Amira is safe and they’re all off Gregor — but only after Favaro makes a gesture that limits his options in a future he’s classically never planned for: he tells Kaisar when the time comes to face him, he won’t run.

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As all that’s going on aboard Gregor, we get a little surprise: Jeanne d’Arc! Here I thought we had been watching flashbacks of yore, but she’s actually been in the same present as Favaro & Co. all along. In a gloriously staged deus ex machina, she arrives just when the Gregor is about to pass through the gate to the Demon capital of Cochytus. In a particularly bad-ass tactic, her Orleans Knights close the gate while Gregor is only partially in, thus slicing that portion off and crippling it.

We get a good helping of how Orleans fight: with arrows and catapults and spears, all thrown and launched through magic circles that intensify their offensive effect. This time, the battle was in broad daylight, and thus easier to see!

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Favaro and Kaisar work together to take out Pazuzu and use the handy chains and pulleys to lift themselves to safety. Azazel attempts to re-take Amira into custody, but is slapped back and forced to retreat when some form of demon guardian shields her.

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All’s well that ends well, with Favaro, Kaisar, Amira, and Rita flying off into the sunset aboard a zombified dragon, presumably to continue their odyssey to Helheim. But a lot of uncertainty lies on that horizon. Azazel & Co. will be back on their tail before long, as will the Orleans Knights. Favaro has cast aside his career and agreed to face of with Kaisar, and still has a tail. Rita could zombify or eat the others at any time! (though that’s unlikely). And the angels are having a heckuva time keeping an awakening Bahamut at bay, which is an existential threat to the entire world.

But so soon after surviving the day by the skin of their teeth, I’m sure the crew isn’t particularly concerned about what may come tomorrow. Instead, they’re probably content to enjoy that sunset and that smooth ride of that Zombie Dragon, which I’m sure is the name of a band.

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Orenchi no Furo Jijou – 05

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Orenchi no Furo Jijou episode 5 goes trick or treating for Halloween. Strangely, for a holiday I would imagine Anime could have a ton of fun with (especially by not understanding the cultural details) Halloween is one of those rarely-given-an-episode events.

So seeing it here was nice, if not absurdly short like everything Orenchi does.

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Takasu is dressed as a Witch, because he’s a blonde and that’s his curse! Wakasa is dressed as a vampire and Mikuni goes as a mummy!

Since they can’t go anywhere else, they just keep saying Trick or Treak to Tatsumi who dutifully keeps giving them candy. Soon they realize he’s the youngest and should be treated more specially than they. Then its over.

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Reviewing Orenchi is a bit of an exercise in finding something to say. Honestly, there weren’t any jokes this week, unless you count Wakasa wanting to hide his head inside the jack-o-lantern because it’s a small dark space.

Uhm…

So this is a thing you could watch while brushing your teeth because you too ate too much candy a few days ago. Or you could skip it. Up to you really…

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Grisaia no Kajitsu – 05

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Michiru tries to kill herself with pills… sorta… but she’s fine because these are just the pills that control which one of her personalities is dominant. However, after some bed rest, her green-eyed persona informs Yuuji that her blue-eyed form is gone and not coming back.

Thus begins a rather strange and, at times, awkward episode of Grisaia no Kajitsu…

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Green-eye-chan’s agenda and motives aren’t initially clear (or ever, entirely) but it is clear that she’s cleaning house. Whether Yuuji suspects her of suppressing Blue-eye-chan or not, he discovers the ‘passing book,’ the personalities use to communicate.

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After confronting Green-eye-chan, who is conflicted about surviving past the original body owner’s refusal to live, Yuuji over powers her, forces pills in her mouth, knocks her out, and buries her alive on the cliff face she loved so much…

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What follows is a rather censored sequence of flashbacks featuring how the two personalities met. Rather, how they were two separate girls who were both trying to commit suicide from the same school roof top one afternoon and accidentally stopped each other and became friends.

Then original green-eye-chan commits suicide later because she’s clearly been sexually assaulted…

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I’m not proposing that we need to see breasts, nipples, and vaginas to really get this story. Rather, I’m proposing that the blur and white-wash effects are distracting enough to make the story rather pointless to tell in the first place. There are just better ways to tell this story in an interesting visual way, without having to rely on shock value… that we can’t see.

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After coming to terms with her dead friend’s death and her dead cat friend’s death, Michiru finally has the will to live and digs her way out of the coffin. Apparently Yuuji knew she wanted to live, but she needed to get there on her own, so he only ‘lightly’ buried her alive.

Michiru is touched that he waited all this time by her grave side and they walk back to school together and, later, visit green-eye-chan’s house in California. Some how. For some reason.

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To it’s credit, Grisaia stayed pretty dark this week. The tone and pacing were effective at making us unsure if one or both of the eye-color-character-personalities would survive. The art was lovely. At least, what wasn’t censored…

However, I can not tell green and blue apart. I mean, personality wise, which is a very big problem for having any of this mean anything to me.

More importantly, the whole chapter felt like a side quest in a dating sim. Like Michiru wont have any part in the story anymore because, why bother? she’s already ‘leveled up’ to be part of Yuuji’s harem. Hrm…

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Gugure! Kokkuri-san – 05

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Gugure! Kokkuri-san episode 5 introduces us to Jimeko, Kohina-chan’s incompetent bully, while desperately juggling the four characters in Kohina’s life. It works quite well, even with all the characters, and the tree acts gave us an average laughs-per-episode rating.

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Inugami still hasn’t decided on his gender and Act 1 is mostly throw away fighting, perv-nuzzeling Kohina, and Shigaraki falling for Inugami’s female form. It’s cute enough I suppose, and it’s good for us to have times where Inugami is on the back foot, but the gender swap ability seems so arbitrary and under used by the story.

At least, under used in an interesting way. Becoming Shigaraki’s very short term lust-interest isn’t really all that interesting. But I’m biased I suppose, since I don’t find anything interesting about Shigaraki at all…

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Act 2 is about Kohina’s bully at school. This one’s a little weird because the bully is a shy tsundere who no longer has any idea what or why she’s doing anything and, while the scenes are funny, I couldn’t help feel it was all disposable?

The whole joke that Jimenko has been bringing Kohina fresh flowers every day for a year ‘as a bullying gesture’ and that fact that Jimenko isn’t even her name (we never actually hear her real name) are clever but… goofie?

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Jimeko obviously likes Kohina and wants to be liked by Kohina, but Kohina doesn’t pay attention or notice. The scene that saves it is when Kohina asks why Jimeko is even bullying her in the first place — and Kohina has her human face on.

Sadly, Jimeko isn’t able to answer and runs off blushing.

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A cute little joke hidden in the infographic that describes why Kohina’s classmates don’t like her.

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Then Kokkuri and Inugami join Kohina’s class using their magic. Naturally, this doesn’t go well and Kohina is frustrated that she’s the only one who can see through their tricks. Yamamoto-kun takes the brunt of most jokes.

We learn that Kokkuri-san has bad eyesight, and that he’s really only here to try and make friends for Kohina. It’s a cute final act to end the episode on.

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As always, this show has great facial expressions and odd situations. It’s chuckle worthy and equal parts emotionally touching. I’m not sure how ‘smart’ it is, though.

Likewise, if Ono wasn’t a major voice of the show, and if he hadn’t voiced such a great show last season with a similar relationship, I’m not sure I’d be this into it? Kokkuri-san is nowhere near as good as Barakamon, that’s for sure!

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Sora no Method – 05

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With help from Koharu and Noel, Nonoka starts to implement her plan to bring everyone back together and apologize for breaking her promise, by making a new promise to Yuzuki: that they’ll launch fireworks from the lake in a week’s time.

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Yuzuki is dubious and quick to run away from Nonoka, Koharu, and Souta, an action that’s grown somewhat repetitive these last two episodes, to the point that if you took a shot every time she ran away in a huff, you’d be pretty boiled. But Nonoka and Koharu’s concerted efforts to make the fireworks happen ultimately manage to draw out what’s been eating Yuzuki all along.

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Even Shione agrees to come in a week…if Nonoka can make the fireworks happen, which she doubts, meaning she thinks Nonoka is lying again, because she’s a liar. Shione has been feeling lied to an abandoned for so long, it’s formed a cold, hard, cynical crust. But we learn her and Yuzuki are not angry for the same reasons at all.

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Yuzuki has really been angry at herself, ever since she ran away from home with fireworks and Souta rode off, desperately looking for her. In the process, he crashes his bike and badly hurts his leg, ending up in the hospital. Yet when their parents ask what he was doing, he protects Yuzuki and shoulders the blame himself.

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Even before that, when the five friends were to meet at the pier for fireworks, nobody was able to make it. Yuzuki and Souta got separated at the festival, while Shione and Koharu stayed home. The only one who actually got to the pier was Nonoka, who was at the waterfront with her mom. When Yuzuki sees the dated photo proving she was there, she’s compelled to apologize to her too.

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I for one am glad Yuzuki figured stuff out and there was finally a cathartic reunion. Even more significant, the four friends together (minus Shione, who’s still loitering around nearby, ever at a distance) actually get to see fireworks courtesy of Noel, who projects them off the saucer. This time, Nonoka was able to keep her promise. She’s made up with Yuzuki; but is that enough to move Shione?

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