Yuri Kuma Arashi – 01 (First Impressions)

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Lesbian Bear Storm, as it shall be henceforth translated, is best described as a stylish, soft-touch yuri-infused stylistic mashup of Dangan Ronpa and Bakemonogatari… with a little Evangelion and retro-ness anachronistically sprinkled in to spice things up.

The first episode makes a sort of insane self-contained logic that I found equal parts baffling and exciting. At once we know everything about the world and about it’s characters and their motives, yet the world is so completely insane, we understand nothing. I can’t even tell if the show is serious or an absurdist comedy!

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To sum up: One day the bear star exploded over earth and rained shooting stars upon us and made the bears stand up and attack man all at once. The survivors built an ‘extinction wall’ and hide safely behind it. Except two bear-chans transform to look like human girls, tanuki-style and infiltrate human all girls high school and maybe eat someone.

That some one possibly wears glasses and is the love interest of a gun-toting blonde girl who’s got a bear-based tragedy in her past and did I mention everyone is female and a yuri? Even the bears!

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You will like this if: you like either of the shows I mentioned. The art is fantastically bizarre sharing the odd-spaces of the ‘Gatari series and the weird black/red/white CGI design and camera work of Ronpa. Likewise, it has ‘Gatari-style philosophical monologues and one-on-one character meandering character interactions and Ronpa-style violence and weirdness. (like the bears’ teeth-grinding animation and audio that sounds like jackhammers) It even has a court session that I won’t even begin to try and explain!

And if deeply weird psycho-dramedy isn’t your cup of tea, Yuri Kuma is beautiful to look at. Dare I say, to the point of being creepy, given the subject is dominated by the love of little girls for one another and plausible social commentary of society trying to keep them apart.

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You may not like this show: if you want simple escapist anime entertainment. To be clear, this is a challenging show to make sense of and, girl-love aside, there’s nothing easy to latch onto here. I don’t even know what the show is about — is it a wacky love story? Social commentary? Sci-fi?

It may not be as frantic as Kill La Kill or Sensei-despair, but it also isn’t as clear-cut about its goals as those shows were from the beginning.

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First Impression: Yuri Kuma is right up my alley. It’s quirky, fantastical and stylish. It’s also mysterious without seeming overly serious. However, and most importantly, it’s unique and the dialogue and events were not so densely packed or frantic that I couldn’t keep up.

Yuri Kuma will certainly give me a ton to say each week!

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Kamisama Hajimemashita 2 – 01 (First Impressions)

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It’s been two years and eight seasons since I last glanced at KamiHaji, so I for one was glad for the quick refresher at the beginning. In fact, much of the rest of the episode that followed felt a bit like the show knew we needed to be eased back into things, and so revisited a common pattern from the first season.

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Tomoe is overprotective; Nanami rebels, gets in over her head, and has to be rescued a couple of times; and then she finds a new wellspring of power (a baby monkey shikigami she names Mamoru) and rescues both Tomoe and the day. Sure, it’s not the most original formula, but it’s one this show has executed entertainingly, to the tune of an 8.08 average rating here and an 8.09 MAL score its first go-round. It’s a really charming, feel-good kind of show, and can be very funny when it wants to.

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Nanami says “Don’t come inside me!” to the yokai. Was that meant to be a double entendre, or is that just my dirty mind?

The question is, can that formula be sustained for an entire second season, and is KamiHaji 2 something I want to review in a Winter season that’s far lighter than Fall but features a lot of promising non-sequels? Looking back on my first season reviews, I didn’t express any particular burning desire for a second.

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It’s too early to tell. This is my first taste of Winter 2015, and it was very much a re-introductory episode that part of me appreciated but at which another part simply shrugged. Perhaps the goings-on at the Divine Assembly in Izumo next week will help me form a stronger opinion one way or t’other.

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Steins Gate – 08

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As S;G is a slow-burn sci-fi mystery with an absolutely kick-ass cast and world-class dialogue, I’m quite content with only incremental changes to the status quo. Big changes too soon mean we risk losing the people we’ve come to know and love. But as the rabbit hole widens, it seems more and more likely that we’re working towards that kind of result. After all, the changes the D-mails have been cumulative…at least so far.

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While John Titor’s words about powers and messiahs unsettled Okarin, it’s still way too soon to start confronting something of that magnitude yet. He sticks with science, which is repeating a process over and over, observing and recording the changes, and forming a theories around that data. In other words, we’re still in trial-and-error mode.

To her credit, the Kurisu of this new world line Okarin finds himself in doesn’t doubt what he says about the D-mail already being sent. One thing that can often bog down time travel themed shows is when the time traveler has to continually explain and re-explain to others what is going on, without being dismissed as crazy.

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Kurisu may think Okarin is crazy anyway—among other things—but she trusts him in this, especially because there’s concrete proof. So they press on with the experiments, with Moeka enthusiastically volunteering to send a D-mail to herself, warning her not to buy the new phone she presently wishes she hadn’t bought. Just before they begin, Ruka stops by with a watermelon to apologize for screwing up the lotto numbers.

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Once the phone microwave is activated and the d-mail sent, Okarin ‘travels’ yet again, to a world line where Moeka is absent from the lab and no one’s ever heard of her.

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Okarin is initially worried she ceased to exist, but the change was far more minor: she’s still around and still knows him, she just never visited the lab and thus never became Member 005 or met the others.

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Kurisu picks up on his behavior quicker this time, suspecting another d-mail was sent and puts the pieces together. But she’s still incredulous about whether his power to retain memories across world lines “Reading Steiner”, is real. Okarin himself can’t be sure yet, nor can he take everything Titor says as the gospel. More experimentation is needed.

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Ruka does come by in this timeline, having actually come by before with the watermelon, but turned back home when he accidentally eavesdropped on Okarin’s outburst about Moeka being missing (accidental eavesdropping seems to be a common thing on this show).

Mayushii pounces on him and makes him try on cosplay outfits, but Ruka is eventually able to tell Okarin his real reason for coming: he wants to send a d-mail. Specifically, one that will make him a girl.

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Kurisu is confused by his request, because all this time she thought Ruka was a girl, and was the only lab member still in the dark. Her reaction to learning the truth is suitably priceless, with simple yet effective comic timing.

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Okarin isn’t opposed to sending a text to Ruka’s mother asking her to eat more vegetables (which some believe increases the chances of having a girl), and officially recruits him Member #006, but they run into an interesting technological hitch: Ruka was born in 1993, three years before cell phones took off in Japan, making a typical d-mail impossible.

The gang arrives at a very elegant and clever solution on the fly: paring down the message so it can be sent as a sequence of numbers to his mom’s pocket pager.

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The D-mail is sent, and the world line changes (a previous mail Daru sent to himself doesn’t cause this effect). For a moment, Okarin appears alone in the dark lab. Did Ruka’s D-mail end up negating all of Okarin’s relationships as well as the Future Gadget Lab itself? 

Then he turns around, and no, they’re all still there, just in different positions. Whew. Ruka is still wearing androgynous clothes, too, so he can’t discern whether his gender changed to female (and Kurisu scolds him for starting). But if he asks them, it’s a good bet they’ve still never met Moeka, and Daru still lost the Feyris cup, and Ruka still lost the lottery by one number.

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So far, the effects seem to be cumulative, though I may be grossly oversimplifying things. The bottom line is, D-mails sent for one specific purpose end up causing totally unpredictable side effects. Okarin can’t even immediately detect what changed, only that something must have changed.

If the timeline he’s familiar with is a sheet of ice he’s treading upon, the D-mails are creating small cracks. How many more will that sheet bear before it collapses under his weight? Or are D-mails just as likely to seal cracks as create them?

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