Durarara!!x2 Ten – 01

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It’s appropriate that I watched this particular episode of Durarara!! x2 on a national holiday like Independence Day, because this week pretty much everyone in the Drrr!! universe has the day off as well, as befits the day after all that excitement transpired.

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It’s a lazy, sprawling episode that checks in on almost everyone, even a few people I didn’t expect. It not only explores what it is to have a day off. Normal people go out and do something to experience something “abnormal”, while people who are abnormal every day (like most of the characters in this show) either don’t have days off or try to find even more abnormal experiences than they normally would.

Then we have Shingen warns CEO of Yagiri about getting too close to the likes of Yadogiri Jinnai, who may be shaping up to be the big bad after stabbing Izaya. He certainly seems to have his hands in all things abnormal. They’re just glimpses of these peoples lives, resulting in a scattered but eclectic “character flight” upon which to nibble before things get started in earnest.

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Fittingly for a down episode, we’re introduced to a character who considers her plight and her mission to be of the utmost importance, but to everyone else is about as insignificant as one of the extras walking Ikebukuro’s streets. This girl, who holds a murderous grudge against Izaya for getting her involved in that suicide business under his alias “Nakura”, learns about Izaya’s stabbing from The Great Connector—local TV—and decides tonight’s the night to exact her revenge.

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Izaya joked during his long and boring time recovering in the hospital that with enough properly placed rumors about Shizuo, some less informed individuals with bones to pick might get the idea that he’d be vulnerable to attack. Thanks to the news report, it’s Izaya who is the “sitting duck”, or at least appears that way, but even if this disgruntled girl prepared her body and mind for this night, she’s still no match for even a recently-stabbed Izaya.

But even though the girl fails, the fact she saw the news and came to Izaya’s hospital room to murder him inadvertently serves as the latest example of why Izaya loves the humanity he observes so much. Even with everything he’s seen and experienced on the superhuman or non-human side of the world, sometimes ordinary humans can surprise him too.

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Working!!! 3 – 01

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I’m not going to do a First Impressions on this, because it’s the same show with the pretty much the same cast as the last two Workings!!, all working in the same restaurant. The only difference is the stories and situations they find themselves over the particular few days of their lives the episode covers.

Working!! has been a favorite of mine and of RABUJOI in general for its earnestness, simplicity, and a quirky brand of comedy that gets better the more you know the characters. The show’s following of unusual people with unusual traits working in an otherwise normal, even generic family restaurant has been a winning formula, and I’m glad it’s back for a third season.

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Working!! isn’t deep, and it’s not meant to be deep. Like the food served at Wagnaria, it’s simple, tasty, and comforting fare. Both the restaurant itself and its employees lends a distinct feeling of being welcomed home after a long hiatus (which included the run of Servant x Service, which may as well take place in the same setting. A crossover would also be fun.)

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It hits all the familiar beats: Everyone is eccentric in one way or another. Takanashi likes small things and little girls, but not in the wrong way, and maintains his senpai-kohai relationship with Popura. The would-be romance between him and Inami remains obscure, but that’s not altogether surprising either.

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Working!! is the kind of show that could probably go on far more than three seasons, whether or not it punched up the serialization level (such as having relationships grow and progress). It’s just got that kind of formula. And it never fails to surprise a couple of times a week, such as when Inami and Kirio find a housewife in the woods. As it’s developed its shorthand and gradually built up its dynamics and fully organized its quirks, the show has gotten better and more refined.

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Charlotte – 01 (First Impressions)

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What is it? Otosaka Yuu abuses his power to possess another person (for just five seconds at a time), which has twisted him into a kind of Yagami Light Lite, with troubling megalomaniacal and sociopathic tendencies and poor moral fiber. He cheats at both tests and in love, until he’s caught by a camcorder-wielding silverhair named Tomori Nao.

Nao, who can become invisible (but only to one person at a time) insists Yuu join her and her colleague Takajou (who can teleport, but never knows where he’ll stop) at Hoshinoumi Academy, a school specially suited to people with special powers like them. Facing expulsion at his present school and getting dumped by its idol Yumi, and faced with the enthusiasm of his little sister Ayumi, Yuu grudingly agrees to the transfer.

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Why should you watch? P.A. Works’ last effort that I watched, Glasslip, was a huge disappointment. Charlotte is much livlier, funnier, and flat-out better right out of the gate. Unlike a kid just dealing with teenage angst or longing, Yuu is a pretty confident dude, but also unprincipled, and selfish, literally causing traffic accidents to get a date with a girl. He’s the kind of swine you love to hate, like Light or Kanie from Amaburi. Yet I can’t help but root for him as I hope his new colleagues will work to reform his character somewhat.

The episode efficiently lays out the possibilities and limitations of his power, and the fact that if he could possess people as long as he wanted without them knowing, then he might be able to act so high and mighty and godlike. But he doesn’t. His power is half-baked, and so are those of his colleagues, so things can never quite get that out of control.

However, when they get a little out of control, such as when Takajou races around the city like a bull in a china shop chasing Yuu, or Yuu makes someone do something that causes a chaotic chain reaction, it’s great fun to watch. It’s also a just episode, in which Yuu gets all the misfortune coming to him…but doesn’t overdo it.

We see all the sides of him, like the side that sees Ayu as his only family and loves her so much he won’t tell her his omelette is too sweet.

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Why shouldn’t you watch? Like all previous P.A. Works, this show is gorgeous, and it got off to a great start, but if you still feel burned by Glasslip, I won’t begrudge you passing on another high school drama…is what I would say, only the drama so far is pretty pretty understated; in its place is just comeuppance and a healthy helping of comedy. If we’re just talking about Charlotte in a vacuum, its flaws are few.

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The Verdict: Charlotte gave us colorful, dynamic, flawed characters with clashing personalities, punchy dialogue, justice, and the usual P.A. Works dreamily beautiful yet everyday setting. It lured us in and held our attention throughout. Its superpowers are in-your-face and impactful without dominating the proceedings.

It also smartly set up the introduction of the fourth main character as the next target of the other three: the J-pop idol Nishimuri Yusa must be using her power in some underhanded way in order to achieve fame. I’m looking forward to the reveal of that power and watching Yuu clash with Yusa. This is a definite keeper.

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Aoharu x Kikanjuu – 01 (First Impressions)

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What is it: Tachibana Hotaru, a girl who many mistake for a guy, is StuCo president at her school and obsessed with defeating evil as a hero of justice. Her first day living on her own, she meets Matsuoka Masamune, a handsome but brash man she pegs as an evildoer. When her friend Kaoru reports she was hustled out of her money by a host, Hotaru races to the club to confront him, and it turns out to be Masamune who Kaoru met with.

Masamune, who has a huge following at the club, accepts Hotaru’s challenge to a duel, but only if its with airsoft pistols, with him having a handicap of only one pellet. Hotaru ends up losing when she uses all her ammo, and she now “belongs” to Masamune, i.e. must join his airsoft team. All the while, Masamune didn’t hustle Kaoru after all (she merely spent all her money gorging herself after she was thrown out of the club for being underage). Also, Masamune is unaware Hotaru is a girl.

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Why you should watch:  Well, first of all, because Hotaru is awesome. The way she dealt with those “toughs” at school was a real eye-opener (I was worried she was all bark/no bite) and she can handle herself in a variety of combat situations; it’s only her inexperience with airsoft that let her down here, and she’s sure to overcome that before long.

Komatsu Mikako (a RABUJOI fave) nicely bridges the vocal gap between male and female, and I’m glad Hotaru isn’t overly hiding her gender, but is the regular victim of external misunderstandings and “classic” Japanese gender archetypes.

You shouldn’t just watch because of Hotaru, though; Masamune is a pretty interesting guy, too. While I don’t doubt he’s a playboy, he’s not the evil scoundrel Hotaru believed he is. I even liked Hotaru’s friend Kotaru, whose omission of certain facts actually got Hotaru in this whole mess. That being said, Hotaru’s many punches, leaps and kicks this week prove she’s do fine in the world of airsoft.

There’s also the whole romantic angle of Hotaru suddenly being in the cross-hairs of her beautiful neighbor…if only he’d shut up long enough for her to tell him she’s a girl.

Finally, it’s hard to beat the scene of a whole swanky host club full of elegantly-dressed patrons suddenly donning airsoft goggles, like this happens there all the time.

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Why you shouldn’t watch:  If you’re familiar with survival games and airsoft, either in anime or real life, you might find the ample explanatory dialogue a bit tedious (“Pull the trigger to fire the gun.” …ORLY?). It could grow more tedious still as Hotaru leans the ropes.

Hotaru seems like a pretty direct person who’s not trying to harbor a secret, so if her real gender remains a secret too long, those who mistake her for a guy will seem increasingly dumb.

Finally, there’s the whole matter of these toy guns looking exactly like real ones. Something tells me just walking around in public with one wouldn’t end well…

The Verdict: A surprisingly clever and fun first outing for a show with a tough, but naive young lady just starting to strike out into adulthood, who has essentially been tricked into starting a hobby she had no interest in before, but may help further her overarching desire to become a better hero of justice, both in terms of combat skills and people skills. I’ll keep watching for now.

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