2015 By The Numbers

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1

Punch needed for Saitama to defeat the vast majority of his opponents

2

Food-themed shows

2.08

Episodes reviewed per day*

3

Shows reviewed exclusively by Franklin (Oigakkosan)

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4

Preston’s controversial rating of Rokka no Yuusha’s final episode

5

2-cour shows contained entirely within the year

6

Number of Steins;Gate episodes added to the RABUJOI World Heritage List (RWHL)

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7.8

Percent of episodes rated “10” (Masterpiece)

8.25

Weighted Average Rating of all shows watched

9

GOD EATER episodes aired; the remaining four will supposedly air in Winter 2016

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12

Shows dropped

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13

Shows in which Hanazawa Kana voiced a lead or supporting character

17

Sequels and spin-offs*

26

Episodes added to the RWHL (for a total of 59)

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57

Total shows watched*

116

Lines of dialogue devoted to boob size

278

Hours of anime watched (>11.5 days)*

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758

Episodes watched and reviewed*

920

Blog posts

2,018

Comments

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483,000

Words written*

*Dropped shows not included.

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End-of-Month Rundown – December 2015

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Average Episode Word Count (AEWC):

Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans: 931
Prison School: 859
Rakudai Kishi no Cavalry: 750
Taimadou Gakuen 35 Shiken Shoutai: 683
Sakurako-san no Ashimoto: 639
Ushio to Tora: 634
Noragami Aragoto: 652
Subete ga F ni Naru: 637
Owari no Seraph 2: 594
Owarimonogatari: 591
Gakusen Toshi Asterisk: 587
Atack on Titan: 558
One Punch Man: 555

Stray November Observations:

  • The Top 5 remained the same from last month’s EOMR
  • Hannah’s Gundam IBO episode 13 review was the most wordy of the Fall at 1,209, but Zane’s Prison School episode 5 retro review went for 1,278
  • The final three Prison School retro reviews didn’t quite make it to this chart; they’ll be published next week.
  • Subete ga F and Asterisk finally got 9 ratings due to strong finishes
  • One Punch Man and Owarimonogatari remained the only two shows with average RABUJOI ratings below MAL’s (0.38 and 0.12 below, respectively)
  • OPM was the third highest-rated show despite having the lowest AEWC; Taimadou was the second lowest-rated despite having the second-highest AEWC. So word count doesn’t always correlate with show quality…just usually
  • Total Fall 2015 review word count (Including Prison School and Attack on Titan): 106,165, or 212 single-spaced 12-point pages

Hannah’s Top 10 Anime of 2015

See Preston’s List Here. See Zane’s List Here.

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Honorable Mention #2: Cross Ange – Winter (7.32) – A brash, audacious, ambitious, subversive, and above all polarizing feminist alternative to Gundam, but also a roller coaster of dizzyingly-awesome heights and embarrassing lows, resulting in its unimpressive average rating

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Honorable Mention #1: Taimadou Gakuen 35 Shiken Shoutai – Spring (7.91) – Somewhat parallels Saekano with its richly detailed harem scope in which each girl gets her just dues, but in a sweet fantasy-action-military setting, and featuring a soundtrack so good it elevated the show’s rating at least half a point

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10. Ghost in the Shell ARISE – Spring (8.10) – A very cool, slick, and competent (if not groundbreaking) re-imagining of a classic. Reignited my passion for the awesomeness that is Major Kusanagi

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9. GANGSTA. – Summer (8.25) – The title needs a little work, as did the ending, but the fallen world setting, complex relationship between the two male leads, and the arc of the female lead transcended the usual crime-action fare

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8. Durarara!!x2 Shou – Winter (8.25) – With two cours down and one to go in its sequel triad, the first was slightly better than the second, with particular focus on single episodes that best expressed the franchise’s sprawling spirit

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7. OverLord – Summer (8.38) – Quickly set itself apart from SAO with a style and a comic swagger all its own, featuring some of the best overpowered battles of the year, along with some of the biggest laughs

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6. Attack on Titan – Retro Review (8.40) – Not a 2015 show per se, but that’s when I finally cracked it open, and I instantly got the appeal. It’s often dark, brutal, and merciless, but the action is righteously addictive

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5. Aldnoah.Zero 2 – Winter (8.58) – An exciting, immersive, technically impressive space opera that could have benefited from a less perfect protagonist and a better sense of humor.

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4. Sidonia no Kishi 2 – Spring (8.83) – A dark, gritty, sexy, terrifying, gorgeous and impeccably-rendered sci-fi milieu that left me wanting more

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3. Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans – Fall (8.85) – Only halfway in and I’m prepared to declare this the best Gundam I’ve seen (sorry Seed, 00, and Recon in G). Bold, gritty, complex, and immensely fun

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2. Fate stay night: Unlimited Blade Works Season 2 – Spring (8.92) – A powerful conclusion to a show I started last year, which backed up its world-beating visuals with compelling, even iconic clashes, with a nice romance on the side

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1. Steins;Gate – Retro Review (9.38) – Also far from a 2015 show, but one I watched in 2015, and one that blew everything else away to become one of my all-time faves

Prison School – 09

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One nice little insidious part of Prison School I appreciate is that it’s not above exposing its high school characters’ ignorance. Neither Shingo nor Anzu knew what Grapes of Wrath was about, assuming it’s some B-movie about giant rampaging grapes or something.

This week no one but Gakuto knows who Sun Tzu is, and assume he’s some telecom guy. But he’s not: he’s a general whose strategic and tactical ouevre will aide the newly-united lads’ last-gasp effort to overturn their expulsion: they must use the mighty Vice President Shiraki Meiko’s strength against her.

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They attempt to do this by appealing to her confidence in her own strength and conditioning, and the arrogance that comes with it. Meiko doesn’t just have an open shirt, she’s an open book, and the countless times she’s demonstrated her strength, either through punishment or intense calisthenics, they know she won’t be able to resist proving naysayers wrong. So they loudly arm wrestle, one of them mentions her by name as being the strongest in the school, and another expresses doubt, because she’s a gurrrrrl. That’s all that’s needed to provoke Meiko.

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Gakuto goes up against her first, and from the prison physique he’s developed, we think he might have a chance, but nope, he goes down in a second. It’s up to the other four to keep her busy for at least ten minutes while Gakuto steals her keys, sneaks into the office, downloads file restoration software, and recovers incriminating DTO emails that will expose the council of sabotaging the boys. If they can publicize that material, they can sway the school, and more importantly the director, into cancelling their expulsion.

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But even with four guys, ten minutes is a lot to ask. Kiyoshi succumbs to her nip-slip far too quickly, Shingo is all talk, and the emaciated Joe gets flung across the room like a dry rubber band, which was one of if not the funniest sight gag of the episode. The only one left is Andre, who must hold up for upwards of seven minutes. 

And while he’s really big, and strong from to the need to lug his weight around all day every day, Meiko probably doesn’t need 100% of her strength to beat him quickly as well…were it not for something completely oblivious to Andre, but which drives Meiko absolutely cuckoo: a very long hair protruding from his nipple.

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This is when things get a little…weird. In a brilliant reversal, Meiko is the one utterly mesmerized by someone else’s nipples. So much so, she begins to daydream of a single tree swaying in the desert, first on a clear day, then during a tornado (when Andre’s breath whips the hair around further). It’s a distraction within the larger distraction of the arm wrestling contest: and it creates a stalemate that is only overcome when she realizes she should just close her eyes, and enough of her spit from yelling excites Tinyface to the point he can’t hold out any longer, and loses.

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It’s a good thing Andre cries out, too, because it gives Gakuto the signal that he’d better get back to the cell, which he does, just in time, holding keys he can innocently say dropped out of Meiko’s jacket while she was wrestling. She takes the keys and departs without suspecting a thing.

If only anything came of the whole enterprise! Yes, despite having time to download and install the restoration software, in the end Gakuto didn’t have any time left to locate the incriminating files, to say nothing of distributing them. His momentary freedom was hard won, and a series of small miracles in and of itself, but it wasn’t enough.

And so, the guys become consigned to their fate, having given it their all. Expulsion is all but certain now, unless they can come up with any other ideas. Sun Tzu didn’t work out, but maybe they can glean a fresh strategem from the telecommunications gentleman’s biography!

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Zane’s Top 10 Anime of 2015

Click here for Preston’s List.

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Honorable Mention #2: Rakudai Kishi no Cavalry – Fall (8.38) – The best of the three Fall “Magical School/Harem” shows, due in large part to a likable couple with a extremely solid and credible central romance

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Honorable Mention #1: Owarimonogatari – Fall (8.42) – Really a tale of two shows; IMO Sodachi Lost was superior in terms of emotional resonance than Shinobu Mail, which felt like it dragged a lot more

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10. Shokugeki no Souma – Spring (8.58) – Food. Comedy. Romance. Rivalries. Everything I love in one show! Inspired me to cook a lot more than I usually do when I was watching it. Deliciously awesome

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9. Oregairu 2 – Spring (8.58) – Brilliantly written drama driven by a cast of wonderfully well-rendered, emotionally struggling young people trying to find out who they are and where they fit in the world and in each others’ lives

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8. One Punch Man – Fall (8.67) – Brevity is the soul of wit. This show’s title is its premise, and it’s gushing with both wit and bodaciously awesome – and typically howlingly funny action

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7. Hibike! Euphonium – Spring (8.75) – Turns out there was room for another high school music romance in my life – one with less psychedelic visuals! And some moments ended up matching and even surpassing Violin Girl

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6. Gakkou Gurashi! – Summer (8.83) – Don’t let the bright, cheerful beginning fool you, this bold and uncompromising show is a lot more than meets the eye, and it went places I never thought it would

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5. Ore Monogatari!! – Spring (8.92) – Huge nice guy, tiny nice girl, and a regular-sized, nice best friend. The quality that unites them all is kindness, earnestness, and selflessness. Even when they faced inevitable conflicts, the trio was always an absolute joy to watch

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4. Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso – Winter (9.05) – Even when we knew tragedy would befall the protagonist, and the childhood friend lamented her lot in life for the umpteenth time, I still couldn’t look – or listen – away. A show that truly brought out all the feels without fail (though its slapstick comedy often clanged on the floor)

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3. Prison School – Summer (9.08) – No show since Aku no Hana has so effectively weaponized adolescence and sex. Only where that show was dark, this one is mostly hilarious, though also tense and occasionally sweet

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2. Saekano – Winter (9.15) – A smart, funny, sexy, cute harem rom-com that’s a send-up of harem rom-coms, having its cake and eating it too. Featuring one of my favorite characters of the year: a boring girlfriend who’s anything but

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1. Yuri Kuma Arashi (9.17) – There are multiple ways of watching YKA – Gorgeous eye (and ear) candy on its surface, but deeper analysis of its characters, themes and iconography comprise a harsh critique of Japanese society. Not quite as good as Penguindrum, but still petty damn great

Prison School – 08

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Yours truly should have known, but my “manly feelings” were also manipulated, as I, like Shingo, stopped worrying about what was or wasn’t too good to be true and actually roll with the idea of a random girl at Shingo’s school being legitimately into him. After all, Chiyo can’t be the only one who likes having the guys around, right? Well, it’s not really a yes or no question.

But let’s just say for most of the episode and all of last week, Anzu was putting on an act. Unlike Chiyo, who puts herself at risk trying to warn Kiyoshi of the impending plot afoot (writing it in Go stones…so refined!), Anzu is acting on behalf of the Underground Student Council, in exchange for Mari’s recommendation she be named to the executive committee next year. She was a part of DTO…but by the end, she’s almost responsible for foiling it.

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Why does she do that? Well, everything was going according to plan, with cheek-pinching about to move on to something else, until Shingo just cant sit there and watch some random kid in the park get sand thrown at him by his friends. When he yells at them too harshly, they cry, and the kid who was getting bullyed throws sand on him. 

This isn’t just a show about T&A. It’s a show about fate and justice; friendship and forgiveness. The confessions that take place in that park aren’t of love between Shingo and Anzu. Shingo confesses to being a snitch, and can’t betray his friends anymore. But then Anzu ‘fesses up about being appointed by Mari to seduce him as part of a plan to get the boys expelled.

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Of course, Anzu was only one of Mari’s variables in her devastatingly intricate scheme, which involved using Meiko’s voluptuousness and lack of punishing Andre to drive him mad until he’s chasing cardboard cutouts, and finally, the real thing. When Meiko offers to whip him if he just comes through the fence, Andre can’t help himself, pushes through the wire (which had already been cut), and is guilty of the boys’ second breakout. If Shingo doesn’t get back in time, that will be three strikes, and they’ll be out. Baseball Metaphor!

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In the time Anzu’s spent with him, culminating in those shared confessions, she can no longer play him any more than he can play Kiyoshi and the others. So she does everything she can to get him back to school on time. At first, their getting along seemed all to easy, then was revealed to be an artificial fondness that then became real. I just hope this isn’t the last we see of these two.

If Mari and the council have their way, however, it will be…and the boys won’t get to experience “seaside school” in the summer, when the girls hold a wet t-shirt contest. While I’m almost positive that’s just bullshit to get them riled up, the fact they believe her so intensely is pretty hilarious.

In fact, it’s that dream of transparent tops that move Kiyoshi, Gakuto, Andre and Joe to put their wishes and hopes together and chant for Shingo’s on-time return. Shingo is almost hit by a truck, but avoids it, and that truck happens to be the laundry truck for the school! Almost as if the universe is rewarding him for his honesty, eh?

Well, not quite: the kicker in DTO is that the other four inmates were put to work adjusting how the door to the stockade opens so it slides rather than pushes in, so Shingo can’t open it, and he’s outside when his time runs out. Dayum, that is one ice cold checkmate.

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Happily, as they await their impending expulsion, Shingo prostrates himself and apologizes profusely for what he’s done…and he’s forgiven, just like that. Well, until he mentions details of what happened with him and Anzu; then they lay into him, but when they’re done, they’re all of them satisfied and even. Mari may have gotten them expelled, but she failed to break their brotherly bonds.

Mari all but smacks her dad in the face with the official school regulations and how the boys are indeed guilty of breaking out three times. Chiyo is there to argue their case, but her pleas are shouted down by Kiyoshi and her confederates. This is one of those times you’d really wish her dad the chairman had some backbone, but considering how awkward and awful he feels about Mari seeing so many overt glimpses of his fetish, he probably feels he has no moral ground to stand on, even if Chiyo were to back him up in the pro-boys corner.

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So, is that that? Will the end of the week after next be all she wrote for our lads? Or is the festive victory celebration by the council—complete with cake, sparkling cider, and Meiko getting her thong caught on the door after doing fingertip pullups—premature? For her part, Anzu tells her boss how she ended up failing her mission when she fell for the target, but Mari lets her off the hook, while ordering surveillance on her as soon as she’s out of the room.

As for the boys, because their bonds have never been stronger, and their hopes somewhat miraculously reached Shingo, they belive anything is possible. They’re not done yet. They’ve got allies in Chiyo and maybe Anzu and the director, they have each other, and they have at least a couple of weeks. Can they somehow overturn the verdict of the council? Will they turn DTO’s victory into a defeat? I hope so.

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Preston’s Top 10 Anime of 2015

As is standard practice at the end of the year, the three of us are presenting our Top 10 lists for 2015. I’m up first —MagicalChurlSukui

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Honorable Mention #2: Parasyte – Winter (7.88) – Far from perfect, especially in its second half, but definitely worth watching for the creepy horror factor

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Honorable Mention #1: GARO – Winter (7.88) – Amidst all the yelling, armor-donning and monster-smashing came one of the year’s best and heartbreaking episodes

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10. Subete ga F ni Naru – Fall (8.00) – An all-consuming, intimate, claustrophobic little murder mystery that really got the brain cells churning

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9. Ushio to Tora – Summer (8.04) – It’s an old story – A Boy and His Youkai – presented in with throwback style and earnestness but a modern, self-deprecating edge – plus a lot of badass girls

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8. Kamisama Hajimemashita 2 – Winter (8.17) – One of the most consistently sweet romances of the year, without ever descending into the saccharine

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7. Sakurako-san – Fall (8.25) – An unconventional tentative romance is borne as the gorgeous genuis detective/osteologist investigates cases involving rare-for-anime themes

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6. Owari no Seraph 2 – Fall (8.33) – The family of demon gear-using soldiers that stays together survives together, along with one vampire who never wanted to be one

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5 (Tie). Kekkai Sensen – Spring (8.36) – One of the weirdest, wildest, and most visually and thematically ambitious show of the year, as is be expected from the creator of Kyousougiga

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5 (Tie). Yamada-kun no 7-nin – Spring (8.36) – A surprisingly poignant and complex romp set in a school where seven distinct magical powers are handed down to students who need them

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4. Re-Kan! – Spring (8.38) – The biggest surprise success of the year, full of wonderful moments of love and kindness that had me in tears more than once

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3. Tokyo Ghoul 2 – Winter (8.67) – A sequel that surpassed its predecessor by further developing its core (and tossing them into depths) while presenting a compelling supporting cast

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2. Noragami Aragoto – Fall (8.69) – Another sequel better than the original, balancing the growing bond of the core trio while challenging them and their friends with fresher, more complex villains

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1. Charlotte – Summer (8.77) – P.A. Works fully redeems itself with a brilliant blend of fantastical superpowers, down-to-earth romance, and an epic scale with heavy stakes

Prison School – 07

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It’s been interesting to watch the deterioration of Kiyoshi and Shingo’s relationship over the last seven weeks, but to Prison School’s credit, Shingo is not always just the bad guy. Or at least, there’s more to him than simply his feud with Kiyoshi, as nicely demonstrated this week when he’s released into the wild by Meiko. He meets the bold, lovely Anzu in an arcade, who says she’ll take him on anytime; in video games, but also, perhaps, more than that.

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Among the inmates who aren’t Kiyoshi, Shingo is definitely the most “normal”, and there’s nothing normal about being in prison school for two months, so it stands to reason he’d do anything even for fleeting instances of freedom and normal life. Meiko knows that, and milks him for all he’s worth. When Shingo presents the missing sword from Gakuto’s figurine (which no one else knows about except Kiyoshi), which he found on the bathroom floor, Meiko does some googling and snooping and not only finds the figuring in the bathroom closet, but deduces it must be Gakuto’s—or “Dirty Four-Eyes.”

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For his quite accidental informing, Shingo gets another few hours on the outside, and his flirtation with Anzu continues, from her playing video games over his shoulder to sharing their ice cream cones to her offering to take him to go see The Grapes of Wrath. The two have nice chemistry, and feel very natural and normal together. While I wouldn’t want this to be the whole show, it is nice to see Prison School successfully playing the romantic slice-of-life straight, without any ecchi mayhem.

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Of course, it almost seems to make up for that normalcy by having Mari and Meiko unveil their suspicions about Gakuto in the strangest, meanest, wrongest way possible, offering one snack kernel for each inmate, but putting the missing sword in Gakuto’s hand and testing his reaction.

When he doesn’t bite (even when she places the figuring in her cleavage),  she mounts the horse it came with, threatening to crush it with her ample frame. Gakuto scoops it from beneath her, but before Mari can finish her judgment, he smashes it against the ground all by himself, declaring he’s not into those kinds of things.

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Just like that, Gakuto’s seven years of life go up in tiny shards of plastic. But he did it so he wouldn’t waste his entire life putting trinkets ahead of his hard-won friendships. He also apologizes for shunning Kiyoshi. I daresay it’s one of the most honorable moments from Gakuto not involving soiling himself.

As for Meiko, her little scheme backfired, and Shingo blurts out where the sword Mari touched came from (the boy’s bathroom), causing Mari to faint from shock, then to shun a Meiko who desperately wants to be whipped, in a very clever ecchi Twister game of tea time.

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Mari’s punishment for Meiko is to wear a skirt and shirt that cover her breasts and panties, but which prove so unbearably restrictive, Meiko almost faints in the hallway. Chiyo is there to help her, and by hanging around the council office, she’s able to learn for the first time about her sister’s DTO operation, which she surely takes exception to, as she’s one, like Anzu, who don’t mind boys at the school.

Mari’s “final phase” of the plan to expel the boys, seems to involve Andre, who they know is a masochist who keeps a “slave diary” (with some very nice illustrations in it, I must add!), but also notable this week is that all the inmates other than Shingo have now forgiven Kiyoshi, and also forgive Gakuto after he smashed his figurine.

Now it’s not Kiyoshi on an island, but Shingo. Would he still be so eager to continue help Meiko if he knew it was in service of getting the boys—including him—expelled? Certainly, being able to hang out with Anzu certainly makes it easier, but if he’s expelled, they won’t go to the same school anymore. Quite the quandary.

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Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans – 13

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While this is officially the last episode of the Fall 2015 season, Gundam IBO’s second half will continue without a long hiatus. Despite that, this really felt like the turning of a page, full as it was with both endings and beginnings. One first: Shino’s Tekkadan commandos getting attacked by the Brewers’ Human Debris kids when they turn their backs, forcing them to fire back.

It speaks to the fierce reality and lack of shortcuts in this show that the kids aren’t simply happy their saviors have arrived. They know what will happen if they don’t do their jobs as proscribed by their Brewer masters. While that goes on, Akihiro leaves his cockpit to say goodbye to his brother on better terms than I’d expected, with Masahiro “going ahead” of his brother to see if what he heard about souls being reborn is true.

Finally, as Mikazuki methodically takes down Kudal in his Gusion, a strange feeling comes over him as he masters his sword. From the way he’s fighting, Kudal thinks Mika is someone who enjoys taking human life. Mika isn’t sure, but it’s clear he’s comfortable in such a hazardous situation, and Kudal ultimately didn’t even pose much of a challenge to him.

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Speaking of challenges, you can almost see McGillis Fareed gritting his teeth at the umpteenth evening gala full of an equal measure of snobs, gossips, and syncophants who don’t even bother keeping their voice down about either his dubious parentage or the youth of his betrothed Almiria. When Ally comes out, repslendent in her party dress, the first thing her eyes wander to after McGillis are the fully developed bodies of the ladies surrounding him, wanting to dance (and probably more, as Gaelio suspects).

McGillis knows he could take any and all of those women if he wanted, but he doesn’t want to. Instead, he goes to his future bride, still a child but desperately wanting to dance cheek-to-cheek, and takes her into his arms. She’s embarrassed and worried people will laugh if they’re seen, but McGillis doesn’t care, and he doesn’t want her to care either.

She’s the finest lady there, as far as he’s concerned, and her happiness is far more important than the idle chatter of people with nothing better to do. This adorable gesture didn’t feel like another calculated move by McGillis, but a genuine act of kindness and love. He and Alimiria will make this work, together.

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Speaking of kindness, the Brewer kids have never known it, so they’re on edge after being rounded up by Tekkadan, like caged feral animals. However, Orga’s charisma and decency shines through in his informal chat with them about how they’ll be taken care of from now on, and not in a sinister way.

Masahiro may not have survived the battle, but it’s good to see the other kids being integrated into Tekkadan. I’m sure some will integrate better than others, but they’ll also be able to do what they want and realize their own unique potential, with no more beatings.

Shino was much closer to Mika to the comrades that were killed, both physically and emotionally, so it makes sense to see Shino breaking down before Mika and the corpses of those comrades. But when Shino he says he wishes he’d died too, Mika reproaches him. To wish for death disrespects those who died so others could live, even if that’s not the only reason.

Regardless, everybody is down in the aftermath of this battle, moreso than any previous one, so after all the business is complete, Merribit suggests they hold a funeral for the dead. Orga is particularly dubious of the concept, but once the benefits both to the dead and the living who survived are laid out, he agrees.

The subtle dance of Orga and Merribit continues, as she catches him calling her “old lady”, and shoots right back by calling him a “child”; both being more playful than nasty about it.

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Everyone deals with grief in different ways, but even for those who are able to keep it all bunched in are struggling, so the funeral really does the trick in terms of being a release valve for the crews’ collective pain; the space fireworks were a particularly nice touch. And because most of this crew are still children, sometimes simply being held by a mother figure is required, something even the usually-stiff Fumitan (who is hiding things other than pain deep within her) is able to do for one of the younger orphans.

Finally, after the funeral, at the meeting where the plan to continue on to the Colony is agreed upon, Naze and Amida seem to put a punctuation mark on the whole Brewers/Shoals affair by starting to make out, startling and embarrassing the young men present, Orga included. Naze says it’s simple: years with high death rates have high birth rates. After seeing lots of death, men look at the women next to them, who are suddenly “even prettier than normal,” and can’t help but kiss them.

Whether he’s 100% correct on the brain chemistry, it’s true that after battle men tend to reflexively seek out the opposite sex, be it a matronly embrace to feel safe within, or the lips of a woman you want to make babies with. Such a phenomenon is perhaps best immortalized in that famous photo of V-J Day in Times Square, a spontaneous reaction casued by the sudden release of so much tension and despair the war caused, and unreasonably high levels of jubilation over its ending.

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Mika seems to take that to heart when he encounters Kudelia, who, having seen how effective Fumitan managed to calm the younger kid, hugs Mika when she sees his hands shaking. Mika, suddenly seeing the beautiful woman in front of him for the first time, takes some liberties and kisses her. Some bad graphics editing unfortunately obscures this kiss with end credits, but the music editing was perfect, as the soulful refrain “or-or-phans” is belted out in the moment of that kiss.

I must say, I knew Mika withheld multitudes of emotions behind his calm exterior, but I was just as suprised as Kudelia by that kiss. At the same time, the kiss made perfect sense, and I hope it leads to a deepening of their relationship, which has had some nice moments but had remained pretty distant until now.

The show doesn’t forget about Atra, who sneezes alone in the kitchen while this is going on. There’s also an interesting parallel between Mika and McGillis: both didn’t do what was expected, but simply what they wanted and what they felt was the right thing to do.

The show also doesn’t forget about Nobliss, who seems to be planning for Kudelia’s death at the Colony in the show’s second half – and continues to portray Fumitan as someone who has a role those plans, yet looks conflicted as she admires the necklace Kudelia gave her.

Hopefully things won’t Nobliss’ way. But whatever happens, this show is sure to continue to surprise and delight in its second half. It’s already the finest Gundam I’ve laid eyes on. If it were the opposite sex, I might just be inclined kiss it…or at least cut a rug with it.

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Owari no Seraph 2 – 12 (Fin)

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It’s the end of Seraph of the End, but what actually ended? Not the war between humans and vampires, nor the extinguishing of many lives on both sides for dubious purposes. And it isn’t really the end of the world, either.

No, the things that end are a bit smaller than all that. It’s the end of the pretense that the Moon Demon Company has the best interests of mankind in mind…if it even ever was. It’s apparently the end of Krul Tepes’ rule. It’s also the end of Guren’s place in Yu’s family; a bond that could not overcome the influence of Mahiru.

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And as a result, it’s the end of Yu and the Shinoa Team’s affiliation to the Moon Demon Company. Things…just got too weird. And boy did they ever: Kureto finally unleashes his Seraph of the End on the world, and it uses Shiho’s poor little sister Mirai as its vessel, killing human and vampire indiscriminately and randomly.

With Shiho, Mika, and Yu all skewered at various times during this ordeal, Yu decides he needs more than Ashuramaru to defeat the seraph. So he picks up the mystical “second trumpet” and blows it, summoning the “Salt King” who uses him as a vessel to similarly kill human and vampire indiscriminately, turning them into pillars of salt, along with Abaddon, the demon summoned by the Mirai-Seraph.

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With Kureto’s big experiment seemingly ruined and the end of the world postponed indefinitely, there’s a little more scuffling around; Kureto tries to go after Yu and fails; Yu refuses to kill Guren even in his state (he also spared his family); and Ferid, with Crowley’s help, sucks Krul’s blood until she’s unconscious, then accuses her of high treason in the Seraph of the End affair and names himself the new leader.

As for Yu, Shinoa & Co., thanks to Mika and Narumi they are able to simply get the hell out of there, which is probably the best move. It’s enough for Shiho that his sister is back to her human form, while Yu is in no condition to protest leaving Guren behind, even if he didn’t want to. As for Mitsu and her sister Aoi, well…there’s just nothing more said about that.

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Then, curiously, four months pass. Why four? No idea. But they pass, and Kureto and Aoi and Guren are still up to their old tricks, only they’ve got some nice evil red cloaks now. Ferid seems to have successfully consolidated his power, and is meeting with other nobles to join the apparent fight.

And Shinoa, Mitsu, Shiho, Yoichi, Narumi, Mika, and Yu are in street clothes on a remote beach, now fully healed and preparing to head back into the shit, apparently to save Mirai and Guren. They all gang up on Yu with playful barbs at his intellect; with even Mika joining in.

They’re still a family, for now, and they want to rescue the rest of it. But whether they will, and how, and what will become of Ferid’s new dynasty and Kureto’s continued mystical machinations, are all tales for another time.

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Noragami Aragoto – 13 (Fin)

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Noragami Aragoto doesn’t pick up right when Ebisu is about to be blasted by a pacification ring; instead, it skips to Yato escorting a young man to the Olive Tavern. It doesn’t take long to realize the boy is the reincarnated Ebisu, which means the adult Ebisu he knew and befriended in the underworld was executed.

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Yato is clearly sick about this whole situation, and Yukine and Hiyori stay on the periphery pondering what they should do as he himself wonders how he can change; how he can cease being a heartless war god now that he has a heart, and follow Ebisu’s example of working to protect and save people, and becoming a god people want to remember and have faith in for things other than contract killing.

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By the end, Yato, perhaps without knowing it, changed Ebisu. Once, he had no qualms about dying over and over, because his shrine maidens would always tell him he’d reincarnate every time without fail, and so should never fear death. In fact, due to his lives’ work, Ebisu kinda had to die a bunch of times in order to make progress researching phantoms and acquiring the locution brush. Needing to break eggs to make an omelette, so to speak.

But by the time that last ring blasted him, Ebisu didn’t want to die and be reborn again. He wanted to live and stay in the world as he was. It was, in fact, his dying wish, and the reason Yato is so beside himself; Ebisu, who told him he’d make a great god who could make people happy, managed to change himself at the end from what he always was.

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Now that Ebisu is back, but with close to no specific memories of his past self, it falls to his overseer to raise him back up into a useful member of god-society. And if that overseer has his way, this Ebisu will never see or touch the locution brush again. Yet when Bishamon and the other gods who assisted him hear of his noble ventures for the first time, they don’t necessarily agree that Ebisu should be stopped; in fact, it wouldn’t be what the past Ebisu or Ebisus wanted: for his reincarnations to carry on his work until he makes a breakthrough.

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Back freeloading at Kofuku and Daikoku’s, a restless Yato takes Yukino to a secluded lake, where he asks his exemplar, heart firmly on sleeve, to help him change: from a god of war and calamity to a god of fortune and happiness; the god Ebisu saw in him.

Hiiro appears on queue to dissuade Yato, dismiss Yukine, and drag her brother back to their father to be “praised”; thus continuing the same cycle of death and soft smiles that’s been going on for centuries. She also points out that the plan to use Ebisu as a scapegoat to allay suspicion from their father, who also works with phantoms, worked like a charm.

But no more. With Yukine beside him for strength, Yato overcomes all the warm memories of him and his sister, and does what is necessary to truly change: release her as his regalia for good. When he does so, Hiiro’s smile changes to one of shock, disbelief, and even despair. But that’s not surprising: Hiiro has never changed, and may never change. It does, however, make me wonder if she could change, once enough centuries have passed.

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Now officially free of Hiiro, Yato turns to Yukine to be his guide on his new path to becoming a less calamitous god, something he has no idea how to do since he’s “only good at killing.” But he’s wrong, and Yukine tells him there’s very little he needs to do that he hasn’t been doing already.

Really, getting rid of the temptation of Hiiro and his dark past was the most important step. He already makes people happy, like Yukine and Hiyori, who has faith that together Yato and Yukine can slay disaster before it strikes. And no, she doesn’t ask to have her tail fixed, nor does Yato offer it. She seems content with being the way she is for now.

The happy ending is only marred by the revelation that Fujisaki, the handsome young man who got along so well with Hiyori, is, in fact, Yato’s father. He joins his classmate, who cannot see the large retinue of phantoms by his side, along with Hiiro. Maybe she’s not going to change anytime soon after all.

As for his dad, it doesn’t look like he’s given up on bringing Yato back into the fold. No doubt many of the disasters thrown Yato’s way will be of his father and sisters’ making. He must be ever-vigilant. But as Kofuku says, with Yukine and Hiyori by his side, he’ll be fine.

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Ushio to Tora – 26 (Fin until April)

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When Tora arrives, he’s really bored and just wants to smash shit, despite the fact things are more complicated due to the presence of Bal-chan within the Hakumen experiment. The insufferably procedural attitude of the scientists continues, with the three preparing to seal the entire lab and detonate it in order to prevent Hakumen from escaping—without regard to whoever is still inside.

That’s when Asako and Ushio are all like STFU with the science-y emotional detatchment, because it’s getting really old. They manage to convince one scientist, Helena, to stay behind and try to stop Hakumen to allow everyone to escape safely.

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Asako works with Helena up in the control room, but when Helena is seriously wounded, Asako has to take over getting the oscillator up and running. Once they immobilize the Hakumen in its tracks, Ushio and Tora free Bal-chan and smash the Hakumen to pieces. But while everyone is in a good position to be saved, Helena seems to know between her blood loss and the encroaching poisonous gas that her own time is up.

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In her last minutes, she’s enlightened by the power Ushio and Tora draw from each other, those they wish to protect, and the powerful enemies they face. As such, this episode becomes a kind of mission statement for the show and it’s core chemistry as a whole. No one in Ushio to Tora thrives alone. Ushio needs Tora and Asako; Tora needs Ushio and Mayuko (and vice versa all ’round); and Ushio and Tora need Hakumen no Mono to realize their full potential.

Without Asako and Helena’s help, Ushio and Tora wouldn’t have been able to beat Hakumen. When the humans succumb to the gas, it’s up to Tora to get them all out of the lab before it explodes. It’s a “pain in the ass”, but Tora has to do it nonetheless, or he wouldn’t be able to live with himself. More than that, he’d have a lot less fun without these humans around.

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I was glad to see Helena, initially a thoroughly unlikable and immoral mad scientist, redeemed this week, along with her less courageous colleagues, who surrender to the JSDF, ending H.A.M.M.R.’s brief rebellion. They can take solace in knowing their faithful colleague worked tirelessly until the end to get them data on Hakumen vital to developing a weapon against it.

As for Ushio, he’s faked out by the Asako dummy Tora made from his hair, and the real Asako is right behind him to hear him cry out for her. So naturally, the two start bickering in each other’s faces about who was more reckless today, but at the end of the day, aside from Helena, whose sacrifice made it possible, everyone is safe and sound.

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Back to Fugen’in we go, where it’s another day, another threat by Tora to eat Ushio, and another instance of Ushio successfully resisting being eaten by using his Beast Spear. Asako and Mayuko arrive to calm things down, or at least join in the chaos, and Shigure celebrates how back-to-normal life has become, hoping it can stay that way at least a little longer until the final showdown with Hakumen no Mono, who is awake and biding his/her time. We can look forward to that showdown this coming Spring.

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Mobile Suit Gundam Thunderbolt – 01

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Sunrise had a Christmas present of a kind ready for me today: another Gundam series that looks and feels like it could take place in the same universe and timeline as IBO, even exist in the same debris field that show’s cast is currently engaged in. In fact, IBO takes place in “P.D.” (Post Disaster) 323, while Thunderbolt takes place in U.C. 0079, the same year as the original Gundam, making it a direct spin-off.

Unlike Recon in G, but like the new Star Wars movie, it’s easy to settle into this world, which comes down to the juicy details. A melange of the ordinary (smoking, romances, jazz drumming on consoles, waiting on standby) and the extraordinary (the tremendous speed of battle, how quickly tides can turn, the blood-and-guts brutality of the battles) create a rich world in a scant fifteen minutes and change.

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The show also makes clear there’s no good or bad guy here, only two different warring sides who each have their reasons to fight. The Federation ace Io Fleming loves the freedom of space combat. Zeon’s Daryl Lorenz, who like many of his comrades has prosthetic legs, seems more serious, duty- and honor-bound. Many of their comrades die beside them in this episode, causing a great deal of grief for everyone who knew them but they keep on ticking.

Above all Thunderbolt portrays this futuristic life as a hard one, no matter which side you’re on, and no matter what you’re fighting for. It’s scuffed and gritty and bleak, so one living in such a world would tend to retreat into the embrace of the opposite sex, or porn, or carve out a little hollow of peace, be it girls or plants or music. Notably, Io prefers free jazz, while Daryl’s tastes hew more towards more structured pop music.

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After his own suit is destroyed, Io manages to EVA over to the Zeon snipers, take one out, and steal his suit to return to his ship. His captain (with whom he seems to be on close terms with) assigns him to a new prototype, Gundam, because everyone who outranked him is dead.

Whether it’s mobile suits, trained pilots, or simply flesh-and-blood limbs, everything is in short supply here in Thunderbolt, on the bleeding edge. And while Io embraces the increased  power of his iconic new suit, Daryl plans revenge against him for the death of his comrade.

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P.S. If the music reminded you of Cowboy Bebop, that’s because it was composed by Kikuchi Naruyoshi, saxophonist for The Seatbelts.