Bakuon!! – 02

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Week two of Bakuon!!starts by delving into the past of Suzunoki Rin, whose father instilled in her a passion for motorcycles and in particular Suzukis. One Suzuki he always coveted was a Yoshimura-tuned 1135R Katana, but after he breaks many bones in an accident, the dream seems distant…until Rin writes the necessary essay extolling her passion for the bike and ended up getting it for her dad.

Meanwhile, in the present, Rin has her license and is about to take her dad’s old 400cc Katana for her first official ride, and her dad has the temerity to poo-poo the very bike he once rode, even as he’s riding a bike he wouldn’t have without his daughter. What a jerk! But hey, at least he didn’t die in that accident. That would have been a bit too dark… :/

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Speaking of dark, the dark, frizzy-haired Onsa just can’t seem to get alone with Rin, and Suzukis are at the core of their conflict. Rin is already satisfied that Onsa is an “anti-Suzuki Fascist”, and while Onsa wants to at least cultivate the fiction that she likes Suzukis (so Rin will join the club), far too often her big mouth gets her in trouble when she reveals her true feelings within earshot of Rin.

Of course, we can’t just have Onsa and Rin going at it every episode as Hane referees and Lime…just stands around not talking. Enter Minowa Hijiri, a rich girl who is obsessed with experiencing what it is to be bad; and what better way than to join a bike club?

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Hijiri makes an immediate impact on said club, suggesting that rather than bicker in the club room or thumb wrestle, they determine who is the most courageous, and thus forge bonds of shared danger, by playing chicken with their motorcycles, a la Rebel Without a Cause.

Of course, being a rich girl, she doesn’t actually pilot said bike (she’s unlicensed, besides); that task falls to her butler, Hayakawa, who sees these girls, particularly Lime, mean business and gives the challenge his all. Onsa and Rin break at the same time very early, showing how alike they are despite their different make preferences.

As for Hayakawa, he simply doesn’t break at all, plunging his Ducati 750SS Imola Replica and Hijiri-occupying sidecar into the river. But it’s all good, becaue Hijiri feels like a true delinquent.

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In “part three” of the episode, Hane completes her training and testing phase, despite the fact the school switched out older Hondas like Baita for newer model that won’t talk to her. Baita also reveals she used to be a man, but was “neutered” and thus became a woman when prepared for lower-performance school duty.

Hane’s four friends watch wearily as Hane seems destined to fail her exam, forgetting everything Baita taught her and being over-distracted by the silence of her new ride, but Hijiri devises the plan to cheer for Hane from a high vantage point, forcing her to keep her head up. It works, and Hane manages to pass, meaning next week she gets to ride. But what (Honda) will she choose?

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Usakame – 01 (First Impressions)

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Ayako has great airbags, Kinako has great strength and Karumi has a heart of gold and somehow ended up in the broom closet. They are the school tennis club.

I’ve used the phrase ‘strong comedic timing’ a lot this season but Usakame is by far the strongest. Like Space Patrol it is incredibly quick, somehow packs a narrative with pleasant emotional appeal within its 4 minute run time, its tremendously ugly, and brilliantly funny.

Seriously, this is the best comedy so far and there’s no pretension or art school wank to it. Watch it now!

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Wagamama High Spec – 01 (First Impressions)

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four girls have sorting duty but is sooOOooOoOooo hot in the room and they can’t got to the library (where there is a working AC) until they are finished. So they strip and, in the process, turn their AC over to the heat setting and then they die. Roll credits…

There isn’t much to say about WHS. It has decent comedic timing but you’re really watching it to see busty high school girls strip down to their panties.

If short-pron is what you’re after, you should probably know about this thing called the internet and it’s filled with more satisfying 2D prons than this. Oy…

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Hundred – 02

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Due to RABUJOI’s informal commitment to keep the number of shows we review at a reasonable dozen or less, Hundred seemed like a no-brainer for a drop after an underwhelming opener. I’m still won’t go so far as to call its follow up good, but it was an improvement, and Hundred has the good fortune to air on Monday, classically a slow day for anime. …So here we are.

A big reason this episode was better than the last is that it actually has a good fight in the beginning…and at least the start of a second fight at the end, followed by the promise of our protagonist and his definitely not-a-boy roommate being pressed into action due to their abilities and the scarcity of slayers.

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Back to that first fight: it’s not earth-shatteringly awesome or anything, but it gets the job done (an article of praise one could use very often in Hundred). There’s a boob grab early on, Queen Claire makes Hayato pay, and intends to finish the duel quickly, but can’t.

Hayato’s better than she thought he’d be; he’s better than he thought he’d be, going into a kind of trance where his eyes turn to slits, he dons full-body armor, and backs the Invincible Queen into a corner.

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To its credit, Hundred doesn’t put the haughty chick in her place; instead, the duel is a tie, and by her own acknowledgement (she broke the rules she set for herself in order to win). As such, she recinds the expulsion orders we knew would be rescinded, but she’s not foot-stampingly angry about it.

In fact, she, like the rest of Little Garden, is impressed by Hayato, and takes an interest in him, to the chagrin of Emile, who, let’s not beat around the bush, IS A GIRL IN BOYS CLOTHES. She decides to use the fact Hayato still thinks she’s a guy to go on a date with him in the town center.

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The episode lags a bit here, but it becomes clear that Hayato is aware on some level that Emile is a girl, or at least s cute ano girly a boy that he can’t help but blush and be self-conscious about their interactions. Not that Emile is going to pull anything, but one reason I want to stick with Hundred is I want to see how her gender is finally revealed (even if that reveal turns out to be underwhelming).

Hayato becomes flanked on both sides when Karen invites herself out, after her tarot cards indicated he was with a woman. Boy or girl, Karen doesn’t quite trust Emile yet, and why should she? Emile really is concealing something pretty dang important to her roommate and colleague.

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Hayato, Karen and Emile’s lunch is interrupted by Claire and her entourage, but not out of any kind of malice: Claire wants to make Hayato a slayer as soon as possible. Indeed, she kinda has to, as there’s currently a slayer shortage (a welcome reminder this peaceful city-ship is the exception, not the rule, in this world).

Hayato’s duel with Claire, and Emile’s surprising impromptu duel with Claire’s veep Liddy, somewhat mitigate the fact we haven’t seen anyone in grave danger in the first two episodes (at least in the present day). Emile shows she can hold her own against Liddy, but an alert sortie ends it without a decision.

Instead, Charlotte shows up out of nowhere and tells Hayato and Emile they’ll be going with Claire to Warslarn HQ, where his trial-by-fire will continue. Frankly, I’d be worried about his inability to control or even remember his overdrive powers, but hey…they need slayers.

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Macross Delta – 02

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Delta quickly wraps up last week’s cliffhanger with Mirage swooping in to rescue Hayate & Freyja’s falling, crippled variable fighter and the Aerial Knights retreating, having collected the data they were after.

The remainder of the episode sets out to establish more of the world, context for Freyja’s ability, character relationships and how Hayate & Freyja ultimately join Walkure.

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From mer-cats to gilled street kids with webbed fingers selling organic fish cellphone bracelets, the world around Macross Elysion, Delta Platoon’s HQ, is a fantastical buffet of extraneous but enjoyable details.

It’s all lovingly rendered but Hayate literally grabs Freyja and runs her out of the scene because they have so little narrative purpose, beyond a minor nod to Ranka Lee’s squeezable organic cell phone in Macross Frontier. Even the brief scene in the Aerial Knight’s mountain castle, which includes a column-like pipe organ in the background, only repeats information we’ve already been told.

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As to the joining Walkure part, Freyja is given an audition, which she fails and Hayate is outright offered a piloting position by Delta Platoon Arad Molders. Later, on her way back to the city, Freyja’s tram suddenly halts and one of the passengers goes var-mad. Freyja is knocked to the ground but she sings her way to safety and passes Walkure’s final, secret audition test.

Delta deserves serious credit for its solid sound design.  Music cues are tight. We can feel Freyja’s frustration in the droning elevator-pop of the tram ride and feel her surprise as that music cuts off with the lights and is replaced by something more ominous. Subtle too, that omens music is fun-house style goofy, which softly hints that not all is as it seems to the viewer.

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As to the character relationships, Mirage and Hayate are immediately set up as rivals (and, probably, long term love interests) due to Hayate’s natural skills and matter of fact criticism of the military and rules following. It doesn’t help that Mirage was out of sync during combat too and they both know it.

More broadly, we see Arad’s fatherly relations with with his pilots and other admin, as well as how most people are scared of Elysion’s Captain Ernest Johnson, who is probably Zentradi but looks like an adult version of Teen Titans’ Beast Boy. We also see the Aerial Knights have a lot of internal conflict, which will no doubt be their undoing.

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Stray details and speculation: The Aerial Knights’ SV-262 Draken III’s appeal to be capable of docking with a Ghost on the end of each wing. This not only looks pretty cool, but could imply reliance on artificial intelligence to bolster their numbers. (AI is also generally outlawed in the Macross universe, following Sharon Apple’s rampage in Plus and whatever the heck the androids of Macross Galaxy were up to in Frontier)

Also worth noting the Aerial Knight’s resemblance to the pre-space era earth villains in Macross Zero. The fighters look similar, also had purple, and the characters had feudal sounding titles and ranks…

Also also, Walkure’s VF-31 “Siegfrieds” are named after a dragon slayer, which is important because “Draken” means dragon in swedish.

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Delta’s strength is that it is very well produced: tremendous precision went into its sound design, visual styling, animation and world building. It somehow even keeps its 17+ characters recognizable and coherent.

Delta’s weakness is it has 17+ characters to show us, tons of world building to get through, and some technobabble about singing/fold-space potential, and even more alien races than Macross has ever tackled before.

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It does a good job balancing that all out, but there is so much packed into this episode, I found it hard to absorb in one sitting. More critically, despite the extraneous detail scenes that serve as points of ‘rest,’ the shows maximum level of information density stops individual elements from standing out.

It’s like playing a game for the first time with 2 years worth of DLC turned on from the very beginning!

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Tonkatsu DJ Agetarou – 01 (First Impressions)

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The gist: Agetarou is a boy does not want to inherit has family’s restaurant because he doesn’t see anything special in Tonkatsu. One night he makes a late night delivery for a regular and gets his first clubbing experience as a reward. Inside, he meets another regular, sees a pretty girl, and has an epiphany via a professional DK session.

You see, the BPM of the music, the sound effects, the precision and the focus of the DJ are all the same as his father and life in the restaurant. Inspired by this new sense of pride, Agetarou returns home to become the best Tonkatsu/DJ ever.

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TDJA is student quality animation that I’ve never seen in anime form before. It’s raw and unapologetically ugly, yet charming and the crudeness really carries each character’s sense of joy for life. The dialog, especially the Engrish, is quirky and comedically well timed too.

TDJA also highlights un-cool jobs and, because everyone is happy and nice to each other, I really got the sense that the show was trying to make a positive statement about it. Agetarou’s wingman in the club is the restaurant’s moist towelette account rep for example.

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Spring ’16 is the season for surprisingly good short format anime. If you are looking for something truly unique, and you’ve got 9 minutes to spare, TDJA will not do you wrong.

…Creepy-looking giant African-American DJ and oddly sexual use of mixing equipment be damned!

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