Sakamoto desu ga? – 02

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First it was delayed by an earthquake and then my review was delayed by a visit from Bernie Sanders—but don’t get the wrong idea! Sakomoto desu ga?’s first episode was so brilliantly terrible that episode two was at the absolute top of my list.

And episode two does not disappoint! From Sakomoto talking to an empty birdhouse, to solving a bullying problem by getting himself and the bullied boy a job at “WcDonalds”, to the bullies from the first episode embarrassingly asking Sakomoto for a “smile to go” at the cash register, the first 5 minutes are packed with nonsensical nonsense. (and I’m loving it!)

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The second act is dedicated to Kuronuma Aina, who foreshadowed her intent to trap Sakomoto in a love trap last week. As you can guess, this doesn’t go well.

Step 1. Get into his personal space…fails because Sakomoto writes with both hands at the same time, which makes a barrier she can not break.

Step 2. Call him by his given name…fails because his given name is never visible and other girls claw at chalk boards to drown out his answer when Aina asked.

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Step 3. Intimate his actions…fails because Sakomoto makes a complicated pencil shaving holder out of cut paper so accurate no human could hope to copy.

Then Aina turns to an Ouija board-like Kokkuri-san game and fails immediately because Sakomoto is possessed by a fox spirit. Possessed, he demands a 6-foot arch be made, which Aina and the other girls do, and all becomes well again. All of the girls are friends and Sakomoto’s bizarre experiment is over.

Roll Credits!

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As with last week, I don’t know if Sakomoto is terrible, brilliant, or average. It’s dumb humor, produced so over the top I cannot help but chuckle. More importantly, the show is smart enough to keep building out from what it did last week and, even if it is still the same joke (Sakomoto is perfect) it’s so different and strange each time as to be new and refreshing.

Ultimately, It absolutely must be watched. if for no other reason than I need help processing how good or terrible it is.

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Kuma Miko – 04

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I never expected Kuma Miko to carry last week’s costumes over to a second episode and, coupled with the village ceremonies, the village men chatting about the costumes they preferred, and watching Machi and Natsu eat sushi together, the first act is a master class in slice-of-life as world-building.

It was slow, comfortable, almost joke-free but still enjoyable. The fact Machi gets more character designs and the in-show world responds to it is a nice play on anime convention.

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Then the second act comes out of nowhere and introduces Yoshi’s childhood friend Hibiki and goes off on a tangent about the Shimomura clothing retailer. Hibiki aside, the Shimomura segment is a lot like last season’s Dagashi Kashi, as I have no context for this company and have no idea why the writers felt a possessed Machi rambling off factoids about this company would be funny or even interesting.

Because Hibiki is introduced to us abruptly, and Machi is wearing her ‘flashback’ school clothes AND because we’d seen flashbacks in the first act, I initially though the entire scene WAS a flashback. Put it all together and the second half is a confusing mess.

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Last week I called out Kuma Miko for being overly safe and relying on it’s central relationship’s quirkiness for all it’s humor. I’m not sure that is still true this week, with the introduction of Hibiki and Machi’s relationship.

However, the second act is so random and disconnected from the show that playing it safe may be all Kuma Miko is able to do? Definitely watchable, strange, but not really ‘good’ as an alternative.

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Sansha Sanyou – 03

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A typhoon descends on the town, and with it comes a Marry Poppins-style maid flying in with a brolly…or is she simply riding the wind? In any case, when Futaba mentions she’s out of spending money and considering a part-time job, Yoko decides she’ll look for one too. Strangely, Yamagi is missing from his usual spot in the bushes.

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That leads girls to a quaint cafe called Secret Garden, where they find what looks at first like a murder scene—if this was Danganronpa, that is. Turns out it’s just a combination of jam and fatigue. The maid is Sonobe, and she used to work in Yoko’s household and is all too happy to give her former master a job.

As for Yamagi, he is not enthralled about the idea of making Yoko-sama work, and ends up fighting Sonobe with baking utensils. Naturally, Futaba and Hayama are frightened by the sheer weirdness of Yoko’s former servants.

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Still, the next day Yoko is working there, and to her friends’ surprise, not dressed as a maid; cosplay is just Sonobe’s hobby (though I was surprised to see the tomboy Futaba wearing a long skirt).

Sonobe shows off this hobby again the next day when she comes to Yoko’s school dressed in their school uniform, which she designed and carefully made the night before from memory.

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Despite her looks, Yoko estimates Sonobe to be in her thirties, so it makes sense for her to want to use her youthful looks to continue being in proximity to girls whose age she resembles, that she might “draw youthful energy” or some such from them.

To that end, she kills three birds with one stone by making sure Yoko’s new friends are taking care of her, delivering some mayo-heavy lunch, and using her disguise-not-disguise to hand out flyers for her cafe to Yoko’s schoolmates.

Sonobe’s definitely an odd duck, and her presence infused a bit of magical realism into these week’s proceedings, but we got a little too much of her this week; I prefer the focus to be on our reliable affable core trio.

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Re:Zero kara Hajimeru Isekai Seikatsu – 04

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The next chapter of Re:Zero gets off to a strong start with a great Eva reference from Subaru followed by his and our dashed expectations he’d wake up with Emilia sitting by his bedside.

Instead he’s greeted by no one, walks down a hall loop, then solves it on the first try with his game master-infuriating natural luck, coming afoul of a “drill loli” sorceress who burns him, claiming it’s just a test to determine if he’s friend or foe.

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Waking up again in the same bed (the ceiling now familiar), he hears snide commentary in stereo about himself, then finds two maids, Ram and Rem, standing in his room. Emilia appears, and all is well. He surveys the massive estate where they’re staying, shows “Emilia-tan” Japanese morning calisthenics (a great cultural crossover), and meets the lord of the mansion, Roswaal L. Mathers, whom he not unreasonably mistakes as some kind of jester.

During a sumptuous meal, Emilia informs Subaru that she is one of the candidates in the running for ruler of Lugunica (her insignia was proof of her status), and with the present king’s whereabouts unknown, things are uneasy in the kingdom. As such, one can’t fault Subaru for requesting something relatively modest as thanks for saving her: he wants a job at the mansion. And hell, who wouldn’t? The place is fantastic.

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Once he’s fitted for a butler’s uniform, the twin maids show him the considerable ropes of estate maintenance. He proves he’s not particularly skilled at anything beyond solving Betty’s door magic on the first try every time, but it’s all stuff he hasn’t done before, so some teething is expected.

Ram and Ren are patient and discover some surprising things about Subaru (like his sewing skills), but are quick to nickname him Barusu (a blinding curse) and don’t go easy with the barbs. It’s a great sequence of Subaru once again starting to find his place, and it lulled me into a comfortable place.

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Ram, who it would appear has some kind of special relationship to her lord, reports to him that Subaru doesn’t make the best butler (or spy, most likely) and doesn’t believe interfering in his friendship with Emilia is necessary, since they’re both kids and “nothing will happen.”

That line is accurate due to the personality of Subaru and Emilia, but also proves prescient. But before it does, Subie and Emi have a nice little chat in the masnion’s yard/field. Emilia offer to heal Subaru’s wounds, but he wants to keep them as proof of his efforts.

He also asks Emilia on what amounts to a date in town when both are free, and Subaru ignores her concerns that being with her would be troublesome for him. When he goes to bed, he can’t even sleep, he’s so excited about their day tomorrow, until he starts counting Pucks.

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But then morning comes, and Ram and Ren call him a guest, and his wounds are gone. Return by Death has occured, only with a new spawning location: the bed in Roswaal Mansion. But when did death occur? Was his power trigger by something else? It’s another stunning turn for a show that’s been full of them.

This truly is a gem of a show that lulls us (along with Subaru) into a sense of comfort and security, then resets all the progress he made. Having to start over from scratch in this new timeline will be particularly demoralizing for Subaru, even though neither he no nobody ended up dead—as far as we know—this time.

But it speaks to the confidence of this show that it can sweep the slate clean with such regularity. Reset buttons are typically a way of making quick, neat endings; of making things easier for the writers. Here, the resets make things harder, since an entirely new route and new bonds must be forged.

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My Hero Academia – 04

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When the mock battle begins, an overwhelmed Izuku falls far behind immediately, covering ground already covered by other potential heroes, and getting even more discouraged when they hear them pop off their point totals. The one time he comes across a functioning one-point villain, another examinee takes it out and thanks him for being a diversion.

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But then the “true test” begins when the zero-point obstacle appears: a colossal robot that everyone starts to run away from except Izuku. He stays put, eyes full of tears, with almost no time left to score any points, and spots the nice girl who stopped him from falling, trapped under wreckage directly in the advancing zero-point’s path.

Izuku runs towards the danger and puts his life and limbs on the line to stop the juggernaut—and he does, when his All Might powers finally surface and he delivers a SMASH punch that not only cripples it, but three of his four limbs as well. Watching them flop about in the wind, I knew something wasn’t right.

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Izuku’s saved form falling to his death by the girl, who uses her antigrav abilities again to save him, but she can’t save him from the fact he has zero vilain points in the mock battle, which means failure…IF villain points were the only points being awarded. They are not.

Izuku ended up scoring sixty “rescue points”, because after all, being a hero is about more than just defeating villains. Izuku demonstrated the heroic instinct of self-sacrifice, and also inspired others to act in kind. In fact, the girl, one Uraraka Ochako, tried to transfer some of her points to Izuku for saving her, but such a transfer wasn’t necessary because Izuku already had more than enough points to pass.

So it wasn’t just a test of speed and strength, but of all the intangible qualities that make a hero a hero. The other things will come in time for Izuku (I like his symbol of a glass just barely containing its contents due to surface tension crackin under the stress). Izuku’s body may have bent, but it did not break. And now he has a genuine friend-int-the-making in Ochako.

His hero academia is off to an auspicious start, and as tough practical exam episodes go, this one felt nimble, quick, and satisfying, especially at the end when Izuku’s mom reacts to his grin of elation with the same soppy tears we usually see on his face, showing us where he got that tendency from.

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Haifuri – 03

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The gist: Harekaze gets into it’s first submarine battle, the German exchange student wakes up and, after receiving a message that all school ships can return home, the crew heads for home.

Also, they decide not to find and help the Musashi. Roll Credits!

The Good: in the opening scene with the school principle, we see that the framing of Harekaze is likely part of a larger military power grab. If the school can not capture Harikae, all student ships will be commandeered by the military or sunk if they resist. Later, after German-Name-chan wakes up, we learn that order completely broke down on the Admiral Spee for reasons unknown, which hints at more complex international intrigues going on.

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This is good, because it means Haifuri’s central conflict is interesting and coherent. Multi-level manipulation explains why everyone is shooting at Harikaze at first sight and ignoring it’s surrender flags. It also implies layered enemies, some we may not have even seen yet. Simply, as a story setting, it works.

The not as good: while the pajamas and stuffed animals were fine, some of the cute-girl stuff felt like it was padding out the episode. The ‘www boys are gross/stinky submarine’ antics were particularly eye rolling.

Sadly, the submarine warfare was a little clunky too. I get the crew needed a quirky, out of the box solution to defeat a submarine with only one torpedo, but I’d have to hit wikipedia to understand what exactly the device was that they used in that plan. Regardless, since the submarine was just a faceless enemy with no more personality than ‘it fires torpedoes that miss’ the battle lacked tension.

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The Vedrict: Most of the cast are just ‘parts of the ship’ that serve no greater function than reporting on/using those ship functions, so the large number of characters doesn’t bother me. It also helps that the characters often exist only in the part of the ship that they use: the doctor in the med bay, the engineers in engineering, the observation girl in the observation tower — and the character designs are simple enough to not draw undue attention to their lack of relevant story characterization.

All in all, the padding pulls it down from last week and the battle lacked tension, but Haifuri remains perfectly watchable.

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Big Order – 02

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Well, that was an…err…interesting sequence of events. If the plot of Big Order continues to be as erratic and silly as this week, watching a lot more of it is going to be a tall order. We start with Eiji successfully achieivng “domain” over Rin by making it impossible for her to kill him, which is the only damn thing she wanted to do by wishing to be immortal.

One could ask why she didn’t simply wish the person who destroyed the world would die, full stop—but I guess she wanted to do it personally, and now it’s backfired on her big-time. By the way, I’ve gotta wonder if the directors told Mikami Shiori to scream in such a way as it sounds like equal parts pain and pleasure…because that’s what came through.

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While Rin can’t kill Eiji, she still wants to, desperately, and so after they’re both taken prisoner by one of her comrades who can stop time (which, like Eiji and Rin’s powers, seems way too powerful a power), and she busts him out, they take the most dangerous route out of the bowels of the government office, so that she can try several different methods of killing him indirectly.

Her numerous failed attempts to cheat are one of the highlights of the episode, as it’s servicable black comedy to see Rin try and try again to get Eiji killed, only to get killed herself in almost every way imaginable, then restore herself. I gotta hand it to the creator: having an immortal sidekick who wants to kill the MC but can’t is a pretty delicious premise.

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Unfortunately, the episode quickly gets glommed up with all kinds of other shit, and the Eiji & Rin show I was enjoying is pushed to the sides in favor of a larger scheme by Rin’s superiors, the Group of Ten.

Under their orders, time-stopping guy Fran has Sena in stasis, holding back her six-month shelf life. In exchange, they’re prepared to finish what Eiji started, naming him their puppet king, declaring their jurisdiction (Kyushu) an independent nation, and declaring war on the rest of the world.

After introducing all ten people with graphics and their plan with lots of explanations and maps, my head was spinning a bit, wanting it all to just stahp for a second and let me regroup.

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But like Eiji, the Group of Ten’s plan would not wait, and he sees no other option but to put the Ten under his domain, sticking them with his tendrils (including in a naughty place for one of the female members) and officially making them his.

Their fates would now seem to be tied together, though considering how Rin acted after he domain’d her, and the knowing smirk from his new chief of staff Hiiragi, I’m inclinded to doubt Eiji’s reign will be a long and smooth one.

‘Smooth’ is not a word I’d use to describe this episode. More like crude, rude, and chaotic. The snowballing plot is mildly goofy, there were too many character intros packed in, Eiji’s not particularly likable, his interactions with women leave a bad aftertaste, and the CGI monster-packed action is often too abstract. We’ll see if any of this improves next week when Eiji’s rule begins in earnest.

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