ReLIFE – 07

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While we learned a lot more about An in the last episode, it was still mostly driven by Kaizaki’s reactions to those revelations. This time, it’s Yoake who gets top-billing as protagonist-of-the-week, in an episode that takes place while he’s still supporting Subject 001.

The truth about An gave us an glimpse of the world of ReLIFE Lab that this episode expands by setting Kaizaki’s story aside and showing us how Yoake came to support him instead of An (who we see is very enthusiastic early on about the prospect of being Kaizaki’s support).

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ReLIFE Lab is portrayed as very much like any other workplace, just as Lacuna in Eternal Sunshine is very much like any other doctor’s office; a neat amalgam of the mundane and the fantastical. There’s a kind of bizarre magic in what ReLIFE does, and yet Yoake still has to deal with a board of suits concerned with their branch’s rep and interested in results.

My one gripe about this otherwise lovely episode is that we don’t really get much in the way of info about Subject 001, which seems like a cruel tease. However, ReLIFE has been so good up to this point I’m willing to give the show the benefit of the doubt on this. Maybe they’re saving that 001 reveal for later (and 001 went to Aoba High just like Kaizaki) or maybe they’ll never reveal it.

As for Yoake and An, neither seem interested in the other romantically, but one can’t deny there’s have chemistry and warmness to their rapport. Maybe it’s just a senpai/kohai thing, or the fact that their peculiar line of work, what with all the masquerade and stalking, can be isolating. Their scene on the bridge in the rain was very nice; so many complex emotions going on.

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I also got the feeling that while An is obviously disappointed Kaizaki was transferred from her to Yoake, at least it was Yoake, whom she knows and trusts, who got him and not someone else. That, and she’ll be right there at school with both Yoake and Kaizaki.

The episode ends back in the present, with Yoake surveying all the people Kaizaki has changed as a result of gaining the confidence to act. In the past Yoake mentioned Kaizaki had the “trauma of losing someone”, and the uncertainty of knowing if he did enough when he should have led to present part-timer status.

Watching Kaizaki gradually overcome those issues through his ReLIFE is having an inspiring effect on Yoake, who is also pleased that he seems to have found a proper “distance” from Kaizaki that he lacked with 001. And so yet another ReLIFE character has been wonderfully rounded out and humanized, while the world has been further enriched without answering too many questions.

With everything going so well, I reckon it’ll be time to rock the boat again pretty soon!

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Saiki Kusuo no Psi Nan (TV) – 01 (First Impressions)

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The gist: Saiki is a psychic who’s loving parents accepted him (and were generally quirky) as he grew to his current age, which is high school. He is very powerful, but slightly down since he can not experience surprise birthdays or a sense of accomplishment.

Also, his parents hate each other now in the most delicious ways…

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The art may be unremarkable but, at 4 minutes, this short format is worth your time because it is packed with humor. Background, foreground, internal and spoken dialog — its layers of fun.

And it accomplishes this without the mad cap million words a second pace of a show like Luluco. Pretty impressive actually.

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Cheer Dashi!! – 01 (First impressions)

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Haru’s injury means he can’t Judo anymore. Meanwhile, his sister continues to Judo, and wins the first tourney on the girl’s team of her college.

So Haru agrees to become a male cheerleader with his childhood friend. Haru is embarrassed at first but, eventually, they recruit one more guy for their team and Haru starts to get into it.

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You will not like Cheer Dashi for less obvious reasons than a male cheerleader show would imply. It’s slow — freakishly slow — and quietly sincere. That sincerity certainly protects it from flaunting homosexual stereotypes and cringeworthiness… but it also results in a humorless jaunt that never really builds our excitement along with Haru’s.

The animation also suffers from being heavily referenced from life during the cheer-action, but lifeless at all other times. Expect still frames with people talking in the background here.

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So CD!! is a sports anime, where the sport is not well visualized, not especially exciting for most viewers (at least, not when it’s an all male team), and there is no romantic angle to pursue. Even the friendship aspect is fairly clunky.

Cringeworthy in its own right.

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Fukigen na Mononokean – 01 (First Impressions)

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The gist: this is in the vein of Kokkuri-san, where cute and/or quirky super natural things happen, but the show is really about the central relationships. In a round-about way, I’m saying the plot doesn’t really matter in this kind of show.

In FnM Ashiya isa high school student unfortunately glommed onto by a Youkai, and Abeno-san, a grumpy exorcist is the only other person who can see the spirits. They make an odd couple, with Ashiya’s flower-emotional mother adding extra spice to the up beat humor.

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You will probably enjoy FnM for it’s charm. Abeno-san is appropriately deadpan, Ashiya is understandably high strung and out of his element, and the super natural stuff is fun. Definitely chuckle worthy.

However, FnM may not hold your attention because it’s relatively slow and low energy. I guess that makes sense, since the first plot is about a Youkai that is draining Ashiya’s strength slowly away… but still. Lethargic is lethargic.

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The Verdict: if you are looking for a safe, slightly funny show with unpretentious but unimpressive visuals, you can do a whole lot worse than  Fukigen na Mononokean. Most likely, you can predict everything it has to offer but, as a genre, it’s not so main stream as to feel generic.

For that, I give it a thumbs up, a mild recommendation, and have no intention to review future episodes ;-)

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Taboo Tattoo – 01 (First Impressions)

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Seigi is a middle school martial artist living with his emotionally damaged grand father/martial arts sensei. See, Seigi’s father died ‘because he wasn’t strong enough’ and his mother made his childhood friend look out for him, which she does in wifu-like fashion.

Also, AMERICANS are plotting to destroy the second most powerful economy in the world, some south east asian island kingdom and Seigi’s middle school friends tell him the rumor is the AMERICANS have created super science tattoos to do just that!

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In fact, Seigi acquires one of these tattoos from a friendly stranger in the very first scene and then meets a young looking (but apparently 30?) female AMERICAN military spy who’s collecting the tattoos that were stolen from AMERICA (by the Yakuza?) and are being sold in Japan.

Unfortunately, she beats the living #$^* out of Seigi AND explains the entire premise of the show to him, including how the tattoos need to be primed before they will work. Except Seigi’s doesn’t, because it’s the most powerful tattoo (the Void Maker), which Seigi uses to save his life from an AMERICAN mafia guy named Bear Teddy, who’s also got a tattoo and is trying to kill all the tattooed competition.

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TT defies criticism, largely because it is so completely terrible that it’s hard to know where to start. The pacing is absurdly abrupt and the story is nonsensically idiotic. (AMERICA’s secret weapon is apparently common knowledge to Japanese middle schoolers who read Otaku blogs)

If exposition blasting us with the plot wasn’t bad enough, Seigi’s ‘become the super hero of legend’ arc is generic, his childhood friend’s personality and narrative purpose is generic, the art style is weirdly deformed (their heads are occasionally too big) and a character even has cat ears because, fuck why not right??

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The animation during the fighting is okay. Maybe even serviceable. But over all, it is not a looker.

The only moment of joy in the entire episode was Seigi’s request for “Native American Indian Curry Udon” for dinner, which his waifu’s closest approximation apparently involves cabbage and a Jamaican recipe. The runner up? …unexplained cat ears on the AMERICAN. ugh…

This show is complete horseshit.

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SERVAMP – 01 (First Impressions)

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Shirota Mahiru, 15, likes simple things, hates troublesome things, after being orphaned his uncle becomes the “someone” to raise him, and leads him to take in a stray black cat he names Kuro that turns out to be a vampire, whom he forms a Servant-Vampire (“Servamp”) contract with to save his friends.

First of all, Shirota Mahiru is a liar. If he really hated troublesome things, he wouldn’t have saved the cat, and not regretted not taking it in. Instead, he did the one thing that would make the most trouble for him, having to take care of a pet where before he didn’t have one.

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That aside, Shirota Mahiru is also a composite of several dozen shounen heroes I’ve already seen before, which is problematic. Of course his mom got wasted in a car accident and of course he’s great at housework and would make a great wife and of course he gets saddled with an odd-couple partner.

This color-by-numbers slog continues with the expected personality-clashing slapstick, right up until things get serious when one of Mahiru’s friends seemingly loses all of his blood at once when attacked by the vampires a friend told them might be lurking around. As for why vampires exist in this world, well…they just do, ’cause.

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Speaking of “of course”, of course the bad guy is a loopy flamboyant dude in a white suit and top hat who slurs his words as he raves and swears because oooh, he’s such a Craaayzee Vampire Villain Dude! And what do you know, when Kuro (most inventive name for a character EVER) sees Mahiru put his life on the line to save his friends, he springs into action and kills (well, wounds) the crazy vamp, completing their contract and ensuring similar battles in the future.

Count me out of this yawn (and, I might mention, sausage) factory. I’m rating this niche appeal…you know, for the kind of viewer who just isn’t interested in watching something they’ve never seen a hundred times before. Because that would be too troublesome.

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Scared Rider Xechs – 01 (First Impressions)

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In my experience, Tuesday is a pretty light day for anime, to the point I don’t even necessarily have to watch something on Tuesday. The only reason I would is if there was a show original and entertaining enough to make me watch it. But after an uneven and somewhat bland opening episode, I fear SRX is not that kind of show.

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Part of this are the characters: there are certainly plenty of them, but few are named and most are bland as wallpaper paste. Hot pants, a guitar, and a strange half-Engrish accent to not dynamic and interesting characters make. There’s also the matter of the blob-like enemies, called “Nightfly O’Notes”, which while destructive could hardly be called frightening.

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A team of four prettyboys called “riders” gear up (in what look like Power Ranger suits) and pummel the NoNs back to their dimension, while a fifth prettyboy (Mr. Guitar) runs into a burning plane to rescue the “6th Dirigent”, a girl in desperate need of a hair stylist and psychiatrist.

Boy #5 AKA Yosuke was unable to transform right until he needed to in order to save the girl, and that’s where the episode ends…right when things are starting to pick up and get a little interesting. I may give it one more episode, but I was not particularly impressed with anything SRX had to offer, especially when compared to the Spring carryovers I’m already watching.

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New Game! – 01 (First Impressions)

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Suzukaze Aoba is a nervous high school graduate beginning her career at Eagle Jump, a Japanese gaming company. She wants to act all grown up but quickly learns no one at this all-female-staff company is not all that grown up.

roll credits…

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Tepid is the best word to describe NG’s first outing. The cast is try-hard quirky, saccharine sweet, and as Aoba clearly being unprepared skills-wise for the job, the happy go lucky atmosphere sucks out any realism this show could muster.

God, there’s even an old cat and an angry middle manager who has to shoot air soft pellets at the Director to get her to come to an important meeting. No, just no.

At 9 members (so far) the cast isn’t too big to follow, but everyone is generic. There’s no real hook to the setting either — it’s played straight that she’s just a new hire at a game company working on the 3rd installment of her favorite franchise. No twists, and limited sense of realism too.

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You will enjoy this if you enjoy blushing nervous girls who act sweet to each other. It is brightly colored and the animation is decent, when it animates more than message bubbles shared between the girls’ work stations.

You can skip this thing if you have literally anything else to do and/or don’t enjoy rubbing your eyes with sandpaper. It’s awful difficult to like Suzukaze’s personality… if social anxiety and adoration for her coworkers can be called a personality.

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ReLIFE – 06

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With Hishiro and Kariu now friends, and Hishiro looking up her feelings on Google (then scoffing at the result that it’s “love”) I was looking forward to the show pivoting to focus on the third girl in Kaizaki’s circle: Onoya An. This episode certainly did that, but not at all the way I thought.

Things start innocently enough, with the possibility of Kaizaki’s friends visiting his bachelor pad becoming a very abrupt reality when Oga and An arrive for a study session. It’s great to watch him squirm as he hides any evidence of his true age, even as I knew in his haste he’d forget something.

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Two things he missed: his MD player and a calendar with work stuff. The first can be explained away by the simple fact he’s a fan of vintage electronics; the second he sidestepped by using the calendar to “kill a bug.”

The true test for Kaizaki comes when Oga is called away for work, leaving him and An all alone in his apartment (which Oga is too dense/pure to notice could be a problem). Yoake, who has Kaizaki’s phone mic tapped, does, and races to Kaizaki’s aid when he believes his cover is at risk.

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What ensues plays out like a high school version of a spy thriller, with An removing her childish braids and glasses, revealing she fell in love with Kaizaki at first sight back when she saw him working at the convenience store, and starts coming on to him, all while Yoake navigates the busy streets to race to Kaizaki’s place.

The entire premise of ReLIFE seems a little creepy at first, until a scene like this comes around and you realize there’s nothing to be concerned about, because Kaizaki is a good guy who knows his boundaries. Even if An thinks he’s 17 like her, and even if consensual sex with her is legal, he’s not going to do that, and not just because he doesn’t love her.

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At the same time, An’s long look at the MD, probing, knowing questions, and her little hair-and-glasses trick were all clues that she’s not 17 either, but rather another ReLIFE agent like Yoake—a far more reckless and cavalier agent than Yoake, to boot. But this was a legitimate test on how to deal with romantic advances from high school girls, and Kaizaki passed with flying colors.

I liked this reveal, a lot actually, because it was earned. It explains why An was so friendly and close to Kaizaki all this time without ever being the main focus. It explains her equally awful test scores. It eliminates the love triangle with Hishino for the duration of the experiment, while also opening the possibility of Kaizaki and An remaining friends when the experiment is over, since she won’t be losing her memories of him.

Even the show’s poster was a clue about An. And she wasn’t even entirely lying about “love at first sight” either. When she saw Kaizaki’s case file, she knew she had her ReLIFE subject. Only she couldn’t be his support because her training wasn’t quite complete, hence the transfer to Yoake.

While the cat is out of the bag about her identity, the other four members of Kaizaki’s circle are still in the dark, which should make for an interesting new dynamic; it also makes the episodes with An in them worth another watch.

At the same time, a great many cats remain securely in bags, like the details of how Kaizaki was found and selected, why An really isn’t his primary support, and who the heck Sample #001 was, and how and why he failed. Heck, An could be Sample #001, for all I know. And what do you know: the next episode looks to be a prequel of sorts, so those mysteries may not be mysteries for long.

One thing’s for sure: I’m barrelling through ReLIFE like there’s no tomorrow…but I can’t help it. Show’s too damn good!

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