Rewrite – 02

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After reflection, I revised by rating of Rewrite’s first episode to a seven, as I suspect its nearly hour-long running time lulled me into a kind of trance in which it seemed like a better show than it actually was.

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But the first episode was still gobs better than the second, which eliminated most of the fantasy elements and atmosphere I liked for silly antics and discussion of boobs. As such, all my enthusiasm for sticking with Rewrite has evaporated.

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It doesn’t help that the characters are drawn with only the broadest of strokes based on well-worn archtypes that are better executed elsewhere on the Summer spectrum…or that the animation leaves much to be desired.

With 91 Days and Alderamin now on my list, in addition to being the worst of the three current shows whose titles begin with “Re”, Rewrite has been relegated to my recycling bin.

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Ange Vierge – 01 (First Impressions)

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Saya-chan is your typical try-hard long blue hair chika fighting carbon-fiber penis shaped enemies. She has a light saber and allies that wear slightly quirky outfits. That’s all that matters.

They shout things like “That’s an EXR… an EX-Rebellion for you!”

There are 5 worlds in this universe and some sort of doomsday plot and BWAAAAAA! STOP! STOP! STOP! The creators of this show can not possibly expect that we will care about 15+ characters that are introduced all at once, in the middle of a hard-core exposition segment about the worlds and impending doooooom???

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The verdict: Ange Verge is generic, unimaginative, and pumped full of over-designed characters that only work if they explain everything to us verbally. It’s not a good show and, like many of the shows not worth your time, it’s not really good either.

You may like it if you wanted a bland version of Sousei no Onmyouji where only female characters exist. Otherwise, skip it. Plenty of better shows out this season.

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DAYS – 02

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The Gist: Tsukamoto Tsukushi experiences the joy/hell of having to work harder than everyone else in order to even participate. He’s so slow that the first years have to do extra laps and everyone is pissed — but it doesn’t change his dreamy/urge to fight on. Eventually, he takes on the whole team’s laps, just to keep out of their hair …but the result is rapid improvement in stamina.

Later, while SeiSeki participates in a multi-school training camp during golden week, we get to see that absolute dedication pay off. After a few moments of all the other schools writing him off as a loser, they quickly realize that this, the shrimp of Seiseki is still better than their best. He sets an absurd pace running up the mountain trail and only his fellow first years, hardened by the challenge of repeating laps for his faults, can keep up.

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I’m going to revise my take on Days from last week. Slightly. It is still an underdog story, but less about the underdog who finally finds the place he belongs and how everyone was already talented enough to be the best, just needing his magic push, a la Haikyuu!!.

It’s more about finding someone who can lead that legacy forward — someone who isn’t just good out of the gate but has the drive to pull his team forward and replace Seiseki’s pro-level captain. And the captain already thinks this will by Tsukushi, because he is willing to shoulder burdens for the team and push himself harder, which only drives his team mates harder to keep up with ‘the runt.’

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The Verdict: I can’t lie! This format is designed to make you root for its hero from the get go and, despite being a simple hero, god damn I’m rooting for him already.

I mean, talk about pure format — Tsuka starts the episode trailing behind frustrated classmates only to end up leading them in an unimaginable blitz up a mountain. There is nothing subtle about that emotional arc!

Is it a good show? Absolutely not! It treads water just above generic with a predictable structure, likable but simple characters, and average artwork that only shines because it’s fully of bright color and depth of tone.

Should you watch it? I don’t even know, to be honest, but it has somehow ended up on my review list, despite the simplicity. Make of that what you will…

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Qualidea Code – 01 (First Impressions)

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After the earth is attacked by an unknown enemy force, the children wake up from cold sleep, and grow up to become soldiers in the ongoing fight. Three cities in Japan fight from the ground, sea, and air to keep the Unknown at bay, often clashing with themselves in the process, due to the fierce competition borne of rankings.

Like Hundred, QC portrays a futuristic world in which a battle is ongoing with a foe but not to the point of desperation. Gleaming new cities tower over the ruins of older ones, and the humans seem to have enough military power to keep those new cities safe.

Unlike Hundred, not everyone is in love with the MC Ichiya. Indeed, few are, as he’s an arrogant little shit whose catchphrase “I’m all we need” wears thin fast. His speech about wanting to protect his world doesn’t jibe with his refusal to work with anyone…except Canaria, the girl he was with when the world ended.

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He and Cana aren’t a romantic item, just close companions. While he’ll barely interact with anyone else and forces himself to be nice to the adults who saved them all, Cana is the one person he doesn’t mind having around all the time…if she can keep up with him.

The two also happen to be in the top 10 in the rankings and head and subhead of Tokyo region. While he’s only ranked fourth, Ichiya clearly considers himself the best; those below him are scum and those above him are idiots; only he strikes the perfect balance.

That being said, the other two pairs of city heads and subheads at least have distinct personalities. There’s the young, naive, but kind and honorable Hime, ranked first, and her loyal and trusty lieutenant Hotaru. Then there’s the lazy, disinterested redhead, second-ranked Chigusa Asuha and her brother Kazumi, who’s down at #207.

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Ichiya seems like a kind of a dick so far, not the most likable protagonist, considering everyone else presumably went through similar horrors in the past and still managed not to come out as dicks. The most obvious example is Canaria, who was right there with him that day.

Cana calmed him then, and she calms and fortifies everyone still with her “world”, a songstress ability. Another difference form Hundred: the singing is actually animated. Ichiya helps her out by using his power of flight to put her in the best position for the song to be most effective.

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The Unknown are little more than pink CGI blobs of various sizes, like the ones we’ve seen in countless other shows. That aside, the multi-pronged battle involving ground troops, naval vessels, and broomstick air wings, had a nice rhythm and flow to it.

Indeed, even much of what would be the more boring bits of this episode are elevated by music from Iwasaki Taku, with theme songs by both ClariS and GARNiDELiA.

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There’s also the fact the show all but acknowledges the battle with the Unknown is a cakewalk, and so to avoid the three units and individuals from making it all about who earns the most points, Hime decides to end it with an overpowered attack that ends up destroying a section of a crucial bridge, thus nullifying whatever windfall of points she would have gotten from destroying the last of the Unknown.

This all seems pretty straightforward: post-apoc magic power school with clashing personalities at the top and an arrogant MC with a loyal and affable friend. That is, until one of the seagulls flying up in the sky suddenly vanishes in a pink spark, as if passing through some kind of barrier.

That caught my attention in an otherwise competent but uninspiring start to QC: what happened to these young refugees of a ruined world when they went into cold sleep? Is this futuristic new world, and their fantastical supernatural powers, all an elaborate simulation? We shall see.

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Shokugeki no Souma 2 – 02

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Erina waited for Alice post-match to tell her how the “limits of her strengths were apparent” against Souma. When Alice fails to deliver a worthy comeback and storms off, Erina privately expresses her envy that Alice can cry and fume so freely without anyone giving it a second thought. Heavy is the crown on the head that contains God’s Tongue.

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While last week was a battle where heart warmth beat out dazzling science (and dazzling science cried but accepted the loss), this week gives us another battle between two chefs from harbor towns who have completely different philosophies about cooking. Those opposing views inform Megumi and Ryo’s equally polarized approaches to seafood broth in their first round ramen challenge.

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For this match, Souma and Alice join the others in the stands, and the latter’s presence proves useful in providing everyone else with her own personal insight regarding Ryo. She first met him while on her world travels ten years ago, and even then he was a head chef an a force to be reckoned with.

But Megumi isn’t the shrinking violet she was at the start of this show. She’s put faith in her friends, her family, the bounty of her home, and her ability to bring out its full potential. Once he puts on the bandanna Ryo transforms into a wild child, but Megumi doesn’t let herself be intimidated, as a fire of equal ferocity burns within her, fueled not by coarse ambition, but by love and kindness.

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There’s a reason Megumi’s the dark horse: no one looked at her and saw a serious contender. But Megumi doesn’t simply rely on low expectations, nor will that get her past these judges. She’s got skills, as the judges see when her broth turns out shining and crystal clear, goading them into drawing nearer as one does at a ramen cart, watching your meal be prepared up close.

They don’t get near Ryo’s side; he’s like the shellfish whose carcasses he pounds into powder: people keep their distance out of fear, lest they get the claws. Alice knew well to stay the hell out of his kitchen ten years ago, when he brought three brawny harbor cooks to heel with ease, all while satisfying a packed restaurant.

When Ryo sees Megumi has the judges’ and crowd’s attention, he snatches it back with a loud and dramatic noodle drain. He also finishes first, just as Alice did.

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Like his personality and hyper-competitive spirit in the kitchen, his bold, multi-latered “soup de possion” ramen beats its tasters into an elated submission, and Ryo is visualized as a delinquent gang ringleader.

I thought Ryo’s Yang would be countered by Megumi’s Yin, but while her soup, like her, looks like it wouldn’t stand a chance against Ryo’s zero-sum, all-conquering flavor, but actually can, and surprises everyone but her and her friends when it does.

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Yes despite looking clear and pure and light, Megumi’s ramen packs just as much of an umami punch. Not only that, she carefully prepared this dish knowing she’d be facing a rich soup from Ryo (since he immediately and very publically chose thick noodles), and made sure to include the flavors of her home, adapting a regional specialty as her secret weapon.

She also included a delicious paste because it would be “fun” to switch up the flavor later in the bowl. Ryo would never do that. He wants to beat the judges down; nothing fun about that!

Ryo and Megumi’s different routes brought them to the same place: two powerful, assertive seafood ramens bursting with complex umami. Rather than fight fire with water, Megumi brought the same weapons to bear as Ryo. It’s an all-out brawl, and by the end, unlike last week, there is no clear winner.

I have no idea who will win, but I predict it will be Ryo. I love Megumi, but the idea of her beating Ryo right after Souma beat Alice seems too one-sided in favor of the Polar Star crew. Then again, Ryo has definitely exposed some weaknesses which Megumi is uniquely poised to exploit. Not to mention I certainly wouldn’t mind Megumi moving on to the next round!

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Momokuri – 03 + 04

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Momokuri sticks to is tried-and-true formula of getting comedy out of the fact that Momo isn’t aware of how head-over-heels infatuated with him Yuki actually is. Dialogue cuts to her saying outrageous things that are true to her feelings, but those responses are only imagined.

It creates a nice romantic tension, especially considering Yuki is just as oblivious to the fact that Momo is actually really into her too, just not in the same stalker-y way. He even chokes down black coffee to show how mature he is, a ruse Yuki sees right through but appreciates Momo doing it nonetheless.

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You’d think someone so obsessed with Momo would exert a good deal of energy keeping him away from other girls, but to my (and Norika’s) surprise, she couldn’t care less that the girls in his class are all over him, even on his birthday. It just means more opportunities for her to snap pics of his adorable expressions.

Yuki’s gift for Momo is a homemade cheesecake, but the show doesn’t make a big deal about her being good at baking; she just followed the recipe and it turned out…until she hit a pole and dropped it. Momo ends up giving himself a gift that doubles as a gift for Yuki: a simple holding of hands. He saw the opportunity and took the initiative.

Meanwhile, a short-haired girl lurks around the corner…

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Episode four is all about a study session that Yuki arranges with friends of Momo and Norika. Her motives are twofold: help Momo pass exams so she won’t lose him for two weeks of their Summer to extra classes; and the opportunity to visit his house, see his bed, pillow, air, etc.

Again Momo edits her thoughts when responding to one of Momo’s friends when they ask why she likes Momo. Instead of saying his a godlike being, she merely says he’s cute; something his friends agree on, becaue he’s so wee.

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The study session is an opportunity for Yuki to serve her cheesecake for Momo, and for the two to flirt in the kitchen (provoking a little light ribbing from his pals in the next room). During the studying, Momo notices one of his friends has grown pretty friendly with Yuki; while she’s not the nervous type, he apparently is.

The session goes well into the night, so the girls volunteer to head to the supermarket to buy stuff to make dinner. There, we see the short-haired girl int he track suit once more; this time near Yuki by coincidence.

Momokuri is sweet, funny, and uncomplicated, making it eminently watchable. Will the introduction of a new girl ruin that? I hope not.

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Handa-kun – 01 (First Impressions)

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Barakamon was an awesome, often frenetic comedy with a ton of heart, so I was weary of a prequel taking place in high school. There was no need to worry: Handa-kun is an entirely different animal in the best way. It’s no match for Barakamon, but it has it’s own absurd energy and charm.

If you’d assume the first half of the first episode of a show called Handa-kun would contain…Handa-kun, you’d be mistaken! Instead, we get a lengthy, and very meta, scene in which four of Handa’s friends miss the first episode of his anime, and so make their own horrifying Handa-kun, until the studio mails the real anime to them.

The scene plays with out own expectations and ignorance about what exactly this show is going to be about (besides Handa in high school), while taking a couple of good-hearted digs at the expectant audience-anime studio relationship.

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When we finally get to Handa in high school, he’s an absolute mess, as expected. While everyone around him either loves, envies, or reveres him, Handa doesn’t have a clue, and gets the exact opposite vibes that are being thrown his way. Even the button-cute class idol wants to date him, but he assumes she’s trying to beat him up.

Handa’s talent also lets him get away with murder in class, as his thought processes often leak into public hearing, the math lesson be damned. He doesn’t bother to look or hear anything anyone does or says correctly. He’s hopeless.

That being said, Handa tries to hear Maiko out, but in the strangest way possible; writing a note for Maiko’s gruff, bizarrely proportioned friend Juri, in a scrawl elaborate and nigh-incomprehensible to a high schooler. Not exactly the best way to relay a clear message!

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His note convinces Juri that he’s into her, and so when Handa arrives at the agreed upon spot behind the gym after school, both Juri and Maiko are there waiting for him. Naturally, he assumes the worst: some kind of challenged or fight is imminent, but you have to respect his “courage”…if only he had a friggin’ clue what was going on around him! Alas, his constantly churning mind obscures all.

We close on that spot behind the gym, and go back to the group of four friends who started the episode, just as frustrated as I am by the “To Be Continued.” But the kicker is when they mail Handa their creepily-drawn homemade anime, and before the OP is over,  he simply has to switch it off.

Well, that’s not what I’ll be doing with the real anime…it was a gas, and I’m excited to see what bizarreness it can bring to bear next time.

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