Sousei no Onmyouji – 26

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At last, an episode that somewhat moves the needle a little in the overall story arc, while answering some questions about Sae. Sure, there’s a pair of lame Basara twins involved, but we also finally get to meet the great Kuranashi, proving that it’s not Sae (kind of a flimsy theory I had, but I’m glad I can eliminate it at least).

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The basara twins, while generally lame, still manage to overpower the Twin Stars pretty easily in their first encounter, wrapping them up in their spider-like silk. Things get so bad Sae has to run out to take the twins’ next strike, and to the surprise of everyone, Sae is able to summon a barrier that negates the Basaras’ power.

The intent of showing how easily Roku and Benio are beaten, and how easily Sae’s shield stops that same power, is clear: Sae is totes powerful; enough to have me thinking she’s starting to look like the Miko, even though Roku and Benio didn’t technically conceive her.

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Three more of the 12 Guardians show up, and like the others they have their little quirks, but I still refuse to learn their names; not until we start seeing more of them for more than one episode at a time. It also feels like we’ve been introduced to more than 12, even though we haven’t.

These three guys don’t even do anything, since Roku and Benio are committed to exorcising the basara who tried to hurt Sae, who is as near as makes no difference their adoptive daughter at this point.

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The Guardians did do one thing: move the battle to the real world, which combined with their anger over the threatening of Sae, provided Roku and Benio the boost they needed to defeat the twins, who are taken back to Magano by Kuranashi, finally showing himself to the guardians in the process.

It’s clear Kuranashi is the kind of guy who prefers to use others as his tools without involving himself in direct fights. The episode ends with him killing one twin to repair the leg of the other, and giving the suriving twin a reason for vengeance against the Twin Stars. But even Kuranashi is intrigued by the wild card that is Sae. Now knowing what she isn’t is better than nothing.

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All Out!! – 01 (First Impressions)

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The Gist: It’s a high school rugby club anime.

Where last season’s Days paired an awkward unpopular kid who tries his hardest with a popular pretty boy who doesn’t have to try and watched their friendship and emotional growth unfold; Haikyuu!! paired two fanatical win at all cost enemies who’s thirst for victory improves their skills, despite their unfriendship; All Out goes for a literal mismatched pairing.

Gion is a tiny guy who’s head strong (and physically strong) and The tall blonde kid is giant but afraid of conflict due to injuring a friend in middle school.

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The Verdict: In the realm of Sports Genre anime, this duo works pretty well because it allows for very simple, but still funny jokes — and emotional development for the characters.

Seriously, this is a legitimately entertaining show, with a blend of slapstick and charming dialog. Sprinkle in ‘heart’ and it is worth your time… if you’re up for another sports show.

Unfortunately, I’m sportsed out.

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Bernard Jou Iwaku – 01 (meh)

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The Gist: Three characters talk very very quickly for three minutes in a library. One likes talking about books but doesn’t read them, another doesn’t talk but reads them and maybe has a thing for the girl, and yet another girl is obsessed with the value of books and does read them but no one cares…

I guess this is a joke about book lover archetypes but the only joke is a slapstick moment where one girl punches the other in the face. It’s well rendered, in so far as it has bright colors and crisp lines but nothing happens and it either applies to a Japanese cultural aspect I am not familiar, or literally has no point at all.

Moving along…

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Flip Flappers – 01 (First Impressions)


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The Gist: Cocona is a quiet but average girl that doesn’t know what she wants to do with her life. Papika is an infectiously cheerful girl and/or science experiment that rides a anti-grav surf board, is fearless, and has a robot friend. Through a not-likely-coincidental meeting, these girls are taken into ‘Pure Illusion,’ an unexplained reality.

On the surface, the adventure is safe fun and games. However, a twisted darkness is hinted at below the surface. Papika is happy ‘Cocona didn’t die’ during reaching Pure Illusion, The cute robot friend has a groaning pulsating brain plugged into it (which the girls see when it is damaged) and grim looking soldiers (robots?) capture the girls upon their return.

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You should check out Flip Flappers because it’s a pleasant and mysterious adventure with likable characters. The animation is quite good, featuring interesting angles, action, interesting character and creature design, and sweeping fantasy vistas. The style also has a pencil and watercolor-like quality, which is hard to capture with stills.

However, what raises my appreciation is how efficient the production team has worked. When action is simple and mundane, they reduced the number of animated frames per second — but did not resort to ‘bouncing heads’ or ‘sliding figures.’ When action is dynamic, the frames per second go up and it looks close to top shelf anime.

There are not many reason to pass Flip Flappers bye. There are certainly better looking shows this season, though not as many as you’d assume. There are certainly other bright/dark stories and satire of Japanese students being overly tested this season, though their stories are more obviously spelled out.

Cocona’s introverted personality may bother you or, during the course of the season, the plot may deteriorate into something eye-rollingly silly, or they could run out of money, but that’s about it.

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The Verdict: the mixture of a care-free fairy tale adventure and a dark conspiracy is certainly not new. It’s not even unique this season. However,  Flip Flappers feels fresh and independent, especially because it has explained so little about it’s world and its characters agendas.

I’m even more impressed because no one on the cast or production team is particularly noteworthy, but they all put on a solid performance. I especially enjoyed Papika, who seems aware of the life threatening situation they are in, but responds with ‘wow this is hard’ and other enthusiastic cheers, that some dodge the cliches of insanity.

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Yuri!!! on Ice – 01 (First Impressions)

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The Gist: Yuri’s life was built on becoming an Olympic level ice skater for Japan. It was built around his adoration of Victor, a long standing Russian champion, who Yuri emulates in style — to the point of owning the same type of Poodle as a pet.

Yet Yuri can’t achieve his goal, perhaps more due to the stress than his physical abilities, and he washes out in the beginning of his first major season.

Now, returning home after 5 years of training, he’s confronted with open arms and love, but the sad reality many people have moved on. His childhood sweetheart married his childhood bully and has 3 children, his dog is dead, the hot springs around town are closing, and few locals practice skating or ballet as they once did.

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Yuri’s also gotten chubby, not unlike he was as a young boy, and as his mother has always been. Despite this, he explores what drew him to the sport and puts on a fantastic cloning of Victor’s performance… which goes viral on the net to his horror.

Perhaps even more horrifying, his idol arrives in town and declares he will coach Yuri and they will win the next grand prix. But a rival, a young Russian who shares Yuri’s name, is in the wings. Will Yuri cut through his fear of success? Will his childhood hero live up to his expectations? Will this become a boy x boy love drama or something else?

God damn! I don’t even care because it’s masterfully put together…

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these screen shots do it no justice…

What makes Yuri’s art on par with the best of the best, is it’s complete and utter lack of cutting corners. The ice skating certainly is rotoscoped but the camera moves, which pivot gracefully in arks, the shifting into — and out of — television recordings in the foreground and background, and mirroring of characters doing the same set in different locations are all master class work.

And that says nothing of the coloring, lighting, and subtle blink of jewelry, the grit of a run down town, and extremely broad spectrum of character body shapes, natural and cartoony gestures (that somehow all feel grounded in the same universe) is like watching Fate:Stay without literal magic or Eureka Seven’s grand cast in a non-scifantasy setting.

Everything has been thought out. Yuri literally has a colder skin tone whenever his is rendered thin and in shape, and warmer and happier looking when he’s fat. This simple visual choice reinforces how his goal to become a skater, to be professional, is itself draining his life away. Joyless.

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And that says nothing about the plot, which addresses concepts like body image, eating disorders, family, and what it means to fall short of your own expectations, yet still be loved and supported by everyone around you.

For all intents and purposes, the plot takes itself seriously, but with a lite touch that makes Yuri’s shames and frustrations charming instead of eye rolling.

This is a solid piece of work and, no matter where it goes from here on, I can not find flaws with the opening episode. The art craft, tone, variation, creativity and warmth from the cast (against a cold setting) is contagious. I strongly recommend you go watch this episode or call me insane in the comments below!

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Hibike! Euphonium 2 – 01

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Ah, no more messing around. Here comes a properly good Autumn hump day show that immerses you in its gloriously naturalistic and precise world. Granted, I was pre-immersed last year, but it takes no time at all in this sprawling-yet-measured 47-minute season premiere to fall back under the spell of Sound!

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Oumae Kumiko and Kousaka Reina have never been closer, literally or figuratively. Perhaps it’s a factor of Reina being satisfying with their level of success: they placed first in Kyoto and are representatives at the Kansai competition, the next step to the Nationals she dreams of winning someday. Right there with her, kind of in her wake, is Kumiko, who is more open and affectionate to Reina than anyone else, even, no especially her mom and big sister.

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Kumiko and Reina are relatively steady variables in this opener: all of the conflict comes from the uneasy atmosphere being created by still-open wounds among the upperclassmen.

Specifically, one former member who quit in the great second-year purge wants back in, but Asuka won’t budge. The first years are kept out of the loop, and it hurts their focus. As usual, KyoAni is impeccable at not just telling but showing the subtle but increasingly assertive effect of the senpai drama.

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Kumiko is a great protagonist because she’s so good at being in the middle of things while not dominating those events with her personality. She’s a deceptively very “normal” girl hiding multitudes beneath her exterior, brough to life with a skilled performance by Kurosawa Tomoyo (in a total 180 from her character of Sylphy in Amaburi). I love how drastically Kumiko’s tone changes when she’s talking to her fam, as if it’s a huge imposition to do so, which makes perfect sense since she’s a teenager.

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But most gratifying in a sea of senpai uncertainty and a looming life-altering competition is to see the collective rock that is Kumiko and Reina. They’re far past their troubles of past years, and both value one another’s company and conversation above all others.

They are proof that previous bad blood can not only be corrected, but flourish into a beautiful friendship. As the assistant instructor (a pro in the music industry) says to the band: be more imposing. Make more of an impact. Don’t be reticent, because it all comes through in their music.

Everyone has to be more open with one another to succeed and become the best band they can be, as well as the best people. Unpleasant things like resentments and grudges and infamous incidents can’t be allowed to fester. And most importantly, life shouldn’t be a constant struggle. You gotta stop and ogle the fireworks in rapt awe once in a while.

This was a baller premiere that reminded me why KyoAni is so good with such regularity. It doesn’t just nail the fundamentals, but sweats the details to the extent there are gestures and tones you won’t see anywhere else, to say nothing of the complexity of the emotions in play. A very solid and confident start.

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