WWW.Working!! – 05

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This newest version of Working!! just isn’t clicking for me anymore. It’s another episode full of little skits and running gags that doesn’t move beyond the ensemble’s individual quirks, which in most cases, remain muddled, and Hayashida is the most muddled character of them all.

Tha manager seems to have a seedy background, Muranushi has a handful for a mom, while Kamakura waves a katana around…but if you’re going to have a new cast, recycling jokes form the old one isn’t a confidence-inspiring move.

Perhaps the third season of Working!!, in which most arcs were wrapped up for the ensemble, was a good place to stop. A new cast was a bold idea, but it’s a risk that hasn’t really paid off after five episodes. Nearly all goodwill I started with for this new cast has been whittled away, and so unfortunately I don’t think I’ll be reviewing any more.

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3-gatsu no Lion – 04

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Hina’s longtime crush, a baseball ace, has a Big Game coming up, and she wants to be there cheering him on, with a big, fancy bento in hand for when he’s done. She becomes so consumed with what to make she doesn’t realize she has no cash.

Rei buys her the food, but despite waking up early, Hina has problems with the tricky dishes she’s making for the first time, forgets to pick out what to wear, and is ultimately late.

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The previous night, and at the Big Game, Rei sees a side of Hina he’s never seen before: a side that seems to be in love. “Love” seems to be a triggering word for Rei, because he suddenly gets a black-and-white flashback to a very unsettling scene where a woman—his mom?—removes his glasses and gets on top of him. Clearly Rei’s concept of “love” is distorted in some way, but there are no details beyond this glimpse.

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As for Hina, as happy as she looks during the game, when it comes time to deliver her bento, the object of her affection is surrounded by teammates and other girls, and they all go off to eat dinner. He doesn’t even notice Hina’s there.

I’m not sure if Rei has just been hanging out watching Hina this whole time, but when she tries to throw out the bento, he stops her, and suggests they go home and eat it together. Once there, Akari, who Hina believes doesn’t know what she’s going through because she’s so beautiful and good at cooking.

But the truth is, the very same thing happened to Akari once, which is why she gave advice to cook something simple. It’s the same advice their mom gave her. Basically, fellas: after a ball game, make sure to look around for girls with handmade bentos, and accept them before letting yourself get whisked away to other things.

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Part Two of this week’s episode dispenses with any other hints as to what that black-and-white flashback was all about (aside form what I saw it as, which was some kind of abuse), and takes a much lighter tone as Nikaido  and Rei run into the sisters while in town grabbing lunch.

Nikaido proves to be a popular guy with Momo and Akari. Momo likens him to Boboro, a popular children’s character who is big, fat, soft, and intelligent; a comparison Nikaido gratefully accepts. Rei also laments that Momo seems happier with Nikaido than she ever did with him :(

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As for Akari, we learn that she harbors an unreasonable adoration for “soft fluffy things” as much as Working!!’s Takanashi loves small cute things. It’s the reason she brings in animals, and Reis, who are skin and bones, and fills them up until they’re her preferred soft and fluffy.

Nikaido is the pre-done deal, and when he asks for a less salty, fattening menu, she takes it upon herself to pull out all the stops for his sake, ignoring Rei, the cats, and Rina (the only Kawamoto not enchanted by Nikaido’s presence).

This episode makes Nikaido more likable, as it shows he’s a decent, kind lad who knows how to go with the flow. Sure, he can be a little pushy with Rei, but his insistence that he and Rei are best friends is in no way insincere or mocking. He’s a nice guy. A nice guy under constant surveillance from his butler!

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Flip Flappers – 04

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The Gist: Papika and Cocona confront Yayaka but little evolves on that front before the two must spend two days living together. At first, this is contained to the school campus and the little dump sight that Papika has converted into a fort of sorts.

Later, while trying to catch fish for breakfast on a deserted island, the girls are trapped when the hover board washes out to see. This forces the girls to forage for food and create shelter, and eventually build a raft to get back to school.

Much of this plays to Papika’s rough-and-tumble strengths and, by the end, Cocona comes to realize how limited her knowledge and usefulness really is. Happy, closer, more understanding of each other, the sky opens up and Pure Illusion sucks our heroes in.

Yayaka and the twins are not far behind…

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Flip Flappers is all about lovely details and delivering over-the-top weirdness in an under-the-top way. In one example, Papika gives Cocona a shell she has found on the beech and painted… only for a crab to pop out. However, Papika simply says ‘oh, it wasn’t empty’ and puts it down behind her. The crab slowly crawls out of the frame while the girls talk about something else.

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The Verdict: Flip Flappers doesn’t really have any faults. It’s fairly surface, with a simple relationship story at its core, but the surface layer is very rich with detail and nuance.

If I have a criticism, as a reviewer, it’s that Flip Flappers is somewhat hard to talk about beyond calling out the surface details. I don’t get a sense that a deeper meaning hides under the surface and the relationship isn’t that complex. However, dream-like wonder if more than enough for me.

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Keijo!!!!!!!! – 04

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The Gist:  Miyata-chan faces off against RinRin for a lengthy fight that ultimately results in her stunning surprise victory… because she gives herself a wedgie to go faster.

Clumsy-chan faces off against all the strong girls next… and also wins, because her butt is super soft and the muscle-ladies just bounce off into the water. Hillbilly-chan seems like she will win too, except she and her allies are hypnotized and fall into the water.

Cockroach-chan is up next but we don’t see her fight against Headphones-chan. However, we do flash forward after the credits and see Headphones-chan’s butt skimming across the water like Jaws in what probably amounts to a nightmare for Cockroach-chan.

Roll Credits!

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The “Ass of Vajra” is thus, totally defeated…

Keijo continues to be blissfully insane, pandering, and very well crafted. Each of this week’s three fights each captured aspects of those strengths, in its own way, but the major standout was definitely the giggle inducing sound design.

Miyata x Rin featured butt-gattling blur and so-fast they dissapear cliches of any fight anime. The sound was conga-drum like, but when Miyata yanked up her swimsuit to accelerate higher and became a flashing blue-blurr, a scifi’esq fart noise came in. Serious, I can’t find a better description.

Clumsy x Yajra was the shortest, least interesting fight, with the most distorted body rendering but major props must be given for the GONG sound that rang out each time a tough girl’s butt smashed together.

Lastly, the creepy song that descended on Hillbilly-chan as the Number 1-chan’s boobs slowly transfixed her was dead on for Vampire Princess Miyu effect. I’m not sure why that worked either but Hillbilly-chan’s appalled shock sold it as a joke all the way.

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“No Way! Titty Hypnosis??” – Hillbilly-chan

The Verdict: if this show was any less absurd or well constructed, the pandering would really have dragged it down this week. But I’ve gotta assume that its crumple-butt and farting sounds are intentionally unsexy in a way to poke fun at anyone who really gets into the pandering.

Man, what a bizarre gem this is!

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Mahou Shoujo Ikusei Keikaku – 05

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Surprisingly, no one dies this week, despite plenty of palls being cast over various magical girls, and none darker than those upon Sister Nana and/or Weiss Winterprison, AKA Habutae Nana and Ashuu Shizuku, a couple in real life.

What we get instead of a death is the full laying-out of what I’ll call the “Spectrum of Light and Dark”. We now know more or less where everyone stands, and the makeup is such that Fav will likely get what he wants: the field of sixteen is already fourteen, and it’s gonna get smaller.

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Mind you, this is a spectrum, not a black and white situation. Way over on the Light End end are goody-two-shoes like Snow, Pucelle, Nana and Weiss who want to end the conflict. Then we have those way over on the Bad Side like Calamity Mary and Cranberry, who just want chaos and good fights, but also want to win. They like Fav’s new strategy.

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Other than these extremes, a whole bunch of people are various distances from the middle of the spectrum. You have opportunists like Swim Swim and her gang, who might be less unscrupulous if circumstances were different. You have Magicaloid-44, who is after a buck first, but seems at least aware of how much she screwed the person who became Weiss Winterprison. Others, like Top Speed and Ripple, are on the fence.

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Now that we know more about where people are coming from—both in their real lives, in Nana and Weiss’ case, or where they stand on the spectrum, like everyone else—I’m starting to become more invested in the supporting characters of this show. Nemurin’s fate moved me, and I even felt bad for Ruler even though she was a haughty piece of work.

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Now, as Cranberry descends upon Nana and Weiss, I feel bad for them too. Weiss depends on Nana’s buffing power, and Cran would rather fight a strong Weiss than a weak one, but someone has to die eventually, and it’s more likely to be those who would rather not fight than those who love to fight. Nana loves peace, and she loves Shizuku. The baddies will exploit those things to ruin her.

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The only chance the good-to-near-good guys who don’t what to fight is if they stick together and look out for each other. It’s not enough for Nana to rely on Weiss, or Snow on Pucelle: they’ve got to join forces. The baddies aren’t going to make that easy.

Newcomer Hardgore Alice seems singularly fixated on Snow White (as she’s kinda the opposite with the Goth look), Swim Swim’s crew has yet to come up with a solid plan but will shit on Snow White and Pucelle on social media for now, and Cranberry wants Pucelle.

There are magical girls on the board who are in this for themselves, and those who are in it for or because of others, and the ones they love. This isn’t just a last-girl-standing battle, but a struggle to determine what a magical girl should be. Classically, it’s the ones who want to protect the weak, but they’re the ones looking weak in a game rigged to favor those with poorly adjusted—or nonexistent—moral compasses.

Then again, we’re currently being led to believe the likes of Nana and Koyuki will simply crumble if they lose their respective knights. But is that really the case? If that happens, it will be interesting to see if these “light” girls will embrace the darkness and, having nothing more to live for, commence personal quests for vengeance.

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Shuumatsu no Izetta – 05

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Fine’s coronation is also the stage chosen to unveil Izetta to the world, and it’s fun to witness medieval ritual juxtaposed with flashing still and movie cameras of the modern era, just as it’s fun to watch Izetta take care of business, wiping out the modern might of the Germanians with magically enhanced medieval weapons.

The first stage in Eylstadt’s strategy to, well, survive, is to make the world know and believe who and what Izetta is. But neither the Germanian king nor Major Berkman doubt whether she’s real. The king wants her, badly, while Berkman wants to cut Eylstadt’s propaganda off at the knees by identifying and exploiting Izetta’s still-unknown-to-the-enemy weakness.

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While fun, the merging of eras is also jarring, just as it’s jarring to see Izetta unleash hell against the Germanian army in front of cameras, then return to the palace to be praised like a good girl who finished her chores. It’s a lot for Izetta to handle, but she has promised to serve ad protect Fine with her dying breath; she’s not the kind to back down just because things are tough…or weird.

More than anything, Izetta is a witch who has been used dwelling in the shadows and edges of the world. Now she’s the exact opposite: a global celebrity with a fairy tale story so compelling that the people want to believe. Not only does Eylstadt want them to believe, they need them to do so, in hopes of gaining powerful allies against Germania.

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If this is to be merely a 12-episode show, I’m pleased with the generous pacing so far. Not only is Izetta unveiled and placed into immediate use in order to quickly build up her public persona as a magical force of resistance against a no-longer invincible-looking enemy, but the enemy strikes back just as fast, advancing on the Veile Pass – a place with no Ley Lines for Izetta to draw from.

The Germanian King’s adviser Eliot is sure to remind his majesty that the reason they’re invading Eylstadt is to gain supply routes between them and Romulus (i.e. Italy), not merely to capture a witch. This pass is part of that route. As it happens, Private Jonas is assigned to its defense, which won’t include bombings due to a.) the thick fog and b.) the fact the pass is worthless without intact roads to use.

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Sieg Reich and Fine’s royal guards (who are all or mostly female special forces) draw up an intricate plan that serves to hide Izetta’s inability to use magic, by drawing upon stagecraft and showmanship in a battlefield setting.

A dummy Izetta is flown behind a plane, lands on a ridge, and is replace by the real Izetta (refusing to let them use a body double), who must talk a big talk before planted bombs are detonated, taking out the advancing enemy.

It works far better than it should have, thanks to an abundance of luck in both weather and geography. But conditions won’t be so favorable in every Ley Line-less area the Germanians target, so even though Berkman hasn’t found Izetta’s weakness yet, doesn’t mean he won’t eventually.

It may happen far sooner than Eylstadt thinks, thanks to some bad luck: Berkman has a spy posing as an Eylstadt officer who happens to be in the same outfit as Jonas. There’s every indication either he or Jonas overheard Schneider talking very loudly about Izetta’s weakness by a creek.

That’s the kind of carelessness that can lose a war, and I’m not optimistic Izetta won’t be re-captured by Berkman at some point.

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Watashi ga Motete Dousunda – 04

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Because they all have the hots for her, the guys let Kae drive the itinerary for Christmas Eve, and because Kae is not your conventional young woman, that itinerary is similarly unconventional.

It also takes place at a convention center, but even that is unconventional because it’s Tokyo Big Sight, which to many looks like a conventional convention center flipped upside-down.

The plan is to attend Comiket, split up to buy everything on Kae’s list, and get out early enough to still have the “Cris-Pa” the guys want to have with Kae.

Only they sorely underestimate the popularity of Winter Comiket, and that the lengths required to get there and back take up most of the day and night. It takes six hours from the time they wake up just to get inside.

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Once there, however, the guys find that it’s not all bad. Even though Kae feels kinda bad she’s being so selfish, no one has a gun to the lads’ heads; they want to help her out, and also to make her stay there shorter so they can spend more time with her.

Not only that, but because all four guys are hot in their own ways, they attract quite a bit of attention from the female authors and artists, many of whom imagine (as Kae does) that they are BL couples, and swooning accordingly.

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Kae also experiences something at Comiket for the first time: a pushy creepy photog, snapping every angle of her against her wishes. She is eventually castigated, shamed and forced to apologize by an exceedingly debonair young man doing butler cosplay. Just as the guys arrive, late because they were lost, they see this butler all close and personal with their Kae, and they don’t like it.

In a nice nod to Kae’s years of “training” by going to these day-consuming things, the four guys are utterly spent by the end of it, and still not quite right the next morning at school. Kae on the other hand looks like she could sing karaoke all night, and seems, if anything, energized by the Comiket visit.

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Then she, and the guys, learn that the young butler who helped her wasn’t a guy, but a girl, and a student at their school: first-year Nishima Shina, voiced by Sawashiro Miyuki. Mind you, I knew she was a girl all along, because she’s in the OP as such, but the shock isn’t meant for us, it was meant for Kae and the guys.

And they are shocked. Kae, because she and Shina hit it off so quickly; the guys, because Shina swiftly and efficiently threatens to edge them out entirely, claiming Kae to herself by inviting her to her place. The guys invite themselves, and Shina doesn’t object…but like Comiket, they don’t know the magnitude of what they’re getting into.

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Shina is perfect. She’s perfect-looking, she does everything just about perfectly, and she’s obscenely wealthy, having not just a room but an entire wing devoted to her many hobbies, many of which are also Kae’s hobbies, only on steroids.

Kae quickly falls under Shina’s “spell”, and at times, all Shina has to offer, and how earnestly complimentary she is, the guys drop their guards one by one.

Shina is also the perfect otaku; someone for Kae to look up to, even though she’s the senpai here. The “small favor” Shina requested of the guys in exchange for letting them come over turns out to be a private BL photo shoot, which is of course heaven for Kae.

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The thing is, the guys are nervous and a little confused about what’s going on, so they’re not that great at posing. So Kae, who knows far more about the subject than they do, demonstrates the proper way to do it, using Shina as her partner. She gets so into it, she doesn’t realize she’s actually turning Shina on.

That’s right: Shina isn’t just competing for Kae’s time as a friend. She’s after her heart, like they are, and she won’t stand for them not taking her seriously. When Kae presents an opportunity by play-acting, Shina can’t help but pull her in for a long kiss.

Like the guys, Kae is initially confused. But it’s quite simple: her gang of four is now five, and while the guys have their various strengths and weaknesses, Shina is poised to outshine all of them with her perfection, wrapped in a feminine package Kae is much more comfortable with.

It will be interesting to see if this competition remains diplomatic, or if another, less perfect side of Shina comes out when provoked. Until then, Shina is an interesting new wrinkle in this milieu, and Sawashiro Miyuki brings her characteristic sultry wryness to the role.

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