Urusei Yatsura – 08 – A Ran for Her Money

After seven episodes of floating around class causing a commotion, Lum officially enrolls at the school, surprising Ataru so much he nearly chokes to death. He insists Lum attending school will “cramp his style” but I know not of what style he speaks.

Lum isn’t the only transfer student either: the other is the newest addition to this boisterous and chaotic bunch: Ran, Lum’s childhood friend. Ataru starts hitting on her immediately, which is when Lum recognizes her and asks for a talk behind the school.

Once there, Lum and Ran greet each other like the old friends they are, and Ran says she’s disguised herself as a human so she could see Lum. But when reminiscing about old times brings up the boy they both fell for—Rei. who looks like a complete bore—Ran’s personality suddenly curdles into that of an enraged ogre.

Ran hasn’t forgotten how Lum stole Rei from her, and has come to earth to take revenge on her. Specifically, she intends to use her succubus-like ability to suck the life out of people with her mouth on an unwitting, two-timing Ataru who will be all too eager to kiss.

Lum tries her best to stick close to Ataru, committed to protecting her darling despite the fact he’d still cheat on her in front of her face without batting an eye. This episode does not show Ataru at his best, but I suppose it shows him at his most libido-first Ataru-ness.

Ran manages to get Ataru alone under a tree, but is unable to apply a smooch due to Lum flattening Ataru at the last minute with a tatami mat. I guess the injuries he receives as she keeps him away from Ran’s mouth aren’t as bad as what would happen if she kissed him.

During the cavalry clash, Ataru gets the chance to witness what happens as Ran accidentally kisses another boy, who ends up transforming into a feeble old bansai-watering fogey. And yet, Ataru doesn’t care in the slightest. He’s always been about the hunt. If capturing the hot babe of his dreams will result in his death, it will have been worth it.

Yet the day passes with Lum successfully defending her baka-darling from Ran’s lips. Ran slips back into her more mild-mannered mode, only to get all worked up again when she remembers the wedge that split the two of them apart: her would-be darling Rei—whom I must point out chose Lum over her.

The second segment involves Ran saying, Poochie-style, that she’ll be returning to her home planet shortly, but wants to spend one more day of tea and cookies with her best friend and her darling. Why she chooses to relay this message via self-destructing Ran doll is a mystery I fear we’ll never solve.

Ditto Ran’s insistence on passing as human while her house is very clearly an alien spacecraft. Ran makes sure she looks her cutest and most innocent, as she tries to convince Lum that 1.) she’s really leaving and 2.) she’s given up on stealing Ataru from her. That fiction evaporates when Lum feeds her drugged cookies to a sentient vase that then falls fast asleep.

But Ran has more than one trick up her lavender sleeve, as she’s preparing a copy of Ataru in her oven, identical in every way except for an apostrophe near his head (looking like a kind of floating ahoge). That apostrophe is actually one of the first things the real Ataru notices, and he snatches it just as Ran grabs him and returns him to Lum, thinking he’s the copy.

Ataru doesn’t know it, but he accidentally saved his ass by grabbing that little thingy. As Lum forces him to leave with her, Ran storms out holding a wholly deflated Ataru clone, madder than ever. That night, Lum, ever the optimist, wishes she’d tried to get along better with Ran before she returned to her home planet.

Of course, Ran doesn’t return to her home planet, but back to Ataru and Lum’s school the next morning, still maniacally determined to steal Ataru from Lum and suck the vitality out of him. So for all intents and purposes, she’s here to stay … and I’m fine with that! The more intensely-haired shiny alien beauties, the better, I say. I’m simple like that!

Ran is, you’d probably guessed voiced by the incomparable Hanazawa Kana, and I’m glad Urusei Yatsura saved one of the biggest guns in its massive seiyuu arsenal for a character with a split personality; the better to utilize Hanazawa’s fantastic vocal range. She has the ability to jump from syrupy-sweet to pure venom on a dime.

She also makes Ran, for all her flaws, a lot more likable than if someone else voiced her. The episode also wisely kept Shinobu, Mendou, and all the other characters out to the periphery so it could focus on the Ran-Ataru-Lum triangle at hand. I’m sure it won’t be long before Rei arrives on Earth to try to reclaim Lum’s heart. His efforts are sure to be met with failure, since Lum only has eyes for Darling now.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Akiba Maid War – 09 – Raiders of the Lost Oink

Leave it to Akiba Maid War to infuse some alternate history into its alternate timeline, as it introduces Omoe, the first maid from the Meiji era, who inspired the Lady Omoe Climb, which to the present day remains the crowning event of the annual Akiba Maid Festival.

Now that Maidalien is no more, it’s a very special festival for Creatureland, the only game in town. Nagi wants everything to be perfect, which for her means the café she manages, Dazzlion, will win the climb. Her otaku errand boy assures her everything will be arranged.

Nagomi is pumped up for the festivities, but Yumechi and Shiipon tell her not to bother. For Oinky Doink, the festival is all about knowing their place, keeping their heads down, and simply getting through it.

The seriousness of working within the highly structured confines of the “ecosystem” Nagi has set out means the Pigs occupy the very bottom of the creature pecking order, even below the newbie Axolotls. The Otaku distributes the guidelines, which are in extremely small print, warning Tenchou that Oinky Doink will be disowned entirely if they deviate.

Meanwhile, Nagi’s head lion maid sits in her throne like a queen while other lion maid give her a mani-pedi. She assures the Otaku that they won’t need any help climbing to the top of Lady Omoe, where the king of beasts belongs.

None of these elites imagined that their carefully controlled narrative would be completely usurped by the end of the festival by one of the bottom-feeding pigs, namely Nagomi. She stays up all night to make their stall (which is next to the bathrooms) look nice.

As for the guidelines, since they were thrown out with the trash Tenchou never relays them to the others, and spends the entire episode apart from them, fishing and wondering if she’s even really needed (a fish tells her no). Ranko has a steamy little interaction with one of her regular (and age-appropriate) masters, while their other regulars sample pigs’ feet (the only fare they’re allowed to sell) for the first time.

But sales are slow, because everything has been done to make Oinky Doink fail and keep them at the bottom. Nagomi ain’t about that, and in keeping with her commitment to her late sister to be the best damn maid she can be, she decides to walk about the festival grounds, taking the pigs feet to the people. For this, the higher-ranked Cow, Cat, and Bear maids punish her and the others.

After prostrating themselves in deference to their bullying “betters”, Ranko asks why things are this way, when in her experience they’re all top-notch maids. Nagomi wonders the same thing, and believes that this is their chance to leave the truffles alone and climb higher.

The last straw comes when the starting gun fires for the Lady Omoe Climb, and because the Pigs are at the very end of the line they’re not even able to move. Zoya picks up Nagomi’s baton of rebellion and dashes into the street where she and her fellow pigs have a clear path to the front of the race. Are they butting in line? Yes. Do they not care? Also yes.

The Pigs employ teamwork, with Zoya clearing the way at the bottom while Yumechi, Shiipon, and Nagomi start their ascents. the latter two get all tangled up in fights of their own. Nagomi manages to evade the pouncing lions and ends up near the top with their boss, and everything we need to know about her we learned when she slapped the shit out of one of her own maids for no reason.

Nagomi tries to hold her own but is no match for her, but Ranko gives her a clutch assist, grabbing the lioness and leaping off the megamaid to enable Nagomi to grasp the victory she worked so hard to attain. She plants the pig “flag” in Lady Omoe’s head, and just like that Oinky Doink has prevailed.

At the victory ceremony, Nagi plays it cool rather than disemboweling Nagomi right on stage in front of thousands of citizens. She tells New Lady Omoe Nagomi that she has “plenty of promise”, but says only time will tell if she’s truly worthy of the honor. Interestingly, Ranko is way off to the side, and she and her former colleague don’t interact at all.

Nagi takes out her frustration over Dazzlion’s defeat in the shadows, by having Otaku guy killed. I’d say RIP, but this lackey has been nothing but a menace to our Oinky Doink girls, so to him I say good riddance to him and his stupid backpack. Unfortunately, I highly doubt Nagi will stop there.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Bocchi the Rock! – 05 – Not Just for Me

Seika distributes the girls’ pay, and for a moment Bocchi dreams of all the nice things she can spend it on. Unfortunately, she forgot that every one of the 10,000 yen she received goes into the band’s quota fund.

When Nijika lists all of the bands other expenses down the road that will necessitate second jobs in the summer, Bocchi retreats to the nearest trash can, then looks for a sketchy online website that buys livers from minors.

But in addition to receiving their first pay, Ryou has big news: she’s finished their song. Once she read Bocchi’s lyrics, the music just poured out of her. As thanks, Ryou gives Bocchi a chin scratch that makes Ikuyo green with envy. All that’s left is for Nijika to ask her sister for a slot for them to play.

But what she thought was a mere formality turns out to be a firm obstacle: Seika won’t book them. She only made an exception the last time so Nijika could make a memory, but doesn’t sugarcoat things at all when she says she can’t have a repeat of “that awful May performance”, and tells Nijika to stick with it “as a hobby.”

Nijika storms out of the club, and Ikuyo insists that she and Ryou run after her. Bocchi starts to follow, but is held back by Seika. When she rejoins her bandmates, she tells them what Seika told her: if they want to perform on stage, they’ll have to audition in a week. That means Bocchi has to get better at playing in a band and Ikuyo has to get better at playing period.

Nijika and Ryou believe they’ll be fine as long as they show her sister that they’re “bank-like”, which for the whimsical Ryou means dressing up in suits and mop-top wigs. But as the week of practice proceeds, Bocchi thinks long and hard about what she’s trying to accomplish now that she’s in a band, and what “growth” means beyond simply exerting a lot of effort.

Nijika misreads Bocchi’s distraction with these big questions, and after their last practice before the audition, catches up with her at the vending machines, buys her a cola, and apologizes for roping her into a band without asking her what kind of band she wanted.

Bocchi assures her she’s not doing this against her will, but still won’t tell her that she wanted to join for fame and adoration. By the same measure, Bocchi knows Nijika wants to play at the Budokan, but Nijika has a dream beyond that, which she’s keeping secret for now.

I really liked this scene both artistically (the light of the vending machines is both dramatic and warm) and as a sign that Nijika and Bocchi are still relatively new friends, and still have a lot to learn about each other. That will happen in time as they share more experiences.

The day of the audition arrives, and I felt a pit in my stomach for the girls as they took the stage. It’s the first full song we get to watch the band play, and after four episodes and change, it feels momentous. The performance animation looks great, and more importantly the band sounds great … but crucially not too perfect. There’s plenty of room for polish.

As they play, Bocchi asserts that she’s grown from someone who wanted to become famous for herself, but now that she’s in a band and has friends, she wants to help them achieve their dreams too. Beyond personal motivation, she doesn’t want to let them down or be a weak link.

Infused with that passion to lift herself and the others, her stage play takes a noticeable step up in quality. She’s able to enter a zone where she’s comfortable enough to play almost as well as she plays when she’s recording covers in her closet. A previously private Bocchi, now performing in public and turning heads, just like she dreamed.

Granted, the heads she turns are those of Seika, P.A., and her bandmates, but you gotta start somewhere! When the song ends and everyone is catching their breath, Seika starts with criticism—the drums are too tight, the bass is too distant, etc.—before noting that she now knows what kind of band they are. That means they pass!

The ordeal is so taxing on Bocchi that the show has to cut to live-action video of various Japanese dams while she boots next to the stage. Turns out Seika is a big ol’ softie who had an open slot for her sister’s band all along, but didn’t want to make it too easy for Nijika. She challenged them to work hard and play their butts off, and they did.

Seika also wants to try to encourage Bocchi and further unlock talents being held back by lack of confidence. But in what’s looking like a penchant, Seika’s attempt is worded so that Bocchi misinterprets her “I see you, okay?” as a threat, not a supportive acknowledgement.

While Bocchi panics over having one family member short of the five-ticket quota (two, if you don’t count her dog) the bottom line is shit is starting to get real for Kessoku Band. They have a song, and another on the way, and they have a venue and slot for their first concert as a unit. It’s not “all over” at all!

Bocchi the Rock! – 04 – Queen of Woot

Ikuyo is practicing hard at guitar with Bocchi, but it’s still pretty rough. She considers whether she could simply sing on stage, but then worries about what she’d do during interludes. She concludes it would be best if she just try her best and get better at the guitar.

Her “Kit-aura” once again blinds Bocchi, but for a minute there, she was experiencing someone else’s frustrations instead of focusing on her own. Yes, even a normie like Ikuya has those!

Nijika calls a band meeting, with the purpose of coming up with things to make Kessoku Band more band-like. She acquired colored zip-ties as merch, which Ryou immediately tries to monetize. Ikuya suggests they start a band Insta and is appointed social media minister. When Ikuya asks if Bocchi has any ideas, Bocchi searches the boxes in her head furiously to no avail.

But Nijika says Bocchi doesn’t have to come up with anything so she can instead focus on writing the lyrics to their first song with vocals—something Bocchi forgot she was assigned to do. She talks a big game about being the lyricmaster, one week passes and all she’s managed to do is perfect her Bocchi autograph style.

After doing some closet video editing and finding her middle school lyrics notebook that’s more like a book of curses, Bocchi does some intense roleplaying in her bedroom, first emulating the coolest, most extroverted chick ever, then straight up channeling Ikuya.

It’s here where I once again simply had to bow down in appreciation for the absolutely bonkers voice performance Aoyama Yoshino has been pulling off with the many shades of Bocchi. It’s also a display that her entire family peeks in on, and her parents worry she’s possessed.

The next day Bocchi is summoned for another band meeting, and comes with a handmade sign declaring she has not yet written any lyrics. But that’s okay, Nijika didn’t call everyone out to Shimo-Kita for that, but so they could take some “pro-phos”, or promotional photos.

The ensuing sequence of shots of the four girls, both posed and candid, in a variety of different locations, really ups the energy and realism of the setting. There’s also a lot of comedic mileage to be had in capturing the four girls’ different personalities through still imagery. A particular highlight is when Ikuya and Nijika copy Ryou’s stare.

One thing everyone agrees on is that Ikuya looks great in every photo, which she chalks up to having an established Insta account. But at one point in this extended photo shoot, Bocchi overloads. She’d never had a non-family, non-school picture of herself taken before, and now all of a sudden she’s in dozens of them.

When Ikuya suggests she start her own Insta, things get even worse, as Bocchi starts writhing on the ground and enters a fugue state in which she imagines herself as an attention whore kaiju that levels a city with her desire to be seen. Bocchi’s unhinged, almost cubist transformation in the real world contrasts with the stark, richly-textured style of her fantasy.

Bocchi’s bandmates manage to bring her back into their plane of existence and they do a jump shot, which they all agree is great, so they call it a wrap for the day. But Bocchi’s lyric block remains firmly in place. She decides she needs input from someone, and deems Ryou is the best person to give it (since she won’t humor her).

As a reminder Bocchi’s social anxiety is going precisely nowhere, she struggles to even enter the trendy cafe where Ryou told her to meet her. She decides to say “Are ya winning, diners?” when she enters, drawing blank stares (Bocchi’s overly formal texts are also a hoot). Her next challenge is striking up a conversation with Ryou, resulting in a long stretch of silence until Ryou simply asks to read the lyrics. I’d say don’t overthink things, Bocchi, but that’s impossible.

Ryou reads the lyrics, which are packed with seishun clichés, but rather than just shit on them, Ryou tells Bocchi why she quit her first band (the music just started getting too commercial and shallow) and offers helpful feedback. We get an adorable origin story to how Kessoku Band was founded (Nijika said she loved how Ryou played), and Ryou states her philosophy that abandoning uniqueness and honesty is akin to dying.

Bocchi says that if she avoids generic lyrics she’ll write bitter, social-outcast lyrics. But to Ryou that’s perfect: think how hilarious it will sound if a normie like Ikuya sings those lyrics? Ryou is spot-on in wanting to embrace the band’s contradictions. That way lies uniqueness and freshness.

Bocchi was ready to peg Ryou as a deeply considerate person … until it’s time to pay her check and she asks Bocchi to spot her as she’s still broke (she’s apparently still eating weeds and wanted a break from that, and also to try out the new café). But the fact remains, she was considerate in her criticism, and Bocchi now has a direction.

She comes back with a notebook full of lyrics that are genuinely hers and not trying to put on a front or prove anything. The other girls note that the lyrics are kind of a downer, but Ryou says they’re “very Bocchi,” adding that they may not connect with everyone, but will hit deeply for those they do. Kind of like this show!

Bocchi has done good; the band has lyrics, and no doubt soon Ryou will feel inspired and write music to go with them. The two have also hit it off in a way that pisses off Ikuya, who obviously wants Ryou-senpai all to herself. As for that pro-pho, Bocchi once again goes the extra mile, printing out dozens of copies and plastering her walls and ceiling with them. Damn Bocchi, I know you want to change … but please never change!

Each episode of Bocchi the Rock! I watch reinforces my belief that I was missing out big time these past eight weeks. Bocchi is fast approaching Kaguya-Sama – Love is War levels of AOTY excellence, and I haven’t even seen the full band play yet! The vibes are very good, and the sky’s the limit.

P.S. The new Bocchi-centric ED theme is so sweet, wistful, and pretty-sounding it made my heart hurt a little…not a bad thing!

Bocchi the Rock! – 03 – Extroversion Abounds

Bocchi recovers from her self-inflicted fever after a couple days, and while brushing her ahoge tells her little sister it’s important for “people like her” to attend class lest her classmates forget she exists. Her little sister says her sister is “a pain in her own ass” and she’s not wrong! That said, Bocchi is still feeling confident now that she’s made two friends, joined a band, and gotten a part-time job.

That confidence evaporates when yet again no one approaches her in class, and when she hears two girls engaging in band talk, she loudly yelps to get their attention. Not only do they know her name, but they seem open to hearing her out, but poor Bocchi can’t get any words out. She didn’t prepare adequately! So she retreats to a dark corner of the school to eat lunch in tears.

When she encounters Kita Ikuyo, a red-haired girl that everyone says is great at karaoke, Bocchi observes her from afar, but is too intimidated by how much of an extrovert the girl is to get any closer. When the girl notices her anyway and also knows her name, Bocchi once again can’t say any words—she can only beatbox!

When Ikuyo beatboxes back, Bocchi shouts an apology, bolts, then returns to her hiding spot to serenade us with a ballad of melancholy. However only we hear the lyrics; Ikuyo followed Bocchi there, heard her playing, and thinks she’s awesome!

Bocchi, unaccustomed to praise, laps it up like honey and instantly deems Ikuyo a good person. Bocchi finally manages to blurt out the reason she’s been wanting to approach Ikuyo, and Ikuyo tells her she’s sorry, but she can’t join her band. Bocchi assumes she’s the reason and makes up all kinds of things to make her bandmates sound cool as hell (and they look kinda like Panty & Stocking in her mental image!) … to no avail.

Ikuyo says she can’t join a band for the same reason she flaked out on the band she joined to be closer to her senpai: she can’t actually play the guitar. Hearing her say she thought the neck was “for decoration” astonishes Bocchi, but despite her inner voice telling her “say no girl!”, she agrees to teach Ikuyo how to play in between school, band, and work.

After texting Nijika and Ryou to bring lots of energy drinks and blast EDM when they next meet, Bocchi takes Ikuyo to Shimo-Kita, and ends up having Ikuyo lead the way, using her as a shield to avoid the stares of others (while actually attracting more staring in the process).

When Bocchi mentions STARRY, Nijika and Ryou, Ikuyo tries to back out, saying she can’t go back there, but Nijika and Ryou arrive, arms bursting with energy drinks, and she can no longer run away. Once inside, Bocchi can tell how uncomfortable Ikuyo seems and wants to say something nice, but Ryou beats her to it.

Ikuyo wants to make it up to Nijika and Ryou for ditching them, and Nijika’s sister suggests she work a shift with the others. No doubt recognizing her talent for public relations, Seika dresses Ikuyo up in a maid outfit and has her handle admissions and drink tickets.

Bocchi immediately starts feeling inadequate and redundant, “losing her identity” and turning into a mist that rises up the club stairs as Ryou looks on. A “Thanks for Watching!” card flashes as if to herald yet another premature end to the series, but she snaps out of it when she’s asked to show Ikuyo how to serve drinks.

Unfortunately, being watched makes Bocchi so nervous she burns herself with coffee. Ikuyo wraps her hand in a handkerchief, and Bocchi notices something about Ikuyo’s hand. When Ikuyo asks why Bocchi joined a band, Bocchi lies and says “world peace” because she’s self-conscious about having “impure” motives like wanting fame and popularity.

But then Ikuyo turns around and admits her motives are impure (too): she joined to be closer to her senpai, Ryou, whom she once watched performing on the streets and fell head-over-heels in love. Honestly, I can’t blame her; of the four leads, three are extremely high-strung, while Ryou’s never not an island of cool tranquility.

When the music’s over and the house lights are back up, Ikuyo prepares to depart from her first and only shift at STARRY. But even earlier, Bocchi had been building up the determination to say something to Ikuyo to make her stay. Unfortunately, her body moves before her mind can get all its ducks in a row, and she ends up tripping, ripping down a black curtain, and smacking her noggin on the wall.

While it’s not how she wanted to do it, it does keep Ikuyo there, if only because she’s concerned about Bocchi. She even gleans that Bocchi was going to try to say something to convince her it was okay to stay, but says she can’t join a band she already flaked out on once, especially when she can’t really play the guitar.

Bocchi tells Ikuyo that she ran away before the concert too, and threw herself in a trash can. But she also felt Ikuyo’s hands when she was treating her burn, and she felt the calluses one only gets by working their butt off practicing. That is all Bocchi needs to know that Ikuyo is committed enough to join, or rather re-join Kessoku Band.

Nijika and Ryou agree with Bocchi: Ikuyo should join them. They’re not even mad that she flaked out the first time, because if she hadn’t they wouldn’t have meet Bocchi! But the fact remains, Ikuyo’s guitar ignorance is such that she’d been practicing on a six-string bass all this time without knowing it, attributing the bomm-bomm sound it made to her being terrible.

Ryou buys her bass (and ending up broke and eating weeds) and lends her an actual guitar to practice with as Bocchi teaches her in STARRY’s back room. Ikuyo’s progress is slow and she’s easily frustrated and whines a lot, but Bocchi recognizes all of the ways she gets frustrated because that was her three years ago. Now she has the skills to not only play, but teach.

Bocchi was right about Ikuyo, she’s a very nice person. She’s so nice, she almost deprived herself of her dream of playing with her beloved senpai because she thought her misdeeds were too serious to be forgiven. But Bocchi, Nijika, and Ryou are also good kids, and knew the band would be better with her than without.

That Bocchi worked so hard in recruiting Ikuyo speaks to how she continues to make progress interacting with people. Her anxiety and myriad neuroses were likely remain a part of her for a good long time (if not forever) but she’s gradually learning that she, like everyone else, deserves a happy life and friends to rock out with.

Bocchi the Rock! – 02 – Welcome to the Workforce

The stinger consists of Bocchi filling up the tub with ice and slipping in, which I initially took to mean she had just gone through some intense physical exertion. Rewind a few days to the band’s first meeting, and Bocchi is too scared to go inside alone. Nijika and Ryou eventually arrive, and they use a giant thrown die to pick conversation topics.

If the goal is to learn more about Bocchi, then mission accomplished, as each question offers her bandmates new insights into the depths of her social anxiety, from the tragic story of her school life to this point to avoiding music with lyrics that refer to happier school lives.

When the discussion shifts to the business side of things, Nijika concisely explains ticket quotas, and how they’ll have to pay Starry if they can’t meet said quotas. That’ll require cash, which means jobs. And people, Bocchi is not into a job. Not beause she’s lazy, but because it would just be too much.

Unfortunately, her anxiety is such that she’s unable to refuse (we also learn she considers Ryou a loner who likes being lonely while she’s lonely, and doesn’t) which brings us to the ice bath. She’s not icing her worn muscles, but intentionally trying to catch a cold.

Alas, her good health prevails so she heads to Starry after school. Again she’s paralyzed by the prospect of entering alone, but that’s how she meets Seika, the manager, whom she quickly labels as someone “scary” that she can’t deal with. She also forgot that Seika is Nijika’s big sister.

Nijika gives her a tour and quick overview of the process of serving drinks, and Bocchi, who has never had a job before, is quickly overwhelmed and whips out her Gibson to play a song with lyrics to remember everything. Seika notes that Bocchi is playing is much better than when she was in a box on stage, and it reminds her of someone (probably guitarhero).

Before Bocchi knows it, the doors are open and the customers start to flow in. She initially does not fare well, hiding under the counter and slapping drinks on it for customers to take without looking at her. This is obviously not optimal customer service!

But they get through the initial drink run, and when the band that’s playing takes the stage and starts their patter, Ryou takes a break from the ticket desk and joins Bocchi and Nijika to watch the band play … and learn from the experience.

When Bocchi sees how much both the band and the concertgoers are enjoying themselves once the music starts, and compares it to her first show, she resolves to put on a better performance, to honor both the venue and the people who paid money to see her.

When a girl orders an orange juice, Bocchi decides to start now, giving the customer eye contact and smiling (after a fashion). It’s a creepy smile, and Bocchi nearly passes out, but it’s undoubtedly progress, and Nijika gives her the praise she deserves.

She takes another important step forward when she says “see you tomorrow” to Nijika and Ryou when heading home, which she does at full speed and with a big smile on her face. Starry, a place that she was too scared to even enter on her own a few hours earlier, is now a place she can’t wait to get back to so she can continue with her progress in both working and performing.

So it’s legit heartbreaking that it’s only then that she comes down with a bad fever and has to skip her second day of work. But hey, that’s what comes of soaking in icy water for too long then sitting in front of fans. She’ll get better and go back to work, so that’s one hurdle out of the band’s way. The next one is finding a fourth member and vocalist, and the one we cut to doing karaoke looks to be the one.

Bocchi the Rock!’s magic formula so far is Bocchi’s inner turmoil, outer face game, and her friends’ reactions to it. My middle school life wasn’t as tragic but it was close, while it took me a while to find my people in high school. The show strikes the perfect balance of mining comedy from this scenario while giving us room to sympathize and empathize with Bocchi. It helps that it’s a great-looking show, too! Forget the 3-episode rule—I’m in now!

Bocchi the Rock! – 01 (First Impressions) – Guitar Heroine

I never did replace Renai Flops after dropping it, and I’ve heard and read good things about Bocchi the Rock!, so I thought better to check it out late than never! Reviews to come as I find time to watch back episodes.—Zane

First-year middle schooler Gotou Hitori describes herself as an “archetypal introvert”, but when she learns from TV that even introverts can become cool and popular if they join bands, she borrows her dad’s guitar and starts practicing, with the plan to create a band and perform at the cultural festival.

Those plans would prove … optimistic. Three years pass, and while she never puts the guitar down, gets quite good at it, and posts covers on YouTube and gets good feedback, she never made a band, never performed, and never even made a friend. She aims to change all that in her first year of high school.

But despite psyching herself up and decking herself out in Rocker Chick garb and accessories, no one approaches Hitori in the first month of the school year. Granted, she’s just passively waiting for people to approach her. She has social anxiety, stammers, and has trouble making eye contact.

But even if Hitori can’t communicate externally, her colorful, dynamic inner voice is a genuine delight. Props to Aoyama Yoshino for nailing both sides of Hitori, which make her an instantly likeable protagonist you want to see succeed.

Sure enough, when hanging out on a swing a girl with red boots and a blonde sidetail approaches her while yelling “Guitar!” Ijichi Nijika is her name, and a guitarist is what she needs for a show … today.

After a quick train to the stylish Shimo-Kitagawa district, Nijika leads Hitori to the basement club called Starry. Immediately Hitori is encouraged by the darkness and stuffiness, reminding her of the closet where she spent most of the last three years. She also meets Yamada Ryou, a cool beauty and bassist.

A quick scan of the sheet music for the set reveals nothing Hitori can’t handle musically, but after her first-ever practice with other human beings, they’re unable to hold back the hard honest truth: she sucks. Or, rather, she sucks staying in synch in a band. But that’s what you’d you expect … she’s never been in one!

After curling up into the fetal position, the “sub-water flea” Hitori jumps into a garbage can, and even considers committing guitar hara-kiri on stage. But Nijika and Ryou insist she’s being too hard on herself, and everything will be fine. When she mentions she uploads covers, she learns that not only to both girls know about her (through her YT handle “guitarhero”), but think she’s awesome.

While this revitalizes her, Hitori still has legitimate concerns about being able to stand on a stage and play (this is someone who only recently became capable of speaking to Nijika) so her bandmates produce a big mango box she can play inside. They immediately notice the change in her personality once she feels safe and secure.

Nijika and Ryou tell Hitori that their band is called Kessoku Band (as in zip-tie band), and then give her an appropriate nickname: “Bocchi”, as in hitoribocchi (“all alone”).

With that, it is time to rock, and while we don’t get to hear most of the set, all we need to know is that it wasn’t that great, at least by the standards the band is trying to meet. That’s not just on Hitori, mind you: Nijika and Ryou know they have flaws too. They’re grateful Bocchi was able to play with them, and look forward to playing with her again.

Nijika wants to take Bocchi out to celebrate her first ever set in her first ever band, but all this social interaction has exhausted Hitori to the point she simply has to head home for the night, so she takes a rain check (Ryou also falls asleep on her feet).

Honestly, I would have been disappointed if Bocchi and Kessoku Band kicked ass right out of the gate. Rather, it will be fun to watch Bocchi grow more comfortable talking to her new bandmates, meeting the fourth member who appears in both OP and ED, and watching the band learn from and get better together. It’s a very solid, fun start to a show I wish I’d picked up eight weeks ago!

More than a married couple, but not lovers. – 08 – Lost in the forest of decision

This week was difficult at times, but also necessary in a satisfying way. We start with Shiori, Mei, Jirou, and Akari all alone, wondering how long things will stay “this way”, in a state of confusion, frustration, and longing. Not forever, surely!

Even Jirou’s video game is asking him to make a choice between two princesses, warning him the wrong one would “destroy the kingdom”. That’s not far off! Suffice it to say, the current state of things is becoming untenable for everyone.

When the new monthly rankings come out, Jirou and Akari only make it to thirteenth place, which means they still lack the mechanism to enact a decision regarding whom they wish to truly be with. Even so, the marriage practical is a false obstacle. They really don’t need to make it to the Top 10 to sort this out!

In the meantime, Jirou and Akari’s marriage continues apace. Akari’s arachnophobia supplants any modesty about running in on Jirou when he’s nakked in the bath, and in her state of fear and vulnerability she’s never squeezed him tighter. Since the 2mm spider has disappeared, Akari insists on Jirou staying by her side all day, even as she does her nails.

Jirou can shrug off all this sudden intimacy with Akari as a product of her fear of spiders and need for someone by her side to protect her, not necessarily a romantic partner. Since they’re still playing the marriage game to make the Top 10 and swap for their crushes, he remains convinced Akari isn’t interested in him in any other way.

Of course, she is, and she wouldn’t bring up “what ifs” like asking what would’ve happened if they’d met outside the bounds of the compulsory marriage practical. Nor would she ask if they should try dating, like the fifth-ranked couple apparently has started to do. She only says “just kidding” because the silence grows too long, while Jirou wonders why he thought seriously about it for a second. Dude, because she was serious.

This is not the first, nor will it be the last time Akari says something straight-up only to amend it or dismiss it as messing around. The beautifully staged and lit overhead shot of the two alone in their bed that night says still more than her overt words. That thick, dark wall is doing a lot of work, visually and thematically.

Over at Casa de Sakurazawa-Tenjin, Minami can tell something’s troubling Shiori and offers to help, even if he’s not confident he’ll be able to. Shiori confides in him her “friend’s” situation, in which she’s kissed the person they like and now can’t think of anything else. Minami picks up pretty easily that Shiori is talking about herself, but steadfastly doesn’t break the charade.

We finally learn something interesting about Minami in that he apparently missed his chance to confess to the person he loved, and urges Shiori’s “friend” to have confidence and keep trying if there’s a possibility it will work out. We knew that he and Shiori had nothing going on romantically, but this proves it. Also, pretty rich telling her to be confident when he apparently has so little of his own!

As for the true third vertex in the Shiori-Jirou love triangle, Hamano Mei and Shiori have a deeply romantic little scene in the classroom after school, even if Shiori isn’t at all aware of  how her compliments truly affect Mei. Even Mei’s husband Shuu is aware of how much she loves Shiori, and arranges to go out with Minami on a karaoke all-nighter so the two girls can have a sleepover.

Shuu learns another nugget about Minami when he hangs out with him and their café boss that night: Minami has an older brother, and their boss says since it’s a family of “ikemen” even siblings are rivals. Sounds like his bro might’ve stolen his true love? As for the boss, he’s Sadaharu’s older brother.

When Shiori and Mei are planning sleeping arrangements, talk turns to looking at old photos. Mei looks forward to seeing lil’ Shiori … right up until Shiori bashfully says most of the photos contain Jirou as well. Mei checks her phone and heads off on a family errand, abandoning the sleepover plan because she knows who Shiori really loves.

Sadaharu ends up at a restaurant with Jirou, and despite not drinking like his big bro, comes up with the hair-brained idea that he needs to bring his new accidentally lecherous friend back down to his level … by kissing him. While he’s leaning in for that smooch, Shiori, now alone, just happens to pass by, and seemingly gets a look at them, and walks off with no reaction.

Jirou chases after her to explain things, but as she didn’t actually see him and Sadaharu, she assumes he’s talking about their accidental kiss. She was looking at the restaurant sign that contained the symbol for “kiss”. When they thankfully clear up this misunderstanding, they each take one of the handles of the bag and walk together.

When conversation turns back to their kiss, Shiori insists that Jirou hear her out. He doesn’t have to apologize for the kiss, because she asked him to kiss her for practice, and she admits she learned a lot, so she earnestly thanks him. Jirou is confused, since he still thinks she wants to be “friends (and only friends) forever”, but he can’t deny that she sets up another potential kiss for them right then and there.

Sadly, when two cats interrupt their moment Shiori quickly shifts to small talk, but hey, at least these two are talking again, and Jirou understands that Shiori doesn’t feel bad about their kiss.

Jirou’s video game princess warned that the kingdom will be destroyed if he makes the wrong choice. The “kingdom” in this case could be his friendship with Shiori, whether they take it to the next level or if he chooses Akari. The same scenarios apply to Mei: confessing to Shiori means possibly abandoning regular friendship in the future.

In either case, the old has to be torn down before something new can be built in its place. The fear and hesitance of doing so is all too understandable and relatable—as is the result of not making choices: the aforementioned increasingly untenable purgatory. Something’s gotta give, and hopefully something will!

I’ve watched many a frustrating-as-hell rom-rom in which characters didn’t make what I felt to be the obvious, easy choice. This show is doing a great job really putting us in each character’s shoes and explaining why they’re having so much difficulty, and making clear that there are no easy choices.

Urusei Yatsura – 07 – Pochi’s Odyssey

This week’s UY further expands its world, though not with more foxy alien chicks. Combining a pool episode with a beach episode, it introduces a lonely little demon living underwater who suddenly has a visitor. He happens to live at the bottom of the pool where Ataru, Lum, Shinobu and Mendou pay a visit. Since Lum’s default outfit is a bikini, it makes sense she’d pick a one-piece, while Shinobu opts for a bolder two-piece.

Even so, Mendou ignores her in favor of Lum’s new look, while both he and Ataru are distracted by Sakura in an even sultrier one-piece. When Ataru lunges at her, she rightfully pops him, and he ends up sinking to the pool’s bottom where the little demon guy lives. While Shinobu asks about Sakura’s fancy parfait, Lum is legit concerned about Ataru, who tags out when she arrives so he can surface for air.

After eating roughly a hundred parfaits, Sakura joins Mendou and Cherry in following Ataru, who swears there’s a freaky demon thing underwater. But when they reach his “home”, he’s surfaced to procure (read: steal) more snacks for his guests. Lum tags everyone to surface.

Eventually, everyone is back above water, studying the weird little guy. After all the commotion he caused making customers flee (his dad owns the pool) Mendou demands that the guy vacate the premises immediately. The others, feeling this was a bit harsh, wish the guy well as he departs, only for Ataru to find him having relocated to his family’s bathtub.

The conundrum of What To Do About The Weird Little Blue Guy continues in the second segment, and that question is answered immediately by Ataru’s mom, who asks him and Lum to take the guy to the beach and leave him there, since he’s been in their tub for a month.

Like the pool, Shinobu’s in a bikini and Lum’s in a one piece, but they’re different prints from the previous swimsuits they wore, which is a nice touch. Sakura also shows off her ability to eat massive quantities of food, but this time she’s with her fiancé Tsubame.

When Ataru tries to take the pool demon somewhere secluded, that happens to be the same spot where Sakura and Tsubame end up to be alone together. This results in Ataru, the pool demon, Mendou, Shinobu, and Lum all watching intently as the couple draw closer into a kiss that’s sadly broken up by the pool demon walking up to point-blank range to stare at them.

He apologizes to Ataru, Lum, Shinobu, and Mendou by throwing a goodbye picnic, offering food he’d procured/stolen from around the beach. Everyone eats, but they can’t be merry with the guy constantly bringing up the fact that they’re leaving him there all alone.

Throughout the background of this segment, there’s a very sweet and wholesome little vignette of a gentle little boy taking his beloved pet Pochi to the beach because he can’t keep it anymore. When all his most treasured moments with Pochi (who is never shown) flash before the boy’s eyes, he suddenly can’t go through with it anymore.

The boy races back to the beach, sees Ataru with a cardboard box, and snatches it up, thinking it’s the cardboard box containing Pochi that he left of the beach when it’s actually a second box into which Ataru put the pool demon.

Shinobu discovers the boy’s box, and opens it to reveal that “Pochi” is just Cherry. The kid had been spending all this time with (and feeding) Sakura’s uncle like he was a pet. That’s a great-ass punchline right there. No sooner do Ataru and Lum return home than they receive a postcard from the pool demon—who now goes by Pochi—saying he’s found a great new home and life with the kind boy. All’s well that ends well!

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Akiba Maid War – 08 – Maid-jor League

Akiba Maid War’s opening stingers can be misleading, but this week’s made it abundantly clear it would be a baseball episode. I’ll go on record here: I love baseball, but I’m not really into anime that are predominantly about baseball. The occasional standalone baseball-themed episode of AMW? Oh hell yeah. Sign me up and play ball!

Honestly any old conceit would do, but the leader of Creatureland (and the recently absorbed Maidalien) visits Manami’s funeral, picks up her red bat, and decrees that Oinky Doink will play a game of baseball against the former Maidaliens (now Axolotls) to bury the hatchet. No one on either side is as enthusiastic about this as Nagomi.

But while she’s excited to honor Nerula’s memory with a nice clean game, everyone else either doesn’t want to be there or have no intention of playing a nice or clean game. The first casualty is Manami’s bat, which proves too old and worn out to withstand even one Zoya fastball. The next blow is struck by the Axolotls, who plunk Yumechi hard on the bum.

Despite being the most obnoxious taskmaster and cheerleader, Nagomi proves rubbish at the plate, while everyone else is decently talented, save the three random Venezuelan tourists manning the outfield—who ironically are terrible at baseball. When Oinky Doink builds a good lead, an Axolotl batter smacks Nagomi on the head.

Nagomi turns the other cheek even as Shiipon trips her assailant, and from there on things start to unravel. Tagging out runners with brutal punches, hard slides and trips, and ample trash talk are the order of the day, and the Axolotls soon take over the lead.

When Nagomi protests the game’s descent into violence, even her own teammates tell her she’s the only one playing baseball here. Everyone else is acting like maids—Akiba maids—and treating this not as a simple pasttime, but a battle in a war—an Akiba Maid War!

Despite this, Nagomi doesn’t stoop to everyone else’s level. Even if no one else will, she’ll honor Nerula by playing fair, even taking first without protest after getting plunked in the face. One by one the top Axolotl players see Nagomi, develop a measure of shame and admiration, and decide to start playing fair themselves.

By this time, Oinky Doinks have retaken a slim lead, but Zoya’s nail is split and she can only continue pitching if she rips the nail off—something she’s all too ready and willing to do! This is when Ranko, who has baseball experience from being in the joint, takes over. We also learn that she’s a southpaw, like me, which only endears her to me more.

At this point, an increasingly frustrated Uzaki steps in to pinch hit for one of her fair-playing colleagues, and after taking one pitch she charges the mound to take a swing at Ranko. Zoya takes her out and threatens her, incurring the rage of the other Axolotls.

It looks like Nagomi’s dream of a clean fair game will be dashed after all … and then Uzaki is stabbed in the back by the Axolotl mascot that had been sitting in the stands until then. The Axolotl removes its head to reveal it’s Miyabi, Manami’s disgruntled right-hand-maid.

One of the other Axolotls stabs Miyabi, and suddenly there are two corpses on the field. Rather than end the game without an official result, the other Axolotls, seeing that their only obstacle to playing a fair match have been removed, insist on completing the game, pretending Miyabi and Uzaki aren’t dead and carrying them back to the dugout.

While the two dead maids start to decompose, the Axolotls attempt a last-ditch rally and come of just short. That said, they admit it was a good-ass game. An elated Nagomi hopes her dearly departed sister is smiling down on the victory they won in her name.

After singing an Oinky Doink-themed alma mater, the two teams depart without any further violence. As Ranko washes the blood from her battered left arm, she’s approached by a maid she knew as Uzuko in the past, who now goes by Nagi and has risen to the very top echelon of the Akiba underworld.

Nagi notes that Ranko didn’t kill Manami, just as she didn’t act with lethal force to save their old senior maid back in the day. She warns Ranko that her reluctance to kill when required could spell the end of her one day. Nagi knows what Ranko can do with her hands, she just has to do it. But just like Nagomi wouldn’t resort to violence, perhaps there are boundaries past which Ranko simply won’t go out of personal honor and principle.

Ominous ending aside, as someone who is never not extremely there for any and all standalone baseball episodes, this was a triumph. Not only was it a sweet spiritual sendoff for Nerula and a way of Nagomi finding closure, it was packed with excellent sports animation, postcard memories, adorable uniforms, and tons of great little details. Like the Oinky Doink crew, AMW has proven it can pull off anything it puts its mind to.

More than a married couple, but not lovers. – 07 – Okaeri, Akari

I just want to express my surprise and gratitude that Akari’s gyaru-friends Sachi and Natsumi are actually good people too! When they see Shiori with too many bags of garbage (a powerful metaphor for how accommodating and self-subordinating she is), they offer to help, even conscripting Jirou and Sadaharu when they slouch past.

When Shiori declines to carry a bag with Jirou, it’s a critical hit to his heart, but also shows their accidental kiss has left the two more awkward and distant than ever. Sachi and Natsumi can also tell that Akari must feel something for Jirou at this point, and she doesn’t deny it.

They’re not pushing her towards Jirou or Minami—in fact, they say those aren’t the only two guys in the world. They want her to be happy, and to settle on her own choice on her terms. Opportunity knocks when the girls see a poster for an upcoming fireworks festival.

Naturally, dressing Akari in her yukata is a job for her “husband”, and while her talk with her friends leads to her mentioning Minami more as she teases Jirou, the fact of the matter is, having Jirou dress her is as big a deal for her as it is for him; he just can’t see her red face since he’s behind her. It’s also telling that she says a bow-style obi tie is too “childish”—again assuming Minami only likes mature things.

Akari meets Sachi and Natsumi at the festival with her head held high, ready to take a step forward in figuring (gestures everywhere) all this out. Of course, it’s not that easy, as she’s trying to go back to a place where she’s comfortable play-acting as a wife to Jirou and she’s back to thinking only of Minami in a romantic capacity. In effect, she’s trying to go back to a place that no longer exists.

Even if spending the evening with Minami cleared things up, that opportunity is torn away from her at the last minuite, as his friends arrive Minami-less and contrite; he had to take an extra shift at work due to the festival, and was too nice to turn it down.

Sachi tries to salvage the night by having the boys buy them a bunch of snacks and sweets as penance, but after psyching herself up, Akari is rightfully deflated. To add insult to injury, she spots Minami at the festival after all, in street clothes with Shiori and in what looks like pleasant conversation.

It turns out they’re just taking the shortest route to a point where he’ll go off to work while she’ll head home. They’re not on a date, and from their scene together, there’s still no actual romantic chemistry between them. They’re simply both doing their part as partners in a practical exercise.

Of course, that’s not what it looked liked to Akari, and that’s all that matters. Her friends see her turn pale and assume she’s disappointed in not getting to be with Minami. In reality, she’s that way because she did see him. When the other boys said he wouldn’t be coming, a part of her even felt relieved.

Jirou doesn’t have to spend this night alone at home. He could have called Shiori and taken a step towards that route had he wanted; I doubt she would have refused judging from her look back after she and Minami parted. I wouldn’t really have felt bad for him if his self-imposed loneliness had endured.

However, I do feel bad that, like Akari, he’s simply not sure of anything anymore. If he and Akari are a functional and happy fake couple, he knows one day they won’t be, like when it comes time to swap partners. He worries about what they’ll be after that, and even if they’ll be anything at all.

But when he gets a call from Akari and there are only tears on the other side of the line, if he’s paying attention he’s answering his own question with his reaction: slipping on his coat and running to wherever she is. Luckily for him, that turns out to be right outside their door. As Akari sobs into her hands, she apologizes to Jirou, and by extention, everyone who worked so hard to create an opportunity for her to move forward.

She also worked hard herself, taking extra time to make her hair, nails, and makeup perfect for Minami. And yet, at the end, she just came home. Jirou dries her eyes with his sleeve, then offers a hand up, saying “Welcome home”. Akari collapses into his arms, saying “I’m home”, and has the big, wet, cathartic cry she needs to have. And only Jirou’s arms will do.

Once the tears have passed, the two stand on the balcony as the fireworks start in the distance. When she teases him more and accuses him of being jealous, he doesn’t deny it, which surprises her, but she likes it. Then she takes his hands, puts them on her obi, and asks him to make the bow he wants to make.

When he gets to a step he can’t do, she takes out her phone to find the instructional video. When it slips out of her hands, it falls into his, and she puts her hands over his and draws them close, asking him to simply hold her and say her name, again and again. If he does, she thinks she can “try again”.

Jirou remembers Akari saying how she loses her confidence sometimes, and this is definitely one of those times. In this moment, and while upside-down heart-shaped fireworks start to explode above them, Jirou does as he’s told. She thanks him for not asking what happened, but simply being there for her.

In his mind, Jirou admits he didn’t ask because he didn’t want to know. Just as Akari felt relieved when she heard Minami wouldn’t be coming, Jirou felt relieved when she came home. While he still considers their happiness in this moment to be fleeting, perhaps both he and Akari would be better-served listening to those little pangs of relief and what that means not for Minami, or Shiori, but the two of them.

This episode surpassed the previous racy couch scenes because this felt a lot more overtly romantic. The two have identified those moments of relief and want to understand them better, even as they are still on some level committed to rooting for each other with their other potential partners. Combine the beautiful visuals, lighting, and colors of these scenes with Akari’s friends being The Best and we have the best Fuukoi outing yet.

Urusei Yatsura – 06 – Earth, Lightning, Fire and Ice

Ataru is a man of simple pleasures. When it’s sukiyaki night at the Moroboshi house, he’s super-pumped. Unfortunately he’s never able to partake in the feast, as Lum grabs him and leaps through an inter-dimensional portal she made in his closet that leads to the Oni homeworld.

Lum is in battle gear, and soon so is Ataru. The lines are drawn between the Oni and the “Lucky Gods”. Ataru feels like some kind of bloody, horrific war is going to start, but the “battle” takes the form of…tower basket ball toss, an even not out of place on school sports days.

This is kinda boring to Ataru, until he spots a major babe in Benten, one of Lum’s old friends (Ishigami Shizuka). Back home, Ataru’s parents wait as long as they can, then eat all the sukiyaki, before hearing their son’s voice and freaking out. Cherry arrives to help them speak to their son, now allegedly dearly departed to the hereafter.

In reality, they can just hear him through the portal as he flirts with Benten. While she’s understandably “who is this guy” at first, once she realizes he’s Lum’s husband she decides to have a little fun at her expense and plays along. This results in Lum and Benten, the two basket minders, ignoring the game completely to fight over Ataru.

Before Cherry summons Ataru’s voice again, he has Ataru’s folks make more sukiyaki, at which point his mom has lost her patience and holds the tiny priest at knifepoint. He does the same nonsensical chanting as his niece Sakura, tuning into Ataru just as he’s facing his “punishment” as the weakest link on the losing team: being pelted with pellets by both sides.

As is typical of Urusei Yatsura, the next morning is a bit of a reset, but Ataru is in bed with a cold. Somewhat surprisingly, Shinobu is by his side tending to him, and Lum is nowhere to be found. Soon Mendou, Ataru’s friends, and Cherry are crowding the room, just as it starts to grow very cold and snowy.

Lum went to Neptune to visit a friend through the portal, so a bit of the icy world seems to be “leaking” into his room, including an avalanche’s worth of snow that buries Ataru. He’s dug up not by Shinobu or his friends, but by a new character who resembles a yuki-onna. She goes back through the portal and then down a deep chasm.

Starting with Ataru (who is pushed), everyone follows suit, and lands upside-down on the snow-packed surface of Neptune. There, Ataru reunites with Lum (in a smart tiger-print two-piece combo more appropriate for the climate than her usual bikini), who reveals the yuki-onna is her old friend Oyuki (Hayami Saori, of course).

Neptune is a world full of nothing but women, which makes it a paradise for Mendou, who is all to happy to dig snow for them endlessly. Meanwhile, Oyuki invites Ataru, Lum, Shinobu and Cherry into her futuristic mansion. Ataru can’t help but flirt with Oyuki, incurring the rage of both Shinobu and Lum (as well as Lum’s lightning).

Ataru begs to go somewhere where he’ll be safe from their wrath, praising Oyuki for being a pure, gentle, and above all non-violent maiden. However he soon finds that Oyuki, who ditched her outdoor robes for a revealing ice-blue one-piece, was planning to seduce Ataru all along. Things are about to get racy when the wall crumbles before them and B-Bo, Oyuki’s yeti attendant, takes exception to Ataru’s presence.

B-Bo chases Ataru through the Neptunian wastes and back through the portal to Earth, where news choppers capture the ensuing rooftop spectacle. Once the King Kong style incident is over, Ataru finds himself in a full body cast, tended to by both Shinobu and Lum, who hoped he learned his lesson about chasing every girl with a pulse. Of course, he didn’t learn, and will never learn—otherwise he wouldn’t be Moroboshi Ataru!

The third and final segment is the shortest, and takes place after the credits. At the end of the semester, Ataru has an announcement for everyone: he’s retiring. His teacher thinks this means he’s dropping out due to his upsettingly terrible grades, but it’s Mendou who shatters the fourth wall by assuming Ataru was retiring … as the main character of Urusei Yatsura.

Everyone goes along with this, because everyone wants to be his replacement. It results in a callback to every character large and small we’ve met so far in the first six episodes, each making their case. Finally Ataru has to disappoint them all: he’s not retiring from being the MC, but from the school presidency.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Akiba Maid War – 07 – RocknPorkRolla

A week has passed since Nerula was gunned down in an alley, and Nagomi has run away from the Oinky Doink. The others, particularly Ranko, are worried about her, especially since Manami and the Maidalien war hawks aren’t finished. While Ranko is out distributing flyers, she spots a pink ninja who claims not to be Nagomi, but clearly is.

Since Nagomi insist’s she’s not Nagomi, Ranko tells this “mystery ninja” the situation: she and the Oinky Doink maids are worried about her. But if Nagomi fled out of fear to the oddly safer ninja café business, it wasn’t fear of being hurt or killed. It was fear of standing by and doing nothing while another friends of her dies.

This is a typical action movie protagonist pattern: after a great defeat, the hero withdraws, suffering a crisis of purpose. But outside forces, like Nerula’s grieving fans, conspire to bring her back to where she needs to be: at Oinky Doink, as the new kind of Akiba maid Nerula knew she could be.

But how? The ramen guy gives Nagomi the other piece of the picture to bring her around. It’s something he’s learned being in the ramen business with the reputation as someone whose ramen never changes: staying the same actually requires change. So Nagomi returns to the dojo and considers what that means.

That night, Manami and over two dozen of her henchmaids advance on Oinky Doink, outnumbering them over two-to-one. I knew Ranko and Zoya were worth ten of the average maid in fighting ability, but that’s still a lot of maids and a lot of bullets. The pig maids make use of homefield advantage and the element of surprise as much as they can, diverting and splitting up Manami’s maids.

This is the first time we see Shiipon and Yumechi in sustained action (their attack on the Sheep happening off-camera) but they handle themselves well. Even so, eventually the Maidaliens surround the Pigs, and Manami’s machine gun looks like a decisive advantage.

Ranko prepares to make a desperate charge to take Manami out or die trying (as far as she’s concerned protecting the café is worth it) but suddenly the elevator opens and a cloud of smoke gets off. Dozens of smoke bombs explode and disorient both sides. And through the smoke, Nagomin appears, prepared for battle.

With her almost preposterously hastily-acquired ninja skills, within seconds she’s disarmed Manami and claimed the machine gun for their side. Manami switches to her trademark bat, but once she’s in the pigsty, the maids of Oinky Doink and their ninja maid savoir are ready for her.

True to who she is, through the ensuing chaos, many bullets fly, but none of them from a gun held by Nagomi. Instead she uses the tools of the ninja trade, like kunai and nets, which buy her co-workers time to go on the offensive.

When the dust clears it’s just a wounded Manami and her lieutenant Miyabi, surrounded by the bodies of their fallen comrades. Miyabi gets Manami to retreat before they too are killed, but after Miyabi dresses Manami’s leg, Manami dismisses her and she departs in shame.

Nagomi shows up with Ranko as backup, and despite her sorry state Manami is still ready to throw down. But Nagomi isn’t there to fight. Nor is she there as a ninja. She’s a maid, and she reminds Manami what maids are truly all about: not dying in glorious battle, but serving their masters with moe moe kyun.

When Manami rises to shut the young whippersnapper up, Nagomi again uses her new ninja skills to lay the smackdown on Manami. Again, Nagomi demands that Manami feel the moe moe kyun, and she finally relents, deciding that pig hunting time is over.

Ranko lets Manami withdraw, and welcomes Nagomi back into the pigsty. But Manami gets a rude awakening back at Maidalien HQ. Not only did the boss Ugaki refuse to commit any more forces to this silly war, but she got all the Maidalien brass to agree to a merger with Creatureland.

Manami could not change like Nagomi did, and ends up gunned down by her former allies who are sick of her bloodlust. They want to make money, and they’ll make more if she’s dead than running around shooting people. So she meets her end in a swirling puddle of her own blood. Unfortunately for Oinky Doink, their next foe looks to be their own Creatureland masters.

This was a great step forward for Nagomi, but it wasn’t perfect. I kinda wish Manami had stuck around a bit, as small a chance as redemption for someone her would have been. Also, the animation of the raid, aside from some fun moments, was also surprisingly underwhelming, considering what I know the show is capable of from the premiere and the MMA episode.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

%d bloggers like this: