Kami nomi zo Shiru Sekai – 01 (Revisited)

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Antisocial high school student and self-styled dating sim “God of Conquest” Katsuragi Keima unknowingly signs a contract with a demon from hell, Elucia “Elsie” de Lute Ima, to assist her in the retrieval of loose souls, which embed themselves within the hearts of troubled girls. To release the souls (and for Elsie and Keima to keep their heads) he must take their place in the girls’ hearts, i.e., make the girls fall in love with him. Their first target is his classmate and track team hopeful Takahara Ayumi, who looks down on Keima, calling him a “dweeb.”

Keima commences a campaign of intensive cheering for Ayumi, who initially thinks he’s mocking her. When her senpai accuses her of getting cocky after a fluke performance, Ayumi trips on a hurdle intentionally to take her out of the meet, so she won’t cause them trouble. Keima encourages her and confesses his love, and when he starts to fall down the stairs, Ayumi catches him and they embrace in a kiss, releasing the loose soul, which Elsie captures. Afterwards, Ayumi wins a medal at the meet, but has no memory of the “conquest.” Elsie enrolls in Keima’s class posing as his sister.

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With only one week until the completion of its third season, we thought we’d look back on the episode that started it all. We first watched and reviewed this episode way back on 8 October 2010, and gave it a 3 out of 4 on our old rating system, but aside from that date and rating, we decided not to read what we wrote back then until writing about our impressions this time around. From the perspective of those now very familiar with the franchise, you’d think we’d find highly introductory (by necessity, as it’s the first) nature of this episode would make it a bit of a bore to watch. Not so. On the contrary: we enjoyed it more the second time.

We were always impressed by the guile and confidence with which this series got out of the gate, which parallels Keima’s confidence in throwing himself into his very first mission, despite having never even held a real girl’s hand. We forgot that Ayumi was first conquered in just this one episode – a breeze compared to Keima’s present struggles in the Goddesses Arc. We also forgot that Elsie was prepared to give up and die with Keima after learning his experience was limited to dating sims, but Keima said ‘screw that’ and stepped up, not just to save his own head, but Elsie’s too. And the rest is history.

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Rating: 8 
(Great)

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Oreimo 15 (Fin)

With this final web extra, Oreimo finally comes to a close on a happy note. Disturbed by a cryptic text from Kirino, Kyou totally brushes off a confession from Kuroneko (bastard) and dashes off to L.A. It’s a bit of a shame they don’t spend any time in America at all; he just takes a cab to her dorm, they play an eroge (her first since she arrived) and with a tearful confession of his own, convinces her to come back to Japan.

Kyou must’ve sensed the same thing his father did from those texts: she wasn’t doing to hot, and was going to proceed to keep working hard, perhaps too hard, to reach her goal of becoming a track star. Basically, it wasn’t working out. She swore she wouldn’t contact anyone back home until she beat another runner: three months later and no texts, save the ones instructing Kyou and her dad to toss her collection and trophies, respectively.

While Kyou kinda had to go and snap her out of her stubbornness, it’s still a bit disconcerting he so casually shot down Ruri, especially after her unprecedented spilling of her honest feelings. He made her happy caring for her. But this is a show where the imouto is the star, unfortunately for Ruri. So rather than be happy with an Ayase or Saori or Tamura or Ruri as his girlfriend, Kyou continues to live his life in service of others. He derives his happiness from making others happy. Pfft…what a weirdo! Rating: 3.5

Oreimo 14

I really enjoyed Oreimo as a whole, but would have enjoyed it so much more if the multi-talented, cute-as-a-button Kuroneko/Ruri Goko was the focus, rather than Kirino and Kyousuke. These extra episodes have given Ruri the screen time she deserved, and she doesn’t disappoint. Her character’s growth is even more apparent when comparing her to Sena Akagi, who is more or less a nerdier, more perverted version of Kirino and simply not as interesting.

While last week she resented Kyousuke’s doting, this week she is much more receptive to it. Is Kyousuke supporting her simply because his real little sister is absent? That isn’t the whole picture. Even when Kirino was around, the two of them had their own independent rapport. The fact that Ruri can now comfortably hang out in his bedroom and even profess her affection for him (in a manner of speaking) suggests she’s no longer hung up on the belief she’s filling in for Kirino. Kyousuke would prefer he call her senpai, not nii-san.

Ruri is a finisher; when she sets her mind to something, she won’t back down or give up until that something is achieved. She swallows her pride and asks Sena to help with debugging her game. The game even wins an award, albeit for “Most Shitty Game”, but what matters is she got it done, and didn’t compromise her creative vision. The powerful, passionate speech she gives to the game club in her initial bid is one of Ruri’s finest moments. At this point, Ruri is also probably my favorite Kana Hanazawa character. Rather than simply ditzy or cutesy, she really gets to explore the full range of her voice. Rating: 4

Bakuman 25

I stress that it would have been truly shitty of the producers of Bakuman to not let Mashiro and Takagi get serialized in Jack after all of this effort. But after Koogy turned out to be a bit of a red herring, The duo known as Ashirogi Muto surged past both Nakai/Aoki and Fukuba to become one of the four manga that won. This was a great ending to the first season, and now the real story begins.

This final episode itself detailed how the editors’ meeting goes down and how they make their selections. The Editor-in-Chief is pretty clear-cut on this process: if the manga he reads is interesting, it’s a “yes”; if it isn’t, it’s a “no.” As they go through manga one by one, we experience the same anxiety and impatience as both the authors and their editors. No matter what they try to do to kill the time – play cards, chess, smoke, or just sit and mope – their thoughts are consumed with the results of the meeting, which will determine their ultimate fate.

Not to be overlooked is the whole reason Mashiro is doing this: for love. Miho finally calls him on the phone and talks to him, and they both discover that it isn’t nearly as scary as they thought it would be; in fact, it’s the tops. Forgive the cliche, but you can really feel the love here. It’s a patient, slow-burning, deliberate love, a love still conditional on that anime, but they’re certainly on their way, and I’ll be rooting for the fulfillment of their dreams in season two, fully cognizant that that won’t happen easily. The easy part is probably over. Rating: 4

Series Mean Ranking: 3.654

Star Driver 25

Gahh, I just watched the second-straight finale of a Fall 2010 anime in which the bad guy is defeated by an Epic Punch To The Face. Only in Star Driver’s finale, both the puncher and punchee were characters of consequence, with stakes of even greater consequence still. Youthful super-evil/vain father, Tokio/Head, wants to destroy/rule the entire world, and by breaking the last seal, Wako, and Sugata and Samekh under his command, he can do it, too.

But Takuto/Tauburn won’t go away quietly, nor let his dad get away with hurting his friends, which leads to the eventual punch to the face. To get to that point, he depends on all of the members of Glittering Crux expelling Head, retaking their reborn cybodies, and fighting alongside Tauburn (both out of simple morality, but also because he scorned them, using Crux as pawns all along). Thus we get an epic multi-cybody battle with the same bite-and-burn animation we’re used to, only turned up to 11. To paraphrase one Crux member, they finally get to fight in a battle that matters, not just one that serve’s Head’s schemes.

But what of Sugata and King Samekh? Sugata is ready to sacrifice himself to seal him off once and for all and prevent the end of the world Head talked about. However, Takuto and Wako share a deep long look at one another, and Takuto then decides to destroy Wako’s cybody and break the last seal anyway. WTF, you may ask; but they simply couldn’t and wouldn’t let the love triangle be resolved so cheaply; by Sugata’s death. Takuto follows Samekh into Earth orbit, where he destroys him and saves Sugata. Thus Wako is still not forced to make a choice she apparently can’t make. And neither is the show.

So yeah, Star Driver. It’s been a long ride, and I have to say I enjoyed it overall. The Tauburn introduction scene got really old, but for the most part the weekly battles stayed fresh and brief. Takuto was a hero who was always upbeat, never angsty; the core of him, Wako and Sugata had great chemistry from beginning to end, and their romantic dilemma was never annoying. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t get lost keeping all the characters and Crux factions in check, but having seen the series reach its conclusion, there would be value in re-watching it someday. Rating: 4

Series Mean Ranking: 3.615

To Aru Majutsu no Index II 24

The finale of Index II had some very nicely-animated combat scenes and plenty of cameos from all of the characters introduced throughout the series’ run, but ultimately it wasn’t very satisfying. The predictability of the outcome of this season’s arcs got a bit tiring, and by this, the fifteenth or so instance of Touma saving the world by punching someone, was both anti-climatic and a tad boring.

That defragmented montage of cameos at the end kinda said it all: all of these dozens of characters made appearences, but they never seemed to play any real crucial part to the story. It’s as if once their one of two episodes of fame were used up, they kept showing up in episodes, as if no one had told them they weren’t needed anymore. Index II tried to stuff as many people and as many layers of intrigue it possibly could, and ended up with an unfocused, muddled mess.

Iif there will be a second season of Index II to continue all of the stories and conflicts left open-ended at the end of this first season, I may not be troubled to watch it. So much of this series was wasted with the inclusion of excessive characters with schemes and motives that usually boiled down to they’re bad guys Touma needs to punch. Perhaps the unnecessary window dressing jaded me. Splitting up Touma and Mikoto (who IMO have the best chemistry of any other pair) didn’t help matters, nor did giving Accelerator so much friggin’ screen time (he’s a psychotic, invincible mass murderer, and I yet I still don’t find him interesting). Rating: 3

Series Mean Ranking: 3.312

Oreimo 13

I love the character of Kuroneko – or should I say, Ruri Gokou. This episode only reinforces that esteem. It’s hilarious that once Kyousuke starts doting upon her, she starts almost the exact same act as Kirino, an attitude expressed in the opening theme that is full of contradictions. Even so, I still like her. And she likes Kyousuke, she just doesn’t want him to pity her.

For Kyou’s part, while part of him is lonely without his sister, he’s not really interested in Kuroneko as a surrogate little sister. He even admits this to her, while she’s in his bed, no less! (though obviously, the reason she’s there is perfectly innocent.) He’s stoked from the get-go that she’s attending his school, and that their relationship needn’t be defined solely by Kirino. Tamura, his betrothed, is surprisingly unthreatened by her arrival, even electing to call her by her nickname (it’s pretty funny how long Kyousuke’s known this girl without knowing her name).

And while much of this episode is spent enriching the friendship Kyousuke and Kuroneko as she adjusts to the new school, we’re introduced to another otaku, who while initially quite proper and prudish, turns out to be the homo-game-loving little sister of one of his best mates (in addition to the game programming club president being a long-tenured student and the one who lent him his bike…nice tied loose ends!).

It’s pretty funny to watch Kyousuke and Kuroneko poke and prod until her inner otaku is drawn out for all to see. They even regret doing so to a degree, as they get more than they had initially bargained for. This girl, Akagi, also bends the fourth wall a bit by mentioning there are a lot of anime out there…like the one she’s in. Rating: 4

Star Driver 24

Another seal bites the dust, as Keito reveals herself to both Crux and Takuto/Wako as the East Maiden, while Sugata too removes his mask and prepares to drive King Samekh. It’s a chilling moment when Keito essentially offers herself to the cause, having already been fulfilled by Sugata in a previous meeting with him at the Eastern Shrine. She has nothing left to lose. Everything goes dark and all of the swirling Zero Time psychedelia we’re used to changes with frightening speed and permanence.

For the island and its ordinary inhabitants, this is very bad news. With only one seal left to break (Wako) and the means to do it (Head has a new cybody, and who knows what Sugata will do with his new phase), the resultant shockwave will probably destroy the island with a combination of earthquakes, tsunami, and erupting volcanoes. Crux has been striving so long to break the seals, one wonders if any of them have cold feet, or if its simply too late to turn back. Kanako for one exhibits sympathy for the “civvies” by having her massive yacht (it’s a cruise ship, really) prepared to take on evacuees.

With that in mind, and after so many generations of the maidens maintaining balance, breaking all their seals and unleashing that power will likely have global, and not just local, implications. Takuto has won every single fight he’s fought in as Tauburn. Many were victories pulled from the jaws of defeat; victories that would not have occurred had outside forces not acted on Takuto’s behalf. Now that he’s essentially the only thing keeping Wako safe, he’ll have to win one more battle, and it will be the toughest. Rating: 3.5

Bakuman 24

The excitement continues to snowball as Niizuma’s original prediction comes true: there’s a tie for first place in the Golden Future Cup, between Ashirogi and Fukuda. Koogy’s grin at the end of last week was a red herring; he lost out big, finishing fourth in the running. I suppose some of his fans didn’t want to be seen picking up a copy of Jack; either that, or they simply didn’t show up to vote in the numbers he’d hoped for. It would have been easy, lazy even, for Koogy to win, but thankfully they didn’t go down that road. Still, he’s down, but not out; I wouldn’t rule out him showing up sometime in the future, even if it’s next season (I haven’t read the manga, so I don’t know). If he’s sincere about “changing manga” being his dream, that is.

Anyway, Aoki and Nakai’s manga got third place. Predictably Aoki doesn’t flinch at the news, and Nakai would have been happy anywhere but last. In any case, the three manga will move forward for another round to determine which will be serialized. The results, rather than bumming everyone out, seems to have reinvigorated and energized them to a man (or woman, in Aoki’s case). Jack has a difficult job on their hands: all three entrants in contention are good manga; even the readers couldn’t quite decide who to vote for.

News of their win garnered a response from Miho in the form of a phone call to Takagi, which marks the first time I can recall hearing her call a boy. I’m glad she got some minutes in this episode; especially her exchange with her mother proves how dedicated she is to Mashiro, and how resolved she is to properly wait like they promised. These two lovebirds must be kept apart for them to be productive. After all, if the prospect of Miho on the other line petrifies Mashiro (Miho bails him out by hanging up), imagine what having her hanging around the studio will do to his work ethic? Rating: 4

To Aru Majutsu no Index II 23

The war for Academy City apparently experienced a false start, as Kazakiri’s angel transformation is halted and the Right Hand of God temporarily withdraws. No sooner does Accelerator regain consciousness is he recruited by some prettyboy in suit who apparently has a fake name and face.

There are brief moments with Index, Last Order and Misaka, but the majority of the episode is one last taste of school slice-of-life before the war starts in earnest. Touma has lunch with Hinamori, who starts to choke on a potato. When he rubs her back, it breaks her bra. Then Fukiyose takes her place, and before you know it, the entire class elects to hit up a sukiyaki joint. I have to say, after so much needlessly convoluted intrigue and saber-rattling between the magical and scientific factions in this impending war, this kind of calming episode suits me at this time.

While this isn’t a complete break from all of the political shit, it’s enough of one. I also didn’t mind Awaki Musujime returning, if only briefly. Still, I’m wondering if the climactic battle will make any sense, or the layers of muddled intrigue will collapse like a kind of anime souffle. One thing’s for sure: Touma will be punching a few more baddies before all’s said and done. Rating: 3

Bakuman 23

After the fruitless-yet-fruitful mangaka meeting, everyone improved their stories and art and submitted manuscripts for the “Golden Future Cup” on schedule. Even Koogy got his manga finished, despite waiting until the last minute to belt one out after an exhaustive PR campaign.

If this cup is all about votes, he may not have even had to put that much effort into his entry; at the end of the day, he has legions of loyal fans, and name recognition that many are eager to latch on to. His wry grin at the episode’s end suggests that he did well with both early and real deal results.

The thing is, so did everyone else. The results somewhat mirrored Niizuma’s prediction of a two-way tie for first, but otherwise, everyone was asked to write a serialization name. This looks to be a fierce battle. And the show does a great service in showing a taste of everyone’s manga up close; Koogy’s overwrought, pretentious, dialogue-less effort was particularly funny. Rating: 3.5

Star Driver 23

Star Driver returns to its more-or-less standard form: the love triangle heats up, while Takuto finally meets (and plants) his dad Head/R. Wako is fine with going on dates with both Sugata and Takuto on the same day, interrupted briefly by a Zero Time battle where Tauburn must go one-on-three with a very hungry Vanishing Age.

For the umpteenth time, Takuto is on the verge of defeat, but Sugata evens the odds by finding a way to be useful: by offering himself as a Tau missile for Takuto to shoot through the three enemy cybodies. I don’t really understand the meta-science or mechanics surrounding how that works, but its of little importance. Crux is dealt yet another humbling blow. Suffice it to say Takuto/Sugata can do whatever they want here in order to win. This makes it unlikely they’ll ever lose, which reduces the tension somewhat.

Still, the outcomes aren’t nearly as important as the character strides made in their leading-up. Last episode, Sugata finally woke up while Keito was present, exposing her as the heretofore-unknown East Maiden. Only by this episode’s end is this revisited, when Sugata shows up as King, the latest, greatest member of Crux. Does this mean Sugata’s now a Bad Guy, sharing their goal to break the last seal? Has he finally cast his ambiguous future with his betrothed – Wako – aside, in favor of Keito?

Earlier, following a duel that apparently ended in a draw (mirroring their stalemate regarding Wako), Sugata warns Takuto that his “bendable free-spirit” approach to facing challenges may not be enough to fully protect Wako, as opposed to calm, logical preparation. Could he have been warning Takuto about his own plans to join Crux? Stay tuned… Rating: 3.5

Star Driver returns to its more-or-less standard form: the love triangle heats up, while Takuto finally meets (and plants) his dad Head/R.

Wako is fine with going on dates with both Sugata and Takuto on the same day, interrupted briefly by a Zero Time battle where Tauburn

must go one-on-three with a very hungry Vanishing Age.

For the umpteeth time, Takuto is on the verge of defeat, but Sugata evens the odds by finding a way to be useful: by offering himself as a

Tau missile for Takuto to shoot through the three enemy cybodies. I don’t really understand the metascience or mechanics surroudning

how that works, but its of little importance. Crux is dealt yet another humbling blow.

Last episode, Sugata finally woke up while Keito was present, exposing her as the heretofore-unknown East Maiden. Only by this

episode’s end is this revisited, when Sugata shows up as King, the latest, greatest member of Crux. Does this mean Sugata’s now a Bad

Guy, sharing their goal to break the last seal? Has he finally cast his ambiguous future with his betrothed – Wako – aside, in favor of Keito?

Earlier, following a duel that apparently ended in a draw (mirroring their stalemate regarding Wako), Sugata warns Takuto that his

“bendable free-spirit” approach to facing challenges may not be enough to fully protect Wako, as opposed to calm, logical preparation.

Could he have been warning Takuto about his own plans to join Crux? We’ll see… Rating: 3.5

To Aru Majutsu no Index II 22

Hmm…not much to say here. Touma fights Vento and inevitably punches her after she reveals why she hates science so much (and it’s a fairly flimsy one…the hospital didn’t have enough blood to save both her and her brother after an amusement park ride accident? Really?) Naturally, an even more powerful member of God’s Right Hand shows up to collect her; Touma barks at him, and yet another future duel is set up. Can’t Touma lose occasionally, just to spice things up?

Meanwhile, back in some office where Kihara has Last Order hostage, Accelerator fights him until he “runs out of juice”, then fights some more. The stamina of this guy, seriously. He also lets out a few Niizuma Eiji-esque adolescent squeals for good measure, refusing to go down even when Kihara tosses a grenade on his face (!). Accelerator is so hell-bent on protecting the munchkin, he even grows black wings and launches himself and Kihara into the stratosphere like a rocket…though that may have had something to do with Index’s singing…I’m not quite sure.

And as Mikoto Misaka was fighting off Hound Dog, the whole trio had stuff to do. I just wish I cared more about it now that so much has been built up. Sadly, listening to Index try to understand what’s going on herself while on the phone with Misaka kind of justifies my bemused indifference to the events of this episode. A whole lot of stuff happens, but the impact is sadly lacking. I guess all the complex factional wrangling and all the religious, magical and scientific mumbo-jumbo is starting to jade me. Rating: 3