Kamisama Hajimemashita – 02

Tomoe fixes up Nanami’s living space at the shrine, informs her of her duties, and asks her to make water into sake, which she fails to do. When Nanami learns the famous Visual Kei idol Kurama Shinjirou will be transferring to her high school, she races to class, wearing an embarassing hood, and Kurama is immediately rude to her and plants Y30000 on her. He’s interested in her because he’s actually a crow goblin from Mt. Kura. Tomoe transforms him into an Ostrich, but Nanami is lenient, and orders him to change him back.

Tomoe may be Nanami’s familiar, but he’s no mindless slave, and while he must obey every order she gives him, he still has a certain degree of free will. He can choose how he serves her. He can also reminisce about his past life as some kind of swordsman. When making her wear a hood gets her ostracized by the class – who are a bunch of insensitive assholes; what else is new – he later apologizes with a huge feast in her class. When she ditches the hood, he still has her back, and is able to fend off the first demon that tracks her down since she became a deity.

Sket Dance’s Date was also into Visual Kei, but he was a kind and gentle soul. Kurama is a dick. He breaks the dress code, tries to frame Nanami with theft, nearly runs her over, and wants very much to know why she doesn’t like him. Of course, this all makes sense when we learn he’s the demon, though that he just happened to show up at her school on the first day is a little contrived. Was it just coincidence, or did he plan it? In any case, his ostrich transformation is hilarious comeuppance. This guy wasn’t much of a threat, but we suppose he was never supposed to be.


Rating: 7 (Very Good)

Car Cameo: Kurama drives (and almost hits Nanami with) a very stylish (and probably expensive to import to Japan) Alfa-Romeo Giulietta.

Jormungand – 13

Click here to browse our reviews of the first season (12 episodes) of Jormungand.

Dr. Miami finds Karen Low on the street in Port Elizabeth and hires her as a secretary. She meets up with Koko on a ship in the Solomans to watch the launch of the last of the 126 rockets sending up satellites for a navigation support system that will give HCLI a decisive business advantage. Meanwhile, R meets with Bookman, who wants Koko kept on a leash, while Hex – who sent the three assassins to Koko – wants her dead…but not before she hurts her.

The last time we hung out with Koko & Friends, Valmet was gettin’ her catharsis on, Koko was getting rid of assassins, and R was revealing himself as a CIA mole. This week picks up pretty much where we left off, but also shows us what was going on in the first episode with the rockets. It’s a huge project that will no doubt make Koko more money (whether or not that’s what she wants), but is also netting her plenty of unwanted attention from concerned (she’d say nosy) parties all over the world.

Like R for the two years he’s worked for her, we’ve still only seen the Princess, the girl with the mask so perfect and complete, ascertaining her thoughts and true self are all but impossible. R believes that mask isn’t indestructable, and even saw her lose composure for a brief moment. Hex, a new face this season, is planning on shattering that mask, and the episode is not subtle about her potential first target: Koko’s teddy bear Jonah. We’ll see if the Real Koko (if there even is one) comes out this season as a result of external forces.


Rating: 7 (Very Good)

Car Cameos: Many cars seen in previous episodes are also seen here, including a Citroën C4 3-door, Mercedes C-Class, and Volkswagen Touareg 2. Hex drives up in a yellow Bentley Continental GT convertible.

Chuunibyou demo Koi ga Shitai! – 02

Yuuta is chosen as one of the class reps with the beautiful Nibutani Shinka, and feels like things are looking up. But Rikka acquires a lost “chimera” (cat) and requests he take care of it, as her sister is allergic. Shinka points them to Tsuyuri Kumin, whose cat is missing. They go to Rikka’s house, and the cat isn’t hers. Rikka’s sister Tooka confronts them, and blackmails Yuuta into taking the cat with inflammatory audio of him from eighth grade. Rikka escapes, Yuuta and Kumin follow, and Tooka pursues and duels with Rikka, defeating her. Yuuta adopts the cat.

The surprisingly engrossing story of a lost cat combined with Yuuta’s clinging to the notion of living a normal high school life and gradually failing was enough for us to rank this as an 8 relatively early, but that was before a totally unexpected diversion into Rikka’s imagination when she battles her older sister. What’s merely and umbrella and ladel become huge, FLCL-esque weapons wielded with lightning speed and deadly force in a kick-ass action scene. But this eye candy was only the icing of the cake; a means to an end.

It showed Yuuta that there’s still value in a vibrant imagination – it gives excitement to life and makes the ordinary extraordinary. He totally geeks out on an antique weapon on Rikka’s wall – checking himself too late to avoid Kumin’s bemused/charmed gaze – but it doesn’t seem to matter. Both Kumin and Shinka earlier on aren’t really put off by Rikka’s behavior, nor do they turn their nose up at Yuuta for it. Perhaps Rikka’s over-active and Yuuta’s re-emerging Chuunibyou-ness and Yuuta’s desire to make friends in high school aren’t mutually exclusive. Only his desire to be dull and normal is.


Rating: 9 (Superior)


Car Cameo: Honda Civic
sedan on the bridge, right in the beginning.

Tonari no Kaibutsu-kun – 02

Shizuku tries to eat her strange new feelings away with Monjayaki, to no avail. She notices Haru would have gotten a higher score than him had he only written his name. Haru also adopts a rooster. On the way home, a small, cute girl named Natsume Asako begs Shizuku to help her study so she won’t have to take remedial classes so she can go to an offline gathering. Shizuku refuses but Haru agrees to tutor if she’ll bring him along.

Haru’s longtime classmate Sasayan approaches Shizuku to get an impression of her. She decides to help Natsume as well, pulling an all-nighter with her. Natsume passes, and takes Haru along as promised, but he ruins everything. Shizuku dozes off on the roof and awakens with her head in Haru’s lap. He insists she skip class and keep napping. She tells him she loves him.

Shizuku initially approaches her sudden situation as if it were some kind of affliction; something to be solved like an equation. But no logic or reason will slow her heart or un-pinken her face when in the presence of Yoshida Haru. In short, she’s fallen for him, she just has to come around to realizing it. And she does so, in record time! Seriously, two confessions in the first two episodes and we have ourselves a couple. You have to admire the efficiency. And aside from some invasions of personal space and one rough face grab, Haru generally behaves himself.

This week also introduced a couple of new characters in Natsume and Sasayan. Natsume is an interesting parallel to both Shizuku and Haru in that all three have had trouble getting closer to others, albeit for different reasons (she’s offputtingly cute, apparently . That said, we enjoyed her energy and how her struggle to pass her test so she can make friends – making other friends in the process – helps Shizuku realize that what she’s feeling isn’t a nuisance. Haru’s changed her world. That change isn’t bad…just new.


Rating: 9 (Superior)

Car Cameo: There’s a white Mazda2/Demio parked outside the monja place.

From the New World (Shin Sekai yori) – 02

With Amano Reiko struck from the class list as “missing”, studies continue in Apotheosis class for Saki & co, specifically the “ball-carrying tournament” in which classes pit their powers against one another without directly affecting each others’ powers or ball, but by manipulating clay “dolls” to move the balls, attack and defend. Class 1 defeats Class 5 in the first round. Class 2 beats Class 3 when an “accident” occurs, and the final between 2 and 1 ends the same way, with an “accident” and a draw. The Class 2 member then disappears, and the class prepares for a summer camping trip. Saki helps out a bugrat and earns their thanks and reverance.

Three things are certain after two episodes of “From the New World”: the cold opens are very strange (this time jumping five centuries into the future and a cursed power-wielding, murderous emperor), the present day is just as strange with its odd customs and creatures, and the soundtrack is absolutely top-notch, adding richness and weight to the proceedings – not bad for only the composer’s third series. Also, the characters all seem to be in the dark all the time – both literally and figuratively.

The episode is dominated by a fairly innocuous game that the students take very seriously, and indeed, the final outcome leads to the second kid being spirited away who knows where by who knows what. But we can’t help but wonder if all this training and competition and talk of “seeds of sin” is really just history repeating itself. That that kid’s game is a sterilized model for the wonders and horrors their powers can cause. The taxi kid from last week ultimately used his powers to kill people, as did the emperor in the future. Here in the middle, in this quaint little village, what are these powers being honed for…and is it all worth it?


Rating: 7 (Very Good)

P.S. Those bugrats were creepy. We’d stay away from them…

Sukitte Ii na yo. – 01

“Everything starts when you start it.”

Tachibana Mei’s mom says this when she tells her about the wind chime she put up, making it sound like summer when it isn’t. We hear the chime again when Mei decides to execute a sweet spinning kick to the boy on the stairs behind her who pulled on her conservative knee-length skirt. Only she kicks the wrong boy.

This boy just happens to be Kurosawa Yamato. Girls want him, guys want to be him. But all the swooning girls look alike to him – except Mei, whom he thinks is “interesting”, perhaps because she’s so utterly uninterested in him. Wanting what you can’t have, or what doesn’t want you. Guilty over the kick, she apologizes to him, an act of kindness that opens a door. He gives her his number. She gives him band-aids.

Early in life, Mei decided to give up on having friends, because they would only ever betray and hurt her. This is laid on a little thick overall, but it’s not unreasonable to assume a regularly-teased girl who won’t conform to her peers would avoid relationships. So she’s naturally dubious of Yamato’s winning smile – she’s seen smiles before.

But when she finds herself in a (rather convenient) pickle by a stalker, and has no one to turn to, she calls Yamato, who rushes to her rescue, executed with a confession of love and a kiss. It may not be enough to change her mind about having friends, but it certainly starts something…which is when everything starts.


Rating: 9 (Superior)

Btooom! – 01

22-year-old NEET Sakamoto Ryouta spends all his days playing BTOOOM!, an online-fighting game using bombs. He’s ace of the #10 ranked team in the world. One day he wakes up hanging from a parachute, and finds himself on a deserted jungle island. He has been given a set of bombs that run on 10-second timers, and when a second castaway attacks him with his own bombs, Sakamoto realizes he’s been thrust into a real game of BTOOOM! He kills his rival, is shaken up about it, and the next time he wakes up he encounters a beautiful high school girl bathing in a jungle pool.

BTOOOM! didn’t make the most explosive impact compared to a couple other Fall series we’ve started on. Part of that may be our post-Accel World fatigue – after just finishing a battle game series in which there’s lots of not-always compelling inner dialogue, we’re understandably weary of starting another one right back up. Part of it may also be that shows with similar nonsensical titles like Gantz and Durarara! were more impactful right off the bat.

BTOOOM! stumbles in a couple places: Sakamoto’s would-be killer either has horrible aim or his bombs’ bark are far worse than their bite; and it takes too long for Sakamoto to figure out something that should have been immediately apparent: that the numbers on his bombs were a countdown. In fact, he did notice that when he threw his first away…only to forget in the heat of battle. But BTOOOM! is also straightforward and accessible, it doesn’t try to do too much too soon, and it’s by Madhouse. Hotshot video game kid thrust into a real life game of life and death is always intriguing if pulled off right, and despite some minor missteps, BTOOOM! isn’t altogether unintriguing.


Rating: 6 (Good)

Car Cameo: There’s a conservative sedan of  indeterminate make and model in the cold open, within the game. Has both Toyota Crown and Nissan Cedric characteristics.

Zetsuen no Tempest – 01

Takigawa Yoshino’s best friend Fuwa Mahiro has been missing for a month, not long after his younger sister Aika is murdered in a robbery. One gray afternoon Yoshino visits Aika’s grave and is confronted by Evangeline Yamamoto, a government “volunteer” who wants to know the whereabouts of Mahiro. She pulls a gun on Yashiro, but Mahiro flies in and disables her using magic. He’s made a deal with the powerful mage Kusaribe Hakaze to aid her in exchange for helping him locate Aika’s killer. Hakaze is the heiress to a powerful magic family tried to awaken something, which is causing a metallicizing epidemic to spread across Japan. She has been stranded by her relation Samon.

People deal with grief in different ways. Some of them find a wooden doll in a bottle washed up on the shore, and follow it’s instructions to drive a nail into it so it will grant their wish, at which point it becomes a sort of walkie-talkie for communication between them and a powerful sorceress stranded on a remote island by her family with nothing but a dress and sandals, who promises to help them bring justice to those who took their sister away. Others…don’t go that far. They simply maintain, keeping on their cell phone not only a photo of and last text from the girl who always pretended she hated him around her brother but in reality was his girlfriend. And not being interested in anyone else. This was an awesome twist at the end, by the way. And now, here are these two lads, reunited, with the latter about to be swept up in the tempest his wayward friend brought with him.

This is a very impressive start to what could be a definite keeper among those shows we hadn’t initially considered trying out. However, we took a look, and were very glad we did. Full of complex emotions and dilemmas and populated by interesting, flawed characters, and told primarily from the point of view of someone like us who don’t see enough magic to be comfortable with it. It’s also wonderfully animated, with a badass fight and some creepy rituals. It’s got great scope and epic scale, and is full of intriguing possibilities. There’s no way we’re missing the next episode.


Rating: 9 (Superior)

Kamisama Hajimemashita – 01

High school Momozono Nanami’s deadbeat father runs off and she is saddled with all his gambling debts and evicted from their apartment. She saves a man named Mikage in the park from a dog. He gives her a kiss on the forehead and a map to a place to stay. It turns out to be a shrine, and she has inhereted Mikage’s role as the local earth deity. Her first challenge is to get the divine messenger, the fox demon Tomoe – to accept it and contract with her. Doing so also requires a kiss, which she delivers while falling from a tree, and he saves her from a demon hag.

Like Chuunibyou, this first look at Kamisama Hajimemashita is an amusing, charming affair, centered on two disparate characters – a girl and a guy – who end up connecting in the end. In that series, it’s a weird girl and a guy trying to be normal; in this case it’s a normal human girl who has fallen backwards into godhood, and must contract with a weird guy with fox ears. Who is deliciously willful and selfish until that sealing peck on the forehead. Particularly funny is quick, cruel dismissal of Nanami’s sob story. Their dialogue is very snappy throughout.

Nanami makes a good impression as a down-on-her-luck girl who is willing to give this thing a go, but that initial gung-ho-ness bumps up against the massive duties her position entails; duties all but impossible without Tomoe’s help. But she also shows her stubborn in that she’s not about to grovel and beg to someone who’s been nothing but rude and contemptuous. Tomoe showed before that his “bark is worse than his bite” so she rolls the dice and falls off that tree betting he’ll follow her down, and that’s when she plants a big ol’ smooch on him. Not necessarily because she likes him (yet), but because she has to.


Rating: 8 (Great)

Chuunibyou demo Koi ga Shitai! – 01

Togashi Yuuta, over his eighth-grade fantasy obsession phase (which he calls “Eighth-Grade Syndrome or Chuunibyou), is hoping to start a new, normal life at his new high school, but immediately comes across Takanashi Rikka, a cute but eccentric girl who is still in the throes of Chuunibyou. What’s more, she heard him try to seal his alter-ego “Black Flame Master” and thinks it’s all very cool. He is forced to walk her new home, which happens to be the floor above where she lives, and then help move her stuff in. After dinner with his family, Rikka convinces him not to throw out his old life. He grudingly agrees.

Nazo no Kanojo X this is not, but we found the first episode a very charming and likable introduction to the unlikely couple of Yuuta and Rikka. For one thing, it focuses on these two and their interactions. It’s also nice to see teenagers interacting naturally and not blushing like tomatoes constantly. There’s a part of Yuuta who thinks Rikka is cute, but he’s embarrassed by all the nerdy nonsense she’s constantly spewing. For her part, Rikka is quick to befriend her “spiritual soulmate”, attempting to impress Yuuta by “opening” a train door with her mind, showing off her “Wicked Eye” (a contact) or winning him a free soda with a button-combo.

The two show great chemistry and promise, as Yuuta will no doubt try to juggle the new normal high school life – something he so desperately desires he enrolled at a different school from his middle school peers – with his unplanned relationship with this very odd girl. But he proves neither cruelly dismissive of Rikka nor totally opposed to playing along with her from time to time. As a KyoAni production, this series is suitably pretty and tight in its technical execution. We consider this a pleasant surprise and will stick with it.


Rating: 7 (Very Good)

Car Cameos: Incidental shots of a Daihatsu Conte and what looks like a Suzuki Wagon R Stingray (it’s very small) 

Tonari no Kaibutsu-kun – 01

Mizutani “Dry Ice” Shizuku eschews friends for grades. When she is asked to deliver printouts for the delinquent Yoshida Haru, her high school life is set on a totally different course. He insists they’re friends, and has an innocent personality but is quick to violence and treats everyone roughly, including her. When he finds out his friends are just using him like she said, she tells them off and provides a shoulder to cry on. He agrees to come back to school, and confesses his love for her.

He follows her around, and she finds out he was the only one with higher grades than she, pissing her off since he doesn’t study. Upperclassmen take her hostage as revenge, but when he arrives to rescue her and she tries to calm him down, he punches her, and she’s through with him. Midterms come, and she comes out ranking first, but isn’t happy. She goes to his house (an arcade) to tell him she doesn’t hate him, and they start hanging out again. Breaking from studying to get monja, he steals a kiss, reiterating his love.

This series doesn’t waste a lick of time, spanning days, weeks, even months, and creating an entire arc of the cold-hearted Shizuku and the wild, naive Haru, who go from complete strangers to pseudo-friends to rivals to enemies to the makings of a couple. Shizuku gets pinned, accosted, threatened with rape, has orange soda thrown on her head, gets kidnapped, and gets slugged really hard in the face. And yet despite all this, she falls for Haru. Indications are he’s her first friend and she’s his, and all of a sudden good grades aren’t enough to make her happy – much to her consternation.

Is Haru a bit of a stylized manic pixie dream boy? Perhaps, if you ignore all the domestic violence. The guy is equal parts five-year-old, brawler, and math whiz; a personality polymath. And Shizuku is the only one who seems to be able to handle him – hence all the chain imagery in the OP. But these two crazy kids and this episode reminded us of some of the best rom-com anime we’ve seen, from Whisper of the Heart (another bookworm Shizuku! Loves a guy she initially hates!) to Kare Kano (academic rivals gradually falling in love! lots of earnest inner monologue!) Also, it’s a Brain’s Base piece that looks and sounds great, and Tomatsu Haruka kills it as the voice of Shizuku.


Rating: 8 (Great)

From the New World (Shin Sekai yori) – 01

1000 years from the present day, in a tranquil and isolated village, Wantanabe Saki begins Apotheosis class in which to master her newly-bestowed “cursed powers” of telekinesis, or juryoku. She recieved her “blessing” late, causing her and her parents to worry because of a mysterious rumor of a “Faze Cat” that takes underachieving children away. The unconfident weak link in Saki’s group, Amano Reiko, suddenly disappears.

This table and tone-setting first episode does not unfold strictly linearly, starting in more-or-less the present day we recognize, in which a troubled-looking young man blows out the door of the taxi he’s in with his mind, then sets to work ‘popping’ everyone around him with deadly telekinesis. Jump forward a millenium, and society has – depending on your opinion – progressed or regressed. Technology is almost nonexistent; the land is lush and untouched by industry; villages are modest; no one can leave their boundaries; and everyone develops telekinetic skills.

We don’t see (not yet at least) what exactly people do with these powers – normal scenes like dinner are presented without any juryoku, which is limited to training in the classroom – but considering all the talk about Akki and Faze Cats and other supernatural baddies – some of which may be taking the less-talented telekinesists away to their doom – it would seem these cursed powers are a necessity for survival in this new age. Wantanabe Saki is mindful of this as we watch most of this episode from her perspective, dotted with foreboding moments of her past that inform her present. It’s a neat, cerebral, and very cool presentation. Combined with above-par animation, deep colors, a slick, moody soundtrack, and cool wardrobe, this series didn’t waste any time showing promise.


Rating: 7 (Very Good)


Car Cameo:
Our horrid little person-exploding boy arrives at his destination in a green-and-yellow Toyota Comfort taxi.

Fall 2012 Season Preview

We’ve crossed the halfway point of the Summer 2012 Season, and info on the Fall shows is floating around, so we’ve compiled a quick list of what we’ll be watching.

Continuations of Jormungand and Bakuman are a certainty, as are the Summer carryovers and Sket Dance. But in our effort to limit our watchlist to a dozen or less, which shows will grab the remaining slots depends entirely on how good they are. First impressions are important, but as Kokoro Connect proved, not everything.

We make it a point to learn as little as possible about a series before watching it, and this season will be no different. Here’s what we’re lookin’ to watch so far – click a title for more info.

Fall 2012 New Series

Definitely Watching
Jormungand: Perfect Order – White Fox (Action, Adventure, Seinen) – 9 Oct

Probably Watching
Btooom! – Aniplex/A-1 (Action, Sci-Fi, Psychological, Seinen) – 4 Oct
Shinsekai yori – Aniplex/A-1 (Sci-Fi, Supernatural) – 28 Sept
Sukitte Iinayo. – Zexcs (Romance, School, Shoujo) – 29 Sept

Maybe Pile
Magi – KyoAni (Action, Adventure, Fantasy, Shounen) – 7 Oct
Chuunibyou demo Koi ga Shitai! – KyoAni (Comedy, Romance, School) – 19 Sept
Girls und Panzer – ACTAS (School, Military) – 23 Sept
Sakurasou no Pet na Kanojo – XEBEC (Comedy, Romance, School) – 9 Oct
Tonari no Kaibutsu-kun – Brains Base (Comedy, Romance, School, Shoujo) – 29 Sept
Bakuman 3 – J.C. Staff (Comedy, Drama, Romance, School, Shounen) – 6 Oct

Summer 2012 Carryovers

Muv-Luv Alternative: Total Eclipse (14-24)
Sword Art Online (14-25)
Kokoro Connect 
(14-17)