Hyouka – 20

Chitanda invites Oreki to a shrine for New Years to show off her kimono and deliver a bottle of sake to its owners on her father’s behalf. They also visit Mayaka, who is helping out as a shrine maiden. She is in charge of lost and found and selling fortunes. Oreki gets a “misfortune”, and he and Chitanda end up trapped in a storage shed. Not wanting her father’s friends to get the wrong idea, they throw personal items out of a hole in the shed so they’ll be taken to Mayaka. Satoshi arrives when Mayaka receives Chitanda’s purse with a string around it, which Satoshi recognizes. He races to the shed and frees them.

Oreki Houtarou would argue even now that his investigative and deductive skills are simply a matter of good luck, but an ominous mis-fortune spells trouble, and this week he has none of his usual luck. Don’t get us wrong: Oreki is not unlucky because he’s trapped in a dark, cold shed with Chitanda Eru in a kimono that makes her look like a perfect doll. He’s unlucky because he’s locked with her in a shed on the grounds of a shrine whose owners are friends of the Chitandas. Oreki gets a little bit of how rich people interact, and if one’s young, attractive daughter were found locked in a shed with a peasant like Oreki, Chitanda may not have to commit seppuku or anything, but it wouldn’t look good. One gets the feeling Chitanda wouldn’t even mind if this situation had happened elsewhere, and if it wasn’t cold.

So yeah, even if something was going to happen, or if it would be construed that way by a third party, nothing can happen. In this regard, there was a little less romantic tension between Chitanda and Oreki this week than last. After exhausting escape plans that would draw attention and/or destroy the shed, they must rely on the very efficient lost-and-found network of the shrine, in which lost items are sent straight to Mayaka without delay. When subtle items don’t work, Oreki gets lucky again, in that Fukobe recently watched the same Nabunaga historical TV drama he did, and will understand when Chitanda’s purse is sent with a string around it, it indicates they’re “trapped like rats.” Another fine standalone episode with a beautiful setting (when not in the shed) and festive atmosphere.


Rating: 9 (Superior)

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Nazo no Kanojo X – OVA

Tsubaki and Urabe double-date with Ueno and Oka at the Kazami Shrine’s Summer Festival. Oka drags Ueno away to let Urabe be alone with Tsubaki, but when the signal for the fireworks goes up, they are separated. While searching, Tsubaki comes across a strange “freak show” tent; inside he finds Urabe tied to a string high above the ground. A boy and girl in fox masks warn him he can only pull one of the pile of strings on the ground to save her. Urabe sucks on the string, and her saliva lights it up for Tsubaki, thanks to their bond. The fox kids thank them, and the tent disappears. They turn out to be fox spirits, a boy and girl in love, who exchange the bottle and cup on Urabe’s yukata in exchange for a love charm bracelet she puts on Tsubaki.

This was a pleasant revisiting to our favorite series of the Spring, which serves to further validate Tsubaki and Urabe’s bond as they come afoul of supernatural beings who give Tsubaki a test of sorts. Ueno remains unaware that Tsubaki and Urabe are an item, but it doesn’t matter, as he has his own designs on “scoring” with Oka this night. Tsubaki and Urabe are a little shy with each other at first when faced with the prospect of being alone on a date, but after the fox spirits put them through their paces, there’s no doubt that they were meant for each other, and will be back at the festival next year – just the two of them.


Rating: 8 (Great)

Accel World – 21

Haru and Taku meet up with Yuniko in a maid cafe, where she grudingly agrees to give Taku a crash course in the Incarnate System. While she trains him in an arctic wasteland, Haru returns to the real world, and Yuniko’s underling Blood Leopard takes him to a neutral underground duelling hall in Akibahara where they’ll investigate Dusk Taker’s ability to stay off of the lists.

The Red King Scarlet Rain proves a valuable, if reluctant, ally to Haru and Taku in their quest to defeat who’s likely the final boss in this series, the insufferable Nomi Seiji/Dusk Taker. Not only does she welcome them into her Red Legion’s prominence base and give Taku a personal lesson in how to use the Incarnate system, as a bonus she lends Haru the services of one of her subjects to aid in his investigation of Nomi. It’s good to be strong, but they won’t beat Nomi unless they know as much about him as they can; no more surprises.

We liked Yuniko’s sudden shift from her cheerful facade to surly grouch when Haru mentions Incarnate in public; but we’re glad she knows she has a debt to pay and is willing to do so. We also like Blood Leopard’s very matter-of-fact manner with Haru (we too thought at the time she was pretty stiff for a maid waitress!) Plus, her bosozoku motorcycle with voice-activated ignition is freakin’ awesome, and riding it in a maid costume really helps them blend in with the colorful Akiba rabble. The underground duelling bar is another nice touch.


Rating: 6 (Good)

Eureka Seven AO – 18

Ao is a “guest” aboard the USS Ronald Reagan as the carrier group sails to San Diego. Tanaka wants him to sign a contract that will formally end his relationship with Gen Bleu and begin a new one with the Allied forces. Cristophe Blanc and Rebecca are in New York for a UN inquiry. When Fleur and Elena learn about Ao defecting, Fleur gets upset; Elena scolds her for never seeking the truth, then tries to launch Kyrie on her own to get Ao. When the cheif mechanic sees the third engine levels of Elena and Fleur’s IFO’s rising, he gives them the ok to go retrieve Ao. Ao admits he truly wants to go back, and they all return to Gen Bleu HQ. However, after the act of aggression, America declares Gen Bleu a terrorist organization.

These are dark days for Generation Bleu. Once respected and lauded for being an international rescue operation, their concealment of vast quantities of quartz has given their detractors all the ammo they need to alienate them and turn global public opinion against them in the media and diplomatic circles. After the events of this episode – which on a basic level amounts to two girls going after their friend they know doesn’t want to leave them – Gen Bleu finds itself without a friend in the world, and soon, cut off from outside funding. Their alpine refuge may even be at risk. Despite all this, Cristophe Blanc seems amused and even proud that his daughter and Elena got Ao back.

In light of all this misfortune, it makes perfect sense that Ao would want to spare his friends and colleagues by going over to Tanaka and the allied forces, which, after all, outnumber and outgun Gen Bleu. He’s also scared of what the quartz gun may do, while the Americans are more than happy to take it off his hands. But everything about his arrangement with Tanaka stinks. An emotional Elena kicks the blissfully-ignorant-for-too-long Fleur in the butt and they go after Ao. And to his credit, Ao doesn’t turn them away. He knows this stinks too. Damn the consequences, Pied Piper is a team, and he doesn’t want to leave them. But now this means Gen Bleu is an enemy of the world – the “bad guys.” The road ahead will be tough, but they’ll walk it together.


Rating: 9 (Superior)

Hyouka – 19

After school, Oreki is irked by Chitanda classifying his ability to form cogent theories as a talent and not luck. So he challenges her to come up with a situation, and he’ll prove he can make a theory up about anything. A strange, specific, cryptic P.A. announcement is made, and she asks him to come up with a theory about that. He theorizes that a “student X” is being called to the staff room to for the crime of using a counterfeit ¥10,000 note to purchase stationary, then writing a letter confessing his crime to the owners. By the time he completes his theory, he forgets the original purpose of the “game.” He declines Chitanda’s suggestion they try to deduce that, and goes home. The next morning, his theory is proven in the paper.

Such is the chemistry between Oreki and Chitanda, and the snappiness of their discourse that they can carry an entire episode by themselves, in the clubroom, without a single cut elsewhere, aside from the neat diagramatic visual aids in their minds. At the start, Chitanda wants to prove to Oreki that he relies on innate talent, not merely luck. Oreki wants to prove the saying that “a theory and ointment will stick to anything” – even his theories. The perfect opportunity presents itself when a seemingly innocuous announcement is made over the P.A. But there’s enough in that message to get the two going in a rousing, ingenious bit of investigative work that isn’t gussied up with any exterior parties. It’s just Oreki, Chitanda, and their constantly-churning brains.

Before their investigation game began, however, we paused the show and came up with a theory of our own, predicting the P.A. announcer was summoning an eyewitness to a crime. We came to this conclusion based on the exacting structure of the announcement: almost like how a trial attorney would ask a witness “Where were you on the evening of the 31st?” We were more or less as right as Oreki, though we gave “Student X” the benefit of the doubt regarding whether they committed a crime or merely witnessed one. It would seem both are true: the student was given the fake cash by an older person, couldn’t turn it down, used it,  confessed, then reported to the staff room as ordered and aided in the apprehension of the counterfeiter. Case closed.

Despite having a good idea where Oreki was going, watching HOW he got there, and all the details that led him there, indeed makes for a rousing spectacle. Factor into that Chitanda is on the edge of her seat the whole time, rapt and ready to spring to action should anything he says not match the facts they have or strain credulity. On more than one occasion, this leads her to draw very close to Oreki (one time, as seen above, even close enough for a kiss). Yet each time both blush and recoil. This behavior – combined with Chitanda’s nervous invitation for Oreki to join her at her uncle’s grave – adds to the already compelling body of evidence implicating them both with barely-repressed mutual attraction and romantic tension in the first degree. Will that potential ever be realized? Regrettably, with a scant two episodes left, we predict not. But we’ve been wrong before.


Rating: 9 (Superior)

P.S. Perhaps part of why Oreki is hesitant to acknowledge his talent is because he wouldn’t be where he was today – with so many investigative feathers in his cap – were it not for Chitanda getting in his face, prodding him, and giving him those maho shojo eyes. She compels him to act, which more often than not leads to success. She’s like his reluctant muse.

Accel World – 20

Lime Bell fully heals Dusk Taker. When Cyan Pile tries to attack him, he tears him to pieces. Silver Crow gains a sinister black and red aura, but Chiyu screams for him to stop, time elapses and the duel ends. In the real world Haru and Taku confront Chiyu, who tells them she’s partnered with Nomi by choice, but Haru is convinced she’s being coerced. After a nightmare in which be becomes evil, Haru calls Hime, who comforts him. He then suggests to Taku that they seek out Niko’s help to get Taku trained in the Incarnate System. At school, the two have been implicated in the girl’s locker room camera plot.

When Chiyu healed Nomi two weeks ago, we are really pissed off. But now that we’re back to the main story, our interest in the series has been reinvigorated, like Nomi’s health. We didn’t mind her doing what she did, or even her cryptic, standoffish behavior throughout the episode, because it means more conflict for this triangle of friends who can’t quite catch a break. This punk Nomi has been dropped into their lives, an he’s determined to fuck with them mercilessly. In fact, he gets Haru so angry, there’s a possibility he’s summoned the Armor of Catastrophe. There are great moments of Haru getting pissed off…and his “Evil Pig” nightmare is pretty disturbing, both to him and us.

His brief visit with Hime is pitch perfect. She probably knows something is wrong, and part of him wants to ask her for help, but he doesn’t; they just relax together and enjoy the scenery. It’s a nice time out that helps Haru for the trials he faces the next morning, when Nomi has framed him and turned the whole school against him. What’s great is that Haru is done being intimidated and messed with. It shows growth and maturity. He’s not going to live another day like he used to, looking down and fearing forhis safety. He’s going to fight back, and he’s going to ask Yuniko for help. Combined with the threat of his “Dark Side” emerging, we like where this is all going.


Rating: 7 (Very Good)

Eureka Seven AO – 17

Hanna determines that Ao’s new “Quartz Gun” altered the timeline, while the quartz mission itself has damaged Generation Bleu’s international reputation. Naru saves the life of a Scub miner after an accident brought on by militant anti-scub supporters of Johanson. Juno’s talk of the alternate timelines Johanson believesin spurs Ao to investigate whether the Goldilocks pilots exist in the current timeline.

It seemed like Ao’s lil’ Itano Circus last week was going to have some lasting consequences, and it did: the world he’s living in is…different. For one thing, Scub Bursts have ravaged humanity in this timeline, to the extent that the world population is only 3.5 billion to the other world’s six. But Maggie and the McCafferys, far from “erased”, are alive and, well, we assume well, if not as happy as when they were pilots.

Ao finds them in Ireland, but doesn’t approach them. While Gen Bleu is surveying a fresh Scub Coral in the sea, they’re approached by a squadron of Chinese gunships. The quartz gun flies into Ao’s arms, is briefly stolen by Truth, then taken back after Ao talks with Eureka in his cockpit. A US coalition squadron led by Tanaka arrives, offering protection for Ao.

That’s what Ao’s faced with with his new weapon, which acts like Mjolnir on many occasions: he has the power to change history…so what should he do? What constitutes a “proper” timeline? Is he even capable of determining such a thing? For now, he wants to bring back Eureka, who told him he now possesses the weapon Renton was looking for for ages. The US offers him protection, deeming the now-pariah-ed Gen Bleu insufficient – which probably hurts Fleur and Elena. Another nice episode with a very surreal atmosphere, setting up a lot of decisions for young Ao, who is so far up to the task.


Rating: 7 (Very Good)

Hyouka – 18

A passing helicopter reminds Oreki of Ogi-sensei, a middle school English teacher he had with Satoshi and Ibara. Oreki remembers he liked helicopters, but Satoshi doesn’t agree. Unsure of his own memory, Oreki’s curiousity is piqued – shocking everyone and greatly exciting Chitanda, who meets him at the public library to investigate. By sifting through newspapers around that date, they determine Ogi-sensei was also a mountaineer, and was looking out the window for a helicopter to rescue climbers who were stranded in the nearby Kamikakiuchi range.

After that huge, sprawling, epic school festival arc, this one-shot episode almost came as a shock. Even more shocking, Oreki becomes curious enough about something to get off his ass and check it out – without any prodding from outside parties. It’s definitely an unprecedented occurance, though Satoshi and Ibara’s reactions are a little overdone. It also occurs around a totally random helicopter flyby that sparks a random memory about a teacher. It also speaks to how easily our memories can be corrupted by plausible embellishment. In this case, Oreki made a statement about something – that Ogi-sensei liked helicopters so much he’d pause the class to look out the window at one flying by.

But when Satoshi recalls other cases of helicopters that Ogi didn’t react to – followed by him remembering Ogi was struck by lightning three times – leads Oreki to want to find out the truth. That truth – about the helicopter rescuing mountain climbers – was something we figured out pretty early in the investigation, making this one of the few episodes where we knew exactly where the case was leading long before the episode got there. In the process, Oreki and Chitanda have a kind of quasi-date at the library, though any romantic aspirations for these two remain irritatingly shelved for now, despite their chemistry. Even Kyon eventually kissed Haruhi.


Rating: 7
(Very Good)

Car Cameos: Background cars include a Honda Life/Zest, Suzuki Alto Lapin, Toyota Vitz, and Mitsubishi i.

Accel World – 19

Black Lotus, Crikin, Dolphin and Merrow face off against Sulfur Pot and his pet legendary monster, Nidhogg, which he acquired through cheating. The young girls collect metal while Lotus and Crikin take the brunt of the fire-based punishment. In the real world, Megumi finds Hime, Ruka and Mana passed out in the dark, and decides to join the fray. Her special power forces a world transition to the ocean stage, neutralizing Nidhogg’s fire. Dolphin and Merrow pin Sulfur down and Lotus cuts the reins. Nidhogg eats Sulfur and he loses. Back in the real world, Megumi doesn’t remember her participation in the battle, dismissing it as a dream she’s going to write a story about.

This second part of the two-episode Hime mini-arc tried its darndest to be interesting, but with a boring, idiotic, one-dimensional foe whose demise was never in doubt for a second, it had its work cut out for it. The battle is dull and repetitive, and Black Lotus doesn’t seem all that useful. It takes intervention from Megumi to turn the tables, but how are her actions not cheating too? Do two wrongs make a right? And what was with the ghost of her childhood visiting her and telling her to plug in? Just seemed random.

With the series returning to the main clash between Haru and Nomi, we got the feeling the characters Hime met wouldn’t be getting any more screen time anytime soon…which is fine with us. With five episodes left, Nomi has to be dealt with, and it’s better for the series to focus on its core characters than simply coming up with new, half-baked ones for the sake of variety.


Rating: 4 (Fair)

Eureka Seven AO – 16

President Blanc decides to initiate Operation Polaris, in which all of Gen Bleu’s quartz will be launched from space and lure the secrets that have emerged to its landing spot in the North Pole, where it will be detonated, destroying the secrets. Naru fights a secret off in Iwato, while Pied Piper counts down the hours until they spring into action. Goldilocks takes out rogue Russian missles launched by a cyberattack, but the shock waves knock the quartz off course. Fleur and Elena take it as far as they can, and Fleur hands it off to Ao, who uses his third engine to get it back in orbit, where it transforms into a weapon. He destroys the secrets, but when he returns to Earth, something’s different…

The Olympics are over, and the Astral Ocean is back in full force, with a stellar action-packed romp that’s full of suspense, explosions, and more E7-esque surreality. To whit: Generation Bleu’s President Blance puts all his eggs in one basket (and asks Pied Piper to bring back South American coffee), and they have just one shot to get rid of the secrets that have popped up everywhere. Ao is determined not to let that shot destroy northern Scandanavia, where the McCafferty sisters’ family is at. When the stakes are as high as they can get and he’s the only hope, Ao steps up and gets the job done, even if orders are stretched. He does so with one of the more colorful and elaborate explosions we’ve seen in a while.

Before his heroics, we were getting a little worried about Ao – either due to recent events, the drugs Gazelle gave him, or a combination of the two, Ao having experiences, then abruptly waking up in a camp with Fleur and Elena nearby. He has a bizarre and unsettling dream involving Naru. He still thinks Eureka is his mother. And stranger still, while his actions avert a disaster in Norway, suddenly nobody’s ever heard of Maeve, Chloe, Maggie, or Goldilocks. It’s as if they’ve been erased from existence, or never existed in the first place. Ao is the only one remembers. What exactly did that crazy Quartz Cannon do?


Rating: 8 (Great)

Hyouka – 17

Chitanda very directly advertises the Classics Club and their anthology by declaring it Juumoji’s last target, specifically their manuscript. The clubroom fills with intrigued students, and the anthology is nearly sold out, when the manuscript explodes in a puff of smoke, and Juumoji leaves a note behind. Flash back to when Oreki confronts Tanabe Jirou and declares him to be Juumoji, laying out in great detail how he figured it out. Rather than expose him, he asks Tanabe to buy 30 anthologies, and in exchange, the Classics Club will help him stage the final theft, using sodium for the explosion. Once the four members each purchase a copy, the Hyoukas sell out.

All’s well that ends well! In fact, all’s well that ends fantastically. This concluding episode of the Kanya Festival arc brought everything together so nicely, and did so with panache and dramatic fluorish. Rather unfold in a linear fashion, we’re shown the ending first, and rather than watch Oreki’s process, we merely watch him confront, shut down, then enter into a pact with Juumoji himself that will mutually benefit both parties, including achieiving the primary objective – to sell all the anthologies. It’s an epic feat of both detective work and negotiation – and Fukube can hardly believe how soundly he is beaten.

At the heart of this episode is a subject that has been building up for the entire series, and while rarely on the surface until now, informs the relationships of the whole club, and how they see themselves. To put it perhaps too simply, there are passionate failures and casual geniuses in Hyouka. Oreki is a genius, yet doesn’t seem to care (though we know he cares more than he outwardly lets on) This is accentuated by how abruptly he’s shown wrapping everything up in a neat little package. Fukube is frustrated by always looking up to Oreki, and the reality that he’ll probably never be able to approach his deductive skill can be a crushing, hopeless sensation.

Similarly, Ibara learns that Kouchi was friends with Anjou, the writer of A Corpse By Evening – a work both written and illustrated by casual geniuses. She thought she was 100 levels below Kouchi – the author of Body Talk – but Kouchi thought she was 100 below Anjou. It’s all relative! Even Chitanda learns that the school of manipulation Irisu tried to teach her simply isn’t for her – she’s too straightforward, but like Oreki, she succeeds in getting things done without seeming to try. We could frankly go on and on about all the lovely details crammed into this episode (the OP and ED are even omitted to provide maximum airtime), but we’ll simply close by saying the mystery was solved to our great satisfaction, and gave us a deeper look into the lives and personalities of all four club members.


Rating: 9 (Superior)

Accel World – 18

Kuroyukihime is on a class retreat in Okinawa, sharing her room and much of her time with her friend Megumi, when she’s challenged to a duel by a local burst linker named Lagoon Dolphin AKA Asato Ruka, which Hime quickly wins. Ruka and her friend/protege Itosu Mana want her to meet their master. While talking with the middle schoolers, Hime loses track of time and ends up nearly ditching Megumi, who gets upset. Ruka and Mana’s master is Crikin, a Tokyo linker she knows, and he wasn’t going to settle for anyone less than the Black King.

Anyone pissed off by last week’s Chiyu twist and wanted some kind of resolution likely isn’t going to like this week’s digression to Okinawa, but we suppose all those new characters in the second-half OP had to be introduced at some point. Even Hime can’t help but think about Haru and whether he’s in trouble without her, and Megumi notices her distraction. Watching Megumi, it’s clear she’s very attached to Hime, and this trip isn’t turning out to be the love-in she’d (unrealistically) hoped for. Thanks to Haru, she sees even less of Hime than she previously did.

While we have no idea how this arc is going to go, we did get an odd vibe from the apology Megumi was about to make before her alarm went off: is she in some way, secretly involved in Brain Burst? Less mysterious were the hotheaded, loud-mouth tomboy that is Ruka, and her mousey “seer” pal Asato. They’re n00bs, but they have heart, and their master taught them to respect the Accel World, while not being overly paranoid. As for the master, Crikin, we only get a glimpse of him: he’s red, and theres a “monster” out there he needs Hime’s help defeating. Here’s hoping Chiyu doesn’t pop out of the shadows and heal the monster.


Rating: 5 (Average)

Hyouka – 16

Satoshi’s stakeout is a bust, as Juumoji skips “ku” and steals from the Light Music Club (“ke”) instead. Oreki’s sister pays him a visit and trades him his mirror for a copy of “A Corpse By Evening.” The foreward announces the group of artists’ work for the next Kanya Festival will be called “Kudryavka’s Order” and based upon a Christie classic. Chitanda borrows the manga and shows Mayaka, who confirms the festival poster was drawn by the same artist: Council President Kugayama. Oreki comes to believe the manga’s foreward was an announcement of the Juumoji incident now occuring…

So now we’re done guessing when this arc will come to an end – having been proven wrong once again this week – but we’re definitely still enjoying the mystery as it deepens and begins to encompass all of the little details and events that inititally seemed unimportant. Oreki’s “Straw Millionaire” system has proven to be a crucial plot propellant, with the latest item being none other than the very manga Mayaka tore her room apart to find. Oreki is as impressed with its quality as she is. Leave it to Oreki’s sister to throw a vital bone into Oreki’s bowl for him to gnaw on. We’re not sure why her face is never shown, but it definitely adds to her mystique – along with her offbeat wardrobe.

Satoshi, who was on an indie streak last week, stumbled on the direct approach. You can see his frustration at failing, along with his exasperation with the fact that Oreki seeks to solve this thing without depending on connections to the clubs or mistakes by the culprit. He beleives the Juumoji plot is important to its makers, having been carefully planned since at least last year. Satoshi and the others can only sit back and hope Oreki can solve it. Also in this episode: Chitanda gets ready to go on the air, and Mayaka gets soaked in inky water, ruining her cosplay outfit and leading to a quiet retreat from the manga society.


Rating: 7 (Very Good)