End-of-Month Rundown – June 2012

The ten Spring series we watched to the end and two Winter carryovers all conspired to create a very entertaining season with an eclectic mix of genres and a handful of real gems. Here’s how everything shook out in the end…in, er…refreshing mixological terms!

1. Nazo no Kanojo X (3.923) – The Mysterious Girlfriend
1 part each strange, horny girl with an unusually natural voice and normal, horny guy. Pour in mixing glass with a whimsical soundtrack, retro 80s character design, and liberal amount of saliva. Stir well, garnish with hundreds of lemons.

2. Sakamichi no Apollon (3.917) – Moanin’
1 part each rich egghead pianist, poor delinquent drummer, cute earnest girl, pretty adventurous girl, and depressed trumpeter. Combine and shake well to the stylings of Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers.

3. Hyouka (3.818) – The Sherlock Toddy
1 part each lackadaisical guy, walking encyclopedia, loud fiery girl, and rich inquisitive girl. Slowly combine so the ingredients start bouncing ideas off one another.
Garnish with whiskey bonbons.

4. Jormungand (3.792) – The Koko Loco
Combine 10 different kinds of whoopass in a large pitcher, shoot it with lots of guns, set it on fire, and chase with a car bomb.

5. Natsuiro Kiseki (3.750) – The Endless Summer (non-alcoholic)
4 parts high school girls yearning to stick togther, muddle a few wishes on a big rock, top with club soda and a scoop of ice cream. Repeat.

6. Aquarion Evol (3.692) – The Machine Angel
Mix everything, ever, for thousands of years. Doesn’t matter what. Just MIX. MEEEEEEKUUUUUUSUUUUU!

7. Moretsu Pirates (3.538) – Bodacious Grog
1 part each high school, waitressing, piracy, and space. Shake faster than light with lots and lots of characters. Serve beside pot-au-feu.

8. Eureka Seven AO (3.500) – The I.F.O.
3 parts gifted teenage pilots, 1 part multinational peacekeeping organization, a dash of sloth. Lightly garnish with Truth.

9. Sankarea (3.346) – Zombie Romance
Use pre-mixed resurrection potion to revive one dead cat and one dead girl. Mix with fresh hydrangea leaves and serve chilled, avoiding direct sunlight.

10. Accel World (3.250) – The Brain Buster
1 part each stunted fatty, handsome best friend, black snow princess, a midget firecracker, and plenty of digital mumbo-jumbo. Serve online.

11. Medaka Box (3.208) – The Suggestion Box
1 part omnipotent busty student council president, 3 parts capable minions. Serve straight up in a box. Garnish with sweets.

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Moretsu Pirates – 26 (Fin)

Marika’s fleet arrives in the area of space where the Golden Ghost Ship appeared to face not one but three Grand Crosses. Coorie leads an EW attack, with all other EW techs working in synch. With the fleet fully cooperative and coordinated, they can focus their attacks on the enemy without risk of hitting each other. The two escort grand crosses are eventually blown up, and Marika leads a boarding party to the lead Grand Cross. All three ships were fully automated, with Quartz Christie the only one aboard. After exchanging a few words, Christie escapes and activates the self-destruct. Victorious, Marika sets a course back to Sea of Morningstar to continue her studies and cafe job, determined to continue being a high school girl pirate.

The Grand Cross-type battleships were built up as formidable, perhaps indomitable force to be reckoned with, and the episode wisely raises the stakes by introducing a fleet of three rather than one against Marika’s fleet of ten ships. Numbers make the difference though, as it’s really one spoiled brat (Christie) with three very expensive and flashy toys up against thousands of dedicated pirates hungry for glory; with centuries of combined experience. The battle is the highlight of the series, featuring lots of stuff getting blown up, and Coorie working keyboards with both hands and feet. Christie never had a chance, though she didn’t go quietly. We were a little amused when she told Marika she “won’t run and hide”, right before running and hiding, but someone like her would never allow herself to be a prisoner.

Who would have thought the young, earnest, but sometimes scatterbrained and often overstretched high school freshman Marika Kato would become the first pirate in more than a century to lead a coordinated pirate fleet against a foe? And not only lead the fleet to battle, but lead it to victory? Looking back to the first episode, not us…and yet here we are. She did it. And she did it without flunking out of school or losing her part-time maid cafe job, two things that were then, and remain now, crucial parts of her life. She’d be the first to admit she couldn’t have done anything without all of the help from her amazing crew and loving friends and family, be they involved in her daily life or working in the background. So ends an immensely enjoyable sci-fi pirate series with a lot of heart, easy-to-like cast, and above-average production values.


Rating: 4

Aquarion Evol – 26 (Fin)

Amata, Cayenne and Yunoha try to attack Mikage’s machine angel directly, but he’s too powerful. Meanwhile, Kagura, deep in Mikage’s mind, finds Zessica, who asks him to kill her. Instead he frees her. Mikage creates a second sun that dries up the oceans on the planet. Andy and Mix relieve Yunoha and Cayenne, who transfer to Gephard along with Chairman Crea; the spirit of Shrade returns to fight with them.

Mikono seeks to reconnect the damaged souls of Toma and Mikage, but Amata won’t let her die alone and races to her rescue. Zessica and Kagura help him blast through Mikage’s armor and snatch Mikono away, whereupon they declare their true love for one another and kiss. Aquarion Evol becomes Aquarion Love, and its tears of joy refill the oceans. Bodyless, Mikage is absorbed by Fudo Zen, reuniting Apollonius and Toma. Life on earth returns to normal, and Mikono and Amata return victorious.

Just like the finale of Kawamora’s epic Macross Frontier, Aquarion Evol’s end spares no expense of the big, the bright, the loud, and…the little bit cheesy. But we can forgive a little cheese in a series that has been all about love and destiny. So lots of big bombastic music, tons of yelling at the top of various lungs, etc. Even the bad guy ends up esentially where he always wanted to be; in Apollonius’ heart. And unlike Macross, the guy chooses a girl: Amata chooses Zessica. Whoopsie, haha, we meant Mikono. He chooses Mikono! Frankly, it’s about freaking time.

But he and Kagura remain two seperate people. And while it was very satisfying to see Amata and Mikono finally embrace, we don’t discount Kagura and Zessica’s role in the finale. Free from Mikage’s hold thanks to Kagura, Zessica – having learned a lesson – moves on. Perhaps those two crazy kids can find solace in one another; Kagura did save her life, after all (albeit after choking her). We would have liked a little more epilogue, though perhaps there’s a movie or something in the works that will address that…


Rating: 4

Moretsu Pirates – 25

The real Luca returns from vacation, and Quartz Christie also returns, where the pirates encircle her with guns. Marika agrees to engage her in a fair fight, which she plans to win. Ironbeard butts in, announcing he is there to retrieve Christie on orders from the queen. Ironbeard’s entourage includes the real Kane (his younger twin brother had been filling in for him) and Ririka, who is back to her “Blaster” role. After a huge feast, Marika challenges Christie to a battle, and Christie assents.

It’s all going to come down to one huge battle between Christie, with technologically-advanced Grand Cross, and Marika, with her band of plucky “frontier” pirates. Who will prevail? We’re guessing Marika, but that isn’t decided here. This week, like any good penultimate episode, gets everyone caught up, checks in on nearly everyone, and basically does the housekeeping that will allow the finale to flow unfettered by loose ends. This episode was a buffet of light and tasty hors d’ouvres.

Lberally peppered throughout the episode were fun little moments. Christie trying to avoid the spotlight (literally); a group of EW techs fawning over Coorie in non-hot mode; Chiaki reacting to her singing voice being transmitted across piratedom. While guys like Ironbeard remain mysterious, at least his motives aren’t: he’s there to fetch Christie, whom we imagine to be some kind of priviliged loose cannon who ran away from home to play with her awesome new toy. That being said, Marika challenged Christie to a fight, and he can’t interfere any more than Christie can refuse. So it’s on like Donkey Kong.


Rating: 3.5

Aquarion Evol – 25

Amata goes after Kagura; both union with themselves and fight as top halves of Aquarions. As they fight, Mikage moves Altair through a dimensional gate on a collision course with Vega to create a new world. Andy gets through to Mix, filling the holes in her memory and declaring his love for him/her. Crea appeals to Fudo to do something to stop Mikage, who transforms Zessica’s body and forces Mikono into union with him. After harnessing Ianthe, he also neutralizes Kagura and unions with him to form a Dark Aquarion. Amata unions with Yunoha and Cayenne to face him.

There was definitely a lot of mythology and side-switching to sift through, but now all the pieces just about where they need to be, and we’re all set up for the endgame. This week Amata finally, finally gets some fire in his belly and stands up to his bully of a counterpart. Unfortunately, they play rock-em-sock-em robots while their time could be better spent finding Mikono – the key to their victory. Instead, Mikage, who’s signed the lease to Zessica and revamped her decor, is able to snatch up Mikono. Which is bad news for anyone alive on either Altair or Vega.

We’ll refrain from speculating in too much detail how we see Aquarion Evol wrapping up, but we can tell you what we want. After a lengthy battle between Amata and Mikage, Amata eventually prevails, gets the girl, and saves the world – thereby successfully fighting back the fate he swore he would. We’re not saying a deviation from this plan will result in our writing off the series, but it’s been a long series full of will-they-won’t-they teasing. A nice, clear-cut, unambiguously happy ending would sure be a nice reward for sticking with it all these months.


Rating: 4

Moretsu Pirates – 24

Thanks to some creative evasive maneuvers, the Bentenmaru is able to just escape the Grand Cross’ clutches and jumps to the Pirates’ Nest. Coorie dolls herself up to get preferential treatment from the maintenance unit, and the ship undergoes repairs. Marika meets with Barbalusa, who believes they’ll be lucky if ten pirate ships make it there. Marika is also confronted by Quartz Christie, captain of the Grand Cross, who states the reason for her actions, then vanishes. Misa discovers Luca has been replaced by an android, there are two Kanes, and Ririka is a secretly member of the crew of the Parabellum.

This episode was full of surprises large and small. We had no idea how the Bentenmaru was going to get away from the Grand Cross, but it turns out all they needed was to look the bully in the eye, sock it in the nose, and run like hell; guile, in other words. Other pirate captains tried battling it conventionally, and they were all destroyed. Marika keeps the Bentenmaru moving, makes multiple feints, uses her weapons as a diversion, and jumps out as soon as they’re able. Even then, the ship takes heavy damage. A sustained one-on-one duel with the Grand Cross is untenable.

It was also a nice surprise to see Coorie out of her baggy clothes and nerd glasses, it turns out she’s quite the hottie! But more surprising is the fact that Luca seems to have been replaced by an friggin’ android at some point (with no explanation of where the real one is), and even more confusing, there are apparently two Kanes, one of which may be another android, but both of which are up to something. Finally, the twist at episode’s end was something we were hoping for: Ririka did not in fact retire and go on vacation. Far from it; she’s back on the job, now working for Ironbeard. The Parabellum helped Marika out before, perhaps it will again, but we’re curious as to why Ririka didn’t tell her daughter the truth. Perhaps she didn’t want her to worry?


Rating: 3.5

Aquarion Evol – 24

As Kagura fights off Izumo and his men in the Legendary Aquarion and Andy fights Mixy in Aquarion Gephard, trying to get through to her, Amata wakes up and is drawn to the compound where his mother Alicia is in stasis. She tells him Izumo is his father, and how she left him on Vega to help Izumo lift the Curse of Eve.

Through Zessica, Mikage compels Kagura to lash out with Aquarion’s weapons, destroying Alicia’s chamber, then taking out Izumo’s mecha with a Mugen Punch. Izumo fires one last shot that disunions Kagura, Zessica and Mikono. Before Izumo dies, he’s able to see Amata briefly. He and Alicia leave the fate of the two worlds in Amata’s hands.

 

We’re now in the home stretch; this week began the arduous process of setting up what we presume will be one double world-resetter of a finale. As we probably could have deduced had we cared to, Izumo is revealed as Amata’s father and Alicia’s lover. Unfortunatly for Amata, he’s unable to spend much time with his estranged parents, as both lose their lives. Izumo’s heavy burden of saving Altair is now over; he’s shifted the responsibility to Amata. Can he manage it?

We think he’ll need help, both from his friends and enemies, if he considers Kagura his enemy. Obviously, they’re opposites, but the two of them are also representative of Vega and Altair: neither can survive alone anymore, so they must be combined. Altair’s Ianthe system ruined the natural “mother nature”, but it’s starting to reassert itself. But Mikage – the transdimensional puppeteering bad guy who is unfortunately pretty blandly evil – has other plans. How is Amata going to thwart a god?


Rating: 3.5

Moretsu Pirates – 23

Captain Ironbeard introduces himself as master of the Galactic Empire pirate ship Parabellum. With a large light and weapons show, they scare off the pirate hunters, whose ship Ironbeard calls the Grand Cross. After evacuating and tending to the crew of the Big Catch, the Bentenmaru returns home, where Chiaki suggests they seek out the “Legendary Chef” who brought the pirates together long ago, and could again. They find his son, whom Marika knew from the times Ririka brought her to his restaurant as a reward. He activates the old-timey comms systems that all pirates keep aboard for such an occurance. As they prepare to head for the rendezvous, the Grand Cross appears again before the Bentenmaru.

With the exception of the first episode or so when Marika is being introduced to the pirate world, the series has focused more on the characters and their immediate exploits rather than the history of piracy itself. What we’ve known is that the pirates fought the empire in a war of independance, and Marika’s world (and the Serenitys’ too) were the benefactors. We’ve also known that the empire has traditionally allowed pirates to operate as long as their letters of marque are in order. With an imperial pirate hunter on the loose, all bets are off, and swift action is needed if the pirates’ way of life is to survive.

This week gave us new glimpses into the heroic, revolutionary past, when whole messes of larger-than-life pirates formed armadas that fought for their freedom…and because it was fun and exciting, no doubt. Marika and Chiaki determine the only thing to do is to call all the pirates back together and face their nemesis en force. The Parabellum, meanwhile, plays a cryptic role this week; clearly saving the Bentenmaru, only to vanish shortly thereafter…though we’ve probably not seen the last of them.


Rating: 3.5

Aquarion Evol – 23

As Shrade, Amata and Zessica traverse dimensions, Fudo briefs the rest of Neo-Deava on the Book of Twin Stars, starting with Celiane and Apollonius, then Silvie and Apollo, Apollon’s winged dog reincarnated; and finally Mikono and Amata/Kagura. Like Vega and Altair, the two were once whole, but split apart by the latest incarnation of Toma, Apollonius’s betrothed, who is now Mikage. Shrade sacrifices himself to get Amata and Zessica into Altair, but they’re separated and Mikage takes possession of Zessica’s body. She meets up with Kagura and Mikono, and urges Kagura to summon Solar Aquarion to oppose Izumo.

Whoa, major exposition dump this week; and not quite done the way we would do it. See, we’ve never been fans of the abstract and somewhat silly ways past information is presented on this series, and unfortunately there’s a lot of that this week. The elements standing on a big book with trippy patterns in the background; images lifting off the pages like a pop-up book; and floating video screens helpfully illustrating Fudo and Crea’s tale (who, pray, was filming these events 12-24 millienia ago??). Like we said, it all looks a bit silly. Frankly, we would have preferred if the story were told as a flashback episode in and of itself. This felt like a recap, even though it revealed lots of information we either didn’t know or weren’t sure about. And recaps are boring. But at least it’s out of the way now.

All that exposition, while necessary, kind of ground proceedings to a halt. As Cayenne said, they didn’t have time to sit around listening to a story, but Fudo didn’t listen. We just wish there was a more serious, less goofy way of supplying this information. For that matter, Shrade’s death was kind of…meh. Between turning the blood stains on his shirt into musical scales and his overwrought “final melody”, it was all a little silly and hard to take seriously, unlike Jin’s death. Meanwhile, as expected, Mikage has made his move on Zessica, which means he now has physical form. From unrequited love victim to unrequited angel vessel…you can’t say she’s not moving up in the world(s)!


Rating: 3

Moretsu Pirates – 22

As Marika prepares for final exams and to take over for Lynn as Yacht Club President, the Bentenmaru crew brief her on the emergence of a fierce pirate hunter. With only 20 days remaining on their present pirating license, Marika arranges an escort mission where their client is another pirate ship, the Big Catch under Captain Stone. En route to their destination, a mysterious and immensely fast, agile, and powerful white ship ambushes them, making mincemeat out of the Big Catch. Another, even larger ship jumps into the battle, with its apparent pirate captain announcing “The Time Has Come.”

While a stock-taking easing back into the piracy tub would have been welcome, we got a little something extra this week, as we not only get a heavily Bentenmaru-focused episode, but one that presents a new and formidable threat. But that doesn’t mean stock isn’t taken before the big-time adversary reveal. Marika’s future is starting to appear over the horizon, and it’s up to her to form what that future is. As Kane pointedly puts to her while chaffeuring her up to space for the umpteenth time, she can either keep being a space tourist who commutes to the Bentenmaru, or start “living like a real sailor”, like her father and the Bentenmaru crew.

But in the meantime, there’s an obstacle to Marika surviving the day: some particularly ruthless pirate hunters led by…the narrator??? In the cold open, when we see a ship nearly identical to the Bentenmaru have its ass handed to it, we knew the Bentenmaru would be in for a rough ride. When the Big Catch, one of the oldest and toughest pirate ships, meets a similar end, well, let’s just say shooting probably won’t solve things…nor will cosplay. We wonder if Marika’s cleverness will be able to get through to these unyielding hunters, or if they’ll hear nothing but the bleating of their prey before they make the killing blow. As for “The Time Has Come”, well, that could mean any number of things…but for now, it seems to mean the time has come to end all pirates. Killjoys…can’t they see the whimsical charm of piracy?


Rating: 4

Another – 00 (OVA)

You can check out our reviews of the Another series here. Spoilers follow, there and here.

Taking place prior to the events of Another, Misaki Mei spends time with her identical twin sister, Fujioka Misaki, apparently without Mei’s mother’s knowledge. They go shopping, then hang out at Mei’s house when her mother is away. They visit a rundown amusement park they went to as kids, and Fujioka is nearly killed when she falls out of a Ferris wheel car. She then collapses when the two say good night and start their separate ways. Fujioka is revealed to be suffering from Leukemia, passing away shortly after being hospitalized. Mei briefly encounters Sakakibara Kouichi in the elevator while on her way to place a doll her sister liked upon her coffin in the hospital basement.

After a brief feint in the opening moments, most of this episode has a much different vibe to it than the very well-done twelve-episode horror series that preceded it. We see ‘another’ side of Misaki Mei from the get-go; she couldn’t be happier hanging out with her twin sister Fujioka, who couldn’t be happier hanging out with her, too. Whether shopping, on sketchy carnival rides, bathing, or sleeping in the same bed, the two are inseparable; in fact, aside from a momentary cameo by Sakikabara, they’re the only two characters in the OVA. Then, a little over halfway into it, in true Another fashion, the feeling of something terrible about to happen starts to pervade; the very close call on the Ferris Wheel is so deftly done, we can forgive the gratuitous fanservice of the previous scenes. When in the universe of Another, it’s basically best to stay away from any mechanical thing that can kill you (vehicles, elevators, etc.)

However, it isn’t a freak accident that takes Fujioka’s life. Even though the OVA takes place before the class calamity begins, Mei’s green glass eye can still see the color of death, as it always has. The moment Fujioka asks her if she can see anything when she looks at her and Mei says “No, nothing”, we were pretty sure that meant Mei could see death on her doomed twin sister. The revalation that she is in fact dying of leukemia is a big punch in the gut, making all their scenes goofing off and laughing with one another that much more poignant. Everything we saw was, in fact, the last time they did any of those things together ever again. When Another begins, Mei had already lost her sister and closest friend, making the forthcoming class calamity in the series only the latest of traumatic ordeals to befall her.


Rating: 3.5

Aquarion Evol – 22

As Schrade, Cayenne, and Sazanka battle Mikage’s mecha, Kagura tells Amata how they were once one person, but Mikage split Amata in two and raised the dark Amata as Kagura. When Mikono emerges from a fissure in the earth, along with the Legendary Aquarion, they fight over her. Mikage wakes up Zessica, urging her to fulfill her promise. Mikages mecha snatches the Legendary Aquarion while Kagura snatches Mikono and the two enter a dimension gate. Amata, a fading Shrade, and Zessica team up to follow them to Altair. With the Aquarion’s seal broken, the past balance between Vega and Altair begins to shift.

Things are definitely starting to get pretty climactic, as the Legendary Aquarion is finally unearthed, Kagura maintains he’s the Apollon to Mikono’s Silvie, Shrade is closer to death than ever, Vega’s ideal weather is turning, and Mikage’s newest trump card – Zessica – is right where she needs to be to cause the most trouble. If we didn’t know better, we’d say this resembled a penultimate episode, even though three episodes remain to build up what we’re hoping is going to be an epic finale with no cop-outs or deus ex machinas. Kids can dream.

This episode had its share of rock-em-sock-em robots (and dopplegangers) and there was certainly some new exposition (and new music), but there was also a lot of reiterating of key points. Clearly, Mikage making off with the Legendary Aquarion is bad, and so is Kagura making off with his smelly wench. But we know that wench connects people, so maybe she’s the key to bringing the two pieces of Amata back together. Or perhaps her role is to somehow unite Vega and Altair in peace. In any case, here’s hoping Zessica and Mikono don’t turn into dudes due  to being on Altair.


Rating: 3.5

Moretsu Pirates – 21

The representatives of the Hakuoh Academy, led by Lynn, arrive at the space station in orbit of Calmwind, where the dinghy race will be held. They recieve a most unfriendly record, and Lynn recalls when she was a middle schooler, the Yacht Club at the time employed her hacking skills to change the race route, causing all but two of the 142 entries to crash. The memory of the fiasco is still fresh in the minds of the rival teams and of the chairwoman. When Marika arrives with the Bentenmaru to provide security and the chairomwan learns Marika is a student at Hakuoh, she suspects more treachery afoot.

When the race commences and the dinghies enter the atmosphere, a gunship from the Bisque company opens fire on them. Marika draws them away from the other pilots, winning the chairwoman’s trust, and the Bentenmaru risks atmospheric flight to deal with Bisque. Ai helps the pirates by telling them which winds are coming, so the gunship will glide into the line of fire. Before their ship goes down, Bisque launch an EM ulse that knocks out Ai’s electronics, but she opens her canopy and finishes the race, navigating by the stars above.

We can’t get enough of races done right, and Moretsu Pirate’s version puts a novel spin by making it a race of dinghies with limited propellant in which the race pilots must make use of the planet’s unique atmospheric properties to succeed. Add to that a couple of different palls: the one cast by a past Hakuoh Yacht Club’s deviousness, and the one cast by jealous parties who want to put the young pirate Marika Kato out of comission. And for good measure, the sun Calmwind orbits decides to unleash a massive solar flare in the middle of the race. There’s a lot going on here, but it’s all under control.

There’s a lot to like, too: Hakuoh’s desire to clear their name by flying a clean race; the intriguing physics of the dinghies free-falling from orbit in a gorgeous waterfall-like cascade; the surprise high-risk appearance of the space-only Bentenmaru in a very tricky planetary atmosphere. We also like Ai Hoshimiya in this episode. She’s a smart cookie who knows how to use the stars to navigate – like mariners of yore – and a seemingly inocuous scene of her buying a book of Calmwind’s constellations proves crucial to her being able to finish the race. We also like how she didn’t win; realistically she just wasn’t going to be able to overcome a total lack of avionics and make up the time lost helping the Bentenmaru. Chiaki won. And, for one glorious moment, Ai wasn’t wearing that stupid roast turkey hat…though unfortunately it seems she has spares.


Rating: 4