Noragami – OVA 01

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We’re big proponents of the body-swapping episode when done well. In addition to being a refreshing change of pace, it is also an opportunity for the seiyus to show off their talent. Listening to Uchida Maaya successfully imitate the way Kamiya Hiroshi voices Yato is enough to justify watching this OVA (or OAD…whatevs). That’s not the only reason to do so, however. With the immediate crises of the main storyline set aside and the show placed in a sandbox, it decides to have a little fun, which turns out to be infectious.

With the aim of increasing his exposure to humans, creating new delivery god business, and simply staving off boredom and loneliness, Yato decides to impliment a “divine possession” of Hiyori. That would be stressful enough for her on an ordinary day, but he decides to do this on her first day of high school. Even if she’s in class with many familiar faces, she’s brand new to the other three-fourths of the school, so impressions matter.

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Yato’s field day consists of solving a hard math problem (making Hiyori look smart), acting very forthright and brash (confusing those who know her) handing out his number (making Hiyori look a bit loose), singing, dancing, kicking ass in soccer, etc. Kofuku also joins in the mischief, involuntarily causing dozens of accidents and mishaps. Eventually a (weak) phantom shows up causing a voyeuristic student to jump out a window, but Hiyori-Yato catches him heroically.

There’s a great impish energy emanating from Hiyori-Yato, and a gnawing frustration in Hiyori (and Yukine). Calling upon Lord Tenjin and Mayu backfires when the two appear on campus dressed to the nines and become engulfed in bewitched students (though they do eventually put an end to Yato’s fun). When Hiyori returns to school the next day, we appreciate that everyone remembers everything she said and did yesterday. All eyes are upon her, most of them full of admiration and respect. So at the end of the day, Yato did get her high school life off to an auspicious start. All it cost her was a dislocated shoulder!

7_very_goodRating:7 (Very Good)

Mirai Nikki Redial – OVA

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Ridley Scott intended for his cyberpunk/future noir film Blade Runner to have an ambiguous, non cut-and-dry ending, but the original American theatrical release in 1982, the studio insisted on a cheesy voiceover by Harrison Ford at the end, essentially pulling a “perfect happy ending” out of nowhere. The 2007 Final Cut, which we were lucky enough to experience on the big screen, ditched that voiceover and restored the open ending.

Why are we bringing up Blade Runner’s alternate endings? Because for us, this Future Diary OVA was that voiceover ending: tacked-on, cheesy, and unnecessary. We didn’t have a powerful need for a happy ending; the original one was fine. We were fine with Yuno and all of the others involved in the game returning to their normal lives, and the ambiguity of Yuno kinda sorta remembering someone. We were fine with Yukiteru brooding in the void for millennia with only Murmur and his brain for company.

Okay, so maybe we’re being a bit harsh. It’s been over two years since Mirai Nikki wrapped, and for many it was probably a thrill to see all the characters alive and well simply enjoying regular life. There were probably quite a few who relished Yuno picking at the scab in her brain until she finally ended up in the position to get her memories fully restored, enabling her to find Yukkii and reunite with him. And that’s fine. We’re just saying it wasn’t really our thing.

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Rating: 4
 (Fair)

Stray Observation: The strange realm in which Yuno races to the Murmur holding her memories looks a bit like Orphan’s Cradle, the final dungeon in FFXIII…only less pretty.

Chuunibyou demo Koi ga Shitai! – OVA

Takanashi Rikka, Togashi Yuuta

With Christmas approaching, the club agrees to throw a party. The school is closed, so Dekomori hosts everyone at her enormous mansion. While playing cards Dekomori and Rikka get drunk off of alcoholic pastries, briefly loosening their tongues about their feelings towards Shinka and Yuuta, respectively. Yuuta carries her home, but she feels better on the train and they go on a Christmas cruise on a sightseeing boat. When the time comes to speak up, they agree to keep things the way they are for now and everything will work out. Dekomori and the others join them on the boat.

This was a nice little nugget of Chu2Koiness to bridge the gap between last fall and the forthcoming second season, one that we said at the end of the first we hope will further flesh out Yuuta and Rikka’s relationship. They don’t really make any significant progress towards officially becoming a couple, such a major development, if it occurs, will occur next season. Their interactions here underline the fact that there’s no rush, but if they’re still just tenderly holding pinkies deep into the second season, we’ll be disappointed. Even Kuroneko and Kyousuke became an official couple, for crying out loud!

Speaking of tiresome, Dekomori Sanae should really be intolerable to us, but we get a kick out of Uesaka Sumire’s very playful and vibrant manner of speaking. We also get an awesome quasi-battle with an unarmed Yuuta versus a very tipsy Rikka and Sanae totally going all out with the weaponry. Along with the lovely Yuuta/Rikka chemistry, these battles were one of our favorite things about the series, and hope to see more of them next season. We also like Shinka helping Rikka out with trying to get closer to Yuuta, as Rdikka is still new to this kinda thing.


Rating: 7 (Very Good)

Sankarea – 14

With Dan’ichiro away, Rea’s stepmother Aria live alone in the house, eating little, drinking much, getting driven to Rea’s school where she is headmistress, and generally being bored out of her mind. Meanwhile, Mero finds an unconscious girl under the temple and brings her in. The girl won’t talk but seems to have it in for Rea, and proceeds to stealthily harass and terrorize her. Once the jig is up and the others confront her, she runs out to the graveyard, where she reveals she’s Aria. Furuya lectures her on being nicer to her daughter, and she fumes and unleashes a torrent of glowing rain. She then wakes up in her bathtub. It was only a dream, but Rea and Furuya had it to.

Bored, miserable, and under-, nay, non-sexed, and always deep into a bottle of Vitamin XO, Aria tries to take her frustrations out on the only person she has control over besides her mocking household staff: her stepdaughter. When she starts touching herself in the tub and goes underwater, and the episode then cuts to the Furuya residence, we thought that would pretty much all we’d see of Aria. How wrong we were! The entirety of the episode after that only took place in a dream, albeit a dream that she, Rea, and Furuya had at the same time. It’s a clever little device, but we have to admit, when the girl reveals she’s Aria (with her beauty spot), we were a little lost for a moment. How is a little girl Rea’s mom???

Happily, the episode explains itself soon thereafter, and everything ends up making sense…more or less. And hey, the dream even ends up changing Aria’s tune; she ultimately decides the petty punishment she was forcing the school to mete out to Rea simply out of spite didn’t catch her fancy anymore. What’s funny is that Furuya’s rejection of the dream-Aria was an interaction between the two that actually happened and wasn’t just a dream. That makes this more interesting, because the typical “never happened” or “reset button” aspects of dream episodes don’t apply here.


Rating: 8 (Great)

One Off – 04 (Fin)

Having formed Poco Poco, Haruno, Anri, Sayo and Rie aim for their first official concert in the Spring. But when Cynthia announces she’ll be returning to Australia in just a week, they accelerate their plans, and finish the song in time for Cynthia to watch them perform on the stage at the inn. During goodbyes, Haruno tells Cynthia she’ll be the one to visit her next.

Support is not really something you ask for. People give it on their own when they see you working hard. Strangely, the one being supported ususally doesn’t notice. But that kind of invisible strength is very important.

That’s sage advice from stargazer/children’s book author Kageyama to Haruno, who didn’t want to ask for support when she isn’t even sure of her goal. That support comes in the form of Cynthia leaving, motivating the initially lethargic Poco Poco into creating a song, practicing it, and performing it in the limited time they have. As Haruno says, no matter what happens, the short time they spend crafting the song and singing it is a memory none of them will soon forget.

The important thing about climactic songs is that with all the build-up, they’d better be good, and the one Poco Poco sings is very nice: a light, breezy song about starting something and trying hard, and isn’t too sugary. It’s also very nicely performed by the four seiyus. One Off was a great end-of-year surprise that we decided to bite into, and we weren’t disappointed. It turned out to be much much more than just a showcase for Honda motorcycles – though it excelled at that too.


Rating: 9 (Superior)


Motorcycle Cameo:
The owner of the Motoya bike shop and cafe gets his vintage CB750 running again, using some parts he had to build. It’s regarded by some as the first “superbike”, and certainly looks an absolute treat in yellow and black.

One Off – 03

A large group of stargazers arrive at the Niwa inn, and Anri, Sayo and Rie volunteer to help out. Haruno is open to singing Anri’s song when she finishes it, but balks at an all-out concert. After being browbeaten by Cynthia, she changes her mind, only to drop the issue again. The night of the stargazing, her friends ask her about it again, and after chatting with one of the stargazers, she agrees to do a concert after all.

The overall theme of this episode is “little by little” – taking small steps, taking your time, being patient in order to achieve achievable goals. Take the picture of the Rosette Nebula Haruno’s dad hangs on the wall. It’s a long-exposure photo, taken under ideal conditions. The village is ideal for stargazing, but the brilliant red color is not visible to the human eye, ina telescope or not. It’s just a dense cluster of stars. But even that can’t be seen in the city.

But to Kageyama, one of the stargazers, it’s enough that she can see a hint of it and get lost in thought under the stars. Even after her ride to the sea, Haruno is a little more receptive to trying things like singing, but is still afraid of exerting energy if it will only result in failure. Her daydreams are overambitious, but none of them are as impossible as she mopes about. Ultimately, she decides to give a concert a try, and the group she and her friends form has the appropriate name “poco a poco” – little by little.


Rating: 8 (Great)

Motorcycle and Car Cameos: Rie’s brother has a PCX Scooter. Kageyama rides a Shadow 750 (pictured). There’s a third-gen CR-V in the Niwa garage (that D-pillar is unmistakable), and one of their customers drive a Stepwgn.

One Off – 02

Haruno is having trouble getting along with Cynthia, overwhelmed by her “scale” and annoyed that Anri, Sayo and Rie are so easily influenced by her. The mechanic tells her not to worry and simply take her time. Cynthia has other ideas, spontaneously planning a night tour to the sea for the two of them. Haruno is dubious until they make it to the beach as the sun rises. Cynthia tells her that it’s okay to rely on people.

The first episode basically introduced everyone (and everybike) and set up the tripping point in any potential friendship between Haruno and Cynthia: Haruno’s pessimism clashing with Haruno’s optimism; Haruno’s cautiousness versus Cynthia’s gusto. Haruno compares the “scale” of difference between them in motorcycle terms. If Cynthia is a sport bike like her CBR, Haruno is a scooter. Some things are just impossible, and that’s that.

But Haruno wasn’t always this way. Anri is into writing songs. Sayo is into writing stories. Rie dreams of a life of adventure. Haruno was once into singing, with the motto “you never know until you try”, but delivering eggs has jaded her, and she gave up on it. Now her motto is “why try if it can’t be done?” And as beautiful and amazing and grand an experience their nighttime ride to the beach is, Haruno still finds a thorn in the rose: she needed help to get there.

But Cynthia tells her everyone needs help to get anywhere or do anything. Whether it’s the skilled designers, engineers and craftsmen at the Honda Motor Company or the love and support of friends and family, no one accomplishes anything alone. This sticks with Haruno, just like this episode bursting with gorgeous imagery – from the first-person driving views to the sea at dawn to the bike shop with a cafe and a friggin’ tree growing inside – will stick with us.


Rating: 10 (Masterpiece)

Motorcycle Cameos: At the bike shop Motoya, a PCX scooter and a Goldwing are two of the models on display inside, and a CB750 is serviced in the garage. For their night tour to the sea, Cynthia dusts of Haruno’s dad’s Z50 Monkey minibike, and barely fits on it!

One Off – 01

Shiozaki Haruno lives at the Niwa inn in an picturesque but small village, enjoys riding her Honda scooter, and dreams of one day living in the big city. She and her high school friends meet Niwa’s new hire, an Australian woman named Cynthia B. Rogers who has traveled the world on her sport bike. Haruno envies Cynthia’s adventurous spirit and laments her lack of motivation or will to do what she did.

At first we thought this OVA series would be one big pretty advertisement for Honda Motorcycles…and it is, but thankfully it’s also more. (Side note: being owners of three four-wheeled Hondas ourselves, and having family with five more, we can attest to the quality and dependability of their wares. Where’s our sack of cash, Honda?) This is by the director of Tamayura ~Hitotose~ and it’s one big pretty slice-of-life, with the lovingly-rendered Honda machines complementing rather than overpowering the proceedings.

This episode oozes quality from start to finish: the backgrounds, character design and voice work and music are all top-notch and pop through the screen. And the message is simple: “amazing is relative”. Haruno is impressed and even jealous of the action-packed life the eccentric gaijin has led, while Cynthia finds awe in simple things Haruno takes for granted: the beauty of her village, the tea, or a bowl of rice with a fresh egg. Both are right, but while Cynthia is experiencing both worlds, Haruno feels like she’s on the outside looking in. We’ll see where her restlessness and Cynthia’s influence takes her.


Rating: 8 (Great)

Motorcycle Cameos: First of all, everyone rides Hondas. Haruno rides a Giorno, a European-styled scooter. Her friend Sayo rides a Little Cub, a version of the most-produced motor vehicle in history, the Super Cub. Her friend Anri rides a Benly. Rie rides a bicycle, but dreams of owning the cute-but-tough Zoomer, also known as the Ruckus (114 mpg!). Cynthia rides a red CBR250R (pictured). A CB1100 is being tended to outside the cafe.

Kyousogiga – 05 (Fin)

Myoue first meets Lady Koto, the human form of a black rabbit his master once painted which came to life. The three lived in seclusion as the seasons passed. Lady Koto stands on an unknown world with the earth in full view, holding an infant that looks like Koto, promising her they’ll meet again someday.

This was probably the most cryptic of the five Kyousogiga segments – one in which the majority goes without spoken dialogue, only a song sung in English. The different seasons are beautifully rendered in the frame of the temple, and we liked the concept of the entire strange city we’ve seen thus far being a painting by Myoue’s master, painted piece by piece and pasted to the wall.

There are probably a lot of ways to interpret everything that went on in this last few minutes (carrying lady Koto with a trail of blood behind her, followed by the appearance of a young Myoue…was she pregnant?) but it drove home the point that the whole series, brief as it was, was a nice, trippy, ephemeral look at another world and the colorful lives that inhabit it – and didn’t get bogged down in excessive explanation.


Rating: 7 (Very Good)

Kimi no Iru Machi – 02 (Fin)

After seeing Haruto holding hands with Kanzaki, Eba gets right back on the train, devastated. Back at the hotel where his class is staying, Haruto tries her phone in vain, and finally decides to sneak out and visit her at her house. When he gets there, he meets her stepsister Rin who only teases him. He wanders around the city aimlessly, hoping to bump into her, and eventually does, at the station where he’s about to give up. He apologizes for Kanzaki, but Eba isn’t that bothered by it after all. They affirm their love and promise one another they’ll make the long-distance relationship work somehow.

Here we are, finally revisiting what was at the time the only straight-up romance we’d seen in a while. Since then we’ve seen quite a few, including four current series and the excellent Sakamichi no Apollon and Natsuyuki Rendezvous this past Summer. After watching the first installment, we were a little disappointed the drama relied so heavily on unlucky coincidences, poor planning on Haruto’s part, and a overly-rigid adherence to school rules. Whatever punishment the school could mete would be worth it if only he got to meet up with Eba. Then there was the silly cliffhanger in which Eba finally appears, only to witness her boyfriend holding hands with his longtime childhood friend. Uh oh.

Thankfullly, this second installment not only minimized the impact of that encounter (Eba is upset at first, but gradually, sensibly realizes it wasn’t what it looked like), and while Haruto is tortured a little bit more – both by Eba’s sly stepsister and by time and circumstances – he does finally meet up with Eba, or rather encounter her by chance. One of his other friends (whose boobs we see in a naked public bath scene that exists for some reason) says “the red string of fate” connects Haruto and Eba, and while it’s not always straight, it is strong, and they’ll always end up finding each other in the end. And we couldn’t help but feel ecstatic when they finally reunite, Eba shrugs off the Kanzaki thing, and they simply enjoy each others’ company for the short time they have. After all the contrivances the conspired to keep them apart, their closeness felt very real and natural.

More satisfying is the fact that this doesn’t end with Haruto deciding to move to Tokyo, or Eba deciding to move back to the village where they first met – years and years ago – and he cheered her up by showing her fireworks. We see a lot of flashbacks of happy times there, and a lot of what we see happen in the present echoes those times, but that was the past. Now they still love each other deeply, but have a long-distance relationship, and simply have to deal with it. It’s tough – their farewell scene really drives that toughness home – but that red string of fate shows no signs of breaking. They will see each other again, and even if it’s not enough, it will have to be.


Rating: 8 (Great)

Kyousogiga – 04

This segment is told from the perspective of the monk Myoue of Taganoo. His master bestowed the title of high priest upon him, and told him to watch over things until he came back at a time he did not specify. Myoue has waited ever since, in a manner similar to that of Hachiko, a real-life dog so faithful, it kept coming to the station to meet its owner long after that owner died (and whose statue stands outside Shibuya Station). He wonders if his master in fact returned in the form of Koto, so he takes care of her while waiting for confirmation of some kind, which comes when Koto echoes words his master left him with about returning with “a beginning and an end”; Koto’s twin “brothers” are named A and Un (beginning and end).

This was a far quieter, more wistful episode than the last two, which were more manic and action-packed. It’s basically a day in the life of Myoue, a monk who spends his days waiting for something he knows not what; something that may have already come in Koto; he’s just not sure. Pride, honor, and a sense of duty and loyalty drive his actions, qualities he resents at times but cannot fight off, so he waits. Like the previous episodes, we only get a small slice of the whole picture here, with much left unspecified and unexplained, but so far the series has excelled at building an achingly gorgeous, wondrous, fun world, with no fewer mysteries than our own; just different ones.


Rating: 8 (Great)

Kyousogiga – 03

One of Douji Yase’s animal-like youkai records video of a special day in the world on the other side of the looking glass: a day when unwanted or unneeded…stuff is relased into the air, where it drifts away towards a train station which will take it further away still. One of these objects is a stuffed animal a mother wants her daughter to let go, but she won’t, and floats off with it. Koto, A and Un fly up to grab her, and it isn’t long before Shouko and her suited legion also assist; finally Shouko shoots the plushie, and the girl and Koto fall back down to earth. Also among the objects that shouldn’t have flown away: Douji Yase’s favorite teacup.

This really captured the grandeur and whimsy of the strange world Koto is now at home in (the awesome soundtrack really helps sell it). There’s a very fable-like vibe to it, and it’s also very much the opposite of how the real world operates. Our waste falls to the earth, both due to gravity and due to the nature of municipal sanitation and decomposition. We as a modern society toss out a lot that may still be useful to others, but is wasted anyway, due to convenience. Still, it would be great if, once a year, all the unnecessary clutter that had accumulated that year could be released into the sky, to find its own way…somewhere else.


Rating: 9 (Superior)

Kyousogiga – 02

We got so hung up with Fall series that Kyousogiga almost slipped through the cracks. Well, with one episode left to air, we’re taking the opportunity to catch up on this excellent ONA.

In this piece, Shouko, the geek who runs Kurama Temple, has lost her PSP. She suspects she lost it when she was tackled post-lunch by Koto/A/Un. She deploys legions of well-dressed henchmen to leave no stone unturned. They spot a PSP in the talons of a bird, but after a sustained pursuit and much discharging of firearms, when they catch the bird, the PSP is not hers. Eventually it’s found by a man named Fushimi, who simply searched for its GPS signal. The tracking device is a must for Shouko, who is very active and has a tendency to lose things.

Like a rich dessert, this episodelet was dense, compact, and full of complex flavors surrounding a very simple concept: losing something important along one’s daily travels. In Shouko’s case, having her PSP is a matter of utmost importance, and she is also fortunate to have virtually unlimited resources at her disposal for whatever petty purpose she chooses. We liked her brief, outwardly pleasant, inwardly tense chat with Douji Yase, as well as her knee-jerk reaction to remembering she was jostled by Koto:  destroying her house and holding her at gunpoint.


Rating: 8 (Great)