Sket Dance – 27

A new character arrives in the person of Remi Misora, a new teacher and former kid’s tv show host who calls herself “Onee-san”. At times she proves to be an extraordinarily careless klutz, leading the Sket-dan to seek out Chuu-san for a cure. However, while all of his potions change her personality, the underlying carelessness remains, after which he tells her to leave it be, as it’s whats makes her her. The second act deals with a found box of Switch’s random inventions, many terrifying, which end up saving the day and proving to Onee-san that the Sket-dan is capable of greatness.

Sket Dance turns in another solid, often hilarious outing, with a new opening by Gackt that’s much better than the last one, a new ending with nudity and chocolate, and in between, a new teacher who’s main strength is her passion. Indeed, she lends a great deal of energy to the show, and serves as an honorary fourth member of the Sket-dan all this week. We aren’t sure who voiced her (yet), but she does an excellent job both bringing the bright, bubbly Onee-san to life, and showing a wide range of personalities as she downs Chuu’s various potions (served in Sake bottles, making for two excellent bumper cards.)

With her character established, she takes a half-step back out of the spotlight, as this is primarily about Switch’s really wacked-out inventions, including a disembodied anime head that blows on hot ramen, a hyperrealistic baboon-head knapsack, hover shoes, a shoulder-dislocating cheer bazooka and neck-snapping homing goggles. Onee-san is quietly evaluating the Sket-dan with regards to their reputation as The Club that Helps, and it looks pretty bad, when all of a sudden all that random crap is put to practical use rescuing a kindergartener falling out the window. Ridiculous? Yes…but in the best way.


Rating: 3.5

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Boku wa Tomodachi ga Sukunai – 00

The preview episode begins with a hallucination, as Kadoka dreams of an ideal world with ideal versions of his friends having fun together, with a recurring image of a hot pot always simmering nearby said fun activities. He wakes up in the midst of a dark hot pot, in which two of the girls he’d been dreaming about – Yozura and Sena – are trying to see who can outlast t’other in an eating duel. They both end up vomiting and passing out with the others. It’s established that Kodaka, Yozura, Sena, and four others are members of a school “Neighbor Club” dedicated to building relationships.

This is another case of a lull in the output of fall 2011 series we’ll be reviewing (Last Exile won’t air till Friday), so in the meantime we take a look at this 11-minute preview of a series we won’t will be reviewing, the title of wihch translates to “I don’t have many friends”. If “I” is Kodaka, it would seem he has many friends, and they’re all have distinguishing marks making them easy to distinguish: Rika has the glasses; Yozura, Black hair; Sena, the busty blonde; Maria, the nun; Yukimura, the redhead; and Kodaka, who is odd-eyed. It would appear on the surface to be a harem of Index rejects.

We’ll admit, we actually started the first episode of Kimi to Boku, but scrubbing through it we realized there were five main characters, and not one of them was a girl. On the other side of the spectrum we have this series, with six girls, but at least one member of the opposite sex, and it doesn’t seem like everyone’s in love with the one guy. And while that was a rather slow-paced school slice-of-life, this was far quicker-paced, and threw a lot of curveballs vis-a-vis reality vs. fiction; showing us an idealized version of Kadoka’s friends before the real thing.


Rating: 2.5

Chihayafuru – 01

High schooler Chihaya Ayase is very beautiful, like her model older sister, but her odd behavior at school earned her the nickname “Beauty in Vain.” She also happens to be a decent player of the obscure card-grabbing game Karuta, though it wasn’t always that way. In a flashback, she remembers her classmate Wataya being teased because of his accent and tatty clothes, but after a chance encounter while he’s on his paperboy rounds – and an incident where both she and Wataya are pushed down and ostrasized by her childhood friend Taichi – Wataya shows her how he plays Karuta, and his dream to become a master. She shares that dream, and back in the present, starts a Karuta club at her high school.

This is the second straight series debut to be dominated by a flashback, and why not, best to establish the character’s motivations right off the bat. This was a strong start. Chihaya had always dreamt for her sister to excel at something – modeling – but the awkward, bespectacled Wataya breaks her out of that. We liked how their initial one-on-one encounter was just pure chance: he was a paperboy on his early morning route, and she was outside waiting for the paper with her sister’s picture on the front page. Of course, to Wataya, it looked like she was waiting for him.

We tend to see Japanese society in best light possible, but this series shows that teasing and ostracism for being “different” is no less present there than anywhere else. We got annoyed when classmates talked about how Chihaya is pretty, but that that beauty is “wasted” whenever she “talks or does something.” Hmph. No matter, we like Chihaya, and this series, so far. We knew nothing about Karuta, but after watching this, we now know we probably wouldn’t be too good at it. Memorizing poetry in hiragana and rapid recall aren’t our strong suits.


Rating: 3.5

New – Rotating Header

Professor Frink takes over the kindergarten class, drawing equations and free-body diagrams on the blackboard to explain the workings of one of those things that kids push which makes the balls pop.

Frink: N’hey hey! Ahem, n’hey, so the compression and expansion of the longitudinal waves cause the erratic oscillation — you can see it there — of the neighboring particles.
[a girl raises her hand]
[sighs] Yes, what is it? What? What is it?

Girl: Can I play with it?

Frink: No, you can’t play with it; you won’t enjoy it on as many levels as I do.
[he chuckles as he plays with it] The colors, children!

The color of our header now rotates. Hit F5 or simply navigate around to see the colors, children.

Tamayura ~hitotose~ – 01

Junior high student Fuu has decided to make a big change in her life. She’s moving back to her birthplace of Takehara, to be near the Seto Inland Sea, attend a new high school, and make use of her late father’s camera she inherited. This episode is mostly a flashback of her life before moving, documenting how much her father and his pictures have meant to her, the build-up to her decision, and saying her goodbyes to her best friend Chihiro. Armed with a blessing from her mom and a published photographer friend of her father, he strikes out Takehara, where she goes by the nickname “Potte.”

Man, that was just a lovely, warm, calm, breezy episode of anime. The landscapes and twisting roads and stairs of the hilly town are exquisitely and imaginatively rendered. The palette is subtle, muted, but still lush, adding to the realism. But it doesn’t just look beautiful; all the people are beautiful as well. No excessive proprietary jargon; no factions, just real friggin’ life. And a girl starting fresh, like Ohana in Hanasaku Iroha…only without the yelling and no love interest. Sure, there’s crying, but it’s established that Chihiro is a crybaby…though when Fuu leaves, both of them have grown more “aggressive”.

Fuu/Potte is out to make her dearly departed dad proud; to carry on his tradition of capturing little scenes and moments often forgotten in the course of life. He taught her a lot, including how to work his very slick Rollei 35S mini-camera, and all that knowledge is still in her heart. The Camera is the tool to draw it all out, and replace her grief with happiness. She says if she can capture those warm happy moments just right, the “Children of Light” will come out. Sounds like a terrorist group, but we’re sure it’s not. Photography is used early and often to provide back-story and imagery from the past, and by episode’s end, we felt we’d learned a great deal about Fuu in a very short time. We want to learn more still.


Rating: 4

Phi Brain: Kami no Puzzle – 01

Daimon Kaito is a puzzle-solving genius with boundless potential. His classmate Jikugawa lends him a PDA containing a series of puzzles, which he proceeds to quickly solve. When he does, he is invited by the “Minotaur” to a grand puzzle with many stages, but with this one, his life is on the line, as well as his friend Nonoha’s, who tags along. With her help, he clears the initial stage, and he is then furnished a golden armband and a red seeing eye, which will help him use all of his brain to solve the puzzles to come.

We here at RABUJOI love it when are expectations are exceeded. Basing our assumptions on little more than the title, we thought this was going to be a somewhat childish romp involving puzzles. Turns out…well, it kinda is, but who cares? It kicks way more ass than we predicted. Kaito is a somewhat Bossun-looking lead, and while his promise to his dad (solve those poor lonely puzzles 0_o ) it’s clear this is just a kid whose brain needs to be constantly challenged. The fiery Nonoha kinda reminds me of Miyoshi from Bakuman – but is voiced by Lain!

Let’s face it, none of the character designs are super original, but they are well-executed and attractive, and full of life and energy, too. The animation was excellent, the soundtrack was very eclectic and as for the puzzles, well, let’s just say it felt like we were watching Myst in anime form, what with the tricky practical puzzles where you may die if you screw up. The system underlying Minotaur – Einstein and Orpheus and whatnot – still somewhat escape us, but this was a great introduction, and we’ll be watching next week.


Rating: 3.5

C³ – Cube×Cursed×Curious – 01

High school lad Yachi recieves an unusual metal cube in the mail that laters turns out to contain a small girl named Fear, who was sent by his father to take advantage of the positive, “orderly” energy of his house. She is a “tool” that has been given human form by a curse. The curseproof Yachi leaves her alone when he goes to school with his friend, and she wreaks havoc on his house. He forgives her and assures her they’ll be able to break her curse.

We can’t say why we had high hopes for this series – after all, we knew next to nothing about it, but man, that was hard to sit through. Let us get the good out of the way first; it won’t take long: the series has very nicely-textured background, bright, vivid colors, and liberal use of light. That’s about all. The rest is just terrible.

Where do we start? The horrible character design? The 15 millionth petite, blue-haired, bratty girl? The goofy fanservice? The bafflingly bland lead and his blander childhood friend? The fact that Fear is a useless idiot, whose antics are played for gags that aren’t funny? The mustache-twirling femme fatale at the end? A first impression is an important one when it comes to anime. This first episode was nothing but dull cliches. It just wasn’t our cup of roasted tea.


Rating: 1.5

Spring/Summer 2011 Wrap-Up

Out with the old, in with the new. This weekend RABUJOI said goodbye to the last of the Summer series and Spring carryovers, with one exception, Mawaru Penguindrum, which will continue into the Fall. In all, it was a decent season, with lots of variety. We love the sense of completeness that comes with wrapping up a season – two in this case. Here’s a list of who won what:

• Best Overall Anime: Mawaru Penguindrum. Every episode has been excellent, in our humble opinion.

• Most Gore-tastic Series: Blood-C…the censors were awfully busy.

• Best Series Dealing With Sudden Parenthood: Usagi Drop. Really down-to-earth, heartwarming stuff.

• Best NEET Detective Series: Kami-sama no Memo-cho.

• Best Life-At-An-Inn Series: Hanasaku Iroha, which finished very strong.

• Best Telepathically-Controlled Mecha Action: Kamisama Dolls.

• Best Period Mystery/Action Series: Dantalian no Shoka.

• Best Goofy Superhero Series: Tiger & Bunny.

• Best Series Set in Paris at the Turn of the Century: Ikoku Meiro no Croisée.

• Best High School Club Series: Sket Dance.

• Best Post-Apocalyptic Series with a Number for a Name: No. 6.

• Best Shounen Series Where the Characters Were More Fun to Watch Than the Action: Ao no Exorcist.

• Best Score: (tie) Kamisama Dolls and Mawaru Penguindrum.

• Best Female Seiyu, Spring 2011: Chiaki Omigawa as Minko Tsurugi/Minchi (Hanasaku Iroha)

• Best Male Seiyu, Spring 2011: Hiroaki Hirata as Kotetsu T. Kaburagi/Wild Tiger (Tiger & Bunny)

• Best Female Seiyu, Summer 2011: Marie Miyake as Ringo Oginome (Mawaru Penguindrum)

• Best Male Seiyu, Summer 2011: Hiroshi Tsuchida as Daikichi Kawachi (Usagi Drop)

Ao no Exorcist 25 (Fin)

Shura, Triple A, Yukio, and Rin join forces to attack the Gehenna gate, but there are too many small fry in the way. Bon, Izumo, Renzo and Co. execute a plan to telegraph sunlight from the Vatican in Rome to Japan, in order to weaken the demons. Rin and Yukio ride Kuro up to the now-cleared gate and envelop it in flames, closing/destroying it. One month later, things have returned to normal at the True Cross Academy, though Rin is more proactive in interfering in higher-ranking exorcist operations. They also visit their mother’s grave – their birthplace – in the forest.

This was a somewhat disappointing finale. I was having a hard time staying invested in the face of a lack of any significant peril, and lots of strange, random things. I mean, wtf was the deal with those mirrors? Where did that come from? Throughout the episode, you see swarms of small black demons flying around, but not attacking their prey, but simply flying by as people yell “there’s too many of them!” With Shiemi out of harm’s way and Yukio back to his old self, no characters were in immediate mortal danger this week. No suspense. Also, Yukio is suddenly able to hear Rin’s cat now, and transforms like his bro when he unsheathes the sword? Huh?

The “everything’s back to the way it was” epilogue wasn’t the best move either. It only reinforces the fact that nothing that happened in that big climax was any big deal. Even visiting the place where their mom gave birth to them fell flat for me; I mean how is someone who slept with Satan a “wonderful person?” Offspring bias, I suppose. And while Kuro is proof that some demons can be tamed, why is Rin rushing headlong into battles he’s not authorized to fight? Or, more to the point, if he’s capable of taking care of demons, why’s he still in school? I dunno…not a great ending to what was a pretty decent series.


Rating: 2.5

Bakuman. 2 – 01

Everything picks up where the first season left off, with Mashiro and Takagi getting serialized. Hattori hands them over to a new supervisor, who immediately delves into the logistics of serializing a manga. He hires three assistants for them, sets the deadlines, salaries, and expenses of the enterprise. They are also treated to VIP service as they attend Yoeisha’s New Year’s party, where they meet rivals Hiramaru and Niizuma as well as Mr. Torishima, board of directors. Mashiro sets high goals that impress both him and the Editor-in-chief.

This was a great continuation of the story we’d left last fall, and introduced a lot of new characters and challenges for Ashirogi Muto. It cleverly begins with the OP of Detective Trap, as seen in Mashiro’s head. None of the trials he and Takagi have gone through have jaded him from his ultimate goal. “Hard work, confidence (or conceit) and luck” are the weapons of any successful mangaka, and so confident is he (at least on the surface), Mashrio promises the editor-and-chief and (a very subtly hilarious) Mr. Torishima that he’ll do what his uncle couldn’t – make a living off manga – and do what he left undone – winning first place in the Jack survey.

Lofty goals, but after witnessing the professionalism of his new team – Editor Miura, Chief Assistant Ogawa, Kato the Girl, and Takahama the Quiet – he has cause to strive for them. The party is the perfect vehicle to introduce Kazuya Hiramaru, who some have claimed is even more of a genius than Niizuma – but when they meet him he insists he’d rather be a NEET. The charisma at the party is palpable, as is the cautious optimism. I love how this show doesn’t merely have course enemies as the leads’ rivals; their relationships are often more complicated. Punctuating the episode with a brief cut to Azuki getting Mashiro’s vow via text was also well done.


Rating: 3.5

Dantalian no Shoka 12 (Fin)

Huey and Dalian encounter a phantom book in a batch of newspapers that give rise to zombies. When they investigate, they meet The Professor and the Red Biblioprincess, who plot to distribute the papers and unleash a zombie army that will destroy London. The Professor shoots Huey, who then escapes out a window with Dalian. He unlocks Dalian and convenes with the “Inner Dalian”, tries to release her, and acquires the phantom book that eliminates the zombies. Hal and Flamberge burn the remaining papers, and the Professor flees. Huey and Dalian continue their quest to hunt down phantom books.

“I go on to tomorows unknown,” says Huey. Well, he won’t be going alone. He’ll have a sweet-toothed biblioprincess talking down to him all the way while barely concealing her deep affection for him and everything he’s done for her. She can no longer pretend that there isn’t a part of her inside – one with pale pink hair. After all, that Inner Dalian even speaks to her when Huey is close to death’s door. She and Huey have been a good team, and will continue to be as they go on to tomorrow. The other two keykeeper/biblioprincess duos were almost afterthoughts by comparison, relegated to examples that Huey/Dalian weren’t unique in their relationship. But it isn’t like they needed to be anything more.

Gainax has a tendency to be all over the place with its series. The last I’d seen was Panty & Stocking, which couldn’t have been any different from this. But both were good. Shikabane Hime? Not so good. With only one hiccup to its name, Dantalian no Shoka was consistently fun to watch, its mysteries and themes were suitably clever and eclectic, it’s settings were pretty and often gorgeous, and the core duo and their verbal duelling grew on me as much as they grew on each other.


Rating: 4

Blood-C 12 (Fin)

Fumito reveals himself as the mastermind of Saya’s entire ordeal. He captured her, a being with the strength and abilities to go toe-to-toe with elder bairns, but rather than human blood, she feeds off of elder bairn blood. He made a half-elder bairn play the role of her father and created the whole shrine maiden artifice as a vehicle to propel her to fight the bairns Fumito sent at her. After killing all the cast save Amino, he escapes to Tokyo, shooting her in the face as she lunges at him…but the game he started isn’t quite over.

For those who wanted the bloodiest, most disturbingly goretastic finale, well, you got one; though most of that gore was covered up by censors. That’s okay, I just ate a rich dinner, and was thus relieved to only have to catch the gist of the carnage. I’m not sure if a future Blu-ray release will be uncensored or not, but if it is, I must remember not to eat a big meal prior to re-watching it. Notably, after making themselves far less likable last week, Nono, Nene, and Tokizane get their bloody, karmic comeuppance. But there wasn’t just grisly death on display; we were also treated to some exquisite Saya ass-kicking that got downright lyrical and reached a fever pace.

Fumito’s obviously an immensely powerful person, but also an immesely sick, disturbed, evil person, and the multiplying elder bairns he unleashes on the fake village to slaughter all the extras just drives that point home. That being said, he’s a human being. He doesn’t believe Saya can kill a human, but if ever there was one for whom she could make an exception, it’s him. This whole series could be boiled down to one, long, harrowing, emotionally and physically torturous practical joke played on Saya. Come next June, she’ll look to settle the score in the film that will wrap this story up.


Rating: 4

Mawaru Penguindrum 12

Shoma describes to Ringo how his family killed her sister Momoka on the day she was born. It involved some kind of multifaceted operation that somehow resulted in a subway accident that claimed Momoka’s life. With Shoma and Kanba unable to retrieve the penguin drum, Himari weakens, and the headdress loses its power, which would result in her death. Kanba won’t allow that, and gives his own life energy to her, as he had in the past to revive her, but it’s not enough, and Himari flatlines…

It can be tempting to feel like you’re being strung along with Mawaru Penguindrum. It’s constantly shooting out hints, but it keeps so much below the surface sometimes, you start to wonder: how much of this will make sense by the end, and how much will just never be explained? Is the “Destination of Fate” a future setting? What’s with this talk of taboos, followed immediately by Kanba kissing a nude Himari? And what is the librarian doing with those oompaloompas?

The last few episodes were actually quite revealing from a storytelling standpoint. We now know for certain that Kanba made some kind of a deal to save Himari; it wasn’t a miracle. Shoma too seems to know more than he’d let on early in the series. It could well be that phenomena like helper penguins and survival strategies were old hat to the bros before the series even started? This and many, many other questions still abound. Fortunately, Mawaru Penguindrum has plenty of time to address them. So I’ll remain patient and hopes this makes a little more sense eventually.


Rating: 4