Oreimo 4

In a series with several otaku as among the main characters, an episode was inevitably going to involve Summer Comiket, and this is it. Before that, however, Kirino has her ‘normal’ friends over and orders Kyousuke to stay out of sight. He doesn’t, and one of the girls (voiced by Saki from Eden of the East) seemingly takes a liking to him.

Fast forward to Tokyo Big Sight, which is a really nice depiction of an enormous, bustling convention in the dead of summer. Lots of waiting in line and crowds and battling staff members at video games, there’s a great energy to it all. And then that girl I mentioned before, who liked Kyousuke, she sees Kirino fresh out of Comiket – and the two worlds collide.

The thing is, this girl Ayase doesn’t sound that bad. She witnessed Kyousuke in the classic “falling on a girl and breaking the fall with her boob” – with his sister, no less. But rather than overreact, Ayase knew it was simply an accident and, unpredictably, didn’t judge him. So maybe she won’t judge Kirino for being an otaku. We’ll See. Rating: 3.5

Advertisements

Arakawa Under the Bridge x 2 3

Arakawa 4 serves up a hearty balance of tenderness and genuine knee-slapping comedy. It marries the intimate and the absurd. It’s characters may be eccentric, bizarre, and even clinical, but they’re also honest and surprisingly believable. For seemingly the first time, Recruit seems to genuinely anger Nino when he catches him listening to her cassette tape.

Rather than leave it there in the first eight minutes, the entire episode covers Recruit’s many attempts at damage control, to coax Nino down from her electric pole perch, and then from all of the girls who form a conclave around her and initially refuse to let him state his case.  However. the ladies can’t stand in the way of love. Rating: 3.5

Star Driver 4

I love episodes where things aren’t what they seem. The TNG episode where time stops for instance, and Picard draws a smiley face in the smoke of a warp core breach. In this episode of Star Driver, a cybody who can create illusions isolates Takuto and Wako in Zero Time.

…Only the pilot isn’t a willing participant; a member of Glittering Crux drugs her and makes her operate it. Once Takuto figures out how to summon Tauburn in this space, the enemy cybody makes a hasty retreat. But even though there’s no climactic fight and Wako is never in danger, Takuto learns more about how far Crux is willing to go, and resolves to defeat every last one of their cybodys.

As I said, I enjoyed the dreamlike atmosphere of this episode; it’s relaxed pace, the chemistry between Takuto and Wako, and the weather that naturally transitions from dreary rain to a gorgeous, clearing sky. Finally, this episode broke the formula for the previous three, before it got too monotonous. It switched things up a bit. Rating: 4

Bakuman 4

Again, the sheer magnitude of work necessary to become a mangaka hits Mashiro and Akito like a ton of bricks. A ridiculous amount of work is involved in preparing a manuscript, and a high schooler can’t go long without sleep; believe me, I know. Being a trained artist myself, I shared Mashiro’s frustration with being unable to instantly master a certain type of ink pen; in his case, knowing full well he doesn’t have a future unless he does. He needs to practice; but if his grades fall, he’s toast.

This episode is also where the two aspiring mangakas realize they’re not alone; others have the same dream they do. When Akito flips through a magazine and discovers a 15-year-old published mangaka, the pressure is on, and it’s felt. Neither of them are peerless prodigies, and must rely on hubris, effort, and luck in their venture.

I do worry that Mashiro has a good chance of repeating his uncles mistakes re romance; he doesn’t even have Miho’s email yet. Still, it was reassuring to see them pass each other on a street – Mashiro with Akito, Miho with her mom and sister – and pause and look back at each other not once, but twice. Rating: 3.5

To Aru Majutsu no Index II 3

The conflict between Amakusa and the Catholic church becomes much more complicated, and as usual, Touma and Index are caught in the middle of an elaborate conflict between the biggest Christian faction and a crafty elusive Japanese offshoot. We don’t see the Catholic’s diversionary battle, only the stealthy rescue mission, which gave everyone something to do. It’s always good to see characters contributing and not just sitting around with their mouths hanging open.

I don’t know what’s more ridicuous looking: dozens of attractive young nuns with swords and spears, or ordinarily-dressed Japanese people with the same weapons. I’m also unsure of where Misaka fits into all this; so far, Index II has been all religion and magic and no science or espers. Of course, like Touma himself, this show has a penchant for keeping its audience in the dark until it’s good and ready to reveal stuff. Rating: 3

Soredemo Machi wa Mawatteiru 3

Soredemo continues putting out exceedingly charming slice-of-life comedy (two stories per episode). Part 1’s art detective story proved that Hotori is in fact good for something besides bitching, complaining, and f-ing up. It even managed to make subtle homages to two other Shinbo works (the “camera shutter eyes” of Bakemonogatari and the black-and-white “despair takes” of Zetsubou-sensei).

Part 2 finally introduces the blonde-bobbed girl, who Hotori naturally mistakes for a young boy at first. We don’t find out much about her besides the fact she’s cute, fairly athletic, and has a cat. She’s also older than Hotori and is in her class, although being the ditz she is, Hotori never noticed her before. We’re sure to find out more about her and how she’ll fit into the maid cafe side of the story in time. Rating: 3.5

MM! 4

MM! four takes a break from the potential romance emerging between Tarou and Yuuno, and Mio devises a different strategy for breaking his masochism: the power of love. This involves a date between Mio and Tarou that is very carefully choreographed by the school nurse to result in Tarou falling in love with Mio through a number of intimacy-building situations.

Tarou is confused about the line between reality and fantasy regarding Mio’s emotions, but later finds out she had a fever the entire day and takes her to the hospital. He once again proves to her that when someone he cares about is in a spot, he’ll put everything on the line to help that person out. Mio’s respect/admiration of Tarou increases, but at the end of the day he remains a hopeless masochist, so I suppose a new scheme is in order. Rating: 3

Amagami SS – Ai Nanasaki Arc

I don’t think I’m going out on a limb by saying this was the best arc so far in Amagami SS. This arc was all about winning the heart of Ai Nanasaki, an underclassman like Sae, but not so much shy as aloof, moody, and an initially hard nut to crack. In other words, she was the most complex, intelligent, and interesting girl to cross Tachibana’s path so far. Her seiyu (Yukana Nogami) did an outstanding job mixing of strength and vulnerability in Ai’s voice. Having an awesome secret hot spring to take Tachibana in order to confess to him doesn’t hurt either. Christmas skinny dipping: that’s how romance is done.

I particularly like the fact that even though falling in love is affecting her swimming negatively, she realizes that’s what’s happening to her is more important than sports statistics, and lets it happen. Neither she nor Tachibana are ever annoyingly coy or reticent, but gradually and naturally their relationship develops and matures at a refreshing rate of speed (necessary with only four episodes to work with). I fear Amagami may have already hit its peak with girl number four, as I seriously doubt the dumb girl who thinks she’s fat or the straight-arrow class prez will be able to top Ai. Rating: 4

Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt 4

Was another highly kinetic smorgasbord, replete with foul language, violence, nudity, and other mature themes. Part one chronicled Stocking’s sudden need for a diet, in which the ghost to kill was a multi-uddered dessert monster. Part two involved a lingere run in which the ghost of discarded panties actually ate P&S’s weapons, necessitating improvisation on Panty’s part.

So yeah, this series is formulaic (monster a week), but not in a bad way. Four episodes in and it’s still funny and fresh. Garter’s fascination with young boys is definitely unsettling, but then he is a priest, and if the two angels he administers are a slut and a glutton, it kind of fits – whatever church he’s with, it’s very forgiving. Rating: 3.5

Nurarihyon no Mago 15

When a dangerous rival clan arrives at the gate of your mansion, threatens to take over your town and instill fear in its people, then attempts to burn said gate to the ground, what’s the best course of action? Invite all of your friends over for a sleepover, apparently. Then while they’re distracted, slip away and witness a battle between the respective clans’ water specialists, and return like nothings happened.

Rikuo has three major goals: keep his youkai clan united, keep his human friends safe, and keep his clan and friends separate as much as possible. This episode proved how futile it may be to achieve all three simultaneously. Since the mansion’s the safest place for his friends, the risk of exposing them to the yokai and vice versa increases.

Not all yokai in his clan are okay with him having human friends, and if the enemy found out, they’d make all-too enticing targets. So Rikuo walks the tightrope, and the big battle remains on the horizon. Meanwhile, Yura’s the wild card, but she still seems too weak and inexperienced to be a factor. We will see. Rating: 3

The World God Only Knows 3

Flag three tied up Conquest two in a neat little bow, following the same basic structure of engage-and-retreat, strategizing, turning bad impressions into good, and in the case of the no-longer-rich Mio, appealing to her vanity. Keima smartly realizes that sharing a secret is a good opening to exploit, which he does. For this and all future real-world battles, he vows to stick to the tenets of the game world.

It takes many subservient encounters with Keima for Mio to let her guard down, forget Keima’s a commoner, and crack a smile. He then invites her to a date at a high society soiree and in their one interaction with chums from her former aristocratic life is enough for another opening: Keima pleading for her to abandon that charade, mourn her father, and live her own life.

I do hope the battles stay diverse, as the first two have been. It’s definitely entertaining to imagine the gears turning inside Keima’s head as he draws from his wealth of dating knowledge and crafts strategies to win hearts. It’s just a shame they always lose their memories when the loose soul is extracted; though he doesn’t seem to care. Plenty of fish in the sea, I suppose. A final note: the music in this episode was excellent throughout. Rating: 3.5

Yosuga no Sora 3

It turns out Haru’s imagination ran wild last episode; Kazuha and Akira aren’t lovers, they’re sisters. Specifically, Akira is the illegitimate daughter of Kazuha’s father, a diet member, and so he kicked her out of the house. What is with all the horrible people this season? At any rate, Kazuha looks after Akira just like Haru looks after Sora. This makes Kazuha the most likely first love interest for Haru. And this episode doesn’t beat around the bush and tease as expected of such shows; Haru and Kazuha fall for each other very quickly indeed.

Sora and Akira are kind of off on their own and don’t find out about this yet, but I’m sure they will quite soon, with much jealousy and consternation to ensue. The romance was nicely done in a very short time, but this series still loses points for having an awful opening theme and frankly worthless, time-wasting post-episode mini-skits. When the normal credits are done rolling, do yourself a favor and just switch the TV off. Rating: 3

Hyakka Ryouran 3

Some answers are revealed in the mystery of the bipolar Jubei Yagyu, while she, Muneakira and Princess Sen become roommates at the dojo. This presents numerous opportunities for Sen to exhibit her jealousy of Jubei. The love triangle here could prove annoying. However, I don’t think I’ll tire of the textured animation style and costumes, which still look superb three episodes in.

Anyway, whenever the cheerful, docile Jubei kisses Muneakira, the master samurai within her is drawn out, and Muneakira is paralyzed while she wreaks havoc, which fortunately isn’t much. It turns out she isn’t a mindless killing machine, but stays her sword when Matabei protects Yukimura with her person in a show of loyalty to the death. Shortly thereafter Jubei reverts back to docile mode, so we don’t learn much else. Rating: 3