Last Exile: Ginyoku no Fam – 03

With Iglasia destroyed, Turan is quickly falling to Ades. Luscinia returns to the capital to convene with Augusta, the young leader of Ades. In Kartoffel, Millia is upset that the Lasas is being cannibalized for parts. When she sees someone bartering for her sister’s silver water goblet, it’s the last straw. Fam agrees to track the sky pirate down and retrieve it. Millia learns how Fam was orphaned as a baby, and owes everything to Gisey, her family, and all the sky pirates who got her where she is now. When they return, goblet in hand, the village releases balloon lanterns to honor the dead that fell in the recent battles. There are murmurs on both sides about the Reaper Ship Sylvius, Fam’s next target.

This week, Millia took steps to transform from a spoiled, helpless, headless chicken to the potential queen of her people. With her father dead and Lillia’s wherabouts unknown, she may already technically be queen. And a queen can’t get all indignant after the people who saved her claim payment in the form of the Lasas. We were with her, however, when she wouldn’t let one thing stand: someone making off with that goblet. It may just be a silver cup, but if her flagship, her capital, and her kingdom are to be torn to shreds, one has to have something to hold on to and maintain hope.

Fam is her usual strong, cheerful good sport in helping Millia get it back, when combined with the gorgeous, moving Okuribi service, seem to inspire her to buck up, shear off her girlish locks, and portray a more regal bearing. The scenes with Teddy at Gisey’s house were a nice snapshot of a very warm, loving family; you can see why Fam is such a happy girl. This episode was a needed resting point after lots of battle, death, and destruction. But with both the brass in Ades and Fam keen on restoring the “Grand Race” and Fam’s interest in capturing the Sylvius for Millia, big things lay on the horizon.


Rating: 4

Un-Go – 03

Kaishou Rie summons Shinjurou and Inga to the Sasa household, where its heir Kazamori met a most unusual demise on the seventh anniversary of the death of his adoptive father, Komamori, previously the foremost authority on AI before his research was shut down by the government. When Kaishou determines it was murder and not suicide, the other members of Sasa become suspects. Inga asks the widow who Kazamori is, she tells her there was never a human Kazamori, but an android; a creation of her late husband. Kazamori’s program is still integrated into the house.

Wow, what amazing twists befall this show! Unveiled at just the right moment after careful and intricate build-up, we had our suspicions that the masked Kazamori could be anyone or anything and that the manner in which he burned up suggested something not human. And yet, for seven years after a wing of Komamori’s house blew up – with him in it – his “adopted son” essentially ran the family business, without ever revealing his face. The widow found out quite by accident, but even as she was suspected in his murder, she stayed tight-lipped about it – until Inga, of course.

Once we dive into the engrossing Sasa story, it’s east to forget the first act, in which Shinjurou is helping an…ahem…companion, restore her iPhone contact list, in the ruins of Shinjuku. Terrorists bombings claim the NTT Docomo Building and Takashimaya Times Square, and the station is a mess. It’s great how this series continues to build the very strange, possibly insane world in which Shinjurou, Inga, and the other detectives operate. They represent the enduring human spirit in their own way. The series also continues to maintain fantastic production values, and the ending sequence is the best of the season.


Rating: 4

Mirai Nikki – 03

Keigo, a detective and the fourth diary user, sends Amano and Yuno off on a fun-filled, romantic date to serve as bait for Minene Uryuu, whom they have to finish off. She’s sneaking around the city, staying in the shadows and suffering from the pain of losing her eye. A mystery dude who turns out to be another diary user carries her to a secluded cabin where he drugs her in hopes of gaining intel on the other users she knows. Just when Amano’s fears about Yuno are allayed, she brings him to her house, where he pokes around and finds rotting corpses, making him flee from her in terror.

For some reason, we kept noticing unintentional references to other series this week. Like Deadman Wonderland, you have your girly-sounding guy (Amano, actually voiced by a girl); your seemingly harmless, cute girl (Yuno); amusement park complete with ferris wheel; and the pretty but psycho bitch with a horrible, pain-filled childhood (Minene Uryuu), who gets more depth this week. Like Boku wa Tomodachi ga Sukunai, there was your sexy pool scene. Like Blood-C, you have things starting out all happy and bubbly, but with hints of unease, and then it gets real dark real fast, and our whelpish hero is in a very bad way. We have to say, while we were somewhat convinced Yuno was helping Amano out of love, we had no idea it would be “I want to use your entrails as hair ties and eat your face” love. Poor Amano…

With Minene – the would-be top threat – neutralized this week by the man with the bag on his head, Yuno is our wolf in sheep’s clothing this week. What’s so scary about her is that she’s really capable of anything; but hasn’t yet to come out and said what she wants or what she’ll do, which is good for a horror story, because what’s more fearsome than the unknown? Creepier still is the fact Amano will have a very hard time avoiding her, since her diary is basically set up to stalk him. So kudos to the show for starting out with a bafflingly placid date complete with acute bikini top loss, and taking it in the complete opposite direction. Now Amano needs to grow some bullocks.


Rating: 3.5

Ben-To – 03

Yamahara invites Satou and Oshiroi to join the Hounds, made up of “gundogs” who work as a pack to win their quarry. After a tryout with the Hounds, they’re able to get their dinner quickly and easily without any messy combat. But Satou finds it lacking; it’s boring and too easy. The food is far more delicious when he’s won it himself against a superior foe, and sharing it with Oshiroi and Yarizui, so he and Oshiroi decline the invitation and take the bento without their help.

Comparisons with Princess Mononoke are inescapable where Yarizui’s concerned. She’s like an albino verson of her in looks and is referred to as a wolf girl. But the rest of the school has it all wrong in calling her the “Ice Witch”. Once you get to know her and she lets her guard down, she’s a very warm person. Satou doesn’t want to lose that by switching to another club – especially one like the hounds. This week, Satou learns without doubt that he’s meant to be a wolf, not a dog. We think it’s a good move; it all comes down to taking pride in how you get your meals. And these three wolves are fun to watch.

There were other developments: Ume withdraws her objection to Oshiroi’s membership and association with You. Oshiroi gets the keys to the clubroom. And lastly, You’s old friend Shaga ends up in his bed somehow. Looks like next week will bring in The Beauty by the Lake, who most definitely does not resemble Mononoke Hime. Still lovin’ the next episode previews that take place the moment after the episode ends, breaking the fourth wall, and the soundtrack and action sequences continue to rock.


Rating: 4

Boku wa Tomodachi ga Sukunai – 03

(UPDATE: We’ve decided to upgrade this episode’s rating from 3 to 3.5.) Sena gets immersed in an eroge, much to the disdain of Kodaka and Yozoro. Sena then asks Kodaka to teach her to swim, and they have a de facto date at a swim park. He protects her from a group of boys, using his air of delinquency. He then dreams about his best friend from twelve years ago, and remembers something he said to him about quality being more important than quantity with friends. Unbeknownst to him, that he was actually a she…

The club remains only three this week, but we learn more about Kodaka’s past and meet his anime-obsesed sister. I’m glad she’s just cosplaying and not some kind of supernatural being, and his sister and not another harem member. She seems to be extremely dependent on him, so it doesn’t bode well for her that he’s spending more and more time with the club. (Perhaps she’ll start hanging around there?) After a first act in which Yozoro chastizes Sena and makes her read the eroge dialogue aloud, the two girls were basically seperate this week, which was refreshing.

While I find Sena’s request to Kodaka to teach her how to swim was a bit contrived, their day together itself wasn’t that bad. Lots of service, sure, but also lots of characterization and bonding. And even though he’s not the delinquent most of his school makes him out to be, he’s no weakling either, something his childhood friend from the past instilled in him. As to that: Yozoro was that best friend of his, and she’s remembered him all along. Which begs the question: will Kodaka ever figure this out? Considering he thought his friend was a boy and Yozoro is a girl…doubtful. Which is a shame.


Rating: 3.5

Persona 4: The Animation – 03

Yukiko goes missing after appearing on the Midnight Channel very much out of character. Chie races into the otherworld after her, followed close behind by Yu and Yosuke. Once there, Chie is confronted by her doppleganger, who is full of jealosy and resentment for Yukiko, and is content to use her as a doormat. After a battle, the foe morphs into Chie’s first persona, but Yukiko remains at large.

So, we kinda knew this episode would be about Chie gaining her Persona, and we kinda knew that her relationship with Yukiko was not all smiles and sunshine beneath the surface. Chie is a bit of a tomboy, and Yukiko is far more popular with the lads, it would seem. There’s a dark side to us all, and even strong, kind Chie has hers. Unfortunately, her entire battle with that dark side and the monster it turned into was a bit of a dawdle. It was strangling Yosuke far longer than was needed to kill him, for instance, and once Yu summoned the right Persona, dispatching her was, well, really easy.

But then, Persona is a game-based anime, and things start out easy, so it’s understandable. The execution of Chie’s confrontation with herself was fine, although the dopplegangers come off as petty, arrogant assholes more than dire threats to one’s self. And as always, the chemistry between Chie, Yu and Yosuke remains strong; they’re gelling well as both friends and comrades in battle, and are fun to watch. And there’s still a Yukiko to be saved, though lord knows where she is. Her performance on the Midnight Channel was downright bizarre, and we couldn’t make heads nor tails about it. Ah well, next week. Till then, don’t brandish swords in public places!


Rating: 3.5

Working’!! – 03

Souta’s youngest sister Nazuna starts working at Wagnaria, and upstages Aoi. She also gets the wrong idea, telling her writer sister Izume that Popura is his love interest. After seeing a photo, Izume thinks Popura is underage. When Nazuna learns Yamada feels threatened, she breaks a plate and asks for help, boosting Yamada’s confidence.

When it comes down to it, Working!! is a show about nothing, but that nothing is very well-presented. Things happen, certainly, but rarely anything of lasting consequence. No huge conflicts. No villains. No ultimate goal. It’s all about the in-between; the minutiae; the creamy middle. And the details. And so far, Working’s second season has all that down. This week was as pleasant as Nazuna is tall for her age.

This episode focuses a lot on Takanashi’s four sisters, particularly Nazuna and Izume. It’s pretty obvious there are two camps in the Takanashi household: the givers and the takers. Souta, Nazuna and the eldest, Kazue, are the former; while Kozue the flirt and Izume the struggling author are the latter…it’s just interesting how each sibling makes use of their energies, and how the family manages to stick together just fine. Everyone has their role; just like at Wagnaria.

Rating: 3

Tamayura ~hitotose~ – 03

At the Tamayura cafe, Potte & Co. are served delicious, gorgeous food, she is determined to capture it with her Rollei 35S. She isn’t satisfied with her first attempt, but opportunity knocks when Komachi a school friend of her little brother Kou, challenges Norie to a cooking contest to see who can make the best desert for him. As Komachi and Norie lovingly prepare hotcakes and peach jelly for Kou, Potte finds that photographing the process of making food is far more rewarding.

Norie is definitely the most annoying character of the core quartet, but her little rivalry with Kou’s would-be girlfriend is sweet nonetheless, and the series made sure to include Potte as the observer and recorder of their competition. There are some issues with this cafe: how does Potte’s tiny grandmother reach the register? How can Tamayura afford to give away so much food? Also, Maon and Kaoru are basically sidelined this week.

One must set aside such practical matters and just enjoy the happy vibes, which we did. We love food, and we love making food, and hell, we love watching other people making food; especially food we don’t know how to make, because then we learn. So any episode that spends time making food – and does it well, which this did – we’ll be happy. That’s all we ask of light, breezy slice-of-lifes like this: competence and positivity.


Rating: 3.5

Chihayafuru – 03

Chihaya, Wataya (Arata), and Taichi enter the world of competitive 3-on-3 Karuta when they join a local club, who are pleased to have them. Here, Chihaya awakens her talent, Taichi learns teamwork and sacrifice, and the three become friends. But when Taichi is accepted to a far away school and Arata has to leave town to be with his ill grandfather, the golden trio splits apart after competing in a tournament, which they barely lose. Chihaya plays Arata one last time before he moves, and manages to beat him. She vows they’ll never be apart as long as they keep playing Karuta.

That was a god-damn tearjerker at times. We haven’t seen this much vibrant, compelling drama fill a scant twenty-two minutes of airtime in a while. This episode covered both the establishment and the disbanding of Team Chihaya Furu, and really fleshed out the excellent core trio. Taichi was far more likeable, Arata showed his gloating side, and Chihaya was simply fantastic throughout, as she finds her passion and develops her skill for the game, even as her family offers zero encouragement (We don’t care how pretty her sister is, she’s just plain scum).

All these good and bad times almost pass too quickly; but at the same time the series definitely made a bold statement telling so much story in so little time; it means it has a lot more story to tell. After all, we’re still in the past: Chihaya’s in high school now. We’re not sure the next episode will return to the present (there are no previews), but we would say we’re ready. All that needed to be established in the past was deftly, efficiently, and affectingly established. The series needn’t maintain this rapid pace, but if it maintains this quality, it has a chance to join the likes of Hanasaku Iroha and AnoHana as our favorite dramas of the year.


Rating: 4

Phi Brain: Kami no Puzzle – 03

Fellow solver Cubic, known as “Edison”, introduces himself to Kaito, attaching an armband to him that inhibits puzzle-solving. It causes pain when he concentrates. Kaito, Gammon and Nonoha arrive at the next Sage Puzzle, conceived by the giver known as the “City Developer”. They have to solve his puzzle involving finding the numbers 1-16 expressed in features of a nearby park within sixteen minutes or he’ll blow up the city he helped shape. They work together to solve it, with Kaito’s gold armband coming in handy when time is short.

Last week we met Gammon, who isn’t all that appealing a character. He’s just to loud and high strung, and he brings down Kaito too whenever they’re together; their rivalry is simply stupid. This week we’re introduced to Edison, and we can’t say he’s much of an improvement. Like Gammon, we just can’t bring myself to like the lil’ bastard. He does himself no favors with all his ridiculous contraptions, and that awful voice. More general character design gripes: Nonoha usually looks okay, but when she gets too happy, her eyes and mouth too closely resemble a muppet’s (female characters in Fairy Tail also have this problem)…and the lines beneath characters’ eyes is a needless distraction; they should only have those if they’re embarrassed or aroused.

Anyway, the episode wasn’t without its charms: Nonoha solving more of the final puzzle than Gammon was pretty funny, and the puzzle itself, which involved more number math than the last ones, was sufficiently clever. We would hope the stakes are a little lower in the future though; we didn’t believe for a second the city was in any danger. More localized peril is easier to swallow. And now that we know Gammon and Cubic, we’d prefer to see as little of them as possible, thank you very much.


Rating: 3

Bakuman 2 – 03

TRAP’s first chapter ranks third in the Jack polls, which is fine by any measure, but disappointing for Takagi. Mashrio says the only thing for it is to keep plugging away. But their work on the fifth chapter is interrupted by news that Aoki has dumped Nakai to write for NOOGY. Rather than heartbroken, Nakai decides to win her back by drawing outside her window every free minute he has. Just when everyone is about to stage an intervention for Nakai, who is drawing in a snowstorm, Aoki cracks and decides to keep working with him after all. The second chapter of TRAP falls to eighth.

For side characters, Aoki and Nakai are pretty complex. Aoki isn’t just the stone-cold bitch she appears to be on the surface, nor is Nakai a desperate, creepy stalker he appears to be. It’s more complicated than that. There’s no doubt that Nakai likes Aoki very much, and a lot of his actions are stalkeresque, but he has also bet everything on her manga, hideout door. He wants to prove himself to her. But she decides to work with KOOGY so she can tell the story she wants to tell – not bend to the will of Jack editors. Their standoff dominates this episode, and it was fun to see them back in action, along with Fukuda.

That standoff resolves itself without cheating. Aoki isn’t going to call the cops on Nakai, because part of her must know that he’s the best artist for her. Koogy’s all flash and no substance, but Nakai has been finely honing his art almost as long as the likes of Koogy have been alive. The scene where she finally comes outside to apologize is an awesome culmination of all the emotions expressed so far. She admits its her work she feels is inadequate, not his, and promises to do her best for his sake. Then Nakai gets overexcited about her inviting him in, that even manages to elicit a teensy scream from the stoic Aoki. There’s clearly unrequited love at play here, but the manga is more important than that.


Rating: 3.5