Mawaru Penguindrum – 16

This week delves into the life and the past of Masako Natsume of the incredibly wealthy Natsume Clan. Her grandfather Sahei seemed determined that his family never be happy, and drove his son, her and Mario’s father away. She continually dreams of killing Sahei in elaborate ways, but when she wakes up, he’s always out in the yard practicing with a wooden sword. A poorly-stripped blowfish finally does him in, rather than any action by Masako, but he returns from the grave through Mario and challenges her to a similar blowfish challenge. She eats both plates, and while her body works out the poison, she dreams of a train where Kanba and her father are now servants of Dr. Sanetoshi, chosen to “put the world back on track…”

This series seems to know when a character is getting either too mysterious or too annoying, and then comes up with an episode that lifts that character up to a far more sympathetic and likable stature. Enter Masako, who finally gets some meaty backstory. She comes from strong stock; as not even death by blowfish could keep her gramps from messing with her life. As per usual, the devil’s in the details this week, and all the details here work.

From Strauss’ Blue Danube playing over a day in Masako’s life, to the hilariously random ways she dreams of killing Sahei, to Sahei’s equally hilarious and ridiculous feats of strength, and all his misogynist “Saheisms” like this nugget: “I like my tea like I like my women: as young as possible.” But also telling is how much Masako takes after the grandfather she hates. She too has a will of steel. And at the end of the day, her ultimate goal is the same as her stalkee Kanba’s: to protect her younger sibling and have a happy family. But it would seem she’s not quite ready to make the same sacrifice he made to save Himari. She wisely does not trust Sanetoshi, and neither do we, at least not until his backstory is told…


Rating: 4

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Ao no Exorcist 16

The last fifteen weeks have basically been building up to this: Rin’s friends now know the truth: Rin is the son of satan. I honestly didn’t know how all the various characters would react to this news, but fortunately for him, most of them sided with Yukio and Shiemi, who want to save him. The new Paladin, Arthur August Angel, shows up to take Rin into custody and put Pheles on trial with the Grigori court for treason.

This episode keeps two distinct story points – Rin’s trial and his friends’ efforts to repair the sword that seals his blue flames – and it keeps them both interesting. During the trial, Mephisto Pheles goes to bat in Rin’s defense, and though we still aren’t sure we can trust him, it’s clear he’s the only one who can save Rin. He and his angry brother Amaimon, who shows up just in time for Pheles to suggest they sic Rin on him to prove he will be useful fighting against Satan & Co.

Yukio also does Rin a solid by telling everyone the whole story, and how Rin himself has only known about his lineage for a few months. Shiemi in particular is, predictably all for saving him no matter who is dad is, but it was good to see at least one dissenting voice…but to my surprise it was neither Izumo or Bon! In fact, Bon recognizes the sword as once belonging to his temple, and suggests a trip to Kyoto to get it fixed by the 11th Yoshikuni, a girl with purple hair and a really weird accent.

The mission to retrieve jewel steel for the repairs is interrupted by a battle with Mara demons who try to lead Yukio and Bon astray, but Renzo and Izumo are right there to snap them out of it. In all, this was one of the best Ao no Exorcists to date. It was action-packed, well-paced, never boring, and was a very good payoff to all the building up to date. But it isn’t over: Rin still has to wake up and defeat Amaimon, and his sword still needs to be fixed. But so far so good.


Rating: 4

Sket Dance 16

What a weird episode…for Sket Dance, anyway. What starts out as just another slapstick fest where the hilarious voice-acting really carries the day, turns into a more conventional school romance drama by the end. Bossun feels left out when Himeko and Switch join bands for the upcoming school rock fesitval (the origins of which are steeped in rich historical bunk).

However, once he picks up a guitar (later a bass), he turns out to have a knack for it, even though something as basic as tuning initially escapes him. Frustrated with the conditions in the club room, he “escapes” to the school’s music room, where Sugisaki Ayano bumps into him. She’s a very cute, earnest, friendly violin prodigy who helps him practice. The two establish an immediate rapport, and find it very easy to open up and discuss things with one other.

When their session wraps up with the promise of another one tomorrow, Bossun returns to the club room to find a very uncharacteristically serious Himeko on the phone with Yabasawa (we don’t quite learn what she’s on about). So what’s going on here? What’s with the sudden shift to playing the show straight? I don’t know, but it was deftly handled. Bossun is funny when he’s trying to be, but showed good range this week.


Rating: 3.5

Hanasaku Iroha 16

It’s lonely at the top…or at least one step below the top. Like Yosuke last week, the manager’s son Enishi is a boss – not the boss – at the moment, but one day Kissuiso – or whatever’s left of it – will be his. Not just his inn but the entire town of Yunosagi is struggling to survive in the cutthroat Japanese hospitality industry.

He hired Takako as a consultant to help come up with crazy ideas to create revenue and/or buzz. And to her credit, Takako hasn’t torn the traditions of the inn to shreds. And now it seems she’s helped reel in a director interested in making a film on the premises, and even letting the staff audition for roles. Nothing like a film to create buzz for a location.

This plan is not without risk, and there’s no sure guarantee it will help the inn. Enishi even shoos away other innkeepers wanting a piece of the action, firmly stating it will be a Kissuiso film alone. To some, this means putting the PR fate of the entire town on his inn’s – and his – shoulders. But in doing so, assuming success, Enishi may finally step out of his sister Satsuke’s (Ohana’s mom’s) vast shadow.

His mother seems to be giving him his chance. If he screws up, it will only justify his lack of faith in himself, and (what he perceives as) her lack of faith in him. Looking at her with typical younger sibling’s eyes, Satsuke seemed to him like a more advanced form of human (note how dolphin-like she seems in his daydreams) – which is particularly amusing considering we (and Ohana) know all too well how flawed she truly is. But whether he’s chasing reality or merely an ideal, Enishi has never seemed more assertive.

Oh yeah, the girls just play with the hose in the drained pool this week…so they’re suddenly twelve now…I guess. Rating: 3.5