Uchouten Kazoku 2 – 02

The Gist: Akadama and Nidaime’s top-dog Tengu fight ends before it even begins, with Akadama falling off the building and Nidaime not seeing his father being worth the effort to fight. For whatever reason, Akadama takes this as a victory, which Yasaburou thinks is patently absurd.

Though perhaps that’s Nidaime’s point in not calling himself a Tengu? The very definition of Tengu may project an arrogance that he finds unnecessary and unproductive.

Meanwhile, a noodle shop opens on the roof of the shopping arcade and the owner wont take it down. Apparently, he can extend his chin as a whip, amongst various other illusions and even Yasaburou’s foolishness is not enough to win the day. Actually, Yasaburou ends up a hypnotized bear, and is nearly shot by the police…

This conflict leads to a few passing confrontations between Yasaburou and his formerly betrothed, who’s angsty at him for a variety of things but, most obviously, that they are no longer engaged. Even though Yasaburou is the only one who doesn’t realize there’s no reason for them not to be engaged anymore…

It also leads to the introduction of a painter who doesn’t want to sell his paintings and reveals the name and identity of the noodle shop owner. Tenmaya, who appears magical but is also consistently referred to as just human, apparently climbed out of a painting of hell because the painter illustrated a Buddha holding a spider’s thread out to the damned… it’s unclear who the painting belongs to or what the significance of all of this is. (Tenmaya doesn’t seem to want anything from life except amusement)

What is clear is that Yasaburou probably shouldn’t have tried to scare Tenmaya by turning into a demon, which is where the episode ends. A shotgun pointed right in our poor foolish hero’s face…

The official theme this week is that we are in the age in which Man plays tricks on Tenuki. However, for me, the story was more about the world not being able to move forward. (or not being aware of its lack of forward development)

Akadama is not only stuck in the tradition of Tengu, but also stuck on his conflict with his son. Despite his rejection of Tengu, Nadaime hasn’t moved ahead himself, which is evident from his characterization of Akadama being pathetic because he interacts with Tenuki, and Nadaime’s somewhat vaguely contradictory like/disrespect of Yasaburou throughout their encounters.

Yasaburou is stuck in last season’s position of servitude to the community, pranking around without purpose, and with not advancing his relationships with family and his love interest. He doesn’t exactly have a strong narrative reason to have changed, but he hasn’t changed regardless.

The Verdict: Uchouten Kazoku takes a casual approach to narrative. It just sorta wanders all over the place, touching on many different story threads, but without any sense of specific purpose. This very much fits the nature of Tenuki, and the experience is enjoyable enough due to the odd and specifically weird situations, but it does risk becoming so whimsical as to lose my attention.

It’s already somewhat hard to follow, due to the gigantic cast, many of which can shape-change and many others who simply don’t get enough story time for me to remember who they are or what their objectives may be.

For now, the magic has me under it’s spell. However, like Akadama, I too miss Benten and the sense of specific adversarial focus she brings. Hopefully, we’ll see her sooner than later…

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

Koe de Oshigoto! 2 OVA

At school, Kanna starts noticing Kaizu, class rep, regularly staring at her more than usual. After class, he asks her if she’s an eroge seiyu, horrifying her. It turns out, he is one too; his father is the president of a game company specializing in eroge. Kanna is then asked to perform eroge voice work with him, overlapping her work and school as never before. With his support, she turns out another great performance, and experiences many firsts, including first holding of a boy’s hand and first hug.

I’ve held off watching this series’ second installment because I assumed it would simply repeat what was already done in the first. But I did enjoy its technical aspects, as it employed a really vivid palette, heavily-stoked (no pun intended) character design, a solid soundtrack, and a brisk pace, so I gave it a chance. Turns out, the dynamic of Kanna working with a classmate who’s also in the “family business” keeps things fresh. Kaizu isn’t a rude, lewd jester like some of the other staff. He’s learned through experience how to keep work and reality separate.

Of course, Kanna’s problem is, the key to her effectiveness is actually becoming pleasured while doing the voice work. Her sister calls it a trance. Putting aside moral considerations (let’s face it, anyone who can’t really shouldn’t watch this), that’s where Kaizu and Kanna’s styles diverge: he won’t usually get off from work…until know. See, he likes Kanna, and she likes him. That’s reality. Acting out what people do when they really like each other is their job. It’s a very bizarre situation they’re in; requiring courage and maturity Kanna didn’t know she had. If Sawako had to say stuff like that to Shouta, her head would probably pop off.


Rating: 3

Dantalian no Shoka 2

This week was a clever little ball of yarn that gradually, confidently unravelled to reveal its mystery. Huey jumps to the conclusion that a phantom book of some kind is responsible for the curse that is keeping a young woman trapped in a house and murdering anyone near her. The truth is more interesting.

In reality, the curse was bestowed upon the lady by her grandmother. For generations, the females in her family suffered extremely abusive upbrinings, leading them to grow into homicidal maniacs. The family patriarch – a music box master – built a golem to conceal evidence of the murders. Huey and Dalian work together to uncover the mystery.

This series is full of excellent little details, like the 72 bells of the clock tower running the golem, the book in bookish Huey’s pocket protecting him from the crazy woman’s knife; and the subtle but obvious romantic tension between the dashing Huey and eerily beautiful Dalian, who are proving to have great chemistry. The series also promises a diverse array of mysteries in which Dalian’s inner library will prove vital to both the solving, and Huey’s survival.


Rating: 3.5

Kami-sama no Memo-cho 2

This week Narumi settles into his role as Alice’s manservant. As I mentioned last week, he’s surprisingly gung-ho about it, considering how it disrupts the ordinary life he was having. But unlike Huey and Dalian, this isn’t even close to a relationship of equals. Alice’s powers of observation and deduction are vastly superior to Narumi’s.

Narumi’s strength is his heart, his kindness, his courage, and his inoffensive and harmless presence. All of these skills serve him well as Alice’s assistant. He even surprises himself when he ignores Souchiro’s warning to stay out of what could end up a very bloody Yakuza case. He can’t, because he promised the client – Meo – he’d help her find her father.

Everyone has something to do this week, and despite the serious case involving the rogue money launderer and his unwitting Yakuza-bait daughter, there are still moments of levity. Ayaka and Meo invade Alice’s “cave” to wash her hair, while the reason Narumi ends up at Souchiro’s is to fix the PC his underlings filled with pr0n and malware. Hiro, Major, and Tetsu all do their jobs.

They aren’t bothered that their lives are on the line – and, Narumi has learned, that’s the case with him too. The client comes first. Rating: 4

Blood-C 2

This week Saya continues to juggle her cute, klutzy, kind side at school with her ass-kickin’ superhero shrine chick persona by night. It continues to be a most intriguing juxtaposition of lives. The school scenes are as light and breezy as her battle scenes are dark, exciting, and genuinely scary at moments.

After all, her mother used to do what she does, and she died doing it. You can tell her doting pop hates putting her in harms way, but apparently there’s no way around it; only she can wield the sacred sword. This week she fought two; a humanoid demon and a giant evil plant. She won, but got more and more messed up.

Her extracurricular activities are leaving marks that questions will be asked about, and somehow I’m doubtful Saya’s not looking forward to talking to her friends about such things. So far, she’s fighting the elder bairns deep in the forest, isolated from civilization. But that could change, and with it her secrets may be revealed. Rating: 3.5

Mawaru Penguindrum 2

“Which holes do her legs go through?”
“Fool, those holes lead to the Cosmos.”

-Shouma/Kanba @ a lingerie store

Good lord, that was…brilliant. Awesome in every way. If anything, better than the first episode, since some things were already established. This just added more. More places, more people, more layers of story, more comedy, more mysteries; more lingerie and more stalking!

It’s all in the details: For instance, there’s a little animated PSA on the Sky Metro in which warns against groping in no uncertain terms…then Shouma is accused of just that, groping a girl on the train because his preguin friends (whom no one else can see) did so. The girl just happens to be friends with the person Shouma and Kanba are tailing – Ringo Oginome – the proverbial apple in the opening and ending sequences – which one really looks forward to, like the cherry atop the proverbial sundae. Ringo loves fate.

Hardly anything we’d seen from Ringo seemed all that suspicious, but it turns out she’s far from normal, compulsively stalking a teacher she’s fallen for (lying on a blanket under his house listening to him) as the brothers stalk her (with their penguins acting as their eyes and ears). While Himari is wearing her penguin hat, she has another “Incoming Message From The Big Giant Head” moment, ordering the bros to fetch the Penguindrum from Ringo. Problem is, she doesn’t tell them what it is.

So now, having followed Ringo, and learned the stalked is also a stalker, they have to gain possession of something they know not what from someone who is clearly unstable. Hell, she herself could be the drum thing. Who knows? All I know is, this episode was fantastic, and I can’t wait for the next one. Rating: 4

No. 6 2

First of all, yowza, this episode contained (courtesy of Safu) probably the most forward proposal for sex I’ve heard in an anime since Mezzo Forte, which was at least part-porn. Second of all, good grief, four frikkin’ years have gone by! We never see the consequences of Shion harboring Nezumi in realtime, only his recollection of it. Basically, his life is ruined; he and his mom are kicked out of No.6 and he’s reduced to working as a park supervisor in “lost town”, far from glittering Chronos.

It was definitely gutsy to let so much time pass. Safu’s role still seems unclear to me, as Shion only sees her as a friend, and she’s leaving for No.5 to study abroad for still another two years. Meanwhile, Lost Town is just as authoritarian as No.6, and when Shion speaks out of turn regarding a mysterious and gruesome death, the government locks him up for malcontentedness.

Fortunately, Nezumi has been watching him from afar, and rescues him in the nick of time. They run into the woods and eventually make it outside the walls of the city to “the real world”, a bleak, sickly, dystopian urban growth sticking to the outside of the wall. It would seem Shion’s journey has just begun. Oh yeah, and what the heck was up with those neck bees? Rating: 3.5

Kamisama Dolls 2

So far Kamisama Dolls is serving up a nice balance of drama, comedy, and action. The characters are appealing, the design is clean and unfussy, and the still-subtle sci-fi/fantasy angle is working so far. In her second week in Tokyo, Kuga finds himself far more involved in the affairs of his village than he would prefer.

There’s a good reason for that, and it’s something he’s kept mum from Hibino so far, but we’ve seen in traumatic flashbacks: Temperment-challenged Aki apparently used his kakashi to murder a bunch of villagers, and Kuga couldn’t do anything to stop him, even though he was Kukuri’s Seki back then. Claiming he was ‘fired’ for lack of talent, Kukuri is now Utao’s kakashi (I’m not losing you with all the terms now, am I ?;)

Despite being a little kid, I’m actually enjoying Utao’s character. There’s something really awesomely amusing about the way she gestures emphatically and even mimes while controlling Kukuri, whether she’s using him(her?) to rescue Kuga’s fellow university students from a fire, or playing PS2.

About those students: one of them was Kuuko, a friend of Hibino’s, who is a “true scientist” who briefly saw the kakashi who carried her to safety. If she wasn’t potentially nosy enough, her pop is a detective who has now twice noticed Kuga’s presence in the aftermath of strange occurances. After just two weeks, Kuga and Utao are having serious issues keeping their issues quiet and private. And Aki still lurks, who will make things even more difficult.

So yeah, nice well-rounded episode where the characters bond a little more, the story moves forward, and a couple new faces were introduced. Kuga’s quest for Hibino hits an apparent roadblock when under inquiry from Kuuko, she flatly denies they’re dating. However, there’s hope for Kyohei: she can’t help but want to know more about him and his mysterious past. Rating: 3.5

Ikoku Meiro no Croisée 2

As the tiny Yune darts around learning about cheese, fresh bread, breakfast, spoons, and evil department stores, I couldn’t help but conclude than she, Claude and Oscar were having way more fun than I was having watching it. That’s not to say it isn’t fun; the episode was pleasant enough, but now we’re two weeks in and we still have no idea who Yune is and why she accompanied Oscar to France.

Perhaps that’s unfair. In a season full of complex narratives and sprawling casts, it can be tempting to try to fit this round peg into a square hole. No such luck; this series is unapologetic as it is diligent in its detailed depiction of ordinary everyday life in this time and place. The nearest thing to a looming conflict seems to be the big-box store, which looks like an elegant destination for shoppers, but a cancer to local specialty store owners who will die off one by one in its price-cutting shadow.

Will that shadow gradually move in and ruin the light and breezy mood of this series? Unlikely. One thing’s certain: Claude has warmed up to Yune much quicker than I envisioned. So far, this is about a girl in a strange new land, but knows the language, has made friends, and is discovering the foreign culture. What happens next? Rating: 3

The World God Only Knows II 11

This week’s cold open is a stark contrast to last week’s. Both are of Nagase in her apartment; last week’s was full of confidence and energy, while this week’s was full of doubt and lethargy, feeling that she can’t do anything right, that she’s a bad teacher; that she can’t fix Keima. But she doesn’t head to school, she heads to a wrestling match to clear her head. Of course, Keima is waiting there for her with a ticket for the exact same seat, courtesy of Elsie. This was a deliciously devious way to get Jun on the same level as Keima, by basically giving her no choice but to share the narrow seat with him.

During this intimate match, Keima starts to get why she likes it so much; it’s a total effort. Not just the wrestlers, but the officials, staff, and spectators all contribute to create a passion you don’t often see elsewhere. Having been to numerous sporting events, I can vouch for the excitement of being among as many as 70 thousand fellow fans. Ideals do exist in the real world – and these events are one of them. Things are black-and-white; one side is good, the other evil; and if you don’t win, you lose.

For most of the episode, Keima is just upsetting Jun, but there’s most definitely a method to his madness. Jun puts her class out by entering them all into a marathon, and when they balk and deride her excessive care for them to bond, she accuses them of being selfish. This reinforce’s Keima’s theory that like the basketball team in the past, Jun is always “crushing” people with her ideals, and they’re always balking at the pressure she puts on them. But Keima doesn’t think she should change – he thinks she should keep doing it. Why worry what others think? He doesn’t.

No one can tell you how to live your life, and if you want to live it by trying to push and fire up and motivate others to follow your ideals, so be it. There are costs, of course; not everyone will respect or even like you, but life is full of challenges, and like Jumbo Tsuruma, one cannot back down from them, but must push forward. By comforting her when she needed it most and restoring her faith in herself and her ideals, Keima helps Jun Nagase end her student teaching stint on a high note. He also nicely sets up a scenario in which she could see him as something other than a student (literally when she’s done the stint), thus making it okay for her to kiss him, something she couldn’t do while at school. This releases the loose soul, and ends a final conquest arc that was as unique as it was enjoyable. Rating: 4

The World God Only Knows II 9

How does the ketchup stay so perfect?

Jun Nagase: twenty-one years old; pro-wrestling fan; student teacher. She lives her life by the ideals of Jumbo Tsuruma: life is full of challenges; face them with everything you’ve got. Nagase is extremely stoked and confident about being the best damn teacher she can be. The male students salivate over her. The female students admire her. But there’s one student who she instantly identifies as a problem child: Keima Katsuragi. Keima is her project. And when she’s suddenly infected with a loose soul, she becomes his, much to his dismay.

Keima knows teachers from dating sims. They’re the toughest, most time-consuming conquests, due to the inherent problems with the student-teacher relationship. Clawing one’s way onto equal footing is not easy, and that’s just the first step; after becoming legitimate friends, he must take it a step further to love. As long as he stays away from Nagase, he can reach that equal footing sooner. But being her project, she gets right in his face and makes the first move. For the first time in a while, Keima is genuinely flustered.

This episode would make no sense whatsoever to a God Only Knows noob, because they’d assume everything Nagase assumes about Keima. She has no idea what his philosophy or M.O. is, and so formulates her own: he’s a shy, bored, troubled youth who needs her help. She even manages to reveal something in common between them: she loves pro-wrestling more than MMA because she values ideals over reality, just as he does. Aki Toyosaki brings a surefooted, bubbly exuberance to the role without coming off as annoying. With both participants on missions to reform/court the other, this should make for a most interesting final conquest. Rating: 4