Uchouten Kazoku 2 – 05

If I had to pick a single episode from last season that sold me on Uchouten Kazoku’s magical setting and ability to project care free fun, it would be the flying tea house battle. While I have mixed feelings about this season’s episode being about the same thing, there is no doubt that the format works tremendously well. The event pulls many characters into one space, the inevitable fight between Yasaburou and Kinkaku and Ginkaku provides enjoyably silly action, and fireworks (and flight) make for a lovely background for many introspective and contemplative scenes.

In many ways, the festival and action is secondary to a great deal of character development. While Sensei has always shown a soft spot for the tenuki (under his gruff old man treatment) this week puts him at the center of their lives as a wise figure deserving of the respect they always show him. Simply, he makes the older siblings get over their hesitation and confess their affections for each other. It’s gruff but also kind, and includes a brief telling that he did this for Yasa’s parents too. Cast in the warm light of the train car, surrounded by food and family, its a lovely scenes.

Speaking of the train, it was great to see Yajiro’s ability to change into a train looped back to. Not only is it great to see a throw away joke pay off, but it gives Yajiro a vehicle to participate in the narrative when he otherwise would be restricted to the well.

It was also a good choice to have Yajiro totally screw up the beginning of the event, by blasting off too quickly and spilling much of the meal inside his belly. Nothing really goes right for the tenuki. Not even when they are trying to be classy or show their power. It’s a great reminder of their place in the pecking order.

But the big loud emotional turn was Benten’s fight with Nadaime. Having stolen his couch for her own amusement and having never had anyone stand up to her, Benten really went into this with a target painted on her back. Yasaburou even remarks that he knew she would lose the second she lunged at Nadaime. (and it was foreshadowed by the mid episode card, showing ‘where Benten fell’ on the city map)

And as loud as that short fight was, Uchouten Kazoku immediately returns to the quiet, tender, introspection it does so well. Yasaburou and Sensei go to find where Benten has landed and sensei gives her a stern but fatherly speaking to. You are angry. Use it to get stronger. That is all.

The Verdict: Finally, a must watch week! It loops so many threads in together and it does so elegantly. So elegantly I’m not even sure I can put my finger on any one character dominating the story. So elegantly that I’m not sure there really is a antagonist in a traditional sense, as Benten is as much at fault (if not more) than Nadaime. (and in his own way, Nadaime is a far nicer person than she)

The formula is setting in, too, with a repeat of last week’s fake-out ending conflict opening as a non-conflict. (Everyone sucked into the Shoji board just ends up in sensei’s closet) While a strict formula isn’t necessary for a good show (or even good for most shows) having a rhythm is, and that was something Uchouten Kazoku has been sorely lacking.

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Uchouten Kazoku 2 – 04

The Gist: Benten stomps on Nadaime’s freshly ironed shirts, but otherwise leaves without incident. Yasaburou’s older brother’s love interest is revealed and a bit of backstory unfolds revolving around Shoji. Tousen nudges Yasaburou to help his brother hook up with the girl, which he does, and all ends well… except that the love interest is magically sucked into a Shoji board right at the end. Dun dun duuuunnnn.

The Verdict: Despite being a mostly contained ‘drop’ in the story bucket, and not carrying over anything serious from the week before, Uchouten Kazoku brought the magic this week. All the build up to the Shoji tournament, and the final match itself, just worked nicely side-by-side with the character building. I don’t have much else to say I’m affraid — just go watch it!

Uchouten Kazoku 2 – 03

The Gist: Benten returns and crushes Tenmaya, who is both obsessed with and terrified of her. Yasaburou and his mother Tousen visit Tousen’s mother, an ancient white fluffy tanuki, and ask for help turning frog-brother back to normal. The grandmother is blind, kind, and cryptic, but offers some medicine.

Later, Yasaburou and his little brother visit Nadaime’s new location, which is a lovely roof top mansion, and share some afternoon tea. Benten shows up and completely fails to dominate Nadaime. Major magical conflict can not be far off now…

As is often the case, Uchouten Kazoku wandered us through several lovely, dialogue-heavy scenes that straddle the line between inconsequential and deeply magical. However, because Uchouten Kazoku treats its magical settings and characters as everyday occurrences, exposition is kept to a minimum.

What is grandmother’s place in tanuki culture? What are the other tanuki doing around grandmother? Is it a ceremony simply because she is old or is she part of the shrine or something else? Leaving us with a heavily detailed but unknowable scene renders it dreamlike. Captivating.

The rise and fall of Benten is more or less the defining arc this week. As with Nadaime, she abruptly falls from the sky full of power and crushes Tenmaya. While we learn no details about their rivalry, and Benten is almost as interested in Yasaburou’s moon (stolen by Tenmaya) as she is in Tenmaya himself.

Here Benten is full of power and flaunts it. Yasaburou has no course but to ask very nicely for his moon back and Tenmaya has no choice but to shed his fake skin and flee. Benten casually rolls the moon around her fingers and, when she tires of it, simply throws it back into the sky before demanding even more courtesy from Yasaburou and wandering off to visit her master.

That domination comes to a quick end when Benten arrives at Nadaime’s new house and arrogantly lays down on the couch Nadaime had planned to use for his afternoon nap. Always polite, Nadaime asks her to leave and when she will not, he spreads a sheet on the floor and dumps her out. Paying her no mind, he thanks everyone for their visit and gets ready to nap.

The contrast between Nadaime and Benten is rather interesting. Both are powerful and throw their weight around but it is hard to figure out which is ‘good’ or not. Despite her malice and abuse, Benten seems to care for Yasaburou. (At least she cares enough to want his attention) Where as Nadaime, despite being generally polite in dialog, is obviously dismissive of Tenuki in general. He’s tolerant of them, but does not especially desire to have them around.

The Verdict: Despite the masterful craft poured into Uchouten Kazoku, it is not always an exciting nor engaging show to watch. Again, as last week, episode three was full of action, characters and conflict, but it lacked a sense of purpose. Nadaime’s shirt ironing, Yasaburou’s grandmother, and Benten playing with the moon were all interesting curiosities but, not counting Nadaime and Benten’s cliffhanger showdown, nothing consequential actually happened.

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