Kami-sama no Memo-cho 4

Inside, beneath her hard exterior, Min knows she doesn’t make the best ramen in the world. Her father never intented to pass either his business or his recipes down to her, since their relationship was apparently strained. But he disappeared, so she took over Hanamaru anyway.

While she knows she’s not the best, she’s fiercely proud and strives to be better, and doesn’t appreciate ramen snobs taking just one sip then paying. Of course, that snob turns out to be her father, essentially checking in to see how she’s progressing. After all, artists like constructive critique. They don’t like people just walking out without explaining themselves.

The NEET Detectives’ case was very close to home this week, and without any Yakuza or clients-of-the-week, the core cast could shine. An apparent stalker is revealed – quite incredibly – as a bigwig designer at a lingerie company who simply cannot allow Min to walk around confine her “Taj Mahal” bust in something as vulgar and a sarashi. It’s silly, and allows for some fanservice, but the guy says he’s an artist – like Min, only with underwear, not ramen.

Artists can get hung up on things very easily, and are driven by some invisible force to achieve their goals, no matter how ludicrous. This episode really fleshed out Min a little more, giving her some background and depth; she previously hadn’t been much more than Narumi’s stern, cantankerous boss. Here’s hoping we can look forward to more character stories peppered in between cases – or mixed in with them.


Rating: 3.5

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No. 6 4

I have to say, I just wasn’t impressed with this week’s No. 6 outing. Essentially, Nezumi sends word to Shion’s mom (via rat) that he’s alive, and she sends word back of a friend of hers who also lives in the West District. He also happens to be a pimp who dresses like Pee Wee Herman.

Shion is certainly a fish out of water here, as everyone runs their mouth in a foul, inpolite manner, which mortifies him. But even after his appearance-changing ordeal last week, he’s still a rather listless, directionless, weak kid. If this place is so horrible – and we haven’t seen anything to prove otherwise – why the hell would he want to stay?

In a word, Nezumi. But Nezumi was just one-note this week, acting like an asshole most of the time. He clearly likes/loves Shion, or else he wouldn’t have done everything he has for him to this point; saving his life for the umpteenth time. These two seme very close, both in a brotherly way, but also with undertones of romance. But that, and everyone’s motivations and goals, still seem distant and vague, despite this series being more than a third complete.


Rating: 3

Blood-C 4

This is such a schizophrenic show, but that’s why I love it. The light high school scenes remain as bubbly as ever, though Saya’s classmates are aware of the missing (now dead) baker. But the night battle with the elder bairn(s) this week are more intense than ever, with MBS seeing the need to censor some of the more disagreeable gore. Saya was constantly on her toes, and it truly looked like she could lose this time around.

The last bairn she killed told her to “honor the covenant.” She dutifully tells her father this, and he basically tells her not to listen to their lies; it’s part of their tactics. But this new one – an evil Big Bird flanked by two acid-spewing sidekicks, has a lot more to say. The covenant apparently amounts to letting his kind get away with eating a few people here and there (which he does), in exchange for not bothering Saya’s kind. He dismisses Saya as nothing but her daddy’s tool.

Saya goes all red-eyed and manages to take out the bird-headed menace, but not before he takes three victims – villagers she wasn’t able to save. Not only was this the toughest and most taxing battle to date; she wasn’t able to fulfill her promise to protect everyone. And now her head is full of all this “covenant” talk, despite her father wanting her to fight, not think. As for Fumito…her just kinda creeped me out this episode. What is he hiding?


Rating: 4

Mawaru Penguindrum 4

One of this series’ many strengths is its excellent, almost neurotic attention to detail. Every frame is replete with incidental sights, sounds, and conversations, some of which turn up later (or earlier, in awesomely-presented flashbacks). Case in point: Ringo’s friend mentioning Kanba dumping an actress like “she was no big deal” last week. Not only do we meet this actress, but learn that Kanba has been set up for an ambush by her and two other women scorned, which hell hath no fury than.

But Kanba and Himari make only brief appearances on the periphery of this episode. This is primarily a Shoma and Ringo affair. Kanba orders him to tag along with her and sneak a look at her diary – stalking in plain view, as it were. And naturally, Ringo’s day plans include a birdwatching date in the park with Tabuki. Much to her chagrin, Tabuki has invited Yuri, his gorgeous blonde actress friend (lotta actress love interests in this, innit?), and with Shoma by her side, it’s practically a double date.

She and Shoma even swap clothes after a skunk attack – a skunk that was reported on the news on tv in the background earlier in the episode. While I was initially weary of Ringo’s stalking craziness (and her multiple elaborate daydreams that end with her screaming), I really liked her in this episode, and I’m fully behind her quirky but sweet character. She’s gonna make happen what’s written in her diary, and she does not give a shit who or what stands in her way. And just when I thoughYuri was too perfect, she calls Ringo out; warning her she hasn’t a chance with Tabuki. Mwrow!

Of course, while things that are written in her diary have always ended up happening, they hardly ever do quite in the way she envisions in those daydreams. It was written that she’d kiss Tabuki by a certain time, which she cheats by jumping into the drink to warrant rescue and mouth-to-mouth. But it’s Shoma who rescues and “kisses” her, not Tabuki. It matters not; she believed it was Tabuki, so in her mind, the fate written in the diary was realized.


Rating: 4

Usagi Drop 4

Daikichi is feeling more confident by the day about taking care of Rin, and not only finds his grandfather’s will, but also the phone number of Rin’s mother, Masako, gramps’ maid. We only hear two words from her at the very end, but she certainly sounds quite young. Watching what a bright and beautiful girl Rin is and how brightly she could shine in the future, Daikichi can’t help but be angry with Misako. Why did she bail? Was she not ready? Too embarassed?

There are still questions that need answering, but we do get some answers this week. Gramps obviously loved Rin, and didn’t want Misako to be ostracized either for conceiving Rin or for running away. He just wanted to make sure somebody who loved Rin would take care of her. And that’s surely the case. Daikichi may not be a parenting expert, but his heart’s in the right place and he’s committed to doing everything the right way. He isn’t going to let Rin want for anything…within reason. No lipstick yet!

Beyond the maternal drama, there’s great slice-of-life this week, as Daikichi learns the benefits of having a kid – you tend to meet other parents, some of whom may also be single, and attractive, in the case of Rin’s friend Kouki’s mother. And everything about scene when he finally goes out drinking – with Rin in tow – to a party for work. Gotou is adorable here, and the scene where she and Daikichi greet each other – both with shy children hiding between their legs – was also pretty great.


Rating: 3.5

Kamisama Dolls 4

BAM!…the peril is taken up a couple of notches like so many punches to the wall. Kuuko has completely the wrong idea about Aki, who easily escapes her clutches with a most surprising attack that slices off the tip of her air gun, along with her top and bra. This is good service because it fits Aki’s character: he’d totally disarm her in this manner to humiliate her, because that’s how he gets his kicks.

Kuuko tries to turn the tables with a stun gun (clever girl), but misjudges the voltage. Aki would’ve killed Kuuko at this point if Kuga hadn’t shown up with Utao and Hibino in the nick of time. After finally egging Kuga on to start whaling on him (by suggesting Hibino resembled their sensei), Aki turns tail, but when they split up to find him he doubles back. Poor Kuuko…

It’s good to see Kuga finally getting worked up about something, and Hibino seems to agree – stopping him from breaking his hand on a wall, she exhibits genuine care for him, and their relationship is very slowly progressing in the midst of all this chaos. Plus…he did kinda see her ‘nakked. Big step, that.

Of course, the big news is the formal introduction of…well, Utao’s twin/clone?? While Utao is naive and clumsy, but good, this other Utao is slick, mocking, and kinda evil. He tried to kill her last week, and now it seems he just enjoys toying with her. Neither she nor Kuga knew he existed but along with Koushiro and Aki, Kuga and Utao’s hands are now officially full, and Kuga can kiss his ordinary life goodbye.


Rating: 3.5

Morita-san wa Mukuchi 4

Mayu still hasn’t talked, but she made me want to eat grilled eel. That’s good for a 2.5, right? Also, a chain of sorts was broken; the four girls do something that seems oddly suggestive from a distance, but this time, there are no guys to comment on it. Also, I don’t believe this was in the OVA, so we must be in original material territory now! Unless I just forgot…


Rating: 2.5

Ikoku Meiro no Croisée 4

Ah, it’s time for our weekly fix of period clash-of-cultures slice-of-life, with this episode bringing the blonde and annoying Alice Blanche into the picture. She’s an aristocratic fanatic of all things Oriental; though I couldn’t call her a Japonophile like myself because she’s simply too ignorant about Japanese culture to make a determination either way.

Anyway, I may have been too harsh on Claude’s manner with Yune; at least he treats her like a human. Upon laying eyes on her, Alice treats poor Yune like a cute pet, or a doll come to life. She also treats her like a slave to be purchased, and later tries to bribe her into living at her mansion. She almost succeeds, as the deal includes her prized kimono and a private bath, something Yune has been missing since she arrived in Paris. Baths were only a daily thing for the very rich in France. They still are, too…haha I kid. Sumimasen!

Anyway I’m not that optimistic about Alice as she seems almost to selfish and stupid to live, but I still enjoyed this episode. It contained a lot more comedy than before, and also chibi cuts, which were employed liberally, though not ad nauseum. I also continue to enjoy the rich Parisian scenery, and hope that Yune – and we along with her – gets to explore more of the grand city. And Claude learns to enjoy Japanese cuisine…’cause he’s really missing out!


Rating: 3.5

Ao no Exorcist 4

When Rin accompanies Yukio to the city’s premiere magical supply store (and is told to wait outside), he happens upon a very loved and well-tended garden. The tender is a new character, Shiemi, (voiced by Hana Kanazawa). She’s a pretty young thing, but Rin’s sudden appearence startles her. She also can’t walk due to a debilitating malady in her legs that resembles roots. Still, she spends her days (and nights) tending the garden on her knees.

Yukio, charged with discovering the cause and attempting to cure Shiemi, deduces that a demon from one of the plants in the garden is crippling Shiemi, keeping her confined there. Shiemi doesn’t mind, because she feels guilty for leaving her grandmother there one day, then returning to find a trellis has fallen on her, killing her. She vows to never let the garden wither; this benefits the demon.

The obvious solution is to burn it all to the ground, thus revealing the demon, but that’s out of the question, so instead Yukio helps Shiemi recall it was a pansy that spoke to her. When the demon fully possesses Shiemi and becomes a giant Pansy monster (not unlike a plant-based FF boss), Yukio demonstrates the advantage of bullets filled with “nutrients”, while Rin proves his usefullness by slicing the flower demon to bits. Fully recovered, Shiemi predictably shows up in Yukio and Rin’s exorcism class; now one of the gang. Rating: 3.5

[C]: Control: The Money and Soul of Possibility 4

Yoga’s opponent turns out not to be his father, but one of his professors, Ebara-sensei. Thanks to quick thinking from Mishu, Yoga is able to defeat him, and he learns exactly what defeat means. The fight was continually dotted with a scene in the real world where Ebara’s wife is in the class, pregnant with their third child. But when Yoga meets with Ebara after class, his wife isn’t pregnant anymore, and they have no other children. For Ebara, those children were the future he put on collateral when he became an Entre.

Yoga feels terrible, but Ebara doesn’t blame him; he lost fair and square, but he will have to live with the consequences. Interestingly, the only other person with memories he ever had children is Yoga, his opponent. So he doesn’t want Yoga to lose. Moreover, Mikuni has created an organization – the Starling Guild – that seeks to maximize profit by minimizing the effect of deal outcomes on the real world. Now it’s more clear why Yoga’s dad committed suicide – he had gained so much, that when he went bankrupt, so much of his world changed, he couldn’t deal. Mikuni seeks to avoid that, and puts on quite a show doing just that.

For him, deals is more about winning and losing. It’s about preventing Midas Bank from overly influencing real world events. When Starling Guild has 50% share – and the promise of never going bankrupt is a good recruiting tool – they believe they can start influencing events in the financial world, turning the tables so to speak. What is interesting is that Masakaki allows this behavior; you’d think he’d want to amass as much “future” as possible.

Yoga is weary of his potential, much to the chagrin of his asset – but a lot of that is due to the guilt of defeating people and what it means. He isn’t heartless. So his goal in future deals will not be to “win” outright, but strive to simply “not lose” and thus not totally ruin his opponents. Rating: 4

The World God Only Knows II 4

The Haqua mini-arc reaches a somewhat underwhelming conclusion, for no other reason than Haqua herself didn’t turn out to be that interesting after all, and the big bad was essentially a giant cotton ball, with strings connecting it to more than a dozen (the number kept changing) troubled students. The whole practical procedure for capturing loose souls is also a little hokey, what with the giant glass jar. How hard could it be to hold onto a jar and tug when it starts sucking the soul in?

Yet apparently Haqua, who studied hard and tested well in school, isn’t up to this task, which is why the soul has gotten so much bigger. Also, while usually Keima had to win the hearts of the loose soul-infected girls, not only are none of the students individually addressed here, but Keima has absolutely nothing to do (they even cut to him a couple times so he can say this). When Haqua herself allowed the loose soul to possess her, it’s up to Elcie, not Keima, to cheer her up and snap her out of it. While Elcie told Haqua what she needed to hear, it’s kind of silly how easily he released her, considering the extent of the loose soul’s power and the depth of Haqua’s angst.

I’d like to think Haqua has grown here, but if she returns, I’m sure she’ll still have a smug, superior attitude towards Keima and Elcie, despite evidence to the contrary at the end, when Keima thanks them and admits she misjudged them. After all, that is her character: she’s the high-and-mighty section cheif, while Elcie was just her school acolyte, and Keima is a useless human. But if she is a little more humble, I’ll be surprised. Next week, I hope Keima has something to say or do. Rating: 2.5

Hanasaku Iroha 4

The school trimester starts, and Ohana ends up in the same class as Minko and Nako. There she quickly learns how a school full of teenagers from the boonies react when a “Tokyo Girl” arrives. She never gave it much thought before now, and neither did we. She even seems to have a boyfriends – of sorts, though she’ll always deny it. That said, all her little inner retorts to the rapidfire comments of the classmates are quite funny…and true too.

A beautiful girl comes to release her from the oglers. She turns out to be Ohana’s sworn enemy, Yuina. Well, not really, just another heiress to a profitable bathhouse, Fukuya. She’s the first to approach Ohana as a regular girl. Ohana learns a lot at school, between the classes: Minko is very popular with the fellas, but rejects them all before they can even get their confessions out.

In her resentful interactions with Ohana throughout the episode, she ends up slipping up, attributing the same qualities she sees in her ideal man to Tohru. This shocks Ohana, who has always seen Tohru as a tiresome tease. But Minko is serious, and Tohru likely has no idea, especially when the twist arrives: Yuina is dating him! All this human drama is nicely punctuated by the presence of a very bold grey heron who is always bumping into Ohana. I’m not sure if there’s some symbolism in that, but it’s intriguing all the same. Rating: 3.5

Tokyo Trip Journal 4

7 June, Heisei 22 (Mon)

Here’s when I thought things would get a bit…tricky.

I was a bit anxious about using public transportation, not knowing what all the flashing characters were trying to tell me, but after using it all day I have no idea why I was at all; it was easy as pie. There’s a slight learning curve to the iconography, but with a combination of bilingual signage and distinct colors for lines and numbers for stations, I had no problem navigating my way around Tokyo.

First, I followed the enormous mass of suited salarymen (and women) clutching phones and coffee to Shinjuku station, the busiest train station in the world by daily passengers (more than 3 million) A typicall trip on the Toei or Tokyo Metro subways costs 160-170 yen. I took the Toei Shinjuku line (leaf green) to Kudanshita, a station near the Imperial Palace complex. The imperial gardens and nearby museums were closed, it being Monday, so I hopped back on the subway on the Metro’s Tozai line (blue) at Takebashi bound for Nihombashi. The whole business district area east of the palace is called Marunouchi. The red line is named after it.

Nihombashi had a 19th century stone bridge with intricate bronzework, but was concealed by a highway overpass. In Tokyo, hardly anything save the palace is sacred, and they will build over/around/on top of whatever they don’t feel like tearing down. I also saw the Tokyo Stock Exchange, but couldn’t go inside. After mailing a couple postcards with the help of a very nice postwoman, I got on at Ometachi station and took the Tozai line to Iidabashi (missing Kudanshita from brain fart). That was okay, because Iidabashi was a junction for the yellow Yurakucho line, which I’d take to my next destination, Ikebukuro.

One of Ikebukuro station many exits led up into a Gallery-like mall, where I was surprised to find a Krispy Kreme – they’re all but extinct in Philly. I was fascinated by suddenly being in the same city where the anime Durarara!! takes place, and from what I saw the show portrays the look of the city expertly. In Shangri-la, which takes place in the future, Ikebukuro is a thick and poisonous forest. Here and now though, the place is surging with people and activity. I float around in no particular hurry until lunchtime draws near.

Rather than eat here, I hop on the brown Fukushotin line to Shinjuku-Sanchome, then back on the Shinjuku line to…Shinjuku. After a brief stop at the hoel for a shower, then searched Shinjuku by my hotel for sushi. I espied several businessmen entering a promising place and followed them, and was not disappointed. Utilizing once again the big pictures on the menu, indicated my choice and received large amounts of delicious, dead raw fish and sea creatures, all for under 1000 yen.

As miles of walking in my Nikes had virtually ruined my ankles/knees, I decided to bite the bullet and purchase decent walking shoes with arch support. I went to Keio, one of the massive department stores positioned around Shinjuku Station along with Odakyu and Mylord. Each has at least eight floors, the bottom of which are massive gourmet food markets selling every kind of food imaginable. I wasn’t hungry, unfortunately, but I did need shoes, so I took the elevator up to the fifth floor. The elevators were attended by extremely well dressed and groomed, polite and soft-spoken ladies with white gloves. I found some comfy Gore-Tex Brooks for 15,700 yen, for which I was able to use a credit card.

Thus equipped, and having purchased Buffrin (the only pain medicine with western letters I could decipher; don’t want to be wrong about labels where drugs are concerned) I hoped to lessen the fatigue on my walking bits as the week continued.