Handa-kun – 06

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The Gist: Kawafuji is aware of Handa’s increasing paranoia in the wake of the amnesia plot and tries to introduce him to a new friend. Handa, being paranoid, dresses in a disguise for the meeting. However, at the end of their hang out day he comes to like the new person… but totally confuses issues be rescuing his new friend from bullies as Handa.

Later, Handa defeats his middle school nemesis, a track star named Dash. Dash gets raped by a horny dog. Twice.

Then the school palm reader is stumped by how average Handa’s palm is. Also, that he will never marry nor have love, but will be surrounded by many children in the near future. She too takes this as an accidental compliment from Handa and strives to work harder.

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The Verdict: while I greatly enjoyed the dog-rape segment for it’s rapier like subtlety, the third act was the most concise joke. There’s not much to say beyond that really… Handa-kun’s accidental nice guy hero formula is pretty straight forward and the cast around him follows such a predictable pattern, once you’ve seen one, you’ve seen it all.

Still worth a chuckle. Not a very clever chuckle but a chuckle all the same;

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Handa-kun – 05

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The age of males is long gone…

The Gist: This week’s unintentional conflict pits Handa against Tennouji Sawako-sama, the man-hating student council president. This is because Handa is popular, technically viceless, and looks like he is amassing a group of powerful students… all things that could challenge Sawako’s domination of the school, and males in general.

Sawako’s first plan is to seduce and control Handa with two of the school’s most predatory females but it’s thwarted in traditional Handa fashion: the girls overhear what seems like a genuine life lesson directed at them and leave, only for Handa to actually be talking to stray cats.

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Sawako’s second plan is to capture Handa and force him to wear a skirt. This leads to a chase by de-masculinated student council vice-president Rikimaru, which culminates in Handa and Sawako falling down the stares. Handa appears to have protected her during the fall and, again following the show’s formula, wins Sawako’s heart without knowing what is going on at all.

In an unexpected twist, Handa loses his memory and becomes a creepy opportunist clown. There are many jokes about him trying to pick up girls but everyone things he’s just another fake because the real Handa would never cheapen himself like that. Eventually, Handa becomes depressed again, maybe or maybe not actually regaining his memory in the process…

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The Verdict: The opening act was pure formula but it was moderately entertaining. The jokes were well timed, the visuals were silly, and the accidental life lesson was amusing.

Unfortunately, the second act was not so good. It didn’t do anything with the amnesia tropes, it was short, and nothing really came of it except end everything was back to normal by the end.

To its credit, Handa-kun builds a remarkably lived in world where any character that has received a face and screen time continues to weave in and out of future episodes. Suicide-chan and the Predator Girls and not-Handa all make appearances here. But it’s a pretty average, lightly funny world to have dedicated so much effort to.

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Handa-kun – 04

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The Gist: This week Handa-kun continued to hit its stride with another trio of silly nonsensical situations. First we meet a Handa-kun cosplayer with terrible teeth, then students misunderstand Handa’s mom to be his girlfriend, and last Handa tries to make small talk because his parent teacher meeting doesn’t go well.

The Verdict: Handa-kun’s shortcomings as a show remain the same but so do its strengths in comedic timing. This leaves me with little to say beyond summarizing the episode, unfortunately. Fortunately, I was laughing most of the way!

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Handa-kun – 03

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The Gist: This week concludes the character introductions with Tsutsui Akane-kun, Kondo Yokio and Kawafuji-kun. The three-part episode format makes each segment feel a little short but, honestly, that’s probably for the best.

Even though the core gag is the same in each segment (Handa-kun thinks the opposite of what everyone thinks he thinks), hopping from segment to segment keeps it from feeling over used. Played out or not, the question is, does Handa-kun have enough to like in the first place?

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Tsutsui Akane-kun’s segment is the most interesting, structurally. See, Akane-Kun used to be a girly boy and he was literally tormented by the way Handa imagines being tormented. In a way, it is the way Handa is tormented: Girls thought Akane was stealing their boyfriends.

Unlike Handa, Akane broke and left school to become a shut in. Then he became a tough and redefined himself. When Handa/misunderstanding inevitably brings Akane back to school, the cycle continues with his own awkwardness leading Handa to think they are enemies.

tl;dr? It’s smarter than it is funny but it was also pretty funny.

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Yokio’s section would be straight forward except we, as viewers, can draw a deeper understanding of Handa’s weird popularity from Yokio’s conclusions. Yokio see’s Handa’s decisions as bizarre, and he can see everyone is forcing themselves to think of these decisions in a positive light, but he can also see that the results are positive. Handa-Force stops fighting to pay attention to Handa’s kitchen fire and they all appreciate getting ‘treat’ of special custard at the end, even if it’s gross.

The results make the intention unimportant. In a way, because Handa is an eccentric artist, his actions are basically performances too, which makes them not out of place for him to do… in an academic sense.

Looking at it from another angle, Yokio knows Handa’s work is high concept and he gets that ‘an ordinary Joe can’t grasp his appeal’ but that’s not going to stop him from trying.

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Kawafuji’s segment isn’t particularly interesting from a structural stand point and the jokes are over the top instead of funny. However, it shows us why Handa is so terrified of everyone, why Kawafuji is his only friend and why they would still be together in Barakamon.

Spoilers: it’s Kawafuji’s fault because he was jealous. It’s also his fault because he hasn’t told Handa the truth yet. It’s also likely in Handa’s favor not to learn the truth because a normal acting Handa loses all the mystique. It loses any purpose to watch the show, really.

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The Verdict: This week gave us the best Handa outing so far, largely because Akane, Yokio and Kawafuji are more interesting characters than the chairman and the model. Yokio and Kawafuji are especially good, because they actually see Handa for what he is: a wreck and bizarre.

Now that the comedic timing and dialog are tight, Handa-kun is enjoyable to watch. (even with the socially awkward cringe-factor) If some chuckles and tie-forward to the better show is enough to warrant keeping it on your schedule, there you have it. If not, summer’s packed with great shows. No big loss.

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Handa-kun – 02

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The Gist: Handa ‘defeats’ the two girls from last week, as well as ‘glasses’ Aizawa Junichi and ‘model’ Nikaido Reo who were introduced as members of Handa-force last week.

As with last week, Handa ‘defeats’ these opponents largely through his lack of understanding and, for the same reason, most people think highly of him. As you may have expected: all’s well that ends well: ‘muscles’ Juri-chan and Maiko-chan are back to being friends… and accept being romantic rivals.

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What makes Handa-kun special: its protagonist is a hot mess of illogical responses that, against all odds, turn out in his favor. Take his misunderstanding of Maiko and his choice to write her a letter.

By making Muscles (Juri) fall for him, she became aware of the inequity of her relationship with Maiko. Then, after they both fail to win his affections and choose to try calligraphy, their relationship realigns, but with a new balance between them. A truer balance. That’s good narrative building!

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What holds Handa-kun back from being great is that it only gives us one side of the coin seen in Barakamon. There, Handa played off of another character, and there was warmth from their back-and-forth.

Here, there is truly no warmth. Handa doesn’t like anyone here, not even a little. This isn’t ‘wrong’ but it is a little weird if you think about it: it’s about a talented jackass getting away with whatever and everyone assuming he’s a nice person.

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The Verdict: Handa-kun has a solid formula and it deserves plenty of laughs. There’s real craft to how the narrative is constructed too. That said, it’s hard to imagine Handa-kun standing out without Barakamon.

And this is no Barakamon.

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Handa-kun – 01 (First Impressions)

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Barakamon was an awesome, often frenetic comedy with a ton of heart, so I was weary of a prequel taking place in high school. There was no need to worry: Handa-kun is an entirely different animal in the best way. It’s no match for Barakamon, but it has it’s own absurd energy and charm.

If you’d assume the first half of the first episode of a show called Handa-kun would contain…Handa-kun, you’d be mistaken! Instead, we get a lengthy, and very meta, scene in which four of Handa’s friends miss the first episode of his anime, and so make their own horrifying Handa-kun, until the studio mails the real anime to them.

The scene plays with out own expectations and ignorance about what exactly this show is going to be about (besides Handa in high school), while taking a couple of good-hearted digs at the expectant audience-anime studio relationship.

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When we finally get to Handa in high school, he’s an absolute mess, as expected. While everyone around him either loves, envies, or reveres him, Handa doesn’t have a clue, and gets the exact opposite vibes that are being thrown his way. Even the button-cute class idol wants to date him, but he assumes she’s trying to beat him up.

Handa’s talent also lets him get away with murder in class, as his thought processes often leak into public hearing, the math lesson be damned. He doesn’t bother to look or hear anything anyone does or says correctly. He’s hopeless.

That being said, Handa tries to hear Maiko out, but in the strangest way possible; writing a note for Maiko’s gruff, bizarrely proportioned friend Juri, in a scrawl elaborate and nigh-incomprehensible to a high schooler. Not exactly the best way to relay a clear message!

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His note convinces Juri that he’s into her, and so when Handa arrives at the agreed upon spot behind the gym after school, both Juri and Maiko are there waiting for him. Naturally, he assumes the worst: some kind of challenged or fight is imminent, but you have to respect his “courage”…if only he had a friggin’ clue what was going on around him! Alas, his constantly churning mind obscures all.

We close on that spot behind the gym, and go back to the group of four friends who started the episode, just as frustrated as I am by the “To Be Continued.” But the kicker is when they mail Handa their creepily-drawn homemade anime, and before the OP is over,  he simply has to switch it off.

Well, that’s not what I’ll be doing with the real anime…it was a gas, and I’m excited to see what bizarreness it can bring to bear next time.

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Sakamoto desu ga? – 02

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First it was delayed by an earthquake and then my review was delayed by a visit from Bernie Sanders—but don’t get the wrong idea! Sakomoto desu ga?’s first episode was so brilliantly terrible that episode two was at the absolute top of my list.

And episode two does not disappoint! From Sakomoto talking to an empty birdhouse, to solving a bullying problem by getting himself and the bullied boy a job at “WcDonalds”, to the bullies from the first episode embarrassingly asking Sakomoto for a “smile to go” at the cash register, the first 5 minutes are packed with nonsensical nonsense. (and I’m loving it!)

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The second act is dedicated to Kuronuma Aina, who foreshadowed her intent to trap Sakomoto in a love trap last week. As you can guess, this doesn’t go well.

Step 1. Get into his personal space…fails because Sakomoto writes with both hands at the same time, which makes a barrier she can not break.

Step 2. Call him by his given name…fails because his given name is never visible and other girls claw at chalk boards to drown out his answer when Aina asked.

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Step 3. Intimate his actions…fails because Sakomoto makes a complicated pencil shaving holder out of cut paper so accurate no human could hope to copy.

Then Aina turns to an Ouija board-like Kokkuri-san game and fails immediately because Sakomoto is possessed by a fox spirit. Possessed, he demands a 6-foot arch be made, which Aina and the other girls do, and all becomes well again. All of the girls are friends and Sakomoto’s bizarre experiment is over.

Roll Credits!

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As with last week, I don’t know if Sakomoto is terrible, brilliant, or average. It’s dumb humor, produced so over the top I cannot help but chuckle. More importantly, the show is smart enough to keep building out from what it did last week and, even if it is still the same joke (Sakomoto is perfect) it’s so different and strange each time as to be new and refreshing.

Ultimately, It absolutely must be watched. if for no other reason than I need help processing how good or terrible it is.

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Space Patrol Luluco – 02

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Picking up right where we left off, Luluco is still in Justice Gun-mode, midterm exams are still being interrupted and the alien teacher doesn’t seem to have a care in the world.

Then a meteor hits, destroying another corner of the room, and transfer student Alpha Omega Nova is introduced. He is also part of Space Patrol and accompanies Luluco on her return to headquarters.

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Luluco and Aon exposition us some context on their walk: Japan was forced to sell the town to alien developers because it was bankrupt as a nation (but got very little from the sale). We also learn Luluco can’t recognize aliens at a glance, which Aon speculates to mean she can see something deeper.

At headquarters, Aon transforms into a much cooler gun form and interrogates the student prisoner, Chief flaming skull makes Aon and Luluco partners, and Luluco has what can only be described as a galactic climax…

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Luluco’s canon orgasm was fantastic. Aon casually executing the student prisoner after the interrogation was fantastic. Chief flaming skull, who is permanently in ‘shocker’ pose was fantastic. However, because episode 2 focused on story and love interest building, there was a lot less humor in general.

Based on the first episode, I had expected SPL to be a string of semi-connected nonsequiturs, not a continuous storyline. While minis as ‘slices of a single episode’ is usually disappointing because a bigger budget may have given us more fun to see, what we have is still brilliantly insane.

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Space Patrol Luluco – 01 (First Impressions)

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Luluco is an normal high school girl with just below average grades. She lives with her dad in a Ogikubo, earth’s only town reserved for extraterrestrials. Her life is anything but normal.

At 7 minutes, UPL wastes no time getting to its mad cap antics: Luluco’s father quickly gets in trouble, which quickly gets Luluco drafted into the Space Police force for use as an undercover agent at her mostly ET populated high school.

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This is Panty & Stocking/Dead Leaves-style animation but with half the budget. It’s over the top, delightfully quirky and unpredictable.

And its cheapness is embraced by the writing and dialog. Jokes like Luluco being transformed into a space gun are punchy, well timed and totally unexpected.

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Verdict: Trigger (with SANZIGEN) has pulled off something very special with UPL. It’s a rare case where visual styling and charm overcome the limits of cheap animation. It’s FLCL but pocket sized and I can think of nothing more deserving of your time!

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Ace Attorney – 01 (First Impressions)

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Ace Attorney is a part-mystery, part-courtroom drama, part-comedy that wears its heart on its sleeve and shoots from the hip. It’s a super-straightforward show, with a clear and concise structure so far:

  1. Victim murdered (by a talking Rodin’s The Thinker!);
  2. Trial of wrongly accused (his childhood friend Yahari) begins;
  3. Rookie defense attorney Naruhodo Ryuuchi pokes holes in the story of the prosecution’s witness and successfully accuses the witness of doing the deed, exonerating Yahari;
  4. Another victim is murdered.

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Enjoyment of this show is in the purity of that structure, as well as the delicious details. There are a lot of gags in this episode, despite it starting with a woman getting her head stoved in by a statuette.

Not all of the gags hit, but many do, and the trial moves swiftly and purposefully as Ryuuchi, backed up by his stunning boss Ayasato Chihiro, determines the key to saving his friend and client from the slammer is the murder weapon and the time it reports, which is two—really fourteen—hours off after accompanying victim to New York City.

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Ryuuchi is fueled not just by the support of Chihiro, but by the memory of when Yahari was once his advocate in a classroom trial years ago. It’s never in doubt that Yahari isn’t the culprit, because we witness Yamano do the deed in the cold open.

About Yamano and the prosecution: they sure made things easy for Ryuuchi! I mean, yeah, as a rookie he still sweated when they continually countered his objections with more “facts”, but once he had something they couldn’t counter, Yamano literally explodes into somebody who isnot only a credible witness by any means, but also a highly suspicious suspect.

Being not too far removed from Food Wars, I enjoyed the battle-like fever pitch of the trial, with points and objections being fired around like projectile weapons, and gusts of wind knocking people off their feet. It’s all very absurd and fun.

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There’s also an absurdity in the sheer specificity of that darned murder weapon. I mean, how the heck did this Yahari guy have the technical wherewithal to construct not one but two talking Thinker clocks? Why The Thinker? 

Why a clock? The show doesn’t really care about those details…and at the end of the day, neither do I, but it is pretty weird nonetheless, and makes me wonder what other strange, very specific objects this show can come up with.

This episode also succeeded on a introductory level, telling us everything we needed to know, but still continuing on its purposeful course of holding and resolving a murder trial, without overwhelming us with characters not pertinent to that trial.

My only “objections”? Well, the mystery isn’t all that compelling, and the show itself is pretty crude-looking, with rather stiff (if generally attractive) character design. I’m also a bit miffed they killed off Chihiro in the first episode, but I’m sure the show had it’s reasons, and I look forward to hearing its case next week…even if I can’t strongly recommend this show.

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