Kokoro Connect – 15

Iori rejects another boy harshly, drawing the ire of another girl who likes him. Rumors of her worsening attitude spread across the school, and she doesn’t help her cause. Taichi meets with Inaba when her thought about disbanding the club reaches him. He decides Iori’s rejection of him was his fault alone, and he’s going to move forward. Nobody knows what to do about Iori, who stops coming to club. Yui’s talk with only makes things worse. Heartseed visits Yui, who stands up to him, boring him. She chastises Taichi for his inaction. Inaba confronts Iori, who calls her selfish and blames her for ruining things with her and Taichi.

Everyone’s an emotional train wreck with this emotion transmission business, but they all seem to be keeping it relatively together, with one exception. Nagase Iori has gone off the deep end. Thanks to the phenomenon, her heart has been exposed like everyone else’s, and she cannot hide behind her cheerful, friendly facade anymore, so she doesn’t bother. Both the writing and the acting by Toyosaki Aki do an excellent job giving Iori this new dark edge without pushing her into emo angst or evil villain territory. Everyone feels betrayed by her, and she is being nasty and short with everyone, but what choice does she have? To her the gig is up: those are her thoughts and she can’t change them. It’s a stark transformation, but not unexpected, considering she’s always had identity problems.

After visiting Aoki last week, Heartseed comes to Yui, but she’s steadfast and defiant like he was, irritating him. He should really just go to Iori, since she’s the one being affected most negatively by his works. Meanwhile, Inaba has been absolutely killing it this week in her adorable interactions with Taichi. But the notion that loving the same guy Iori once loved at the same time was perfectly okay goes straight out the window, and Iori confirm’s Inaba’s suspicions that she’s partly responsible for what Iori’s going through. Iori is merciless in the way she turns Inaba’s argument around on her. While everyone’s worried about what’s gotten into Iori, no one stops to think it was always in her to begin with, and it’s done hiding. So…what’s gotten into them?


Rating: 9 (Superior)

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Medaka Box – 01

Hitoyoshi Zenkichi’s overachieving childhood friend Medaka Kurokami has won the election for student council president by a 98% landslide, and just knows that she’ll drag him into her business. She starts up a suggestion box, and the first request asks her to clear the kendo dojo of the punks who hang out there. She convinces them to pick up kendo and the dojo is cleaned. The person who submitted the suggestion, one Hyuga, tries to intimidate the reformed punks, but they stand up to him, and Zenkichi punches him. Medaka proceeds to fulfill another request by improving Hyuga’s rotten personality. Zenkichi agrees to stay by her side, as always.

When we learn that Gainax is doing a new series, we’re going to take a look by default, since we know their work will rarely disappoint. This premiere validated our policy; Medaka Box is hardly flawless, but it is a bright, fresh, and confident school series that does a good job laying out what it’s about and who the players are. We’re particularly smitten with President Medaka who is brimming with charisma. Sure, she looks down on people (and indeed the rest of the universe) but at her core she’s a kind person who only wants to help…even if you don’t know you need it. Her boobs are a little on the big side, but overall the moderate levels of fanservices didn’t concern us, because it wasn’t the only note the episode played.

Aki Toyosaki voices Medaka, and after Last Exile’s cutesy-voiced Fam, it’s good to hear the throaty, assertive Aki. When she’s talking, people just have to listen. We also like Zenkichi Hiroyoshi, the male protagonist who has known her since they were two (i.e., their whole lives). He’s neither weak, nor boring or annoying. Even if he has no idea why, he’s Medaka’s rock; and he can’t help but support her in her new role as Queen of School. A pleasant setting, colorful characters, sprightly action, quick pacing, and plenty of energy and charm – there’s not much we dislike here. Good start.


Rating: 7 (Very Good)

Last Exile: Ginyoku no Fam – 01

Young, fiery, and talented vanship pilot Fam and her copilot Giselle are members of a band of sky pirates who race to the aid of the two princesses of Turan, Lillia and Millia, who have been ambushed by the treacherous Ades Federation led by Premier Luscinia. In exchange for their rescue from the battlefield, Fam demands the Turan flagship, the Lasas, in return. Her colleague Dio Eraclea boards and feints a scuttling in order to escape the battle, but as Turan’s capital is vulnerable to Ades attack, the ship will have to be quickly mended.

It’s been eight years and a month since Last Exile concluded, and even as the Fall 2011 Season started, we had to wait a little longer. The first series wasn’t perfect, but it was (and still is) one of the best-looking we’ve ever seen, had a lot of ingredients that really got out juices flowing, and indeed stoked our passion for anime that strives to transcend its medium. If ever a universe deserved a sequel, it was Last Exile…and here we are. Studio GONZO returns in force, Koichi Chigira is back to direct, as is our favorite character designer, Range Murata, and Hitomi Kuroishi, who composes a haunting and exciting score. The voice cast is excellent, with Aki Toyosaki (Railgin’s Uiharu, Hanasaku Iroha’s Nako) providing the voice of Fam, who kicks ass every which way, and her more tranquil partner Giselle is voiced by Aoi Yuki (Shiki’s Sunako, Puella’s Madoka). The princesses are Ai Kayano (AnoHana’s Menma, Memo-cho’s Ayaka) and one of our favorites, Miyuki Sawashiro.

This opening episode quickly re-establishes the crazy steampunk world of floating armadas, sky pirates, and gorgeous cities. It’s attention to detail is impeccable. Last Exile’s CGI was ahead of its time, but Fam manages (unsurprisingly) to surpass it, fully utilizing the widescreen HD environment and all the other new tech. From the quiet nighttime opening to the fantastic aerial battle on a clear blue day, this episode has all the scale and epic-ness of a full-length, big budget film combining all the best elements of Miyazaki and Final Fantasy. With everything that went on, there wasn’t a whole lot of time to get into the myriad characters, who occupy three distinct factions so far (warlike Ades, peaceful Turan, and opportunistic pirates), but we like the Fam/Giselle duo so far, and their blue-collar tomboy lives should clash nicely with the pair of princesses. We’ve looked forward to this series for a long time, and all it took was the opening episode to propel it to the best of the season so far.


Rating: 4