Hanebado! – 01 (First Impressions) – Everything is Pointless

Hanebado! opens fast and crisp, in the midst of a match in the badminton nationals. One player is struggling as hard as she can and sweating bullets; the other is just calmly, coolly blowing her opponent away with a 21-o game.

The scene features some really decent sports animation, elevating the action to a kind of heightened reality with viewing angles, cuts, and shifts in speed. But as exciting as the match looks, neither player is happy at the end; neither the victor nor the defeated.

Cut to six months later, the victor (Hanesaki Ayano) along with her longtime friend (Fujisawa Elena) are first years at the same school as third-year player she defeated (Aragaki Nagisa), who is so upset over the loss she’s taking it out on the other players in the club, forcing several to quit rather than endure more abuse.

Ayano wants nothing to do with badminton, but while exchanging easy volleys with Elena on a tennis court, an errant bounce of a serve by the boy’s tennis club’s first-year ace Saionji nearly hits Elena in the face, but Ayano lunges in front of her and smashes it away, gaining a point in a game she wasn’t even playing.

A coach grabs Ayano and inspects her wrists and hands, forcing Elena to defend her. Meanwhile Nagisa (whom Ayano beat) wanders off, regretting how harsh she was with the now-departed players. She’s comforted by her friend Riko, who remains with the team and is likely the only person Nagisa is comfortable crying around.

So the main players in Hanebado! are a girl possessed with phenomenal natural talent who has no motivation to actually play, and a girl who is basically the opposite, with a good metric fuckton of angst between them. A classic talent-vs.-hard work dynamic, which results in a very shounen manga-style challenge at the end: If Ayano beats Nagisa, she won’t have to join.

That means in this rematch, Nagisa will have to find some way to turn the tables. Perhaps in the last six months she’s narrowed the gap between them? I’m a couple weeks behind in this show because I was trying to avoid watching a sports anime, but there’s no way I’m backing out of this before I watch the result, which will no doubt feature more of that sweet sweet shuttlecock action!

Cardcaptor Sakura: Clear Card – 12 – The Butler is Up to Something

This week’s opening scene practically oozes foreboding, and Yuna D. Kaito has never looked more suspicious as he prepares tea for Akiho. Whether there’s something in that tea or not, the scene all but confirms he’s operating against Sakura behind the shadows—unbeknownst to Sakura, Syaoran, and even Akiho.

It’s also pretty much certain Akiho is the cloaked figure in Sakura’s dreams, and that the dreams are being shared between the girls, with neither of them know the other is in them. All Akiho knows is the feeling of wanting  something the other person has. That thing is Sakura’s key, and Yuna seems pleased the dream is “progressing”, most likely in his favor.

By laying out some meaty plot progression right off the bat, the more slice-of-life ball sports tournament at school feels more earned and less like more stalling (though if you’re not watching Sakura at least in part for her high school slice-of-life…why are you watching?). 

It helps that the sports are a lot of fun, as watching BasketBaller Sakura toss no-look passes, crossover dribble, and nail shots from downtown is just as fun—and smoothly-animated—as watching her battle and capture cards.

The school doesn’t allow students to film the events, but Tomoyo finds a way around that by using Kero-chan, who is more than game to redeem himself after the playground footage debacle.

The sports tournament again demonstrates not only Sakura’s athletic skills, but those of Syaoran and Akiho, the latter two specifically in the field of badminton. I loved how seriously Sayoran was taking his match, which Akiho was keeping very close, and how Sakura wanted to root for both of them.

Just as she hopes for a tie, a surprise hailstorm rolls in, ending the match in a tie and sending everyone scattering for shelter. Sakura stays out, because she’s pretty sure this is a new Card. Unfortunately, as of yet she has no fire-element Clear Cards, and Reflect only sends hail into the building, causing damage.

Syaoran, still sore about not being able to put Akiho away (if he was even capable of doing so!), summons his fire sword to help out his girlfriend. His initial lower-powered attack isn’t effective, so he breaks out a bigger spell that stops the Card in its tracks, allowing Sakura to secure it.

It’s a great bit of Sakura/Syaoran teamwork, and shows that her friends will be there to fill in her weakness (in this case, no fire Card). Now, at least, if she comes upon a fire Card, she’ll have Hail to counter it.

After the battle Akiho comes running, and when she sees Sakura in the poncho Tomoyo made, she assumes it’s for another play that doesn’t really exist, but Sakura doesn’t correct her. That night Sakura turns in early, seeing as how it was a very active day and she overslept that morning.

Upon falling asleep, Sakura’s right back in Clockworld with Cloaky, who we can now assume is an unwitting Akiho, possibly working as Yuna D. Kaito’s puppet in the dream. She again tries to steal Sakura’s key, but Sakura grabs it back, and a giant dragon appears just below Cloaky, ready to swallow Sakura up.

She wakes up before that happens, and checks to make sure she still has her key before going back to bed. But she’s definitely unsettled than ever before. The figure is not only taking things up a notch in the dream, but perched on a utility pole just outside Sakura’s house. Some great semi-revelations this week that really escalate the tension.

That all of this is going on without any of Sakura’s allies’ knowledge makes me feel all the more worried for Sakura. If she were to lose her key, she wouldn’t be able to capture or use cards. That…would be bad!

Hoe Count: 4

P.S. Going forward, we at RABUJOI have agreed to use more descriptive (if not always the most perceptive) titles to our posts. We’ll see how that goes!

Tanaka-kun wa Itsumo Kedaruge – 01 (First Impressions)

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Who would have thought watching variations on the theme of somebody being always listless could be so engaging? That’s partially due to the fact that the titular Tanaka isn’t just listless; he’s a black hole of listlessness. He’s a listlessness enthusiast. He’s an artist who hones his craft everyday, always trying to innovate or to make his life more relaxing.

The magic of this episode is that Tanaka never comes off as a dick, or self-absorbed. This is simply his nature, his calling, and his passion, and if his best friend Ohta, who is one of those super-nice do-it-all perfect dudes can not only tolerate but embrace it, well, so can I. And I did.

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That idea of listlessness-as-art is carried throughout the various isolated skits that explore Tanaka’s listlessness in novel ways, including using sometimes long spans of silence or whiting out a scene for comedic effect.

There’s also a wonderful tension going on between stillness and sudden bursts of action, whether that action is violent like falling out of a desk, or an accidentally-thrown racquet, or subtle like the unseen injury of French bread cutting the inside of Tanaka’s mouth.

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No one other than Ohta, his almost constant companion (and straight man to Tanaka’s quiet gags) this episode, understands just how much workgoes into being as listless as Tanaka is. He truly works at it and thinks about it; it’s not just narcolepsy.

Unlike most people, Tanaka neither sees nor wants to see himself as the main character in his own story; rather, he’d prefer to be one of the background characters who may not be filled in or even have a face; a wonderful meta nod to a common anime money-saving technique that also features Tanaka trying it out by engaging his personal cloaking device!

As for who the main character should be, Tanaka is convinced it should be Ohta, who is almost as effortlessly active and reliable and popular as Tanaka is listless. What’s so funny is that Tanaka admires Ohta for being Ohta and vice versa, yet neither wants to be the other at all.

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While the episode almost drags on listlessly (likely semi-intentional!), the isolated skits give way to a slower-burn story that is built up by a fresh series of little events, all of which lead Ohta to believe Tanaka is having an uncommonly double-listless day.

That is, until Tanaka turns the normally upbeat song “Hometown” into a durge in minor key, then screeches at the teacher when she tries to brush something off his chin.

Then Ohta gets the idea Tanaka could be in love, a theory he tests when he enters the classroom during sunset; the kind of scene where many a love confession has been made throughout anime history (a fact the show knows we know full well).

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All it takes is a quick glance at Tanaka’s copybook to see all the reminders for him to go to the dentist to turn Ohta’s theory upside-down and explani all of Tanaka’s stranger behavior: kid’s got a cavity,and he desperately doesn’t want to interrupt his serene everyday life for an invasive dental procedure. But that’s tough; and Ohta carries him to the dentist to take his proverbial medicine.

At the end of the day, Tanaka is grateful to have Ohta as a friend, and Tanaka continues to respect Tanaka’s dedication to nothing less than the perfection of listlessness, and furthermore devotes himself to continuing to support him any way he can. And there are a lot of ways, many of them involving carrying him to and from places!

Finally, the episode closes with what seems to be an admirer of Tanakas, which is confirmed in the preview, in which this girl begs him to become his apprentice. Which is awesome, because Tanaka would make the perfect listless master!

Tanaka-kun is Always Listless was a slow-building and sometimes repetitive but always clever, witty, entertaining, and creative. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go take a nap…I need to practice!

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Tari Tari – 13 (Fin)

The choir club defies the school board chairman with the support of the principal and vice principal, and hold their White Festival in the school’s central courtyard as the rainclouds part. Afterwords, Sawa announces she’s going abroad to train to be a jockey. The others graduate and send her a video, then set to work pursuing their various goals.

So in the end, the club gets its way, with the bad guy merely stepping aside and allowing the White Festival shortly after being assaulted by Principal Ikezaki and having his pants pulled down in front of five minors. For someone who has a chaffeur and designated umbrella holder, he sure gives in easily, but we suppose with the growing audience to the confrontation, he wanted to avoid bad PR. So, the club got to sing the song Wakana and her mom wrote. And while we don’t want to pooh-pooh one of the focal points of the series, we have to point out that if you’re going to make that focal point a song, it had better be a good one. So to be painfully honest, we found the song, and the dramatic performance, a bit cloying. It just didn’t do it for us.

We were always more interested in the characters, not in their songs, but everyone other than Wakana is given a bit of a short shrift. Konatsu remains unsure of what she wants to do, so she goes to college. Sawa rides horses abroad. Taichi plays badminton, and misses Sawa, whom he never asked out. Wien…goes back to Austria and meets his pen pal. All of these are kernals and jumping-off points for potentially interesting stories, but the series had no more time to delve into them. A serviceable end to a pleasant-enough series that never quite got there with the characters – something Kokoro Connect has thus far excelled at.

Rating: 6 (Good)

Tari Tari – 07

Wakana officially joins the Choir & Badminton Club, which begins brainstorming for the upcoming White Festival. Meanwhile, tensions intensify between Sawa and her father over her intention to pursue a career as a jockey. She isn’t eating and is out of sorts. Konatsu learns that the Vice Principal will have control of who is on the main gym stage for the festival. While auditioning for mounted archery, a fatigued Sawa falls from her horse.

This week was about everyone juggling their participation in the club with all the necessary requisites towards building a future for themselves, or not. Wien and Wakana (and probably Konatsu too) have no idea what they want to do yet, and while Sawa and Taichi walk confidently on specific paths, that they’ll lead to success is no sure thing. We also liked the stark contrast between Wakana’s relationship to her father and Sawa’s toward hers – which brings us to this week’s focus: after significant Wakana development, the series shifts to Okita Sawa, the least fleshed-out of the three female characters.

For someone raised on temple grounds, she’s a pretty normal modern teenage daughter. Her heart is set on something, her father disapproves, and she hates him for it. Opening her mail doesn’t help matters for Pops, while Mom tries to stay above the fray. To his credit, Dad tries to be fair and offers numerous practical alternatives, but the one thing neither will negotiate on is her making a living on horseback. And then there’s Chekhov’s Horse: we’ve waiting for her to fall off that damn thing for seven episodes now, and it finally happens. What. A Surprise.


Rating: 7 (Very Good)

Car Cameos: The Mazda MPV (we think) and the previously-seen first-gen Honda Stepwgn and Nissan March are among the vehicles that occupy the background.

Tari Tari – 05

Konatsu, Sawa, Wien and Wakana attend Taichi’s badminton match. He loses and fails to advance to the Nationals. Wakana is preoccupied by memories of her mother’s last days, in which she wasn’t the best daughter she could have been. She has her dad arrange to have the piano in her room removed, along with boxes of other junk and a memento her mother made her. She regrets having never said goodbye, sorry, or thank you before her mother passed.

Thanks a lot, Condor Queens…thanks to that  letter, you made Wakana – already a walking frown – descend into despair this week. This episode gets good marks for plumbing the depths of grief and guilt Wakana bears, while getting us to feel a bit of it with her. In her mother’s last days and weeks, Wakana’s frown was a perpetual scowl, as she was that age when her mother was suddenly no longer her best friend, but an annoyance and eyesore. Little did she know that she’d never have a chance to make up for all that harsh treatment – she took her mother’s love for granted and is almost lost without it.

Wakana can’t stand the fact she was a self-centered brat more concerned with getting into a good school than her mother’s illness. Right up to the point when she got the news of her death – while in the middle of her school interview. Now it’s as if Wakana doesn’t want to let herself have fun or be happy anymore, which is why she avoids Konatsu and the others. Maybe she thinks she doesn’t deserve happiness as punishment for her past transgressions. But from what we saw of her in memories, her mother was a joyful person who wouldn’t want her daughter to waste her youth wallowing in despair.


Rating: 7 (Very Good)

Car Cameos: On Wakana’s sad walk home, the background traffic includes a 5-door Suzuki Swift, a first-generation Honda Fit, a Nissan March, and the Audi A4 sedan we’ve seen before.

Tari Tari – 03

After their first recital, most of the Choir Club quits, and with only Konatsu, Sawa and Wakana remaining, they no longer meet the minimum five for a club, and the vice principal eliminates both their club and Taichi’s Badminton Club; he’s only able to recruit Wien. After a quick 3-on-2 badminton game that Konatsu’s side wins, she decides to form a new club combining choir and badminton, which the principal signs off on. At an impromptu audition for an upcoming market music festival, Konatsu, Sawa and Taichi are suddenly accompanied by Spanish mucicians, one of whom is very interested in Wakana.

Just as quickly as Konatsu’s Choir Club was established, in the opening minutes of this episode, she’s back at square one. Still, the five main characters join forces in the end to create the unorthodox but not illegitimate Choir and Sometimes Badminton Club, and much to the chagrin of the now incredibly stuck-up vice principal, the principal gives it his blessing. We learn why he’s interested in Wakana: he taught her mother, who was apparently a musical revelation. Wakana, meanwhile, continues to let herself be pushed and pulled around, while remaining unsure what she should be doing.

This series continues to portray foreigners with a bit of a heavy hand for comedic purposes (see: Wien feeding squirrels and getting excited by a net birdie; the Spanish-speaking guy coming on too strong to Wakana) but also adds some flavor to the proceedings (the sudden musical outburst by the Spanish guy’s musical friends) and more sublte details (Wien not saying “excuse me” when entering Taichi’s home). We’ve also noticed a trend of a few moments of a character’s childhood taking up the first moments of the episode; this week it was Taichi being bullied, then defended by his tomboyish older sister. We’ll see where these go.


Rating: 7 (Very Good)

Tari Tari – 01

This episode introduces five high school students with disperate talents all working hard at something: Wakana is still getting acclimated to the school, while Wien has just returned after twleve years in Austria. Taichi is the sole member of the badminton club, Sawa rides horses and practices archery, and Konatsu, who is passionate about singing, quits the choir when she’s not allowed to sing and starts her own choir club, hoping to recruit Sawa, Wakana, and others. The quintet all meet by chance in a park where Konatsu is singing.

There’s something familiar about the look and setting of Tari Tari, and we don’t mean that in a negative way. Namely, they remind us of Hanasaku Iroha; unsurprising, as both are from P.A. Works and are high schooler slice-of-life-centered. Indeed, this could very well be the nearest town, or even the same school Ohana & Co. attend, only focusing on a fresh batch of characters. We liked the way we were gradually eased into this world, with everyone in the middle of something, and we also liked the wide variety of activities they’re involved in.

Like Hanasaku Iroha, there’s definitely nothing to complain about, production values-wise; the town is gorgeous and the character designs are smooth and inoffensive without being too generic (though we had a little trouble sorting out Wakana and Sawa, as they look very similar at first glance). We definitely connected with Konatsu’s frustration with being unable to sing in the choir (her instructor has a major stick up her ass), and were amused by newcomer Wien’s culture shock and over-formal behavior. It looks like a good group so far, and this series definitely has potential.


Rating: 7 (Very Good)

Car Cameos: A BMW 1-Series coupe and Volvo 240 wagon are visible on the road beside the train tracks. Wien arrives at school in a very unusual way (for Japanese, anyway) – by car; a Honda Euro Accord/Acura TSX, to be precise. Wakana’s pregnant teacher drives a first-gen Daihatsu Move.