Kageki Shoujo!! – 02 – Sink or Swim

The morning before their first day of actual classes, Ai deigns to attempt to wake Sarasa up…in the gentlest and most ineffectual way possible. But their class rep Sawa personally wakes Sarasa the hell up, because the people they’re facing this morning are far more fearsome than the JSDF: their second-year advisors, AKA “Big Sisters”.

The students of the centennial class have already demonstrated their capacity for ill-natured backbiting, but it’s the same way in the classes above them. We learn that Risa and Hijiri, Sarasa and Ai’s Big Sisters, are bitter rivals who usually hide their contempt for each other behind smiles and niceties.

When Risa flat-out tells Sarasa she’ll never be Lady Oscar, she makes the poor tall girl sob into the floorboards. When she asks why not through the tears, Risa mentions the curse of the tree, and in doing so gives Sarasa all the ammo she needs. If everyone believes the tree is cursed, she’ll just have to prove the curse is fake!

While Risa admires Sarasa’s innocence and drive (as does Sarasa’s childhood friend and kabuki actor-in-training, Akiya), Hijiri reports that “Naracchi” has “zero motivation” for Kouka. But just as Hijiri’s barbs about Risa only being suited for villainess roles have led her to strive towards greatness, she tells Hijiri they can’t know what future winds may lift Ai’s sails.

I can take a stab at the identity of that wind: she’s somewhere around 5’10” with green-tipped twin tails! But it won’t just be Sarasa’s bottomless confidence and enthusiasm gradually wearing down Ai’s apathy: she also isn’t just gong to sit back and take abuse, passive-aggressive or otherwise, from her classmates.

During class introductions (which are wonderful shorthand for the various girls’ personalities) Ai at first gives a curt description of herself, but Kaoru, the big shot legacy musume-yaku-in-waiting says everyone knows “that’s not all”. So Ai stands back up and says she’s there because she was forced to quit JPX48. It’s an important step for Ai standing up for herself against damn fools.

During a tour of backstage, Sarasa sees a dramaticaly-lit door and goes through it, leading to the main stage of the Kouka Revue. Andou-sensei warns her to get off the stage and under no circumstances walk out onto the “Silver Bridge”, the part of the stage where only Kouka’s top stars are permitted to stand.

Sarasa doesn’t break that taboo, but she also takes her sweet time leaving that stage! That’s because as soon as she stands on it, it’s clear she feels she’s where she’s supposed to be. As if by divine providence, a spotlight is cast upon her. Ai can feel that belonging too, dazzled as she is by Sarasa’s stage presence.

Incremental progress is made on several fronts. We’ve got a huge cast of young women, some sympathetic, some clearly villains, and some who are just kind of there. But as long as the spotlight stays on Sarasa and Ai most of the time, I’ll be a happy camper. As Ai’s stalker arrives in Kobe, we’ll likely learn next week how close he ends up getting to Ai, how she deals with that, and where Sarasa (or other classmates) might factor into the forthcoming confrontation.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Ikebukuro West Gate Park – 03 – Chasing Views

Like myself, Majima Makoto is the age where he missed out on the big YouTube content creation boom, and marvels how people can make so much money off of doing what is essentially stupid shit. We’re both tourists in this world, but here’s the thing about this episode: I don’t feel I learned much more than I already knew about the industry. Instead it felt like we were getting second-hand and not entirely reliable information about How This Stuff Works.

Am I jealous of a guy like 140★ Ryuusei making money off silly videos of eating onions and falling down stairs? A little, sure! But I also happen to find him extremely unlikable and both his and the Gorilla rivals’ antics are deeply, profoundly lame. I’m not going to discuss in depth something I know little about, and it is true that people have become millionaires for doing stuff just as stupid. But that doesn’t mean it’s fun for me to watch them do it.

Makoto loses some points with me this week because he seems to be really into this, at least insofar as he respects Ryuusei’s enthusiasm and hard work. That’s fine, I guess…but again, it’s just not any fun to watch? The fact Ryuusei and the Gorillas were working together was pretty obvious based on the shifty looks of his assistants. Ryuusei involving Takashi and the G-Boys after not involving them for five years doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, either. This was a miss for me, plain and simple.

How Heavy are the Dumbbells You Lift? – 07 – Meat on the Brain

With the gym closed, the girls decide to take Gina out for a welcome party. Hibiki recommends her brother’s yakiniku (BBQ) restaurant where she works part time. As they chow down, Machio and Satomi hover between them and us, explaining that while beef is a good source of protein for bodybuilders, the cut of meat and even its source determines how much you should eat.

When there’s a slowdown in work, Hibiki takes a load off and tucks into a multi-thousand-calorie meal. Gina believes this is Hibiki’s secret to, among other things, beating her at arm-wrestling: the same ability to consume huge amounts of muscle-building protein as a pro wrestler, only she enjoys doing so! Of course, it’s just Hibiki’s “cheat day,” but she won’t be able to slack off on the other days.

When the others ask why Hibiki has to work five days a week in addition to school and the gym, she says it’s to pay her monthly membership fees and for all the food she eats. Akemi informs her that thanks to her older sister, chairman of the board of their school, gym fees and other training-related expenses are covered by the school! That said, Hibiki still needs to pay for her own food.

While sitting in class and half-paying attention, Gina notices that Satomi has a beauty mark beneath her eye that she’s sure she’s seen before. Sure enough, a quick check of her phone confirms that Satomi is “Yulia Riko”, cosplay sensation. When she tells Satomi that she knows, Satomi assumes Gina wants something in exchange for her silence, as, in Gina’s words, she’s “suspicious of altruism.”

So Gina comes up with a worthy payment: she gets to spend the day with Satomi/Yulia, including a one-on-one photoshoot and sightseeing tour. When Satomi complains of soreness after a nice workout, Gina introduces her to the concept of active rest, which actually helps you recover from fatigue faster than the passive kind (i.e. sitting on your bum and swilling beer). It’s all about aiding circulation of blood (and thus oxygen) throughout the body.

Their active rest for the day takes the form of a brisk but comfortable jog that isn’t overdoing it and enables them to carry on a conversation, all the way to Akihabara. When Satomi hilariously asks the tourist if she’s going there to buy electronics, Gina responds that due to her love of all things Japanese (and a few things that aren’t like Hong Kong and yoga), she’s determined to become an idol…and she’s taking Satomi and her new friends along for the ride.

The public idol audition they end up competing in is judged by a director voiced by Yoshino Hiroyuki (nice cameo!) who is tired of normal-looking girls with a normal level of talent performing normally. That is, until the bikini-clad “Muscle Girls” arrive on stage, riding on the shoulders their burlier fellow gym members. All of a sudden, things are a bit too abnormal for the director…with emphasis on the ab!

Rather than sing, Gina and Ayaka deliver an impressive sparring demonstration, while Hibiki does bench presses with Akemi spotting. Their final act is Satomi, hiding her face behind a kendo mask, performing a perfect deadlift, the toughest and riskiest of the three major barbell exercises.

Despite enthusiastic applause by the crowd, they fail to make the cut…partially because they didn’t sing anything, but also because they were just way too weird. Normal, the director concludes, is fine after all. Too bad; I would have loved to see these guys on tour!

Kami-sama no Memo-cho 7

This week was a very talky episode, but a lot was revealed about Sou and Renji’s past, and the question floated: what’s more important, friendship or truth? Narumi is running every which way, carefully extracting tidbits of information, risking dire bodily harm, and trying to piece together exactly what their beef is, and why Renji wants to destroy Sou so badly. All this while checking in intermittently with Alice and arranging all the PR for Mika’s upcoming concert, which hasn’t been cancelled.

Turns out they used to live together with a third roommate, an illegal immigrant named Hison. They both loved and protected her – you could say she was the glue that held them together – but she was no saint herself, working at the bar of a rival gang, and was its leader’s mistress. When the leader’s wife found out, she ordered her killed – even though she was with child. Sou tried to stop it, but couldn’t. These very crucial blanks were filled in by none other than one of Hiro’s conquests, an eyewitness to the incident.

All these years, Sou has been content to keep the truth buried, and loathed anyone digging into it. Renji believed Sou used Hison as a human shield, knowing nothing about the mistress or pregnancy angle. Renji has a gang of misfits working for him and many years of rage for Sou stewing. But whether he think Renji killed her or simply didn’t stop her from being killed, it will be hard to dissuade him from his vengence. In fact, in the episode’s cliffhanger (long arc, this), Narumi gets the message that “Sou is down”, signalling that it may be too late for peace negotiations – the war may have already begun.


Rating: 3.5

Kami-sama no Memo-cho 6

So Narumi’s wild-haired new friend Renji is not only a former Hirasaka group member (his name’s even Hirasaka), but it turns out he’s the one behind the Hirasaka T-shirt theft, along with the concert venue sabotage. It seems he may have a score to settle with his former associate Souchiro, but so far the details of that score remain anyone’s guess.

When Souchiro learns Narumi has had contact with Renji, and after he half-chokes him to death, he gives the ominous reason of “he broke a promise” to explain what happened between him and Renji. For his part, Renji seems to be a bit devious; I for one am not buying his chummy demeanor with Narumi, even if Narumi is. Whatever he’s up to, it ain’t good.

“Once a fool, always a fool” is Alice’s take on the matter, as she doesn’t want Narumi rushing headlong into matters that could get him hurt or killed (Tetsu saves him and Ayaka from just that). Despite her constantly protesting his ineptitude, she’s become quite attached to him. Which is why she lets him go try to prove to himself that he can be useful, equipped with a plush protection owl.


Rating: 3.5