Mayonaka no Occult Koumuin – 02 – Another Bang for Another Buck

After two episodes, one thing that stands out about MOK is the quality of animation…or rather lack thereof. There’s a number of things drawn in a fast, iffy, haphazard way that all combine to distract from a story that probably needs better production values to hold my interest.

Which is a shame, because MOK is as strong with the Japanese mythology as it is weak in actually showing it, from the nekomata Yuki who reunites with Arata (who thought Yuki was just a regular cat years ago) to a mysterious nine-headed kishi that threatens to cause further Another disturbance.

Arata and the other midnight occult civil servants are putting in overtime to investigate a string of recent burglaries involving very particular magical objects. Arata, with his “Ears of Sand” that can understand Anothers, is immediately one of the more in-demand members of the office, as if it wasn’t for him, they wouldn’t be able to gather the information they need to connect the dots.

There’s also a weird tension between Arata’s desire to reason with all Anothers through dialogue and his co-worker’s belief that’s naive and even reckless. They maintain that Anothers are distinctly another, and that they and humans just aren’t going to see eye-to-eye on things. I tend to side with Arata on this; after all, the position of the others is due largely to the inability to ever properly communicate prior to Arata’s arrival.

Still, Arata manages to do something stupid and touch a magical circle of some kind before determining whether it’s safe. He and Kyouichi are teleported deep beneath a mountain, where the “oni” who was riding the kishi, stole all the magical objects, and created the magical circle, is there to welcome “Abe no Seimei” with a horde of kyoushi, or Japanese zombies.

That last-minute reveal finally introduces some serious peril to what had thus far been a mostly harmless job; the kyoushi can’t be talked to or reasoned with, so Arata had better hope he can convince their master to make them stand down. I bet Arata wishes he’d listened to his grandpa more…

Mayonaka no Occult Koumuin – 01 (First Impressions) – Believe What You See

MOK’s first episode takes place entirely at night, as Miyako Arata reports to his first shift at the Shinjuku Ward Office “Nocturnal Community Relations Division”, the exact nature of which is something Arata himself is a little fuzzy about.

He meets two of his new colleages, the bishounen scientist Himezuka Seo and their bespectacled shift leader, Sakaki Kyouichi. They’re both warm and friendly, and inform Arata most of his shifts will take place outside, which only compounds his confusion with what their division does.

Kyouichi and Seo take him to the entrance to Shinjuku Gyoen, unlock the gate, and head inside for a “rite of passage” that involves spraying a “helper spray” that makes fairies and other supernatural creatures visible to those who aren’t able to see them.

Arata meets a tiny (and somewhat surly) pixie, a giant, cuddly Cu Sith, and more, and learns that it’s the NCR Division’s job to maintain good relations with the various supernatural beings that inhabit the forests. It’s most comforting to learn that Tokyo’s ultra-urbanization over the decades hasn’t resulted in the destruction of these beings.

Rather, they exist much like conventional city animals—pigeons, crows, raccoons and squirrels—they’ve adapted to exist beside humans, albeit out of sight to most. Only occasionally, they can cause a disturbance, such as a fight breaking out between angels and tengu.

Arata discovers that an angel and a tengu are lovers who wish to elope, but neither the angel’s older sister nor the tengu’s father approve, and since the two races just naturally don’t get along, it isn’t long before their bickering spills outside of the park and into the city proper.

While Arata can tell the angels and tengu mean no harm, Kyouichi and Seo both seem to ignore them and present a defensive posture, ready to use gas grenades and the like to disperse them. However, Arata informs them that he can hear what they’re saying, and manages to defuse the situation by being the one person who can have a calm dialogue with everyone.

Arata’s colleagues are amazed that Arata can understand what the angels and tengu are saying—it’s a rare if not impossible gift for a mere human, and sure enough when an elder tengu appears and addresses Arata as Abe no Seimei, it’s all but confirmation Arata isn’t a mere human at all.

MOK follows a long tradition of night-oriented Tokyo-set shows like Tokyo Ghoul and Durarara!! in creating a rich and lived in animated version of the Eastern Capital. It also follows the latter of those two shows with a usually laid back, upbeat tone, helped in no small part by the jazzy score by Evan Call (previously of Violet Evergarden and currently of YU-NO). I found MOK—or Midnight Occult Civil Servants—clever, cozy, and cool.

Shingeki no Bahamut: Virgin Soul – 21

Alessand goes through a lot of emotions as he stalks and kills Mugaro. There’s some excitement and satisfaction he’s proven his “worth” to the Onyx Soldiers, but also a crushing guilt and self-hatred. He is truly a fallen knight. He failed the test.

He also fails to get out undetected; Favaro spots him fleeing the scene of the crime, but rather than give chase, he takes Mugaro to Rita, who tries despretely in vain to save his life as everyone around watches, including Nina, who had been previously so distracted by her own woes.

It wouldn’t be much of a drama if Rita could’ve so easily saved Mugaro, so he dies, and the group is scattered and lost as a result. After grieving, Jeanne returns to the Land of the Gods with Sofiel and purpose.

Azazel—at times a father, brother, and friend to Mugaro—also storms off, after his hunch about one of Kaisar’s subordinates being responsible is proven true by Favaro.

And naturally, Alessand doesn’t get what he bargained for. He has the blood of a holy child on his hands, but when the Onyx commander shows what being an Onyx soldier really means—becoming host to a life-sucking stone that leads to an agonizing half-life—he immediately balks. I must say, Alessand has gone from harmless buffoon to loathsome wretch in shockingly short order.

Up in the LotG, Gabriel rejoices at the return of Sofiel and Jeanne, but also pained by the news of the loss of El. Never mind; the time for mourning is over, as far as Jeanne is concerned. Sofiel transforms her into a holy warrior, and they prepare to return to the surface world in force to exact their revenge.

Azazel has less luck, at least initially, with his superior Lucifer, and Azzy has to take a book to the face, but he eventually convinces him that Jeanne is indeed moving against Charioce, and there will never be a better time to strike. Whether any kind of coordination is in the cards, we’ll have to see.

And then we have Nina. Ever since Mugaro’s death, her demeanor has been muted, and she admits to feeling numb; like Titus Andronicus, she hath not another tear to shed. She cleans and cleans until, while cleaning Bacchus’ wagon, she finds Mugaro’s dress, and the tears begin to pour, as she recalls raw anguish similar to when her dear father died.

After her good long cathartic cry, Favaro visits her in the wagon, but has no certain answers to her questions. When Nina gets up and shows her face, Favaro is surprised to see it’s no longer soaked with tears; instead, she wears a face of stern determination; of focus.

Like Azazel, like Jeanne, she’s done crying. And if Charioce will continue to hurt and kill her friends, she’ll take it upon herself to stop him, no matter what it takes. Not long thereafter, Jeanne speaks to the people from on high: rise up against the mad king who killed her only child and intends to kill many more.

Shingeki no Bahamut: Virgin Soul – 11

Jeanne and Nina wait for the right moment to make the slip and start the long climb to the elevator that leads to the surface, and freedom. Jeanne quickly learns how useful Nina can be as an ally.

She’s able to run and jump better than any Olympian even with a ball and chain, as well as bend metal bars. These two have great chemistry and their repartee during their escape attempt is great stuff.

Meanwhile, in the realm of the gods, Gabriel lifts whatever seals had been cast on Mugaro, AKA El, and he transforms into someone who, well, looks like they belong among the gods.

El also gains a voice; the voice of Kugimiya Rie, to be exact. He uses that voice to essentially parrot Gabriel’s words: he’ll “correct” humanity and save his mother. He’s like putty in Gabe’s hands so far.

Back at the prison, Rita arrives and quickly works her way down to the lift that will take her to the subterranean network where everyone else is imprisoned, showing what a force she can be on her own when motivated.

It’s also a ton of fun to see Rita clearly take so much joy in her work; she’s having a hell of a time barreling through dozens of guards with ease…until they shoot her out of the air. Even then, she has her umbrella to slow her descent.

In the capital, one of the mob-appeasing demon-on-demon gladitorial matches Charioce is holding in the colosseum becomes the dramatic stage upon which Gabriel gives him one last chance to heed her demands he return the godly property he stole, along with St. Jeanne.

Charioce remains unbowed, despite knowing the gods now have Jeanne’s powerful son. Apparently he believes El isn’t enough for the gods to defeat humanity…but he may well be mistaken. Nevertheless, Gabriel gives him what he seemingly wants: a declaration of war.

Once Nina and Jeanne approach the lift (after a harrowing ordeal with a spider), Jeanne is discouraged by the legion of guards awating them…but Nina assures her she’s got this—she’s “strong”, after all, and demonstrates that strength by acting as a one-woman wrecking crew, creatively using her ball and chain as a leg-mounted mace.

But it’s all for naught, for when the elevator doors open, it isn’t Rita awaiting them, but King Charioce XVII himself, who quickly points his sword at Jeanne’s throat and demands that she join his side against the gods, so that neither the gods nor her son will suffer or die.

Jeanne says “thanks but no thanks”, and Charioce orders her thrown back in her cell, where she’ll stay, powerless to stop those she cares about from “marching to slaughter” (though I still think he’s being overconfident). Say what you will of Charioce the villain, he did give Jeanne a kind of chance to prevent a war; it’s just that Jeanne would never betray her gods, even to save her son…not to mention Charioce simply can’t be trusted.

At this point, Nina, on the bridge, holding off the guards literally singlehandedly, has had enough of Charioce picking on Jeanne, and gives him a peace of her mind once more. Charioce approaches her and gets in her face, causing her not just to blush, but realize he is the man she arm wrestled with; with whom she shared that magical night; with whom she danced.

Learning that man and the evil king are one and the same is definitely gutting for Nina, who offers no resistance as she and Jeanne are re-imprisoned (though I wonder if they’d be placed right back in the same block together again).

Nina’s spirits immediately lift when Rita and Rocky appear, having taken advantage of all the ruckus Nina and Jeanne’s escape attempt caused to sneak in under the radar. Here’s hoping Attempt #2 is more fruitful.

Touken Ranbu: Hanamaru – 01 (First Impressions)

trh11

What is it: The story of seventeen swords given human form living together in a citadel. They are charged with annihilating the History Retrograde Army, a group committed to changing history. Rookie Yamatonokami Yasusada is made Captain in his first operation, and his team is wounded without completing their mission.

trh12

Why You Should Watch: TRH welcomes you in to what amounts to a big family full of individuals, each with their own quirks. The clash of personalities suggests an easy chemistry, with even some heated moments quickly defused. Congeniality rules, as all these human swords recognize they all share the same objectives: serve their master the Sage…without getting broken.

Why You Shouldn’t Watch: The episode takes some time to get going. After a dark and murky action scene that turns out to be a dream, it spends an inordinate amount of time on a snowball fight that clunkily introduces the cast one by one.

trh13

There are also too many characters with complex names to keep track of (17 in all), and not one lady among them. Despite a lot of dialogue being given over to explaining the history-preservation concept, the execution left much to be desired, as the ultimate mission just felt like fighting evil foes in an inn. Simply labeling it as something else doesn’t go far enough to sell the concept.

The Verdict: While not a bad-looking show with a nice underlying family element, TRH just didn’t wow me, or even hook me, in any meaningful way. On paper, human swords being sent on missions to save history sounds intriguing, and future episodes may prove more exciting, but the execution in the crucial first episode was lacking. I doubt I’ll be picking up this show in the long term.

16rating_6

9 Irritating and/or Evil Spring Prettyboys

biba

This season has been lousy with bishounen/prettyboy side characters, who we at RABUJOI have found to be underdeveloped, dull, one-note, and generally irritating, as well as comically evil. Here are the pros and cons of nine guys (in alphabetical order) we really wouldn’t miss if they were shot into the sun and never heard from again, regardless of the genres of the shows they inhabit:

1. Amatori Biba, Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress

Pros: “The Liberator”, leader of the Hunters. Eldest son of the Shogun. Tall, handsome, and adored by the masses (those that are still alive, that is) as a hero. Great hair.

Cons: Not really a hero. Disowned by the Shogun. Uses people (including Mumei) like tools in his crusade to become stronger. Keeps Kabane around like rats aboard his ghoulish train-lab. It was never really in doubt that he was a bad guy, since the first time Ikoma saw him he basically said “This is not a good guy.”

aoyama

2. Aoyama Yuuga, My Hero Academia

Pros: Can fire a laser beam out of his navel. Good personal hygeine.

Cons: Annoying. Self-involved. Preening. Has a permanent V-shaped smirk on his face.

forster

3. Elliot Forster, Gakusen Toshi Asterisk

Pros: Young, handsome, talented, chivalrous.

Cons: Arrogant. Unable to last half an episode against Ayato and Julis. Barely a character.

yuuta

4. Ijika Yuuto, Sousei no Onmyouji

Pros: Extremely powerful exorcist. Can easily get under Rokuro’s skin. Great at pretending to be a nice, kind human being and brother to Benio.

Cons: Comically evil, power-hungry, and arrogant. Only really exists to provide a nemesis for Rokuro to duel. Made Benio cry. Not much else to him.

judar

5. Judar Harvey, Hundred

Pros: Tall, handsome, confident, successful. Runs a huge city/academy ship. Has a gorgeous sister in Claire.

Cons: Like Biba, clearly not a good guy and not really trying to pretend otherwise. Uses his other sister Liza as a power source for the ship, and might have designs on Karen too.

rosevaal

6. Roswaal L. Mathers, Re:Zero

Pros: Rich, influential, a skilled wizard. Seems to want Emilia to be Queen. Welcomes Subaru into his fly palace and gives him a job. Same hilarious voice actor as Soul Eater’s Excalibur.

Cons: Looks like a goofy clown. Has a kinda Dracula vibe to him as well. Believes Subie could be a spy. Kinda annoying speech patterns. Uncertain motives. Possibly sleeping with Ram. Could be evil.

arima

7. Tsuchimikado Arima, Sousei no Onmyouji

Pros: Young, tall, handsome, uninhibited, full of joie de vivre. Powerful exorcist. Committed Rokuro x Benio shipper (like Preston).

Cons: Isn’t interested in Rokuro or Benio’s opinions on the matter of joining together to conceive the Miko. A shameless exhibitionist and voyeur who the cops should probably keep an eye on. All that conviviality could just be an act to conceal inner evil.

keith

8. Keith Aero Windermere, Macross Delta

Pros: Young (way under 30), rich, handsome, (de?)cultured. Ace pilot. Ordained aerial knight. Puts his country first. Cool name.

Cons: Bulky, overwrought wardrobe. Derivative cockpit banter. Driving his frail younger brother Heinz to an early grave. Really only interested in dogfights with Messer. Probably killed Messer.

ohta

9. Ohta, Tanaka-kun wa Itsumo Kedaruge

Pros: Young, tall, and blonde. A slight air of delinquency. Devoted best friend to Tanaka, and makes sure he’s on time for classes and doesn’t end up in ditches. Neither irritating nor evil.

Cons: None. Ohta’s the best. Doesn’t belong on this list. Just messing with you!

Akagami no Shirayuki-hime – 18

aka181

Having been held captive many times before, I fully expected Shirayuki to waste no time attempting escape, relying on her Ellie Sattler-like botanical knowledge and MacGyver-like resourcefulness…and the girl don’t disappoint. First thing she does is rip up her expensive ball gown to make it easier to move, then she discovers some seeds among the cargo that give off a thick smoke when burned.

They successfully misdirect and knock out their two guards, but once she and Kazuki are on the deck, in broad daylight, they’re instantly re-caught by Umihebi. I was actually glad about that, because while burning smoky nuts is clever, these pirates would look pretty incompetent if they let her get away so easily.

aka182

Back at Raj’s castle, I’m a little surprised the princes haven’t set off yet, though I liked how Mitsuhide and Kiki give Zen (holding the broken watch he gave Shirayuki) a much-needed slap on the back to focus him and release all the stuff he’s holding in. Kiki also gives him a note from Obi that ends up aiding their search considerably.

Rather than damage her precious cargo Shirayuki, Umihebi punishes her by viciously whipping her crew members in front of her. Shirayuki, ever abhorring violence, only gains an even lower opinion of the pirate queen, and can’t help diagnosing their injuries, impressing Umihebi.

aka183

Meanwhile, Zen finds Obi thanks to one of Kihal’s homing birds, drawn to the bell Zen meant for Obi to give to Shirayuki, but was never able to due to her kidnapping. Obi and Itoya had joined up with other members of the autonomous Lions of the Mountain.

It takes a little while to sort out what’s going on (Raj seems especially lost at moments), but the bottom line is that Kazuki was once a “decorative ornament” to nobles, then a member of the Claw of the Sea, but defected to the lions and made it his personal mission to rescue Shirayuki from what he (wrongly) believed was a similar fate.

Kazuki and Itoya were so intent on carrying out the mission, they never gave her a chance to speak for herself. So while Kazuki’s motives were pure, his assumptions were disrespectful, as well as wrong. All that aside, both the princes and the lions want their people back, so Zen and Raj form an alliance with their leader to rescue them from the Claw.

aka184

It’s not a coincidence that right after the Lion leader mentions that the “half-hearted” shrink away when the Claw leader Umihebi glares at them with her cold eyes, we see Shirayuki glaring right the fuck back at her. Shirayuki’s no half-heart, but she’s not a hardened soldier either, so despite putting on a defiant face for Umihebi and a brave one for Hazuki, the latter still sees her trembling in fear, which is all to understandable, considering she’s on the cusp of being shipped off to God-knows-where, with no way to tell Zen where she is.

Except, at the close of the episode, she’s no longer alone with Hazuki. When considering all their options, Kiki volunteers to get herself arrested and thrown onto the Claw’s ship as another prisoner, so that Shirayuki can have a capable ally by her side both to protect her and give her hope. Kiki has always been a appallingly underutilized character – she’s essentially an onna-kishi – but I’m very glad she gets to shine here. I also like how Mitsu doesn’t like the idea of her going, but doesn’t stop her either.

As for where Umihebi’s ship is headed, another underutilized character who had just complained about being an outsider, Mihaya, thinks he knows the location of the Claw’s secret mansion, since his crooked dad and brother once did business with them. Shirayuki may still be in enemy hands, but the addition of Kiki spices up what could have been a monotonous captivity, and now that she knows Zen is on the case, she’s far less likely to lose heart, even if things get worse before they get better.

8_mag

Akagami no Shirayuki-hime – 17

aka171

Well, it’s happened: Shirayuki has been whisked away once more, just when I was content with all the easygoing slice-of-court life and looking forward to the ball. But hey, sometimes you gotta let a show take you out of its comfort zone. This isn’t just about romance and daily life, it’s about action and adventure, and for some reason the bishounen Kazuki thinks he knows better where Shirayuki “belongs.”

The entire capture scene is fraught with danger and unpredictability, in the brief period when one could suspend the notion that the abductors would definitely succeed. That’s due to Obi showing us his stuff; to Kazuki’s shock he can fight evenly with his partner Itoya, who is clearly no slouch in the combat department.

But Itoya manages to land a knockout blow to Obi, and he and Kazuki make off with Shirayuki, whom they sedated for easier transport. In the process, Zen’s watch comes loose and falls to the floor, breaking it. Not a good omen for what’s to come at all.

aka172

Obi arguably loses because he’s distracted when Eugena and Rona enter Shirayuki’s room in the middle of the fracas, and Itoya takes advantage of his momentary distraction. But when they come to apologize, Obi doesn’t blame them. From his perspective, they alone shouldn’t have been enough to let Itoya get one over on him.

As Zen races to Tanbarun, and a very lost and distraught Raj plays the song he was to dance to with Shirayuki, a furious Obi decides to hunt down the kidnappers alone. He’s pissed, just as much at himself as the at the kidnappers. After all, he had one job to do: keep Shirayuki safe. He doesn’t want to look at Zen until he gets her back. But beyond all that, Shirayuki is important to him. This cannot stand.

aka173

Raj fully expects to be chewed out or worse by Zen when he arrives, but to his shock, Zen is apologetic for not keeping him informed of the threats against Shirayuki’s safety. Raj apologizes anyway, since it was his duty to protect his guest. When Zen learns Shirayuki was enjoying her stay, he’s glad. Good to see there’s no prince-on-prince bickering holding back the rescue.

Zen does have to report to Raj’s father, the King of Tanbarun, however, to be given leave to move freely within his kingdom for the purpose of retrieving Shirayuki. The king gives him permission, as long as he’s discrete. This is similar to Izana’s warning to Zen that he’d better not draw him or sully his position, or Shirayuki, even if he gets her back, is out.

When Zen, Mitsu, and Kiki prepare to go, Raj sheepishly, then firmly asks that he accompany them; after all. He remember’s Shirayuki’s words about wanting to hear from his people that he’s a good prince, and a good prince doesn’t hide in his castle while others fix problems that occurred on his watch. His valor surprises even his father, but I knew he’d tag along, adding a neat dynamic to the rescue party.

aka174

As two of the three lads who like Shirayuki just starting their mission, the third had a big head start, and is able to catch up to Itoya and Kazuki thanks to his Mad Ninja-Equivalent Skillz. With no distractions and a full head of steam, he has no trouble neutralizing Itoya, but he’s too late: Kazuki and Shirayuki are gone (we knew it wasn’t Obi Kazuki saw, since there were horse hooves, not footsteps).

That’s right: in an interesting twist, Shirayuki is kidnapped from her kidnappers. It sounds ridiculous on its surface, but when considering Kazuki was acting independently after defecting from the Claw of the Sea, and simply got re-captured by them, it’s not that strange. He had “the goods”, now they do. And by “they”, I mean the badass pirate captain Umihebi.

With cooly merciless eyes, she stares right at Shirayuki and tells her straight up “You can’t go home anymore.” Whatever she has in store for her (using her as a bargaining chip for some men in the mountains), it just can’t be good. So now her former kidnapper Kazuki and her are in the same boat: prisoners needing to escape before they’re taken out to sea, just as Itoya and Obi now have the same objective: find Kazuki and Shirayuki. Things are looking good.

8_mag

Love Lab – 05

lovelab5

With Riko guarding the broadcasting room and Sayo and Suzu distracting the faculty, Maki and Eno hold their radio broadcast, answering the request of their anonymous client. After the broadcast Riko gets in trouble, and when Maki finds out she’s furious. After promising not to sacrifice herself again, Riko is tutored in English by Maki, who cross-dresses as a bishounen, “Maki Makio” and Riko’s English exam score improves. The Council gets a reply from the client that she was met with honorable defeat, but doesn’t plan to give up, and will use what she’s learned in future strategies.

The first Love Lab broadcast is a success, if not a resounding one, with everyone executing nicely in their assigned roles. Bottom line, the girl doesn’t get the guy this time, but that’s almost to be expected considering none of the council members have ever snagged a guy by the means they espouse. Sayo technically has a boyfriend, but that was the result of caving to his persistence, not pursuing him in any way. The broadcast and its mixed result not only provided useful experience to the client, but the members as well, as now they know that things won’t always go smoothly even if you are brave and speak up to the one you like.

Riko also experiences a taste of the hellfire that will rain upon her if Maki ever finds out she’s not the master of romance she’s led her to believe. This time, Maki only finds out Riko is lying about having gone to the bathroom when she actually got reamed by a teacher, who considered her the ringleader in the broadcast stunt. Maki sets the record straight with the teacher (who’s a little disappointed) but one thing’s clear: Maki doesn’t like it when Riko lies (though we do much prefer her “Maki Makio” bit to “Huggy”). Hiding secrets may also get tougher if Nana and Momo lift up the rock that is the Love Lab in a newspaper scoop, potentially ruining Maki and Riko’s reps.


Rating: 6 (Good)