Mirai Nikki – 03

Keigo, a detective and the fourth diary user, sends Amano and Yuno off on a fun-filled, romantic date to serve as bait for Minene Uryuu, whom they have to finish off. She’s sneaking around the city, staying in the shadows and suffering from the pain of losing her eye. A mystery dude who turns out to be another diary user carries her to a secluded cabin where he drugs her in hopes of gaining intel on the other users she knows. Just when Amano’s fears about Yuno are allayed, she brings him to her house, where he pokes around and finds rotting corpses, making him flee from her in terror.

For some reason, we kept noticing unintentional references to other series this week. Like Deadman Wonderland, you have your girly-sounding guy (Amano, actually voiced by a girl); your seemingly harmless, cute girl (Yuno); amusement park complete with ferris wheel; and the pretty but psycho bitch with a horrible, pain-filled childhood (Minene Uryuu), who gets more depth this week. Like Boku wa Tomodachi ga Sukunai, there was your sexy pool scene. Like Blood-C, you have things starting out all happy and bubbly, but with hints of unease, and then it gets real dark real fast, and our whelpish hero is in a very bad way. We have to say, while we were somewhat convinced Yuno was helping Amano out of love, we had no idea it would be “I want to use your entrails as hair ties and eat your face” love. Poor Amano…

With Minene – the would-be top threat – neutralized this week by the man with the bag on his head, Yuno is our wolf in sheep’s clothing this week. What’s so scary about her is that she’s really capable of anything; but hasn’t yet to come out and said what she wants or what she’ll do, which is good for a horror story, because what’s more fearsome than the unknown? Creepier still is the fact Amano will have a very hard time avoiding her, since her diary is basically set up to stalk him. So kudos to the show for starting out with a bafflingly placid date complete with acute bikini top loss, and taking it in the complete opposite direction. Now Amano needs to grow some bullocks.


Rating: 3.5

Advertisements

Spring/Summer 2011 Wrap-Up

Out with the old, in with the new. This weekend RABUJOI said goodbye to the last of the Summer series and Spring carryovers, with one exception, Mawaru Penguindrum, which will continue into the Fall. In all, it was a decent season, with lots of variety. We love the sense of completeness that comes with wrapping up a season – two in this case. Here’s a list of who won what:

• Best Overall Anime: Mawaru Penguindrum. Every episode has been excellent, in our humble opinion.

• Most Gore-tastic Series: Blood-C…the censors were awfully busy.

• Best Series Dealing With Sudden Parenthood: Usagi Drop. Really down-to-earth, heartwarming stuff.

• Best NEET Detective Series: Kami-sama no Memo-cho.

• Best Life-At-An-Inn Series: Hanasaku Iroha, which finished very strong.

• Best Telepathically-Controlled Mecha Action: Kamisama Dolls.

• Best Period Mystery/Action Series: Dantalian no Shoka.

• Best Goofy Superhero Series: Tiger & Bunny.

• Best Series Set in Paris at the Turn of the Century: Ikoku Meiro no Croisée.

• Best High School Club Series: Sket Dance.

• Best Post-Apocalyptic Series with a Number for a Name: No. 6.

• Best Shounen Series Where the Characters Were More Fun to Watch Than the Action: Ao no Exorcist.

• Best Score: (tie) Kamisama Dolls and Mawaru Penguindrum.

• Best Female Seiyu, Spring 2011: Chiaki Omigawa as Minko Tsurugi/Minchi (Hanasaku Iroha)

• Best Male Seiyu, Spring 2011: Hiroaki Hirata as Kotetsu T. Kaburagi/Wild Tiger (Tiger & Bunny)

• Best Female Seiyu, Summer 2011: Marie Miyake as Ringo Oginome (Mawaru Penguindrum)

• Best Male Seiyu, Summer 2011: Hiroshi Tsuchida as Daikichi Kawachi (Usagi Drop)

Blood-C 12 (Fin)

Fumito reveals himself as the mastermind of Saya’s entire ordeal. He captured her, a being with the strength and abilities to go toe-to-toe with elder bairns, but rather than human blood, she feeds off of elder bairn blood. He made a half-elder bairn play the role of her father and created the whole shrine maiden artifice as a vehicle to propel her to fight the bairns Fumito sent at her. After killing all the cast save Amino, he escapes to Tokyo, shooting her in the face as she lunges at him…but the game he started isn’t quite over.

For those who wanted the bloodiest, most disturbingly goretastic finale, well, you got one; though most of that gore was covered up by censors. That’s okay, I just ate a rich dinner, and was thus relieved to only have to catch the gist of the carnage. I’m not sure if a future Blu-ray release will be uncensored or not, but if it is, I must remember not to eat a big meal prior to re-watching it. Notably, after making themselves far less likable last week, Nono, Nene, and Tokizane get their bloody, karmic comeuppance. But there wasn’t just grisly death on display; we were also treated to some exquisite Saya ass-kicking that got downright lyrical and reached a fever pace.

Fumito’s obviously an immensely powerful person, but also an immesely sick, disturbed, evil person, and the multiplying elder bairns he unleashes on the fake village to slaughter all the extras just drives that point home. That being said, he’s a human being. He doesn’t believe Saya can kill a human, but if ever there was one for whom she could make an exception, it’s him. This whole series could be boiled down to one, long, harrowing, emotionally and physically torturous practical joke played on Saya. Come next June, she’ll look to settle the score in the film that will wrap this story up.


Rating: 4

Blood-C 11

Tsutsutori, Nono, Nene, and Tokizane reveal themselves as actors in a grand experiment with Saya as the star. She is a not-quite-human entity with superhuman powers. Fumito captured her and began fooling around with her memories. Whenever she attacks an elder bairn, she’s drunk its blood, making her remember some of her real memories of meeting with Fumito. The teacher, twins and Tokizane are tired of this, and want out, so they try to restore her memories permanently to stop the cycle. But they run into Amino and Itsuki, and eventually Fumito also shows up, likely to stop them…

When it was finally clear last week that the whole story to that point had been some kind of simulation, I immediately thought of the Truman Show. Like Truman, Saya is initially utterly convinced that the world she’s living in are real and her friends are really that. It’s pretty cruel for it to turn out to be a production. Even more amusing is how different the actors are from the characters they’ve played: Nono and Nene are immoral, conniving, vain bitches, Tokizane is a greedy, selfish coward, and the teacher is…well, she was always flirty with Saya, so she didn’t change much. Class Rep Itsuki is still a stickler for the rules, but without the friendliness of his character. One of the best lines of the series came from one of the evil twins: “How are these uniforms realistic in any way?”

It turns out they are: black and red hides the blood. Just like a tiny, isolated village makes it easier to keep Saya involved. I’m surprised the elder bairns are real, and in fact still a threat (though not to the main cast, who bear protective talismans), and seem to also be variables in Fumito’s experiment. This is why they kept asking her to “honor the contract” – she was killing them during Shrovetide, a period when it’s okay to eat humans. Throughout all of this explanation though, Saya is fairly inert. She just kneels there on all fours, breathing heavily, unable and/or unwilling to take it all in. But however much she knows, now we know why those school scenes were so tacky!


Rating: 4

5 down, 7 to go: Current Anime Rankings as of Today

With four series completed (Ikoku Meiro no Croisee, No. 6, Tiger & Bunny, and Usagi Drop) and one dropped (Morita-san wa Mukuchi), we felt like now was a good time to put up part of the new RABUJOI Big Board and see where things stand with seven series left to wrap up for Spring/Summer 2011:

Summer 2011

Episode # : 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 AVG

Mawaru Penguindrum 4 4 4 4 4 4 4 4 4 4 4.000
Kamisama Dolls 4 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 4 3.5 4 4 3 3.636
Usagi Drop 3.5 4 3.5 3.5 4 3.5 3.5 3.5 4 3.5 3.5 3.636
Blood-C 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 4 4 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.600
Kami-sama no Memo-cho 4 4 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3 4 3.5 3.591
Dantalian no Shoka 4 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 2.5 4 3.5 3.500
Ikoku Meiro no Croisée 3.5 3 3.5 3.5 3.5 3 3.5 3.5 3 3 3 3.5 3.292
No. 6 3.5 3.5 3.5 3 2.5 2.5 3.5 3 3 3.5 3 3.136
Morita-san wa Mukuchi 2.5 2 2 2 2.5 2 2 2 2.125

Weekly Average 3.6 3.4 3.4 3.3 3.4 3.3 3.3 3.2 3.6 3.6 3.2 3.5 0.0 3.391

Spring 2011 Carryovers

Episode # : 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 AVG

Hanasaku Iroha (second half) 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3 3.5 3.5 4 3.5 4 4 3.583
Tiger & Bunny (second half) 3.5 3.5 3.5 4 3.5 3 3.5 3.5 3 3 3 3.5 3.375
Ao no Exorcist (second half) 3 3.5 4 3.5 3.5 3 3 3 3 2.5 3.200
Sket Dance (second half) 3 3 3.5 3.5 3 3 3.5 3 3 3 3.5 3.182

Weekly Average 3.3 3.4 3.6 3.6 3.4 3 3.5 3.3 3.3 3.2 4.0 0.0 0.0 3.335

Stray Observations (many with baseball references)

• Cliff Lee is a good pitcher. Mawaru Penguindrum is a good anime. These are facts. Depending on how the first half ends, we may be compelled elevate it to Favorites.

• Currently tied with the completed Usagi Drop, Kamisama Dolls will need to rally in the twelfth inning to order to claim second place.

• With some new twists that open the series wide open, Blood-C also has a chance to take second, but it will have to score 4s in its final two innings; not an easy feat.

• Memo-cho and Dantalian no Shoka are following similar paths: excellent starts, consistent standout-ness from weeks 3-7/8, and lost a little command towards the end.

• Ikoku Meiro no Croisee was a pleasant enough series, but never moving enough to score a 4. Lack of hussle?

• No. 6 suffered the same fate as Fractale, only worse: it looked good on paper: a big world, big ideas, great concepts; but not nearly enough time to realize any of it to our satisfaction. Should have been at least a 26-episode season.

• Thanks to the brief firtation with the mediocrity of the three-minute Morita-san, we have our most colorful scoreboard yet! If we remove it from the Summer watchlist, the overall season rating jumps from 3.391 to 3.549 –  a 15% rise. FYI, our average of all anime since we started rating them hovers around 3.5, ’cause if it ain’t standout, we usually won’t watch it.

• Just like its first half began, Hanasaku Iroha looks to finish strong. Just gotta wrap up the Ohana+Ko arc and a few other things.

• Ao no Exorcist…doesn’t. Apparently the anime story deviates greatly from the source manga. We don’t read source manga, so we didn’t notice, but if the manga story was better, it might have been better if they’d used that. As it is, Ao is whiffing at the off-speed stuff and late with the heat.

• We’ve stuck with Sket Dance for 26 games, but we don’t know if we’ll stay with it for all 39. Fall 2011 is a big season coming up, there may not be time. And one can’t rush a gentleman’s game. Unless you limit the amount of time a pitcher takes to come to the plate.

Blood-C 10

Saya fights an elder bairn that’s nothing but a head, a spine, and hair, who may or may not be her mother. Tokizane is killed. Her father disappears. Fumito serves her more coffee and grimauves. Her teacher Tsutsutori asks if she can take a look at the shrine library, and when they discover all the books are brand new, and all blank save the one about the legend of the elder bairns, Tsutsutori insists Saya stop “playing this game”…then Nono and Nene reappear, as if they were never killed.

What’s in her coffee? What’s in those grimauves? What exactly is up with Saya? The mystery thickens this week, as many things we’ve held true to this point are upended. The ghost story Tsutsutori tells in class sounds the same as the legend in the book, but why is the book new? Why are the others blank? Fumito is acting stranger than ever. What’s hiding behind his kind smile? Why is his arm heavily bandaged after Saya’s father disappeared. Did he off him?

As for Tokizane, his insistence on running in to help Saya had a predictable result: his death. It was far quicker and less gory than those of late. But with Nono and Nene back from the dead and Saya having all manner of visions, I’m starting to wonder myself if anyone at all is even dead, and that the legend is a fabrication. Each week there’s a veneer of repetition that could grow grating, but each week a new revelation comes to light, though we’re still a long ways from the truth of things. For now, Saya is just trying to keepitogether.


Rating: 3.5

Blood-C 9

Murphy’s Law is in full force as a crustacean-like elder bairn kills Saya’s entire class, getting cheap shots in as she battles it. When it takes Yuuka, her last close friend, she goes into red-eye mode and viciously slays the beast. Only the class chairman survives, along with Tokizane, who skipped school. After her teacher asks her if she killed everyone, Saya wakes up, numb with loss, but also lost herself; beset by images in her head whenever she tries to remember anything.

So, after establishing a very pleasant, chummy atmosphere at Saya’s high school – a safe haven of sorts – the last few episodes have methodically, mercilessly, and effortlessly torn to gory shreds any sense of security and virtually all solace. All is lost. Saya proves yet again that while she excels at slaying elder bairns, her everyone-protecting skills leave much to be desired. Of course one can hardly blame her; circumstances couldn’t be worse, as the venue is rife with defenseless, horrorstruck students. It doesn’t take much for them to all become corpses or simply piles of miscellaneous pieces in pools of blood. It’s sickeningly visceral, horrible stuff.

It’s also obvious that if we ever get straight answers about who exactly Saya Kisaragi is, what her true role is, who she promised, and why she keeps eating grimauve, it may not be till the bitter end. The series continues to keep its cards close, and despite all the hints the dog is throwing her way, Saya remains extremely confused about her raison d’être. If she is the town’s protector, well, she’s failed. Dozens of people are dead and she couldn’t stop it. At this point, I’d be questioning whether what I’m doing is right or even beneficial too.


Rating: 3.5

Blood-C 8

Tokizane learns about the elder bairns when he sees Saya finish one off; he pledges to help her however he can. Saya’s father seems out of it, as Saya even find him unconscious at home (he’s last seen talking to Fumito). The dog visits Saya in the bath, urging her to remember who she made her promise to. Three days pass without an attack, but the day the school re-opens, Saya’s classroom is viciously attacked by a new elder bairn.

Things are just not going well for Saya’s Pledge to Protect. Many of her classmates are slaughtered like pigs in front of her, and the episode actually ends before we see her take her katana to it. To be fair, this is a particularly nasty customer, teeming with spiky legs the size of tree trunks and a massive maw. Now her two worlds are irreversibly mixed, and so far it’s like oil and water – they’re not getting along. Kudos to the writers for lulling us into such a bubbly false security in earlier episodes, only to meticulously, mercilessly tear it to shreds in the last few.

Part of me is starting to suspect that the kind young cafe owner, Fumito, could the person Saya made the promise to. It’s just a wild guess, but I can’t think of another reason for him to still be around having such strange scenes as the one with Saya’s dad. Like Saya, we’re still very much in the dark, and Saya’s too busy killing bairns to do any sleuthing, even if she were so inclined. For now, I have to wonder whether she’ll be able to slay the bairn in her classroom before it can kill anyone else.


Rating: 3.5

Blood-C 7

Not only has Saya begun to doubt whether she can keep her promise to protect everyone (so far, she has good reason to), she isn’t even sure when she made the promise…or to who. Now the dog has decided to start talking to her, but isn’t ready to give her any definite answers…only that he’s supposed to fulfill a made wish. Her father is comforting, but silent. The restaurateur is still a little creepy, and her teacher seems to know too much.

From time to time the series has transitioned to the scene in the mansion with the floating orbs of blood. Finally, we see that Saya herself was once in this mansion, staring across the table at Mr. Ominous Voiceover. We don’t exactly understand the nature of the request yet, only that he meant for Saya to be an experiment of some kind. I can’t help but speculate that this guy may be responsible for her red-eye superpowers.

She definitely need them this week, as the latest elder bairn is not only very chatty and mocking, but also has eight arms that threaten to julienne (Sayenne?) her. She goes into red-eye mode and bisects him, but not before he lets off some very self-doubt inducing slogans. Also, Tokizane shows up just when she’s coming out of her trance, kneeling in a pool of blood. Something tells me he isn’t freaked out.


Rating: 3.5

2011 So Far – in chart form

We like charts here on RABUJOI. This one plots the ratings of all the anime series we’ve reviewed so far in 2011. We’ve included Summer 2011 series, even though we’ve got 5-6 more weeks of episodes in those seasons. When the Summer season does conclude, we’ll update this chart.

So what do we see? Well, while we deem a 2.5 rating to be “Average”, our actual average is closer to 3.5, which we deem “Standout”. This is because there’s a lot of anime out there, but we try to only watch the best. There are exceptions, of course: the main outlier here is Morita-san wa Mukuchi, which rates just above 2 or “Mediocre” (UPDATE: As of episode 7, we’ve dropped Morita-san :P). There are a lot more series out there we’d probably rank this low or lower, but we don’t have the time or the stomachs to sit through them.

So why do we watch Morita-san wa Mukuchi? Well, it’s only three minutes long; hardly a major investment. So it isn’t that we rate high. We just watch series that regularly deserve above-average ratings. Thus when a truly brillant series comes around – like AnoHana or Mawaru Penguindrum, you’ll see a lot of 4s. At the end of the day, it’s all subjective. We also just like charts. Did we say that already?

Summer 2011 OPs and EDs

We’re not even going to bother posting videos of these anymore, since most of not all won’t be working links in a few days time due to YouTube policies. Stills will have to do. And suffice it to say, you’ve probably seen/heard these openings and endings before…otherwise, go check ’em out; we deem them the best of the Summer.

Best Opening: Mawaru Penguindrum. A no-brainer. Like the series itself, it’s slick, smooth, full of color and motion. The theme, “Nornir” by Etsuko Yakushimaru Metropolitan Orchestra, is catchy and serious with just a tinge of cuteness to compliment the presence of the cartoon penguins.

Runner-up: Dantalian no Shoka. “Cras numquam scire” by Yucca is soulful and melancholy with just a hint of hope mixed in. The visuals, like the backgrounds and settings of the series, are richly textured and lush.

Honorable Mentions: Blood-C and Kamisama Dolls. Blood-C benefits from its kinetic ballad-like theme, “Spiral” by DUSTZ, whose lyrics span three languages without sounding too silly. The visuals are unambiguous in laying out the content of the show: namely Saya kickin’ ass. Kamisama Dolls’ latinesque theme – “Fukanzen Nunshō” by Chiaki Ishikawa – is the openings pièce de résistance. The multilayered shapes moving over characters, changing their colors, is also a nice touch.

Best Ending: Mawaru Penguindrum. “DEAR FUTURE” by coaltar of the deepers is full of pent-up energy and longing being belted out with lots of fancy melodies. The Himari triplet imagery doesn’t make much sense, but its cool anyway. A good way to end each (so far) excellent episode.

Runner-up: Ao no Exorcist. A series of cubes jumping up and down to the pumping electropop beat of “Wired Life” by Meisa Kuroki prefaces a stylish, elegant ending sequence. It’s a simple but well-executed concept using pans and conceals of characters.

Honorable Mention: Kamisama Dolls. More Chiaki Ishikawa’s amazing voice, now in a more spacey, sci-fi style than the latin opening. I particularly like the very end, which pulls out of a shot of the core characters to an almost U2-like 12-string closing chord.

Blood-C 6

Saya is good at killing elder bairns, and by extension protecting her friends and her town...from a distance. But as it’s been demonstrated, once an elder bairn has a victim in sight, Saya can’t do much to save them. She can’t fight and protect Nene at the same time. And so Nene becomes the first of Saya’s classmates to die. The scene is portrayed with all the necessary horror. We knew it was pretty much inevitable, but it still hurts to watch (though less bloody thanks to network censors).

Just when you thought, well, she has an identical twin, they wouldn’t kill off both in the same episode…well, they do. Nono doesn’t just die, she’s possessed by her own shadow while pleading for Saya to tell her where her sister is. The shadow consumes her and Saya, and when Saya defeats it, Nono is torn to pieces in a rain of blood. I cannot overstate the gruesomeness – especially when neither Nene nor Nono had anything to do with this elder bairn business until that cliffhanger. The contrast from the lighter moments of the series couldn’t be more stark. Hell, they couldn’t be more lannister.

Fumito is as creepily supportive as ever, Tokizane wants Saya to spill the beans about what’s troubling her, and that little doglike animal that’s been showing up so often finally talks to her, telling her to “wake up”. Saya is coming to grips with the fact she’s little more than a deadly weapon with no free will of her own, not a shield that can protect her friends. And I don’t think it’s helping her sanity. One thing’s certain: the lighthearted school moments are over with.


Rating: 4

Blood-C 5

This week’s Blood-C was bangin’, switchin’ up the formula a bit, whereby the battle comes first, then the lighter high school stuff. Then it does something else: it finally combines those worlds, much to Saya’s horror. We’ve arrived at the crossroads, people. The bloody crossroads.

The latest elder bairn she kills once again refers to the contract between them and humans. We don’t know exactly what the contract is, but it probably means looking the other way and letting them eat humans in exchange for relative peace, or something. Regardless, the doubt and confusion stirring in Saya starts spilling into her normal life. And it hurts her lil’ noggin, too.

A thunderstorm cancels her gym class, so they tell horror stories instead. After a half-hearted attempt by the class prez, the teacher steps in and, well, there’s no other way of saying it: she describes exactly what’s going on on the other side of Saya’s life. She’s even about to reveal the answer Saya wants so badly – what is the contract? – when Saya faints. Tokizane, who has exchanged knowing looks with her all along, catches her. I really hope this guy does someting soon. Something.

Back home at the temple, her classmate Nene, who wanted to hear the teacher’s story, comes to apologize, and boom, a massive elder bairn bursts out of the ground behind her. Shit just got real. It’s a cliffhanger, but damn, it’s a good one. After seeing a woman Saya saved earlier scream and recoil in horror when she held out her bloody hand to help her, I’m guessing some of Saya’s friends will be equally horrified when they see the bairn-slayer. Which is unfortunate, because she’s awesome.


Rating: 4