Noragami – 02

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There’s a funny cutaway to Hiyori’s past when her mom first warns her about “useless members of society”, while she considers whether Yato is such a person. After all, her out-of-body experiences are really starting to be a problem (even if she has a group of dependable friends who laugh it off as narcolepsy), yet despite promising to “fix” her, he hasn’t done anything in two weeks. This is a classic introduction of someone “not at their best”, which makes both the skeptical party and the audience that much more impressed when we finally see them at their best, or something like it. Yato’s performance in the climax of this episode provides Hiyori with her answer: he’s not useless.

What we love about Hiyori’s predicament is that it’s a double-edged sword, not just a ‘curse”. She never knows when it’s going to happen, nor do we; the show manages to surprise us along with Hiyori with it every time. But when she’s in “Far Shore Mode” she’s also free of her human limitations: she can leap huge distances, run along power lines, and can put serious power behind her MMA moves. These new abilities fuel her confidence that she can help make her god less useless by finding the regalia he needs to cut Phantoms. Then, when she snags a giant tick-like phantom that then starts chasing her, she learns that finding an uncorrupted soul suitable for regalia duty is no simple matter.

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Meanwhile, Yato isn’t really useless, he’s just incredibly small-time at the moment, finding lost pets or scrubbing mildew from baths in exchange for 5-yen coins and the occasional beer. He’s not content with this, but if he wants that lavish, subway-adjacent lavish downtown shrine with three shrine maidens massaging him at once, he needs a weapon. Perhaps overwhelmed by the difficulty of that task, he seems to be slow in getting things moving. Enter Hiyori: it’s when she’s in trouble that Yato notices Mr. Right Soul from several hundred yards away, a little dot of light floating around a mailbox—right where it was floating in the very beginning of the episode, unbeknownst to Hiyori. Nice subtle foreshadowing there.

Our impression of Yato’s casual pace to life is bourne out of the fact that because gods live so much longer than mortals, two weeks is less than the blink of a bird’s eye. Yet his transformation from defenseless punk to tick-dominating badass happens before Hiyori’s eyes in no time at all. Unlike many situations like this in anime, where contracting with your weapon takes at least a whole episode, here it happens refreshingly instantly…and it’s Sayonara Ticky. Just as Yato proved that he’s someone Hiyori can put her faith in to (eventually) fix her, Noragami has proven it’s a show worth our attention; further elevated by Iwasaki Taku’s eclectic, thumping soundtrack, which is very assertive throughout the episode.

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Rating: 8 
(Great)

Noragami – 01

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There’s a pleasant affability to the opening episode of Noragami, owing to its straightforward, efficient, not overly-serious approach to storytelling, its crisp, fastidious Bones animation, and an always-welcome Iwasaki Taku soundtrack. It’s much more lighthearted than the promo art suggested, which merely shows that judging a show’s tone just by its promo art is probably a poor idea. Noragami takes a lot of stuff we’ve seen before in other shows, and tweaks things enough to maintain our interest, for now, at least.

Case in point: a girl being hit by a bus isn’t a horrific tragedy, but the catalyst that begins a transformation…and a friendship. That girl, Iki Hiyori (Uchida Maaya), is a cute MMA fan whose father owns a hospital. It’s quickly established that despite her normal looks her peers consider her a bit of an odd duck, so when her life takes a strange turn, what with the out-of-body-experiences and giant monsters, she takes it in relative stride, even defeating a phantom (the name of the baddies) with her MMA hero’s “Jungle Savate” kick. All this strangeness started right before that bus hit her, when she met Yato (Kamiya Hiroshi).

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Yato’s a down-on-his-luck god wandering the near shore (the living world) for followers. His “sacred treasure” (a weapon with human form, a la Soul Eater) dumped him like a ton of bricks, and he needs a new one to send the evil phantoms back to the Far Shore (the afterlife) where they belong. We liken him to Kamisama Hajimemashita’s Nanami in that he’s just starting out and will have to earn the respect and love of his peers and humans alike. He’s got big aspirations, and is aiming for the top as a god with hundreds of millions of devotees. But it all starts with a found lost cat.

While he does end up under her covers in the hospital and she freaks out a little when she wakes up being carried on Yato’s back, we can gratefully report that the relationship of Yato and Hiyori isn’t limited to her hitting him and calling him a pervert, and we hope the show will continue to show restraint both with that and the panty-shots (just one this week). Hiyori seems mindful that Yato is actually an okay guy, and after paying him the customary five yen, he agrees to tackle her wish to return to normal. So, a decent start, but with such well-tread theme, it didn’t knock our socks off.

7_very_goodRating:7 (Very Good)

K – 03

Blue King Munakata Reishi takes Red King Suoh Mikoto into custody, worried that his power could cause a calamity that would threaten Japan. Suoh goes quietly, but his friend Kusanagi Izumo knows he has a plan. Munakata also orders the city put under martial law for two weeks while he investigates the murder of Tatara Totsuka, who was a member of HOMRA and the reason they’re hungry for revenge. Kuroh has a long meal with Shiro and Neko, after which he vows to kill Shiro, but Shiro convinces him to let him prove his innocence.

Suoh, let’s get straight to the point. Your Weismann level is pushing the limit. If the Sword of Damocles should fall, we’ll have a repeat of the Kagutsu crater. If you insist on drawing more power from the Dresden Slates, I will have to kill you.

Now that right there is some dense proper-noun-laden dialogue right there. It’s what shows that take place in the future where people have supernatural powers are wont to say. But this anime pokes fun at it by having Suoh tell Reishi he has no idea what he’s talking about. It was a necessary bit of exposition, delivered directly but cleverly. While this episode lacked the super-shiny CGI cars and skateboard video fights (though the skateboard kid Yata did get some licks in) it made up for in laying out what’s going on in this crazy mixed-up world, something the first two episodes just didn’t have time to do.

We liked simply being thrown into to the fray blind, but this episode was useful; we learned a lot. The Seven Kings with their elemental powers and rivalries; their tacit understanding that no king can rise above the others without upsetting the balance of the world. It’s all very big, important stuff. On the smaller scale, both the Red and Blue clans are looking for a murderer, while the Black King is after the White King. Only Shiro has no memory. But he does have a cat-girl; one of the things not explained this week. We dig the setting: a prosperous, advanced and powerful Japan with the kings pulling the strings in the background.


Rating: 8 (Great)

P.S. We liked how the episode kept cutting to Shiro’s place, shot from the same angle each time, underlining the tension around and comic quality to a meal that may be Shiro’s last if he doesn’t play his cards right. He does.

No. 6 1 – First Impressions

As the first scene involves the chase of an escaped prisoner, I automatically assumed that No. 6 was the name of the grey-haired kid the guys with guns were chasing. Turns out No.6 is a place; specifically, a city-state in which our protagonist Shion lives. This futuristic, semi-utopian society has a few quirks to it, including the mysterious “Moondrop”, something that sounds like a whale when it cries, and which Shion seems to feels a special connection with.

A few things about Shion: he’s a very girly-looking guy, but then again he’s supposed to be twelve, so that’s okay. He’s a genius, about to enter a ‘special course’, with a high IQ and a kind heart. He also tends to remain calm and measured in his reactions to sudden events. When his friend Safu kissses him, he doesn’t wig out; when the escaped convict – who calls himself Nezumi (“rat”) – invades his house and chokes him, he barely flinches. The only time he loses his composure is when Nezumi tells him he saw him screaming at the Moondrop. For some reason, that turns him beet-red.

So this is a bit of a ‘prince meets the pauper’ kinda deal so far. Nezumi is wanted by the “safety bureau” for some reason, and it looks like he’s led a rough life so far, and he ain’t that old. Meanwhile, Shion isn’t used to expressing fear or doubt; his wealth and status preclude him from despair, if not boredom. But for all his intelligence and kindness, the reality is he’s harboring a fugitive, and that could get him, and his mom, in deep doo-doo if he’s not careful.

I liked this first episode, because it set up a lot of things while leaving a lot left to be answered in the forthcoming episodes. Despite a core cast of kids, it seems pretty mature and temperant so far. I haven’t really be interested in watching anything from Studio Bones for a while, but this definitely shows promise. Production values are decent, if not extraordinary. Rating: 3.5

 

Super 8: The Anime?

Sometimes our minds wander here at RABUJOI, and we think about anime that might work – or decidedly not work – as American TV shows and films, or vice versa. We’re not talking about particularly financially successful shows and films…just interesting ones. And sometimes we just draw parallels from existing anime to existing Americana, or vice versa.

A few for instances: there are tinges of Harry Potter in Occult Academy and Blue Exorcist. True Blood, while a good show, would be far scarier and less goofy if it followed Shiki’s storyline rather than Charlene Harris’s books. I was so turned off by the Marvel-backed Heroman (Bones) and Iron Man (Madhouse) anime, I didn’t even bother with Wolverine (which some may say was a mistake, but I still don’t really regret skipping it).

And then there’s Super 8: a perfectly decent and well-executed sci-fi mystery thriller that amazingly stars a bunch of middle schoolers – including Dakota Fanning’s little sis Elle – that manage not to annoy the hell out of me. The film wasn’t perfect, and the whole time I was watching it I was cursing J.J. Abrams for taking the time to make this film instead of the new Star Trek sequel (Classically a Trek film came out once every two years…the next one better be good for the extra year-plus we have to wait).

Super 8 was a very charming, engaging, and entertaining film, and for some reason I think it would make a great anime. Not a long one, mind you; an 11-episode series in the Noitamina timeslot would suffice in building up and laying out the nicely self-contained story. There are a lot of subtle changes that would have to be made that wouldn’t affect that story in the least. To wit: JSDF instead of USAF; a rural Japanese town instead of a rural American one; a HDV camera instead of a Super 8.

Other things could be left alone. There’s a lot to love: A romance between a boy and girl that’s forbidden by no fault of their own, but by their fathers, due to bad blood? Check. Love triangle that doesn’t get in the way? Check. Train wreck? Check. Weird happenings in a small, quiet town? Check. Classmates making a movie? Check (it worked in Haruhi Suzumiya). Aliens? Check. The town policeman bumping up against the industrial military complex? Check A shonen having to work up the courage to not just defy his and her dads, but to save said girl from said angsty alien? Check and check!

I think Super 8 has great potential moving to the anime medium. Realistically, the chances of J.J. Abrams licensing his script to a Japanese production company are probably slim to nil, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a good idea. Fortunately, and this is why I watch far more anime than American television, there is no shortage of great stories that already inhabit the anime world.

Star Driver Kagayaki no Takuto – First Impressions

I dove into Star Driver, the new fall anime from Studio Bones, without any prior information, and it definitely plops you right into the middle of everything and throws a lot more at you when all’s said and done. Things that caught my eye first included vibrant and immediately-appealing character designs, a picturesque, Okinawa-like setting, and quick, fluid animation. Our main triad of characters – Takuto, Wako, and Sugata, have red, yellow and blue hair, respectively, so they have the primary colors covered.

I won’t lie, I was a little confused by all the terminology and ritual being tossed out there, but this show’s first episode was all about establishing the setting, tone, and factions just as quickly and suddenly as the red-haired hero is exposed to them. We’ve not only got ourselves a high school, but also an underground (and flamboyantly-costumed) evil society, island maidens, mecha-like “cybodys” that can transcend dimensions, and…among them, something called a ‘Galactic Pretty Boy.”

I’m not entirely sure what exactly is going on yet, but I was impressed with the confident direction of this first fun romp. More is sure to be explained in future episodes; till then, we know what’s in store from the get-go. Of course, the bar has been raised pretty high quite soon; we’ll see if Star Driver can continue to deliver. Rating: 3