Yamada-kun to 7-nin no Majo – 05

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I had my doubts about what would happen to my lovely body-swapping comedy when more of the titular seven witches entered the fray: would the balance be upset? Would the extra characters just make things more muddled and unfocused, killing the crispness I’ve enjoyed so much? Well, if Odagiri Nene is any indicator, my reservations were unnecessary. Nene is far more than a school villain, Y7 is about far more than body-swapping, and it knows exactly what it’s doing.

It’s just Ryuu’s luck that Urara wants to kiss him just when he’s off to go see Nene to resolve his current “charming” problem. Urara is the last person he wants to fall in love with him through some kind of kissing spell because, well, he’s falling in love with her for real, and wants the real thing in return. So he tries to keep his problem a secret from Urara.

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That doesn’t last long, however, as he’s unable to find Nene and the time he agreed to kiss Yamada comes and goes. Where a lesser show wouldn’t have him telling Urara the truth until the very end of the episode, Y7 has a lot more ground to cover, and covers it deftly and efficiently.

And it’s actually good for Yamada to tell Urara wha’ts happened, because now they’ve determined that body-swapping isn’t Yamada’s power, but Urara’s; Yamada’s power is copying others’ powers, while making his host susceptible to their own. The body-swapping Urara swaps bodies…and Nene has fallen in love with Yamada.

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As it happens, as Yamada and Urara kiss and figure this out, Nene is watching from the bushes with her lieutenant, Igarashi Ushio (Ono Daisuke), who is upset that Nene has been overcome by unrequited love for Yamada, because, well, it’s pretty obvious that he likes Nene.

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At first, Ushio lashes out at Yamada with a vicious kick. We learn that the two were old friends and fellow n’er-do-wells who sought the same thing by transferring to Suzaku High: fresh starts. But neither of them were able to find any guys they could tolerate, let alone befriend. But an incident caused them to drift apart, leaving Yamada essentially alone until he met (or rather fell on) Urara.

Ushio calms himself and takes a more contrite attitude, getting on his knees, promising he’ll destroy the incriminating photos of Yamada and even make Nene drop out of the election, if only he’ll change Nene, the person most important to him, back to normal.

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Yamada refuses, but Urara agrees on his behalf. This angers him, but in a moment of emphatic (and admirable) assertiveness, Urara gives him a sharp, brutal SLAP and orders him to knock it off. Just as he did with his predicament and the start of this episode, he’s being stubborn and holding back information form her that could help her understand his situation better. They’ve switched bodies numerous times; this is not the time to be tight-lipped, especially when Urara assumed from his standoffishness that he’d gotten sick of her, which is so not the case.

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Grudgingly, Yamada agrees to kiss Nene, satisfying Ushio. When Yamada asks him if he kissed Nene, he says he did, but he likes the person he became because of it. We learn why when Yamada gives Urara the rest of their story. While in an alley they came upon some roughs picking on a girl from their school. Ushio instigates a brawl and the girl is able to run off, and Yamada backs him up, because he’s not about to watch his friend take on four guys by himself. It’s good to see Yamada in Full Delinquent Mode, even if it’s a flashback.

Back at school though, Ushio throws Yamada under the bus. Not only does he get suspended for a week, but the entire school becomes afraid of him, the very thing he hoped to avoid by transferring there in the first place. Ushio, meanwhile, washes his hands of Yamada and takes his place beside the classmate they rescued from the roughs: Nene.

Had Ushio met Nene before, kissed her, and become infatuated to the point of not only starting a fight for her, but framing Yamada so he took the heat? Or had Ushio and Nene never met, and it was Nene who kissed Ushio out of appreciation for saving her? The possibilities are intriguing.

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In any case, Ushio’s betrayal was the reason Yamada hesitated in turning Nene back to normal. But when he meets Nene in private at her hideout in the old school building, he gets fresh insight into her power, and why he can’t possibly allow Nene to stay in a state of unrequited love forever.

Nene seems eager to get this whole thing over with when everyone else is around, but when they leave the two alone, she asks him not to kiss her. You see, she never knew how happy her power could make people until she herself experienced it, something Yamada made possible. And whatever else being in love with Yamada is—unintended, artificial, futile—it isn’t BORING. As we saw with Ito and Miyamura last week after Yamada kissed them, being in love is awesome.

Yamada now understands why Ushio doesn’t mind being under Nene’s spell. But Ushio has a shot at Nene; Yamada makes it clear he’d never fall for Nene, either naturally (as Ushio might have with her) or due to her power (which is reflected by his copying power). Urara is right; Yamada can’t let Nene pine for him forever, and at the end of the day Nene isn’t of sound mind. So he kisses her.

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As if the resolution of this situation wasn’t enough, Ushio produces an incomplete journal from a past Supernatural Studies Club, documenting the Seven “Witches”, or girls with supernatural powers, who attend Sazaku High. Two have now been identified by the club: Urara and Nene, but the other five are a mystery, and the new club is going to find them, because Urara, being one herself, is confident that they want to be found.

Yamada is their Witch Detector, and so grudgingly goes along with this plan. And he can’t really complain, as both he and Ushio got what they wanted: new and exciting school lives that aren’t defined by their violent pasts, and interesting friends. I look forward to new witches being discovered and even more tantalizingly complex character dynamics to sprout up.

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Yamada-kun to 7-nin no Majo – 04

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What keeps every minute of Yamada 7 compelling is the cast’s ability to not simply explore and investigate Yamada’s strange power, but also use it to their advantage. Urara has been the most stealthy yet most prolific in that regard, especially this week, when she swaps bodies with Yamada just before going on a school onsen trip.

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In this case, swapping bodies isn’t about experimenting on the nature of the power. Urara is ostensibly using it so she can study as Yamada while Yamada mingles with the other girls. But because he’s doing it in Urara’s body, he’s able to effect a change in how they regard her; that is, as one of their own rather than an outsider.

Yamada storms into Urara’s room demanding his body back out of exhaustion from spending all day and potentially all night with the super-hyper girls, but it’s also an opportunity for Urara to admit she’s left too much to him, so it’s her turn to take over in her own body. Their perpendicular kiss, followed by a shot of Urara from Yamada’s POV, is pretty darned sexy, to boot.

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But Urara was reckless, and went through her own belongings—including admiring her own panties—while in Yamada’s body, and Vice President Odagiri Nene snaps incriminating pictures. Now, we know from the OP that Nene is most likely one of the seven witches (along with Urara herself), so we know she’s aware of what really happened in those photos. But she wants the presidency, and if Urara skips out on a mock exam, it will hurt Miyamura’s chances and help her own.

A flustered Yamada seeks counsel from Itou and Miyamura, who are more interested in playing cards; this is their first of several great exchanges for what’s turning out to be an awesome supporting duo. They’re not cool with him using Urara to explain away the photos, as it would hurt her reputation. As for switching bodies with Nene, they’re not sure he’s thought it all through.

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Still, he has little other options, so he calls Salia Nene out later that night in her jammies and kisses her—or rather, she kisses him…which is an important distinction, because not only do they fail to switch bodies, but when Miyamura and Itou kiss him, he fails to switch bodies with them as well, meaning his ability is gone.

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Everyone agrees the best thing to do is sleep on it—Yamada’s had a long, exhausting day—but the next day at the barbecue Urara makes him yakisoba in gratitude for helping her get along with the other girls, who all love her. She also wants to go on a trip over Summer break with the Supernatural Club. As Yamada is a member of said club, and he likes Urara, this is an enticing prospect.

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Which gives him a quandary: Urara joined the club so she could switch bodies with Yamada in a safe, private place. If he doesn’t have that ability anymore, will she leave the club, and abandon him? I doubt it, but Yamada has bigger problems upon returning to school: Itou and Miyamura are infatuated with him.

This is a bold move for Y7, having not even fully explored all the possibilities of his body-swapping abilities, to give him the power to make whoever he kisses fall in love with him. Not only that, when he kisses them again to take away the love, they still feel a sense of loss, and only want to get that feeling back.

Masuda Toshiki and Uchida Maaya put on a comic clinic portraying Miyamura and Itou as not only all hot and bothered and competitive with each other while under the spell, to their excitement and desire about being put back under the spell when they’re not on it.

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My theory for what’s going on? Urara and Nene are two of the Seven Witches. When Yamada kisses Urara, he gains the power to swap bodies. When he kisses Nene, he gains the power to charm others. Worried about what Urara would do if she found out he lost the former power, he tries to keep it a secret from her as he heads to Nenes’ to “resolve everything”…but Urara’s right outside the door.

Would kissing Nene or Urara get him his body-swapping power back? What powers do the other five witches have in store? And who’s aware that they’re a witch and who isn’t—I’d guess Urara’s the former and Nene’s the latter, but who knows? All I know is, this is some entertaining supernatural romantic comedy right here.

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Yamada-kun to 7-nin no Majo – 03

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In addition to its ability to smartly construct episodes that go off in interesting and unexpected directions, 7-nin also does quite a good job balancing comedy and poignancy without coming off as sappy. It reminds me a lot of Majimoji Rurumo, only with far more refined character design.

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It’s also clever in the way it brings up situations in which one’s gender makes a difference, such as dealing with the President, Yamazaki Haruma, who doesn’t give men the time of day, which turns out to be a red herring. The Prez can tell from their smell that he’s talking to Yamada and Miyamura, not Urara and Itou. But that’s fine, because he has a job for Yamada: convince Urara to apply to college. Then he’ll get his club budget.

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Yamada, Miyamura, and Itou are then confronted in an outdoor corridor by Vice Prez Odagiri Nene (Kitamura Eri) and Igarashi Ushio, the latter of whom seems to have some kind of undisclosed history with Yamada. Ushio mocks Yamada for being Miyamura’s “dog” now, while Nene warns Miyamura that she, not he, will be the next President.

Turns out Miyamura has more banking on their deal with Yamazaki than Yamada and Itou realized. But Miyamura assures them it’s not just about him anymore; he honestly wants to see the club succeed. He also warns Yamada that if they fail, Yamazaki might shut down the club altogether.

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The interesting mechanics of the body-swapping play a crucial role in Yamada’s ultimate success, though it doesn’t seem like that at first, what with Urara suddenly swapping bodies with Yamada, who not only gets Urara’s body, but her nasty cold as well. Assuming she tricked him so she could study at school, she goes home…to Urara’s house, with Miyamura and Itou tagging along.

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What I love about where this mission takes the three is, despite his delinquent rep, Yamada’s the most not-okay with snooping around Urara’s place, even if it could reveal clues about why she doesn’t want to apply to college. But Yamada finds something else out about the home and Urara’s life; something not immediately apparent to the others: the home may appear “normal”, but it’s also an oppressively lonely place. Even her photo albums are full of forced smiles.

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Not coincidentally, when Urara comes home in Yamada’s body, angry as hell he ditched her (even though Yamada was sure the opposite was the case), we see that what truly hurt her was opening the clubroom to find no one there. When she remarks how it’s lonely whether she’s at school or at home and tells him to go home, Yamada gets the picture and decides he’s not going anywhere.

Even though her face is turned, her memory of the empty clubroom made it clear she wished Yamada had disobeyed her, so she’s elated when he comes back with a damp washcloth. Then he proceeds to shock her and me by making a deal with her: he’ll make a serious run at getting into college, if she comes with him.

With the prospect of college no longer just another setting in which to be alone, she accepts, just as the sun comes out. It may seem fast, but let’s not forget these two have shared bodies, kissed several times, and come to learn a lot about one another, including sides of them no one else knows about.

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That would have made a fine ending, but 7-nin wasn’t quite done. Why close on a poignant moment when you can close with the realization of Yamada’s precious dream of having a microwave in the clubroom, which was his initial motivation, after all.

Only it doesn’t turn out quite as wonderfully as he’d dreamt: not only does Itou microwave his prized yakisoba bread too long while still its plastic wrapping, Yamada’s own body has caught Urara’s cold, which makes sense, as he kissed her twice. You know you’ve got your Couple Card when you’re making each other sick!

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Wizard Barristers: Benmashi Cecil – 11

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The whole purpose of anime and most other audiovisual media, is to show as well as tell what is going on. This episode told us quite a bit, much of which could have been very interesting, but unfortunately it also happened to be one of the single worst-animated episodes of anime we have ever reviewed. It doesn’t even seem accurate to call it badly-animated, since a very large portion wasn’t animated at all. This episode simply felt unfinished, which made it extremely difficult to get invested in what was ostensibly going on. It was like trying to read this review…without vowels.

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Mind you, we haven’t been insensitive to the fact that WizBar in general is not a show that has ever prided itself on flawless presentation. But it could also be that a lot of the production budget was spent both on the first episode and on CGI effects such as the metamoloids. Frankly, it wasn’t worth it, and we would have preferred more balance in the visuals. But the show had always managed to muddle through, with the story pulling enough weight to forgive the shortcomings.

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But this…was something else; the shark was officially jumped. There were far too many close ups, establishing shots, lines of dialogue and actions by people we never see, and agonizingly long still shots. Some potentially powerful and/or poignant moments were thoroughly ruined by all of this nonsense. On many occasions throughout the fiasco, we felt pretty bad for the people involved in the show who weren’t responsible for bungling the budget, for they were let down as much as we were, if not more so.

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All that aside (and it’s pretty damn hard to move it aside!) a lot happened this week: Shimuzu raided Butterfly and eventually captured Cecil, Makusu had his little ritual, and we find out that Lucifer had already awakened and taken human form, that of Tento Moyo. She merges with Cecil, who grows fangs and a tail (first instance of a tail bursting through panties…yeah, they animated that), but Shimuzu Does The Right Thing (as we hoped) in the eleventh hour and dies protecting Cecil.

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Cecil and Makusu have one big confusing Metamoloid battle that ends in the upper atmosphere, but when their mechas dissolve Cecil sprouts wings and saves Makusu’s life, only for him to request he defend him at his impending trial, which is actually a nice twist that brings everything back to Magic Law, which we always found more interesting than Magic Conspiracies. So yeah, a lot happened! We kinda wish we could have, you know, seen all of it, instead of just parts of it…

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Free! – 03

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In order to secure membership to a gym in the colder months, the new Swim Club needs a budget that the school will only provide if they deliver accomplishments. That means placing in a tournament, which requires a fourth member. Nagisa takes pains to recruit Ryuugazaki Rei, but he’s on the track team. When Gou arranges a joint practice with Samezuka, Rei agrees to accompany them as a trial member, but only if he doesn’t have to swim. He ends up having to anyway, and everyone learns he can’t swim when he nearly drowns. But after watching Haruka, he decides to formally join.

Ryuugazaki’s multiple and concerted rejections of Nagisa aside, the promotional art, OP and ED all heavily featured Rei as a main member of the cast, so his joining the club was never really in doubt; this episode was more about what swayed him after he was so insistent on not joining. He’s a bit of a nerd, you see, with a strict “sense of beauty”, and believes splashing around in the water to be beneath a species that had already crawled out of the ocean eons ago. He dedicates himself to track, particularly the high jump, but while he has perfect technical form, he lacks anything else, which will hamper his growth no matter the sport.

What sways him is Haruka, and the promise, through watching him and swimming with him, of finding the “freedom” he sees in Haruka’s form. That is to say, freedom from theory and calculation. Haruka possesses something that cannot necessarily be taught, but it can be emulated through observation. Rei is mindful that Haruka’s isn’t just a step-by-step method of swimming; it’s a totally different way of thinking and looking at the world. Yet despite their many differences, in a way Haruka and Rei are alike in that they both lack the drive to improve without support and inspiration from others.

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Rating: 8 
(Great)

 Stray Observations:

  • Gou and Nagisa’s “Call me Kou” routine calls to mind a similar situation with Norie and Kaoru in Tamayura. In both cases, it’s not that funny, and we wish they’d stop it already.
  • That  said, we like Kou’s role as the club’s manager, getting them a practice with Samezuka quickly thanks to her charms.
  • We like how Nagisa shuts down Rei’s nerdy ranting, though the ranting itself is pretty damn funny. Rei’s one weird kid!
  • Whatever female-centric fanservice the likes of Monogatari can dish out this season will be evened out by the male-centric fanservice in this. Look at those deltoids!
  • Rin proves he’s not a total detached jerk when we see him sneaking a peek at his old friends as they swim practice laps.
  • Not only did this episode make us want to swim, but the ED had us wanting to go clubbing as well. And traveling to some Arabian trading post.