Fire Force – 04 – Infernal, Know Thyself

Many scenes of this week’s episode (and indeed previous ones) reminded me of the work of Akiyuki Shinbo, whose work in turn reminds me of live action directors Kubrick and Anderson. Sure enough, Fire Force’s director Yase Yuki is a SHAFT vet, having worked on Monogatari, Madoka, Nisekoi, even Koufuku Graffiti. That means there’s a generous amount of artistry to each shot, even if said shots aren’t really doing that much for the narrative.

The three balloon-holding mascots against an azure sky is one example; the scene of Company 5 Captain Princess Hibana and her man-throne is another, the latter evoking religious iconography that is reflected in the brief scene of Iris in a stained glass-filled chapel, looking at the burned photo of what we gather to have been her family. It’s just a really pretty, stylish show, but if you’ve been watching you knew that already.

Despite the flashy visuals, the episode starts out pretty harmlessly, with Maki dispatching Shinra and Arthur to help get a dog—later revealed to be one of the firefighter mascots—out of a tree. He was “hooray”-ed up there by college kids. With a firefighter (distinct from the fire soldiers) named Miyamoto on trial for a string of murders, the profession is not as respected as it once was.

However, just after Miyamoto is declared not guilty (by reason of insanity) he spontaneously combusts and becomes an Infernal, and not just any Infernal, but one that is self-aware and can talk (and also reminds me a of a hollow from Bleach).

Company 8 deploys to deal with the threat (though Maki leaves out the part about her sending the boys to get a mascot out of a tree, so Hinawa thinks they’re on unauthorized leave. Meanwhile, Princess Hibana moblizes her Company 5 in hopes of grabbing a rare specimen for Infernal research.

Thanks to Shinra’s rocket feet, he and Arthur get there first, and make quite an acrobatic entrance, with the force of Shinra’s kick knocking Miyamoto back the exact same distance Arthur flies before arresting his momentum and showing Miyamoto the back of his fist.

Mika and the rest of the 8th arrives, but her Sputter Comet attack is immediately neutralized. Even so, Miyamoto puts up his hands and surrenders—another Infernal first—before making a quick getaway. Only Shinra is fast enough to chase him. Oubi understands the difficulty of sending off a self-aware entity, but Hinawa tells Shinra not to listen to anything it says.

The ensuing fight between Shinra and Miyamoto!Infernal involves the former kicking a Peugeot 405 at him, showing the guy he means business. Again Miyamoto pleads for the mercy of a nun’s prayer before being sent off. Shinra forgets what Hinawa told him and listens to the Infernal, which immediately double-crosses him by trying to attack.

That’s when Princess Hibana and the 5th arrive and start throwing their weight around. Shirna says this is his job, but Hibana outranks him and her company outnumbers the 8th. Shinra manages to resist having to lick the imperious Hibana’s shoes, and uses his rocket feet to free himself from three of her “5th’s Angels”

The standoff continues when the rest of the 8th catches up to Shinra, and Hibana looks down on her fellow captain Oubi for having no pyrokinetic powers—not to mention low breeding. Ultimately, it is Oubi who caves, deciding letting a better-equipped company use Miyamoto in their research to learn more about human combustion is for the best.

Before the two rival companies go their separate ways, Oubi promises Hibana that the flame of the 8th won’t go out so easily. Kinda sounds like a challenge the princess would be all too happy to accept. In the meantime, she’s got a new specimen for her research department to mess with.

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Fire Force – 03 – Hero or Devil

Enen no Shouboutai took a week off out of respect for the victims of the Kyoto Animation fire. There was probably never going to be an ideal way to return to regularly scheduled programming, but it felt particularly awkward to frontload the first episode back with repeated accidental gropings of poor hastily-introduced Kotatsu Tamaki, the show’s new resident Revealing Outfit Girl. I could forgive the empty fanservice if the episode had better points to focus on…but sadly, it didn’t.

What this disjointed episode did have was a whole lot of plot and table-setting. The Rookie Fire Soldier Games begin with all the fanfare of a quaint high school sports festival, but the episode abandons the games almost as quickly as it introduces them, by taking a sharp right onto the tired “Evil Clownlike Villain” road, introducing “Joker,” a name I think we can all agree is not the most imaginative.

When Shinra enters the building, Joker is assaulting two fire soldiers. He also threatens to kill Shinra, but also offers him the chance to join him, becoming a “devil” instead of a “hero.” This doesn’t fly too great for Shinra, partly due to his lifelong dream to become a hero (not a devil) and partly because the Joker assaulted two of his comrades. The two duel (Shinra’s no match for Joker), Arthur and Tamaki pitch in a bit (neither are they) and Joker fills the building with highly explosive ash.

Shinra grabs Arthur, Tamaki and the two injured soldiers and flies out of a hole in the roof. Tamaki’s captain praises Shinra, but doesn’t offer any more info on the circumstances of the fire twelve years ago. Joker hoped to lure Shinra to his side by sharing “the truth,” including the claim his brother, just one year old when he died, is actually still alive.

Some lengthy still shots filled with exposition from Captain Oubi later (seriously; the last five minutes are barely animated), we now learn the 8th Company has a mandate to investigate the other seven as part of an effort to uncover the truth of spontaneous human combustion, the explanation for which may already be known. Whatever their mission, Shinra wishes to remain on the hero’s path. We’ll see how hard Joker makes that.

Fire Force – 02 – About All Any of Them Can Do

With the Rookie Fire Soldier Games coming up, Captain Oubi has high hopes for young Shinra. But he’s not the only rookie assigned to Company 8. That’s right, it’s the Rival/Friend His Own Age Who Is More Like Him Than Not, Arthur Boyle, the self-proclaimed “Knight King.”

Maki and Iris are enjoying the nice day on the roof when the two prepare to go at it, but Lt. Hinawa puts an end to both Maki’s idle fire manipulation (technically against regs, but he’s a stickler) and the attempted duel. Instead, he rearranges the fight so Shinra and Arthur have to go up against their senpai Maki.

While both third-gens are unconcerned about taking on a second-gen, Maki’s military training, experience, wonderful muscles, and most important, her ability to manipulate the flames of others means both guys end up taking quick losses.

Maki may be a little self conscious about her “ogre gorilla” alter-persona, but there’s no doubting her toughness despite not being the latest generation of pyrokineticist. If Shinra’s a devil and Arthur a knight, she’s a witch—and a very accomplished one, at that.

Taken down a few pegs, Shinra and Arthur shift their battle to see who can eat the ramen Oubi treated them to faster…which is not the point of eating delish ramen. There’s also a mention of how much gear a non-user like the captain has to wear (and Hinawa has to maintain) for the job, while Arthur’s Excalibur and Shinra’ feet and Type 7 ax are sufficient for them. Speaking of which, the alarm sounds and the now five-person Company 8 answers the call.

The scene is eerily quiet but the Infernal is inside, the father of a girl who already lost her mother to “infernalization,” and dreads being next as a matter of genes (though it could just be a coincidence). When Shinra and Arthur take out their weapons in public, they are scolded by Oubi. The Infernal they’re about to fight was a human, with family. It’s not a glorious battle, but a solemn funeral. If the rookies think otherwise, they can leave the 8.

Oubi is proven right when they enter the house and find the girl’s infernalized father just sitting quietly at the table, the shrine of his wife nearby. Shinra wonders why they should attack an Infernal that isn’t doing anything, but Arthur corrects him: the person sitting there is in tremendous pain, and they must put him out of his misery.

As Iris says the prayer, all it takes is a single quick strike form behind with Arthur’s plasma sword to send the father to rest. A quick and dignified end, but no consolation for his daughter as she never saw it.

Before they went in, a cloud of flames above the house formed into a smirk, and after they defeat the Infernal, the house inexplicably comes tumbling down; fortunately Oubi is tough and isn’t injured, but he and Hinawa immediately suspect a third party that’s messing with their duties. Indeed there is someone outside among the crowd, who leaves smoke letters in the sky reading “Joker.” Huh.

Meanwhile, Oubi completes his duties by doing what he can to comfort the surviving daughter in her time of greatest despair. He posits that because his parents protected her so thoroughly from the flames, she’ll be safe form now on, even if they’re gone. The fire soldiers didn’t fight a battle this week; the Infernals did, for the sake of their daughter, and they won, because she’s still alive.

Neither Shinra nor Arthur can sleep that night (obviously they were assigned the same bunk bed), realizing that the academy could not prepare them for the most terrifying part of being a fire soldier: getting accustomed to what they do. But as much as they snipe and sneer at nip at each other, they’ve perhaps started to realize that they’d rather have one another by their side than not, to help deal with those solemn times.

Fire Force – 01 – (First Impressions) – Exorcising Fire Demons

The premise of Fire Force is as bizarre as it is frightening: in its timeline, the “Solar Era”, spontaneous human combustion is not only a great hazard to Tokyo, but the beings that emerge from the flames, “Infernals,” are demons who must be defeated in order to put the souls of the victims at rest.

That’s the job of Special Fire Force Company 8, of which young newcomer and third-generation pyrokineticist Kusakabe Shinra is its newest member. He just happens to be a witness to the latest emergence of an Infernal, which Company 8 is dispatched to the train station to tackle.

In this way, Shinra gets a first-row view of how the Fire Force gets things done, and it’s as much a battle with a demon as it is a religous ritual; there’s even a sister, Iris, on staff to deliver the proper prayers at the proper time. While Shinra doesn’t participate in the battle, which is another success for Company 8, his quick thinking (and literally flaming feet) manage to rescue Iris from suffering a freak accident at the hands of a falling lamp.

From there, Shinra is taken back to Co.8’s HQ, a somewhat run-down but still very cool-looking cathedral (all of the architecture and mechanical design is very quirky and cool-looking, for that matter). He already met Iris by sweeping her off her feet like a princess, but soon meets Captain Oubi, Lt. Hinawa, and the first-class fire soldier Oze Maki.

Still, while his job is ostensibly to purify fire demons, Shinra clearly has some demons of his own, something he largely gives away every time he gets nervous and his mouth tightens up into a sinister-looking crooked grin. Those demons revolve around some kind of tragedy in his past where he was blamed for his mother and little brother’s death and subsequently ostracized by most other adults in his family and among their friends.

He doesn’t have time to contemplate how he’ll wrestle with those demons for long; the alarm sounds and within minutes he’s prepped and deployed with the rest of the company aboard the armored firetruck “Matchbox” to a factory fire caused by the manager’s wife combusting.

Another firsthand look at a scene of fire and destruction triggers his worst memories of the end of his mom, brother, and home, as he insists within his thoughts that someone else was present who was the primary culprit; it wasn’t a matter of his powers going out of control but someone causing them to.

We’ll see how that pans out, but his Captain and Maki work to keep him in the here and now, focused on the not inconsiderable task before them: the Infernal is one tough cookie.

Ultimately Shinra has to put aside the fact he couldn’t keep his promise to protect his family like a hero, but he decides to make a new promise never to let that happen again, and to protect anyone else affected by the Infernals. He delivers a devastating kick to the core of the Infernal, dispersing it, and Iris says the prayer. Mission Complete.

Outside, Shinra and the rest of the Fire Force gets its due congratulations, thanks, and adulation of the assembled crowd of citizens, not just for stopping the blaze but saving the soul of the manager’s wife. And for the first time since before his mother died, Shinra finally smiles a genuine smile, not the forced smirk with which he is so often cursed at the wrong times.

Fire Force, in a couple words, is pretty damn good. Stylish, fast-paced, and uncomplicated in its presentation of its protagonist, his motivations and goals, and the introduction of his new family and life among Company 8, which is definitely not your typical fire department. It’s a fun and imaginative setting that still feels grounded in reality and modern life.

The vaunted David Production studio provides a feast for the eyes, blending the reds and oranges of the flames with the ever-glowing blue of the fire soldiers as well as the eerie green aurora above Tokyo’s skies. The orchestral score also delivers the appropriate sense of occasion, peril, and excitement, particularly during the boss fight. I’m looking forward to this one.

Sora yori mo Tooi Basho – 04

Step by step, episode by episode, Sora yori mo Tooi Basho keeps building up the anticipation while continuing to build up the stories of its characters and their growing friendship as they embark on a life-changing adventure…but they still need permission from their parents!

That’s when we learn Mari hasn’t so much as mentioned this life-changing adventure to her mother, who has to find out from the neighbors. The slasher film-esque scen in which Mari tries to break the news she senses her mother already knows is a tour-de-force of tension and comedy.

Mari gets permission…but only if she passes all of her tests at school, meaning she’s going to have to study her ass off, and nobody is going to help her, because if she can’t do this much, how is she ever going to make it in the Antarctic?

The quartet meet up to be whisked off to their mountain training retreat, and while they’re underwhelmed by the beat-up HiAce, their instructor Maekawa (Hikasa Yoko) notes they’ve got to pinch every penny (she also mentions that Shirase still has her million yen, and in the next sentence, the fundraising needs of the expedition).

She also remarks that those outside of the expedition team have always been concerned about its viability and whether the ship will even leave port. But Maekawa tells the girls they tell those people to shut up. Back at school Shirase doesn’t even do that; she’ll show everyone up when they least expect it, leading to this golden exchange between her and Mari:

Mari: You’re kind of a jerk, you know.
Shirase: I certainly am. You mind?
Mari: Nope!

Once they arrive at the mountain training course, they are quickly given an overview of the basics, and then Maekawa introduces the expedition’s leader Toudou Gin (Noto Mamiko in her tough lady voice) whose no-nonsense demeanor and stirring oratory intimidate and inspire Mari, Hinata, and Yuzuki in equal measure.

What about Shirase? Well, she reacts differently; clearly they know each other, and Mari senses that, but leaves it be for the time being. That night, as the girls bone up on Antarctic exploration in what feels like a field trip sleepover, Maekawa and Toudou share a solemn moment outside.

Toudou didn’t want Shirase on the trip, but Maekawa didn’t help her; she got there by her own efforts (with the help of Mari, Hinata, and Yuzuki, but she befriended them on her own). Toudou accepts this, but the fact she know Shirase’s mother weighs on her.

The next morning, the quartet is sent off to plot a route with a compass, GPS, and marker flags. They start out a little rough and off course (as everyone does at first), but Mari turns out to have a knack for the compass, and soon they’re on the right track, make camp, and settle down for bed.

Mari doesn’t want to sleep yet, thinking this is like any other camping trip, but getting enough sleep is crucial to survival, so the other girls promptly rebuke her attempts to converse. Only Yuzuki flubs her words, leading Hinata to start giggling, which leads Hinata and Mari to start laughing.

Things turn a bit somber when Mari asks a clearly preoccupied Shirase how she knows “Captain” Toudou, and Shirase’s answer is heartbreaking in its brevity: “Toudou and my mother were friends in high school. They both went to Antarctica. Toudou returned. My mother didn’t.”

After a quick by-the-book radio check in with base, the four go to sleep, but Mari, who opened her bag in her sleep, is the first to awaken, and is greeted not only by a gorgeous pre-dawn, but Toudou, almost standing guard out there. Mari asks her about Shirase’s Mom, Toudou says she was “very strange” (sound familiar?) and that her daughter is her spitting image in stubbornness and conviction (not surprising).

Shirase, like her mom, is “trouble”, but Mari says “Isn’t trouble the best?” Indeed, it’s Shirase’s trouble(s) that got Mari to this point, where she’s finally realizing her goal of making the most of her high school years. She didn’t want them to end “the way they were going”, and so decided to join Shirase of her own free will.

This is Peak Awesome Tamaki Mari right here, clearly expressing her intention, desire, and excitement for the impending expedition. And when you see that conviction on her rising sun-washed face, you know she’s going to pass all of those tests. She has to.

Before the sunrise is complete, Mari wakes up the others (none of whom are morning people), and they all climb up a rock face and admire the beauty of the glowing mountains; just a small taste, mind you, of the jaw-dropping, otherworldly majesty they’ll experience way down south.

And in one of the more surprising ways to end the episode, Mari sends a picture of the sunrise to her friend Megumi, who looks incredibly lonely and left out. It occurs to me that Mari never once asked if she wanted to come along. Is this closing scene meant to convey that Megumi is proud of Mari, or dejected over Mari not even considering her participation?

GOD EATER – 13 (Fin)

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Like GATE, GOD EATER finally concludes on a satisfying, action-packed note, with only a few loose ends left outstanding and all of the big stuff put together. One day, by Pita or some other incident, Lindow was going to die, and the unit was going to lose their captain. Which meant someone had to replace him, and that person is Lenka. This is the episode where he fully grasps what it means to lead, not that he has not choice but to do so.

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Soma, Alisa, and particularly Sakuya flail around in outrage, but Lenka remains calm, centers everyone, reminds them of Lindow’s orders, and carry them out. Soma goes underwater to destroy the Aragami lure, leaving only Pita to contend with.

Of course, Pita is a pretty freakin’ tall order, but with the five remaining members of the unit all working together, maybe they can harass him into enough of a state of confusion to land a fatal blow on him.

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As with everything on GOD EATER, this is extremely hard and brutal. Everyone gets tossed around and loses, if we’re honest, unacceptable amounts of blood for people still conscious. But these aren’t ordinary people, they’re God Eaters, and Lenka, their leader, presses the attack once all his friends have been disabled.

When they can no longer move from their injuries, he keeps fighting, surviving, protecting them. He takes the hope both his family and Lindow (also his family, at this point) entrusted him to radiate for the benefit of others, and the impossible is made possible: on perhaps the last layer of his onion-like god arc, Lenka goes into overdrive, slices Pita up, and shatters his core.

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After that, it’s confirmed that Fenrir’s ultimate objective—completing Aegis—is only a cover for the real—and far less ambitious—Project Ark, which is little more than an Earth Escape Rocket, able to fit at most one thousand souls.

My belief in this is that the cream of Fenrir will be among those with tickets on that rocket, which will shoot into space and whose occupants will wait out the apocalypse, returning when everything has been reset. But without the hope Aegis provides, the ark rocket isn’t possible.

Johannes had Lindow taken out because Lindow was trying to hold on to what humanity had left on Earth, while he had given up on the world that is and made plans for a new one, judging the Aragami nothing but monsters that will consume one another after consuming every last human, if allowed to.

Dr. Sakaki has the opposite theory; that this is just a rough stage in the evolution of Aragami. Eventually, they’ll gain intellect (which we clearly see in Pita, though he’s pretty damn evil and inhuman) and, with communication, coexistence with humans might be possible.

It’s a dream Johannes doesn’t believe humanity has time to wait to come to fruition, and he may be right, but I also know that a thousand humans don’t make for the most diverse gene pool. Human extinction may be inevitable.

But enough dark talk: while Johannes and Sakaki debate whether Man will become God or God will become Man, all Lenka, Alisa, and the other God Eaters are concerned about is keeping hope alive and protecting each other and what they have, here and now.

Lenka is now the new captain, and his orders are the same as his predecessor (who may still be out there somewhere): Don’t die. If your life is threatened, run and hide. And, one day, destroy it.

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Captain Earth – 01

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I wasn’t originally going to give this new Bones sci-fi/mecha series a look, but then I realized I was only watching three shows to my colleagues’ four; something I’d never live down. Having recently come off of the excellent but highly un-serious Space Dandy, your classic straitlaced sci-fi procedural proved highly satisfying, especially considering how much care (and cash) went into its production.

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The episode is replete with all the little design details I love, from the intricate control panels and big bold labels painted on everything, to the minimalist black-and-white bumper style informed by Eva and E-7. The central protagonist Manatsu Daichi bears a rather unfortunate resemblance to Renton, but at least he’s not nearly as annoying out of the gate. In fact, I had no trouble identifying with Daichi’s wanderlust and desire to do great(er) things.

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Flashbacks are interspersed between the escalating present events, efficiently painting the picture of Daichi’s past, the legacy of his dad, and astronaut “Captain”, and the two friends he met while exploring the launch site on the island where he grew up, both of whom carry a very whimsical lab experiment bearing. We also get a slight glimpse of a “Radical Ed” like hackress. All it takes is a news report of a strange phenomenon for him to return home and check things out.

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And down the rabbit hole he goes, into the cockpit of an “Earth Engine” within a rocket that launches into space and passes through three space stations that assemble a formidable, very chunky-looking mecha somewhat like Tieria’s Gundam Nadleeh. His first opponent will be (the battle doesn’t start this episode) the sexy alien Moco from “Kiltgang” (spelled “Kill-T-Gang” on displays), an organization sending AEOs (“Approaching Earth Objects”) at…Earth (duh).

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Sure, long strings of dialogue discussing a whole bunch of terminology I don’t yet understand got a little tiresome, but I enjoyed the technobabble checklists the NASA-equivalent technitions run through as Daichi’s mecha is built. The promo art spoils the fact that Daichi will reunite with the two other kids he befriended, as well as the Ed-like girl, giving us a nice central quartet to work with. I’ve watched a lot in this genre, so we’ll see if Captain Earth can bring something new the table.

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Sket Dance – 77 (FIN!)

When Jougasaki injures two basketball team members, he asks Bossun to play as a substitute so the team can compete. When Bossun notices Jougasaki still plays, he convinces him to take his place, reuniting him with Teppei. Saaya manages to get Bossun alone, and finally confesses to him. Bossun reacts as expected: like a little kid. The Sket-dan continues to perform duties for its fellow students, including aiding the student council with security as Momoka films a movie.

All pretty good things must come to an end, and to be honest, we’re comfortable calling Sket Dance a pretty good show throughout its run. It’s never been perfect, but it’s been steady and consistent, and it goes out on a nice note, tying up the “Will Saaya Confess” loose end and giving pretty much every character a cameo, including their very first client: Teppei. After the basketball job is done, Saaya makes her move on Bossun. The girl shows both guts and incredible poise throughout the process, because coming out with her feeling for him without any cliche’d misunderstandings is such a load off her ample chest.

The animators do a good job visualizing the subtle change in how she looks and carries herself after confessing, and Himeko notices too. Bossun stays true to character too, not knowing what to say or do. Were there ten or so more episodes to show how he’d come around to giving Saaya a direct answer – even if it’s probably yes – that could be more interesting character work, but ending things here is fine too. So we say sayonara to Sket Dance – which, unless we combine the hundred total episodes of Gundam SEED and Gundam SEED Destiny – has been the longest series we’ve watched to its conclusion; a record that will be hard to break.


Rating: 7 (Very Good)

Sket Dance – 74

In the first half, Bossun is playing with a collectable toy car in the hallway when he’s scolded by Tsubaki, who breaks it while attempting to confiscate it. Mimorin recognizes the car as the same kind her father collects, and invites Tsubaki, Bossun, and Himeko over to her “house”, which is more like an underground city. In the second half, the ramen shop owner challenges Captain to a rematch, but Bossun’s indelicate words lead to her retiring her “Cap’n Munch” special eating move. Bossun takes her place in the challenge, but can’t cut it. She swoops in and uses a supersonic “Neo-Cap’n Munch” to defeat the shop owner once more, until she learns she ate hard-boiled eggs and throws everything up.

This week was a very special episode of Sket Dance, in which we get an inside look at the living conditions of perhaps the wealthiest anime characters we’ve ever known, the Unyuus. Worth at least 5 quintillion yen (50 followed by eighteen zeros), we learn that all of Mimorin’s boasts throughout the series were justified…and then some. Her family is in fact worth many times more than the whole rest of the world economy, which is fun. More to the point, we love just how over-the-top and uncompromising her wealth is depicted. She doesn’t just have a butler; she has hundreds of servants who live in an underground city with a stark palette. Her above-ground entrance hall occupies several city blocks. It’s nuts, but hilariously so.

The second half can’t quite match the scale of the first, but it exceeds it in passion – or should we say, “Cap’passion”; as in the infectious competitive passion of the captain, Takahashi Chiaki, who gets another chance to show off her eating skills. Like the first half, it starts small: Bossun makes an offhand comment about how quickly Captain eats. It puts her in a self-conscious, sulky mood, and she gives up the “Cap’n Munch” ability. Still, Bossun, Switch, the ramen shop owner, and eventually even Hani and Asahina get all fired up, and their passion then re-stokes hers as she sees Bossun struggling. It’s all very dramatic and powerfully depicted, only to be comically and suddenly cut short at the end when she barfs it all up (off-camera), thanks to the end credits rolling in the middle.


Rating: 8 (Great)

Car Cameos: This episode was replete with some classics, being about collecting cars: Bossun is playing with a toy Mercedes-Benz SSK, and gets an SSKL from the Unyuus after a lot of trouble. Among the model and real cars Rintarou owns are a Mercedes-Benz 300SL, a Volkswagen Beetle (pictured), a Volkswagen Golf MkI, and a Mercedes-Benz 280SL. In Mimorin’s recollection, there’s also a Shelby Cobra, Beetle Cabriolet, and a ’55-’56 GMC Truck. None of the cars and trucks in the Unyuu underground city were detailed enough to be identified, but they looked to be of general 70s-80s vintage.

Sket Dance – 49

Yamanobe announces he and the Sket-dan have been invited to represent Japan at the World Grand Prix of Genesis in the remote kingdom of N’preenu Ch’p’p’s’b, where it’s the national sport. Requiring four players plus a manager, they enlist the help of athlete extraordinaire “Captain” Chiaki Takahashi. They arrive and are perturbed to have never heard of most of the participating countries. They defeat Wyoming first, and after a rough start, Chiaki quickly gets the hang of things and excels, taking over the teamcaptaincy from Bossun and emerging as the MVP.

After a string of Serious Sket, this week marks a return to good ol’ lighthearted comedy. We mentioned we loved made-up sports when Genesis was introduced way back in episode 8, and we’re even bigger fans now that we know there’s a whole international movement devoted to it, including four regional schools. Adding Chiaki into the mix was a welcome move too, as she is the series’ resident expert at all sports, and we liked how her role evolved from unsure noob to MVP (and potential marriage to the N’preenu prince, which she declined.)

While Chiaki’s tangible motivation was the year’s supply of some strange seafood, she also admitted to an apologetic Yamanobe that she just loves hanging out with the Sket-dan, no matter the reason. She finds their passion for whatever comes their way (which sometimes builds up gradually from initial apathy) admirable and addictive. And while Sket Dance had previously done a sports anime parody, this had enough unique elements to provide fresh and memorable laughs. And we also know we need to bone up on our geopraphy – we pride ourselves on knowing the names of all the nations of the world!


Rating: 3

Sket Dance – 44

Chiaki, the softball captain, comes to a Sket-dan whose clubroom is inundated with scientific supplies, to ask them to help her locate a lost candy drop tin. To her, the tin represents the friendship forged between her and Akina, in which they’d each eat a drop a day from the tin. Captain messes that up by giving a drop to a boy Akina liked, and Akina lashes out in anger, throwing the tin out a window. After getting caught in the raid, Chiaki’s out sick on what turns out to be Akina’s final day before her family moves out of town. However Bossun finds the tin, and Akina returns to say goodbye. Chiaki and Akina reconcile, and both draw white drops – representing lifelong friendship.

Oh Sket Dance, we do believe you may have attained new heights in sappiness this week. Who would have thought so much drama and strife could be created from one silly little box of candy! And yet Sket Dance is replete with seemingly mundane artifacts with considerable sentimental value to their owners – Himeko’s cyclone and Pelocan doll, Switch’s laptop, Bossun’s hat, and the Friske mints, just to name a few. Without realizing just how important the candy was to her friendship was Akina, Captain offered one out of politeness to a boy that turned out to be Akina’s crush. So really, Akina was upset about the boy, not the candy.

The candy tin has a little tiny photo of the two on it, and Captain feels it would be a nice gesture if she could find what had been discarded. But digging through perhaps a hundred bags of filthy garbage to find it? I suppose if it was sorted Japanese trash, it would be a less smelly, disgusting affair, but it still seems excessive. And Akina shows up with a new tin anyway, in which they both get the lifelong friend color. So all sket-dan really did this week was sift through a mountain of garbage and release a bunch of balloons that birds will try to eat and choke on when they come back down to earth. And there were so many potential jokes in that junk-filled clubroom…


Rating: 2.5

Moretsu Pirates – 01

In the distant future, on a frontier planet called the Sea of the Morningstar, diligent high schooler Marika Kato lives a fairly ordinary life, until two friends of her mother Ririkia arrive one night and tell her she is the heir to the captain’s chair of the pirate ship Bentenmaru. While mulling over the decision, she goes back school, where she meets transfer student Chiakai Kurihara. While at her job as a cafe maid, a large group of strange people are there watching Marika. Kurihara saves her from an assassination attempt and they flee the cafe.

Moretsu (Bodacious) Pirates makes a very good opening argument into why we should – and will – watch it. It immediately and efficiently sets up a whole universe, from a quick history lesson, to a very comfy seaside city setting with just the right blend of traditional and futuristic details. A school yacht club where the yachts fly into orbit? An automatic chalkboard? Why not! Also, young Marika, while good at most everything she does, doesn’t come off as arrogant or annoying. Seiyu Mikako Komatsu (only her eighth role) does a good job with inoffensive voice acting alongside standbys like Kana Hanazawa (who plays the raven-haired four-eyes Kurihara) and Chiaki Omigawa (Marika’s friend Mami).

It’s a great start to a coming-of-age story too: since Marika does everything she sets her mind to well, there’s no reason to believe she won’t turn out to be a great captain. But can such a goody-two-shoes become a good pirate? Most people on her planet only think of pirates as a bunch of stories, legends and ancient history (much like in real life). Of course, pirates probably like it that way. But they’re real…and interestingly enough, they’re legal too (like privateers). With the stage set, Marika is about to embark on one hell of an adventure, and we can’t wait to see what happens.


Rating: 4

Sket Dance – 29

In the first half, the Sket-dan assists Dante in the case of a stolen love spell. It turns out, it was mistakenly stolen by his crush, who thought it belonged to her crush. In the second half, Bossun is defeated by a ramen-eating challenge, but when Chiaki stops by the clubroom, they learn she is a champion eater due to her athletic activities. Using teen drama terms, Bossun motivates her to finish the last morsel of ramen – a boiled egg, which she hates. She wins the challenge but has to puke in the end.

As we continue with Sket Dance, it occurs to us that a show like this is not for everyone. It was an acquired taste for us (though we have definitely acquired it), but some might be turned off by the references, frequent breaking of the fourth wall, and everybody typically yelling at the top of their lungs. But all of that appeals to is. This season needs a lark – a frolic – something that’s all ludicrous comedy with no baggage. Although it’s proven it can do serious drama too, Sket Dance’s greatest strength is making us laugh out loud with consistency, through its rapid-fire pace and incredible energy.

This week marked a return to the two-stories-in-one format, and both stories were equally engaging and hilarious. Dante (Gackt) is always good for laughs, especially the way he irritates Bossun and Himeko while Switch calmly translates his sparse, cryptic words. We also love how everything was building up for two lovebirds to unite in harmony, but it turned out to be a misunderstanding. The second story, all about Captain’s amazing eating skills, simpler but no less funny, particularly how the melodramatic buildup almost reaches critical mass. Most admirably, the episode dusted off several characters who’d been on the shelf for some time and breathed new life into them. Well done all round.


Rating: 3.5