Sankarea – 07

As Chihiro helps her with her family’s restaurant deliveries, Ranko reminices about her long relationship with him, starting when he found her crying in a cemetary. She fell in love with him on the spot, but fell out of love when she learned he was a shy crybabywho only cared about zombies. She fell back in love when he saved her from a stray dog, and has likely loved him ever since, but now that Rea is in the picture, she’ll have to fight to win that much harder to win his heart.

As we cross the midpoint of the series (quarter-point if it goes 26 episodes), we’re presented with an episode of Sankarea with no Rea. In fact, the protagonist of the series switches from Chihiro to Ranko this week; a risky move considering she hasn’t been the  most impressive of characters. As we suspected, all of her teasing thus far has been due to her not being able to properly express her true feelings to Chihiro, and now that he has the zombie girl he always dreamed of, Ranko is jealous of their intimacy (after all, Rea’s already kissed him, a milestone Ranko took very seriously). Frank(enstein)ly, she has an uphill battle ahead of her. Especially since Chihiro obviously doesn’t see her as a potential girlfriend, but as more of a caring, annoying older sister (for the record they’re cousins, but it’s not frowned upon in Japan, even a recent prime minister married his first cousin).

The flashbacks paint a decent picture of why, despite his eccentricities, she likes/loves him: in moments of despair or vulnerability – right up to when he stopped Rea from…er, doing whatever she was planning to do to her – Chihiro’s been there to protect and console her, even if coincidentally. Setting aside the fact the love triangle here doesn’t seem all that thrilling moving forward, we left this episode liking Ranko more, not less, and better understanding her position. Chihiro’s Yasutaka, on the other hand, is a wretched waste of screentime. Why does every anime need an overly horny theatrical male classmate?


Rating: 6 (Good)

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Tamayura ~hitotose~ – 05

Fu’s old friend Chihiro comes to Takehara to visit her and meet her new circle of friends. She finds them all warm, friendly, and energetic as they tour the town and sample the food. She’s also glad that Fu is doing so well. Kaoru’s sister invites them to an hours-long hike all the way to and up Kurotaki Hill. Chihiro comes away with many new friends and happy memories.

Everyone has their little quirk: Potte is always snapping pics; Maon is always whistling; Norie is always yelling or jumping around; Kaoru is…actually pretty normal, but she has a weird older sister. Add Chihiro – the crybaby – to the mix, and you have a veritable motley crew of quirk. But damn it all if it isn’t a charming-as-all-hell crew. The whole episode was humming with positive vibes.

Chihiro has trouble making friends, and had every reason to worry that even Fu had possibly abandoned her for new, less skittish friends. But there was no such conflict or competition to be found here. Everybody’s happy! And honestly, with all that great food and stunning scenery, how could they not be? Other nice details: Chihiro making little stuffed guys for everyone, and Potte’s mother was once in a motorcycle club – rad.


Rating: 3.5

Tamayura ~hitotose~ – 01

Junior high student Fuu has decided to make a big change in her life. She’s moving back to her birthplace of Takehara, to be near the Seto Inland Sea, attend a new high school, and make use of her late father’s camera she inherited. This episode is mostly a flashback of her life before moving, documenting how much her father and his pictures have meant to her, the build-up to her decision, and saying her goodbyes to her best friend Chihiro. Armed with a blessing from her mom and a published photographer friend of her father, he strikes out Takehara, where she goes by the nickname “Potte.”

Man, that was just a lovely, warm, calm, breezy episode of anime. The landscapes and twisting roads and stairs of the hilly town are exquisitely and imaginatively rendered. The palette is subtle, muted, but still lush, adding to the realism. But it doesn’t just look beautiful; all the people are beautiful as well. No excessive proprietary jargon; no factions, just real friggin’ life. And a girl starting fresh, like Ohana in Hanasaku Iroha…only without the yelling and no love interest. Sure, there’s crying, but it’s established that Chihiro is a crybaby…though when Fuu leaves, both of them have grown more “aggressive”.

Fuu/Potte is out to make her dearly departed dad proud; to carry on his tradition of capturing little scenes and moments often forgotten in the course of life. He taught her a lot, including how to work his very slick Rollei 35S mini-camera, and all that knowledge is still in her heart. The Camera is the tool to draw it all out, and replace her grief with happiness. She says if she can capture those warm happy moments just right, the “Children of Light” will come out. Sounds like a terrorist group, but we’re sure it’s not. Photography is used early and often to provide back-story and imagery from the past, and by episode’s end, we felt we’d learned a great deal about Fuu in a very short time. We want to learn more still.


Rating: 4

Morita-san wa Mukuchi OVA

This OVA is kind of a preview of an upcoming series of the same name airing this Summer. The formula is quite simple: this is a high school slice-of-life comedy with a quartet of girls at its core, one of which seemingly never says anything at all. Interesting, this very ‘taciturn’ character, the titular Mayu Morita, is voiced by Kana Hanazawa, who also voiced a similarly silent though more bookish character in The World God Only Knows. Obviously, everything she says is in Mayu’s head, not aloud. I don’t think she utters a single word to another character.

There’s nothing tremendously deep here, just nice, charming, lightweight slice-of-life. This OVA, and the forthcoming series, is almost a challenge to see how little a heroine can say and still be a functioning character. So far, so good; Mayu’s friends all seem to see something likable about her that’s beyond words (obvious, since she has none)…though as Mayu’s eyes are drawn very blankly (in Bleach this would mean she’s possessed, or an evil clone), so while in deep thought she can appear a little creepy. What I find refreshing is that Mayu isn’t shy or socially inept; she just takes too long to speak, and thus always misses her opportunity to do so.

One of the reasons I gave this a try is that Kana Hanazawa is one of my favorite seiyus,and even though she’s basically playing to type here (unlike, say, her Kuroneko in Oreimo), that type is tried-and-true earnest/cute/reflective. Saori Hayami (Eden of the East, Oreimo) and Haruka Tomatsu (Shiki, AnoHana) provide the voices of friends Chihiro and Miki. It’ll take a couple more episodes to fully tell their personalities apart, but basically, they talk a lot more than she does, but each have their own quirks too.

The supporting cast, including Yamamoto, who is irritated by Mayu’s silence; Mayu’s pink-haired admirer/stalker; and two male students who are always observing and commenting on the many affectionate embraces Mayu’s friends put her in, all add flavor to a an already colorful cast. The pace is a little leisurely, but that’s okay. Odder is the source of Mayu’s silence – her domineering mother, who warns both Mayu (and Mayu’s father) to never open their mouth unless they know exactly what to say, to avoid misunderstandings. Unfortunatly for Mayu, she never knows what to say – which can also cause misunderstandings.
Rating: 3.5

The World God Only Knows II 7

Well, I called it, but it was pretty obvious Chihiro was going to come around and fall for Keima. The early scenes with Chihiro before going to bed, waking up, and going to school are nicely done; just nice, calm, quiet scenes that don’t need any embellishment. The fact that Keima is listed in her phone as “dweeb” is also a nice touch.

Keima’s initial thickheadedness is a little frustrating, but as he’s gone virtually the entire series declaring, almost with a sense of strange pride, that he doesn’t get real girls. When she decides not to confess to Yuta – out of affection for him, he reacts entirely the wrong way and sends her running after a tearful confession of her ordinary-ness. Fortunately, he soon realizes the error of his ways and gives chase, remembering the overarching mission – to relieve Chihiro of the loose soul.

She’s still upset, but her main issue is, she’s allowing external forces decide for her who she is, what she’s capable of, and how to live her life. Keima has always rejected the real world’s conventions while never betraying his own self. After a motivational speech, a well-timed cloudbreak, and a kiss, Chihiro’s loose soul is history, and while her memory of falling in love with Keima goes with it, the Chihiro that remains vows to take charge of her life and not be limited by self-doubt. Rating: 3.5

The World God Only Knows II 6

This week Keima regains his composure, as he discovers that it isn’t necessarily Chihiro’s heart he must conquer. But the fact that his words and actions continue to “trigger events” convinces him she isn’t just a background character. So instead of trying to make her fall for him – he will coach her on how to conquer the heart of her crush, some random kid she just happened to zero in on. This means intricate diagrams, stacks of research, and intricate schemes to interact with said crush.

Chihiro is initially dismissive of Keima’s credentials, but we know the facts: Keima has successfully won the hearts of no less than five real girls, one of them a freakin’ famous teen idol – by applying the same methods as he uses in the gaming world. On the other hand, Chihiro, like Haqua, is just talk – having never scored a single boy’s heart. While Keima can’t give her details (as all his conquests have lost their memories), he quickly demonstrates to her that listening to him yields quick and favorable results: her crush now knows she exists and even talks to her.

Also interesting in this episode is the presence of Ayumi, Keima’s first conquest, who is friends with Chihiro and wants them to make up. Ayumi pairs them the two for after-school cleaning duty that leads to them making up and forming an alliance. Keima muses if a perhaps some of Ayumi’s memories of loving him resurfaced. Elcie surmises that because Keima filled the emptiness of her heart (and removed the loose soul), it stands to reason she’d be a different, more chipper Ayumi. Similarly, there’s a lot of evidence (see pic above) suggesting Chihiro may end up falling for Keima after all (ejecting her loose soul in the process), which would be a nice twist. Rating: 3.5

The World God Only Knows II 5

Good to see TWGON2 return to some sense of normalcy – I’m just not as interested in the hierarchy and mechanics of the demon world as I am in Keima hunting real girls. The newest girl, Chihiro, is a bit of a doozy, perhaps his greatest challenge yet. The reason is as hilarious as it is ironic: his illustrious repertoire of simulated dating experience will be utterly useless on her.

Chihiro doesn’t have any qualities that make her stand out. She’s just an ordinary girl. Ordinary girls are never heroines, they only fill up the background. First she flummoxes Keima by liking another guy, to whom she confesses and is rejected. Keima is even more frustrated when she gets over the grief instantly, just as he’s about to comfort her with a clever, ice-breaking line.

No, Keima is out of his element, off the radar, in unknown territory, bereft of his bag o’tricks. Chihiro has the upper hand; her bland, unpredictable nature will make her a tough nut to crack indeed. Watching Keima squirm and think on his feet  to conquer her should prove entertaining, and may yet redeem what so far has been RABUJOI’s lowest-rated spring series. Rating: 3