Eromanga-sensei – 02

The beautiful girl at the door turns out to be Sagiri’s classmate and class rep at school, Jinno Megumi. After a joke about how much she loves dicks, the very flirtatious “Megumin” states her purpose for being there: she wants Sagiri to come to school so she can be friends with her, like she’s friends with everyone.

Well! That’s a strong personality to contend with, but she doesn’t get her way, at least today. Sagiri never meets her in person, but only overhears her conversation with Masamune through his phone—and later, without his knowledge, through Megumi’s, leading him to say some very nice things about his “pride and joy”, Sagiri.

After that new girl encounter, Masamune jumps into an old one, Takasago Tomoe, who seems to be a classmate and/or childhood friend whose family runs the bookstore where his manga are sold.

Well, they’re offered for sale, but to Masamune’s horror, it doesn’t look like any have actually been sold. He wants Tomoe to help him out by putting them in a more prominent spot, but she doesn’t bend: if he wants better placement and sales, he has to write better stories that touch people’s hearts.

The third girl Masamune encounters is perhaps the worst, Yamada Elf, a thoroughly unpleasant, petulant, arrogant young author who couldn’t be more different from Masamune (or Sagiri for that matter). She lets her “#1 on Oricon” standing go straight to her head, believing she isn’t just the Savior of LNs, she IS light novel. Yikes!

Masamune encounters Elf trying to poach Eromanga-sensei away, something even Masamune feels would benefit his little sister, so when he goes home he’s extremely contrite and gives an offering of not-so-tasty (according to Sagiri) snacks. I don’t see Sagiri abandoning her brother anytime soon…at least until the fourth girl arrives, whom I am predicting is another artist who tries to poach Masamune, the way Elf wants to poach Sagiri.

Until then, a tiny bit of progress seems to have been made in Sagiri; she asks if her brother’s heard back from Megumi, and also tells him she’ll wash her own underwear from now on, which means she’ll have to leave her room, however briefly.

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Tsugumomo – 01 (First Impressions)

The Gist: One day, Kagami Kazuya’s sakura-patterned obi, given to him by his late mother, takes the form of a blue-haired girl named Kiriha revealing she is a tsukumogami.

After saving him from an attacking amasogi, Kiriha assigns Kazuya as her “servant” and shares his living space, remaining as inseparable as they were when she was a mere inanimate obi.

Roll Credits…

Even with a rather poor translation, I don’t think I missed much nuance here. Kazuya is defined by his utter lack of distinguishing features or personality traits—other than carrying around an obi and smelling it all the time, which would be kinda sweet, I guess, if it wasn’t also a bit weird.

Along with his one-note “class-rep” character, and his one-note big sister/guardian, there isn’t much depth to be found here, only reminders of shows past (and half-hours wasted on said shows).

We end up seeing many sides of Kiriha, and to her credit, between her superior, imperious attitude, propensity for making messes, and love of pudding, she also has Kazuya’s back (both out in the world and in the bath) and seems to mean well as a companion/protector.

But rather than working in her favor, these myriad sides only served to paint a muddled picture of who and what she is, beyond an once-inanimate object given (pretty) human form. Also, if you’re going to have blue hair and red eyes, you best come correct.

Throw in bland-as-paste Kazuya and a not particularly great-looking production (aside from one okay action scene) and there’s not quite enough here to encourage me to continue.

My Hero Academia – 09

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As the press bangs on the door of U.A. High, anting the scoop on All Might, Midoriya’s class finally gets to do a normal school thing: elect a class rep. Everyone ends up tied with one vote except for Momo, with two, and Midoriya with three, all thanks to Ochako and Iida.

I guess no other groups of friends have emerged to the point they would align their votes around one guy, huh? Also, I’m curious who voted for Momo.

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In the middle of lunch, Midoriya faces his first test as leader, when an intruder alert and evacuation order are sounded. He fails spectacularly, getting lost in the crush of panicking students.

It’s Iida, not Midoriya, who has the presence of mind to use Ochako’s antigrav quirk to get to a place of prominence so he can calm the crowd. For that, Midoriya picks Iida as class rep (sorry Momo!), and Iida gains the nickname “Emergency Exit Iida”, since he looked just like the little guy in the sign.

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The cause for alarm? Press broke in. But the question is, who helped them by destroying the barriers? We saw a guy with blue hair behind them as they were complaining about not getting access. After the class is handed off to the famous Thirteen for rescue training at Universal Studios Japan (USJ), we see that guy again, covered in hands and emerging from a vortex with dozens of other villains.

It’s a nice change of pace: what seemed like yet another training session for the kids suddenly and unexpectedly turns into a far more hazardous situation. Who are these villains? Why are they attacking UA students? What’s with all the hands on that guy?

I don’t know, but I’m looking forward to finding out, and meanwhile, All Might is presently tapped out after having to do numerous heroic deeds on his way to school. So Aizawa, Thirteen, and the students will have to be enough to deal with the baddies. Oh yeah, on the bus trip, Frog Girl Tsuyu of all people made Midoriya blush, while Bakugo, serial teaser, got a taste of his own medicine as everyone came to the consensus his personality sucks.

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Tanaka-kun wa Itsumo Kedaruge – 04

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Tanaka-kun has done a wonderful job establishing its cast so far, starting out with just Tanaka and Ohta and a bento box of small skits that gradually, hilariously paint the picture of what makes ’em tick.

Then it’s branched out with more in-depth, emotionally satisfying stories, introducing one new character at a time, until eventually the full group we see in the OP and ED will be fully assembled. It’s something Marvel does well with its movies.

This week Miyano and Echizen take the week off so that the show can focus methodically on someone new, namely the class rep Shiraishi. She truly takes center stage, as the episode shifts to her perspective the more we learn about her.

It’s icing on the cake that the official start of the development of her friendship with the boys starts out with two classic anime images: running to class (or in Tanaka’s case being carried by Ohta) with toast in the mouth, and (almost) bumping into the pretty girl. And because it’s been well-established Tanaka and Ohta are nice guys, they help her out with replacing the printouts they accidentally ruined.

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Everyone knows Shiraishi; she’s damn near perfect, and every guy wants a wife like her someday. Smart, kind, beautiful, she inspires jocks depicted as bears to protect her every move. She literally sparkles, and yet has such an easy, down-to-earth manner with everyone, no one envies or resents that perfection, they simply bask in it.

But as the episode title indicates, Shiraishi has a secret: that secret is that the idol-like school princess she portrays at school is naught but a carefully-wrought fiction; a mirage; a skin she puts on and maintains with great difficulty. When the day is done and she sends Tanaka and Ohta off, it’s not just because she’s being nice: her contacts hurt, her skirt’s too short, and her hair isn’t comfortable.

She’s cultivated her Matrix-like reverse-“residual self-image” so long, when her “resting-dweeb-mode” is finally found out—by Ohta and Tanaka, who forgot his bag—she panics, because she believes her idol skin is the only thing allowing her to have a beautiful high school life.

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Of course she’s wrong. Not just wrong about needing to doll herself up so obsessively, but wrong to stress out and stalk the boys to make sure they don’t spread the word of her secret. In fact, Ohta and Tanaka have nothing but nice things to say about her, even behind her back, and Ohta mistook her dweeb mode for another girl altogether, so her secret is safe.

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A wave of relief washes over her, and that relief makes her bold and ‘reckless’ enough to try to walk around school looking like herself. Most everyone doesn’t take notice of her non-sparkly self, until she passes Tanaka, who recognizes her—of all things—due to her bust size (something Ohta hilariously warns him never to tell her).

She’s initially devastated and ready to be mocked and laughed at, but of course Tanaka and Ohta don’t think that way at all. In fact, knowing Shiraishi has flaws is a relief to Tanaka, who wasn’t sure how such a perfect person could exist, and admires the effort to change herself; an effort he’d never bother with.

Tanaka doesn’t get away with calling himself worthless scum, however. Neither Ohta or Shiraishi (or even Echizen) genuinely believe that, because through all his unapologetic listlessness, he’s a kind, perceptive, supportive friend to them all.

The next day, Shiraishi wears her glasses to school, eschewing painful contacts, and to her surprise her friends don’t abandon her. She’s learned a valuable lesson about what it is to be loved and admired and be a friend to others, and it’s about far more than just surface. The real sparkling comes from within.

Shiraishi is a wonderful addition to the circle of friends, and I look forward both to her interactions with the others, and the addition of yet more members of that circle.

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Denpa Kyoushi – 02

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Depna Kyoushi isn’t winning any beauty contests, but I don’t care as long as it keeps delivering interesting weekly student stories, each of which will inform a different part of Kagami Junichirou’s overarching story of whether he’s teacher material (which seems apparent), or more importantly to him, whether he yearns to teach (still up in the air).

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This weeks student is the class rep, Yukina, who is upset that he’s slacking off in teaching the class. She shoplifts in Akiba to blow off steam, but Kagami happens to catch her in the act. Even without trying, kagami manages to teach one of his students a lesson, though in lecturing her about her actions affecting the lives of others rings as a bit hypocritical, considering he uses his YD philosophy to do what he wants, no matter who it affects.

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But the fact that his actions affect people in a positive way, as both Face Punch and Wicked Blondie are now BFFs, and both consider Kagami to be the one who made them better people and dream accordingly. The game he distributed to his class has also become a school-wide fad, bringing the kids closer together.

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But when internet pics of Kagami appearing to molest someone break out, their faith in him is shaken, but not broken. That’s not the case with the rest of the class and school, which see the photographic evidence and conclude they were betrayed. Kagami is promptly fired after an interview, and it falls on Yukina to come clean about the truth of the anime store encounter.

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When she happens to meet Kagami on a bridge that night (lots of coincidences in this show!) she learns that even if she does the right thing, it won’t bring Kgami back, because he was looking for an excuse to quit. His anime blog that he yearns to work on every waking moment he isn’t watching anime, dropped to second place, and in his YD-addled mind that’s more important to affecting positive change in youngsters.

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Yukina doesn’t let him let her off the hook though. She comes clean to her classmates, and Kagami is exonerated in the eyes of the students, who are on his side at the ceremony announcing his dismissal form the school. He quiets them down with a stirring motivational speech about not letting rules get in the way of going after their dreams, and giving everyone a special weapon for thier mobile games…which means he was listening to Minako after all.

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Having delivered his final lecture (though he should have told them to follow his blog), Kagami withdraws from the school, only to be cornered by Hiiragi Koyomi, fan-wielding chairperson of Hiiragi Academy, an even more prodigious school. She’s watched his month of progress with great interest, and wants him teaching at her school. Just when he thought he was out…

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Ao Haru Ride – 04

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The leadership training retreat turns out to be something of a comedy of errors right from the start, but leaving her bag at his place and getting on the wrong train does result in Futaba and Kou spending more time alone together than they otherwise might have. Futaba also gets to see (and feel) Kou shirtless. But they end up being so late to the retreat that they have to write formal apologies.

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They also end up alienating two-thirds of the other three members of their group. Murao and Kou do not get along in their first encounter, Kominato takes her side and leaves with her, but not before taking Yuuri’s cupcake, revealing her dark side. The group is in tatters, which doesn’t speak well for the leadership skills of the reps. Then again, this is training; you don’t just hop on a bike and start riding; you have to skin a couple of knees.

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The thing is, Kou and Futaba are generally quite nice to one another throughout the episode, culminating in a very nicely-staged scene at night where Kou puts his head down on the table opposite Futaba’s, and they both end up turning to face one another. This is while Kou is, in spite of the devil-may-care attitude he tries to maintain, going out of his way to say nice things about her.

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They’ve rarely if ever been as close as they are here, but as lovely a moment it is while it lasts, it’s a bit premature, as Kou isn’t ready to admit how he feels about Futaba; not ready enough to be at the point where she’s nuzzling up to him. It’s panic and his long-honed defenses kicking in at the worst moment; he throws barbs her way, and she gets pissed. It’s a lasting pissed-ness, one the others can’t help but notice.

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Futaba and Kou act very much like an old couple locked into a familiar battle. Futaba snaps out of the funk on her own, realizing that it isn’t that she doesn’t love the New Kou, it’s that she still has a lot of work to do in getting to know him, as well as continuing to improve herself. Which is why it almost seems like we’re going to be subjected to a cliched gut-punch when she goes to make up with Kou and spots him smiling at a girl apparently confessing to him.

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That doesn’t happen, thankfully. Instead, there’s a twist: Futaba somehow thought two third-year boys were trees or something, and ended up clinging to them long enough that they thought she wanted to confess to them. But yet again, Kou steps up to rescue her, even going so far as to tell them she’s his girlfriend. She also starts to suspect that she may love Kou after all, since whatever he says to her affects her deeply and lastingly. He’s under her skin, and she’s pretty much under his too—why else would he keep finding ways to be with her?

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It’s weird watching a rom-com that satirizes shoujo (GSNK) right beside the very kind shoujo anime it enjoys satirizing. Ao Haru Ride has its share of funny moments, but they’re never ironic commentary on the genre the show inhabits. It’s playing things straight and sticking with the fundamentals, which is fine with me.

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Stray Observations:

ahr46Part of Murao’s hostility towards Kou stems from the fact she’s infatuated with his older brother, whom she gets alone and tries to make a move on but is rejected, not for the first time. Falling for a teacher who isn’t going to cross that line…not a pleasant position to be in.

Ao Haru Ride – 03

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As her sophomore year begins, Futaba has pledged to start over; building everything she’d lost all over again, and maybe gaining more than she ever had before. On one level, that means making new friends on more than just a surface level. On the other, it means continuing to chip away at Kou’s armor, worrying less about who he was and learning more about who he is now.

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Before that though, we see a flashback of how she and Kou used to make eye-contact, both “fumbling through” in sixth grade, but fumbling together nonetheless. Even present Kou can’t escape the past early in the episode, as his older brother, a teacher at the school, remembers Kou writing Futaba’s name at his desk one night.

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It all works in both their favors, though, as Kou is forced to lead Futaba away by her hand. Futaba jumps the gun with too many questions at once, but Kou makes her cry by being too harsh, and has to apologize. He also apologizes for not meeting her at the festival years ago. Right now Kou’s cold and warm sides are fighting each other. Futaba sees it too, and she wants in. She’s here for him. Will he let her in?

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Meantime, Futaba also sees to another goal—rebuilding her shattered social life—by trying to set the right “atmosphere” in her new class, which consists not only of Yuuri, but Kou as well; in fact, Kou’s easygoing, almost practiced attitude in interacting with people inspires Futaba to do the same. Funny then, that she manages to make Yuuri look good, but rumors of her dealings with her old friends earn her the “scary delinquent” label. High school. It’s brutal.

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One day in, and Futaba is frustrated and depressed. Enter Kou once more, who tells her in his cryptic, pretending-not-to-be-interested way not to give up, and “do what she wants,” because despite her notion that everything has “started” (and has somehow sputtered) in reality, nothing’s started yet. Futaba starts something by volunteering to be class rep. Kou joins as the male rep; Yuuri and newcomers Aya and Shuuko as event reps. And just like that, Futaba has built a nice-looking circle of (potential) friends. Now she’s getting somewhere.

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Akuma no Riddle – 05

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This week’s riddle is “How do you get a bird out of its cage?” One thing Haru, Tokaku, and this week’s assassin Sagae Haruki share so far has been a sense of confinement due to circumstance. Haruki’s cage is poverty, and she has assassinated to put food on her large family’s table, and she’s promised they’ll be forever free from want if she kills Haru (even if she dies in the process).

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Tokaku’s cage is her name. Even though she never saw her father and her mother died right after she was born, the Azuma family has shaped her course in life and assigned her expectations. Haru’s cage has been built from the bones of those who died so that she could live. Haruki neither gets off on killing like Otoya, nor is she unsuited for killing like Kouko; she’s good at it, but it’s a means to free her family from its cage.

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Yet Haruki doesn’t seem altogether apathetic to Haru’s plight, nor Tokaku’s. She believes it to be a service and a kindness to free them too, but that suggest an inability to fathom that death is not the only way out of those cages. In Haru’s case, she considers it a solemn duty to always smile, be merry, and try to live as normal a life within that cage, honoring those who built it with their lives.

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By the same token, death isn’t the only way out of Tokaku’s cage either. She may be stuck with her name, but by choosing to subvert Class Black’s system by swearing to protect rather than assassinate Haru, Tokaku seems determined to survive in her cage her own way, while building a tunnel from her cage to Haru’s, connecting the two. Darmok and Jalad at Tanagra. I will stop using metaphors now.

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Akuma no Riddle – 04

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What comes suddenly but never leaves? Well, that would be death, right? And not just the death of a person, but the death of innocence. Once death enters one’s life—as it does every assassin—it also never leaves. Some say murdering takes pieces of one’s soul. If that’s the case, Class Black’s rep Kaminaga Kouko yearned to separate herself from death, to try to preserve at least part of her soul. But to be granted her wish of walking away from assassination, she had to take one more life: that of Ichinose Haru.

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While last week Haru mostly took care of herself against the very impatient Takechi, Kaminaga is a different kind of animal: in short, she’s not a very good assassin, and doesn’t even like killing. She was simply born into the business, and does it because it’s all she knows how to do. But her peers mocked her and she accidentally killed her mentor with a car bomb gone wrong. It’s not surprising that she’d strike as early as possible, out of a desire to get this nasty business over with so she can retire; the exact opposite of Takechi.

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To that end, Kaminaga attempts a series of passive attacks via booby trap bombs. Tokaku either detects and disarms them all, and in one case shields Haru from the blast. This earns Tokaku back some points after dropping the ball last week. Once Kaminaga is cornered and forced into close combat with Tokaku, it’s over for her. Because she’s not a sadistic serial killer, I actually felt kinda bad for Kaminaga, even if it hardly made sense for her organization to bother training her when she was neither practically nor emotionally cut out to be an assassin.

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