The Detective Is Already Dead – 01 (First Impressions) – To Have and to Hold

Kimihiko Kimizuka just wants to live a normal dull life. But like Kamijou Touma’s tendency towards misfortune (if being surrounded by poweful cute girls all the time is somehow unfortunate) Kimi is a trouble magnet. It’s how he found himself being forced to carry a mysterious attaché case on a jumbo jet flight carrying 600 passengers.

Then a flight attendant asks not if there’s a doctor on the plane, but a detective, and the blue-eyed, silver-haired young woman sitting next to him not only declares that she’s a detective, but that Kimi (which in Japanese also means “you”) is her sidekick. Her name is Siesta—Spanish for a midday nap—and she’s the best trouble Kimi could as for.

He joins Siesta in the cockpit where a battle of wits with a hijacker ensues. Siesta manages to provoke him into revealing his identity as part-“android” created by the secret organization SPES. She also reveals she was the one who arranged for Kimi to board the plane with an attaché case, which contains a silver rifle loaded with bullets containing her blood. When the hijacker is shot, he can no longer do her any harm.

With their first “case” closed, Siesta suddenly disappears from Kimi’s life as soon as she enters it, only to show back up in his apartment, making herself at home by wearing his leisurewear, ordering pizza, and even walking in on him while bathing. Since Kimi’s dream is to live a life that’s the equivalent of a relaxing warm bath, this is particularly egregious to him.

But Kimi can complain all he wants about Siesta; the fact of the matter is she’s effortlessly capable, charming, beautiful, and assertive. Kimi spends so much of the episode profusely rejecting Siesta’s assertions he is her sidekick, when he should really be asking himself why living a life with her would really be so bad?

His regular life and “Siesta Life” cross over at his cultural festival, the preparations for which he completely missed owing to the many past incidents into which he’s gotten tangled. Siesta shows up in his school’s uniform, and the two proceed to go on a date. All the while, Siesta is also investigating the Toilet-bound Hanako-san case, which she discovers to be a performance-enhancing drug dealing ring using the urban legend (and the festival) as cover.

She solves that case too, though the last we see of it is her jumping out a window carrying Kimi in her arms, both of them in wedding cosplay. She can survive for the same reason she was able to neutralize the hijacker: she possesses seven special items (you could call them magical) that enable her to achieve similarly special feats; in this case shoes with the ability to fly.

Kimi eventually deduces that Siesta doesn’t so much want a sidekick, but someone with his inscrutable ability to attract trouble, which she can then investigate and resolve. But he still gives in and agrees to become her “assistant” when she gives him a forthright pledge to protect him with her life whenever the trouble he attracts threatens him.

From what we’ve seen so far from Siesta, that sounds like a promise she can keep. So it’s both intriguing and a little sad when we learn from a final Kimi voiceover that, as the title goes, the Detective is already dead. Does this mean the Siesta we saw died, and is now a ghost? A vampire or other undead entity?

It’s the kind of WTF twist that was hanging out in plain sight (in the title) the whole time, but even in forty-six minutes, there’s no explicit answer to what that title means…only clues and theories. And after all those affable interactions between Kimi and Siesta, I am fully invested in learning what’s become of her. I’m also hoping this isn’t the last we’ll see her for a while.

At any rate, if you liked In/Spectre, you’ll probably like this too.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Crow’s watching this too! Read his review here.

Don’t Toy with Me, Miss Nagatoro – 12 (Fin) – The Exhibition

With the cultural festival fast approaching, Naoto has managed to belt out a whole series of Nagatoro Being Nagatoro, and her friends are impressed. Hayacchi herself is happy they turned out well, even if they give off “creepy virgin vibes”—though it’s obvious by now she’s a virgin too.

When the others go to the other side of the clubroom to spy on the President’s progress, Naoto doesn’t go with them, and Nagatoro tells him even if the Prez is “Queen of the Lewds”, he can still beat her. That is, until she sees the Prez’s piece and passes out. Gamo assures the two that she, Yosshi and Sakura will figure something out to help them.

Naoto and Prez have a slightly tense but also very honest little scene together, with the Prez making it clear this is less about winning and losing and more about tapping into the artistic potential she knows Naoto has within him. She’s not holding back, so she urges him to “hit her with a soulful work of passion.”

She then produces a “Torocat” strap that closely resembles Nagatoro, and the next day Naoto learns what that’s all about: Yosshi and Sakura are in costume as Torocats to support Nagatoro in her now familiar catgirl cosplay—though it’s clear Nagatoro is not at all into having to “toy with” all the guys who come to visit Senpai’s exhibition.

That said, as the day goes on, she becomes less stiff and starts to have more fun. When Naoto sees her basically flirting with other guys the same way she does with him, it’s hard for him to hide his jealousy.

The reverse occurs when other girls approach Naoto, express how impressed they are with his work, and ask him to teach them how to draw. Nagatoro doesn’t like that one bit!

That said, when Naoto asks her to join him for lunch, she still comes along. She calls him out for suddenly being so popular with the ladies now, and he chalks that up to the paintings turning out so well, for which he credits her. This causes a rapid succession of Nagatoro faces, and ends with her toying with him, but unlike with the other guys, she genuinely enjoys it.

When they return from their break, which essentially serves as a little mini-date during the festival, they find a huge commotion outside the Prez’s side of the club: the Disciplinary Committee is censoring her super-provocative painting, citing it a threat to “moral order” after hearing rumors it was being used to “play with the male students’ lust”.

While I initially thought we saw the Prez meeting with the committee last week to set this whole thing up in order to create more buzz and win the competition, it seems that isn’t the case, and she’s not in on anything. In fact, she’s outraged her art is being censored.

That’s when her kohai Naoto comes in to defend her, stating that her amazing art has inspired him to find the subject he wanted to draw the most: Nagatoro. Gamo and Sakua push Nagatoro in to back Paisen up, and even she admits that Prez’s art is amazing. Yosshi even produces video footage that proves that there were more people were taking the art seriously than horny boys leering at it.

This might’ve been one of my favorite scenes not involving just Naoto and Nagatoro, because it subverts the “competition with the club on the line” trope in favor of something more interesting: doing the right thing, even if the person you’re doing it for is a rival. It’s not just Nagatoro; Yosshi, Sakura, and Gamo are good people at heart!

When the Prez returns, tells the others she worked out a compromise, and voices her appreciation for their support with her very first expression resembling a smile, the girls can’t help but gloat over the fact that she lost. That said, the Prez isn’t a sore loser, and even takes their chosen punishment: that she dress up as a bunny girl to help sell Torocat merch. Naturally, it all sells out.

With the festival in the rearview mirror, Prez pays Naoto a visit on his side, explaining her getup as “the fate of the defeated.” She admits it’s humiliating, but also “a new form of oppression” to “stimulate her creative desire” and bring her “unprecedented deliverance.” Let it never be said Prez doesn’t have a way with words, but Naoto’s reply—“Just get changed already!”—is equally sublime!

When Nagatoro, eager to see Naoto, leaves her friends and enters the club room to find the Prez seemingly about to undress, she nearly flips her shit…but the Prez is only joking. She has a sense of humor! She also admits she likes Naoto’s paintings of Nagatoro, which not only contain “a definite passsion”, but love as well.

She may have lost the competition, but the fact her underclassman learned a valuable lesson about art and vastly improved his work renders that competition moot. As a senpai, the President actually won. When Naoto is hesitant to admit his pieces contain his love for Nagatoro, he’s mercifully saved by the bell for the festival’s closing concert.

Remembering Nagatoro’s words at the summer festival, Naoto meekly comes out and asks her if she’d like to go together. Nagatoro, happy beyond words, asks him to ask again, only louder, then takes him by the hand and off they go!

After the credits, we see Nagatoro and Naoto alone again in the clubroom they won back together. Nagatoro is resting her eyes, but looks up to flash a soft smile before returning to her catnap. When Naoto’s drawing is complete, she tells him to close his eyes and accept his reward, which this time is a real kiss on the cheek.

Even this chaste peck proves too much for Nagatoro, who runs out of the club room after pulling down an eyelid and sticking out her tongue. But she can’t undo that kiss, nor does she want to. This has been a relationship of small but meaningful steps forward all along, and I have no reason to think that slow but steady progress won’t continue.

And that’s a wrap! Don’t Toy with Me may have started out with a sharp edge of kinkiness, but turned out to be one of the sweeter loves stories of the last couple years. We watched both Naoto and Nagatoro come into their own as two people who found each other, navigated the often stormy waters, and found happiness and inspiration in one another. We should all be so lucky!

Episode 12 “Senpai” Count: 9 (+2 “Paisens”)—hardly any at all!
Final Count: 391

Don’t Toy with Me, Miss Nagatoro – 11 – Art Is Thus To Pursue

The girls try to encourage Senpai by laying into the President and her scolding, scripted manner of speaking, but Naoto doesn’t want them talking shit about her, from whom he’s learned so much about art and still deeply respects.

He’s also dubious about a cosplay art cafe being sufficient to beat the Prez, who helped the Art Club nab sixth place last year—out of over sixty presentations—with a bold, provocative nude self portrait.

Gamo points out what she believes to be a simple fact: when it comes to mass appeal, Senpai and Hayacchi don’t have “the goods” with which to compete with the Prez’s Kardashian-esque proportions. Nagatoro takes it as being dissed—but Gamo still has a point; a lot of horny guys are going to be voting for the better club.

But there’s one horny guy—Naoto—who tells Gamo and the others that he doesn’t think any less of Nagatoro than the President. Both have their charms, and he wants to try to win by depicting Nagatoro as she normally is. Even though he imagines President as a Titan swallowing him whole, he’s still feeling positive.

Nagatoro is determined to ensure he wins, and when her swimsuit isn’t motivating enough, she dons nothing but a white sheet. But in doing so, and with the constant interruptions of the other girls, Naoto becomes increasingly iffy in his drawing, and grows frustrated with the whole venture, deeming any attempt to beat the Prez as futile.

Finally, as the show takes on a de-saturated palette akin to Super Cub, Naoto says this isn’t going to work. He doesn’t want to draw Nagatoro, because if he fails, he’ll drag her down with him. She says she doesn’t care about that, but Naoto insists this is between him and the President. A genuinely angry and hurt Nagatoro storms off in her sheet. The others call Senpai a loser…and in that moment, he absolutely is!

Alone again in his club room (well, half the club room; in an amazingly petty gesture President has cordoned off the other half for third years only!) he gets back to his bread-and-butter: dull still-lifes. President pays him a visit —also wearing only a sheet, as she was taking pictures for her next piece, and tells him it’s dull and no good.

She’s not just being a bitch; she’s right! Naoto’s painting is technically fine, but lacks any kind of passion, other than the desire to be neat and tidy. Prez tells him the most important aspect of a piece isn’t its theme, but love. And when she witnesses Nagatoro peek in and promptly run away after she sees Senpai with her, Prez orders Naoto to pursue her with all due haste.

He does, but when he catches up to her in the hall he blanks on what to say, and the moment is spoiled by two other girls who think he’s stalking Nagatoro. The chase continues until the sun starts to go down, ending at the swimming pool. As he runs after her, he summons all his favorite memories of her, which aren’t of her teasing him, but revealing her genuine self to him.

As she hops from starting block to another away from him, Naoto tells her he wants her to model for him. When she tells him to go back to his precious president, she slips off a block, but before she can go into the pool he grabs her, both demonstrating he does have some strength. When he repeats his desire to draw her the way she usually is, she asks him why, and this time he doesn’t waver: because she’s more attractive to him.

Nagatoro is so shocked by this declaration, and turns so red, she kinda almost has to jump into the pool, taking Senpai with her. They end up walking home soaked, but Naoto’s honesty and the quick plunge into the pool washed away their fight and brought them back together. When he lets slip that he often notices how cute she in ordinary times (as opposed to wearing cosplay) it’s another blushfest for both of them.

Senpai walks right up to the line of confession this week, while Nagatoro leaves no doubt about how she feels when he keeps defending her nemesis. But while she’s scheming something with who I presume to be the StuCo President, the President came off as less of a villain (or Titan) this week.

Instead, she’s issued this challenge to push Naoto out of his comfort zone so he can be the best artist he can be. You can only do that by pursuing your passions—and when it comes to his passions, there’s no beating Nagatoro. Even if he and Nagatoro do lose to her voluptuous magnificence, they’ll lose together, having fought their hardest!

Episode 11 “Senpai” Count: 14 (+3 “Paisens”)—the fewest yet!
Total: 380

Don’t Toy with Me, Miss Nagatoro – 10 – Taking It Seriously

A day after feeding Senpai “steamy snaps” (of chicken, not her), Nagatoro watches him lollygagging during a marathon, and makes her displeasure with his performance plain. He tries to say he’s good at nothing but drawing and practicing is only for talented people, but Nagatoro knows better on both counts.

She’s not about to let her Senpai get off with such a lousy defeatist attitude, and orders him to show up at the park bright and early, where she meets him in a skintight two-piece track suit and ponytail, ready to run with him and show him he can do it if he tries.

While I’m sure on some level Nagatoro understands her attire turns Senpai on, to the point he tries to overtake her because he’s too embarrassed to watch her running from behind, that’s just the icing on the cake for her. She wants Senpai to see her and thouroughly enjoys his reactions, but she’s just as invested in helping him improve himself and to dispossess him of the notion it’s okay to just give up because something is hard.

Speaking of hard, Naoto is revealed is extremely inflexible during the crucial post-run stretching, so after putting herself into some teasing poses to get him all red, Nagatoro helps him stretch properly, which gives her an excuse to get as close and physical and sweaty with him as she dares. This culminates in the two doing a side-stretch together when Yosshi stops by with her dog…though at this point it should come as no surprise to her with whom Nagatoro is spending her weekend.

The Cultural Festival is approaching, and Naoto needs to start putting out some work worthy of the Art Club exhibition. He wants to have a male model so he doesn’t get embarrassed looking closely at them, but Nagatoro insists on modelling for him, showing him the sketch of her as a catgirl as proof of where his true artistic desires lie.

When he gives her the condition that she has to model in catgirl cosplay, he feels bad about it later, as he assumes she’d never be able to find such a costume, much less wear it for him. I don’t know why he thought this, considering the clothes she’s worn (or not worn) for him so far, but the next day she shows up in the literal costume of his dreams, courtesy of the needlecraft club.

She is playfully beating him with her big paws for not having complimented her enough when Gamo, Yosshi and Sakura come in, wondering if they interrupted something they shouldn’t have. But eventually the whole group is there hanging out and Naoto settles down and starts drawing Nagatoro.

The girls even offer to help Senpai make his exhibit more “hype”, not because they’re keen to use that scenario to torment him (well, not only because), but because they’re all friends now, and friends help each other out. This is in stark contrast to his relationship to the estranged Art Club President, whose stern, purposeful footsteps Naoto hears approaching and has the girls hide in the prep room.

When the unnamed President (voiced by the effortlessly imperious Mizuki Nana) enters, it’s clear from the couch and the snacks that she believes the “unsavory rumors” she’s heard about the club room becoming a gathering place for some “nasty characters”. At no point in this scene or Naoto’s flashback of her does the President treat Naoto as anyone other than an employee, at an emotional remove but also exerting absolute control.

There’s no give-and-take in their exchange, and both Nagatoro and the others feel bad for Senpai getting reamed out due in large part to their entering his world. When the President asserts that the club room is “no place for merrymaking”—as if you can’t do good work and have fun doing it—and threatens to turn a termination form for the art club into the faculty office, Naoto is unable to speak up for himself.

But before President leaves, Nagatoro emerges from the prep room with the others, having heard quite enough. She calls the President selfish for having been AWOL so long and leaving Senpai all alone only to come back out of nowhere to shut it down. The President doesn’t flinch in her assertion that the club shouldn’t exist if its members won’t take it seriously.

Surely Nagatoro also must realize how unserious she looks in her getup, but it doesn’t matter; she’s going to stand up for her Senpai! She draws upon her amassed wealth of knowledge about Senpai to declare that President simply can’t make that assertion. After all, she hasn’t been watching Senpai off by himself drawing like a man possessed. She has, and she knows he takes it seriously—so seriously, in fact, he wrongly believes he isn’t good at anything else!

The President accepts this challenge to her judgment, and decides to settle the fate of the art club with a festival competition. She will run the art club’s exhibit, while Naoto will have to run his own separate exhibit, and whoever gets more votes will be the victor; in his case, the art club will survive. If she wins it gets shut down.

Naoto can’t even fathom taking on the President all by himself…but he doesn’t have to. Nagatoro puts her hand on Senpai’s shoulder, just like the President did after last year’s successful exhibit. The President said “they made a good memory” but otherwise didn’t him much of anything emotionally, and since then has left him completely alone.

If President hadn’t done this, Nagatoro would have never had the opening she needed to begin her relationship with Senpai, so it’s not all bad. But she, and her girlfriends who were clearly moved by her passionate defense of her boyfriend Senpai, will surely help him do whatever it takes to beat the President. And even if he can’t, who’s to say they can’t start a new club; one will art and fun are allowed?

Episode 10 “Senpai” Count: 29 (+3 “Paisens”)
Total: 363

Combatants Will Be Dispatched! – 02 – Assembling a Team

With far less exposition to dump on us, this week’s CWBD is an improvement, flowing much better structurally and focusing on its kooky characters, like the artificial combat chimera Rose and Grimm, archpriest of Zenarith, god of undeath and disaster.

While both are eccentric to say the least, Alice deems them two of the more powerful assets at their disposal. With their ultimate goal of defeating the Demon Lord in mind, they can’t be picky about personalities.

And just like KonoSuba, there’s nobody here whose personality you’d call “normal.” Alice comes closest, but she’s an android. Six continues to be a cad, racking up Evil Points. Rose is a timid glutton who has a sinister chuunibyou side. Grimm wants a man, and Six would seem to do. Grimm and Rose were both exploited by the military as frontline weapons.

The newly-formed party first tastes battle after harassing a demon lord army supply train, which distresses Snow because she wants more exciting frontline combat so she can affort to pay off her sword (the news she clawed her way to where she is from nothing makes her character more interesting).

Then two of the Demon Lord’s Elite Four arrive: the voluptuous Heine of the Flame (whose “cosplay” reminds Six of his comely bosses back home), and Gadalkand of the Earth, who straight up murders Grimm, just like that!

Even though his sole interaction with her was catching a glimpse of her thong, Six still wants to avenge Grimm, but Gadalkand and Heine both withdraw before he can fight them. Then he learns from Snow and Rose that due to her demon blood and position as Zenarith priest, she comes back to life no matter how many times she dies…which should prove quite handy!

While Six continues to be, for the most part, pretty scummy, he comes off far better this week, especially when he sits vigil over Grimm’s corpse in the temple of Zenarith. When she wakes up, she’s surprised he’s there because he didn’t want her to be lonely.

The episode closes on a sweet note, as Six orders her a spiffy new Kisaragi-brand wheelchair and the two go on an adorable date racing through the wastelands and breaking up couples in a village. This is still no KonoSuba, but I came away from this second episode feeling like it’s starting to find its own voice, and liking everyone just a little bit more.

Combatants Will Be Dispatched! – 01 (First Impressions) – Falling From Grace

With the director of Master Teaser Takagi-san (and this years excellent Those Snow White Notes!) and the creator of KonoSuba, you could say my hopes for this series were somewhat inflated from the get-go. So I regret to report that while this opening episode of Combatants Will Be Dispatched! was okay, it was not great. It didn’t come close to meeting those hopes.

We open with our (anti)hero Combat Agent Six meeting with two busty women in elaborate, skimpy fantasy cosplay and equally lofty names and titles. Everything is serious for the first few seconds as they inform Six of his mission to investigate an Earth-like planet. But then Six calls out Astaroth and Belial for their chuunibyou getup and dialogue.

While this knocking on the fourth wall is a common occurrence in KonoSuba, and it’s intriguing that Six’s two bosses have real Japanese names, his joking around felt premature and forced here, which can be said about a lot of the ensuing comedy. KonoSuba’s jokes based on Kazuma’s perviness and fish-out-of-water status was comparatively so natural and effortless.

It doesn’t help that right off the bat these characters are all some combination of generic, unlikeable, and inconsistent. Astaroth and Belial seem to be in a position of authority, yet Six apparently helped the two found the “Kisaragi Corporation” they all work for, and Astaroth even seems to be harboring a crush on him.

Why, then, does Six let the two women, along with generic “scientist girl” Lilith, boss him around by shoving him into a teleport tube to this random planet? Six is introduced to the “high spec pretty girl” android Alice and shoved in a teleport tube before there’s any satisfying explanation of what exactly is going on. The episode is waving its hands at us saying “just go with it,” but I’d have preferred something more solid to go with!

My initial theory, as Six and Alice are dispatched to the Earth-like world (appearing 30,000 meters above the surface) is that Astaroth, Belial, Lilith and Six are gamers in some kind of VR-RPG. That explains how they alternate between playing their roles as agents of universal domination and a group of regular human friends.

The remainder of the episode is all about Six landing in a vast ruddy alien wasteland, heading to a nearby city, and learning about his new android assistant. Alice’s primary feature is an apparently city-leveling self-destruct, which calls to mind KonoSuba’s Megumin’s all-or-nothing Explosion. Otherwise she’s just a little girl, and as such, when packs of dog-like beasts attack, it’s up to Six to defend them.

Alice also serves as a rather clumsy provider of exposition, explaining how Six amasses “Evil Points” by doing bad shit, which he can then spend on stuff by writing it on paper and scanning that paper with a gizmo on his wrist. While somewhat novel, it seems like a rather inefficient system. Also, while we know Six starts out with 300 Evil Points, we don’t learn how many he spends to put a shotgun in Alice’s arms.

The show seems to be full of decisions and details that force me to think about why those choices were made instead of just sitting back and enjoying the silliness. Alice just said she was physically just a little kid, yet we see her moments later wielding a shotgun without issue. And why just a plain-old shotgun? It’s a fantasy anime, why not come up with a more imaginative weapon?

After defeating the beasts, Six and Alice are approached by Snow, a female knight straight out of SAO. While initially both suspicious of the two but otherwise noble and dignified, Snow’s not-always-hidden “other side” is apparently extremely obsessed with recognition, money, and glory—in the same way Darkness is obsessed with being punished and ravaged.

Snow is also the personal knight for the Kingdom of Grace’s lovely Princess Tillis, and she’s apparently such a good bodyguard that she lets two total strangers—a highly-trained spy and his android assistant/bomb—into the same room with their weapons! Grace is also a land where real-world items like tanks are regarded as mysterious ancient artifacts.

One such artifact used to make it rain in the kingdom, but is malfunctioning. Alice shows her worth by fixing it, only for Six to insist on resetting the activation password to “Dick Festival”. He helpfully explains that making Princess Tillis say those words will net him Evil Points, and I can’t argue with him there.

The problem is, Tillis’ father, who I’ll call “King Santa” for now, would also have to say those words, so Six and Alice end up tied up. Even so, the King is grateful the artifact was repaired, and Tillis, citing her country’s desperate need for warriors to fight beasts, decides to make Six one of her knights. Snow is dubious, but Six reminds her she said she’d take “full responsibility” for whatever happened with the rain-making machine.

As a result, Snow essentially gets demoted to Sir Six’s XO in their interceptor group. Along with Alice, the three-person party has been set—I just wish I was more excited about it! Not helping matters is the fact that while overall the series looks fine, there are some glaring off-character model moments that are less excusable in a first episode whose job is to impress.

But mostly, Dispatched! is too similar to KonoSuba not to invite unfavorable comparisons to the older series, which not only aired first but crucially also aired at a time when I frankly had more of a stomach for Kazuma / Six / Rudy’s pervy antics. If I’m sick of Six’s schtick one episode in, it does not bode well for the future.

The next-episode preview is presented as a broadcast on a TV in Kisaragi Corp.’s break/club room as Astaroth, Belial and Lilith have tea and snacks, adding credence to my theory the “corporation” is more of a gaming club formed in high school. We’ll see if the show can redeem itself next week.

Vlad Love – 03 – Quite Unconcerned by Crosses

The zoo fiasco forgotten (like all things from episode to episode), Mitsugu and Mai catch a vampire flick at the movies…and Mai is so inspired she can’t help but bite the head of the man sitting in front of her. I like the idea of Mitsugu and Mai just going out and the former having to deal with the unpredictability (and volatility) of the latter. My Girlfriend’s a Vamp! kinda stuff.

This episode features a brand-new OP which may not slap quite as hard as the first, but is beautiful in its own right, both in visuals and music.

After the movie the couple bump into Watabe Maki (Hayami Saori), president of the Cinema Club at Mitsugu’s school, who is curious about Mitsugu’s new, very pretty and photogenic (and out-of-her-league) companion. Mitsugu says she’s a relative, and when pressed, Mai simply states they’re “connected by blood”—which is true!

Maki takes them to a good restaurant for dinner, where Mai consumes a generous amount of garlic gyoza. Rather than kill her, the garlic seems to have an intoxicating effect, and the restaurant is demolished. The papers cover the incident as some kind of “mass hallucination”, which seems to be a recurring theme…along with the frankly lame fourth-wall breaking when Maki can hear Mitsugu’s thoughts or points out when she’s spewing exposition.

Mai’s unforeseen reaction to garlic leads Mitsugu and Dr. Chihiro to undertake a more thorough investigation of how Mai fits into common vampire knowledge. She drinks blood, and can sprout fangs and wings out of her head, but UV light doesn’t bother her, garlic turns her into a boisterous drunk, and crosses don’t affect her in the least.

While testing the UV bit, Mitsugu runs into another classmate, the Type-B (i.e. eccentric) Konno Kaoru, prez of the Cosplay Club. She mistakes Mai’s get-up for Invisible (Wo)man cosplay, and invites her and Mitsugu to the Cosplay Club so they can get their ‘cos on. Mai nails all the classics, from maid to bunny and magical girls. Mitsugu is more niche, pulling off a researcher from a 1970s sci-fi movie with aplomb.

Kaoru invites the pair to an Akiba Halloween party, the location of which is established with the show’s signature live-action drone footage of the city. Mai’s vamp-girl costume proves too hot to handle, causing a near-riot amongst the horny guys in the audience and forcing the karate club to lay down the law while keeping their school’s Disciplinary Officer Jinko at bay.

Mitsugu seems to sense when she and Mai should start heading home, but before that can happen the commotion knocks out the lights at the venue. Mai emerges from the darkness then transforms into a swarm of bats, making one hell of an exit from the party that is once again written off as a mass hallucination.

To quote Homer Simpson, each episode of Vlad Love has been little more than “a bunch of stuff that happened”. That doesn’t mean that stuff doesn’t look great and a ton of fun to boot, but there’s just no depth to the stuff, and everything resets from episode to episode, so nothing really means anything. Their movie date aside, Mai and Mitsugu aren’t really progressing as a couple so much as treading water.

The episode is also stuffed with overindulgent moments like the whole minute of needlessly describing in great detail the British bomber inexplicably flying in the air over the gyozu restaurant. Stuff like that engenders far more ¯\_(ツ)_/¯’s than LOL’s.

Higurashi: When They Cry – Gou – 05 – Two Not of a Kind

This week the timeline resets back to June 12, long before everyone starts murdering each other. In fact, until the very end of the episode there’s barely a hint of dread to be found here. A lot of time is spent literally playing games at a store. Like the first episode, this is largely table-setting.

Keiichi is saddled with The Game of Life, which unlike his fellow club members’ games, is predominantly luck-based. When Mion, Rena, Satoko and Rika all win their games, Kei decides to win by making a deal with the two younger boys he’s playing with, both of whom like Satoko and Rika, respectively.

The shop’s owner, who is Mion’s uncle, gives everyone gifts for helping to boost the day’s game sales. Keiichi ends up with a western-style doll, and following Rika’s advice, gives it to Mion, who is surprisingly flustered and bashful about receiving it.

The next day, Kei’s dad takes him to a restaurant where all the waitresses are in fantasy cosplay. To his shock, he finds Mion working there—but she reveals she isn’t Mion, she’s Mion’s twin sister Shion, who seems to appreciate Kei’s praise for how she’s rocking her outfit.

Since Shion was so familiar with Keiichi, there’s a distinct possibility she and Shion pose as one another, so from that point on I kept wondering who was who while interacting with Keiichi. When he praises Shion’s outfit, Mion blushes, and while Mion goes to her part-time job, it’s apparently Shion who comes to Keiichi’s house to drop off some dinner.

Throughout this, Keiichi is kind of a jerk in how he treats Mion as somehow “rougher” or more “tomboyish” than Shion…but even he can’t be certain with which twin he’s been interacting, nor could he know how good Shion is at acting like Mion, or vice versa.

At school the next day, Kei returns the dishes to Mion, whom everyone notes is acting more “kind and gentle” than usual. Rena ends up giving Keiichi a friendly reminder not to always tell a book by its cover. When Kei asks what he’s to make of that warning given Rena’s “cover”, she changes the subject.

That said, Rena notably maintains her “cute” Rena persona, never betraying any kind of malice as she did in the previous arc. It could be that instead of Rena, it’s Mion, or rather the Sonozaki Twins Keiichi will have to watch out for.

That brings us to the foreboding yet cryptic ending: when Keiichi is distracted by the restaurant where he met Shion, he stumbles into a row of motorcycles, angering their delinquent owners, who seem to be itching for a fight.

Just when they seem poised to start roughing him up, they’re stopped by a suddenly very pissed-off and assertive Mion…or is it Shion? Whoever it is, they tell the three punks to piss off, and when they move to challenge her, they’re surrounded by dozens of ordinary townsfolk, all wearing the same hostile expression as her.

Is this simply a factor of there being so many Sonozakis in the town? Does Mion/Shion have some kind of power to bring allies to her side? Is she a secret delinquent with more clout than these three grunts? Which twin even is it, considering we’ve apparently seen both “normal” and “reserved” versions of Mion? Could it be we never really met the real Mion until now?

Uzaki-chan wa Asobitai! – 11 – The Inevitable Precipice

Following their Tottori trip (which goes completely unmentioned here), Uzaki and Sakurai continue to ride high as an item, with Uzaki coming over virtually every day and leaving her junk behind, a definite sign of intimacy. However, Sakurai’s a neat freak and when the junk piles up he makes Uzaki clean it up. However, when she cooks him dinner he apologizes for being so harsh, while Uzaki revels at how easy it is to calm him.

When he’s offered cooking duties at the cafe, Sakurai’s attempt at pasta it inedible, so he comes to Uzaki’s house to have a crash course in cooking. He finally meets Uzaki’s cats, but of course her mom overhears him talking about petting them and assumes he’s talking about her. It’s a rehash of a joke that wasn’t particularly funny the first time, but at least we get Hayami Saori “hoo-hoo-hoo” laugh out of it!

We then move on somewhat clunkily to a day of rock climbing, something that comes naturally to Sakurai but which exhausts Uzaki almost instantly. She has no choice but to accept defeat in this particular competition, and simply watches as her “himbo” climbs his heart out while barely breaking a sweat.

We cut awkwardly again to Sakurai doing solo karaoke, the rise of which is explained by a “wise narrator” type I don’t remember hearing much of before, but is only notable because it’s such a poor imitation of Kaguya-sama: Love is War—of which this show isn’t even a pale shadow of a pale shadow.

A tipsy Uzaki and Ami spot him and join in the fun, and due to their reduced inhibitions even dress up and crowd him with chinese dresses, a cop uniform, and a bunny girl suit, the latter of which an unguarded Sakurai declares to be his favorite.

Since this is apparently an episode full of sharp cuts to unrelated events, it ends in the same fashion. Suddenly it’s a dark and rainy day (or night), and Uzaki shows up at Sakurai’s door absolutely soaked…but won’t come in. She declares that she “can’t hang out” with Sakurai anymore, and tears fall down her cheeks.

I’m not sure what to make of this. It’s unusual for a rom-com couple to hit a “low point” or reach some kind of “precipice” before the big finale, but it’s all been goofy fun and games to this point with scarcely any drama aside from the high school swimming flashback.

While this is totally out of left field for the show, I’m still eager to learn why exactly their fun has to come to an end, and would welcome a measure of genuine drama. Was it because Sakurai said the bunny girl was best? Are she and her mom suddenly moving? It could be anything.

Wave, Listen to Me! – 06 – A Warm Fluffy Towel Drenched in BLOOD

We’ve now reached the halfway point of WLM!, and while this week’s installment lacks the adrenaline high that accompanies a live broadcast and the moments leading up to it, it further fleshes out its eclectic, sometimes eccentric, but always authentic-feeling cast of characters, while setting up stranger things to befall Minare on her path to becoming a radio star.

We learn more about Minare through those she came from, starting with her dad when she accidentally calls him. He’s outside a pachinko parlor on his fifth or sixth beer (Sapporo, natch) so he’s…got some issues, but you can tell he loves his daughter and just wants her to be happy— just as sure as Minare can smell the alcohol through the phone!

Meanwhile, Casa Nakahara is hardly the sordid lovenest Minare might imagine in her more jealous moments. Yes, Makie is living there, but so is Nakahara’s sister Meiko (Minare, Makie, Meiko…dude knows some M’s!), who walked out on her husband with their baby for going to a hostess club. Far from being treated as a burden, Nakahara is appreciative of Meiko for being to get Makie to talk more in the wee hours of the night as the two women lie in adjacent futons.

Makie confides in her that after her parents died in the mountains, her brother grew obsessively protective and locked her up like Kaspar Hauser…which explains her manner. Meiko tells her she shouldn’t feel ashamed for using the car accident as an opportunity to reclaim her agency freedom, which she has every right to have.

After a thoroughly confusing little sequence involving Minare’s dad talking about a dream of “decades ago” and a “brutal accident”, we suddenly cut to Minare talking to her mom this time. Unlike her dad, her mom is a littler sterner, insisting she seek out “a life people can respect”, not just one in which she’s happy, and not to listen to a “loser” like her dad. And her little “It makes me sad…oh, very sad” line about Minare telling her dad about her radio job first—*Chef’s Kiss*

Still, her dad still managed to buy her daughter a slick Sky Sensor 5900 radio as a cute “good-luck-in-your-radio-pursuits” gift. Makie’s family may have bitten the tragedy bug, but it’s refreshing that our protagonist Minare not only has both parents still living, but on talking terms with her (if not one another). Like Makie, her parents feel like longingly-rendered real human beings.

Her dad was also responsible for delivering four whole Aramaki salmon, which won’t fit in Minare’s little fridge. After Nakahara drops off his ideas for Minare on possible radio story ideas (hilariously, she reads them and immediately apologizes for even asking him!) she decides to hang the fish from the doorknobs of her neighbors, which Nakahara mentions could be construed as some kind of criminal mischief.

By the way, another absolute doozy of an exchange: Minare describes her dad to Nakahara, and all Nakahara can see is Minare. Drunk half the time? Check. Either in dirty joke-telling mode, venting mode, or preaching mode? Check. Goes off on random tangents? Check. Makes no sense at all? Check. Can’t have a proper conversation? Check!

Granted, these are exaggerations of who Minare really is, but sometimes the rougher edges stick out more…especially from the perspective of someone like Nakahara, pursuing her with little to show for it. Another main takeaway from the fish-hanging scene is that Oki Shinji, who accepts one of the fish without hesitation, looks very out of sorts, and Nakahara notices the stench of rotting protein emanating from Shinji’s apartment.

The strangeness continues at the studio, where Mizuho shows Minare a creepily-scrawled fax about a dead girlfriend who hasn’t forgiven the writer…who happens to be Oki Shinji! Minare wants to shift gears to something more fluffy and less occult, but Matou is eager for her to learn the full ropes, which means she and Mizuho are going on a field recording adventure!

After reiterating her commitment to always protect her (something Mizuho doesn’t remember her saying before), Minare drives them to their destination: her former apartment building (note that Mizuho calls Minare’s car a “mini” but it’s not a MINI Cooper, but rather a Daihatsu Mina Giro Minilite. IMO the Giro’s cooler than any Cooper!) They also dress for the occasion, like an onmyouji and a shrine maiden.

Shinji welcomes them in without so much as a flinch from Minare’s stellar long-range joke about the same woman showing up drunk to his door also showing up to appease a spirit since “rituals, sake, and women” have been inexorably intertwined throughout history. Still, Shinji has good reason to be the way he is, because something very very strange and gross is happening inside his apartment.

Reddish-black liquid starts to ooze from the ceilings and drops on what couldn’t have been a cheap costume rental. Then again, it’s likely the station will cover the dry cleaning, just as Matou promises to bail out Minare should things take a turn. After all striking out into the untamed wilds diagonally below her old place means she’s no longer an amateur, but a professional, like Mizuho…risking their very lives for entertainment.

How Heavy are the Dumbbells You Lift? – 10 – Please Don’t Literally Crush Your Skull!

It’s Wintertime, the Silverman Gym Christmas Party is coming up, and Hibiki, Akemi, Ayaka, Satomi and Gina want to use the even to snag some guys Hibiki isn’t quite in the shape she wants to be due to overindulgence in delicious winter foods.

Machio suggests she try lying triceps extensions, or “skull crushers,” and Hibiki makes what must be a common mistake with any workout that brings a metal bar that close to your head. Still, by cramming in workouts prior to the party, Hibiki hopes to be the first among them to bag a boyfriend.

The big night arrives, and the young women arrive in cosplay in order to apply for a free training session. They fan out and mingle with all the handsome, fit young men who attend the gym at different times, but quite adorably none of them are quite bold enough to ask for any numbers.

Speaking of numbers, Machio drew them all over his muscles as a novel way to reveal the winners of the gym raffle, the first place prize for which is a pair of tickets to an amusement park, which Satomi wins. While posing with the other winners, she and the girls learn that beneath their slimming casual clothes, the lads are all macho-men like Machio.

That also means most of them are spoken for, so it would seem their mission to snag a boyfriend failed. When Satomi can’t use the tix due to Winter Comiket approaching, Akemi asks if she can have them…and asks Machio to join her! The ladies are shocked.

When Akemi and Machio meet up at the very not-Disney-affiliated-at-all “Tochigi Destiny Land”, Hibiki and Gina decide to trail the pair, while Satomi ends up coming along, wearing the same winter uniform as the high schoolers in order to hide in plain sight.

Part of me wished the tix were for Amagi Brilliant Park, but then I would not have met TDL’s mascot, Mockey, whose appearance Satomi’s inner thoughts sum up quite succinctly.

While observing Akemi and Machio reveals that they’re simply on a normal innocent date, things take a turn when the two suddenly sneak into a suspicious tend. However, the true reason for them coming to TDL is revealed: they’re there for a cosplay event.

Specifically, Akemi is there to see Machio’s sweet, sweet pecs (honed by the incline bench press), which, as she explains while temporarily transforming into Sawako, look even better when juxtaposed with leather armor. Finally, Satomi is skipping about in a high school uni without a care in the world until she runs into someone she knows, specifically her fellow teacher Aina, who is also wearing their school’s uni. They vow to pretend this never happened, but I remember, senseis…and I won’t soon forget!

How Heavy are the Dumbbells You Lift? – 03 – Cheat Day, Cosplay

Dumbbell keeps up the good work with a well-organized, well-paced, funny, charming, and informative episode. Sadly we don’t learn any more about Hibiki’s progress with boxing training (if any), but then that was to be expected; this is not a boxing anime! Still, that was a hell of a punch. I wonder if we’ll see another down the line…

Instead we’re introduced to Tachibana Satomi (Horie Yui!), a history teacher who wants to lose a bit of weight. When she checks out Silverman Gym she’s a little disconcerted to find two of her students there (and even more cheesed off when one of Hibiki indirectly refers to her as “old”—she’s 29) but when she meets Machio (and is instantly smitten) she sticks with it.

Machio introduces her to dumbbell curls, which help build one’s biceps as part of balanced training with push-ups (which help build triceps). When Satomi gets hot and rolls up her shirt, Hibiki and Akemi notice a strange tan spot on her stomach, and she manages to conceal the true cause: her secret cosplay hobby.

The middle segment involves Akemi joining Ayaka and Hibiki for lunch, and Hibiki learns that far from being ideal for getting a nice bikini body, her diet is actually far better suited for a sumo thong. Akemi explains that suddenly gorging on an empty stomach boosts blood sugar and insulin production, resulting in weight gain, not loss.

But not all is lost: she suggests Hibiki shift to the diet of bodybuilder, most of whom seek a limit of 3% body fat before a contest, essentially making them dieting pros. It’s all about eating smaller meals high in protein but low in fat, which means boiling or steaming foods that normally sauteed or fried. Snacks like protein bars and shakes prevent hunger without adding fat.

When Hibiki laments that such a radical shift in her diet is miserably untenable, Akemi gives her some relief: the occasional “cheat day”, typically once a week, prevents a dieter’s body from going into energy conservation mode in addition to the psychological boost that comes from eating tasty stuff. Unfortunately, Hibiki still doesn’t grasp that she’ll have to start actually dieting for a while before having her cheat day!

We finish with another Satomi-POV segment, as she’s sufficiently slimmed down to wear a revealing sailor suit (KanColle?) to an event at Tokyo Big Sight, where she’s an instant sensation. That’s when she notices Hibiki and Akemi are there, but not for her; for Machio, who agreed to cosplay as the “Muscle King” in an anime apparently everyone in the world except Satomi has heard of.

The horde of cameramen circling her quickly shift to Machio, who is all too happy to destroy his costume with an iconic front press, then proceeds to explain the front press’ proper form. At day’s end, Satomi is just happy her students didn’t discover her cosplay hobby, but they do spot her as she’s slinking away with her suitcase, and lets Hibiki think she’s a doujinshi fan. Better than the alternative!

BokuBen – 11 – The Fast and the Kirisu

This week it’s Kirisu-sensei’s turn to get dressed up every which way, as she breaks off from boring work drinks (with guys who think she lives like a princess) and happens upon Nariyuki hanging outside a seedy maid cafe. Turns out Asumi is one of her former students, and the two start yanking at Nariyuki’s arms, as you do.

In the midst of the horseplay, another cafe employee is injured, and Kirisu decides to make things right by dressing up as a maid and filling in. Unfortunately, despite her confident bluster, she’s no better at cleaning in a commercial setting than a residential one, and one tiny sip of alcohol sends her into a “praise spiral” as Nariyuki carries her home on his back.

If that wasn’t enough humiliation, Kirisu runs out of clean clothes to wear when she has to stop by school to “drop off some documents”—everything, of course, but her old school uniform, which still fits like a dream but immediately attracts police attention.

Again, Nariyuki is there to bail her out, and even thought she repays him by giving him a lift in a Honda Jazz she drives like they’re getting away from a robbery, he still helps her navigate the school without being seen.

Seeing Kirisu in her uniform makes Nariyuki wonder how she was in high school, and she mentions she never got to stop anywhere after school due to her dedication to skating. He rectifies this by buying her an ice cream, but the two end up having to hide behind a bench and then pretend to kiss when Fumino and Rizu show up at the same stand. That night, just when Kirisu thinks she’s in the clear, she turns around and finds Asumi there, ready to mock her school uniform “cosplay.”

Kirisu is…fine as focus characters go, but after an Asumi-centric previous episode I had hoped for a return to the main trio of Fumino, Rizu, and/or Uruka. The comedy also leaned a bit too heavily on Kirisu’s arrested development, penchant for running into students outside of school, and talent for humiliation that verged on piling on.