Re-Kan! – 05

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After working hard on getting their haunted house ready for the cultural festival, Hibiki’s crew meets her dad Asahi, a widower with white hair from “being through a lot”, but who is grateful Hibiki has such kind friends to depend on. He and Narumi tend to get frightened by the same things, which is to say anything involving Hibiki.

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Of course, Hibiki’s dad knew what he was signing up for the day he met her mom Yuuhi, who was just as beautiful and mysterious as their daughter would turn out to be. It was the ghost of a pigeon that brought them together, warning Yuuhi that a young man was going to get hit by a car trying to recover his pigeon corpse.

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The next day at the festival, Narumi (in Sadako cosplay) is the first to encounter Hibiki’s dad, and they have a nice chat about Hibiki. Specifically, Yuuhi’s ability to not only see ghosts, but see the future.

Yuuhi knew she would die shortly after giving birth to Hibiki, and she knew Hibiki would go through pain and anguish, but she also knew she’d find friends. As scary as it was and is to live with the ladies in his life, Asahi wouldn’t give it up for the world, and is elated that his late wife was right.

Narumi is modest and bashful about praise, as always, but she also feels bad about being so hostile about Hibiki’s sixth sense, now that she knows it was passed down to her and is actually a pretty amazing gift.

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Unfortunately for Harumi, when she’s wearing her Sadako wig all the school ghosts think she’s Hibiki, and put her and Asahi through a haunted gauntlet that results in her hair turning white like Asahi’s; not from fear, but from an incident at the okonomiyaki booth.

Another fine effort from Re-Kan: blending personality-based comedy and slapstick with a good dose of feels.

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Golden Time – 20

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A lot of shows can feel drawn out when they try to take things slowly, but Golden Time can be deft at at delaying gratification and generating interest in unresolved matters. By the end of this episode, Banri is really no closer to giving the ring to Koko, Mitsuo is no closer to reconnecting with Linda, and Oka is no closer to acknowledging Banri’s existence after catching him “having a frank conversation” with Linda.

And let’s not forget the overarching unresolved issue: the fact there’s still another Banri rattling around in his head, making it physiologically impossible to move on, as his heard has resolved to do (and had been, to a degree, succeeding.) We’ll confess to Banri’s ring-holding growing more and more excruciating; internally we were yelling “GIVE HER THE RING. GIVE HER THE DAMN RING NOW, PRECIOUS!!!” at the TV at one point. But it just doesn’t happen.

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There’s a reason we’re so apprehensive. We’re hoping that whatever’s going on in his head could be somehow resolved if he garners the will to present that ring to Koko—knowing Koko could very well interpret it as a proposal. It’s a powerful symbol burning a hole in his pocket. There are no guarantees the ring will do anything of the sort, but the way he and Koko talk, there would be worse things than them tying the knot and sharing the rest of their lives together.

But while his big memory problem is left unresolved (and his identity left in a very precarious position after his “relapse” in the middle of the parade), along with all the other things listed above, the episode is still an odd joy to watch. Banri’s journey to find someone to talk about it takes the weirdest turn when Sho and SHi of the Tea Club, of all people, are the first to learn of the ring, and fill his head with a dizzying cocktail of wisdom and conjecture. The duo is brimming with zany, aggressive energy; they’re an underutilized gem on Golden Time’s deep bench.

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It’s as fun as it is frustrating watching Mitsuo struggling so mightily with Linda, and the show isn’t messing around with the obstacles in his path, as he isn’t even able to utter a word to her for the entire episode. It’s also sad when Oka utterly ignores Banri. We love how she often subverts her usual chibi aura with striking displays of seriousness. Like Mitsuo, Nana, the Tea Chicks, or even 2D-kun, Oka feels like she carry her own show.

And that’s why we thoroughly enjoyed this episode even though it tortured us with the ring and didn’t resolve any of the characters’ many problems: the more time we spend with the supporting cast, the more we want to learn about them, and the more time we want to spend watching them interact and do ordinary, non-supernatural stuff. Golden Time could presumably keep this up for some time, but with only four episodes left (that we know of), we still the show resolves a few things before the end, preferably without leaving us trembling despondently in some dark corner, as poor Banri was.

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Rating: 8 
(Great)

Tamako Market – 10

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RABUJOI apologies for the delay of this review.

The Usagiyama High Cultural Festival approches, and the Baton Club gets a primo spot in the schedule, when they’re assured the largest audience. Captain Midori designs the uniforms and volunteers to come up with the choreography. However, she can’t think of anything, and hides her creative block from the others. When she misses a day of school with a fever, Tamako, Kanna, and Shiori visit her, and she admits she has nothing. They decide to come up with choreography as a team, and perform splendidly. When the festival concludes, Choi, having noticed a mark on Tamako’s neck, declares her the Prince’s Bride.

Virtually every school-themed slice-of-life series is going to have a Festival episode or two that gives the characters defined goals and challenges them to rise to the occasion and meet them, and Tamako Market is no different. What’s admirable about the series is that the core characters are in a club (the baton club), but it hasn’t been a particularly integral part of the series. The show hasn’t lived and died by their…er...batoning; which is nice, because far too often it seems like series are dominated by club activities. And far more important than the actual performance (which was pretty good), was how the Baton Club arrived there.

Midori, the Fearless Leader, turns out to have quite a bit of fear after all. She cannot come up with choreography she promised, but maintains a  false facade of control and confidence as long as she possibly can. Ultimately breaks down when presented with all of the evidence she’s failing. She’s afraid of looking bad, even for a moment, but her team don’t want her to cry or hold anything in. There’s no shame in asking for help, or crying, for that matter. This episode is a feast for the eyes, with a plethora of nice little gestures, close-ups, hair-falling, leg-twisting, and eye-glazing. The characters really feel alive. We also liked the generous use of jump-cutting. Very, very nicely directed and animated.


Rating: 8 (Great)

P.S. Choi finally confronts Tamako with her belief she’s the one who must marry her Prince. Whether this goes anywhere at all, we’ll have to see.

Hyouka – 12

The 54th Kanya Festival has arrived, and all the members of the Classics Club are looking forward to it in their own way save Oreki, for whom it’s just another day. They over-ordered the 46th Hyouka anthology, so they have to sell 200 instead of 30, and their club’s low profile and isolated location will make that difficult. The club devises a strategy in which Chitanda negotiates for a better booth and Satoshi will advertise. Both get easily sidetracked by the many booths and events. Oreki, meanwhile, mans the booth, making his first sale to a punked-out member of the fashion club.

With all the guff and drama in the past relating to the Kanya Festival, it was only a matter of time before we witnessed the most recent iteration in episode or arc form, and here we are. And as is typical of Japanese cultural festivals in animes (and perhaps in reality as well; we wouldn’t know), the school goes all out. Every student is involved in something, and the school is alive with activity. The episode’s prologue shows Chitanda, Mayaka and Satoshi awake in the wee hours of the morning, filled with anticipation. Oreki gets his dream job: sitting at a booth in a quiet clubroom all day. We also briefly meet his sister, who is home, though we don’t see her face. She gives him a pen that comes in handy later.  Will she play a role next week?

Rather than have a fresh festival-related mystery pop up, the Classics Club is instead faced with a commercial dilemma: they ordered far too many anthologies, and must create extra demand for them where none existed – more than six times the demand, to be exact. They approach this problem the same way they’ve approached any problem: determine what needs to happen to sell those books, and make it happen. Easier said than done, as Mayaka is stuck in Manga Club the whole first day, Satoshi has his own festival checklist, and Chitanda quickly becomes overwhelemed by the variety of activities distracting her from the task at hand.


Rating: 7 (Very Good)

Nazo no Kanojo X – 10

While buying another Imai Momoka magazine, Tsubaki bumps into his old crush Hayakawa, who has been recently dumped by her boyfriend. He tells her at first he doesn’t have a girlfriend, but confesses after stopping himself from licking her drool. He tells her his girlfriend’s name, and she intercepts Urabe and tells her about her cultural festival. She then calls Tsubaki late at night to ask if he’ll pretend to be her boyfriend at the festival. He agrees. Urabe learns Tsubaki’s alibi was a lie. Hayakawa shows up to the festival dressed in her junior high uniform and a long wig.

This week Tsubaki shows he didn’t learn his lesson about buying magazines of an idol that looks like Urabe, but that isn’t his biggest blunder this week by far. We’re a little disappointed with his behavior throughout the episode, and we would have liked to see more Urabe, but we still enjoyed the tension as Tsubaki walked the tightrope. As for his former crush Hayakawa, she’s a dangerous and kinda scary new threat to Team Saliva, hatching a dastardly scheme to break Tsubaki and Urabe up. Tsubaki can’t help but let himself be played like a fiddle. It’s a very old and well-worn story, but also a well-executed one. Hayakawa is crazy, but  believably so; not too over-the-top psycho.

Tsubaki at least stops himself from tasting Hayakawa’s drool, and comes clean about having a girlfriend, but it doesn’t faze her. She comes to him with a (fake) bruise on her face, and Tsubaki can’t turn her down. The episode is pretty clear that it isn’t chivalry and good intentions alone that motivate Tsubaki; a part of him still likes her, and when presented with an excuse to be with her, he takes it. He knew what he was doing was wrong, and he did it anyway. Then he lied to Urabe, and she found out from Oka. Tsubaki has dug quite the hole for himself, and we’re curious to see how he’ll get out of it – since we assume he will.


Rating: 7 (Very Good)

Sakamichi no Apollon – 07

The day of the school cultural festival draws near, and Kaoru still won’t speak to Sentaro. Kaoru and Ritsuko are elected to the festival committee by their class, who have begun to noticce their mutual affection for one another. Sentaro makes a move on Yurika, but they’re interrupted by a bedraggled Jun, who Sentaro punches. Kaoru wastes an opportunity to clear the air with Sentaro, and the two drift far apart. When the festival arrives, the rock concert is cut short by electrical problems. On a whim, Kaoru decides to occupy the crowd by playing jazz on the piano. Sentaro joins him on the drums, and their jamming draws the whole school to the gym, spellbound. When they’re done their impromptu set, they run down the slope.

Whew…now that was a goddamn powerhouse of an episode. Just as jazz was the catalyst for Kaoru and Sentaro’s friendship, it’s also the salve that mends it when it’s asunder. The episode is a roller coaster of bleak emotional valleys balanced by dizzyingly estatic peaks. Beginning with a breif recap of Kaoru telling Sentaro off, potentially (though unlikely) for good, and ends with the most jaw-droppingly epic jam session in the most unlikely venue. The entire school witnesses their catharsis, and are so captivated they almost forget to applaud (Yurika gets it going). The scenes of students running into classrooms beckoning their peers to come to the gym adds to the energy. This week the school learned a lot more about Sentaro and Kaoru.

They jam for just over three and a half minutes, but times seems to drift away altogether during that period. We’re dared to not tap our feet or drum our hands on the coffee table to the music, and we can’t resist. The medley harks back to all the pieces they’ve played thus far – and one Kaoru played just for Ritsuko – but all of them have a new energy, which Ri’ko puts very nicely: “Like two princes arguing good-naturedly as they come back home.” It is an argument: between two momentarily estranged friends; between piano and drums; but once they’re both on the same wavelength and jamming away with such energy and purpose, not even a drunken racist Yankee sailor would deign to interrupt. Ri’ko’s dad mourns the loss of Coltrane at the episode’s start: it’s no time for silent halls or friends…and rock ‘n’ roll just ain’t gonna cut it.

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Rating: 10 (Masterpiece)

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Tasogare Otome x Amnesia – 05

During the school cultural festival, Yuuko decides the P.I. club will have a haunted house, and she’ll be the ghost. Kirie gets fed up with watching Yuuko hang off of Niiya, and storms off with Okonogi, bump into some of her friends who conscript Kirie for cat maid cafe duty. The experience boosts Kirie’s confidence, but then she realizes how similar she looks like Yuuko, and goes in the haunted house to face her own fear: the fear of being at the bottom of the barrel, and looking like a ghost. She runs out and bumps into Niiya, who compliments her in a roundabout way after she asks him why he likes Yuuko.

Ah, cultural festival episodes. They’re apparently an absolute necessity in most anime involving a school, and this episode represented dutiful compliance with that convention. It did, however, set Yuuko and Niiya flirting aside for most of its running time, focusing on Kirie, who up until now we’d known little about besides the fact she’s not as annoying as Okonogi, a bit of a tomboy, and Yuuko’s granddaughter. Here we learn what we could have predicted: she likes Niiya and is annoyed that he pays more attention to the ghost. She makes Niiya a stand-in for society at large: if he won’t give her the time of day, why should anyone else? After all, she has – gasp – short hair and – double gasp – a modest bust! Yep, she’s basically devilspawn.

When Okonogi dresses her up as a cat maid, to the approval and captivation of the cafe patrons, it’s a much-needed boost of self-esteem. She realizes that she’s got the Kanoe charm; some of the same qualities that make her granny so alluring to Niiya (well, that, and the fact Yuuko is so lovey-dovey with him.) Only she has an edge over Yuuko: she’s still alive. Is Kirie being a bit overly dramatic, considering she’s not that bad-looking at all? Sure. Is her performance this week all over the place? Definitely. But we still enjoyed her little journey of self-discovery, which was punctuated by a bevy of weird close-ups and quick changes of mood. Nothing spell-binding, but enough to hold our interest…for now.


Rating: 5 (Average)

Sket Dance – 48

On his seventeenth birthday, during the school festival, Bossun is approached by the doctor who delivered him. He apologizes for letting his mother die, but also for something much bigger: Bossun has a twin brother. The doctor, whose wife could not concieve, took the other twin, as was Haru’s dying wish so Akane wouldn’t be overburdened by two sons; Akane never knew. When the doctor tells him it’s somebody he already knows, it’s clear to him that Tsubaki is his brother. When the festival ends they meet up and discuss it, but decide to proceed like nothing’s changed. Himeko, however, has different ideas…

Clearly Sket Dance wasn’t done with the heavy durama…although thankfully this week was bookended by the usual comedy. We’ve gotta feel for Bossun…learning his mother and sister aren’t related by blood; that both his parents died the day he was born, and now he has a twin who just happens to be Tsubaki, who was the nerdy little kid he protected a couple years ago – kid’s got a lot of stuff on his plate all of a sudden. But he takes it in a combination of shock and stride, because what else can you do?

Some nice details: Tsubaki learned he was adopted without asking his parents whe he discovered they had Type O blood, befitting a doctor’s son. Yet no bloodwork or words, for that matter, would change the fact he was their son. Bossun is the older of them, and the face he makes when he learns this is priceless and pure Bossun. Himeko seems absolutely enamored of the idea Tsubaki and Bossun are brothers, and Switchfinds it pretty amusing as well. And Renzou’s dad is even more hilariously intense than he is.


Rating: 3.5

Guilty Crown – 13

After the “Second Lost Christmas” that killed Gai, the city center district known as Loop 7 is quarantined by GHQ, now led by former Major, now Chief Segai. Ayase and Tsugami join Shu and Inori as classmates. After two weeks separated from the rest of the city, nerves are starting to fray, so the school council led by Kuhouin decide to organize a cultural festival. It is crashed by rioters who were supplied with military equipment by Segai in disguise, but before they can hurt anyone, Shu uses his new power – drawing out a void so its owner can use it – on Ayase. Her void is a set of prosthetic legs which, combined with his Inori sword, take care of the baddies. But when the TV feed is restored, the other shoe drops: the GHQ is closing off Loop 7 for ten years, in hopes of eradicating the alleged apocalypse breakout there.

We were a bit weary when we heard the words “cultural festival”, but this turned out to be a very good aftermath episode, with lots of good Ayase characterization. There isn’t any way around it, practically speaking: Ayase needs technology in order to prove to herself and others that she’s useful. She blames herself for Gai’s death, and is lost without him or her endlave. Fortunately for her, she’s got a friend who can draw out her very convenient – but still poetic – void that enables her to move as she would within an endlave, only with her own body. Which, any way you look at it, must be an absolute thrill. The final action piece with her and Shu kicking ass and taking names was awesome.

Of course, this was just the eye of the storm. Shu, all his friends, and perhaps tens of thousands of people are now trapped within the confines of a few city blocks. Things were already starting to get chippy, what with bands of the strong starting to prey on the weak. That shit’s only going to get worse from here, unless Shu & Co. can either stop it or break down the walls that surround them. There’s also this interesting dynamic with Segai treating Loop 7 like some kind of zoo or lab; no doubt he isn’t just going to leave Shu and his powers alone. Things may have gone from bad to okay to bad again in a jiffy, but the good guys aren’t without means…or guts.


Rating: 3.5