Mirai Nikki – 03

Keigo, a detective and the fourth diary user, sends Amano and Yuno off on a fun-filled, romantic date to serve as bait for Minene Uryuu, whom they have to finish off. She’s sneaking around the city, staying in the shadows and suffering from the pain of losing her eye. A mystery dude who turns out to be another diary user carries her to a secluded cabin where he drugs her in hopes of gaining intel on the other users she knows. Just when Amano’s fears about Yuno are allayed, she brings him to her house, where he pokes around and finds rotting corpses, making him flee from her in terror.

For some reason, we kept noticing unintentional references to other series this week. Like Deadman Wonderland, you have your girly-sounding guy (Amano, actually voiced by a girl); your seemingly harmless, cute girl (Yuno); amusement park complete with ferris wheel; and the pretty but psycho bitch with a horrible, pain-filled childhood (Minene Uryuu), who gets more depth this week. Like Boku wa Tomodachi ga Sukunai, there was your sexy pool scene. Like Blood-C, you have things starting out all happy and bubbly, but with hints of unease, and then it gets real dark real fast, and our whelpish hero is in a very bad way. We have to say, while we were somewhat convinced Yuno was helping Amano out of love, we had no idea it would be “I want to use your entrails as hair ties and eat your face” love. Poor Amano…

With Minene – the would-be top threat – neutralized this week by the man with the bag on his head, Yuno is our wolf in sheep’s clothing this week. What’s so scary about her is that she’s really capable of anything; but hasn’t yet to come out and said what she wants or what she’ll do, which is good for a horror story, because what’s more fearsome than the unknown? Creepier still is the fact Amano will have a very hard time avoiding her, since her diary is basically set up to stalk him. So kudos to the show for starting out with a bafflingly placid date complete with acute bikini top loss, and taking it in the complete opposite direction. Now Amano needs to grow some bullocks.


Rating: 3.5

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2011 So Far – in chart form

We like charts here on RABUJOI. This one plots the ratings of all the anime series we’ve reviewed so far in 2011. We’ve included Summer 2011 series, even though we’ve got 5-6 more weeks of episodes in those seasons. When the Summer season does conclude, we’ll update this chart.

So what do we see? Well, while we deem a 2.5 rating to be “Average”, our actual average is closer to 3.5, which we deem “Standout”. This is because there’s a lot of anime out there, but we try to only watch the best. There are exceptions, of course: the main outlier here is Morita-san wa Mukuchi, which rates just above 2 or “Mediocre” (UPDATE: As of episode 7, we’ve dropped Morita-san :P). There are a lot more series out there we’d probably rank this low or lower, but we don’t have the time or the stomachs to sit through them.

So why do we watch Morita-san wa Mukuchi? Well, it’s only three minutes long; hardly a major investment. So it isn’t that we rate high. We just watch series that regularly deserve above-average ratings. Thus when a truly brillant series comes around – like AnoHana or Mawaru Penguindrum, you’ll see a lot of 4s. At the end of the day, it’s all subjective. We also just like charts. Did we say that already?

Spring 2011 – Best (and Worst) Openings and Endings

Best Opening: [C]: Control: The Money and Soul of Possibility. A very slick, confident, adn frenetic beginning to a show that also possesses those qualities. A virtual camera zooms into a 1000 yen note, a dollar, a Euro, and a black MIdas bill, and the designs on those currencies explode and fly by with impressive depth and detail. I also like how the financial district’s giant spinning coin is presented.

I didn’t include [C]’s ending, because while it was pretty good, the School Food Punishment song sounded too similar the one used for the Eden of the East ending, which had far better visuals.

Runner-up: Deadman Wonderland. The WWE-grade metal lyrics of this season’s runner-up are kind of silly, but there’s nothing wrong with the music itself; it’s harsh, dark, and unyielding, like the series itself. The mostly red palette and multi-layered, highly-textured visuals also match the show’s mood quite well. While hardly subtle, they also show the dual personalities of both Shiro and Minatsuki. Sweet on the surface, but terrors lurk within.

Best Ending: Ao no Exorcist. I discuss the music and visuals of this ending at length here. Suffice it to say, It’s a great concept, very simple and very nicely executed. A really elegant yet satisfying ending. (Sorry, that video was removed!)

Runner-up: Deadman Wonderland. A peaceful shot of a Ferris Wheel glowing at sunset combined with a soothing, upbeat dance track makes for a nice respite from each episode’s pervading darkness and despair. The slideshow of photos – which didn’t mean much the first time we see them, are given more gravity as the series has progresses: they’re snapshots of the character’s pasts. In each case, they’ve all changed quite a bit, except perhaps Ganta and Shiro.

So, what were the worst openings and endings? The World God Only Knows II was a beginning I don’t think I ever watched in its entirety after the first time. They were clearly trying to replicate the novel and IMO very successful opening of the first season, and failed miserably. See it here. The ending is also something I skipped every time.

Hanasaku Iroha has a pretty (if not altogether original) opening that’s hampered by a subpar vocalist. Watch here, but be forewarned: it’s shrill.

Denpa Onna to Seishun Otoko though, takes the cake as the most obnoxious vocals by far, and the visuals just seemed a bit lazy and uninspired. If you’re a aural masochist, you may get your kicks watching it on a loop. As for the ending, it’s just a cutesy-cutesy Arakawa-type sequence with Etsuko Yakushimaru’s shy vocals putting me to sleep. Venus to Jesus was infinitely better.

Aside from having one of the dumbest, laziest logos for a series I’ve ever seen, Tiger & Bunny‘s opening and ending are notable only for their crushing genericness. The blatant product placement didn’t bother me so much.

Deadman Wonderland 12 (Fin?)

Well, I guess that was a kind of an ending, but it certainly didn’t answer all that many questions that were posited in the build-up of this series. Karako and Ganta manage to get Nagi to snap out of it; Ganta protects Shiro and asks for her forgiveness, and then proceeds to kill Genkaku (whom we get a little background on) with his best Ganta Gun bullet yet. And then…the series just kinda…ends.

Toto, who had just been introduced, just shows off how deadly he/she is by totally wasting the second grader, and he/she seems to want to kill Ganta, but none of that happens. Everybody seemingly runs out of time. The only sure thing is that Ganta and Shiro are friends again. But even that isn’t certain, because we know that Shiro is Red Man, and if Ganta ever found out that she was the one who killed his class, he’ll surely be none the kinder.

So what, are we supposed to expect a second season? I’m not all that okay with that. I was invested for twelve episodes, and even though by the tenth or eleventh it was pretty clear things weren’t going to be resolved, that doesn’t mean I have to like it. AnoHana was a brillant series that managed to accomplish everything it set out to do and then some, in only eleven episodes. Now after twelve of this, I feel like more effort should have gone into bringing the story to a conclusion, It’s a good story; why drag it out? Rating: 3.5

2011 So Far

With most of Spring 2011 all wrapped up and the Summer 2011 season starting this weekend, it seemed a good time to line up all the series that have aired this year (excluding Fall 2010 carryovers) and see what’s what so far:

Episode # : 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 AVG

AnoHana 4 4 4 3.5 4 4 4 4 4 4 4 3.955
[C] 3.5 4 4 4 3.5 4 4 4 4 4 4 3.909
Hanasaku Iroha 4 4 4 3.5 3.5 3 3 4 4 4 4 4 3.769
Puella Magi Madoka Magica 3.5 3.5 3 4 3.5 4 4 4 4 4 4 3.5 3.750
Deadman Wonderland 4 3.5 4 3.5 4 4 4 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.727
Level-E 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3 3.5 4 4 3.538
Denpa Onna to Seishun Otoko 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3 3.5 3.5 3.450
Fractale 3.5 3 3.5 3.5 3 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3 3.5 3.364
Kimi ni Todoke 2nd Season 2.5 2 2.5 3.5 3.5 4 4 3.5 3.5 3.5 3 3.5 4 3.308
Sket Dance (First Half) 2.5 3 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3 3 4 3.5 3 3.5 3.5 3.308
Ao no Exorcist (First Half) 3.5 3 3.5 3.5 3 2.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3 3.273
The World God Only Knows II 3.5 3 3 2.5 3 3.5 3.5 3.5 4 3.5 3.5 2.5 3.250
Tiger & Bunny (First Half) 3.5 3 3 3.5 3 3 3 3 3.5 3.5 2.5 3 3.5 3.154

Weekly Average 3.4 3.3 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.7 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.8 3.520

Stray Observations:

•  Overall, Spring 2011 was a particularly good season. Even if I included the huge Fall 2010 season in the table above, the top three Spring series would still dominate the podium. Quality, not quantity. Summer 2011 has its work cut out for it.

• AnoHana, just an episode shy of perfection, became a personal favorite. [C] came two shy. These two series couldn’t be more different, but both rocked.

• Best Music: Taku Iwasaki. He provided the excellent score for [C], and has also scored Katanagatari, Gurren Lagann, Soul Eater, etc.

• Hanasaku Iroha sagged a bit in the middle there, but its first half began and ended extremely strong. And even those middle episodes had their charms. Looking forward to the second half this Summer.

• At first I didn’t quite know what to make of Puella Magi Madoka Magica, but it quickly found its stride and ended up one of my all-time favorites, despite its relatively modest score.

• Deadman Wonderland has just one episode to wrap everything up. This show deserves a second season. More than Tiger & Bunny.

• Level E and Denpa Onna both involve “aliens” of some kind – and both scored extremely consistent ratings. Moreso if Denpa’s final double episode is a good one.

 In hindsight, perhaps some episodes of Fractale were ranked too high. This is possibly due to the great visuals and imaginative setting, which carried that series.

• I was harsh in the beginning of Kimi ni Todoke’s second season, but perhaps that was just because I hadn’t quite settled back into the romantic futility. As a result, this series had the most rating variation.

• Sket Dance’s only flaw was its opening episode, with its red herring protagonist. Since then it’s been consistently funny and entertaining, so I’m sticking with it.

• I’m also optimistic about Ao no Exorcist‘s second half, but not as excited about Tiger & Bunny‘s. Prove me wrong, Tiger & Bunny!

• The World God Only Knows II took a dip of .167 below its first season. Hopefully, the third season will arrest that downward trend.

• Best Female Seiyu: Winter: Eri Kitamura as Sayaka in Puella Magi Madoka Magica.
Spring: Haruka Tomatsu as Anaru in AnoHana. She was also Megumi in Shiki.

• Best Male Seiyu: Winter: Level E’s “Prince”,  Daisuke Namikawa.
Spring: Tomokazu Sugita as Sket Dance’s “Switch.”

Deadman Wonderland 11

Things can’t get much worse, but they will -that’s a good slogan for Deadman Wonderland. After managing to survive the first raid attempt, Karako rallies what’s left of Scar Chain to attempt to rescue Nagi. She keeps Ganta out of it, guilty of what she’s already put him through. Little does she know, her dear leader doesn’t want to be rescued, or even to live. And he doesn’t want anyone else to live either. He’s become a nihilist.

Ganta, desperate to do something and make a difference, trains with Crow – losing nearly all his blood in the process – and is introduced to a very creepily friendly Mockingbird (aka Toto). In fact, true to his/her name, Toto mocks both Crow and Ganta here, and it’s pretty unnerving to see Crow actually afraid of something; in this case, a deadman who’s stronger than him. When Genkaku calls Scar Chain out, having captured both Karako and Shiro (and seem to be threatening to rape them before they’re killed), Ganta is off to the races, having just improved his Ganta Gun by speeding it up, but very low on blood indeed.

This episode also had a brief cameo by Minatsuki, who gets Ganta out of an initial spot, but refuses to fight for Scar Chain – as she explains, she has to look out for Yoh, and she wasn’t framed; she is a murderer. She isn’t interested in freedom anymore. Ganta proceeds, and manages to knock out a bunch of undertaker guards with his faster blood bullets – but he’s far from out of the woods, as he still has to deal with Genkaku, the second grader, and a new, “sane” Nagi – while suffering from anemia. Most important, he has to apologize to Shiro. This was definitely one of Ganta’s more assertive moments…but will it mean anything? Just one more episode to determine that. Rating: 3.5

Deadman Wonderland 10

Shiro calls Ganta weak and a jerk. Truer words were never spoken. At least he admits he’s pathetic, but I have to say I was pretty disappointed with his reaction to Shiro saving his life by tossing the datachip bomb. Neither he nor the rest of Scar Chain could connect the dots until a totally tweaked-out Rokuro showed up at their hideout to spell it out to them. Of course, the damage is already done; Ganta has already slapped Shiro and told her he never wants to see her again. Treating Wretched Egg like that will have consequences.

So Rokuro arrives to take the remnants of the resistance hostage until Nagi/Owl defects to the Undertakers. The Priest pumps him full of drugs to speed things along. Beneath his earlier calm demeanor, Owl does seem to be barely-contained utter chaos personified. Rokuro comes with undertakers (both silly-looking freaks of nature) who seem ready to kill Ganta when Crow arrives in the nick of time with an awesome supersonic blood blade. He then refuses to help Scar Chain, basically contradicting what he just did (help a weakling) by saying only the strong should survive. Ganta may have potential to be strong, but he isn’t strong now. He seems helpless.

And losing Shiro, even temporarily, didn’t help. Now she’s making friends with Mockingbird, whose motives we can only guess. What we do know is that s(he) is androgynous and voiced by Miyuki Sawashiro, and gained some of Shiro’s trust by warning her about the datachip Ganta carried. Ganta needs to get his shit together. Weeks past, he was able to defeat both Crow and Hummingbird. Where the heck did that strength go? Finally, we get a brief glimpse at Makina’s personal crusade to expose Tamaki, but it seems the defence ministry is already well-aware and complacent with his methods and plans. I’m holding out hope Makina will have a role to play in Wonderland’s demise – if it occurs. Rating: 3.5

Deadman Wonderland 9

Before delving into this week’s bloodbath, I just want to note that I really like the ending sequence of Deadman Wonderland. That cropped shot of a Ferris Wheel at sunset combined with a soothing, upbeat dance track makes for a nice respite from the darkness of the previous twenty-two minutes. But the slideshow of photos – which didn’t mean much the first time we saw them, are given more gravity as the series has progresses. These are snapshots of the pasts of the characters, many of whom we just met last week.

Anywho, back to this week, one of the goriest yet, which is saying something. Star Chain suffers almost total losses, including Koshio and Nagi. The former dies in a blaze of glory, wasting a Necro Macro, while Nagi’s demise is far slower and more torturous (if he indeed dies, he’s pretty worse-for-wear). Specifically, a totally twisted second-grader with a massive blunt blade treats his body like a ham at the delicatessen, then relieves him of an arm. Even so, Nagi is one tough mutha, managing to knock out the Judas Rokuro and activating the elevator for Ganta and the others.

It’s all for naught though, as the data chip Ganta has been entrusted with isn’t the truth that will set them free at all; its’ a bomb, and Shiro arrives in the nick of time to snatch it away and toss it a safe distance away. The mission is basically a total failure, which explains why the undertaker corps withdrew before finishing Ganta off: their role was to put down Scar Chain, and they would seem to have succeeded. I was hoping Ganta would have gotten further. Now, who was that weird Ganta-looking guy with white hair Shiro bumped into in their HQ? Rating: 3.5

Deadman Wonderland 8

Thanks to Shiro, who seems to be back to normal (for now, of course), Ganta, Nagi and Koshio are saved when she drops in and destroys Genkaku’s guitar gun. We then see that Scar Chain is actually quite a large group of resistance fighters. We also learn that the crazyass priest is a former inmate and now part of Tamaki’s corps of anti-deadmen enforcers, or “undertakers”, who can counter branches of sin. So if there’s a war in Wonderland, Makina’s guards aren’t the only thing standing between Scar Chain and their freedom.

And there will be a war. It’s inspection week, which means all of Wonderland’s sadistic games are shut down and the prison is made to look normal and sqeaky-clean. Nagi doesn’t want revenge or to escape as much as he wants the prison’s secrets exposed to the world, where presumably the public will call for its termination. It won’t be easy though, with Tamaki and the undertakers on the prowl. It would seem, however, that Captain Makina shares this goal, if for different reasons. She doesn’t seem aware of Scar Chain’s plan, but I wonder if she’d let them proceed just because she’s sick of Tamaki.

Which brings us to Rokuro, a Scar Chain member who seems to be a double agent. He is in league with the undertakers, and I have no reason to believe he won’t betray his comrades – and Ganta, for whom he has no love – right when victory is in grasp. That’s just how this show has gone down so far. Even if Rokuro turns out to be good, Ganta still doesn’t know Shiro’s true deal. Lot on his plate, this kid. Rating: 3.5

Deadman Wonderland 7

Another amazing episode. This one was jam-packed with new characters, new twists, new opportunities and new hazards for our seemingly cursed protagonist, Ganta. There’s even a moment when he, Yoh, and Minatsuki seem as normal and comfortable as Ganta with his old, dearly departed friends. That brighter tone doesn’t last, but it I am glad the series is mixing moments of levity/comedy/romance in with the horror. Even Senji makes an appearence, exhibiting no hard feelings for Ganta.

More big news come in the form of a Lal’C-looking lady (Koshio) who socks Ganta then brings him to the hideout of Scar Chain, DMW’s underground resistance. They like his spunk and his straight-arrowness, and want him on their team. Scar’s leader even makes sure the only thing Minatsuki loses in her Penalty Game is her hair. Seems to good to be true, and it is, as their encounter is rudely interrupted by Promotor Tamaki’s “ultra-priest” pal, Genkaku, owner of a Fender Explorer that turns into a machine gun. However, if they ever get out of this, Scar Chain should team up with Warden Makina – she’s apparently also sick of the insanity around here, and of Tamaki in particular.

The episode also gives us loads of new info about Ganta’s childhood, notably, that his mom was a scientist, Shiro showed signs of superhuman strength even back then, and there were experimental terror dogs roaming wherever it was Ganta hung out back then. He was also a fan of the super-hero Ace-Man, who bears an uncanny resemblence to the mysterious Wretched Egg, “Red Man”, who originally set Ganta up. Oh, and can’t overlook this lil’ nugget: SHIRO is the friggin’ Wretched Egg. Ganta can’t catch a break! Rating: 4

Deadman Wonderland 6

Was I surprised that the sweet, charming, adorable inmate-ette-next-door Minatsuki turned out to be a totally bonkers sadistic lying bitch? Not totally; I saw her in the opening credits looking totally bonkers, and she also has a pierced tongue, which clearly means she’s evil ;) What I didn’t know was that everything Yoh was doing was for her sake; not like she cared.

The past she narrates to Ganta at first suggests her widowed father beat her, leading to her using her branches of sin as a last resort, but her power works so quickly, she could just as easily inflicted her own wounds without anyone knowing. Minatsuki, or “Hummingbird” is consistently all over the place with her past and her motives, but one thing is certain: she isn’t happy. She’s also extremely unpleasant, but I like her anyway!

Another thing that’s certain: Ganta has a hard head, which he uses to win by KO, flipping off the crowd that wants him to kill her. He doesn’t. I’m glad he didn’t, because for all her lunacy and two-facedness, Minatsuki has a lot of potential. Like Crow, she is both entertained and tortured by her power, and sickened by the weakness around her. Perhaps not a perfect match for Ganta, but definitely moreso than Shiro.

Shiro, who as far as we know was a childhood friend of Ganta’s, is also an instrument of the Wonderland’s founder, “No Name”, who is holed up in a hospital ward/lab, and isn’t happy with how the promoter is doing things. After her outburst last week, she’s brought here to recover, but after seeing what she’s capable of, it will be interesting to see if her childlike demeanor or innate need to protect Ganta endured that incident. Rating: 4

Deadman Wonderland 5

The date of the much bally-hooed duel between Crow and Woodpecker finally arrives, and Ganta gets himself into trouble almost immediately. While backing off of Crow and perching himself on the high ground seems like a good idea, not only are his blood projectiles ineffective at long range, they soon put him in shock from loss of blood. The Branch of Sin doesn’t always mean instant victory, especially when facing off someone with the same power, but knows better how to use it.

So Crow knocks the tree down and starts laying into him with his blood-blades, sharp and deadly, but not anemia-causing. The battle looks all but over until the typical usually-weak shounen Gets Back Up (TM) with nothing but Willpower. When stuck in the bowels of the prison with Yoh, Shiro tells him that’s Ganta’s trait; but like I said, he’s hardly unique amongst shounen protags when it comes to taking punishment. When he defeats Crow, Ganta isn’t bitter, and even gives him a fist bump for a well-fought fight. The situation ends up giving Ganta hope that things may end up okay, only to lose that hope when Crow, the loser, has his eye removed without anesthesia on live TV.

As for Shiro, Yoh tricks her into starting a one-girl riot in the watchtower so he can save his own ass and be rid of her. I initially think this is the end for Shiro, but she becomes even more ruthlessly violent, destroying everyone in the tower and the tower itself. Watching all the bodyparts rain over Yoh’s head is a disturbing sight, but not nearly as much as Shiro’s CREEPY grin she cracks while standing atop a pile of rubble, with someone’s head in her hand. Somebody show this girl Ganta, quick! Rating: 4

Deadman Wonderland 4

Ah, so Mr. “Ssslice” isn’t the guy who tore up Ganta’s class; he’s “Crow”. Incidentally, Ganta’s alias is “Woodpecker.” Dunno why. Anyway, Crow didn’t slaughter Ganta’s class! He just likes fighting, especially those on equal footing with him…like Ganta. He won’t let anyone or anything get in the way of his battles. And despite being highly sensitive to provocatively dressed women, that “anyone” includes the hot doctor. When you have blades made of your blood like Crow, there are things you can get over.

So “Branches of Sin” isn’t just something Ganta and the class-killer (Wretched Egg) can do; Crow can do. Presumably, there are others. They’re known as “deadmen”. When Ganta realizes Crow isn’t the deadman, Crow assumes the kid is just confused, and that he killed his own friends. But Ganta and Crow are broken up and Ganta is sent to Tamaki. Confused as to why his former public defender runs Wonderland, Tamaki enlightens him: he manipulates the machine of justice to get deadmen into his prison. Ganta was the sole survivor by design, and Tamaki is responsible for his framing and conviction.

He wants deadmen in his prison so he can make them duel one another. And so Crow and Woodpecker will be fighting soon. Crow is so excited about it, he’s training hard despite a cracked sternum. Pecker is, well, less enthusiastic, despite the Clockwork Orange-style picture show. And poor Shiro won’t be consoled until she’s back in Ganta’s presence. We still don’t know her deal, aside from the fact she has no prisoner number. I’m wondering if Captain Makina will be a thorn in Tamaki’s side, or if Ganta will have any choice but to unleash his new powers, master them, and use them to beat Crow. It’s kill or be killed. Ganta got a lot of answers, but I still feel like we need more. Rating: 3.5