Hakata Tonkotsu Ramens – 01 (First Impressions)

Three percent of the population of Fukuoka’s Hakata district is hitmen. In the first Hakata Tonkotsu Ramens, we meet a number of them…and I don’t like any of them. They’re either dull, or assholes, or both.

One of the assholes is a cross-dressing dude who is trying to kill his way out of debt for his little sister’s sake. He’s hired to murder an employee at a club who was skimming profits to the tune of 10 million.

Many hours later, a shaggy detective is tasked with discovering the club employee’s murderer…only to be the cross-dressing hitman’s next target.

Another asshole is the son of the mayor, who has a habit of abducting women, taking them to hotels and beating them to death if they won’t let him have his way with them.

This horrific monster is the spawn of Hakata’s mayor, who suggests minimizing his own exposure by giving the brat women with no families who have recently been brought into the country via human trafficking.

Meanwhile, the brat’s friends lynched a foreigner who is now in a coma, and the foreigner’s foreigner friend wants revenge, so calls upon some hitmen, which includes a little blonde girl, because sure, why not.

They end up mistaking another hitman hired to kill the attacker, who is on his first job since being transferred to Hakata from Shinjuku by the professional killing company he works for, RED RUM (har har).

Mr. Shaggy Detective has some conversations and does some snooping around the club, which leads to the aforementioned cross-dressing hitman to come after him. However, the cross-dressing hitman isn’t very good at his job, and the detective is able to make the first move.

This is all very dreary and unappealing so far. An entire city of hitmen is obviously ridiculous, so this show scaled it back to “three percent”, which is probably an abnormally large proportion but it doesn’t sound like a lot, it just sounds kinda limp.  And it doesn’t really matter how many hitmen reside in Hakata if none of them could create a single positive impression on me. Pass.

Advertisements

3-gatsu no Lion – 27

As part of repaying his debt he feels he owes her, Rei wants to help Hina in anyway he can, and that means getting a new perspective on the matter of bullying. Hayashida-sensei misunderstands at first. Rei isn’t the one being bullied. Indeed, he proudly proclaims his hard-won and long-standing invisibility at school.

When he brings up Hina, then describes her personality in such great detail and then presents his passion and motivation on the matter (“my duty as a human being” and such) Hayashida starts thinking that there is someone Rei likes. Of course, Rei isn’t thinking that way at all; Hina is not just a dear friend, but close to family, and his lifesaver to boot.

Hayashida gives Rei some good advice, including to tread carefully and not make a big fuss at school, lest it just make things worse for the victim, but to instead listen very intently to her feelings on the matter; how she’d like the matter resolved.

You know Rei is super-serious about this endeavor because he has a back-up plan: if Hina has to change schools or get a private tutor, he means to support her, not just emotionally, but financially. To that end, Hayashida spots a stack of shogi tournaments into which Rei has entered, calculating all of the winnings he’ll amass, which makes him a bit worried.

Despite saying he (literally!) can’t afford to lose again, he does inevitably lose, and is so angry he wrangles an all-to-willing Nikaidou to strenuously train with him. Nikaidou thinks Rei finally has fire in his belly and is utilizing his Best Friend; Rei just wants money to repay Hina!

The next day, Rei helps Akari lug home a whole mess of groceries she got a big sale. When Rei tells Akari his weight, she hurries home to start cooking, and won’t hear of Rei leaving.

There’s something about Rei, perhaps in part his personality; and the experiences he’s had (the loss of loved ones being something they share), that has Kawamotos pour their hearts out at him. Akari feels she can talk to him, and criticizes herself for the job she’s done as surrogate mom to Hina, lamenting she’s “no good.”

Only nineteen herself when their mother died, Akari had barely lived any life before suddenly becoming a mother of two. She did her best, but in hindsight worries she instilled “ham-fisted” ideals into Hina, which led to her predicament with her friend and the bullies.

Akari admired Gramps simply praising Hina’s courage, but she hates the part of herself for wanting Hina to simply run away rather than do something that would cause her to be unhappy or alone. This is, of course, silly; Gramps has lived a long-ass life, of course he’s going to have more wisdom on these kinds of things. Akari is too hard on herself here.

Rei reassures Akari that just as Hina did nothing wrong in fighting the good fight, neither did Akari. After all, Akari raised the girl who saved Rei’s life; that makes Akari his savior too. Had Hina been raised not to be as kind as she is, or to think of herself before others, Rei might not even be there talking to her.

His honest words cheer Akari up, and she fixes a big ‘ol pot of curry for dinner. When Gramps returns from the theme park with Hina and Momo, he complains that Rei is there “again”, but he’s only joking around, and orders him to sit, eat, and stop making him feel like the bad guy.

While stepping back into the house, Hina hands him a cartoon cat phone strap that somewhat resembles him, as thanks for everything he’s done. Hina expects Rei to think it childish, but he tells her he’s moved, and thanks her. It’s such a nice, quiet, warm moment shared between two people who will hopefully be thanking each other for being there for one another for a good long time to come.

KonoSuba 2 – 03

kono231

KonoSuba calls back to its first season more this week, but for some reason it didn’t bother me as much, probably because it’s always a hoot to watch Kazuma and Megumin explosion training montages, and even more of a hoot to have Kazuma and Aqua tackle a dungeon, with no one but each other to bounce off of.

kono232

The episode also doesn’t hesitate to remind us that Kazuma is a bit of a cad and a perv, considering the “rustling” going on when he and Aqua used to sleep in the stables. But with Darkness away (having seemingly but probably not unspeakable things done to her) and Megumin sitting out the dungeon (an accidental explosion could kill them all), the balance of the episode has a fleet, stripped-down feeling to it.

kono233

Also, it manages to surprise by making this one of the times when Aqua is not only the most capable party member, but absolutely essential to clearing the dungeon. Whether undead are naturally drawn to her or not, one can’t deny she’s good at dispatching them, and with style to boot. I loved how a string of anti-undead spells were suddenly interrupted by an exuberant “Nature’s Beauty!” for good measure.

kono234

Once they reach Keele, the former court wizard who has a whole story and after whom the dungeon is named, there’s a bittersweetness to the fact he became a lich to protect his love, and thanks to Aqua, can return to her through purification.

Kazuma is pleasantly surprised throughout the dungeon trek with Aqua’s staggering awesomeness, right up until he realizes the reason they’ve been chased around by undead all this time was because of her.

kono235

Still, I maintain it was a good thing Aqua accompanied Kazuma. They got a bunch of loot, and Kazuma was reminded that Aqua isn’t always useless, and sometimes he is. Unfortunately, none of the gold they make goes towards their towering debts, because they instead end up buying the house however many rounds it takes to send Aqua into the alley to vomit the gold away.

As is so often the case, Kazuma & Co. can’t help but take two steps back for every step forward, at least as far as money goes. But that was still a damned entertaining dungeon trip.

16rating_8

KonoSuba 2 – 02

kono221

The expressions on the faces of Kazuma on Aqua kinda match up with my feelings about this episode, which was, in a word, listless. They still have the mansion (for now), but all their other earthly goods are gone. Megumin brings in a cat, so now the party has a mascot. The three worry about what might be happening to Darkness.

kono222

Then Sena observes as the party strikes out into the snow to do what it does best: nothing right. Granted, this is a show all about the ineptitude of the party, so it’s not like I expect competence. It’s just that the slimy giant toads were already done last season, and despite casting Megumin’s rival Yunyun and Sena into the slimy fray, it all comes off as a bit stale.

kono223

In other news, Kazuma and Megumin’s stubborn pride leads them to share a bath together, when neither wants to lose face by backing down from threats of…bathing together. To be fair, it’s a huge bath, so I don’t really see the problem as long as they’re covering up, which is the case here. Nevertheless, this is another retread from last season, with Megumin instead of Darkness.

kono224

I’m not sure what would have improved this episode, but less (or no) Yunyun might’ve done the trick. The projections of her and Megumin’s most embarrassing moments were good for a chuckle, but otherwise she was half-baked and didn’t bring enough new out of Megumin to make her worth having around. This episode just felt like it lacked energy, and wasn’t up to the standard KonoSuba programmed me to expect through its much better efforts.

16rating_7

KonoSuba 2 – 01

kono211

I have wrested control of KonoSuba reviewing duties from Zane, but we both watched this first episode of its much-anticipated sequel, and it does not disappoint, picking up right where it left off. KonoSuba 2 continues its predecessor’s generosity – you get a lot of bang for your buck. This episode featured five distinct scenarios, all the source of a great many laughs.

People initially come to Kazuma’s defense, first by talking about other bad stuff he’s done, but quickly wilt into the background when Sena, the prosecutor charged with arresting him, makes it clear she has no qualms about putting others in jail for the same charges as Kazuma. Here, Kazuma learns the true value of his “friends” at the tavern.

kono212

However, his core friends don’t give up, as Megumin causes an explosive diversion, allowing Aqua to sneak to the prison where Kazuma is held and give him a pin with which to pick the cell lock. Of course, it’s not that kind of lock. When she returns with a hacksaw, she tosses it to him, even though he can’t reach the window bars, as it never occurred to her to saw the bars herself. The failed attempts re-establish the party’s general incompetence in all things, but especially seemingly simple things.

kono213

That being said, Kazuma exhibits in a hilarious interrogation scene with Sena that he can more than make up for his lack of stupidity with an abundance of embarrassing details about his life, which he has no choice but to elaborate on in front of Sena, a lie-detecting bell, and an enthusiastic stenographer.

In what’s my favorite part of the episode, Kazuma starts out under the stern Sena’s heel, but once the bell seems to prove his innocence, the tables turn completely, and Sena is suddenly docile and contrite. Fukushima Jun and Nabatame Hitomi put on a voice-acting clinic playing the swiftly evolving moods of Kazuma and Sena.

kono214

Naturally, Kazuma gets too full of himself and says something the bell identifies as a lie (b/c he knows Wiz) which is enough for Sena to send him to trial – an open-air trial with the gallows hanging courtroom adjacent. Sena starts breaking down Kazuma’s character with the unflattering testimony of witnesses.

Here the show flexes its memory, using that testimony as a means of refreshing us on what Kazuma has done (not all of it is stuff to be proud of, after all), and Aqua and Megumin fail to provide a robust defense. Kazuma only goes free when he tells the bell he’s not involved with the Devil King, and even then after Darkness has to reveal her Dustiness heritage to override the local Lord leaning on the judge to convict.

kono215

But with each victory comes another defeat, something that one both expects and doesn’t expect on KonoSuba, so engrained is my fantasy anime way of thinking. A brutal and unjust middle ages-style legal system actually worked out for Kazuma in the end…but only because he knew someone important.

That’s his luck in play, but there’s never enough to, say, avoid having his, Megumin’s, and Aqua’s assets snatched up in order to pay his debt to the Lord Aldarp, who emerges as perhaps the next big bad.

And so the party now has to somehow make back enough money to get rid of that debt with nothing but the clothes on their back and their wits, all without incurring more debt or breaking more laws that will get them executed. It’s a hard knock life in this beautiful world.

Any promising opportunities are to be looked upon with suspicion, but even that vigilance will prevent be from being surprised or even shocked by what fresh indignities KonoSuba has cooked up for Kazuma & Co.

16rating_9

KonoSuba – 08

ks81

Winter isn’t Coming, it’s already here, and Kauzma and Aqua are finding it impossible to continue living in a freezing cold stables. One wonders where Megumin and Darkness are living. Anyway, Kazuma decides the best way to make enough money to pay for warmer digs is to gain a new skill.

The person he asks for that new skill is a friendly lich named Wiz. Her introduction is initially a bit confusing, becaue Kazuma and Aqua seem to know her well, yet couldn’t recall who the heck she was. Turns out she’d never been introduced until now. Furthermore, they learn for the first time that she’s actually one of the eight generals of the Devil King’s army.

As such, she was a contemporary of the late Verdia, though quite amusingly she’s not choked up about his demise, considering he often tossed his head by her feet so he could look up her skirt. The Devil King needs a better HR person, ’cause that shit can get you sued. Also, due to her undead nature, Aqua constantly wants to eliminate her.

ks82

Kazuma doesn’t let her, and gains a skill from Wiz that drains an opponent of magic and health. Then a happy coincidence occurs, as someone comes in Wiz’s shop needing a big haunted mansion exorcised. Kazuma and Aqua take the job, and Megumin and Darkness join them at the impressive and comfy-looking new place.

Of course, I assumed Kazuma and Aqua would end up right back in those freezing stables, huddling for warmth without regard for propriety. Because since when is a seemingly awesome mansion not have some huge problem with it that renders it utterly unlivable?

ks83

Sure enough, even though Aqua seemingly does some exorcism work on the place, Kazuma is visited in the night by not one or two but hundreds of that good old cliche, creepy laughing dolls. He eventually finds Megumin in Aqua’s room, wanting to go to the bathroom with her.

Kazuma also has to go really bad, so the two have to deal with constantly being surrounded by creepy dolls and having to hold it in to the point of agony. Megumin even leaves her pants and pantsu behind in the ongoing chase.

ks84

The cliched creepy dolls (and ludicrous number of owls!), along with the much more mundane need to pee really bad, made for a reasonably chuckleworthy combination of problems.

Though it’s all resolved pretty easily in the end, Kazuma forces Aqua to give back their “special reward” for eliminating all the new spirits that had taken up residence in the mansion, after he realizes it was her own magical barrier that kept the spirits from going where they wanted – the graveyard where they met Wiz.

All’s well that ends well, though, as the party finally has a respectable place to live, and Kazuma is a little closer to achieving the ideal “down-to-earth lifestyle” he desired. Adventuring will surely be more rewarding now that he’s not risking hypothermia every night!

7_ses

KonoSuba – 07

ks71

This week starts off cryptically, with Kazuma back in his green tracksuit in the place where he first met Aqua after dying in Japan. The basic takeaway is that Kazuma died again, meaning at some point we’ll find out how.

Meanwhile, it’s now winter, which means sleeping in the stables is a one-way ticket to frozen eyelashes, and because of the reward for defeating Verdia being spread out amongst the adventurers, there’s a glut of quests, just none of them the right fit for Kazuma’s party.

ks72

He eventually settles on adorable snow-sprite hunting, but after killing nine, they incur the wrath of the sprites’ guardian, the “Winter Shogun” (a creation of another dead guy formerly of Japan, to Kazuma’s chagrin). When the shogun slices Darkness’ sword like it was butter, Aqua insists everyone disarm and prostrate themselves so he’ll forgive them. But Kazuma doesn’t quite drop his sword soon enough, and is killed.

ks73

Back in that limbo-like void, he meets a new goddess, Eris (whom I believe is voiced by Kitamura Eri) who proves a lot nicer and less arrogant and mocking thatn Aqua was. When Kazuma lists all of the misfortunes he’s endured since ending up in the fantasy world, she maintains a caring attitude, to his surprise and mine; I thought she’d show her true colors after some extended time with her, but she seems to be a legitimatly nice goddess.

She informs Kazuma that since he died in the fantasy world, she can now send him back to Japan, this time as a member of an affluent family. She can’t change himin any particular way, but it still sounds like a sweet deal for him, he’s going home!

Only, when he actually stops and thinks about Aqua and Megumin and Darkness, he starts shedding tears, and realizes he was a lot fonder of that life than he thought when he was living it. Only now, when he’s being offered a chance to abandon that life, does he realize he didn’t actually hate it.

ks74

Then, just as Eris is about to send Kazuma back to Japan, Aqua’s voice blasts through the limbo from above, informing Kazuma she’s restored his body and he can come back to their world now. Eris considers this a breach of protocol and the “laws of heaven” which dictate Kazuma is to be sent back to Japan, but the “elite” Aqua pulls rank on the “backwater newbie” Eris, even revealing her dirty little secret (breast pads) and compelling Eris to make Kazuma an exception.

However, Eris remains kind to Kazuma till the end, when Kazuma wakes up on his back in the wintry landscape with his worried-sick party-mates looming over him. For a moment, he seems happy.

ks75

Then they all glom on him and he gets embarrassed, and Aqua demands an apology and gratitude and nearly comes to blows with Kazuma, and they have to retreat without any reward. Turns out Aqua kept one sprite, intending to use it as a refrigerant for when it gets warmer, and resisting Kazuma’s intentions to kill it for the cash (named after Aqua’s counterpart, by the way).

Aqua, Megumin and Darkness then spend an inordinate amount of money on a huge feast, even though the party scarcely has enough cash on hand to last the winter. Basically, within ten minutes of being back in this “wonderful world” after lamenting never being able to go on adventures with these girls ever again, Kazuma is back to hating everything and everyone.

The only thing he learned from his existential ordeal is that there’s a nicer, kinder, more competent goddess out there somewhere, but he’s stuck with his pack of weirdos. And he’s totally fine with her pads.

8_ses

Joukamachi no Dandelion – 10

jdan101

Hikari remains not-my-favorite Sakurada, but her half of the episode benefits not only from Sacchy, who has some hot takes on royalty (they don’t understand true hardship; they’re set for life no matter what), unaware her fellow idol is in fact a princess. Akane is also cleverly brought into the storyline, since she’s such a huge Sacchy fan and is (slightly) aged up by Hikari to serve as a substitute assistant. Then Sacchy learns the truth—accidentally, creating fresh tension.

jdan102

Hikari’s manager wants her to reveal her true identity after the next joint concert with Sacchy, but Hikari decides not to do so. Now, in the past, this might seem like backtracking on the original plan to increase her exposure to the voters through idolling. But she feels to do so now would be unfair to “Raito”, and more importantly Sacchy and her fans. Still, she wants to tell Sacchy the truth before they take the stage, and she does.

Sacchy doesn’t care which identity Hikari chooses; she knows she’s a hard worker and someone she wants to keep performing with. Akane is inspired to see how much her little sis has grown, and a little envious she knows what she wants to do (outside of becoming king) and is going for it with everything she’s got.

jdan103

The second half is arguably a far simpler story, focusing on the twin siblings Shuu and Kanade. Just as the first half was a callback to a previous Hikari-Sacchy segment, the second is a callback to Kanade’s feelings of grief, regret, and idebtedness for injuring her brother by recklessly using her powers as a youth. When she sees him on the street with his girlfriend, she re-resolves to become king so she can heal his legs.

jdan104

Then, all of a sudden Shuu teleports before her, knows she’s troubled by something (they are twins after all) and tells her…he doesn’t want her to become kind just to heal his legs. He’s happy with his life, and Kanade doesn’t own him anything. Kanade’s personality is much like her power: transactional, so she can’t easily accept Shuu’s position. It just doesn’t make sense to her. Frustrated, she runs off, and nearly falls victim to an anime classic: the Bundle of Heavy Pipes Precariously hanging over the street above her.

jdan105

It’s almost history repeating itself: Shuu getting hurt because of her, but both of them are fine, as he teleports the two of them to safety. Kanade, in Shuu’s arms, is still frustrated, but Shuu reiterates, thirty seconds or no, he’s her BIG BRO, and it’s his goddamn job to protect her, no matter what happens to her. It’s her job, as his little sister, to shut up and let herself be protected. Kanade lets Shuu carry her home, and tells him she’ll no longer try to become king just for his sake, but for hers…so she can build a despotic state she’ll rule, like, well, a king!

8_ses