Yamada-kun to 7-nin no Majo – 05

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I had my doubts about what would happen to my lovely body-swapping comedy when more of the titular seven witches entered the fray: would the balance be upset? Would the extra characters just make things more muddled and unfocused, killing the crispness I’ve enjoyed so much? Well, if Odagiri Nene is any indicator, my reservations were unnecessary. Nene is far more than a school villain, Y7 is about far more than body-swapping, and it knows exactly what it’s doing.

It’s just Ryuu’s luck that Urara wants to kiss him just when he’s off to go see Nene to resolve his current “charming” problem. Urara is the last person he wants to fall in love with him through some kind of kissing spell because, well, he’s falling in love with her for real, and wants the real thing in return. So he tries to keep his problem a secret from Urara.

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That doesn’t last long, however, as he’s unable to find Nene and the time he agreed to kiss Yamada comes and goes. Where a lesser show wouldn’t have him telling Urara the truth until the very end of the episode, Y7 has a lot more ground to cover, and covers it deftly and efficiently.

And it’s actually good for Yamada to tell Urara wha’ts happened, because now they’ve determined that body-swapping isn’t Yamada’s power, but Urara’s; Yamada’s power is copying others’ powers, while making his host susceptible to their own. The body-swapping Urara swaps bodies…and Nene has fallen in love with Yamada.

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As it happens, as Yamada and Urara kiss and figure this out, Nene is watching from the bushes with her lieutenant, Igarashi Ushio (Ono Daisuke), who is upset that Nene has been overcome by unrequited love for Yamada, because, well, it’s pretty obvious that he likes Nene.

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At first, Ushio lashes out at Yamada with a vicious kick. We learn that the two were old friends and fellow n’er-do-wells who sought the same thing by transferring to Suzaku High: fresh starts. But neither of them were able to find any guys they could tolerate, let alone befriend. But an incident caused them to drift apart, leaving Yamada essentially alone until he met (or rather fell on) Urara.

Ushio calms himself and takes a more contrite attitude, getting on his knees, promising he’ll destroy the incriminating photos of Yamada and even make Nene drop out of the election, if only he’ll change Nene, the person most important to him, back to normal.

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Yamada refuses, but Urara agrees on his behalf. This angers him, but in a moment of emphatic (and admirable) assertiveness, Urara gives him a sharp, brutal SLAP and orders him to knock it off. Just as he did with his predicament and the start of this episode, he’s being stubborn and holding back information form her that could help her understand his situation better. They’ve switched bodies numerous times; this is not the time to be tight-lipped, especially when Urara assumed from his standoffishness that he’d gotten sick of her, which is so not the case.

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Grudgingly, Yamada agrees to kiss Nene, satisfying Ushio. When Yamada asks him if he kissed Nene, he says he did, but he likes the person he became because of it. We learn why when Yamada gives Urara the rest of their story. While in an alley they came upon some roughs picking on a girl from their school. Ushio instigates a brawl and the girl is able to run off, and Yamada backs him up, because he’s not about to watch his friend take on four guys by himself. It’s good to see Yamada in Full Delinquent Mode, even if it’s a flashback.

Back at school though, Ushio throws Yamada under the bus. Not only does he get suspended for a week, but the entire school becomes afraid of him, the very thing he hoped to avoid by transferring there in the first place. Ushio, meanwhile, washes his hands of Yamada and takes his place beside the classmate they rescued from the roughs: Nene.

Had Ushio met Nene before, kissed her, and become infatuated to the point of not only starting a fight for her, but framing Yamada so he took the heat? Or had Ushio and Nene never met, and it was Nene who kissed Ushio out of appreciation for saving her? The possibilities are intriguing.

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In any case, Ushio’s betrayal was the reason Yamada hesitated in turning Nene back to normal. But when he meets Nene in private at her hideout in the old school building, he gets fresh insight into her power, and why he can’t possibly allow Nene to stay in a state of unrequited love forever.

Nene seems eager to get this whole thing over with when everyone else is around, but when they leave the two alone, she asks him not to kiss her. You see, she never knew how happy her power could make people until she herself experienced it, something Yamada made possible. And whatever else being in love with Yamada is—unintended, artificial, futile—it isn’t BORING. As we saw with Ito and Miyamura last week after Yamada kissed them, being in love is awesome.

Yamada now understands why Ushio doesn’t mind being under Nene’s spell. But Ushio has a shot at Nene; Yamada makes it clear he’d never fall for Nene, either naturally (as Ushio might have with her) or due to her power (which is reflected by his copying power). Urara is right; Yamada can’t let Nene pine for him forever, and at the end of the day Nene isn’t of sound mind. So he kisses her.

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As if the resolution of this situation wasn’t enough, Ushio produces an incomplete journal from a past Supernatural Studies Club, documenting the Seven “Witches”, or girls with supernatural powers, who attend Sazaku High. Two have now been identified by the club: Urara and Nene, but the other five are a mystery, and the new club is going to find them, because Urara, being one herself, is confident that they want to be found.

Yamada is their Witch Detector, and so grudgingly goes along with this plan. And he can’t really complain, as both he and Ushio got what they wanted: new and exciting school lives that aren’t defined by their violent pasts, and interesting friends. I look forward to new witches being discovered and even more tantalizingly complex character dynamics to sprout up.

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Denpa Kyoushi – 03

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Kagami’s voluntary dismissal from school seemingly ended the “weekly student project” format I had become comfortable with and fond for, and all for reasons that didn’t do Kagami any favors in the likability department.

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Still, like me, Hiiragi Koyomi (later nicknamed “Options” by Kagami because she herself says she’s loaded with them) has enjoyed watching Kagami improve the lives of his students with amusing methods, and wants to see more of that at her school.

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Only Kagami doesn’t want to teach, so Hiiragi formulates an elaborate military operation, using all of the resources and connections at her disposal to track him down. I think the overarching joke is that Kagami isn’t really on the run, but just has a very busy schedule of YD activities in Akiba.

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I’ll be honest, I didn’t dig the whole chase sequence. I’ve seen super-rich people put on much better shows than Hiiragi did here, and the show’s animation bordered on the putrid this week, and really didn’t do Akiba justice. Hiiragi’s minions also seemed particularly incompetent, and I wasn’t buying Kagami’s hacking prowess.

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Am I being overly pedantic with a show not intending to be that serious? Perhaps; especially when the chase ends with Suzune literally throwing a big net over Kagami and then tossing him in a burlap sack. Still, it’s good to see Kagami brought back down to earth by his little sister (who knew he liked a certain voice actress) after he was able to defeat the might of Hiiragi family, Jack Bauer-style.

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Hiiragi brings Kagami to his sister’s school, Icho, where he’ll teach first before moving up to Hiiragi. But even if its the poorer of the two schools, it’s still pretty fancy. There, Kagami meets Hiiragi’s No. 2, the mirthless twin-tail he quickly nicknames “Irregular Twintails.” Momozono resents Hiiragi recruiting this NEET “thing” just to make things more “amusing.”

Kagami can absorb Twintails’ barbs, but when she turns her ire on Shikishima Kiriko, a student being expelled for having a part time job at a maid cafe, the situation suddenly becomes YD for Kagami. He agree to take the job if Shikishima is reinstated, and vows to teach Momozono about the dignity of maid cafes. And jut like that, we seem to be back in the “weekly student project” format I didn’t mind. Denpa Kyoushi can keep its chase scenes.

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Denpa Kyoushi – 02

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Denpa Kyoushi – 01 (First Impressions)

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Mr. Despair is back! To be precise Kamiya Hiroshi voices a high school teacher in a class full of students with issues. And he’s more of a Mr. “YD”, what with his self-diagnosed condition that only allows him to “Do what he Yearns to Do.” Kagami Junichiro’s contra-type voice-cast sister Suzune gets him a teaching gig part-time, and it’s up to him to make it something he Yearns to Do.

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Like SZS, Mr. Kagami will surely befriend his students one by one (at least the girl) and solve their problems, or at least support them in some way so they can solve their own. Unlike Itoshiki-sensei, he’s bringing otaku culture and the academic genius that came up with the theoretical framework for building an “Everywhere Door” a century form now…rather than life-weariness and despair over all the girls’ various psychological conditions.

To this end, the first student he meets, Kanou Minako, isn’t about to jump off the roof of the school, she’s merely singing the theme song to one of his favorite anime. Her arrogance about deciding to become a voice actress (a vocation he believes one is chosen for) leads to a characteristic Kamiya rant, but rather than join in the verbal calisthenics, she simply punches him in the face.

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That earns her the hilarious nickname “Face Punch,” in a practice I hope Mr. Kagami continues as the show progresses. As the episode progresses, he sees that Minako is being bullied by certain girls (led by “Wicked Blondie”) and avoided by all the others, but Minako has an answer for that too: she wants to be a voice actress because she wants to be a hero. She was a delinquent in the past, and a moment of despair, had a line from an anime recited to her that turned her life around: if there’s no hero, then become one.

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But heroes have sidekicks, which is the opening Mr. Kagami uses to intervene on Minako’s behalf, turning the underground school website the bullies use to attack her (a site he created) and using a combination of practical tricks (a well-placed bucket of chalk) and technology (live-streaming video with comment feeds) to exact punishment for their legit crimes of harassment and assault.

Even better, he’s only trolling them, but got them to experience at least a few moments of the fear your personal information was out there for all to see, after they all saw you bullying an innocent girl. No lasting damage is done, save to the bullies’ pride, and they learn the lesson, or as Kagami calls it, his first “lecture.”

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Mr. Kagami didn’t just save Minako here with the bullies, but also in the chat room when she was at her lowest point. The two are able to relate and bond on the premise that manga and anime can deliver life lessons if nowhere else in life is getting the job done. In the end, Minako’s bullying problem is solved, but Kagami is also fully engaged in the class, ready for his next lecture to the next student in need of help.

As you can see, Denpa Kyoushi is nothing special to look at, but it’s full of great voice work (as it should, being a show that brings up voice acting so much!), engaging characters, a surprisingly good script, and brisk pacing. I look forward to more nicknames, more lectures, and the answer to who’s that shadowy figure in the limo watching Kagami: Was he hired with the specific purpose of helping these students in his own unique way?

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Samurai Flamenco – 01

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Policeman Goto Hidenori encounters Hazama Masayoshi naked in an alley, having failed in his debut as the superhero “Samurai Flamenco” when a drunk punched him. Goto escorts Masayoshi home, where he learns he’s a model and a hardcore fan of superhero shows, believing them to hold weight in the real world. Goto hears him out and warns him to be careful, but the next night Masayoshi ends up in another spot when he takes on a gang of delinquent kids. He loses but Goto arrives and scatters the kids. Masayoshi continues fighting petty crime, and his legend starts to grow on the web.

In its first of twenty-two episodes, we found a heckuva lot to like about Samurai Flamenco, such that we found it worthy of the first “9” of the season. The realistic urban setting, the likable characters; but we were also impressed with how much logical sense it was making. We believe Masayoshi as one of the rare people who never let society jade him from the idealism of the hero anime he used to watch (and still watches). His comfortable life as a popular model can quench his thirst for justice. Being a model, he has a swanky base of operations and access to a fashion designer who can make him awesome costumes – it’s perfect. But even better is the bond forged between him – an unconventional defender of justice – and Goto, an actual cop living a relatively dull existence.

They’re your classic odd couple; one who eats justice for breakfast and the other ignoring minor offenses like most everyone else because it’s easier. Details like Goto’s long-distance girlfriend and daily quest to the 7-Eleven for dinner and smokes drive home the point that this is a no-nonsense, minimal-excitement kinda guy. Still, he doesn’t dismiss Masayoshi’s nonsense out of hand, because at the end of the day it isn’t nonsense. Give certain bad apples in the city an inch and they’ll take a mile, dragging down society with it. The path of a superhero is not an easy one – Masayoshi has already been on the receiving end of two beatings – but he knows he must walk that path with the utmost resolve – and it seems Goto will have to walk that path with him – a couple steps behind – just in case.

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Rating: 9 (Superior)

Stray Observations:

  • Goto might seem like this is all a bit hassle – “why me” and so forth – but he’s kidding no one; we’re certain deep down he’s loving his suddenly spiced-up life.
  • A potentially good running joke: if we never see or hear Goto’s GF, making her just as mythical as Harakiri Sunshine…or Santa!
  • The food metaphors are awesome, as is the majority of the dialogue.
  • Masayoshi mentions a “new suit” in his closet that he uses. We thought that would be the cue to him unleashing some kind of real superpower on the kids. It turned out to be a tease, but a good one. 
  • FWIW we hope there aren’t any supernatural happenings moving forward – and that the OP and promo art are only puffed-up fantasies of what Masayoshi imagines to be doing, rather than chiding jaywalkers.
  • There’s a three-girl idol group that is only present in the ED (which really isn’t bad as j-pop endings go); we’re wondering if Masa’s status as a model will have him crossing paths with them at some point.
  • The punk who beat up Masayoshi was wearing…Crocs. Insult to injury…