BokuBen – 04 – Pudding x Squared

This week’s BokuBen is split relatively cleanly into three parts; one for each of the three tutees. First up is Fumino, who one day after a bath notices to her horror that she’s put on weight.

The next day at school it’s clear why that’s so—there’s no shortage of snacks in between meals from Uruka (who doesn’t put on weight no matter how much she eats) and udon from Rizu (for whom everything goes to her bust). Fumino resolves to not participate in the gorging, going on a diet.

When Yuiga mentions her lack of focus due to her fighting temptation, Fumino reveals the reason why, and even invites him to feel her stomach in order to confirm that it’s in danger of becoming a muffin top. But despite this invitation to perform what feels like a perverted act, Yuiga doesn’t believe whatever weight she perceives to have put on is of any consequence.

Her weight ends up returning to a level she can live with, with the abundant late-night snacks being a necessity for her as her brain requires a good deal of energy to operate when she’s studying.

The next segment focuses on Rizu, who learns she has a rival in math in science in the person of Sekijo Sawako. The perennial second-place finisher in math and science exams suspects Rizu is only getting into the humanities because she’s fallen in love with Yuiga, and intends to stay close to Rizu in order to confirm this.

That means joining Yuiga and Rizu at her family udon restaurant. Sawako attempts to flirt with Yuiga in an effort to get a reaction from Rizu, to no avail; nothing will keep her from her studying focus, while Yuiga gets the idea that he’s suddenly popular now.

The two make so much ruckus that Rizu kicks them out, but Sawako finally gets some evidence when she sees how Rizu reacts to Yuiga patting her on the head for a mock exam well done; it’s a reaction Rizu cannot hide.

This results in Sawako continuing to keep an eye on Rizu and Yuiga until she’s convinced that the humanities are the right path for her number one “rival.” Yuiga, meanwhile, tells Sawako that if she wants to be friends with Rizu, she should just be upfront and ask.

Finally, we have our #BestGirl, Uruka. Her situation this week is the simplest of all: in a morning fit of absent-mindedness, she forgot to put on a bra. This makes her super self-conscious, especially when she has to play basketball against Yuiga in gym class.

Her bashfulness totally throws her off her game, and Yuiga capitalizes without blinking an eye, stealing the ball right out of her hands and taking his team to a commanding 16-2 first-half lead. Her demeanor on the court is so unusual, he asks her if there’s anything wrong, to which she responds “we’re enemies right now!” but she twists his concern into a confession of love, motivating her to forget about her boobs and up her game.

Unfortunately, upping her game cooresponds with Yuiga’s inflated sense of athletic prowess, as he’s determined to block her shot, leading to the two coming together in the chestal area. In the ensuing chaos the clock runs out and Yuiga’s team wins, while Yuiga himself, having felt Uruka, remarks that she “felt like his sister,” who sometimes neglects to wear bras.

It’s probably the last thing Uruka wanted to hear in her already fragile state, while Yuiga’s sister makes him pay for bringing up the fact she’s wearing a bra. So then: while there was no marked progress this week on the three tutees’ efforts to excel in areas in which they are not strong, these were nevertheless three satisfying vignettes that enriched our understanding of the characters.

Senryuu Shoujo – 02 – Close Enough

The Lit Club begins an initiative aimed at improving Eiji’s bad-boy image with the rest of the school, though Nanako likes him the way he is, even when his eyes roll back in his head when he’s deep in thought! That’s when Eiji’s beautiful “big sis” Ootsuki Koto shows up to thank Nanako and Amane for taking care of him. Turns out she’s just his childhood friend two years his senior. Then, while having a meal together, Eiji notes how much Nanako eats—not with malice, mind you—and Nanako starts to fear she’s gaining weight.

When her little brother teases her for eating as much as a sumo wrestler, Nanako resolves to go on a diet, but Koto offers to train her instead, using her military self-defense skills to whip her into shape. Time passes, and an excited Nanako takes Eiji’s hand and places it on her stomach…which would be quite forward if we didn’t know her true intentions were honorable. Instead, Eiji has to mention how he’s never felt a girl’s stomach and thus has no basis for comparison for Nanako to realize her faux pas.

Still, one think Nanako shouldn’t be ashamed of is that she likes Eiji—a genuinely nice guy—just the way he is. If others get to know him, they’ll learn the same thing. Koto already knows this, but when Amane asks if she likes anyone (if she had to give her a name, it would be Eiji), she says she doesn’t; not the way Amane means, anyway. Koto is fine with her and Eiji just the way they are, even if it means him getting closer to Nanako.

As it is, SS is a school slice-of-life with romantic undertones that just happens to integrate haiku wherever it can. And like that show about women enjoying various alcoholic beverages after work, it succeeds at its limited domain just as much as it needs to—which is to say, it’s fine.

GATE – 08

gate81

GATE benefits from a major change of scenery, as suddenly its the Special Regioners who are the fish out of water, emerging from the gate into a wondorous, perplexing, and at times frightening world of skyscrapers, subways, and ramen.

Pina and her blonde comrade are whisked off to negotiates with envoys of the prime minister, while Itami, Kuribayashi, Rory, Lelei and Tuka prepare to present their testimony before the Diet. They’re escorted by a shifty-looking guy who looks like he might be trouble, but turns out to be not that bad a guy after all.

He’s done his homework on Itami, and it’s not altogether surprising to hear he’s always been a bit of a lazy fellow. But not only did his laid back attitude get him into Ranger training—which he passed, to Kuribayashi’s shock—he’s also  a member of the “S” special forces, outraging her even more.

gate82

The continued inflation of Itami’s badassdom aside, the Diet session, broadcasted live to the whole country, starts off with a very clearly anti-JSDF Diet member hoping to use the session to further her agenda and mar the SDF’s reputation. She’s actually the worst part of the episode, because the show is so transparently contemptuous of her and her political positions.

As one of the show’s first depictions of an anti-military Japanese politician, she comes off as shrill, ignorant, and unreasonable.  That being said, it’s still fun to watch the three Special Regioners deal with her, particularly Rory. And the response of the public through social media and the like also added to the spectacle. And she’s certainly not wrong in saying while a fourth of the refugees were killed by the Fire Dragon, the SDF saved the other three fourths.

gate83

The grilling doesn’t last that long—curiously, only the female Diet member asked the Special Regioners any questions—and Pina’s conference with the Japanese envoys also goes well. From there, the group leaves on a bus, only the bus is a decoy, as they end up taking the subway, and when the subway closes down, someone tries to steal Rory’s scythe only to be crushed by it, being utterly unable to lift it.

The complex journey is a means of throwing off those elements who received leaked information about the Regioners’ movements, and while the gang never seems to be in that much trouble, the fact all these modern modes of transportation almost send Rory into a panic attack makes it clear the ordeal isn’t a mere cakewalk.

gate84

When Itami’s grizzled escort throws out his back trying to pick up Rory’s scythe (watching her twirling it with ease as he’s carted off is, I’ll admit, pretty funny), Itami leads everyone to the home of his ex-wife, who is living in an apartment with dwindling utilities, and rejoices at the arrival of hot food. Lazy, Otaku, Ranger, S, ex-husband: we just keep learning new things about Itami.

And to be honest, I’d much rather the story stick to him, his various relations and his Special Region friends, then dive to far into the larger world affairs. Mercifully, we only see glimpses of the world leaders as they watched the Diet session. But the quasi chase the gang underwent is a reminder they’ve got to watch their backs, perhaps more so in Japan than in the other world.

8_brav2

Gatchaman Crowds Insight – 06

gmci61

As soon as Prime Minister Sadra AKA Gel-san is sworn into office, things move very quickly, and this week’s episode breathlessly follows him from place to place, interacting with all kinds of people either one-on-one or reported on social media and television. And everything seems to indicate that despite his bizarre appearance and inexperience in politics, Gel and his radical populist policies are a big hit with the populace.

gmci62

With each new piece of legislation his fans seem to grow in number, while those who aren’t so enthused with what’s going on are limited to Rui, Hajime, and Tsubasa’s grandpa, who basically bursts Tsubasa’s bubble by telling her she has no idea what “peace”, “united”, and “fight” really mean, all while casting knowing glances at the photo of his deceased relation; a soldier in the army. I don’t think he’s arguing for the sake of argument. I think he, in his many years, has seen and heard everything Gel and Tsubasa are peddling, in a different but no less attractive guise.

gmci63

One rather large hole in Gel-san’s little love-in is that he’s acting on the opinion of the majority of the masses, and in doing so, devaluing the rights of the minority. Pure individuals like gramps or Hajime have a problem with this, but they’re largely lost in the rising tide of overwhelming public acceptance of this New Order.

The majority even votes to prohibit Crowds; another nail in the coffin of Rui’s dream to update the world. We see a lot of good ideas and policies get implemented this week, but with plenty of foreboding signs that another shoe is about to drop soon.

At the end of the day, Gel-san is an alien from another world, and Tsubasa is almost painfully idealistic. So it’s understandable both would be missing an important piece of the equation. I suspect that piece will rear its head soon.

Oh, and omedetou, Sugane. That’s quite an impressive harem you’re amassing!

7_mag

Life Imitating GATE: Diet Votes to Expand JSDF’s Role

gatesdf

Rambling observational commentary follows.

The fictional Japanese military of countless anime throughout the years have been typically portrayed as serving in a strictly defensive capacity: only allowing the use of arms if directly attacked. And attacked they have been, be it from terrorists, giant monsters, aliens, or other nations.

In the first episode of GATE: Thus the JSDF Fought There!, it’s the same story: a massive enemy force invades Ginza and the JSDF get their SD on. But what happens next is not only a rare(r) occurrence in anime, but also presaged the movements of the government of real-world Japan: Prime Minister Abe wants the ability for the JSDF to go on the offensive under certain circumstances. He wants a JSOF.

Today, it would seem he got his wish, in a contentious vote that caused opposition lawmakers to walk out and spurred large protests in Tokyo. Polls indicate a small plurality of Japanese are opposed to the expansion. The approved measure means Japan has lost its unique—at least for a country of its size—pacifist stance laid out in its constitution, though many anti-militarist opponents believe this vote violates the constitution.

In any case, the timing of GATE’s airing, and the fact it portrays a modern 2015-era JSDF invading enemy territory and mowing down feudal armies of tens of thousands with ease, adds credence to rumblings that it is veiled pro-offensive-military propaganda, even if the creators and producers of GATE didn’t quite intend it that way. Of course, the timing could also just be a coincidence (if anyone has any insights one way or another, feel free to voice them in the ‘ments).

We’ll continue to closely watch both GATE and the developments in real-world Japan, a country whose constitution “forever renounces war as an instrument for settling international disputes”, but currently led by those who believe the country’s best chance of maintaining security and stability in the region is to amend, if not outright abrogate, that long-standing renouncement.

Whatever your personal position on these developments (and we welcome all viewpoints; it’s a free internet!), they certainly comprise a fascinating juxtaposition of anime and real-world politics.

—RABUJOI STAFF

Girl Friend BETA – 02

gf21

This episode is all about Kokomi’s anxiety about gaining weight as the day of her gymnastics competition approaches. Interestingly, all her conversations and even a question from the teacher all seem to be related to “weight” or “reaping what you sow.”

gf22

As Kokomi mills around school enduring this kind of talk, Chloe is in a not-so-heated debate with Fumio on a wide range of issues, from fried chicken to the trends of Japanese teenagers.

gf23

Kokomi ends up in the equivalent of the Dieting Club when they learn she’s interested in losing weight, and they start running and exercising furiously throughout the afternoon.

gf24

Their plan backfires when they’re presented with a large supply of hi-calorie, hi-carb melon buns (Kokomi’s favorite) as thanks for Kokomi being on the radio show, under the mistaken impression the other girls are helping her train for the competition, not lose weight. The girls cannot resist the buns and eat many of them. I would have, those buns look goood.

gf25

Kokomi goes to often-sleepy model Miyoshi Nao, who has never dieted herself but knows everything there is to know, and picks her brain, learning what she should have known all along: her weight gain was due to putting on muscle, not fat. The resulting plan involves balanced nutrition – no starving oneself. Kokomi ends up taking first at the prelims.

gf26

 

When their classmates learn that Nao was Kokomi’s secret weapon, they all reach out to her, hoping she can help them, too. Since Nao admired Kokomi’s ability to make friends with girls outside her class and grade, Kokomi’s success ended up making Nao a lot more popular, and gave her the opportunity to talk with more girls. So everybody wins!

6_ses

Tamako Market – 08

tamako8

Kanna builds Dera a birdhouse, but he has grown too fat to fit inside. Choi orders him on a diet. Because Tamako’s father and grandfather are quick to show mercy and feed him, they must keep a constant eye on him. To this end, Choi attends school with Tamako, Kanna and Midori, and meets Shiori. They then take Choi to vintage stores to try on clothes more suitable for Japan in the Fall. Dera eventually loses weight, though only in his lower half, and Kanna and Midori present Choi with a coat.

Beyond the addition of Choi and the rough goal of getting Dera a bit slimmer (he has been letting himself go), this week is straight-up slice-of-life, seasoned by those anomalies. Choi has been walking around in a linen shift and bare feet all this time, but it’s getting colder, and if she intends to stick around, she needs to dress a bit warmer. It’s pretty funny that the girls treat her as a canvas for their own fashion ideals, and she is willing to defer to their judgement.

Meanwhile, Dera the fat-ass complains at first, and his stomach growls, but he eventually bears down and loses a few pounds. He is a proud bird, after all, and his whole raison d’être is to assist Choi with her divination, he must improve his physical condition. The end result of his labor is visually hilarious, as the top half remains haughtily broad, while his overall shape is that of an upside-down teardrop. While we interpreted Choi as picking out Tamako as her prince’s bride to be last week, we were either wrong, or that plotline was merely shelved this week.


Rating: 6 (Good)

Bakuman 2 – 05

After their seventh chapter drops to 13th in the rankings, Takagi plans on stepping up his game by adding some lightheartedness. Even before the revisions come into effect, TRAP begins a surge from ninth for chapter eight to sixth for chapter ten, then a tie for third with Crow, finally challenging Niizuma. Miho is getting more and more anime roles, and Miura gets TRAP the color cover for their 20th chapter, plus an edition of 100,000 for their first volume. But as they continue to succeed, Mashiro is getting thinner and not sleeping, which culminates in his collapse.

First of all, Miho got a voice role in SKET DANCE? Sweet! Time is moving faster now, and this series continues to pull no punches when it comes to setbacks potentially fatal to Mashiro and Miho’s dream, But with TRAP enjoying consistently high rankings, their first volume getting printed, a team that’s happy and in synch, and the fan mail pouring in, this newest setback is a much more basic one: Mashiro’s health. He knew going into this that balancing school with the manga was not going to be easy, but three hours of sleep most nights and none on others simply isn’t going to cut it, especially when he’s not eating.

Now that Takagi is in a writing groove (and Kaya is basically his personal assistant), he’s under a lot less stress. The amount of labor Mashiro puts out easily eclipses Takagi’s, as is exhibited by his always working while Takagi and Kaya are hanging around. But this industry won’t let Mashiro take a break, and if he does it will be seen as weakness and an inability to cut it. He’s not alone in this; Hiramaru is pissing blood, after all. But I’d hate to see The Dream be taken down by something as simple as eating and sleeping. So the question is, how is he going to get better without interrupting school or TRAP?


Rating: 4

Kamisama Dolls 12

Kuuko springs Aki and frees Hibino. Hirashino corners Kuuko and Hibino, but Kuuko pushes Hibino outside and grapples with Hirashino, killing him with his own gun in a struggle. Hibino is met by Mahiru on the roof, who has a bone to pick with her vis-a-vis Kyohei. She gets carried away and throws Hibino off the roof with Magatsuhi, but Kukuri catches her in the knick of time. Utao and Mahriu have a sustained duel, ending when Kukuri lands a blow that makes Mahiru lose control of her Magatsuhi. Now out of her control, it grabs Hibino again. Kyohei saves Mahiru from its swipe, then rushes to Hibino’s aid, only to be ensnared himself. As it crushes them, he remembers the day he told his parents he’d be leaving the village, then meeting Hibino in school. Entering the battle, Kirio accidentally knocks Kukuri out. The episode ends with Kukuri waking up, but rather than singing Utao’s song, it’s singing Kyohei’s.

Rape threats…gun grappling…seki duels, kakashi group battles…flashbacks…this episode had a little of everything. Once again, Mahiru takes the lion’s share of screen time, and she’s still a horrible selfish brat, but she becomes a little more sympathetic once Utao manages to beat her Magatsuhi. Cornered, beaten by a little kid, she’s an emotional wreck. When she loses control of her Magatsuhi, she panics. As I said, bringing her in so late was a bold move, but I’m still glad it was done; her presence and her feelings for Kyohei help get both Kyohei and Hibino thinking about what they are to one another. It also forces Kyohei to stop trying to escape the village.

I thought a lot more was to be done with the diet member, but his death makes me question what his purpose was. Also, while she’s really fun to watch and listen to, Kuuko is again really only around to kill him and save Hibino. Her only goal at this point is to be involved in all this intrigue – the embedded journalist, as it were. But she did kill a man in the middle of Tokyo – one would think there’ll be consequences. The cliffhanger was well-played: it would seem empty kakashis respond to whichever seki is projecting the strongest emotions, in this case, Kyohei’s. I just hope that after all this soul-searching and exposition, the finale will me more than just another episode of Save Princess Hibino.


Rating: 3.5

Kamisama Dolls 10

Mahiru of the Hyuga clan arrives in Tokyo unbeknownst to Koushiro or anyone else, and immediately makes her presence felt. Kuuko has put Aki before the diet member representing Kurakami village, who believes it’s time for the village to change with the times, which means eliminating the elders. He’s called Mahiru for the same purpose, though she insists she only came to see Kyohei, whom she loves and idolizes ever since a terrifying incident covered in a flashback.

So…yeah, introducing a character as volatile as Mahiru this late in the series was a bold move. She didn’t make the best first impression on me, but I had to remember, she’s essentially a princess, and she is a pretty powerful seki – some swagger comes with that. She’s also loud, highly irrational, prone to mood swings, and even a little sadist (she zaps Kuuko with her own stun gun just for the heck of it). In a word: unhinged. Seiyu Kana Hanazawa’s performance is feistier than I’ve heard her in a while – kind of a Kuroneko taken up a couple notches – I like it. Mahiru grew on me as the episode progressed and I learned more about her.

In a character- and action-packed flashback, Kyohei puts his life on the line numerous times to save Mahiru’s – and Aki’s – lives, when the three stumble upon a sekiless monster kakashi. It was an incredibly traumatic experience for all involved, but Kyohei saved the day, though he says it was the day he “lost his sanity.” Whatever happened, Mahiru still adores him for it, and despises Aki for being as helpless as she was, and a pain-in-the-ass to boot (he was ‘good’ back then, but the warning signs were there). Along with Hirashiro – the Diet guy – and his plans to uproot the old way in the village, there’s now a whole new layer to the series’ story. More to the point, do we care if those dusty elders get offed? Do I smell a second season…?


Rating: 4

The RABUJOI Winter Diet

This post may come as somewhat unwelcome news to some watching the shows involved in the winter diet, but as time constraints mount, RABUJOI must evolve and streamline, and so the proverbial fat has been trimmed. Winter 2011 is no Winter 2010, nor is it as good as Fall 2010. There aren’t many series to begin with. Many bad and meh series, which we’ll no longer be watching so we can focus on the good ones.

We decided after two episodes that Rio – Rainbow Gate! was not worth our time. IS – Infinite Stratos also proved too mediocre and generic to stick with despite the mecha eye candy. Elegant battles alone could also not save Freezing, as it featured too many nonsensical character motivations and predictable boob exposures. Finally, we just haven’t been feeling Yumekui Merry. The characters have little in the way of dimension and background, and Puella Magi Madoka Magica is simply more trippy and whimsical, despite slightly inferior character design.

So what’s left? We’re continuing with the three Fall series, and retaining four Winter ones: Kimi ni Todoke, Puella, Level E and Fractale. From a corpulent, uneven eleven to a lean and solid seven.