Hajimete no Gal – 04

While wholesomely innocently researching “gals” on the interwebs to learn how to interact with Yame and Ranko better, Junichi comes across an extremely cute gal with a loyal following. This gal’s necklace has the same snake motif as Kashii Yui’s hairpin, so yeah, it’s pretty evident from the start that “Boa-sama” is Yui in disguise.

Yui is always presenting a calm, mature identity at school, but beneath that exterior she’s a vain, arrogant, imperious girl, labeling all of her classmates with various servant’s names and titles. Junichi has always been a loyal “doggy” to her, and isn’t interested in sharing him with some uncultured gal.

While Yame is hanging out with her galfriends, Yui springs out of the bushes and strikes like the snake she loves wearing, taking an extremely dumb Junichi on a date.

Meanwhile it’s on the tip of Shinpei’s tongue who Boa-sama reminds him of; an increasingly irritated and thus less careful Boa throws him a bone by describing him and his crew of losers to a man.

While secretly recording her flirting with Junichi in the classroom (which is illegal in Japan), Boa-sama gets final visual proof and shares it with the lads, who are shocked by the revelation. Despite Shinpei’s efforts to reveal his discovery in secret, Ranko gets wind of it.

Sensing that being blunt will be best against the painfully dense Junichi, Yui passionately confesses to him on the roof. When he turns her down (as he’s dating Yame), she immediately cracks and her extremely fiery, petulant personality gushes out.

She also plays her trump card: she secretly recorded her date with him (which is illegal in Japan), and orders him to break up with Yame and go out with her, or she’ll send the video to Yame.

That’s checkmate for Junichi…or it would be if he didn’t have a gang of friends watching both his back and Yame’s. Ranko arrives with the three losers, superhero-style (complete with ill-advised high jump off a ledge; Ranko lands as a hero would; the guys eat shit).

Ranko counters Yui’s Yame-harming blackmail with blackmail of her own: the knowledge that Yui is Boa-sama. Yui surrenders, but she won’t give up so easily, and the war has only begun…just as Junichi’s well-endowed childhood friend prepares to take the stage.

While the lack of any real suspense regarding who Boa-sama was, and Junichi’s general incompetence in everything but being an easy mark for…just about anyone, the episode was buoyed by Taketatsu Ayana’s strong performance voicing the many sides of Yui, and while the lolicon guy still needs to stop talking, the losers, Shinpei in particular, were in top form this week.

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Hajimete no Gal – 03

As expected, Yukana’s very tan best friend Honjou Ranko inserts herself into her relationship with Junichi by writing him a love letter then mounting him behind the school. After a brief feint, Yukana laughs off Ranko’ actions as just messing around with Junichi…but Ranko seems determined to break them up.

A very predictable development, combined with a lot less comedy (a lot of it recycled jokes that don’t hit as hard, or at all, the third or fourth time around) made for a less-than-stellar Hajimete no Gal.

While out on a shopping trip, Junichi learns more of the challenges of dating a gal, like the need to properly choose which clothes look better on her, or defending her from man-sluts. In both cases, Ranko tries to upstage Junichi, finally meeting him at his house to talk.

She mounts him again, assuring him she’d rather take his virginity then let him get with Yukana, whom she’s secretly in love with. Ranko’s kinda all over the place, and Kitamura Eri does fine voice work, she doesn’t have much to work with here.

I guess I should be glad Ranko’s not in love with Junichi, but he still gets off the hook way too easily. Indeed, Junichi moves at the speed of a sloth throughout this episode, which I suppose is par for the course considering his self-image as a loser, but it’s still pretty annoying.

This week he did next to nothing—other than halfheartedly trying to tell off the guys hitting on Yukana, which failed—to deserve all the attention he’s getting. Next week it appears will involve more Kashii Yui, who was obviously going to be more than just the Miss Perfect Junichi believes her to be. She looks particularly pissed watching Ranko tease him.

Hajimete no Gal – 02

After Yame accepted his request to go out with her, Junichi is in a bit of a daze, not sure whether it’s all a prank or not, considering what he believes to be the logical fallacy of a cute gal dating the likes of him. His loser friends commit to standing by him come what may, only to immediately turn their backs on him when he receives a sexy selfie from Yame.

Despite this, Shinpei still offers advice to Junichi: take Yame to karaoke, which is how popular kids “get a room” for sex. He elaborates on the process with his “Karaoke XXX Rule”, before “dying” from exasperation that karaoke parlors have become indistinguishable from dens of ill repute.

Later that morning, Yame proves she’s not messing around by announcing to the entire class that she’s dating Junichi, then fielding questions. Both Kashii Yui and his “little sister” are dumbfounded. Junichi tries to ask her out to karaoke, but never finds the right opportunity until she asks him out after school to that very thing.

Corrupted by Shinpei’s overblown theory about karaoke parlors (which seems to be confirmed by a sign), Junichi is initially weary of their date, but once he sees how much fun Yame is having, he stops overthinking things and has fun himself. To his surprise, she even knows anime songs; the only kind he can sing.

But after Shinpei’s three tenets of the Karaoke XXX Rule are fulfilled (Yame singing a suggestive song; the two singing a duet; Yame removing her sweater), Junichi re-enters his head for a conference with all his various alter-egos, including ‘Good’, ‘Pessimistic’, ‘Horny’, and ‘Cool’, with ‘Cool” him eventually convincing the others that if he’s a true man, he’ll give her a kiss before moving on to sex.

Junichi tries to kiss Yame, only for her to point out an errant hair sticking out of his nose and excuse herself. Out in the hall, she regains her composure, certain Junichi just tried to kiss her. Far from the easy girl for whom sex is no big deal Shinpei, his friends, and Junichi himself believe her to be, Yame isn’t the kind of girl to even kiss someone so easily. She’s more like Junichi than he presently realizes.

Hopefully he’ll find this out in time, and stop interacting with Yame with misconceptions about who and what she is, just as she seems to be embracing him for who he is, not assigning a silly label. As for Yame’s friend Ranko, it appears we’ll soon learn how she feels about this new boyfriend.

Hajimete no Gal – 01 (First Impressions)

Hashiba Junichi is a pathetic loser and knows it. He’s in his second year of high school, saddled with the same trio of even sadder friends in Shinpei, Keigo, and Minoru, who if anything are partially responsible for holding Junichi back from his goal of nabbing a girlfriend and losing his virginity by now.

Note I said “partially”, because the major contributor to Junichi’s lack of success in securing a partner (sexual or otherwise) is himself. His friends truly have no one but themselves, but in the first few minutes Junichi is visited by not one but two “total hotties”: his well-endowed loli childhood friend Shizune, and the ethereally gorgeous academic ace Yui, who comes on pretty dang strong.

And yet Junichi turns Shizune away, still considering her a “little sister” with a “child body” (completely ignoring her huge boobs), and pretty much freezes when Yui talks to him, eager to talk more.

Blame for Jun-kun’s predicament shifts back to his very embarrassing friends—one of whom may be a straight-up pedo—when they brazenly peruse their smut mags in class, shoving a tasty one into his hands. And that’s when the titular Gal, Yame Yukana (God, what a Gal name) appears in Junichi’s life—to look down on him and call him disgusting.

But disgusting and pervy or no, Junichi’s friends have hatched a plan, and he’s their guinea pig (democracy in action): They choose him—tacitly acknowledging is the least repulsive of their sorry little band—to ask the Gal out, since, in their virgin minds, she’ll presumably put out without much fuss. (Junichi’s hastily-conjured sex fantasy with Yukana is suitably ecchi, with all the naughty bits covered by carefully-manicured hands).

One planted false love letter later, Junichi finds himself behind the school after class, and to his shock, Yukana has deigned to give her admirer an audience. After some rather lengthy, 7-grade setup and introductions, this is where the episode comes into its own, as we continue to be privy to every thought that crosses Jun-kun’s mind.

To his continued shock, Yukana is being incredibly patient and open-minded with him, and when he does what his friends said to do and beg on his knees, there’s the sense even she knows this is beneath him—and she barely knows him! From there, Junichi remains in survival mode, doing all he can to avoid an even worse scenario than rejection: the reputation for being a prevert and/or virgin for the rest of his high school life.

But as was demonstrated at the start of the ep with Shizune and Yui, Junichi is in a far better position than he realizes. That’s because, despite all logic, Yukana likes him, and agrees to go out with him. Or maybe not despite all logic; perhaps she’s as lonely—and trapped in her present persona (her a gal, him a loser)—as he is.

The art is crude and the boobs are over-sized, and Junichi’s friends can be really annoyingbut once this episode got into gear, I was really enjoying the passionate yet puerile discussion and display of sheer teenaged sex-and-bitterness-fueled awfulness that is high school.

And hey, sometimes it’s just satisfying to see a loser win for once, even if he’s only a loser because he believes himself to be one. It looks like both sides are poised to get something out of this, so let’s see where it goes, shall we?

Sin: Nanatsu no Taizai – 01 (First Impressions)

The Gist: Lucifer falls to hell but passes her blood to a mortal on the way down. Then she meets the seven deadly sins, which are demon lord ladies that want to kill and or do her or both. None of it makes much sense and none of it is voice acted or presented in an interesting way, but she beats them and sets a story min motion…

The Verdict: it’s slightly sexy, in so far as the uncensored version has nipples and touching between girls with huge breasts but it is not coherent nor H-enough to fill that kind of thrill. If you need an nonsensical christian’ish themed girl touching show… honestly, you can do better than this?

I mean, I know why it was made and who it is for and it is higher quality than your typical ecchi girl-touching fight genre show, but not by much. Seriously, just hang out at a bar till closing time and take whatever desperate hook-up that’s left home with you. You’ll feel less dirty in the morning…

 

Clockwork Planet – 01 (First Impressions)

One of the downsides of choosing what anime to watch, in part, by their promotional art, is that just as a mechanical clock will one day fail, sometimes a piece of art will let you down. Clockwork Planet is evidence of this. The promo art didn’t look that bad at all, but the show’s a dud.

Just to give a quick recap: In a post-apocalyptic world built almost entirely of gears (?) Miura Naoto is a fairly wimpy tinkerer who dreams of becoming a proper clocksmith. Just when he wishes out loud that automata would rain down upon him, one does, a state-of-the-art model named RyuZU. Naoto shows what he’s got by repairing her.

Then RyuZU becomes Naoto’s trusty servant, in a very silly ceremony in which she sucks on his finger (though it’s an efficient way to collect genetic material with which to imprint).

Later, they check into a love motel because his house was destroyed when she dropped in. Naoto can’t help but see RyuZU as a pretty girl and not a mere automaton, because, well, she looks like a pretty girl.

Meanwhile, Marie Breguet, who is some kind of scientific-commercial big shot despite being (or at least appearing to be) very young, laments the loss of an automaton (RyuZU), clashes with the military, and finds out that said military is going to purge the Kyoto Grid, sending 20 million people to their deaths. She also sleeps in the buff…because…

I needn’t go on. World made of gears? Casual military mass murder? Characters who look like little kids? A very low-budge and unattractive production? I believe I’ll pass.

Tsugumomo – 01 (First Impressions)

The Gist: One day, Kagami Kazuya’s sakura-patterned obi, given to him by his late mother, takes the form of a blue-haired girl named Kiriha revealing she is a tsukumogami.

After saving him from an attacking amasogi, Kiriha assigns Kazuya as her “servant” and shares his living space, remaining as inseparable as they were when she was a mere inanimate obi.

Roll Credits…

Even with a rather poor translation, I don’t think I missed much nuance here. Kazuya is defined by his utter lack of distinguishing features or personality traits—other than carrying around an obi and smelling it all the time, which would be kinda sweet, I guess, if it wasn’t also a bit weird.

Along with his one-note “class-rep” character, and his one-note big sister/guardian, there isn’t much depth to be found here, only reminders of shows past (and half-hours wasted on said shows).

We end up seeing many sides of Kiriha, and to her credit, between her superior, imperious attitude, propensity for making messes, and love of pudding, she also has Kazuya’s back (both out in the world and in the bath) and seems to mean well as a companion/protector.

But rather than working in her favor, these myriad sides only served to paint a muddled picture of who and what she is, beyond an once-inanimate object given (pretty) human form. Also, if you’re going to have blue hair and red eyes, you best come correct.

Throw in bland-as-paste Kazuya and a not particularly great-looking production (aside from one okay action scene) and there’s not quite enough here to encourage me to continue.

Gantz:0 Review

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The Gist: a feature-length CG movie covering the Osaka Arc from the Gantz manga. This arc is between halfway and two-thirds through Gantz’ 383-chapter long story, which means the movie had to shed several characters and a ton of build-up to present a manageable story. For example, the manga’s co-protagonist Katou gets a modified introduction right at the beginning of the arc, which serves as a brief introduction to the rules and world of Gantz for the viewer.

Generally, the changes ‘function,’ from the standpoint of making a coherent movie, but that movie is not very compelling. Despite cutting characters, the arc requires introducing the Osaka team, which is huge, even if its only there to be blown apart. The arc also pits our heroes against a massive challenge, with no room for that core cast to build-up credibility for taking on that challenge, nor an emotional connection with the viewer should they fail.

The result is somewhat like asking the third Lord of the Rings movie to work as our only ‘movie’ adaptation for the novels. The viewer will probably understand what is going on, but why would they care?

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The Verdict: From a technical standpoint, Gantz:0’s character models, lighting, and sets are decent but not mind-blowing. The lip sync isn’t spot on, the lighting and framing don’t feel like they highlight scenes clearly, and the shakey-cam is oh my god stop it! Overall, it lacks thought or style.

There’s some irony to this because Gantz’ weapons and vehicles were already CG-rendered in the manga, and the manga did a great job framing out scenes and conveying what was going on.

Unless you are already a Gantz fan, it’s difficult to see a reason for you to watch this. Unfortunately, if you are a Gantz fan (especially if you’ve read all 383 chapters of it like myself), you’re not going to get much out of this either.

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Akiba’s Trip The Animation – 03

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Well, I wasn’t expecting that – an episode of Akiba’s Trip outscoring a KonoSuba. Where this week’s Kono felt listless and scraping the barrel, Akiba’s Trip had a manic energy to it (along with an idol group called Manias) as it ditched the bugged ones story for a straight-up exploration of various kinds of obsessions, which can all to easily be taken up to 11 in a place like Akiba.

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It starts, innocently enough, with Tamotsu catching a moment of an idol concert Nikawa is watching, and like a diamond arrow, sends him into the soaring space of fandom. His obsession with the idol (who just comically phones it in) in all possible media frustrates Mayo, whose patrol plans with Tamotsu are completely overrun by his various idol-worshipping activities. That, in turn, leads Mayo to stress eat over at Carl’s Jr. (tacky product placement FTL).

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At some point, Tamotsu’s obsession shifts from merely consuming idoltry to really getting down into the nitty-gritty of audio, maxing out his GonzoCard many times over with impulsive purchases of increasingly dubious equipment, only to literally bowl his roommates over with his very expensive realization that it’s better just to hear the idol in person.

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Then things shift to the girls, who get swept up by a famous former-idol, now super/hyper/mega-whatever producer who calls the trio MANIAS and books them for numerous photo shoots in increasingly revealing outfits and increasingly lecherous photographers.

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Eventually, things get so bad Arisa is being casually asked to lie in bed and take off her top, but when Mayo and Nikawa hold her back, the producer and photographer reveal their true selves as Bugged Ones. Just like that, the episode snaps back into what the show is about, having itself gotten swept up in the stories of its characters getting obsessed with things.

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Arisa and Mayo fight the Bugged Ones, and Tamotsu joins in since he started taking every possible part-time or temp job he can to pay his debts, the constant cycle of odd jobs becoming its own obsession. Being the producer’s part-time janitor pays off, as he’s able to save his sister.

The recovered famous producer then quickly hooks up the trio for a little idol concert event that looks the business (and is sung by the three lead seiyuu, performing as “Headphones”, their group from Sore ga Seiyuu). 

They only perform in front of a handful of people, but that’s fine with Mayo, who seems to like the attention she gets from Tamotsu, who ends up with a new idol group to, well, idolize. Will all of this be forgotten next week? Probably. Was it still not just fun, but a shitload of fun? Absolutely.

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Akiba’s Trip The Animation – 02

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This week Tomatsu gets oriented in his new role as Mayo’s underling, and his new, more powerful form as an elite hazoku. He comes up with the name “Electric Mayonnaise & Friends”, the first friend being Arisa, who is game for some bugged one-hunting.

Their target this week is a disgruntled replica gun and military supply store manager-turned-hazoku, who reminded me of Orange from the old run-and-gun game Gunstar Heroes. He has ammo that can tear clothes away, which turns out to be just as bad for Tamotsu and Mayo as the bad guys, since they’re the same basic entities (albeit with opposing ideals).

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The fact that a defeated Hazoku doesn’t return to being a normal human, but simply evaporates, is revealed to Tamotsu after Orange is brought down, creating new, fresh stakes for him. Arisa isn’t a Hazoku, just really really strong; I wonder if there’s more to her than meets the eye (even though she reveals quite a bit throughout the episode).

Akiba’s Trip continues to be inoffensively competent and reasonably fun. But KonoSuba is a tough act to follow, exposing this show’s lack of narrative depth. That being said, the characters have distinct (if broad) personalities and good chemistry, so I find myself looking forward to the next leg in Akiba’s Trip.

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Keijo!!!!!!!! – 12 (Fin)

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The Finale: Cockroach-chan’s showdown with Kaya, Maya’s abuse-fueld alter-ego is intense but ultimately morphs back into a duel with Maya, after a rousing pep-talk about wanting to be proud of the fight. Cockroach-chan wins, of course, having been upgraded by her team mates and having unlocked the full power of the vacuum butt cannon.

But all it well that ends well and the girls have a lovely banquet together afterwards. Despite their on-land meanness, team evil is all puppies and kittens now, and quickly becomes friends.

Final Verdict: This was pretty terrible. I get the point is exploitation backed by friendly non-objectifying girls who love (and take seriously) a sport but… nah this is just nipple-less T&A wrapped around generic fighting tourney tropes. There was no charm at the end, no humor to balance the final fight, and Team-evil never had a chance, nor was there 5 episode arc built up enough for it to have weight or stakes.

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Keijo!!!!!!!! – 11

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The Gist: Cockroach-chan takes Qi-girl head on and gets a whiff of victory… yes, literally. Ultimately, after a lengthy duel that breaks Qi-girl’s mind and turns her hair white, they are still at a standstill.

Meanwhile, Neko-chan and the other girls who’s names I don’t remember defeat a magician who pulls cards out of her butt and a girl with green hair who joins with the magician to form a combination-attack form. Yes, they literally share a swimsuit to do this.

Also there’s a heavy set girl who hasn’t lost yet but she isn’t given much screen time and doesn’t seem to be a real threat…

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The Verdict: there are a few truly fantastic moments of comedy this week surrounded by dull fighting tropes, unnecessary backstory elements for the villains, and sloppy pacing. Over all, this was a see-saw affair and how much enjoyment you get from it depends on how much the highs charm you and the lows irritate you.

The magician’s butt cards had me giggling like an idiot but her boob flashing and her ultimate KO were a snooze. The combination form with green hair chan was also great, especially due to the sound effects and the hilarious giant-robo style camera angle for their ‘hook up’ but the minutes spent ‘locked butt to butt’ with Pink-chan was totally uneventful on the flip side. Cockroach-chan sniffing Qi-chan’s arse — especially the poor voice actress doing a pig snort — was to die for but the fight itself was bland paste. I don’t care at all about Qi-chan and didn’t need her backstory or second form to pad out the episode :(

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Keijo!!!!!!!! – 10

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The Gist: the second race is underway and, surprise surprise, Team Pompous gets mauled by our clever underdogs. First, two girls get flung overboard when The Ass of Varja and Hillbilly-chan sync-bounce the seaplane wings. Then Heart-Eye-chan takes out another girl with mutual annihilation. Finally, Hillbilly-chan and Aoba use their roommate attacks to bring down the last opponent.

Unfortunately, everyone is eliminated at the same time and, in a twist, the last Pompous girl uses propeller breasts to stay in the air a split second longer than Aoba, thus winning the match narrowly upon video review.

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The Verdict: while more watchable than last week, Keijo’s second act remains fairly generic by sports anime conventions. Yes, the various attacks and super powers are silly and raunchy but there isn’t much warmth to the character interactions and, honestly, the novelty has worn off.

Structurally, I don’t know how Keijo un-jumps the shark here? Introducing new girls and new abilities with more epic effects is just an extension of what it was already doing. There’s nothing unusual about the underdog team winning (or doing well against) the expected power house in sports anime either. Making them mean girl jerks doesn’t make them compelling characters to boot.

:/

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