Soushin Shoujo Matoi – 04

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The Gist: ‘Toi, Yuma and Clarus bounce from brightly colored dimension to dimension until getting dragged back to Earth to fight Creed Killer. Clarus info dumps about the Nights, but it’s thin info and we’ve heard all of it before.

Clarus also expositions her backstory, which is about the tragic loss of her first partner, Flors, who was a naieve idiot that get royally screwed for trying to talk to Creed Killer.

Then Creed Killer casts a mega black hole but is immediately thwarted by ‘Toi, who summons all of the local gods at once, apparently a special quirk of Japanese culture. Then Clarus kills Creed Killer.

Roll credits…

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introducing Flor… who were told is destroyed in the first flash back… and then is destroyed a few flashbacks later…

Introducing a character as a vehicle to introduce another character is a terrible idea. We barely know Clarus as viewers and what we do know is unlikeable and stupidly arrogant. That doesn’t change just because Flors got herself killed in a pointless way. It certainly doesn’t make Creed Killer interesting, since he’s basically a pure-evil DC’s Joker knock off.

Killing him off immediately doesn’t help anything either. Toi’s sudden super power feels completely unearned — and the mythology isn’t even set up for it.

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‘Toi apparently has rainbow power now. Nope, there was no setup for this during the episode…

Verdict: this episode was so dreadfully cliché, awkwardly put together, and dull above all other things that I walked away from it three times before I could finish. While not strictly ‘terrible’ in an academic sense, I have no patience for a show that is willing to spend 30 minutes with characters staring grimly into space uttering grim-dude sentences that are so generic grim-dude that the subs struggled to make them sound like they were coherently connected to the events of the episode.

Toi and Yuma had little to do, we learned nothing, a villain went from impossibly powerful to totally defeated abruptly, and the support characters sat around uttering nonsense lines. Clarus backup even drives off to his hotel room for a completely pointless conversation… on his cell phone?

I have 3 reliably awesome shows and 1 hit or miss (but occasionally brilliant) show. Three 7s in a row followed by a lower score is basically an automatic DROP in my book.

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Soushin Shoujo Matoi – 03

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The Gist: ‘Toi and Yuma continue to dabble in magic girl hero antics, including another possessed dude bringing demon trouble, culminating in a showdown with another monster. It’s much the same as last week, except this time Clarus gets her butt kicked too and ‘Toi’s latent mom power has to activate and save the day.

While SSM is serviceable as a straight forward rise of an unlikely hero story, with decent graphics and sound, the dynamic between Yuma and ‘Toi continues to be its strongest selling point. The fact that Yuma over explains how embarrassing the situation is is especially charming too.

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“Wow, ‘Toi, this has gotten more than 50 million hits! That means, roughly, 50% of Japan has seen you naked!” – Yuma

Oji’s Verdict: Soushin Shoujo Matoi provides some easy viewing girls against demon bad guys magic action. I’m not sold on the conspiracy going on in the background, and ‘Toi’s sudden power surge to save the day was… generic… to say the least.

However, at the end of the day, not every show needs to be a masterpiece to earn my respect, let alone my eyeballs as a viewer. If you’ve got time, you could do a lot worse than following this.

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Soushin Shoujo Matoi – 02

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The Gist: ‘Toi makes it home safely, albeit naked, only to run right into Yuma, who’s somewhat miffed that ‘Toi gets to be the magic girl in their relationship. However, they quickly discover Yuma has a degree of control over the… whatever god or creature that floats around ‘Toi, and that only the two of them can see it.

Meanwhile, demons grab control of other people, Shingo remembers a little bit more about ‘Toi’s mom, Luciela does not much of anything, and there’s a big alternative dimension showdown between ‘Toi and a Monster that is only won when Clarus shows up. (Clarus was called Fatima last week… I’m not sure why)

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What worked: Yuma’s enthusiasm only dips for a short moment at the beginning and, from then on, she’s excitedly getting ‘Toi into trouble. Becoming a local/twitter celebrity and having to wear a silly disguise (because the magical magic girl uniform doesn’t exactly come off) was all enjoyable.

What meh’ed or less: While the magic world fight was comical (‘Toi tried to use a shotgun as a club) it wasn’t exactly exciting. Likewise, Clarus and the conspiracy demon plot is taken a little too seriously for its own good. Maybe that juxtaposition helps the core duo’s antics, or maybe the heavy handedness will become more intentionally ironic over time? For now, it’s the less interesting part.

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Oji’s Verdict: Soushin Shoujo Matoi teeters on earning an 8 for it’s less serious (but not stupid) take on the magic girl genre. Yuma and ‘Toi are enjoyable characters with good chemistry and the underlying gags, that ‘Toi really doesn’t want these powers and these powers are not entirely helpful all the time, are pulled off pretty well.

Overall, the snappy dialog is charm of the core relationship is what sells this. The plot is fairly by-the-book magic girl… without a twist. If that hasn’t made you smile so far, there are plenty more innovative shows to watch this season.

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Soushin Shoujo Matoi – 01 (First Impressions)

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The Gist: demonic creatures are crossing into our reality for reasons unknown, and largely unknown to the public. Luciela Haruka, a blonde woman with a pink hair detail and mega boobs, is investigating for the Anomalous Crimes division — and her investigation has brought her to a small town in Japan!

Local girls Yuma and Matoi work at a 15th century shrine, which quickly gets dragged into things when a painter possessed by a demon goes on a rampage. Fortunately, Yuma finds an ancient scroll while her father (the shrines priest) was trying to impress Luciela, and that scroll may or may not have transformed Matoi into a magic girl.

Also fortunately, Matoi’s dad is the town detective and her mother was most likely a magic girl too, and she makes quick work of the enemy. While she is successful, Matoi is not prepared to be ‘not normal’ and flees to scene… only to become naked in the woods.

Also also also the Vatican has a magic girl named Fatima.

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Soushin Shoujo Matoi may be worth a look if you’re up for another magic girl, twisting family backstory, demonic (alien?) invasion story. It has moments of humor, action, slice of life and mystery — even some tween side boob, if that’s your thing.

It mostly looks good. The rendering is weirdly styled, mixing competent but distorted, clunky figures, against richly rendered backgrounds. The color pallete is broad and well structured and the figures, while ‘off‘ looking are shot from many dynamic angles and in strong compositions.

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You may not be into Soushin Shoujo Matoi because it’s throwing an awful lot of stuff our way and none of it is especially grounded or set up. Matoi’s freak out at the end of the episode over ‘not being normal’ just comes out of nowhere. Similarly, Yuma’s decision to jump in front of a hulk-rage monster to perform a dance she’s just seen for the first time on a scroll because she’s excited to become a powerful priestess is kinda unbelievable.

And, if you’re a long time RABUJOI reader, you don’t even need to get me started about the Engrish dialog in the opening scene. To be fair, it was actually so appallingly bad, I laughed at it…

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Oji’s Verdict: While the opening fight between engrish speaking English soldiers almost turned me off, the good enough visuals, predictable but pleasant narrative twists, and an overall incompetent charm kept me watching all the way through.

I definitely don’t think Soushin Shoujo Matoi is a good show but I also don’t think it’s that bad either. If you have the time, give the first episode a watch.

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Zankyou no Terror – 07

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In preparation for more English dialogue from Five this week, I decided to come at it from another angle: if English is her character’s second language, then her thick accent is totally acceptable. But such realignments and caveats weren’t even necessary this week. There was so much going on I didn’t have time to give a shit how bad the English was or wasn’t.

Just about absolutely everything that went on this week was fantastic. Last week’s ending promised an intricate, precise game of Haneda Airport Bomb Chess between Five and Sphinx. It also hinted that Shibazaki and his colleagues were going to take action of some kind after sitting on their hands too long, and that Lisa would play some kind of role too. , The episode delivered everything we could have hoped for and then some.

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I remain confident in my assertion last week that Five is a cliched villain with a lame personal vendetta and all-but-unchecked autocratic power over the authorities. This week she’s taken down a peg just as Nine and the police were last week. The show sensed that we needed to see Nine land a blow, even a glancing one, on Five, and made it happen. But this episode was much, much more than just a duel between Five and Nine.

Shibazaki & Co. arrive at Haneda faced with the lofty challenge of finding a bomb in a massive, busy airport, but the more he wanders around, the more something smells rotten to the veteran detective. But even he couldn’t have predicted he’d end up helping the very terrorist he’s been chasing for six episodes stop the bombing, while unwittingly providing cover for their escape.

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That last bit is part the genius of this episode. When Shibazaki bursts into the control room and orders the bomb plane turned around, Five tells him he’s being Sphinx’s lap dog, and she’s not 100% wrong. But Shibazaki is also saving lives by picking the lesser of two evils. Five seems to be trying to appeal to his pride and ego, but after both have been trampled on so much throughout his career (most recently by Five herself), he’s not listening anymore. He’s the anti-Five, and thank God he’s here.

It’s a good thing he can, otherwise Nine, Twelve, and Lisa would’ve been SOL and lots of people would have died. Shibazaki is Nine’s trump card; he calls him to explain everything, and Shibazaki decides to believe him, because unlike the higher-ups and spooks, at least Nine is talking to him; letting him in on the loop. And once he’s in, he’s a potent ally. One great scene is how he even gets up the tower: by depending on his police colleagues to open a hole for him in their scrum with security.

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Also terrific was how Nine threw out Five’s book by placing an extra piece on the board, namely Lisa. Yes, Twelve pushed for her involvement, but she herself made the choice to participate. Both she and Nine and Twelve’s plan revolves around turning all of Five’s ample surveillance against her. Ironically, it’s not Lisa, but Nine who’s the decoy—playing chess with Five and keeping her eyes on him.

Meanwhile, Twelve makes use of every camera blind spot to sneak through the airport, while Lisa sets off a flare in the bathroom to set off the fire alarms, which create a blip in the video feed. During that blip—unbeknownst to Five until it’s too late—the real-time footage becomes footage recorded minutes earlier. It’s a full team effort by Sphinx, and as I said, a satisfying setback for the irritatingly haughty Five.

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But Five doesn’t stay down long, because, as she correctly remarks, Nine and Twelve’s new friend Lisa is a weakness, as illustrated when she’s picked up by Five’s henchman and tossed onto an otherwise empty plane with the bomb on board. I’ll admit, the moment Lisa is caught and when we realize how much trouble she’s in, I was crestfallen. But the show’s not going to kill Lisa today…so How Do They Get Out Of This One?

Very Carefully. The thrilling action set piece that concludes the episode brings everything together: Twelve’s fondness for Lisa; Nine’s sense of honor that has him helping Twelve save her; Lisa’s ability to follow directions and quickly make a cloth rope, and Nine’s ability to drive away from the plane before the explosion can engulf them. It’s some spellbinding, superbly directed stuff, and the Kanno soundtrack playing over everything really takes it to the next level, as her tunes tend to do.

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In return for his help, Shibazaki only gets a passing glance at the masked Sphinx No. 1 through a window before driving off into the night. And Five is Not Happy, and has Lisa’s student ID in hand. Which means even if Lisa remains safe and hidden with Sphinx (not a sure thing at all), her mother, wretch that she is, is now at risk.

Can Lisa throw her life away completely? Can Sphinx continue to stay a step ahead of Five? Can Shibazaki get back on the case and reign Five in? What about the plutonium? When’s the beach episode? If there’s no second cour, only four episodes remain to tackle these questions and more. We await them with bated breath.

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Zankyou no Terror – 06

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Let the great game begin…or at least the pretty good game. Just when Shibazaki was starting to sink his teeth into the case and gathering support from his colleagues, the FBI comes in with their Nuclear Emergency Support Team (NEST) researcher, Five, along with “orders from on top” essentially neutering his investigation.

Unfortunately, Five is ruining more than Shibazaki’s momentum and the terrorists’ plans. She’s kinda hurting the show, too. The main reason being she’s a big, bland “Insane Genius Villain” (IGV) cliche plopped down in the middle of a story that was going just fine without her. Also, let it be known for now and all time, that Han Megumi is very, very ungood at English.

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Han did a fine job as Hanano Sumire in Chihayafuru 2, but then, she wasn’t the primary antagonist who is called upon to deliver a good chunk of her dialogue in English; she’s just not up to it. That’s not Han-san’s fault; frankly, Watanabe had no business making her speak English. Far from adding “international texture”, it blows all the tension out of a scene like air from a balloon.

The color her English makes would surely give Twelve nightmares. With all the intricate preparation involved in the production, you’d think they’d have at least hired someone fluent in English to do the lines for someone who’s supposed to be fluent in English. Someday, anime studios and/or directors will figure this out, but not today. /End rant.

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This week we have the rather unusual scenario of the terrorists who planted a bomb at an airport having to return to the scene to disarm it, since Five has the power and the will to detonate it, even at the potential cost of many lives, because she can just blame it on Sphinx. She’s also able to craft myth-riddles like them, which most the cops believe to be the real thing.

Most, but not all. Shibazaki, right on cue, smells something rotten in Denmark. The texts aren’t his guys. He’s technically under orders to do nothing, but he isn’t going to accept that. Hamura and three colleagues join him “for a meal.” As I said, his teeth are in this case, and he’s not letting go so easily. Please, show, let him expose Cupcake Five before she exposes Twelve and Nine!

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But I’m getting ahead of myself. This episode is also notable for being the first in which Lisa is actually used in an op, albeit in a roughly improvised op in which Nine needs an unfamiliar face for Five’s cameras. She’s unfazed by images of carnage Nine tries to scare her with (as Twelve says, they didn’t intend for the bomb to go off), and declares she “wants to be one of them.”

Part of that is because there’s nothing else she thinks she can be. Another is that despite all the crap she’s gotten, she still wants to connect with people, and to experience the close bond she sees between Nine and Twelve. With this airport job, which looks like a doozy with its chessboard layout, she’s becoming a part of that family. (Thirteen? Zero?)

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Shibazaki’s little rebellion, Nine’s feverish scurrying, Lisa’s participation and Twelve’s support of her all make this a very good episode, but we can’t call it great. Not in an episode with so much Five in it. It’s good to take your antiheroes down a peg or two, but you need the right kind of nemesis to do it, and so far, Five ain’t that. It feels like she’s in the wrong show.

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