The Day I Became a God – 11 – Goddess in the Machine

Narukami backs off and observes Shiba interacting with Hina. Her daily routine is full of reluctant meals, a minimal physical exertion, and basic learning time. Through it all, Shiba is gentle and patient in all of her interactions, knowing when to stimulate and encourage and knowing the precursors and remedies to Hina’s tantrums.

Youta feels like a big, unruly wrench in Shiba’s delicate clockwork of care. He’s not a pediatrician or behavioral researcher, and it shows; he’s way out of his depth when it comes to the proper way to treat this Hina. He’s also under the mistaken impression that if he simply provides the right stimuli or flips the right behavioral switches, the Hina he knew will suddenly re-appear.

Shiba, who has no choice but to accept his perfectly forged credentials, nevertheless harbors a healthy weariness of Youta’s erratic, ad hoc methods. She knows the jist of what happened to Hina—an “innovative machine” was removed from her brain. She makes the devastating (but very plausible) suggestion that the “Hina he knew” was nothing but that machine processing stimuli and producing the proper responses.

This means he never knew “the Real Hina”—the girl lying in that room now. Rather than worrying about the simulacrum with which he interacted once, she believes everyone who cares about Hina should focus on the memories and progress she makes going forward.

Youta already fears he has no idea what he’s doing, but Shiba’s words send him into a fresh spiral of doubt and despair. Fortunately, he gets some well-timed calls and texts from Kyouko, Ashura, Sora, and the others, not only expressing their love for him and Hina, but their unwavering certitude that the Hina with whom they shared their summer was the real one.

With a fresh infusion of confidence and hope, Youta thinks of ways to stimulate Hina beyond what Shiba is doing, and comes up with the games she loved so much; specifically video games. Shiba is dubious of exposing Hina to the “addictive” games, but grudgingly allows Youta to proceed.

As Youta was hoping, playing the video game does perk Hina up, but he makes another mistake you’d expect of someone simply not trained to care for kids with special needs: he gets all pedantic about how the game is played. It’s also not at all a basic game, which means when Hina’s inputs cause an unpleasant outcome, she gets frustrated and upset.

Shiba comes to the rescue once again, and we delve into her past to see why she is so passionate about not just the practical minutiae of taking care of Hina, but making sure she’s happy. Shiba’s own child died in its infancy due to a similar developmental condition.

She fell into a pit of despair, but was saved by the kids she met at the kind of pediatric facility where she now works. Watching them perservere and grow and knowing how she could affect positive change in their lives, her heart gradually re-filled.

While Shiba is initially presented as an obstacle to Youta’s progress with Hina, in reality Youta wouldn’t have gotten anywhere at all with Hina if he hadn’t simply sat back at a respectful distance, watched, and learned from Shiba’s gentle example.

Youta realizes he’s been trying to make Hina do things, while Shiba stays close and waits for Hina to do them on her own. It’s why when Youta draws little picture cards of their circle of friends and she tosses the one of him away not once but twice, he lets her action stand.

He also realizes if he wants Hina to be happy playing the video game, he has to level up her character so he’ll be able to deal with whatever situation Hina gets him into. This is a long process, and Youta pulls an all-nighter upping the character form Level 4 to 47, but it pays off, and Hina is not only re-engaged, but actually smiling in his presence for the first time!

It’s a huge breakthrough, now that Youta understands the limits of what he can do. But just when he seems close to getting Hina out of her shell, Shiba does some digging and determines that Youta is an impostor filing false reports. She communicates this discovery to him via curt chat messages.

Hina may be making progress with Youta, but the fact Youta came to the facility with an assumed identity and in reality had no right to ever be there in the first place, should prove to be a fatal betrayal of Shiba’s and the facility’s trust. Good intentions or not, what Youta did was bad.

I don’t see how this doesn’t result in another swift separation of Youta and Hina, only this time without the benefit of a goodbye, as Hina’s not quite there yet. Frankly, I don’t see how he avoids criminal charges—and then there’s the matter of how much longer Hina has to live. In short, he’s going to need another miracle or two. The question is, does he have any miracles left?

The Day I Became a God – 10 – The Disappearance of Satou Hina

Hina is gone from Youta’s life, as well as those of Kyouko, Ashura, Sora, and the rest of the gang. After a period of restless but fruitless searching, life has returned to normal—or at least to what it was before Hina appeared—though Kyouko seems to hang out with the boys a lot more often.

Before they know it, their group of three friends swells to four with the addition of transfer student Suzuki Hiroto. Hiroto randomly approaches Youta one day, hacks his number onto his phone, and just like that, they’re hanging out on the regular.

He even has Youta and Ashura to teach him basketball, though he already seems pretty good at it. When the others suggest going out for burgers, Hiroto suggests ramen, so they go to Jinguuji’s. He suggests all four of them play a game, and so they play mahjongg.

Youta still tends to the “Lost Hina” posters around town, even if it seems futile, because each day he hangs out with his friends, there nevertheless feels a sense of emptiness, that Hina should be among them. When Hiroto asks if he can watch Sora’s movie, Youta vetoes, because it’s “not finished. Fall turns to Winter, and then entrance exams in the new year.

It’s clear by now to us that Hiroto is very consciously getting Youta & Co. to go through all of the same experiences they went through with Hina…but Youta’s melancholy is such that he doesn’t pick up on it until Hiroto loses his temper, gives up, and threatens to leave.

That’s when it dawns on Hiroto what he’s doing, and Hiroto reiterates that he’s a genius who do “just about anything”—and that includes letting Youta access to Hina. It’s just that his boss insisted that he not directly tell Youta why he showed up in his life; Youta had to figure it out for himself.

Now that he has, Hiroto offers him the opportunity to see Hina. He warns him that she won’t be the Hina he remembers, but Youta doesn’t hesitate for a moment. Just like that, Hiroto’s drive gives them a ride to the Yamada Sanitarium, where Hina is currently a patient.

Hiroto wielded his hacking magic to ensure Youta had full access, but only for a maximum of two weeks. He strides right in and is met by a matter-of-fact visiting researcher, who takes him to Hina’s room. We discover what’s become of her…and it’s predictably gutting.

Bedridden, lean, wan, and very out of it, it would appear her Logos Syndrome has picked up where it left off before her grandfather cured her with the quantum computer in her brain. When that computer was cruelly removed from her brain, they had to shave her hair, which has only recently grown back.

The researcher also warns Youta not to yell or be provocative, as Hina is acutely fearful of men, hence the all-female staff of the facility. She can’t discern between Youta’s anger for those who did this to her and anger directed at her specifically, and she freaks out. Their visit has to be cut short.

Youta sits outside in the cold, and snow starts to collect on his head. He is lost. The emptiness remains, and it expands and festers from the sheer heartbreaking injustice of it all. Hina didn’t do anything to deserve such treatment. Youta can scarcely believe this is real life. Not having a remote idea what to do, his confidence is flickering away like a dying flame in frigid winds.

Where does he go from here? My suggestion? Maybe slowly, gently try again with Hina…only KNOCK IT OFF WITH THE YELLING!

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Koi to Uso – 05

The potentially infamous Love Quadrangle Camping Trip from Hell is upon us, and things start out expectedly bumpy, with Ririna protesting Yukari’s choice to invite Nisaka along and Nisaka and Misaki exchanging looks that to us clearly look like two rivals in love, but to Yukari like they’re into each other.

Inevitably, Yukari ends up catching the girls playing in the river in their swimsuits, but neither accuses him of being a pervert. Indeed, Ririna thinks nothing of calling him over to play with them, only to twist her ankle and require he princess-carry her back to camp (since she considers piggyback to be too lewd).

Ririna is a bit of a tsundere for most of this trip where Yukari is concerned, but there’s a good reason for that: she’s increasingly unable to hold back her own feelings for Yukari for her good friend Misaki’s sake. Her face even blushes when she finds herself admiring Yukari as he talks so passionately about researching burial mounds.

Then there’s Nisaka, who Yukari has the exact wrong idea about. Nisaka isn’t into Misaki; he’s into Yukari. But despite having a golden opportunity to do so, Nisaka is unable to come out and confess this. But to be fair, this is a guy who likes guys in a society where guys are matched up with girls by the government and told in no uncertain terms (a la Adama) to “make babies.” Also he values his friendship with Yukari and doesn’t want to ruin it.

Despite the conflicting feelings floating around her head, Ririna is still committed to getting true lovers together as often as she can, even to the point of pairing herself with Nisaka, whom she has a very low opinion of, so Yukari and Misaki can be alone together.

Again, things turn out how one would expect: while chasing a firefly, Misaki slips and starts to fall down a hill. Yukari can’t catch her, but she grabs his arm and takes him down with her. They then spend a good long time on the ground, in each others’ arms, simply listening to their hearts pound against each other.

Nisaka is aware of Ririna’s gambit and straight-up questions what she hopes to get out of it. If Misaki and Yukari marry, it’s not like there’ll be some kind of ménage à trois situation, like the creator of Wonder Woman. Ririna could fall by the wayside…or would she?

And while we finally learn there are no overt criminal penalties, it’s made clear by Nisaka that those who reject their matches are marked for life, and will find it tougher to realize their futures. Nisaka minces no words in accusing Ririna of courting disaster. (I say if you’re as desperately in love as Misaki and Yukari seem to be, I’d say it’s worth it. You can’t put a price on happiness, be it fines or lost wages.)

But Ririna…just wants two people in love to be together. When the two pairs reunite and find the clearing where a cloud of fireflies pepper the night, she defiantly takes the hands of both Misaki and Yukari. Yukari then inadvertently twists her intention by taking Nisaka’s hand as well.

Whatever labels society wants to put on his relationships, Yukari just wants to exist in that beautiful place with people he likes. The camping trip ends with him still thinking Nisaka likes Misaki, but I’ll allow him his blissful ignorance a little longer. A new notice in the mail suggests this love quadrangle’s trials have only just begun.

Some Words On Carryovers

A few Fall series are continuing into the Winter 2012 season, some of them longer than we initially believed (episode counts from reference sources proved inaccurate). New Winter series we like will be taking precedence, but we thought we’d list off the fates of the many carryovers; too many to hold on to moving forward:

Chihayafuru, Last Exile, Bakuman 2, Mirai Nikki, Sket Dance: We’ll continue to watch these series until they end.
Guilty Crown: If Episode 13 is not the last episode, we’ll make a decision on whether to drop this series after 13 airs.
Persona 4: We’ll probably drop this series after Episode 14.

Working’!! – 01

This pre-air episode follows Takanashi, Inami, Popura, Aoi, and all the other employees around at a typical day at Wagnaria family restaurant. Jokes are told, tiny things are declared cute, punches are thrown, and dishes are broken. Like I said, typical.

From the looks of it, the new, aprostrophe’d Working’!! will not diverge considerably, or at all, from the original Working!!, but will be a vehicle for new material in the same setting with the same ensemble cast – and perhaps a new face here or there (a girl with Leia-like buns in her hair is glimpsed only for a moment but not heard). That’s okay, as the first season was very watchable, lightweight slice-of-life in which the quirkiness of the characters lent spice to the proceedings.

We’ll have to wait until October to see if new material will indeed be infused in the formerly successful recipe of the Spring 2010 series. If things get too repetitive vis-a-vis Takanashi and Inami, or too tedious vis-a-vis Yamada (the former new kid) and the new new kid (whoever she is), well, there are potentially a lot of series more worthy of RABUJOI’s undivided attention. But from what was seen in this sneak peek, we’ll probably be watching.


Rating: 3

Fall 2011 Season Preview

The first season RABUJOI reviewed in full gear was Fall 2010. We perhaps chose too many series to watch; some would not pass muster this time. By the time our one-year anniversary rolls around, it looks like we’ll be in store for another sizable batch of series.

There are many promising series coming, none we’re looking more forward to than GONZO’s first anime since the pretty but ultimately ho-hum Shangri-La. This time, they appropriately went with a past strength in the Last Exile franchise. We urge anyone interested in awesome steampunk to take a gander at its 2004 predecessor, it’s one of our all-time favorites.

Other sequels of note: Bakuman, which we enjoyed thoroughly and couldn’t possibly pass up; and the restaurant slice-of-life Working!!. There’s also a new Gundam – and this one may mark some changes to the classic formula – we’ll see. We saw a six-minute preview of Mirai Nikki back in December – this fall we’ll see what it’s all about.

The only summer carryover will be the excellent Mawaru Penguindrum, which means other than that one series, our schedule will be wiped clean when October comes around. We still believe one or two series below will be sacrificed so that we may have time to sleep, eat, and socialize. To that end, titles marked with an *asterisk  constitute our “maybe” pile.

Bakuman 2 – J.C. Staff – Autumn – NHK-E
Ben-To* – David Production – Autumn – TBA
C³ – CubexCursedxCurious* – SILVER LINK – Autumn – TBA
Chihayafuru* – Madhouse – October 4, Nihon TV
Guilty Crown – Production I.G. – October – Fuji TV/noitaminA
Last Exile: Ginyoku no Fam – GONZO – October – TBA
Mobile Suit Gundam AGE* – Sunrise – October 9, MBS/TBS
Mirai Nikki – asread – Autumn – TBA
Phi Brain: Kami no Puzzle* – Sunrise – Autumn – NHK-E
Tamayura ~hitotose~ – Hal Film Maker – October – TBA
UN-GO – Bones – October – Fuji TV/noitaminA
WORKING’!! – A-1 – October – Yomiuri TV

Summer 2011 Carryover:

Mawaru Penguindrum – Brains Base – AT/X

Final Fall 2010 Anime Rankings

A the end of the day, there were a handful of series I probably wouldn’t have missed had I not watched them…but for completion’s sake I soldiered on. MM! was repetitive and barely went anywhere; Hyakka Ryouran was pretty but vacuous and often boring; Zakuro was cute but inconsequential. Given the chance to rewind, I’d have skipped them.

Yosuga no Sora performed better than its rating suggests; taking a lot of risks and keeping the romance going, no matter whom it was with. World God Only Knows was also fun and contained a lot of novel ideas and mixed the worlds of anime, gaming, and real life with panache. Soredemo was the best slice-of-life of the season, due to the strength of its characters and richness of its setting.

Star Driver won the ratings game with consistently awesome – though brief – action sequences that added or subtracted a little more or less every week, along with maintaining an intriguing duality to all its characters. Panty & Stocking was no Gurren Lagann, but still marked a return to awesome Gainax madness after Shikabane Hime fell flat. Index, interestingly, was at its best when it crossed into Railgun territory, as the religious arcs simply went on too long.

There were a couple series that, while solid, weren’t as good as previous efforts from their respective studios. Case in point: Arakawa was never as interesting to me as SHAFT’s Bakemonogatari or Zetsubou Sensei; while Yakumo didn’t come close to the excellence that was Beetrain’s Phantom ~ Requiem for the Phantom.

In all, however, it was a great, dense season. I enjoyed everything I stuck with, but I’m glad its over and excited for the new Winter season, which begins any day now.

Note that this list counts series that ran exclusively in Fall 2010 as well as series that will be continued either this Winter season or some other time. (Click here or the tab above for an explanation of our Rating system.)

Episode # : 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 AVG

Star Driver 3.5 3.5 3.5 4 3.5 4 4 4 3.5 4 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.731
Panty & Stocking 4 4 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 4 3.5 3.5 4 3.5 4 3.5 3.692
Bakuman. 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 4 4 3.5 3.5 4 4 3.654
Soredemo Machi wa Mawatteiru 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 4 4 3.5 3.5 3 4 3.583
Kuragehime 3.5 3.5 3.5 4 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.545
Ore no Imouto 3.5 3 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 4 3.5 3.500
The World God Only Knows 3 3 3.5 3 3.5 3.5 3.5 2.5 3.5 4 4 4 3.417
To Aru Majutsu no Index II 3.5 3 3 3.5 3 4 4 3.5 3.5 3.5 3 3 3.375
Shinryaku! Ika Musume 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3 3.5 3 3.5 3 3.5 3.375
Arakawa Under the Bridge x 2 3.5 3 3.5 2.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3 3.5 3.5 3.346
Psychic Detective Yakumo 3 3 3 3 3 3 3.5 3.5 3.5 3 4 3.5 3.5 3.269
Yosuga no Sora 2.5 2.5 3 3.5 3.5 3.5 3 3.5 3.5 3 3.5 3.5 3.208
Otome Youkai Zakuro 3 3 3.5 3 3.5 3 3 3.5 3 3.5 3 3 3.5 3.192
MM! 2.5 3 3 3 2 2.5 3 3.5 3 3 3 3 2.875
Hyakka Ryouran Samurai Girls 2.5 2.5 3 3 3 2.5 3 3 3.5 3 2.5 2.5 2.833

Weekly Average 3.2 3.2 3.3 3.3 3.3 3.4 3.5 3.5 3.4 3.5 3.3 3.5 3.5 3.391

Thanks!

As the year of 2010 and the very long, dense Fall 2010 season winds to a crawl (only four episodes left to review), we here are RABUJOI would like to once again take the time to thank everyone who has visited the site and skimmed, read, and/or perused our reviews. We don’t believe in such a thing as a blog thanking one’s readers too often — without readers, RABUJOI would be no more than digitally talking to a wall. Thankfully that hasn’t been the case, especially this December, which has brought us more than double the readers as November, an increase unexpected by all.

It’s always nice to see people reading your stuff, whatever it may be, but ultimately, watching good anime is its own reward; watching great anime, more so. With 2011 comes a brace of fresh new series, some from studios and starring seiyus we know well, while others are unknown, or at least less well-versed. But like the beginning of a new sports season, everyone starts out undefeated; unblemished; perfect. In the next couple weeks we’ll be putting the new series through their paces and share with you our impressions. We’re looking forward to it. So, keep reading, if you wish, and from all of us, have a happy and a healthy New Year!

– RABUJOI STAFF

Domo Arigato Gozaimasu!

Everyone here at RABUJOI wish to express our gratitude to you for taking the time to visit us. RABUJOI’s philosophy has been, and will always be to deliver timely anime reviews for your reading pleasure, and read you have: November’s traffic numbers absolutely obliterated both the blog’s previous two months of existence, as well as our most optimistic expectations.

We are cognizant that his fall has been rather unique in the sheer volume of reviewed series, and that numbers may settle down come winter, when the number of series worth reviewing will be halved. Regardless of how many people visit or read or come back for more, we cannot look at the future of RABUJOI as anything but bright. Thanks again!

-RABUJOI STAFF

Fall 2010 – Best Openings and Endings

Openings

Star Driver – The sequence was directed by Shinichiro Wantanabe, and it shows: few do rough+fluid better than him. The right-to-left side-scrolling mimics how you’d read a Japanese manga. I love how the cybody bursts out of the ocean at the end, and Takuto jumps in and blasts off: Alrighty, we’re ready to start this thing! A stirring rock number by Aqua Timez brims with hopeful lyrics and melodic diversity, matching and augmenting the energy of the animation.

Soredemo Machi wa Mawatteiru – I love jazz, and I love Japanese Jazz even more (Pizzicato Five is a good example). You can’t help but tap your feet to the number that accompanies lots of vibrant, syncopated animation in which the cast dances and sings along while performing maid duties. The title is a CGI spinning globe covered in lights. This opening perfectly encapsulates the soul, energy, and potential of the big city. I also liken the whole opening to Hotori’s imagined ideal of the city and her life: happy, upbeat, and full of promise.

The World God Only Knows – This opening could very well have been done by the same people who did Eden of the East (one of my favorite openings ever), as a lot of the style is simply lifted from there, but I don’t care. Like any effective opening, it’s an accurate depiction of the series as a whole: Keima is a god in the (2D) world of games, and uses that power in the real (3D) world. The transition from pulsing electronica to an impromptu aria is sudden, but it works, as it reinforces the religious undertones of Keima’s abilities.

Honorable Mention: Kuragehime – The numerous parodies to western popular culture (Star Wars, Sex in the City) are fun, but the main reason I like this opening is the sweet, earnestly-sung theme, “Koko Dake no Hanashi”, by Chatmonchy. It’s not an easy song to sing, requiring lots of range, but it’s beautifully pulled off with a nice balance of resolve and vulnerability.

Endings

Panty & Stocking – Both the ballad (“Fallen Angel” by Aimee B) and the animation are spot on in this short but sweet ending that captures the essence of the show perfectly, and in a refreshingly more serious tone than the show itself. The animation consists of the girls in simplified form about to be killed by various means (driving off a cliff, eaten by a monster, passing out in the desert and picked apart by vultures), all while bobbing their heads to the beat. The dark visual themes are lightened by the style in which they’re rendered…and the gorgeous vocals. In the end, the girls ascend to heaven, get their halos, come back down, and tip them like barbershop hats. The whole thing lasts only 58 seconds.

Arakawa Under the Bridge x 2 (episodes 1-5) The opening of Arakawa’s first season was one of my favorites, and season two’s, while fun, isn’t quite as good. This season’s ending is better than last’s, however, with a fully live-action sequence following Hoshi through a lush green forest and on stage, and Kappa along the riverbank. Even the real-life bridge itself makes an appearance. While the live action character’s faces are just plain creepy, I love it whenever anime jumps ino the real world (the splendid endings of FLCL and Kare Kano, for instance), and the haunting, slightly melancholy ballad is a good musical choice, though it couldn’t be further from anime Hoshi’s out-of-tune strumming.

Shiki (Second Season) – Many series pick one musician or group do the opening and one to do the ending, then switch them either halfway through the season or in the next season. A post/Gothic rock band called Buck-Tick did the stirring opening for Shiki’s first season, and it was excellent. This season, they did the ending theme. Slow pans of four key characters lounging nude in a foreboding, eerily moonlit pond full of blood. Combined with Buck-Tick’s dark, brooding theme, the atmosphere has the darkness and silky thickness of a warm pint of Guinness.