Blood Lad – 09

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Berros escorts Braz to the Demon King Wolf-Daddy’s palace, where the king gives him three days to return the remnants of his agent Pantomime (Akim) to him. Braz escapes from Berros, but is chased by her superior, Chief Goyle. In Hydra, Bell and Staz meet up with Nell and Fuyumi. Fuyumi meets Bell and Nell’s mother Neyn, who tells her she was Fuyumi’s mom’s demon doppelganger. When they met, the two women were fused into one, making Fuyumi and Bell sisters.

At first Yanagi Fuyumi’s presence in the demon world seemed like a random occurrence, but considering it was Hydra family “technology” that got her there, and all the revelations we learned this week, it’s starting to look more and more like her coming was no accident at all. The concept of demons having human counterparts – be it Fuyumi’s mom and Neyn Hydra or Fuyumi’s dad and the Hydras’ butler – suddenly makes Bell and Fuyumi family, and gets Staz thinking that there’s probably more to his intrinsic interest in Fuyumi than just her human blood.

Speaking of family, Braz reveals that he isn’t just into creating super-monsters for his own enjoyment. He literally watched the current king kill his father, the previous king, and he’s never been cool with that. Everything he’s done has been to dethrone Wolf-Daddy and replace him with a new, “worthy” king. Thing is, it sounds like next week is the last episode, so we can’t see any way of Braz completing this task, on top of the Hydra family and Staz/Fuyumi and Staz/Bell situations shaking out. We’re assuming there’ll be a second season of this at some point; something we don’t have a problem with.

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Rating:7 (Very Good)

Uchouten Kazoku – 08

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After confessing his role in their father’s death to Yaichirou and Yasaburou, Yajirou recounts the last night he spent with father on a secret consultation. Yajirou was in love with Kaisei, and wanted to leave the family, but Soichirou told him to endure, saying he had split his blood into four sons, and it was imperative they stick together no matter what. He felt the best way to seal their connection was to depart.

After Yaichirou went home, Yasaburou picks Akadama up from the bath, and Akadama tells him he was the last one to see Soichirou, who had no regrets about “retiring early” and made the tengu promise to look after Yasaburou. Back home, Yasaburou and Yaichirou learn that mother knew why Yajirou holed up in a well, and doesn’t want them to be hard on him for it.

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Shimogamo Soichirou’s four sons each inherited a specific characteristic: Yaichirou got his responsibility, Yajirou his easygoing personality, Yashirou got his innocence, and Yasaburou his idiocy. Even as he leaves his mortal coil, he leaves knowing as long as his brothers stay together, he will still remain whole in the world through them, and they can achieve the same great things he did as a result. Soichirou wasn’t so fortunate with his own brother.

Ever since Yajirou changed into a frog, the brothers have been out of balance. With the easygoing bit gone tension and resentment took over. With all the truth now revealed, and the realization Yajirou didn’t kill father; but their father met his tanuki end willingly and without regret, they are back on the road to reunion and balance Soichirou strove for. He didn’t care if his family declined in political power; as long as they continue to be a loving family, he’ll rest in peace.

9_superiorRating: 9 (Superior)

Stray Observations:

  • This was a lovely episode full of emotional, even heartrending moments, but we felt the score overplayed its hand, descending too often into melodrama. There were several instances where little if any music would have been just as affecting, yet there it was, blaring over the dialogue, making sure we knew how to feel.
  • Yajirou turning into an electric train and taking his dad on a ride was just a gorgeous sequence, as was Akadama’s final meeting with Soichirou.
  • While he had no say in his betrohal to Kaisei, Yasaburou seems aware of the fact that if Yajirou blames himself for what happened to their father, Yasaburou can just as easily blame himself for being the cause of Yajirou’s strife in the first place. Both would be equally unfair to blame themselves.
  • Next week: Keisei episode! Will we finally see her in the flesh? Akadama says she’s very attractive, and we trust the old man’s taste.

Blood Lad – 05

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Staz is quickly beaten down by Liz’s zombies, but he keeps hitting the challenge button. The zombies report to Liz, who is with her older brother Braz, who learns she’s holding Staz. Braz agrees to teach Staz the secret to human resurrection if Staz lets him remove the bullet that sealed his power, which he shot into his heart to keep him from destroying himself. He wants Staz to dispose of Papladon Akim.

Akim is a creation of Franken Stein, who possesses numerous different demon magics, escaped his creator, and is now running amok in North Demon World. Stein agrees to keep Fuyumi alive if Wolf takes care of Akim. Meanwhile, Staz refuses to play ball, so Braz ends negotiations and sics the zombies on him, using Staz’s opening to remove the bullet. Staz easily dispatches the zombies with his newly awakened power.

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This week we finally meet the infamous Braz T. Blood (not Vlad), and the family reunion is complete. When we hear his side of the story, we learn that he doesn’t actually hate Staz after all, nor does Liz. Liz is simply jealous of the preferential treatment she deems Braz has always bestowed upon Staz while ignoring her, even after Staz left. She also threw him in jail because she misinterpreted his weakness at the time as proof he wasn’t really a true noble demon, unaware of the sealing bullet in his heart.

Braz, meanwhile, is a trickier story: he had no problem poking, prodding and experimenting on his little brother, but once he had done so, he, like Stein with Akim, got more than he bargained for. He released a power within Staz so strong his young body couldn’t take it. Sealing his power with that bullet was an act of mercy, not malice, but now he believes Staz’s return just days after Akim appeared on the scene to be destiny, and he’s not going to pass up the opportunity to finally see the fruits of his labor.

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Rating:7 (Very Good)

Stray Observations:

  • Considering his attempt to decieve Wolf (which would have succeeded had Bell not been there), we wouldn’t be surprised that if he were able to regain control of Akim (the way Braz controls Staz), he’d use Akim to gain power and become a bad guy. 
  • Or maybe he just made Akim simply because he could, with no ulterior motives in mind.
  • Wolf has definitely taken a shine to Fuyumi, and won’t accept any route that doesn’t see her restored to the way she was. Staz had better come on home before his girl’s stolen away…though her dream indicates Staz still has pull with her.
  • On that note, since Akim has already confronted Wolf (and freaked him out by exploding the boarlike North boss), we imagine Wolf getting beaten up until Staz shows up to aid him.
  • As usual, all the serious stuff is lightened up nicely with little bits of comedy here and there: Staz not being impressed with Braz’s slight of hand; Liz almost losing the mini-boulder, etc.

Nazo no Kanojo X – 13 (Fin)

Urabe bumps into Tsubaki’s sister Youko and has coffee with her, learning that their mother died. Tsubaki, his sister and his father visit and tend to her grave. When Tsubaki tells her more about his mom, she wants to go with him to her grave. That day, she arrives in her Sunday best, with flowers and an offering of food she made herself. Tsubaki insists he doesn’t really remember his mom, and thus doesn’t miss her that much, but when he and Urabe exchange saliva while he’s touching her gravestone, tears well up in both. Urabe wanted to “meet” his mother and seek her approval, and wants to continue being part of Tsubaki’s life.

While it’s certainly not an absolute necessity, most people seek the approval of their significant others’ family. As unconventional and mysterious a girlfriend as Urabe Mikoto is, she’s no different in this regard. Learning about Tsubaki’s family draws her closer towards eventually becoming part of that family. So Urabe surprises Tsubaki by not only meeting and chatting with his sister, but expressing a desire to visit his mother’s grave. He sees it as an unexpected but touching gesture on her part, but it’s more than that. In her mind, knowing where Tsubaki came and who shaped his life up to this point, is another step in their relationship. This is a pretty good way to end the series, if it has to end with thirteen episodes (we’ve heard nothing about a sequel, though we’d welcome one).

No major drama; no second girl or second guy; no Oka or Ueno side-story; no panty scissors or nudity. Just Urabe, Tsubaki, and his family. It’s a calm, mature finale. It was an interesting choice for Urabe to not admit to Youko that she’s dating her brother, but we suppose Youko will figure that out eventually, and in any case, it’s something Urabe would need to discus with Tsubaki first, so they could coordinate such an announcement. Instead, Urabe is content that his sister likes her and she got to “meet” his mother. As the cherry trees start to blossom and spring arrives, Tsubaki and Urabe keep steadily, believably moving forward in their romance, one we’re sad to see go. Romance series this good don’t come around every season.


Rating: 8 (Great)

Sket Dance – 47

Yuusuke sleeps on a bench near the place where his father was killed. A trio of roughs beat him until another good-size guy breaks it up. His name is Taisuke, and he’s the boy who Kyousuke saved from being hit by a car. Taisuke still remembers what the dying Kyousuke told him, and he gives Yuusuke the bag meant for his deceased mother, containing a watch and letters for both her and his not-yet-born son. We also see the circumstances of his mother’s death, as Akane loses control and hits a doctor, who delivers Yuuske but can’t save Haru.

Like most of Sket Dance’s serious efforts, this episode flat out executes. There’s nothing fancy here, its a nice simple story of a kid coming to terms with the fact that certain information had been withheld from him his entire life. The shock of this info still raw in his mind, all he can do is run. He finds himself at the park where his father died fifteen years ago, and he lets punks whale on him almost as a messed-up therapy session. While he works out these issues in his head, everything else just seems peripheral. He’s not even outraged that the first passersby to witness his beating do nothing about it; they’d help, but they fear death.

Last week wasn’t all that clear about when exactly this took place in the Sket Dance chronology, but we learn that Yuusuke isn’t Bossun yet, and he hasn’t met Himeko or Switch and formed the Sket-dan yet, either. This is a Bossun we haven’t encountered yet; one who spent his time rifling through his mother’s possessions. Once he learns about his father’s selflessness and desire to help others, even at the cost of his life, and also realizes he’s not alone as his mother and sister are still just that, well, let’s just say this whole two-parter journey is what made Yuusuke into the Bossun we know and love listening to as he yells at things.


Rating: 4

Mirai Nikki – 11

Detective Kurusu wants to become God so he can save hi son You’s life. To that end, he brings Yuki and Yuno in for interrogation, and activates Yuno’s “Protection Mode” to bait her and Yuki into committing a crime. This way he can track them with his investigation diary. Yuki and Yuno escape after shooting several cops and become fugitives. They follow Kurusu’s wife to a hospital where Uryuu is waiting for them, and proposes the three of them form an alliance, using the Fourth’s wife and son as their trump card.

Yuki’s snappy-dressing psychopathic girlfriend proves beyond a doubt that she is his guardian, and it isn’t even her choice. Anytime he’s in danger – real or percieved (and her perception is pretty wide) her eyes go dull and she goes full commando (and no, I’m not referring to the scene where she has to pee in front of Yuki, though when you’re fugitives, that’s the kind of thing you have to do). Kurusu was even able to manipulate her nature in order to get her and Yuki in deep trouble. We really like how utterly crazy Yuno is, but we’re starting to not envy Yuki.

We’re not quite sure why he had to shoot a cop, but we’ll chalk it up to panic, which is never in short supply with the young whelp. As for Uryuu, well, considering what’s going on and what she plans, she provides a surprising amount of levity to the episode, when everyone is bickering at once about who’s betraying whom. This show remains unapologetically ridiculous and over-the-top, but also doesn’t take itself too seriously.


Rating: 3

Mawaru Penguindrum – 21

A tabloid reporter with a scoop confronts everyone with all of the truths he knows regarding the Takakuras. Ringo dismisses him, Himari follows Kanba to confirm he’s still in contact with the Kiga group, and meets with Masako, who confirms she’s his biological sister. Unable to let the terrorist money continue to flow, Shoma confronts Kanba, leading to a fight, which Kanba wins, and tells him to stay away. Shoma tells Himari to go live with her uncle, completing the family split. A Kiga member kills Tabuki and Yuri, and with Kanba’s word, also disposes of the meddlesome reporter.

We’re in full Serious Drama Mode, as all joking around has pretty much ceased, and this series is more than capable of pulling such seriousness off, despite all the hijinx that proceeded it. After Shoma and Himari learned the truth, it really didn’t take long for the improvised young family to disband altogether. Shoma cannot allow dirty money to keep paying for Himari’s treatment – which is becoming less and less effective to the point where she will die soon anyway. But Kanba made sacrifices for Himari long ago, and isn’t giong to let Shoma’s morality get in the way, so poof, their brotherhood charade would seem to be at an end.

That’s right, Kenzen is dead. There’s a decaying skeleton in the now-decrepit restaurant bearing a nametag with his name. On several occasions, we saw the restaurant in good repair, and Kanba conversing with his parents, and yet, from everyone else’s point of view, the place is run-down and…dead. Was it all in Kanba’s head? Considering there are supernatural forces at play – Sanetoshi himself calls himself a “ghost” – anything is possible at this point. Here Kanba is not only taking money, but ordering a hit – making him an accomplice to murder, all in Himari’s name. After everything that’s happened, can the endlessly effed-up Takakuras ever be a family again, or was it all just one long game of “House”?


Rating: 4

Mawaru Penguindrum – 19

Tabuki flees, leaving Yuri to bring back Momoka on her own. Himari is relased from the hospital and enjoys sukiyaki with Kanba, Shoma, and Ringo, but fears Sanetoshi only let her go because she’s going to die anyway. Masako enters the Takakura household with a bone to pick with Himari. She tries to fire a blue recollection ball at her, and Shoma and Kanba stop her. But an exhaust fan trigger’s Himari’s memories of the Child Broiler anyway.

In this topsy-turvy, twisty-turny, noodle-churning, downside-up series, what is the one constant throughout? That Kanba, Shoma, and Himari are siblings, right? That’s what we…wait, what? Even that’s not true now? But…but she knit them sweaters! And she’s in all those photos! And what is the thing Masako is always talking about crushing soon? Perhaps he wants to crush the lie…the lie of Himari being their sister? Does that mean Masako’s his real sister??

Oh, Hi, Takakura parents! Just hangin’ out at a ramen shop in Ogikubo, huh? They certainly don’t look like mass murderers…but now we know it’s them passing packets of cash to Kanba. In envelopes marked “Kiga”, just like an apple Shoma offered Himari a lifetime ago – the fruit of fate. So it seems we’ve got Sanetoshi, the Takakura parents, and the late Momoka all playing with fate like a chemistry set in their own ways. We remain utterly enraptured.


Rating: 4

Mawaru Penguindrum – 18

Tabuki kidnaps Himari, puts her in a bucket suspended by cables, and blows the cables up one by one as Kanba tries to reason with him. Tabuki wants to punish their father for killing Momoka, who was his savior, that of all mankind, and his only reason for living. When the last cable breaks, Kanba provides a lifeline for Himari, at the cost of his hand, but she is saved, and Tabuki slinks off, warning Ringo, imprisoned in the elevator the whole time, not to turn out like him. She swears she won’t.

It was pretty inevitable we’d get a Tabuki episode this week, and it was suitably dark, befitting someone now so lost, he’s prepared to kill poor innocent Himari as payback for losing Momoka. Like Yuri, Tabuki was abused as a child, first emotionally, as her mother demanded prodigal talent in exchange for love, and then physically, when his hand was slammed in a piano, ruining his future as a pianist. Things get a little symbolic with the “Child Broiler”, but suffice it to say, he’s about to be crushed into oblivion when Momoka saves him, begging him to live for her, who loves him.

Up until the last couple episodes, Tabuki has done a bang-up job concealing both his hatred of the Takakuras and the fact that the one person he chose to live for is gone. For years it stewed in him, culminating in the desperate ultimatum he issues Kanba. For a minute, we really though Himari was history, and the show played it that way, but seeing Kanba’s selfless love for Himari must have reminded him of Momoka, and so he spared her. We’ll tell ya what, now we’d like to meet their father and give him a good punch in the face for what he’s put his poor kids through…only it’s all fate, the good and the bad. Will what the parents do ever be revealed? It would be nice, but at this point unnecessary. This is some sublime drama.


Rating: 4

Working’!! – 03

Souta’s youngest sister Nazuna starts working at Wagnaria, and upstages Aoi. She also gets the wrong idea, telling her writer sister Izume that Popura is his love interest. After seeing a photo, Izume thinks Popura is underage. When Nazuna learns Yamada feels threatened, she breaks a plate and asks for help, boosting Yamada’s confidence.

When it comes down to it, Working!! is a show about nothing, but that nothing is very well-presented. Things happen, certainly, but rarely anything of lasting consequence. No huge conflicts. No villains. No ultimate goal. It’s all about the in-between; the minutiae; the creamy middle. And the details. And so far, Working’s second season has all that down. This week was as pleasant as Nazuna is tall for her age.

This episode focuses a lot on Takanashi’s four sisters, particularly Nazuna and Izume. It’s pretty obvious there are two camps in the Takanashi household: the givers and the takers. Souta, Nazuna and the eldest, Kazue, are the former; while Kozue the flirt and Izume the struggling author are the latter…it’s just interesting how each sibling makes use of their energies, and how the family manages to stick together just fine. Everyone has their role; just like at Wagnaria.

Rating: 3

Tamayura ~hitotose~ – 01

Junior high student Fuu has decided to make a big change in her life. She’s moving back to her birthplace of Takehara, to be near the Seto Inland Sea, attend a new high school, and make use of her late father’s camera she inherited. This episode is mostly a flashback of her life before moving, documenting how much her father and his pictures have meant to her, the build-up to her decision, and saying her goodbyes to her best friend Chihiro. Armed with a blessing from her mom and a published photographer friend of her father, he strikes out Takehara, where she goes by the nickname “Potte.”

Man, that was just a lovely, warm, calm, breezy episode of anime. The landscapes and twisting roads and stairs of the hilly town are exquisitely and imaginatively rendered. The palette is subtle, muted, but still lush, adding to the realism. But it doesn’t just look beautiful; all the people are beautiful as well. No excessive proprietary jargon; no factions, just real friggin’ life. And a girl starting fresh, like Ohana in Hanasaku Iroha…only without the yelling and no love interest. Sure, there’s crying, but it’s established that Chihiro is a crybaby…though when Fuu leaves, both of them have grown more “aggressive”.

Fuu/Potte is out to make her dearly departed dad proud; to carry on his tradition of capturing little scenes and moments often forgotten in the course of life. He taught her a lot, including how to work his very slick Rollei 35S mini-camera, and all that knowledge is still in her heart. The Camera is the tool to draw it all out, and replace her grief with happiness. She says if she can capture those warm happy moments just right, the “Children of Light” will come out. Sounds like a terrorist group, but we’re sure it’s not. Photography is used early and often to provide back-story and imagery from the past, and by episode’s end, we felt we’d learned a great deal about Fuu in a very short time. We want to learn more still.


Rating: 4

Usagi Drop 11 (Fin)

Daikichi and Rin deliver food to Hitani as she recovers from a bug. While wrestling with her first loose teeth, Rin and the three other kids work on their jump rope, while Daikichi mingles with Hitani and the dads. After about a year with Rin, he’s watched her grow and they’ve shared countless experiences, a lot of them cause him stress and nervousness, but he seems to be learning that comes with the job.

Daikichi’s little sister Kazumi is getting married, but isn’t so hot about having a kid soon. She likes going out and drinking and having time for herself. Daikichi used to own all of his time, too, and while it’s obvious he’s lost something in his change of lifestyle for young Rin’s sake, he’s gained a lot more. This person loves him unconditionally, and he her. He may not be a real dad, and it may have just been a year, but he’s definitely become quite good at taking care of RIn.

What has more or less been a slice-of-life series has a reserved send-off, which looks back on the development of Daikichi and Rin, and looks toward the future as she grows bigger, stronger, and brighter. Rin has definitely been one of my favorite characters this season, and one of the better-acted kids I’ve seen in anime. There’s nothing earth-shattering about this story, but that’s not the point: it’s done a good job portraying the everyday and mundane, with all the little childhood firsts sprinkled in. And certainly the only anime I can think of where a guy’s aunt is so much younger than him, he could easily be her father.


Rating: 3.5

Usagi Drop 10

The days get chillier, and Rin gets sick with fever for the first time under Daikichi’s care, catching a stomach virus that kicks her ass. The ordeal scares the crap out of him, but Hitani is there to help him keep his cool and nurse Rin back to health. With so much proximity, the two parent-and-child pairs are starting to rely on each other more and more, making the group even more closely resemble a family.

When I was a kid, getting sick just plain sucked; enough that you can bet I didn’t care how my parents felt. In fact, I remember them staying calm most of the time, and I can recall several occasions when I thought I was getting sick but they assured me I either wasn’t or it wasn’t that bad. Of course, when I was Rin’s age, I’ll bet they were just as doting (and the same nervous wrecks) Daikichi and Hitani are here.

He knows she’ll get better; that these things happen, but there are often moments when he seems to despair. Hitani is right there to advise him though, having dealt with this kind of thing with Kouki. She proves to be an incredibly caring woman here, and it speaks volumes about how close she and Daikichi are that she knows she can show up without warning and help out. These events only reinforce my prediction that they’ll grow closer still.


Rating: 3.5