The Rising of the Shield Hero S2 – 13 (Fin) – Cast Away Memories

Shield Hero comes to the end of this second season not quite sure what to do, so it dredges up a few little vignettes from the past, in the context of the characters having little “remember when” moments. It’s odd; it has the feel of a recap since there’s absolutely no forward movement to the plot, but since we never saw the scenes, it’s more of the kind of bonus episode you’d get with a Blu-Ray box set.

The Shield Hero completionist is then honor-bound to sit through a scene of the girls dressing Lil’ Raphtalia and themselves up in various costumes to get to the emotional scraps meat on the bone of this episode: actually watching Kizuna’s descent into ennui, suicidal thoughts, and then acceptance of her plight and making the most of it thanks to the Shield Hero version of Wilson the volleyball from to 2000 film Cast Away.

Kizuna regales that story to Yomogi, who then recalls her last fun moment with Kyou, when he trashed his lab looking for glasses that were on his face all along. This kinda clangs on the ground because as close as Yomogi once was to the guy, Kyou’s a villain and irredeemable jackass. Thankfully we didn’t flash back to that scene or have to see his punchable face.

Finally, Rishia and Raphtalia recall the time Ost taught them about sex, and while Raph had no idea what she was talking about, Filo understood the concept of mating right away. Back in the present, Naofumi, Raph, Filo, and Rishia stop on a promontory to release a bouquet of flowers in honor of Ost, and Ost’s force ghost shows up to wave farewell to Naofumi.

Anime News Network’s reviewer for this show often skewered it more than I, but they were right in one regard where they thought they were mistaken: the 12th episode was the last episode. This was just an epilogue, and while it had some cute moments, it didn’t justify the title of 13th episode.

Akebi’s Sailor Uniform – 10 – Cheers for Fears

Akebi arrives at class in her new summer sailor fuku and is once again a sensation, but the other girls also have their summer unis to show off. They only lament that they just made the switch, but most of the day they’ll be in their P.E. uniforms, practicing for the athletics festival.

After Nawashiro teaches Akebi, Tanigawa, and Kamimoku how to make pompoms, the cheer squad can start practicing their cheers in earnest. The only problem is, none of them, including Akebi, really know all that much about cheering. Tougeguchi, who is in the table tennis club, has to teach Akebi basic choreography.

While Akebi flits hither and thither, cheering on the various other clubs, Erika finds a tennis partner in Shijou, whose body has developed faster than most girls her age and has thus left her with something of a complex about that. While she has experience playing tennis, all of it came before these changes, so she can’t quite find a rhythm on the court.

Not to fret: Erika offers Shijou some calming black tea, while Akebi takes her by the hand and has her do some cheer practice to loosen up a bit. Shijou only ends up in this unplanned situation because she became fixated on Akebi’s slender midriff and absent-mindedly poked her navel while saying “must be nice”. Akebi, bless her heart, assumed cheering was “what must be nice.”.

With Tanigawa recording their practice, Akebi finds areas to improve, while Shijou sees how stiff and restricted her movements are. But rather than give up, she pulls up her sleeves, ties off her shirt, and gets back to it, feeding off of Akebi’s boundless stores of exuberance. She even assists Akebi with a more advanced lift. Despite her initial misgivings, seeing Akebi give it all makes her want to give her all.

The cheering also reminded Shijou why she loved tennis to begin with: because it gives one the chance to look really cool. And indeed, Akebi’s Sailor Uniform animates Shijou’s powerful serve with all the camera angles and slow-motion of a superhero pulling off a special move. In essence, Shijou got her groove back!

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Akebi’s Sailor Uniform – 01 (First Impressions) – Clothes Maketh Girl

From the opening moments that linger on rice paddies shimmering in the sunlight, Akebi-chan no Sailor-fuku makes it clear it is not fuckin’ around in the animation department. It also establishes right from the get-go that our heroine, Akebi Komichi, has got the moves, running across the countryside and pulling off near-perfect gymnastic moves that reminded me of the famously spry Kinomoto Sakura.

That’s not the only thing that reminded me of the Cardcaptor. Like Sakura’s show, Akebi places family, and familial love, at the forefront. Amazingly, both of Komichi’s parents are living and while her father is away for work, he makes sure to congratulate his daughter’s acceptance to the private middle school of choice, the illustrious Roubai Academy.

Komichi’s dream was to attend school in a lovely sailor fuku, and so her mom, who also attended Roubai, takes it upon herself to maker her one, from scratch. I appreciated the episode taking its time and sweating the details when it came to the making of the uniform, from choosing the cloth to preparing the tacking.

The episode also takes care to show that while Komichi’s little sister Kaois proud of her for getting into such a fancy school, she’s also sad that they won’t get to attend the same little country school anymore.

In a touching bath scene that’s brimming with sisterly love, Komichi tells Kao that she’s nervous too, especially about getting alone with the rich Tokyo girls at the school. Kao then turns around and assures her big sis she won’t have any trouble making friends, because she’s really cool.

The day the sailor fuku is completed, it feels like a combination of  Christmas morning, a wedding day, and the dawn before a battle. Komichi carefully puts on the brand new uni like she’s donning armor, and when she shows the completed look off to her mom and sister, they’re struck by the sheer beauty of it.

Alas…it’s the wrong uniform!

Komichi doesn’t learn until she arrives at Roubai for the opening ceremony and find all the other girls in charcoal blazers. Turns out that while her mom and her classmates wore sailor fukus in her day, the academy has since revamped their uniforms.

That said, the headmistress remembers Komichi telling them at her interview that it was her dream to wear the fuku, and since it is still technically Roubai issue, and Komichi’s mom put so much love into it, she decides to allow Komichi to wear it…if she so chooses.

Choosing to do so means standing out far more than she thought, and combined with her “simple country girl” background, could potentially make things that more difficult for her socially. Komichi is crestfallen upon coming home, but Kao has zero tolerance for her pity party, and gives her big sis a big ol’ spank on her bum, as if to say Snap out of your funk this instant…you’re cooler than this!

The next morning, Komichi leaves for her first day super-early, but not too early that Kao isn’t awake to see her big sis chose to keep wearing the uniform their mom made for her. She’s going to rely on “confidence and a smile” to make friends, whether her clothes match theirs or not.

When she arrives at school (after running through several gorgeous painterly scenes of her idyllic, almost Kincaid-ian setting), she finds she’s almost the first person there. The first person there is Kizaku Erika, who is introduced very carefully clipping her toenails at her desk…and then smelling the clippers. What does Komichi do to break the ice? Why, smell her own feet, of course!

That gesture, earnest and not at all mocking, helps save what could have been a disastrous first meeting. Komichi learns that Erika was so nervous about her first day she couldn’t sleep and arrived way too early, and is comforted to know she wasn’t alone in her nervousness.

The two take their assigned seats right next to each other, having calmed each other down. And at seat number one, Komichi is positioned to greet everyone else who enters. I suspect she’ll have no trouble making more friends.

As I said in the first ‘graph, CloverWorks really outdid themselves; this is a surpassingly beautiful episode of anime, so much so that my main concern is whether they can keep up this level of quality for an entire cour. Murakami Manatsu is another great new voice as Komichi, while vets Kuno Misaki and Hana-Kana anchor the fam as her sister and mom. In all, a very impressive opening salvo to a gentle, heartwarming slice-of-life.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Mieruko-chan – 02 – Wrong Line

This week’s Mieruko-chan starts with Miko and Hana changing. Hana overhears other girls talking about a TV show featuring a severed head, and is scared there might be a head in her locker. Miko checks, and it looks clear…until she looks up at the top shelf, where there’s a severed ghost head only she can see. It’s all she can do not to react to it.

In the next segment Miko has to watch in horror as her airheaded friend Hana is slowly enveloped by pervy ghost limbs she can neither see nor feel. They don’t seem to be hurting Hana, but Miko still tries to get them off of her, even going so far as to douse Hana’s blouse in hand sanitizer. Ultimately, the ghoul shifts to their buxom teacher, spurning the slighter-chested Miko.

The next segment is a quick one involving a long line for half-off donuts. Miko, distracted by the menu on her phone, steps into what she thinks is the right line, but it’s actually a line of dead people waiting to get devoured by a larger ghoul. Hana grabs her and puts her in the right line. Miko is eternally grateful.

In the most heartwarming segment of the series yet, Miko and Hana find an abandoned kitten in a box on the street, but both live where pets aren’t allowed, so they put an announcement on social media. The handsome young man who responds is rejected by Miko, since he’s surrounded by what look like evil cat spirits and God knows what else.

Rather, it’s the huge, super-scary looking yakuza who gets the kitten. He may look scarier than the handsome guy to Hana, but Miko can see good cat spirits on the yakuza’s shoulders. After the credits they’re joined by the spirit of his dearly departed loved one.

The World’s Finest Assassin – 01 (First Impressions) – One Last Job

From it’s bold, brash OP, TWFS has the confident swagger of a James Bond film, placing us right in the middle of a highly distasteful Rich Guy Girl Auction, run by the diabolical Lady Collide. Little does she know that two of her lots are undercover magical assassins, who make it a point to kill every last dusty pedo in the joint. It’s stylish fantasy pulp, and the action and teamwork keeps me interested…

…But then the story takes a 90-degree turn off to an entirely different world—our own. There, an elite but grizzled assassin is on One Last Job that he completes to the letter, not hearing a word of his young apprentice’s desire to be a hero of justice and kill all the mafia guys. This guy may be old, but he’s still sharp as a diamond-cutter, as he demonstrates again and again that his student has indeed much to still learn.

But between an unexpected drone/car chase and the presence of the relative newbie, “Allen Smith” is sufficiently thrown off his game enough to board a commercial airliner not thinking the “Organization” who raised him would kill everyone on that plane to assassinate him. That’s just what goes down, and the sardonic assassin can only chortle and admire the “marvelous coffin” his employers arranged for him

But when he dies and ends up in a deep ocean of darkness (naked, thus balancing out the fanservice quota somewhat) all he feels is bitter frustration. He was prepared to end his career as an assassin, but wasn’t done training others.

Fortunately for him it’s not the end: an aloof and somewhat eccentric goddess (Tamura Yukari) plucks him out of oblivion and prepares to drop him into a world of swords and sorcery. She’s got a new job for him, which provides a great hook for the second episode: assassinate the hero of that world. After the baffling choices and disappointing visuals of The Detective is Already Dead, I’m game for something like this.

Mieruko-chan – 01 (First Impressions) – I Don’t See Dead People

Mieruko-chan’s premiere featured, by my count, twenty shots of fanservice: two busts, two butts, and twelve legs/thighs. I won’t say they didn’t distract me, but not in a necessarily bad way. This is a show that is very good at building up tension and then releasing it, and in creating patterns that lull us into a sense of security. Those shots are part of that.

The premise is wonderfully, beautifully simple: Yotsuya Miko can see ghosts and ghouls, but tries to act like she can’t. She doesn’t do this out of genuine indifference; she is actually very afraid of them, just as I’m sure I would be. She’s just worried that letting them know she can see them will only make things worse. It probably would!

Throughout the episode, Miko goes through things no one wants to go through, and reacts the way you’d expect someone to react. This makes her very relatable, as well as someone to admire. I can only hope I wouldn’t just scream my goddamn lungs out if one of these creepy ghouls suddenly crept into my vision or invaded my personal space.

Other than ghosts, Miko’s life consists of her busty best friend Miko, a third girl who is aloof this week but looks to become another friend, and her little brother. But mostly ghosts. Studio Passione takes a simple premise and really goes out with the execution, featuring suitably creepy ghosts designs that are thankfully CGI-minimal, crisp, clean character designs, and if the fanservice is frequent and in-your-face, at least it’s competently done. Overall a good, spooky start, just in time for October!

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Mother of the Goddess’ Dormitory – 01 (First Impressions) – Undress of Grievances

Nagumo Koushi is a 12-year-old sixth grader who is abandoned by his father after their house burns down. He’s wandering the streets starving to death when a green-haired beauty takes pity on him and welcomes him into her college dorm, which is full of beauties, almost none of whom have any qualms about waltzing around with nothing or next to nothing on.

This is a notorious “problem dorm”, which means these college students are generally ostracized by their peers. I can’t really blame them, considering some of their conduct with a 12-year-old kid. I’ll never be too old for anime, but I believe I have gotten too old for this particular brand of nonsense.

It’s a shame, because a lot of the fanservice and voice work is pretty well done, and there are moments of actual emotional resonance…but yeah, I’m just not feeling this one.

Don’t Toy with Me, Miss Nagatoro – 06 – RPG Dreams and Triple Teams

Naoto wakes up in a heavenlike place, assigned a mage’s staff, and before he knows it he’s falling from the sky into a fantasy RPG world, complete with Nagatoro in skantily-dressed catgirl cosplay.

He manages to protect her from the fire breath of a dragon (who turns out to be Gamo-chan) and Nekotoro rewards him with a peck on the cheek—which would be his first kiss, were this not obviously a dream.

Because it was only a matter of time before things took a turn when Gamo and Yosshi showed up, the four arrive at the Demon Lord’s castle, where the three girls change into even skimpier outfits and reveal that collectively they are the Demon Lord.

They prepare to make him their toy, and he wakes up screaming…in the middle of the family restaurant, just as Nagatoro and her friends spot him. He quickly flees, but leaves behind his sketchbook…full of drawings of Nekotoro, which Nagatoro is surely secretly happy about.

In the next segment, Naoto is simply relaing in the miracle of air conditioning when he gets a call from Nagatoro—that’s right, a phone call—urging him to join her at the beach. When he meets up, he learns Gamo-chan and Yosshi are also in attendance, which serves as some nice symmetry to his RPG dream.

When they arrive, Gamo does what anyone who arrives at a beach would do: take off her shirt and shorts to reveal her black string bikini. When she notices Paisen gawking, she makes it a point to flaunt her bod, and Yosshi joins in with her frilly pink bikini.

Not to be outdone, Nagatoro removes her oversized undershirt to reveal her black-bordered white bikini…as well as her swim club tan lines. That’s right: no one-piece school swimsuits among these cool girls. Naoto retreats to buy the girls drinks.

Nagatoro, Gamo and Yosshi go swimming in the ocean, but Naoto remains under the beach umbrella sketching, worried about sunburn. Nagatoro engages him, offering to apply sunblock to her Senpai … “gently.” When he says that’s something only people dating should do—and he and her aren’t that—Nagatoro is clearly hurt.

She dispenses swift punishment, in the form of liberally squirting sunblock on Naoto, then rubbing it into his back…with her foot. As she does so, she starts to smirk and blush, and Naoto blushes too, indicating this is something both of them are into.

But when Yosshi puts her foot on Naoto as well, observing that it looked liked fun, Nagatoro makes clear she’s not having fun; she is doing her duty as a domme, putting her sub in his place for putting distance between them.

Gamo also joins in, which means Naoto has three beautiful girls pushing him into the sand with their feet. Once he’s sufficiently sunblocked, Nagatoro takes the lead in pushing him towards the water.

While Naoto is not the strongest swimmer, he’d buoyed—literally—by the fact that it’s easier to float in salt water. He, Nagatoro, Gamo and Yosshi proceed to have a blast swimming and splashing in the ocean and then having ramen at the seaside cafe.

That night, when Naoto is back home, Nagatoro calls him to ask if he had fun, and Naoto admits that he did. Of course he did! Not only did three drop-dead gorgeous girls deign to spend time with him and sully their feet so that he wouldn’t suffer sunburn; he also managed to sketch Nagatoro in a moment of pure joy. Thus his summer was not wasted.

Naoto and Hayase may not be “dating” per se, but it’s made abundantly clear by both his dream and the beach trip that the pair are good friends who enjoy hanging out, and her friends have fully accepted him as someone she genuinely cares about. Sure, they can go overboard in messing with him, but at the end of the day they enjoyed his company and he enjoyed theirs.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Episode 6 “Senpai” Count: 29 (+6 “Paisens”)
Total: 227

SSSS.Dynazenon – 05 – Hurry Up, But Don’t Run

Chise is honing her piloting skills while suggesting Yomogi and Koyomi combine Soldier and Striker, which turns out to be too top-heavy. There isn’t time for further training, as everyone has plans. Yomogi accompanies Yume to the next choral alumnus, who shows them video of Kano. Yomogi is glad to be by her side, but as she investigates her sister, he’s more intent on learning more about her.

Koyomi takes Inamoto up on her offer to have a drink together, even if he’s weary of drinking with a married woman. She doesn’t seem to see the harm, but she’s clearly always been less inhibited, as evidenced by a flashback from the two in middle school with Inamoto making Koyomi promise not to tell anyone about the window she broke, before offering to show him…something.

After their meet-up, Chise is there to warn Koyomi about past women, and informs him and everyone else that she won tickets to a water park. Yomogi had just been thinking about trying to maybe ask Yume out on a date, so Chise inadvertently does Yomogi a solid here. Thus begins Dynazenon’s pool / beach episode, with Gauma having the ulterior motive of capturing Shizumu.

This means more skin, as well as the opportunity to shed inhibitions, but Yume takes a long look at the black sleeve Chise keeps on her arm, perhaps wondering if Chise is hiding the marks of self-harm. Once everyone is in their swimsuits, Gauma urges Yomogi and Yume to pretend to be lovers, and even at first when she’s munching on a churro and he’s not sure what to do or say, they really do pull it off! It’s not always non-stop excitement for couples, after all.

Once she has some food in her stomach, Yume cuts loose as Yomogi and Shizumi keep her company. There’s a particularly sweet moment when Yomogi grasps Yume’s inner tube to keep them close in the wave pool.

But Yume’s mood sours when she hears a surprised woman scream after her boyfriend accidentally knocks her into the water. Dark images of her sister’s fate flash in her eyes, and she just can’t continue the fun.

That’s fine with Yomogi, who stays with her as she recovers in a kind of calming grotto. He’s not sure quite what she’s feeling, but knows it’s not the best, and simply wants to be there for her. Shizumu also turns up there, unfazed by Gauma’s half-assed attempts to grab him.

He asks Yomogi if he and Yume are dating, then mentions he considers it “sad” that people seek freedom by “constraining themselves” with labels like dating, influencing and being influcence by others. None of that sounds that bad to Yomogi, however.

Unfortunately, there’s a kaiju on the way, and it’s Shizumu’s turn to pilot. Amusingly, his comrade Mujina would prefer to just stay at the water park; naturally the Eugenicists are also in their swimsuits. This new kaiju can melt metal, and also has a nasty laser beam that threatens Yume’s Dyna Wing.

With Chise joining Yomogi in Soldier, they combine with Koyomi to form Soldier Striker, then everyone eventually merges into Dyna Rex and blast the shit out of the kaiju.

I loved the souped-up Inky-from-Pac-Man look of this week’s kaiju, and the fact he can flip upside down into a more menacing form. But as with previous battles, the Dyna Team doesn’t really run into that many problems, while Shizumu isn’t that miffed about losing, and joins the other Eugenicists at the water park.

After the battle, Yume thanks Yomogi for “back there”, which I took to mean him being there for her in the grotto when she was feeling blue, not just dealing with the green laser attacks. I love all these little interactions between the two, punctuated as they are with little silences.

But before she can join the others in diving off the cliff into the water, she gets another message from Kano’s club-mate saying he’s gotten ahold of Fuuma, the club president. Yume and Yomogi meet with Fuuma, who starts off with something that’s hard to say, especially with Kano’s sister present: there’s a rumor that what happened to Kano wasn’t an accident, but suicide.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

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