Urusei Yatsura – 07 – Pochi’s Odyssey

This week’s UY further expands its world, though not with more foxy alien chicks. Combining a pool episode with a beach episode, it introduces a lonely little demon living underwater who suddenly has a visitor. He happens to live at the bottom of the pool where Ataru, Lum, Shinobu and Mendou pay a visit. Since Lum’s default outfit is a bikini, it makes sense she’d pick a one-piece, while Shinobu opts for a bolder two-piece.

Even so, Mendou ignores her in favor of Lum’s new look, while both he and Ataru are distracted by Sakura in an even sultrier one-piece. When Ataru lunges at her, she rightfully pops him, and he ends up sinking to the pool’s bottom where the little demon guy lives. While Shinobu asks about Sakura’s fancy parfait, Lum is legit concerned about Ataru, who tags out when she arrives so he can surface for air.

After eating roughly a hundred parfaits, Sakura joins Mendou and Cherry in following Ataru, who swears there’s a freaky demon thing underwater. But when they reach his “home”, he’s surfaced to procure (read: steal) more snacks for his guests. Lum tags everyone to surface.

Eventually, everyone is back above water, studying the weird little guy. After all the commotion he caused making customers flee (his dad owns the pool) Mendou demands that the guy vacate the premises immediately. The others, feeling this was a bit harsh, wish the guy well as he departs, only for Ataru to find him having relocated to his family’s bathtub.

The conundrum of What To Do About The Weird Little Blue Guy continues in the second segment, and that question is answered immediately by Ataru’s mom, who asks him and Lum to take the guy to the beach and leave him there, since he’s been in their tub for a month.

Like the pool, Shinobu’s in a bikini and Lum’s in a one piece, but they’re different prints from the previous swimsuits they wore, which is a nice touch. Sakura also shows off her ability to eat massive quantities of food, but this time she’s with her fiancé Tsubame.

When Ataru tries to take the pool demon somewhere secluded, that happens to be the same spot where Sakura and Tsubame end up to be alone together. This results in Ataru, the pool demon, Mendou, Shinobu, and Lum all watching intently as the couple draw closer into a kiss that’s sadly broken up by the pool demon walking up to point-blank range to stare at them.

He apologizes to Ataru, Lum, Shinobu, and Mendou by throwing a goodbye picnic, offering food he’d procured/stolen from around the beach. Everyone eats, but they can’t be merry with the guy constantly bringing up the fact that they’re leaving him there all alone.

Throughout the background of this segment, there’s a very sweet and wholesome little vignette of a gentle little boy taking his beloved pet Pochi to the beach because he can’t keep it anymore. When all his most treasured moments with Pochi (who is never shown) flash before the boy’s eyes, he suddenly can’t go through with it anymore.

The boy races back to the beach, sees Ataru with a cardboard box, and snatches it up, thinking it’s the cardboard box containing Pochi that he left of the beach when it’s actually a second box into which Ataru put the pool demon.

Shinobu discovers the boy’s box, and opens it to reveal that “Pochi” is just Cherry. The kid had been spending all this time with (and feeding) Sakura’s uncle like he was a pet. That’s a great-ass punchline right there. No sooner do Ataru and Lum return home than they receive a postcard from the pool demon—who now goes by Pochi—saying he’s found a great new home and life with the kind boy. All’s well that ends well!

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Love Flops Dropped

The third and final episode of Love Flops I watched focused on Amelia Irving, who starts the episode under Asahi’s covers trying to put his toeprints on a wedding license. Why yes, she’s not wearing pants. Her obsessively hypercompetitive personality hits a snag when a kanji test looms. She starts to learn, but only the symbols she finds in pornographic literature. Asahi helps tutor her, and her test scores improve drastically.

While Amelia is the most interesting character by dint of having an episode centered around her, and I heart her seiyu Taketatsu Ayana always and forever (and appreciate that she needs to pay the bills), I’m content with just three episodes of this mostly dumb mess and calling it a day. If I need tutoring rom-com, I’ll wait for We Never Learn S3.

Love Flops – 02 – Menage a Cinq

Asahi is so distracted by Aoi’s, er, display, he completely misinterprets her confession to him as a confession to going commando. When she asks him what he thinks and he says he might give it a try and isn’t one to judge others for their preferences, Aoi gets embarrassed and runs off. Not five minutes later Ilya confesses to him, Mongfa runs off and gives him hickeys when two men in black come by, and both Karin and Amelia try to ambush him with a spontaneous wedding.

After a day of absolute madness, Asahi is glad to be home…only to find it full of the mad ones. There they are, all lined up to welcome him home as if they were his five wives. His annoying robot plays a message from his father, who arranged all of this and is hoping Asahi ends up picking one of the girls (or the guy) to marry for real.

The audacity of having his house doubled in size in the few hours he was away from it is weird enough, but now we learn that his dad is undoubtedly someone of considerable means. We also learn that all five of his would-be brides (and one groom) are way too enthusiastic about asserting themselves.

They’re all over him and won’t leave him alone, and while this is clearly a fantasy for some, the episode does a good job heightening the sheer anxiety of dealing with five caffeinated wannabe waifus in a relatively small space. When Asahi escapes to the quiet blue night, it’s as much a relief for me as him!

Aoi ends up finding him at a shrine, and tells him how all of them are simply excited to finally meet their potential future husband, and it resulted in them being a little too overeager to please. With her gentle touch she’s able to convince him to come home and give this thing a try, while she and the others will “do their utmost” to tone it down a bit. Somehow I doubt that!

With that, Asahi’s wacky new home life begins. I’m honestly still not sure what to make of this, and will take at least one more episode to determine if it’s something I’ll watch to the end. So far it’s like train wreck from which I can’t quite look away!

Love Flops – 01 (First Impressions) – Five Uneasy Pieces

Kashiwagi Asahi lives in a spacious apartment with an AI assistant Lovelin (Nanachi again), and while listening to the morning news, his birthday of October 8 (just four days ago!) happens to be the luckiest for today. The mysterious fortune teller then lists off a series of “lucky words” that don’t make any sense until he starts his commute to school.

The first word, corner, refers to a rushing girl with purple hair and glasses colliding with  him when they meet at a blind corner. They end up in a risqué position, but he promises he didn’t “see anything” as a result of that position, and they part ways relatively amicably.

Then comes train, when he boards a completely empty car only for a busty green-haired woman in a chinese dress sits right next to him, falls asleep, clings to him, then nearly kicks his head off when he starts her awake.

The next “lucky” word is staircase, when a third beautiful girl stumbles down a flight of steps and she’s launched crotch-first into Asahi’s face. She mistakes the plastic banana holder in his pocket for being happy to see her, and smacks it before running off. So far, Asahi can hardly be blamed for these situations.

Next up is robotic cleaner, when he encounters said robot cleaner in a park trying to dispose of a diminutive redhead’s bra, then the girl herself. This girl accuses Asahi of hacking the robot into stealing her unmentionables. It then chases her away.

Next up is dog, as a silver-haired fellow is being humped by a very big and assertive pooch. To this, Asahi turns about and pretends not to see what is going on, rather than attempt to save the waifish lad and incur the dog’s wrath. It isn’t until he arrives in his newly reorganized class that Asahi learns that everyone he encountered is in his class.

The purple-haired girl with glasses is Izumisawa Aoi (Itou Miku), a transfer student; he short-haired girl is Karin Istel (Kouno Marika), from Germany;  the redhead is Amelia Irving (Taketatsu Ayana) from the USA; the silver-haired boy is Ilya Ilyukhin (Takahashi Rie) from Bulgaria; and the green-haired well-endowed lady from the train is his new teacher, Bai Mongfa, from China (Kanemoto Hisako).

Asahi can’t believe his rotten luck, even as he learns what the last lucky word, letter, referred to a love letter in his locker inviting him to meet after school. His contractually assigned friend Ijuuin Yoshio assures him he’s hit the jackpot; he has the pick of these three beautiful girls, one beautiful woman, and one beautiful guy. I’ll give Yoshio this: he’s refreshingly progressive!

As the rest of the episode unfolds, Asahi has second encounters with each of these potential suitors, in which he attempts to correct the misunderstandings that occurred in their first meetings. He and Aoi almost collide around a corner again, but don’t. Alas, when he fishes through his pockets for what he believed to be her dropped handkerchief, he instead produces Amelia’s bra, scandalizing Aoi and earning him a slap.

This encounter makes him late to order lunch, and there’s nothing left for sale, but he’s not alone; Karin was also too late, and is clearly very hungry. Because Asahi’s a decent guy, he offers her the banana he brought for lunch (this guy really likes bananas, having toasted one for breakfast), while also pointing out that its holder was what she mistook for his manhood. She meekly thanks him for the food.

Asahi then gets another chance to rescue Ilya from becoming unmarriable all over again, albeit not necessarily by choice. Ilya hides behind him, and the randy dog  targets him, even managing to somehow get his pants off. Asahi blacks out, but when he comes to, it’s looking up at a very grateful Ilya.

The dog also managed to bite him, which would normally mean he should probably get tested and treated for rabies, but since this is a goofy anime some alcohol and spray-on bandage will suffice. He receives this treatment from Mongfa-sensei, who doubles as school nurse, and apologizes for their earlier awkward interaction.

No sooner does she leave than Amelia Irving arrives with a very specific ailment: chafing in the chestal area. Fortunately for her, Asahi saved her bra from the trash robot. He returns it to her, and she apologizes for jumping to the earlier conclusion that he hacked the robot, having later realized that was…unlikely.

Having repaired four of the five new relationships he’s built on this most auspicious day, all that’s left is checking out what the final lucky word letter portends. Responding to the love letter, he arrives at a giant blossoming cherry tree he doesn’t remember being there (he has several memory gaps in this episode, though it’s never explained).

There, waiting for him, is none other than the first girl he ran into, Aoi. She’s there to confess her love to him, but because it’s so breezy, her skirt flips up and reveals to him that she’s been going commando ever since their first encounter. The item she dropped was not a handkerchief, but side-tying underwear. For once, Asahi is lucky here, as Aoi doesn’t realize what the wind is doing and the moment isn’t spoiled.

Love Flops thus introduces its lead and his harem of potential girlfriends by resorting to all of the shameless, risqué, fanservice-y clichés but the Bluetooth-enabled kitchen sink. While at times it seems like a very over-the-top satire of harem rom-coms, the fact that it may actually be a genuine and un-ironic contribution to the form almost makes it more amazing. It’s pure tasteless trash … and yet I couldn’t look away.

Call of the Night – 10 – Arisa in Selfieland

Last week was a Seri episode, and from the first scene it looks like this one’s going to be a Kohakobe Midori one. Midori’s in a bind: one of her co-workers at the maid café called out, so she needs someone cute who won’t hit it off with guys and threaten her “Number One” position among the maids.

Naturally, just that person crosses her path in Nazuna. And while Nazuna looks predictably killer in her maid uniform, her way of speaking and the way she carries herself leave much to be desired. It’s nothing like the polished-yet-unembellished grace and cuteness of Midori, causing Ikari Gendo-like reactions in one of her regulars.

Why this isn’t strictly a Midori-centric episode, however, comes down to the maid serving Kou. It’s neither Midori nor Nazuna, but Arisa, who is bright, cheerful, but also quite down-to-earth and earnest, saying she was once the café’s Number One before Midori showed up, but she lauds Midori as amazing. She also notes how even when she’s off she loves to visit other maid cafés to visit her favorite maids.

After closing Midori prepares to take some selfies with her and Nazuna for the café’s social media, and discovers peeping tom photos of the maids have been posted. Midori asks Kou if he’ll investigate and he agrees, always eager to please (even if she’s still a firm “no” for him romantically speaking). While inspecting the photos, all of which are of Arisa, Kou is startled by the sudden appearance of Arisa behind him.

This episode shows that once Kou says he’ll do something for someone, he really hunkers down and gives it his all, meticulously inspecting the photos and determining most were taken in the break room, then lining up the angles where a tom could snap secret pics. I love how he has Nazuna “give him a hand” by flying him up to the otherwise inaccessable balcony.

When Nazuna remarks that only a vampire could come up here to snap pics, and thus Midori must be the culprit, Kou has her pose as a stand-in for Arisa in a test photo…and since it was taken quickly and Nazuna wasn’t quite ready, it’s an awful photo of her. That’s when the light bulb goes off for Kou.

While his confidence that he’s cracked the case plummets with every word out of his mouth, he tests his working hypothesis by staking out the break room from a locker, where he ends up stuffed in with Midori since only one locker is unlocked. There, he tells her all the photos were taken after hours, when Arisa was alone, with no other staff or customers around.

Then they watch through the little locker slot as Arisa sets up a selfie stand at the window, and Kou busts out of the locker. Arisa is caught red-handed. When asked how Kou knew, he says simply that the photos were too nice; too much care was put into their composition and lighting; nothing like the quick and often blurry shots an actual peeping tom might take.

He also notes the lack of truly scandalous shots showing underwear. Sure, he’s incriminating himself as a guy here, but all in the service of justice, so he swallows his pride. But while his male gaze and male perspective helped him pick Arisa, his blind spot is the “why”.

But Midori knows why: Arisa, supplanted as Number One, sought recognition; the means to show she was still popular. But while Midori initially sounds cruel, even calling it an “illness”, Midori says all humans have one such illness or another (like Kou skipping school and staying out late), but it’s okay to be ill.

For one thing, it’s okay because at the end of the day, Kou makes a new friend in Arisa, who stops by the café when she’s not working, both to see her favorite maid (Midori) and to chat with him. Arisa admits to being so obsessed with selfies she’s spent an entire day seeking the perfect shot.

In the back of her mind, she always thought there was something wrong with that, so it was nice for someone (Midori) to say it wasn’t. Call it a vampire’s perspective. She caps off the episode on a heartwarming note, with a group selfie of her, Kou, Nazuna and Midori.

Both Oozora Naomi and Oonishi Saori do yeoman’s work as the voices of Midori and Arisa, respectively, as Arisa shows Kou that there are all kinds of people who go against the grain as he does. I appreciated that things never got catty, but that Midori understood and accepted why Arisa was doing what she did without judgment.

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.

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