Grand Blue – 01 (First Impressions) – Learning to Swim

Kitahara Iori moves back to the seaside town of Izu where he grew up in order to attend university. He’ll be living with his uncle, who runs the Grand Blue Diving Shop. Upon entering, Iori is met with a scene he never thought he’d see: a huge group of naked burly guys playing rock-paper-scissors.

Iori flees the site, but is quickly caught by two of the dudes, and learns they’re juniors at Izu University, making them his senpais. They were playing a game to determine who would fill their scuba tanks; they’re in a diving club and want to recruit Iori, who declines as he can’t swim.

Iori won’t just be living with his uncle, but his two female cousins as well, Nanaka and Chisa, both of whom have grown quite beautiful in the ten years since he’s seen them. There’s a particular aura around Chisa that suggests she’s looking forward to seeing Iori, or at the very least will give him a chance.

Iori blows that chance without even realizing he had one, because just as he walked in to a debaucherous display, so too does she, with him at its center, half-naked, drinking, shouting, and generally acting a damn fool (i.e., a college freshman). His attempt to smooth things over fails specatularly; Chisa’s first impression of him is that anything he touches must be thrown away.

His senpais Shinji and Ryuu demand he party with them that night, assuring him they’ll get him to orientation on-time. They do, but with two caveats: he’s hungover six ways from Sunday, and he’s in nothing but his boxers. That is how the whole of his freshman class meets him.

Iori has been swept up in the waves of college life, and it feels like his seniors are giving him a “swimming” lesson of sorts. The only way to learn is to jump in and start paddling, but Iori’s attempts to do so only invite more scorn, not just from Chisa, but from a hot blonde guy named Imamura Kouhei, who wears a t-shirt declaring his otaku-ism.

He also gets plenty of attention from the cops for continuing to ask people for their clothes. He finally gets a shirt by recruiting Kouhei to the Diving Club, which is called “Peek-a-Boo.”

Iori is inevitably thrown into more situations of cavorting and heavy drinking, and both he and Kouhei prove ill-equipped to resist the temptation to overdo things. To be fair, the peer pressure to drink as much strong liquor as possible is extremely high…though we see that Chisa is able to sip responsibly and stay above the fray.

The morning after their latest college party experience (involving a staring contest in which one person tries to get the other to spray their drink) both Iori and Kouhei arrive at class in their underwear. Clearly more swimming lessons will be needed…but despite Iori’s insistence the Diving Club is not for him….c’maaahn. You know that cat’s joining.

Grand Blue looks great and is a lot of fun, effectively capturing the raw energy and abandon of early adulthood. Those who have attended college know that it isn’t just about studies, but the experience; the change in one’s lifestyle to something more independent than one’s home. It’s about making a new home, and making a new family.

Most importantly, it’s about trying new things (and yes, sometimes failing and/or suffering). But as Yoda said in The Last Jedi: “The greatest teacher, failure is.”

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Citrus – 06

My first thought about Mei’s Dad showing up is Please don’t be a creep. But once it’s clear he’s not, it’s also clear what else he’s not: Mei’s strict “sensei.” Mei’s ideal of her father is who he was, not who he is or who he’ll ever be again. He chose to leave the academy and won’t go back.

That decision left Mei alone on a path she thought they’d share forever. Her father’s absence has only made things worse, as by not opening his letters she could convince herself there was still hope he’d come back to that path.

Now that Yuzu knows the score from both sides, her goal of bringing the two together has gotten a lot more complicated. Mei is so distraught and fatalistic, she seeks an easy escape in fooling around with Yuzu. Yuzu is understandably insulted and pained if Mei thinks the only way Yuzu can “accept” her and “be the one that needs” her is to submit to commiseratory sex.

After an awkward morning where Mei slips out without breakfast, Yuzu’s Mama adds another piece to the puzzle: she calls her husband a “tsundere”, able to spread education and love to kids the world over, but finds it almost cripplingly difficult to do the same with his own natural daughter. And yet, he accepts that maybe he’s just not cut out for it, and that it might be too late, and asks Yuzu to be the support Mei needs in his stead.

While attempting to ascertain what Mei needs and how to support her, Yuzu gets some very welcome emotional and logistical support from Harumin, who strikes about the right balance between being almost too perfectly helpful and being a character in her own right.

When Yuzu gets word from Mama that Papa is leaving for abroad in less than two hours, Harumin takes Yuzu to school on her bike so she can find Mei, not wanting her dad to leave with things the way they are.

When they just miss each other in the chairman’s office, Yuzu hijacks the P.A. system to get a message to Mei: that she’s done a good job; that she shouldn’t blame herself anymore; that she’s pushed herself enough for someone else’s sake.

Yuzu snatches up Mei and they race to the station, which Mei thinks is another example of Yuzu acting without thinking. But Yuzu has thought about it a lot, and this is what she’s decided to do: cultivate a situation in which Mei is able to let go of “sensei”, embrace her father for who he is, choose her own path, and move forward.

They get to the station right on time to catch Mei’s dad. After they share some words, they have a cordial goodbye, and Mei actually calls him “father” for once. It’s certainly a bittersweet moment, but it also must be exciting and relieving for her; she really will inherit the academy, because it’s what she has decided to do.

That night, she opens and reads all of her father’s letters to her with Yuzu by her side. Yuzu is so relieved and happy that Mei has made so much progress that she can’t help but tear up a little. That, in turn, brings Mei’s face close enough to hers for a kiss, and they do kiss, but it’s not anything like any of the other kisses they’ve shared before. For one thing, neither forced it on the other.

With Mei’s daddy dilemma largely resolved, we immediately move on to this next stage in their relationship, just as Yuzu’s pink-haired, conniving, scheming, manipulative childhood friend remembers her and plans to “get back in touch”, which could well mean an attempt to ruin Yuzu’s life for her own amusement. Should be fun!

Citrus – 05

Mei has no time for Yuzu and Himeko’s little competition for her, as she’s busy with both student council duties and filling in for her grandfather, the chairman. She orders the rivals to eat lunch together instead, and neither dare disobey.

Thus starts the first of many of the kind of interactions I was hoping for between Yuzu and Himeko: ones in which they put their gloves down for a second and simply exist adjacent to one another, as they must due to their associations with Mei.

Harumin serves as a great mediator in this venture, even suggesting the three of them and Mei go to Amagi Brilliant Park (well, something like it). Both Himeko and Yuzu doubt Mei will agree, but Yuzu will give it a try.

What Yuzu does manage is to get a day alone with Mei when they’re not at school; when Yuzu lies and said Mama would also like it if she accompanies Yuzu to visit her Papa. Note that Mei probably would have refused if Yuzu hadn’t lied, but it’s a good thing she did.

At first, Yuzu treats this like her first date with Mei, and tries to “cross a line” like Himeko claims to have done, first by breathing on Mei’s ear in a packed train (at first an accident, but repeated once she notices Mei’s reaction), then licking it.

When Mei asks her what the heck is up with her, Yuzu mentions what Himeko said, and Mei sets her straight: Himeko tried to do something weird to her and she scolded her. There’s nothing between them. This really puts a spark in Yuzu’s idea of her chances.

This leads to her trying to get an indirect kiss out of Mei by having a bite of her crepe, only for Mei to have only finished it. Mei delivers revenge for the ear-licking by wiping some cream off Yuzu’s face and eating it slowly, causing Yuzu to nearly boil over.

All these sensual gestures, combined with the simple pleasure of hanging out with Mei alone, gets Yuzu all worked up; she wants to kiss Mei and shout her love from the mountaintop more than ever.

But when she’s about to ask if they can hold hands (incremental steps), Himeko pulls up in her S-Class Benz and starts attacking Yuzu.

With a cruel, icy calmness, Mei basically tells Himeko to buzz off, and beckons for Yuzu to keep going. Mei and Yuzu walk away, leaving Himeko standing there, stunned, alone, and hurt.

It’s not the first time I felt for Himeko, but I’d never felt for her more before this moment. Even Yuzu can’t help but turn back, not to gloat, but with a pained, empathetic look.

It was around the time I was thinking “when the heck are they going to meet Yuzu’s Papa” that Yuzu brings Mei to a graveyard. It never occurred to me he was deceased, as I (wrongly) assumed her mom was divorced, not widowed. Mei also seems both surprised to have been brought there, but also honored.

It’s a very solemn, touching scene when Yuzu says all the good and bad things about Mei when introducing her and Mei doesn’t challenge any of it; this isn’t the time or place. Even more touching is Yuzu’s reaction when Mei silently prays at the grave. Yuzu is about to muster the courage to say something she needs to say…but Mei beats her to it.

The letters Mei gets from her father (whom she calls “Sensei”), one of which Yuzu jokingly threatened to open? Mei has never opened any of them. She’s afraid to, because if any of them contradict her long-standing hope that he’ll come back one day and everything “will be the way it was”, she’d be crushed.

When a shaken, tearful Mei asks Yuzu if such an outcome is really possible, Yuzu says the tactful thing, even if it isn’t something she can guarantee: everything will be fine, and she’ll help her in any way she can, like a sister should. The smile Mei gives Yuzu drives the point home: Mei doesn’t need love; at least not right now. She needs family.

As Yuzu cries out of Mei’s sight, Mei seems to be laboring to maintain consciousness, and sure enough, she collapses on the stairs at school the next day, right in front of Himeko. Trying to force herself up, she runs down Himeko just as Yuzu enters earshot, and, whatever bad shape she’s in, Yuzu doesn’t let Mei’s cruelty towards Himeko go unanswered.

What she does do is order Himeko to take Mei’s place at the various meetings she meant to attend, while she takes Mei to the nurse’s office. The two drop their rivalry for Mei’s sake, because Mei has not been looking out for herself properly enough, and their childish rivalry has blinded them to the toll Mei’s overwork has taken.

In the nurse’s, there’s no makeout scene, but a scolding scene. Mei explains how driven she is to become a worthy successor to her grandfather, especially now that his health may be failing. Yuzu wonders out loud why Mei’s father doesn’t take over, and Mei, for once, agrees with Yuzu’s  “nonsense”, which she likens to a broken watch—right twice a day.

And just to bring things around, Yuzu and Himeko have a nice little scene together in which Yuzu scolds her for overwork as well, tells her to be more honest, and the two come to a kind of detente.

That detente is sealed, in a way, when while walking to school the next day, Yuzu urges Mei to go ahead when they spot Himeko. Mei apologizes for being such a bitch to her and taking her for granted, and Himeko is instantly in tears, hugging her tightly, probably telling Mei she has nothing to apologize for.

That night, Mei’s father shows up, just like that. Yuzu has no idea who he is, and gets skeeved out when he hugs her and doesn’t let go (which, yeah guy, don’t hug a girl who doesn’t know you). Mei’s reaction to seeing her father again—as well as his reaction to seeing her—tells me things aren’t going to be the same in the Aihara household…but they’re definitely not going to be boring!

In the meantime, I really enjoyed both Himeko and Yuzu’s growth in this episode, the continued casual, reliable support role Harumin plays, and how Mei and Yuzu drew closer together not in a romantic way, but as family. Most importantly, Yuzu is now consciously weighing her own desires with what is actually best for her “little sister.”

Citrus – 04

After what went down in the chairman’s office, Yuzu is now afraid to even face Mei, and so retreats to the safety of Harumin’s traditional house, where she lives with her grandmother. Harumin really shines as Yuzu’s dependable and caring friend, while professing she doesn’t mind because Yuzu is so fun to hang out with. But in the night, Yuzu is wide awake, and her mind is racing. So is Mei’s, as she lies alone back home.

Vice president Momokino Himeko is an apparent witness to Yuzu and Mei’s little tryst, and when Yuzu spots her heading her way, she bolts. When she finally stops, Himeko asks her about the chairman’s office, and Yuzu agrees to meet her outside of school to discuss it.

The meeting spot is a very hoity-toity tea room where Himeko is all dolled up like, well, a doll, and she doesn’t mince words: she wants to know what happened in that office. Himeko, you see, has known “Mei-mei” for ten years, and is her closest and most loyal and dedicated friend. She was by Mei’s side when her father left her.

Translation: she has, and has always had, the hots for Mei, big time, and Yuzu is in the effing way, and needs to eff off, though she frames it as not wanting Yuzu to continue hurting Mei. However, when Yuzu leaves the tea room and bumps into Mei by chance, Mei calls her “Yuzu” and asks when she’s returning home.

Himeko thus learns for the first time that the two are sisters and living together—everything she probably wanted and believes she deserves—and she’s devastated.

Yuzu has trouble reading Mei on their trip home (as usual) but presumes she’s not too mad, and asserts that her usual quietness is actually comforting. When Mei senses Yuzu wants some kind of closure, she kisses Yuzu back, but that one kiss is all Yuzu gets; Mei goes straight to sleep.

The next day, Himeko, feeling threatened further when Yuzu intrudes on her “commute time” with Mei, makes a drastic move, assaulting Mei in the student council office by biting her ear, groping her above and below, and kissing her.

It’s harsh, callous betrayal, reinforced by what we know of “Hime” thus far: she pretends to care about Mei, but really only cares about herself, and wants to ensure Mei remains “hers.” She reports her line-crossing to Yuzu, and when Yuzu feigns ignorance of her feelings for Mei, Himeko asks her for her blessing, calling her “onee-sama.”

Himeko may be a stickler for the rules at school, but when it comes to Mei, she’ll do ruthlessly whatever it takes to keep hold of her prize. Yuzu must either fight back or get left in the dust. There’s also the matter of protecting her emotionally vulnerable little sister from a friend who has turned predatory.

Why do I regard Himeko’s jumping of Mei so differently from Yuzu’s? Two reasons: First, Mei started this…thing with Yuzu; Mei admitted as much to Yuzu. She did no such thing with Himeko.

Second, Yuzu regrets jumping Mei, and knows it was a moment of weakness; Himeko has so far shown no remorse; only contempt for Yuzu, intense possessiveness of “Mei-mei”, and utter disregard for her feelings I’m hoping her transgressions don’t go unpunished.

Citrus – 03

Yuzu doesn’t understand why she has such a crush on Mei, just that she does, but she knows the only way to move forward is to make those feelings known. To do that, she needs to be on better terms with her, and the universe provides. When the chairman collapses in his office, the first person to find him and call an ambulance isn’t Mei, it’s Yuzu.

Mei is grateful, and lets Yuzu call her by her first name (even if she doesn’t reciprocate), and Gramps even reverses his decision to expel Yuzu. His health scare has made him re-evaluate a lot of things he’d taken hard lines on, be it the new granddaughter he never asked for in Yuzu, or the decision to make Mei live with him.

Mei then returns to Yuzu and her mom’s house, but it couldn’t come at a worse time, considering Yuzu’s feelings for her aren’t very sisterly. Yuzu seeks clarity in a yuri manga (which Harumin sees and jokingly pretends to reinact the action within its pages), while Yuzu’s mom makes things worse by buying a double bed for the sisters.

Obviously, living with one’s (presumably unrequited) crush is not easy, and I can’t help but feel for Yuzu here.

That’s not the end of her torment, as when bedtime comes and she finds herself unable to sleep, she tries to steal a touch of Mei’s hair or skin, and Mei gets out of bed and unrolls a futon, claiming it’s too hot with both of them under the covers.

When Yuzu brings up Mei kissing her, Mei coldly dismisses it as merely a tactic to shut her up, demonstrating its effectiveness by coming in oh-so-close only to withhold a kiss. She states she has “no interest” in Yuzu, or in getting closer, hence her unwillingness to call her by her first name. Yuzu goes to sleep in the bed alone, angry, and in tears.

Adding insult to injury, since Mei is the rule-obsessed class president, Yuzu is unable to hang out with Harumi after school without both of them getting punished by having to clean the bathroom. When that’s done, Yuzu finds a note from Mei calling her to the chairman’s office.

Yuzu is excited by the note, but when she arrives, Mei has her yuri manga, and warns her to dispose of it lest rumors crop up. Yuzu snaps, pushes Mei onto the desk, kisses her, then breaks into tears.

If Mei is uncomfortable here, but the fact is she kissed Yuzu first, and that’s how Yuzu’s crush on her developed; they wouldn’t be on that desk without Mei’s earlier antics. Yuzu knows she can’t go back now that what’s done has been done, but gets off Mei, apologizes for being such a bad sister, and runs off.

Her running off, and Mei lingering in the office, doesn’t go unnoticed by Mei’s friend, right-hand woman, and enforcer Himeko, who immediately suspects something is very amiss. Just as Yuzu and Mei are trying to sort things out, Himeko will no doubt insinuate herself into the situation.

Citrus – 02

While all of Yuzu’s thoughts are focused on what Mei’s kiss was all about, she falls into a fountain and takes Mei with her, and ends up in an even more inimate situation when they bathe together. Yuzu thinks about how Mei’s skin feels, Mei is pressing her against the wall, as if she could read Yuzu’s mind. However, it’s too much contact too quickly; Yuzu is again flustered by her little sister.

At school, Yuzu continues to make no effort to follow the dress code, and notices many of the girls are paired up, holding hands and flirting. Harumi says since most of them are already engaged, it’s more a matter of “being in heat” and fooling around while they still can; lust, not love. Their chat is interrupted when Harumi notices the chairman, Mei’s grandfather, is at the gates.

Yuzu brashly approaches him and calls him “gramps”, but he’s having none of it, turning to Mei and reaming her out for allowing “such a fool” to be near school grounds. Yuzu sticks up for her sister, but is banished from the grounds. Either Gramps didn’t get the memo about the marriage, or worse, he doesn’t care; doesn’t see Yuzu as real family.

While sneaking back in, Yuzu and Harumi spot Mei’s betrothed in the parking lot, and overhear him talking to his girlfriend about how he doesn’t really care about Mei, and will only string her along because her family is rich. It’s an awfully specific phone convo for a guy to have out in the open just when Yuzu happens to hear it, but it also shows what a jerk this guy is.

Yuzu tells Mei about her fiancee’s infidelity, but Mei, not surprisingly, already knows, and, well, she’s not fine with it, but she clearly seems resigned to proceeding regardless. She also dismisses Yuzu’s “big sister” status in this issue, since she’s never kissed anyone and thus can’t possibly understand. Yuzu only seems to make things worse the next day when she hijacks a school assembly to tell everyone how she saw the teacher forcing himself on Mei.

That little stunt leads to the chairman sending men to pick Mei up from Yuzu and her Mom’s and having her live with him from now on; Yuzu’s mom says Mei didn’t resist. When Yuzu confronts Mei, Mei pretends nothing is amiss. When Yuzu presses, Mei tells her she’s been ordered to stay away, and that’s how it is.

Yuzu doesn’t stay away. She can’t sleep in the empty room without Mei, knowing there’s clearly something bothering her (what with the crying in her sleep) and she can’t stand feeling partially responsible for her mom’s pain. So she goes to Mei’s grandfather’s mansion and confronts her again, bringing up the pained looks and cries for her father in her sleep.

Mei gets violent, tossing Yuzu on the bed and tearing her blouse. As tears fall from Mei’s eyes to Yuzu’s face, Yuzu gets up and takes hold of Mei, saying “I’m with you now!”, which seems to have an effect. Alas, their grandfather enters the room and expels Yuzu right then and there.

While shopping with Harumi (who is in Full Glamorous Gal Mode outside of school), a very forlorn Yuzu finally tells her friend about her and Mei being related and her expulsion (though doesn’t mention how Mei has kissed her and pushed her into walls and onto beds).

Harumi tells her that despite Mei’s demeanor Yuzu’s feelings on wanting to protect her are probably getting through to her, but that gets Yuzu thinking about what her feelings for Mei truly are, and whether they’re love, something she’s never experienced before. It certainly seems that way.

Citrus – 01 (First Impressions)

The flashy, glamorous Aihara Yuzu tries to make it clear to the outside world that she’s a gal who gets around, but has never actually been in love or even kissed anyone.

This is hardly a new story, but what makes things a little more interesting is that when she transfers to a new, all-girls school where she sticks out like a sore thumb, the hard-nosed student council president Aihara Mei turns out to be her new, slightly younger stepsister.

The knowledge that Mei is betrothed to an “elite teacher” is seemingly confirmed when Yuzu accidentally catches Mei and the teacher making out in a secluded spot; Yuzu is so flustered she flees in a not-so-inconspicuous manner.

In any case, her insistence on dolling herself up and flaunting the school dress code in every way possible brand her as a delinquent in the eyes of the mostly drab, sheltered student body (one exception being Taniguchi Harumi, a “gal in disguise”).

While Yuzu may talk the talk, Mei seems to walk the walk, and Mei essentially sends Yuzu’s perfect maze of deception crashing down around her when Yuzu tries to force Mei into talking to her by bringing up her sucking face with the hot teacher.

Mei reacts by pinning Yuzu down and giving her a long, deep kiss with tongue before leaving the room, telling her “that’s what a kiss is like.” Yuzu’s first kiss is thus not only with a girl, but with someone she just learned is her “little” sister…and someone she butted heads with the moment they met.

Mei has also demonstrated beyond doubt that while Yuzu possesses all the outward trappings of boy-crazy gal, like Jon Snow, she really knows nothing, while Mei has actually experienced a measure of love and desire.

Decent yuri anime are few and far between, but this one at least shows glimmers of promise with its full-length episode format, attractive visuals, and a complex (if somewhat contrived) scenario that should be fraught with similarly complicated emotions on the part of both leads as their relationship evolves beyond the sizing-up stage.

Ozuma – 01

In a future where the world has become a desert and oceans are sand, humans cling to survival in remote oases. Sand pirate Sam Coin seeks to bag an Ozma, the gargantuan sand whales that lurk beneath the surface. Instead, he comes across a woman being pursued by the Theseus military. He rescues her and brings her back to his home of Port Oase, and aboard the ship he serves on, the Bardanos. After a tour, Theseus ships return in force to collect Maya. Maya surrenders, but Bardanos Captain Bainas refuses to give her up, and orders the ship to dive into the sand using its Quantum Transition (QT) drive.

We’ve been watching sky pirates and space pirates, so why not sand pirates? The sci-fi world of Ozuma is bleaker than Aquarion, Lagrange, or Moretsu. When we first saw Sam Coin on his flying contraption, we immediately thought of Princess Nausicaa on her jet-glider. His hometown of Port Oase, with its windmills, is similar to the Valley of the Wind. The huge Ozuma, well, they’re like Nausicaa’s ohmu; mysterious and awe-inspiring, much like ocean whales. Sam Coin’s a archetypal good guy; if he sees someone weak being bullied by the strong, he’s going to help. Doing so nets him a beautiful but potentially troublesome fugitive in Maya (voiced by none other than Lacus Clyne), and irks his childhood friend Mimei (who also voices Aquarion’s MIX and Bakuman’s Iwase). We also like the tough Captain Bainas, who decides to protect Maya – who may have important info. It’s also a chance to thumb her nose at authority.

Frankly, we don’t have a problem with Ozuma’s borrowing of elements from Nausicaa, along with Gundam and Dune. Its character design and score are decidedly, unapologetically old-school. Side characters come in every shape and size, while the core characters all have different color eyes. It looks and sounds like the eighties, only the picture is crystal clear and in widescreen, adding majesty. Whether the nostalgia is intentional on the part of the producers, they’ve regardless crafted a wonderful setting and a fun and colorful cast. The throwback aesthetic is the icing on the cake. Ozuma will only run for six episodes, and this first one was also very efficient and got much of the introductions out of the way. We’re definitely looking forward to whatever comes next.


Rating: 4

Black Rock Shooter – 01

The expressive but sometimes clingy Kuroi Mato has just entered a new year of high school and meets the beautiful, artistic Takanashi Yomi. She is polite, but Yomi’s ‘relative’ Kagari doesn’t want her befriending Mato. Distressed that Yomi may hate her, Mato talks with the school counselor, Saya, who tells her no matter how much her heart may hurt, the pain will be taken away by someone else. In Mato’s case, it’s the Black Rock Shooter, a punk’d out version of herself in a dreamworld, getting brutally punished by enormous monsters piloted by dream versions of both Yomi and Kagari. In the ordinary world, Mato reaches out to Yomi once more, resolved to be her friend…whatever the cost.

(Cracks knuckles)…Well now, with out winter staff retreat behind us, we thought we’d resume our reviews with the first of only eight episodes of the newest series on the scene. Not only were we impressed with the level of quality in the production values and the stark contrast achieved in depicting two very different universes, but we also like how at the heart of this exquisitely sweet-looking series resides a very simple story about friendship – in this case, the uneasy genesis of one – and the  risk taken and costs incurred  in opening one’s hand and heart to another.

The world in which the badass looking Black Rock Shooter resides, and the battles she fights, can be seen as literal manifestations of the emotional states of the ordinary Mato. Kagari freaks Mato out and rubs her in every wrong way imaginable; and in the otherworld, it is Kagari laying waste to Black Rock Shooter. Still, we expect the kid will score some victories down the road. It may have taken a month longer to arrive, but so far it’s been worth the wait. It doesn’t hurt that two of our favorite seiyus (Hanazawa and Sawashiro) voice the two lead girls.


Rating: 4

Persona 4: The Animation – 01



Narukami Yu arrives in a new town to attend school while his parents are working abroad and live with his uncle, a local detective. He meets his new classmates, Chie, Yosuke and Yukiko, who go on about the “midnight channel”, in which staring at a TV on a rainy midnight will reveal one’s soul mate. Yu tries it and is nearly sucked in. He does it again with Chie and Yosuke watching, and all three enter an alternate plane where they’re met by a frekish bear thing and foes called shadows. Yu then beseeches the voice that had been in his head all along and releases a persona to fight off the baddies.

Our only previous exposure to the Persona franchise was the Trinity Soul video game for PS2, which we’ve never played, but have watched a friend play. Fortunately, one doesn’t have to know anything ahead of time to enjoy this series, which we did, quite a bit. It lulled a bit from the cryptic teaser to the introductions of the cast, but as the episode progressed it got far more interesting, dense and entertaining. It had a lot of video game-like qualities, is kinda scored like one, and features transitions of the date and weather whenever the day changes. The alternate plane has a nice slick whimsy, with just a touch of peril so it isn’t just silly.

This series is being directed by Seiji Kishi, who was also at the helm of Angel Beats! and Kamisama Dolls, while Yui Horie (Yuki-onna) lends her lively, expressive voice to Chie. A word on uniforms: they’re pretty off-the-wall. Black with contrast stitching resembling tailor’s marks and houndstooth collars and skirts. The character design is simple but has a nice edge to it, to go with the certain je nais sais qoui appeal of the overall aesthetic of the show. The opening and ending sequences also rock, there’s great budding chemistry amongst the lead cast and a sense of impending adventure afoot. Let’s see where this goes, shall we?


Rating: 4

Chihayafuru – 01

High schooler Chihaya Ayase is very beautiful, like her model older sister, but her odd behavior at school earned her the nickname “Beauty in Vain.” She also happens to be a decent player of the obscure card-grabbing game Karuta, though it wasn’t always that way. In a flashback, she remembers her classmate Wataya being teased because of his accent and tatty clothes, but after a chance encounter while he’s on his paperboy rounds – and an incident where both she and Wataya are pushed down and ostrasized by her childhood friend Taichi – Wataya shows her how he plays Karuta, and his dream to become a master. She shares that dream, and back in the present, starts a Karuta club at her high school.

This is the second straight series debut to be dominated by a flashback, and why not, best to establish the character’s motivations right off the bat. This was a strong start. Chihaya had always dreamt for her sister to excel at something – modeling – but the awkward, bespectacled Wataya breaks her out of that. We liked how their initial one-on-one encounter was just pure chance: he was a paperboy on his early morning route, and she was outside waiting for the paper with her sister’s picture on the front page. Of course, to Wataya, it looked like she was waiting for him.

We tend to see Japanese society in best light possible, but this series shows that teasing and ostracism for being “different” is no less present there than anywhere else. We got annoyed when classmates talked about how Chihaya is pretty, but that that beauty is “wasted” whenever she “talks or does something.” Hmph. No matter, we like Chihaya, and this series, so far. We knew nothing about Karuta, but after watching this, we now know we probably wouldn’t be too good at it. Memorizing poetry in hiragana and rapid recall aren’t our strong suits.


Rating: 3.5

Phi Brain: Kami no Puzzle – 01

Daimon Kaito is a puzzle-solving genius with boundless potential. His classmate Jikugawa lends him a PDA containing a series of puzzles, which he proceeds to quickly solve. When he does, he is invited by the “Minotaur” to a grand puzzle with many stages, but with this one, his life is on the line, as well as his friend Nonoha’s, who tags along. With her help, he clears the initial stage, and he is then furnished a golden armband and a red seeing eye, which will help him use all of his brain to solve the puzzles to come.

We here at RABUJOI love it when are expectations are exceeded. Basing our assumptions on little more than the title, we thought this was going to be a somewhat childish romp involving puzzles. Turns out…well, it kinda is, but who cares? It kicks way more ass than we predicted. Kaito is a somewhat Bossun-looking lead, and while his promise to his dad (solve those poor lonely puzzles 0_o ) it’s clear this is just a kid whose brain needs to be constantly challenged. The fiery Nonoha kinda reminds me of Miyoshi from Bakuman – but is voiced by Lain!

Let’s face it, none of the character designs are super original, but they are well-executed and attractive, and full of life and energy, too. The animation was excellent, the soundtrack was very eclectic and as for the puzzles, well, let’s just say it felt like we were watching Myst in anime form, what with the tricky practical puzzles where you may die if you screw up. The system underlying Minotaur – Einstein and Orpheus and whatnot – still somewhat escape us, but this was a great introduction, and we’ll be watching next week.


Rating: 3.5

C³ – Cube×Cursed×Curious – 01

High school lad Yachi recieves an unusual metal cube in the mail that laters turns out to contain a small girl named Fear, who was sent by his father to take advantage of the positive, “orderly” energy of his house. She is a “tool” that has been given human form by a curse. The curseproof Yachi leaves her alone when he goes to school with his friend, and she wreaks havoc on his house. He forgives her and assures her they’ll be able to break her curse.

We can’t say why we had high hopes for this series – after all, we knew next to nothing about it, but man, that was hard to sit through. Let us get the good out of the way first; it won’t take long: the series has very nicely-textured background, bright, vivid colors, and liberal use of light. That’s about all. The rest is just terrible.

Where do we start? The horrible character design? The 15 millionth petite, blue-haired, bratty girl? The goofy fanservice? The bafflingly bland lead and his blander childhood friend? The fact that Fear is a useless idiot, whose antics are played for gags that aren’t funny? The mustache-twirling femme fatale at the end? A first impression is an important one when it comes to anime. This first episode was nothing but dull cliches. It just wasn’t our cup of roasted tea.


Rating: 1.5