Kimi no Iru Machi – 02

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While Haruto is telling Rin she can’t dissuade him from meeting with Yuzuki to learn how she really feels, the episode flashes back to when Yuzuki first moved in with him. He was starting high school with all his middle school friends, including his crush Kanzaki Nanami, andd rumors about him and Yuzuki spread fast. At first Haruto sees Yuzuki as selfish, but her actions, which bring Haruto and Nanami closer together, prove she’s always thinking of others, even at the cost of her own.

Haruto’s relationship with Eba Yuzuki, the girl he’s uprooted his life just for the slightest chance of another shot at, had a rough, modest start. Her dad knew his dad, so suddenly she was in his house, on his bike, and at his school. Had she never entered his life, he’d have probably been fine, as there no evidence his life was any the worse for wear before she entered it. However, she did enter it, at the best possible time to create unwanted complication for Haruto. This episode efficiently laid out the conditions under which Haruto eventually fell for Yuzuki; and when he learned of her tendency to go out of her own way for others, putting their needs before hers.

Haruto may not be aware of it, but the minute Yuzuki meets Nanami and knew Haruto liked her, she began to sublimate herself for their sake. Ironically, that humility only ingratiated her more to Haruto, solidifying the triangle she created by showing up in the first place. Back in the present, Haruto thinks her behavior is an attempt to retreat from the battlefield and break that triangle, something Haruto isn’t cool with. In any case, he’s here to settle the matter once and for all (assuming it can be settled). Even if Yuzuki won’t answer texts, and even if she has a boyfriend as Rin claims, if Haruto is right, there’s still hope for them.

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Rating: 8 
(Great)

Stray Observations:

  • We realize Haruto is being both self-righteous and a little pretentious with his presumption Yuzuki really loves him but is sacrificing her feelings so she isn’t in the way of his other prospects, i.e. Nanami.
  • Along those lines, no one can dictate how someone else decides to back out of something as Yuzuki has, but Haruto seems to think she still owes her further explanation, so it’s a battle of wills.
  • Clever camera angles and placement of limbs hid nudity (instead of blur or bloom censoring), suggesting this wasn’t meant to show anything, which is fine, as nudity’s not that important to the story. Suffice it to say, none of the girls in Haruto’s life are what you would call homely.
  • It is pretty funny how Haruto believes for an extended period of time that Yuzuki is going commando, when it turns out that wasn’t the case. An early sign they’ll experience difficulty communicating clearly in the future.
  • Fewer cats this week, which is good, because the animation of the one incidental kitten in Free! kicked the ass of all the cats we’ve seen in this or Railgun thus far.
  • We felt she was perfect for Ranka Lee, and we maintain our love for Nakajima Megami in her role as Yuzuki, bringing a similar vulnerable ebulliance subtly tinged with repressed pathos.
  • Every proper bathhouse or hotspring had sure as heck better offer fruit milk!
  • We love talking into fans. Who wouldn’t want to sound like an advanced A.I.?!

Oreimo 2 – 13 (Fin)

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Kirino used to adore her big brother, but as he grew older they grew apart, and as she strived to surpass him, he stopped seeming as amazing as she once deemed him. She suspects Manami’s influence, but Manami tells her the amazing Kyousuke Kirino loved never really existed. Kirino made a friend in Ayase through modeling, and also discovered siscon eroge, which she had to keep a secret, until it grew out of control, and she finally had to ask her average, unremarkable brother for advice, and he performed his brotherly duty admirably, if not as cool and confidently as he once did.

The last episode of Oreimo for some time serves as a prequel to everything we’ve seen thus far, and documents the evolution of Kirino’s feelings for her brother, leading up to their current, cordial relationship. Basically, the younger she and Kyousuke were, the more amazing she thought he was, and the more he was willing to spend time with her. But he eventually outgrew that arrangement before she did, leading her to aim to surpass him. So we can imagine her disappointment when Kyousuke devolved from the driven, talented, cool brother she once knew into a lazy, unmotivated layabout. The person who drove her to become better than she was had gotten worse. Since the very beginning, it’s been clear that Kirino is a big, hopeless otaku, but this episode finally confirms why: she was seeking the ideal brother Kyousuke no longer was.

She shunned her real brother in exchange for the brothers in the games she played, who would always do what she said and be with her no matter what and be just as amazing as she wanted them to be. But they were no more real than that youthful ideal of her real brother. Kyousuke is and always has been Kyousuke, and regardless of how much he disappointed her, he was always going to protect her, as he does when he passionately defends her hobby to their fatheer. Now Kirino is mature enough to realize that Kyousuke may not be perfect or even particularly cool, but he’s her brother; her only brother. He’s all she’s got, and he’s really not all bad, as big brothers go!

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Rating:7 (Very Good)

Hataraku Maou-sama! – 04

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Thanks to Maou, there are no casualties following the earthquake that caused the underground mall to cave it. Emi recalls how she was taken from her father to train to become the Hero, and how her village was destroyed and father killed by Maou’s general Lucifer. After spending time with Rika, the next morning she visits Maou to pay him back, and falls down the stairs. He helps her, and his kindness irks her, considering what he did in their world. Chiho walks in on the two of them together and misunderstands. Maou, Emi and Shiro chase her down, but she’s already been confronted by Lucifer, who wants to surpass Maou.

It must be something about the new world he finds himself in, but at the moment Maou is…just not acting all that evil. He rained death and destruction upon the world he comes from, earning the eternal hatred and loathing of all who survived his ruthless attacks. Emi, the daughter of an angel, has lived her entire life for one purpose; to face and defeat Maou. And now that they’re in a new world, nothing makes sense anymore. Maou is kind and heroic and cares for people, even Emi, and it’s driving her crazy. Being a hero is supposed to be her job, for one thing.

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Her friend Rika also suffered in the past; having been in Kobe during the horrible great earthquake there. In Emi she finds someone she can embrace and talk to without being pitied as a victim or otherwise judged. In Rika, Emi finds someone else dealing with a lot of pain over tragic events of the past. She’s convinced she can never forgive Maou for what he’s done, but you can tell she’s struggling with her certainty.

Meanwhile, Maou inadvertently got the spunky Chiho tangled up in all these supernatural affairs, and his general Lucifer is in this new world to usurp his former lord. If anything can bring the bad old Maou out, it’s insubordination by an underling. And since they have a common enemy, Emi will likely put aside her reservations about continuing to interact with Maou rather than killing him in order to save innocent lives around them, including Chiho.


Rating: 7 (Very Good)

Stray Observations:

  • We thought at first that Emi, like Kotoura, got herself into a spot when she went over to Rika’s place; but it doesn’t seem that Rika is a villain pretending to be a friend.
  • “May I unleash the Dullahan” is probably the geekiest way of asking to borrow a bike imaginable. So naturally, we’ll be using that line the first chance we get.
  • Emi’s the sole member of the “good guys” in the world at the moment, but two of her compatriots are on their way. They seemed to have a bit of trouble speaking their own language ;)
  • Maou’s landlady has a bit of a Witch of the Waste thing going on.
  • We don’t see much of Lucifer, but he’s the one directly responsible for Emi’s father’s death, and he seems like a bit of a cocky brat, so we look forward to Emi and Maou going at him with gusto.

Zetsuen no Tempest – 22

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Hakaze returns to the present with Aika’s letters for Yoshino and Mahiro, and tells them the full truth about her actions. They accept her decision calmly, as Aika predicted. Their lack of outward passion angers Hanemura, who as it happens is the only one with the power to defeat the Tree of Genesis, the Heart of which has been surrounded by a naval blockade of many nations, who have decided to protect Genesis at all costs, unaware it will lead to the resetting of civilization.

Mahiro’s entire raison d’être throughout this series was to exact revenge on the person who killed his sister. With this episode, that reason has gone kaput. She killed herself, so there’s no revenge to be taken, except, perhaps, on the Tree of Genesis itself, Aika’s natural enemy. Now that he and Yoshino know of Aika’s fate and her intentions, they are willing to follow through with the destruction of Genesis. As we learned last week, her death brought together the people required to save the world as they know it, including her reluctant backup, Hanemura.

This week, we learn how Mahiro, Yoshino, and Aika first came together. As it happens, both Mahiro’s father and Yoshino’s mother – who were marrying – bailed on their kids, but Mahiro brought Yoshino along. Thus, the guys both met Yoshino’s stepsister on the very same night. The bookend style of this flashback is a thing of beauty, as the three size each other up and decide on how they’ll address one another (informally). If Aika knew she was the Mage of Exodus back then, did she also already know how integral these lads would prove in her destined fight against Genesis? Or was she just happy a couple of amusing characters added some comedy to her tragedy?


Rating: 9 (Superior)

Zettai Karen Children: The Unlimited – Hyoubu Kyousuke – 08

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In the continuation of the flashback, Captain Saotome Eiji picks Hyoubu to duel with the new Zero prototype fighter, piloted by the officer Fujiko knocked over. Hyoubu is able to shake off his father’s misgivings and summon the power to defeat the Zero. Just then, an American submarine enters Japanese waters, chasing down three dolphins who use telepathy to request asylum. The ESP team and Hyoubu save them, but a few years later, when Japanese surrender is imminent after the first atom bomb is dropped, Eiji shoots Hyoubu in response to one of the dolphins’ premonitions. Hyoubu doesn’t die, kills Eiji, and swears revenge against all normal humans.

Watching Hyoubu’s past, we can’t help but look back to Muv-Luv Alternative, which wasted no time painting the picture of Yui’s horrible, bloody past and engendering our emotional investment and sympathy for her character throughout the series. Rather than tell Hyoubu’s story early in the series, The Unlimited chose the middle of this cour, putting the present-day story on pause. We’re not sure we’re on board with this order. Don’t get us wrong; the last two episodes were great backstory, but it came at the expense of the present story’s momentum. Muv-Luv’s Yui’s story being told before we meet her as an adult was a clear calculation to put us firmly in her corner.

Perhaps this was also a calculation: show us Hyoubu the Bad Guy first and let us form our own opinions, then show us his past to either reinforce or subvert those opinions. In any case, everything we’ll see of Hyoubu (and Fujiko) from this point onward will be informed by the knowledge he was built up and then discarded by the military, and was powerless to stop the defeat of his country. Things went downhill for him so fast; and Eiji’s decision to eliminate him before he could muster an ESP army and destroy mankind…that was a rough hand to be dealt. But just because we’re kinda sympathetic to Hyoubu doesn’t mean he’s not every bit the threat to humanity Eiji believed.


Rating: 6 (Good)

Zettai Karen Children: The Unlimited – Hyoubu Kyousuke – 07

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In the thirties, a young Hyoubu Kyousuke moves from the mainland to Japan to live with his new adoptive father Baron Tsubomi and his daughter, Fujiko, who is an esper like him. Imperial Army Captain Saotome Eiji asks the children to join his special ESP unit, which mimics a similar Nazi program that makes use of espers for the accelerating war effort.

They join the unit and watch themselves be advertised in the newsreels as Japan’s newest weapon. The unit falls out of favor when Fujiko gets in an altercation with a policeman and naval officer. Rather than submit to standard military training, which will harm their powers, Eiji proposes a duel: the ESP unit versus the Navy’s new Mitsubishi Zero fighter plane.

As last week ended in something of a cliffhanger, and we’re in the middle of the season, now’s as good a time as any for more backstory on Hyoubu. Specifically, the show backs up many decades to when Hyoubu first meets Fujuko (and learn she’s his adoptive sister), to when he first gets involved with the military. It’s fun to watch this proto-PANDRA come to life. And like that later group, this is more of a family than a military unit.

We also like how one seemingly minor incident with the cop and naval officer gets blow into a situation where the entire unit is punished and the whole program threatened. It’s as if the military higher-ups were just waiting for an excuse to shut them down. Fortunately, the unit enjoys the support of Baron Tsubomi. But knowing how things turn out in the present day, the mood is bound to sour sometime in the next episode.


Rating: 7 (Very Good)

Muv-Luv Alternative: Total Eclipse – 12

Yui is saved when Yamamoto pins the tank Beta with the forklift, and she saves him by killing it. They get back to work, arguing over who should stay behind to detonate the prototype. After successfully exposing the cannon’s core modules, Yamamoto goes below and is ambushed by Beta. Yui can only put him out of his misery, and it isn’t long until she too is surrounded. Yuuya saves her at the last second, and pulls the shrapnel out of her arm while Stella covers them. The main force of the Beta are converging on the hangar.

There were times during this episode when we started to wonder whether really would be the end of Lt. Takamura Yui. After all, she’s dead-set on scuttling the cannon, bushido dictates she sacrifice herself to protect others, and we flashed back to when she was still a bright-eyed student in Kyoto. Also, she’s not the only main character. While killing her off would be piss us off to no end, it would no doubt be a bold, audacious move, no doubt providing fresh motivation for Yuuya. But the question we asked at the end of last week’s review is answered in the affirmative, and that works for us, too.

Unfortunately, Corporal Yamamoto – who had a target on his back the moment we first saw him – isn’t so lucky, though you could say he died with honor. Doing so didn’t require staying alive as the Beta eat him, which is why Yui’s mercy shot was fully justified. And while we still maintain they’re pretty stupid looking, they can also be downright frightening in such close quarters, dwarfing the tiny, delicate Yui. Yuuya’s peril-extending first-aid aside, Yui’s still not leaving until that cannon is destroyed. The cannon that, we reiterate, is the potential savior of mankind. Silly humans…


Rating: 7 (Very Good)

Last Exile: Ginyoku no Fam – 15.5

Dio and Alvis, still on the run from persuers, take a breather in an abandoned town, and reminisce on the past, in the form of a recap of the original Last Exile series.

First of all, it was nice to see Claus and Lavie and young Dio and Alvis. It was also pretty sweet to catch a glimpse of the older Claus and Lavie, still together. Priceless. Still, there was little new material here, so we won’t give it a rating.

We understand that some of the audience of Ginyoku no Fam may not have seen the first series, hence the need for this quick precis. Suffice it to say, the sequel has a job for Alvis to do, and Dio has sworn to protect her no matter the cost.


(No Rating) 

Mirai Nikki – 18

The episode flashes back to when Yuno first falls for Yukiteru. Her emotional problems stem from being caged and starved by her parents, and in turn she cages and starves them to death. She then tries to sabotage a “date” between Yukiteru and the class rep Moe, but Moe turns him down anyway. Back in the present, Nishijima needs to know who the third body in Yuno’s house was. Yukiteru’s dad shows up at home, knowing he’s about to be caught by the police and wanting to spend his last day of freedom with him. However, agents from Eleventh kill him while they’re at a shrine. Yukiteru kills a couple agents in turn, then turns the knife on Yuno, learning from Murmur he can bring back his parents if he becomes a god. Yuno doesn’t resist, and Yuki spares her for now.

Oh man, poor Yukiteru. These last couple days have been pure Deadman Wonderland, and now he learns that the current god is literally crumbling away in his realm, now unable to further manipulate the “causality continuum.” Only the new god can bring back Yuki’s mother and now father – and I doubt any of the other diary holders other than him consider that a priority. Yuki may be a weenie but he is one of the saner characters, and I’m sure stabbing someone to death and using another as a human shield was tough to do and will haunt him. Unfortunately if he wants his parents back he’ll have to spill a lot more blood and shed more of his humanity; Eleventh is a tricky and obviously well-protected bastard.

We knew this score though. What we didn’t know was the slightest thing about Yuno’s past, specifically why her house had corpses in it and how she became the gorgeously unhinged lunatic she is today. Well, not surprisingly, the answer to both is abuse. Yuno’s parents were as cracked as she was, trying to mold her into an elite student through the use of incarceration (mirroring Yuno locking Yuki up earlier, in desperation), starvation, and general contempt for her very existence. Her parents were awful people, so Yuno paid them back in kind, but then she was alone. All it took was a token promise from Yukiteru to make her his ‘little bride’ for her to latch onto him, and presumably that’s when the stalker diary became active. Regular guys never interested her. It’s also clear she harbors no plans to become a god. If she has to die so Yukiteru can become one, so be it. By his hand, so much the better.


Rating: 3.5

Mirai Nikki – 17

The episode begins with a flashback to when Ai met Marco, at the very Sakurami Tower where they find themselves in the present. Both were abandoned by their parents, and for better or worse, stuck like glue all through school. One day, Ai was lured into a trap by her classmates, leading her to get gang-raped in an abandoned warehouse. Marco is too late to help her, but kills the assailants in a rage, and promises never to leave her side.

Back in the present Yuno saves Yukiteru from falling, then uses the fake phone to trick Marco into getting separated from Ai, who gets her throat cut by Yuno. A cave-in of concrete traps Yuno, Yuki and Ai underneath, but Marco comes back to get them out so he and Ai can die in each others’ arms.Yuno and Yuki escape with the only parachute, only to find his father, who escaped with the other parachute, killed his mother.

There’s been some bleak and tragic diary holder stories in Mirai Nikki thus far, but perhaps the most tragic so far is that of Marco and Ai. Their love, which had been something of a novelty used for comic relief in previous episodes, really comes to life this week, now that we have a firm idea where it comes from. Marco has always looked after Ai…always, and the only two times he didn’t, she met with horrible fates. They desired to become gods together, and that’s what they worked towards. Once it was clear either one of them would die, the other was sure to follow. Their sob story really had us sympathizing with their plight.

Unfortunately, they’re not the protagonists, but with their excellent, dramatic death, we’re down another diary holder (only one, since they didn’t count as separate holders). Now Yuki will no doubt have to deal with another wave of trouble from that mother with the freakishly big head. But more importantly, Yuki’s father somehow managed to top the awfulness he displayed last week by abandoning his kid by escaping, then stabbing Yuki’s mom. Yuki’s dream of a reunited family? Poof, gone. Of course, if he becomes a god, perhaps he can turn things around…


Rating: 3.5

Last Exile: Ginyoku no Fam – 11

The show goes back ten years to the time of the Grand Race, organized by Queen Augusta Farahanaz to celebrate a sprawling peace treaty amongst all the nations of the world. A young Giselle and Fam are on hand to watch Giselle’s father race, as is the king of Turan and the princesses Lilliana and Millia. Fam even meets Millia as the two wander off. Gisey’s father wins the race, but as he and his copilot Kaiser are being awarde, assassins attack the queen and kill her. One of her bodyguards, Lukia, cannot protect her, and she is killed.

The second half of Ginyoku no Fam takes place not in Glacies, where Fam & Co. must crash land, but with a flashback. But this is a good flashback, one that is formative (almost too conveniently so) for most of the cast and indeed the world itself. If there’s anyone who can achieve world peace through her power and influence, it’s Queen Farahanaz. With her infant Princess Sara in hand, she is also a mother and caretaker to her people, warm and kind. But as she fiddles with her prayer beads, we’re conscious that the peace she’s about to achieve was not gained entirely without bloodshed. If you want to make an omelette, you have to break some eggs, after all.

Her bodyguard Lukia – who will later become Luscinia – always shared her ideal, but was always conscious that it may lead to her death. Back in the present, he and other more aggressive and bitter elements of Ades are in control, as Queen Sara is too young to fully exercise her power, which led to war with Turan and so many other conquests. But on the other end of the spectrum, people like Fam is so inspired by the race (up until the traumatic assassination), that she’s dedicated her life ever since to becoming a pilot worthy of flying in the next Grand Race; a race that will bring the people of the world back together. But like the old queen, is she simply a naive idealist?


Rating: 3.5

Chihayafuru – 03

Chihaya, Wataya (Arata), and Taichi enter the world of competitive 3-on-3 Karuta when they join a local club, who are pleased to have them. Here, Chihaya awakens her talent, Taichi learns teamwork and sacrifice, and the three become friends. But when Taichi is accepted to a far away school and Arata has to leave town to be with his ill grandfather, the golden trio splits apart after competing in a tournament, which they barely lose. Chihaya plays Arata one last time before he moves, and manages to beat him. She vows they’ll never be apart as long as they keep playing Karuta.

That was a god-damn tearjerker at times. We haven’t seen this much vibrant, compelling drama fill a scant twenty-two minutes of airtime in a while. This episode covered both the establishment and the disbanding of Team Chihaya Furu, and really fleshed out the excellent core trio. Taichi was far more likeable, Arata showed his gloating side, and Chihaya was simply fantastic throughout, as she finds her passion and develops her skill for the game, even as her family offers zero encouragement (We don’t care how pretty her sister is, she’s just plain scum).

All these good and bad times almost pass too quickly; but at the same time the series definitely made a bold statement telling so much story in so little time; it means it has a lot more story to tell. After all, we’re still in the past: Chihaya’s in high school now. We’re not sure the next episode will return to the present (there are no previews), but we would say we’re ready. All that needed to be established in the past was deftly, efficiently, and affectingly established. The series needn’t maintain this rapid pace, but if it maintains this quality, it has a chance to join the likes of Hanasaku Iroha and AnoHana as our favorite dramas of the year.


Rating: 4

Mawaru Penguindrum – 13

“Dr.” Sanetoshi makes a deal with Kanba (somehow involving his heart) In order to administer a serum that restores her back to life. The episode deals with a host of flashbacks that document that fateful last day the Takakura children ever saw their parents. The police placed them in a hotel room as they searched their home for further evidence of their parents’ crimes, which resulted in deaths, including Momoka’s. Sanetoshi muses about fate, and whether it truly exists.The Tokyo Sky Metro celebrates its tenth annieversary. Ringo sends an email to her father stating she knows of his second family; she believes it was fate to encounter them.

Nothing in this world is pointless. Apparently, nothing in this series is pointless, either. The series continues to squeeze as much as it can out of every scene, every setting, every word…and every sign. Hints trickle down here and there, but like any good mystery, only enough to hold our interest; no more. This much is clear (which wasn’t earlier); the siblings’ parents did awful things. After all, they were “senior members” of something, for chrissake…that can’t be good. Also, the Metropolitan Police doesn’t send a battalion of detectives to your house on a whim.

While we’re piecing together more about the past, we’re wondering more and more how much longer Kanba can keep up whatever he’s doing to pay Sanetoshi to keep Himari alive, possibly tempting fate. Since the day their parents disappeared, the three “haven’t amounted to anything” by society’s standards, but they’ve stayed together as a family. The pain their parents caused to both Ringo, her family, and Tabuki through Momoka’s death is something Ringo always thought could be healed by becoming Momoka. I like how Tabuki seems to set her straight.


Rating: 4