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.

Kaguya-sama: Love Is War – Ultra Romantic – 11 – Changing With the Colors of the Sky

It’s the final day of the festival, which means it’s the final day for Kaguya to tell the president how she feels and the final day for him to wait for her to tell him before he tells her how he feels. At first there’s that same old hesitation, as she visits Miyuki at his class’ balloon sculpture booth and wastes a perfectly good opportunity to swap hearts by meekly offering him cold hard cash for a balloon heart and running away. Frankly, it’s a wasted segment, as we knew there was no way there’d be a confession so early.

Since Yuu’s fate is so important for creating an atmosphere where romance is welcome rather than rejected (in favor of an atmosphere of commiseration should Tsubame outright reject him), not to mention this is the second-to-last episode, it’s important for this storyline to edge towards resolution. Tsubame is worried if she dates Yuu she’ll devote her entire self to him (as opposed to the countless suitors who want a casual but low-stakes good time).

When she reaches out to Kaguya for advice on how to say know, at first Kaguya gives her her boilerplate “wipe that lustful look of your face, you swine!” and tells her what won’t kill Yuu will make him stronger…but then like Miyuki last week realize the damage such a rejection would cause her chances with the president, so she backpedals, and they witness both Chika and Miko deal with offers from boys in their own ways.

Chika obviously challenges her would-be beau to a quiz and tells him she her love can’t be tied down. Miko is cornered by two dudes and seemingly gives in to their offer to hang out later before Yuu swoops in and rescues her from her own lack of composure. Tsubame watches this side of Yuu she hadn’t seen before and reconsiders an automatic rejection due simply to concerns she’ll neglect other parts of her life in favor of her boyfriend.

Finally, the time comes when Kaguya is hoping Miyuki will ask her to wander around the festival with him…and he does! So they do! And it’s adorable! She marvels at his composure while they stroll the hallways side by side, invoking awe from all their classmates, but she doesn’t know the weight of the bombshell he’s withholding from her (i.e., Stanford).

The two also take great pains to keep it together at the fortune teller as she tells them they’re basically the perfect couple for one another (and given training, could be great in bed as well). The teller calling Kaguya a “surface of pure water” influenced by changes in the color of the sky is not only a lovely way of describing her personality, but also tracks with the credit sequence where she is influenced by the evil aliens until Miyuki gets her back.

The rest of their date unfolds as you’d expect, and Kaguya is on cloud nine, the clear water glowing with happiness now that she’s finally experiencing what before she’d only been able to imagine. However, it all comes to an end when they return to the StuCo office and Miyuki presents her with his acceptance letter from Stanford, and his intent to skip a grade and study abroad there, making this his final festival at Shuchiin.

After delivering this information to Kaguya, the episode ends in dead silence, with Kaguya in shock and a note from “Arsene (Lupin)”, the “Phantom Thief” Chika has been chasing in the background, stating simply “To Be Continued.” But we still get the Starship Troopers-inspired credits, the meta-story of which is a reversal of the current situation: it’s Miyuki who is being borne to a far-flung land, and up to Kaguya to either convince him to stay or go after him and get him back.

Miyuki seems pretty intent on going through with this, and you can’t blame him with his and his family’s tenuous financial situation. People abandon their ideal romantic future for pragmatism’s sake all the time; I just hope that’s not what happens here. But now Kaguya knows what we’ve known. Miyuki was always going to present this future to her, and presumably still plans to confess if she doesn’t.

The festival is winding down, and there’s still a campfire to be lit. Perhaps that will be when something happens. It will have to be, since we’re just about out of season 3 episodes! I maintain, however, that if there’s nothing but loneliness and distance waiting for Kaguya and Miyuki, I maintain that will hate this series with the passion of a billion burning suns forevermore. That will categorically not stop me from watching that play out in a fourth season.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Mieruko-chan – 05 – Of Moms and Manjuu

Mieruko-chan sticks to two main stories, one in which Niguredou Yuria is finally introduced as a third character who can see ghosts and ghouls—more clearly than the old fortune-teller but less clearly than Miko. As we’ve seen on the margins of past episodes, she’s been watching Miko, convinced she can see what she sees.

The thing is, Mieruko is still committed to not disclosing that she can see them, especially when a much larger and spookier ghoul is in the gym storage room that Yuria can’t even see. Her solution for not discussing it is to use a signature submission move of her favorite wrestler, Badger: a serpent drop. It’s not surprising Yuria thinks Miko is threatening her in the nurse’s office later, but it’s just a bit of miscommunication.

Meanwhile, Miko is now seeing so much that others can’t that sometimes she can’t tell ghouls from humans, as she mistakes a tiny, ancient, but very much still alive granny on some steps. She carries the lady to her house, where her daughter proceeds to thank her by going in the house to grab some manjuu. That’s when a creepy business suit-wearing ghoul approaches Miko and she just wants to leave.

The thing is, the ghoul keeps repeating the same four-digit number, which Miko finally types into her smartphone and shows the old lady. Suddenly, like a switch flipped, the granny, whose daughter said had serious dementia, is lucid again. She uses the code to open her safe, use the comb within her departed husband gave her to put her hair up, and prepares to make some pork miso soup.

The granny invites Miko to join them, but seeing what amounts to a mother-daughter reunion (with the ghoul of the father thanking Miko before shambling off), Miko is eager to get home to her family. She makes sure to text her mom she’s on the way home, and when her mom sends a goofy sticker back, Miko can’t help but smile.

Once again, in a very real and meaningful way, Miko’s ability has allowed her to help improve the lives of others. Even if it wasn’t entirely intentional, she helped that lady home and typed that code into her phone. Yuria may want to be a spiritualist, but Miko seems to already be a kind of saint—an individual performing unexplainable deeds for the betterment of others.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Mieruko-chan – 04 – Chestnut Pudding

First of all, a ghost haunting the konbini Miko frequents adding three percent tax to the items the living cashier is ringing up, and Miko’s dry observation of it, got a huge laugh out of me. I just loved the creepy, absurd, yet mundane nature of it.

You’d think Miko would want to watch something, anything other than paranormal TV shows, but either she’s being a good big sis by watching with her little brother Kyousuke, or she genuinely likes ghost stories…she just doesn’t like being able to see said ghosts.

Something spooks Miko into going to the nearest vending machine, where she finds tiny little spirits when she drops her 500-yen coin. Oddly charmed by these bitty, seemingly harmless little guys, she follows one as he skitters away, only to end up in an alley with a giant ghost who eats the little ones like a snack. When she tries and fails to pick up the coin, a crow bails her out by stealing it.

Mieruko-chan once again proves its horror movie bona fides by giving us the classic situation of being visited by a ghost in one’s most vulnerable state: while naked in the bath. This is apparently the first time it’s happening to Miko, and she’s genuinely voicing her limits. She thought she could rely on the bathroom for solace, but now that’s no longer true.

This time her savior is Kyousuke. Worried she’s dating some dude (she’s not) wants to get in the bath with her, and she enthusiastically offers to wash his back. If he’s in there with her, the ghost isn’t as scary.

Every morning, Miko tells us she makes a wish to no longer “see them”, but that wish is seemingly ignored day after day, as she’s seemingly seeing more ghosts in more places all the time. She’s not even given a moment’s peace to eat breakfast with her family thanks to ghosts swarming the table and breathing on her food.

Throughout the episode, Miko had been all gung-ho about procuring some chestnut pudding. In addition to sounding freakin’ delicious (seriously, I need to find a recipe and make some if I can’t find some at the Japanese grocery store), I figured it was one small way Miko copes with her ghost sightings.

Then the episode throws us a twist by showing that the chestnut pudding has special significance: it’s not for her, but as an offering for her dad…who was dead all along! It’s a hell of a twist that builds on the fact Miko can see more than the ugly invasive ghosts, but ordinary ones too.

The post-credits sequence is a replay of the first segment in which Miko was watching TV with Kyousuke, only this time we see what Miko saw, and why that shampoo commercial freaked her out enough to go out for drinks.

This episode really accentuated the sheer weight of Miko’s ESP, and how it’s adversely affecting her sleep, behavior, and appetite. Could the new character who’ll (finally) be formally introduced next week, be a fellow “seer” who might have some tips for Miko finding some relief? I hope so!

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Mieruko-chan – 03 – A Bus Ride, Don Juan, and Beads

It’s the weekend, and Miko is meeting Hana at a Starbucks ripoff, but she has to take a bus, and the bus is full of ghouls. She comports herself pretty well throughout the ride, only to miss her stop because she’s trying to distract herself from the monsters so much, she forgets to get off at that stop. Fortunately the airheaded Hana did the same thing without an assist from ghosts.

That means Miko arrives at the cafe first. There, she finds a dashing young man waiting for his date, but that doesn’t stop him from hitting on Miko before she arrives. He thinks Miko is staring at her, but she’s staring at a possessive ghost haunting him, while his girlfriend has a half-dozen ghosts haunting her, suggesting these two heartbreakers were made for each other. Miko’s solution for not drawing the ire of the lady-ghoul is to pretend she’s into super macho wrestlers on her phone.

Once Miko and Hana finally meet up, it’s time to buy some prayer beads. Only the first instance in which Miko has to use them, the elastic snaps and the beads go everywhere. Miko knows how much Hana attracts ghouls and wants to protect her, so she takes one for the team and walks through a particularly big and nasty ghoul in a yellow jumpsuit, so Hana doesn’t have to.

Seeking stronger beads leads Miko to a fortune teller whom we learn is just a petty scammer since we can hear her inner monologue. However, she can not only tell that Miko is haunted by ghouls, but that Hana has a dazzling aura that’s like frikkin’ catnip for ghouls. So the lady decides to give Miko a set of beads with what seems to be legit ghoul-repelling power…only for those beads to break too.

Ultimately, Miko decides to give up on prayer beads, as they seem to welcome more ghoulish attention. As for the fortune teller? She closes up shop and turns a leaf, accepting her kids’ invitation to move in with them. Little does Miko know the change she instilled…

Our Last Crusade or the Rise of a New World – 04 – Feeling Lucky

Part of what makes a good show comes down to tempering expectations as much as surpassing or subverting them. With three straight episodes of Iska and Alice bumping into each other, this episode felt oddly empty because the two never meet. Instead there’s some bonding of Unit N07 at a casino, which is nice, but can’t help but feel like filler, stalling the inevitable next confrontation between the star-crossed lovers.

It was nice to see the unit dressed to the nines just for the heck of cutting loose and having fun, as well as to learn that both Captain Mismis and Alice’s attendant Rin have the same love of gambling that neither Iska nor Alice share. But for the two to be so close to each other—at the same casino and then receiving the exact same accurate fortune—without meeting feels like a letdown.

After a scene with the Octet revealing that Risya for all her cheer is a sometimes ruthless ladder-climber, she informs Mismis and her unit that they’ll be part of an Imperial team charged with heading to the Myudol valley (located between the Empire and Sovereignty) where a new Vortex (a massive confluence of astral energy) has been found.

At roughly the same time, Alice and Rin are informed of the same thing by the shifty Tuxedo Mask” Masked Lord”, who is a member of the Zoas, one of the two royal families not on the throne. Turns out the Sovereignty isn’t as monolithic as I thought; there’s ongoing enmity between the three families, something Alice regrets.

When Iska and his unit head to the valley, the guy in charge is a fellow Saint Desciple, named, er…Nameless, and is also faceless thanks to his state-of-the-art optical camo armor suit. He’s unambiguous in the troops’ mission to either capture the vortex or destroy it, as well as in warning everyone not to “get in his way”.

But when over ten soldiers go missing during the recon mission, Nameless insists that there be no search-and-rescue ops, and orders the search for the vortex to continue. This doesn’t sit well with Iska, but he is dismissed as a traitor by Nameless when he tries to get more answers. He’s also too low-ranking to even speak to Nameless, but Mismis isn’t, and she’s as eager as Iska to know why they’re essentially sacrificing their comrades.

As for Alice, she’s distrustful enough of the Zoa family that the only way to learn the truth about the valley and alleged vortex is to go there herself, representing both the crown and the Lou family. This means that after this week’s near-misses, Alice and Iska are sure to meet back up. Unlike their team-up to stop the Founder, they’ll be on opposite sides of a battle to secure a key strategic asset.

Senryuu Shoujo – 05 – Wearing Stripes, Feeling Sparks

This week swaps one new girl out for another: the fortune-telling, purple stripe-loving Hanakai Tao, whom Nanako and Eiji learn about through Amane. When they go to have their compatibility assessed, she determines from their names that they’re the most incompatible couple imaginable. Only problem is, she used the wrong kanji for Eiji’s name. Still, Nanako is happy because Eiji is so quick to dismiss the unfavorable verdict. Turns out Tao also attends their school.

Her Tarot reading points towards a night of good luck for Nanako…and Eiji getting struck by lightning. Of course, one shouldn’t take the cards too literally. Nanako probably would have had a good time regardless of luck—just spending time with Eiji makes her happy—while the “lightning” that strikes Eiji is the shock of discovering the size of her bust after she removes an outer layer after their rollerskating. Nanako and Eiji enjoying each other’s company simply never gets old…especially in this half-episode format.

Golden Kamuy – 12 (Fin) – Tricked by a Fox While Betting on the Ponies

GK’s first season decides to go out with a bit of a whimper rather than a bang, though there was a bang in last week’s far livelier episode. Shiraishi blew up all of the explosives the group bought for Abashiri. Somehow, Ienaga survived the blast, and has something to tell Ushiyama and Shiraishi.

Now they need more explosives, but are low on cash. Asirpa and Kiroranke recommend hunting for furs in the forest. There, Asirpa learns the money she lent Shiraishi was spent at the racetrack, where he promptly lost it all. Then, at her relatives’ camp, they meet a fortune teller, Inkarmat.

Inkarmat is a shrewd woman and knows how to trick those who let themselves be tricked; Shiraishi is one of those people, but Asirpa isn’t. She’s committed to being a “new kind of Ainu woman”, though when Inkarmat speaks of her father, Asirpa perks up a bit.

Inkarmat knows who the mark is among the party, and so goes to the horse races with Shiraishi, uses her fox skull to correctly predict the winner a few times in a row, and gets her cut in the form of selling various trinkets to Shiraishi. By the time Asirpa shows up, he’s acting like a big shot.

Kiroranke, who has been around horses his whole life and helped care for them with during the war, could probably predict the winners better than Inkarmat…if the races were fair. He learns the trainers are up to all manner of dirty tricks, drugging the horse they want to win and getting the one Kiroranke thinks should win to drink too much water.

Kiroranke is in luck; the jockey meant to ride the losing horse took off, so he takes his place, is determined to win, and does win. Shiraishi loses everything, but one of the tickets was for Kiroranke’s horse—a parting gift from Inkarmat—that Asirpa no doubt uses to re-procure their explosives.

With that, Shiraishi continues to make himself useful by telling Sugimoto and Asirpa what a “cutie” (really Ienaga) told him: of a fellow in Yuubari who has taxidermied human corpses bearing tattoos they’re interested. Sugimoto takes stock of their situation: they have five skins, Tsurumi at least one.

Meanwhile, he’s still unaware of the third player in this hunt for the gold, Hijikata Toushirou, to whom Ogata offers his services as bodyguard. There was way too much story left to tell before all’s said and done, so this week was a bit of a punt; taking stock, and some light comedy involving Shiraishi, Kuroranke, and the horses. A second season is coming this Fall, which should provide ample time and space to complete the story.

Flying Witch – 04

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Makoto, Kei and Chinatsu attend the cherry blossom fair, eat many pleasant snacks, tour a haunted maze, and finally meet a strange-looking woman wearing a suspicious hooded full body coat reading fortunes by the road. The woman’s name is Inukai-san and it’s quickly revealed that Akane playfully changed her into a half-dog during the previous festival and Inukai is desperate to return to being fully human.

After a lengthy and roundabout introduction, Makoto agrees to help Inukai, but the magic is beyond her ability to undo. However, before everyone can get too upset, Akane shows up, explains that the whole mess is Inukai’s fault (due to being very drunk) and says the spell will wear off eventually. Everyone is sad but accepting, and Inukai flies off into the night.

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As always, this week’s Flying Witch was packed with lovely details and little exposition. In one example, Mokoto mixes an interesting potion without explaining what she’s doing or how it would work — and the transformation process, which fails, happens entirely off-camera.

The resulting humor is pure deadpan, but soft, and the world-building is natural. It’s even more interesting in contrast with the opening act, which focuses on the cherry blossom fair itself, and is packed with the characters telling us about the fair, its food, and what they like about it.

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Flying Witch continues to remind me of a travel show. The slow pace, pleasant suggestions about what I may like about its setting and people and why, just have that style.

Even without that unique style, it exudes pure charm and surprisingly witty dialog, often sneaked into the background: when we learn that Inukai is Kei’s type, only Makoto seems to notice, but neither she nor Kei are dominant in the frame, and her reaction isn’t given significant visual consideration. It’s subtle, natural, part of the flow. Awesome!

16rating_9

Michiko to Hatchin – 03

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Michiko consults with a fortune teller who gives several prophecies to both her and Hatchin, she also sells a “miracle stone” that Michiko gives an unconvinced Hatchin. When Hatchin steps in dog doo, Michiko steals her a new pair of shoes. Hatchin convinces a Chinese restaurateur to give her a chance. As Michiko asks around for Hiroshi, Hatchin works for free to prove she’s serious. She runs after a dine-and-dasher to his favela (going against the fortune teller’s warnings) and is then chased by his friend with a gun. Cornered, she stuns him with her stone. Michiko arrives to pick her up and scare the others off. They go to the shanty where Michiko believes Hiroshi lives, but when a woman answers the door, Michiko storms off with Hatchin in tow, insisting it wasn’t her dad after all.

After shooting down helicopters riding motorbikes through windows and Rube Goldberg-like police chases through town, this episode is a lot quieter (there are some gunshots, but they’re poorly aimed). Now in a relatively safe place where they don’t have to be in survival mode, Michiko sets about her mission to find her man. It’s charming how much faith she puts in the old lady compared to Hatchin’s naked skepticism, and we knew when she started spouting off vague prophesies in her trance, that the episode would unfold much as she said, only with results different than Michiko and Hatchin interpreted them. We also see that Hatchin is still not ready to lead a life of crime, refusing to wear her shiny new shoes until she’s paid for them with a part-time job.

Hatchin’s oppressor-of-the-week is Ramu, but it’s different that she’s there by choice. Being a little kid with no ID, Ramu’s about as kind to you as you’d expect someone in his position to be (he also has a daughter). We also liked Hatchin shearing her pom-poms, a gesture symbolizing that the old put-upon Hana is gone (even if that’s not really true, at least not yet). Her enthusiasm in her quasi-job (she’s never actually paid) and her failure to heed the warning about “climbing the mountain” almost got her killed, but she finally gives in to the superstition, and her miracle stone flies true. As for Hiroshi, we’re guessing that really wasn’t him – just a white guy who resembled the sketch – we’ll know for sure if Michiko continues her search.

9_superiorRating: 9 (Superior)

Stray Observations:

  • This is a show that keeps track of its days and locations, so we know it’s been nearly two weeks since Michiko escaped and not even a week since she and Hatchin teamed up, which explains why Hana and Michiko aren’t quite best buds yet.
  • Hana’s cat-and-mouse chase with the boy who stole lunch (and her shoes) was excellent, especially when the tables were turned and Hana became the mouse in the favela.
  • Where is Michiko getting all these outfits? Never mind, we won’t ask…
  • Like the previous episodes, the built-up, lived-in environs are exquisitely detailed. It’s clear Brazil itself (at least an animated version of it) will be a major character in this series.
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