Vlad Love – 04 – All Concerned Parties

In a particularly chaotic episode, Mitsugu is captured by the president of the Torture Club for allegedly getting to close to Nami, the Dance Club president, whom he is stalking. Due to their mutual interest in Mai, Karate Club president Kasuno teams up with Nami to free Mitsugu, who packs a bag for Mai, who is apparently no longer safe in her home.

The pair head to Dr. Chihiro’s “house”—more of a mad scientist’s lab—only for Chihiro to have a predatory ulterior motive for harboring Mai. After Mitsugu sedates Chihiro, every other member of the cast shows up in sequence, demanding answers about who Mai is.

Kasuno and Nami end their brief alliance and their respective clubs “fight” each other, all while Maki films it and Kaoru runs around cosplaying as a Chun Li-like character. The Disciplinary President Jinko then shows up, demanding everyone stop breaking the rules.

The sudden surge of characters interacting means Vlad Love relies far too heavily on sliding inset portraits of characters talking and reacting, such that the episode at times looks more like a PowerPoint presentation than animation. There’s so much of this it borders on ludicrous—nay, it is ludicrous!

Then Mai drinks some very suspect blood from Chihiro’s vast collection and transforms into Salamander, and world-ending dragon, and starts destroying the city with her fire breath while Chihiro has a lengthy, meandering, and seriously unfunny monologue about how she came upon the blood.

From there Mitsugu and her classmates fade away and the focus shifts to a kaiju movie-style sequence in which military command center instructing fighter pilots to attack Dragon!Mai. This sequence is very sluggish, full of throwaway characters worrying about being sued for copyright infringement—an old, played-out joke that just won’t die.

Speaking of dying, once the fighters are authorized to open fire, the resulting battle over the city is cool-looking, though it also results in the death of Mitsugu and all the other characters in a massive explosion. Once again, the story ends up in the papers, and we can look forward to everything resetting back to a measure of normalcy next week.

Once again, the surfacy spectacle is occasionally diverting, but it’s hard to care about anything or anyone when everyone is doing little more than yelling at or slapping each other, and nothing that happens ever matters. Mai becomes an unthinking force of nature, while Mitsugu becomes just one more victim of the destruction. Once again I’m forced to ask: where is the vlad love in Vlad Love?

Vlad Love – 03 – Quite Unconcerned by Crosses

The zoo fiasco forgotten (like all things from episode to episode), Mitsugu and Mai catch a vampire flick at the movies…and Mai is so inspired she can’t help but bite the head of the man sitting in front of her. I like the idea of Mitsugu and Mai just going out and the former having to deal with the unpredictability (and volatility) of the latter. My Girlfriend’s a Vamp! kinda stuff.

This episode features a brand-new OP which may not slap quite as hard as the first, but is beautiful in its own right, both in visuals and music.

After the movie the couple bump into Watabe Maki (Hayami Saori), president of the Cinema Club at Mitsugu’s school, who is curious about Mitsugu’s new, very pretty and photogenic (and out-of-her-league) companion. Mitsugu says she’s a relative, and when pressed, Mai simply states they’re “connected by blood”—which is true!

Maki takes them to a good restaurant for dinner, where Mai consumes a generous amount of garlic gyoza. Rather than kill her, the garlic seems to have an intoxicating effect, and the restaurant is demolished. The papers cover the incident as some kind of “mass hallucination”, which seems to be a recurring theme…along with the frankly lame fourth-wall breaking when Maki can hear Mitsugu’s thoughts or points out when she’s spewing exposition.

Mai’s unforeseen reaction to garlic leads Mitsugu and Dr. Chihiro to undertake a more thorough investigation of how Mai fits into common vampire knowledge. She drinks blood, and can sprout fangs and wings out of her head, but UV light doesn’t bother her, garlic turns her into a boisterous drunk, and crosses don’t affect her in the least.

While testing the UV bit, Mitsugu runs into another classmate, the Type-B (i.e. eccentric) Konno Kaoru, prez of the Cosplay Club. She mistakes Mai’s get-up for Invisible (Wo)man cosplay, and invites her and Mitsugu to the Cosplay Club so they can get their ‘cos on. Mai nails all the classics, from maid to bunny and magical girls. Mitsugu is more niche, pulling off a researcher from a 1970s sci-fi movie with aplomb.

Kaoru invites the pair to an Akiba Halloween party, the location of which is established with the show’s signature live-action drone footage of the city. Mai’s vamp-girl costume proves too hot to handle, causing a near-riot amongst the horny guys in the audience and forcing the karate club to lay down the law while keeping their school’s Disciplinary Officer Jinko at bay.

Mitsugu seems to sense when she and Mai should start heading home, but before that can happen the commotion knocks out the lights at the venue. Mai emerges from the darkness then transforms into a swarm of bats, making one hell of an exit from the party that is once again written off as a mass hallucination.

To quote Homer Simpson, each episode of Vlad Love has been little more than “a bunch of stuff that happened”. That doesn’t mean that stuff doesn’t look great and a ton of fun to boot, but there’s just no depth to the stuff, and everything resets from episode to episode, so nothing really means anything. Their movie date aside, Mai and Mitsugu aren’t really progressing as a couple so much as treading water.

The episode is also stuffed with overindulgent moments like the whole minute of needlessly describing in great detail the British bomber inexplicably flying in the air over the gyozu restaurant. Stuff like that engenders far more ¯\_(ツ)_/¯’s than LOL’s.

Watashi, Nouryoku wa Heikinchi de tte Itta yo ne! – 02 (Second Impressions)

Off to a rocky start, Mile settles on “It’s a family secret” as her default answer to Mavis, Reina and Pauline’s probing questions. This does not sit well with the other girls, nor does Mile’s attempt to lie about her backstory by telling them a tall tale… which turns out to be the narrative of the kingdom’s current best selling book. Fortunately, Mile is ‘saved by the bell’ and the quartet heads for their first orientation.

Mile continues to fail at her life goal of low-key living, while succeeding by every other measure. During armed evaluation, she one-hits her opponent for snarking on her flat chest. During magic evaluation, Mile intentionally mimics Reina’s fire spell, but at half-output… only for that to backfire too. Reina’s spell is a custom spell, and being able to cast it after only having seen it once, is beyond comprehension!

After an awkward tea-time interrogation, the girls choose to party-up for the first group assessment: kill 10 horny rabbits, the lowest level monster in the kingdom. To Mile’s consternation, this task proves difficult, as Reina and Mavis’ skills emphasize strength over speed and accuracy. Mile’s solution? Put on a turtle-house master beard, and go old skool dragon ball training montage on her team mates’ assess.

10 dead bunnies later (and a few surprise stone golems) and Mile’s team is the only party to clear hunter prep school’s challenge. What’s more, Mile’s fears that her secret re-life and genius skill rating would prevent her from making friends are proven unfounded. Mavis is inspired by Mile’s demonstration of human potential, Reina finds Mile’s practical examples quite helpful, and Pauline quietly takes note of magic x merchant-trade opportunities.

Little do they know, the B-Rank adventurers they beat last week have been sprung from prison and are will, no doubt, be looking for some payback later in the season…

As a specimen of the reborn in another world with great power (as a reward and not to defeat a global threat) Isekai sub-genre, WNwHdtIyn! further distinguishes itself by forcing Mile to face conflicts her broken power level cannot immediately resolve. Namely, making friends and overcoming her anxiety about being too good in the first place. It’s this anxiety, coupled with Mile’s slightly selfish touristy nature, makes her infinitely more interesting as a main character than other examples of the sub-genre.

Where Mile and Smartphone’s Touya both go out of her way to help and share her skills with strangers, Touya has no motivation beyond “being a good guy.” Toya literally jumps into a conflict between people in a dark alley without knowing what’s going on because… girls? At least Mile has met the inn keeper’s daughter, and formed a report, before being swept into the search for kidnappers.

TL;DR Mile’s character has faults, which grant her nuance. This makes her more of a person and less of an empty proxy for viewer escapism. Considering how played out Isekai escapism is at this point, WNwHdtIyn!’s choice is the right one.

Watashi, Nouryoku wa Heikinchi de tte Itta yo ne! – 01 (First Impressions)

12 years ago Kurihara Misato was a Japanese high school girl with good grades and no friends. She died pushing a younger girl out of the path of a speeding car cliché amd a god-character offered to re-born her in another world +plus give one gift. Feeling her grades contributed to her lack of school friendships, Misato opts for ‘being reborn with totally average powers.’

Misato’s final request is processed more literally than you might expect and “Mile” is born with power equal to her fantasy world’s mathematical mean. That is, exactly half way between the strongest living creature (elder dragons) and the weakest. To Mile’s mild annoyance, that pegs her 6,800 times more powerful than any other human…

Didn`t I Say to Make My Abilities Average in the Next Life?! proudly announces what it is from the get go: a completely self0aware reborn in another world style Isekai, featuring a fourth-wall-breaking protagonist who is eager to share her absurd experiences via narration. From her amusement over the gimmicks of her new world (magic is actually thought translation via nano machines!) to screwing with the NPCs (pretending to get her hand eaten by a lifeless gargoyle) Mile and the constant monolog are there to explain the hours away. The result is oddly welcoming and a pleasant reversal of fish-out-of-water Isekai standards.

While you could be excused for groaning about a fifth Isekai running this season, this show is cute and chuckle worthy. Misato was no jaded Tanya the Evil, but there’s just a little snark to how she see’s her new fantasy world, and how she describes the characters living there in terms more familiar to us. (The fire mage is totally a tsundere) In purely Isekai terms, the vibe is enough to make it enjoyable to watch. Far more than Bookworm or Prodigies.

Re:Creators – 13

One thing on which Oigakkosan and I can agree is that one of the best scenes of Re:Creators to date comes at the end of the very first episode: a smash cut from the serious end credits to the newly-arrived Meteora and Celestia going on a convenience store snack spree on Souta’s dime.

It’s a successful scene for so many reasons, among them that it establishes the clever fish-out-of-water dynamic that was later largely abandoned once the battle with Altair began in earnest.

It was also a strong indication that the creators of Re:Creators had a sense of humor, and unlike some Troyca shows, wouldn’t mind cutting loose and having a little fun from time to time.

Aside from some in-show commentary from Chikujouin Magane, Re:C hasn’t done as much as either Oigakkosan or I wanted with the potential established in that first episode’s final scene. Heck, they even killed off my favorite Creation at the time (Mamika), the one with the most ridiculous attacks and sound effects.

Fortunately, and quite to my surprise, that cheeky, mildly self-deprecating tack returns with a vengeance in this, the ostensible recap. It turns out to be more of an Osterreich recap, as Meteora delivers a fun and amusing fourth-wall breaking commentary, even embellishing her own importance and appearance in the story.

Where her potential had been somewhat dulled by being trapped in the show, with Meteora free to discuss things like the synopses of the various characters’ anime (often lifting it verbatim from the official websites), she morphs into a neat audience surrogate, and share her opinions on how things have gone thus far the normal format of the show wouldn’t allow.

The show’s willingness to pull Meteora, the talkiest of the talky creations, out of the world of the show and into ours matches the premise of the show, and reestablishes that first episode potential by making sure my smile rarely leaves my face throughout her recap.

Initially portraying herself as far “sexier” than she really is; taking great pains to explain why Celestia lost her first battle against Mamika so badly; criticizing Yuuya and Alice (AKA Grasshopper Glasses and Muscle Brains) for so easily falling for Magane’s deceptions; it’s all great stuff.

At the same time, we’re getting little glimpses and tidbits of their stories before they became a part of Re:Creators.

After appearing again as a statuesque, scantily-clad pool hustler (with the other characters represented as balls), Meteora saves her most biting verbal venom for the show’s villain, Altair, tearing her character design apart as needlessly, annoyingly complicated, and suggesting that the producers change her outfit to a tracksuit and sandals (which we unfortunately never see, but which I’m sure a fan will draw at some point). Badly karaoke-ing “World Etude” was also a nice touch.

In the final scene, we’re back in the conference room from the previous episode with all the characters assembled, everyone but (regular-looking) Meteora frozen in time while she walks around with a spotlight above her.

Here, before returning us to the “normal format” and those final moments of the last episode in preparation for the show’s second half, Meteora aims to assure those who are concerned about the future of Re:Creators that, far from a sign of diminishing quality and an “industry in crisis”, this recap was always meant to be.

As a recap, it succeeds in going over the various players, where the sides stand, and what’s at stake. But what makes it a far better recap than I could have imagined—and a more effective episode than some of the normal format ones that preceded it—is its willingness to let its hair down and have some fun with its admittedly cool premise.

In doing so it demonstrated bolder, more creative thinking, and gave me fresh hope the show will find its second wind. One thing’s for sure: I’ll never watch Meteora—or listen to her many measured words—the same way again.

Handa-kun – 06

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The Gist: Kawafuji is aware of Handa’s increasing paranoia in the wake of the amnesia plot and tries to introduce him to a new friend. Handa, being paranoid, dresses in a disguise for the meeting. However, at the end of their hang out day he comes to like the new person… but totally confuses issues be rescuing his new friend from bullies as Handa.

Later, Handa defeats his middle school nemesis, a track star named Dash. Dash gets raped by a horny dog. Twice.

Then the school palm reader is stumped by how average Handa’s palm is. Also, that he will never marry nor have love, but will be surrounded by many children in the near future. She too takes this as an accidental compliment from Handa and strives to work harder.

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The Verdict: while I greatly enjoyed the dog-rape segment for it’s rapier like subtlety, the third act was the most concise joke. There’s not much to say beyond that really… Handa-kun’s accidental nice guy hero formula is pretty straight forward and the cast around him follows such a predictable pattern, once you’ve seen one, you’ve seen it all.

Still worth a chuckle. Not a very clever chuckle but a chuckle all the same;

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Handa-kun – 05

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The age of males is long gone…

The Gist: This week’s unintentional conflict pits Handa against Tennouji Sawako-sama, the man-hating student council president. This is because Handa is popular, technically viceless, and looks like he is amassing a group of powerful students… all things that could challenge Sawako’s domination of the school, and males in general.

Sawako’s first plan is to seduce and control Handa with two of the school’s most predatory females but it’s thwarted in traditional Handa fashion: the girls overhear what seems like a genuine life lesson directed at them and leave, only for Handa to actually be talking to stray cats.

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Sawako’s second plan is to capture Handa and force him to wear a skirt. This leads to a chase by de-masculinated student council vice-president Rikimaru, which culminates in Handa and Sawako falling down the stares. Handa appears to have protected her during the fall and, again following the show’s formula, wins Sawako’s heart without knowing what is going on at all.

In an unexpected twist, Handa loses his memory and becomes a creepy opportunist clown. There are many jokes about him trying to pick up girls but everyone things he’s just another fake because the real Handa would never cheapen himself like that. Eventually, Handa becomes depressed again, maybe or maybe not actually regaining his memory in the process…

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The Verdict: The opening act was pure formula but it was moderately entertaining. The jokes were well timed, the visuals were silly, and the accidental life lesson was amusing.

Unfortunately, the second act was not so good. It didn’t do anything with the amnesia tropes, it was short, and nothing really came of it except end everything was back to normal by the end.

To its credit, Handa-kun builds a remarkably lived in world where any character that has received a face and screen time continues to weave in and out of future episodes. Suicide-chan and the Predator Girls and not-Handa all make appearances here. But it’s a pretty average, lightly funny world to have dedicated so much effort to.

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Handa-kun – 04

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The Gist: This week Handa-kun continued to hit its stride with another trio of silly nonsensical situations. First we meet a Handa-kun cosplayer with terrible teeth, then students misunderstand Handa’s mom to be his girlfriend, and last Handa tries to make small talk because his parent teacher meeting doesn’t go well.

The Verdict: Handa-kun’s shortcomings as a show remain the same but so do its strengths in comedic timing. This leaves me with little to say beyond summarizing the episode, unfortunately. Fortunately, I was laughing most of the way!

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Handa-kun – 03

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The Gist: This week concludes the character introductions with Tsutsui Akane-kun, Kondo Yokio and Kawafuji-kun. The three-part episode format makes each segment feel a little short but, honestly, that’s probably for the best.

Even though the core gag is the same in each segment (Handa-kun thinks the opposite of what everyone thinks he thinks), hopping from segment to segment keeps it from feeling over used. Played out or not, the question is, does Handa-kun have enough to like in the first place?

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Tsutsui Akane-kun’s segment is the most interesting, structurally. See, Akane-Kun used to be a girly boy and he was literally tormented by the way Handa imagines being tormented. In a way, it is the way Handa is tormented: Girls thought Akane was stealing their boyfriends.

Unlike Handa, Akane broke and left school to become a shut in. Then he became a tough and redefined himself. When Handa/misunderstanding inevitably brings Akane back to school, the cycle continues with his own awkwardness leading Handa to think they are enemies.

tl;dr? It’s smarter than it is funny but it was also pretty funny.

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Yokio’s section would be straight forward except we, as viewers, can draw a deeper understanding of Handa’s weird popularity from Yokio’s conclusions. Yokio see’s Handa’s decisions as bizarre, and he can see everyone is forcing themselves to think of these decisions in a positive light, but he can also see that the results are positive. Handa-Force stops fighting to pay attention to Handa’s kitchen fire and they all appreciate getting ‘treat’ of special custard at the end, even if it’s gross.

The results make the intention unimportant. In a way, because Handa is an eccentric artist, his actions are basically performances too, which makes them not out of place for him to do… in an academic sense.

Looking at it from another angle, Yokio knows Handa’s work is high concept and he gets that ‘an ordinary Joe can’t grasp his appeal’ but that’s not going to stop him from trying.

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Kawafuji’s segment isn’t particularly interesting from a structural stand point and the jokes are over the top instead of funny. However, it shows us why Handa is so terrified of everyone, why Kawafuji is his only friend and why they would still be together in Barakamon.

Spoilers: it’s Kawafuji’s fault because he was jealous. It’s also his fault because he hasn’t told Handa the truth yet. It’s also likely in Handa’s favor not to learn the truth because a normal acting Handa loses all the mystique. It loses any purpose to watch the show, really.

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The Verdict: This week gave us the best Handa outing so far, largely because Akane, Yokio and Kawafuji are more interesting characters than the chairman and the model. Yokio and Kawafuji are especially good, because they actually see Handa for what he is: a wreck and bizarre.

Now that the comedic timing and dialog are tight, Handa-kun is enjoyable to watch. (even with the socially awkward cringe-factor) If some chuckles and tie-forward to the better show is enough to warrant keeping it on your schedule, there you have it. If not, summer’s packed with great shows. No big loss.

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Handa-kun – 02

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The Gist: Handa ‘defeats’ the two girls from last week, as well as ‘glasses’ Aizawa Junichi and ‘model’ Nikaido Reo who were introduced as members of Handa-force last week.

As with last week, Handa ‘defeats’ these opponents largely through his lack of understanding and, for the same reason, most people think highly of him. As you may have expected: all’s well that ends well: ‘muscles’ Juri-chan and Maiko-chan are back to being friends… and accept being romantic rivals.

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What makes Handa-kun special: its protagonist is a hot mess of illogical responses that, against all odds, turn out in his favor. Take his misunderstanding of Maiko and his choice to write her a letter.

By making Muscles (Juri) fall for him, she became aware of the inequity of her relationship with Maiko. Then, after they both fail to win his affections and choose to try calligraphy, their relationship realigns, but with a new balance between them. A truer balance. That’s good narrative building!

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What holds Handa-kun back from being great is that it only gives us one side of the coin seen in Barakamon. There, Handa played off of another character, and there was warmth from their back-and-forth.

Here, there is truly no warmth. Handa doesn’t like anyone here, not even a little. This isn’t ‘wrong’ but it is a little weird if you think about it: it’s about a talented jackass getting away with whatever and everyone assuming he’s a nice person.

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The Verdict: Handa-kun has a solid formula and it deserves plenty of laughs. There’s real craft to how the narrative is constructed too. That said, it’s hard to imagine Handa-kun standing out without Barakamon.

And this is no Barakamon.

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Handa-kun – 01 (First Impressions)

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Barakamon was an awesome, often frenetic comedy with a ton of heart, so I was weary of a prequel taking place in high school. There was no need to worry: Handa-kun is an entirely different animal in the best way. It’s no match for Barakamon, but it has it’s own absurd energy and charm.

If you’d assume the first half of the first episode of a show called Handa-kun would contain…Handa-kun, you’d be mistaken! Instead, we get a lengthy, and very meta, scene in which four of Handa’s friends miss the first episode of his anime, and so make their own horrifying Handa-kun, until the studio mails the real anime to them.

The scene plays with out own expectations and ignorance about what exactly this show is going to be about (besides Handa in high school), while taking a couple of good-hearted digs at the expectant audience-anime studio relationship.

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When we finally get to Handa in high school, he’s an absolute mess, as expected. While everyone around him either loves, envies, or reveres him, Handa doesn’t have a clue, and gets the exact opposite vibes that are being thrown his way. Even the button-cute class idol wants to date him, but he assumes she’s trying to beat him up.

Handa’s talent also lets him get away with murder in class, as his thought processes often leak into public hearing, the math lesson be damned. He doesn’t bother to look or hear anything anyone does or says correctly. He’s hopeless.

That being said, Handa tries to hear Maiko out, but in the strangest way possible; writing a note for Maiko’s gruff, bizarrely proportioned friend Juri, in a scrawl elaborate and nigh-incomprehensible to a high schooler. Not exactly the best way to relay a clear message!

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His note convinces Juri that he’s into her, and so when Handa arrives at the agreed upon spot behind the gym after school, both Juri and Maiko are there waiting for him. Naturally, he assumes the worst: some kind of challenged or fight is imminent, but you have to respect his “courage”…if only he had a friggin’ clue what was going on around him! Alas, his constantly churning mind obscures all.

We close on that spot behind the gym, and go back to the group of four friends who started the episode, just as frustrated as I am by the “To Be Continued.” But the kicker is when they mail Handa their creepily-drawn homemade anime, and before the OP is over,  he simply has to switch it off.

Well, that’s not what I’ll be doing with the real anime…it was a gas, and I’m excited to see what bizarreness it can bring to bear next time.

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Saenai Heroine no Sodatekata – 03

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Tomoya needs to deliver an awesome game proposal to the tentative circle if he’s to convince them—and himself—that he’s serious about his dream. But as an otaku in a room filled with media to consume, Tomoya finds himself easily slipping from his task of creating.

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The three girls in his circle lend him support in their own ways. Eriri simply stops by unannounced (she literally sneaks in without him knowing) and draws in his room as he works. It doesn’t take Tomoya long to learn his childhood friend’s intent, and her textbook tsundere act only adds fuel to the fire. He’s grateful to her, but he’s also keen on surpassing her one day.

Eriri doesn’t laugh this off, because she’s not sure it’s something to laugh about. Neither do we. Tomoya may be procrastinating, but he’s definitely trying. His heart is in it…his brain and body simply need to catch up.

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To Eriri’s horror, Utaha shows up at Tomoya’s house, first to pretend she’s there to mess around, but then fesses up that she’s merely “visiting a soldier on the front.” I’ve really just met Utaha, but that just sounds like such an Utaha expression. Once she learns how little Tomoya has accomplished (he’s honest, because she’s a creator, but also because he’s serious), Utaha tries to discourage him from continuing and advises him to return to a life of consuming media.

What’s great about this tack is that condescension, while present and accounted for, is not her primary intent. When she goes off on a passionate rant, seemingly channeling Eriri’s energy for a moment (only more frightening since she’s usually so calm), she admits she likes having consumers like Tomoya read her work without trying to attack her with it or analyze her to death. He’ll analyze her work, sure, but not her. He believes she’s at the top of her game, and is above such pettiness.

(Oh, and I was mindful of the fact that a large chunk of the second straight episode was taking place in Tomoya’s room. I was also mindful of the fact I didn’t care in the slightest. After all, think about the rooms you inhabit throughout the day. You’re in those rooms a lot, right? Why should it be any different for Tomoya, especially with the task before him?)

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Once Salt & Pepper peace out, Tomoya gets a call from Vanilla, her second to him in the episode. The first one was quite obviously checking in, albeit in the casual, semi-involved way Kato does most things. Her second call is also checking in, but neither call feels the slightest bit out of obligation.

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It feels like Kato and Tomoya want nothing else than to be talking to each other, here and now. The conversation flows so easily, it almost drizzles like warm honey into a cup of piping hot tea. It’s very much a routine boyfriend-girlfriend chat, right down to Kato being in a loud place where it’s hard to hear, but not hanging up or calling back later.

But it also happens to be extremely well-written and nuanced boyfriend/girlfriend chat, with double significance, as they’re also talking on the level of artist and muse. Saekano likes to joke around with the tropes of its genre, but it is also perfectly capable of being dead serious and sincere when it’s called for.

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Here’s just a taste of the honey, which starts with a few seconds of silence by Kato, indicating even she must steel herself to say certain things:

Kato: What was it about me that appealed to you, Aki-kun? …You know, like, “Boy, it sure was fun when we did that,” or, “Wow, I sure love that about her,” or even the opposite, and something that you didn’t like.
Tomoya: Have you contracted a fatal disease and you won’t live to see me tomorrow?
Kato: It’s nothing that dramatic, but, well, is there?
Tomoya: Let me think…Well, everything was fun. Really fun.
Kato: Then there’s no room for improvement?

Tomoya goes on to say he maybe wished she had been a little more overbearing, though not mean-spirited like the other two girls. Kato doesn’t get the difference, but in any case, signs off for the night. The phone call strikes a perfect balance of honesty, bluntness, relaxedness, and excitement.

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Tomoya proceeds to sit at his laptop and then hastily waste another day, and then a fair chunk of another, and then the voices of self-doubt start to ring in his head.

Returning to the hill where Kato dropped her beret in a desperate search for inspiration, Tomoya finds only a hill, and the doubt continues to build until his eyes water, feeling helpless to stop this whole enterprise from ending before it began…

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…Then a white beret floats into his field of vision, almost like a flying saucer in the sky. The alien before him is only Kato, but she’s been…transformed. The cherry blossom petals return at the sight of her in her super-moe dating-sim heroine outfit. Not only that, Kato is talking and acting precisely the way such a heroine would in a game. Every word; every gesture.

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Before Utaha left Tomoya’s place, she told him if he’s truly serious about this dream, it’s not enough to merely convince her and the rest of the circle of his plan’s merit. He must bring them into it, and get them to want to give it their all, through the sheer force of his will and charisma. Utaha, not surprisingly, wants him to be forceful.

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In her motivational heroine act, Kato is already being pretty forceful. Turns out she went to Eriri and Utaha and begged them to lend her their strength. Eriri perfected her wardrobe, while Utaha handled her dialogue and mannerisms. And by God, not only do they prove they’re the real deal, but Kato proves she’s the ideal blank(-ish) canvas upon which to paint Tomoya’s dream game.

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And while I know part of her is simply putting on an act to inspire him to press on, that act, and the desire to carry it out, comes from a place of genuine affectionate concern for Tomoya; a place of love, just as his legitimate, if not overtly-stated, affection for her is what started him on this path in the first place.

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And there’s no better ‘cover’ to say the things they say and do the things they do with minimized embarrassment, than under the more detatched guise of creator+heroine. It’s not just a guise I see through, but Eriri and Utaha as well. Any girl who can kick Tomoya out of his disappointing sedentary existence to this extent is a girl to be taken seriously.

But the bottom line is, Kato makes everyone around her better. Individually, she, Eriri, and Utaha had a slight motivating effect on Tomoya. Working collaboratively increased that effect exponentially, which in Tomoya’s case, meant he eventually did write something down.

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While negotiating when Kato will be able to leave his place Tomoya agrees to 6 AM rather than 7, not just because “girls take longer to get ready”, but because “it would be crazy to end the same way two episodes in a row!” The meta moments of earlier eps are still here, but they’re more smoothly integrated in the narrative, and when they do pop up like here, they’re a pleasant and hilarious surprise rather than a distraction.

Naturally, Eriri and Utaha lambast Tomoya’s proposal for being too overt and indulgent, which makes sense, considering he’s really telling the story of how he met and fell for Kato Megumi…who he worked so hard last night, she’s asleep beside him in the cafe booth. Those facts alone guarantee Salt & Pepper’s criticism will be tinged with resentment. This show is just too frikkin’ good.

10_sesRABUJOI World Heritage List

Sabagebu! – Special – 01

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For those of you who plan to purchase a Blu-ray copy of Sabagebu!, know that… I’m about to spoil the bonus episode that comes on that disc!

For, indeed, I’m not sure if Sabagebu! Special 01 would have much impact if you knew exactly what you were getting into. So be warned! Look away if your disc is still in the mail, cause here we go!

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Entitled “Now There Were 5,” Sabagebu! special is an 11-minute summer vacation escapade. The girls are going to the president’s summer home for some relaxation but no one is fooled: they know Miou will turn it into a survival challenge of some sort, some how.

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And she does, except the obstacle course is not really important, nor all that challenging. Not till they get to the sharks, anyway.

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No, really this episode is about fan service. Knowing, psudo-family-friendly, fan service.

The girl’s strip down when they get to the mansion. The girls wear school swim suits as they trek across the obstacle course. Kaya gives a history on swim suits and on mythology that involve stripping Momoka in her imagination. Maya’s clothes are ripped off and she’s molested by eels.

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Urara gets especially frisky with Momoka’s anus, crotch, and under garments.

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Then Urara gets kicked back into the shark-filled lake and is eaten quite quickly. As her blood begins to spread, Miou proudly says she’s happy they’ve all made it. Then, as the narrator brings us away, Urara’s skull bobs to the surface.

Then there were 5! (counting Platty)

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Woo! That was some fan service! Knowing or not, it was more than a little eye-rolling.

Likewise, even if the girls were annoyed by it — Momoka even throws Platty AT THE SCREEN to get us to leave them alone — I’m not sure how I’d have taken this during the regular season?

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Thank goodness it was still funny!

Sabagebu! has fantastic timing and, above all else, knows how to pull out a surprise just when you think you’ve seen it all. No! I’m not talking about the surprise reveal that the sharks were real: I’m talking about the possibility that they just KILLED OFF A CHARACTER FOR LAUGHS!

Bravo, Sabagebu! Bravo!

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