Afterschool Dice Club – 01 (First Impressions)


Wacky antics force the lonely girl in class to hang out with the new girl in class and learn about fun. Also Euro-style board gaming. Subject matter aside, the visuals are middle shelf and the protagonist has no agency. She’s simply dragged along by the plot and other characters because she’s there.

As for the subject matter… I play a lot of board games, including almost everything shown in the shop. However, I’m not sure I get anything out of highly detailed box shots and the friendgasmic high school girls discovering them?

Dice Club lacks a compelling story structure and protagonist. Unless you really get something out watching people play and explain board games, this is no different from any other ‘did you know’ / ‘public access’ vibe anime.

Karakai Jouzu no Takagi-san 2 – 12 (Fin) – The Real Game Begins

The entirety of Takagi 2‘s finale is devoted to the summer festival, as it should be. We start with Nishikata waiting nervously for Takagi, his hands already sweating with anticipation. She arrives positively resplendent in a yukata, nearly bowling him over with her beauty.

As they walk to the festival together, little kids and old people alike see them for what they are: a couple on a date. Nishikata thinks he can win a game in which no adults say they’re on a date, but he has to rely on semantics, and ultimately loses at the candy apple stand.

As the other members of the cast enjoy the festival, Nishikata tries to distract from the fact he’s on a date with Takagi by engaging in one competition after the other, from goldfish scooping to ring toss. He loses at all of them, but Takagi gives him an out: if he does “date stuff” with her, he’ll automatically win.

For once, Nishikata doesn’t want to win, or rather the little timid voice inside him doesn’t want him to fully open himself to the experience. He won’t feed Takagi, but he does give her the gift of a cute hairpin, eschewing the childish toys also available to choose.

On two notable occasions, the large crowds separate Takagi and Nishikata. The first time, he’s able to locate her quickly, but the second almost spells disaster, as they can’t find each other when the fireworks begin. Thankfully, Nishikata’s mate Kimura, with the assist of the episode, directing Nishikata to Takagi’s location atop the shrine steps.

Takagi has to endure the bulk of fireworks all alone, and her face has never been more morose…but when she spots Nishikata running up the steps her face brightens, and meets him halfway down the steps. Sadly, the fireworks end just as they reunite.

Far more importantly to Takagi, Nishikata finally takes her hand into his, unbidden, calmly explaining how it would suck if they got separated, not to mention the steps can be perilous.

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Takagi’s reaction above tells you all you need to know about how much this means to her. Just one episode after he finally asked her out, he mustered the courage to take her hand, and even if it was the practical move, it shows HUGE growth on his part to actually, you know, make it.

They descend the steps hand-in-hand and later we find them playing with sparklers on the beach; unassailably a date thing. Takagi tells him that throughout all the “losses” he’s endured, he’s never really lost, because, well, he has her. Her attention, her affection, her eyes on him.

No matter how you slice it, Nishikata is a winner. And in what I dearly hope will be a third season of this beautiful, uplifting show, perhaps he’ll keep gaining confidence, shaking off his childish hang-ups, and making the right moves. There’s a lot of game left to be played. But if this is the ending to this particular story, I’m glad it ended on a happy note.

Karakai Jouzu no Takagi-san 2 – 08 – A Better Dream

This week Takagi and Nishikata get “stuck” in the storage shed after gym class, as Nishikata pretends he can’t open the door in order to scare Takagi. Honestly it’s a pretty sizable “own goal” on his part, as Takagi doesn’t mind being alone in a shed with Nishikata one bit. She even realizes pretty quickly that the door’s not really locked, but if he’s going to make conditions so perfect for teasing, who is she to resist?

While in the dim shed Nishikata scrapes a knee, so Takagi takes him to the conveniently empty nurse’s office to administer antiseptic. Again, the two are all alone, and Takagi makes sure to point this out, sitting on the bed with Nishikata (the second bed of the episode!) and putting her hand just an inch from his, daring him to hold it and claim victory. Unfortunately, Nishikata…just can’t do it.

When the two compare dreams of what they’d do with a million (then ten million) yen, we can see the recurring theme of Nishikata being an unapologetic, helpless…kid. He wants to buy all the video games and comics; she wants to go on vacation with “someone she loves”—someone Nishikata can’t yet realize or accept to be…him.

Presumably, at some point, Nishikata will grow up a little more and take Takagi’s numerous, increasingly obvious hints. Or perhaps the time will come when Takagi will stop “teasing” and simply tell him upfront how she feels, leaving no room for doubt and not following it up with a “just joking.”

Mind you, I’m not saying that’s Takagi’s responsibility to move this thing forward. For all I know, she’s fine with things the way they are—which is why she’s not pressing—or she’s waiting to see how things play out. In any case, her odds of a desirable outcome are surely better than winning a 10 million-yen lotto ticket.

Durarara!! x2 Shou – 05

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The tone of the close of last week’s episode was clear: playtime is over, and this week largely renewed that tone by setting the table for the impending war, albeit with a healthy dose of both comedy and the overarching cynicism and disgust of Namie, who tosses away Izaya’s soul manipulation video journal and occasionally remarks on events through her unique lens I’ll call rubbish-vision.

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It starts with a newbie to Ikebukuro, Rokujou Chikage, or “Mr. Paternal.” He doesn’t hurt women, physically or emotionally, and severely punishes anyone who does. He’s also the leader of Toramaru (the white zebra-suit gang), and wastes no time throwing his weight around, protecting a damsel from a shoplifter but going so far in taking revenge for her sake that he ends up alienating himself (and having to run off with his harem before the cops come)

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Ironically, Rokujou is in town to voice his exception to be Shizuo’s overblown reaction to his men picking a fight with him. Rokujou is under the mistaken impression Shizuo has a low setting, but finds out pretty soon when he lands a right uppercut to Shizuo’s face, and while it knocks out his lit cigarette, an unfazed Shizuo simply continues the sentence he had started. With this utterly ineffective punch, the real war begins.

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Meanwhile, the Dollars new and old are having a lively online chat, when Kida suddenly private-chats Mikado, but not to catch up: his message is simple: stay indoors tonight, because there are shadows looming. He doesn’t explain how he knows this either, but for all I know he and Saki are holed up in Saitama, where the zebras are from, and heard things from people about them being on the move.

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Rokujou ends up enduring four of Shizuo’s blows before collapsing in defeat, but Shizuo doesn’t finish him and sends him to Shinra for treatment, because Rokujou told him he has a woman who can tend to those injuries, which makes Shizuo jealous. Still, unlike Izaya, Shizuo has no particular beef with him, either, and I’m sure he also subscribes to the “don’t hit women” ethos.

That doesn’t stop Shizuo from letting his guard down to an adorable little girl who seems excited to have found the guy in her photo. When he gets close enough, she zaps him with a stun gun. Another sign stuff is starting to Get Real: pint-sized assassins. Also a sign, from Namie’s perspective, that women aren’t something to be protected and treated like they’re made of porcelain.

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Rokujou’s bandages now explained, he plies through the sea of Ikebukuro with his doll collection in tow. But their chatter to one another about his general idiocy and immaturity give them agency that an airheaded harem wouldn’t normally have.

They’re well aware all of them lusting after this guy means they have strange tastes, but they like what they like, and they’re there because they want to be, not because Rokujou protects them. And other than Izaya’s ramblings and Rokujou’s fight, all of this week’s major action is the work of women.

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Ikebukuro is full of old-fashioned men with old fashioned ideas of what a woman should and shouldn’t be. That’s illustrated rather succinctly when highly independent badass Celty, paying the endlessly polite Shiki Haruya a visit for a new job, accepts his offer to remove her helmet, and Haruya’s henchmen wig out.

Haruya may speak like an old samurai, but his sensability is a lot more modern: when he tells his bald friend “It’s perfectly normal to remove your helmet indoors,” He’s really saying “Get with the times, cur.” This is how things are, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

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Of course this is not always the case. The throng of people who witness Shizuo interact with the little girl don’t see an innocent man being attacked by a crazy urchin, they see a sweet, innocent girl being brutalized by a cowardly brute.

When Shizuo and Tom realize how bad they look, they run off before the police arrive, as Rokujou did when his scene became too hot. But the girl clings to them. She may be far to young and small and weak to complete her mission to assassinate Shizuo, but those shortcomings do not faze her, and now that she’s found her quarry, she’s literally not going to let go.

This only creates more problems for Shizuo, who is always going to look like a creep and a criminal instigator in a fight where the other participant is this little girl.

(FYI, the girl is quite fittingly voiced by Kuno Misaki, who also voiced Hoshimiya Kate in Zvezda, another tiny but tough cookie.)

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Meanwhile, hopefully Mikado and Anri and the twins are safe in their homes, because Rokujou has brought EVERYONE to face the Dollars, about whom he has a very warped idea. The Dollars are high schoolers and a handful of otaku an itasha van who mostly chat online, right? Be that as it may, their territory is now officially under assault. Weathering it out indoors won’t accomplish anything, since I doubt the Zebras will leave without facing their rival head-on.

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Speaking of heads, the job the woman without one was give by Haruya was to locate the same little girl Shizuo encountered, suggesting she’s involved with the yakuza. But just before setting off (and giving her horse-bike a cute pat on the withers), another woman in a jumpsuit on a bike sidles up to her. Celty gets away, but her helmet is sheared off by a garrote the other rider had set up.

The Dollars would be a distinct disadvantage without one of their trump cards, so I’m eager to see where this goes. As for Namie, she doesn’t care if its men or women taking the lead, she remains disgusted with the number of humans continuing to increase in number, like so much rubbish being piled up in an alley.

Then again, considering how ludicrously obsessed with her brother Seiji, everything Namie says, no matter how much sense it may make, must be taken with a grain of salt.

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No Game No Life – 02

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Rock-Paper-Scissors is a very simple game, and a lot of psychology goes into its play. Stephanie Dora loses because she gets lost in analysis of her own strategy, and doesn’t consider the fact that Sora has a pretty good idea what it is. She fails to figure out that he had it all figured out, and loses. But the win isn’t particularly impressive (and Steph’s inner strategizing goes on a bit too long for my taste), because as Sora says: there was no way she was going to win; she’s just too emotional and easily riled.

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She was also coming off a fresh and devastating loss to Kurami and wearing nothing but a sheet over her panties, which couldn’t have helped her confidence. Sora may not have gotten a challenge, but he didn’t want one: he merely used a bet with Steph to test the power of the ten pledges. When he commands her to fall in love with him, she falls under his spell, but only intermittently. I liked the idea of the pledges being that ironclad, but it stumbled a bit in execution, Steph’s constant smashing of her head against things in an effort to shake off the spell got a little old after a while.

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That being said, I appreciated the manic energy both Hisaka Yoko and Matsuoka Yoshitsugu brough to Steph and Sora, respectively. Lest we forget, Sora’s not a normal human being, nor is Shiro; a point beautifully reinforced when they grow too far apart from one another. That intense co-dependence may make a future romantic pairing between Sora and Steph a bit tricky, but on the flipside, their absolute trust in one another makes them such a powerful gaming duo, Steph starts to believe they could be the key to saving the kingdom of humanity. More to the point, Sora’s thinking big, aiming squarely at the throne.

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No Game No Life – 01

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I wasn’t planning on watching this as I’ve never heard of it, but that seems to happen about once a season here at RABUJOI. Unlike WizBar, I’ve caught this right at the beginning. If every episode hence appoaches being as good as this first one, this could be a hell of a show. Here’s hoping this doesn’t crash and burn in the production values department in episode 11, too, because the visuals rock.

The show stars Sora and Shiro, a brother-sister pair of NEET shut-ins (or hikikomori) who are as otherworldly good at gaming as they are otherworldly bad at living in the real world (or caring about it, for that matter). The visuals establish their primacy right from the get-go: the outside world is bright, bleak, washed-out; the Lain-like interior (no coolant pools though) of the siblings is dark, but far more vivid in hue.

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They already have one foot out of the world they were born into, defeating 1200 elite MMORPG players while controlling only four mid-level players themselves, when they’re contacted by a stranger who knows far more about them than they should. This isn’t Heartbleed at work though, it’s Tet, the god of the world where Sora and Shiro truly belong: a world of games called Disboard. There’s a great sense of wonder and adventure as we’re suddenly thrust into that new world along with them; ending up 10,000 meters above it.

As Sora remarks, when a protagonist often finds himself in a new world, stories tend to depict that person’s return home. But this world feels more like home to them than the old one; right down to the color scheme. They waste no time putting their not inconsiderable gaming skills to good use, procuring supplies, cash, and a room with ease, and analyzing a game between players vying to become the next King of the world.

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This episode was an energetic,000 snazzy trip from start to finish, wasting no time getting Sora and Shiro out of one world, into the next, and into the thick of the action. While there was a glut of world-specific info for me to process (including Tet’s “ten commandments”), the show kept my eyes nice and busy while dispensing it, helping the necessarily medicine go down. My ears were also treated to the best soundtrack so far; broody and ethereal and brash and booming depending on the situation.

While Sora and Shiro are cocky and successful now (and would dismiss charges of beginner’s luck), things will really get interesting for me when they face off with a worthy or possibly even superior opponent. I look forward to that, and to the episodes with this pair of siblings being more than three minutes long, and containing no brother flesh-eating!

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