Jahy-sama wa Kujikenai! – 19 – Sister Act

Druj is all ready to fight beside Jahy, but first reminices about how she was ostracized for her power to control the minds of others. She was ready to basically commit suicide until Jahy pulled her from the brink. It’s a heartwarming story, but Druj takes so long telling it that their opponent flees, so the two just spend the rest of the night drinking, something I very much would have liked to see.

Back at work, Jahy proves she’s not only great at serving tables, but also preparing the food. Kyouko suggests she could even open her own place with her skills, something Jahy hadn’t considered before but soon gets extremely into. Druj offers her services in finding the ideal location—and likely funding for said pub. Jahy tries to use the landlady as a taste tester, but she isn’t into it when Jahy gets all high and mighty about wanting to branch out on her own.

The manager, on the other hand, is nothing but supportive of Hy-chan going after her dream to open her own place, and even offers to help in any way she can. That’s when the weird sparkly horned ghost (which Jahy calls the “Grey Eminence”) appears behind the manager, asks if she wants power, and the manager says yes, she wants the power to support Jahy. Just like that, the manager becomes a Magical Girl.

When the Eminence tells Magical Girl Manager to steal Jahy’s crystals, the manager refuses, saying that’s not right, and if the Eminence wants them, she should sit down and talk about it with Hy-chan. Then the Eminence takes physical form as a white-and-pink Demon Lord clone. She’s about to attack Jahy when the Demon Lord steps in. Before you know it, both girls have grown to kaiju size and start battling each other.

Jahy does her best to stop the warring girls, but ends up damaging the façade of the pub. The manager is only able to use her magic to make flowers, so Jahy asks Kyouko to transform and buy them some time. Jahy then sprouts bat wings, flies between the fighting kaiju girls, and gets severely injured when she gets zapped by their rays.

When they realize they’ve hurt Jahy the girls return to normal size. The white and pink one admits she did all of this because she wanted her older sister, the Demon Lord, to pay attention to her. Indeed, she first turned Kyouko into a Magical Girl for that purpose, but Kyouko was more powerful than she expected and destroyed her sisters realm. Jahy is understandably quite pissed off that everything that’s happened to her was due to a spat between extremely powerful sisters.

Jahy isn’t satisfied with a half-hearted apology from the Demon Lord’s sister, whose name is Su, but the manager forgives Su, asks for everyone’s help in fixing her pub, and thanks Jahy for putting herself in danger to protect her, but kindly asks that she not be so reckless next time. All’s well that ends well, right where we left off before the manager’s transformation: will Jahy open her own pub?

My Senpai is Annoying – 02 – Largesse Oblige

It’s interesting to think there’s a symbolism to her tininess beyond simple novelty. At her point in her life, just starting out on those bottom rungs of the Ladder of Adulthood, it’s easy to feel as insignificant as a water flea sometimes. Fortunately Futaba’s work environment isn’t a toxic one, and she’s got a big ally in her senpai.

When their chief sees that Futaba wants to go to lunch with Takeda, he cancels his plans with him, and they can finally clear the air. Takeda tells Futaba not to worry about what she said about wanting to be his wife; it was the liquor talking, and it’s a senpai’s job to look after his drunk kouhai.

But while Futaba is glad her comment didn’t give him their wrong idea, the underlying frustration is that it’s not entirely the wrong idea! Futaba doesn’t like the idea of Takeda not seeing her as a real woman, and even uses the “kouhai” label to avoid confronting that inherent tension.

Futaba’s self-consciousness the kind of attention she wants from Takeda versus finding the guy hella annoying is contrasted with the fact her co-worker Sakurai Touko (Hayami Saori), who gets too much of the wrong attention for her physique and turns down any guy who tries to ask her out…except for Kazama, who has never asked her out.

Futaba’s bust envy is compounded when she meets her sporty friend Natsumi in the park for a shopping trip. Futaba can feel all of the eyes on Natsumi in the park while she’s utterly ignored, or otherwise considered a child. That said, Futaba doesn’t take it out on her friend, and the two end up having a great time.

Then Futaba gets her hands on a pair of free bear buns, then slips into the changing room to try them on for size. She immediately likes how “ladylike” she looks, only for Natsumi to peek in and take a photo or two for her own enjoyment.

The incident throws Futaba off to the extent that she forgets to remove her chest padding before boarding the train home, and ends up running into Takeda and Kazama. Futaba is again disappointed that even when Takeda sees her, he doesn’t seem to even notice her bigger bust. We learn later when Kazama asks him about it that Futaba truly didn’t see anything different about her.

But that doesn’t mean he doesn’t care about her; just that different people have different priorities. Futaba’s heart was in the right place all along as he managed to catch a creep taking upskirt shots of her. He gives the guy a judo throw when he tries to put up a fight, then leaves him to the cops. Futaba is buoyed by the knowledge her senpai truly does care about her, whether or not he sees her as a real woman, which…the jury’s honestly still out!

Something for which the jury’s verdict is already in is the budding relationship between Sakurai and Kazama, which started with him giving her a “wrong number call” to get her away from another co-worker asking her out. He’s super shy and coy about it, but she knows what he did, and has possibly been turning all the other guys down because she likes Kazama.

In any case, Sakurai is the one to ask Kazama out to dinner, and he’s not stupid enough decline. While bust comparison is one of the oldest and most played-out bits in all animedom, this show managed to make a go of it with its thoroughly charming characters…not to mention above-average animation with a great face game and subtle, lovingly rendered gestures.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

My Senpai is Annoying – 01 (First Impressions) – Climbing the Stairs of Adulthood

I’ve been remiss, fellow anime lovers…for the last five weeks I’ve beeing missing out on one of the best rom-coms of the Fall. Fortunately it’s not too late to go back and rectify that error, bow deeply, and accept responsibility for the mistakes that were made. Like a true salesperson!

For those who like me have not availed themselves of it, this is My Senpai is Annoying, a workplace slice-of-life romantic comedy featuring the pocket-sized Igarashi Futaba and her office senpai, the truck-sized Kazama Souta. Futaba has a bit of a love-hate relationship with Kazama, but as the episode progresses, we see there’s a lot more love than hate.

The love goes both ways, in different ways. Futaba hates having her hair tousled, but after making a mistake on her first big sales pitch, Kazama takes responsibility and won’t brook any dispute about it. He even makes sure that the last can of sweet red bean soup (which I’m still kicking myself for never buying when I was in Akiba) finds its way into his kouhai’s teeny-weeny hands.

We learn through their interactions (and their chemistry is magical) that Kazama isn’t just being a good senpai, but harbors a genuine desire to look after this bitty go-getter, who is loved by everyone at the office for her chipper attitude, but also feel down and off when she’s feeling down and off. I can’t say I blame him, as Futaba is lovable right out of the gate. As Futaba goes, so goes the office, and Kazama helps Futaba out of the doldrums.

That’s because Kazama is such a loud, brash, upbeat guy. He’s a gigantic cuddly bear, and if Futaba is honest, she actually can’t get enough of him, even if he’s “annoying” some times. After some drinks at the pub, Futaba is honest whether she wants to be or not, asking Kazama, when he says if he had a wife and kid he’d want a kid like her, she asks why she can’t be his wife. It’s a sweet to behold as it is mortifying for Futaba.

I’ll have four more episodes of this or something like this please!

 

Cardcaptor Sakura – 51 – Bearing the Brunt

Sakura can’t quite make her homemade teddy bear not look like Kero-chan, so Eriol volunteers to help her fix it. When a delighted Sakura asks what he’d like as thanks for his help, he simply kisses her hand and walks away. Thus begins Eriol’s Fuckin’-with-Sakura Session Number Four: MegaBear.

Teddy Bears are big at Sakura’s school. They’re like Pogs when I was in grade school. The idea has developed that if you give a bear with your name to someone you have feelings for, you’ll be together forever. Syaoran has made his own bear, but while Yukito has classically been the only one to make his heart race, Sakura has lately been having the same effect.

Yue later tells Syaoran that his feelings for Yukito are a result of Yue’s magical power, and that if he searches his heart, he’ll discover the person for whom he has real feelings. That Sakura is still so far from noticing Syaoran’s feelings portends a continuing of their slow-burn romance.

As for Sakura, she’s sure Yukito is the one who should have her bear, even though she may be subject to the same effect as Syaoran. Tomoyo insists on coming along with her new camcorder and dressing Sakura up for the event—a different kind of battle costume, for the battle of love! Only due to some magical mischief committed by Eriol, the bear blows up in Yukito’s face.

As Eriol, Spinel and Ruby observe, the teddy bear grows to the size of a building and attacks Sakura. Yue rescues him from its first strike, but loses his wings and grows weak, leaving Sakura on her own (Syaoran isn’t around this time).

Sakura converts Jump to a Sakura Card in order to evade the bear, but it’s causing a great deal of collateral damage, so she has to separate it from the magical core in its ear, which she can cut off with the converted Sword. The only problem is, Jump isn’t precise enough while Fly requires she ride the wand like a witch’s broom.


Sakura determines that in addition to converting Fly to a Sakura Card, she can modify it so the wings sprout from her back, not the wand, freeing her hands to use Sword to successfully de-ear the bear and return it to its original size. Rather than a card, she recovers a purple talisman bearing the same magical circle she used to capture Clow Cards.

While Sakura seems as far away from discovering the identity of her tormentors as she is from noticing Syaoran’s feelings, Cardcaptor Sakura’s third season is definitely integrating more serialized elements into the quest-of-the-week format that drove most of the first two seasons. Slowly but surely, the pieces of the puzzle are coming together.

As they do, in the meantime we have wonderful set-pieces like Tomoyo’s quasi-confession and Syaoran’s romantic realization. And while much of Eriol’s machinations come off as cruel, I’m heartened by the fact Sakura has deftly handled everything he’s thrown at her so far—even as I’m apprehensive that he’ll soon be upping the difficulty level.

Deca-Dence – 05 – What the World Needs Now are Bugs Sweet Bugs

Squad 6 enters the Gadoll nest to find a gruesome mess of dead Gears floating in Gadoll alpha’s zone. Despite none of them being able to score a hit on the beast, an angry Natsume charges right in—and almost gets herself killed. She’s saved by her CO Mindy, who declares she was sick of seeing kids charge in and get killed.

Mindy ends up dying from her wounds seriously wounded and out of action, but Natsume charges right back in, and even manages to score a hit with some acrobatic harpoon action. Once again, she’s nearly killed but for plot armor a second savior in Kaburagi, who saw her boarding the transports on TV and rushed to her side, determined not to let her die.

That determination unlocks Kabu’s limiter, and he makes quick work of Gadoll alpha, despite the fact he and his veteran ranker comrades aren’t supposed to be in the battle until alpha has killed most if not all of the Tankers and Gears. He messes up the storyline, and then something even Commander Minato didn’t forsee: the giant Gadoll prototype Stargate emerges from its slumber.

Stargate is a genuinely creepy giant monster, with visual elements that call to mind the giant warriors in Nausicaa and the queen in Alien. It’s also as of yet incomplete, so despite its terrifying oxyone laser, Kabu is able to knock it off balance by attacking one of its spindly legs, which buys Minato time to maneuver Deca-Dence into position to punch it into oblivion. It’s all A+ large-scale spectacle, with hand-drawn and CGI elements seamlessly integrated.

Even when Natsume and the Tankers think the day has been won and the Gadoll are done, the very sky itself transforms from sunset to midday, and reveals at least three more gargantuan Gadoll looming on the horizon, and clouds of lesser Gadoll buzzing in their enormous eyes. A shocked look of defeat washes over Natsume as she remembers Kabu’s words about the war never ending.

Before she can ask if he knew all this would happen, he’s vanished—and reporting to Hugin, making his first appearance in the game world. When Kabu refuses to repeat that the world must be rid of all bugs—and instead says the world needs bugs—Hugin zaps him. Whatever punishment for Kabu follows, it looks like Natsume will be on her own for what’s to come.

Cardcaptor Sakura – 31 – Sakurazilla, Queen of the Kaiju

Touya does it almost every morning: Calling Sakura a kaiju for stomping down the steps and being too loud. One day, Sakura vows to grow tall enough to “stomp” her mean big brother. Little does she know that half of that wish will come true in the service of her Cardcaptor duties.

What’s odd is that despite her friend Naoko finding a book that is clearly a Clow Card (though not a Clear Card) at a used bookstore, Sakura senses the presence of a card elsewhere entirely.

When Sakura comes by later that night when there’s no one around, Tomoyo is with her, and dresses her up in a bold blue battle costume and has her camcorder at the ready to record some cardcapturin’. But they’re not alone: Syaoran and Meiling are also on the scene, and determined to get to the card first.

Unfortunately for Syaoran, cats love him, and when Sakura and Tomoyo manage to Fly to safety after a gigantic cat chases the four of them, he ends up the cat’s focus of attention. Kero-chan determines from the big cat that the Big card is on the loose. Sakura confronts Big, who doesn’t really put up a fight when Sakura moves to seal her.

That would be all, except that Naoko unknowingly has a second Clow Card in her possession in the form of a fantasy book that has blank pages at the end which are meant to be filled in by the owner. Naoko obliges, and the things she imagines and writes down take physical form, from flying animals that wouldn’t normally fly to a 10-story purple dragon. Kero identifies it as the Create card at work.

Faced with the prospect of a literal kaiju wreaking havoc on Tomoeda, Sakura has no choice but to use Big…on herself! Growing to immense size ironically makes her even more adorable, especially as she tries to cower in embarrassment. Even with her greater stature, the dragon is still bigger and stronger and unlike Big puts up quite a fight.

Thankfully Sakura (and, incidentally, the city) is saved when Naoko decides to put the quill down, close her book, and go to bed. Just like that, the dragon evaporates, and Sakura seals Create, and returns to normal size. But the next morning, when Touya teases her about being a kaiju once more, she takes comfort in the knowledge that she could grow to the size of a real kaiju and intimidate her brother anytime…if she wanted to!

So ends another high-concept—very high-concept!—episode that plays as the complement to the episode in which she shrunk down. But whether she’s big or small, Cardcaptor Sakura will always get the job done.

Cardcaptor Sakura – 05 – Heart of Plushiness

This week we are formally introduced to the rest of Sakura’s crew: Chiharu, Rika and Naoko. Chiharu in particular is a big plushie afficionado so the group is excited to check out a brand-new shop owned by the kind but somewhat uncoordinated Matsumoto Maki. Only the same night Chiharu purchases a panda toy, it is apparently stolen right out of her room, only to return to the store the next day.

It isn’t long before Sakura starts to suspect a Clow Card is at work, but Kero-chan can’t recall a card that would steal and collect plushies. When they stop by the shop at night for a closer investigation, Sakura is proven right: the card Jump, an extremely quick pink bunny-like card, is responsible for all the havoc. Tomoyo tags along to run interference for Sakura, politely stalling Maki by telling her just about everything she knows!

When it senses Sakura means to take it captive, Jump jumps out the shop window, but Sakura gives chase. As her rollerblading and prowess in gym class demonstrated, Sakura is a formidable athlete, and most cards would be hard-pressed to leave her in the dust, but Jump is different, and when she does finally get her hands on it, she gets taken for a ride up into the sky and then dropped!

Fortunately, Sakura releases her staff and activates Fly, then wisely uses the newly-acquired Wood to create a cage of branches to restrain Jump. Then Tomoyo shows up with her camcorder and delays the card-sealing, and Jump escapes, and then merges thousands of plushies into a single kaiju-sized Jump…but it doesn’t last, and Jump eventually falls over and returns to its normal modest size, enabling Sakura to capture it for good.

As Sakura remarks, it’s a bit “anticlimactic”, but from the initial confrontation in the shop to the chase into the sky to the kaiju walk, Jump was an agent of chaos that went through a lot of fun iterations. While Sakura lacked an official battle costume, you could tell as the chase continued and escalated she was determined to win. Now that she has the card, maybe she can gain the same crazy speed and agility.

Vinland Saga – 09 – London Bridge is NOT Falling Down

Turns out that huge warrior leading the defence of London from its famous bridge is not even an Englishman, but a Norse giant named Thorkell. King Sweyn’s armies will make little progress until he’s out of the picture, so Askeladd sends Thorfinn to work out some of his frustration. Thorfinn makes him promise for yet another duel in exchange for Thorkell’s head.

Floki and the Jomsvikings beseech Thorkell to abandon his contract with the English and re-join the Danish army, and he’ll be paid double. But like Askeladd’s right hand man Bjorn, it’s not about themoney. Unlike Bjorn, who likes easy wins, Thorkell doesn’t want to fight the English; they’re too weak. He’d much rather fight the tougher Vikings.

As the Vikings continue their siege of the Thames, Thorkell makes any ship or soldier who comes too close regret it, sending a hail of arrows from his archers, or just heaving a massive boulder or tree trunk into the Viking ships, sinking them. He’s a bit superhuman, but heck, so are a lot of Vikings, chief(tan) among them the late Thors and his giant oar.

When Thorfinn leaps onto the bridge to face Thorkell, it’s immediately apparent the latter has a huge advantage in size and strength, and isn’t that much slower. One wonders if it would have been better for Askeladd to send Bjorn instead—preferably on his berserker mushrooms. Then again, I’m sure Askeladd values Bjorn far more than Thorfinn.

Thorfinn hangs in there about as long as you’d expect, considering the moment Thorkell gets a grip on any one of his arms or legs, it’s basically game over. Thorkell blocks Thorfinn’s dagger with his hand, then slams him back and forth against the bridge like a ragdoll.

To Thorkell’s surprise and delight, Thorfinn hasn’t lost any of his will to fight, and when Kell’s guard is down Finn claims two of the fingers from his stabbed hand before plunging into the Thames. Thorkell lets him go, hoping for another fun fight in the future.

It is clear King Sweyn bit off more than he could chew, and isn’t going to get the quick victory he wanted, so he redirects the bulk of his armies to Wessex in the west, where they’ll hopefully have more luck. He leaves the continued siege of London, and just 4,000 men, to his son Prince Canute, despite protests from Ragnar, whom the king blames for making the lad “faint of heart.”

Whether Canute succeeds in London will probably determine whether he succeeds to the throne, but as we haven’t heard a word from him, who knows how that’ll go. Perhaps at some point he’ll get some lines and we can see what kind of person and warrior he is beyond what others say about him.

As for Thorfinn, he’s washed down the river westward and meets back up with Askeladd’s crew, now headed to Wessex. After popping his dislocated shoulder back in, he joins the march, remembering the words of the “madman” Thorkell talking about how fun fighting is. But it’s not fun for Thorfinn. It never was, and probably never will be.

Zombieland Saga – 08 – An Unexpected Father-Daughter Reunion

It’s a Lily episode! By which I mean, it’s a Gou Masao episode, since we learn that’s her birth name. And it’s just as much a Gou Takeo episode, Takeo being Lily’s father. That makes this the first episode of ZLS that is at least partially told from the POV of a person who survived one of the members of Franchouchou.

At first the show plays around with the idea this immense mountain of a man could simply be a creep, but I never bought into that angle. Instead I see his fatherly determination to confirm whether “Number 6” is really his Masao. That enthusiasm earns him a rolling sobat from Saki, protecting her girls. But Lily later reveals to Sakura that the giant was indeed her father.

Lily explains the vast size differential by saying she took after her mother, who died when she was very young. Her father raised her on his own, and when she noticed how much he loved TV, she signed up for auditions, got cast in one thing after another, and never looked back.

However, Masao AKA Lily put so much stock in her tininess and cuteness that the day she found a hair on her leg she refused to go out and perform, and when she found a whisker on her face, she basically died of mental shock.

From Takeo’s POV, he was a bad father, pushing Masao too far. When he saw her smile appear posthumously on TV, he picked up the set and threw it at the wall, and ceased to watch any TV ever again.

Lily and her dad’s next meeting is a lot more cordial as both apologize, but Lily doesn’t betray who she really is, and her dad doesn’t pry, convinced No.6 just looks like his daughter—besides, from where he’s standing, there’s no way she could just come back to life. His daughter is gone; he doesn’t want to cause some girl undue stress or harm just for resembling her.

While Saki is the leader of Franchouchou, she’s always erred on the side of mocking Lily, both for her tiny stature and later for her butch real name and ridiculously vain way of dying. But Sakura has shown she’s much better with Lily, and in Sakura Lily finds the shoulder she needs to cry in after putting on a brave face for her dad.

Sakura and the other girls put their heads together and get clearance from Tatsumi to hold a free public show and invite Lily’s dad, who almost doesn’t attend, but changes his mind at the last second. He’s then treated to a concert in which the other idols provide backup vocals and moves and Lily is in the spotlight.

She sings a song with lyrics that, while perhaps a bit too on-the-nose and even kinda sappy, nevertheless successfully delivers her feelings to her father, even if he still doesn’t realize she’s really his daughter. The next time he’s at work, he doesn’t go out for lunch while his co-workers watch TV, which of course features that chicken commercial in which Lily appears.

SSSS.Gridman – 04 – Truly Vexing to Watch

Akane is pretty sure Yuuta is Girdman, but not 100% sure. She wants to investigate further, which includes questioning Rikka when the two take the bus to school on a scorcher of a day. The two also end up joining Rikka’s friends Namiko and Hass on a group date with the Youtube group of college boys called Arcadia, despite the fact neither Rikka nor Akane are really into group dating…or any dating at all.

Yuuta doesn’t really like the idea of Rikka going on any kind of date that doesn’t involve him, and Gridman can sense he’s troubled about it (though Yuuta tells him not to worry about it). Yuuta and Shou decide to basically shadow the group date, as it involves two women they’re both emotionally invested in (in Shou’s case, Akane; in Yuuta’s case Rikka).

Neither really ever had anything to worry about; the only two women remotely  interested in Arcadia are Namiko and Hass. Akane is far more interested in learning why Rikka is spending more time with the guy she suspects to be aligned with her arch-enemy Gridman.

Akane also ditches the other girls at her earliest convenience, and succeeds in killing all but one of them with a kaiju. Rikka later catches on to the fact three of the four members of the group were killed and erased from the collective memory of society (including her friends), so she meets with the last surviving member, Yamato, to warn him of his impending doom.

She’s almost too late, as the fog that serves as the precursor to the latest kaiju attack envelops Yamato. It’s Samurai Calibur who ends up saving them both from the kaiju. Yuuta and Gridman deploy, but they end up having to fight not only the insectoid kaiju that killed the other members of Arcadia, but Item as well, who is singularly interested in defeating Gridman and nothing else.

All four members of Neon Genesis decide to sortie at once, but when combined with Gridman’s deployment, the computer they’re all working through basically freezes, freezing all of them in turn. Rikka scares the shit out of Shou by unplugging the computer, then plugging it back in and rebooting it, but doing so actually solves the problem, as the whole of Neon Genesis simply isn’t able to sortie simultaneously.

Instead, only one of them, the tank from last week, sorties, combining with Gridman into Gridman Max, defeating the insectoid kaiju. Item then reaches his time limit and reverts to his human state. It’s another victory, albeit a close one.

Later, at the shop, Yuuta works up the courage to ask Rikka out to grab something to eat, but she misinterprets it as a suggestion for the whole group to have a meal together. Mind you, Yuuta could mend the misunderstanding with two words: “just us,” but of course he doesn’t, mimicking Wile E. Coyote in the “trying something only once” strategy.

This was an episode in which the large-scale battles between Gridman and kaiju took a backseat to the high school romantic drama unfolding between Yuuta, Rikka, and Akane. Yuuta has proved pretty inept at getting Rikka to notice him in the way he’d prefer, but he should have plenty more opportunities, especially since she doesn’t have the slightest interest in Arcadia’s Yamato.

SSSS.Gridman – 03 – Gridman, I Hate You!

It’s a rainy day in Tokyo when the newest kaiju appears, and this one seems different, because Akane isn’t making a model, but interacting with a small silver-haired boy named Anti who can transform into a kaiju. Why does he eat like he does, and why does hate Gridman so much? We don’t know. For that matter, we don’t know why Akane hates Gridman and wants him dead so badly, aside from having lost to him twice.

In any case, the Gridman Alliance is collected by Calibur, and before Rikka can apologize for not answering Yuuta’s phone call, Yuuta heads into action—and once again has his ass handed to him. Combined with Yuuta’s worry that he may be fighting/killing a human inside his opponent, he doesn’t fight back, even with Calibur by his side, and the two LOSE to Anti, much to Akane’s elation.

Rikka and Shou are stunned. They fear Yuuta and Calibur are dead, and in lieu of knowing what to do next, they wait in the shop and snipe at each other out of frustration. Their quarrel is broken up by the arrival of the “Neo Genesis Junior High Students” a team allied with Calibur and Gridman (and whose name is an homage to Evangelion). They tell Rikka simply to call Yuuta, and to her and Shou’s great relief, he is alive, and Gridman is simply regenerating. Before long he’s back in the fight.

One of the members of Neon Genesis joins the battle in the form of a battle tank, and combines with Gridman to form a new set of extra-chunky arms and fists with which to defeat Anti, who “runs out of time” in kaiju mode and reverts to human form, after which he’s basically disowned by a furious Akane.

Back at Junk, Rikka apologizes to Yuuta, which is something I think is way overblown in the grand scheme of things (I mean, people miss calls; she was trying to help someone she thought was in need), while her mom (who is voiced by the same actor who portrayed Haruka in FLCL) wonders where so many new people suddenly showed up in her shop.

While Gridman’s defeat was a nice change of pace, the fact it was resolved so easily—with Rikka and Shou simply sitting around until the cavalry arrived—kind of gutted the suspense. Everything is in a very bad way, and then moments later everything’s fine and dandy.

As for why Akane is doing what she’s doing, where exactly Anti came from, and other mysteries, lets just say I’m not holding my breath for satisfying explanations. Perhaps it would be best to just sit back and enjoy the action…it would just be nice if it meant more.

SSSS.Gridman – 02 – Keep Doing What You Can Do

When Yuuta, Rikka and Shou return to school, they learn that several of their classmates have disappeared and nobody has any memory that they ever existed, or of the kaiju battle. They decide to seek answers from Gridman on the computer in Rikka’s shop, which was going to be closed so Rikka could hang out with her two best friends. Meanwhile Akane takes an interest in what Yuuta is talking about and joins him on the roof for lunch, but doesn’t get far.

Turns out Shinjou Akane is very different from the perfect student Shou made her out to be. She lives in an apartment packed with trash and clay models of kaiju. Turns out she’s the one who’s made some kind of Faustian bargain with Gridman’s enemy, who turns all of her creations into full-size kaiju which then kill people she doesn’t like. She may be talented, but she’s not a good person, and must be stopped.

The suspicious-looking sleepy-eyed man eventually arrives at the junk shop, introducing himself as Samurai Calibur and failing to enter or exit a door without getting caught by his ridiculously long four katanas. He “optimizes” the computer so Rikka and Shou can hear Gridman and see the giant kaiju they’re not aware their cute classmate is making and deploying. Her latest creation is “brought to life” and starts wreaking havoc in much the same way as the first one.

As Akane watches the carnage unfold from the safety of her apartment, Yuuta, Rikka and Shou are nearly flattened by a stray steel beam, but Samurai Calibur demonstrates his prowess by slicing it in two, saving them. They rush to the computer, and because it’s now optimized, Gridman (who is nothing but energy in this universe and needs a human with which to collaborate) provides Yuuta with a “Primal Acceptor” bracelet that lets him customize Gridman to his specs and colors.

The new-and-improved Gridman is lighter and faster, but his Grid Beam is deflected; Akane makes improvements to each kaiju based on the failures of the former ones. Gridman gets beaten up again, but Samurai Calibur joins the battle in the form of a gleaming golden sword, with which Yuuta/Gridman uses to cleave the kaiju in two, destroying it and pissing Akane off royally.

Back at school, Akane’s intended target is unharmed and like everyone else, has forgotten all about the attack. But unlike when he bumped into Akane, sparking her ire, he apologizes after bumping into Yuuta, suggesting perhaps the experience unconsciously made him more courteous.

In any case, I’m sure Yuuta and Akane will be facing off a lot more with their respective weapons. The question is, will the Gridman Alliance ever find out she’s the kaiju-maker, will she reveal it to them when she’s ready to eliminate them once and for all, or can she be convinced to stop this evil, destructive venture? On I watch…

SSSS.Gridman – 01 (First Impressions) – Old Computers are Terrifying…and Awesome

SSSS Gridman follows a familiar formula of “average kid awakens as mecha pilot and fights monsters” and elevates it with a movie-quality production that doesn’t skimp on naturalistic sights, sounds and pacing to immerse you into its once-but-no-longer-mundane world.

The simple beginning of Hibiki Yuuta waking up in Takarada Rikka’s house, recipient of an act of kindness. He hears a voice from an old, cobbled-together computer in Rikka’s family junk store, but only he can see and hear the robot on the screen introducing himself as Gridman.

Similarly, only he can see the immense kaiju looming in the otherwise ordinary Tokyo dusk. Heck, it looks almost like a cloud cell. At first things are kept at a normal level: perhaps Yuuta just hit his head, has temporary memory loss with some audiovisual hallucinations. It’s why Rikka makes sure he gets home safe and someone picks him up in the morning.

That someone is his friend Utsumi Shou, who recommends they carry on like everything’s normal. Yuuta gets a “special hot dog” from the class idol Shinjou Akane, but Shou thinks it’s more out of pity than kindness.

The school scene is full of naturalistic sounds and leisurely pacing that emulates real life. The voice actors all use a casual conversational style that makes the scenes feel lived in.

He wants to see what Yuuta saw, so the boys return to Rikka’s mom’s store. Neither of Yuuta’s new friends can see or hear Gridman on the screen, but they do hear and feel the tremors in the ground when a kaiju finally shows up and starts wreaking havoc on the city.

And boy, is there a lot of havoc. Vehicles are flung about like toys, energy balls are shot from the kaiju’s mouth that level whatever buildings it doesn’t flatten with its lumbering gait—including Yuuta’s school. In the tradition of Power Rangers, the big boss is slightly unsettling looking…yet also a bit cute.

It isn’t until Yuuta is transported into the computer to have a quick confab with Gridman that Rikka and Shou can see the robot on the monitor. Outside, the full-size Gridman materializes and starts going at it with the kaiju, but just as Shinji’s first go in Unit 01 didn’t go so swimmingly, Yuuta quickly gets put on his ass by his opponent.

Wanting to help in some way, Rikka decides to try typing encouragement to Yuuta on the computer, exhibiting her skill for speed-typing. It gets through to Yuuta, who stands up, dusts himself off, and then goes at the monster with a full head of steam, culminating in ripping its head and neck off and finishing it off with a good old-fashioned Grid Beam.

Once the battle is over Yuuta materializes back in Rikka’s place, victorious, but Gridman warns him this is only the beginning; there will be far more to his mission. Shou can’t believe what he just saw but is really pumped up; Rikka is more reserved and kind of freaking out as her mind tries to process it all. So Yuuta and Shou head home.

The next morning everything is back to normal…too normal, as their school was definitely destroyed last night, but when they arrive, it’s been fully restored with neither a scratch nor a dead kaiju head rotting in the yard. There’s also another “chosen pilot” on the opposite side of the fight being encouraged by a robot different from Gridman.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m not here to tell you SSSS.Gridman is some marvel of original, compelling stroytelling. It basically steals everything it is form other sources, some of them many would rather re-watch than see in bastardized form.

But I will say simply that I was greatly entertained, fully engaged, and came to like the lead characters whose broad strokes were given texture by their seiyus. And if every episode comes close to being as much of a feast for the eyes and ears as this one, then I’m excited to watch more. It’s nothing fancy, fancily executed.

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