Inou-Battle wa Nichijou-kei no Naka de – 12 (Fin)

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InoBato delivers a crisp, clever, neatly-paced finale that is an admirable study in ‘less is more’ where superpower action is concerned, and despite Jurai not making a decision about which girl to choose, the romantic/emotional side of the show is still brought to a satisfying stopping point.

The episode wastes no time picking up from last week, where Hatoko looks to be in some serious trouble. But in the space of a few moments, Chifuyu erects a wall to protect her while Tomoyo transports everyone to a different time and space. The gang hasn’t used their powers much, but when they do use them they make it count. 

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Furthermore, Jurai’s chuunibyou compelled him to formulate countermeasures in case someone with Mirei’s powers was to fight them seriously again. He may not have a useful power himself, but he spearheaded the whole three-second maneuvers that saved everyone.

As the gang hides in a karaoke bar (worried they’re taking things too lightly) their attacker, “F” remnant Hagiura Naoe, who has stolen Mirei’s body and powers (along with Hatoko and Chifuyu’s), confers with Sagami, apparently eager to prove her mettle by knocking off “Virgin Child.”

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Without any better ideas from the others, Jurai decides to call Hagiura and arrange a meet-up in the clubroom, where she’s created a portal to an otherworld. Hagiura is disappointed Jurai didn’t bring the others, and inflicts various kinds of pain to try to get him to cooperate, warning that he only invites a lingering, lonely death.

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Far from yielding, Jurai breaks out his secret weapon: a bluff. Well, a sort of bluff. He makes “Dark and Dark Stage Two” out to be the Best Power EVAH, even though it’s just as useless as it was…

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…Which Hagiura doesn’t realize until she’s stolen and replicated it. But here’s the thing: in this particular case, Stage Two is not only useful, but crucial to him having a chance at victory. It’s useful not in any conventional GIGA DRILL uber-power kind of way, but because once the flames are summoned, they’ll burn eternally.

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Not only that, they really burn their user, and can’t be put out, something Jurai learns when they first awakened; a scene InoBato artfully skipped over so it could show us here. The only way the gang put them out last time is by Chifuyu summoning a guillotine, slicing his hand off, and then repairing it with Sayumi’s healing powers. NOW we know why they insisted he never use his powers again.

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When Hagiura realizes she’s been played, she leaves Mirei’s body, leaving Mirei and Jurai with eternally burning hands. Fortunately, Sayumi, Tomoyo and Chifuyu are standing by….

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…And then, as they go through that horrifying ordeal again, only this time with two ‘patients’, I’m not surprised everyone is crying, even though everything goes according to plan, it’s still traumatic chopping friends’ damn hands off! Hagiura fumes, but she and Sagami are found out by Hajime, who isn’t too happy they tried to involve Virgin Child.

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The gang got a great brush with danger, but pulled out of it with no harm done, thanks mostly to Jurai’s planning, quick-thinking, and, well, there’s no other word for it: recklessness. Sayumi cannot believe she let him go through with such a crazy, dangerous plan, and yet if given the choice, she’d go along with it again. Mirei can relate; both girls strive to be paragons of perfection, but when it comes to the man they both fell in love with, all bets are off…which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

On a day out together, Tomoyo buys Hatoko a light novel she can understand (unlike most of the stuff Jurai gives her). Tomoyo remarks how she’s now come to understand what someone (her bro) once said to her about “all outcomes are predetermined”, and people seek “ways they can accept to explain it.” In Tomoyo’s case, she knew she loved Jurai, and now is finally able to say it to Hatoko.

Hatoko also now knows what Jurai meant by a reading of a character being both “friend” and “rival”, because that’s what Tomoyo is. Far from giving up in Jurai, Hatoko promises her friendrival that she won’t lose; Tomoyo promises the same.

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Their target, meanwhile, is being ‘charmed’ by Chifuyu, who he’s worried about being caught up in another battle, in addition to being out in the sun too long. Chifuyu assures him in her usual adorable lilt, “she’s surprisingly tough”, and will continue to stay by his side, protecting him. Jurai consents, but only if she promises not to use her powers to hurt people, or to make people happy.

Superpowers are cool, but that’s all they need to be. It’s a sentiment in keeping with the show thus far, which has strived to underplay the importance of the powers with only a few exceptions. The friendships formed and love grown as a result of them having powers has always been more important.

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In making his point, Jurai activates Dark and Dark (though not Stage Two), just as Tomoyo and the others arrive. Tomoyo is understandably angry, not just that he’s ’embarrassing’ her, but more likely because she’s worried he’ll hurt himself again. The two start fighting in their usual way, because when two people get along and just work, it means they’re able to fight like that. And honestly, I could watch them fight all day! I’ll miss you, Virgin Child. I’ll miss InoBato too.

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Inou-Battle wa Nichijou-kei no Naka de – 11

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InoBato surprises us this (or at least me) this week by showing us a flashback of the day Jurai crossed paths with Tomoyo, and we see that there was a precedent to her placing her fist against his heart as she did during the Hatoko crisis. She convinced him in their brief encounter not to give up on Chuuni. To this day he doesn’t know it was Tomoyo.

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We go from that flashback to the present and the family vacation. Hatoko has studied her love manuals thoroughly and is making a concerted play for Jurai, determined not to let this perfect chansu slip away.

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Unfortunately, she ends up hewing a bit too close to said manuals and overdoes things, resulting in her nearly passing out from sunstroke/exhaustion. The beach scenes are a vivid showcase for the tendency of InoBato’s character design to be both sexy and goofy as conditions dictate. Last week, Sayumi was definitely a knockout, but Hatoko’s no slouch either.

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Knowing where Jurai is, who he’s with, and how Hatoko feels, the same day is a bit of an ordeal for Tomoyo. After dreaming about how she first met Jurai, she decides not to waste both tickets and go to Sealand alone; a decision she almost immediately regrets, but goes through with it anyway. Her scenes are steeped with lonelieness and longing; a kind of lost daze.

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When Hatoko recovers she gets another golden opportunity to confess her feelings, but decides instead to come at it from another angle, semantically…something InoBato is certainly no stranger to exploring how wording and phrasing affects understanding.

Jurai remains grateful she ‘saved’ him, and considers her ‘more than friends’ and ‘special’. While I would have liked a straight confession out of her, Hatoko’s wistful looks at the stars indicate that his words constitute a sufficient rejection in terms of romantic love.

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That assessment looks even more accurate considering Jurai calls Tomoyo and asks her out on a date right after talking with Hatoko. From there, Tomoyo begins her clinic of cute/bashful/happy facial expressions, as she’s not only clearly over the moon that Jurai called, but that he seemed just as in a hurry to see him again as she was.

It’s a cute date too, as Tomoyo, feeling bad about him offering to treat her again, suggest they decide who will pay fair and square with a shooting game. She kicks his ass and he has to pay anyway, but it was a nice gesture, along with a way to impress him with her marksmanship.

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When Jurai leads Tomoyo to a secluded spot to talk, Tomoyo gets a little excited, but it turns out Jurai wanted to create a situation in which she was free to talk to him, after he heard how Hatoko said she was ‘mean’ to her. Tomoyo doesn’t get into that, but does tell him about her light novel failure.

Jurai basically says all the right things in response to hearing about that, and leads Tomoyo to bury her face into his chest just as the fireworks launch right above them.

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It really couldn’t get any more romantic, and Tomoyo is again reminded of meeting him, along with a quick montage of all the close moments they’ve had. But Tomoyo still doesn’t say “I love you.” She says “I love this”. It would seem Tomoyo remains the frontrunner after all, and while I really wish she’d said the magic words (as I wished Hatoko had), that’s just not InoBato’s style.

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That brings us to the abridged final act, which is…a bit maddening. Here we’ve had a show that’s been 99% about characters and relationships, with neary a hint of superpowers or the war going on outside the sphere of the lit club. Then it decided to suddenly dump a steaming load of plot and peril at the very end.

The woman Hajime’s associates caught on camera does something to Mirei (who we haven’t seen in ages); Mirei calls the club to school, pretends her arm is burning, and when Hatoko uses her power to summon water, Mirei steals her superpower, summons flame, and launches it at Hatoko.

Sorry, but hWAAAAH? What the heck am I suppsed to do with that? Is Hatoko going to be incinerated? The preview clearly indicated next week is the final episode. I’m wondering how the heck the show is going to resolve this crisis and give us a satisfying conclusion to the harem plot.

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Inou-Battle wa Nichijou-kei no Naka de – 10

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After staking (or not staking) their claim on Jurai, this week the girls start to press those claims (or non-claims). We start with Tomoyo, who we’d thought was at the top of the running despite her average test scores, but suffers a triple defeat in the first couple minutes: she’s eliminated from the novel competition, she loses an excuse to hang out with Jurai more, and she ends up being the last one to ask him out.

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The one who gets first dibs on Jurai is Chifuyu, of course, but we watch those two interact through the suspicious eyes of her friend Cookie, who tagged along as a chaperone. She decides to make the day all about trying to sabotage Jurai’s standing with Chifuyu, but he only ends up making Cookie into another admirer.

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Jurai shows Cookie he isn’t the creepy pervert she thought he was. Far from being ‘interested’ in Chifuyu (or her for that matter), he wants to make sure Chifuyu has a friend after he and the others graduate and part ways. He comes right out and says he doesn’t think he’ll be by Chifuyu’s side forever. It’s good that Chifuyu is fast asleep, because if she heard him say that, it would have probably broken her heart. But hey, Jurai just doesn’t see her that way, so that’s that.

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Next up is Sayumi, who is actually operating under the tutelage of Sagami, whose true motives remain unknown. I like the look Jurai makes when he realizes Sayumi brought him to the same place Chifuyu did the day(?) before, but he can hardly complain now that he has a gorgeous, perfect date his own age.

Sagami messes with her by giving her a revealing white bikini than claiming it will become see-through if it gets wet. This leads to a phenomenal athletic performance by Sayumi, who clears every aquatic obstacle course in the park without getting wet, before finding out it doesn’t become see-through after all.

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But the bikini, and the rest of Sagami’s proposed tactics, are all based upon the idea that she isn’t going to win the Jurai sweepstakes by playing clean and fair. Sayumi rejects his suggestion she devalue herself and washes her hands of him. Sagami isn’t that miffed, as he contacts a former member of “F” right after Sayumi leaves.

But like his day with Chifuyu, there isn’t anything to suggest the girl made any progress whatsoever with Jurai. He may be aware she totally rocks her bikini and has a great figure and even recognizes when she’s acting under the influence of someone else…but he doesn’t seem into her. He treats her like a platonic friend.

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That brings us to Tomoyo, who finally gathers the courage to call Jurai up and ask him out…but she’s far too late. The days she could have spent with him, he spent with Chifuyu and Sayumi. And even if they proved not to be that much of a threat, she still has Hatoko to deal with, and Hatoko has Jurai for the next couple days (and one night!) as their two families go on their annual vacation.

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So, ‘oh no,’ Tomoyo’s in trouble, right? Hatoko could do all manner of things to him in that stretch of time. Well…not necessarily. Hatoko may well use her opportunity well, but that doesn’t mean Jurai sees her or will suddenly come to see Hatoko as a potential love interest.

Even though he only had that one somewhat distant phone call with Tomoyo, he still thought of buying a book for her. Tomoyo’s down, but definitely not out. Still, that phone call was rough. I felt so bad for her!

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Inou-Battle wa Nichijou-kei no Naka de – 09

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Hajime’s crew and the wider world of people with superpowers were revealed last week, but the Lit Club was successfully kept out of the fighting, which is probably for the best this late in the game. Instead, we return to the Lit Club’s own internal struggle: the initially friendly, but increasingly heated battle for the tainted heart of Andou Jurai.

Things start when Jurai reveals to Tomoyo that when he was in the eighth grade, he considered retiring from Chuunidom, after meeting a “really crazy girl who referred to herself by an archaic expression”, who was, of course, Tomoyo. Even then, they had that connection and shared understanding of Chuuni.

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Interestingly enough, during a study session when the exam score rankings are revealed, we essentially see a list that’s the opposite of the Jurai Heart picture. While Mirei and Sayumi are at the very top, they’re the furthest from contention, while Tomoyo is at the bottom despite being the frontrunner. Hatoko, not surprisingly, is the closest in score to Jurai, as she’s been the closest to him period.

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Still, Tomoyo is embarrassed by her low test score, and when Hatoko offers to give her personal tutoring, she doesn’t refuse. It also gives Hatoko an opportunity to probe her rival (Tomoyo really does seem to “understand” Jurai more than her) while starting what will be a trend this week of Hatoko making things sparkling clear and unmuddied by verbal embellishment, code, or white lies.

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As Summer vacation approaches and Sayumi goes through mountains of paperwork so fast she’s seemingly borrowed Closed Clock, she finds Jurai’s original application form to join the club. Everyone gathers ’round Jurai and Tomoyo has a good laugh at his colorful language.

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One thing that sticks out for Chifuyu is the claim on his form that he has “no emotion”, which she rightly points out is a lie, because he admits to liking her. If nothing else, it’s cute having this grade schooler back him into a logical corner…though the lightning strike at the end is confusing, in that I thought Hatoko was the element user? At the same time, there’s nothing saying Chifuyu can’t summon whatever she wants out of the either, including the elements.

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While joining him to take out the trash, Chifuyu has an odd question for Jurai about what the nature of curry is. She opines that it’s only a liquid, and that it requires rice to become a meal. Unlike Jurai, I can kinda see where she’s getting at, since they just had a conversation in which he confessed to liking her. But ‘like’ is like curry, it needs something to make it ‘a meal’; in this case, hanging out with her over the Summer.

When she reports symptoms similar to arrythmia to Cookie, Cookie is understandably concerned, until Chifuyu tells her she only feels this way when around Jurai. So yeah, Chifuyu is in love with the guy. After all, puberty does seem to be arriving earlier for girls these days.

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Meanwhile, Sagami Shimizu barges into the ladies’ room and snatches away Sayumi’s glasses. Wait, WTF? Sayumi should have claimed two or three of his ribs for such a brazen offense, but she’s not able to before he opens his mouth, confirming that she’s in the back of the pack in the running for Jurai, and offering to help her grab the inside line. Why? I’m not sure, other than the fact Sagami likes an underdog story.

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It occurs to me I don’t even remember the last time Hatoko used her elemental powers, but that’s not really a concern, because far more useful, at least in terms of moving things forward in the Jurai competition, are her powers to tell things like they are, which is exactly what she does with Tomoyo.

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Hatoko asks Tomoyo a straight question: “Is there anyone you’re in love with?”, to which Tomoyo responds with an equally straight but still untrue answer: “no one.” Hatoko then answers her own question, both clearly and truthfully: She loves Jurai. She wants to know more about him and go out with him, all of it.

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Hatoko gives her the chance to revise her answer, because not acknowledging she loves Jurai isn’t fair to Hatoko, or Jurai, or herself. Before we get Tomoyo’s answer (Damn!), we cut to Jurai sneezing because people are talking about him…but naturally he has a chuuni way of describing that particular phenomenon.

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24 Blondes of Fall ’14

Note: This isn’t every blonde in Fall, but it is most of them. If someone you like was cruelly left off this list, let us have it in the comments.

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1. Fuka Yuki

Ai Tenchi Muyo! – Leader of the Junai High Science Club and a ‘mad-scientist/inventor’ type who is constantly battling the ‘oppressive’ Student Council for resources. The ‘eyes’ in her large glasses mimic her moods.

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2. Leone

Akame ga Kill! – Sure, those boobs don’t seem possible for that waist, but google ‘human barbie’ and you’ll see there are living humans who look kinda like this! In any case, they can’t transform into half-beasts with ridiculous healing powers.

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3. Run

Akame ga Kill! – Baby-faced sandy-blonde Run hasn’t done much in AGK! other than observe from on high with his angel wings, but I imagine that will change soon in the last three episodes.

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4. Latifa Fleuranza

Amagi Brilliant Park – Latifa (or Latifah) is the park’s manager, and also the princess of Maple Land, whose subjects depend on the happy energy of people to survive. She also possesses magical powers that she can bestow upon people by kissing them, which is what she does to Seiya, who is prophesied to be the park’s next manager. She’s named after Queen Latifah.

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5. Sylphy

Amagi Brilliant Park – Sylphy is an employee of the park working at the Elementario. She’s rather ditzy and a bit of an airhead. She’s also a wind fairy.

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6-7. Aino Minako & Tsukino Usagi

Sailor Moon Crystal – If you’re a newcomer like me to the franchise, you might wonder why they’d have two blonde Sailor guardians. After ten episodes, it makes perfect sense now. And it’s not like they’re impossible to tell apart. One has buns!

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8. Ange

Cross Ange – The first of the several blonde leading ladies on this list, Ange has also probably had the roughest character route thus far, having been exposed as a Norma, stripped of her royal and human status, and shipped to Arzenal to die fighting fearsome DRAGONs in skimpy flight suits with other girls of her ilk. But I don’t see her dying anytime soon; despite her delicate upbringing she knows how to fight and survive.

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9. Suzuki Kana

Daitoshokan no Hitsujikai – Positive, cheerful, fun-loving, and funny, Kana would make a great match for the protagonist Kyouraku…if there weren’t two or three other girls ahead of her in the harem order of precedence. She’s also classically been the clown of whatever group of friends she’s been in, but more by default than by choice.

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10. Tsunashi Kaoru

DannaNani – The wife who can’t understand what her husband is saying.

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11. Saber

Fate/stay night: Unlimited Blade Works – A powerful legendary swordmaiden summoned to be Emiya Shirou’s ‘Servant’ in the newest iteration of the Holy Grail War, Saber is utterly devoted to, and patient with, her non-mage master.

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12. Alfonso Saint-Variante

GARO: Honoo no Kokuin – Heir both to the throne of his father’s kingdom and the armor of a Makai Knight, Alfonso was forced to flee the palace when the king’s advisor Mendoza started consolidating his power.

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13. Fredrica

Hitsugi no Chaika: Avenging Battle – One of the heroes who slew Emperor Gaz and brought peace to the land, Fredrica is a dragoon that comes in many forms, including metal dragon, chibi girl, and fully grown lady knight, and the form above, that of an elementary or middle school-aged girl in a frilly dress.

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14. Himeki Chifuyu

Inou-Battle wa Nichijou-kei no Naka de – The only member of the literature club still in grade school, Chifuyu possesses the terrifying power to create anything out of nothing, from matter to portals and dimensions. Like the other girls of the Lit Club, she’s in love with Jurai, but the others won’t consider her a real threat for a few years.

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15. Sata Kyoya

Ookami Shoujo to Kuro Ouji – The titular ‘black prince’, Kyoya is a bit of a sadist who agrees to pretend to be Erika’s boyfriend if he can treat her like his dog. Has intimacy and commitment issues probably stemming from his upbringing. Eventually he develops feelings for Erika to match hers for him, and they become a real couple. But both can still be jerks on occasion.

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16. Tachibana Marin

Ookami Shoujo to Kuro Ouji – A shallow, self-involved older/richer guy-crazy Ganguro without the tan on the surface, Marin and her friend Aki start out as the friends Erika chooses by default, and the entire reason she has to pretend Kyoya is her boyfriend. But Marin and Aki actually grow into legitimate friends who care about each other’s fortunes in life, albeit perhaps not as close as Erika’s childhood friend Ayumi.

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17. Wakasa

Orenchi no Furo Jijou – Wakasa is a handsome merman who takes up residence in the bathtub of Tatsumi, leaving his old home, a polluted river, behind.

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18. Karanomori Shion

PSYCHO-PASS 2 – An Enforcer in MWPSB’s Division 1 who spends virtually all of her time supporting the rest of the group from her own computer-filled office. She’s quietly maintained a physical and possibly romantic relationship with fellow enforcer Yayoi for some time.

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19. Aiza Takeshi

Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso – This Goku-haired bastard is a fellow gifted pianist and self-appointed rival of Arima Kousei, someone who didn’t even notice him when they competed in the past, but who was so inspired by Kousei’s greatness – and pissed-off by his aloofness — that he strove and grew into a great pianist in his own right.

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20. Miyazono Kaori

Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso – Kao-chan is a gorgeous and brilliant violinist with an avant-garde style that traditionalists despise but really lights crowd up. She also ends up lighting up the life of Arima Kousei, becoming the muse who pulls him out of a dark sea where he can’t hear the notes he plays. Kaori can also be prone to violence…as well as the occasional sudden and worrisome bout of health trouble.

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21. Jeanne d’Arc

Shingeki no Bahamut: Genesis – Unlike many anime characters who share their name with the legendary warrior maiden, This Jeanne lives up to the name, a young woman from humble beginnings possessing awesome powers bestowed upon her from the heavens. Her trusty holy sword Maltet comes when she calls it! She may be humanity’s only hope against Bahamut. You’d think she’d act aloof, especially toward a rogue like Favaro, but she’s surprisingly genial and down-to-earth.

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22. Leafa (ALO)

Sword Art Online II – AKA Kirigaya Suguha or “Sugu”, Leafa is the name of her avatar in ALO, which is blonde instead of her real-life black hair, and slightly bustier (or perhaps it’s just a push-up outfit). She had cultivated feelings for her brother Kazuto, and though they’re not related by blood, he couldn’t return those feelings. But that was SAO I! In SAO II, she plays a far smaller role. But she is blonde, so here she is.

23-24. Inubouzaki Fuu & Inubouzaki Itsuki

Yuuki Yuuna wa Yuusha de Aru – Fuu is a third-year in middle school and the president of the Hero Club. She is the older sister of first-year Itsuki, who she has been looking after following the death of their parents. She is knowledgeable about the Divine Tree and Vertex and was the one who gave her fellow members the app needed to fight against the Vertex.

Fuu uses a large sword in her hero form and her familiar is Inugami. As a result of using her Mankai form, she loses vision in her left eye. Itsuki uses vines to attack her enemies in her hero form and her familiar is Kodama. As a result of using her Mankai form, she loses her voice. (Wikipedia)

Inou-Battle wa Nichijou-kei no Naka de – 06

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InoBato’s sixth outing tables the exploration of the potential rift between the girls as a result of their shared feelings for Jurai to take an entirely different Route: the one from Jurai to Sayumi, the tall, proper, raven-haired beauty who hasn’t had an episode devoted to her yet, while also revealing that she tried to use her power to erase everyone’s powers (including her own), ten months prior.

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When she feels under the weather after doing most of the work making a video game for Jurai’s birthday (a very sweet gesture on the part of the whole club, though Jurai’s in-game fantasy can’t touch Chu2Koi delusion for pizazz) Sayumi stays home for the day to rest. Jurai visits and learns she wears glasses and has a little sister nothing like her, and is generally happy to see her home-ier side. Then, while flipping through her middle school yearbook, he asks her why she didn’t try to become StuCo president in high school. She abruptly asks Jurai to leave.

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Combined with flashbacks – ostensibly from Jurai’s POV – of he and Sayumi having a fight over whether she should erase everyone’s powers, it seems clear he struck a nerve. But the fact is, Jurai is mistaken, and spends the entire episode worrying and investigating Sayumi and blaming himself needlessly. Sayumi doesn’t blame Jurai for anything…on the contrary, she’s grateful for the way things turned out.

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Sayumi, you see, strove to be the perfect, “proper woman”, as her strong, stern grandmother told her to. She still does. But in middle school, as StuCo Prez, that obsession made her lose sight of her friends. And when her powers awakened, she was frightened and didn’t know what to do – both natural, imperfect reactions to gaining seemingly boundless powers.

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She’s grateful because Jurai was essentially her hero on both counts. First, she helped put Sayumi’s mind at ease by setting a boundary to her powers. He does so with a daring gamble: fighting an unwinnable physical fight (because he won’t hit a girl) and letting her use her power…and it doesn’t work. She can’t use her powers to erase their powers. They’re stuck with them, but Jurai assures her and the others that he’ll watch over them.

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Sayumi and the others (except maybe Chifuyu) realize he’s likely just blowing smoke…but heck, they have these crazy powers…the possibility isn’t zero Jurai could actually be right. His tireless optimism galvanizes, cheers, and buoys her and the rest of the club. Thanks to him, she has friends she’d never have made had she joined the StuCo for selfish reasons.

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Sayumi is very different from Tomoyo and yet this episode did a great job making her almost as suitable and plausible a love interest for Jurai as the crimson-haired light novel author. The early, rigorous establishment of the Jurai’s distinct bonds with each of the girls is most welcome, and crucial to my being emotionally invested if and when the implied future conflict between said girls is revisited…or should Jurai have to make good on his boasts of being able to stop them should their powers go haywire. Either way, or both — I’m properly on board.

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Inou-Battle wa Nichijou-kei no Naka de – 05

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InoBato is keenly aware that its best duo, at least so far, is Jurai and Tomoyo, as evidenced by their prominence in the bulk of this episode. Hakoto, Sayumi, Chifuyu and Mirei just don’t click on as many things. This week Jurai accidentally learns a lot more about Tomoyo, but none of it is shocking, and it ends up bringing the two a little closer together.

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After an intial isolated scene involving electric guitars that really only serves to create a reason for Jurai to leave his bag in the club room, he returns to find Tomoyo not only practicing Chuuni lines in the mirror, but writing a light novel for an author’s prize. When she sees that Jurai isn’t going to laugh at this, she asks him if he’ll cheer for her.

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This is where InoBato’s careful use of language comes into play: considering Tomoyo to be too close a friend to cheer for “recklessly”, he’s more willing to worry about her going down an uncertain path. He agrees to keep it secret as well, so when she gets through the first round, he offers to treat her to dessert to congratulate.

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Because it’s a secret, Tomoyo has no choice but to accept going alone with Jurai. She spends an inordinate amount of time choosing what to wear, and is then relieved to learn he’s forbidden form buying clothes, and so looks perfectly normal. They have a lot of fun on their date, but Tomoyo can’t quite work up the courage to arrange a future one.

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But while I’d be just fine with them continuing to develop a romance, the fact that it’s all in secret is a little problematic with their otherwise so-tight-knit club-mates. As Mirei learned when she pursued Jurai, the balance of the club centers on none of the girls going after Jurai, but keeping him at a distance to avoid complications.

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Without even trying, Tomoyo has upset that balance, and Hakoto seems genuinely pained both when she stops waiting for Jurai as he’s busy talking to Tomoyo, and when she more overtly witnesses the two on a date in the city, happy as clams. Her expression seems to say, “How long has this been going on?”

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Inou-Battle wa Nichijou-kei no Naka de – 04

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When the first episode aired, and it was pretty much the characters showing off their powers, I thought “This is probably a show whose looks will be its meal ticket this season.” There wasn’t a whole lot to it besides looking fantastic, and even that’s a first-episode standby to lure people in, only to disappoint when the budget runs dry.

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We start off with the gang utilizing Chifuyu’s powers…for cosplay

Well, a quarter of the way in, I’m proud to report that I’d watch (and highly rate) InoBato even if it didn’t look as great as it did; purely on its comedic and dramatic chops its exhibited these past three weeks. Though yeah, I’m glad it looks as great as it does; that certainly doesn’t hurt. :) And mind, you that’s despite the fact the show has not gone down the road of giving the Lit Club a world-saving mission, or even explaining how they got their powers.

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Instead, it’s focused on smaller, more personal stories that flesh the characters out, If there is bigger, more epic stuff in store down the road, it’s a good move to develop everyone now. But even if the world-saving aspect never pans out, I’m still invested in Jurai, Mirei, Tomoyo, and now, thanks to this week, Chifuyu too.

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That’s not an easy feat, as unlike Jurai, I’m not a lolicon (I prefer older ladies, actually). Chifuyu has always been the odd person out; a grade schooler hanging out in a high school club…why? Well, we eventually find out; but not until after we get a story about Chifuyu clashing with her friend because, bingo, she hangs out with high schoolers too much.

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Actually, I really didn’t need any convincing coming into this episode that Chifuyu was a worthwhile character and not just a cute face and voice — precisely because she hangs with high schoolers. Both in the past and this week she’s balanced her uniquely (among the club members) childish way of looking at the world with a calm stoicism beyond her years. But when she refuses to reveal the club’s secret to her best same-age friend Kuki Madoka, it opens a rift between them, one that even Chifuyu’s powers over matter and energy can’t repair.

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Enter Guiltia sin Jurai, Chuuni Knight. At the end of the day, these are grade schoolers who like each other and want to remain friends, so all he has to do is give Kuki a little nudge. But his plan for creating that nudge is, well, uniquely Jurai, something I can say having seen him in action. He knows confessing to Kuki as a rabid lolicon will further degrade her opinion of him (even though she’s already seen him in Chifuyu’s bedroom in nothing but his boxers, which…long story), but it also serves to provide Kuki with a valid explanation for why Chifuyu kept a secret from her.

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Chifuyu and her aunt, faculty member Satomi-sensei, arrive right on cue for the very simple but still cute process of grade-schoolers making-up. Jurai sighs a sigh of relief and he and Satomi look on at the youngins, probably envious of how simple friendships are at that age. Even so, they’re no less powerful at contributing to happiness.

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But wait…didn’t Chifuyu say she was dropping out of school last week? Well, turns out she meant to say she was devoting herself studying extra hard so she could skip grades, with the goal of “catching up” to Jurai, which could be construed as a remark on how Jurai’s stuck in the eighth grade (Chuunibyou), and a desire to court him…once she’s old enough.The other girls confer and giggle with glee at Jurai’s expense.

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And then, only after the episode comprehensively justified Chifuyu’s character and her presence in the club, to the point where it really didn’t matter how she ended up there, we learn that too, as Satomi-sensei left her in the Lit Club’s care while both she and her sister, Chifuyu’s mother, were busy. It’s a very brief but effective montage, they gradually coax her out of her shell. Between that day and the present, all of them got superpowers, which makes them more than just a club, but a family.

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Inou-Battle wa Nichijou-kei no Naka de – 03

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InoBato isn’t just an above-average chuunibyou-infused random school club harem comedy, it’s an above-average chuunibyou-infused random school club harem that has found a way to weaponize its dialogue into a fearsome weapon of mass engrossment, education, and entertainment. It made me laugh, but it also made me think, and let me tell you, that’s a hard thing to get me to do on a Monday night!

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This was an episode split into several diverse scenarios, but the theme running through them all was the exploration and analysis of the language being used. Words that can mean one thing can mean something else entirely depending on who said or read them and who’s reading or listening. I know full well the interpretation of words isn’t infinite, but sometimes it can seem that way.

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Jurai starts by having to defend to his teacher the translating of English sentences on his test to Japanese using florid kanji just because “it’s cooler that way.” And the teacher can’t mark them incorrect, because they aren’t! Or take what happens when he and his anime-loving rival Sagami have a heated debate, and the teacher gets the total opposite idea of what they’re talking about!

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Wordplay aside, I really liked the brief exchange Jurai and Sagami had after the teacher kicked them out of the lounge. Here are, truth be told, two ladies’ men, but of very different kinds. Sagami gets love letters, meets girls after school, and receives confessions; he’s a bit of a romantic nomad. Jurai, meanwhile, is a nester, with a clubroom full of girls he shares a very close bond with, now that they all have powers.

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“Sounding cool” also applies to conversation as much as writing, as demonstrated as Jurai, in a serious tennis stance and a cool smirk, declares to Kohata “I’ll show you a terrifying nightmare! Just no overhand serves, okay? They’re too fast for me to return.” Back to writing: Sayumi tricked him into writing “Bloody Vivre” instead of “Bible” on his dark journal, which just happens to have been purchased at a Vivre store.

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When Jurai forgets his “Vivre” and tells the girls to go ahead without him, they have a little conversation of their own that wouldn’t have been possible if he’d been there: they each earnestly describe what Jurai has done for each of them to help them now that they have powers. Whether it’s telling Sayumi never to even consider bringing back the dead, or warning Chifuyu not to try to create life, Jurai has helped set boundaries that will protect their lives and sanity – serious business when they themselves don’t know those boundaries.

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On a smaller scale, years ago he changed Hatoko’s nickname from “Yakitori-chan” (since Kushikawa can translate to “skewer skin”) to something dorkier so other kids would be too embarrassed to tease her. The bottom line is, he’s done a lot for them, even if most of the time it looks like he’s just messing around.

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When Jurai, AKA Guiltia Sin Jurai, returns to school for his vivre, he bumps into someone I initially thought was him from the future, or from another dimension. Turns out it’s an alumnus by he name of Kiryuu Hajime, AKA Kiryuu Heldkaiser Luci First, and its immediately clear after a few minutes with this more verbose version of Date from SKET Dance that Jurai is in the presence of a Chuuni Pro, were such a profession possible. Even Jurai himself starts to look at himself as a dabbler by comparison, while Kiryuu seems to be Living the Dream! and on a quest to attain some kind of nirvana where your speech becomes nigh indecipherable.

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Oh, and he’s also Tomoyo’s runaway older half-brother, surprise! That aspect of who he is is revealed so masterfully; as he goes off on a very good rant about the essence of Chuunibyou as he sees it: the “unresolved paradox of self-denial and self-affirmation”, or Endless Paradox which as it turns out is a nickname he gave his sister Tomoyo. Before he splits, Kiryuu tells Tomoyo in as cool and forceful a manner as he can muster: “When you go home, tell our father this…’send living expenses for this month too.” Denial and affirmation indeed!

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That Tomoyo’s brother is a Chuuni, and an even more advanced one than Jurai, speaks volumes about Tomoyo herself and her relationship to Jurai. Before he’s “more than a friend”, he’s her friend, period, and something of a surrogate brother. She’s comfortable talking about her family life and what happened with Kiryuu, even though he gives her an out. And as close a bond of kinship as Jurai felt, and as many words as he said to him, not one was about his sister and the others having real powers.

But still, as Jurai says, Kiryuu really is incredible…

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…for casually leaving him with the entire bill.

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Inou-Battle wa Nichijou-kei no Naka de – 02

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I found it amusing that this episode of a show with “commonplace” or “everyday life” in the title dealt with something not commonplace at all, at least for most in the Western world: the Japanese written language. Heck, even that title means different things depending on how it’s written or read. I’m apparently drawn to shows that playfully explore the complexity plasticity of the language they’re speaking, usually for laughs.

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And laughs were indeed in ample supply in the episode’s first half, when Jurai decides that everyone needs to come up with a Chuuni nickname to go with their powers (Why he didn’t suggest this when they first got their powers, I don’t know, but never mind). Each girl has a different approach, with Hatoko simply slapping colors in front of her name, then settling on “Play-Along Straight Man Hatoko.”

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Sayumi is next, and has lots of good names, but when Jurai points out that they’re all very cute, like “Powdered-Snow Princess”, she storms out of the room; apparently “cute” is an off-limits subject for her. After her comes Chifuyu, who goes from “Mikan Mikan” to a variety of family-related nicknames, and settling on “Pineapple”, because she likes that part of sweet-and-sour pork.

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Perhaps unsurprisingly, the girl who seems to know, understand, and care for Jurai the most—Tomoyo—comes up with the most thoughtful and impressive nickname, “Endless Paradox” (Paradox Witch Who Sneers at Twilight). Even I have to admit that’s a pretty good name…and I’m not a Chuuni anymore.

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What follows the selection of nicknames in the second half is another application of the theme of language: that of misunderstanding, which is always a deep font of comedy. In this case, Mirei comes in to “respond to Jurai’s love letter”, which she does by reciprocating her feelings and agreeing to go out with him. Naturally, that sets the rest of the girls off, because wait…Jurai wrote Mirei a love letter?

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This is when the scene gets a little chaotic, but amusingly so: as Mirei reads and deconstructs the letter in great detail, explaining precisely (and not unreasonably) how she interpreted it as a love letter, Jurai confirms what Tomoyo suspected almost immediately: that he simply wrote a letter acknowledging Mirei’s superpower and giving it the name “Grateful Lover”, or rather, “Robber.”

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It doesn’t get through to Mirei, however, and the letter seems to have had the unfortunate effect of at least making her feel like she’s very much in love with Jurai. As a result, she follows him around, flirts and clings to him, and turns into a viscous solid of affection. Jurai is understandably flattered—Mirei is adorable, after all. And yet…

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And yet. When he arrives in the clubroom, his four club-mates are all quite pissed, and try to ignore him/take it out on him with varying degrees of success. It’s ultimately Sayumi who is upfront and tells him the understanding between him and Mirei needs to be cleared up. But there’s no superpower to make that easy, so that’s when we get our first taste of actual drama in InoBato, and I have to say, it worked pretty well.

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In the hallway at sunset and bowing deeply in apology, Jurai explains what he explained to Tomoyo: that it wasn’t a love letter and he wasn’t trying to go out with her. Mirei is devastated but tries to apologize herself for jumping to conclusions and keep her composure, but simply can’t. It’s a tough and surprisingly moving scene, even if it is meant to restore the status quo. The lighting, the close-ups, and the voicework all contribute to sell it; now we know, InoBato can do serious.

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What really validates it is when Tomoyo appears to cheer Jurai up, who is mostly angry at himself for having hurt someone so deeply without intending to. For a good while there, Tomoyo drops the tsundere act and sits with Jurai as a friend while he explains that he chose the potentially confusing “robber” to match the character count of his and everyone else’s powers, as a symbol of unity – again, tapping into the written language and its ability to symbolize many things at once. See, he’s actually a very thoughtful, caring guy! Like his letter, Mirei could have interpreted that as affection, too.

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Ultimately, Mirei shoots Jurai an email—they exchanged emails during their short-lived romance—voicing her hope they can still be friends, and her intention to use the name he gave her power. And that’s perhaps the most surprising part of this episode: there was only one use of powers in the whole episode: When Mirei very briefly stole Closed Clock from Tomoyo (and obliged Jurai by giving them right back)…and that’s it.

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And yet this was on some levels a stronger episode than the first, because it didn’t just define its cast by their powers, but really tapped into their personalities through their use of language and their reactions to Jurai’s fling with Mirei, as well as Mirei’s interpretation of Jurai’s language. In the end, the “battle” this week was fought not with elements or matter or time, but with “commonplace” words. And it was a damn good one.

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Inou-Battle wa Nichijou-kei no Naka de – 01

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It’s Chu2Koi, but for real, baby. In a nutshell, that’s Inou-Battle wa Nichijou-kei no Naka de, or InoBato for short, AKA When Supernatural Battles Become Commonplace. We have a group of mostly girls and a guy, only here the guy is the Chuuni, Andou Jurai, who is messing around one day when he suddenly produces a real ball of magical flame from his palm, and nothing is the same.

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But six months later, aside from a monthly “supernatural checkup” the club undergoes, everything is the same. Everything, except that now Himeki Chifuyu can conjure matter and teleport, Kishikwa Hatoko can control the elements, Kanzaki Tomoyo can manipulate time, and Takanashi Sayumi can restore things to a previous state. Ironically, the true Chuuni just has his little dark flame, which is pretty, but otherwise totally useless; apparently a sore subject.

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The strength of this show, and something that elevates it from being merely another Chu2Koi or Haruhi knockoff, is that Studio Trigger is behind it, which means most of the time, it looks totally badass, but in a more boisterous aesthetic than the more quiet realism of KyoAni. It excels both at rendering the ordinary lives of the students, as well as the awesome magic they periodically break out, because, well, they can.

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The show also moves briskly and confidently, from the way things were before (the only magic was in Jurai’s head) to the way things are (everyone using powers like it ain’t no thang) to their first interaction with someone outside the club, Student Council President Kudou Mirei (who has the Lancet ability), and by the end raises a key question moving forward: why did they receive these powers? What, if anything, are they supposed to do with them?

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That mystery looms over the otherwise playful and fun proceedings, giving the show a measure of gravitas. But I’m not under any illusions that this is a moe showcase of epic proportions, with a diverse sampling of very meticulously-rendered, adorable characters. The show also benefits from Okamoto Nobuhiko’s spirited, sometimes manic voice anchoring the cast of ladies, which includes the warm Hayami Saori (Hatoko) and delicately strict Taneda Risa (Sayumi).

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It’s bold, sharp-witted, pretty, and well-executed. Most of all, it’s just plain fun. You can glimpse that Trigger goodness and infectious joie de vivre that made Kill la Kill along with greats like Gurren Lagann...just way less insane and more moe. And along with the completely different Ushinawareta Mirai o Motomete, I am proud to add it to my Fall 2014 watchlist.

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