Hitoyoshi Zenkichi’s overachieving childhood friend Medaka Kurokami has won the election for student council president by a 98% landslide, and just knows that she’ll drag him into her business. She starts up a suggestion box, and the first request asks her to clear the kendo dojo of the punks who hang out there. She convinces them to pick up kendo and the dojo is cleaned. The person who submitted the suggestion, one Hyuga, tries to intimidate the reformed punks, but they stand up to him, and Zenkichi punches him. Medaka proceeds to fulfill another request by improving Hyuga’s rotten personality. Zenkichi agrees to stay by her side, as always.
When we learn that Gainax is doing a new series, we’re going to take a look by default, since we know their work will rarely disappoint. This premiere validated our policy; Medaka Box is hardly flawless, but it is a bright, fresh, and confident school series that does a good job laying out what it’s about and who the players are. We’re particularly smitten with President Medaka who is brimming with charisma. Sure, she looks down on people (and indeed the rest of the universe) but at her core she’s a kind person who only wants to help…even if you don’t know you need it. Her boobs are a little on the big side, but overall the moderate levels of fanservices didn’t concern us, because it wasn’t the only note the episode played.
Aki Toyosaki voices Medaka, and after Last Exile’s cutesy-voiced Fam, it’s good to hear the throaty, assertive Aki. When she’s talking, people just have to listen. We also like Zenkichi Hiroyoshi, the male protagonist who has known her since they were two (i.e., their whole lives). He’s neither weak, nor boring or annoying. Even if he has no idea why, he’s Medaka’s rock; and he can’t help but support her in her new role as Queen of School. A pleasant setting, colorful characters, sprightly action, quick pacing, and plenty of energy and charm – there’s not much we dislike here. Good start.
Rating: 7 (Very Good)
Kukuri, singing the song it sung when Kyohei was its seki, saves Hibino and Kyohei and destroys Magatsuhi. Mahiru flees. While unconscious, Kyohei dreams of the past with Aki, Mahiru, and Senou. After he found Aki with a dead Senou, he threatened to kill him with Kukuri, lashing out at anyone who interfered, but without trying, Utao took control of Kukuri from him. He wakes up proclaiming Hibino is his, and Hibino just happened to be by his side. On the roof of the hospital, they kiss, and Hibino tells him not to worry about involving her in his troubles. Utao can no longer move Kukuri. Aki pays him Kyohei a visit, telling him he’s headed to the village, where he and the Elder Hyuga will reawaken the giant monster he defeated in the past. Kyohei takes the challenge.
Oh, wait, what? A second season is forthcoming? Well, ya’know what, that’s okay with me. After all I’ve invested in this excellent cast, I’d hate for it to end so abruptly. Once Magatsuhi was dealt with and everyone was out of danger, this became a much more laid-back, relaxed episode, almost as if it were winding down in preparation for hibernation (I’m unsure whether it will continue airing during the Fall season, or if it won’t be back until next year). That’s fine though. Cliffhangers aren’t mandatory by any means.
For all the trials ahead for our man Kyohei, and despite the fact Mahiru’s kakashi was wasted and Utao lost control of hers, this was also a surprisingly upbeat episode. Kyohei and Aki’s final scene together was awesome; these two can never escape the fact that they’re brothers, any more than they can escape Kurakami. This wasn’t the time for a final duel with tons of shouting; that’s yet to come. And Kyohei and Hibino finally lockin’ lips, with Hibino making the first move? Well, better late than never!
Kuuko springs Aki and frees Hibino. Hirashino corners Kuuko and Hibino, but Kuuko pushes Hibino outside and grapples with Hirashino, killing him with his own gun in a struggle. Hibino is met by Mahiru on the roof, who has a bone to pick with her vis-a-vis Kyohei. She gets carried away and throws Hibino off the roof with Magatsuhi, but Kukuri catches her in the knick of time. Utao and Mahriu have a sustained duel, ending when Kukuri lands a blow that makes Mahiru lose control of her Magatsuhi. Now out of her control, it grabs Hibino again. Kyohei saves Mahiru from its swipe, then rushes to Hibino’s aid, only to be ensnared himself. As it crushes them, he remembers the day he told his parents he’d be leaving the village, then meeting Hibino in school. Entering the battle, Kirio accidentally knocks Kukuri out. The episode ends with Kukuri waking up, but rather than singing Utao’s song, it’s singing Kyohei’s.
Rape threats…gun grappling…seki duels, kakashi group battles…flashbacks…this episode had a little of everything. Once again, Mahiru takes the lion’s share of screen time, and she’s still a horrible selfish brat, but she becomes a little more sympathetic once Utao manages to beat her Magatsuhi. Cornered, beaten by a little kid, she’s an emotional wreck. When she loses control of her Magatsuhi, she panics. As I said, bringing her in so late was a bold move, but I’m still glad it was done; her presence and her feelings for Kyohei help get both Kyohei and Hibino thinking about what they are to one another. It also forces Kyohei to stop trying to escape the village.
I thought a lot more was to be done with the diet member, but his death makes me question what his purpose was. Also, while she’s really fun to watch and listen to, Kuuko is again really only around to kill him and save Hibino. Her only goal at this point is to be involved in all this intrigue – the embedded journalist, as it were. But she did kill a man in the middle of Tokyo – one would think there’ll be consequences. The cliffhanger was well-played: it would seem empty kakashis respond to whichever seki is projecting the strongest emotions, in this case, Kyohei’s. I just hope that after all this soul-searching and exposition, the finale will me more than just another episode of Save Princess Hibino.
Mahiru learns from Aki that Kyohei has a girlfriend. Furious, she kidnaps Hibino and ties her up in a hotel room, then visits Kyohei to learn the truth of things. She crushes cookies Utao baked specially for Kirio, leading to a brief fight, and Mahiru teleports away again. Utao, Kyohei and Moyako take Kukuri and pursue her. Meanwhile, Shiba threatens to rape Hibino.
With a title like “Hibino Kidnapped”, it’s pretty obvious what was to in the 24 minutes that followed, but I was expecting…more. I mean, look up a the first paragraph; not a lot happened. Worse still, Mahiru is not the most interesting character to watch for the majority of an episode; she’s only good in short spurts. Here, she yells far too much, repeating a lot of what has already been established. Most notably, she’s in love with her hero, Kyohei. We knew this last week. She’s also threatened by Hibino. We assumed that.
Her idea to unite the Kuga and Hyuga clans by marrying Kyohei and wiping out the old ways makes sense in theory, but isn’t without its problems. For one, Kyohei isn’t a seki anymore, and he has no intention of returning to the village, which is what Mahiru asks him to do here. But all of this could have been done much faster; I feel the momentum has been hurt by spending too much time on the psycho Mahiru, who lost most if not all of the goodwill gained from her first episode. Most frustrating, there are no further developments on precisely what the Diet member has planned, and how Mahiru and Aki fit into that plan. In all, this episode was a regression.
Mahiru of the Hyuga clan arrives in Tokyo unbeknownst to Koushiro or anyone else, and immediately makes her presence felt. Kuuko has put Aki before the diet member representing Kurakami village, who believes it’s time for the village to change with the times, which means eliminating the elders. He’s called Mahiru for the same purpose, though she insists she only came to see Kyohei, whom she loves and idolizes ever since a terrifying incident covered in a flashback.
So…yeah, introducing a character as volatile as Mahiru this late in the series was a bold move. She didn’t make the best first impression on me, but I had to remember, she’s essentially a princess, and she is a pretty powerful seki – some swagger comes with that. She’s also loud, highly irrational, prone to mood swings, and even a little sadist (she zaps Kuuko with her own stun gun just for the heck of it). In a word: unhinged. Seiyu Kana Hanazawa’s performance is feistier than I’ve heard her in a while – kind of a Kuroneko taken up a couple notches – I like it. Mahiru grew on me as the episode progressed and I learned more about her.
In a character- and action-packed flashback, Kyohei puts his life on the line numerous times to save Mahiru’s – and Aki’s – lives, when the three stumble upon a sekiless monster kakashi. It was an incredibly traumatic experience for all involved, but Kyohei saved the day, though he says it was the day he “lost his sanity.” Whatever happened, Mahiru still adores him for it, and despises Aki for being as helpless as she was, and a pain-in-the-ass to boot (he was ‘good’ back then, but the warning signs were there). Along with Hirashiro – the Diet guy – and his plans to uproot the old way in the village, there’s now a whole new layer to the series’ story. More to the point, do we care if those dusty elders get offed? Do I smell a second season…?
Moyako arrives in Tokyo, tagging along with Koushiro and Kirio, and hangs out with Kyohei, Utao and Hibino. The next college term is starting up, and Kyohei reflects on leaving the village. Aki remains at large, but is actually crashing at Kuuko Karahari’s house. Her dad the detective is snooping around everywhere, and she herself has discovered Kurakami village. Finally, a new character is introduced – Mahiru, who instantly attaches herself to “Kyohei-sama”.
Not a ton of earth-shattering stuff this week nor any action at all (save a brief flashback) but still a very solid episode all-in-all, full of great character interactions. Kyohei struggling with his worth and his feelings for Hibino, Utao nervous about Karahiri, Kuuko teasing Aki, Kirio making nice with Utao – good stuff, all. Mahiru (finally revealed in the ending sequence as the shadowy figure) looks to add an interesting dynamic. Also on full display was the series’ attention to setting detail – the stonework on the ground at the West Shinjuku station promenade and the park next to city hall were great to revisit in anime form.
Considering this is Tokyo, I’m not that surprised the growing group of sekis can’t locate Aki, though it might do them some good to pay another visit to Kuuko’s, if he goes back there. She’s an interesting wild card. For his part, Aki is sick of the person he’s become, and believes the only way out is to utterly destroy Kurakami village, thus avenging his lover and his beloved pet. That’s a big task, but he does have a kakashi and gobs of angst – I have no doubt he can get it done if no one stops him. Kyohei won’t be able to stay on the sidelines if and when Aki tries something.
After lots of excitement in Tokyo, Kamisama Dolls heads to Karakami village this week for some peace, quiet, and convalescence. Kukuri is repaired by the Utsuwashi (kakashi mechanics), we meet some new faces, and Utao’s master confirms to her that Kirio is indeed her younger twin brother. The two were seperated at birth (not literally, they weren’t conjoined twins) and he was raised by the Hyuga.
To make an SAT analogy: Utao : Kirio :: Kyouhei : Aki. Kirio and Aki are bitter that Utao and Kyouhei had easier lives. That bitterness has twisted both of them, but it may not be too late for Kirio. Koushiro seems to want to take care of Kirio, which makes you wonder where he’s been all the years the Hyuga master has beaten him. Also, as HIbino gets more involved with the Kugas, she wants to know what happened with Kyouhei and Aki in the past.
Overall, this is a nice respite, with much lighter fare than previous episodes. This series continues to excel with facial expressions – particularly Utao and Hibino’s faces are extremely emphatic – and quick action animation, as demonstrated with the comedy/fanservice setpiece where Utao tries flying Kukuri with Kyouhei and Hibino riding along. It involves both Kuga siblings pulling on either end of Hibino…meh, I guess you had to see it. :P
Both Kyohei and Aki have pretty similar pasts, but while Aki has chosen to stew in his anger and self-hate, Kyohei wants to move on, and wants a normal life. So did Kyohei kill too? If he did, why is only Aki in jail? In any case, that normal life grows more abnormal by the day. Not only is Aki pestering Kyohei at every turn, he even threatens to kill Hibino. This pisses off Kyohei.
But then another seki named Koushiro shows up with a teleporting kakashi, presumably to drag Aki back to the village. He manages to take him down, but Kuuko of all people is tangled up in the battle, and ends up dragging an unconscious Aki away; perhaps for information later. In any case, I like how Aki isn’t just a one-dimensionally evil guy; he’s clearly had a rough life. Even Kyohei pities him, and buys him some food.
As for lil’ Utao, there was a lot of unnecessary bumbling around at the cafe, but this was redeemed by the actions of yet another seki, who looks a lot like Utao – an older brother, perhaps? He does so by making a truck swerve off an overpass, and Utao deftly uses Kukuri to shield herself, Hibino, and bystanders from the falling truck. She may be a total klutz at waitressing, but when it counts, she’s turning out to be a decent seki. Rating: 3.5