Samurai Flamenco – 04

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With his crime-fighting skills improving under Joji’s tutelege, Masayoshi decides to patrol a more dangerous district, despite Goto’s warning, and gets beaten up and taken hostage. He’s rescued by “Flamenco Girl”, AKA Maya Mari, who had been preparing for her hero debut when Masayoshi beat her to it. She blackmails him into joining forces, forcing him into a subservient position and using more brutal methods. Goto receives orders from above to look out for the Samurai couple and be prepared to make an arrest should a citizen lodge a complaint. Goto tells them, but they refuse to give up, and Mari tazes him with her wand for which they apologize the next day, while promising to tone things down.

Well now, that was an interesting course of events. In four episodes, Sam-Flam has kept things fresh and moving at a good clip. Here we see Joji’s coaching having a positive effect on Masayoshi’s budding career as a hero, but because Joji’s also a bit of a flake, Masayoshi doesn’t have backup, leading to him getting in over his head, and then rescued by Flamenco Girl in extravagant fashion. Our first thought was of Death Note’s Misa-Misa, another idol who inserted herself into a guy’s life (and didn’t give him a choice in the matter). But Mari isn’t a copycat; she was planning to be a hero all along, and her demeanor is more of annoyance at him beating her to it than admiration. She’s not his admirer; he’s her fly in the ointment.

Where Mari and Misa are alike is in their complete lack of subtlety or discretion. From her giant pink Hummer H2 (we did spot one of those while in Tokyo) and her multi-function wand of punishment, to her repeated kicks to her captives’ junk, Mari is a loose cannon, one who’ll be looking at the wrong side of a jail cell if she keeps up her unsound methods. Fortunately for her (though she may not see it that way), her new partner knows a good cop. Masayoshi plays the submissive sidekick as long as he can, enduring the damage to his hero pride, but when Mari hurts Goto in a misunderstanding, he snaps out of it and reigns her in. If they’re going to do this, they’ll have to do it right.

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Rating: 9 (Superior)

Stray Observations:

  • Goto realizes Joji likely forgot Masayoshi’s name…again. But Joji’s unexpected “Don’t get cocky!” chest punch was even funnier.
  • While Masayoshi is a hero otaku, Mari’s into magical girls, desiging her persona accordingly.
  • Both Mari and Masayoshi spend only the briefest time at their “day jobs”, which they seem less and less interested in, which doesn’t bode well for Sumi, Mizuki or Moe.
  • Mari blushes when she first sees Goto in uniform. Look out, Goto’s nameless girlfriend!

The World God Only Knows III – 01

Apollo / Nakagawa Kanon

When not playing dating sims, Katsuragi Keima continues to extract loose souls from troubled young women with the help of the demon Elucia de Lute Ima. After summarizing his past conquests, he heads to school with Elsie and is stopped by his neighbor and childhood friend Ayukawa Tenri, who suddenly grows a halo and changes demeanor. It turns out the goddess Diana is possessing her, and wants Keima to marry her so she can gain power and restore the balance between heaven, earth, and hell that’s currently off.

Meanwhile, J-pop idol and Keima’s classmate and former conquest Nakagawa Kanon is a vessel for Diana’s older sister Apollo. As a result of the presence of these “Jupiter Sisters”, both Tenri and Kanon remember everything about their romantic exploits with Keima. Kanon latches on to Keima in the middle of a test, fearful of someone chasing her, and Apollo comes out, having recieved a boost, and then withdraws. Apollo is then captured by Lune, a demon, member of Vintage and part of the movement to restore hell to its former glory.

While sometimes our opinions of various anime can vary wildly, we pride ourselves on being mostly consistent. So we went back to the review of the last episode of TWGOKII to re-familiarize ourselves with our thoughts on the close of that series:

“Keima is simply doomed for life to make girls fall in love with him and then lose them”

“For all the girls whose lives he’s changed by releasing them from loose souls, Keima remains stubbornly static”

“None of the relationships he forms ever have any lasting emotional effect on him”

“If another season is just going to continue the by-now tired formula, it’s going to be very hard to watch”

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Once Keima learned that none of his conquests would stick once the loose soul was extracted, he stopped caring about the aftermaths of those conquests. And why wouldn’t he? The girls went back to the way they used to feel about him. The reset button was pressed, again and again. For Keima, emotional detachment was the key to avoiding getting his heart broken every time.

This inclusion of the Jupiter Sisters, while seeming a bit tacked-on, and the resulting restored memories of his conquests, may be the kick in the pants this series needs to regain some freshness – and our interest. It also helps that there are no other series we’re watching that air when it airs, otherwise we’d definitely give it the boot.

In a subtle but clever parallel to his new situation and impending role this season, before shutting down his game center, he saves all of his in-progress dating sims. The goddesses serve as memory cards for real life, having saved the conquests Keima believed to be deleted. But it brings up a potential fatal flaw in this resurgence: if the goddesses leave the girls, surely they’ll take the memories too. We’ll see how it goes…for now.


Rating: 6 (Good)

Stray Observations:

  • This episode summarizes Keima’s conquest of Goidou Yui in the manga, as well as his conquest of Tenri in an OVA we never got around to watching. We got the jist, though!
  • Every time Keima’s conquest lost her memories it hurt a little bit, but we really liked Kanon’s arc, so we’re glad the series starts off with her remembering everything.
  • Way back, we also said the reset button prevented Keima from being in a harem situation, since only one girl liked him at a time. But that would no longer seem to be the case. It will be interesting to see how Keima, who’s played dozens of dating sims at once, deals with a real-life version of that situation!

It’s 2PM, and 2PM is stuck in my head…thanks to Bach

A German dude who died 261 years ago is still influencing Korean boy bands.

I’ll explain: I have a bit of a problem. The ending theme to Ao no Exorcist has been firmly lodged in my head. Despite a strict regime of drum-and-bass Pandora, I can’t escape the four-on-the-floor beats and capable, if cheesy, vocals. I’ll also admit to being quite surprised when I learned that the music track, a single called “Take Off”, wasn’t by a J-pop group, but a South Korean boy band called 2PM. They also happen to be the first Korean band to reach the Number One spot on the USEN’s J-Pop Chart, whatever the hell that means. It’s three releases also ranked 1, 2, and 3 on the Tower Records Japan pre-order chart. To translate: I’m not the only person who thinks this is a catchy tune.

One of the things that I wracked my brain about was this: what is that electronic arpeggio running the whole course of the song? It sounded so familiar. That’s because it was. But from where? I traced my media steps. Did it play on Buffy? No…Hanna? No, that was all Chemical Brothers. King’s Speech? No; Beethoven’s 7th. Puella Magi Madoka Magica? BINGO. Sayaka’s would-be boyfriend plays the Romantic violin half of Ave Maria, whereby Charles Gounod superimposes the strings over Prelude No. 1 in C major by who else but Johann Sebastian Bach, part of his Well-Tempered Clavier. When a pal of mine from Cali came home for Christmas, he also played this Bach prelude on the ivories. It’s one of my favorite Bach pieces, and it definitely augments the hopeful energy of “Take Off.”

Mind you, it isn’t just the music that makes Ao no Exorcist’s ending a great one in my books. The visuals consist of a straight-up to straight-on, 90-degree vertical pan to a first-person drive along an extremely straight road that traverses a sea and passes under True Cross Academy Island. The sky also quickly but smoothly transitions from day to dusk to calm night. Characters from the series can be seen on video billboards doing the same choreography as 2PM, a clever touch, while other billboards display static images of other characters. The camera finally stops its relentless push forward on an isolated, grassy island, just before a blue-glowing katana.

It’s a great concept, very nicely executed. And even scoring the Bach reference, it remains firmly implanted in my head, likely impervious even to the auto-tuned stylings of Fraulein Black. Damn pop music.