Machikado Mazoku – 01 (First Impressions) – Don’t Think This Means You’ve Won!

One morning Yoshida Yuuko wakes up with horns and a tail, and her mother reveals that her family are descendents of the “Dark Clan,” whose powers were sealed by the Magical Girls of the “Light Clan” long ago. It’s why her family lives in poverty. But now that she bears the horns and tail of a demon girl, she is named “Shadow Mistress Yuuko” (sent by fax) and must seek out and defeat a Magical Girl in order to restore her clan’s former glory!

The casual blending of the supernatural and the mundane, and the superb, energetic performance of Kohara Konomi, form the beating heart of this slick little slice-of-life comedy that’s also a charming underdog story and a send up of the demon/magical girl genre in which it operates. The moment the town’s magical girl, Chiyoda Momo, rescues her “mortal enemy” from a truck (transforming in just 0.01 seconds!), you know this is going to be a wonderfully extreme mismatch.

At school (which the narrator describes very literally when Yuuko asks “What’s up with this school?”), Yuuko’s friends don’t seem all that concerned with her horns, and soon point her in the direction of Chiyoda Momo, for whom Yuuko is absolutely no match.

Yuuko flubs her words when trying to formally initiate a duel, and Momo doesn’t bother dodging her attacks, letting Yuuko wear herself out. Like when she rescued and then fed her, Momo, while polite, is just barely restraining her arrogance and superiority.

Unlike Yuuko, Momo is rolling in cash from the look of her postmodern mansion and chic decor—but she seems to live all alone with her cat, no one to share all that square footage. She’s bored and alone! When she saved Yuuko it had been a long time since she even had to transform.

Even if they’ll remain “mortal enemies”, perhaps Yuuko could be someone to make things interesting in Momo’s life for a change. As for Yuuko, she’s resolved to improve her offensive capabilities (leveling up from…Level 0), training beside the river as her sister spots her. As she exclaims every time she’s retreated from a fight she knows she’d lose, Momo hasn’t won yet—not as long as Yuuko still has the will to fight.

Machikado Mazoku is a lot of fun, and is backed up by above-average production values and exquisite attention to detail (Momo wears Crocs! The background characters play very goofy games!). It constantly makes fun of itself with characters’ side commentary, and the jokes-per-minute ratio is quite good. All in all, a solid way to spend twenty minutes of your Thursday afternoon.

Wasteful Days of High School Girls – 01 (First Impressions) – An Interesting Woman (Or So He Says)

Wasteful Days picks up on the first day of high school for three friends who have been together since middle school (and possibly longer). Particularly for the liveliest of them, Tanaka Nozumu (voiced by the always-energetic Akasaki Chinatsu), this is supposed to be the start of their amazing high school lives; the pinnacle of youth. She hoped to become popular with the guys. The only problem is, they attend an all-girl’s school.

The only guy is a teacher who makes it clear he’s only into college girls, and manages to creep out the entire class. From there, Nozumu seeks out advice from her classmates, assigning them nicknames in the process, from from “Serious” (the girl who regularly checks stocks) to “Loli” (self-explanatory). No one is of any help, particularly her two friends, Saginomiya Shiori (a listless Toyosaki Aki) and Kikuchi Akane (Tomatsu Haruka).

The veteran all-star voice talent and the pacing of jokes somewhat make up for the fact that only a few of the jokes land, and I particularly liked the various cutaways and instances of characters reacting by just…walking away. But the full episode length makes it feel like there aren’t quite enough jokes to fill the space—a 12-minute runtime might’ve been a tighter affair. As it is, my mind often wandered.

There is a nice sequence of “possible” (but highly contrived/far-fetched) scenarios in which Nozomu encounters a hot guy, but they’re all in her head, and all are rejected as absurd by her friends, neither of whom have much energy for her antics. That being said, you get the feeling these three stick together anyways, as friends tend to do, due to pure inertia, and in the absence of strong new bonds.

If nothing else, this show captures the ennui and irrelevance of high school life as much as O Maidens captures the drama and angst. The fact it’s early in the Summer season means I don’t have a full plate yet, so this will stay on my list for now. But as tends to be the case, if better shows come along in my wheelhouse, it may signal the End of (Wasteful) Days.

Re-Kan! – 02

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Some guys in Amami’s class wonder out loud why she isn’t bullied by the other girls. She’s very strange sticks out like a sore thumb; not exactly qualities that make you popular in high school. But this week answers that question, beyond the obvious fact that if girls bully Amami, they’ll have to answer to her ghostly friends.

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It’s not fear or deference that make Amami surprisingly popular in her class; but rather gratitude for making their humdrum high school lives much more interesting. Inoue constantly denies the existence of ghosts despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary (including the circling spirit of her own beloved Grandma), but she sounds more like she’s trying to convince herself.

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It’s also counterproductive to resent Amami when she’s so kind, going so far to interpret and meet the needs of the ghosts around her with such dedication she neglects her own life and health. As such, Amami needs friends and Inoue in particular to dry her off from the rain, take her to the nurse’s office to catch up on some rest, and generally look after her.

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We see that the fruits of Amami’s kindness are a double-edge sword (she attracts Pervy Ghouls along with Roll Call Samurai or Faceless Umbrella) but it’s typically a net positive: she helps those in need even though they’ve passed on, because no one else can. Because she can see and hear them, she can’t ignore them; it’s just not her.

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I suppose I should also mention that this was another fun and hilarious episode. Many laughs are to be had, mostly in reaction to Amami or her ghostly friends’ gestures, actions…even texts! Also good for some chuckles: the recurring joke of the only guy in the circle having stuff thrown at his face.

The evident 4-koma roots give the show a “grab-bag” structure and the eyes-through-the-hair designs of the “cool girls” is odd, but those are minor niggles. The well-timed and varied comedy of Re-Kan is enriched by the profound decency of Amami’s character, and the sincere desire of her classmates to root for and support her.

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White Album 2 – 08

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December arrives. Setsuna and Haruki start dating with Touma’s blessing.Touma lets Setsuna start calling her Kazusa. They also help her study for exams, which she ends up passing, assuring her graduation. To celebrate, the three go on a trip to a hot spring inn in the mountains, a tradition Setsuna hopes they’ll do every year, no matter what happens. Kazusa tells the others she’s delaying college to give piano a serious go, starting with a recital after new years, which Haruki and Setsuna promise to attend.

With Haruki and Setsuna dating, Kazusa seemingly fine with it while also passing her classes, things seem to be going swimmingly since their school fair concert. The three continue to spend time together, including Christmas at a very swanky mountain inn, culminating in the three sharing a hot spring together, without doubt the most intimate contact they’ve had yet. But this show has always been about what people aren’t saying, or in Touma’s case what she “jokes” about. Then there’s Haruki the narrator, speaking from the future, who knows how this all ends, and knows that concert was the apex of the trio’s happiness.

We still find it sad that he’s looking back at the Christmas adventure with a degree of regret and/or anguish, because by all rights, they really do seem to enjoy themselves, whether in the car together (which Kazusa drives with increasing efficacy), to getting stranded on a snowy road, to even being comfortable being naked together in a hot spring (major kudos to this show for not taking the cliched anime route here), everything seems to be fine between them. But it’s not just Touma’s jokes, Haruki’s voiceovers, or the cautious whispers of their outer circle of friends, but also the fact we’ve got five more episodes that tell us that the trio’s troubles aren’t over.

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Rating: 8 
(Great)