Spring/Summer 2011 Wrap-Up

Out with the old, in with the new. This weekend RABUJOI said goodbye to the last of the Summer series and Spring carryovers, with one exception, Mawaru Penguindrum, which will continue into the Fall. In all, it was a decent season, with lots of variety. We love the sense of completeness that comes with wrapping up a season – two in this case. Here’s a list of who won what:

• Best Overall Anime: Mawaru Penguindrum. Every episode has been excellent, in our humble opinion.

• Most Gore-tastic Series: Blood-C…the censors were awfully busy.

• Best Series Dealing With Sudden Parenthood: Usagi Drop. Really down-to-earth, heartwarming stuff.

• Best NEET Detective Series: Kami-sama no Memo-cho.

• Best Life-At-An-Inn Series: Hanasaku Iroha, which finished very strong.

• Best Telepathically-Controlled Mecha Action: Kamisama Dolls.

• Best Period Mystery/Action Series: Dantalian no Shoka.

• Best Goofy Superhero Series: Tiger & Bunny.

• Best Series Set in Paris at the Turn of the Century: Ikoku Meiro no Croisée.

• Best High School Club Series: Sket Dance.

• Best Post-Apocalyptic Series with a Number for a Name: No. 6.

• Best Shounen Series Where the Characters Were More Fun to Watch Than the Action: Ao no Exorcist.

• Best Score: (tie) Kamisama Dolls and Mawaru Penguindrum.

• Best Female Seiyu, Spring 2011: Chiaki Omigawa as Minko Tsurugi/Minchi (Hanasaku Iroha)

• Best Male Seiyu, Spring 2011: Hiroaki Hirata as Kotetsu T. Kaburagi/Wild Tiger (Tiger & Bunny)

• Best Female Seiyu, Summer 2011: Marie Miyake as Ringo Oginome (Mawaru Penguindrum)

• Best Male Seiyu, Summer 2011: Hiroshi Tsuchida as Daikichi Kawachi (Usagi Drop)

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Kamisama Dolls 13

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!


Rating: 3.5

Kamisama Dolls 12

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.


Rating: 3.5

5 down, 7 to go: Current Anime Rankings as of Today

With four series completed (Ikoku Meiro no Croisee, No. 6, Tiger & Bunny, and Usagi Drop) and one dropped (Morita-san wa Mukuchi), we felt like now was a good time to put up part of the new RABUJOI Big Board and see where things stand with seven series left to wrap up for Spring/Summer 2011:

Summer 2011

Episode # : 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 AVG

Mawaru Penguindrum 4 4 4 4 4 4 4 4 4 4 4.000
Kamisama Dolls 4 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 4 3.5 4 4 3 3.636
Usagi Drop 3.5 4 3.5 3.5 4 3.5 3.5 3.5 4 3.5 3.5 3.636
Blood-C 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 4 4 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.600
Kami-sama no Memo-cho 4 4 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3 4 3.5 3.591
Dantalian no Shoka 4 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 2.5 4 3.5 3.500
Ikoku Meiro no Croisée 3.5 3 3.5 3.5 3.5 3 3.5 3.5 3 3 3 3.5 3.292
No. 6 3.5 3.5 3.5 3 2.5 2.5 3.5 3 3 3.5 3 3.136
Morita-san wa Mukuchi 2.5 2 2 2 2.5 2 2 2 2.125

Weekly Average 3.6 3.4 3.4 3.3 3.4 3.3 3.3 3.2 3.6 3.6 3.2 3.5 0.0 3.391

Spring 2011 Carryovers

Episode # : 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 AVG

Hanasaku Iroha (second half) 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3 3.5 3.5 4 3.5 4 4 3.583
Tiger & Bunny (second half) 3.5 3.5 3.5 4 3.5 3 3.5 3.5 3 3 3 3.5 3.375
Ao no Exorcist (second half) 3 3.5 4 3.5 3.5 3 3 3 3 2.5 3.200
Sket Dance (second half) 3 3 3.5 3.5 3 3 3.5 3 3 3 3.5 3.182

Weekly Average 3.3 3.4 3.6 3.6 3.4 3 3.5 3.3 3.3 3.2 4.0 0.0 0.0 3.335

Stray Observations (many with baseball references)

• Cliff Lee is a good pitcher. Mawaru Penguindrum is a good anime. These are facts. Depending on how the first half ends, we may be compelled elevate it to Favorites.

• Currently tied with the completed Usagi Drop, Kamisama Dolls will need to rally in the twelfth inning to order to claim second place.

• With some new twists that open the series wide open, Blood-C also has a chance to take second, but it will have to score 4s in its final two innings; not an easy feat.

• Memo-cho and Dantalian no Shoka are following similar paths: excellent starts, consistent standout-ness from weeks 3-7/8, and lost a little command towards the end.

• Ikoku Meiro no Croisee was a pleasant enough series, but never moving enough to score a 4. Lack of hussle?

• No. 6 suffered the same fate as Fractale, only worse: it looked good on paper: a big world, big ideas, great concepts; but not nearly enough time to realize any of it to our satisfaction. Should have been at least a 26-episode season.

• Thanks to the brief firtation with the mediocrity of the three-minute Morita-san, we have our most colorful scoreboard yet! If we remove it from the Summer watchlist, the overall season rating jumps from 3.391 to 3.549 –  a 15% rise. FYI, our average of all anime since we started rating them hovers around 3.5, ’cause if it ain’t standout, we usually won’t watch it.

• Just like its first half began, Hanasaku Iroha looks to finish strong. Just gotta wrap up the Ohana+Ko arc and a few other things.

• Ao no Exorcist…doesn’t. Apparently the anime story deviates greatly from the source manga. We don’t read source manga, so we didn’t notice, but if the manga story was better, it might have been better if they’d used that. As it is, Ao is whiffing at the off-speed stuff and late with the heat.

• We’ve stuck with Sket Dance for 26 games, but we don’t know if we’ll stay with it for all 39. Fall 2011 is a big season coming up, there may not be time. And one can’t rush a gentleman’s game. Unless you limit the amount of time a pitcher takes to come to the plate.

Kamisama Dolls 11

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.


Rating: 3

Kamisama Dolls 10

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…?


Rating: 4

Kamisama Dolls 9

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.


Rating: 4

2011 So Far – in chart form

We like charts here on RABUJOI. This one plots the ratings of all the anime series we’ve reviewed so far in 2011. We’ve included Summer 2011 series, even though we’ve got 5-6 more weeks of episodes in those seasons. When the Summer season does conclude, we’ll update this chart.

So what do we see? Well, while we deem a 2.5 rating to be “Average”, our actual average is closer to 3.5, which we deem “Standout”. This is because there’s a lot of anime out there, but we try to only watch the best. There are exceptions, of course: the main outlier here is Morita-san wa Mukuchi, which rates just above 2 or “Mediocre” (UPDATE: As of episode 7, we’ve dropped Morita-san :P). There are a lot more series out there we’d probably rank this low or lower, but we don’t have the time or the stomachs to sit through them.

So why do we watch Morita-san wa Mukuchi? Well, it’s only three minutes long; hardly a major investment. So it isn’t that we rate high. We just watch series that regularly deserve above-average ratings. Thus when a truly brillant series comes around – like AnoHana or Mawaru Penguindrum, you’ll see a lot of 4s. At the end of the day, it’s all subjective. We also just like charts. Did we say that already?

Kamisama Dolls 8

I thought this would be a lighthearted filler episode after such a heavy and emotional flashback last week, but not only did it buck the “beach episode” trend (with a typhoon), it also managed to move the story forward while subtly developing the characters. It also had some great kakashi hero moments and kakashi-on-kakashi combat.

Kyohei, Utao and Hibino are back in Tokyo after Kukuri was fixed, and while dropping off some books at the library, Hibino bumps into Aki (I suppose he never imagined anyone would look for him there?). In any case, he puts a blade to Hibino’s throat and threatens her. It’s a great scene because now that HIbino knows his story, he isn’t just some mindless wack-job; she knows now he has reason to be…the way he is. He just wants him to deal with the village, and leave Kyohei and Utao out of it. He’s not going to do that.

Kyohei told her he quit being a seki because he feared the evil inside Aki could be in him too. A kakashi is a thing of great power, which, you know, corrupts. Aki believes the darkness its within Kyohei, seki or not. He also gives Utao a spook, telling her kakashi aren’t good for anything but death and destruction. Having seen the collateral damage they can cause, suffice it to say they shouldn’t be in the wrong hands.

Back to Hibino, with all this crap going on, one almost forgets she’s just an ordinary college student, and the stress she’s had to deal with is starting to show, especially when she arrives home after the duel between Aki and Utao basically about to lose it. Her father left that infernal village to spare his daughter this nonsense, but as he notes, the village has a way of staying with you.


Rating: 3.5

Summer 2011 OPs and EDs

We’re not even going to bother posting videos of these anymore, since most of not all won’t be working links in a few days time due to YouTube policies. Stills will have to do. And suffice it to say, you’ve probably seen/heard these openings and endings before…otherwise, go check ’em out; we deem them the best of the Summer.

Best Opening: Mawaru Penguindrum. A no-brainer. Like the series itself, it’s slick, smooth, full of color and motion. The theme, “Nornir” by Etsuko Yakushimaru Metropolitan Orchestra, is catchy and serious with just a tinge of cuteness to compliment the presence of the cartoon penguins.

Runner-up: Dantalian no Shoka. “Cras numquam scire” by Yucca is soulful and melancholy with just a hint of hope mixed in. The visuals, like the backgrounds and settings of the series, are richly textured and lush.

Honorable Mentions: Blood-C and Kamisama Dolls. Blood-C benefits from its kinetic ballad-like theme, “Spiral” by DUSTZ, whose lyrics span three languages without sounding too silly. The visuals are unambiguous in laying out the content of the show: namely Saya kickin’ ass. Kamisama Dolls’ latinesque theme – “Fukanzen Nunshō” by Chiaki Ishikawa – is the openings pièce de résistance. The multilayered shapes moving over characters, changing their colors, is also a nice touch.

Best Ending: Mawaru Penguindrum. “DEAR FUTURE” by coaltar of the deepers is full of pent-up energy and longing being belted out with lots of fancy melodies. The Himari triplet imagery doesn’t make much sense, but its cool anyway. A good way to end each (so far) excellent episode.

Runner-up: Ao no Exorcist. A series of cubes jumping up and down to the pumping electropop beat of “Wired Life” by Meisa Kuroki prefaces a stylish, elegant ending sequence. It’s a simple but well-executed concept using pans and conceals of characters.

Honorable Mention: Kamisama Dolls. More Chiaki Ishikawa’s amazing voice, now in a more spacey, sci-fi style than the latin opening. I particularly like the very end, which pulls out of a shot of the core characters to an almost U2-like 12-string closing chord.

Kamisama Dolls 7

Gosh darn,that was a beautiful, tragic, moving episode. Easily the best of this series so far. All the more astonishing considering it’s all a flashback primarily about Aki, with a cold open and only a brief punctuation mark at the end bringing us back to the present, with Kyohei telling the story to Hibino. By the end, the rain stops, but the tears start for Hibino. I can’t really blame her.

We go back to the time when Kyohei was still a seki, and before Aki lost it. Prior to this week I hadn’t had much reason to root for Aki’s character beyond a general sympathy for his alleged rough life. Well, damn it all if I don’t feel for the guy infinitely more now. A bastard child, he was adopted by the Kuga clan, and chosen to be Kuramitsuha’s seki. However, his penchant for killing animals let the kakashi to pass to the one it was originally promised to, Aki’s stepbrother Asushi.

Asushi is, as Aki succinctly describes him, scum. He’s a shaky seki at best, and his antisocial tendencies probably surpassed Aki’s at the time. When a beautiful young substitute teacher, Senou Chihaya, arrives in the village, Asushi grabs her by the arm and demands she become his girl. She refuses, and he proceeds to ruin her reputation, making her a pariah in the town…like Aki.

Senou falls for Aki, who saves her from being molested by Asushi, and they end up sleeping together. But photos are taken of them, and she’s fired from her job. As if that wasn’t bad enough, Asushi kidnaps her, kill’s Aki’s dog (his best friend), and calls him out. After raping Senou, he then tries to kill Aki with Kuramitsuha, but Senou leaps out to protect him, killing her. And that’s the last straw for our friend Aki. Regaining control of Kuramitsuha, he massacres Asushi and anyone else around.

When Kyohei finds him, the scene makes it look like Aki killed Senou too, although he later learns that wasn’t the case. Aki may have gone too far in his vengeance, but there’s a possibility he couldn’t control his actions. He was ready to die to protect Senou. Losing her crushed him, and perhaps his humanity along with it. But Kyohei was also in love with her, and her death and Aki’s revenge led him to give up being a Seki.


Rating: 4

Kamisama Dolls 6

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


Rating: 3.5

Kamisama Dolls 5

Utao’s mysterious brother, Kirio, is kind of a jerk, but he does have a point: Utao started the fight. For her part, Utao was understandably freaked out by the sudden appearance of another kid who looked just like her. What follows is the first sustained kakashi-on-kakashi battle, and at the start, Kirio seemed to have had more practical experience, because Kukuri is schooled by Takemikazuchi, as Utao panics and flails about rather haphazardly at first.

I was a little annoyed that we get no explanation for why Kirio would be so evil and cruel right off the bat, but not as annoyed that the battle was so public; in the view of dozens of people, even caught on camera, and resulting in casualties. I feel the consequences of this exposure are too underplayed. The seki aren’t Men In Black; they can’t just flashy-thing the town and remain in the shadows. This was a big screw-up. Still, the battle itself is very exciting and nicely animated. I’m sure we’ll see more of this.

Kirio presses his attack on Utao, even though he had clearly won the day. This is the sign of youthful exuberance, but not sense. He was sent to capture Aki, not play with Utao, and when he kicks Utao when she’s down, she digs deep and comes back in a big way, tearing Kirio’s kakashi to bits. Both seki must now return to the village for kakashi repairs. In Kirio’s case, that means returning to a physically abusive bearded bastard. Now we know what Kirio’s a cruel jerk: people have been cruel jerks to him.


Rating: 3.5