Nerawareta Gakuen

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Seki Kenji is a seemingly average, clumsy junior high student who lives with his grandfather and baby sister, and lives next door to the athletic Ryouura Natsuki, his childhood friend who harbors feelings for him. Kenji and Natsuki start the first day of school meeting their friend Kahori Harukawa, who Kenji has a crush on, but before that Kenji meets the new transfer student, Kyougoku Ryouichi, for the first time.

Ryouichi turns out to be a time traveler from a future where mankind has abandoned Earth and live on the moon. He has come to awaken the psychic powers of people in Kenji’s time. Kahori falls in love with him at first sight, leading to her rejecting Kenji, who is later confessed to by Natsuki in no uncertain terms. As Kenji, Natsuki, and Kahori struggle with their relationships, the student body is being reprogrammed by Ryouichi, and the council becomes more and more averse to cell phones. Ryouichi warns Kenji that they’ll have to fight, but agrees to put it off so the four of them can have a day at the beach.

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When it’s over, Kenji’s time on Earth is almost up, he reciprocates his feelings for Kahori, but knows her memory of him will vanish when he returns to the moon. Kenji’s psychic powers are released by his grandfather, and he uses them to return Ryouichi to his time. He goes with him, telling Natsuki to wait for him. After they’re gone, neither Kahori or Natsuki remember Ryouichi or Kenji. But one day, at the start of another school year, the two girls discuss the new transfer student, and Kenji reappears, along with Natsuki’s memories of him.

While we tend to focus nearly exclusively on television anime, we find it important to check out a film once and a while, to see what a big budget and one-and-three-quarter-plus running time can do. This film does quite a bit, transporting us into an epically gorgeous and lush seaside town and drawing us into the lives of kids who’d realize how gosh-darn lucky they are to live in such an idyllic world if they weren’t constantly pining for one another. With all kinds of jumps, flips, bounces, and blows, the fluid animation brings Kenji, Natsuki, Kahori and Ryouichi to life at a level television can’t ever match with consistency.

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The visuals are all on, all the time, a picture of otherworldly hyperrealism to reflect how Ryouichi sees the Earth after living his whole life on the moon, with unblinking eyes. Our Favorite Seiyu Hanazawa Kana lends her voice to the surface-perfect Kahori, while Natsuki is voiced by the up-and-coming Wantanabe Mayu, who knocks it out of the park in the first thing we ever heard her in. Natsuki’s incessant teasing got on our nerves at first, but before long we were rooting for her. Just as ambitious as the sights and sounds is the sprawling story of two separate worlds and a moving love polygon that resolves itself in a way that’s to our liking (there’s one kiss in particular that was stunning in its execution).

There’s a lovely recurring theme of mirrors. The teacher likens theater to a mirror through which the audience see versions of themselves. Natsuki, whose love for Kenji is (initially) one-sided – sees Kenji (who has the same one-sided feelings for Kahori) as a mirror. The moon mirrors the earth. The mechanics of time travel and the awakening and use psychic powers are handled elegantly and without too much fuss. In the end, Ryouichi may have failed the mission his father sent him on, but his presence on earth led to Natsuki’s feelings finally reaching Kenji, creating the possibility that the two needn’t remain nothing more or less than just neighbors.

In fact, one of our only gripes with this film might just be its title, translated as “Psychic School Wars” – which hardly does the film justice.

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Rating: 9 (Superior)

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Sket Dance – 52

Bossun is complaining about how annoying the tsundere character in the dating sim Switch lent him is when a real-life twin-tailed, big-busted, kneesocks-wearing uber-tsundere named Saaya enters the clubroom. Once they cut through her tsuntsuness, she tells them she wants them to help cure her. After some somewhat-fruitful role-playing, Saaya leaves for the day, but calls them back to announce she’s found an abandoned animal. It turns out
to be an owl, and they bring it back to the clubhouse until its wounds heal. Hoosuke, as Saaya names him, seems to prefer the clubroom to the rest of the world, leaving them with a new club mascot.

Uh-oh…Sket Dance has a new archetypal tsundere character…is this a ratings ploy? We kid; but the introduction of Agata Saaya is pretty inspired. The Sket-dan are a pretty no-nonsense sort, who say what they mean and mean what they say. Dumping someone into their midst who almost reflexively responds to every question with “Don’t get the wrong idea!” is going to net some solid comedy. Saaya, voiced by none other than Kana Hanazawa (she really is everywhere…) does a good job really laying the tsuntsun on thick, while also coming across as a typical high school girl who is shy around boys and verbally lashes out in defense of percieved threats.

We were about to roll our eyes at the umpteenth abandoned puppy or kitten (we can’t believe Japanese pet owners are this fickle), but…an owl? We weren’t expecting that. We also weren’t expecting high school students to be so ignorant about owls. How could they possibly not know that owls are nocturnal and eat mice? They need to sit down and tuck into some Sir David Attenborough…


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

Morita-san wa Mukuchi OVA

This OVA is kind of a preview of an upcoming series of the same name airing this Summer. The formula is quite simple: this is a high school slice-of-life comedy with a quartet of girls at its core, one of which seemingly never says anything at all. Interesting, this very ‘taciturn’ character, the titular Mayu Morita, is voiced by Kana Hanazawa, who also voiced a similarly silent though more bookish character in The World God Only Knows. Obviously, everything she says is in Mayu’s head, not aloud. I don’t think she utters a single word to another character.

There’s nothing tremendously deep here, just nice, charming, lightweight slice-of-life. This OVA, and the forthcoming series, is almost a challenge to see how little a heroine can say and still be a functioning character. So far, so good; Mayu’s friends all seem to see something likable about her that’s beyond words (obvious, since she has none)…though as Mayu’s eyes are drawn very blankly (in Bleach this would mean she’s possessed, or an evil clone), so while in deep thought she can appear a little creepy. What I find refreshing is that Mayu isn’t shy or socially inept; she just takes too long to speak, and thus always misses her opportunity to do so.

One of the reasons I gave this a try is that Kana Hanazawa is one of my favorite seiyus,and even though she’s basically playing to type here (unlike, say, her Kuroneko in Oreimo), that type is tried-and-true earnest/cute/reflective. Saori Hayami (Eden of the East, Oreimo) and Haruka Tomatsu (Shiki, AnoHana) provide the voices of friends Chihiro and Miki. It’ll take a couple more episodes to fully tell their personalities apart, but basically, they talk a lot more than she does, but each have their own quirks too.

The supporting cast, including Yamamoto, who is irritated by Mayu’s silence; Mayu’s pink-haired admirer/stalker; and two male students who are always observing and commenting on the many affectionate embraces Mayu’s friends put her in, all add flavor to a an already colorful cast. The pace is a little leisurely, but that’s okay. Odder is the source of Mayu’s silence – her domineering mother, who warns both Mayu (and Mayu’s father) to never open their mouth unless they know exactly what to say, to avoid misunderstandings. Unfortunatly for Mayu, she never knows what to say – which can also cause misunderstandings.
Rating: 3.5