With Medaka in the hospital, Zenkichi, Akune and Kikaijima are on their own responding to a plea for help from the new shogi club president, Mochibaru Sasae, about a missing king piece. After cleaning the clubroom, not only can they not find the king, but Akune discovers all the kings are missing. Akune seeks out Natayama Miri, the best player in the club when she quit when Sasae won the presidency. The council teases a confession out of her, simultaneously scolding, shaming, and encouraging her. Impressed with the council’s efforts, she returns to the shogi club.
So ends Medaka Box, what will be – barring a late meltdown by Accel World – the lowest-ranked Spring series we watched. Does that mean the series was bad? No; we don’t watch bad series. It was simply the weakest, when measured by our admittedly highly subjecitve rating system. But as the lilac punk-haired Natayama proclaims, You can’t blame someone for being weak. But you can blame them for not trying to get stronger. Even if it didn’t always excel, the series always aimed high. This final episode omitted Medaka, who, let’s face it, did her part for jade general and country. There was a refreshing quality to an episode lacking the show’s star.
The remaining three council members make up for her absense by stepping up her game, considering carefully what she’d do in their shoes, and channelling various aspects of her in solving the case of the missing kings. Zenkichi aggresively challenges Miri to a match, then calls her out on her childishness. Kouki follows with a lighter, more encouraging touch – something like a pretentious appeal to innate goodness. Kikaijima simply tries to say something cool (in an episode brimming with gardening and shogi metaphors). And it works. They still have much to learn from Medaka and each other, but they’ve come a long way thanks to her.
Rating: 6 (Good)
P.S. At the very end of the episode, a new group of mean-looking students appears and one of them says “To Be Continued.” We’re not so sure about that…
As his showdown with Medaka continues, Unzen lures her back indoors and unleashes a volley of balls containing strings that create a net that stops her in her tracks. She counters by moving the school the strings are attached to, bringing down the entire building to wrest herself free. With no more offense or defense, Unzen admits she’s stronger, but she hasn’t won, because he won’t be reformed, and derides her trying to coexist with humans. Her final blow is stopped by Kikaijima, Akune and Zenkichi, who hold her back. She reverts to normal Medaka and apologizes to Unzen, then heads to the hospital.
Unzen wasn’t the most interesting adversary in this series, despite his strength and staying power. He tends to introspect and over-analyze during battles too much, shonen-style, which kind of slows said battle to a crawl. But he does make some good points this week as he increasingly realizes if he can’t beat Medaka, he’ll at least question her very humanity and existence with his dying breath. After all, what is Medaka? As this episode demonstrated, clearly neither a saint nor a pacifist. But he does see a weakness in her, and it’s the need to not only love other humans, but to be loved by them too.
Unzen dismisses her as an inhuman monster; a lonely soul who represses her true, godlike self so humans won’t fear and shun her. Unzen, meanwhile, is just another human; if Medaka kills him, she’ll be killing the very thing she loves. So it’s very fitting that Medaka’s friends refuse to abandon her and prove Unzen wrong; she isn’t alone. She has friends who love her as much as she loves them, and there’s no human alive she won’t try to befriend. Unzen can scorn her all he likes, but he can’t touch her spirit. And clearly, judging from how he treats his underlings in the aftermath, he doesn’t hate all humans.
Rating: 7 (Very Good)
With the rest of the DisCom neutralized by Medaka, Unzen takes matters into his own hands, walking straight into the Student Council office and scattering dozens of explosive super balls around. After a lengthy philosophical speech, he detonates them, destroying a large chunk of the school, including its main facade. Medaka is able to get Zenkichi, Kikaijima and Akune to safety, thwarting Unzen’s plan to off them. Contradicting Unzen’s belief she’s a perfect saint, Medaka’s rage transforms her into “War God Mode”, and she begins to wail on Unzen.
Sheesh, this Unzen kid can really prattle on at length. We found him more and more intolerable the longer he went on, and the more stylized his face became. We still have no idea what a tween is doing in sophomore year, or why he’s such a psychopath, but it would seem the episode made him intolerable by design. Even Madoka isn’t able to hold back and deliver her usual pretentious appeal to Unzen’s better nature. One, because there’s no sign he has a better nature, he clearly hates humans and loves killing them. And two, because he almost succeeds in killing her precious friends. Now he’s made it personal, and now he’s on Medaka’s bad side.
We’ve never seen her bad side. Zenkichi did, three years ago, so it’s not something that happens often. But it happens here, and we liked it. Medaka is through with diplomacy, and it’s quite satisfying to see her literally throw Unzen through the whole damn school with one punch. His submersible-grade uniform armor (whatever the hell that is) keeps him from suffering mortal wounds, so we imagine a brief extension of the fight is in order moving forward, followed by either Unzen’s destruction or reformation. We’re thinking the latter, since Medaka’s not out to kill some little misguided kid.
Rating: 6 (Good)
The DisCom Chairman Unzen Myouri ccompletes his introduction by destroying the music room and severely injuring the orchestra members as punishment for making too much noise. Medaka confronts him, flanked by Onigase and Shiranui, whom she is considering for Vice President. After Medaka survives his initial attacks, Unzen notifies her he’s sent DisCom assassins to take out her council, leaving her with only minutes to save them; first Kikaijima, then Akune, and finally Zenkichi, fully utilizing her seemingly superhuman strength, speed, and agility.
This episode really ratchets up the action and Gainax lunacy, as if the series had suddenly been infused with some kind of stimulant. We were dreading a week dedicated to Unzen – who is pretty irritating and one-dimensional – but fortunately he’s just the means to an end, and that end is showing Medaka in top action hero form. There are moments when it seems like she’d be right at home in Diebuster. None of this makes any sense in the context of a normal high school, but it’s clear this is no normal high school (the multimillion-dollar aquatic center was proof enough of that.)
And it does entertain. As Medaka is on her desperate quest to save her friends, she steals one assassin’s wolverine claws, borrows a pair of track spikes from Isehaya (they always manage to fit her in somehow), and what she does with a pink bike (the second defeated assassin’s weapon of choice, because why not?) when faced with a fortified DisCom barricade has to be seen to be believed. Just when we start to lose interest in this series, it bounces back with a energizing jaunt like this. Medaka Box knows how to go overboard the right way.
Rating: 8 (Great)
Onigase Harigane, officer in the school Disciplinary Committee AKA School Police, goes after the Student Council for their brazen uniform violations. Akune, Kikaijima and Zenkichi all relent, but Medaka refuses to change. Onigase tries to trick her with a fake suggestion box request, but Medaka foils her by jumping in a pool with all her clothes on. Onigase follows her in, and must borrow a revealing spare uniform from Medaka. Later, Zenkichi and Onigase accidentally get handcuffed together, and then to Medaka, and the three end up helping half the school out on the way to HQ. Zenkichi and Medaka deal with a pair of delinquents that had defied Onigase’s justice.
Color us pleasantly surprised with the introduction of the spunky, no-nonsense officer Onigase to the rapidly-expanding cast of supporting characters in Medaka Box. While initially a rigid wet blanket, who lives only to enforce the rules, a day of obsering how Medaka ticks leads her to bend a little. We like her personality and energy, and her tendency to change her voice from cold and scolding to warm and friendly at the tip of a hat. She exhibits good chemistry with Zenkichi, and even she is not immune to Medaka’s seemingly infinite charms. Thankfully, the handcuff bit never descended into fanservicey farce, and rather served as a kind of “tour” of Medaka’s generosity and popularity for the pink-haired policegirl.
Onigase doesn’t fit the mold of a villain-of-the-week, because like so many other ne’r-do-wells on this series, she has a change of heart and a humanizing moment after her experiences with the student council. The other potential villains of the week, “MetalWood”, don’t last long, as their wooden and metal bats are shattered by the Medaka/Zenkichi duo, who use their legs when they can’t use their arms. While we liked Onigase, we’re not looking forward to her chairman, Unzen, who is another one of those ten-year-old prodigys who is in high school for some reason, and breaks his PSVita (or whatever) for no reason.
Rating: 6 (Good)
In the first part, Kikaijima finds it difficult to strike up a conversation with her new colleague Zenkichi. After Shiranui drops off photos of Medaka kissing her, Kikaijima and Zenkichi break the ice by talking about Medaka…then she tries to take a page out of Medaka’s book by telling him he loves him and trying to kiss him. In the second part, the artist Yubaru comes to the council wanting Medaka to model for him, but she doesn’t work out, nor does Ishaya, Nekomi, Kikaijima, Zenkichi, or Akune. Shiranui answers the call, and manages to inspire him to ‘distort reality’.
With Shining Hearts and Dusk Maiden official off our watchlist, Medaka Box has the unenviable honor of being the lowest-ranked show we’re still watching. And while it’s not a very good Gainax series, and it has way too many boob, swimsuit, and lolisnack gags, but it does possess one quality those two departed series lack: it’s not a pain in the ass to sit through. The addition of Kikaijima to the gang (voiced by the omnipresent Ai Koyano) freshens things up, and we enjoyed watching her and Zenkichi squirm in their awkwardness, trying to come up with something to say. The episode is also replete with hilarious one-liners.
The second half introduces a new client; perhaps the most demanding yet. The picky painter rejects girl after attractive girl, bruising their egos in the process. And while we’re not the biggest fans of Shiranui Hansode, her clever role in solving both problems this week earned her some brownie points. Also, she didn’t stuff her face with brownies (or anything else) this week, she only talked about it.) Yubaru wasn’t interested in simply translating beauty to canvas; he wanted to capture the likeness of a goddess of potential from a less obviously hot model.
Rating: 5 (Average)
The Swim team continues to dominate the aquatic events, due to their extreme and risky methods that show no regard for their well-being. It comes down to the surprise final event, a cavalry battle that pits them against the student council. Medaka makes a ‘pretentious appeal to innate goodness’ by deducing their insatiable greed is fueled by past trauma, which turns out to be correct. Even so, while beating them in the final challenge, Medaka lectures them on treasuring their own lives and each other before money, as she does. The Judo club wins the overall meet, and the Swim club president Kikaijima Mogana agrees to join the student council as treasurer.
We here at RABUJOI are unabashed capitalists; it’s just how we were brought up. We too sometimes dream of owning an olympic pool full of money…or water. Scrooge McDuck always looked so happy diving into his money bin. Though when you really think about it, bills would cause nasty papercuts and coins would cause bruising. Not to mention the nightmare of keeping that much cash clean…and above all, secure. It’s more trouble than it’s worth. But it’s a nice dream. Medaka thinks so too, which is why she doesn’t urge them to rethink their lives – only to reevaluate their priorities. Money is worthless if you’re dead.
This episode still had a couple problems: Nabeshima and Azo are right up there in the running for most irritating characters (you could almost make a drinking game with all of Nabeshima’s ku-ku-kus) and Shiranui continues to piss us with her non-stop eating. But at least the Big Bad swim team was cut down to size and got some (brief) backstory: brought up stinking poor, and like one of our cats, they think every meal could be their last, so acquisition is their lives. We also thought the totally ridiculous swimming pool with its NERV-like mechanical doors and seals was a pretty strange and funny little detail…here we are talking about how there isn’t enough money to go around, and yet this pool complex must have cost at least five billion yen!
Rating: 5 (Average)