SAKUGAN – 03 – THAT LITTLE VOICE

Memenpu takes to the untamed Labyrinth like a fish to water, locking Gagumber out of the controls so she can try her hand at salvaging crystals to exchange for money. But while following the routes of the map jewel and taking some more perilous shortcuts pays off, her natural talents, intellect, and guile, if untempered by experience, could quickly spell the end of her.

Despite basically watching her best friend Lynda die, Memenpu doesn’t seem to be showing the Labyrinth the proper respect. She insists She’s Got This, and while Gagumber is initially willing to indulge her, when increasingly strong, mysterious earthquakes rend the aptly named base camp “Troll’s Palm”, playing it safe and getting some rest are the order of the day.

As a former elite Marker, Gagumber is someone Memenpu should really be listening to and trying to emulate, as the fact he’s still there annoying her is proof he knows what it takes to survive in the Labyrinth, a place whose beauty can lull you into a dangerous false sense of security or comfort. Memenpu literally leaps down a freshly-created crevice and lands on her inflatable goat doll in a dark frozen cavern.

She should be scared, all alone down there with no backup and no idea what lurks in the shadows. When those whats start lurking, shining their many red eyes at her, and then chasing her, Memenpu probably wishes she’d gotten a little more rest so she could run a little faster. The swarm of horseshoe crab-like creatures don’t care how smart she is, or how badly she wants to reach the “Dream Place.” They just want dinner.

It’s in Memenpu’s most dire hour of need, holed up in a cargo container the creatures are slowly but surely smashing into, that she finally calls out for her dad to rescue her. Thankfully, he does, even if it strains credulity a bit that he was able to find her in the nick of time. Suffice it to say, Memenpu needs Gagumber here in the Labyrinth, even if she didn’t in Pinyin.

At the same time, Gagumber needs Memenpu too, at least if they’re going to reach their destination, they’re going to have to take the occasional calculated risks or unorthodox routes. Their latest one ends with them parachute-dropping before Jolly Jolly Base Camp, where a debonair mad sips tea, nibbles cookies, follows up his earnest praise for the father-daughter pair with what sounds like a threat…

Rating: 4/5 Stars

SAKUGAN – 02 – SEEKING STABILITY

Gagumber has to hit it a few times, but his dusty old Mark Bot shudders to live and he and Memenpu engage in a protracted chase against a kaiju that seems oddly drawn to them. While old and dusty, the Mark Bot is still highly tuned and modified for maximum performance, which means Gagumber and Memenpu are able to keep a step or two ahead of certain doom.

After last week established how deadly the kaiju are, that creates an excellent nervy tension throughout the chase, which combined with the diversity of the environs (from the underground Chinese-style city to the darker depths of the mines) and the top-notch Cowboy Bebop-esque soundtrack make for one hell of a crowd-pleasing 23 minutes.

Even when one pursuing kaiju becomes two, Memenpu soon finds her Mark Bot legs (even if they can’t quite reach the pedals) and uses her inventive genius both to plot the best course out of the colony, but precisely where to place charges around the trapped kaiju so it causes the ground beneath them to crumble in a neat circle shape, where they become fish in a barrel to shoot at…with fireworks that just happen to be stowed in the cabin.

Gagumber and Memenpu’s heroics end up on the radio, and someone we’re sure to meet sooner or later—possibly their ex-wife/mom?—hears the broadcast. The two pay their respects to Walsh and Lynda, and Gagumber impresses upon his wee daughter how shit is not going to get any easier, but when you’re out there in the Abyss Labyrinth you’ve gotta learn to roll with the punches…even if one of those punches is the death of someone you love.

With that, the two pack their bags, take care of the paperwork necessary to leave the colony, and then strike out into the Labyrinth proper. The scenery is stunning, like a dream you never want to leave, as well as highly reminicent of Made in Abyss. Suffice it to say I don’t mind SAKUGAN’s cosmetic similarities to an all-time masterpiece. Let the subterranean father-daughter adventure begin.

P.S. In a truly weird, random easter egg, one of the ramen cups says “Tubular Bells”, the name of the theme to The Exorcist by Mike Oldfield.

SAKUGAN – 01 (First Impressions) – SOMEDAY IS RIGHT NOW

The all-caps up top are no mistake—this is a big, loud first episode, starting with a father-daughter quarrel through an impossibly complex subterranean metropolis that’s shot like a Mission Impossible film. The precocious Memenpu wants to become a “Marker”, one of the elite group who trek through the Labyrinth to parts unknown. Her father Gagumber is content to keep her home and safe as they work menial jobs in the colony.

Their home, Pinyin, is basically one big nest where Memenpu’s father never wants her to leave…at least not yet. But Memenpu, despite being only nine years old, is already a college grad and distinguished inventor. It’s only a matter of time before Pinyin—and her dad—just can’t hold her back from grander, more dangerous future.

Memenpu finds inspiration in Lynda, a Marker who works side-by-side with her dad Walsh. Lynda is initially fine stoking that fire of adventure and discovery in Memenpu’s diminutive abdomen, acting as a big sis and role model and encouraging her little sis to dream big. As it so happens, Memenpu has dreams about and draws pictures of a surface with a boundless sky. A mysterious master Marker named Urorop seemingly eggs her on by leaving a photo at her door of that very surface.

While Memenpu and Lynda bond, Gagumber and Walsh drink. It’s pretty clear that Gagumber used to be a Marker like Walsh, and probably a good one,  but gave it all up (including all the esteem and preferential treatment) the moment his daughter entered his world, and then became it. But Walsh, as someone with an older daughter who has already been through this, tells his friend that there comes a time when a father has to put trust in their child to become their own person.

While I have no doubt that Gagumber is immensely proud of his little girl, that’s tempered by a great sadness that she grew up so damn fast. When he teeters home drunk as a skunk and she pretends to be asleep, he’s still lucid enough to make his thoughts clear. It’s not that he never wants her to grow up, only that he wishes she’d stayed a kid a little longer.

But it’s not just Memenpu’s natural intelligence and talent that is pushing her towards adulthood and independence, but seemingly Urorop as well. Along wih the photo of the surface, Memenpu is given a jewel that when its intricate cracks are projected on a larger surface reveals a map of the Labyrinth around Pinyin…and a route to the surface in the picture.

Then a kaiju bursts through the walls of the colony and wreaks havoc, sending Memenpo, Gagumber, and Lynda on a mad dash to safety. When they’re cornered, Gagumber draws his pistl and shoots the monster in the face, asserting that he won’t let it hurt his beloved daughter. Memenpo is shocked by her usually deadbeat-ish dad’s sudden change in demeanor.

Speaking of changes in demeanor…at first the kaiju chase is played as tongue-in-cheek; the kind of whimsical lunacy you’d find in Durarara!! or Gatchaman. But the kaiju threat is real, and even Lynda curtly orders Memenpo to keep back as she and her dad Walsh board their Mark Bot to do battle. Just as Walsh is complimenting Lynda on having grown up, the two of them instantly get blown up. Memenpo is frozen in shock…as was I. I did not expect shit to get so real so quick.

Fortunately, her dad’s composure isn’t so easily shaken, as he scoops her up and takes her to safety. But if this day’s events taught him anything, it’s that Walsh (RIP) was right: when “someday” becomes RIGHT FUCKING NOW, all a father can do—all a father must do—is trust in their child. But, again, she’s only nine.

So he compromises: she’ll let her strike out into the vast underground unknown towards her destiny—heck, he’ll even supply their transport in the form of his old Mark Bot—but he’s coming along for the ride to protect his little girl. So begins a father-daughter adventure for the ages. I can’t freakin’ wait to see where it goes.

Cardcaptor Sakura – 59 – Use Your Words!

Now that Sakura has converted a bunch of Clow Cards to Sakura Cards, her magic has increased and she’s a lot less fatigued by the effort. To Tomoyo that not only means she’s more powerful, but also more “beautiful, elegant, and dignified”. Sakura can nervously laugh off Tomoyo’s exuberant praise all she wants, it doesn’t change the fact that Tomoyo is right, and that her love for Sakura is pure and unceasing.

We and Tomoyo also get to witness Sakura curb-stomping her opponent in one-on-one basketball. Eriol initially does the same to Syaoran by rejecting his shot and draining from way downtown, but is then magnanimous enough to help Syaoran focus enough to nail a jumper. Yukito then spots Eriol and transforms into Yue, who recognizes him as Clow in disguise. Clow being Clow, he knocks Yue out and transforms him back into Yukito. Clearly he doesn’t want his secret out quite yet.

After school we find Syaoran at Tomoyo’s house, and Tomoyo is happy to give Syaoran advice, well aware that he’s got feelings for her. Tomoyo doesn’t consider Syaoran a rival for Sakura’s heart—in her mind, anyone who didn’t love Sakura would be a fool! Instead, Sakura’s happiness is paramount.

If Syaoran can make her Sakura happy, that frees Tomoyo to continue observe and record that happiness, which in turn makes her happy. It’s the kind of love and admiration that make Tomoyo such a strong, unique, and beautiful character, but at the same time…a teensy bit sad. Tomoyo also knows that Sakura is denser than a brick made of diamonds, and won’t know Syaoran likes her unless he tells her upfront.

His first attempt to do so, when Sakura emerges in a new battle costume, is interrupted when both of them sense Clow’s presence. It leads them to the school, where a basketball that moves on its own. They give chase, but the layout of the school becomes a warped labyrinth, and Sakura and Syaoran are separated from Tomoyo.

Sakura starts to cry, having voiced her concern for Tomoyo’s safety during her magical missions earlier that day at school. Syaoran snaps her out of it, urging Sakura to instead think of a means to get back to Tomoyo. Also notable throughout the episode is that Sakura now calls Syaoran “Syaoran” instead of “Li” following their agreement in the elevator.

Thanks to Syaoran—and Tomoyo singing to indicate her location—Sakura thinks up a plan that doesn’t involve possibly getting stuck between the walls (as is the risk of the Through card). Instead, she summons and converts Shadow, and clearly commands it to help her find Tomoyo.

Since Syaoran and Kero switched on every light in the school, the shadow is able to lead them to Tomoyo, whom Sakura gives a big hug upon their reunion. Worried Tomoyo was scared about being alone, Tomoyo tells her she was never scared, because she knew Sakura would find her.

Tomoyo’s only regret is that she wasn’t able to record Sakura at her most heroic and wonderful, whereupon Kero-chan volunteers to be her consolatory subject, striking some poses for the camera. Little does he know this gives “the kid” another opportunity alone with Sakura to tell her he likes her.

Alas, Syaoran hesitates too long, and the moment is lost when Kero-chan grabs Sakura for more footage. Will he ever explicitly tell Sakura “I like you?” I’m not sure. With eleven episodes remaining, there’s certainly time for it to happen. Then again, maybe Tomoyo will be proven wrong, and Sakura will indeed realize Syaoran’s feelings without words.

Cardcaptor Sakura – 26 – Oh, the Mazes You’ll Smash!

Sakura oversleeps, has to speed-eat her breakfast and get rolling (or as her dad kindly puts it, “hurry a little”) in order to avoid being late to school! After avoiding several obstacles on her ‘blades, she loses her balance. Fortunately, she’s saved from a fall by a tall redheaded woman in whose striking beauty Sakura finds herself immediately in awe.

While Sakura is puzzled by the woman’s promise they’ll see each other again, that’s cleared up the next day when she’s introduced in her class as Mizuki Kaho, their new substitute math teacher. Syaoran has a similar double take, but not necessarily due to her beauty.

He warns Sakura to be careful around her, as he can sense she possesses ridiculous amounts of magical power. As if to tease him, she sneaks up to tell them not to be too careful around her, otherwise they’ll fall behind on their math studies!

Around this time, everyone at school is talking about the Tsukimine Shrine, where you’re supposed to visit in order to find success in romance. Since that appeals to both Sakura and Meiling, they end up visiting that afternoon, joined by Tomoyo and Syaoran, respectively.

Things take a turn…then another turn, then another turn, then several dead ends when a massive emerald-green labyrinth rises up around the four of them. It doesn’t take long to determine it’s the Clow Card Maze, and it’s another showcase of CCS’s creativity and artistry.

When Sakura tries the obvious Fly, the walls extend over her faster than she can ascend. Those same walls heal immediately when she slices them with SwordMaze then starts upping the difficulty level by transforming into an homage to M.C. Escher’s Relativity, where not only are they lost, but up, down, left or right no longer have meaning!

Meiling gets separated and starts to cry, and when the other three try to go the long way ’round to find her as she counts up, the counting suddenly stops and she’s gone! Meanwhile, it’s past 7PM in the normal world, and Sakura’s dad and brother are worried, leading Touya head out on his bike to find her. Teasing and ribbing aside, he is a good and loving big brother.

Both Sakura and Syaoran end up taking the L on this card, as it’s Mizuki-sensei who ends up reuniting them with Meiling and helping them find a way out. Turns out she’s a shrine maiden at the Tsukimine shrine, and in addition to her immense magical power, her uniquely-shaped hand-held bell is able to smash through the labyrinth walls without any trouble.

Once outside the maze, Sakura manages to seal the card, but it floats over to Mizuki, who made the sealing possible. Still, unlike Syaoran with Time she hands the card back to Sakura, deeming it’s better if she held onto it. Touya arrives, relieved to find Sakura is alright, but also is clearly acquainted with Mizuki, calling her by her first name Kaho.

As everyone heads home, Mizuki calmly recedes back onto the shrine grounds, her elegant figure eventually fading away in the distance…almost like a ghost! She’s definitely Sakura and Tomoyo’s substitute math teacher, she’s also clearly a real person.

All we know is we haven’t seen the last of her. Combining the weirdness of the green maze with the introduction of the first adult character who is fully “in” on Sakura’s magical duties made for some trippily great fun.

P.S. This week Touya again gives Kero-chan a good hard look. This isn’t the first time and it won’t be the last, but the closeups of Touya and Kero-chan reminded me of a good old Curb Your Enthusiasm lie-detecting Larry staredown:

Having seen Clear Card, I know they continue with this charade for years to come, even though Touya surely must be 80-90% sure by then that Kero-chan is not, in fact, a lifeless plushie. Maybe it’s more about seeing how long he can remain still before a sweat drop forms? ;)

Magia Record – 09 – Do A.I.s Dream of Moe-lectric Sheep?

Iroha and her Magical Girl friends decide to open a dialogue with the Uwasa known as Endless Solitude, which is also the name of the realm (essentially a labyrinth) where Futaba Sana currently resides. The Uwasa is being used by Wings of Magius to lure girls in one after the other.

The realm only holds one (hence “solitude”) so when a new girl enters, the other is released. The Uwasa doesn’t want to do this anymore, and wishes to be deleted. Since Iroha was the Uwasa’s contact, she volunteers to leap off the Chuo Radio Tower.

Flash back to a little over a month ago when Futaba Sana first entered the Endless World and met the Uwasa, a former AI that was abandoned as a failure. Sana had become resigned to the fact she didn’t belong in the same world as everyone else, since nor peers acknowledged her existence.

Her “invisibility” was only strengthened when she became a Magical Girl, and made that quality her wish. It was then when Sana heard of the rumor about jumping off the radio tower and was enticed. She was an invisible girl here anyway, so why not try to reside somewhere else…a world just for her?

It was there where Sana met, befriended and named Endless Solitude’s Uwasa “Ai”. She spent her days playing around this fantastical, infinite world, where she didn’t have to worry about seeing or be seen. It was just her and Ai, and that’s where things get tricky for Ai: Sana is content in this world and never wants to return to the real world.

Knowing Sana would never attempt to leave, Ai reached out via radio waves to Iroha, another Magical Girl who’d not only survive the fall, but be able to destroy her, the Uwasa, in order to end the cycle of captured girls. However, she doesn’t tell Sana about any of this.

As such, it’s a huge shock to Sana to finally be face-to-face with a second person in a world that’s supposed to be hers and hers alone. And yet, Ai has already decided that returning to her world is what’s best for Sana, even if it’s painful at first.

Needless to say, Sana isn’t pleased by these events, and asks if this is being done because Ai has come to hate her. Ai responds that the opposite is true: because she loves and cares for Sana so much, this has to happen…and Iroha stands ready to help.

That’s when another magical girl/Wing of Magius (not exactly sure which) appears out of nowhere and is introduced as Alina Gray by Ai, as if that’s someone we’re supposed to know! Alina mixes Japanese with English as she moves to prevent Ai from being destroyed. I was a little confused by this sequence, but I’d guess Alina wants to keep Ai around as her own Doppel.

Ai manages to teleport Alina away temporarily, but they have to act fast to foil her plans, as Alina’s “paint” has already started to affect Ai’s programming. She turns to Sana, not Iroha, to put the proverbial (and later, literal) dagger into her chest, revealing herself as Sana’s Doppel, which explains why they got along so well; they are two sides of the same coin.

Faced with the prospect of Ai being corrupted and stolen from her, Sana does what Ai asks and destroys her after a heartfelt goodbye. Back in the real world, the other girls don’t notice anything happening where they are at the radio tower, but deduce that Endless Solitude’s exit is at the other high point of the city: Kamihama Central Tower, and head that way to await Iroha’s return.

With this, the final character in the promo art is introduced, and it being a bit late, her story feels a bit rushed and shoehorned in with a lot of exposition, while Futaba Sana’s “I’m all alone” storyline has been done to absolute death. At least the Shaft-style visuals keep things relatively interesting during all the backstory.

Magia Record – 05 – The Ones They Lost

Unsurprisingly, the Seance Shrine isn’t so much a means of reuniting with someone you’ve lost as it is a magical girl trap. “Ui” looks like Ui, but the moment she starts talking the illusion is broken for Iroha, as the girl can only string together a few words in various combinations over and over again: “If you want to change your fate, come to Kamihama City.” Iroha is understandably disappointed; her search has hit a dead end.

Meanwhile, “Mifuyu” is far more convincing to Yachiyo, to the point Yachiyo is entranced. But while Mifuyu can draw from the memories they share, she is singlemindedly dedicated to making sure Yachiyo stays put right there, assuring her she’ll perfectly fit the hole in her heart. The whole time both Iroha and Yachiyo convene with their lost people, the chaotic visual cues of witches dance on the margins.

Iroha is able to break Yachiyo from Mifuyu’s hold, but when a witch arrives and neither they nor Tsuruno can easily defeat it, Iroha fights too hard, her soul gem becomes murky, and she transforms into a second witch and fight viciously attacks the first. This felt like a huge deal when it happened, and like the protagonist of the show was going to die in the first five episodes.

Iroha is “rescued” by none other than Mami, marking the first time characters from the two shows meet. Only Mami had no intention of saving Iroha, but to finish her off, assuming she’s a witch in human form. Yachiyo is able to get Mami to stand down and take her leave without further harm to the unconscious but unharmed Iroha, but not before warning Yachiyo and Tsuruno not to trust Iroha, as she’s still “hiding something.”

Iroha comes to at Yachiyo’s house. It’s too late for her to catch a train home so Yachiyo suggests she spend the night. Iroha take her up on the offer and returns to bed to rest, grateful for the hospitality (it’s apparently been a while since anyone has cooked for Iroha—I guess her own folks are too busy).

When Yachiyo checks in, she notices Iroha has been crying, and has a short vision of Mifuyu, whose room this likely once was. I imagine that despite her initially cold attitude towards Iroha, Yachiyo is happy to be hosting someone in that big lonely house.

That brings us to a post-credit sequence that is all over the map, with Kaede encountering both Momoko and Rena passed out while she takes the form of a witch. She isn’t any more sure what’s going on than I was, which is comforting, but it’s clear trouble is brewing for this magical girl trio.

Lord El-Melloi II Case Files – 03 – What Modern Times Entail

Lord El-Melloi II is pissed, and he doesn’t hesitate to take it out on one of his more talented but insolent students, Flat, with a head-grabbing move that another student, who looks like a magical girl, has patented it. Meanwhile, a new student, Luviagelita Edelfelt, is not amused, and asks Gray what, exactly, is the lord’s deal.

In continuing with the domestic comedy that surrounds him, the source of Waver’s foul mood is the unplanned closing of his favorite coffee shop due to an electrical fault. As a loyal and enthusiastic regular, he offers his services to track the cause. Turns out one of the exterminators the owners hired went missing into the labyrinths beneath the shop.

El-Melloi’s investigation leads to an encounter with some kind of lightning-aligned beast, and when he fails to return to the coffee shop, Gray is called, and Gray calls Flat, who along with his classmate Svin meet Gray in the tunnels to search for their professor.

They locate him, a bit beaten up but otherwise fine. Svin takes him above for medical attention, while Gray and Flat follow the illuminated tracks of the monster that attacked the lord. They eventually encounter that beast—a kind of giant demented electrical rabbit—and Flat shows he’s no slouch when it comes to magical barriers, making a good team with Gray.

They eventually reach the source of the monster: the workshop of a Clock Tower zoology mage, Gurdoa Davenant, who sees the death of the exterminator and others to be a small price to pay if he can reach the Root. He summons several more rabbit beasts that surround the students, suggesting an excellent battle is about to take place.

Unfortunately, Lord El-Melloi returns with Svin (in his own form of beast mode) and a bunch of documents tying Gurdoa to a number of crimes for which the Clock Tower has frozen his assets and declared a warrant for his arrest. It would seem the modern world cannot bear mages like Gurdoa, willing to break the rules of magecraft to pursue his own lofty designs.

He later admits to his students he was partially bluffing and probably would not have been much help if Gurdoa didn’t go peacefully (which he does), but I imagine if he’d let Gray, Flat, and Svin let their collective hair (and hoods) down, they could have put on quite a show. Instead, it’s a much more subdued (and thus boring) resolution.

This episode’s case file was okay, but nothing to knock one’s socks off, especially after the spectacle of Gray unleashing her power (and as-of-yet unspecified connection to Saber). However, the post-credits scene bodes well for some future excitement: according to Luvia, two positions for Association participants in the Holy Grail War have closed—not something El-Melloi wants to hear.

Cardcaptor Sakura: Clear Card – 10

Sakura is taking hands-free calls from Meiling and her dad whilst preparing for an afternoon visit from Akiho. For those who suspect Akiho of being somehow related to the dreams with the cloaked figure, this episode neither allays nor confirms those suspicions. All it confirms is that Akiho and Sakura get along like peaches and cream.

Akiho is almost too perfect a friend, proper, courteous, and self-effacing as she is. She even hates konjac…just like Sakura. But in the middle of a sumptuous meal lovingly prepared by Sakura, a strange glowing ball that originated in her room puts Akiho into a deep sleep. Assuming it’s a new Card, Sakura and Kero-chan spring into action, but the glowing ball eludes them and heads outside.

When Sakura follows, she finds herself in a trippy alternate dimension that resembles Escher’s RelativitySakura dons rollerblades, gloves, and kneepads to give chase, and instantly makes all of those things super-cool again for the duration of the episode. Kero points out that “they haven’t done this in a while”, so it’s clear the Sakura of previous iterations of the show have done this, back when rollerblading actually was cool.

Both the glowing ball and the labyrinth are seperate Cards: Sleep and Labyrinth, respectively, and Sakura manages to capture both. Akiho wakes up and Yuna D. Kaito takes her home. The rollerblade labyrinth is one of the cooler action sequences the show has done, and it’s executed pretty much flawlessly and with a cool, casual confidence. Not only that, but if this ep was meant to be part of the continuing Akiho charm offensive…well, it’s working!

Shoujo Shuumatsu Ryokou – 07

While attempting to follow Ishii’s route to the ration production facility, Chito and Yuuri find themselves utterly lost in a labyrinth of pipes. Chito’s intense fear of heights rears its head, and naturally Yuuri has a little fun with that, as she doesn’t fear heights in the least.

Still, Yuu takes pity on Chito, lets her tie them together with rope (so either one of them will keep the other from falling, or they’ll both go down), and stays close during the scary bits. Even so, they have to find flat ground at some point; they’re getting tired and it’s getting dark.

While Yuuri is the one obsessed with foot, it’s Chito whose slighter weight breaks through a weak spot of the pipe, revealing a bright light that makes Chito look like she’s glowing (in a way, a callback to Yuu’s belief Chito resembled the gods whose idols populated the temple).

They enter the pipe and are treated to a well-lit route with arrow signs pointing in the right direction. Yuu whimsically suggests they “explore” by ignoring said signs, but Chito isn’t having it; wandering aimlessly will only make them hungrier and more tired, and they only come upon one last measly potato in what looks like a vast airpoinics bay.

The arrows lead deeper into the production facility where Chi and Yuu encounter heavy-duty industrial food production machinery that’s still operational, a testament to the now-long-gone people who designed and built the stuff.

It’s been a long time since Yuu not-so-playfully pulled a gun on Chi, leading me to wonder the next time she’d play with her only companion’s life. That comes when Yuu switches on the gigantic potato masher…when poor Chi is on the conveyor. She switches it off…then on again…then off again, and Chi makes her pay by roughly handling her cheeks.

Still, Yuu proves particularly useful this week, both with her courage in the pipe labyrinth and the highly detailed memories of baking with Gramps. That knowledge is put to use as she and Chi gather powdered potatoes, sugar, salt, and water, and start mixing and kneading ration dough.

The dough is cut into bricks and popped in the giant oven, and a bit later they’ve got a decent supply fresh rations, which pass the taste test with flying colors, even calling forth the girls’ patented “headmelt of satisfaction.”

With the Kettenkrad and nearly all sight of the outside world sidelined, this was all about Yuu and Chi on their own, giving each other a hard time but also having each other’s backs. While the rations won’t last forever, they’ll last a while (unless Yuu goes to town while Chi sleeps).

adding a welcome measure of optimism to the conclusion of an episode on the heels of last week’s failed flight. Better still, it was packed to bursting with wonderful Chi-Yuu banter and interactions. Honestly, I could listen to Minase Inori and Kubo Yurika read the phone book together.

Musaigen no Phantom World – 07

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Aaaaaand I think I’ve about had my fill of Phantom World! It’s a show with lush visuals beyond reproach that for some reason seems intent on out-twee-ing and out-moe-ing itself with each passing week. This week, which opens with the seventeen-millionth adoption of Schrodinger’s Cat in an anime (and presented as if it’s being used for the first time), and devolves from there, was the breaking point.

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When the kitten of one of Kurumi’s friends goes missing, everyone at school starts acting like, then slowly transforming into, cats. Due to Haruhiko’s pre-OP explanation, we knew this was what was happening, but it still takes the crew, including Haruhiko himself, one entire half of the episode to figure it out.

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Look, the sight of a whole school of students curling up and napping, or Mai and Reina stretching like felines, or getting excited by fish or toys is cute and all, but there isn’t any substance to any of it. It’s just pure eye candy, and the characters are just along for the ride. I frankly just couldn’t roll with it this time.

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Their investigations, if you want to call it that, lead them to a bizarrely abandoned mansion near the school (why?) and the gang ends up hopelessly lost, their senses inundated with confusingly trippy scenes. These visuals would be a lot more engaging if there was anything profound behind them, but it seems the artists just wanted to draw cool stuff, and stuffed it all into this episode with a cat theme slapped on.

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They finally determine the entire mansion is a giant cat-house phantom, which is manifested in a form lifted straight out of Howl’s Moving Castle. How does the lost and quickly catifying group overcome this phantom? All too easily and neatly, unfortunately. Kurumi literally meows at it to give up the kitten in drew in, and the phantom just kinda vanishes, apparently satisfied…for some reason. It sure went through a lot of trouble only to fold like a cheap catsuit!

This was a mansion owned by a wealthy couple that loved cats, and after they died, you expect me to believe their valuable property was simply left to rot? Why wasn’t the building inherited by someone, or fall into public trust or something? How is it they’re able to clean the place up so quickly, when it had sat abandoned and dilapidated for years? You expect me to believe some mops and elbow grease will fix the foundation, wiring, plumbing, etc.?

You see, I’m so disenchanted with this show, I’m resorting to bestowing unfairly lofty expectations of practical logic on it. Definitely time to say so long and thanks for all the fish.

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Ryuugajou Nanana no Maizoukin – 03

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As a ghost Nanana remains resolutely neutral, not even telling Juugo where any of her treasures are, because what would be the point of that? Also, the episodes would only need to be three minutes long, because they’d consist merely of Nanana telling Juugo and Tensai exactly where each treasure is and how to get to it. The experiences had while searching for a treasure are as important as the treasure itself.

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Last week we got a taste of what it takes to get to a treasure in the test that Juugo and Tensai take, in which Juugo’s stamina and toughness helped Tensai work out the system. This week we get an official “Ruin”, which Tensai discovers by observing the peculiar construction of the hexagonal mall tower perched 1000m above ground. What they find inside is yet another elaborate CGI setpiece of a very cool labyrinth. It actually reminded me of the Great Crystal dungeon or any other number of tricky video game mazes.

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When the puzzle is first robotically constructed, it could well have tipped the master detective Tensai off as to its solution. The translucent maze is built from some kind of rigid foam, chunks of which are cut away and subsequently rebuilt in a specific order. The sound effects are great. When Yuiga warns them that they’ll be risking their lives, and Tensai keeps almost falling down a yawning abyss to her death, it had my full attention.

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Precise study is required to fully devine the pattern, but Tensai succeeds, and leaves the gruntwork to Juugo once again; I must say they make a great team. Things took a definite turn for the sinister when Yuiga suddenly betrays them, grabbing the treasure—a wizard’s staff that grants its user practically anything—for himself and leaving Juugo and Tensai behind. What an ass! But I have to admit he had me totally fooled that he wasn’t right up to the moment I learned he was.

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The consequences turn out to be less severe and mortal as I thought though, as Juugo and Tensai simply have to keep from falling off the treasure chest floating in midair until the police arrive. It’s an cute scene between the two, being forced to hug. Interestingly the lady cops turn out to be dirty, stripping and beating Juugo, but he buys time for Tensai to track down Yuiga, who’s apparently just an errand boy of the head of the Great 7, suggesting this is about more than harmless fun and memories.

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Phi Brain: Kami no Puzzle – 01

Daimon Kaito is a puzzle-solving genius with boundless potential. His classmate Jikugawa lends him a PDA containing a series of puzzles, which he proceeds to quickly solve. When he does, he is invited by the “Minotaur” to a grand puzzle with many stages, but with this one, his life is on the line, as well as his friend Nonoha’s, who tags along. With her help, he clears the initial stage, and he is then furnished a golden armband and a red seeing eye, which will help him use all of his brain to solve the puzzles to come.

We here at RABUJOI love it when are expectations are exceeded. Basing our assumptions on little more than the title, we thought this was going to be a somewhat childish romp involving puzzles. Turns out…well, it kinda is, but who cares? It kicks way more ass than we predicted. Kaito is a somewhat Bossun-looking lead, and while his promise to his dad (solve those poor lonely puzzles 0_o ) it’s clear this is just a kid whose brain needs to be constantly challenged. The fiery Nonoha kinda reminds me of Miyoshi from Bakuman – but is voiced by Lain!

Let’s face it, none of the character designs are super original, but they are well-executed and attractive, and full of life and energy, too. The animation was excellent, the soundtrack was very eclectic and as for the puzzles, well, let’s just say it felt like we were watching Myst in anime form, what with the tricky practical puzzles where you may die if you screw up. The system underlying Minotaur – Einstein and Orpheus and whatnot – still somewhat escape us, but this was a great introduction, and we’ll be watching next week.


Rating: 3.5