Yuru Camp△ – 07 – Good Neighbors

The identity of Cool Campin’ Gramps is quickly revealed: he’s Rin’s grandfather, which makes sense as Rin must’ve caught the camping bug from him. It also explains why Rin has a loop-style tent rather than the commercially ubiquitous sleeve-style; we learn it’s a hand-me-down from her gramps. As for camping, she’s been doing it since her first year of middle school.

Rin and Nadeshiko have the lakeside to themselves but for one other couple: a friendly young lad (or possibly lass) with a wealth of fancy cooking gear and a woman in a hoodie surrounded by cans of beer and flanked by twin bottles of rum. While walking around to take some photos, Nadeshiko introduces herself but doesn’t pry too much, assuming they’re a couple couple and repsecting their privacy.

Nadeshiko returns to find Rin surrounded by a dark miasma—she’s used all of her firestarter but has no fire to show for it. Turns out starting her new grill isn’t as easy as the videos indicated. Nadeshiko immediately proves her value and asks the lad she met earlier to help them out. He lends them a couple instant-light briquettes to get the more fussy Binchoutan coals going.

They thank their camping neighbor and start cooking immediately, starting with grilled skewers and haddock hot pot. We learn from their conversation that the woman accompanying the lad is his older sister, who will soon start work as a high school teacher. If it’s at Rin and Nadeshiko’s school, I can see her ending up the Outclub’s faculty advisor…she’s certainly got Laid-Back down!

As thanks for helping them start their fire, the girls head back to their neighbors to offer some of their completed food, and the lad in turn offers some of his jambalaya, as too much was made for just two. The older sister offers rum, but her brother asks them to ignore her. They’re both pleasantly surprised by the high schoolers cooking skills.

After stuffing themselves on skewers, kalbi, and Hamburg steak, Rin uses the still-glowing coals to start a little wood fire to warm their bones before bed. Rin then learns Nadeshiko is originally from a town near Hamamatsu, where she had a view of Fuji-san, but he was tiny. The day they moved to Yamanashi, she fells asleep in the car and missed a much closer view, which is why she biked up to the campground where she and Rin met.

Now we know that were it not for Nadeshiko’s nodding off, they wouldn’t have met at Lake Motosu and had that lovely first taste of camping together that they’re now fully realizing. The hour grows late, and Rin starts nodding off first, so she heads into her tent, refusing to let Nadeshiko sleep with her as it would be too crowded. I dunno…it looks pretty roomy in there!

After sharing some face lotion with Nadeshiko, knowing from experience what campfire dries out the skin, Rin turns in, but thanks Nadeshiko through the tent for inviting her to go camping. Next time, she’ll be the one to invite her.

Rin wakes up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom, and is rewarded with a gorgeous and serene view of the lake at night. All of Nadeshiko’s talk about the bull oni that sometimes appears on the lake causes Rin to mistake the drunk, vomiting sister for the oni, causing her to  freak out and book it back to the campsite.

And so, even though Rin wouldn’t let Nadeshiko sleep in her tent, a spooked Rin ends up slipping into Nadeshiko’s. The next morning, Nadeshiko wakes up first, notices Rin is there, and rolls herself over so they’re closer together, in what could be the cutest moment of the show to date. Once they’re both up and ready to break camp, Rin elects to go back the way they came, while Nadeshiko rents a boat to get to the other side. To each their own!

Talk of bull oni aside, this was a particularly laid-back and relaxing Yuru Camp. Other than the brief scene with Rin’s mom and granddad it’s just Rin and Nadeshiko plus their amenable camping neighbors. With their chemistry, there was never any doubt that Rin and Nadeshiko would make great camping companions. I also tend to agree with Rin that while all camping locations have their charms, there’s no substitute for the unique coziness of a wooded lakeside.

Cardcaptor Sakura – 23 – Songs After Dark

Sakura is in a very good mood one morning, which can almost always be attributed to Yukito (all other instances are likely food-related). Sure enough, he’ll be spending the night at her house as he and Touya plan for the athletic festival (sure…why not?).

Despite whispering this to Tomoyo, Syaoran overhears, and then Meiling inserts herself in the conversation. Then Sakura’s mood is totally destroyed by talk of a creepy singing voice coming from the music room late at night—possibly the voice of a g-g-g-ghost!

Even though it’s more likely to be a Clow Card singing in there, the mere fact people are talking about the possibility it’s a ghost sparks Sakura’s crippling phasmophobia, such that she outright refuses to go to school late at night, bowling Kero-chan over.

The thing is, she doesn’t want to leave home anyway because Yukito will be there. But no sooner do he and Touya arrive that he mentions the rumor about the singing voice, and notes how it’s apparently a beautiful voice that he’d love to hear if he could.

Yukito’s request is all Sakura needs to steel herself sufficiently to sneak into school at 10PM with a voice recorder. Tomoyo meets her there and she changes into a pink music-themed battle costume. That said, she’s still extremely on edge, such that when Syaoran and Meiling suddenly appear, she lets out her loudest HOEEEEE yet.

Before long they can hear the voice, and the nearer they get to the music room, the more scared Sakura is, such that she’s constantly asking Tomoyo to assure her it isn’t really a ghost. The strange thing is, the voice sounds a lot like Tomoyo’s. Kero-chan explains that it must be the Song card, which records and mimics the best singing voice it can find.

I knew I was going to run into a number of CCS “firsts” since this is the original series and all, and this episode is no different, marking the first time Tomoyo contributes directly to the sealing of a card. She does so by singing what is admittedly a very pretty song, and Song can’t resist joining her in a duet. Much later, Tomoyo will sing a duet with Akiho while Syaoran accompanies on the piano, leading to the capture of the Record card.

Once the song is over, Song becomes visible, enabling her to seal it. Only her other main objective of the night—recording the voice for Yukito—wasn’t achieved, since she was busy capturing and Tomoyo was busy singing. No biggie; Tomoyo simply needs to sing the song once more, and Song will join her, enabling Sakura to record it and gain some additional EXP.

Fate/Grand Order: Absolute Demonic Front – Babylonia – 06 – Though Our Battlefields Differ

Other episodes of F/GO have presented bigger earth-(and history)-shattering events, but this was the first one I felt best brought all of the series’ myriad elements together. All the adventure, history, action, comedy, and romance levels were set just right so that they complemented each other rather then got in each others’ way.

This was also the episode in which I most felt the humanity of the characters. It’s apropos the cold open should feature the origin of the current Ishtar. It also had the most one-on-one interaction between Ritsuka and Ushiwakamaru. She’d always seemed drawn to him, and I should have known it was because they’re both Japanese.

Among the many servants with whom he interacts, Ushiwakamaru is the only one Ritsuka sang songs of as a kid, something that both astounds and flatters her. He was a real person, after all, and his story is an amazing one. One of the low-key great things about Fate is that it nudges you to learn more about these historical and legendary figures.

As such, wonderful to see these two countrymen assert their bond of friendship as people, not any Master-Servant contract. Ushiwakamaru also sports one of the more awesome costumes in a show positively bursting with them. Like this episode, it’s a satisfying balance of elements—a little cute, a little sexy, all bad-ass. Not to mention Hayami Saori is perfectly cast as Ushi’s voice—warm, caring, and determined.

Another thing I’m enjoying about F/GO is that while there is a larger overarching story arc, it doesn’t get in the way of smaller, more self-contained episodic stories. Last week felt like a road trip with Gilgamesh; this felt more like a good old-fashioned fantasy quest. Their mission couldn’t be simpler: go to the city of Kutha and recover the Tablet of Destinies.

(In a well-placed moment of comedy, Ritsuka asks why Gilgamesh doesn’t remember what he himself wrote on said tablet; Gilgamesh response is Pure Gilgamesh: “Why do I have to retain in my memory a clairvoyant premonition I wrote in a dream?” #DemigodProblems)

Sadly Ushiwakamaru can’t join them, but the party of Ritsuka, Mash, Merlin and Ana is more than adequate. On the way to the city, whose entire population seemingly died peacefully in their sleep, the party encounters the collateral damage caused by Ishtar’s Cautious Hero-style demonic beast extermination, and she’s been making off with the gems of those she “saved.”

The night before they enter the city, Ritsuka has a nice chat with Merlin about how even though he’s just an ordinary human, he has to do what he can to the best of his ability, which means a strict workout routine to stay in shape. From her tent, Mash seems disappointed Ritsuka thinks she only chose him because he was virtually “the last man on earth.”

Once in Kutha, the party splits up to look for the tablet…simple enough, though Mash was weary of Ritsuka going off with only Fou for protection. Turns out her intuition was correct: Ritsuka suddenly strays into the Underworld, which in this age is a very real place people stray into all the time (and in Gilgamesh’s case, even went on a quest there).

The hostile undead who surround Ritsuka are eventually dismissed by a man Ritsuka seems to recognized named Ziusu-dra, who castigates Rituska for entering the Underworld while still alive; a big no-no. Still, he sees Ritsuka is a nice guy and so lets him off this time, sending him back to Kutha.

He awakes to find Mash shedding tears of joy and relief after she shed tears of panic and worry for his safety; going back to what he said to Merlin last night, Ritsuka may well not quite grasp just how much Mash cares for him, and is not merely resigned to serving him. And what do you know, the Tablet of Destinies is in his hands. Looks like he was meant to stray into the Underworld, if only briefly.

Of course, the mission was never going to be quite that simple: Ishtar suddenly arrives like a fighter jet; Chaldea only warns the party four seconds before she attacks. She’s there to “save” them just like she saved the ranchers whose lands she ravaged and pockets she picked, and intends to collect payment in the form of the tablet.

Ritsuka’s not about to fail Gilgamesh, so they must fight. And what a fight. From Ishtar’s concussive kicks to Mash’s shield and her graceful gliding through the sky, to Ana’s decisive chain-assisted counterattack, we’re treated to a beautiful, deadly dance. My only complaint is that it’s over too fast, but I’m also glad it didn’t go on too long.

Going back to the cold open, we learn Ishtar was summoned using ahuman girl as a vessel. Despite nearly all Mesopotamian gods being blonde as a rule, Ishtar retained her vessel’s black hair, since the human girl’s will merged with Ishtar. That goes a ways towards explaining her peculiar behavior that both saves and hurts humans.

It may also explain why she’s willing to cooperate when she wakes up finding herself tied up, surrounded by Ritsuka’s party demanding answers. She explains that the other two goddesses were drawn there by Gilgamesh’s Holy Grail. The three of them decided to enter a competition whereby the first to defeat Gilgamesh and claim the Grail shall rule his lands. They also entered a three-way non-aggression pact, so Ishtar won’t go so far as to tell Ritsuka the true names of the others.

The party fails to connect the ease with which Ritsuka entered the Underworld to Kutha’s status as a place where undead congregate and dwell…until they’re surrounded by massive horde of skeletons. With the tablet in hand they make a run for it, but not before Ritsuka frees Ishtar from her binds. Having been treated so kindly despite her hostility (and perhaps motivated by her human half), Ishtar returns the favor by obliterating all of the skeletons with a single all-out arrow burst, sparing the party a tough battle.

When Ritsuka earnestly thanks her before turning back to Uruk, the blonde goddess half of Ishtar wonders if perhaps he’s “a sacrifice too good for the other goddesses.” I enjoyed the ambiguity of that line, just I enjoyed the entirety of this splendidly balanced episode.

Kuma Miko – 07

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Another Tuesday, another mediocre Kuma Miko: Machi cuts fire wood with an axe. Then she lights the kitchen on fire because her anxiety prevents her from using the rice cooker properly.

Then Yoshio has Natsu perform a ritual, except Yoshio’s granny didn’t leave instructions and no one actually knows what the ceremony is for or how to do it.

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Nothing of consequence happened this week but, unlike the average episode of Flying Witch, there’s nothing warm and comfortable about Kuma Miko. Mentally ill or not, Machi is an unpleasant character who’s self-fulfilling idiocy brings the misfortune in the most telegraphed, dull, way possible.

Meanwhile Yoshio is portrayed as a simpleton, just going through the motions and Natsu is shown as loving Machi, but not always able to express it without insulting her. And his love hasn’t really been returned by Machi these past few episodes, making the relationship (and Machi herself) less bearable.

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The verdict: the punchline is everyone has mental illness, obliviousness, and a nihilistic outlook for the aging people of the mountains. Old people are stupid, deaf, and the few offspring they’ve culturally trapped through bumpkin-ism are resentful about the meaningless and smallness of their lives, and they retaliate through lazy destruction and not taking their jobs seriously.

Being technically competent is not enough to save Kuma Miko from its dull, repetitive stagger off my review list. It’s not worth hating but the formula isn’t funny or charming enough to get me through the rest.

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Kuma Miko – 06

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This week Machi tried to go to a novelty bookstore but a self-hatred-fueled freakout rampage prevented her from doing so. She also met a boy, although that doesn’t appear to be relevant to the narrative.

Later, still gripped with terror/embarrassment/self-loathing, Machi freaks out at Natsu. But then she has a fever and Natsu feels bad about making her go to the bookstore. He tries to make her feel better by cooking a meal and taking the blame for her troubles. Eventually, after savagely beating him for a night, Machi feels better and goes to school.

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So… that was awful. Ignoring the complete lack of content, set backs to Machi’s arduously slow growth, and reliance on girl punches guy humor, episode six was simply dull. The lack of new situations was also emphasized by Machi being ‘saved’ by the boy on the escalator, only for the episode to drop him completely out of the narrative.

Hibiki existed only to name drop this week’s business for the show to visit; Yoshio existed only to move Machi from space to space and strike his ‘you got this’ pose; Machi existed only to hate herself, and Natsu only existed to flash us back to Machi being a nice caring girl when she was younger and for some bear slap-stick cooking mishaps.

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The verditc: abusive, childish, tantrumming and self hatred are not the strongest themes for comedy. Nor are they good anchors for ‘lite’ casual watching. If not for Natsu’s predictable but — yes — still adorable kitchen antics, this episode would be a total failure.

Good job show. If your goal was to make me not like Machi this week, you were very successful. Why you would want me to hate your protagonist though… uh… yeah why would you want that??

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Kuma Miko – 05

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Unwinding Kuma Miko’s narrative is a little harder than unwinding this week’s underlying theme: a person’s surface traits only obscures an opposite underlying reality.

Machi’s keen observation and ‘possessed’ knowledge obscures her lack of real work understanding, Natsu’s kindness masks a deep frustration with the ‘dumbness’  of people, Hibiki’s violent demeanor simply hides her bashful love, and Yoshio’s constant scheming is only a pretense for a deeply simple man with a deeply simple brain…

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What happened? The girls flaunted their new clothes, Hibiki’s motives for helping Machi were implied to be due to Yoshio asking, and that Hibiki has a strong love for Yoshio.

Also, a little boy was locked in a cave with Natsu to scare him straight and there was a lot of blushing. Honestly, nothing that really matters narratively beyond Hibiki liking Yoshio…

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Was it good? Sure! Kuma Miko’s blend of unexpected yet simple humor is as often comforting as it is truly funny. Natsu is incredibly likable, and his rare annoyance with everyone being so simple–even after he tries to explain things simply–is understandable.

Kuma Miko is ultimately harder to deep critique beyond that point. It’s a good slice of life and characterization with gentle humor and blush-blush yuck-yuck gentle romance. Sure, it wouldn’t be much without the weird central characters and a talking bear, but even then, it would be completely watchable.

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Kuma Miko – 04

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I never expected Kuma Miko to carry last week’s costumes over to a second episode and, coupled with the village ceremonies, the village men chatting about the costumes they preferred, and watching Machi and Natsu eat sushi together, the first act is a master class in slice-of-life as world-building.

It was slow, comfortable, almost joke-free but still enjoyable. The fact Machi gets more character designs and the in-show world responds to it is a nice play on anime convention.

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Then the second act comes out of nowhere and introduces Yoshi’s childhood friend Hibiki and goes off on a tangent about the Shimomura clothing retailer. Hibiki aside, the Shimomura segment is a lot like last season’s Dagashi Kashi, as I have no context for this company and have no idea why the writers felt a possessed Machi rambling off factoids about this company would be funny or even interesting.

Because Hibiki is introduced to us abruptly, and Machi is wearing her ‘flashback’ school clothes AND because we’d seen flashbacks in the first act, I initially though the entire scene WAS a flashback. Put it all together and the second half is a confusing mess.

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Last week I called out Kuma Miko for being overly safe and relying on it’s central relationship’s quirkiness for all it’s humor. I’m not sure that is still true this week, with the introduction of Hibiki and Machi’s relationship.

However, the second act is so random and disconnected from the show that playing it safe may be all Kuma Miko is able to do? Definitely watchable, strange, but not really ‘good’ as an alternative.

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Kuma Miko – 03

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Kuma Miko is a remarkable safe, enjoyable comedy that relies on the goofiness of its setting and central relationship for most of its humor. Previous episodes have hung close to Machi’s urge to leave her small rural nest and her challenge she must overcome to do so.

This week took an unexpectedly interesting look at how heritage itself must face the modern world. The result was clever, even if it wasn’t any funnier or more dramatic than before.

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In the opening act, Machi notices she’s gained a weight and attempts to co-opt ritual dance into exercise – complete with gym-coach style one-two-one-two dance music.

Natsu finds this a little sacrilegious at first but eventually bumps it up a notch further with a bear-based DJ session…that results in angering the mountain gods and bringing the rain.

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In the second act, the towns people have made 4 summer-style costumes for Machi to wear at the shrine. Machi is initially very excited by the prospect of seeing a new take on Ainu tradition, but quickly learns the costumes are all embarrassing to wear and make minimal nods to tradition.

The second costume in particular includes bear ears and a tail…

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What stood out: the bear clubbing session was fun and it added nuance and supportive nature to Natsu’s character. Some of the animations of Machi moving around on the floor were also above average. The throw away gag about learning the history of electricity at the open was also entertaining.

Over all, Kuma Miko is a low 8 but still an 8. It isn’t remarkable in many ways, as it generally plays it safe, but the humor and core relationship has a good hook.

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Kuma Miko – 02

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Kuma Miko demonstrates this week that it’s prepared to go to some pretty far-flung lengths for the sake of comedy, including a conspicuous amount of Uniqlo exposure. Machi remains firm in her desire to move to the city, but Natsu still doesn’t think she’s ready.

She literally grapples Natsu and then turns on the waterworks, and Natsu relents, drawing up on ink and paper the next trial to determine her readiness for life outside the village. It’s totally out-of-left-field trial, too:

“Buy a HEATTECH item from Uniqlo.”

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Just go to a store and buy an item from a particular line. Sounds simple, right; especially with two days to work with? HA! Little did I know how epic an adventure was about to unfold. It’s a long way from the village to the nearest Uniqlo, and the bridge out of the village is out, so Machi has to wait a whole day to even leave.

When she does, she finds her bike has been taken by her uncle for the day, so she has to borrow her cousin’s infamous bike, which…is not a good bike. It’s too big for Machi, and very heavy too, due to a completely unnecessary mini leather armchair for a seat and an animal carrier in back.

Seriously, I felt uncomfortable watching her ride the thing. Things seemed to be going okay at first, but I was tense when Machi started descending a hill a bit too fast; sure enough, the brakes fail and she’s out of control!

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After briefly getting air, a la E.T., Machi bails out, and the bike smashes against a tree trunk into dozens of pieces. She lands awkwardly and gets several bruises and scratches, but is otherwise okay physically.

But mentally? She can’t help but crumple into a ball and call for her Natsu to help her, like the dependent Machi of yore. Natsu seems to get the message that his ward is in trouble, Lassie-style…but it turns out his back is itchy and he needs to rub it on a tree trunk.

With Natsu not coming, Machi rights the leather chair, has a seat, and simply takes a moment, before slapping her thighs and re-committing herself to completing this task, even if she has to walk through the dangerous mountain woods to reach the Uniqlo.

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Fortuitously, she comes upon the stream where Yoshio is fishin with a completely toasted Matsu, whose booze breath, demeanor and constant mocking Machi is forced to put up with as Yoshio drives them to the Uniqlo, where she successfully buys here HEATTECH item (a t-shirt…not a heater).

Before piling back in the car, she finally loses her cool, beats Matsu with her bag, and punches Yoshio in the gut for making her endure so much BS (Yoshio, of course, being the owner of that ridiculous bike). It’s righteous payback for everything she’s endured up to that point.

She returns to Natsu not any surer of her ability to take care of herself, having had to rely on a ride from Yoshio—even though Natsu always assumed she’d get a ride from him anyway. Machi basically made the task far harder than it needed to be.

But as she says, all’s well that ends well: with her revealing her chic new HEATTECH top she dons defiantly beneath her miko garb; naturally, the “S S S S S” sticker still affixed. She’s one step closer to gaining the bear’s permission to move out.

Before credits, Yoshio goes to the garage to find his stupid bike missing, and the episode cuts to the spot in the forest where Machi regained her resolve—where the stately leather armchair still sits, bathed in golden light. An absurd, surreal sight if I ever saw one!

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Kuma Miko – 01 (First Impressions)

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I like a good balance of complicated (Mayoiga) and uncomplicated shows on my list, and Kuma Miko certainly fits the latter. You’ve got your bear, your girl, and your tiny sleepy village she wants to leave for the big city to attend school. The “Girl” in Girl Meets Bear doesn’t actually meet the bear; she’s always known the bear since she was a tyke; he’s her guardian.

So when the two meet in the forest in the cold open, it’s set up like some kind of hazardous clash about to befall the poor unsuspecting girl, but like Hobbes in Calvin & Hobbes, the bear is simply putting on an act in welcoming his companion home.

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Machi, a 14-year-old shrine maiden (Miko) has outgrown her paltry, unstimulating surroundings. She longs for road signs, cell reception, and 24-hour convenience stores. Natsu, her bear guardian, is cognizant of the fact his baby bird wants and needs to spread her wings, but isn’t hapy about it, so sets up a quiz designed to confound Machi on urban matters.

How Natsu got information about Suica cards and the OIOI sign is beside the point, and adds to the slightly surreal comedy of an anthropomorphic bear sparring with a teenage girl on the matter of independence.

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The second half introduces us to Machi’s civil servant cousin Yoshio, who deems his three nine-year-old charges old enough to hear the true story of Kumade village’s relationship with bears. It involves a bear, a broad, and the birds and bees. Suffice it to say, the bears in Kumade are tame and can speak like humans, as per a long-standing agreement.

Beyond the absurd places the depraved mind of a nine-year-old boy takes such things (especially when he meets Machi and Natsu), it’s kinda cool to think that in some isolated village somewhere people and bears can coexist and converse with one another, only it’s a secret so there’s no outside proof. I also like how kids are also duly impressed with Machi’s status as Miko, even if she can’t wait to be rid of it and living in the city.

Kuma Miko is a fun, quirky, uncomplicated little show with a neat little comic duo in Machi and Natsu (voiced by Chad!), a picturesque rural setting, and very dope and catchy OP and ED. Worth a look!

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Space Dandy 2 – 05

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After a middling high school musical episode, Dandy bounces back with a particularly spiffy alien twist on the classic “Big Fish” adventure. It starts as an ordinary fishing trip, with QT lording his expertise over everyone, until Meow suggests they fish for something that will make them money. To whit: the legendary Munagi of the planet Kayu.

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A bit of defining: we learned after watching that Munagi means “ridgepole” while Kayu means “porridge.” And Kayu indeed is a world with an exceedingly thick, goopy, viscous ocean. The world is also suitably alien and bizarre-looking, looking influenced by some canny combination of Dali, Seuss, Dunning, and Hokusai.

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When the Aloha Oe is stuck in space kelp(!), Dandy teleports to Kayu and meets the small, adorable Erssime, who lives with her grandfather(?) L’Delise, a seasoned fisherman. These two happen to be the only ones who, like Dandy, believe in the Munagi, but L’Delise wants nothing to do with Dandy and snorts at his feeble attempts to catch it.

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We’re treated to another lovely Dandy montage of Dandy and Erssime fishing in various strange landscapes. Eventually some other locals laugh at Dandy for believing the ramblings of a little kid and a weird old man. The legend doesn’t even make sense: the Munagi is said to come on a blue moon, but Kayu has no moon.

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But then, one stormy night, a blue moon does appear; in actuality it’s the blue Rubini Comet, which last passed by Kayu 3600 years ago, matching the timing of the Munagi legend. L’Delise and Dandy put their differences aside and, with the help of Erssime, Meow, QT, and a gaggle of convinced locals, get a good grip on the emerging Munagi.

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Ultimately, the King Munagi and all of its smaller subjects are far to collossal to be caught, and in any case they’ve risen to the surface in order to hitch a ride on the very comet that deposited them at Kayu nearly four milennia ago. They lost the Munagi, but everyone is safe, and the collective experience brought everyone closer together.

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Dandy, Meow, and QT end up in the same place they were in the beginning: fishing, with Meow suggesting they catch something profitable. After all, there are plenty of fish (-populated planets) in the sea (of stars). Unlike the high school ep, this one took it well-tread story—the Big Fish Tale—and put a truly creative, whimsical spin on it.

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Samurai Flamenco – 03

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Rumors spiral that Hazama is Samurai Flamenco, but he insists he isn’t when Ishihara asks. Konno has offered a bounty the one who unmasks the superhero, and while on the Wow! Show, to Hazama’s surprise, his childhood hero, Kaname Joji (AKA Red Axe) poses as Samurai Flamenco, resurrecting his stalled career. Hazama sends a challenge to Kaname, and they meet at a superhero show stage after dark and have it out. Hazama insists he won’t allow Red Axe sully his good name by lying. When Kaname goes back on the air, he tells the world Flamenco is his student. Goto poses as Hazama on live TV so Hazama can “prove” to Ishihara it isn’t him.

Starting out as a kind of buddy comedy, another dimension is added to the series with the introduction of the impostor, who is actually Hazama’s boyhood idol and about as close to a real superhero as you can get. Don’t get us wrong, whether he’s Samurai Flamenco or his teacher, Kaname has a lot to gain by staying involved with Hazama, who’s younger and more popular with the young ladies. But the episode does a good job showing that he isn’t just a haughty ass of a celebrity. His emotional reaction and pivot in mission after Hazama challenges and confronts him is a combination of genuine concern and good improvisation. A lesser show would make Hazama and Kaname duke it out week after week as rivals, and to be honest, that doesn’t sound that interesting.

Instead, Kaname makes a compromise that keeps him in the limelight and also lets Hazama preserve his identity. Even though Kaname didn’t remember Hazama after the first time he met him, he will certainly remember him from now on. We also think he appreciates Hazama’s dedication to him as an admirer of Red Axe, and having a weakling reproach him for what he knows to be conduct that’s beneath Red Axe. And then there’s Goto, who actually agrees (offscreen) to don SF’s costume, pretend to be him – and actually enjoy it. Combined with Ishihara’s confusion about whether Hazama is telling her the truth and Mari’s awareness of who he is, we’re really enjoying how all of the relationships are turning out.

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Rating: 8 
(Great)

Tasogare Otome x Amnesia – 06

As the school festival continues, the legend of a bloodthirsty monster called Akahito spreads through the school like a virus. One Kirishima Yuuko, who just happens to share her name with the famous ghost, is committed to destroying all ghost stories and those who spread them. However, she gets caught by crazed mob who prepare to make her an offering. At Teiichi’s request, his Yuuko takes on the form of Akahito to scare the mob straight, saving Kirishima from harm.

This series is all over the place. It’s tone is consistently inconsistent. That being said, we can still enjoy individual episodes, without trying to make any sense of the series as a whole. Perhaps it’s the creators’ intent to make things as strange and disjointed as possible, or perhaps they’re as clueless as we are about where this is going. Last week was a character study of Kirie, but this week went for full-on horror, complete with some admittedly creepy camera work and some very over-the-top, nightmarish elements, like half the school going totally mad and bloodlustful, Another-style.

Despite some interesting and dark moments, though, this is no Another. Considering this story came out of nowhere and even defied logic by having a new legend show up right in the middle of a student festival that was still going on for some reason, it doesn’t have the lasting power it would have if the series hadn’t been spinning its wheels up to this point. In short: it’s all bark and no bite. And despite the post-credits cliffhanger of the “real” Akahito cornering Kirie in the clock tower, we can’t be certain next week won’t return to lighthearted flirting between Yuuko and Teiichi with horrible comic relief by Okonogi. This show is unpredictable…in a bad way.


Rating: 4 (Fair)
 (dropped)