Koi to Senkyo to Chocolate – 01

A girl is hit by a car after witnessing and photographing political corruption; due to a scandal, a special student presidential election is imminent. One of the favorites to win threatens to abolish several clubs, including the Food Research Club, whose advisor is her older sister. Rather than vote for a candidate and hope their club survives, the members pick on of their own to run.

It’s true that hybrid cars are quieter at low speeds; electric cars are all but silent. But they still displace wind, and that wind makes noise. In short, we have no idea why the girl in the teaser got run over by a car when she had ample time to avoid it. As strange as this incident is, it at least had more potential than practically anything that followed the OP. Boring guy’s hot childhood friend breaks into his house, jumps him in bed, then slaps him when she sees he has a hard-on. Really? This is what you follow up a premeditated hit-and-run with?

Things get worse as wave after wave of characters load up the screen, in a potpurri of hair and eye colors. We would see up the cat girl’s skirt, but it’s whited out. Cute. They all call each other different names depending on their relationship to each other. We forget about trying to retain any of these names and focus on what they’re do — wait, why is there a beer tap in the clubroom, and why is the teacher drinking at school?

There’s a pint-sized inventor, of course. Distribution of a phallic confection leads to lame innuendo. A girl keeps repeating how another girl has big boobs. The boring guy is experiencing mild hallucinations. The leader of a club dedicated to pigging out on candy cannot eat chocolate. Why do these people need a club? Can’t they just eat candy together anywhere? No, don’t answer…we don’t really care.


Rating: 3 (Bad) (dropped)

Car Cameos: Multiple Toyota Prii, and copies of the  Honda CR-Z, plus a Prius with a CR-Z nose (Why God, why?). Other traffic includes Mazda 2, Mitsubishi Delica, Subaru Impreza, and the Suzuki Wagon R.

Mirai Nikki – 06

On a three-day leave to take care of an orphan of the “Sacred Eye Incident” Yuki’s mother catches up with him. When they get home, Yuki learns that Yuno has broken in, cleaned his room and prepared dinner, knowning from her diary that she’d get to meet his mother, who approves of her. Yuki is weary, but Yuno’s diary tells her he will fall for her one day. When the orphan arrives, he turns out to be a diary holder, and makes an unsuccessful but innocent attempt on Yuno’s life.

As Murmur points out to Deus Ex, the game will only end when there is only one diary holder left. Because Deus Ex is on the verge of “decaying” (strange, since he’s a god), it’s probably best if someone rises to godhood to replace him. But if Yuno and Yuki are the last two standing, we doubt one would kill the other, leaving Murmur and Deus Ex in a bind. The solution would be to kill one of the two lovebirds, as this new orphan kid tries to do. We’ll be honest, we spent much of this episode wondering what the hell is wrong with Yuki and why he’s such a pathetic weenie. He was particularly insufferable this week, going so far as to call the best day ever the worst.

Yes, we know Yuno is touched in the head. But as long as Yuki cooperates with her, she won’t hurt him or anyone else. What the hell’s so horrible about getting with a cute-as-all-hell girl who’s totally devoted to you? Someone with a stronger will would take Yuno by the reins, but Yuki is voiced by Romi Park, so he’s about as far from a man as you can get before you’re a woman. All that said, it was pretty funny – and ludicrous – that a relatively tame domestic episode contained so much horror-film camerawork and close-ups. But Yuki’s panic is misplaced. Yuno is not the one he should be worried about. You’d think he’d learned that last week…


Rating: 3

Mirai Nikki – 05

Yuki waffles over whom to choose – the Sixth or Yuno, so when Yuno takes him by the arm to escape, he grab’s Sixth’s arm as well. But as her flashbacks show, the Sixth has been victim to some awful acts, which have made her bitter. After letting Yuno dispatch the Twelfth, she plans to kill her, Yuki, the Fourth, the Ninth – everyone with a diary – so she can become a god. Yuno sacrifices herself so Yuki can escape, but he returns to save her, throwing a dart into the Sixth’s diary and killing her. As Yuno’s phone reveals to him, she really does seem to love him, and has been protecting him all along.

He’re’s a Mirai Nikki Top Tip: if you’re half blind, try to do a better job of protecting your enormous roll of paper containing your life force. Also, if you’re a whimpering, waffling coward, better the crazy girl you know. And he knows Yuno much more than he knows the Sixth, who as it turns out is prepared to have Yuno gang-raped in order to bait Yuki to his death. Yuno, for her part, manages to hack a lot of people to bits, including slicing the Sixth’s arm off. The Twelfth, meanwhile was just kind of a bad joke; too stupid (or just too nuts) to live.

The Sixth’s sudden but inevitable betrayal makes the choice pretty easy for Yuki, as she really did stick her neck out for him this time. She’s quite the enigma. With three diary holders down, it will concievably come down to the two of them, and then what? We somehow doubt the DEM will allow the game to end without a victor. So after five episodes, it’s pretty clear that most everybody is whacked out of their gourd, with the exception of our Olympic bed-wetting protagonist.


Rating: 3

Sket Dance 25

Switch’s flashback continues. Having recieved a death threat, Sawa enlists the aid of the Usui brothers. But when he’s shot down by Switch for the umpteenth time, Kazuyoshi tells them to go off without him, believing Sawa’s best off with Switch. They head out, and a girl named Yukino arrives at Sawa’s door. She describes a creepy stalker who pulled a knife on someone in middle school, who Kazuyoshi spots behind a pole and pursues. When he catches him, he learns that Yukino is the knife-wielding stalker. She finds Switch and Sawa and pulls a knife on them. Switch protects Sawa, takes the blade in the chest, and dies. Kazuyoshi is devastated, and blames himself for his brother’s death. Sawa moves away, and the three are down to one. To honor his brother’s memory, Kazuyoshi takes on the title and appearance of “Switch”, and studies hard to amass the great amount of information he possesses. Bossun reaches out to him and he joins a new trio in the Sket-dan.

I’m not sure why what was a consistently zany, over-the-top comedy would want to try straight-up serious drama, but Sket Dance really hit it out of the park with this Switch arc, totally changing gears from its usual fare. We’re thrown into a very tragic story, where a brother has a bad day and says some stupid things he shouldn’t, and it gets his little brother killed. When you add it all up: Kazuyoshi not accompaning Switch and Sawa; his curt last words to Switch; and finally egging on the psychopathic Yukino then letting her loose, it’s hard to argue with him. Gone half-mad with guilt and grief, Kazuyoshi makes an incredible decision: to stop being Kazuyoshi.

He hasn’t spoken since the day of that decision, except with the software than combines his voice with Masafumi’s. And the young Switch we saw this week and last was actually someone we never knew; it was the big bro who turned out to be our Switch. Very strange, but it definitely works. This wasn’t a perfect episode – Sawa was kind of a bland airhead most of the time, and the story relies a little too often on convenient coincidence, but as this was one of the best episodes of a series that has been anything but serious to this point, I’m giving it top marks.


Rating: 4

Hanasaku Iroha 26 (Fin)

The Bonbori festival is a magical evening when people all over the prefecture converge and bring fresh vitality to Yusonagi. Everyone strings up their wish planks, all of them reinforcing their character arcs. Ohana wishes to be like her grandmother, Sui, who herself believes she should “fest it up” more often as Ohana does. Ohana seeks out Ko and finally confesses to him. Beanman announces his retirement. Enishi, realizing he has a lot to learn about running an inn, agrees with his mother to close Kissuiso, but only temporarily, so that he can train.

The staff pledges to return to work there when it reopens, and can live up to its name of “A place to make Sui happy.” Ko wants to “find his place” as he sees Ohana has, and if it’s the same place of her, all the better. Minko dreams to be Kissuiso’s next chef. Sui gives us one last tour of the inn where dreams are born. The series finishes with a montage of the staff in their new places, and in Ohana’s case, back in Tokyo with her mom and Ko.

It’s been a hell of a ride, with its share of bumps, but IMO Hanasaku Iroha couldn’t have had a better finale. It ties up all the loose ends, doesn’t cheat by keeping everything the same, gives everyone a solid goodbye and dream to follow, and, of course, Ohana gets the guy by finally speaking up. Even better, she gets that out of the way in the first minutes, before the suspense grows excessive, and moves on to other things. Just about everything worked here, from the utterly gorgeous visuals to the not-too-cheesy soundtrack.

I really liked Angel Beats!, but I think I have to consider this P.A. Works’ finesst work yet, which is encouraging, because it’s also their latest, and I can’t wait to watch their next one. After AnoHana wrapped, this has been the series with the most involving, likeable, fun-to-watch characters, as well as the prettiest setting and some of the best animation values. The inn itself was a character, and given no less fitting a sendoff. When it was populated, it was hard to sit back and admire just how beautiful a building it is, inside and out. I’m glad that the series was able to take its time and say a decent goodbye that left me wanting for nothing.



Rating: 4 ~series elevated to favorites ~

Mawaru Penguindrum 11

Kanba confronts Natsume at her manse, where he dismisses her as a crazy stalker. He demands the diary half back, but she refuses, as her little brother Mario is in the same situation as Himari – wearing the penguin headdress and with pink eyes. Shoma is recovered, and Ringo decides to continue Project M by memory, using another frog ritual to make Tabuki fall madly in love with her. It works, but only for one night, and when he advances on her she demurs. Yuri suggests it could be because she’s actually in love with Shoma. During a survival strategy session, Shoma confesses to Ringo that he and Kanba were born on the same day as she was, and are responsible for her death…

Wait…what? What? What was that? By golly, week by week this series keeps churning out pure awesome mania. While I knew Ringo probably wasn’t actually done with Tabuki, I wasn’t expecting her to actually succeeding in seducing him (albeit with a disgusting frog ritual), and I sure as hell didn’t expect her to choke when the time came to lay the guy. Not after all that determination and nudity we’ve seen from her previously. The past couple episodes, her mind has been on Shoma more than Tabuki. That’s huge. But because she’s so messed up in the head vis-a-vis Momoka, she doesn’t even realize that she could be in love with Shoma.

As for Curry Day…it was an exceptionally busy one. Not only were Ringo, Kanba, and Shoma born on the same day, Momoka died. Also Natsume and Mario are somehow involved. How the boys killed her, I haven’t the foggiest idea. How would they remember something that happened the day they were born anyway? Whatever they know has to have been second-hand info from their parents, right? Where are their parents, anyway? And why didn’t IMAGINE girl demand the penguin drum this time? Why why why. Lots of why. Probably more what next week. With a little how mixed in.


Rating: 4

No. 6 11 (Fin)

Citizens of No. 6 start dying from the parasitic wasps within them. Shion and Rat have found Safu, but she’s become a medium for Elyurias, and while part of her remains to tell Shion she loves him, she isn’t quite Safu anymore. Rat sets a bomb on the main computer core and escapes with Shion, but Safu stays put. When the bomb blows, the prison begins to crumble, and is hastily evacuated. Both Nezumi and Rat are seriously wounded by gunfire from guards. Elyurias transforms into a giant wasp and spreads her power throughout No. 6, removing the infestation of wasps, tearing down the walls, and healing the guys. With eveything Shion hoped for accomplished, he and Nezumi go their separate ways, with Shion returning to a changed No. 6.

Eleven-episode runs can be killer for series with Really Big Ideas like No. 6. As the series progressed, it seemed unsure of how large a story to tell, and unsure how exactly to tell it. Episodes were spent with Nezumi and Rat just sitting around philosophizing. There’s a lot of exposition and lengthly explanation here, too. This was not a perfect ending, and I don’t think it was a great one, either. But it was pretty good.

I was disappointed that the guys came all that way to rescue Safu (though Rats primary goal was destroying the prison) only for her to say a few word and then basically die; she almost feels like a McGuffin. She’s obviously the kind of girl who knows who she loves no matter how little of him she actually sees, and Shion is a mess after Rat carries him off without her, having lost someone he had so much more to say to. But his pipe dream came true – in a deus ex machina, neat-little-package way kinda way. It had a definite ending, which is more than can be said of some 11-episode series.


Rating: 3

Hanasaku Iroha 24

Ohana and Ko all but confess, and he agrees to come to the climactic Bonbori festival. The manager insist that Kissuiso will close for good after the Bonbori festival, despite a glowing review by her daughter which nets the inn gobs of business and the fact that everyone loves the inn and wants to stay. Enishi stages a coup in order to keep the inn open, leaving Ohana split between family and friends.

A little of everything this week, and all of it good. Ohana and Ko finally talk about their feelings, but rather than taking up most of the episode as I expected, it’s just the appetizer. With Sui intending to close the inn, some are starting to look at future employment, but then Satsuki puts Kissuiso on the front cover of her travel magazine, and suddenly it looks like they can make it work. Thus this becomes a battle of wills, between Sui, who doesn’t want anyone else sacrificed for her and her husband’s dreams, and everyone else, who want to keep the inn open and running anyway.

I can feel for Sui, but ultimately I’m on the side of Enishi and everyone else. Sui may be old and wise, but she isn’t infallible, and she isn’t a god. Her pride is blinding her to the arrogance of thinking she can protect the fate of others when in reality, her actions threaten to crush dreams and change fates she has no business changing. Whatever Kissuiso was, it is more than just her and her late husband’s dream. With all this seriousness going on, there were also moments of comedy, like Tohru and Minko disocvering their favorite manga was written by none other than Jiromaru, and Sui’s ridiculously quick and efficient bath.


Rating: 4

Hanasaku Iroha 22

Now we’re getting somewhere! Well, kinda. Peace, understandings, and declarations are all either made or starting to be made. Not since the first week of the series last season has so much stuff been packed into an episode. I got that same feeling like it was three-quarters over when in reality it wasn’t even half-over. That makes me optimistic about this series ending as strongly as it started; perhaps even better.

It’s still to early to be sure of this, but as I said, I’m optimistic. Thanks to advice from her mother (who didn’t know she was giving it), Ohana has decided that a one-sided crush is okay vis-a-vis Ko (whom we’ve neither seen nor heard from all summer), and that she’ll confess to him next time she sees him. Minko and Ohana are at each others’ throats once more, but when Nako breaks them up, Tohru is seen to have been standing there, hearing everything.

At last, the air is cleared, as Tohru finds Minko crying by a shrine and they finally talk to each other about something other than cooking or Ohana. It’s just what Minko needs to keep going, and it helps Tohru not only realize how much he means to Minko, but also the source of her distractions. He brings her back on board the wedding food. Minko and Ohana finally call a truce, as they realize they aren’t even going after the same guy anymore (and never were), and both need to be more direct where their crushes are concerned.

After all that, there’s a whole wedding to be had! And having been to my older brother’s wedding earlier this year (and a damn fine wedding it was), it was a lot of fun to watch it unfold just as it had been to watch it be prepared. It goes off without a hitch, and even the manager is humbled and impressed by what everyone managed to do without her help or direction. She decided to kill two birds with one stone: marry off her son, and put everyone to the test in seeing how they’d fare with her merely observing. They paseed. Now Ohana has four episodes (barring an OVA or film), to make things right with Ko. Fingers crossed…


Rating: 4

Mawaru Penguindrum 7

Plans are being accelerated left and right. Yuri the Orca aims to marru Tabuki, who is firmly under her spell cast upon him by really tacky singing (so to speak). So Ringo takes more and more drastic measures (dragging a hapless Shoma along for the ride) to ensure that what is written in the diary will become reality. There are lots of bathroom signage extras this week; I personally think they work as a money-saving device: they enable the core cast to have a very impressive wardrobe (i.e. not just school uniforms).

Last week showed that Ringo truly has more screws loose than tight, and this week only reinforces that. Not only are there more period daydreams, she tries to get a seasonal frog to lay eggs on Shoma’s back for a love potion (Penguin #2 gobbles them all up, perhaps by design?) She’s also not above fully exploiting Shoma’s love for his sister by ordering him to do increasingly strange things. But after everything these two have been through, it’s really fun to watch them interact, despite the fact Shoma is totally submissive to her. His resistance is limited to complaining.

When the occult fails her (in a gross egg-laying scene), the diary tells her the M in plan M is for “maternity”. Combine this with Kanba and Penguinhead’s suggestion they simply get the two in bed together, and Ringo decides to break into Tabuki’s house and somehow get pregnant with his child. That is a survival strategy, after all. However, we don’t actually see who’s under the covers when Ringo enters the bedroom…

Meanwhile, the shifty redhead continues tailing Kanba, who gets more rent cash from the trenchcoated stranger on the train. Also, this is the second straight episode where they don’t even bother showing HImari in her non-possessed form. The survival strategy song-and-dance happens rather randomly. I would hope at some point they shorten it. It’s starting to remind me of Star Driver’s Tauburn summoning…we don’t really need to see it in its entirety every week.


Rating: 4

Mawaru Penguindrum 6

Whatever screw is loose in Ringo, it’s getting looser by the week. Kanba’s woman troubles are far more serious than he had predicted. Shoma is no closer to ‘obtaining the Penguin Drum’, drawing the ire of the hat. The animated displays on the Metro warned about falling for a trap. Yes, it’s a typical Mawaru Penguindrum; jumping all over the place and yet totally cohesive and monstrously entertaining.

Somebody has it in for Kanba in a way that makes his other exes’ scornedness seem trifling. This woman, with orange hair and blue eyes, is eliminating the memories of Kanba’s exes. Holed up in her ginormous mansion full of marble busts, she vows to methodically destroy Kanba. She claims to control fate. Who is she? One possibility is Momoka, Ringo’s older sister (though that’s just a wild guess).

She supposedly died years ago, and was Tabuki’s first, possibly only true love. Ringo inherited Momoka’s diary, and believes its her destiny to become her sister – which means being with Tabuki. Her obsession is starting to have physical consequences – she has a high fever, and is prone to uncontrollable actions that – ahem – scare Shoma and make her mother get the wrong idea.

This is all deliciously excellent buildup. I’m itching for more answers, but in the meantime the show does a superb job keeping you constantly interested in what’s going on, not just longing for what’s to come. “Plan M” is something both Ringo and the mysterious “ex-girlfriend memory assassin” mention as well – it probably doesn’t mean “marriage”, but could mean “Momoka”, another reason I suspect she’s Ringo’s sister.


Rating: 4

No. 6 6

I like how Safu is walking around a cold, windless No. 6 with a look of contempt on her place. If it weren’t for her grandmother dying, Safu would never have returned to No. 6, and learned that Shion’s no longer there, but out in the West Block. When she learns this, she immediately declares her undying love for him and vows to track him down. But the security bureau have other ideas, and promptly detain her after she leaves Shion’s mom’s bakery.

I can safely say Safu is my favorite character in this series, and so it’s good to see more of her. The black-and-white-haired lovebirds have just gotten boring. They repeat the same arguments over and over; Nezumi is a totally static dickweed, and Shion is as plain and dull as his hair color, going on about developing a serum and breaking down the wall. It would be nice to see exciting stuff like that, but instead we get more odd couple bickering.

Great things have been done in eleven episodes before. AnoHana most recently. FLCL was only six episodes; Blue Submarine No. 6 only four. All of them did an infinitely better job telling a story in a limited time than this. The main characters are totally unlikable and they’re either too waffling or too weak to do anything. The only person who tries to take action – Safu – is immediately arrested. And when Nezumi gets word of this, does he tell Shion? ‘Course not. Give me a break, No. 6!


Rating: 2.5 

Mawaru Penguindrum 4

One of this series’ many strengths is its excellent, almost neurotic attention to detail. Every frame is replete with incidental sights, sounds, and conversations, some of which turn up later (or earlier, in awesomely-presented flashbacks). Case in point: Ringo’s friend mentioning Kanba dumping an actress like “she was no big deal” last week. Not only do we meet this actress, but learn that Kanba has been set up for an ambush by her and two other women scorned, which hell hath no fury than.

But Kanba and Himari make only brief appearances on the periphery of this episode. This is primarily a Shoma and Ringo affair. Kanba orders him to tag along with her and sneak a look at her diary – stalking in plain view, as it were. And naturally, Ringo’s day plans include a birdwatching date in the park with Tabuki. Much to her chagrin, Tabuki has invited Yuri, his gorgeous blonde actress friend (lotta actress love interests in this, innit?), and with Shoma by her side, it’s practically a double date.

She and Shoma even swap clothes after a skunk attack – a skunk that was reported on the news on tv in the background earlier in the episode. While I was initially weary of Ringo’s stalking craziness (and her multiple elaborate daydreams that end with her screaming), I really liked her in this episode, and I’m fully behind her quirky but sweet character. She’s gonna make happen what’s written in her diary, and she does not give a shit who or what stands in her way. And just when I thoughYuri was too perfect, she calls Ringo out; warning her she hasn’t a chance with Tabuki. Mwrow!

Of course, while things that are written in her diary have always ended up happening, they hardly ever do quite in the way she envisions in those daydreams. It was written that she’d kiss Tabuki by a certain time, which she cheats by jumping into the drink to warrant rescue and mouth-to-mouth. But it’s Shoma who rescues and “kisses” her, not Tabuki. It matters not; she believed it was Tabuki, so in her mind, the fate written in the diary was realized.


Rating: 4