Ore Monogatari!! – 24 (Fin)

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All good things must come to an end, whether it’s the most charming and engaging romance in recent memory, or a lovely but ultimately dead-end relationship between two incompatible people. Yes, that’s right, kids, this also marks the end of Rinko+Takeo, as Ichinose swoops in, sweeps Rinko off her feet, places her on a bed of maringue, and drizzles caramel sauce on her.

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…PSYCH! They remain a couple to the end. Ichinose is unsuccessful in stealing her away, despite his firm believe that A.) Rinko is his muse, and B.) he’s a better fit for her. Takeo, as usual, is a worrywort who finds it necessary to prepare for a life without Rinko should Ichinose succeed, as dense to the depths of Rinko’s love as Rinko is of Ichinose’s feeling.

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Even though we knew there was no way in hell this couple would break up in the last episode, it still managed to maintain a respectable tension, as we basically absorbed Takeo’s anxiety. But despite his worrying, he puts up a brave front, and doesn’t despise Ichinose. In fact, for all their differences, he can relate to him simply because he too likes Rinko. Suna, meanwhile, is just glad to see these new sides of Takeo; it means he’s growing as a man.

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Takeo also suspects, quite correctly, Rinko has no clue about Ichinose’s feelings, but is simply helping him out because she’s a good person, because he asked, and because she loves cakes. When Ichinose forgets his tools (no doubt distracted by Rinko), Takeo has no problem answering the call and bringing them with his superhuman speed. And as he watches Ichinose work, Takeo is rooting for him to win. He can win the pastry competition; Takeo is simply hoping he’ll lose the competition for Rinko’s heart.

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Ichinose himself can’t help but regard Takeo as a good man too, even if he feels he’s the better match for Rinko. It’s a great dynamic, with no one overtly evil or villainous or ridiculous. Even Ichinose’s extreme bluntness in his intentions as expressed to Takeo and Suna make sense, considering Ichi is a far better pastry person than people person.

He wins the Gold with a pastry containing all of the same qualities as Rinko, even naming it after her before confessing his love and asking her out—in front of Takeo and Suna, no less!

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Rinko is shocked and taken completely by surprise, but it doesn’t take long for her to formulate her response: She’s fine helping him out at the pastry shop, but she’s no muse, and her heart belongs to Takeo, as it has always belonged since she first laid eyes on the big lug. All of Takeo’s anxiety washes away in the warmth of that pronouncement, and shortly afterwards, Takeo gives her a big ol’ hug and does something he’s been working hard to do since they became a couple: call her Rinko.

Appropriately, it’s as big a deal for her to hear him say her first name as it is for him to say it, so when Takeo promises he’ll learn to use it more casually, I was also thinking Rinko would, at the same time, learn to hear it without her heart melting into goo.

An there you have it, peeps: My Love Story!! (Well, not mine…theirs). It has been quite a fun ride, and I’m not exaggerating when I say I’ll dearly miss this day-brightening, mold-breaking show, which is the first this Summer to have the good sense and manners to thank the audience for watching at the very end! Trust me, show: the pleasure was all ours.

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Ore Monogatari!! – 23

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Quite unexpectedly, we enter the penultimate episode of this lovely series with the most profound and troubling dilemma yet to face the lovely couple of Takeo and Yamato. The former has encouraged the latter to work part-time at her favorite patisserie, Les Cerises. In the process, he may have just handed his girlfriend over to a superior potential mate. At least, that’s the feeling he gets once he learns that the young, up-and-coming patissier, Ichinose, is on first-name basis with “Rinko.”

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At first, Takeo is intent on being happy and supportive of Yamato as she pursues her passion; a craft she’s very good at but until now hasn’t gotten professional exposure to. It’s also a craft Takeo doesn’t share with her, and it isn’t even something he can talk with her that much about. Ichinose can, and he’s able to dazzle Yamato in ways Takeo can not: with his pastry expertise.

That lack of a shared passion (ignoring their passion for each other) combined with the ease with which Ichinose calls Yamato Rinko (and the difficulty Takeo has even thinking about doing the same) combine to create a profound inferiority in Takeo, as he watches things unfold from afar without fully understanding the full context…nor the fact that Yamato may not actually like Ichinose that way, despite her respect and admiration for his mad skillz.

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While Takeo considers that Yamato could well be falling for Ichinose, Suna all but confirms Ichinose is falling for Yamato, judging from his careful analysis of Ichinose’s stare.

As abruptly as Ichinose enters the Ore Monogatari!! world, he’s still given a fair hearing and development all his own. He’s a talented fellow, but up to this point been a bit of a lone wolf lacking a certain…something that deprived his work of warmth and love. The more time he spends with Yamato, the more he comes to think of her as his muse.

So when Takeo comes by the shop and Ichinose learns he’s Yamato’s boyfriend, I can understand, considering his inexperience in dealing with such matters, why Ichinose is so curt and abrupt in running up to Takeo and demanding he break up with Yamato immediately, as he sees himself as the better fit. And Takeo understands too.

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Takeo put Yamato in the position to meet someone who might be better for her, and he can’t dismiss that possibility out of hand. It’s pretty devastating how effectively and succinctly Ichinose wraps up Takeo and Yamato’s unlikely relationship, even if he’s oversimplifying and underestimating the depth of Yamato’s love for Takeo.

It’s not a coincidence that right after Takeo concedes that “there may be others who are better” for Yamato out there, that we cut to someone who’s been tossed around by the show as someone who may be better for him in Suna’s big sister Ai, who may even understand him more than Suna. Takeo’s greatest strength, throughout his life and the show, has been putting others before himself, to make those others happy.

This week we see why that’s a weakness, as he puts himself and Yamato in a pretty good position to destory everything they’ve built these last twenty-odd episodes. But again, that’s only if we take Takeo’s inferiority and Ichinose’s desires as the law of the land. While things are in a precarious position, we have yet to hear how Yamato—no, Rinko—feels about things. And I wouldn’t be surprised she has no intention of switching boyfriends.

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Ore Monogatari!! – 22

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YAY! It’s Suna and Yukika’s time to shine! It’s their turn for falling into love and floating around on a cloud like Takeo and Yamato! It’s time for Yukika to create a new PURAIMUTAIMU to replace the one from Kindergarten! They go to the zoo with the show’s lead couple, and both seem to enjoy themselves. We’re headed towards a foregone conclusion, right?!

Well…not so fast, there.

Yes, they do have a good time at the zoo; initially Yukika talk to Suna or even be too close to him without becoming paralyzed, but when the other couple encourages her to make some memories, she pipes up, gets them into an animal trivia competition, and singlehandedly wins it, but only because they were counted as a couple when Suna takes her hand. It all looks very fun and pleasant and awkward in all the ways first dates can be.

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But the problem isn’t whether they had fun; it’s a matter of magnitude. Suna had a nice enough time; he didn’t not enjoy himself. But from Yukika’s perspective, it was categorically THE HAPPIEST DAY OF HER LIFE. It’s the same with how they feel about each other: Suna doesn’t dislike Yukika, but Suna is the love of Yukika’s life and has been for most of her conscious life.

She’s placed him on so high a pedestal that his comparative wishy-washiness actually ends up hurting her. Last week I entertained the possibility Suna actually liked Yukika, but she didn’t let him finish his sentence, but in the absense of further evidence, we have to conclude he doesn’t like her enough. As much as we may want it to work out, and for Suna to finally start dating a nice girl, it’s just not going to work.

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Soon Yukika becomes unable to continue working towards something she can’t imagine ever working out, due to that magnitude problem, and resolves to cut herself off from not only Suna, but Takeo and Yamato, cold turkey. This is an obvious overreaction,but an understandable one considering where she’s coming from socially (there’s a reason she’s so good at zoo trivia; she spends much of her time reading). What I like is that Takeo and Yamato don’t try to force the issue or over-meddle, they just give Yukika the opportunity to reassess her next move.

In the end, she too thinks severing all ties with the three others would be too sad, and Suna meets with her to give her a gift for her ten years of chocolates, and they reach a kind of closure, agreeing to remain friends. I appreciate the show didn’t try to hard to force Suna into what in hindsight was a pretty long-shot relationship. Suna is, despite his forelorn appearance and lack of girlfriend, actually a pretty content fellow, and it would take a much more powerful romantic spark than the one Yukika was capable of mustering to convince him to leave that place of contentment and try something new.

And so it is with a sense of logical resignation we consign Yukika to Ore Monogatari!!’s roster of “Losers”, joining Saijou and Ai and underlining that sometimes even when conditions are right things don’t always work out as perfectly as they did for our lead couple.

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Ore Monogatari!! – 21

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For White Day, Takeo gives Yamato cookies he baked. You heard that right: gives her cookies he baked. And while he’s his own toughest critic on said cookies, the fact that they even exist bowls Yamato over; she declares them too precious to eat—and meaning it—but still takes a bite and is delighted with them. Finally, Takeo gets to experience what she’s been able to since they met: watch someone he loves enjoying something he made.

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The Valentines/White Day proceedings were an effective and logical segue to the next arc, “Find Love For Suna.” Turns out there was no one to find; someone was watching him and circling him from afar all along, becoming a little bolder every year, especially after Valentines, and possibly borne out of the knowledge she’s running out of school years to follow Suna. This girl, Amami Yukika comes close enough that she enters Takeo’s keen “follower radar”, misjudging her as someone with malevolent intentions, then rescuing her letter from the river.

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If any show can make a stalker girl sympathetic, it’s Ore Monogatari!!, as well as the talented voice of Kayano Ai, who gives Amami the right blend of delicate femininity and forthright determination. Judging from Suna’s photo album, Amami has literally been in the background of Suna and Takeo’s lives since kindergarten when she fell for him when him after he saved her from a thrown dodgeball. The trouble is, she hasn’t made any moves to get him to acknowledge her (all her Valentines letters were anonymous), so she hasn’t been acknowledged.

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“Takeo Cupid” wants to help in any way he can, but he also realizes it’s Amami who will have to do the heavy lifting like, you know, talking to Suna. All she really needs is a push…or rather, several pushes, as she’s so overwhelmed by suddenly being in the foreground with Suna (rather than watching him from afar) it’s hard to breathe, let alone talk. Still, when he not only refers to her by name but the fact he’s known of her existence since kindergarten, she confesses her love to him right there in the street, with Takeo looking on. Then she runs.

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This is where a second nudge by Takeo is needed. He brings her back to Suna (who almost seemed to be waiting for them), where she tells him she wants him to watch her and learn more about her before he gives her his response. I thought this was overly cautious on her part, since it wasn’t completely outside the realm of possibility he’d say “sure, let’s go out.” Suna isn’t opposed to going out with girls, just girls who talk shit about Takeo.

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They exchange cell numbers, and an initial bond is formed, to my relief. But Amami needs a couple more nudges, as she finds it hard to break out of her usual routine of stalking-kinda-not-stalking. Takeo sends Suna off to walk her home, but she still can’t talk, so Takeo then brings in Yamato for a female perspective on the thing. She shares her experience having difficulty making moves toward a relationship, but as we’ve seen the benefits of making those moves have been more than worth the stress involved.

Ultimately, they determine the best way forward is for Amami, Suna, Takeo and Yamato to do a double date, in this case to the zoo, which Suna promptly agrees to. Takeo tells him he doesn’t have to, but Suna knows that, and wouldn’t say he’s going if he didn’t want to. That doesn’t mean he’s going to say straight-up “Yes, I want to go on a double date with Amami to see if it will work out because she seems like a genuinely good person and possibly a good match as well.”

Even if asked directly, he won’t answer that directly, but the seeming lack of enthusiasm can’t be taken as an actual lack of it. I imagine he’s just as interested to see where this goes as Takeo, Yamato…and me. Lord knows Suna has demonstrated throughout the show that he deserves a good woman, and not just because he’s good-looking.

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Ore Monogatari!! – 20

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In a show full of romantic firsts, it’s pretty amazing OreMono!! has kept the Valentine’s Day/Chocolate episode in its back pocket…where one would assume it would melt! But here it finally is, with only four more episodes to go, and I think holding out was a good move, what with Takeo and Rinko so well-established as a loving couple.

I like how once more Takeo’s secondary friends come to him looking for help by having a group Valentines Day with Yamato’s friends. Suna, ever the stalwart best mate, deflects them, saying they had their fun for Christmas (and one of them, Osamu, even ended up dating one of the girls).

Even better, while Takeo appreciates Suna standing up for his right to be alone with Yamato, the truth is he doesn’t mind making it a group thing at all, nor does Yamato, for they are always looking for ways to spread the love they already have in droves for each other. Suna calls him a “do-gooder”, but c’mon now…so is he.

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Yamato is also eager to spread her wide knowledge of baking chocolate-making with her girlfriends (including Nanako, who wants to make something for Osamu) while working on a secret side-project specially for Takeo. It’s great to see both the boys looking so forward to getting chocolate while the girls look forward to giving it.

Valentine’s Day arrives, and we’re reminded how popular Suna is with the ladies when a small avalanche of chocolate pours out of his locker. Takeo asks a question on my mind as well—what does he do with it all—and he simply says he accepts it, gives reciprocating gifts on White Day to those who gave him their names…and that’s it. As much as Takeo may want his buddy to find love, no one has “clicked” for Suna the way Rinko clicked with him. That many of the girls who pursued Suna talked ill of Takeo behind his back surely contributed to that lack of clicking.

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The after-school Valentine’s Day group date goes swimmingly, with the guys convincing the girls to distribute the chocolates they made as if they were giving them to guys they liked. Each successive group event has had the girls gravitating less towards Suna alone and more evenly to the other guys. In a perfect world, each girl would click with each boy like Rinko x Takeo and Nanako x Osamu, but for now they’re content to exchange contact info and hang out sometime even without Takeo or Rinko around. Progress!

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But Takeo is confused—stunned, really—when Rinko suddenly says she’s in a hurry and scurries off. He’s so shocked he can’t quite walk in a straight line and mistakes a vending machine for his front door, because he expected to get chocolate from the girl he liked, for the first time…and didn’t.

Now, I was pretty sure, with so much time left, Rinko was “busy” getting Takeo’s chocolate. Then Takeo remembers two things: she actually did give him cookies at the cafe, and he simply neglected to savor them; and she spoke with great longing for fancy expensive chocolates.

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Takeo then decides to make up for the fact he didn’t properly enjoy Yamato’s chocolate buy buying her the chocolate she said she wanted, a nice subversion of the whole “Girls give on Valentines/Guys give on White Day” system.

But on his way out—and thank GOD Rinko was a safe distance from the outward-swinging door, or she would have been launched off the balcony—she’s standing out there with the biggest, prettiest chocolate dessert she’s ever made for Takeo.

And while they don’t end up locking lips, Takeo does send one hell of an air kiss off his balcony to Rinko, who catches it with giddy elation.

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So all in all, it’s a great Valentine’s for Takeo. The next day, he gets one more surprise (as do we!) when a very pleased-looking Mariya presents both him and Suna with obligation chocolate, a day after Valentines out of respect for Rinko. After she takes her leave Suna says she’s a good person, and that people who fall for Takeo—his sister, Rinko, Mariya—tend to be good people.

That gets Takeo thinking that a good person is what Suna needs, not just some fangirl who thinks it’s cool to talk shit about his friend. And as they shuffle off to class, someone who is potentially another one of those good people watches them go from around the corner…a silver-haired girl who must’ve given Suna chocolates. Could love finally be on the horizon for our boy Suna? I’d be down for that!

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Aquarion Logos – 03

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Blergh…when you’ve checked out of a show only three episodes in, it’s time to say Sayonara. And between the almost painfully-goofy word-of-the-day crises, Akira’s “I’m the Savior” schtick, and the introduction of a snot-nosed little kid as the newest pilot, I find myself suddenly but categorically checked out of Aquarion Logos.

I’m not alone in this; as of writing fewer than 650 people have bothered to rate the show on MAL (compared to over 11,000 for GANGSTA.), and its rating sits at a paltry 6.20, more than a full point below the older, better Aquarion Evol.

I’m no stranger to going against the whims of MAL (especially when small sample sizes are involved), but in this case our opinions align. Dropped.

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Aquarion Logos – 02

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This week follows much the same pattern as last: Sougon weaponizes another “Word of the Week” (it’s “illness”), Kaibuki Akira commandeers a Vector, goes into the Logos World, and forms an Aquarion with Maia to defeat it.

But in between the problem and the crisis was a part I found much more interesting: when the captured Maia breaks free, she’s kept from flying off in her Vector by a team of tough-as-iron cleaning ladies whose practiced, precises motions, synchronization, strength, and ability to read minds has the sheltered Maia assuming they’re DEAVA’s elite guardian force.

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They assume she’s the new girl, so they set her to work, and Maia learns about the “sacrifices” her master Sougan said were “inevitable” in order to bring about his “Utopia Without Words” (whatever that is). It struck me as a Spirited Away-style situation in which an ignorant, arrogant girl gets a lesson in humility and humanity by putting on another skin for a spell.

Still, if the ladies knew Maia was an escaped prisoner, they’d have probably called security. Why is there no security in the hangar containing the Vectors? Ya know what….never mind.

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Once Akira arrives at the hangar deck and spots Maia, he tells her he’ll “do as he ought, by his own will”, reinforcing the dissonance between her beloved Sougon’s ideal and the price people like the nice ladies she befriended pay for it. She comes to her own opinion on the matter: that any word that starts hurting people is a mistake (even though we know it isn’t a mistake, but exactly what Sougon intended it to be).

Her faith in Sougon’s ideal doesn’t match who Sougon really is: a social networking tycoon trying to make a new world without regard to the casualties that result from the destruction of the old one. As such, her will doesn’t run parallel to her master’s, so perhaps it’s good that he doesn’t let Maia come back to him, but orders her to continue observing Akira.

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Aquarion Logos – 01 (Part II)

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Okay…so I was right: THIS half of the hour-long special I watched was the actual first episode of Logos, representing a clean slate, with no cameos from past shows, just a recycling of terminology (e.g. sousei, vectors, gattai, Aquarion, etc.)  Logos’ new angle is that kanji are possessed with great power that, when unleashed, can be extremely destructive to the fabric of the world.

The “Word of the Day”, if you will, is “Maki”, the kanji for which also means “twist.” Every instance of the kanji in written or digital form comes to life and starts wreaking havoc on modern-day Japan, leaving it up to a special few young people to fight back with the Aquarion hardware we’re familiar with. I must say, this is a pretty clever idea, if a bit Sesame Street.

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That organization is called DEAVA (Division of EArth Verbalism Ability), fronted by a cosplay cafe. When one of those members, Kikogami Kokone, calls out for help when an old lady’s purse is stolen, a dude named Kaibuki Akira answers the call and retrieves the purse. Akira is a bit of a cipher so far, who is fond of calling himself a savior, but also probably happens to be correct about that assertion, as crazy as it sounds to everyone else.

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So sure is Akira that he’s meant for greater things, he follows Kokone into DEAVA and steals her vector to deal with the beastial manifestation of maki in some kind of undefined dimension where one normally does battle with words. In that space, we also have a pair of individuals, one of whom is sure to become one of Akira’s love interests, Tsukigane Maia, who seems to be on the side of the guy who released the word and considers this an important mission.

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Somehow, Akira manages to disconnect Maia’s vector from her partner and dock it to his own, resulting in their transformation into an Aquarion mecha. Maia isn’t sure what’s going on, only that it “feels wonderful”, and she and Akira pair up to blast the maki back into submission with the patented Infinity Punch.

So we have a technicolor cast of characters, an elaborate, often hard-to-follow action that sometimes makes you feel like you’re on some kind of animated Gravitron, yet everything is pretty neatly summed up as “words are power”, and can be used to create as well as destroy.

I wouldn’t exactly call Logos greatit’s awfully helter-skelter and demanding to the senses—but I’ll go with “good” for this first outing. It’s certainly like nothing else this Summer. I’ll just have to see if I have enough time to keep up with it.

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14 Green-Haired Anime Characters of October

Don't look at me like that...eat some spinach!
Don’t look at me like that…eat some spinach!

I was doing a little research, and learned that October is (or as of tomorrow, was) far more than just Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Believe it or not, it’s also Spinach Lovers Month, which is a perfect segue to the next character trait we’ve compiled our latest list for: Green hair.

Poring through the cast lists of Fall 2014 shows (only shows we’re reviewing here are RABUJOI, mind you, in case you see a glaring omission or two), we learned that green (or green-blue) hair in its various shades is a bit rarer than pink hair among anime casts, and one show accounts for most of the characters on this list.

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1. Acura Akari

Hitsugi no Chaika: Avenging Battle • CV: Hara Yuuko

Perhaps the most prominent character on this list, Akari is from the mountain village of Acura, born and raised like her brother Tooru to be a saboteur, her world’s equivalent of a ninja (or kunoichi, in her case), and now serving beside him as Chaika’s bodyguards. Her preferred weapon is a long, thin hammer. Like Tooru, she possesses “Iron Blood Transformation”, which makes her stronger and faster with few if any drawbacks. She also has a brother complex, but unlike typical brocons, expresses her love for Tooru the exact same serious deadpan in which she mocks or criticizes him.

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2. Zita Brusasco

Hitsugi no Chaika: Avenging Battle • CV: Kouda Yumeha

Zita is wizard and a member of Post-war Reconstruction Implementation Agency, Kleeman under the Gillette Corps, presently led by Nikolai Avtotor. She also drives “April”, the Gillette Corps’ vehicle. She’s lot less hot-headed than her colleague Vivi, and forms a temporary alliance with Acura Tooru while stuck in Duke Gavarni’s flying castle in the first season.

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3. Fueyama Touri

Ai Tenchi Muyo! • CV: Fukada Ai

Besides customizing her school uni with bloomers, crossed hip straps, and knee-high socks, the data-mining StuCo Treasurer’s most distinctive feature is her green bob. She’s also quite…dedicated, as demonstrated by her placing of a tracking device in Tenchi’s Danger Zone.

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4. Gabriel

Shingeki no Bahamut: Genesis • CV: N/A

We haven’t seen much of her yet, but judging by her name I’d say Gabriel is one of the angel-like beings who inhabit a realm beyond or above the world normal schmoes like Favaro and Kaisar inhabit. Like Amira, her hair is very pale in color.

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5. Lubbock

Akame ga Kill! • CV: Matsuoka Yoshitsugu

Yes, there is a guy on this list! Lubbock is perhaps the least-used Night Raid member. He likes attempting to peep on the girls as they bathe. His Imperial Arm is a rather nifty and versatile garotte wire, which can be used for attack, defense, detection, etc. He was once a rich and privileged member of the Imperial aristocracy and military, but gave it up for Night Raid’s General Najenda, who he’s always loved but never confessed to.

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6. Maki

Orenchi no Furo Jijou • CV: Tsuda Kenjirou

Maki, (another guy! Well…sort of) is a tiny hermit crab…who hasn’t appeared on the show yet. Whoops! Look away!

The Green-Haired Girls of Girl Friend BETA

7-14. Ishida Isuki, Kokonoe Shinobu, Mishina Kaho, Onodera Chizuru, Oshii Tomo, Toyama Misuzu, Tsukishiro Yoko, and Yukawa Kise

Girl Friend BETA • CVs: Omigawa Chiaki, Kuwashima Houko, Mitsui Eriko, Gibo Yoko, Fujita Saki, Endou Aya, [n/a], and Kanemoto Hisako

If you like your 2D girlfriends with green hair, the mobile game Girl Friend BETA, AKA Girlfriend (Kari) (literally “provisionally”) has eight choices for you (plus a couple I didn’t include because they were more on the blue side of the spectrum!). All but one (Misuzu) carry over to the anime, though none are main characters, so we’ve had glimpses of one or two of them over the course of the show’s first four episodes.