Eromanga-sensei – 01 (First Impressions)

Izumi Masamune is a popular light novel writer despite still being in high school. He lives with his stepsister Sagiri, whose face he hasn’t seen in over a year. One day while he’s watching a livestream of Eromanga-sensei, the mysterious illustrator of his works whom he’s never met, he notices the note he left with Sagiri’s meal, proving that she is Eromanga-sensei.

She finally lets him see her face, and even invites him in her room to talk, but despite having collaborated with each other on light novels for three years, the road to re-connection won’t be a smooth one.

Eromanga-sensei’s value isn’t in the twist that the siblings are artistic collaborators. I figured that out the moment Masamune said he’d never met his illustrator. Rather, it lies in excitement bred from the sudden disruption of a long-standing status quo; a stalemate between Masamune and Sagiri that had no end in sight.

Now that they ‘know who each other are’, so to speak, they have an opening that I imagine they’ll be ever-so-slowly exploring throughout the show. A show with a crisp, clean, airy look and theme of emotionally distant siblings that viewers of he Oreimo series will find familiar, due to the two shows sharing the same character designer, Kanzaki Hiro, and writer, Fushimi Tsukasa (the two collaborated on the source novels of both shows).

The moment Sagiri finally opens her door is a momentous moment, but the Schrodinger’s Cat-style tension it releases is replaced by the long, difficult, and outright awkward road ahead.

As Sagiri says, this is all very sudden, and it’s hard for adults to wrap their heads around and process such sudden changes in life, let alone a kid who hasn’t left her room in three years.

It’s far easier for, say, Masamune to wrap his mind around this, because the mystery of who Eromanga-sensei was always irked him, and he never suspected for a minute it was his sister (Sagiri, on the other hand, seemed to harbor some vague suspicions, as his pen name is the same as his regular one, albeit in katakana).

Masamune also has the benefit of being able to leave the house at will and interact with other people face-to-face rather than exclusively through technology. Sagiri’s voice-amplifying headset is a nice touch for illustrating how ill-prepared for social interaction she really is. Even having Masamune in there is so strange, on more than one occasion she cuts off their encounters so she can return to the normalcy of solitude.

This is all to say that I really admired the way Sagiri’s condition is portrayed. She’s not slob; her room is neat and tidy, and there’s no denying she’s an immensely gifted artist, especially considering her age. She just…can’t leave her room, nor has she been able to since her mother (who encouraged her to draw) passed away. We all process grief in different ways, she did so by shutting herself off from the world that took her mom away.

Learning her brother is Izumi Masamune doesn’t change any of that. She still feels trapped in that room because of her mother’s death. And unlike Masamune, she doesn’t think they’re family just because they live in the same house and he serves her meals. It’s a combination of frustration over her self-confinement and shame that she’s been such a ‘troublesome sister’. Masamune’s unconditional love is confusing and frightening, and Masamune does come on a bit too strong with his enthusiasm over learning the truth at times.

But one thing’s for sure: Sagiri loves drawing for the enjoyment of fans and readers, just as Masamune loves writing for the same reasons. She likes the interaction her livestreams and blogging allow. She is every inch a child of the 21st Century, in which even self-imposed prisons still contain windows to the world. It will be interesting to see if, when, and how Sagiri is able to emerge from her room, and from the house to see the world again with her own senses.

…It will also be interesting to see if Masamune ever asks Sagiri where she’s been stashing the cash she’s made illustrating, and why she hasn’t contributed to living expenses!

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Kiznaiver – 08

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The Kiznaivers have never been closer, even if they still tend to snipe at each other, they also all show up when Nico invites them to the mall to hang out take booth photos together (which is what regular friends do) even during a typhoon warning.

Back at Kizuna HQ, Yamada and Urushi are licking their chops at the opportunity to move the experiments to the next level, and the conditions are perfect, so they use the Gomorins to bring the team in.

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Before they do, the sight of an outdoor playcenter reminds Kacchon vividly of the time he was test subjects with Noriko. When Yamada nonchalantly explains more about the Kizuna Project and how they even went so far as to experiment on researchers’ and sponsors’ own children, it’s pretty clear what’s coming: some kind of epiphany between the currently frustrated Noriko and a Kacchon who is “disappointed” in her.

I must say, I’m not a big fan at all of Yamada or Urushi, who are way too laid back about the fact they essentially tortured children who had no say in the matter, not to mention all the adults who suffered from early experimentation. Morally speaking, the ends don’t usually justify the means…and they don’t even have any ends yet.

All they have are seven youths who have already demonstrated that they not only share each other’s physical pain, but also strong emotions, be they negative or positive. And Yamada and Urushi want to delve deeper into the positive by pairing everyone off. Again, it’s a bit icky, but they’re committed, as is Noriko, to ensuring the experiment is completed – regardless of how the subjects feel.

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The chart of Kiznaivers relationships reminded me of the character charts Zane used to spend way too much time making, but once they were complete really gave a concise picture of who liked whom (One instance that was at times a closed circle of one-sided relationships was Nagi no Asukara).

Here, Urushi lays out the obvious: Yuta likes Honoka; Honoka still likes Ruru; Nico likes Tenga; Tenga likes Chidori; Chidori likes Agata, and Hisomu likes pain. Noriko can figure out the last one for herself, to the surprise of the adults: Agata likes her.

She’s known for a while that he had strong emotions, but didn’t know they were romantic. Now, all of a sudden, the pieces are falling into place for her, and she heads to where the others are to “kickstart” the experiment.

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As Noriko purposefully makes her way, time runs out for Chidori to properly confess to Kacchon, despite the two being all alone for an extended period of time. Kacchon’s attention is turned elsewhere, quite suddenly, by a stronger sensation, and either the symbolic visualization or straight-up hallucination of his younger self and hi fellow test subjects leading him to where he needs to be.

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That precise time and place turns out to be crucial, as Kacchon arrives at the place just in time to save Noriko from being crushed by a falling statue just as she emerges from an abandoned metro station. Just like that, Noriko’s experiment has taken a huge step forward.

Why? Simply put, Kacchon has achieved a kind of “spidey-sense” vis-a-vis Noriko. Or rather, he’s always had it, and it has finally fully re-awakened. That explains the cryptic visions of the younger Noriko. It isn’t that her feelings reached him in time. She is a part of him and vice-versa.

To confirm, Noriko removes her choker to expose the Kizuna scar on her neck, glowing brighter and purer than any of the others’ wrist scars. That’s Kacchon in there, and that’s huge, as it not only progresses the experiment, ill-begotten as it was, but marks the loosening of a knot that had been festering in Kacchon’s heart for years. I for one am intrigued.

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Kiznaiver – 07

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While Ruru wasn’t literally killed by Maki (obviously), her mother is glad Maki feels guilty for abandoning her as a friend, making her write the final chapter by herself. Half the house is a shrine to Ruru, so the tension runs high in the mother’s presence. They may have known Ruru was going to live a short life due to her chronic illness, but that doesn’t make the pain any less difficult to bear.

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This week we also learn how Maki and Ruru —two loners—met for the first time and became more dear to one another than anyone else. They filled in each other’s manga weaknesses (Ruru’s writing, Maki’s art), and rose quickly as their audience soared.

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But it seems Maki was never a fan of Ruru “joking” about jumping off high ledges, faking a seizure, or getting more romantic with her. Though the last one, Maki knew, wasn’t a joke, nor was she not interested.

Ultimately, it seems more like Maki cut herself off from Ruru in order to be spared the even greater pain she’s endure if Ruru died when they were lovers. This is a very tense but lovely scene because it’s so intimately shot, but also interspersed with art from their manga depicting the same actions.

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The other Kiznaivers don’t know most of this…because Maki hasn’t told them, but also because they haven’t come out and asked. They come up with a plan to become her friend at all costs, not leaving her alone until she realizes there’s no point in resisting any longer; it’s six-against-one, after all.

It’s just really nice to see how much these six have gelled as a group, and how they basically became friends through osmosis, without even realizing it. Chidori in particular notices how Kacchon is changing, but for the better, and how he doesn’t simply allow Tenga to walk all over him, but rather likes having him around.

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As blue and lost as Maki is right now, the six still want her around too, especially Yuta, who tries to use the manga to learn more about what happened. The final chapter is one that Maki never read, and she assumes Ruru “cursed” her to love her and no one else forever and ever.

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That turns out to not be the case, as Ruru, treating the final chapter she wrote alone as a kind of indirect letter to Maki, telling her if remembering her ever gets too painful, it’s okay to forget, because she loved her smile and wouldn’t want her to stop using it.

Yuta manages to get Maki to come out for fireworks, but she’d rather watch everyone swim in the ocean instead. To everyone’s shock, Yuta doesn’t hesitate in running as fast as he can into the water and splashing around like a goon.

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Once Maki has read and understood Ruru’s wish for her, the smile returns to her face, the first smile we’ve seen that wasn’t sinister or fake. And the Kiznaivers feels something that isn’t pain – a weight being lifted from Maki’s heart. She can’t be friends with any of them, she says—because they’re already far closer than friends or lovers.

I enjoyed the resolution to Maki’s impasse with the other Kiznaivers. It felt earned and realistic that these people who so badly want to be her friends would eventually pull her out of the darkness and into clarity, closure, relief, and understanding. It’s also neat how the story of these last couple episodes serves as a real-life extra chapter to the manga Maki and Ruru made together.

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Kiznaiver – 06

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In the OP, which I consider the most excellent of the season, the Chidori is the final of the seven Kiznaivers to run across the screen before the title splash, giving her a certain prominence. But in both of the OP’s character “roll calls”, the one in the middle is Honoka Maki, and in the second one, there’s a dramatic visual stab (and the presentation of the Trigger logo) when she appears.

This, and some of the mysteries surrounding Maki and the someone she says she “killed”, has had me thinking the whole time that the most significant character story to date would eventually come from her, not Chidori. Another piece of the puzzle falls into place in a powerful flashback where Maki’s friend (and apparent manga partner) Ruri nearly leaps to her death before being pulled back by Maki.

Ruri laughs uncontrollably, doubtless because of the profundity of what had just transpired—Maki may call her stupid, but still saved her when it mattered. But Maki is just stunned. Why did Ruri do that? What if she tries it again when she’s not there?

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Maki is toeing a similar line in the present: she may act all aloof, but she still comes to Kiznaiver get-togethers when invited, even if she leaves early without partaking in somen. Nico tries to follow and be friendly with her, but when she calls herself stupid, Maki can’t help but be reminded of Ruri saying the same thing, gets upset, and runs off. But now that she and the other six Kiznaivers’ hearts are connected, everyone feels her pain, and they can’t just forget it.

While she’s still a far more sterile personality, Noriko also seems a bit lonely as the mayor warns her of increasing difficulties in keeping the experiment under wraps. Her time is running out—perhaps in more ways than one, judging from her in-car self-injection—but she’s committed to delivering results. And hey, it’s not as if she hasn’t made real progress with the Kiznaivers.

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Yuta, still trying to maintain his normal life with his ladies, happens to be shown the same manga Maki created, made immensely popular when readers learned she and Ruri were middle schoolers. I like how Yuta is freaked out by the huge eyes, unimpressed by the hodgepodge of themes, but at the same time feels this is a window into Maki that, along with their new connected hearts, can help him get somewhere with her, in terms of helping to lift some of that pain and gloominess.

Maki, for her part, stubbornly rejects any kind of help, even when Yuta offers it unsolicited when her former editor asks her to sign off on a documentary of “Charles Macking”, her nom de plume.

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The editors ignore her refusal to permit such a project and arrive at school to film her. When the cameras are stuffed in her face and everyone hears she’s Charles de Macking-sensei, she starts to lose it right quick. Fortunately, the other six Kiznaivers are given a mission she’s not aware of to “save her”, and they do—at least temporarily, from the camera crew.

It’s great teamwork, but it does nothing to solve the underlying pain Maki feels. Indeed, she seems to be repulsed by any attempt to help her, perhaps because she feels responsible for Ruri’s death, and thus feels she’s no longer worthy of friends, happiness, or pity.

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Maki’s covered it up with her antisocial personality up to this point, but now her comrades know her game, and they aren’t about to accept her continued self-punishment. But rather than pester her more—she still needs to recover form the shock of that camera confrontation—they decide to try to learn more about Ruri, the person whose death caused Maki to fall into this state whom we know precious litle about, besides the fact she was a little bit of a daredevil.

As for Kacchon, he branches off from the others momentarily to express his disappointment with Nori-chan, most likely for giving them a mission involving Maki without Maki’s knowledge; a mission that saved her in the immediate but if anything made her emotional state worse. Noriko, for her part, is as surprised by Kacchon’s words as he is for saying them. She’s being pressed from both sides. I wonder what will happen, and if and how she’ll change, as conditions grow more desperate.

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Love Stage!! – 07

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The opening romance is cut short by Ryouma, who’s furious with despondent Izumi and storms out. Izumi goes back to sleep and dreams of Lala-lulu’s world.

There, he’s about to join Evil Lala-lulu’s side — he even gives the good guy gone bad speech — but is saved at the last moment by Good Lala-lulu.

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Izumi wakes and reads hundreds of missed calls and texts from Rei. Izumi realizes Rei really cares about him, and that he’s always known this but been too stupid to admit it.

Ryouma returns with a surprise: he had Izumi’s manga reviewed by no one other than Lala-lulu’s creator (and Izumi’s idol)! Izumi’s mind is blown, both by Ryouma’s ability to get such a thing and by the kind words from Lala’s creator, which amount to “you suck now but have passion — keep that passion and gain experience.”

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Izumi comes to terms with tackling life’s challenges and resolves to go back home and enter show biz.

Rei is happy to see him and collapses in exhaustion (having been awake for 60 hours straight) and all is well.

Izumi tells Ryouma that he’s like a brother to him and Ryouma kisses him good night. “take a good look. i’m not your older brother” (end episode)

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“Dreams and Hope are nothing but Illusions” – Evil’zumi

And with that, Love Stage!! slams the ball out of the park. I can not stress how well this episode works as a closer for the series. The actors are all clearly introduced and their roles have a natural direction to follow — and if you omit the rapey-part of episode 3, all the relationships make plenty of sense.

Yes! the show will continue on to a happier ending a few episodes down the line but, for me, I’m taking this as a great stopping point. Everyone is happy. Everyone is hopeful and there’s nothing to look forward to but some serious BL from here on out.

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“Dont you dare mock my feels for you” – Ryouma

Was Love Stage!! worth a watch? Yes! I’m glad i took a chance on it. (at least for this long) However, so many elements of the show either don’t work due to my own gender biases OR don’t work because of the show’s.

Seriously! There’s no way Izumi’s mom would be considered funny for not caring where he is if he were female. (and recently raped and missing for 60 hours) No more than any of the weird yuk-yuk jokes make by Rei over the rape itself. The results just come off creepy and are so consistent that I don’t feel the studio would agree.

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Still, at the end of the day, Love Stage!! delivered a decent drama — and one in a genre I would not usually have watched. It held my attention with decently above average annimation, solid voice work and a deeply desturbing early season twist. For that, all I can say is Thumbs up!

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Love Stage!! – 06

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Ryouma is finally confronted by his Agency about his relationship with Izumi. Except, everyone assumes Izumi is female. 

Rei takes this opportunity to launch Izumi’s show bix career. Except they have an angry fight because Izumi wants to become a manga artist.

A deal is struck: If Izumi’s submission is accepted in the manga contest, Rei will support him and, if not, Izumi will dive into show biz without hesitation. (end act 1)

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Izumi’s work is rejected. Izumi is rejected. Izumi stumbles through the rain to Ryouma, the only person he feels cares about him.

Izumi spends the night, barely unmolested, only to end up there early the next morning. Cliffhanger sexy time! (end episode)

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“Mister President, Please dont stand on your desk.” – unnamed assistant.

Love Stage’s sixth outing was not exactly the height of drama, but it kept itself sincere (mostly) and had several good lines of dialog. That said, its sincerity was all over the place in tone and I found it a little jarring to bounce from Izumi’s teen-angst life drama to Ryouma’s sex-angst drama. Sure, LS went out of its way to establish a reason for these two characters to have a post rape connection — even a reliance on each other — but the script can’t escape how different the two characters’ stories are in tone.

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Oh! Haha! Rei wasn’t worried about Izumi getting raped. Je was worried Ryouma would see Izumi’s manga. Good joke!

Addressing the juxtaposition of those scripts appears to be a frequent stumbling point. In fact, I’d argue most of the awkward/horrifying humor (see above) stems from the script’s attempt to blend a happy go luck ‘loser comedy’ with the hard edge of sex drama and social messaging. Why else would it present a mega nose-bleed scene for Ryouma as he oggle’s Izumi’s sleeping body? Why else would he fantasize about Izumi not wearing ‘panties’?

Even when the humor works, it feels out of place. Especially from the Lala-lulu break out segments, where Izumi fantasizes about his favorite Anime character roughly contextualizing an aspect of his own narrative. Lala pokes decent, if not cheap fun at the magic girl genre and she works — but only for “Izumi’s Show.”

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“I know I have rational thought in me, somewhere…” – Ryouma.

You’re probably wondering why, despite my criticisms, episode six is rated 8 this week? Well… it all comes down to the closing scene:

Ryouma and Izumi have a lovely morning but Ryouma wants Izumi to do the right thing and call home. Izumi, still being childish and upset, flippantly says he wants to stay with Ryouma forever instead and hides under the covers. Ryouma, calmly but forcefully rips off the covers, mounts a now startled Izumi and asks him if he’s forgotten who he’s talking to. Izumi turns away and says:

“Just do it. I don’t care anymore.”

Then we get a sailor moon style sex scene and the episode is over…

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This reminder that Ryouma is a rapist and that Izumi has been playing with napalm is the thread seriously missing from the past 2 episodes. Maybe it needed to be missing to make this scene as strong as it was. Regardless, and regardless of how you feel about the subject matter, the scene was powerful, thought provoking and well delivered.

Is Izumi now onboard with BL? (at least in a completely apathetic way) Will Rei and Izumi’s family handle the fall out? Where will next week take us?

Have to wait and see!

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Love Stage!! – 05

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Texting, Texting, Texting, Messages, Messages and Messages, Everybody has something to say to each other, especially when they aren’t in the same room. Also bad manga…

This week starts off with another Izumi daydream of achieving success as a manga artist and this time it’s actually pretty funny: Izumi’s imagined ‘break out comic’ is presented as it is in the real world—hilariously crude and nigh incoherent.

Meanwhile, Ryouma has transitioned into full-on-fem style over-bearing girlfriend and texts Izumi constantly. (He sent 27 while Izumi slept in class) Why doesn’t Izumi block the number, you ask? Well…he tried, and Ryouma convinced everyone he needed to be on suicide watch.

Nice.

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Moving along, Ryouma drops by Izumi’s college for a visit and invades the manga club. What follows is a mostly innocuous string of nerds talking about nerdy things that Ryouma ignores, marked by moments of Ryouma flattering Izumi’s (lack of) talent like a doting girlfriend.

It’s an interesting role reversal, in a way, since Ryouma filled the raging masculine bull/rapist role only 2 weeks previous. Now it’s Izumi’s turn to keep Ryouma in line and make sure the day runs smoothly.

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Izumi’s manga is awesome and I don’t understand the kind of person who wouldn’t enjoy reading it! No Seriously! Someone has to print this!

Partly due to Ryouma’s flattery and partly due to a looming deadline, Izumi makes a crazy decision to invite Ryouma over to help ink. Thankfully, the scene is tame and Ryouma turns out to be a good helper. He’s arguably a better artist than Izumi and helps draw a solid background.

They finish the work in record time and Izumi falls asleep. Then Ryouma kisses him in his sleep, which is a mellow return to rape-town, but, now that Ryouma’s in the fem role, it’s not quite as horrible. Still creepy though.

Then Ryouma gets a call from his manager before he can land a second kiss. He’s in trouble for the voyeur’s photos we assumed were taken last week. Before he goes, he lands some more Sleeping Beauty kisses…maybe more than a few.

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Love Stage!! got its pacing right, at least during the opening this week. It was charming and a lot of it unfolds in bursts as Izumi reads on his phone. Rather good comedic timing, really.

However, by the time we get to the manga club…meh? Ryouma and Izumi’s love story just feels mushy, if not unterrible as romance slice-of-lifes go. The manga-drawing-marathon session offered a little reprieve and the opportunity for Ryouma to find a non-physical attribute to like about Izumi was needed but…still meh?

Truth be told, I’m running out of steam for Love Stage!!—and it’s worth noting that I’d be just as low on juice if this were a hetero-romance show. In some ways, I see why the rape mayhem was needed two weeks ago. Without that, sincere or not, I’m not sure LS has much to get all that excited about. Not for 13 episodes, at least…

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Noragami – 12 (Fin)

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Noragami turns in a decent but unspectacular finale that provides relatively sufficient closure but doesn’t quite deliver the same emotional or visceral impact as Yukine’s ablution. For one thing, watching two angry guys swordfight just isn’t as visually impressive as the ablution; also, the fact that Hiyori is mostly just sitting/lying around this week, though ironically had she not shown up at all, Yato might not have beaten Rabo.

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Most importantly though, this battle didn’t hit as hard because we never really cared about Rabo. He’s significantly less interesting than the more puckish Nora, and kinda comes off as that lame old friend yelling “You changed, man! You used to be cool evil!” at Yato constantly. We were far more invested in Yukine’s fate, and appreciated the fact everyone had to put aside their baggage and chip in to help save him. There’s no redeeming Rabo.

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Rabo ultimately just had a death wish, and wanted someone who remembered him to end his life that had become meaningless because no one else did. He also seems to figure out pretty late in the game that the key to getting Yato as angry as possible is by hurting Hiyori. About her: even though the memory orb shatters, she gets her memories back on her own, thanks to Yato’s smell. Scent being the sense most tied to memory, this kinda makes sense.

With Rabo taken out and Nora again masterless (we imagine she and Soul Eater’s Excalibur would get along famously), Yato begs Hiyori to cut her ties with him an Yukine. Not surprisingly, she flatly refuses. After all, the girl who can break out of a powerful shinki’s spell and beat the crap out of a calamity god for being too close is not the kind of girl to end her two most meaningful friendships just to live a “safer” life.

7_very_goodRating: 7 (Very Good)
Average Rating: 7.667
MyAnimeList Score: 8.29

Noragami – 11

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So we got slightly ahead of ourselves when we said Iki forgot all about Yato and Yukine; turns out it’s just Yato she’s forgotten (at first). Therefore Yukine doesn’t panic, and assures his master she’ll remember him in time. Yato breaks out his awesome artistic skills to try to get her to remember, but doesn’t make any progress.

Then Nora shows up and shows them the memories she’s taken from Hiyori, and will give them back if they defeat her new master Rabo. Yukine has no idea who Rabo is, but sees how much he gets to Yato in their brutal (and very cool) fight. Then Yukine goes to Kofuku and Yato goes to Tenjin, seeking answers.

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Kofuku tells Yukine what she already told Iki: that Yato was a calamity god like Rabo, but has changed, no longer fulfilling bad wishes. Knowing that Iki was fine with this, Yukine is also willing to set Yato’s past aside. But then Tenjin tells Yato perhaps Hiyori’s amnesia is a blessing in disguise: the separation she needed from the Far Shore to stop becoming a half-phantom and focus on living in her own world.

While we’re sure he’s not happy about it, Yato concurs, and tells Yukine to stop seeing Hiyori. Nora may have inadvertently solved Hiyori’s problem is solved, right? Well, Yukine being Yukine, he shows Hiyori the picture book Yato had begun (but the last page of which Yukine had to draw in a, shall we say, more naive scrawl). When he hands the book to her, she loses her memory of him as well.

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So no, Nora wouldn’t inadvertently help anyone; she’s too evil. Instead, this is no longer a matter of Yato grudgingly closing the book on his friendship with Hiyori: it’s about restoring her memory before there’s nothing left but an empty vessel. While the stakes are higher, we think part of Yato and Yukine are glad they don’t have to say goodbye, having come to love her as much as she loves them. They’ll get her memory back and fix her tail problem the right way.

Yato and Yukine stop by Hiyori’s to tell her they’ll fix her memory. It moves her to tears she can’t even explain due to the amnesia, but she’s also moved to grabbing Yato’s shoulder as they teleport away, leaving her mortal body behind. Does this mean she’s willing to give them the benefit of the doubt and support them? Is that even wise, in her deteriorating condition? We’ll find out next week, when Noragami (or Noragami’s first cour; we’re not sure yet) wraps up.

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Rating: 8 
(Great)

Blood Lad – 01

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Charlie Staz Blood is a territory leader in the Demon World descended from vampires who loves manga, anime, and games from the human world. When a human girl, Yanagi Fuyumi, stumbles into his territory, he has his lieutenant Deku send her to him at once, and showers her with attention, even shrugging off an enemy challenge. When Yanagi herself suggests he deal with the enemy, he realizes he likes her and will do anything for her. After defeating the enemy, he returns to find she’s been eaten by a plant, with only her uniform and a skeleton remaining.

Just then, Yanagi appears naked in his bed, marked as a ghost. Staz vows to bring her back to life, and searches manga for the answer. She suggests they visit the spot where she first crossed over, a “black curtain” that leads to the human world. After sending her to Mamejirou and Saty to clear her for travel, and hires Mimic Yoshida, who can assume the form of anyone, to serve as his body double while he’s gone, Staz and Yanagi prepare to cross over to the human world.

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Soul Eater. Ao no Exorcist. Accel World. All deal with other worlds and are all big, bold, and showy, and so is Blood Lad. It’s animation is really nothing special but the colors are fantastic; it’s a vivid, fun thing to watch and that goes a long way for us. But of all those series we listed, it’s also the least serious, at least so far. The nearly constant levity could have been jarring, but isn’t. It indirectly spoofs those more serious series while surging along with its story very swiftly and confidently.

Staz is not the brightest bulb but he’s neither bland not boring. As for the girl, while we can understand her novelty from Staz’s perspective, she came off as pretty weak, helpless, and passive. That said, both the OP and ED (and a short moment in the episode) show a girl who may well be her opposite in every way; perhaps they’ll complement each other later on. We’ll also see whether Staz can really restore her life, or if her current situation becomes the new normal, and the demon world her new home.

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Rating:7 (Very Good)

Sket Dance – 69

In the first half, Bossun has to go to the bathroom, but finds himself constantly blocked or otherwise prevented from going. In the second half, Tsubaki asks the Sket-dan to help him refine a two-page manga-style wanted ad for the student council to replace Agata and Michiru.

Our first reaction to half an episode being dedicated to taking a shit is “Really, Sket Dance? You that short on ideas?” But as the segment progressed, we found ourselves enjoying watching Bossun squirm as a proxy for ourselves, and admired the audacity of devoting an entire half to such a ‘high concept’. Sket Dance once again proves its adeptness at putting its characters in extremely relatable situations. Who hasn’t had one of those days when you just can’t get to a toilet in time…or worse, you get to one, and suddenly your colon won’t cooperate? Well, at least we’ve never been held up by a visual kei guy.

The second part was equally competant, and surprisingly involved manga without involving Saotome Roman. That’s not a bad thing, as it was nice to get a fresh art style for Tsubaki’s poster. As artists who have always been weary of “permanent” media such as watercolor, gauche, and ink, we also connected with the pitfalls of those media: when you make a mistake, you have to improvise to erase it or make it seem intentional. This half also served as foreshadowing for the recruiting of two new student council members, who are already in the OP.


Rating: 5 (Average)

Sket Dance – 42

In part one, the Sket-dan hangs out with Momoka, who is worried about her impending role in a stage play. The script contains extremely simple dialogue, leaving the actors to interpret it how they choose. Practicing with Bossun, they play the proposal scene straight, then Switch makes the character her hulk-like father in a postapocalyptic setting; then Bossun and Momoka pretend to be Americans, saying whatever English phrases sound vaguely like the Japanese dialog. At her rehersal, Momoka sings her lines, impressing her director.

This part was all about taking a simple idea – like the sparse script – and coming up with several very different interpretations. It succeeds giving Bossun and Switch different personas for Momoka to bounce off of. We like the idea that Bossun is a good actor in his own right, and here he even throws off his coyness and embraces Momoka. He ceases to be Bossun and becomes the dull character. Bossun is the kind of guy who could well be good at everything – as long as he puts in the effort. Both the opening scene at the karaoke and the rehersal with the director prove that Momoka can do no wrong; she’ll always find success no matter what she does.

In part two, Himeko is contemplating what she wants to do in the future when Roman busts in with news: her manga has won a prize and has been published in Margerine magazine. It’s a poorly-drawn, rambling affair, but the Sket-dan agrees it is at least fun. Momoka’s protege Fumi shows her her own manga. Momoka is very impressed, and suggests they work together to get more of their work published.

Roman is an interesting character in that she more than any other non-core character manipulates and changes the rules of the episodes in which she appears. She is a master of time, space, and matter, able to create scenery and transitions like some kind of sorcery. The sket-dan can even inexplicably hear her inner voice. Like Momoka, Roman has managed to find success despite not having the best technical skills – her drawing is shaky and the story is a random mess, but the editors chose it for its sheer audacity. As usual, the sket-dan’s commentary during her manga presentation provided ample laughs.


Rating: 3

Bakuman 2 – 12

Miura wants Ashirogi Muto to do a gag manga, and brings a wealth of data to back up his preference. The data entices Takagi, but Mashiro still refuses, angering Miura, who suggests Takagi get a different artist. Takagi walks out, enraged. Eventually Miura apologizes for suggesting the split, but his immense package of gag manga and notes convinces Mashiro that it will be okay to do a gag manga after all. Meanwhile, Aoki struggles with writing Shounen romance when she has no experience, then meets a successful author who’s very much like her.

Every once in a while we find ourselves caring more about the supporting characters, and this was one of those times. Mashiro and Takagi are basically stuck the whole time, either waiting on Miura or butting heads with him. Nothing is getting done, and they remain unserialized. But while we’ve never much liked Miura, we do appreciate that he’s new to editing, and he’s showing signs of improvement. Using data to try to convince his guys was a good idea; his main flaw was letting his own emotions form that roadblock. Also, suggesting best friends to split up? Bush league, dude.

But who really tickled our fancy this week was Aoki Kou. She used to be so stoic and wooden, but we saw a fair amount of her this week, and got inside her head, and it’s not an absolute icebox in there. She lies to a potential future editor about her experience with love, because she’s as unsure about writing that kind of stuff as Takagi is with humor. In both cases, there’s nothing for it but to do it and see. Meeting Aiko, an author she likes, seems to intrigue her. When asked “Why Manga?”, Aoki answers simply because she loves it. Whatever insecurities she harbors, there’s no doubt of that.


Rating: 3