Boku dake ga Inai Machi – 12 (Fin)

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Well, have egg on my face. Just when I thought the show had already reached its main resolution, just when I wasn’t in love with the direction I thought it was taking with Satoru’s new future, and just when I was a little impatient that last week seemingly ended in the same place as the week before, ERASED didn’t just ignore and then subvert my expectations; it pushed them off a school roof with gusto.

It all starts with a little necessary backtracking. Satoru isn’t calm and cool up on that roof alone with Yashiro because he’s content with the life he’s lived and the good he’s done for those around him. It’s because he has a plan. It’s a plan that we can only speculate about until it happens, but it was made with the help of Kenta and Hiromi, who are committed to helping Satoru again, if that’s what he wants.

They feel that way because when he, the superhero, needed help, he believed in them, and so they believed right back. Without that mutual belief in one another, the amazing things he achieved wouldn’t have happened…and Satoru would have likely been murdered up on the roof.

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Call it “One Last Job” for Satoru & Friends: the job that even their nemesis doesn’t see coming, because he’s so consumed with putting Satoru in a box with either jail or death as the escape routes, like a rat in a maze. He uses a fatal muscle relaxant IV on Kumi (with Satoru’s fingerprints on the bag) to create that awful choice, and keeps grinning with glee about finally besting the one who ruined all his plans.

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This is as superhero-y as you can get: the Villain thinking he has the Hero, his Nemesis, in his clutches and at his mercy, and just when victory as he sees it is in sight, the hero wiggles out. The hero wins, with a move way out of left field and yet deliciously awesome in its precision and timing.

Satoru says Yashiro the one who has lost, not only because he was able to save all those victims from him (including his mother in the future) and thwart all his attempts to frame him (including this one), but because for fifteen years—only an instant for him, but an agonizing crawl for Yashiro—while he slept, Yashiro didn’t kill him.

He couldn’t, because Satoru was the only one who knew who he was; that something that fills the void everyone has and needs to have filled. He can’t kill him because of that.

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And Satoru means that quite literally. Sure, Yashiro could let go, which he does, but if Satoru dies then, so does the one thing in his life that’s made him feel anything. The void returns. But Yashiro doesn’t die even when Yashiro decides to let go, because his friends arranged a cushion for him to land safely on, and they also serve as witnesses for Yashiro’s attempted murder.

Yashiro lost because he was alone; because the only person that could fill his void was someone he was committed to ruining; tormenting; erasing. And yet, Yashiro, who truly took fifteen years of Satoru’s life away from him, may have actually been doing him a favor, for the life Satoru lived when we met him was one of dark repressed memories, dead classmates and friends, and most importantly, a life where he had ceased “taking the bull by the horns”.

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It took more struggle to get there, but Satoru was, with his mom and his buddies, finally able to bring Yashiro to true justice. He was able to live on once his deep sleep had ended, and both his memories of heroic deeds, and the dramatic one he performed on the roof to put Yashiro away, filled a void in him that was present in the original timeline, before any Revivals.

This older Satoru keeps taking the bull by the horns. After being a real hero, he became able to write about heroes, compellingly enough to have anime made about them. He’s by all rights a great success, but when he returns back to the city after visiting all his old friends in Hokkaido (and I liked how they teased Misato as a possible love interest), a void still remains in him: one shaped like Kitagiri Airi, the wonderful soul who got lost in all the time-shifting…

…Or so we and Satoru thought. Or maybe he didn’t think that. Why else would he return to the bridge where he and Airi parted, with him in handcuffs and she in tears? Kayo was never meant to be the girl Satoru ended up with after all. When Airi appears, asking brightly if she could share some shelter from the snow with him, everything comes full circle.

It’s a bit cliche, but it’s true: believing in people leads them to believe in you; that’s how you gain allies and friends. It’s one big loop of believing and void-filling. And there you have it: a very nifty and moving ending to my favorite anime of the Winter! I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did.

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Boku dake ga Inai Machi – 01 (First Impressions)

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Yikes, Hannah did not like Active Raid one bit; no she did not! I, on the other hand, seem to have stumbled on what could be one of the season’s top shows. It’s certainly the best so far after one episode. And it did it with a highly realistic and immersive setting; a gloomy atmosphere full of regret over things not done or unsaid; and a young man unable to progress in life, still haunted by hazy memories and mysteries of the past. Moreover, it didn’t pull its punches.

Oh yeah, and said young man, 29-year-old struggling mangaka/pizza delivery boy Fujinuma Satoru, has a power. No, he can’t defeat villains with one punch, but he does periodically, involuntarily go back a couple of minutes in time when something bad happens around him, enabling him to take action to prevent disaster.

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The reveal of that ability is the first of many jolts this episode gave me, and it’s an ability expertly demonstrated when he stops a truck from hitting a little boy in the crosswalk. Saving the boy gets him injured, and while he’s out, he remembers one of those hazy memories: a haunting image of a little girl in a red coat standing alone in the snowy night. This realm – near the “heart of his mind”, is a place he has always feared, and both his creative calling and social life are suffering as a result.

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That doesn’t mean good things don’t happen to Satoru. His selfless, heroic actions were witnessed by a cute high school girl (and his pizza joint co-worker) Katagiri Airi, who stays by his bedside, now seeing him in a new light. But Satoru doesn’t see anything more coming of such an auspicious encounter; after all, they’re not the same generation, and a lot of her “Gen-Y” sayings and doings are strange and frightening to him.

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Speaking of generations, his mother Sachiko, 52 but looking 32 (he calls her an ageless “yokai” more than once) crashes at his house for a while when he’s discharged from the hospital. This puts Satoru in yet another light, not as the intriguing senpai with the secret heroic life, but the darling son whose mother is worried about him.

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Both his mom’s presence and news of abductions on the television bring more memories to the surface, to when Satoru was a little kid and used to play with a local guy he nicknamed “Yuuki.” Something seems a little off about how Yuuki looks and talks, and sure enough, after two kids from Satoru’s class are abducted, Yuuki is arrested as the culprit and sent to prison for kidnapping and murder.

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When Sachiko and Airi cross paths, the former invites the latter to Satoru’s for dinner, and Satoru starts to suspect his mom is looking for a wife for him, taking Airi’s words about him being “a friend she respects” as a mere polite formality, and that she has no further interest in him. But I imagined, like Sachiko did, that Airi was more interested in Satoru than he thought, considering she bothered to spend so much time with him as late.

Later, as Satoru looks further into the crimes Yuuki was accused of, Sachiko gets suspicious of a person she sees out in the city, knowing the serial abduction and murder case isn’t actually closed yet. She’s always regretted withholding info from Satoru, and making him forget as much as he could about the dark events that transpired in the fifth grade.

Because Satoru knows Yuuki didn’t abduct or kill anyone. It was someone else. Further, that scene of the girl in red – Hinazuki Kayo – was the last time Satoru saw her before she disappeared. He’s blamed himself for not asking her if he could walk her home ever since.

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In any case, Sachiko never gets the chance to come clean with her son, as a mysterious assailant in a black suit enters the apartment and suddenly stabs her in the back, killing her. Now this was a huge jolt. Holy shit. Here, I had settled into this nice, warm, pleasant atmosphere with Satoru and his lovely mother and Airi and it’s all taken away with one plunge of a knife. Damn…

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The killer passes Satoru in the hall as he returns home from the bookstore, and only moments after discovering his mother inside his apartment, the neighbor sees him with blood on his hands and calls the cops. Things threaten to spiral out of control fast as Satoru—like Yuuki, AKA Shiratori Jun—looks poised to be framed. And my heart is pumping.

Just then, another blue butterfly appears – a sign another “revival” or time jump is about to occur, and all of a sudden Satoru isn’t dealing with cops in the city anymore. He’s back in Hokkaido, in the snow, and he’s gone back a little more than a couple minutes, because it’s 1988.

No doubt, Kayo is still alive, and he has a chance to do things differently. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is one hell of an enticing way to end your first episode!

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Aoharu x Kikanjuu – 02

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After a clever and fun first outing, things get a little more tedious as Matsuoka whisks Hotaru off to an airsoft field, where she proceeds to have a lot more fun fighting and gradually making a new friend than I had watching her. We’re introduced to Matsuoka’s antisocial friend Yukimura, who calls Hotaru “prevert-san” and bristles at Matsuoka’s bringing in of a third person. He doesn’t want anymore friends, because he was betrayed by so many of them before.

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And there’s the issue: we see his friends tearing up a notebook of what is presumably his drawings, but the exact nature of the betrayal escapes us, and Yukimura just isn’t that interesting a character anyway, even though we see several sides of him. There’s also the fact that Hotaru continued to hide her true gender from both of them, and while I thought for a sec Yuki figured it out, that was also ultimately unclear (did he give her the S&M manga because he assumed it would freak her, a girl, out?)

At any rate, it doesn’t really matter. The airsoft combat was brief and uninspiring due to their opponents being generic assholes (though they do eventually end up prostrating before their favorite mangaka Yuki), Yuki’s turnaround felt to rushed and forced, and it’s likely this show is going to keep going with Hotaru pretending to be a guy for the time being, even though the most interesting thing they could to is get the truth out there. My impatience with that major gripe will likely continue to sap my enthusiasm for this show, so it’s better if I exit early.

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Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun – 06

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The first half of this week’s episode introduces us to the last member of the ensemble, Wakamatsu Hirotaka. He’s on the basketball team, but is always getting rammed by the out-of-control Seo Yuzuki. It’s stressing him out and leading to insomnia.

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Nozaki provides a remedy, if technically by accident, when Wakamatsu is over at his place. He switches on his iPod and a recording of Yuzuki’s beautiful singing voice comes on, putting Wakamatsu to sleep instantly. Yes, the source and solution to his stress are the same person; he just doesn’t know it.

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This is not at all a bad premise for a shoujo manga, and Wakamatsu decides to confront Yuzuki with methods used in manga: leaving a note in her locker that Chiyo thinks is a love letter; meeting her atop the school at dusk; even using gloves to challenge her to a duel. But even if Waka executed all of these perfectly, Yuzuki takes everything precisely the wrong way.

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Even when he yells at her, she’s too busy thinking of a nickname for him, and when he gives her gloves, she believes the whole meeting was so “Waka” could give her a gift. It’s a case of two people who like each other, but are on such different wavelengths they’re unable to connect.

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Part Two deals with another common shoujo scenario: the girl lovingly nursing the sick guy back to health. Naturally, there’s a twist to it, as Chiyo isn’t the only one the ill Nozaki sends an SOS text to. Waka and Hori also arrive. Nozaki doesn’t need medicine; he just wants someone to stay in bed for him, as if following the spirit if not the letter of doctor’s orders made any sense.

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Instead, Chiyo insists he stay in bed himself, and she and Hori decide to finish his manga for him before tomorrow’s deadline. Being the seasoned manga senpais to Waka is of no avail when they discover screentone has to be applied to the pages, something they’ve never done. Waka proves better at it than either of them.

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When Nozaki is too rambling about the dialogue, the three decided to add their own, with Chiyo and Waka using Yuzuki as a template for Mamiko, while Hori uses the same shimmering background for Suzuki, projecting Kashima. They finish the manga and it’s technically fine, but content-wise it’s a hot mess, and Nozaki has no choice but to ask for an extension.

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Yuzuki-as-Mamiko is pretty funny, and a nice call-back to the first half story. It seems the show will rarely combine all seven members of its ensemble for one story, unless of course all of them end up going on a trip together or something. having a different combination of strong, quirky personalities each week is keeping things fresh.

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Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun – 05

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Nozaki gives his apartment a thorough cleaning for his extremely curt editor, Miyamae. Chiyo doesn’t think the editor likes Nozaki at all, but Nozaki is totally in love with the guy for the punctual and straightforward nature of their communication. We learn why Nozaki feels this way in an episode that explores the mangaka-editor relationship, which can be a treacherous sea.

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Nozaki has been scarred by his previous editor, Maeno (whose name means “previous”): who always suggested and took credit for obvious ideas Nozaki had either already come up with, or ones he hates. After a subtly manipulative, self-important boob like Maeno, Miyamae seems pretty darn “cool and mature”, as Nozaki describes him.

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Nozaki is also troubled by the fact his neighbor and fellow mangaka—the beautiful college student Miyako Yukari—is still suffering under the affable boot heel of Maeno, who forces her to put random tanukis in everything she draws, regardless of genre (her apartment is also full of the things). The website set up ostensibly for artists’ benefit is full of posts of him describing what he’s wearing or abusing Miyako’s manuscript.

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Miyako should get mad—indeed, when Maeno shows up unannounced and teases Nozaki, Nozaki very nearly hulks up—but she doesn’t. Such is the insufferable, inscrutable power of Maeno, something Nozaki is very glad to be (mostly) rid of. From there, Nozaki receives criticism from Miyamae that he isn’t revealing enough of Mamiko’s emotions to the reader. Believing the only way to understand Mamiko is to become Mamiko, Nozaki decides to do just that.

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The results are unsurprisingly hilarious, though not as over-the-top as you’d think. He makes a bunch of bentos to give to friends to try to capture Mamiko’s feelings, but ends up conjuring a somewhat sinister Mamiko. He also tries to understand what it’s like to have girls for enemies. In an inspired choice, he does this by speeding Kashima around on a hand cart; her hordes of worshipers in hot pursuit.

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The chase sequence is a hilarious peace of physical comedy, and the little moment the “spurned” Kashima has with Hori afterward is pretty cute as well. Ultimately all of Nozaki’s research only leads to an even more confusing, unrealistic version of Mamiko that further frustrates Miyamae. Even so, it was neat to watch the creative process in action.

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Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun – 04

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Mikorin reveals himself as far more comfortable around fictional girls than real ones, as evidenced by his love of dating sims. When he tries to get Nozaki into them as well, a hilarious send-up of the genre ensues. As an accomplished shoujo artist, Nozaki enters the game as the protagonist fom his own manga, who isn’t the slightest bit interested in any of the girls in the game. He also serves as skeptic to Mikorin’s true believer, picking the sim apart as he plays.

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Nozaki sees ulterior motives in the characters that don’t belong in the game’s genre, but on one point manages to convert Mikorin with the sentiment that the game’s protagonist’s best friend Tomoda is way too selfless, sacrificing his own youth to support them. Suddenly motivated to pull an all-nighter drawing a manga in which Tomoda is the protagonist, the most suitable person to pair him with turns out to be the protagonist from the game, making it a BL manga and thoroughly confusing Chiyo when she arrives in the morning.

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After subverting the dating sim by pointing out the sidekick best friend is the most compeling character in it, GSNK moves on to a new story in its second half, in which Mikorin must prepare for what is, despite his playboy persona at school, his first mixer ever. He solicits advice from Nozaki and Chiyo, who turn out to be ill-suited to the task, as both of them would prove insufferable at a mixer. Nozaki, posing as a girl, gives conversation-killing answers to Mikorin’s questions, while Chiyo is only interested in meeting someone who matches Nozaki’s description exactly.

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Nozaki also insists on “going to the toilet” with Chiyo to talk “in private”, but when Mikorin insists on joining them, they’re all just in Nozaki’s bathroom for no reason, which is great! Ultimately, Mikorin sends Kashima (who thankfully escapes physical abuse this week) to the mixer in his place. The Prince ends up conquering all four of the other girls, leaving the three guys in the dust. Not that having Mikorin there would have resulted in a dramatically different outcome, but Kashima sure seemed more into it.

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Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun – 03

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This week introduces us to two more characters who appear from the OP rainbow heretofore unknown to us: the short-statured drama club president Hori Masayuki, and the dashing, statuesque, academically and athletically gifted “Prince of the School”, Kashima Yuu.

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Interestingly, Chiyo assumes both of them to be the opposite gender, getting angry at Mikorin for “cheating” on the guy in Nozaki’s shoujo manga with this Prince, who turns out to be a girl, and worried about Nozaki spending late nights with the mystery background artist, who turns out to be a guy.

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With six of seven listed main characters now introduced, rankings are inevitable, and sadly it’s been a game of diminishing returns. We like the pair of Chiyo and Nozaki the best, followed by Mikoto and Yuzuki, and finally Kashima and Hori. And we like Kashima considerably more than Hori. Hori’s a bit of a dick!

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Maybe he’s a great actor trapped in the wrong body, and he’s got that chip on his shoulder. He certainly likes Kashima far more than he lets on and genuinely wants her to shine on the stage (which she does). But what’s with all the physical abuse? None of the instances where Hori hit Kashima were what I’d call abhorrent…but they weren’t that funny, either.

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Let’s just call them..awkward, shall we? If she’d hit him back once or twice, maybe it wouldn’t have rubbed me the wrong way, but it’s very one-sided and repetitive: she pisses him off, he draws blood. Too often Kashima came across as a big dumb lovable punching bag for Hori’s frustrations, which overshadowed her more positive qualities and sapped some but not all of the comedy.

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Barakamon – 03

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It’s not very often an episode comes around where I’m snickering or laughing almost the entire time, but this was one of those. It all starts with the stern, severe, hard-as-stone gaze of SAMURAI HARU, capturing the pride and maturity a youngin’ feels when she’s learned something new, the Kana on a chocolate bar and milk carton, in this case. Of course, when she’s corrected, the swagger vanishes and she’s back to being a little kid.

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That’s the first of a series of vignettes the episode starts out with, enticing my palette and leaving me wanting more, then getting something a little different that produces the same effect. It’s a tactic similar to that used by chef Thomas Keller to relieve well-off people of hundreds of dollars and many hours of their evenings…and it works.

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When Seishuu goes to the town general store, he learns a clever way to pick up fallen needles (YEAH BITCH! MAGNETS! OH!), and also gets a taste of the older villagers’ thick and all but indecipherable dialect, one that sometimes even leads to misunderstandings between each other. It’s also funny that one old lady thinks another is hard of hearing, when she really isn’t.

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The most sustained bit comes when Seishuu and Tamako end up going for the same bottle of ink; Seishuu lets the younger Tama have it (foreshadowing the episode’s eventual moral) for her manga manuscript, which Tama humbly asks him to take a look at. When he dare question the highly questionable content, Tama lets him have it in Full Mangaka Passion Mode.

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She’s extreme, but Seishuu can relate; they’re both artists, after all. That encounter segues to Tama lending him her favorite manga, then getting worried she accidentally lent him one of her incriminating BL mangas she secretly treasures (her whole story of how that came about is marvelous). She arrives at Seishuu’s house to clear up the misunderstandings he may be harboring, only to see him apparently locked in a passionate BL embrace with Hiroshi, which is another misunderstanding (Hiroshi merely caught him from falling).

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In the midst of all this island craziness, Seishuu had shipped off his latest and most expressive calligraphy for an exhibition, but is outraged and crestfallen to learn he only managed second place, losing to an eighteen year old whelp. When other whelps show up with their cheerful demeanor, he snaps at them, but again, Tama understands his passion, and she takes Miwa and leaves, leaving the cheering up to Haru, who keeps it simple: “Are you having fun right now?…If you’re not, let’s go have some!”

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She urges him to take a plastic bag and come with her and everyone else to the mochi-tossing ceremony to commemorate the building of a new boat. Seishuu is warned to stay away from the professionals (Yasuba and Panchi) but be aggressive. But again and again, he bounces off the crush of people, and is unable to snatch up a single mochi, despite being young above average in height, and keen.

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The ceremony is a simplified analog to his current situation with calligraphy: striving to be the best is futile: there will always be someone better. Pressing against those waves of reality is a waste of effort. It’s better to, as Yasuba says, say “Go on ahead” to the one who barges past. Yield to what must be yielded to and wait for the next opportunities, which will come with patience. Never stop fighting, but avoid unwinnable struggles.

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This was probably the best Barakamon to date, besting out the first episode (Don’t despair, first episode! Second Place is good too!). But I wouldn’t be surprised if a future episode comes along to best it. But for now, this is it, and it was glorious and hilarious from start to finish. From Samurai Haru and Psycho Poodle to Tama’s fujoshi ravings, it looked like the artists had as much fun drawing and voicing this one as I had watching it.

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Stay Observations:

  • “Kids grow up so fast.” LOL. Loved Giant Haru stomping off to the horizon.
  • The screaming noise Tama’s manga made when he slipped it out of the envelope was a nice touch.
  • “Society demands story elements it has never seen before,” proclaims Tama. Could she be talking about the show she’s in?
  • The BL manga that changed Tama’s life? Overtime Work Lovers: “Huh? You’re still here?!” That title is GOLD.
  • Tama uses Hideo Nomo’s “Tornado” delivery to throw the manga against a wall.
  • Seishuu and Hiroshi’s “embrace” literally blows Tama away…Akira style.
  • More village etiquette: Panchi knows she’s a heel during mochi-pickings, so she leaves home-cooked apology meals at the homes of those she wronged.
  • In the omake, Haru is appropriately mortified by how the schoolmaster (who looks and sounds like a gangster) uses crayfish as bait.

Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun – 02

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This week Chiyo doesn’t make any notable progress in advancing her relationship with Nozaki-kun. But that’s to be expected in just the second episode, when several quirky characters who appear in the OP still need to be introduced. This episode unveils two of them: Nozaki’s friend Mikoshiba “Mikorin” Mikoto in the first half, and Chiyo’s friend Seo Yuzuki in the second. Both feel like fun additions that expand the show’s avenues for comedy.

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In that regard, the two are getting closer in that they now know each another’s friends. What’s so funny is, neither really knows why the other is friends with them at all, as they’re both quite the handful. Mikoshiba is a playboy immensely popular with the girls, but he’s embarrassed of his own over-the-top flirtations. Despite his looks and typical behavior, he’s a super-shy dude.

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He and Chiyo don’t quite get along at first, and Chiyo mostly tolerates him as he looks down on her, then relying on her to keep busy at Nozaki’s studio. After a game-show inspired “draw-off”, it’s established he’s not good at drawing anything…except for the flowers and details that surround characters, which he’s really good at; though not enough restraint with that element makes for irritating heroes. (The draw-off also shows Chiyo’s really good at classical rendering.)

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What’s great is that Nozaki uses Mikorin’s personality as a model, not for his heroes, but for his heroines, something made plain as day to Chiyo after a cursory gaze at one of Nozaki’s pages. When he wants to come up with a new model and asks Chiyo if she knows anyone appropriate for a shojo character, Chiyo comes up with her friend Seo Yuzuki.

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Yuzuki just happens to be running for her life from teachers like some kind of delinquent, and when Chiyo tells Nozaki Yuzuki gets people angry easily, Yuzuki demonstrates it right in front of him, though not intentionally. She’s simply extremely oblivious, also ably demonstrated as she walks through a photo being taken, over wet calligraphy ink, and right between a guy confessing to a girl.

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Her antics on the basketball court—and the way in which the team (and ostensibly other sports teams) use her as an example of what not to do—are also a reliable source of laughs, especially considering she believes her problem is she’s too perfect. Still, her charm and charisma wear Nozaki down until he’s happily taking her half of the work a teacher assigned them. Sometimes she can seem like pure evil, yet she the singing voice of an angel.

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She really reminds us of a more oblivious Himeko. In fact, the whole episode had a similar air to Sket Dance’s excellent ninth episode, in which a mangaka is looking for interesting characters around school, and the Sket-dan make a highly unconvincing case for themselves until the last minute. Nozaki and Chiyo need similar convincing that there’s more Mikorin and Chiyo than their very evident negative qualities they exude at first blush.

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Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun – 01

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Commiserations, Ao Haru Ride: you had the misfortune of being followed by this on my watchlist; not that you would have fared much better had I watched them in opposite order. Getting down to brass tacks, this slick, nimble laugh-fest of an episode made Ao seem like a feckless, nebulous, lethargic, overly straight-laced chore. And we didn’t even dislike Ao Haru Ride…while we were watching it!

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We could only summon a slight snicker or two from Ao Haru Ride, while numerous parts of this episode had me loosing legit belly laughs. It’s a show that’s not afraid to let its hair down and get silly and ridiculous, as it does when Nozaki and Chiyo brainstorm ways for a guy and girl to ride a bike, culminating in the two riding a tandem bicycle in similarly goofy ways. Also, the misunderstandings between the two in matters regarding romance were understandable and/or clever; never labored.

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The bikes are just one example of the many ways the show grabbed hold of ideas and squeezed just the right amount of comedy out of them before moving on (the many cats mistaking Nozaki for a telephone pole, or something, were another). The exercises in futility that are Chiyo’s attempts to confess to Nozaki are another; both attempts bookend the episode and end in the same undesired result for Chiyo: a signed autograph.

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Another plus: unlike the kids in Ao Haru Ride, Chiyo and Nozaki aren’t just bland, confused students milling around school trying to fit in; they’re artists. Nozaki is a published and highly popular manga artist; the fact he’s an enormously successful shoujo artist is one of the many running gags, as it’s never adequately explained exactly how he’s able to touch the hearts of so many girls with zero romantic experience.

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But that lack of experience also informs how he looks at Chiyo. She’s always looked at him as a love interest, but gains even more respect and admiration when she finds out what he does (even if she’s not sure how he does it). Nozaki, meanwhile, has been watching her for some time too, but as a mangaka scouting for talent, which Chiyo has. The two settle into a nice cozy creative routine, and their “bicycle research”, while hilarious, also exemplifies their collaborative efficacy, as it leads to a popular manga, a source of pride for Chiyo.

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In short: they make a damn good team. Sure, they seem incapable of seeing eye to eye on matters of romance between them, but chalk that up to Chiyo simply failing to get unmistakable words out (she only gets out mistakable words, like “I’m a fan!” She may have struck out twice, but she’s still very much in the batter’s box, just as Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun has earned a solid place on our roster. Sports metaphors!

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Stray Observations:

  • The sheer volume of laughs approached those of the very best episodes of Sket Dance; not faint praise from us.
  • Never heard Ozawa Ari before, but she’s very good here as Chiyo, expressing a great range of emotions. Both her inner and outer dialogues fizz like a fresh Alka-seltzer.
  • If there’s ever an anime where the guy speeds off in a bike while the girl runs behind him, I want to watch it.
  • A subtle but ever-present sight gag is in effect here as well: Chiyo is absolutely dwarfed by Nozaki, underscoring the figurative “heights” she’ll have to scale for her feelings to reach him.
  • Those cats…so random…but so good.
  • The ending theme was kinda obnoxious…but who cares?

Bakuman 2 – 21

As Tanto winds down, Ashirogi Muto struggle to find a new idea, until Miura suggests they bring back Money & Intelligence, but add “Appearence” to make it KTM. Takagi is fired up and has loads of ideas, butwhen they submit the manuscript for serialization, it fails. Rather than improve KTM, Miura orders them to do a mainstream fantasy in the vein of One Piece, but the resulting manuscript doesn’t even make it to the serialization meeting. Miura arrives with Hattori, who wants to help in anyway he can. Meanwhile, Iwase reiterates her ‘interest’ in him, and he gives her a set amount of time to win his heart.

When we learned there’d be three serialization meetings, we imagined three episodes in which Mashiro and Takagi come up with three manga ideas, and naturally the first and second would be rejected. But things went faster than we expected, with them breezing through two manga concepts in one week, leaving them with one more shot: if they fail again, they’re through with Jack. One annoyance of this series is how it’s paced: earlier in the first season, an episode would only cover a day or two – now weeks can pass with nary a label to indicate it.

Pacing aside, clearly there’s plenty more material to come – there’s a third season coming later this year – and that makes us wonder, just how long is Ashirogi Muto going to continue these cycles of small victories followed by failures. When will they finaly surpass Niizuma Eiji, like Hattori and others believe they can? As viewers, we’re starting to get a little antsy. Is Bakuman merely stringing us along, or will there be some eventual gratification? We know, for one thing, Mashiro’s goal of getting an anime with Miho voicing it is still a long way off, and their marriage with it. So until then Bakuman has to make a case for itself. Something good’s gotta happen.


Rating: 3

Usagi Drop 8

It’s mostly back to just Daikichi and Rin this week, as the ep opens with a typical late summer morning. Rin has started summer vacation and her birthday is imminent. O-bon is also near, so Daikichi decides they’ll take the day to visit the grave of Souichi, his grandfather; her father (and yes, she’s starting to figure out that she’s his aunt).

Meanwhile, we see a lot more Masako, who looks like she hasn’t slept in a long time. When her not-quite boyfriend tries to comfort her, calling her a girl, she spazes out; when one is a mangaka, one cannot be anything else and expect to succeed, in her mind. That includes being a girl, or a girlfriend, or a mother. It probably applies to being a daughter or sister, but the series doesn’t show her family. In any case, she’s fun to watch, as she averts her gaze and fidgets.

However, she still visits Souichi’s grave on the same day, and Daikichi eventually makes his presence known, after some rather bizarre hiding behind lampposts. He’s a little perturbed by her (at least appearing to have) a boyfriend, but still tells her Rin is with him, and welcomes her to watch from afar. Also, Daikichi, I don’t care how bright and sharp Rin is, hold the girl’s hand when you’re walking by the road!


Rating: 3.5

Sket Dance 9

By gum, that was a fan-bloody-tastic episode of Sket Dance, which embodies everything that works with the series, and has a little bit of everything. A mangaka named Hinohara Enta visits the Sket-Dan looking for ideas. Initially, it becomes a critique of Bossun’s merits of leadership (or lack thereof). When Enta leaves, Bossun drinks a soda that’s actually a potion that makes his body three years old. Hilarity ensues.

And by hilarity, I mean virtually non-stop laughs. Both Himeko and Switch take on the roles of doting parents, annoying Bossun to no end. Paritcularly Himeko’s manic maternal energy is a sight to see, as is Switch’s creepy, bawdy “dad”. Then they bump into pretty much every character they’ve interacted with, and he wins over everyone (save one student council member who scolds him for not getting permission to shrink). As Enta notes, the school is a “garden of characters”, and a lush one, as they’re all so dramatically different and neurotic in their own ways.

But what made this episode truly genius is that it forgets nothing from this or any previous episodes and doesn’t treat the manga or shrinking story as throwaways, but brings everything to a rousing conclusion, complete with a tight little bow. Bossun, returned to normal, and the Sket-dan prove their worth, leaping straight into action when Enta’s bag is snatched (the original mission Bossun wanted to take on in the beginning), which completes a tale Enta draws a manga for. It’s a good one from where we’re standing, but in the very end, it turns out Enta wrote about everyone but Sket-dan…

In any case, this was a surprisingly complex web of little moments and stories all mixed together and played back at seemingly 1.5 times the speed of the average anime. There are tons of painterly, nicely-textured stills and really diverse and interesting animation throughout. It was hilarious and very well-done, I daresay Sket-dan’s finest moment yet. If there’s a second season that can maintain this level of quality comedy, I shall watch. Rating: 4