3-gatsu no Lion – 06

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We continue an in-depth journey and the running self-commentary of Rei’s life, including the recent slump that has kept him from advancing, even though as one of five players ever to become pros in middle school, he’s expected to become a master like the other four at some point.

Because Rei is still so young, his childhood was disrupted by such tragedy and trauma, the bad times always seemed to overshadow the good, and his “stepsister” Kyouko dug into him so deeply with hurtful words that sounded like the truth, Rei is left unable to process why he’s so unhappy and unable to move forward in life.

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Shogi, so far, hasn’t been the answer. Sure, he threw himself into it with all he had and has been celebrated as a prodigy, but when he’s not playing or training, he has a tendency to shut down. He doesn’t have friends (who aren’t also shogi players).

He barely goes to school, and keeps to himself when he does (I can’t recall even seeing one of his classmates). He admires master Touji Souya, who despite being as old as his teacher still has the face of a teenager; as if his distinguished, decorated career has caused time to stop.

Touji is the titular “God Child”, but I wonder if Rei looks up at him as an ideal to follow, or something he can never attain. Then again, he doesn’t know of Touji delved into shogi not out of love, but out of necessity, as he did. Maybe time stopping isn’t a good thing.

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After nearly a whole episode of navel-gazing and listing all of his problems, Rei and we get a welcome respite, as he runs into Hina in town and treats her to a McDonalds shake. It doesn’t take long for the kind and lovable Hina to notice Rei is feeling gloomy, and invites him to dinner back home.

Hina makes Rei feel ashamed and pathetic for worrying so much about his own issues when Hina is sitting there, a middle schooler worrying about a high schooler, putting his feelings before her own (then crashing and burning when her crush the baseball ace shows up).

If Rei’s going to move—if he wants to move—in life, hanging out more with the Kawamotos seems the way to go.

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Tanaka-kun wa Itsumo Kedaruge – 09

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Much of this week is spent in a McDonalds knockoff called “Wac”, where Tanaka’s disappointment at not getting the “Lucky Meal” toy he wanted (a mini-Roomba) is misconstrued as some kind of personal vendetta by the employee who served him.

We spend as much of the first segment with her worrying about Tanaka and Ohta “glaring” at her than we do with Tanaka and Ohta. She starts to go a little insane, though we know, of course, she’s totally mistaken and has no reason to fear our protagonists.

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She finally realizes at the end of Tanaka and Ohta’s visit to Wac that they’re actually nice people who thank her and call her amazing. Of course, that only makes her more confused and suspicious.

That brings us to Saya, Ohta’s little sister, who just happens to be Tanaka’s little sister’s best friend. Unlike Rino, Saya isn’t a perfect opposite-sex doppelganger of her brother, though she is blonde and tall. She’s also voiced by Touyama Nao, who for once voices a painfully shy, not boisterous, character.

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Saya is at first scared of Tanaka, but once Rino assures her there’s nothing to fear, Saya relaxes a little. She’s even able to carry on a convo with Tanaka when Rino is off ordering a drink, albeit talking about her own brother’s “Gorilla Level” on a scale of 1 to 5, which is apparently how both Tanaka and Saya gauge the effectiveness of a brother to protect his little sister.

When Ohta arrives and the cat comes out of the bag that he’s Saya’s big sister, it’s a big blow to Rino, who considers Saya her best friend but still can’t abide Saya’s big brother’s existence, at least in terms of his near-constant proximity to Tanaka.

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Saya at first thinks she’s an eyesore to Tanaka, causing him to be in a bad mood by sitting with him, but Rino can tell he’s actually in an uncommonly good mood. Saya chalks that up to the unique perspective of a little sister.

Then the opposite happens when Saya walks home with Ohta, and he can tell she had a good time hanging out with Tanaka, even though she doesn’t think she shows it on her face. Basically, Ohta shows the power of a big brother, which like a big sister, can tell things non-sisters and non-brothers simply can’t, due to their extensive experience living with each other.

I enjoyed the long-expected introduction of Saya, but also the little portrait of the McDonalds part-timer, and how books shouldn’t be judged by their covers, especially in the case of Tanaka and Ohta. They’re exceedingly nice guys; just give ’em a chance!

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Hataraku Maou-sama! – 12

Kamazuki Suzuno

Archangel Sariel and Suzuno take Chiho and Emi to the top of the Tocho and he attempts to extract the sacred sword “better half” from Emi. Maou arrives on the scene and is ambushed by Suzuno; he removes his uniform so it isn’t ruined. Olba Meyer escapes from the hospital and convinces Urushihara to join back up with him as he brings the moon closer to the earth, increasing Sariel’s powers, but Urushihara, content to remain a NEET, betrays and captures Olba. The citywide panic caused by the moon infuses Moau with enormous amounts of magical power; enough for him to take his true form. Suzuno protects Chiho and the injured Emi while Maou defeats Sariel. A healed Ashiya arrives too late to do anything, but all is well.

We like the decision here to end the Sariel arc with one cool-down episode left in the chamber. Not stretching the decisive battle over two episodes means that not a single minute is wasted in this episode, and it never drags. Right out of the gate, Emi is getting the crap beat out of her by Sariel’s lasers. She’s in this pickle because she depends on sacred power, and precisely because her arch-nemesis is a demon, he is the only one who can save her and Chiho. The irony is as delicious as McDonald’s new dolled-up Quarter Pounders. Sariel is also confident that Maou will never follow through on helping Chiho simply because he’s her manager. Little does he know: Maou is all about proving doubters wrong.

Suzuno finally lets go of her official duties and does the right thing, admitting the Maou of here and now is a kind and virtuous man and she has no quarrel with such men, only those like Sariel who make people suffer for false peace. We love how the episode plays around with Uruchihara’s loyalties by first having him join Olba and then stabbing him in the back simply because he loves his new life more than his old one. We loved how none of Maou’s speech to Sariel included a confession of his love for Chiho, only his solemn vow to protect his underlings. Most of all, we appreciated how much the episode balanced the heavy stuff with some of the most – and best – comedic moments of the series.

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Rating: 9 (Superior)

Stray Observations:

  • Olba sneaks up on an already weak Ashiya and slugs him before leaving the hospital. Why? Guess he just felt like it!
  • Just when you think Ashiya is about to contribute…he arrives too late. Poor guy.
  • Suzuno’s embarrassment at having to fight Maou while he’s in nothing but his boxers is pretty priceless, as is Emi’s delayed reaction to the fact her blouse was wide open.
  • Suzuno’s big hammer is pretty cool, and she’s a fast fighter. Glad she chose the right side in the end.
  • Sariel won’t go down as the most dimensional, memorable villain, but we did like how he started out as a creepy SFC manager.
  • The battle takes place in Shinjuku, and part of the backdrop is the Washington Hotel where we’ve stayed. Always neat to see real places you’ve been to show up in anime.

Hataraku Maou-sama! – 02

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Hero Emilia, AKA Yusa Emi, confronts Maou and attacks him with a knife; they’re both taken to the Police, who assume it’s a lovers’ quarrel. The next evening, realizing her life is no different from Maou and Shiro’s, she stops by their place, and eventually starts stalking Maou, but he never commits any sins. They meet up another night, and she tells him she’ll leave him alone if he simply continues living a normal life in Sasazuka. They’re both attacked by a magic sniper, and Emi drops her purse as they flee, and she must spend the night at his place. In the night, Maou gets two texts about impending earthquakes, both from Chiho and from an unknown sender.

On Ente Isla in their home universe, Maou and Yuusha were bitter enemies endowed with immense magical power locked in mortal combat. However, now that neither of them have enough magic to fight each other, they’ve arrived at a truce. Right away the show continues having fun with the clash of the worlds, as Emi tries to fight her nemesis with a 100-yen steak knife. Turns out she’s just as domesticated as he and Shiro, with a cushier job answering phones at a customer care center and a much cushier apartment to boot. Initially, it sickens her that Maou is so pathetic, because if the one being she’s destined to slay is a loser, what does it make her?

We do like how rapidly and efficiently Maou and Emi’s relationship progresses from growling adversaries to reluctant companions. Enemies united by common hardship is not a new concept, and it really works nicely, because what else are they going to do in this modern Japanese society? Not that Emi is 10% with this; she even tears up for a minute, wondering what the heck she’s doing consorting with demons. Not to mention her sidekick either didn’t make it through the gate or chose to abandon her, so she’s been all alone in this world, and it’s doubtless comforting to know she’s not alone anymore.


Rating: 8 (Great)

Stray Observations:

  • Naturally, Chiho has the hots for Maou. Hey, he’s a dedicated, hard-working, kind, friendly guy. What’s not to like?
  • As such, the mere sight of Emi sets off Chiho’s alarm and considers the scarlet-haired beauty her competition.
  • It’s only been two episodes, but they may have made us realize that we just might prefer magical people in the real world like this one than ordinary people in a magical world.
  • The hero/overlord banter sounded very Chuunibyou-ish at times…only here they’re not just making shit up!
  • “You use the same detergent as I do.” Baw.

Car Cameos:

Hataraku Maou-sama! – 01

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The Devil King Sadao is on the cusp of conquering his world when he is suddenly beaten by Hero Emilia and a coalition of human forces. He and his general Alsiel escape through a gate and end up in modern-day Tokyo. They take on the human names Maou Sadao and Ashiya Shirou, and as Shirou investigates way to restore their power, Maou pays for their modest living expenses with job at a MgRonald restaurant. He rises fast, but one day when he almost uses magic, he’s later confronted on the street by none other than Hero Emilia, who knows who he really is.

Even while enjoying the fast-paced and slickly-animated prologue, we were a little nervous about cracking open a series about Maou and Yuusha just a week after finishing another one, but the episode quickly jumped from the world of fantasy to the ordinary world and a highly entertaining and funny fish-out-of-water story. Like MJP, this first episode was a lot of fun, and while it contained quite a bit of plot to get things moving along, that plot never weighed it down; it had a lovely casual flow. It’s brimming with creativity, impeccable comic timing, and a nice helping of slice-of-life.

It’s great to see how fast these two dark lords get the hang of Japanese society, and while their ultimate plans are world domination, in the meantime, Maou is just a pleasant, decent, kind guy, who takes his MgRonald job very seriously. Also, his co-worker Sasaki Chiho is adorable. Shirou is a little worried that his boss might be getting too comfortable in this world, so he’s working feverishly on a way to get their magic powers back. But they might both be SOL if the hero (here a heroine) has anything to say about it.


Rating: 8 (Great)

Stray Observations:

  • This was directed by Hosoda Naoto, who also did Mirai Nikki.
  • The cab-hailing scene was pretty funny.
  • I tellya, that MgRonald doesn’t seem like that bad a place to work. The break room is downright livable!
  • Something tells us Emi planned to have Maou and Shirou move in to that initially seed flat that they eventually make their home. Perhaps she and that weird Witch of the Waste-looking landlady are in cahoots.
  • Maou looks a little like Okumura Rin from Blue Exorcist, but thankfully doesn’t sound like him. For the record, he’s voiced by the same guy as OreShura’s Eita.

Car Cameos:

Tokyo Trip Journal 3

6 June, Heisei 22 (Sun)

Wake up aound 5:15 AM. Bed is comfortable and surprisingly, long enough for my frame. A/C is not too harsh. I felt a bit killjoyish sleeping through a Saturday evening, but again, I was a walking corpse and in no condition for sensory overload yet. Didn’t have an appetite for anything other than water and sleep…slept about 12 hours total and woke up refreshed and more or less adjusted to the time, somehow. My Verizon phone even displays local time, but is roaming.

After briefly exploring my hotel, I buy a UCC Black Iced Coffee and start out; around 6 AM. Unlike my afternoon arrival, the city is almost deserted and silent, with the crowing of enormous ravens and bus engines being the dominant sounds. The skyscrapers loom overhead like a grove of mammoth trees. Like yesterday, my route is somewhat random…N, E, N, S, NE…but I am hungry so when I happen upon the first of many Tokyo McDonalds, I go there to grab breakfast. The place is three stories, everyone working there is pleasant and affable, the food looks precisely like it does in the pictures, and the portions aren’t immeasurable. An Egg McMuffin, hash brown and OJ cost 460 yen.

After a few attempts, I find an ATM that takes my card (at a 7 Eleven; Family Mart ATMS will only take Citibank) and procure funds for the coming days. Then I continue weaving through the streets of Shinjuku, passing soda/coffee/tea/cigarette vending machines every 100 feet or so. They’re absolutely everywhere. I swear, I don’t see how anyone who has 120 yen could ever be thirsty in this city.

As I walk, my legs grow weary, so I head south to the lovely and expansive park called Shinjuku Gyoen, only to find it’s not open yet (too early) so I do a loop around it, find a smaller park to rest at and then head back to the gyoen. On the way I experience how cars/pedestrians/motorbikes negotiate the narrower streets of the city, and am also absorbed by the feeling of a pleasant, sunny Tokyo Sunday morning.

Shinjuku Gyoen is gorgeous. There’s a Japanese garden, in addition to English and French gardens, and a picturesque asian pavilion from which to view the scenery. There’s a more modern facility under construction near the entrance. There are sun worshippers here, but no dogs allowed. As the morning grows later, more people arrive. I spot an Oriental Stork in a pond, as well as a turtle identical to a friend of mine’s floating in the same. As I write this, we’re closing in on noon. I’ve walked more than two miles, and need lunch.

I procure lunch at the park’s cafe. A common means of getting food involves inserting cash or credit (its very much still a cash economy) into a machine, pressing the buttons that light up for what you want to eat/drink, and it prints out a ticket. A waitress shows you to your seat and rips the ticket. When you get your food, which I got promptly, she takes the stub. Wonderful procedure. Soba with Prawn Tempura isn’t bad, either, and quite filling. Along with a bottle of ringo (apple) juice, the whole meal is 1000 yen.

I head out of the park shortly thereafter, passing through what appears to be a mini Barnes & Noble just for anime/manga. When I return to the shopping blocks I’d passed through much earlier, they are all open and bustling. The shops sell clothing, cameras and electronics, watches, anime/manga, and restaurants and pachinki/slot and karaoke parlors are interspersed between them. Whatever the business, most of them have someone outside the entrance beckoning for customers to take a look at their wares and handing out fliers.

All the walking (~5 miles) have taken their toll on my ankles/shins, so I walk back to my hotel to recharge; buying a Kirin Cola and some broth-flavoured chips and relaxing in my room with some televised Go and, I find not soonafter, Japanese baseball, which is quite entertaining. The fans in the stadium are constantly singing/chanting like they would at a European soccer game. The teams are typically named after corporations/holding companies rather than the cities they play in, in this case the Hanshin Tigers vs. the SoftBank Hawks. Teams have the occasional white or hispanic player on their roster, just as MLB teams have the occasional Japanese player. When it becomes an 8-2 lead in the Tiger’s favor, I take a shower and head back out.

I end up on the 42F of the Sompo Japan Building, one of the skyscrapers that make up the Nishi-Shinjuku grove. This floor is an art museum, exhibiting a retrospective of the French painter Maurice Utrillo, as well as three permanent pieces in a special dark gallery – flanked by a Gaugain and Cezanne is Van Gogh’s Sunflowers, purchased by the museum during the Japanese economic bubble for 5 billion yen. It’s pretty neat to see it in the flesh, and the views of Tokyo from the observation lobby are well worth the price of admission.

Back down to earth, I find a Japanese barbeque restaurant in the basement of a building (most buildings have 2 or 3 basements with more shops/restaurants, in addition to those above ground) and settle in. The hostess and waitress didn’t speak English, but they were extremely friendly, polite, and helpful, and thanks to a menu with pictures (a necessity for me here) I successfully order a platter containing all kinds of delicious morsels, including grilled marinated beef. With beer, dinner didn’t cost much more than 1000 yen. They provide customer service cards you can mail in, but I don’t seen how service would ever be anything other than exlempary. Three food joints today – McDonalds, the Shinjuku Gyoen cafe, and the barbeque joint…three very tight ships.

It isn’t just cashiers and waitresses though…whenever I asked a random Japanese passerby something, they tried their upmost to assist me, despite usually not knowing any English. A security guard on duty led me nearly a whole city block away from his post to point out where the Art Museum was. There’s something to society here that’s lacking back home; a sense of pride in their work and in themselves and a strict decorum to business that isn’t allowed to come up short. If anyone was unhappy in their jobs, they didn’t look it. Far cry from heart-on-sleave Americans in low-wage jobs, who can rarely contain their contempt for their plight. To that end, I felt it my duty to clean my plate completely, to honor those who served me so well. I returned to the shopping blocks as night fell, getting my first tast of the electric circus Tokyo is famous for, but by 9 PM I had been up 17 straight hours and needed sleep.