BokuBen – 09 – Mr. Taro’s Neighborhood

Nariyuki’s penchant for getting himself in the most ridiculous situations with women seems to have no bounds, as demonstrated this week when he’s simply walking down the street when he’s suddenly snagged by Kurisu-sensei.

Apparently, her apartment is back to being a cesspool despite him “tutoring” her on how to clean it. But while there, a cockroach appears, and Nariyuki learns that Kurisu harbors a paralyzing fear of bugs.

The roach gets away when Kurisu can’t stop clinging to Nariyuki, but he continues on with the cleaning. But since the bug is still at large, Kurisu tells him she’ll “do anything” if he just stays with her. Pure, innocent Nariyuki asks her to help him study more. It gets late, and Kurisu orders food…from Rizu’s family’s restaurant.

When Rizu shows up with the delivery and sees Nariyuki at Kurisu’s house, well, her reaction is as predictable as it is understandable. What exactly is going on here? Rizu’s feelings for Nariyuki aside, she and Kurisu have a turbulent history. Nariyuki tries to break the ice with Rizu’s card game, but forgets Rizu sucks at it and Kurisu’s domination only makes things more awkward and tense.

While Kurisu is in the kitchen, Nariyuki tells Rizu that someone likes her more than she knows. He’s talking about Kurisu actually being kind and caring, but Rizu initially misinterprets it as Nariyuki confessing. Then a scream comes from the kitchen: the roach is back.

The moment Nariyuki enters, Kurisu gloms on him, and claims she’s paralyzed with fear, thus incapacitating him as the roach advances. They’re both saved by Rizu, daughter of a restaurateur, who shows no fear or hesitation in smashing what the business refers to as “Mr. Taro.”

While walking home, Rizu admits that in Kurisu’s fear of bugs she finally saw another side of her former tutor; one she not only never knew, but also never bothered to learn, since their past adversity closed her off to that. She thanks him, but he gains her ire once more when he gives the wrong answer to the somewhat dirty-sounding question of “If Mr. Taro comes to my house, will you come by to help?”

Fighting cockroaches with Rizu at Kurisu’s is pretty up there on the list of bizarre experiences Nariyuki finds himself in, but the second half’s scenario bests it in all attributes by a fair margin. To get to where ultimately ends up, Nariyuki’s mom has to get sick, he has to fill in for her at work not knowing what it is she actually does.

Turns out his mom works at a sexy lingerie shop. When his mom’s co-worker sees how embarrassed he is, she dresses him up as the mall mascot, then gets a call about her daughter and rushes off, leaving him in charge of the store when he can neither talk or remove the costume by himself. The second that costume went on, Nariyuki was doomed to experience trials he’s all too ill-equipped to deal with.

That’s because his first customers are Uruka and Rizu, the latter of whom needs a new, bigger bra due to her growing bust. When Nariyuki hesitates to measure Rizu, Uruka helps him, then presents him with either an elegant, frilly bra or a sleek, sexy one and asking which would be best to charm a third-year  boy (the answer, of course, being either).

If that’s not enough, Kurisu makes her second-straight appearance, this time having trouble with a bra that’s a bit too small, and requiring an attendant to help her unhook it. Since Nariyuki is the only attendant there, it’s up to him.

And that’s how he ends up removing the bra of a teacher from his school while dressed as a mascot filling in for his sick mom. There is a tide in the affairs of men…

Uruka and Rizu invited Fumino to join them, but she said she had other plans. Those plans turned out to be shopping for a bra alone, since that’s her preference, and because shopping for bras with the larger-breasted Uruka and Rizu isn’t her idea of a good time.

Poor Fumino: when she blurts out to the attendant that she is, indeed, a Size A,  Nariyuki’s mom’s co-worker has returned and removed the head of the mascot, reavealing to Fumino that Nariyuki was there all along, and leading to her declaring that “God is dead.”

Nariyuki treats her to a “crepe-pology” and properly explains why he was in a lingere store, and Fumino simply tells him he’s lucky she’s the one who found out and not the other two. He asks why, but she keeps it secret, as the “fifth exercise” in understanding a woman’s heart.

The thing is, I’m not entirely sure it’s any better for him that she found out, considering her conflicting feelings for the lad. Whoever ends up with this kid is simply going to have to be okay with the fact that he gets himself into the weirdest plights.

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BokuBen – 07 – Storming of the Bastille

Rizu doesn’t know that Uruka likes Nariyuki, and Uruka doesn’t know that Ri likes Nariyuki, but Fumino knows both of those things, and she doesn’t want to rock the boat. However, fate seems to conspire against her, as she trips over her own feet and lands upon Nariyuki in an apparent passionate embrace that Ri happens to witness.

Fumino, convinced Rizu is furious, tries to make it right, ultimately by shoving Nariyuki into Rizu’s embrace; but his head ends up in Ri’s bust—no doubt due to poor calculations on the part of Fumino, for whom math is not her strong suit, as we know. Turns out Rizu only appeared angry because she was squinting due to using a backup pair of glasses.

From there we shift to Nariyuki’s increasingly complex relationship with Kirisu-sensei. When he attempts to rescue a cat from a tree, it ends up jumping off, and Kirisu twists her ankle catching it. Nariyuki helps her get to her apartment, which is an appalling mess.

But since Kirisu is actually a good person (which is why she saved the cat), she makes coffee for Nariyuki and helps him study some history as thanks for his assistance.

While helping her clean, Nariyuki stumbles upon a trophy case packed with accolades from when Kirisu was an ice skater, proving that her desire to steer the girls away from their “emotional” choice of life path is borne out of her having made the same choice when she was younger, and coming to regret it.

Nariyuki tells her that while he appreciates where she’s coming from, he’s decided he’s going to “hold his head high” and “regret it later” with them. It’s only a meaningless, foolish path if they fail, and he can’t yet say that they will.

With that, he takes his leave. When he asks if it’s really okay for a man to have come to her place, she dismisses him as still a child, but once he’s gone, she drops the pretense and reveals she was a nervous wreck, because he was actually the first man ever to be at her place.

One one of their now regular one-on-one chats, Nariyuki tells Fumino about being at Kurisu-sensei’s last night. Knowing it could enrage Rizu and/or Uruka, she drags him to a tree, pushes him against it, and makes him promise not to tell anyone what he just told her.

Naturally, the next time she’s in class, she’s hounded by classmates convinced that she’s in some kind of “special relationship” with Nariyuki, something Nariyuki himself doesn’t deny (since he considers both his tutoring of her and her coaching of him in matters of women to be “special”).

Fumino’s classmates are extremely protective of her, and aren’t about to let just any schmo go out with her, so they send a covert surveillance team to the library where the two are studying, and determine that there’s no overt romantic spark between them, but that they share a “deep trust that transcends the boyfriend-girlfriend barrier.”

Or was she? Fumino may be committed to not making either Rizu or Uruka sad (or mad), but she can’t deny she’s enjoyed all the time she’s spent with Nariyuki, and not just in a tutor-tutee scenario. He’s supporting her wish to pursue her dreams, after all!

When she finally informs Nariyuki of the rumors going around about the two of them, she “jokes” that maybe they should just go out for real. Only judging from Nariyuki’s reaction—and her reaction to his reaction—it sure doesn’t feel like it was a joke. As much as she wants to be above the love polygon, this episode leaves little doubt that she’s one of the vertices.

Gi(a)rlish Number – 04

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Now that she’s preparing for voice roles and singing like a professional should, Chitose gets way ahead of herself in a daydream where she, not Momoka or Kazuha, is the top star beloved by all whose fans wear robes that say “Chitose Is Life.” In reality, she still has a very long way to go, but as her brother suspected, her guts are helping to carry her along, making up for her lack of talent.

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The anime she’s working on is seemingly doomed, as the first episode preview is replaced with a slightly altered repeat of the PV, as the first episode is nowhere near done and no one seems to be in a hurry to finish it. This ain’t KyoAni, folks. Though she’s nervous, Chitose is still able to wrangle the understandably frustrated crowd with her charms, as the five cast members sing the long version of the theme song.

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It goes pretty well, but by the time the awful first episode actually airs, even Chitose has to struggle to find the good in it: adoring Twitter followers, another sign that she’s “WINNING” at being a seiyu idol. She knows how to be all buddy-buddy with Kuzu-P, but he’s already planning to use her and the others as a tool for recruiting more talent, all of whom will likely be so excited to be working, they won’t feel as Kazuha feels, that this all feels very stupid.

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Shounen Maid – 02

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Wherein Chihiro takes on an eager student and resolves to make better eggs

Like Tanaka-kunShounen Maid introduces a new female addition to the cast in the person of Ootori Miyako, who is arranged by her father to marry Madoka when she turns sixteen. The arrives at Madoka’s home having reached another impasse with her father, and we quickly learn she actually prefers Keiichirou.

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Miyako wants to prove to Keiichirou that she can be a dependable woman and future wife, and after learning Chihiro’s story, decides he’s the best person suited to teach her, being pretty hard-working, dependable, and independent himself.

Predictably, things don’t go so well on the housework front, and though she has fine cooking skills, she makes a mess in the process. Her depression washes away at first sight of Keiichirou, but soon returns, only for her to be cheered up again when Chihiro tells her what his mom told him: compromise is fine, but don’t betray yourself by doing anything against your heart.

It’s not about being selfish; it’s about making your own choices in life, something everyone should be able to do in this day and age.

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When Miyako’s father shows up to find his daughter and Chihiro a bit too close to Madoka for comfort, he drags her back home, but she returns again soon to continute her training with Chihiro. Overall Miyako is a pleasant addition to the cast, as someone both inspired and encouraged by Chihiro’s unique life story so far.

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While generally feel-good in nature, this show is tinged with the grief of the premature loss of his mother, who was by all accounts a strong-willed but kindhearted woman who never looked down at her son or sugar-coated things. Sure, she put too much sugar in her tamagoyaki back when she made them for her brother Madoka back in the day, but by the time Chihiro came around, Chiyo was an omelette expert.

As part of a bento, tamagoyaki becomes a dish Chihiro decides he’ll practice and perfect, after trying to determine what, Madoka’s favorite food is. Even when he screws up the omelette on his first try, Madoka is reminded of his sister doing the same thing.

IMO there’s few foods better than nostalgia-evoking foods, for even if they remind us of someone who has passed, that’s simply proof a part of that someone is still alive in us. So having lost the one in charge of folded omelettes, he’ll strive to become a worthy substitute.

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Shounen Maid – 01 (First Impressions)

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Shounen Maid seems like a high-concept excuse to, well, put a boy in a maid costume…for some reason, and so I wasn’t optimistic about this show from the start.

But when the titular future boy maid Komiya Chihiro attempts to burn the letter his recently deceased mother wrote him because it’s too vague, I knew we were dealing with something with a lot more wit and nuance than I initially suspected.

There’s also something great about introducing his uncle and new ward Takatori Madoka by showing him cowering in fear from a little puppy who got away from its owner.

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Chihiro may be in elementary school, but he’s had to grow up much faster than most of his peers, both with a busy mother who was always away, leaving him to do the housework, and then dying, leaving him alone in the world…or so he thought.

In reality, Chihiro’s mother Chiyo chose exile from her very wealthy family in order to have and raise Chihiro—to live the life she wanted, not one chosen for her. Learning this makes Chi feel partially responsible for his mom’s death, which is ridiculous, but he is just a little kid, and this is a lot to take in.

I also liked how big and grand and imposing Madoka’s mansion is portrayed when Chihiro first arrives. His exposure to this kind of gaudy lifestyle is completely alien to him, but imbued in his personality is a desire not to accrue debts from anyone, even his uncle.

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But more than big and imposing, Madoka’s manor is a pigsty of the highest order, something Chihiro learns by accident when hiding in the kitchen, then noticing the appalling mess. Detail-oriented, fastidious youth with a solid work ethic that he is, Chihiro pulls up his sleeves and cleans like there’s no tomorrow.

All the while, it’s clear he’s not just cleaning because he can’t tolerate messes (though that’s part of it); he’s also staying busy in order to not be a burden to anyone, as well as to take his mind off the fact he’s homesick for a home that no longer exists.

Inspired by his hard work, his Uncle Madoka makes him a frilly uniform, of a design informed by Madoka’s work as a costume designer. There’s clear contrast between Madoka’s carefree attitude and Chihiro’s serious-beyond-his-years, “Those who don’t work don’t eat” philosophy; both guys are products of their upbringing.

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But when Chihiro is too exhausted to clean anymore, Madoka and his assistant Shinozaki Keiichirou take over, cleaning a room meant to be his. He makes them clean it over again when it’s not done to his satisfaction, but he appreciates the gesture and is glad, if a little overwhelmed by suddenly having a room and a (HUGE) bed all his own. This big, unfamiliar house is gradually becoming his home.

He also sees Madoka working hard on his costumes; often so hard he neglects food and sleep, so Chihiro fixes him a snack in the night. Sure, sometimes Madoka’s “hard work” is composed of indulgent little side projects like a cat mascot suit for Chihiro, but the arrangement that has been struck is beneficial to both parties. Madoka gets a maid (and occasional model), and Chihiro gets a home and a job to avoid feeling indebted.

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Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso – 10

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Well, let’s just get this out of the way: Kousei’s performance STINKS. He’s literally all over the shop; shifting wildly from the same old soulless human metronome, to banging on the piano like a child wailing in pain, to stopping completely. But none of that matters. This was still a HUGE leap forward for Kousei; life-changingly huge. And it all came down to Kaori.

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The ‘ghost’ of Kousei’s mom kept going on about his “punishment” for rejecting her and her dreams, but more than before, the cuts of her and the deep dark sea are interspersed with cuts of Kaori. She’s in his head more and more as the performance goes on, all but replacing Mom. He keeps his head up, looks at the lights as if they were the shining stars, and tries to finish the performance, even if he can’t be proud of it.

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It’s still a struggle, but after he stops, he again remembers Kaori turning around and saying “Again!” At this point he’s lost the audience completely and disqualified himself from the competition, but his pause in the music is a crucial ‘reboot’ of sorts for his psyche. He fell, but he gets back up and gets back to the ivories, with Kaori constantly in his heart.

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Once he’s playing again, albeit very badly, it occurs to him that Kaori and only Kaori is the one he’s playing for; the only one he wants to reach, just as she reached him so powerfully, both through her performances, but also simply by being there for him, guiding him out of the dark. He starts to channel those emotions through the piano, and his notes ‘shimmer’ as he begins to project to the crowd the imagery of the practice room as Kaori softly dozes.

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Again, his playing changes. It’s not enough to make everyone forget the ugliness before, but it’s still plenty compelling, which is a lot to say for a pianist with a reputation for sticking to the sheet music. Everyone has this priceless “Huh? WTF is going on?” look on their faces, except for the few in the crowd who matter.

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Now that he’s found something to replace the ragged gaping hole in his heart his mother left, Kousei can play with confidence and passion, although perhaps still too raw to make any headway with the judges. But again, that doesn’t matter: this was never about Kousei jumping right back into contention; that’s still a ways off. It was about breaking free, severing his puppet strings, and going his own way, for the sake of the girl he loves.

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It would appear his music did in fact reach Kaori, who is moved to tears along with the little girl with the cat. Heck, even his Mom seems to be proud of him moving on in the end. After all, the villainess in Kousei’s mind was a ghost of his own making, forged from guilt and regret over how things with her. That ghost wasn’t something to be defeated, but rather transformed, as Kousei transformed himself this week.

It doesn’t do justice to say he’s merely ‘back’; thanks to Kaori, he’s been reborn; better than ever. Births may be messy and harrowing, as his performance was, but both herald the start of something new, amazing, and full of possibilities. As long as Kaori remains alive.

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Gatchaman Crowds – 03

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After Hajime “tames” the MESS, all other MESSes worldwide cease all activity and all the absorbed humans are safely returned. O.D. believes Hajime communicated with the MESS through gesture (in her case, scissors). Meanwhile, Ninomiya Rui, creator of GALAX, moves among the masses observing how and why they use his system. He returns hope for updates from the controlling AI, X, and his 100 chosen GALAXters who coordinate missions to “update the world.”

Hajime and Sugane participate in one such mission, stopping a shipment of spoiled milk to their school. The operation is moderately successful, but proves to Rui that there are many who still don’t trust GALAX. When a helicopter collides with a cable car, GALAXters are mobilzed once again, but X cannot work out a fix with present resources, so Rui is forced to summon the “Crowds” to aid them.

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As he glided through groups of his fellow citizens using and enjoying GALAX totally unaware of it’s creator’s proximity to them, the cross-dressing Ninomiya Rui reminded us of the MESS: no one can see it, but it’s constantly changing its shape. Last week Hajime showed that they’re not necessarily an existential threat to humanity, even uprooting Paiman’s understanding of their mission. As Gatchaman operates as a force for good, so too does Rui’s immensely more visible and popular GALAX network.

The elusive, reclusive Rui is also the reigning monarch of a digital hive. Just one GALAX user is required to be present to notify all the rest, now numbering in the hundreds of millions. But that’s still a small number in a world of 7 billion, and if there are no bars or battery life left, those users are on their own again. So the system, while incredibly useful in building a better world, is neither perfect nor without skeptics. We’re eager to see what’s up with those elite-looking “Crowds”, and see if and how Rui and Hajime ever cross paths or join forces. They both want the same thing, after all.

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Rating: 9 (Superior)

Stray Observations:

  • Rui derides those who “can’t see the joy in helping others without reward.” While we’re sure Hajime didn’t save her school from sour milk for points, GALAX did, in fact, award her and her classmates for saving the day.
  • We’re operating under the assumption that Rui is indeed a boy, and happens to cross-dress while in public (and also often enough in private). Nothing wrong with that, especially when you’re as rich as he apparently is!
  • That super-stylized baddie morphs into another evil doppelganger and wreaks havoc just as that helicopter accident happens. We’re also pretty sure he said something to Rui via telepathy. All this shows pieces continue to tentatively circle one another, yet to fully settle.
  • The GALAX OS startup sound is pretty badass. We’re going to try to get that for our computer
  • Notice the little bat on Rui’s sweater? That’s right: Rui is Batman.

Gatchaman Crowds – 02

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Hajime interferes in Sugane’s mission, and is able to coax the MESS into taking a scissors-like form. She moves into new digs with Sugane and Paiman, and after moving all her stuff in she brings Sugane along on a collage community get-together on a monorail, arranged by the social media network GALAX. Shortly after returning to HQ, they are summoned by JJ, whom Hajime approaches directly. He sends her and Sugane to the site of the next MESS, which Hajime is able to tame. Meanwhile, some unsavory shape-shifting fellow injures several bystanders, but thanks to GALAX they are tended to quickly.

This episode was very encouraging not only for looking just as good if not better than the first, but continuing to throw a whole lot of ideas and themes around at once, piquing our interest and entertaining without explicitly nailing anything down. The straight-as-an-arrow Sugane is immediately swept up in Hajime’s vibrant life, along with many other Gatchamen (Gatchamans?). We’re relieved that while Hajime is incredibly peppy and gregarious, she never descents into annoying-ness, and this week proves quite perceptive. Unlike the others, she’s not just going to kill MESSes just because she’s told to. It may look random to Sugane and others like him, but she does live by a code, that won’t let her take action against a party without knowing that party.

The MESS, just an abstract foe to be destroyed, becomes something else entirely under Hajime’s tutelage. We have a feeling this was part of JJ’s reasoning for bringing Hajime into the fold. Add to that her use of GALAX (kind a Facebook/LinkedIn with miis) to bring together people to make collages to comfort victims of a recent unnamed disaster, and she’s a busy girl. Her and Sugane’s exploits could easily fill the episode, but we also got a sneak peek at the series’ potential villain, who seems to take pleasure in making humans suffer, and a new character who wears a disguise outdoors and may be the mastermind behind the very popular and useful GALAX. One thing’s for sure: Gatchaman offers ample bang for the buck.

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Rating: 9 (Superior)

Stray Observations:

  • A Collage Community Chartered Monorail Ride? THAT SOUNDS AWESOME.
  • Hajime’s Collage friends include both the fire chief and mayor of Tachikana, plus many other people of all ages and walks, lending instant credibility to her skill as a networker.
  • We like how Hajime can so utterly dominate a conversation with the well-spoken Sugane. We also like how often her hand gestures resemble scissors.
  • Hajime bedazzled the physical manifestation of her soul. Sounds about right!
  • Walking across that steep drop and sitting down next to JJ, that was pretty cheeky!
  • This was the second straght episode that was so immersive we were surprised when it suddenly ended.

Gatchaman Crowds – 01

Hibiki Joe, Ichinose Hajime, Paiman, Tachibana Sugane, O.D., Utsusu

High schooler Ichinose Hajime has her “NOTE”, the manifestation of her soul, extracted by the godlike JJ and becomes a Gatchaman. After watching her classmate and fellow G-man Tachibana Sugane dispatch the enemy, known as a “MESS”, Sugane takes her to the underground Gatchaman base, where she meets her peers: Hibiki Joe, O.D., Utsusu, and Paiman, their miniscule alien leader. Their mission is to eradicate alien criminals and and other anomalies that have infiltrated Earth. Hajime joins Sugane for her first official mission, in which the MESS has taken the form of a bus.

The cool, slick, quick, fun, and fashionable Gatchaman Crowds arrives fashionably late this Summer, but it was worth the wait: this was the coolest-looking first episode of anything that preceded it. It introduces its characters and scenario with blinding speed, and Hajime is our avatar as the newbie who is also seeing everything for the first time, getting swept up in it all, and going with the flow. She can be a bit bubbly and grating at times, but we liked her spunk, positive attitude, and just how game she was about joining the Gatchaman crowd. And a colorful crowd it is, hanging in colorful, abstract digs and fighting colorful abstract enemies.

We really dug the character design (by the same guy who did the excellent Macross Frontier), and C’s director also brought along Iwasaki Taku, one of our favorite current anime composers, who adds great atmosphere to the proceedings. The CGI Gatchaman suits remind us a bit of Tiger & Bunny, though possibly better integrated with the traditional animation; things moved so fast it was hard to gauge, but that’s not a bad thing. This was a super-caffeinated start to an addictively series that so far is complex in visuals but mercifully simple in concept (transform; beat the bad guys; don’t get noticed by ordinary people), and we can’t wait for the next dose.

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Rating: 8 
(Great)

Stray Observations:

  • Speaking of caffeine  Uchida Maaya, whom we’ve come to know for far quieter roles like Rea and Rikka, must’ve downed a couple of Red Bulls for her super-perky performance.
  • We’d have KILLED to wear school uniforms like the ones Sugane and Hajime sport. So classy.
  • Tachibana Sugane reminded us a lot of Tsubaki from Sket Dance; the uptight hall monitor who speaks and acts formally; the perfect foil for Hajime.
  • The “MESS” baddies resemble very colorful Silver Pictures logos, though that’s probably a coincidence.
  • The OP was awesome, and does what all great OPs should do: get you fired up for what’s to come!
  • We like how when a character is in his Gatchaman suit, his/her voice is muffled. Nice touch.
  • Paiman is voiced by none other than Hirano Aya…who wouldn’t have been a bad choice for Hajime. In fact, Uchida seems to be channeling a little of Haruhi’s carefree spiritedness.
  • Isn’t Utsusu cold in that skimpy get-up?

Car Cameos: