Sousei no Onmyouji – 07

sno71

This episode’s Arima-heavy early scenes (and why does every show need someone dressed like a proper English lady having tea?) were a little troublesome, but I liked the end result, as well as his very serious underlying goal: he wants to bring about the prophecy of the Miko; to do that, he needs to bring Rokuro and Benio together.

So this week, the two would-be lovebirds graduate from being two roommates in a dorm of many to two occupants of palatial villa, in order to grow closer to each other. Thus continues SnO’s emphasis on character over plot or action (though the short bit of action still packs a punch)—something I’m on board with, because I happen to like both leads.

sno72

A big part of why I like them is that while they do spar a lot of the time, they also spend a fair amount of time not sparring. They also can suck it up and work together when they have to, and the floors of their two once-separate bedrooms literally turn on an incline and create a sidescroller-style physical challenge, the two know they need each other, and as they figure out how to overcome the various obstacles involved, they find themselves thinking alike more often than not.

A challenge that could have been sigh-worthy in less careful hands also adds to the enjoyment and complexity of their trial, as Benio just happens to be going commando today on account of her panties being in the wash. This means she has to be careful what happens with her skirt, and Rokuro has to be careful where he’s looking. But when he accidentally sees something, she doesn’t go berserk and beat the shit out of him. They simply deal with it, in a reasonable fashion.

sno73

Indeed, Arima meant for this trial to bring the two closer together in several ways, and when they do, Rokuro and Benio are what you’d expect two kids to be: embarrassed, a little excited, but also respectful. Rokuro doesn’t try to sneak another look, and Benio doesn’t hold it against him when gravity causes him to fall on her.

Because they work together, they get out of the combined room without too much trouble, and when they face another trial in the air ducts in the form of a question involving numbers of hiragana and strokes, the two put their brains together again to come up with the correct answer.

sno74

It’s a good job they do clear the trial as quickly as they do, because their “exorcist” pals need bailing out once again. Seriously, is there ever going to be an episode where these guys can handle a Kegare on their own? Until they do, I’m putting “exorcist” in quotes when referring to them.

Rokruo and Benio work together again to bring down the giant mantis-like beast, but Benio starts to panic when she realizes her hair tie is gone, one of the two her brother gave her. Rokuro stops her desperate search and takes her back to the villa, where he finds the tie in the air duct (and I noticed the glint when they fell out of it the first time, a neat little visual detail that went unexplained at the time).

sno75

The day over, the two have their baths (ladies first, says Rokuro, but again, no funny business with peeping), and prepare to go their respective, once-again separate rooms to turn in. But before that, Rokuro asks about Benio’s brother. She wonders why, but the amount of importance she placed on her hair tie made him curious.

She sits down with him and talks about her beloved twin brother, from whom she was separated and believes to be dead—though I think we might have caught a glimpse of him a couple episodes back. Maybe if he reappears, he’ll be Benio’s version of Mayura?

Rokuro’s desire to learn more about Benio means he’s starting to care about her, just as Benio is starting to care about Rokuro when she tells him to make sure to brush his teeth, and assures him that even if he’s not the heir to a great family, his skills are remarkable…even if he’s usually “mostly useless.”

That last jab that leads to bickering at the end wasn’t all that necessary, but it’s clear she’s half-joking, and just giving Rokuro shit. If she didn’t like or care about him, she probably wouldn’t bother. As goofy and insufferable as Arima is, he may be on to something here.

16rating_8

Kuma Miko – 07

Screen Shot 2016-05-17 at 4.56.04 PM

Another Tuesday, another mediocre Kuma Miko: Machi cuts fire wood with an axe. Then she lights the kitchen on fire because her anxiety prevents her from using the rice cooker properly.

Then Yoshio has Natsu perform a ritual, except Yoshio’s granny didn’t leave instructions and no one actually knows what the ceremony is for or how to do it.

Screen Shot 2016-05-17 at 4.56.33 PM

Nothing of consequence happened this week but, unlike the average episode of Flying Witch, there’s nothing warm and comfortable about Kuma Miko. Mentally ill or not, Machi is an unpleasant character who’s self-fulfilling idiocy brings the misfortune in the most telegraphed, dull, way possible.

Meanwhile Yoshio is portrayed as a simpleton, just going through the motions and Natsu is shown as loving Machi, but not always able to express it without insulting her. And his love hasn’t really been returned by Machi these past few episodes, making the relationship (and Machi herself) less bearable.

Screen Shot 2016-05-17 at 4.56.50 PM

The verdict: the punchline is everyone has mental illness, obliviousness, and a nihilistic outlook for the aging people of the mountains. Old people are stupid, deaf, and the few offspring they’ve culturally trapped through bumpkin-ism are resentful about the meaningless and smallness of their lives, and they retaliate through lazy destruction and not taking their jobs seriously.

Being technically competent is not enough to save Kuma Miko from its dull, repetitive stagger off my review list. It’s not worth hating but the formula isn’t funny or charming enough to get me through the rest.

16rating_6

Sousei no Onmyouji – 06

sno61

After spending much of the show on the sidelines (other than an episode alone with Rokuro that established their dynamic), Mayura officially crosses over into the Benio side of Rokuro’s life, but what’s interesting is that it happens quite by accident. Mayura isn’t prying into Rokuro’s life; she merely believes Benio is skipping out on school to hang out with delinquents.

Mayura’s vivid imagination is a constant source of amusement this week, but even more appealing is the fact she simply wants to be friends with Benio, in hope of steering her away from bad seeds; to “show her the light”, so to speak.

sno62

Benio isn’t one for friends. She’s sworn them off as a waste of time; time that is better spent training to become the strongest exorcist. And yet…she’s witnessed firsthand the strength Rokuro is capable of…and HE certainly seems to have friends, like the other, hapless dorm-mates.

When Ryogo is back at nearly 100%, he casually mentions that it sure would be nice if someone other than Benio would accompany them on their routine trips to Magano to exorcise Kegare. Rokuro gets the hint, but is also interested, in his tsundere way, in lending a hand anyway.

sno63

Ryougo requests Benio sit out a mission or two so he can determine how serious Rokuro is, and she does…but not without a degree of resentment: she’s serious too, dagnabbit!

It’s good then, that Mayura catches up to her while on a run (a scene reminiscent of the beginning of Winter Soldier), and provides a destraction Benio didn’t expect, but still welcomes, especially in the form of quality ohagi. I don’t know what’s more adorable: Benio’s look of blissful satisfaction, or Mayura waiting for Benio’s stoic armor to crack.

Shogo and the other two exorcists again prove that with Kegare increasing in number and strength, they simply can’t go to Magano without either Rokuro or Benio—preferably both—to bail them out. They only have Rokuro at first, but he does a fine job breaking out his demon arm to dispatch a particularly tough boss.

sno64

I worried when a tear between reality and Magano opened in the very restaurant where Benio and Mayura were eating, but Benio slips in, takes care of business, and comes back out without any harm to either girl. Benio fully expected to return to find Mayura had run off, fearful of the supernatural phenomenon…

…Only she didn’t. Mayura rushes to Benio’s arms the second she reappears, far more concerned with her well-being than her own. Benio realizes: this is what it means to be a friend: even if Mayura couldn’t do anything, she wasn’t just going to leave Benio. That feels good, and it’s good to see Benio give in and reciprocate the hug.

Of course, in explaining how she knows about exorcists and isn’t scared of this kind of stuff while walking Benio home, Mayura discovers that her beloved Rokuro has been living with Benio all this time. Naturally, Mayura seems to blame Rokuro and only Rokuro for this situation, but while she’s angry now I’m sure she’ll listen to the full explanation, even if she won’t accept their betrothal any more than they do.

At any rate, I really enjoyed the warm Mayura-Benio interactions and their newly-formed friendship (even if it may take a hit now that the two are “rivals in love”), as well as Rokuro getting back on the exorcist bike. Mayura may have the hardest fight of all before her, even if it’s not of the world-saving kind…but she’s certainly not one to shrink from a challenge.

And she’s got bigger boobs than Benio, so there’s that!

16rating_8

Kuma Miko – 06

Screen Shot 2016-05-08 at 3.47.20 PM

This week Machi tried to go to a novelty bookstore but a self-hatred-fueled freakout rampage prevented her from doing so. She also met a boy, although that doesn’t appear to be relevant to the narrative.

Later, still gripped with terror/embarrassment/self-loathing, Machi freaks out at Natsu. But then she has a fever and Natsu feels bad about making her go to the bookstore. He tries to make her feel better by cooking a meal and taking the blame for her troubles. Eventually, after savagely beating him for a night, Machi feels better and goes to school.

Screen Shot 2016-05-08 at 4.01.19 PM

So… that was awful. Ignoring the complete lack of content, set backs to Machi’s arduously slow growth, and reliance on girl punches guy humor, episode six was simply dull. The lack of new situations was also emphasized by Machi being ‘saved’ by the boy on the escalator, only for the episode to drop him completely out of the narrative.

Hibiki existed only to name drop this week’s business for the show to visit; Yoshio existed only to move Machi from space to space and strike his ‘you got this’ pose; Machi existed only to hate herself, and Natsu only existed to flash us back to Machi being a nice caring girl when she was younger and for some bear slap-stick cooking mishaps.

Screen Shot 2016-05-08 at 3.42.50 PM

The verditc: abusive, childish, tantrumming and self hatred are not the strongest themes for comedy. Nor are they good anchors for ‘lite’ casual watching. If not for Natsu’s predictable but — yes — still adorable kitchen antics, this episode would be a total failure.

Good job show. If your goal was to make me not like Machi this week, you were very successful. Why you would want me to hate your protagonist though… uh… yeah why would you want that??

16rating_6

 

 

Sousei no Onmyouji – 05

sno51

Like Bungou Stray DogsSnO aims to provide a combination of seriousness and levity, though Oji-san doesn’t think BSD is successful. I haven’t been keeping up with it, so I don’t know, but as relatively brainless, usually amusing, occasionally touching hump day entertainment, SnO fits the bill quite nicely, even if it isn’t blazing any trails.

A part of my enjoyment is that I’m rooting for both of the twin star Exorcists, and totally get where they’re both coming from and why they both clash and harmonize so often. I won’t say their similarities as strong,  fundamentally good-hearted people outweighs their differences, but they complement each other extremely well, and aren’t fooling anyone when they insist they hate each other (which they don’t even come out and say, it’s more of an exchange of barbs).

sno52

Benio is stuck-up, but, well, why wouldn’t she be? She’s been the best at everything she’s ever done, and has to maintain a certain air of confidence bordering on arrogance considering the burden her slight shoulders bear.

To be paired up with someone who, while undeniably strong when he needs to be, has some serious motivational problems stemming from past trauma, and can’t just say he wants to join an exorcism mission, but comes up with a bunch of half-assed excuses to mask his enthusiasm—it’s gotta be frustrating to Benio, who knows exactly what she wants to do and is firmly on the path to making it happen.

sno53

But like I said, Benio doesn’t hate Rokuro. He’s got his flaws, but when it counts, he’s no slouch. He puts the big Kegare boss away, motivated by a desire to stop others from getting hurt anymore for the day. He’s fed up.

So when Twelve Guardians member Ikuruga Shimon shows up to clean up, Rokuro moves and takes care of it before him, and Benio has Rokuro’s back. She wants Shimon to see what she’s seen: great potential, hampered by persistent wishy-washiness.

Shimon and Benio share a kind of monk-like calm that Rokuro sorely lacks. And while Rokuro seems to become more powerful the more up against the wall and desperate to end things he is, he could stand to learn a few things about keeping one’s cool and minding one’s surroundings, things both Benio and Shimon possess in spades, owing to their experience.

sno54

I especially liked Benio’s little smile when Rokuro meekly accepts the heartfelt thanks of the boy’s soccer team he helped save (with Benio and Shimon’s help). Benio sees that the key to keeping Rokuro focused is a healthy awareness that his actions keep people safe; that his strength is necessary to protect the weak, and he can’t be content with the way he is now.

As such, Shimon, who was Rokuro’s age when he became one of the Twleve Guardians, should prove to be a valuable goal for Rokuro going forward; one not hampered by the whole betrothed thing, as he is with Benio. The fact they’re arranged to marry some day is kinda kept in the background, as it’s still clearly a way off, but everyone is right that the two are already bickering like an old couple.

As for Arima, he’s a guy who’s clearly powerful enough to goof off with swimsuit mags as much as he wants. You get the feeling something seriously messed-up has to go down in the world for the guy to break a sweat…especially when he has Shimon, eleven others like (or better) than him…and the Twin Stars, slowly building their sheen.

16rating_7

Kuma Miko – 05

Screen Shot 2016-05-01 at 9.10.07 PM

Unwinding Kuma Miko’s narrative is a little harder than unwinding this week’s underlying theme: a person’s surface traits only obscures an opposite underlying reality.

Machi’s keen observation and ‘possessed’ knowledge obscures her lack of real work understanding, Natsu’s kindness masks a deep frustration with the ‘dumbness’  of people, Hibiki’s violent demeanor simply hides her bashful love, and Yoshio’s constant scheming is only a pretense for a deeply simple man with a deeply simple brain…

Screen Shot 2016-05-01 at 9.10.22 PM

What happened? The girls flaunted their new clothes, Hibiki’s motives for helping Machi were implied to be due to Yoshio asking, and that Hibiki has a strong love for Yoshio.

Also, a little boy was locked in a cave with Natsu to scare him straight and there was a lot of blushing. Honestly, nothing that really matters narratively beyond Hibiki liking Yoshio…

Screen Shot 2016-05-01 at 9.09.48 PM

Was it good? Sure! Kuma Miko’s blend of unexpected yet simple humor is as often comforting as it is truly funny. Natsu is incredibly likable, and his rare annoyance with everyone being so simple–even after he tries to explain things simply–is understandable.

Kuma Miko is ultimately harder to deep critique beyond that point. It’s a good slice of life and characterization with gentle humor and blush-blush yuck-yuck gentle romance. Sure, it wouldn’t be much without the weird central characters and a talking bear, but even then, it would be completely watchable.

16rating_8

 

Sousei no Onmyouji – 04

sno41

“I get it, okay?” says Rokuro, after running off in a snit after the guy who is basically his older brother annoys him: “I know I can’t run away forever.” He’s implying he needs more time to put the past behind him and move on. But…we’re a quarter into the show now, and he’s still angsty and hesitant while we haven’t heard the full story about why, so…hurry it up, willya? Thankfully, Rokuro takes a couple of steps forward.

It starts with the old woman who runs a candy store he used to frequent as a youngin’ with Ryougo. In a five-minute exchange, she’s able to cheer him up and make him feel silly for being so harsh to his big bro when all he’s doing is looking out for him. By running off, he was also refusing to tag along on an exorcism mission with Ryougo and two others.

sno42

When those two others show up at home without Ryougo, Rokuro doesn’t hesitate to do what he needs to do in order to spring into action, which at this point is to bow his head and beg Benio to accompany him to Magano. He’s afraid to go himself, plain and simple. And that’s perfectly okay. Benio, for her part, insists he rise his head – no one should have to beg an exorcist to fight for or with him.

Ryougo is up against a huge, two-headed, constantly-chortling Kegare with no way out and no talismans—except the one Rokuro made for him, appointing him his servant when he’s the baddest exorcisin’ mofo in the world. He’s kept it ever since as a charm, and it comes in handy as Ryougo shows up just in time to save him from going out in a blaze of glory.

sno43

Benio is there to assist, and while Rokuro later scoffs that he could have handled the peripheral Kegare she takes out during the fight, the fact of the matter is, he wouldn’t have even been able to go there without Benio by his side, and he freely admits this when he waits outside for her to finish purifying the house, to thank her from the bottom of his heart.

Rokuro’s earnestness and heart-sleeving catches Benio off guard, insisting he doesn’t have to thank her any more than he had to beg her. So here, both in moments of emotional vulnerability, the two exorcists begin to see something besides contempt in one another. Rokuro sees her nice side, while Benio sees the greatness in him, when he fights in spite of his trauma.

Sure they start slinging insults in an attempt to backpedal, but they’re not fooling anyone: they’ve made real progress this week, and they’re sure to make more, which is very encouraging.

16rating_8

Kuma Miko – 04

Screen Shot 2016-04-24 at 4.11.13 PM

I never expected Kuma Miko to carry last week’s costumes over to a second episode and, coupled with the village ceremonies, the village men chatting about the costumes they preferred, and watching Machi and Natsu eat sushi together, the first act is a master class in slice-of-life as world-building.

It was slow, comfortable, almost joke-free but still enjoyable. The fact Machi gets more character designs and the in-show world responds to it is a nice play on anime convention.

Screen Shot 2016-04-24 at 4.22.35 PM

Then the second act comes out of nowhere and introduces Yoshi’s childhood friend Hibiki and goes off on a tangent about the Shimomura clothing retailer. Hibiki aside, the Shimomura segment is a lot like last season’s Dagashi Kashi, as I have no context for this company and have no idea why the writers felt a possessed Machi rambling off factoids about this company would be funny or even interesting.

Because Hibiki is introduced to us abruptly, and Machi is wearing her ‘flashback’ school clothes AND because we’d seen flashbacks in the first act, I initially though the entire scene WAS a flashback. Put it all together and the second half is a confusing mess.

Screen Shot 2016-04-24 at 4.15.50 PM

Last week I called out Kuma Miko for being overly safe and relying on it’s central relationship’s quirkiness for all it’s humor. I’m not sure that is still true this week, with the introduction of Hibiki and Machi’s relationship.

However, the second act is so random and disconnected from the show that playing it safe may be all Kuma Miko is able to do? Definitely watchable, strange, but not really ‘good’ as an alternative.

16rating_7

Sousei no Onmyouji – 03

sno31

Despite the fact Arima has made a match of Rokuro and Benio and the two have moved into the same space, they’re no closer to becoming, well, closer, at least the way Arima would like.

Indeed, aside from crossing paths a couple of times at home and school (naturally, Benio must transfer to Rokuro’s school and class…because.) the two spend the majority of the episode apart, doing their own thing.

As Benio senses kegare and joins Rokuro’s exorcist pals in Magano to battle a boss-type they can’t quite handle, Rokuro stays behind, and is snatched up by Otomi Mayura, his childhood friend.

sno32

We can tell who Mayura is going to be from miles away: she’s the tragic childhhod friend character who would make a great match for the MC except for the fact he simply doesn’t see her that way (he makes it clear to his buds that he sees her more as a cousin or sister, and thus out of bounds).

His position on Mayura is not unreasonable, but it doesn’t make Mayura’s feelings any less valid. Proximity and time are just as capable of making the heart grow fonder as absence, and Mayura has known Rokuro long enough to know when he’s bothered by something.

In this case, it’s his predicament with Benio, and his old reflex to charge forward towards danger fighting with his desire not to repeat his past sins and live as peaceful a life as he can.

sno33

Whatever those sins are, they seem to involve a traumatic ordeal in which several of his friends are lost and he ends up prostrate and in tears…but Mayura is right there, also crying, but trying to comfort him. And so here, in the present, she decides it’s her job to cheer him up.

To that end, she takes him to an amusement park they haven’t been to in years, and have what looks like a great ol’ time. I liked how when it comes to carnival rides, Mayura is a lot more brave than Rokuro. I also liked how there were moments Rokuro sees Mayura as more than just a platonic relative, but a kind and beautiful young woman.

sno34

This week, in what came as a pleasant surprise, Rokuro and Benio’s stories stay separate. Benio doesn’t run into trouble and need bailing out again; she handles the boss with relative ease (in another great battle sequence).

The only “crossover” between their days is when during the battle the kegare rams into the roller coaster in Magano, which causes a small rift between Magano and the normal world. When two kids are trapped on the coaster as it dangles precariously, Rokruo does not hesitate to scramble up there and save the kids before they fall to their deaths.

sno35

True to the title, both heroes proved their worth this week: Rokuro with ordinary heroics in the normal world; Benio with her exorcist enhancements in the otherworld. Mayura succeeds in cheering Rokuro up, and inadvertently gets him to prove to himself that the heroic drive is still within him.

When Rokuro and Benio reunite in the evening, they don’t detail their days, but Benio can tell from Rokuro’s dirty uniform that he was up to something, and Rokuro asks how things went with Benio out of earnest curiosity, almost as if he cares. 

Sure, they still turn away from each other and harrumph at the same time, but both really do respect each other on some level; they just need to master dealing with one another, a skill that will come to them in time and proximity.

16rating_7

Kuma Miko – 03

Screen Shot 2016-04-17 at 2.16.00 PM

Kuma Miko is a remarkable safe, enjoyable comedy that relies on the goofiness of its setting and central relationship for most of its humor. Previous episodes have hung close to Machi’s urge to leave her small rural nest and her challenge she must overcome to do so.

This week took an unexpectedly interesting look at how heritage itself must face the modern world. The result was clever, even if it wasn’t any funnier or more dramatic than before.

Screen Shot 2016-04-17 at 2.23.53 PM

In the opening act, Machi notices she’s gained a weight and attempts to co-opt ritual dance into exercise – complete with gym-coach style one-two-one-two dance music.

Natsu finds this a little sacrilegious at first but eventually bumps it up a notch further with a bear-based DJ session…that results in angering the mountain gods and bringing the rain.

Screen Shot 2016-04-17 at 2.56.40 PM

In the second act, the towns people have made 4 summer-style costumes for Machi to wear at the shrine. Machi is initially very excited by the prospect of seeing a new take on Ainu tradition, but quickly learns the costumes are all embarrassing to wear and make minimal nods to tradition.

The second costume in particular includes bear ears and a tail…

Screen Shot 2016-04-17 at 2.10.33 PM

What stood out: the bear clubbing session was fun and it added nuance and supportive nature to Natsu’s character. Some of the animations of Machi moving around on the floor were also above average. The throw away gag about learning the history of electricity at the open was also entertaining.

Over all, Kuma Miko is a low 8 but still an 8. It isn’t remarkable in many ways, as it generally plays it safe, but the humor and core relationship has a good hook.

16rating_8

Sousei no Onmyouji – 02

sno21

Oji-san has passed SnO to me (he was not a fan), but I’m a little more amenable its jaunty juxtaposition (or sometimes, smashing-together) of super-serious and super-goofy tones. But hey, it’s hump day; I don’t need to be transfixed by high art or anything (that’s Sunday!)

I find SnO competent enough in what it’s trying to do, which is capitalize on the success of similar ‘dark-and-funny’ shows like BleachBlue Exorcist, and Akane ga Kill! to entertain without too much thinking. It is not as good as any of those, but I found myself charmed enough to sit through the entire episode.

sno22

There’s a kind of cheekiness to watching Benio— her pride hurt by someone who has all the ability but none of the interest in being an exorcist that she has—shuffle off after exchanging names…then ending up at Rokuro’s house, where she’s to begin living. It reminds me of Rukia helping herself to Ichigo’s closet…she even has a fiery familiar who could well be a friend of Kon’s.

Rokuro didn’t steal all of Benio’s power the way Ichigo accidentally did to Rukia, but like Rukia she’s a rich, privileged, mildly arrogant kid whose kegare-killing parade was rudely rained on. Seeking redemption (and some restored confidence) she goes with Rokuro’s roommates to Magano, but is disappointed to find a far weaker foe than Rokuro took out.

sno23

Naturally, since they’re now living together, Rokuro walks in on Benio, but she’s all covered up with a towel, not nude, and she responds not by screaming, but by arming herself and going after Rokuro, whom she’s already established is tough enough to endure such behavior.

Rokuro ends up plowing into a dude in his underwear who turns out to be Head Exorcist Tsuchimikado Arima. Believe it or not, I’m not done referring to Rukia yet, because just like her Arima uses crude but expressive crayon drawings to explain things, like why he’s inj his underwear (prior to arriving he was caught in flagrante delicto with a yakuza’s girl, and had to split sans threads)

sno24

But while his manner of arrival is silly, the message he bears via oracle is not, and he summons both Benio and Rokuro (along with their grizzled guardians) to the subterranean Five Mirror Chamber. There, he presents the two as dual candidates for the Miko, the savior of exorcists over the Kegare. Then he makes them duel.

Rokuro wants no part of this, but Arima eggs him on by spuring his dead friends (the once who caused him to cast off exorcising in the first place) and he joins a fierce battle with Benio. Seriously, the best part of this show is its stylish, quick, and punchy combat, as demonstrated here. A steady helping in each episode will go a long way to mitigating the well-worn character traits and plot elements.

What’s also interesting: Arima never intended for one “candidate” to kill the other, making the survivor Miko. No, he intends to marry Benio and Rokuro together, and the child they produce will be the Miko. I didn’t expect they’d be anything other than grudging allies who gradually form a bond. This raises the stakes and makes things a little more interesting, if a bit neat and tidy.

In spite of an already heavy workload which includes another superior show I’m far more invested in, Ushio to Tora, I shall tune in at least one more week, then attempt to peel myself away.

16rating_7

Kuma Miko – 02

kumi21

Kuma Miko demonstrates this week that it’s prepared to go to some pretty far-flung lengths for the sake of comedy, including a conspicuous amount of Uniqlo exposure. Machi remains firm in her desire to move to the city, but Natsu still doesn’t think she’s ready.

She literally grapples Natsu and then turns on the waterworks, and Natsu relents, drawing up on ink and paper the next trial to determine her readiness for life outside the village. It’s totally out-of-left-field trial, too:

“Buy a HEATTECH item from Uniqlo.”

kumi22

Just go to a store and buy an item from a particular line. Sounds simple, right; especially with two days to work with? HA! Little did I know how epic an adventure was about to unfold. It’s a long way from the village to the nearest Uniqlo, and the bridge out of the village is out, so Machi has to wait a whole day to even leave.

When she does, she finds her bike has been taken by her uncle for the day, so she has to borrow her cousin’s infamous bike, which…is not a good bike. It’s too big for Machi, and very heavy too, due to a completely unnecessary mini leather armchair for a seat and an animal carrier in back.

Seriously, I felt uncomfortable watching her ride the thing. Things seemed to be going okay at first, but I was tense when Machi started descending a hill a bit too fast; sure enough, the brakes fail and she’s out of control!

kumi23

After briefly getting air, a la E.T., Machi bails out, and the bike smashes against a tree trunk into dozens of pieces. She lands awkwardly and gets several bruises and scratches, but is otherwise okay physically.

But mentally? She can’t help but crumple into a ball and call for her Natsu to help her, like the dependent Machi of yore. Natsu seems to get the message that his ward is in trouble, Lassie-style…but it turns out his back is itchy and he needs to rub it on a tree trunk.

With Natsu not coming, Machi rights the leather chair, has a seat, and simply takes a moment, before slapping her thighs and re-committing herself to completing this task, even if she has to walk through the dangerous mountain woods to reach the Uniqlo.

kumi24

Fortuitously, she comes upon the stream where Yoshio is fishin with a completely toasted Matsu, whose booze breath, demeanor and constant mocking Machi is forced to put up with as Yoshio drives them to the Uniqlo, where she successfully buys here HEATTECH item (a t-shirt…not a heater).

Before piling back in the car, she finally loses her cool, beats Matsu with her bag, and punches Yoshio in the gut for making her endure so much BS (Yoshio, of course, being the owner of that ridiculous bike). It’s righteous payback for everything she’s endured up to that point.

She returns to Natsu not any surer of her ability to take care of herself, having had to rely on a ride from Yoshio—even though Natsu always assumed she’d get a ride from him anyway. Machi basically made the task far harder than it needed to be.

But as she says, all’s well that ends well: with her revealing her chic new HEATTECH top she dons defiantly beneath her miko garb; naturally, the “S S S S S” sticker still affixed. She’s one step closer to gaining the bear’s permission to move out.

Before credits, Yoshio goes to the garage to find his stupid bike missing, and the episode cuts to the spot in the forest where Machi regained her resolve—where the stately leather armchair still sits, bathed in golden light. An absurd, surreal sight if I ever saw one!

16rating_8

Kuma Miko – 01 (First Impressions)

kumi11

I like a good balance of complicated (Mayoiga) and uncomplicated shows on my list, and Kuma Miko certainly fits the latter. You’ve got your bear, your girl, and your tiny sleepy village she wants to leave for the big city to attend school. The “Girl” in Girl Meets Bear doesn’t actually meet the bear; she’s always known the bear since she was a tyke; he’s her guardian.

So when the two meet in the forest in the cold open, it’s set up like some kind of hazardous clash about to befall the poor unsuspecting girl, but like Hobbes in Calvin & Hobbes, the bear is simply putting on an act in welcoming his companion home.

kumi12

Machi, a 14-year-old shrine maiden (Miko) has outgrown her paltry, unstimulating surroundings. She longs for road signs, cell reception, and 24-hour convenience stores. Natsu, her bear guardian, is cognizant of the fact his baby bird wants and needs to spread her wings, but isn’t hapy about it, so sets up a quiz designed to confound Machi on urban matters.

How Natsu got information about Suica cards and the OIOI sign is beside the point, and adds to the slightly surreal comedy of an anthropomorphic bear sparring with a teenage girl on the matter of independence.

kumi13

The second half introduces us to Machi’s civil servant cousin Yoshio, who deems his three nine-year-old charges old enough to hear the true story of Kumade village’s relationship with bears. It involves a bear, a broad, and the birds and bees. Suffice it to say, the bears in Kumade are tame and can speak like humans, as per a long-standing agreement.

Beyond the absurd places the depraved mind of a nine-year-old boy takes such things (especially when he meets Machi and Natsu), it’s kinda cool to think that in some isolated village somewhere people and bears can coexist and converse with one another, only it’s a secret so there’s no outside proof. I also like how kids are also duly impressed with Machi’s status as Miko, even if she can’t wait to be rid of it and living in the city.

Kuma Miko is a fun, quirky, uncomplicated little show with a neat little comic duo in Machi and Natsu (voiced by Chad!), a picturesque rural setting, and very dope and catchy OP and ED. Worth a look!

16rating_7