The USEI launches a massive, multi-pronged attack, using UAVs to distract Hyoubu. Assault teams armed with ESP-nullifying ECM devices board the ship, but Patty stops them from getting to the children. The director, Andy’s boss, boards the Catastrophe and captures Yuugiri. Andy tries to stop him, and is shot, but the bullet is stopped by his necklace. Hyoubu manages to hold off the USEI barrage long enough for Magi, Yoh, and Momiji and Patty to transport the children to safety. Andy manages to jump off the Catastrophe as it explodes and sinks.
After two episodes that essentially spin off the spinoff by going back to Hyoubu’s tender youth, this week the present returns with unyielding force, and PANDRA is dealt a serious blow. Andy betrays his new family by de-cloaking the ship, opening it up to bombardment. Naturally, when he sees the USEI boarding the ship and hunting down espers, he objects (because he has a moral compass), but it’s out of his hands now; he served his role as puppet, and has to either watch the consequences unfold, or rebel. Watching the Catastrophe go down and the evacuees escaping by the skin of their teeth wraps up a shocking series of events.
It’s amazing how swiftly things go so very very badly for PANDRA. But most shocking is that even with his Unlimited power, Hyoubu can’t put a dent in the onslaught before him. It doesn’t help that he’s close to death, and has an attack right in the middle of battle. Now relieved of their floating haven, with their leader reeling and perhaps their most powerful child in enemy hands, tough times are ahead for PANDRA. It makes us wonder if their plight will lead to them allying with BABEL, who you can’t really call their nemesis at this point. It’s normal humans like Andy’s evil bigot boss who are the nemeses.
Rating: 8 (Great)
PANDRA is in Tokyo, repairing the ship and stocking up on supplies. While keeping an eye on Yuugiri in Asakusa Andy discovers Minamoto and Tsubomi are watching him. They know he’s an American spy. They want to arrest PANDRA en masse, and want his help in exchange for keeping his secret. The meeting is interrupted when Yuugiri comes afoul of policemen after helping a lost boy with her ESP. Andy arrives before things get out of hand. Meanwhile, on his birthday, Hyoubu sneaks into BABEL to perform medical scans, and learns that he’s “running out of time.”
A mass murderer and an esper savior…which is the true Hyoubu?
Can’t he be both? Hyoubu is a legitimate savior of espers, and they love him for it. When Momiji tells Andy the harrowing tale of how Hyoubu saved her from a certain, cruel death, you can’t help but sympathize with him and PANDRA. But normals despise espers, he despises them right back in kind, and isn’t going to lose any sleep if some normals have to die to save espers, or in service of revenge for their mistreatment. A “No Espers” sign, an ESP detector at fun park, and the normals’ reaction to Yuugiri serves as a stark reminders that distrust and resultant oppression of espers is rampant.
If an esper cannot be used as a tool or weapon for their own purposes, they are simply hunted down. Hyoubu is doing his part to create a world where espers don’t have to fear anything, but it’s obvious that his time is limited. BABEL is breathing down PANDRA’s neck, Andy’s cover is in danger of being blown (even if Hyoubu knows, it’s possible the others don’t), and his medical scans aren’t encouraging. Before returning to the ship for a surprise party that further illustrates his “children’s” devotion and esteem for him, the Major checks in on Kaoru, whom we’re reasonably confident he wants to replace him one day. That day may have to come sooner than he’d like.
Rating: 7 (Very Good)
Andy acclimates to life aboard the Catastrophe and meets the various members of P.A.N.D.R.A., each of which has a unique esper power. Hyoubu takes him on his first job, meeting with the mafia in Venice. They make good use of Andy’s power negation to foil the mafia boss Carlo’s plan to take out Hyoubu, who turns around and kills him with his “Unlimited” power. They return to the Catastrophe and have a celebratory shindig.
The first episode introduced us to (anti)hero Hyoubu, his pint-sized ward Yugiri and his newest employee, the two-faced Andy. This week we meet more members of P.A.N.D.R.A. and learn what it is a criminal esper organization does with itself, besides cruise around on giant yachts. Yugiri is a mind-readers; Momotaro has the body of a squirrel; Magi can change his form into, say, wings, which he uses to fly. Momiji can teleport. Yoh manipulates sound. All these skills prove valuable in Andy’s first official mission, which amounts to killing off a mafia boss and old friend. Andy’s passive power – to negate the powers of others, is perhaps most powerful and useful of all, which is probably why Hyoubu is keeping him around.
Some like Magi don’t trust him – and they’re right not to – but he defers to “Major” Hyoubu, an 80-year-old Dorian Gray who’s stayed young by using his esper powers (and drinking lots of milk). Hyoubu may be exceedingly confident, but as the incident with the mob boss proves, he doesn’t strike us as someone who will let someone pull the wool over his eyes. He’s a survivor. We’ll also note that Andy was struck by the family atmosphere of P.A.N.D.R.A. when off-duty. It’s definitely not what he expected – there are even orphan espers aboard, suggesting Hyoubu is an immortal gangster with a heart o’gold. Or maybe he’s just making sure he has a deep bench of esper “talent” waiting in the wings?
Rating: 6 (Good)
Thanks to a bear, Michiko escapes and makes it to the bus stop where Keita’s siblings are fretting. After a crying session, she goes out to look for him, enlisting the help of Momou, and finds him passed out and bleeding. Momiji extracts fortune from her – enough to heal Keita, who wakes up in the morning with Michiko sleeping on him. The family goes home, and the next night, Michiko escapes. Momou and Bobby fetch the Aging Box for her, and she changes back to Ichiko. She’s then down in the dumps for several days, confounding Momiji & Co., until she finally gathers the courage to return Keita’s hanky, and returns to normal.
Safely behind her shield of little-kidhood, Ichiko enjoys being a part of the family she derided and insulted as a high schooler as a result of her inexperience dealing with anyone less fortunate than her (which is pretty much everyone). When Keita’s accident separates him from them, she shares in that drama and is compelled to act to preserve their family. She may outwardly say she’s doing it so she isn’t saddled with that bunch of troublesome kids, but she’s really doing it out of momentary, genuine compassion. Her body may have shrunk, but her heart grew. Then she’s back to normal, and suffers ‘family withdrawal’, of a kind.
After all that time surrounded by love and noise, she looks lonely and lost – nothing the celestial squatters do will faze her. It’s a load that’s lifted off her mind once she returns the hanky Keita gave her as Michiko. She not only feared that he’d realize the little kid was her (he didn’t, he’s not the sharpest tack), but was probably also worried about getting drawn back into that house – even though in her regular form, they’re not really big fans of her. So, lesson learned for Ichiko: some people have nothing she has, but everything she doesn’t – but it shouldn’t be – and isn’t – a simple case of ‘n’er the twain shall meet’.
Rating: 6 (Good)
Momiji acquires an “aging box” from the turtle god Urashima Taro, but when she tricks Ichiko into opening it, it has the reverse effect and turns her into a small child. Young Ichiko manages to escape and finds refuge with the Tsuwabaki family, who she had not-to-friendly dealings with before. Not knowing who she is, they treat her like a proper guest and even invite her to a picnic. But Momiji grabs her when she strays away from the family. Keita goes looking for her, finds her shoe, and falls into a deep pit.
In the middle of watching this episode we forgot it was merely part one of two, so we were a bit surprised when the episode simply ended with Keita falling down a well. Even if we had remembered this was a two-parter, we aren’t quite sure if it needed to be. Once Ichiko escapes from Momiji’s clutches, the episode slows to a grinding halt. Granted this is so she can spend more quality time with the Tsuwabakis, but we still feel like this story could have been wrapped up a bit quicker. Not to mention, a character turning into a kid has been done, and done better.
Another possible reason two stretch this story out across two parts is to underline that this is the closest Momiji the Binbougami has come to actually defeating Ichiko. With a tiny, relatively weak body (but apparently the same size bust), Ichiko is simply no match for Momiji. Also, Momiji isn’t the most efficient when it comes to carrying out her mission, bitching so much she lets Ichiko get away. But here is a case of Ichiko crossing paths with an impoverished family unit and the only emotion she can report is…irritation. Could she actually just be longing for a family she never had?
Rating: 5 (Average)
Car Cameos: There’s a black sedan and a bus, but they’re unfortunately of unknown make and model.
Momiji avails herself of the aid of her masochistic dog god pal Inugami Momou. She stimulates him into the form of a tiny, cute puppy for Ichiko to pick up. Once inside her apartment, Momou is to use a gadget to drain Ichiko of her fortune. However, when he sees the good, gentle, sensitive side of her, he can’t bring himself to do it, especially after he activates another gadget that causes her treasured box of Suwano’s letters ends up in a landfill and she searches through the night. While washing Momou in the bath, he returns to human form, and he sees the side Momiji was talking about.
This week Momiji gets some reinforcements, and we get a fresh perspective on her, not from another misfortune god, but from a dog god. We didn’t think much of Momou, especially when Momiji broke out the S&M routine. But his inner dialogue when observing Ichiko reveals a clearer head than Momiji, who is extremely jealous of her fortune, no matter what she says. He also realizes one night that Ichiko’s fortune is an almost Perfect Defense, even helping her foil his plans in her sleep.
The punishment Momou receives never ascends to Ren Höek-esque lyricism, but this series definitely knows how to toss its characters around. The worst he gets is when he reverts to human form – in her naked arms. She rips the bathtub off the floor and beats him with it, which is just plain nuts. Still, his time with her wasn’t in vain: he learned that Momiji wasn’t telling the whole story, only half of it. Ichiko most definitely is a short-tempered, violent brute, but when it comes to family (Suwano), she’s a big(-boobed) ol’ softie.
Rating: 6 (Good)
P.S. The priest/exorcist guy just kinda took up space this week…
Taking stock of everything she has, Ichiko thinks about what’s next, and decides it’s a boyfriend. She decides to start with the guy sitting next to her in class, Keita who loses his student card. She goes to his house to return it, and he invites her in. Ichiko learns he’s poor and living hand to mouth with lots of siblings to care for. After arguing they’d be better off with money and offering them some, Keita asks her to leave. The next day she bribes his brother Ryuu with a rare card, but Ryuu drops in the sewer, then gets trapped down there. With help from Momiji and her own fortune, Ichiko saves Ryuu, and Keita forgives her past offenses.
In case there was any doubt, a rich girl like Ichiko who was essentially raised alone by her butler is a bit…ahem…lacking in the social graces, as this episode aptly illustrates. Especially when it comes to the poors…by the time she realizes what she’s gotten herself into, it’s too late to back out and she must improvise, and she does, badly, by grossly oversimplifying the plight of Keita and his family, insisting they’d be happier if they had more money, then tossing a fat wad of ¥10,000 ($127.25 US) bills on the ground. Her ‘unique’ gesture of charity is met with disgust, and rightly so. You don’t shame a breadwinner in front of the wee ones.
Is Keita a bit too rigid and proud when it comes to any kind of alms? Perhaps, but that’s hardly uncommon: humans on the whole don’t like having to depend on handouts. Keita believes he only deserves to exist if he stands on his own two feet. That’s where the character for “person” (人) comes in. Sakura initially imagines it as one person being propped up by others (which is actually how she lives her life), but she then learns it’s actually two people supporting each other. People are defined by those around them; and the more Sakura interacts with others, particularly those less fortunate than her – the larger her shriveled heart will grow.
Rating: 7 (Very Good)
Momiji enrolls in Sakura’s school and harasses her all day. On the way home, Sakura is grabbed by a starving travelling monk, but ignores his pleas. Back at her home, Momiji is squatting in her closet, and the monk followed her home; her positive energy and Momiji’s negative energy drew him there. He equips her with “robes” and a weapon called the Souin Shourai, and she picks a fight with Momiji, who is surprised to learn Sakura can manifest her fortune into summoned animal allies. Sakura wins the fight and kicks Momiji out, but is left with the priest, her animals, and Momiji’s lazy samurai allies occupying her place.
We’re still impressed with the sheer volume of comedic material this series has dished out in its first two weeks, and were even able to discern some of the anime it spoofs in mere blinks of the eye. This week lost none of the manic energy and verve of the first episode, and it’s a pleasure to listen to Hanazawa Kawa firing with both barrels. Momiji’s Uchiyam Yumi is no slouch; with not one but dozens of different voices. The new kid on the block, Bobby the priest, is a welcome and hilarious addition to the cast, coming on too strong for Sakura’s taste, but actually aiding her in her battle against misfortune incarnate, Momiji. We especially like how he kind of fades into the background during the climactic battle…as if the series sensed that he’s better in moderation.
This episode eschews drama with more action and parody, and it isn’t boring even for a moment. The series points out in the omake that they’re only arround for one cour, so they’re clearly making the most of what they’ve got. Sakura and Momiji truly are two sides of the same coin. You’d think the god has an advantage here, but Sakura proves she won’t let her take her misfortune without a fight. Momiji’s direct approach has only made Sakura bolder and more cognizant of her powers. Momiji faces an uphill battle.
Rating: 6 (Good)
The rich, beautiful, brilliant and arrogant Sakura Ichiko is visited upon by a “god of misfortune” named Momiji whom she calls a “binbougami”. Sakura is throwing off the balance of fortune, and drains the fortune out of those around her, and Momiji is there to “correct the imbalance.” Sakura quickly rejects her, but when her butler and only family, Suwano has a heart attack, she consents to having fortune “drawn” from her body by Momiji, making her into a normal person. However, Sakura steals the extracted vial of fortune and smashes it, spreading good fortune throughout the immediate radius and helping Suwano recover. Sakura relieves him of his duties, and a week later he is engaged. Momiji moves in with Sakura, whose fortune levels remain too high.
Sakura is a perfect girl in virtually everything but humility and modesty. She knows she’s got it going on and looks down on those less fortunate; she’s even immune to the abuse some of her envious, bitter classmates dish out. But she’s also immune to feeling any kind of closeness to anyone, even the legions at school who worship the ground she walks on and are at her beck and call. All her good fortune has left her isolated and alone. All she has is Suwano, the fiercely loyal butler who she’s always taken for granted. For us, this is the underlying drama that bolsters this otherwise madcap comedic series. So even if Momiji is there to do one job – relieve Sakura of her excessive fortune – there’s the possibility of her becoming that first friend…whether they’d admit they’re friends or not.
That being said, as a madcap comedy – with its dizzying pace and variety of jokes, gags, cultural references, swearing matches, and music by Final Fantasy veteran Hamauzu Masashi – this is very good stuff and very encouraging if it maintains this quality. Kana Hanazawa has a long leash to unload on her new (and to her, very aggravating) roommate Momiji. Both are exceedingly fun to watch, especially when locked in verbal or physical combat, which is almost all the time. We liked the decision to focus on the two of them, allowing us to learn a lot right out of the gate. As it seems Sakura is the Spindletop of fortune, Momiji has her work cut out for her, especially since Sakura has no intention of letting Momiji succeed in ruining her future.
Rating: 8 (Great)
Car Cameo: Suwano chaffeurs Sakura around in a somewhat stylized but still recognizable Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow.