Bakuman. 2 – 01

Everything picks up where the first season left off, with Mashiro and Takagi getting serialized. Hattori hands them over to a new supervisor, who immediately delves into the logistics of serializing a manga. He hires three assistants for them, sets the deadlines, salaries, and expenses of the enterprise. They are also treated to VIP service as they attend Yoeisha’s New Year’s party, where they meet rivals Hiramaru and Niizuma as well as Mr. Torishima, board of directors. Mashiro sets high goals that impress both him and the Editor-in-chief.

This was a great continuation of the story we’d left last fall, and introduced a lot of new characters and challenges for Ashirogi Muto. It cleverly begins with the OP of Detective Trap, as seen in Mashiro’s head. None of the trials he and Takagi have gone through have jaded him from his ultimate goal. “Hard work, confidence (or conceit) and luck” are the weapons of any successful mangaka, and so confident is he (at least on the surface), Mashrio promises the editor-and-chief and (a very subtly hilarious) Mr. Torishima that he’ll do what his uncle couldn’t – make a living off manga – and do what he left undone – winning first place in the Jack survey.

Lofty goals, but after witnessing the professionalism of his new team – Editor Miura, Chief Assistant Ogawa, Kato the Girl, and Takahama the Quiet – he has cause to strive for them. The party is the perfect vehicle to introduce Kazuya Hiramaru, who some have claimed is even more of a genius than Niizuma – but when they meet him he insists he’d rather be a NEET. The charisma at the party is palpable, as is the cautious optimism. I love how this show doesn’t merely have course enemies as the leads’ rivals; their relationships are often more complicated. Punctuating the episode with a brief cut to Azuki getting Mashiro’s vow via text was also well done.


Rating: 3.5

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Kami-sama no Memo-cho 12

After following a hunch and Major analyzes Angel Fix, it’s determined that one has to take the drug in order to find a source. Narumi volunteers, and has a bad trip as he lurches through downtown, but he finds the hideout where Hakamizaka and a group of junkies congregate. Sou and his soldiers pacify the area, while Alice messes with Hakamizaka right until he keels over from overdose. Narumi then gives Toshi a beating. He continues to visit Ayaka, but she won’t wake up. Alice concludes she didn’t jump because of the drug, but because she didn’t want the school festival to invade the garden she and Narumi had made.

They say you should never get high on your own supply. I thought Hakamizaka was smart, but it turns out he’s just another junkie, who starts to believe his own drug-induced babbling. It was very satisfying to see Alice give him a very buzz-killing dressing down, and even a little cruel, but the guy had it coming. As for Ayaka, the fact that the AF amplified the negative emotions she felt about letting the festuval invade her garden was a good touch. It doesn’t let Narumi off the hook for never noticing trouble, nor does it make Hakamizaka the lone culprit in her demise. She also doesn’t wake up, which is kind of a downer, but works for dramatic purposes. It’s a wonder she’s alive at all, but the hope of her waking up continues to haunt Narumi.

So I believe this just about wraps it up for Kamisama no Memo-cho. I really enjoyed it, and it started and ended strong, and fielded a strong cast in a believable and richly-rendered setting in the heart of Tokyo. As a J.C.Staff piece, this was far better than either Index II (which got buried in its religious mumbo-jumbo) and Ookami-san (the fairy-tail gimmick was half-baked). Neither of those shows had nearly as likeable and original characters as the onese here, and as lolis go, Alice was not just tolerable, but downright solid. I was always wondering exactly how this eleven(?) year-old girl got into the position of bossing a bunch of people around, but hey, sometimes special people are born who just can’t wait until puberty to accomplish great things.


Rating: 4

Kami-sama no Memo-cho 11

As Ayaka lies in the hospital in a coma, Narumi asks Alice for help investigating her attempted suicide. Alice officially names him her full-fledged Assistant. They soon learn that Hakamizaka, a brilliant young student specializing in plant genetics, is the one behind the recent Angel Fix distribution. Through Toshi, he made Ayaka unwittingly plant flowers in the gardening club’s greenhouse to be used in the producition of the narcotic. Naurmi still doesn’t believe Ayaka tried to off herself after finding out what she’d been doing, but only Toshi and Hakamizaka have the answers. Meanwhile, Sou and his yakuza are scouring the city for the scientist, irrespective of sentimental considerations: their goal is merely to clean up the city.

I liked this episode, where for once Narumi is fighting for a very personal cause – discovering the truth about someone he cared about far more than he initially realized. I’m unsure whether it was anything other than a formality, but Narumi is now Alice’s full assistant. Now that they share a common trauma – Ayaka’s attempted suicide, perhaps she feel it would be best if they collaborated as closely as possible for the best results. Seeing with her eyes and speaking with her voice, he directs the other NEETs to find the information he needs. I had assumed Ayaka was dead dead, but here she’s just in a coma. Thus, the chances of her waking up, while announced as slim, are not nil.

Poor Ayaka. For someone as kind and pure as her to come to the realization she’s been helping to create drugs that kill people must have been devastating enough – but that her own beloved brother was putting her up to it must’ve been worse. She didn’t feel she could tell Narumi any of this. As for the exact reason she jumped, perhaps she was goaded into it – or even pushed – by the likes of Hikamizaka. The guy is your classic mad scientist evil genius with pretensions of grandeur and a thuggish side. But now that he’s a wanted man, he’s even more dangerous, as is Toshi, who seems to be hopelessly addicted to Angel Fix. As for Ayaka herself being drugged…well, you’d think the doctors would have checked her bloodwork by now.


Rating: 3.5

Kami-sama no Memo-cho 9

When Nemoto, a yakuza, threatens to raise the rent of an arcade the NEETs frequent, they convince him to take part in a bet. If the NEETs beat him at baseball, the rent stays the same. To their surprise, it’s a real baseball game, not a video game, they have to participate in. Nemoto also fields ringers and is himself a former ace pitcher. To beat him, Alice and Narumi need to know what kind of player he was.

I have a soft spot for baseball episodes – even DS9 did one for crying out loud – especially when they bear some resemblance to the sport of baseball. This episode did, somewhat. You had your signs, your uncaught strike three, your out pitch, et cetera. Baseball is every bit as much about brains as it is about brawn, and considering the NEET team had more than a few capable players, I wasn’t that outraged that they won. Whether Narumi could actually hit a home run off of Nemo just because he knows what’s coming is a stretch, to be sure. But as an in-between episode it wasn’t bad.

The arcade at stake is apparently where the NEETs spend a lot of time; the owner calls them regulars. Yet nine episodes in and I believe this is the first time we’ve seen them there. Usually they’re just in the alley behind Min’s ramen shop. It was hard to care about the stakes considering this episode was the first time we learned of the arcade’s existence, and Narumi & Co.’s fondness for it. Still, I liked how they still needed to do some detective work to “solve the case” (win the game). And Alice actually going outside and participating in athletics? Unprecedented.


Rating: 3

Kami-sama no Memo-cho 8

With Sou in the hospital, Narumi inherits the captain’s chair of the Hirasaka group. With this new power, he does what he’s done all along: con others for a good cause. Narumi has no business running a gang, but he does so anyway, by the seat of his pants. He even tells them that the fact they got Renji’s location right after Sou was injured spelled a trap. This wasn’t any proven theory; it was a hunch, plain and simple. But is was true; there would have been a nasty battle had he let them go. As Alice notes, this Narumi is truly a mysterious cat.

He has the Feketerigo concert proceed as scheduled, keeping in contact with both the NEET crew and his minions. Renji’s crew blends in with the crowd. Meanwhile, Narumi has set a trap of his own for Renji, who takes the bait as expected. This sets up a confrontation between Renji and Alice/Narumi, wherein Alice drops a bomb on him: Hison is still alive. His treasured shirt that Hison made was embroidered in the same way as Narumi’s Feketerigo shirt – and by the same person: Hison, or as she’s now known, Yoshiki. As a condition of being allowed to live (and being paid off), she had to give up her womanhood. Harsh.

Sou shows up to exchange a few punches with Renji, but ultimately Renji’s rage and thirst for revenge dissolves once he learns the truth. The concert is a success, Renji ships off for Osaka, and with the Fourth still alive and kicking, Narumi returns to Alice’s side. Alice, for her part, is overplaying her hand vis-a-vis not liking having him around. For somebody as logical and empirical as she is, it’s a bit silly for her to constantly deny what’s plain to a dimwit. Good tea. Nice arc.


Rating: 3.5

Kami-sama no Memo-cho 7

This week was a very talky episode, but a lot was revealed about Sou and Renji’s past, and the question floated: what’s more important, friendship or truth? Narumi is running every which way, carefully extracting tidbits of information, risking dire bodily harm, and trying to piece together exactly what their beef is, and why Renji wants to destroy Sou so badly. All this while checking in intermittently with Alice and arranging all the PR for Mika’s upcoming concert, which hasn’t been cancelled.

Turns out they used to live together with a third roommate, an illegal immigrant named Hison. They both loved and protected her – you could say she was the glue that held them together – but she was no saint herself, working at the bar of a rival gang, and was its leader’s mistress. When the leader’s wife found out, she ordered her killed – even though she was with child. Sou tried to stop it, but couldn’t. These very crucial blanks were filled in by none other than one of Hiro’s conquests, an eyewitness to the incident.

All these years, Sou has been content to keep the truth buried, and loathed anyone digging into it. Renji believed Sou used Hison as a human shield, knowing nothing about the mistress or pregnancy angle. Renji has a gang of misfits working for him and many years of rage for Sou stewing. But whether he think Renji killed her or simply didn’t stop her from being killed, it will be hard to dissuade him from his vengence. In fact, in the episode’s cliffhanger (long arc, this), Narumi gets the message that “Sou is down”, signalling that it may be too late for peace negotiations – the war may have already begun.


Rating: 3.5

Kami-sama no Memo-cho 2

This week Narumi settles into his role as Alice’s manservant. As I mentioned last week, he’s surprisingly gung-ho about it, considering how it disrupts the ordinary life he was having. But unlike Huey and Dalian, this isn’t even close to a relationship of equals. Alice’s powers of observation and deduction are vastly superior to Narumi’s.

Narumi’s strength is his heart, his kindness, his courage, and his inoffensive and harmless presence. All of these skills serve him well as Alice’s assistant. He even surprises himself when he ignores Souchiro’s warning to stay out of what could end up a very bloody Yakuza case. He can’t, because he promised the client – Meo – he’d help her find her father.

Everyone has something to do this week, and despite the serious case involving the rogue money launderer and his unwitting Yakuza-bait daughter, there are still moments of levity. Ayaka and Meo invade Alice’s “cave” to wash her hair, while the reason Narumi ends up at Souchiro’s is to fix the PC his underlings filled with pr0n and malware. Hiro, Major, and Tetsu all do their jobs.

They aren’t bothered that their lives are on the line – and, Narumi has learned, that’s the case with him too. The client comes first. Rating: 4

Kami-sama no Memo-cho 1, Parts A & B – First Impressions

Forgive the pun, but “Memo Pad of the Gods” makes a very good case for itself. It some ways, it picks up in Sibuya where Durarara left off in Ikebukuro by instantly painting a picture of a well-lived in world full of oddballs and secret lives. Narumi Fujishima is our avatar in this rich painting, and for once in his life he feels like a part of something bigger, rather than simply the kid who floats around pretending he belongs.

The new life he fell into fits him like a glove. This first, hourlong episode chronicles his addition to a team of “NEET Detectives” led by the enigmatic Alice, a 12-or-so year-old who possesses detective skills and wisdom far beyond her years, but also gets all weepy. if one of her many teddy bear’s ears gets torn. I also like her calm, logical, curt demeanor. She isn’t a squeaky menace.

But she’s just one of many interesting and promising characters. This agency has a crack team of specialists in diverse fields: Hiro is a suave ‘gigalo’, brother of a yakuza boss, and expert in women. ‘Major’ is a military spy freak who likes to stick rifles in people’s faces. Tetsu is the polic snoop. Min runs and Ayaka works at the ramen/ice cream shop above which Alice resides, in her Lain-like cocoon.

The core cast is plenty interesting, but this series doesn’t fall into the same traps of the latest J.C. Staff series like Yumekui Merry, Ookami-san, and Index II, all of which kinda fizzled. This series feels more honest, and its characters and themes are suitably adult and mature. High school girls losing it and entering the world of vice is not the kind of thing those series would touch upon, but such things can and do happen in the real world, which is what this series feels like.

The first case we’re presented with is nicely opened, investigated, solved, and shut within the hourlong period. Whether future episodes are two-parters like this remains to be seen, but it’s definitely not a bad thing if they are; the story never felt dragged out here, and on half-hour simply wouldn’t be enough to tell it properly.

The people involved in the specific case – Miku, Teraoka, and Shoko, served their roles well, and didn’t feel like throwaway characters. The case itself even had a macabre twist, in which Shoko “froze time” like she had wanted to, by committing suicide in a tub of ice. Yikes, you may say, but horrible things can happen, and it’s Alice and her agency’s jobs as detectives to either ‘tarnish the living to maintain the honor of the dead’, or ‘tarnish the dead to comfort the living.’ I look forward to their next case. Rating: 4