Wasteful Days of High School Girls – 01 (First Impressions) – An Interesting Woman (Or So He Says)

Wasteful Days picks up on the first day of high school for three friends who have been together since middle school (and possibly longer). Particularly for the liveliest of them, Tanaka Nozumu (voiced by the always-energetic Akasaki Chinatsu), this is supposed to be the start of their amazing high school lives; the pinnacle of youth. She hoped to become popular with the guys. The only problem is, they attend an all-girl’s school.

The only guy is a teacher who makes it clear he’s only into college girls, and manages to creep out the entire class. From there, Nozumu seeks out advice from her classmates, assigning them nicknames in the process, from from “Serious” (the girl who regularly checks stocks) to “Loli” (self-explanatory). No one is of any help, particularly her two friends, Saginomiya Shiori (a listless Toyosaki Aki) and Kikuchi Akane (Tomatsu Haruka).

The veteran all-star voice talent and the pacing of jokes somewhat make up for the fact that only a few of the jokes land, and I particularly liked the various cutaways and instances of characters reacting by just…walking away. But the full episode length makes it feel like there aren’t quite enough jokes to fill the space—a 12-minute runtime might’ve been a tighter affair. As it is, my mind often wandered.

There is a nice sequence of “possible” (but highly contrived/far-fetched) scenarios in which Nozomu encounters a hot guy, but they’re all in her head, and all are rejected as absurd by her friends, neither of whom have much energy for her antics. That being said, you get the feeling these three stick together anyways, as friends tend to do, due to pure inertia, and in the absence of strong new bonds.

If nothing else, this show captures the ennui and irrelevance of high school life as much as O Maidens captures the drama and angst. The fact it’s early in the Summer season means I don’t have a full plate yet, so this will stay on my list for now. But as tends to be the case, if better shows come along in my wheelhouse, it may signal the End of (Wasteful) Days.

Boogiepop wa Warawanai – 10 – Keep Calm and Scary On

Boogiepop and Others is hard enough to follow without having surplus episodes piled atop one another, but the day after last week’s conclusion to the Imaginator arc, that’s just what happened: four episodes dropping at once, comprising an entire arc. Because this first of the four had its own OP, ED, and self-contained story, I’ve decided to watch and review them each separately, as if they aired on different days.

This is the story of how Boogiepop got her admittedly bizarre name. She’s responding to a question from our favorite benevolent alien, Echoes, while the two are wandering a ruined, post-apocalyptic landscape. A stuffed animal that crumbles in his hand suggests it’s Earth of the distant (or not-too-distant) future. Wherever and whenever it is, it’s super creepy.

Boogiepop’s name origin story starts with a detective named Kuroda, AKA Scarecrow. Like Orihata Aya/Camille, he’s a synthetic human working for the Towa Organization. His colleague Pigeon gives him his next mission: checking up on fellow member Teratsuki Kyouichirou, suspected of betraying Towa. We learn from Kuroda that Towa is a vast network primarily dedicated to unlocking the mysteries of human evolution; both how we got to where we are, and what comes next.

Teratsuki kinda fades into the background as Kuroda finds someone more intriguing at one of his sprawling medical facilities: a young Kirima Nagi (younger than the previous episodes in which we’ve seen her). She notes that her somewhat unusual first name is based on the sentiment of “keeping calm no matter the situation”, and her personal situation is not optimal: diagnosed as “growing pains,” she has fits of pain so intense she can’t even describe it.

Nagi is also very much like the young woman we’ve seen in the present thus far: gorgeous, upbeat, direct, intensely curious, and dedicated to the truth: a natural detective in larval form. Once Kuroda gets past her guard (Naoko), he presents the results of her request for him to investigate her: he discovered her agent was embezzling her money and got him fired.

But despite all the qualities that make our Nagi Nagi in the present, this past Nagi is deeply uncertain and apprehensive about who and what she should become, if and when her condition is healed. Kuroda asserts that everyone feels that way on the road to coming into themselves. He himself dreamed of becoming a superhero who, unlike a detective, didn’t have to worry about all of the peripheral crap that comes with solving crimes. Just rush in, get the job done, and call it a day.

This perks Nagi up, and she says Kuroda should definitely become a superhero. Their visit is cut short when she starts having fits of pain, but when she grabs him, it leaves a raw mark, almost like a burn. That clinches it for Kuroda: Nagi is one of the “NPSLs” its his usual mission to locate. She’s evolving to the next stage…but it’s a rough gestation, which is keeping her in a hospital bed, unable to realize her own dreams.

Thus Kuroda—”Scarecrow”—decides to make a grand, superheroic gesture to Nagi, whom he’s decided to be the recipient of his heroism. He ransacks a Towa facilities to find a serum that would normally act as a catalyst for human evolution. Because Nagi is already evolving without it, administering it offsets the “possibility” that is tearing her apart from within. With one injection, he enables her to live the (relatively) normal human life she enjoys in the present.

While his act was both heroic and kind from the perspective of those of us rooting for Nagi to survive and thrive, it also broke a lot of Towa rules, and they send an assassin to eliminate him for his treachery against the organization. That assassin, Sasaki, is lightning quick of foot and deadly with a knife, but Kuroda demonstrates he can be pretty fast himself. While the two may look like a couple of regular-looking schlubs, they move like superheroes.

While Kuroda gets away, it isn’t before Sasaki gives him a wound from which he knows he won’t recover. That’s when a “reaper” appears, in the form of Touka, offering a chance to judge him favorably for doing something heroic for someone, even if it led to his demise.

Kuroda wonders if he’s speaking to a near-death delusion, but we know she’s really there. He calls her “creepy bubble”—like a boogieman that pops into and out of existence. Thus the title “Boogiepop”. When Sasaki finds Kuroda’s body, the Scarecrow is smiling, and why not? It may have cost his life, but he saved Kishima Nagi. For one night, he was a superhero. And one night was enough.

Sansha Sanyou – 02

s321

Nicknames, olive branches, and sisters who are opposites – San-San’s second episode covers a lot, but at a gentle yet lively pace. We meet Serina, Hayama’s self-appointed rival, whom Hayama always makes a fool of with the sweetest demeanor possible.

Their verbal sparring is quite good, but so is the truce they reach when Hayama, who beneath the blackness within has a kind heart, offers a kitten to replace Serina’s last cat who died.

s322

After Yamagi insists Hayama and Futaba refer to his master as “Yoko-sama”, the nickname sticks, and it’s time for Hayama. When Futaba and Yoko learn her first name is Teru, I like how Futaba has a little fun with it before agreeing with Yoko it’s actually a nice name (and it is!).

The one who yells “Teru” in the hall is Teru’s own big sister Kou, who is part-angel, part-airhead, who likes putting strange combinations of health food ingredients into candy.

s323

The girls end up running into each other in the shopping district, where Yoko shows how serious she is about squeezing every penny (to their embarrassment) and Teru figures out that her (healthy, lucky) sister got on the health food kick in order to ensure her little sister—always sickly and unlucky as a small child—gets proper nourishment.

That doesn’t make her strange onigiri any easier to choke down, but Teru and Yoko choke it down nonetheless. For Yoko, wasting food is an insult and a sin; for Teru, she wants her sister to know she appreciates her care. San-San, like Shounen Maid, is pleasant low-stakes slice-of-life, but edges it out in cast chemistry and comedic pacing.

16rating_7

Steins Gate – 04

sg31

Yes, Okarin has discovered a dark secret that involves at least one death, but to Steins;Gate‘s credit, the higher stakes aren’t used as an excuse to suck all the fun and joy out of the episode. In fact, this might be the funniest episode yet, as Okarin goes to great lengths to acquire the infamous IBN 5100 Portable PC.

sg32

The plan to pursue the 5100 is a seed in part planted by his new neighbor Suzuha, who insists to her boss and Okarin that she’s an adult and a soldier, respectively. Does this mean she’s, like, a real soldier? Why is she really there? It can’t just be because she loves CRTS…

sg33

Daru is like the universe—constantly expanding.

As for Mayushii, she isn’t throwing out any weird vibes this week, though she does reach for the sky again, something she does often enough that Okarin gives the ‘move’ a nickname: Stardust Handshake. Of course, Okarin seems to give everyone and everything nicknames…some more than one.

sg34

Meanwhile, Kurisu sulks in her hotel room. She’s held the belief that time travel is theoretically impossible for so long, and then that tall, crazy man-child had to come into her life and throw everything into doubt. Or rather, he’s forcing doors open she’d rather were kept closed.

sg35

With Daru out cold after his hacking binge and Mayshii having to work at the cafe, Okarin goes out into Akiba in search of a 5100 and as fate would have it, crosses paths with Kurisu. He asks her to come back to the lab and assist them, but she’s wishy-washy, which is apropos, since their next stop is a laundromat.

sg36

Here, Okarin finally gets his ‘assistant’ “Christina” to reveal why she doesn’t want to accept what she saw: because she doesn’t want to ‘make the same mistake’ her father made. Did her father get into time travel research and was laughed out of the scientific community? Or did he actually travel through time? We don’t get that much, but we do get this:

You don’t have to come anymore. But I’ll tell you this…No one else will ever have the title of Lab Member 004. That number will be yours forever.

That’s one awesome parting speech. So awesome, in fact, that Okarin couldn’t help using it even though he still had to wait for the laundry. Kurisu is the one who leaves, but not before he tells her about the importance of the IBN 5100, which she dismisses as more nonsense.

sg37a

Okarin gets a tip from Mayushii that Feyris may have info on the old PC, so Okarin, already on his cell in a no-cell restaurant, spills nowhere near enough change to pay for his meal on the table and books it to the cat-maid cafe, where a “Feyris Cup” is underway. Feyris makes him play her at Rai-Net Battler in exchange or information. Okarin explains his laughably quick defeat with the exuse that he’s short on time.

sg37b

Feyris’ info is scant at best, but the last thing she mentions—that she last saw the PC at an Akibahara shrine—is all Okarin needs to know to determine his next destination.

sg38

After a phone conversation in which Okarin and Kurisu bicker over the phone like an old married couple (and they truly are fun to listen to), Kurisu gets that destination out of him and meets him there, much to his surprise and her…well…self-disappointment?

sg39

A programmer friend of hers confirmed what he was saying about the 5100 wasn’t nonsense, so there she is, giving him yet another chance. We also get to see the friendly and far less combative Kurisu as she formally meets Ruka—without learning his true gender.

sg310

According to Ruka’s father, the IBN 5100 was donated to the shrine by a man ten years ago, who said one day a young man would come asking about it. Ruka’s dad has no problem letting Okarin borrow it. The only hitch is that the old ‘portable’ PC is quite bulky. As Kurisu balks at Okarin’s orders to assist him with it and the two bicker some more, Ruka’s dad also remarks how the two must be old friends.

sg310a

Truly, they must have been fated to meet and bicker. Okarin wins this particular battle, and Kurisu helps him drag the 5100 back to the lab. Soon, Daru will be rested and have clean clothes, and SERN’s secrets will be laid bare. If the damn thing works, that is.

9_brav

Stray Observations:

  • Okarin considers an exchange of information with “Shining Finger”, but she has no information to share, so Moeka remains in the background this week.
  • He also calls Kurisu “Assistant”, “Christina”, and “The Zombie”. Kurisu would rather he call him one of those than keep alternating, while I think Okarin prefers to alternate, depending on the situation.
  • Okarin seems disappointed that the spinning of the clothes doesn’t ‘change’ them.
  • “Christina was struck by lightning on the grassy plains of Arkansas…” I wouldn’t have minded him going on a little bit further with this tale.
  • “Theories are nothing more than words.”

Inou-Battle wa Nichijou-kei no Naka de – 03

ino31

InoBato isn’t just an above-average chuunibyou-infused random school club harem comedy, it’s an above-average chuunibyou-infused random school club harem that has found a way to weaponize its dialogue into a fearsome weapon of mass engrossment, education, and entertainment. It made me laugh, but it also made me think, and let me tell you, that’s a hard thing to get me to do on a Monday night!

ino32

This was an episode split into several diverse scenarios, but the theme running through them all was the exploration and analysis of the language being used. Words that can mean one thing can mean something else entirely depending on who said or read them and who’s reading or listening. I know full well the interpretation of words isn’t infinite, but sometimes it can seem that way.

ino33

Jurai starts by having to defend to his teacher the translating of English sentences on his test to Japanese using florid kanji just because “it’s cooler that way.” And the teacher can’t mark them incorrect, because they aren’t! Or take what happens when he and his anime-loving rival Sagami have a heated debate, and the teacher gets the total opposite idea of what they’re talking about!

ino31a

Wordplay aside, I really liked the brief exchange Jurai and Sagami had after the teacher kicked them out of the lounge. Here are, truth be told, two ladies’ men, but of very different kinds. Sagami gets love letters, meets girls after school, and receives confessions; he’s a bit of a romantic nomad. Jurai, meanwhile, is a nester, with a clubroom full of girls he shares a very close bond with, now that they all have powers.

ino34

“Sounding cool” also applies to conversation as much as writing, as demonstrated as Jurai, in a serious tennis stance and a cool smirk, declares to Kohata “I’ll show you a terrifying nightmare! Just no overhand serves, okay? They’re too fast for me to return.” Back to writing: Sayumi tricked him into writing “Bloody Vivre” instead of “Bible” on his dark journal, which just happens to have been purchased at a Vivre store.

ino35

When Jurai forgets his “Vivre” and tells the girls to go ahead without him, they have a little conversation of their own that wouldn’t have been possible if he’d been there: they each earnestly describe what Jurai has done for each of them to help them now that they have powers. Whether it’s telling Sayumi never to even consider bringing back the dead, or warning Chifuyu not to try to create life, Jurai has helped set boundaries that will protect their lives and sanity – serious business when they themselves don’t know those boundaries.

ino35a

On a smaller scale, years ago he changed Hatoko’s nickname from “Yakitori-chan” (since Kushikawa can translate to “skewer skin”) to something dorkier so other kids would be too embarrassed to tease her. The bottom line is, he’s done a lot for them, even if most of the time it looks like he’s just messing around.

ino36

When Jurai, AKA Guiltia Sin Jurai, returns to school for his vivre, he bumps into someone I initially thought was him from the future, or from another dimension. Turns out it’s an alumnus by he name of Kiryuu Hajime, AKA Kiryuu Heldkaiser Luci First, and its immediately clear after a few minutes with this more verbose version of Date from SKET Dance that Jurai is in the presence of a Chuuni Pro, were such a profession possible. Even Jurai himself starts to look at himself as a dabbler by comparison, while Kiryuu seems to be Living the Dream! and on a quest to attain some kind of nirvana where your speech becomes nigh indecipherable.

ino37

Oh, and he’s also Tomoyo’s runaway older half-brother, surprise! That aspect of who he is is revealed so masterfully; as he goes off on a very good rant about the essence of Chuunibyou as he sees it: the “unresolved paradox of self-denial and self-affirmation”, or Endless Paradox which as it turns out is a nickname he gave his sister Tomoyo. Before he splits, Kiryuu tells Tomoyo in as cool and forceful a manner as he can muster: “When you go home, tell our father this…’send living expenses for this month too.” Denial and affirmation indeed!

ino38a

That Tomoyo’s brother is a Chuuni, and an even more advanced one than Jurai, speaks volumes about Tomoyo herself and her relationship to Jurai. Before he’s “more than a friend”, he’s her friend, period, and something of a surrogate brother. She’s comfortable talking about her family life and what happened with Kiryuu, even though he gives her an out. And as close a bond of kinship as Jurai felt, and as many words as he said to him, not one was about his sister and the others having real powers.

But still, as Jurai says, Kiryuu really is incredible…

ino39

…for casually leaving him with the entire bill.

9_ses

Inou-Battle wa Nichijou-kei no Naka de – 02

ino21

I found it amusing that this episode of a show with “commonplace” or “everyday life” in the title dealt with something not commonplace at all, at least for most in the Western world: the Japanese written language. Heck, even that title means different things depending on how it’s written or read. I’m apparently drawn to shows that playfully explore the complexity plasticity of the language they’re speaking, usually for laughs.

ino22

And laughs were indeed in ample supply in the episode’s first half, when Jurai decides that everyone needs to come up with a Chuuni nickname to go with their powers (Why he didn’t suggest this when they first got their powers, I don’t know, but never mind). Each girl has a different approach, with Hatoko simply slapping colors in front of her name, then settling on “Play-Along Straight Man Hatoko.”

ino22a

Sayumi is next, and has lots of good names, but when Jurai points out that they’re all very cute, like “Powdered-Snow Princess”, she storms out of the room; apparently “cute” is an off-limits subject for her. After her comes Chifuyu, who goes from “Mikan Mikan” to a variety of family-related nicknames, and settling on “Pineapple”, because she likes that part of sweet-and-sour pork.

ino22b

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the girl who seems to know, understand, and care for Jurai the most—Tomoyo—comes up with the most thoughtful and impressive nickname, “Endless Paradox” (Paradox Witch Who Sneers at Twilight). Even I have to admit that’s a pretty good name…and I’m not a Chuuni anymore.

ino23

What follows the selection of nicknames in the second half is another application of the theme of language: that of misunderstanding, which is always a deep font of comedy. In this case, Mirei comes in to “respond to Jurai’s love letter”, which she does by reciprocating her feelings and agreeing to go out with him. Naturally, that sets the rest of the girls off, because wait…Jurai wrote Mirei a love letter?

ino24

This is when the scene gets a little chaotic, but amusingly so: as Mirei reads and deconstructs the letter in great detail, explaining precisely (and not unreasonably) how she interpreted it as a love letter, Jurai confirms what Tomoyo suspected almost immediately: that he simply wrote a letter acknowledging Mirei’s superpower and giving it the name “Grateful Lover”, or rather, “Robber.”

ino25 ino26

It doesn’t get through to Mirei, however, and the letter seems to have had the unfortunate effect of at least making her feel like she’s very much in love with Jurai. As a result, she follows him around, flirts and clings to him, and turns into a viscous solid of affection. Jurai is understandably flattered—Mirei is adorable, after all. And yet…

ino27ino29

And yet. When he arrives in the clubroom, his four club-mates are all quite pissed, and try to ignore him/take it out on him with varying degrees of success. It’s ultimately Sayumi who is upfront and tells him the understanding between him and Mirei needs to be cleared up. But there’s no superpower to make that easy, so that’s when we get our first taste of actual drama in InoBato, and I have to say, it worked pretty well.

ino210

In the hallway at sunset and bowing deeply in apology, Jurai explains what he explained to Tomoyo: that it wasn’t a love letter and he wasn’t trying to go out with her. Mirei is devastated but tries to apologize herself for jumping to conclusions and keep her composure, but simply can’t. It’s a tough and surprisingly moving scene, even if it is meant to restore the status quo. The lighting, the close-ups, and the voicework all contribute to sell it; now we know, InoBato can do serious.

ino211a

What really validates it is when Tomoyo appears to cheer Jurai up, who is mostly angry at himself for having hurt someone so deeply without intending to. For a good while there, Tomoyo drops the tsundere act and sits with Jurai as a friend while he explains that he chose the potentially confusing “robber” to match the character count of his and everyone else’s powers, as a symbol of unity – again, tapping into the written language and its ability to symbolize many things at once. See, he’s actually a very thoughtful, caring guy! Like his letter, Mirei could have interpreted that as affection, too.

ino211

Ultimately, Mirei shoots Jurai an email—they exchanged emails during their short-lived romance—voicing her hope they can still be friends, and her intention to use the name he gave her power. And that’s perhaps the most surprising part of this episode: there was only one use of powers in the whole episode: When Mirei very briefly stole Closed Clock from Tomoyo (and obliged Jurai by giving them right back)…and that’s it.

ino212

And yet this was on some levels a stronger episode than the first, because it didn’t just define its cast by their powers, but really tapped into their personalities through their use of language and their reactions to Jurai’s fling with Mirei, as well as Mirei’s interpretation of Jurai’s language. In the end, the “battle” this week was fought not with elements or matter or time, but with “commonplace” words. And it was a damn good one.

9_sestop_ses