One Off – 03

A large group of stargazers arrive at the Niwa inn, and Anri, Sayo and Rie volunteer to help out. Haruno is open to singing Anri’s song when she finishes it, but balks at an all-out concert. After being browbeaten by Cynthia, she changes her mind, only to drop the issue again. The night of the stargazing, her friends ask her about it again, and after chatting with one of the stargazers, she agrees to do a concert after all.

The overall theme of this episode is “little by little” – taking small steps, taking your time, being patient in order to achieve achievable goals. Take the picture of the Rosette Nebula Haruno’s dad hangs on the wall. It’s a long-exposure photo, taken under ideal conditions. The village is ideal for stargazing, but the brilliant red color is not visible to the human eye, ina telescope or not. It’s just a dense cluster of stars. But even that can’t be seen in the city.

But to Kageyama, one of the stargazers, it’s enough that she can see a hint of it and get lost in thought under the stars. Even after her ride to the sea, Haruno is a little more receptive to trying things like singing, but is still afraid of exerting energy if it will only result in failure. Her daydreams are overambitious, but none of them are as impossible as she mopes about. Ultimately, she decides to give a concert a try, and the group she and her friends form has the appropriate name “poco a poco” – little by little.


Rating: 8 (Great)

Motorcycle and Car Cameos: Rie’s brother has a PCX Scooter. Kageyama rides a Shadow 750 (pictured). There’s a third-gen CR-V in the Niwa garage (that D-pillar is unmistakable), and one of their customers drive a Stepwgn.

One Off – 01

Shiozaki Haruno lives at the Niwa inn in an picturesque but small village, enjoys riding her Honda scooter, and dreams of one day living in the big city. She and her high school friends meet Niwa’s new hire, an Australian woman named Cynthia B. Rogers who has traveled the world on her sport bike. Haruno envies Cynthia’s adventurous spirit and laments her lack of motivation or will to do what she did.

At first we thought this OVA series would be one big pretty advertisement for Honda Motorcycles…and it is, but thankfully it’s also more. (Side note: being owners of three four-wheeled Hondas ourselves, and having family with five more, we can attest to the quality and dependability of their wares. Where’s our sack of cash, Honda?) This is by the director of Tamayura ~Hitotose~ and it’s one big pretty slice-of-life, with the lovingly-rendered Honda machines complementing rather than overpowering the proceedings.

This episode oozes quality from start to finish: the backgrounds, character design and voice work and music are all top-notch and pop through the screen. And the message is simple: “amazing is relative”. Haruno is impressed and even jealous of the action-packed life the eccentric gaijin has led, while Cynthia finds awe in simple things Haruno takes for granted: the beauty of her village, the tea, or a bowl of rice with a fresh egg. Both are right, but while Cynthia is experiencing both worlds, Haruno feels like she’s on the outside looking in. We’ll see where her restlessness and Cynthia’s influence takes her.


Rating: 8 (Great)

Motorcycle Cameos: First of all, everyone rides Hondas. Haruno rides a Giorno, a European-styled scooter. Her friend Sayo rides a Little Cub, a version of the most-produced motor vehicle in history, the Super Cub. Her friend Anri rides a Benly. Rie rides a bicycle, but dreams of owning the cute-but-tough Zoomer, also known as the Ruckus (114 mpg!). Cynthia rides a red CBR250R (pictured). A CB1100 is being tended to outside the cafe.

Denpa Onna to Seishun Otoko 12 (Fin; Until the Blu-ray)

Can the wrong in a lifetime’s worth of indifference and passivity be righted in one glorious moment? It kinda is this week, the final episode of Denpa to air on TV. Makoto has been dreading the day of the big game, but Yashiro’s words moved him; he takes a stand and makes his big entrance as the hero for once. And he does a fairly nice job.

I like baseball settings, so I’m not annoyed in the slightest that this episode was all about baseball on the surface. But baseball can be a metaphor for countless things. Baseball is a sport with roles. There are background roles, temp roles, and lead roles. It’s all about specialization. But sometimes, one player has it all on their shoulders. The stress of this leads the ace pitcher of the market district, Maekawa’s dad, to go AWOL.

Sent by his aunt to look for him, Makoto finds him and finds a kindred spirit in terms of how he sees himself, the world, and his role in it. After he convinces him to come back with him, there’s a priceless and extremely hilarious scene where Mr. Maekawa, who has to sit behind Makoto on his bike, sternly interrogates him on his intentions with his daughter. Makoto just has to carrry everyone on his bike…

So yeah, Makoto gets out of his funk and steps out of the shadow of his doubt and fear and just goes for it. He manages to hit Hanazawa’s pitch, but it’s a pop fly until Yashiro apparently changes the wind to carry the ball all the way into the drink for a home run. Unfortunately for him, the only kiss he gets is from his aunt. It would seem that while he may have learned to be more assertive, Makoto still needs a lot of adolescence points before attaining his ultimate goal. The true conclusion will come in a few months. Rating: 3.5

Denpa Onna to Seishun Otoko 9

In the midst of summer, Makoto continues to juggle all the various idiosyncratic women in his life. The one with who seems the most natural, obvious choice to be his girlfriend would be Ryuushi, obviously. They exchange phone numbers, and she starts texting him immediately. She also wants him to support her in sports. Her flirting is also the most intentional and most blatant out of everyone (well, except Meme, but Makoto has no designs on her).

Despite all her odd costumes, Maekawa seems far more mature and sly with her words than Ryuushi. She also seems to relish being a rival to Ryuushi for Makoto’s heart, although we don’t really know if her intention is to win it. Ryuushi’s mostly an open book; Maekawa’s murkier; an enigma. And then there’s the family: Meme annoys and even disturbs him most of the time, but there’s no disputing she is drop-dead gorgeous. His cousin Erio continues to cast an otherworldly spell on him.

This week, with its morning baseball game by the river played amongst people in business suits, space suits, and mackerel suits, aesthetic echoes of Arakawa Under the Bridge abound. It also contained lots of tongue-in-cheeck wordplay and jokes; I particularly liked Maekawa’s comment about “sports fishing.” She also calls the ace pitcher for the opposing team “Hanazawa-san” – before we learn that the short-skirted girl is indeed voiced by Kana Hanazawa. Man, that girl’s everywhere…not that I’m complaining.

So yeah, with three to four very different women around him all vying for his time and attention, Makoto is one busy adolescent. The appeal of this show isn’t just in the charm of the characters, but in reveling in just what a great life Makoto has. Fortunately, he seems to realize this himself, and isn’t constantly moping. Summertime; baseball; a serene town; cuties everywhere – this is the place to be. Rating: 3.5

Denpa Onna to Seishun Otoko 6

This week could have been a really big mess: all the women in Makoto’s life end up under one roof, but he’s able to handle it, and they don’t all start grabbing at his limbs. I didn’t think it would descend to that; the relationships at play here are a lot more nuanced. Meme, Erio, Ryuushi and Maekawa all seem to like Makoto, but in different ways. Furthermore, Meme and Maekawa are willing to let Ryuushi right of first refusal where Makoto is concerned.

Of all the females, Ryuushi does seem the most realistic match for Makoto, but (of course) she considers herself a bad person for letting her friends badmouth Erio. Most everyone at school apparently still remember’s Erio; she probably wasn’t any less odd than she is now, and the whole cycling into the sea and dropping out of school doesn’t help matters. Erio also still needs a futon – anyone’s futon – in times when she’s feeling particularly insecure or anxious about the social situation.

Still, despite his lack of experience with girls (which he makes clear he’s well aware of in his narration), Makoto shows poise, if a little denseness where Ryuushi is concerned. The time might come for him to not worry about all the points to be scored from actions he takes, and rather focus on the actions of others, particularly Ryuushi. I don’t think she wants to be “just friends”. An aside: as in most SHAFT series, the close-ups are bangin’. Rating: 3.5

Denpa Onna to Seishun Otoko 3

Makoto goes on a date with the almost sickly-cute Ryuushi and really enjoys himself (although dude…you can’t handle fizzy drinks? wtf…), but he finds himself distracted by thoughts of Erio. What is her deal? Meme tells him (in a rather awkward bedroom scene) not to pry, just leave Erio be, like she does – she just wants to be left alone. While that may be true – Erio is in a futon most of the time – Mako simply can’t let her be. He wants to snap her out of it.

To crush her delusions, he decides to go on a bicycle ride with her in the same bike she rode off a bridge, essentially repeating the incident that caused her present trauma and memory loss. He makes her promise to renounce her claim of being alien if she can’t make them fly in the bike. Not surprisingly, they fail to fly, though they fall spectacularly into the sea and the bike is lost. This seems to awaken Erio a bit; her manner of speaking is much more normal, and she concedes defeat. Mako and Erio re-introduce themselves, as Mako believes this is the true beginnning of their friendship. Even though he didn’t mean to take the game of chicken so far (physics had other ideas), he seems quite happy with the result.

This series is really good with close-ups, particularly those of the female characters of the show. But I noticed some really crappy animation mixed in, as well as lots of poorly proportioned limbs, still shots and other instances were corners were clearly cut, which is a shame, especially when Puella Magi Madoka Magica looked consistently superb throughout. Also, the opening theme is easily the worst I’ve ever heard, and the ending isn’t much better (Etsuko Yakushimaru’s songs all sound the same to be now). Depsite these shortcomings, I’m confident the story and characters will continue to do the heavy lifting here. Rating: 3.5