Kyousougiga – 05


In the past, a young Myoue watches his house burning, lamenting his parents, and commits seppuku, but Myoue Shounin find him and brings him home as his son, later passing the care of the temple to him. In the present, Myoue waits by the station for his parents to arrive; Kurama compares him to Hachiko. A frustrated Myoue lashes out at Koto, but after spending a night alone, finds her at the station. They take a scooter trip to the fields outside the city, where Myoue tells Koto the rabbit she’s looking for is probably his (adoptive) mom, and asks Koto to kill him when they find her.

The Kyousougiga OVAs that ran last year were only brief tastes of what was to come, but they were enticing ones. Even a year and several dozen series since we last watched the fourth, the gorgeous environs at the end of Myoue and Koto’s scooter ride remain clear in our minds. This week represents the last of the material the OVAs previewed, in which we delve into Myoue’s story, which proves more complex than either of his non-human siblings. In fact, after keeping him on the margins for the previous four episodes, this episode establishes him as the unequivocal heart of the entire show. Everything revolves around him, and he’s the product of his father saving him from that fire. It’s not crystal clear whether Myoue Shounin saved ‘Lil Myoue’s life back then, or if he somehow resurrected him (that was a lot of blood), but we know Myoue would surely have died without Shounin, hence no show.

Myoue got a new life, new parents, a new family, and a new home; the parents left, and he’s lived in Mirror Kyoto for a very very long time ever since, waiting for them to return. We see Myoue’s increasing fatigue with his unending life, and when Koto arrives with the “beginning and end” his father promised before leaving, he apparently believe’s Koto’s presence to be the beginning of his end. They’ll find the rabbit – his mother – and then he’ll be released of his immortal burden, having lived a full and wonderful life—unlike that suicidal boy surrounded by flame. Up to this point the world was so wondrous and fun and peaceful that it never occurred to us Myoue would be ready to move on to…whatever’s next, but there it is. The episode closes before we can see Koto’s reaction to his asking her to kill him, but we wouldn’t be surprised if she wasn’t okay with it.

Rating: 9 (Superior)

Next Week: A live-action tour of the temple that inspired the series. So lifelike!

Kimi no Iru Machi – 02 (Fin)

After seeing Haruto holding hands with Kanzaki, Eba gets right back on the train, devastated. Back at the hotel where his class is staying, Haruto tries her phone in vain, and finally decides to sneak out and visit her at her house. When he gets there, he meets her stepsister Rin who only teases him. He wanders around the city aimlessly, hoping to bump into her, and eventually does, at the station where he’s about to give up. He apologizes for Kanzaki, but Eba isn’t that bothered by it after all. They affirm their love and promise one another they’ll make the long-distance relationship work somehow.

Here we are, finally revisiting what was at the time the only straight-up romance we’d seen in a while. Since then we’ve seen quite a few, including four current series and the excellent Sakamichi no Apollon and Natsuyuki Rendezvous this past Summer. After watching the first installment, we were a little disappointed the drama relied so heavily on unlucky coincidences, poor planning on Haruto’s part, and a overly-rigid adherence to school rules. Whatever punishment the school could mete would be worth it if only he got to meet up with Eba. Then there was the silly cliffhanger in which Eba finally appears, only to witness her boyfriend holding hands with his longtime childhood friend. Uh oh.

Thankfullly, this second installment not only minimized the impact of that encounter (Eba is upset at first, but gradually, sensibly realizes it wasn’t what it looked like), and while Haruto is tortured a little bit more – both by Eba’s sly stepsister and by time and circumstances – he does finally meet up with Eba, or rather encounter her by chance. One of his other friends (whose boobs we see in a naked public bath scene that exists for some reason) says “the red string of fate” connects Haruto and Eba, and while it’s not always straight, it is strong, and they’ll always end up finding each other in the end. And we couldn’t help but feel ecstatic when they finally reunite, Eba shrugs off the Kanzaki thing, and they simply enjoy each others’ company for the short time they have. After all the contrivances the conspired to keep them apart, their closeness felt very real and natural.

More satisfying is the fact that this doesn’t end with Haruto deciding to move to Tokyo, or Eba deciding to move back to the village where they first met – years and years ago – and he cheered her up by showing her fireworks. We see a lot of flashbacks of happy times there, and a lot of what we see happen in the present echoes those times, but that was the past. Now they still love each other deeply, but have a long-distance relationship, and simply have to deal with it. It’s tough – their farewell scene really drives that toughness home – but that red string of fate shows no signs of breaking. They will see each other again, and even if it’s not enough, it will have to be.

Rating: 8 (Great)

Another – 00 (OVA)

You can check out our reviews of the Another series here. Spoilers follow, there and here.

Taking place prior to the events of Another, Misaki Mei spends time with her identical twin sister, Fujioka Misaki, apparently without Mei’s mother’s knowledge. They go shopping, then hang out at Mei’s house when her mother is away. They visit a rundown amusement park they went to as kids, and Fujioka is nearly killed when she falls out of a Ferris wheel car. She then collapses when the two say good night and start their separate ways. Fujioka is revealed to be suffering from Leukemia, passing away shortly after being hospitalized. Mei briefly encounters Sakakibara Kouichi in the elevator while on her way to place a doll her sister liked upon her coffin in the hospital basement.

After a brief feint in the opening moments, most of this episode has a much different vibe to it than the very well-done twelve-episode horror series that preceded it. We see ‘another’ side of Misaki Mei from the get-go; she couldn’t be happier hanging out with her twin sister Fujioka, who couldn’t be happier hanging out with her, too. Whether shopping, on sketchy carnival rides, bathing, or sleeping in the same bed, the two are inseparable; in fact, aside from a momentary cameo by Sakikabara, they’re the only two characters in the OVA. Then, a little over halfway into it, in true Another fashion, the feeling of something terrible about to happen starts to pervade; the very close call on the Ferris Wheel is so deftly done, we can forgive the gratuitous fanservice of the previous scenes. When in the universe of Another, it’s basically best to stay away from any mechanical thing that can kill you (vehicles, elevators, etc.)

However, it isn’t a freak accident that takes Fujioka’s life. Even though the OVA takes place before the class calamity begins, Mei’s green glass eye can still see the color of death, as it always has. The moment Fujioka asks her if she can see anything when she looks at her and Mei says “No, nothing”, we were pretty sure that meant Mei could see death on her doomed twin sister. The revalation that she is in fact dying of leukemia is a big punch in the gut, making all their scenes goofing off and laughing with one another that much more poignant. Everything we saw was, in fact, the last time they did any of those things together ever again. When Another begins, Mei had already lost her sister and closest friend, making the forthcoming class calamity in the series only the latest of traumatic ordeals to befall her.

Rating: 3.5

Kimi no Iru Machi – 01

Haruto is on a class trip to Tokyo to see a baseball game at the Dome, but he’s also trying to meet up with his girlfriend Eba Yuzuki, who had moved to his town and lived in his house. They fell for one another, but she moved back to Tokyo and they are now in a long-distance relationship. Their small meeting window closes and they just miss one another.

Meanwhile, Kanzaki, a friend of Haruto’s who may want to be more, asks him to pretend to be her boyfriend as she meets up with a friend. Their performance is less than convincing, but afterwards, as the train her friend leaves on leaves the station, Eba is on the other side of the track, and sees Haruto holding hands with Kanzaki.

Watching this first of a two-part romance OVA, it occurs to us that nothing in our current watchlist fits quite within this genre. Chihayafuru focuses on karuta most of the time, while Bakuman is a shonen series. Everything else we’re watching right now is either sci-fi, fantasy, comedy, horror, or a combination of those. And while it’s nice to watch just a good ol’ simple romantic story, there were a few issues.

It’s all well and good to put up boundaries for the lead couple – Haruto and Eba, and the episode does a good job of portraying just how much long-distance relationships suck. But Haruto frankly doesn’t have his priorities straight: seeing his estranged girlfriend needs to come before a friggin’ baseball game. Yeah, he’s on a regimented class trip and there are strict rules governing his activities, but that’s no excuse for him ditching her. She’s your girlfriend, you are expected to break the rules a little to be with her. Tokyo is one of the biggest cities in the world. Meeting up with someone requires preparation, coordination, patience, and luck. This isn’t White Album – these people have cell phones. Couldn’t he have asked her how close she was?

Luck and coincidence too often interfere with Haruto and Eba’s reunion. The time he spends pretending to be Kanzaki’s boyfriend is time he should be spending with Eba, his actual girlfriend. Though his poor judgement here frustrates us, it’s clear there’s also something between him and Kanzaki, from the look of the flashbacks that don’t always match up with what they’re telling her friend. But then the series throws one more coincidence at us: allowing Eba to see him holding hads with Kanzaki. She just happened to be right there, in the same station, on a parallel platform.

Of course, we can’t ignore a very important fact about relationships that both White Album and this OVA explore without sugar-coating: sometimes there are circumstances that are just plain out of our control. Sometime’s it’s not his fault or her fault things don’t work out, just a series of little near-misses and misunderstandings and lapses in communication. Long-distance relationships aren’t impossible, but they aren’t for everyone, and they require a certain degree of tolerance with uncontrollable circumstances. They also require focus on a singular goal. Haruto got sidetracked.

Rating: 6 (Good)

Koe de Oshigoto! 2 OVA

At school, Kanna starts noticing Kaizu, class rep, regularly staring at her more than usual. After class, he asks her if she’s an eroge seiyu, horrifying her. It turns out, he is one too; his father is the president of a game company specializing in eroge. Kanna is then asked to perform eroge voice work with him, overlapping her work and school as never before. With his support, she turns out another great performance, and experiences many firsts, including first holding of a boy’s hand and first hug.

I’ve held off watching this series’ second installment because I assumed it would simply repeat what was already done in the first. But I did enjoy its technical aspects, as it employed a really vivid palette, heavily-stoked (no pun intended) character design, a solid soundtrack, and a brisk pace, so I gave it a chance. Turns out, the dynamic of Kanna working with a classmate who’s also in the “family business” keeps things fresh. Kaizu isn’t a rude, lewd jester like some of the other staff. He’s learned through experience how to keep work and reality separate.

Of course, Kanna’s problem is, the key to her effectiveness is actually becoming pleasured while doing the voice work. Her sister calls it a trance. Putting aside moral considerations (let’s face it, anyone who can’t really shouldn’t watch this), that’s where Kaizu and Kanna’s styles diverge: he won’t usually get off from work…until know. See, he likes Kanna, and she likes him. That’s reality. Acting out what people do when they really like each other is their job. It’s a very bizarre situation they’re in; requiring courage and maturity Kanna didn’t know she had. If Sawako had to say stuff like that to Shouta, her head would probably pop off.

Rating: 3

Black Lagoon: Roberta’s Blood Trail 5

Roberta’s blood trail ends in one final bloody stand deep in the golden triangle. With help from the team of American soliders, Garcia confronts his maid – riddled with bullet holes and almost entirely mad – and persuades her to stand down. Rock gets the ending he wanted, Revy is as angry and bitter as ever, and Roberta returns to Venezuela with her master and Fabiola, where the physical and emotional healing can begin.

I always assumed that Roberta’s story would end pretty much like Scarface’s…propped up by drugs but eventually without enough limbs attached to her or blood left in her veins to maintain life. That’s how this last womanhunt initially goes down, as the soldiers are able to take little bites out of her here and there in exchange for their lives. But it’s his lordship, Garcia Lovelace, who finally grows a pair and takes a gun – and matters – into his own hands. He doesn’t want revenge anymore…he just wants his maid back.

Due to the time between installments of this OVA, a lot of the stuff Rock was talking about and his bet with Chang escaped me, so I pretty much ignored his increasingly annoying ramblings (though I liked how both Revy and Fabiola got in his face about it). No, I focused on the excellent action, in which military discipline and precision clash against the wild animal that was Roberta, prior to being snapped out of it by Garcia. I’m pleased that a relatively happy ending was reached that didn’t feel like a cheat, without anyone major dying.

Rating: 3.5

And now for some pretty charts!

We here at RABUJOI have watched a lot of anime. Not as many as some, but no trivial amount. So we were wondering, which animation studio has churned out the most works we’ve watched? The below charts are the result. We took all of the tv series, OVAs, and films we’ve seen in the anime genre and sorted them by cheif animation production company.

A few notes: These are only works we’ve watched and rated, not all the works the companies have produced.  A few works (e.g., Shikabane Hime) are co-produced by two companies (in its case, Studio feel. and GAINAX). So those shows count for both companies. So when sorting by total number of works (series + OVAs + films), here’s what was revealed:

That’s right, GAINAX and Ghibli are tied for the top spot with fourteen works each. Not too surprising. While GAINAX is a mix of formats, Ghibli is pretty much just films. We haven’t seen any Ghibli films since Tales from Earthsea, so Ponyo and Arriety aren’t included.

But what about pure episode count? Trickier, but doable. More caveats: we included the full count of episodes for currently airing Summer 2011 series (e.g. all 11 Usagi Drop eps, although we’ve only seen the first two). Concurrently, for past series we’ve either dropped or only watched part of (e.g. Bleach), we only count the episodes we’ve watched, not the sum total aired. Finally, we don’t count films as episodes, but we do count OVAs. With all that in mind, let’s have a look at the top ten studios, ranked by total episodes we’ve watched:

The “Other” column on the left is a mélange of 39 different studios. Pierrot’s lofty figure isn’t surprising, as we confess we have watched a lot of Naruto and Bleach in the past…their episodes aren’t typically that high-quality and are extremely drawn-out and filler-prone, so the high ep count should be taken with a grain of salt. Bones and J.C. Staff churn out loads of series, while Sunrise’s count is high due to big (50-episode) Gundam series.

There are some companies (including P.A. Works, Tatsunoko, David, Beetrain and Daume) we really like who are either not yet prolific enough for this list or we simply haven’t watched enough of their works yet.

One thing’s sure, perennial RABUJOI favorite GAINAX’s work count will continue gaining with their current series, Dantalian no Shoka, the continuation of Panty & Stocking, and the final two Eva films. Perhaps our second favorite studio is financially-crippled GONZO, who haven’t done much since Shangri-la, but plan to have a Last Exile reboot out late this year, which is very promising.

Morita-san wa Mukuchi OVA

This OVA is kind of a preview of an upcoming series of the same name airing this Summer. The formula is quite simple: this is a high school slice-of-life comedy with a quartet of girls at its core, one of which seemingly never says anything at all. Interesting, this very ‘taciturn’ character, the titular Mayu Morita, is voiced by Kana Hanazawa, who also voiced a similarly silent though more bookish character in The World God Only Knows. Obviously, everything she says is in Mayu’s head, not aloud. I don’t think she utters a single word to another character.

There’s nothing tremendously deep here, just nice, charming, lightweight slice-of-life. This OVA, and the forthcoming series, is almost a challenge to see how little a heroine can say and still be a functioning character. So far, so good; Mayu’s friends all seem to see something likable about her that’s beyond words (obvious, since she has none)…though as Mayu’s eyes are drawn very blankly (in Bleach this would mean she’s possessed, or an evil clone), so while in deep thought she can appear a little creepy. What I find refreshing is that Mayu isn’t shy or socially inept; she just takes too long to speak, and thus always misses her opportunity to do so.

One of the reasons I gave this a try is that Kana Hanazawa is one of my favorite seiyus,and even though she’s basically playing to type here (unlike, say, her Kuroneko in Oreimo), that type is tried-and-true earnest/cute/reflective. Saori Hayami (Eden of the East, Oreimo) and Haruka Tomatsu (Shiki, AnoHana) provide the voices of friends Chihiro and Miki. It’ll take a couple more episodes to fully tell their personalities apart, but basically, they talk a lot more than she does, but each have their own quirks too.

The supporting cast, including Yamamoto, who is irritated by Mayu’s silence; Mayu’s pink-haired admirer/stalker; and two male students who are always observing and commenting on the many affectionate embraces Mayu’s friends put her in, all add flavor to a an already colorful cast. The pace is a little leisurely, but that’s okay. Odder is the source of Mayu’s silence – her domineering mother, who warns both Mayu (and Mayu’s father) to never open their mouth unless they know exactly what to say, to avoid misunderstandings. Unfortunatly for Mayu, she never knows what to say – which can also cause misunderstandings.
Rating: 3.5

Yozakura Quartet ~ Hoshi no Umi ~ OVA 2

Ye gods, the first YQ OVA was pretty damn gorgeous in its own right, but this next one took the pretty visuals up to eleven. The character design is downright bangin’, the combat is as creative as it is lyrical, and the stakes for the town of Sakurashin have also been raised. Rin has become the puppet of the one who originally took her in, Zakuro. She’s under the control of Enjin, and has turned bad. She’s come to claim Rin back, but the YQ won’t let her have her without a fight.

And what a fight. Hime chasing her across rooftops was fancy enough, just as Yae’s awesome little battle in the first OVA. But the bulk of the fighting was done by everyone’s favorite half-youkai, Kotoha, who simply puts on a clinic of conjuring, sending, among other things, thousands of B-2 Spirit Stealth Bombers, an Airbus A380 Superjumbo, and a bunker buster into Zakuro’s summoned earth golem. I can’t overstate how sweet animation for this fight was.

But it was all for naught, as Rin finally surrenders herself to Zakuro in order to forestall future killing. But despite being momentarily touched by the gesture, Zakuro isn’t her own boss, and Enjin soups her up into an even more powerful killing machine, who promises to wipe out every single life in the town. While I’m confident Hime and the rest of the YQ will be able to deal, we won’t find out how until OVA #3. Rating: 4

Black Lagoon: Roberta’s Blood Trail 3

Things take a turn for the bloody(er), as Garcia and Fabiola – aided by Rock and Revy – finally catch up with Roberta. And as the title denotes, she has left quite the blood trail. Both FARC and US Army soldiers square off with her, but she won’t be killed, and she has no problems dispatching the vast majority of them. But what follows the multifaceted showdown proves that if she wasn’t mad before all this began, she is most definitely mad now, perhaps even irreversibly so.

Everything she is doing is in the name of Garcia Lovelace, but when he finally finds her, he crumbles from the spectacle before him. Roberta’s sensei (so to speak) manages to subdue her, but he lets his guard down when she offers her body to him. Her belt buckle is a gun (brilliant!) and he’s out for the count. Garcia hears and sees it all, including her extended stomping in of her enemy’s skull. When he begs her to stop, she loses it even more (as if that were possible).

This segment ends with a cliffhanger, as Roberta believes Garcia to be just another figment of her imagination, and pulls a gun on him. We hear a gunshot, but see nothing. Is the one person she swore to protect – the one person she would never hurt – now dead by her psycho hand? If not, after what Garcia has seen – and what Roberta has let him seen – can there be redemption? The meeting has occured; it would seem Lagoon’s job is done, but what is left for them to do? Rating: 3.5

Mirai Nikki OVA

Mirai Nikki is a scant six minutes and 45 seconds long, but it gets a lot done in that short period of time. There’s a decidedly Death Notey atmosphere as a kid comes into possession of a phone that tells his future. But in exchange for that precognition, the phone itself represents his life; if it’s lost, so is his life.

He also discovers he isn’t the only one with such a phone: his female classmate Yuno has one as well, and so does a deranged terrorist in striped kneesocks who bombs the school. Apparently they’re all of them participants in a game, and the last one surviving gets the “throne of god.” Now that sounds like Eden of the East…especially with the phones.

Overall, some nice ideas, and nice animation, but this felt like more of a teaser and set-up than an actual full story, but perhaps that’s just due to the brevity. Subsequent installments that delve a little deeper would be welcome.  Rating: 3