Classroom of the Elite – 07

As soon as it was clear this was not only a pool episode, but an underlying operation by the guys to peep on the girls in their changing room (immediately), I sat back and settled in for what I imagined would be a pleasant but lightweight episode, “7” stamp in my hand, ready to strike.

But hidden among all the usual pool episode fanservice cliches and peeping scheme antics, this episode turned out to be something I didn’t know it was until the end, and felt silly for not realizing it. At the same time, it ever-so-gently nudged a character towards a slightly more normal human high school life.

If this episode were a sandwich, the insides would be pretty monotonous, while the bread, particularly the bottom slice, would be where the true action is. Yet the middle part—let’s call it egg salad for the purposes of this metaphor—was nevertheless crucial in setting up the twist at the end.

Clues are everywhere as to what kind of phone conversation went on between Horikita and Ayanokouji that led to her joining him, the three bad apples (including Sudo), Ichinose, Kushida, and Sakura at a lovely Summer day at the pool, rather than her usual day composed solely of study, eating, and sleeping.

‘Leisure” and “friends” are a waste of time and energy for Horikita, so what is she doing here? Nah. Merely humoring Ayano and the others? Worried he and Kushida (or Sakura, or Ichinose) will get too close if she’s not there? Nope.

Once the ridiculously overwrought and over-dramatic peeping scheme is in dire jeopardy, and Ayano asks Horikita to climb the highest diving board and deliver a stirring speech that gets the nod from her Class D colleagues but rankles the other classes, it should be clear she’s not in on the peeping scheme either…and neither is Ayanokouji.

Rather, Ayano, AKA Argos-4, served as a double agent, knowing the other guys would go through with the scheme even if he protested or failed to participate; better to let them think he’s on their side and let them fail all on their own. But the consequences of failure would spread to all of Class D, so Ayano appealed to Horikita’s pride and desire to reach Class A, and help him neutralize one more obstacle to that goal.

She does, swiping all of the SD cards from the cameras set up in the changing room, and thus while the guys’ scheme failed, Ayano’s succeeds. Getting to see Horikita in a bikini, and having her hang out with people who would be her friends if she just let them, is pretty much just a bonus for Ayano. He dunks Horikita, but when reaching out to pull her out, she pulls him in with her…as “payback” (Sakura also tries and fails—quite hilariously—to join in the fun).

Back home and in her usual routine, Horikita gets a text from Ayano: a photo of him and her with the others at the pool; a memory of a fun time. Horikita collapses on the bed, maintaining that being alone is “easier”, but does she truly want everything to be easy? Doesn’t a challenge make one’s results more satisfying?

Classroom of the Elite let its hair down a little this week, but it deserves kudos for taking the tired pool episode and peeping scheme premises and adapting them to the specific thrust of the show: Horikita and Ayano keeping Class D above water as part of the greater goal to get promoted to Class A. It also allowed Horikita to loosen up ever so slightly, while perpetuating the complex relationship between her and the still very mysterious Ayano. A win on all fronts.

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Classroom of the Elite – 06

Dayum, this show keeps finding new heights of awesomeness. Not only does it constantly zag when I expect it to zig, it manages to juggle a whole array of different plot lines of varying importance with staggering ease.

Did I think Sakura was going to end up being the target of a stalker? No, but the incident is instrumental in Ayanokouji continuing to gain her trust, especially after he says her good works at the trial gained his, Horitika’s Kushida’s, and probably Sudo’s and the rest of the class’s. The timing is perfect for Sakura; unfortunately, when she’s about to bring up her problem, Ayano is called away.

Did I think the latest Sudo situation would be resolved so cleverly, outside the walls of the courtroom? No, and neither did Horikita, until Ayano brings up security cameras. This gets the wheels turning, resulting in a gambit in which Kushida lures Sudo’s accusers to a certain spot where there are cameras, but instead of her meeting them, it’s Ayano and Horikita.

There, the two set to work stuffing the accusers into a smaller and smaller box. Horikita tells them they believe the school has acted the way it did because it is testing them to resolve it themselves, and will expel the accusers for lying because they already know everything…because there are cameras everywhere.

Driving that point home when one of the guy’s temper gets the best of him, the accusers surrender and agree to withdraw their complaint. It’s a masterfully-executed plan that came out of nowhere. No more trial!

It’s a stunning victory that gets Class D its meager but significant points back and clears Sudo of wrongdoing. As for the cameras, they were purchased and planted by Ayano, using funds he borrowed from Ichinose (who as we know is swimming in cash).

Just beneath the main Sudo storyline lurks Sakura’s plight, as she’s finally cornered in a dark alley by her creepy stalker, who is exactly who we thought would be her stalker: the camera store guy. Sakura is in a very bad way here, with the guy starting to force himself on her.

It looks for all the world that in order to save Sudo and the class, Ayano had to neglect someone, and that someone unfortunately would end up being Sakura. But that turns out not to be the case, as Sakua managed to call Ayano, and he uses that call to pinpoint her position and stop the assault, with Ichinose and two cops in tow.

Now that she’s in a safe position, Sakua finds the courage to give her stalker a piece of her mind (even though a part of me wondered if some of his rambling was actually true…and yes I feel dirty about that but this is a show that seems to keep all its options on the table). She then removes her glasses, a symbolic gesture of taking off her “mask.”

Chabashira-sensei has some questions for Horikita, but doesn’t press the issue when her student “leaves it to her imagination” how she managed to get the Class C accusers to withdraw. What sensei does do is ask Horikita why, rhetorically, someone as talented as Ayano is dabbling in obscurity in Class D, suggesting he is the most “defective” of the class by far. Sudo, meanwhile, seems genuinely grateful to Horikita, calling her “amazing” to Ayano.

President Horikita is similarly impressed with Ayanokouji, who mananged to somehow bypass the trial altogether and resolve the conflict between the classes without breaking a sweat or even leaving any fingerprints.

We also get a glimpse at the power struggle between Ryuuen, who suffered a defeat when the accusers recanted, and Sakayanaki, his Class A rival for kingship of the school. Looks like the show is going to keep expanding beyond the core triad of Ayano, Horikita, and Kushida—and I have every confidence it will be able to pull it off.

That being said, the episode ends right back with Ayano and Horikita, with the latter calling the former out for planting the seed of security cameras in her head, leading her to forge false evidence to win the day. Horikita is eager to know what Ayano is thinking and who exactly he is.

All Ayano does is reiterate his promise to help Horikita get to Class A. Other than that, he asks her not to “pry into his life.” From the glimpse of his past as a child in a line of others undergoing some kind of conditioning, it’s clear the character with the darkest secrets of all in  Classroom of the Elite seems to be its protagonist, one Ayanokouji Kiyotaka.

Classroom of the Elite – 05

Ayanokouji is a very well-studied observer of human behavior. He doubtless knows every one of the quotes that provide the titles for each episode; this one being “Hell is other people”, from Sartre’s “No Exit”.

Ayano observes that other people are indeed hell for his potential star witness Sakura Airi: he notices that while Kushida is able to easily invade people’s personal space, Sakura resists her, nullifying whatever power Kushida has over the vast majority of people.

(Naturally, Horitika is also immune to her charms, while Ayano knows her true identity, so throw in Sakura and Kushida is far from invincible.)

Luck is on Ayano’s side, however, as a trip to the electronics store with Sakura and Kushida ends up providing him the opportunity to show Sakura that not all other people are Hell; or at least that she can trust him.

Because Ayano is simply being Ayano (at least the one we know) and nothing else, Sakura’s intuition doesn’t see deception, while her reticence around Kushida suggests it does detect hers.

All of this is to say that Sakura takes Ayano’s advice to “do what she wants” and agrees to testify in the Sudo case; it shows that despite her (quite sensible) hiding of her secret—a sexy modelling side-gig—Sakura has a strong sense of justice, like Ayano, and her gut is telling her to listen to it, even if it means going through Hell (i.e., other people).

COURTROOM of the Elite  takes over in short order, and has all the makings of a show trial, with the Class C victims and their partially self-inflicted injuries given all the benefit of the doubt because, well, Sudo doesn’t have a scratch on him, and is a short-tempered asshole to boot.

If a summary “guilty” verdict is to be avoided, someone has to come to Sudo’s defense. But because Horikita’s brother the President (her kryptonite) is attending the trial, she freezes, completely losing all composure and confidence, and Ayano has to pinch her in her side in order to restore her to coherence.

It works, and she immediately begins the work of wearing down the credibility of three guys who weren’t looking for a fight all ending up injured. When they simply rebut with the correct assertion that Sudo often defies common sense, she whips out her Sakura Card.

We’ve only just met Sakura Airi, and yet there I was, so proud of her, and hopeful that I’d be as strong and brave in the situation in which she chose to be, exposing her revealing photos in order to establish why she was using her camera, before providing another photo of the fight itself, proving she was there…but not proving who instigated the fight.

Sakura Airi’s boss witnessing got Team Sudo past Level 1, but it doesn’t look like she’ll play a further role in helping to ease the burden of proof where who started it is concerned. But her good work also gave the defense a way out: Class C’s homeroom teacher offers a compromise, which is really more of a plea-out: only a two-week suspension for Sudo and one-week for his students.

But that plea requires that Sudo plead guilty, and we’re at least operating under the assumption that as awful and destructive as he is, he didn’t start the fight. So the offer is rejected. Instead, Horikita doesn’t hold back in her harsh and completely accurate assessment of Sudo’s attitude problems, and posits that Class C aimed to exploit those problems by setting him up.

Her brother, perhaps more impressed than he’d admit by his sister’s performance thus far (after a shaky start he probably thought was par for the course), will allow another day’s time for each party to prove their innocence or the other party’s guilt. He then raises the stakes, as one does in courtroom dramas: if they fail, expulsion is on the table.

This was a dense, thrilling outing of Elite Classroom that made me an immediate fan of Sakura, and a continued fan of Ayanokouji, Kushida, and Horikita. That Sakura won Sudo’s defense team more time makes me confident that they’ll find a way to clear his name and show up Horikita’s brother.

Aho Girl – 03

It’s a jam-packed Aho Girl with another not one or two or three but four separate stories, starting with a different opening in which the Disciplinary Committee President (DCP) slowly pans into the shot from the right leering at A-kun, until Yoshiko slowly pans in from the left.

From there, Yoshiko’s mom meets Sayaka, and is immediately suspicious she’ll steal A-kun from her daughter (and by extension, her). Thus she uses two pairs of handcuffs (she normally uses on her husband) and tries to get Sayaka to show them her panties, which will determine what kind of girl she is.

When A-kun threatens violence on Yoshiko and her mom, Sayaka surrenders, and when she finally reveals her panties to the women, they’re so white and pure Mom tells A-kun he’s free to be friends with her: she’s no threat.

Part Deux is another “kids in the playground” segment, with Yoshiko wanting to play and the kids preferring if she just studies, since she needs to get a job at some point. I will never tire of their mature, pragmatic banter.

Then a big white dog shows up—a huge white dog—and Yoshiko protects the little ‘uns…by attempting to ride him. There’s a poetry to her being dragged across the dirt telling the jaded kids to “hold fast to their dreams” as she holds fast to the dog, eventually ending up holding him in the air with her legs.

It’s a stray dog, so naturally Yoshiko intends to keep him, so she can keep riding him, and to the kids’ surprise, she seems to have trained him. The girl even calls Yoshiko “kinda amazing”, which immediately concerns her friends.

Following the dog rodeo, Yoshiko suddenly sounds a lot more bright and sophisticated when talking about her one true love of bananas. Her interest piqued by a bold upstart domestic banana farmer, Satou-san, and the taste is so good she bowls’ over backwards, revealing her panties once more.

The sophistocation quickly fades away when she proposes to run to Satou’s farm to meet him, and Sayaka must tag along…to the tune of 100km. Stopping to buy a drink, Sayaka very unwisely sends Yoshiko into a store that sells far more than just drinks, and the phrase “a fool and her money are soon parted” is elegantly yet devastatingly illustrated. The ugly, dull, expensive, yet not not adorable town mascots of “Middle of Nowhere” were a nice touch.

They finally reach the farm, and Yoshiko draws Satou into a perhaps not appropriate hug for an old man who is a complete stranger. Still, Yoshiko seems convinced she knows the man’s soul intimately after tasting his exquisite banana (that sounds wrong but it’s factually accurate). Then it’s up to Sayaka to get on all fours and beg for train fare home. I can’t blame her for not wanting to sprint another 100km home.

In Numero Quatro things get a little frisky and a little dark, as Yoshiko, seeing A-kun is down from not scoring a full 100 on any of his tests (say what you will about her, she’s good at nice round zeros), and decides to cheer him up…the same way her mom cheers her dad up some nights. Oh dear…

Yoshiko is truly an idiot, but she pays attention when she wants to, and was clearly taking very precise visual notes, judging from the attention to detail in which she handcuffs A-kun, talks to him like he’s a baby with an insufferably cutesy tone while stripping. A-kun is not, for a single moment, turned on by the display, and indeed, looks like he’d rather be anywhere else in the world. I’m sure Yoshiko’s mom would be sad to see him that way!

His sister, on the other hand, manages to walk in just after he’d gotten on his feet and delivered a tremendous knock-out drop kick to Yoshiko, and in the very moment he’s lifting her skirt with his teeth to fetch the key from her panties. Poor Ruri! On the one hand, she shouldn’t have to see that. On the other, well…Yoshiko really shouldn’t have to ever see her parents’ foreplay.

Kakegurui – 03

Upon watching the “official match” between Mary and porcelain-faced council member Nishinotouin Yuriko, Yumeko becomes excited at the prospect of the chouhan bakuchi style game they play, in which swords are used rather than dice, and how they land determines the distribution of chips to a wild extent.

It’s not a gamble for the weary, but as Yumeko is a compulsive gambler, it’s perfect. However, if I didn’t know better, I’d say there was more to her facing off against Yuriko than simply wanting to play or win, and that gets back to Saotome’s humiliating, devastating loss to Yuriko in the episode’s opening moments.

Yumeko takes exception to Yuriko “showing a weakened human a glimmer of hope than beating them into despair” and calls the councilperson a loan shark, the lowest of the low, and a piece of shit to her face. She even messes with the characters in her distinguished name to show that her favorite numbers are right there, but missing a couple in the middle, a “perfect name for an airhead.”

This is Yumeko exercising psychological warfare on a highly accomplished and studied opponent—and largely succeeding. And while there is a practical purpose for getting Yuriko riled up, I don’t doubt Yumeko also takes satisfaction in putting Yuriko in her place, suggesting she won’t let people like her have their way with livestock unchallenged.

Add to that the fact that, naturally, Yumeko’s opponent is cheating (with the dealer using magnets to manipulate one—but only one—of the metal swords), and it looks like this gamble will take the same shape as the previous two, with Yumeko prevailing at the last second and Yuriko’s mask finally cracking and breaking.

However, we get a different outcome, and notably no overt “gamblingasm”. Instead, Council President Momobami enters with two other council members, to oversee the result of the sword toss, which is something neither Yumeko or Yuriko expected, and puts Yumeko 310 million yen (over $2 million) in debt to Yuriko.

Momobami’s presents makes Yumeko suspect she was not only the victim of magnets, but a “badger”, and that this was a multifaceted cheat that may have required the ignorance of both players. Yuriko may have won, but she certainly doesn’t look or seem to feel like she won. Meanwhile, despite her immense new debt, all Yumeko is focused on is facing off against Momobami, which is her right as newly-minted livestock.

As for the hazing and bullying that results from her initiation into the livestock, it runs off Yumeko like rain from a fireman’s hat; when they call her the common cat name “Mike”, she simply gets on her knees and starts talking and washing herself like a cat, completely immune to the students barbs and, on the contrary, scaring them off with her bizarre antics. Here’s hoping this is a preamble to Yumeko becoming an inspiration to all livestock.

Aho Girl – 02

This week Aho Girl continued to deliver strong comedy bang for the buck, relying on a single, central premise (Yoshiko is an idiot) but applying that idiocy in a diverse array of unexpected ways.

First Yoshiko wanders off and plays with children, who think she’s cool until A-kun arrives to burst their bubble. It’s an act where Yoshiko exhibits her rare glimmers of brilliance (both in building a boss sand castle and lamenting that the kids’ hopes were already “lost and broken by modern society”, her failed swing attack makes deft use of both slapstick and observational comedy.

In another little dig at modern society, Yoshiko gradually convinces a rough-looking delinquent to stop pawing Sayaka and play with her, a “fellow idiot” instead, believing she sees him for what he really is: a sensitive, misunderstood young man just trying to make it in the world.

Turns out A-kun’s sister Ruri is also capable of scoring zeros on tests, but not for lack of studying, for which his high-scoring brother can’t hide his shame, and leads Ruri to tell him she hates him and latch onto Sayaka instead, who worries about the girl’s future.

Finally, A-kun has an admirer, and it’s the disciplinary committee president, who despite her button-down, strict manner, is concealing all manner of lewd and lascivious thoughts, especially when A-kun invites her (quite innocently) to search him (for contraband), which she takes to mean violate her regulations. She ends up banging her head on a locker trying to jump him, but promises “it isn’t over”.

Kakegurui – 02

Yumeko considers Ryouta a friend—even to the point of first-name terms—but he doesn’t seem like her romantic interest. At the moment, that seems to be gambling itself, with only the highest of risks giving her any kind of pleasure. But the OP strongly suggests a very close relationship to come with the yuki-onna-looking student council president, Momobari Kirari.

In a bit of necessary exposition, Ryouta tells Yumeko that ever since Mombari rose to power (winning her position from the predecessor with gambling, natch) the bullying of the “livestock”—the 100 or so students with the least luck and hence most debt—has intensified exponentially. Thanks to Yumeko’s gift, Ryouta is no longer a “Fido”, but after her defeat Mary is a “Lassie”, and doesn’t take to it well.

But Yumeko has little time to concern herself with those she’s already beaten; she seeks a stronger opponent, and this week they come to her: the youngest member of the council, first-year Sumeragi Itsuki, daughter of a multi-billion-yen toy company CEO.

Itsuki challenges Yumeko to a game of “Double Card Memory” involving two freshly-opened decks of cards provided by Itsuki and—as I figured—also manufactured by her dad’s company so that she can cheat people.

For the second straight week, it would appear that those at the top of the pile at Hyakkaou Academy aren’t there by playing by the rules or even being exceptionally lucky—it’s more a matter of creating a way to make your own luck.

In the case of Sumeragi Itsuki, she uses a tiny part of the back-of-card design to let her know which deck is which on the table. Once she beats Yumeko in the first match—winning the 20 million she fronted Yumeko—Yumeko tearfully begs her for a rematch, even agreeing to go along with what Itsuki wants Yumeko to front: her fingernails and toenails, which Itsuki obsessively collects and decorates. Ew!

Unfortunately for the freshman, Yumeko not only has exceptional memory, but saw through her trump, and never gives her an opportunity to flip a single card in the rematch. It’s only when Itsuka goes a bit mad that Yumeko gladly joins in the madness. And when she recommends Itsuka wager her nails, it reduces her opponent to big soppy tears.

Yumeko responds to the shameless display with disgust; after a second “gamblinggasm”, Yumeko has been made officially “bored” by the simpering Itsuka. On to the next victi-er, opponent.

President Momobari quickly hears of Sumeragi’s defeat and Yumeko’s quick rise, and instructs the rest of the (very eccentric) student council to start “meddling in her affairs,” clearly intrigued by this newcomer and eager to test the limits of her prowess—if they indeed exist!

Ryouta accompanies Yumeko to the after-hours games at the traditional culture research club, and come upon yet another pathetic scene: Saotome Mary digging her debt-hole over 49 million yen deeper. I wonder if this will be an ongoing thing with Mary losing more and more, or if Yumeko will find it in her heart to save her first victim the same way she saved Ryouta, who was only ever nice to her.

In any case, I’m enjoying the friendliness and politeness with which students challenge one another, a facade which gradually devolves into face-contorting madness, over-the-top posturing and yelling, and the aforementioned “gamblinggasms.” Kakegurui can be thick on the explaining, but is generally just flat-out fun.

ACCA: 13-ku Kansatsu-ka – 03

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ACCA’s obsession with things getting done over dinner, drinks, and parties continues apace, as Mauve quietly invites Jean to an intimate dinner that, considering Jean’s blushing, almost feels like a date. In reality, it’s a business engagement.

Mauve has been told to stop investigating, but she wants Jean, with his 13-district-wide gaze, to keep his eyes and ears open for intel on the coup rumors. She’s also concerned that if the heir apparent Prince Schwan (a known puffed-up doofus) ascends, it could threaten the peace of the kingdom.

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As for the Prince’s grandfather the king, he seems like a pretty laid-back, kindly fellow, more concerned with the selection of sweets and fruits at the royal gala than anything else.

Schwan’s a pretty typical idiot prince, and it’s not that comforting to know how close he is to the throne, at which time he vows to disband ACCA, install a puppet privy council president, and do other not-so-cool things. Even his secretary Magi only seems to respect the dude so much.

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As for Jean, he’s one of the many ACCA-affiliated guests who are invited to the event, including Mauve, all five chief officers, and Niino, who brings Lotta along as his assistant (but seemingly really just so she can get a taste of the high life, I’m guessing).

As he floats about the palace, Jean can’t help but feel again like he’s being watched, and it’s because, well, he is. There are rumors all over about an impending coup, and there are enough hotshots in one place to actually make something like that a possibility.

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The thing is, Jean, as far as we know, isn’t an intermediary for the rebels planning the coup. At least, that’s not what Chief Officer Lilium thinks. He trusts his instincts, which tell him he can trust Jean. Groshular, on the other hand, is the one he believes is really behind the coup plot. He’s responsible for the rumors, after all – what better way to deflect attention?

Jean is seen as someone who is a big fan of order and preserving peace, concepts both Lilium and Mauve share, which is why they both come to him seeking an alliance with him. No doubt they’ll work and work quickly to stop a coup from happening, if they can. The question that remains is, is Jean really the person they (and we) think he is?

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Joukamachi no Dandelion – 05

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Despite having seen many good beach episodes, I always go into them with low expectations, but the multi-faceted, rapid-fire, detail-oriented nature of Dandelion is such that not only did the beach part only take up about a third of the total episode, but it was quite a novel and imaginative third at that.

Not only do we get Shiori communing with a very noble and dramatic watermelon (whom she digs a grave for after he’s split and eaten), but Akane, so happy that she’s free from the peering eyes of the public, discovers that the beach they’re at is really a Truman Show-style construct sans-cameras, which the siblings proceed to accidentally knock over, resulting in en even more embarrassing situation than had they actually gone to a real beach!

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The watermelon splitting is our way into the second son Haruka’s perspective; his power is to calculate probabilities, and prides himself on his accuracy. He was suprised Shiori had an 80% chance to win the watermelon splitting, but rooted for her nonetheless. In the next segment Akane barges into his room and catches him looking at pictures of her in her bikini on the web.

Naturally, Akane suspects Haruka has a thing for her, but it’s not that; he’s merely reporting inappropriate photos for deletion to keep things from getting out of hand. It’s a service he provides his big sister (who wasn’t even aware of the fansites) out of an awareness of her sensitivity and a desire to help her where he can. Still, to my delight, Haruka points out the obvious: Akane would get into less trouble if she stopped jumping around in a little skirt.

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The third and final segment focuses on Haruka’s slightly older sister, Misaki, who like him, we hadn’t yet gotten a profile of. The episode reminds us she can create seven clones of herself, each of which has their own special talents, hairstyle, eye color, and personality. They also each represent the seven deadly sins, sorta Fullmetal Alchemist-style.

Thanks to the clones, Misaki can participate—and excel—in seven different clubs at once, while she, the original, gets all the second-hand praise and is lauded for being a good “manager.” On top of already being often overlooked due to her also-talented and beautiful older sisters, Misaki comes to feel like she’s useless.

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When venting to Haruka doesn’t work, she summons her clones and vents to them. They all react in their typical ways (including one who always wanders off to eat something, one who’s always pawing the nearest guy, and one who’s always asleep), but the general consensus is she is being silly. They’re her clones; they are her and she is them. For all her fears she’s too “normal”, the fact remains she can summon those amazing parts of her whole; nothing normal about that.

Finally, Haruka admits he likes how Misaki is normal; she’s a calming, grounding presence and he’d be troubled if she arbitrarily tried to change. Thus the venting-turned-sulking-turned-cheering up session is a success. So was this episode; it was surprisingly chock-full of stuff, much of it creative and hilarious.

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Joukamachi no Dandelion – 04

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This week was highly Akane-centric, but the episode really mixed things up by offering her story from multiple perspectives, starting with her cat Borscht, who through Shiori’s ability we know to consider plastic more fun to chew on than the substandard kibble he’s subjected to. He assumed wrongly that a royal family would serve better grub.

We also watch Akane through the eyes of her admiring best friend Karen, who seems to harbor a girl-crush on her royal friend. Because she knows Akane so well, she’s paralyzed when it comes to how to break it to her that she came to school not wearing a skirt.

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Karen knows no matter how she breaks it to her, Akane is going to die of embarrassment, so that lack of a skirt just hangs there, like a Chekhov’s Lack of a Skirt if you will, waiting for someone else to break it to her. Her classmate, “President” Fukushima, simultaneously points out to his male peers the possibility not only could there be no skirt under Akane’s long sweater, but no underwear as well. He also does nothing to stop the charge of every guy in school once they learn Akane will be climbing some steps.

It’s a little sophomoric, sure, but it’s nicely staged, and the built-up tension works right until Akane assures everyone that no, her skirt ripped so she’s wearing her gym shorts…only to lift up her skirt to reveal nothing but panties. And confirming her true feelings for Akane, Karen’s nose bleeds along with the he lads’.

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With that trauma behind her, the next day Akane learns (from StuCo Veep and older sister Kanade) that the school will participate in a town beautification mission, requiring she go out and be exposed to the world and all its cameras for far longer than she’d like. And yet, she doesn’t want preferential treatment, and is resolved to simply power through it.

That makes Fukushima change his mind about fixing things so Akane doens’t have to leave school grounds. As Kanade herself convinces him, it’s not just good for her to face such things, but he’ll get to see her get embarrassed, which is the cutest thing in the world and one of the reasons Fukushima gets up in the morning. That’s because he’s President, not of the StuCo (as Akane wondered, and goes on a failed wild goose chase to confirm), but of the Akane Fan Club.

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Pivoting the club to respecting her will to endure the clean-up day rather than simply make things easier for her gives Fukushima extra energy and motivation, which Akane is quick to pick up on, wondering if he was always so intense and commanding. When it comes to supporting her as President of a fan club devoted to her, he doesn’t mess about.

Borscht bookends the episode, first by communicating his dissatisfaction with the food (complete with flamenco guitar and a deep, passionate voice), this time he curls up on Akane, but not because she feeds him. No, her flat chest is the perfect balance of rigidity and warmth, reminding him of his bedding when he was a stray. It’s a surface that even Hikari (on a non-magic-related growth spurt, to Akane’s horror) can match.

Knowing a black and white cat who always sleeps on a slight incline, this is exactly the kind of stuff I imagine goes on in their heads.

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Rolling Girls – 04

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Being plopped in the middle of a whole new setting with an entirely different political system and set of customs was as overwhelming for me as it was for the Rolling Girls last week, which at times threatened to rival Gundam-G levels of Proper Noun Onslaught (PNO). The crucial difference being I eventually understood Rolling Girls.

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Turns out Thunderroad’s second-in-command Noriko wasn’t taking the girls to be executed, but breaking them out, and letting them crash at her lovely house, where Yukina had actually been before when she had longer hair, glasses, and cuter clothes.

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The fact remains, they’re only safe for now; if and when they’re caught, they will be tortured and if found guilty, they’ll end up in the cut, where butlers and maids serve around the clock without rest. It’s a cosplay cafe HELL, and when the reality of their potential fate starts to weigh on them, tempers flare.

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Nozomi prefers to stay and clear Chiaya’s name; Ai thinks that’s foolhardy. Their spat is interrupted by Chiaya, who feels bad that this is all happening because its her stone that ended up lost. In other words, the group hits its first rough spot where nobody is in agreement what to do.

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Of course, we the audience know that’s all moot, particularly when Thunderoad decides to only sell Momiyama one stone: hers, not Chiaya’s. She races to Noriko’s to deliver it back to its owner, but trips on one of the city’s ubiquitous Roombas, and the stone slips of of her hand, off a balcony, and into the dense city night.

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Nozomi, meanwhile, calls home to tell her mom she’s alright, and not hanging out with any boys. The call is both practical and touching, then interrupted by Noriko’s mom insisting on re-spraying Nozomi’s bike, which she really doesn’t want.

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The girls then settle in for the night in the room Noriko gave them, having their first sleepover as a group…

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…then inexplicably change back into their street clothes to receive Thunderroad. They either thought it would be disrespectful to be in their jammies/underwear, or assumed she was coming to arrest them…or the animators messed up! Either way, Noriko and the girls alike are surprised to find Thunder apologizing to them for suspecting them…and for losing Chiaya’s stone.

She also points out what I thought had been obvious: the stones give their owners superhuman strength, speed, and stamina.

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A city-wide search of all Roomba’s progresses, but then a report comes in that one such Roomba has been rigged with a bomb that’s going to go off in five minutes. The people who sent it out—disgruntled Comima security guards—didn’t know it had a bomb until they read the note it came with…after launching it. Oops.

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No biggie; the heart stone eventually pops up, and even though Nozomi doesn’t notice it, Thunder’s crow Garm does, and flies it to her so she can power-up in-transit. The Roomba grows limbs and starts evading her, eventually landing cruelly in the afro of her beloved Rickshaw statue.

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Rick assures her it’s okay, as he was never a character to put his life above others, and Thunder brings her sword down on the Roomba, detonating it in a brilliant explosion. In the end, Thunder did the right thing…except for selling her own stone, which was supposed to be her first step towards retirement.

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Noriko, the Girl’s gracious host this whole episode, then confesses to being Dynamite Bombers; a group she invented out of thin air in order to give Thunder a reason not to retire, so much had she enjoyed serving with her. Thunder agrees not to retire, but installs Noriko as the new captain, preferring to serve as an ordinary solider so her delusions and greed don’t overcome her again.

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Chiaya, exercising the very opposite of greed, is impressed enough by Noriko’s gesture, and grateful for her hospitality, that she gives her stone to her. They’ll find other stones on their travels, and right now Noriko needs it more than her (though the Dynamite Bombers don’t exist, so I don’t know who her other enemies are).

After a call to her mom, the president (who wants her Home This Instant but is in no position to be making demands, considering she seemed to be more interested in the stones than her daughter to that point), Chiaya rejoins the others on their trip across Japan, substituting for Maccha Green, and they all realize they like the same band Ai happened to be humming.

While singing “It’s a nice day” over and over again makes for a lame ending theme, the closing montage of their adventures in Hakone and Fuji add some nice texture.

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Rolling Girls – 03

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Rolling Girls episode two was going to be a tough act to follow, and not even a visit to the towering “Always Comima” in Tokyo (which looks like a massive Big Sight) can keep the show from coming back down to earth.

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That being said, it was still a charmer, with the hastily-assembled titular rolling girls off on their first adventure with no time wasted. It’s funny watching Nozomi gradually come to realize that she may have fallen in with a bunch of weirdos. Ai, Yukina, and Chiaya’s very different styles and quirks keep the ride interesting.

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They arrive at a Tokyo on high alert after the Moonlight Stone (which they call a “Drom Beserker”) belonging to their local vigilante group’s Best, Thunderoad, comes up missing and assumed stolen by the Knights of the Twin Towers’ rival group, Dynamite Bombers.

The painted, washed out city vistas look pretty, but they lack the visual oomph that a fully-rendered bustling cityscape would provide. But then, perhaps our “yokel” girls from Tokorozawa are so overwhelmed by their surroundings they’re filtering out most visual information.

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When they show Chiaya’s stone to two passersby, they trip their “security charms” and have the girls arrested. They’re brought before Thunderoad and her pet crow, who Ai immediately challenges to a fight (the girl, not the crow) and is promptly defeated by a devastating forehead-flicking.

Still, Nozomi manages to smooth things over to the point Thunder gives them till sundown to find her stone, and she’ll give theirs back. She may have a future as a peacebroker after all.

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Back home, Nozomi’s parents worry about their daughter’s first big trip abroad, but all they can do is hope she’ll be okay and come back safe. That’s all Masami can to do, since without her stone and in the shape she’s in, she wouldn’t be able to help Nozomi.

As the girls comb Tokyo in vain for the stone (leading to Nozomi inexplicably vomiting), we cut to the Tokorozawa capital, where the president seems to be hoarding the damn things. We also learn that Masami may be “beyond recovery”,  and Chiaya is the president’s daughter, which explains how she got her hands on a stone and is looking for more of them.

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We also learn that Thunderoad wants her berserker back so she can sell it to one of President Misono’s buyers, so she can buy a life-size rickshaw figure, presumably to sit in and laugh. In a country of cosplayers and collectors with very exacting tastes, such a specific goal makes sense.

Even when she finds the berserker she lost (the crow hid it in the rickshaw boy’s afro), she still has to part with both her’s and Chiaya’s, since she accidentally overbid on the damn rickshaw, and must now pay double!

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When the Dynamite Bombers attacked, Thunderoad originally asked the buyer to delay the transaction, but she ultimately had to choose between being the Best who protects the city and fulfilling her rickshaw figure dream.

She picks the dream, not only giving up her stone but Chiaya’s as well, in a clever reversal of the “do the right thing” trope. Here I thought Nozomi would use that stone to kick ass. Now it will join the others President Misono has gathered, to be used as currency to pay for undisclosed “peacebroker activities”. It’s a very fishy business.

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Kill la Kill – 01

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At Honnouji Academy, the student council committee chairs don “goku uniforms” that bestow upon them supernatural powers. Their president Kiryuin Satsuki rules the school like a king. When Matoi Ryuuko transfers to Honnouji, she immediately confronts Satsuki – a grievous offense – and is beaten to a pulp by Boxing Club Captain Fukuroda Takaharu. Ryuuko escapes to the ruin of her house where her father was killed. She falls deep below the city, where a crazed uniform pops out of the garbage and forces her to wear him. When the council uses Ryuuko’s friend Mankanshoku Mako as a hostage, Ryuuko comes to her rescue, using the power of her new uniform to handily defeat Fukuroda.

An omnipresent thread in the work of director Imaishi Hiroyuki’s work has been comically over-the-top action at a hyper-sonic pace. Whether establishing a location, introducing a character, or landing a blow, everything is taken up to 11, and sometimes 12. If something has to be labeled, it’s done in huge blocky red letters. If anything has to be said, it’s usually yelled. This episode was the polar opposite of the relative stillness and calm of Coppelion, and not just because its city is inhabited (and what an awesome, insane-looking city it is). Where Coppelion strives for realism, Kill la Kill, is, in its most heated moments, pure abstract impressionism.

Suffice it to say, this was a hell of a lot of fun to watch unfurl. The personalities are kept quite simple: the imperious Satsuki, the defiant, plucky Ryuuko, the air-headed Mako. Most importantly, while the episode had some dark themes and serious moments, it knew when not to take itself too seriously, and is therefore infused with moments of bawdy comedy. It’s a potent stimulant of a show that knows exactly how absurd it is and runs with it, taking it as far as it can. Ryuuki is painfully aware of how incredibly revealing her new (apparently sentient) uniform is too, but that doesn’t stop her from doing what needs to be done.

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Rating: 8 
(Great)

Stray Observations:

  • The goku uniforms are ranked on a scale from zero stars (powerless) to three (world-bending strength). Interestingly Satsuki’s uniform has no visible stars. Doubtless it has a personality like Ryuuko’s.
  • Satsuki has a whole council of committee chairs in every shape and size. We’re sure we’ll watch Matoi go up against them one by one in future outings. Meanwhile, all she has friends-wise are the Mankanshoku siblings.
  • Satsuki’s oxymoronic slogan is similar to the famous one in Orwell’s 1984: “War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength.”
  • We loved the sound a very rigid Mako made when Ryuuko set her down after untying her.