Kamisama Dolls 11

Mahiru learns from Aki that Kyohei has a girlfriend. Furious, she kidnaps Hibino and ties her up in a hotel room, then visits Kyohei to learn the truth of things. She crushes cookies Utao baked specially for Kirio, leading to a brief fight, and Mahiru teleports away again. Utao, Kyohei and Moyako take Kukuri and pursue her. Meanwhile, Shiba threatens to rape Hibino.

With a title like “Hibino Kidnapped”, it’s pretty obvious what was to in the 24 minutes that followed, but I was expecting…more. I mean, look up a the first paragraph; not a lot happened. Worse still, Mahiru is not the most interesting character to watch for the majority of an episode; she’s only good in short spurts. Here, she yells far too much, repeating a lot of what has already been established. Most notably, she’s in love with her hero, Kyohei. We knew this last week. She’s also threatened by Hibino. We assumed that.

Her idea to unite the Kuga and Hyuga clans by marrying Kyohei and wiping out the old ways makes sense in theory, but isn’t without its problems. For one, Kyohei isn’t a seki anymore, and he has no intention of returning to the village, which is what Mahiru asks him to do here. But all of this could have been done much faster; I feel the momentum has been hurt by spending too much time on the psycho Mahiru, who lost most if not all of the goodwill gained from her first episode. Most frustrating, there are no further developments on precisely what the Diet member has planned, and how Mahiru and Aki fit into that plan. In all, this episode was a regression.

Rating: 3


Kamisama Dolls 10

Mahiru of the Hyuga clan arrives in Tokyo unbeknownst to Koushiro or anyone else, and immediately makes her presence felt. Kuuko has put Aki before the diet member representing Kurakami village, who believes it’s time for the village to change with the times, which means eliminating the elders. He’s called Mahiru for the same purpose, though she insists she only came to see Kyohei, whom she loves and idolizes ever since a terrifying incident covered in a flashback.

So…yeah, introducing a character as volatile as Mahiru this late in the series was a bold move. She didn’t make the best first impression on me, but I had to remember, she’s essentially a princess, and she is a pretty powerful seki – some swagger comes with that. She’s also loud, highly irrational, prone to mood swings, and even a little sadist (she zaps Kuuko with her own stun gun just for the heck of it). In a word: unhinged. Seiyu Kana Hanazawa’s performance is feistier than I’ve heard her in a while – kind of a Kuroneko taken up a couple notches – I like it. Mahiru grew on me as the episode progressed and I learned more about her.

In a character- and action-packed flashback, Kyohei puts his life on the line numerous times to save Mahiru’s – and Aki’s – lives, when the three stumble upon a sekiless monster kakashi. It was an incredibly traumatic experience for all involved, but Kyohei saved the day, though he says it was the day he “lost his sanity.” Whatever happened, Mahiru still adores him for it, and despises Aki for being as helpless as she was, and a pain-in-the-ass to boot (he was ‘good’ back then, but the warning signs were there). Along with Hirashiro – the Diet guy – and his plans to uproot the old way in the village, there’s now a whole new layer to the series’ story. More to the point, do we care if those dusty elders get offed? Do I smell a second season…?

Rating: 4

Hanasaku Iroha 19

Whenever this series has gone off on a high school drama tangent, it can sometimes feel like a distraction from the primary inn setting. I mean, there are a lot of stories left to tell there, why deviate by doing a school festival two-parter? Alas, this is what we got, and to be fair, it isn’t bad. It just isn’t quite up to par. I found myself uninterested in chunks of this episode, which is never good.

Ohana, Minko and Yuina’s class decide to run a “princess cafe.” The class chooses Minko to be in charge of the food and Ohana in charge of the waitressing. This enables both of them to ply their craft in a new and less serious setting. Minko gets quite into it, but quickly runs into logistical issues – personnel – issues. If this is a dry run for running her own restaurant – something that’s no doubt one of her dreams – it’s not off to a good start. But it’s sure to build character.

Ohana and Yuina have fewer issues coordinating the waitresses, but Ohana manages to have a very bizarre dream featuring Kou in drag. The episode ends with a lot of uncertainty about how everything will turn out – particularly for Minko. Nako, meanwhile, is the only one helping a girl set up an art gallery. Probably not the best time to turn off her politeness filter…

Rating: 3

Level E 12

Wherein Prince’s royal duties finally catch up to him. His extremely conservative, polite, courteous younger brother arrives on earth. He’s a prince to, but he won’t allow his brother to shirk his responsibility to marry the princess of another world, a tradition that goes back generations and maintains peace and galactic balance. He wouldn’t even think of taking his brother’s place as Doguran King; he just isn’t wired that way.

Similarly, the princess, despite never having met Prince, is ready to marry him on the spot, having prepared for such a thing all her life. She loves him deeply, despite the distance between them, and it’s pretty clear she wouldn’t be the woman she is were it not for the encouragement Prince unconsciously instilled in her to be the best damn princess she can possibly be.

Yet again Level E proves it can present us will all new characters and they can be iimmediately deep and interesting. I also find it awesome that Craft is 100% on Prince’s side, because there’s nothing he’d like more than for his more sensible younger brother to take the throne. And the massive alien fleet in Earth orbit lends some nice gravity to the festivities.

Tsutsui and Miho are also in top form trying to be on the Princes side while becoming just as endeared with the lil’ bro and betrothed as we are. This is definitely a tough one: the Prince doesn’t want to be hemmed in by marriage; but he doesn’t seem to have a lot of options with all the political stuff at stake (and all those ships in orbit who came to witness the wedding). The finale should be something. And, oh yes…Craft’s yellow Camaro puts this episode over the top, ratings-wise. Rating: 4

Kuragehime 11 and Wrap-up

Last week’s episode closed with Amamizu-kan covered with tarps and scaffolding. Game Over? Well, obviously, no. If Yakumo managed to end so happily, what chance did Kuragehime have to end in tragedy and defeat? None. The sight of Kuronosuke in essentially the very Jellyfish dress of her dreams flips a switch in Tsukini, and she’s all gung-ho about making more. Priorities change when she sees the tarps: panic sets in; cash is needed to buy the place, fast.

Tsukimi and the sisterhood go with what worked before: Jellyfish dolls. I like how Kuronosuke actually has to actively correct their course by informing them that clothes can cost more than $5.00, thanks to hype, fashion, and branding. It also makes sense that the sisterhood is surprised by the fact that clothes can sell for much more than dolls. With his tentacles all over the fashion industry, Kuronosuke arranged for Tsukimi’s work to be shown at a competition.

The combination of his looks and Tsukimi’s designs result in a sweep. Their designs are a hit; they’re in business. Of course, when they return home and Chieko’s mother shows up, all their frantic efforts were unnecessary; she’s decided not to sell. Of course, it isn’t all for naught; Tsukimi has found a way to make a living, and she and Kuronosuke have grown a little closer.

Don’t get me wrong: Kuragehime was a pleasant diversion, and Kana Hanazawa was on top of her game voicing the nervous and timid yet hopeful Tsukimi. But with only eleven episodes to work with, Tsukimi, Kuronosuke and Shu’s storylines weren’t explored to their full potential. The conflict was too easily resolved, and the villaness is too easily neutralized. Then again, 11 more episodes of those static otaku side characters wouldn’t have improved matters. Never mind: what happened in Kuragehime happened, and couldn’t have happened any other way. And I enjoyed it just fine. Rating: 3.5

Series Mean Ranking: 3.545 (Ranked 4th out of 15 Fall 2010 Series)

Kuragehime 9

Just when Kuronosuke is about to properly distract Tsukini from her troubles with a jellyfish apparel powwow, Shoko shows her “proof positive” that she slept with Shu. Am I wrong, or is that just a picture of her in bed with him, and not necessarily having sex at all? Regardless, everyone assumes it’s true, except Shu’s little half-brother, who knows better. Shoko is a lying landshark who has Shu wrapped around her little finger.

Tsukini, meanwhile, can’t get the imagery out of her head, and tries to drown her sorrows in sweet sake. Having never drunk before, she exhibits her status as a hopeless lightweight and passes out instantly, and who should carry her to her bed but Kuronosuke, who cross-dressed less and less enthusiastically throughout the episode. Now that Tsukini believes Shu to be even more of an impossibility than ever, has Kuronosuke found his opening? Even if he has, does he want to take it, or is the shame of having the hots for her too much to bear? Rating: 3.5

Kuragehime 7

Kuronosuke is gone for five minutes and the sisterhood lets the Buyout Vixen – their most lethal enemy – waltz right into their castle. After he arrives, she retreats in a cloud of Hakana salt, but not before Tsukini notices she has Shuu’s glasses and fears the worst. She wants a shoulder to cry on, and it’s Kuronosuke’s. Meanwhile, the fact remains, she’s mistaken about Shuu and the vixen.

We continue to see Kuronosuke’s inexplicable and ridiculous (from his perspective) attraction to Tsukini. Case in point: the moment he sets foot on campus (not cross-dressing), he’s surrounded by a quartet of swooning models. But he doesn’t even notice them. He even tries to kiss Tsukini in her room, an impulse that only fails because Mayaya opens the door at the wrong time, sending the two flying.

Meanwhile, Kuronosuke also wants to get rid of Tsukini’s future habitation problems by buying the whole apartment building so it won’t be razed. Blackmailing his dad backfires (Shuu only saw him get to second base with Kuro’s mom) but he discovers that the otakus’ hoarding impulses could net them millions of yen in flea market bounty. He definitely seems to have made this group, and especially Tsukini, his own personal project. Rating: 3.5