Super Cub – 02 – Two-Wheeled Freedom

Koguma discovers how to hang her helmet off her Cub after seeing her classmate stow his under the seat of his scooter. Once in class, she daydreams about suddenly blurting out that she came to school on a motorbike and suddenly becoming Miss Popular. Thankfully, she chooses a much more natural time to mention her new scooter—in Home Ec class when they’re making drawstring bags. Her mention leads to a classmate asking if she can see her Cub after school.

While last week Koguma was thoroughly in her own little world, directly interacting only with Shino, this week we see just how socially awkward she is, first by only tentatively agreeing to meet up and then trying to make an Irish exit, only to forget her newly-made bag.

Fortunately, the other girl doesn’t hold it against her, and reveals she’s something of a motorbike otaku in her appraisal of Koguma’s Super Cub. She also makes plain her biker girl bonafides by presenting her own steed: a red MD4=90 Postal Cub, she’s souped up with aftermarket and bespoke parts.

Their interaction kind of trails off when the girl, named Reiko, has to head out, but Koguma privately hopes they’ll get to talk more tomorrow. Even so, when tomorrow arrives, it takes everything she has to let out a hushed good morning that Reiko only acknowledges with a curt “Mmm.”

Koguma’s fear that their interactions are at an end are alleviated when Reiko takes her arm and leads her to their bikes where they eat lunch together, explicitly mentioning they’re friends now. Yet even here, when Reiko tells her they can go anywhere they want with their Cubs, Koguma seems held back by a lack of imagination.

But once she’s riding home after school, Koguma starts to feel what Reiko was talking about, and instead of going straight through her usual intersection, she takes a right turn. That leads to a supermarket with much better prices on her lunch packets, and she even saves a few yen by using the drawstring bag she made the other day.

You could say that inspiration fueled Koguma’s imagination, allowing her to make a different turn than usual and find a new an unknown place. It’s her first small step to realizing the boundless potential for freedom her new ride represents. As we see Reiko taking full advantage of her Cub to find a gorgeous Yuru Camp-esque vista featuring Fuji-san, Koguma looks forward to her next after-school side trip. So am I!

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Super Cub – 01 (Belated First Impressions) – Kickstarting a New Journey

Koguma has no family, no friends, no goals or hobbies, and not much in the way of money. She gets by living on her own in a near-monastic existence, and the first four minutes of this episode are spent in silence as the sun comes up and we witness each step of her morning routine from waking up to heading to school on her bike. If you love anime that portray real life without any embellishment, as I do, you’ll have already been pulled willingly into Koguma’s life, as I was.

But after watching the better part of one day in that quiet, lonely little life, we watch as she’s easily overtaken by a classmate on a motor scooter, and she decides to head to Shino’s motorcycle shop where she’s in luck: a used Honda Super Cub (the most-produced motorized vehicle in history) is available for just ¥10,000 (around $91). Immediately upon hopping on, the bike literally adds color to her life.

We watch the painstaking but also rather simple process of acquiring a license and tag for her bike as well as a helmet and gloves, as well as the always initially tricky starting protocol. But once all that’s squared away Koguma hits the road (calling to mind Yuru Camp’s Rin on her scooter), and regularly flashing a warm smile simply at the sight of her new Cub sitting in the paddock. It’s not exaggerating to say it saved her from what was a tedious, mundane, aimless existence.

Koguma realizes she’s still shaky on the road, so unable to sleep anyway, she gets up for a midnight ride to practice when the roads are all but deserted. Again, the Rin is strong in Koguma, right down to the occasional relieved sigh and assured yosh after a notable achievement. When she stops at a konbini and can’t get the Cub started, she simply consults the owner’s manual and switches to her reserve tank.

After refueling, Koguma heads home, plops down in her genkan relieved and exhausted, and falls asleep right there, waking up only when her alarm goes off. Already, her crushingly drab routine has been upended by her new mechanical companion. As she confidently rides to school, she starts to think of new adventures to go on with her new ride, like Kofu, well-known to all Yuru Campers. But the point is, she’s finally found an interest and has gained a measure of ambition.

I initially passed on Super Cub worried that it was going to be nothing but a glorified ad for the Honda Super Cub. I reconsidered when I saw it had a decent MAL score and glowing reviews on ANN, and noted that I was missing a iyashikei-style slice-of-life anime this season. So while it’s adding a sixth show to my schedule, it should feel far more like a treat than a chore.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Macross Delta – 25

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The predictable patterns of Macross Delta continue into the penultimate episode, where the action and daring of last week transitions into a relatively quiet, exposition-filled outing (well, quiet until the ending).

Berger Stone shows up again and again launches into a wordy infodump that includes references to other Macross shows. The Windermereans (mostly blindly) rally around Lloyd, including King Heinz, who shows his knights how little time he has left.

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Stone basically lays out that if Lloyd uses the Star Singer to create an interconnected humanoid network, it will be very bad, but we already knew that. When Freyja hides her bandaged hand, she hides it way too obviously to not be noticed by Mirage and Hayate. Walkure is wounded and scattered, but Kaname intends to step up to the plate, and if she has to go down, she’ll be going down swinging for the fences.

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Mirage once again gives way so that Hayate can hang out with Freyja. Though Freyja is literally marked for death, the events of the final episode will be instrumental in confirming whether her hand crystal will kill her, or if the limited age of Windermereans will continue to be a problem.

The show takes the effort to bring Hayate and Freyja closer together by revealing that his Dad once visited Windermere and gave lil’ Freyja the little device she still carries with her, and ends with the classic Macross theme “Do You Remember Love?”, once sung by Lyn Minmey and other singers.

But it’s telling that it’s Freyja’s laugh, not her song, that helps ease his heart. After all, Stone just told everyone songs are a weapon.

 

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Not just a weapon, but the weapon. After some peaceful space credits, the episode upshifts, raising the stakes for the endgame, as the giant NUNS fleet I initially thought Chaos would have to somehow stop, falls under the spell of Mikumo’s Song of the Stars (sung under duress/hypnosis).

Thus brainwashed, the captains and crew of the ships activate the dimensional weapons in their weapons bays, utterly destroying the fleet in a matter of moments. Thousands of souls cry out, and Lloyd looks on approvingly, apparently that much closer to his ultimate goal of galactic domination.

The remnants of Walkure, and Chaos’ handful of ships and fighters now seem hopelessly outmatched against the terrifying might of Lloyd’s newest and most powerful weapon: their friend and comrade.

We’ll see if and how they manage to defeat him, and who will join their cause, and who among those we’ve come to know will be sacrificed in the name of galactic peace.

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Hanasaku Iroha 18

Nako’s the quiet, shy, nervous one, right? Well, yes and no. Turns out Nako would have preferred to be born a fish, because she prefers swimming in a sea to the ordinary human world. But she considers her home a sea, and a haven, in which to be herself. She has a big, loving family that can be a hassle sometimes.

But this “Real Nako” is loud, cheerful, and assertive. Somebody we’ve only seen in the shortest of bursts – when she rescues the author from drowning, for instance. She is also grown quite comfortable with Ohana and Minko, to the point they’re almost like sisters…almost. She’s still nowhere near as loose and free around them as she is at home.

When she recieves a considerable raise from the madam manager, she assumes it comes with the expectation she’ll improve. This comes from her father’s philosophy towards child-rearing: praise your child, and she’ll strive to improve herself to be worthy of that praise (contrast this with her mother’s more tough-love stance). Nako is aware of the disconnect between her “real” self and how she acts at the inn, at school, and anywhere else in public.

After trying in vain to “change” herself by spending lots of money on a new outfit and coming to work trying to act like she does at home, she makes a mistake that lands her in trouble. It is then that the manager tells her her raise wasn’t a challenge, but a reward, after guests wrote her a glowing report. Despite not having to change, I do hope to see a little more of that real Nako; she was way more fun to watch.


Rating: 3.5

Sket Dance 14

Click here to read more reviews of Sket Dance, including the first thirteen episodes.

It’s poll time in Class C, and students will vote for the most popular, smartest, strongest, biggest otaku, sexiest, et cetera. One quiet, shy, nervous-looking kid named Uchida approaches the Sket-dan with a challenge: to make him popular. What follows is a series of ridiculous attempts to make him only appear strong (a rigged kendo match with Shinzou) or knowledgeable in anime (a radio show where Usui and a third guest don’t let him get a word in edgewise).

These failures only lead to more self-loathing on Uchida’s part. Meanwhile, the real reason for wanting an award is revealed: he has a mom in the hospital and doesn’t want her to worry. So he lies; tells her he has gobs of friends. But it turns out, he wins an award without any of the play-acting: most of the class voted him the most kind, due to all the little things he does to make life better for others. They may have been quiet about it, but they did notice his kindness, and he gets acknowledgement. This was a nice resolution, true to his character and not manufactured.

This is another episode that makes me glad Sket Dance doesn’t star a kid like Uchida (or Teppei from the first episode, who has a cameo here). Guys like Uchida are fine for one episode, two tops. Sket Dance’s primary strength is the chemistry between the members of Sket-dan (and the diverse array of colorful supporting characters); it isn’t anchored by a single character. The episode is conscious of this, as Bossun fails to win any awards, while Switch and Himeko both win (with Usui winning two, including most popular). You can’t win ’em all. Rating: 3

Morita-san wa Mukuchi 1 – First Impressions

Because the title is pretty much the premise, I was wondering how the producers would fill twenty-odd minutes per week. Now I know: they won’t. The new anime version of Morita-san wa Mukuchi runs a scant three minutes – a veritable tic-tac of entertainment. It took longer to write this review.

But I can live with this show if all it asks for is three measly minutes of my attention. It even got me wishing there were a few more anime as brief this summer. Of course, Seitokai Yakuindomo followed a similar formula, but it was a string of three or four minute bits spanning a normal episode length.

So it looks like we’lll only be getting the tiniest tastes of Morita-san wa Mukuchi from time to time. This first episode was merely a rehash of the beginning of the OVA released back in February. This is anime superleggera! Rating: 2.5

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