Natsuiro Kiseki – 11

The day of the idol audition arrives, and the girls travel to Tokyo. Rather than sightsee, they practice dancing in a park and recieve applause from bystanders. At the audition site, the sight of the unfriendly competition gives Yuka cold feet, but everyone encourages her until her confidence is back. After a lengthy interview and script-reading, they dance in front of the judging panel. Yuka slips and falls in the middle of the routine. They then sightsee around Tokyo. When at a shrine, they all wish at the same time that summer never ends, and when they wake up the next morning, they’re back to yesterday.

This episode is about the four girls taking the next step in what could be dramatically different lives as idols, while reflecting on their friendship and all the adventures they had over the miracle-laden summer. There was hardly ever a dull moment, and quite a few moments of genunine awe, wonder, and happiness. When they arrive at the audition and Yuka – who orchestrated all of this – starts to waver, all the others need to tell her is to think back to everything that’s happened. She’s good enough, and special enough, to succeed. She just has to be herself; the Yuka who brings everyone together.

Their interview was going so well, there were times when we thought “gosh, they might just make it!” Alas, a crucial error by Yuka eliminated them from serious contention. But it turns out the audition was Yuka’s effort to keep everyone toghether, including Saki; not merely to fulfill her dream to become an idol. She wavers at the question “what if only one of you is selected” because she always assumed they’d be idols together. Of course, with the episode resetting (thanks to the big rock’s Tokyo counterpart), something huge has happened: they have another shot at idoldom, and there’s a possibility that summer may never end…because why should it?


Rating: 8 (Great)

Yozakura Quartet ~ Hoshi no Umi ~ 03

We here at RABUJOI seem to have a knack for coming out with extraordinarily late OVA reviews. Case in point: this third and final part of the Hoshi no Umi trilogy aired back in November. Oh well, no anime blog is perfect…except The Perfect Anime Blog, of course.

This segment picks up right where part two left off: Kotoha’s utterly spent, but Zakuro’s just as powerful and evil as ever, and Rin is now in her clutches. The finale lacks the complete visual insanity that always accompanies the exhibition of Kotoha’s talents, but it still possessed a truly electric atmosphere; an irresistable energy that comes with everyone working together as a team, bouncing off of walls, and bounding across rooftops. The multi-vector attack and pursuit of Zakuro is stirring and expertly wrought, though her lines could be a little more inspiring (she mostly just yells ‘Shut up!’).

But while Demon Zakuro vows to kill every single human in the town (all 2,040 of them), she’s disappointed to find they’ve all been evacuated, so it’s pretty much a matter of chasing her until she gets tired and bringing her down. Neither is an easy feat, but the Quartet and their supporting crew are more than up to the challenge. That is, after Hime has a minute-long inner conflict (which Kyousuke even times). There’s also a very funny scene with everyone falling from an under-construction skyscraper and offering to cushion everyone else’s fall until they all fall on a giant cushion conjured by Kotoha on the ground, ending the debate.

So Rin is saved, the evil is drawn out of Zakuro, and everyone gets back to their happy lives. And it’s the little mayor’s job to keep ’em happy, along with the rest of the town. And now we move Yokazura Quartet: Hoshi no Umi into the “Completed” category.


Rating: 3.5

Ao no Exorcist 25 (Fin)

Shura, Triple A, Yukio, and Rin join forces to attack the Gehenna gate, but there are too many small fry in the way. Bon, Izumo, Renzo and Co. execute a plan to telegraph sunlight from the Vatican in Rome to Japan, in order to weaken the demons. Rin and Yukio ride Kuro up to the now-cleared gate and envelop it in flames, closing/destroying it. One month later, things have returned to normal at the True Cross Academy, though Rin is more proactive in interfering in higher-ranking exorcist operations. They also visit their mother’s grave – their birthplace – in the forest.

This was a somewhat disappointing finale. I was having a hard time staying invested in the face of a lack of any significant peril, and lots of strange, random things. I mean, wtf was the deal with those mirrors? Where did that come from? Throughout the episode, you see swarms of small black demons flying around, but not attacking their prey, but simply flying by as people yell “there’s too many of them!” With Shiemi out of harm’s way and Yukio back to his old self, no characters were in immediate mortal danger this week. No suspense. Also, Yukio is suddenly able to hear Rin’s cat now, and transforms like his bro when he unsheathes the sword? Huh?

The “everything’s back to the way it was” epilogue wasn’t the best move either. It only reinforces the fact that nothing that happened in that big climax was any big deal. Even visiting the place where their mom gave birth to them fell flat for me; I mean how is someone who slept with Satan a “wonderful person?” Offspring bias, I suppose. And while Kuro is proof that some demons can be tamed, why is Rin rushing headlong into battles he’s not authorized to fight? Or, more to the point, if he’s capable of taking care of demons, why’s he still in school? I dunno…not a great ending to what was a pretty decent series.


Rating: 2.5

Ao no Exorcist 24

Yukio is possessed by Satan, who swears a lot and laughs like a jackass. Shura, Shiemi, and Rin try to get Yukio to snap out of it, but only Rin succeeds, after sufficient yelling and a few tears. They manage to free Yukio, but Satan is still on the loose, and the massive Gehenna Gate remains open.

The Satan in this series just doesn’t work for me as a character. I just hate him. I know, we’re supposed to hate him, but he’s so implacably evil and unlikable, there’s never any doubt that he will ultimately be cast aside and defeated. I hate that he’s a weak, goofy, one-dimensional villain. Why there was a flashback episode with Yuri and Satan I don’t know, but it certainly didn’t rouse any sympathy for the Satan character. He’s a big jerk, period. And yet this whole episode does nothing but prove that point ad nauseum, along with provide the predictable heartfelt beseeching Yukio to wake up.

Thankfully, Cardinal Ernst didn’t have any stupid longwinded religio-political speeches, but the line of the episode had to be (former) Paladin August’s: “But genocide using a weapon of mass destruction contradicts the Order (of the True Cross)’s principles!” Seriously? That line was written? And it actually had to be spoken by somebody?


Rating: 2.5

Ao no Exorcist 23

Ernst mixes the blood of Rin and Yukio to open the Gehenna gate, but the Messiah weapon proves ineffective. A swarm of demons bursts forth from the gate, along with Satan. A flashback chronicles how Rin and Yukio’s mother Yuri became mixed up with demons to the point that Satan joined with her and gave her twin sons. Her own father Ernst was going to burn her at the stake, but Satan intervened. Fujimoto and Pheles were sent out to kill her and her demon spawn, but Fujimoto can’t do it. Back in the present, Ernst is sucked into Gehenna, while Satan possesses Yukio.

Yukio displays baffling naivete, Ernst lets out an evil laugh as he describes his diobolical plan, and Rin screams in that horrible way he screams that’s worse than nails on a chalkboard. Not a good start for the penultimate episode. I was also worried when the flashback had a flashback – nothing kills the thrust and momentum of a story in the present like a tangent into the past that occupies most of the episode. The series would have us believe that this story had to be told in great detail, but I for one was fine with some of the past being unknown or muddled. Some mystique was lost.

Also, if being possessed by Satan turns Yukio into such a wild, raging maniac, why does that same satan so calmly and vividly tell Yukio the story of how he and Rin came to be? He’s Satan; the ultimate unreliable narrator. And while he’s busy telling this intricate tale, the other characters are sidelined, doing absolutely nothing. So now, we have a Satan-possessed Yukio, who’s screaming a lot, but at least his screams aren’t as awful and shrill as Rin’s, but of course he’s upset, so he’s screaming too. I would hope that next week’s finale has a minimum of screaming, but I’m not going to hold my breath.


Rating: 2.5

Usagi Drop 11 (Fin)

Daikichi and Rin deliver food to Hitani as she recovers from a bug. While wrestling with her first loose teeth, Rin and the three other kids work on their jump rope, while Daikichi mingles with Hitani and the dads. After about a year with Rin, he’s watched her grow and they’ve shared countless experiences, a lot of them cause him stress and nervousness, but he seems to be learning that comes with the job.

Daikichi’s little sister Kazumi is getting married, but isn’t so hot about having a kid soon. She likes going out and drinking and having time for herself. Daikichi used to own all of his time, too, and while it’s obvious he’s lost something in his change of lifestyle for young Rin’s sake, he’s gained a lot more. This person loves him unconditionally, and he her. He may not be a real dad, and it may have just been a year, but he’s definitely become quite good at taking care of RIn.

What has more or less been a slice-of-life series has a reserved send-off, which looks back on the development of Daikichi and Rin, and looks toward the future as she grows bigger, stronger, and brighter. Rin has definitely been one of my favorite characters this season, and one of the better-acted kids I’ve seen in anime. There’s nothing earth-shattering about this story, but that’s not the point: it’s done a good job portraying the everyday and mundane, with all the little childhood firsts sprinkled in. And certainly the only anime I can think of where a guy’s aunt is so much younger than him, he could easily be her father.


Rating: 3.5

Ao no Exorcist 22

Ernst overthrows the existing bureaucracy and names himself Pope, and rises Yukio to the rank of Paladin and head of the Japanese branch. Rin and all the other members of True Cross Academy are armed and given a new edict: kill as many demons as possible. The weapons absorb demon blood for a ritual to open the Gate of Gehenna and destroy Satan for good. Rin is the sacrifice to unlock the gate, while Yukio transforms into a demon himself.

This episode covered a lot of ground. One could almost say the series is now in a hurry to wrap things up. Ernst showed up a couple episodes ago, and we have no idea who he is or what made him so evil; all we know is, he’s a Bad Guy with plans for world domination, and he’s ensnared an extremely naive (and stupid) Yukio with a promise to save Rin by restoring his full humanity. The force of all the sudden change is so great this week it sweeps everyone up before they can even complain.

This episode also sets a firm morality concerning the fundamental role of exorcists. They’re supposed to slay demons, but not all demons. There are good ones, like Kuro the Cait Sith, Izumo’s foxes, and countless demons who protect forests, rivers and the like. In this regard, our protagonists should be on the side of Princess Mononoke. Like humanity, there is an entire spectrum of demonhood stretching from good to bad. What Pope Ernst has ordered upsets the balance of things. He’s bad, and our ragtag group of students – and Rin, if he’s still alive – must stop him.


Rating: 3

Usagi Drop 10

The days get chillier, and Rin gets sick with fever for the first time under Daikichi’s care, catching a stomach virus that kicks her ass. The ordeal scares the crap out of him, but Hitani is there to help him keep his cool and nurse Rin back to health. With so much proximity, the two parent-and-child pairs are starting to rely on each other more and more, making the group even more closely resemble a family.

When I was a kid, getting sick just plain sucked; enough that you can bet I didn’t care how my parents felt. In fact, I remember them staying calm most of the time, and I can recall several occasions when I thought I was getting sick but they assured me I either wasn’t or it wasn’t that bad. Of course, when I was Rin’s age, I’ll bet they were just as doting (and the same nervous wrecks) Daikichi and Hitani are here.

He knows she’ll get better; that these things happen, but there are often moments when he seems to despair. Hitani is right there to advise him though, having dealt with this kind of thing with Kouki. She proves to be an incredibly caring woman here, and it speaks volumes about how close she and Daikichi are that she knows she can show up without warning and help out. These events only reinforce my prediction that they’ll grow closer still.


Rating: 3.5

Ao no Exorcist 21

Neuhaus’s wife ends up at Shiemi’s place, where Shiemi takes care of and takes a liking to her. Rin & Co. learn Neuhaus that she’s a “quickened”or resurrected corpse possessed by a demon, but he didn’t do it. The Paladin gets wind of her and he and his men arrive to kill her, but Rin stalls him until he’s summoned back to the Vatican and met not by the Grigori, but by Ernest Frederick Aegin, who’s taken over with Yukio by his side.

My God, the volume of pseudo-religious political babbling that goes on in this episode brought back bad memories of the most tiring episodes of Index. This week a little bit of Gundam megalomania was sprikled in, with the new Phantom of the Opera (Frederick) revealing an enormous church armory that will be used as a base for a new offensive against the demons. The implication is that up until now the Vatican had only fought defense against Satan; he means to take the fight to them. But this week those larger considerations are only the bookends.

Michelle the spider-woman hangs with Shiemi until everyone descends on her quaint little garden wanting her head. Shiemi convinces Rin not to hurt her, though, and it’s her wishes that drive him to defend Michelle from August and his henchmen, though in vain, as Michelle ultimately takes a bullet for him. More importantly though, Yukio seems to have changed his allegience behind Rin’s back. The imminent face-off between brothers will either be as dull and predictable as another religio-political speech, or something more consequential and satisfying. Here’s hoping for the latter.


Rating: 3

Usagi Drop 9

Rin and Kouki’s first week of first grade is heralded by a typhoon. Daikichi confers with other married dads at work. It sounds more complicated – and it is – but it looks like the benefits outweigh the costs. When Hitani and Kouki stay for dinner, we get a ‘what if they were one big family’ scenario. The kids get along so well, as do the parents. Things seem so much easier than two people raising their kids alone…

Usagi Drops another lovely, truly heartwarming episode on us. I have to say, Daikichi should thank his lucky stars he has Rin and not Kouki as a kid. Rin is well-behaved and wise beyond her years, but Kouki is…just a typical bratty kid. He’s always loud and dirty, has to be the center of attention, and doesn’t take direction well. But Rin’s effect on (power over?) him astounds not only his teachers, but his mom too.

This episode does a good job balancing the experiences and points-of-view of the kids and the parents, and all of their interactions together were positive. Daikichi starts to get the feeling that yeah, asking Hitani out could work. All that’s really in the way is their inability to actually test that theory, which is obviously a step requiring great courage. I almost thought he was going to ask Kouki “How would you feel if Hitani and I…” but his actual question was far vaguer. Ganbatte, Daikichi!


Rating: 4

Ao no Exorcist 20

The attacker of Rin and Yukio’s monastery is a masked stranger who writes in Polish and uses a nasty spider-web like silk to envelop his victims. When Rin gives chase he immediately has his ass handed to him, and has to be saved by Yukio, who continues the chase and runs into Professor Neuhaus, originally believed to have retired.

After a “rest” episode, it was good to get back to the main story, but I feel like most of this episode was simply rehashing what’s already been said, done, and/or established. Rin should know by now he can’t just rush headlong into threats he doesn’t understand. He almost gets killed in the first five minutes thanks to his impatience and hardheadedness. He should know by now he can’t just do what he pleases – the Vatican has him on a tight rope as it is. All this just…seemed to have slipped his mind this week. At least later in the episode he finally gets the candle training right, and uses his flames like a scalpel, not a sledgehammer, to remove the webbing from his allies.

The enemy-of-the-week is also pretty boring at first. I mean, spiders crawling across his face? Seriously? Rin has already fought the Paladin and the Earth King…after those bosses this guy never seems like much of a threat. Things do get a little more interesting when a hostage standoff ends with the Paladin arresting Pheles for suspected illegal research, while Neuhaus shows up again, claiming the then un-masked woman is his wife. Yukio, getting more angsty for not being able to protect Rin, is suddenly summoned by…his grandfather, of all people. One we didn’t know he had…


Rating: 3

Usagi Drop 8

It’s mostly back to just Daikichi and Rin this week, as the ep opens with a typical late summer morning. Rin has started summer vacation and her birthday is imminent. O-bon is also near, so Daikichi decides they’ll take the day to visit the grave of Souichi, his grandfather; her father (and yes, she’s starting to figure out that she’s his aunt).

Meanwhile, we see a lot more Masako, who looks like she hasn’t slept in a long time. When her not-quite boyfriend tries to comfort her, calling her a girl, she spazes out; when one is a mangaka, one cannot be anything else and expect to succeed, in her mind. That includes being a girl, or a girlfriend, or a mother. It probably applies to being a daughter or sister, but the series doesn’t show her family. In any case, she’s fun to watch, as she averts her gaze and fidgets.

However, she still visits Souichi’s grave on the same day, and Daikichi eventually makes his presence known, after some rather bizarre hiding behind lampposts. He’s a little perturbed by her (at least appearing to have) a boyfriend, but still tells her Rin is with him, and welcomes her to watch from afar. Also, Daikichi, I don’t care how bright and sharp Rin is, hold the girl’s hand when you’re walking by the road!


Rating: 3.5

Ao no Exorcist 19

*Clicks tongue*…surprise birthday party episode. But hey, I didn’t mind it nearly as much as the previous filler ep, the one with the kitchen demon. Perhaps because, like the best episodes of any series with a vibrant ensemble cast, it gives everyone something to do and allows for some very nice character interactions. Considering how much everyone’s been through the last three weeks, a break was inevitable, but also far better than expected. Also, by this point, we know everyone a lot better, making them more fun to watch even during filler.

When else would we learn that Bon is good at papercraft? Or that Konekomaru could work out his awkwardness with Rin by helping him bake? Or that Renzou and Paku have such great chemistry? The party is being planned for Izumo, who then keeps bumping into her friends as they plan. Most distressing is when she keeps seeing her best friend on an apparent date with Renzou, and her ill-fated undercover spy mission is cute, if misguided. I enjoyed the increased role of Paku; she may not exactly stand out, but she was fun to watch this week.

There are a whole lot of nice character moments in here, and I’m not going to pretend the episode was much more than that…but it did have at least a minor twist: the surprise was ruined (thanks to Izumo’s spying), so the party becomes one for everyone, not just her, by her request. Meanwhile, Yukio observes the festivities from a far, still having told no one about his ominous, worsening malady. Just to segue back to business, the episode ends with a report Rin and Yukio’s monastery is under attack. Wash down that X-mas cake and get movin!


Rating: 3