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

Cardcaptor Sakura – 36 – White April

Welcome to April 1999 and to the second season of the iconic Cardcaptor Sakura! We get a new OP and ED, and are quickly and efficiently re-introduced to Sakura by watching her morning routine. She’s still having the dream about Tokyo Tower and a figure she believes to be Mizuki-senpai, but doesn’t know what it all means quite yet.

As the sakura petals fall Sakura glides to school on her rollerblades, escorted by Yukito, who is now in the twelfth grade with Touya. To celebrate Sakura’s eleventh birthday and start of fifth grade, he gives her a gift, which sends her into “dreamy mode”, a state she also enters upon learning Mizuki-sensei will be their new full-time teacher.

Yukito’s gift is a cute watch with a wing motif that matches many of Sakura’s outfits and accessories. But the Clow Card of the week isn’t time-related, but weather related. Despite being April snow starts to fall, and by the time Sakura has finished a pot of stew for dinner, there’s forty inches on the ground and Touya comes in soaked.

Sakura uses Fly to pick Tomoyo up to investigate, and she’s ready with a new pink snow bunny battle costume as well as her camcorder. They encounter Syaoran and Meiling in Penguin Park, who keep from sinking into the deep snow thanks to Syaoran’s magic; Sakura eventually does the same with Float.

Things take a turn when the Clow Card starts enveloping Sakura and Syaoran in a blizzardy vortex. Syaoran reluctantly rides with Sakura on her Fly staff to lure the storm away from their non-magical friends, but running isn’t enough to stop Snow. After Syaoran’s fire sword has some effect, Sakura realizes she lost her watch in all the hub-bub. She unleashes Fiery, which seems to feed on her anger as it sweeps all of the amassed snow in the town away.

After sealing Snow, Sakura breaks down in tears, but Syaoran tenderly comforts her, saying he’ll help her search for it until it’s found, however long it takes. Such a gentleman! Unfortunately, Mizuki-sensei steals his thunder by producing the watch, having had a “hunch” it was Sakura’s.

Like Shinomoto Akiho in Clear Card nineteen years later, Mizuki Kaho is an enigma who is seemingly perfect in normal life but hiding no small share of secrets when appearing in Sakura’s dreams (if it is indeed Mizuki—it sure looks like her). In the meantime, between Sakura’s reactions to her gift and the winter landscapes, the second season is off to a beautiful and touching start.

Re: Zero – Frozen Bonds

There’s one more piece of business before we begin the months-long wait for Re:Zero Season 2: a second OVA that takes place before Subaru is transported into this new world from that convenience store parking lot. It’s a prequel that focuses on Emilia, prior to becoming a candidate. She lives alone in a treehouse in the forest, surrounded by ice sculptures of people she carefully tends every day. This begs the question: did she turn them to ice? Is this penance?

If it is, she doesn’t know it. We actually get a good amount of Emilia simply wordlessly going through her daily routine, and it’s clear she’s as good a good girl as she is in Re:Zero. But then there’s the issue of her appearance, and her resemblance to the Witch of Envy. Everyone dispises that witch, and Emilia has exhibited magical powers, so everyone in the nearby village is afraid of her and hates her. Everyone except Puck, of course.

When a band of thugs attacks her with the intent of capturing her and selling her into sexual slavery, Puck isn’t around, so she has to rely on her own powers, as well as the cooperation of lesser spirits Puck taught her how to summon. She begs the thugs again and again not to escalate, but they ignore her. A giant yeti joins the fray, and her powers go out of control. Puck intervenes, calming Emilia down, but only because he’s respecting her wishes not to kill anyone.

There’s an “arbiter” spirit named Melakeura who is intent on eliminating Emilia simply for resembling (and being descended from) the witch. He’s stubborn as a horse (and looks like one too!), and Puck can’t dissuade him. Not wanting Puck to take on everything himself, Emilia leaves the safety of her treehouse and sets off on her awesome ice snowboard. Melakeura confronts, condemns, and attacks Emilia, but Puck arrives in time to slow him down.

A multi-stage back-and-forth battle between the two occurs, with Emilia demanding the arbiter to judge her for who she is, not some different person, and Puck insisting she be allowed to live a happy life in peace. Melakeura isn’t having it, so after Puck is nearly KO’d, he forms an official contract with “Lia” and takes his notorious monster form for the first time to defend her.

Melakeura also grows to monstrous size, making this almost a kaiju battle ending. But when the dust settles, Lia and Mega-Puck are none the worse for wear, and commit to their bond as father and daughter before a gorgeous sunset. Frozen Bonds felt 20-30 minutes longer than it really needed to be (some of the battles and Melakerua’s halting dialogue got repetitive at times) but it was nevertheless fun to see a glimpse of Emilia That Was, and how she came to be the exceptional person she is in the present.

Sora yori mo Tooi Basho – 08

The girls are understandably excited to be shoving off for their great life-changing expedition, but not a one of them, even Shirase, really gave much thought to how life would be aboard an icebreaker at sea.

Of course, none of them have any experience being on ships period, so that’s to be expected. And at first, things don’t seem that bad: sure, they’re four to a room, and they’re almost immediately put to work peeling potatoes and the like, but it’s not that bad!

Then the crew is invited to go topside for exercise, and the girls learn just how much toughening they’ll need to function aboard ship. Between the drudgery below and the training above, wasting even small amounts of time (and they waste a lot in the bath) is like digging a hole of lost time from which they’ll never return.

As if settling into an efficient routine in which not a moment in the day is wasted (or night, as they need good sleep to be ready for the day) wasn’t enough on their plate, their anti-seasickness medicine wears off, and once they’re on the high seas, that becomes a devastating problem for the entire quartet.

Okay, I told myself, now they’re going to start to feel the challenge they set for themselves when they agreed to do this. And they do, the poor wretches…they do. They lie in bed, unable to sleep, unable to keep down the food they have to try to keep down, dealing with the unceasing rolling of the ship as they sail further south, where there’s nothing stopping the currents.

This is all great stuff, both pre- and post-seasickness. It never feels like the girls are being tortured, because the whole time they’re enduring all these problems, the rest of the crew, far more experienced as they are, seem completely unaffected by the changing conditions. They are a constant reminder that while it may be tough now, given enough time and perseverance, the girls will get through this.

Heck, when the ship starts hitting some really serious waves, Gin shows her “old salt” side, like the captains of the age of sail, standing on the deck of their ships, fighting with the ocean as if it were an opponent in the boxing ring. She’s ready to take some licks, but she’s not going to be counted out.

Similar sentiments come to Shirase as the four lie in their bunks, miserable and exhausted. Gin and the crew may seem like a “different kind of organism” as Yuzu puts it, but all the girls can do is their best; they have no choice. Mari corrects them: they did have a choice, and it was to do exactly what they’re doing. (Hinata seems inspired by Mari’s words, but in truth she just has to use the toilet).

Before heading back to their bunks, the four open a hatch to take a look outside…which seemed like an extraordinarly bad and reckless thing to do considering how little experience they have being on the deck of a ship during such severe conditions. But they all manage to hold on, and even revel at getting pummeled by the waves crashing over them.

The experience changes them for the better; the next day when things calm down they have their sea legs and are full of energy. A big part of the transition is a matter of one’s state of mind; one’s attitude. Mari knows that no matter how tough or harrowing things might seem in the moment, she knows they’ll all look back on these times as some of the most fun and exciting of their lives.

And things are only going to get more exciting, and harrowing, and possibly miserable and painful and terrifying, as icebergs start coming into view on the horizon. This episode does something truly clever: depict how hard it is to adjust to life on a boat, all the while implying that a boat is nothing compared to Antarctica.

Mahoutsukai no Yome – 13

This week’s cold open drips with dread as an evil-sounding guy asks what the adorable Chise will find “at the end of her journey with the failure born in the shadows of the forest”, which doesn’t strike me as the nicest way to describe Elias Ainsworth. Maybe the guy has some kind of grudge? Or maybe he’s jealous that Elias found a Sleigh Beggy?

After that, things take a much lighter tone, as Chise, Ruth, Elias and Silky deal with a sudden infestation of “woolly bugs” in dire need of shearing. Just when Elias steps away for a moment, an icy bug steals Chise’s body heat, but she isn’t in any lasting danger. Elias merely needs to warm her back up.

As a result of that objective, Elias stays with Chise until she wakes up, and the opportunity arises for the two to finally talk a little more about how they feel about each other. Chise had been torturing herself about the “timing” of what she’d say, not the content, and that’s evident here as she’s quite eloquent once the obstacle of when to tell him is gone.

She’s able to clear up a couple of things with Elias—that she’s not afraid of him like most humans are, and that she wants to keep the memory of him going wild, even if it wasn’t pleasant, because it’s the memory of “someone important to her”, which is to say, someone she cares about.

Elias continues to emphasize that he can’t truly emphathize with Chise, or even honestly tell her what his feelings are, because the creature that he is just doesn’t allow for that, or at least hasn’t up to this point.

Elias can say that his home was dreadfully cold when Chise was gone, now it’s much warmer, and he prefer the latters. He also knows that while he may be Chise’s magic teacher, Chise is his human teacher. They have a lot to teach one another.

Chise, unfortunately, doesn’t know not to answer the door alone late at night if she’s not expecting someone, and Elia’s door sadly lacks a peephole, so when Chise opens the door to find the many millennia-old Ashen Eye on the other side, she’s wide open for whatever Ashy might want to do.

Ashen Eye is, of course, the creepy guy we heard talking at the beginning. He seems to be obsessed with Chise, but at least partially informed by a longstanding resentment of humanity he’s built up over the centuries.

He claims he has no intention of “harming” Chise at all, but apparently “transforming her into a red fox” doesn’t fall under the “harm” category of “harm.” So what’s Ahsen Eye’s game, and how will Elias (or Fox Chise, for that matter) deal with him?

I’ve learned not to immediately think everyone who does something weird like this to Chise is automatically a villain with ill intent. It’s possible he’s just teaching both of these youngins a lesson in not answering your door. But that creepy cold open weighs on me…it’s more likely he’s up to no good.

Sidonia no Kishi – 10

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With Shizuka either dead or no longer human and thus more or less out of the picture (for them, anyway), Izana and Yuhata are both committed to spending as much time with Nagate as possible, even if it means they have to reluctantly do so as a trio. There’s only so much of Izana’s whining I can take, so it’s a good thing they half-intentionally stumble upon a secret lab.

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That lab houses the incomplete masterpiece of one Dr. Ochiai, someone who’s name has been darted around now and again. He fused human and Gauna material together into a war machine, and that machine is being used to manufacture new experimental weapons to fight the Gauna. Nagate isn’t in trouble for his trespass; on the contrary, he’s named the test pilot for all this neat new stuff.

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Between this reveal and the first character Gaunazuka writes on the glass looks like a Christian cross, this episode had a serious Eva vibe. It captured the dual-sided loneliness that both the one learning all these secrets and the ones being left out of the loop experience. But no one’s more lonely and frustrated than Izana, who is neither the XO, a Gauna replicant, nor the clone of Sidonia’s ace.

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Punctuated by her very natural reaction of fear and dread upon learning she’s been made an official Gardes pilot—fully aware of the attrition rate of late—Izana has been consistently portraye as a thoroughly “normal” person. Despite the status of her grandmother, she leads a relatively normal life, and has normal fears: fear of being left behind; fear of dying before she’s done and said all she’s wanted to. It makes me feel like there is some kind of crucial secret about her we just haven’t found out about yet.

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Meanwhile, her best friend continues to visit a product of the enemy on the sly. It’s worrying to me that Nagate seems to get more and more excited about the prospect of getting his old Shizuka back just because the being behind the glass is writing his name with magic marker and manipulating the shape of her placenta to make a kind of maid outfit. The fact she snapped that marker into jagged shards was a nice way to show that she’s still very dangerous and it’s fairly clear no good can come of having her aboard.

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On that note, all the demilitarization people were finally granted permission to emigrate to a planet, but their exodus is interrupted by a Gauna attack. I really like how Kobayashi half-wanted them to get their comeuppance for opposing her, and while she allows Nagate to sortie in the experimental equipment (a quick but awesome battle in which Nagate fights his own frame as much as the Gauna), she considers a possible future in which she doesn’t let him do what he wants, and he does it anyway, and she can’t stop him.

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The immortals who rule Sidonia in the shadows are faced with quite the conundrum: they resent Nagate’s very existence, but need him to assure their own. The more powerful he becomes, the more effective their defense against the Gauna, but at the cost of their absolute control over everything. To whit: a Gauna mass eight thousand times the size of Sidonia (which isn’t exactly small) is bearing down. Nagate would have to become terrifyingly powerful to defeat that.

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Stray Observations:

  • I wasn’t a fan of the sound Izana’s sandals made either, but they were cute. And her shiny new black Gardes uniform is badass.
  • In a conventionally animated show, the punishment Nagate’s face receives from Izana in the dark would have constituted a stack of bumps. But here, in CGI land, Oh my God, his injured face is fuckin’ scary as hell. It was very jarring to see it back to normal a couple minutes later.
  • I liked Yuhata’s willingness to immediately abuse the power and security clearance she’s been given now that she’s XO by exploring restricted areas. But when it comes time to send Nagate out to fight, she doesn’t hesitate, despite her feelings for him.
  • Was it just me, or were Sasaki’s boobs a little too big?
  • Maybe we’re wrong: maybe Gaunazuka is perfectly harmless, and in time, will develop back into a fully-functioning human much like Shizuka was. Maybe…but I doubt it.
  • After a smoking start, Sidonia’s in a bit of a “9” drought…perhaps next week’s huge-looking battle will end it.

Sidonia no Kishi – 09

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After the stress of losing Shizuka and the strain of dealing with Kunato’s power games, this week Nagate settles into a stable new routine. Named lancer and squad leader, he pulls off one victory after another, gradually repairing his reputation, while spending most of his free time hanging out and trying to communicate with the new Gauna-Shizuka he brought back.

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Her/it’s behavior could indicate that the Gauna didn’t just replicate her body, but her mind, personality, and memories as well. They just have to be teased out by the one she trusts most: Nagate. That grates not only with Izana, a horrible part of whom probably thought she’d at least get more time with Nagate with Shiuzka gone, but with Yuhata as well, who goes so far as to call Izana a man to deny her status as a rival.

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The show does a nice job subtly bulding up a kind of obsession in Nagate regarding Shizuka. It’s clear he wants the Gauna sample to be the same girl he all but fell for, and even if from a scientific standpoint she very well could be the same girl, the fact remains, she’s also a Gauna, the ever-assumed mortal enemy of Sidonia, and as such not to be trusted.

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This episode is called “Gaze”, but the chilling significance of that title isn’t clear until the scientist studying the Shizuka knock-off notices she’s always staring in the same general direction. Piercing through the hundreds of barriers and bulkheads of the ship, her gaze is always locked upon the ship’s repository of Kabizashi spears. Uh-oh.

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I guess all the progress Nagate made with the sample would seem to be for naught, as it’s merely a tool being used by Hawk Moth to pinpoint the location of humanity’s only effective weapon against the Gauna. Nagate’s affection for the girl that was, and the curiosity of the scientists who studied her, are looking very much like the unwitting architects of their own doom. Hawk Moth Comin’.

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Stray Observations:

  • The Shizuka sample’s confines are striking in their stark simplicity…Very Kubrickesque.
  • Elsewhere in the bowels of the ship, and with the help of Izana, Kobayashi is working to access the “auxilliary brain” from the clone of Ochiai.
  • Kunato, sulking in his manor with his sister and tapping into various observation feeds, doesn’t seem in a particular hurry to arrest Nagate’s latest rise.
  • Izana certainly isn’t subtle in her displeasure with other girls interacting with Nagate, and we’re sure Yuhata’s “man” remark stung. But Nagate is far too dense to ever realize her feelings unless she beats him over the head with detailed diagrams illustrating said feelings.
  • Also, Sidonia seems to be nearing a world where thousands of colonists will be able to emigrate to. That’s probably good news for those who think the Gauna will leave mankind alone if it surrenders the Kabizashis.