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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Joukamachi no Dandelion – 03

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What JnD lacks in narrative depth, it makes up for in sheer quantity and variety of stories. This week, we get three of them, starting with an exploration of Sakurada Hikari’s power, which allows her to change her age and the age of others. She wants to be more popular (she’s fifth in the polls) so she tries to do a good deed by saving a cat from a tree.

To do so, she has to age herself up, and while she cuts a fine figure as an adult, her clothes remain the same size, and in any case, because she was with Akane, she wasn’t close enough to any cameras for the deed to make any difference in the next poll. Her need to age Akane down so they can swap clothes nets us the national treasure that is Mini-Akane.

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The middle story is about the two youngest Sakuradas, Prince Teru and Princess Shiori. Teru has super-strength but often lacks common sense, but his younger sister assists him on their first shopping trip alone with both her ample stores of common sense beyond her years, and the ability to talk not only to dogs, but misplaced shopping lists!

I also like the callback to the first story, with and aged-up Hikari and anged-down Akane in disguise looking out for their younger siblings…and of course the running gag of Akane always drawing the grocery shopping lot. I can take or leave the shonen-y Teru, but I dug Shiori, who successfully toes the line between responsible young lady and endearing little kid.

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The episode is rounded out by another Hikari story: this time, she wants to become an idol. Only problem is, she’s too young, so she ages herself up. But, like Teru, she often doesn’t sweat the details, like the fact she has to show ID and ends up revealing her identity. She also shows poor judgment by being lured to a studio by a male stranger, though to be fair he had no way of knowing she was only eleven.

In this segment Haruka decides to serves as Hikari’s coach, and after she’s scouted and her identity revealed, the scouts make a plea to the king, who agrees to let her become an idol. She gets on TV, but in her aged-up form, and with an alias that hides her royalty, defeating the original purpose of becoming an idol—to gain popularity and rise in the polls.

I’ll admit, I’m not the biggest fan of the often ultra-cloying performances of Ogura Yui, but her voice is at least more tolerable when Hikari is aged up.

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Joukamachi no Dandelion – 02

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I had suspected it last week, but now I’m certain (after checking): this is, like Re-Kan!, an anime based on a 4-koma manga. The joke-punchline rhythm gives it away. But that also means it moves along nicely.

We get two separate stories this week: the first about the dynamic between Akane (third daughter) and Kanade (second daughter and twin of Shuu) as they walk to school. Akane gloms onto Kanade to avoid the cameras, but when she spots a cat about to get run over, she doesn’t hesitate to spring into Hero Mode, which in turn causes Kana to do the same to save her and the cat.

Kanade can tell her younger sister has what it takes to be king, if only she could get over her devastating shyness; and would likely vote for her if she weren’t in the running herself. I also like that Kanade has to constantly save up to afford her expensive materialization power, e.g. a surprise 40 million to save Akane!

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The second part interestingly doesn’t focus on the point of view of a Sakurada sibling, but one of their admirers, specifically Sato Hana, who has known Shuu since the fourth grade and has developed feelings for him. Hana is elated that Shuu remembers her, and would do anything just to talk or spend time with him.

When she tries to say goodbye to him for the day, she spots him with Akane and, due to Akane’s glomminess and their out-of-context banter, Hana believes they’re lovers, to her dismay.

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But since they’re royalty, the siblings know when they’re being followed, and confront Hana, who unexpectedly comes right out and confesses with Shuu. Coincidentally, Shuu happens to care for her more than any of the other girls due to her simplicity and honesty, but informs her his priority is keeping Kanade from winning (which, mind you, doesn’t necessarily mean winning the election himself!)

Hana says she’ll wait for him until after the election, and Shuu, for his part, promises he’ll return her feelings then. She declines his offer to walk her home (suggested by Akane, acting tough for the couple’s sake) but is delighted to get a glad-you-made-it-home/goodnight call from Shuu later that night. All in all, a cute and brisk little soliloquy.

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Joukamachi no Dandelion – 01 (First Impressions)

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The Skinny: The Sakuradas are a perfectly normal family of eleven with two important distinctions: all nine kids have superpowers, and their dad is King of the country, making them princes and princesses. The next king will be chosen by the people form among them, so they have to deal with surveillance cameras, TV cameras and competitions designed to help the people get to know them better.

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Pros: It’s a clever, somewhat random premise in a season full of them. This isn’t just a big royal family, it’s a big royal family whose king decided he wanted his kids to stay in touch with the regular people, so they live in a regular middle-class house and everyone does their part (and shares one bathroom). They dress like normal people, and if it weren’t for the crown, you’d never know their dad was King.

I also liked the democratic aspect, and the way the king is uging all his kids to work hard and fulfill their responsibilities as the symbols of hope for their country. Also, the three oldest princesses are voiced by Kayano Ai, Hana-Kana, and Ishihara Kaori, with Kana playing the shyest of the kids, who wants to be king “so she can lead a quiet life,” which does sound contradictory. All in all, it’s a lighthearted, kind, fun little show.

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Cons: The show is, at times, a little too proud of its premise. The superpowers seem almost tacked-on, and the competition that showed them off was pretty slow and plodding. The constant mention of Akane’s panties was also tiresome (if you can fly and don’t want anyone seeing them, wear pants, highness). There also seem to be a superfluous number of characters, though I’m sure they’re all get their focus in time. The stakes aren’t exactly stratospheric either, but this is slice-of-life.

Verdict: As Tuesdays are typically pretty light for anime, but also happen to be Tuesdays, not the best day of the week (at least for me), a nice lightweight chuckleworthy comedy could hit the spot.

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Rail Wars! – 11

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A good action story rule of thumb is that things are always more exciting on a speeding train. A train job is more exciting than a bank job; a bank train job would be the ultimate. Heck, a train shower is better than a shower in some lame stationary structure. Rail Wars! instinctively understands and capitalizes on this fact in its penultimate episode.

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Like the draisine miniarc, the characters are almost constantly on a speeding train here, which lends a lot more adrenaline and momentum. Prince Bernina doesn’t take up a lot of time here, as she’s whisked off to safety by Iida after D4 successfully fends off the thugs and captures two of them in a team effort (and thanks to that really weak taser). With the guest star out of the way, we can focus on the regulars; a focus I favor, especially so close to the end of the run.

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When the other thugs take Haruka hostage and tell them they’ll exchange her for the prince, Naoto dresses up as the prince. It’s a gambit that doesn’t work a moment longer than it needs to for D4’s heavies—Aoi and Shou—to do what they do. It gets a bit hairy, but in the end the bad guys are vanquished and Haruka is safe and sound. Unfortunately, the train’s controls are also vanquished, thanks to all the gunfire.

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That’s what’s so great about employing trains in an action scenario: it ain’t over till the train is successfully stopped. Naoto does the brave thing: deciding to disconnect the engines so the cars behind will slow and eventually stop on their own. Not wanting him to steal all the glory, Aoi stays with him to decouple, but she later reveals the shootout left her wounded. But when Naoto has his chance to jump off, he stays right there with Aoi.

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He says it’s because he was scared, but let’s be real: he’s not the kind of person to save himself and leave someone behind, especially Aoi. He tenderly dresses her wound, and catches her in his arms when the track turns, and for maybe the first time, Aoi looks like she’s finally going to confess. Hey, if they’re about to die, why not?

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Alas, the cavalry interrupts their lovey-dovey moment, but what a cavalry: three DF51s in tandem going down the up line! RW has had a huge wealth of equipment to work with throughout its run, and has always been adept at breaking out the big toys when the situation warrants it. Fittingly, the episode ends with Naoto, looking every bit the shining prince, gallantly carrying Aoi off the train, to reunite with their colleagues.

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Rail Wars! – 10

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After D4’s biggest challenge yet, there’s no rest for the weary, as we go straight into the next mission, which is just as well, as there are only two more episodes left after this one. Naoto & Co. are charged with protecting Prince Bernina, fifth in line for the throne of Atela, as his highness travels in style aboard the Hakutosai to Sapporo for a sister city ceremony. “I thought broads loved this royalty shit!” C’mon, Naoto, don’t you know Aoi? She’s a knight.

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Why Bernina is putting his faith in JNR public safety trainees rather than having his own entourage of highly-skilled royal guards is never explained, but whatevs. Also, we know D4 is more than capable. For his part, Bernie’s is your typical delicate blonde European type, but rather than be an entitled little snot, he’s quite nice and down-to-earth, and really into trains, just like Naoto. I can’t blame him; that Hakutosai looks like fantastic way to travel.

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Unfortunately, Aoi misses the train because she’s chasing someone, intent not just on protecting the prince because its her duty, but protecting Naoto because she looooves him (we can assume). Her blank expression as a wordless response to Naoto’s comment that “anyone she seduces is in for a lot of pain” is more evidence, as if we needed any. Naoto’s kinda got a big mouth this week; he also kinda tells a shorter-skirted (for mobility) Haruka she only has to be bait.

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Shuu can’t hold off two would-be baddies going after the prince, and one of them shocks Naoto repeatedly with a taser, which seems to be set to “tickle.” Even if Aoi’s training involved building up Naoto’s pain threshold, he seems to take a ridiculous amount of shocks. That stalls the baddie long enough for Aoi to swoop in and clean up. We missed Aoi, but her absence for most of the episode gave her surprise arrival more heft. The first threats to Prince Bernie’s life have been neutralized, but there will surely be more as this story continues next week.

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The central twist, which wasn’t all that surprising, is that the prince is actually a princess, a secret known only to the royal family…and Naoto, who busts in on her when he hears her fall in the shower. I chuckled at Naoto’s strategic placement of his head and arms when he made this realization, but it remains to be seen if there’s a connection between her secret femininity and the baddies after her. For now, we’ll rate this as Aoi rated Naoto’s performance: “Not bad.”

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Valvrave the Liberator – 18

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L-elf receives intel from the Royalists about an old-fashioned multi-stage rocket in a museum in the old capital of Dorssiana, and a list of JIORans who were deported to that town, including Haruto’s dad Soichi. When L-elf figures out Lieselotte is the member of the royal family helping him, he runs off. Haruto’s dad turns out to be the head scientist in charge of the VVV Project, and engineered Haruto and the others to create a new, superior lifeform. Disgusted, Haruto promises his dad he’ll destroy the Valvraves. L-elf infiltrates the castle where Lieselotte is being held captive, and offers to take her away.

Back when he and Lieselotte were last together, L-elf didn’t have a plan, but now he does. He has a friendly country in New JIOR she can escape to, and powerful weapons to protect her in Haruto and the Valvraves. If indeed everything L-elf has done since participating in the invasion of JIOR and defecting from Dorssia has been so he could one day rescue his princess, well, we must applaud his long game and diligent planning. So…what will be her excuse for not coming with him this time? The wrath of Cain, perhaps…

Anyway, everyone’s got something to do this week, with Saki still possessing a boy and chillin’ with A-drei, Otamaya and his team preparing to commandeer an old rocket in a museum for transportation (?!?), and L-elf off doin’ his thang, Haruto finally gets to meet his dad, something he was very excited about until, oh, about a minute after reuniting with him. His dad turns out to be a deluded, comically awful human being. But hey, you didn’t think this show was going to cut Haruto any slack, did you?

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Rating:7 (Very Good)

Moretsu Pirates – 12

Thanks to technical prowess, elbow grease, and Gruier’s access codes, the crew of the Bentenmaru gain access to the interior of the Golden Ghost Ship. Gruier and Marika are accompanied by Misa, Hyakume, Schnitzer, and a tactical team. They pass by a huge central city, vast empty repositories of long-sold artifacts, a gene bank every animal in the Serenity kingdom preserved in stasis, and finally, the “Rose Spring”, an artificial womb where the members of the Serenity Royal family are born.

When Serenity forces under Grunhilde arrive, a standoff ensues, in which Gruier reveals she’s come to destroy the Rose Spring, as she believes Serenity no longer needs royalty, while Grunhilde is there to retrieve it. As the sisters bandy words, Marika and Schnitzer exchange gestures with Yotof and Catherine. Both princesses are sedated. When Gruier awakens, the situation has been resolved peacefully due to prior plans made by both sides. The last infant is born from the Rose Spring before it drys up, and the Ghost Ship returns to Serenity space, where the two princesses reconcile.

The reveal of the Ghost Ship was awesome enough, this episode really took the grandeur and wonder to the next level by showing us the ship’s amazing contents. The away team glided gracefully from wonder to wonder; we’re duly impressed with the sheer scale and complexity of the thing. But perhaps even more impressive was the fact that the characters didn’t shrink to insignificance in the face of such mindblowing vastness. Marika is upbeat, encouraging, and above all helpful to Gruier, who is no longer merely a client, but a friend.

The episode is alive with awesome character moments, many of them Schnitzer’s, who almost steals the show by not wearing a spacesuit (because he’s awesome like that, hoisting open doors, and even flashing a frikkin’ smile! Hyakume totally geeks out on a mechanical display. But above all, the pirate crew proves they’re the real deal, and their talents haven’t been dullled in the least by the usual contracted entertainments they carry out. The wordless exchange while the princesses was a perfect example of this, and, along with the totally unexpected ending, proved that this series is willing and able to go the extra mile in delivering a smart story without compromising. Also, a baby was born! Not a bad day’s work, really.


Rating: 4

Moretsu Pirates – 08

The stowaway turns out to be Princess Gruier of the old and powerful Serenity royal family. She boarded the Bentenmaru of her own accord to request that they investigate the legendary Golden Ghost Ship. When media reports the princess is missing, Marika decides to enroll her at her school on Morningstar, limiting her enemies’ moves. A sudden job hits, in which the Bentenmaru must intercept an escort ship from Serenity carrying palace records relating to the ghost ship. When it arrives, it appears damaged, and is being pursued by a battleship and four other escorts – also Serenity affiliated.

Whether she’s there by her own will or not, the whole “Princess stowaway” premise was very well represented in the annals of Star Trek. Members of royalty often tend to act spoiled and aloof to their reluctant spacefaring hosts. Princess Gruier may be a downright silly-looking character, but she’s very polite, once she learns Marika is indeed the father of the captain she sought out. It seems a bit rash for a young princess to sneak aboard a pirate ship to make such a seemingly odd request, but perhaps we can chalk it up to no one in Serenity taking her seriously.

Of course, the events in the closing moments of the episode, like those last week, will likely have the biggest effect on where the story will go next week. We’ve got apparent Serenity-on-Serenity battle, and a Bentenmaru that will need to take a side. For now though, the main crew is formerly introduced in the guise of Gruier meeting them. They’re a most colorful group. With all these sudden royal circumstances, Marika’s pirate captain training has already burst out of its cruise ship-raiding mold.


Rating: 3.5