Death March to the Parallel World Rhapsody – 02

The battlemage whom Satoo saves is one Zena Marientail, who calls off her suspicious comrades and gives Satoo a ride to their mutual destination, Salue City, a lovely walled and terraced town with friendly faces and reputable businesses.

After securing proper papers (denoting him as Lv.1 despite his much higher level), he is snagged by Martha, the daughter of the keeper of the Gate Inn, where Zena’s comrade Iona recommended. Throughout these interactions, Satoo utilizes trickery, persuasion, bartering, and other skills he’s amassed.

The innkeeper tells him about a Demon King that a chosen Hero must defeat, but Satoo settles for some cold quiche and cabbage to sate his hunger. I for one have always lamented the fact one cannot taste all the different foods one finds in an RPG; watching Satoo enjoy it is the next best thing.

While Martha shows him around, Satoo learns about the strict caste system; commoners cannot use the public baths, and there are a good number of slaves, many of them demi-humans whom the other humans fear, distrust, and in some cases outright hate. When Satoo is nice to a couple of young demis, Martha seems confused, but quickly changes gears to other things.

Upon returning to the inn, Satoo happens to spot Arisa—who bears the inauspicious titles “Exiled Witch” and “Crazy Princess”—being ridden on a cart, presumably with other slaves. I’m sure he’ll see her again, but first, he has a hearty supper of veggie soup, wild boar, black bread and mead, which proves so tasty he has seconds against his better judgment.

As he tosses in bed with an upset stomach, he ponders his situation, and concludes it might not actually be a dream, but…something else. After all, the “game” he’s seen so far doesn’t really match any games he knows of or has helped to develop; rather it’s something unique.

As he rushes out into the night to explore the city some more—it’s very pretty at night—he decides that whatever is going on, it behooves him to soak up as much as he can, that he might become a better game developer by what he sees, hears, and experiences in this fantasy world.

I don’t really blame him; he’s flush with cash and overpowered to boot. I wonder how he’d fare right now against that Demon King. Of course, he’s nowhere close to encountering such an overboss; instead, he gets a surprise visit from Zena, who has come on her day off to thank him for saving her life by spending the day with him.

Desumachi continues to be nothing groundbreaking, but I cannot deny it scratches an itch; that of a fantasy slice-of-life that takes its time unveiling its world and not skimping on the details, be it currency, society, cuisine, and relationships. Basically, it’s comfily low-stakes and entertaining enough to keep watching for now, though my socks remain firmly un-knocked-off.

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Death March to the Parallel World Rhapsody – 01 (First Impressions)

Here we go: Another anime about another black-haired dude somehow ending up transported to another fantasy RPG where he’s soon surrounded by another group of ladies. It’s directed by Oonuma Shin, whose resume includes Kokoro Connect and Rakudai Kishi no Cavalry, which weren’t bad. And hey, neither is this! But it isn’t what I’d call great, at least not yet. It is merely good.

I won’t say it started bad per se—I actually liked how we spent a good amount of time in the real world to watch Suzuki Ichirou’s “death march” at the game company where he works. But the time there clocks in at nine minutes; personally I would have been fine with a much shorter montage to establish the guy.

That would have given us more time in the the virtual world of War World where Suzuki ends up. But once he’s there, things get much more interesting.

By “interesting”, I mean “a little nerdy”, since the programming jargon of the real-world act is replaced by the clean, smooth heads-up menu interface of the game, which Suzuki, AKA “Satoo” is able to navigate with his mind.

He assumes he’s merely dreaming a very elaborate dream, and since he’s known nothing but RPG programming for 30 hours without sleep, it stands to reason that dream would be about the game. Oh, and he’s also been de-aged to around fifteen. Seiyu Horie Shun raises his voice when he’s talking out loud, while his thoughts remain in 29-year-old Suzuki’s voice.

Satoo starts out at Level 1, but when a horde of Lizardmen numbering 300, all with levels hovering around 50, and he unleashes a Meteor Rain that takes them all out, raising his Level to 310.

Suzuki doesn’t realize this until one last lizardman standing with critical HP tosses him a sword and challenges him to a final duel, and Satoo takes him out without any difficulty.

With the defeat of all those lizardmen, Satoo is suddenly maxed out in all attributes, HP, MP, and Stamina—the kind of levels it would normally take hundreds of hours to reach.

From there, he inspects all of his new skills and loot, tests his Meteor Rain ability again (then promptly turns it off because it’s too damn powerful), then kits himself out and starts to explore War World’s world.

It’s not long before he comes upon a city, which is then attacked by a Wyvern – one he could easily defeat. Instead, he sits back and watches things unfold with the city’s mostly medieval defense force, in which archers direct the beast and mages throw spells at it (nice use of distorted voices to portray the spells being chanted).

One of those mages is Zena, who fires off a particularly big spell at the wyvern, but gets tossed high into the sky. One of her comrades slows her fall, but it’s Satoo who leaps up to catch her in midair. Now that he’s rescued a fair maiden, Suzuki’s checked off another box in the stuck-in-an-RPG conventions.

Who Zena is or how she’ll react to being saved is a question for next week; again, blame the nine-minute prologue if you must. I must also report that this show did not impress with its visuals (the wyvern was particularly iffy compared to, say, Bahamut or  Zestiria), and aside from the piece that played while Satoo traversed the overworld, the music was also unremarkable. If you’d told me this was made five or even ten years ago, I’d believe you.

Despite its technical shortcomings I honestly enjoyed following Suzuki/Satoo around as he gathered his bearings, and will be back to see what he gets up to, and who he meets, next week.

 

Yuri Kuma Arashi – 04

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Framed as a day in which Yuri Court is not in session and narrated by Shaba-da-doo chief Judge Life Sexy (bear) himself, Yurikuma Arashi 04 is a past-tense heavy, backstory building, infodump.

In spite of that, it’s a wonderful episode full of tight storytelling and some fall on the floor giggling moments that I urge everyone who likes feeling happy to check out.

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Summing it up: Lulu was once a princess, who got all the attention from her bear kingdom. One day, on the day of shooting stars, an adorable little brother was born and her world came apart. No longer the heir, no longer doted on by her maids, Lulu became deeply jealous.

Unfortunately, her little brother loved her very much and, for the promise of a kiss, would go on ‘adventures’ to find her a falling star. I air-quote adventures here because Lulu convinces him to get into a box marked ‘love’ and kicks him off a cliff at the beginning of each.

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The little prince always returns, beaten up a bit, but holding a wonderful pot of honey in exchange for a Lulu kiss — and every time Lulu freaks out and throws his pot of honey out the window and kicks him off the cliff again.

Until one day, the prince dies and Lulu gets what she wants. Years later, surrounded by wonderful things and chased by endless suitors, she is empty inside and, only after meeting Ginko (who’s retrieved one of the lost honey pots) does Lulu find purpose again. Her kisses are gone, her happiness too, but she will be a criminal bear and help Ginko find happiness and cross the wall into Human lands.

The episode closes with Lulu and Ginko under their mushroom-hat tree. Lulu holds her dead brother’s honey pot and Ginko a golden star on a ribbon… which matches the one worn by Kureha’s late mother!

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What earned it a 9: the card-style storybook flashbacks were charming, the backgrounds beautiful, and the added context for the male court-bears in Lulu’s past and the reasons for Lulu being devoted to Ginko were all deftly handled and well integrated.

And Judge Life Sexy’s “Shaba-do-doo’ing along with the background music almost earned it a ten on it’s own.

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Why it didn’t a 10: it’s an infodump episode. Pure and simple. All the elements were integrated very well but the info dumping wasn’t integrated with the current events in any way.

Most importantly, this means nothing really happened in ‘current events’ part of the narrative.

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I’m on the fence over the castle, the bear-infused decorations and architectural elements being a good break from the hard edge, pattern heavy ‘current events’ style or if its general lack of action and ‘otherness’ was distracting.

The art style was beautiful regardless and I especially liked the bonnet-wearing bear maids in waiting.

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Yuri Kuma Arashi – 03

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Verdict: Action, drama, sharp brightly colored art with a strong sense of personal style, and a rocking trancey-pop sound track catapulted Yurikuma to the top of its game, and all anime’s game this week and I don’t see any sign of it slowing down any time soon.

If you haven’t started watching it, stop what you are doing and go watch it. Then watch it again because, I promise you, the lovely details are layered on thick here and something new will hop out of you each chance you give it!

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What didn’t work: is entirely dependent on your sense of taste. If the absurd, pure love of yuri-love message this show presents doesn’t mesh with your personal view, I can see why you may want to run for the hills.

Otherwise, this is a technical masterpiece and an emotionally touching piece of psycho-storytelling.

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What pushed it up to a 10: was the superior integration of visuals and sound track. Also, the pattern making, which has been strong in weeks past, finally hit its groove. The Escher bird-to-mountain design appears everywhere, fading in when the emotional need to achieve conformity is brought up by the story, and fading away when the personal view is the center.

I don’t even know what all the symbolism stands for, but it is very strong and it feels legitimate, regardless of what I can bring to the table.

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Summing up the story: Yurizono really did eat Sumika, and she quickly positions Kureha to follow. Using easily manipulated girls of the classes, she makes Kureha the next target of the invisible and sends the storm, which appears to be some sort of cyber-bullying over the phone, or text or something.

However, Ginko has decided she wants to save Kureha (or just wants her to eat herself) and, with Lulu’s loving help, gets the yuri-court to approve her love, her love for Kureha, and thus bolstered, Kureha is able to shoot Yurizono in their final show down.

Then Ginko and Lulu eat another girl, this time the one who organized Kureha’s invisible… storming.

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Lesbearian Storm bashed my skull in this week and it was awesome. I can hardly make sense of what it all meant but, between the crazy, trippy visuals and the throbbing, Emiliani Torini style sound track, man was I hooked.

Yuri Kuma Arashi – 02 (Second Impressions)

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Lesbearian Storm continues its march towards pure crazy with two giggle inducing bear-reveals, another I-can’t-even-describe-it court session, and a double homicide for its second outing.

It’s packed with content, wild twists, and over the top yuri action. I will do my best to avoid spoilers but, if you haven’t seen it yet, turn away now and come back later!

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To sum up: it turns out Yurizono really did witness the bears eating Sumika, and not some random girl as I expected. So Sumika is dead and Kureha is in emotional shambles.

Yurizono is also devastated, though possibly because she’s infatuated with Kureha or possibly because she knows Ginko and Lulu are bears. Regardless of which, Yurizono admits to her jealous lover that Kureha is most likely the next to be eaten…

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Then Lulu and Ginko invade Kureha’s house under the pretext of needing a bath. Then Lulu takes a bath and Ginko licks Kureha’s face and then Yurizono shows up with a rifle and saves the day…

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Later, the bears face another trial before Judge Sexy and are Yuri-approved, which is followed by Kureha’s emotional showdown with a bear, Yurizono killing a bear, and a bear eating another, apparently less tasty student.

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The good: killing off Sumika, the girl who stands at the center of Yuri Kuma’s promotional art, was a fantastically bold move. That said, this show is so many layers of crazy and populated by unreliable narrators that I don’t even know if she really is dead, or may re-materialize later in some form.

I’m not even sure if that would be a bad thing? This show is so wacky, and pokes so much fun at it’s own twists, that I may just accept such a return.

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This week also managed to stuff in plot developments, important reveals, secret identities, action and maintain a strong connection with Kureha, who is essentially the most human and emotional center to the show.

Quality of the animation aside, this was Yuri Kuma’s greatest victory: I felt bad for Kureha and empathized with her confusion at the nonsense whirlwind of crazy unfolding around her.

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However: if extreme sexualization of young characters creeps you out, this week we got grinding, licking, wet kisses, (bear) butt holes, ass-sniffing and a whole lot of skin. If tasteful can be used in that context, I think Yuri Kuma did a decent job integrating it (to the point that nothing needed a censor-shape over it) but the raw lust can not be overstated.

Also, on a production note, it was strange to see some of the animation recycled from last week. Sure, that honey-lapping scene with the three girls is dripping with wet appeal but…I hope it isn’t a sign that we’re in for serious budgetary issues later on?

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Second Impression: my biggest issue with Yuri Kuma is not how silly it is or how casually provocative its yuri yuri yuri all the time wants to be… it’s that I have a really hard time telling Kureha and Yurizono apart!

No seriously! The hair color and shape and the fact they both carry rifles makes it hard to tell who is on screen at each scene swap! Goodness, it’s almost as if one of them is doomed to join poor dead Sumika soon!

Growl! Growl! Yum! Yum!

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Yuri Kuma Arashi – 01 (First Impressions)

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Lesbian Bear Storm, as it shall be henceforth translated, is best described as a stylish, soft-touch yuri-infused stylistic mashup of Dangan Ronpa and Bakemonogatari… with a little Evangelion and retro-ness anachronistically sprinkled in to spice things up.

The first episode makes a sort of insane self-contained logic that I found equal parts baffling and exciting. At once we know everything about the world and about it’s characters and their motives, yet the world is so completely insane, we understand nothing. I can’t even tell if the show is serious or an absurdist comedy!

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To sum up: One day the bear star exploded over earth and rained shooting stars upon us and made the bears stand up and attack man all at once. The survivors built an ‘extinction wall’ and hide safely behind it. Except two bear-chans transform to look like human girls, tanuki-style and infiltrate human all girls high school and maybe eat someone.

That some one possibly wears glasses and is the love interest of a gun-toting blonde girl who’s got a bear-based tragedy in her past and did I mention everyone is female and a yuri? Even the bears!

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You will like this if: you like either of the shows I mentioned. The art is fantastically bizarre sharing the odd-spaces of the ‘Gatari series and the weird black/red/white CGI design and camera work of Ronpa. Likewise, it has ‘Gatari-style philosophical monologues and one-on-one character meandering character interactions and Ronpa-style violence and weirdness. (like the bears’ teeth-grinding animation and audio that sounds like jackhammers) It even has a court session that I won’t even begin to try and explain!

And if deeply weird psycho-dramedy isn’t your cup of tea, Yuri Kuma is beautiful to look at. Dare I say, to the point of being creepy, given the subject is dominated by the love of little girls for one another and plausible social commentary of society trying to keep them apart.

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You may not like this show: if you want simple escapist anime entertainment. To be clear, this is a challenging show to make sense of and, girl-love aside, there’s nothing easy to latch onto here. I don’t even know what the show is about — is it a wacky love story? Social commentary? Sci-fi?

It may not be as frantic as Kill La Kill or Sensei-despair, but it also isn’t as clear-cut about its goals as those shows were from the beginning.

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First Impression: Yuri Kuma is right up my alley. It’s quirky, fantastical and stylish. It’s also mysterious without seeming overly serious. However, and most importantly, it’s unique and the dialogue and events were not so densely packed or frantic that I couldn’t keep up.

Yuri Kuma will certainly give me a ton to say each week!

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