Ao-chan Can’t Study! – 08 – Aphrodisiacs and Brass Tacks

After beating the crap out of a metal pole (and scaring off a couple dudes who were going to chat her up) A frustrated Ao retires to her room to study. The subject: Takumi, of course! Specifically, why, despite all of the compromising times he could have made a move on her, including when they were alone in the ocean.

After imagining their roles (and genders) reversed, and breaking her mechanical pencil agonizing over it, she gets a text from Takumi inviting her to watch his soccer game. Then it dawns on her: he lacks the stamina to do what she wants him to do so she can reject him!

She accepts his invitation, and prepares a magnificent multi-level bento packed with aphrodisiacs, including oysters, truffles, and eels. The plan is, she’ll feed him the stuff that will turn him into a savage beast that can’t keep his hands off her, and she’ll reject him fair and square, leaving her free to study again.

Of course, it doesn’t go as planned. While Takumi loses the game, his spirits are immediately raised when he sees Ao’s bento. Little do either of them know that Ao’s pops spiked the eel with one of his patented “energy” elixirs.

As a result, Takumi starts feeling all hot and bothered, and before she knows it, he’s on top of her. But he still manages to hold back, telling her he’s suddenly not himself today and that she should leave before he does something. That’s when Ao asks why he won’t do it.

The answer is instructive: because he values her more than his own desires. Ao turns that around on herself: if her desire is to get into a good university, feeling the way she feels about Takumi would naturally place him above those desires. That’s just how love works; it can literally sweep you away from the best-laid plans to just…getting laid.

Unable to accept such an outcome, no matter how happy it might make her, Ao decides to leave and tells Takumi not to ask her out anymore. The more time she spends with him, the more she’ll value him over studying. Of course, she’s oversimplifying things, and there’s such a thing as work-life balance. If she just lays out her concerns, there’s no reason to think he can’t keep his distance until she’s in a good school, or assist with her studying in some way.

Advertisements

Sarazanmai – 03 – The Golden Duo

Kazuki wakes up, but is too out of it to notice that Enta was just kissing him. Enta is direct with the audience: he’s in love with Kazuki. He has been for a long time, ever since they were the unstoppable “Golden Duo” in soccer, complete with a signature pose. Enta has to contend with a lot of kissing the next day, as his big sister Otone is going on a fishing trip with her boyfriend.

The episode plays with the fact that kisu is not just how you say “kiss,” but the Japanese name for Sillago japonica, or Japanese whiting. The city idol declares it’s kisu day, and in lieu of someone to kiss (that he knows of), Kazuki tries in vain to go to a fishmonger for a “kisu selfie” for Haruka.

While playing cards with Haruka (who “Sara” texts to apologize for the selfie being late), Enta learns that Kazuki isn’t laughing around his little brother either ever since quitting soccer. Enta wants to use the wish from the next dish of hope to reunite the Golden Duo.

Enta even fantasizes about Kazuki coming around on his own and letting him tie the miçanga to his ankle – the symbol of their soccer brotherhood as well as a token of affection. But no—it’s just Otone, who runs off with the anklet for her date.

As Enta defends the spot by the river where he and Kazuki used to practice by getting into a fight with two other players, the two “Otter” cops create another Kappa Zombie, this one from Otone’s kisu-loving boyfriend. His head takes the form of a kisu, but he’s a Don Juan who has many women and many kisses, obsessed with quantity over quality.

Enta fantasizes again that Kazuki comes to rescue him, but it’s just Kuji, who doesn’t get why Enta got in a fight he had no chance of winning. Enta is committed to protecting the Golden Duo’s practice spot…in the off-chance Kazuki comes back to him.

The Kappa Zombie alert is then sounded (with Sara doing a wonderful homage to Castle in the Sky), and rather than cats last week the sky is full of brides, all of them drawn to the zombie, who turns them to kisu with a kiss. The three lads are transformed by Keppi, do their attack song and dance, and extract the zombie’s shirikodama.

All three parts of the ensuing sarazanmai are related to Enta’s long-standing secret crush on Kazuki. We see Enta smelling Kazuki’s clothes, playing his recorder (for an indirect kiss), and finally his more recent kiss with a sleeping Sara!Kazuki.

The zombie thus vanquished and its desire assimilated, Otone and all the other women wake up and completely forget Mr. Kisu…as if he had never existed. He even disappears from photos, Back to the Future-style! Enta confesses his love to Kazuki and just when they seem poised to kiss, it’s only another fantasy; “Kazuki” is just Keppi.

Thanks to Kazuki’s obliviousness and Kuji’s lack of really caring, Enta’s secret seems to be secure—or at least emotionally tabled—for now. The next time he’s with Haruka (who we see in a wheelchair for the first time), Enta declares he’s going to “give up” on trying to win Kazuki over.

Part of that is that he saw a random mouse making off with the miçanga meant for Kazuki as a sign that it’s not to be. But then Haruka produces Kazuki’s original miçanga, saved from the trash, and asks Enta to keep trying to get Kazuki back into soccer.

Meanwhile, the Otter Cops are scolded by their boss, who is “otterly” furious at their lack of progress due to kappa-related interference (I hope he’s just a giant talking otter, for the record). With his frustration in mind, I wonder how much longer the kappa zombie fights will remain as easy as they’ve been.

Tsurezure Children – 12 (Fin)

Tsurezure Children’s finale starts with Sports Day and a soccer tournament, during which time Kurihara cheers for Yamane, Kanda wonders if it’s okay to cheer Takase, Takase wonders if it’s okay to look her way, Kana and Chiaki are still cool to each other, and Patricia joins the boys.

Chiaki gets the opportunity to save Kana from getting hit by the ball, and as thanks, Kana starts cheering for Chiaki—in her own way, telling the idiot to impress her. Chiaki can’t help but oblige, and comes this close to scoring (a goal) when his run is blocked by Noro, who, not having a girlfriend, resents the guys who do. Patricia then swoops in and scores, ruining Chiaki’s chance to be cool for Kana.

On the last day of school before Summer Break, plans for a beach trip crop up. Takano’s friend tells her Sugawara may come, and Sugawara’s friend (Chiaki) tells him Takano will. But neither believe the other cares whether they go or not, and so remain noncommittal.

However, this is only the beginning of an apparent conspiracy between their friends to get the two alone together, and in the process, Kana ends up alone with Chiaki, even though he didn’t get her message because his phone battery died.

Chiaki concedes that they’re broken up, but he realizes the error of his ways in being so comfortable in a relationship with Kana he thought he could do no wrong. He asks that the existing breakup stand, but that Kana allow him to confess to her once more, because he doesn’t want to lose her again. When he asks her out, Kana, who never truly wanted to break up in the first place, quickly says yes, her face drenched with tears of joy.

In the classroom, it’s Takano who takes the initiative, first asking Sugawara in a voice well above her usual volume whether he’s going to the beach, and then, when he’s ready to sheepishly leave, telling him it won’t be fun without him. Just like that, the two are able to connect and move forward. It’s a happy ending and smiles all ’round for two couples who had suffered so much, as we suffered with them, and a sweet place to end.

Tsurezure Children stuck to a simple formula and executed it admirably, utilizing the variety, realism, relatability and rootability of its sprawling ensemble cast. Of course, not every relationship has been resolved; I wouldn’t mind another go.

Keppeki Danshi! Aoyama-kun – 01 (First Impressions)

Morita-san is taciturn. Tanaka-kun is listless. Sakamoto is…Sakamoto (haven’t you heard?). And Aoyama-kun…is a clean freak. He’s also a elite young soccer talent who was selected for the national team’s under-16 squad.

But unlike Tanaka in particular, there’s not much to Aoyama beyond those dual main qualities. His constant scrubbing, and the adoration of his legions of mostly-female fans, becomes tedious pretty fast.

His soccer senpai (and advantaged rich kid) Zaizen also grows weary of Aoyama’s shtick pretty quickly. We get it; dude’s a germophobe…though even that’s arguable, since he doesn’t wear surgical masks everywhere and doesn’t seem to have much of a problem being outside.

We learn in the cold open, and it is confirmed when the team practices against a rival elite team led by the washboard abs-bearing Takechi (who is trying to poach Aoyama) that Aoyama is indeed a singular, if bizarre, soccer talent; applying his obsessive “cleanliness” with a gameplan completely devoid of physical contact, combined with sharpshooter precision on passes and shots. But look to someone else for checks and headers.

Admiring Aoyama from afar (and possibly content to keep it that way) is the very cute but also clearly fixated Gotou Moka, who would like to think she’s locked in on what Aoyama thinks and does, since they’re soulmates or something.

But ostensible side characters like Zaizen, Takechi, and even Moka herself are all more dimensional characters than Aoyama, simply because they have more to say and we see things from their perspective.

Don’t get me wrong: Studio Hibari has rolled out a very good-looking anime in Keppeki Danshi; many of Aoyama’s moves in slow motion are cinematic in their presentation. The character design is clean and crisp. Overall the production is competent. The comedy is well-timed if unexceptional so far (the abs-bearing guy is particularly lame). Colorful—if still shallow—personalities abound.

But the main problem so far is the titular character. Aoyama is little more than cleanliness and soccer ability, and he’s always observed from a distance. He has to develop as more of an actual human being if the audience is going to be expected to connect with and keep rooting for the guy.

There’s a slight but promising glimmer of that when Aoyama suddenly comes to life with five minutes to go, even getting dirty in service of winning the game because he really hates losing.

But if we don’t see more of stuff like that, and continue in the vein of “OMG look at what clean-freak thing Aoyama’s doing now!” ad nauseum, Aoyama-kun won’t just be a “Cleanliness Boy”…he’ll be a Boy I’m Not Watching.

Little Witch Academia – 22

As Andrew sees a worsening situation with the soccer-fueled civil unrest, Chariot decides, at last, that she’s really, truly, definitely going to tell Akko her true identity…only for her only chance in this episode to be interrupted. And by Andrew, no less, via Diana, whom he’s able to contact because of their families. All for a lost hat!

Just as Diana is asking “Ursula” if she knows anything about the greatly increased stores of energy that correspond to the installation of Croix’s SSS system, Chariot spots her rival in the window to give chase.

This is an episode that doesn’t waste a lot of time, and its most leisurely scene is also its best because of the wonderful chemistry that has developed between Akko and Andrew.

As someone being told day in day out that his path has already been set for him, and defiance will not be tolerated, an idealistic free spirit like Akko is just the kind of girl he’d fall for, almost envious of her worldview.

He’s become far less dismissive of her flowerly hopeful little speeches, especially in light (or darkness) of the soccer protests. But he makes sure to check Akko’s boundless idealism with the caveat that she herself should be the one to take action, rather than wait for Chariot to swoop in and save the world.

Akko’s in full agreement: she’ll make the world happier and preserve magic with her own hands and heart. In his criticism, Andrew is aware that it applies to him as well.

While it’s nice to see Akko and Andrew laughing together and enjoying each other’s company, when duty calls (in the form of one of Croix’s little cube drones), Akko springs into action immediately, leaving her hat behind once more.

That cube leads her to a rooftop where Croix stands, and is all to happy to explain that the cubes are her handiwork, that she’s using “Noir Fuel Spirit” to absorb negative emotions from the people and converting it to magical energy. In effect, she’s saving the magical world, her way.

That way happens to be pretty much the opposite of how Akko would want to save it; by creating positive energy—happiness—and she tells Croix this is flat-out wrong. Croix responds by fusing her drones into a giant monster and attacking Akko with it.

Chariot arrives just in time to save Akko, and destroys the drone-‘dragon’, but in the process lets the cat out of the bag, a cat Croix is all too happy to pounce on. Here Akko finally learns her idol was beside her all along, in Croix’s words, holding her back. And while that might sound like emotional manipulation, it turns out Croix means it literally.

Chariot, it seems, is responsible for sapping Akko of her magic, back when she attended her show. Chariot absorbed dreams, rather than negative energy, to gain magical power. This is why Akko can’t fly; not any lack of effort or perseverance.

Right on the heels of Akko learning Ursula is Chariot, that revelation is a gut punch for poor Akko, who merely shouts about it being all lies before running away. Croix tells Chariot she doubts Akko will be pursuing the words anymore, all but claiming victory in a rivalry in which she deemed Akko Chariot’s proxy.

With the completion of this outing we’re down to three episodes of LWA, at least that we know of, and there’s a lot that needs to happen in some order: Akko regaining her composure and rising to the occasion and gaining sufficient power (be it through the words or through her friends) to foil Croix’s plans for world “reconstruction,” and hell, maybe receive a kiss from our boy ‘Drew.

That’s a lot, but now that LWA has kicked into a higher gear, I’m confident it can deliver on the denouement.

Watashi ga Motete Dousunda – 02

wat21

After just two weeks, Kiss Him Not Me is shaping up to be my top Fall comedy (Euphonium is my top drama), as it manages to pack so much fun in its episodes. This week efficiently covers the sports underdog and study group scenarios with vigorous aplomb and a unique, contagiously feisty energy.

The members of Kae’s ‘he-rem’ are already very well-defined: Igarashi (Iga) is the friendly athlete; Mutsumi (Mu) is the kind, mature senpai; Shinomiya (Shi) is the smitten kohai; and Nanashima (Nana) is, well, so I liken him to the tsundere of the gang.

wat22

I say this because of the four, Nana is least amenable to carrying around otaku tokens she gave them on their group date, and when she tries to translate her newfound ease of motion with a soccer gig, he’s the most skeptical. Mind you, he’s not far off base: As self-described “indoor person”, Kae soon finds out lighter isn’t stronger.

I’d also point out that for someone typically uncomfortable with anime, Nana picks up on Kae’s Captain Tsubasa reference about being friends with the ball, even getting combative about her arrogance (Tsubasa practiced 24/7). But when Nana hears the same girls who recruited Kae shitting on her disappointing showing in practice, he can’t help but rebuke them and help coach Kae up, a dedication that surprises the others.

wat23

Everything is resolved with a big come-from-behind draw, (not win, mind you) when Kae decides to use her nigh-impossibly backwards kick to score the equalizer in extra time (managing not to hit herself in the face, showing improvement.)

While not a true victory, it demonstrated Kae’s dedication to trying hard at something totally new, as well as Nana’s willingness to prove Kae’s haters wrong and instill some soccer knowledge in a girl who suddenly makes his heart skip.

wat24

With sports out of the way, the episode effortlessly moves on to exams. If Kae fails her next round, she’ll have to take summer classes, grenading her summer plans, all involving otaku events such as formally saying goodbye to her beloved Shion, who is as far as she’s concerned as real a person as any of the boys.

Studying is not Nana’s strength, and because first-year Shi studies at second-year level, the two are almost constantly at each other’s throats, getting the whole study group kicked out of all public venues. This leads Mu to suggest they all study at Kae’s house, requiring Kae to do a super-quick cleaning session (referring to her room as the “Sea of Rot”, perhaps referencing Nausicaa). 

wat26

The otaku gags fly freely, from Kae’s Shion pillow and sheets and store cut-out, to the pristine shrine she keeps in her room. Kae’s mom embarrasses her by using a makeup gun, and Kae’s brother (who resembles the other main lead in Kae’s anime) tries to scare off the lads, but to no avail.

Even if they’re not to-a-man comfortable with her passion (like Mu), they are willing to keep open minds, and are rewarded by having a good time. Mu confidently mans the rudder of this stormy sea of otakuness, asking if everyone can pray at Shion shrine with her, pointedly asking Kae’s bro to beat it, and insisting everyone help Kae carefully pick up the BL stash that means so much to her. The result is, the study group works, and Kae avoids extra classes.

Her new challenge: Summer Vacation, already packed with otaku events, just got a lot more full, as her gang will surely want to supplement that stuff with their own preferred Summer activities, from going to the pool to exploring castles. Kiss Him Not Me offers an embarrassment of riches, and Kobayashi Yuu continues to do superb work voicing the multifaceted Kae.

16rating_9

DAYS – 12

screen-shot-2016-09-17-at-7-20-07-pm

The Gist: Tsukamoto’s kick goes wide at Seiseki loses the game, and is out of the tournament. Everyone is devastated and eventually cries and resolves to win in the next tourney.

Kazama is most effected because he doesn’t understand the emotion of caring and he hates it, but loves that he finally cares about a team. Tsuka and Tsundere-chan are maybe a couple now, having shared a meal and spilled tea on the table. The other first years are jealous…

The Verdict: I am officially surprised Days pulled such an utterly generic mid-show twist. However, for such an average show, the lack of a payoff for all Seiseki’s hard work totally kills my interest for watching more.

Kazama’s emotional response was well delivered, true, but man do I not care enough about any of this to want to sit through 6 episodes of ‘building back up’ to a show down episode. Not after a quarter of the season was dedicated to ONE game. Yuck.

16rating_7

DAYS – 11

screen-shot-2016-09-11-at-1-19-57-pm

The Gist: Tsukamoto finally takes the field and his buffoonery immediately lightens the mood. Refreshed and reinforced, Seiseki puts on serious pressure and the Kazama/Tsuka duo proves too much for Saku High to beat.

However the episode ends tied 2 to 2 with under five minutes to spare. Presumably Seiseki will win it, based on next week’s preview but a cliff hanger is a cliff hanger.

The Verdict: Oy! With the opening being dedicated to recaps and the cliff hanger, this single game will have taken essentially 4 of the season’s episodes. That’s an awful lot for a relatively average looking sports show — and even with all the time given to building up this single rivalry, I still don’t know half of the cast by name, nor have a strong connection with anyone other than Tsuka and Kazama.

And really that’s a shame because a more competent hand could probably do s lot with what’s here to work with. The under dog protagonist has a dead dad and a crippled mother and his best friend is an abandoned child who’s only self value was his talent for soccer — that still didn’t stop his family from abandoning him. It’s got honest drama at stake… but not so much going on screen.

oy!

16rating_7

DAYS – 09

Screen Shot 2016-09-05 at 2.36.56 PM

The Gist: Sakuragi and Seiseki play about 2/3 of their game this week. Neither has the true upper hand. Tsukamoto spends the episode sitting on the sideline to absorb some general pointers from the coach (or not). We learn a little more about some of the players and Kazama develops a bit more — to the point of getting his face smashed in to save the day.

It may be surprising that Nozomi wasn’t even in the episode and that the crowd shots were all ‘nobody’ NPCs chattering about pretty much nothing. Not a lot actually happened and the budget constraints of animating soccer made that extra painful.

Screen Shot 2016-09-05 at 2.37.33 PM

 

The Verdict: while it actually breaks with expectations by not resolving the match within the 1.5 episodes I anticipated, the result was not particularly noteworthy. Lots of time was spent on internal monologs, or with Tsuka crying on the sideline.

We just don’t have enough of a relationship with the team to be invested in this week’s struggle, which is only compounded by meeting the upper classmen — the people who play on the team — several episodes after the first years who do not play on the team.

16rating_7

DAYS – 08

Screen Shot 2016-08-21 at 1.35.08 PM

The Gist: we finally meet Tsukamoto’s wheel-chair mom Nozomi, who’s 86 lbs, blood type A, specializes in Origami and likes children and caramel sauce. She worries that her feminine son has no friends and or is being bullied in school.

However, Tsuka gets a ton of texts from his friends before the big game and she comes to realize, like his father, who’s funeral was full of friends, Tsuka’s gonna be okay…

Then it’s time for Seiseki High to face off against Sakuragi Metropolitan for the inter-high finals that will determine who represents Tokyo in the regionals. Brooding and speeches and a few throw away jokes about Tsuka not being allowed into the match because the guards think he’s a middle schoolers eat up most of that time, which leaves next week for the actual match…

The Verdict: This was absolutely paint by the numbers as far as sports dramas go. It’s all about the big game and raising our expectations for that games’ outcome. Since it’s mid-season, I can only assume Seiseki will win next week because of some Tsuka juice but the other outcome would be to crush their spirits and force them to train for the next tourney. (chosen by shows like Haikyuu!!) I find this unlikely, because enthusiasm and ‘raw untrained tallent’ isn’t at the core of this team. So a reload wouldn’t really do anyone (except Tsuka himself) any good.

Regardless of next week’s outcome, this week wasn’t very interesting. Rather, it was completely what you would expect by the genre and uneventful. Not even the smile-moment where Tsuka’s mom see’s his texts really made an impression. She’s been introduced too late as a motivation and too slap-sticky to take serious.

Also, nice ‘dead dad’ out of left field Days. WTH?

16rating_7

DAYS – 06

days61

The Gist: Tsukamoto and Indou Kaoru face off in a casual but serious pickup game on the roof of a department store. With a bit of a nudge, Tsuka begins to realize that how he runs plays into what his team can do. After 10 sets, he blacks out and is taken home by Seiseki’s captain, who shares a nemesis moment with Indou.

The rest of the episode is devoted to Kimishita. He’s the team grouch and finds Tsuka’s style (and inabilities) frustrating. However, after Kazama takes Tsuka to Kimishita’s family sporting goods store, and Kimishita sees how serious Tsuka takes everything (he’s got soft shoes!) they become closer.

days62

Finaly, during a practice game, Tsuka figures out that he needs to not only run hard for everyone, not only drain the life from the defenders as a distraction, but he must also be in position to score if he will ever be a target for passing.

Mimicking Kazama and putting many things he’s seen together, he lines up a perfect attack on the goal and Kimishita grudgingly passes the ball.

Only for Tsuka to ‘wiff’ and fall flat on his ars. Roll credits…

days63

The Verdict: Tsukamoto is growing as a player and that was an effective vehicle for explaining what a young player should be doing to get better… if you were watching Days for some sort of instruction?

Otherwise, it’s another introduction and character name I will not remember in future reviews and Tsuka slap-stick we’ve already seen.

16rating_7

2014 World Cup – “Itai!”

Photo ©2014 Ryu Voelkel

This photo kind of says it all. Things were surprisingly promising at the half, knotted up at one goal apiece thanks to a stoppage time equalizer by Okazaki Shinji, but then Colombia brought out the steamroller.

The match was another story of Japan’s impressive technical proficiency being nullified by apparent indecision in the box and physical domination by a larger opponent. Still, Blue Samurai fought hard and with heart.

This concludes RABUJOI’s very brief coverage of Japan at the 2014 World Cup.

(Photo ©2014 Ryu Voelkel/Howler Magazine)

 

 

 

 

2014 World Cup – KUSO!

wc3

Well, Japan was aggressive, hogging the ball a whopping 75% of the time and out-passing something like 5-to-1, but none of their shots went in the goal. Even though Greece was a man down, they seemed to be playing for a hold, which would net them at least one point, and not trying to win for three, while depriving Japan of two more.

After their scoreless draw, Japan and Greece share the dank basement of Group C. All is technically not lost, but Japan missed a crucial opportunity to control their own destiny, and it doesn’t bode well that they weren’t able to deliver a decisive blow to the weakest team in the group.They play Colombia next Tuesday, and they’ll be playing for pride…and a very slight glimmer of hope.