Fruits Basket – 07 – On the Outside Looking In

Tooru arrives for her mysterious meeting with Hatori and is brought to her office by Momiji. Hatori doesn’t mince words: when most of the members of the Souma clan aren’t aware of the Zodiac members’ secret—only around fifty “insiders” do—it’s an “outrage” that Tooru knows, and she should leave the Soumas and never have anything to do with them again.

It seems like a classic case of trying to scare someone off by making things sound far worse than they are, but when Momiji explains why Hatori is so resolute. He once had a girlfriend named Kana, who was a Souma but an “outsider.”

They loved each other deeply, and asked Akito for permission to marry, but Akito blew up at them, resulting in Hatori being blinded in one eye by glass from a shattered mirror. Kana blamed herself, and that blame turned into an obsession and an illness. The only way Hatori could save her was by wiping her memories of loving him.

Tooru is empathetic of Hatori’s position, but doesn’t want to leave Yuki, Kyou, and Shigure, the latter of whom suspected Hatori was up to no good and comes to put Tooru’s mind at ease, as Hatori is prone to over-drama. Still, he and Momiji have New Years-related matters to attend to, so Hatori escorts Tooru back to the front gates.

While doing so, Tooru gets lost in thought and slips down some stairs, and Hatori catches her, which technically means hugging her, and transforms into his zodiac animal: a dragon. But not a big dragon; a tiny, defenseless seadragon. As Tooru rushes to get him in water, he remembers this is exactly how Kana first reacted when she learned his secret.

That takes us down memory road, to when Hatori’s ice-cold heart was warmed by Kana’s warmth. A man who neither knew nor felt he needed love suddenly found himself not just receiving it, but giving it back in return. Kana accepted him for who he was, and if anything only loved him more because of it.

Things went seriously pear-shaped when they attempted to ask for Akito’s approval, an absolute must, considering he’s the boss. But Akito sees Kana as nothing but an outsider, not someone who would do anything about “the curse.” He says a great many terrible things to Kana that day, including that she’s to blame for Hatori if he goes blind.

That sets Kana on a downward spiral that leads to her memory being wiped, which was probably what Akito was going for. I must say in my limited exposure to him I’m not a fan of Akito…but hey, I wasn’t a fan of Hatori last week and here we are, seeing him in all his humanity, passion, and tragedy. Perhaps Akito’s story is even worse than Hatori’s!

Hatori comes to on a bench beside a worried Tooru, who then runs off to find his shoes that she dropped. While she’s gone, a newly-engaged Kana walks past as her friends congratulate her. From her perspective, Hatori never loved her, but it doesn’t change the fact she finds him more handsome than the man she’s going to marry; his dream man.

Tooru returns, it starts to snow, and when Hatori asks what Kana told her, she has the same answer Kana had: when snow melts, it doesn’t simply  mean water, but that Spring is coming. Tooru reminds Hatori of Kana on more than one occasion; he just hopes she doesn’t suffer the same fate.

As for “the curse,” Tooru tries to ask Shigure about it but he demurs, stating it’s not quite time to tell her, should he choose to do so. Then again, she wasn’t supposed to learn the Soumas’ secret; perhaps she’ll learn about the curse through plain happenstance…

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Houseki no Kuni – 09

In the winter days and weeks since the loss of Antarcticite, Phosphophyllite has been busy. As the snow and ice starts to melt, heralding the start of spring, we get a very cool slow-build reveal of the individual Phos has become: serious, dutiful, efficient; calm, cool, and deadly. Sounds kinda like Antarc, doesn’t it?

The time jump to Spring wasn’t a surprise, so much as the intense change in Phos, and I have to say, I like it. Even Kurosawa Tomoyo’s lower, sterner voice emulates Mariya Ise’s Antarc’s tone and cadence. There remains a measure of the old Phos’ spunk and rawness (Kongou catches Phos at the end of a successful Lunarian battle) but overall, Phos has become a polished and capable member of the group—and the only one with a alloy membrane that can take any form.

Phos kind of had to, after Antarc was lost; but more than necessity, it is how Phos honors Antarc’s memory; no more slacking off or complaining. Phos also keeps a small shard of Antarc’s remains, and has vivid hallucinations of Antarc resurrecting from the wooden bowl, only to shatter and force Phos to relive Antarc’s final moments. It’s a full-blown case of Gem-PTSD, and Phos can’t forgive herself…or sleep. She also cries gold tears, which is both sad and very cool.

When the other Gems wake up (and are issued Summer uniforms), they’re initially shocked at the change in Phos, then scared of Phos’ alloy membrane, then fascinated to the point of surrounding and demanding that Phos perform a variety of tricks, or be poked and prodded every which way. Phos creates a nifty galloy decoy to thrown them off, but they’re pretty relentless.

Before all of the events that made Phos the way they are took place, Phos was often derided as being dead weight and a source of stress and extra work for everyone. Now Phos has never been more popular (in a good way rather than bad). The thing is, it’s the old Phos who would have loved such adulation; New Phos doesn’t quite know how to deal.

I imagine part of that is Phos long-term isolation, which aligns Phos more closely with someone like Cinnabar. Phos briefly forgets who Cinnabar is, but when the two meet during a patrol, Cinnabar is as cold and aloof as ever, clearly trying not to dignify the changes Phos has gone through with a reaction.

While Phos can now perform all manner of dazzling parlour tricks (but no longer has any intention of performing them for amusement) Phos doesn’t seem to mind demonstrating to Amethyst twins how much has been learned during the solo training and learning from Antarc and Kongou.

Phos is truly a force to be reckoned with, and has absolutely no trouble throttling another Lunarian attack, to the twins’ amazement and elation. But not every Gem is impressed. Bort cannot believe this is the same Phos who used to cause so much trouble and contribute so little, to the point of suspicion. I imagine a test of Pho’s combat abilities is in the offing.

Hajimete no Gal – 01 (First Impressions)

Hashiba Junichi is a pathetic loser and knows it. He’s in his second year of high school, saddled with the same trio of even sadder friends in Shinpei, Keigo, and Minoru, who if anything are partially responsible for holding Junichi back from his goal of nabbing a girlfriend and losing his virginity by now.

Note I said “partially”, because the major contributor to Junichi’s lack of success in securing a partner (sexual or otherwise) is himself. His friends truly have no one but themselves, but in the first few minutes Junichi is visited by not one but two “total hotties”: his well-endowed loli childhood friend Shizune, and the ethereally gorgeous academic ace Yui, who comes on pretty dang strong.

And yet Junichi turns Shizune away, still considering her a “little sister” with a “child body” (completely ignoring her huge boobs), and pretty much freezes when Yui talks to him, eager to talk more.

Blame for Jun-kun’s predicament shifts back to his very embarrassing friends—one of whom may be a straight-up pedo—when they brazenly peruse their smut mags in class, shoving a tasty one into his hands. And that’s when the titular Gal, Yame Yukana (God, what a Gal name) appears in Junichi’s life—to look down on him and call him disgusting.

But disgusting and pervy or no, Junichi’s friends have hatched a plan, and he’s their guinea pig (democracy in action): They choose him—tacitly acknowledging is the least repulsive of their sorry little band—to ask the Gal out, since, in their virgin minds, she’ll presumably put out without much fuss. (Junichi’s hastily-conjured sex fantasy with Yukana is suitably ecchi, with all the naughty bits covered by carefully-manicured hands).

One planted false love letter later, Junichi finds himself behind the school after class, and to his shock, Yukana has deigned to give her admirer an audience. After some rather lengthy, 7-grade setup and introductions, this is where the episode comes into its own, as we continue to be privy to every thought that crosses Jun-kun’s mind.

To his continued shock, Yukana is being incredibly patient and open-minded with him, and when he does what his friends said to do and beg on his knees, there’s the sense even she knows this is beneath him—and she barely knows him! From there, Junichi remains in survival mode, doing all he can to avoid an even worse scenario than rejection: the reputation for being a prevert and/or virgin for the rest of his high school life.

But as was demonstrated at the start of the ep with Shizune and Yui, Junichi is in a far better position than he realizes. That’s because, despite all logic, Yukana likes him, and agrees to go out with him. Or maybe not despite all logic; perhaps she’s as lonely—and trapped in her present persona (her a gal, him a loser)—as he is.

The art is crude and the boobs are over-sized, and Junichi’s friends can be really annoyingbut once this episode got into gear, I was really enjoying the passionate yet puerile discussion and display of sheer teenaged sex-and-bitterness-fueled awfulness that is high school.

And hey, sometimes it’s just satisfying to see a loser win for once, even if he’s only a loser because he believes himself to be one. It looks like both sides are poised to get something out of this, so let’s see where it goes, shall we?

Spring 2012 Season Preview

We’re nearly halfway through Winter 2012 – it’s been a mercifully mild one here in RABUJOIland (knock on wood), and we’re very much done with the whole coldness and no leaves on the trees thing. When April comes around we’ll be saying goodbye to ten series and carrying over with only three (two if Rinne no Lagrange doesn’t continue), so something will have to fill that void.

We’ve selected five in our usual manner – picking series that look promising while learning as little as possible about them. Some may not pan out, others not on this list might be picked up. The list is below; mirroring the “Plan to Watch” portion of our MyAnimeList. One immediate observation: no ludicrously long titles…everything’s nice and tidy!

(*=maybe pile)

Spring 2012 New Series

Accel World – Sunrise – March 26 (Action, Romance, School, Sci-Fi)
Hyouka – KyoAni – April 14 (Mystery)
Medaka Box – GAINAX – April 5 (Action, Comedy, Ecchi, Martial Arts, Romance, School, Shounen)
Ozuma – LandQ/GONZO – March 16 (Sci-Fi)
Sankarea* – Deen/Lantis – April 6 (Comedy, Ecchi, Horror, Romance, Shounen, Supernatural)

Winter 2012 Carryovers

Aquarion Evol
Moretsu Pirates

2011 So Far

With most of Spring 2011 all wrapped up and the Summer 2011 season starting this weekend, it seemed a good time to line up all the series that have aired this year (excluding Fall 2010 carryovers) and see what’s what so far:

Episode # : 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 AVG

AnoHana 4 4 4 3.5 4 4 4 4 4 4 4 3.955
[C] 3.5 4 4 4 3.5 4 4 4 4 4 4 3.909
Hanasaku Iroha 4 4 4 3.5 3.5 3 3 4 4 4 4 4 3.769
Puella Magi Madoka Magica 3.5 3.5 3 4 3.5 4 4 4 4 4 4 3.5 3.750
Deadman Wonderland 4 3.5 4 3.5 4 4 4 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.727
Level-E 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3 3.5 4 4 3.538
Denpa Onna to Seishun Otoko 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3 3.5 3.5 3.450
Fractale 3.5 3 3.5 3.5 3 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3 3.5 3.364
Kimi ni Todoke 2nd Season 2.5 2 2.5 3.5 3.5 4 4 3.5 3.5 3.5 3 3.5 4 3.308
Sket Dance (First Half) 2.5 3 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3 3 4 3.5 3 3.5 3.5 3.308
Ao no Exorcist (First Half) 3.5 3 3.5 3.5 3 2.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3 3.273
The World God Only Knows II 3.5 3 3 2.5 3 3.5 3.5 3.5 4 3.5 3.5 2.5 3.250
Tiger & Bunny (First Half) 3.5 3 3 3.5 3 3 3 3 3.5 3.5 2.5 3 3.5 3.154

Weekly Average 3.4 3.3 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.7 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.8 3.520

Stray Observations:

•  Overall, Spring 2011 was a particularly good season. Even if I included the huge Fall 2010 season in the table above, the top three Spring series would still dominate the podium. Quality, not quantity. Summer 2011 has its work cut out for it.

• AnoHana, just an episode shy of perfection, became a personal favorite. [C] came two shy. These two series couldn’t be more different, but both rocked.

• Best Music: Taku Iwasaki. He provided the excellent score for [C], and has also scored Katanagatari, Gurren Lagann, Soul Eater, etc.

• Hanasaku Iroha sagged a bit in the middle there, but its first half began and ended extremely strong. And even those middle episodes had their charms. Looking forward to the second half this Summer.

• At first I didn’t quite know what to make of Puella Magi Madoka Magica, but it quickly found its stride and ended up one of my all-time favorites, despite its relatively modest score.

• Deadman Wonderland has just one episode to wrap everything up. This show deserves a second season. More than Tiger & Bunny.

• Level E and Denpa Onna both involve “aliens” of some kind – and both scored extremely consistent ratings. Moreso if Denpa’s final double episode is a good one.

 In hindsight, perhaps some episodes of Fractale were ranked too high. This is possibly due to the great visuals and imaginative setting, which carried that series.

• I was harsh in the beginning of Kimi ni Todoke’s second season, but perhaps that was just because I hadn’t quite settled back into the romantic futility. As a result, this series had the most rating variation.

• Sket Dance’s only flaw was its opening episode, with its red herring protagonist. Since then it’s been consistently funny and entertaining, so I’m sticking with it.

• I’m also optimistic about Ao no Exorcist‘s second half, but not as excited about Tiger & Bunny‘s. Prove me wrong, Tiger & Bunny!

• The World God Only Knows II took a dip of .167 below its first season. Hopefully, the third season will arrest that downward trend.

• Best Female Seiyu: Winter: Eri Kitamura as Sayaka in Puella Magi Madoka Magica.
Spring: Haruka Tomatsu as Anaru in AnoHana. She was also Megumi in Shiki.

• Best Male Seiyu: Winter: Level E’s “Prince”,  Daisuke Namikawa.
Spring: Tomokazu Sugita as Sket Dance’s “Switch.”

Spring 2011 Season Preview

The Winter 2011 season was a welcome respite from Fall 2010, with only four shows we felt we needed to watch, plus three Fall carryovers. All seven of these shows end when the Spring 2011 season begins, so it will be a clean slate (Bakuman 2 will come in a later season). If Fall 2010’s fourteen (or was it fifteen?) shows taught us anything, it’s to be more discriminate; giving a few decent-to-great shows our full attention is far better than spreading it out amongst more than a dozen or more of varying quality.

To that end, seven to eight shows will be our limit this spring, so a couple of the ten Spring series below may be dropped before their runs end. Which ones, we have no idea; we always go in as blind as possible, let the anime speak for itself, and decide after two or three episodes. And we will have no regrets. The eleven we’ve chosen here are based solely on their initial synopses, promo art, and in the case of some, the fact they’re sequels to stuff we’ve already watched (God Only Knows.)

Similarly, we won’t be watching any sequels to franchises we’ve never watched, and there are many this season that fit that bill (Kaiji, Gintana, Maria+Holic, Chaos;Head, etc.) There’s just too much new stuff coming up to get bogged down in shows that have already established themselves (though lately we’ve gotten into Haibane Renmei; retro wrap-up pending). So here’s the list. Looking forward to April: leaves, sunlight, baseball, and…the following:

Hyouge Mono – Beetrain – April 7 NHK BS2
Ao no Exorcist – A-1 – April – MBS
Tiger & Bunny – Sunrise – April – BS11 / MBS
Ano Hi Mita Hana no Namae o Boku-tachi wa Mada Shiranai. – A-1 – April – Fuji TV
C: The Money of Soul and Possibility Control – Tatsunoko Production – April – Fuji TV
Sket Dance – Tatsunoko Production – April – TV Tokyo Kei
Denpa Onna to Seishun Otoko – SHAFT – April – TBS / TBS BS
The World God Only Knows II – manglobe – April
Hana-Saku Iroha – P.A.Works – Spring
Deadman Wonderland – manglobe – Spring