Gugure! Kokkuri-san – 03

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Inugami is, without question, part of Kohina-chan’s family of spirits now. He lives outside and has a brotherly (read: abusive) relationship with Kokkuri-san. He constantly jabs at Kokkuri-san’s value and, eventually, causes Kokkuri to bald in patches.

Enough is enough! Kohina loves Kokkuri!… or at least she loves his soft fuzzy pelt! So begins a few, short lived, attempts to rein Inugami’s behavior in.

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Having discovered a mysterious tome at a used book store, Kohina discovers she should be walking Inugami at least twice a day. At first, they both love this and Inugami greatly mellows. However, after the third walking, Kohina loses interest and makes Kokkuri-san walk Inugami instead.

This goes poorly, since Inugami refuses to wear his dog form during these walkies.

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Then an old and most drunk Tanuki shows up and Kohina’s fate is sealed: she’s gonna be the most haunted little girl/doll in all of Japan!

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G!Ks kept true to its course this week. Its jokes are snappy, cute, and emotionally costly to its characters. (even Kohina-chan!) It’s also very warm and loving, especially when it focuses on Kohina and Kokkuri-san, who has promised her something in the past we have yet to learn.

If I had any criticism, I would say G!Ks plays it safe compared to the other 8+ rated animes of this season. That isn’t a bad thing to be sure! It is very good. Just… safe?

If you haven’t been watching, one: why don’t you like things that are funny and two: tell me why in the comments below!

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Fate/stay night: Unlimited Blade Works – 02

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Fate/stay nigh episode two unexpectedly breaks from the mold established by the previous episodes. It’s shorter, running only 25 minutes, and that shortness doesn’t leave much breathing room for very thoughtful setting shots that I found so lovely in episodes zero and one.

However, most shows only get a half hour slot to keep us entertained. Sadly, Fate/Stay uses that time to runs its mouth and cover a lot of exposition. I hope you’re ready for some revetting talking!

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The sum total of the episode’s activity: Rin explains the holy grail war to Shirou over tea. Then they go to Kotomine Kirei’s fake church in New Fuyuki and Kirei explains the holy grail again, with a few more details. Then Rin and Shirou leave and encounter their first true opponent.

Sure, the details matter and explanation has to happen sometime but OUCH! That’s really all that happened this week.

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As we learned last week, Shirou doesn’t want to fight because he hates the artificial’ness of good guys killing bad guys to save the day. That said, Kirei’s point is simple: a bad person won the grail ten years ago and New Fuyuki was burned to the ground and lot’s of people were killed. Even Shirou himself was seriously injured.

While there was too much of it, the exposition wasn’t dreadful. Unfortunately, Shirou hails from the “repeat what was just said back as a rhetorical question” school of anime, which lengthens and adds nothing to an already drawn out scene of talking.

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At least we get a nice moment where Sabre and Shirou get some bonding and renew their vows and establish their determination to win. Cliché? Sure. But touching.

Still, the exposition is unfortunate. It’s wasteful and that would be better spent on what fate/stay does best: establishing mood and showing us — not telling us — what people are thinking and doing. Having both Rin and the priest explain the war was over kill.

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tl;dr? This was a talk heavy episode where we learn a lot at the cost of action and mood. Also, Shirou is… kinda bland, actually.

At least the cliff hanger was a giant ass monster servant, apparently easy to identify as ‘Berserker’ and obvious that next week will drop right into a fight.

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Inou-Battle wa Nichijou-kei no Naka de – 02

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I found it amusing that this episode of a show with “commonplace” or “everyday life” in the title dealt with something not commonplace at all, at least for most in the Western world: the Japanese written language. Heck, even that title means different things depending on how it’s written or read. I’m apparently drawn to shows that playfully explore the complexity plasticity of the language they’re speaking, usually for laughs.

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And laughs were indeed in ample supply in the episode’s first half, when Jurai decides that everyone needs to come up with a Chuuni nickname to go with their powers (Why he didn’t suggest this when they first got their powers, I don’t know, but never mind). Each girl has a different approach, with Hatoko simply slapping colors in front of her name, then settling on “Play-Along Straight Man Hatoko.”

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Sayumi is next, and has lots of good names, but when Jurai points out that they’re all very cute, like “Powdered-Snow Princess”, she storms out of the room; apparently “cute” is an off-limits subject for her. After her comes Chifuyu, who goes from “Mikan Mikan” to a variety of family-related nicknames, and settling on “Pineapple”, because she likes that part of sweet-and-sour pork.

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Perhaps unsurprisingly, the girl who seems to know, understand, and care for Jurai the most—Tomoyo—comes up with the most thoughtful and impressive nickname, “Endless Paradox” (Paradox Witch Who Sneers at Twilight). Even I have to admit that’s a pretty good name…and I’m not a Chuuni anymore.

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What follows the selection of nicknames in the second half is another application of the theme of language: that of misunderstanding, which is always a deep font of comedy. In this case, Mirei comes in to “respond to Jurai’s love letter”, which she does by reciprocating her feelings and agreeing to go out with him. Naturally, that sets the rest of the girls off, because wait…Jurai wrote Mirei a love letter?

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This is when the scene gets a little chaotic, but amusingly so: as Mirei reads and deconstructs the letter in great detail, explaining precisely (and not unreasonably) how she interpreted it as a love letter, Jurai confirms what Tomoyo suspected almost immediately: that he simply wrote a letter acknowledging Mirei’s superpower and giving it the name “Grateful Lover”, or rather, “Robber.”

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It doesn’t get through to Mirei, however, and the letter seems to have had the unfortunate effect of at least making her feel like she’s very much in love with Jurai. As a result, she follows him around, flirts and clings to him, and turns into a viscous solid of affection. Jurai is understandably flattered—Mirei is adorable, after all. And yet…

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And yet. When he arrives in the clubroom, his four club-mates are all quite pissed, and try to ignore him/take it out on him with varying degrees of success. It’s ultimately Sayumi who is upfront and tells him the understanding between him and Mirei needs to be cleared up. But there’s no superpower to make that easy, so that’s when we get our first taste of actual drama in InoBato, and I have to say, it worked pretty well.

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In the hallway at sunset and bowing deeply in apology, Jurai explains what he explained to Tomoyo: that it wasn’t a love letter and he wasn’t trying to go out with her. Mirei is devastated but tries to apologize herself for jumping to conclusions and keep her composure, but simply can’t. It’s a tough and surprisingly moving scene, even if it is meant to restore the status quo. The lighting, the close-ups, and the voicework all contribute to sell it; now we know, InoBato can do serious.

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What really validates it is when Tomoyo appears to cheer Jurai up, who is mostly angry at himself for having hurt someone so deeply without intending to. For a good while there, Tomoyo drops the tsundere act and sits with Jurai as a friend while he explains that he chose the potentially confusing “robber” to match the character count of his and everyone else’s powers, as a symbol of unity – again, tapping into the written language and its ability to symbolize many things at once. See, he’s actually a very thoughtful, caring guy! Like his letter, Mirei could have interpreted that as affection, too.

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Ultimately, Mirei shoots Jurai an email—they exchanged emails during their short-lived romance—voicing her hope they can still be friends, and her intention to use the name he gave her power. And that’s perhaps the most surprising part of this episode: there was only one use of powers in the whole episode: When Mirei very briefly stole Closed Clock from Tomoyo (and obliged Jurai by giving them right back)…and that’s it.

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And yet this was on some levels a stronger episode than the first, because it didn’t just define its cast by their powers, but really tapped into their personalities through their use of language and their reactions to Jurai’s fling with Mirei, as well as Mirei’s interpretation of Jurai’s language. In the end, the “battle” this week was fought not with elements or matter or time, but with “commonplace” words. And it was a damn good one.

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Gugure! Kokkuri-san – 02

gks2_7“If you lie, you have to swallow a thousand needles” – Kohina

On the surface, this week Gugure! is all about getting Kohina-chan to smile and to introduce the next regular character. However, if you think about it, this episode is really all about what makes Kohina-chan happy.

Whether she admits it or not, Kohina is lonely and wants friends. However, she’s deeply weird and wants deeply weird friends… and a bit of dark chaos. We’ll see how long it takes Kokkuri-san to figure this out!

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After torturing Kokkuri-san for a while, Kohina decides to try out smiling after all. Everyone else seems to do it and, even though she doesn’t really get why (or want to admit she does get why) she realizes it’s important to know how to do.

Her experiments do not go well.

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I loved the Fukuwarai face expressions Kohina creates. I love them even more when THEY FALL OFF HER FACE entirely. It’s hard to tell if they are literal, magical, or just a short-hand for being so weird that people can’t comprehend them in a normal way.

4th wall breaking or not, they are silly and people’s reactions to them are highly entertaining.

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Speaking of adorable, we see a lot more of Kokkuri-san in fox form, usually when he’s crying (to win an argument with Kohina). Kohina obviously likes this form as much as I do, and especially enjoys rubbing the fox’s paw pads. It’s all very awwwww! making.

More important than that though, this second form reinforces the idea that people (or, at least, this show’s characters) have multiple sides. Here, they are literal forms that represent a shift in the character’s personality: Kohina looks more natural* when she is actually feeling emotion and Kokkuri becomes an animal when he can not accomplish his task in a rational, adult like way.

It’s also illuminating that Kohina and Kokkuri’s alternate forms are used sparingly. In a way, I’m assuming the alternates represent their true forms, forms which neither is able to come to terms with yet…

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Then we meet Inugami, the ghost of a dog that was sacrificed to cast a curse. He’s a bit of a hentai, though it may be more accurate to say he’s obsessed with Kohina for showing him compassion while he was still alive.

Kokkuri is deeply distrustful of Inugami — and for good reason! This type of spirit brings its owner great fortune for a time but almost always snatches that fortune away by the end, which usually results in the owner’s demise…

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Inugami can change form too, though his cute form may be a response to Kokkuri doing it and less be a meaningful alternate. While Inugami is very pleasant to touch in this form — something that brings Kohina great pleasure — his personality remains mostly the same.

So Kokkuri-san puts him in a blender and grinds his spirit into burger meat. It’s gross but the pixelated censorship pattern makes it pretty funny. And, somewhat obviously, Inugami is a spirit and can’t be killed anyway.

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Which brings us to Inugami’s fourth form: a sexy female version of him/herself. Again, I’m get the feeling that, for all his/her forms, Inugami has no depth and no true alternate. He may pretend to have different emotions and motives, but he is actually quite true to himself and his real goal — his real feelings — are always plain as day to see.

Or maybe these forms are just shallow ways to reflect other people’s wants back at them? Kohina obviously likes the cute plushi form and, to a degree, Kokkuri-san is male and marginally responds better to the female form. At least, he doesn’t hit her with a frying pan or put her in a blender.

gks2_12…now where have I seen this particular gun recently?

Then Inugami and Kokkuri fight in Kohina’s yard. For her part, Kohina doesn’t enjoy their fighting, which I assume is because they aren’t paying attention directly to her. (even if they are fighting over her) So she ignores them and starts playing with a stray cat.

Both being canines, the fight ends quickly and they come to a very brief truce to chase the cat away.

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In the end, they bond over their innate sense of inferiority to cats. After all, cats score higher on google and get more cute videos and are just better pets anyway. (and a cat video has run after the credits of both episodes so far!)

Ultimately though, bonding isn’t enough and the only solution is to make Inugami sleep outside, which he/she agrees to do because Kohina built his dog house as a craft project for school.

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GK-s proudly shows off its witty, quick banter and simple but amusing visuals. It’s a treat in the simplest sense: little girls who can’t smle, ghosts who want to take care of them, and evil ghosts that are obsessed with them. its all very silly but it made me laugh as much, if not more, than any other show this week.

Why give it only an 8? Well… for starters, despite being fairly well drawn, GK-s is only a hair above generic. Likewise, the plot is fairly compact and most likely will follow a direct, predictable trajectory.

There’s nothing wrong with that! As I’ve said, GK-s is very funny. However, it deserves less than the complex, narrative-driven shows like Brilliant Park, which are equally funny and better drawn and feature characters and story with more potential.

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*natural, by anime terms.

Fate/stay night: Unlimited Blade Works – 01

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The second most difficult story to tell, is the story we’ve already heard, that we already known*. What’s there to add, really? Embellishment? Extraneous details? That sounds so dull.

Fate/stay night: Unlimited Blade Works ‘first’ episode does just that. It’s starts the same day as episode zero. It features the same characters and the same events. Only our point of view has changed from Rin to Emiya Shirou.

My God, it’s wondrous!

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As before, we begin with a quiet day where Rin is early to school and Emiya is repairing broken classroom heaters. We see he’s doing this partially with magic, which was not stated before, but may not have been important enough for Rin to tell to the audience.

Unlike Rin, Emiya is more interactive with his class mates. He spends a lot of time doing work for (and listening to) the class president, Sakura prepares some of his meals, and Fujimura-sensei is both his landlord and a constant mooch at meal time.

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Still, like Rin, Emiya appears a little detached. He’s recently been chased out of the archery dojo by school ass-hat Matou Shinji and he doesn’t even know who these girls are.

To be fair, I don’t know who they are or what their significance to the plot the have yet either…

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From Emiya’s perspective, we learn that Fujimura-sensei is quite a bit more competent than we may have suspected from her always on the edge of late demeanor. We also see, though do not know for sure, that Sakura is being abused, presumably by Shinji.

Ultimately, Emiya’s point of view is a great companion to Rin’s. Where she gave us magical world context and a taste of the non-magical people in the world, he gives us low-stakes magic use and a greater understanding of the non-magic human network. Same world, same people, opposite sides of the coin.

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The only completely new content is Emiya’s past, which shows his adoption by a mage named Kiritsugu. It also shows Emiya surviving a fiery tragedy 10 years in the past and establishes his motives and frustrations with heroism.

These scenes are superb. They carry a great sense of heat mixed with the stillness of giving up. Magically fueled or not, there is a grand magic to presenting so much chaos, yet capturing the isolation of being alone in the chaos, powerless.

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Emiya looks back on the disaster with frustration and sadness. Not everyone was saved — not everyone could be saved — and that conflicts him. As a hero, he doesn’t want to be limited by choice. Who lives or dies shouldn’t be a blessing to those he cares for more than others. It should be a blessing for everyone.

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As with Rin’s story, Emiya’s introduces several side mysteries that go unexplained — unexplored even within this admittedly long format episode. A murder is on the lose. Possible gas leaks are making people sick. Sakura’s injuries and, very briefly show, her mysterious acquaintance.

Each one of these mysteries is handled with care and, for the most part, given very little consideration in dialog. As always, Fate/Stay is playing its cards close to its chest.

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As it must, Emiya’s story catches up to the initial tragedy told in Rin’s: Emiya witnesses Lancer and Archer fighting at the school and is killed in the hallway. Even Lancer is annoyed that it must go down this way. If only has master wasn’t such a cruel and cowardly one.

Later, following a resurrection that we really only understand because of episode zero, Emiya returns home, Only to fight Lancer again. Fortunately, this time Emiya is ready. Sort of.

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Magically increasing the durability of a poster to fight a spear at close range makes for a exciting little fight. From the beginning, we know it’s a losing battle and, given the peeks here and there at Emiya’s pentagram, we also assumed that he would be revealed to be Saber’s summoner.

Even so! That was a satisfying fight and it’s immediate escalation into a servant vs servant fight put a satisfying cap on our retread. Well timed because the episode comes to a tight close face to face with Rin, who actually knows and is willing to give Emiya some answers.

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My favorite details this week came from Emiya’s television, which displayed a mixture of japanese programs. Some news. Some dancing mascots harrassing anchors. None of it was relvant to the story. They were just there, for your eye to catch and ponder instead of just staring at talking characters.

That’s some effective world building. Effectively lived-in world building.

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The locket remains a bit of a mystery, since it isn’t quite in the same place in the two episodes…

Episode One is a little more chatty, though actually has less exposition and more character interaction, which nicely rounds out the experience.

Additionally, episode 1’s magical battles are slightly less spectacular, as Emiya is less magical and can’t participate in the same way in the same way as Rin. However, his personal fight against Lancer with a reinforced magical poster was delightfully unique (even to Lancer) that it more than made up for its reduced after-effects budget.

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Really, what is the difference between a 9 and a 10? Certainly, Fate/Stay is superior in every regard to every anime we’ve rated 9 so far this season, but when you’re faced with a second week where you consider giving it a 10, you can’t help but second guess yourself. Really? Is Fate/Stay really as good as every single episode of FLCL, one of the only perfect-score-every-episode anime I can think of?

Yes. At least, so far. And yet, Fate/Stay accomplishes it’s perfect ten so brilliantly in the opposite direction of the FLCLs and Kill La Kills. Where they are masterfully orchestrated spectacles of brilliant action, style and re-watchable overload, Fate/Stay is serene, patiently dolling out story and character development and subtle with their mystery.

Goodness, if there ever was a season for a show to say definitively that it was the best, it’s now. It’s fall 2014’s killer season. Well done Fate/Stay. Well done!

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*The most difficult story to tell is a prequel.

Inou-Battle wa Nichijou-kei no Naka de – 01

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It’s Chu2Koi, but for real, baby. In a nutshell, that’s Inou-Battle wa Nichijou-kei no Naka de, or InoBato for short, AKA When Supernatural Battles Become Commonplace. We have a group of mostly girls and a guy, only here the guy is the Chuuni, Andou Jurai, who is messing around one day when he suddenly produces a real ball of magical flame from his palm, and nothing is the same.

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But six months later, aside from a monthly “supernatural checkup” the club undergoes, everything is the same. Everything, except that now Himeki Chifuyu can conjure matter and teleport, Kishikwa Hatoko can control the elements, Kanzaki Tomoyo can manipulate time, and Takanashi Sayumi can restore things to a previous state. Ironically, the true Chuuni just has his little dark flame, which is pretty, but otherwise totally useless; apparently a sore subject.

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The strength of this show, and something that elevates it from being merely another Chu2Koi or Haruhi knockoff, is that Studio Trigger is behind it, which means most of the time, it looks totally badass, but in a more boisterous aesthetic than the more quiet realism of KyoAni. It excels both at rendering the ordinary lives of the students, as well as the awesome magic they periodically break out, because, well, they can.

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The show also moves briskly and confidently, from the way things were before (the only magic was in Jurai’s head) to the way things are (everyone using powers like it ain’t no thang) to their first interaction with someone outside the club, Student Council President Kudou Mirei (who has the Lancet ability), and by the end raises a key question moving forward: why did they receive these powers? What, if anything, are they supposed to do with them?

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That mystery looms over the otherwise playful and fun proceedings, giving the show a measure of gravitas. But I’m not under any illusions that this is a moe showcase of epic proportions, with a diverse sampling of very meticulously-rendered, adorable characters. The show also benefits from Okamoto Nobuhiko’s spirited, sometimes manic voice anchoring the cast of ladies, which includes the warm Hayami Saori (Hatoko) and delicately strict Taneda Risa (Sayumi).

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It’s bold, sharp-witted, pretty, and well-executed. Most of all, it’s just plain fun. You can glimpse that Trigger goodness and infectious joie de vivre that made Kill la Kill along with greats like Gurren Lagann...just way less insane and more moe. And along with the completely different Ushinawareta Mirai o Motomete, I am proud to add it to my Fall 2014 watchlist.

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Gugure! Kokkuri-san – 01

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A little girl summons Kokkuri-san, the fox spirit with a (Japanese Ouija board?) and, unexpectedly, Kokkuri arrives at her window. Then, in total dead-pan-mode, the little girl closes the window on him. Thus began Kokkuri’s bewildered relationship with an odd little girl and many somewhat humiliating scenarios.

Gugure! Kokkuri-san adds to this season’s already long list of shows that pull a great bait-and-switch, with it’s supernatural horror opening quickly and completely reforming into a comedy. And a great little witty comedy it is!

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See…Ichimatsu Kohina, the little girl, claims to be a doll. Energy efficient, unhindered by feelings good or bad and driven by a love of junk-food-style cup noodle, she utterly confuses Kokkuri. She is un-frightened and uninterested in his ability to answer questions (unless she’s making fun of his short comings).

Yet she lives alone in a huge, shrine-looking house, which also happens to be haunted.

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Appalled and lonely himself, Kokkuri barges in and takes up the challenge of fixing Ichimatsu. Or, at least, getting her to eat 3 meals a day with 50 ingredients minimum!

As they get to know each other, the become friends. Sort of. Ichimatsu has Kokkuri dragged off by the police for appearing naked when he was summoned from his bath and Kokkuri throws away all of Ichimatsu’s junk food in an attempt to make her a healthier person.

Perhaps it’s more accurate to say they become family, more than friends…

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Excuse me while I hang myself in shame…

Kokkuri-san is voiced by the Daisuke Ono, who voiced Handa in last season’s Barakamon. Ono won Best Voice Actor at the 4th Seiyu Awards and it’s clear why. Gugure! Kokkuri-san’s tight banter owes a so much to his precise comedic timing.

I love whoever is delivering Ichimatsu’s lines too. The understated robot-addicted-to insta-noodles routine is a bowl of chuckles. Likewise, the female narrator, who is used sparingly, lands many solid punches. it’s all very cute.

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Hmmm… guess we’ll learn more about this guy next episode?

Gugure! Kokkuri-san really captures the core of what made Barakamon so good: a child teaching an adult about life through clever, often embarrassing means. As with that show, our protagonist’s genders are opposed… though I don’t think Gugure! Kokkuri-san will entertain any romantic scenarios.

Will it have legs without the grounded villager cast of Barakamon? Hard to say. The opening and closing credits show many supernatural beings so I imagine there will be plenty of cast, effective or not.

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Gugure! Kokkuri-san is an adorable show. While I’m not sure it will manage to surpass the quality of Barakamon from last season, nor that other wayward god show from winter season, it has my attention now and MAN! It makes choosing my 5 shows to review this season even more challenging!

And that’s a challenge I’m quite happy to have.

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Fate/stay night: Unlimited Blade Works – 00

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Fate/stay night: Unlimited Blade Works is quietly beautiful. Regal even. The first episode gives us peaceful landscapes and well paced introductions for all of protagonist Tohsaka Rin acquaintances and daily routines before introducing us to her other life. Her magic life.

If I had not been told that UBW was part of a larger, multi-series franchise, I would never have known. The world is shown to us without info-dump or talking head exposition characters and it is all very absorb-able.

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This 47-minute slow burn method is most definitely for the best, given how many characters UBW appears to be throwing at us. We’ve met nine of Rin’s fellow students and one teacher, with Rin’s relationship to each being implied through interaction as often as it is strictly spelled out.

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We’ve also met 3 ‘Servants,’ which are essentially familiars that help their mage-masters compete in a battle for the Holy Grail, which will grant its winner any wish, and through all of this we’ve learned about the world’s magic. Runes, gems, classes of Servant, the importance of timing, rings of binding and command, what fuels servants — a ton of stuff!

Yet I never felt blabbered at nor disconnected.

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UBW opens with a dream or a memory of young Rin saying goodbye to her father. Her isolation in the world, the magical-ness of that world, and her stranding in her family mansion are all clear through the setting, the filters and vibe.

Then teenage Rin wakes up and goes to school. She remarks on how empty it is — how no one seems around — and we know something is afoot. Something magical.

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Then Rin learns her clocks are all an hour ahead and that a perfectly reasonable explanation for the emptiness is around, but the mood stays and we know, as Rin knows, the world is still off without being told directly.

Though hinted at strongly in school, we don’t see Rin dabble in magic nor learn what that magic is until later. At home, she is warned that her time is up and only two Servants remain: Saber and Archer. Saber is the only one Rin wants.

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Rin performs a ritual, we learn a little bit about magic and can guess the meaning of other parts of it, and her Servant is brought forth. Upstairs. And he’s made a bit of a mess.

Unfortunately, Rin has forgotten her clocks being ahead and has mistimed the height of her magics (mana) and her new Servant has come in a bit off. While he doesn’t let this on immediately, he is not only testy but not entirely sure who he is.

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However, he is certain Rin is the only Master for him. Albeit, after Rin expends an unnecessary amount of magic and wastes a valuable resource she should have saved for later.

After some bonding, some probing of each other’s bounds, we become comfortable with Archer, Rin’s servant as much as she does and, for his benefit and our own, Rin skips school and shows Archer around her town.

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The following day we learn a little bit more about magic and the world we will be viewing. This time in the form of an evil barrier being built around Rin’s school, most likely by a novice but dangerous regardless. When activated, it will liquefy all the humans inside and allow their souls to be eaten by a Servant.

Later that night, while attempting to destroy the barrier, Rin and Archer meet their first enemy. Battle ensues and it is lovely.

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The battle ends quickly, but not before displaying animation skill saved for the best sword fighting anime sequences you will ever see, and an innocent is killed. Rin drains her pendant to revive the student (who we must wonder how and why he was there in the first place) but realizes later that the student will remain a target.

With Archer at her side, Rin dashes off to rescue the student again, or thwart her enemy along the way, only to run into Saber the servant she wanted to summon.

Then the episode ends.

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UBW is not very colorful in anime terms but it drips with detailed environments, depth of field focus, and a patience with everything that is enviable. That greatness aside, UBW’s magical fighting puts almost every anime to shame. It’s fluid, impactful, vibrant and the integration between the mage and her familiar is exciting.

The music, which is unobtrusive but masterful orchestral work, is good too.

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If I were willing to nit pick, I might ding UBW for Archer’s amnesia. It’s a bit …trope-y… but, I get the sense that it, too, is something we’re not being told about. The very fact that ‘Archer’ wields 2 swords and has yet to pull out a bow, and how he occasionally responds to his enemy and his master leads me to suspect he knows more than we do. More than Rin.

In short, Fate/stay night: Unlimited Blade Works is nothing short of fantastic and utterly mind blowing as an opener to a show. Have an hour? WHY AREN’T YOU WATCHING IT RIGHT NOW?

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Golden Time – 13

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Having control over your body taken away by a new personality, and being held prisoner within that body, having to watch helplessly as that personality moves further and further away from the person you were: it’s a special kind of hell we wouldn’t wish upon our greatest enemy (that dog who barks at us when we pass by its house). But Past Banri is starting to show that he’s not utterly helpless after all. Literal and figurative stormy clouds are gathering about New Banri and his lovely girlfriend, and Past Banri would have us believed they’re of his making.

We still can’t blame New Banri for going cold turkey on Linda; he did what he felt he had to do to protect Koko. New Banri is done with his past self, an yearns for a simple, happy new life with his girlfriend. Linda didn’t help matters by so easily going along with his wishes, but a part of her still blames herself for what happened to Banri in the first place. That guilt has crippled her from acting for her own sake. In a way, New Banri made things easier for her by being decisive for both of them in cutting her loose.

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There’s no sign that she’s sore over it this week, but then Linda’s always excelled at hiding her feelings. The Awa dance pre-gaming, the parade, the festival date, and Koko’s faux culinary exploits are so much pretty window dressing, while the wood of the window’s frame just behind it is starting to show signs of rot. If New Banri truly loves Koko as deeply as his past self loved Linda, he may never find peace, as Past Banri will always be that splinter in his mind, giving him bad dreams, raining on his dates, and even making him recoil from Koko’s kisses.

Golden Time didn’t waste any time re-asserting its supernatural elements, leaving us weary on many levels. We worry for Banri’s future sanity, and how it will affect his relationship with Koko; we worry about Koko getting hurt; we worry about Linda drifting even further away; but we’re also concerned about Past Banri wielding too much “magic” influence in his quest to punish his successor, making him a bad guy easy to root against. We’d prefer if everyone played a role in their downfalls, if they have them, rather than be able to blame all their ills on one scorned ghoul.

7_very_goodRating:7 (Very Good)

Stella Women’s Academy, High School Division Class C3 – 12

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After Sono defeats everyone else, Yura returns and goes one-on-one with her. They battle hard, attracting the attention of Rento and the others, who watch from afar and eventually rejoin the fray. They battle until the sun is almost down, but Yura changes the world by restoring daylight and temporarily turning Stella Women’s Academy into one huge airsoft school where everyone is a combatant. Afterwards, with Sono gone abroad, the C3 club is short a member again. Yura, hearing two new students disillusioned by their high school experience, decides to try to recruit them.

Last week Yura hit rock bottom, but only she could pull herself out of her rut, live with her past misdeeds, and reconcile with her friends and Sono in particular the best way she knows how: with an airsoft battle. There was really never any doubt that they’d forgive her; and Yura even learned to enjoy herself again without fussing over tactical details. We liked how the battle started off with just Yura and Sono, but the others couldn’t resist jumping back into the battle, making it an even more exciting 2-on-2-on-2 that continues all day until the bells toll its end. That is, until Yura decides otherwise.

Using her supernatural powers, she not only extends the day, but makes an army out of Stella’s entire 1,800-girl student body. It’s a stunning move that shocks her teammates, though not enough to be disturbed by how Yura came to possess such godlike powers. Perhaps wisely, the series has avoided long explanations about the nature of her power, but in our opinion, it would have been nice to see in operation more often. Instead we must be satisfied with her revising a small chapter in Japanese history and then giving her senpai one hell of a send-off. And once Sono leaves (saying she’ll wait for Yura), Yura makes it her duty to find a new member.

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Rating: 8 
(Great)

Natsuiro Kiseki – 03

Yuusuke insists he saw Daiki’s sister Natsumi flying, and proposes she and her friends may be witches, which angers Daiki because it isn’t like Yuusuke to lie. Yuusuke follows Saki, who learns of his falling out with Daiki, and devises a way for them to make up: she arranges for them to watch them fly again, under the guise that she’s the only witch. The rock doesn’t cooperate, but they make up anyway.

Every week both we and the girls learn one or two new things about the wish-granting big rock. This week, we learned that an identical wish can be wished upon other people (i.e. Yuka and Rin getting stuck together), but the same wish apparently won’t work twice on the same people (i.e. everyone flying.) Which, if that’s true, kinda sucks, since it means no more flying. But regardless of the rock’s ‘rules’, it’s existence and their ability to wish upon it must remain closely-guarded secrets.

If too many people find out, it may ruin it’s power altogether…or even worse, attract the attention of Men In Black who may abduct and experiment on the girls (and it’s just not that kind of anime!) Still, even without the rock working, Saki managed to help Yuusuke and Natsumi’s brother make up. One way or another, the rock brings people together.


Rating: 7 (Very Good)


Car Cameo:
A somewhat crude but still identifiable white Honda Integra DC5 (AKA Acura RSX) zooms down the street as Yuusuke stalks Saki.

Un-Go – 01

At a formal soiree intended to gain support for his case, embattled tycoon Kanou is suddenly murdered. A gaggle of detectives are on hand to begin investigating immediately, among them the “defeated detective”, Shinjurou Yuuki, and his companion/boss Inga. With his deductive skills and her power to make someone answer a single question, they solve the case, revealing Kanou’s wife as the murderer.

A cool, confident start to what looks to be one of the cooler, more confident series this fall. This is a noitaminA piece, which means only eleven episodes; and we’re hoping it turns out better than the last one, No. 6, which just flat out ran out of time. If it can stick to a case-a-week format, it should be able to tell a lot within its alotted time. This episode didn’t waste any time at all, throwing us right into the mix, introducing a huge case of characters, and wrapping up the case with a neat little bow.

Animation is above-average, the OP and ED are both phenomenal, and while we kinda just did the detective and funky muse thing, we’re looking forward to some clever mysteries, and also to learning a little more about this funky Inga character. Like Dantalian, there’s a supernatural element to this show, and it also takes place in a postwar world, albeit in the future. The director’s also done good work (Gundam 00, Fullmetal Alchemist, Eureka seveN, Eva), so I’m expecting more of same. The game’s afoot!


Rating: 3.5

Sket Dance 21

This week’s a field trip, with Himeko and Bossun bumping into each other in the city, then spotting Switch on what initially looks like a date with Yuuki, the plain, pallid, Ring-like occult chick. It turns out he’s coming with her to pick out a computer, but it soon evolves into much more than that.

I really enjoyed their philosophical banter. These two are definitely intellectual rivals who are more alike than different; they’re simply dedicated to opposite ends of the human condition, namely the supernatural and the scientific. When they bump into a former classmate of hers, it’s learned that back before she was so involved with the occult, she confessed to him and got shot down because she was “scary-looking.” Switch’s cosmetic advice to her is similarly amusing.

They’re at a department store, so they avail themselves of the available services, and tarts her up. The transformation is striking, and the fact she still sounds the same and walks with the worst posture in the world is hilarious. I must say I definitely enjoyed virtually a whole episode dedicated to Switch and Yuuki; they really bring out the best in each other. The fresh setting brought back memories of Tokyo’s massive department stores that sell just about everything.


Rating: 3