Nisekoi 2 – 10

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Nisekoi 2’s intense episodic nature means we’re never quite sure what we’re going to get from week to week, and considering the success of other rom-coms with more serialized format, often leave us feeling like it’s taking the wrong approach. But this week demonstrated that when it wants to, Nisekoi can do a lot in just one week.

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Submitted for your approval: four-eyed class clown and horndog Maiko Shuu actually gets DIMENSION, and gets to make more than just sly cat faces! I sure didn’t see that coming, but once it got going I was not complaining.

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While they go way back, Shuu has always been far better at hiding who he likes than Raku, whom Shuu knows full well loves Onodera. All Shuu gives away at first about his love is that she’s an “unattainable flower” who will ultimately break his heart. Raku bounces this idea off of Tsugumi of all people, which is perfect because she happens to be in the very situation he’s presenting to her as a hypothetical.

Fortunately for Tsugumi, Raku is far to dense to pick up on the source of her embarrassment, but Tsugumi ultimately treats his questions with respect, telling him she’d probably never tell that unattainable person how she felt, lest she cause trouble for him; matching Shuu’s position on the matter.

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One can make the case that Tsugumi’s unattainable love is Raku, assuming what she’s feeling for him is love (something she’s not at all sure of). But Shuu’s love is the teacher, Kyoko-sensei, who suddenly drops the hammer that she’s getting married and quitting teaching.

Shuu reacts to the news with a big smile and lots of laughter and hearty congratulations, but inside he’s devastated. And yet, because it was the older Kyoko who told him he was the most mature of the guys in his class, he’s apparently determined never to tell Kyoko his feelings—something he may regret—but will instead live with that regret, like adults sometimes must do.

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Shuu-as-Raku’s-mirror works surprisingly well throughout the episode, especially as the perennial Best Girl Chitoge and clingy Marika are all but absent this week. We can focus instead on the triangle of Tsugumi, Raku, and Kosaki. Raku’s affection for Kosaki is so strong, merely thinking of her being married off to some other guy makes him cough up black stuff and does significant damage to his soul. Heck, I felt pretty awful about that dark fantasy!

Yet, when Raku gathers himself, he can indeed see himself living life under those circumstances, as long as Kosaki is happy. That’s when Tsugumi flags him down, eager to clarify her responses. She maintains that she could see herself never confessing to that hypothetical guy and choosing to live with that, but that doesn’t mean she wants to…nor does it mean she can.

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That settles things for Raku, who clarifies his position to Shuu: he’ll stand by whatever decision he makes, including not confessing to Kyoko. But he’ll also give Shuu a push if asked. Shuu asks, Raku pushes him, and he manages to catch Kyoko right before a taxi drives her out of his life. We can’t hear their exchange, only the pounding rain, but we don’t have to: Shuu gets the gentle rejection he knew he’d get. Even when Raku worries he meddled too much, Ryuu is thankful for his push.

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That push was made possible by Tsugumi, and led to Raku giving himself a push by asking Kosaki, who was looking all over school worried about him, to walk home with him, not because anything is wrong, but because he feels like it. Kosaki is initially shocked by his forwardness, but still accepts, as readily as Kyoko rejects Shuu. You can’t spend your youth wallowing in unpleasant hypotheticals: you gotta enjoy!

That brings us to the final piece of the puzzle this week: Ruri. Frankly, I thought we’d see more of her this week than we ended up seeing, but what we got was still pretty good, as the episode was peppered with moments of her love-hate relationship with Shuu and her status as an attainable—but up-till-now under-noticed—flower in Shuu’s life.

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Oregairu 2 – 10

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So this is how it’s all poised to end? With Yukino marrying Hayato to form an alliance between their families? And this is how Haruno decided to break that news to Hikky? Man, that’s harsh! Nagato Yuki getting hit by a car harsh!

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But let me back up: this was another solid and thoroughly enjoyable episode of Oregairu. Irohas’ non-flirtation flirtation, along with her not-so-easily-concealed growing affection for him (paired with yet another quick rejection, even as she herself stings from the same thing), starts things off right. Sakura Ayane is doing a nice job as Kosaki’s sister over on Nisekoi:, but she really shows her stuff here, with a far better script in her hands and a meatier character to chew on.

If my hardly-groundbreaking theory about Yukino and Hayato holds true, it means both Hikky and Iroha are alike in being rejected by the members of that couple. Misery loves company, yes?

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Putting aside romantic entanglements real or envisioned: the cavalry arrives a week earlier than it does in Preston’s DanMachi, as Yukino cuts through the other school’s verbose president like butter. I don’t know what it is about Hayami Saori and rants, but her swift, biting, brutally accurate takedown is her best performance since Hatoko’s Rant, and was a lot longer in the making.

It wasn’t just a takedown of the haughty synergy nut, either. A lot of what she said also, somewhat devastatingly, applies to her present situation.

This is what Hikky had been missing: someone who knew what to say and wasn’t afraid to say it. Better still, Yukinon opens the door for Yui, Hikky, and Iroha to take the reins of the meeting and finally hammer out what they’re going to actually do for the Christmas event.

And lest I forget, Hikky lays his past mistakes bare before Yukino pipes up. After the display, Kaori comes to him, both impressed and admitting she was wrong about him. While dating remains as out of the question as ever, she wouldn’t mind someone like him as a friend, if he’ll have her.

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LOVE how quickly the event flies by, in montage-form. Sometimes, you just need a montage to barrel through something that in a longer form would only take away valuable character time. Suffice it to say, Iroha and the other Prez manage to shine and the event is a smash hit, thanks to the efforts of the Service Club.

Back in the club room, Hikky not only finds Yukino pouring tea again, but the girls got together to get him a special teacup as a Christmas present, which was all kinds of sweet.

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When Yui brings up getting a present for Yukino with Hikky, he asks her when she’s free to go shopping, with phrasing that could be easily construed as asking her out. Later, Komachi ditches Hikky and Yukino, leaving them alone on the train, where she grabs his sleeve as much as she dares when they hit a bump.

But there was something so final about those doors closing on the softly smiling Yukino, as she said she was looking forward to the next year. Could that be because it’s her last year as a single woman?

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I’m with Yui: glasses DO make you look more intelligent. That’s just SCIENCE, man! ; )

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All of Hayato’s seemingly guilty self-deprication and strange comments to Hikky; all of Haruno’s meddling; the presence of Haruno, her and Yukino’s mom, and Hayato at the same mall where Hikky and Yui happen to be shopping for Yukino; Haruno calling Yukino and telling her to join them; it all feels like Yukino and especially Hikky being ambushed. With Yukino being ambushed into participating in the ambush of HIkky.

Is this Haruno’s way of presenting The Truth to Hikky, and by extension us, the audience? If so, it’s Classic Haruno: cruelty with a smile. Hikky has certainly had a lot of other options placed in front of him, but while I’ve at turns shipped for him and Yui or Iroha or even Kaori (Hilarious!), part of  me has always felt like the show was going to somehow get Yukino and him together. After this week, whatever went on here, the chances of that kind of ending seem bleaker than ever…

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Oregairu 2 – 09

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Happiness is:

  • Hikky dreading going back to school after the club’s big conciliatory catharsis.
  • Komachi doing a pitch-perfect impression of Hikky’s condescending mumble, before remarking that she likes this “scum-niichan” just fine, and Hikky agreeing with her.
  • Hikky returning to a very brightly-lit club room to find a perfectly civil, downright chipper (for her) Yukino.
  • An elated Yui wanting to sit as close to Yukino as physically possible.
  • Yukino being both happy and a little uncomfortable with the closeness.

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Happiness is:

  • Yukino and Yui attending the event meeting with Hikky. The cavalry has arrived!
  • Yukino and Yui’s priceless reaction to Hikky and Irohas’ little bag exchange ritual. “What was THAT all about?” their eyes seem to ask…
  • Yukino and Yui both agreeing with Hikky’s opinion of the other president dude, but being unable to enact instant change. Fixing will take some doing.
  • Shizuka giving Hikky, Yukino, Yui and Irohas tickets to Destiny Land to celebrate the club pulling through.
  • Hikky’s demand for someone to marry Shizuka already, before he’s forced to.
  • The gradual reveal that Yukino is not only a yearly member of Destiny Land, but doesn’t want to go during the busy season.
  • Yui and Hikky working together to convince her to come anyway.

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Happiness is:

  • Iroha inviting her crush Hayama, which leads to Miura, Ebina, and Tobe also tagging along. One big happy family. (Unfortunately absent but probably for the best: Kawasaki and Totsuka).
  • The resulting dynamic of Hikky with his two girls (Yukino and Yui), Hayama and his two girls (Miura and Iroha) and Ebina and Tobe, a pairing that Hikky worked so hard to prevent, which led to all that unpleasantness that is now behind them.
  • How Hikky is cut off in the group photo, but the one closest to him is Yukino.

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Happiness is: This photo.

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Happiness is:

  • Yukino teasing Yui about how there will never be a “next time” in which she’ll allow her photo to be taken.
  • Hikky’s realization the two are only joking around and are actually closer than ever.
  • Ebina properly thanking Hikky once more for what he did, knowing what it cost.
  • Hikky telling Ebina his, Yukino’s and Yui’s problem had nothing to do with her request; it had been brewing before; at best it was a catalyst/last straw.
  • Hikky smiling unironically. I know; I’m scared too!
  • Yukino demanding absolute silence on the Panda Battle ride.

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Happiness is:

  • The adorableness that is Yui getting up in Hikky’s face with a panda puppet.
  • The moment Hikky believes Yui is making “the first move” she told him she’d make (last season), rather than wait.
  • The way Hikky agrees to a date at the theme park next door (Amaburi?), “someday,” which is enough for Yui for now.
  • Yui slipping animal ears on herself and Yukino and having Hikky snap their picture.
  • Everyone wanting to give Komachi gifts. She got the ball rolling on Hikky’s redemption, after all. But more than that, she’s just a very cute and lovable sister.

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Happiness is:

  • Circumstances working out so Hikky and Yukino end up separated from the others.
  • Yukino taking Hikky’s sleeve in her hand, asking him to “save her someday,” just before their boat takes the plunge. DAT PLUNGE. The silence…pure poetry.

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Happiness is: Yukino making relative peace with the fact she isn’t like her sister, or Hikky, and may not “have what they have,” but that’s okay, because she still loves them both. (She doesn’t say that part, but it’s pretty evident.)

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Happiness is Hikky, Yukino, and Yui side by side by side, watching the park’s fireworks show, being bathed in warm and cool flashes of light as they wear smiles on their faces.

Happiness is Yukino’s many smiles throughout this episode, in particular that last one looking up at the sky, and Yui whispering to Hikky, again getting as possible close to the person she loves.

Happiness is NOT watching Iroha confess to Hayama, only to get flatly rejected and run off, more upset than we’ve ever seen her.

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However, as unhappy an event as it was, I was very happy with how it was portrayed: from the POVs of the others, in particular Hikky; without words, only expressions half-concealed by the shadows. All the planning in the world to create an opportunity for Iroha to get closer to Hayama didn’t mean a thing, because Hayama didn’t want to get closer to her.

Will she now turn to Hikky, fulfilling the prophecy in the OP of Iroha taking her place among the other three Service Club members, filling the void between Hikky and the others? Whatever happens, and as sadly as this episode ended, there was still plenty of happiness to be found.

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Oregairu 2 – 08

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After living a tentative dream stumbling both with his one-man service request and his “replacement triangle” of Iroha and Kaori, Yukino splashed cold water on him before walking away.

(*VROOOM VROOOM*…a red Aston Martin DB9 pulls up…)

Oh, Shizuka-sensei, thank God you’re here! I’m not going to ask how a teacher can afford that car—I’m guessing an on-the-side service club-for-profit of her own—but I am glad she’s arrived in Hikky’s darkest hour to counsel him.

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As far as mentors go, Komachi is too young and Haruna is Yukino’s sister with her own baggage, so Shizuka is the right woman for the job. And goddamn it, if a gorgeous woman in a suit picks you up in her British GT, drives you to a bridge, tosses you a coffee and lights a cigarette, you listen to her.

You listen as she talks about how mental states and emotions one feels are not always equal. How if you can only think in terms of calculations, calculate. How it’s impossible not to hurt people; it’s just a fact of life. That instead of worrying about how not to hurt someone (again, an impossibility), try to find out why you don’t want to hurt them in the first place.  How caring for someone means knowing you’ll hurt them from time to time.

Shizuka’s saves her wisest and coolest words, and one of the central lessons of Oregairu—and growing up, period—for last:

Right now isn’t everything, but there are things you can only do now, and things you can only have here. Now, Hikigaya. Now is the time. Think. Agonize. Struggle. Worry. Otherwise, it’s not the real thing.

Hikky makes Shizuka blush by telling her all the men she’s courted have had terrible taste—a very Hikky compliment—and in his head, wonders what might have been had they been closer in age. I’m thinking “Dude, when you turn 18 and she’s still single, don’t hesitate!”

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But that’s then. This is now. So he thinks, agonizes, struggles, and worries, through the night. And the next day after school he knocks on the door of the service club; not as a member, but as a client: The joint Christmas event many of his own actions led to is a hot mess, and he can’t fix it by himself. But this isn’t about swallowing his pride or admitting he was wrong.

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Yukino tells Hikky that people who made messes on their own should fix them on their own. Hikky agrees; Yui doesn’t, calling Yukinon unfair, and all of a sudden the discussion is no longer about his request. The event, like Komachi’s request, was simply the means to get in the door, a reason to spur action, but not the reason; the one Hikky agonized over. He cuts off Yukino and Yui’s sniping about being unfair and the efficacy of understanding through talk.

Hikky has been uncharacteristic from the start in this scene, first by knocking, and then sitting so he faced Yukino and Yui. But he really catches them off guard when he himself tears up in preparation reveals his true request, or rather desire. He doesn’t want words or mutual understanding or acceptance of each others’ “ugly self-consciousness”…he just wants the real thing, which he tearfully proclaims after a montage of all the times he believes he experienced it. But what is that?

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No…not that, but for many, including me, Coke is so irresistible because of nostalgia: it tastes like childhood; like a simpler time, long before we were aware of the concept that we all hurt each other, and that understanding others can be extremely difficult. But I don’t guzzle a two-liter every day. It’s a temporary retreat, not a replacement for life. Diet Coke, on the other hand, tastes like being six feet under. Just one guy’s opinion.

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Oh. Sorry about that!

Hikky wants “the real thing” even though he’s not entirely sure what it is, let alone how to get it. But there’s value in knowing that he doesn’t have it and that he doesn’t know how to get it. Of moving beyond what one doesn’t understand and instead trying to figure out why one wants to understand.

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He also believes all three of them want it. Yui is able to express that right off the bat with a smile, but Yukino still doesn’t understand. She’s terrified of not understanding, and flees while clutching her arm as if she’d just been shot with a dose of radiation.

Hikky is paralyzed in the moment, but yet again proving she’s the essential fulcrum of their group, Yui snaps him out of it and urges they chase after her. Whatever Yukinon’s problem is, they can’t let it end without knowing, or trying to know. She takes him by the hand—a romantic gesture in most Japanese high schools—but Hikky’s grip loosens; not because he isn’t going with her but because he “can walk himself.”

And who is it who know where she went? Why Iroha! Yui and Hikky’s shortness with her underscores how special their three-person group really is, and how far Iroha still has to come to being as much of a priority.

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Thankfully, her aim isn’t to break their momentum, but to point them in the right direction of their wayward member (on the school rooftop at sunset, for maximum dramatic impact!) There, Yui takes the lead, telling Yukino none of them understand, but if they talk more, maybe they will…and even if they don’t, they’ll at least understand that they don’t understand. Yui doesn’t even understand what she’s saying, but like Hikky, and like Yukino, she doesn’t like the way things are now.

Now, when there are things you can only do and have. Yui tears up again, as does Yukino, who calls Yui “unfair” again as they tightly embrace. Yukino says it’s unfair because they’d just fought a battle of sorts: a battle Shizuka hoped Hikky and Yui would win before someone else does later in life: the battle to get inside Yukino. With Yukino accepting Hikky’s request—upon further consideration, tears, and hugging, and perhaps even the tiniest sip of the real thing—victory is in sight again.

Last week was so grim for the service club that I’d gone ahead formulating contingencies in case it simply wasn’t to be, something Shizuka touched on during her bridge chat. This was an outstanding episode not just because it chastised its characters for having holed up inside their own heads, but it chastised me and anyone else whose hope had faltered, making me feel foolish for ever contemplating lame backup scenarios. Hikky, Yukinon, and Yui are the real thing, and their time is now. Thank God!

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Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso – 11

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We’re still in the middle of our journey.

That’s true, both for Kousei, and for us, as this is the eleventh in a 22-episode series. It’s right where we want to be, too: Kousei has, by ‘defiling the sacred garden of competition’, found himself, but he still sucks at the piano right now. He is, in the parlance of Whisper of the Heart, a rough stone that needs polishing to become a gem. That polishing will take time, blood, sweat, and tears…far more than he’s already expended to this point!

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In a shock to precisely no one, Kousei didn’t even make it through the preliminaries; his performance was a train wreck after all, and he stopped in the middle. But he doesn’t care…and that’s what vexes Takeshi so…at first. Tak had always seen Kousei as his HERO; someone who always took the stage alone, never gave up, did amazing things, then left the stage alone. This new, ‘human-like’ Kousei is strange and foreign to him, but in the end, it’s better that he is the way he is now.

Emi certainly sees this as an improvement. As bad as Kousei played, she could hear clearly that he was playing FOR something, or someone, that there was a purpose to him being on that stage beyond playing the sheet music perfectly like a robot. She liked the mischievous Kousei that peeked his head out from behind the curtain, and wants to hear more. And I’m sure she will!

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On the way home from his own loss, Kousei puts on a brave and stoic face, knowing he did his best. But just as Ryouta and Tsubaki did before him, the pang of defeat catches up to him and he has no choice but to run screaming as the train passes. It’s a cheesy scene, but a powerful one, and well-earned.

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Summer approacheth, but Kaori isn’t going to let Kousei rest on his moral laurels. There’s a concert gala at Towa Hall, and they’re going to play together again; this time, Kreisler’s Liebeleid (and I noticed and enjoyed Kaori breaking into German now and then)

Kousei’s mother’s (and, really, his) friend Seto Hiroko, Japan’s top pianist, is an interesting and welcome addition to the cast. Hiroko is super-cool and just happened to be present for Kousei’s self-finding experiment. She’s surprised he went back to the piano, and he tells her about the weird violinist who brought him back into the musician fold, Hiroko was clearly heartened.

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In the flashback, we see a non-evil Kousei’s mom who wasn’t going to make Kousei into a pianist at all “if she could help it”, but it was Hiroko who noticed he had a special gift and insisted his mom nurture it. We know what happened after that. Now, two years later, Kousei’s come out of limbo and wants her to teach him how to play properly again. He owes it to Kaori.

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That brings us to the episode’s climax and the true middle point of the show, in which Kousei finally tells Kaori directly (in a field of fireflies) that it was her that gave him the power and the strength to play. As she had probably gathered, he was playing only for her; sought only her approval and endorsement. This isn’t one of those romantic scenes where the two throw themselves into each others’ arms and kiss, but it was still pretty damn rousing.

So ephemeral and weak. But it’s shining with all its might.

That being said, the show is determined to rain on its own parade by reiterating that NO, Kaori will NOT be around forever for Kousei to lean on. She led him back to the world of music, but no doubt her health won’t allow her to stay on the same path as him much longer. As much as I hate to say it, I just don’t see Kaori lasting until the end of this show.

Which begs the question: how will he deal with her inevitable demise? What or whom will he choose to replace what now seems utterly irreplaceable?

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Kiseijuu: Sei no Kakuritsu – 04

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Our fourth taste of Parasyte starts off tense and gross, with A-san and Migi initiating a furious battle of fleshy, sharp-pointed protuberances as Shinichi struggles to see what’s going on. But Migi is only defending; it’s up to Shinichi to take that sharp chair leg and attack A-san.

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That means walking through a constantly-moving forest of limbs and trusting that Migi won’t mess up and let him get torn to shreds. Once again, Shinichi, welcome to your new life: constantly in mortal danger, and having to make decisions you never thought you’d be faced with, like “It’s him or us.”

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Migi’s plan works perfectly, exploting A-san’s arrogant assumption that Shinichi won’t participate in the battle. This is a guy who had sex, and yet still doesn’t understand that two are stronger than one; he’s a lost cause. Oh, and the blood spout Shinichi makes is super-gross!

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It doesn’t kill him, though. Fortunately, Shinichi can walk away from this not only alive, but knowing he did not take a life. He just made that easier for Tamiya-sensei, who senses A-san coming for her, fills a lab with oxygen, and jumps out the window. The explosion finishes A-san off.

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Then…things kinda settle down, though unfortunately, there’s no interaction between Shinichi and Satomi this week after he was very brusque with her last week. And funnily enough, Tamiya-sensei’s “quiet, normal life” experiment isn’t blown by her role in destroying A-san (though you’d think arson experts would have noticed organic remains in the destroyed lab). Nope, it’s blown by the fact she’s an unmarried pregnant woman!

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Tamiya-sensei isn’t interested in trying to fix this mess; it’s easier to simply start over with a new host and “life.” To that end, she essentially tells Shinichi and Migi that the truce is over, and even reveals her weapon form, in another super-creepy transformation. It doesn’t look like our hero and his hand will get out of this one, but at the last second Tamiya reconsiders and spares their lives. Why? Not clear yet.

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Then, one morning Shinichi wakes up missing his whole arm, and learns of a fresh terror: Migi can detach from him for a maximum of three minutes. Having a sentient hand is disconcerting enough, but knowing it can hop off whenever it wants for a morning walk? Even more unnerving. Stay attached to me, dammit!

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Meanwhile, Tamiya-sensei’s mother visits her, worried sick, and almost instantly realizes that she’s not her Ryouko, but an impostor. When Mom tries to call the police, Tamiya is forced to kill her, but she’s surprised and vexed to no end: how did the old woman know?

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See? The internet corrupts everyone! Anyway, Satomi first hinted at it by asking Shinichi if he was really Shinichi, then later switching hands with him, and then further reinforced by Shinichi’s mother’s increasing unease. It would seem people with strong emotional bonds, like love, in both Satomi and Shinichi’s mom’s case, seem to be able to sense their loved one isn’t themselves. Of course, Shinichi is still mostly himself, but still enough of something else that both of the main women in his life notice.

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With circumstances being what they’ve been, Shinichi owes Migi his life several times over (even if in most cases Migi is the cause of the mortal peril to begin with); his alliance with the parasite in his hand hasn’t really been that big of an issue. The issue, besides not getting killed by other parasites, is a much heavier weight than Migi will ever be, and that’s the truth.

He chose not to reveal it to his parents, because let’s face it, as kind and loving as they are, they could very likely recoil and disown Shinichi on the spot. His mom is already suspicious of whether he’s even the same Shinichi she got burned with hot oil protecting. He can only conceal the truths for so long before the weight crushes him; it must be shared. Will Satomi be a different story?

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Tamayura ~hitotose~ – 02

Back in her hometown, Potte instantly settles into a circle of friends, and reflects on what a good idea it was to move back. They help one of their teachers with the bamboo festival, then have a sleepover in which they bond further. The older sister of Potte’s friend Kaoru notes how Potte’s sadness about her father’s passing has changed to warmth, and she can see it in her growing collection of photos.

Taking photos is tricky. You can’t take too many all the time, or you’ll miss out on real life by constantly closing one eye and looking through a viewfinder. You have to find the right balance of living and recording said life. We think Potte has a good balance going so far. She’s not the kid everyone hates who is always snapping pics of you without asking. On the contrary, everybody loves the photos, and she’s quite good at taking them.

After the dual debuts of Un-Go and Guilty Crown, this was a slow, warm and cheerful respite, serving almost as a digestif for all that intensity. Sure, the passionate teacher is a little cliche’d, and so far Potte’s friends kind of too neatly fit into molds (childhood friend, check; loud energetic pigtailed Norie, check, tranquil, quiet, whistling Maon, check) but watching them simply existing in this comely town was most enjoyable, yes it was.


Rating: 3.5

Sket Dance – 27

A new character arrives in the person of Remi Misora, a new teacher and former kid’s tv show host who calls herself “Onee-san”. At times she proves to be an extraordinarily careless klutz, leading the Sket-dan to seek out Chuu-san for a cure. However, while all of his potions change her personality, the underlying carelessness remains, after which he tells her to leave it be, as it’s whats makes her her. The second act deals with a found box of Switch’s random inventions, many terrifying, which end up saving the day and proving to Onee-san that the Sket-dan is capable of greatness.

Sket Dance turns in another solid, often hilarious outing, with a new opening by Gackt that’s much better than the last one, a new ending with nudity and chocolate, and in between, a new teacher who’s main strength is her passion. Indeed, she lends a great deal of energy to the show, and serves as an honorary fourth member of the Sket-dan all this week. We aren’t sure who voiced her (yet), but she does an excellent job both bringing the bright, bubbly Onee-san to life, and showing a wide range of personalities as she downs Chuu’s various potions (served in Sake bottles, making for two excellent bumper cards.)

With her character established, she takes a half-step back out of the spotlight, as this is primarily about Switch’s really wacked-out inventions, including a disembodied anime head that blows on hot ramen, a hyperrealistic baboon-head knapsack, hover shoes, a shoulder-dislocating cheer bazooka and neck-snapping homing goggles. Onee-san is quietly evaluating the Sket-dan with regards to their reputation as The Club that Helps, and it looks pretty bad, when all of a sudden all that random crap is put to practical use rescuing a kindergartener falling out the window. Ridiculous? Yes…but in the best way.


Rating: 3.5

Blood-C 10

Saya fights an elder bairn that’s nothing but a head, a spine, and hair, who may or may not be her mother. Tokizane is killed. Her father disappears. Fumito serves her more coffee and grimauves. Her teacher Tsutsutori asks if she can take a look at the shrine library, and when they discover all the books are brand new, and all blank save the one about the legend of the elder bairns, Tsutsutori insists Saya stop “playing this game”…then Nono and Nene reappear, as if they were never killed.

What’s in her coffee? What’s in those grimauves? What exactly is up with Saya? The mystery thickens this week, as many things we’ve held true to this point are upended. The ghost story Tsutsutori tells in class sounds the same as the legend in the book, but why is the book new? Why are the others blank? Fumito is acting stranger than ever. What’s hiding behind his kind smile? Why is his arm heavily bandaged after Saya’s father disappeared. Did he off him?

As for Tokizane, his insistence on running in to help Saya had a predictable result: his death. It was far quicker and less gory than those of late. But with Nono and Nene back from the dead and Saya having all manner of visions, I’m starting to wonder myself if anyone at all is even dead, and that the legend is a fabrication. Each week there’s a veneer of repetition that could grow grating, but each week a new revelation comes to light, though we’re still a long ways from the truth of things. For now, Saya is just trying to keepitogether.


Rating: 3.5

Sket Dance 18

Leave it to Sket Dance to take something as innocently mundane as a board game and go totally nuts with it. The game in question is called “Hyperion”, which I’ve never heard of, but it’s used as a vehicle to riff off of dozens of franchises and genres, as well as the practice of becoming a little too obsessed and involved in a game.

This is another one of Mr. Yamanobe’s games, and since it was a board game and not anything athletic, it was definitely worth a fresh episode. He warns Himeko that girls tend not to have fun playing Hyperion…and he turns out to be absolutely right. Everything about the game rubs her the wrong way, and she’s further irritated by how easily Bossun and Switch slip into utter madness.

Yamanobe keeps the game going by making the Sket-dan trek with him out to the countryside for the world tournament, but it only turns out to be two grandsons of Yamanobe’s late mentor, Master Wang. They were just fulfilling the wishes in Wang’s will. The now cosplaying boys snap out of it, much to Himeko’s relief. This episode wasn’t without its silly moments, but it was so blissfully absurd, it worked for me.


Rating: 3

Mawaru Penguindrum 2

“Which holes do her legs go through?”
“Fool, those holes lead to the Cosmos.”

-Shouma/Kanba @ a lingerie store

Good lord, that was…brilliant. Awesome in every way. If anything, better than the first episode, since some things were already established. This just added more. More places, more people, more layers of story, more comedy, more mysteries; more lingerie and more stalking!

It’s all in the details: For instance, there’s a little animated PSA on the Sky Metro in which warns against groping in no uncertain terms…then Shouma is accused of just that, groping a girl on the train because his preguin friends (whom no one else can see) did so. The girl just happens to be friends with the person Shouma and Kanba are tailing – Ringo Oginome – the proverbial apple in the opening and ending sequences – which one really looks forward to, like the cherry atop the proverbial sundae. Ringo loves fate.

Hardly anything we’d seen from Ringo seemed all that suspicious, but it turns out she’s far from normal, compulsively stalking a teacher she’s fallen for (lying on a blanket under his house listening to him) as the brothers stalk her (with their penguins acting as their eyes and ears). While Himari is wearing her penguin hat, she has another “Incoming Message From The Big Giant Head” moment, ordering the bros to fetch the Penguindrum from Ringo. Problem is, she doesn’t tell them what it is.

So now, having followed Ringo, and learned the stalked is also a stalker, they have to gain possession of something they know not what from someone who is clearly unstable. Hell, she herself could be the drum thing. Who knows? All I know is, this episode was fantastic, and I can’t wait for the next one. Rating: 4

The World God Only Knows II 10

Things aren’t going well with the conquest of Ms. Nagase. He plans to pick up the pace by pissing her off, which basically worked for all previous girls, but all of his tactics prove ineffective. Her strong initiative is constantly throwing him off guard. But when she tries to play PFP with him and airs out what she believes his problem is, he rudely rebukes her, bruising her confidence that is already weakened by the loose soul.

That a loose soul entered her as soon as she returned to her old school turns out not to be mere coincidence: she was the captain of the school’s last powerhouse hoops team, and there was clearly some kind of trauma from a falling out with her team after winning the championship. When Keima tries to learn more about Nagase (and become equals with her) through her senpai and former teammate, Ms. Nikaido, he learns that she’s always been depressed. He may not be able to afford her birthday, e-mail, or BWH, but the basketball hint seems to be enough to get him back on track.

And none too soon; while he was trying to warm up to the cool-as-ice Nikaido, the rest of the student body, who once welcomed Nagase enthusiastically, start ostrasizing her for being too passionate. Again we see that the common bond they share is that of ideals over reality, albeit in different ways. She insists kids should be encouraged to be the best they can be because they all have limitless potential (a fairly American point of view), and doesn’t like teachers breaking the cool, hard facts of life to them.

She wants everyone to have an ideal life, even if they don’t care. By being worn down by both teachers and students baffled by her excessive passion, Keima finally has the opening he needs. All that’s left is for him to make her reveal that past that’s haunting her, learn to see him as a romantic interest, not a student, and pull that nasty ol’ loose soul outta her. Rating: 3.5

Sket Dance 10

After a hilarious cold open in which the Sket-dan enacts a parody of Kimi ni Todoke for no good reason, the balance of the episode is dedicated to one client, Yagi. Her friend Kuramoto wants Sket to cheer her up, but they end up unraveling a DVD-cheating mystery/name-clearing mission. Still fresh off her impression of Sawako, she’s afraid Sawako will jump out of a “cursed” DVD they find, Bossun thinks it’s an embarrassing video of Yagi cosplaying, while Switch has…dirtier thoughts.

It turns out to be midterm math problems filmed with night vision in the teacher’s office. Yagi’s possession of such video would seem to suggest cheating, but she is innocent, and the circumstances are extenuating. It turns out, a rogue teacher who sells test info to students misplaced the disc, and subsequently tries to frame Yagi, who was the prior victim of unfounded cheating rumors, and hence kept quiet. Naturally, nothing about Sket-dan is quiet, and they soon make her spill the beans.

This leads to a gut-busting confrontation with the teacher, who defies Sket-dan to uncover evidence of his malfecsence, on pain of explusion. They not only catch his visage in a mirror on-camera, but get him to literally broadcast his confession to the entire school (it being the broadcasting club they’re in). Once again, the dynamic trio of Bossun’s concentration, Himeko’s feminine sensibilities, and Switch’s technical know-how solve yet another problem. If they charged more than mere smiles, they could make a mint. Rating: 3.5