Oresuki – 09 – Not Just a Background Character

Joro has gotten the hang of his new gig at Tsubaki’s family’s restaurant, and even Sasanqua comes by to have the guy in which she suddenly has interest server her and her gal friends. But when Tsubaki’s praise of his performance starts to sound like too much, Joro reveals his inferiority complex: he feels he’s just doing what he can as a background character while his more impressive friends accomplish greater things.

Since Joro’s job eats into his library time with Pansy, lunches are tense, especially with Himawari not there to lighten the mood (she’s prepping for a tennis tournament). Then, one night, Joro messes up at work, gets yelled at by an angry customer, and has to be bailed out by Tsubaki.

Pansy is already on record in her opposition of him working solely to repay his debt to her, since it’s nothing more than saving face. When she meets him after work, she says as much, and tries to assure him he’s okay and he’s already a good person. This isn’t a good time for him to hear this, so he snaps at her, something he immediately regrets.

This naturally makes things even more awkward in the library, but a chance meeting with a young lad named Hazuki Yasuo raises his spirits by reinforcing what Sun-chan tried to tell him. Basically, he can’t be afraid of “swinging and missing” or getting hurt, but has to “go all out” his own way.

The next day Joro apologizes to Pansy, but also tells her he’s going to keep working—not to repay a perceived debt to her, but because he simply wants to buy her a new book, something she not only accepts, but supports. But when he finally gets enough money, the book has already been sold—to Himawari.

All this time, she’s been putting off practice and saving up to buy him a book. What we have here is basically a “penance triangle”, with Himawari working to pay back Joro, who was working to pay back Pansy. At first, Joro is angry at her for risking everything, but as Himawari tells him, he matters to her as much if not more than tennis.

Himawari ends up winning her tournament anyway, reinforcing how awesome she is. Before her first match, she shocks Joro, Pansy, Cosmos and Tsubaki by stealing a kiss from him, not-so-cryptically telling him there’s “someone she likes” now, complicating matters for the others.

Tsubaki also manages to subvert expectations by not having any dark ulterior motive to getting Joro to work at her restaurant. Turns out she wanted the job to help him build confidence in himself as someone other than “second banana”, but the main character which some truly awesome and amazing friends.

That brings us to the situation at episode’s end, in which Joro is back on that damnable bench, being asked by Himawari to hook Pansy up with Sun-chan…here we go again…

Hoshiai no Sora – 02 (Second Impressions)

A sport’a anime’s second episode typically has three goals: introduce each character on the team, demonstrate the protagonist’s value to that team, and explain how the sport works to the viewer. In this regard, Hoshiai no Sora sticks to the script by showing Maki dominate the twenty lap test and rapidly pick pick up the basic tennis swings. And those swings are demonstrated with delicate slow animation. It’s informative, engrossing, high quality fair.

But Stars Align earns another must watch rating because it tackles bullying, homosexuality, child abuse (and how everyone can be oblivious to the warning signs), and the desperate situation an abused spouse must deal with behind the scenes. It tackles each of these points without pretension or being over the top and just wow. This show does not disappoint!

Hoshiai no Sora – 01 (First Impressions)

After smacking him to the ground, Maki’s father delivers a rib-shattering kick to his teen son for good measure. Maki crawls to the corner of his apartment’s brightly lit living room and curls into a shivering ball. His father takes all the money, almost laughing, and walks away. Some time later, Maki silently finishes dinner for himself and his hard working single mother.

Hoshiai no Sora is a well drawn sports anime about a loser tennis club, a transfer student with epic reflexes, and a team captain who must win the summer tournament or lose his club funding. From garden gnomes in front lawns, to heavy-set female characters, its world is richly detailed and lived-in and the people living in it have much more going on than you may first suspect. This show is the true dark horse of Fall Season.

Grand Blue – 07 – Just Ask Her Out Directly and Get Rejected, Losers!

Unlike Chio-chan, which mixes its scenarios up pretty well and always keeps you guessing what will befall its characters from week to week, Grand Blue often follows a familiar formula.

In this formula, Iori and Kouhei yell at each other a lot with increasingly contorted faces, while Iori’s college classmates express their disapproval of the very idea of Chisa dating/living with Iori. They’re his friends…until evidence he’s close to Chisa emerges, and then they want to literally kill him.

This act is wearing a bit thin, to be honest, and the reason is in the title of this post: these assholes need to stop blaming Iori for their romantic troubles! If they like Chisa (which is dubious, as none of them actually even know her; they just think she’s cute, which she is), they should ask her out.

If they all get rejected (which they most certainly will be, which lets face it is why they won’t ask), well then, tough noogies! But they’d get closure on the Chisa matter. Instead, they take all their frustrations out on Iori, and we have to watch it. It’s not pleasant, nor is it that funny! Meanwhile, Chisa is pushed off to the side, barely involved aside from the odd glare or blush.

The show flips the script by giving us a doubles tennis competition with the Tinkerbell tennis club, whose blue-haired captain wants revenge for the pageant fiasco. He’s also not interested in playing fair, as he spikes all the booze of Peekaboo’s spectators, as well as the hard-hitting Ryuu and Shinji, with what seems to be Everclear.

In the midst of the matches, we learn that both Chisa and Iori are extremely competent at tennis and would even make fine members of Tinkerbell, if only its captain and other members weren’t such arrogant pricks. I also lked how Chisa punished Iori for his ill-conceived cheers by taking his sweats and wearing them herself.

In any case, Peekaboo manages to pull an upset, netting them enough funds to take a diving trip to Okinawa. Less pathetic, jealous college buddies, more fun diving trips, please! Fulfill the promise of that painfully upbeat opening!

Usakame – 01 (First Impressions)

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Ayako has great airbags, Kinako has great strength and Karumi has a heart of gold and somehow ended up in the broom closet. They are the school tennis club.

I’ve used the phrase ‘strong comedic timing’ a lot this season but Usakame is by far the strongest. Like Space Patrol it is incredibly quick, somehow packs a narrative with pleasant emotional appeal within its 4 minute run time, its tremendously ugly, and brilliantly funny.

Seriously, this is the best comedy so far and there’s no pretension or art school wank to it. Watch it now!

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Cross Ange: Tenshi to Ryuu no Rondo – 16

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Cross Ange is completely comfortable changing its tone, mood and focus each week and sometimes what it chooses to be can be interesting and other times… not as much. This week, it was an over-the-top comedy, followed by a dreadfully terrible conflict sequence.

If I wanted Cross Ange to be a comedy, I think I would have enjoyed this week a decent bit. Unfortunately, that’s not really what drew me to the show sixteen episodes ago and I was completely un-engaged from start to finish.

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To sum up, this week pitted Salamandinay against Ange at an arena, where we get to laugh at how seriously they take each recognizable earth sport, or how sports-anime-like their rivalry goes.

Then the girls become friends through their rivalry and a space time tornado shows up and destroys things until Ange takes command and gets Salamandinay to fire her world-destroying weapon in a way that saves the day and only unnamed side characters die mostly off camera so all ends well.

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Honestly, nothing worked at all in this episode, so I’m going to hop right into what didn’t and that starts with Ange herself. Ange’s spiteful, confrontational personality felt out of place last week and, while the show desperately tries to sell me on the idea that Ange knows Sala wants to use her as a tool, Ange misses every opportunity to use Sala back… or make any workable alternative plan of her own in the mean time.

Worse, after some sports the princesses become best friends, which makes Ange’s outbursts here and last week feel pointless and plot delaying.

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Even without Ange’s personality draining my interest, the conflict that consumes the final third of the episode was just a drag. Yet again, we as viewers have to sit through a lengthy scene where characters say how terrible it all is but ARE SITTING THERE not doing anything except telling us how terrible it is.

There’s no sense of tension in the tornado scene. It’s there, doing… something… to the Dragon city but it doesn’t seem to be in a hurry. At least, not unless it’s threatening Vivian’s mommy. Otherwise, it’s just there waiting to be solved by our heroines.

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If I had to choose one thing I actually liked, it would be the unintentionally funny scene where we see Vivian’s mother’s family photo where she and Vivian are posed together. Sure, Vivian is younger and happy and we’re meant to accept that this proves that she really is Vivian’s mom.

Except she’s wearing the same clothes that’s she’s worn since she was introduced 2 episodes ago. Which would mean she hasn’t changed in the decade since Vivian went missing…

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Braverade’s Take:

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Cross Anko is a show in search of a higher score, but my conditions for bestowing one depended on whether we’d be past the crossroads Ange reached: would she decide what to do? Yet, for everything that happened this week, she’s not that far removed from her position at the end of last week. That’s not a lot of movement, so 7 it is. Don’t get me wrong, I consider a 7 a fair and respectable score for what we got.

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While Ange still isn’t clear what to do yet, it’s ultimately the desire to protect Vivian that motivates her to heroic action, requiring collaboration with “Salako.” Unfortunately, that teamwork occurs during a spacetime attack, apparently by Embryo, that was very confusing and free-wheeling. If he was capable of wreaking this level of destruction on the Dragon world, why is it even still here, let alone maintaining large sports centers?

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Along with the requisite AngexTusk “Rom-antics”, I actually quite enjoyed Ange and Salako going at it in tennis, baseball, ping-pong, auto racing, golf, etc. Heck, even Twister suggested these two were quickly running out of ways to ‘fight’ each other (and was half-surprised Tusk didn’t find a way to fall on top of them).

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The games improved Salako’s opinion of Ange, just as her cooperation improved it to the point Salako wants to be friends with her once the danger passes. I like the fact we have two princesses, one of whom is trying to get the other out of forced retirement. But is Vivian, dear as she is, really the only thing Ange cares about protecting?

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Oregairu – 03

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Hikigaya meets the androgynous Totsuka Saika, who asks him to play a match with him and then asks if he’ll join the tennis club. Later, Yui brings him to the Service club so he can formally ask for help practicing, at which time Yui officially joins the club so the mission can be taken on. While practicing, the “it-crowd” led by Yumiko and Hayama asks if they can use the courts; Hikgaya bristles, but agrees to a mixed doubles match to deide who will coach Totsuka. Using the winds he knows from eating lunch in solitude and an assist from Yukino after Yui sprains her ankle, they win the match, but Yumiko runs into the fence and gets all the attention.

For all his proud internal monologue about living life the way he wants to – as a loner – rather than by circumstances, Hikigaya is not entirely content with his situation, which is why he actually welcomes the friendships of Yukino, Yui, and now the very girlish Saika (voiced by a girl; Komatsu Hikako). He curses himself for instinctively bowing submissively to Hayama, even though he gets his name wrong. He’s made do as a loner for years and tries to convince himself that’s the ideal state of being for him, he cannot deny a measure of envy towards “normal” or “popular” peers.

The thing is, Yumiko and Hayama are boring as shit, and two-dimensional. The friends Hikigaya has made are weird and socially awkward, like him. The fact is, he’s not alone. This week he learns that whether he’s alone and awkward or in a group and awkward, that popular clique will sill look down on him. And just because the unpopular people happen to get lucky and beat the popular people in a tennis match doesn’t mean they’ve magically moved up the social ladder. But as far as inter-group conflict goes, everything was pretty civil, which is about all you can ask for on the battlefield that is high school.


Rating: 7 (Very Good)

Stray Observations:

  • We challenge this series to avoid the temptation to put Saika in a maid outfit (though his seiyu was also maid/pirate Marika Kato). Bonus points if they can keep Yukino and Yui out of them, too.
  • Her tsun-tsun moment when Yui calls her a friend: predicable, but cute. 
  • We also liked Yukino’s line about how in spite of all the insults and remarks she lets fly, she’s never once lied. And she doesn’t: Hiki does win the match.
  • When the tennis match happened, we knew the “wind changing at lunch” remark Hikigaya made earlier would probably come into play.

Natsuiro Kiseki – 06

With her mother out of town for a couple days, Natsumi must juggle feeding Daiki, doing her homework, and practicing for an important doubles match against regional champs. Wanting to help, Yuka spearheads a wish that literally splits Natsumi into two people, so one of them can focus on tennis, while the other studies and does housework. When the day of the match arrives, Natsumi panics and makes lots of errors, until the wish wears off, and the Natsumi who got valuable advice from Saki merges with the other, and they bounce back and make a match of it. That evening the four friends attend a night festival where they place their wishes on a lantern.

Like body-switching, doppleganger episodes can be a lot of fun to watch, if done properly, as it was this week. The target of the cloning was Natsumi, who just happened to be in the middle of a week of hell which she might not get through in one piece…so Yuka helpfully wishes up a second Natsumi and presto, things are gettin’ done in Aizawaland. Her initial annoyance with the situation feels right, but so does her realization that having two of you has distinct advantages. Natsumi in particular was a good choice; she’s headstrong, stubborn, and proud, we always wondered how she’d interact with…herself. It’s bumpy at first, but eventually they get into synch.

As Saki tells her, Natsumi can also be single-minded to her detriment; by splitting in two she’s not only able to experience two things at once, but also focus on more than one single goal, in her case, winning her last mach with Saki. She gets advice from Saki as the other her tries to change up her game. Predictably, when she’s still split, the tennis match doesn’t go so well at first (we really enjoyed the graceful and powerful tennis animation, by the way), but thankfully the wish wears off just in time to save face and make the match close. All’s well that ends well, and Daiki never sees both Natsumis at once. Natsumi and Saki have also come a long way, which will make Saki’s eventual departure all the more painful.


Rating: 8 (Great)

Natsuiro Kiseki – 05

Rinko catches a cold and Yuka nurses her back to health. The next day, Yuka gets sick and can’t hang out with the other three. She’s out of commision for four days, during which Natsumi, Rin and Saki take measure of their relationship with her.

This week there were no dates, no girls gettting stuck together or switching bodies. In fact, not much of anything happened at all. Saki and Natsumi agreed to play one final match together at the request of their senpais, but there’s no match this week, while Rin and Yuka both get sick. It’s a quiet, contemplative episode of simply hanging out and existing.

We’re okay with that – not every week needs to be a slapstick comedy based on a granted wish gone wrong. And as always, the girls are fun to watch even when they’re not doing anything. Laid-back anime that’s still entertaining is no easy task, but this series works for us. Also, the whale hallucinations were a nice trippy touch. That Rin is a weird one…


Rating: 6 (Good)