Renai Boukun – 06

It’s a half-beach, half test-of-courage episode, with Akane trying to befriend Seiji’s sister Akua in the former and warning Guri to stay away from Seiji in the latter, all while Guri goofs off as usual in both and Yuzu always finds herself closer to Seiji than her beloved Akane.

After he rejects her advances, Shikimi notifies Seiji what was hinted at last week; that Akane and Yuzu’s families serve as swords and shields, respectively, with her role as a branch family member being support of the other two.

Meanwhile Akua remains cold to Akane until she’s attacked by the rabid demon penguin Stolas, then rescued largely thanks to Akane’s brute strength. She concedes that her brother likes strong women, so she’s at least a good match in that regard, if no other.

The beach was little more than a fresh setting for the Akane’s violent lunacy, which is less instrumental in the second segment, in which a Ghostbuster-cosplaying Guri leads everyone on a test of courage through the school at the behest of a couple who wants her to make them a couple forever.

The lunacy here lies in the fast-paced gauntlet of all the typical things you worry about running into at school after dark, from the spirits of dead students to self-playing pianos, moving stone busts, and the ever-present anatomical model. There’s no shortage of energy, at least for a few bursts.

But both during and after the test, at the end of which it’s revealed the couple were dead to begin with and needed a little help passing on to the hereafter, Akane makes it clear to Guri that she’s only going to tolerate this lovey-dovey harem thing for so long, so if she wants to remain friends, she’d better stay away from Seiji.

As if to underscore her seriousness, Akane doesn’t whip out her knives to threaten Guri. She also tells the very naive cupid that love, happy or sad, causes one’s heart to ache, and if that’s not happening with Guri, maybe she should reconsider being her rival.

I knew things were eventually going to get more serious, but I’m still not convinced that’s the best move for a show that doesn’t have a lot going for it besides its rapid-fire comedy.

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WWW.Working!! – 04

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This fourth episode of WWW.Working!! seems content to continue running three gags firmly into the ground: Hana is really bad at cooking, Shiho is extremely vindictive, and Rui likes Higashia but can’t tell him.

Everyone else is kinda just around, and Higashida exhibits a stubborn cynicism about just about everything that makes him a hard guy to root for. He has a couple choice rejoinders, but it’s not enough.

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By the episode’s end, Hana has made more chocolate for Higashida, and it’s just as bad as her first attempt, sending Higashida into an unimaginative psychedelic trance. Shiho buys Yuuta dog food, because she’s horrible, and Rui makes chocolate for Higashida, but gives it to Miri instead (who goes on to give Higashida a surprise taste).

Back when I started this show, I took solace in the fact the characters showed promise, such that the lack of a plot that moved forward quickly might not be a problem. But to stay invested, the characters need to be more than just their quirks (or in Higashida’s case, his attitude). This week they weren’t, and the episode suffered.

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WWW.Working!! – 03

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This week the last two characters who appeared in the initial promo art are introduced, starting with Yanagiba Miri, who is not a staff member but a customer Daisuke initially believes is a ghost.

Turns out she’s just a truant from his very class, who got sick earlier in the year and is now worried she won’t make friends. Daisuke’s numerous protests for her to “Go to school!” are good for a chuckle in an otherwise par-for-the-course episode.

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There was initially some potential in the pairings of Daisuke/Hana and Shiho/Yuuta in the forest “test of courage” segment, but aside from learning her parents are just as “weird” as his, not much happens on the former front, while Yuuta’s insistence he and Shiho start over merely as friends only makes her more hungry for pain-and-suffering damages.

Adachi and Maranushi barely register, and the discovery of a raccoon is neither here nor there, though it seems Daisuke will be fostering it at his home, meaning Hana will be by more often than before.

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The second character introduced is the adorable Nagata Rui, who like Yanagiba is Daisuke’s classmate but actually attends school. He tries to get Rui to be friends with Yanagiba, but she instead gets fixated on the fact that Daisuke and Hana seem to be close.

It’s clear Rui sees Daisuke as a potential mate, and Hana probably wouldn’t mind if they dated, while he sees neither girl that way. In this regard, he’s the same somewhat oblivious romantic lead as Takanashi, but with one key, merciful difference: he’s not obsessed with small cute things.

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Gakkou Gurashi! – 02

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After watching the first episode a second time (man was that creepy!) and now this one with full knowledge of what’s going on from start to finish, I’ve gained an even greater appreciation for GG!’s ability to show us one thing in the center of the frame while something slithers on the edges, and I mean that both visually and thematically. As the show’s point of view shifts to more aware characters, the dark imagery is far more overt, but remains just as effective and creepy.

We start off inside the head of Yuki’s friend Kurumi, who is dreaming of the time the guy she liked (and joined the track club for) suddenly…turned, and grabbed her while on the rooftop, enjoying the sunset. Just when she was wishing that time would stop in that moment, she’s thrust into to a purgatory far darker and harsher than she’d bargained for.

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That purgatory is, of course, the school, where only four girls remain alive and uninfected by whatever malady turned the rest of the school into zombies. Kurumi, Rii-san, and Miki not only struggle to survive, but also take care of Yuki, who still believes the school is the way it was. She even believes the club advisor, Megu-nee, is still alive, if she ever was, of course.

The show does an exquisite job placing Megu-nee in the clubroom at angles where it’s clear Yuki sees her (and even an extra meal at her seat), but the dialogue of the girls carefully makes clear Megu-nee is not there. But they don’t let that on to Yuki, or about anything being amiss, lest she suffer another, even more severe mental break. As Rii-san says, they’re not experts, so it’s best to wait and see.

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Thankfully things don’t seem to be that dire as zombie-surrounded schools go. Part of this is that the zombies are slow and dumb, as demonstrated when Kurumi uses one of the box of ping pong balls that fell on Yuki last week to distract a zombie that’s come close to the desk barricade. With it’s back turned it’s an easy kill for Kurumi, but she catches a glimpse of her still-charged cell phone, and has to re-steel herself to finish it off.

And she has to believe they’re “its” now, despite some evidence to the contrary: the boys still “play soccer” out in the yard; and most of them leave school around nighttime, as if they’re headed home. Is this behavior explained by the fact they still harbor a piece of their memories? The girls don’t know. All they know is, they can’t let them touch them.

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When Yuki unilaterally announces there’s to be a test of courage one night, Rii-san uses it as an excuse to brave the area beyond the barricades to make a supply run. Everyone stocks up on Nummy Sticks in the school store without incident, but when Rii-san and Yuki enter the library, Rii-san encounters a zombie in there, in a sequence that’s pitch-perfect for dread, atmosphere, timing, and intensity.

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Here, as was indicated on other occasions, Megu-nee serves not as an endangering ghost on the side of the zombies, but as a guardian angel: Yuki’s common sense and survival instinct given human form only Yuki can see and hear and even touch. 

Yuki is clearly dealing with quite a few delusions right now, but Megu-nee is one of them that provides some peace of mind for the others. If Yuki tells them Megu-nee is near, they can rest assured she’ll be okay on her own for a while, as we see when she stays put so they can lure the zombie to them and take it out, all without Yuki noticing anything amiss (she also assumes they’re playing up the test of courage.)

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Though back behind the safety of their barricades with no harm done, Kurumi can’t escape her nightmare of the guy she likes suddenly turning and grabbing her. We see more of the dream the second time round, as she falls to the ground and, in a moment of terror, grabs the object closest to her—her now-trusty shovel—and swings as hard as she can, taking the guy out.

She wakes up in a panic, but then we see the value of having Yuki and her unique perspective around despite all the extra work taking care of her involves. The half-asleep Yuki wants to repeat her third and final year together with Kurumi, which gives Kurumi comfort.

Yuki phrases it this way because her grades suck and she’s believes she’s at risk of repeating her final year of high school But I’m sure Kurumi doesn’t want this to be the final year of their lives, and thus “repeating” the year—a year in which they’re alive and well-fed and most importantly, together, is something she and the other two can get behind.

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Nagato Yuki-chan no Shoushitsu – 15

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Yuki’s temporary “disappearance” felt like it would be a kind of catalyst to propel her and Kyon together, but in it’s aftermath, one would be forgiven for thinking they’re back to the way they were back in episode one, still trying to feel each other out. They’re both searching for a way to act normal, but since thing were so abnormal for a time there, it’s understandably tough; especially when Kyon isn’t sure this Yuki feels the same way as the ephemeral one who confessed to him.

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But what better way to get two people back on the same page than a beach trip? This episode actually made me pretty excited because I myself will be going on a beach trip tomorrow, along with the rest of the staff (resulting in an unfortunate but unavoidable hiatus in reviews for the day). The bright sun, the hot sand, the swimsuits…it’s a very fun, summer-y vibe.

And both Yuki and Kyon have friends who are ready, willing and able to do little things here and there to make their reconnection easier, like Kyouko kicking a ball to the other end of the beach, sending Yuki out to get it, and ordering Kyon to follow her and play ball.

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Kyon’s little sister comes along on the trip, and even manages to provide an unintentional assist by kicking his brother into a compromising position with Yuki that neither of them seem to mind; in fact, they’re kind of entranced until Kyon’s sister snaps them out of it.

But the fact of the matter is, both he and Yuki are thinking the same thoughts about acting normally, while meanwhile having fun spending time together one-on-one.

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Tsuruya provides another key assist by pairing Kyon not to Haruhi (who at this point is pretty much out of the running…amazing figure or no) but to Yuki for the “test of courage” at night, which turns out to be nothing more than a pleasant evening stroll to a lake known for its swarms of fireflies; a romantic spot if ever there was one.

When Kyon hears Asahina screaming in fright (she thinks they’re will-o-the-wisps for some reason; one of the weaker aspects of the story this week), he runs in that direction, but not before taking Yuki by the hand.

Yuki is clearly exhilarated by being swept along, and even when they reach their destination, neither of them let go, but just soak in the tranquil beauty of their surroundings. Looks like these kids are gonna be fine. Will they (re)confess to each other in the finale, and if so, who will do it first? We shall see.

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Nisekoi – 11

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Jeez-o-Pete…is it really that common for five-year-old Japanese kids to make these kinds of promises? At least two girls seem to be convinced (or hopeful, in Kosaki’s case), that Raku is the one they made the promise to ten years ago. But of course, it can’t be both of them.

The sorting out once-and-for-all is put off though, due to two big events: first, Chitoge’s sixteenth birthday, and second, Ruri’s pairing up of Kosaki and Raku to go out together to find gifts for her. About the first part: the first sorta-not-really date between them is lovely to behold, the starting with Kosaki making sure she looks correct in the reflection of the same cafe window Raku is sitting behind.

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The two are still under the mistaken impression that neither is interested in the other, until Kosaki finally exhibits some initiative, first by showing Raku her secret vantage point of the city (which is gorgeous and calls to mind the end of Whisper of the Heart, of all things), but also calls him by name. Flustered by all this sudden affection, rather than ask what Kosaki’s birthday is, Raku accidentally asks if she was the girl from ten years ago.

Her affirmative response shocks him even more, along with us: we don’t know what’s gotten into Kosaki, but we like it: no longer mincing words or hiding her feelings. She and Raku come so close to embracing when Raku’s phone rings, which is incredibly lame, but that’s okay; some progress has been made. Not as much as we (or Ruri) would hope for, but some.

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That brings us to the ridiculous party Claude and the rest of Chitoge’s yakuza family have prepared, complete with Claude’s Claudey, gaudy gift of a Maybach Excelro, which is indeed quite exclusive; we love how the license-less Chitoge could care less. We also like how Raku’s gift of a gorilla doll that looks kinda like Chitoge moved her much more.

When the two end up on her balcony, she asks if he still likes the girl he made the promise to, thinking it was her, and he says yes, thinking it was Kosaki. But it isn’t as if he doesn’t like Chitoge too. Slowly, information is being distributed to various parties, but the matter of who made a promise to whom back then remains a vexing mystery.

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Rating: 8 
(Great)

Nisekoi – 10

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If we had to choose a girl we wanted Raku to choose, we’d have to say we’d still choose Kosaki, even though she’s unfathomably inept at expressing her feelings for him as he is, and even though she may not even be the girl he made a pact with when younger. It’s hard not to root for any Hana-Kana-voiced character—unless she’s trying to kill all the other characters, or is simply annoying.

However, we have to say Chitoge probably won this week’s round. All Raku wanted was to be paired with Kosaki for the test of courage, during which they’d have to hold hands the whole time. As it happens, all Kosaki wants is to be paired with Raku. When the show decides not to pull a fast one and actually pair them up, it’s almost too good to be true; and it’s another case of the two being virtually paralyzed by their mutual (but oddly not fully mutually detected) attraction.

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But the moment Raku learns that Chitoge is lost and alone in the dark woods with a broken flashlight, he grudgingly abandons Kosaki’s soft, warm, possibly nervous hand and goes to his fake girlfriend’s aid. Kosaki loses, but nevertheless Raku’s actions reinforce why she loves him: he won’t stand by while a friend is in trouble. Raku can deny caring or worrying about Chitoge all he wants, but we know better, and so should he.

And just as Kosaki was as enthusiastic about being with Raku as he with her, Chitoge is just as hopeful the boy who loves her will come to her rescue. Raku arrives on cue, and while the two exchange forced gestures of indifference towards each other, the fact Chitoge insists she and Raku start addressing each other by first name is less about being seen as a more convincing fake couple, and more about unwittingly becoming a real one.

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Rating: 8 
(Great)

Sakura Trick – 04

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As it turns out, Yuu managed to convince Mitsuki that she tripped and fell on Haruka. If that sounds like a cop-out or delay of the inevitable, it helps to remember that this show does its best to avoid protracted conflicts or drama. Instead, it prefers to focus on the little “mini-dramas” that are always prevalent in loving relationships (regardless of gender) in which separation of feet can feel like miles, or hours of being apart can feel like days.

Haruka stresses out whenever Yuu gets near another girl, but Yuu is always there at the end to assure her there’s nothing to fear. We liked how Haruka admitted that she liked how she and Yuu were different heights, and how Yuu was briefly “taller” than her while sitting on her lap. It’s little details like that which prove the show isn’t simply interested in cheap yuri fanservice, but in fully and carefully illustrating why Haruka loves Yuu so much and vice versa.

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Of course, Yuu’s hasty trip excuse wasn’t all that effective, and ever since, Mitsuki has been suspicious and interrogatory,even conscripting Kaede and Yuzu to spy on them for her. Acknowledging that going behind their friends’ back is wrong, they observe the couple anyway, but they show a sort of unconscious loyalty by delivering a crap report back to Mitsuki. We may see Haruka and Yuu making out all the time, but they’ve typically been careful to do it in seclusion; their only slip-up involving Mitsuki’s walk-in. They also rely on a bit of luck, which is what happens when they’re invited out for fireworks by Kaede.

When Kaede is nowhere to be found and lots are drawn, Haruka thinks a test of courage is afoot, and it’s sweet to see her fantasy comes true when a frightened Yuu turns to her for relief. Of course, the one inadvertently scaring Yuu turns out to be Mitsuki, who was trying to spy on them again but got caught up in the innate creepiness of her dark arboreal surroundings. It’s here when Haruka offers a supportive hand to her, and she realizes Haruka is actually a very kind, caring, person. So much so, in fact, that Mitsuki seems to be involuntarily developing a crush on her.

7_very_goodRating: 7 (Very Good)

Yahari Ore no Seishun Love Come wa Machigatteiru – 08

Yukinoshita Haruno, Hikigaya Hachiman, Hiratsuka Shizuka, Yuigahama Yui, Yukinoshita Yukino

Hikigaya and his classmates plan to use the nighttime test of courage to help Rumi. Hikigaya’s strategy is to sic the popular kids on them, who act threatening and demand the group of friends choose three of their own to stay behind, essentially betraying them. They choose Ruri first, but have to choose two others, and they start to turn on each other. Before they choose the third girl, Ruri hits the older kids with her camera flash and saves all of her peers. At the end of the trip, Yukino’s sister Haruno picks her up, and Yui and Hikigaya both suspect her car is the one that almost killed Yui’s dog.

The saga of helping Tsurumi Rumi with her social problems wasn’t quite enough to occupy two episodes, so Oregairu pads part two with fanservice, first with all the girls (plus Totsuka) frolicking in the river in swimsuits, then with random cosplaying, Yui’s little Dominatrix get-up being the most egregious. In both cases Hikigaya has no choice but to commend Yui on her sexiness. But by the episode’s end he seems no closer to forming deeper bonds with either Yui or Yukino, aside from a few moments of interaction.

But while the mission to help Rumi was the primary focus of these episodes, it also offered an opportunity for Hikigaya, Yukino, and Yui to bond more with the “it” kids: Hayama, Yumiko, and Kakeru. They even join forces to teach Rumi’s friends a lesson, though they don’t have to complete the lesson, as Rumi seems to sorta fix things by saving her peers. Still, nothing’s wrapped up with a neat little bow, and in the end, it still seems like Haruno has a strange hold on Yukino – much like Masuzu and her sister/rich family. But it’s still too nebulous to make any judgments about it. That’s a bit disappointing, considering we’re more than halfway through the season.


Rating: 6 (Good)