Hajimete no Gal – 04

While wholesomely innocently researching “gals” on the interwebs to learn how to interact with Yame and Ranko better, Junichi comes across an extremely cute gal with a loyal following. This gal’s necklace has the same snake motif as Kashii Yui’s hairpin, so yeah, it’s pretty evident from the start that “Boa-sama” is Yui in disguise.

Yui is always presenting a calm, mature identity at school, but beneath that exterior she’s a vain, arrogant, imperious girl, labeling all of her classmates with various servant’s names and titles. Junichi has always been a loyal “doggy” to her, and isn’t interested in sharing him with some uncultured gal.

While Yame is hanging out with her galfriends, Yui springs out of the bushes and strikes like the snake she loves wearing, taking an extremely dumb Junichi on a date.

Meanwhile it’s on the tip of Shinpei’s tongue who Boa-sama reminds him of; an increasingly irritated and thus less careful Boa throws him a bone by describing him and his crew of losers to a man.

While secretly recording her flirting with Junichi in the classroom (which is illegal in Japan), Boa-sama gets final visual proof and shares it with the lads, who are shocked by the revelation. Despite Shinpei’s efforts to reveal his discovery in secret, Ranko gets wind of it.

Sensing that being blunt will be best against the painfully dense Junichi, Yui passionately confesses to him on the roof. When he turns her down (as he’s dating Yame), she immediately cracks and her extremely fiery, petulant personality gushes out.

She also plays her trump card: she secretly recorded her date with him (which is illegal in Japan), and orders him to break up with Yame and go out with her, or she’ll send the video to Yame.

That’s checkmate for Junichi…or it would be if he didn’t have a gang of friends watching both his back and Yame’s. Ranko arrives with the three losers, superhero-style (complete with ill-advised high jump off a ledge; Ranko lands as a hero would; the guys eat shit).

Ranko counters Yui’s Yame-harming blackmail with blackmail of her own: the knowledge that Yui is Boa-sama. Yui surrenders, but she won’t give up so easily, and the war has only begun…just as Junichi’s well-endowed childhood friend prepares to take the stage.

While the lack of any real suspense regarding who Boa-sama was, and Junichi’s general incompetence in everything but being an easy mark for…just about anyone, the episode was buoyed by Taketatsu Ayana’s strong performance voicing the many sides of Yui, and while the lolicon guy still needs to stop talking, the losers, Shinpei in particular, were in top form this week.

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Hajimete no Gal – 03

As expected, Yukana’s very tan best friend Honjou Ranko inserts herself into her relationship with Junichi by writing him a love letter then mounting him behind the school. After a brief feint, Yukana laughs off Ranko’ actions as just messing around with Junichi…but Ranko seems determined to break them up.

A very predictable development, combined with a lot less comedy (a lot of it recycled jokes that don’t hit as hard, or at all, the third or fourth time around) made for a less-than-stellar Hajimete no Gal.

While out on a shopping trip, Junichi learns more of the challenges of dating a gal, like the need to properly choose which clothes look better on her, or defending her from man-sluts. In both cases, Ranko tries to upstage Junichi, finally meeting him at his house to talk.

She mounts him again, assuring him she’d rather take his virginity then let him get with Yukana, whom she’s secretly in love with. Ranko’s kinda all over the place, and Kitamura Eri does fine voice work, she doesn’t have much to work with here.

I guess I should be glad Ranko’s not in love with Junichi, but he still gets off the hook way too easily. Indeed, Junichi moves at the speed of a sloth throughout this episode, which I suppose is par for the course considering his self-image as a loser, but it’s still pretty annoying.

This week he did next to nothing—other than halfheartedly trying to tell off the guys hitting on Yukana, which failed—to deserve all the attention he’s getting. Next week it appears will involve more Kashii Yui, who was obviously going to be more than just the Miss Perfect Junichi believes her to be. She looks particularly pissed watching Ranko tease him.

Cheating Craft – 02

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The Gist: L-type and C-type students go at each other and then the teacher to win their way through the school entrance exam. Body doubles, poison bees, copy-cat pingpong balls, and even micro-slicing a paper in half to repeat the answers, this show shows a ton of clever cheating and anti-cheating tricks of it’s world.

Unfortunately, that’s all it shows.

Verdict: While I got a many chuckles out of the episode, it was equal parts visual gags and technique-names, with no meaningful character development, no memorable music, and a snails crawl plot. The sound design was good at least but, at the end of the day, this is not the kind of show that leaves much room for a review.

Dropped… but:

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Cheating Craft – 01 (First Impressions)

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This C-Type fights to protect his L-Type with a tranq-pen…

The Gist: in a world where a single test, the National Special-Level University Exam of Fate, dictates a person’s entire life status, there are two types of students: L-Types who’s learning power and expensive training regimens lets them pass the test and C-Types who use equally expensive means to cheat their way through.

This story will involve a boy named Shokatsu Mumei and a girl named Ou Koi, who are apparently trying to pass the test to have their father released from prison. However, for most of this episodes twelve minute run time, we get to see the story of other boys passing or failing the test.

Roll… credits?

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You may enjoy Cheating Craft because it has a great sense of humor and is merciless satire of all things testing. It’s short and to the point and the narration really works to set the stage. even if I have no idea what the stage is set to do.

It’s probably okay to skip Cheating Craft because it’s a relatively silly concept for a show and only last 12 minutes. It basically doesn’t introduce any characters or meaningfully set up their circumstances. It’s also doubtful that the characters will develop into anything, given the shows apparent hard-core focus on satire.

It’s also not much of a looker either…

Oji’s Verdict: I’m sticking with Cheater Craft for now because the subject matter is pretty novel and, so far, I’ve enjoyed the humor.

It is over the top in all the right ways. For goodness sakes, its so totally not afraid that it tells us 2 characters we haven’t even met yet are going to be love interests!

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One Punch Man – 05

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No bad guys to fight this week; just a Hero Association registration exam to complete. Saitama’s peers snicker at him right up until he demolishes all of the records during his fitness testing. Watching Saitama snap from dopey blank look to serious glare is always a delight, and the way he took those tests around the corner and had his way with them made for some hilarious images, particularly the vertical jump. Why whack-a-mole?

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Unfortunately, there’s a written test too, and Saitama doesn’t do to well on that. Genos gets a 50/50 in both tests, and assumes from the top of the letter in Saitama’s packet that he’ll be joining him in the rarefied Class-S, but it’s just a lowly Class-C. His subsequent analysis of the letter only gets Saitama madder.

Meanwhile, Genos’ special rookie exception attracts the attentino of a blue-haired fellow hero. Saitama and Genos meet the goofy Class-A hero Snek (not “Snake!”), but Saitama couldn’t care less what the man has to say, preferring to see how big a bubble he can blow with his gum (another riotously funny image).

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Now that he’s Class-S, Genos wants to try his hand at Saitama once more, to see how far he has to go to reach his master’s level. In a vast, abandoned empty space, the two go to town, with Genos unleashing his entire arsenal at Saitama without managing to touch a hair on his–I-I mean, touch his head.

Genos insists Saitama stop fooling around and fight him seriously, but Saitama stops an inch short of his face on a “serious” punch, his trademark One Punch, and then suggests they go to lunch. Genos, suddenly a little paler than a moment ago, saw the murderous intent in that punch, and knows what would have happened if it had landed.

It’s a frustrating exchange for Genos, who can’t see a scenario in which he’d ever come close to Saitama’s power. But unlike Saitama himself, he does want to figure out the secret of that power (stubbornly refusing to believe it was just moderately strenuous training). But Genos does end up beating Saitama…in a giant udon bucket eating contest.

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Then the blue-haired hero, Amai Mask, finally tracks Genos down and talks to him. Being at the top of Class-A, Genos shot one spot above Amai, and he seems a little miffed by that. Still, it’s only a friendly-ish welcome chat, and Amai is soon off to his penthouse. But the power of his celebrity leaves a lasting impression on the other patrons of the restaurant, and just by being seen with Amai, Genos gets the attention and admiration of everyone, including cute girls.

So both Genos and Saitama were frustrated this week. Genos with the seemingly unclimbable heights to approach his master’s strength; Saitama with being underrated and undervalued by the HA, as well as by Genos deciding to move in with him. Once Saitama gets jobs and completes them quickly and forcefully, I wonder if he’ll actually rise in HA, or continually fall victim to technicalities.

Indeed, after failing to secure a salaryman job, Saitama is now entering employment under a large corporation. Now that being a hero is a job and not just something he does for fun, will he feel even more stifled and unfulfilled, or will he become a celebrity and get fulfillment through the love of his fans? We shall see.

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Owari no Seraph 2 – 02

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Shinoa has the feeling “something horrible’s about to happen” in a world with human experimentation and war with vampires, but that something doesn’t happen this week, so in the meantime, the gang trains. Specifically, with Yoichi having already achieved control and balance with his demon, Yu and Shiho’s turn to attempt to achieve “manifestation.” Once Yu passes out, it’s a waiting game for his friends.

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Now at the mercy of Ashuramaru, she tries to get him to break down, by first showing him a vision of his parents lamenting they created a “devil child”, the “Seraph of the End”, and his dad trying to kill him with a kitchen knife. Then she shows him the strewn bodies of the dead members of his family, who he’s told died because he ran away.

But Yu’s already been through something like this (as have we), and he’s not so easily falling for it this time. He breaks out of Ashuramaru’s illusion, and when she rushes to kill him, he tosses his sword at her, not in surrender, but in understanding: he was once alone; now he isn’t. The same is true of his demon.

He has family in Shinoa and the others. He still has Mika, who he knows wants him to save him. He asks Ashuramaru to be his blade, and in return, he’ll be her friend. She’s a bit annoyed by his new “whatever” attitude, but can’t deny his strength, and agrees to the deal.

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Between Yu and Shiho’s manifestation training sessions, we get a useful look back into the world of vampire politics, with Ferid parading Mikaela about and showing video evidence of Yu-as-Seraph during Kurl’s vampire conference call, making her look bad by undermining her claim she dealt with the Hyakuya clan and anyone who might’ve been the Seraph the humans could use against the vampires.

After a call that got her challenged by one of her peers and placed under a stronger microscope, Krul fumes at Ferid’s apparent insubordination. But Ferid has even more secrets, and even if she kills him, they’ll get out and ruin her. Similarly, she knows Ferid let Yu escape. So the two are bound by secrets with a pawnish Mika between them.

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That’s a grim contrast to the bonds of mutual respect made not just between Yu and his comrades, but between wielder and demon. When it’s Shiho’s turn, his demon Kiseki-o, like Ashuramaru, thinks she’s got his number; the key to enslaving his body: his bedridden sister. In his illusion, Shiho’s friends say they have to move on to find more food, and his sister will only slow him down, they tell him to put her out of her misery. Heck, she told them to tell him.

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It almost works—for about a nanosecond—then Kiseki-o makes the mistake of speaking through Shiho’s sister, all but confirming this is just an illusion; a test, and he needs to look at it that way. Just as Yu threw his sword away when Ashuramaru rushed him, he gives up the power the demon thinks he wants so bad, and will be able to move on and wield once he kills his sister, by turning the knife on himself.

The message to Kiseki-o is clear: Shiho will never see his sister as a burden. Watching how hard Yu fought to protect non-blood family, he would never forgive himself if he didn’t do all he could to protect his blood family, even at the cost of his life. It’s enough strength and conviction to convince Kiseki-o that Shiho is worthy.

When Shiho wakes up, he immediately challenges Yu to a duel, to see who’s stronger. Shinoa lets them, since they’re only playing around, but she and Mitsu are amazed how all three guys were able to achieve manifestation so (relatively) easily, leading the girls to do some digging on their pasts…only to find those pasts have been erased. Hence, something horrible’s probably about to happen, but at least they’re more prepared for it.

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OverLord – 05

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Momonga’s starts to fulfill his desire for the name Ainz Ooal Gown to become known far and wide throughout the world starts out modestly, by entering E-Rantel posing as a young adventurer “Momon”, accompanied by one of his battle maid Narbarel AKA “Nabe”. He knows that he can’t conquer a world he knows next to nothing about, and a great way to learn more is to play things by the book and rise in the ranks of the adventurer guilds.

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Momonga is making a conscious effort to do things carefully and empirically, not making to much noise. Yet his potential to be a bull in the proverbial china shop is evident when he tosses a would-be bully across a tavern, knocking over another adventurer’s precious potion. He gives her one of his to make things right, but his potions are red, not the usual blue, so she takes it to the local pharmacist, Nphirea, who then learns about Momon and is intrigued.

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By then Momon, needing coin but unable to secure high-level jobs, agrees to join an adventuring party, Swords of Darkness. Nphirea seeks out Momon, and both he and the Swords agree to accompany him as his bodyguards on an herb-collecting excursion. Even after annihilating an entire Slane army, Momon remains cautious and is hesitant both to guard Nphirea alone at his present state of knowledge of the new world, and also just plain doesn’t want to go back on his word to join the Swords of Darkness, instead including them.

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Throughout all of this, Nabe remains dutifully by Momon’s side, voicing her displeasure with having to jump through hoops for human trash (though I understand why he didn’t bring Albedo along; she’s more powerful than the battle maid and hence hates being around humans even more than Nabe). There is something to both Momon and Nabe having to restrain themselves in order to fit in and get the knowledge and experience he wants out of this.

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Meanwhile, the next antagonist in Momon’s adventure reveals herself to the audience with lots of helpful expository dialogue with another baddie. They’re members of the secret society of Zuranon, and she, Clementine, has secured a magical item that consumes the one who uses it. She’s heard about Nphirea in E-Rantel, and wants to use it on him, gaining the help of Khaj.

I’m looking forward to seeing where this goes, and the inevitable showdown between Momon/Nabe/Swords of Darkness and these would-be spreaders of chaos and death. But the long and short of it is, we didn’t get to see any of that in this episode; it was largely setup, albeit with some decent world-building.

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OverLord – 04

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Everything about the mages the Slane Theocracy sends to Carne, led by Nigun Grid Lewin of the Sunlit Scripture, indicates they’re tough customers by any measure, and there’s no better way of demonstrating that than by methodically beating down Re-Estize’s head warrior Stronoff with wave after wave of summoned Escaflowne-style mecha-angels.

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Stronoff has offensive magic and is able to carve through a few dozen, but they just keep coming, and his soldiers aren’t strong enough to help him. On the edge of defeat and death, Lord Momonga—sorry, Ainz Ooal Gown—uses the item he gave Stronoff to switch places with him, with Stronoff ending up in the villager’s shelter and Ainz and Albedo facing off against a huge and confident Slane force.

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Lewin and his forces look strong and they feel strong, and they definitely did a number on Stronoff. But as great and famed a warrior as he is, Stronoff is still only a human, and so are they. And the strength and magic of humans turn out to be of no consequence to Ainz and Albedo. He entered the battle prepared for a tough fight, but he turned out to be overly cautious. But that’s okay, because expected them to put up a fight too.

Which is why it’s so strange that I don’t feel cheated in the slightest by the fact Luwin and the Slane mages are nothing but ants before the power of Ainz. After watching them have their way with Stronoff, watching Ainz utterly turn the tables by defeating every weapon at their disposal with comical ease was a lot of fun. I keep using that word because that’s what this show is: loads of badass, giddy, contagious fun.

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Even Albedo (who granted is infatuated with Ainz) can’t restrain her glee at the spectacle she witnessed, setting aside her objections about him even bothering to face such puny opponents and reveling in his awesomeness, along with the way he used Stronoff as a pawn to collect more information on the strength of the local powers, which he’s determined is pretty pathetic.

Back home at Nazarick, Ainz declares his new name and orders the assembled guardians to make sure it becomes an eternal legend that spreads across the world. That, Inner Ainz believes, is the best way (not to mention the most entertaining way) for him to attract the attention of other human players from Yggdrasil. If they made the trip with him to this new fantasy world, he intends to find them.

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OverLord – 03

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From his magic mirror in the Tomb of Nazarick, Momonga is able to watch a group of knights sack a village, brutally slaughtering men, women, and children with impunity, and he realizes something: it’s not really bothering him. The sight of such real violence would have made him sick in the world he came from, but here he finds himself unusually hardened. Instead of watching the pillaging with outrage or disgust, he sees it as an opportunity both to test his abilities and gather information.

But he also wishes to repay a debt to “Touch Me”, another player who once saved him from a band of enemies because “it was common sense”. Do unto others, and all that. Momonga didn’t even have to ask, and neither to the villagers of Carne, as Momonga practices various magics while saving a couple of little kids from their doom, for which they’re grateful, if a bit freaked out by his scary looks.

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It’s immensely fun to watch as he uses lower-level spells to smite the murderous knights, and a slightly higher-level one to reanimate one of their dead into a giant, virtually invincible zombie warrior. Even if he’s a stranger in a strange land figuring things out, he has the advantage of being one of the most powerful beings in that land, at least compared to the people he’s encountered.

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Other than Sebas in the cold open, the fully-armored Albedo is the only one of Momonga’s guardians who appears this week, and while it seems like she’d rather smash all the lowly pathetic humans into jelly, she stays her hand and obeys every order her beloved issues.

It’s great that not only are we following extremely powerful, elite beings in relation to their world, but they might not even be the good guys. Only Momonga, who is, at least in his thoughts, still human, even bothered visiting this village, dragging Albedo along more for procedure/precaution than necessity.

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Touch Me’s words about rescuing the weak being common sense ring true, as Monomga, AKA Ainz Ooal Gown, collects some useful info about some of the geography and politics of the world he finds himself in. But he also reflects an empathy for humanity his beastlike guardians lack; reflected in the Chief Warrior of the Kingdom of Re-estize, Gazef Stronoff, who came from a village much like Carne Village, always wished for help to come when trouble struck.

Help never came for him, but now he works to make sure other villagers aren’t subjected to the same disappointment and neglect. The strong have a duty to protect the weak. Momonga just happened to beat him to it in Carne. And as Stronoff arrives, ahead of another wave of potential enemy knights, Momonga may end up in deeper than he wanted at this juncture, but with all the tools he needs to prevail.

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