Sarazanmai – 02 – Let Slip the Cats of War

As a reward for defeating their first kappa zombie, Keppi bestows upon the boys a silver “Dish of Hope” they can use to wish for anything. Enta snatches it and accidentally wishes for a hatchback-sized cucumber roll, shattering the dish and leaving the three with no reward (unless they’re going to eat that roll…which is on the ground).

Kazuki is eager to earn another dish that he can use not to fulfill his own wish, but that of his little brother Haruka. We learn that he is the “Harukappa” to whom Kazuki is sending selfies of himself-as-Azuma Sara. Kazuki’s only wish is that Haruka is happy, and a dish can only help that cause.

Meanwhile, Kuji Toi is up to more criminal mischief on behalf of his older brother, while Enta receives a Kappazon package meant for Toi—containing a handgun of all things—strengthening Enta’s belief he’s Bad News

When Nyantaro, the fat, awesome neighborhood cat Haruka adores, sneaks into Toi’s weed-growing lab and steels a shipment hidden in cat treats, another ludicrous chase ensues. Kazuki (dressed as Sara again) stops Toi when he threatens Nyantaro with his metal ruler, and refuses to get out of his way or stop following him.

The chase leads them to a couples-only theme park, an employee of which dresses the two up in bee costumes and insists they hold hands the entire time they’re in the park. Kazuki and Toi hold hands and chase Nyantaro on ride after ride, but can’t manage to close the distance, since we’re talking about a neighborhood cat here: if he doesn’t want to be caught, it’s not happening.

We learn a little more about the two bishounen cops from the end of last week, who appear to do an elaborate song and dance of their own to extract desire and create a new cat-based kappa zombie boss.

It’s apparent these two and Keppi’s three young helpers are working at cross purposes, but the cops’ specific motivations, beyond their commitment to “wring out the desire”, remain mysterious.

Not soon after their “performance”, thousands of cats start to float up into the sky, including Nyantaro, and Enta and Keppi (disguised as his date) meet up with Kazuki and Toi to discuss the situation. Enta warns Kazuki to stay away from the kid he’s currently holding hands with, but in order to get his little brother’s favorite cat back, he needs Toi’s help.

Events from there follow a pattern now familiar after the first go-around last week (in what I like to call the Ikuhara Formula): Keppi turns the three lads into kappa, they attack the zombie boss (this time a giant cat), and when they determine its secret (he kidnapped cats and shaved them to give himself a coat of fur so his girlfriend would take him back! Of COURSE!!), they  break through and extract its shirikodama.

Once that’s done, the guys go through the titular sarazanmai, during which it’s revealed that Nyantaro was owned by another family before Kazuki stole it so Haruka could have a cat (even if it was only a neighborhood cat). He defends what he did because he did it for his brother’s sake; his happiness trumping all other considerations.

With the second boss defeated, the lads receive another silver dish of hope, and Kazuki and Toi immediately argue over it, with Toi even brandishing his gun. Since both have brothers they want to make happy, and Keppi informs them they’ll need five to grant a real wish, Toi cedes the dish to Kazuki, but he’s getting the next one.

That night, Kazuki finally completes his mission to take a Sara selfie with a cat (specifically the rescued Nyantaro), to Haruka’s delight. Exhausted from the day of activity, he passes out right there in the park, where he’s approached by none other than Enta…who promptly kisses him! Looks like he’s got a secret too—one that re-contextualizes why he was so concerned with Kazuki hanging around Toi.

The two cops also now realize somebody is out there working against them. It’s likely only a matter of time before the two opposing groups clash. In the meantime, on with the hope-dish collecting!

After two episodes, I now have a better grasp of the beats and rhythms of a show that definitely dances to the beat of its own drum. With less head-scratching to do I could concentrate better on all the little details that contribute to making Sarazanmai such a fun and exciting little show that’s unafraid to challenge contemporary “norms”of gender and sexuality.

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Hanebado! – 09 – Turnabout is Fair Play

Ayano and Nagisa’s preparations for their finals match are interrupted by the inauspiciously conspicuous return of Connie Christensen, who wants a rematch with Ayano. Ayano, who as we know is not the same Ayano Connie embarrassed the last time they crossed, stays cordial, but her first words to Connie—that her panties are showing—demonstrate how unseriously Ayano is taking her.

Ayano’s attention turns to her broken Wei-Wei mascot on her bag, and Shiwahime invites her to a kind of Wei-Wei theme park with Connie (Erena also tags along). The Wei-Wei-ness is like catnip to Ayano, who switches off Badminton Mode and has a lot of fun for once, to the relief of Erena. Meanwhile, Shiwahime inadvertently sabotages Connie’s olive branch to Ayano in the form of a Wei-Wei keychain.

It turns out Connie didn’t return for a rematch at all; she came to express her desire to be a family with Ayano and her mother Uchika. When Connie finally gets the words out, Ayano completely brushes them off, and affably leads Connie to a badminton court, where her first devastating shot sends a clear message that it won’t be a friendly match.

We see more of the perennially lonely Connie’s past when Uchika takes her under her wing and essentially adopts her, while all the while Connie’s knowledge of the existence of a “big sister” who is Uchika’s biological daughter looms over her as a kind of challenge to clear. She wants the acknowledgement of both Uchika—who never once told Connie she was better than Ayano—and Ayano herself.

She doesn’t get it, and I’d argue she doesn’t really deserve it after how she entered Ayano’s life. Sure, Connie thought Ayano was playing mind games with her when they first met, but it doesn’t change the fact that Ayano sought a friendship in good faith, unaware of Connie’s identity.

That being said, Ayano lays the contempt on a little thick, as she essentially transforms into a Badminton Youkai, all crazy eyes and twisted smirks, in utterly rejecting Connie on the grounds she’s resolved to abandon her mom the way she abandoned her.

While Ayano refuses to forgive and forget or turn the other cheek, a dejected Connie returns home with Shiwahime to find the rest of her team has done all three, giving her emotional support when she’s never felt lower. Sorry, Hanebado, but this whole “actually Connie is the victim now, let’s all feel bad for her” isn’t quite working for me.

Who has two thumbs and doesn’t care about Yu’s attempts to get one of the male players to notice her? [holds up two thumbs] This guy. Also, I’m not confident Nagisa practicing until her knees give out is the best strategy for having a good match against Ayano. If Ayano doesn’t clean her clock I’ll be very surprised.

What could turn the tables slightly in Nagisa’s favor is the fact that Ayano returns home to find her mother, big stupid hair bow and all, waiting there to greet her like nothing’s happened. However unpleasant a character Connie may be, she’s no match for the awfulness that is Hanesaki Uchika, Ten-Time Worst Mother of the Year.

Wotaku ni Koi wa Muzukashii – 09 – Changing at Their Own Pace

Hirotaka and Narumi go on a normie date to a theme park, and Hirotaka takes the normie part very seriously, bringing along a piggy bank and fining Narumi whenever she uses an otaku reference or says something a yaoi would say. Never mind the fact that bringing a piggy bank to a date isn’t a very normie thing to do!

Hirotaka is doing this because he believes he won’t truly make progress in his relationship with Narumi until they can spend time as something other than otaku buddies. That is to say, he wants to see the same side of Narumi her other dates saw: the one actually trying to hide her otaku/yaoi sides.

The date proceeds normally, with both Hirotaka and Narumi incurring penalties for letting their true sides slip. Then they reach a haunted boat ride, and in her rush to get aboard, she ends up leaving the platform on a boat not with Hirotaka, but with Kabakura.

Turns out Koyanagi, who ends up in a boat with Hirotaka, made Kabakura take her to a theme park, because she heard Hirotaka and Narumi would be doing it and it sounded fun. Narumi has to cross her arms tightly so as not to accidentally hold Kabakura’s hand, and both are scaredy-cats.

Meanwhile nothing fazes Hirotaka or Koyanagi, though the latter can sense a bit of restlessness on the former’s part. He tells her not to worry too much about how fast things are progressing; it’s not often two people go at the exact same pace. There’s nothing wrong with taking things slow, and if that’s how things are going, there’s no reason to shake things up.

When the two couples meet up then part ways, Narumi and Hirotaka rest a spell on a bench, and Narumi scares the dickens out of Hirotaka by saying “this isn’t working” and “we should end this.” She’s not talking about their relationship, thank God, but about the piggy bank penalties. Once free to talk about otaku stuff, they both feel much more at ease.

She then gives Hirotaka a surprising gift: a pair of earrings. It turns out she too wanted to see a side of him she hadn’t seen before; in this case, the side of Hirotaka who wanted to grow up fast. While the looks of the show on the whole are pretty much average for the genre, the animators take their time on Narumi fiddling with her hair and Hirotaka suddenly pulling it back to reveal she’s wearing (clip-on) earrings too.

He leans in to what looks at first like a kiss to thank her, but it turns into a hug, albeit a tight and romantic one. He thanks her for the earrings, and admits he can be as childish as she claims to be. He had no reason to be concerned about them not going anywhere, or nothing changing, because they are…just at their own pace.

Shokugeki no Souma 2 – 06

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Barring something bizarre (like a tie with one judge abstaining), this battle was only going to end one way: with Souma victorious. There’s no way he’d lose and give up cooking six episodes in.

The show knows we know the outcome, so it must, as it often has in the past, dazzle and entertain us with the process that leads to that outcome. And it succeeds!

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After whipping out bacon that demonstrates his curing and smoking expertise are on par with Ibusaki’s, and revealing that his profiling job was made much easier by guessing Sotsuda’s password and reading all his notes on Souma’s prep.

The very harsh alumnai judges believe the multifaceted umami of the bacon is something Souma simply cannot overcome, until he starts improvising, whipping out four distinct cuts of meat—cheek, tongue, tripe, and fillet—each perfectly prepared in a manner ideal to it, and added as garniture for the stew, in what Souma deems a “meet theme park.”

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Mimasaka predicted someone of Souma’s confidence would turn to improv, but is confident his profiling and detailed preparations will be able to weather anything Souma throws at the judges.

Mimasaka serves his dish first, and the beef/pork umami is violently, knock-’em-sock-’em good, leaving Mimasaka laughing villainously and the judges more weary than ever that Souma’s seemingly thrown-together dish will be any match.

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…But of course it is. Rather than being tossed around in a boxing ring with meat heavyweights, the judges are spirited away to “Yukihee Land” (trademark pending), where they transform into giddy high school girls (yes, including Dojima) running around enjoying life and youth.

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While Mimasaka’s carefully erected house of cards is impressive, it pales in comparison to the encyclopedic display of skill on display, as he puts a Chikuzen stew-like twist on beef stew rather than sticking with the French classic. The individual meats he used impress the judges with how well each was prepared and how they create and exhilarating ride in their mouths and imaginations.

By the end of their meal, the judges are gleefully holding hands without knowing it. The voting is unanimous, and Souma defeats Mimasaka…but he also teaches Mimasaka a lesson.

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Growing up, Mimasaka imitated his stern father’s cooking, and the first time he put a twist on it, he beat his father’s cooking, leading to his exile. He used that same approach intentionally—and with increasing cruelty—throughout his cooking career to advance himself, because it worked.

But for the first time, it didn’t work, and Mimasaka must surrender all of the treasured tools that embody the pride of the previous chefs he beat (in a scene that looks a lot like Hunger Games, what with all the past losers rushing into a container full of knives). Only Takumi refuses to take back his Mezzaluna; it goes to Souma instead, and he’ll get it back when he beats him in a Shokugeki.

Now that Mimasaka has experienced the same shameful, pride-robbing defeat what all the chefs he defeated, like them he begins to question whether he should even cook anymore. But the point of Souma’s lesson was to demonstrate that a true professional chef takes the worst defeat of their life in stride, because the kitchen must open tomorrow, and the customers must be fed.

Meanwhile, Souma continues to look ahead to his future match with Erina (who looks down imperiously before demanding he get her that manga she wanted), while Round 2 of the semifinals between Hayama and Kurokiba begins immediately. And what do you know, I have no idea who’s going to win this one!

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Noragami Aragoto – 09

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Because Yato is in a charitable mood and possibly harbors guilt for the things he did with her, he goes along with Hiiro’s idea to go into the underworld to rescue a conjurer, despite the fact he could very easily get trapped down there by it’s queen, Izanami. When that conjurer turns out to be Ebisu (who is absent for the latest colloquy, correctly suspected, and for whom an arrest warrant is issued), suddenly Yato’s personal dilemma is intertwined with the overarching threat of Ebisu.

For a supposed Big Bad, it’s surprising how casual Yato and Ebisu are when they meet. Perhaps it’s because Yato trusts a far more famous god, or because hasn’t always been the most scrupulous fellow himself (as his continued entanglement with Nora attests) but he doesn’t really protest Ebisu’s use of Masked Ones as “phantom regalias”. In fact, we get a lot of Ebisu’s silly, eccentric side, rather than any goofy evil face-twisting. It’s a nice change of pace; I like it.

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While Yato, Hiiro, and Ebisu tread deeper into the underworld, Hiyori is snagged by her high school friend into a triple date at Amagi Brilliant Park some Capybara-themed park. Notably, Tenjin stops Tomone (curious about where Yato went off to) from getting Hiyori’s attention in the street; it’s been established Tenjin wants Hiyori to stop hanging out with gods an regalias and live a normal living high school girl’s life.

Now it looks like that might be happening. We don’t know her friends that well, but their meeting up and pairing off at the park is very well done. It’s amusing to see the girl who arranged everything ended up pairing up with a different guy, leaving the handsome, well-spoken Fujisaki (who caught her from falling last week) to Hiyori, and the two have instant chemistry, courteously apologizing to each other for putting one another out.

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When Yato and Ebisu encounter Izanami, everything seems arranged to keep them by her side. She takes the form of people they care about—a very forward Hiyori, in Yato’s case—and she constantly offers food, drink, friendship; all of which will keep them stuck in the underworld as her “friend” forever. Hiiro actually does Yato a solid by protecting him from “Hiyori’s” kiss; let it be said that Yato and Hiiro really do make a good team; it’s just that being in that team puts serious strain on Yato’s newer relationships in the living world.

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Yukine, for his part, has very little to do this week, but he continues to train and become stronger in body and mind under Kazuma’s wing. Kazuma notes that Yukine is also trying to remain strong for Yato’s sake, even though he’s worried about him.

He should be, it would seem: when Izanami says she’ll only give them the brush if one of them stays behind, Ebisu picks Yato to stay with the logic that he’s the more famous god with a lot more at stake. Obviously, Yato takes exception to this—he has as much a right to exist as Ebisu, regardless of his past—so they fight.

But it all turns out to be an elaborate distraction. When Ebisu “beats” Yato by snatching Hiiro from him (she once served him as well, taking the form of a pistol), Izanami celebrates the fact Yato will be her friend. But then Ebisu uses his little masked phantom bat to snatch the brush, and he and Yato high-tail it together as Izanami fumes.

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As they flee, Yato thinks only of getting back to the near shore and to Yukine and Hiyori, whom he cares for so much. Surely this is the end of his dealings with Hiiro, right? He’ll pop back at an awkward time during the date and Hiyori will be embarassed but relieved and happy at the same time, right? Right?

Well…no. As the date progresses, Hiyori continually remembers someone who’s name and face she can’t place, and it starts to eat at her, until it’s clear to her date Fujisaki that something is very wrong. But Fujisaki reads her demeanor as something that can be remedied by taking her hand and kissing her in front of the hugely-romantic fireworks parade.

His instinct isn’t wrong, nor could he possibly be aware that by being kind and charming and comforting to Hiyori all but snaps the thread connecting her to Yato. Who was the one she wanted to take to the park so badly? Wait…she’s at the park with someone now. Does it matter? 

This is what Tenjin – and Hiiro – wanted. Will that kiss really work, or will Hiyori become even more troubled by her inability to remember? Will someone be able to jog her memory before it’s too late?

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Re-Kan! – 13 (Fin)

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Yamada’s Brother’s Impression of how high school girls should dress in the Summer. Actual bust size may vary.

Re-Kan! wraps with a multi-stage slice-of-life episodes, starting with a trip to a theme park (or is it amusement park? I believe Amaburi pointed out the difference). The usual gang of Amami’s classmates come, and Yamada’s often inappropriate brother also tags along.

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Finally, Kana and Kyouko surprise Amami by inviting any and all of Amami’s ghosts friends who want to come. Amami also meets a new ghost, or rather an old one who helped her reunite with her dad when she got lost at the park as a small girl. In return, the ghost girl asked Amami to come back one day with her friends. Amami may have forgotten, but she still honored the request, and fun is had by all.

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From the theme park the gang has a sleepover at Amami’s place, complete with dinner, fireworks, Old Maid, and the guys sleeping out in the yard, per propriety. (The episode cuts to their classmate Yoshida several times, not participating in all these boilerplate summer activities so he can presumably draw a manga, unaware he’s missing out on some great material for said manga).

Narumi isn’t as scared of spending the night in Amami’s ghost-filled house as she thought, but she still can’t sleep. Turns out no one is asleep, but only resting their eyes, but before they can agree to pull an all-nighter, Narumi dozes off thanks to Amami holding her hand, the same way Amami’s father used to hold hers when she couldn’t sleep.

With that fun-filled Summer day, Re-Kan comes to a close, proving you can stay upbeat and heartfelt in a supernatural anime and still deliver creative, consistent laughs, both of the high- and low-brow variety.

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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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Amagi Brilliant Park – 13 (Fin)

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Zane here, first-time ABP writer, long-time watcher (I’m actually watching it a second time around, it’s so good), just sticking my head in to offer some thoughts on the final episode. Oigakkosan will be along with his assessment.

I can sum up this episode with the phrase “Tricen makes a PV (promotional video) for the park.” No evil wizard redux; no new park crisis. It’s essentially a means for the excellent sprawling cast to take a curtain call.

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As both Kanie and Moffle note verbatim (proving that like minds often spar), Tricen can’t help but project his own bland personality onto the initial video. Kanie puts Sento in charge of helping Tri spice the video up, which they attempt to do by asking for everyone’s suggestions about what to put in the video.

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Moffle wants more explosions and action, Macaron wants better music, Tiramie wants more female skin (from his collection of covert skinpics), Koboli wants more male skin, Muse wants water, and Salama offers footage of Salama sleeping.

Tricen throws all this stuff into the video without any effort to mesh the wildly varying themes. Even as an art film, it’s a bit awkward. Then Latifah suggests he add video of the lower-tier cast members’ hobbies…and things get a bit weird:

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Whoa. (For the record, I couldn’t stop laughing at this scene. Who would’ve thought the mute dogu would be the most visionary of the bunch?)

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From Ashe’s skydive ironing, to Dornell’s dam enthusiast club video (and there are pictures of dams on the wall of his hideout way back in episode 5; nice continuity!), to Adachi’s footage of a horse giving birth, everything Tricen is given is put in, with no regard whatsoever for coherence.

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Predictably, Kanie is appalled by the resulting ‘masterpiece’ even as Sento weeps from the emotional impact. Frankly, Kanie should have remembered that while he’s softened her edges somewhat, Sento is still an imperial guard, and the wrong choice to assist Tricen. Not that there was a better alternative!

Kanie goes with Tricen’s original milquetoast cut, which underwhelms the cast, who is miffed their suggestions weren’t included. But Tricen gets the last laugh when he tells Kanie he uploaded the ‘unofficial remix’ to the web, where it went viral.

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There was thankfully no more Evil Wizard this week, but the possible negative fallout from the PV can’t be considered real conflict in this, the final episode. ABP seems to be running smoothly with Kanie at the helm and Sento by his side.

No, this was more a final check-in with the characters, who brought us to the table in the first place and kept us there with rapt attention as they worked their way through various dilemmas. I personally enjoyed this inconsequential but still entertaining epilogue.

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Amagi Brilliant Park – 12

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ABP comes to a satisfying, if not a fairly typical storybook ending this week. Except I don’t believe this is the final episode, which means next week is going to be an interesting experiment in how to end a show, after you’ve ended a show…

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The Summary: with time running out, everyone at the park whips out their phones and calls everyone they can think of. Muse gets her grandmother, Tiramie gets a ton of angry husbands and wives, Sylphy gets her weird internet fans and Kanie-kun gets the girls who are still angry at him from the previous high school fiasco. Even a pizza guy is called, just to get him through the turnstile. With the three little boys who hunger fiercely for Sento, the park crosses the 500,000 mark and the day is won!

Then love wins out (or something) and Latifah doesn’t forget who she is and Kanie-kun decides to stay. We even learn the evil Developer was actually the evil wizard in disguise all this time!

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The GoodABP knows we wanted a happy ending and it gave it to us. And it gave it to us clean, without any magic tricks our nonsense pulled out of the hat. Everyone has friends and, in a pinch, those friends came through. It was a good feeling.

Moreover, the reveal that the parcel of land that the park must sell to the south is going to a major grocery chain (‘Moll Mart’) that will provide great synergy to the park for years to come was a lovely, un-silly cherry on top.

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The episode doesn’t forget any of the small details either. The three pervert boys are an obvious addition, but I love that the boy who always asks his mom about adult content and gets told to ignore it was in the background too.

And that’s nothing compared to the delightfully silly mute-statue that some how moves around the park. When the going got tough, even he called someone on the phone…except he doesn’t talk so they keep asking who’s called them!

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The not as goods – Well… that evil wizard plot came out of nowhere a few weeks back and the sudden reveal that the blonde developer was the wizard all along felt even more out of left field. Underdeveloped, abrupt, and poorly integrated with the story.

I guess ABP avoids a major problem with it only because the story is so tangential and on the sidelines. So, at least his evil laugh (and plot) was mere seconds long and then we were done with it.

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The Verdict – This was a lovely feel-good resolution that felt earned by a big cast of characters I’ve fallen in love with. Yes, I don’t care about the princess nor the wizard and yes, her love triangle with Sento hasn’t gone anywhere, but none of those elements were really the point of the show.

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My only concern is for next week. Next week will either focus on the evil wizard, who’s plot was never part of the story in a meaningful way OR it will just be happy after the facts and no conflict.

In either case, it risks feeling tacked on and irrelevant. Who knows though, ABP is a fantastic show and I look forward to being proved wrong.

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Amagi Brilliant Park – 11

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ABP is a little gem of a show that doesn’t quite make it into my book of best-ever anime. However, it remains the most consistent and (consistently excellent) show of the season.

This week is no exception and gave us a text-book perfect final push before next week’s conclusion. No time was wasted, the characters we love and know double their efforts, and a final kink blocks their path to victory.

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The Summary: Kanie-kun’s final play is to invite a real-world soccer team to use the abandoned stadium on the final day of the season. It’s a near guaranteed 50,000 bump to the park’s guests counter and, with the help of some magic and mole people, it’s well within their grasp to get it done.

The lines are long, the guests are constant and, exhausted or not, the cast pounds through show after show. But, as the last bus of soccer fans walks through the gates, the park is short a few hundred of their goal. With three hours to go, it’s panic time!

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The Good – while Kanie-kun’s psychic power has gone a bit under utilized this season, I appreciate that it didn’t get over used either and this week uses it just enough to bend the rules in the park’s favor.

I also appreciated that 500,000 guests may not be practical for the park even at the best of times. Sweat by the bucket and fatigue aside, the high volume of guests bring with them long and slow moving lines. Amagi just doesn’t have enough content for that many people all at the same time.

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However, the single best element of the episode was the closing, where the cast is so close yet we have no idea (and they have no idea) how the gap will get closed. This is exactly what the lead up to a finally needs.

No new threats from left field, no distractions, just hard work from your cast and the thrill of seeing how they defeat the long challenge they’ve faced all season.

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The not as goods – I have no real gripes this week. Rather, season-long issues. I remain …tepid?… about Latifah. She’s not a very interesting character and I think the show runners know this. (since they haven’t given her all that much screen time, relatively speaking)

Likewise, it’s been weeks since we’ve seen the dream-girl-trio. They were so well integrated for the two episodes immediately after their mid-season introduction but now? If they turn into a fix-all at the end, it will feel too hand-wavy and if they don’t appear at all? Well… then why were they introduced in the first place?

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The Verdict – Another 9. Honestly, if you liked what this show has done leading up to now, you will like what it did here. It’s ramped up the tension, without losing its focus.

It remains to be seen if it can pull it all off in the finale. I’m confident it can — even confident that it may finally land a perfect 10 but, there’s always a potential for surprise… in the other direction!

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Amagi Brilliant Park – 10

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Late season episodes always run the risk of dragging out the pre-finale tension too much and, while no major revelations came to ABP this week, its tenth episode was way more successful than most other shows’.

This shouldn’t be that surprising, really. ABP’s brightly colored, wacky characters of many shapes and sizes, its lush environment, and it’s finely crafted sense of humor are naturally a pleasure to watch. That said, I was a little nervous after the faerie quartet’s rather silly, plot unproductive outing last week…

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The Summary: The park’s cast and attractions have hit their stride. Some cast members are even trying new things to make themselves more interactive: Macaron has a head-banging rock show, Tirame’s flowers try to eat people, and Moffle’s old light gun challenge has been replaced by airsoft and mech fighting. The park is even open at night now.

Attendance is not only up but everyone is happy and excited about what is going on. Everyone except Seiya Kanie-kun, who’s losing his pleasant edge over the stress of doing so well, but falling short of their goal.

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Unfortunately, the princess is still barely holding herself together and Kanie-kun is finally told why: she was cursed when her father betrayed a mage and she requires a large quantity of human joy to survive. Worse, even if she survives, Latifah loses her memory (and physical growth) of the previous 12 months at the beginning of August each year.

Kanie also remembers that he met her before and tried to cheer her up, but failed. It’s safe to assume he hasn’t remembered everything yet, either, since the show has implied his fear of heights and falling also stem from that same encounter…

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The GoodABP knows how to keep it’s characters developing. Kanie and Moffle have grown closer (maybe even to a point where they respect each other now) over their mutual support of the princess. The side cast too continues to shine and the double-whammy of the princess dying if the park closes AND not remembering anyone even if she survives sets the stakes quite nicely.

As for smaller details, the whole opening segment with Macaron’s rock show and the schoolgirls being super-happy to play-fight the Orcs in the dungeon attraction were super cute. It does what all the best fantasy shows do: it makes you wish you could go there and join in on the fun.

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The not as goods – my only notable criticism is that Latifah’s story isn’t that interesting. Rather, she’s been a side character for most of the show, with no episode-to-episode presence. It certainly works as a second binder to hold the ‘save the park’ plot together, but, as cute and lovely a little girl as Latifah is, and as much as we’ve seen Kanie come to care for her, all the other relationships are more interesting.

The only other item of note is the lack of Kanie’s fake-harem trio. I appreciated that they were integrated in the Pirate and Body Swap episodes, and not really forced into the foreground but… they need to be in the show at least a little or risk becoming extraneous.

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The Verdict – I really enjoy this show and I’ve even broken the will of my fellow reviewers to the point where they not only excitedly watch the show too but aggressively hunt me down when I’ve been slow to review it each week. It’s surprisingly good, each and every week and even more so when you compare it to the rest of the top 5.

Sure, with one exception, I don’t see ABP as a perfect score kinda show but it’s so very reliable, I may well consider it my favorite show of the fall season regardless. Episode 10 just continues that… so you should probably be watching this show?

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We’re entering the final run. Next week will pick up with the Triceratops telling Kanie that he found The Thing, and finally let us know what that thing is and how it will save the park from being closed.

I have my guesses but this isn’t the kind of show where narrative surprises do the heavy lifting. That’s done by the characters themselves, their drama, and a witty (and very Western) sense of comedic timing. Kudos!

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Golden Time – 08

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Banri rescues Mitsuo from the aggressive Reina, and learns that Mitsuo told Chinami not to speak to him again. Banri, Kouko and 2D-kun arrange a day at the theme park to cheer Mitsuo up. Kouko invites Chinami too, and when she arrives, Kouko upsets Chinami to the verge of tears, but they make up. Everyone has fun at the park, and Mitsuo and Chinami also make up. Later, the five party at Banri’s house. At 3 AM, when everyone else is asleep, Banri meets Linda on their adjacent balconies, and they talk more about the past with fondness.

With the focus on Banri, Kouko, and Linda, Mitsuo and Chinami had gotten a bit of a short shrift, but that changes this week, as both characters get some very nice development, as well as repair their impasse. It may be so that Mitsuo is overreacting to the embarrassment he suffered, but we’re not insensitive to the fact that someone in his position could end up over-thinking things, panicking, and self-destructing something that had a lot of potential. Luckily for him he has friends who won’t let that happen. It was also great to see Chinami not cheerful and baudy for once, as Kouko directs one too many barbs at her, not fully aware of the situation. The whole scene at the station with Chinami, Kouko, and Banri showed us a new side of Chinami, and we liked it. In fact, this is one of those rare shows where we can declare that we like every single character in the cast.

They’re all great right now. Banri and Kouko, Chinami and Mitsuo, Nana and Linda…even 2D-kun has his charms, despite being the odd man out (maybe he can meet a nice tea club gal…). It’s telling that the episode begins and ends with Banri and Linda alone, talking about the past. It’s a fascinating dynamic, with Linda knowing so much and Banri remembering nothing. In that past Linda assured her friends she didn’t like him at all, when the opposite was true. We wonder if that also applies when she planned to say “no” to him on the bridge? The present Banri seems happy and content, but his past self is restless in Linda’s presence, even seemingly regaining control in the the moment Banri falls asleep, wishing everything could simply reset. Present Banri’s Golden Time is now, but Past Banri’s was back when it was just him and Linda.

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Rating: 9 (Superior)

Stray Observations:

  • That was a nice and surprisingly playful save by Banri, waving off Reina by proclaiming he and Mitsuo were lovers.
  • We liked how Mitsuo and Chinami got more visibly comfortable with each other as the day at the park and Banri’s house went on.
  • We’re trying not to read to much into the preview for next week, which shows Kouko and Banri troubled by something. As much as we like Linda, we wouldn’t mind them dating a little longer. 
  • That’s right: we’re rooting for both Kouko and Linda. And why not? They’re both likable. Banri—and we—win either way. Such is the quality of this show and its characters so far.