BokuBen 2 – 10 – Naming A New Star

Nariyuki wakes to find he and Fumino have the house all to themselves. Fumino is by the sink preparing breakfast like an idyllic wive. It turns out she’s terrible at cooking (and cleaning), but Nariyuki doesn’t care, and neither would I. As with her studies, Fumino is working hard at something she’s not great at, and her energy and enthusiasm are contagious.

But while Nariyuki appreciates Fumino’s heartfelt efforts to be a good guest (and quasi-housewife), he’s still worried about the rift between her and her dad. She’s working so hard to pay back his family’s kindness, she comes into the bathroom to wash Nariyuki’s back—and falls asleep on it! When she wakes up, and won’t go back to sleep, Nariyuki suggests they go on a date.

He takes her to a spot with a great view of the stars, and reminds her how inspired he was when he heard her talk profusely about them when they spent that night in the hotel. She may think all hope of reconciling with her father is lost, but he suggests that if she conveys her passion for the stars to her dad the way she did with him, she might reach him.

He also takes her hand (after she almost slips and falls) and, in a kind of quasi-confession, assures her that he’ll always support her with everything he has. It’s definitely one of the more beautiful and touching moments between these two…I just wished it was more explicitly romantic. I mean it looks and sounds romantic, I just don’t know if Nariyuki’s is thinking that way in the moment—that this is the woman for him. That’s a shame, because she so is.

Fumino confronts her father, who opens their conversation with another harsh barb about her lack of resolve, but Nariyuki’s pledge of support keeps Fumino strong and on point. After telling him why she loves astronomy so much and wants to keep at it, he still won’t budge…so she suggests they ask mom.

She produces the laptop, the password to which turned out to be her father’s name, “Reiji.”  There’s no golden thesis on its hard drive, just a single video file of their wife and mother. On it, she apologizes to Reiji for the lack of a thesis, but as it turns out, she was as bad at math when she was young as Fumino is. Her love for Reiji that helped drive her to work hard enough to succeed.

Furthermore, she makes it clear that she wants Fumino to do what she loves, not what she might be naturally good at. Reiji learns the password is his name because Fumino wanted to discover a new star with her mother and name it after someone they both loved more than anyone else: “Reiji.”

Fumino’s mom’s third apology is to her daughter, since she knows due to her ill health she may one day make her very lonely. But the urges Fumino not to despair, for one day someone wonderful will come around who will support and inspire and drive her to excel at her passions, just like she did with Reiji.

For Fumino, we know that person is Nariyuki…obviously. Sure enough, he’s loitering outside her house, too eager to see how things went to wait for her to return to his place. They sit on a bench together, and she tells him everything that went down, and she simply lets herself have a few moments gently leaning against him. He thinks she’s nodded off again, until she says, perfectly, “I’m awake.”

Reiji ends up attending the parent-teacher conference with Fumino, and agrees to her future plan to become an astronomer. We also learn from Nariyuki that Reiji was in contact with Nariyuki’s mom, both to apologize for letting his family business spill out into her home and to ask earnestly how Fumino is doing. He brings up the one and only time he struck her, and felt ashamed and perplexed ever since.

Nariyuki’s mom, a widow herself, basically gives Reiji advice similar to what her son gave Fumino: confront her, and convey to her the truth: that he’s terribly worried about her, and that his objections come from a place of love. Only by knowing each others intentions and emotions behind their words and actions can the two come to a mutual understanding.

Speaking of which, Nariyuki and Fumino sadly remain in denial about the state of their relationship, at least when Reiji directly confronts Nariyuki about it. It’s still the case that Fumino doesn’t want to rock the boat for Rizu or Urara, but she’s proven she not them, could be the best match for Nariyuki. She’s more than earned a little selfishness.

BokuBen “Best Girl” Power Rankings
As of Episode 10

  1. Fumino
  2. Uruka
  3. Rizu
  4. Kirisu
  5. Asumi
  6. Sawako
  7. Mizuki

Karakai Jouzu no Takagi-san 2 – 09 – Look Over Here

In Failed Attempt #5,704 to get one over on Takagi-san, Nishitaka challenges her to a game of Rock-Paper-Scissors With “Look Over There” (Acchi Muite Hoi), where the winner tries to get the loser to look where they point.

As usual, Nishikata underestimates Takagi, who not only fails to look where he points when he does win, but gets him to look exactly where she wants, distracting him by asking if he has a crush on her.

After Hina accidentally determines that Yukari’s talent is that she has none, Nishikata arrives at class the next day to find Takagi is…a little off. The whole day goes by without her teasing him, and she doesn’t offer to walk home together, so Nishikata is worried. He may claim to dislike her teasing, but if it doesn’t feel right when she doesn’t, what does that say about his true feelings on the matter?

On his way home he spots Takagi’s bike by a shrine, and finds her sitting by herself, as she says it, “spacing out.” Turns out she had a fight with her mom, and was feeling down. But without even trying, Nishikata manages to cheer her up, with the very “mystery box” full of cotton with which he intended to scare her. She has a laugh, and when Nishikata moves to leave, she gently, warmly asks if he’d stay a little longer. Who is he to refuse?

When Kimura shows Nishikata a dumb trick through text message, Nishikata reconsiders trying it on Takagi, worried she’s still feeling down because of her mom. But she texts him, saying she made up and everything is fine now, so he proceeds to send her a photo of his arm that vaguely looks like a butt.

Takagi punishes Nishikata for such a lame attempt to trick her/gross her out, she sends a number of questions to him that if he’s not careful how he words his responses, it could read as him confessing his love. He tries to play that game by texting “how about a kisu”, referring to the fish whose name sounds like “kiss.”

Takagi utterly defeats him once more by sending him a video response of her lying in bed, earnestly responding “I love (them),” then sending a text correctly assuming he’s blushing, and daring him to send a pic of his face to prove he isn’t. Of course, as she heads downstairs for dinner and bids him goodbye until school tomorrow, she’s blushing too.

How Heavy are the Dumbbells You Lift? – 05 – Relay Chase, Sauna Race

Summer is over, and with the Fall comes Sports Day, a day Hibiki has been dreading. Worse still, students are appointed for events based on lottery, not skill, so she finds herself the anchor of the final event: the 400m relay.

Hibiki is not a skilled runner (nor is Satomi), but Machio has pointers for them both: leg curls work the hamstrings (the “accelerator” muscles) without working the quads (the “brake” muscles).

Leg curls also tone your bottom, which fires Hibiki up; she may have missed the chance to have a hot summer bod but she’d still working towards a hot winter bod. Unfortunately, her overzealouness leads to her pants splitting.

When the day of the relay arrives, Hibiki finds herself competing directly against Akemi, who doesn’t know that Hibiki has been secretly working her lesser-known iliopsoas muscles located in the back, crucial for sprinting. Akemi may be cleaning up for her Class A team, but Hibiki aims to make a race of it.

Unfortunately, the baton transfer fails and Hibiki ends up way behind, but still rallies to finish second behind Akemi, impressing both of them. It’s just too bad her second-place finish is wiped out by the fact the runner who dropped the baton didn’t pick it up, leading to her disqualification.

The loss really eats at Hibiki, but she finds an opportunity to exact her revenge when after a day of training, the four girls decide to hit the sauna after the showers and have a little competition: whoever lasts longest in the sauna will get all of the four raffle tickets Machio gave them (the show makes sure to warn viewers not to try this at home).

Ayaka is the first to hit her limit and leave, followed, rather surprisingly, by Akemi. Hibiki is flagging, but Satomi looks cool as a cucumber…until Hibiki realizes she’s so burnt out she’s basically stuck in place. That makes Hibiki the winner! Too bad she doesn’t win a trip to America with her tickets, but four T-shirts she doesn’t really want, and gives to Akemi anyway. So ends another entertaining and informative Dumbbells.

P.S. This show is also super strong with the twisted reactions, critical asides, and of course, fourth-wall breaks:

…Though characters seem to have stopped commenting on the eroticism inherent in Machio’s training lessons. Like Machio himself, I guess they just got used to them!

How Heavy are the Dumbbells You Lift? – 04 – No Gym? No Ocean? No Problem!

Due to a large volume of summer casual trainers at the gym, Hibiki and Akemi aren’t able to access the “free weights” like the bench press and dumbbells, so on Machio’s advice they train instead on machines like the chest press machine, which are a good way to diversify the way one exercises a muscle group.

Ayaka also joins the gym to give boxing classes, and is as immediately smitten with (a fully clothed) Machio as Hibiki and Satomi were…before he struck his signature “Side Chest!”, that is.

The first day Hibiki, Akemi and Ayaka meet up to go to the gym as a trio, Silverman is unexpectedly closed for the day. While they lacked their primary training equipment at the gym, not having access to a gym at all means getting more resourceful.

Akemi invites the other two to her palacial house, and shows them a beefcake-packed video by Ozu Toshio, apparently Machio’s sensei. They learn reverse sit-ups and dips using chairs, but unfortunately when Hibiki ups the difficulty by attempting dips with a backpack full of books, she breaks two antique chairs she later learns could sell at auction for hundreds of millions of yen. Oops!

Finally, the three girls (plus Satomi, in another case of pure coincidence) hit the beach to show off their tight new bods, only to learn the summer swimming season is closed due to hammerhead sharks in the water.

Not one to be discouraged by a setback, Akemi shows the others how to do burpees, which exercise the entire body (which she proceeds to expose in the instructional video), followed by sprints along the beach. While everyone gets properly worn out by day’s end, everyone rightly feels a great sense of accomplishment. Who needs gyms, or even the sea, when you have a nice stretch of sand?

Shoujo Shuumatsu Ryokou – 12 (Fin)

Aboard the derelict sub, the girls find a clean boat, chocolate…and a kind of patchwork history of everybody and everything that came before them, thanks to the camera auto-syncing with the monitors on the bridge. In addition to all the pictures they took, and those Hanakawa took before them, the camera is a veritable cornucopia of visual (and audiovisual) information.

The content ranges from simple images of life and death, to the reports of a school robotic research club, to news reports of a worsening geopolitical situation that leads to large-scale war and genocide. On the whole, though, Chito and Yuuri feel less lonely, now that they were able to watch how others lived.

Suddenly processing more information than they ever had before proves exhausting for the girls, who fall asleep under the consoles and dream of their escape from their town.

When Chito wakes, she’s too late to do anything about Yuuri getting swallowed up by a giant version of Cut. Chito suspects Cut might’ve been some kind of lure used by the bigger ones, but Cut’s body language suggests that’s not the case.

Chito runs through the submarine, desperate to find her one and only companion, and eventually emerges from the conning tower to find the Big Cut isn’t interested in eating living humans, and spits Yuuri out. It then transforms to reveal it’s a kind of semi-sentient mushroom.

The mushroom has a mix of good and bad news…though I guess it’s mostly bad for humanity. They are systematically ridding the earth of toxins leftover from the human population after it destroyed itself with war. Yuuri and Chito are the last two humans left, by the mushrooms’ reckoning.

All machinery will shut down around them, and after they’ve passed away, the world will enter a period of rest and inactivity, as the mushrooms hibernate. With that all said, mushrooms emerge from the nuclear missile tubes of the sub and they all ascend into the sky, likely to start “cleaning” the higher levels.

There’s not much for Chito and Yuuri to do but continue on their tour, with the goal of reaching the highest level. Even with their companion/pet Cut gone off with its brethren, Chito and Yuuri aren’t lonely, nor do they care if the world ends, because they have one another.

As with so much relating to this show, it’s simultaneously a deeply bittersweet ending, conveying the lesson to not be troubled by things life you can’t control (like the ending of the world) and take comfort in those you can—like who you choose to spend your days with.

Trickster – 04

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Just when Twenty Faces surfaces with a new intricate plot into which to lure Akechi and the Boy Detective’s Club, Hanasaki is stuck at school, attending his compulsory school day a month. That hardly sounds like enough to make a difference, but Akechi insists, keeping Hanasaki out of this week’s action.

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As for Twenty Faces’ plot, well…it leaves a bit to be desired. The most impressive feat he accomplishes is when recorded video of him correctly predicts Akechi’s responses, making for an unexpected bit of dialogue between the two that initially sours Akechi’s interest in taking on the case, which involves a police officer Twenty captured. He changes his mind when Kobayashi exhibits some fire, then pairs him up with Inoue Ryou.

The clashing personalities make for a promising dynamic, but all they really do is trudge through some dark hallways, try to hide using the lamest tactic imaginable (a stealth umbrella, not bothering to move to the edge of the room), and get trapped in a chamber, the doors to which Kobayashi can’t bust through even as it starts to fill with water.

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Throughout the episode we get flashbacks of Ryou and the mission that led to his paralysis and his partner, classmate and tennis star Katsuda, to quit the club. But this backstory seems shoehorned in and doesn’t really gel with the present events in any meaningful way, other than for Katsuda to warn Hanasaki “always listen to Akechi.”

All that aside, I can hardly feel apprehensive about Kobayashi being trapped in a chamber filling with water when it’s already been established he can’t die. That, and backup will probably be on the way before they have to worry about Ryou drowning.

In previous episodes I could at least look forward to a case beginning and then ending within the space of twenty-odd minutes, but the cliffhanger tries my already thin patience. I’ll see how things are resolved, I guess, but after that…likely Dropsville.

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UPDATE (27 OCT): After further deliberation, I’ve decided to summarily drop Trickster, effective immediately. To fill the gap it leaves, I’ll be taking over reviews of Fune wo Amu from Zane.

Blood-C 12 (Fin)

Fumito reveals himself as the mastermind of Saya’s entire ordeal. He captured her, a being with the strength and abilities to go toe-to-toe with elder bairns, but rather than human blood, she feeds off of elder bairn blood. He made a half-elder bairn play the role of her father and created the whole shrine maiden artifice as a vehicle to propel her to fight the bairns Fumito sent at her. After killing all the cast save Amino, he escapes to Tokyo, shooting her in the face as she lunges at him…but the game he started isn’t quite over.

For those who wanted the bloodiest, most disturbingly goretastic finale, well, you got one; though most of that gore was covered up by censors. That’s okay, I just ate a rich dinner, and was thus relieved to only have to catch the gist of the carnage. I’m not sure if a future Blu-ray release will be uncensored or not, but if it is, I must remember not to eat a big meal prior to re-watching it. Notably, after making themselves far less likable last week, Nono, Nene, and Tokizane get their bloody, karmic comeuppance. But there wasn’t just grisly death on display; we were also treated to some exquisite Saya ass-kicking that got downright lyrical and reached a fever pace.

Fumito’s obviously an immensely powerful person, but also an immesely sick, disturbed, evil person, and the multiplying elder bairns he unleashes on the fake village to slaughter all the extras just drives that point home. That being said, he’s a human being. He doesn’t believe Saya can kill a human, but if ever there was one for whom she could make an exception, it’s him. This whole series could be boiled down to one, long, harrowing, emotionally and physically torturous practical joke played on Saya. Come next June, she’ll look to settle the score in the film that will wrap this story up.


Rating: 4

Spring 2011 – Best (and Worst) Openings and Endings

Best Opening: [C]: Control: The Money and Soul of Possibility. A very slick, confident, adn frenetic beginning to a show that also possesses those qualities. A virtual camera zooms into a 1000 yen note, a dollar, a Euro, and a black MIdas bill, and the designs on those currencies explode and fly by with impressive depth and detail. I also like how the financial district’s giant spinning coin is presented.

I didn’t include [C]’s ending, because while it was pretty good, the School Food Punishment song sounded too similar the one used for the Eden of the East ending, which had far better visuals.

Runner-up: Deadman Wonderland. The WWE-grade metal lyrics of this season’s runner-up are kind of silly, but there’s nothing wrong with the music itself; it’s harsh, dark, and unyielding, like the series itself. The mostly red palette and multi-layered, highly-textured visuals also match the show’s mood quite well. While hardly subtle, they also show the dual personalities of both Shiro and Minatsuki. Sweet on the surface, but terrors lurk within.

Best Ending: Ao no Exorcist. I discuss the music and visuals of this ending at length here. Suffice it to say, It’s a great concept, very simple and very nicely executed. A really elegant yet satisfying ending. (Sorry, that video was removed!)

Runner-up: Deadman Wonderland. A peaceful shot of a Ferris Wheel glowing at sunset combined with a soothing, upbeat dance track makes for a nice respite from each episode’s pervading darkness and despair. The slideshow of photos – which didn’t mean much the first time we see them, are given more gravity as the series has progresses: they’re snapshots of the character’s pasts. In each case, they’ve all changed quite a bit, except perhaps Ganta and Shiro.

So, what were the worst openings and endings? The World God Only Knows II was a beginning I don’t think I ever watched in its entirety after the first time. They were clearly trying to replicate the novel and IMO very successful opening of the first season, and failed miserably. See it here. The ending is also something I skipped every time.

Hanasaku Iroha has a pretty (if not altogether original) opening that’s hampered by a subpar vocalist. Watch here, but be forewarned: it’s shrill.

Denpa Onna to Seishun Otoko though, takes the cake as the most obnoxious vocals by far, and the visuals just seemed a bit lazy and uninspired. If you’re a aural masochist, you may get your kicks watching it on a loop. As for the ending, it’s just a cutesy-cutesy Arakawa-type sequence with Etsuko Yakushimaru’s shy vocals putting me to sleep. Venus to Jesus was infinitely better.

Aside from having one of the dumbest, laziest logos for a series I’ve ever seen, Tiger & Bunny‘s opening and ending are notable only for their crushing genericness. The blatant product placement didn’t bother me so much.