Aho Girl – 05

Summer Vacation is here. A-kun wants to study. Yoshiko wants to play. For once, I’m on her side (wait…when am I ever not?). Ruri has recovered from last week’s unintentional assault. Yoshiko invites her to go see a new magical girl anime movie. A-kun tells her that stuff’s for kids, and Ruri starts to cry…so A-kun agrees they’ll all go to the movies.

BIG mistake. Neither Yoshiko nor Ruri can keep it down, making such a disturbance A-kun has to smack them both and carry them out with apologies to the rest of the audience. Though I must say, Yoshiko breaking out of her tape binds, magical girl transformation-style, was pretty nifty.

Next, Yoshiko wants to go to the beach. She’s not alone; Sayaka thinks it’ll be fun times as well. Fuuki Iinchou and Ryuuichi happen to be in the neighborhood (stalking A-kun in various ways) so they want in as well. Suddenly A-kun is all alone on an island of people who don’t want to go to the beach.

While everyone is shopping for swimsuits (don’t they own any?) he mentions he won’t be joining them on the trip. Then Sayaka pulls out all the stops to guilt trip A-kun into coming along, by calling him a weirdo who draws other weirdos, like Yoshiko and Ryuuichi and Fuuki Iinchou…and yes, even Sayaka. But she bets—correctly—that even if she is a weirdo, A-kun will still be her friend.

The morning of the trip arrives, and Fuuki ends up facing off against Yoshiko’s mom, who smells an “A-kun-stealing homewrecker” and a “sow”. Neither Fuuki nor Ryuuichi are a match for Yoshiko’s mom’s extensive cat fight experience…but A-kun is, and warns her to knock off the violent behavior and leave them in peace.

She does, but not before slipping A-kun her still-warm bra (for some reason) before scampering off while laughing maniacally. I think I’m realizing where Yoshiko got a lot of her brash theatricality…

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WWW.Working!! – 05

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This newest version of Working!! just isn’t clicking for me anymore. It’s another episode full of little skits and running gags that doesn’t move beyond the ensemble’s individual quirks, which in most cases, remain muddled, and Hayashida is the most muddled character of them all.

Tha manager seems to have a seedy background, Muranushi has a handful for a mom, while Kamakura waves a katana around…but if you’re going to have a new cast, recycling jokes form the old one isn’t a confidence-inspiring move.

Perhaps the third season of Working!!, in which most arcs were wrapped up for the ensemble, was a good place to stop. A new cast was a bold idea, but it’s a risk that hasn’t really paid off after five episodes. Nearly all goodwill I started with for this new cast has been whittled away, and so unfortunately I don’t think I’ll be reviewing any more.

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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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WWW.Working!! – 02

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I’m really liking this new Working!!, because it feels like it takes place in an alternate universe, where everything is the same, only different. The new show and cast is replete with echos of the old show and cast, but with enough differentiation to be worth the watch.

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Still, this new Working!! might be trying to actually improve on the formula it refined with its first cast. Take Miyakoshi Hana. She’s violent and unreasonable like Inami, but not because she hates men. In fact, she gets along with Higashida just fine, and even insists he invite her to his house so he can help her study for exams. It turns out she’s a lot more normal than Inami was, and that’s actually refreshing.

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Or take weirder co-workers like Muranoshi Sayuri. She’s very neutral and deadpan in her voice and expressions, but is still canny enough to use her ability to see customers no one else can see to put some rude bros in their place. She also shows she’s got a winning smile…as long as you complement her.

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Like Hana and Daisuke, the other couple-in-the-making here doesn’t follow the same path as Satou and Todoroki in the other show. Instead, it’s a weird, long-standing situation where Shindou Yuuta actually got the lonely Kamamura Shiho’s rich dad to pay more attention to her, often talking about things so complicaed they fly over Shiho’s head.

Yet when it comes time to respond to her offer of marriage (thus wiping out his father’s debt to her father), he reverts to a little kid who thinks girls are gross. Shiho clearly hasn’t taken that well, and has since treated ever encounter with Yuuta as transactionary.

Just as I’d like to see Daisuke and Hana becoming better friends, which they’re well on their way to doing, I’d like to see Yuuta mend fences with Shiho. Even if neither of these things happens, the point is I’m invested with these new characters, so I’m going to keep watching.

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WWW.Working!! – 01 (First Impressions)

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What is it: A spinoff of the popular slice-of-restaurant-life comedy Working!!, with an all-new cast at an all-new branch of Wagnaria. High schooler Higashida Daisuke is forced to get a job at the restaurant when his dad’s business goes bankrupt. Like the previous iterations of the show, his fellow employees are weirdos in one way or another.

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Why you should watch: If you enjoyed the previous Working!!s like I did, you’ll enjoy this, and possibly even appreciate the refreshed cast, since we’ve had three seasons of the original cast and there weren’t too many stories to tell. Unlike Servant x Service, the nearly-identical restaurant setting eases our transition into this new show. It’s also packed with star voice talent, from Nakamura Yuuichi to Tomatsu Haruka and Hisaka Yoko.

The comedy style is familiar, with rapid fire jokes and absurd situations and conversations. Each character acts and reacts differently to the bland protagonist, and he and Tomatsu’s Miyakoshi Hana (the unflappable high school floor chief who may not carry a katana but packs a mean punch and makes hallucinogenic chocolates) have an easy instant chemistry.

The cast includes a lazy college student who likes to quiz people on obscure history, a feckless manager who’s terrible at math, and a rich girl who arrives in a Rolls-Royce and tries to solve every problem she encounters with fat stacks of cash (usually successfully).

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Why you shouldn’t watch: If you’ve had your fill of Working!!, or just aren’t on board with a new cast, many of whom share traits with the originals, you may not need this spin-off. Animation isn’t any worse than the previous shows, but it’s not any better, either. Like those shows, any serial progress will likely be slow, although this time misanthropy won’t play a huge role, thankfully.

The Verdict: We’re in familiar territory with WWW.Working!!, but there’s more comfort in that than disappointment. All of the new characters are likable right out of the gate, and there’s a lot of potential for both serial development and episodic wackiness going forward. As a low-stakes, low-effort workplace comedy, I rate this show highly watchable, with a good chance of recommendedness.

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Mayoiga – 03

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Dozens of people of every disposition and background suddenly isolated in a strange place full of mysteries…Mayoiga, I’ve decided, is the Lost of anime. This episode made that decision a lot easier, especially with the group’s need to hastily grope their way through some kind of rudimentary justice system after one of them tries to harm another.

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One reason “Jack” is looking for a new life is that he was heavily bullied in school, lost it, lashed out, and ended up in juvy. Just because he was released doesn’t mean all his trauma and neuroses are gone; so when Judgeness prods him too far, he lashes out again.

That gets him tied up, and ultimately it’s decided they’ll throw him in a creepy undergound prison for the night, even though some (cough-Lovepon-cough) wants him swiftly executed for his wrongdoing.

Meanwhile, Valkana searches feverishly for Yottsun after Masaki is found, with a story of him leading her along until he went off on his own an vanished. Valkana’s obsession with finding him stems from his absolute need not to be called a scapegoat—after just such a thing happened in his “previous” life as a systems engineer (ah, the flashback…one of Lost’s primary narrative devices).

That obsession makes Valkana very short-fused, and Koharun gets a taste of his wrath when she suggests deep down he’s lonely, otherwise he’d never embark on an adventure involving so many other people. The truth hurts some more than others.

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In case anyone was in doubt, Maimai kinda likes Mitsumine, despite her standoffish demeanor towards him. When they encounter one another on the bridge, she’s clearly flattered by his desire to keep her safe, even if that desire extends to, say, Masaki.

Lovepon, meanwhile, remains as loopy as ever about doling out swift justice to those who upset the balance or safety of the group. She believes Jack deserves execution, and anyone who stands in her way deserves it to, as she grabs Mitsumine, falls off the bridge, and tries to drown him.

She does not succeed, but while fighting her off, Mitsumine notices the drowned body of Yottsun floating down the stream. Did Masaki kill him when he tried to rape her, or did he just get killed by a bear? The mind races with possibilities based on the scant information we know. And once more, an episode ends with a hook I can’t quite escape from…

…AND YET, were I to keep saying “One more episode”, I may one day turn around and see that I’ve watched the whole thing, and wasn’t worth it. I committed to watching three episodes, and I’ve watched those three. As enticing as the mysteries ahead may be, I think it’s time to move on.

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Mayoiga – 02

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Mayoiga makes liberal use of its CGI bus model…until it careens down a muddy hill, leaving all the passengers to continue on foot…but not before tossing the bus driver all their wallets as compensation for getting them this far.

The thirty clean-slaters are all different, but they’re alike in one regard: they don’t much care about the driver’s dignity; or at least those who do don’t speak up strongly enough when it counts.

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We learn a little more about Mitsumune, like how Speedstar AKA Hayate is his classmate, friend, and long-time protector…and how he’s easily wooed by girls, due to not having much experience with them (all boy’s school).

With Koharun and her map, the group trudges through the forest, hoping to avoid bears (or bear-like monsters) and eventually come upon a bridge that leads to a village that matches the descriptive details Koharun has at hand. They’ve arrived at Nanaki Village.

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They soon determine that there’s nobody home, which is kind of strange to start. The village has been abandoned for at least a year. There’s no talk of food or lodging, just exploration in various random groups branching off from the whole.

Mitsumune had hoped to accompany Masaki, but he’s snagged by two other girls who seem to have plans for him. Speaking of plans, the sunglassed Yottsun seems to have unsavory ones for Masaki, and manages to end up alone with her. A strange shadow in the woods catches her eye, and that’s the last we see of either.

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Mitsumune, meanwhile, manages to ruin a potentially fun time with Maimai by congratulting himself on not getting so hot and bothered in her presence, which is a little insulting. Maimai then reveals she was only going to toy with him, but they’re interrupted by the sudden emergence of the bus driver from the woods.

Was the driver the shadow Masaki saw? And what did the driver see after everyone left him? Who sent Koharun the anonymous email telling her how to get to the village? And, of course, what happened to Yottsun and Masaki? Is this group only the latest of many who have inhabited this lost village, and have they suffered their first two losses?

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Mayoiga – 01 (First Impressions)

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Huh…Well, that was strange. My first taste of Spring 2016 had me riding along with no less than thirty passengers in various states of sanity on a seemingly dubious”Life Do-over” bus tour to the mysterious Nanaki Village, where they’ll presumably all start their lovely new lives.

The word “bizarre” came up in my head again and again as I was watching this. The characters, though we only get a line out of most of them, are bizarre. Their online aliases are bizarre. The pitch blackness of the world outside the bus is bizarre. The whole premise is bizarre.

Everything is so bizarre, I was not, after one episode, able to determine whether I actually liked all this bizarreness or not…but I do know I want to learn more.

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After everyone introduced themselves and their various reasons for being there (which, for many, included the various problems in their lives they’re trying to escape), the bus driver chimes in, almost as an audience surrogate, calling them nothing but a bunch of self-involved babies.

The ostensible MC Mitsumune is also intentionally normal and dull, at least on the outside; he has some very disturbing dreams that may or may not be related to his past…or his future. For all the introductions of all these people, we leave week one knowing next to nothing about them beyond their most outward personalities.

Mitsumune starts taking care of a little wounded baby bird of a young woman named Masaki, who seems to have some OCD to go along with her carsickness. Then there’s the cynical Hayato, who hasn’t come because he’s bought into what the operators are selling, but to find out the truth about Nanaki Village.

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So everyone here has their reasons for being on this bus. The driver’s reason is to make some money, and his frustration with the loonies he’s transporting almost provoke him into driving the bus off the road, but he regains his senses, and after one last stop, they reach the gloomy bridge to the village where everything is supposed to happen.

This episode creates far more questions than it answers, which is almost always a good way to entice an audience to stick around to learn more, bit by bit. Pitfalls may include a vast cast of characters, none of which we may end up caring about, and the hard-to-shake sense that the show and its mysteries aren’t as clever as they want to be.

We’ll see if Mayoiga can avoid or at least minimize those pitfalls. One thing it’s clearly got down is the overall creepy gloomy atmosphere suffused with that most dreaded of elements: the unknown.

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Attack on Titan – 15

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Eren’s first big mission as a newly-minted member of the Scout Regiment is…cleaning a dusty old castle that once served as the Regiment’s HQ. It’s not glamorous, but it is a good opportunity for him to meet his new comrades, among them Petra, Oulo, Eld, and other people with funny names.

But despite those funny names, they’re all elite soldiers with dozens of Titan kills and perhaps hundreds of assists between them. Whatever his status is here (and it’s not high), he intends to soak up as much as he can from these veterans of his calling.

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After dinner, those veterans clear out when Eren shows curiosity in Hange Zoe’s activities experimenting on Titans. Hange ends up talking to Eren the entire night before she’s to perform some tests on him to get a better idea of what the regiment has to work with. She also proves to be the most knowledgeable person on the Titans either he or we have yet encountered.

Not only that, Hange is a very odd duck in a regiment full of ’em, but there’s a method to her madness. As she tells Eren, she enlisted and was once driven solely by hatred for humanity’s “mortal enemy,” but the closer she got to the Titans, and the more she learned about them, the more the hate faded and the desire to learn still more grew. They may be a voracious plague on mankind, but that doesn’t change the fact that Titans are inscrutable, wondrous creatures.

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Part of that wonder is derived from the fact that Titans are so light for their size, which makes Hange consider the possibility that they way humans perceive Titans and the way Titans really are may be two completely different things. The show has been so extremely stingy with solid info on the Titans, so theories of this nature burnish their mystique.

Fear and rage haven’t gotten humans far, so she has always strove to study them from a different perspective, and with that has come an ungrudging admiration of and affection for her “subjects”. I never thought Titans could be portrayed with something like compassion, but Hange’s interaction with them does just that.

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So when, the morning after the whole night she talked Eren’s ear off, those subjects, named Sonny and Bean, are discovered having been murdered, she’s genuinely devastated and flips out. Meanwhile, Erwin seems to have a plan that diverges from the “company line”, which Mike has sniffed out. No doubt Eren is integral to that plan, whatever it consists of.

Eren has learned in no time at all that he’s in a strange place full of intrigue among strange people who want to use him for one reason or another. He’s passed the Don’t-Get-Eaten-By-A-Titan Test, but surviving in a swirling sea of eccentric, erratic, and ambitious personalities is a whole new ballgame.

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Denki-gai no Honya-san – 09

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Denki-gai no Honya-san is the funniest, most creative anime series no one is watching this season. While episode 9 suffered a similar fate to Amagi Brilliant Park 9 (they were both about making fun of being cliched but were still just too cliche), it was still funny, touching and a pervy good time.

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Unfortunately, the technical nature of DgnHs’s humor is difficult to write about and time consuming. Given how much time I’m losing to holiday events and family this season, I can’t justify the effort. Not for 1% of the readership my Fate/Stay Night reviews are getting.

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Don’t get me wrong, it’s easy to understand why DgnHs is low on everyone’s list. It’s not very pretty, the intelligence of the structure requires digging, and it really does lean towards girl-love (and nerd girl love at that) as it’s core perspective.

Tough sell!

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This week’s episode was about summer colds… and Christmas. Again.

Why have we had two christmas episodes in the first half of this show’s season?

I have no idea but the unhinged brutality of the humor in the second arc was heart warming. I mean, what can I say that these screen caps aren’t telling you?

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So, with a sad heart, I bid good bye to my funny little love here.

No! I’m still watching the randy girls of Tokyo’s perviest comic shop each week but, like Shirobako, I won’t be writing about it.

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Denki-gai no Honya-san – 08

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Denki-gai no Honya-san 8 is another Sensei-focused, breaking into the manga industry episode and… well it’s not very interesting. There’s no way this show can sell me on the struggles of an artist’s struggle to become a professional in a show this intentionally goofy. More importantly, while DgnHs is actually very funny, it’s jokes about making manga aren’t the funny part and it can not and will not ever escape the long shadow of Nozaki-kun’s humor about the same topic last season.

Fortunately, DgnHs gets me laughing in other areas and the episode wasn’t an entire wash.

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For one thing, we got TWO black and white Lime Cat movies this week. I have no idea what they are parodying, unless DgnHs is just making fun of art house movies in general, but these are just bizarrely funny.

This week’s Lime Cat is from Fu-chan’s perspective. Except there is no cat… that cat is a zombie! Obviously Fu slaughters it with the full length baseball bat she hides in her brazier. The second episode sees Fu following a lone zombie to a grave yard where a host of zombies try to scare her dressed up as ghosts. Obviously Fu slaughters them too.

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The real meat and potatoes of this week’s episode happened in the final arc where Sensei accidentally invites Umio-kun on a movie date and then completely freaks out over what to wear, her lack of girl power, etc.

With the not very helpful help of Hiotan and the girls, it’s ultimately decided that none of them know, at all, what boys want other than big boobs and that the only way they will make any head way is to invite an actual boy over and ask him.

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This being Hiotan that is helping, she invites none other than Umio-kun himself. Sensei is terrified since none of this was ever meant to be brought to his attention. However, the results are positive: after a lengthy rant about glasses, Umio admits he doesn’t care how she’s dressed, since her glasses make her cute, and thus he thinks she’s cute all the time.

D’awwwwwww!

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Some of this week’s best moments were during the ‘what do boys want, anyway’ scenes. My personal favorite was Sensei-chan stepping into her manga mind to pretend to be a guy. She evaluates each of her friends in a hilarious way and ends up getting all weird with Fu-chan before giving up.

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Laughter aside, this scene reinforces my opinion that DgnHs is a show for girls and about girls in fandom, rather than a typical will he like me? slice of life romcom. We spend so much time with their perspectives, seeing how they see us and our wants and when we do actually see a guy and hear his feedback, it’s all affirmative: nerd girls are desirable for their nerdiness — for the sincerity of their part in fandom — as much if not more than for their looks.

I mean, Umio fell for Sensei over Hiotan (the girls with the biggest boobs) as soon as he learned that Sensei creates manga.

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Denki-gai no Honya-san – 07

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Denki-Gai no Honya-san 7 is a ‘hot spring’ (onsen) episode and, as you would imagine, that means we got skin, boob grabbing and some embarrassing moments. We also got some decent character development and a few inches of plot advancement.

Did DGnHs do anything interesting with this cliché of a clichéd setting or was it all just more fan service?

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I’m not sure, in all honesty?

DGnHs is always knowingly funny and this week pinned that on Sensei and Hiotan, who’ve never been to hot springs before. DGnHs very aggressively shows that their expectations, based on manage and anime, are way off. So off that they end up happily running into a co-ed waiting area, totally naked.

Even though the facial expressions, the long pause, slow reverse zoom shot is hilarious AND is the source for the show’s best joke via a call-back later in the episode,  Director, Ex-chan, and Hiotan could’ve exposed their true romantic feelings for each other anywhere.

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Likewise, Umi-kun and Sensei-chan’s romance goes nowhere, which is odd since Sensei received extensive screen time early in the episode. The result was… repetitive: She’s embarrassed and doesn’t know how to act feminine. We get it!

And yeah… yeah I’m trying to avoid talking about the “Now it’s time to feel your breasts” scene. I can’t think of a reason why that’s in there for anything other than fan service.

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The best scene, and most representative of DGnHs’ knowing, genre-poking style, came at the end, when Hiotan ineffectively confronts director about his feelings for her. In it, he admits to not having seen her boobs very clearly, because of some very awkward lighting.

Hence, the very strange ‘light line’ that censored her boobs in the first place.

It’s clever, pokes fun at convention, Has lots of energy. (both characters are standing on the back room tables, they are so wrapped up in what they are saying)

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But was it good?

Welllllll… a little more plot development would have been desirable. Additionally, ep 7 gave us some great laughs, it strangely didn’t give many.

So I can’t help but feel like this is exactly what it seems like it is: mid season ‘filler,’ to designed to give us just enough to hang on to the big relationship push, failure, and bounce back cycle that usually develops around episode 9.

I guess that’s what a hot spring episode is for. So its successful enough, which is good enough for me.

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