Chio-chan no Tsuugakuro – 07 – Inner Fujoshi

Chio’s preference for Western-style hardcore shooting games puts her in rare company in Japan, such that she often has to pay extra to play them in Japanese. She also knows of only one konbini where a magazine covering those games is sold, until one day, it’s just not there.

Instead, there’s more BL game mags in its place. However, Chio’s lack of experience in the genre left her with the misconception all the L involves scrawny Japanese Bs. What ultimately sells her is the type of hardened assassin she loves to play in her western games.

Chio has discovered an exciting new world, but she has to interact with her old friend Andou in order to purchase it. She tries to make the mag less pervy by sticking chocolates on the shirtless ad guy’s nipples, but that only makes things worse, so she builds a kind of crop tank top.

Andou is initially distracted by the free driving school catalog Chio originally used to cover the BL mag, thanks in part to a coincidental “BL” in Chio’s email address, Andou gets wise to her purchase despite her efforts, though he makes it clear he’s not judging!

I must not have had a very eventful childhood, because me and my friends never played a game in which we tried to stick our fingers up each other’s butts. However, this seems to be a thing in Japan, and it’s explored in a gross but fun segment in which a girl from a rich middle school challenges Chio and Manana to a duel in; a challenge they initially ignore.

The girl forces the issue by zapping Manana, and is then surprised to find Chio has formidable skills (having had a crappy middle school life herself). But it’s ultimately Manana coming from behind to exact payback. Chio ties off her thumbs and holds her captive in the park to try to discern her motives.

As far as they’re concerned, the girl’s goal is to leave no ass unplugged. She slips out of her bind and gets Manana again. Chio is then given a handicap when the two end up in the middle of a busy part of the park, surrounded by adults and kids. Chio has to be careful about what she does to the girl here; the girl has no such compunctions.

This puts Chio on the defensive, and she ultimately proves her own worst enemy when she backs herself right into a broken protruding tree branch. However, the girl isn’t able to deliver the coup-de-grace, as she’s snatched up by Kushitori, who is still training in the park.

She offers her own ample posterior for the girl’s punishment, then delivers a thoughtful lecture on respecting each other’s bodies. The girl is initially charmed by Kushitori, but Chio snaps her out of it and she leaves having learned nothing.

In the final segment, which is just a quickie but says a lot, Manana and Chio spot a lonely-looking old woman sitting by what used to be a hydrangea patch in the forest, but is now built-up with concrete, glass and steel. They lament how modern society has trampled on the memories of previous generations.

Turns out their romantic imagining of it being the spot where she and her love met was nothing but a fiction. In reality, the woman is slumped over playing an addictive game on her phone. She’s in that particular spot because she can steal free wi-fi from the cafe nearby. When a barista comes out to shoo her away, she chews him out in kind, shattering the girls’ romanticized dreams.

Advertisements

Wotaku ni Koi wa Muzukashii – 07 – Playing a Netoge, Then Eating Out Separately

This week’s WotaKoi is split between two completely different stories involving the core quartet, which is probably for the best as I doubt either one could be sustained for the entire episode’s length. Feeling more than ever like two distinct episodes works to both stories’ advantages, as neither wears out their welcome.

Most of Part One is presented within the virtual world of a fantasy netoge the crew has agreed to play together. The warrior Kabakura and elf assassin Narumi are the first to arrive, and Kabakura is thoroughly charmed by Narumi’s adorable avatar.

Not too much later the sexy black mage Koyanagi joins them, but when they end up in a random encounter with a rare boss, they’re almost undone when Hirotaka’s avatar is being controlled by Nao. Once Hirotaka takes over, he literally takes over, as in defeating the boss and collecting the loot as if he were playing solo, without any cooperation from the others.

Despite being perhaps the least enthusiasm for the game, he’s still the best at it and his player has the maximum level, because, well, he’s a game otaku. Acing games is kinda what he does.

We’re back in the real world for Part Two, as the guys and gals split off for a night of drinks and dinner. Hirotaka and Kabakura must patiently endure their two junior co-workers talking non-stop about Narumi and Koyanagi, including getting their personalities and traits totally wrong due to their lack of interaction with them.

Meanwhile Narumi and Koyanagi are poised to have a lovely dinner chatting over the anime Narumi had Koyanagi borrow and watch…only for the two to, as usual, hold opposite views regarding said anime. They regain common ground in considering their boyfriends in BL situations, but once again butt heads over which of them should be on top.

When dinner’s over, the four end up running into each other on the street. With the junior co-workers there, the two couples play things cool and quiet, not overly indicating they’re dating each other, and merely bidding each other goodnight.

It was definitely a case where things might’ve been easier (or at least less irritating) if Hirotaka and Kabakura had simply said they were dating Narumi and Koyanagi, respectively. But at the same time, it’s really not their business, so the lads are content to endure their ignorance for the sake of romantic privacy. And rightly so!

Wotaku ni Koi wa Muzukashii – 03 – Beige or Pink, It Doesn’t Matter

Hirotaka proves he’s a good man to have in a pinch when Narumi falls behind on her BL doujinshi for Comiket, perhaps due in part to the two dating. He helps her complete her work in time and helps man her table when the day of the event arrives. It’s never explicitly said, but it’s clear Hirotaka derives enjoyment from assisting the woman he likes with her creative passion, so it’s not even a question of feeling put out or overly relied on.

Hirotaka does have to run off for a smoke when he observes one too many of Narumi’s fans fawning over her work, and finds solace in Kabakura, who is in a similar situation with his girlfriend dressing up as a super-suave dude and being quickly surrounded by fangirls.

Still, when Narumi realizes there are still so many “gods” whose work she loves she has yet to visit, Hirotaka sends her off with his blessing, manning her table in her place, and quickly drawing the admiration of many a customer turned on by a tall, dark, and handsome guy peddling BL doujinshi, forcing Narumi to return and “save” him. But it’s all good; Hirotaka is having fun.

In the second half, Narumi and Hirotaka navigate the rough waters of transition from the platonic childhood friends that they were to something more…adult. When Hirotaka invites Narumi to his place for drinks, her first thought is of what color underwear she’s wearing, lest the night take that kind of turn.

To her combined relief (since she’s wearing beige) and mild disappointment, the only turning that seems to be in store is that of Wii-wheels as they play Mario Kart together. She’s initially terribly nervous about being alone in Hirotaka’s apartment, but quickly remembers who he is and eventually relaxes.

She’s hit with another surprise when Koyanagi and Kabakura join them for the “sleepover”, and while Hirotaka takes his shower, the girls search his room for his print stash, which Koyanagi is convinced all red-blooded Japanese otaku still cling to, even in this age of digitization.

Harumi is initially put off by the big-boobed figures out in the open, but then takes a trip down memory lane when she finds his true stash: that of magic cards and other collectibles. Hirotaka joins her in reminiscing, stating that the time he traded cute characters for powerful ones was the genesis of their friendship, something Narumi feels guilty about not remembering.

She wants their relationship to be “fair” and for  Hirotaka to be honest with her and not hesitate to “punch” her if he thinks she’s a terrible person, but c’mon…there’s no way Hirotaka thinks that. But if she insists on penance, he exacts it by leaning in for a kiss—a real one this time—reminding her that he is, in fact, a man. A man concerned neither her bust size nor the color of her undergarments.

Also, how cute are Koyanagi and Kabakura with their matching necklaces, extremely competitive video gameplay, and drifting off on the couch together? They’re a very different couple from Narumi and Hirotaka, but no less fun to watch.

Wotaku ni Koi wa Muzukashii – 02 – Settling into a Nice if Familiar Rhythm

If the newness of WotaKoi masked it in the first episode, Hiraike Yoshimura’s style has become apparent in the second, as this week’s episode is more of a loosely-connected sequence of joke-dense vignettes with plenty of self-deprecating commentary (and some that references Eva, including Hirotaka-as-Ikari Gendo…Oigakkosan Cameo!)

Where WotaKoi distinguishes itself from Working!! and its various sequels is the speed with which the main couple comes together. Even when Hirotaka and Narumi are a little awkward at work, their friends Koyanagi and Kabakura point out the positive aspects of the other party, and that they’ve made the right choice.

But when Narumi somewhat carelessly admits Kabakura might be more “her type” in earshot of her boyfriend, she draws his ire, and the episode takes on the structure of a multiple-choice RPG, in which her avenue of escape is blocked until Kabakura and Koyanagi—former captains of their schools’ volleyball teams—start going at it, and she exploits the opening to flee.

Hirotaka chases after her, however, which results in the two adults working things out right then and there. She was scared of his reaction, while he was worried she didn’t like him anymore and wonders if it was a bad idea to confess to her.

In response to that, Narumi hugs him tightly, telling him not to say such things. She makes sure he knows she’s happy he confessed, and likes where they’re at. Some initial awkwardness is to be expected in a romance where the two parties work together.

Those initial hiccups in the relationship are all but forgotten in the next segment, in which the quartet decides to go out for drinks after Narumi finishes up some OT work. But because all four of them are otaku, they decide to head to a bookstore first.

Once there, the women split from the men. Narumi and Hirotaka may be dating, but their forms of otakuism differ, which means on occasion they’ll give each other a berth in which to pursue their individual interests.

That’s especially the case on a night when Narumi gets to browse and shot with Koyanagi. Narumi has always hidden her otakuism from her friends, and feels liberated for finally not having to. Koyanagi, for her part, wants Narumi as a cosplay partner.

The result of the group’s extended shopping trip to the bookstore is that everyone other than Hiyotaka bought so much stuff and they’re so eager to read it, they skip going out for drinks altogether, part ways for the night, and stay up way too late. The next day they’re all groggy at work, which might actually work in Hiyotaka’s favor with regards to his attempts to learn how to wink!

While I’m sure it will expand to more people before too long, this is a fun quartet of people so far, consisting of a definitely-together-yet-casual couple and a long-standing love-hate/will-they-won’t-they. Those two kinds of dynamics on display lend balance to the proceedings, and the volume of jokes is high enough that even if some might not land huge laughs, there’s always more to come.

Wotaku ni Koi wa Muzukashii – 01 – Otakus Reunite (First Impressions)

From the director and series compositor of Working!! (and Momokuri) comes another workplace romantic comedy involving two otaku who knew each other in both elementary and middle school suddenly realizing they work at the same drab office. Momose Narumi is a fujoshi, while Nifuji Hirotaka is a game otaku.

They fall back into their old dynamic almost immediately, as reflections of each other that don’t have to put on airs. Narumi also seems able to hold her liquor, while Hirotaka smokes like a goddamn chimney. They may not be kids anymore, but they remain steadfast otaku, and seem to draw strength and validation from one another’s continued sustained to their mutual odd obsessions, even if, at least initially, Narumi has no intention of dating her childhood friend.

Narumi is a particularly lucky otaku salarywoman, because her office senpai Koyanagi just happens to be “in the fold”, having cosplayed as a man at many an event. Koyanagi also happens to be a great fan of Narumi’s fujoshi work. Narumi took a risk by being open about who she is and what her interests ares, and it paid off Koyanagi is even cooler than she initially imagined.

As for Hirotaka, he’s slightly better at his job than Narumi, but that may well be a factor of him being with the company longer. Narumi left her old company due in part to having dated and broken up with her old boyfriend who worked there once he found out she was an otaku. Hirotaka has no such qualms, as he is himself an unapologetic otaku, and is all too happy to wait for Narumi to finish her work so they can go out for drinks.

It’s also Hirotaka who proposes Harumi should just date him. She herself voiced frustration over always “making the wrong choice” when it comes to love, so she’s willing to defer to Hirotaka in this case. He offers her a blindingly logical argument for why she should choose him: he will accept her for who she is, and she can do the same. He can also accompany her to events like Summer Comiket. It’s a match made in otaku heaven, really.

WotaKoi is a brisk and breezy little show that doesn’t waste a lot of time getting its main couple together. Their exchanges are easy, casual, and comfortable, and their pairing up feels both inspired, inevitable, and thoroughly reasonable. They sport a great effortless chemistry, and I’m eager to see how their new “alliance” works out.

Love Stage!! – 03

Picture 1

Izumi discovers he broke Ryouma’s ‘special lucky marble’ and freaks out but can’t find a replacement. Ryouma, who doesn’t care, uses this as an excuse to ‘confront’ Izumi and get over his gender confused lust. Confrontation turns into date rape and wuwWWWHUUUUUUUUTTTTTTTTTTT????!?!?!??!

This week’s Love Stage!! presented more of what we’ve come to expect: cute characters, charm and a little embarrassment humor over that little gender confusion from so long ago. Then Ryouma sexually assaults Izumi when they are along at Izumi’s house and is only stopped because Shouga was secretly watching them.

Picture 3

The whole assault scene is treated with the same whimsical style Love Stage!! treats everything, which certainly made it more jarring/surprising/uncomfortable. Think old school ‘sailor moon’ transformation sequence, except with 2 guys and 1 of them is begging the other to stop and the other is in a passionate gonna rape your orally mode.

Yeah…I don’t know how to respond to this.

Picture 4

What makes this week’s episode so difficult to comprehend is how indifferent Shouga and Rei are about the attack. It’s all so ‘oh, that explains things’ in a way that I think more people would be repulsed by if Izumi was actually a woman. The show doesn’t even address it as an assault. Just that Ryouma has serious issues ‘yuk-yuk’ because the woman he fell in love with is a guy.

For goodness sake Love Stage!!—if Izumi was really a woman, would the rest of your show tell the happy, charming tale of how she falls in love with her first RAPIST?? Boy, that would be worth some cute chuckles wouldn’t it??

 nr_ogk

DRAMAtical Murder – 01

dm011

Bodacious. Stylish. Crisp. Zany. Rad. These kinds of words swirled through my head during the OP (with a catchy theme by techno rock band GOATBED) and those descriptors served me well all the way through a very introductory episode to the ED (also a catchy theme by techno rock band GOATBED). On further research (Wikipedia) I learned this show is based on a BL visual model, which explains the lack of any female main characters, along with the reliable attractiveness of all of the male characters we come across.

dm012

The gender of the various players isn’t of much consequence in the first episode; but what is evident is that they all cultivate extremely elaborate, colorful looks; clearly a lot of effort was put into giving them very memorable, eye-popping appearances. One could even throw around the word flamboyant without fear. The setting is similarly impressive; as the protagonist Seragaki Aoba and all his pals live in the somewhat rundown”old city” (let’s say it has “character”) on an island now dominated by a massive, pristine arcology-looking thing.

dm013

We follow Aoba through a pretty typical day in which he crosses paths with many different folks, from a trio of neighborhood urchins, to his hairdresser friend Koujaku, to his gang leader friend Mizuki, two the non-twin brother yakuza duo of Trip and Virus, and finally, some big dude he bumps into who drives off on his motorcycle without a word. There’s also a kid with a gas mask on, Zvezda-style, but Aoba doesn’t run into him. The whole time, his pet Japanese Spitz Ren is by his side, who happens to be able to talk, serves as a mobile computer, and takes human form in game fields. Everyone seems to have a little mecha-animal on their person. Wish I had a mecha-animal…

dm014

While Aoba’s clearly done a few unsavory things in his past, he seems content with a quiet, honest living at the Junk Shop “Mediocrity” and living with his battleaxe Grams. But he’s also a lad being pushed and pulled by his pals to doing something more with his life; something he’s capable of doing. The final straw comes when he’s drawn against his will into the VR combat game “Rhyme” that’s all the rage in the city. While he pleads with the guy who instigated the game that he’s never played Rhyme, he’s clearly played something before, because he uses something called a “Jubilation Set” to defeat him.

dm015

Keeping track of so many new faces on new shows is often, to borrow a word from Aoba, a “hassle”, but DMMd at least makes it easier by making them so distinctive, and there’s a nice flow to Aoba’s travels around the huge, surging city. I can’t say much about Rhyme, except that Ren looks really cool in human form and their evil bunny rabbit opponents were lame as hell. Between Grandma throwing death flags and the gas mask guy, I’d bed on Aoba’s quiet, unassuming life getting a bit louder and more assuming in episodes to come. And by all means, keep rockin’ those moon boots.

7_mag

Car Cameos:

Space Dandy – 07

dandy71

Many a great sci-fi series features a good old-fashioned Grand Prix race at some point in its run, and Space Dandy reaches into that deep cookie jar of stand-bys with its usual cheek and flair. It’s yet another great opportunity for universe-building, as the various drivers come in every size, shape and color. But the only one that matters to Dandy is the one stealing his thunder at Boobies: The Prince, voiced by Kaji Yuki.

While Dr. Gel is the antagonistic thorn that…never actually makes it into Dandy’s side, Prince is his first legitimate rival, winning hearts of the ladies through impeccable polish, politeness, boyish good looks, and by being the very best at what he does, which Dandy is decidedly not, no matter how entertaining his missions have been. Still, Dandy doesn’t hesitate to take Prince on at his own game, and enters the Magellanic Nebulae Grand Prix.

dandy72

QT and Meow are dubious of any kind of success against Prince, but when they find out that Prince is essentially a Bizarro Dandy with his own arrogant robot and (Mickey-like) rat sidekicks, they buy in at once, and the race is on, along a course that bears a close resemblance to Silverstone. (We’re also watching this episode on the day of the Daytona 500; a cool coincidence). Dandy doesn’t get off to a good start, but makes good use of his many trump cards, all of which are activated by the same yellow button.

The race itself is a gorgeous panorama of diverse environments and menagerie of funky aliens, which again just adds to the scale and intricate texture of the Space Dandy universe. The Prince is heel-and-toeing along in the lead, but Dandy keeps clawing and bearing down and showing up in the rear-view mirror until before Prince knows it, Dandy’s in the lead, and he does it His Way, which is to say by ignoring the laws of chemistry, metallurgy, physics—but none of the race rules.

dandy73

In the process of dueling with Dandy while the other competitors crash and explode (including Dr. Gel, who got so caught up in the race he briefly overtook his quarry), Prince undergoes a transformation (emotional, not physical): for the first time, he’s going all out and not leaving the competition in the dust. Dandy is pursuing him against all odds, flying in the face of the truths he had held inviolable: that nobody could beat him; that despite the love of the millions, he was alone at the front of the pack—until now.

We expected an ending in which the result of the race was disputed in some fashion or another, but with Prince and Dandy coming away more friends than enemies. But the Prince falling in love with Dandy, Dandy plowing into him from behind at the Seventh Space Velocity, Dandy achieving a higher level of existence, emerging 5 billion years later to find that he had been revered as a Buddha-like deity? Not expected. And those incessant bumper cards throughout the episode in which a chorus sang “Dandy” in various chords actually foreshadowed his apotheosis: it was a mantra.

9_superiorRating: 9 (Superior)