Scared Rider Xechs – 01 (First Impressions)

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In my experience, Tuesday is a pretty light day for anime, to the point I don’t even necessarily have to watch something on Tuesday. The only reason I would is if there was a show original and entertaining enough to make me watch it. But after an uneven and somewhat bland opening episode, I fear SRX is not that kind of show.

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Part of this are the characters: there are certainly plenty of them, but few are named and most are bland as wallpaper paste. Hot pants, a guitar, and a strange half-Engrish accent to not dynamic and interesting characters make. There’s also the matter of the blob-like enemies, called “Nightfly O’Notes”, which while destructive could hardly be called frightening.

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A team of four prettyboys called “riders” gear up (in what look like Power Ranger suits) and pummel the NoNs back to their dimension, while a fifth prettyboy (Mr. Guitar) runs into a burning plane to rescue the “6th Dirigent”, a girl in desperate need of a hair stylist and psychiatrist.

Boy #5 AKA Yosuke was unable to transform right until he needed to in order to save the girl, and that’s where the episode ends…right when things are starting to pick up and get a little interesting. I may give it one more episode, but I was not particularly impressed with anything SRX had to offer, especially when compared to the Spring carryovers I’m already watching.

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Persona 4: The Animation – 12

The gang enters the TV world after Mitsuo, which takes on the look of a video game. But shortly after confronting him and his shadow, time jumps forward to a time after he is defeated. The gang promises to hang out more, but as months pass, they all drift further apart until Yu is alone. After nearly four months, he is attacked by the shadow, and pulled back into the battle with him by Yosuke. Yu fires off a string of Personas until the shadow is bested, and Mitsuo is arrested. The group celebrates, and vows to stick together moving forward.

Meh. Perhaps it’s because we just finished up one of the best anime series – mystery or otherwise – we’ve ever seen in Penguindrum, but we can’t help but be a little disappointed in how this series turned out. The mystery was comparatively quite lame, and its resolution anticlimatic. The cast got far too big for a half-length series, and as a result, no one really got enough development. Subpar characters like Kuma got too much screen time, particularly this week, while Yu, who we’ve seen since the beginning, still possesses barely more personality than wallpaper paste.

This week, Yu descends into some kind of persistant illusion that makes him think all his friends are flaking out and abandoning him after the killer is found. What’s with his sudden insecurity? While a taciturn dude, his behavior thus far never struck us as socially awkward or anxious. It was nice to futz with time and reality, but the sudden transition was jarring to the point we thought it might be a mistake. As a regular episode, this is probably a 3, but the finish to a series-long mystery coulda, shoulda been better.


Rating: 2.5

Persona 4: The Animation – 06

Yu, Yosuke, Chie and Yukiko spend Golden Week and after hanging out, investigating the murders. They learn that the next next victim is a n’er-do-well classmate of theirs named Tatsumi Kanji, whom they tail. However, they prove most un-stealthy, and are forced to run from the furious delinquent on more than one occasion.

Ah Persona 4…the show that takes its time and hangs out at outdoor food courts. For the second straight week, we don’t see a lick of underworld or supernatural goings-on, save the brief Midnight Channel sequences. But rather than focusing on a new character (who doesn’t reappear here), this episode is mostly just about the gang bonding and having adventures with one another in the real world. This episode reminds us that these four are still getting to know one another for the most part. Yu and Yosuke don’t even have Yukiko’s number until now.

Their attempts to tail Kanji make for a good deal of slapstick comedy, including a Chie and Yosuke blowing their own cover by having such a loud conversation, to Chie having beef bowls delivered to her in the middle of being chased by Kanji, which was quite amusing. It was nice to see the show let its hair down a little before diving right back into the underworld and personas, though Yu remains a ridiculously wooden character whose performance is laid back almost to a fault. Also, what’s with the school’s lax dress code?


Rating: 3

Persona 4: The Animation – 03

Yukiko goes missing after appearing on the Midnight Channel very much out of character. Chie races into the otherworld after her, followed close behind by Yu and Yosuke. Once there, Chie is confronted by her doppleganger, who is full of jealosy and resentment for Yukiko, and is content to use her as a doormat. After a battle, the foe morphs into Chie’s first persona, but Yukiko remains at large.

So, we kinda knew this episode would be about Chie gaining her Persona, and we kinda knew that her relationship with Yukiko was not all smiles and sunshine beneath the surface. Chie is a bit of a tomboy, and Yukiko is far more popular with the lads, it would seem. There’s a dark side to us all, and even strong, kind Chie has hers. Unfortunately, her entire battle with that dark side and the monster it turned into was a bit of a dawdle. It was strangling Yosuke far longer than was needed to kill him, for instance, and once Yu summoned the right Persona, dispatching her was, well, really easy.

But then, Persona is a game-based anime, and things start out easy, so it’s understandable. The execution of Chie’s confrontation with herself was fine, although the dopplegangers come off as petty, arrogant assholes more than dire threats to one’s self. And as always, the chemistry between Chie, Yu and Yosuke remains strong; they’re gelling well as both friends and comrades in battle, and are fun to watch. And there’s still a Yukiko to be saved, though lord knows where she is. Her performance on the Midnight Channel was downright bizarre, and we couldn’t make heads nor tails about it. Ah well, next week. Till then, don’t brandish swords in public places!


Rating: 3.5

Persona 4: The Animation – 02

Another girl dies, and this time it’s Yosuke’s crush Konishi, after he sees her on the Midnight Channel. Yosuke and Yuu go back to the otherworld in the TV at Junes, where Yosuke meets a doppelganger containing a side of him he’s been trying to suppress, who he then defeats with help from Yuu and Izanagi. Yosuke then gains a persona ability, and the two promise to solve the murders and find the culprit responsible.

We’ll be frank: we’re not big fans of the crazy-ass bear thing who’s always including bear puns with his lines. He had too much to say this week, and we hope to see him as little as possible in the future. Why would an otherwise classy-and-cool looking series decide to design something so…silly? We would have preferred a more lifelike talking bear to him. Like Gentle Ben.

Other than the bear-thing, this was a great episode, following up the developments of last week by making the week’s victim not only everyone is familiar with, but someone Yosuke’s in love with, making him face his inner turmoil. Death is very quiet and sudden in this show; there’s no blood or gore to announce it, it happens off-screen, in the shadows, which while less viseral, makes it more mysterious. Naturally, we can’t have Yuu the only one who can wield power, so Yosuke gets his own persona, and Chie probably isn’t far off from getting hers.


Rating: 3.5

Persona 4: The Animation – 01



Narukami Yu arrives in a new town to attend school while his parents are working abroad and live with his uncle, a local detective. He meets his new classmates, Chie, Yosuke and Yukiko, who go on about the “midnight channel”, in which staring at a TV on a rainy midnight will reveal one’s soul mate. Yu tries it and is nearly sucked in. He does it again with Chie and Yosuke watching, and all three enter an alternate plane where they’re met by a frekish bear thing and foes called shadows. Yu then beseeches the voice that had been in his head all along and releases a persona to fight off the baddies.

Our only previous exposure to the Persona franchise was the Trinity Soul video game for PS2, which we’ve never played, but have watched a friend play. Fortunately, one doesn’t have to know anything ahead of time to enjoy this series, which we did, quite a bit. It lulled a bit from the cryptic teaser to the introductions of the cast, but as the episode progressed it got far more interesting, dense and entertaining. It had a lot of video game-like qualities, is kinda scored like one, and features transitions of the date and weather whenever the day changes. The alternate plane has a nice slick whimsy, with just a touch of peril so it isn’t just silly.

This series is being directed by Seiji Kishi, who was also at the helm of Angel Beats! and Kamisama Dolls, while Yui Horie (Yuki-onna) lends her lively, expressive voice to Chie. A word on uniforms: they’re pretty off-the-wall. Black with contrast stitching resembling tailor’s marks and houndstooth collars and skirts. The character design is simple but has a nice edge to it, to go with the certain je nais sais qoui appeal of the overall aesthetic of the show. The opening and ending sequences also rock, there’s great budding chemistry amongst the lead cast and a sense of impending adventure afoot. Let’s see where this goes, shall we?


Rating: 4

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At one point in this week’s proceedings, in which Ohana arrives to the rescue of the same inn her class is staying at, she proclaims with surprise: “I’ve learned my job!” She was taught so well, she wasn’t even aware of when she transformed from more of a Yuina-like liability to a serious inn professional. Her “waitress’ instinct” wouldn’t allow her to stand by and let the inn’s service suffer. So in her free time, she volunteers to work.

Nakochi and Minchi soon join her, and they do what they do best. Yuina goofs off around town a little longer, but eventually returns to the inn to find that her friends are hard at work preparing dinner for the class. She stops by the bath, where an annoyed Yosuke tells her if she doesn’t want to work by his side in the inn when he inherits it, there’s no way they can marry. What’s interesting is that Yuina laid out her desired future so confidently and bluntly, and it turns out she isn’t nearly as sure about everything as she would let on.

All it takes is Yosuke praising Ohana and even suggesting a girl like her would be more suited to be his wife, and Yuina grabs a mop and starts scrubbing. This is a girl whos classmates call her princess, and she is in a lot of ways, having never done much manual labor. But she’s determined not to let Yosuke fall (settle?) for Ohana: she can work to, she just chose never to do so.

Yuina indeed helps Yosuke finish cleaning the bath just in time, and the dinner is a success thanks to the Kissuiso staff. The experience not only makes Yuina rethink whether an inn has no place in her future, but also leads to Yosuke rethinking his managing style. It also reinforces the friendship of the three Kissuiso girls, who proved that no matter where the inn is, they can make it rain, so to speak. Rating: 3.5

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Click here to read more reviews of Hanasaku, including the first thirteen episodes.

“What’s the point of him yelling?”Exactly, Minchi; Exactly. On their high school summer getaway to the beach, Ohana, Minchi, Nako and Yuina are suddenly thrown into the bizarro world, inn-wise. Rather than serving customers, they are the customers, and must act as such. But while the head clerk and ‘heri’ of the Fukuya Inn, a certain Yosuke, may be Yuina’s fiancee, he isn’t the most pleasant guy to work with.

I’m going to be the bitches’ advocate here and say the part-time workers can’t possibly see what’s going on in any other light than Yosuke lumping work on them and treating them like crap while he woos his girlfriend. Or can they? Hard to say, but I doubt it would be an issue if they weren’t part-time to begin with, but rather girls like Ohana, Nako, and Minchi, who work full-time and are passionate about their work at the inn, and about improving themselves. It’s more than just a job for them, because they have time to make it so. If it’s just a part-time job, it’s harder to, well, care.

Even if Fukuya Inn is big and booming and can accomodate high school classes, and Yosuke hasn’t even heard of Kissuiso, it’s state-of-the-art technology and business practices have their cost. But even more pressing to Yosuke is getting an answer from Yuina regarding her future. It turns out she doesn’t consider running an inn to be part of the future she wants. This is harsh, but it’s also her life and her decision to make. Her answer also comes at a particularly knife-twisting moment when Yosuke’s underlings stage a mass quitting, undermining his leadership in the eyes of his superiors.

This wasn’t the idle beach episode I was somewhat dreading (and it’s good that so many anime recently have turned off that desperately-beaten path), but actually contained some development. Despite her enviable position as heiress to her family’s inn, Yuina apparently wants something else in life. Meanwhile, Ohana, who still tears up whenever she remembers Ko’s last words to her, nevertheless resolves to not let such things disrupt her life or drag her down. That’s probably a good attitude. Rating: 3.5