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Anime Review: Mirai Nikki Episode 2

Anime Review:
Mirai Nikki Episode 2

What this is about: Watching all of the anime shows so you don't have to! For more information about me and my reviews, click here for details on what I am reviewing.

Series Premise: Mirai Nikki, or "Future Diary", is a 26-episode weekly anime television series aired between October 2011 and April 2012, based on a long-running sci-fi/action manga by Sakae Esuno. Yuki Amano discovers that he is being told about the future one day in advance through diary entries on his cell phone. But he also has become an unwilling entrant in a "Diary Game", where he is competing against several other people with the same gift in a battle royale where only one contestant will survive to the end.

Click on the thumbnails below to view the picture in full size in a new window:

Very Quick Episode Summary: With Yuki unsure how to proceed, he is forced into running for his life when Minene, another diary owner, holds the school hostage with several bombs. After his initial indecision, he decides to form an alliance with Yuno, and they manage to survive Minene's attacks. As Minene escapes, Yuki and Yuno also decide to ally themselves with Detective Keigo, who is also a diary owner.

My Impressions: Hey, hey! I am now finally getting around to reviewing the second episodes of all the shows from the Fall 2011 Television Season that received a “thumbs up” — let’s see what shows survive to the next round!

Ladies and gentlemen, I think we have the clear successor in the viewing slot for the Spring 2011 Season's Deadman Wonderland in my viewing lineup. Let's hope that Mirai Nikki ends up being more interesting.

There are *some* similarities between the two shows, such as the indecisive teen male character who is immediately befriended/saved by a mysterious girl. They also have completely over-the-top concepts that bear no reality to, well...reality. And they both have a serious mean streak running through them. But mostly, they both have the same *feel* and *tone* -- it's hard to describe exactly.

Well, at the very least, Mirai Nikki has a much brighter and interesting color pallet. (As opposed to Deadman Wonderland which is oftentimes lit with little more than a ten-watt bulb).

Anyway, enough of trying to compare Mirai Nikki with something else -- how about just looking at the episode on its own merits? Yuki remains annoyingly hesitant (an overplayed character type that pops up waaaaay too often as the male lead in waaaaay too many anime shows). This is, of course, offset by the frightening stalker-girl Yuno, who is giving Ringo from Mawaru Penguin Drum a run for the money in the category of most bat-shiat-crazy-ass character of the year.

Plus we now have properly introduced two new characters: The nucking futs Bomber Girl and the aloof Detective Guy, and already alliances are starting to form. We still have, uh, seven more diary owners to introduce over the next several episodes, so there's plenty of time to form all sorts of tangled relationships...and watch them double-cross each other in a fight to the death. After all, there can be only one. This could get very complicated very fast. At least, that's what I hope.

The verdict:

There was one OH MY FUCKING GOD NO NO NO moment as Yuki nearly takes out Bomber Girl with one of his darts, and at the very last moment ends up taking out her left eye instead. If I have any sort of phobia, it would be touching/damaging the eyeball which FREAKS ME THE FUCK OUT. Jeezus.

For more information:

  • My earlier reviews of the series:
  • Info resources:
    Sampling of Online Reviews:

    • "Phew, if there’s one thing that Mirai Nikki does well, it’s creating a rather intense atmosphere. Admittingly, this series also gets very over-the-top with it’s plot twists, which is made even more prominent by the sheer lack of any guts in the main character Yukiteru. Nevertheless, the story continues to devolve into one heck of a chaotic mess between wielders of Future diaries, some ruthlessly hunting others down." - Emory Anime Club
    • "Like the first episode, there’s a very strong mood of desperation and suspense which works very well with the music and the way the episode was directed – I didn’t feel bored once." - Moeronpan
    • "All that mental priming for a bloodbath was for naught. Although the later parts of the episode did deliver on the violence and explosions, what really left me watching with my mouth agape was the total psychosis of the characters." - The Kotatsu
    • "You may have figured this out already, but Mirai Nikki probably isn’t the best choice if you’re looking for something to restore your faith in humanity." - Random Curiosity
    • "Overall, this episode made the show seem like a a series that would provide some second grade chills and cheap entertainment. As for whether it will turn out to be something more substantial in the near future… I am hoping that it does because this show is not really griping me at this moment despite its unique plot." - Otakuness

      ROUND TWO (Second Episode) RESULTS FOR THE FALL 2011 SHOWS:

      Thumbs-up for Round Two: Un-Go, Chibi Devi, Bakuman Season 2, Mirai Nikki

      Thumbs-down for Round Two: Working Season 2

      Coming up next: Shinryaku Ika Musume Season 2, Ben-To, Chihayafuru, Guilty Crown, Phi-Brain, Last Exile: Fam the Silver Wing, Fate Zero,Boku Ha Tomodachi ga Sukunai, Hunter x Hunter, Tamayura Hitotose, gdgd Fairies

Anime Review: Bakuman Season 2 Episode 2

Anime Review:
Bakuman Season 2 Episode 2

What this is about: Watching all of the anime shows so you don't have to! For more information about me and my reviews, click here for details on what I am reviewing.

Series Premise: Bakuman is a weekly animated television series based on a long-running popular manga series from Shonen Jump, with the first season airing in Fall 2010, and the second season starting in October 2011. Moritaka and Akito are two high school students who put everything on the line to live their dreams of becoming popular manga creators. However, breaking into the professional manga industry takes an incredible amount of hard work, luck, and time.

Click on the thumbnails below to view the picture in full size in a new window:

Very Quick Episode Summary: Breaking in the new assistants at the studio is more socially awkward than expected. Miho's boss asks her to participate in a risque project, and she agonizes over what she should do. Mashiro rushes over to comfort/confront her, but Mr. Busybody butts in at the last moment to knock some sense back into him. And so, like sands through the hourglass, so are the days of our lives...

My Impressions: Hey, hey! I am now finally getting around to reviewing the second episodes of all the shows from the Fall 2011 Television Season that received a “thumbs up” — let’s see what shows survive to the next round!

Here's the thing: Bakuman *should* be the type of show that you think I would be falling all over. As someone who has spent most of my adult life steeped in the business side of the intricacies of the comic book industry, it's right up my alley. And I love stories about underdogs fighting against impossible odds. So why do I come away so incredibly...nonplussed by Bakuman?

I've given it some thought, but at this point I honestly cannot put my finger on it. But something is missing from Bakuman, and it's a bit frustrating that I cannot figure out what that missing element is. After this episode, like so many other episodes before it, I am just left with a feeling of "Yeah, so what? That's it?" After over two dozen episodes, I don't care about the characters at all, and I don't care about the plot -- nothing grabs me. Watching the episodes is just going through the motions.

As for the story of the individual episode itself, blah blah blah teenage drama blah blah blah. I wish I could just slap both Mashiro and Miho upside the head for being such idiots, but I think more than anything else this just points out that they are still teenagers inexperienced with relationships (can you really fault a stupid teen for acting like a stupid teen?)

The verdict:

After writing up this little non-review review, I wonder why I initially decided to give this a thumbs-up and pass to the next round in the first place. But I'm too lazy to change the "thumbs up" icon I uploaded, so I'll just see how things develop next episode. It's not like I *hate* Bakuman or anything (after all, I gave the first season of Bakuman a non-committal "C" grade), just thoroughly unimpressed. One could do worse. I guess the real question is, did I really expect the second season to be any different from the first? I should have known better.

For more information:

  • My earlier reviews of the series:
  • Info resources:
    Sampling of Online Reviews:

    • "If there’s one thing this season of Bakuman seems to be doing right, it’s improving the pacing to the story. The pacing and organization feels much more tight and streamlined. The results have proven to be quite good, with a rather compelling and easy to understand story. The tale of Mashiro and Azuki feels much more realistic this episode, but more importantly, it really struck a heartstring or two." - Emory Anime Club
    • "How you enjoyed the second episode of the second season of Bakuman will probably depend on how important a part of the story you think the highly unorthodox romance between Mashiro and Azuki is." - Lost in America
    • "This episode was great though. A problem arises, and Mashiros dream could have been ruined for his love. He just dropped everything risking his career to make sure Miho was fine, yet they sorted everything out and he was able to get back to work and finish the job. x3" - Meeping Anime
    • "I’m not sure if I like the pacing of this season yet…So far, they haven’t gotten so far. There’s so much better material later in the manga, but it seems like a distant dream for the anime…it’s a pity. Oh well, I still love this series." - Marth's Anime Blog

      ROUND TWO (Second Episode) RESULTS FOR THE FALL 2011 SHOWS:

      Thumbs-up for Round Two: Un-Go, Chibi Devi, Bakuman Season 2

      Thumbs-down for Round Two: Working Season 2

      Coming up next: Mirai Nikki, Shinryaku Ika Musume Season 2, Ben-To, Chihayafuru, Guilty Crown, Phi-Brain, Last Exile: Fam the Silver Wing, Fate Zero,Boku Ha Tomodachi ga Sukunai, Hunter x Hunter, Tamayura Hitotose, gdgd Fairies

Anime Review: Working Season 2 Episode 2

Anime Review:
Working Season 2 Episode 2

What this is about: Watching all of the anime shows so you don't have to! For more information about me and my reviews, click here for details on what I am reviewing.

Series Premise: Working!! (with the double exclamation points, also known as "Wagnaria" in the United States) is a weekly anime series based on a four-panel comedy manga, with the first season aired during Spring 2010, and the second 13-episode season (identified by an extra apostrophe) between October and December 2011. Set in a small family restaurant in Hokkaido, the employees of Wagnaria all have their own individual charms and quirks that can cause all sorts of problems, but they work together the best they can.

Click on the thumbnails below to view the picture in full size in a new window:

Very Quick Episode Summary: Aoi and Poplar investigate Hiroomi's life outside the restaurant, but end up being trolled instead. Poplar attempts to get Souta to be nicer to Mahiru. Aoi totally crushes on the traveling manager Otoo, desiring to become his daughter -- but this only succeeds in making his awkward visits more awkward.

My Impressions: Hey, hey! I am now finally getting around to reviewing the second episodes of all the shows from the Fall 2011 Television Season that received a “thumbs up” — let’s see what shows survive to the next round!

Here's the thing: All of the characters have become so deeply set in their ways that they have become nothing more than walking, talking, breathing stereotypes of their own individual dysfunctions. Nothing has changed from the first season at all -- NOTHING. Poplar is still teased about her height; Souta is still nutso over "cute, small" things; Mahiru is just as insecure about herself and male-avoidant as ever; the manager is just as lackadaisical; Yachiyo is still obsessed about the manager...I could go on with another dozen character traits that were well-worn in the series over one year ago. Working is stuck in a rut -- a deep, deep rut.

The jokes and scenarios playing out in this second episode of the second season are essentially replays of stuff we have seen before.

Never-changing characters are not necessarily a bad thing in comedies. For example, another show that is airing concurrently this one is the second episode of Shinryaku Ika Musume, which is equally unchanging from the first season, and (as you'll see in my review a little later on) I have no problems with that. Practically every single American cartoon involves unchanging characters (in fact, we'd be extremely disappointed if Tom and Jerry or the Coyote and the Roadrunner started behaving differently). So the never-changing nature of Working itself is not the problem.

The problem lies in that they are never-changing characters, but from a starting point that was not that interesting in the first place. After watching the entire first season of Working back in 2010, I came away with the most tepid of positive recommendations (a "C+"), and frankly I really don't need more of the same thing all over again.

The verdict:

I guess I can say that if you enjoyed the comedy of the first season, I see no reason why you would not enjoy the second season just as much -- because it is the exact same thing. And there's nothing particularly wrong with Working (it's meh-okay), but since I've seen all of this before, I really don't see any compelling reason to go through a second round again. So, goodbye for now, I may return to watch it as some background noise on the television (where I don't have to devote my full attention to it) at a later date.

For more information:

  • My earlier reviews of the series:
  • Info resources:
    Sampling of Online Reviews:

    • "Some might argue that things are a bit stagnant, as there doesn’t appear to be too much “growth” among the cast. But this series is all about the quirks, and I find the quirks to be very funny and charming." - Lost in America
    • "Overall, though, this episode was another strong one. Maybe not as strong as the first but it still solidified the idea in my mind that this season is going to be just as good, if not better, than the last." - Metanorn
    • "I found the episode charming, especially the stalker parts. Also, the ending is pure comedy gold." - Geek Revolt
    • "I was hoping to see more development between Takanashi and Inami but we still have 10 more episodes to go. Plenty of time to be awesome. Also, I think Jun Fukuyama does a good job as Satou. I'm in love with that character now... or rather I'm renewing my vows ♥" - Conspicuous Klux
    • "I continue to enjoy this show very much because I feel that the execution is very successful, something all the more remarkable given how weak the premise is. I like the anime’s art a lot more than the original manga’s and the scene transistions are relatively smooth for a 4koma adaptation. Most importantly the characters’ behaviours are scripted with a great deal of consistency and, despite the sheer oddness of some of the quirks, maintain this consistency even when the interactions become more complex, mixing up the usual dyads and oppositional pairs." - Sea Slugs!

      ROUND TWO (Second Episode) RESULTS FOR THE FALL 2011 SHOWS:

      Thumbs-up for Round Two: Un-Go, Chibi Devi

      Thumbs-down for Round Two: Working Season 2

      Coming up next: Bakuman Season 2, Mirai Nikki, Shinryaku Ika Musume Season 2, Ben-To, Chihayafuru, Guilty Crown, Phi-Brain, Last Exile: Fam the Silver Wing, Fate Zero,Boku Ha Tomodachi ga Sukunai, Hunter x Hunter, Tamayura Hitotose, gdgd Fairies

Anime Review: Chibi Devi Episode 2

Anime Review:
Chibi Devi Episode 2

What this is about: Watching all of the anime shows so you don't have to! For more information about me and my reviews, click here for details on what I am reviewing.

Series Premise: Chibi Devi is a five-minute-long weekly animated television series based on a shoujo comedy manga by Hiromu Shinozuka, started in October 2011. Honoka is a lonely middle school girl without friends, until one day she wakes up to find a baby in her bed...who also happens to be a fire-breathing devil.

Click on the thumbnails below to view the picture in full size in a new window:

Very Quick Episode Summary: Confused by what to do with baby Mao, Honoka invites her gay friend Kyou over. But tagging along with Kyou is the abrasive Shin, whom Honoka fears. After a display of Mao's powers, Kyou ducks out unexpectedly, leaving Honoka alone with Kyou. When they aren't looking, Mao wanders off.

My Impressions: Hey, hey! I am now finally getting around to reviewing the second episodes of all the shows from the Fall 2011 Television Season that received a “thumbs up” — let’s see what shows survive to the next round!

And who would have thought that Chibi Devi would survive past the first round...but now also the second round? Well, a very *mild* thumbs-up, because it was only mildly (and inoffensively) entertaining. Perhaps the fact that it is only five minutes long helps, in that there is not enough time to become repetitive and tiresome.

At the most basic level, it has the same concept of the hugely popular anime/manga series Beelzebub, which I panned fairly early on (after the second episode, I think). Beelzebub was just so over-the-top *shonen*, extremely loud and extremely active, like watching a herd of eight-year-old boys in action...largely because that is actually the target audience for that show. Combine that with a whole raft of obnoxious, unlikeable characters (the main character being the worst of all), and it made for an unpleasant experience.

Chibi Devi, on the other hand, is a *shoujo* comedy, aimed at young girls. Tone down the fast and furious action and physical comedy by an order of magnitude, and replace the ultra-in-your-face outcast main character with a shy, reticent, insecure young girl. Much, much, much better, and much, much, much more watchable.

The verdict:

Now, the sixty-four-dollar question is whether this little appetizer of a show will develop enough of a plot to be worth watching. There really isn't much to Chibi Devi, and I'm also way outside the target demographic. The characters (so far) are decent enough, albeit entirely inoffensive and unoriginal. We'll see, but let's just say I'm not holding my breath.

For more information:

  • My earlier reviews of the series:
  • Info resources:
    Sampling of Online Reviews:

    • "I’ll just get to the point quickly. This episode was just as bad as the first. Maybe even worse since it only really served to introduce Kyou and Shin; and Shin is THE MOST ANNOYING CHARACTER EVER." - Moeronpan
    • "Chibi Devi continues to be adorable but it is starting to fall prey to some shoujo tendencies that I really can't stand. " - Oshii Anime
    • ...Um. That's all I could find.


    Thumbs-up for Round Two: Un-Go, Chibi Devi

    Thumbs-down for Round Two: None yet.

    Coming up next: Working Season 2, Bakuman Season 2, Mirai Nikki, Shinryaku Ika Musume Season 2, Ben-To, Chihayafuru, Guilty Crown, Phi-Brain, Last Exile: Fam the Silver Wing, Fate Zero,Boku Ha Tomodachi ga Sukunai, Hunter x Hunter, Tamayura Hitotose, gdgd Fairies

Anime Review: Un-Go Episode 2

Anime Review:
Un-Go Episode 2

What this is about: Watching all of the anime shows so you don't have to! For more information about me and my reviews, click here for details on what I am reviewing.

Series Premise: Un-Go is an 11-episode weekly television anime series produced by Bones and airing during the prestigious Noitamia timeslot, between October and December 2011. Japan is slowly recovering after nearly being destroyed after World War III. Yuuki Shinjuurou, nicknamed "The Defeated Detective", solves mysteries with the help of a curious little "boy" named Inga, seemingly uncovering the truth but also always at odds with authoritarian government agents.

Click on the thumbnails below to view the picture in full size in a new window:

Very Quick Episode Summary: Yuuki investigates the murder of a wealthy woman, and after quizzing her daughter An, suspects a former all-girl idol group known as Yonagahime 3+1. Rising to the height of popularity during the disastrous war when one of their members was killed in a terrorist attack, Yuuki deduces that the murdered singer never existed in the first place. With that knowledge, he figures out the real killer, but is thwarted from revealing the killer by government officials that do not want their role in spreading propaganda to be revealed.

My Impressions: Hey, hey! I am now finally getting around to reviewing the second episodes of all the shows from the Fall 2011 Television Season that received a "thumbs up" -- let's see what shows survive to the next round!

After the first episode, I was very much...unsure of Un-Go. I did not know exactly what to make of the series, and I must admit after viewing the second episode, I still remain unsure of Un-Go.

But there is one thing that I have now confirmed, and that is the "detective" or "mystery" genre in anime is totally unsuited to the 22-minute-episode format. With all of the various shows I have watched within the past two years that have been heavily geared towards mysteries (Um, off the top of my head that would include Psychic Detective Yakumo, Gosick, Kamisama Memo-chou, Dantalian no Shoka, a few others), there simply is not enough time to fully flesh out a decent mystery in such a short time-frame. In a single episode, the writers have just enough time to throw out a handful of extremely obvious clues that stick out like a sore thumb, not enough time for a serious build-up or plot, so if you can spot the clues, add them together, you've solved the mystery. Not enough time for misdirection, wild goose chases, or anything.

Such is the case here, and within the first few minutes it became quite easy to figure out who the killer really was. If you're coming to this show for the mysteries or the detective work, you are going to be sorely disappointed. Again. Instead, the points of interest of Un-Go rests elsewhere: 1) the characters, 2) the setting.

As for the characters, that is where I remain unsure. After the first two episodes, I get the point of Yuuki and the meaning behind his moniker of "defeated detective". His female foil, the underage Rie, was largely out of the picture this time around. The massive question mark remains Inga. What the hell is he...er, she? Most of the time he's just an annoying little boy that flounces around like some ADHD-riddled brat, but then there's those key moments when Inga transforms into that strange, tall, busty female creature with the ability to force the answer to any question she asks.

Well...okay. Doesn't make any sense, but even given that weird supernatural power, they don't really use it properly. I mean, Inga ends up using her powers this time around to ask a question...that does nothing more than confirm what Yuuki already knew all along. What a waste. I am left wondering why Yuuki puts up with the insufferable little twat in the first place.

That leaves me with Un-Go's setting...and that is where there it potentially gets interesting. It's a future Japan that is struggling with the ravages of war, the government transformed into a repressive institution that controls everything, all in the name of keeping the peace. It's a dystopian view of the future that makes me wonder whether this show is representative of a significant chunk of Japan's views, and where their country is heading. Combine this with some other recent shows like Guilty Crown, as well as Deadman Wonderland and No. 6 and we could be seeing a depressing trend emerging.

The verdict:

Un-Go passes to the next round (third episode), but I am not going to pay much attention to the smaller, episode-by-episode mysteries (that would just be setting myself up for disappointment). Instead, let's see if the characters develop into people worth watching as they navigate a downtrodden vision of the future. Yet I am already worrying as to whether this will turn into just some sort of heavy-handed moralizing cautionary tale about giving government too much power over individuals' lives. Let's see if Un-Go manages to rise above that and grow into something more interesting.

For more information:

  • My earlier reviews of the series:
  • Info resources:
    Sampling of Online Reviews:

    • "Overall, this series is developing a certain plot structure which is ‘Mystery of the Day’ -> Shinjuro solves it -> Rinroku covers it up. The series will probably be a solid 7 or might be pushed slightly above it depending on if there’s an actual backstory that is interesting in this series. The mysteries are engaging enough and despite it’s “low difficulty level” it does well in not coming across as being childish or retarded in nature (which Phi Brain seems to love to do). The characters are also intriguing and I am still undecided as to what sort of character Shinjuro is meant to be since he does not seem to fall perfectly into the mold of any stereotypes just yet, and that’s a good thing. =)" - Otakuness
    • "In the end, after the somewhat weak start last week, Un-go has managed to pull through with a very nice second episode. It’s still not perfect, but Un-go is approaching it’s mysteries with a bit more finesse than more recent mystery-based anime." - Emory Anime Club
    • "While I do praise UN-GO, this show isn’t perfect. It tends to suffer from poor pacing and some people would probably find it hard to follow. That said, this is one of the most intriguing shows this fall and one that uses it’s setting wisely. It still has a long way to go but I’m glad that it’s standing on it’s own and walking it’s own path that is very different from many of the anime we’re watching this season." - Hachimitsu
    • "So we have an enigma (the government coverup) behind an enigma (the Defeated Detective’s explanation) behind an enigma (the murderer’s explanation) behind an enigma (Kaishou’s explanation) behind an enigma (the original mystery). UN-GO is like an onion." - Draggle's Anime Blog
    • "What also really interests me in UN GO is its setting. It takes place in a war-torn Japan. Numerous questions arise: Why was/is there a war? Who and what are the factions and groups that are/were involved? Why does the main character say it’s still “unsettled”? I hope the anime addresses these questions along the way." - Muir Woods
    • "I'm still not sure exactly what purpose Inga serves to the series (surely Shinjurou is smart enough to get information out of people without relying on a walking deus ex machina), but even with his "unique" input this was an eminently satisfying episode, not least because this time Shinjurou's victory was more than just a pyrrhic one in the face of officialdom. I'm not sure that Un-Go has what it takes to be a classic, but I'm certainly warming to it nicely. " - Hanners' Anime Blog
    • "I think we’re seeing the makings of something pretty interesting here – a story that was written during the halcyon days of fascism being adapted for the Ishihara era (“Internet Information Privacy and Protection Act”, anyone?"). I’m still not sold on the characters though." - Lost in America


    Thumbs-up for Round Two: Un-Go

    Thumbs-down for Round Two: None yet.

    Coming up next: Chibi Devi, Working Season 2, Bakuman Season 2, Mirai Nikki, Shinryaku Ika Musume Season 2, Ben-To, Chihayafuru, Guilty Crown, Phi-Brain, Last Exile: Fam the Silver Wing, Fate Zero,Boku Ha Tomodachi ga Sukunai, Hunter x Hunter, Tamayura Hitotose, gdgd Fairies

Anime Review: Usagi Drop Episode 6

Anime Review:
Usagi Drop Episode 6

What this is about: Watching all of the anime shows so you don't have to! For more information about me and my reviews, click here for details on what I am reviewing.

Series Premise: Usagi Drop, or "Bunny Drop", is a weekly anime series between July 2011 and September 2011, based on a long-running manga series by Yumi Unita. Salaryman Daikichi discovers that his recently-deceased grandfather left behind Rin, an illegitimate 6-year-old girl. When no one else is willing to take her in, Daikichi steps up and accepts her, changing his life forever.

Click on the thumbnails below to view the picture in full size in a new window:

Very Quick Episode Summary: Daikichi and Rin plant trees.
Not-as-quick but still quick Episode Summary: Rin begins her first day of school, and Daikichi reminisces about the commemorative tree that was planted when he was born. He offers to plant a tree for Rin, too, to celebrate entering school, but realizes he may have opened a can of worms, not knowing if a tree was planted at the time of her birth. He once again contacts Rin's absentee mother, confirms Daikichi's grandfather had, in fact, planted a tree, and re-locates it to his house for Rin.

My Impressions: Usagi Drop works best when it appears to be more spontaneous, unscripted -- covering the little, every-day foibles of life. It doesn't work so well when it is trying its hardest to push a message, or purposely and ham-fistedly play upon your emotions. Luckily Usagi Drop has been mostly in the territory of the former rather than the latter. But this particular episode really dipped deep into the "tugs hard at heartstrings" territory.

It's not as if Usagi Drop hasn't done this before, but this time around it reached sickly-sweet proportions in the little scene towards the end of Rin, Daikichi and Grandfather walking along some imaginary path in a line, hammering the message hard into anyone still daft towards the message at that point about how lives are tied together through memories and traditions. I would have preferred a more subtle approach myself.

But moving onwards, this episode continues to point out the rather amusing dual nature of Rin herself. At one moment seeming mature way beyond her years, but the next moment revealing her childlike glee at something as simple as a box of sugary cereal. And that, in fact, is the way most kids truly are -- they're not 100% immature little brats (well, most of them aren't, I would hope), but it's always this strange mixture of wanting to be all grown-up at times, but being betrayed by the spontaneity of youth time and again.

It leave me chagrined to watch Daikichi continually reacting to whatever Rin is doing, seemingly perpetually off-balance, never able to truly predict (or adapt) to Rin's actions. He seems much more at ease as de facto semi-surrogate father with the much simpler, predictable Kouki -- perhaps pointing out just how different little girls are from little boys.

Anyway, I hope that future episodes of Usagi Drop will tone down the heavy-handed play on viewers emotions and just play around with the smaller, everyday life stories instead.

The verdict:

For more information:
Sampling of Online Reviews:

  • "One of the strengths of Usagi Drop (and if you haven’t noticed, I really like this series, since I apparently feel obligated to talk about one of its strengths every week) is the way it can focus very succinctly on one or two things in an episode — and make that interesting. At one point I thought “is this episode seriously going to be all about the tree?” but then suddenly, it was over, and I realized I’d eaten it right up." - Sea Slugs
  • "The thing that I really loved about that quiet but powerful story is how, like so much in this series, it tied the whole family into the meaning and didn’t just focus on Daikichi and Rin...Usagi Drop takes the long view of the family – a very Japanese view, I think. The family isn’t just the parent and child, it’s the grandparents and siblings and cousins that are involved in the dynamics of raising a family. " - Lost in America
  • "This was my favorite episode of Usagi Drop so far. The ending of this episode was one of the most emotional moments in the show so far." - Draggle's Anime Blog

Anime Review:
Nurarihyon no Mago Season 2 Episode 6

What this is about: Watching all of the anime shows so you don't have to! For more information about me and my reviews, click here for details on what I am reviewing.

Series Premise: Nurarihyon no Mago, or "Nura: Rise of the Yokai Clan" is a weekly anime television series based on a Shonen Jump manga series. The first season aired between July and December 2010, and a second season, subtitled "Sennen Makyou", began airing in July 2011. Rikuo Nura is one-quarter demon and the heir of the infamous Nura Demon Clan, who is relucant to embrace his demon heritage and succeed his grandfather. But as he turns twelve, he comes to accept his demon heritage and lead his cadre of demons as rival factions vie for control.

Click on the thumbnails below to view the picture in full size in a new window:

Very Quick Episode Summary: Delays, delays, delays.
Still Quick But Not As Quick Episode Summary: Rikuo is champing at the bit to head off to Kyoto to protect Yura, but is waylaid by his grandfather who deems such actions as certain suicide. Rikuo is spirited away to a secret yokai village to undergo training, where his ego is knocked down a few pegs.

My Impressions: They sure are taking their sweet, sweet time in setting up the big story -- (sarcasm) you might be mistaken in thinking this was some sort of long-running shonen series with the pacing and all.

After the relatively quick pace of the first couple of episodes, I was impressed and looking forward to some fast-paced action. But then, that was brought to a dead stop with a two-part flashback, and just as the impetuous, hot-headed Rikuo is about to get into trouble, his wise old grandfather once again puts a kibosh on that idea and ships him off to "yokai camp" for training. And once again, any sort of movement in the general direction of the main plot is put on hold for god knows how many episodes as Hot-Shit-Nura/Rikuo learns he's really just a noobie weakling after all.

Now we have a whole raft of new characters in a new setting (as if keeping track of the existing cast wasn't enough), Rikuo separated off on his own in a different place, Yura separated off in a different place as well. I am not exactly looking forward to an extended training session (which, knowing how these sort of shonen-based shows go, could last forever and a day). I'll give it an episode or two more to see if it will defy my expectations.

The verdict:

For more information:
Sampling of Online Reviews:

  • "Well, I have a mixed feeling about this episode. It’s not that I hate it, but I’m not that much into it. Sure there are lots of information poured in here, along with Rikuo’s SHOKKU faces and FukuJun’s sexy panting, but I WANT BLOODS AND FIGHTS. I WANT FIGHTS, DAMN IT. Right there when I was about to eat my popcorn at the end of the episode, they just had to end it without fight. Why why wwwwhhhyyyy I’ve been waiting for that fight since FOREVER!!" - Metanorn
  • "A training arc may seem not seem like much of a welcome addition to this series but personally I’m glad to see it, making Rikuo out to be pathetic may have been over done, but when you think about it he’s really just been getting by on luck or facing opponents who were shittier than himself. As opposed to going about crushing anyone who gets in his way simply because he has natural talent." - Gin no Dangan
  • "Ah, a training episode, which is so-so. Rikuo wants to go to Kyoto, but knowing he isn’t ready for it, his grandfather forcefully sends him to Tono for training...I think this is the first time that we’ve seen Rikuo act so silly and clumsy in his youkai form...It’s good to know that his youkai form isn’t always cool and perfect, and that he still has some things to learn, such as how to cut through an enemy’s fear. But overall, this episode didn’t entertain me very much." - Meeping Anime

Anime Review:
Ikoku Meiro no Croisee Episode 6

What this is about: Watching all of the anime shows so you don't have to! For more information about me and my reviews, click here for details on what I am reviewing.

Series Premise: Ikoku Meiro no Croisee, or "Croisee in the Foreign Labyrinth", is a weekly televised anime series started in July 2011, based on a manga by the same name. Yune, a young Japanese girl, follows a French businessman back to nineteenth century Paris where he introduces her to Claude, who runs a struggling ironworking shop, where she has to adapt to a totally different culture, while he also tries to understand her.

Click on the thumbnails below to view the picture in full size in a new window:

Very Quick Episode Summary: Yune does more cute stuff.
Quick But Not As Quick Episode Summary: Alice invites Yune over for some portrait photography, with Yune wearing a modern French dress and Alice in a kimono, much to her older sister's Camile's wistful chagrin.

My Impressions: Time for Part Six of AWWWW LOOK AT HOW CUTE YUNE IS!

No, seriously, that's about the depth of the series. Each episode is little more than a different way of showcasing Yune's incredibly ultra-moe cuteness in one fashion or another as she 'navigates the labyrinth" of a foreign culture. I will readily admit there's nothing particularly wrong with that concept by itself -- but it just grows wearisome. And since there's been no serious progress in character or in (non-existent) plot, I really cannot find any compelling reason to keep watching.

Well, there are some mild hints of some possible directions for a semblance of a story. We have Claude still vowing to earn back Yune's prized kimono, but without any clue how to do that, and so far not an inch of movement in that direction. Oh, and the slow decay of the shopping arcade and the failing of Claude's business -- again no inkling of any solution or hint of a resolution. And in this episode, we get some hint at a relationship between Claude and Camile...really?

I must admit that I *do* like Alice, who is playing the part of adversary here (complete with stereotypically-anime "evil laugh", natch), but as "adversary" she's not evil at all. But as you might expect from the upper-crust society of the time, she's all entitled and snobby and shit, and being a young girl (what, maybe thirteen, fourteen?) she's also clueless and naive as well. It's fun to watch her in opposition to the ever-patient Yune. And in this episode we have the older Camile looking on, a hint of sadness realizing what her future holds, and seeing it as more suffocating than anything else (the crinoline the perfect analogy even as Alice doesn't realize it).

Yet that's hardly enough to keep me watching. Again, not that there's anything wrong with the series, but frankly compared to the many other shows that I'm watching where something is actually happening, there's just not enough here for me.

The verdict:

For more information:
Sampling of Online Reviews:

  • "You know, Alice is a much more fun character when she is not the central cause of the conflict. Rather than creating some forced drama, Alice is much more fitting as a simple character who loves to giggle and has fun. Anyways, the central conflict this episode was actually quite subtle, and surprisingly enough brings some focus back upon the Claude-Camille relationship that was brought up earlier." - Emory Anime Club
  • "I’m sick of Alice. She’s annoying, rude and doesn’t seem to learn any lessons. I want to body slam her. I hate that she’s been the main driving force of any plot this far. Although next week looks pretty good. Yune can be seen offering the blonde street scamp some food. Interesting." - Moe Monster
  • "It feels as though Alice serves two major functions in this series. The first is to provide a certain kind of traditional anime appeal, and the second is to provide the catalyst for driving the plot. I could care less about the first, and I’m of mixed mind about the second." - Lost in America

Anime Review: No. 6 Episode 6

Anime Review:
No. 6 Episode 6

What this is about: Watching all of the anime shows so you don't have to! For more information about me and my reviews, click here for details on what I am reviewing.

Series Premise: No. 6 is a weekly anime television series started in July 2011, based on a long-running light novel series of the same name. Set in the futuristic utopian City Number 6, Shion has a bright future ahead of him -- until one night he has a chance encounter with another boy, Nezumi, a petty criminal on run from the authorities. Four years pass before they meet again, and now it is Nezumi's turn to help Shion learn about the true nature of the world around him.

Click on the thumbnails below to view the picture in full size in a new window:

Very Quick Episode Summary: Safu returns to No. 6 after her grandmother's death, and now looking at everything with a new perspective, quickly determines everything is not as it seems *coughcough*Logan'sRun*coughcough*. After visiting Shion's mother, Safu is detained and taken away. Shion and Nezumi remain at odds, and when he learns of Safu's disappearance, he decides to keep it a secret.

My Impressions: Har, still kind of amused by the inappropriately corny background music, as if ripped out of a cheapo seventies sci-fi show.

After being sidelined relatively early in the series (after all, not much room for a guuurrrlll in a shonen-ai show, neh?), Safu is back. Which is a refreshing change, and I think Random Curiosity nails it exactly as to the reason:

"I don’t think it’s so much that I like her character any better than the others, but that she makes a nice change of pace from the over-the-top theatricality of Shion and Nezumi, and indeed the entire cast and setting of the West District. Shion and Nezumi speak like characters in a play – fittingly enough given Nezumi’s vocation. But it does get a little exhausting after a while. Safu, by contrast, is refreshingly direct and concise. She says what she thinks and gets it over with. Of course, that makes me wonder how she lasted in No. 6 as long as she did." Well said.

I have always liked the "direct and concise" Safu; she has that slightly-autistic personality that actually closely matches my own slightly-autistic side. It really does stand out in stark contrast to the overwrought antics of Shion and Nezumi, who always seem so forceful in their interactions. I could see Safu as a real person, but Shion and Nezumi are nothing more than actors playing the parts. Or so it seems.

Meanwhile, Nezumi is still dangling the "threat" of revealing exactly why he hates No. 6 to Shion, which is this juicy tidbit he's been dangling in front of Shion for four episodes now. By this point, they've been living under the same roof for some time, you would have figured out they would have had this conversation that is so critical to their own relationship by this point. So the two of them remain in this extremely strained, unresolved not-really-friendship of theirs, even as Shion's feared Springtime with the supposed deadly bee outbreak is nigh.

The verdict:

For more information:
Sampling of Online Reviews:

  • "On the Shion and Nezumi side of things, I’m finding the pure “black and white” portrayal of their relationship kind of forced. I mean, while Shion is a naive, idealistic boy, by the same token Nezumi is a overtly stoic, one-track-mind guy. He seems to believe the notion that “you’re with us, or against us”, and doesn’t acknowledge gray areas and ambiguous positions. That in itself is a critical flaw, and will probably come back to hurt Nezumi later on. As for Shion, at least there are signs that he’s finally going to do something. Though whether it’ll be soon enough to help out Safu, I guess we can’t say." - Emory Anime Club
  • "I think I may have finally been able to put my finger on what bothers me so much about this show: it’s the dialogue. It’s just too well thought out and over-dramatized. It doesn’t sound like the characters are having a conversation. It sounds like they’re reading out the lines from a play that they memorized. This has the effect of making the characters’ interaction feel superficial and downright corny." - Draggle's Anime Blog
  • "I don’t see the harm in telling Shion his past though, given the fact that he’s as attached as he will EVER BE to Nezumi. Is it really such a sensitive topic for him? Perhaps he was raised in No.6, and things aren’t as black and white as he likes to make Shion believe. Maybe he just made things black and white in order to make a set decision and have nothing holding him back, such as regrets. MAYBE I’M SPECULATING TOO MUCH, BUT I WANT TO KNOW." - Metanorn

Anime Review: Kamisama Dolls Episode 6

Anime Review:
Kamisama Dolls Episode 6

What this is about: Watching all of the anime shows so you don't have to! For more information about me and my reviews, click here for details on what I am reviewing.

Series Premise: Kamisama Dolls is a weekly televised anime series started in July 2011, based on an action series by Hajime Yamamura. Billed as "Girl Meets God", Kyouhei has moved away from his small village to start a new life away from the obligations and traumatic events of his past, shunning a life where he was the one of the masters of a powerful "god" in the form of a summoned "Doll". But when his younger sister shows up at his doorstep following a grisly murder, he soon finds he cannot run from his past.

Click on the thumbnails below to view the picture in full size in a new window:

Very Quick Episode Summary: Utao and Kyouhei return back home, where Kyouhei confirms that Utao has a twin brother, and the secret has been kept from him his entire life. Along with Boobino, they visit the local crazy-lady (and her overenthusiastic younger sister) who start repairing the broken god. Meanwhile Twin-Utao is taken away to stay with Koushiro and his wife, who show him kindness for the first time in his life. Utao practices with the repaired Kukuri, nearly kills Kyouhei and Boobino in the process, and Kyouhei starts reminiscing about his past.

My Impressions: I'm getting a bit worried that we are now at the halfway point of the series (13 episodes), and it seems like they have built up a backstory and mythology of the series that would be enough for a show at least twice that long. I mean, we are still in the First Act, introducing characters, painting the setting, setting the plot into motion. The next episodes is going to be a flashback episode, fer crissakes!. I find it hard to imagine there will be enough time to come to any sort of resolution in the short amount of time left...unless there is going to be a second part further down the road. And given the anime industry environment, that's hardly a given.

Instead, it seems they are playing up the comedy bits, especially with the various over-the-top reactions from an always-embarrassed Utao (who remains as cute as a button, even when she is seething mad), and also the "inadvertent" fanservice-y bits. Speaking of which...

I really want to get away from talking about, um, Boobino's 'tangible assets' (in fact, I'm fairly sure I wrote at one point I didn't want to write about it anymore). Except the producers of the show are making sure that ain't going to happen, taking every possible chance to shove her overinflated funbags into as many scenes as possible. Like when Utao and Kyouhei are literally stripping the clothes off her body as she hangs on for dear life by her fingernails. Or when Kyouhei and Boobino just "happen" to get caught in sudden cloudburst.

Female main characters sporting "huge...tracts of land" is hardly a novel concept in anime shows. In fact, it is almost a requirement. So why do I keep bitching about it? Because it remains such a massive, bouncing, giggling distraction from the actual serious, dramatic plot (and thank god this show actually has one). Boobino's twin airbags are literally a detraction for the series.

Don't get me wrong. I am, and always have been, a fan of the female anatomy. But if I'm going to enjoy "teh boobies" in my anime, I'd rather watch a fluffy fan-service-type show where that is the aim. By shoving Boobino's mammaries in our faces at every possible opportunity, it just becomes a distraction from the rest of the show. Hard to focus on the rest of the plot when thirty seconds later you have a couple of pendulous udders flopping around on the screen. And anyone who is trying to talk around them about the actual plot is kidding themselves. (Over on Random Curiosity, for example, one of the running jokes in the discussion boards after each episode is to count up the number of comments that mention the boobs versus everything else. The ratio is staggeringly high. Each time.)

Bah humbug. I'm complaining way too much about this. I should be focusing more on the plot, I know. But it does irk me.

The verdict:

For more information:
Sampling of Online Reviews:

  • "The devil is in the details, and really, this episode did well in foreshadowing things that can unfold, all while maintaining a sense of tension and mystery. This series so far has been fairly well balanced, though it has had it’s mediocre moments as well. Although this has a rather cliche set of characters, they are starting to turn into a more charming cast." - Emory Anime Club
  • "Kamisama Dolls isn’t perfect. The antics with Utao can still be too self-aware, and not all of the comedy is effective. But in general, the series has done a fantastic job piecing together and complex, atmospheric and fascinating story peopled by a diverse and appealing cast." - Lost in Anime
  • "This episode was just boring. All the random boobage exposure aside, it just fell very flat with everything. I know I wanted exposistion, but something with a bit more meat. We didn’t really learn anything about the shrine, so much as we learned a little about Dolls and how they function." - Metanorn

Anime Review:
Mawaru Penguin Drum Episode 6

What this is about: Watching all of the anime shows so you don't have to! For more information about me and my reviews, click here for details on what I am reviewing.

Series Premise: Mawaru Penguindrum is a weekly television anime series starting in July 2011 from the creator of Revolutionary Girl Utena. Two older brothers take care of their ailing younger sister Himari, who is saved from death by a spirit residing in a penguin-shaped hat. With the assistance of three "helper-penguins" that only the three siblings can see, they must search for the mythical "Penguin Drum" in exchange for extending Himari's life.

Click on the thumbnails below to view the picture in full size in a new window:

Very Quick Episode Summary: When Kanba visits Asami, he finds out she has lost her memories of him; he then searches out the other two girls, who are attacked from afar by Slingshot-Girl, and also lose their memories. Ringo bosses Shouma around, using him as the heavy labor to move all her stuff near Tabuki's apartment. Shouma discovers that Ringo is actually trying to fill the void left by her dead older sister, who dated Tabuki. She then spends the night in her "new digs", hiding under Tabuki's house.

My Impressions: Wow. Just wow. If you thought that Ringo was screwed up before, this really twists that perception even more out of whack. Mentally fucked up beyond all comprehension does not begin to describe her.

Even at this point, despite what we all know about Ringo the Stalker Girl, I desperately *do* want to like her, because she is so interesting. Just at the moment when I begin to think you might feel sorry for her sad state, she goes and does something so unbelievably crazy that leaves me throwing up my hands in exasperation and disgust.

In this case, we learn that her mind was really screwed up as a little kid, learning she was never truly loved by her parents...in comparison to her older sister...WHO DIED ON THE DAY SHE WAS BORN. Keeee-ripes. As a little child, Ringo decides that the only way she will be accepted is to take the place of her older sister, which includes her older sister's boyfriend, Mr. Teacher. Okay, that offers an explanation for her odd behavior. But then, Ringo the Stalker creeps me out all to hell by deciding that the way she can make her entry of living with Mr. Teacher in the diary come true...is to secretly move underneath the floorboards of his house and mirror his moves. *sigh*

Ya know, with all this focus on Stalker Girl, instead of this show being all about Himari and her penguin hat, I'm beginning to think that Ringo's the focus of the series. Hm.

And then we move on to the Kanba side-story as he sees the effect of the red "penguin balls" shot by Slingshot Girl. Once again, Mawaru Penguindrum manages to raise more questions than it answers.

I'm still greatly entertained, but remain just as confused as ever as to what is going on. I really, really, really hope it all gels to together and doesn't leave me hanging in the end.

The verdict:

For more information:
Sampling of Online Reviews:

  • "Each episode of MPD seems to be good for at least a couple of brilliant gags...and Ikuhara's brilliant imagination shines through even in the lesser episodes. With 24 episodes to fill, we're only 25% through the story and it's clear Ikuhara is going to take his time and keep us guessing for quite a while yet, which is fine by me." - Lost in America
  • "As of now, Mawaru Penguindrum keeps on adding more intricately woven, complex layers to the plot. All of these intricacies manage to create a very chaotic yet rational flow of events pointing towards an enigmatic future. It’s really hard to see the big picture as of now, but the story has done well in slowly piecing together things bit by bit." - Emory Anime Club
  • "For risk of sounding like a broken record, I’d like to once again point out that the creators are putting a vast amount of detail and creativity into the animation. For example, just look at all the stuff in the fridge, the crazy antics of the penguins, and Ringo’s delusions. Did everyone notice the Death Note on Ringo’s desk? Penguindrum has so much going on at once that it never gets boring." - Draggle's Anime Blog

Anime Review: Nichijou Episode 9

Anime Review:
Nichijou Episode 9

What this is about: Watching all of the anime shows so you don't have to! For more information about me and my reviews, click here for details on what I am reviewing.

Series Premise: Nichijou, or "My Ordinary Life", is a weekly anime television series that started in April 2011, based on a comedy manga series by Keiichi Arawi. The story follows the everyday life and adventures of a few first-year high school students and the people around them, including an underage professor and her robotic maid, a goat-riding student and his butler, and other quirky characters.

Click on the thumbnails below to view the picture in full size in a new window:

Episode Summary: Mio is furious at her older sister for messing with her prized snacks. The girls at a restaurant, where Mio ends up waiting for her food. Yuuko battles night-time mosquitos. The Professor sneaks some snacks, much to Nano's annoyance. Mio gets a temp job wearing a strange oversized mascot head.

My Impressions: Nichijou's track record as a hit-and-miss comedy continues to be...well...hit and miss.

Some of the short skits work, and I was grinning at the very sight of Mio's older sister sitting calmly in feudal Japanese armor...and Mio simply walking into the room as if nothing is amiss. But other times, it's just "meh". At least there were no terrible incredibly-drawn-out-and-dragged-to-death skits that made up the last episode, I guess.

As with all hit-and-miss skit-based comedy shows, it's always a judgment call as to whether it's worth suffering through the tedious bits to get to the good ones. And my only real answer to that is: I'm still watching after nine episodes. But I think I would prefer it if someone with waaaaay too much time on their hands would go through and condense it down to, say, ten abbreviated episodes containing "The Best of Nichijou". Same me (and others) the time and trouble.

The other thing that I've noticed with Nichijou is that the alternate title, "My Ordinary Life", should really be "My Ordinary Japanese Life" (or, does that go without saying?) The reason is that so much of the situational humor and settings depend on a fairly decent understanding of modern Japanese culture -- not just in this episode but all the episodes. Prizes on popsicle sticks? Daruma dolls? Daifuku? Shoji? There's a huge chunk of Nichijou's humor that would not translate well into a non-Japanese setting. Not that there is anything specifically wrong with that per se, other than it does make it less accessible to someone who is not already steeped in Japanese society.

The verdict:

For more information:
Sampling of Online Reviews:

  • "Filled to the brim with hi-jinks, gags and overreactions, this week’s Nichijou surely must have something for everyone, right? I’m personally a big fan or Mio and her relatively normal reactions to the craziness around her. Seeing her get belly punched by grade schoolers is a can’t lose. Poor Mio!" - Moe Monster
  • "Well we got another semi slow paced episode with a few random moments here and there that save it from being entirely boring. That said, there were a few great scenes for me. I did enjoy watching Yoshino play a few pranks on Mio, just reminded me of myself too much when I messed around with my own brother and sister. I think I had the most fun seeing a somewhat new character on the screen for once, even seeing the teacher at the start was a refreshing change." - Metanorn
  • "Even though the short jokes are lower in number this episode than previous ones they’re still quite powerful stuff. " - Polychromium

Anime Review: Ano Hana Episode 9

Anime Review:
Ano Hana Episode 9

What this is about: Watching all of the anime shows so you don't have to! For more information about me and my reviews, click here for details on what I am reviewing.

Series Premise: Ano Hi Mita Hana no Namae o Bokutachi wa Mada Shiranai, a.k.a. "We Still Don't Know the Name of the Flower We Saw That Day", shortened "AnoHana", is a weekly anime television series started in April 2011. This is an original series, the latest in the Fuji TV Noitamina time-slot. Ten years after the death of a childhood friend, Menma, everyone seems to have moved on with their lives, except Jinta. When Menma's ghost suddenly appears, Jinta must confront both his past and present life.

Click on the thumbnails below to view the picture in full size in a new window:

Very Quick Episode Summary: Menma makes her presence known to everyone through physical actions. The group finally receives the go-ahead to construct their memorial firework, but there is still tension between various individuals. Atsumu is angrily jealous that only Jinta can see Menma (still), and Naruko feels inadequate in comparison. And as Jinta confronts the idea of putting Menma's ghost "at peace", he confesses he doesn't want her to leave.

My Impressions: I'm back after a few weeks away from reviews. And now, on with the show!

Okay, I will admit that I was royally pissed at the latest turn of events. My understanding was that the ambiguity of Menma's existence was integral to the whole story itself -- the fact that *only* Jinta could see and sense her while he did his best to get everyone else to go along with his ideas without an substantive proof was important to the whole narrative. Up until now, every instance of Menma's "interference" or existence to anyone else other than Jinta could be explained away somehow and clearly unprovable. Until now.

The very end of the last episode and the beginning of this episode puts that question to rest as she clearly goes all poltergeist on the group. Jinta remains the only one who can "fully" see and and hear her -- but now she's moving around objects, writing, and even cooking (badly) for crissakes. In my mind, one of the pillars that had supported the entire series had been knocked out.

But then, as this episode progressed, I realized that I had it all wrong. The whole "is she real/isn't she real" question had actually been holding back development of the series, and the characters themselves until now. With *that* out of the way, suddenly some of the underlying tensions within the group suddenly came rushing to the forefront. Atsumu's continuing jealousy of Jinta jumps back into high gear. Similarly, Naruko's feelings of inadequacy (in comparison to Menma) are amplified. And let's not forget Chiriko, pining after Atsumu while he hits upon Naruko.

With the question of Menma's existence out of the way, the other problems between the characters are finally allowed to rise from a slow simmer to a full boil. It's not like these problems were not evident in earlier episodes, but they were so fully overshadowed by the 'Menma question' that they were not allowed to be resolved in any way whatsoever.

And then there's Jinta -- finally admitting to himself that he has become dependent on Memna and cannot bear the thought of her leaving. All this time he's been working to let her spirit move on, but even as he has been working towards that goal he finds the idea of her leaving unthinkable. Not so much because he doesn't want to help Menma, but because he cannot imagine himself moving forward past this roadblock that has defined the last decade of his life. And that, ultimately, was the real conflict that needs to be resolved in this series in the first place.

The verdict:

For more information:
Sampling of Online Reviews:

  • "Ah, it’s almost a shame that there are just two episodes left, but that’s the strength of a good Noitamina-series: they’re short, but really, really sweet. This episode was the calm before the storm: preparing everything for that finale, and it’s promising to become an awesome one that is going to involve every single character significantly." - Star Crossed Anime Blog
  • "Her “final wish” , which I suspect hasn’t been revealed yet, itself might actually be kind of unimportant. Rather, what is important is how Menma and the rest of the group get on genuinely good terms with each other before they part ways. The wish itself may play a role in how they come to terms with their feelings, and once they feel they can let Menma go with no regrets, I feel the series will finally come to a true conclusion." - Emory Anime Club
  • "I’m glad I’m not the only one who feels Menma’s sudden pseudo-corporeal status feels a bit odd. I harped on this last week, so I’m not going to do fall on the sword about it again this week, but Menma’s “reveal” to everyone in their group really throws a wrench into the tone of the story. It’s a credit to the quality of the other characters, Yukiatsu and Anaru particularly, that the story hasn’t been completely overshadowed by Menma’s in-your-face radness." - Rabbit Poets

Anime Review: Hanasaku Iroha Episode 9

Anime Review:
Hanasaku Iroha Episode 9

What this is about: Watching all of the anime shows so you don't have to! For more information about me and my reviews, click here for details on what I am reviewing.

Series Premise: Hanasaku Iroha, or Hana Saku Iroha, is a 26-episode weekly anime television series started in April 2011. The series is an original project directed by Masahiro Ando, produced to celebrate the tenth anniversary of P.A. Works. The story centers around carefree sixteen-year-old Ohana, forced to move from the city to live with her estranged grandmother in the countryside, who operates a traditional inn. Finding herself at odds with her co-workers and thrown into an entirely new world, Ohana tries to make the best of the situation.

Click on the thumbnails below to view the picture in full size in a new window:

Very Quick Episode Summary: Ohana searches high and low for Tohru, somehow believing that he can save the day. Meanwhile, Koichi rushes to Kissuisou but only ends up crossing paths remotely and only offering support by phone from afar. Ohana finally finds Tohru, they return to the inn, and manage to survive the rest of the day. Taa-dah, the Aristocrats!

My Impressions: I'm back after a few weeks away from reviews. And now, on with the show!

After the big cliff-hanger, I was left wondering what the "big mystery" would be revealed as Ohana furtively peeked through the doorway. And it turns out...nothing. Boy, that was a bit of disappointing misdirection.

Turns out in the end, everything turns out hunky-dory, which I guess could have easily been predicted, given the generally optimistic direction of the series. The major conflict of "Kissuisou's Busiest Day" was really just the backdrop to the *real* developing story, which is the relationship between Ohana and Koichi, which has been "on hold" since the first episode.

Nothing rang more true than the moments when Koichi would stop in his tracks, think for a few seconds, and question himself, "What the hell am I doing?" Infatuation can do some pretty strange things to your head, especially when you're a teenage boy that has never really experienced that sort of thing before. Ohana, for her part, is...well...the same as she has always been. Cheerful yet clueless as always, which is equal parts endearing and annoying (Aha! We've hit upon the perfect formula for moe-ness, perhaps?)

So now you have Ko who is crazy for Ohana from afar; Ohana is sweet on Ko in return, but get the badump-badump in her heart for Tohru. Minko has hopelessly fallen for Tohru, yet Tohru doesn't give her the time of day, and seems to be mulling over Ohana in his mind. Then, just to fuck with this love quadrangle, there was some "mystery girl" thrown in at the very end, implied that she is after Ko?

Egads. This is turning out to be just one big soap opera. Er, sitcom-slash-soap. Well, that's a bit disappointing, considering I was so gung-ho on how Hanasaku Iroha was gearing up to be a really great bittersweet coming-of-age drama in the first couple of episodes. At least it remains fairly entertaining to watch, even if I'm not as crazy about it as in the beginning.

The verdict:

For more information:
Sampling of Online Reviews:

  • "I’ve officially lowered my expectations for Hanasaku Iroha. That doesn’t mean I think Hanairo is bad. It’s just dumber and lighter than I’d hoped and I have to adjust. Instead of being a stand-out show with an interesting premise it’s settled into a fairly standard ganbatte/moe/slice-of-life/(very) light drama affair; albeit a good-looking one. Aside from the head-smackingly illogical way they go about getting things rolling there’s nothing too terrible going on (with the exception of a couple bad episodes)." - Moe Monster
  • "As things between Ohana and Ko progressed, I started to pity Ko. Not for his failed attempt at trying to visit Ohana during one of the most stressful moments of this show thus far but more for the internal struggle going on within his heart. The second he started questioning what he was doing, it was clear just how infatuated he was with Ohana. Seeing how he already finished the hard part of actually confessing, things would have probably went ten times better if he was a bit more honest with himself. But instead of being control of his emotions, he follows the traditional male route of being stubborn and ends up going home with regrets over what could have happened." - Random Curiosity
  • "In the grand scheme of things, I don’t feel like much has changed from this arc though. Minchi has started cooking, and we have a greater appreciation for the manager’s bookkeeping skills. Ohana has gained a boost of confidence (not like she needed one), but otherwise this seemed like a reset ending where everything is back to how it used to be. It was an entertaining set of episodes, to be sure, but I’m most looking forward to the point in this show where the plot gets moving again." - Draggle's Anime Blog

Anime Review: Deadman Wonderland Episode 9

Anime Review:
Deadman Wonderland Episode 9

What this is about: Watching all of the anime shows so you don't have to! For more information about me and my reviews, click here for details on what I am reviewing.

Series Premise: Deadman Wonderland is a weekly anime television series that started airing in April 2011, based on a popular manga series by Jinsei Kataoka and Kazuma Kondou. Ganta, the sole survivor when his classroom is attacked, is convicted for murdering all of his classmates. Sent away to a private prison called "Deadman Wonderland" where the convicts entertain the public, Ganta must fight for his own survival with an unlikely ally.

Click on the thumbnails below to view the picture in full size in a new window:

Very Quick Episode Summary: Ganta and his group continue along their escape route, until they reach an elevator that has the be activated remotely by Nagi. But when Nagi reaches the control room, he is betrayed by one of his men and attacked by a little girl who is a member of the Undertakers, wielding a weapon that neutralizes Nagi's powers. Nagi manages to defeat his opponent, but giving his life in the process. Ganta's group is also attacked by an Undertaker (Genkaku), leaving only a few survivors, and has to be saved at the last moment by Shiro from a double-cross.

My Impressions: I'm back after a few weeks away from reviews. On with the show!

So. Does anyone out there remember Fruit Stripe Gum? When I was a kid, I would get a big ol' pack of gum, and chew one piece as it burst with flavor. After the first couple of minutes, the flavor was completely gone, and I would add another piece. A few minutes later, a third piece. Then a fourth, and a fifth...until about two-thirds of the pack of gum was gone, and I was left with this huge, grey, flavorless wad of gum in my mouth.

Deadman Wonderland, it turns out, is just like Fruit Stripe Gum.

They keep introducing one new idea or concept after another, big bells and whistles each episode, stacked on top of each other and then quickly discarded along the way. New characters are likewise introduced, played out and then just as quickly discarded. Yet despite this hot mess of potentially-neat ideas and fast action, as we approach the finale of the series it comes across as a wad of flavor-drained gum.

Along the way I've convinced myself that this was just a brainless popcorn action/adventure flick...but really that was just deluding myself. In retrospect, Deadman Wonderland had problems from the very beginning -- starting with the wimpy-ass main character Ganta who is so uninteresting that they have introduced a whole raft of supporting characters around him to carry the show. Ganta is not so much of a proactive protagonist, rather a simpering weakling that is barely present as the action takes place *around* him.

There are other things that bug me about this episode (like the antagonist, in this case in the form of a little girl, who spends so much time doing her evil villain gloating routine it gives her opponent time to defeat her...sigh) that are repetitions of problems I have had in previous episodes, but I'll just cut it short and place that Fruit Stripe Gum analogy out there. Looking back, I probably would have been better off dropping this halfway through; I would drop it now, but I'm soooooo close to the end, might as well finish it out. But anything short of a miraculously fantabulous finale, I seriously doubt Deadman Wonderland will be worth recommending.

The verdict:

For more information:
Sampling of Online Reviews:

  • "Besides Shiro-lack, I feel this episode just wasn’t as good as it’s been lately. I know they were ambushed, but no one seemed to, outside of dying perhaps, add too much immediacy to their actions. I didn’t hear one, “Holy shit, we’ve just been set up, we’re all gonna fucking die!!” or “This guy is shooting at me with fucking guitar guns and killed me and now I’m dead, why did this happen?!!” Maybe that’s why I’m not an anime character." - Moe Monster
  • "So this wasn’t meant to be the most surprising episode: right from the start it was clear that everything would go to hell in this episode, with a traitor right in the middle of everything, just about every part of the plan was set to be sabotaged and brutally murdered, which is exactly what happened." - Star Crossed Anime Blog
  • "Unfortunately, the downsides of having a limited number of episodes for a lengthy manga with lots of things going on at once are really started to show up. They skip and speed through character backgrounds, proper characterization and introductions (Who knew that guy would be a backstabber! Oh wait, none of us knew him at all), and epic, well-written fight scenes. Now it feels as though they’re throwing in and throwing out characters willy nilly." - Sekijitsu
  • "Ignoring the rushing and lack of any real character development, this episode was a good one for Deadman. I tend to prefer episodes that focus on blood, gore and crazy fights. It’s a wonderful distraction from the ridiculous way the plot is panning out." - Metanorn

Anime Review: Steins;Gate Episode 9

Anime Review:
Steins;Gate Episode 9

What this is about: Watching all of the anime shows so you don't have to! For more information about me and my reviews, click here for details on what I am reviewing.

Series Premise: Steins;Gate is a 24-episode weekly television series that started in April 2011, based on an X-Box video game by 5pb. A small group of friends headed by self-proclaimed mad scientist Rintarou Okabe (a.k.a. Hououin) manage to create a way to send messages into the past using a modified microwave oven. However, a larger, more sinister government organization has also been doing research in time travel and Rintarou's group soon finds itself in danger.

Click on the thumbnails below to view the picture in full size in a new window:

Quick Episode Summary: Rintarou discovers that his meddling with the past has caused unintended changes to the present timeline -- such as never having found the IBN-5100 computer. Rumiho discovers about the ability to send messages to the past, and entreats Rintarou to allow her to send her own message, which ultimately leads to the entire town of Akihabara changing around him.

My Impressions: I'm back after taking a few weeks off from reviews. Now, on with the show!

Remember last time, when I alluded to the "Butterfly Effect" and the theory of how even the tiniest of changes to the past can ripple into larger effects over time? Well, for those who were slow on picking up on the concept last episode had it hammered into their heads quite bluntly with this episode, as Rintarou discovers what chaos he hath wrought. They even specifically mentioned the phrase "Butterfly Effect", complete with graphics to illustrate the concept, so that even the slope-iest of the slope-browed viewers out there could figure it out.

Okay, okay, I think we get the idea that one tiny message sent years in the past could have earth-changing consequences. More importantly, who could ever predict *what* those consequences will be? For someone like Rintarou, who has almost been treating this as a little bit of a college-age-student game with his self-referential mad scientist routine (playing into his own character construct) and non-serious nature of his sooper-dooper-seekrit club and all, that's some pretty heady stuff. How the hell do you react that sort of realization?

But the real mystery remains: Why is Rintarou (presumably) the only person who is unaffected by the reality shifts? What makes *him* so special? As this series slowly inches along (and yes, it really is moving along at a glacial pace, much to my annoyance), I think that will turn out to be the "real" story. So far, nine episodes in we have plenty of questions, and very, very few answers.

P.S. Is anyone else getting increasingly annoyed by Daru and his predictably otaku-esque behavior? Sure, some of the other characters are typecast to hell or have cardboard-thin personas, but Daru's the one that's getting on my nerves.

The verdict:

For more information:
Sampling of Online Reviews:

  • "I’m quite pleased that the piddly little experiments from last episode actually had a much bigger impact that first thought. Without there being any consequences for playing God and rewriting time, things were getting a little stale. This fresh direction should be enough to bring things to a climax and keep me guessing." - Metanorn
  • "This episode was definitely the best of this season, and one of the best episodes of all anime this season. The final realization scene from Ookarin was just amazing; it portrayed really well that he is in over his head. Thinks are finally looking up for Steins;Gate after quite a few slow episodes. An episode like this was exactly what it needed to bounce back in my books." - Clanrain
  • "This…is getting good.He erased the moe culture in Akiba this week…maybe he’ll erase a person next week." - Meeping Anime
  • "Steins;Gate certainly shows no signs of departing from its slow and steady pace, but it remains as compelling as ever by shrouding the entire series in so many unknowns that nobody appears to be quite as they first seem while every character has a certain sense of mystery hanging over them...That the series can be both intriguing and fun continues to be its biggest selling point, although the longer it goes on the less sure I am of where it's headed - not that it seems to matter too much when just drifting around in its current ball of pseudo-science and craziness seems to work so well for it. " - Hanners' Anime Blog


The two or three people out there who have been following this stuff may have noticed that for the past few weeks I have not been posting many reviews of late. Furthermore, I keep falling further and further "behind" schedule, so that I am still on the throes of reviewing shows from the middle of last year.

Well, sorry 'bout that. I've just been busy plugging away at some of my other non-work hobbies. Yes, Virginia, I sometimes do *other* things instead of just watching crappy anime and posting about it relentlessly.

For example -- I've been compiling my family tree, working away at my genealogical connections. This is something I've been doing on and off for the past thirty years, and recently cracked a handful of "dead ends" that have been bugging me for a couple of decades, opening up some new branches. Now I've identified 32 out of 32 of my 3xgr-grandparents, and 58 out of 64 4xgr-grandparents. I won't go into very much detail because it can be pretty dry stuff for 99% of the people out there.

I'm currently crunching through a list about 14 generations back, and still going. There are at least eleven people who came over on the Mayflower, plus assorted Jamestown settlers going back to 1608, and even a Roanoke connection. One was purser on the HMS Invincible, one designed and built the largest ship of the age (1860's), another was the "Donald Trump" of the time, the richest person in New York in the 1600's. Various founders of places like Montreal, New Orleans, Detroit, New York City, Boston, and the state of Maryland. There's someone who was accused and confessed during the Salem Witch Trials and sentenced to death. Lots of people killed in early Indian raids, and one who used it as an opportunity to skip out on his young wife and children and return to the Netherlands (the stealth move didn't work, she did the nearly unthinkable act of divorcing him the next year). There's a Papist minister who tried to secretly hold a sermon, martyred by the repressive government of the day. There's the "Bride of Bride Brook", assorted American revolutionaries as well as loyalist sympathizers, Bacon's Rebellion, you name it. Not that any of this is exceptionally unusual -- once you trace your own family tree back far enough, there's all sorts of interesting small stories and individuals.

And while that eats up an insane amount of time in front of the computer, I also do stuff outside the home, like a mind-numbing and soul-draining full time job. Oh, and I go out hiking in the middle of nowhere as well (that usually eats up at least a full day a week).

The whole point being that I've been spending less time on reviews than usual.

Now, here's the important point to all of this: I'M TOTALLY OKAY WITH THAT. I am perfectly fine with not adhering to any sort of hard schedule, I'm perfectly fine with slowly reviewing shows that lots of hardcore otaku reviewers out there completed many months ago.

I know that I've said this before, but it bears repeating. There are literally dozens of people out there who are "up to date" blogging on the most recent shows within days of when they aired in Japan. I am not one of those people, and have never been one of those people. If you come here looking for the most current, up-to-date reviews of the hottest new shows, you are going to be disappointed.

I guess it has much to do with the types of anime fans out there. Seems like the younger fans (college-aged and earlier) are more interested in the newest season's offerings. But most of the people that I know who are still watching anime have been around for a decade or two, and whether something comes out in 2012, 2006 or 2003...well, that really doesn't matter too much.

However, I still break up shows into "seasons", but that is more as a matter of convenience for having to put stuff into easy-to-manage categories that can be objectively defined.

And where does that leave stuff right now?

Stuff from 2010: - Still a small number of stragglers, mostly movies or stuff that did not get subtitled into English until well into 2011 (or even 2012). I've been plugging away a little at a time, and once I'm done I plan to go back, re-evaluate my "Top 20 of 2010" list, adding a few to the list, removing a couple others, moving a few up or down some slots.

Winter 2011 Shows: - I'm essentially done with the season, except for a handful of shows (mostly OVAs and movies) that were subtitled well after the season completed.
Spring 2011 Shows: - Still watching 8 shows, up through the eighth episodes as of now.
Summer 2011 Shows: - Still watching 6 shows, up through the fifth episodes as of now.
Fall 2011 Shows: - Just finished watching the first episodes of everything, 16 shows move to the 2nd round.

I'm working at all of the 2011 shows an episode at a time, and I'll keep working away at them for the next few months until I've finished. Then -- and only then -- will I feel comfortable in putting together my "Best of" and "Worst of" lists for the year 2011. At this point, I'd say expect that mid-summer.

Where does that leave 2012? I'll begin reviewing the shows from the Winter of 2012 (last three months) in the relatively near future. But instead of reviewing them all one episode at a time, I plan on doing them in three-episode (or larger) chunks. Plus I'm streamlining some of the review process, the whole idea to spend less time in the administrative minutiae of composing the reviews, and more time actually watching the shows.

In any case, I'm going to keep up with the reviews I've been doing. Just remember there's no schedule, I can do a whole bunch at once or take a week off, and I've come to terms that I'm always going to end up reviewing stuff months behind when the majority of the anime bloggers reviewed the same thing.

Anime Review Fall 2011 Season:
A recap after watching the 1st episode of everything

Hey, I just finished up watching and reviewing the first episode of every anime series/special/OVA for the Fall 2011 season, which has been subtitled so far. So, it's now time to take a look back and rank everything from best to worst. I've done the same thing for the previous six seasons as well, and you can find the recaps here:

First, by the numbers: Compared to a relatively poor Summer 2011 Season, the Fall Season (defined as shows that debuted between September 22nd and December 21st) was a mixed bag -- a handful of potentially good shows (albeit no clear stand-outs), plus the regular mix of formulaic dross. So far, I have found 43 different series/shows/specials where the first episode has been subtitled into English (as of right now, there may be more released down the road). Out of those, 30 are continuing series with multiple episodes -- I must stress that so far I have only viewed and reviewed the first episodes only. 16 out of the 30 multi-episode shows received a "thumbs up", 14 receiving a thumbs-down. Of the remaining 10 single-episode shows/specials/movies, 5 received a thumbs-up and 8 received a thumbs-down. Here's a quick look at what I consider the best, the worst, and everything in-between. To see the individual review, click on the show's name below.

Highest recommendation: MUST SEE TV!:

    NONE. - When comparing the "best of the best" for this season, there were plenty of series that showed some promise and that I enjoyed. But when it got right down to brass tacks, there wasn't anything that I could clearly label as "Must See TV", worthwhile recommending to everyone unreservedly. Maybe I'm getting a bit jaded after watching hundreds of hours of anime, but nothing grabbed me and shook my by the collar this time around.

Strongly Recommended: - (Most likely I'll watch the entire season)

  • Mirai Nikki Episode 1 - Looks like we have a little bit of Battle Royale mixed in with a little bit of Death Note. To be honest I do not expect this to be some deep-thinking, intellectually-challenging mystery; more like a fast-paced action romp. Which is fine, a "popcorn flick" is perfectly enjoyable every now and then. Looks like this will replace the "Deadman Wonderland" slot in my anime viewing schedule.
  • Chihayafuru Episode 1 - If I had to pick the "best" debut episode of the whole season, this would be it. Chihayafuru seems it will have the right mix of light-hearted, heartstring-tugging moments and angsty teen drama, I have high hopes for the future episodes. Don't let me down like Hanasaku Iroha, please!
  • Guilty Crowm Episode 1 - First off, Guilty Crown was gobsmackingly beautiful to watch, my eyes were just glued to the screen the entire time, drinking it all in. But where this falls just shy of "must see TV" is in the plot, which is shaping up to be somewhat hackneyed. It may be awfully pretty to watch, but if there isn't a story to back it up, it can't carry a whole season.
  • Last Exile: Fam the Silver Wing Episode 1 - One of the most anticipated shows of the past few years, finally the return of the series that launched a Gonzo Empire. To say that expectations were through the roof would be an understatement. So, it was no surprise that it received a mixed reception; after all, how could it ever live up to the impact of the Last Exile series from a decade ago? As for me, I was more forgiving, and am optimistic about the future direction of the series. And if they kill off Dio quickly with some gruesome, horrible death, then I'll be hooked for life.

Moderately recommended: - (Worth watching, and there's a decent chance I'll watch the entire season)

  • Un-Go Episode 1 - I'm not exactly sure what to make of this after just one episode -- mostly with the "weirdly traptastic" Inga character. On the other hand, I do like the idea of the "Defeated Detective" who solves the mystery but never gets the credit, as well as the strong-willed Rie as his foil. I feel this show will ultimately rise or fall based on how interesting the characters are, rather than the mysteries themselves. After all, I've been let down time and again by so-called mystery anime series in the past couple of years.
  • Shinryaku! Ika Musume Season 2 Episode 1 - Second verse, same as the first. Quite literally, this picks right up as if there never was a break. Same characters, same jokes. I gave the first season very high marks, but the return of the "same old, same old" was enjoyable, but by this point predictable. I hope they end up adding something new to the repertoire, or it will go stale pretty darn quick.
  • Ben-To Episode 1 - Har, a nightly no-holds-barred battle for half-priced lunchboxes? The concept is redonkulous, to say the least, but perhaps because it is so far off into left field is why I found it strangely alluring. Ben-To could be the sleeper hit of the season.
  • Toradora: Ben to no Gokui Special - Wait, what? New Toradora? Yup! Sort of came out of nowhere, and it really is simply an average episode that would fit right in the middle of the series.
  • Lupin III Movie: Blood Seal Eternal Mermaid - A televised feature-length movie marking 40 years of Lupin anime, and refreshing to see they remain true to form with the original concept rather than try to "update" a classic. This received a solid "B" grade from me, making me think it's high time to go back and sample so more Lupin shows from the past few years.

Mildly recommended: - (Watchable, not sure if I'll continue for the entire season yet or not)

  • Boku wa Tomodachi ga Sukunai Episode 1 - Somewhat of a surprise, it has started out with the basic plot of Haruhi Suzumiya-lite (sans supernatural stuff), but I fear this will take a hard turn in the direction of a tiresome high-school harem comedy. We'll see.
  • Hunter x Hunter Episode 1 - Yup, it really is nothing more than your run-of-the-mill shonen adventure series. Only this one seems like it is done well.
  • Tamayura Hitotose Episode 1 - The sequel to the lackluster four-part Tamayura OVA from last year starts with a prequel set-up episode, which was actually sort of nice.
  • Kyousou Giga OVA - It was confusing as all hell, but fun to watch even if I really didn't understand what was truly going on. I would be interested if they would do some sort of sequel or follow-up series where they give enough time to tell an actual story rather than throw colors across the screen.

Slightly recommended: - (Not sure if I'll watch the entire series or not, but signs don't look good)

  • Working Season 2 Episode 1 - It's back for more antics from the staff at Wagnaria. The first season was actually the very first show I reviewed two years ago, and ultimately I was frustrated by the same repeated jokes (especially the whole "fear of men" nonsense) and it ended up with a tepid "C+" grade. Hopefully they can move beyond the rut that developed in the first season, but initial signs are not promising.
  • Blue Exorcist OVA: Kuro no Iede - Meh, just a one-off Blue Exorcist special where they feel like they have to cram in every single character for a bit of screen time. Fine enough if you like the Blue Exorcist series, meaningless if you do not.
  • Deadman Wonderland OVA - Meh for this one as well, a single-character prequel to the Deadman Wonderland series. Just as above: Fine enough if you like the series, meaningless if you do not.

On The Fence: - (Watching for now, but chances are I'll drop before the series completes)

  • Chibi Devi Episode 1 - Just a cute little diversion that only received a passing grade because the first episode was "not crappy". But if I'm going to watch future episodes, it's going to have to step up its game. I'm not holding my breath.
  • Bakuman Season 2 Episode 1 - Picking up immediately after where the first season left off like it was yesterday. Mind you, I dropped the first season from my review schedule last year ("C" grade), and this continuation is equally as tiresome.
  • Phi Brain Episode 1 - I want to like this show, I really do. But I was majorly put off by the less-than-stellar first episode. Plus the character designs somehow bother me.
  • Fate/Zero Episode 1 - This should have received a thumbs-down, after all I panned all the other Fate-related stuff I've seen before, and this was nothing more than a long-winded-yet-confusing set-up. But I felt it was kind of unfair to drop an action-oriented show based on an opening that was 90% boring exposition.
  • Gdgd Fairies Episode 1 - Wait, what? Yeah, it's unbelievably stupid, but the thick schmear of sarcasm tickled my funny-bone. As long as they don't take themselves seriously at all, I might continue to watch. Or it might delve to far into the Adult-Swim-only-watch-if-you're-stoned territory.

Slight Thumbs-Down: - (Includes shows that may be decent by not within my interests, or shows that I might be convinced to give a second shot if enough people recommend them)

  • Shakugan no Shana Final Episode 1 - Confusing, confusing, confusing. Then again, I am jumping into the middle of a long-running series without explanation. There just wasn't enough of a hook to get me to go back and check out the earlier episodes, though.
  • Cross Flight B-Daman Episode 1 - Bah, yet another in the endless parade of kiddie toy-based anime crap. If you've seen one, you've pretty much seen them all.
  • Dragonball Z: Episode of Bardock Special - I've never had a scintilla of interest in Dragonball before, and this only confirms that my lack of interest was justified. Plus, if you took out all of the screaming, this episode would only be about ten minutes long.
  • Eiyuu Densetsu: Sora no Kiseki Episode 1 - On one hand, it sure is well produced and quite attractively animated. On the other hand, I didn't have a clue what was going on, this was aimed squarely at the existing fans of the video game ONLY. I *wanted* to like this, but it's a hot mess.

Moderate Thumbs-Down: - (Pretty terrible, but not the worst shows in the world)

  • Kimi to Boku Episode 1 - Could this be one of the most boring anime shows of all time? I could be exaggerating a bit, but if you're going to do a light-hearted real-life comedy, you might want to pick characters that don't immediately put you to sleep.
  • Mobile Suit Gundam AGE Episode 1 - Pretty much Gundam in name only, it's a kiddie robot show that has much more anime-trope pandering than I expected.
  • Persona 4: The Animation Episode 1 - Wow, a hell of a lot worse than I expected. Maybe this means more to people who are familiar with the video game, but it was just plain odd to me. And the weirdly-shaded faces bothered me to no end.
  • Digimon X-ros Wars Season 2 Episode 1 - Your standard paint-by-numbers juvenile toy-based anime show. At least this was not as excretable as the first episode of the first season I watched last year.
  • Hidamari Sketch x SP Episode 1 - If you've seen one Hidamari Sketch episode, you've seen them all. This one has the added bonus of swimsuit fan-service (uh, yay?)
  • Sengoku Paradise Kiwami Episode 1 - Does anyone remember one of the worst shows of 2010, Tono to Issho? Nope? Well, consider yourself lucky. This is essentially the same thing, only slightly better animated.

Solid Thumbs-Down: - (Terrible, just terrible. There's no reason to be watching these)

  • Morita-san wa Mukuchi Season 2 Episode 1 - More of the same: Poorly-told, unfunny jokes about a girl who never talks. Why they continue making this crap is beyond my comprehension.
  • C3: Cube x Cursed x Curious Episode 1 - Kore wa Zombie, only with more fanservice. And more annoying characters. (I think this show proves that you must have a lobotomy to write scripts for anime shows these days.)
  • Horizon in the Middle of Nowhere Episode 1 - Incomprehensible does not begin to describe this. Pick any ten over-used anime character cliches, and chances are you'll find at least eight of them here in the very first episode. This is only saved from being a candidate for "worst of season" because at least it's slickly produced and well animated.
  • Majikoi Oh! Samurai Girls Episode 1 - Terrible from beginning to end, essentially nothing more than throwing a fanservice bone to all the horny otaku out there who like to see buxom women fighting each other.
  • Mashiro-iro Symphony: Color of Lovers Episode 1 - "Based on a visual novel" is one of the most damning phrases in anime fandom, and this one does not disappoint in living down to that notorious reputation. I'm getting tired of trying to come up with new ways of talking about how terrible shows of this genre are, just take my word for it. Two years of sampling everything has more or less confirmed every single "visual novel" adaptation is pure crap.
  • High Score Episode 1 - Just the latest in a long line of Flash-style animated humor shorts. And that also means it is just the latest in a long line of failures. One thing the people writing this drek need to remember is that if you're writing a comedy skit series, you need to include at least one joke.
  • Queen's Blade Premium Visual Book OVA Episode 1 - Take one drink for every panty shot. Take two for every boobie shot. If you're not passed out and on the floor by the tenth minute, then it must not be a Queen's Blade episode.

Oh Dear God Why Does This Even Exist? - (You watched it, now you can't unwatch it!)

  • Infinite Stratos Encore OVA: A Sextet Yearning for Love - Four different entries in this category this time around, and they all have something in common: They are all extra episodes of specials from godawful shows from earlier in 2011. Not only that, but they are also all puerile harem-based fap-shows, starting off with this Infinite Stratos special where no less than SIX hormonally-soaked girls inexplicably set their sights on loser-boy. Move along, nothing new to see here.
  • Boku wa Tomodachi ga Sukunai Episode 0 Special - Coming up Number Two in the category, and somewhat of a surprise because I gave a positive review of the first episode, but this was so wretchedly offensive I was caught off-guard. Who the fuck thought it would be "fun" to have the cute girls in the club passed out in their own vomit and sputum?
  • R-15 OVA - Coming up Number Three in the category is a follow-up to the soul-crushingly awful R-15 series as an underaged porn writer gets surrounded by every girl in his class who either strip voluntarily or get their clothes ripped from their body by an Audrey II clone, and he ends up writing erotic short stories about them. Makes me wonder how people who worked on this show can go home and look their families in the eyes after working on this pap all day.
  • Hoshizora e Kakaru Hashi OVA - And last (but definitely not least), coming up Number Four in the category is an anime special that barely missed out earning the title of "Worst of the Season". Just like the three specials listed above, it's nothing more than horny otaku fanboy pandering harem crap. But it has the added distinction of also being one of the weakest shows in terms of artwork quality and animation. Not only that, but the whole scene where the guy comes within a hair of "raping" the elementary school-aged brother (who is wearing a goddamn girls' school swimsuit at the time) of his best friend...well, that's one of those moments that I'm afraid I may never be able to expunge from my memory. Fuck you, Hoshizora e Kakaru Hashi, fuck you.

...And finally, the Wild Cardz Memorial Prize for the Worst Show of the Season goes to...

  • Maken-ki! Episode 1 - So, what pushes Maken-ki over the top, earning the dubious distinction of the "Worst of Season" prize above the four turdlets above? Mainly it is because the four shows in the category above are one-shot specials, while Maken-ki is an entire series of insipidness. Yup, like much of the other wank-oriented material in the anime market, Maken-ki is primarily centered around a high-school-aged loser type that serves as a surrogate stand-in for the viewer as he gets surrounded by three/five/eight/eleventybillion girls, all of whom want to jump his junk. Of course most of them have laughably massive udders. Of course they cover the range characters dreamed up in every fanboy's wet dream, from the childhood-friend-who-secretly-loves-him type to the reticent-moe-I-want-to-be-protected type to the tsundere-I-hate-you-but-I'm-really-sweet-inside type to the...well, you get the idea. Add to that more mammary flesh stuffed into a single high-school class than you can shake a penis-shaped stick at, plus "interesting" camera angles that manage to catch a shot up the skirt every few seconds. Maken-ki may be just another example of the awful harem fanservice genre of anime...but this season, I deem it is the worst example of the lot.

    Yeah, I know that I really rag on these type of shows a whole hell of a lot. But they deserve it. And the overabundance of this anime diarrhea is also part of the problem that is pervading the whole industry in general as it continually panders to an ever-narrowing focused subset of fans to the exclusion of expanding to a wider audience. Making shows that are aimed at a specific audience is fine, but when that because the primary means of support for the entire industry at large, that's a problem.

    I know that I'm shouting at the wind here, but it is getting tiring to see the Japanese anime industry keep making the same fanservice-oriented pablum over and over again, the same moe-cute-girls triteness over and over again, the same fighting giant robots over and over again. Ninety percent of everything "new" each season is really just a derivative copy of some derivative copy of something that was successful years ago. (Geez, I feel like I'm echoing what Mamoru Oshii said a few months ago above everything being "a copy of a copy of a copy".) We do not need an endless series of Gundam clones, or K-On clones, or Azumanga Daioh clones, or Sailor Moon clones, or Love Hina clones. There are some gems of shows that can be gleaned out of the pile of trash, but it feels like those shows these days are so few and far between, one or two a season if you're lucky. The crap-to-quality ratio is just way out of kilter. So yes, I'm going to keep ragging on shows like Maken-ki and R-15 and Mashiro-iro Symphony, and whatever else is dredged up next season.

And as always, there are still a handful of shows from the Fall 2011 season that will eventually be subtitled in the upcoming months (especially some of the movies), and I'll tackle those as they become available.

So, what's next? 16 shows among those listed above are moving on to "Round Two", where I'll watch the second episodes and give those a thumb-up or thumbs-down. Many of those in the "On the Fence" or "Slightly Recommended" categories will likely be dropped in the second round.

Furthermore, I'm still trudging through the Spring and Summer 2011 seasons, taking my own sweet, sweet time to watch everything. Eventually, a few months down the road, after I'm done with everything from 2011, I'll write up by "End of Year" recommendations, with a ranked list of the best and worst for the entire year.

Looking forward, I am also going to start reviewing shows from the Winter 2012 Season (those that started airing after December 22nd, 2011). But I am going to be changing how I do some of my reviews, where I watch the first three episodes at once (when available), and post later reviews that receive a thumbs-up in multi-episode chunks. Also, some shows (especially OVAs and specials) will get shortened summary reviews instead of full-length ones. This should speed up the process of reviews dramatically, so I am spending less time writing and more time watching...and so that I won't end up several months "behind".

Anyways, onwards!


Matthew High

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