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Working: Episodes 10 – 13

Posted by Author | Anime Review, Manga Review, working!! | Monday 30 August 2010 3:32 pm

This finishes the second series I had been blogging from the spring 2010 season.

Series: Working!!
Media: Yus-m.3.3.w. Fansub (episodes 10 – 13)

I guess there wasn’t anything particularly special about these episodes.  Of course, there was the date episode at the end, but as is often the case with series based off of 4koma, there really wasn’t any sort of real resolution.  I was at least hoping that Inami would progress on her punching, though.  I realize it’s a running gag in the show, but at least have her hold hands with Souta.  Poplar, meanwhile, is once again largely relegated to the sideline, other than her crushing on cross-dressing Souta.

Also, no progress on Yachiyo and Jun, even though I thought there might be.  The only real progress that went on in the last four episodes is that Souta finally realized that he maybe, possible, might see Inami in a different way, though he clearly didn’t realize it as it was.  Again, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that the characters largely remained static through the series (except, perhaps Inami, in regards to her feeling towards Souta) but it’d been nice to see something different.

The one character I did like through the series was Nazuna, as, not only was the best developed of the secondary characters, I think she might have been even more developed than some of the main characters like Aoi and Hiroomi, and I’m glad that we saw more of her in these episodes.  I also had to laugh in the last episode, that anonymous glasses waitress that we’ve seen around finally get some air time, and repeatedly makes her point and attempts to be “normal” and in the end, her desperate attempts to be and appear normal make the others think she’s weird.

For the series overall, I think it started out good, and it had quite a few laughs, but it really seemed like it stagnated towards the end.  They created a few new situations like tying Inami up and the date that put the running gags to use in ways they hadn’t before, but in the end, the show was still about Inami punching people and Poplar being small, with very deviation away from those plot points.

Again, I guess that’s not unusual for a series like this.  After all, how often did a series like Azumanga Daioh take advantage of the fact that Chiyo was a child genius and that Osaka was dense?  But I think in Azumanga’s case, there were so many characters with their own quirks, and the show took advantage of all of them, so none of them got that old.  And it was just done in a fresh way.  The problem in Working is that only Inami and Poplar had traits that they could really use repeatedly, and after a while, the freshness really ran out.  This wasn’t necessary a bad series, and if a second season came out, I’d consider watching it, but I think they could have done so much more with it than they did.

Giant Killing 22 – Reverse Momentum

Posted by Author | Anime, Anime Review, Giant Killing, Manga Review, Rakuen, drama, football, momentum, seinen, sports, studio deen | Sunday 29 August 2010 7:08 pm

Alright, so the game still isn’t over yet.  ETU didn’t keep a tight ship for the first half, but neither did they suffer a tremendous shutout as happened to Osaka’s previous opponent.  Now they have a little time to get in each other’s faces and mentally work out their problems before advancing to the second half.  They can definitely play the game with the setup they have now, they just need to fix the mistakes in their playing styles.  Some players manage to make good progress in this episode, but one still sticks out like a sore thumb.

Yes, Natsuki, we're all looking at you.

The team retreats to the locker room understandably frustrated.  They have to go into the second half with the pressure on to score three goals, when they could barely start an assault in the first half.  Since Kuro’s job is to fill the hot blood quotient for the rest of the team, he gets up in Sugie’s face and starts yelling.  Fortunately, Dori steps in and reminds them of something.  One single mistake does not make a scored goal.  It’s a combination of failures across the board, with the final mistake resting on Dori for not stopping the ball.  It manages to calm the team down, but in this situation, they still have a rattled mindset.

On the other side of the equation, we have Osaka’s locker room.  They’re screwing around during halftime just as much as they did before the game.  All signs point to victory for them, and Dulfer is pleased.  Tatsumi wants to turn it around though.  There’s a lot of people in the stadium cheering for one team or the other.  Ignore those people, they’re what you’d call constants in the football equation.  Think about all the others watching the game, not just at the stadium, but at home too.  They may not cheer for one team or the other.  Instead, they want an entertaining game.  One team crushing the other might be impressive, but it’s also terribly boring.  ETU needs to put on a show.  As they turn the game around, not only will they have more fun, but the rest of the people watching the match can share in the fun with them.

Don't forget anyone in the audience, no matter how small.

Tatsumi leaves the team with autonomous orders to continue the plan, but with more fun.  I think he made the right move, because he can’t make one overarching order to the team.  Each member has his own problem to work through.  The hands off approach actually works too.  Kuro usually has his head pretty deeply into the game, but the dynamics of his matchup start to change.  He doesn’t just think he can beat Hauer, now he knows he can come out on top.  The goal he sacrificed won’t happen again.  Sugie as well manages to get his grip on the wonder boy.  He knows what the kid can do, and now Kubota has to suffer his undivided attention.  As the defense’s confidence increases, Gino’s passing skills come back to life, allowing the offense to finally take possession of the ball.

Osaka’s current place in the game has actually aided the change in ETU’s mindset.  Let’s take Kuro’s analogy comparing football to a fight.  If you come at someone with a lot of momentum and connect, you may very well land a one-hit knock out.  What happens if you miss?  All the momentum you put into the blow suddenly works against you.  Not only does it take time to slow yourself, but your opponent can also convert your excess force into a counter throw. Going into the second half, Osaka had extreme confidence in victory.  Now Kuro and Sugie are getting up into their heads.  Hauer gets increasingly frustrated with his defender, even fouling him to try to get back in control.  Not only can he not make a move, he might not even get another chance as long as Kuro sticks to him like glue.  Similarly, Sugie’s rough tactics against Kubota are going to rattle him as well.  It’s pretty tough to keep focused on the attack when you’re getting shoved on every possession.

These two are going to be best friends from now on.

At this point, I think I have a pretty clear picture of what the rest of the series has in store.  In the next episode, 23, Natsuki will work through his issue as a forward.  He’ll finally take a shot on the goal, scoring and boosting his confidence.  The game will be played to about the 30 minute mark.  Episode 24 will have ETU scoring a second goal quickly, and struggling to make a third.  They will ultimately fail, sending the game into overtime.  Both teams will reflect on what this means for the rest of the match.

Episode 25 will be a struggle for dominance in the first half of overtime.  By this point, the player’s tanks will be running on empty.  I’d expect Tatsumi to switch Natsuki for Sakai.  Finally, in episode 26, ETU will nail the winning shot at the last possible moment.  The match point will go to Sera with an assist from Sakai.  Those are my predictions, so let’s see how the game actually plays.

With plays like this, it will definitely be a fun game!

The Legend of the Legendary Heroes 9 – Too Close for Comfort

This episode made it abundantly clear that Ryner and Ferris don’t know what they are doing. You would have thought that after two years of researching the legendary relics Ryner would know how to use them or, at the very least, he would have one in his possession by now. Though much from this episode still needs to be resolved, I would imagine that knowing the pink haired siblings pose a threat to the completion of their mission, Ryner and Ferris may start taking things a bit more seriously.

The pink haired siblings being cute before becoming evil.

While I could deride Iris forgetting where she put the letter, and thus sending Ryner and Ferris to the forest, as a weak plot device, I won’t. Instead, it was completely within her character and even provided a couple laughs when contrasted against Sion’s letter. Nor will I point out that the amount of talking between Ryner and Ferris during their fight with the pink haired siblings reminded me of a bad shounen action show. Fortunately, the amount of action in this episode really made up for those small problems.

The main focus in this episode was the fight between Ryner/Ferris and the pink haired siblings. If there was one thing the first part of the fight made clear, it was that Ryner and Ferris were outmatched. With the pink haired siblings possessing three of the legendary relics (Elemio’s Comb, the Ailecrono Scythe, and Dolueli’s Swordscale), it had become quite clear that Ryner and Ferris haven’t been using their time wisely. Surprisingly, Ferris was the least useful person in battle, with Kuu almost fatally wounding her. This fight, and the fight with Miran Froaude a few episodes ago, show that Ferris, despite her skill, is only bringing a knife to a gunfight. As much as I love Ferris, she is becoming less and less useful.

These two seem to be getting closer.

The second part of the fight introduced yet another plot element, because what would this show be without having new plot point being introduced, in the form of the Rule Fragment. Apparently, after learning of Ryner’s Alpha Stigma, Sui wanted to steal it from him. How this is even possible is beyond me, but it really doesn’t matter, since once he awakened Ryner’s Alpha Stigma he lost any chance of winning the battle. I will give Sui some mad props though for cutting off his own infected arm and cauterizing the wound with the Dolueli Swordscale.

Two minutes earlier she wanted to play house with Ryner.

Along with the main story, there were a series of flashbacks to Ryner’s childhood mixed into this episode. Though these flashbacks didn’t really introduce anything we didn’t already know about Ryner’s power, the purpose of this series of flashbacks served another purpose. Though Ryner urged Ferris to leave the area when his Alpha Stigma took over, it is also likely to assume that he didn’t want Ferris to see him as a monster. The reason I say this is because the last scene in the flashback featured his young friend, Quill, and the rest of the town shunning him as a monster immediately after he saved the town. I would imagine, especially with some of the hints we have gotten in the past few episodes concerning the changing nature of Ferris and Ryner’s relationship, that Ryner fears the same thing might happen.  On a side note, what is with the ungrateful townspeople? I mean, Ryner saved them from death, and they don’t even thank him.

Though it is impossible for me to predict what the psychopathic Ryner will do next episode (but it looks like Ferris will be important given the previews), there are few other things that caught my eye in this episode. Regardless of what happens to the pink haired siblings in the next episode, it does seem like Ferris knows the country they are from. If other nations are also searching for the relics, it could prove troublesome for Sion and Roland in the future. If the siblings do manage to survive past the next episode,  the list of enemies for Ryner and Ferris will continue to grow, though I still see Miran Froaude as the most dangerous threat. Another question is what happened to Elemio’s comb after Ryner more or less vaporized it. Given that the legendary relics seem to be fairly important due to the title of the show, will its disappearance pose a problem down the line?

I'm certainly looking forward to the next episode.

Ookami-san and Seven Companions 9 – Snow White, the Triplets, the Quadruplets, and the Little Red Riding Hood

Posted by Author | Anime, Anime Review, J.C. Staff, Manga Review, Ookami-san and Seven Companions, comedy, drama, fanservice, lvlln, parody | Saturday 28 August 2010 12:40 am

I like the return to the episodic structure, where each episode has a clear and pretty much atomic story based on some fairy tale. This week’s episode was a very obvious Snow White parody, and though the story was too overdramatic, the twist of how Ringo entered the story and the good visuals and aurals more than made up for it.

By the aurals, I mean Yukari Fukui. I can’t get enough of her voice. She was Himeno Shirayuki, the stand in for Snow White. If the 7 little siblings didn’t tip you off – male quadruplets and female triplets apparently – that her name is shortened to “Hime” – Japanese for princess – by her siblings should have. Anyway, Shirayuki was portrayed as being little miss perfect, which works out, because Yukari Fukui has played perfect characters before.

Maybe I’m guilty of fetishizing actors’ voices too much. But with Fukui, I do it with no shame or reservation. The soft lisp that defines her voice is always a pleasure to hear, regardless of her actual acting skills (which I, not knowing Japanese, would be unqualified to write about, anyway). She alone made memorable for me the very minor side character Junko Miyaji from FLCL. I’ll admit that it was odd hearing her as a very young Shirayuki, because her voice, while innocent, still feels too feminine to belong to a young child.

The actual story – and the drama it tried to instill with Ringo’s back story – was ho hum. Everything went exactly as expected, down to the near downing sequence which showed the Mermaid Pool to be criminally understaffed when it comes to life guards. What I did like was how seamlessly Ringo was integrated into this story.

Snow White indeed. Even her clothes and hair are pretty much white.

For those who don’t know, Ringo’s full name – Akai Ringo – means “red apple” in Japanese, the same type that poisoned Snow White in her story. The red apple is not a conscious being, of course, and it’s Snow White’s evil stepmother who uses the apple. In this case, that was Ringo’s mother, using her to steal away Shirayuki’s life for Ringo. Sure, it was out of left field that she had a half sister (or rather, at least 4 half sisters and 4 half brothers), but I like the dynamic created by having Ringo unwittingly being the poisoned apple that stole Shirayuki’s life and the overwhelming guilt that that burdens her with. Again, the way things actually played out was very plain – Shirayuki, perfect to the end, forgave Ringo and told her she was happy with her life – but it was nevertheless a creative way of inserting Little Red Riding Hood into the Snow White story.

On the visuals side, I mean the fanservice, of course. This was a swimsuit episode, after all, and Shirayuki was the winner to that pageant in episode 3. There was plenty to oggle at here, including our crazy witch Majolica, who remains as much a mystery as ever. I was also a fan of Ryouko’s sports type swimsuit, which reflected her minimalist, efficient attitude as an athlete. The continued use of the “You fell on me, so I’ll punch you!” trope was uninspiring, though.

I think Majo was by far the hottest out of everyone in this episode. I hope she doesn't get gypped out of an intro episode, though it's starting to look likely.

But the real fanservice was in the seven “dwarves.” They were adorable. Not in the loli or trap kind of way, but just as little kids. No wonder Shirayuki was happy to be with them. I haven’t written much about the art and character design in this show, but that’s one aspect that I feel has been consistently solid throughout this show’s ups and downs. There is a sense of palpable softness in the characters thanks to the roundness with which all their angles are drawn (with the notable exception of Alice). It translates to some very cute children when they’re around.

Don't you just want to take them home and spoil them? Of course, a set of triplets and one of quadruplets would be hell in real life.

You might notice I haven’t mentioned the narrator at all. That’s because there was nothing notable about her yet again, except being almost absent for the last half. At least, that’s how it felt. With 3 episodes to go, she better do something epic lest she end up as the single greatest disappointment from the early episodes.

This was a solid, fun episode, and I tried my best to ignore the melodrama. This and the previous one were exactly the sorts of things I was hoping for when this show began (except, again, the disappointing narrator). But with time running out, I’m guessing it’s time for the real melodrama to come in. Though we’ve had more than a glimpse at Ryouko’s somber past, a lot remains to be revealed. The preview image for the next episode featured that girl we last saw hanging out with our main bad guy Shirou in episode 5, so hopefully the show is ready to dive in to the serious business and get it done.

Hey, it's what's-her-face from a third of the season back when it looked like things were starting to get serious.

FLCL 3 – Marquis de Carabas, 10 Years Later

Posted by Author | Anime, Anime Review, FLCL, Manga Review, Rants, action, comedy, ecchi, gainax, lvlln, romance, scifi | Wednesday 25 August 2010 2:49 am

10 years ago yesterday, on August 23, 2000, the 3rd episode of Gainax’s OVA series FLCL was released to DVD. It probably wasn’t until a year later that I first got to watch it. I wrote a corresponding post on the 10th year anniversary of the 2nd episode, wherein I explained how I came across this series. I downloaded Marquis de Carabas only after having downloaded the first 2 episodes together and having watched them multiple times. Episode 3 was downloaded by itself, and it would be another few days before I got to see the last 3 episodes of this series. In retrospect, after watching the rest of the series, I can appreciate this episode for what it did. It set up Eri Ninamori as a proper foil for Naota, to show us a different way that someone going through the same things could act. Eri was a kid at an adolescent phase, just like Naota. Though her troubles undoubtedly manifest themselves in a much more mundane manner. However, at the first watch, Marquis de Carabas was a huge disappointment to me, especially after the incredible first 2 episodes this series had had. My main source of disappointment was that this episode lacked that moment. You know, that moment. When it feels as if all barriers between the director’s brain and your heart have been broken down, and your emotions are his to play with. When you feel as if you are at the presence of something great, that you’re lucky to be watching what you are watching, even if you don’t quite know why or how. It’s that moment that makes you want to watch it again and again, if only to marvel at the excellence of direction. These moments are usually fleeting and short. But they are also the ones that can define a piece of work. They’re the ones you remember later and turn to when you think of why you liked a piece of work. The first two episodes had several. The One Life and Never Knows Best scenes in Fooly Cooly. The Hybrid Rainbow scene and the Little Busters climax in Firestarter. Marquis de Carabas had… well, it didn’t really have anything, which is my point. When I think back to the episode, no singular scene or sequence of scenes stand out. Even the climax, with the rare non-Pillows soundtrack – it was actually a piece called Galloping Comedians by a Russian composer named Dmitry Kabalevsky – wasn’t that well directed, and its transition to the denouement and credits was jarring. In fact, the entire second half of the episode felt shoddy and thrown together. It lacked the polish and tightness of direction that had made the first two episodes so unforgettable. What did stick with me from this episode was the character of Eri Ninamori.

I gotta admit, even the first time around, I thought her in the glasses and too-short pajamas was fucking hawt.

Eri was a tough nut to crack. She had been given a few lines in the first two episodes, but I hadn’t expected her to play any major role. But here she was, ostensibly the main character of Marquis de Carabas. My first time watching it, I was surprised at what appeared to be the entrance of a third heroine. What about all the stuff with Mamimi and Haruko that had been set up in the first two episodes? Given that this OVA was only 6 episodes, could they really afford to add another protagonist and spend an entire episode on her? As I wrote above, I realized after the fact that Marquis de Carabas was important in placing Eri Ninamori into the role of foil to Naota. Her story was that of the divorce of her parents. Like Naota, Eri struggled with what it meant to grow up. Also like him, she perceived herself to be more grown up than the kids and adults around her. This despite her still childlike tendencies that were featured heavily in this episode. She cheated to get herself and her crush roles in the school play. She went for the mild Little Prince curry at Naota’s house. She wore a shampoo cap. She hid her need for eye glasses due to her vanity. All the while, she considered herself superior to those around her. Like her father’s cheating secretary. Or Naota for skipping the rehearsals.

The perpetually bored/disgusted/superior facial expressions of Eri Ninamori.

She was the very reflection of Naota. She showed us the ugly manifestations of Naota’s way of thinking. I don’t know that this episode showed her develop out of that immature phase. We were told that her parents divorced, but her reaction to it wasn’t revealed (until episode 6, that is) beyond her cool demeanor at the school play. Most damning is, of course, the final shot, showing her declare her glasses as being fake. It was a sudden reversal after the initial surprise that she had shown everyone that she wore glasses. To the end (of the episode), she remained a cynic, wanting to pull one over on everyone else. That’s probably why, even though Eri Ninamori stuck with me after I watched this episode, neither she nor the episode as a whole left me very fulfilled. I sometimes have a hard time choosing which of the episodes was my favorite. But I can say without reservation that Marquis de Carabas was my least favorite. Even though Eri and the episode were redeemed by the events in the final episode (which I should be writing about around March 16 of next year), it didn’t meet the standards set by the previous episodes, nor the ones that would be set in the coming episodes.

As to be expected from GAINAX, the fanservice was pretty good. Alas, 10 years ago, like Naota, I was not at the age to appreciate it for what it was.

Do you remember watching this episode for the first time? Was it during the Adult Swim run in 2003 that had made this show so huge in the US? Was it before, when you had to scour IRC or one of the filesharing clients for low quality fansubs? Was it after, on that high quality, though expensive, DVD release by Synch Point? What was your initial response to it, negative like mine, or positive for reasons not stated in this post?


  • A couple months ago, there was a nice little post made on Anime Diet about the 10th anniversary of FLCL as a whole. It’s a nice, quick little read. I added a link to it after putting up my first post, but in case you missed it, check it out.
  • Funimation is supposed to release a Blu-ray edition of FLCL some time later this year. Reports of the Japanese release – out last week on the 18th – indicate that the HD versions of the episodes are mere upscales, and poor ones at that. Shame on GAINAX for not keeping higher resolution masters!
  • This episode also featured the triumphant entrance of Naota’s homeroom teacher, Junko Miyaji, played by none other than the wonderfully lispy voice of Yukari Fukui. She went on to make a name for herself with two more works by GAINAX (Aim for the Top! 2 and Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann) and remains one of a handful of FLCL’s cast still in the anime voice acting industry.

Angel Beats: Episodes 11 – 13

Posted by Author | Angel Beats, Anime Review, Manga Review | Tuesday 24 August 2010 4:21 pm

This finally finishes off one of two series I was blogging from the Spring season.

Series: Angel Beats
Media: Mazui Fan Sub (Episodes 11 – 13)

These final three episodes dealt with the mystery behind the “shadows” that was hinted at in episode 10.  Perhaps not surprisingly, Yuri was well aware of what Otonashi was up in regarding trying to relieve the Battlefront’s member’s regrets, but was perhaps surprising is that she was supportive of the idea of members going that route if they wanted to, as opposed to being turned into NPCs by the shadows.

As for the programmer of the “shadows,” I wonder if the whole point of it was because they knew someone like Yuri would arrive someday, and eventually she would need a mortal enemy to “defeat” in order to finally disappear.  However, I felt kind of jipped that most of the people just decided that they wanted to leave, and so they left.  I guess I shouldn’t be surprised with so many people and so few episodes to work with, especially since two of the three episodes dealt with the shadow things.

I guess my main question is…if Kanade got Otonashi’s heart in real life, what was she doing there before he was?  Of course, it’s always possible that “time” in this afterlife and “time” in the real life have no relation.  Though given that we didn’t see any characters that looked like they were out of place in that timeframe, if there is some variance on when they arrive in the timeline of this place and when they die, it’s not a very big one.  Maybe only a few years, perhaps.

At the very end, I’m assuming Kanade and Otonashi are reincarnated in the real world some time down the road, where they meet again.  So I guess instead of this being a show where long-lost lovers meet in some reincarnated future, and then we learn about their past, in this show, we see their past, and then see the start of their future.

Overall, I’d say Angel Beats was a pretty decent show.  I think it could have been better in many aspects.  I’m not really sure the shadow thing was necessary or even vitally important (other than getting Yuri to accept her regrets) yet it took up 2 of the final 3 episodes.  I think this is definitely a series with re-watch value, even if it could have been better.

Amagami SS Sex Hair, aka Kaoru Arc – Failure to Launch

Posted by Author | AIC, Anime, Anime Review, Manga Review, amagami ss, comedy, drama, lvlln, romance, school | Tuesday 24 August 2010 2:58 am

I approached the second heroine’s arc of Amagami SS with both apprehension and excitement. If you’ve read my post on the first arc, it should be obvious why. The identity of the new heroine was actually not really on my mind, but she proved to be the one interesting bit in a story that felt almost sterile at times. Indeed, this arc was bad, but not spectacularly so like Haruka’s. And it was actually kind of good at times, which made it all the more painful to see it fall.

The Good: Sex Hair

Let’s start with the positives. Kaoru was a much better character than Haruka. She was energetic and playful without feeling forced. Her relationship as a friend with Junichi was fun to watch, as was the beginning transition into a romantic one, at least in the first couple episodes. Plus, she’s not called “Sex Hair” for nothing. That wavy hair was one of the things that drove me to this series in the first place, and it didn’t disappoint.

Yes, her hair was godly. It's what I'll miss most from this arc.

Having the path diverge immediately following Junichi’s failed Christmas Eve date 2 years ago to have Kaoru cheer him up was a pleasant surprise. If they were so bold as to change what was such a central element in the first arc, perhaps the stories would diverge so much as to leave the first arc but a bitter memory? Plus, it was much easier to cheer for someone who wasn’t still hiding in his closet from a singular event 2 years ago. Even if the star lined closet made a return in the final episode, not having the entire pretext of the story be of Junichi trying to get over that date by finding a new love made the story significantly easier to swallow.

In fact, the whole high level story of friends becoming lovers was handled pretty well for the first two episodes. The self doubts and struggles of emotions they went through seemed genuine, even if exaggerated. The second episode was kicked off by a refreshingly open and honest conversation between the two regarding the nature of their relationship (it’s a sad commentary on the medium that having a mature conversation about romance and friendship in anime stands out as exceptional). A shame that scene ended with the classic accidental kiss then embarrassment trope.

Even the fetish of the month – belly button this time – was handled much better. Under the context of these curious teenage friends and with Junichi basing it on the first thing he saw, I might even go as far as to say it was done tastefully. At the very least, it didn’t linger any longer than necessary and certainly wasn’t a key building block to their relationship as was the case with Haruka’s arc.

Was it because I was ready for something like this thanks to Haruka's arc? Or was this scene actually quite tolerable?

The Bad: The Entire Second Half

So that was the first two episodes. While nothing amazing, they were entertaining and provided a pair of protagonists we could really root for. It’s too bad that it all fell apart in the last half, where pretty much nothing happened.

Of course, this points to pacing – something that was also very problematic in the first arc – as the culprit. I could go on about its failures, stacking all the interesting parts at the front and leaving a pair of content free episodes to limp to the finish line. I could explain what a waste of time the third episode was and how the show lacked any sense of urgency given its unique time constraints and squandered what little time it had. I could get down to specifics, like how the entire set-up sequence at the start of the final episode was a complete waste of time.

But I think it would be most effective to sum it up concisely: All the interesting stuff happens either before or after the events shown in the anime.

Kaoru and Junichi have known each other for three years. The show is not shy about this fact and often references past events from their friendship, usually to hit on some sort of emotional note. The problem is that we never saw these moments. We caught the tail end of the friendship at the beginning of the arc, and it was fun. Hearing about these memories isn’t fun. Furthermore, since we weren’t a part of their history together, the impact on Junichi or Kaoru from being reminded of a past event is lost on us. You can’t shove years of character and relationship development into a few flashbacks.

This scene and others like it in the 7th episode would have been wonderful - if we had gotten to seen them first hand.

But at least we got to see their friendship, with some ear biting and imaginary German suplexing and belly button licking. As I wrote above, the start to this arc was fine. The opposite end, on the other hand, called in sick. All the fun stuff regarding their romantic relationship happens only after the arc is over.

The last two episodes – the entire last half of the arc – were aimless. I wrote about the first arc that I felt that the show suffered from its lineage i.e. that it emulated the storytelling of a dating sim visual novel to a fault. This could not have been more true in these 2 episodes. It is common to go through the mundane in visual novels. Most of the time, it is trying to insert you into the life of the protagonist, after all, and most of life is mundane.

Unfortunately, this translated to episode 7 being able to be summarized by, Junichi looks for Kaoru and eventually finds her, and episode 8 by, Junichi and Kaoru go on a date on Christmas Eve.

OK, there are some details I’m missing, but they were entirely superfluous. Kaoru’s problem with her mother proved to be a red herring. Its purpose seemingly was to have Junichi look for Kaoru and be reminded of her on the way, and then help her through this little conflict, but those things failed in having any impact. I already wrote above about how the flashbacks and reminders to past events were not effective due to us, the viewers, lacking a connection to those scenes. But having Junichi show up and solve everything by saying a few cliche lines was borderline insulting.

Silly girl, thinking you're strong enough to solve your own problems. You need a MAN to give you that strength!

And, of course, episode 8 had a very heartfelt conversation between Junichi and Kaoru as they stood on the glass at the top of the tower (psych protip: people tend to become more easily attracted when in situations that cause stress, such as being at a great height). Or rather, it would have been very heartfelt and sweet had it not been on their first date. When people on their first date declare that they want to spend the rest of their lives together, it’s more comedic than romantic.

And then, how did the episode (and by extension the story arc) end? When the day ended. Hey, that’s kind of like in a dating sim! There was no ending, no conclusion. The closest thing to a climax was the aforementioned humorous confessions of love atop the tower. Literally, the arc ended right after Kaoru teased Junichi with a climax before falling asleep. There was nothing of significance other than their first date. It was the start of something, and then, oh, The End. Kaoru deserved better.

The story of Junichi and Kaoru doesn’t end there. It’s just that our view of it does. We know that the two will go through the same things any romantic couple goes through. There will be fun times, sad times, angry times, happy times. Maybe they won’t make it past a second date. Maybe they’ll grow old together. Maybe they’ll marry each other, madly in love, at 20, then get divorced by the time they’re 30. These are the interesting stories that we are not privy to. Instead, we were served just the things leading up to it. And not even the good stuff like when they used to be just friends, but that magical, most boring moment in between, when nothing of interest happened.

They go on their first date, sleep - literally sleep - together, then it's over. Did no one in the writers' room notice anything wrong with this ending?

In Conclusion: Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda

While watching the aforementioned conversation atop the tower in the final episode, I thought back to the first 2 episodes and regretted the potential that had been wasted. Already, with so little time remaining, I knew that things couldn’t end well (I was hoping for a 10-years-later segment like in the first arc, at least, but we didn’t even get that). There was content in here to make a genuinely entertaining romance story. One that was both funny and emotional. The rooftop conversation at the start of episode 6 was a breath of fresh air in its mature handling of romantic emotions in anime. Kaoru was fun without being fake. That conversation at the top of the tower would have made for a very good climax to any other story about middle/high school friends becoming lovers. There just needed to be more leading up to it. They needed to have been together a bit longer. Junichi and Kaoru were afraid of getting together. It’s telling that the final episode was titled Development and started with their friends forcing them together. All that’s fine and natural, especially given their preexisting relationship, but when that takes over the entire story, you end up with one very boring story. Or rather, a very boring portion of a story. And that’s the portion we got to see.

My main takeaway from this arc: wavy hair needs to be the new thing for anime producers to latch onto and drive into the ground.

We’ve had 2 full story arcs now, enough to get a semblance of a feel for what to expect. I’m most surprised by how different the two arcs were. Haruka’s was back-heavy with almost all the content dumped into the last 1.5 episodes. Kaoru’s suffered from the exact opposite problem. Haruka’s fetish kiss was a hilarious disaster that proved to be a core part of the arc’s downfall, while Kaoru’s was barely a speed bump and actually kind of fun. What both stories had in common were that they both ended abruptly with a first date on Christmas Eve (though Haruka’s was kind enough to provide us with an epilogue), with all the good stuff of a romantic relationship left to our imagination.

Going forward – and I do intend to stick with this show all the way to the bloody end – I fear that that is exactly how every story will end. That this show will be all about the build up with no release. The first date is aptly named because it is the first of something. It is the start of something interesting. Certainly, the lead up to that can be entertaining – countless harem anime are proof of this – but when the curtain falls just as things get good, it just leaves a bad taste in your mouth. Amagami SS has nothing up its sleeve besides the core romance story between Junichi and whichever heroine it is focusing on at the time. The comedy is banal and passable at best. The 4 episode limit per heroine leaves no time for other developments. It is with that romance story that this show lives and dies, and the show simply can’t afford to keep messing it up. A continuation of this ending pattern is a surefire way to guarantee failure.

Up next is Sae Nakata. Good luck, Sae! Seriously, you're gonna need it.

Giant Killing 21 – It’s Not Over Yet!

Posted by Author | Anime, Anime Review, Giant Killing, Manga Review, Rakuen, drama, football, seinen, sports, studio deen | Sunday 22 August 2010 9:53 pm

Last week, some guy named Hauer on the Osaka side of the game scored a point.  Honestly, Osaka scoring is something we should expect.  They’ve spent the last few episodes emphasizing the strength of their offensive play.  If they didn’t manage to score, and in short order, I know we’d all criticize this arc for its ridiculous game play.  Thus, Hauer scoring a goal is nothing out of the ordinary.  Instead, what I find odd is how everyone suddenly starts condemning ETU and claiming the game has already ended.

Hey, could you turn down the smug a little? Thanks.

Dulfer praises Hauer’s excellent goal and his timing, just 17 minutes into the game.  He then goes on to say ETU can only defend at this point, which means his Gunners are guaranteed victory if they keep up the assault.  Then we’ve got the reporter dude up in the peanut gallery with his armchair commentary.  He asserts that even if ETU can score a goal, they’ll still end the match in a tie.  They have no chance at all, they’ll simply follow a slow path to defeat.

I realize that at some point in a timed game you can reach a point of no return.  One team leads the other by such a large margin that even if they played well with all the remaining time, they simply can’t catch up.  However, last time I checked, which was literally in the last paragraph, Osaka scored a goal 17 minutes into the game.  I might be mistaken, but I’m pretty sure a game of football has a total of 90 minutes.  We’ve still got 73 minutes left!  Shoot, they still have some time in the locker room to go over strategies and revise the game plan.  They might have conceded a goal at this point, but you can’t write them off so easily.  Your overconfidence can eventually come back to bite you.

Well, I don't think this is going to help much either.

I’ll illustrate this by alluding to an entirely different game, Super Smash Bros.  About a year ago, two of my friends faced off in a tournament, playing Link and Lucario.  The one playing Link had a lot more experience in competitive play, and he managed to largely dominate the match.  About halfway through the game, he had managed to land Lucario twice.  Link had taken some damage, and Lucario might manage to land a parting kill.  By all practical measure, though, the audience had already decided the game.  When you only have three lives, a two life deficit is nearly impossible to recover.

Lucario kept right on fighting.  He played a slower and cleaner match while still keeping the pressure on his opponent.  In short order, he’d taken his consolation prize, but he didn’t stop.  He kept the fight going, eventually claiming another life while in critical state.  Finally, in the biggest upset of the entire tournament, he managed to get the last kill he needed to seize the match.  How did he win?  He knew by rights he would probably lose, yet he refused to give up the match.  Perseverance served him well, and the lesser skilled player took down the greater opponent.  Incidentally, you can actually watch this on Youtube.

Can't give up just because you're a little off today.

We return to the anime now, and I applaud ETU for keeping their spirits up after failing on defense.  A few of them kind of want to beat themselves up over it, but overall they are united in their purpose.  They want to continue the fight.  Gino, in particular, offers some encouragement.  The team balks at his strange pep talk, but I understand him.  They’ve conceded goals in the past  What of it?  They only have to get back out there and start attacking to make up the difference.

Then Kubota scores the second goal, and again, reporter guy and Dulfer think the match has ended with Osaka on top.  Still, ETU refuses to roll over and die.  Sera valiantly leads a charge straight for Osaka’s goal.  If only they had a little more time, they might have actually scored.  You can’t write them off yet.  They’ll have a little time to regroup with Tatsumi and get their thoughts in order.  Then they can move on to developing a plan for victory.  They can do it.  After all, they have the entire second half to score three kills.  I mean, goals…

Sera hasn't thrown the towel in yet, and neither should you!

Gurren Lagann – DVD 1

Posted by Author | Anime Review, Anime Series, Manga Review, gurren lagann | Sunday 22 August 2010 6:52 pm


(I’ll probably add some preliminary thoughts to series I haven’t seen before on the first post)

I’m a little hesitant about heading into Gurren Lagann, because most everything about it says that I probably won’t like it.  Whether that’s because it’s GAINAX, it’s one of those “OMGWTFBBQ THIS IS THE BEST SERIES EVAR!!” series, or because I’ve heard some rather…questionable…things about it’s fan service (bolstered by the art and clips I’ve seen).

Nevertheless, since this is one of the more recent “Big Things,” I thought I’d give it a try.

Series: Gurren Lagann
Media: Part 1, Disc 1 (Episodes 1 – 5)

Well I guess so far this show isn’t as bad as I thought.  It seems to be staying more on the funny side rather than the stupid side (though not by much).  Though hopefully Shinji Simon will stop complaining sometime soon because it’s getting kind of old.  Kamina is probably the best character so far, even if he is a bit crazy.  Yuko, meanwhile, seems to exist to fire her pretty useless gun, go provide bouncing boobs, and to have absolutely no modesty about shoving her boobs into the guy’s (especially Simon’s) faces (or vice versa).

So far there isn’t much of a central point, really, other than the trio fighting off the Gunmen (hur hur).  Perhaps the most disturbing part so far was their pig thing tearing off it’s ass to give Simon and Kamina a bite to eat cause their machines weren’t working due to them starving.  Throw in a foursome of siblings who ride around on dogs…backwards, and many things on this show are downright weird so far.

Also, I’m not sure what was up with the animation in episode 4, but it seemed kind of…off.

The Legend of the Legendary Heroes 8 – Polar Opposites

This episode offered a lot in the way of political intrigue that in the grand scheme of things really doesn’t seem that important. Suffice it to say, Miran Froaude staged a rebellion in Estabul to and trick Sion into sending forces into other territories and eliminate the anti-king factions. In the end, Sion saw through Miran’s plan but did little in the way of stopping it. Despite my overly simplistic recap, I really did enjoy this episode for a couple of reasons.

I wish I had a nickname as cool as Crimson Fingered Claugh

Though the fighting in this episode wasn’t on par with some of the scenes from episode 3(though it looks like that may be resolved in the next episode) it was interesting enough. For the first time we finally got to see one of Sion’s original generals, in this case Claugh Klom, do something worth talking about. Though the battlefield scenes featuring Klom single-handedly destroying Estabul’s army were well done, I was disappointed we were unable to see Klom fight Froaude. I realize that it’s probably still too early in the series for their inevitable fight, but the way that scene ended, with the princess stopping the fight, was a bit of a letdown.

Without Ryner or Ferris, this was the highlight of the episode

Another thing that made this episode worthwhile was the speed and clarity in which it was done. Though there probably wasn’t enough material to make the rebellion last two episodes, I was impressed with how much was presented in such a short period of time. In my opinion, too many shows spend too much time explaining things to their viewers over and over again, but this show doesn’t stop to explain what is going on, and I admire that. Sure, you could see some of the twists, like Salawell’s betrayal and Miran’s eventual interference, coming from a mile away, but those are minor complaints. With that said, this episode did take a few too many liberties with the plot. Among other things, there was no explanation as to how Froaude or Klom got into the fortress by themselves though I suppose we are to infer they are just that good. This may be a result of the amount of material presented in this episode or just a deficiency from the original source, but it is something that is becoming more noticeable as this series continues.

The Brain Trust

Perhaps the most interesting part of this episode was the last scene featuring Sion in his office. He continues to walk the path toward the dark side, but he seems to understand that. Even though he half heartedly tried to distance himself from the events in Estabul by claiming he saved a few lives by sending Klom, instead of Froaude, he understood that he was just splitting hairs. This was all in stark contrast to the thought process used by Noa Ehn, the leader of the revolt, who was willing to sacrifice her own life for the safety of her people.

Hopefully, she will remain around for a while as she provides a nice contrast to Sion

In addition, Iris’ drawings depicting Ryner and Ferris were cute, but more importantly, they revealed that Sion didn’t actually believe the legendary relics were actually real. This certainly gives more credence to the thought that Lucile is the one pulling the strings, but that was pretty clear to begin with. Despite being mentioned in passing a few times, Lucile, himself, hasn’t made an appearance in three or four episodes, yet his character remains one of this show’s focal points. Even though his only real interaction with the main cast has been with Sion (that we know of), I still can’t go an episode without thinking how Lucile is viewing Sion’s actions. Seeing as how Sion is still alive, it would seem that Lucile still approves of his rule, but I can’t help but wonder when that will change.

The end of this episode revealed a lot about Sion

New Beginnings (sort of, hopefully)

Posted by Author | Anime Review, General Blather, Manga Review | Sunday 22 August 2010 3:01 pm

Alright, I’m once again taking this blog back off life support (or, is it putting it back on life support after it flat-lined…again), this time with hopefully a somewhat new strategy as far as blogging.

Instead of doing lengthy episode reviews with several paragraphs and a big gallery of pictures, I think I’ll do reviews of…well…pretty much everything – episodes, DVDs, online episodes, whatever.  However, I plan on having these reviews be more of the shorter nature – instead of 24 pictures and 6 or 8 paragraphs or whatever it was before, I’m going to try to make them 1 picture and maybe only 2 or 3 paragraph, depending on the length of item I’m reviewing.

I’m also “clearing the slate” if you will, as far as old series.  What I mean by that is that I’m going to allow myself to talk about/review/whatever series I have already reviewed in the past.  I’ll keep all my old reviews and posts up as a sort of archive, but just because I’ve already reviewed, say, Kanon, doesn’t mean I might not go through and review it disk by disk as I rewatch it in the future.

That kind of brings me back to: what am I reviewing.  I kind of said what above, but to be more specific, I’m restarting my Netflix subscription so I can get DVDs that way again.  DVDs I get through there is one source I will write reviews from.  If I stream episodes online from Netflix (or Funimation or Crunchyroll for that matter), that is another source.  DVDs I own will be another, and then on top of this, new anime episodes currently airing in Japan.

With the exception of newly aired episodes (probably, though there might be exceptions, especially if I get behind), I’ll probably review episodes 4 to 6 at a time, whether that’s because that’s how many are on a DVD or just because I’m just taking them as such a group when watching them online.

This will let me do a few things

1) Actually write about series I’m currently watching without waiting until the very end.  One problem I had before with some series is that I’d watch it, but by the time I was done, I had forgotten half of what went on when trying to write a review of the series

2) It opens up the anime library that I own as a source of material for the blog

3) This still allows me to blog certain series that are airing.  Some series I might do an episode at a time, while others I may still do in groups of 2, 3, or 4 episodes, depending on the series.  That will give me some flexibility there as well.

Regarding other non-episode blogging portions of the site, such as anime dvd/manga releases and the anime credits…I don’t know.  The anime credits I’ll probably keep, if for no other reason than I like scouring YouTube for anime credit sequences I wouldn’t normally have seen otherwise.  For the new releases…It’s sort of useful for me I guess, but if no one else cares about it, it might be more trouble than it’s worth.

Ultimately, my goal is to post somewhere around 3 posts a week (hopefully at a minimum).  Of course, if there are any editorial topics I randomly feel like writing about, or news stories I see that I want to chime in on, I’ll write about those as I always have.

I had planned on renaming my blog with a new URL and everything, and while I guess I could have done it at the same time as this restart, I thought I’d do one thing at a time for now.

Ookami-san and Seven Companions 8 – Finally found what I was looking for, sort of

Posted by Author | Anime, Anime Review, J.C. Staff, Manga Review, Ookami-san and Seven Companions, comedy, lvlln, parody, romance | Saturday 21 August 2010 12:22 am

Now this was the type of episode I was expecting from this show when it started. The Otogi bank helping out another poor soul with humorous consequences, bookended by a hilariously twisted version of the Three Little Pigs. That gag and the rest of the episode was chock full of self referential humor. The only disappointment was the narrator who, again, did little more than speak the obvious over everyone else’s lines.

The movie within the show of the Three Little Pigs was excellent. It was amusing to see the roles in the story being reversed because our heroine is the wolf, after all. The setting of the dirty and smelly high school was a bit disturbing at times, and that twister challenge had me creeped out instead of laughing. That the had me hoping that the entire episode would consist of that movie within the show, a la the 12 Dark Despair Girls episode from Zoku Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei. Alas, that was not to be.

However, it did produce this wonderful service shot.

The main portion of the episode was just a straight up telling of the Otogi bank helping someone out. Some rich kid named Chuutarou and his butler Hammel approach the bank, asking them to find him a fiance before his 12th birthday. They grow up so fast, don’t they? The episode was then a series of the girls from previous episodes appearing, then each being insulted by Hammel.

My favorite gags by far were the references to other anime. Otsuu’s opinion on perverted things (they’re bad) almost brought a tear in my eye. How could I have missed that the resident maid’s voice actor was Ayako Kawasumi, the voice of the best maid ever, Saber Mahoro? Then there was the quick cut to characters from Toradora and A Certain Scientific Railgun, both also J.C. Staff productions.

One of these is not like the other. One of these is actually from this show.

I loved how the characters were properly shown and named, and it was a shame that A. more shows weren’t referenced, and B. the references were so short. It would have been a lot of fun to have these characters criticized by Hammel and/or the narrator. Especially Kuroko, for obvious reasons.

Speaking of which, the narrator has been getting worse and worse lately. She was pretty much a non-factor in this episode, basically agreeing with Hammel and talking over others as she has been doing so much of recently. Gone are the energy and dry wit that had characterized her in the first few episodes. She just seems tired and bored, which makes me feel the same way. She needs to get snarky again.

The narrator needs to be more like Hammel was in this episode. His comment about sagging boobs was classic. And reminded me of High School of the Dead for some odd reason.

Like with the last few episodes, I couldn’t tell what story adaptation was being shown here. The title called Chuutarou a mouse, and he was visually designed to strongly resemble one, with the circles of his hair and the noticeably huge front teeth. But I just don’t know of a story involving a mouse searching for a mate. I could easily imagine that such a fairy tale might exist, though. Previously, I had used other blogs such as Tenka Seiha or Random Curiosity to fill in such gaps in my knowledge, but no luck this time.

Almost stepping on the toes of the American stereotype of Chinese with those teeth. What story does this mouse come from?

The kid’s story was just an excuse to show the female cast of the show – and to mess with them a bit. Which was just fine by me, even if I would have preferred a more straight up parody like the Cinderella story in the first episode. This proved to be a very entertaining and light hearted episode, and I hope the show continues in that direction. There are still 4 episodes left, more than enough time to cover the rest of Ryouko’s dark back story. Let’s have some fun while we’re at it.

Giant Killing 20 – Sunken Rice Paddy

Posted by Author | Anime, Anime Review, Commentary, Giant Killing, Manga Review, Rakuen, etymology, football, rice, seinen, sports, studio deen | Tuesday 17 August 2010 2:20 am

I could foolishly attempt to analyze the play of this game, but as I’m not well versed in football, it’d ultimately be futile.  I instead direct you over to Emperor J’s coverage of the episode for a more thorough look at the tactics.  Instead, I’m going to focus on a single character aspect of the episode.  I imagine you’re wondering what on earth a sunken rice paddy has to do with a sports anime.  It turns out it’s time for another etymology lesson, this time revolving around Kubota.

Yeah, that's right. This vapid dude.

We can divide the name Kubota into two root characters.  The first one, Kubo, defines a sunken ground.  The second, Ta, refers to a rice paddy.  The Ta character appears in many Japanese surnames due to an edict in the Meiji era.  Every person had to provide a surname, and many chose it based on their surroundings.  Thus, the surname Kubota, meaning “sunken rice paddy,” is formed!

So why exactly is his name relevant at all to his character?  We’ll start with the first character because it’s the easiest to explain.  The adjective sunken refers to an object which has been submerged in water.  Water can distort or hide the things you put within it.  For example, a glacier looks like a small point of ice poking out of the water.  Easy to navigate around, right?  Unfortunately, water hides a sizable portion of submerged glacier.  If you only made a slight course adjustment, you might end up losing your boat!  Thus, Kubo refers to his hidden potential.  What you see on the surface only hides his true abilities.

This works very nicely with the second character, the rice paddy.  Rice, cooked on its own, generally comes out quite plain.  You can eat it as a dish, but it doesn’t really bring anything special to the meal.  It’s also incredibly common, and a staple of many meals in Asian countries.  There’s a reason many languages have the same or similar words for “rice” and “food.”  I learned that from Good Eats.

If you've watched this series at all, you know what's coming.

This requires me to go back and change my evaluation of Kubota, which I made in episode 18’s post.  At first, I thought he acted timidly.  Instead, he’s simply plain.  Plain, plainer, plainest.  So plain he might get easily confused for plain yogurt.  A blank sheet of paper has more going on than Kubota’s outward appearance.  I could go on, but I’m sure you get the idea.  However, only a fool would believe this is all rice has to offer.  Remember those hidden depths.

Rice has a great deal of versatility.  You can eat it perfectly fine as a plain dish, but you can also do so much more with it.  You can use boiled rice in many soup recipes, as well as combining it with different types of meat.  Adding sweeteners can make a dessert, rather than an appetizer or meal.  A countless variety of fried rice exists in Chinese cuisine.  The Iranians used it to develop pilaf, while centuries later the Italians made risotto.  Again, I could go on forever, but you get the idea.  Rice is one of the ultimate culinary multitaskers, able to work well with many dishes in many cooking styles.

Now put it all together.  On the surface, Kubota looks plain as can be.  You could easily mistake him for an amateur amateur-league player.  His appearance hides his incredible abilities.  In the direct sense, he has incredible control of the ball.  He can probably kick circles around anyone in the league if he really wanted.  In an indirect way, he plays exceptionally well with others.  His versatility allows him to link up with all three of his fellow forwards, even defying Hauer’s language barrier.  While they’ve only shown him working as a playmaker, he could probably score goals of his own as well.  Kubota’s name defines him perfectly, and Dulfer has managed to land himself quite a gem for the Osaka Gunners.

I hope class is in session, because you just got SCHOOLED!

Female Characters and Subverted Expectations in Katanagatari

Given that Katanagatari is a story in the style of chanbara, samurai films which focus largely on “manly” men, it’s great to see it play with gender roles (and subvert our expectations with regard to them) as much as it does. Despite the fact that the central character, who is set to become the strongest in Japan, is male, many of the show’s most powerful characters are women and the plot is very much driven by female characters. Warning: this post and one of the images within it contain major spoilers for Katanagatari episodes one through seven. Events in episode eight are mentioned, but there are no spoilers for the episode.

[Aco] (NSFW)

The first female opponent Shichika fights is Meisai Tsuruga, in episode three. She heads a shrine which protects young girls who have been abused by men, and she has been training them in self-defence. She seems remarkably kind, so it’s a surprise when we learn of her past – she was the member, and then the head, of a notorious and powerful group of bandits, and would kill without hesitation. She is now trying to repent for her past. Meisai is the not only the first female Deviant Blade wielder we meet, but also the first who is not ‘poisoned’ by their sword. She fights Shichika not for the sake of keeping her blade but to be able to continue to help the girls she looks after. This is a woman who is physically and mentally strong, and one who has held leadership positions with considerable courage (in the past) and selflessness (in the present). Her dying request to Togame is the continued protection of the girls at the shrine.


One of the biggest surprises in the series to date comes in episode four. From the preview, we expect a fight between Shichika and Hakuhei Sabi, who holds the title of “Japan’s strongest”. Instead the focus turns to Shichika’s sickly sister Nanami, who has remained alone on the island, and the three Maniwa Corps ninja who are closing in on her. It’s now that even more subversions of expectations take place. We expect Nanami to be no match for any of the ninja, but then one of them doesn’t return to his team members. Later, the second appears in front of Nanami, and the stage is set for their fight. We expect her to attempt to use Kyotoryuu, but she then admits that she was never taught it by her father. Was it because of gender; did he believe her to be, as a woman, unworthy of the style? No. It was because he was afraid of what Nanami would become. This girl, who has been presented as weak and frail up until now, is actually something of a monster. Not only is she able to learn skills upon seeing them once, and master them upon seeing them twice (and is, as such, a phenomenal fighter), she also displays little emotion aside from the pleasure she takes from inflicting pain. After brutally torturing and killing the first ninja, she defeats the other two with frightening ease.

She reappears in episode seven possessing a Deviant Blade of her own. She has left the island, and rumours of her strength and cruelty have begun to spread. She has utterly destroyed two entire villages and wants to face Shichika next. By the end of the episode, she has been defeated and killed, not because Shichika is stronger than her but because her greatest wish is death. Katanagatari presents this all in such a way that we know that, despite her defeat at his hand, Nanami is stronger than Shichika and – without trying to jump the gun here – also the strongest character in the series. It’s fitting that her appearance in episode four takes the place of Shichika’s battle with Sabi, who was supposedly the strongest in Japan; before her death, she fits this role much better than he does.


The last female Deviant Blade holder we’ve been introduced to so far is Konayuki Itezora, whose small frame and eleven years of age belie the fact that she is physically the strongest character in the series – aside from Nanami, who memorised the technique giving her such strength when destroying Konayuki’s village. Konayuki is another who is immune to the ‘poison’ of their blade and also the first character to defeat Shichika on his journey. Indeed, the two smallest characters in the series – Nanami and Konayuki – have been the only ones to defeat Shichika as of yet. Both seem disarmingly harmless at first glance.

Finally, the two other notable women in the series, Togame and Princess Hitei, are perhaps the most important characters of all. Female lead Togame is fiercely intelligent, a capable sword fighter, and her self-proclaimed “schemes” are what drive Katanagatari‘s plot; Hitei, a princess living in Owari, is responsible for the vast majority of twists and turns the story takes. Both women are in positions of power, and both control a male “sword”. The tremendously strong Shichika and Emonzaemon serve Togame and Hitei, respectively, with what at this stage seems like unquestioning loyalty. It also looks like the rivalry between them will drive the remainder of the series, as both race to collect the remaining Deviant Blades.


Katanagatari takes great pleasure in subverting our expectations with regard to the roles women play in stories such as these. In a genre where men have traditionally held the spotlight, it’s fantastic to see a series set olden day Japan driven so much by its female characters. The 50 minute per episode format really allows for character development, and all the people we’ve met so far have been fascinating. If the series continues on like this, we’re in for a treat.

Links and Notes:

  • In the style of the great mefloraine, all images in this post were sourced from Pixiv.
  • Ghostlightning has been covering the series brilliantly, and his posts are definitely worth a read.
  • Nisioisin really seems to love his female characters. Zaregoto‘s first book was set on an island populated almost entirely by an exiled heiress and female geniuses, and Bakemonogatari featured a number of strong, smart girls, though I feel they were portrayed as more sexualised than the female characters were here or in Zaregoto.
  • Nanami is such a fascinating character, and there was so much I wanted to say about her that didn’t really fit in the context of this post. Suffice to say, I can see myself writing more about her soon.

The Legend of the Legendary Heroes 7 – Everybody Hates Ryner

After reviewing my episode one post from a month and half ago, it seems my doubts regarding DenYuDen’s ability to walk the line between being a comedy and drama have been put to rest. Aside from a few overly cliché moments, I have enjoyed watching Ferris’ comedic charm and seeing Sion sell his soul to the devil. As luck would have it though, it seems that once I put one fear to rest another has come to take its place.

She reminds me of Yui.

Before getting into what that fear is, I must say that I love girls with fangs, and this episode really delivered on that front. Both Milk and Sui have fangs, and thus, have instantly become my two favorite characters in this show. Regrettably, my love for their dental issues doesn’t mean I think they have any place in the show. The pink haired Sui, and her older brother Kuu, only show up for two minutes, with their only discernable purpose being to alert Milk to Ryner and Ferris’ location. Though the siblings did offer a few laughs, they seemed somewhat out of place and seem to be, for the time being, exhibit A as to what this story’s problem is (which I cover later).

As for Milk, this episode clearly focused around her. With seven episodes under our belt, understanding what taboo breaker means and what her job is became a lot clearer than when introduced. A bit of shame though for Ryner and Ferris, as both Miran Froaude and Milk’s group are out to kill/capture them thanks to the secret nature of their mission. One interesting twist is that is doesn’t seem that the rest of Milk’s crew  knows of her past with Ryner and the affection she holds for him, as even in episode 1 she is always alone when she talks to him. However, the most interesting part of her story was found in the flashback where we saw a far more aggressive Ryner save Milk. Given that Ryner himself said he hadn’t used his Alpha Stigma for several years in a past episode I hope we will get to see why he gave up using his power and if it had anything to do with his personality change.

This one is just too easy.

Though introduced, in passing, during the first episode, I was a bit surprised with how important the defense of a nation’s magic is to its survival. Given that this is something Sion oversaw himself, it does seem to be a rather important plot point. Unfortunately, I don’t really care about the sanctity of Roland’s magic, or any other nation’s for that matter, as the series hasn’t done anything to acquaint us with it. I wasn’t looking for anything on par with FMA’s review on the finer points of Alchemy from episode 1 of that series, but at least try to make me care. Additionally, this potential plot point just adds to an ever increasing catalogue of things in this series that I need to keep an eye on. With an upcoming conflict in Estabul likely on the horizon, that list will likely continue to grow.

On that point, the episode concluded with Miran giving Sion a report about an uprising in Estabul. From the look on Sion’s face once he got that news, I wouldn’t want to be in Estabul anytime soon. Most of his screen time this (and last) episode was again devoted to him moaning about his inability to protect Fiole. Given that he also likely regrets his inability to protect his classmates from being slaughtered by the Estabul Knights in episode 3, he seems hell bent on revenge. After watching the Star Wars trilogy yesterday, I can’t help but think this is Sion’s first big step to the dark side.

I get it. Sion is evil.

Like its expanding plot, the show’s cast of characters continues to grow. Though I am fairly confident that most of the recent additions to the cast will be nothing more than bit players, and thus will not be critical to the overarching story, it seems like the show has not yet hit its stride. While this is a bit of an exaggeration (especially considering episode 3), more than one fourth of the series has aired and it feels as if I’ve only seen an endless convoy of character introductions. I would hate to see this series suffer the same fate as the third season of LOST, in that it continues adding new characters without really ever advancing the plot of the main characters, which in this case would be Ryner, Ferris, and Sion.

On a different issue, it was nice to finally get confirmation as to where episode one fit into the continuity of the series as a whole. While I’d imagine most people who watched this were able to surmise that it took place before episode 5, the open ended ending of the first episode had given me troubles. Fortunately, the show solved this problem by highlighting another. This episode’s ending was the second instance in which Ryner and Ferris apparently walked away from a fight with a monster that had something to do with the legendary relics (the dragon in this episode and the stone monster in the first).

For Ferris, I would be her S any day of the week

It seems as though there is some understanding between Ferris and Ryner as to what they are doing, but it would be nice if we were privy to their conversations. For example, is there a reason as to why they are letting these monsters roam free, are to assume they defeat the monster in between episodes, or is there someone else who comes along to deal with these beasts? Given that the show looked ahead in the first episode, it does seem reasonable to assume that we may not have the whole story and that there is some sort of missing episode that will clear everything up in the future, but then again, I really don’t have a clue. Let’s just hope we don’t get some sort of ending monologue that “solves” all the plot holes ala Angel Beats.

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