Author Archives: Kujou-san

About Kujou-san

This is my chance. I'll make my grand declaration here: 好きな人にこんな気持ちを伝えたい! 好きな人の気持ちを知りたい! めげない, 逃げない, 諦めない!

Another – Episode 2

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Mei sits alone on a bench in the courtyard, which is fenced with yellow rosebushes. As she issues her cryptic warning to Kouichi, a sudden, violent gust of wind whips through the air, putting a million rose petals to flight. The arcing camera angle as it rotates around the impassive Mei and the bewildered Kouichi filled with the brilliant accent of yellow in a chaotic breeze is an excellent augur of the ominous portent that hangs over the school (and certain other of the town’s residents), which is one reason why this scene is so very well done.

 

The yellow rose is one of the few that doesn’t implicitly carry a message charged with romantic suggestion; and one of its many meanings is joy and happiness. In this context, there must be no ambiguity in the yellow roses’ message. Mei informs us “it” is coming: an unanticipated storm is about to occur that will strip away the relatively peaceful tranquility the town now enjoys after being mired in dark events in its past.

Based on the fact the rosebushes serve as a backdrop in the scene itself and are not of active importance to the two principals, it is of the author’s humble opinion the yellow roses represent the peace and happiness of the status quo that will soon be torn to shreds in the face of a chain of tragic events that will swallow everything in its path. It’s always refreshing to see directors employ this kind of cleverness in their craft as it greatly enriches subtext.

 

 

Throughout the episode, several of Kouichi’s classmates hint at the dark secrets surrounding class 3-3 before class officer in charge of “countermeasures” Akazawa Izumi tries to enforce damage control.

However, it is too little, too late to quell Kouichi’s curiosity as he has already employed the assistance of a nurse at the hospital to help investigate the identity of a girl who recently died there. Mei’s warning at the beginning of the episode and the repeated near-miss events that nearly expose the truth, along with a few foreshadowing moments, help give the plot some momentum as things begin to take shape and turn up the tension.

 

One thing’s for certain. When tailing a suspected ghost, you’ll never be bored with where you end up. Kouichi’s pursuit of Mei, who in the otherworldly fashion is always within two steps of disappearing from view, brings him to an obscure, out-of-the-way locale in the deep recesses of the town’s back streets. Here the doll motif takes central focus as Kouichi enters an odd building which incidentally houses a doll gallery.

Welcome, Sakakibara Kouichi: you are now entering the Uncanny Valley. The deathly silence of the dark, somber studio gives him no comfort, and he is startled to see a doll that bears a strong resemblance to Mei before coming face to face with Mei herself in the bowels of building’s lower level.

 

One of the things that makes Mei so profoundly creepy is her uncanny, unsettling voice: an odd lethargic monotone with unnatural pauses, brought to great effect by seiyuu Takamori Natsumi. On a completely different level, another thing that makes her creepy would be her taste in dolls, when she points out her favorite among the scattered bodies. In the final moments of episode 2, she offers Kouichi a chance to see what lies hidden beneath the eyepatch…

At the beginning of the episode, classmate Mochizuki remarks the world “screams” and is filled with uneasiness that everyone can feel. It seems it’s only a matter of time now before the sense of dread turns to outright terror.

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Hidamari Sketch: Eternal Sunshine? The Kids Aren’t Alright

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Welcome back. From time to time, we the authors bring you special features not found anywhere else. This special edition in-depth feature both celebrates and takes a skewed view of the popular slice-of-life series Hidamari Sketch, soon to return this year with a confirmed fourth season. Well, who doesn’t love a good sequel?

The world of Hidamari Sketch is a place of sunshine, flowers, butterflies, rainbows, puppies and pretty much anything stereotypically associated with idyllic harmony and inherent goodness. Basically, a literal Heaven-on-earth. Here, said puppies are invariably always well-fed, never kicked (or have sticks shoved up their asses by malicious schoolgirls with compulsively-destructive tendencies: this means you, Mitama Mayo!) and will without fail find good homes. Because the people who inhabit this land of eternal happiness essentially live in a vacuum sealed off from all the ills, woes and despair found in the real world, one would be hard pressed to experience crises more serious than forgetting one’s homework as they simply don’t exist. –Or do they?

Beneath all the whimsical cheerfulness lies telltale signs of an altogether different story that unfolds from day to day. Upon closer examination, disturbing traits and personality disorders become readily apparent. In a series of short surveys, I uncover the more serious issues afflicting the main characters and select minor players, revealing shocking truths that indicate the world of Hidamari Sketch is in fact as maladjusted, angst-ridden and dysfunctional as any other.

As Hidamari Sketch is not a series that focuses on developing a full-fledged plot around a central protagonist in the typical fashion so much as it presents short-and-sweet vignettes in an achronological format, the more significant characters in the daily lives of the main girls will be presented (with certain exceptions).

Disclaimer: As a recent convert to the Hidamari Sketch series (all thanks/blame goes to mutsulini), I must emphasize that I am a fan. This post is not intended to be an extensive, serious psychiatric analysis, neither is it a professional evaluation in any way. I do not claim advanced knowledge of nor do I hold degrees in psychiatry or its related fields. The speculative musings presented here are precisely that and are at best mild exaggerations and at worst obvious gross misrepresentations of the simple, innocent quirks that make Aoki Ume’s characters such clean, wholesome fun.

 

YUNO (ゆの)

By the third season, Hidamari Sketch x  Hoshimittsu, Yuno has graduated to second year but remains the shortest of the six girls living in the apartment. Occasionally, Yuno has displayed signs of having a fairly-sensitive height complex. The problem of course, lies not with Yuno’s height in itself, but whether the issue of her diminutive stature is a source of deep, psychological angst and/or undue psychosomatic stress on her physical person.

Yuno is often ill-at-ease, second-guessing herself and often seeks confirmation from others to feel secure. Of the four upperclassmen, Yuno perhaps has the most fragile sense of self in that her confidence needs a boost every now and then. Though in the end all her anxieties and self-consciousness are probably nothing more than the everyday insecurities of adolescence. Ultimately, the case for Yuno’s potential neuroses is minimal at best.

CONCLUSION: LOW/MINIMAL RISK

 

MIYAKO (宮子)

A tall, strikingly beautiful blonde with a beaming smile and friendly, out-going personality, she is the definition of the easy-going “my pace” (マイペース) character. Her characteristic sanguine nature seems to display a combination of symptoms of hypomania within the Bipolar disorder spectrum.

Her elevated mood (i.e. her near-constant state of euphoria);  attention deficit (a trait that already qualifies Miyako as also possibly suffering from ADHD/ADD); occasional sporadic acts of disregard for her personal safety in the face of potential physical danger; and near-compulsive need for engagement in hyperactive physical activity all mark her as a potential hypomaniac. There is also the lesser issue of her immense appetite but this is probably owing to nothing more than evidence of the kind of metabolism needed to fuel the absurd, boundless energy levels she displays on any given day.

In correlation to the above, Miyako may also suffer from depression as a prerequisite (indeed, essential) condition necessary to developing hypomania:

Often in those who have experienced their first episode of hypomania (which is a level of mild to moderate mania) – generally without psychotic features – there will have been a long or recent history of depression prior to the emergence of manic symptoms, and commonly this surfaces in the mid to late teens. Due to this being an emotionally charged time, it is not unusual for mood swings to be passed off as hormonal or teenage ups and downs and for a diagnosis of Bipolar Disorder to be missed until there is evidence of an obvious manic/hypomanic phase [Drug-Induced Dysfunction in Psychiatry. Matcheri S. Keshavan and John S. Kennedy, Editors (Taylor & Francis, 1992].

Do these findings imply there are additional, external factors which contributed as a direct cause of Miyako’s outward symptoms of hypomania originating in depression? There seem to be signs, however circumstantial, of a troubled home life. Child abandonment and abuse via neglect are the most likely potential causes/issues at stake.

Resourceful and independent, Miyako can pretty much get by on her own, undertaking her move to the apartments without her parents’ help; and while she does mention an older brother in passing (he apparently maintains her hair with his gardening skills), she never really ventures to talk about her home life in the course of Hidamari‘s three seasons and specials. Mysteriously, significant periods of her life are unaccounted for. Details are unclear, but she discloses she once had to rely on celestial navigation to find her way. Thus what little is known about her background hints at a past of hardship and adversity.

Always hungry, Miyako is virtually a scavenger amongst her friends as she is always on the lookout for a potential meal. Though her appetite has already been mentioned if one really stops to consider: the mere fact she becomes crestfallen over the sacrifice of the equivalent food value of Sae’s ¥160/apiece Poloroid snapshots (Hidamari Sketch x 365 – EX) is enough to depress anyone.

In fact, a patient with the equivalent of Miyako’s assortment of possible issues faces the possibility of advancing from hypomania to full-blown mania and possibly even dementia or psychosis.

CONCLUSION: HIGH-RISK. INTENSIVE THERAPY RECOMMENDED.

 

HIRO (ヒロ)

Hiro, sweet Hiro. Virtually all of her insecurities stem from issues with her weight. Thus she is extremely self-conscious about her body image. Hiro has been shown to engage in controversial tactics for the sake of slimming down, including but not limited to forced fasts (Hidamari x Hoshimittsu Ep. 5), special diets (such as the infamous konnyaku jelly diet), and other extreme measures, such as wearing heavy clothes at a kotatsu in the middle of summer. However, while she strives to maintain an ideal figure, Hiro is not above binging on sweets or other treats to reward herself for meeting certain goals (Vanilla ice cream anyone? She’s got a whole freezer full of it (Hidamari x Hoshimittsu Ep. 12).

Aside from her fixation with weight and dieting, Hiro is rather socially well-adjusted and displays no other known irrational behaviors, social disorders or serious mental health issues outside of her possible moderate eating disorder.

CONCLUSION: LOW/MINIMAL RISK

 

SAE (紗英)

The no-nonsense, industrious Sae is cool and level-headed; her only true social disorder seems to arise from mild symptoms of emotional repression when it comes to her her imouto Chika, though by Hidamari x Hoshimitsu that issue seems to have been resolved for the most part. Although Sae sometimes displays signs of moderate withdrawal from social interaction (e.g. shutting herself away in her room for days at a time), this arises when she is under pressure from work deadlines and as such is irrelevant to her psychological profile.

CONCLUSION: LOW/MINIMAL RISK

 

NAZUNA (なずな)

Introduced in Hidamari x Hoshimittsu, Nazuna is one of two freshmen living at the apartments. A pure, gentle soul, Nazuna is mild-mannered and occasionally displays slight symptoms of mild social anxiety disorder via shyness. She seems more comfortable allowing others to initiate conversation and social dialogue; but aside from her more passive social posture, Nazuna’s shyness is not problematic as a full-blown social phobia and does not interfere with her day-to-day ability to function in society.

CONCLUSION: LOW/MINIMAL RISK

 

NORI (乃莉)

Nori is clearly the most tech savvy of all the Hidamari residents, as she is the first to utilize an internet connection in the building; but while she is proficient with computers, she displays no warning signs of abnormal or asocial behavior related to technology e.g. complete withdrawal from physical interaction with others in favor of communication with the outside world exclusively via computer. As such, she is disqualified from further clinical evaluation.

CONCLUSION: LOW/MINIMAL RISK

NATSUME (夏目)

Natsume: the “other girl” in Sae’s life, or rather, the girl hovering at the outer border of Sae’s life. Poor Natsume is never able to bring herself to openly communicate her feelings to Sae and thus is perpetually left feeling unfulfilled. Natsume’s mechanism for coping with her frustrating, unresolved emotional impasse is to engage in stalking the object of her desire.

Stalking is a serious indication of obsessive behavior that is unacceptable and is a violation of interpersonal boundaries. Unless the root cause of such behavior is confronted and properly addressed, the obsession will continue to threaten Natsume’s healthy social adjustment and her ability to effectively channel and express her emotions in a socially acceptable manner.

CONCLUSION: CAUTION – MODERATE RISK. COUNSELING RECOMMENDED.

 

CHIKA (智花)

Chika may very well be the ideal imouto: she’s sweet without being being reduced to a treacly mess of sugar and fluff; and she has the moe factor without trying so hard to make one painfully aware of the fact. In fact, her seiyuu (the venerable Kugimiya Rie) dials down the tsun-tsun tartness inherent in most of her younger girl types and complements it with real charm and wit. Chika has a frankness and frighteningly-discerning acumen of a much older girl; and her genuine warmth is her most disarming aspect. Though she’s one of the most mature girls in the series, her cuteness remains unrivaled. In sum, Chika is the type of imouto who merits being spoiled rotten.

By the way, just to clarify:

THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH CHIKA. PERIOD.

 

OYA-SAN (大家さん)

The landlady of the Hidamari apartment complex struggles to kick her cigarette addiction and she seems to have hoarding tendencies (Hidamari Sketch x Hoshimittsu Ep. 10) but there doesn’t appear to be any serious underlying psychological issues worth exploring here… nothing a beer couldn’t fix anyway.

CONCLUSION: LOW/MINIMAL RISK

 

MISATO-SENPAI (みさとセンパイ)

Mysterious kitsune upperclassman to Sae and Hiro, Misato-senpai is a self-admitted compulsive liar (Hidamari Sketch x 365 Ep. 7). The fact she has a habit of lying consciously and with extreme ease about the most trivial matters is definitely a serious red flag. Disturbingly, that may only be the tip of the iceberg, however, as compulsive lying is often a symptom of some deeper underlying psychological issue, such as Borderline personality disorder, Narcissistic personality disorder or even Bipolar disorder.

Since Misato-senpai is a rather minor character and only rarely makes an appearance (mostly via flashback), speculation as to her possible psychiatric profile cannot be concretely defined with any real substance. This is rather unfortunate as she has one of the most complex and engaging personalities in the Hidamari universe, and analyzing her would no doubt yield most interesting results.

CONCLUSION: INCONCLUSIVE – HIGH RISK POTENTIAL. CURRENT WHEREABOUTS UNKNOWN.

 

KOUCHOU-SENSEI (校長先生)

Yamabuki Koukou’s long-suffering principal is often the only agent to rein in the flighty, volatile Yoshinoya-sensei’s more outrageous antics. He seems to be one of the more stable, rational personalities in the series, and apparently has the vigor and agility to perform outstanding feats of physical prowess, such as jumping both the school gate and the street in front of it in a single leap. The principal has no known observable personality disorders.

CONCLUSION: He’s just old. That’s it.

 

YOSHINOYA-SENSEI (吉野屋先生)

Finally, the main event, the piece de resistance.

A woman truly rife with issues, Yoshinoya-sensei earns the distinction of displaying the most serious problematic behaviors of all the cast. No other character, however minor, that appears in Hidamari Sketch is so fraught with such a severe case of behavioral abnormalities. Her most readily apparent personality disorder lies with her rather severe adult child complex or perhaps, to use a popular pop-psychology term, Peter pan syndrome (which also seems to have ties to psychiatrist Carl Jung‘s puer aeturnus archetype (Latin for ‘eternal boy,’ although in this case the subject is a puella aeterna). However, her vast litany of potential personality disorders go far beyond any other character on the list in terms of both breadth and severity of her symptoms.

Conveniently, the bulk of her psychological abnormality can be summarized with the single term hyperthymia. Indeed, when considering the extent of the varied manifestations of problematic behavior inherent with this personality type, Yoshinoya-sensei’s pattern of bizarre, childish and grossly inappropriate behavior becomes a natural fit for a diagnosis of hyperthymic temperament. Those individuals afflicted with hyperthymia often display a multiplicity of symptoms, including but not limited to ignoring social norms; extreme talkativeness; activity extroversion and productivity; low threshold for boredom; strong attention-seeking behavior; vividly cheerful temperament; emotional sensitivity; and very strong sexual drive. For a more comprehensive list of other relevant symptoms, please consult the link above.

While a couple or even a few of these symptoms together do not necessarily constitute a state of psychological irregularity or even signify anything remotely out of tune with a particularly vigorous disposition, when coupled with her child-like frame of mind; lack of properly-defined personal boundaries; and strong tendency to construct fantasies/escape reality and responsibility, it is incontrovertible evidence of a severely imbalanced psychological state.

Like Miyako, she may also have a less-than ideal home life situation (circumstances of her childhood and upbringing is not explored) but that is likely only a natural conflict arising from her irresponsible behavior as an adult and status as a parasite single, employment notwithstanding. All things considered, Yoshinoya-sensei can only be described as a person possessed of severe personality issues and emotional instability. Her disturbed mental state is all but confirmed by her own actions.

There is nothing to account for her squeaky feet, though (It’s been proven that it is in fact her very feet that squeak, rather than her shoes or indoor slippers (Hidamari Sketch x Hoshimitsu Ep. 5)). That’s probably a question modern science has no answer for.

CONCLUSION: CATEGORICALLY-CONFIRMED. STRONGLY RECOMMENDED FOR INTAKE INTO PATIENT POPULATION TO BEGIN INDEFINITE ONSITE TREATMENT ASAP

High School DXD Episode 1

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Kujou-san: Welcome back, friends, and Happy New Year. Lots of new shows to kick off 2012, and one of the first reviews for Omoshirosou(!)’s sophomore year is production team TNK’s brand-spanking new High School DXD (ハイスクールDXD). Both mutsulini and I will be reviewing this series jointly, so you can look forward to both our input on this series as it progresses this season. Featuring OP “Trip -innocent of D-” by Larval Stage Planning, and ED “STUDYXSTUDY” by StylipS, the show is one of Yanagisawa Tetsuya’s (Sora no Otoshimono: Tokei-jikake no Angeloid) first projects as director.

 

んでくれないかな?” Could you… die for me?

Not exactly romantic, though that is the very phrase Hyoudou Issei hears from his supposed girlfriend Amano Yuma just before she kills him. Only minutes before, he’d been relishing the intoxicating experience of his first date ever. But what should have been a rose-colored evening of sweet, adolescent bliss takes a deadly turn as Yuma suddenly, unceremoniously impales him through the abdomen, leaving him to die in a state of confused agony.

 

But before we get to that, we should backtrack a bit. Oppai-obsessed Issei-kun (the increasingly ubiquitous Kaji Yuuki) is a second-year koukousei with a healthy libido and not all that much else going for him. He and his like-minded, good-for-nothing friends can usually be found somewhere on campus, cursing their inexperience and lusting after virtually any girl within a five-mile radius. However, he’s somehow gained the attention of the school goddess, Rias Gremory (Hikasa Youko), who chairs Komaou Academy’s Occult Research Club.

—–

Mutsulini: Welcome back gentle anime lovers, Mutsulini reporting in for Omoshirosou(!)’s first joint post.

Now that Kujou-san has over the events of the show’s very first episode so I will briefly enter into a brief analysis of Issei, our protagonist, and finish off the episode.

Issei is one of those protagonists who is typified by complete moral depravity and sexual ineptitude. He and his two inept goons do nothing but watch ecchi anime and wish to someday endeavor in sexual conquest which would be denied even with a prostitute. Below is a scene depicting the three recreating the scene, intentionally or unintentionally, from Porky’s sans the insertion but it ends up looking more like they’re entertaining themselves in brotherhood of sexual desperation outside of the girls’ changing room.

 

This show quickly devolves into a parade of emasculation through the main character going nuts over the thicket of watermelon sized breasts and divining winds that always lift the skirts up to the desired position to which grants visible access of the nether realms. Of course, I could be saying that about lot of other shows but dehumanizing Issei, the so-called libido driven teenager who is nothing but a fantasizing dimwit, has high entertainment value unto itself. After all, as Kujou-san mentioned, this is a boy who failed at getting to first base, by being killed.

Fortunately, to my pleasure, this episode’s highlight comes from the repeated killing of this ill-begotten boy who probably deserves nothing less than the gory assaults he endures only to be revived twice by the dominatrix-in-waiting Rias who happens to sport the largest pair of breasts in the show. After his second death, Rias reappears to claim ownership to Issei’s body as he again drifts into eternal slumber.  The episode ends with Issei waking up naked next to an also naked Rias. As expected of a testasterone driven manly man, Issei immediately huddles to the corner of his room in fetal position.

Look forward to our review of episode 2 of High School DxD~

Another – Episode 1

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Sakakibara Kouichi (Abe Atsushi), newly-transferred third year to Yomiyama Chuugakkou from Tokyo has just moved to the countryside. While recovering from an illness in the hospital, he encounters Misaki Mei (Takamori Natsumi). Curious, he decides to try to approach her but soon finds the girl, and his new school and classmates, at the center of a terrible, decades-old secret.

Originally from the novel of the same name by Ayatsuji Yukito, and later manga adaptation, Another (アナザー) is P.A. Works’ latest project and incorporates the best qualities in suspense, mystery and horror in an attractive, stylishly smart package. Another is directed by Mizushima Tsutomu (Blood-C; xxxHolic series; Shinryaku! Ika Musume series) and features OP “Kyoumu Densen” by ALI PROJECT; ED “anamnesis” by Annabel.

 

Yomiyama: whether bathed in the colors of a dusk sky’s dying sunlight or blanketed in eerie fog, one can’t help but be reminded of all the rural charm of Hinamizawa, another exurban village of the damned.

 

During his in-house convalescence, a few of Kouichi’s new classmates from class 3-3 drop by to introduce themselves and wish him a quick recovery. L-R: Akazawa Izumi (Yonezawa Madoka); Kazami Tomohiko (Ichiki Mitsuhiro); Sakuragi Yukari (Nonaka Ai). It’s of great personal satisfaction to see Nonaka-san in particular feature in this series.

Girl of mystery. But don’t bother: Misaki Mei has little interest in talking. Curiously, the doll she is carrying at her side when Kouichi first encounters her in the hospital elevator also seems to suffer injury to its eyes. Speaking of dolls, they are a common motif throughout the episode i.e. they are so common they are omnipresent from the opening sequence, punctuating certain situations. Perhaps they correspond to specific events relative to certain characters later in the plot. If so, they might be vital clues with hidden meaning. Or maybe they’re just there to add to the whole creepy sense of foreboding that pervades the atmosphere.

 

After his recovery, the air is tense at first as Kouichi starts classes at his new school; as he takes his seat, everyone seems to willfully disregard the haunting figure in the back corner of the room –a figure Kouichi immediately recognizes as Mei. Is this a classwide conspiracy? Although following his self-introduction he is given a friendly welcome by most everyone, several keep their distance, eying him with sidewise glances and skepticism from the sidelines. It seems not everyone is intent on making nice with the new kid.

Kouichi’s growing fascination with Mei drives the latter half of the episode; and he begins seeking answers by interviewing his classmates. One of his more friendly acquaintances, Yukari, in fact shudders at the mere mention of the name “Misaki” before quickly recovering to mask her reaction behind a feigned wall of ignorance. At this point he is still unaware of the massive taboo he is trespassing upon, that what he is trying to investigate has been put to silence long before with the understanding that acknowledging it is forbidden. But whatever ambiguity that may have lingered in his mind is precipitately dispelled when he rushes to meet Mei on the roof of the school.

 

Of course, this is where the plot officially lets you know that Mei (e.g. her presence/influence whether passive or active) is the key and that all further development past this point hinges on her. However, why not take things a step further and implicate the protagonist as having something ominously murky surrounding him as well?

She is coy, almost trifling, as she toys with Kouichi’s curiosity. But before she leaves, she warns him against trying to talk with her again and gives him a chilling, cryptic revelation that his name is connected with a bizarre death that had occurred at the school. So ends episode 1 as the unwitting hero struggles against a growing sense of uneasiness regarding the strange girl Mei who appears and disappears out of thin air.

 

One of the show’s already apparent strengths lies in its musical score. ALI PROJECT, mentioned above, skillfully establishes the dark, unsettling tone befitting the series with the OP in their trademark “Black Alice” style. However, props must be awarded to Otani Ko (Gundam Wing series; Blade of the Immortal; Tokyo Magnitude 8.0; Shakugan no Shana series), a skillful veteran composer who has contributed his works to a number of excellent anime titles throughout his career and whose background compositions help vitally underscore the subtle sense of dread throughout the scenes. The dramatic tension throughout the dialogue is in large part thanks to his spot-on scoring.

Overall, episode 1 is a very strong opening act that beautifully sets up the rest of the unfolding story. Night is coming. Will there be another tragedy?

Rinne no Lagrange Episode 1

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For those who missed the pre-air edition that came out last week or who simply insist on viewing all their anime in HQ, this past Sunday (Jan 8) was the actual premiere date of Rinne no Lagrange (輪廻のラグランジエ: Flower Declaration of Your Heart), XEBEC’s new offering this season in cooperation with Production I.G.  Directed by Sato Tatsuo (Kidou Senkan Nadesico; Shigofumi; seems to have his hands full this season with the potentially-great Mouretsu Uchuu Kaizoku as well), Rinne no Lagrange appears at-a-glance to be yet another tale of an unlikely youth thrust into the fore of conflict in the pilot seat of an all-too-convenient mecha. If that rudimentary description of the show’s basic premise sounds all-too-familiar to you, which I’m sure it does, fear not. The plot has accounted for cliche fatigue and added a little twist: the pilot in this instance happens to be a girl. Variation enough for you? No? Well, don’t give up on this one yet. While the cliches are indeed numerous, what Rinne presents in its opening act is actually done quite well.

CGI effects and frenzied, laser-riddled mecha skirmishes aside, there is still plenty to like even if you aren’t crazy about the subgenre. Fans of Macross Frontier‘s Ranka Lee will surely enjoy the vocals of Nakajima Megumi, who performs both OP and ED themes, “TRY UNITE!” and “Hello!”, respectively. See how lucky you are? I know mutsulini for one definitely approves. As for the acting seiyuu, a mix of veterans and newcomers gives the show a more well-rounded quality that balances experience with fresh appeal. Notably, much of the rookie talent headline in main character roles.

Kamogawa koukousei Kyouno Madoka (rookie Ishihara Kaori) is an all-around natural athlete, skilled in virtually any sport; and while she’s already the president (and sole member) of her own Jersey Club, she’s a much sought-after player in multiple school club activities. Upbeat and always eager to lend a hand with a smile and a genki “maru–!”, she’s also the kind of girl who wears her school mizugi under her seifuku, if that’s an indication of anything. You know, so she can save any hapless, curiously unattended drowning children on the way to school. Of course, this is all in a day’s work for Madoka: good Samaritan; infectious optimist; Jill-of-all-Trades.

                                                                 Hi. I came to recruit you… Is this a bad time?

 

One afternoon, she is approached by Lan (Seto Asami), a mysterious girl with the emotive expression of Nagato Yuki (mainly in that she has next to none that are readily apparent) although she seems capable of crude attempts at humor. After becoming fast comrades, Lan wastes no time revealing her identity as an alien, her mission to protect Madoka and the strange, gigantic craft she asks her to pilot. For the average person, that kind of information might be hard to swallow but Madoka casually takes it in stride. I guess for her meeting aliens is an everyday thing.

Not everyone is so keen on the idea, however, as Nakaizumi Youko (Noto Mamiko), whom Madoka calls onee-chan, is one of a professional faction aware of the alien activity and is personally intent on preventing Madoka from becoming a magical girl pilot at all costs. But of course we can’t have that, because any unwarranted obstruction of the primary protagonist in fulfillment of their role is a cardinal sin. Not only does Madoka sortie with the invading mech but she incapacitates the threat in style with a perfect “maru!” German Suplex.

 

Ishihara’s performance as Madoka makes for a thoroughly likeable heroine even if the character is essentially a rehashed clone of most every young gun to ever see a “giant robot.” If the basis of her character is less than original, Ishihara brings out Madoka’s earnestness and her easy-going exuberance with an adept touch that more than makes up for it.

Much of the rest of the cast have yet to make their entrance (most notably, the other pilot girl – Kayano Ai as Muginami), though the players who have already assembled only hint at an exposition that has yet to show us exactly where the show intends to go. Thus, it’s kind of early and unfair to attempt to gauge the potential worth of the rest of the series based on this single episode, simply because it has yet to truly differentiate itself from all the others that came before it. Luckily with a name like Production I.G., it makes it easier to have confidence they will keep Rinne not only watchable but great entertainment. So while it might not be a story you haven’t heard before, there are surely a number of worthwhile surprises ahead.

Persona 4 The Animation Episode 10

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Love Shack/Shot Through the Heart

Rise’s Shadow dungeon resembles a garish strip club; and her Shadow sure knows how to work the pole. It also sports multiple clones, each representing different facets of Rise’s superidol personality, something which aptly reflects the expected refraction of her publicly projected (and also her self-) image that comes with being a performer.

When Rise refuses to accept her other selves, her Shadow transforms into a rainbow-colored humanoid entity with the ability to analyze each of their individual Personae’s attributes and retaliate with a diversified spectrum beam attack (although any way you look at it, it’s rainbow-colored) tailored to their weaknesses. To make matters worse, it can strike from a distance, attacking multiple targets if not all of them simultaneously.

If Rise were a narcissist she'd have no problem here

Though they try to take preemptive action to bring it down quickly, their attacks are repelled and the entire team suffers critical damage. The Shadow redoubles its attack, intending to annihilate everyone along with their Personae in one final blast, when Kuma steps in and intervenes.

Fortunately, he is immune to the Shadow’s scan abilities and deflects the blast eating the full brunt of the beam as he forces it back on the Shadow, causing its cannon mechanism to misfire and explode. Though Kuma is exhausted, the effort saves everyone and incapacitates the Shadow for Rise to properly acknowledge it as a part of herself. Having come to terms with her struggle over her personal identity, Rise receives her Persona.

Shadow of the Beast

Easy, right? A little too easy apparently. Kuma’s Shadow suddenly materializes, an overgrown behemoth of a bear that dwarfs even Kanji’s Persona. Kuma’s Shadow’s true form is even bigger and seems to subscribe to some sort of radical hypermodern nihilism, dismissing any concept of a true self as meaningless. As it spouts metaphysical rhetoric to the confusion of everyone, it begins swallowing Kuma and everything else into the gaping void where its face should be. Kuma is pulled into a vast nothingness, much like the theoretical Dirac Sea; and, after challenging the Shadow’s claims that any search for truth and identity is inherently futile, asserts his self-worth and his desire to continue living to find his own meaning. Meanwhile, Rise and Yu coordinate their efforts from the outside to help defeat the Shadow. Escaping, Kuma also gains his Persona.

Back at the tofuya, Rise tells Yu she is glad she came to Inaba because she finally feels she’s found a place to belong. With that, she plans to stay and help with their investigation.

The epilogue reveals the killer has struck again, killing his latest victim since Konishi Saki.

Going My Way

Two Persona battles this week. Without knowing details about the flow of events in the game, I can only feel this episode felt rather rushed. We’re already on episode 10 with only two scheduled episodes remaining, and junior detective-in-training Naoto has yet to officially join the team, let alone “join the cool kids’ club.” I’m curious as to whether there will be a continuation to follow or if AIC will rush to wrap things up as, at this point, Yu and company still don’t have the slightest clue as to the killer’s identity. Waiting and watching while monitoring appearances on the Midnight Channel will only go so far without any concrete information to go on. If only they had the cooperation of someone with the investigative ability and insightful powers of deduction to come up with a solid lead, they could stand a better chance of cracking the case. But where would they ever possibly find someone like that…?

Lovebirds

As evidenced in the opening scenes, where he doesn’t even pause to pick his jaw up off the floor, Yu is quite taken with Rise. With the way she latches on to his arm at the end, cooing with delight it’s pretty clear she likes him as well. It seems along with leveling his normal attributes, Yu has been secretly racking up some major stat bonuses towards Charm and Charisma. Not bad for a guy who doesn’t believe in smiling, the lucky bastard.

Guilty Crown Episodes 6 – 8

Standard

Episode 6: Death Star

The plot for the latter half of Episode 6 reminds me of something, just can’t put my finger on what it is…

Yes, I made two references to outside franchises right off because that’s the way we roll down at GHQ.

Gai turns out to be alive, having survived the Leukocyte strike on Point Delta. Returning to rendezvous with the forces stationed at base camp, Gai briefs the Undertaker rank and file on the target of their next objective, indicating they will launch an offensive against a dam complex which houses a subterranean control center for the Leukocyte satellite system. Unfortunately, logistics calculates potential casualties at around 35% of forces, a figure Shu finds completely unacceptable. Questioning Gai’s seemingly callous acceptance of lost lives, he refuses to participate. Afterwards, Inori shows Shu just how much of a tortured soul Gai actually is: all too aware of the weight of each human life he shoulders and haunted by the blood sacrifice of countless comrades fallen in the name of the cause. Shu resolves to help Gai.

However, there are complications as they commence their attack on the dam complex, as GHQ has anticipated their movements and immediately launches a counteroffensive. Gai and Shu manage to reach the control center for the Leukocyte but the operation is compromised when they are interrupted by Lieutenant Daryl, eager for vengeance for his humiliation in his previous sortie with Undertaker. The float cage encasing the main control mechanism is severely damaged in the ensuing skirmish, setting off a chain reaction that disrupts Tokyo’s power grid and the stability of Leukocyte 1, which begins to descend into freefall from orbit at alarming speed. Knowing the satellite poses an imminent threat to the entire population, Gai decides to use Shu’s special “pen” to destroy Leukocyte and brokers a deal with Segai, who tracks them to the location, to have Shu exonerated; however, this time Shu won’t allow himself to passively stand by and takes charge of the situation.

Thus, humanity is saved. Right?

Episode 7: Wine, Women, and Song… and Missiles

Shu’s rejoins his classmates at school for the first time since Segai took him into custody. At first things are tense but Seitoukaichou Kuhouin Arisa (Endou Aya – Cheers to you, Sheryl) smooths things over for him, relieving any lingering misgivings in the air amongst his peers, who are actually curious and eager to talk with him. Yahiro, however, is conspicuously absent.

And now for the most important part of the episode:

This is Shu’s mom, Ouma Haruka (Fujimura Chika). His mom, for gyoza sakes. She’s been seen in fleeting glimpses alongside Keido in several scenes in earlier episodes but this is the first episode to feature her in any significant capacity, personal or otherwise. Shu refers to her as simply “Haruka,” sans any any honorific or familiar appellation whatsoever. The second she appeared in her unmentionables, beer in hand, I just knew what kind of parental figure/guardian she likely is. Case in point:

Ouma Haruka, mother of the male protagonist though she has more of a sisterly air, and…

Katsuragi Misato. While she also projects a sisterly air, her relationship with her series‘ male protagonist is decidedly much more… complex, shall we say.

Meanwhile back at the plot, Gai crashes the Kuhouin Group’s private party aboard a luxury yacht to petition the family patriarch Kuhouin Okina (Houki Katsuhisa) for cooperation in securing a new supply route, essentially securing a vital lifeline for the resistance. Shu, accompanying Gai for the mission, is surprised to see Haruka in attendance lobbying amongst other industry players.

Things turn deadly serious, however, when Tsugumi relays the message a GHQ detachment, led by obnoxious field commander Dan Eagleman (Mogami Tsuguo), means to destroy the vessel with surface-to-surface missiles. Gai finds Arisa and leads her on deck where Shu makes use of her Void, a highly-resilient barrier type Void that, fortunately for everyone onboard, is able to withstand the entire combined payload of GHQ’s missile strike. More importantly, it makes pretty lights!

Like this! AT Field! If there is a more efficient way of producing fireworks, I don’t know what it is.

Episode 8: OBLIGATORY SWIMSUIT EPISODE!!!!11 (sort of)


Yes, that is the official translation of this episode’s title.

Shu is taking a class trip with his friends from school to Oshima Island but the entire thing is an elaborate cover to facilitate Undertaker’s most recent mission, which involves infiltrating a secret GHQ laboratory on the island. There, Gai plans to acquire the “rock that started everything.” He arranges for Shu and his classmates to stay at a rented villa provided within a short distance of the site.

Key to the mission is Shu’s classmate Tamadate Souta (Sakaguchi Daisuke), whose Void is essential to bypassing security to reach the inner facilities of the GHQ compound.


Oshima is also where Shu’s father Kurosu is buried. As Ayase and Tsugumi reconnoiter the GHQ base, Ogumo, Arugo and Shibungi monitor Shu’s classmates enjoying the sunny beaches while standing by. Later, Shu becomes agitated over his feelings for Inori and jumps the gun, drawing Souta’s Void under less than ideal conditions. The assembled Undertaker members decide to adjust for Shu’s impetuousness and proceed with their objective.

Using Souta’s Void, a camera-like object with versatile, skeleton key applications, they bypass each level of security until they reach the secure storage chamber for their objective, only to find GHQ commander Keido Shuichiro has already taken it. Chillingly, he accessed the facility with Ouma Kurosu’s clearance cardkey.


Growing Pains

The series is picking up and really improving. Notably, Shu is becoming more sure of himself and displaying more competence as a member of the resistance and as a male in general. While I’m still wary of the production going overboard on the romantic engagements with the possibility of unnecessary melodrama, it’s good to see Shu assert himself where Inori is concerned. Though he has had a few missteps with his associates in Undertaker and lacks finesse in certain social situations, Shu is definitely on his way to earning his man card. Let’s hear it for the kid!

Oh, and please remember to vote YES to more of the luscious, languid splendor that is Haruka in her skimpies.