Amazingly, the round-up survives to celebrate its one week anniversary; this week, I’ll be trying something akin to organisation by placing the various titles in alphabetical order as opposed to “whatever order I watched them in”. I’ll also be trialling a new ‘caught up with…’ section for series that, quite unsurprisingly, I have recently caught up with.
Reviewed this week: Ginga Densetsu Weed, Higurashi, H&C II, Innocent Venus, Keroro, Mushishi, Night Head Genesis, Ouran, SaiMono, School Rumble, Utawarerumono, Kamisama Kazoku (sorry, but Aria will have to wait until next time).
…and in manga: .hack//4koma, Aria, Caramel Milk Tea, Furuba, Mai-Otome, NHK, REC, Risky Safety, Tsubasa, Bokurano, Fate/Stay Night Comic Battle.
Ginga Densetsu Weed 23-4: A few episodes ago, I wondered how the story could possibly be dragged out to fill all 26 episodes, but Weed has managed it somehow by throwing in a selection of mid-bosses. It’s cheesy, predictable and filled with dying brown dogs, but at the end of the day the only reason I watch it is because it’s parody gold.
Higurashi no Naku Koro ni 17: An aunt murdered with a baseball bat, a nice little family gathering where fingernails get ripped off, yes, that’s the Higurashi we know and love. This week, Satoshi’s aunt is killed, and when Shion goes out of her way to protect Satoshi from trouble, she lands herself in a whole lot of trouble with the Sonozakis for associating with such a lowly family. At least the Shion/Mion confusion is beginning to pass now.
Honey and Clover II 5: After the intensity of last week, H&C eases up a bit by starting off with a visit to a health spa for Miwako and Yamada, before moving on to check in on the rest of the cast. I couldn’t help thinking back to last season and comparing it to the latest episodes; back then, everyone seemed very close-knit, but now they’re all inevitably branching out onto separate paths. The episode ends on a heart-wrenchingly excellent note with Yamada coming to acknowledge her feelings for Nomiya, even as she admits that she didn’t want to be saved from her hopeless feelings for Mayama. Episode 6 can’t come fast enough; in fact, alien time travellers must make it their first duty to arrange for English versions of the DVDs and manga to be created and delivered to my house tomorrow.
Innocent Venus 1: Every so often, a series comes along where you sit there the whole time thinking “this reminds me of series x, that reminds me of series y” (and not in an intentional, Excel Saga way). Innocent Venus was one such series, reminiscent of .hack//Roots, Kurau, Last Exile, Wolf’s Rain and even Mahou Shoujotai, but unable to live up to the standard set by most of those titles. I’m somewhat pessimistic about whether this can rise above being a second-rate post apocalyptic sci-fi series with incredibly ugly mecha, but nonetheless it has somehow earned a second chance.
Keroro Gunso 47: A weak instalment in the Keroro line up, featuring two forgettable stories- one about Girls’ Day (which Keroro and Kururu decide to turn into a spiced-up Space version), and another about a visit from a singer with an afro. The most amusing part of the entire episode was the “How to Draw Kururu” ending.
Mushishi 24: An episode of Mushishi is like a drop of manna from heaven; next to it, all other series seem inferior (well, okay, there are exceptions). This time around, Ginko visits a village where the resident mushishi advocates the rather drastic measure of setting fire to the side of a mountain in order to eradicate a mushi infestation; can he talk her out of this course of action before she makes things worse? A weaker episode that is not up to the level of episodes 21-3 (in particular, the resolution seemed very fast and convenient), but compared to this season’s offerings, it’s still a worthy enough instalment.
Night Head Genesis 1: After establishing that this was not, in fact, a hentai version of Evangelion, I finally made the effort to acquire this, and once again, it’s a series that screams “been done better before”. Naoto and Naoya are brothers with psychic powers who are separated from their parents and taken to a mysterious facility out in an unknown forest. Flash forward fifteen years and the barrier that keeps them at the facility is disabled when ‘Elder Misaki’ dies, enabling them to begin their ‘great escape’. So far, I’m left with the impression of inferior male Kurau + Galerians + The Island, but nonetheless I shall forge ahead in the hopes that it won’t be as predictable as I fear.
Ouran High School Host Club 17: This week sees Kyouya take a turn in the spotlight when the poor guy gets dragged out of bed and taken to a “commoners’” product expo thanks to Tamaki’s latest wild scheme. After falling asleep and ending up on his own without either cellphone or wallet, Kyouya runs into Haruhi and spends the day with her- the perfect chance to see if he really is the self-motivated egoist he claims to be. It may not have Ouran’s usual brand of over-the-top hilarity, but still a strong episode by virtue of focusing on the Shadow King. I have to admit, though, that I wish Renge would stop showing up; that little joke has worn out its welcome for me.
Saiunkoku Monogatari 9: SaiMono can always be guaranteed to deliver a good story and plenty of characters with “Kou” in their names, and this episode is no exception. In the guise of “Shuu”, Shuurei is now working with the harsh taskmaster known as Kou Kijin (aka Kou the Eccentric)- a man who puts Hakuoro to shame in the mask wearing department- whilst wondering if her gender will always stand in the way of becoming a true government official. The story continues to move ahead briskly, but there’s no sign that it will prematurely run out of steam.
School Rumble 2nd Term 17: Whilst Eri continues to dodge her arranged marriage with the help of the mysterious worker (better known to everyone else as Harima), somehow Tenma ends up going along in Eri’s place- reaffirming her complete lack of common sense, in case we had forgotten. A reasonably entertaining episode with a hilarious post-credits section in which Hanai gets on the wrong side of a giant raccoon.
Utawarerumono 18: The Na-tunk arc begins in earnest here, starting with a castle section in which Karura offers her ‘services’ in exchange for Haku’s help in liberating her country. What was an ero scene in the game is now reduced to Karura starting to take her clothes off; Eru happens to walk in and resolves to ignore Haku until he installs her as first and only wife. In the latter half of the episode, Haku takes his harem to Na-tunk to meet up with Derihourai, whilst Suonkasu sniffs his ‘special’ flowers and waits for everyone to come to him.
A lot less happened in this episode than I felt could have been included, and whilst I’m eager to see Suon and Deri (or maybe just Suon; who needs Deri when we already have Karura) get some onscreen attention, I’m worried about it encroaching on precious time needed for the final arc.
Kamisama Kazoku: I sat through the tedious episode 5-8 arc in the hopes that the ‘evil Kumiko’ arc would be vaguely worthwhile, but as it turns out, the tedium of episode nine has convinced me not to continue. The bulk of the episode revolves around Tenko receiving a love letter and subsequently being plunged into a sea of angst as she wonders if Samatarou still needs a guardian angel. When combined with the sight of Papa in a cheerleading outfit, the fact that another ‘everyone’s memory is erased’ has negated most character development and the decreasing animation quality, the result is that my desire to watch to the end has completely evaporated.
.hack//4Koma 3: .hack seems a ripe franchise to parody, but these four panel shorts do a variable job at it- some are utterly hilarious, others just fall flat or rely on *sigh* fart jokes. It’s also disappointing to see Balmung near deprived of his bishiness.
Aria vol 4 chapter 3: Another chapter to tide me over until Tokyopop get around to releasing the volumes I don’t have (kudos to them for snagging the license from ADV). This time around, Akari learns about the sylphs and goes on an airbike delivery ride with Woody. Excellent artwork, an unquenchable sense of wonder, and a fat cat- what more could anyone want?
Caramel Milk Tea 4- No. 1 Girl: Another one shot love story (just one more to go to complete the volume), this time about a girl caught between the difficult choice of going to Tokyo to further her modelling career or staying at home where she can be close to her boyfriend. As with all the stories in this collection, the outcome isn’t too hard to guess, but it’s still interesting to go along for the ride.
Fruits Basket 125-6: Yet more angst; 125 focuses on the budding relationship between Yuki and Machi, whilst 126 sees Kyo confront his father and conveniently put an end to the ‘Kyo will be locked away after high school’ storyline. Aside from the fact that there’s too much angst being piled on for me to really care anymore, the way Takaya is resolving the story just seems lazy- suddenly the curse is weakening and breaking and all the things that had such dramatic weight in the good part of the series are now being casually dismissed.
Mai-Otome 21-3: We finally meet Arika’s mother Rena, who seems to think that Manshiro is her child (a fairly unsubtle hint as to identity of Arika’s unknown little brother). 21 is an average chapter with the obligatory “Manshiro gets a faceful of someone’s breasts” event tacked on for good measure; 22 is more action based, introducing Takumi as the leader of Chaldea (Carlteya) and Akira as his Otome. Also making an unwelcome return are the Three Scale Sisters (last glimpsed in the HiME), but they soon fade out in the wake of a Midori vs. Akira battle. I have no idea if there’s even meant to be a plot, but the manga does actually seem to be improving slightly. 23 continues the battles, and sees Arika and Manshiro finally make a proper contract- that robe is a big improvement over the puffy pink anime version.
NHK 25-6: The various protagonists are all experiencing problems of their own, but the main event here is Satou as he descends further into a pit of despair; as a world of hallucinations claims him, he begins to believe that Misaki is a real angel. Aside from the panels devoted to characters other than Satou, this was a rather weak pair of chapters compared to some of the earlier instalments- although as always I’m torn between hoping the characters will be saved and not wanting the road back to be unrealistically easy.
REC 12-3: At least the anime director arc seems over for now, but this chapter was still fairly average; Matsumaru finds himself waking up at Tanaka’s house for the second time, and once again she tricks him into believing they slept together.
All this is part of Tanaka’s “destroy Matsumaru” plan (crushing men is a hobby of hers), and I have to admit that after chapter 12, I wasn’t looking forward to the prospect of it causing another bout of Aka-Matsumaru angst, but thankfully the storyline is resolved peacefully in chapter 13, which sees a long overdue strengthening of their relationship.
Risky Safety 1: After hearing this title mentioned a few times, the chance to find out what it was all about could not be passed up. The series features the oft-used ‘odd couple’ setup; Risky is an apprentice shinigami committed to collecting souls, Safety is an apprentice angel dedicated to saving them- and thanks to an accidental collision, they have ended up in the same body. The first chapter sees them chasing after a young man who seems destined to become the male lead; the art style and determination not to take itself too seriously reminds me of Disgaea- whilst this isn’t an endorsement, I will give it a few more chapters to see how the story unfolds.
Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicle 124: I haven’t read 123, but since I haven’t read 103-120 either it’s a small concern. In this segment, evil Syaoran-clone departs, Sakura cries, X characters appear to remind us that this is indeed X-Tokyo, and Fye’s life is in danger. I can’t say I’m too enthralled.
Caught up with…
Bokurano: My review was posted earlier in the week, so if you’ve read that you’ll know that this title has thoroughly impressed me. There’s not much more I can say except to strenuously recommend it to all.
Fate/Stay Night- Comic Battle: Ah, Fate, only in doujin manga anthologies can you really shine. The single chapter translated so far details a hilarious cooking competition (can’t go wrong with one of those) between Shirou and Archer, and quite probably gives Archer more development than he received in the entirety of the anime.