Marie Antoinette explains the principles of advanced disguise.
If not exactly sparse, this week sees a few familiar names absent from the roster (but undoubtedly waiting for the flood of releases that I sense will occur next week). In the meantime, I’ve finally made good on my promise to catch up on a few more manga series and have also fit in all 20 episodes of Twin Spica, which will be written about when I can be bothered in due course.
Reviewed this week: Chocotto Sister, Ginga Densetsu Weed, Hanoka, Higurashi, H&C II, Kemonozume, Keroro, Otogi-jushi Akazukin, ROTK, Tsubasa, Utawarerumono, NHK (School Rumble will return next week)
…and in manga: Chocotto Sister, Erementar Gerad, Furuba, Hunter X Hunter, Mai-Otome, REC, Twin Spica, Utawarerumono
Chocotto Sister 4-5: Valentine’s Day is here, and that means that all the members of Haruma’s harem would like to give him a gift (excluding Makoto, who expects gifts of her own); cue more fanservice, tedious antics from the girls, and “Choko is naked in a ribbon”. If you thought that was bad, however, episode five is much, much worse; this time around, Choco wants Haruma to buy her a bra, leading to a series of events that includes breast groping, nudity, and lots of censoring police tape.
*COMPLETE* Ginga Densetsu Weed 26: At long last, the concluding episode of Weed is here, and with it, the inevitable final boss fight between Weed and Hougen; there was nothing here I wasn’t expecting, but I have to admit that I felt a pang of emotion at the final scene. Overall, the story was predictable, the animation was poor, and many defenceless brown dogs died, but despite its many flaws, Weed will always stand as an example of a series that survived even as many others were dropped.
Hanoka 3: The latest five minute burst of Hanoka concludes our eponymous heroine’s opening mission, before introducing us to youthful but combat-focused Yuji and other supporting characters. As before, it isn’t terribly interesting, but remains watchable by virtue of being brief.
Higurashi no Naku Koro ni 21: It’s a bumper week at Shion’s health spa in this closing segment of the Detective Chapter, which sees plenty of bloody deaths, answers and the final tie-ins with the Watanagashi arc (better known as recycled animation). It may be bloody, but it’s also oddly compelling in a way that few series can manage.
Honey and Clover II 9: This is the episode I wanted to see last week, the tragic consequences of Hagu’s accident and what it means for her future. On the one hand, it’s easy to parody Shuu and Takemoto’s concerns for Hagu, on the other, it does honestly make for absorbing viewing.
*DROPPED* Kemonozume: I tried to watch episode two, I really did, but it was a wasted effort which I stopped several minutes in. Naked women, ugly demons, and men losing control of their bodily functions are all things I can do without.
Keroro Gunso 54: The second season of Keroro, and this episode in particular have left me with three questions- why must 556 keep appearing, why was everyone split up and reset after episode 51, and finally, why do we have to have a thirty second preview right at the beginning of the episode? With that in mind, this was another solid but not season one level episode, featuring Keroro’s attempt to solve the mystery of an unconscious 556, and the return of Dororo and Giroro.
Otogi-jushi Akazukin 7: After episode six, it seemed almost certain our heroes would be going back to Fandavale in this episode, but as it turned out, before we could go anywhere, there was the small matter of rescuing Ringo from Gretel’s clutches. I have to admit it’s slightly tiresome seeing Gretel and Randagio repeatedly fail as their monsters get chopped up in substandard action sequences, but nonetheless episode 8 looks promising.
Romance of the Three Kingdoms 18-9: A double bill of ROTK is not so much like birthday and Christmas on the same day as receiving the gas and electricity bills on the same day and realising they both must be dealt with sooner rather than later. This time around, Zhang Fei manages to mess up due to excessive drinking, and Lu Bu ends a potential conflict by showing a grain of intellect. There were some amusing lines as always, but nothing spectacular overall.
Tsubasa Chronicle 40: I was hoping that a return to the manga story would see a significant improvement in quality, but whilst this was by no means as bad as the bus filler arc, I can’t exactly say it was good. Skipping over the introduction to the world of Rekord, the episode jumps straight into the flashbacks of Kurogane’s childhood that Syaoran sees in the Book of Memories, complete with stills, strangely weak music, and a pace akin to the flow of crystallised treacle. Action scenes are now entirely omitted in favour of ‘before’ and ‘after’ stills; in fact, this may well be the first anime to have less animation and movement than its manga counterpart.
Utawarerumono 20-2: Okay, I have a confession to make- due to various circumstances surrounding overheating of my laptop and having to use another computer, I wasn’t paying a great deal of attention to Uta 21 last week. Thus, I have rewatched it alongside episode 20, and to be perfectly honest, it didn’t make a great deal of difference to my opinion. Kuuya is inconsistent, Hau is disappointing, many questions remain unanswered or glossed over, and all-in-all, the tale of Hakuoro vs. the FMA rejects is thoroughly uninspiring.
Episode 22 continues the story, bringing us more mecha attacks and more unrealistically large sprays of blood, but actually re-sparking my interest in Hakuoro’s back story along the way.
Utawarerumono DVD Special 1: After Mai-Otome, I should really have learned my lesson about DVD specials, but accursed curiosity drove me to see what this one was all about. In this short, Hakuoro and Oboro end up eating spoiled food after they steal some snacks from Eruruu’s stores, and subsequently have to fight over who gets to use the bathroom first (begging questions as to why such a large castle only has one toilet). It tries hard to be amusing, but doesn’t really succeed.
Welcome to the NHK 7: Satou has ended up falling back into his hikikomori ways, but when his mother arranges to visit him, it’s time to brave the outdoors and at least create the illusion that he has both a job and girlfriend. As always, the story is a bit too drawn out, and we could perhaps do without the blue aliens and talking appliances, but seeing as the series seems to have stabilised somewhat, I’m taking it off the red for now.
*CATCH-UP* Chokotto Sister volumes 1-4: Expect a more detailed review to follow soon, but this brief paragraph will do for now. Like the anime it spawned, Chokotto Sister sees protagonist Haruma receive a somewhat unexpected Christmas present in the form of the little sister he always wanted. In principle, this could be a nice little slice-of-life story or romantic drama (no, not between Haruma and his sister, there are other girls present) but instead the mangaka has loaded it up with as much fanservice as possible. This isn’t a case of a few panty-shots or creative angles- everything from breast fondling to full-on nudity is included, and if you missed it the first time, it’s bound to happen again in a later chapter. I want to turn away, but somehow it hooks me in enough to keep on reading.
Erementar Gerad (Elemental Gelade) 21: An action-packed chapter in which Rowen and Kuea face off against Greyarts; unfortunately like many action scenes in manga it isn’t always easy to tell what’s going on, whilst the main story advances little.
Fruits Basket 121: Yet another gap-filler, this time covering “Akito vs. Tohru”. The usual levels of angst ensue.
*CATCH-UP* Hunter X Hunter: It has taken many months, and the occasional loss of enthusiasm, but I am finally up to date with Hunter X Hunter. I’d be lying if I said it didn’t have its flaws, and it suffers from frequent dips in artwork quality in latter chapters, but at its best it’s enjoyable and straightforward fun. I am slightly confused about chapter 261, however- was it meant to be a parody chapter or did I just pick up an ‘alternate’ version?
Mai-Otome 25: I thought that I had come to grips with the worst Otome had to offer, but chapter 25 opened my eyes to the levels the series is prepared to sink to. After wrapping up the events of the Rena arc and giving us a few panels of an evil-looking Sergey, the chapter charts Erstin’s discovery of Manshiro’s true gender, and her attempts to reconcile herself with his penis by taking a bath with him. Cue terrifying amounts of nudity and far too much “but Mashiro-san has an elephant attached”.
Fortunately, episode 26 is less horrifying (if not particularly enticing either), featuring a visit to a refugee camp and the return of Inspector Haruka. Presumably the starving refugee children are meant to evoke sympathy, but the series as a whole is too shallow to garner emotion with such an obvious ploy.
REC 14: Poor Matsumaru’s been feeling under the weather lately- in fact, he may even be starting a cold. Unfortunately, illness or not, he’s been asked to don the Nekoki costume for a new ad campaign- will it all go horribly wrong? Seemingly a short and sweet one-off story, this chapter may not top the originality stakes, but it’s still an improvement over the last arc.
*NEW* Twin Spica 1: Set in 2024, Twin Spica follows the tale of Asumi, a young girl who dreams of going to space school, and who, for reasons as yet unexplained, can see the ghost of ‘Lion-san’, an astronaut who died in a rocket explosion in 2010. In the opening chapter, Asumi must gather up the courage to tell her father that she has applied for space school- even in these first few pages the story promises to develop into something powerful and moving, and I’m looking forward to sampling more (in the meantime, I’ve familiarised myself with the anime).
Utawarerumono 3: Another unfunny glimpse into the world of Uta manga, which sees Karura encourage Touka and Eruruu to transform themselves into ‘adult women’. The manga is the perfect place for a harem parody, but unfortunately so far it’s going about it all wrong.
Utawarerumono doujin: I really should know better than to read this kind of thing, but as has already been demonstrated, common sense sometimes falls by the wayside. Unfortunately, the contents of this doujin make the Otome manga and even Chocotto look tame- from start to finish it is a parade of especially unfunny and lowbrow jokes that makes certain Fate doujin look like high art.