Another week, another round-up, another persistent feeling that I really am following more series than the handful I seem to be covering. This week seems to be an oddly unbalanced one, featuring a select handful of gems amongst a desert of tiresome, forgettable dross- some of it from series I highly praised mere months or even weeks ago. Apologies if the words ‘tedious’ and ‘dull’ have been overused.
Reviewed this week: Black Blood Brothers, Chevalier, Hanoka, Higurashi, Keroro, Mai-Otome DVD Special, Ouran, ROTK, SaiMono, School Rumble, Utawarerumono, NHK, xxxHOLiC
…and in manga: Chokotto Sister, Mai-Otome, Mushishi, REC
Black Blood Brothers 2: It’s always worrying when you come to the end of an episode only to find yourself hard pressed to say what it was meant to be about, and it is for this reason that Black Blood Brothers ironically finds itself on the red this week. This episode sees third member Mimiko join the hero party, before vampire Kelly Wong arrives and some generic men with guns start running around. The only reason I’m planning to watch episode three is to see if it can help me determine whether a plot actually exists.
Le Chevalier d’Eon 2: What do you do when your possessed friend starts attacking you? Simple- let the spirit of your sister take over, turn you into a woman, and start fighting back. Yes, the second episode of the historical fantasy is finally here, in which d’Eon must assemble the supporting members of the hero party and start figuring out just what exactly is going on. A refreshingly enjoyable episode amongst a week of dull offerings- all that remains is for the rest of the series to defy space and time and appear before me by tomorrow.
OP impressions: The song is only vaguely worthy, but the sheer quality of the video is impressive.
ED impressions: Unfortunately, I was concentrating more on the character stills than the music, so from this I can deduce that it wasn’t too memorable.
*DROPPED* Hanoka 4: I really thought that five minute episodes would be bearable no matter how poor the content was, but even in small doses Hanoka proved to be too much effort for too little reward. This episode sees Hanoka destroy the enemy Pokemon leader, before she and Yuuri make a three day trek to the ruins of his village. I assume we’re supposed to care, but there’s little incentive to do so.
Higurashi no Naku Koro ni 24: As Rena delves deeper into the truth surrounding the mystery of Oyashiro, the series comes to a point where I have to wonder ‘what the hell have I been watching?’, and not in a particularly positive sense. Everything was going fine until the religious fanatics and parasitic disease was mentioned, but unfortunately now it all becomes a little too tenuous and farfetched to swallow, even if it does turn out to be misdirection later on.
Keroro Gunso- the movie: Yes, despite my earlier reluctance, I finally sat down to watch the extended adventures of everyone’s favourite alien frogs. As expected, the movie follows the standard story of a previously unmentioned evil breaking free of its seal and having to be defeated through the powers of love and friendship- it’s not terribly exciting, but has its amusing moments.
*COMPLETE* Mai-Otome DVD Special 9: Remember the promo for Mai-Otome, the one with Mai and Arika arguing over which series was best? This is the continuation of that discussion, but with more characters getting in on the act, and events getting heated to the point where Miyu sets off a large explosion. It’s as throwaway as the majority of Mai-Otome, but worth it to see Natsuki in her robe.
Ouran High School Host Club 24: Refraining from the over-the-top themes of the last few weeks, Ouran takes us two years into the past to reveal how the Host Club began. The most welcome focus of this episode is Kyouya, the calculating third son that no one can fathom…at least until he finds a match of sorts in the completely idiotic Tamaki Suou. There are a couple of scenes that suffer from an excess of repetition, but overall this is a strong character-based episode.
Romance of the Three Kingdoms 22: ROTK treats us to another mix of the tediously dire and the hilariously awful in this instalment, which finally sees an end to both Lu Bu’s story and his very life. Despite having its amusing moments, this arc has had far too many dull stretches- hopefully the next one can take the series back to its unintentionally amusing roots.
Saiunkoku Monogatari 17: It has been far too long since I got my last SaiMono fix, and whilst I’d like to have the rest of the series magically here with me now, this one episode will have to suffice. As well as properly introducing Shouka’s brother Kurou, this episode weaves together the threads of numerous characters as our protagonists prepare to combat the machinations of an evil vase fetishist. Anticipation for the rest of this arc is high.
School Rumble 25: With yet more manga pages to finish on a tight schedule, Harima calls Yakumo over to assist him- only for Tenma to show up instead. Cue yet another bout of romantic misunderstandings between Harima and the incredibly thick-witted (seemingly even more so than usual) Tenma, whilst Yakumo stays at home and looks an old picture book. Whilst nowhere near as awful as episode 24, I can’t say that this episode did a great deal for me- it just seemed so tired and dull that I could barely bring myself to pay attention.
Utawarerumono 25: With so much material to cover, and so little time to do it in, Utawarerumono 25 is basically an exercise in compression, squeezing in as many half-hearted recreations of game scenes as possible. By this point, the series’ primary worth is in parody- it deserved a better adaptation.
Welcome to the NHK 10: This episode was so painfully and tediously drawn out that I have to wonder how it strayed so far from the enjoyment of the NHK manga, and indeed why I am even watching it in the first place. In this 25 hour minute torture session, Satou becomes increasingly obsessed with Misaki, only to start fearing rejection and subsequently receive a visit from his hallucinatory talking appliance friends. Given that the preview for episode eleven looks equally uninspiring, I’m not even sure why I’m continuing to struggle onwards with this.
xxxHOLiC 21-2: Forget logic and science- as this episode of xxxHOLiC demonstrates, we really should be paying more attention to superstitions. Having chosen to take the ‘sensible’ course of ignoring them, poor Watanuki ends up on the receiving end of a couple of the more portentous omens, whilst Doumeki manages to annoy by showing up at Watanuki’s house and expecting to have dinner cooked for him. An average episode overall- it’s not particularly noteworthy, but still reasonably entertaining by xxxHOLiC standards.
Unfortunately, episode 22 then goes on to demonstrate just why I should have spared myself considerable pain by dropping the series long ago, ideally before episode one. Covering part of an arc from the sixth volume of the manga, the episode sees Watanuki come to befriend a woman who has lost her son, at the slowest and most excruciatingly painful pace possible. Worse yet, this episode is only the first of a two-parter- if not for the fact we’re getting close to the end now, xxxHOLiC would already have been removed from my viewing list.
Chokotto Sister 33-4: In a bid to enter the Mew Mew Dance competition, Choko convinces Yurika to become the fifth member of their group, and practice for their number begins. Although Choko is unaware of it, a love triangle involving her, Yurika and Kakeru is beginning to develop, whilst Chitose continues to desire Haruma, and fanservice makes its obligatory appearance. It can’t be said that a great deal happens here, but it’s actually a solid enough read.
Mai-Otome 27: The fanservice that plagued the last couple of chapters fades into the background here, as the Mai-Otome manga briefly exhibits something that, under the right conditions, could possibly be mistaken for a plot. This time around, Manshiro and Arika enjoy a farewell party prior to becoming Queen and Otome of Wind Bloom, whilst Nina receives a letter that will change the course of her future. It’s times like these that I must bemoan the wasted potential of the Otome universe, and resolve to get back to writing my oft-promised revision of the series.
Mushishi 8, 31, 32: Continuing in the ‘whatever chapter I can find’ vein of last week, three more instalments of Mushishi are tackled out of sequence. Chapter 8 is the ‘Living God’ story from the anime, the tale of a remote island where a girl ages and dies each night, only to reawaken the next morning. 31 proves that the series has lost nothing even after so many stories, weaving a tale of a sakura tree infested with mushi, and a doctor taking advantage of its unique properties (it’s a lot more interesting than it sounds, but to say more would destroy the impact). 32 is not quite up to 31’s level, but is nonetheless still very good, covering a girl who has lost her reflection to a mushi that will eventually take her shape and replace her. A worthy trio of chapters overall.
REC 15: As if catching Matsumaru’s cold wasn’t bad enough, Aka finds her day turned upside down when his grandmother comes to visit- should she admit that she is living with Matsumaru, or just keep quiet about it for now? A simple and enjoyable chapter, let down a little by Grandma’s near-indecipherable dialect.