Sola

June 28, 2008

I don’t know why, but at first I was kinda reluctant to watch the anime Sola, given that it was a surprise hit series for 2007. And with all that rave reviews (at least from what I read, most of them like it was voted as the best anime of 2007), it should’ve given me a sign that this show should be on my must-see list. You know that gut feeling when I have my first impression whether to watch an anime or not.
 
Anyway good thing is that I decided to satisfy my curiosity by watching it simply because of 2 things. One, there are a lot of beautiful people here. The visuals and character designs here are stunning and it’s all thanks to Naru Nanao, the one who’s also responsible for the character design of the series Da Capo. So expect to see bishoujos and bishonens here. Plus, the storyline is intriguing enough and is done by Naoki Hisaya, who made the hit series Kanon. So this is the outcome if you combine good scriptwriters and designers.
 
The second thing which made me watch this series is simply because of Mamiko Noto. I have to admit that I’m a big fan of her voice acting. Which brings me to another case. At first glance, based on my stereotypical experiences of Mamiko Noto’s voice acting and the look of the 2 lead female protagonists, I thought she was going to voice 1 of the main character, Aono Morimiya. Likewise, Mai Nakahara, another voice actress to voice another main character, Matsuri Shihou. I’ve always had this perception that Mamiko Noto voices dry, husky-voiced characters (like Enma Ai in Jigoku Shoujo) and Mai Nakahara lively ones (like Mai Tokiha in Mai-HiME and Noi in Yamato Nadeshiko Shichihenge). But to my utmost surprise, their roles are in reverse! In fact Mamiko Noto did the voice for Matsuri while Mai Nakahara voices Aono! It’s pretty much a departure from their standard roles and the way Mamiko Noto voiced Matsuri kinda reminded me a little of Narue in Narue No Sekai. But nevertheless, both ladies did a fine job.
 
The tv series has 13 episodes. As mentioned that the storyline is quite fascinating, but I find that the series takes off on a slow note at first. Those who can’t stand the slow pace of the series would’ve opt out already. Since it’s only a dozen and one episodes, might as well finish it, right? Of course the series takes its time to introduce the several characters and the first half is more comical and light-hearted. When it reaches midway, the series takes a grimmer and serious turn and there is a shocking twist revealed. Yup, I wouldn’t have guessed it too. Maybe I wasn’t really thinking then.
 
In episode 1, we are introduced to this photograph mania high school student, Yorito Morimiya. No, he’s not a pervert taking undesirable pictures, but he loves taking pictures of the sky. One may say his hobby is weird but his passion and fascination about the sky kinda reminds me of that girl Nao in Windy Tales, who herself likes to take pictures of the sky but more to ‘catch’ the wind. Just like in Nao’s case, Yorito feels that no 2 skies are alike. True. Even if I don’t pretty much noticed it. In order to get the best sky picture, Yorito 1 early dawn wakes up and waits for the sunrise. He finds a girl, Matsuri, kicking the vending machine. This Matsuri girl is quite a loveable character because she’s quite cheeky. She loves drinking some tomato juice and obviously she’s always having trouble getting one from vending machines as the machine always eats her money. But it seems by kicking it always works. But kids, don’t try this anyhow. Yorito remembers he has to take a sky pic but when he turns around, Matsuri isn’t there. Was it his imagination?
 
Yorito is Aono’s younger brother and due to some illness, she’s bed-ridden in hospital. Since her birthday is the next day, Yorito’s classmate, Mana Ishizuki plans to buy a cake to celebrate her birthday there. Sorry folks. If you plan to see some chemistry between this 2, forget it. Yorito’s first love is always the sky. So much so, he’d sometimes prefer to go and wait to take a pic of the perfect sky (or even go buy a new camera!) and forget all about his poor sister who’s anticipating his visit. Yorito and Mana arrives at Aono’s room and gives her the cake. It seems Yorito has a present for her too. Why, it’s a horrible looking doll. Aono just chuck it into some useless doll bin next to her bed. Over the series, you’ll see Yorito giving Aono different horrible dolls in hopes that she’ll accept it but the outcome is always the same. Never give up. Then there’s another patient in the same hospital who also visits Aono. She is Koyori and is Mana’s little sister. Koyori is the moe one of the series and she always has a tendency to call Mana by her first name, rather than ‘onee-san’. Everytime she does this, Mana will give her a painful chop on the head. I find this to be quite hilarious and cute. You’ll see this in every episode. "Mana-san…". *Thud*. "Itai…" (it hurts…). So much so it becomes a reflex action and you’ll know the cue when Mana raises her hands and Koyori quickly covering her head with her little palms.
 
But Yorito’s bad habit comes to light again. Yeah, he’s planning to ditch this visiting hours to take the perfect sky. Is this the one? A sunrise over an abandoned church. Speaking of which, it seems Matsuri is residing here. So back home, we see Mana doing some cooking and is out of some ingredient. I wonder what happened to Yorito’s parents. You’ll also see Mana coming over to his house to cook dinner. It’s amazing that their relationship don’t develop from here. Yorito rushes out to buy whatever Mana’s missing and once again, spots Matsuri taking out her frustrations by kicking the vending machine. Since it’s raining, the wind blows away Yorito’s sky-design umbrella and Matsuri is fascinated. So the 2 had some chat about the sky while Yorito has his first taste of that horrible tomato juice. Matsuri seems quite happy to chat with him before rushing off.
 
We also see a man with a sword, Takeshi Tsujido, who’s looking for a little girl, Mayuko Kamikawa (reminds me of a Rozen Maiden doll, her goth-loli dressing) who seems to like sleeping in odd places like cardboard boxes and even dustbins! Mayuko seems kinda picky of what she wants to eat. Plus, she’s always seen carrying a ragged rabbit doll. Back in Yorito’s room, we can see his obsession about the sky so much so his ceiling is pasted with pictures of the sky. You might think it’s an open air room. Yorito recalls that encounter with Matsuri and soon goes out to find her (something about a picture Matsuri showed him with that nearby church), Matsuri is sleeping in the church when Takeshi comes in and attacks her. Just then Yorito comes in and saw what’s happening.
 
A short fight ensues in episode 2. We see Matsuri has some ability to turn things she touched into rusty and collapsible. Takeshi asks what is Yorito’s connection with Matsuri, if not, don’t get involve with that yaka (meaning, woe of the night). Takeshi throws some explosive thing to slightly injure Matsuri. Yorito tries to go after her but Takeshi stops him. Just then, Mayuko arrives and Takeshi has no choice but to let him go. Seems that Mayuko is against hunting down of the yaka. Yorito is wandering around and finds Matsuri unconscious. He takes her back to his home. Next morning, Yorito wakes up to find Matsuri admiring his sky pictures. As gratitude, Matsuri decides to fix Yorito breakfast. Okay, this girl doesn’t know how to cook too. She stuffs everything and I mean everything edible into the microwave oven. When it doesn’t work, she tries to kick it! Yorito tries to stop her but got kicked instead. Later the duo talked about what has just happened. Being the cheeky girl she is, Matsuri says she’ll give him a reward. Since Yorito is taking his time thinking, Matsuri calls him ecchi. Hehe. Probably that’s what he’s thinking though he denies. Anyway, she just pats his head. Matsuri also tells the truth and puts her finger in the sunlight through the curtains. Shockingly, it starts to dissolve and she’s in pain. After she retracts, she tells him that she isn’t human but a yaka. So is that another term for a vampire? Well, can’t go out in daylight and likes drinking tomato which is a substitute to blood. Nope. A yaka is some creature who lives forever and well… good thing Matsuri looks kinda cute and pretty rather than hagged. Because a yaka can’t come into contact with daylight (or they’ll die. So much for living forever), they can only roam about at night. Thus, the reason why Matsuri was fascinated with Yorito’s pics.
 
We then see Takeshi having a meal with Mayuko at a restaurant. Now this particular part time waitress, Sakura Sae, seems to take a liking for Takeshi and calls him Hige (beardy). This dreamy voiced girl has her weird fantasies concerning relationships and is Mana’s classmate (she too works part time here). Also, Aono is quite good at origami making all sorts of designs for Koyori. Aono also wonders where Yorito is. Obviously Yorito has skipped school today to ‘babysit’ Matsuri and didn’t even answer Mana’s call. So I guess when he gets the message this time, he has to go there or else sis will be mad. Once Yorito comes home, he spot his room lights on and fears something may have happened to Matsuri and rushes in. Nothing much, just that she’s admiring his ceiling sky. Since she has never seen the real sky before and wonders what’s it like, Yorito promises that he’ll show it to her one day.
 
Because Matsuri has no place to live, in episode 3, kind ol’ Yorito allows her to live at his home. Well, feeling lonely, is he? Sister at hospital, Mana only comes sometimes. Oh wait. He’s been skipping school for a week ever since. Can’t use that been sick excuse all the time, right? Even Mana’s suspicious. Yeah, it’s like Yorito’s trying to keep a mistress or something. Haha. So much so, Mana surprisingly arrives at Yorito’s doorstep 1 night to cook dinner. Due to Yorito’s body language, Mana could easily tell he’s lying and hiding something. What’s this? Lots of instant noodle cups on the dinner table? Luckily Matsuri knows what’s going on and is hiding. But she wonders if Mana is Yorito’s girlfriend. Since Matsuri has used up some ingredients, Mana orders Yorito to go to the mart to get some so that she can cook. He has to go or else more suspicion will arouse. After he left, Mana searches the house but finds nothing strange until she comes back to the kitchen and finds Matsuri slurping away her instant noodles. Are we in for a catty fight? Don’t think so. They’re quite acquainted with each other. Of course Yorito has a shock of his life to find the 2 girls chatting. Busted. Matsuri also learns about Yorito’s sis and since she doesn’t want to interrupt them, Matsuri leaves after the meal. But Mana wants to talk with her more. Unfortunately, Matsuri’s gone. Worried, Mana tells Yorito to look for her but Matsuri returns with a huge bag. She just when back to get her stuffs and looks like she’s moving in. Matsuri asks if they’re dating, in which they both strongly deny. With that, Yorito won’t have to skip school anymore. As for Mayuko and Takeshi, it seems they love patroning that same restaurant. So Sae wonders if that cute girl is his daughter. Due to Takeshi’s surprise, Mayuko just mentions that he goes home late due to work. I think Sae’s getting the wrong idea.
 
Episode 4 focuses more on Aono and Koyori on how they met and became friends at the hospital. One night when Koyori can’t sleep, she saw Aono sitting near a vending machine. It seems the machine has given Aono a wrong drink, coffee. Koyori spots Aono’s origami work and is fascinated. The 2 chat and Aono tells her the reason why they can’t sleep is because they’re lonely. I think the reason why she and Koyori can’t sleep is because of the coffee ;P. Back in present time, Mana and Yorito make their usual trip to see Aono and as usual, Yorito’s bad taste in dolls makes Aono discards it. Koyori wanted to tell Aono that she’ll be discharged soon but is having difficulties. Then I’m not sure about this part whereby she saw a discarded origami on the floor. She gets discouraged and leaves. Mana goes after her and inside her room, Koyori cries while hugging Mana. Later as Koyori sits by the vending machine, it’s like a reverse deja vu because Aono comes by and reintroduces herself. Yeah, have some more coffee. Still don’t like the caffeine taste? As the 2 chat, Koyori says how she wanted to learn origami from her. Aono then offers to teach her because she’s her friend. This made Koyori happy as she finally tells that she’ll be discharged soon. The next day, Koyori shows off her school uniform and promises to come visit Aono often. That Mana is working at the restaurant and Yorito brings Koyori home. Takeshi spots Yorito through the window from his regular seat.
 
Episode 5 starts off with a flashback about a young boy in horror after watching a blood soaked corpse. In present time, this episode is mainly about Yorito and Matsuri’s ‘date’. They’re not lovers already, mind you. It’s just that Yorito decides to show Matsuri the sky and since it’s raining, there won’t be any sun rays to burn her. But it isn’t perfect either since the rain blocks the true view of the sky. They went to places like the vending machine where they first met and even took a boat ride. Yeah, a mischievous Matsuri rang a random house doorbell and ran away while leaving Yorito in a lurch (something about the best view of sunrise is through here?). Later, Yorito leaves his home to visit Aono. So Matsuri is home but to her surprise finds Koyori there (trying to collect something secretly?). Koyori quickly gets acquainted with Matsuri and they became friends. After Koyori leaves, Matsuri finds an unwanted guests. Takeshi. He finally finds out where the yaka lives. Another short battle starts. Matsuri can’t leave the house because it’s sunny outside. Matsuri is then cornered in Yorito’s room and is about to give up until she sees his sky ceiling. She sums up enough power to partially rust Takeshi’s hand, causing him great pain, before jumping out the window. Yorito comes home to find the house in a mess and fears the worst. Though it’s still sunny, Matsuri takes refuge under a shady tree and an injured Takeshi has got her cornered. Before he could strike with this sword, Yorito interrupts. He asserts how he’ll fulfil his promise. Mana’s voice is then heard in the background. No choice, Takeshi withdraws for now. Matsuri then collapses but luckily, it’s starting to drizzle. Mana is shocked to see Matsuri’s wounds. Back at the hospital, Koyori tells Aono about her encounter with Matsuri. This shocks Aono very much and from her expression, it looks like she knows who Matsuri is.
 
Episode 6 has another flashback but this time Aono and Yorito living in the feudal past and they know who Matsuri is as Yorito wants to show her the sky. Matsuri wakes up from that dream and finds herself sleeping next to Yorito (not naked, mind you) and touches his warm head. Matsuri and Mana had a little chat over breakfast. Meanwhile Takeshi got his hand bandaged at the hospital as Mayuko wants to know what really happened. Mayuko bumps into Koyori as the latter was on the way to see Aono to tell her that Yorito’ll bring Matsuri to see her. At home, Mana suggests that Matsuri pretends to be Yorito’s girlfriend and cheeky Matsuri agrees. She even suggests to practice being one! On the futon, Yorito explains about the warm fuzzy feeling after the futon is left to dry in the sun. Matsuri lies on it and immediately falls asleep. Yorito puts his hand on her head and thinks it’s impossible to be his girlfriend. Maybe she was just pretending to be asleep and tells him not to retract his hand. She even asks is there any girl he likes. You know his answer lah. Matsuri then suggests they kiss! It must be taking forever for Yorito to sum up his courage but when he puts his hands on her shoulder, she just laughs and says it’s all a joke. Hehe. Cheeky girl. But all that laughter turns into worry when Matsuri learns that Yorito’s sister is Aono.
 
When the gang visits Aono the next rainy day, they find her asleep so they left. But Aono was just pretending. While waiting for a tram, Matsuri spots Aono across the street. Matsuri tells the gang to go ahead while she walks home. When she crosses the street, she only finds Aono’s origami there. This leads her to meet with Aono at an abandoned tram. It’s revealed that Aono’s a yaka and her powers are gradually returning. So if Aono’s a yaka, then why isn’t Yorito? Another short flashback of how Aono slit her own throat back then. Matsuri is shocked when Aono confirms Yorito is her little brother. The gang are surprised to see Matsuri coming back with Aono. Not sure if she could be discharged yet but Aono says she wants to see the girl Yorito lives with. Over dinner, Matsuri brings up that futon incident and sends shockwaves to Mana and Koyori, thinking he’s a pervert. Hehe. "Koyori will be changing her perspective of Yorito now". There goes his reputation. That night, Yorito and Matsuri sneak into the school grounds and chat. On the school rooftop, Yorito reiterates his promise as Matsuri sheds a tear while telling him how she can no longer stay with them. With that, she kisses Yorito and when he open his eyes, Matsuri is gone.
 
Because of that, it’s been a month since Matsuri’s missing. In episode 7, Yorito tries to find her high and low but to no avail. One day, Yorito is pissed off to find Aono rearranging the furniture by taking down all his framed sky pictures. They got into a short quarrel. Koyori tries to explain that Aono didn’t want him to have painful memories but that guy didn’t understand. Aono thanks Koyori for speaking up for her. Soon Yorito apologizes for his outburst and they went for a walk. The abandoned church reminded Yorito of Matsuri as he enters it and observes the hole in its roof. It seems that the next day, Yorito has promised to go on a ‘date’ with Aono. So Aono had a swell time trying different outfits and hairstyles. Also that chop isn’t just restricted to Mana. Yeah, Aono too gives Koyori a chop when she mentions her sister’s first name. Thought she could be safe without Mana around, huh? Aono also gives Yorito a kick in his shin when he comments on her fashion style. Thus Yorito and Aono went round the city like the place where Yorito buys those ugly dolls. Because it’s raining, Aono got wet and Yorito decides to buy a towel at a convenience store. A tomato can juice rolled to his feet and when he looked up, to his surprise he saw Matsuri there. He tried to give chase but Aono grabs his hand and pleads not to go. But that guy obviously is more interested in Matsuri and rushes off. Aono is alone and devastated and wonders why did this happened seeing that she remembered Matsuri did promised her not to show up to them anymore. We see Matsuri living in an abandoned building along with Mayuko. Wait a minute, she’s living with her now? No wonder Takeshi’s been looking for her. Yorito arrives and tells Matsuri to come home because he hasn’t fulfil his promise yet and hugs her. As usual, she says she can’t. As Aono is going crazy, a shocked Matsuri finds herself being stabbed by Yorito with a sharp broken glass! Gasp! OMG! What’s happening?!
 
Episode 8 sees Yorito awakening from that bad dream. But it did happened, right? Yorito’s not feeling well too and is resting back home. He tries to tell Aono about last night’s incident but she says she doesn’t know anything about it. I later found out that it was Aono’s power which is suppressing and controlling Yorito. Meanwhile Sae is on a tram and spots Matsuri walking into an alley with Mayuko and takes a pic of them with her handphone. Back at the abandoned building, we see a flashback of how Matsuri saved Mayuko from being dissolved by the sunlight. So she’s a yaka too. In a way, Mayuko is grateful to her. Mana and Koyori visits Yorito at his doorstep and wonders if he needs any help but Aono declines. Similarly, Yorito is in some sort of pain as he tries to remember Matsuri. Aono tells him to forget her or else he’ll be in great pain. Outside his room, Aono then sheds a tear. In school, Sae shows Mana that pic she took and Mana asks Sae to send her a copy of that pic. Mana rushes over to Yorito’s home, wanting to see him. But Aono refuses to let her in, giving excuses. When Mana says how Matsuri is close by, Aono tells her to get out and pushes her. However, since it’s sunny, that little sunlight dissolves Aono’s hands a little. Mana is shocked to see what’s happening. Aono retreats into the sanctuary of her home leaving Mana outside. Yorito now is going crazy and screaming that he wants to see Matsuri. Aono can’t do anything to calm him down. Yorito accidentally rips the curtain and the sunlight almost dissolves Aono if she hadn’t hide behind the shadows. A short chat to calm him down and put Yorito back to bed. Aono then says they’ll be able to live together again after she’s finished some business. That night, Mana sneaks in to the house to find it in a mess and Yorito’s condition worsening. She shows her that pic of Matsuri and soon the duo hurried there since he recognizes the landmark. At the abandoned tram site, Matsuri is being attacked by flying papers. It seems Aono has arrive to finish Matsuri once for all as she tells her that she no longer exists.
 
A one-sided battle ensues in episode 9 with Aono using her paper projections (is this the ultimate origami skill?) while Matsuri evades each one. Eventually, Aono has cornered Matsuri and is about to finish her when the latter smiles. A little flashback whereby we see Matsuri comforting and holding a crying Aono’s hands. Though Matsuri is prepared to meet her fate, Aono didn’t have the heart to kill her after having seeing visions of her younger self not to do so, and soon leaves. Meanwhile Takeshi bumps into Sae and the latter tells that she has seen his ‘daughter’ with Matsuri. Matsuri awakens with Mayuko by her side. Yorito and Mana can’t find Matsuri and the former starts to feel pain. Yorito is back at his home. Koyori suggests to call Aono over for dinner but Mana refuses. Mayuko and Matsuri are seen waiting at a train station. When the train arrives, Mayuko gets on board while Matsuri stays put. When the door shuts, Mayuko spots Matsuri being confronted by Takeshi. Mana arrives at Yorito’s doorstep only to be told by Aono that he hasn’t returned yet. Mana knows she’s lying and hiding things so Aono tries to shut her out.
 
Another flashback but this time it’s when Takeshi was a little boy and has befriended Mayuko and seems to have a crush on her. Takeshi asked what she wanted for her birthday and Mayuko replied a rabbit doll. Surprised that she already has one, Mayuko gives him a rabbit doll punch and says that it would be lonely. One day, everyone in Mayuko’s family was massacred. Takeshi could only watch in horror (flashback in episode 5). Later he is shocked to see Mayuko still walking. She tells him that a yaka has resurrected her and that she is no longer a normal girl. She shows him what will happen to her if she’s being exposed to sunlight. Takeshi pushes her back into the shades and vows to make her normal once more. In present time, Matsuri is trying to escape from Takeshi’s attack. Once again, he manages to injure her and finish her when Mayuko shows up and tells him to stop. I’m not sure how killing a yaka could return Mayuko back to normal but Mayuko says that she wouldn’t want to turn back into normal if it costs another life. She also tells him that her real wish wasn’t to turn back to normal, but rather to be by Takeshi’s side. A wish that hasn’t changed since. Another flashback about the times spent together by them. Matsuri wakes up to see them emotionally embracing each other.
 
Yorito finally remembers he did stabbed Matsuri in episode 10. He wants to go look for her but is stopped by Mana. She tells him that Aono is a yaka but Yorito doesn’t believe her. Koyori, who feels Aono would be alone, is seen cooking with her even if Mana didn’t approve of this. After Koyori leaves, Yorito confronts Aono and wants to know the whole truth. She says it’s better for him to forget Matsuri and what she’s doing is to make him happy. Yorito not satisfied with her answer, opens the curtains so as to prevent Aono from approaching him. This confirms that his sis is a yaka. Meanwhile Mana is seen searching throughout the town for Takeshi. When she does, she asks him about Matsuri but he didn’t say much. Later, Yorito meets Matsuri at that abandoned building. After a short chat, Matsuri suddenly stabs Yorito with Takeshi’s sword. Tit for tat? Actually, since Yorito insisted that he wants to know the whole truth, he has to endure this pain to do so. Now this is the shocking part. Yorito’s form slowly changes into paper! OMG! What is he?! Matsuri narrates that he died long ago and since Aono was obsessed about him, she recreated him using her powers with paper and implanted memories of Yorito. So he’s just an ‘actor’. Didn’t see this one coming. So this explains a lot. But it also arises new questions like if this happened hundreds of years ago, how does Mana and Koyori know them? Another mind-implanting illusion? And why didn’t Matsuri recognized Yorito’s uncanny resemblance when she first met him? From now on, Takeshi and Mayuko has become side characters as I felt their presence didn’t really matter. So Matsuri and Yorito had a little chat since the latter now knows his true form. But Matsuri says that Yorito is Yorito before kissing him. She also suggests that he disappear with her to end it all. I wonder how it feels like kissing paper? The next day Mana and Koyori are surprised to see Yorito back to his usual self while Matsuri confronts Takeshi and Mayuko and wants him to teach her on how to use the sword.
 
In episode 11, Yorito starts taking down his sky ceiling picture. He and Aono plans to leave town so things will go back to the way it was. Similarly, Matsuri is having a chat with Mayuko and finds out that she and Takeshi too are leaving town as they can’t stay this way. Elsewhere, Mana and her pals are at the restaurant and as usual Sae goes on ranting about her dream beau. But during their conversation, Mana realizes something is wrong when they don’t remember who Yorito is. Oh oh. She then rushes off. Mana is on a bridge thinking when one of her pals come by. Mana tries to show a pic of Yorito in her handphone but is shocked to see his portrait missing. At the same time, Koyori seems to be quite fond of Aono, making lots of visits each time. She requests that Aono teach her origami and the latter agrees and lets her in. Mana rushes back to the school rooftop to see Yorito there, watching the sky. Mana tries to assure that Yorito is the real thing and that he exists. Tears roll down her cheeks as she tells him how she’ll never forget about him ever. But then, she wonders why she’s crying and won’t stop. It’s setting in. Likewise, Koyori too doesn’t want to part with Aono even if she tells her that it’s all over. Finally Takeshi and Mayuko part ways with Matsuri. Matsuri turns around to see Yorito standing there. Back at Aono’s place, she hears a sound and finds out Matsuri is here with a sword. Round 2 coming up.
 
So in episode 12, Matsuri challenges Aono to a duel over Yorito at an abandoned construction site. Well, seems like a harem anime (no, I don’t consider this to be 1), huh? It’s paper vs sword. I wonder if Aono has unlimited supplies of paper. Maybe they’re being recycled. More light is shed on their past like how Aono is supposed to be sacrificed to appease the yaka, which is Matsuri. But she finds that Matsuri isn’t as horrible as the villagers painted it. Just a myth. So Yorito and Aono had Matsuri come live with them so she won’t feel lonely. One day, I think the cave they lived in collapsed and Yorito perished. Aono blames herself for his death and committed suicide. However, Matsuri resurrected her. Since Aono can’t live without Yorito, she recreates him using paper. Back in present time, Matsuri realizes that Aono has tricked her by using a fake paper self as distraction while the real Aono goes after Yorito. Even is she has found him, he still sides Matsuri. Somehow, the projector starts rolling a film of the sky. Matsuri reminisces the good ol’ times before stabbing herself with the sword. After that, she head towards Aono, who is being pinned down by Yorito. We then see Takeshi explaining that the sword has the power to return a yaka back to a normal human. Meaning that the life of the yaka it first stabs is transferred to the sword and the 2nd stabbing will transfer and revert the person back to normal. No wonder Takeshi was chasing after Matsuri previously. Aono screams for her brother to let her go and not to do it. Her fearful expression makes her seem so pitiful.
 
Well, due to Matsuri’s injuries, she missed stabbing Aono in episode 13. Aono manages to get away but since Aono is gradually losing her yaka powers, Yorito’s arms are beginning to turn into paper. Both girls regrouped to face each other 1 last time as they think back about the good times they had with Yorito in the past. Aono still has the upperhand and is gonna stab Matsuri with her own sword when Yorito comes between them. Aono is devastated and horrified that she has stabbed Yorito, who then completely turns into paper, fluttering away with the wind. With Aono in complete distraught, Matsuri comforts her before taking back the sword and stabbing Aono. As the sun rises, Matsuri also vanishes and remembers how Yorito and Aono promised to show her the real sky. Though it’s short, but I guess she finally saw it. It’s kinda sad to see both Yorito and Matsuri gone but on the other hand, Aono has returned to being a human once more.
 
A year has passed and we see Takeshi and Mayuko still wandering around like homeless people. Mayuko’s box sleeping habits freaks out a poor little boy. This time she dons a different goth-loli outfit, which Takeshi says her fashion sense is getting worse. She slaps him. Sae is still very depressed that her beloved Takeshi is no longer patroning the restaurant so much so she thinks he has left without saying goodbye. We also see Aono meeting Koyori at a bookstore and it seems nobody remembers who she is. Outside, Aono teaches Koyori more origami. Funny part is, when Koyori mentions Mana’s name, Aono instantly raised her hand but stopping short of chopping her head. Hehe. Reflex action. Even if she doesn’t know what it’s all about. Mana goes to the school rooftop to see Aono in their school uniform. Looks like she’s a new transfer student and they both quickly become friends. It seems Mana has taken after Yorito’s weird hobby as she can’t explain why she love the sky. She even shouts out loud how she loves the sky and goes back down hand-in-hand with Aono. But Aono did narrate how she’s grateful to Matsuri and Yorito. Because of their sacrifices, she’s able to walk under both skies. Mana and Koyori wakes up real early to meet Aono at the vending machine where Yorito and Matsuri first met. While Mana prepares to take a picture of the morning sunrise, Koyori is having problems with the vending machine. How does she solve this problem. Aono runs up to it and kicks it! And it works! Deja vu? Some things don’t really change even if it means a different person as well.
 
But it’s not over yet. There are 2 additional OVA episodes which takes place before the turning point of the series and is more light-hearted. Episode 14 sees Koyori winning a grand prize lottery to a family water resort unlike Mana who could only win tissues. Lots of them. At the same time, Takeshi too wins that grand prize but wish he had won some tissues because of his cold. Since Aono can’t leave the hospital and the expiry to the ticket is very near, I guess Yorito has no choice but to go with Mana and Koyori. Not only that, Mana’s pals, Sae, Chisato Mizuguchi and Touko Uehara (both girls previously appeared in the tv series but quite rare). Also, Matsuri can’t go into broad daylight so she has to stay home. At the resort, we see Chisato has a weird fetish for anything cute and glomps Koyori right away. Enough to scare the living daylights out of her. Mana’s pals thinks Koyori is so cute and whenever that chop comes into play, they think Mana’s been mean to her all along. Sae even has her weird fantasies of that harem thingy. You know, a guy surrounded by 5 girls… So the usual fun in the pool (not to mention fanservice). However, Yorito accidentally bumps into Takeshi in his Speedo trunks and before you know it, Takeshi starts chasing him and wanting to know where the yaka is. Where did he hide all those darts?! Luckily he calmed down and the 2 chat like as though they’re buddies. Sae is obviously happy to see her dream guy there. Mayuko comes by and asks Takeshi who is that and the latter bluffs her by saying he’s an intermediary agent for his negotiations with the yaka. Whatever. Lonely Aono is seen trying on a swimsuit in her room. So the guys meet up with the girls and had some refreshments. Mana asks if they know each other. "Well, it’s a small world". Takeshi also tells the rest that Mayuko is her daughter and that being a single parent is hard. Sae must be loving it and wants Mayuko to call her mommy. But I guess the rest had to stop her before he fantasies run wild.
 
The gang then goes to soak in a hot bath. Looks like Mayuko isn’t being spared from Chisato’s extreme ‘molestation’. Hope she isn’t scarred for life. Yeah, a yaka lives forever, you know. Since Mayuko soaked too long, she’s near to passing out. Takeshi and Yorito heard the girls scream and rushes over. For the first time, I think I’ve never seen Takeshi’s perverted face before as he wants to give CPR. Before he can do mouth-to-mouth, Mayuko comes to and gives him a kick in his crotch! Ouch! Takeshi and Mayuko then leaves. "Are they really father and daughter?". "We felt that something unrecoverable had happened". Later that night while Yorito is soaking in a hotspring outside alone, he gets a surprise visit from Matsuri. Yeah, she’s in a swimsuit. Super kawaii and sexy!!! Because of the way Yorito looked at her, Matsuri asks if he’s thinking of something perverted. Another cheeky comment. When the gang have freshen up and are ready to leave, Mana’s pals are shocked to here that Matsuri introduces herself as Yorito’s guardian. They’re mad at him because they thought he has Mana… Later that night as Aono is posing in her swimsuit on her bed, Yorito comes in to give her a souvenir and spots her… Only silence and staring… Lesson learned is that please keep the door lock always to avoid embarrassing moments or knock whenever you want to come in.
 
Episode 15 feels a little disappointed after that previous funny one. That’s because it has more drama. This episodes serves as a prologue before the series starts. We see Mana chiding Yorito for being obsessed for his usual sky taking obsession. Sae and the other 2 are spying on them and wonders if they’re lovers and that they’re confessing. Since Aono’s birthday is tomorrow, Mana wants Yorito to come help pick out a cake for her. But as usual Yorito gives that promise he’ll come after taking the sky. What are the chances? Sae thinks Mana has been ‘rejected’ and Mana decides to take her frustrations out by kicking a can. It hit Sae right on her forehead. At class, Sae tells Mana that Yorito must’ve been embarrassed that’s why he skipped class, but Mana calmly refutes. I’m not sure what Mana did to teach Sae a lesson when she said Mana was pretty dense. Meanwhile we see Mayuko sleeping in a cardbox while Takeshi experiments with his explosive darts, which didn’t go too well. Also the duo had a chat and Mayuko is still a picky eater as ever. Matsuri is seen wandering around and again that vending machine eats her money. Instead of a kick, she punches it this time. It works! Luckily Mana is around to drag and ‘control’ Yorito before he breaks another promise. He has that urge to buy a new camera. So later they meet Aono and though she chides Yorito’s fault for skipping classes (as reported by Mana), she says the photo he takes aren’t bad. With that, Yorito decides to bring some pictures of the sunrise to her. Back at home after printing some sunrise pics, he feels that they’re not perfect and decides to get one early next dawn. Meanwhile Matsuri is seen writing her particulars at a bookstore and putting her address as the church. It’s early dawn as Yorito rushes on his bicycle to take the sunrise pic while Matsuri is seen wandering through the night (this is the cutest face I’ve seen Matsuri with when she’s enjoying eating a bun) and eventually that vending machine. It ends when they both coincidentally meet the first time, which is exactly how in episode 1.
 
Overall, I’m really glad that I’ve watched this series. For a short series, it was enough to keep me fascinated for the entire watching period and the twist and turns and tying ups are quite neatly done. With the superb art and character designs, it gives viewers an eye candy treat. Also I want to mention that the background sceneries and especially the sky are quite breathtaking. So keep your eyes peeled and behold the magnificent artworks. I also kinda noticed that the characters seem to have a sharp chin. Must be the series’ trademark.
 
Another plus point about this series is the background music. There are a variety of them ranging from slow-paced to lively and fun ones to eerie tunes and to dramatic pieces. But the ones which I prefer most are the soothing acoustic playing. It makes you feel like you want to close your eyes, lie back and enjoy the rest of the day. For a short series to have a soundtrack of over 40 soundtracks, they really put an effort into the quality of the music. The opening theme Colorless Wind by Aira Yuki is quite upbeat and dramatic while the ending theme Mellow Melody by Ceui is slower but still lively. There’s an insert song Binkan No Fuukei, which I thought Mamiko Noto sang it, but actually was done by Ceui, who sounds quite close to her when she sings it.
 
Besides the 2 main protagonists Mamiko Noto and Mai Nakahara, the other voice casts are also excellent. They include Ai Shimizu as Koyori (Mikoto of Mai-HiME, Karen of Onegai Twins), Nobuhiko Okamoto as Yorito (Yasumi of Potemayo, John of Ghost Hunt), Youko Honda as Mana (Igusa of Inukami), Tomoko Kaneda as Mayuko (Chiyo in Azumanga Daioh, Lavie in Keroro Gunso), Keiji Fujiwara as Takeshi (Walcott in Galaxy Angel, Shuuji in Honey And Clover), and Ami Koshimizu as Sae (Tenma of School Rumble).
 
Though the next episode preview only shows the beautiful sky, but you can hear the characters narrate or blab things which is unrelated to the next episode. Like doing some tongue twister or bad Japanese pun. Then some of them have cheeky comments like Matsuri suggesting to use a ragged rabbit sexy pose to ‘knock out’ someone. Hehe. Then another hilarious one is I think Koyori (if not Mana) mentions how she has mastered the chop and then we hear several thuds and the ‘victim’ going ouch. Hahaha. Good one.
 
There are some questions that still puzzles me like if Yorito was made of paper, how come he doesn’t get soaked when he comes into contact with water? Unless it’s due to Aono’s power or she uses high quality waterproof paper. Speaking of which, during the time when Aono was hospitalized, assuming her yaka powers are low, how come Yorito’s form doesn’t partially return to that of a paper? I wonder what Takeshi does for a living because he always has to go buy some food for Mayuko.
 
On a trivial note, I think the name of the series is derived from several words. Firstly, derived from the Spanish word ‘solo’ could mean alone (taken from Wikipedia). Secondly, the English word ‘solar’ which means the sun. Thirdly, from the Japanese word ‘sora’ which means sky. All this somehow fits the supernatural drama theme of the series. Probably in Malaysia for those who don’t like the series much would say and mean ‘so-so lah’. Hahaha. Just kidding. Matsuri’s cheekiness is infectious. Besides, she’s my favourite character as she’s bubbly followed by Aono. I don’t know why many viewers despise Aono. Maybe it’s because of her initial selfish character who wants to keep Yorito all to herself. Koyori and Mayuko does emit lots of loli moe and those who have such fetish would go gaga over them.
 
After watching this series, each time I look at the clear blue sky, I’ve looked at it in a different manner and know how to appreciate it. Yeah, I even caught myself staring and spacing out at the sky at times. Quite calming and soothing actually. It’s really a different feel altogether. Every day is a gift that’s why today is called present. Perhaps I should watch more animes like this. Will there be more animes like this? Well, the sky is the limit.
 
Sola

Wild Eyes

June 27, 2008

  Akai shizuku nijimu kuchibiru ni,
  Fuwari nageki no kiri furete yuku,
  Sora ni ukabu kagami utsukushiku,
  Haruka yoru no kanata terashiteru
 
Well well. Somehow I have a hard time trying to understand what this song, Wild Eyes, is all about. This song is the ending theme for the tragic love story anime, Basilisk. Partly a reason why I can’t understand is because my Japanese still isn’t that good and another reason is that even though I looked up at the translated lyrics, it still boggles my mind. Probably there are some hidden meanings to the lyrics. Yup, the words of the lyrics isn’t your typical simple love song.
 
  Furisosogu amata no hoshi ni omoi hasete,
  Shimeyaka ni fukai kizu na no ito,
  Tsuyoku tsuyoku musubu
 
If I just accept the words as they are then maybe I won’t have so much headache of trying to understand what it means. Because of so, it’s like I’m not even know what I’m singing. As though the words are just words. Nothing more than that. Till this day, I’m still really unsure. The lyrics include describing abstractly the scenaries and atmospheres as the singer experiences them through some abstract emotions of hers. I think.
 
  Ruri iro ni kagayaku kira no hitomi,
  Yami yori no tsukai ni tozasarete mo,
  Tsunaida yume no hashi dare mo ubae nai kara,
  Mugen no asu utsushite
 
Speaking of which, this song has got no karaoke version! Oh no. And I thought at least anime songs sung by Nana Mizuki should all have a karaoke version. You know what that means, a duet with Nana Mizuki herself. It could’ve been another one of those easy-to-sing songs on my list because there isn’t any long sustaining high pitch lines. What’s more, there aren’t any background vocals so it could mean that this song is best sung with amazing and reasonably powerful vocals. What are the chances with me? But I guess it’s better than long sustaining high-pitch lines.
 
  Asai nemuri tsudzuku reimei ni,
  Hitori inori ni komete ori ageru,
  Namida aoi kumo ni kizamarete,
  Itoshii anata no kage oikakeru
 
This song is purely a rock song and it fit quites nicely for the setting of the anime. You can guess that it’s such a song with the wild playing of the synthesizers as its opening. The guitaring itself too has quite some heavy rock playing in it especially the solo part. Accompanied with heavy bass and drum beats, it may get a little loud at certain parts. So if you wanna feel what it’s like to attend a noisy rock concert, turn up the volume and dance like in a trance, shouting and screaming while you’re at it. Nope, I haven’t done it myself. But it’s good to know this song does have such potential.
 
  Nikushimi no honoo uzumaku kono chijou de,
  Kegare naki kokoro tsuranuiteku,
  Atsuki atsuki chikai
 
Since the lyrics do not generally repeat itself, I find myself hard to remember them all even after singing (or even listening) several times. Given that as mentioned earlier on, I don’t understand the words to this song. Maybe just the first few lines of the chorus. Ah well, better be happy with what I have. Say, Nana Mizuki, fancy having another go of this number with me?
 
  Ruri iro ni kagayaku kira no hitomi,
  Yami yori no tsukai ni tozasarete mo,
  Tsunaida yume no hashi yuukyuu ni tsudzuri yuku,
  Kanderu kiseki kitto…
 
Basilisk

School Days

June 21, 2008

Probably the name may sound just like an ordinary tv series but I assure you that after watching School Days, it’s more than just ordinary and the ending will leave viewers in shock and aghast. Sure, at first the series may start out as an ordinary typical love-comedy harem kind of genre but when it reaches halfway, things get really complicated and will take a much unpleasant turn.
 
The tv series has 12 episodes and is based on a pc dating simulation game of the same name and is one of those many pc games which has been adapted and given the anime treatment. I’m sure during our high school years or teenage years, we’ve encountered or experienced several love incidents, or at least just watching from afar like yours truly :'(. Love is like a double-edged sword. It can sometimes be that nice and lovely feeling or it can really hurt. Sharper than any cut from a sword.
 
So this story in particular focuses on a Sakakino High School student, Makoto Itou, who seems to have a crush on this particular girl of the same year, Kotonoha Katsura. As seen in episode 1, the duo rides the same train to school every day. I suppose this is his first time being in love so I guess he’s pretty much admiring from a distance and takes a picture of her with his handphone. There’s a charm rumour saying that if one takes a pic of the person he/she likes and it’s not found out, that love will come true. In class, Makoto’s friend, Sekai Saionji, spots this pic and decides to play matchmaking for him. So much for that charm. Yeah, it lasted for a day only. Sekai is willing to go the distance for Makoto and even made friends with Kotonoha since the latter doesn’t have much friends too. Before you know it, Sekai invites Makoto for lunch at the school rooftop with Kotonoha. Since Sekai is the only member of the astrology club, she has the keys and access to the rooftop. It’s like a personal getaway. Though Makoto’s heart isn’t ready yet and has nervous jibes, but he eventually has to give in after all that ‘persuasion’ from Sekai. Another funny part is that Makoto’s friend, the loudmouth and wanna-have-a-girlfriend-but-is-a-loser, Taisuke Sawanaga, calls Makoto in the middle of a discussion just to find out whether he’s hitting on a girl!
 
On the rooftop, though Kotonoha’s bento was less appetising, nothing much happens even Sekai made up some excuse to leave them both alone. But the next day, Makoto decides to be a man and finally confesses to Kotonoha at the train station and surprisingly she accepts. Later Kotonoha tells Sekai about Makoto’s confession and reveals that she too has been secretly admiring Makoto from a distance. That evening when Makoto is waiting for a train ride home, he spots Sekai and wonders if she goes home the same way he does. Sekai mentions that her ride is in the opposite direction of his. Makoto is grateful for what Sekai has done but before anything else can happen, Sekai kisses Makoto on his lips, leaving him stunned as she boards her train home. Ah well, the start of the harem and of course, trouble.
 
Episode 2 sees Makoto and Kotonoha dating as a couple but that guy is so clueless about dating (even after reading a guide on how to date), that you feel like you just want to slap him in the face and tell that poor girl to dump him. I mean, that guy went to play video games on their outing and even tried to get a kiss from her. Ugh. Look at that perverted puckering lips. Any girl would lose interest. Luckily the train door shuts before he can do some kissy kissy moves when they’re parting. When Sekai gets to know about this, she scolds him out loud. Yeah, she has a tendency to stand up and shout back at Makoto during class. And the teacher will have to tell her off. Better to concentrate on the lesson than what’s going on in Makoto’s love life. But I guess this is more interesting. After chiding him about not knowing a girl’s feelings, Sekai hands over 2 cinema tickets to Makoto so that he could kiss Kotonoha when the mood is right. Uh huh, some teasing seducing play from Sekai there. She even tells him that the previous night’s kiss was just a greeting. I’m coming to think that Sekai is some sort of a dating sifu. Plus, Sekai has a petite friend, Setsuna Kiyora, who has that jealous and suspicious kinda look but actually is looking out for Sekai.
 
So the next day Makoto and Kotonoha are on yet another date. Makoto thinks hard of which type of movie is best for them to watch and decides to go with the romantic one. However it seems Kotonoha prefers the horror one. Ah well. But during the movie, Makoto is watching a more interesting ‘show’. Yeah, he can’t take his eyes of Kotonoha. He let his perverted side get the better of him and decides to smooch Kotonoha but she spots his horrible perverted face and gives him a slap! Back in class, Makoto reports to Sekai what has happened and another ‘aho’ (moron) scolding from the grand master of matchmaking. Also Makoto is feeling down since that incident and his self-confidence a little shaken. Later in the evening at the playground, Sekai went to have a chat with Kotonoha to give her some encouragement and tells her that Makoto is doing his best to suppress his pervertness (yeah right). Even Sekai did a perverted move on her by squeezing her large boobs! When Kotonoha asks about their closeness, Sekai tells her that they just sit next to each other and because of so, they’re close to each other in that sense. More ‘advice’ from Sekai to Makoto the next day and wants him to go apologize. When Makoto does it didn’t go too well (more on Kotonoha’s part) so Sekai has to intervene once again by telling Kotonoha that she should consider his feelings as well. After much thought, Kotonoha meets Makoto at the train station and apologizes for what she had said earlier on and well, kisses him. Is this guy lucky or what.
 
Yeah, Makoto gets invited to Kotonoha’s home in episode 3. But before that, Sekai again warns Makoto of doing things too fast. I guess Makoto thinks he’s got the flow of this dating thing and starts to question Sekai’s words. But the things is, another one of Sekai’s friends, Hikari Kuroda, spots Makoto and Kotonoha together and SMS Sekai about it that her boyfriend is cheating on her. Yeah, Makoto is once again trying to kiss Kotonoha and is scaring the wits out of her so much so she runs away into the train when it arrives. Saved by the train? Another criticism from Sekai saying that it’s too soon to get physical but Makoto thinks it isn’t wrong since they’re dating. Even Setsuna comes to the cafe where Sekai works part time to tell her about her boyfriend cheating on her but Sekai tells that she and Makoto aren’t dating in particular and he’s not his boyfriend. So looks like her buddies think that Makoto and Sekai are an item. Is Sekai hiding something? Kotonoha takes the bus to avoid seeing Makoto but he apologizes to her during recess at the rooftop.
 
Sunday comes and Makoto arrives at Kotonoha’s doorstep. He is introduced to her cute little sister, Kokoro, who is so thrilled that her sister has got a boyfriend. She is so over the moon to meet him. Yeah, she really wants to play with him. Nothing hentai lah. Things like playing horseback ride and well, setting up some ‘lover’ games for Kotonoha and Makoto. Makes you wonder why she don’t she get a boyfriend of her own. Too young? Age isn’t a barrier when it comes to love! The day ends when innocent Kokoro wonders why they both call each other using their surnames instead of their first names, since they’re lovers. This question seems to stump the duo. As Kotonoha walks Makoto to the train station, they decide to call each other with their first names. The train arrives and looks like Makoto isn’t giving up on kissing Kotonoha yet. But since his face seems less perverted this time, she pecks him on his cheek. Surprise surprise. But there’s another surprise in store. Once Makoto returns to his apartment, he calls Sekai and tells her that dating Kotonoha is… tiring. WTF???!!! Is this a sign that he’s bored with her?! He got his wish and now he’s got the guts to say this crap?! Real jerk. I hope Kotonoha will be alright.
 
In episode 4 while Kokoro asks her sis if she has kissed Makoto yet (which she directly answer nor deny), Sekai is spacing out and can only think about the time she kissed Makoto. Then at the rooftop we see that Makoto hasn’t really got tired of Kotonoha yet because he’s kissing and groping her breasts making Kotonoha embarrassed. You can see that disappointed perverted face when Kotonoha tells him that he’s going it all too fast. So Kotonoha calls Sekai that night for some advice and the latter asks what is her ideal place for something romantic. Well, I guess it’s okay for every girl to dream for a handsome prince on a white steed. Another outing between Makoto and Kotonoha the next day and Makoto accidentally got his hands on Kotonoha’s breasts when the train suddenly shakes. Though Kotonoha apologizes, Makoto just mentions that she doesn’t like to be touched. Another ‘meeting’ between Makoto and Sekai and as usual the latter blasts Makoto for being to fast. Makoto is complaining that he isn’t getting much ‘physical’ with Kotonoha. So that’s his problem?
 
Sekai decides to help him out by suggesting a special training. Sekai takes him to various places like the secluded park area but it seems other passerbys caught glimpse of their unholy act. Nearly caught with their pants down. So the safest place is back on their school rooftop. Make a good guess what this special training is all about. Well, Sekai’s idea of helping Makoto is to ‘practice’ on her. OMG! Now she’s turning into a slut! Can’t blame entirely on Makoto. Which guy would ever refuse such ‘practice’. Even though Makoto feels Sekai’s boobs aren’t as big as Kotonoha’s, but I guess that pervert would just gladly dig in. Sekai tries to resist at first but eventually gives in. A sign that she may like Makoto deep down and perhaps take their relationship to more than just friends. Makoto could’ve get more creative if he hadn’t received an SMS from Kotonoha. I think Makoto is getting the hang of this ‘practice’ and even asks if he could continue more with Sekai. But Sekai tells him that he should use what he had learned on Kotonoha instead. Soon Makoto bumps into Kotonoha and the latter invites him to a water park. Makoto agrees as Sekai looks on from a distance with a sad expression.
 
Episode 5 is your typical fanservice episode with the girls in their swimsuits. Here, not only Makoto and Kotonoha are at the water park, but Sekai, Setsuna, Hikari and Taisuke tags along too. We find out that Hikari has a crush on Taisuke but is too shy to confess. Funny how love works. But this Taisuke guy is bloody oblivious and has his sights set on Kotonoha instead. Uh huh, Sekai did proclaim how she got Makoto and Kotonoha together and Taisuke excitedly wants Sekai to do some matchmaking for him. Hikari isn’t looking too pleased… Anyway Makoto teaches Kotonoha to swim while the rest have their own fun. As the gang regroups for lunch, Taisuke brings up the matter by saying that he thought Makoto was dating Sekai. However, Kotonoha confidently tells that she’s the 1 who’s dating Makoto. Sekai’s pals aren’t too please to hear that and are slightly confused. Once they’re ready to head home, Sekai again chides Makoto for being too friendly with the other girls and tells him that the ‘practice’ wasn’t supposed to be taken seriously and that she and him are just friends as he belongs to Kotonoha. Yeah, earlier on, Makoto did mention he wants to continue with the ‘practice’ even if Sekai refuses. Later, Makoto wants to meet up with Sekai and though she ignored his SMS but eventually decides to go see him. Upon meeting, Makoto suddenly hugs her and confess that he loves her. Oh so this guy is into two-timing, is he? Even if Sekai try to explain that this is unfair to Kotonoha bla bla bla, I guess Sekai gives in to her own desires to be with Makoto. The 2 locked lips and when they come back to Makoto’s place, the ‘practice’ isn’t just practice and is for real this time.
 
Seems this practice has turned into a routine in episode 6. Sekai falling into Makoto’s pressure to ‘practice’. Poor Kotonoha. She’s all in the dark. Though Sekai wants Makoto to come clean with Kotonoha, they never did manage to tell her all that has happened behind her back (fearing that she’ll be mad? Oh this is gonna turn out to be 1 fine big mess). Setsuna is suspicious about their relationship and asks Sekai if Makoto has broke up with Kotonoha, in which Sekai lied and said yes. While Kotonoha is on her way home, she spots Makoto and Sekai kissing in a train but dismisses it herself. Then 1 day as Makoto reluctantly walks home with Kotonoha (he had to because Sekai tells him he must since Kotonoha is his girlfriend), you can see Makoto’s cold ignorant attitude towards her. I mean, that poor girl tripped and fell and he stood there not helping her as though he doesn’t care anymore about her. Which is partly true too. The next day in Kotonoha’s class, we see a classmate of hers, Otome Katou, being pressured by her 3 pals, Kumi, Natsumi and Minami (whom I’ll refer to the 3 stooges, but more wicked. You’ll see why), to tell them the guy she likes. And the way things look, she seems to indicate Makoto! Holy cow! So another girl takes a liking for jerk Makoto. Since Kotonoha overheard that conversation, she quickly tells them steadfast that she is Makoto’s girlfriend and his dating him. Otome and the 3 stooges don’t like it very much. Otome even SMS her pal, Nanami Kanroji (looks a bit like Tatsuki of Bleach), to confirm whether this is true or not. Over the series, I find that Otome and her 3 stooges are being cold to Kotonoha, bullying her in every aspect, since Kotonoha is on the committee for the upcoming school festival. Meanwhile Makoto and Sekai are on the rooftop and that guy is having more than just desserts, if you know what I mean. Kotonoha decides to have a break and meet Makoto and goes to the rooftop. Upon reaching the door, to her horror, she overhears them confessing their love to each other and Sekai is already half stripped. Kotonoha watches through the door window as they both make out… Just great. Okay Kotonoha, this is your chance to dump that philandering bastard!
 
Even so, Kotonoha is still in denial and thinks Makoto is her boyfriend in episode 7. Poor girl. She even wonders if Makoto is drifting away from her since she can’t get physical with him while knitting a sweater for him. At class, Taisuke comes to tell that a representative for the festival is injured so the teacher appoints Makoto as a replacement. Meanwhile Otome and her 3 stooges are harassing Kotonoha by playing guilty mind games with her to get more materials for their festival’s ‘lounge’. Yeah, they got a video camera too. During the committee meeting, Kotonoha is happy that Makoto is on the team and tries to catch glimpse of him but Setsuna, who’s also on the committee, gave her that intimidating stare. After the meeting, Kotonoha tries to talk to Makoto but Setsuna forcefully drags him away and then takes his handphone and blocks all incoming calls or SMS from Kotonoha and says all this is for Sekai. Can she do that? But the thing is, even if Makoto is against it, he didn’t undo that block. Kotonoha tries to SMS and call Makoto but gets an error message instead. What’s more, Otome and her 3 stooges are continuing to flex their muscles over Kotonoha. Makoto once again bumps into Kotonoha but before anything could happen, Setsuna pulls Makoto away. Makoto breaks free this time and decides to go talk to Kotonoha but sees her talking with Taisuke in a room. He eavesdrop to find that Taisuke is asking Kotonoha if she would like to be his dance partner at the festival (a rumour about couples who dance together at the festival will be together forever) since she and Makoto broke up. Kotonoha is shocked to hear that but asserts that she is still Makoto’s boyfriend before rushing out. She bumps into Makoto outside and it seems Nanami too has overheard it. Nanami chides Kotonoha for being unfair because she thinks she’s trying to seduce both Makoto and Taisuke. Since Makoto didn’t say anything to deny or protect her, Kotonoha soon runs away. Damn jerk. Feel like strangling him.
 
It took him long enough to unblock all calls and messages from Kotonoha then. Sekai is at Makoto’s place and she tells him what Setsuna has done. But the doorbell rings and Makoto to his surprise finds Kotonoha there. She says her handphone has malfunctioned and wanted to go see him but Makoto replies that his handphone is fixed now. Though Kotonoha wants to come in, Makoto gives an excuse that he’s not feeling well. Kotonoha then spots another pair of shoes and fears it’s Sekai’s. Kotonoha then asks Makoto if he would like to be her dance partner at the festival. He gives that neutral non-binding answer, "I’ll think about it". Great answer, buddy. After Kotonoha leaves, Sekai has overheard their conversation and is pissed off because Makoto is acting like her girlfriend. Which is partly true, right? Or did she forget that he hasn’t really officially break up with her? Sekai storms out not heeding Makoto’s word that she may bump into Kotonoha. True enough, the 2 girls met just downstairs outside the apartment. Kotonoha comes up to Sekai and tells her that this isn’t fair and slaps her. She deserves it too.
 
Episode 8 sees Sekai talking to Setsuna about her relationship with Makoto. Because of that incident, Sekai skips class the next day and thinks back about the things Kotonoha said back to her then how she was the one who introduced her to Makoto but then is secretly dating him. In class, Makoto reprimands Setsuna for being too hard on Kotonoha but when she asks if he’s going out with Sekai or Kotonoha, he tells her to stay out of it since it’s none of her business. Based on his uneasy answers, Setsuna tells him to visit Sekai. After school, he goes visit Sekai and the latter tells that she is sick and that slapping she got. I guess Setsuna decides to confirm it herself when she too visits Sekai that night and asks if Makoto will break up with Kotonoha, in which Sekai answers yes. Next day on the train to school, Kotonoha gets hold of Makoto and tells him that she’ll let him do stuffs with her and asks him to be her partner at the dance. Kotonoha seems desperate and even tells him that it’s okay to touch her breasts. Yeah well, that guy has no qualms about that last bit. The scene changes to Setsuna’s dark empty room and she’s answering a phone call in French.
 
The day of the festival arrives and it seems Makoto’s class is doing a waitress cafe and having a huge pink Potemayo-like mascot to rake in the customers. But they are being rivalled by another 2 class who are doing little kindergarten sister cafe and zombie cafe (seriously who would want to go dine in a cafe filled with scary zombies. But it works!). Anyway the havoc caused some damage. Setsuna and Makoto are trying to find materials to fix up when Setsuna tells him that she is leaving for France soon due to her parent’s job. Thus she is doing all this for Sekai’s sake. She tells him how in the past, Sekai was a loner until she became her friend. So she wants Makoto to be her replacement and be there for Sekai once she is gone. However, Setsuna hasn’t told Sekai of this yet and will tell her once the time is right. Setsuna then has a flashback of when Makoto saved her from being bullied and teased by a bunch of kids during her first year. Because of Makoto’s words and encouragement, Setsuna decides to follow his suggestion of becoming a class rep. Back in present time, the class have finish their repair and Makoto is so tired that he slept there with his back against the wall. Setsuna then says to herself how she’ll make some memories for herself as she leans over and kisses Makoto on his lips while he’s asleep! Woah! This is really turning out to be a true harem series. I can’t believe this shorty also likes him! After all that she has witnessed, so is that doing all for Sekai just a cover up? Anyway Kotonoha walks into the room looking for Makoto and spots Setsuna’s mischief… It’s gonna get a little messy.
 
Episode 9 continues off with Setsuna and Kotonoha having a little conflict. Kotonoha wonders if Setsuna too likes Makoto but the latter denies and says she’s doing this all for Sekai and this little kiss is just a memory for herself since she’s going away. Nanami soon arrives and Kotonoha excuses herself. I’m not sure what the next scene means because Setsuna is alone at a play and the acting is playing guilty minds with her for what she has done. Meanwhile Makoto and Sekai are working at their classroom cafe and that guy is fondling her butt. This made Sekai to give him a knee kick in his crotch. We see Kotonoha as an attendant at the ‘lounge’ when Otome and the 3 stooges come up to her with their usual harassment. Kotonoha is doing some SMS to Makoto but due to those bullies, she has to man and be stationed at the lounge the whole day and can’t be with Makoto. Later, I find out that this ‘lounge’ is a place where couples come to have sex! Is this allowed in the first place?! Taisuke then spots Kotonoha and asks her again to be his dance partner, but she refuses. Makoto takes a break to go round the festival and bumps into Otome. Seems that they’re childhood friends and Otome musters up her courage to be his dance partner. Makoto is surprised that Otome, a girl whom he’s never seen as a girl (due to her tomboyish-ness back then) likes him. Then he takes a good look at her and even comes to think that she looks kinda pretty. Just great. Real great. Sekai then shows up to bring Makoto back to work as she thinks he’s slacking. But as they head back, they see Kokoro and a classmate of hers visiting the festival. But their stay is short. Not before Kokoro tells Makoto how her sis is looking forward to the dance with him, making Sekai a little jealous.
 
Meanwhile the 3 stooges continue to bully Kotonoha by wondering if Makoto is truly her boyfriend, in which Kotonoha repeatedly affirms. She tells them that he hasn’t been around probably he’s busy with the festival’s work. Not really. We see him and Sekai talking and the latter wants to know if he would be his dance partner. Uh huh. He said yes this time. So is that answer just to get her off his back? Outside the school garden, a depressed Taisuke bumps into Otome. He tells her how he likes Kotonoha but is disappointed to find that she’s still going out with Makoto. Otome tells him to be a man and do it or else he’ll never get what he wants. With that Taisuke is all pumped up ready to try again. So is Otome. With Taisuke getting Kotonoha, this means, she’ll get Makoto. Makoto returns to find his handphone with over 20 SMS from Kotonoha! Is that crazy or what?! In his surpise and guilt, he decides to go see her but bumps into Otome, who then takes him to the ‘lounge’. Inside, Otome confesses to him and wants to be more than just friends. Yeah, they soon make out. The dance is near and Makoto leaves telling Otome that it’s best nobody knows of this. Kotonoha has returned and finds Taisuke there. He tells her that Makoto has gone to the dance with Sekai and that he has betrayed her but assures that he himself wouldn’t do such a thing before confessing his love for her. At the dance, Makoto and Sekai are dancing while Setsuna watches them from afar. At the same time, Kotonoha is in a shock over what she has just heard and because of that, she doesn’t fight back or response when Taisuke starts undressing her and takes advantage of her wavering emotions. Can this amount to rape?
 
Episode 10 sees Makoto and Sekai dancing and even kissing. Kotonoha is semi-naked after being raped and is shocked to see the duo dancing. But the next day, Makoto lies to Kotonoha saying that he was waiting at the ‘lounge’ for her. This seems to comfort her a little. When Taisuke tries to ask Kotonoha out again, she once again rejects him saying Makoto is her boyfriend. Taisuke is in shock and runs over to Makoto to confirm it. That idiot denies he is dating Kotonoha and that it’s over between them. At the school’s dumpsite, Makoto gets a surprise visit from Setsuna who is wondering if he has really broke up with Kotonoha. Makoto is pissed off that everyone seems to be wanting to know the status of the duo. She tells him to properly break up and have eyes only for Sekai. Kotonoha then shows up and wants to invite Makoto over to her family yacht but Setsuna butts in saying on his behalf that he can’t because of an important meeting with her. Just then, Makoto is trying to break up with Kotonoha but she thinks he’s joking and that Setsuna is behind all this, forcing him to say it. Kotonoha then threatens to tell Setsuna kissed Makoto when Setsuna pulls off a fast one by kissing Makoto first. Kotonoha’s desperate attempt to win back Makoto seems futile as finally Makoto tells her that he’s breaking up with her and that she should’ve know understood that when he turn up for her. Yup, he doesn’t love her anymore. This is the most crushing devastating blow to Kotonoha. After all that she has witnessed, she stood by this jerk thick and thin and this is what she gets in return?
 
Yeah, that stupid Makoto is seen doing it with Otome in the storeroom. This guy can do it anywhere. Unknown to them, Setsuna is outside, saddened from what she’s hearing. From now on, Kotonoha is going crazy. Back at her home, Kokoro notices her sister acting strange. What is she planning to do with that knife?! Anyway Setsuna decides to visit Makoto’s place to have a talk with him. Setsuna mentions about that storeroom incident but he says that it’s none of her business. She tells him to break up with Otome as this will cause problems with Sekai. Makoto realizes that Setsuna likes him as he hasn’t told any of these to Sekai yet. He takes advantage of the situation by pushing her onto his bed. But Setsuna didn’t fight back. She even tells him that she’s willing to give her body as long as he breaks up with Otome and let Sekai be the only girl in his life. I don’t think that guy’s listening. He’s just in for the sex. So how many girls has his done with already? I feel like I don’t want to keep the score.
 
The next day, Nanami invites Sekai to some school basketball club party and Nanami jokes that Makoto may be dating Setsuna. However Sekai brushes it off because she can’t really see that happening. Oh it’s right under your nose as we speak. Along the way, they meet up with Otome and Nanami introduces her to Sekai. Then a senior girl student calls for everyone’s attention and starts rolling the film. It seems that there was a video camera during hidden in the ‘lounge’ and every sex activity that has occurred has been recorded! Nanami then saw herself doing it with her boyfriend. She screams in horror and breaks down. Except for the perpetrators, who’re having a good time teasing those horrified ‘victim’ girls about it must’ve been a happy festival memory. Sekai decides to leave with Nanami when she caught glimpse a footage of Makoto doing it with Otome. Sekai tries to contact Makoto and rushes over to his place. Along the way, she bumps into Kotonoha, whose eyes are now ‘lifeless’. She tells her that Setsuna may be with Makoto. Instigating? Can’t blame her. At the airport, Setsuna is seen leaving as Makoto is looking for her. I wonder why he wants to do so. Can’t get enough of that fling yet? Setsuna remembers the time when Sekai begs her to switch sits with her so that she can be next to Makoto. Upon realizing that Sekai likes Makoto, she agrees. After this, we won’t see Setsuna anymore.
 
In episode 11, Sekai is shocked of the sudden departure of Setsuna so much so she skips school. Partly she is also depressed over Makoto’s betrayal. Speaking of which, it seems Hikari is now doing it with Makoto! Woah! Wow! I can’t believe this guy! Hikari’s initial reason to do it with Makoto is so that she could get him to persuade Sekai out of her gloominess. What is this girl thinking? So far, he’s just giving that I’ll-do-it-soon answer. Things indicate that Makoto may no longer be interested in Sekai. Now Hikari’s really into 1 big mess as well. Hikari goes to visit Sekai to cheer her up. She says a cheeky remark like if she leaves Makoto alone too lone, she (Hikari) might use this chance to cheat her. This causes Hikari to slam the door on her. Not good, even if it’s meant to be a joke. Meanwhile, Otome is having a hard time contacting Makoto and wants her 3 stooges to help look for him. But they say it isn’t their problem. Otome storms off to find Makoto. Then 1 of the 3 stooges notes how Otome is acting weird after that party video and wonders how good is this Makoto guy and wants to try it out to see for themselves. You know what I’m thinking? Right on. But before that, we see Makoto doing it with Hikari once more, this time in the science lab. Of all places… Once over, he bumps into the 3 stooges. Later at Makoto’s place, we see the 3 stooges there and your guess is at good as mine. So this guy has done it to nearly every main girl in this series. So now he’s into orgy? Could it get worse? I’m speculating that he’ll get one with Nanami to rid her depression and in an extreme case, if he ever develops loli-fetish, will go for Kokoro. Hey, nothing’s impossible for him, right?
 
Kotonoha on the other hand is sinking further into her own craziness and is mentally unstable, talking to herself and as though Makoto is on the end of the phone. Sekai is going through all her SMS messages when she feels something not right in her tummy… Oh oh. The next day, Sekai comes to class but Makoto isn’t excited to see her. Sekai wants to talk to him that she missed her period. Then it hit Makoto. Just like the useless bum he is, he doesn’t want to take the responsibility and even accuses her of lying! Sekai mentions that she has did it with nobody else except him and he is the father. I don’t know where Makoto gets his thinking but he’s wondering why Sekai could ‘make this happen’. WTF?! Having enough of his ignorance, Sekai screams out loud that he needs to take some responsibility of this child of his. Now this has got to be more than just embarrassing. Sekai feels sickly and is rushed to the infirmary. That news spreads throughout the school and since the 3 stooges did it ‘properly’, they don’t have to worry and decides to ditch him. Later as Makoto confide his problems to Hikari, she also tells him off and that even though she did it ‘properly’ too, she don’t want to same fate to befall on her. Read: You’ve been dumped.
 
Makoto is pissed off about everyone’s attitude (should look at himself first) when Otome calls if she could come over. Makoto excitedly agrees. When Otome arrives at his doorstep, she wants to ask him about the rumours about Sekai’s pregnancy. Makoto then shrugs it off and says it’s not his fault. Otome is shocked by his answer and now knows the kind of jerk he is and leaves. She tells him that he was a much nicer person back then and now he has completely changed. Yes! She dumps him! Break it off with him girl. Everyone is starting to leave this bastard. Good thing Otome’s a smart girl and even if it’s love, there has to be a limit to all this. Makoto is then wandering around through town and tries to call his ‘recently acquired’ harem girls but no one is answering. While running through his phone pics, he sees the 1 he first took of Kotonoha. Then the real Kotonoha appears in front of him. Initially she’s out in the cold, doing pretending stuff that she and Makoto will be a real couple. She’s still talking nonsense though. Makoto realizes what he has done to her. Kotonoha’s still talking that she loves him, which makes Makoto to emotionally hug her and wonders why Kotonoha still loves him after all that he’s put her through. You’ll never realize the value of something when it’s gone. Kotonoha’s eyes seem to show some sign of life.
 
Episode 12 begins with Makoto taking out Kotonoha to a fancy restaurant but he gets shock when Sekai calls him over his handphone. Sekai is at his place cooking dinner and wants him to come home. Makoto is trying to cover up but his nervousness causes Sekai to suspect that he is with Kotonoha. He tries to blame Sekai for that outburst in class and tells her to stop pretending to be his boyfriend and go home. In Sekai’s rage, she SMS back to him that she’ll go home, not before she makes a mess out of the kitchen by spilling all the food. On her way back, she spots Makoto and Kotonoha and decides to go back there. At Makoto’s place, he decides to make tea for her but finds the place rather messy. The doorbell rings and Kotonoha opens the door to find Sekai there. Sekai slaps her this time and demands to know why she’s here. She continues to yell that Makoto has broken up with her and such but Kotonoha replies that it’s only what she wants to believe and that Makoto has loved her all along. Kotonoha mentions that it’s part of Sekai and Setsuna’s plan to break them apart. Just then, Sekai remembers the time when things indicated that Setsuna may like Makoto but dismisses it because she’s her best friend. After that, Kotonoha assures her love for Makoto as the duo passionately kissed right in front of Sekai. I think Makoto just obliged because he wants to get out of this tangled mess. Can he?
 
As Sekai leaves, she’s having flashbacks of the time when Setsuna mentions that Makoto is a nice guy. Then that weird play again in which Setsuna experiences a few episodes back. This time, they’re implying that it’s Sekai’s fault. If she had never introduced Makoto to Kotonoha or switched seats, all this would never have happened. Sekai then gets an SMS from Makoto saying that Kotonoha has recommended a good hospital and that she gets an abortion as soon as possible. The next day, Makoto gets an SMS from Sekai saying that she wants to meet him alone at his place. Sekai goes off to make tea but creates an SMS to send to Makoto. His handphone rings and he is puzzled to see that the SMS message "I’m sorry", is from Sekai as he keeps scrolling down. At the bottom, it reads "Goodbye". Makoto then realized but as he turned around, Sekai charges at him and stabs him with a knife! OMG! Not only that, she stabbed him multiple times! I know at times I want to see this guy dead, but this… I didn’t really see this coming. It’s really bloody. Sekai then realizes what she has done and runs away. Later Kotonoha comes by to see Makoto’s lifeless body.
 
Sekai is hiding in her room when she receives an SMS from Makoto to meet her at the school rooftop. Puzzled, she goes anyway but remains cautious. Sekai finds a bag on the bench and Kotonoha soon appears and asks her if she had went to the hospital. Sekai says no. Kotonoha then accuses Sekai of faking her pregnancy but the latter denies and says everything she and Makoto did was out of passion. Kotonoha counters that statement by saying that if she was pregnant, she could’ve got a confirmation from the hospital but since she didn’t means that she’s hiding something and that her pregnancy was made up. Since Sekai mentions she too wants to be Makoto’s boyfriend, Kotonoha tells her to look in that bag. I think it’s supposed to be Makoto’s head. Sekai is shocked and gets that sickly feeling when Kotonoha unravels a knife to see for herself whether Sekai’s lying or not. Sekai tries to defend herself with the knife she stabbed Makoto with but got slashed. Then Kotonoha rips open Sekai’s stomach and says that it’s fake after all. Gruesome. I’m not an expert on this area but can you really see anything developing like that? But Kotonoha had that happy mad killer’s look on her face. The next day, Kotonoha is seen hugging Makoto’s head on her yacht as she says how that they’re both alone now. As Makoto narrates the lines of how he admires Kotonoha back in the 1st episode, we see the other students in Sakakino resuming with their normal lives.
 
Ah well, this is sure a bloody fine mess it turned out to be. Though I’d prefer most harem animes to end on a happy feel good note, based on the turn of events in this series, I must say that the ending was quite a shocker to me at first. But because so, I find it quite appropriate. It’s a good thing that I’ve watched this anime. So that I can learn by watching from the mistakes of others and not repeat it myself. We also see how a little problem has been transformed into a big one and I could say that this is more than just a love triangle. Yeah, love hurts literally.
 
With such ending, it left me wondering a few things such as, now that everything has turned back to normal for the rest, won’t they feel awkward when Makoto, Sekai or Kotonoha are missing? I mean, the way I see it is as though the trio has been erased from their memories. And what will happen to Kotonoha? Her life is now ruined seeing that she has murdered somebody, no matter what the reason. I wonder how this will affect little Kokoro then. I also wonder how Setsuna will feel knowing that her buddy is dead. But that’s another story.
 
We can see here that this Makoto guy isn’t the kind of person we all should become. As far as I’m concerned, he is never in love with the girls whom he had sex with. He got himself into a relationship just because of the sex. Yeah, how typical of a harem guy not to choose a girl he wants to be at the end. Kinda feels that way. Remember, having multiple sex partners will lead to a higher chance in contracting HIV and AIDS. He’s worse than his buddy Taisuke (okay, maybe that rape part on Kotonoha isn’t good but it’s better than Makoto). He’s worse than a sex fiend, worse than a monster. Every viewer hates him and probably got their wish when he died at the end. Ironically, his name means ‘sincerity’ in Japanese. Funny, huh? Didn’t really lived up to his name.
 
As for Sekai, she too is as bad as Makoto himself. At first it seems like even though she likes him very much so much that she would suppress her feelings for him (in denial) and go to great lengths just for him, including getting the girl he initially likes and especially that ‘practice’. Where is her dignity? I’m not sure if you can call this friendship. Ultimately Sekai’s bottled up feelings are just like a ticking time bomb or volcano. It eventually explodes. Too late to be true to her feelings. Kotonoha on the other hand is the character which I find most pitiful. You can see her fragile state of character as she too undergoes some sort of denial state at first. Why do nice girls like her have to end up like this? Because of this, I learned a new word, yandere. It is a term referring to a character who is lovely and gentle in the beginning but towards the end, he/she becomes psychotic, violent, brutal and probably fatal. Scary. A total opposite from being tsundere. Kotonoha is a classic example.
 
Prior to the release of this tv series, there has been a 6 episode ONA release of the series. I have not watched the ONA version before, but from what I read, it’s just a compilation of the multiple endings of the pc game. Plus, the tv series is said to be an alternate retelling of the ONA version. From first looks, the art, drawing and animation of both the tv series and ONA looks consistent and the same. Your typical wide-eyed school going characters.
 
Speaking of the pc game, later I found out that the pc game itself is quite infamous because of its gruesome and violent endings. Yeah, the game has 20 over different endings (probably for replaying value) with some of them being labelled as ‘bad endings’. I guess if they’re gonna adapt this game into a tv series, might as well give a shocking end instead of a run-of-the-mill live-happily-forever kinda conclusion in this rather saturated genre.
 
Other trivial things I kinda noticed over the series include the mid-intermission which somehow reminds me of Keitai Shoujo because we see the characters in chibi form next to a handphone. Even the ending animation shows pictures of the characters through a handphone screen. I didn’t really noticed it, but there are 8 different ending themes to the series. That’s because I always skip watching the end credits since the music didn’t really stand out nor grab my attention. Also, the title of each episode is at the end just before the end credits while the next episode preview is like typing an SMS over the handphone to an eerily silent background. Are handphones the theme of the series as well?
 
I would definitely recommend every teenagers to watch this series which also has some psychological and slice of life bits in addition to the drama and initial comedy-romance. Though it may not be appropriate for younger audiences due to the many sex parts and bloody gore at the end. But it serves as a good reminder and lesson to everyone. Which reminds me, since Makoto and Sekai did danced together at the festival, the legend of being together did came true, right? Yeah, they’re probably together for eternity in the after world. Burn in hell you two! Ahem, I shouldn’t be so mean even if they both deserved what they got. And remember, one piece of advice: Don’t f*ck around!
 
School Days

Grenadier vs Trigun

June 20, 2008

Another day another versus. What am I talking about anyway? Though action shoot ’em ups aren’t really anime genres which I look for, nevertheless it wasn’t that disappointing when I watched Grenadier first and then Trigun much later. Mainly it’s because there’s this comedy element in them, the reason why I decided to watch them.
 
In both animes, you can expect lots of cool gunslinging action and manoeuvers. Those who haven’t watched such action flicks before may be taken in by their awesome exaggerated moves. Well yeah, that’s what makes it fun and exciting in the first place. As such, I also find some similarities and differences between both series. What are they? Read on…
 
The main hero/heroine
Both the main characters are likeable blonde peace loving people and uses violence (surpressed, that is) as a last resort and when forced to. Isn’t that what a hero or heroine should be like?
Grenadier: Rushuna Tendou.
Trigun: Vash The Stampede.
 
Nickname
They are also known by this other name.
Grenadier: At first Rushuna was known as Grenadier – Annihilator Of Senshi because she was framed for taking out high ranking Senshis. In the end, she was bestowed the title Grenadier – The Smiling Senshi due to her ever smiling ways.
Trigun: Known as The Humanoid Typhoon due to the fact that the destruction he leaves behind in every town he visits. Amazingly, no lost of lives though.
 
Personality
One word to sum up their character.
Grenadier: Rushuna though is naive, she still stands strongly to her believes. Don’t make her mad because she won’t give you her smile. And that means trouble.
Trigun: Vash is an idiotic dork, though he still stands firmly to his believes. Don’t make him mad because he’s got that scary and intimidating look. Enough to make a grown men cower in fear.
 
Flirt
Ah, the mystery of chemistry, not.
Grenadier: Rushuna allows friend or foe to lie deep in her bossoms. It’s her way of making her opponents lose their will to fight. Who wouldn’t after experiencing such ‘soft and comfortable’… erm… let’s just say pillow.
Trigun: Well well. Vash is indeed a little pervert himself. If he sees any pretty lady, he’ll not hesitate to flirt with her and in some extreme cases, propose marriage! Gasp! Thankfully, those ladies are smart enough to fall for a dork like him.
 
Age
How old the main characters are.
Grenadier: Rushuna is 16 years old. Can’t believe she’s so gorgeous at this age.
Trigun: Vash is 131 years old! Can’t believe that guy still looks good at that age.
Goes to show that you can’t judge a book by its cover…
 
Eye colour
The colour of our hero/heroine’s eye.
Grenadier: Yellow.
Trigun: Bluish green.
I wonder is this trivia necessary too?
 
Clothing
I don’t think this would resort to any fashion craze but it’s the signature wear that makes me identify them.
Grenadier: Some say Rushuna’s clothes are a little skimpy, scant or loose. Well yeah, how can you really move unless you wear tight body hugging clothes. Partly it’s part of Rushuna’s plan to dress in summer clothes (that’s what I feel and think) to get her opponents lose their will to fight.
Trigun: I really love Vash’s red crimson trenchcoat! Enough said.
 
Life’s mission
What they live for and the reason for going on living.
Grenadier: To spread the teachings of her teacher, Tenshi, by giving service with a smile.
Trigun: To avoid getting into trouble and also in a way to encourage peace and love.
 
Favourite stuff
I kinda noticed that the main characters have a weakness for indulging in this.
Grenadier: Rushuna loves soaking herself in hotbaths.
Trigun: Vash loves eating doughnuts.
 
Headgear
I kinda noticed that the main characters have this ‘headgear’ on at times.
Grenadier: Rushuna’s cowboy hat.
Trigun: Vash’s sunglasses.
 
Gun weapon
Both main characters don not use their guns to kill and more to disable their opponents. This what makes them an excellent gun expert.
Grenadier: An old fashioned six-bullet revolver.
Trigun: His main 6-shot revolver is a .45 caliber revolver. Others include his cybernetic arm and his right angel arm.
 
Bullet dodging moves
This is what makes the series fun as our main hero/heroine has the ability to dodge a rain of bullets at them and leave without a single scratch!
Grenadier: More of her skill. Rushuna just spins around like a ballerina and well… all the bullets seem to zooms pass her.
Trigun: More of sheer dumb luck. Vash just runs around like an idiot and well… all the bullets seem to hit anywhere else but him.
 
Gun reloading moves
How they reload the gun since ammo is limited. No, no cheat codes lah.
Grenadier: Another superb exaggerated movement from Rushuna as she keeps the bullets in her cleavage. If she ever needs to reload, she’ll just need to flip her boobs and the exact amount of bullets will jump out and directly into her gun chamber. Woah!
Trigun: Nothing special actually. Vash keeps his ammo in his crimson red jacket and if he ever needs to reload, he’ll just take it out and you can do the rest of the maths.
 
Body
Refers to the physical body appearance of the main character.
Grenadier: YEOW! A busty, sexy and curvacious figure! Bootylicious!
Trigun: ARGH! His body is full of scars and metal implants! Hideous!
 
Comrades
It’s not good being a lone wolf. Even heroes and heroines have allies on their side.
Grenadier: A swordsman Yajiro Kojima, a master balloon artist Mikan Kurenai, and later one of the Ten Enlightened, Touka Kurenai and Teppa Aizen.
Trigun: Initially the Bernadelli Insurance Company dispatches Meryl Stryfe and Millie Thompson to make sure Vash doesn’t cause anymore damage. In time, due to their ‘fated’ meetings, they get to see the lighter side of Vash and become his allies. Later, one of the successors of the Gung-Ho Guns, the wandering priest, Nicholas D Wood, becomes part of Vash’s ally too.
 
Admiration
The 1 person whom the main character looks up to.
Grenadier: Empress Tenshi who thought Rushuna how to eliminate an opponent’s will to fight without fighting. In the anime, she’s being held captive by an impersonator double but was saved in the end.
Trigun: A pioneer space crew Rem Saverem who thought Vash the ways of love and peace. In the anime flashback, she perished while trying to avert a total sabotage onboard her spaceship.
 
World setting
The kind of world in which the series takes place.
Grenadier: A feudal kind of era with the world still having lush greeneries, mountains and lakes.
Trigun: A desert planet with 2 suns with the world having a western cowboy outlook.
 
Eternally floating…
There are places in which objects never land nor touch the ground.
Grenadier: Mt Charabo has winds so fast and dangerous that it could even send rocks flying. A real hazard, I’d say. What’s more, corpses of dead people can still be seen floating around. Rushuna and co have to scale this peak as it’s the fastest route to the capital.
Trigun: One of the many Earth ships that has never crashed on the desert world before and thus has cut itself off from the brutal civilization below. The residence of this ship has been living in this safe sanctuary until Vash arrives and 3 of the Gung-Ho Guns sabotage and destroy its main engines.
 

Bounty

A monetary reward placed on the heads of the main character.
Grenadier: 5,000 gold pieces.
Trigun: $$60,000,000,000 (that’s right. Sixty BILLION DOUBLE dollars!).
 
Main group of villains
They act as the main antagonist of the series and are out for the main character’s head.
Grenadier: The Ten Enlightened, who’re supposedly highly skilled warriors and bodyguards of Tenshi, are to eliminate Rushuna and co to prevent her from reaching the capital to see Tenshi.
Trigun: The Gung-Ho Guns, who’re supposedly humans who sacrificed their humanity for some super power, under the orders of Knives, are to give Vash eternal pain and suffering.
 
Evil leader
The main bad guy who’s pulling all the strings.
Grenadier: The Jester, who is Yajiro’s former rebel leader.
Trigun: Million Knives, who is Vash’s sinister twin brother.
 
Deaths
Unfortunately, there are other people who die here. Well, even if nobody lives forever, taking away one’s life is still unacceptable.
Grenadier: Though there aren’t many deaths here, most of those who died are the Ten Enlightened sent by The Jester to eliminate Rushuna and gang. The Jester kills those who have failed in their mission. Rushuna herself has never killed anyone.
Trigun: Besides ordinary minor characters getting killed by badguys alike, all of the Gung-Ho Gun members eventually dies either by sacrificing themselves or being taken out by 1 of their own. Also in a later episode, Nicholas dies due to his injuries with a Gung-Ho Gun member. Vash was forced to kill a member of the Gung-Ho Guns, Legato, in order to save Meryl and Millie.
 
Music users
Refers to the characters in the series who uses soundwaves to attack or disable their opponents.
Grenadier: One of the Ten Enlightened, Souma, uses an accordian-cum-piano instrument embeded in his armour to affect the equilibrium of his opponents which will eventually damage their inner ear.
Trigun: One of the Gung-Ho Guns, Midvalley, uses a saxaphone to control the minds of his victims. His instrument can also cause physical pain to those who hears his play.
 
Doubles duel
Refers to the final battle in which our main hero/heroine took on their double/twin to end all the insanity. For now. I kinda feel that both these battles are similar in the way they fought one another, besides using hand-to-hand combat moves, they also use their guns as part of their combat. You could say it’s like some neatly choreographed fighting sequence.
Grenadier: Rushuna faces off with Setsuna, who was once a double candidate for Tenshi. Setsuna imprisoned Tenshi and took her place so that she could take control of the capital and soon the world. In the end Setsuna lost when Rushuna distracted her by dropping bullets in her cleavage, hugs and rips off her clothes! Enough for anyone to admit defeat.
Trigun: Vash faces off with Knives. Knives wanted to destroy the human race on this planet as he sees no hope in these low life creatures. In the end Knives lost when Vash fires the late Nicholas’ cross gun at him.
 
The next step
What the main characters and friends would do at the series’ end.
Grenadier: Rushuna continues her travel to spread Tenshi’s teachings.
Trigun: Vash returns to the town where Meryl and Millie are waiting and brings back an unconscious Knives with him. Not too sure, but I think he’ll try to continue living and ‘rehabilitate and save’ Knives.
 
Mid-intermission
The background music during the short mid-intermission of the series
Grenadier: Very flamenco and Spanish-like acoustic guitaring.
Trigun: Very loud heavy rock electric guitar playing.
 
Opening and ending theme songs
Grenadier: Kohaku, the slow pop song is the opening theme song while Kanashimi Ni Makenaide, is more of a slow ballad and they’re both sung by Mikuni Shimokawa.
Trigun: H.T., an instrumental rock piece is the opening theme song by Tsuneo Imahori while Kaze Wa Mirai Ni Fuku, by AKIMA & NEOS is more of a slow rock sung in a drowsy manner.
 
Number of episodes
Grenadier: This year 2004 tv series spans 12 episodes.
Trigun: This year 1998 tv series has a total of 26 episodes. There is a movie length feature in 2007.
 
Conclusion
There you have it. But if I were to choose which of the series I like better, then I would say it would be Grenadier probably because of the better looking drawing and art. Yeah well, Trigun may seem a little old and not your typical anime-like drawing but this show too is worth to have a look. Of course the main thing I like about Trigun is Vash himself. As for Grenadier, which guy wouldn’t love to have a lady like Rushuna. Because of the shorter storyline in Grenadier, it makes things a little easier in the sense that it doesn’t have to drag on and on. I could say that whatever happened from the start to end, it was enough for the whole series. Not to say Trigun is boring but it does take some time for the characters and story to develop. In any case, I still love both shows because of the gun shooting sequences.
 
Grenadier Trigun

What anime would allow the characters to be in their swimsuits for nearly half, if not, the entire episode? And I’m not just talking about 1 episode but the entire series. That’s right. Not if it’s a swimming-themed anime, which Kenkou Zenrakei Suieibu Umisho is all about. With a name that long, I was having a hard time trying to even pronounce it. It’s like a tongue twister to me. But I eventually got used to it.
 
Now, if you’re already thinking that girls and swimsuits mix means an ecchi outcome, then you’re right too. Probably another excuse or cover up for some fanservice. But for me, I’m here because of the sports comedy genre even though the ecchi part does help bring in some laughs. Unlike most sports animes like Slam Dunk, Prince Of Tennis and Eyeshield 21, which are long running and span a lengthy amount of episodes, this one just lasts only 13 episodes. Nothing much to tell (maybe to see, then ;P), huh?
 
Also unlike those long running sports themed animes I have just mentioned, this series doesn’t have all those flashy exaggerated moves you see the characters amazingly pull off during the competition. Heck, getting into that high school Inter High isn’t the main focus here (probably because this series is too short), though it’s the aim of the swimming club of this school that the show will be focused on, Kenritsu Umineko Shougyou Koutou Gakkou. Phew. Another long and confusing tongue twisting mind bending name to say (and to remember!). Luckily, it’s shortened and also known as… Umisho. Plus, this school is situated quite closely to the beach and sea. So I wonder why the school has a swimming pool instead of using the ocean for free. Aha. Probably a swimming pool’s water is filtered and cleaner. You won’t have that sickening feeling if you accidentally drink salt water.
 
So in episode 1, we’re introduced to the motley crew of Umisho’s swimming club members. As far as I can remember, the swimming club mixes boys with girls and it would be totally missing the point if there were more boys than girls. Yup, the club has 12 girls and 5 boys. More like it. But not everybody here is gonna get the spotlight and I feel some of them are just there. Fullstop. No impact neither do those supporting characters stand out prominently.
 
One of the main featured character is Kaname Okiura, who is the club’s manager. Ironically, this guy can’t swim. Yeah, it’s like having someone without cooking background to be as a head of a restaurant. But Kaname has his reasons. When he was young, he was traumatized while swimming in the ocean. He felt that something, like a mermaid, was pulling his feet deeper into the depths of the ocean. Ever since, he’s been afraid of swimming. Well, can’t blame him. We all have our own fears. But it still makes me wonder of all the clubs in the school, I wonder why he has to join this one. Ah… is it because he gets to see pretty sexy girls in swimsuits? Kaname may be a pervert but he’s the passive kind in the sense that if there’s ‘an accidental chance’ that he gets to see some girl’s cleavage because she’s being too close, he doesn’t mind it either until he snaps out of it. Other than that, Kaname’s pretty okay and normal.
 
Speaking of pervertness, the other guys of the swimming club are just plain bunch of losers. The club’s captain Masa Ikariya or Ikamasa for short (not to be mistaken as ‘ikasama’ which means to cheat) is an airhead. Though he is muscular, the one thing I find peculiar about him is his Speedo trunks. What’s so strange? Why, he has his face on the crotch area! Vain? Whenever he’s hyped out or serious (seriously?), he’ll be that loudmouth and burly sounding character. Otherwise, he’ll sound like a daydreaming soft spoken sissy loser while doing his weird hip shaking dance of his. How did he ever become the captain of the club? Plus, this guy likes to strip naked at times!
 
The most perverted guy in the club has to be Seito Takeda, whose head looks like some sort of a giant plum. Furthermore, his creepy dreamy voice does enhance his pervert status. Then there are other 2 guys who are perverted as well, but they’re more like side characters. Umisho’s vice captain is the serious Momoko Orizuka, who’s trying her best to give the right motivation to her swimming club, and more importantly control the weird antics of Ikamasa and the other guys. She’s gonna have it tough. Other protagonists include the shy and soft spoken Mirei Shizuoka who has breasts size which defy all odds and physics (you can’t have this kind of show without this kind of character, right?), flirtatious Sanae Kise (any guy would do for her. I mean any guy, old or ugly) who is Orizuka’s best friend, and petite Maki Ikuta AKA Makio (resembles somewhat a little like Kazuma of Yakitate! Japan) who is still a beginner and learning the basics of swimming. But I guess her big passion and ambition for the sport will get her to places one day. Though I feel it’s gonna be a long one.
 
Anyway the swimming club is having their usual practice when Makio spots a floating house coming their way. Really, that house is like on a raft and soon a very genki happy-go-lucky airhead girl, Amuro Ninagawa (reminds me a bit of Shion from Shuffle) appears and introduces herself. One thing weird about this girl is her swimming technique, which she seems to swim like a dolphin, if not resembles a mermaid. But she’s bloody good and fast. Amuro seems to have spotted Kaname and feels she has seen him somewhere before but Kaname too doesn’t remember. Plus, it seems Amuro will be a new transfer student at Umisho. Orizuka sees some swimming talent in this girl and challenges her. Orizuka is amazed by her swimming ways. I mean, can anyone swim beneath you and stare for the whole 50 metres? Unfortunately, Amuro knocked her head on the wall because she wasn’t looking where she was going.
 
Later, Orizuka is still suspicious about Amuro’s swimming technique and drags Kaname along to spy on Amuro at her raft house. Hiding behind the rocks, they see Amuro and her dad (let’s call him Dad) cooking up some weird meal but Orizuka slips and falls over Kaname when she was to eager to see what’s going on. Since Amuro and Dad aren’t the bad people Orizuka imagined, they invited the duo to stay for some meal. Once done, Amuro did the unpredictable by stripping herself naked and jumping into the ocean and swim! Orizuka thinks that this must be Amuro’s secret weapon for her swimming technique and also strips herself and jumps in! Kaname is taking this chance to escape but Amuro wouldn’t let him go and pulls him into the water. Orizuka is horrified and tells Amuro that he can’t swim. Traumatizing memories come haunting back to Kaname. But before he could drown, Amuro dives down to rescue him. I’m sure he’s relieved that he isn’t dead yet, but he better realize fast that he’s clinging onto a naked Orizuka… Soon Amuro finally remembered that she indeed had met Kaname previously while they were young.
 
Episode 2 sees Amuro joining Kaname in school and the swimming club. Also, Amuro is fascinated with Shizuoka’s big boobs and can’t control herself as she ‘plays’ with it, much to Shizuoka’s displeasure. Anyway, at the swimming club, Ikamasa introduces himself and soon takes out a razor and starts shaving Amuro’s legs! Uh huh. Something about how the hair gets in the way when one is swimming. Soon he tells the guys that they too should start shaving a girl. Do you think those perverted guys would let this opportunity slip? It’s worse than playing cops and robbers. Kaname and Shizuoka manage to escape and hide behind the swimming club’s 2 storey changing room. Well, it was actually after Kaname accidentally ripped Amuro’s swimsuit with his razor. However, Kaname heard something Shizuoka said which was in contrast of his perceptions of her. Something about how she doesn’t like this shaving thing but it would be nice to do it on a guy. Gasp! You see, everyone thinks that Shizuoka is nice girl who is brought up nicely. But still waters run deep. This girl has some dark secret desires, especially about doing certain things with the opposite sex. Plus, she likes staring at other naked people but gets that uncomfortable feeling when people stare at hers. You get my drift. Later as Amuro and Kaname head home, she finds that her home is in the same direction with his and decides to walk with him to school every morning.
 
Next day at practice, Kaname has a pretty hard time trying to shoo away all those loser boys from gawking at the girls practising. Shizuoka also approaches Kaname for help on her slow start. After some chat, Kaname continues to belief that Shizuoka is a good girl and that previous thing was just something he misheard. Until the wind blows her skirt up to reveal some naughty garter belt she’s wearing underneath… Haha. Perception change! Later that evening as Amuro and Kaname walk home, they had some chat about how Kaname feels he’s happy just supporting everyone. Amuro is playfully walking along the bridge barrier when she suddenly falls into the river below. Kaname is in a dilemma whether to jump in to save her. Better decide fast because something, a shark, is approaching Amuro! Oh no, oh no! It has got her! Wargh! Oh wait, why is Amuro laughing? So that wasn’t a shark after all. It’s just a cute white little seal tickling her tummy. Phew.
 
In episode 3, that seal is the new buzz in town and is named Ono, after the island. But here, Orizuka and her swimming team arrives in another school for a friendly match and also to gauge their performances. Yeah, there’s a perverted advisor of that rival school who seems to admire the girls from Umisho. Not if Orizuka can help it. The regular Umisho girls did quite well as Kaname coaches Amuro on how to do a proper start. So when it’s Amuro’s turn, she did make a great start and even surpassing others with her great speed to take the win. However she was disqualified because, I’m not sure about this, but there’s a rule saying that if a swimmer doesn’t resurface his/her head after some metre distance, he/she will be disqualified. Over the series, I noticed that this is the swimming style that Amuro has. But in the end, Umisho ended up last in the tri-school meet.
 
Later, Amuro drags Kaname to the beach when the latter spots a shark coming towards Amuro. Kaname hurriedly paddles a boat to reach Amuro but finds out that shark was just Ikamasa in a shark suit. Ikamasa wonders if the duo are dating but Kaname refutes, unlike Amuro who says 2 people who go to the beach are definitely dating. Ikamasa soon leaves and Amuro gets on the boat but Kaname accidentally touches her boobs and this causes him to fall into the ocean. He’s in panic mode once again but he manages to calm down when Amuro grabs his hands and praises him for being able to get in the water.
 
Afterwards as the Umisho gang practices, they spot a depressed Ikamasa. "Don’t worry…". Love that low sexy depressing voice. Ikamasa is disheartened because his dad has opened a sushi restaurant and has no business. In no time, the shop will be closed down. The gang tries to help and surprisingly, Shizuoka comes up with an idea to dress themselves as swimsuit maids to attract customers. Crazy as it seems, but it works. Only goes to show that guys here are perverts. With that, their business booms and Ikamasa and his dad rakes in lots of money. One night, Kaname is at the cashier and is being told to give some packages to the customers. Kaname accidentally opens it to find sexy pics of the girls in their swimsuit maid outfits during their shifts. I guess it’s some perverted idea of the father and son duo to make the customers come back for more. Though Kaname is against it, Orizuka notices their commotion and finds out that they’ve been duped. You don’t want to get this girl all mad, don’t you. Too late. They got the punishment they deserved and it would be the last time Orizuka and the girls will ever help them out. The next day, we see Ikamasa in his usual depressing state. "Don’t worry…". Hahaha.
 
Episode 4 has more of that Amuro playing with Shizuoka’s boobs in the changing room when Ikamasa barges in and blabs about teamwork. Does this guy ever think of what he’s doing? After all that chaos settles down, Orizuka tries to get everyone to practice but everybody seems lethargic. I don’t remember how, but Orizuka ate some mushroom which causes her to become flirtatious. Like in a drunken state, she strips naked! Kaname tried to stop her but Ikamasa too stripped himself naked as the captain and vice captain swam naked. Later as the girls take a bath, Makio wonders how Amuro got her big boobs and the latter replies how her relatives always rubs them (sicko!). Once the girls are done, Shizuoka who’s shy of taking a bath together with the girls, goes and take a dip alone. But during that time, it’s the guys turn and comes in. Shizuoka is trapped and is hiding in the bathtub while the guys are talking about weird stuffs. Yeah, Ikamasa said "Be baptized by my dangling thing!" to one of the guys! I don’t want to know whether it happens or not. Shizuoka is tormented because she would really like to see what’s going on but can’t or else her cover will be blown. Just when Kaname notices something strange and is gonna have a look, a blackout occurs and Shizuoka uses this chance to escape. Kaname notices Shizuoka’s panties (who else could be wearing such daring undies?) in the locker and thinks that she’s here but the other guys don’t believe her.
 
Meanwhile, Amuro brings Orizuka and Makio to her house to replenish some refreshments when a sudden storm occurs. The house is then drifted away and damaged. Kise who didn’t get into Amuro’s house, rush back and report this to the boys. The guys come rushing but since there isn’t much they could do, they all head back. So much for that friendship and help thingy. As the 3 girls are being drifted away while thinking of food, Takeda then appears. How on Earth was he hiding there all the while? I mean I know he previously heard how the girls are going out to get some refreshments and made some scheme of his, but to hide out there while the storm lashes just now isn’t that all logical. Anyway, Takeda is blackmailing the girls to do some sick sexy cat impersonation fantasy of his if they want to have some food and clean water. No choice, they have to give in. It seems Amuro does it quite perfectly and is turning on Takeda. Since Amuro’s really into it, she accidentally causes Takeda to drop all the food and water into the ocean. So all that embarrassing act was for nothing. They take out all their anger and frustrations on him before a ship arrives and picks them up. He definitely deserves it. But will he learn? The next day, Kaname and Ikamasa are surprised to see Dad quite calm over what has happened. Yeah, he’s just sitting there fishing. Isn’t he worried about his floating house gone?
 
Because their home is gone, in episode 5, Amuro and Dad had to temporarily move into Kaname’s home. Oh great, that’s what he needs. Uh huh. To start the weird things off, Amuro showers herself naked in the garden with the garden hose. Then as Amuro is going through Kaname’s stuff in his room, Kaname accidentally slips and falls on top of her. It probably could’ve developed from there if not for Shizuoka’s undies falling on Kaname’s head. Hey! Why did Kaname bring back Shizuoka’s panties from the locker room? Kaname’s mom comes in and misinterprets that they’re doing it so fast already. That night, Kaname has a hard time sleeping and has weird dreams. He wakes up to find Amuro on top of him this time. Yup, he’s not dreaming. If Amuro can’t get through the door, then the window’s suffice. Kaname, Amuro and dad (has a weird habit of collecting weird things) are taking a walk when Kaname and Amuro entered a temple. It seems Shizuoka is there too but manages to hide herself. Some ambiguous sexual subtext talk between them. "The soft thing gets harder when you touch it". Referring to the food lah! Shizuoka’s interested to take a peek but her boobs causes her button to pop out and her cover blown (no pun intended). She runs away in embarrassment.
 
Amuro and Kaname continue their walk and Kaname wonders why Amuro can still be so carefree. Then Amuro just run away and Kaname thinks he may have said something wrong. Dad appears and tell him how Amuro loves her grandma but never returned from the ocean after a swim. Though Dad says that the ocean has taken her, Amuro still believes that 1 day she’ll return. Furthermore, that ‘X’ hair accessory was bestowed by her grandma and she treasures it very much. Kaname rushes off to find Amuro but only finds Makio back at his place. He tells her what’s going on and Makio sends SMS to Orizuka and Ikamasa for help. Kaname is searching through a cave and finally spots a crying Amuro seating on a rock at the end of the cave. But it’s revealed that she just had a stomach ache and wanted to get some seaweed as thanks for letting her stay at his house. Soon the gang arrives and they all had a seaweed meal. Kaname then feels he understands why Amuro loves the ocean so much. But I guess this doesn’t explain her quirky personality.
 
Episode 6 introduces another character and would-be member of the Umisho swimming club. She is Maaya Nanako and is some kind of idol swimmer. However don’t be fooled by her pretty looks as she is quite bratty and obnoxious. She bumps into Amuro and it’s revealed that she is Kaname’s childhood friend and calls him Okky. But Kaname isn’t too please about this returning nightmare. You see, when they were young, Maaya used to ‘bully’ Kaname to assert her authority over him, though she paints a more romantic picture of it. Anyway Maaya doesn’t like Amuro because she’s too close to Kaname and challenges her to a swimming duel in the ocean. But she backs down after seeing how big her boobs are. Even in school, Maaya manages to use her seductive charm to win over the boys. Because she doesn’t want to change with the other girls because of their bigger boobs (?!), she orders them to construct a changing room for herself on the lower ground as the girls changing room is usually on the top. I suppose the guys must have put in all their love and passion into making the changing room look extravagant. Then this is the funny part. Amuro, Makio and Shizuoka are checking it out and you could imagine what goes on behind that curtain as their silhouettes are cast upon it. Yeah, I dunno what’s a mushroom is doing there but they pick it up and put it in a way to look like a male anatomy. And that inflated balloon looked like oversized boobs. The guys must be having the nosebleeds of their lives! Because Ikamasa was drilling too many holes, the building soon collapses.
 
Now the changing room has been reduced to a single storey pile of rubble. So a competition is held to see who will get the rights to use the only changing room. If the girls win, then it’s theirs vice versa. Shizuoka unwillingly represents the girls while Takeda the boys. However, there is a 3rd competitor and he is Ikamasa. He’s suggesting that if he wins, everyone will strip and change naked outside! Horror! Don’t let this sicko win. The race is on. A tightly fought race but the first person to touch the finish line is… Ono?! Wait, no. It’s that perverted elderly advisor from that rival school a few episodes back, wearing a seal outfit. Orizuka pounds him away. I guess since none of the trio won, nobody gets the room. But Maaya is still kicking up a fuss and acting all spoilt when Amuro flicks her head and tells her off how she should have fun with everyone and suggests to swim together. But Maaya just kicks her into the pool. Ah well, it’s gonna get a lot cattier now.
 
During their usual practice for an upcoming preliminary tournament in episode 7, Amuro suddenly feels unenergetic and lethargic as though she has been cursed when she loses one of her ‘X’ hair accessories. Though it’s kinda hard to believe that if Amuro losses her ‘X’ she’s cursed as told by her grandma (some have their own weird ideas of why Amuro is behaving so. Robot controlling device?), but I guess everyone has to start looking throughout town because Amuro is their best bet for the tournament. Without her, they can forget about making past the preliminaries. Besides finding a needle in a haystack, you could also say it’s yet so close yet so far because due to circumstances, they lose it after a few seconds in their grasps. Maaya is still acting like a spoil brat because she thinks Kaname prefers to help Amuro rather than play with her. With their efforts futile, the gang decides to make another ‘X’ but that too didn’t work. Then they made posters and distributed it to help find the lost ‘X’. Well, Makio got cat claws all over her face. Wonder why she’s asking a feline in the first place. During the distribution, Kise went off to flirt while Shizuoka enters a shop and wants to buy a penis cover (?!) but is too shy and fears she’ll be misunderstood. The shopkeeper mistook her to buy some little elephant furniture.
 
Later the gang regroups and still couldn’t find the ‘X’. Until they spot it flying. They started chasing it and we see an Initial D parody here. Ironically, the gang ran faster than the AE86 but couldn’t match the speed of the train in which the ‘X’ was stuck to. The chase leads them to find the ‘X’ high on top of the Buddha statue and Makio suggests of making a human ladder to retrieve it. Even so, the final person on top, Makio, has a hard time reaching it. Too short, I’d say. In no time, the human ladder crumbles with all that pressure (with Ikamasa as the foundation, of course lah). We then see Amuro retrieving it herself and looks pretty much her usual self. Amuro then reveals that she was just hungry and after eating some food offering at the Buddha statue, she feels fine. So it wasn’t a curse after all. And after going through all that trouble, why didn’t she say so? Really weird girl. That evening, Amuro thanks Kaname for helping her and reminded him that this beach was the 2nd time they’ve met. Back at home, Dad tells Kaname that the curse from grandma was just a lie.
 
Episode 8 sees Orizuka preparing her team for the upcoming Kantou tournament. Ikamasa tells Kaname to come to the changing room that night. Since he was bloody convincing, Kaname decides to meet up but to his horror, the guys are playing mahjong wearing the girl’s swimsuits! Disgusting! How can they fit into that, especially Ikamasa?! Then the guys proceed to ask Kaname which he prefer more, Shizuoka or Amuro. I don’t know why he’s obliged to tell them, he could just say it’s none of their business. The hoo-haa ‘party’ lasts till next morning and you know what happens if Orizuka catches them sleeping in their swimsuits, right? Next day at the competition, we see the girls changing in the locker room, when Umisho’s rival, Shinomiya, led by the busty and boastful Kisara Nanjou arrives. Yeah, lots of CSI (Chest Size Intimidation, that is. Haha! Can’t believe I actually thought that one up). Nanjou is boasting about how big her boobs are when she spots Amuro and Shizuoka’s. I don’t want to know how that turned out. Don’t worry, there lots of kanji wordings to cover the necessary areas.
 
Though Umisho did pretty well, Nanjou suggests a penalty game before the finals. Whereby, the loser will have to strip and shake her boobs in front of the crowd. In the end, it’s Orizuka vs Nanjou and in a closely fought duel, Orizuka beats Nanjou. Now she has to eat her words. Orizuka is taunting Nanjou to strip when suddenly Orizuka’s bottom half of her swimsuit snaps. Must be a real embarrassing moment. Kaname remembers the previous night whereby Ikamasa wore it and Orizuka punished the guys to wash the swimsuits hard. Thus it might’ve stretched too much. I guess everybody is gonna enjoy this free show even more because Nanjou went crazy and strip herself, telling the crowd to look at her better prized assets. I might have guessed it as well because Ikamasa soon strips himself and did his usual hip shaking dance. Sick people.
 
Episode 9 is a flashback of how the Umisho swimming club came to be as told by Kise since Makio and Amuro are eager to hear it, except for Kaname who probably has heard it 100 times. It all started when Orizuka and Kise were 1st year students and seeing that the school had no swimming club, they decided to form 1. Ikamasa’s there too but he wants to form a mahjong club, which was rejected for obvious reasons. A 3 member minimum is required to form a club so they had Ikamasa dragged into it. A young good looking teacher, Tokorozawa, sees their passion and decides to help them. Doesn’t he looks a little like Onizuka from GTO or Kawachi from Yakitate! Japan? So the quartet gets the green light to form a swimming club from the principal then as they clean and spruce up the school’s swimming pool. Then Orizuka hinted that she might’ve a crush on Tokorozawa but was too shy to confess. Kise decided to help her and met with him. However Tokorozawa replied that he actually has a crush on Kise herself. Orizuka who’s eavesdropping was devastated and ran away. Kise went after a heartbroken Orizuka and tells then that they don’t need men. The weird part is that at the park while consoling her, Orizuka tells Kise to comfort her and take away her troubles. The duo then stripped naked and made love! Holy smoke! It could’ve been the hottest yuri sex ever if not for a policeman soon caught them in the act and the girls were suspended. Because Tokorozawa felt he was responsible for it, he left the school.
 
A sad story indeed but Kise tells the gang not to tell this to Orizuka. Speak of the devil, Orizuka catches up with them as Kise flees. Because of their weird behaviour, Orizuka suspects something is wrong and wants them to spill the beans of what they’ve been told. Orizuka then tells the gang the real true story of what actually happened. Back then, Kise wasn’t as hardworking as she painted herself to be and left Orizuka to do all the cleaning work while she laze around. Plus, Tokorozawa wasn’t as good looking either. Ugly. Enough said. Because Tokorozawa and Kise was caught flirting too much, he was eventually kicked out of school. I guess the gang would believe Orizuka’s story more because as they’re walking by, they spot Kise flirting with a storekeeper to get some stuff for free. Some things never change.
 
In a later part, Makio decides to do a webpage for the Umisho’s swimming club. After toiling and burning the midnight oil, the webpage is up. Argh! It looks horrible. With advice from the rest, Makio does more research and finally comes up with a better looking website. With that, the hits for the website also increases. Amuro and Kaname decides to check it out and to Kaname’s surprise, the reason why their webpage is so popular is because Makio had propped it up with photo imposing pictures and cosplay outfits! Yeah, it’s so unreal. But I guess people really do love it.
 
Its’ the festivals in episode 10 and another reason to see the girls in their yukatas. Maaya is upset at Kaname again because she thinks he’d rather go out with bigger boobs Amuro than her. Who wants to be with a devil child like her? Maaya runs away and bumps into Makio at the outskirts of the festival. Some talk before both of them forming a Breast Massage Alliance. Uh huh. Desperate case. In a toilet cubicle, the duo are massaging each other’s boobs in hopes of making them bigger. While Makio is quite excited, Maaya seems embarrassed. But if it’s to beat that Amuro, she’ll do anything. We also see Ikamasa and his dad putting up a stall and gets the Umisho gang into 1 of their schemes. Something about catching fishes. While Amuro is quite skilful, this made Ikamasa and his dad to put in some eels to up the competition. But the eels are slippery as it jumps out of the tank and into Orizuka and Shizuoka’s yukatas. With the eel tickling their cleavage, they strip their yukatas and well… those expression on their faces and sound seems to be quite suggestive… This scene must be a real crowd puller. Why can’t they just take out the eel themselves. Later on, Kaname got dragged by Amuro and Dad into a watermelon eating contest whereby the loser will be dunked into the water tank below. Kaname has no choice but to win this one for he fears of drowning. But would Amuro and Dad let up? One by one, the other contestants fall into the tank and in the end it’s between Kaname and Dad. Kaname can’t go on even further and tries to keep his sanity by using mental images but notices Dad isn’t moving. With that, a bloated Kaname is saved and wins the competition.
 
Meanwhile, Shizuoka goes to the toilet to wipe that slimy eel feeling of her chest when she spots Makio and Maaya massaging each other’s boobs. Makio is glad to see her and wants the ‘master’ to give some visual training for encouragement. Meaning, she wants Shizuoka to show them her humongous boobs. Reluctant at first, Shizuoka eventually gives in. Haha. It’s like a bright light shining out from there. Hallelujah! Burn that image right into your skull girls! Makio then put her hands on them to have a feel. I can’t believe this kid is also a sicko. Maaya is disgusted and decides to leave. Can’t believe she went through all this in the first place, huh? The next day back at home, we see Amuro wanting to challenge Kaname to another watermelon contest, but that guy just don’t have the stomach for it. Feel like vomiting now?
 
Another story takes place during the festival and this time it focuses on Takeda and the other 2 loser guys. They tried several loser pick up lines but fails miserably. Why, Takeda even accidentally tried to pick up a little girl. Luckily, her mom’s there to take her away. They eventually ran into Nanjou and her swimming team members. Takeda even tries to hit on Nanjou but it didn’t work. Something about I’ve seen you in my previous life… Lame. But 3 of the Shinomiya girls somehow take a liking for those 3 losers and indirectly had some time together to watch the fireworks. Yeah, they look pretty ugly. Cod lips girl, fox eyes girl, and ugly specky girl. I guess they can’t complain and just take whatever that comes. Just when Takeda is about to make a move on 1 of them, the mother of that little girl brings a policeman to catch the boys for trying to kidnap her daughter. But Takeda dismisses it and says that he was just trying to hit on her. The Shinomiya girls are disgusted that they would stoop this low and left the guys. Too bad for them, another ruined night as they’re taken in by the policeman.
 
The upcoming Kantou tournament sees Orizuka trying to improve herself in episode 11. Ikamasa has a new suit called Moro-1 with inbuilt gadgets and I-pod to help with his training but got fried the instant he dives into the pool. They then decide to use a more traditional way by using rubber hose to hold them back while they swim to build endurance. Later it’s revealed that the rubber hose were actually their bicycle tyres and Ikamasa was the one who took them for the training. Later, Ikamasa suggests that Kaname would do anything if they win. With that, everyone has their own ideas of what Kaname should do for them. But in a way, it does revive the competitive spirit in them since Kaname promised them. The day of the tournament nears and Orizuka takes her team to a hotspring inn for accommodation. While the Umisho girls are enjoying themselves in the hotspring, Shizuoka is changing at the changing room when Shinomiya girls come in. Looks like they’re here too. A lot of talk on taking down Umisho. Shizuoka tries to escape without being noticed but when she reaches the hallway, she has to turn back because the guys were there. Thus Shizuoka has become their captive.
 
Nanjou then proposes another challenge to see who can stay in the hotspring the longest and the last one standing wins. The penalty this time is that they will have their pubic hair shaved. One by one, they all got up (Nanjou already quit and leaves it to her other girls). Ikamasa and the guys are eavesdropping next door and that captain got all excited when he heard there was gonna be some shaving. Yeah, it causes the border wall to collapse. Because of the surprise, Orizuka stood up and this causes the Umisho to lose at first. But upon closer inspection, Shizuoka is still in the water and has fainted. So technically, Umisho wins again. Yeah, shaving time. So because of that hectic night, everyone was knocked out. On the day of the tournament, everyone seems to be a little tired even though it’s just the preliminaries. It seems only Orizuka, Amuro, Kise, Shizuoka, Maaya and Ikamasa are entering the tournament proper and the rest are just like there to support them. After the tournament, that night, Maaya is upset because she failed to do well. Though Orizuka tries to comfort her, Maaya lashes back at her saying that she’s not used to losing like them losers and runs away. Kaname, Ikamasa and Takeda sets out to find her. Maaya is depressed and sitting alone near a river bank. Shizuoka spots her and the 2 had a chat. Besides that breast rubbing scene, Shizuoka manages to calm Maaya as the latter cries in her bosoms. Maaya then regains her confidence back and tells her to do their best tomorrow. The guys are watching and Takeda notes how he wants to bury himself in Shizuoka’s chest. Maaya spots them and sends Takeda and Ikamasa flying to the moon. Literally.
 
The next day of the Kantou tournament sees the Umisho team getting back on track and doing well in episode 12. This time, Umisho will be up against another rival school called Tamatsuka, in a relay medley. Orizuka along with Kise, Shizuoka and Maaya are in the team. As for the boys side, only Ikamasa is entering the competition. Earlier on, Amuro spot a tanned girl from Tamatsuka and is confused by her several change in character and personality. Later on when the Umisho goes up to the starting line, they’re surprised to see that the Tamatsuka team are actually quadruplets! Don’t need to check your eyes. You’re not seeing things. The race begins but it seems Tamatsuka has brought a secret weapon with them in the form of the girl’s choir and they’re singing their school anthem. This allows the Tamatsuka team to be in sync as the power up and zoom pass Umisho. So the supporters of Umisho decide to sing their own anthem as support but it sounded horrible. One of the Tamatsuka choir girls notices how disgusting the Umisho is, especially Ikamasa. Then the hilarious part is when Ikamasa is doing some march dance of his, his loose bermuda pants seems to ‘flash’ his ‘dangling thing’. This causes that Tamatsuka choir girl to be in some sort of a fear. Because of that, the rest of the choir group has been distracted and it sends them into chaos! Hahaha. Ikamasa the flasher! With their rhythm disrupted, Orizuka who is the anchor for Umisho manages to beat Tamatsuka. However, victory comes with a price as Orizuka has sprained her ankle. While recuperating at the hospital, Orizuka tells the gang that she could still make for tomorrow’s finals but the doctor says that she’ll be unable to compete with such an injury. Even if she does, she’ll never swim again. Orizuka is disheartened and torn. But Kaname tells her that Amuro will take her place since each regular swimmer is entitled to 1 substitute. Well, Ikamasa initially wanted to be the replacement and even dresses up in a female swimsuit with huge melons as his big boobs. But I think we can all see through that disgusting disguise. With their hopes high up again, they prepare themselves for the finals.
 
Episode 13 sees the final relay medley between Umisho, Tamatsuka and Shinomiya. It starts off with Maaya’s backstroke, followed by Kise’s breaststroke, then Shizuoka’s butterfly. The funny part was when Takeda decides to get a close up on Shizuoka’s butt with his camcorder. He saw her adjust her swimsuit line and the camcorder suddenly dismantles at that ‘magnificent’ sight! Yeah, the most massive nosebleed ever. Though Umisho is trailing behind, finally it’s Amuro’s turn. I’m not sure if it’s part of the rules even if it’s freestyle. Because Amuro is swimming like her usual dolphin style unlike the rest who’re doing front crawl. Is it legal? Anyway Nanjou is amazed by the speed of Amuro (partly she’s staring at her too). In the end, Amuro wins it for Umisho with Shinomiya in second and Tamatsuka in third. With that, Umisho definitely qualify for the Inter High. Luckily Nanjou didn’t make any penalty game or else it’ll be on her again. But she did mention she’ll get her revenge then. The entire Umisho is overjoyed so much so Kaname hugs Amuro. Orizuka thanks the team for their hard work. As for the individual events, Orizuka, Amuro, Kise, Shizuoka and Maaya manage to easily make it to the Inter High. Even Ikamasa. Yeah, by fluke. Previously the other rivals got disqualified because they all jump start when they thought they saw Ikamasa starting off. It was just his Speedo face popping off.
 
In the aftermath, Orizuka and Kise had a little chat and the former seems to have no worries about the juniors taking over the swimming club. Also, Amuro’s new floating home has been rebuilt and Amuro remembers Kaname will do something for her if she won. Kaname fears that Amuro may want to make love with him (he even prepares to kiss her) but all Amuro wants was for Kaname to swim with her. Is that good news or what? When Kaname gets into the water, he remembers his childhood trauma but remembers that Amuro was the person who saved him from drowning when he had his ankle sprained. I guess in Kaname’s joy that he’s been freed from this trauma, he hugs Amuro. We also see Dad trying to trap Ono for some seal meat but that seal is too smart for him. Back at Umisho, everyone is back to their lazy self and pestering Kaname to give them what they want. They somehow found out that Kaname has fulfilled his promise only to Amuro and misunderstood that the duo are going out. Makio’s scary unbelievable facial expression is hilarious! Kaname accidentally trips into the pool and Amuro comes to catch and hug him. She tells him that isn’t he glad that he learned how to swim. After the end credits, I’m not sure what it is all about except the gang took a trip to visit Amuro’s family (big fat momma she got there). After a series of events, Amuro and Kaname are left alone when Amuro leans forward to kiss him. Huh? But that’s the end of it.
 
Ah well, all I could really say is that this short series had some enjoyable and hilarious moments. If you don’t mind the fanservice and panty shots, that is. It makes me wonder if such huge boobs are more of a liability than an asset when it comes to swimming. Unless it’s like a buoy… Oh great, I sound like a pervert. Unlike long running sports genre which really drags on and on, the main focus here is about teamwork and comedy while doing so. Probably if there’s a second season, maybe they’ll concentrate it on the Inter High.
 
The drawing, art and animation seems simple even though at first glance they may have that bishoujo and bishonen feel. Meaning that the details of the character’s face isn’t given much attention. Maybe also it’s because of the colouring which at certain points seem a little ‘light’. Each of the episode’s mid-intermission are different and can range from real silly to ecchi to the characters in certain poses. Yeah, even the short background music sounds funny. Not to mention the episode title sounds very tropical-like. The voice acting is quite okay and my favourite ones are still Ikamasa (by Makoto Yasumura) and Takeda (by Satomi Kourogi). Amuro and Shizuoka’s voice actress (Aki Toyosaki and Yukari Fukui respectively) somehow gives their characters a ‘unique’ sound. At least I’ve never heard such voices anywhere like those ubiquitous squeaky or hoarse female voices. Also Ai Shimizu is the voice behind Makio.
 
The opening theme song Dolphin Jet by Ayane is quite upbeat and lively. It’s essential so that viewers can get into the mood and atmosphere of the series. The ending song Splash Blue ~ Taiyou No Lemonade by Ayumi Murata sounds slower but it’s still lively nevertheless. I just want to note that the ending credits animation shows the happy faces of the Umisho girls, regular and side characters. Don’t be surprised if the ending theme comes rather early in some episodes because there’s a short story after it. Like episode 3 and 9 on Ikamasa’s restaurant helping ploy and Makio’s website creation.
 
Speaking of the character’s quirky personalities, now I remember that they can rival those troublemakers in Ping Pong Club. Yeah, I’d like to see what happens when Ikamasa and Takeda faces off with Maeno and Izawa. Hehe. Yeah, with a club captain like Ikamasa, I suppose people will think twice about joining the club. We’ll never look at a swimming club the same way again. I wonder if I can still remember all those swimming lessons I had back then. Don’t worry, it’ll all come back naturally. "Don’t worry…".
 
Kenkou Zenrakei Suieibu Umisho

Asu No Egao No Tame Ni

June 13, 2008

   Asu No Egao No Tame Ni…
 
Another one of those long running retro series songs which I’m still singing today is Asu No Egao No Tame Ni (did you guessed it from the opening lines?) which is from the anime Gatekeepers. Okay, perhaps the anime series isn’t that long but since it was one of my many first animes I guess it does seems to be from a very long time ago even though it was released in the year 2000.
 
  Chikara to chikara butsukareba
  Arasoi wa hajimaru,
  Tatakau koto ga yuuki to omowanai kedo,
  Mamoritai yo kimi no sono egao
 
Sung by Yumi Matsuzawa, this piece of music is very lively and upbeat. As far as I can remember, it gets you into the mood and atmosphere and the series. The most prominent parts being the lively playing of trumpets and horns fanfare. Makes you feel like it’s some sort of dramatic carnival at first. Then there’s the instrumental part which has dramatic wild guitar playing which comes as early as after the first chorus.
 
  Asu e no GEETO mienai keredo,
  Dare ni demo aru yo (Let’s open the gate)
 
Now, one main reason why I still continue to sing this song besides its catchy tune is because it’s relatively quite easy to sing. Not to say that this is so easy that I can sing it with my eyes close (actually I can, literally). In order to sing this song, I find that I need to have a powerful and loud voice. Not to say that I’ll be screaming and shouting throughout the song but because of the loudness and liveliness of this music, I really have to sing out loud most of the times.
 
  Kinou no namida wa,
  Kitto muda ja nai,
  Arasoi no nai mirai wa,
  Ano tobira no mukougawa
 
Of course there’s a part near the end of every chorus which seemingly goes to a higher pitch, but it isn’t actually. Because I’ve been singing ‘loud’ for most of the chorus and then a slight sudden change in the tone, causes me to go ‘off course’ a little. But I find that I don’t flop this part most of the time, unless I’m not in form of course. Otherwise, I sound just fine and perfect especially during the verses.
 
  Mune no oku fukaku,
  Jitto shimaikonda,
  Kagi wo takaku kakagete,
  Fumidasou, Asu no egao no tame ni
 
And due to all this loud singing, I usually find myself out of breath by the time the song ends. Perhaps I need to have more ‘endurance’ practice sessions so that whenever I sing songs like this, I won’t sound so tired by the end of it. Yeah, I really really really need to sing out loud the last sentence of the song in order to have an impact (singing presence and feel good impact too). Thank goodness that there are background vocals to back me up. Or else, like other songs without those, it’ll sound really hollow and terrible. Oh well, rather than continue complaining, might as well enjoy this song again.
 
  YOU CAN OPEN THE GATE!
 
Gatekeepers

NANA

June 7, 2008

When I read that NANA was one of the must-see animes of 2006, my conscious once again told me that there was no harm in trying. So okay, I have to admit that though this anime won’t be part of my all-time or current top 10 list, but it doesn’t disappoint either. First thing when I saw this series is that the drawing and art reminded me so much of the anime Paradise Kiss. That’s because this series was also the brainchild of Ai Yazawa, who did both Paradise Kiss and NANA mangas, in which both has been adapted into animes as well.
 
Unlike Paradise Kiss, NANA has more episodes and spans 47 episodes and somehow I find this more interesting than my previous rendezvous with Paradise Kiss. However, I can’t totally say that I loved each and every bit of the series because at points I caught myself yawning at some boring parts. Don’t get me wrong here. This series is mainly drama driven with strong character development. Because of so, I kinda feel that this series was targeted for young teenage girls. Uh huh. A drama show for teenage girls.
 
Unfortunately, perhaps not just for any ordinary teenage girls. That’s because sex is partly a theme here too. I mean, you won’t get to see any hardcore stuffs but with all those suggestive moves and camera views and shots, any viewers like me can tell it’s so obvious that they’re… you know. So I also feel that this series is for mature audiences. Parents alike, an advice not to watch it with your kids.
 
Comedy is an important factor for me when I pick animes to watch and you can expect to see the series’ own kind of brand comedy in each episode, whereby most of them are kinda statements which are to state the obvious or contradict the other. Also, you can tell so when the characters raise their voice or the drawing becomes simple and chibi-like.
 
Thus the basic storyline is about 2 ladies of the same name and age and their coincidental meeting (or some would call it fate) that would forever change their lives and those around them. One of the 2 main protagonists is Nana Komatsu (Nana K) who is a naive and always-depending-on-other-people kinda gal. She’s the kind of girl who needs a man’s love to live so much so even she herself admits that she’s a ‘Master Of Falling In Love At First Sight’. Very true. She has countless boyfriends in her 20 years of existence (okay, maybe not that much because I wasn’t keeping count) which even includes a married man! Will she ever learn? Don’t think so. Whenever she has a fallout or break-up with one, another one will come along and fill that void in her heart. I must admit that Nana K is quite a pretty girl but I wouldn’t want to have such gal as my girlfriend too. No offence. Yeah, when things don’t really go her way, she’ll blame it on the Demon Lord and thinks it’s his doing. Did any reflection lately? The other protagonist is Nana Osaki (Nana O), who is an orphan (abandoned by her mom when young and never knew who her real dad is, is a more appropriate description) and acts like a tomboy. Well, she does have her feminine side, though. Not the kind of sweet lovely girl, that is. More like dark queen emperor ;P. So forgive her if she sounds crude or acts the way a woman shouldn’t.
 
In the 1st episode, we see the girls meet on a train which has stopped dead on its track due to a heavy snow storm. Nana K wants to go to Tokyo because she wants to be with her current boyfriend, Shouji Endo, who’s studying in a university. On the other hand, Nana O is a struggling rock band vocalist and is trying to make it big in the big city of Tokyo. Partly another reason is that, her ex-boyfriend, Ren Hojou, who was the bassist of her band Black Stones (Blast for short) back then, left the band to join a more popular group called Trapnest as their guitarist. So I suppose she just can’t leave it all there and wants to meet up with him too.
 
After the train journey resumes and finally reaching their destination, they thought it would be the last they’ll see of each other but that’s just the start. Obviously, Nana K could stay at her Shouji’s place but I thinks she wants to try and be independent and find a place to live on her own. Since living in urban Tokyo would be expensive (plus it wouldn’t be good for a naive country girl like her), her journey takes her to find an apartment at the outskirts. Though the building seems old and the rent is cheap, the overview of the river and the city lights in the background is breathtaking. The number 7 must be the number of the series (yeah, ‘nana’ could mean 7 in Japanese) as the landlord takes Nana K to see the potential room that she’ll be renting. It’s room number 707 on the seventh floor. However, there seems to be someone else in the room and looking around. Why, it’s Nana O! She played a cruel joke by not remembering who Nana K is at first. Anyway, they both had a little argument who should get the room as both ladies wanted it so badly. Not until the kind old landlord suggest that they could both rent it together (not to mention it’ll be cheaper since they’ll both share paying the rent) and could even get their own keys for their own room if they want. Thus, another chapter begins in with this unusual friendship of theirs.
 
Settling down together won’t be easy at first and it seems that they’ll drive each other up the wall. But as the series progresses, you’ll find that their presence is essential to each other. Because Nana O finds it annoying to have 2 people with the same name living under 1 roof, she decides to nickname and call Nana K, Hachi (meaning 8 in Japanese. I guess it also means to show that Nana O wants to be more superior) or Hachiko. It’s like calling yourself, right? Soon most of the other characters will start calling Nana K by her nickname and she doesn’t mind it as well. But for me, I will still refer to her as Nana K as I think it’s more appropriate and Hachi a little derogatory. Even if she’s okay with it and at times portray herself as a puppy wagging its tail.
 
Before the series progresses from there, we are shown a flashback of the 2 Nanas of their lives before they came to Tokyo. Nana K has a best friend, Junko Saotome, who’s always on the look out for her. Junko is more responsible, mature, giving advice at times and without her, I wonder how Nana K will end up. So back when they’re studying, Junko introduced Nana K to Shouji, and it’s love at first sight (again) for her. So after graduation, Shouji along with Junko and Kyousuke Takakura (a mature guy and soon to be Junko’s boyfriend) decides to go to Tokyo to study arts. Poor Nana K, being left all alone, got into some twisted affair before finally deciding to head to Tokyo. Another thing amusing about Nana K is that due to her insecurities, she creates an imaginary hot looking bimbo named Sachiko and blames anything on her or Shouji if she has doubts on what Shouji’s doing. Like when Shouji’s working for a part time waiter job to help pay for his studies, Nana K thinks he spend all his money on this Sachiko instead on her, when actually Shouji saved enough to buy a new pc for his studies. Yeah, "Who’s Sachiko?". It’s like that everytime.
 
As for Nana O, her Blast rock group was quite popular back at their hometown (Nana O had a hardcore fan called Misato who even follow and attend performances she’ll do in Tokyo) but had to be disbanded when Ren left. The other members in this 4 member band include guitarist Nobuo Terashima AKA Nobu, who is the son of a rich family and a heir of some family business (but prefers to see his future career as a punk rock artiste), and bald drummer Yasushi Takagi AKA Yasu, who is the most calm, cool-headed, mature thinking member. I believe I’ve never seen this cigarette smoking guy without his shades off. Yasu seems to be interested in pursuing a career in law thinking that there is no future in rock music. At times, I feel that Yasu is like the baby-sitter of the group and takes care of Nana O especially in times of need. But when Nana O left for the big city, I think those 2 too couldn’t sit around doing nothing and soon after goes to Tokyo as well. Well, their friendship runs deep. I think Yasu too feel that he can’t totally leave behind this rock music thing. "There are many law firms in Tokyo too" seems like an excuse to stay. But of course, Nana O in a way is happy that her pals came.
 
So back to present time, since Nana K is living on her own, she has to take up a part time job and manages to find 1 as an assistant of a furniture shop. Yeah, the bespectacled owner seems kind and hot… Thinking of falling head over heels? Also, Nana O is trying to reform her Blast group but with Ren’s departure means they have to look for a bassist to fill in that vacancy. Nana K decides to help out by putting up some poorly drawn job ad at the store she works. Soon, a young handsome guy by the name of Shin (don’t mind his weird hairstyle and facial piercings) appears and decides to try this one. After holding a short private screening and audition, Shin’s playing style reminded Nana O very much of Ren. She accepts him into the band and tells him to better than Ren. Now the group is a whole once more. They rent a studio for their practice (Nana K often comes to watch and support them) and at times perform little gigs which will soon move their name up in the music world. I also kinda notice that Nana K likes to patron a bar called Jackson Hole (Jackson Burger is their specialty) with Junko, Kyousuke and Shouji, and chat.
 
However, luck isn’t on Nana K’s side as the owner of the store has an urgent thing to say. No, it’s not confessing his love lah! Perasan betul! He’s thinking of closing his store down soon as he’s going back to his hometown. Which means Nana K will be out of a job. She had several job interviews and finally gets one as an assistant in some magazine company (I think). I think that she got the job because she was pretty and Nana K herself seems to be more concerned of Shouji rather than focusing on her job, earning the wrath of an elderly lady staff. But that is just the least of her troubles. You know, that Sachiko person is actually real. Uh huh. She is a coursemate of Shouji and also works part time as a waitress along with him. What an interesting twist of fate! Soon, Shouji falls for Sachiko but is still unable to let go of Nana K. Typical love dilemma. Without Nana K knowing all this, Shouji continues to date Sachiko even if his conscious tells him that it’s wrong. But I suppose Sachiko too can’t help it even when she’s trying not to get between him and Nana K as she too is in a dilemma.
 
So all this is found out when Nana K brings Nana O to meet with Shouji at the restaurant he works. Shouji is panicking and doesn’t want Nana K and Sachiko to meet. Unfortunately they do and Sachiko herself panics. But Nana K didn’t suspect anything. It is until later that night in which Nana K decides to wait outside for Shouji to finish his job and go home with him. Shouji didn’t see this coming so he leaves with Sachiko and the inevitable happened. Nana O asks who is this person and Shouji replied that she is his girlfriend. Gasp! Oh great. So he has 2 girlfriends, huh? Nana O wants to teach this ungrateful bastard a lesson and punch him but Sachiko interrupted. She tells her to hit her instead since it’s her fault. Well, Nana O has no qualms about it either. Anyway, heartbroken Nana K just tells her it’s okay and leaves. So in a way, you could say that this is the end of their relationship and from now on, Shouji and Sachiko will be reduced to just side characters of the series, though Shouji and Sachiko will still be going out with each other. Even Junko and Kyousuke can’t help him now. He dug his own grave. By the way, I kinda notice an uncanny resemblance between Sachiko and Misato. Perhaps that’s why Nana K got a little jealous when Misato came and stayed over at their place or when she got too close with Nana O. But Nana K soon realize her mistake and gets along with Misato.
 
Nana O tries to comfort Nana K and it was pretty hilarious to see at 1 point whereby Nana O heard Nana K screaming and thinks she has slit her wrists or what and comes running out of the toilet! Actually Nana K is happy to receive 2 front row tickets for a Trapnest concert back in her hometown. You see, Nana K is a big fan of Trapnest and is an avid admirer of the band’s bassist and leader, Takumi Ichinose. The other band members of Trapnest include drummer Naoki Fujieda (always being referred to as ‘the other guy’ and gets excited and loudmouth whenever he sees or hears things which interests him) and vocalist Reira Serizawa (this half American and half Japanese beauty may seem elegant and graceful upfront but she’s quite childish, throwing tantrums and sticking out her tongue when she talks among her bandmates). Nana K also didn’t realize that Nana O and Ren were once lovers until later. Slow. So the girls leave for Nana K’s hometown and well, Nana K’s family is just as weird. Why, she has a sister, Nami, who is so tanned, that you might think that she’s of African heritage! They manage to attend the concert and it was fabulous. Though it was part of Nana K’s plan to make Nana O get together with Ren, Nana O has a surprise for her later.
 
When the girls get back to their 707 apartment, Nana K gets the biggest shock and surprise of her life. Takumi is at their place! Tears of joy. Ren and the other Blast members are there too and they had a feast. I guess it’s a dream for every girl to be this close to the idols they love. So this is just more than just admiring kind of love. Soon, it’ll be the kind of lovers. Takumi soon brings Nana K to a luxurious hotel and looks like it’s the first time she’s been to such a grand place. You can pretty much guess that the duo made love. On the other hand, Nobu too is growing fond of Nana K but you know, he doesn’t want to intrude on their happiness. When Nobu and Shin found out that woman-player Takumi had slept with Nana K, they were disgusted and their respect for him went down (yeah, Shin splashed a glass of water in his face!). Because of this, Nana K is in a dilemma too. Either Takumi or Nobu. Though I think deep down she has feelings for Nobu (heck, they even made love too! But I’m trying not to think of her as a slut), but circumstances has it that she has to go back to Takumi. At certain points, Takumi may seem cold and selfish, but in a way, he’s right too. Partly, Nana K can’t seem to get out of this never ending spiral. She’s like stuck with him. But this relationship can’t be publicised or else it won’t bring any good for the band’s future.
 
Over the series, I kinda find that the members of Blast and Trapnest know each other and their relationships intertwining. Yeah, they even know each other way back during their schooling years. It’s really a small world after all. So like Reira likes Takumi but the latter sees and treats her more like a brother-sister relationship. Also, Shin is like a high class male prostitute and goes round to his ‘clients’ whenever they need him. Why, not he’s good looking and young but he doesn’t come cheap. He’s really in high demand. Later, Reira and Shin will have a secret tryst which will turn into a secret relationship. Of course Nana O and Ren’s relationship continues but secretly too because I think all those female fans of Ren will probably kill Nana O if they ever find out that their loved one likes a girl from a rival and upcoming band. Also there are times which may hint that Yasu likes Nana O but the former was more of being a good friend to Ren and taking care of that little princess.
 
Then a shocking news came to light. Nana K may be pregnant! Confirm, she is. But who’s child is it? Nobu or Takumi? High chances of it would be Takumi’s because Nobu did mention that he used a condom. Anyway this fact pisses off Nana O very much because Nana K would be separated and going further away from her. I’m not sure, but Nana O is thinking of keeping Nana K as her ‘dog’ in her ‘mansion’ and with Nobu as her companion or boyfriend or husband, she’s just like allowing her ‘dog’ to run around a little in her ‘garden’. Seems like Nana O is using Nobu for her own achievements on Nana K. Though Nana K is confused and shocked by the recent development of events, she decides to keep the baby no matter what. Because of that, Takumi tells her that whether the baby is his child or not, he will still provide child support for her. Nana K has to go live with Takumi in his apartment but their relationship is still kept a secret from the public. But that Takumi jerk at 1 point must’ve had sex on his mind and does it with Nana K even if she tells him that by doing so might harm the baby. "You don’t have to worry but making me happy…". Huh? Meanwhile Nana O really wanted to do something about it but can’t and eventually goes to live at Ren’s place (this guy’s a pervert too). A lot of drama, tension and spacing out. As the series takes a series twist and turn, this will be the last time (not really) that we’ll see the 707 apartment. At least it’ll be a long while. Plus, the 2 Nanas won’t be together as they always did and Nana O feels the pain of being separated from a friend. Especially when Nana O accidentally broke the strawberry glass which Nana K bought when they first moved in as the latter treasures it very much.
 
From this point on, the main focus now is on Blast as they have written a new song and are trying to make their debut. They managed to sign a contract with Gaia Records when a scouting staff, the understanding Takafumi Kawano, who is also the company’s recording producer, spots them during one of their gigs. Ironically though he doesn’t know much about punk rock music, he sees some future in them. Of course signing a contract doesn’t guarantee them an easy life as they will still face lots of obstacles and prejudices as newbies in the industry. One of them includes an editor guy from some ‘paparazzi-like’ magazine who seems to hold a deep grudge against Trapnest and Blast. I’m not sure what his problem is or had with the band but he intends to expose Ren and Nana O’s relationship and wants to make it as though Nana O is using Ren as a stepping stone to launch her career. Though Ren and Nana O had got several advices of trying not to be seen together by their bandmates, I guess there’s always 1 time where they’ll let their guard down. A photographer who has been secretly following them must’ve cherished this moment very much. He takes a photo of them leaving Ren’s place together. A crisis and scandal to hit a new up and rising band at such a time? No doubt that Blast’s debut was a hit but this could mean trouble.
 
In no time, they’re making headlines in every newspaper in town and this causes reporters and journalists to swarm over them to find some answers. Nana O is probably the most affected person as a couple of reporters hound her outside her 707 apartment where she is cowering in fear. I love the part whereby Yasu makes his ‘grand entrance’ to rescue Nana O by telling off those reporters "If you people have time to sit and mess around with other people’s garden, plant your own damn flowers first". Wohoo! That’s right! Tell it straight to their faces. So Nana O got her confidence back and tells Nana K through the camera to watch and see her make it big time. With that, all the Blast members are relocated to 1 of Gaia’s shared housing and facilities building, which also houses other talented individuals, to shield them away from the press while Trapnest members temporarily leave the country for England (partly to do some promo work too). I find it amusing when Takumi was calling Nana K and naughty Reira is making weird faces to him and saying something about Takumi’s ex-love in England, Stella. But it seems Takumi gets to head back to Japan earlier than the rest because he wants to see Nana K and meet her parents (must be real shock to see their daughter engaged to a musician. But Takumi seems to be quite eloquent and graceful in meeting her parents). I guess he’s arranged for their marriage already. Probably Nana K’s heart is easy to satisfy as Takumi bought many gifts for her. There’s a funny part during their conversation whereby Nana K thinks that Takumi may have another lover when he says that Nana K will always be number 2 in his list. Yeah, Nana K brought up that Sachiko name again! But to her surprise, that girl Takumi was referring to was their unborn daughter! Haha. Regret bringing that name up? Well, Takumi seems to be fond of that name. Uh oh. Their child named after that imaginary bimbo and Shouji’s current girlfriend?! Really regretting… Meanwhile, Shin and Reira seems to do long distance relationship and communicates with each other through their handphone SMS.
 
So the Blast members living in some hostel-like environment and they have an effeminate guy, Ginpei Shiroboshi as their manager. Pondan. This guy and Nana O always seems to be in some sort of argument but things indicate Ginpei may have some soft spot for Yasu as he always listens to him. Uh oh, I smell gay. Anyway the band members get to meet several occupants of the shared housing like porn star Yuri Kousaka (haha, Nana O caught the guys by surprise when they knew and revealed too much about her) and soft-spoken and depressed-self-mutilation tv actress Miu Shinoda. I dunno but it seems Nobu is trying to leave his past with Nana K behind as things suggest that he may be interested in Miu and that Yuri too is interested with him (not sure whether she’s just fooling around). Because of this Nana O isn’t quite happy as she still thinks Nobu is fit for Nana K. An argument ensued before Nana O experiences hyper-ventilation and has a hard time breathing. Thanks to Miu’s advice and fast thinking and action by the rest, Nana O’s condition isn’t life threatening but she can’t exert herself too much. This worries her a little because singing is the only thing she can do in life.
 
It seems there’s gonna be a showdown in the debut of the albums between Blast and Trapnest because the release date is to be the same, on October 31st. So when Trapnest return to Japan, they along with Blast did a lot of promotional gigs for their upcoming album. As far as I can remember, I think this is the first time Nana O meets Reira face to face. Well, seems pretty okay to Nana O since Reira looks forward to be friends with her. So Blast seems to have their hands full with all the scheduled programmes and interviews for them to attend. So your typical no comment answer about Ren and Nana O’s relationship. Then when Blast made their first tv debut performance, it was like an instant hit and they could really rival Trapnest. But even with their hectic schedule, I guess they still have to find some time when Nana K calls Shin to watch some fireworks together. Nana O thinks it’s Nobu’s chance of getting them back together but Nobu is still uncertain. Nana O tells her that they will meet back at their old 707 apartment and will be eagerly waiting for her. But since they’re so famous now, anybody can just identify them. How will they solve this? Well, they have several make-up artists to cover that part and though Ginpei refused to let them go see the fireworks at first but since Yasu did opened his mouth, I guess that guy has no second thoughts of giving the green light. Anyway their disguise is like a complete make-over. I mean, Nana O’s disguise reminds me of Yukari of Paradise Kiss. I can see the similarities between them now. Shin is dressed like a girl (like Misato!), Shin a normal guy and Yasu… he dons an afro?! You really wouldn’t recognize them at first sight.
 
As they’re waiting at room 707, Nana K is on her way and decides to stop by Jackson Hole and unexpectedly meets Shouji there! It’s been a long time since these 2 met. They had a little chat and probably before they parted, it feels like Shouji was apologizing for what he did and that he has to live with all that. But the final episode starts off with a possible glimpse of the future in Nana K’s life. We see that she has a daughter named Satsuki (thank God, not Sachiko) as she along with Nana O and her Blast members are together at their 707 apartment having a swell time in their traditional Japanese festival attires. So back to present time, Nana K is still indecisive whether or not to go meet the gang as she fears to see Nobu, vice versa. So of course Nana O bluffs her by saying that Nobu didn’t come. But even so, Nana K really took her time so the gang left to see the fireworks. Though Nana K finally arrived at 707, since nobody was in (well, Nobu was but he didn’t open the door) and Shin’s good timing call told her where they were at that time, she left. Finally both Nanas meet chat a little as they watch another round of fireworks. After that, the Blast members are being picked up by Ginpei as they head back.
 
Well if that doesn’t feel much of an ending that’s because it really hasn’t ended yet. Though the manga is still ongoing, this is actually the 1st season of the anime series. Why, a few episodes before the final episode, the producers put a countdown to the end of the first season. Probably in the near future, the producers will pick this anime up again when the manga has finished some storyline arcs. By the way, I have briefly browsed through a little and it seems the manga will get more complicated with the development of several character’s relationship. Especially between Ren and Nana O, and the postponement of Takumi and Nana K’s wedding. I think a 2nd season is quite likely since the series is quite popular with the manga translated and the anime dubbed into several languages. Fancy reading NANA in French or watching it in Chinese?
 
At the end of each episode, there’ll be a segment called Nana’s Room, hosted by NANA Navigator, Nana Shizue. In this segment spanning a few minutes, she’ll tell viewers all there is to know about the series such as the release dates of the DVDs, soundtrack and albums, interview with the seiyuus, promotional events and even behind the scenes of the people behind this anime. Quite informative. Besides, I kinda notice that the real-life 707 room which Nana Shizue hosts most of the time is seemingly smaller as compared to the anime one. Yeah, in the show it looks rather spacious but here it looks kinda a little tight.
 
The character developments of the series is quite good and though it mainly focuses on the 2 Nanas, at times it also gives an insight about the past lives of other members like the mysterious and youthful Shin, whose father isn’t his real genetic father but a foster one who takes him in and even all these years he never feels that lovely father-son feeling. We also see how Nana K has grown from a naive character into a stronger one (like she doesn’t blame things on her Demon Lord anymore), though generally her overall trait is still there. But she is more mature now. And for Nana O who was a loner back during her high school days, comes to appreciate the meaning of friendship especially with Nana K. You’ll cherish something very much when you lose it. Also at the start and end of each episode just before the opening and ending credits, you’ll hear a narration about the metaphors in life and such. The first half is narrated by Nana K and when the series took a serious turn, the second half is then narrated by Nana O.
 
As mentioned, the drawing and art do have that bishonen and bishoujo feel, so everybody here looks gorgeous. Even when they’re in their comical chibi mode. I also noticed that there are several kanji or hiragana writings onscreen whenever the characters make some punch line or joke, whether it’s contradicting statements or sound effects. But since some of them are too small, I can’t really read them.
 
True to the nature of the band in the anime. All the opening songs of the series have that punk rock feel and beat while all the endings are more slow rock. The openings and endings are mainly sung by either Olivia or Anna Tsuchiya, both whom are inspired by the series to sing the song as Nana O or Reira. At first it was quite odd to see Blast singing the opening songs as their performance gigs but I guess it’s better than having to write a totally new song just for it. So I’m not sure during the anime when Nana O sings those songs, it’s actually her voice or the real singers themselves. While the 1st opening theme, Broken Rose and 2nd opening theme, Wish sounds like your typical punk rock song, I can’t help notice that the lyrics of the 3rd opening theme, Lucy sound so ‘bad ass’. Uh huh "Yeah yeah, yeah yeah, you’re going down…". Of all the ending themes, my favourite ones are still the 1st ending theme, A Little Pain, and the 3rd ending theme, Kuroi Namida. The others include 2nd ending theme, Starless Night, 4th ending theme, Winter Sleep, and 5th ending theme, Stand By Me (more like a special ending theme). There are various insert songs and background music to suit the theme and mood of the series. So fans of NANA should get the soundtrack as it provides quite some ear candy.
 
For a drama series, the voice acting is quite good. Nana O is voiced by Romi Paku (Edward of Fullmetal Alchemist) and Nana K by Midori Kawana AKA Kaori (Haruka of Pokemon). The other casts include Hidenobu Kiuchi as Ren (Ryohei in Kateikyoushi Hitman Reborn), Toshiyuki Morikawa as Takumi (Mitsuomi in Tenjou Tenge), Aya Hirano as Reira (Suzumiya in Suzumiya Haruhi No Yuustsu), Tomokazu Seki as Nobu (Kyou of Fruits Basket), Akira Ishida as Shin (Saburo of Keroro Gunsou, Narumi of Gakuen Alice), Takako Honda as Junko (Hone Onna of Jigoku Shoujo), Juinichi Suwabe as Kyousuke (Atobe in Prince Of Tennis), and Hiroki Takahashi as Shouji (Eiji in Prince Of Tennis, Harima in School Rumble).
 
There’s 1 thing bad about the series, which is smoking. You tend to see most of the rock band members (and even the underage Shin!) smoking cigarettes themselves. Why, the name of Black Stones was derived from a cigarette box itself! Though Nana O has that no smoking policy during rehearsal because it’ll ‘threaten’ her vocals, but I kinda noticed that she too herself at times becomes a hypocrite and smoke. Bad influence? What about the sex part? Well, yeah. That depends. Remember, make peace and love, not war.
 
Just like Paradise Kiss, there is a hint of fashion for the characters in the anime. Since I’m not into fashion, I can’t really comment here. Also, there are some items in the series like handphones, which has been produced in real life. See the intense promotion of the series? No wonder this series is famous in most parts of the world. I also find the episode number for the title screen to be quite fancy and creative. Though, I’m not sure what happened to the title name. Is it somewhere in the opening or ending credits which I usually skip? Dunno. For really hardcore fans of the series who can’t get enough after accumulating all those posters, fan arts and merchandise, there are even 2 real-life movies made and a video game based on it too. I wonder how the game works.
 
So who says that being a rock group is easy nor is falling in love. But I guess the uncertainties in life is what makes it interesting and hope to look forward to. I’m not sure if I’ll have the same interest to watch if the second season comes out, but it’ll be interesting to know what destiny and fate will have in store for the 2 Nanas. Oh yes, before I forget. I kinda notice that with all the references initially surrounding the Nana name and number, I wonder why they didn’t make one relating to the yellow fruit, banana. Get it? BA-NANA. Hahaha! Just joking.
 
NANA

Galaxy Angel Rune

June 6, 2008

If this was shown during the time when I was first infatuated with the Galaxy Angel series, then heck, I would’ve set a resolution that I would see it no matter what. Galaxy Angel Rune is actually a sequel spin-off of the Galaxy Angel series and has been adapted from the highly popular pc game into an anime series. However, though the original Galaxy Angel series span several seasons, I’ve only watched the 1st season. Talk about quick waning of interest over the years.
 
Out of the 13 episodes, I’ve only watched the first 3 episodes. One very good obvious reason is that those were the only subbed episodes that I could ever find. Why didn’t the fan-subbers continue the series? Well, here’s the story. When this series was first aired during the 4th quarter of year 2006, there weren’t any takers to sub the series. It is only after when the series ended that a particular fansub group (Katana Fansubs, that is) decide to pick this up. Call it fate or just bad timing that this series was then announced to be licensed. I guess it just stops there. And if I were still a Galaxy Angel maniac, I would be cursing and swearing rather than Oh-since-it’s-like-that-then-I’d-better-drop-watching-it attitude.
 
Ironically, I read that the Galaxy Angel franchise and series is only quite popular in Japan, but outside the land of the rising sun, it’s close to unknown. So it made me wonder why the American company decide to go license it in the first place. Probably based on history, it wouldn’t mean anything successful but I guess there’s no harm in trying.
 
Based on the first 3 episodes that I saw, I could say that the overall wacky Galaxy Angel humour and silliness is still there. But this time a new group of girl troupe takes the spotlight. To sum up the 5 crew member of the Rune Angel Troupe, first we have Apricot Sakuraba as the main character. She has that fear of being touched by boys and you could find yourself head over heels (more of in pain rather than in love lah) if you do so. This is done unintentionally, though, even if it’s just the slightest touch. Then there is the active, outgoing, competitive and not to mention a little tomboyish Anise Azeat. Lily C. Sherbet is a skilled swordswoman and your typical serious no nonsense gal while Nano Nano Pudding is as annoying because she ends her sentences with "~Nanoda" and her features seems to resemble of a cat. Finally there’s the dual personality Kahlua/Tequilla Marjoram. Kahlua is the gentle and quiet personality but when she consumes alcohol, her personality and appearance will change to a more aggressive, seductive and hot tempered Tequilla. So can we consider her as 2 members or just 1. I’ll just stick to 1 then. Then I’m not sure whether this character Kuchen Baum is part of the troupe or not. Obviously this guy is a transvestite and that horrible cross dressing doesn’t cover it. It’s like a man trying to act as a woman but fails so badly at it. As far as I remember, he is the villa Angel’s management officer. Then I think the girls have a so called pet, which is just a flying head of a black cat. Huh?
 
After taking a look at the characters, I thought they were rip-offs from the original Galaxy Angel series. Like how Apricot is designed after Milfeulle, Lily taken after Forte, Kahlua seems to look like Ranpha, and Nano Nano a little like Mint. Of course I found out later that these characters do indeed have a connection with the original Galaxy Angel casts like Apricot is Millfeulle’s little sister, Forte is Lily’s teacher, Nano Nano was discovered by Vanilla, Anise owes some debt to Mint, and Kahlua/Tequilla regards Ranpha very highly.
 
The plot is generally the same too. In the sense that, the Rune Angel Troupe are still looking for Lost Technology and at the same time, they have to maintain peace and order in the certain part of the galaxy in which they are entrusted to. As mentioned that this series is based on the game, I’m not sure how closely it follows it, since I haven’t played any of the Galaxy Angel games in my life. Speaking of games, there are several of them and the manga is still currently ongoing in Japan.
 
So not going into details of episode 1, this episode mainly introduces the cast and characters of the series. We also see the Rune Angel Troupe living in some kind of dorm on a planet as opposed to the original Galaxy Angel troupe who lived on a spaceship. We see the gals being visited by a strange moustache shorty man in a white suit named Baron, who seems to remind me of the mascot of the board game Monopoly. I’m not sure what this guy’s real intention but as far as I can remember, he seems to want to give himself up by surrendering to the girls and wants to be punished. A villain with a conscious? Another strange part about him is that, I was wondering why in every darn speech has the lines "He said~". It’s like talking from a 3rd person perspective. Then I realized (I may be wrong) that he’s speeches are actually muffled and that you can’t actually hear a single word he utters. So the speeches are from a narrator who’s narrating and translating what he’s actually saying! Oh, boy.
 
Of course even if he’s a self confessed villain (some perverted crime he confessed and a stolen handkerchief?), the girls still need proof of what evil deeds he has done and will need to do some investigations. Anyway Baron decides to give himself up to the proper authorities. Since the interrogation was kinda rough, I’m not sure whether he’s enjoying it or filled with anger (what the? Ecstasy explosion?!). The girls are talking over things and find out that this Baron is named Galette and is on the wanted list for questioning. Before that, I remember seeing a little yuri between Tequilla and Apricot…
 
Next thing you know, the Rune Angel Troupe are sent to counter some invading force in space. We see a giant sized Baron and his several thousand mini fleets going to attack. So we get to see our Rune Angel Troupe heroines do some space shooting action. The lasers and missiles firing are very elaborated and exaggerated so much so you might think it’s some kind of light festival display. But it’s kinda cool with all that speed and intensity. Blast! Boom! Bang! Maximum fire power! Three hours into the fight, Baron still wants to be punished and such. I don’t really know what’s this guy’s problem. Finally one super maximum combined power shot allow the girls to defeat Baron, who then thinks they can be arrested… and tied up. Well, I guess he got his wish. But we see Baron still floating in space alone because Apricot forgot to bring him in as she’s being chided by Anise.
 
Episode 2 is something about a bloody big bargain sale (really!) because Apricot wants a particular fashion dress so she along with Kahlua/Tequilla and Nano Nano head down there to some sale to get one. The event is like war. And I mean big time war. Even before the opening of the store, we see countless customers waiting in line, some obnoxious looking ones. When it’s time, everyone is elbowing and pushing each other like as though they’re all kiasu. At this rate, Apricot and co will be crushed! I guess the day ended with lots of muscle aches and pains. Kahlua mentioned that she saw an advertisement on the bargain and it may contain some herbal seaweed which could rejuvenate one’s body. Apricot is all hyped up to do her best. Meanwhile we see Anise talking to some lethargic elderly guy, Kobayashi, in a bar with Kuchen. At the same time, Apricot undergoes intensive training in order to face the next big bargain sale.
 
Change of scene, we see the Rune Angel Troupe gals investigating a hijacked ship. However the girls didn’t suspect that the criminals were the one disguised as the ship’s crew, even though they’re sweating in panic. They’re even surprised the girls left without arresting them. But later Anise realized that 1 of the crew looked familiar and by thinking back, she remembers him as that Kobayashi guy who patron the bar earlier on and is pissed off. Yeah, revenge time. So Anise devises a plan to get back at them. When Kobayashi and his henchmen patron the bar to relax, Kuchen uses his disgusting womanly charm to get some info out of him like his job and his next one. Well, it worked. Partly Kobayashi is dumb too. Something about a fukubukuro at the next bargain sale.
 
Soon the day of the next bargain sale arrives and we see the usual suspects plus Kobayashi and his henchmen there. This time Apricot goes alone while her comrades watches from a safe distance behind. The storekeeper gives the green light and once again everyone goes into a violent shopping frenzy. People, remember that this is not the proper way to do shopping. So a lot of exaggerated moves being pulled off. Apricot has got a fukubukuro in her hands and Kobayashi spots it and tries to get it but got into the path of those other unruly violent housewives. Beaten to a pulp. Just when Kobayashi is crawling up to Apricot, he touches her hand. You know what this means. She unleashes some awesome never-seen-before power. In the end, Kobayashi didn’t get what he wanted and the housewives commended Apricot for her strong will. Back at the dorm, the gang are having doubts whether to drink Kahlua’s specially made seaweed drink. After they’ve gulp it down, they all turned into a chibi version of themselves. As for Anise, she’s upset that the fukubukuro that she got was destroyed by Apricot’s amazing power shot and is saddened she can’t repay her debts.
 
Episode 3 sees Anise leading her team to get the ingredients to make the ultimate legendary nabe (hot pot). This weird dream of hers started when she was young, some afro guy attacked her group while eating nabe and tells them that she will never taste nabe ever again. But Anise of course would beg to differ. So the girls go off on a wild adventure to find the 6 essential ingredients from raiding trap-filled tombs to playing national shogi (Japanese chess) tournament to fighting a group of bad ass delinquents to seducing some normal looking guy to just buying it at the store and well, intergalactic spaceship battles. So the coveted ingredients included pork belly, tofu, noodles, shitake mushrooms, hot pot mix and chrysanthemum. That’s it? I was hoping for something more elaborated.
 
Back at the dorm, the girls have finally prepared the legendary nabe when Nano Nano gulps it down in 1 sitting, shocking everyone. Luckily they still have leftover ingredients and proceed to prepare another one. Just then, Kahlua transforms into Tequilla and she dukes it out with the rest over the nabe but the due to the tussle, the pot tipped over. Let’s start all over again. Everybody’s waiting and suspicious of each other. Can you feel the tension in the air? Anise, not wanting to lose, makes her first move. But again she spills the nabe pot. Ah well… It’s the 4th time now. Can they start savouring the dish? This time Kuchen is at the table but because of the way he said things, Anise knew he was the Nabe Magistrate in disguise. Yeah, it’s that afro guy. He’s back and to take their hard work all away. With their determination and combined power, another round of exaggerated fighting before Anise and her team lands victory. The final moment is here. Anise reminisces all the tough times she went through to get the ingredients and making the nabe and finally gets to taste it. Tears of joy. It’s the best nabe ever! As the rest enjoys the legendary nabe, we see a paper on the hot pot mix ingredient being peeled off. It states "Legendary-like nabe". Oh well, it’s all in one’s mind after all.
 
So I guess that’s it for me. Even though there are RAW versions of the complete series, but I think even if I watched them, I wouldn’t understand what they’re trying to say. Yeah, it’s like taking out half of all the funny and comical stuffs. But I’m pretty sure the hilarious stuffs will still remain consistent and if not, even wilder as the series progresses.
 
The drawing, art and animation seem consistent with the previous seasons of the Galaxy Angel series with cute big wide-eyed girls with quirky personalities. The computer graphics in the space battles that they used are kinda cool. I find it funny and amusing to see the girls doing some hip shaking dance during the opening theme song, Uchuu De Koi Wa Ru-run Run. I still prefer Suzumiya Haruhi No Yuutsu’s Hare Hare Yukai dance, though. Though the opening and ending songs are upbeat, the ending theme, Happy Flight, is a little slower and shows the characters in their chibi form standing in a line. I’m not sure you can call that dancing but you also get to see clips of what is shown in that episode.
 
I’m not too sure if I’m gonna watch a 3rd sequel if they ever make one in the near or distant future. But even if I don’t sit through the entire series, I’m sure watching a few episodes will be worth the laughs, for old time’s sake. Ah, Galaxy Angel… That name does bring back fond memories of the show. Cute space girls in uniforms… Looking more like pop idols. Will the universe be a much safer place in the future? Don’t count on it. But you can count on them making you laugh.
 
Galaxy Angel Rune