Minami-ke: Okaeri

October 30, 2009

Bakayaro! Bakayaro! BAKAYARO! Forgive me if I do sound a little rude but I guess that is my way of welcoming the 3rd season of the series which tells the ordinary lives of the ordinary sisters in an extraordinary way. That’s right. Fans of the series will instantly recognize that to be Minami-ke: Okaeri, in which the second title literally means ‘welcome home’.
 
There is a theory why they named the title so. Though this season and the previous season are produced by the same company, one major difference which at least will bring relief to fans is the drawing and art. Those who have watched the 2nd season would know how the art detracts from the 1st season and well you could say it sucks. Well, not that bad actually but we rather have the same artwork for consistency. Though the artwork this season isn’t totally the same as the 1st season, at least it follows closely to it. So I guess that’s why they ‘welcome’ it back. Hmm… I get the feeling that sometimes the characters have that little mature look.
 
Another u-turn from the 2nd season and back to the 1st is that the stories are now divided into random skits rather than a particular story taking up a whole episode. It is a good thing for those who have not watched the series previously to pick it up without having any major problems though it is still better to watch its predecessors and get to know the characters well, especially their quirky behaviours and relationship among each other.
 
So episode 1 sees the Minami sisters in their yukatas heading out to the shrine for New Year’s Day prayers with Uchida. The usual luck reading and it seems Chiaki has good luck for her romance life. Same with Uchida (who is also having the time of her life). Hosaka also does the same but it turns out to be misfortune. Would that deter that top-stripping guy? If I remember well, that guy was on his way to San Francisco in the last season. Back again, eh? Anyway, Uchida is really happy when they’re back at the Minami’s apartment. She is confident that love of her life will come so Kana says that person will arrive soon. It turns out to be Fujioka. I don’t remember how or why but Chiaki seems to be fond of Fujioka and proceeds to sit on his lap like as though he is her comfy chair. Then Kana requests Uchida to pay back the money she lend her during the shrine so that she could have her fortune read. With that, Uchida doesn’t feel lucky in money or romance. Next scene has Chiaki and Touma discussing about Instant Cup Fried Noodles phenomenon. Not that I understand anything from this because Haruka soon prepares tea for downtrodden Takeru (still miserable about his love life and job) and he gets refreshed after that. Next scene has Chiaki’s school nurse making a house visit but she discusses with Haruka and Takeru anything about school stuff. Is she flirting with him? Anyway Chiaki isn’t too pleased and wants her to go home. Next, Takeru’s weird method of using a spinning pen prediction seems to work because it accurately points out the whereabouts of Chiaki’s teddy bear which is also named Fujioka. In a cooking pot and the culprit is Kana. Not only that, Kana wants to predict her future her husband and it turns out to be her classmate Fujioka who has just arrived at their doorstep. Finally, Hosaka is for the umpteenth time having his fortune read but it all reads misfortune. It’s closing time already lah! Go back you loser!
 
In episode 2, Touma brought over some sweets but Chiaki insists that they wait till Haruka comes back before they open. We see Chiaki having her little angel and bustier grown-up devil side, debating on the action Chiaki should take. Fujioka also experiences the same when he wonders how close Kana and Touma is because the duo are tussling over the sweets (Fujioka thinks Touma is a boy). In the end, Fujioka somehow ended up with the snacks because he yelled out how much he wants them. Was that what he wanted? Next arc has Chiaki finding a shopping list from Haruka to buy some groceries but she feels something wrong and thinks Kana has tampered with it. The usual angel-demon debate and it’s true that Kana did mess with it and begs for mercy. Chiaki shows her kind side by forgiving her as they both hug. Aww… As part of Hayami’s plan to have her club members to be friendlier, she screws with Hosaka’s head by saying that he needs to get acquainted with Maki and Atsuko in order to get closer to Haruka. Perhaps it must be his eerie smile while saying "Let’s be friends" which scares the poor girls away. Not only that. I think the main contribution is his unbuttoned top! So when Hosaka finally does it on Hayami, she slaps him instead. As Chiaki is at the supermarket unsure of the ingredients she is buying. Hosaka overhears her and also thinks it’s a good idea to make one. He starts fantasizing about some curry piano recital and receives a standing ovation! Chiaki spots him making a bow and realizes the ingredients she is buying are for making curry and thinks he is the Curry Fairy (oh God!). Chiaki is even humming that song Hosaka sang on her way home (oh God, no!). And in class despite Maki’s attempts to prevent Hosaka from opening his curry lunch in order not to stink the whole class, Hosaka isn’t listening…
 
After being missing from the previous season, the Minami brothers make their returning appearance in episode 3. Touma and Natsuki got into a fight when the latter ate her pudding without permission. Because of that, Touma decides to stay at the Minami sisters’ apartment for the time being. Haruka lectures Natsuki over the phone about some etiquette and later as the quartet are contemplating to share 2 cups of pudding, Takeru comes home with more and everyone enjoys a whole cup each. Next scene has Uchida paying the sisters a visit and brought apples as gifts. Haruka seems gloomy and goes to prepare an apple dish. Then Kana tells Uchida not to look into a box but curiosity got the better of her and it killed her. She finds lots of apples in it and no wonder Haruka is sick of making apple dishes. So Uchida has to prepare herself the consequences. Eating them all? She got knocked out after only 2. To think that Touma would be happy to come over and eat Haruka’s apple dishes until she too discovers its abundance. Getting sick of it? She goes home to give an apple to her brothers and they contemplate to make fried apples for her. Ugh! Next scene has Haruka over the phone lecturing Natsuki how to cook so Kana thinks they are a couple but Chiaki refuses to accept it. So Chiaki, Kana and Touma too decide to cook. Because of the verbal mix-up, Kana and co’s curry turned out sweet while Natsuki’s egg has curry smell. Finally Touma gets into another fight with Natsuki and stays over at you know where temporarily. She along with Kana and Chiaki write their name in arithmetic codes using tomato sauce on their omelette.
 
In episode 4, Kana thinks Touma is out of control when the former has a taste of a snack Haruka made for the latter only to receive some head butt. So Kana discusses the pecking order of their family which has Haruka at the top. Because they can’t decide which of them ranks higher, they decide to duke it out. When Touma comes by, she sees Haruka flexing her power by having her palm in each of their face! Don’t mess with her. She’s the boss alright. When Haruka is back to her nice mode and goes off to prepare for her guest, I can’t believe Chiaki and Kana are blaming Touma for all that has happened! Next story has Touma once again having a fight with Natsuki but every time she fights back, obviously Natsuki who is bigger size has the upper hand. So Kana tells her to act more feminine and gives Touma a picture in which if she ever gets into a fight with Natsuki, just show this photo to him. And it worked! That picture turned out to be Haruka waking up in her unkempt dress. Sexy enough to make this oblivious guy stop and admire. Later the Minami brothers contemplate what to get Touma for her birthday and Kana discussing about the school’s banchou in which the 2nd banchou is rumoured to be Natsuki. Speaking of which, a classmate of his, Hitomi has a crush on him but misunderstood when she spots his loving gaze and thinks it is directed at her but actually it’s Haruka he’s looking at (must be the effects of the photo). So Hitomi goes to ask Hayami for advice when Hosaka comes in drenched with an unopened umbrella in hand. Yeah, his sick fantasy with Haruka again if she ever forgot to bring her umbrella on a rainy day. Hitomi gets an idea so she forcefully tries to lend her umbrella to Natsuki who is evading her. Then she sees that gaze of his and thinks she has seen a light of hope. More like he is looking at the rain that is clearing up and the sun shining through the clouds. Because of that, Hosaka leaves his umbrella at the classroom door as he walks off satisfied with the look on Haruka’s face while Touma gets an umbrella for her birthday present.
 
On a hot day in episode 5, Chiaki and her classmates are cleaning the pool. Because Makoto made some remarks of how Chiaki is slacking around and Uchida’s comments that she can’t swim, Chiaki takes control of the water hose and starts spraying around to assert her authority. "One who controls the water source, controls the cleaning". So Makoto, Uchida and Yoshino devise a distraction tactic to snatch the hose away from her. They all got wet and reprimanded Makoto by letting him buckets of water. The next scene has Uchida and Yoshino talking about getting into the water for swimming lessons to cool themselves but Chiaki disagrees with the idea and comes up with all sorts of theory why she shouldn’t. This includes an experiment to increase her body’s water retaining percentage from 70% to 80% by drinking as much water as she can! And she already feels bloated after only a 1% increase. Of course lah you bakayaro! Her pals spot her so she has no choice and can’t back out from swimming. Only thing is that now her bloated tummy is protruding so it would obviously be embarrassing if anyone sees it. She tries to get the school nurse to bandage her tummy but she bandages her finger instead. During pool lessons, Chiaki sits out and the heat has dehydrated her body water back to 70%. All that drinking for nothing. Meanwhile Kana thinks of going to the public pool. Riko and Fujioka overhear her idea and tries to drop her hints to invite the other with her but Kana misinterprets that they like the school pool better and drops her idea, much to Fujioka and Riko’s dismay. But they eventually did go to the public pool. However Kana isn’t too happy with Fujioka and when they leave, she kicks him in the shin! Even back home, Kana is in bad mood so the rest found out that Kana wanted Fujioka to play along with the rest at the pool but he is conscious that he is the only guy among the girls and refused. I don’t know about Touma’s theory about male to male contact is more straightforward so everyone has a game of tag so much so when it’s Fujioka’s turn, he is going all out to touch Touma because you know he still thinks that she’s a boy.
 
Episode 6 starts off with a beach episode but because of Takeru’s awkward navigation, Kana gets carsick. Back home, Chiaki is asking if anyone has seen her teddy bear. So they recall and it seems it was in Fujioka’s bag. Though he didn’t steal it, he too doesn’t remember putting it in his bag since he left it outside with the other bags at the beach. Kana then remembers that it was her who randomly put it in a bag which turned out to be Fujioka’s. In order to avoid getting scolded, she randomly says aloud "I love you" and Fujioka blushes. Since nobody put up any shocking reaction, Kana hopes all this would pass. The next story sees Maki knowing that Fujioka having a crush on Kana because she concludes that he brought watermelons in hopes of getting on her good side. Fujioka and Touma hold a contest to see who can finish eating the watermelon the fastest. Touma got distracted by Kana’s seed spitting so Fujioka finishes first. Next, Mako-chan finally appears and it seems ‘she’ and Uchida haven’t completed their homework. Uchida tried asking Chiaki to copy her work but was rejected. Touma did tried to but was met the same fate so she fell asleep instead. Thus Uchida wants Mako-chan to help ask Chiaki in exchange Mako-chan will copy it from her. Though Chiaki initially tells Mako-chan to teach Uchida, she tells ‘her’ that she isn’t a total devil and if Uchida shows repentance, she’ll lend it to her in which she eventually did. Touma wakes up to see Uchida copying so she wants to do the same but Uchida rejects her easy way out. So Touma whispers to Mako-chan to let ‘her’ copy hers when ‘she’ is done but Uchida shaking her head sideways means even Mako-chan can’t allow that. The final scene has Kana playing pranks on Chiaki in order to prolong summer like putting wasabi in her soumen and soy sauce in her kakigori. So in order to get back at her for taking away her summer, she sneakily steals her sumptuous food during dinner.
 
Chiaki is paired with Makoto in a 3-legged-race for the upcoming sports festival in episode 7. But since Chiaki sucks in sports, she gives up. But she reveals to Mako-chan and Kana that her reason that she doesn’t want to burden her partner. Thankfully Mako-chan’s secret is still intact so Chiaki requests Mako-chan to be her training partner. Mako-chan feels uncomfortable because Chiaki gets a little more physical contact with ‘her’ while Kana as some trainer is seen playing games instead. Lazy bum. Though they trip with their numerous practices, one evening Chiaki sees Makoto ready to train with her and when he gets too physical, she punches him. Next arc is Mako-chan needs to go to the toilet while chatting with Haruka. I don’t know why Kana barged in to remind Mako-chan about ‘her’ identity but if they haven’t swiftly covered Haruka’s eyes with the toilet rolls, Mako-chan could’ve been busted. In class, Riko is boasting about her growing breasts but Kana counters back with a statement that it’s okay as long as the guy likes them big. Back home, Kana is furious about Riko’s attitude but Mako-chan thinks breast size and attitude have nothing to do in common so Kana says back about ‘her’ flat-chest and cross-dressing ways. So Mako-chan wonders if there’s a way to show some cleavage without wearing a bra. Chiaki suggests a dress with a loose top handed down from Haruka but Mako-chan doesn’t want to. Chiaki misinterprets this as a rejection of her goodwill and chases her till they enter Haruka’s room and sees her changing. Theoretically, they’re all girls, right? Later Mako-chan spills a drink on ‘her’ skirt and Chiaki wants ‘her’ to strip or else the fabric will be ruined. Kana tells an indirect story about an identity being busted through some racoon dog story. But Chiaki thinks the racoon dog is cute in which Makoto is seen fawning over her statement in class the next day. Lastly, a remorseful Chiaki accidentally breaks all their favourite mugs so the sisters went shopping and though they wanted to get different mug designs, after some thinking, they all bought the same plain design. So back home, Chiaki and Haruka gave away theirs to mug-crazy Touma and Fujioka (who thinks it’s a gift from Kana). Chiaki and Haruka later bought their desired mug designs while Kana wonders if anyone wants to trade her plain mug.
 
In episode 8 because Uchida is asking Yoshino if she has a boyfriend, Kana shows them the laws of attraction and one of them is to be weak. As part of their training, they have to show their weakness via inability to open cans. Huh? And there’re lots of them for practice! Then Haruka and her pals come home so they have Maki demonstrate followed by Atsuko. I don’t know why but Kana and Maki thinks Atsuko don’t need to pretend to show her weakness and thinks she’s a witch! Because of that, poor Atsuko got a little frightened and hid behind Haruka. Chiaki comes back to see her cans all over the table and snatches one for a drink. Unfortunately as she opens the lid, the liquid spouts out on her face like a geyser. Kana puts the blame on the witch. Next part has Kana wanting Maki to teach Uchida and Yoshino about love but since Haruka calls for Maki to help out, Kana uses reluctant Atsuko as a replacement. Touma tells Kana to stop since Atsuko is uncomfortable so they got into a fight in which Touma got his face in Atsuko’s boobs and instantly fell asleep. Must be that comfortable. Next, Kana is upset about Keiko’s normal answer as she wants an amusing reply. Then Riko comes to ask Keiko indirectly about her love opinion on Fujioka via Friend A (Riko) and Friend B (Fujioka) story. Keiko knows of Riko’s crush and added a Friend C (Kana) into the picture to give an amusing reply to make it A and B accidentally hugged after being pushed by C. However Riko didn’t find it amusing. Depressed Keiko goes to tell Kana about this what-if story for her opinion so Kana avoids it by saying she’s not well and to test her another day, pissing off Keiko. Finally during a volleyball practice, Atsuko notices Hosaka and thinks how cool he is if he does not talk (God, no!). Maki teases her for liking him when Hayami comes by to ask if they have persuaded Haruka to join the club. Hosaka then fantasizes about Haruka in the volleyball club, cleaning his sweat. Happy, isn’t he? Acting out in public like that. Hayami then snaps him out as she talks to him about his training proposal. Atsuko confirms that he does look cool if he doesn’t talk (NOOO!!! However I find him disgusting but hilarious at all times!).
 
In episode 9 as Kana is eating tangerines, Chiaki and Touma at the same time reaches out their hand to pick the same tangerine. Because of that conflict, the duo aren’t talking to each other in school. Uchida requests Makoto to help so he visits Kana at her apartment and discuss things along with Uchida. At the same time, Chiaki and Touma made up and felt that their actions were childish. But when they come back, they see stingy Kana chasing Mako-chan and Uchida for taking a tangerine of hers. Next scene shows Chiaki making a very big sock for Christmas and Kana thinks she’s greedy. Fujioka gives Haruka and Kana their early Christmas presents and it turns out to be a mitten. Kana wonders if something this small would appropriately fit into Chiaki’s big sock. Later the sisters find out that Chiaki made a sock that size because she feels that any present would be fine and took into consideration for whatever present size to fit in. Thus, she is happy with the mittens she got. Next story has Haruka finding out from Touma that she receives random presents on her pillow every year but this year she received none. So Haruka calls Natsuki and lectures him for forgetting to buy Touma a present (since Natsuki and Touma were engrossed in playing video games). The next time, Touma tells her brothers that she received her present on her pillow this morning but didn’t noticed it as Akira thinks everything is settled when Natsuki blows it by saying that he initially put it on the living room. He just couldn’t read the atmosphere, can’t he? The final arc sees Hosaka eavesdropping on Haruka and her pals about Christmas present and when he sees a flyer recruiting part timers to sell Christmas cakes, he takes up the job. The usual sick fantasy of his. I don’t want to describe it but it ended up making it out on the cake he’s selling in front of the bewildered crowd! The manager’s trying to stop him but that guy’s still carrying on! Haruka and her sisters pass by and Kana wants to buy some cake but Haruka mentions that she’s making some so everyone goes back to their place to enjoy them. And Hosaka is still daydreaming…
 
On a rainy day in episode 10, Touma arrives at the Minami’s apartment all drenched. Haruka takes off her clothes to dry while Touma is clad in a towel. Chiaki notices Touma being served like a queen and despises her cocky attitude. She wants to teach her a lesson as she says how Fujioka is coming. Touma starts panicking and wants Chiaki or even Kana to lend them their clothes but Chiaki refuses. Fujioka then enters and sees Touma and Chiaki in a tussle. Touma now begs for some clothes and realizes the err of her ways. Chiaki notes how she could ask properly after all and tells her to follow her to her room. Haruka comes by to greet Fujioka and sees he is all wet so Kana proceeds to strip him! Next, Uchida pays Chiaki and Kana a visit but since she is ignoring Chiaki’s whatever story about insects, Chiaki gets upset. Then Fujioka comes by and Chiaki tells him some nicer story about the atmosphere and vapour trails, upsetting Uchida who wonders why she only tells her horrible stuff. Next story sees Touma sitting on Chiaki’s favourite seat: Fujioka’s lap. And they’re both quite friendly since they’re talking about football. Jealous Chiaki pushes Touma a little and the duo nearly got into a fight but Fujioka restrains Touma saying that one can’t be violent to girls. He even mentions the extra fat on Touma’s chest! Still can’t figure it out, eh? Fujioka is determined to have Touma undergo special training to get her mind into body and shape. So in class, Touma feels tired and Chiaki tells her not to go to the training anymore. When Touma questions why she didn’t tag along too, Chiaki flusters and gives an excuse that she will when she has more fats in her chest. In the end, Chiaki is happy sitting back at her usual seat.
 
Lastly, Natsuki gets ‘advice’ from his brothers about his manners and personality. Touma tells him to be careful of Chiaki, ignore Kana and but not to ignore Haruka or else she’ll get a bad impression. Natsuki visits the sisters to talk about Touma coming home late and this is the funny part. Heading Touma’s advice, when Chiaki asks him, Natsuki puts on a scary face (his smile is even scarier!) and make that little girl quiver in fear that she hides behind Kana! When it’s Kana turn, he ignores her! But he answers normally to Haruka. Oh the discrimination. This goes on several times! Too hilarious! Finally after all that, Touma is actually there reading a book. Haruka asks her about going home early and since it’s her request, Touma has no choice but to agree. Natsuki putting up that scary smile again! Back home, the brothers are discussing whether it is Natsuki’s manners or smile which is important. Then as Natsuki goes out on an errand, while buying a cabbage, he gives she vegetable seller that scary smile. I think some people look better without smiling.
 
In episode 11 as Riko laments how to get closer to Fujioka, Hiroko is observing the relationship between Kana, Fujioka and Riko which will make a love triangle. Because she has said too much, Hiroko offers to help out by having her pal Yuu impersonate as Fujioka so that Riko could practice confessing. Riko tries hard to imagine Yuu as Fujioka when Kana comes by so Yuu got distracted and chats with her. This means, Riko sees Fujioka getting friendly with Kana and gives up. Next story has Riko happy to tag along to Kana’s house for study because she invited Fujioka and Keiko too. After studying, the bath is prepared and Fujioka enters first. He’s thinking how Kana baths here and doesn’t want to dirty the water so he takes a shower instead. Next is Riko and she flusters upon thinking that Fujioka has bathed here and decides to shower. Then it’s Keiko’s turn who isn’t use to taking baths in people’s home so she opts for the shower. Finally it’s Kana’s turn as she enters the bath filled with chilli! It got too hot so she comes out wondering how they all could bath in it. Next arc sees Riko feeling good about her 97 marks because she thinks she’ll get to assist Fujioka in her studies. However she isn’t too happy when she learns Kana scored 99 marks (seriously?!) because she asked Keiko for studying tips and Fujioka got 98 marks (Keiko of course scored perfect). Kana then wants Keiko to tell her more tips for the next test but seeing Riko’s body action, Keiko doesn’t want to. Kana then pleads to Keiko for assistance and wants Fujioka to help Riko too. Yeah, another teaching fantasy Riko has. But Fujioka says he’s doing it on his own so Riko blindly tells Kana what to study. But it seems her guessing is spot on as Kana scores 99 marks (OMG!). Finally Touma and Mako-chan are talking about Valentine’s Day and Kana manages to persuade Chiaki and Mako-chan to make some chocolates, which Kana enjoys very much over a game of Othello. Mako-chan is reluctant to say who ‘she’ will give the chocolates to so Kana suggests Chiaki to give it to whoever as practice. In class as Makoto thinks of the blunders Chiaki previously made with the chocolate, Chiaki comes up to him to hand over her chocolates. Hehe…
 
In episode 12 because Kana, Uchida and Maki are too noisy talking, Chiaki is irritated that this disrupts her sleep so she and Kana is going to fight. But Kana uses Uchida to fight in her place and I’m not sure what this staring showdown and not moving from one’s place means. Uchida lost so Maki substitutes her but meets the same fate. Finally Kana takes her on but when Haruka comes in with sakura mochi snacks, Chiaki wants to have some but Kana tells her not to move. Desperate Chiaki leaps from her spot only to be restrained by Kana. Looking like they’re doing some wrestling submission move. Next story has Maki wanting Kana to take a look at her sleeping face because during her junior high graduation trip, she was laughed at by her friends and ever since she couldn’t sleep alone. Uchida too wants Kana to do the same. As they do so, Kana and Mako-chan drew whiskers on Maki’s face and the word ‘princess’ on Uchida’s forehead. They try to hold back their laughter but can’t so much so they burst into laughter till their stomachs hurt. Later Kana learns from Atsuko while browsing through her photo album that Maki got that same treatment back then. Next arc has Chiaki accidentally cut Haruka’s skirt because Kana left it on the table. After getting into a short fight, Chiaki quickly emergency sews it up but it will only last for 4 days. Four days pass and we see Maki teasing Natsuki for wanting to see Haruka but that guy is here to see if his sister is a bother to Haruka. Woah! Can’t believe he shoved Maki when she continued teasing him! When Haruka comes by, Maki spots a loose thread and pulls it. OMG! Her whole skirt comes down as Natsuki nose bleeds! How embarrassing. Back home, the tense atmosphere and Haruka’s tone becomes different as she’s saying something about tomorrow’s happiness. Lastly, Kana throws a tantrum after being called bakayaro once too many by Chiaki as she even hits her. We all know she deserves it. She wonders if it’s lack of love and decides to correct her before she turns into a delinquent which includes giving her portion of food, volunteering to wash her back and reading bedtime stories. Sounds more like a stalker, eh? Chiaki seems worried so that night she goes to Haruka’s room saying how she’ll be eaten if she sleeps. Kana’s good intentions not appreciated… Maybe she’s trying too hard.
 
Haruka seems troubled in episode 13 so Chiaki and Kana try to guess what’s wrong with her but comes up wrong. After school, Uchida and Yoshino pay a visit to Haruka and they learn her troubled expression is due to her cavity. Haruka asks them if there is something wrong with Chiaki since she rarely smile. Uchida thinks she’s playing a staring game and suggests Haruka should try to make her smile. Yoshino demonstrates by pulling Uchida’s cheek as they burst into laughter. When Kana and Chiaki come back, the sound of their merriness has Chiaki breaking into tears and jumps to conclusion that Haruka doesn’t want them as sisters anymore. Kana then thinks she’s playing the staring game and challenges them. In the end, everyone ended up laughing. Next part has Chiaki waking up from a bad dream so she sleeps with Kana. The next morning, she is clinging on to her! Surprise, surprise. Something about her dream that Kana didn’t return from shopping. Chiaki continues to stick to Kana like a leech when Haruka goes out with her pals. Kana takes a nap and Chiaki follows her. When Chiaki wakes up, she sees Kana’s troubled face. At that time, Haruka has returned so Kana quickly hugs her and is closely followed by Chiaki. Kana dreams that Haruka went to toilet and never returned. Some weird dream. Ah well. You don’t know the value of something until it’s gone.
 
Next story sees Uchida handing Kana a pair of papers to Kana to write her wishes for Tanabata. She does but requests them not to look at it. Once done, Kana says she’ll go to the convenience store after sending off Uchida and Yoshino. However Haruka wants Kana to buy only milk and plain bread and not snacks, much to her dismay. Time passes and Kana doesn’t return. Chiaki finds Kana’s written Tanabata wish and shows it to Haruka as they learn a horrifying thing: "Because I’m not needed anymore, I’ll disappear". Haruka starts to feel guilty and wonders was it because she didn’t allow her to buy snacks. Chiaki also feels she is at fault for calling her bakayaro too many times. Haruka starts breaking down and as they are about to go look for Kana, she returns. It seems that the store ran out of milk and she had to walk to several places to get them. But you can tell that Haruka and Chiaki are relieved to have her back. Hey, she is their sister no matter how bakayaro she is. The next day, as everyone gathers, Haruka and Chiaki learn that Kana wrote on 2 Tanabata papers, which made her initial sentence worrying. What she had written on the overlapped papers was that she hoped to lose fats around her stomach. In retaliation, Haruka writes back on the Tanabata paper that Kana doesn’t need snacks anymore and wants them to disappear while offering the others snacks, much to Kana’s dismay. Everyone gathers outside to watch the stars and the next few scenes see life for the rest going on normally. Except for the final one which is Hosaka who gets up all sweaty from a nightmare. That he will never see Haruka anymore. Let’s just hope reality keeps it that way.
 
For this season, there is a single episode OVA bundled together with the manga called Minami-ke: Betsubara. That term refers to anyone who has extra stomach space for desserts after a meal and it is sure fitting for fans who can’t get enough of the series and have room for more of their antics. The first part has Hosaka thinking what kind of bento he should make for Haruka so Hayami advices him that his bentos are made out of ego instead of love like Haruka’s. Hosaka leaves and because of his deadly aura, Natsuki is afraid of him! Chiaki is shopping for ingredients when she sees Hosaka picking out carrots so she does the same after hearing his ‘love’ narrations. Back home, the Minami sisters have a delicious meal and Chiaki thinks it’s all because of love. At school, Hosaka tries to force feed Hayami his potato-carrot bento. She is so screwed. The next part has Yoshino visiting the sisters so Mako-chan and Kana wonder if she knows about the former’s identity. Kana thinks Yoshino is a sadist due to her nature of not blurting things out. As Mako-chan cleans the bathtub, Yoshino comes by to help. Mako-chan panics and they trip ‘her’ tummy hit the bathtub. But since ‘she’ isn’t squirming painfully, Yoshino notes how strong ‘she’ is. Like a boy… So when Mako-chan tells Yoshino to say it out loud that she knows but it seems what Yoshino knows is to bring a protractor to class tomorrow.
 
The next story has Kana having Maki teach Uchida, Touma and Chiaki some lessons on Valentine’s Day. But since the young one’s questions aren’t really related, Kana tells Maki to ignore them as they ‘collapse’ face down on the floor. We learn it’s Kana’s plan to have them make Valentine chocolates but since everyone is knocked out, she wants Maki to give her Valentine experiences, in which she doesn’t have any. Haruka comes back and everyone starts eating the chocolates she bought from the shop. The doorbell rings and Kana thinks it is Fujioka. Everyone else starts to panic and hide the chocolates. Kana learns that it is a courtesy not to let guys see preparations for Valentine. Huh? The last arc sees Fujioka spotting Hosaka doing his sick public fantasy on what to do for Valentine’s Day. Back at Minami’s place, Fujioka hears how Chiaki and Maki discussing how guys are sensitive to Valentine’s Day even if they display nonchalant attitude to it. Chiaki feels a ‘twitch’ from Fujioka so Maki tells him to struggle as there are things that he can do. Over the next few days, Fujioka tries to help Kana out but backs out halfway. Kana tells of Fujioka’s strange behaviour to Keiko and the latter says he might be tired due to football practices. On Valentine’s Day, Kana gives Fujioka a chocolate bar, making him happy. Keiko teases Kana that she thought she doesn’t believe in Valentine’s Day but Kana doesn’t know that today is that day and only gave the chocolate as an energy booster. Well, let that guy be happy… Speaking of Hosaka, he’s still in his fantasy world of his, all alone in his classroom when everybody has left. I hope he never realizes his dream.
 
I have to admit that towards the end of the series, my enthusiasm in the series waned a little. Somehow I just didn’t find it funny as its previous season. Maybe the expectation is there, huh? Even if the last episode which shows a little tension surrounding Kana’s feelings and fate, it isn’t much of a cliff-hanger which they did for the previous season. Though there are still some funny moments, the funniest one for me was whereby Natsuki tries his different reactions on the sisters. As mentioned, the drawing and art is a much improvement from the previous season but I happen to notice that there is no ‘manly’ expression anymore. Also, those exclamation and question marks which appear on top of the characters head and which was prominently featured in the previous season, is now totally gone.
 
Due to the nature of the series, there are hardly any character developments. While fans will be comfortable to know the kind of personalities the characters are, first timers can guess the kind of characters they are as they pretty much do not really change throughout the series. Do we need them anyway? For instance Haruka is still your gentle and kind sister though we didn’t get to see her scary side this time round. Kana may be still a bakayaro but it seems this season she isn’t causing much trouble and more toned down. As for Chiaki, sometimes I find that she has some pride or ego to keep up and that she isn’t as clingy to Haruka as before. Then there are the other bunch of characters like how Natsuki seems more defiant in nature and even to the extent of pushing his eldest brother! Touma loves hanging around the Minami sisters’ place so much so I think she can apply for PR status to live there. While Riko may still be wondering if she’ll ever get Fujioka’s attention, probably it’s the same case for Hitomi towards Natsuki.
 
Makoto’s identity as Mako-chan nearly came close being exposed but in the end, he’s still cross-dressing. I wonder how long he is going to continue this seeing that the initial reason he does so was because he likes Haruka. I find that he didn’t display much of his affection to Haruka in this season. Hayami doesn’t seem to have much screen time and it made me think because of that her whatever pranks are nil. Other characters which I feel didn’t appear much include Akira and Takeru (just in the beginning though). Speaking of which, that Fuyuki kid from the 2nd season is absent totally. Gone for good? I know it’s weird of me to say this but Hosaka is the one which I find the funniest. Who wouldn’t get disgusted with his top-stripping-Haruka-fantasizing-imageries. I can’t help but laugh each time he goes about ranting.
 
One thing about this season is that the opening and ending theme start late and early respectively (except for the OVA whereby it starts immediately and ends soon after everything). It’s like the rock-n-roll-like opening song, Keikenchi Soku Joujou, starts 5 minutes which is after the first story. Then the pop-like ending theme, Zettai Colorful Sengen, starts around the 17th minute, just before the final arc of that episode. Both themes are sung by the seiyuu of the 3 Minami sisters. Hmm… Something tells me that both themes almost share the same title and beat from the first season, like as though it is some sort of continuation or variation. This time, the mid-intermission shows the Minami sisters waving as compared to last season’s cats. Still can’t understand that one. Hmm… That scene changer whereby the characters shout "Minami-ke" as the series’ trademark logo rolls by too is omitted just like in the previous season. The title of each episode now sounds simpler as compared to the previous season such as episode 9’s "I See" and episode 6’s "Let It Be". On a trivial, I kinda noticed that somewhere in each episode, the characters in their dialogue will say the name of that particular episode’s title. I’m not really 100% sure if this is intentional or evident in each episode but because the episode titles are so general, it may be just coincidence. Fans who have followed the series can still identify the same background music used in previous seasons.
 
Even if there is a 4th season, I’ll still be eager to watch what is in store for the sisters and those around them. It may not be much but I guess seeing them bond together in an unusual way is also what makes it interesting. Hopefully everyone will remain the way as they are (with the exception of Hosaka of course!). Hmm… I’m wondering what title they will put if they ever produced a 4th season. How does Minami-ke: Tadaima sound? Yeah, after ‘second helpings’ and ‘welcome home’, I think ‘I’m back’ would sound fitting. No, not referring to that Arnold guy.

 

Minami-ke: Okaeri

Gokujou Seitokai

October 25, 2009

In every anime that is school themed, I’m sure there is always that student council body. The kind of body run by students for students. So what if there is a school with a student council which holds even more power than the teaching staff itself? Don’t worry, once you get to know Gokujou Seitokai or also known as Best Student Council, this bunch of students aren’t the bad ass of society nor are they delinquents. Just a little quirky in their personality.
 
The all-girls Miyagami High School is a very large campus itself and when I first heard the name of its student council body which goes by the name of Miyagami Academy Maximum Authority Holders Highest Level Student Council, it was rather a mouthful. Hidden in those kanji words are of course what we know as Gokujou Seitokai. Viewers will be reminded of this at the start of every episode. (Un)fortunately for me, I skipped it every time so as not to be drilled into my head for negative effects. Don’t want to remember such narrations forever, eh?
 
As seen in episode 1, a new transfer student, Rino Randou, whose mom Chieri has recently passed away, arrives at Miyagami High School as a new transfer student as recommended by her mysterious pen pal, Mr Poppit. Now, Rino may be your typical naive, blur, cry-baby, klutzy, high-pitched moe little girl with adorable qualities like always wanting to help her friends but the thing which will raise an eyebrow or 2 is her hand puppet named Pucchan. In contrast of her personality, Pucchan is more sarcastic and knowledgeable about his surroundings and won’t hesitate to use some jabbing or punch lines. Thankfully, nothing as close as that evil Chucky doll. But the thing is, people may wonder who this Pucchan is or is Rino such a damn good ventriloquist. Considering their vast contrasting personality. It’s like she’s putting up a goody-two shoes face but on the other hand takes out her sarcasm on others via her puppet. Viewers may initially think so but as the series progresses, you may think this puppet has some sort of a life of his own. Notice how Rino also feeds him with meals? Notice how he does air punches sometimes? I wonder how Rino gets things done since she always has 1 of her hands being occupied to ‘animate’ Pucchan.
 
Unfortunately, Rino’s first day of arrival is greeted with much bad luck because her dorm she is supposed to stay is burnt down by an arsonist who is still at large at the moment. Her classmate whom she befriends fast, Ayumu Oume, tells her about Gokujou Seitokai in which members could stay at a dorm especially for them with meals taken off and their education fees totally waived! Wow! No wonder everyone wants to be part of the body. But it’s not like just anybody can join them. I guess Rino has to try because it beats sleeping in front of the school gates! To make things worse, Rino’s other classmate who is also part of the Gokujou Seitokai, Kaori Izumi, doesn’t like the former much. For starters, Kaori was confident that she would continue to be class rep but newbie Rino wins it instead. How’s that for upstaging your popularity in an instant? But it is revealed that this is to give Rino a chance to enter Gokujou Seitokai.
 
Before I move on, I’d like to introduce the members of the Gokujou Seitokai. The president Kanade Jinguuji is a very much respected and revered figure because of her gentle, polite, soft-spoken and understandable manner. The smart successor of the Jinguuji Conglomerate doesn’t force things upon her students and doesn’t restrict them as long as they are happy and do not cause trouble to others. Need I say more? The other uncanny thing about Gokujou Seitokai is that it is split into 2 main divisions, namely Assault Squad and Covert Squad. Assault Squad are those akin to the police of the real world and don’t worry since they aren’t Gestapos. They are in charge of removing potential threats risking the safety of the school. The vice president and leader of this squad is Nanaho Kinjou whose weapon of choice is a yo-yo. She may look tough and boyish but she likes collecting girly things. Better not let the rest find out. Who knows what they’ll think of her. Under her command are the bespectacled swordsman Sayuri Hida, card user Rein Tsunamoto and Kaori. One thing weird about monotonous-sounding Sayuri is that once her specs are blown off, she’ll be seen groping on the ground on the ground and rendered ‘useless’ while searching her specs. Sweet lover Rein is Sayuri’s childhood friend and tends to use different words of same meanings in her sentences. So if you want to know other words for moron…
 
The Covert Squad specializes in gathering information akin to an intelligence agency in the outside world. Sometimes there’s a fine line between surveillance and infringement of privacy… Led by the other vice president but head of this squad is Kuon Ginga and her assistant the ever-smiling but serious Seina Katsura. There are many other members of this division but their identities are kept secret due to their nature of their work. There are other members who do not fall under both these categories and are part of the executive line up just like Kanade. They include the accountant Mayura Ishikawa who is always stressed in calculating the body’s budget because of the members’ reckless use of money, and the driver to Kanade, Cyndi Manabe, who speaks limited vocab and even so most of them are in short English words. I’m always thinking if Gokujou Seitokai spends more than their budgeted amount every time, I wonder how they have enough funds for the next time or to cover the current costs. It’s either they have a really huge fortune or some rich wealthy family sponsor them… Then there’s the 11 year old landlady of the Gokujou Seitokai dorm who always have a broom in hand, Maachi Hisakawa. Why do they need a little girl to singlehandedly clean, cook and take care of the dorm? Mind boggling.
 
Back to the story. The Gokujou Seitokai are hot on the heels of a suspected arsonist and Kaori could’ve nearly caught him if not for Rino’s accidental klutz messing up the whole thing. Oh now she hates her even more. She also accidentally ‘interfered’ with Sayuri and Rein and the whole mission was a flop. Then another chase ensue but this time Pucchan saves the day by punching the arsonist and knocking him out! Rino passes out and I think everyone was amazed by what they saw. Hmm… Maybe not by the fact that Rino had a hand (literally) in capturing the arsonist, but the puppet. But Kanade seems to take a liking for Rino. Uh oh. Which means Kaori, who has always been admiring from the shadows, would now be sworn enemies for Rino. I mean how would you feel if a new comer suddenly arrives and steal the heart of the one person whom you’ve secretly admired? Rino wakes up on lying on Kanade’s lap and finds out that she is made Gokujou Seitokai’s secretary. Yay! She’s gotten in.
 
So in most episodes, you’ll get to see how Rino adjusts to her new surroundings and settles herself by making friends with Gokujou Seitokai and the rest with whatever adventures they’ll face. Even if she doesn’t really know how much Kaori hates her, this still doesn’t prevent her from being friendly to Kaori. You’ll get to know that because of Rino’s helpfulness even if things don’t seem to be plausible or go their way, the rest can’t help to offer their assistance after seeing her sympathetic expression or hearing her righteous but simple reasons. Can’t turn down a moe loli, eh? Besides, Rino has a mysterious ability which she isn’t aware of that allows her voice to reach out to the hearts of others. Of course, the fun part is watching Pucchan with his punch lines and sarcasm. That puppet really raises an eyebrow. Of course not every episode is focus on this odd pair as we will have episodes featuring other Gokujou Seitokai members and get to know their past.
 
Thus in episode 2, Rino is introduced to her dorm and meets Maachi. She finds out some super underground rollercoaster ride which propels students who are running late to school on time. Hey, the dorm is right on the opposite side of the island. Also, the Gokujou Seitokai are planning to hold a welcoming party for Rino and this doesn’t go down well with Mayura because the lavishness exceeds her budget and besides, Cyndi wrecked the car in the previous episode. During the party, Kanade’s supposed fiancee, Ryuuheita Iwazakura, turns up via big battleship along with his yes men asking for her hand in marriage. Kanade is troubled but her kind nature doesn’t make her chase that jerk away. So the Assault Squad utilizes some big cannon thingy (why does the school have such a thing?!) much to the ire of Mayura. Yeah, I wonder how much that costs. Money, money and more money. But Ryuuheita shows that he is a coward because he starts retreating just after seeing the cannon. Even if they plan to scare him away just like that, Rino’s bungling causes the cannon to be fired. Then it’s revealed that Ryuuheita’s battleship is just made of cardboard as they all row away in a little boat. Some big talk he is. Everyone then continues celebrating for Rino.
 
Though episode 3 starts off on how Rino first met Pucchan while Chieri was dying and how Pucchan consoled her when Chieri died (a weird scenario if you consider it’s her puppet which is doing so), in present time, Kanade and Rino has been spending so much time together and even seen spending time together in the latter’s room, that rumours of them being paya-paya are surfacing. Whatever that means. Something yuri? But it sure sounds funny. Anyway the newspaper, photography and paparazzi club are teaming up to expose what the duo are up to. Hey wait a minute. This school has a paparazzi club too?! Therefore members of Gokujou Seitokai do their best from preventing any dirt upon their beloved Kanade. This include separating Rino from Kanade and putting her in her own room (isn’t that kidnapping?) and setting traps. So the other club members got into those traps except for the head of the newspaper club as she finally sneak into the room to snap a pic of Kanade and Rino having nabe together. It’s revealed that Kanade and Rino are now roommates seeing a shortage of rooms in the dorm (hey, there aren’t many members of Gokujou Seitokai and the dorm looks roomy! Unless other Covert Squad members…). You know how Kaori’s feeling right now. Since the newspaper head is also a fan of Kanade, a simple bribe is enough to keep things quiet.
 
To add to Kaori’s dismay, in episode 4, she and Rino have been assigned together to solve a case whereby someone has destroyed the lead puppet for the puppet theatre club’s upcoming performance. Funny to see another of this club’s member like Rino-Pucchan but at least you can see her lips moving! Kaori has no choice but to do so because it’s an order (request actually) from the president herself. After their initial investigations, Kaori reveals the culprit to be a cat rather than one of its 4 members since the window was left open and that the lead puppet had scents of food in them (one of the members was eating while making the puppet). Kaori remembers how she was being met by kind Kanade who introduces to Gokujou Seitokai. Later Kaori confronts the president of the puppet theatre club alone and knows that it is her who rip that puppet out of jealousy. She slaps her and advices her to have fun because she doesn’t want her to destroy the dream of her club members who admire her. Kaori notes that even though she despises Rino, she won’t go that low as to make Kanade sad. However, Kaori spots Kanade and Rino close together again… Control, control…
 
After all that reckless spending, Mayura informs that either the Assault or Covert will get their funds in episode 5. See lah. Spend some more lah. Chai sii… As suggested by Rino who is sleep talking in her dream at the meeting (?!), Kanade approves a curry battle for the right to the funds. While Kaori trains her mates to make curry dishes, Kuon and Seina gets the Curry Sisters to represent them at the battle. During match day, the challenges seem to favour Assault Squad due to the physical requirements. However luck seems to be on Covert’s side as every time some intervening force allows them to get the upper hand like Rein has to go back and get curry ingredients after she left it on the obstacle top whereas the Covert used a helicopter and Sayuri’s lost of her specs via gust of wind allows the other to win a hand to hand match. Then Nanaho somehow got an Indian lady who only says "Namaste" lines throughout her appearance (she has some sort of relationship with Pucchan?!). All that Indian lady did was pray and the ordinary curry turned extraordinary! Judges Kanade and Rino has a taste of it but in the end, Rino notes how both dishes are better when eaten together. In the end, it’s a draw and because of that, neither gets the funds because the money was spent for the operation for this competition. All for nothing…
 
Because Pucchan continues to mock everyone else, in episode 6, pissed off Nanaho and her Assault members confiscate Pucchan from Rino and is put in some cage. Hmm… Without Rino’s hand through Pucchan, that puppet is as lifeless. So can it be that Rino has been putting up a superb ventriloquist act? However the separation has Rino crying almost throughout this episode. Her pleas that Pucchan talks on his own falls on deaf ears. I don’t blame everyone else for their suspicions. But one night Pucchan escapes from his cage and is going around putting his curse on those who have put him away one by one, which is the entire Assault Squad. Gasp! He’s going around on his own? Better be wary! He’s stalking them all! Nanaho is the final victim but they manage to trap Pucchan and it seems on his other end is Cyndi! But she says she isn’t the culprit! We learn that whoever has her hands into Pucchan, Pucchan will come to life and start talking! So it’s indeed true! Teary Rino pleads for Pucchan to apologize so that puppet has no choice but to do so. But after doing so, cheeky Pucchan draws a black marker across Nanaho’s face. In her rage, she throws him out the window when a lightning strikes it. Emotional Rino has Pucchan in her arms as he says goodbye but all that dramatic fake death acting is revealed when Kanade says that he should stop acting. Anyway, how can a puppet die from lightning strike? Everything is restored back to normal as Pucchan says his identity will remain a secret. Yeah, we’d like to know more about this odd puppet.
 
That accountant Mayura is having a date?! She’s so nicely dressed?! Hard to believe? Yeah, in episode 7 that’s how it is but information from the Covert side reveals that boyfriend of hers has ill intentions and is your typical scum. So the other members of Gokujou Seitokai go to great lengths by trying to make this guy break up with Mayura and this includes ridiculously trying to seduce him! Flop of course. Not until it is Rino’s turn that her heartfelt emotional plea reaches out to him and that’s when the rest of the others surround him to give him a stern warning. As Mayura sees Kanade about this problem, we learn that Mayura knows he’s a good for nothing jerk and the reason she’s doing so is to help her friend to check him out. Should’ve said everything sooner to save everyone the worries. I think Mayura is ready to break up with that guy until he comes by and tells her that they can’t see each other because he is moving away. Notice how he is badly messed up? Yeah, problem solved for both sides. All’s well, ends well. At least for our heroines.
 
Rino isn’t doing well in her exams in episode 8 and if she keeps failing, she’ll be kicked out of Gokujou Seitokai! Oh dear! Don’t worry, Rino isn’t the only dumb one. She has Cyndi and Rein who proudly announces how they are the Baka Girls Trio of Gokujou Seitokai! Just like Azumanga Daioh’s Bonklers, eh? As expected, everyone lends a hand in helping the trio in their studies. While Cyndi and Rein show improvement, Rino hardly moves. Notice the systematic 1 point increase in each of her papers? After all that effort, just only 1 mark increase?! And they’re all just single marks, you know. Theoretically, it’ll take years before she even reaches passing mark. Thus, Rino feels depressed about her stupidity but Kanade comforts and encourages her. At the same time, Pucchan ‘resides’ with Kaori so that Rino could maximise the use of both her hands for the exams. Kaori learns that Rino may be trying to cope with her mom’s death. Kaori understands how Rino feels because she too lost both her parents and is currently finding the right balance taking care of her siblings while studying (she is the only Gokujou Seitokai who doesn’t live in the dorm). In the end, Gokujou Seitokai decides to hold a party for her instead of just forcing her to study because I guess it’ll be easier if you’re not stress and tense up. As a result, Rino barely passes. But it’s a good sign because she gets to stay on.
 
A girl named Yuuko Kimidzuka comes to Miyagami to challenge Sayuri for revenge in episode 9. Since it would be such a disrespect to just barge in and fight, they decide to settle things the next day. Rein was like covering up for Sayuri and didn’t want anything else to be exposed when Nanaho wanted Sayuri to explain. So leave it to the Covert to gather some intelligence and we learn that Sayuri comes from a martial arts background and their family has a long history of using some killer technique which of course they never used. When young Sayuri was sparring with Yuuko’s dad, Sayuri’s instinct unleashed that killer technique on him (even though she had not been taught or exposed to that skill) and injuring him gravely. Ever since, Yuuko holds a grudge towards her though it wasn’t Sayuri’s fault but she still felt guilty. Shortly Sayuri and Rein joined Gokujou Seitokai. But because of her love for sword, as Kanade mentions, she continues to wield it rather than abandon it. The next day, the fight begins in front of the school gates as the rest of them watches. Of course in the end, Sayuri still proves why she is the best swords(wo)man and back home, a badly beaten Yuuko is talking to her dad and it seems that it was just a test to see how much Sayuri has grown, in which they are satisfied. I guess if she tried to be straightforward, Sayuri won’t be able to unleash her true potential.
 
It’s the pool in episode 10. While some really want to see Kanade in her swimsuit, Nanaho fears that there will be horny guys who want to take a peep not only at the president but the other members as well. Yeah, the guys even have some unofficial ranking who is tops on their list. You know who is number 1 lah (Nanaho upset that she is ranked same as Rino!). They can’t just drop the whole thing because Kanade still wants to proceed with it. So they suggested a decoy which includes a life-like but mechanical Kanade (its parts are falling off so it’s a no go – oh dear, there goes the budget). Kaori suggests herself to be the decoy but panics when she learns that she has to put on a bikini. Also, Kanade buys Rino an old fashion swimsuit. Those are still around? The night before the pool outing, we can see those desperate guys camping out in front of the school gates! Luckily they’re being chased away by Nanaho (Sayuri losing herself in some model pose as requested by them?). Day breaks and news reaches everyone that the pool lesson is cancelled but it’s just a diversion. Later the actual pool lesson is held on a private luxury liner (I wonder how much that will cost). Since Kaori is too embarrassed to wear that skimpy bikini, she opts for that lame old fashioned one, same with Rino. Upset Pucchan is blindfolded for the duration and even if he’s a puppet, he’s still a guy, right? The moment they’ve all been waiting for as Kanade makes her appearance… in that old fashion swimsuit too! Everyone notes how lame it looks!
 
Because the entire school’s futsal team is out with a cold, in episode 11, Gokujou Seitokai has to replace them in a match against their traditional rivals, Kenran High School. Reika Ryuuouin, Kanade’s counterpart in terms of student council president, seems stuck up and arrogant. The members of Gokujou Seitokai must not lose this match because Kanade expresses (coupled in with that eerie snickering) she’ll be viewed as an arrogant and snobbish woman, as quoted by Reika. As usual, the Gokujou Seitokai members aren’t futsal material and knows nuts about it. A bunch of oddballs, I’d say. Can they turn the odds around? Well, their training sucks but thankfully they have a glimmer of hope after enlisting their sports teacher, Yukimi Itami, who claims that she was part of Japan’s national football team (a lie obviously but it’s to motivate them). Twelve hard hours of hard training! No rest! Yeah, and it’s the match day soon. However the match is one-sided because the referee issues red card to Miyagami players because he doesn’t like their faces! Miyagami is losing badly with their players deliberately being injured and taken out and Kanade is in danger of being labelled that arrogant and snobbish woman. Kenran even unleash some huge Amazon woman on their side. Is she really a student of Kenran? When Mayura goes out, only Rino is left standing. That is when the Covert puts forth their secret plan as they substitute Maachi in. And it seems Maachi’s skill is so much superior to her display during practice! Power shots! Not even Kenran can stop her! Though Miyagami wins in the end, but I find the score line 100-26 too much and ridiculous. As everyone congratulates Maachi, it seems Kanade knows that this impersonator isn’t the real Maachi, but a Covert member named Kotoha Kutsugi. Wow. The next day, the lacrosse team has fallen ill… Uh oh… Favours, girls?
 
A flashback episode 12 tells us about how Kanade and Nanaho first met. Kanade goes off to meet the head of the Jinguuji family while Nanaho waits and meets one of her older brother, Shirou, whose job is protecting one of the Jinguuji members. We learn that it has been a tradition for Nanaho’s family to be the Jinguuji’s bodyguard. Back then Nanaho hated Kanade very much because she had to be her attendant which took away her freedom as a normal girl. However Kanade surprised her by releasing Nanaho from her duty. One day when Nanaho was passing by, she saw crying Kanade making a fuss and running away from home. She is sick with all those whatever traditions there is. The duo run away together and took refuge at a shrine. As they chat and reconcile, Nanaho’s 1st elder brother (whom I’ll refer to Ichi-nii) comes by to take them home and tells them that they should try changing things from within instead of running away. A year later, Miyagami is formed. A place where people like them can live their dream without restrictions. In present time when the meeting is over, Kanade and Nanaho head back and to their utmost shock, the entire dorm is destroyed! Rino is in a mess too and she is saying how all this started because of that girl: Minamo Katsura.
 
So episode 13 tells us what happened then when Kanade and Nanaho left. While the rest are playing games, Rino lost and had to go buy snacks. On her way, she meets Minamo who is infatuated with Pucchan and wants her to give it to her. That argument lasted 2 hours and because of that, Minamo collapsed. Rino with her instinct brings her back to the dorm but doesn’t want the rest to find out. Rino wanted to get their school nurse, Wakana Hirata for help but she’s too drunk. As she gets some medicine and returns, Minamo is no longer in bed. So what that Minamo brat did was she entered people’s room without permission and rummage through their stuff (don’t know how she stole the access cards from Maachi) and causing lots of other trouble. Especially Nanaho’s favourite pink teddy bear which she doesn’t want anybody to know. Eventually the rest finds out and they start searching for her. I don’t know if Minamo is that lucky or the rest are just bad luck because Minamo somehow uses the super rollercoaster to eject the rest to school. Now this is another eyebrow raising part. Rino finds out that there is a self destruction button in the dorm (WTF?! Why do they need such a button?!) and indeed finds Minamo playing around there. She wanted to slap Minamo of her selfishness and to her surprise, Minamo says go ahead. Unable to do so, Rino slams her fist on the button instead. Self destruction button. Yeah, that’s when the dorm goes boom. So it’s Rino’s fault, eh? Finally everyone learns that Minamo is Seina’s little sister and she is a new transfer student to Miyagami. Not only that, this selfish brat on announces that she is joining Gokujou Seitokai for fun. Having fun, are we?
 
I understand that everyone doesn’t want Minamo in but what to do since Kanade approves it in episode 14. While the dorm is being repaired, everyone lives temporarily at school. To add further to their misery, in order to generate further income (their budget all goes to fixing the dorm and even their meals have been ‘downgraded’) Minamo has written a lame play about some space alien and friends saving the world. The Gokujou Seitokai has to take part. No choice. Rino goes looking for Minamo only to find Seina giving unconscious Minamo a piggy-back ride. Rino soon faints (hope she didn’t get this from Minamo). When she comes to, she learns that Minamo is born with a weak heart and the reason why she’s selfish and do whatever she pleases is because she doesn’t want people to pity her. With everyone else eavesdropping, at least they’re determined to carry on with the play. The Space E.T. Alien play begins and looks like it’s a sell out. The play is so lame that I don’t want to describe it. Even the costume. I wonder how all these to the hall rental would cost their inflating budget. During that, Minamo nearly collapsed but she gets her strength back when everyone cheers her on. In the end, everyone was stunned and the hall filled with silence. And if you think they’re amazed, think again because everyone thinks how boring it is and want their money back! Haha! Not only Gokujou Seitokai is in danger of their precarious budget, but they’ve fallen into the debt trap as well.
 
The dorm is repaired in episode 15 but Minamo shows the rest a picture of Kuon with an unknown man and Kuon shocks everyone by saying that he is her boyfriend. Kuon later goes to meet this boyfriend of hers and we learn that Kuon is actually a spy working for this guy in some shady intelligence organization, Natrice. Kuon’s mission is to find out Kanade’s ability, in which that guy is frustrated because reports from her have yielded the same results. However Kotoha is suspicious and follows her. Kotoha confronts Kuon when she is rummaging through Kanade’s stuff in her room. Kuon flees and though Kotoha wants to pursue, Seina stops her as she had knew Kuon was a spy all along but decided to let her stay. Kuon has come to like Miyagami and the reason why she kept delaying her mission. But Kotoha is unable to accept and will do anything to protect Kanade. When Kotoha is about to confront Kuon, surprisingly Kanade appears to meet Kuon. Kanade too knows Kuon’s secret but didn’t make a big deal out of it. Kuon is like feeling guilty and such and is prepared to leave Miyagami and requests for Kanade to tell her secret. However Kanade refuses so Kuon will continue at Miyagami to investigate her. Slick, eh? But Kotoha still refuses to accept even if Nanaho tells her to back down. Then Rino and Minamo appear to introduce themselves as Kotoha’s assistants.
 
It was Seina’s request that Minamo and Rino help out Kotoha. In episode 16 though Kotoha refuses their help, Minamo threatens to expose her as a member of the Covert, leaving no choice for Kotoha. The trio are to spy on a new transfer student named Mayumi Minegashi, who has a suspicious background. Of course doing stakeout work means long boring hours and that is what Rino and Minamo experienced. No amount of games they bought could relief them of their boredom. Soon they spot that man in Kuon’s photo, Koukyuu Fujisawa, entering Mayumi’s dorm and Kotoha recognizes him as a member of Natrice. Rino and Minamo is thinking of some forbidden love thingy as Kotoha moves closer to eavesdrop. Mayumi is also a spy of Natrice and she is here to replace Kuon who was disappointing in her mission. Kotoha also learns that Kuon’s family is being supported by Natrice. When Kotoha returns, she tells Minamo and Rino that the man is just Mayumi’s relative. That night when Mayumi and Fujisawa are out, they are confronted by Shirou and being told to stay away from Kanade. With their identity busted, they fought back but Shirou and Kotoha are too much to handle. Kotoha then realized why Seina had sent Minamo and Rino to help her: To protect innocent smiles. Lastly Kotoha goes to chat with Kuon personally at the hotspring. Though she feels that she won’t be taking orders directly from her anymore, but at least she showed signs of forgiveness. And for the first time, we see Kotoha blush and smile when Kuon says how she had fun with Minamo and Rino.
 
Cyndi’s mom, Sandy is dropping by for a short visit in episode 17 but the big problem is that Cyndi wrote in her letters big lies. How big? Howzabout Nanaho as her boyfriend. Not to mention Rein and Kaori are fighting over her love. But the biggest lie has got to be that Kanade is her maid! Oh the horror! Everyone decides to play along so that Sandy won’t get suspicious. And they even managed to get the whole school to cooperate. Everybody just needs to hold it in… Another eyebrow raiser is that Sandy tends to use foul language so casually so much so you’d wonder she knows the meaning of how to use it or is just her purposely obnoxious attitude. Yeah, everybody, control your anger… Another thing is, Cyndi and Sandy speak in some caveman language in which only Pucchan can understand and translate! WTF?! In the end, Sandy slaps Cyndi not because she knew her lies all along, but rather she wasn’t true to her feelings. What does that mean? It means Cyndi is actually in love with Pucchan! WTF?! So Sandy leaves in her hurry the next day and since Pucchan didn’t oppose, it’s like an odd couple, Cyndi and a hand puppet walking together to school while embarrassed Rino tags along behind. Erm…
 
In episode 18, Yukimi is over the moon when she is engaged to a handsome man, Hiroshi Sato. Note how every time they introduce him, they long-windedly mention his name, age, occupation and that there’s no better possibility than this. However Wakana is upset because she feels Yukimi have broken their promise by going down the path of happiness first and leaving her behind. Another reason to get drunk? One day Sato comes by Miyagami and recognizes Wakana who was his senior. They chat and Sato confesses that he has a crush on her back then. With good timing, Yukimi just happen to walk in and heard it. Thankfully Yukimi isn’t the kind who would get upset over that misunderstanding. Then they learn Sato’s mom is dying of cancer and the reason he’s at Miyagami is to tell Yukimi that he can’t attend the omiai (marriage interview). Thus the reason why he agreed to initially attend the omiai was to make his dying mom happy. Wakana decides to help Sato out and uses her connections and even performs the lead surgery to save his mom’s life. Wow. Though Yukimi and Sato’s engagement is called off, Yukimi is now devastated to learn that Wakana has got a proposal from a handsome doctor. Now the roles are reversed, eh?
 
Kaori picks up another hand puppet closely resembling Pucchan from the streets in episode 19. You know what? It came to life! He is Lance and seems to be Pucchan’s long lost friend. Oh great. Now they’ve got 2 talking hand puppets to deal with. I wonder how Rino is going to use her hands seeing that both of them now occupies it. Not only that, Lance is quite the lady charmer he is. Lance meets Kanade but is suspicious of her seeing that she’s from the Jinguuji. Kotoha too is suspicious about the powers the hand puppets possessed but it seems Seina knows something and tells her to keep it a secret. That night, Lance talks to Pucchan and we learn that Lance was quite close to Chieri before her demise but that time Rino was too young to remember him. Lance knows that Kanade is eavesdropping and we learn that she was the one who invited Rino to this school. Meaning, she is that mysterious Mr Poppit! Now it makes sense why we see all those letters from Rino (also in future episodes) in Kanade’s room. Kanade’s reason for bringing Rino here is to hide her from the Jinguuji and wishes for Lance to trust her, hoping that Rino’s latent ability will not awake. The next day, a couple of guys are harassing several female students so Pucchan and Lance team up to do some super winning combo over them. How embarrassing to lose to mere puppets. Later Lance has a private chat with Kanade and we learn that Chieri was once part of the Jinguuji but ran away seeing that she can’t stand their strict ways. Soon after she gave birth to Rino. Lance says his time is running out and soon ‘dies’ in Kanade’s arms. That night Kanade tells Rino that Lance has left overseas but Rino bawled so much tears in her sadness and if Pucchan was a real human, I’d say he’d shed tears too. Kanade comforts her by saying that they’ll meet again someday.
 
Ayumu becomes that next rising idol in episode 20 after being spotted by a talent agency. Because of that, she has to juggle between school work and recording stuff. Thus Ayumu is dead tired in school. However Ayumu’s popularity has caught the attention of her clan’s head as he sends Urato (Ayumu’s twin brother) to punish her for betraying the clan. Rino learns that Ayumu is part of the Covert and the reason she came to Miyagami is because she hates her ninja clan ways as she wants to experience life as a normal girl. Before they know it, Urato challenges Ayumu to a fight. But in the end it is Pucchan who stops them and Rino’s usual lecturing to realize them because siblings shouldn’t be fighting. The siblings reconcile and it seems Urato too have a dream of meeting some busty bikini idol, Yuri. So with Ayumu pledging to work hard and be famous, in return she’ll introduce him to Yuri. On the day of her debut, Ayumu is horrified to learn that her idol role is actually some ninja. She couldn’t take it anymore and runs away. Oh the trauma. So much for getting famous. And Urato’s hope of meeting Yuri dashed…
 
The gang finds an abandoned baby in front of the dorm in episode 21. Rein seems to be quite attached to it because of her own past whereby her gambling father, Haruo, abandoned and left her all alone. So everyone chips in to go in search for the baby’s mother but to no avail. Meanwhile Kotoha stumbles upon an information that Haruo is in town after a hotel registry shows his name. As everyone continues to search, the baby’s real mom is regretting abandoning her baby and bumps into Haruo, who tells her to pick a card in which if she picks an ace of heart, she’ll continue forward with what she’s looking for or else, go back where she came from. Finally Rino’s feelings and voice reaches out to the masses and soon mommy is reunited with her baby. Mommy is very apologetic but relieved and Rein notices the ace of hearts card she is holding and thinks her dad is nearby but chose not to pursue because she thinks he has done something good and believe they will meet one day. It is revealed that both cards he had then was the same. The next day as everything goes back to normal, Kanade laments that Rino’s ability is awakening and hopes for her to stay the same.
 
A trading card game with Gokujou Seitokai members is becoming an instant hit in episode 22. Created and designed by Minamo, the card’s power reflects the real life abilities of the members. Some embarrassing ones like Sayuri when her glasses are off and Nanaho’s weakness to teddy bear which will change the perception of those who thought of her as a tough girl. Also there are rare and powerful ones like Kanade. Of course the worse one is Rino because her card is basically useless! Because of this, some of the members aren’t too happy and want all the cards to be recalled. But some are okay with it because it made them look cooler and for Mayura, this serves as supplement income. So in order to decide the fate of the cards, Kanade suggests a card battle. Minamo represents those who is all for it while Rino stands for those against. I think there are some Yugioh parodies here but anyway Minamo seems to counter all of Rino’s cards till the latter’s health points is only at 1! All hopes seem lost when Rino has 5 of her own cards in hand! What a totally useless situation! However Minamo panics because based on her rules if there are 5 Rino cards, all her hopelessness will allow other members to pity her so much so the opponent can’t do anything to fight back! WTF?! With that, Minamo’s strength completely drains to zero and Rino’s team wins a dramatic comeback victory! Wow! Minamo agrees to recall the card but those who oppose it initially now thinks it’s a fun game. Nanaho has no choice but to agree but later regrets that she should’ve object to it when she heard several girls thinking of her cute image…
 
Rino and Pucchan are pondering Maachi’s real identity in episode 23 so they along with some of the other Gokujou Seitokai girls go to investigate and initially think that she’s a magical girl due to a wand they found in her room. Later it is revealed that it belongs to one of Nanaho’s teddy bears. They then decide to follow her to at least know where she’s heading so that whenever she’s in trouble, they could come to her assistance. But every time they look elsewhere and back, in a split second they’ve lost track of her. Hmm… It’s like she’s disappeared. In the end, it’s revealed that Maachi is taking care of Kaori’s siblings while Kaori is out doing her part time job. Everyone of course is eavesdropping and learns of Kaori’s plight and they could’ve been busted if they hadn’t hushed emotional Rino. The next day, everyone takes turn to help Kaori look after her siblings. But I feel that this doesn’t answer their initial question of who Maachi is. I mean, how can she disappear so fast like that?
 
Sports day is looming in episode 24 but an unfortunate event befalls the Jinguuji family. The head has died of heart failure and this is affecting Kanade as she tries to keep it silent from the rest, apart from Seina and Kotoha. Kanade shows up less often and on sports day itself, Kanade comes in late to announce how she is voluntarily quitting school, shocking everyone. Later Nanaho tries to get some answers from Kanade and learns that she is appointed the next Jinguuji successor and will be going back to take care of things. Nanaho objects to it all as it defeats her dream of freeing her. However Kanade says that there is another her in Miyagami and I think she is hinting Rino. After Kanade leaves, the other Gokujou Seitokai members meet up and they can’t accept that Kanade is leaving them without a valid reason. Thus the next day everyone meets up and decides to go see Kanade and tell her their feelings. Though Kuon expels herself since her spying mission is no longer valid, but count on her to show up because deep down in her heart, Kanade is still her friend and perhaps even more.
 
They arrive at the Jinguuji’s estate in episode 25 and this episode is like a gathering of all other side characters such as the newspaper club, Ryuuheita and his yes men, Kenran’s Reika and her girls (not forgetting that Amazon woman too), Yuuko, Sandy and even Haruo show up to give all those Jinguuji MIBs a hard time. The part which I find it hard to believe is that those MIBs all lost to a bunch of girls! Is this the quality of those who protect the Jinguuji? Unbelievable. Downright embarrassing. Yeah, another embarrassing one are those who lost to Pucchan. First girls, now a hand puppet? Useless. The only one who got beaten up is Ryuuheita and his men. Even useless. Seina leads some of them through a secret underground while others fight as a diversion. Some revelations revealed such as Seina and Minamo were once part of the Jinguuji but since they had no special powers, they’re being discarded by the Jinguuji and even had their name changed. Others include, Maachi is part of the Covert as she fights well and Cyndi can speak fluent Japanese and the reason she doesn’t because Sandy told her that wasn’t right (some mother she is). Ichi-nii prepares to evacuate Kanade from the encroaching intruders when Shirou stops them and wants Kanade to rethink her actions because her pals are here to see them. Kanade remembers her promise to Chieri to look after Rino. Finally as Rino searches for Kanade, Kanade uses some telepathic-voice-reaching-out ability to Rino, in which she does the same. Her powerful voice seems to greatly pierce everyone. Kanade says how they both have the same ability and that Rino’s one which has awakened here has surpassed hers and is the greatest power ability in the Jinguuji. As they both chat, the other Gokujou Seitokai members reunite as Kanade lets them hear her ‘voice’ and they reply how much they love her.
 
Continuing in episode 26, a bodyguard comes in and shoots Rino! Thankfully that was a dramatic story made up by Minamo. Everyone from Gokujou Seitokai is left off the hook from Jinguuji thanks to Kanade but she is in an interrogation with the V Committee, the real power holders of the Jinguuji and Kanade being the head is just a title and a puppet. Gasp! They aren’t going to let Kanade go just like that. However Seina comes in and assumes herself as a V Committee member too. She releases Kanade as the head and replaces that position with Pucchan! Yeah, not even the V Committee could believe it’s a puppet. Pucchan reveals that his real name is Tetsuya and is Chieri’s real son who died long ago. Which means Pucchan is Rino’s brother! Now that he is head of the Jinguuji, he’s going to do whatever he pleases. It’s going to be embarrassing if the outside finds out… On their way back, Kanade worries that Seina is now part of the Jinguuji but Seina doesn’t mind as she regards this as her penance. She and Ichi-nii are supportive of Kanade’s ideals. Back at Miyagami, Rino’s inner voice reaches out to everyone and wishes to be with Kanade and true enough, Kanade comes back as everyone rushes out to greet her. Soon graduation comes and Kanade gives her farewell speech. Then the new year and entrance ceremony for new students. Nanaho has become president of Gokujou Seitokai. While Kuon remains as vice president, Kaori is promoted to vice president as well. Kanade is the school’s principal while Seina becomes a teaching staff. Feels like the same ol’ bunch, eh? As Nanaho gives her speech, Sayuri informs that there’s an intruder. Guess who? It’s Ryuuheita and his yes men proclaiming his eternal love for Kanade. Since she is troubled, you know what that means. Gokujou Seitokai moves in to beat up those guys again. How embarrassing. They never learn. Ryuuheita tries to make his escape but encounters Rino. He gets a taste of Pucchan’s dynamic punch.
 
I must say that I’m quite satisfied with the way things ended because our main heroines get to continue their lives together. In the end, it made me wonder what kind of atrocities do the Jinguuji family has. I mean, even if they are a huge conglomerate worldwide company, the way they keep their strict traditions on its members truly baffles me. Is their special ability something to be fearful off? Well I think Kanade and Rino’s ability are wonderful and in fact could be useful and beneficial even if their enemies got to know what it is. It is also a good thing how the series tied up a few questions that I initially had in mind. For instance, Pucchan’s real identity. It may not be much but at least it gives a little insight. Though the reason why he still moves as a puppet via someone’s hands still remains a mystery. Maybe that’s his special ability.
 
The other characters are quirky enough and are lovable in their own ways. Each of them are grateful to Kanade and in a way their loyalty is a sign of their gratitude towards her. Though Rino may not excel academically or physically, at least she values friendship and I suppose she tops in this area which compensates for those shortcomings. Seeing that nobody is perfect, I guess it is best that they rely and support each other like they always do. I like some of the funny moments such as Ryuuheita’s yes men who echoes every I-love-you-and-not-for-the-money lines. Anybody would feel embarrassed even if his feelings are sincere. Then of course the odd one whereby Pucchan and Lance were talking to each other while Rino is asleep. It looked so weird that Rino has her arms raised while the puppets do their talking. Then there’s the part whereby Pucchan was telling off a puppet theatre club member why she is speaking through her puppet. Yeah, he’s the one to say.
 
My favourite seiyuu goes to Yukari Tamura who did dual roles as Rino and Pucchan. As Rino, she sounds like your typical high-pitched klutzy girl and as Pucchan, a rough-voiced cheeky boy. I don’t mean to sound like a sadist but I kinda find Rino cute when she starts her high-pitched crying. You can recognize her other anime roles like Nanoha in Mahou Shoujo Lyrical Nanoha and Ink in Moetan. Other casts include Hitomi Nabatame as Kanade (Mikoto in School Rumble), Kaori Shimizu as Kuon (Hazuki in Nogizaka Haruka No Himitsu), Junko Noda as Nanaho (Kitsune of Love Hina), Miyuki Sawashiro as Mayura (Shinku of Rozen Maiden), Ayako Kawasumi as Sayuri (Hime in Kaibutsu Oujo), Yuki Matsuoka as Rein (Orihime of Bleach), Chiwa Saito as Kaori (Kirie in Girls Bravo), Kumi Sakuma as Seina (Nao in Soul Link), Ayumu Tsuji as Minamo (Guchuko in Potemayo), Kimiko Koyama as Maachi (Uzuki in Happy Lesson), Kana Ueda as Kotoha (Mikan of Gakuen Alice) and Tomoko Kawakami as Cyndi (Fuyuki in Keroro Gunsou). There are a few background music ranging from dramatic to fast action to sad ones which fit the scenario.
 
After watching the series, it is only then that I found out that this show is considered and categorised as a yuri series. I actually never thought of looking at that point of view. Well, Kanade and Rino’s close relationship and intimacy may give rise to that idea but I find nothing racy. Besides, the Miyagami in-focus is an all-girls school, right? So the next time I see somebody with a hand puppet, I know what my first thoughts are. Pucchan is such an interesting character that I thought he should have a spin-off series on his own. At least I liked hearing to his sarcasms. I know it’s weird to see one talking to a hand puppet but it beats talking to yourself. Hey, didn’t a ventriloquist win the reality TV series America’s Got Talent some time back? Now if only that hand puppet was Pucchan…
 

Gokujou Seitokai
Perhaps the storyline in this slice of life anime series Sketchbook ~Full Color’s~ isn’t the most exciting or unique in the world. Because of its slow pace manner, I guess the thing which attracts me is background music. This isn’t really a popular or mainstream series so for those who have watched it would at least agree to a certain degree that some of its background music are calming and soothing to listen to. Well, that is if you like this kind of music anyway.
 
The series original soundtrack album has a total of 25 songs only and I know it isn’t much compared to other series which have packed nearly 50 tracks into a single album nor have multiple soundtracks released. Hey, this is a short series so I guess it is cost wise to just compose enough for the show. Besides, the album includes the TV versions of the opening and ending theme of the series and the background music are all composed and credited to Ken Muramatsu. Listed below are my all time favourites in alphabetical order:
 
1) Balloon Mode ~Piano Solo
2) Chiisana Shiawase
3) Hitomishiri Na Mama De
4) Toomawari Shite Kaero
5) Watashi No Jikan
6) Watashi No Jikan ~Mata Ashita
7) Yuuyake Wo Aruite Ne
 
Most of the songs in the album as mentioned are calming and soothing as they are fit for easy listening like those lounge music. Other than that, they sound jazzy but not so heavy. Among the septuplets, my favourite one is Hitomishiri Na Mama De, which I feel is the theme of the series. A 3 piece music combining piano as the lead with the bass and light drum beats in the background. The average-slow pace of this simple tune gives an impression of a trouble-free day as everything is easy going. No worries, no stress. Should hear this song more often.
 
Watashi No Jikan is my next favourite song and the pace and feel is equal of that to Hitomishiri Na Mama De. Helps very much in relaxing to me. Need I explain more? Watashi No Jikan ~Mata Ashita is of course a variation of Watashi No Jikan and is a piano solo in a much slower pace. Toomawari Shite Kaero seems to play a little with the timing and pause/rest intervals. A piano and bass arrangement, at first I thought the song ended earlier than expected because both instruments stopped playing. Until I realized that there is a little more towards the end and that second time ended for real thereafter. Yeah, you could say it initially ‘caught me off guard’.
 
Another slow piano solo is Balloon Mode ~Piano Solo. Though the pace is slow, but there is a little happy and contented feel in the way the song is played. Yuuyake Wo Aruite Ne aptly fits its title because this piano solo piece played in an unhurried manner gives an impression of walking back during dusk hours while reminiscing about things. Chiisana Shiawase gives a feeling of a song befitting those Japanese night festivals most probably because of the way the high end notes of the piano and background flute is played.
 
Other tracks in the album include Hitomishiri Na Mama De -Deai Ga Shira- (a short tune lasting only 3 seconds and if my memory serves me well, is used for the eye-catch), Maigo No Koneko (a song which I remember usually played when the cats in the series make their appearance. The organ play of the song makes it sound ‘cute’), Balloon Mode ~Yume Kara Samete Mo (starts out with what sounds like a musical box tune – or is it an electric organ? – before it turns waltzy with the strings and violin coming in), Kusatsumi No Uta (a slow country-like blues banjo picking lasting less than a minute), Hohoemi No Moto (sounds like a 2 piece traditional Japanese string instrument, if not a banjo, for a calming effect. I remember this piece being played a lot in the series), Harukaze No Okurimono (a bit of a easy salsa/cha-cha feel the way the flute and organ is played), Kumo No Mio No Iku (a moderate piano piece with the strings as accompaniment later in the song) and Yuumagure No Kuni (another slow piano piece with strings and bass in the background which also plays with the pause/rest intervals. Hmm… Has a little feel of Chinese oriental tune in it and gives a feel of a soothing oriental evening. For the record, this is the longest track in the album, lasting just over 5 minutes).
 
The rest of the tracks have that jazzy or blues feel to it like Akichi No Sora ~Nekotachi No Jiyuu (a slow and easy jazzy blues melody and gives an impression that you’re in a cool relaxing nightclub), Speed 2 (a moderate but upbeat jazzy feel and another melody frequently played in the series), Bokura No Bouken (another jazz blues song using the electric organ to give it a groovy feel. Also commonly played in the show), Bokura No Bouken ~Kaerimichi (a slower version of Bokura No Bouken and is a piano solo), Ochoushimono No Uta (another moderate but soft and lively jazz piece), Kibou No E Saki (I find a lively mix somewhat between jazz and salsa), Kibou No E Saki ~Maihen (feels like a lively piano ragtime with bass and light drums but shorter variation of Kibou No E Saki) and Happy Hour (an easy going jazz number again using the electric organ as its lead).
 
Sometimes I feel that those jazzy and blues tunes don’t really fit the series because the show focuses on art club students rather than a blues band or something like that. But either way, all the tracks are definitely soothing and match the pace of the series perfectly. Of course there are the full opening and ending albums for those who are interested. Just like the original soundtrack, calm, soothing and easy going to listen to. Thank goodness that I was able to catch this series or else I wouldn’t have got to know the few relaxing soundtracks. Another one of those tunes whereby I can just close my eyes and just think of nothing while lying on my bed. Now that isn’t such a bad thing isn’t it?
 
Sketchbook ~Full Color's~

Hataraki Man

October 23, 2009

Since I’ve been in the working society for the past several years, it is only right and timely that I watched an anime which relates to the working class and life, Hataraki Man. Though the kind of job that I am doing is totally different from what the anime is focused on, nevertheless it is still related to one’s occupation so I thought I might get some good advice from here seeing that this is categorized as drama and slice of life genre.
 
Despite the name of the series, our main protagonist is a 28 year old single female, Hiroko Matsukata who works as an editor in a men’s weekly magazine, Jidai. No, she is not a cross-dresser, mind you. In the working world which was once dominated by men, trend has it that women are on the rise in terms of job employment and position around the globe. Perhaps it is Hiroko’s workaholic attitude like a guy which contributes to her nickname as Hataraki Man (meaning, working man). Even if she can be considered successful in her job, she lacks that success in the romance area. And if you think she’s a huge workaholic, you should take a look at her boyfriend, Shinji Yamashiro, who is a bigger workaholic than her. How big? Work comes as top priority so any dates that clash or overlaps, will straightaway be cancelled. Damn. Ah, busy, busy, busy. A price to pay in today’s competitive world? Mainly what viewers will see is how Hiroko goes about in her editing job. Although the entire series does not focus solely on Hiroko, it also focuses on other colleagues and working class people that Hiroko comes into contact.
 
Thus in episode 1 we see a new rookie editor in Jidai, Kunio Tanaka, handing in his article to his desk editor, Kimio Narita. But Narita doesn’t feel its source is verified enough and decides to have Hiroko take a look at it, in which she objects. Later Tanaka apologizes for putting more work for her and will finish the job himself. Later as she and the other staff gathers at a bar and Hiroko is upset she has to redo Tanaka’s work every time. After work, the gang gather to have a meal together and they wonder how Hiroko sleeps since she’s a workaholic. On a train ride home, Hiroko takes a nap after getting an SMS from Shinji and when she comes home to her apartment, she collapses. The thing is, she mentions how she didn’t have sex for 3 months! Advice: Overworking kills your sex life. Yeah, sometimes you’ll get to hear Hiroko lamenting how she’s breaking the sex-free period record. But doesn’t she give priority to work over sex? Oh yeah. Shinji is much too busy for that too.
 
Hiroko goes to interview the Foreign Minister, Hoshikawa and is upset because she is made to wait. Thus her 1 hour interview has been reduced to mere minutes. When it’s over, she sees his secretary outside, Utako Sekiguchi as she says how he has no sense of ideal or aesthetics. Hiroko receives a call from Shinji to have dinner together but gets a call from Sekiguchi wanting to meet up and tell everything about Hoshikawa. Because so, Hiroko postpones her date just to get the juicy details. The next day, Hiroko shows Narita the scoop she received: Embezzlement of funds from Hoshikawa. Narita instantly changes the front page cover and wants 8 pages of this. Hiroko goes into work mode: Man switch on! In this mode, she works 3 times harder and anything else other than work vanishes from her mind. Like a super robot, eh? However the next day a TV report has Hoshikawa announcing and making as though it’s Sekiguchi who embezzled the funds. Hiroko is upset and soon gets a threatening call. Narita calms her down and takes the call while showing his maturity in handling it. On the way home, Hiroko feels that someone is following her so she SMS Shinji about it while frantically rushing back to the sanctuary of her apartment. Once in, she almost breaks down as Shinji calls her. She wants him to come over but is unable due to a business trip. She decides not to cry as not to trouble him.
 
The next day, Hiroko wants to write an article to clear Sekiguchi’s name but Narita won’t allow it because of her non disclosure of her source. On the rooftop, she gets a call from Sekiguchi and wonders why she didn’t stand up and fight back the allegations and her reply is that she feels this is her punishment for turning a blind eye for a long time. Next day, Hiroko is still adamant to write the article but since she’s emotionally tied to it, Narita suggests writing it in her place. Hiroko refuses and this has Narita raising his voice as this would lead to a lost in trust for the magazine. He wonders if she has a strong determination to counter the threats that she has been receiving. But the chief editor, Tstsuhiko Umemiya, decides to let Hiroko write what she wants and that he’ll take all the repercussions on 1 condition: She has to meet his expectations. Hiroko is experiencing writer’s block when she realizes she didn’t do enough follow up work for Sekiguchi and was just trying to cover up her own mistakes and thinking about herself. She goes into work mode and successfully writes and article which readers can tell Hoshikawa is the culprit without revealing Sekiguchi as the source. When Tanaka comes in, Hiroko remembers his words on how he’d regret it if all he did in life was work. Though he is right, Hiroko prefers to die thinking that she has accomplished something.
 
In episode 2, Fumiya Sugawara and his stakeout team just got busted from another assignment. The editor of the entertainment department, Akihisa Kobayashi or Kobu for short, mentions how they’re like idiots, the reason they got busted so Narita suggests for them to take a woman along with them. The only 1 available is Hiroko, in which she objects. Sugawara says he doesn’t need her help and is better off on his own. Later Mayu is upset as she talks to Hiroko that Sugawara may be a woman hater. Sugawara gets another stakeout assignment which is a probable scandal between a track and field athlete girl and her coach. Hiroko calls Shinji and talk about her article in which she couldn’t interview the main source. In the end, Shinji has to cancel their date tonight due to work, shocking Hiroko. Sugawara is being told by his underling that they need a woman in this stakeout in order not to get caught due to circumstances surrounding them. So they reluctantly request Hiroko’s assistance. Sugawara expects her to say no, thinking that she’s the arrogant type that he dislikes but to her surprise, she accepts. That’s because her date got cancelled…
 
As Hiroko meets up with Sugawara in his car, she ponders his indifferent attitude towards not only woman but to her especially. It’s a good chance for her to find out why. In the car, Sugawara continues to be cold and ignore her. She wonders was it because when she first joined Jidai, she was assigned under this department but didn’t like it and was reassigned to another. She also wonders why his camera photos always have pictures of the sky. At the stakeout place, Sugawara notices an old woman watching them and recognizes the one who busted them previously. Hiroko quickly improvises and makes it as though they are making out. Can’t believe that granny is watching them for quite a while before leaving! Once she does, Hiroko realizes her natto maki has tainted his shirt and insists that he take it off so she could wash it at a nearby park. Soon a taxi ferrying their target arrives so Sugawara starts snapping as they enter the apartment. Hiroko comes back and tells him not to take those photos. Sugawara is amazed that she knows those pics are not worth taking as it isn’t conclusive. Their talk about pictures, articles and rumours soon turned into an argument. Dawn breaks as Sugawara drives back from their failed stakeout while Hiroko dozes off. He stops and takes a pic of the sky and says the reason he is still doing this job even if people hates him for it is so that he won’t lose his way. Hiroko wakes up and sees what he’s doing. He asks her why she likes eating natto maki and her reply: She won’t tell him. Right back at him. And oh yes. The end note did mention how natto maki is natural in estrogens. Probably something Hiroko really needs.
 
The staffs of Jidai are having a meeting in episode 3 and Hiroko notes how 70% of what is discussed are meaningless. During the meeting, Yumi Nogawa comes in late, Maiko Kaji giving an excuse to leave early, Hiroko trying to ask Sugawara about the Olympic scandal stakeout but declines to say anything. The meeting must be that boring, eh? After the meeting, Hiroko and Kobu chat about Sugawara’s attitude about not saying anything on his job so the latter says he has to be careful or else a tongue’s slip will for instance lead it to be spread across the internet. Hiroko notes Kobu’s job nature whereby there’s no need for secrecy and what he says don’t need to have double meanings. Narita calls Hiroko to inform that her ramen article is approved. But since she has other articles and thinks it’s impossible for her to eat 3-4 ramens every day, he assigns Tanaka as her assistant, horrifying her. As usual, Tanaka starts asking silly questions like a rookie, upsetting her further. She’s trying hard to control her anger. Hiroko persuades Kobu to go out for a drink to talk about this problem. At the bar, she tells Kobu that she told Tanaka to ask him for advice. In the end, Hiroko becomes too drunk so Kobu hails a taxi to send her home. Shinji opens the apartment door to and is surprised to find Hiroko in this state.
 
The next morning as Shinji heads for work, he asks her if anything has happened as this isn’t the 1st time her colleague brought her home. Hiroko doesn’t want to tell him so she says it’s nothing. At work, Hiroko notices Tanaka keep asking Kobu questions after questions on ramen taste, etc and thinks he’s taking advantage of him. Sugawara tells Tanaka to taste it himself (Hiroko happy that someone is going to tell him off) but Tanaka says he’s got an ulcer (Hiroko shocked by his reply). Narita calls Hiroko to tell her that the Olympic scandal will be cut short to a page since the athlete has been dropped from the squad. Which means, they have a page free. Hiroko refuses to come out with an article and suggests lengthening the current one, which is the ramen article. But Tanaka is reluctant as everything is set and his attitude of going against Narita’s words is upsetting her. Then Kobu comes up with an idea to include a ranking chart. Soon everyone gets busy and Hiroko too goes into work mode. Kobu narrates about augmentation whereby weaknesses turn into strength and that sex and food are the fundamentals of life. When they’re done, Hiroko notices Kobu not at his place and Tanaka says he has left and thought he was hungry. To where? Tanaka says this is what Kobu told him, "I won’t tell you where the best place is". Hiroko gives out a heartily laughter while Kobu is seen eating and enjoying beer as their ramen article makes it to publication.
 
On a rainy day in episode 4, Hiroko gets a call from Shinji that yet another date has been cancelled. Mayu teases her so Hiroko gets back by screwing her forehead. A colleague asks Kobu what kind of job Shinji does and he says a site foreman in a big time general contractor firm. Shinji continues to do some backfilling of the foundation deep into the night’s rain. Hiroko meanwhile has her friend Masami as Shinji’s replacement at the restaurant instead. They both talk about his job, sex and abstinence (the waiter shocked to hear their conversation. What’s this, Masami sleeps with 7 men?!). While Shinji is in his office worksite, he ponders how much effort Hiroko puts into her job. With the rain continue to fall heavily, Shinji goes out once more to do more backfilling so much so he oversleeps in his office till the next morning. He is awakened by his construction workers commending his good backfilling job. Shinji remembers a time when he did a huge blunder and apologized but saying sorry didn’t get things done nor made them better. Hiroko manages to finish her assignment and quickly leaves. Mayu concludes that her date didn’t get cancelled this time. Hiroko waits for Shinji and after a few rounds of cigarettes and drinks, Shinji shows up late and apologizes (he went home to change). He says he had meant to call her or even meet straight at the restaurant but Hiroko doesn’t want to go anymore. She is upset not by the fact he is late but rather he thinks everything can be fixed through apologizing. Because of that, Shinji spaces out and wonders if he likes his current job.
 
The next day, the beam needs to be redone and would incur extra costs. Though Shinji is okay with it, a worker is unhappy and blows his top because this would cause a day’s worth of delay and that the earlier construction of that beam was based on Shinji’s orders. Shinji apologizes and the other workers take the unhappy colleague away. Even back home, Shinji continues to space out as he notices Hiroko busily working at home with a new project. The next day, Shinji gets a call saying that he would be transferred to the sales department. He continues to do his construction job bit by collection bricks when he tumbles because it is too heavy. Everyone laughs and he laughs with them too. Shinji calls Hiroko at work but she is too bust but wonders if there’s anything wrong. He says he’ll tell her next time and will definitely be on time. He notes how whether he likes a job or not, the important thing is to have no regrets.
 
Mayu is searching for her lost contact card when she spots a cocky ambition statement in episode 5. She thinks that only 1 person could’ve written such a thing: Hiroko. Narita has Hiroko in charge of a new series for Jidai which involves a famous love novelist, Miyoshi Natsume. Due to her many assignments, Narita wants her to drop 1 of her current assignments and delegate it to someone. Hiroko is in a dilemma to choose which one so she has Mayu pick 1 out when she spots Natsume’s assignment and gets upset. Mayu goes to plead to Narita but he says there are lots of things she needs to learn before she could handle this task although Mayu was the one who got the contract for Natsume to sign up with Jidai. Furthermore, Narita reassigns her to stakeout squad. A short flashback whereby passionate Mayu was meeting with Natsume as she is a big fan of her. While Mayu is sulking, Hiroko comes to comfort her and asks her to arrange a meeting with Natsume. But Mayu says she lost the card and was searching for it. Why didn’t she keep it in digital records like email or computer? Well, to her it would diminish the handwriting value. Ah, such a fangirl after all. Thankfully Hiroko manages to get the contact from a classmate of another publishing company. Hiroko and Mayu go to see Natsume and Mayu is very enthusiastic to meet her. Back at office, Hiroko notices Sugawara scolding Mayu for not doing her stakeout job properly. Later Hiroko goes to meet Natsume again and it seems she wants her to write on something else like mahjong, gold, etc, since Jidai’s reader base is mainly male.
 
Back in office, Mayu isn’t happy and thinks Hiroko may have said something to Natsume because her website states how she is agonizing over the theme of her magazine’s contract. Then it hit Hiroko as she rushes over to Natsume’s place and tells her to write a tear jerking old man love story. Her reason is to broaden her horizons so her readers won’t get bored or outgrow her. Meanwhile Mayu fails another stakeout so much so Sugawara says she doesn’t have to come. As Hiroko talks to Shinji during their date about Mayu, Mayu takes her case to Umemiya but he too thinks she isn’t up to par and has lots to learn. He tells her to concentrate on the job at hand. Mayu feels depressed on what to do. A month later, the new series is a hit with the older guys. Even Umemiya is reading it. Depressed Mayu goes to see Natsume and pours out her frustration and pain. But when she hears how Natsume had personally asked Umemiya to work with Hiroko because she felt both Hiroko and Mayu are deeply trapped in her past works, Mayu gets emotionally and vows to do her best with her job at hand so that 1 day she could be in charge of this assignment. In office, Mayu gives Hiroko Natsume’s handwritten contact card in exchange she will hold on to Hiroko’s cocky ambition statement. Hiroko is surprised and embarrassed as she tries to snatch it from her but Mayu leaves for her stakeout job with Sugawara.
 
Before Hiroko leaves for her Osaka assignment in episode 6, Shinji asks her for her wedding preparation. She panics and leaves in a hurry while evading answer. On the train, she realizes that Shinji was referring to a friend’s wedding. Though she’s been dating for 4 years, they’ve been so busy that she hardly has time to think about it and wonders if she’s a failure as a woman. Back in office, Hiroko learns from Mayu that Yumi is engaged. Yumi has left when Hiroko remembers she forgot to ask her something about a famous baseball player, Juunji Shimura. He hates presses and interviews but it seems Yumi has an up-close access allowed to him. She wonders if it’s because she’s pretty. Then she overhears a colleague, Doujima, running down woman like how they could get things done by sleeping around. Hiroko confronts him and yells in his face how he blames others for his inability to do his job and the reason why his stories don’t get approved. Doujima gets upset and is going to take it out on her but his colleagues restrained him. Next day when Hiroko arrives in office, she hears Doujima talking to Yumi and badmouthing Hiroko. Doujima says don’t be like her and cheerful Yumi agrees. When it’s over, Hiroko (trying to keep her feelings separate from work) approaches Yumi and requests that she introduce Shimura to her since she’s planning to interview him. She passes Yumi her proposal entitled "7 Samurai" and wishes for her to pass to him. Before she could finish her sentence, Yumi walks off. Later Hiroko is talking out her frustrations through baseball and thinks Yumi is trying to monopolize Shimura all to herself. Meanwhile Yumi passes the proposal to Shimura and he thinks it’s some misunderstanding after quickly flipping through as everyone laughs out loud.
 
Back in office, Yumi tells Hiroko won’t do the interview since there’s only a limited time she could interview him after practice and there were other magazine writers there too. Hiroko is a little upset and thinks they should help each other out since they’re colleagues. She continues not to bring her personal affairs to work. Yumi shoots back at her saying that she shouldn’t be jealous. Yumi walks away, accidentally dropping Hiroko’s proposal and upsetting her. Later Hiroko finds Doujima is also doing a same article on unlawful waste as her but his work gets approved by Narita since he uses a different approach. He tells her that she has other assignments to work on so she goes back to her desk to hear Doujima talking to Yumi. He is mocking Hiroko’s 7 Samurai proposal that it’s so thick that who in their right mind would read it. It then hit Hiroko as she snatches the proposal from his hands and quietly reads it back at her desk. She also remembers what Yumi told her about the time limitations Shimura have. On another day, Hiroko approaches Shimura for an interview but the other male writers start to get pushy till she fell down. She remembers how Yumi said when she started, it was scary and no one let her in so she acted like a cute girl and let men treated her like one so as not to lose out or clash with them. As time passes, everyone started to like her. Shimura arrives and everyone gets pushy again. Yumi lends Hiroko a hand up and advises her not to clash with them but to avoid them. Hiroko notes how she’s the female version of Hataraki Man. Hiroko manages to politely approach Shimura and requests an interview, passing a summary version of her proposal. Shimura agrees since he can’t turn down a woman’s request. He narrates how Yumi is one of the writers he mostly trusts because she always watches his condition. In the end, Hiroko thanks and apologizes to Yumi but the latter also thanks Hiroko for standing up for her on Doujima’s earlier remarks. She is happy because women are seldom on her side. Plus, getting mad won’t get you anywhere as it will only complicate things so it’s best to relax and let that guy flirt a little. Two months later, Yumi gets married and the one who caught her bouquet is Hiroko. Hiroko narrates that although she hasn’t got any proposal nor is it her dream to be a bride, but perhaps to be the 8th Samurai who fights with the sword of the pen in her heart.
 
Hiroko feels stressed out at work so she goes to her usual massage therapist in episode 7 but finds her usual therapist, Midoriko Shirakawa on leave. A newbie takes charge and Hiroko notes how much she sucks. Back in office, Hiroko can’t get to work mode and is upset when she sees a promo article ‘belittling’ a heritage site, Yakushima. Actually it’s promoting it for tourist purposes. When Shirakawa is available, Hiroko gladly attends her session. Though Hiroko feels better, it isn’t optimum as she adjusts her neck-shoulder. She also notes how there may be something wrong with Shirakawa as she exceeds her allotted time by 10 minutes and got complained by the manager. When Shirakawa attends the next customer, she also notices the same unsatisfied reaction like Hiroko after her session ends. Back in office, Mayu says how the article on Yakushima has garnered lots of attention but Hiroko goes crazy. She is seen talking to Narita that a year ago, she wrote a criticising article on it on how the management was interested in making it a tourist spot rather than preserving the site. But this time, her article encourages readers to go there. Narita advices that she’ll run out of steam if she puts all her energy like this into every article. Hiroko gets a call from Shinji to cancel their date because he’s got a business dinner. So she goes for another massage therapy and she looks tired! Hiroko tells Shirakawa about regrets and problems. When it’s over, Shirakawa notices Hiroko isn’t really relaxed and feels she can’t work like this because she wants a saloon where people can come and relax and that she wants to energize her clients rather than having them leave tired. Shirakawa goes to talk to her manager and suggests quitting. The manager is caught by surprise because Shirakawa is their top staff and her departure will affect their business. She wonders if it’s the pay but Shirakawa says it’s the tense atmosphere which prevents their customers to relax.
 
Hiroko receives a fan letter who has read her article and he is praising it. After a meeting, Narita says though none of her proposals were approved, he wants her to submit 10 proposals next week because if the wheel stops spinning, it’ll be hard to get it back moving. After work, Hiroko bumps into Shirakawa and they chat over a drink. The latter tells about her new job and soon thanks Hiroko before leaving. Shirakawa is at an interview at her new job site, a crowded hotspring saloon. She realizes that it isn’t any different but her job here will start next month. Back at her usual massage therapy, Shirakawa is going slow on a customer in order to give her the full relaxing effects but she gets impatient and tells her to hurry up. In the end, she leaves in a hurry and blames her for making her late. Meanwhile Hiroko sees several pics of Yakushima from Sugawara. She gets inspired and starts working. She submits her proposal to Narita, who thinks they’re all fine except one which reads "Stop belittling a world heritage site". He rejects this one and throws it away. Later Hiroko goes to Shirakawa for another session and this time she feels refreshed. Hiroko says she’ll definitely look for her at her new job place. Shirakawa narrates how hearing "That felt so good" from her customers is the happiest and most important thing for her and not working conditions.
 
Natsume’s serial story called 54 is about to be published in a novel and Hiroko is enthusiastic about it. But in episode 8, her colleague of Jidai under the book sales division, Makoto Chiba, only restricts the printing to 20,000 copies, upsetting her. She chides him for just being a salesman and knows that the wave is coming. She then goes to see Natsume and apologizes for not doing enough but the latter is okay with it. Chiba goes to see a bookstore manager, Fujita, and notices 1 of Natsume’s books has been moved from the shelves to a more open area since its sales have started to pick up due to the serialization in Jidai. Fujita is also a fan of 54 and can’t wait for the novel to come out. Chiba plays along for sales purpose. On a train ride, Chiba remembers a time when he was devoted to selling a book from a lady author he liked. He pushed sales and promoted it very hard till it reached the top 10 best sellers but in the end the author says how it’s all due to her own work. Chiba felt demoralized because he wasn’t given due recognition and thought how he was like a dog wanting to be praised. While Chiba is eating lunch, Hiroko gives him the whole pre-print novel to read so that he has an idea and to be more passionate. But he gives an excuse he can’t do his sales job properly. Back home, Hiroko tells Shinji about this problem but he mentions the problems that salespeople go through. In office, Hiroko learns from Kobu that Chiba was once passionate about his job but got hurt and decided not to get involved anymore. Meanwhile Chiba reads 54 at the park and takes a liking but suppresses his feelings so as not to get involved.
 
Later he visits Fujita and finds out that the store is doing pre-promotional pop ups for 54 and is looking forward to its release. Chiba then realized the wave may be coming and follows his heart. At the meeting involving Jidai managers of several divisions including Umemiya, Chiba tries to get printing of 54 to be raised but the sales manager Kaneko is pessimistic and dismisses it. But Chiba stands up and gives a 3 hour passionate speech so much so he gave in! Umemiya then tells Hiroko that printing for 54 is doubled to 40,000. Surprised Hiroko rushes to Natsume’s place to tell her the good news and says how Chiba had fought for her. Though Natsume has never heard his name, Hiroko says though salespeople don’t meet the authors, without them, their books will never be sold. When 54 is released, it is so hot that it was a sell out on day 1. Bookstores all over Japan request Chiba to print more copies but each increase isn’t enough to satisfy its growing demand. In the end, a celebration party is held to celebrate 54’s 540,000 sold copies and it even topped the charts as the number 1 best seller. Everyone gives Natsume a round of applause as Mayu gets her to autograph her copy. Hiroko introduces Chiba to Natsume as she thanks him. Chiba felt honoured but embarrassed that he excused himself. Hiroko finds Chiba crying alone at a corner, happy that he’s being acknowledged. Finally it has paid off, eh?
 
Hiroko attends the funeral of 1 of her supposed interviewees in episode 9. A highly successful middle-aged philanthropist Yasuyuki Mimura died of heart failure and rumours has it that may be due to overworking. A warning to all you workaholics out there to take care of your health. A flashback has Hiroko talking to Masami whereby she told her she was being made chief editor for a Jidai Special called 50 Samurai. Masami warns her that it will wreck her health but Hiroko says she can’t afford that. Then in office, Hiroko called Mimura who in person took up the call and made arrangements for the interview. On the way home from funeral, Hiroko calls Shinji and tells him what has happened. She wants him to come over and warm her up but he can’t since he’s got an important meeting tomorrow. Hiroko feels depressed. The next day, Hiroko develops a cold. To her horror, one of her reporters, Kawamura is hospitalized. Since he’s a fast worker, he has at least 10 interview transcripts with him. His wife calls and Hiroko politely asks to at least hand over the transcripts but got scolded instead and hangs up. Hiroko tries to get Narita to help but that guy starts lecturing on perseverance which implies "Don’t involve me". She decides to delegate some of the work to her remaining reporters and one of them, Itou, seems reluctant.
 
Later Hiroko goes to pay a visit and interview Mimura’s wife and finds out how he barely rests and is a workaholic. She recalls that on the day of his sudden death, he hadn’t been sleeping for days and even if he had come home, he still talked about work. Then he left and just said "Good work", which she finds it strange for him to say that. Hiroko comes back to office and finds a note from Itou that he has become ‘sick’ but knows he has ‘escaped’ instead. She starts panicking and looks around for those available but everyone else quickly make it look like they’re busy or not available. Desperate, eh? Don’t want to get extra work, eh? Exhausted Hiroko is doing calculations on how to finish her job before the deadline when she realizes she forgot to meet Shinji at the restaurant and it is way past their meet up time. Shinji on the other hand has already left after waiting. Hiroko’s mind starts panicking and remembering what Masami had said. Then she wonders what Mimura did at this time at her age. As she starts reading the transcripts of the interviewees, she finds that everyone had difficulties and sufferings but they overcame them. She gets inspired to continue working and makes some progress as her colleagues wishes her "Good work". Later as she gets into a taxi, she feels that her cold has gotten a little better. She slowly falls asleep and thanks Mimura in a whisper.
 
Mayu and Hiroko gets yelled at for not up to par work and late submission in episode 10. For the latter’s case it was because the pipe in her apartment’s ceiling burst and flooded her place. As the duo lament their fate, Kaji comes in and they notice how she never gets scolding. Hiroko notes that she has ‘diplomatic immunity’ and due to her kindness and prettiness, the guys in office takes a liking for her and is quite popular among them. A staff receives faxed-in transcripts from a famous novelist, Mogi. But Kaji who is in charge of this author’s article isn’t in. One of their policies is never to make an author wait but attempts to call her failed. The guys think it’s okay and this upsets Mayu of the indifferent treatment but Hiroko thinks that for them being near Kaji makes them happy. Then the guys discuss a rumour that Mogi may be Kaji’s lover. Kaji is seen at an author’s place, Eiichi Kitajima. They talk about how Mogi is going to Kathmandu and that he gave her 2 weeks worth of manuscript. Kaji thanks him before leaving. Kitajima’s assistant comes in and we learn he was once rejected by Kaji because she thinks she can’t be romantically involved with the author’s she’s working with. Hiroko leaves early to clean up her place with Shinji. She tells him about getting yelled at but he says not to be too hard on herself because it makes it hard to listen to her. Hiroko gets upset and throws a tantrum as he tries to calm her down. Meanwhile Kaji is seen entering an old man’s house and tells her to strip! Yikes! Is he some sort of an old pervert? I mean, note his odd fashion combo. A waistcoat vest and boxer shorts. Suspicious…
 
When Kaji comes into office, Yumi lectures her about hourensou (acronym for reporting, communication and consultation) for her attitude on Mogi’s case as she made everyone worried about contacting her when Mogi had already contacted Kaji personally. But Kaji interprets hourensou as embrace, love and composition. Then a staff receives bad news that Mogi’s plane crashed while on its way to the Himalayas. Everyone confirms the news as Hiroko notices Kaji’s calm composure. Kaji narrates that she puts on a normal composure even if she’s upset because circumstances can’t be changed even if you cry or make a fuss. Kaji then has a meeting with Narita and Umemiya. It seems Mogi was to submit 12 pages but only faxed in 8. The remaining pages were to be revised on the plane and faxed over once he landed. As the rest discuss where the additional pages should go, Hiroko gets upset because she thinks everyone is concern about the manuscript rather than Mogi’s life (that’s because she’s a big fan of him). Later Yumi talks to her and thinks Hiroko is just like everyone giving Kaji the same treatment. Hiroko wonders how she keeps her composure and has never seen her angry or sad.
 
Meanwhile Kaji visits that old man, Tetsu Kanze, a Japanese Academy of Arts and Culture member and Kaji is posing has his nude model. They both refuse to believe Mogi is dead. Kanze feels that anything can be a flame of inspiration and to him, it is women. The problem is that he thinks the world is short of them. I wonder what is his definition of women. Hiroko continues to stare blankly at work, during and after meeting. After her interview, Hiroko thinks of her job in which nothing of what they produced will remain besides using lots of paper to spread useless info. Kanze finishes his masterpiece and asks Kaji for her opinion but as usual her expression is normal, disheartening him. In office, a staff receive news that Mogi is still alive. It seems his secretary got a fever and they never boarded that ill fated flight. He couldn’t be contacted because he checked into a hospital in Bangkok. Hiroko seems relieved and says to Kaji that it’s a good thing so the latter advises her that one won’t lose anything from trying to work hard because it will give rise to one’s next romance. Hiroko realizes that Kaji is a pro not at her work but as a woman. Later Hiroko is alone and starts crying when she remembers the time Shinji suggested that they break up. Oh no.
 
Episode 11 seeks to fill in those missing scenes that happened in the previous episode. It begins with Hiroko rushing back to her apartment when she receives a call from the landlady and is horrified to find her place flooded. She then took the taxi to work and tried to contact her colleagues but her handphone was dead and the highway jammed. Thus, the scolding from Narita. Apart from that, Hiroko is disheartened because all her data on her interviews are in the laptop which got soaked. No backup? Hiroko called Shinji and wants to come over to his place but he says he’ll come over to hers. As they clean the place, that’s where they got into an argument and Hiroko losing her cool. Shinji gets his elderly mentor, Moriyama, to help fix the place up. Moriyama seems like a very nice and understanding guy and makes Hiroko feel comfortable with his words. Though she burst into laughter upon finding out Shinji’s mentor, Hiroko is surprised when he mentions how Shinji got transferred to the sales department. At the same time, news of Mogi’s plane crash reached Jidai and Umemiya hands Hiroko an extra 3 page assignment which she can’t turn down. Hiroko temporarily resides at Masami’s place and she ponders how she and Shinji don’t talk much or even touch each other. You know what Masami’s answer was? Something about couples don’t need conversation as they’re better off pinching each other’s nipples. Yeah, the sex maestro.
 
Once Hiroko’s apartment is fix as she works on her final stretch of her assignment, a very drunk Shinji comes by to visit. He’s quite rowdy alright. Because of that, he starts shouting why Hiroko could go so far and every time he looks at her, he sees his useless self. Though he feels that it isn’t Hiroko’s fault, that’s when Shinji suggests breaking up. Hiroko continues her assignment and narrates that because time is short, she tried not to complain and perhaps accepted to go their separate ways while breaking into tears. Hiroko finishes her assignment though she seems lifeless and spacing out in office. Then news of Mogi’s survival and that night Hiroko continues to burn the midnight oil. Sugawara gives her some natto maki and she remembers the words she nonchalantly uttered during her confused daze earlier in the day about work. She eats the natto maki and continues working. The next day, Hiroko notices the people reading and buying Jidai at the train station when she receives a call from Narita that Hoshikawa’s house is going to be search today and wonders if she can do it. Hiroko goes into action as she hails a taxi while narrating "There are nights when you cry dwelling on sacrifices you make for your job. But there are mornings too when your job is your salvation". You really have to love your job in order to even say that.
 
The ending may not be as satisfying as I hoped it to be as it ends in an open way and true, life and work continues and goes on. I’m still thinking if Hiroko and Shinji really did break up because you know Shinji was drunk when he suggested that. Are they taking some time off before taking their next step in their relationship or is it really the end of the road for them. But whatever that is, we can see that Hiroko and Shinji are already married. To their jobs. I guess the sex-free record will go on. Haha! Just joking. Though Hiroko isn’t the only one facing tough decisions and dilemmas in her job, her other colleagues too equally have their fair share. Maybe except for Tanaka whom I feel didn’t contribute nor improve much throughout the rest of the series. He still has a long way to go and if he intends to stay at Jidai, he’d better change his attitude.
 
Though there are some useful insights or viewpoints from the characters on the way how they approach their work, unfortunately I can’t seem to apply them in my line of work. I know that this show focuses mainly on the editorial part of a magazine company but it’s rather my blurness which can’t seem to remember them. Not a good thing. This series may not be mainstream and may not appeal to some but for fans of Rie Tanaka who is the voice of Hiroko, should at least have a look at this. Rie Tanaka is versatile in playing her character and she’s quite convincing whenever Hiroko is stressed out, frustrated, incredulous or tired. Say, I kinda noticed that Hiroko didn’t use her trademark Man Switch working mode after the first 2 episodes. Don’t need them anymore? But it was rather odd to see her place both her index and middle fingers over her forehead while executing this mode. Yeah, we all do have our quirky habits, don’t we? Maybe I should try it out for as my own motivation. Maybe not. As for the other seiyuu casts, I don’t really know them well.
 
There is something about the drawing of the series’ female characters which make them look one kind. Must be their eyelashes and lips. On a trivial note, each of the episodes has the word "Man" in them which describes that particular episode’s theme like episode 2’s "Stakeout Man", episode 3’s "Ramen Man" and episode 7’s "Fussy Man". On another note, a live action drama version has been adapted around a year later after its anime counterpart and contains the same number of episodes.
 
I guess this series is intended to make viewers to be more appreciative of their job. No matter how tough it is, there are always worse ones out there (how about cleaning elephant’s dung as an example?). Work is part of life’s cycle. Complaining won’t change anything and quitting may seem like an easy way out and being irresponsible if one’s reason isn’t valid. More and more people are joining the work force and it by today’s standards, everyone is doing multi-tasking, juggling between working and personal life. Like me, juggling between work and anime :). With the current economic situation and credit crunch, now isn’t the time to be changing jobs. I must say that I’m still doing the same day job for 5 years already and I can conclude that I have no complaints even though I have to admit that I’m not really loving it. What I mean is that I’m satisfied with where I am now. They say status quo is a bad thing and breeds complacency but does it matter if you’re happy? However I note that there are still room for improvements for myself. Hmm… I wonder if there are any job openings as an anime otaku. Hey, that’s not a job. That’s more like an obsessed hobby!
 

Hataraki Man

Akikan

October 18, 2009

Can drinks. I’m sure many of us have our fair share in opening its lid and gulping down its refreshing liquid, whether it is carbonated or natural juice. But what if the kind of can drinks you open suddenly pops out a pretty looking lady? Sounds too absurd to be true, eh? Sounds like a plot straight out from an anime, huh? That’s what exactly it is if you have watched Akikan which literally means empty cans.
 
If you are one of those harem lovers or the kind who loves high school comedy romance with a little fanservice, you might want to have a look at this one. Though there is nothing in this show which makes it stand out above the rest in this ubiquitous genre, but it’s not like a bad thing either. Unless you’re not into this sort of thing, that is. There are a few terms in this series as well but rest assured they are easy to pick up and don’t last 10 volumes worth of encyclopaedia that you need to crack your head every time they start mentioning that jargon.
 
So people, meet your main male protagonist, Kakeru Daichi, a 16 year old high school student who lives alone and proclaims how his entire life has been so girlfriend-less even though he wants one. If he’d just opened his eyes… But I have a theory why many girls would be wary of this kid. Firstly, he’s a pervert, though not an extreme case. Secondly, viewers should listen closely to his punch lines and jabbing. Yeah, some are downright funny. You can say that he is a cheeky fellow in a verbal sense. A reason why this series is funny. Kakeru’s life is about to change when he buys a melon flavoured soda can drink near his home. After bath, he takes a drink from the can and the next thing he knows, a girl pops out and they’re both in locking lips position. Has the genie granted his wish? Anybody who has just experienced this awesome magical phenomenon would of course be surprised and wonder if it’s all a dream. Even so, this Kakeru guy is somewhat flaunting his nakedness right in front of her! I know that he wants to ascertain if this is a dream but to do a full blown nakedness thingy in front of a girl? Not only that, he even molests her! Kakeru confirms this is not a dream when she, Melon (easier to name her now for reference. Besides, she comes from a melon can) blasts him with some melon dioxide in which she’ll often use this to put Kakeru in line. Note every time she does this in his home, the cat on the roof always get the fright of its life.
 
Melon finds out about Kakeru’s habit of collecting old cans and is not amused by his collection of aluminium cans because Melon is a steel can. Kakeru who is going to continue his perverted ways on her then accidentally pulls her left earring which resembles a can lid and poof, she disappears. Just then some guy named Hidehiko Otoya, a government official from the Ministry of Economy, and his assistant Airin Kizaki comes in to discuss some Akikan project. Note that this Otoya guy is gay and prefer young teenage boys! Note how one was running out from his room earlier on. And since Kakeru is naked, I think he can’t control himself. Thankfully Airin restrains him and leaves but promise to come back another day. Plus, Otoya loves addressing Airin by her first name and she’ll always retaliate by telling him to address her by her surname instead. After they left, Kakeru has another sip and Melon reappears. She says how she’ll be staying with him from now because she views him as her Owner after ‘bringing her to life’. Every time he takes a sip, Melon will materialize and they both will be in kissing form. That can’t be bad, eh? Besides, this process of Akikans turning into humans is coined Girlish by Otoya because it benefits the girl. Huh?
 
In school, Kakeru is troubled by the recent events. We are introduced to other several characters like Kakeru’s childhood friend who so obviously has a crush on him but that guy is so oblivious, Najimi Tenkuuji, the lesbian friend of Najimi who vows to protect Najimi’s lower half from him and every other guy, Yurika Kochikaze, and the guy whom everybody can just ignore his existence, Gigolo. Oops sorry. Actually he is Gorou Amaji and even he himself says that because it was a nickname given by Kakeru to him. Easier to remember, eh? Back home, Kakeru learns that Melon’s life will subside if he finishes the drink so he reluctantly goes to buy another melon juice to replenish her. Melon then finds Kakeru drinking another can juice other than melon flavour and in her jealousy tries to get rid of his can collection. Kakeru stops her by pulling her earring and continues to ignore her by leaving her in can mode for a few days. When he thinks she has had enough, he sips the can only to find her close to lifeless. He starts panicking and gives her mouth to mouth CPR. She comes back alive and hits him away for his pervertness. Melon is sad because she thinks that she is just some scrap can everyone will toss away after finishing their business with her. But Kakeru says that he can’t simply throw her away because she’s cute. Just when Melon is feeling better, Kakeru ruins the mood by saying how he needs to discipline her according to his desires. Melon dioxide time? But Melon is happy that she gets to be with him even if his personality has some questions.
 
In episode 2, Kakeru wakes up from a nightmare whereby when he was younger with Najimi, a distraught Kakeru gunned down several adults. Melon seems to be infatuated with baseball as she watches it over TV. But she laments she can’t do much physical stuff because her juice will run out fast. Kakeru wonders if she’s lonely being cooked up in home all day. So in school, Kakeru goes on all his fours and begs Najimi, surprising her and everyone else. In exchange he’ll do anything for her. (Un)fortunately it’s not some date idea Najimi thought (note her perverted face!). Kakeru wants her to use her rich family’s influence to get Melon as a transfer student. That night, Otoya and Airin pays another unauthorized visit to Kakeru by cutting open his door via chainsaw. So much for privacy. Anyway Otoya gets down to business explaining things and Akikan Elect, a battle between steel and aluminium Akikans. It seems in order to standardize raw materials and to cut down cost, the winner of that battle is necessary to see which type of can will continue to be in production. Besides, Otoya feels that steel and aluminium cans can’t co-exist because they hate each other. Otoya wants Kakeru and Melon to participate and when he brings up that incident 2 years ago, Kakeru gets upset and shoos them out and refuses to let Melon participate.
 
Next day, Melon makes her debut in Kakeru’s class as his cousin and seems to make friends with the other girls. They warn Melon about Kakeru’s pervertness and Kakeru takes this chance to retaliate by stripping and says which body part of his is weird! Later Najimi requests Kakeru to treat her at the cafeteria as part of his promise but that guy brought along Melon and Kochikaze as well, ruining her hopes of spending time alone with him. As usual, Melon’s jealousy has her kicking up a fuss as she runs away and hides in the cold storage. Kakeru tries to calm her down when Najimi comes in. As expected, the door closes, locking the trio in. Najimi starts to feel colder while Kakeru thinks he’s becoming cooler (Haha! Nice try, buddy). Melon learns the incident 2 years ago when Najimi was kidnapped by those who had a grudge against her dad’s company but Kakeru came to her rescue. Though he fired in self defence and the baddies got away with minor injuries, everyone else blamed him for being cruel. That’s why Najimi has always been grateful to him. Then of course an incident when they trip and fell on top of each other and Kakeru thinks it’s time to use his body warmth to warm things up. Fortunately Kochikaze and Gigolo open the door in the nick of time. Get ready for another kind of pain. As Kakeru and Melon chat while walking out of school, a loli Akikan is seen waiting at the school gates.
 
That Akikan is Budoko of a grape aluminium can and in episode 3, she confronts Melon. Viewers may find this Budoko between bratty and moe. She’s always trying to put up a fight against Melon but can never best her while her cute childish-like voice (or rather strange accent) is moe enough to turn otakus on. In order not to attract the attention of other students, the cans take their fight in some hall. Budoko is no match for Melon so she retreats but will be back another day. On their way home, Melon gets into a quarrel with Kakeru as she thinks he doesn’t understand her feelings and the happiness of Akikans and runs away. Later Najimi catches Kakeru in the act of trying to make a pass on a vending machine! Desperate or just crazy? She invites him to her home and to Kakeru’s horror, the place is messy like a pig sty. Unbelivable that a girl’s home is like that. Even Kakeru can beat her in this section of cleanliness. Kakeru takes a bath and the fantasy of Najimi wanting to do it with him nearly materialized till she says he could rinse himself clean. Kakeru comes out to find Kochikaze tickling and yuri teasing Najimi and Gigolo is here too. They’re here as a study group. But I think with this rowdy bunch, hardly any studying can be done. Especially if Kakeru and Kochikaze don’t get along. Another thing we learn is that Najimi gets easily drunk with the slightest slip of any carbonated drink! Dangerous. She’s thinking of taking out her inner desires on Kakeru but when Kochikaze volunteers, Najimi refuses, breaking her heart. Meanwhile Melon is wondering the streets alone and some guy wants to hit on her but he got a taste of melon pain instead. Later as drunk Najimi buys a sports drink called Yell from a nearby vending machine, she sips it and suddenly another Akikan appears. This Akikan, aptly named as Yell, is grateful to her Owner for bringing her to life but Najimi is devastated because her first kiss went to a girl rather than Kakeru. Damn.
 
Kakeru decides to go look for Najimi in episode 4 as he tells Gigolo to comfort Kochikaze’s bleeding heart (feeling the effects of being rejected, eh?). Hmm… feels like Gigolo has a crush on Kochikaze… At the same time, Melon and Yell met and chat, unaware of their identities. When Yell mention that she was being abandoned by her Owner, they both realized each other’s earring and got into defensive stance. Kakeru is outside the hallway and Najimi is still drunk and going through emotional flux and pesters Kakeru to go on a date with her till he gives in. Melon and Yell trade insults before taking their battle elsewhere. The next day, Najimi is back to her normal self (Kochikaze too back to her happy self and Gigolo being beaten and tied up) as she wonders if Kakeru remembers their date. He makes it tomorrow Sunday. Kakeru rushes back home and on the way Budoko spots him and wants to shoot him down with her grape ammo but is stopped by her kind Owner, Misaki Miyashita. Note how Budoko will always try to find and pick a fight with Melon. Either she dismisses her opponent isn’t Melon or something gets in her way. In short, she flops. Kakeru comes home to see Melon sitting dejectedly outside the door. She tells him about the other Akikan she met. The same time, Otoya and Airin come by and hand them a radar which is able to locate Akikans. Meanwhile as Kakeru does more research on Akikan Elect (he is thinking of some man’s erection?!), I don’t know how Yell ended up back in Najimi’s place but I guess she is sober now to accept things and hear her explanation. Najimi goes on a recce the places she and Kakeru will visit for their date. She also meets Budoko and Misaki during her outing. When she comes back, she is surprised to find Yell has tidy up her home. Yell wishes to stay by her side so Najimi takes in Yell as her maid this makes Yell very happy as she pledges to do anything for her.
 
In episode 5, Kakeru’s classmate is going to beat him up after finding out he spend the night at Najimi’s place and even has Kochikaze and Melon too. Kakeru warns them his defence system (whatever that is) will kick in but Melon beats him up, much to the guys’ happiness. Kakeru starts taunting Melon so she retaliates with a melon punch. Class starts and it seems Airin is their new maths teacher. Though she has teaching qualifications, she is also here to keep watch since there are 2 Akikan Owners in school (Kakeru and Melon still unaware Najimi has become an Akikan Owner). Because Kakeru wants to find out about the other Owner, he cancels his date with Najimi and surprisingly she understands and accepts. However their search using the radar leads them to hot schoolmate couples smooching in secluded areas. Is this a trend?! Sunday comes and Airin is following Kakeru and Melon (Airin trying to control her fetish for cute kittens? And Otoya back in his office admiring pics of young boys?!). Airin calls Najimi to tell her about the Akikan Elect but she refuses to listen so Airin wants her to come over to the place she wants to now. Kakeru and Melon’s outing include eating melon/honeydew fruit and melon bread. It’s like eating a part of herself, eh? Melon then suggests to ride the Ferris Wheel so that they could search better. She spots the baseball stadium and wants to go watch a baseball match. Najimi is waiting at the cafe but since Airin didn’t show up, she leaves. On her way, she passes the stadium and to her horror sees Kakeru with Melon. She starts thinking that this may be the reason why he cancelled their date. That night depressed Najimi does a Girlish on Yell and wants her to punish Kakeru. As Melon is having the time of her life at the stadium, Kakeru is sitting outside when Yell appears before him. Unable to forgive the guy who hurt her Owner, Yell uses her Isotonic Sword (an energy blade from her right hand) and slashes Kakeru in the stomach! OMG! He’s bleeding profusely!
 
Before Yell could finish off Kakeru in episode 6, Najimi appears in time and pleads to Yell not to do so. Kakeru realizes the Owner of this Akikan. Melon comes back and is devastated of what she sees and you can smell and epic battle coming up. Najimi apologizes but Melon tells her not to come near him. I can’t believe Kakeru can still say how he can’t die from such injury because he’s an immortal. Uh huh. He passes out. Immortals pass out too, right? Kakeru comes to back in his room and is bandaged by Melon and you can tell he’s back to normal with his garbage talk. Teary Najimi tells Yell they can’t be together. However they’re being interrupted by Melon who proposes a duel. As Kakeru finds Melon’s goodbye note, he rushes out but sees Najimi at the door. They reconcile when Kakeru clears up the misunderstanding that he and Melon was on a date. Though he admits he likes Melon, he also likes Najimi and views them as his important friends. As Melon and Yell duke it out in an empty baseball stadium, Kakeru calls Gigolo for help. He is riding his motorbike in his doggy pyjamas? So Kakeru takes over the bike with Najimi as his pillion and dumps Gigolo on the road side. Some friend. I’m not sure about his statement too: "You’re not just an extra. You’re the best extra". An insult or compliment? As Kakeru rides through the night traffic, the bike slipped on a banana peel (how cliche is that?). The next thing he knows, he finds Kochikaze using her witch powers to get him back on track! No wonder there’s an air of mystery around her. Melon and Yell are still fighting as Kakeru arrives in time to give them his passionate love lecture-cum-scolding. He even hits a homerun on Melon’s powerful blast! They reconcile as Kakeru tells Melon to hug him while Najimi wants Yell back with her. Meanwhile Airin tells Otoya that getting the Akikans to fight at their full potential was hard but he notes how Akikan Elect is just beginning. Kochikaze picks up Gigolo from the streets, giving him a little sense of happiness. Everyone goes to school together the next day.
 
In episode 7 while Kakeru continues to suggest perverted acts for Melon (gently scrub his sensitive parts?), Yell becomes a transfer student in their class. Yeah, another hot girl. The boys get even excited when Yell proclaims that she is Najimi’s maid. The other girls misinterpret that Yell may have some relationship with Kakeru so the other boys once again get jealous. Kakeru then tries to deny it all by making out with his chair! Gigolo tries to hit on Yell but she remembers him only by a different name. Jisuke-kun? Class starts and Airin has Kakeru solve a maths problem on the blackboard but cheeky Kakeru turn the tables on her by doing some SM Wooden Horse with his fingers to make Airin ‘stimulated and paralyzed’. Kochikaze steps in to defend all women from the hands of Kakeru and the duo nearly duke it out if not for Najimi. She gives Kakeru a resounding victory when she says Kakeru has always been with her and she won’t allow anyone to lay a finger on him. Heartbreak round 2. Later Airin goes to see Otoya, who has become the school’s doctor (horror!) and feels he has to observe the 2 Akikan Owners.
 
Later during PE, Kakeru teases Melon for being knowledgeable in baseball and lets her explain to the rest. Because of Kakeru’s explanation in one of the early episodes, Melon confidently tells the rest what Central League and Pacific League is. Due to the ambiguous words, Melon explains it as masturbation and boobs sex. Everyone is so stunned/embarrassed. When Melon finds out its true meaning from Kochikaze, it’s hell time for Kakeru. Then Melon takes on Yell in baseball and their match has them chasing each other outside the field and even destroying the baseball. Melon is going to use her blast as replacement but is stopped by Kakeru who tells Yell that she has deviated far from Najimi and what if something happens to her. Yell panics and rushes back. Thankfully she’s safe. Then it’s Kochikaze taking on Yell over Najimi. Kochikaze knows Yell’s weakness as she shake her boobs. You see, Yell is easily distracted with cute shaking things. And because of that, she lost but Najimi comforts her. At the end of school, Kakeru gets a call from Otoya still wanting him to participate in Akikan Elect. But Kakeru refuses and says he’ll destroy it and cuts him off. After school, Kakeru gets Melon her own handphone so that they could stay in contact since it would be impossible for Kakeru to be with her 24/7. Melon is happy and starts using the handphone even if they are close in distance.
 
Kakeru makes up to Najimi for their cancelled promise in episode 8 as they go to a water amusement park. Kakeru seems reluctant but he has to because he promised her, right? Yeah, Najimi sure is happy. Melon and Yell are hiding and spying on them as with Gigolo and Kochikaze. Otoya and Airin are there too but Otoya prefers not to do anything and let them be. Note his shiny swimming trunks. Blinding. As Najimi and Kakeru ride the slide tube, Yell feels depressed about Najimi and Kakeru to be together so Melon tries to cheer her up. The ride is scary and it seems Kakeru is the one holding on to Najimi (grabbing her by the boobs?). When they reach the end of the tube, they unknowingly hit Gigolo, who was trying to call Melon and Yell but Kochikaze threw her board at him for trying to make a pass. Then Gigolo meets Otoya and the latter wants the former to follow him to the men’s toilet. Oh no! I don’t know what he did but Gigolo must have felt very violated as seen running away with his pants nearly down! Najimi then wants to ride the Ferris Wheel. Yell tries to give chase but Melon hides themselves after seeing Budoko. I don’t know why but Budoko got scared and abandoned her mission when Yell comes up to her and tries to pat her head.
 
In the Ferris Wheel, Najimi does some drama talk and in the end confesses. She gets happy when Kakeru nods his head when she asks to be his girlfriend. Kochikaze and Gigolo are spying from another Ferris Wheel cart (Gigolo trying to hit on her and even confess but unsuccessful) when the cart shakes violently for a second, causing everyone to lose their balance. Which means Kakeru is in a kissing position so Najimi prepares herself. However to Najimi’s dismay, that guy is sleeping! All the while. How disappointing. Yell and Melon is surprised to see what’s happening so Yell jumps up there and causes another shake on the carriage. Melon takes her away before she can do anything. The shake on the carriage wakes Kakeru up and doesn’t remember a speech from Najimi so it’s understandable if she’s upset. It took her so long to sum up her courage and when the moment arrives, all for nothing. Melon reprimands Yell for trying to kill them. On the ground, Najimi forgives Kakeru since he repented. Kochikaze continues to spy while Gigolo is still daydreaming in the cart.
 
Melon’s handphone bill is giving Kakeru the shivers in episode 9 so Melon takes up a part time job to help pay it off. That job is as a waitress at a maid cafe run by a transvestite, Bunny Nankai. He may be a pondan but at least he’s not as bad as Otoya. To add further to Melon’s embarrassment, Kakeru brings the rest to patron the cafe. Control, control… Later, Yell talks to Najimi that she too wants to take a part time job. Najimi is against it since she is worried Yell will overwork and collapse. Plus, if there is something she wants, rich Najimi could always buy it for her. But Yell isn’t satisfied so that night she goes out and confronts 3 gangster-like guys. Next day, Najimi wonders why Yell isn’t around lately and is acting strange. Not until Kakeru informs that Yell approached him for advice on a good place to work. So what did Kakeru told Yell? "If it’s a night time job, then the best way is to use your body hard". Sounds like prostitution, eh? Najimi is devastated so they go searching and find her working at a construction site. So that’s what it was. Najimi scolds her for making everyone worry before running away in tears. Kakeru tells Melon to go after Yell while he himself will take care of Najimi. However Melon doesn’t seem happy. Kakeru manages to comfort Najimi at her home but when he returns, he is shocked to see Melon packing her stuff and moving out. She thinks Akikans who have lost their Owner’s trust, their lives are as good as over. Melon throws a tantrum and some stuff at Kakeru before running away. Kakeru picks up her handphone and realizes a lot of unsent mail to him about her loneliness. Meanwhile Najimi gets a delivery package from Yell (so fast?) and it’s a clock (earlier on, Najimi’s watch stopped). Najimi feels guilty and starts searching for Yell. Have we seen this scenario before? She finds her under a bridge and apologizes and before you know it, they both reconcile. Elsewhere, Kakeru finds Melon at a field and they chat over things while playing a little baseball catch. They also get back on good terms. Soon, everyone converges to celebrate Kochikaze’s birthday which falls on Halloween Day (she’s really a witch, eh?). Gigolo tries to give his present to her but Nankai is the one who picks it up and misinterpret. And Kakeru thinks he has such weird hobbies. Tsk tsk tsk…
 
If you want to know what Akikans do on their free time when their Owners are out, filler episode 10 takes a peek at it. Sort of. First up is Melon and she decides to do laundry after spilling some of her melon juice. She hangs the clothes out and even Kakeru’s underwear (though she didn’t wash them). It gets too hot so she takes a cool bath using ice cubes and melon cans. Is that supposed to be refreshing? Then it suddenly rains so Melon has a hard time taking in the clothes. They’re dripping wet when the freakish weather clears up and it’s sunny again. Kakeru comes home and thinks Melon is trying to seduce him (she’s wrapped in only a towel) so in her embarrassment she throws all the clothes at him. Next is Budoko. Her sleeping is so ‘unrefined’. She’s not only sleep talking but picking a fight with you know who in her dream. Her action speaks it. A stray cat comes in and messes with her hair but Budoko’s rowdy behaviour scares it. When she wakes up, she is horrified to see her messed up hair and thinks it’s that steel can’s doing. While cursing her, she fixes her hair but notices how cute if she straightens and lets it loose (OMG! She resembles Jun Watarase of Happiness!). She then wraps herself in a blanket and pretends to be a princess and gathers all the stuffed toys to make it look like Snow White and the 7 Dwarves. She hopes Misaki will come back soon. When Misaki comes back from shopping, she finds Budoko asleep again. Lastly, Yell cleans up Najimi’s messy place and after a shower and a drink (lots of Yell drink in the fridge), she does the laundry before looking up the meaning of her name in a dictionary. She goes outside and gives out a loud "MEOW"! After precisely cutting labels from snack packs, she hangs out the clothes but a dragonfly catches her attention. Yell starts chasing it but in the process wrecks the place. Back to square one. When the dragonfly is long gone and realizing it what has happened, she starts the cleaning process again. In the evening, as she takes in the clothes, she notices a group of cats waiting outside below (must’ve been attracted to her call earlier on). Yell is in the middle of cooking when Najimi comes back so she goes to greet her.
 
Episode 11 begins with Airin and Otoya being badly beaten up by the strongest Akikan (whom I shall refer to as Nameless) and their office place is being burned down. Next day, the class gets news that Airin is hospitalized and after school, Kakeru and Melon bumps into Misaki who is waiting at the gates. As they talk at the cafe, they learn that Misaki is saddened over Budoko’s disappearance and wonders if Melon did something to her since Budoko was always trying to pick a fight with her. Even if Budoko is her sworn enemy, Melon can’t help feel bad especially if Misaki is crying over her only friend. Back at Najimi’s place, Yell goes outside after fixing her dinner. She notices a presence and tells her to come out. Why, it’s Budoko. But she seems like under a spell. Budoko attacks Yell but is still no match for the latter. Najimi comes out looking for Yell but a rainbow blast is heading her way so Yell uses her body to protect her and says her gratitude. Najimi is horrified to see Yell in Nameless’s grasp. Thing is, Nameless does a Girlish on Yell as the latter disintegrates. As Kakeru and Melon are about to search for Budoko, Kakeru gets a call that Najimi is hospitalized. They rush over and also see Airin there. Airin explains this steel can is going on a rampage on any Akikan, whether it’s steel or aluminium. Since Nameless isn’t from their jurisdiction, they have insufficient data on her. After school as Melon sits alone by the river bank, a hypnotized Yell attacks her but is saved by Kakeru in time. Hypnotized Budoko joins in and Kakeru realizes that these 2 are imposters. Kakeru and Melon cooperate to beat the imposters when Nameless appears and sends them flying with her rainbow blast. She shows them her collection of defeated Akikans under her cape which includes Yell and Budoko. Melon fights back but is too weak. Nameless explains she is a mixed fruit Akikan and exhibits her special ability to absorb powers of other Akikans. Which means Nameless does a Girlish on Melon. Kakeru can only watch in horror as Melon disappears in front of him. Nameless then tosses the lifeless melon can back to Kakeru, who goes hysterical and lets loose his scream of frustration.
 
Kakeru wakes up in hospital in episode 12 and is being told by Airin of the latest developments. Kakeru says he has a confirm strategy to win so Airin takes Kakeru and Najimi to track down Nameless. While Otoya is seen picking up crying Misaki, Nameless is on her usual terror rounds. Airin manages to catch up with her riding a bike. Kakeru tries some horrible pick-up/teasing lines to annoy her so much so she veered off the road. Down in the valley, they confront Nameless and Kakeru’s sure-win strategy is to get down on his knees and beg for Melon’s return. Looks pathetic but it’s better than nothing. Nameless isn’t amused and steps on him while summoning a fake Melon to beat him up. Though Kakeru receives some painful end, before fake Melon could finish him off, she stopped and Nameless is surprised by this. Kakeru concludes that the Melon in her did this so from the bottom of his heart, he tells her to return and declares he loves her! It was enough for Melon to return to his melon can. While Nameless is reeling from this shock, Otoya appears and snatches Yell and Budoko’s can from her and tosses them to their respective Owners. With Otoya’s advice to reach out their feelings, they did the same as Yell and Budoko return to their cans. But Nameless isn’t going down yet. She summons other fake Akikans to rid them. The Owners do a Girlish and have their Akikans easily dispatch the fakes since they have no hearts thus any true powers. Then Melon, Yell and Budoko combine their powers to beat Nameless.
 
As Yell and Budoko are happily reunited with their Owners, Kakeru receives another painful melon blast when he teasingly forgets her name. Ah, everything back to normal. Everyone learns why Miku hates Akikans because she was abandoned by her Owner right after Girlish. Not only that, her Owner was a cat! It all happened when a little boy bought a can drink at the vending machine but got startled when the cat jumped on him after he opened the lit. That’s when the cat’s lips met with the can. While the boy runs away, Nameless appears to greet her new Owner (funny they weren’t in kissing position) but the cat got scared and ran away. Nameless felt she was abandoned but Najimi says it wasn’t so and that her Owner had just ran away. Nameless is still upset about her loss and is even pondering doing a 2nd round when Kakeru names her Miku from her mixed juice can. He then decides to be her Owner and wants to love her dearly. Even if he was joking (maybe not), he should at least realize about Melon and Najimi. Yeah, they’re not too happy if this guy adds another girl to his harem so they beat him up. Otoya hands Miku a photo of her cat Owner which suspiciously looked like the cat bumming on Kakeru’s roof. And off she goes looking for it. Ah well, at least she’ll be docile for now. With that over, Otoya now turns his attention to Kakeru (who is running away from Melon and Najimi’s wrath) and wants him to come into his arms, only to be hit away by Kakeru. Airin drags him away while everyone laughs. In the end, we see everyone living their normal lives as Gigolo tries to confess to Kochikaze but was interrupted and being stepped on by Miku chasing her Owner. Soon everyone gathers outside Kakeru’s home and that guy says how he loves them all.
 
So another fine ending for an okay series. Well nothing much to shout about if you ask me. If you are interested, the manga is still ongoing and my guess is that Kakeru will add more Akikans to his harem collection (seeing that he is an avid can collector too) and face other Akikan Owners as well. I have to admit that Kakeru is quite an amusing character because of his lines. I can never get enough of them. You could say that he is one of those few characters which I hoped he never stopped talking. But be warned never to use such words to pick-up girls. Use them at your own risk. But even with his cheeky nature, he still cares about those around him. Sometimes I find Melon annoying in the sense like as though she’s going through her girly period. I mean, because of her mood swings, she’s always putting up some jealous attitude, kicking up that kind of fuss and then running away. I know it’s hard to understand feelings of a can even if she’s a girl but she’s done it too many times so much so if I were Kakeru, I’d abandoned her. Sheesh. How heartless of me. Just kidding. Budoko to me emits lots of moe with her strange kiddie accent but other than that I find her bratty.
 
I was anticipating Kochikaze and Gigolo would play some part in the final episode but I guess they’re just playing extra roles, eh? I suppose they have nothing to do with the Akikans after all. Will Gigolo ever get Kochikaze to notice his love? The same answer goes to Najimi towards Kakeru. But we know for sure about Kochikaze’s affection for Najimi, right? So is that girl really a witch with powers? And I don’t want to make any comments on Otoya either. What happened to his initial plans of the Akikan Elect anyway? Maybe that’s before Miku came into the picture. What about Airin’s love for cute things? Ah, so many types of love in this series. Homo and hetero, but they’re still a form of love, right? Poor Airin could never get everyone to address her by her surname. I’m guilty as charge too. Sorry.
 
Kakeru is played by Jun Fukuyama and his exuberant and energetic voice is definitely fitting in this role. You can recognize him in other roles such as Kazuki in Busou Renkin, Lelouch in Code Geass and Kei in Special A. My favourite seiyuu Mamiko Noto does Yell and her unique trademark voice is still recognizable. Aoi Yuuki is also impressive as Budoko and if her voice sounds a little familiar it’s because she voiced another loli in another series called Kurenai as Murasaki. Other casts include Sayaka Narita as Melon (Mayu in Ai Yori Aoshi), Aki Toyosaki as Najimi (Yoshino of Minami-ke series), Megumi Toyoguchi as Airin (Kirino of Bamboo Blade), Ryotaro Okiayu as Otoya (Akio of Clannad, Tezuka of Prince Of Tennis), Nobuhiko Okamoto as Gigolo (Yoichi in Asu No Yoichi) and newbies such as Megumi Nakajima as Miku (love her weird cowgirl-like accent) and Aiko Oukubo as Kochikaze.
 
Oddly there are 2 opening themes with the 1st one being Miracle Plan Ga Dekichatta by Charmmy Queen and the 2nd one Juicy Extacy by Little Non. Though both opening credits animation remain the same. The one disturbing thing during the opening credits animation is that after we see the Owners do a Girlish, Otoya tries to do one towards viewers! Puckering up his lips is so hideous! Well, a series mainly targeted for male audiences and you know what that implies for Otoya, right? Although the ending theme is called Koisora Recycling, each of them are sung in different styles, tempo and beats. Anyway I find them all to sound weird. Especially a big chunk of them which is sung by Nomiko sounds like a little kid trying to sing but horribly fails. So out of tune though it’s intentional. Then I don’t know why each of the song name has featuring a name of a can drink like cola, ginger ale or oolong tea. I wonder what it is implication. Each of the song ends with the singer saying "Would you like something to drink?" while the main ending credits animation is usually Budoko skipping along with a cat till they reach a tree and sleep. Huh?
 
So people, even if this whole Akikan thing sounds far fetched in the real world, a word of advice is please treat them with respect, whether they are steel or aluminium. Cans have feelings too, you know. If you need an eco reason, yeah, recycle them. Do not mistreat them by having cheap thrills like playing kankeru (kick the can). Hmm… I’m trying real hard to come up with a joke between the word kankeru and Kakeru but I can’t think of it somehow. Probably that’s how the creator named their main protagonist, eh? But he doesn’t kick them. He keeps them. I’m also thinking the same thing how they named Najimi because ‘osana najimi’ means childhood friend in Japanese.
 
After watching this series, it made me wonder what kind of an Akikan would materialize from a 100 Plus can. I did drink lots of that isotonic drink before. How about Pepsi, 7 Up or even Coca Cola? I’m really curious what kind of Akikan would come out from a beer can! There are so many can drinks out there today, local and foreign, carbonated and natural juice. If only girls could easily materialize out of a can, that would be an otaku’s dream come true. Argh! I want to have an Akikan can harem collection of my own too! Perhaps an orange flavour or a strawberry one would do. Hmm… a coffee aroma isn’t too bad either. Damn! I just tried one and nothing happened. With today’s advancement in science and technology, such dream could become a reality soon. Yeah, I’ll keep dreaming. But at the same time hoping that all that isn’t just empty can talk.
 

Akikan

Sola Soundtrack

October 17, 2009

It’s been such a long time since I’ve watched that amazing supernatural anime series Sola so much so that I nearly forgot to blog on one of its plus points. Besides the storyline, characters and breathtaking art, the series also boasts several beautifully crafted background music. Now that is what I call providing both eye/visual and ear/audio candy.
 
The background music are all compiled into one big CD album entitled Soukyuu No Hate released in mid 2007 and the tracks here are mainly composed by Hitoshi Fujima. There are a total of 43 tracks in this album and although it may look hefty, it is certainly considered a standard amount in today’s standard. Besides, many of the background music lasts less than 2 minutes so I guess there is enough to fit lots of short duration tracks on one disc.
 
The album includes the TV version of the opening and ending theme of the series as well as the short size insert song by Ceui, Binkan No Fuukei. I’m not sure if I ever remember hearing them all in the series but there are some memorable ones which I liked. As usual, listed below are those favourite tracks of mine in alphabetical order:
 
1) Asayaka Na Hikari
2) Hazumu Kimochi
3) Kasuka Na Hikari
4) Kibou No Kaze
5) Kokoro Kasanete
6) Nagi
7) Sougen No Kaze
8) Yozora Miagete
 
Too bad that isn’t even 1/5 of the track. Don’t despair, though. As I have said, these are my numero uno favourites and as of today, I’m still listening to them without getting the slightest boredom or tire (unless I hear it several times consecutively of course). It’s hard to say which of the 8 favourite tracks occupies my top spot. If I had to sit down and think real hard, then I suppose it would be Kibou No Kaze. It is a light hearted and fun piece in which the easy play of the violin and cello gives a happy effect.
 
Another light hearted and fun melody is Hazumu Kimochi which is mainly piano driven. I like the ‘cheeky’ play of the piano and the background bass which gives out a playful expression. Kokoro Kasanete also follows the same feeling but is a little livelier and has several instruments in it namely the flute. Yet another happy-like song. Hey, does this series only have joyful tunes? Not totally. Not if you’re listening to Kasuka Na Hikari. Now this piece gives out a dark, evil and gloomy feeling, the way the strings are arranged. It starts off on a slow and gradual note and then progresses to get a little dramatic in the middle before turning a little faint and then the dramatic climax.
 
There is a piece in which I can successfully play with my guitar after trying my play-be-ear skill for the umpteenth time. Hey, it’s better than nothing and though it may not sound as close as the original, at least I can still consider it as an achievement. That song is Nagi and is a light and easy guitar solo piece. Thinking about it, since that song only lasts a minute and a half, I remember taking hours and hours (not to mention days) just to master it. I also tried to do the same for Yozora Miagete, a slightly sombre piece. At first I thought it was a guitar solo since that is how it started but the final half of the song commences another guitar picking ala bumblebee style as the main lead while the earlier guitar plucking becomes the background accompaniment. So if I’m playing the guitar solo for the first half (which sounds rather close after all those trying), the sudden switch in guitar roles would make my playing sound a little ’empty’, if you know what I mean.
 
Asayaka Na Hikari has the same tune as Nagi but this melody is a waltz version of the latter. Instead of guitar, you now have piano and strings and feels like a song fitting for a ball. Why not? It sounds like a waltz piece, right? A very soothing and calming piano solo is Sougen No Kaze. Though I think that there is a low string accompaniment in the background but it isn’t that obvious. This tune makes you want to close your eyes and lie down on the grassy plains while the sun shine in your face and the wind breezes through your body.
 
There is a variety of other songs in the album depending on the mood of the tune. For instance, the track also offers slow and calming pieces which may swing to either sad or happy ambience like Te Wo Toriatte (using mainly strings and piano which gives an impression of a fairytale world), Fureru Yubisaki (an electric organ solo version of Yozora Miagete), Suiteki (a slow but sad sounding piano solo), Chikadzuku Kyori (another slow song using the cello), Sokubaku (a slow enigmatic piece), Yukyuu No Omou (a sad melody using orchestra strings), Itsuka Mita Aozora (in addition to slow, it is also a gloomy piano solo), Kimi No Soba Ni (a slow soothing and slightly jazzy melody which evokes a sense of calmness), Futari No Yorube (using echo sound effects to give a calming effect), Egao Afurete (a happy flute driven tune which brings to mind a joyous and light hearted outing in the sun) and Atataka Na Omoi (another calming solo piece using the harp which makes you feel like you’re flying above the clouds in Heaven).
 
Then you also have tracks which sound suspenseful and dramatic such as Kako To Mirai To (a piano driven tune which gives an impression that something climatic may happen or time is ticking), Uzumaku Kaze (a suspenseful and dramatic piece), Toki No Hazama Ni (a simple tune though it gives off feelings of a little tension and anxiety), Kishimu Kuuki (an action suspense tune which gets more dramatic as it progresses), Tsumetai Yami (another suspense song but it doesn’t turn any more suspenseful as it sounds the almost same throughout its duration), Haiyoru Konton (another suspenseful track which sounds the same as the duration goes by. Only difference is that it adds cymbals in the later half) and Shichi Ni Nozomu (a techno beat which gives out action and suspense).
 
Not forgetting eerie and creepy-like composition which include Konmei To Michi (the violin and cello play makes it an eerie and enigmatic piece), Kairan No Yoru (an evil sounding song with a slight techno hint in which the suspense feel makes it as though something bad will happen anytime), Miezaru Ashioto (another suspenseful evil tune which sounds like a variation of Kairan No Yoru), Semaru Zetsubou (another suspense track with a few weird sound effects. First impression to me that this sounds like a trailing hot-on-your-heels cat-and-mouse feeling), Midareru Kokoro (the eerie strings reminds me of a horror suspense movie or some evil supernatural phenomenon) and Kodoku No Soko De (a slightly creepy tune since it incorporates high pitched chime bells and a wind instrument which I can’t make out. But the middle part slightly changes to a little positive though the creepiness still remains).
 
Finally weird sounding tracks which could raise an eyebrow or two (at least in my case). They are Warabe Uta (reminds me of a temple hymn because of the children voices singing), Yoru To Ame To (another strange melody but calming tune with the flute as its lead), Kokuu No Mon (some weird instruments here which I can’t make out but it gives off a creepy and ghostly feel) and Nibi Iro (a weird tune which sounds like an African tribal music infused with techno beats to give an action suspense atmosphere. The later half of it sounds like it came out from the 70’s because it sounded a little funky. I think). The remaining balance of the album comprises of Kuruuhaguruma (a short rock outfit), Kanashimi No Hate Ni (despite the name, it doesn’t sound melancholic but rather a little like a dramatic medieval tune) and Namida Tsuumi (bordering somewhat between casual and moderate).
 
Of course for those who can’t get enough of the series’ music, there are the full versions of the opening and ending themes of the series as well a 7 track character image album called Oratorio. Even prior to the screening of the anime series, there has been a drama CD released which serves as a brief prologue to the story’s setting though nothing much about the characters is revealed. I guess it is part of the marketing and advertising strategy so much so there are even 2 internet radio shows which feature the main seiyuus of the series. Having said so much, it’s not like I’m interested in listening to them all. I’m just happy with the handful of background music in my collection. And that’s the sky for me.
 

Sola

Air Gear

October 11, 2009

I decided to give another shonen anime genre a shot. This time it is the 2006 extreme sports genre Air Gear. Remember the days of rollerblading? Only this time technology has these motorized inline skates fitted with mechanism and systems which allows users to literally fly and do somersault, acrobatic flips, twists and turns. Sounds like fun, eh?
 
So for those interested in this kind of anime, should find this show satisfying your need for rollerblading speed. Okay, so not every time you are going to see the characters whizzing pass everything all the time. You have your usual comedy, drama and action of course. Besides, if you intend to watch this show, get ready to arm yourself with a little terminology of the series. For starters, those futuristic rollerblades are called Air Trecks (ATs) and those who wear them are termed Storm Riders. Viewers will learn more as they go by such as Parts War (battles that a Storm Rider team have and the winner gets the loser’s parts or territories), the different class levels of Storm Riders (A-class being the cream of the crop and F-class the lowest), Emblem (logos which represents the ‘life’ of a team. If an Emblem is lost and taken away through a match, that losing team is disbanded), Road (markings on the surface after a Storm Rider rides it numerous times making it his/her trademark ‘Road’), Kings (the 8 most powerful Storm Riders with their unique trademark Roads. Plus if all 8 Kings gather, a rumour that the Sky King will descend) and Regalia (incredibly powerful ATs unique to its King and proof of their power and position as they can unleash powerful forces and do lots of damage). So are you still with me?
 
Being a typical shonen genre, we are of course introduced to the main star of the show, Ikki Minami. Yeah, his spiky hair tells it all. Plus, he is a delinquent. Looks tell that he is not the smart kind of kid and you can expect his cheeky and mischievous antics but when it comes to loyalty and principals, he sticks by them like glue. Basically season viewers can tell that he learns fast and will propel from a zero to a hero as the series progresses. Fight opponents who are on par with him, beats them, enemies become his friends, powers up, faces more powerful enemies, defeats them and the cycle goes on. It’s no different here.
 
Ikki’s parents died so he is somehow living under the care of the Noyamano sisters who are oddly named after fruits. The eldest sister Rika takes on the maternal role and supports the family as she is away on business trips most of the time. Next is Mikan, the tough tomboy girl and the one who usually gives Ikki her tough love. Then there is bespectacled Ringo. Obviously viewers can tell she has feelings for him as she is the one entrusted to look after Ikki. But you know lah. She’s too shy to come to terms with her feelings while Ikki is to dumb and oblivious to notice it all. Finally the loli of the pack is Ume, who has weird a weird hobby of making scary puppets. If you’re wondering why many people nickname Ikki "Karasu (meaning crow), my guess is that the obvious thing which relates Ikki and the crow is that a chibi crow is used as a censor to cover strategic parts. Yeah, you can’t leave out the fanservice, right? Babes in tight and revealing outfits riding ATs. Yeow! Hot on your heels, babe!
 
As seen in episode 1, Ikki runs into trouble with a group of F-class Storm Riders, Skull Saders. All I can say is that Ikki lost and peed in his pants after that horror ride. Back home, while sifting through the forbidden cabinet, he finds a pair of ATs and curiosity gets the better of him as he takes it out for a test spin. Without permission of course. Oh yeah, he gets the hang of it. Because of his infatuation for a high ranking Storm Rider, Simca, I guess he’d get involved in anything even if he doesn’t understand it all. Likewise, Simca is quite interested in Ikki. Not romantically but he sees a great potential in him and it’s like she’s nurturing him under her wings indirectly. Before Ikki knows it, he gets into a challenge with Skull Saders. Again. No time to think, it’s action time. At this time, beginner Ikki sees his own Road, dubbed the Wing Road.
 
In episode 2, Ikki this time beats the Skull Saders with the help of the Noyamano sisters giving him a little push. But the leader of that losing team refuses to acknowledge Ikki’s win and will be back in the near future for another challenge. While we learn that the Noyamano sisters are part of the legendary Storm Rider team, Sleeping Forest, Ikki is now very much interested in making his own ATs and his own team. One night he sees Simca in trouble and decides to help out and in return, she gives him a special prize. No, nothing steamy like he hopes for. It is an Emblem of the Rez-Boa Dogs. Oh no. Ikki lands himself in another trouble because the Rez-Boa Dogs are after it.
 
So you guessed it, Ikki wins again in episode 3 and the leader of Rez-Boa Dogs is gracious in defeat and disbands his team. Because he crashes into a neon sign of some famous store which sells ATs and its parts, Ikki is made to do some part time job. Besides, his reckless use of the ATs has caused it to be broken so he needs the cash for some new parts. In this episode, Ikki ponders to form his own team with his close friends, the handsome Kazuma "Kazu" Mikura and the chubby resident pervert Onigiri. Now this Onigiri’s name sounds apt because his head resembles one so much so he reminds me of that character in Eyeshield 21 and Ping Pong Club. Since earning cash this way is too slow, Ikki learns that he can obtain AT parts in a faster way through Parts War. But it won’t be easy as it looks.
 
In episode 4, Kazu and Onigiri decide to take centre stage as they decide to challenge an E-class team whose territory is their school. They are the Yaou and they rule the night. Their leader, Issa Mihotoke or more popularly known as Fats Buccha, is also a student of their school and his large size may seem intimidating. Plus, Buccha’s fighting aura resembles a tank so breaking down his defence isn’t going to be easy. As expected, Kazu and Onigiri lost and are badly injured. When news reaches Ikki, you can tell that this guy is going to get justice for his pals as he combines their AT parts with his to take on Buccha in a Hurdle competition, in which the battle ground will be their school compound. One thing about Buccha is his ability to turn his fats into muscles! I’d like to do that too! This match not only attracts Simca, but a King named Spitfire as well. Keeping their eyes on this rising star, eh?
 
Ikki learns fast the new tricks in episode 5 and with the help of the other students who are tired of Yaou’s harassment, helps Ikki to turn the 1 on 1 battle into Ikki’s favour. With that, Yaou is disbanded and everyone rejoice. This won’t be the last you’ll see of Buccha as viewers will notice how he tends to stick around Ikki and co and in the near future joins his team. At least this guy too sees great potential in this newcomer. Ikki is then confronted with Spitfire who tells him the long treacherous path to become a King which includes the many battles and powerful foes he will have to face. You can also tell that Ringo-Simca showdown is partly down to jealousy of Ikki. Simca is such a smooth talker and teaser that Ringo has no chance to counter back. At least effectively. So just how interested Simca is in Ikki? Well, she’s got the guts to come into Ikki’s home while he’s taking a bath and suggest to wash his back (apart from giving him advice, that is). And naked too. But will Ringo allow it? I’m not sure if Ikki’s mind is wandering with some fantasy and listening to what Simca is saying. Yeah, Simca even manages to bribe Mikan so that she gets to stay for a while. Ringo feels that Simca is up to something as we learn that Ringo is the legitimate heir to Sleeping Forest.
 
The Skull Saders are back for another challenge in episode 6 but they are disappointed to find that it is not the real Sleeping Forest that they are challenging. It turns out to be Ikki and his pals instead. So a Dash competition up the high wall between the F-class Storm Riders begins and even if that Skull Saders boss has been practising many times up this wall, he is still no match for Ikki (of course he gets help from Buccha’s rhythm). Even if Ikki tries to display good sportsmanship and help that jerk Skull Saders guy while he’s in a little trouble of his own, he still doesn’t want to admit his loss. He’ll never improve at this rate. As usual, this match attracts lots of people and also an eye-patch kid, Agito. You may have seen him in the 1st episode with his elder brother, Kaito Wanijima, the head of the police squad called Windstorm G-man, who is trying to arrest illegal storm riders.
 
In episode 7, Buccha gives Ikki his prize, a part of the AT, as his reward. Ikki along with Kazu and Onigiri decide to practice their AT skills and start a team. However Onigiri decides not to join Ikki’s team. Why? He’s in love with some sexy girl whom he recently met at the park. Yeah, it’s like beauty and the beast, I’d say. Can’t believe she’s all over a fat pervert like him! It proves that you can’t judge one’s look by its cover. Ikki and the rest decide to help Onigiri score even more points with this lady and stage a mock gang fight whereby Onigiri will be viewed as the hero. However that lady gives Onigiri a good whack and suddenly she’s all over Buccha! Oh yeah, she really likes fat guys. The fatter the better. Love is sure funny. Poor Onigiri. With that and nothing else to live for, he joins Ikki’s team.
 
However that girl ditched Buccha for an even fatter guy, a sumo wrestler. Haha. So the ‘fat pig brothers’ reconcile. Yeah, lump of meat hugging each other, Ikki says. But episode 8 focuses more on Ikki’s homeroom teacher, Mari Tomita or more fondly known as Ton-chan. At first looks, you wonder if she’s a right person to teach because not only of her childish behaviour, she dresses in some clothes which resembles a nightie to class! What about her ambiguous deep breathing and vague body language and actions? A turn on or just disgusting? So is she a teacher or a slut? Because Ikki and co’s test results aren’t good, with the help of Ton-chan they decide to sneakily steal test questions from a strict teacher, Masaya Orihara. Orihara is expecting those delinquents to steal them so much so he even camps in office to guard them. While planning their steal, Ikki and co learn from Ton-chan why the school’s clock is frozen at 8:29. Ton-chan was a student in this school and Orihara a new teacher then. Back then, Ton-chan seems to have short attention span and is always late arriving at school. Because of that, she always gets scolded from Orihara. One day as usual she was late and arrived when school is well over and expects another shelling. To her surprise, Orihara is waiting for her at the gates and points out how the time has stopped so she can’t be late. With that, Ton-chan is encouraged to do her best. Since then, the clock has never been working. I don’t know why nobody bothered to fix it but I remember the control room is located very high up. Ikki uses his skills to make the clock work again and the reason why it is not working was because there is an AT part stuck there. My guess is that Orihara may have put it there back then so that Ton-chan won’t be late. Does he like her? Dunno. With that, Ikki gets his hands on the test questions but the next day to his horror, Orihara has changed them. Although they are easier ones, Ikki and co are so dumb that they memorized the ones they stole and couldn’t answer them. Bummer.
 
Ikki need at least 5 people to form a team. So in episode 9, as part of Ringo’s suggestion, they go watch an A-class team match for experience. I don’t know how they got Ton-chan to drive them all the way there. Her car is going to be in for some major overhaul because Buccha is sitting right on top. Besides, if you noticed their 2 girl classmates, Emiri Adachi and Yayoi Nakayama, who are always following Ikki and co, that’s because Emiri holds a huge crush on Kazu. Guess she’ll go wherever he goes. Oddly at some construction site, the home team, Kintetsu Bulls is up against a single person Agito. Is this legal? I thought they needed 5 to a team? Now this Agito guy has split personality. When he shifts his eye-patch to the other eye, he’s got a softer and gentler personality named Akito. Sometimes I don’t know if this Akito is a girl because he acts so girly. Anyway Agito is the Fang King and his battle aura resembles a shark. Why is this guy wearing a straight jacket? Does he come from a mental asylum? Is he that dangerous? Well, he’s not A-class for nothing. He doesn’t even need to use his hands and the strings and hooks attached to his strait jacket acts like his extra limbs. Besides, he likes using the F-word like as though it’s part of his normal vocabulary. Shouting it out aloud if it doesn’t go his way or something he doesn’t like. Do Japanese viewers know the real meaning of that word? Ikki and co are surprised to see Agito’s powers as he mercilessly beats the crap out of each of the Kintetsu Bulls and even carving his own Road on the team’s leader body. Cruel! A trivial thing I want to mention is that, if Ikki had a stomach ache, why the hell does he need to strip naked just to take a dump?!
 
In episode 10, naked Ikki (put on some clothes for Heaven’s sake!) comes face to face with Agito but it seems that this match is a setup by Kaito and his G-men to arrest the Storm Riders. Ikki and the rest make their escape while Kintetsu Bulls buy them some time. Ikki takes Agito along with him during the escape and Agito can’t understand why those idiots are having so much fun. So in 1 big jump, Ikki tells Agito about the frog in the well story and that it doesn’t look forward to the sea but the sky. Huh? Frogs fly? This makes Akito appear and realize his potential too. And in mid-air he kisses Ikki. Holy sh*t! WTF?! The gang manages to give Kaito the slip and for the time being Akito is living with Ikki in his home and I can’t believe that kid is in love with him! Following him just about anywhere. I wonder what his other side feels. Ugh. Anyway Akito will soon be transferred to Ikki’s class and the next day on their way to school, Ikki who is tired of that split personality kid following him, asks if he’s ever going home. Akito says that he doesn’t want to go home because if he does, he’ll be put back into a cage by his brother. Oh dear. Kaito treats him like an animal? Before they know it, Kaito in his big truck pulls up alongside them and wants Akito to return.
 
Ikki doesn’t give a crap about Kaito in episode 11 and he makes that guy running after his truck when he releases the brakes and sends it rolling downhill, crashing into a lake. I guess it’s safe to say that Akito has chosen to be with Ikki and soon part of his new team. Plus, Kaito didn’t do anything and just let things be for now. So Ikki and the rest work hard to create their new team such as designing their team’s Emblem and even their uniform. Ikki names his team Kogarasumaru. It literally means Little Crow Maru. Yeah, later they even come out with their own victory pose! But this episode sees Kazu being summoned by his former East Gunz delinquents. You see, as Ikki is delinquent and the head of the school’s East Gunz, the former members aren’t happy that Ikki is having his head in ATs and all so they think Kazu should be the next leader but he has to bring Ikki’s head. Kazu is in a dilemma because this is his chance of standing out as he has always been under Ikki’s shadow but his loyalty to Ikki has him refuse their orders. They got into a fight but Kazu emerged victorious. So on graduation day, the former East Gunz members acknowledge Ikki and tell him to make his own legend instead. That night Kogarasumaru is beating up a team of Storm Riders challenging their turf but this upsets Ringo because she thinks this is no different than being the Skull Saders in the first place. Ikki then realizes and decides to challenge this team, Sabel Tigers, to a Parts War.
 
Kogarasumaru’s first Parts War between the F-class begins in episode 12. They’re supposed to dash around the perimeter of the school compound. First up is Buccha and though he is an intimidating tank, he flops because he is too heavy and falls off. Next is Onigiri who has a weird riding method by riding upside-down on his head! But being a pervert, he too messed up. Oh no. Two losses in a row. Is Kogarasumaru on the verge of being disbanded? Not only that, the loser has to go home stripped naked. Next is Akito and since he doesn’t want to participate, Ringo disguises herself as the mysterious Mask Croissant (in a school swimsuit? Why such an embarrassing outfit? I think it’s a rip-off from some Sailormoon character) and gives Kogarasumaru a lifeline and their first win. Next is Kazu and since he has low self-esteem, he thinks of sitting this out and let Agito take over. However after some lecturing from Ikki, Kazu gets his confidence and his battle aura resembles some jet fighter and wins through his stealth speed. It’s all down to Ikki and the leader of Sabel Tigers, which turns out to be a girl, stunning Ikki. Though she uses her womanly charms to throw Ikki off course, Ikki still has the upper hand and shows why he has the potential of becoming the next Sky King.
 
Ikki’s Kogarasumaru gets their first win in episode 13 and due to some smooth talking trick, the Sabel Tigers don’t have to go home naked, upsetting Onigiri. Ikki is very confident and is setting his sights at the top, the Trophaeum Tower. On a lighter side, Ringo is in a dilemma whether Ikki should know her true identity as Mask Croissant. However Ikki thinks that their saviour is Simca. So Ringo, is that a relief or an insult? This episode sees Rika doing her part time job as some wrestler. So is this how she makes her secret living? Anyway she wins against her bigger opponent. Ikki is at a convenience store and meets a wheelchair guy and his dogs. When he leaves, one of the dogs is threatened to being run over by a vehicle. Ikki tries to save it but the dog is saved before he could get close and Ikki suspects something about that wheelchair guy. Back home, Ikki brags to Rika about his success but Rika isn’t pleased and forbids him to do anymore ATs without giving him a reason. There’s a funny part whereby Ikki and his Kogarasumaru tries to put their Emblem on a hard to reach place, the chimney of a public bath. Ikki falls from that height and crashes into the woman’s section and is surprised to see Rika there. He unleashes his mischievous side to make his escape (taking off Rika’s towel?). If you think Rika is mad, she is more worried about Ikki and even sheds a tear after Ikki successfully escapes.
 
In episode 14, Ikki and Ringo secretly follow Rika who is meeting her ex-boyfriend, Sora Takeuchi, that wheelchair guy and is supposedly the founder of Sleeping Forest. Rika wishes for Sora to convince Ikki from carrying on. So the reason why Rika doesn’t want Ikki doing this dangerous stuff is because he loves her brother. That’s it. Expecting something more sophisticated? This flashback episode tells how Rika and Sora met and the tragedy which an attack from an unknown perpetrator has injured the many members of Sleeping Forest and left Sora wheelchair-ridden. Of course Rika knows Ikki and Ringo are eavesdropping and calls them out. However Sora sees some potential in Ikki and his opinions differ with Rika. So a Parts War challenge between Ikki and Rika in some Frisbee game. If Rika wins, Ikki have to give up AT forever and if it’s the other way, Rika will accept Ikki’s path no matter what. While Rika has her sisters on her side (they have to, or else!), Ikki has Sora and his dogs. If you think the dogs are useless, think again. They’re as good as their counterparts.
 
Initially Ikki is having a tough time against Rika in episode 15 because she is the former Thorn Queen of Sleeping Forest. In the end, Ikki’s determination and will has him beating Rika. Something about Rika has always thought her thorn cage is protecting Ikki but it is more of the other way round. Ikki also opened Rika’s eyes and that she too was born with wings. With Ikki’s victory, Rika helps him out with his AT training by strapping heavy training weights all over his body. Yeah, she throws away the key. Too bad some cat swallowed it. But you can tell Ikki will get stronger and better as time goes by. During spring break, Kogarasumaru trains together but unknown to them, Agito has been going around disbanding several Storm Rider teams on his own by single-handedly beating them. This results in Kogarasumaru’s territory growing larger and of course drawing the attention of other Storm Rider teams.
 
This is part of Agito’s plan to challenge a D-class team, Behemoth. A team which has a large number of members. Its top members could be A-class material but they purposely lose every 3 matches in order to stay in this rank (according to the rules, if a team wins 3 times in a row, the team promotes to a higher rank and a team will immediately be promoted if it beats a higher ranked team). In episode 16, Ikki unknowingly meets one of Behemoth’s strongest members, Mitsuru Bandou AKA Cyclops Hammer, because the latter beat his punching score at some video game outlet and is upset. Hmm… The Behemoth members do ride funny designed bikes. So as usual, Ikki and his Kogarasumaru challenges Behemoth and this is going to be billed the event of the year that all Storm Riders can’t miss. You can bet that Simca and Spitfire are there too. Also, we are introduced to another Kind, Nue of the Thunder Road. At Behemoth’s base, the match is called Cube, 1 on 1 close combat duels in boxed-in arenas. Kogarasumaru gets excited as they rush in to face their opponents. Hey, the commentator of the match has a computer monitor as his head!
 
In episode 17, Buccha takes on Fuumei Goshogawara AKA Hecatonchires Bomb. He is like some African wasp because he can loosen his joints and elongate his limbs to attack. Just like Dhalsim, eh? A wasp taking on a tank? A close call. Meanwhile Onigiri faces Ryou Mimasaka AKA Gorgon Shell. She’s stripping down and you know perverted Onigiri is paralyzed by this ‘awesome’ sight. Can guess the outcome, eh? Finally it is Kazu versus Yasuyoshi Sano AKA Iron Clock. Kazu too is having a tough time because Iron can somehow stop and manipulate time. Is this even possible? Or is it just some illusion? Kazu is thinking hard how to overcome this guy and the previous night Agito’s tutoring on how to deal with their Behemoth’s opponents are of no help either. Of course the other match-ups include Ikki taking on Bandou while Agito getting a chance to duel Behemoth’s leader, Akira Udou. Agito wants back his Fang Regalia whom Akira is in possession.
 
After putting up a tough fight, in episode 18, Buccha passes out and loses to Goshogawara. Same case with Kazu. Though he figures out Iron’s time stopping trick as hiding behind the light (?!), Iron deals Kazu a knockout punch but Kazu gave him the middle finger before he fell unconscious. Iron commenting how he lost to a finger? Emiri is heartbroken that her beloved Kazu lost after trying so hard. Ringo is worried with 2 loses in a row, and decides to masquerade yet again as Mask Croissant to replace Onigiri but to her shock her embarrassing outfit has been switched with a further embarrassing one. Why did she bother to put it on in the first place? Desperate? So where has the real suit gone to? Actually Simca switched it and she’s donning it! Simca tells Ringo to have faith in the team. Surprisingly though Ryou has got Onigiri under her snake charming spell, Onigiri releases his Bad Smell Road and Ryou starts hallucinating so much so Onigiri is like an upside-down Buddha and his ‘enlightening’ words has Ryou gone crazy and stripped naked in the name of freedom. Wow! With that Onigiri wins it for Kogarasumaru. How unexpected! With 3 matches down, it’s now up to Ikki and Agito.
 
The 1 on 1 battle turns into a 2 on 2 battle in episode 19 when Ikki taunts and tricks Bandou into unleashing his super powerful punches and breaking the walls of the cube area. Another flashback episode which sees Akira and Agito once working under the police. A mission to arrest a smuggler resulted in killing the guy right in front of that smuggler’s sister, Ren. Then it is revealed he wasn’t smuggling ATs but saving a little bird nest to give to Ren as a birthday present since Ren yearns to fly and she herself has a prosthetic leg. Guilty Akira continues to care for her and it’s like they’ve become a couple until it is revealed that Ren was just using him to get Agito’s Fang Regalia. Ren challenges Agito but Akira takes Ren place instead and I guess that’s when his relationship with Agito soured. Because of that, Agito lost his Fang Regalia to him. So as time passes, Akira hates those with wings. In present time, Akira gets serious in his fight and prepares to use his Fang Regalia.
 
The power battle continues in episode 20. Akira-Bandou combination proves as deadly as Ikki-Agito. We find out that the Fang Regalia has its weakness and the reason why Akira doesn’t use his ATs and do sky battle. He’s like grounded each time he uses it and this uses a tremendous amount of energy that will destroy his muscles if it’s overused. Ikki purposely has Bandou punched his heavy training weights which knocks the latter out and this give Ikki enough time to save falling Agito with his Wing Road when Agito and Akira clashed. So the duo delivers Akira a final blow and that guy passes out while standing up. In the end, Kogarasumaru is declared the winner, a controversial result which has the crowd protesting. However Kaito and his G-men ambush the site and all hell breaks loose. Though some tried to escape and some fought back, ultimately Akira voluntarily decides to give himself up for the sake of the rests and disbands Behemoth as he is taken away in a helicopter. Agito is recuperating in hospital and is visited by his pals.
 
Kogarasumaru’s giant killing act of Behemoth gains instant worldwide attention in episode 21. Talk about instant fame. That means there’ll be lots of team after their blood. How can they cope of defending their territory with waves after waves of onslaught? Will and determination of course. Don’t they get tired? Will and determination as I have said. While Kogarasumaru is looking for a base for their team, their school principal (which also happens to be that guy from that famous AT store) gives them the back of the school’s clock as their base. How convenient is that? Also, Simca who has witnessed the rise of Ikki, is now more interested in him than ever. She visits Spitfire and gets a haircut. That night, Simca’s resolve to strengthen Ikki further has her to call Spitfire to announce the assembly of Genesis, a large conglomerate of several top Storm Rider teams under Simca. They want Ikki to be their new leader. Woah! Such a big responsibility in such a short time. Will Ikki take it? Yeah, they’re all gathering outside Ikki’s home. This is massive. It’s like leading a revolution. Note: I hate Simca’s new haircut. She looks much uglier.
 
That Iron guy who was from Behemoth joins Genesis and is like following/pestering Ikki like his so called personal assistant in episode 22. Ikki is still in a dilemma to accept it or not. Poor Ume is crying because she doesn’t want Ikki to leave because she loves him! I think she means it in a more sibling sense. Don’t make a loli cry, damn it! But I guess Ikki has no choice but to accept and with Genesis’s activation, Ikki becomes their new leader but finds out that Genesis’s true goal is to topple the leaders on Trophaeum Tower. And that means Sleeping Forest. Oh man. However this episode is Ikki’s school field trip to Kyoto. Akito who has been released from hospital but is still unable to ride his AT due to his recovery process, is on the danger of missing it because he lack of funds. Not even Ton-chan can help. Akito did mention that he was paid while working under Kaito but his savings book is still somewhere in his truck. Ikki is determined to have Akito experience this field trip because he doesn’t want him to feel the bitter disappointment that Ikki felt when he didn’t go on one back when he was younger. So Ikki and co devise a plan to distract Kaito driving his truck while Ikki and Akito sneak in to find the savings book. But the duo have a hard time finding it and are discovered by Akira who seems to be working for the police now. Part of his atonement? Akira tells them to leave before Kaito finds out but too late. However Kaito gives them a second chance like how mentions he is seeing an illusion. He thinks they will be gone by the time he opens his eyes after giving Akito his savings book. Akito is grateful. With that, Akito will follow Ikki and the rest to Kyoto.
 
While Ringo is wondering if she’ll ever get to be Ikki’s boyfriend in this field trip which seems to spawn many other couples (Ringo spot some mysterious woman giving Ikki a kiss and her rage nearly destroyed a heritage site!), in episode 23, the gang arrive in Kyoto but the Storm Rider team of Kansai branch isn’t happy to acknowledge rookie Ikki as leader of Genesis. That mysterious woman who gave Ikki a kiss (actually she was whispering in his ear), Benkei, is part of the 3 leaders of Kansai branch called Trident. That night when Kogarasumaru are out on their own, they are ambushed by a group of B-class Storm Riders who are the Trident’s personal protectors. However Benkei attacks them back for being too aggressive. Meanwhile Iron meets up with another Trident leader, Yoshitsune. On another field trip outing, Ringo’s pals dress her up in a cute kimono in hopes that Ikki will noticed her. Then Ikki calls Ringo and wants to talk to her alone. Could this be the moment she has been waiting for? Alone, Ringo’s heart is beating fast as Ikki decides to ask her a question: What the heck is the windmill principle (some advice she got from Benkei earlier on). He wants to ask her privately seeing that he doesn’t want to let other people know that Ringo is wearing an AT. Ah, Ringo should’ve known better than to get her hopes up because ATs are all that he’s thinking. But they get an alert from their classmates how Ringo’s pals and Akito are being kidnapped. Ikki and Ringo starts giving chase.
 
In episode 24 during the chase, Yoshitsune in disguise pulls a prank by pulling down his pants! This is part of his plan to make Ikki realize how he can go even faster as his current method is ineffective. It is revealed that the kidnap was part of Trident’s plan to lure Ikki to their hideout. However Ringo’s pals and Akito are surprisingly self-sufficient and took out those B-class riders. They find out that the third Trident leader is actually a collective group of Storm Riders forming their opinions over the internet. Because they can’t accept acknowledge Ikki as their new Genesis leader, they want to challenge him and Ikki agrees. The match is Devil 30-30 but due to the length of their base which is 33.3 metres, the competition has them to jump over 33 of their comrades. If they slip or miss, their unfortunate comrade below will have his/her head smashed or some organ busted. Yeah, another match of the century. Any match that involves Ikki with some powerful Storm Rider is sure a must-see match. Ikki practices hard but comes nowhere close even to record holder Sora of 34.2 metres. Yeah, breaking rooftop tiles of heritage sites is an offence, you know. How is Ikki going to find 33 people? His friends and even classmates that he doesn’t really know have put their faith in him and are willing to lay their life down for him. The event is about to start and the other Noyamano sisters are there to watch.
 
All of the opponents that Ikki fought and beat are also there to lay their life down for him in episode 25. That’s how much they believe in him. Yoshitsune starts first and easily jumps over 33 of his subordinates but fails to break Sora’s record. Now it’s Ikki’s turn. While his pals are fighting where to lie, Ringo lies at the furthest and last place. Ikki starts to jump and borrows the power of Agito’s Fang Regalia. However that power is being sucked into Yoshitsune’s AT and that Trident leader is pretty upset. Ikki then crash lands onto Ringo. Luckily he used his knee to block or else she could’ve been smashed apple. But his knees are now injured. Ikki then realized the windmill principal (not that I understand anyway). Yoshitsune lectures Ikki about his principals and borrowed power but Ikki apologizes, surprising everyone. He wants another chance so Yoshitsune let bygones be bygones and allows him to jump as many times as he want. Ikki continues to jump but he falls short. Thankfully his pals are not that dumb and move away when they see him threaten to fall on them. Then some talk about Roads, Kings, bla bla bla and Yoshitsune indicates that he may have set all this up to awaken Ikki though it may leave both sides and Trident intact. Then Agito throws Ikki his Kogarasumaru suit and he regains his confidence. While preparing for his last jump, he remembers the time when he was young and climbed up a tall tower and jumped off it! WTF?! But some giant crow caught him and everyone saw him as flying. So now everyone spots that confident look on Ikki’s face and stands up. Even the enemy camp is cheering for him. Ikki prepares his final jump and surpasses Sora’s record. A new record at 35.09 metres!
 
Just like many open endings, it never fails to leave a bad taste in my mouth. That’s right. I never liked such endings because it leaves much to be desired and everything else hanging. However a sequel is not likely because I read that the anime is based very loosely on the manga. So if they want to continue the show, either they have to come up with their own story since rejoining the manga would be impossible at this stage, or remake the whole thing from scratch. Just like what they did to Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood. More characters, more teams, more terms and more plot. But if you don’t read the manga, you can guess that Ikki will grow into a much stronger character and ride his own Wing Road. He will then face more powerful opponents, unlocks further his true hidden potential and be the next Sky King. Pretty much predictable, eh? But I guess since he’s the hero, you can’t help root for him.
 
I’m not sure if the other characters in the anime have their own development or not. While Kogarasumaru is growing, but it’s mainly because of Ikki. Agito seems to be less aggressive towards the end though he still has that profanity attitude. Kazu and Onigiri serve as Ikki’s support though he can fly on his own wings. Buccha, I don’t recall him winning a match in the series. So being huge and powerful doesn’t guarantee victory in a sport where flexibility and agility counts. Will Ringo ever Ikki know her true feelings? My guess is that it will never be so because ATs is what preoccupies Ikki’s head. I’m still thinking about Simca’s plan to groom Ikki into the future Sky King. Since she did mention how Genesis was form to bring down Sleeping Forest at the top of Trophaeum Tower, did she have some grudge on that team? I was expecting Ikki to face Spitfire or Nue but since this series is too short, I guess it never materialized. As for Ton-chan, not to say that I like her, but because of her childish behaviour and paranoia tendency that she’ll be molested or raped by her students or strangers had me laughing. I thought that big lips fat lady at the famous AT store would play some role in the series but she’s just a side character and making even lesser appearances than the Noyamano sisters. Not that I care.
 
The drawing, art and animation is typical and standard bishonen and bishoujo style. During comical moments, the drawing has the characters in chibi mode. Some even making the characters look like stick people. The mid-intermission shows sketches of random characters in the series. They can be in some pose or a comical sketch. Initially I thought that rock music would fit the series but the music from its opening, ending and background music lean more towards hip-hop. This music genre is much more suitable for an extreme sports series. It gets you into the groove, if you know what I mean. I didn’t really see this but I found out that there is a live stage musical adaptation of the series! Just like Disney On Ice, eh? However it is too based loosely on the series. Hmm… A bunch of actors rollerblading on stage and some strings and wires to make them fly?
 
Looks like in today’s current times, rollerblading or even skateboarding has faded into mere memories. At least in my region. I could be wrong since I’m not an outdoor person and wouldn’t know the latest trends going on. There’s always the trusty internet… However even if such ATs were to exist in this world, I might just try it out a little. Hey, every person at least yearns to have that great feeling of being able to fly and feel the wind brushing through his/her face while gliding over the terrain below. Just hope I don’t end up getting painful and permanent scars after tumbling over and over again several times. That won’t definitely look like a Road being carved on my body. More like hideous portholes…
 

Air Gear

Tsubasa: Shunraiki

October 10, 2009

As expected, I knew there would be another OVA for the Tsubasa Chronicle series. This time round, the second OVA is entitled Tsubasa: Shunraiki. However this OVA has only 2 episodes and for those who just want to jump in and watch what it is all about, be advised that it will be very confusing because the OVA expects viewers to have watched the TV series and the first OVA in order to grasp what is actually happening. You can say that the events from its prequels serve as a build-up to incidents that will happen here.
 
I know it is an awful long time that I have since watched the series so when I started watching this OVA, it was quite confusing as there are so many things which I can’t remember and thus contributed to my lack of understanding on what is going on. There is a shocking twist here which caught me off guard too. Furthermore, I don’t really read the manga so I guess that is my bad as well. And you know the CLAMP people love doing crossovers between the different series that they created.
 
Episode 1 – Zenpen
It seems that in this episode opener, the gang are in Fye’s home world. Kurogane has killed King Ashura and because of that, the world is seemingly going to collapse and there is magic chaos all around. Fye uses his magic to transport Syaoran, Sakura and Mokona to another world and the balance for himself and Kurogane but it isn’t enough. Mokona tells Syaoran to take off his earring so that an escape path is enabled between him and Kurogane. However Fye is unable to follow them so Kurogane cuts his left arm in order to bring the magician along. Oh great. Now he has only 1 arm.
 
When Kurogane comes to, he finds himself resting in a room and back in his own world, Nihon. Tomoyo is beside him and she says something about planting something powerful to save him. She also wonders if he has learn the true meaning of his strength but Kurogane isn’t sure but knows that killing Ashura made him weaker and realized that with his current strength, he can’t protect everyone. Soon Fye comes in and punches Kurogane as ‘pay back’. Is that his way of showing his gratitude? Meanwhile Syaoran is with unconscious Sakura on a sakura tree outside (no bad pun intended) which is supposed to have healing qualities. He is greeted by Amaterasu and Souma. Then to his surprise, Fuuma is also here. His purpose is to deliver a cybernetic left arm for Kurogane which he obtained from Piffle World (if I remember, it is that futuristic racing world). I’m not sure if Fuuma is a delivery boy for Yuuko too. But this is Fye’s wish he made to Yuuko while Kurogane was asleep and the payment is the remaining magic powers in his eyes. With that, Fye’s eyes are no longer blue and hazel as Mokona teleports it to Yuuko. He no longer has any magic left.
 
Finally after such a long time, Seishirou appears in this world looking for the vampire twins Kamui and Subaru. And here is another shocking revelation. Fuuma and Seishirou are brothers. Can’t really say it’s a small world but what are the odds that you’d meet siblings like them on your journey. Because in the previous OVA Fye had been injected with vampire blood, Seishirou asks him about the vampire twins’ whereabouts in a threatening way by grabbing him by the throat. Fye breaks free from his grip so I suppose Seishirou takes a more polite approach of asking. Fye admits that he met them at the acid rain Tokyo world and Fuuma adds that they are no longer in that world. Even if he knew where they are, he wouldn’t tell Seishirou. With that, Seishirou decides to jump to the next world but before he could do that, Syaoran stops him because he believes Seishirou still poses a single feather from Sakura. Since he isn’t willing to give the feather just like that, a fight is evident. In order for their castle and its surrounding not to be destroyed in the duel, Tomoyo transport them to an alternate dimension where they can take out on each other in a sword fight as much as they want while the rest watches through some portal. I don’t remember but can Syaoran summon a sword just like that?
 
Elsewhere, Sakura finds herself in a weird dream but she is not alone. Watanuki of xxxHolic fame is also present and he looks seemingly stunned by his whereabouts. As the tense battle between Syaoran and Seishirou rages on, Tomoyo talks to Fye and the latter learns that she gave up her dream-seeing ability (the price she paid to Yuuko) in exchange for the gang to escape from Ashura’s world and directly into Nihon. I guess she saw what was to happen in her dreams and was willing to make the ultimate sacrifice for them. Besides, she did say that even though she can see the future, there is nothing much she could do. At the same time, the fight ends in Seishirou’s favour when he stabs his sword into Syaoran. Seishirou prepares to leave to another world but Syaoran isn’t done yet. Syaoran pulls off some super ligthning power blast move from his sword towards Seishirou. Though it was a little bit dangerous, it somehow made the feather appear. He jumps to reclaim the feather but is teleported to another world by the feather’s unstable power. In the dream world, Sakura finds out that Watanuki shares the same birthday with Syaoran when suddenly Syaoran appears in this world. But he isn’t the only one entering the dream. Soon after, the clone Syaoran emerges here and you can smell another inevitable clash coming up.
 
Episode 2 – Kouhen
The much anticipated sword fight between the 2 Syaorans begins. But before that, Watanuki is even more puzzled by the presence of both Syaorans and recognized one of them at Yuuko’s shop. The real Syaoran tells him to do what he think is right because "You are the other me". Huh? I don’t know how, Watanuki is then transported away from this dream via a storm of sakura petals so that the Syaorans can start battling. In the real world, Seishirou is back with them and Fuuma notes how he is one screwed up guy because Seishirou had intended to give the feather back to Syaoran anyway. Thus the reason why the vampire twins are running away from him. So this Seishirou guy isn’t such a bad dude after all. Then it’s the real Syaoran’s ligthning blast against fake Syaoran’s fireball blast. Unfortunately the latter’s power was greater and injures the former. Sakura rushes to the real Syaoran’s side. Fake Syaoran tells her to move but she wouldn’t so he stabs her with his sword! OMG! Then we see Fei Wong who is commenting how her body it is important and he doesn’t mind what happens to her soul (not a pre-requisite for rape, I hope!). Fei Wong orders fake Syaoran to kill her but somehow his body freezes. Something about though his heart has forgotten but his body could not. Fei Wong then orders to kill the other Syaoran first but Sakura then says how if he kills this Syaoran, everything will be over.
 
Fake Syaoran gets hold of the feather retrieved from the real Syaoran but since the latter isn’t dead yet, a little struggle ensued. Because of that, the instable powers cause the dream world to overflow bursting into the real world. Both Syaorans continue fighting and in their final sword thrust, Sakura comes between them! Now here is another shocking revelation. Sakura reveals that she is just a clone! OMG! So a clone has been travelling with them from day 1?! She says the real Sakura is waiting somewhere and wants the fake Syaoran to be free. Sakura soon disintegrates into sakura petals (hmm… isn’t that why she was named so?) as the fake Syaoran could only scream in despair. But it’s not over yet because the villainous Dr Kyle appears and has everyone in a bind. He then takes the feather and sleeping Sakura back into the portal he came from (note that the sleeping Sakura is the real body for the Sakura in the dream world but they’re still the same soul). The real Syaoran attempts to rescue her but the portal closes.
 
Fye says how he knew Sakura was a clone right from the start. That means, even before Fye met the rest on the start of their never-ending journey. So he knew it was a plan of Fei Wong all along? He adds that Sakura probably notices her clone self during the acid rain Tokyo and the appearance of both Syaorans in that world, she started to realize and started acting weirdly. At the same time, they noticed that the fake Syaoran is gone too. Yuuko narrates that Syaoran’s clone only copied the original body but the one who gave it a heart was the real Syaoran. But for Sakura’s clone case, both soul and body were artificially created and that’s why when her feathers were scattered, they were the same as the originals. The reason Fei Wong did this was perhaps he thought as long as he have the original Sakura, he could do this over and over again no matter how many lives are sacrificed. Even if the kidnapped Sakura was a clone, Mokona still wants her back because Sakura is Sakura. Syaoran and the rest too are determined to bring her back and won’t let her die. Which means they are requesting from Yuuko the location of where Sakura is. The price? Yuuko says she has already received payment in advance a long time ago. Who? The once closest to Syaoran and also paid the same price as their travelling Sakura. That has to be memories, right? That person is Watanuki. So that guy is memory deficient too. Since I didn’t see xxxHolic, I’m not sure how it connects. Yuuko reveals that Fei Wong is inside a frozen time in Clow Kingdom (Syaoran and Sakura’s world). Back in his lair, we see Sakura unconscious by his side and he comments how he’ll be able to cross dimensions and achieve his dream. What is his dream anyway? I’ve been trying to figure out that for a long time.
 
That night, Kurogane has another round of talk with Tomoyo and he says how he will leave Nihon again. Tomoyo gives Kurogane his mom’s sword, Ginryuu, which she did not bury with her when she died. Kurogane swears his loyalty to her. On the rooftop, Syaoran and Fye also talk about things. The next morning, the trio are prepared to leave as Yuuko warns them that they have only 1 chance to enter the frozen time of Clow Kingdom and not to let Watanuki’s sacrifice of his own memories be in vain. The others watch them leave as Mokona prepares to jump dimension.
 
Final pit stop?
I expect another OVA to conclude this story. Maybe by then our travelling gang will finally come face to face with the master planner Fei Wong himself. The most shocking thing for me was that Sakura being revealed as a clone. I really didn’t see that one coming. So perhaps just as Fei Wong had planned, even if this clone Sakura dies, at least he has other artificial ones to continue the journey and collect memories in her body acting as a vessel. And maybe then, if there is to be another OVA sequel, everything will be revealed in the intense finale. If that is the final journey for them, that is.
 
Due to the long duration of the series, I have to admit that my enthusiasm in the series has waned a little. A much worse case than memory deficient characters, my inability to remember events which have happened throughout the series has took the fun and understanding when I watched this OVA. I guess if I were to make a trade with Yuuko, she wouldn’t want my failing memories too. Speaking of witch (I mean, which. Yeah, pun intended), I realized that as a witch she knows just about everything like God. Not to mention Fei Wong’s intentions and it’s like she can read them like a book. But I guess it’s her business nature not to reveal everything at one go and it will be better to reveal bits and pieces as the story goes along. And with a price too.
 
Another thing for me to ponder is Watanuki and Syaoran. Having said that he is the other me, I’m wondering if they are both the same person but existing in different dimensions. Or maybe Syaoran was just referring to the similar circumstances surrounding their cases. With Fye’s magic totally gone, I’m not sure how he’ll put up a final fight if there’s one. But as far as I can remember, during the TV series, he avoids using magic unless in very dire life-and-death situations. As for Kurogane, now with a cybernetic arm, I guess he is equipped with more power and I could imagine the amount of force and strength unleashed now with Ginryuu in his grasps. Mokona still maintains its sombre facade and didn’t put on that cute "Mekkyo~" face.
 
Even if I did say that my interest has subsided for the series, that doesn’t mean that if there is a future production of it, I won’t watch it. Of course I will. I just hope that it won’t take a very long time. Hmm… What will I trade in order for my memories not to fail me? Watching animes? That’s a big no-no. Not a chance. Hey wait a minute. Did I say the same thing on this series’ previous blog too? Can’t remember… I think so lah!
 

Tsubasa Chronicle

Training With Hinako

October 9, 2009

Erm… Urm… Er… Ah… What can I say after watching Training With Hinako or also known as Isshoni Training. After watching this weird (or unique, depends on your point of view) 1 episode OVA, I guess I could sum it up as an ero-workout fitness training for all those hikikomori otakus out there. Yup, after staying too long in one’s room and staring at the idiot box for long hours, we all know how out of shape and a typical otaku looks like, eh? Thank goodness I don’t look like one!
 
What better way than to motivate all you otaku geeks by doing a little workout by using a busty 2D girl named Hinako. I guess it’s better to use fanservice as a reason to make you move those fats (and as a selling point for the producers ;p). The short 24 minute video starts off like some sort of horror movie atmosphere whereby some real life girl has been sucked into the TV. The next thing you know, we see Hinako taking a shower and she is excited that she is able to communicate with us viewers. It’s like breaking the fourth wall, eh? She tries to interact with you viewers and possible predict the lethargic reaction that we will have while watching her.
 
So she suggests some cooperation between the anime and real world like weight training. So why weight training? That’s because contrary to what we see, Hinako has gotten herself a warning notice whereby if she doesn’t lose 5 kilos in 3 months, her production crew will cancel her anime that she’s starring in. Hinako thinks she is fat but we viewers know where her ‘excess fats’ are located, right? So after coming out from the shower, the weight training that Hinako encourages us all to do with her include push-ups, sit-ups and squats to the count of 12. There isn’t anything hentai about this ero-workout video but if there is going to be some fanservice, it has got to be ecchi. For instance what you will see are different view shots and angles of Hinako while doing her workout, especially her assets. That’s right. Boob shots. Make that bouncy boob shots since she is wearing a very loose singlet which threatens to fall off if she ever moves even further. Besides, you can see the name of the weight training either written on her panties or boobs. That’s like giving viewers an appetizer and a motivation to start it off.
 
Once it’s over, Hinako is to leave for her anime and tells viewers to continue working our body and to make a promise to come back tomorrow. Then the next scene shows the ending credits rolling while Hinako in her undies as she changes into her anime outfit (note the other characters in the background changing too!). Then it’s like some mahou shoujo Mai Otome kind of anime as we see Hinako and her co-stars taking out some giant mecha. Huh?
 
But it’s not over yet. Because it’s more like deja vu. Though it starts off with Hinako surprised when she learns that we viewers are having a crotch shot of her as she is reading a book, she is happy that we kept our promise and came back. Hey sister, we didn’t go anywhere. Yeah, the whole weight training stint restarts once more. At the end she says how it’s fun doing it with us every day but I guess this statement could only make desperate otakus turn on. And yeah, it’s that same mecha ending credits again. After that a little advice from Hinako to hold those midnight snacking.
 
The remaining 14 minutes are just reruns of the weight trainings with 3, 2, 1 countdowns before the start of each session. Seriously, it’s getting too repetitive and boring. Making this video must be real cheap for using recycled bits and positions, eh? So I guess for variety and as a reward, Hinako has up some of her weight trainings’ count to 24. And if you are patient, you’ll get to see Hinako doing them in different outfits. Albeit they are just a typical school PE form and in her undies (most otakus would agree with me that this should be the most pleasing eye candy). And there’s one a whereby Hinako is lying down on bed with her clothes nearly revealing her undies. As the minute dwindles away, Hinako is slowly out of energy and you can tell by her tired counting and by that time the only thing moving are her bouncy boobs. Finally it’s like Hinako is staring at viewers (assuming that it is the viewers which are doing the workout now) while counting (no more background music) after which it abruptly ends. Are you still with her?
 
Okay, I admit that I didn’t even lift a finger doing anything but believe me most viewers would be too confused to follow her instructions and just kept watching. After a while, it gets too repetitive and Hinako’s counting feels kinda numbing. While the fanservice here isn’t much but I guess it is still unsuitable for younger audiences. Well, it is intended for the otaku audiences after all. Surprisingly, I read somewhere on the internet that this show is quite a hit among the otakus! A sell out! Surprise, surprise. Any pretty 2D bishoujo girl will just do, huh? Maybe a sequel in the future since it’s so popular? I don’t know. Because of the camera angles, it’s like an invitation for otakus to rape her! Gasp! What am I thinking?! Is that the only kind of workout that otakus would truly enjoy?
 
So unfortunately Hinako didn’t really motivate me to further do my own training and not to say I regretted watching this one-off show but at least it satisfied my curiosity on what it is about. I doubt that Hinako would get others to get up and exercise in the long run since there are proper workout videos which tell you the right moves so and so. However using her may be a start to reaching those out of shape otakus. But I’m thinking that there is one small little body part which would make otakus have a ‘furious workout’ while watching this. Yeah, thinking of that ‘M’ word! Have your wrist a good warm-up before hand or else you will experience cramps. And no, I did not try that out myself!
 

Training With Hinako

Honestly, I’m still following this great series and loving it even if at times if it is a little draggy and boring. But that is to be expected for a long and currently running anime series Kateikyoushi Hitman Reborn. With the series having three digit number of episodes, it is no surprise that one of the main factors for this popular series is its characters. You can’t help root for the main group of heroes each time they face and overcome their adversaries and obstacles. But due to space constraints, briefly listed below are the characters from the series of the Vongola family.
 
The Vongola Family Guardians
 
Tsunayoshi "Tsuna" Sawada
Tsuna Sawada 
He is the next and 10th rightful successor of the powerful and influential Italian mafia Vongola. Who would have thought a weak high school kid would be the next leader of a powerful organization. He reluctantly undergoes harsh training to be the next boss from Reborn and though he may be initially whinny and weak, he still has a big heart in the sense that he cares for his family and friends.
Vongola Ring: Sky.
Fighting ability: Uses a pair of gloves in which he later develops powerful techniques like Zero Point Breakthrough and X-Burner.
 
Hayato Gokudera
 Hayato Gokudera
The self proclaimed right hand man of Tsuna. Though he is extremely loyal to Tsuna and would do anything for him, he is hot tempered and rebellious towards the rest. Surprisingly he is good in his studies. However due to a traumatic experience when he was a kid, he will go into automatic ‘paralyzed’ mode each time he sees her half-sister’s face. To cure that, she has to wear a mask or at least a goggle.
Vongola Ring: Storm.
Fighting ability: A mid-range fighter employing dynamites. Learns how to use Rocket Bombs from Shamal and later develops a CAI System utilizing both Dying Will flames and Box Weapon system.
 
Takeshi Yamamoto
Takeshi Yamamoto 
The son of a sushi restaurant operator and a baseball freak. The good thing about him is his optimistic and carefree attitude which in turn is also a bad thing. Everything to him seems like fun and games but can be serious when needed to be so.
Vongola Ring: Rain.
Fighting ability: As the swordsman of the family, his baseball bat is able to transform into a sword whenever in battles. He develops his own Shigure Souen techniques like Reflecting Rain.
 
Ryohei Sasagawa
Ryohei Sasagawa 
The elder brother of Kyoko and the boxing enthusiast and obsessed. He is the loudmouth type and prefers to let his fists do the talking. His favourite word is "Extreme" and gets fired up in almost anything. Often rushes in without thinking and has short memory especially important details.
Vongola Ring: Sun.
Fighting ability: As a boxer, his fists are his assets thus giving him greater strength and advantage in hand to hand combats. Develops a powerful move which could shatter boulders called Maximum Cannon.
 
Lambo
Lambo 
Amazingly this annoying cry-baby does nothing useful (in my opinion) if he is in his 5 year old self. Wanting to play around, eat snacks and not knowing the actual threats around him. I’d prefer his grown up self Otona Lambo and wish he had more appearance than this little brat.
Vongola Ring: Lightning.
Fighting ability: Keeps lots of weird stuff within his afro hair. Like grenades. Can come in handy. Or not. Also has a 10 year bazooka in which he uses to escape ‘harsh’ situations by switching with his 10 year future self. His suit has the ability to conduct electricity and pass harmlessly through his body. This allows the development of several techniques like making a temporary blade via his horns.
 
Kyouya Hibari
Kyouya Hibari 
The cold and distant public morals committee leader who hates crowding. Could care less about everyone else but loves his school very much (yeah, he did mention he can graduate anytime as he wishes) and his catchphrase is "I’ll bite you to death". The only reason he is ‘part’ of Tsuna’s family is his ‘respect’ for Reborn and the wish to fight him one day.
Vongola Ring: Cloud.
Fighting ability: Has a pair of tonfas as his weapon. Seeing that he is the strongest and trained skilled fighter in his school and yearns to fight strong opponents, coupled in with his ‘intimidating’ looks, he doesn’t need any flashy moves to take down his opponents.
 
Chrome Dokuro/Mukuro Rokudo
Chrome Dokuro Mukuro Rokudo 

Though Mukuro is initially an antagonist against Tsuna and his family, Chrome is the bodily vessel for Mukuro when he is imprisoned by the Vendicare. He switches places with her when she is in dangerous situations. Though Mukuro may be direct, arrogant and not easily intimidated, Chrome on the other hand is shy but takes a liking for Tsuna when he stood up for her. Does not get along well with Hibari and you can expect a fiery match if these 2 ever come face to face.
Vongola Ring: Mist.
Fighting ability: Both are illusionists using illusions to attack and confuse opponents. While Mukuro has Six Path of Rebirths containing 6 different abilities which he can use and change via his right eye, Chrome holds a trident.
 
The Varia
 
Xanxus
Xanxus 
The obnoxious leader of Vongola’s independent assassination squad, The Varia. He is not the real son of the 9th Vongola head, thus was rejected by the Vongola rings. Has a scar across his face and it grows when he is angered and likes to call those he dislikes/hates "trash".
Ex-Vongola Ring: Sky.
Fighting ability: Possesses a pair of Dying Will Guns which can create a powerful and deadly blast.
 
Superbi Squalo
 Superbi Squalo
The loudmouth talented swordsman of the team and has battled and defeated many greatest warriors during his time to be the best swordsman in the world. The second-in-command of Varia is loyal to Xanxus and is seen as the next successor for Varia’s leadership.
Ex-Vongola Ring: Rain.
Fighting ability: His left arm is mechanical and also serves as a sword allowing to cover blind spots and flip several angles.
 
Belphegor
Belphegor
Also known as Prince the Ripper for displaying his genius in terms of combat and tactical skills on the battlefield. Has trademark laughter of "Shishishi…".
Ex-Vongola Ring: Storm.
Fighting ability: Combines to use of knives and invisible wires.
 
Levi A Than
Levi A Than 
Another loyal subordinate of Xanxus so much so he follows his orders to perfection like only fighting when he is allowed to. He does not care about his own promotion within the Varia and is zealous in getting a job done quickly.
Ex-Vongola Ring: Lightning.
Fighting ability: Has 8 umbrella-like parabolas which conduct electricity and also serve as swords.
 
Lussuria
 Lussuria
I find him a little gay. Maybe it is his style of talking. Always seen wearing a pair of sunglasses and I don’t know if he is some fashion freak. What’s with that green half Mohawk hairstyle?
Ex-Vongola Ring: Sun.
Fighting ability: Favours Muay Thai and has a strong metal plate on his left knee as protection.
 
Mammon
Mammon
Formerly known as Viper. This Arcobaleno takes on any job as long as it pays well. Yeah, money makes the world go round, eh? Also has the ability to locate and find any person.
Ex-Vongola Ring: Mist.
Fighting ability: A spell caster also using illusions as part of his battles. Has a salamander named Fantasma above his head which helps him to fly.
 
Flan
Flan
Seen as Mammon’s replacement in the Future Arc when all Arcobalenos are dead. Under the wing of Belphegor, this illusionist’s lines seem to be mocking and sarcastic even he says them in an unenthusiastic and ‘drowsy’ way.
 
Gola Mosca
Gola Mosca 
A killing machine without any proper dialogues. It is revealed that it is powered by a human life force and during the Varia Ring Conflict Arc, the 9th Vongola head was the one unwilling powering it. It was quickly destroyed and went berserk during Hibari’s match.
Ex-Vongola Ring: Cloud.
Fighting ability: A killing machine equipped with many firepower. Need I say more?
 
Other Vongola Family Members
 
Reborn
 Reborn
One of the Arcobalenos in charge of whipping and shaping up Tsuna and co to be the next leader of the Vongola family. As the best hitman in the world and personal tutor to Tsuna, Reborn has unconventional methods in training him. He can be unbelievably strong when he is serious. Has a shape shifting Chameleon named Leon which shoots Dying Will Bullets. Always keeping a straight face and nobody else but Tsuna seems to recognize him when he puts on a weird disguise.
 
Kyoko Sasagawa
Kyoko Sasagawa
The nice girl and Tsuna’s crush. Though she is unaware of his feelings and thinks of him as nothing more than her good friend. Thankfully because she is a little airhead, she is unaware of Tsuna and co’s battles. But because of her smiling and sunny disposition, she provides much needed emotional support for him and the rest.
 
Haru Miura
 Haru Miura
Another girl who has a crush on Tsuna but hails from a different high school. She is quite eccentric and upbeat. Likes dressing herself in weird costumes in which every normal people would find embarrassing to put on. Sometimes uses short English words in her sentences. She along with Kyoko are seen babysitting Lambo and I-pin most of the time.
 
Bianchi
Bianchi
The self-proclaimed lover of Reborn and Gokudera’s half-sister. She specializes in Poison Cooking in which every dish she creates are, well, poison. You can die from eating them if you don’t have a strong stomach. Make that very strong stomach. Hates her ex-boyfriend Romeo very much that she doesn’t hesitate to kill him. Unfortunately he resembles a lot like Otona Lambo.
 
I-pin
 I-pin
The little Chinese martial artist specializing in her unique Gyoza Fist technique is always seen playing with Lambo. She also tries to keep him out of mischief. She is near-sighted and has a crush on Hibari. When she becomes embarrassed, she turns into a time bomb. Her future self is always seen rushing to deliver ramen to an uncle named Kawahira.
 
Dino
Dino
The current head of the Chiavarone family, which is serves under the Vongola family. A great fighter using whip, he loses his motor skills when his subordinates aren’t around and becomes very clumsy. Has a turtle named Enzo, in which it could grow big if it absorbs huge amount of water.
 
Fuuta
  Fuuta
A little boy who has an uncanny ability to rank just about anything. And he is never wrong! Unless of course if it rains. When he is in this ranking mode, objects around him start to float. Because of this skill, he is being highly sought by the mafia. He lives in Tsuna’s house and calls him big brother after he saves him.
 
Giannini
 Giannini
The technical expert in the Vongola family which specializes in engineering and weapon tuning, modification and creation. Has a shiny forehead and though he can fix just about anything, sometimes it goes a little awry before repairing it for good.
 
Tetsuya Kasukabe
Tetsuya Kusakabe

As the vice chairman of the public morals committee, he is also Hibari’s loyal right hand man during his schooling days. During the Future Arc, he helps Tsuna and the rest in their mission against Millefiore besides travelling around the world researching about Box Weapons and Rings.
 
Dr Shamal
Dr Shamal 
A skilled doctor and crazy womanizer, attempting to hit on just about any woman he comes across though always unsuccessful. Because of that, he claims to only treat women and not men. Even if he has to treat them (especially Tsuna and his male friends), he hates it very much. Develops trident mosquitoes to infect enemies with deadly diseases.
 
Nana Sawada
 Nana Sawada
Tsuna’s mother and a very nice and caring mom she is. Though she is quite blur and unaware that her husband is part of the mafia and own child is involved in all this mafia-related events. She accepts and welcomes Tsuna’s ‘extended family’ into her home, preparing meals for them as well.
 
Iemitsu Sawada
Iemitsu Sawada
Tsuna’s often absent father who is actually the external advisor of the Vongola family. This means that his position is the second highest in the ranking order in the Vongola family. Has Basil and failed Arcobaleno Lal Mirch as part of his team.
 
 
Sure there are many more characters missing and the details about the listed ones are brief. But if I were to list them all here, it would seemingly take a very long time. Besides, I did say that this blog is to be limited to those connected to the Vongola family. I know other antagonists are related to the Vongola as, well, their enemies but that is a different category. So if you’d like to know more about them, there is always Wikipedia and dedicated sites on the series which also explains the plot and some of its terms. But for me, it ends here. I just wonder if Tsuna will add anymore family members to his great but weird extended family. But one thing is for sure. Whether is becomes the next mafia head or not, he is happy to be together with them all. Let’s hope it continues that way.

Hayate No Gotoku OVA

October 3, 2009

I remember vividly that at the end of Hayate No Gotoku’s first season, it was announced that a second season is already in the works. Albeit it took a whole year for the second season to be aired. But before the airing of the second season back in April 2009, a 1 episode Hayate No Gotoku OVA has been released and serves as an ‘appetizer’ for the hilarious and random series that is to come.
 
Also sometimes dubbed as episode 0, for those who can’t remember what this anime series is about (I doubt it unless you totally ignore watching or reading up the synopsis of the series), it’s about that Hayate boy who has been left a staggering debt of 150 million Yen by his useless parents. He is saved by super filthy rich but spoilt bratty girl Nagi who takes him in. So now that he owes her this debt, he works as her butler, confidant, bodyguard and any other job is required at her whims and fancies. Of course the usual romance along the way which viewers can spot but the duo are so dense about each other’s feelings that sometimes you feel like knocking your head on the wall. Just made up that last part. And yeah, what is a story without the rest of the other hilarious and colourful characters.
 
In this particular OVA, as mentioned right at the start, the producers are going to ignore and ditch the original work of the series and focus on fanservice. Yes, you heard me right. It’s an outing to the beach and who wouldn’t love to see cutie Hinagiku in her swimsuit. And the gang don’t have to travel far to the shores of Okinawa to do so. Nagi is so rich that she builds a tropical-like beach right within the perimeter of her super large estate. Is this how rich people spend their money? Yeah, a couple billion of Yen is no big deal to Nagi. And half of the world population is starving, you know. But that’s beside the point. However Nagi is reluctant to take a swim because she’s a hammer in the water although she denies that it isn’t a human’s destiny to live above water and such. Hayate offers to teach her but Nagi gets embarrassed having the thought of putting on a swimsuit. She leaves in a huff thinking that it is too early for both of them to show their bodies in a swimsuit while Hayate gets a little depressed and wondering why she is angry.
 
Soon, the rest of the other gang arrive to have fun. Sakuya, Isumi, Wataru, Saki and the 3 stooges (still can’t remember their names. Sorry). Even Yukiji tagged along. Well, the more the merrier. Maria has already prepared beforehand an abundant choice of swimsuits for them to wear. Yeah, she even has one for Hayate to wear… Still love making him cross-dress, eh? Though the plan is to have Yukiji in charge in hopes of getting Nagi to swim, but you know, she has an ulterior motive. Yeah, a promise with Maria to drink all she wants. And you thought she has turned over a new leaf. Not.
 
Oh yeah. The moment we all have been waiting for. Girls having fun in their swimsuits so get prepare to excessively bleed to death from excessive moeness. Wataru blushes when he sees Saki in her swimsuit so Sakuya teases him which girl he should choose (Wataru has a crush on Isumi). Saki and Isumi get the wrong idea that he is a pervert. While the kids have fun, Yukiji and Makimura are drinking to their hearts content (who the heck is that sister nun drinking with them?) while Nagi continues to lock herself in her room reading a book. Hayate tries to persuade Nagi to go have fun with the rest but she is still stubborn. But he knows her heart wants to join them for she is reading the book upside down. Nagi gives an excuse that she’s doing it on purpose as brain exercise but we can tell she is struggling. Soon Maria comes in to request Hayate in joining them so Nagi pushes them out of her room. Nagi is upset that Hayate doesn’t have a clue about her feelings. An evil spirit seems to be lurking nearby Nagi as Isumi senses a bad aura.
 
Hinagiku arrives at the mansion thinking of bringing back her sister (Yukiji) before she causes any trouble. However she starts to get nervous when she thinks that this is her first formal visit to Hayate. It is the feelings of the heart. She then spots Ayumu nearby rehearsing her lines to ask Hayate out to the pool with her. Nagi watches Hayate and the rest play beach volleyball from afar while branding him as a traitor. A black cat, Shiranui, comes up to her and she thinks it is here to comfort her but it soon leaves to join the rest. So much for loyalty. Hey, cats don’t have that, right? So it’s Tama’s screen debut to comfort her but Nagi is too pissed to even notice him and thus ignores him. Yeah, end of his short screen time. Bummer.
 
Hayate is worried about Nagi so Maria suggests perhaps it is time to go invite her since maybe she has given up on being stubborn. He goes to search for her in one of the chalets but accidentally sees Hinagiku’s student council assistants changing. In his embarrassment he apologizes and leaves. He then checks out the next chalet and sees Hinagiku changing. Because of Hayate’s wrong choice of words (or rather depends on how you interpret it) that it is not like he wants to see her body because he wanted to, Hinagiku gets upset thinking that her body isn’t worth looking at. He apologizes and quickly leaves. Then he enters another room whereby Ayumu is seen rehearsing some cheesy lines to say to Hayate. She gets very embarrassed and so Hayate leaves. He finally finds the right room with Nagi in it and it seems she has changed into her swimsuit though wearing a robe over it. Embarrassed Nagi is going to show her swimsuit to him when Hinagiku and Ayumu rush in to apologize for their behaviour. When he says he’ll forget what he saw, Nagi misinterprets and gets upset with Hayate the cheater and runs away. That is when the evil spirit possesses her.
 
Back on the beach, the evil spirit causes her mischief for the rest using Nagi under her control. It seems she was able to possess her by feeding on her negative emotions. Hayate orders her to return his milady so the spirit explains her intentions. She wanted to swim in the pool and ocean but because of her flat figure and unable to put on a swimsuit, she hates those who are able to flaunt their curvaceous and nice bodies. She hates those who can shake their breasts thoughtlessly without thinking the difficulties faced by the flat chests (WTF?!). Even if the rest thinks she is shallow, the spirit says this Nagi girl is similar to her, like how she hates them isolating her. The spirit unleashes her powerful wind powers and this time Klaus makes his debut by ordering his SP Force and security robots to take out the menace. MIBs coming out from the sand? How long have they been stationed there anyway? But the spirit sends them flying away and thus, end of another short appearance for Klaus. It is Hinagiku’s turn to face the spirit as she rushes up the high diving platform. Before she gets to strike her, she realizes her fear of heights and is paralyzed. Sakuya mentions how this is a job for Isumi but that girl is nowhere to be found. Lost at sea is a better description.
 
Now it’s Hayate’s turn as his determination to protect Nagi has him making a great leap and breaking through the spirit’s tough barrier. His plea for her to come back has Nagi snap out of the spirit’s control. With Nagi in his arms, the duo crash land into the sea. The spirit isn’t done yet but luckily Isumi is back and puts a seal on her. Later Nagi comes to and finds herself and unconscious Hayate washed up upon the shore of an unknown deserted island. Nagi’s heart is beating fast because her otaku background has her thinking of the inevitable CPR event. Yup, mouth to mouth resuscitation. Nagi tries to summon her courage and though hesitant, she is going to do it when Hayate opens his eyes. Embarrassed Nagi punches him. Later Nagi feels guilty that all this is her fault and if she had only been honest in the first place. Hayate cheers her up by commenting she looks good in her swimsuit and vows to protect her for the rest of his life. Just as Nagi was to cuddle up closely to Hayate, Maria comes by. Yeah, the rest of them are here too. So were they on the other side of the island? Nope. They are indeed on a deserted island but this island is within the perimeter of Nagi’s estate. Just how big is her estate anyway?! Meanwhile Yukiji is seen collecting 500 Yen as entrance fee to Nagi’s beach. Hinagiku isn’t pleased with what Yukiji is doing (though she says the money will be used for her monthly expenses – erm… that’s not even a good reason). She puts her foot down and starts lecturing her to refund the money.
 
Not to say that this OVA isn’t good but it does not offer anything new besides serving as a filler before the start of the second series. Hey, we have been told about that right in the beginning. It was fun to see many of the characters again and they still have the same peculiar personality that they do back in the first season. Some things never change. It’s good especially for Hayate because it shows his gratitude and loyalty towards Nagi. It’s bad especially for cunning people like Yukiji because money and getting drunk are the two things which pretty much occupy her head. As for the several new characters which appeared here, I supposed it serves as an introduction and a signal for them to be making their debut in the next season.
 
So the love-romance relationship between Hayate and Nagi is still progressing nowhere to how many viewers would like it to be. Unless you are a Hinagiku fan of course. She and Ayumu show a little potential in developing the ‘race’ for Hayate’s love and hopefully in the second season we will get to see some of it. I wonder about Maria’s case too since I remember a point back in the first season she did seemingly hint that. Or maybe it was just impulsive. Overall this OVA is rather enjoyable and even for those who have not watched the first season, should find this easy to watch since there aren’t many otaku references and parodies used here.
 
Having said so, now I am ready to go watch the second season. I’m not sure if it is a good thing to have high expectations since I really did enjoy the first season. Is that a bad thing? Well, if the second season doesn’t live up or isn’t any better than its predecessor, high chances that you’re not going to be satisfied when the second season ends. But I can count on Hayate and the gang’s antics, that’s for sure. Definitely looking forward to that.
 

Hayate No Gotoku

Kodomo No Jikan Nigakki

October 2, 2009

Because one TV series season of horny loli wasn’t enough, I guess they have to make another production to satisfy all you loli hardcore fans out there. And no, I’m not one of them, mind you. Kodomo No Jikan Nigakki more precisely is a 3 episode OVA and those who have watched the TV series will remember how horny and kinky that kindergarten girl, Rin, is towards her good hearted homeroom teacher, Aoki. I suppose because the original TV series had too much censorship, the producers decided to go straight to the OVA. I guess the horniness continues here but I noticed that even if it is an OVA production, the ecchiness is toned down quite a bit. Don’t want viewers to get more ‘dirty’ ideas, huh?
 
Another thing which I later found out is that the OVA episode proper has only 3 episodes. The first episode it seems is a special OVA and is not considered by many to be an actual first episode. Which means the second episode is the first episode and the next episode is the second one and so forth. Why so confusing? I don’t know. But I read that so called special OVA episode was released concurrently together with one of the manga volumes. I mean to me, it makes no difference. An OVA is an OVA, right? Anyway back to the story and to avoid confusion for myself, I’ll follow the ‘official’ episode number instead.
 
Episode 0 Special – Kuro-chan and Shiro-chan
The episode opens with Rin up to her usual horniness again. Yeah, she is saying how something is coming into her body. All that dramatic-ness is actually Rin and the rest are taking a vaccination shot. She hasn’t changed at all. Thinking that Aoki is jealous, Rin offers to let him stick his big fat booster shot into her butt! She’s even showing her ass to him! Cheeky Rin then goes out to call the others in for their turn while Mimi is struggling herself with the shot. The next scene shows Aoki narrating how everyone is in the 4th grade and Rin is the class rep and thinks how she has become more responsible. But she’s back to her cheeky ways when she changes the class’ slogan to "Everyone gets creamed inside".
 
This episode is more on Rin’s lesbian buddy, Kuro and the no nonsense teacher, Shirai. Kuro is upset because Rin and Mimi think that she likes Aoki for always teasing him. During the teacher’s meeting, Houin is upset and disagrees with Shirai that club activities will be cut down, though the decision is postponed. Later in the evening, as Shirai sits alone ranting about how she dislikes her job and kids (the reason why she is still teaching is to pay off her flat loan), Kuro comes by and says how pretty she is. She proceeds to nickname her Shiro-chan and wants to get acquainted. Even if Shirai doesn’t want to but Kuro isn’t listening. Over the next few scenes, Kuro follows Shirai like a leech. Worse. A stalker. Even to the toilet. So Shirai goes to tell off Aoki to handle his student properly but Aoki took it the wrong way and pesters for Shirai’s secret on how she got so close to Kuro instead.
 
Another meeting between Shirai and Kuro make sense why Kuro clicks with her. They both hate Aoki. Kuro gives her a white rose hairpin and herself a black one as commemoration of their friendship. This reminds Shirai of her past whereby her mom advices her not to get too close to some popular girl named Chika for fear of being influenced by her bad habits like wearing her skirt too short. Then one day Shirai heard how Chika and her pals talked bad behind her back like she’s so plain and sophisticated and that’s when she began to feel that they are just a bunch of bubbleheads.
 
The next day in school, Rin enlists the help of her buddies for field day selection but Kuro cites boring reasons and would only do so if Rin gives her a kiss. Rin agrees and Kuro is taken aback. Could it be true? As Kuro prepares herself, Rin kisses Mimi instead. Well, she didn’t say who to kiss, right? Upset Kuro runs out and bumps into Aoki on her way. She gives him the usual kick in the crotch before running off. Kuro meets Shirai once more and pours out her complaints about Aoki. She then tells her about this certain girl that she likes and wants her opinion. Shirai is a little surprised and tries to recall her child psychology classes she took back then for the right answer. However Shirai’s answer upset Kuro further. What she said was that if she doesn’t think about it, she’ll turn out normal when she grows up. What does that imply? It means Kuro interpreted it that she isn’t a normal person. She runs away in tears telling Shirai to forget this conversation ever took place.
 
Shirai on her way home ponders her actions. Back home, she receives a call message from her mom saying how Chika is getting married and is thinking about introducing Shirai to someone nice too. Shirai is pissed of her change in attitude towards Chika and then it hit her. She realized that she herself is not normal. Yeah, for a 30 year old woman to be still single and not even dated a single guy. Is that normal?
 
The next day as everyone lines up for an assembly for the field day, Kuro notices that Shirai has put on her white hairpin, making her happy. Kuro also puts on hers when she hears a couple of boys mocking old broad Shirai for putting a flower on her head. Kuro immediately goes into fury and starts fighting with the boy and wants him to apologize to Shirai but the boy refuses. Aoki and Rin tries to stop the fight as Shirai wonders if this girl was by her side back then, what kind of person she would turn out to be herself. Yeah, she imagines Rin slapping that Chika girl and giving her the thumbs up. Back in real time, Houin notices how Shirai is smiling. Something which is never seen from her. Meanwhile the fight escalates because Kuro accidentally punches Aoki in the face and knocking him out. Rin takes this opportunity to do a mouth-to-mouth CPR and this instantly breaks Kuro from her fight as she tries to pull Rin away from Aoki.
 
Episode 1 – Fourth Grader
The episode opens with Rin on a tree and Aoki trying to apologize. Rin slips and a branch hooked her dress which means she falls down semi-naked and her crotch into Aoki’s mouth. Uh huh. He’s got a taste of what’s coming, eh? The next scene shows Rin and Reiji as they walk to school together. Reiji notices Rin’s very short shorts which makes her butt to near exposure and tries to cover it from other people’s eyes. Then when somebody calls the police for a child molester, Reiji is looking for the perpetrator but finds himself being surrounded by police. Haha, of course at that position to cover her butt would seem so ambiguous. I guess he was let off the hook as they both arrive at the school gates. Now Aoki and Reiji don’t really like each other seeing what happened at the end of the TV series. Aoki thinks Reiji is making Rin dressing so kinky and is considering reporting him to the child welfare department while Reiji is thinking Aoki is smirking like a pervert. But Reiji claims victory in their staring showdown when Rin gives him a goodbye kiss in the cheek.
 
In class, Aoki is suggesting for any volunteers to be class rep. A girl nominates Mimi but she starts to panic. With that, Rin decides to help Mimi out of this pinch and offers herself to be class rep while making Mimi as her assistant. Everyone agrees. In the teacher’s room, Aoki wants to know of Shirai’s opinion of his class but she tells him to figure it out himself. Houin wants Aoki to stand up for himself but he is okay with it and she wonders why he could empathize with her. Her conclusion: They are both virgins.
 
The next class is home economics and the kids have to make a dish. Rin is her cheeky self as she dresses in a naked apron. Since everyone is not interested with class, Rin announces that Aoki will buy ice cream for the ones who make the best dish. That’s enough motivation for them. When it’s over, Aoki has a taste of their delicious effort. Kuro decides to sabotage one by putting some paste in it. As Kuro calls for Aoki, Rin switches the dish and when Kuro tastes it, he finds it delicious. Stumped Kuro then decides to have a taste of it and she got a taste of her own medicine because Rin switched the original dish back. Uwaaaaaaaaaah!!! She gets what she deserves. Later when the trio meet, Mimi asks Rin if she was covering for her when she was in trouble becoming a class rep. Rin gives her reasons and assurances.
 
One evening when Aoki goes to class only to find it empty and wonders if Rin had forgotten to tell everyone to stay back for cleaning duties. If not perhaps told everyone to run away when the time came. Aoki rushes downstairs as he meets Rin outside. Due to Aoki’s body language, Rin concludes that Aoki had no faith in her and runs away. Mimi and Kuro come by just finishing up their cleaning job. They tell Aoki that it was Rin’s idea to have the students to bring their bags downstairs when they come cleaning so as it won’t be troublesome for them to go back up and get them again. Aoki realizes his mistake and tries to find Rin. He finds her sitting on a tree branch in the school compound and this scene plays out exactly like the one at the beginning of this episode. If you think she’d be happy over that perverted accident, Rin slapped him instead. This is for the part whereby Aoki thought she was lying to her. So to make things up, she tells him that she has feelings too and proceeds to lick his ear. Of course Aoki is taken aback and thinks she is screwing with him. Rin gives out a heartily laughter before joining her pals to go home. All is forgiven and back to normal.
 
Episode 2 – Fun Sports Festival
Reiji is all excited as he prepares a video camera to record everything on Rin during the sports festival. During practice, Mimi is having hard running her relay part so Aoki advices her on how to do so more effectively. In class as Aoki gives encouragement to his students to do their best for next week’s sports festival, a daring and cool Houin comes in to challenge him that her class won’t lose to his. This has Aoki’s students all fired up. It’s revealed that it’s a ploy from the 2 teachers to motivate their students. So now it is Aoki’s turn to do the same in Houin’s class. Because of her initial advice to act mean, Aoki corners Houin to the blackboard and threatens her. However Houin somehow finds it a turn on! She couldn’t reply back so her students are obviously upset and tells him not to pick on her and go back to his own class.
 
Meanwhile Shirai is totally upset that Houin has organized a costume parade for teachers. In other words, it’s like a cosplay event. But since Kuro heard them, she is very excited and happy and asserts that she will do her best for the sports festival. Rin and Mimi are busy finishing up their banner in class. Mimi leaves as Rin stays behind to complete it. That night as Aoki is making his rounds, he spots Rin lying unconscious in the classroom and tries to wake her up. When Rin comes to, she teases him for trying to molest her and what a wuss he is. Cheeky Rin is back to her energetic self and runs out of the classroom. Aoki notices the finished banner.
 
On the day of the sports festival, it seems Rin starts coughing and Reiji left a note saying that he has work and will try to his best to attend. At school, Aoki is designated as the announcer as Rin tries to make Aoki kiss her as a reward. Aoki knows what she means and so he says if it is ice cream that she meant, he’ll gladly buy lots of them. Of course Rin says that she wants to suck his, lick it all the way from the tip and work it till it’s bone dry… I guess Aoki has learned to counter such statements by saying that his isn’t for sale. As Mimi is carrying some equipment for the games, she starts thinking how she’s daddy’s girl while her brother is her mommy’s apple of the eye. But she felt lonely ever since her dad moved out due to change in his job post. Mimi then accidentally bumps into several boys during her spacing out and they proceed to taunt her that if Rin was around, they don’t even need Mimi as a vice.
 
While Shirai is dreading which costume to put on, Kuro spots Rin coughing heavily in the toilet. Kuro wants her to go to the infirmary but Rin is bent on continuing for the sake of Aoki. Kuro is upset that Rin has turned into a slave ever since she became class rep. Rin asks her what she thinks of her and Kuro’s answer that she is cool and pretty but Rin says otherwise. Though Aoki saw the ugly and weak side of Rin, he accepted her as she is and tried to understand her. That’s why Rin believes in him and wants to be by his side. The costume parade starts and Houin is dressed as some anime magical girl, Saint Rose, while Shirai opts for a safer choice, a full panda suit so that nobody could recognize her. However Kuro does and when she calls out to her, she starts crying uncontrollably so Shirai has no choice but to hug her. Does Kuro realize that her love for Rin will never be returned? Her dream of being with the one she truly loves shattered?
 
Before the start of the 4th graders’ relay, Aoki gets word from Mimi that Rin is missing so he goes look for her. He finds her semi-unconscious behind a building block and thinks she is fooling him again. Rin slowly gets up and wonders if he would have sex with her if she wins the relay. Believe it! That’s what she really said! He tells her not to say immature things so Rin says to check it himself to ascertain whether she’s mature or not as she pulls down her bloomers. Aoki is horrified that Rin isn’t wearing anything beneath but realizes that she’s wearing bandages as her panties. Rin then says she’ll win the relay for him. During the race, Mimi spots her mom and feels happy but soon that turns into despair when she sees her praising her brother. Because of that, Mimi couldn’t concentrate well during the relay and trips. She manages to give the baton to Rin who zooms pass those in front of her like a lightning streak. Wow. Mimi hears some scathing remarks from a few boys blaming it on her. Rin crosses the finish line and into Aoki’s arms as she wins the race. Mimi on the other hand goes away from the crowd and cries alone. Back home, Reiji apologizes for his no show but Rin says it’s okay and wants him to stay the way he is and hugs him. Back in her room, she is still coughing and feels that she’s in a mess.
 
Episode 3 – Green Cherry Tree
This gloomy episode starts off with Rin really sick after overworking herself and being nursed by Reiji back home. Reiji is a little worried because her incessant coughing brought back haunting memories of Aki’s case. In class, Aoki gives back the class’ test papers and once again Mimi is being praised for getting the highest score. However she doesn’t feel happy because the only time she gets praised is about her grades. Kagami is spacing out so much so she didn’t hear Aoki call her name. Furthermore, he teases her for handing in a blank answer sheet with only ‘baka’ written on it. Not amused, she goes up to him a slaps him! Can she do that to her teacher?! So much anger… Aoki doesn’t lose his cool and takes her to the teacher’s room for lecturing instead. But Kagami just walked off. She runs away when Shirai comes in. Back in class, the boys are being too noisy and since shy Mimi is unable to contain them, the girls think she’s no good especially since Rin isn’t around.
 
Mimi later goes to visit Rin and is initially flustered with Reiji’s kindness. She goes into Rin’s room and is shocked to see Rin so weak and lifeless. She asks what she wants and because Rin was dreaming about her mummy’s boobs, she wants Mimi’s breasts. Can’t blame her. She’s sick, right? Surprised Mimi refuse so Rin starts to cry like a baby. Eventually she gives in to help her. I don’t know about this fanservice scene of Rin sucking on Mimi’s breasts but it sure looks real odd.
 
Meanwhile Shirai confronts a male teacher colleague that he talked with Houin about her dad (probably about that parade stint). She continues her story whereby everyone sucks up and be nice to her because she is the daughter of the Director of Education. She asserts that she is herself and not the daughter of some big shot. Their conversation is interrupted when Kagami comes in wanting to walk back home with her. On their way home, Kagami says how she doesn’t want to be an adult because it hurts so Shirai too mentions the same about herself and apologizes for what she said earlier. This made Kagami happy as they walk home hand in hand.
 
When Mimi is done and Rin finally calm asleep, she whispers in her ears that she doesn’t have to force herself to smile in front of her. As she leaves, Mimi hints to Reiji that her own parents won’t worry about someone like her. Because Mimi’s case reminded of himself and not wanting her to become wicked like himself, he tells her that one day she’ll find someone who is able to understand and love her. So until then, she just has to try her best until that happens. He then hugs her as she finds it hard to hold back her tears. Elsewhere, Aoki gets a call from Houin to meet up but since he just came out of the bath, she says never mind. She notes how pure Aoki is and probably she is drunk as she toasts aloud to virgins. There are other men in the bar, you know…
 
Rin soon recovers and comes back to class. Though Kagami puts on a face that she doesn’t care, you can tell that their relationship is back to normal. Mimi thinks Rin has no recollection of that breast sucking incident when Rin gives her a bra. She then hugs Mimi and whispers to allow her to touch them again. Better not let Kagami find out… Aoki comes in and they all start their homeroom lesson. Later as Aoki notices the sakura trees are now covered with green leaves, Rin comes by to ask permission to prepare for the dodgeball game. He tells her not to push too hard for his sake and wants her to stay as she is now. But she says doing something for him is like doing something for herself. She then runs up to him and gives him a kiss. Now she has upgraded to this level, eh?
 
Kodomo No Mondai
Well, nothing really that groundbreaking actually. Everybody goes back to normal in the end. The Rin-Aoki relationship is still, well, like that lah. Though I feel Rin has matured a lot and less horny as compared to the TV series. But she is still cheeky as always. Likewise, Kagami and Shirai’s relationship takes a better turn towards the end but I don’t think I could say the same for her and Aoki. At least Shirai isn’t a cold hearted teacher as portrayed previously. Even so, it took a little girl to make her realize that she too at one point in her life was a child with her own set of problems. I wonder if Kagami has given up her lesbian love for Rin. What about Houin for Aoki? Yeah, maybe thinks are better left the way as they are for now.
 
Mimi’s problem on the other hand is probably the acknowledgement and attention she never received from her parents. While nothing much is shown on them, at least Mimi has her friends who support her and treat her for who she is. Reiji meanwhile tries his best not to repeat the mistakes he made before. He can’t afford to lose Rin like how he’d lost Aki. In overall sense, this second OVA series feels more drama-like and deals with these little problems the characters faced. Not many of those bold antics you’d see in the TV series.
 
Even if these kids are just elementary or kindergarten level, it goes to show that they still have problems of their own. And if you don’t take quick steps to contain them, they may grow up into very troubled people in the future. Definitely not child’s play. Thus I’m grateful that I didn’t go through torrid times during my childhood. And if you really love your teacher (in the sense, more than a teacher-student relationship), it is still not a good idea to steal his/her lips. Sure, Rin is a little girl and could probably get away with it. But it’ll be a different story when her puberty and raging hormones kick in a few years time. So just enjoy the time being as they are now.
 

Kodomo No Jikan