Pretear

April 24, 2010

My first impression on Pretear was it was anime’s version of Snow White and Cinderella. But there are lots of differences as I later found out while watching the show. Instead of Snow White’s seven dwarves, here you have seven handsome bishonen. Well actually, more like four bishonen and three shotas (little boys) to be exact. Instead of your typical western damsel-in-distress, you have a teenager, Himeno Awayuki, has a little brutish nature and the kind of girl who will not hesitate to kick your ass if deemed necessary. And just like in Cinderella, she is also living with two ‘wicked’ step sisters.
 
However that is where the similarity ends. Otherwise this is a rather ‘old’ anime which was produced way back in the year 2001 (see how a long way anime has come?) based on the 4 volume mange of the same name. It may seem to fit the magical girl genre in a way because you know, the heroine undergoes transformation in terms of physical powers and clothes to fight her enemies. Other than that, the usual drama, romance, fantasy and action you’d normally see in animes in those days.
 
As seen in episode 1, it begins with the 7 Leafe Knights namely Hayate, Sasame, Kei, Go, Mannen, Hajime and Shin, gathering and learning that the seeds of disaster is being called by the Princess of Disaster, Fenrir, for red snow of disaster to fall on Earth. They need to prevent her resurrection and find the one who will turn the snow white again. Back in present time, our main heroine and gardening-enthusiast Himeno is enjoying her new rich life in her super large mansion. Is she? Well, it’s going to be tough for a poor girl like her to adjust to her new surroundings even so. You see, her failed novelist dad, Kaoru, married a rich widow of a super large conglomerate, Natsue Hojo. How rich is she? Every business in town is affiliated with the Hojo Conglomerate and when she remarried Kaoru, she renamed the city Awayuki Town! Man, she’s sure totally in love with him. Love works in mysterious ways. As mentioned, life isn’t a bed of roses for Himeno as her high aristocrat step mom is obsessed with good manners and she also has to put up with her step sisters. That is, being a prank victim of snobbish elder sister Mayune or completely being ignored by couldn’t-care-less Mawata. Himeno realizes she is running late for school and on her way realizes red snow falling. The Leafe Knights are sealing demon larvae in the real world. They note the need of a Pretear’s powers to complete their task but Hayate is reluctant since he doesn’t want ‘that’ to happen again. To do so, the rest go around touching hands of girls to see any kind of reaction. Of course the shotas are okay (girls swooning over their cuteness, what else) but for the bishonens, they may seem like perverts, no matter how good looking they are.
 
Hayate is wondering around on his own when Himeno bumps and falls onto him. Since he criticized her weight, they got into an argument. She punches him but he blocks and causes a short static shock. Himeno rushes off after thinking she’s really late for school. In school, she tries to talk to her best friend, Yayoi Takato, but the other girls advice Yayoi not to mix with her and continue to badmouth her that her drunkard dad married for the money. Himeno walks home alone pondering how lonely she is even with her new life. As she sits in her mansion’s garden, the Leafe Knights appear. Himeno punches Hayate when he shows up, thinking he brought his good looking pals to do her in! Haha! Sasame explains the Leafe and Fenrir thingy like every living thing in this world have Leafe living in them and Fenrir is after Leafe to heighten her powers. He also says that Himeno is Pretear, the Princess of Light. They need her powers to save the world since theirs are limited. However she thinks this is a trap to make her feel good and when she’s willing to believe, they’ll abandon her. A matured demon larva turns into a monster and starts withering trees around it. The rest plead for Himeno to become Pretear but Hayate is adamant that they don’t need her. Himeno is upset and runs away. As the Leafe Knights transform to do battle, Himeno reflects on their words and turns back. The Leafe Knights are losing so Himeno asks Hayate what she needs to do to become Pretear. He stretches his hand as she touches it and transforms into one.
 
The battle continues in episode 2 as Shin engages a barrier so that the battle takes place in a different dimension and the effects won’t affect the human world. Himeno gets embarrassed and flustered Hayate is fused inside her body. No dirty thoughts here. Plus, no time for that as Hayate says to concentrate her wind powers since he is the Pretear of Wind. Though not perfect, after a few tries, she manages to destroy the larva by attacking its core. Everything returns to normal as Himeno notices Hayate is injured but he shrugs it off. She learns that the Leafe Knights become her shield and sword and take any wound her in place when she becomes Pretear. Though she feels guilty, the next morning, she requests Sasame to practice with her so that they won’t get hurt in the next battle. Himeno prets (a term to transform) with Sasame, who is the Pretear of Sound (apparently a different outfit for a different Leafe Knight). As she concentrates, she sees visuals of sounds like from her short balding chauffeur-cum-butler Tanaka and maid Mikage. They also practice a Sonic Arrow move but it was too powerful and blasted away some parts of the garden and Mayune who is passing by. Mawata is out in the city and doesn’t seem to like the over enthusiastic people who recognized her as the conglomerate’s daughter with that fake respect of theirs. She runs to an alley whereby she sees several stray cats.
 
During the break, Sasame thanks Himeno for being a Pretear so she comments on how nice he is compared to cold Hayate and that she could improve with him unlike the other guy. Sasame takes her to his work place and mentions the other Leafe Knights work at other jobs they specialize in. Himeno is astounded by Sasame as a radio personality and gets drawn in from the request postcards he received. Mawata is listening to Sasame’s programme and remembers the time how Natsue introduced her to her new dad. She later goes back to the alley to feed the cats but a demon larva matures and emits black smog which causes her to faint. Luckily Himeno sensed that larva’s presence and in time with the Leafe Knights appear in time to do battle. Himeno prets with Sasame and using what she has learned, destroys the larva in no time. Mawata comes to and is surrounded by Himeno and the guys. Sasame realizes that she is the one who frequently sent the postcards to his radio station which was being read earlier in the day. Though Himeno understands what she is trying to say, Mawata isn’t and still thinks there no way she could understand how she feels before running away.
 
In episode 3, Himeno is out with Yayoi as they talk about how Tanaka was once a classmate of Natsue and his unrequited love for her. Yeah, probably the cause of his receding hairline due to all that stress. Hayate wants to test if Himeno is worthy of being a Pretear. For the concentration test, he passes her a kendama. Of course she can’t get the ball in place as it hit her face instead. Next, the attention skill test has her to break a large pot with objects. When she does, lots of little colourful chibi birds called Tipis flew out so Hayate asks how many of them were red and so forth. Uh huh… I wasn’t paying attention either. Finally for the endurance test, Himeno must restrain herself from eating all the tasty treats. But unfortunately she gulped them all down before Hayate could finish his sentence. Too delicious to resist, eh? Upset Hayate walks away. He bumps into Mayune who has fallen for his looks so she takes him by his hair to her room. She tries to seduce him but is gone by the time she’s out from the bath. Himeno goes talk to Sasame about Hayate and once again his words comforted and encouraged her (that’s why he’s suited to be a radio DJ, eh?). Later she practices her Pretear skills but Hayate isn’t convinced and still thinks she’s an amateur (hey, she just got into this like a few days ago, right?). Feeling hurt, Himeno thinks he hates her and yells back she doesn’t need him. He leaves though she feels guilty over her harsh words. Though she’s down, she senses a demon larva.
 
That larva had dropped into the bicycle and weird sidecar of Kaoru and Natsue while doing their lovey-dovey ride around the park (how many rounds have they gone through via that embarrassing vehicle?). The larva transforms and sends both lovebirds fainting. Himeno and the Leafe Knights arrive to battle as she prets with Go (Pretear of Fire). However the larva multiplied itself so the Knights are in a bind. Until Hayate shows up to free them and buys Himeno enough time to destroy its core. When it’s over, Kaoru and Natsue wake up and continue their romantic time together, not realizing what just happened. Himeno apologizes to Hayate but he continues to spite her that it’s his job to work with a stupid and annoying Pretear. I guess she was so pissed off she even put words in his mouth that he called her a violent b*tch. That night Himeno is successful with her kendama and feels happy. The other Knights note how Hayate accepted Himeno because he did call her a Pretear.
 
In episode 4, while Tanaka thinks the reason for his receding hairline is stress (unrequited love for Natsue, remember?), Himeno is upset to learn Kaoru has just hired Hayate as his part time gardener (his reason as later revealed is to watch over her). As expected, they quarrel. Himeno then learns from the shotas that there’s a demon larva in her residence area so the quartet are off to search for it but Himeno got into a trap set by Tanaka. He volunteers to help find this ‘insect’ with them. Back in Himeno’s room, somebody plants a demon larva in her little garden. Mayune tries to get back at Himeno for splashing water on her earlier on but her plan backfired. She then spots Hayate and tries to go after him but bumps into Go going a delivery. She gets taken in by his handsomeness and drags him to her room (apparently any good looking guy will do for her. So easy to switch, eh?). That usual bathroom seduction plan and by the time she’s out, he’s gone. Only Yayoi is there and her incessant infatuation about doing research on Natsue-Tanaka’s forbidden love thingy. Yeah, she’s so into it. Tanaka drives Himeno and the shotas to find the insect in their huge yard. It’s a jungle out there! Lost World? All the wild animals here are their pets and have names?! Michael the Gorilla? Rodriguez the crocodile? Bob the Bear? Some zoo this place is! Tanaka sure knows all their names. He’s so cool even when he got bitten or attacked by them. Yeah, perhaps their way of showing their love. Make sure they’re not just hungry. Other than that, the gang got lost, chased around, etc.
 
Eventually Himeno and the shotas regroup back at her room and no demon larva was detected. However Shin notices her pretty plants and that’s when a demon larva starts to mature. The larva starts attacking so frantic Himeno tries to save Mannen. Luckily Hayate is there to save them from being crushed by her bed. Himeno prets with Hajime (Pretear of Water) to destroy the larva. When it’s over, Himeno is relieved that they’re okay, feels guilty and apologizes that she should’ve been more responsible. However Hayate tells her that her flowers are saying thank you to her. Himeno is being called by her dad who has completed his masterpiece. As he unveils it, it turns out to be a big tulip and smashes it instantly (because Hayate has been teasing Himeno ‘tulip head’ all the while), breaking daddy’s heart. And Yayoi is still nonstop talking about the forbidden love. Will she ever shut up?
 
Himeno wakes up from a nightmare that she’s being devoured by Fenrir in episode 5. She gets embarrassed when she realized she hugged Hayate. The next day, Himeno is annoyed that Hayate is watching her from afar like a stalker so Yayoi misinterprets that he’s in love with her and wants Himeno to accept his feelings! Oh boy, another round of ideas for that girl… After school, Himeno sensed the presence of demon larvae but it’s different than usual. The Leafe Knights gather as purple butterflies are seen. Sasame explains they are underlings/familiars that carry Leafe to Fenrir. When Himeno tells them she has seen them in her dreams, Sasame concludes that Hayate knew about this all along and spent all day guarding Himeno. Meanwhile Fenrir feels she needs more Leafe. Himeno that night decides to go apologize to Hayate but instead finds her dad and another weird tulip sculpture named Himeno Mark 2. She destroys it in her rage and proclaims ‘justice’. As Sasame is about to replace Mannen’s shift taking turns protecting Himeno, he bumps into Mayune. She instantly falls for him and that bathroom seduction again. However a blackout occurs and she takes this chance to run out and hug him naked in the dark. Unfortunately Sasame has left and she’s hugging Tanaka instead.
 
Soon the entire city plunges into darkness as Himeno feels the demon larva presence. Hayate takes her to the source which is on the city’s bridge. They come face to face with Fenrir. She launches a short attack before disappearing with Hayate. At an abandoned chapel, it seems Hayate realizes Fenrir’s plan to lure him out. She asks why he shielded Himeno so he replies that she is Pretear. Before Fenrir flies away, she kisses him as Hayate calls out to her real name, Takako. When the other Leafe Knights arrive, a demon larva starts attacking so Himeno prets with Mannen (Pretear of Ice) who feels guilty for falling asleep during his shift and wants to make up. The larva is a little stronger than usual and gives the gang some trouble before they manage to subdue it. But more demon larvae appear and surround them. However they stop short in attacking them. Fenrir appears and mocks Himeno that with her lack of ability, it’s impossible to win and if she continues to fight, she’ll definitely die. Fenrir then disappears. In the aftermath, Sasame talks to Hayate that his persuasion didn’t go to well. Himeno tries to find Hayate to apologize but is unable to and feels afraid.
 
Himeno trains hard while reflecting on Fenrir’s words but still feels gloomy. Kaoru even notices she isn’t herself because she isn’t the glutton she used to be (though she may have chowed down several bowls). So in episode 6, Mayune’s yet another prank to spill squid ink on Himeno backfires so she blames Tanaka and takes it out on him. Meanwhile Hayate and Sasame try to find clues of Fenrir but to no avail. Kaoru sees Mawata and invites her to sculpt with him. While she reminisces the time she used to sculpt with her late dad, Natsue comes in and the adults get lovey-dovey so annoyed Mawata leaves. Himeno goes for a walk in town and sees Kei and Go as they give her advice to cheer her up. Then she meets Mikage on her way and the latter can tell she isn’t her usual self. Of course Yayoi interrupts while dramatically saying that Himeno’s problem is love. As she continues to blab, Mikage advices her to find out the source of her problem. With that, Himeno knows what to do and rushes off but bumps into the shotas. She pleads to them to tell her more about Fenrir and learns that she is imprisoned at Leafenia. She also makes a deal with them to take her there. They take her to the tree where she is imprisoned and as Himeno looks around for clues, all she could find is a lipstick.
 
They return to the normal world but the bishonens aren’t fond that the shotas took Himeno there. She tells them that it is her wish and wants to know more. But they are reluctant to tell because there are things she’s better off not knowing. However Kei feels she’ll know sooner or later and spills the beans. He says Fenrir wasn’t born of a demon but originally a human. Just then, Fenrir unleashes her demon larva to attack them. They couldn’t detect its presence and think they’re being masked. Himeno prets with Kei (Pretear of Light) but she is more infatuated in knowing more about Fenrir rather than concentrating on the battle. Kei has no choice but to tell her that she gave in to her evil side and that she, Takako was once a Pretear. Himeno is taken aback but manages to get back on her feet and unleash a powerful but the larva escapes. When it’s over, Himeno is upset that the guys kept her in the dark and thought they fear she might turn out like Takako. The rest kept quiet and walked away except Hayate who is going to tell her an old story.
 
Mannen is upset that the shotas aren’t allowed to hear the real story. In episode 7, Hayate takes Himeno to the chapel to tell her how it all started 16 years ago. When Takako was a Pretear, she had some fear in her heart. In short, Takako fell in love with Hayate who helped her overcome that fear but he wasn’t able to reciprocate her love. Not wanting all this to happen, her powers turned negative and that’s when she became the Princess of Disaster. It’s so easy to turn to the dark side. In order to seal her away, a great deal of power was needed and caused the lives of 3 Leafe Knights. By that time, the shotas have heard all this from Kei so Mannen isn’t happy and blames Hayate as the cause for dragging Himeno into this mess. Hayate agrees. He tries to leave but Go isn’t happy. They could’ve fought among themselves if Himeno didn’t interfere and give them a piece of her mind. She calms everyone down and goes back to her cheery self. She thanks Hayate and feels that she’s one of them now. However back in her room, she feels guilty and pain in her heart. As Himeno is in school the next day, the Leafe Knights search the surroundings for the escaped larva. After school, Himeno wanders and unknowingly ends up at the chapel. She sees Sasame and Hayate there when a larva with Fenrir appears. The other Knights battle other demon larvae but realize that they were mere decoys. Fenrir questions Himeno about Hayate’s kindness and proceeds to play mind games that he is kind to her and not Himeno. Himeno is unfazed and decides to pret with Hayate but to her horror can’t. Fenrir mocks her that she has learned the truth from the Leafe Knights and the wounds in her heart will keep bleeding sorrow and that she has been used. Himeno is trembling in fear though she insists that she isn’t wounded but if she loses, she can’t protect anyone anymore. She breaks down as Hayate hugs and tells her she doesn’t have to do it anymore. Fenrir continues to scorn her that deep within her heart she doesn’t want to fight and starts attacking.
 
The other Leafe Knights are soundly beaten in episode 8. To show how powerless and burdensome Himeno is, Fenrir nearly sucks the entire life out of Sasame before disappearing. While Go is healing him, Himeno starts feeling at fault and that she’s to be blamed for all this. Next morning, Hayate eavesdropped from Mayune complaining to Natsue (after yet another failed spicy toothpaste prank) that Himeno has left the house early without telling anyone so he goes in search of her. However he bumps into Yayoi and she thinks he’s the cause that Himeno didn’t turn up in school today. Yeah, that stalker romance thingy… Himeno has her mind preoccupied so she isn’t concentrating while crossing the road as a speeding truck threatens to mow her down. Luckily Mawata was there to save her. The duo then proceed to talk things and go about doing stuff together around town. At the beach, it seems that they both made some progress in their relationship. As Himeno goes to buy drinks, she reflects on Mawata’s words that it’s better to live alone so as not to hurt anybody. Hayate then shows up and that’s when she gets emotional and starts apologizing profusely that she can’t be a Pretear. Hayate hugs and comforts her. Mawata spots this from afar and is in shock so she runs away. I guess in her eyes, her step sister is like having an affair with their gardener, right?
 
Fenrir suddenly appears to bring Himeno ‘gifts’: other defeated Leafe Knights. Himeno breaks down and goes hysterical so Hayate goes on the offensive but was beaten too. This causes Himeno to yell back at her if she indeed loved Hayate since she could hurt him. Her usual reply of being used and thrown away but Himeno says she won’t turn into a Princess of Disaster like her so Fenrir mocks her that she may be right because she can’t even turn into a Pretear. Himeno wants to power, will and determination to protect everyone again so she successfully prets with Hayate, emitting lots of Leafe powers as it heals the other Knights. With greater powers, Himeno destroys the larva and wounds Fenrir though the latter escapes but promises to be back and make her pay. Later Himeno thanks Hayate for coming. Back at home, Mawata cries alone in her dark room.
 
Mawata locks herself in her room for several days in episode 9. While having breakfast with her family, Himeno spots a demon larva bug crossing the ceiling and feels scared. Kaoru thinks it’s a ghost. Himeno tells this to Hayate and thinks Fenrir is taunting her. She plans to leave this place as she feels she doesn’t want to get her family involved. Kaoru organizes a ghost hunt with Natsue, Mayune and Tanaka in weird outfits. Yayoi is there too? WTF is she talking about occult of love and desire?! Himeno wants them to stop doing so but it fell on deaf ears so all the Leafe Knights gather as the bishonen help search for the larva while the shotas keep an eye on the ghost hunt party. Several blushing moments between Hayate and Himeno. I can feel some romance thingy between the duo. Kaoru and co search and abandoned storeroom and got frightened by tricks courtesy of Mannen. They scatter and lose each other so Go tells them to clean up the mess. When they regroup, Kaoru shows them a Tipi bird and thinks this is the ghost. Tanaka ‘screws’ with it so much so he broke an expensive table. Six months salary docked… Meanwhile Mawata wants Mikage to stay with her a little longer. She confides in Mikage and tells how her dad was the only person who understood her while mommy and sis didn’t even try to understand her. When daddy died, she felt lonely but found a person who understood it: Sasame. However Mikage throws away all her Sasame tapes and tells her to take a good look at herself and be honest. She must accept the sorrow she feels now and since the love she lost won’t come back, she should hate to save herself (uh oh! Is Mikage I think who she is?).
 
Mikage on her way out bumps into Sasame. He says she looked like someone he knew and indirectly hints that he couldn’t do anything for her but watch. In short he loved her. Mikage excuses herself when Himeno and the other Leafe Knights show up. Go and Kei attack Mikage but were deflected. To Himeno’s horror, Mikage turns into Fenrir! She mentions Mikage was just 1 of her identities and the reason she was being nice to her was because she wanted to use her powers before the Leafe Knights do. But it doesn’t matter now because she’ll find a new puppet of darkness for her power. Go attacks Fenrir but Sasame blocks it. Thinking that she can’t turn back anymore, he is willing to abandon his knighthood to be with her! Gasp! What a turn of events. No Sasame! Don’t turn to the dark side!
 
So Sasame admits his love for Takako/Fenrir in episode 10 though back then she had eyes only for Hayate. He pledges his allegiance to her so Fenrir gives her answer by unleashing a blast that shatters windows and crack walls before disappearing. Looks like he was rejected. Himeno understands how he feels to be in love but he just walks away. The other Leafe Knights are creating Himeno’s new home in Leafenia so upon Hayate’s request, Himeno goes to say goodbye to her family like giving parting gifts to Tanaka and Yayoi (that girl is now writing some romance novel contest about Tanaka and Natsue?), purposely walking straight into another one of Mayune’s obvious lame traps, serving Kaoru and Natsue tea, and go talk to Mawata but she still locks herself inside. However Mawata is under Fenrir’s hypnosis as she tries to absorb her hatred. But Fenrir notes that Mawata’s heart still rejects her and concludes she is still in love with Sasame. Later Sasame visits the chapel and finds Fenrir waiting there.
 
When Himeno’s new home is completed, everyone is happy to see Sasame return. However he unleashes a powerful sound wave to destroy the home. All their hard effort wasted! Sasame says that he is here to prove his love to Fenrir by going to kill Hayate. He refuses to fight until Sasame injures Himeno. The others try to stop them but Fenrir prevents them from interfering. She then throws down 2 swords for the duo to duke it out. Sasame has the upper hand but hesitates and did not kill Hayate. Fenrir is upset so she points Sasame’s sword at her own throat and says he can kill her if there’s still a piece of Leafe Knight in his heart. Or else kill Hayate. No 2 ways about it. He is about to strike Hayate but Fenrir blasts the latter away. It seems she changed her mind and feels it’s no fun killing him and wants him to suffer in pain till he begs her to kill him. Fenrir makes Sasame her servant and grants him a new darkness power (not to mention a change in his clothing) in which he fully accepts. The area around Leafenia withers and dies before the darkness duo disappear. Himeno pleads for him to return but he replies that the Knight of Sound she once knew no longer exists. Himeno could only cry in despair.
 
Posters of missing Himeno are seen posted throughout the city in episode 11. Wow. Such a large scale search by her parents. In actual fact, she is discreetly fighting demon larvae with the Leafe Knights. Fenrir and Sasame talk like how the latter’s here on his own free will because he loves her and would rather be a fool than lie to himself (like all of us) while the former is still very much in love with Hayate. Himeno and the rest take refuge at the chapel. Himeno can’t sleep at that night so Hayate goes talk to her. She says she doesn’t regret becoming a Pretear so Hayate hugs her. Kaoru feels worried for Mawata (still locked in her room obsessively listening to tapes of Sasame’s radio programme) so Natsue tells him she’s alright because when her real dad passed away, Natsue and Mayune were devastated but Mawata comforted them with a smile. But Kaoru still feels worried that her concern for others may hurt herself. Sasame pays Mawata a visit and talks to her. She claims he doesn’t understand her like everyone else so Sasame promises to set her free and wants her to follow him.
 
Fenrir walks into the Awayuki residence and unleashes many demon larvae which start attacking the family. Thankfully Himeno and the Knights appear in time to hold back the menace, shocking her family as they can’t believe to see Himeno this way (especially Mayune). Himeno prets with Hayate to take out the threats. Then they spot Mawata and Sasame on the rooftop. However Mawata is on Sasame’s side as she spites them all especially her family who didn’t think about her. She feels that they’re just like strangers living in the same house. Though they refute and even so apologize, Mawata doesn’t believe them and breaks down upon telling them about her loneliness all the time ever since daddy died. But with Sasame here, she doesn’t feel so. Unfortunately Mawata’s happiness is short lived as Fenrir swoops down and congratulates Sasame as he goes to her. Of course naturally with the appearance of the other woman, any girl would feel confused. Mawata wonders who this lady is so Sasame says he’s going to set her free as he kisses Fenrir! The shock was too much for Mawata to handle so she turns into a vegetable state. Fenrir takes the suffering, hate and despair in her heart and uses it to unleash and enormous Great Tree of Fenrir, which is supposed to be her power source with Mawata as the core and the nucleus of gathering Leafes. Fenrir also says it is the beginning of the end of the world. Sighs. There are so many ways to destroy the world… Ah well, at least she doesn’t want to rule the world.
 
The city is in panic and the people are in mass evacuation in episode 12. While the shotas are being tasked to handle the evacuation, Go and Kei take out the attacking larvae as Himeno go save Mawata with her family. They call out to reach her while trying to rip the vines protecting the core but each time they do so, it grows back. Fenrir is watching how weak the humans are trying to save Mawata but is unhappy that they aren’t giving up. So Sasame decides to go face Himeno. She leaves her family to free Mawata. Sasame talks about how he sealed the woman he loved in darkness, he healed other’s hearts but not his own, they never bothered to save her as her family, her pain will be soothed, bla bla bla (what else is new?). Himeno in return says it’s not true, that’s not what Mawata wanted, she was really in love with him, she hates him for manipulating and using her instead of freeing her, bla bla bla (what else do you expect?). Sasame tells Hayate to fight him one on one if he doesn’t want Himeno to get hurt. He agrees and tells Himeno that he’ll definitely return since there’s something he wants to tell her when the battle’s over. While the guys duke it out, Himeno climbs the tree and faces Fenrir. Another round of talk. Himeno says destroying the world won’t heal her wounded heart, Hayate didn’t betray her because he’s not capable of doing that, he’s still blaming himself for turning her into a Princess of Disaster, with friends and family there is trust and believe, bla bla bla (do we really need more of this?). Fenrir replies (here we go again), you don’t understand how I feel, you were the same when you first arrived and plagued with loneliness, bla bla bla. Fenrir decides to show her the true identity of what she believes in and sends electric shocks to stun her family. However they all get back on their feet and continue to tear the vines even if it still shocks them and putting them in greater physical danger.
 
Himeno too doesn’t give up and tries to break into the core and manages to do so. Mawata is inside wishing everyone should just go away as Himeno extends her hand for them to go home. Reluctant at first but after seeing how hard her family is trying, she gives in and comes out into the warm arms of her relieved family. The tree weakens as Fenrir couldn’t believe Mawata is smiling. She refuses to believe all this is happening and that Mawata should be more miserable than her. She breaks down and starts calling for Sasame. Just then, Sasame and Hayate appear. Seems Hayate is defeated as Fenrir rushes over into Sasame’s arms. She orders Sasame to kill them both. Before he could do so, Himeno says that this isn’t what he needed to do now as she wants to save Takako because she didn’t really want to become the Princess of Disaster. She relates her own fear of becoming one back then and thinks Takako felt the same way. Because Sasame is hesitating, Fenrir thinks he too has abandoned her and no one loves her. She starts getting angry as the tree starts absorbing Leafes. The vines go out of control so Sasame uses his body to protect Fenrir from being stabbed.
 
A teary-jerking, drama-filled, emotional episode 13 has Sasame spewing ‘honour’ lines before he dies. Fenrir is devastated and now that her eyes are opened, she reverts back to Takako (not to mention her change in clothes). She realizes she loved him. NOO!!! Don’t go!!! Too late. He’s gone. That’s why always appreciate the things you have. Takako is overcome with grief and this causes the tree to be confused and react to it by become violent and unstable. It binds Takako while causing rampage. Weary Himeno and Hayate pret as the other Leafe Knights lend their powers so Himeno now has combined elemental powers. While busting the vines, she reflects all that she has been through and finds strength in everyone to carry on. However the vines pin her down as this time Hayate uses his body as shield from its relentless attack. Himeno goes hysterical that Hayate will die if this goes on. Citing that she doesn’t want to lose him or anyone else, Himeno draws new power and to the awe of anyone who is watching, prets and becomes a Pretear by herself. Yeah, a totally new clothing design, fit for a fairytale princess, I should say. The tree swallows Takako and attacks Himeno so Himeno decides to give it all the Leafe it desires. Perhaps it absorbed too much and thus the tree vanishes into white snow that falls beautifully over the city. When Hayate comes to, he is surprised to see Sasame still alive. Oh yeah. It’s not good for a bishonen to die, you know. But there’s bad news. Himeno sacrificed herself to resurrect him. Everyone is grieving in shock around Himeno’s lifeless body but it seems even in death she put on a smiling face. Then this part reminds me of the Sleeping Beauty story. Remember Prince Charming kissed the princess to wake her up? Here, Hayate kisses Himeno and shortly, she opens her eyes, much to everyone’s relief. Who says a heroine/princess has to die in the end?
 
In the aftermath, Mawata seems more open and smiles often as she interacts with Hajime and Shin while Kaoru and Natsue continue to do stuff together. Yayoi thinks of becoming Kaoru’s apprentice since the latter is thinking of starting to write novels again. Of course the thought of turning it into a forbidden teacher-student relationship has Himeno rejecting it. What’s this? Has Mayune turned into a shotacon? Yeah, she’s trying to seduce Mannen via that bathroom tactic but he fell asleep instead. While Tanaka returns from his lost trip, he is devastated that Natsue has hired a new driver but since she feels that Tanaka is better suited to be her chauffeur, he gladly takes his job back. Not after learning Natsue docked 12 months pay for taking unannounced leave. Haha! All that hair, beard and moustache he grew just withered in a split second. Ah, the stress of love and money… Lastly it seems there are 2 pair of couples now. Yup, Sasame and Takako are happily together and so are Himeno and Hayate. Though not shown, I guess the thing that Hayate wanted to tell Himeno after all was his feelings.
 
Hooray. Just like in any fairytale endings, it has to end on a good note. The world gets to live for another day but more importantly things are looking bright for Himeno and her family. In a way the turn of events from Himeno becoming a Pretear serve as a good turning point and change for her family. I guess without if all this never happened, they’ll still be the snob and distant people they are. Thus the important lesson from this old series is to cherish your family ties and friendship. No matter how much you hate a certain someone or feel annoyed or disgusted, but hey, they’re still family. And of course, no (wo)man is an island. Mawata learned that the hard way, I guess.
 
The chemistry between Himeno and Hayate was expected. You know, I’ve seen several shows whereby the male and female leads get off on a bad footing like arguing with each other too much but in the end open their hearts up to each other. Even if they throw Sasame in early to the mix, it still won’t change the fact that it will be Himeno-Hayate. Besides, I’m thinking if Sasame was the one responsible for releasing Fenrir from her imprisonment in the first place. As for the other Leafe Knights, I felt there weren’t enough interactions between them and Himeno. I mean, for the initial episodes, it was like they take turns to pret so they could show off a little of her fancy Pretear outfit and some moves but that’s basically it. Other than that, it was mainly going to be Himeno and Hayate as I have previously said. Takako may not have got her ideal love but at least she found love in another way in the end. Yeah, her confused and misguided feelings caused a whole lot of trouble in the first place. Sixteen years is sure a long time. I wonder if Takako would be Mikage the maid again since everything is over. Hopefully there won’t be another girl(s) who would be like her and end up as the new Princess of Disaster or else this whole mess will be back to square one. Come to think of it, now I guess I know why they call it Snow White. Beats calling it Snow Red, eh?
 
Yayoi, Tanaka and Mayune are the most amusing character in the series for me. In terms of comic relief, that is. Besides the fact that Yayoi is aptly voiced by Yukari Tamura, you just got to love her obsession about forbidden love and when she starts talking about it, she can’t literally stop. As for Mayune, it was ‘fun’ to see the pranks backfired on her. She deserves it so much. All the more when she and accidental Tanaka ‘teamed up’ to get back at Himeno. But even her prankish behaviour, she still loves her family like the rest deep down in her heart. As for her bathroom seduction tactic, that was sure a riot (in my opinion). If she thinks guys will fall over her so called nice body, she’d better think again. Also I don’t think any hair treatment programme will ever cure Tanaka’s baldness. There are several small issues that bug me (no pun intended). Who was it that planted the demon larva in Himeno’s room (of course logically that would be Mikage then but it was never revealed)? Was it Sasame that released the Princess of Disaster? And during the ghost hunt episode, why did Natsue and Yayoi have that evil look on their faces which make them suspect that they may be the evil one? Ah well, doesn’t matter since everything’s good in the end.
 
Later as I found out from Wikipedia, the anime adaptation is very much different from the manga. For instance, the servants in the Awayuki residence are much colder and meaner to Himeno as compared to the anime where they are being kind. Furthermore, in the manga, Natsue’s husband was divorced rather than died in the anime. Because of that, in the manga, she is like the true cruel step mom in Cinderella or witch in Snow White as she is very jealous of Himeno and treats her harshly. Now that is true Snow White or Cinderella cruelty. Natsue was also possessed by Fenrir in the manga but never in the anime. Also, the bishonen Knights were given more mature looks from their cute appearances in the manga and that Sasame in the anime is turned into a more serious, quiet and ‘poetic’ guy rather than a playboy flirt in the manga! Talk about the major differences.
 
Dreaming of being a prince or princess isn’t as easy as it seems today. There are lots of responsibilities to shoulder. How about having the weight of saving the world for starters? Damsels in distress are so outdated and old fashioned. If I was given such a path and choice like Himeno to become the world’s saviour, I think I’d rather pass that chance and leave it to someone else. Unless of course there are 7 super kawaii, moe and pretty bishoujos at my side that I could pret with than that’s a different story.
 

Pretear

I never thought that I would watch another art themed anime such as GA Geijutsuka Art Design Class. Okay, so perhaps the main excuse was the cute bunch of girls as the series’ main protagonists. So am I paying attention to the art details or the girls, you say? Both, I say. Firstly, if you have any intentions of watching this series, you need to have a little interest in art. Though I can’t say that for myself nor am I an artistic person, but based on my previous experiences in watching art themed animes, it wouldn’t hurt a bit since there’d be some comedy factors which I look forward to.
 
As a down side, it may be boring when they start explaining art terms and such to a noob like me. As far as I can remember, unlike Sketchbook ~Full Colors~ or the Hidamari Sketch series, this anime does explain to viewers art techniques, the basics and the likes. It’s no surprise since the producers did get guidance from the Joshimi University of Art and Design. Don’t play play. Graduates and experts materials here. So in addition to the visual eye candy of the various art displays, remember to take down important notes for those of you who are interested into venturing into this field.
 
Next of course would be the characters. Without the unique and lively characters, this series would be tad boring. To sum up the main quintet students of the art class, we have Kisaragi Yamaguchi who is the gentle, shy and naive one of the pack. Sometimes I feel her glasses are too low hanging on her cheeks that it may drop anytime. Next is the cheeky and petite Miki Noda. One half responsible for ‘mischief’ and probably why the series is lively because this cute girl spicing up things with her weird ideas whenever she’s bored. The other half of the mischief goes to Tomokane, the hyperactive tomboyish girl of the pack and a little temperament and brute. Then we have the mysterious and ominous-sounding Miyabi "Kyouju" Oomichi. She reminds like a chibi version of Mai-HiME’s Natsuki. Serious and never seen with a smile, you can’t help love this stoic but intelligent girl. Last but not least, Namiko Nozaki, the girl with a big heart and usually plays the big sister of the pack. Not to mention her well endowed figure. Probably it ‘stands out’ because the rest are so flat chest. Haha. Just kidding. Seriously.
 
Since the series do not have a particular plot, each episode begins with a short play to say that the show is starting and the episode proper is divided into short skits. If you even noticed them. Though they stick to a particular theme for that episode, some of the scenarios are so short that it makes you go "What was that all about?". But I guess having a long winded plot won’t work for an anime of this genre either. So as episode 1 introduces the main characters, our first ‘lesson’ sees the girls drawing and having fun (or maybe screwing around if you’re looking at Noda and Tomokane) with poster colours. Then the girls give insights and tips on pictograms, which is part of their class assignment. Then there’s this spoof of Power Rangers of the girls called Colour Warriors Irodorangers. Red, Yellow, Cyan, Pink and Black. They assist those who have trouble in their assignments. Like do we need them? Here, they do some weird combo sketch of the word "GA" on the easel. But it was a big failure in the end when white paint is hosed all over it. Back to reality, the lecture continues with lessons on visuals and colouring and the use of computers for modern art which has both its pros and cons. Finally when the girls hand in their pictogram assignments to their homeroom teacher, Takuma Sotoma, he notes their creativity but thinks they serve no actual use in real life. Yeah, maybe just wanting to get over the deadline. And if those pictograms were really used in real life, I’m sure the havoc and confusion it will cause after the heartily laughter.
 
In episode 2, Noda notes a very short pencil from Kisaragi as she tells them that this special pencil she bought during the time she sat for her high school entrance exam. So a short flashback on how Kisaragi went into a stationery shop and panicked to buy a pencil just before the exam so the granny of the store gave her a special set of pencils believed to be used by some famous poet and scholar. Gullible Kisaragi bought them and of course her pals think she has been ripped off and think granny just wanted to get rid of the old stocks. Though Kisaragi says her art did improve, the rest thinks it’s due to her hard work she’d put in all these years. Next, Tomokane fell asleep and dreams of some fantasy shonen-like adventure with Noda fuelling the fire whispering the story in her ears. Like she’s the heroine enrolled in this school to hunt for the Dark Arts organization who killed her brother. She meets bully victim Kisaragi and saves her from her tormentors Noda and Namiko. Then in some sketching battle, Sotoma declares Tomokane the winner though her opponent’s drawing was so real and photo-like. The reason? Well, this is a sketch competition so I guess Tomokane’s sketch lines were pretty… sketchy. Then a twist which has Tomokane finding out Kisaragi’s spectacles are a symbol for the Dark Arts but that’s when she got up from her dream. Back in reality, the lesson continues with the different types of pencils and its grading which indicates its shading intensity. Lastly, Kisaragi goes back to the stationery store but finds out from the storekeeper that granny has passed away. The storekeeper notes that Kisaragi was one of those people who got tricked by granny’s stories to buy her old stocks so he gives a set to her for free since he knows she takes care of them and that not many people today uses pencils. Next day, Noda sees Kisaragi sharpening her new pencils but isn’t the one she bought from the shop. She says she’ll save them for special occasions instead. Come to think of it, I have several short pencils still kept in my drawer from my high school days…
 
In episode 3, the girls play a colour version of tag. Then they gather materials needed to make a collage. The girls state their reasons why they enrolled in this school as we are told that chickens are the school’s symbol and are treated as lords thus the reason why we see them roaming around freely on the school grounds. Cute. Were you expecting something else? If it was kittens then I don’t think that feline lover Kisaragi will ever concentrate on her work. She loves them too much to even go into daydreaming mode or easily distracted by them. However this series won’t be totally fun by focusing on our main quartet. At times, the story will feature the other art club members. Note, art club not art class. Yeah, why do they need to have an art club in this art school? For those who aren’t in art class. One such person is third year student Chikako Awara. She is in despair and finding refuge in her best friend, Mizubuchi, that her art club will be terminated since there aren’t enough members. Besides the guys, Uozumi and Homura, and the couldn’t-care-less club’s advisor, Sasamoto, they are just 2 members short. But they can just get by with at least 1 freshman. Mizubuchi can’t join because she’s in another club so desperate Awara makes their mannequin, Sanae, their fourth member. Shot down. They decide to ask Mizubuchi’s childhood friend Kisaragi but see her happy with her own pals and drop the idea. Though they didn’t get to recruit, Awara learns that a merger proposition to avoid the disbandment with the School Life Environment Club which has only 1 member. Awara is brought to tears and it seems Mizubuchi is the only member of that club. Yeah, it’s a small world alright. Back to our main girls, Kyouju is it in the colour tag so Tomokane and Noda brought their 256 colour reference book so as not to be defeated. Of course she throws them off course with a difficult colour and tags Tomokane. Then when Kisaragi got tagged and thinking how she wasn’t good at it while she was young, she starts crying so Kyouju takes over her it tag. Then I’m not sure what she’s doing because she’s burying it in the grounds later.
 
The gang are using their handphone to take photos as part of their art assignment in episode 4, which startles a naive teacher, Mayumi Usami. After some tips on how to effectively use photos for art, then it’s the AIDMA rule to attract customers for an advertisement and the girls painting at the back of each other’s white lab coats. During lunch time, Noda and Tomokane have them draw lots to make lunch more interesting. The girls are to do whatever their paper they have picked indicates. While Kyouju seems to be safe, Namiko seems to be the one ‘screwed’ at the end. Fortunately she manages to turn that drawback to her advantage and turn the tables on Noda and Tomokane. After recess, it’s portrait drawing as Noda pretends to interview her pals. Bored Noda makes a play using the colour equipment while the rest continue with their stamping art and action painting, Kyouju uses jam for her paint since they don’t have red, Namiko makes that mistake of mixing up a cup of water to soak her brush and her drink (not sure if she drank it afterwards). When their work is done and left to dry, Tomokane accidentally rips it so they improvise by handing in a collage of the ripped piece. They got an ‘A’ for excellent dedication except for Kyouju who got a ‘B’ for a very unique smell in her piece. I hope nobody ate that piece.
 
Kisaragi accidentally breaks Sotoma’s coffee cup so the gang improvises and make him a paper cup in episode 5. They also show him their assignments, which is to design a household tool. As usual, their drawings are creative but he tells them to redo them again (Noda’s alien abducting drawing?). They redo it but it is as outrageous so Sotoma tells them to go back to the drawing board once more. Sotoma learns from Usami, Kisaragi’s soft mug design since she got the idea that such mugs are easily broken. Next, the girls celebrate Namiko’s birthday in the art room as the girls learn of a shocking discovery that Kyouju doesn’t have a boyfriend though she is popular but her parents has arranged a fiancee for her. On the other hand, the art club members are cleaning up their club room (Awara made a cosy box cottage for herself to sleep in?!). While cleaning, they find several textbooks on certain subjects. Then Sotoma wants to get some materials from the storeroom so the kids opened the never-have-been-opened-for-a-long-time door. They went in clean and came out messy. Seems the door was connected to another art room but was never used. They finished cleaning and Awara’s cosy cottage is thrown away. But the next day as Mizubuchi spots her dozing off on her chair, she just puts an entire card box on her. Meanwhile on a rainy day, Namiko, Noda and Tomokane forget to bring their umbrella. Kisaragi has one to spare but notices that it is her cute kitten umbrella. She puts it back in and runs away. Tomokane and Noda give chase. Good luck.
 
We are introduced to a boy who has a weak body and thus his frequent visit to the infirmary in episode 6. I’ll refer to him as Ill Boy. He is being brought by Uozumi and Homura to the art club but the place is totally pitched black. They see Awara sleeping with that card box over her and when they lift it, they see her bloodied and disfigured face. They put it back down without any reaction. This pisses off Awara as her plan was to scare them. Seems that there are scaring props left behind by their seniors so Awara plans to have a scare fest. And when Awara learns of Ill Boy, she won’t let him escape and wants him to join the club. The gang rummage through the stuff and preparing for the scare fest, Usami decides to go look for a stopper for a broken painting stand in the art club. Mizubuchi goes out to lure some guinea-pigs and Usami happens to be the first one. She got easily scared and rushed out only to meet Kisaragi and her friends. Though they don’t understand what’s going on, they decide to help her retrieve her painting stand which she accidentally left behind during her fright. So the usual scaring affair. As expected Kisaragi is totally afraid while Noda is absorbing all those ‘evil’ ideas for her mischief. Tomokane just smashes her way through breaking anything in front of her. Then at the exit, there are 2 doors. They open one in which every damn thing in the store room comes falling out. Before exiting the real door, the girls just take whatever since they don’t remember what Usami was looking for. When they come out, they show her all the scary props in their hands and thinks one of them should be the item she’s looking for. Another fright for her life. In the aftermath, the art club is messed up like as though a typhoon has passed. As they clean up, Ill Boy hands in his application to join the club, much to Awara’s delight. Ill Boy mentions that one of the girls back there was his sister: Tomokane. Tomokane too has a feeling that her brother was behind it since she could never beat him mentally or physically (he’s weak so she can’t touch him). Ill Boy feels energized and thinks the art club is interesting.
 
Episode 7 is about Trompe-l’oeil or visual trickery (such as optical illusions). A classmate of theirs, Yoshikawa, informs the girls that her works and Kyouju won awards in the art exhibition and are being exhibit for several days. She invites them to come take back the art from the gallery. The group visit the gallery and had their fill watching several famous paintings and sculptures of art. I don’t know. To me, it has always been a piece of paper scribbled with lines and colours or a piece of nicely dented stones (don’t hate me art purists!). As Kisaragi admires Kyouju and Yoshikawa’s works, she says how she felt a little envious and feels a little frustrated. The rest comfort her and thinks she loves painting and felt that way since she spent so much time on it and yet didn’t get selected. When they return to class, Noda feels that though she is an art student, she doesn’t know much about arts so the rest suggest visiting an art museum come Sunday. In addition to arts for adult, there’s a section for kids too. The one with kittens are real tempting for Kisaragi. While the girls take their time to admire the works, Noda seems to be browsing them quickly. Something about you really need to take a good look from every point and angle if you’re to appreciate this kind of thing. In the end though the girls feel modern art is a difficult genre, Namiko suggests to suit their level, they browse the kiddie’s section. Yeah, easier to understand. Horrible drawings in my opinion. Heck, better than mine anytime. Noda notes that she’s taking a short break from this kind of art but when she sees a person with an overwhelming fashion, she gets hyped up. Well, that’s her passion. Isn’t that a form of arts too?
 
The theme for episode 8 is surrealism. We are given examples on names of colours which are divided into systematic name and character name and what colours represent. Later the girls go to the store to shop for art materials as we learn different categories of colouring such as pastel, pale tone, dark tone, oil paint, transparent watercolour, colour pencil and charcoal. Kisaragi seems to be so sleepy that she slept through class and attempts to wake her up were futile. Her pals had a hard time standing in for her. Kisaragi dreams the weirdest dream a girl like her could dream. Like the so cliche every time she thinks she woke up from a dream, something strange happens and she finds herself still dreaming. This include the locker room getting flooded, a giant ball chasing her down an eternal staircase, walking through an optic illusion place and painting a door to escape it, seeing Namiko hanging onto the sky, the black paint going wild as it engulfs her and finally herself sketching things while she was young. When she wakes up for real, her pals hand her today’s assignment on surrealism and magic realism. Though the rest have trouble explaining it, Kisaragi feels it’s like drawing the world in your dreams. That’s why the saying your future depends on your dreams, right? So go to sleep!
 
A strong wind in episode 9 so much so it messes the hairstyles of Namiko and Noda. Kisaragi shows them a colour ink she got from a childhood friend as a congratulatory gift for passing the entrance exam. However it was too precious to be used and therefore never used. Then the talk around school as one of their students appeared as a model on a front page of a magazine and has garnered a legion of fans. She seems to be Noda’s sister. Then Kisaragi feels a little ill after overworking on her assignment so Kyouju freshens her up with grape juice but she got drunk! Seeing that she was just hungry, they let her have some biscuits. Later Uozumi and Homura have trouble cleaning the courtyard since they can’t hurt the chickens or they’ll really retaliate. That’s the school’s lord for you. Tomokane eavesdropped and got an idea. Yeah, it’s Irodorangers again. They’re up against a giant chicken who doesn’t mind them cleaning but it got out of hand when they paint the word ‘bird’ with several modifications and designs on its belly. The chicken is now mad and powers up into a monstrous self. So the Irodorangers summon their card box mecha and fire colour paintbrush missiles which is as effective as real missiles. Their attack fails till Kyouju steps in and with her mysterious blast, sends the chicken squirming in fear and apologizing for his arrogance before dispersing into several little chickens. In reality, I don’t know how but Kyouju manages to line up the chickens perfectly and making them march. Wow. It’s another rainy day and as usual Kisaragi doesn’t want to lend her cute umbrella to those who forget. But will Tomokane and Noda give up? But thankfully the sun comes up so the girls walk back together while describing the spectrums of the rainbow. Kyouju informs another interesting bit that the spectrum was discovered by Newton, the same guy who discovered gravity from falling apples. And speaking of apples, the girls decide to try out a new menu at a nearby cafe.
 
The bloodmobile is in town for a blood donation drive in episode 10. Usami is in charge of gathering those interested but she herself seems nervous. Sotoma announces this to his class so cheeky Noda asks that if they donate blood, can they skip class. He agrees but only if she turns 16, which she isn’t. The only one among them who is old enough to do so is Namiko. Meanwhile, the rest gets an assignment to design a mascot for the blood donation drive. Each of them comes up with their own interpretation and perceptions of what it should be (vampires to mosquitoes to a dying heart in need of blood?). By that time, they still haven’t come up with an idea as Namiko comes back. They ask her if anybody cried so Namiko points out Usami though she didn’t manage to donate blood because she didn’t weigh enough. Days later, Sotoma notices a report that Awara has won the contest for the blood donation drive mascot. However Awara wasn’t even aware that she submitted for it! Later Namiko seems depressed so Kisaragi advices her to cheer up because every time she sighs, a bit of happiness flies away. Noda cheekily grabs it (she’s like smashing a mosquito?!). Noda suggests that Namiko needs to break free from her boring routine like enter class dramatically, in which she did. Then Noda accidentally spills a box of metal screws and Kyouju suggests picking them up with her metallic hairpin. Now this is another mysterious point of her. Things suggest that she may be a robot because she still has screws stuck on her head! So is she really one? Then the usual lunch folly (like those who eat muffins are from the mafia?). After that, the girls discuss about some people who dream in colours while others in monochrome. I’m not sure about that big card box in which Kisaragi felt like crawling into it. Uh… Kyouju’s there too. As Noda and Kisaragi lament the amount of art equipment they have to bring back and forth to school, they cheekily sense Namiko’s sigh and tries to grab it. It ends with them buying more art supplies at the store before going home.
 
In episode 11, Kisaragi finds an old pasteboard and couldn’t help draw a cat when she spots the drawing of a cat looking for a girlfriend. Awara is assigned to draw a picture storybook for pre-school kids. Since they are presenting it to little kids, colour plays a big part in their story. As motivation, Awara has been given 5000 Yen as financial assistance on its production and wants her art club members to help out. Doesn’t the heroine in the story look very much like Kisaragi? Sure does. Mizubuchi decides to call Kisaragi for help since she is knowledgeable in this area. Mizubuchi also suggests making it interactive so the kids could join in. Uozumi and Homura went to do the presentation to the kids and it seems they were laughing questioning their weird drawings. Hey, they had fun, didn’t they? Kisaragi is low on art supplies again so the rest accompanies her to buy them. However she notes that her allowance is running low this month so the sale really helps. While they browse around, the usual fooling around from Noda and Tomokane playing with stamps, pinning hair clips over Kyouju’s hair and getting enthralled with a grand painting set which costs 100,000 Yen! As they make their purchase, they are entitled for a lottery draw. Noda volunteers and manages to get stationery vouchers worth 1,500 Yen each! Noda and Tomokane show their appreciation to Kisaragi for buying them notebooks by treating her to crepes. Finally as Kisaragi is searching through the pasteboards, she notices the cat one with kittens multiplied. Lots of them.
 
Namiko is absent from school due to a cold in episode 12. It seems the cause was the usual folly from Tomokane and Noda the other day, splashing water here and there while washing their art tools. However, Namiko has some sort of ESP as she keeps texting Kisaragi about the stuff that are about to happen such as Tomokane and Noda teasing her behind her back, the due assignment and the cake shop buffet. Even the cheeky duo felt it was nothing without Namiko around. Wonder why those 2 didn’t catch a cold? There’s a Japanese belief that idiots don’t catch cold, right? When Namiko comes back the next day feeling better, Tomokane and Noda try to hide Namiko’s ‘finished’ assignment because the day before, they ‘help’ her finish painting it. Yeah, their face is getting paler. They know what’s coming. Then another assignment from Usami to draw feelings of expression. Kisaragi thinks of finishing this fast so Namiko suggests them for a sleepover at her place. After buying food ingredients, they arrive at Namiko’s home for the much anticipated Yami Nabe. What kind of nabe is that? Well, you turn of the lights, throw in all sort of ingredients in the pot, wait for it to cook, then everyone picks and eats the whatever ingredient they got. Oh yeah, Fear Factor! You know what this means if we have Tomokane and Noda around. Yeah, Noda put in potato chips, chocolate, candy balls, etc. WTF?! When it’s time, Kisaragi takes a peep and I think it’s so horrible that even Kyouju notes that it has turned into Chaos Nabe. Everyone has an awful time trying to finish the servings while drawing their feeling and expression at the same time. Killing 2 birds with 1 stone. Can’t finish the nabe? They have to. It’s going to be a long night. Next day, Kisaragi relates this incident to Mizubuchi and it seems nabe-lover Awara is planning her own version of Yami Nabe for her club members. Usami is happy with the many assignments as Kisaragi and her pals continue to do stuff together. Okay, so maybe the half priced baked sweets is more tempting than finishing their assignments.
 
As expected, I wasn’t hoping much for an ending for such a series. I mean, what else more would you want? Everybody is happy with the way things are and live goes on. Though there are times I caught myself yawning as some of the art topics didn’t really interest me, it was mainly the characters’ antics which put a little smile on my face. This show could have been a real bore fest and cure for those with insomnia had not been for Noda and Tomokane. You could say that their little harmless pranks are creative and they could be top students if they put those creativity to good use. Thankfully there is Namiko to put her foot down and brakes if those 2 ever got out of line. Kyouju is still a mystifying character. Sometimes I feel her personality makes her suitable for black arts if she intends to venture into it. Hope not. And I’m sure Kisaragi would turn out to be a brilliant artist if she isn’t so gullible or easily distracted by cute kittens. By the way, it still wonders me why the art club members don’t actually join a real art class like the quintet if they’re interested in arts. Maybe they’re just part time or wanting a place to sit around? Just like Sasamoto who treats the club room as her personal retreat or hangout, eh? Who says everyone is perfect anyway? Though the art lessons do give insights on art enthusiasts, I noticed that as the episodes go by, they gradually lessen. As for the drawing and animation of this series, it’s not like everything is eye candy or high quality. Just your standard conventional Japanese anime art with cute wide eyed characters, that’s all.
 
I didn’t initially take note of the seiyuus but later on to my surprise that there are quite a few well known seiyuus voicing the characters. For instance Kisaragi is voiced by Haruka Tomatsu and she’s barely unrecognizable if I didn’t find out about this. After hearing her voice lively roles like Lala in To Love-Ru, Ayame in Asu No Yoichi and Nagi in Kannagi: Crazy Shrine Maidens, it was unthinkable that it was her voice behind this gentle girl. Then there’s Yui Horie as Namiko (Naru in Love Hina, Eri in School Rumble) and no matter how many times I just can’t seem to recognize her voice at first go. Same case with the versatile Miyuki Sawashiro as Tomokane, both the brother and sister. Need to hear more of the person who voiced Rozen Maiden’s Shinku and Galaxy Angel’s Mint. Then there’s Kaori Nazuka as Kyouju (Hiromi in True Tears, Kaya in Natsu No Arashi) good job in making her character so mysterious yet interesting, Akemi Kanda as Awara (Mikan of Gakuen Alice), Ami Koshimizu as Mizubuchi (Tenma of School Rumble), Minami Takayama as Sasamoto (Conan of Detective Conan fame, Nabiki of Ranma 1/2) and Ai Tokunga as Noda (Viola in Kiddy Grade) who fits nicely in making her character sound cheeky.
 
The opening theme is entitled Osaki Ni Sil Vous Plait and is sung by the seiyuus of the main quartet of girls. As expected from this lively piece, the lyrics are filled with words relating to art and I there are certain things in the art-filled opening animation which I find a little weird. Yeah, like that weird dance in the opening with the girls in kimono leaping while rolling their wrists (like those you see in boxing training). Not that it will catch up and be a dance trend but I still find it funny nevertheless. And what’s with the opening lines which repetitively go "Hitotsu, hitotsu, hitotsu, hitotsu, hitotsu…"? I don’t know how many times but I lost count. Don’t mention that rap part too… Though there is 1 main ending theme called Coloring Palettes, each of them are sung in different beat, style and tempos depending on the seiyuu voicing them. It is befitting since it also reflects the personality of that particular character they voiced. The ending credits animation shows in chibi form of what the girls do when they were young (may be related to art or not). Throughout the series, I noticed the several background music to be jazzy, casual and fun. This is important and suitable since it doesn’t make the whole show sound empty. Just like art itself needs to be fun, I guess it is right to have fun-filled ear candy as well.
 
Art is still a subject which doesn’t interest me partly because I was never good at it. Well, it still depends much on the individual. I guess anime and manga are another type and form of art, no? So after watching a handful of art related animes, I’m starting to really think that art class students are just as quirky due to their creativity. I mean, if you’re going to be a boring and monotonous person (I’m the one to say), might as well take up history. Sorry, not meant to say that history is really boring but the general perception and those who aren’t really keen on the subject (like me) would say so. And yeah, I still can’t draw a decent anime character. Only lame stick people…
 

GA Geijutsuka Art Design Class

Yoku Wakaru Gendai Mahou

April 17, 2010

When we think of magic, we conjure up images of wizards, mages, dragons and all those fantasy related stuff. That is of course old school magic. What about new age magic? If you’re interested, then have a look at Yoku Wakaru Gendai Mahou. Not to say that this anime teaches modern magic but as we are all accustomed to think that magic are cast by chanting spells via a magic user. That is classical magic. In this series, one can make modern magic via computer programming! Wow! Serious?! At least in this anime. Now that is what I call technology advancement for magic.
 
If you intend to watch this series, please note that there are quite a few terms in it. However if you are computer savvy (unlike yours truly) then the terms should be a little easier to understand. Of course there are terms of their own for example magic spells in this series are termed as Codes. Probably it is befitting because just like writing computer programmes, require certain codes for input, right? Erm… I don’t even know what I’m saying.
 
Prior to the start of the 12 episode TV series, there has been a special episode release on the web dubbed as episode 0. I guess it’s to serve as an introduction for viewers to expect for what is to come. Being an introductory episode, we are introduced to modern magic student, Koyomi Morishita. Now this little ditzy girl isn’t what anybody would call their A student. Not athletic, lousy grades, slow learner and what’s more her only magic ability is to turn things into wash basins. That’s it. Unlike her classmate Kaho Sakazaki who is a total opposite. She grasps and learns things quickly. Maybe she just needs to improve on her monotonous ‘lazy-like’ voice and facial expressions. Maybe not. Both are under the cool and calm modern magic teacher Misa Anehara. I guess she too has her quirky habits as she receives a mail package of a lion head bathtub thingy. Of course her serious and moody cynical little brother Soushirou isn’t too happy about it. Not as upset as another fellow magic user, Yumiko Cristina Ichinose will soon find out that Misa billed it to her name. Well Misa reasoning is that Yumiko is always barging in and destroying stuff while she’s at work so it’s right that she bears the costs. Before Yumiko could punish Misa, Koyomi has just finished some computer programming assignment but it turns out to be a wash basin landing over Yumiko’s head. Ouch. With that, Yumiko decides to give Koyomi a special training so that she could summon other things rather than wash basins. Good luck Yumiko.
 
I’m not sure what Yumiko’s reasoning is for them to don PE clothes for their training (besides fanservice purpose I guess) but running around town in that outfit would surely make heads turn. Hope no hardcore otakus are around. With Kaho tagging along on a bicycle, Yumiko and Koyomi make several laps around town. However Koyomi is like a magnet for bad luck because she’s always getting into unfortunate situations like being taken away by the crowd. Somehow. Then Yumiko decides to do voice training so that she could chant spells properly. Unfortunately, she bit her tongue. Yeah, how useless can she be? Desperate Yumiko then plans to help her construct her Code whereby Koyomi has to use her heart to complete it. Guess what comes out? A wash basin. Over Yumiko’s head. Deja vu? So I guess even Yumiko decides to change her teaching style and instead of making Koyomi learn new Codes, have her improve on her existing one. Like taking the easy way out, eh? So Yumiko starts attacking Koyomi seriously but each time, a wash basin appears. Yeah, I think there are hundreds of them summoned by this time. But look on the bright side. Each one of them has different designs and colours. An improvement, I’d say! Not if unless you’re Soushirou who thinks the gang are making a mess, a wash basin junkyard right at the back of his yard.
 
Kiasu Yumiko decides to unleash a stronger magic this time and this causes the sky to turn black and a strong storm sending all the wash basins to the air. Koyomi panics and uses her magic. The sky then turns back to normal. Can it be true that she stopped it? Has she really improved? Erm… Seems a giant wash basin crashed into the rooftop of the house. I guess it’s time for Yumiko to give up. With the wash basin stuck on the rooftop, Soushirou can’t do his cooking nor can the girls take a bath because the heater’s out. Misa has an idea. With a little improvisation, the girls take a hot bath in the giant wash basin. Wow. It’s like an open hotspring under the beautiful sky. Then they all remember that Koyomi’s summoned wash basins would disappear after some time. And that time happens to be now. Get ready for the biggest disappearing act. At least this answered my question of why Koyomi didn’t open a shop selling wash basins.
 
The story proper begins in episode 1 as we see Koyomi and young Yumiko battling a mage named Jean-Jacques Guibarthez. Of course a pair of lolis isn’t good enough to take a seasoned mage. This was what happened 6 hours earlier. Yumiko was running away from home and seeking to find Anehara’s Cross School of Magic as written in her late grandpa’s notes to learn magic and become a mage since she herself is a naturally born mage. Plus, she’s had enough of naughty skirt flipping boys in which she retaliated by throwing her panties in his face and sent that stupid kid crying. He deserved it. And the teacher thought she was too much? Has she ever heard of sexual harassment? Odd part is she decide to run away without anything else except her staff Kerykeion? Even if she didn’t intend to pack some clothes, didn’t she remember to wear panties? Forget about that. In town she comes across Guibarthez who seeks Kerykeion and of course she isn’t going to hand it to him on a silver platter. Elsewhere we see Misa programming Codes to even make people have desires to buy the latest phones! Woah! Is this even possible?! Is this even morally and legally correct?! Well some store manager wanted her and I guess she’s being paid to do a job. Now that sure is modern magic.
 
Yumiko arrives at Misa’s house but Guibarthez too is here. Suddenly Koyomi pops out of nowhere and hugs Yumiko, claiming to know her 6 years in the future. Huh? Did Koyomi travel back in time? I mean, her stature didn’t change much (aside that she has a body of a child though she’s a high school girl) and that Soushirou is actually a young boy instead of a tall handsome hunk (okay, some may want to differ on this). Yumiko doesn’t know her and mistakes her to be Misa, just as Guibarthez because of her wash basin summoning Code. That distraction was enough for the gang to make a run. However they can’t just rest yet because a two-headed dog appears to attack them. Yumiko runs into a dead-end alley so she decides to stand her ground as she chants a Code to successfully disintegrate the beast. Yumiko then is able to see all the Codes that are hovering around the city. Guibarthez then praises her for being able to use such magic and is truly a descendent of Cristbarth (Yumiko’s grandpa). Guibarthez is ready to kill Yumiko but she is being shielded. It is Misa arriving on scene in a Santarina outfit (must be part of that job of hers) and Yumiko thinks she’s Santa Claus. Hey, no white beard or pot belly lah…
 
Don’t panic if the story doesn’t continue in episode 2. As seen, Koyomi arrives at Misa’s house to learn magic because she wants help in improving herself. However Misa says this house is just a normal residence and the letter she got probably was in the 1800’s and noting the tons of Codes the letter has. Also note Soushirou’s cynical approach towards magic. Yup, that moody guy really doesn’t believe in that crap and shrugs it off and thinks it’s crazy talk. Probably that’s why he’s got an attitude. So Misa proceeds to take Koyomi to her lab upstairs to test and explain to her about Codes. While conducting the test, a Daemon (something like a stray hostile) attacks them but is shortly being brought under control. Misa notes that Koyomi can see them. Next day, Koyomi follows Kaho to Akihabara (yeah, the holy grail of all otakus) but as usual she gets lost. At a dark car park area, she spots a cosplaying idol being attacked by an obsessed fan. He attacks but a barrier protects them so he flees. That barrier was from Misa. Seems like she’s being employed for another job programming Codes to make people who listen to that idol’s music into her fans. Danger is, it could create obsessed fans like that one. So Misa shows Koyomi what she does in her job and this includes programming a Code for people to buy her DVD (now I know why otakus buy them). She asks if Koyomi is interested in helping a mage of the good side.
 
Suddenly the stage is covered in smoke as the idol is being taken away. Later as she is walking in the car park, the obsessed fan once again attacks her. However it is just a ploy by Misa. It seems Koyomi was being disguised as the idol as Misa pinpoints from her investigation that the obsessed fan is the agency president himself (not sure if this is part of the Code’s doing or his own). The president attempts to escape but Misa programs a Code to split the car in half (OMG!). Then his assistant has taken Koyomi as hostage. Koyomi then uses the amulet that Misa gave to her earlier on and uses it to form her own Code. Yeah, you’ve guessed it. A wash basin falling over his head. In the aftermath, Misa asks Koyomi if she wants to learn magic and if she wants to, will not charge her a cent. But Koyomi is still unsure knowing herself to be a klutz and not good with machines with more than 3 buttons (I guess the elevator’s out then, huh?). When Misa says that depending on her choice she could change chance into fate, Koyomi agrees to learn magic from her. From nearby, Kaho sees them shaking hands.
 
In episode 3, not only Koyomi becomes Misa’s student but Kaho as well. One day while Koyomi was rushing to school, she bumps into Yumiko who has just arrived at the gates (more like getting faceboob). Koyomi thought she was a foreigner and looked pretty cute but Yumiko is well versed in Japanese and soon leaves. In class, Koyomi sees a Daemon but Kaho couldn’t. Koyomi leads in following the Daemon as it transforms into a scorpion-like creature. If it had not been for Yumiko, the girls would’ve been toast. Seems that she is doing an investigation on how is unleashing the Daemons. I don’t know if this is her fate or what because the Daemons too somehow stole her panties. Like everybody/thing wants to have a look at it. Yeah another chase around town while trying to get her undies back. Of course Yumiko bumps into Koyomi and they agree to find the Daemon. Plus, Yumiko thinks she has some high class magic skill after summoning a wash basin. Yeah, that’s all you’re going to see, girl. Elsewhere, Misa is waiting for Yumiko at a restaurant but the latter is no show because she is Daemon hunting with the klutz girl. Their investigation leads them to a building whereby they see several Daemons around the servers. Something about the server linking to the parallel world and is a huge magic circle to summon Daemons.
 
Yumiko plans to take them all out by herself when her handphone rings (from Misa). Annoyed that her perfect plan is ruined, she hangs up and braces for attack. The Daemons relentlessly attack the barrier Yumiko make and it is draining her powers as she can’t make an offensive move. Furthermore, she’s starting to bleed. Then she learns the truth about Koyomi’s only ability and decides to buy time for Koyomi to run away. When Koyomi does so, she thinks that this isn’t right and her earnest feelings to reject all this has all the Daemons turned into wash basins. Just as Yumiko acknowledges and thanks Koyomi, a wash basin drops on her head. That sure ruined the mood. Koyomi goes back to Misa’s place to take a bath and Soushirou isn’t happy that there are quite a few weird people coming in to take a bath. It seems Yumiko has just gotten out of one and as she quips, it is like fate for them to meet again.
 
So in episode 4, Yumiko is accusing Misa that she was the one who unleashed the Daemons but as explained it wasn’t. So Misa will help Yumiko in finding the one responsible for those modified Daemons. And which better place to start by gathering lots of information and interviewing people than the amusement water park? Yeah, an excuse to have fun and fanservice. As usual, Koyomi’s slipping up and Yumiko having to bear the humiliating end really does test her patience. She then attacks Misa for the more humiliation that she suffered (at a place like this?). Luckily Misa has the upper hand in the form of Koyomi which means all her attacks turn into wash basins. While Koyomi is riding the water tube, she sees and hears a giggling light. Misa is seen talking to a friend of hers, Gary Huang, who helps her out with some info about the modified worms. He says that this is probably the work of some guy called Jinzai but he’s dead. Just as Koyomi is learning to swim, she is submerged underwater and hears that giggling voice again before passing out. She comes to later and the gang decides to search the entire place after feeling that there is a Daemon Code. During then, the pool waves start to go out of control and with the combination of Yumiko’s classical magic and Misa’s modern magic, they put the stop to the waves. Well, just live with the red sticky stuff that it turned into. Koyomi hears the voice again and follows it to the water circulation facility room. The girls except Kaho see a spirit-like image as Misa explains it as a Jini, a spirit that lives through objects. Since it is the cause of the accidents, they have to erase it but Koyomi feels bad. There is no other way to rewrite it since it’s unstable. When the gang walks home, Yumiko tells Koyomi that she is not suited to be a mage.
 
Episode 5 reconnects where episode 1 has left off. It may be a little confusing because it flashes back and forth between past and present. Guibarthez backs off after Santa Misa’s arrival but will be back. Guibarthez remembers some Code which awoken him from his sleep, the Code from his arch-enemy Kenjurou Anehara whom he has once fought and also against Cristbarth. Elsewhere, Koyomi learns about Ghostscripts in which when living things die, they leave behind very strong Codes and thus why some are able to see them as ghost-like. When Koyomi sees a cat Ghostscript, this prompts her to ask why Yumiko doesn’t like cats. So Misa suggests taking a peek into the past via a program that she wrote with lots of Ghostscripts and there is one which posed a problem called Christmas Shopper. She wants Koyomi to go back 6 years to find out the password for its execution. And so that’s how Koyomi ended up 6 years ago though in reality her real body is in present time and I guess it’s all in the mind as she goes through this 6 years in the past visions via goggles. So that is what Koyomi told the 6 years ago Misa so she agrees to send her back to her real world via some large scale magic that uses a network called Christmas Shopper. Problem is, Koyomi is greatly entangled in this world’s Code so anything that goes wrong here could affect her real body and advices her to stay put and that Yumiko is able to handle this herself. But Koyomi isn’t going to let her friend die and goes out to search for her.
 
Soon Guibarthez comes knocking on Misa’s door and tells that he is seeking for the Sorceress’ Library left behind by Digitalis Flammalacia which is believed to be sealed in Kerykeion. Digitalis was rumoured to be some vile mage that took the lives of 100,000 men and has been revived countless times every time is being killed. Since Misa isn’t interested in the library because she’s planning on performing a magical ceremony, she strikes a deal that neither should get in each other’s way till they’re done in achieving what they want. Meanwhile Koyomi has found Yumiko on the streets and you should hear this comment of hers. Something about how Yumiko’s Siberian plains will grow into Mount Everest in several years time! I know she’s slow but she’s got an acid tongue too, though unintentional. Though Koyomi is infatuated with cute little Yumiko, the latter isn’t amused that she’s being made fun of and attacks her with Kerykeion. Of course the aftermath is wash basin, you know why lah. Yumiko learns that she isn’t Misa. As Koyomi goes to buy burgers for them to eat, Yumiko sees an apparition of her granddad, who tells her something about which is stronger: A hunter, an elephant or the president of USA (huh?). He also tells her not to hand the staff to Guibarthez before disappearing. When Koyomi comes back and the girls eat, their dinner is interrupted with the appearance of Guibarthez.
 
In episode 6, Yumiko makes a deal to end it all in a battle atop a building later. She tells Koyomi to go back to her time. While biding her time alone at the park, Yumiko remembers the time her parents brought her to the park. So before the battle starts, Yumiko asks Guibarthez that strongest question which of the 3 is him. He answers that mages are elephants because magic is power bla bla bla. Yeah, if he controls the Sorceress’ Library, he’ll control the world. What else is new? Little Yumiko is no match for Guibarthez as he snatches her staff away. Koyomi, who has gone back to Misa, decides to go back to Yumiko again. She will help Yumiko recover her staff as Guibarthez starts retrieving the library, unleashing lots of Ghostscripts. Meanwhile Misa creates an amulet loaded with 2048 different variable Codes and leaves her home. While fending off against the hordes of Ghostscripts, Yumiko says she will be the bait to allow Koyomi to attack. Guibarthez has obtained the Sorceress’ Library and has no further need for Kerykeion. Now he is going to finish the girls. Their baiting plan fails but luckily Misa arrives. She buys the girls time to think up of something while she holds off Guibarthez. She warns him that Christmas Shopper has been activated and has entered the Ghostscripts as they began their attack.
 
The girls try to hold him down as Koyomi tries to get a hold of his Code but are being hit away. Then a black cat, Katamari attacks him but was pounded away. I’m not sure if I understand what happens next because the Ghostscripts of Yumiko’s parents and those at the park starts entering Guibarthez, making all his Codes vulnerable. Koyomi then uses her magic to seal and Guibarthez into a sword that he was once sealed in. Looks like he was a Ghostscript too. Koyomi has been beamed back to her time during that stint as Koyomi hopes to her soon and become best friends while Misa takes lifeless Katamari to the vet. Back in present time, it has only been 23 seconds and Misa doesn’t need the password anymore because the effects of Christmas Shopper are gone (like she obtained the password anyway). I don’t know if going through that Ghostscript thingy did affect the flow of time because Katamari is well alive and is sort of Soushirou’s pet. Maybe it did not because Yumiko and Misa should’ve remembered who Koyomi is when they first met a few episodes back unless they totally forget this klutz girl. Seriously, who could ever forget her bumbling ways.
 
In episode 7, Koyomi and Kaho decide to put their magic to good use by helping to find a lost cat. As we know the outcome of Koyomi’s magic, Kaho’s one manage to summon a litter of them but they weren’t the cat in the poster. After lots of thinking, Koyomi thinks that her magic will improve if she gets a magic item just like Yumiko’s staff and Misa’s amulet. Finally Koyomi decides on a turtle backpack and when Yumiko discovers her intentions she feels she has misjudged her and gets a little upset. Misa puts a chip in the bag so that Koyomi will be able to perform some Codes. Though she is still gloomy over what Yumiko had said, Kaho suggests putting her magical item to use by continuing to search for the lost cat. However as expected she only manages to summon wash basins. Tons of them. But Koyomi continues to be persistent so Yumiko asks her why she’s learning magic. So that low self confidence story thingy which she always ended up quitting till she discovered that modern magic letter. Yumiko decides to help her out. With Kaho’s help via internet postings that the cat have been sighted at the nearby park (all hail the internet!), they quickly trod over. Koyomi is low on self confidence so Yumiko cheers her up. Getting serious this time, can Koyomi finally do it? Nope. Another wash basin. So Yumiko uses her magic to summon the cats. A bunch of them appear and they see the one in the poster. However more cats are appearing causing public nuisance. Yumiko thinks the Code has gone out of control and suspects Koyomi’s backpack. So Koyomi uses her magic to summon wash basins as the cats being to walk away. The crowd thinks it’s a wonderful street performance and gives a rousing applause. Back home while Soushirou still spites all that magic crap much to Koyomi’s dismay, Misa and Yumiko indirectly suspect each other of what has happened. Just when Koyomi is going to show Soushirou her magic, Katamari has shredded her backpack to pieces. Boo hoo!
 
Episode 8 starts with Misa’s flashback when she was young and her mom pregnant. Misa was curious about a sealed Daemon and accidentally unleashed it. It gone wild so her mom had to put it back under control. However the strain was too much as she died after giving birth to Soushirou. No wonder he’s so moody. In present time, Misa is on a plane doing research on recent events that involve Codes going wrong due to wrongdoings. As for the rest, they are to clean up the storeroom. Then Misa reminisces something about Christmas Shopper which made all idle computers start up on their own and played some song. The police suspected and interrogated her for causing damage to the electronics industry. After her release, that’s when she met a talented programmer from Hong Kong, Huang who is interested in her Christmas Shopper. Suddenly Misa gets a threatening email that there is a bomb onboard her plane. Being the cool girl she is, she starts looking for the bomb after her attempts to track the message sender has been impeded by the sender himself. I don’t know what Code Misa used but heck, she is searching outside on the wings of the plane! Mind blowing! There is no sign that she’ll fall off anytime. As Misa continues her search, she remembers the time when she conducted her investigations on Jinzai and that he faked his death and is very much alive living a reclusive life in his parent’s place. Though he feels guilty for his deeds he insisted he wasn’t the one who summoned the Daemons. Then Misa spots a weird box in the back of the plane and opens it only to find it as Jack-in-the-box. Realizing that this was a decoy to distract her, the real culprit, Huang, uses that time to enter Misa’s house while the rest are out to seal a sword that Guibarthez was sealed in from the storeroom. Just to be safe, Huang even programs a Code for the plane to crash! Cool Misa borrows a little girl’s teddy bear and with her Code, enlarges it to provide the plane soft landing. Unbelievable. Really. Yeah, she gets to go back and have dinner with the rest.
 
Huang must be planning something big in episode 9 because he’s hooking up lots of server to the sword. Meanwhile Misa has Koyomi accompany her to a building in which a job request to exterminate apparitions. Misa suspects something about the thievery and the request because it came simultaneously together. Plus, Misa needs money to buy a new oven that she busted (nearly destroying the entire house too). Huang has revived Guibarthez and tells his plans to revive Digitalis to obtain the Sorceress’ Library and all its Codes. Furthermore, Huang says that the girl who will act as Digitalis’ container is already here. While Misa and Koyomi are searching in the building, Yumiko confronts them and suspects Misa up to something shady. Misa throws Koyomi at Yumiko and makes a run. She then meets Huang and it seems they both have differing views on the spread of magic usage. Huang advices that it’s too risky to fight against him and it’s better for her to fight her allies. As Koyomi and Yumiko search around, the building walls and doors start to activate to separate them. Plus, a people disappearing Code makes all people in the building vanish leaving only our main protagonists. Yumiko sees Misa as the duo prepare to duke it out on the rooftop (the latter saying no hard feelings for the loser and if anything happens to her, call Soushirou for help as he is her final weapon), while Koyomi foolishly waits for Yumiko to use her magic and blast her out. Keep waiting… Misa and Yumiko battle each other while Koyomi calls Kaho for help. Misa has the upper hand but Yumiko isn’t about to give up. As she reaches for Kerykeion, suddenly Misa is stabbed by magic swords. Her body shortly disappears leaving a crater behind and Yumiko in shock. Koyomi manages to get out of her sticky situation and notices lights on the rooftop.
 
In episode 10, as Yumiko walks back dejectedly in the rain, Kaho finds Misa’s amulet in her mailbox and starts doing her investigation (to the extent of skipping classes). Soushirou waits for Misa to come back but she never did but surprisingly finds Yumiko at the doorstep. She requests to search the house in hopes of finding Misa but to no avail. After lots of pestering where Misa might go, Soushirou answers Akihabara. Before Yumiko leaves, she admits that she killed Misa, leaving Soushirou very confused. Huang and Guibarthez are engaged in a conversation about Digitalis about how her information is eternal and since her program is installed outside her body, every time she dies, she’ll install it into a different one. Koyomi pays Soushirou a visit and learns that Misa is dead according to what Yumiko said. They both decide to go find her then. Koyomi calls Yumiko to say that she will help her look for Misa. The duo are out in the streets and meet up with Kaho when Huang and Guibarthez appear before them (Kaho can’t see him). Of course Soushirou recognizes Huang as the thief (as he’s holding the stolen sword) and his emotions get the better of him, only to be restrained by Koyomi. Kaho suggests Soushirou to wear Misa’s amulet. Guibarthez senses a strange Code and suggests to Huang that they should back down. By the time reluctant Soushirou wears the amulet, Huang and Guibarthez are gone. Then Koyomi recognizes a familiar voice and as she looks up, a Ghostscript of Misa comes swooping down.
 
As Soushirou runs off by himself to search for the thief, he encounters Yumiko and she is shocked not to see him but the Ghostscript Misa following him in episode 11. Of course being a guy who doesn’t believe in ghosts or magic, he thinks Yumiko is crazy talking to herself. Misa tells a short flashback about how horrible her cooking was (what kind of ingredients did she put in?!) and used magic to cover it. Soushirou was the guinea pig and found her cooking delicious. In short, Soushirou is kinda immune to magic because he has been fed with magic-drenched food since young. No wonder. Maybe that’s why he never believed in magic too. In order to prove that Misa is indeed standing next to him, they improvise by having Soushirou wear earphones and with a little magic, he starts to hear Misa’s voice. However he still thinks it’s some kind of voice imitating trick but realizes she is the real deal when she answers a question that only both of them know. Yumiko is bewildered on Misa’s actions then so she asks her if she likes magic even if it’s not infinite and that magic tools are just tools. Yumiko’s reply is that she always chooses the best path.
 
Elsewhere, the odd part wasn’t Guibarthez stopping a speeding car with his magic swords, but the driver instantly got out and ran who knows how far. As fate would have it, Huang-Guibarthez party meets with Yumiko-Misa-Soushirou team. Soushirou rushes over to give the thief a piece of his mind but Guibarthez unleashes a magic sword right through his heart. However to their surprise, it has no effect whatsoever as Soushirou lands Huang a good punch on his face. Guibarthez thinks he is a mage killer, something churches in the past created to counter powerful mages. Well, remember Soushirou is immune to any sort of magic. This prompts Yumiko to remember and realize Misa’s words about him being her final weapon. Huang takes on Soushirou and the rest among themselves. Meanwhile Kaho and Koyomi follow trail of Codes to find Misa alive and well recuperating in a building. With Guibarthez being despatched easily, Yumiko tells Misa to aid Soushirou. She receives a call from Koyomi but is stabbed from behind by Guibarthez. Koyomi and Kaho rush to wear they are and are shocked to see bloody Yumiko lying motionless in Soushirou’s arms while Ghostscript Misa battles Guibarthez. Suddenly a bright light is emitted from Yumiko. Her body floats in the air, starts to sprout wings and blows everyone away. Huang notes that Digitalis has revived via Yumiko’s body.
 
With Digitalis’ revival in episode 12, she is burning down the city so our heroines retreat to where real Misa is recuperating. Misa says she has created a code which will send Digitalis into the other world and prevent her from future resurrections. However this will be at the expense of Yumiko. But Koyomi doesn’t want that to happen so she tearfully runs out to try and save Yumiko. I guess Soushirou can’t leave that tripping klutz on her own as he follows her. Kaho notes how there’s a hole in Misa’s story. That is, the Code has not been created because if it was, she wouldn’t have sent her amulet to Kaho to amplify her Ghostscript powers and fought Digitalis on her own. Misa admits this and says that she was in a dilemma of her killing Yumiko or the other way round. So she decided that if Yumiko killed her, she would have a better chance of ending the Library’s continuous cycle. Kaho says to trust in their number 1 ace. No, not Soushirou but Koyomi. Meanwhile Yumiko is viewing memories of Digitalis when she was killed by Cristbarth. She vows to return but he vows that his descendents will seal the Library. Digitalis who felt she was oppressed because she was different, welcomes Yumiko as her new comrade. Koyomi and Soushirou come into Huang on the streets so Soushirou fights him to allow Koyomi to find Yumiko. Unfortunately Koyomi encounters Guibarthez as he tests her wash basin skills to the limit. When a telco pole threatens to fall on Koyomi, it suddenly breaks apart allowing her to escape. Guibarthez notices this is the work of Digitalis. He is glad to see her and offers to work together. But she isn’t interested with the scum and eliminates him. With that, Huang’s sword disappears and this allows Soushirou to give him another good punch in the face.
 
Koyomi meets Digitalis/Yumiko at the supposedly promised meeting place. The latter tells her she is both persons and that this town is going to burn to the ground. Ghostscript Misa arrives in time to fight her. While doing so, she notices Yumiko’s time-stopping Code and devices a plan to neutralize her powers by summoning all the world’s CPU’s power and with Koyomi’s wash basin transformation magic. She is successful and opens a wormhole to suck Digitalis/Yumiko into the other world. However Koyomi grabs her hand to prevent her from being sucked in. Yumiko barely in her conscious part tells her this is her last chance to stop the vicious cycle but you know Koyomi, she doesn’t want to see her friend die like that, vows to promise her, bla bla bla, sob sob sob. Thankfully Soushirou grabs hold of Koyomi’s hand before they fall in for good. Bad news: All 3 got sucked in. Good news: Remember Soushirou as the mage killer? I guess that’s why he’s able to come out and pull the girls out of the wormhole so easily. Another bad news (depend on how you look at it): He still isn’t believing in all that magic crap. Huang is upset that his plan is ruined and gets his revenge by punching Soushirou in the face. But that’s all he’s going to get because Ghostscript Misa takes Huang with her into the portal to live together in the other world. I don’t want to know what’s even there. Before Yumiko/Digitalis collapses, she explains death was the trigger used to activate her revival and wants Koyomi not to forget her promise to protect her till she grows old or else Digitalis will return. With this klutz girl? Oh boy… Soon Koyomi returns to her normal self so happy Koyomi hugs her. Back at Misa’s place where everyone is having her curry meal, another accident of Koyomi summoning wash basins over Soushirou and Yumiko’s head. Yeah, another argument that she’s a failure as a mage. Ah well, everything is back to normal.
 
Wait a minute. It just hit me. There is another parallel dimension? Probably I didn’t understand when they were explaining stuff (heck, I didn’t understand most of the terms explained throughout the series as I just merely understood the surface of it. I think) but how come Misa knows of it? Did she write a Code which opens up a portal there? Normal humans (like Huang) can also live there? Maybe it’s something abstract that no amount of explanation would make a dumb otaku guy like me understand. So we get to see that even though Koyomi may not be a top student and even at that age she’s still tripping while walking, at least she knows the true value of friendship and that her wash basin summoning magic isn’t totally useless. I know many would first come to think how boring it is but when you have abundant powerful magic at your disposal, it won’t take a genius to figure out that the world’s balance and safety will be at stake.
 
So I guess it’s hard to dislike Koyomi for her klutz and though she may not be cut out for modern and/or classical magic but at least she keeps trying her best. Maybe with more practice and hard work, she could summon a branded wash basin. Who am I kidding? I don’t even know any famous wash basin brands. Though Kaho may excel in many subjects but her non-ability to see magical stuff like Daemons or Jini prevent her from being the perfect mage. Thankfully she has brains and what would Koyomi do or be without her best pal who is always looking out for her. Misa too is likeable because of her cool laid back personality but sometimes I can comprehend the way she thinks. It’s like it lacked common sense. Or maybe it’s because of my lack of understanding on the programming subject? Yumiko may be a little hot-headed, goes on a little rampage when mad and acting like she’s superior to others but deep down she really cares for those around her. Perhaps it’s her past always getting teased by others which led to her tough display of character. And Soushirou, at least he smiled more towards the end and isn’t so cold towards Koyomi. Whether he believes in magic or not is another thing. So don’t shrug off moody people. They can dispel magic, you know.
 
At the end of the series and right after the next episode preview, there will be a short live puppet segment hosted by Misa and Koyomi in their puppet forms. I don’t know about you but I find them in puppet forms to be a little ugly rather than cute. Amidst the real life backdrop of some district in Tokyo or other places such as the beach, this segment has the duo explaining certain terms used or the way things work in the series for the viewers’ better understanding. For instance, without this section I bet viewers would be very confused especially the break in the story flow at the beginning of the series if they hadn’t been informed right here. But it would be totally boring if it’s all about teaching magic so sometimes they break the monotony by having interview with other characters or as Koyomi said "shameless promotions" to announce the opening and ending single CDs and the release dates of DVD and Blu-Ray Discs if you are ever so interested in buying them. Then the final episode a review pop quiz of what has happened so far and at least slow Koyomi has got them all correct. Unfortunately I didn’t remember a single one of them. Shame on me. That makes me lower than her. Yeah, even if they compile a book, say "Understanding Modern Magic Made Easy" or "Modern Magic For Dummies", I’d still be pretty much at a lost.
 
On a trivial note, each of the episode titles as I later find out are taken from programming-related terms such as episode 5’s "Jump Off Into Never-never Land", episode 7’s "Voodoo Programming", episode 8’s "Scratch Monkey" and episode 12’s "TMTOWTDI". I took Misa’s advice to Google and find out its meaning but as usual, I didn’t really grasp them. Not really cut out for this computer thing, eh? Yeah, much more lower than Koyomi *hangs head in shame*. I’m not sure if the mid-intermission serves as a little fanservice. I mean, you’d see a female character of the series (changes after a few episodes) in an ambiguous position. Koyomi in a tied-up position? Is that supposed to be Kaho in her bra? And whose sexy legs are those?
 
Ai Nonaka is the voice behind Koyomi and her voice definitely suits her character well. Especially all that whining and yelping whenever she’s in a pinch or did something wrong to earn the wrath especially from Yumiko. You can recognize her as the voice of Ichijou in Pani Poni Dash and Fuura in Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei series. Other casts include Hitomi Nabatame as Misa (Margery Daw in Shakugan No Shana), Haruka Tomatsu as Yumiko (Nagi in Kannagi: Crazy Shrine Maidens), Minako Kotobuki as Kaho (Tsumugi in K-ON!), Shintaro Asanuma as Soushirou (Kusuda in Hatsukoi Limited) and Kenji Yamada as Huang (Kuze in the ef series). The opening theme, Programming For Non-fiction by Natsuko Aso is catchy with the computerized sound effects to make it a lively dance music if you want to consider it so. The ending theme, Made in WONDER by Aki Misato is also another lively pop piece to make you shuffle your feet (at least to me). With a variety of the background music which ranges from casual and fun tunes to computerized and digital mixes, there is one or two whereby it uses eerie dramatic choir voices (usually played during suspenseful or confrontation scenes).
 
So this series at least left me at the marvel of the possibility of combining modern technology and magic. Yeah, programme those Codes at your fingertips via a handphone. You don’t need conventional wands anymore. Don’t laugh. That might be even possible in the near future. So all you programmers and hackers take note of this. While Koyomi’s magic won’t ‘improve’ anytime soon, so would my understanding and interest in computer-related terms. Like all youths in this era should, right? Hey, I’m not that young anymore. Hmm… Come to think of it, I think it’s some Code which got me to get hook on anime. Nah, what am I saying? Anime itself is magic. I think it would be a nightmare if everyone person in this world would turn into an anime otaku under some otaku-enhancing-Code. Now I wonder if there is a Code for me to continue watching my favourite animes 24/7 without affecting my real life job and performance.
 

Yoku Wakaru Gendai Mahou

I got this little idea that maybe I should do a little versus between weird animes (at least to me). Namely Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei and Pani Poni Dash. Both series are made by the company Shaft so viewers who are familiar with their work could easily recognize their trademark style in the series. For instance the numerous overflowing nonsensical notes in the background which change at every turn of the scene or the parody of other stuff popping out from just anywhere from the screen. So it’s like you’ll-miss-it-if-you-blink. But of course the hand is faster than the eye so it is done on purpose and forces you to stop and rewind if you really want to read those scribbles. Don’t forget those endcards illustrated by several authors at the end of each episode. Furthermore, the main cast of characters involve a teacher and their students.

The teacher
Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei: Nozomu Itoshiki. The world’s most pessimistic person who has a penchant for killing himself.
Pani Poni Dash: Rebecca Miyamoto. The youngest graduate from MIT but still acts like a little girl her age.

His/her nickname
Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei: Mr Despair.
Pani Poni Dash: Becky.

His/her attire
Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei: Always wear a hakama and kimono with still patterns.
Pani Poni Dash: Though her white lab coat is her trademark, in certain episodes, she undergoes different hairstyles and fashion clothing.

His/her usual catchphrase
Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei: “I’m in despair!”.
Pani Poni Dash: “Shut up! I’m a teacher, you know! Hauhau!” (Sob, sob!).

His/her old friend
Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei: Ikkyu, which literally means friend for a day.
Pani Poni Dash: The Professor who was Rebecca’s teacher at MIT.

The school he/she teaches in
Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei: Due to the comedy nature of the series, it changes all the time. That is, if you’re fast enough to catch and realize them.
Pani Poni Dash: Momotsuki Gakuen.

The classroom he/she is in charge of
Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei: 2-He.
Pani Poni Dash: 1-C.

His/her students (main and selected ones)
What would the teacher be without his/her students because only then that both sides make a whole.
Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei: Kafuka Fuura, Chiri Kitsu, Abiru Kobushi, Nami Hitou, Harumi Fujiyoshi, Maria Tarou Sekiutsu, Meru Otonashi, Kaere/Kaede Kimura, Kiri Komori, Matoi Tsunetsuki, Ai Kaga, Mayo Mitama, Jun Kudou and Kagerou Usui.
Pani Poni Dash: Ichijou, Himeko Katagiri, Rei Tachibana, Miyako Uehara, Sayaka Suzuki AKA Rokugou and Kurumi Momose.

The plot
Of the series, that is.
Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei: Nozomu and his students poke fun in this black comedy about daily aspects of life, pop culture and language.
Pani Poni Dash: Rebecca and her students go through adventures-cum-mishaps one after another.

Class rep
Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei: Chiri is believed to be the class rep though the actual one is Usui.
Pani Poni Dash: Ichijou.

The dangerous and mysterious one
That particular girl whose thinking and actions are so twisted that it may be a good idea to think twice about them. Note both characters are voiced by Ai Nanoka.
Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei: Fuura, the world’s most positive girl.
Pani Poni Dash: Ichijou. She even does the impossible. Don’t ask.

The bookworm
Seemingly the one who likes to read.
Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei: Jun.
Pani Poni Dash: Miyako.

The active one
Slightly wild behaviour.
Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei: Maria.
Pani Poni Dash: Himeko.

The sadistic one
Potential to be yandere…
Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei: Chiri – If you don’t do things perfectly… Yeah, she likes to kill people with a spade.
Pani Poni Dash: Rei – With a heart of ice and threatening bodily harm to scaring little girls… Yeah, she likes to scare Rebecca with her eye palm thingy.

The bully
Potential to be delinquents…
Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei: Mayo.
Pani Poni Dash: Yanki and Rei.

The real life manga girl
This is Japan right? Which group will be completed without that otaku? Maybe not.
Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei: Harumi, a yaoi doujinshi.
Pani Poni Dash: Behoimi, a healing class magical girl and Akane Serizawa of the drama club who has tons of costumes.

The butler/maid
Yeah, a must have for otakus. Maybe not too.
Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei: Tokita AKA Sebastian is Nozomu’s family butler.
Pani Poni Dash: Media dresses as a maid and enrols in school to keep an eye on Rebecca as per the Professor’s request.

Animal lover
Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei: Abiru. She has an extensive collection of animal tails back home.
Pani Poni Dash: Misao Nanjou. She has a zoo of exotic animals in which she also brings to school.

Dojikko
Well, makes them partially moe. Well, sort of.
Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei: Ai’s insecurities has her apologize on all trivial matters whether she’s at fault or not.
Pani Poni Dash: Akira Miyata earns the reputation of being clumsy for her frequent trips and falls.

Obvious head
Seems to be the most prominent part that other people lay their eyes on first.
Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei: Usui – his baldness.
Pani Poni Dash: Miyako – her shiny forehead.

Fanservice girl
Notice how they seem to give viewers that kind of service?
Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei: Kaere/Kaede and Rin Itoshiki.
Pani Poni Dash: Rei.

The normal girl
Need I say more?
Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei: Nami.
Pani Poni Dash: Kurumi.

The half foreigner
Half Japanese and half… non-Japanese:
Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei: Kaere/Kaede.
Pani Poni Dash: Rebecca.

The ignored
Nobody pays attention or gives a damn about this person. Poor soul…
Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei: Usui.
Pani Poni Dash: Mesousa and to a certain extent, Kurumi.

Most pitiful, used and abused character
In addition to that, note how both are prone to bad luck too. All is never well, never ends well.
Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei: Nozomu – especially from the actions of his students namely Chiri’s killing and Maria’s hyper-activeness.
Pani Poni Dash: Mesousa – especially from everybody who doesn’t give a damn how this rabbit feels.

Other teaching staff
Can’t be the only teacher in the entire school, eh?
Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei: Chie Arai and Jinroku.
Pani Poni Dash: Jijii, Saotome and Miyuki Igarashi.

Multiple voice actors
Notice that this quiet character has been voiced by several voice actors throughout several episodes?
Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei: Meru.
Pani Poni Dash: Oosanshouou.

Family affair
Some of the characters in the series are related to each other by blood.
Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei: Nozomu is the young brother of Rin, Mikoto and Kei. Majiru is Nozomu’s nephew.
Pani Poni Dash: Kurumi and Shu are siblings while Yuuma and Yuuna Kashiwagi are twins and Ichijou has a little sister that causes as much trouble as her.

The odd pair
Usually seen together most of the time.
Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei: Majiru and Komori, Nozomu and Matoi.
Pani Poni Dash: Suzune Shiratori and Otome Akiyama.

Alien
Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei: Part of Fuura’s career choices include wanting to be a Pororocan Alien. What the heck is that? And a bunch of other aliens attacking the city as part of the comedy nature of the series.
Pani Poni Dash: A group of mushroom-headed aliens observing Rebecca as their subject from their Enterprise-like spaceship but the leader is being a goofball and his fooling around rarely seems to get things done.

Episode cliff-hanger
Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei: Nozomu seemingly got hit by a train and is warded into the emergency room whereby all his students wait anxiously outside for any good news. In the end, it isn’t shown how he recovered nor was his injury that bad in the first place.
Pani Poni Dash: Rebecca and her students are lying motionless as their bus is hanging precariously over a cliff (thus the pun cliff-hanger. Geddit?) while they have to anxiously keep at bay outside interferences like a giant crab. In the end, it was all revealed to be candid camera stuff.

Field trip episode
Can’t always be studying indoors, eh?
Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei: Nozomu takes his students on a ‘preview’ field trip.
Pani Poni Dash: Momotsuki Gakuen takes an outdoor camping trip in the woods.

Hotspring episode
Fanservice lah…
Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei: The gang takes a dip at a hotspring believed to remove ‘toxins’ in their body.
Pani Poni Dash: The gang visits the sauna and hot bath to help study for their tests. Did not help at all.

Episode titles
Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei: Each of the titles are reference to a piece of literature.
Pani Poni Dash: Each of the titles are reference to similes and proverbs.

End of episode section
Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei: In the 3rd season, a section called Zetsubou Sensei Drawing Song features voice actors/actresses from the series drawing their own depiction of Nozomu while singing a song.
Pani Poni Dash: A Hekiru Hikawa theatre whereby it shows the short nonsensical antics of the gang.

Episodes and seasons
Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei: Officially there are 3 seasons with the first one spanning 12 episodes, the second season Zoku Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei having 13 more episodes and the recent third season Zan Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei having 13 episodes as well. There are 2 OVA seasons with the first one being Goku Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei (3 episodes) and the second one Zan Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei Bangaichi (2 episodes).
Pani Poni Dash: Though there is only 1 season of 26 episodes, an OVA episode is released much later after the TV series ended.

Music and themes
The opening and ending themes are sung by the main cast of the series.
Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei: The opening themes are usually wild rock music (featuring Kenji Ootsuki in the lead) and though the ending themes lean more towards pop, they still are quirky and weird, especially the lyrics.
Pani Poni Dash: Both opening and ending themes are a variety of pop rock and pop but they still sound quirky and weird in their own ways, especially the lyrics.

Conclusion
Hmm… It is one of those tough decisions on which one is better. Both series have their appeal and unique points so yeah, it’s really tough. While Pani Poni Dash has better art and drawing for the characters and the jokes are better comprehensible as compared to Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei, in the latter series it makes you think at all the ironic aspects in life. No matter how you think about it they sound so weird but yet so true. So is it better to be a super negative-cum-pessimistic teacher like Nozomu or a super positive-cum-optimistic student like Fuura? Or would you prefer to be a ditzy airhead but seemingly carefree like Himeko or Media or genius prodigy but seemingly childish like Rebecca? Yeah, nobody is perfect. That’s why we’re all so full of despair and hauhau.

Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei Pani Poni Dash

UFO Princess Valkyrie

April 10, 2010

At first I thought how similar this show is to To Love-Ru because it involves a plain ordinary Earthling teenager being engaged to a princess of a super intergalactic empire. But that is where the similarity ends. In UFO Princess Valkyrie AKA UFO Ultramaiden Valkyrie, the Earthling kid, Kazuto isn’t a loser nor prone to troubles like Rito. Valkyrie here on the other hand isn’t an airhead nor does she really posses a direct danger to her beloved one like Lala. Add a bunch of colourful casts of characters and there you have it, a comedy, sci-fi and romance series (don’t forget the fanservice too). And the thing which made me decide to watch this series was a brief line in the synopsis that goes "…more UFO crash landings". Oh yeah. I was looking forward to that.
 
In episode 1, Kazuto Tokino and his sister Rika runs a public bath house in Hagoromo Town left by his grandpa as his parents are overseas. Note the huge spaceship crashed on its roof. How the heck does it manage to sit upright for so long? Beats me. Besides, Earth is like a melting pot as it got me wondering do aliens like to enjoy Japanese style bath. You can see weird creatures streaming in and out of the bath house. Business must be good. And yes, be warned that there are topless female shots. Little Valkyrie wants to play with Kazuto but her chief cat maid servant, Sanada, says he’s busy with work. One morning, Valkyrie goes missing and panic Sanada calls her cat ear maids (CEMs) for an all out search but to no avail and only exhausting themselves. They even called Kazuto’s childhood friend Akina Nanamura (you can tell she has a crush on Kazuto) and her little pal, Hydra over to help. Kazuto reflects what Valkyrie had said the night before (about playing hide and seek) and finds her sleeping on a spaceship at the partly under construction spaceship tower. Valkyrie is happy to see him but slipped and causes the spaceship to go out of control. Kazuto shields her from the falling rubble so Valkyrie kisses unconscious Kazuto and transforms into an adult self and flies away from the falling debris with him in her arms. She chants some words to bring order back. Kazuto remembers how it’s the same like that time whereby Valkyrie’s spaceship crashes into the bath house and onto him. To make up for it, she gave him half her soul and kissed him. Kazuto narrates "Your soul and mine are supposed to be as close as possible. But I always wonder where you are".
 
Episode 2 goes back a little in time just after the UFO crash into the bath house and Valkyrie giving half her soul. Rika wonders who this little girl is and learns she is a princess from Planet Valhalla. Valkyrie wants to stay with Kazuto and says he has given him her ‘precious thing’ so when Akina hears it, she’s pissed and thinks he’s a paedophile. A spaceship crashes into Akina’s shrine home (another one?) and a pink Pegasus appears and head over to the bath house. It transforms into a green haired lady, Hydra and is looking for Valkyrie who ran away from a marriage interview and she had to take her place. Hydra tries to take Valkyrie back by force so the latter runs to Kazuto for protection. Soon the duo flee when Hydra gets violent. Hydra searches the city as the duo take refuge at Kazuto’s former elementary school. He sees and remembers a love umbrella mark of him and Akina under a desk. That night Valkyrie plays in the field’s puddle, Hydra finds them and starts attacking. One of her blast causes Valkyrie to kiss Kazuto as she transforms to her adult self. Hydra relentlessly attacks as Valkyrie only blocks them. Before she could unleash a powerful one, Akina puts a seal on her, turning Hydra into a kid without powers. Valkyrie explains how she’s able to return to her original form but ran out of energy and turns back into her kid self. As for Hydra, she has to work under Akina to compensate for her crashing. Bummer. Oh the love-hate relationship.
 
So well, in most episodes you’ll see this sort of pattern. Little Valkyrie happily playing around with Kazuto while the gang go on with their normal lives. Valkyrie has a little white pet called Shiro (is it a dog or bunny? WTF?! Such a sexy low voice he has) whom I find she abuses all the time though she seems like having fun with his pain. Pulling his ears and dragging/riding him isn’t fun for the victim, you know? Then a little happening which threatens our protagonists so Kazuto and Valkyrie kiss in order for the former to transform and save the day albeit for a short time and with limited powers. Note the little lengthy transformation and if it’s not Valkyrie, it has to be some other Valhalla princess each with their own transformation sequence. All is well, ends well. And Akina still can’t confess her feelings to Kazuto.
 
In episode 3, Rika is upset Kazuto didn’t renew the insurance which means they won’t get money to repair the place. Sanada arrives looking for Valkyrie and totally likes her chibi body. She misinterprets what Valkyrie told about her relationship with Kazuto and vows to serve her. She calls Kazuto "son-in-law". Hydra knows about Akina’s unrequited love and crush on Kazuto so she teases her. In retaliation she takes away her food. After school, Kazuto buys Akina a brooch as return of many past favours. Sanada spots this and misinterprets. She decides to take things into her own hands to protect Valkyrie by shooting any girl who is friendly with him. The rays turn them into loyal CEMs. From shopkeepers to total strangers! Extreme! As Sanada assembles them all, Hydra spots this and warns Akina. However it is too late as they’re being surrounded. Sanada tries to turn Akina into one of them but her miko powers repel them. Sanada uses a higher grade accessory to turn up the level but Akina holds it off till it overheats. She then releases Hydra’s seal and turns her back to her adult self so she and Sanada do a power battle which almost destroyed the city. Kazuto, who has heard from Rika, rushes over to clear the misunderstanding as he says his relationship with Akina isn’t like that. I guess Heartbreak Akina has her ego to protect so she agrees with him. Sanada realizes her folly and apologizes profusely. She and her CEMs work as staff at the repaired bath house while Hydra consoles Akina. Hey, how come those CEMs don’t return to their normal lives anymore? Forever servant to the Valhalla royalty, eh?
 
Prince Toriamu from Moora Planet comes to the bath house looking for Valkyrie in episode 4. He asserts he is her fiancee but Sanada denies and says he is 1 of many who’re supposed to meet Valkyrie. She continues he is the reason why she ran away. A flashback at Valhalla when Sanada noticed how Valkyrie’s heart doesn’t want to attend the meeting but has to for political reasons. When Valkyrie heard how Toriamu and her dad intend to leave her with politics and handle internal and external affairs, she felt heartbroken and fled. When Toriamu learns who Kazuto is, he mocks him so Valkyrie takes Kazuto away to play with him. He chases but loses her. He then spots Hydra who proceeds to tell him what has happened so he concludes he needs to get the important thing Kazuto stole and return Valkyrie to her normal self. Toriamu sets out in his robot and finds the duo playing badminton at a river bank. He fires a shot and takes his soul. A series of hitting and deflecting of his soul before Valkyrie hits it back to Kazuto. When he revives, she says she loves him and kisses him and transforms to blast Toriamu away (including Hydra) before sending him back to space. Hopefully that’ll be the last we’ll hear from that spoilt prince.
 
Studious Rika’s goal is to study and be number 1 in her grade in episode 5. So when her classmate Morikawa, who is also popular with the girls and on the school’s basketball team, comes to confess his feelings to her, Rika rejects. Of course this disappoints her pals. A little alien from a Pirate Association, Mardook, whom Rika accidentally stepped on several times because she’s too busy reading her study cards, comes to the bath house to kidnap Valkyrie. He spots Shiro and recalls him as a tough former comrade but Shiro thinks he’s got the wrong person and acts indifferent. Mardook’s plan is ruined when Kazuto comes in and accidentally steps on him. Being small isn’t good. That night, Rika gets a call from Morikawa apologizing if she hates him but she says otherwise and continues to chat. Next day at school rooftop, Rika and Morikawa watch the city together. Well, nothing conclusive actually. Just friends, that’s all.
 
Sanada orders a galactic space camera and starts filming a memorial of Valkyrie in episode 6 by following her anywhere and just about anything. Then it turns into a full fledge filming with her CEMs doing the props much to Kazuto’s annoyance. Her obsession has Kazuto and Valkyrie doing several retakes because some scenes couldn’t connect! Another shooting has them visit Akina’s shrine. Cheeky Valkyrie messes with Hydra’s spaceship computer which sends its attacking system haywire. The cannon fires at them and threatens to harm Kazuto. Valkyrie manages to kiss him and transform but even so she’s just defending against the cannon. Akina releases Hydra’s seal so the duo cooperate to restore the system back to normal. Sanada finishes her editing and shows it to the rest. What’s with the glorification opening song sung by Sanada?! Notice it includes scenes from previous episodes. Sanada does the narration and that voice background music too. She even did voiceovers for Valkyrie and Hydra and makes that cannon incident Hydra’s fault while Valkyrie the heroine! So one-sided. In the aftermath, Sanada continues to film Valkyrie sleeping but her camera ran out of batteries. Thank goodness.
 
Valkyrie’s sister, Raine, comes to Earth (crashing her spaceship into a parking vendor) in episode 7 in search of her sister. She loses her contacts so Kazuto helps her to find it but little Valkyrie comes by and accidentally breaks it. After learning what Kazuto did to her real Valkyrie, Raine intends to break them up. She has powers to physically impersonate people and starts with Akina to try seduce him. But when real Akina and Hydra show up, she retreats (Hydra quipping Akina’s boobs not that big!). Next, she impersonates as Sanada and is willing to pay them a hefty sum for their freeloading in exchange for Valkyrie’s return. Valkyrie is reluctant but money-faced Rika is ready to do so when Shiro points out the money is fake. Raine then escapes. Then she transforms into Rika and bullies Valkyrie to leave. When Valkyrie cries, everyone rushes there as Raine flees again. Some coward she is. Eventually she gets caught after a failed impersonation as a busty female version of Shiro. Tearful Raine explains all she wants is her sister back. Valkyrie temporarily transforms into an adult as the sisters bath together, play fireworks while Kazuto serves them (of course Sanada getting jealous…). Next day, Raine leaves but the parking vendor guy gives Kazuto the repair and parking bill. Raine wishes goodbye to her beloved sister because now she’s in love with Kazuto and plans to get between them as her spaceship crashes into a satellite. Dream some more lah.
 
Some of the CEMs working at the bath house hold other day jobs. In episode 8, they seek Sanada’s permission for a relaxation trip but she shoots it down. But when Valkyrie expresses her wise to go to the beach, Sanada gives the approval. Everyone, next time take your pleas straight to Valkyrie. All the girls prepare for the trip the next day while Kazuto and Shiro stay back to watch the bath house. Amazingly Valkyrie didn’t have Kazuto come along considering she’s so clingy to him. In the bus, Sanada’s haphazard driving, CEMs and Akina’s singing and Valkyrie vomiting on Hydra after eating too much candy makes the trip ‘exciting’. Yeah, real exiting. At the beach, Raine’s spaceship crashes into them so as punishment they bury her in the sand. While everyone has fun, Valkyrie accidentally trips and drops her ice cream onto Raine’s face. She is pissed and goes after her in her spaceship. But since she lost her contacts, she flies aimlessly causing havoc. Akina releases Hydra’s seal to punch her spaceship back into space. The girls have their celebration that night at an inn as drunk Raine tries to impersonate Valkyrie so frantic Sanada tries to put a stop to her embarrassing act before she tarnishes her beloved princess’ image. As for Rika, she continues to study amidst the party as the CEMs later watch the fireworks display.
 
Akina’s body turns into a little kid after Raine crashes her spaceship onto her while unleashing Hydra’s seal to stop Valkyrie fooling around but it backfired in episode 9. Adult Hydra proceeds to flex her authority on little Akina. In school, Akina is popular among her girl classmates though her size proves to be a challenge (can’t reach the blackboard nor jump over the pummel horse). One day at the park, Valkyrie wants to play with her but she refuses so they got into a kiddie’s quarrel. They bicker who likes Kazuto more which prompts Akina to break down and say how she has liked Kazuto since a long time ago. Raine’s spaceship crashes onto them and that is when Hydra becomes her little self and Akina returning to her normal size (Hydra making a cheeky remark how her boobs are still kid size!).
 
Valkyrie messes with Sanada’s computer in episode 10 and accidentally buys an asteroid. A regulation has them unable to cancel their order and they have to pay a high penalty price if they don’t pay before the looming deadline. They decide to go and pay Valhalla a visit to solve their problems but travel tickets are fully booked. One morning, the gang are shocked to see Valkyrie in her adult form but her personality is still of a child. Then she turns back to her little self at the park later. Sanada thinks her spirit is unstable. Raine then crashes into them so everyone cramps into it and goes to space. Valkyrie fluctuates between sizes in the spaceship. Oh the torment. The boss of the Space Pirates Association learns from Mardook that Valkyrie is coming their way so the pirates launch missile attacks on them. The gang realized the asteroid is located next to the space pirates’ territory. Valkyrie decides to transform even if her spirit is unstable. She and Hydra engage the spaceships while Shiro takes over Raine as pilot and dogfights with Mardook. The pirate boss fires a super devastating cannon, Genocide Buster at Valkyrie and Hydra but misses and hits the asteroid. Valkyrie immobilizes the pirate’s HQ so the boss has everyone on a mass evacuation. The asteroid cracks and hotspring water spouts from it.
 
It’s like hitting an oil field for them because in episode 11, Tokino Bath Annex is opened on the asteroid and becomes a major hit. Rika makes lots of money to pay the cost and do renovation. She even thinks of moving here but Kazuto isn’t fond of the idea. Valkyrie is acting strange (not lively but gloomy and more polite). The gang learns from some National Hotspring Research Centre that this hotspring can heal souls. One night Valkyrie kisses Kazuto but finds she can’t transform. Then the Valhalla Royal Ship arrives carrying Meemu. As she speaks with them, they learn Valhalla is divided into 8 parts, each governed by a princess and Meemu is the head ruler of these princesses. It is their policy that 1 of them must marry a prince from another planet and it was decided to be Valkyrie. But she ran away and the next candidate was Hydra but she too panicked and fled. Meemu is here to take them both back. Though Kazuto says his soul is connected to Valkyrie, Meemu mentions her soul is already cured. Valkyrie obediently follows Meemu back along with Sanada and Hydra. Rika gets to know their hotspring water is running out so they have no choice but to close it down since they break even after covering all the expenses. Raine crashes her spaceship when the gang are packing, not knowing what has happened. A news report reveals Valkyrie is to marry in a week’s time and the palace is under tight security. Rumour has it that it’s Toriamu but their side has denied it. Kazuto is bent on going to Valhalla.
 
It’s 1 more day to the wedding in episode 12 as the gang gets caught by a royal ship. You pretty much wonder the quality of the royal guards because they got beaten up and evaded their capture from a bunch of little Earth kids. Shameful. From Akina’s violent fury to Raine’s impersonation for diversion to Shiro’s jet fighter piloting skills (Mardook coming to his aid) and even Hydra breaking free from the palace to tell them Valkyrie is being held in the Dream Palace, all buying time to get Kazuto to meet Valkyrie. Kazuto tells Akina not to get the wrong idea as he’s here to wish Valkyrie goodbye. When Kazuto finally meets Valkyrie, Meemu gathers the rest and tells them that the real Valkyrie is weak though she acts with wisdom in front of the people. Thus the reason she ran away from all responsibilities before the marriage interview. Valkyrie tells Kazuto her soul became unstable probably she learned his treasured bath house was in trouble. Her weak self and one who loves him are in conflict so if she is no longer a child, she can’t be with him. She apologizes for her selfishness but Kazuto apologizes that he didn’t see her true self. They kiss and Valkyrie transforms into her adult self. She isn’t going to run away anymore. Meemu then announces the one whom Valkyrie will marry is Kazuto as he is the only one who truly understands and loves her. This was even kept a secret from Valkyrie and that this secret wedding was a gamble (a reason why Sanada couldn’t obtain much info) and for everyone to see with their own eyes. Rika is thrilled that Meemu is going to be her sister-in-law as they both get acquainted but Rika and Raine oppose (you know why lah). Preparations for the wedding are underway though Kazuto isn’t mentally prepared. Valkyrie appears in a stunning bridal gown but suddenly turns back to her kid self. Shiro reads a disclaimer from the hotspring effects saying both body and mind will degenerate if the subject is suddenly married. WTF?! Because of that, the wedding is cancelled as everyone goes back to their normal lives back at the bath house. Even the other princesses are soaking there. Not to mention their crashed spaceship onto nearby houses. They really should get their UFO licence checked.
 
There are 2 special OVA episodes. The first one being a recap episode being narrated by Sanada (who’d want to watch all that summary again?). The second one has Meemu visiting the gang and feels nothing has moved forward between Kazuto and Valkyrie. She decides to do a bride training competition and uses Sanada’s training cards in which a team picks a card, they’ll be transported to that world and must complete tasks. Their actions are connected to a monitor (ala reality TV) and the winner is decided after several rounds. Kazuto-Valkyrie team does several bride chores like cooking, flower arrangement and knitting while Akina-Hydra went through 2 wedding ceremonies (a western and traditional one!) and ended up arguing. Just like married couples. Yeah, married twice… Rika-Raine seems to experience bad luck tasks courtesy of Raine like unemployment, illness and love triangle (Morikawa wanting to take Rika away from useless husband Raine!) and Shiro-Mardook team did boring but happily married lives. Valkyrie becomes disheartened with her several failures and breaks down but Kazuto smiled and thanked her. She kisses him, transforms and thanks him instead. She says she’ll 1 day definitely be his bride. He replies he’ll wait as they embrace. Sanada is in awe while Meemu feels she’s worried over nothing. In the end, Kazuto wins the contest because he did all the chores perfectly. Later Rika, Hydra and Akina find Sanada editing footages from the contest and try to confiscate them, much to her dismay.
 
Not enough of this series? Don’t fret. There’s a 2nd season called UFO Princess Valkyrie: Juunigatsu No Yasoukyoku (December’s Nocturne). In episode 1, adult Valkyrie has a nightmare that Valhalla is crumbling. Little Valkyrie plays at the playground when a toy-like sword appears before her. Back home, Sanada recognizes it as the Key Of Time (KOT) and its origins unknown. Valkyrie uses its magic to help out with chores like cleaning and making things bigger (including Akina’s boobs). Drunken Shiro’s words that a guy must be big have Valkyrie to misinterpret and turns him giant size. However she can’t reverse it. Shiro goes around rampaging town and attempts to stop him failed. Akina releases Hydra’s seal but upon reaching KOT, Hydra turns into a giant and fights Shiro. Before she can pull some Mugen-ryuu sword style that she’s currently learning, Raine’s spaceship knocks her out. Shiro inches closer to the bath house so Valkyrie and Kazuto kiss. She goes to KOT and memories of that nightmare resurfaced before she uses it to undo the havoc. Soon everything returns to normal, including Akina’s boobs. Ah well, it was good while it lasted.
 
Another Valhalla princess, Chorus, makes her weird entrance at the bath house in episode 2. Sanada and the princesses don’t know much about her since she rarely appears in public. Chorus says she’s a machine and her original self died when she was young as her memories are implanted inside this body. Since there’s a flaw in her design, she will shut down permanently in 3 days and therefore requests a date with Kazuto. Raine comes by in a scooter (not crashing her UFO anymore?) and says Chorus isn’t a robot but nobody believes her. This causes Chorus to be in pain and speed up her countdown timer. Kazuto and Chorus go on a date while the rest spy nearby. When Raine spots them dating, she throws her usual verbal abuse. So it’s time up for Chorus and 2 minutes to shutdown. Valkyrie transforms to try stopping it with her magic but it was futile. The timer reaches 0 and everyone is surprised Chorus is still alive and saying it’s a miracle. It wasn’t Valkyrie’s magic as Raine explains this is how she always acted since she lives with her. Can’t blame everyone for not believing her in the first place, eh? When everyone thought she has left for Valhalla, Chorus is seen making and renting her home in Rika’s closet. Another weirdo here to stay.
 
Besides spamming inside Rika’s closet, in episode 3, Akina has an uneasy feeling so Chorus decides to print out a visual via printer (?!). After several embarrassing false alarms, an ominous dark pic with 4 white moons appear. Chorus feels it’s a premonition of this planet’s doom and goes round dramatically announcing aloud but everyone ignores her. Furthermore, nothing happens. To add salt to injury, her story has loopholes and inconsistency. A news report reports a sudden appearance of a giant object heading towards Earth and its only communication line is Tokino’s bath house. The gang are startled and think it may not be them but the large spaceship then appears before their place. Valkyrie and Hydra transform to go into action but a white beam blasts towards the ground and a delivery alien appears. He delivers a beauty product that Raine ordered ages ago. Since all the transport ships are out, he used the main ship instead. He shows the bill as Raine escapes. That girl… Though the problem is solved, Akina still has that uneasy feeling.
 
A flashback of Raine and Chorus while they’re still schooling in episode 4. The duo went to watch Valkyrie and Hydra (still schooling as seniors) in a battle club competition. The intense fight ends in a draw and fans from both sides flock to their sides. Because Raine is worried she won’t see Valkyrie after she graduates, Chorus suggests writing a letter and will help her do so. Raine learns Valkyrie is to be the queen during this year’s pageant Moonlight Festival and Hydra her lover so she decides to give the letter then. Since Chorus has been absent from class lately, Raine goes to find her and it seems Chorus starts telling that dramatic I’m-a-robot story. She doesn’t want Raine to tell anyone and her last will is to see her hand over the letter. During the night of the festival, Raine is by ill Chorus’ side so she hands the improved version of the letter and wants Raine to give the letter. Raine manages to do so after the festival. When Raine comes back, she is sad to see Chorus lifeless. But when the alarm clock rings, she gets like as though nothing serious has happened. Raine is upset with her lies but is glad she is fine. Valkyrie reads the abstract letter and though doesn’t understand, feels happy. Well, it’s the thought that counts too.
 
In episode 5, Kazuto encounters adult Valkyrie but clad in a black cloak. As they talk, he finds that she isn’t the Valkyrie he knows. She teases him if he loves the other Valkyrie. Since he blushed, she also hints that she may also have a chance since she looked like her. She says her name is Valkyrie Ghost. Because of that, Kazuto spaces out. Akina finds out from her pals that Kazuto may be two-timing because they were spotted together so she and Hydra tail them to a misty forest where they see Kazuto and Ghost embracing while electricity charges appear as she does something strange to helpless Kazuto. Back home, the confront Kazuto about it but he remains evasive. The next day, they tail him and suddenly their surroundings turn into a misty graveyard. They spot Ghost with Kazuto and it seems she’s sucking his life force. They try to attack but her barrier is stronger. Ghost kisses Kazuto to show ‘proof of their love’ and transforms into a black outfit, leaving Kazuto unconscious. Hydra starts her attack but is too powerful. Then it’s Akina’s turn but her exorcism powers are no match. During 1 of the blasts, little Valkyrie is blown away but is caught by Kazuto. They kiss and she transforms. However Ghost unleashes some power which makes Valkyrie unable to use her KOT. Because Kazuto shows concern for Valkyrie, Ghost gives up and escapes but promises to return and take his heart away. When everything returns to normal, Akina and Sanada think Kazuto betrayed Valkyrie’s trust but he insists he just couldn’t leave that person and it’s like something hit his heart. Valkyrie believes in him.
 
Meemu pays the gang another visit in episode 6 and has space bathing solutions as gifts. However as they take a bath, the defective product turns Kazuto, Rika, Raine, Sanada and Shiro into kids, Meemu into a teenager and Chorus a toddler. Valkyrie who was late to enter turns into her adult self. Meemu apologizes and the effect will wear off in 3 days. The kids are in no position to do work so Valkyrie does the chores though her cooking sucks. Akina finds out Kazuto has turned into a kid and tries to kidnap him but foiled! Meemu goes out to town alone and her beauty has several guys hitting on her. Later she meets a photographer, Hukami who gets her permission to take pictures of her as his model. He requests to take more pics of her tomorrow. The next day after another round of shooting, he hands her the developed photos but feels they don’t reflect the real her. When he asks her for tomorrow’s shoot, she says she can’t see him anymore. That night, Meemu goes to see Hukami and tells him that she’s returning to her home far away tomorrow as he finds out that she isn’t human. As a farewell gift, she takes him on a night flight around the city. Next day as everyone reverts back to their normal sizes, Hukami is taking shots in the city when he sees Meemu but mistaken her for somebody else.
 
Because the TV broke, the gang enter a karaoke contest to win a 50.1 inch Space Tachyon Plasma TV in episode 7 for higher winning chance since they’re part of the Hagoromo Shop Union. They have their shots singing on stage which includes Raine (doing pretty well), Shiro and his mates doing a band gig, Akina and Hydra doing a rock duet but due to Akina’s tone deaf and horrible singing, she leaves Hydra speechless on stage (however things seem to indicate they did well), and Chorus singing a weird song in her trademark weird voice (I think she scored the lowest, 9 points, as everyone isn’t impressed. Even the judge thinks it hurts too much). During the break, Sanada bribes the judge, Utaou some highest grade bonito. When it’s Valkyrie’s turn, she has support and stage props to enhance her singing of her kiddie Pyonko-chan song. Utaou gives her his special award: Utaou Bronze Statue. However this isn’t what she wanted (she was eyeing another prize which is a Pyonko-chan toy). Upset Valkyrie cries to Kazuto but they can’t exchange the prize since it would be deemed rude. A sudden entry as Valkyrie participates as her adult self and stuns everyone with her sad and slow ballad. During her performance, Ghost appears and continues with the song. Everyone is fixated on her and Valkyrie is disheartened to know especially Kazuto. When it’s over, Ghost disappears and Valkyrie returns to her little self. In the end, Valkyrie is happy to get the toy as everyone else discuss about Ghost’s sudden appearance. Akina wonders if Kazuto’s heart was charmed by Ghost when Valkyrie returned to a child that time.
 
Valkyrie wants to go on a mountain hike in episode 8 so Sanada arranges another trip with her CEMs and other girls. Kazuto and the other guys are left behind to watch the bath house again. As for some of the CEMs, they’re upset Sanada doesn’t know their names and referred to them as Member A, B, C and D. Maybe it’s fitting for insignificant subordinates. During the hike, they got distracted by a cute rabbit and took a wrong turn to the Field of the Underworld instead of the supposedly Double Cat Peak. As expected, they got lost and to make it worse, there is a cold blizzard. Soon everyone gets separated as Sanada sees strange lights and gets visions of tempting hallucinations in the form of Valkyrie. She finally finds her cat whistle to assemble her CEMs. Thankfully Valkyrie is safe with them. They then head over to a natural hotspring that Akina found. However everyone crams into it since it’s too small. Suddenly out of nowhere, Raine’s spaceship crashes (still haven’t learn, has she?), leaving a trail towards the inn as everyone follows the route to safety. Back home, Sanada remembers the name of her CEMs, giving them much encouragement.
 
While Akina is doing exorcism in a barrier in episode 9, Hydra comes by to explain she broke her favourite tea cup. An argument ensues and before they know it, they merged into 1 body and are known as Akidora. Odd to see them arguing among themselves in 1 body. The gang learns of this and soon they revert back to their original bodies. They conduct an experiment and it seems their power to merge appears when they are arguing and revert when they get along. Note their own lengthy transformation scene. Akidora goes to school and garners lots of fans. She also excels in exams (2 heads are better than 1), sports (beat the entire kendo team with combined strength) and love fortune telling (all accurate!). When they’re walking back from school, the streets suddenly turn icy and Ghost appears to snatch her Illusion Lover Kazuto away. Akina and Hydra merge so Ghost is taken aback by their power and whisks them to a different place to fight. A power battle ensues as Akidora combines both their powers to expel Ghost. However she escapes in the nick of time while nothing the ‘power of friendship’. Akidora sees a strange vision of Valhalla’s 12 moons before they and the whole place revert back to normal.
 
The gang discuss Akidora’s vision in episode 10. They learn that there are only 8 moons on Valhalla and they serve as each princess’ power source but it has been called that since ancient times. Rika deduces that there were originally 12 moons and those 4 moons in the pic and Akidora saw were lost. Sanada explains that the Illusion Lover comes from Valhalla’s old fairytale, the one whom the Queen of the Dark Moon waits for eternally (like the play in Moonlight Festival) but was just a mere illusion and doesn’t exist in reality. Chorus starts feeling pain and collapses while repeatedly saying how she wants to meet Illusion Lover. However the gang doesn’t know if this is one of her electric signal disorders after she murmured several unrelated lines. At school, Akina notices Ghost taking Kazuto away but when she confronts Kazuto at the bath house, he denies following her. One day after Kazuto and co have finished their shopping, they see Ghost waiting to pick him up. Meemu then arrives and exerts that she isn’t Kazuto’s companion. But Ghost says he is bound to her and kisses him to transform. Ghost and Meemu battle as the former mocks she can’t win against her if she’s a descendant of the Empire. Ghost is much stronger so Valkyrie transforms to replace weakened Meemu. However this is part of Ghost’s plan to lure her out so she could take back KOT which she claims belong to her, just as Illusion Lover. Though Valkyrie asserts Kazuto chose her and are bound by the same soul, Ghost goes over to unresisting Kazuto and they both disappear into a portal, leaving Valkyrie very distraught while everyone else in shock.
 
Meemu couldn’t contact Valhalla in episode 11 so she receives a visual of her kingdom covered in ice and blizzard. She tells the gang minus Kazuto that the Blizzard of Time is a corrosion of dimensions, a super natural disaster that has once hit Valhalla. When Valhalla was a large continent, this blizzard caused it to lose its 4 moons and the continent to break into 8 parts. Sensing the source there, Meemu and the rest blast off to Valhalla. Kazuto is unconscious in a frozen place but Ghost still feels pain. Chorus is speaking weird as usual but they sound like pain and loneliness of Ghost. When the gang arrive at the blizzard, Akidora uses her powers to see what lies beyond and sees ruins from the past. Meemu says that is Valhalla palace of an alternate reality. Ghost then appears and says Kazuto is sleeping and orders them to leave so Meemu fights her while Akidora uses her power to check on Ghost’s true identity. She saw something before collapsing so Meemu takes her away before Ghost could roast them. Back in the ship, Meemu tells them a story only told within the royalties. When ancient Valhalla faced destruction, the 4 princesses sacrifice themselves to save it and left KOT in this world. Thus Ghost’s true identity is the spirit of those 4 lost princesses. Valkyrie should have ideas since she is currently the inheritor of KOT (1 princess per generation). While Valkyrie is still gloomy, she suddenly sees ghost-like Kazuto emerging from the blizzard and towards her. They’re happy to see each other and get close only to be separated by the glass window.
 
In episode 12, Kazuto says he believes Valkyrie can do it and will be waiting for her before disappearing. Chorus explains how Kazuto felt the sadness of the 4 princesses. Their spirits remained in the alternate space all the while suppressing the Blizzard of Time without anyone knowing. Their electric signals that drifted through space turned negative during those long years and somehow Chorus picked it up (this explains her quirkiness). However because the Illusion Lover was never supposed to exist, they saw how happy Valkyrie was and reacted and accelerated events with KOT’s appearance and materialization of Ghost. So they tried to get back those lost times and that happiness that they couldn’t choose. But they need to expel the Blizzard of Time at all cost. Using Raine’s spaceship to head into the centre, Ghost appears so Akidora goes into battle to buy them some time. Hydra realizes Ghost’s power source so Akidora uses her exorcism charms to seal her 4 eyes and slay her with her special ultimate attack: Four Way Holy Sword. Valkyrie hears Kazuto’s voice, transforms and follows it. Kazuto apologizes that he followed Ghost to prevent another disaster. He felt it when he first met Ghost and if he didn’t save this person, everyone will never be happy. Finally Valkyrie meets him and emotionally hugs him. He passes her the KOT as she uses it to eternally seal the blizzard by stabbing a weakened Ghost. The blizzard disappears and Valhalla returns to its normal state as the lost princesses thank her. Also, the 4 lost moons are restored. Just like that?
 
If you think that the ending was abruptly ended and unsatisfying, then be happy to know that there is a 3rd season called UFO Princess Valkyrie: Seireisetsu No Hanayome (Bride of the Celestial Souls’ Day). This 6 episode OVA indicates some time has passed since the last season since the gang are quite familiar with the Valhalla’s princesses. Speaking of which, the remaining princesses which have not appeared will do so here. Starting off in episode 1, that princess is Pharm as she crashes her spaceship into Kazuto’s school rooftop and decides to turn the clock tower into her home. She also becomes Kazuto and Akina’s homeroom teacher, something they’re not fond of. Pharm notes how Kazuto and Valkyrie are engaged to each other so it’s like visiting between relatives. Pharm gains lots of fan girls as they start wearing her style of specs so much so fan club called Society of Maidens and Spectacles is established. Pharm notes how this is her plan that if every maiden wears specs, that person will start to like glasses. Sanada thinks this a challenge to the princess’ authority and to increase her influence so she gathers her CEMs and declares war. Rika is sent as a spy to gather info (because she wears specs) but is captured when they realized her specs aren’t like Pharm’s. Before Pharm can put her specs onto Rika, Sanada and her CEM army arrive to attack. It’s an epic moe battle of every otaku’s dream: Cat ear maids vs megane high school girls. Anyway Pharm transforms and puts specs on Sanada’s giant mecha cat to make it go out of control. So it’s up to adult Valkyrie to save the day and restore order. In the end, Pharm tells Valkyrie she did this was because she wanted her to wear specs a long time ago. Thank goodness isn’t Kazuto. That guy has had enough ladies to handle for now.
 
Another Valhalla princess comes visiting the bath house in episode 2. She is Inarva and is here to make sure Kazuto and Valkyrie get married during the auspicious Stellar Season which is in 3 months time. She is also here to execute Valhalla’s Laws as necessary. Sanada fears her because she is the Goddess of Judgement and when she flashes her right hand, the world will be turned into a living hell. Even Hydra tries to escape but Inarva comes by and she tries to act goody-goody. But eventually her display of brute behaviour has Inarva unleashing her Punishment Dimension: Hydra having to hear Akina’s horrible singing and in reality she is crying in pain. Everyone starts to fear Inarva and act good. But Inarva exacts punishment on the rest like Sanada for abandoning her duties on Valhalla to follow Valkyrie here (her Punishment Dimension is Valkyrie hates her), Pharm for giving her students specs (Pharm losing her specs), Chorus for buying Gachapons (buying a book she already bought. WTF?!), Raine for eating cuttlefish (fighting an army of Chorus clones – however Raine doesn’t seem bothered) and even non-royalties like Rika (failed to enter university and that unemployment-poverty scene with Raine looks familiar), Shiro (Valkyrie abandons him for another look-a-like but black Shiro called Kuro) and Hydra getting a 2nd punishment (Valkyrie vomiting on her). Rika stands up against Inarva for going too far so Inarva is going to punish her but she manages to deflect it back and reciting a code that she isn’t acting like a princess should. With that, Inarva hugs her and feels she is worthy successor and hands her a Valhalla’s pocket size book for her to study (like she has another unnecessary responsibility). Before Inarva leaves, she tells the gang to learn the ways of Valhalla before the Stellar Season Ceremony.
 
As part of the pre-wedding ceremony, Inarva announces that Kazuto and Valkyrie are to find the 12 Stellar Stones throughout Hagoromo Town in episode 3. It is believed that their unification will be blissful for eternity if they retrieve them all. Akina volunteers and forces Hydra to be the ‘demon’ (obstacles in the game) while Inarva forbids unrelated party to help them. Read: Sanada. The duo find a Stellar Stone at a valley but are confronted with Shiro and co being controlled by Akina’s exorcism (she really doesn’t want them to get wedded. It’s personal…). Sanada watching from afar comes to their aid by transforming into a weirdly dressed Nekomimizukin to beat Shiro and co up before leaving in a huff. Every time the duo are in a pinch, Nekomimizukin passionately helps them out with her "Nyanko la vie!" catchphrase sp that they could retrieve the stone easily like on an alien guy’s head (he’s willing to give but got Nekomimizukin’s suplex move after she misunderstood he was a menace), on Pharm’s spaceship (Nekomimizukin distracted her with specs and veil combo), women’s public bath (ahem), men’s public bath (ahem, ahem), baseball game (what does scoring a home run has got to do with it?) and aquarium (Akina’s flesh-eating fishes backfired). They find the last stone at the spaceship tower. Adult Valkyrie and Kazuto cherish their moment together but Akina isn’t too happy. Back home, Inarva congratulates them and assembles the stones together. She feels the upcoming ceremony will be a success. Because Valkyrie is thanking Nekomimizukin, Sanada makes a doll for her.
 
In episode 4, a flashback of how young Raine failed to meet a friend Princess Keena before her final departure. In present, Chorus shows a small orange orb belonging to Raine but the latter entrusts it to her to keep. Raine undergoes some weird beauty therapy in a creepy place. As a result she is transported back to Valhalla’s palace bath. Teen Meemu suspects her as an intruder and sounds the alarm. Raine escapes and bumps into her young self. The duo make a run from the CEMs and dive into the pool. They appear from the bath of School Planet when Raine and Chorus were still studying. Both Raine bump into their other self. With Chorus suggesting that they could travel time via bath, the trio take a dip and return back to present Raine’s time. Beware everyone! Triple trouble! Sure the trio had their fun but that means their expenses are tripled. Not something Rika is happy about. Soon they go on a time travelling journey and end up in various places in time like when Kazuto was young or baths from previous episodes (space bath annex and snowy mountain hike). I wonder how this would affect time flow. When it’s time to go back to their original times, little Raine remembers when Keena parted and feels sad so present Raine decides to do something. They go back to that time and little Raine manages to meet Keena after the station chief recognizes her as a royalty. The girls exchange orbs before they part. In present time, Chorus shows Raine that her orange orb has turned blue.
 
Because Rika didn’t make Valkyrie’s wanted snack in episode 5, she decides to run away from home. She stays over at Akina’s shrine but her klutz is causing nuisance including a pillow fight. Sanada who is forbidden to tag along decides to go as Nekomimizukin but her CEMs spotted and ‘molested’ her. Next day, Valkyrie stays at Raine and Chorus’ place. Nekomimizukin spies from outside but was taken away by the police for being suspicious. Valkyrie and Chorus watch a strange Twilight Zone-like movie till morning. Next day, Valkyrie follows Pharm around school so much so rumours that she is her illegitimate child. When she spots Kazuto, she gladly comes home with him. That night when they talk about marriage, they both kissed as Valkyrie transforms. However she feels gloomy and flies away. So it’s like deja vu again as the cycle of stay over is repeated. First at Akina’s place (but this time she is more polite), then Raine-Chorus’ home (Nekomimizukin who has just been released gets caught again for doing the same thing), and finally at Pharm’s place where she tells Valkyrie why she’s gloomy: Marital blues. Valkyrie goes back to Kazuto and ascertains she’ll become his bride as they both embrace. Hmm… Valkyrie seems to retain her adult form from now on.
 
The last of the Valhalla princess appears in episode 6. She is Nesti and her fleet is taking on her arch enemy space pirate Alseira. Though Nesti wins, Alseira flees. Nesti discovers the legendary Princess Mural that the pirates were looking for and reports this to Meemu and Inarva. They feel this mural is necessary at Kazuto and Valkyrie’s wedding. A giant floating fortress is the venue for the wedding as everyone meets up to have a look at the mural onboard. On the wedding day, Alseira attacks to reclaim the mural (she says she had always loved Mardook?). Soon a sky battle takes place between both sides. Though Akina is happy that the wedding is disrupted, I guess her ego has her not to play the bad guy. Akidora goes into action and soon Pharm, Shiro and co (spaceship courtesy from late Raine as usual) and Valkyrie joins in. Alseira loses and abandons ship but Mardook destroy missiles to allow her to get away (still have feelings for her?). A spaceship crashes into the fortress and the mural starts falling off, threatening to crash into the bath house below. Valkyrie races to save it from being destroyed but it smashes into the bath house. Kazuto searches for her and is glad that she is safe. Suddenly kid Valkyrie emerges from adult Valkyrie’s side. Since both Valkyries are separated, rumour has it that the mural’s power may have been responsible. Now Kazuto doesn’t have to worry as he has both Valkyries now. Haha. Just kidding. The mural replaces the fading mural in the bath house as Kazuto notices a weird part in the mural. Inarva places the Stellar Stone which fits perfectly. Both Valkyries and Kazuto continue their lives and their wedding postponed yet again.
 
More Valkyrie would you believe it? A 4th season with 2 OVA episodes called UFO Princess Valkyrie: Toki To Yume To Ginga No Utage (Banquet of Time, Dreams and Galaxies). In episode 1, Valkyrie’s ex-classmate, Ymir pays her a visit at the bath house. Of course with both Valkyries existing, it is easy for one to misinterpret kid Valkyrie as adult Valkyrie’s daughter. It’s a long story. Yeah, so long it spanned 3 seasons. Haha! Soon her other ex-classmates, Noto, Embra and Nanna converge at the bath house for the school’s class reunion, much to Rika’s ire. Why there? As Pharm the organizer says, it would save her the trouble of making arrangements. And you thought Raine was the most irresponsible one, eh? While Sanada goes to great lengths to make the reunion party a success so as not to smear the Valhalla’s name, other classmates also arrive and they’re all girls from noble families across the galaxy. I can see why now. This bath house is sure an ‘attractive’ place. Kazuto doesn’t mind as he is happy to see Valkyrie’s smile. Kid Valkyrie being the candid little girl she is, has no qualms in revealing stuff like subjects some of her classmates dislike and mischief that no one would ever think Valkyrie would do. And you thought Valkyrie was a totally nice and gentle girl. Well yeah, there’s a kid in all of us. Of course her pals continue to befriend her and adult Valkyrie in a way is grateful for her kiddie self for ‘releasing’ her. But Rika’s troubles won’t be over yet because somebody suggested to hold their class reunion her annually. See what do I mean that this place is bloody attractive?
 
Meemu and Inarva pick Akina to be the priestess for the Farewell Star Banquet in episode 2 after observing her (like a stalker). The Sleipnir Comet which passes once in 900 years and all Valhalla Princess must be available while the priestess will present 3 wishing cards. One from the priestess herself, another from the head of the Valhalla royal family (Meemu) and the other from the royal family’s son-in-law (Kazuto). Of course Sanada and Hydra have Akina agree to do it or else it’s Punishment Dimension. Inarva trains Akina to perform the right steps while other preparations are being made. On departure day, Raine is missing but past little Raine appear so I guess with short of time, they just take her along. As they get ready for the ceremony, Akina is in a dilemma to write her wish. Soon the comet passes and Akina performs flawlessly. In the aftermath, kid Valkyrie is playing with past little Raine and accidentally topples 2 of the written wishes. They read it out as everlasting good luck on Valhalla (Meemu) and continuing prosperity for the bath house (Kazuto). But Sanada starts to panic because if Inarva finds out that if the wishes that aren’t supposed to be read, oh never mind. Too late. Punishment Dimension time. Even for both Valkyries. Meanwhile Akina alone in her room wonders if her wish will come true. Though it’s not shown but my obvious bet is to marry you know who.
 
I guess it has been too much Valkyrie for me although the final OVA didn’t present much of a development and felt like fillers. Though Kazuto and Valkyrie won’t be wedded in the near future, but at least their love for each other are confirmed. I wonder if this would go smoothly seeing the materialization of little Valkyrie. Can he marry both? Yeah, find a universal law that allows them to do so. In my opinion I find kiddie Valkyrie to be total annoying. I don’t know if some of you find her cute but to me she’s an irritating brat who always wants to play with Kazuto. I know she’s just a kid but I’d still prefer adult Valkyrie anytime. Raine is one of my favourite characters aside from crashing her spaceship (she never learns) and it makes me wonder how she transformed from a nice girl to someone who is unreserved and unashamed of her actions. I also like it when the gang teases her and she replies with her trademark "Ma! Shitsurei na!" (How rude!). I just wonder why in the final episode she wasn’t anywhere to be found. Perhaps on another hotspring time travel? Chorus too is my other favourite character because of her quirky nonsensical lines. However at the end of the 2nd season, she seems to be tamer, taking out the fun. Sanada herself too is pretty amusing every time she gets hyped up over Valkyrie. You could say her loudness is dramatically exaggerated but I guess that’s how infatuated she is with Valkyrie.
 
Initially it was also pretty funny to see Hydra teasing Akina on her flat chest but the tables are turned ever since Akidora was formed. Yeah, it looks like it is Akina’s turn to torment Hydra because each time they need to transform, Akina will just rip Hydra’s favourite stuff. Oh the misery. But as long as Kazuto doesn’t officially get married to Valkyrie, I suppose Akina has a chance. And how I wish I could see more of Inarva’s Punishment Dimension. Boy, I sure do sound like a sadist. There are a few things that bugged me. For instance if Nesti’s job is to eliminate space pirates, why does she have a skull and cross-bone emblem on her hat? Ever since Raine gets to travel through time, doesn’t her little self who has seen the future would make her present self know all about this stuff? Unless she can’t be bothered to remember. If Earth and Valhalla are at the opposite galaxy end of each other, how does Meemu and the rest make frequent visits so often? Time warp? So is Valhalla back to normal after the end of Ghost? Who the heck is running Valhalla when most of its princesses are on Earth? Some are answers are best left unanswered.
 
Oddly for me, many of the opening and ending themes do not appeal to me. For instance rock pieces like season 1’s opening theme Itoshi Kakera (buzzing electric guitars?) and season 2’s opening theme Meguriai (funny synthesizer sounds) sound a little sissy to me because of the pitchy vocals, season 1’s ending theme Save <3 sounds like a little samba piece, 2nd seasons’ ending theme Marble reminds me of Sgt Pepper due to the blazing horns, 3rd season’s opening theme Natsu No Mukougawa feels like a slow pop for a lazy sunny day, season 3’s ending theme Uchuu No Hana feels like a carnival atmosphere, 4th season’s opening theme pop piece One Kiss and 4th season’s ending theme is a male vocal in the form of a slow ballad, Sorekara. Thus to me I prefer the few insert songs like the sad ballad of Princess December and the sweet Agape.
 
There is really something mysterious which attracts aliens from across the galaxy far and wide to his bath house. It still bewilders me if those crashed UFOs are to be removed anytime soon. They’re sticking out like a sore thumb if you ask me. I guess it would be apocalyptic if Meemu, Inarva and Nesti were to crash their own huge spaceships into some part of Hagoromo. That will sure tarnish the name of Valhalla as bad UFO landers. Lucky we have Raine and her mobile spaceship to keep crashing anywhere. Oops. What am I saying? Inarva, please forgive my insolence and don’t punish me… But I know I wouldn’t want a spaceship to crash right into my home (heck, my house isn’t that big and it would be flattened in no time) and babysit an annoying little royal princess. Or two. Here’s a little thought then. Which is better: UFO crash or PC crash? "Ma! Shitsurei na!".
 

UFO Princess Valkyrie

Kanamemo

April 9, 2010

Have you ever wondered the life in a newspaper distribution office? Okay I admit, I have no idea too. While all of us are busy slumbering in the comfort of our bed, these people have to get up in the dead wee hours of the morning making sure so that all of us could start the day afresh with yesterday’s news at your doorstep. I’m not sure if newspaper delivery life is like how it is depicted in Kanamemo but you are not going to see the staff slogging and explaining the detailed tricks of the trade. That would be detrimental for competition, seeing the intense subscription battle in Japan and falling rates of traditional media as compared to the newest trend of online media.
 
Besides the comedy factor, the thing which got me to watch this series was the synopsis narration which goes "… everyone living at the office are charming, self-asserting bishoujos". Wow. Pretty girls, I thought. After watching it, erm… they’re not that pretty according to my standards (scorn me if you want) and I’m thinking the people that live in the office are rather weird than charming. Why? You’ll find out.
 
As seen in episode 1, 13 year old Kana Nakamachi has recently lost her beloved grandma. With her departure, she feels alone in this world since her parents too had long passed away. Since she is rather naive, she thinks the people moving out grandma’s possessions like the furniture are going to be sold. That means, she is to be sold too (at least that’s what she thinks). Instincts has her to run away from home. Elsewhere, the local newspaper delivery office, Fuushin Shinbun, the deputy chief of the office, Saki Amano (yes, the deputy chief is a little grade school girl), puts up a poster for employment. We are also introduced to the other girls who work and live at Fuushin Shinbun. They are Hinata Azuma, Haruka Nishida, Yume Kitaoka, Yuuki Minami and their pet cat Bunta. Kana passes by the office and luck has it that she spots the employment poster. However after seeing the antics of the girls, any sound person would turn and walk away. Don’t want to work with weirdos, eh? She tries to seek opportunity at other places but none are available. Down on her luck, that evening Kana bumps into Yume who is doing her evening delivery.
 
She brings Kana back to the office and when she comes to, her first instinct is to leave but her stomach growls. They cook for her and let’s just say they won’t be opening a restaurant anytime. Kana takes this opportunity to cook proper meal for them as the hungry girls dig in before Kana could even have her share. Seeing how happy everyone is, Kana pleads to let her stay here and she will make delicious meals for them. The girls relay this to Saki and though reluctant to hire a middle school student, she eventually agrees since she has ‘problems getting food for her pets’. Everyone rejoice as Saki decides to call Kana’s parents for consent but Kana says she doesn’t have anybody left so Saki drops it and allows her to move in here. Kana is shown her very own room and it seems there is a gapping hole next to Yume’s room. That night everyone minus Saki celebrates in Kana’s room and gets to know each other. But when they learn she has no other belongings (old newspapers as futon?), the rest get emotionally and lend her some of their stuff. Saki tells them to go to bed or else they’ll have a pay cut if they wake up late for tomorrow’s delivery. Since Yume lend Saki her futon, she sleeps with Yuuki. The next morning, Saki wakes up and asks Saki what kind of office this is. Yeah, she joined without knowing what kind of shop. Well, at least she now knows it’s a newspaper delivery.
 
Basically in many of the episodes, you’ll see how the girls get to bond and interact with each other as Kana gets used to her new surroundings and learn. So after the first episode, could you see why this newspaper office has a bunch of weird girls? A tough-talking subscriber minded loli who heads the office and possibly the one who keeps things around in check, a penny-pincher and a 2nd year university ronin, a drunkard extreme lolicon demon sexual harasser, a pair of lesbians whereby one is a carefree and active girl and the other a docile but I-will-kill-those-who-touches-my-Yume lady. Add a naive and klutzy scatterbrain to the pack and there you have it, a newspaper office filled with weirdos. The funniest part is seeing Haruka trying to sexually harass Kana and her indecent fantasies. She won’t hesitate to do it. Really. It’s a good thing she is a woman as it could’ve been a different story is she’s male. Maybe not either. She even tries to harass Saki but that strict girl has what it takes to put her in line. But will Haruka ever learn? Poor Kana. I wonder how she will tolerate the torment of being harass day in day out.
 
In episode 2, Kana wakes up one morning to find nobody around and jumps to conclusion that aliens have kidnapped them! Who knows how far her mind will wonder if Saki hadn’t show up and tell her everyone’s away doing their delivery rounds. After cooking breakfast, Saki takes Kana around a bit so that she could be familiar with the delivery routes and terms. Of course her naivety is annoying to Saki. Still thinking the number 1 scary thing is aliens, eh? When everyone returns to the office, they find that Kana can’t actually ride a bike. Seeing one need to carry tons of newspapers, bicycles are important to share the load so that one won’t get easily exhausted. The gang decide to teach Kana how to ride one. Of course this is Kana’s first time so it’s normal that she doesn’t do well. Excuse the yuri pair doing their business in the public toilet and Haruka’s usual fantasies of Kana. With time running out for the evening deliveries, Kana feels a little disheartened. But even if she can’t do the delivery on bicycle, she can still go on foot. During her rounds, it started to rain so Kana takes refuge at a nearby shrine. She bumps into another girl her age, the bratty Mika Kujin. Kana discovers she is also a newspaper delivery girl but Mika thinks she’s a rival out to steal her trade secrets. The rain stops so Mika prepares to set off but realizes she is lost. But her ego has Kana to ‘help her out’. They did the deliveries together and part ways at the end of the day. Kana comes back late and thinks she’s a failure but also hears how the rest also did mistakes on their first time. Saki praises her for taking shelter during the rain so everyone goes back inside and Kana feeling happy with her new life as a newspaper delivery girl.
 
In episode 3, we see Saki’s other face. In school, she puts on an innocent angelic goody-two-shoes face so that her classmates would get their parents to subscribe to her newspaper. Slick. It’s Kana’s first day in school after her grandma’s death and in class, she gets a new transfer student. She is no other than Mika. Seems she hasn’t ditched that high-and-mighty attitude. But she quickly makes friends with Kana and her buddies Fumi, Nao and Ootsuka. Back at Fuushin Shinbun, Kana learns of Saki’s expansion plan to get more subscribers so Saki wants Kana to master the perfect smile to increase subscriber rate. I don’t know what’s wrong with her normal face but when she tries to smile, it’s like the scariest thing the girls have ever seen! So scary that they can’t show it to viewers! Hmm… She has all her teeth intact, looks pretty clean, no foodstuff sticking out. So what could possibly be wrong? Maybe seeing Ju-on isn’t that bad either? When Kana spots Mika nearby the office, Saki gets upset to know that she is of a rival newspaper but hatches a scheme for Kana to go around subscriber hunting with Mika (wink, wink). The duo try several households but still couldn’t grasp that it is Kana’s smile which is driving the customers away! All part of that sly lolis plan to disrupt her local rival. So finally Mika wants Kana to show her smile and sees the horrible side of it. Mika then personally teaches disheartened Kana to smile. At the end of they day, they decide to put all that effort to a test. However no one is answering the door and thinking that they may be ignoring them, Mika fakes a fire breakout call which sends everyone out into frenzy. Upon knowing that it’s a lie, the girls make a run for it or else they will never live to see tomorrow. At the park, they think of going back since it’s late. They practice calling each other by their first names before leaving. Mika notes how her smile got better. Isn’t that the same smile she always displays? Say, Mika’s blushing seems to indicate that she… Kana… Oh no. Not another yuri case I hope. Back at the office, Kana shows her practice smile. They all start laughing after seeing how funny it is but she doesn’t mind seeing that everyone is having so much fun.
 
Episode 4 feels a little like a musical episode, though not the entire way. Saki places coupons for loyal subscribers which prompts the girls wanting to go the water amusement park after hearing how Kana has never been anywhere during her holidays (Haruka’s song 1 goes here). Later the girls take Kana to the shopping centre so that they could buy their swimsuits (insert musical song here also – twice). When they come back, Saki tells them to go back to work seeing they all can’t go to the pool together because of their different day offs (cue for ‘Saki is a demon’ song). Since they can’t go, they might as well do their deliveries in their swimsuit so as not to go to waste (another round of musical here). The good news is that they are able to attract lots of otaku guys to subscribe while on their rounds. Even Mika is in a swimsuit so as not to lose out while Kana is embarrassed to do all that singing in her swimsuit. Anyway she does and the musical continues while the crowd cheers them on. When they come home, Saki rewards them with an inflatable pool. They also want Saki to come in with them but she refuses. So they toss her in so as retaliation she sprays her water hose.
 
A typhoon is brewing in episode 5 so they need to get prepared if they don’t want their old building to be blown away. Yume and Yuuki don their swimsuits to hammer planks on the outside but Yume seems to be having fun in the rain. Then they make Teruterubozu and several dolls which closely resemble themselves. Haruka tries to flip up the skirt of Kana’s Teruterubozu so Kana tries to do the same at hers. But Haruka gets stimulated and wants her to do it on to her real self instead. Real pervert. They make a life size one with their raincoats, scaring passers-by. The rain stopped for a while so Saki suggests going to the public bath. However Saki ‘warns’ Haruka not to let her indecency out in public or else. Then Haruka spots someone lying outside the office and with her vision sensing her lolita powers at 680,000 (WTF?!), she recognizes her as Mika. What the heck is she doing there anyway? Kana invites her to join them. It seems Mika doesn’t know the ways of the public bath house but luckily Kana is around to show her. Keep in mind that loli pervert in check too. I guess she’s trying hard to restrain herself. Maybe not. After a little bath folly, the usual stuff like weighting themselves and drinking milk, courtesy from Saki’s treat. Except Hinata whose remarks that has hell freezes over due to her change in character has Saki excluding Hinata from her treat. Sometimes you just got to be quiet and accept the kindness. As they are about to leave, the typhoon picks up speed so I guess they’re stuck in here for the time being.
 
The storm continues in episode 6. Kana meets her pals in the street and finds out they’re planning to do something for their cooking club teacher tomorrow. Since Kana has been busy after her grandma’s death, they didn’t want to disturb and tell her. Back at Fuushin Shinbun, it seems Mika is seeking refuge with the gang too. After putting planks to protect their building from the typhoon, a blackout occurs. Kana is easily frightened. However Saki wants them to keep their voices down thinking that their noisiness would cause subscribers to un-subscribe. Yeah, she’s sure a concerned little girl. So the girls talks over things over the table with only candles as their light source. While Saki goes to bed, Kana learns Yume comes from a rich family but an incident with Yuuki causes them to burn some warehouse with goods worth millions of Yen while they’re young. Then they start telling ghost stories. Seeing Kana as an easy target, you know what this means. However I find the stories un-supernatural. More like real world struggles, don’t you think? Imagine Kana wanting to go to the toilet… Then everybody goes up to their rooms together. Kana felt something brushed upon her feet but when the rest realized it wasn’t them who pulled the prank on her, they began to fear that it might be a real ghost. Yeah, something is swiftly brushing against their feet and then… The torchlight goes out. Oh no! Argh! The light then comes on and so does Saki, awakened from her beauty slumber. Then the ghost mystery is solved because Saki shows them that those brushings were from Bunta and the other cats taking refuge in the room. Then she says it’s already 2am and that means they have 1 hour before the newspaper delivery truck arrives. Apart from that, they have to clean up the ruckus they made. Everyone owns up to their mistakes and does so. Next morning, the typhoon has passed and it seems the truck hasn’t come. Why? Yeah, it got delayed during the storm and this means Saki is getting lots of complaints! Later when Saki finishes her delivery, her pals come by to apologize for that day and want her to come along to delivery the birthday cake with them, making her feel happy.
 
Today is a holiday in episode 7 so that means no newspaper deliveries. Yahoo! Everyone can have the day off. The lesbians sleeping in together, the harasser fantasizing about lolis, the stingy poker counting her coins. You get the idea. Kana decides to hold an Obon light ceremony for her late grandma so the rest gladly help out. While burning a makeshift eggplant on sticks which resembles a horse and a cow (something to do with the speed of coming and return of the departed), this causes her to break down and remember the times spent with grandma (like how she comforted Kana when she failed at a goldfish scooping booth by making a paper fish). Kana excuses herself so later Saki asks her and the rest to pick a yukata they like for the night’s festival. If you’ve seen what people on such festivals, you’ll know the typical stuff that the gang will do. Hinata is upset that the gang has no qualms wasting their money on the festival foodstuff and all. "Damn it! They’re all just wheat flour!". Kana bumps into a little girl called Ramune and to make up for it, gives her a bottle of… er… Lamune and then proceeds to have a fun outing with her alone. When they part, Kana tripped and fainted. When she comes to, she sees Saki and Haruka who ask her what she was doing. Yeah, she can’t remember too. But a mascot frog next to her? I’ve got a feeling that Ramune girl is a ghost.
 
A hot summer’s day in episode 8 as Kana tries to follow Bunta up the tree for a cool spot but slipped. Guess who caught her fall. Yeah, of all people it has got to be Haruka. Auto wild fantasies switch on! Later with the rest, Kana learns that there was a previous worker at the office before her named Marimo. Saki quotes her as the worst employee. Much worse than Kana. From wrong deliveries to getting lost. And you thought Kana was bad, eh? So they talked about that time during snowy winter when Marimo was out during one of her deliveries and Saki was worried she hasn’t come back yet. The rest go in search for her as Hinata spots her wrecked bicycle near a river bank and her newspapers strewn all over the place. She contacts Saki who gets worried so she starts going out to look for her. Ironically Saki got lost in the snow but fate has her reunite with Marimo in the streets as they both emotionally embraced. Since this talk was too embarrassing for Saki, she decides to cut everyone’s pay. So this was what happened. It seems Marimo panicked when the stray kitten she had always visited wasn’t at its usual spot. So she went to search for it and to her relief, found it at a comfortable new place of its own and gave her own scarf for extra warmth. When Kana learns that delivery was Marimo’s last as she has since graduated and moved on, Kana feels a little gloomy. That night she has trouble sleeping and goes to get a glass of water. Saki also does the same as Kana asks if she felt lonely after Marimo’s departure. But that acid tongue kid says she merely got rid of the troublesome burden (I’m beginning to think she’s tsundere). She also mentions that her time to leave will also come and to go back to bed. Saki remembers how Marimo told her after the cat incident that she’s leaving tomorrow. Lastly, we learn that Bunta is one the offspring of that now grown up kitten.
 
You know Kana’s skills as a cook is getting better each day because the girls could enjoy a good meal, right? In episode 9, I guess her food is ‘too rich’ so much so she splits her pants and just like normal girls her age, starts thinking that she needs to go on a diet. Initially Saki agrees with Kana because her own clothes are getting a little tight. But when Yume comes in with cakes, Saki ditched the idea and that dieting is bad. She’s always been a two-faced person, remember? I don’t know part of their plan to help Kana diet is to where some doggy mascot while doing her delivery so that she could work out and amount of sweat. During her delivery, she meets Mika (freaking out at first sight). Of course Kana has trouble delivering a newspaper to a house which has a dog. Mika helps her out. Not without all that trouble and getting themselves dirty. It seems that this house belongs to Ootsuka as she greets them. She has a favour to ask of Kana. Back at the office as the girls are hosing Kana down with clean water (Haruka tied up in a storeroom. Should have done this all the time), Kana tells them how Ootsuka has entrusted her in taking care of her dog, John, while she and her parents are away for the day. So Yume, Yuuki and Hinata join Kana and Mika to play with John as it becomes friendly with them. Lots of freaking out moments from scaredy cats Kana and Mika at first. This prompts Mika to remember the heartbreaking moment when she had to give away her own pet dog when she was moving. That night Mika and Kana send John back so Mika wonders if her dog is being treated well in her new family. Kana assures her so Mika feels relief. Back at the office, Kana is having lots of cake because she’s hungry. Then she remembers about her diet… Back to square one for the battle of the bulge. As for Haruka, she’s still at the police station doing her own ‘battle’. On an unrelated note, I wonder how Haruka got freed from the police station seeing she will continue to appear in the rest of the episodes. No proof to charge for sexual misdemeanour?
 
In episode 10, Yume bakes cookies and hands it to Kana to give to Yuuki as she leaves in a hurry in her family limo. Kana learns from Hinata that Yume is an heiress in her noble family and so she misinterprets that she is forced to go back. However the bigger problem is Yuuki. You know what this means if she doesn’t have her partner around. Well, it’s her chance-cum-trial to grow up but it seems she’s more depressed than anything, locking herself up in her room. This doesn’t help when naive Kana starts misinterpreting that Yume has left Yuuki. Then during meal time, Kana tries to distract and prevent that would make Yuuki remind anything on Yume. This includes getting harassed by Haruka, thinking she has accepted her love. Get real. Over the day, Kana feels gloomy over Yuuki’s case and the slight provocation about it could send Kana into some random frenzy. Yeah, even watching a TV drama about a depressing love story. Yeah, based on that show, she concludes that Yuuki is going to kill herself! Speaking of which and in good timing, Yuuki runs out in tears and says that she can’t take it anymore. Kana tries to restrain her but soon learns that her pain stems from her tooth cavity. Uh huh. So Saki tells her to go to the dentist in which she eventually did. So kids, there is nothing to fear in seeing a dentist. Albeit that pain may seem like an eternity to her during the operation. That night when Yume comes home she tells Kana that she was went home to attend a memorial service and wanted Yuuki to come along but with swollen face, it’s better she didn’t. Later they play fireworks but Kana still feels down. On a cloudy morning, Kana meets Mika during her delivery. They take a break as Kana offers to buy her a can drink. Both are trying to be extra nice to each other so much so causing the can to spill. So it’s Mika turn to make up for it. I don’t know if this is true because the vending machine announces that Mika is the winner and gives an additional free can drink as her prize. Now they don’t have to ‘fight’ over it. The sun then comes up, which makes Kana feeling a lot better.
 
It must be rainy season because it continues to pour during the summer in episode 11. Partly due to overworking, Yuuki falls ill. However delivery must still be done so Yume volunteers to cover for Yuuki’s route. And perhaps she was having too much fun that she too falls ill when she returns. Okay, 2 lesbians sleeping together to cure each other’s fever and such. See, you don’t need sophisticated medicine to heal. Next morning, Kana panics to see Kana sleeping at the dinner table. Her mind starts to go wild. This includes Saki is an alien (don’t ask) and that Fuushin Shinbun will collapse without her direction and be sold off (don’t even think how she came up with that). It’s true that Saki’s got a little fever so she decides to take a rest in her room while Kana tries her best to nurse. However even if Kana’s concern is pretty much genuine, it is a little annoying in the sense she’s asking if she’s this or that or needs anything. Hinata and Haruka say it’s best to leave her alone which has Kana once again to jump the gun that she’s an annoyance to Saki. That night when Kana enters Saki’s room, she finds out she has lost her voice. Is she going to fall ill too? Probably after all that panicking and scatterbrain shouting, yeah maybe. Next day, Saki is well and wants Kana to rest though Kana is adamant that she can still go on. But Saki thinks otherwise at this will prolong her cold. The rest continue with their work while Kana lies in bed. She has a nightmare whereby everyone starts leaving her. Next morning Kana wakes up with her cold gone and spots Saki sleeping next to her. She apologizes for causing trouble but Saki replies that she has got her own role and still needs her around. But Kana still feels depressed because she feels she is being protected by everyone.
 
Fuushin Shinbun is taking part in a local flea market to raise enough money to buy an air-cond for their office in episode 12. Saki uses the power of her innocent cherubic impression to get her classmate to donate stuff for the market. It always works. And I think Yume and Yuuki’s lesbianism is going too far when they smooch right in the middle of the crowded place. Kana is the first to take her lunch break shift so Saki also asks her to get some loose change from the bank at the same time. Kana meets Mika on her way and finds out that she too is participating at the flea market and was told to get loose change as well. Are these 2 kinda fated to meet and do almost the same things? After learning about Kana’s role, Mika suggests to help out at Fuushin Shinbun’s booth and will wait for her return with the change. Yeah, killing 2 birds with 1 stone. Kana then unknowingly bumps into Marimo and drops her vegetables. But Marimo is unfazed and continues to set up a stall and sell her vegetables dirt cheap. 10 Yen per veggie. Wow! All the aunty and grandmas flock to buy them! In no time they have to restock so Kana helps her out. They even help a grandma carry the vegetables back home as service. Then Marimo starts following the scent which attracted to her. Kana tries to keep up with her through the bushes and people’s yard. They arrive at a hilltop with a scenic view of the town below. It seems Marimo was following the scent of the sweet olive tree. Can she smell from that far? They both lie down and chat as Kana finds out she once worked as a newspaper delivery girl but didn’t ask where or her name. When Kana tells of her troubles at her current work place, Marimo starts singing a coconut journey song which prompts Kana to cry (in a happy sense). They proceed to have a friendly chat and when Kana asks her name, Marimo was fast asleep. Evening before Marimo leaves, they both thank each other as Marimo gives Kana words of encouragement that she’ll bloom when the time comes. Then the other girls found Kana, especially Saki who is extremely upset, because well, she forgot about getting the loose change and had gone missing. Pay cut! Pay cut!
 
Kana continues to learn to ride a bicycle in episode 13. Though she keeps falling, like they say, no pain no gain. She also learns that Fuushin Shinbun is holding interviews next week to possibly hire a new staff. In this episode, Mika’s tsundere-ness for Kana becomes totally obvious. Because Nao notices this, I guess she can’t help it but to screw with Mika’s mind that Kana may have a boyfriend and might have made a date to meet at the amusement park. I mean, Kana often comes late to class and her stamina has increased (thanks to all that running from her deliveries). Not to lose out, jealous Mika pretends to ride a bike on a playground ride wildly and as expected, Kana spot this embarrassing thing. For once, we see Kana’s sly eyes that she may intend to use this embarrassing moment in the near future. Did she learn all this as Fuushin Shinbun? Then the duo have an imaginary bicycle competition since neither could ride well. So anything goes so much so it ends with Kana being hit by a truck. Keep in mind all this are just their imagination but they’re taking it all too seriously, especially Mika. Yeah, Kana’s last words to Johnny… Who the heck is Johnny? Well, to Mika she thinks that damn guy is her supposed boyfriend. Next day, Kana goes to shop for a new diary but finds the one she wants a little pricey. And that Mika thinks she’s going to buy it for her Johnny… Give it up will ‘ya. Of course the other girls would gladly help to chip in but modest Kana refused their generosity. They then think up of an idea and has Kana do several menial chores. With every chore done, they contribute to a piggy-bank and during pay day, Kana gets a fat bonus in which it is enough to buy that diary. She feels grateful and as she continues to practice cycling, she hopes she can repay everyone’s kindness one day and perhaps give the possible newbie a lot of firsts like how everyone did for her. And for your information, Johnny is Fuushin Shinbun’s pet goldfish. Oh Mika, give it up already…
 
So all is well ends well? Though it may not all be a smooth ride for Kana, but at least I can see she made a little self improvement from the klutzy and naive self she initially was. She’s still got some room from improvement but not to worry because with the guidance of her Fuushin Shinbun girls and her grandma watching up from above, I’m confident she’ll get by. Yeah, pick up some bad habits along the way and especially immunization from Haruka’s pervertness. I hate to admit this but life at the newspaper office is pretty dull without her. That’s why I think twice about locking her up in prison for good. Better to watch misery upon other people, eh? It still bugs me to wonder who the actual chief is running the place since Saki is only the deputy but everyone else calls her the chief. If not for her strict ways, I can’t imagine the chaos and order. Nobody would’ve gotten their newspapers. That’s Fuushin Shinbun for you. A cast of colourful girls delivering your newspapers.
 
On trivial notes, there is a robot named Kaniko Echizen that serves as a scene changer. He spews short, random and nonsensical lines which has no relation whatsoever (some even sarcastic) while spinning around quickly across the screen for the quick transition of the scene that takes place. Other than that, it will be a scene of Bunta and the kanji word of "De" (and). I feel that this series caters for cat lovers because you get to see them almost everywhere. Each episode has the words "My first~" in it to reflect the first time the things Kana do. Such a pitiful girl never to have experienced some of the things that many of us take for granted. The mid-intermission itself is comical as it shows funny sketches/scenes of the characters as they say the name of the series. For many of the next episode preview, the characters play the shiratori game though their lines may not be related to what the next episode has to offer. Sometimes it made me go "What the hell was that conversation all about anyway". And after that, viewers are treated to different drawings and illustrations of the characters from different people. If you have seen Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei, you’ll know what I mean.
 
For the seiyuu, it is such a surprise that Yui Horie takes on the role as the demon loli harasser Haruka. It feels like a different change of breath from the other good girl roles she usually voiced like Kotori in Da Capo series, Eri in School Rumble and Siesta in Zero No Tsukaima series. She’s sure damn convincing voicing Haruka. Kaoru Mizuhara does an equally convincing job voicing acerbic Saki. Her other roles for this newbie include Erika in Princess Lover and Misao in Lucky Star. Sometimes I find Aki Toyasaki who voices Kana, to be a little out of breath. I mean, Kana a scatterbrain herself has so much to say whenever she panics so it’s like I feel she needs bigger lungs. She did voice other ditzy girls like Yui in K-ON! and Najimi in Akikan. I guess that’s why she’s perfect here too. And who wouldn’t recognize Rie Kugimiya as Mika. Tsundere loli roles. Need I say more or any further introduction for those of you have heard enough of her from her previous roles like Shana in Shakugan No Shana or Nagi in Hayate No Gotoku. Other casts include Eri Kitamura as Hinata (Rin in Kodomo No Jikan), Ryou Hirohashi as Yume (Kyou in Clannad), Aya Endo as Yuuki (Cruz in Needless) and Mikako Takahashi as Marimo (Rushuna in Grenadier). The opening theme, Kimi E To Tsunagu Kokoro by Aki Toyasaki, Rie Kugimiya and Kaoru Mizuhara is a lively and upbeat pop piece while the ending theme, YAHHO!! by Yui Horie resembles more of a rock piece (heavy electric guitars at the start).
 
While the important lesson in this series is the life journey that everyone undertakes and that life still has to go on even if the passing of your beloved one, the next time you pick up your delivered newspaper at your doorstep, stop and spare a thought that some people have to wake up in the wee hours of the morning just to deliver a few pages of sheet. As for me, I buy my own newspaper! Can’t afford to pay extra for delivery (stingy poker!). Don’t be surprised if you see a newspaper office filled only with charming and self-assertive bishoujos. Because I think you’ll get more service than expected ;). Now, I wonder if there is an anime studio filled only with charming and self-assertive bishoujos… Can I apply to work in one?
 

Kanamemo

Saki

April 3, 2010

Initially I did not intend to watch Saki. Not that I have any interest in lolis playing mahjong. But after looking at random screenshots from the series over the internet via random browsing, it made me think that this is a funny show and should have a look at it. So okay. Let’s me put it this way. A picture is worth a thousand words. It is up to one how to interpret it. Perhaps I was really expecting some humour from this sports genre and though there are but it is not so much that you would drop laughing like a hyena, rolling on the floor like mad. Yeah so, it’s my bad. But what the heck, it was worth the shot.
 
I’m not sure about the reputation of mahjong worldwide, but from the region that I come from, it is a word associated with so many unfortunate events like loss of wealth to hopeless addiction. And when they make an anime about high school girls playing this tile-based game which even has a National competition at school levels, heck, this must be one hell of a game, isn’t it? Be warned though. If you intend to fully enjoy watching this series, you need to have quite a substantial amount of knowledge on mahjong whether it’s the scoring system or the call terms. For me, I know nuts so I was just going "Huh?! What the?! Say that again?!" most of the time. Sorry. All of the time. Yeah, I haven’t the slightest idea why she wins her hand like that because all those mahjong symbols pretty look much like a kindergarten kid reading Einstein’s work. You get what I mean. Though the fansubbers are pretty knowledgeable themselves and prompt notes when the terms first appear, I couldn’t remember a single one of them. So what’s a riichi or a kan or a pon already?
 
Because of that, I am inclined to observe (or rather get distracted by) other things on or off during the game. Not that I’m that observant but it beats the heck of trying to make sense of where the mahjong game is going. And since this is one of those sport genres, expect those over-the-top, over-exaggerated manoeuvres that the players pull off, whether it’s just drawing a tile or some super skill which I think is impossible to exist in the real world anyhow. Really. So are you still keen on watching lolis playing mahjong?
 
As one may have guessed, in episode 1, first year student of Kiyosumi High School, Saki Miyanaga is and would be the heroine of this mahjong series. Though the flat chest indicates she has no interest in mahjong, she is being coaxed by her friend, Kyoutarou Suga, to join the mahjong club which is lacking in members. Of course, she meets other first year students too. Namely the busty Nodoka Haramura, who is the reigning middle school mahjong champion (wah!) and the petite taco-lover Yuuki Kataoka. So the quartet had a test match and as expected, Nodoka comes out tops. Then we’re introduced to the mahjong club’s cool captain, Hisa Takei, who is also the school’s student congress president. Note, NOT student council president. Honestly, I don’t even know what the difference is. Saki takes her leave and Hisa notices Saki has a peculiar skill/talent. An ability to score plus minus zero. Is it coincidence? Not if you’re doing for 3 times in a row. I don’t know what’s so special about that skill since I thought you’re supposed to earn points whether from your hand or opponents’. Hmm… Maybe that itself is a skill. Because of that, Nodoka has her pride as a champion dented and goes out chasing after Saki in the rain. Drenched, wet and soaked. Their clothes… Anyway, Nodoka learns Saki gained that ability because when she plays with her family members, if she wins they get angry at her but if she loses no candy. And before she knew it, she started playing this way. To add salt to wounds, Saki says she hates mahjong when Nodoka requests to play another match with her only to be rejected. Really? How can she say that and smile at the same time? I guess another way to lure Saki is to ‘bribe’ her that she can read some book she wanted. At least that’s how Hisa got her to come back to the club room and have another match. So Saki plays against Nodoka, Yuuki and the other club member, Mako Someya. And well what do you know, even if Nodoka is playing serious, it does seem that Saki really has a talent in pulling off another plus minus zero. Still thinking it’s a coincidence? Even if it’s luck, she must be one hell of a lucky girl, eh? All hail the mahjong prodigy.
 
Yeah so, the game continues in episode 2. Isn’t it too much to envisage Nodoka’s mahjong supremacy by making her look like an angel and sprouting her white wings? Anyway, Saki ends up with another plus minus zero score but according to Hisa about some points scoring whatever, she ended up winning. Call Nodoka a bad loser or what because she barges out of the room in tears. Can’t blame her as her pride as a champion is being dented flatter than an aluminium can. Since it’s bad to make a girl cry, Saki goes after her, talks to her and the reason that Nodoka felt hurt was not because she lost to a great player like her, but to a person who hated mahjong. Nodoka also says that there are many stronger opponents at the Nationals. Saki goes back, reflect on the day’s events and the time when she used to play mahjong with her family. Think here, think there, think a lot. Next day, she comes into the mahjong room requesting to join the club. No need to take any entrance exam, girl. You’re in. She also expresses her wish to play a lot with Nodoka. Mahjong lah. I know, viewers may get a feeling of a little yuri relationship between the duo.
 
In episode 3, we see Nodoka’s dad not really too fond having his daughter playing around too much with mahjong. I understand what he means because it’s only a game right? Ditch classes, not do your homework, mixing with bad mahjong addicts, pick up bad mahjong habits. Unless you don’t let mahjong control your life then I supposed it’s okay so long as you love it as much as Nodoka. I guess this inter-school mahjong competition is so hot that they’ve got reporters covering it (at least in this anime). Who wouldn’t want to do an interview with the middle school mahjong champion? Now that she’s in high school, the level is up a little. I also guessed that Hisa is much more interested in the draw for the inter-high school mahjong prefectural qualifiers rather than attend to her student council meeting. Oops. Student congress meeting. With that, Saki plays with Yuuki, Kyoutarou and Nodoka. Yuuki, being the East specialist, wins the game. As expected, Kyoutarou occupies the bottom because my guess is that his role as a whipping boy. Hey, without him, Saki or Nodoka wouldn’t be tops, right? However Saki scores another plus minus zero, upsetting Nodoka. She tells her to leave the club if she continues playing this way. I don’t know if Yuuki really likes Kyoutarou or not because she’s been making cheeky remarks that they’re like husband-wife team and always think that he’s on to her throughout the whole series. In her dreams. That guy prefers busty babes like Nodoka. Meanwhile at the draw, the team tournament bracket is drawn so we have heavyweights like last year’s runners-up Kazekoshi All-Girls High School and winner Ryuumonbuchi High School taking the spotlight and being seeded. The way they painted the Ryuumonbuchi team seems to make them look like a team of mahjong demons. That scary and good, huh? The team to beat and you know who can/will do it lah. Thankfully Kiyosumi won’t meet either till they reach the final 4.
 
Meanwhile Saki is trying to sooth Nodoka of her playing style because she just wanted Yuuki to have fun and the reason she let her win. However Nodoka shoots back that Yuuki isn’t that weak. Saki mentions though her parents aren’t officially divorced, they live separately. She intends to go to the Nationals so she could see her sister, Teru. In this series, she must be one heck of a rising star in the mahjong game. Something about both sisters are not on good terms so Saki feels that she could talk to her via mahjong. Oh yeah. The game that unites people and families (I thought it breaks them up?). Not football, people. Mahjong. With that, Nodoka and Saki made a promise to each other to go to the Nationals together and not to hold back.
 
Episode 4 begins with that usual Kyoutarou’s fantasy of Nodoka but Yuuki thinks it’s her. Perasan. Hisa and Mako come back from the draw and announces to the rest their participation in the 5-a-side team tournament (too bad Kyoutarou can only enter in individuals) and give them a set of rules for the tournament (I don’t even want to read it). Also warning them about Ryuumonbuchi (why are their eyes glowing red like Terminator?) and its main player, a loli who wears a bunny-like hair band, Koromo Amae. So this is the mahjong monster? Don’t play play. As part of Hisa’s plan to improve Saki and Nodoka, she sends them to Mako’s family cafe where they don maid outfits to serve customers before getting to play mahjong. Yeah, there’s a mahjong table there to satisfy hardcore players. The duo are up against an elderly customer and some woman named Pro Fujita. Something about this Fujita girl is that her presence makes Saki shiver in cold sweat! For real? Fujita shows them her true powers and beats them both flat. Now their eyes are open to see the obvious difference in their skill. However Fujita notes that she played second fiddle to some match and that person she lost to was Koromo (that mahjong monster again). Though intimidated at first, they’re not going to let that get in the way of their promise so the duo are even more determined to do their best for the prefectural qualifiers.
 
To do that, Hisa takes her club members to a hotspring training camp in episode 5. Playing mahjong at a hotspring? Seriously? Seriously. A combo which I never thought would have seen. See how unrefined Yuuki is? And the reason Kyoutarou tagged along even if he’s not in the team tournament is so that he could carry their luggage. He’s useful in that sense. Hisa has her members undergo several training to strengthen their weak points and increase their strong aspects. Like Yuuki doing arithmetic calculation because she sucks at it, Saki to play online mahjong to practice against only seeing opponent’s tiles and Nodoka to hug her stuffed penguin, Etopen, so that it could make her feel comfortable like as though she is playing online mahjong in the comfort of her home. Because Yuuki is always losing she loses confidence and starts thinking if she’s cut out for mahjong (aside accusing Nodoka she hides mahjong tiles in her boobs). So Hisa tells her story of how she was the only person in the mahjong club when she first entered Kiyosumi and people who joined never stayed long. Eventually her perseverance has Mako joined the club and soon the rest. The thing is, if she had given up back then, all this would not have been possible now. So everybody gets their confidence back, continues playing and takes a break by dipping into the hotspring and thinking about the qualifiers. Sweet camping trip, eh?
 
The qualifiers begin in episode 6 and yeah, Kiyosumi are the underdogs. The much anticipated Ryuumonbuchi arrives but you won’t get to see who Koromo is yet. That girl is such a heavy sleeper that no amount of alarm clock could wake her up. Can she make it in time? While Nodoka is being swarmed by reporters, Saki gets lost and unknowingly bumps into the Ryuumonbuchi girls, the rich bratty Touka Ryuumonbuchi, Hajime Kunihiro (she’s got chains to her hands? That dangerous?), bespectacled Tomoki Sawamura (always carrying a laptop?) and Jun Inoue (I thought she was a guy…). Anyway, they felt some deadly aura coming out from Saki and as similar as Koromo. But since she tripped, they cast their doubts. Saki reunites with her team and learns the competition’s playing style. In short, the teams will take turns and the points will be accumulated. The top 4 team will play against each other in the finals whereby only 1 team will advance to the Nationals. Yuuki will head in first, followed by Mako, then Hisa, next Nodoka and finally Saki the anchor. The game starts and note the high-tech mahjong table. Wow. All tiles automatically rearranged and quick too. Plus, Fujita is a co-commentator and I kinda noticed she’s always looking bored. Nothing much exciting from high school games perhaps? Besides, she’s always eating and finishing her big bowl of ramen. Make that 2. I mean 3. Okawari! The game starts and as expected Kiyosumi first 3 players breezes past their opponents. So now it’s Nodoka’s turn. Touka decides to gather info on this Nodoka girl because she thinks she is the legendary online mahjong mascot, Nodocchi, by wearing a poor disguise and watching her game. Say, don’t they resemble very close?
 
I’m not sure why but the officials allow Nodoka to bring her Etopen with her into the game room in episode 7 although it’s been checked that there is no foul play in the stuffed toy. Say, can I bring in my pet crocodile too? A short game summary: Nodoka beats her opponents flat (except for her chest. HAHAHA!). Other things going on in this episode: 1) Kyoutarou proves his usefulness by being a mule. Meaning, he buys food stuff for the girls during the break. 2) Fujita wonders what kind of magic Hisa set on her team their game play vastly improved during the last few days. 3) Touka thinks of having her maid, Ayumu, to be Koromo’s substitute in the event that mahjong monster doesn’t turn up. Will just a bunny hair band do the trick? 4) Kazekoshi pounds their opponents so much so they come out crying and wanting to quit mahjong. That’s a good thing, right? However Kazekoshi’s strict b*tch coach, Kubo, slaps one of her students even if they’ve won overall because she’s not happy with her poor play. Hey, it’s mahjong for heaven’s sake! Don’t take it out on your poor students! It’s like as though it’s life and death. Oh yeah, to some it may be. Thankfully the kind and calm captain for Kazekoshi, Mihoko Fukuji steps in to soothe the situation and console her poor abused friend. The final 4 has been decided and as expected Ryuumonbuchi and Kazekoshi advance with crushing victories along with unknown newcomers Kiyosumi and Tsuruga High School. Tsuru-what? Never heard of them. Precisely.
 
A calm before the final storm episode 8 sees our Kiyosumi gang celebrating via roadside ramen meal. Hey, they’re poor people. It’s being together that counts. So on their way home, Hisa and Mako reflect on the years back, Nodoka on how she met Yuuki during middle school and learned to play with other people instead of online mahjong. Thus she gained friends and back then it was heartbreaking that her team failed to get to the Nationals though she qualified for the individuals. They renew their promise to go to the Nationals together. As for the other teams, the usual reflecting and that they’re going to be the ones who will advance to the Nationals. But we all know which team will advance, don’t we?
 
The final begins in episode 9. Players up for the first round are Yuuki, Jun, Mihoko and Tsuruga’s Mutsuki Tsuyama. Ryuumonbuchi takes the lead and control of the game to show why they are the champions while Yuuki gets disheartened because she hasn’t won although it’s her specialty East rounds. Not enough tacos? Thankfully Kyoutarou comes back with more tacos during the break to lift Yuuki’s spirit. He can be her good husband actually. No, really. If he doesn’t have his mind preoccupied with Nodoka. But even so, it was still not enough to break Jun’s stranglehold of the game. Plus, Jun is instilling fear into Yuuki via her game play. Now, if you’re wondering why Mihoko always has one eye open and her right eye closed. Now as she opens it, it’s not her different eye colour which amazes you. It’s her mahjong eye which enables her to see her opponents’ hands! Wow! Something all hardcore and desperate mahjong players would love to have. Sensing Yuuki in danger, she helps her by creating a path, allowing for Yuuki to come back and break Jun’s flow. Might as well gang up against the champion, eh? Not. She’s just letting them play into her flow and before the rest could realize and Yuuki to know that she’s not her ally, Mihoko starts winning consecutive matches and builds up a considerable lead before the end of the round.
 
With Kazekoshi in the lead in episode 10, Hisa suggests that Saki and Nodoka take a little nap before their turn since they haven’t had much sleep recently. Don’t want to doze off in the middle of the match. Don’t expect anything hot to happen with the duo sleeping together. The second round pits Mako against Ryuumonbuchi’s Tomoki, Tsuruga’s Kaori Senou and Kazekoshi’s Miharu Yoshitome. Do you feel this round is a coincidence or fate? Because all 4 players are wearing specs! Specky round, I’d say. So this is Mako’s specialty. When she takes off her glasses, the world around her blurs and this allows her to vision and recall past scenes of mahjong tables she has seen too much back then. This mean, she can predict the pattern and outcome of the tiles. I think. Like a robot? Anyway it isn’t enough to win because the round goes to Kaori who happens to be a beginner in mahjong. Yeah, beginner’s luck. A lot of it. Thing is, Mako quips that there weren’t enough amateur mahjong players back at her cafe then, the reason why she can’t predict her tiles. Wait a minute. She can win against pros but not amateurs? What logic is that? Meanwhile, 2 girls from Imamiya Girl’s High School, the team which lost to Kiyosumi in the first qualifier match, are planning to take their revenge against Nodoka by playing a prank to steal her Etopen while she’s sleeping. Speaking of sleep, finally Koromo wakes up and reaches the tournament hall, only to meet Fujita. Doesn’t seem like the mahjong monster she’s described to be. Maybe that’s when she’s behind the mahjong table. Other than that, who wouldn’t love to tease this adorable cute little loli? Anyway Fujita spots the Imamiya girls and in their panic drop Etopen. Koromo picks it up and decides to be a good girl and return it. The middle round is going to begin and these are the players Hisa will be up against. Hajime (Touka still restraining her to chains?!), Tsuruga’s laidback captain, Satomi Kanbara and Kazekoshi’s Seika Bundou. However Mihoko starts to panic when she sees Hisa and recognizes her as Ueno, the girl she played and lost to during middle school Nationals 3 years ago but was disqualified. Ever since, she thought she had moved away since she didn’t enrolled into Kazekoshi.
 
So this is Hisa’s specialty in mahjong. Episode 11 reveals that to be bad waits. What? From what I understand, she waits till the moment with worst odds in hand to win the game. Something like that. Reward shall come to those who wait. Because of that, Kazekoshi’s vast lead vanishes as Hisa takes Kiyosumi to the top and Ryuumonbuchi occupies the bottom. Hajime remembers how Touka took her in to play mahjong with her. Her dad was a magician so it’s no surprise Hajime had a few tricks up her sleeve. Even so, switching tiles in mahjong games obviously is a violation of the rules and was thus disqualified. Though Touka was impressed by her play even without pulling off that stunt, the chains was there to restrain if her hands ever got ‘itchy’ and to keep her in check. Meanwhile Koromo bumps into the Imamiya girls, who repent their earlier actions and are thinking of returning back the penguin. Since Koromo wants the honour in returning it for a good girl reward, a tussle ensues. But it ripped and poor Koromo cried like a, well, little girl. Nodoka is up and is running around looking for her Etopen while Saki continues to sleep beautifully (maybe just kidding on that last bit). During the break, Mihoko rushes to the game room to ‘advice’ Seika about Hisa. However Hisa doesn’t remember who Mihoko is.
 
Seika feels guilty for losing all her teams hard earned points in episode 12 but Mihoko comforts and encourages her. Koromo comes to her team’s room crying about the ripped penguin so Touka has her loyal multi-tasking butler, Hagiyoshi to sew it up as good as new in no time. Happy Koromo soon manages to return Etopen to her rightful owner. How does she know she is Nodoka? Duh, her huge boobs, as she has heard. Yeah, the landmark everyone can easily find. The second half of the third round continues so Hajime continues to have flashbacks of how Touka introduced her to play her cousin Koromo locked up in a mansion all alone. Should I comment on how Hajime got her first hand experience with the mahjong monster? In the end, Hisa wins the round and establishes a lead for Kazekoshi. Though Touka thinks it is Hajime’s plan to lose on purpose so that Touka herself can make a grand comeback. Yeah, dream on.
 
It’s now Nodoka’s turn to shine in episode 13. She takes on Touka, Kazekoshi’s Sumiyo Fukabori and Tsuruga’s Momoko Touyoko. Touka sure does have an ego problem because she’s obsessed with beating Nodoka whom she still believes is Nodocchi. Meanwhile Koromo takes a little breather outside and Hagiyoshi follows her just to be sure to bring her back for her turn. Koromo notes how when people play mahjong with her, it’s like they’re witnessing the end of the world (yeah, worse than 2012) and how lonely she feels. Maybe that’s why she’s a monster. With the fourth round progressing, I can’t help snicker at the Nodoka vs Touka visual representation. A white angel fighter vs a dark Amazon warrior. It’s going to be one heck of an explosive affair. And yeah, Saki’s awake now in time to see Nodoka in action.
 
I guess Nodoka’s continue winning play is getting to Touka in episode 14 so much so she discards her logic just to stand out. With that, Ryuumonbuchi manages to steal top spot from Kiyosumi. However Touka and the rest are about to get a surprise. If you’re thinking about that Momoko girl being a ghost, then how the heck did she get into this tournament? Don’t blame you if you think her double extra long bangs make her resemble that ghost from Ju-on. No, she’s not a ghost even part of her body is wavering like a mirage or can appear and disappear anywhere at will. She’s more like anti-existence. WTF?! Hey, this is a mahjong show, not some sci-fi supernatural! Her flashback reveals how everyone tend to ignore her. Rather because of her anti-existence, no one knows she’s there even though she is. So playing online mahjong where nobody could find her, Tsuruga’s captain, Yumi Kajiki noticed her exceptional play and took great lengths to find her. Eventually she did and well, came into existence. Albeit slightly. Are you getting all this? Well it takes guts to come into some random classroom and shout aloud "I want you!". Tad embarrassing if not. So Momoko’s playing and existing all for the 1 important person in her life which is no other than Yumi. So Momoko’s specialty is her stealth mode in which other players can’t see her discarded tiles and are unable to hear her calls but people outside and those watching are able to. Huh? So poor Touka got played into her hands many times. On an unrelated note, I’d like to call this round the clash of the biggies. Big ego (Touka), big boobs (Nodoka), big size (Sumiyo) and er… big anti-existence?
 
However Nodoka doesn’t seem to be affected by Momoko’s stealth mode. In episode 15, we learn it’s because of her disbelief in superstition and online mahjong play which counters this attack. In the end, Touka’s planned comeback didn’t materialize so it’s still Kiyosumi on top followed by Tsuruga and initial leaders Kazekoshi hit rock bottom. Now the final round begins. The challengers as you may have guessed: Saki, Koromo, Yumi and Kazekoshi’s Kana Ikeda (does she really have cat ears?). Saki wonders if that evil aura she felt belongs to Koromo. Don’t let her innocent loli looks fool you. Maybe it’s still early in the match because Saki is on a roll. Kana is unhappy because she’s here to take revenge against last year’s heavy defeat from Koromo but now has to deal with another mahjong monster. But Saki’s run comes to an end courtesy from Yumi. Seriously I don’t understand that robbing a kan thingy.
 
I just realized that this tournament takes the whole day so much it is night time already in episode 16. Why is that bad? Because Koromo is a vampire and her powers are enhanced when it’s full moon! Just kidding about the vampire part. But really, her powers do increase during night fall. WTF?! Is this a supernatural or mahjong show?! This is how ‘terror’ Koromo turns out to be. She is so good now that she is able to scoop up the moon’s reflection on the water with her hands. WTF?! Now it’s fiction fantasy, is it?! The other players feel like being drowned as the water quickly rises up. Are they playing mahjong or what?! No way can that loli be a monster, can’t she? You bet. Koromo seems to be targeting Kana and stealing points off her so much so to a point Kana is at breaking point and is struggling to hold back her tears. So pitiful lah. It’s half time and Koromo leaves with that demon grin of hers and that’s not the only thing she left. She also leaves behind her opponents very much stunned and wondering if they could even be lucky to leave the hall alive. Why is her fist on flames?! Too powerful! Wargh! Oops, sorry. Even I too got caught up by her demonic aura.
 
In episode 17, Kana starts crying at the game table, Saki leaves for toilet (to relief tension I guess) while Yumi manages to keep her calm. So our trailing girls get the much needed comfort. Kana from Mihoko, Yumi from Momoko and Saki from Nodoka. Koromo meets Fujita as the latter tells her to start play real mahjong. The second half resumes as Koromo continues to show the rest the true meaning of darkness (tremble in fear!). She also continues to target Kana. It’s so pitiful to see her breaking down even if this is a mahjong game. However Koromo has been stealing her points so much so she has zero points now! If Kana loses more points, the game will automatically be over and Ryuumonbuchi the winner. Careful, careful. Kana is like a dead zombie, low on morale and her confidence really shaken. However Saki gives Kana a lifeline with some points and upsetting Koromo. Ganging up?
 
The few points is enough for Kana to get back in the groove in episode 18. No point sulking, right? She’s going to make Koromo regret that she didn’t kill her off sooner because that loli was more focused on Saki. Then Saki remembers the reason why she can’t play normally like she did during camp: That’s because she has her shoes on. Huh? After getting the green light to take her shoes off she seems to be winning games with only small points and cheap hands. Playing it safe? Of course Saki’s cheap hands soon turn into powerful combos stunning her opponents so much so Koromo is losing her grasp of control. Now Koromo is looking worried while Saki is the one having a smile with no worries.
 
Episode 19 begins with Koromo’s flashback how her parents died and Touka’s family took her in. Seeing that Koromo is lonely, Touka seemed to round up several friends to form and takeover their school’s mahjong club and rule the world with it. Okay, world domination was made up. A short power blackout occurs but nothing much happens. Hey, why is Fujita sleeping?! That boring or tired?! Anyway everyone is trying to make a last push for a comeback though Ryuumonbuchi still has a big lead. In the end, Koromo played into Saki’s hands and because of some special rule, Koromo is responsible for a payout and from what I understand, Saki gets lots of points and sends Kiyosumi top to the table and qualify for the Nationals. Hooray! Is mahjong fun now Saki? You bet. Not because she had won, though. So how bad was this loss to Koromo? Why, she was reduced to tears! The mahjong monster defeated! Ah well, she’s still a little girl. While the Kiyosumi gang rejoice, those who lost don’t seem to have regrets. Well, it was a good game though it will be the last for the third years. Koromo learns that Touka and her pals weren’t just putting a fake show to be her friends but are her pals for real. As for Kazekoshi’s Kubo, at least she didn’t slap her students this time and tells them to kick ass the next time. Lastly Kyoutarou takes a winning shot of the girls.
 
In episode 20, the university level prefecture qualifiers sees Teru’s powerhouse team Shirotoudai bulldozing their way past their opponents to make their 3rd straight National appearance. As reward for Kiyosumi’s victory, Hisa takes her team to a water park. Also, the individual prefectural qualifiers is in a week’s time so they have to continue training. Can’t believe Hisa tried to bring a mahjong board into the pool area. Of course she was stopped. Other than the fanservice, the Kiyosumi bumps into Ryuumonbuchi girls and learn that this complex belongs to Touka’s family. Another flashback on how Koromo and the rest went to Tokyo and she very much enjoyed her outing together at a family restaurant. Tsuruga is also practicing hard for the individuals but they forbid Kaori to practice because they fear her beginner’s luck will disappear if she does. Finally, Teru’s team mates show her an article about Kiyosumi’s victory and wonder about her little sister. However, Teru denies ever having one. Something must have gone really wrong for big sis do deny her little sis’ existence.
 
The individual tournament begins in episode 21. There’re a hell lot of players here so the same school can even face each other in the same match. From what I understand, the format involves several rounds of play and it’s not like they’re going to play the same opponents for all the rounds and are randomly rotated. With the points accumulated in the end, only the top 3 will advance to the Nationals. Last year’s winner was Touka so she’s eager to make up for her team’s defeat. And boy, how many members do Kazekoshi’s mahjong club have? Like they fielded the entire club. Since we can’t see every match so it’s good we see clips here and there of some of our main girls in their play. Like Touka against Kaori but lost to her beginner’s luck. Yeah, that girl still has it. As for Kyoutarou, he lost and is immediately out because there were too many boys so elimination is necessary. Too bad, wait for next year. While Yuuki is having a field day because of the East rounds, fate has Hisa and Mihoko playing against each other. So Mihoko uses her mahjong eye and wins her round which prompts Hisa to remember who she was. She even got the cheek to say that she might not remember that she played her 3 years ago. Or maybe that was on purpose. At the end of the day, Yuuki tops the standings. As expected those from the team qualifier finals also are in the top standings (well duh, if they can’t make it to the finals then they shouldn’t be there in the first place, right?). Except for Koromo (whom I think overslept but I remember she did say she did not want to participate in the individuals as she’s satisfied with the team one), Kaori (lost her beginner’s luck, eh?) and Mutsuki (lost to an unknown girl Kazue Nanpo of Hirataki High School). Another odd thing is of the 17 main characters’ position, Saki occupies the second last spot, ahead of reigning champion Touka. Maybe it’s still early to tell.
 
The second day of the qualifiers continues in episode 22. Yuuki is up against Kazue and just like the former, Kazue’s specialty is during the South rounds and she brings Yuuki back to ground before she gets carried away with her win. During the break, we learn that Kazue’s school did not enter the team tournament as she views her team mates weak and is gunning for the individuals only. Nodoka notices Saki’s plus minus zero play again and is upset so she confronts her about the promise. Saki’s reason is that she wants Hisa to play in the Nationals since this would be her last chance before she graduates but after being reminded everyone is doing their best, Saki too decides to give it all. Currently, Mihoko is leading the standings and looks like she is pretty much guaranteed a place in the Nationals due to her huge lead. Nodoka is in second place while Kazue in third. The afternoon match sees Saki going up against Hisa, Tomoki and Momoko. Hisa knows Saki’s playing style and tries to seal her with the rest soon follow. But Momoko is going to get her revenge on Saki whom she believes defeated her beloved Yumi’s and ended her team’s dream for the team’s appearance in the Nationals. Thus Momoko starts using her stealth mode to end their informal ally as Tomoki plays into her trap.
 
In episode 23, Saki manages to counter Momoko’s stealth play via her online mahjong during her training camp. With that, Saki is able to make huge improvements and closes into the top 3. So the final match pits many of the usual suspects together. In one room we have Hisa, Touka, Mihoko and Yumi. In the other we have Yuuki, Mako, Tomoki and Momoko. Next, Nodoka, Jun, Hajime and Kana. Finally Saki, Kazue, Satomi and Miharu. At Saki’s table, Kazue decides to use her South round to her advantage but Saki manages to make a comeback and pips Kazue to 3rd spot. Hisa also stages a late comeback against Mihoko but it wasn’t enough because she got 4th place overall. So the top 3 who will advance to the Nationals are Mihoko (1st), Nodoka (2nd) and Saki (3rd). See, they get to keep their promise after all. Poor Touka… I wonder if she’s going to be alright. Ah well, this is where dreams are made or crushed. She just lost to better players.
 
Hisa sends a training camp invitation to Ryuumonbuchi, Kazekoshi and Tsuruga mahjong girls as practice before the Nationals in episode 24. Besides Yuuki’s cheeky remark that Hisa’s special guest may be a hot, young, charismatic male skin care therapist who will give her and Saki huge boobs to break Nodoka’s boob monopoly, Yuuki flopped her maths exams and has got to take a makeup exam. And that is on the day of their planned summer festival outing. If she fails that, she has to attend summer remedial classes and that would mean no training camp for her. So Saki and Nodoka attempt to help Yuuki study but that all whinny girl wants to do is play mahjong, have fun and eat her tacos. Hisa bars all first years from the mahjong club so they go to several places to study like the library. But you know, if it isn’t mahjong, it’s got to be real taxing on Yuuki’s brain. The day of the makeup test comes as Mihoko pays Hisa a personal visit to send in her RSVP of her team’s attendance. The festival night comes as Kyoutarou gets an eyeful of the girls in yukata and also not forgetting the mandatory fireworks display. As expected, Yuuki passes her test so the gang are off to summer training camp where the other girls are eagerly waiting for them. Yeah, this is their last shot in getting their revenge.
 
However Hisa starts the training camp with a dip in the hotspring first in episode 25. Call it an ice breaker, eh? But then the actual training programme will be postponed the next day as some of the girls have travel fatigued. Yumi passes Hisa her collection of mahjong data of the Nationals and what they’ll be up against. As for Kyoutarou, he’s all alone back at Kiyosumi’s mahjong club because it’s his existence to do errands for the training camp. Oh well, at least he has online mahjong for company. Playing with Hagiyoshi on the other end. While some of the girls play ping pong (Touka rules!), the specky girls decide to play a round of mahjong to avenge their beginner’s luck defeat from Kaori. Unfortunately, Kaori’s luck is still there. The next morning as some of the girls take a dip at the outside hotspring, they talk about the Nationals and Teru. Mihoko says how in a recent interview, Teru denies she had a little sister. This causes Saki to excuse herself and leave. Nodoka follows to comfort her and learns Saki was afraid that even if she gets to play mahjong with her sister, nothing will change. The rest of the scene felt like yuri development between the duo. Go to a nearby shrine to pray, Nodoka expressing her wish for everyone to be together especially with Saki, buy and exchange souvenirs, try calling each other by their first names and walk back hand in hand. Hope they don’t end up getting married. When they get back, it’s mahjong training time and the special guest Hisa reveals is no other than Fujita. The episode ends with the opening ceremony of the Nationals and my, you could guess that there are stronger and weirder players from across the country. Is this a cosplay convention? Hey, Saki and Nodoka are still holding hands! And what the heck is that narration that there are hundreds of millions of mahjong players?! No wonder this world is one big gambling den.
 
So did I get what was happening for this series? Plot wise, the dark horses managed to beat the heavyweights and favourites and book their place at the Nationals. Play wise, I didn’t even understand a single thing till the end! That bad, huh? Well, a good thing is that ‘thanks’ to this series, it turned off even further my interest in the mahjong game. If they ever make a second season, there is a very high possibility that I won’t watch it. I’m still at a loss by just starring at their tiles and hands. Therefore with the visual effects in the form of exaggerated action such as flipping the tile with style, the thunderous thud of the ivory tiles, the electricity and fiery aura emitting from the players sure does bring in the smiles for me. I’d break into laughter every time that happens. Mahjong is such a scary game, don’t you think? Dahsyat betul. And to think that there are some players with supernatural powers and existence, mahjong isn’t that simple game we use to know anymore. Oh heck, see those Hong Kong movies like God of Gamblers to get an idea.
 
Amidst all the mahjong action, I guess there are a few character developments but it is nothing much to shout about. Even if it was mainly on Saki and Nodoka, we also see some of the other girls and their little story of how they stick together as mahjong club members. Saki’s enjoyment of the mahjong game is purely for the game itself in a good sense and not meant that she has turned into an addict. Hisa’s calmness and patience makes her worthy of being the mahjong club’s president while Kyoutarou shouldn’t feel bad he’s such a useless person. At least his role/existence is to do errands for the girls and whipping boy to show why some mahjong players are tops. Touka isn’t such an obnoxious brat, Hajime isn’t such a cheater after all and Koromo isn’t such a mahjong monster as initially believed. Yeah, it’s got to be the mahjong then. Perhaps more powerful and devastating mahjong demons will be waiting for them at the Nationals. My guess is that after facing and beating them, you’ll find that without that armour and facade on, they’re just friendly and likeable girls. But for Teru’s case may not be so straightforward. Ah well, nobody is that invincible. Is it?
 
If not for the mahjong play, the other plus point of this series is the many star-studded seiyuus. Who wouldn’t recognize Rie Kugimiya as the voice of Yuuki since she voices all those high pitched tsundere girl roles like Taiga in Toradora and Louise in Zero No Tsukaima series. Then there is Kana Ueda as Saki (Mikan in Gakuen Alice), Ami Koshimizu as Nodoka (Tenma of School Rumble series), Shizuka Itou as Hisa (Wilhelmina in Shakugan No Shana), Ryoko Shiraishi as Mako (Hayate in Hayate No Gotoku), Jun Fukuyama as Kyoutarou (Lelouch in Code Geass), Minori Chihara as Touka (Yuki of Suzumiya Haruhi No Yuutsu), Kaori Fukuhara as Koromo (Tsukasa in Lucky Star), Ai Shimizu as Hajime (Mikoto in Mai-HiME), Yuko Kaida as Jun (Ryoumou in Ikkitousen), Yui Horie as Mihoko (Kotori in Da Capo), Yu Kobayashi as Yumi (Mariya in Maria+Holic), Rika Morinaga as Kana (Sousei Seki in Rozen Maiden), Natsuko Kuwatani as Satomi (Suisei Seki in Rozen Maiden – no ~desu so couldn’t recognize her), Momoko Saito as Momoko (Choco in Chokotto Sister), Ryoko Shintani as Kaori (Milefeulle in Galaxy Angel series), Daisuke Ono as Hagiyoshi (Hosaka in Minami-ke series) and Mai Nakahara as Teru (Mai in Mai-HiME). Unfortunately with this many super stars, my favourite seiyuu Mamiko isn’t on the list :(. A good or bad thing?
 
The first opening theme, Glossy:MMM by Miyuki Hashimoto is a rather and lively piece in my opinion tries to make viewers to get into the mahjong mood of the series. The second opening theme, Bloooomin’ by Little Non is equally upbeat as well. There are 3 ending themes for this series, each randomly played throughout the show and are sung by the girls of Kiyosumi mahjong club. The first one is Netsuretsu Kangei Wonderland and the lyrics contain mahjong terms. Like I’ve hadn’t had enough of those jargons already. The second one, Zankoku Na Negai No Naka De sounds more dramatic and a little dark (animation mainly on Saki and Nodoka). The third ending theme, Shikakui Uchuu De Matteru Yo feels like a dance song and the lyrics too contain lots of mahjong terms while the animation has the girls in chibi form having fun at the beach. On a trivial note, each of the episode titles are short and sweet (two kanji words, that is) so you don’t have to crack your head over long titles. Another trivial thing I noticed during the show is how shiny Saki’s thighs and Nodoka’s boobs are…
 
I won’t really say that I regretted picking up this series or it was a waste of time watching something that I don’t understand in the end and ended up more confused and complicated. But at least it made me think that mahjong isn’t a bad game. After all, it is us humans that made it such a way. I never had luck in such gambling games including poker. Always losing so you can bet that I’d always stay away from them and thus a good thing I saved myself from wasting my life, money and future. On an unrelated observation note, there is no inverse or direct relationship between bust size and mahjong skill. Hah! Am I that bored and distracted while watching the series? Again, what the hell is a riichi, pon or kan?
 

Saki

Princess Princess

April 2, 2010

It never occurred to me that Princess Princess was a yaoi genre anime series. Even if it was one, I considered it quite mild. What is all the fuss about being yaoi (loosely means gay) or not? Well you see, besides mecha genre animes, yaoi and yuri animes are also some of the few genres that I prefer to stay away from.
 
Perhaps after briefly skimming through the synopsis about high school boys cross-dressing and that there are some comedy elements, it didn’t took me long or any further convincing that I should give this series a try. Cross-dressing, you say? You must be thinking this series is about some sick otaku taking out his extreme fetishes. Nope. Nothing near that.
 
In episode 1, freshman Tooru Kouno is a newly transferred student during the middle of the term at Fujimori High School, which happens to be an all-boys school. On his way into the main gates, a girl in a frilly dress suddenly leaps out right in front of him. They stare at each other before she runs away after hearing calls of "Hime! Hime!" (meaning "Princess! Princess!"). As Tooru is being led by his homeroom teacher to his class, the teacher notes that it is too bad that he missed orientation and that he is quite pretty, leaving Tooru confused. When he enters class, all his classmates start blushing. The teacher introduces class rep Akira Sakamoto and hopes he will take care of Tooru. He is also introduced to Yuujirou Shihoudani, whom Tooru mistakes to be a girl at first. Since Yuujirou and Tooru will be living in the same dorm, the teacher puts him under his care. During recess Akira gives Tooru a tour of the school, Tooru notices how everyone has deep respect for Akira. After school, Yuujirou takes Tooru to the dorm and meet 3rd year student and dorm head, Isao Tsuji. They think of putting Tooru in the P-Room so they decided to go see Mikoto Yutaka. As he opens his door, Tooru and Mikoto are surprised to see each other because Tooru recognizes him as the ‘girl’ he saw this morning.
 
The quartet discuss things as Tsuji says that wasn’t Mikoto’s hobby but rather his job. Since this is an all-boys school, they need something that can enrich their dull lives. So pretty boys that everyone recognizes as exceptionally beautiful will be dressed like a girl. Currently Yuujirou and Mikoto are chosen and are known as Western Princess and Eastern Princess respectively due to their class rooms in separate buildings. So this cross-dressing thing is to enrich their lives? Why not change this to a co-ed school then? Tooru learns Mikoto was forced to do so because if he doesn’t, he will not earn school credits. Plus, this is an elite school with top grades in this area. Tooru feels awkward for this weird tradition. Don’t blame him. Anybody would. He doesn’t want to get involved so they explain that P-Room stands for Princess Room and is to protect the Princesses’ safety as regular students aren’t allowed inside. If this room is assigned to Tooru, it means that he is likely a Princess candidate. Yuujirou says he’ll know tomorrow in school since news spread fast and that tour with Akira was like advertising. Next day in class, lots of boys are peeking from outside Tooru’s class, 1-D. Tooru still feels weird at all this when Yuujirou comes in dressed as a girl. Then the boys come begging on their knees and plead for him to overcome the darkness in their school life. He gives a service smile, bringing happiness to them. Tooru feeling even weird, asks Akira to save him so the latter will help him in any way he can. Tooru feels relieved and hugs him, causing a slight commotion from the spectators. After school, Tooru, Yuujirou and Mikoto are being called by the student council president, Shuuya Arisada.
 
In episode 2, Arisada introduces the other student council members: Vice president Masayuki Koshino, secretary Takahiro Tadasu and treasurer Wataru Harue. Tooru is annoyed that all of them looks good. He thinks they’ve been selected due to that but they deny except for Arisada, surprising them. Plus, he’s an ex-Princess. Arisada explains they choose 1st years as Princesses because their bodies isn’t mature yet and that those chosen have to carry out their job for the entire year. He tells the benefits of being a Princess even if it’s a tough job, one gets to eat for free and everything one needs from books to stationery is take care of, free of charge. If there’s a conflict between a Princess’ job and class, they can have this absentee unrecorded. Plus, they can also do part time modelling and earn lots of cash from the photography club. Tooru upon hearing all this makes a total u-turn from his initial protest and is all for it. Yup, he accepts this Princess job instantly, upsetting Mikoto. It’s all about the money, eh? He chides him about his dignity of a man so Tooru says he has none since money is involved. See, what did I tell you? They learn Mikoto is against all this because he has a girlfriend and doesn’t want her to get the wrong idea. The designer for the Princesses costumes, Kaoru Natashou, comes in and gets excited. He plans to design costumes for the Princesses’ announcement ceremony. Later the 3 Princesses bicker over cute nicknames they plan to call each other but dropped the idea.
 
While waiting for Natashou in the home economics room, Yuujirou and Tooru teach Mikoto how to smile via a queen’s smile. Natashou then comes in with the dresses so when the trio starts to undress, the other guys get embarrassed and tells them to change elsewhere because they have their own fantasies even if they’re all men. Just sick. The trio go see preparations of the stage and spot Arisada with Akira. Arisada mentions how Akira is the next student council president candidate, surprising him. They learn why people tend to be nice to Akira because he’s got a popular pretty older brother whom everyone admires and adores. Thus due to this influence, they looked up to him. He graduated when Akira just enrolled in. Akira realizes that all this may have been planned by Arisada. The next day, Arisada introduces the 3 Princesses during the ceremony and the crowd goes wild. The trio wave, sending the crowd into ecstasy and note that they’re all in the same boat now.
 
In episode 3, Arisada orders the Princesses to cheer for every club in school till the local preliminaries. If they refuse, their Princess benefits will be revoked. Not only that, if the clubs want to continue receiving their cheer, they have to keep winning. That means the Princesses may have to cheer them on till the Nationals! He’s even got a guidebook on how to go about cheering for the clubs. Mikoto is upset because he doesn’t want to go out in public dressed as a girl. The Princesses go see Natashou over their cheering dresses and it seems that guy has even designed costumes for all the rounds. Nurse for local preliminaries, cheerleading outfit for prefectural and bride wedding dress for the Nationals. You got to admit he’s very passionate about it. Very. Mikoto isn’t happy and throws a tantrum so Yuujirou tells him to suck it up so Mikoto thinks he hates him. Yuujirou agrees though later he says it’s a lie and rather he can’t help tease him whenever he sees him. The Princesses go around cheering, boosting everyone’s morale sky high. Mind boggling, eh? So theoretically would a sexy pin-up model do a better job? Back at the dorm, Mikoto wonders how Tooru could accept all this. His reply: "In Rome, do what the Romans do" because rejecting doing something you’re supposed to do won’t make it easier. So it’s best to accept and go along with what other people want.
 
Reports of the clubs suddenly winning their games come in. Wow. It’s really effective. Arisada has them go cheer for the baseball club’s game this weekend but Mikoto is still upset about the thought of wearing a girl’s dress in public. His argument with Yuujirou could’ve escalated if not for Arisada stopping them with his gentle but eerie tone. Anyway they still have to do it. No way out. Back in the dorm, the Princesses have a different bathroom all for themselves and several bouncers to keep sickos from peeping. After bath, Tooru talks to Yuujirou about why the latter loves teasing Mikoto. On match day, Mikoto is nowhere to be found. The duo search for him, believing he hasn’t left the school grounds. As they’re about to give up, they find him trying to put on a nurse outfit in the home economics room. It seems he was reflecting on Tooru’s words to try and do it on his own free will. The baseball team is losing badly and is giving up hope when the Princesses arrive and give their words of encouragement. A sudden turnaround as the baseball team makes a comeback and wins the match! Totally mind blowing. Back in the dorm as the Princesses are taking a bath, they learn they have to also cheer for several more clubs that have won their matches. That’s a good sign right? Depending on which side you’re looking at. Mikoto again is distraught that he has to go out and dress like that so a ‘friendly quarrel’ erupts.
 
Summer vacation arrives in episode 4 so the Princesses are holding photo sessions (part of Arisada’s plan) so that those loser boys who are going back for the holidays won’t be lonely as they will have pictures and merchandises to ‘comfort’ them during their absence. Don’t tell me their hometowns are filled with only men? Pure losers. When Mikoto says he’s going home to see his girlfriend, Tooru and Yuujirou tease about their weak relationship. Yuujirou asks if there’s a conflict between a Princess’ job and his girlfriend’s demand, which would he chose. Mikoto is indecisive so Yuujirou says if he doesn’t do his Princess job, he’s going to personally see his girlfriend. This means, Mikoto’s cross-dressing will be exposed. They continue to see tease him so Mikoto just runs off. Yuujirou receives a call from his mom asking him to return for his birthday but he refuses. Tooru wonders why so Yuujirou suggests they go pick up girls in the city. They discuss what kind of girls they like. While Tooru finds comforting ones appealing, Yuujirou likes those with big boobs. Hey, he’s a normal boy, right? At least they’re not gays. While talking at a restaurant, a couple of guys actually try to hit on them! That’s how pretty they are! Yuujirou gets annoyed for mistaking them as girls so Tooru takes him away. They give up and head back to the dorm.
 
Tooru tells him how his parents died in an accident so his uncle and aunt has been taking care of him. So he wonders if there’s anything that happened between Yuujirou and his parents. He tells his sad and cruel past whereby his dad died of an illness when he was young so he was always thinking how to support his single mum. Then in 4th grade elementary school, he found his homeroom teacher to be nice and kind. He tried hard to be a perfect student and eventually was favoured by him. One day, he was told to stay back in class. When the teacher came in, breathing hard, he patted his shoulders and asked if he could marry his mum. So they did and even got a little brother, Shinnosuke. Erm… So where’s the sad and cruel part? You thought he was shota raped, eh? Tooru is upset that there is no gloominess in his story like he had expected but Yuujirou says his family is happy without him as he feels like an outsider. He felt the teacher took his mother away from him. However Tooru feels Yuujirou created that distance himself. He wants him to try telling his mum what he thinks as nothing is going to change if he keeps avoiding them. Tooru’s words continue to comfort and encourage him so Yuujirou teases those lines are what lovers would say but they can only have platonic love and that pure isn’t that bad, prompting Tooru to tell him to stop his ‘advances’.
 
The Princesses continue their club cheering job throughout summer vacation in episode 5. After freshening up, Tooru felt someone is watching him. When they go back to the home economics room, they are shocked to see expensive roses strewn all over the place and dress. Akira quickly calls Arisada and the student council members to avert this being blown out of proportion. As the entire home economics room are on vacation, Arisada speculates that there is a stalker. But when Tooru relates that being watched feeling, Arisada orders them to temporary stop their Princess job. Back in the dorm, Tooru learns that personal presents aren’t allowed to be given to a Princess or else their room will be filled with them. Doing so would be a violation of the rule. Mikoto calls his girlfriend Megumi so Tooru and Yuujirou tease him again. However Mikoto can’t go see Megumi because he feels the current stalker situation may put her in danger. Next day, all the loser boys come back to the dorm to be the Princesses’ bodyguards. Like they need them. Tsuji shows them a bouquet of roses left at the doorstep this morning. The trio go see Arisada and their investigation doesn’t reveal anything much. Arisada relates his personal experience when he was a Princess about a guy who kept giving him presents and wouldn’t take no for an answer. So he gave him a firm ‘talk’ and he stopped. Don’t want to know what he told the stalker. So Arisada suggests if the stalker isn’t going to show himself up, the Princesses will be used as baits. Of course with bodyguards. Mikoto is eager to do this as he wants this situation to end.
 
They continue their support rounds but the stalker is no show. At the end of the day as they’re resting on the bench, they see a guy snapping pics of them. The student council members spring into action and pin him down. The stalker introduces himself from a talent scouting agency and investigated more on them after seeing them by chance at the baseball game. He got confused if they were from this school or not. He wants to make them top idols but the thing is he doesn’t know they’re cross-dressing! However he dismisses that he was the one who sent the roses. Just then, Natashou comes by to hand the Princesses each a bouquet of roses. Something about he didn’t have any image inspiration on their new dress designs. Since now he’s got them, off he goes to his designing. So he was the one who left the roses on their dorm doorsteps too. Yeah, stalker problem solved. As for the scout agency guy, Arisada and co take him away to have a ‘talk’ with him. Next day, Tooru and Yuujirou tail Mikoto so that they can see how Megumi looks like but a couple of guys start hitting on them so they lost him. This confirms it. They are THAT pretty to be mistaken as girls.
 
Summer vacation is almost over in episode 6 which means the cheering job is almost over. Though many clubs managed to get to the prefectural finals, the ‘good news’ is that they didn’t qualify for the Nationals. Phew. Arisada wants Akira to listen to details of activities for the new semester and looks up highly to the former legendary Sakamoto. But the student council members disagree and think Arisada too is comparable to that legend himself. Tooru and Shihoudani decide to pay a visit to Akira’s home in hopes of getting to see the legendary Sakamoto themselves and also possibly to ask help for their homework. When they arrive, they’re greeted by his polite and pretty sister. Tooru and Yuujirou argue if she is Akira’s younger or older sister but to their surprise he tells them she is his mother! Damn! In his room, a boy named Fuyuki comes in so Tooru and Shihoudani discuss who could this be based on their recent experience with his mom. Remember, can’t judge everything by their looks. So it’s down to either his brother or father. Actually, that is his little sister! Hah! Tomboy! The next person comes in so the duo have another round of in-depth analysis on this gorgeous person. Either that person is the legendary Sakamoto or his mother’s side grandma (WTF?! That’s going too far! But what the heck, it’s worth a shot). Answer: His older sister! Three wrongs in a row now. After the duo learn Sakamoto family consists of 6 people, this means the next person who come in may be his father or the legendary Sakamoto. A gorgeous bespectacled guy comes in so the duo need more time to think who this guy is. Since they’re taking too long, that person says he is Akira’s father. Then daddy and mommy proceed to get a little lovey-dovey in front of them. Why is everyone in this family isn’t the way they seem?! Strange, weird or normal?
 
Later when everyone gathers for BBQ, Tooru and Yuujirou are ‘upset’ that they didn’t get to see the legendary Sakamoto. Akira tells because he felt he is the normal one out of his family of pretty people, he got depressed. But after realizing that he was the one thinking strangely since nobody in his family rejected him and just needed to have more self confidence. Akira feels grateful that his pals came so they say they want to be friends with him too and has got nothing to do with his brother. As they practice calling each other their first names, suddenly the legendary Sakamoto, Haru, appears and seems a little uneasy. He suddenly goes over to Akira, gets emotional and hugs him in tears asking why he didn’t tell him that they’re having BBQ today. Akira says he left an SMS so he checks and finds it there. Tooru and Yuujirou can’t believe this person is the legendary Sakamoto and don’t feel that majestic kind of aura. Yeah, I wonder too. Then they conclude that because Akira is surrounded by amazing people, he may not stand out. They think he isn’t normal like his family members and he too is beautiful in his own way. Though he disagrees as compared to his brother, they feel that it’s because he picked the wrong person to compare. This episode is my favourite one in terms of Tooru and Yuujirou trying to guess Akira’s family members. I too tried to guess but got them all wrong.
 
The new semester begins in episode 7 and this means the loser boys coming back are happy to see their Princesses. Didn’t they see any girls back home? Maybe not. Yeah, they need that service smile to comfort their poor loser souls. The trio are being called by Arisada as their Princess job is to get even tougher this new semester starting with an opening performance by them for the chorus concert to work up the crowd. From Princesses to idols? Mikoto as usual is against it because he can’t sing. To find out how terrible he is, they go to the karaoke to test him out. Seems Arisada and co are there to have their own fun. Anyway Mikoto sucks big time that no amount of training could help. Thankfully we viewers have been spared what Tooru and Yuujirou have heard. So Arisada’s advice? Do your best. Yeah, they’re here just to have fun and the trio are all on their own. Back at the dorm, Tooru gets a call from his younger sister but doesn’t answer. Tooru and Yuujirou seek advice from Akira on how to improve Mikoto’s singing and I don’t know his idea of putting a bucket over his head would help. Not that I can see how but it’s sure embarrassing to Mikoto at least.
 
While doing a full dress rehearsal, Tooru’s sister, Sayaka (his cousin to be exact) comes by and is shocked to see him in such an outfit. She wants him to come back with her and won’t take no for an answer. Tooru says they can only see each other as brother-sister relationship but Sayaka says it’s her dream to be Tooru’s bride. Extreme case of onii-chan complex. Yuujirou butts in and lies that Tooru isn’t interested in girls and that he is going out with him. Sayaka isn’t convinced so Yuujirou proves it by kissing Tooru! The most yaoi part in this show! Everyone is in shock especially Sayaka who runs away when Yuujirou says he’ll continue if that proof wasn’t enough. Though shocked Mikoto misinterprets that they’re into that kind of relationship, Yuujirou’s intention was to get Sayaka temporarily off their back but warns Tooru he’d better be prepared when she returns once she has calmed down. Suggesting doing even that? Hint: A three letter word that begins with ‘S’. Tooru not too happy… Yeah, his first kiss stolen by a guy. On the day of the concert, I find the Princesses’ singing to sound odd but it doesn’t matter because the crowd goes wild and loves them even more. I don’t understand why after their act, Tooru and Yuujirou are reprimanding Mikoto for his reluctant-look poker-face but he replies it was too embarrassing and that he already played along. Something to do with the bucket? He wasn’t wearing it during the performance. Doesn’t matter since the crowd got worked up.
 
Tooru has lots on his mind after the recent event that has happened in episode 8. Yuujirou and Mikoto go talk to Akira so he thinks it’s best to be on Tooru’s side for now. The trio go do their Princess job and they notice how this job takes Tooru’s mind off what happened. The new director of Fujimori, Ryuuzaki, arrives at school since his father recently resigned. He is greeted by Arisada and co. Ryuuzaki spots the ‘girls’ and is taken aback so Arisada introduces them to him. He is shocked to hear of this since he never heard this from his dad and he only hinted them as ‘precious treasures’. Because of that, Ryuuzaki isn’t amused and plans to scrap this Princess system during the board meeting, much to Mikoto’s delight. But Arisada disagrees and thinks he is too hasty in making his decision and that he needs time to observe and learn this system which has become this school’s tradition. Ryuuzaki is being shown around by the Princesses. He asks them about how they feel about their job so Tooru and Yuujirou have no qualms about it. However he knows Mikoto doesn’t agree and tries to get him to disagree like saying how his grades have fallen ever since he became a Princess. Though Mikoto sheepishly says he’s fine with it. Later as the Princesses gather with Akira, they learn that Mikoto’s bad grades were due to calling his girlfriend every night so Yuujirou blames him if the system is scraped. Just then, the student council members decide to have Mikoto undergo intensive studying (since Arisada asked them to) and whisk poor Mikoto away. Hell begins now.
 
Tooru and Yuujirou (in their girly dress) gives Ryuuzaki another tour round school with Arisada. He observes how the other students accepted them naturally. Then a fight nearly broke out between the football and baseball club over the use of the field so the Princesses spring into action by settling the dispute with their warm smile and rational advice. Damn effective, I tell you. The guys actually start thinking about their actions and became friendly with each other. I think disputes all over the world should adopt this system. Arisada tells Ryuuzaki that the Princesses’ smile give everyone courage and that they’re the best medicine to cure the school’s tension. Before Ryuuzaki leaves, he asks Tooru and Yuujirou if they love their school and their reply is a resounding yes. Ryuuzaki meets the other board directors at a meeting and he is surprised that they have favourable views on the Princess system as they praise them that thanks to their existence, the school is peaceful and their reputation has risen. Furthermore, some of the board of directors were former Princesses, including the chairman! Pretty old guys… The 3 Princesses learn from Arisada that the board has decided to increase the Princess budget thanks to their efforts. He continues that after Ryuuzaki’s observation, he realized the necessity and importance of this system and negotiated with the board. The trio realized that this has been Arisada’s plan right from the start. Yeah, more money to spend on big events.
 
For the school festival in episode 9, Mikoto requests of not wearing his Princess outfit for 2-3 hours since he doesn’t want visitors like Megumi to see him in that dress. Surprisingly Arisada approves but will have them perform on stage even if they’re sick. After the opening ceremony, Arisada announces a special game programme and a special guest, Haru. Tooru and Yuujirou are shocked that he isn’t the childish guy but this time exuding lots of majestic aura wowing the crowd. Arisada announces the game’s rules whereby it’s like a stamp-collecting game and they have to obtain a total of 7 stamps from the 3 Princesses, 3 student council members and Haru. But it isn’t going to be easy as they have to ‘defeat’ the student council members and the Princesses can only refuse them twice. The winner with all 7 stamps will get 100,000 Yen prize. Before the game starts, Yuujirou’s parents and Shinnosuke pay him a visit, mistaking today as open to visitors. Yuujirou is surprised that they came and they said since he didn’t come home for summer break, they decided to go see him. Though they’re surprised in his Princess outfit, they accepted it. However Shinnosuke seems afraid of Yuujirou and cowers behind mummy. Soon the game starts and the loser boys are having a hard time getting stamps from the student council members because their challenges are too tough to beat like arm wrestling or arithmetic calculations. So in order to get the stamp, they have to make a donation and don’t need to beat them. Later as Arisada reveals that this is part of his plan to keep the prize money and donations since the winning rate is zero. Sly devil. As for Haru, nobody could get his stamp even if he’s willing because his majestic aura is too much for them to handle. Tooru peeps from afar and wonders about Haru’s change in personality. Then as Akira comes in, Haru suddenly changes to his emotional self. That’s why…
 
Later Tooru confronts Yuujirou and knows he hasn’t talked to his parents like he advised since the last time. Yuujirou doesn’t seem to want to talk with them because he thinks Shinnosuke hates him though Tooru thinks he’s just scared of his outfit and a very shy kid. Just then his parents rush over and say Shinnosuke is missing. Tooru tells Yuujirou to go look for him while he and Mikoto handle the rampaging losers. Though Yuujirou manages to find Shinnosuke, he starts crying at first. But he soon laughs when Yuujirou consoles and plays with him. At the end of the day before his family leaves, Yuujirou tells them that he’ll come back during the next vacation. Daddy starts crying because Yuujirou called him father. Shinnosuke seems to like him too and wants him to come home. In addition of wanting to be with him all times, Shinnosuke also says he wants to marry his ‘sister’! Though his family problem is solved, a new one cropped up. Does that kid even know what he is saying? I hope Shinnosuke doesn’t turn out like how Sayaka did.
 
Mikoto begs to Tooru and Shihoudani not to bump into him and Megumi during his break at the festival but promises will be back for the Princesses’ afternoon performance in episode 10. Initially they agree but after Mikoto says he doesn’t want Megumi to see them in their ‘strange outfits’, the duo get upset and are determined to bump into them. Mikoto greets Megumi at the school gates as she came with his elder sister, Makoto. Makoto leaves the duo together while exploring the festival on her own. While Tooru and Yuujirou are on their rounds, even outsiders are taken in by their beauty and follow them! So Akira disperses them by announcing the several activities in school. This prompts them to really think he is indeed the best candidate for the student council president. Megumi gets suspicious when she notices boys staring at Mikoto and calling him a princess so he gives those boys a warning look not to talk to him and takes Megumi away. Tooru and Yuujirou see Makoto getting hit on by boys but she is self sufficient and tells them off. They recognize how similar she looks to Mikoto and concludes she is his sister. She too notices their girly outfits and guesses closely Mikoto too wears them. Then the inevitable happens. Mikoto comes by with Megumi and to his horror sees his buddies with her. They greet her and think how attractive she is so Mikoto pulls them away to have a word. But Makoto is suspicious and wonders the kind of relationship they have so Tooru says they’re in the student council. Mikoto wants them to leave immediately as he doesn’t want them to see him in a girl outfit so they lied that they’re worried about bad boys would make a move on them. Mikoto then says a romantic parting line which is interrupted by Tooru and Yuujirou’s snickering.
 
The laughing duo go back to the student council room to change for their performance. Still laughing. They even tell Akira about what Mikoto said and even try to react that scene! Still can’t stop laughing! Even when Mikoto comes in, they continue to laugh like crazy! Megumi feels bothered if Mikoto and his pals are just mere friends since they’re pretty and he looked comfortable with them. But Makoto assures he has eyes only for her. Thinking that Mikoto is hiding something, Makoto thinks of staying to find out. At the hall, they see the Princesses doing a stage play. During the break when the Princesses go backstage, Mikoto gets the shock of his life to see Makoto and Megumi there. Since his secret is out, he freezes in shock. Makoto finds an empty room for them to talk while the rest waits outside. Megumi says how she won’t hate him if he dresses as a girl and loves him. When Mikoto comes out, he puts on the happiest expression that we’ve never seen before, even shocking Tooru and Yuujirou. It’s like he’s being reborn and his natural smile is shinning more beautiful than ever! Wow! What happened? At the end of the festival, Tooru and Yuujirou bugs Mikoto for details since they notice him so happy in a world of his own. That’s because he’s thinking back how Megumi passionately kissed him back then and told him to do his best. Yeah, like every guy needs that to recharge when they’re down. If Tooru and Yuujirou ever found this out, I bet they won’t stop teasing Mikoto ever.
 
The festival is over in episode 11. Back in P-Room, Yuujirou receives a mysterious letter but when he opens it, a blade cuts his fingers. Then he gets a call but the caller hangs up. Tsuji says it was a girl named Suzuki proclaiming to be Yuujirou’s cousin. Then he receives a heap of mail order packages though Yuujirou says Suzuki sent them for him. Mikoto gets suspicious and knows it isn’t what it seems so Yuujirou warns him no to tell Tooru about this. Instead, Mikoto tells this to Akira. Come Sunday when the quartet hang out in town, a couple of men starts harassing Yuujirou in a bad way. Luckily Arisada and co are there to step in to tell them to back off and follow them quietly or else (can crushing with a single hand enough to convince?). Back in the student council room, Yuujirou learns Mikoto and Akira told this to Arisada. Interrogation by the student council members reveal that those guys were being told to do so by an aggressive high school girl. Plus, investigations reveal that girl is seen wandering around the school grounds asking for info about Yuujirou. Tooru concludes that this must be Sayaka’s doing so Arisada has him to spill the beans. A flashback reveals when Tooru’s parents died when he was young, his uncle took him in so he and Sayaka were raised as siblings. As time passed, Sayaka became possessive of him and even got upset if he talked to his friends. The last straw came when Sayaka followed Tooru while talking to a girl classmate of his. After scorning her that Tooru belongs to only her, she pushes that innocent girl down the overhead bridge steps. Luckily she didn’t die but Sayaka and his uncle had an argument though Sayaka still insists it wasn’t her fault. That’s when Tooru began to think he can’t live with them anymore and decided to transfer school without telling Sayaka. Thus he became a Princess not because of financial difficulties but not to be a burden to be his uncle. Noting that leaving things like this will leave Yuujirou in danger as he’s being targeted, Tooru thinks of going to talk to her but the rest feels getting emotional won’t solve it.
 
The quartet further discuss things at the rooftop. Tooru mentions how he always treated her as his sister but Yuujirou notes that he may be playing the perfect brother but to Sayaka, he looks like the ideal man and thus had fallen in love with him. Furthermore it’s partly Tooru’s fault for not telling her properly his true feelings and yet he doesn’t really want to reject her. Tooru says they’ve been living together for so long that his uncle hoped they would both live together. Something which Sayaka is hoping for too. Thus the reason he doesn’t want to reject her directly is that he’s afraid of their relationship will collapse and doesn’t want to be alone again. The rest cheer him up by saying communication within family is vital and even if they’re always fighting doesn’t mean they hate each other. It’s ironic that Tooru could give advice to Yuujirou and Mikoto but couldn’t apply the same for his own. When they are about to leave school, they spot Sayaka at the entrance. She runs away when she sees them. They give chase till she is cornered at a cliff. She threatens to jump if they come any closer. I know many viewers would prefer to see that b*tch jump for all they care but remember, Sayaka is blinded by her emotions to see clearly.
 
The confrontation continues in episode 12. Sayaka as usual blames it on Tooru, still insisting he is hers and everyone else trying to steal him away. Yuujirou can’t take this and tells her off that she never thought of Tooru’s feelings. So when Tooru says he only sees her as a little sister, Sayaka replies she’d rather die. That’s when Tooru slaps her for saying that too casually. If she’s dead, they won’t be able to see each other, right? Then the inevitable. They both fell off the cliff. Thankfully they landed on soft cushion, in time and courtesy of Arisada and co. Sayaka tells her reason of how she became obsessed with Tooru but now understands his position. Tooru says he doesn’t hate her so Sayaka apologizes. Even if that’s over, Sayaka tells Yuujirou to take care of Tooru. Yeah, better dispel that before she really believes that they are into that. The next day in school, Tooru is in a dilemma because last night his uncle called him wanting him to return home to start again as a family now that Sayaka has reflected on her actions and calmed down. To stay or not to stay? Soon word that Tooru is leaving school spread throughout school. Mikoto of course doesn’t want him to leave because he’ll be subjected to abuse from Yuujirou. So that’s why. Just like Cinderella and her stepmom? While Tooru is still thinking and his pals trying to convince him to stay, the entire school gathers and pleads to Tooru not to leave or else they won’t be able to do this or do that. I was initially thinking how useless the guys were at first because they can’t do anything if they don’t have their Princess with them (like Natashou who won’t be able to design new dresses) but I’d settle for that it’s their way of showing that they care. Even if they are losers. Seeing everyone’s concern, Tooru decides to stay put, delighting everyone. With that, the Princesses continue with their job as with Akira with his student council work.
 
A happy solution for everyone, isn’t it? Well, even if Tooru decided to stay put and not go back to his uncle and Sayaka, it would be at least till he finishes his first year. Hey, only first years are to be made Princesses, right? Maybe after that, they’ll get new freshies to be replace the 3 Princess and those loser boys could restart swooning all over the new ‘girls’ once more. Then maybe Tooru would at least decide if he should go home. For now, things seem to be better the way they are. No need to rush about it.
 
Thankfully Tooru and Yuujirou’s relationship doesn’t constitute to anything yaoi fan girls would go gaga over. Not sure about Yuujirou, though. There may be little hints here and there but nothing conclusive. Otherwise they are just close friends. And since those 2 click pretty well together, it’s fun to see them tease Mikoto. I guess no matter how much he hates his job and complains, he still has to get over it. And Arisada, he sure looks cool and calm but every action he does definitely has an ulterior motive especially towards the budget. It’s no wonder he is the student council president. Natashou’s passion for designing dresses may be mistaken for being a pervert if he’s in the real world. Viewers may hate Sayaka for her selfish attitude but I’d say she was rather misguided after all the years she and Tooru spent growing up together. As expected with pretty looking boys, the drawing and art is more towards bishonen style (maybe except for those other loser unimportant school boys). But the drawing turns chibi-like during comical situations, turning handsome and pretty guys into cute and adorable boys. I noticed some of the background music especially the piano and strings give off that little ostentatious feel like for instance in a ballroom or an orchestra piece. A little pleasing to the ear, I must say.
 
Although Tooru, Yuujirou and Mikoto cross-dress as girls, somehow I find that they don’t really look like girls, in an androgynous-look sense. Perhaps it is the thought that they are boys in the first place (well, duh!). Even so, the trio look good in either gender if you look at it in a way. As for the other loser boys, it still bugs me to wonder if they are really homo or hetero people. I mean, they know the Princesses are boys underneath all those frilly dresses and it’s not like they have never met the opposite gender before. So when they all go cheering for the Princesses, is it as girls or boys? Don’t tell me they are bisexual? Are they in need of real girls that bad? Go see some real girls for a change. It still amazes me that a smile is all it takes to get them going and their spirits high. The point isn’t in the odd method employed but rather in its effective results. But nevertheless, see the importance of a smile?
 
So if you think that guys cross-dressing as girls are still gross, remember that back during those Shakespearean eras, female roles are all played by men. Well like they say, it’s not the outside that counts, but the inside (okay, maybe people like Haru one should think twice). Acceptance for a person for who they are is vital to build good and lasting relationship (like Megumi and eventually Sayaka). But heck, if you can look pretty and gorgeous on the outside too, why not? If I was good looking myself (you can stop laughing now), maybe I’d try out cross-dressing for the sake of world peace. Wait a minute, won’t that be just cosplaying? No matter how one looks, remember to put on your nicest smile.
 

Princess Princess